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The Lani People by J. F. Bone

Part 2 out of 5

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"They really put him through the mill. Grandfather furnished the
bodies and three court-appointed M.O.'s went through them with
microscopes. They didn't miss a thing. Their reports are so
detailed that they're classics of their kind. They're almost
required reading for anyone who wants to learn Lani structure and
function. The court rendered an interim decision that the Lani
were nonhuman, and armed with this, Grandfather prepared the
final tests which were run by a team of court-appointed medics
and biologists, who made in vitro and live tests on a number of
Lani female prisoners. The tests ran for over two years and were
totally negative. So the Alexander family acquired Flora and the
Otpens, and a legal status." Alexander stood up. "Well -- that's
a capsule summary. The records are in the library if you'd care
to check them."


"Just to prove we're honest." He moved carefully toward the door,
opened it, and disappeared into the night.

Silently Kennon watched him descend the porch steps. He seemed
steady enough. For a moment Kennon debated whether he should see
him home -- and then decided against it. If Alexander needed help
he'd have asked for it. As it was, it was better to leave things
alone. Certainly he didn't know Alexander well enough to act as a
guardian. He turned back to the living area. The stereo was
playing something soft and nostalgic as Kennon sank into the
chair Alexander had vacated. He let his body relax. It had been
as full a day as he had ever spent filled with changes so abrupt
that they were exhausting. He felt confused. There were no
precedents he could apply. Neither his studies nor his travels
had prepared him for living in a situation like this.

Legally and biologically the Lani weren't human. But they were
intelligent, upright, bipedal mammals whose morphology was so
close to man's that it had taken the ultimate test to settle
their status. And being a Betan, Kennon was suspicious of the
accuracy of that ultimate test.

But the Brotherhood of Man was based upon it. The feeling of
unity that pervaded mankind's expanding empire was its product.
From almost the beginning of mankind's leap to the stars it had
been recognized that men must help each other or perish. The
spirit of co-operation against the common enmity of alien worlds
and cultures transcended the old petty rivalries on Earth. Men --
all men -- were brothers in arms.

And so the Brotherhood was born -- and the concept born of
necessity developed its muscles in a thousand battles on a
thousand hostile worlds. And ultimately it evolved into the only
form of central authority that men would accept. Yet basically it
was not a government. It was an attitude of mind. Men accepted
its decisions as they would accept the rulings of a family
council, and for the same reasons.

The Brotherhood laid down certain rules but it did not attempt to
enforce them. After all, it didn't need to. It also arbitrated
disputes, admitted new worlds to membership, and organized
concerted human effort against dangerous enemies. And that was
all. Yet in its sphere the authority of the Brotherhood was

There was only one criterion for membership in the Brotherhood --
membership in the human race. No matter how decadent or primitive
a population might be, if it was human it was automatically
eligible for Brotherhood - a free and equal partner in the
society of human worlds.

Kennon doubted that any nonhuman race had ever entered the select
circle of humanity, although individuals might have done so. A
docked Lani, for instance, would probably pass unquestioned as a
human, but the Lani race would not. In consequence they and their
world were fair prey, and had been attacked and subjugated.

Of course, proof of inhumanity was seldom a problem. Most alien
life forms were obviously alien. But there were a few -- like the
Lani--where similarities were so close that it was impossible to
determine their status on the basis of morphology alone. And so
the Humanity Test had come into being.

Essentially it was based upon species compatibility -- on the
concept that like can interbreed with like. Tests conducted on
every inhabited world in the Brotherhood had proven this
conclusively. Whatever changes had taken place in the somatic
characteristics of mankind since the Exodus, they had not altered
the compatibility of human germ plasm. Man could interbreed with
man - aliens could not. The test was simple. The results were
observable. And what was more important, everyone could
understand it. No definition of humanity could be more simple or

But was it accurate?

Like other Betans, Kennon wondered. It was -- so far - probably.
The qualifying phrases were those of the scientist, that strange
breed that refuses to accept anything as an established fact
until it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. After all, the
human race had been spaceborne for only six thousand years --
scarcely time for any real differences to develop. But physical
changes had already appeared -- and it would only be a question
of time before these would probably be followed by genetic
changes. And in some groups the changes might be extensive enough
to make them genetic strangers to the rest of humanity.

What would happen then? No one knew. Actually no one bothered to
think about it except for a few far-seeing men who worried as
they saw.





Four words. But because of them the Betans were slowly
withdrawing from the rest of humanity. Already the radiations of
Beta's variant-G sun had produced changes in the population.
Little things like tougher epidermis and depilation of body hair
-- little things that held alarming implications to Beta's
scientists, and to Beta's people. Not too many generations hence
a Betan outside his home system would be a rarity, and in a few
millennia the Betan system itself would be a closed enclave
peopled by humans who had deviated too far from the basic stock
to mingle with it in safety.

Of course, the Brotherhood itself might be changed by that time,
but there was no assurance that this would happen. And mankind
had a history of dealing harshly with its mutants. So Beta would
play it safe.

Kennon wondered if there were other worlds in the Brotherhood
that had come to the same conclusion. Possibly there were. And
possibly there were worlds where marked deviations had occurred.
There wasn't a year that passed that didn't bring some new human
world into the Brotherhood, and many of these had developed from
that cultural explosion during the First Millennium known as the
Exodus, where small groups of colonists in inadequate ships set
out for unannounced goals to homestead new worlds for man. Some
of these survived, and many were being discovered even at this
late date. But so far none had any difficulty in proving their
human origin.

The Lani, conceivably, could have been descendants of one of
these groups, which probably explained the extreme care the
Brotherhood courts had taken with their case. But they had failed
the test, and were declared animals. Yet it was possible that
they had mutated beyond genetic compatibility. If they had, and
if it were proved, here was a test case that could rock the
galaxy -- that could shake the Brotherhood to its very
foundations -- that could force a re-evaluation of the criteria
of humanity.

Kennon grinned. He was a fine employee. Here he was, less than a
full day on the job, dreaming how he could ruin his employer,
shake the foundation of human civilization, and force ten
thousand billion humans to change their comfortable habit
patterns and their belief in the unchangeable sameness of men. He
was, he reflected wryly, an incurable romantic.


"Wake up, Doctor, it's six A.M." A pleasant voice cut through
Kennon's slumber. He opened one eye and looked at the room. For a
moment the strange surroundings bothered him, then memory took
over. He stirred uncomfortably, looking for the owner of the

"You have your morning calls at seven, and there's a full day
ahead," the voice went on. "I'm sorry, sir, but you should get
up." The voice didn't sound particularly sorry.

It was behind him, Kennon decided. He rolled over with a groan of
protest and looked at his tormentor. A gasp of dismay left his
lips, for standing beside the bed, a half smile on her pointed
face, was Copper -- looking fresh and alert and as disturbing as

It wasn't right, Kennon thought bitterly, to be awakened from a
sound sleep by a naked humanoid who looked too human for comfort.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"I'm supposed to be here," Copper said. "I'm your secretary.''
She grinned and flexed a few curves of her torso.

Kennon was silent.

"Is there anything wrong?" she asked.

For a moment Kennon was tempted to tell her what was wrong -- but
he held his tongue. She probably wouldn't understand. But there
was one thing he'd better settle right now. "Now look here, young
lady--" he began.

"I'm not a lady," Copper interrupted before he could continue.
"Ladies are human. I'm a Lani."

"All right," Kennon growled. "Lani or human, who cares?

But do you have to break into a man's bedroom and wake him in the
middle of the night?"

"I didn't break in," she said, "and it isn't the middle of the
night. It's morning."

"All right -- so it's morning and you didn't break in. Then how
in Halstead's sacred name did you get here?"

"I sleep next door," she said jerking a thumb in the direction of
an open door in the side wall. "I've been there ever since you
dismissed me last night," she explained.

The explanation left Kennon cold. The old cliche about doing as
the Santosians do flicked through his mind. Well, perhaps he
would in time -- but not yet. The habits of a lifetime couldn't
be overturned overnight. "Now you have awakened me," he said,
"perhaps you'll get out of here."


"I want to get dressed."

"I'll help you."

"You will not! I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself.
I've been dressing myself for years. I'm not used to people
helping me."

"My -- what a strange world you must come from. Haven't you ever
had a Lani before?"


"You poor man." Her voice was curiously pitying. "No one to make
you feel like the gods. No one to serve you. No one to even scrub
your back."

"That's enough," Kennon said. "I can scrub my own back."

"How? -- you can't reach it."

Kennon groaned.

"Weren't there any Lani on your world?"


"No wonder you left it. It must be quite primitive."

"Primitive!" Kennon's voice was outraged. "Beta has one of the
highest civilizations in the Brotherhood!"

"But you don't have Lani," she said patiently. "So you must be

"Halstead, Fleming, and Ochsner!" Kennon swore. "Do you believe

"Naturally, isn't it obvious? You can't possibly be civilized
unless you take responsibility for intelligent life other than
your own race. Until you face up to your responsibilities you are
merely a member of a dominant race, not a civilized one."

Kennon's reply caught in his throat. His eyes widened as he
looked at her, and what he was about to say remained unspoken.
"Out of the mouths of humanoids--" he muttered oddly.

"What does that mean?" Copper asked.

"Forget it," Kennon said wildly. "Leave me alone. Go put on some
clothes. You embarrass me."

"I'll go," Copper said, "but you'll have to be embarrassed. Only
household Lani wear cloth." She frowned, two vertical furrows
dividing her dark brows. "I've never understood why inhouse Lani
have to be disfigured that way, but I suppose there's some reason
for it. Men seldom do anything without a reason."

Kennon shook his head. Either she was grossly ignorant, which he
doubted, or she was conditioned to the eyeballs.

The latter was more probable. But even that was doubtful. Her
trenchant remark about civilization wasn't the product of a
conditioned mind. But why was he worrying about her attitudes?
They weren't important -- she wasn't even human. He shook his
head. That was a sophistry. The fact that she wasn't human had
nothing to do with the importance of her attitude. "I suppose
there is a reason," he agreed. "But I don't know it. I haven't
been here long enough to

know anything about such things."

She nodded. "That does make a difference," she admitted. "Many
new men are bothered at first by the fact that we Lani are naked,
but they adjust quickly. So will you." She smiled as she turned
away. "You see," she added over her shoulder as she left the
room, "we're not human. We're just another of your domestic

Was there laughter in her voice? Kennon wasn't sure. His sigh was
composed of equal parts of relief and exasperation as he slipped
out of bed and began to dress. He'd forgo the shower this
morning. He had no desire for Copper to appear and offer to scrub
his back. In his present state of mind he couldn't take it.
Possibly he'd get used to it in time. Perhaps he might even like
it. But right now he wasn't acclimatized.

* * *

"Man Blalok called," Copper said as she removed the breakfast
dishes. "He said that he'd be right over to pick you up. He wants
to show you the operation.""When did he call?"

"About ten minutes ago. I told him that you were at breakfast. He
said he'd wait." She disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.

"There's a nightmare quality to this," Kennon muttered as he
slipped his arms into the sleeves of his tunic and closed the
seam tabs. "I have the feeling that I'm going to wake up any
minute." He looked at his reflection in the dresser mirror, and
his reflection looked worriedly back. "This whole thing has an
air of plausible unreality: the advertisement, the contract, this
impossible island that raises humanoids as part of the
livestock." He shrugged and his mirrored image shrugged back.
"But it's real, all right. No dream could possibly be this
detailed. I wonder how I'm going to take it for the next five
years? Probably not too well," he mused silently. "Already I'm
talking to myself. Without even trying, that Lani Copper can make
me feel like a Sarkian." He nodded at his image.

The Sarkian analogy was almost perfect, he decided. For on that
grimly backward world females were as close to slaves as the
Brotherhood would permit; raised from birth under an iron regimen
designed to produce complaisant mates for the dominant males.
Probably that was the reason Sark was so backward. The men,
having achieved domestic tranquillity, had no desire to do
anything that would disturb the status quo. And since no Sarkian
woman under any conceivable circumstances would annoy her lordly
master with demands to produce better mousetraps, household
gadgetry, and more money, the technological development of Sark
had come to a virtual standstill. It took two sexes to develop a

Kennon shrugged. Worlds developed as they did because people were
as they were, and while passing judgment was still a major human
pursuit, no native of one world had a right to force his customs
down the unwilling throat of another. It would be better to
accept his present situation and live with it rather than trying
to impose his Betan conception of morality upon Lani that neither
understood nor appreciated it. His business was to treat and
prevent animal disease. What happened to the animals before
infection or after recovery was none of his affair. That was a
matter between Alexander and his conscience.

Blalok was waiting for him, sitting behind the wheel of a square
boxy vehicle that squatted with an air of unpolished efficiency
on the graveled drive behind his house. He smiled a quick
greeting as Kennon approached. "It's about time you showed up,"
he said. "You'll have to get into the habit of rising early on
this place. We do most of our work early in the morning and late
in the afternoon. During the day it's too hot to breathe, let
alone work. Well, let's get going. There's still time to visit
the outer stations."

Kennon climbed in and Blalok started the vehicle. "I thought we'd
take a jeep today," he said. "They aren't very pretty, but they
get around." He turned onto the surfaced road that ran down the
hill toward the hospital and the complex of red-roofed buildings
clustered about it. "About those flukes," he said. "You have any
plans to get rid of them?"

"Not yet. I'll have to look the place over. There's more
detective work than medicine involved in this."

"Detective work?"

"Sure -- we know the criminal, but to squelch him we have to
learn his hangouts, study his modus operandi, and learn how to
make his victims secure from his activities. Unless we do that,
we can treat individuals from now to infinity and all we'll have
is more cases. We have to apply modern criminology tactics --
eliminate the source of crime -- stop up the soft spots. In other
words, kill the flukes before they enter the Lani."

"Old Doc never said anything about this," Blalok said.

"Probably he never knew about it. I was looking over the herd
books last night, and I saw nothing about trematodes, or anything
that looked like a parasite pattern until the last few months."

"Why not?"

"My guess is that he was one of the first deaths."

"You mean this thing attacks human beings?"

"Preferentially," Kennon said. "It's strange, too, because it
originated on Santos so far as we know. In fact, some people
think that the Varl bred it for a weapon to use against us before
we conquered them. They could have done it. Their biological
science was of a high enough order."

"But how did it get here?"

"I wouldn't know--unless you've hired a Santosian or someone else
who was affected."

"We did have a man from Santos. Fellow called Joe Kryla. We had
to let him go because he was a nudist. It made a bad impression
on the Lani. But that was over a year ago."

"That's about the right time to build up a good reservoir of
infection. The fatal cases usually don't show up before an area
is pretty well seeded."

"That's not so good."

"Well, there's one thing in our favor. The Lani are pretty well
concentrated into groups. And so far there doesn't seem to be any
infestation outside of Hillside Station - except for two deaths
in Lani recently sent from there. If we quarantine those stations
and work fast, may be we can stop this before it spreads all over
the island"

"That's fine, but what are you going to do now?"

"Treat those that show symptoms. There should be some Trematox
capsules at the hospital. If there aren't we'll get them. We'll
take the sick ones back to the hospital area and push therapy and
supportive treatment. Now that we know the cause, we shouldn't
have any more death losses."

"Old Doc didn't treat at the hospital," Blalok said.

"I'm not Old Doc."

"But it's going to mess up our operations. We're using the ward
buildings to finish training the Lani scheduled for market."


"It's convenient. Most of the ward space is filled right now."
Blalok said. There was a touch of disgust in his voice.

"They're well, aren't they?" Kennon demanded.

"Of course."

"Then get them out of there."

"But I told you-"

"You told me nothing. The hospital area is needed for something
more than a training center. Perhaps Old Doc was trained in
outcall work, but I'm not. I work from a hospital. The only
things I do on outcalls are diagnoses, vaccinations, and
emergencies. The rest of the patients come to the hospital."

"This isn't going to set well with Jordan and the division

"That's not my concern," Kennon said. "I run my business in the
best way possible. The patients are of more concern than the
personal comfort of any straw boss or administrator. You're the
administrator -- you calm them down."

"You have the authority," Blalok admitted. "But my advice to you
is to go slow."

"I can't," Kennon said. "Not if we want to prevent any more
losses. There simply won't be time to run all over the island
dosing with Trematox and taking temperatures, and while that sort
of thing is routine, it should be supervised. Besides, you'll see
the advantages of this method. Soon enough."

"I hope so," Blalok said as he braked the jeep to a stop in front
of the hospital. "I suppose you'll want to take some things

"So I will," Kennon said. "I'll be back in a minute." Kennon slid
from the seat, leaving Blalok looking peculiarly at his departing

The minute stretched to nearly ten before Kennon returned
followed by two Lani carrying bags which they loaded into the
back of the jeep. "I had to reorganize a little," Kennon
apologized, "some things were unfamiliar."

"Plan on taking them?" Blalok said, jerking a thumb at the two

"Not this time. I'm having them fit up an ambulance. They should
be busy most of the day."

Blalok grunted and started the turbine. He moved a lever and the
jeep floated off the ground.

"An airboat too," Kennon remarked. "I wondered why this rig was
so boxy."

"It's a multipurpose vehicle," Blalok said. "We need them around
here for fast transport. Most of the roads aren't so good." He
engaged the drive and the jeep began to move. "We'll go cross
country," he said. "Hillside's pretty far out -- the farthest
station since we abandoned Olympus."

The air began whistling past the boxlike body of the jeep as
Blalok increased the power to the drive and set the machine on
automatic. "We'll get a pretty good cross-section of our
operations on this trip," he said over the whine of the turbine.
"Look down there."

They were passing across a series of fenced pastures and Kennon
was impressed. The size of this operation was beginning to sink
in. It hadn't looked so big from the substratosphere in
Alexander's ship, but down here close to the ground it was
enormous. Fields of grain, wide orchards, extensive gardens. Once
they were forced to detour a huge supply boat that rose heavily
in front of them. Working in the fields were dozens of
brown-skinned Lani who paused to look up and wave as the jeep
sped by. Occasional clusters of farm buildings and the low
barrackslike stations appeared and disappeared behind them.

"There's about twenty Lani at each of these stations," Blalok
said, "They work the farm area under the direction of the

"He's a farmer?"

"Of course. Usually he's a graduate of an agricultural school,
hut we have a few who are descendants of the crew of the first
Alexander, and there's one old codger who was actually with him
during the conquest. Most of our stationmasters are family men.
We feel that a wife and children add to a man's stability -- and
incidentally keep him from fooling around with the Lani."

A series of fenced pastures containing hundreds of huge
grayish-white quadrupeds slipped past.

"Cattle?" Kennon asked.

"Yes - Earth strain. That's why they're so big. We also have
sheep and swine, but you won't see them on this run."

"Any native animals?"

"A few - and some which are native to other worlds. But they're
luxury-trade items. The big sale items are beef, pork, and
mutton." Blalok chuckled. "Did you think that the Lani were our
principal export?"

Kennon nodded.

"They're only a drop in the bucket. Agriculture -- Earth-style
agriculture -- is our main source of income. The Lani are
valuable principally to keep down the cost of overhead. Virtually
all of them work right here on the island. We don't sell more
than a hundred a year less than five per cent of our total. And
those are surplus -- too light or too delicate for farm work."

"Where do you find a market for all this produce?" Kennon asked.

"There's two hundred million people here, and quite a few billion
more in space-train range. We can produce more cheaply than any
competitor, and we can undersell any competition, even full
automation." Blalok chuckled. "There are some things that a
computer can't do as well as a human being, and one of them is
farm the foods on which humanity is accustomed to feed. A man'll
pay two credits for a steak. He could get a Chlorella substitute
for half a credit, but he'll still buy the steak if he can afford
it. Same thing goes for fruit, vegetables, grain, and garden
truck. Man's eating habits have only changed from necessity.
Those who can pay will still pay well for natural foods." Blalok
chuckled. "We've put quite a dent in the algae and synthetics
operations in this sector."

"It's still a luxury trade," Kennon said.

"You've eaten synthetic," Blalok replied. "What do you prefer?"

Kennon had to agree that Blalok was right. He, too, liked the
real thing far better than its imitations.

"If it's this profitable, then why sell Lani?" Kennon asked.

"It's the Family's idea. Actually -- since the export type is
surplus it does us no harm. We keep enough for servants -- and
the others would be inefficient for most farm work. So disposal
by sale is a logical and profitable way of culling. But now the
Boss-man is being pressured into breeding an export type. And
this I don't like. It's too commercial. Smells like slavery."

"You're a Mystic, aren't you?" Kennon asked.

"Sure -- but that doesn't mean I like slavery. Oh, I know some of
those fatheaded Brotherhood economists call our system economic
slavery -- and I'll admit that it's pretty hard to crack out of a
spherical trust. But that doesn't mean that we have to stay where
we are. Mystics aren't owned by their entrepreneurs. Sure, it's a
tough haul to beat the boss, but it can be done. I did it, and
others do it all the time. The situation isn't hopeless."

"But it is with the Lani," Kennon added.

"Of course. That's why they should be protected. What chance does
a Lani have? Without us they can't even keep going as a race.
They're technological morons. They don't live long enough to
understand modern civilization. To turn those poor helpless
humanoids out into human society would be criminal. It's our duty
to protect them even while we're using them."

"Man's burden?' Kennon said, repeating the old cliche.

"Exactly." Blalok scowled. "I wish I had guts enough to give the
Boss-man the facts -- but I can't get nerve enough to try. I've a
good job here -- a wife and two kids -- and I don't want to
jeopardize my future." Blalok glanced over the side. "Well, here
we are," he said, and began descending into the center of a
spokelike mass of buildings radiating outward from a central hub.

"Hmm -- big place," Kennon murmured.

"It should be," Blalok replied. "It furnishes all of our Lani for
replacement and export. It can turn out over a thousand a year at
full capacity. Of course we don't run at that rate, or Flora
would be overpopulated. But this is a big layout, like you said.
It can maintain a population of at least forty thousand. Old
Alexander had big ideas."

"I wonder what he planned to do with them?" Kennon said.

"I wouldn't know. The Old Man never took anyone into his

Jordan came up as the jeep settled to the ground. "Been expecting
you for the past half hour," he said. "Your office said you were
on your way. -- Good to see you, too, Doc. I've been going over
the records with Hank Allworth - the stationmaster here." Jordan
held out his hand.

"You're an Earthman, eh?" Kennon asked as he grasped the
outstretched hand. The gesture was as old as man, its ritualistic
meaning lost in antiquity.

"No -- Marsborn -- a neighbor world," Jordan said. "But our
customs and Earth's are the same."

"You're a long way from home," Kennon said.

"No farther than you, Doc." Jordan looked uncomfortable. "But we
can compare origins later. Right now, you'd better come into the
office. I've run across something peculiar."


"There are twelve bays to this station," Jordan said. "Under our
present setup two are used for breeding and the other ten for
maturation. We rotate the youngsters around the bay -- a
different bay each year until they're age eleven. Then they're
sorted according to type and sent out for a year of further
specialized training after which they go onto the farms, or to
inhouse or export.

"Now here's the peculiar part. There's no trouble in Bays One
through Nine, but Bay Ten has had all our losses except two that
have occurred at the training stations."

"That's good news," Kennon said. "Our parasite can't have had
time to migrate too far. We have him pinpointed unless -- say how
many training centers are there?"

"Three," Jordan said.

"Quarantine them," Kennon replied. "Right now. Nothing goes in or
out until we've checked them and completed prophylaxis."

Jordan looked at Blalok inquiringly.

"He's the boss," Blalok said. "Do as you're told. This is his

"Why the quarantine?" Jordan asked.

"I want to get any carriers. We can check them with antigen, and
then give Trematox."

"All that concentration in Bay Ten," Jordan said. "Does it mean

"Blalok said that there was a Santosian in your division."

"Yeah - Joe Kryla - and come to think of it, he ran Bay Ten!"

"That's a help - now let's see what makes that bay different from
the others."


"I'll tell you--but you may not understand," Kennon said.

"I'll take a chance."

Kennon grinned. "All right, you asked for it. The parasite that's
doing the damage is a flatworm, a trematode called Hepatodirus
hominis. As I've told Blalok, it's a tricky thing. Like all
trematodes it has a three-stage life cycle, but unlike every
other fluke, its life cycle is not fixed to definite intermediate
hosts. Depending upon where it is, the fluke adapts. It still
must pass through its life cycle, but its intermediate host need
not be one species of snail, fish, or copepod. Any cold-blooded
host will do. What you have here is a Kardonian variant which has
adapted to some particular intermediate host on this world. Until
now, its final host was either man or Varl. Now we have a third,
the Lani. And apparently they are the most susceptible of the
three. It never kills Varl. And humans, while they're more
susceptible, only occasionally succumb, but the Lani appear to be
the most susceptible of all. I've never seen an infestation like
those Lani had. Their livers were literally crawling with
flukes." Kennon paused and looked at Jordan. "You following me?"
he asked.

"Slowly and poorly," Jordan said. "You're assuming too much
knowledge on my part."

Kennon chuckled. "You can't say I didn't warn you."

"Well -- I'm really interested in only one thing - how do you
break the parasite up in business?"

"There's only one sure way -- and that's to break the life cycle.
The technique is thousands of years old, but it's just as good
today as it was then."

"Good -- then let's do it."

"To make a varrit stew," Kennon said, "one must first catch the


"We have to learn the beastie's life cycle before we can break
it, and like I said, it adapts. Its intermediate host can be any
one of a hundred cold-blooded animals."

"Is there no place else where it can be attacked?"

"Sure, in the body of the final host, or on its final encysting
place. But that won't eliminate the bug."

"Why not?"

"It'll still survive in its infective form and enough Lani will
get subacute dosage to propagate it until the time is right for
another epizootic. We have to kill its intermediate host -- or
hosts if it has more than one. That will keep it from growing and
will ultimately eradicate it."

Judson scratched his head. "It sounds complicated,"

"It is. It's so complicated that once the fluke becomes well
established it's virtually impossible to eradicate."

"And you think it can be done here?"

"We can give it the old college try. But it's going to take some
detective work."

"Where do we start?"

"With Bay Ten. We look it over real well. Then we check the diet
and habits of the Lani. Then we check each individual Lani. Then
we check the life cycle of the parasite. Somewhere along the line
if we're lucky we'll find a weak point that can be attacked."

"That's a big order," Blalok said.

"It can't be helped. That's the way it is. Of course, we're lucky
that we're on an isolated land mass. That gives us an advantage.
We should be able to clean this up."

"How long do you think it will take?"

"It depends on how well the fluke is established. Six months at
the minimum -- and I wouldn't care to guess at the maximum.
However, I hope the minimum will be time enough."

"So do I," Blalok said.

"Well," Kennon said, "let's get on with it."

"I hope it won't interrupt our program," Jordan said.

"Of course it will interrupt it," Kennon replied. "It can't help
it. Get the idea in your head that you're facing something here
that can cripple you -- maybe abort your whole operation. You
have a choice -- interrupt now or abort later. And half measures
won't work. To eradicate this pest requires an all-out effort."

"But I can't see why we can't merely bypass Bay Ten--" Jordan

"Take my word for it," Kennon said. "You can't. There's no
accurate way of telling how far this spreads until the death
losses occur. Our tests for fluke infestation aren't that good.
We have to work thoroughly and carefully. We can't be butting
heads over this -- either we all co-operate or this whole
operation will blow up in our faces.

"Look at the record. Six months ago you ended a year with no
deaths from disease. Five months ago Old Doc and two Lani were
ill. Four months ago one of the two Lani was dead and Old Doc was
too ill to be effective. Three months ago Old Doc and the other
Lani were dead, and before the end of the month two more followed
them. Two months ago six died, last month eight, and so far this
month you've lost four and you have over two weeks to go. Up to
now they've all been from here, but two this month were at other
stations. In six months if nothing is done, we'll be having
losses there unless we're lucky. And the losses will keep on
increasing. Apparently you don't know what it is to live with
parasites - so let me tell you. It isn't pleasant!"

Blalok shrugged. "You needn't get hot about it," he said. "After
all, you're the Doc -- and we'll co-operate."

Jordan nodded. "We will," he said. "All the way."


There is a special providence that looks over recent veterinary
graduates, Kennon reflected as he checked the monthly reports
from the Stations. Since the time he had laid down the law to
Judson and Blalok, he had had no trouble from the production
staff. And for the past four months there had been no further
trouble with Hepatodirus. That unwanted visitor had apparently
been evicted. At that, they had been lucky. The parasite had been
concentrated at Hillside Station and had failed to establish
itself in the training area. The intermediate host, it had turned
out, was a small amphibian that was susceptible to commercial
insecticide. It had been no trouble to eradicate. Systemic
treatment and cooking of all food had cleaned up the infective
cercaria and individual infections, and after six months of
intensive search, quarantine, and investigation, Kennon was
morally certain that the disease had been eradicated. The last
four reports confirmed his belief.

He sighed as he leaned back in his chair. Blalok was at last
convinced that his ideas were right. The hospital was operating
as a hospital should, with a staff of twelve Lani kept busy
checking the full wards. Actually, it was working better than it
should, since stationmasters all over the island were now
shipping in sick animals rather than treating them or requesting
outpatient service.

"Hi, Doc," Blalok said as he pushed the door open and looked into
the office. "You doing anything?"

"Not at the moment," Kennon said. "Something troubling you?"

"No -- just thought I'd drop in for a moment and congratulate

"For what?"

"For surviving the first year."

"That won't be for two months yet."

Blalok shook his head. "This is Kardon," he said. "There's only
three hundred and two days in our year, ten thirty-day months and
two special days at the year's end."

Kennon shrugged. "My contract is Galactic Standard. I still have
two months to go. But how come the ten-month year? Most other
planets have twelve, regardless of the number of days."

"Old Alexander liked thirty-day months."

"I've wondered about that."

"You'll find a lot more peculiar things about Flora when you get
to know her better. This year has just been a breaking-in

Kennon chuckled. "It's damn near broken me," he admitted. "You
know, I thought that the Lani'd be my principal practice when I
came here."

"You didn't figure that right. They're the easiest part. They're
intelligent and co-operative."

"Which is more than one can say about the others." Kennon wiped
the sweat from his face. "What with this infernal heat and their
eternal stubbornness, I've nearly been driven crazy."

"You shouldn't have laid out that vaccination program."

"I had to. Your hog business was living mostly on luck, and the
sheep and shrakes were almost as bad. You can't get away from
soil saprophytes no matter how clean you are. Under a pasture
setup there's always a chance of contamination. And that old
cliche about an ounce of prevention is truer of livestock raising
than anything else I can think of."

"I have some more good news for you," Blalok said. "That's why I
came over. We're going to have another species to treat and

Kennon groaned. "Now what?"

"Poultry." Blalok's voice was disgusted. "Personally I think it's
a mess, but Alexander thinks it's profitable. Someone's told him
that pound for pound chickens are the most efficient feed
converters of all the domestic animals. So we're getting a pilot
plant: eggs, incubator, and a knocked-down broiler battery so we
can try the idea out. The Boss-man is always hot on new ideas to
increase efficiency and production. The only trouble is that he
fails to consider the work involved in setting up another

"You're so right. I'll have to brush up on pullorum, ornithosis,
coccidosis, leukosis, perosis, and Ochsner knows how many other
-osises and -itises. I was never too strong on fowl practice in
school, and I'd be happier if I never had anything to do with

"So would I," Blalok agreed. "I can't see anything in this but

Kennon nodded.

"And he's forgotten something else," Blalok added. "Poultry need
concentrated feed. We're going to have to install a feed mill."

Kennon chuckled. "I hope he'll appreciate the bill he gets."

"He thinks we can use local labor," Blalok said gloomily. "I wish
he'd realize that Lani are technological morons."

"They could learn."

"I suppose so -- but it isn't easy. And besides, Allworth is the
only man with feed-mill experience, and he's up to his ears with
Hillside Station since that expansion order came in."

"I never did get the reason for that. After we complained about
the slavery implications and got the Boss-man's okay to hold the
line, why do we need more Lani?"

"Didn't you know? His sister's finally decided to try marriage.
Found herself some overmuscled Halsite who looked good to her --
but she couldn't crack his moral barrier." Blalok grinned. "I
thought you'd be the first to know. Wasn't she interested in

Kennon chuckled. "You could call it that. Interested -- like the
way a dog's interested in a beefsteak. It's a good thing we had
that fluke problem or I'd have been chewed up and digested long
ago. That woman frightens me."

"I could be scared by uglier things," Blalok said. "With the
Boss-man's sister on my side I wouldn't worry."

"What makes you think she'd be on my side? She's a cannibal."

"Well, you know her better than I do."

He did -- he certainly did. That first month had been one of the
worst he had ever spent, Kennon reflected. Between Eloise and the
flukes, he had nearly collapsed -- and when it had come to the
final showdown, he thought for a while that he'd be looking for
another job. But Alexander had been more than passably
understanding and had refused his sister's passionate pleas for a
Betan scalp. He owed a debt of gratitude to the Boss-man.

"You're lucky you never knew her," Kennon said.

"That all depends on what you mean," Blalok said as he grinned
and walked to the door. The parting shot missed its mark entirely
as Kennon looked at him with blank incomprehension. "You should
have been a Mystic," Blalok said. "A knowledge of the sacred
books would do you no end of good." And with that cryptic remark
the superintendent vanished.

"That had all the elements of a snide remark," Kennon murmured to
himself, "but my education's been neglected somewhere along the
line. I don't get it." He shrugged and buzzed for Copper. The
veterinary report would have to be added to the pile already
before him, and the Boss-man liked to have his reports on time.

Copper watched Kennon as he dictated the covering letter, her
slim fingers dancing over the stenotype. He had been here a full
year -- but instead of becoming a familiar object, he had grown
so gigantic that he filled her world. And it wasn't merely
because he was young and beautiful. He was kind, too.

Yet she couldn't approach him, and she wanted to so desperately
that it was a physical pain. Other Lani had told her about men
and what they could do. Even her old preceptress at Hillside
Station had given her some advice when Man Allworth had tattooed
the tiny V on her thigh that meant she had been selected for the
veterinary staff. And when Old Doc had brought her from the
Training Station to the hospital and removed her tail, she was
certain that she was one of the lucky ones who would know love.

But love wasn't a pain in the chest, an ache in the belly and
thighs, an unfulfilled longing that destroyed sleep and made food
tasteless. Love was supposed to be pleasant and exciting. She
could remember every word her preceptress had spoken.

"My little one," the old Lani had said, "you now wear the
doctor's mark. And soon no one will be able to tell you from a
human. You will look like our masters. You will share in their
work. And there may be times when you will find favor in their
eyes. Then you may learn of love.

"Love," the old voice was soft in Copper's ears. "The word is
almost a stranger to us now, known only to the few who serve our
masters. It was not always so. The Old Ones knew love before Man
Alexander came. And our young were the fruit of love rather than
the product of our masters' cunning. But you may know the flower
even though you cannot bear its fruit. You may enter that world
of pleasure-pain the Old Ones knew, that world which is now
denied us.

"But remember always that you are a Lani. A man may be kind to
you. He may treat you gently. He may show you love. Yet you never
will be his equal. Nor must you become too attached to him, for
you are not human. You are not his natural mate. You cannot bear
his young. You cannot completely share. You can only accept.

"So if love should come to you, take it and enjoy it, but do not
try to possess it. For there lies heartache rather than
happiness. And it is a world of heartache, my little one, to long
for something which you cannot have."

To long for something which one cannot have! Copper knew that
feeling. It had been with her ever since Kennon had come into her
life that night a year ago. And it had grown until it had become
gigantic. He was kind -- yes. He was harsh -- occasionally. Yet
he had shown her no more affection than he would have shown a
dog. Less -- for he would have petted a dog and he did not touch

He laughed, but she was not a part of his laughter. He needed
her, but the need was that of a builder for a tool. He liked her
and sometimes shared his problems and triumphs with her, and
sometimes his defeats, but he did not love. There had never been
for her the bright fierce look he had bent upon the Woman Eloise
those times when she had come to him, the look men gave to those
who found favor in their eyes.

Had he looked at her but once with that expression she would have
come to him though fire barred the way. The Woman Eloise was a

Copper looked at him across the corner of the desk, the yellow
hair, the bronze skin, firm chin, soft lips and long straight
nose, the narrowed eyes, hooded beneath thick brows, scanning the
papers in his lean-tendoned hands. His nearness was an ache in
her body -- yet he was far away.

She thought of how his hands would feel upon her. He had touched
her once, and that touch had burned like hot iron. For hours she
had felt it. He looked up. Her heart choked her with its beating.
She would die for him if he would but once run his fingers over
her tingling skin, and stroke her hair.

The naked emotion in Copper's face was readable enough, Kennon
thought. One didn't need Sorovkin techniques to interpret what
was in her mind. And it would have been amusing if it weren't so
sad. For what she wanted, he couldn't give. Yet if she were human
it would be easy. A hundred generations of Betan moral code said
"never," yet when he looked at her their voices faded. He was a
man -- a member of the ruling race. She was an animal -- a beast
-- a humanoid -- near human but not near enough. To like her was
easy - but to love her was impossible. It would be bestiality.
Yet his body, less discerning than his mind, responded to her

He sighed. It was a pleasant unpleasantness, a mixed emotion he
could not analyze. In a way it was poetry -- the fierce, vaguely
disquieting poetry of the sensual Santosian bards - the lyrics
that sung of the joys of flesh. He had never really liked them,
yet they filled him with a vague longing, an odd uneasiness --
just the sort that filled him now. There was a deadly parallel
here. He sighed.

"Yes, sir? Do you want something?" Copper asked.

"I could use a cup of coffee," he said. "These reports are
getting me down." The banality amused him -- sitting here
thinking of Copper and talking about coffee. Banality was at once
the curse and the saving grace of mankind. It kept men from the
emotional peaks and valleys that could destroy them. He chuckled
shakily. The only alternative would be to get rid of her -- and
he couldn't (or wouldn't? -- the question intruded slyly) do

Copper returned with a steaming cup which she set before him.
Truly, this coffee was a man's drink. She had tried it once but
the hot bitterness scalded her mouth and flooded her body with
its heat. And she had felt so lightheaded. Not like herself at
all. It wasn't a drink for Lani. Of that she was certain.

Yet he enjoyed it. He looked at her and smiled. He was pleased
with her. Perhaps -- yet -- she might find favor in his eyes. The
hope was always there within her -- a hope that was at once fear
and prayer. And if she did -- she would know what to do.

Kennon looked up. Copper's face was convulsed with a bright
mixture of hope and pain. Never, he swore, had he saw anything
more beautiful or sad. Involuntarily he placed his hand upon her
arm. She flinched, her muscles tensing under his finger tips. It
was though his fingers carried a galvanic current that backlashed
up his arm even as it stiffened hers.

"What's the matter, Copper?" he asked softly.

"Nothing, Doctor. I'm just upset."


There it was again, the calm friendly curiosity that was worse
than a bath in ice water. Her heart sank. She shivered. She would
never find her desire here. He was cold -- cold- cold! He
wouldn't see. He didn't care. All right -- so that was how it had
to be. But first she would tell him. Then he could do with her as
he wished. "I hoped -- for the past year that you would see me.
That you would think of me not as a Lani, but as a beloved." The
words came faster now, tumbling over one another. "That you would
desire me and take me to those worlds we cannot know unless you
humans show us. I have hoped so much, but I suppose it's wrong -
for you -- you are so very human, and I -- well, I'm not!" The
last three words held all the sadness and the longing of mankind
aspiring to be God.

"My dear -- my poor child," Kennon murmured.

She looked at him, but her eyes could not focus on his face, for
his hands were on her shoulders and the nearness of him drove the
breath from her body. From a distance she heard a hard tight
voice that was her own. "Oh, sir -- oh please, sir!"

The hands withdrew, leaving emptiness -- but her heartbeat slowed
and the pink haze cleared and she could see his face.

And with a surge of terror and triumph she realized what she saw!
That hard bright look that encompassed and possessed her! The
curved lips drawn over white, white teeth! The flared nostrils!
The hungry demand upon his face that answered the demand in her
heart! And she knew -- at last - with a knowledge that turned her
limbs to water, that she had found favor in his eyes!


Mixed emotion! Ha! The author of that cliche didn't even know its
meaning! Kennon strode furiously down the dusty road toward
Station One trying to sublimate his inner conflict into action.
It was useless, of course, for once he stopped moving the grim
tug-of-war between training and desire would begin again, and no
matter how it ended the result would be unsatisfactory. As long
as he had been able to delude himself that he was fond of Copper
the way a man is fond of some lesser species, it had been all
right. But he knew now that he was fond of her as a man is of a
woman -- and it was hell! For no rationalization in the universe
would allow him to define her as human. Copper was humanoid --
something like human. And to live with her and love her would not
be miscegenation, which was bad enough, but bestiality which was
a thousand times worse.

Although throughout most of the Brotherhood miscegenation was an
unknown word, and even bestiality had become a loose definition
on many worlds with humanoid populations, the words had definite
meaning and moral force to a Betan. And -- God help him -- he was
a Betan. A lifetime of training in a moral code that frowned upon
mixed marriages and shrank appalled from even the thought of
mixing species was nothing to bring face to face with the fact
that he loved Copper.

It was odd, Kennon reflected bitterly, that humans could do with
animals what their customs and codes prohibited them from doing
to themselves. For thousands of years - back to the very dawn of
history when men had bred horses and asses to produce mules --
men had been mixing species to produce useful hybrids. Yet a
Betan who could hybridize plants or animals with complete
equanimity shrank with horror from the thought of applying the
same technique to himself.

What was there about a human being that was so sacrosanct? He
shook his head angrily. He didn't know. There was no answer. But
the idea -- the belief -- was there, ingrained into his
attitudes, a part of his outlook, built carefully block by block
from infancy until it now towered into a mighty wall that barred
him from doing what he wished to do.

It would be an easier hurdle if he had been born anywhere except
on Beta. In the rest of the Brotherhood, the color of a man's
skin, the shape of his face, the quality and color of his hair
and eyes made no difference. All men were brothers. But on Beta,
where a variant-G sun had already caused genetic divergence, the
brotherhood of man was a term that was merely given lip service.
Betans were different and from birth they were taught to accept
the difference and to live with it. Mixing of Betan stock with
other human species, while not actually forbidden, was so
encircled with conditioning that it was a rare Betan indeed who
would risk self-opprobrium and the contempt of his fellows to
mate with an outsider. And as for humanoids -- Kennon shuddered.
He couldn't break the attitudes of a lifetime. Yet he loved

And she knew he did!

And that was an even greater horror. He had fled from the office,
from the glad light in her eyes, as a burned child flees fire. He
needed time to think, time to plan. Yet his body and his surface
thoughts wanted no plans or time. Living with a Lani wasn't
frowned upon on Flora. Many of the staff did, nor did anyone seem
to think less of them for doing so. Even Alexander himself had
half-confessed to a more than platonic affection for a Lani
called Susy.

Yet this was no excuse, nor would it silence the cold still voice
in his mind that kept repeating sodomite -- sodomite -- sodomite
with a passionless inflection that was even more terrible than

The five kilometers to Station One disappeared unnoticed beneath
his feet as he walked, and he looked up in surprise to see the
white walls and red roofs of the station looming before him.

"Good Lord! Doc! What's got into you?" the stationmaster said.
"You look like you'd seen a ghost. And out in this sun without a
helmet! Come inside, man, before you get sunstroke!"

Kennon chuckled without humor. "Getting sunstroke is the least of
my worries, Al," he said, but he allowed Al Crothers to usher him

"It's odd that you showed up right now," Al said, his dark face
showing the curiosity that filled him. "I just had a call from
Message Center not five minutes ago, telling me to have you call
in if you showed up."

Kennon sighed. "On this island you can't get away from the
phone," he said wryly. "O.K., where is it?"

"You look pretty bushed, Doc. Maybe you'd better rest awhile."

"And maybe it's an emergency," Kennon interrupted. "And probably
it is because the staff can handle routine matters -- so maybe
you'd better show me where you keep the phone."

* * *

"One moment please," the Message Center operator said. There were
a few clicks in the background. "Here's your party," she
continued. "Go ahead, Doctor."

"Kennon?" a nervous voice crackled from the receiver.


"You're needed out on Otpen One."

"Who is calling -- and what's the rush?"

"Douglas -- Douglas Alexander. The Lani are dying! It's an
emergency! Cousin Alex'll skin us alive if we let these Lani

Douglas! Kennon hadn't thought of him since the one time they had
met in Alexandria. That was a year ago. It seemed much longer.
Since the Boss-man had exiled his cousin to that bleak rock to
the east of Flora there had been no word of him. And now -- he
laughed a sharp bark of humorless annoyance -- Douglas couldn't
have timed it better if he had tried!

"All right," Kennon said. "I'll come. What seems to be the

"They're sick."

"That's obvious," Kennon snapped. "Otherwise you wouldn't be
calling. Can't you tell me any more than that?"

"They're vomiting. They have diarrhea. Several have had fits."

"Thanks," Kennon said. "I'll be right out. Expect me in an hour."

"So you're leaving?" Al asked as he cradled the phone.

"That's a practitioner's life," Kennon said. "Full of
interruptions. Can I borrow your jeep?"

"I'll drive you. Where do you want to go?"

"To the hospital," Kennon said. "I'll have to pick up my gear.
It's an emergency all right."

"You're a tough one," Al said admiringly. "I'd hate to walk five
kilos in this heat without a hat -- and then go out on a call."

Kennon shrugged. "It's not necessarily toughness. I believe in
doing one job at a time -- and my contract reads veterinary
service, not personal problems. The job comes first and there's
work to do."

Copper wasn't in sight when Kennon came back to the hospital -- a
fact for which he was grateful. He packed quickly, threw his bags
into the jeep, and took off with almost guilty haste. He'd
contact the Hospital from the Otpens. Right now all he wanted was
to put distance between himself and Copper. Absence might make
the heart grow fonder, but at the moment propinquity was by far
the more dangerous thing. He pointed the blunt nose of the jeep
toward Mount Olympus, set the autopilot, opened the throttle, and
relaxed as best he could as the little vehicle sped at top speed
for the outer islands. A vague curiosity filled him. He'd never
been on the Otpens. He wondered what they were like.

* * *

Otpen One was a rocky tree-clad islet crowned with the stellate
mass of a Class II Fortalice. But this one wasn't like
Alexandria. It was fully manned and in service condition.

"Airboat!" a voice crackled from the dashboard speaker of the
jeep, "Identify yourself! You are being tracked."

Kennon quickly flipped the IFF switch. "Dr. Kennon, from Flora,"
he said.

"Thank you, sir. You are expected and are clear to land. Bring
your vehicle down in the marked area." A section of the roof
turned a garish yellow as Kennon circled the building. He brought
the jeep in lightly, setting it carefully in the center of the

"Leave your vehicle," the speaker chattered. "If you are armed
leave your weapon behind."

"It's not my habit to carry a gun," Kennon snapped.

"Sorry, sir -- regulations," the speaker said. '"This is S.O.P."

Kennon left the jeep and instantly felt the probing tingle of a
search beam. He looked around curiously at the flat roof of the
fortress with its domed turrets and ugly snouts of the main
battery projectors pointing skyward. Beside him, the long metal
doors of a missile launcher made a rectangular trace on the
smooth surface of the roof. Behind him the central tower poked
its gaunt ferromorph and durilium outline into the darkening sky
bearing its crown of spiderweb radar antennae turning steadily on
their gimbals covering a vast hemisphere from horizon to zenith
with endless inspection.

From the base of the tower a man emerged. He was tall, taller
even than Kennon, and the muscles of his body showed through the
tightness of his battle dress. His face was harsh, and in his
hands he carried a Burkholtz magnum -- the most powerful portable
weapon mankind had yet devised.

"You are Dr. Kennon?" the trooper asked.

"I am."

"Your I.D., please."

Kennon handed it over and the big man scanned the card with
practiced eyes. "Check," he said. "Follow me, sir."

"My bags," Kennon said.

"They'll be taken care of."

Kennon shrugged and followed the man into the tower. A modern
grav-shaft lowered them to the ground floor. They passed through
a gloomy caricature of the Great Hall in Alexandria, through an
iris, and down a long corridor lined with doors.

A bell rang.

"Back!" the trooper said. "Against the wall! Quick! Into the

"What's up?"

"Another practice alert." The trooper's voice was bored. "It gets
so that you'd almost wish for a fight to relieve the monotony."

A trooper and several Lani came down the corridor, running in
disciplined formation. Steel clanged on steel as they turned the
corner and moments later the whine of servos came faintly to
their ears. From somewhere deep in the pile a rising crescendo of
generators under full battle load sent out vibrations that could
be sensed rather than heard. A klaxon squawked briefly. There was
another clash of metal, and a harsh voice boomed through the
corridors. "Fourteen seconds. Well done. Secure stations!"

The trooper grinned. "That ties the record," he said. "We can go

The corridor ended abruptly at an iris flanked by two sentries.
They conferred briefly with Kennon's guide, dilated the iris, and
motioned for Kennon to enter. The pastel interior of the modern
office was a shocking contrast to the gray ferromorph corridors

Douglas Alexander was standing behind the desk. He was much the
same. His pudgy face was haggard with uncertainty and his eyes
darted back and forth as his fingers caressed the knobby grip of
a small Burkholtz jutting from a holster at his waist. There were
new, unpleasant furrows between his eyes. He looked older and the
indefinable air of cruelty was more pronounced. He had been
frightened the last time Kennon had seen him, and he was
frightened now.

"I'm not sure whether I am glad to see you, Kennon," he said
uncertainly. "But I suppose I have to be."

Kennon believed him.

"How have you been?" Kennon asked.

"Not too bad until this afternoon. Things have been going pretty
well." He shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another. "I
suppose Cousin Alex will skin me for this, but there's nothing
else I can do." He licked his lips. "You've been here long enough
-- and you'll have to know eventually." He fidgeted and finally
sat down behind the desk. "We have trouble. Half the Lani were
stricken about four hours ago. It was sudden. No warning at all.
And if they die----" his voice trailed off.

"Well -- what are we waiting for? Get someone to bring my bags
down here and we'll look them over."

"Do you have to? -- Can't you prescribe something?"

"How? I haven't examined the patients."

"I can tell you what's wrong."

Kennon smiled. "I hardly think that's the way to do it. Even
though your description might be accurate, you still might miss
something of critical importance."

Douglas sighed. "I thought that's what you'd say," he said. "Oh
-- very well -- you might as well see what we have out here."

"You can't possibly believe that I don't already know," Kennon
said. "You have male Lani."

Douglas looked at him, his face blank with surprise. "But -- how
did you know? No one on the main island does except the Family.
And we never talk about it. Did Eloise tell you? I noticed she
was struck with you the day you came, and the Lani who have come
out here since have been talking about you two. Did she do it?"

Kennon shook his head. "She never said a word."

"Then how----"

"I'm not stupid," Kennon said. "That story you've spread about
artificial fertilization has more holes in it than a sieve. That
technique has been investigated a thousand times. And it has
never worked past the first generation. If you had been using it,
the Lani would long ago have been extinct. Haploids don't
reproduce, and the only way the diploid number of chromosomes can
be kept is to replace those lost by maturation division of the
ovum. You might be able to keep the diploid number by using
immature ova, but the fertilization technique would be far more
complex than the simple uterine injections you use at Hillside

Douglas looked at him blankly.

"Besides," Kennon added, "I have a microscope. I checked your
so-called fertilizing solution. I found spermatozoa, and
spermatozoa only come from males. What's more, the males have to
be the same species as the females or fertilization will not take
place. So there must be male Lani. Nothing else fits. You've been
using artificial insemination on the main-island Lani. And from
the way this place is guarded, it's obvious that here is your
stud farm."

Douglas shrugged and spread his hands in a gesture of
resignation. "I suppose," he said, "that's the way Old Doc found
out too. We never told him, but he knew before he ever came out

"The only thing that puzzles me," Kennon went on, "is how you
managed to eliminate the Y-chromosome carriers within the sperm."


"The male sex-determinant. Half the sperm carry it, but so far as
I know, there's never been a male born on the main island."

"Oh -- that. It's something that's done in the labs here.
Probably one of the technicians could tell you. It's called
electro-- electro freezing or something like that."


Douglas nodded. "That sounds like it. I don't know anything about
it. One of Grandfather's men did the basic work. We just follow
instructions." He shrugged. "Well - since you know the secret
there's no sense in hiding the bodies. Come along and tell me
what's wrong."

It was a peculiar feeling to walk down the row of cubical rooms
with their barred doors. The whole area reminded him of a
historical novel, of the prisons of early human history where men
confined other men for infractions of social customs. The
grimness of the place was appalling. The male Lani -- impressive
in their physical development -- were in miserable condition,
nauseated, green-faced, retching. The sickening odors of vomit
and diarrhea hung heavily on the air. Douglas coughed and held a
square of cloth to his face, and even Kennon, strong-stomached as
he was, could feel his viscera twitch in sympathy with the caged

"Great Fleming, man!" Kennon exploded. "You can't keep them here.
Get them out! Give them some fresh air! This place would make a
well man sick."

Douglas looked at him, "I wouldn't take one of them out unless I
had him shackled and there was an armed guard to help me. Those
males are the most vicious, cunning, and dangerous animals on
Kardon. They exist with but one thought in mind -- to kill!"

Kennon looked curiously through a barred door at one of the Lani.
He lay on a bare cot, a magnificently muscled figure with a
ragged black beard hiding his face. There were dozens of scars on
his body and one angry purple area on his thick right forearm
where flesh had been torn away not too long ago. Beads of sweat
stood out on his forehead and soft moaning noises came from his
tight lips as he pressed his abdomen with thick-fingered hands.
"He doesn't look so dangerous," Kennon said.

"Watch it!" Douglas warned. "Don't get too close!" But the
warning was too late. Kennon touched the bars, and as he did, the
Lani moved with fluid speed, one huge hand clutching Kennon's
sleeve and pulling him against the bars while the other darted
for his throat. Fingers bit into Kennon's neck and tightened in a
viselike grip. Kennon reacted automatically. His arms came up
inside the Lani's and crashed down, elbows out, tearing the Lani
loose. He jumped back, rubbing his bruised throat. "That fellow's
not sick!" he gasped. "He's crazy!"

The Lani glared at him through the bars, disappointment written
on his scarred and bearded face.

"I warned you," Douglas said. His voice held an undertone of
malicious laughter. "He must be sick or he would have killed you.
George is clever in a stupid sort of way."

Kennon looked into the cubicle. The Lani glared back and growled.
There was a beastlike note in his voice that made the short hairs
on Kennon's neck prickle.

"That fellow needs a lesson," he said.

"You want to give it to him?" Douglas asked.

"Not particularly."

"Ha! -- man! -- you afraid!" the Lani taunted. His voice was
thick and harsh. "All men fear me. All Lani, too. I am boss. Come
close again man and I kill you!"

"Are they all that stupid?" Kennon asked. "He sounds like a
homicidal moron."

"He's not stupid," Douglas said. "Just uneducated."

"Why is he so murderous?"

"That's his training. All his life he has fought. From childhood
his life has been based on his ability to survive in an
environment where every male is his enemy. You see here the
sublimation of individuality. He cannot co-operate with another
male. He hates them, and they in turn hate him. George, here, is
a perfect example of absolute freedom from restraint." Douglas
smiled unpleasantly.

"His whole history is one of complete lack of control. As an
infant, being a male, his mother thought she was favored by the
gods and she denied him nothing. In fact we were quite insistent
that she gave him everything he wanted. By the time he was able
to walk and take care of himself, he was completely spoiled,
selfish, and authoritative.

"Then we took him and a dozen others exactly like him and put
them together." Douglas grinned. "You should see what happens
when a dozen spoiled brats are forced to live together. It's more
fun. The little beasts hate each other on sight. And we stimulate
them to compete for toys, food, and drink. Never quite enough to
go around. You can imagine what happens. Instead of sharing, each
little selfish individualist fights to get everything he can
grab. Except for one thing we don't punish them no matter what
they do. If anyone shows signs of co-operating he is disciplined
severely, the first time. The next time, he is culled. But other
than that, we leave them alone. They develop their personalities
and their muscles -- and if one proves to be too much for his
fellows we transfer him to a more advanced class where the
competition is keener, and he learns what it is to lose.

"At puberty we add sex drive to the basics, and by the time our
male reaches maturity we have something like George. Actually,
George is more mature than either you or I. He has all the
answers he needs. He's strong, solitary, authoritative, and
selfish. He has no curiosity and resents encroachment. He's a
complete individualist. If he proves out he should make an
excellent sire."

"But isn't he dangerous to handle?" Kennon asked.

"Yes, but we take precautions."

Kennon grimaced with distaste.

"Look at it objectively," Douglas said. "We're trying to select
the best physical type we can in the hope that he'll pass his
qualities to his offspring, and there's no better practical way
to select the strongest and hardiest than by natural selection.
We control their environment as little as possible and let Nature
do our educating until they're old enough to be useful.

"Naturally, there are some things which we cannot provide, such
as exposure to disease, to the elements, and to predators. The
one isn't selective about whom it infects, while the others would
tend to produce co-operation as a matter of survival."

"Isn't there a great deal of mortality under such a regimen?''
Kennon asked.

"Not as much as you might expect. It's about twenty per cent. And
there is a great deal of compensation from a management
viewpoint. We get essentially the same physical end product as we
would from a closely managed operation, plus a great saving in
labor. Males, you see, are fairly expendable. We only need a few
a year."

"It's brutal."

"So it is, but life is brutal. Still, it's efficient for our
purposes. We merely take advantage of natural impulses to produce
a better product. Grandfather got the idea out of an old book --
something about the noble savage, natural selection and survival
of the fittest. He thought it was great - said there was nothing
like relentless competition to bring out the strongest and
hardiest types. And he's been right for centuries. Can you
imagine anything much better than George -- from a physical

"He is a magnificent animal," Kennon admitted as he eyed the
Lani. "But it seems to me that you could train some obedience
into him."

Douglas shook his head. "That would introduce a modifying factor,
something bigger and more powerful than the male himself. And
that would modify the results. We can control them well enough
with knockout gas and shackles. And those things, oddly enough,
don't destroy their pride or self-esteem. They think that we use
them because we are afraid, and it satisfies their egos."

Kennon eyed the caged Lani dubiously. "This is going to be
difficult. I must examine them and treat them, but if they're all
as homicidal as this one--"

"You fight me man," George interrupted, his face twisted into
lines of transparent guile. "I am boss and others do as I say.
You beat me, then you are boss."

"Is this true?" Kennon asked.

"Oh, it's true enough," Douglas said. "George is the leader and
if you beat him you'd be top male until some other one got
courage enough to challenge you. But he's just trying to get his
hands on you. He'd like to kill."

Kennon looked at the big humanoid appraisingly. George was huge,
at least five centimeters taller and fifteen kilograms heavier
than himself. And he was all muscle. "I don't think I'd care to
accept that challenge unless I was forced to," Kennon said.

Douglas chuckled. "I don't blame you."

Kennon sighed. "It looks like we are going to need reinforcements
to get these brutes under control. I'm not going in there with
them, and I can't examine them from out here."

"Oh, we can hold them all right. Paralysis gas and shackles will
keep them quiet. There's no need to bother the troopers. We can
handle this by ourselves."

Kennon shrugged. "It's your baby. You should know what you're

"I do," Douglas said confidently. "Wait here until I get the gas
capsules and the equipment.'' He turned and walked back to the
entrance to the cell block. At the iris he turned. "Be careful,"
he said.

"Don't worry, I will." Kennon looked at George through the bars
and the humanoid glared back, his eyes bright with hatred. Kennon
felt the short hairs prickle along the back of his neck. George
roused a primal emotion -- an elemental dislike that was deeper
than reason -- an antagonism intensely physical, almost
overpowering -- a purely adrenal response that had no business in
the make-up of a civilized human.

He had thought the Lani had a number of human traits until he had
encountered George. But if George was a typical male -- then the
Lani were alien. He flexed his muscles and stared coldly into the
burning blue eyes behind the bars. There would be considerable
satisfaction in beating this monstrosity to a quivering pulp.
Millennia of human pre-eminence -- of belief that nothing, no
matter how big or muscular, should fail to recognize that a man's
person was inviolate -- fed the fuel of his anger. The most
ferocious beasts on ten thousand worlds had learned this lesson.
And yet this animal had laid hands on him with intent to kill. A
cold corner of his mind kept telling him that he wasn't behaving
rationally, but he disregarded it. George was a walking need for
a lesson in manners.

"Don't get the idea that I'm afraid of you -- you overmuscled
oaf," Kennon snapped. "I can handle you or anyone like you. And
if you put your hands on me again I'll beat you within an inch of
your worthless life."

The Lani snarled. "Let me out and I kill you. But you are like
all men. You use gun and iron -- not fair fight."

Douglas returned with a gas capsule and a set of shackles. "All
right," he said. "We're ready for him." He handed Kennon the
shackles and a key to the cell door -- and drew his Burkholtz.

"See," the Lani growled. "It is as I say. Men are cowards."

"You know gun?" Douglas asked as he pointed the muzzle of the
Burkholtz at the Lani.

"I know," George growled. "Gun kill."

"It does indeed," Douglas said. "Now get back -- clear back
against the wall."

George snarled but didn't move.

"I'll count three," Douglas said, "and if you're not back by then
I'll burn you down. You'll obey even if you won't do anything
else. -- one -- two--"

George retreated to the far end of his cell.

"Now face the wall." Douglas tossed the gas capsule into the
cell. The thin-walled container broke, releasing a cloud of
vapor. George crumpled to the floor. "Now we wait a couple of
minutes for the gas to dissipate," Douglas said. "After that he's
all yours. You can go in and put the irons on him."

"Will he be out long?" Kennon asked.

"About five minutes. After that he'll have muscular control."
Douglas chuckled. "They're stupid," he said. "They know what gas
does to them, but they never have sense enough to hold their
breath. They could be twice as much trouble as they are. All
right, it's safe to go in now." Douglas let the gun dangle in his

Kennon unlocked the door.

And George rolled over, muscles bunched and driving! He hit the
door with such force that Kennon was slammed against the wall,
dazed -- half stunned by the speed of the attack. George -- he
had time to think in one brief flash -- wasn't stupid. He had
held his breath for the necessary two minutes!

Douglas jerked the blaster up and fired, but his target was too
quick. George dropped and rolled. The sizzling streak of violet
flashed inches above his body and tore a six-inch hole through
the back of the cell. And then George was on him! The huge,
marvelously fast hands of the humanoid wrenched the blaster out
of Douglas's hands and jerked him forward. A scream burst from
Douglas as George's hands closed around his neck. Muscles sprang
into writhing life in the humanoid's huge forearms. There was a
soft, brittle crack, and Douglas sagged limp in the iron grip
that held him dangling.

"Faugh!" George grunted. He dropped Douglas as Kennon pushed the
door back and came out into the passageway. "Maybe you make
better fight," George said as he lowered his head into the
muscular mass of his broad shoulders.

Kennon eyed him appraisingly, swinging the irons in his right

This time the Lani didn't charge. He moved slowly, half crouched,
long arms held slightly forward. Kennon backed away, watching the
humanoid's eyes for that telltale flicker of the pupils that
gives warning of attack. The expression on George's face never
changed. It was satisfied -- smug almost -- reflecting the
feelings of a brute conditioned to kill and given an opportunity
to do so. The Lani radiated confidence.

Kennon shivered involuntarily. He wasn't frightened, but he had
never met an opponent like this. A chill raced up the back of his
legs and spread over his stomach and chest. His mouth was dry and
his muscles quivered with tense anticipation. But his
concentration never wavered. His hard blue eyes never left
George's, searching with microscopic intentness for the faintest
sign of the Lani's intentions.

George charged -- hands reaching for Kennon's throat, face
twisted in a snarl of rage and hate. But even as he charged
Kennon moved. He ducked beneath the Lani's outstretched hands and
drove his left fist deep into George's belly just below the

Air whistled out of the Lani's gaping mouth as he bent double
from the power of the blow. Kennon clipped him on the chin with a
driving knee, snapping George's head back and smashed the bearded
face with the shackles. Blood spurted and George screamed with
rage. One of the Lani's big hands wrapped around the shackles and
tugged. Kennon let go and drove another left to George's ribs.

The Lani threw the irons at Kennon, but his aim was poor. One of
the handcuff rings scraped across Kennon's cheek, but did nothing
more than break the skin. Half paralyzed by the blows to his
solar plexus, George's co-ordination was badly impaired. But he
kept trying. Kennon wrapped lean fingers about one of George's
outstretched hands, bent, pivoted, and slammed the Lani with
bone-crushing force against the bars of a nearby cell. But George
didn't go down. "He's more brute than man," Kennon thought. "No
man could take a beating like that!" He moved aside from George's
stumbling rush, feeling a twinge of pity for the battered
humanoid. It was no contest. Strong as he was, George didn't know
the rudiments of hand-to-hand fighting. His reactions were those
of an animal, to close, clutch, bite, and tear. Even if he were
completely well, the results would have been the same. It would
merely have taken longer. Kennon drove a vicious judo chop to the
junction of the Lani's neck and shoulder. Brute strength was no
match for the highly evolved mayhem that every spaceman learns as
a necessary part of his trade. George had never been on planet
leave in a spaceport town. He knew nothing about the dives, the
crimps, the hostile port police. His idea of fighting was that of
a beast, but Kennon was a civilized man to whom fighting was an
art perfected by millennia of warfare. And Kennon knew his trade.

Even so it took longer than Kennon expected because George was
big, George was strong, and George had courage and pride that
kept him coming as long as the blazing will behind his blazing
eyes could drive his battered body. But the end was inevitable.

Kennon looked at his bloody arm where George's teeth had reached
their mark. It was hardly more than a scratch, but it had been
close. George had his lesson and Kennon felt oddly degraded. He
sighed, dragged George back into the cell, and locked the door.

Then he turned to Douglas. The howls of hate from the caged Lani
died to a sullen silence as Kennon gently examined the limp body.

Douglas wasn't dead. His neck was dislocated, not broken, but he
was in serious condition. Kennon was still bending over Douglas
wondering how to call for help when three guards burst through
the door, faces grim, weapons at the ready.

"What's going on here?" the leader demanded. "The board showed an
open door down here." He saw the body-- "Mr. Douglas!" he gasped.
"The commandant will have to know about this!" He took a
communicator from his waist belt and spoke rapidly into it.
"Arleson in stud cell block," he said. "Attempted escape. One
casualty -- Douglas Alexander - yes, that's right. No -- he's not
dead. Send a litter and bearers. Inform the commandant. I am
making investigation on the spot. Out." He turned to look coldly
at Kennon.

"Who are you--and what happened here?" he asked.

Kennon told him.

"You mean you took George!" Arleson said.

"Look in his cell if you don't believe me."

The soldier looked and then turned hack to Kennon. There was awed
respect in his hard brown eyes. "You did that! -- to him! Man,
you're a fighter," he said in an unbelieving voice.

A stretcher detail manned by two sober-faced Lani females came
in, loaded Douglas's body on the stretcher, and silently bore it

"Douglas was a fool," Arleson said. "He knew we never handle this
kind without maximum restraint. I wonder why he did it?"

"I couldn't say. He told me that gas and shackles would hold

"He knew better. These Lani know gas capsules. All George bad to
do was hold his breath. In that cell George would have killed
you. You couldn't have stayed away from him."

Kennon shrugged. Maybe that was what Douglas had wanted. Kennon
sighed. He didn't have the answer. And it could just be that
Douglas had tried to show off. Well, he would pay for it. He'd
have a stiff neck for months, and perhaps that was a proper way
to end it.

* * *

Commander Mullins, a thin gray-faced man with the hard cold eyes
of a professional soldier, came into the corridor followed by
another trooper.

His eyes took in the wreckage that had been George, the split
lips, the smashed nose, the puffed eyes, the cuts and bruises,
and then raked across Kennon.

"Spaceman -- hey?" he asked. "I've seen work like that before."

Kennon nodded. "I was once. I'm station veterinarian now. Douglas
called me over -- said it was an emergency."

Mullins nodded.

"Well -- why aren't you tending to it?"

"I have to examine them," Kennon said gesturing at the cells.
"And I don't want any more trouble like this."

"Don't worry. You won't have it. Now that you've beaten George,
you'll have no trouble at all. You're top dog." Mullins gestured
at the cages. "They'll be good for a while. Now you'd better get
on with your work. There's been enough disruption of routine for
today. The men will help you."

* * *

Kennon checked in at the commandant's office before he left for
the main island.

"How is Douglas?" he asked.

"He's alive," Mullins said. "We flew him to Albertsville - and
good riddance. How are the Lani?"

"They'll be all right," Kennon said. "It's just food poisoning. I
suggest you check your kitchen and your food handlers. There's a
break in sanitation that could incapacitate your whole command. I
found a few things wrong but there are probably more."

"I'll check on it -- and thanks for the advice," Mullins said.
"Sit down, Doctor. Your airboat won't be serviced for another few
minutes. Tell me how things are on the main island. How's

"You know him?"

"Of course. I used to be a frequent visitor there. But with that
young pup here, I couldn't leave. I didn't dare to. He'd have
disrupted routine in a single day. Look what he did in half an
hour. Frankly, I owe you a debt for getting him off my hands."
Mullins chuckled dryly.

"That's a fine thing to say," Kennon grinned. "But I can
sympathize. It took us two months to straighten out Alexandria
after the Boss-man sent him here."

"I heard about that."

"Well -- we're under control now. Things are going pretty

"They'll be better here," Mullins said. "Now that Douglas is
gone." He shrugged. "I hope the Boss doesn't send him back. He's
hard to handle and he makes discipline a problem."

"Could you tell me--or would it be violating security?" Kennon
said. "Why do you have a Class II installation on full war
footing out here?"

Mullins chuckled. It's no secret," he said. "There was a
commercial raid on this place about fifty years ago. Seems as
though one of our competitors didn't like us. Alexandria was on a
war footing then and managed to hold them off. But it scared the
Old Man. You see, our competitive position is based on Lani
labor. Our competitors didn't know that. Their intelligence
wasn't so good. Up until that time, we'd been keeping the males
out here in what was hardly more than a stockade. Those people
could have taken a few dozen females and a couple of males and
they'd have been in business. But they didn't know. They tried to
smash Alexandria instead. Naturally they didn't have a chance.

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