Part 3 out of 5
And after it was over the Old Man got smart. He still had the
tapes for Alexandria so he built a duplicate out here and spent a
few millions on modern armament. The way we're set now it'd take
a battle group to hurt us.''
"But how about security? Don't the others know about the Lani
"It's a moot question. But it won't do them any good. They can't
crack this place, and without males, all the females on Flora
wouldn't do them enough long-term good to pay for the force
they'd need to be successful."
"So that's why the males are isolated."
"There's another reason -- two of them in fact. One is physical.
Even the best male is a dangerous beast. They have a flair for
violence that makes them useless as labor and their training
doesn't help matters. And the other is mental. The females on the
main island believe that we humans are responsible for the
continuation of their breed. This tends to keep them in line. We
have a great deal more trouble with them out here once they know
the truth. We've had a number of cases of females trying to
engineer a male's escape. But they're never repeated," Mullins
said grimly. "Actually, it would be an interesting life out here,
except for the abattoir." He grimaced. "That's an unpleasant
"You mean--" Kennon said.
"Why, certainly. What else could we do with senile animals?"
"But that's murder!"
Mullins shook his head. "No more than killing a cow for beef."
"You know," Kennon said, "I've never thought of what happened to
aged Lani. Sure, I've never seen one, but -- Lord Lister! -- I'm
"You'll get used to the idea," Mullins said. "They aren't human,
and except for a few, they aren't as intelligent as a Santosian
Varl. I know that they look like us except for those tails, but
that's as far as it goes. I've spent two hundred years with them
and I know what I'm talking about."
"That's what Alexander says."
"He should know. He's lived with them all his life."
"Well -- perhaps. But I'm not convinced."
"Neither was Old Doc -- not until the day he died."
"Did he change then?"
"I don't know. I wasn't there. But Old Doc was a stubborn cuss."
Kennon stood up. "I've given instructions for treatment to your
corpsman," he said. "Now I think I'd better be getting back. I
have some reports to finish."
Mullins smiled grimly. "You know," he said, "I get the feeling
that you don't approve of this operation."
"Frankly, I don't," Kennon said, "but I signed a contract." He
turned toward the door and gestured to the two Lani who waited
outside with his bags. "I can find my way to the roof," he said.
"Well -- good luck," Mullins said. "We'll call you again if we
"Do that," Kennon replied. He wanted to leave, to get away from
this place and back to the main island. He wanted to see Copper.
He'd be damned if anyone was going to butcher her. If he had to
stay here until she died of old age, he'd do it. But nobody was
going to hurt her.
Kennon wondered if his colleagues in human medicine felt toward
their patients as he did toward the Lani, or if they ultimately
lost their individuality and became mere hosts for diseases,
parasites, and tumors -- vehicles for the practice of surgical
and medical skills -- economic units whose well-being meant a
certain amount of credits. Probably not, he decided. They were
human and their very humanity made them persons rather than
But the possession of individuality was not an asset in the
practice of animal medicine where economics was the main factor
and the satisfaction of the owner the principal personality
problem. The normal farm animals, the shrakes, cattle, sheep,
morks, and swine were no problem. They were merely a job. But the
Lani were different. They weren't human, but they were
intelligent and they did have personality even though they didn't
possess that indefinable quality that separated man from the
beasts. It was hard to treat them with dispassionate objectivity.
In fact, it was impossible.
And this lack of objectivity annoyed him. Should he be this way?
Was he right to identify them as individuals and treat them as
persons rather than things? The passing months had failed to rob
them of their personalities: they had not become the faceless
mass of a herd of cattle or a flock of sheep. They were still not
essentially different from humans -- and wouldn't men themselves
lose many of their human characteristics if they were herded into
barracks and treated as property for forty generations? Wouldn't
men, too, approach the animal condition if they were bred and
treated as beasts, their pedigrees recorded, their types winnowed
and selected? The thought was annoying.
It would be better, Kennon reflected, if he didn't have time to
think, if he were so busy he could drop to his bed exhausted each
night and sleep without dreaming, if he could keep on the run so
fast that he wouldn't have time to sit and reflect. But he had
done his work too well. He had trained his staff too thoroughly.
They could handle the petty routines of minor treatment and
laboratory tests as well as he. He had only the intellectual
stimulation of atypical cases and these were all too rare. The
routine inspections were boring, yet he forced himself to make
them because the filled the time. The hospital wards were
virtually empty of patients, the work was up to date, the whole
island was enjoying a carnival of health, and Kennon was still
impaled upon the horns of his dilemma. It wasn't so bad now that
the first shock was over, but it was bad enough -- and showed no
signs of getting better. Now that Copper realized he wanted her,
she did nothing to make his life easier. Instead she did her best
to get underfoot, usually in some provocative position. It was
enough to try the patience of a marble statue Kennon reflected
grimly. But it did have its humorous side and were it not for the
fact that Copper wasn't human could have been thoroughly
enjoyable. That, however, was the real hell of it. He couldn't
relax and enjoy the contest - his feet were on too slippery
ground. And Copper with her unerring female instinct knew just
what to do to make the footing slipperier. Sooner or later, she
was certain that he would fall. It was only a question of
applying sufficient pressure at the right spot and the right
time. Now that she knew he desired her, she was content to wait.
The only thing that had bothered her was the uncertainty whether
he cared or not. For Copper the future was a simple thing and she
was lighthearted about it. But not so Kennon. Even after the
initial shock had passed there still remained the moral customs,
the conditioning, and the prohibitions. But Copper - was Copper
-- and somehow the conditioning lost its force in her presence.
Perhaps, he thought wryly, it was a symptom of the gradual
erosion of his moral character in this abnormal environment.
"I'm getting stale," he confided to Copper as he sat in his
office idly turning the pages of the Kardon Journal of Allied
Medical Sciences. "There's nothing to do that's interesting."
"You could help me," Copper said as she looked up from the pile
of cards she was sorting. He had given her the thankless task of
reorganizing the files, and she was barely half through the
"There's nothing to do that's interesting," he repeated. He
cocked his head to one side. From this angle Copper looked
decidedly intriguing as she bent over the file drawer and
replaced a stack of cards.
"I could suggest something," Copper said demurely.
"Yes, I know," he said. "You're full of suggestions."
"I was thinking that we could go on a picnic."
"A picnic. Take a lunch and go somewhere in the jeep. Maybe up
into the hills. I think it might be fun."
"Why not?" Kennon agreed. "At least it would break the monotony.
Tell you what. You run up to the house and tell Kara to pack a
lunch and we'll take the day off."
"Good! I hoped you'd say that. I'm getting tired of these dirty
old cards." She stood up and sidled past the desk. Kennon
resisted the impulse to slap as she went past, and congratulated
himself on his self-control as she looked at him with a
half-disappointed expression on her face. She had expected it, he
thought gleefully. Score one for morality.
He smiled. Whatever the other Lani might be, Copper was
different. Quick, volatile, intelligent, she was a constant
delight, a flashing kaleidoscope of unexpected facets. Perhaps
the others were the same if he knew them better. But he didn't
know them -- and avoided learning. In that direction lay ulcers.
"We'll go to Olympus," he said.
Copper looked dubious. "I'd rather not go there. That's forbidden
"Oh nonsense. You're merely superstitious."
She smiled. "Perhaps you're right. You usually are."
"That's the virtue of being a man. Even if I'm wrong, I'm right."
He chuckled at the peculiar expression on her face.
"Now off with you -- and get that lunch basket packed."
She bowed. "Yes, master. Your slave flies on winged feet to
execute your commands."
Kennon chuckled. Copper had been reading Old Doc's romances
again. He recognized the florid style.
* * *
Kennon landed the jeep in a mountain meadow halfway up the slope
of the peacefully slumbering volcano. It was quiet and cool, and
the light breeze was blowing Olympus's smoky cap away from them
to the west. Copper unpacked the lunch. She moved slowly. After
all, there was plenty of time, and she wasn't very hungry.
Neither was Kennon.
"Let's go for a walk," Copper said. "The woods look cool -- and
maybe we can work up an appetite."
"Good idea. I could use some exercise. That lunch looks big
enough to choke a horse and I'd like to do it justice."
They walked through the woods, skirting scant patches of
underbrush, slowly moving higher on the mountain slopes. The
trees, unlike those of Beta, did not end abruptly at a snow line,
but pushed green fingers upward through passages between old lava
flows, on whose black wrinkled surfaces nothing grew. The faint
hum of insects and the piping calls of the birdlike mammals added
to the impression of remoteness. It was hard to believe that
scarcely twenty kilometers from this primitive microcosm was the
border of the highly organized and productive farmlands of
"Do you think we can see the hospital if we go high enough?"
Copper said. She panted a little, unaccustomed to the altitude.
"Possibly," Kennon said. "It is a long distance away. But we
should be able to see Alexandria," he added. "That's high enough
and big enough." He looked at her curiously. "How is it that
you're so breathless?" he asked. "We're not that high. You're
getting fat with too much soft living."
Copper smiled. "Perhaps I'm getting old."
"Nonsense," Kennon chuckled. "It's just fat. Come to think of it
you are plumper. Not that I mind, but if you're going to keep
that sylphlike figure you'd better go on a diet."
"You're too good to me," Copper said.
"You're darn right I am. Well - let's get going. Exercise is
always good for the waistline, and I'd like to see what's up
Scarcely a kilometer ahead they came to a wall of lava that
barred their path. "Oh, oh," Kennon said. "We can't go over
that." He looked at the wrinkled and shattered rock with its
"I don't think my feet could take it," Copper admitted.
"It looks like the end of the trail."
"No -- not quite," Kennon said. "There seems to be a path here."
He pointed to a narrow cleft in the black rock. "Let's see where
Copper hung back. "I don't think I want to," she said doubtfully.
"It looks awfully dark and narrow."
"Oh, stop it. Nothing's going to hurt us. Come on." Kennon took
Unwillingly Copper allowed herself to be led forward. "There's
something about this place that frightens me," she said
uncomfortably as the high black wails closed in, narrowing until
only a slit of yellow sky was visible overhead. The path
underfoot was surprisingly smooth and free from rocks, but the
narrow corridor, steeped in shadows, was gloomy and depressingly
silent. It even bothered Kennon, although he wouldn't admit it.
What forces had sliced this razor-thin cleft in the dense rock
around them? Earthquake probably. And if it happened once it
could happen again. He would hate to be trapped here entombed in
Gradually the passage widened, then abruptly it ended. A bleak
vista of volcanic ash dotted with sputter cones opened before
them. It was a flat tableland, roughly circular, scarcely half a
kilometer across, a desolation of black rock, stunted trees and
underbrush, and gray volcanic ash. A crater, somewhat larger than
the rest, lay with its nearest edge about two hundred meters
away. The rock edges were fire polished, gleaming in the yellow
sunshine, and the thin margin of trees and brush surrounding the
depression were gnarled and shrunken, twisted into fantastic
"Hey! what's this?" Kennon asked curiously. "That crater looks
peculiar, like a meteor had struck here -- but those stunted
plants -- hmm -- there must have been some radioactivity too." He
looked at the crater speculatively. "Now I wonder----"he began.
Copper had turned a sickly white. "No!" she said in a
half-strangled voice--"oh, no!'
Kennon looked at her. "You know what this is?" he demanded.
"No," Copper said. But her voice was unsteady.
"But I don't know." Copper wailed. "I'm only guessing. I've never
seen this place before in my life! Please! -- let's get out of
"Then you know about this," Kennon demanded.
"I think it's the Pit," Copper said. 'The redes don't say where
it is. But the description fits -- the Circle of Death, the
Twisted Land -- it's all like the redes say."
"Redes? -- what are redes? And what is this business about
circles of death? There's something here that's peculiar and I
want to know what it is."
"It's nothing. Truly. Just let's go back. Let's leave this place.
It's no good. It's tabu."
"Tabu? You've never used that word before."
"Who forbids it?"
"The Gods -- the Old Ones. It is not for Lani. Nor for you." Her
voice was harsh. "Come away before it is too late. Before the
Silent Death strikes you down."
"I'm going to have a look at this."
"You'll be killed!" Copper said. "And if you die, I die too."
"Don't be foolish. There's nothing here that can hurt me. See
those trees and plants growing right up to the crater's edge. If
they can take it permanently, I can stand it for a few moments.
If there's any radioactivity there, it's not very much."
"But the redes say---"
"Oh, forget those redes. I know what I'm doing. Besides, I'm a
Betan and can stand more radiation than most men. A brief
exposure isn't going to hurt me."
"You go and I go too," Copper said desperately.
''You'll stay here where it's safe," Kennon said flatly.
"I'm going with you," Copper repeated. "I don't want to live
"I tell you I won't be hurt. And one quick look isn't going to
bother whatever's down there."
"That's what Roga the Foolish said when he opened Lyssa's tower.
But he brought men to Flora. And your little look may bring an
even greater calamity."
Kennon shrugged, and started Walking toward the crater's edge.
He turned to order her back, but the words died on his tips as he
saw the terror and determination on her face. Neither commands
nor pleas would move her. If he went she would follow. The only
way he could stop her would be with violence, and he didn't want
to manhandle her. He felt an odd mixture of pride, tenderness,
and admiration for her. Were their situations reversed, he
doubted whether he would have the courage she was showing. He
sighed. Perhaps she was right. Perhaps he did need an
"All right," he said. "You win. I'll get some protective clothing
and look at it later."
Her knees sagged, but he caught her before she fell, and held her
erect until her strength returned. Belatedly he understood the
emotional strain that had been gripping her. "If you come back
later, sir, you'll take me with you." The words were a statement,
not a question.
He nodded. "Providing you wear a radiation suit," he said.
She grimaced with distaste and he chuckled. Clothing and Copper
simply didn't get along together.
"All right," she said unhappily.
"And there's one more condition."
"What's that?" she asked suspiciously.
"That you tell me about this place. You obviously know something
about it, and with all your talking, you've never mentioned it to
"It is forbidden to talk of these things to men," Copper said --
and then, perversely, "Do you want me to tell you now?"
"No -- it can wait. We have come a long way and I am hungry. I
listen poorly on an empty stomach. Let's go back to the jeep and
you can tell me later."
Copper smiled. "That's good," she said. "I'd feel better away
from this place."
"I was a poor learner of the redes," Copper confessed. "And I'll
have to skip the Mysteries. I never even tried to learn them.
Somehow I was sure I'd never be a preceptress." She settled
herself more comfortably on the tawny grass and watched him as he
lay on his back beside her.
"Eh?" Kennon said, "Preceptress?"
"The guardians of our traditions. They know the redes and
mysteries by heart."
"And you have kept your religion alive that way all these years?"
"It isn't exactly religion," Copper said. "It's more like
history, we learn it to remember that we were once a great race
-- and that we may be again. Someday there will come a male, a
leader to bring us out of bondage, and our race will be free of
dependence on men. There will be pairings again, and freedom to
live as we please." She looked thoughtfully at Kennon. "You might
even be the one -- even though you are human. You're different
from the others."
"You're prejudiced." Kennon smiled. "I'm no different. Well --
not very different at any rate."
"That is not my thought," Copper said. "You are very different
indeed. No man has ever resisted a Lani as long as you have."
Kennon shook his head. "Let's not go into that now. What are
"I do not remember them all," Copper apologized. "I was----"
"You've said that before. Tell me what you do know."
"I remember the beginning fairly well," she said. "It goes back
to the time before Flora when everything was nothing and the
Master Himself was lonely."
Without warning her voice changed to a rhythmic, cadenced chant
that was almost a song. Her face became rapt and introspective as
she rocked slowly from side to side. The rhythm was familiar and
then he recognized it -- the unintelligible music he had often
heard coming from the barracks late at night when no men were
around -- the voiceless humming that the Lani sang at work.
First there was Darkness -- starless and sunless
Void without form -- darker than night
Then did the Master -- Lord of Creation
Wave His right hand, saying, "Let there be light!"
Verse, Kennon thought. That was logical. People remember poetry
better than prose. But the form was not what he'd normally
expect. It was advanced, a style that was past primitive blank
verse or heroic pentameter. He listened intently as Copper went
Light filled the heavens, bright golden glowing,
Brought to the Void by His wondrous hand;
Then did the Master -- Lord of Creation --
Nod His great head, saying, "Let there be land!"
Air, land, and water formed into being,
Born in the sight of His all-seeing eyes;
Then did the master -- Lord of Creation --
Smile as He murmured, "Let life arise!"
All of the life conceived by the Master,
Varied in shape as the grasses and birds;
Hunters and hunted, moveless and moving,
Came into form at the sound of His words.
"That's a great deal like Genesis," Kennon said with mild
astonishment. "Where could you have picked that up?"
"From the beginning of our race," Copper said. "It came to us
with Ulf and Lyssa -- but what is Genesis?"
"A part of an ancient religion -- one that is still followed on
some of the Central Worlds. Its followers call themselves
Christians. They say it came from Earth, the mother-world of
"Our faith has no name. We are children of Lyssa, who was a
daughter of the Master."
"It is an odd similarity," Kennon said. "But other races have had
stories of the Creation. And possibly there may be another
explanation. Your ancestors could have picked this up from
Alexander's men. They came from Earth originally and some of them
could have been Christians."
"No," Cooper said. "This rede is long before Man Alexander. It is
the origin of our world, even before Ulf and Lyssa. It is the
first Book -- the Book of the God-spell. Man Alexander came in
the sixth Book -- the Book of Roga."
"There's no point in arguing about it," Kennon said. "Go on --
tell me the rest."
"It's going to be a long story," Copper said. "Even though I have
forgotten some of it, I can chant the redes for hours."
Kennon braced his back against one of the fat tires of the jeep.
"I'm a good listener," he said.
She chuckled. "You asked for this," she said -- and took up the
verses where she had left off. And Kennon learned the Lani
version of creation, of the first man and woman, cast out of
Heaven for loving each other despite the Master's objection, of
how they came to Flora and founded the race of the Lani. He
learned how the Lani grew in numbers and power, how they split
into two warring groups over the theological point of whether Ulf
or Lyssa was the principal deity, how Roga the Foolish opened
Lyssa's tower to find out whether the Ulfians or Lyssans were
right, and brought the Black Years to Flora.
He heard the trial of Roga and the details of his torture by the
priests of Ulf and the priests of Lyssa -- united by this
greatest sacrilege. And he heard the Lani version of the landing
of Alexander's ship and man's conquest of Flora.
It was a story of savagery and superstition, of blood and
intolerance, of bravery and cowardice, of love and beauty. Yet
through it all, even through the redes that described the
Conquest, there was a curious remoteness, a lack of emotion that
made the verses more terrible as they flowed in passionless
rhythm from Copper's lips.
"That's enough!" Kennon said.
"I told you you wouldn't like it."
"It's horrible. How can you remember such things?"
"We begin to learn them as soon as we can talk. We know the redes
almost our entire lives." Copper was silent for a moment.
"There's lots more," she said, "but it's all about our lives
since the Man Alexander -- the old one -- took possession of us.
And most of the newer redes are pretty dull. Our life hasn't
changed much since the men came. The Book of Man is boring."
Copper sighed. "I have dared a great deal by telling you these
things. If the others knew, they would kill both of us."
"Then why tell me?" he asked.
"I love you," she said simply. "You wanted to know -- and I can
deny you nothing."
A wave of tenderness swept over him. She would give her life for
him -- and what would he give? Nothing. Not even his prejudices.
His face twisted. If she was only human, If she wasn't just an
animal. If he wasn't a Betan. If, if, if. Resentment gorged his
throat. It was unfair -- so damned unfair. He had no business
coming here. He should have stayed on Beta or at least on a human
world where he would never have met Copper. He loved her, but he
couldn't have her. It was Tantalus and Sisyphus rolled into one
unsightly package and fastened to his soul. With a muttered curse
he rose to his feet, and as he did he stopped -- frozen - staring
at Copper as though he had never seen her before.
"How did you say that Roga was judged responsible for Alexander
coming here?" he demanded.
"He went into Lyssa's tower -- where Ulf and Lyssa tried to call
Heaven -- and with his foolish meddling set the tower alight with
a glow that all could see. Less than a week later the Man
"Where was this tower?"
"Where Alexandria now stands. Man Alexander destroyed it and
built his house upon its ruins."
"And what was that place of the Pit?"
"The Shrine of Ulf -- where the God-Egg struck Flora. It is
buried in the pit, but the Silent Death has protected it from
blasphemy -- and besides Man Alexander never learned about it. We
feared that he would destroy it as he did Lyssa's tower."
A wild hope stirred in Kennon. "We're going home," he announced.
"And we're going to get a pair of radiation suits -- and then
we're coming back. We'll have a good look at that Pit, and if
what's in there is what I think it is" -- his face was a mixture
of grimness and eagerness -- "we'll blow this whole operation off
Copper blanched. "It is death to meddle with the God-Egg," she
"Superstition!" Kennon scoffed. "If that Egg is what I think, it
was made by men, and you are their descendant."
"Perhaps you're right, but I can't help thinking you are wrong,"
she said soberly. "Look at the trouble that came with Roga's
meddling. Be careful that you do not bring us a worse fate."
"I'll be very careful. We'll take every precaution."
"You're coming, of course. I can't imagine you staying away."
"You shouldn't worry so much" Kennon teased. "You know we men
"That is true."
"And if I'm right you're just as human as I. And you're capable
of living as long as I do."
"Yes, sir," Copper said. Her voice was unconvinced, her
"You females," Kennon said in quick exasperation. "You drive a
man crazy. Get an idea in your head and it takes triatomate to
blast it out. Now let's go."
Two hours brought them back to the volcanic area, and knowing
what to look for, Kennon located the pockmarked mountain valley.
From the air it looked completely ordinary. Kennon was amazed at
the perfection of the natural camouflage. The Pit was merely
another crater in the pitted ground. He dropped to a lower
altitude, barely a hundred feet above the sputter cones. "Look!"
Below them was the crater of the Pit and in its center a smooth
bluish-black hemisphere protruded from the crater floor. It would
have passed unnoticed by the casual eye -- nearly concealed by
two gigantic blocks of pumice.
"The God-Egg!" Copper exclaimed.
"Egg -- ha! that's a spacer! I thought it would be. I'd recognize
durilium anywhere. Let's go down and look this over, but first we
want a couple of pictures." He pointed a camera at the crater and
snapped the shutter. "There -- now let's have a closer look at
"Do you expect me to get into that thing?" Copper said
distastefully as she prodded the shapeless green coveralls with a
bare toe. She eyed the helmet, gloves and boots with equal
distaste. "I'd suffocate."
"If you want to come with me, you'll wear it," Kennon said.
"Otherwise you won't come near that pit. Try it and I'll chain
you to the jeep."
"Just try me."
"Oh -- all fight. I'll wear the thing -- but I won't be
"Who cares about that? You'll be protected."
"All right -- show me how to put it on. I'd rather be with you
than worry about what you are doing."
The suit was several sizes too large but it covered her
adequately. Too adequately, Kennon decided. She looked like a
pile of wrinkles with legs. He chuckled.
She glared. "So I'm funny," she said. "Let me tell you something
else that's funny. I'm hot. I'm sweating. I itch. Now -- laugh!"
"I don't feel like laughing," Kennon said. "I feel the same way."
They approached the edge of the Pit carefully. Kennon kept
checking tho radiation counter. The needle slowly rose and
steadied at one-half roentgen per hour as he thrust the probe
over the rim of the depression. "It's fine, so far," he said
encouragingly. "We could take this much for quite a while even
without suits." He lowered himself over the edge, sliding down
the gentle slope.
"How is it down there?" Copper called. The intercom crackled in
"Fine -- barely over one roentgen per hour. With these suits we
could stay here indefinitely." The sigh of relief was music in
her ears. "This place is barely lukewarm."
"That's what you think," Copper said.
"I mean radiation warm," Kennon said. "Stay up there and watch
me. I may need some things."
"All right." Copper squirmed inside the hot suit. The thing was
an oven. She hoped that Kennon didn't plan to work in the
daytime. It would be impossible.
Kennon gingerly approached the ship. It was half buried in the
loose debris and ash that had fallen or blown into the pit during
the centuries it had rested there. It was old -- incredibly old.
The hull design was ancient -- riveted sheets of millimeter-thick
durilium. Ships hadn't been built like that in over two thousand
years. And the ovoid shape was reminiscent of the even more
ancient spindizzy design. A hyperspace converter like that
couldn't be less than four millennia old. It was a museum piece,
but the blue-black hull was as smooth and unblemished as the day
it had left fabrication.
Space travel would have gotten nowhere without durilium, Kennon
reflected. For five thousand years men had used the incredibly
tough synthetic to build their spacecraft. It had given man his
empire. Kennon gave the hull one quick glance. That part of the
ship didn't worry him. It was what he would find inside that
bothered him. How much damage had occurred from two thousand or
more years of disuse? How much had the original travelers
cannibalized? How much could be salvaged? What sort of records
remained? There were a thousand questions that the interior of
that enigmatic hull might answer.
The upper segment of the airlock was visible. It was closed,
which was a good sign. A few hours' work with a digger should
expose it enough to be opened.
"Copper," he said, "we're going to have to dig this out. There's
a small excavator in the cargo bed of the jeep. Do you think you
can bring it down here?"
"I think so."
"Good girl!" Kennon turned back to the ship. He was eager to
enter it. There might be things inside that would settle the
question of the Lani. The original crew had probably recognized
the value of the hull as a repository as well as he did. But in
the meantime there would be work -- lots of it. And every step
must be recorded.
It was the rest of the day's work to expose the emergency
airlock. The little excavator toiled over the loose ash for hours
before it displaced enough to make the port visible, and the ash
was not yet cleared away sufficiently to open the portal when
darkness brought a halt to the work.
It would be impossible to unearth the spaceship with their
low-capacity digger, Kennon decided. It would be difficult enough
to clear the emergency airlock in the nose. But if the tubes and
drive were still all right, by careful handling it should be
possible to use the drive to blast out the loose ash and cinders
which surrounded the hull.
Kennon reluctantly gave up the idea of entering the spaceship.
That would have to wait until tomorrow. Now they would have to
conceal the work and call it a day. A few branches and the big
blocks of pumice would suffice for temporary camouflage. Later
they could make something better. Anything in the jeep which
might be useful was cached along with the radiation suits in the
passageway through the lava wall -- and in a surprisingly short
time they were heading homeward.
Kennon was not too displeased. Tomorrow they would be able to
enter the ship. Tomorrow they would probably have some of the
answers to his questions. He looked ahead into the gathering
night. The gray mass of the abandoned Olympus Station slipped
below them as he lined the jeep along the path indicated by the
luminous arrow atop the main building, set the controls on
automatic, and locked the craft on the guide beacon in
Alexandria's tower. In a little less than an hour they would be
Kennon was morally certain that the Lani were of human stock.
Evolved, of course. Mutated. Genetic strangers to the rest of
humanity. But human. The spaceship and the redes proved it as far
as he was concerned. But moral certainty and legal certainty were
two different things. What he believed might be good enough to
hold up in a Brotherhood court, but he doubted it. Ulf and Lyssa
might be the founders of the Lani race, but they had come to
Kardon nearly four thousand years ago and no records existed to
prove that the Lani weren't here before they came. Redes passed
by word of mouth through hundreds of generations were not
evidence. Even the spaceship wasn't the absolute proof that would
be needed to overturn the earlier legal decision. Other and
better proof was needed -- something that would stand up in any
court in the Brotherhood. He hoped the spaceship would hold that
But Kennon's eagerness to find out what was inside the ancient
spacer was tempered by hard practicality. Too much depended on
what he might find inside that hull. Every step of the work must
be documented beyond any refutation. Some method of establishing
date, time, and location had to be prepared. There must be a
record of every action. And that would require equipment and
planning. There must be no mistake that could be twisted by the
skillful counsel that Alexander undoubtedly retained.
He had no doubt that the Family would fight. Too much money and
prestige were involved. To prove the Lani human would destroy
Outworld Enterprises on Kardon. Yet this thought did not bother
him. To his surprise he had no qualms of conscience. He was
perfectly willing to violate his contract, break faith with his
employers, and plot their ruin. The higher duty came first -- the
duty to the human race.
He smiled wryly. It wasn't all higher duty. There were some
personal desires that leavened the nobility. To prove Copper
human was enough motivation -- actually it was better than his
sense of duty. Events, Kennon reflected, cause a great deal of
change in one's attitude. Although not by nature a plotter,
schemes had been flitting through his mind with machinelike
regularity, to be examined and discarded, or to be set aside for
He rejected the direct approach. It was too dangerous, depended
too much on personalities, and had too little chance for success.
He considered the possibility of letters to the Brotherhood
Council but ultimately rejected it. Not only was the proof
legally insufficient to establish humanity in the Lani, but he
also remembered Alexander's incredible knowledge of his
activities, and there was no reason to suppose that his present
didn't receive the same scrutiny as the past. And if he, who
hadn't written a letter in over a year, suddenly began to write,
the correspondence would undoubtedly be regarded with suspicion
and would probably be examined, and Dirac messages would be out
for the same reason.
He could take a vacation and while he was away from the island he
could inform the Brotherhood. Leaving Flora wouldn't be
particularly difficult, but leaving Kardon would be virtually
impossible. His contract called for vacations, but it expressly
provided that they would be taken on Kardon. And again, there
would be no assurance that his activities would not be watched.
In fact, it was probable that they would be.
There was nothing that could be done immediately. But there were
certain long-range measures that could be started. He could begin
preparing a case that could be presented to the Council. And
Beta, when it knew, would help him. The situation of the Lani was
so close to Beta's own that its obvious merit as a test case
simply could not be ignored. If he could get the evidence to
Beta, it would be easy to enlist the aid of the entire
Medico-Technological Civilization. It would take time and
attention to detail; the case, the evidence, everything would
have to be prepared with every safeguard and contingency
provided, so that there would not be the slightest chance of a
slip-up once it came to court.
And perhaps the best method of bringing the evidence would be to
transport it under its own power. The thought intrigued him.
Actually it wouldn't be too difficult. Externally the Egg wasn't
in bad shape. The virtually indestructible durilium hull was
still intact. The controls and the engines, hermetically sealed
inside the hull, were probably as good as the day they stopped
running. The circuitry would undoubtedly be bad but it could be
repaired and restored, and new fuel slugs could be obtained for
the engine and the converter. But that was a problem for the
The immediate problem was to get into the ship in a properly
It took nearly two months, but finally, under the impersonal
lenses of cameras and recorders, the entrance port of the God-Egg
swung open and revealed the dark interior. Kennon moved
carefully, recording every step as he entered the black orifice
in the spaceship's side. His handtorch gave plenty of light for
the recorders as he moved inside - Copper at his heels, both of
them physically unrecognizable in antiradiation suits.
"Why are we moving so slowly?" Copper said. "Let's go ahead and
find out what's beyond this passageway."
"From a superstitious coward you've certainly become a reckless
explorer," he said.
"The Egg hasn't hurt us, and we've been around it many times,"
she said. "Either the curse has become too old to hurt us, or
there never was any in the first place. So let's see what is
ahead. I'm curious."
Kennon shook his head. "In this business we must hurry slowly --
very slowly. You know why."
"But I want to see."
"Patience, girl. Simmer down. You'll see soon enough," Kennon
said. "Now help me set up this camera."
"Oh, all right -- but isn't there any excitement in you?"
"I'm bubbling over with it," Kennon admitted, "but I manage to
keep it under control."
"No -- I'm sensible. We want to nail this down. My future, yours,
and that of your people depend upon how carefully we work. You
wouldn't want to let us all down by being too eager, would you?"
She shook her head. "No -- you're right of course. But I still
would like to see."
They moved cautiously through the airlock and into the control
"Ah!" Kennon said with satisfaction. "I hoped for this, but I
didn't dare expect it."
"Look around. What do you see?"
"Nothing but an empty room. It's shaped like half an orange, and
it has a lot of funny instruments and dials on the walls, and a
video screen overhead. But that's all. Why -- what's so unusual
about it? It looks just like someone had left it."
"That's the point. There's nothing essential that's missing. They
didn't cannibalize the instruments -- and they didn't come back."
"Maybe because that curse you mentioned a few minutes ago was
Copper drew back. "But you said it wouldn't hurt us----"
"Not now. The heat's practically gone, but when whoever flew this
crate came here, the whole shell could have been as hot as a
"But couldn't they have come back when it cooled?"
"Not with this kind of heat. The hull was probably too
radioactive to approach from the outside. And radioactivity cools
off slowly. It might take several lifetimes for its level to
become low enough to approach if there was no decontamination
"I suppose that's why the early ones thought the Egg was cursed."
Kennon nodded. "Now let's check -- oh! oh! what's this?" He
pointed to a metal-backed book lying on the control panel.
"It looks like a book," Copper said.
"I'm hoping it's the book."
"Yes -- the ship's log. It's possible. And if it is, we may have
all the evidence we need -- Copper! -- Don't touch it!"
"Because its position has to be recorded first. Wait until we get
the camera and recorders set up."
* * *
Gingerly Kennon opened the ancient book. The sheets inside were
brittle -- crumbling with age -- but he could make out the title
U.N.S.S. Wanderer with the date of launching and a lower line
which read "Ship's Log." Kennon was thankful for his medical
training. The four years of Classical English that he had
despised so much were essential now. Stumbling over unfamiliar
words and phrases, he moved slowly through the log tracing the
old ship's history from .pleasure craft to short-haul freight
tractor to obsolescence m a space dump orbiting around a world
There was a gap of nearly ten years indicated by a blank page
before the entries resumed.
"Ah -- this is it!" Kennon said.
"What is it?" Copper said curiously. "I can't read the writing."
"Of course you can't. It's in English -- a language that became
obsolete during the Interregnum. I had to learn it, since most
medical terminology is based on it."
"What is an Interregnum?" Copper interrupted. I've never heard
that word before."
"It's a period of confusion when there is no stable government.
The last one came after the Second Galactic War -- but never mind
that -- it happened long ago and isn't important now. The
important thing that did happen was the Exodus."
"What was that?"
"A religious revival and a tremendous desire to see what was
happening beyond the next star. During that century men traveled
wider and farther then they ever have before or since. In that
outward explosion with its mixed motivations of religion and
practicality, colonists and missionaries went starward to find
new worlds to tame, and new races to be rescued from the darkness
of idolatry and hell. Almost any sort of vehicle capable of
mounting a spindizzy converter was pressed into service. The old
spindizzies were soundly engineered converters of almost
childlike simplicity that could and did carry ships enormous
distances if their passengers didn't care about subjective
time-lag, and a little radioactivity.
"And that's what happened to this ship. According to this log it
was bought by Alfred and Melissa Weygand - a missionary couple
with the idea of spreading the Christian faith to the heathen.
"Alfred and Melissa -- Ulf and Lyssa -- they were a part of this
ancient explosion that scattered human seed across parsecs of
interstellar space. It seems that they were a unit in a
missionary fleet that had gone out to the stars with flame in
their hearts and Gospel on their lips to bring the Word to the
benighted heathen on other worlds." Kennon's lips curled with
mild contempt at their stupid foolhardiness even as his pulse
quickened to their bravery. They had been fanatics, true enough,
but theirs was a selfless fanaticism that would risk torture and
death for what they believed -- a fanaticism that was more
sublime than the concept of Brotherhood which had evolved from
it. They knew nothing of the enmity of race, of the incessant
struggle man had since waged with alien intelligences all too
willing to destroy intruders who encroached upon their worlds.
Mankind's early selflessness had long ago been discarded for
frank expansionism and dominance over the lesser races that stood
in their way. And in a way it was too bad.
The ship's log, meticulously kept in neat round English script,
told a story that was more than the bare bones of flight. There
was passion and tenderness and a spiritual quality that was
shocking to a modern man steeped in millennia of conquest and
self-interest. There was a greatness to it, a depth of faith that
had since been lost. And as Kennon slowly deciphered the ancient
script he admired the courage even as his mind winced with dismay
at the unheeding recklessness.
The Weygands had lost contact with the others, and had searched
for them in hyperspace, doubling and twisting upon their course
until they had become hopelessly lost, and then, with their fuel
nearly exhausted, had broken out into the normal three-space
continuum to find Kardon's sun and the world they called Flora.
How little they had known and how lucky they had been.
It was only by the grace of their God that they had found this
world before their fuel was exhausted. And it was only by further
grace that the planet was habitable and not populated with
intelligent life. They had more luck than people were entitled to
in a dozen lifetimes. Against odds of a million to one they had
It was fascinating reading.
But it was not proof.
The last entry read: "We have circled this world and have seen no
buildings -- no sign of intelligent life. We are lost, marooned
on this empty world. Our fuel supplies are too low for us to
attempt to find the others. Nor could we. The constellations in
the sky are strange. We do not know which way to go. Therefore we
shall land upon the great island in the center of the yellow sea.
And perhaps someday men will come to us since we cannot return to
them. Melissa thinks that this is an example of Divine
Providence, that the Lord's mercy has been shown to us that were
lost in the vastness of the deep -- that we have been chosen,
like Eve and Adam, to spread the seed of man to yet another
world. I hope she is right, yet I fear the radiation level of the
ship has become inordinately high. We may well be Eve and Adam,
yet an Adam that cannot beget and an Eve that is not fruitful. I
am trimming the ship for landing, and we shall leave it
immediately after we have landed, taking with us only what we
absolutely need. There is too much radiation from the spindizzy
and the drive to remain here longer -- and God knows how hot the
outer hull may be."
And that was all. Presumptive evidence -- yes. Reasonable
certainty -- yes. But not proof. Lawyers could argue that since
no direct exploration was made there was no valid reason to
assume that the Lani did not already inhabit Kardon. But Kennon
knew. His body, more perceptive than his mind, had realized a
truth that his brain would not accept until he read the log. It
was at once joy and frustration. Joy that Copper was human,
frustration that he could not obtain for her and her race the
rights to which they were entitled. But the immediate problem was
solved. His conditioning was broken now he was convinced that
Copper was a member of the human race. It was no violation of his
code to love her. The greatest barrier was broken, and with it
gone the lesser ones would yield. Relief that was almost pain
washed through him and left him weak with reaction.
"What is it?" Copper asked as he turned to her. "What is this
thing that has turned your face to joy?"
"Can't you guess?"
She shook her head. "I have seen nothing but you reading this
ancient book, yet you turn to me with the look in your eyes that
the redes say Ulf had for Lyssa."
Copper shrugged. "You're mad. I'm a Lani. I was born a Lani --
and I shall die one."
"Don't you understand? All Lani are human. You all are the
descendants of two humans who came here thousands of years ago."
"Then there is no reason why you cannot love me."
Kennon shook his head. "No," he said. "There is no reason."
Copper laughed. It was a sound so merry and gay that Kennon
looked at her in surprise. She looked as happy as she sounded.
Simple and savage, Kennon thought. She cared nothing for the
future, and probably very little about the injustice of her
present. The thing that mattered was that what had kept them
apart was gone. She was probably offering mental sacrifices to
the Old Ones who had caused this change in the man she loved. She
didn't really care about what had caused the change. To her it
was sufficient that it had happened.
For a moment Kennon wished that it could be as simple for him as
it apparently was for her. The fact that Copper was human posed a
greater problem than the one it solved. The one had been
personal. The other was infinitely greater. He could not let it
lie. The very morality which had kept him from doing what he
wished when he thought she was a humanoid now forced him to do
what he did not wish. Every instinct said to leave it alone. The
problem was too great for one man to solve, the situation too
complicated, the evidence too inconclusive, the opposition too
powerful. It would be far better to take his happiness and enjoy
it. It was not his problem to solve. He could turn the evidence
over to the Brotherhood once his contract was over, and better
and more capable people than he could settle the Lani legal
status. But the inner voice that had called him bestial now
called him shirker, coward, and slacker. And this, too, could not
be borne. The case of the Lani would have to be pursued as
vigorously as he could do it. They were entitled to human rights
-- whether they wanted them or not.
His first idea of making the spacer operational was a good one,
Kennon decided as they finished the inspection of the ship. Even
if it was never used it would make a good means of retreat. He
grinned wryly. In a guerrilla operation such as the one he was
considering it would be wise to have a way out if things got too
hot. The heavy parts, the engines and the controls, were in
workable condition and would merely require cleaning and oiling.
Some of the optical equipment would have to be replaced and fuel
slugs would have to be obtained for the drive -- but none of
these would be too hard to accomplish. The slugs from any of the
power reactors on the island would serve nicely. All that would
have to be done would be to modify the fuel ports on the ship's
engine. The spindizzy would have to be disassembled and checked,
and the main leads, embedded in time-resistant plastic, would
have to be examined. The most serious problem, however, wouldn't
involve these things. The control board wiring and circuitry was
where the trouble would lie. Normal insulation and printed
circuitry wasn't designed to last for thousands of years. Each
wired circuit would have to be removed, duplicated, and replaced.
Every printed panel would have to be cleaned and receive a new
coat of insulating varnish. Working full time, a four-man
electronics team could do the job in a week. Working part-time
the two of them might get it done in three months. And the other
jobs would take at least another. Add a month for errors in
judgment, lack of materials, and mistakes -- and another for
unavoidable delays -- it would be at least six months before the
Egg would be spaceworthy.
Not too long if everything went well, but far too long if there
were any mistakes. He would have to be careful, yet he must not
give the impression of being careful. He shook his head. Being a
subversive was going to require a greater amount of acting
ability than he had ever been called upon to display.
And what of Copper? How would she behave under the double strain
of knowledge that she was human and knowledge of the spaceship?
Women weren't noted for their tight-lipped reticence. Would she
tell the other Lani? Would she crack under the pressure? Did she
have the qualities of a good conspirator?
As it turned out, he didn't need to worry. As a partner in crime,
Copper was all that could be wished. Everything was normal. She
was still obedient, helpful, and gay as ever. To watch her, no
one would ever think that her bright head was full of knowledge
that could rock Flora to its foundations. Never by look or word
did she betray the slightest trace of strain or guilt.
And in her other moments she was ecstatic in her love and helpful
with the repair work on the Egg whenever Kennon could get time to
visit the old spaceship.
"You amaze me," Kennon said as they eased the cover of the
spindizzy in place and spun the bolts on the lugs that held it to
the outer shielding. He picked up a heavy wrench and began
methodically to seat the bolts as Copper wiped the white
extrusion of the cover sealant from the shining case.
"The way you hide your knowledge of this ship from the others. I
know you better than anyone else on this island, and yet you
would fool me."
"We Lani are used to hiding things. You men have been our masters
for centuries, yet you do not know our redes. Nor do you know
what we think, We obey you, but there are parts of us you do not
own. It is easy to hide a little thing like this."
Kennon nodded. It figured. He seated another bolt. Three more and
the drive room would be restored and they could start on the
control circuits. "I wish you were as clever about adopting human
customs as you are about hiding guilty knowledge," he said.
Copper laughed. "You mean those silly things you have been
teaching me? Why should I learn them? I'm happy as I am. I love
you, you love me, and that is all that matters."
"It's not all that matters. Can't you get it through your head
that civilized customs are necessary in a civilized society?" He
gave the next-to-last bolt an extra-vicious wrench. "You'll have
to know them if you expect to get along on Beta."
"But I will never see Beta."
"I am going there when my duty here is over. And you're going
"When will that be?"
"So long? Well -- we can think of it then, but I don't think Man
Alexander will let you take me."
"Then I shall take you without his consent"
She smiled. "It would be easier to stay here. In another fifteen
years I will be old and you will not want me."
"I'll never do that. I'll always want you."
"You swear too easily," she said gently. "You men live forever.
We Lani are a short-lived race."
"But you needn't be. It's obviously----"
"It's been tried, my love -- and those who were treated died. Man
Alexander tried many years ago to make us long-lived like you.
But he failed. You see, he loved one of us too."
"Let us think no more of it. Let us enjoy what we have and be
grateful to the Gods for the love we enjoy -- or do you have any
"Two are better. More, anyway. And besides, Ulf and Lyssa and the
God-Egg are responsible for our joy."
"They are indeed," Kennon said.
"Then why should you think of leaving the place where they rule?
You should stay here. There will be other Lani when I am gone.
You will be happy always."
"Not without you," Kennon said. "Don't you understand that I love
"And I you. But I am a Lani. You are a man."
"You're as human as I am," Kennon said abruptly.
"That is what you say," Copper replied. "I am not so sure. I need
more proof than this." She waved her hand at the ship.
"What proof do you need?"
"The same as the proof you men require. If I should have your
child, then I would believe that I was human."
"I've told you a thousand times that the radiation on this ship
must have affected Ulf and Lyssa's germ plasm. Can't you
"I can understand it all right, but it does not change things.
Ulf and Lyssa may have been human before they came here, but they
were not when they landed. They were Lani, and their children
"But they were of human stock."
"The law that lets men become our masters does not agree with
"Then the law is wrong. It should be changed."
Copper shrugged. "Two people cannot change a law."
"They can try -- particularly if the law is unjust."
Copper sighed. "Is it not enough for us to love? Must you try to
run through a wall?"
"When the wall stands in the way of right and justice I must."
Copper looked at him with pity in her green eyes. "This I do not
understand. I know nothing of right and justice. What are these
things? Just words. Yet you will endanger our happiness for them.
If it is my happiness you wish - then leave this foolishness
alone. I have fifteen years I can live with you before I am old
and you tire of me. With those years I can be content."
"But I can't," Kennon said. "Call me selfish if you wish, but I
want you with me as long as I live. I don't want to live my life
"You want too much," Copper said softly. "But if it makes you
happy to try to get it, I shall help. And if we do not succeed
you will at least be happier for trying. And if you are happy" --
she shrugged -- "then the rest makes little difference."
That was the crux of the matter, Kennon reflected bitterly. He
was convinced she was human. She was not. And until her mind
could be changed on that point she would help him but her heart
wouldn't be in it. And the only thing that would convince her
that she was human would be a child - a child of his begetting.
He could perhaps trick her with an artificial insemination of
Lani sperm. There were drugs that could suspend consciousness,
hypnotics that would make her believe anything she was told while
under their influence.
But in the end it would do no good. All witnesses in Brotherhood
court actions were examined under psychoprobe, and a hypnotic was
of no value against a lie detector that could extract the deepest
buried truth. And he would be examined too. The truth would
out--and nothing would be gained. In fact -- everything would be
lost. The attempt at trickery would prejudice any court against
the honest evidence they had so painfully collected.
He sighed. The only thing to do was to go on as they were -- and
hope that the evidence would hold. With Betan legal talent at
their back it might. And, of course, they could try to produce a
child as nature had intended. They could try -- but Kennon knew
it would not succeed. It never had.
Copper had been acting strangely of late, Kennon thought as he
rolled over in his bed and watched her standing before the
full-length mirror on the bathroom door. She pivoted slowly
before the glass, eying herself critically, raising her arms over
her head, holding them at her sides, flexing her supple spine and
tightening muscles that moved like silken cords beneath her
"What are you trying to do -- become a muscle dancer?" Kennon
She whirled, a crimson blush deepening the tan of her face. "You
were supposed to be asleep," she said.
"I'm an unregenerate heel," he replied, "and I don't sleep too
well nowadays unless you're beside me."
"Well -- I suppose you might as well know now as later," she
said. "You'll know in any event."
"That you're right. I am human."
"And what brought on this sudden change of--" He stopped
abruptly, his eyes widening.
"Yes," Copper said. "I am with child. Your child."
"But that's impossible."
She shook her head. "It's a miracle perhaps, but it's not
impossible. It's happened. Can't you see the difference?"
"See what? You look just as you always do."
"I suppose you can't see it yet," she admitted. "But I am with
child. I'm two weeks past my time."
Kennon's mind leaped to the obvious conclusion. Pseudo-pregnancy.
He had seen it before among Lani at Hillside Farm. It was an odd
syndrome which occasionally occurred in humans and animals. The
brain, desiring children, made demands upon the body and the body
responded to its desire by tricking the brain. Lani were fairly
subject to its probably because they had better imaginations. He
would run a few tests when they went down to the hospital, and
once she realized the practical joke her body was playing
everything would be all right. No wonder she seemed excited.
"We'll find out about that later," he said equably. "We'll settle
this when we get back to the hospital."
Copper smiled confidently and patted her stomach. "I know what
you are thinking, but you're wrong. We Lani know about these
things. In forty generations I am the first to conceive as the
"I hope you haven't," Kennon said with such bitter sincerity that
Copper looked at him wide-eyed. "Not now. Because if you have,
neither your life nor mine is safe."
"The Alexanders. Do you think they'll take it lying down? We're
not ready for them yet. They'll fight, and the first thing
they'll do is kill you and erase me so we would never be able to
talk. You have been declared an animal, and you will not be
allowed to change."
"What can we do?" Copper asked. She shivered. "I do not want to
"Nor do I want you to," Kennon said.
"I could tell the others."
"And just what would that accomplish?"
"In a week every Lani on the island would know it. There would be
revolt. For the Lani would no longer be dependent upon Men to
survive. Their greatest hold on us would be gone. And we would be
free again on our island world."
"You would not!" Kennon said. "That sort of thinking is
foolishness. Alexander would have men here within a week, and a
week after that you would be smashed. Don't you realize that
there are thousands of millions of men in the galaxy -- and to
every one of them you would be animals. You know nothing about
what you would face. Your puny hundreds couldn't even stand
against a fraction of the power Alexander could mount against
you. Have you seen a Burkholtz blaster work? Have you seen
remote-control antipersonnel missiles? Have you push-pull
projectors, atomic warheads? All of these weapons Alexander can
command. Don't you realize he's an entrepreneur? -- one of the
most powerful men in this sector?"
Copper shook her head. "No," she said in a small voice. "I know
nothing about these things."
"And do you think forty generations of absolute obedience to men
can be overcome because one Lani says she is pregnant by a man?"
Copper frowned. "You put that in a different way. You talk as if
it were my belief rather than the truth."
"What is truth?" Kennon said heavily. "Who would believe you?
There are hundreds of others with child.
"Sure you're human. You know it. I know it. I've been trying to
convince you for the past two months. You're just as human as I
am. But pray that you're not pregnant. We can't get out of here
in less than four months and by then everybody will know about
you. Someone will certainly check the records. And after that
will come the psychoprobes. Everything will come to light. The
Egg will be destroyed. I will be erased. You will be dead. And
that will be the end of it." He looked down at her with an odd
expression of pity on his face. "You see?" he demanded harshly.
Copper nodded. "I didn't understand," she said. "Don't be angry
with me. I shouldn't have told you. I thought you'd be happy."
"I was never angry with you, but I am with myself. I was stupid.
I didn't figure on the remote possibility that we might be
genetically compatible. I should have my head examined for
putting you in such danger. However there's the possibility --
the probability -- that your body is playing a trick upon you."
She shook her head. "You are wrong. I am not mistaken. I am with
child and the child is yours. But the fault is no more yours than
mine. I wanted you before you looked on me. I still do and I do
not feel at fault. That I am yours, that my child is yours is a
thing of wonder and joy. Never could I have expected so much."
Kennon looked down at her smudged face, streaked with the sudden
rivulets of tears, and bitterness galled his throat. Dear God --
let her be wrong, he prayed silently. Let it be pseudopregnancy
this time. Let the tests be negative.
But they weren't. Unequivocally they confirmed Copper's
diagnosis. Here was the proof he needed. The final test that
would prove the Lani human. And he had no way of getting it where
it would do any good. It would take at least four months of
steady labor before the ship was ready, and he didn't have that
sort of time. He was needed here and his prolonged absence would
cause suspicion and investigation. Something would have to be
done -- but what? He couldn't take Copper off the island in an
airboat. They were checked with microscopic care by Otpen One's
IFF. A jeep didn't have enough range to take them to the
mainland. And even if they got there they couldn't get off the
planet. Alexander knew everything that happened on Kardon's two
spaceports. The Egg was the only way, but the Egg was unfinished
Frantically Kennon considered concealing Copper. He shook his
head. It wouldn't work. It would be impossible, to hide a baby on
a place where every birth was recorded. Nor could one hide
evidence of pregnancy in a Lani. Childbearing leaves telltale
marks upon the body, and Copper, even if she could be concealed
for the duration of her pregnancy, could never survive the
sharp-eyed scrutiny of her fellows or the other humans. Questions
would inevitably be asked.
There had to be a solution. He rubbed his forehead wearily. It
was strange how so little a thing as the union of a spermatozoon
and an ovum could produce so much trouble. He looked across the
office at Copper placidly filing case cards. She wasn't worrying.
With sublime faith, she was sure that he would find the answer,
the one that would solve everything. He shuddered. The only
logical solution was abortion -- and that was unthinkable! He
would not murder his child -- nor would Copper permit it if he
was capable of doing so.
It was almost a relief when his phone rang and Blalok's voice
came cheerfully across the wire.
"Tried to get you about an hour ago," the superintendent said,
"but your girl said you were busy."
"You through now?"
"Well, get up to the fortress. Alexander just flew in and he's
calling a meeting. Something important has come up."
Something important! A wave of ice rattled down Kennon's spine,
and then he grinned feebly. Alexander didn't know. He couldn't
know. It had to be something else.
"I'll be right up," he said, marveling at the calmness in his
Kennon couldn't help comparing this meeting with the one a year
ago. The location was different -- the conference room in
Alexandria was more formal than Blalok's parlor but the same
people were present: Alexander, Blalok, Jordan, and himself.
Somehow Alexander seemed to have shrunk. He was no longer as
impressive as he had been. But the man still radiated force, even
though it didn't seem quite so overpowering. The year, Kennon
thought, had done much to build his self-confidence. He felt
assured rather than nervous.
"Good to see you, Kennon," Alexander said. "Reports say you're
doing a good job."
"I can't claim the credit," Kennon said. "Eighty-five per cent of
our success is due to co-operation from the operating staff. And
that's Blalok's doing -- he knocked the heads of the division
managers together and they took care of their staffs. Otherwise
we could have had a bad time."
"But you didn't," Alexander said. "And you were the motive
"I've darn near motivated myself out of a job," Kennon said.
"They co-operate all too well nowadays."
"Which goes to prove that my theories on preventive medicine are
right," Alexander said, turning to Blalok.
"It looks that way," Blalok admitted, "but that could be because
you picked a good man."
"He's good in more ways than one," Alexander said. "Or did he
tell you he saved Douglas's life out on Otpen One?"
"He's never said a word."
Alexander smiled. "Another point in his favor. He knows how to
keep his mouth shut."
"Not when he's telling someone what to do about disease," Jordon
"Or telling someone off when they haven't followed directions,''
"Better and better. I was sure that he was the one we needed when
we first met."
Kennon felt his ears turn flaming red.
"But that's not the reason I brought you here. This isn't a Jac
Kennon admiration society. I called you because I want to expand
the Lani breeding program."
"Why?" Jordan asked.
Blalok stiffened. "You know my feeling about that, sir. I've
never liked the idea of selling them. If that's what's in your
Alexander shook his head. "Simmer down," he said, as he seated
himself at the head of the table. "There's going to be no
selling. The Lani are too valuable for that. We'll need them more
than the money they'd bring on the market. You see -- I've
acquired a planet out on the periphery. A place called Phoebe.
One of our ships found it, and I staked a discovery claim on the
major land mass, and the crew made lesser claims that covered all
the available land. Last month the Brotherhood allowed the
claims. Last week the crewmen sold me their land. Phoebe's a
lovely place -- quite a bit like Flora -- and the ecological
tests show it's capable of supporting mammalian life. Just before
I came here I sent three shiploads of exterminators to clean it
up and make it ready for us. It should be ready in two years."
"What sort of an ecology are you exterminating?" Jordan asked.
"Not that it makes any difference," Alexander said, "but it's
mainly reptilian. Nothing over Group I. We'll restock with Floran
Jordan sighed. "Since that's the way it is, it doesn't make any
difference," he said. "But it could have. The Lani are sensitive
to things like that. If they thought that they were walking in
over a pile of bodies they'd do badly. It'd be like Olympus all
over again. And we couldn't keep them from knowing. We talk and
we forget, but they'd tell each other - and they'd remember."
"I know," Alexander said, "somehow they've never forgotten that
Grandfather trapped the last of the Lani males on Olympus."
Jordan nodded. "They can't stand the place. That's why we had to
abandon the station."
"Does this new world have a moon?" Kennon asked abruptly.
"Yes -- in fact it has two."
"No -- they're too small to hold air. But men could live there in
domes -- but why do you? -- oh! I see! I hadn't considered that
point." Alexander's hand darted to the phone beside him. "Get me
Albertsville," he snapped. "Yes, my offices -- I want Mr. Oliver
in purchasing and contracting. Hello -- Ward? Alexander here. Yes
-- everything's fine. I have a job for you -- use your scrambler
- pattern two." Alexander dialed the scrambler code on the second
dial at the base of the phone, effectively preventing
eavesdropping by beam tappers. "Yes," he went on. "It's Project
Phoebe. Have you secured title to the moons? You haven't? Well --
you'd better do it before some of our competitors get bright
ideas. Sure they know about the project -- do you think they're
stupid? Warren over at Consolidated practically told me that he
was onto our scheme. So get title to those moons. Since they're
uninhabitable and within the planet's primary field they come
under the Spatial Debris Act and you should be able to get
Kardonian title without any great amount of trouble. Naturally we
want them. -- For defense -- what else? We'll have most of our
eggs in that basket. No -- I don't know how we overlooked that
point. But if it wasn't for a bright young man out here we'd have
left ourselves wide open. Now get cracking -- get that leak
plugged!" Alexander dropped the phone back in its cradle and
sighed. "Well -- that's buttoned up," he said. "Thanks, Kennon."
Kennon looked at Alexander's grinning face, his own impassive,
but a shattering certainty exploded in his mind - Alexander was a
telepath! That was his difference! That was the thing that made
him feared and respected by his business associates. It wouldn't
have been enough on the Central Worlds, where men knew of
sensitives and took precautions against them. But out here on the
periphery it was a deadly advantage.
"So I gave it away," Alexander said. "I suppose I was careless,
but your thoughts about the moons shocked me."
"You practically told me once before, when you hired me," Kennon
said, "but I never realized it."
"You were too excited then."
"I wouldn't know," Kennon said. "At any rate I didn't add the
facts correctly." From somewhere deep in his memory an old quip
came floating to the surface: "An executive is a man who picks
brains -- others' brains." By that definition Alexander was an
executive of the first class. Alexander chuckled.
Suddenly Kennon wanted to run. Panic flooded him! What had he
been thinking about? Had he thought of -- two times two are four,
four times four are sixteen, sixteen times sixteen are -- let's
see, six times sixteen is ninety-six, one times sixteen is --
six, five, carry one -- two -- two hundred fifty-six. Two hundred
"What's eating you?" Alexander demanded.
"I'm angry," Kennon said. "I told you the conditions I'd sign
that contract, and you wrote a Peeper Clause into it. And then
you peep in the worst way possible. There's no defense against a
Telep unless you know about him; you've had my whole mind bare!
You've violated my personal privacy like no man has done before.
Sure I'm mad. I expected honesty from you -- and you peep!" The
anger was stronger now -- a wave of raw emotion based on a
lifetime of training in mutual respect of a man's privacy -- a
feeling intensified by his childhood environment of a crowded
planetary ecology and the cramped crew quarters on a spaceship.
To Kennon, Alexander had committed the ultimate sin.
"I can see I made a mistake by not telling you," Alexander said.
His voice was cold. "But you have no right to insult me."
"I'm not saying it, am I?" Kennon snapped. The moonflower on the
bookcase behind Alexander was a thing of beauty. Alexander liked
beauty. He had said so, and the Great Hall below them bore it
out. It was a lovely room. Those four bronze Lani in the fountain
were works of art. One of them looked remarkably like Copper.
Copper in bronze. The little witch had probably posed for the
casting. Maybe it had even been made from her body.
"They're all of Susy," Alexander said. "I can see why you are
angry, and I don't blame you. But remember I warned you about
Copper -- Kennon wrenched his thoughts back to the moonflower. It
had twelve petals, limpid white on the borders shading to deep
blue in the center-from which the cream-colored stamen surrounded
by transparent pistils sprang to burst into a golden glory of
pollen that dripped in tiny yellow flecks to the broad petals
below. It was a magnificent flower. There was nothing like it on
Beta. That was a marvelous thing about flowers -- wherever one
went in the universe, plants used the same methods to fertilize
their seed and spread their germ plasm. It was too bad that --
Kennon jerked his attention to Alexander's face. He detested the
thought that his mind was common property. A man should have
something he can call his own. There had been a clinics
instructor in Year Six who was a sensitive. The classes had
protected themselves against his prying with a circlet -- a
thought screen -- he had done it too. Maybe he had brought the
circlet with him. If he did, no one was going to catch him
without it. It was a dirty business, this reading of others'
thought. Now where had he put that circlet? Was it among his old
books -- or was it with his instruments?
"Why don't you go back to your house and find it?" Alexander
snapped. "As you are, you're nothing but a disruption. I want you
in on this meeting, but not the way you're acting."
"I'm not going to act any other way until I get some protection
from peeping," Kennon said grimly. "And if you think this is bad
wait till I start going through comparative anatomy.''
"What's the matter with you two?" Blalok asked.
"Be quiet," Alexander snapped. "This isn't your problem. Kennon
is behaving like a spoiled child!"
"He's a telepath!" Kennon said. "And he didn't tell me."
"So what? I've known that for years."
"And you stand for it?"
"I'm a Mystic, not a Betan," Blalok said. "I don't have your
insane desire for privacy."
"Go find that thought screen if you still have if!" Alexander
said. "I don't want any more of this. You're making me ill!"
Kennon grinned thinly as he rose to his feet. It was a good thing
he remembered Alexander was squeamish and didn't like anatomy.
The door was to his left, an iris door with eight leaves --
terribly old-fashioned. About ten steps away. Count them -- one
-- two -- three--
Alexander sighed as Kennon left the room. "I certainly pushed the
panic button on that young man," he said. "He has a pathological
attitude toward telepathy. Wonder what he has to hide that he
wants privacy so badly? Even for a Betan this reaction was
"Oh, I don't know. He's a pretty emotional sort. Maybe he hates
to look like a fool. He's gotten himself mixed up with one of the
Lani. Cute little thing by the name of Copper," Blalok said.
"Oh -- that's it. I thought that was what he was hiding. A
picture of a girl kept popping up." Alexander chuckled. "I
suppose that's the trouble. A man hardly likes to look a fool,
particularly to someone who has warned him. At that, I don't
blame him. They are beautiful and affectionate. And even with
their superstitions and tabus they're better than most humans."
"For pets," Blalok said heavily.
"They're not better at anything," Jordan demurred. "They can't be
-- man is the best and always will be."
"The eternal racial chauvinist," Alexander murmured. He turned
his attention to Blalok. "But for awhile, Evald, I'd suggest you
keep an eye on our young man. I still don't like his reaction. It
was too violent -- too defensive. I don't feel right about it.
Perhaps Betans are more sensitive than most people but it seems
to me that he's trying to conceal something. There was an
undertone of fear -- and something else -- beneath his defenses."
"Couldn't you get any more than that?" Blalok asked. "You're
pretty good at this mind-reading business."
"His defenses were remarkably good," Alexander said dryly.
* * *
Well he'd done it now, Kennon thought. He found the
thought-screen circlet sandwiched between two books on
comparative neuroanatomy which he hadn't bothered to unpack. He
slipped it on and connected the lead wires to a portable battery
pack. There was a half-forgotten tingling as the weak field
heterodyned his thought waves. Kennon sighed. If Alexander wasn't
suspicious of him now the man was a fool. He'd done as well as he
could with confusion and outrage, but it was hardly possible to
hide behind superficialities. Even the most disciplined mind
couldn't do that without some preparation. Undoubtedly his
concern about Copper had leaked through. He could only hope that
other and more important things had not.
Well -- he could go back to the conference now, but he would have
to be doubly careful from now on. He couldn't make daily trips to
Olympus. His reaction had killed that plan. Alexander would be
suspicious now -- and unusual actions would crystallize suspicion
to certainty. Now he needed a reason to be in that area. And then
he grinned. He had a reason -- a good one -- one that would fit
in with Alexander's plans and his own. The only problem would be
to make Alexander buy it -- and that might be difficult. He'd
have to work carefully -- but with normal luck he could put the
idea across. He crossed his fingers as he trudged back up the
path to Alexandria.
The conference dragged on. Unlike most meetings, this one
accomplished things -- which was a tribute to Alexander's ability
to keep the subject in hand. Details of the expansion program
presented by Alexander were rapidly reduced to workable plans.
They involved some rearrangement of existlng facilities, and the
construction of others. But the obvious snags were rapidly
disposed of, and the whole revamped operation was outlined on
paper in surprisingly few hours. A deadline date was set,
construction was authorized, and in the morning the first steps
in the practical implementation of the new program would be
"Well, that's that," Alexander said with a sigh. "I think this
calls for a drink."
"There's one more thing," Kennon said. "I know it isn't much, but
Jordan's remark started me thinking."
"What remark?" Jordan asked.
"The one you made at the beginning about Phoebe possibly being
like the Olympus Station. I've often wondered why that particular
location has been so difficult to operate. Sure, I know the
accepted explanation, but I think we should learn why it works
and how to break a tabu. If we don't, we might be in for
"That's a good thought," Alexander said. "I tried to find out
once, but all I could discover was that it was tabu. The Lani
simply didn't like it. And despite the fact that I can read
minds, I didn't learn any more than that. There's a certain
sex-linkage to telepathy, as you probably know."
"All I could discover was that their dislike of Olympus was a
basic emotion rather than reasoned thought. They were nervous,
irritable, disobedient, and uncooperative while they were there
-- and even they didn't know why. It was merely tabu. We even
tried youngsters -- but the attitude was the same. I'd like to
know more about that basic emotion."
"We should understand it," Kennon agreed. "If we transship a
large number of Lani to a strange world, we should know their
deepest motivations. We cannot take the chance that the
transplant won't take, with all the money you're sinking into
"You have a point there. Have you any suggestions about how to
accomplish this?" Alexander's voice was interested.
"I have. Hire a psychologist. And reopen Olympus."
"It'll be the same story," Jordan said.
"Not if you apply experimental procedure," Kennon said. "Divide
the place into a number of separate units in which groups of --
say ten -- Lani of various ages are kept. Let every group know
where they are, but don't let them come in contact with one
another. Observe them constantly. Put spy cells in the units.
Couple them to recorders. Prepare a set of test situations and
observe how each group performs. Question individuals under
narcosynthesis. Observe and record any changes in physical
condition -- give them the works. Maybe we can collect some basic
data that will indicate the answer."
"Not a bad idea," Alexander said.
"I don't like it," Jordan said. "It sounds cumbersome."
"It is," Kennon agreed. "But it may save a great deal of trouble
"I think you're right, Kennon," Blalok said. "We should know
everything we can."
"What would you do first if you were heading this program?"
Alexander asked. He eyed Kennon critically.
"Nothing," Kennon said promptly. "I'm not qualified to run an
investigation like this. You need a specialist. I am a
"Hmm -- but you know experimental procedure."
"Naturally -- but I do not have the training to prepare a program
or evaluate its results. The only thing I could do would be to
check the physical condition of the experimental groups."
"Could you set up the physical facilities?" Alexander asked.
"Possibly -- I'd need a set of plans of the station, and I
couldn't guarantee that the specialist wouldn't want to make
changes. But the physical arrangements should be simple enough to
"How long would it take you to prepare a plan?"
"I could have it by tomorrow, or perhaps a day later."
"If you can do it by then I'll stay over. I'd like to examine
this proposal more closely. It has merit. That's the second
constructive suggestion you've made tonight. Despite your
peculiar desire for privacy, I'm glad you came back." Alexander
Kennon smiled back. Apparently the entrepreneur had taken the
bait. But it was too early to tell whether he had swallowed it
without reservation. It all depended upon how much had been given
away before he had discovered that Alexander was a telepath.
Perhaps Alexander was merely leading him on. There were too many
intangibles, and there was no way of predicting how it would turn
out. But he felt mildly optimistic.
Alexander closed the meeting, and Kennon left promptly. He had a
good excuse. There was plenty of work to do if he was going to
prepare an adequate plan for utilizing Olympus Station. Jordan
went with him, but Blalok stayed behind. It was natural enough.
Blalok was the administrator, but Kennon felt uneasy. Nor would
he have felt any better if he could have heard what went on after
Alexander looked quizzically at Blalok after the door closed