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Eight Keys to Eden
by Mark Irvin Clifton
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EIGHT KEYS TO EDEN



BY MARK CLIFTON

NOVELS Eight Keys To Eden They'd Rather Be Right* The Forever Machine*

NON-FICTION BOOK Opportunity Unlimited

NOVELETTES Remembrance and Reflection How Allied What Thin Partitions** Sense From Thought Divide Star, Bright Hide! Hide! Witch! A Woman's Place Clerical Error What Now, Little Man? Do Unto Others

SHORT STORIES What Have I Done? The Conqueror Kenzie Report Bow Down To Them Reward For Valour Progress Report** Crazy Joey** We're Civilized** Solution Delayed**

ARTICLES It Can't Be Done The Dread Tomato Affliction

* In collaboration with Frank Riley ** In collaboration with Alex Apostolides



EIGHT KEYS TO EDEN

by Mark Clifton

Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York 1960



All of the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-9470 Copyright (C) 1960 by Mark Clifton All Rights Reserved Printed in the United States of America First Edition

Transcriber's Note:

Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note. Variant and dialect spellings remain as printed. Superscript text is preceded by the ^ symbol, bold text is shown as bold, and {d} represents the Greek letter delta.



To

Charles Steinberg

who made writing possible for me



EIGHT KEYS TO EDEN



SEVEN DOORS TO SEVEN ROOMS OF THOUGHT

1 Accept the statement of Eminent Authority without basis, without question.

2 Disagree with the statement without basis, out of general contrariness.

3 Perhaps the statement is true, but what if it isn't? How then to account for the phenomenon?

4 How much of the statement rationalizes to suit man's purpose that he and his shall be ascendant at the center of things?

5 What if the minor should become major, the recessive dominant, the obscure prevalent?

6 What if the statement were reversible, that which is considered effect is really cause?

7 What if the natural law perceived in one field also operates unperceived in all other phases of science? What if there be only one natural law manifesting itself, as yet, to us in many facets because we cannot apperceive the whole, of which we have gained only the most elementary glimpses, with which we can cope only at the crudest level?

And are those still other doors, yet undefined, on down the corridor?



1

One minute after the regular report call from the planet Eden was overdue, the communications operator summoned his supervisor. His finger hesitated over the key reluctantly, then he gritted his teeth and pressed it down. The supervisor came boiling out of his cubicle, half-running down the long aisle between the forty operators hunched over their panels.

"What is it? What is it?" he quarreled, even before he came to a stop.

"Eden's due. Overdue." The operator tried to make it laconic, but it came out sullen.

The supervisor rubbed his forehead with his knuckles and punched irritably at some buttons on an astrocalculator. An up-to-the-second star map lit up the big screen at the end of the room. He didn't expect there to be any occlusions to interfere with the communications channel. The astrophysicists didn't set up reporting schedules to include such blunders. But he had to check.

There weren't.

He heaved a sigh of exasperation. Trouble always had to come on his shift, never anybody else's.

"Lazy colonists probably neglecting to check in on time," he rationalized cynically to the operator. He rubbed his long nose and hoped the operator would agree that's all it was.

The operator looked skeptical instead.

Eden was still under the first five-year test. Five-year experimental colonists were arrogant, they were zany, they were a lot of things, some unprintable, which qualified them for being test colonizers and nothing else apparently. They were almost as much of a problem as the Extrapolators.

But they weren't lazy. They didn't forget.

"Some fool ship captain has probably messed up communications by inserting a jump band of his own." The supervisor hopefully tried out another idea. Even to him it sounded weak. A jump band didn't last more than an instant, and no ship captain would risk his license by using the E frequency, anyway.

He looked hopefully down the long room at the bent heads of the other operators at their panels. None was signaling an emergency to draw him away from this; give him an excuse to leave in the hope the problem would have solved itself by the time he could get back to it. He chewed on a knuckle and stared angrily at the operator who was sitting back, relaxed, looking at him, waiting.

"You sure you're tuned to the right frequency for Eden?" the supervisor asked irritably. "You sure your equipment is working?"

The operator pulled a wry mouth, shrugged, and didn't bother to answer with more than a nod. He allowed a slight expression of contempt for supervisors who asked silly questions to show. He caught the surreptitious wink of the operator at the next panel, behind the supervisor's back. The disturbance was beginning to attract attention. In response to the wink he pulled the dogged expression of the unjustly nagged employee over his features.

"Well, why don't you give Eden an alert, then!" the supervisor muttered savagely. "Blast them out of their seats. Make 'em get off their—their pants out there!"

The operator showed an expression which plainly said it was about time, and reached over to press down the emergency key. He held it down. Eleven light-years away, if one had to depend upon impossibly slow three-dimensional space time, a siren which could be heard for ten miles in Eden's atmosphere should be blaring.

The supervisor stood and watched while he transferred the gnawing at his knuckles to his fingernails.

He waited, with apprehensive satisfaction, for some angry colonist to come through and scream at them to turn off that unprintable-phrases siren. He braced himself and worked up some choice phrases of his own to scream back at the colonist for neglecting his duty—getting Extrapolation Headquarters here on Earth all worked up over nothing. He wondered if he dared threaten to send an Extrapolator out there to check them over.

He decided the threat would have no punch. An E would pay no attention to his recommendation. He knew it, and the colonist would know it too.

He began to wonder what excuse the colonist would have.

"Just wanted to see if you home-office boys were on your toes," the insolent colonist would drawl. Probably something like that.

He hoped the right words wouldn't fail him.

But there was no response to the siren.

"Lock the key down," he told the operator. "Keep it blasting until they wake up."

He looked down the room and saw that a couple of the near operators were now frankly listening.

"Get on with your work," he said loudly. "Pay attention to what you're recording."

It was enough to cause several more heads to raise.

"Now, now, now!" he chattered to the room at large. "This is nothing to concern the rest of you. Just a delayed report, that's all. Haven't you ever heard of a delayed report before?"

He shouldn't have asked that, because of course they had. It was like asking a mountain climber if he had ever felt a taut rope over the razor edge of a precipice suddenly go slack.

"But there's nothing any of you can do," he said. He tried to cover the plaintive note by adding, "And if you louse up your own messages ..." But he had threatened them so often that there was no longer any menace.

He spent the next ten minutes hauling out the logs of Eden to see if they'd ever been tardy before. The logs covered two and a fraction years, two years and four months. The midgit-idgit scanner didn't pick up a single symbol to show that Eden had been even two seconds off schedule. The first year daily, the second year weekly, and now monthly. There wasn't a single hiccough from the machine to kick out an Extrapolator's signal to watch for anything unusual.

Eden heretofore had presented about as much of an outre problem as an Iowa cornfield.

"You're really sure your equipment is working?" he asked again as he came back to stand behind the operator's chair. "They haven't answered yet."

The operator shrugged again. It was pretty obvious the colonists hadn't answered. And what should he do about it? Go out there personally and shake his finger at them—naughty, naughty?

"Well why don't you bounce a beam on the planet's surface, to see?" the supervisor grumbled. "I want to see an echo. I want to see for myself that you haven't let your equipment go sour. Or maybe there's a space hurricane between here and there. Or maybe a booster has blown. Or maybe some star has exploded and warped things. Maybe ... Well, bounce it, man. Bounce it! What are you waiting for?"

"Okay, okay!" the operator grumbled back. "I was waiting for you to give the order." He grimaced at the operator behind the supervisor. "I can't just go bouncing beams on planets if I happen to be in the mood."

"Now, now. Now, now. No insubordination, if you please," the supervisor cautioned.

Together they waited, in growing dread, for the automatic relays strung out through space to take hold, automatically calculating the route, set up the required space-jump bands. It was called instantaneous communication, but that was only relative. It took time.

The supervisor was frowning deeply now. He hated to report to the sector chief that an emergency had come up which he couldn't handle. He hated the thought of Extrapolators poking around in his department, upsetting the routines, asking questions he'd already asked. He hated the forethought of the admiration he'd see in the eyes of his operators when an E walked into the room, the eagerness with which they'd respond to questions, the thrill of merely being in the same room.

He hated the operators, in advance, for giving freely of admiration to an E that they withheld from him. He allowed himself the momentary secret luxury of hating all Extrapolators. Once upon a time, when he was a kid, he had dreamed of becoming an E. What kid hadn't? He'd gone farther than the wish. He'd tried. And had been rebuffed.

"Clinging to established scientific beliefs," the tester had told him with the inherent, inescapable superiority of a man trying to be kind to a lesser intelligence, "is like being afraid to jump off a precipice in full confidence that you'll think of something to save yourself before you hit bottom."

It might or might not have been figurative, but he had allowed himself the pleasure of wishing the tester would try it.

"To accept what Eminent Authority says as true," the tester had continued kindly, "wouldn't even qualify you for being a scientist. Although," he added hopefully, "this would not bar you from an excellent career in engineering."

It was a bitter memory of failure. For if you disbelieved what science said was true, where were you? And if it might not be true, why was it said? Even now he shuddered at the chaos he would have to face, live with. No certainties on which to stand.

He washed the memory out of his thought, and concentrated on the flashing pips that chased themselves over the operator's screen. There was nothing wrong with the equipment. Nothing wrong with the communication channels between Eden and Earth.

"Blasted colonists," the supervisor muttered. "Instead of a beam on their planet, I'd like to bounce a rock on their heads. I'll bet they've let all the sets at their end get out of order."

He knew it was a foolish statement, even if the operator's face hadn't told him so. Any emergency colonist, man or woman—and there were fifty of them on Eden—could build a communicator. That was regulation.

"You sure there haven't been any emergency calls from them?" he asked the operator with sudden suspicion. "You're not covering up some neglect in not notifying me? If you're covering up, you'd better tell me now. I'll find out. It'll all come out in the investigation, and ..."

The operator turned around and looked at him levelly. He looked him over, with open contempt, from bald head to splayed feet. Then he coolly turned his back. There was a limit to just how much a man could stand, even to hold a job at E Headquarters.

It was about time the supervisor got somebody with brains onto the job. The sector chief should be called immediately. Supervisors were supposed to have enough brains to think of something so obvious as that. That much brains at least.



2

The first reaction of the sector chief to the dreaded words "delayed report" was a shocked negation, an illusory belief that it couldn't happen to him.

To the intense annoyance of the communications supervisor, his first act was to rush down to communications and go through all the routines for rousing the colonists the supervisor had tried. His worry was mounting so rapidly that he hardly noticed the resigned expression of the operator who knew he would have to go through all these useless motions again and again before it was all over, and somebody did something.

"Well," the chief said to the supervisor. "It's my problem now." He sighed, and unconsciously squared his shoulders.

"Yes, Chief Hayes," the supervisor agreed quickly. Perhaps too quickly, with too much relief? "Well, that is, I mean ..." his voice trailed off. After all, it was.

"You understand my check of your routines was no reflection on you or your department," Hayes said diplomatically. "It's a heavy responsibility to alert E.H.Q., pull the scientists off who knows what delicate, critical work—maybe even hope to get the attention of an E—all that. I had to make sure, you know."

"Of course, Chief Hayes," the supervisor said, and relaxed some of his resentment. "Serious matter," he chattered. "Disgrace if an E, without half trying, put his finger on our oversight. We all understand that." He tried to include the nearby operators, his boys, in his eager agreement, but they were all busy showing how intensely they had to concentrate on their work.

"That's probably all it is—an oversight," Hayes said with unconvincing reassurance; then, at the hurt look on the supervisor's face, added, "Beyond our control here, of course. Something it would take at least a scientist to spot, something we couldn't be expected ... What I mean is, we shouldn't get alarmed until we know, for sure. And—ah—keep it confidential."

"Of course, Chief Hayes," the supervisor said in a near whisper. He looked meaningfully around at the room of operators, but did manage not to put his finger to his lips. Those who were observing out of the corners of their eyes were grateful for at least that.

On his way back to his own office Chief William Hayes reflected that the bit about keeping it confidential was on the corny side. Within fifteen minutes he'd start spreading it all over E.H.Q., himself. Every scientist, every lab assistant would know it. Every clerk, every janitor would know it. E.H.Q. would have to work full blast all night long, and some of the lesser personnel had homes down in Yellow Sands at the foot of the mountain.

These would be calling their husbands and wives, telling them not to fix dinner, not to worry if they didn't come home all night. No matter how guarded, the news would leak out, the word spread, and the newscast reporters would pick it up for the delectation of the public. Eden colony cut off from communication. Nobody knows ... Wonder ... Fear ... Delicious ... Exciting....

Or was this the kind of thinking that had kept him from qualifying as an E? What was it the examiner had asked? "Mr. Hayes, why do you feel it is all right for you to view, to read, to know—but that others should be protected from seeing, reading, knowing? What are these sterling qualities you have that make it all right for you to censor what would not be right for others?"

He abruptly brought his mind back to the present. Perhaps he'd first better prepare a news statement before he did anything else, something noncommittal, reassuring. No point in getting the populace stirred up.

As he sat down behind his desk, a big man in a brown suit, natural iron-gray hair, a calm and administrative face, he began to realize that for the next twenty-four hours, at least, he would be in the spotlight. Well, he'd give a good account of himself. Demonstrate that he had an executive capacity beyond the needs of his present job. More than a mere requisition signer, interoffice memo initialer.

For one thing the scientists would give him trouble. If he had been deeply hurt that they thought he couldn't open up his mind enough to become an E, what about scientists whose limits were reached still farther along? He must remember to keep his temper, use persuasion, maybe kid them a little. The blasted experts were almost as bad as E's—worse, in a way, because the E didn't have to remind anybody of his dignity, or how important the work was he was doing.

But then, you never asked an E to drop what he was doing, and listen. You never asked an E to do anything. He either noticed and was interested, or he didn't notice, or wasn't interested.

But nobody ever told an E that he must apply himself to a problem. Once a man became a full-fledged Extrapolator he was outside all law, all frameworks, all duty, all social mores. That was the essence of E science, that any requirement outside of his own making didn't exist. It had to be that way. That kind of mind could not tolerate barriers, but spent itself constantly in destroying them. Erect barriers of triviality, and it would waste its substance upon trivial matters. The only answer was to remove all possible barriers for the E, lest immersion in something trivial prevent that mind from seeking out a barrier to knowledge, a problem of significance.

But the scientists! Hayes sighed. If only the scientists wouldn't keep thinking they were cut from the same cloth as the E. They had to have restrictions, organization imposed upon them. Yes indeed!

They'd grumble at being taken away from their work to assemble a review of all the known facts about Eden—a dead issue as far as their own work was concerned, for Eden had been assayed and filed away as solved. They'd moan and groan about having to drag up the facts that had been analyzed and settled long ago.

He saw himself compared with the producer of a show, and theatrical performers didn't come any more temperamental than scientists. He'd be hearing about how much of their time he'd wasted for months to come. Every time any administrator asked why they hadn't produced whatever it was they were working on, it would be because Chief Hayes had interrupted them at the most crucial moment and they'd had to begin all over again.

Oh, they'd drag their heels, all right, and he'd have to remind them, tactfully, that their prime duty was to serve the Extrapolators; that they were employed here only because someday, in some co-ordinate system, somebody might be able to supply a key fact that some E might want to know.

They'd ask him, slyly, what guarantee he had that any E would be listening if they did produce a review of the Eden complex, knowing he could give no such guarantee.

They'd drag their heels because, deep down, they carried a basic resentment against the E—because, experts though they were, each of them, somewhere along the line, had learned the bitter limits in his mind that prevented him from going on to become an E.

They'd drag their heels because the E's, each blasted one of them, would regard the absolutely true facts proved beyond question by science with an attitude of skepticism, temporarily accepting the uncontestably immutable as only provisionary, and probably quite wrong.

Oh, they'd grumble, and they'd drag their heels at first; but they would get into it. They'd get into it, not because the sector chief had babied them along, kidded them, coaxed them, but because, as surely as his name was Bill Hayes, some unprintable E would ask a question for which they had no answer. Or even worse, some question that made no sense, but left the scientist feeling that perhaps it should have!

That was the E brand of thinking which gave everybody trouble—and without which man could never have gone on creeping outward and outward among the stars. Every new planet, or subplanet, or sun or blasted asteroid seemed to call for some revision of known laws. Sometimes an entirely new co-ordinate system had to be resolved. Oh, science was easy, a veritable snap, while man crawled around on the muddy bottom of his ocean of air and concluded that throughout all the universe things must conform to his then notion of what they must be. As ignorant as a damned halibut must be of the works and thoughts of man.

And often the E was unable to resolve the co-ordinate system—which was simply a euphemistic way of saying that he didn't come back. And without him, man could go no farther. An E, therefore, was the rarest and most valuable piece of property in the universe. Whatever else man might be, he will go to any lengths to protect the value of his property.

All right, Bill, perhaps a part of that is true. But give the scientists their full due. They'd work with a will once they grew aware of the need of it, because they were just as concerned as anybody else with what might have happened to those colonists.

But first they would argue.

His secretary interrupted his thought by coming in from her own office. She had an inch-thick stack of midgit-idgit cards in her hand.

"Here's that batch of scientists who worked on the original Eden survey," she said.

"So many?" Hayes asked ruefully. "Maybe I'd better send an all-points bulletin."

"You're the boss," she said easily. "But if I know scientists, they don't read bulletins."

"Yeah, sure," he agreed. "You made sure this is everybody? Nobody is slighted? They'll scream like stuck pigs when I ask them, but they'll be even worse if I slight anybody by not asking."

"Double checked with Personnel's own midgit-idgit," she replied. "The machine says if anybody is left out, it's not its fault, that it would only be because we stupid humans forgot to inform it in the first place."

"Sometimes I think that machine complains more than people do," he answered. "Certainly it is a lot more insolent."

"Gets more work done, though," she said comfortably. "You want anything more?"

"Not right now."

"Buzz if you do. The idgit is working out the supply list for that new exploration ship, and it wants service, too," she reminded him. "It's worse than you are," she added.

He looked up at her familiarity with a twinkle.

"It can't fire you," he said softly.

"Oh?" she asked. "You think not? Just let me feed it a few wrong data and watch what happens to your li'l ol' lovin' secretary." She winked at him, laughed, and went back to her office.

Sector Chief Hayes sighed, and pulled the stack of cards toward him. First he must sort them out according to protocol because his diplomacy wouldn't be worth the breath used in it if he called the wrong man first. At a glance he saw that the idgit had already sorted them correctly according to status.

"If you're so smart," he muttered to the absent machine, "why didn't you call them too?"

He picked up the first card, and dialed the man's intercom number. It would be like opening the lid of Pandora's box....

At that instant the red light of the E intercom flashed on. Hayes dropped the ordinary key back into its slot, and pushed the E key to open. He did not recognize the voice that came through.

"How soon," the voice asked, "will we be able to get into this Eden matter?"

"I'm setting it up now," he said quickly. "By tomorrow morning, surely. That is, if we haven't solved it ourselves. Something minor that wouldn't require an E."

"Morning will be fine. Two, possibly three Seniors will be available."

The red light flashed off, showing the connection had been broken. He sat back in his chair, suddenly conscious that his forehead was wet with sweat, that his shirt was sticking to his body. Not conscious that he was grinning joyfully.

Now let those pesty scientists challenge him with the question of whether any E's would be listening to their review. Two of 'em. Maybe three. Besides, of course, all the Juniors, the apprentices, the students.

He dialed the first scientist again. But this time he didn't mind it being Pandora's box. It was a terrible thing for a man to realize he could never be an E. The scientists had to take it out on somebody. He understood.

"Hello, Dr. Mille," he said cordially in answer to a gruff grunt. "This is Bill Hayes, of Sector Administration."

"All right! All right!" the voice answered testily. "What is it now?"



3

In the early dawn, out at the hangar, away from the main E buildings and the endless discussions going on inside them, Thomas R. Lynwood moved methodically through his preflight inspection.

Speculative thinking was none of his concern. His job was to pilot an E wherever he might want to go, and bring him back again—if possible. To Lynwood reality was a physical thing—the feel of controls beneath his broad, square hands; the hum of machinery responsive to his will. He liked mathematics not for its own sake but because it best described the substance of things, the weight, the size, the properties of things, how they behaved. He was too intelligent not to realize mathematics could also communicate speculative unrealities, but he was content to wait until the theorists had turned such equations into machines, controls, forces before he got excited.

He was one who, even in childhood, had never wanted to be an E. He didn't want to be one now. Somebody had once told him in Personnel that was why he was a favorite pilot of the E's, but he discounted that. They didn't try to tell him how to run his ship—well, most of them didn't—and he didn't try to tell them how to solve their problems.

The men around the hangar had another version of why the E's liked him to pilot them around—he was lucky. Somehow he always managed to come back, and bring the E with him. Well, sure. He didn't want to get stuck somewhere, wind up in a gulio's gullet, gassed by an atmosphere that turned from oxygen-nitrogen into pure methane without warning or reason, and against all known chemical laws, or whiffed out in the lash of a dead star suddenly gone nova.

But sometimes a pilot couldn't help himself. These E's would fiddle around in places where human beings shouldn't have gone. Most of the time they weren't allowed even one mistake. He was lucky, sure, but part of it might be because he'd never been sent out with the wrong E.

There could be a first time. Luck ran out if you kept piling your bets higher and higher. But until then ...

He was square-jawed, a freckled man with red hair. Contrary to superstition, he didn't have a fiery temper. He was forty and had already built up a seniority of twenty years in deep space. He was captain of his ship and wanted nothing more. Sure, it was only a three-man crew—himself, a flight engineer, an astronavigator. But it was an E ship, which meant that he outranked even the captains of the great luxury liners.

There was a time when the realization caused him to strut a little, but he'd got over it. He was single, had no ties, wanted none. He had a good job which he took seriously, was doing significant work which he also took seriously, was paid premium wages even for a space captain, which didn't matter except in terms of recognition. He didn't mind going anywhere in the known universe, or how long he would be away. He hoped he would get back someday, but he wasn't fanatic about it.

In a routine so well-practiced that it had become ritual, he checked over the cruiser point by point. Of course the maintenance men had checked each item when they had, after his last trip, dismantled, cleaned, oiled, polished, tested, and reassembled one part after another. Then maintenance supervisors had checked over the ship with a gimlet-eyed attitude of hoping to find some flaw, just one tiny flub, so they could turn some luckless mechanic inside out. The Inspection Department, traditionally an enemy of Maintenance, took over from there and inspected every part as if it had been slapped together by a bunch of army goof-offs who knew that pilots were expendable in peace or war and, unconsciously at least, aided in expending them.

Both departments had certified, with formal preflight papers, that the ship was in readiness for deep space. But Lynwood considered such papers as so much garbage, and went over the entire ship himself. This might have had something to do with his so-called luck.

He wondered if Frank and Louie had checked into the ship this morning. Probably had; last night's outing wasn't much to hang over about. A steak at the Eagle Cafe down in Yellow Sands, a couple of drinks at Smitty's, a game of pool at Smiley's, a few dances at the Stars and Moons. Big night out for his crew before they left for deep space. Yellow Sands was strictly for young families, where bright-boy hubby worked up on the hill at E.H.Q., and wifey raised super-bright kids who already considered Dad to be behind the times. Their idea of sin in that town was to snub the wrong matron at a cocktail party; or not snub, as the case might be. Not that it mattered much, neither Frank nor Louie was dedicated to hell-raising.

When he at last opened the door to the generator room, he saw his flight engineer, Frank Norton, had a couple of student E's on his hands.

It was one of the nuisances of being stationed here at E.H.Q. that you'd have swarms of these super-bright youngsters hanging around, asking questions, disputing your answers, arguing with each other, and, if you didn't watch them carefully, taking things apart and putting them back together in different hookups to see what would happen.

The first thing these kids were taught was to disregard everything everybody had ever said; to start out from scratch as if nobody had ever had the sense to think about the problem before; to doubt most of all the opinions of experts, for, obviously, if the experts were right then there would be no problem. Most of them didn't have to be taught it, they seemed to have been born with it. Time was you batted a young smart aleck down, told him to go get dry behind the ears before he shot off his mouth. But not these days. These days you looked at him hopefully, and crossed your fingers. He might grow up to be an E.

Tom wondered what it would be like to doubt the realities, the very machinery under his hands, to assume that although it had always worked it might not work this time. He could not conceive that state of mind, or how a man could live in it without going insane. Every time he saw these tortured kids saying, "Well, maybe, but what if ..." he was glad to be nothing more than a ship captain who knew his machinery was exactly what it was supposed to be and nothing else.

But, in a way, it was nice for the lads too. After thousands of years of man's almost rabid determination to destroy the brightest and best of his young, the world had finally found a place for the bright boy.

This morning, probably because of the early dawn hour, there were only two of them in the generator room. As expected, they were arguing over the space-jump band. Frank was standing over to one side, observing but not participating. His cap was pushed back on his blond head, his big face expressionless. It was common gossip throughout flight crews everywhere that Frank, blindfolded, could take a cruiser apart and put it back together without missing a motion.

"The jump band is founded on the basic of the Moebius strip," one student E was saying heatedly. "This little gadget sends out a field in the shape of such a strip, a band with a half twist before rejoined. Its width is as variable as we need it, up to a light-year."

"Only it hasn't any width at all," the other student argued. "That's the whole point. The Moebius strip has only one edge, so it can't have width. We enter that edge, go through a line that doesn't exist, and come out a light-year away, without taking any longer than the time to pass a point."

"But that's what happens, not how," the other shouted angrily. "Everybody knows what happens. Tell me how and maybe I'll listen."

Tom caught his flight engineer's eye and signaled with his head that it might be a good idea to get rid of the students. Any other time it would be all right, a part of their stand-by job, but they'd got word last night to have the ship in readiness from six o'clock on. They might have to wait all day, but then again, some E might get an idea and want to go shooting out to Eden right off.

Frank caught the signal, grinned, and began to herd the two students toward the door. They were in such heated argument now, accusing one another of parrot repetition instead of thinking for himself, that they didn't realize that they were being nudged out of the ship, down its ramp, and out on the field.

"Don't think it hasn't been educational, and all," Frank murmured to them as he got them off the ramp. "You get the how of it figured out, you let me know."

The two looked at him as if he might be an interesting phenomenon, decided he wasn't, and wandered away, back toward the school dormitories, still arguing.

"Sometimes I think a quiet milk run out to Saturn would have its brighter side," Frank muttered to Tom when he came back inside the ship. Tom grinned at him in wordless understanding.

There was no tension between them. They had worked together so long that they had got over all the attraction-repulsion conflicts which operate far beneath the surface mind to cause likes and dislikes. Now they accepted one another in the way a man accepts his own hands—proud of them when they do something with extra skill, making allowances when they fumble; but never considering doing without them.

"Wonder who the E will be this time?" Frank asked, without too much concern. It didn't really matter. An E was an E, for better or for worse.

"Haven't heard," Tom answered. "Probably not decided yet. If the Senior E's think it isn't much of a problem, they might send a Junior. Or if they don't want to be bothered, they might send a Junior who's up for his solo problem."

"Whoever, or whatever, I'm sure it will be interesting," Frank commented with a grin. Tom returned the grin. There wasn't any malice in it, nor any of the basic enmity and destructiveness of the stupid toward the bright, just a recognition that an E was an E. They had a vast respect for an E, but you couldn't get around it that some of them were—well, maybe eccentric was the word.

"I hear there's trouble on that planet we're going to—Eden, isn't it?" Frank commented.

"You think we'd be hauling an E out there if there weren't?" Tom countered wryly.

They continued to check over each item in the generator room, their flying fingers making sharp contrast to their slow, idle conversation. They gave the room extra care this time because there had been some quick-fingered students around who just might have got it into their heads to improve the machinery. Satisfied at last that there had been no subtle meddling, they snapped the cowl of the generator back into position. They took one more sharp look around, then walked, single file, up the narrow passage to the control room. Louie LeBeau was sitting in the astronavigator's seat, checking over his star charts and instruments. He glanced up at them as they came level with his cubicle. He was the third man of the team, as used to them as they were to him.

"Fourteen hop adjustments to get us past Pluto and out of the heavy traffic," he grumbled sourly. His round face and liquid brown eyes were perpetually disgusted. "They keep saying over at Traffic that they're going to provide a freeway out of the solar system so we can take it in one hop, but they don't do it. Wonder when we'll ever go modern, start doing things scientific?"

They paid no attention to his grumbling. That was just Louie.

"Then how many hops to Eden, after Pluto?" Tom asked.

"I figure twenty," Louie answered. "Can't take full light-year leaps every time. There's stuff in the way. There's always stuff in the way to louse up a good flight plan. Universe is too crowded. There'll be no trouble getting to Eden, no trouble getting there. Make it in about fourteen hours. Fourteen hours to go eleven lousy little light-years. Fourteen hours I got to work in one stretch. Wait'll the union agent hears you're working me fourteen hours without a relief. And are you letting me get my rest now, so I can work fourteen hours? Or are you stopping me from resting with a lot of questions?"

"But you think there may be trouble after we get to Eden?" Tom asked.

Louie looked at him. There was no fear in the soft, brown eyes; just an enormous indignation that life should always treat him so dirty.

"Don't you?" he asked.



4

Calvin Gray, Junior Extrapolator, stood nude before his bathroom mirror and played a no-beard light over his chin and thin cheeks. That should take care of the beard problem for the next six months or so. He leaned forward and examined the fine lines beginning to appear at the corners of his eyes. Well, that was one of the signs he'd reached the thirty mark. One couldn't stay forever at the peak of youth—not yet, anyway. Perhaps he should think about that sometime.

Trouble was, there was always something more urgent....

He became conscious that Linda was standing in the bathroom door watching him. He hadn't heard her get out of bed.

"You used the no-beard just last month, Cal," she said. There was a questioning note in her voice.

"Want to keep handsome," he said lightly. "Never know when I might have to run out to some other world. Wouldn't want one of my other wives to catch me with stubble on my face."

It was a stale joke, a childish one, but it served to introduce the topic foremost in his mind.

"This Eden problem. I can't plan on it, but I hope it's my solo to qualify me for my big E. I'm due, you know."

Linda chose to avoid coming directly to grips with it.

"Yehudi is already at the door," she said, and made a face of exasperation. "Someday I'm going to turn off the gadget that signals the orderly room the minute you get out of bed, so I can have you all to myself."

"It's better if you get used to him," Cal cautioned. "Turn off the signal and that turns on an alarm. Instead of one Yehudi, you'd have twenty rushing in to see what was wrong."

"Well, it seems to me a grown man ought to be able to take his morning shower without an observer standing by to see that he doesn't drown himself or swallow the soap," she commented with a touch of acid.

"Get used to it, woman," he commanded. "There's only one observer now. When—if I get my Senior rating, there'll be three."

She didn't say anything. Instead she stepped over to him, pressed her nude body against his, and tenderly nuzzled his arm.

"Maybe if we go back to bed, he'll go away," she said, and glittered her eyes at him wickedly.

"He won't, but it's a good idea," Cal grinned at her.

"You could tell him to go away," she whispered with a little pout.

She was fighting. She was fighting with the only weapon she had to hold him, to keep him from going away, to face an unknown. He knew it, and the bitterness in her eyes, back of her teasing, showed she knew he knew it.

He took her tenderly in his arms, held her close to him, stroked her hair, kissed her mouth. She pulled her face away, buried it in his chest. He felt her sobbing.

He picked her up, lightly, carried her back into the bedroom, laid her gently on the bed, and, oblivious to the attendant who stood expressionless inside the door, knelt down beside the bed and held her head in his arms.

"Don't fight it," he said softly. "It isn't the first time a man has had to go."

"It's the first time it ever happened to me," she sobbed.

"You knew when you married me.... You agreed...."

"It was easy to agree, then. There was the glamor of being known as the wife of an E. Now that doesn't matter. There's just you, and the thought of losing you, never seeing you again."

"I haven't gone yet," he reminded her. "I don't know that I'll get the job. There are three Seniors at base right now. One of them might want it. Even if I do get the problem, who says I won't be back? You take old McGinnis. He's eighty if he's a day. He's been an E for nigh on to fifty years. He's still around, you'll notice."

She was quieter now. She lay, looking at him, drinking in his dark hair, blue eyes, handsome face, the shape of his intelligent head, the slope of his neck and shoulders, the tapering waist, all the masculine grace and beauty. She pressed her closed fist into her mouth. All the beauty she might never see again, feel enfolded around her, enfold with herself.

"I'm a little fool," she said through clenched teeth. "Of course you'll be back. And you'd better make it quick, or I'll come after you."

He kissed her, rumpled her short hair, straightened her crumpled body on the bed, pulled the sheet over her.

"Why don't you go back to sleep," he suggested. "Rest. I'll have breakfast in the E club room. That's where we'll be watching the Eden briefing. Sleep. Sleep all morning."

Gently he closed her eyes with the tip of his forefinger. Gently he kissed her once more. This time she didn't cling to him, try to hold him.

He tucked the sheet in around her throat. Dutifully, she kept her eyes closed. He stood up then, and signaled the orderly.

"I'll take my shower now," he said.

The orderly didn't speak, just followed him into the bathroom to stand in the doorway and watch him through the shower glass. He was rigidly obeying the cardinal rule of E.H.Q.

Unless his life is in danger, never interrupt the thinking of an E. The whole course of man's destiny in the universe may depend on it.

How much of the future of the universe depended upon his not interrupting the scene he had just witnessed wasn't for him to say. He sighed. He thought of his own wife—shrewish, fat, coarse, always complaining. He wondered what she would do if he picked her up, carried her to bed, closed her eyes with his fingers. For once, he'd bet, she'd be speechless.

He must try it sometime. But first, she'd have to lose about fifty pounds.

* * * * *

When Cal got to the E club room two Seniors were already there—McGinnis and Wong. He thought their greeting was a shade more cordial, a shade more interested than usual. They seemed, this time, to be looking at him as if he were a person, not merely a Junior E. When he turned away from them to greet the three Juniors, who, along with himself, ranked the club-room privileges, he became certain of his impressions. Their faces were frankly envious.

Eden was to be his problem!

He'd hoped for it. Even half expected it. Yet all the way through his shower, dressing, coming down the elevator from his apartment, he'd been nagged with the fear he might not be considered; that the grief of Linda and her rise above it would lead only to anticlimax. By the time he'd got to the club-room door, followed by his orderly, he had already conditioned himself to disappointment.

Now he subdued his elation while he told his orderly what he wanted for breakfast.

"You fellows join me in something?" he asked both Juniors and Seniors.

"A second cup of coffee," Wong agreed.

"A second bourbon," old McGinnis said drily.

The Juniors shook their heads negatively. Yesterday they had been his constant companions, only a few degrees below him in accomplishment, pushing rapidly to become his equal competitors for the next solo. Today, this morning, there was already a gap between them and him, a chasm they would make no move to bridge until they had earned the right. They seated themselves at another table, apart.

"Of course we haven't asked you if you want this Eden problem," McGinnis commented while orderlies placed food and drink in front of them. "We ought to ask him, hadn't we, Wong?"

"First I should ask if either of you want it?" Cal said quickly. "Or perhaps Malinkoff, if he shows up."

"Malinkoff is too deep in something to come to the briefing," Wong said.

"Wong and I came only to help on your first solo, if we can," McGinnis said. "Always think a young fellow needs a little send-off. I remember, about fifty years ago, more or less ..."

"Worst thing to guard against," Wong interrupted, "is disappointment. This whole thing might add up to nothing. Might not turn out to be a genuine solo at all, just something any errand boy could do. In that case it wouldn't qualify you. You know that."

"Sure," Cal said. Naturally the problem would have to give real challenge. You didn't just go out and knock a home run to become an E. You tackled something outside the normal frame of reference, something that required original thinking, the E kind of thinking. You brought it off successfully. A given number of Seniors reviewed what you'd done. If they thought it was worth something, you got your big E. If they didn't, you tried again. And you didn't get it by default, just because somebody thought there should be a given quota of Seniors on the list.

"Little or big," he added, "I'd like the problem."

They said no more. He knew the score. He'd had twelve years of the most intensive training the E's themselves could devise. He knew that sometimes a Junior spent another ten or twelve years chasing down jobs which anybody on the spot could have solved if they'd used their heads a little before they ran on to something that challenged that training. He'd be lucky if this was big enough—but not too big.

That was in their minds, too.



5

On ordinary days there were only the usual few science reporters in the press room of E.H.Q. These held their jobs by the difficult compromise between the scientists' insistence upon accuracy and their publishers' equal insistence upon sensationalism.

Since the publisher paid the salary; since rewrite men, like television writers, maintained their own feeling of superiority to the mass by writing down to the level of a not very bright twelve-year-old; since the facts had to be trimmed and altered to fit the open space or time slot; even these reporters had a difficult time of maintaining the usual odds—that there is only a twenty-to-one chance that anything said in the newspapers or on the air may be accurate.

But on this morning the press room was crowded. In spite of all efforts of journalism to stir up old animosities to make news, or to force factional leaders into rashness which could not be settled without violence; the various states of world government insisted upon negotiating ethnical differences amicably, and factional leaders persisted in keeping their heads. There had been no world-shaking discoveries made in the last week or so; the public no longer believed that changing a screw thread was exactly a scientific "break-through"; no real or imagined scandals seemed of such journalistic stature as to work the public into a frenzy of intolerance for one another's aberrations.

In such a dry spell, when advertisers were beginning to question circulation figures, and editors were racking their brains for a strong hate symbol to create interest, the delayed report from Eden came as a summer shower, that might be magnified into a flood.

EDEN SILENT quickly became COLONY FEARED LOST and progressed normally to COLONY WIPED OUT.

That there was no proof of loss or destruction bothered no one in journalism. If it did turn out this way, they'd have been on top of the news; and if it didn't, well, who remembers yesterday's headlines in the press of today's new hate and panic.

The public, with an established addiction to ever increasing daily doses of sensationalism, and deprived of its shots through this dry spell, snapped out of its apathy to greet this new thrill with vociferous calls to editors, wires to congressmen, telegrams to the Administration.

What are we doing about this colony that has been wiped out? Where is our space battle fleet? Who is going to be punished?

It was an overnight sensation, and on this morning following the news leak there could even be seen some secretaries to the writers for top commentators and columnists in the crowded press room.

Naturally these stood in little groups apart and associated only with each other to maintain the literary tradition of proper insulation from the realities of what was going on in the rest of the world. Obviously no first-rate writer could have afforded to appear in person not only because of damage to his stature lest it be noted he was doing his own spadework; but, more important, first-hand observation might limit his capacity for rationalizing the situation into the mold demanded by the bias of his commentator or columnist. It was always difficult to maintain author integrity when the facts did not support the sensationalism required by the employers, and best not to put oneself in such a position.

Now two of these secretaries could be seen over in a corner of the press room exchanging their views, probing one another for information. No one thought it curious they weren't trying to get the information from source for everyone in journalism understands the importance lies in what the competition is going to say, not in what happened.

"How long has it been since the first message came through, or didn't?"

"Fourteen hours, about."

"We could have had a rescue fleet out there by now."

"To rescue 'em from what?"

"Whatever's wrong."

"I understand an assistant attorney general is checking into it."

"So Gunderson's still gunning for the E's, eh?"

"Has he ever let up since he became attorney general? Gripes his soul he can't arrest them for not doing what he wants, or for doing what he doesn't want."

"How'd they ever get immune, anyhow?"

"Skip class that day in history?"

"Must've."

"Vague, myself. Right after the insurrection. Seems there were two powers, Russia and America. The people of the world got fed up, gave a pox to both their houses, boiled over, formed a world government. Somehow the scientists got in their licks in the turmoil, pointed out that scientists who have to confine their discoveries to what suits the ideology of the non-scientists can only find limited solutions."

"Quite a deal."

"Could only happen in a world turmoil, when everything was fluid. Anyhow, they got away with it, for a certain group, Extrapolators, had to be free to extrapolate without fear of reprisal."

"Boy, something. Imagine. Take any dame you want. Nobody can squawk. Take any money, riches you want. Nobody can stop it."

"Funny thing. Nothing like that happens. Idea seems to be that when you don't have to fight against restrictions, they aren't important any more. At least not to an E."

"Guess that's why one of 'em pointed out that police are the major cause of crime."

"Whether he was right or wrong, that's what sent Gunderson into a tail spin. I wouldn't be surprised but what he's a little hipped on that subject. He'll get 'em one of these days. Even an E can make a mistake, and when one of 'em does, he'll be there."

"I dunno, the public has a lot of hero-worship for the E. Pretty tough for any politician to buck that."

"The public! You know as well as I do—they think what we tell 'em to think, you and me."

"You think that's why he's got a man out here on this Eden thing? Looking for a mistake?"

"Maybe. Maybe not. He just never passes up the chance that maybe this time he can grab something."

"Between Gunderson and the E's, I'll take the E's."

"Your boss feel the same way?"

"Far as I know."

"But if your boss changed his mind, you would have an agonizing reappraisal."

"Well, sure. A guy's got to eat."



6

The west wall of the E club room began to glow, lose its appearance of solidity. Cal signaled his orderly to lift away his table. Now, where the west wall had been, another room seemed to join this one, an office. A large man in a brown suit made an entrance through the door of the office and sat down back of the desk. His face was drawn with weariness.

"I am Bill Hayes," he said. "Sector administration chief of the Eden area. I am acting moderator of this review. We follow the usual rules of procedure. I just want to say, as an aside, that the scientists involved in this problem have been up all night reviewing every known fact about Eden. We ask the indulgence of the E's not only for the kind of knowledge that may prove too little, but for any strain caused by trying to assemble such massive data into order in so short a time.

"For the press, let me say we are aware of some questions of why we didn't immediately send out a fleet of ships as soon as the call failed to come through. A military man does not rush troops into battle until he has some idea of what he must oppose; even a plumber needs to get some idea of the problem before he knows what tools to take with him. It would serve no constructive purpose to rush an unprepared fleet out to rescue, and might prove the highest folly."

All over E.H.Q., in the various buildings where anybody was directly concerned, the same effect would be taking place as appeared here in the club room. The tri-di screen wall would seem to join the room of the person speaking. A pressed button signaled the desire to speak, and like the chairman of a meeting, Bill Hayes decided whom to recognize. It was a way to conduct a meeting of two or three thousand people as intimately as a small conference.

"The E's have signaled they are ready for the Eden briefing," Hayes continued formally. He faded out his own office, and was immediately replaced by an astrophysics laboratory. The review of Eden was under way.

With sky charts, pointers, math formulae and many references to documentation, the astrophysicist established the celestial position of Ceti relative to Earth, and its second planet Ceti II—popularly called, he had heard, Eden. For his part, bitterly, he preferred a little less popularizing of scientific data, a little more exactitude. He would, therefore, continue to call it Ceti II.

He reminded Cal of certain teachers in schools he had been asked to leave back in his ugly duckling days. How didactically, positively, they clung to their exactitudes—like frightened little children in a chaotic world too big for them to face, hanging on to mother's skirts, something safe, sure, dependable.

The astrophysicist continued, at considerable length, to establish the position of Ceti II to his own complete satisfaction.

In his own mind Cal willingly conceded that, at least in terms of third-dimensional space-time continuum, Eden could be found where the man said it was. Then he reminded himself, sternly, that the essence might be that Eden was there no longer; that he'd better pay closest attention to everything said, however positive and didactic, lest he find his own mind closed to a solution. He reminded himself that, after all, these people had worked all night for his benefit, while he lay peacefully in Linda's arms.

He reminded himself that one little bit of datum, one little phrase, carelessly heard now, might mean his success or failure. Didactic pedantry has its place in science, and these were scientists, not vaudeville performers. Silently, he apologized to the lot of them.

A geophysicist took over the review. He quickly got down out of space to the surface of Eden. Personally he didn't mind calling it Eden, just so all the purists knew he was referring to Ceti II. This was supposed to be humorous, and he waited until all the viewers had had a chance to chuckle with him.

If the astrophysicist signaled his demand for a retraction and apology for this public ridicule, Bill Hayes apparently didn't feel it worth breaking up the review to oblige him.

After he had enjoyed his own humor, the geophysicist did present his capsule of knowledge with excellent brevity.

There were no large continents. Instead, there were thousands of islands, so many that the land mass roughly equaled the sea surface. The islands had not been counted, he admitted, and then needlessly explained that Eden had been discovered only ten years ago. Since universe exploration was expanding much faster than properly qualified scientists could follow to catalogue conditions, details such as this had been left for future colonists to complete.

He took time out to complain that the younger generation was too dazzled by glamor and wanted to become entertainment stars, sports stars, jet jockeys exploring space, and there weren't enough going into the solid sciences to keep up with the work to be done.

A biophysicist interposed here and stated that his research with the injection of uric acid into rats caused a marked rise in intelligence, and if the Administration would just pay attention and let him have the grant he was asking, he felt confident that research in how to change the human kidney structure would take us a long mutant leap ahead toward humans with super-intelligence.

Bill Hayes cut him off as tactfully as possible and suggested that the Eden problem was here and now, and perhaps we should get that one out of the way first. Both scientists, by their expressions, indicated that they did not appreciate being frustrated, hampered, driven—but they did comply.

Back to Eden they went.

The climate was something like that of the Hawaiian area. Partly this was due to the variable plane rotation that heated all parts evenly, partly due to favorable flow of ocean currents. It had been noted that there was such an interweaving of cool and warm currents all over the globe that a relatively even temperature was maintained throughout. Some differential in spots, of course, enough to cause rainfall, but no real violence of storms, not as we classified hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes here on Earth.

"Probably no sudden storm to wipe out the colony before they could send news, then," Wong suggested in an aside to Cal.

"Or a freak one did occur and they weren't prepared because it wasn't supposed to happen," Cal said.

Wong and McGinnis exchanged a quick glance, and Cal knew Wong had laid a little trap to see how easily he might be lulled into a premature conclusion.

The gravity was slightly less, the geophysicist was saying, but only to the extent that man, newly arrived from Earth, walked with a springier step, didn't tire as quickly. Not enough to cause nausea, even to the inexperienced. The oxygen content of the air, in fact the whole make-up of the air, was so close to Earth quality there were no breathing adaptations necessary.

So much for generalities. He went on to document them with exactitudes. He teamed up with a meteorologist to explain the distribution of rainfall in spite of lack of frigid and torrid air masses. Cal's doubt was not appeased. Weather prediction was about on a par with race-horse handicapping, and easy to explain after it happened.

Eventually the geophysicist and the meteorologist completed their duet to the accompaniment of oceanographers and geologists.

A chorus of botanists replaced them on the tri-di screen, the major theme of their epic being that an astonishing proportion of the plant forms bore edible fruit, nuts, seeds, leaves, stems, roots, flowers. A choir of zoologists joined their voices here to point out the large number of small meat animals, fish, and crustaceans—with the whole thing sounding like a pean of thanksgiving.

After two hours, the condensed information added up to a most interesting fact. In essence, due to quite natural conditions—odd how much the scientists seemed to need stressing the word "natural"—Eden was more favorable to easy human life than Earth!

Cal leaned forward. Here was the spot where some student or apprentice might distinguish himself by asking an embarrassing question or so. Say the range of easily possible conditions on any given planet was a scale ten miles in length. Then that area on the scale where man could exist without artificial aids would still be less than a hair's breadth. And now to find a planet more nearly perfect for man than the one on which he evolved....

Or were the students considering this too obvious to mention? He decided to nudge them a little. Sometimes a discussion of the too obvious brought out things not obvious at all.

"How frequently," he asked, when Hayes had cut him in, "do we find a mass revolving in such a manner that its poles revolve at right angles to its forward revolution, so there is no real pole?"

"It requires near-perfect roundness, and an even distribution of land and water masses, such as we have on Ceti II," the first astrophysicist answered.

"How frequently do we find that?" Cal repeated.

"I know of no other," the astrophysicist replied shortly.

"Any evidence of tampering with those ocean currents to get them flowing so beneficially?" Cal asked.

"None yet discovered," an oceanographer cut in.

Well, at least he hadn't stated with positiveness that there hadn't been and couldn't be. But an anthropaleontologist inserted himself and spoiled the effect of open-mindedness.

"There is definitely no life form on Eden with sufficient intelligence for that," the man said, "nor has there ever been. Such a feat would require enormous engineering works. Such works under the ocean would be matched by comparable works on land, and would therefore show up in our aerial surveys, however ancient and overgrown."

Cal sighed softly to himself. The human kind of civilization, yes, that would have left traces. But what of some other kind? Perhaps a deep-sea kind that had never come out upon the land? Never mind the arguments that such a civilization could not have developed—that was looking at it from the human point of view again. Had man grown so accustomed to not finding comparable intelligence anywhere in the universe he had begun to discount, or forget, there could be?

The review went on and on. The zoologist sketched in the prevalent animals and fish forms, showed there was nothing in land animals higher than a large rodent, no sea mammals at all, no fish larger than the tarpon. Nothing at all to hint at a line of primates.

A bacteriologist exclaimed at length over the similarity of minute life forms to those on Earth, and used the occasion to again expound the old theory of space-floating life spores to seed all favorable matter, and thus develop similar forms through evolution, wherever found. Quickly and tactfully Bill Hayes nudged him back on the track before the expected storm of controversy could break out.

Then there was a short lunch time, but not a leisurely one. Quite aside from the emergency of what might be happening to the colonists, there was growing clamor from the people and pressure from various governmental bodies to get off the dime and get going—rescue those people, or, cynically, at least make a show of action to quell the flood of telegrams. E.H.Q. resisted the pressures in favor of doing a workmanlike job in preparation for a genuine rescue instead of a haphazard show, but was mindful of them nevertheless.



7

Anyone who has witnessed even so much as a traffic-court trial cannot help but realize that "government by law instead of man" is a mere political phrase without meaning in reality. The ascendancy of me-and-mine over you-and-yours runs so deep in the human psyche that abstract idealisms must always take second place where such ascendancy is threatened. Thus we see that the belly-crawler, meek and subservient to the judge, comes off with a token sentence while the man who attempts to maintain his pride, his rights, his self-respect gets the book thrown at him.

No practical attorney is unaware that the judgment of his case depends largely upon who presides, the whims, the prejudices, the moods, the viewpoint of the judge; and that the law merely provides justification for the imposition of those whims, moods, prejudices, and viewpoints.

And ambitions.

The announcement at E.H.Q. that a Junior E would be given this problem gave Gunderson's man the opening he had hoped to find. A hurried call to the capitol and a brief conversation with Gunderson himself confirmed his conclusions. Perhaps the E was above all law, and it might not be expedient to challenge that right now, but immunity did not necessarily extend to the Junior E.

In view of the known ambitions of certain judges, it should not be difficult to make a test case of this—whether the E's had a right to jeopardize a colony of human beings by assigning an unqualified man to the problem.

A question, too, of who had jurisdiction over the Juniors, the apprentices, the students. How far down the line did the mantle of the E extend to protect those not yet qualified? How far out did the Administration of E.H.Q. extend to substitute for government? How much of a state within a state had E.H.Q. become?

Now, while the public was clamoring for action, and E.H.Q. was, instead, droning on through a mass of inconsequential detail, now while public sentiment was crystallizing, or could be crystallized into placing human welfare over science procedures, now was the time.

It was not difficult to find a judge who was predisposed to favor the request of the attorney general.



8

After lunch at E.H.Q., the colonizing administrator took over the review.

The precolonizing scientists had not been trapped by the obviously favorable aspects of Eden into neglecting their full duties. No indeed they had given the full routine of tests and had come up with exactly nothing that might be unfavorable to man, at least not more so than on Earth.

Colonization had followed the usual plan. Fifty professional colonists had been sent out to Eden. They knew their jobs. They were temperamentally suited to the work.

As usual, they were to live there for five years, leaning as lightly as possible on Earth supplement. Their prime purpose was to adapt primitive ecology to human needs, how it could be done. It was not the job of this first colony to explore, to catalogue. They were expected to do only what any pioneer does—endure, exist, and prove it possible.

In honesty the colonizing administrator had to point out there had been more than the usual dissatisfaction from this colony. The burden of their complaint was that they found living too easy. They were professionals, accustomed to challenge.

They had first recommended, then demanded, that they be transferred and the planet given over to the second-phase colonists.

They complained they were dying on the vine, that easy living was making farmers and storekeepers out of them, that they were getting soft, ruined by disuse of their talents for meeting and coping with hostile conditions. There had even been threats that one of these days they would all pile into their ship and come back home. So far he had stopped them by threats of his own, that he would personally see they never got another assignment.

He had resisted their demands. Five years was a short enough time. Some organisms took longer than that to develop in the human body or mind, to make their inimical presence known. Some did not show up until the second or third generation; which was the reason for the second-phase colonists, to live there for three generations, before the planet could be opened to young John Smith and his wife Mary who dreamed of owning a little chicken ranch out away from it all. He had argued that boredom might be just the very inimical condition they were having to test.

Cal felt a twinge of disappointment here. Perhaps the dissatisfied colonists had merely gone on strike! Unable to get satisfaction from their administrator, they chose not to communicate as a means of drawing attention, getting an investigation of their plight. Drastic, perhaps, but man had been known to do drastic things before when he felt treated unfairly.

This seemed such a likely solution that for a moment he let his disappointment override his interest. Such would be an administrative hassle, nothing to challenge an E at all, not even a Junior.

Still, it might not be the solution. He had better listen to the whole of the problem.

The colonists had chosen a large island for their first settlement. In the center was a small mountain. It had been given the name of Crystal Palace Mountain because it was crested with an outcropping of amethystine quartz-crystal structures in natural pillars, domes, arches, spires.

Like spokes of a wheel radiating out from the hub, ridges fell away from this mountain, and in between the ridges there lay fertile valleys watered by perpetual streams.

It was in one of these valleys, about halfway between the mountain and the sea, that the colonists settled. Some bucolic wit had named the first settlement Appletree, because there they would gain knowledge, and everybody knows that the apple was the Garden of Eden's fruit of knowledge. No one quite knew when the name Eden was first applied to the planet. Suddenly, during the first scientific expedition, everyone was referring to it that way.

"For exactitude," the administrator said diplomatically. "Of course we still designate it as Ceti II."

As was customary, the colony had communicated multitudes of progress pictures over the space-jump band. Here was the valley before they had started to fell trees. Here it was in progress of clearing. Here they were converting the trees into lumber for houses. Here were the first houses so that some could move out of the living quarters in the ship. Here they were uprooting the stumps, turning the sod, planting Earth seed. These were barns for the cattle and horses sent with them from Earth.

A collection of community buildings came next in the series of photographs, and finally there was the whole village of Appletree, with a collection of small farms surrounding it. The pictures showed it all as ideal for man as a distant view of a rural valley in Ohio. Productive, progressive, and peaceful—from a distance.

But back of the post-card scene, human psychology progressed normally also.

The reporting psychologist was most emphatic on this issue. His department would have been most alarmed had differences and schisms not developed. That would have been an abnormality calling for investigation.

Differences in outlook became apparent in spite of the common temperament and experience of the group. Little personal enmities developed and grew. Sympathizers drew together in little groups, each group considering its stand to be the right one, and therefore all who disagreed wrong.

The psychologist said he was sure all viewing would remember the classical picture of primitive Earth man at first awareness. He stands upon a hill and looks about him. There comes the astonishing realization that he can see about the same distance in all directions.

"Why," he exclaims to himself, "I must be at the very center of creation!"

His awe and wonder was to grow. Wherever he went, he found he was still at the center of things. There could be only one conclusion.

"Because I am always at the center of things, I must be the most important event in all creation!"

Still later comes another realization.

"Those who are with me, and are therefore a part of me-and-mine, are also at the center of things and share my importance. Those who are not with me, and not a part of me-and-mine, are not at the center of things, and are therefore of an inferior nature!"

It could readily be seen—the psychologist was allowing a note of dryness to enter his comments—that the bulk of man's philosophy, religion, politics, social values, and yes, too often even his scientific conclusions, was based upon this egocentric notion; the supreme importance and rightness of me-and-mine ascendant at the center of things, opposed to those who are not a part of me-and-mine, on the outside, and therefore inferior.

There must have been a signal from Bill Hayes, for the psychologist left the generalities behind and came back to the issue.

The very ease of living on Eden fostered the growth of schisms, for there was no common enemy to band the group into one solid me-and-mine organism—the audience would recall that when Earth was divided into nations it had always been imperative to find a common enemy in some other nation; that this was the only cohesive force man had been able to find to keep the nation from disintegrating.

Another nudge.

Factions took shape on Eden and clashed in town meetings. At last, as expected, some dissident individuals and family groups could no longer tolerate the irritation of living in the same neighborhood with the rest. These broke off from the main colony, and migrated across the near ridge to settle in an adjacent valley.

Psychologically, it was a most satisfactory development, playing out in classical microcosm the massive behavior of total man. For, as everyone knew, had men ever been able to settle their differences, had man been able to get along peacefully with himself, he might have developed no civilization at all.

Man's inability to stand the stench of his own kind was the most potent of all forces in driving him out to the stars.

Bill Hayes, a weary and red-eyed moderator now, apparently decided he could no longer stand the stench of the psychologist and abruptly cut him off. He himself took over the summation. It boiled down to a simple statement.

The colonists had reported everything that happened, of significance or not. These reports had all been thoroughly sifted in the normal course of E.H.Q.'s daily work as they were received. They had been collated and extended both by human and machine minds to detect any subtle trends away from norm.

There had been nothing, absolutely nothing. The reports might as well have originated somewhere near Eugene, Oregon. They were about as unusual as a Saturday night bath back on the farm.

Then silence. Sudden, inexplicable silence.



9

"It bothers me, it bothers me a lot," Cal said to the two E's, following the review, "that Eden should be more favorable to effortless human existence than Earth."

He snapped on the communicator and asked the ship be in readiness for take-off.

McGinnis and Wong looked at one another.

"You think it might have been the original Garden of Eden?" Wong asked. His face was impassive. "It fits, you know. Man was banished from an ideal condition and forced to live by the sweat of his brow."

"Not that so much," Cal said. "Not unless the whole concept of evolution is haywire, and we're reasonably sure it isn't that far off. Probably the colonists have gone on strike, but I still keep thinking that when we want to catch rats we set a trap with a better food than they can get normally."

There was a twinkle in McGinnis's eye.

"You think Eden is an alluring trap, especially baited to catch human beings?" he asked.

"I don't exactly think that. I just keep wondering," Cal answered.

They were interrupted by a diffident yet insistent knock on the door. This in itself was such a violation of E.H.Q. rules, never to interrupt the thinking of an E, that all three stopped talking. The three Juniors, who had been sitting by, listening, arose from their seats and stood facing the door. The orderlies looked to the E's for instruction. At a nod from McGinnis, one of them walked over to the door and opened it.

Bill Hayes was standing there, flushed with embarrassment.

"Your pardon, E's," he said hurriedly. "I'm just an errand boy, under instruction from General Administration. We have been served with a court injunction to prevent assignment of a Junior to the Eden matter."

Cal froze in alarm and disappointment. At the last moment to have his chance snatched away from him. He should have gone immediately the review was over, without waiting for any advice McGinnis and Wong might care to give. Now ...

McGinnis caught his eye and gave a slight nod toward a door that opened on another hallway. He flashed a command with his eyes to get going, then turned back to Hayes.

"I was unaware that the E's must heed court orders," he said frostily.

"It's a question of where civil jurisdiction stops and E jurisdiction takes over," Hayes explained nervously. "While the colonists are employed by E.H.Q., and under their direction, it is held they are also Earth citizens, with citizen rights. Civil authority feels it must answer for their welfare."

"I thought restrictions upon the E were removed by act of World Congress some seventy years ago," Wong said mildly.

"The injunction makes it clear there is no restriction upon the Senior E; just the Junior, who really isn't an E yet."

"It is the decision of the E's that a Junior will handle this problem," McGinnis said, and turned his back as if that settled the matter.

Hayes cleared his throat nervously.

"I'm sorry," he said. "If it were up to me ... Well, the argument before the court ran this way: That where there is no restriction upon the E in arriving at a solution, there is also no compulsion upon civil authority to adopt that solution. They cited instances ... Well, any number of instances. It seems ..."

Cal heard no more. He had been pacing the room, and now, while Hayes's perspiring attention was focused imploringly on Wong and McGinnis, he slipped out the door.

The orderly at that door raised a finger in salute, and at Cal's request quickly wheeled a hall-car from a storage closet.

"Take me out to the Eden ship," Cal said quietly. "You know where it is?"

"Yes," the orderly answered. He took his place at the controls and Cal slipped into the seat beside him.

They sped through the halls at maximum speed, out the rear exit of the E building, down the maze of ramps and out across the landing field to the entrance of the ship.

Cal expected to see guards posted there to enforce the injunction, but none were in evidence. As they drew up to the open door, he saw Lynwood and Norton, pilot and engineer, standing just inside waiting for him. There was no strain in their faces to show they had received orders not to take off with him.

He climbed out of the car, and with another nod the orderly drove it back to the E building. Henceforward the ship's crew would be the E's orderlies.

Cal climbed the short ramp and entered the ship.

"You have clearance to take off at once?" he asked Lynwood.

Lynwood nodded. "Since early morning," he answered.

"Fine. Let's get going," Cal said. "I'm in a hurry, of course," he added with a grin.

"Of course," the two men answered, then seeing his grin, relaxed and returned it. Apparently this E was human.

It took only a minute for them to reach the control room, where Louie sat in his navigator's cubby; and only ten more seconds for the ship to lift clear. And still no command came over the radio to halt them.

Someone in civil authority had slipped. Had Gunderson really felt that a simple injunction would stop everything, that the E's would not challenge this encroachment? Was he playing some deeper game, allowing the Junior to slip through his fingers in the hope he would louse up the Eden rescue, add strength to the campaign to bring the E's back under civil control—his control?

Or had someone genuinely slipped?

The command to halt, turn around, and return to base did not come until their second hop had brought them into the Mars orbit. Then it came from space police in charge of shipping traffic at that point.

"I am under orders from E.H.Q. to proceed," Tom answered, after a quick, questioning look at Cal.

"The attorney general's office orders you to halt," the voice commanded.

Tom looked at Cal again, questioning. This was bucking the federal government, his license wouldn't be worth the paper it was written on if he ignored the order. To say nothing of any other punishment they might choose to hand him.

"Keep going," Cal answered shortly. "And make your next jump as quickly as you can."

"I am under orders to keep going," Tom answered the police. If he refused the request of an E, a lifetime of work would go down the drain.

Over in his seat, Frank Norton's fingers were speeding through the intricate pattern of setting up the next jump. He and Louie were working as one man.

"I am under orders to disable you if you refuse," the police warned.

"We have an E on board," Tom answered. "You'd be risking a lot."

"I am advised he is a Junior E," the voice said in clipped speech. "Not such a risk."

"Far as I'm concerned," Tom answered laconically, "he's an E. I have to follow his orders."

He nodded to Frank who touched the jump switch. There was an instant silence. They were at the approach to the asteroid belt.

"They can get us here," Louie spoke up. "We have to give over controls so they can take us through. No chart can keep up to the microsecond on these asteroid movements. They have to calculate a path in short hops, and take us through a step at a time. I keep saying there ought to be an expressway out of the solar system, but ..."

"What about a good long jump at right angles?" Cal asked. "Get over it instead of through it?"

"It's illegal," Louie complained.

"Our necks are already out," Tom said quietly.

"Okay, you're the boss. But I'll have to figure it. It takes time to figure it."

"Well, get going on it."

"There's stuff all over," Louie explained. "Not just a band, like most people think. The asteroids have moved at right angles, too. Not so thick, but there's a globe of stuff, not just a belt. Maybe a bunch of little jumps."

"We can't start making them until you figure them, Louie," Frank reminded him.

The radio gave its hum of life, and a voice came through.

"We have orders from space police not to escort you through, to turn you back."

"This is an E ship, with an E on board. His command is to come through," Tom said.

"I just work here," the voice answered as if it were bored and tired. "I take my orders from Space Control."

Tom looked over at Louie. Louie apparently caught the look out of a corner of his eye, and impatiently waved a finger not to bother him. His other hand was speeding through the movements of manipulating the astrocalculator. Then he nodded his head, still not looking up, and the co-ordinates flashed in front of Frank. Now, as rapidly as Louie, Frank set up the pattern of the jump band.

"I take my orders from the E's," Tom answered in a voice that matched the boredom, tiredness. Then with a nod from Frank, "Now!" he said.

There was silence again.

"It's going to add at least an hour," Louie complained. "I've got to pick my way through this muck."

"We've got time now," Tom answered easily. "Not likely they can find us out here, away from the regular lanes."

"Not unless we run across a prowl ship," Louie said. "You know there's some smuggling, and now and then a shipping company thinks it can beat the rap, not pay the toll, by doing the same thing we're doing. The prowl patrol is on to all the tricks. We're not the first ones to try it."

"Just keep figuring, Louie," Tom said.

"All right, all right!" Louie quarreled back.

Tom looked at Cal and grimaced.

"Louie's all right," he said. "Just has to complain."

"I'm sure of it," Cal answered with a grin.

It took closer to two hours. They had no way of knowing how many times the space police had made a fix on their position only too late to catch them hovering there. There must have been some fix made and a pretty careful calculation of where they could go next, for as they neared the outer moons of Jupiter the radio crackled into life again.

"This is your last warning. We intend to board you and take over. We will disintegrate your ship if you resist."

Cal took the microphone in his own hand to answer.

"We intend to keep going," he said. "This is a jurisdictional dispute between the attorney general's office and E.H.Q. We will not allow you to board us, and I suggest you get confirmation of orders to disintegrate us directly from the attorney general in person. Meanwhile you can pass the buck to your Saturn patrol if those orders are confirmed."

Tom nodded to Frank, and the next jump key was pressed.

In the Saturn field, still another voice came through. "Orders from the attorney general himself are to allow you to proceed. Say, Lynwood, what is this all about?"

"Some sort of petty squabble over who gives orders to who," Lynwood answered. "I just work here," he added tiredly.

"Well," said the voice. "So do I. Guess they'll fight it out in the courts now. You understand, we had our orders."

"You understand, so did I." Tom answered.

"Sure," the voice answered, and cut out.

Cal wondered whether the orders to disintegrate had been a bluff. Would the attorney general have dared disintegrate a ship with even a Junior E on board? Maybe it had been just a threat of the local police, one they didn't expect to have called.

Or maybe he had played directly into the attorney general's hands by defying him, and getting that defiance on record was what the man had wanted.

Whatever it was, the Eden matter had become bigger than merely finding out what had happened to some colonists. Whatever it was, he'd better find a successful solution, because the attorney general was counting on him to fail. And if he did fail, certainly the position of the Junior E would be altered, and possibly a deep thrust into the very heart of the Senior E position, as well.



10

Louie was right. After they cleared the solar system there was no trouble getting to Eden. And there was no trouble circumnavigating the globe while still in space.

Closer, but still outside the atmosphere in their surveying spiral, they had no trouble in locating the island with Crystal Palace Mountain at its center. There was only one such spot on Eden, and in their telescope viewer its crystalline spires and minarets sparkled back at them like a diamond set in jade.

The trouble began when they hovered over the location, when they amplified their magnification to get a close look at the Appletree village before dropping down to land.

Louie found the right valley. He said it was the right valley, and he stuck to his claim stubbornly.

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