The Complete Stories (Page 204)

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"What’s the difference? Humanity can’t unite by itself. Let us be driven to it, as long as the fact is accomplished. I am sick of it all, Altmayer, sick of all our stupid history. I’m tired of trying to be an idealist with nothing to be idealistic over. Human beings are human beings and that’s the nasty part of it. Maybe we’ve got to be whipped into line. If so, I’m perfectly willing to let the Diaboli do the whipping."

Altmayer said gently, "You’re very foolish, Devoire. It won’t be a real union, you know that. The Diaboli called this conference so that they might act as umpires on all current interhuman disputes to their own advantage, and remain the supreme court of judgment over us hereafter. You know they have no intention of establishing a real central human government. It will only be a sort of interlocking directorate; each human government will conduct its own affairs as before and pull in various directions as before. It is simply that we will grow accustomed to running to the Diaboli with our little problems."

"How do you know that will be the result?"

"Do you seriously think any other result is possible?"

Devoire chewed at his lower lip, "Maybe not!"

"Then see through a pane of glass, Simon. Any true independence we now have will be lost."

"A lot of good this independence has ever done us. -Besides, what’s the use? We can’t stop this thing. Coordinator Stock is probably no keener on the conference than you are, but that doesn’t help him. If Earth doesn’t attend, the union will be formed without us, and then we .will face war with

the rest of humanity and the Diaboli. And that goes for any other government that wants to back out."

"What if all the governments back out? Wouldn’t the conference break up completely?"

"Have you ever known all the human governments to do anything together? You never learn, Altmayer."

"There are new facts involved."

"Such as? I know I am foolish for asking, but go ahead."

Altmayer said, "For twenty years most of the Galaxy has been shut to human ships. You know that. None of us has the slightest notion of what goes on within the Diaboli sphere of influence. And yet some human colonies exist within that sphere."


"So occasionally, human beings escape into the small portion of the Galaxy that remains human and free. The government of Earth receives reports; reports which they don’t dare make public. But not all officials of the government can stand the cowardice involved in such actions forever. One of them has been to see me. I can’t tell you which one, of course- So I have documents, Devoire; official, reliable, and true."

Devoire shrugged, "About what?" He turned the desk chronometer rather ostentatiously so that Altmayer could see its gleaming metal face on which the red, glowing figures stood out sharply. They read 22:31, and even as it was turned, the 1 faded and the new glow of a 2 appeared.

Altmayer said, "There is a planet called by its colonists Chu Hsi. It did not have a large population; two million, perhaps. Fifteen years ago the Diaboli occupied worlds on various sides of it; and in all those fifteen years, no human ship ever landed on the planet. Last year the Diaboli themselves landed. They brought with them huge freight ships filled with sodium sul-fate and bacterial cultures that are native to their own worlds."

"What? -You can’t make me believe it."

"Try," said Altmayer, ironically. "It is not difficult. Sodium sulfate will dissolve in the oceans of any world. In a sulfate ocean, their bacteria will grow, multiply, and produce hydrogen sulfide in tremendous quantities which will fill the oceans and the atmosphere. They can then introduce their plants and animals and eventually themselves. Another planet will be suitable for Diaboli life-and unsuitable for any human. It would take time, surely, but the Diaboli have time. They are a united people and . . ."

"Now, look," Devoire waved his hand in disgust, "that just doesn’t hold water. The Diaboli have more worlds than they know what to do with."

"For their present purposes, yes, but the Diaboli are creatures that look toward the future. Their birth rate is high and eventually they will fill the Galaxy. And how much better off they would be if they were the only intelligence in the universe."

"But it’s impossible on purely physical grounds. Do you know how many

millions of tons of sodium sulfate it would take to fill up the oceans to their requirements?"

"Obviously a planetary supply."

"Well, then, do you suppose they would strip one of their own worlds to create a new one? Where is the gain?"

"Simon, Simon, there are millions of planets in the Galaxy which through atmospheric conditions, temperature, or gravity are forever uninhabitable either to humans or to Diaboli. Many of these are quite adequately rich in sulfur."

Devoire considered, "What about the human beings on the planet?"

"On Chu Hsi? Euthanasia-except for the few who escaped in time. Painless I suppose. The Diaboli are not needlessly cruel, merely efficient."

Altmayer waited. Devoire’s fist clenched and unclenched.

Altmayer said, "Publish this news. Spread it out on the interstellar subetheric web. Broadcast the documents to the reception centers on the various worlds. You can do it, and when you do, the all-Galactic conference will fall apart."

Devoire’s chair tilted forward. He stood up. "Where’s your proof?" a "Will you do it?"

"I want to see your proof." I Altmayer smiled, "Come with me."

They were waiting for him when he came back to the furnished room he was living in. He didn’t notice them at first. He was completely unaware of the small vehicle that followed him at a slow pace and a prudent distance. He walked with his head bent, calculating the length of time it would take for Devoire to put the information through the reaches of space; how long it would take for the receiving stations on Vega and Santanni and Centaurus to blast out the news; how long it would take to spread it over the entire Galaxy. And in this way he passed, unheeding, between the two plain-clothes men who flanked the entrance of the rooming house.

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