The Complete Stories (Page 106)

← Previous chap Next chap →

How many other planets like it were on Hurrian master listings at this moment, he wondered. How many other planets were there concerning which meticulous observers had reported seasonal changes in appearance that could be interpreted only as being caused by artificial cultivation of food plants? How many times in the future would a day come when the radioactivity in the stratosphere of one of these planets would begin to climb; when colonizing squadrons would have to be sent out at once?

-As they were to this planet.

It was almost pathetic, the confidence with which the Hurrians had proceeded at first. Devi-en could have laughed as he read through those initial reports, if he weren’t trapped in this project himself now. The Hurrian scoutships had moved close to the planet to gather geographical information, to locate population centers. They were sighted, of course, but what did it matter? Any time, now, they thought, the final explosion.

Any time- But useless years passed and the scoutships wondered if they ought not to be cautious. They moved back.

Devi-en’s ship was cautious now. The crew was on edge because of the unpleasantness of the mission; not all Devi-en’s assurances that there was no harm intended to the large-primate could quite calm them. Even so, they could not hurry matters. It had to be over a fairly deserted and uncultivated tract of uneven ground that they hovered. They stayed at a height of ten miles for days, while the crew became edgier and only the ever-stolid Mauvs maintained calm.

Then the scope showed them a creature, alone on the uneven ground, a long staff in one hand, a pack across the upper portion of his back.

They lowered silently, supersonically. Devi-en himself, skin crawling, was at the controls.

The creature was heard to say two definite things before he was taken, and they were the first comments recorded for use in mentalic computing.

The first, when the large-primate caught sight of the ship almost upon him, was picked up by the direction telemike. It was, "My God! A flying saucer!"

Devi-en understood the second phrase. That was a term for the Hurrian ships that had grown common among the large-primates those first careless years.

The second remark was made when the wild creature was brought into the ship, struggling with amazing strength, but helpless in the iron grip of the unperturbed Mauvs.

Devi-en, panting, with his fleshy nose quivering slightly, advanced to receive him, and the creature (whose unpleasantly hairless face had become oily with some sort of fluid secretion) yelled, "Holy Toledo, a monkey!"

Again, Devi-en understood the second part. It was the word for little-primate in one of the chief languages of the planet.

The wild creature was almost impossible to handle. He required infinite patience before he could be spoken to reasonably. At first, there was nothing but a series of crises. The creature realized almost at once that he was being taken off Earth, and what Devi-en thought might prove an exciting experience for him, proved nothing of the sort. He talked instead of his offspring and of a large-primate female.

(They have wives and children, thought Devi-en, compassionately, and, in their way, love them, for all they are large-primate.)

Then he had to be made to understand that the Mauvs who kept him under guard and who restrained him when his violence made that necessary would not hurt him, that he was not to be damaged in any way.

(Devi-en was sickened at the thought that one intelligent being might be damaged by another. It was very difficult to discuss the subject, even if only to admit the possibility long enough to deny it. The creature from the planet treated the very hesitation with great suspicion. It was the way the large-primates were.)

On the fifth day, when out of sheer exhaustion, perhaps, the creature remained quiet over a fairly extended period, they talked in Devi-en’s private quarters, and suddenly he grew angry again when the Hurrian first explained, matter-of-factly, that they were waiting for a nuclear war.

"Waiting!" cried the creature. "What makes you so sure there will be one?"

Devi-en wasn’t sure, of course, but he said, "There is always a nuclear var. It is our purpose to help you afterward."

"Help us afterward." His words grew incoherent. He waved his arms violently, and the Mauvs who flanked him had to restrain him gentry once again and lead him away.

Devi-en sighed. The creature’s remarks were building in quantity and perhaps mentalics could do something with them. His own unaided mind could make nothing of them.

And meanwhile the creature was not thriving. His body was almost completely hairless, a fact that long-distance observation had not revealed owing to the artificial skins worn by them. This was either for warmth or because of an instinctive repulsion even on the part of these particular large-primates themselves for hairless skin. (It might be an interesting subject to take up. Mentalics computation could make as much out of one set of remarks as another.)

Strangely enough, the creature’s face had begun to sprout hair; more, in fact, than the Hurrian face had, and of a darker color.

But still, the central fact was that he was not thriving. He had grown thinner because he was eating poorly, and if he was kept too long, his health might suffer. Devi-en had no wish to feel responsible for that.

On the next day, the large-primate seemed quite calm. He talked almost eagerly, bringing the subject around to nuclear warfare almost at once. (It had a terrible attraction for the large-primate mind, Devi-en thought.)

The creature said, "You said nuclear wars always happen? Does that mean there are other people than yours and mine-and theirs?" He indicated the near-by Mauvs.

"There are thousands of intelligent species, living on thousands of worlds. Many thousands," said Devi-en.

← Previous chap Next chap →