The Complete Stories (Page 83)

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snapped back in sudden anxious realization that he was losing the thread of what was going on.

The Novian was saying, "-doesn’t hold water. Novia has a civilization as complicated and advanced as Earth’s. We’re not Zeston, after all. It’s ridiculous that we have to come here for individual technicians."

Ingenescu said soothingly, "Only for new models. There is never any certainty that new models will be needed. To buy the Educational tapes would cost you the same price as a thousand technicians and how do you know you would need that many?"

The Novian tossed off what remained of his drink and laughed. (It displeased George, somehow, that a Novian should be this frivolous. He wondered uneasily if perhaps the Novian ought not to have skipped that drink and even the one or two before that.)

The Novian said, "That’s typical pious fraud, Ladislas. You know we can make use of all the late models we can get. I collected five Metallurgists this afternoon-"

"I know," said Ingenescu. "I was there."

"Watching me! Spying!" cried the Novian. "I’ll tell you what it is. The new-model Metallurgists I got differed from the previous model only in knowing the use of Beeman Spectrographs. The tapes couldn’t be modified that much, not that much" (he held up two fingers close together) "from last year’s model. You introduce the new models only to make us buy and spend and come here hat in hand."

"We don’t make you buy."

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"No, but you sell late-model technicians to Landonum and so we have to keep pace. It’s a merry-go-round you have us on, you pious Earthmen, but watch out, there may be an exit somewhere." There was a sharp edge to his laugh, and it ended sooner than it should have.

Ingenescu said, "In all honesty, I hope there is. Meanwhile, as to the purpose of my call-"

"That’s right, you called. Oh, well, I’ve said my say and 1 suppose next year there’ll be a new model of Metallurgist anyway for us to spend goods on, probably with a new gimmick for niobium assays and nothing else altered and the next year- But go on, what is it you want?"

"I have a young man here to whom I wish you to speak."

"Oh?" The Novian looked not completely pleased with that. "Concerning what?"

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"I can’t say. He hasn’t told me. For that matter he hasn’t even told me his name and profession."

The Novian frowned. "Then why take up my time?"

"He seems quite confident that you will be interested in what he has to say."

"I dare say."

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"And," said Ingenescu, "as a favor to me."

The Novian shrugged. "Put him on and tell him to make it short."

Ingenescu stepped aside and whispered to George, "Address him as ‘Honorable.’

George swallowed with difficulty. This was it.

George felt himself going moist with perspiration. The thought had come so recently, yet it was in him now so certainly. The beginnings of it had come when he had spoken to Trevelyan, then everything had fermented and billowed into shape while Ingenescu had prattled, and then the Novian’s own remarks had seemed to nail it all into place.

George said, "Honorable, I’ve come to show you the exit from the meny-go-round." Deliberately, he adopted the Novian’s own metaphor.

The Novian stared at him gravely. "What merry-go-round?"

"You yourself mentioned it, Honorable. The merry-go-round that Novia is on when you come to Earth to-to get technicians." (He couldn’t keep his teeth from chattering; from excitement, not fear.)

The Novian said, "You’re trying to say that you know a way by which we can avoid patronizing Earth’s mental supermarket. Is that it?"

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"Yes, sir. You can control your own Educational system."

"Umm. Without tapes?"

"Y-yes, Honorable."

The Novian, without taking his eyes from George, called out, "Ingenescu, get into view."

The Historian moved to where he could be seen over George’s shoulder.

The Novian said, "What is this? I don’t seem to penetrate."

"I assure you solenmly," said Ingenescu, "that whatever this is it is being done on the young man’s own initiative, Honorable. I have not inspired this. I have nothing to do with it."

"Well, then, what is the young man to you? Why do you call me on his behalf?"

Ingenescu said, "He is an object of study, Honorable. He has value to me and I humor him."

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"What kind of value?"

"It’s difficult to explain; a matter of my profession."

The Novian laughed shortly. "Well, to each his profession." He nodded to an invisible person or persons outside plate range. "There’s a young man here, a protege of Ingenescu or some such thing, who will explain to us how to Educate without tapes." He snapped his fingers, and another glass of pale liqueur appeared in his hand. "Well, young man?"

The faces on the plate were multiple now. Men and women, both, crammed in for a view of George, their faces molded into various shades of amusement and curiosity.

George tried to look disdainful. They were all, in their own ways, Novians as well as the Earthman, "studying" him as though he were a bug on a pin. Ingenescu was sitting in a corner, now, watching him owl-eyed.

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Fools, he thought tensely, one and all. But they would have to understand. He would make them understand.

He said, "I was at the Metallurgist Olympics this afternoon."

"You, too?" said the Novian blandly. "It seems all Earth was there."

"No, Honorable, but I was. I had a friend who competed and who made out very badly because you were using the Beeman machines. His education had included only the Henslers, apparently an older model. You said the modification involved was slight." George held up two fingers close together in conscious mimicry of the other’s previous gesture. "And my friend had known some time in advance that knowledge of the Beeman machines would be required."

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