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strode.
It had been painted on his brain in earliest childhood that such walking was
wrong, reprehensible, silly, debilitating. It wasted calories. These people
did not look debilitated, and they didn't seem to mind wasting calories.
It was an ordinary sort of town, apparently named Princeton. It did not have
the transient look to it of, say, Wheeling, or Altoona, or Gary, in Tropile's
experience. It looked like
well, it looked permanent. Tropile had heard of a town called Princeton but it
happened that he had never passed through it south-warding or northbound.
There was no reason why he or anybody should have or should not have. Still,
there was a possibility, once he thought of it, that things were somehow so
arranged that they should not; perhaps it was all on purpose. Like every town
it was underpopulated, but not as much so as most.
Perhaps one living space in five was used. A high ratio.
The man beside him was named Haendl, one of the men from the helicopter. They
hadn't talked much on the flight and they didn't talk much now. "Eat first,"
Haendl said, and took
Tropile to a bright and busy sort of food stall. Only it wasnt a stall, it was
a restaurant.
This Haendl, what to make of him? He should have been disgusting, nasty, an
abomination. He had no manners whatever. He didn't know, or at least didn't
use, the
Seventeen Conventional Gestures. He wouldn't let Tropile walk behind him and
to his left, though he was easily five years Tropile's senior. When he ate, he
ate;
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the Sip of
Appreciation, the Pause of First Surfeit, the Thrice Proffered Share meant
nothing to him;
he laughed when Tropile tried to give him the Elder's Portion.
Cheerfully patronizing, this man Haendl said to Tropile: "That stuffs all
right when you don't have anything better to do with your time. You poor mutts
don't. You'd die of bore-
dom without your inky-pinky cults, and you don't have the resources to do
anything bigger. Yes, I do know the Gestures. Seventeen delicate ways of
communicating emotions too refined for words to express or too dangerous! The
hell with all of that, Tropile. I've got words, and I'm not afraid to use
them. Saves time. You'll learn; we all did."
"But," said Tropile, trying frantically to rebalance the budget of behavior in
his mind, "what about waste?
What about the need to economize on food? Where does it all come from?"
"We steal it from the sheep," the man said brutally. "You'll do it too. Now
why don't you just shut up and eat?"
Tropile ate silently, trying to think.
A man arrived, threw himself in a chair, glanced curiously at Tropile and
said: "Haendl, die Somerville Road. The creek backed up when it froze.
Flooded, bad. Ruined
everything."
Tropile ventured: "The flood ruined the road?"
"The road? No. Say, you must be the fellow Haendl went after? Tropile, that's
the name?"
He leaned across the table, pumped Tropile's hand. "We had the road nicely
blocked," he explained. "The flood washed it clean. Now we have to block it
again."
Haendl said: "Take the tractor if you need it." The man nodded and left.
Haendl said, "Eat up, we're wasting time. About that road.
We keep them blocked up, see? Why let a lot of Sheep in and out?"
"Sheep?"
"The opposite," said Haendl, "of Wolves."
Haendl explained. Take ten billion people, and say that out of every million
of them, one just one is different. He has a talent for survival; call him
Wolf. Ten thousand of him, in a world of ten billion.
Squeeze them, freeze them, cut them down. Let old
Rejoice-in-Messias loom in the terrifying sky and so abduct the earth that the
human race is decimated, fractionated, reduced to what is in comparison a bare
handful of chilled, stunned survivors. There aren't ten billion people in the
world any more. No, not by a factor of a thousand. Maybe there are as many as
ten million, more or less, rattling around in the space their enormous Elder
Generations made for them.
And of these ten million, how many are Wolf?
Ten thousand.
"You understand, Tropile.
We survive. I
don't care what you call us. The Sheep call us
Wolves, and me, I kind of like to call us Supermen. But we survive."
Tropile nodded, beginning to understand. "The way I survived the House of the
Five
Regulations."
Haendl gave him a pitying look. "The way you survived thirty years of
Sheephood before that. Come on."
It was a tour of inspection. They went into a building, big, looking like any
other big and useless building of the ancients, gray stone walls, windows with
ragged shards of glass. Only inside it wasn't like die others. Two
sub-basements down, Tropile winced and turned away from the flood of violet
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light that poured out of a quartz bulls-eye on top of a squat steel cone.
"Perfectly harmless, Tropile, you don't have to worry,' Haendl boomed. "Know
what you're looking at? There's a fusion reactor down there. Heat. Power. All
the power we need. Do you know what that means?"
He stared somberly down at the flaring violet light of the inspection port.
"Come on," he said abruptly. Another building, also big, also gray stone. A
cracked inscription over the entrance read: " ORIAL HALL OF HUMANITIES." The [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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