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His body was jackknifed on its side around the back of the chair, the left
thigh and knee resting flat on the seat while the right foot kicked steadily
against the floor. It was not too difficult to imagine that the filing
cabinets, bookshelves, office door and the figures of O'Mara and Craythorne
were all lying on their sides and that he, Conway, was rotating in the
vertical plane. His panic began to subside a little.
"If you stop me," said Conway, meaning every word, "I'll kick you in the
face...
Craythorne's expression was ludicrous as his face wobbled into sight. O'Mara's
was hidden by the open door of the drug cabinet.
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Defensively Conway went on, "This is not simply revulsion to a suddenly
introduced alien viewpoint-believe me, Surreshun as a person is more human
than most of the taped entities I've had recently. But I can't take this one!
I'm not the psychologist around here, but I don't think any sane person can
adapt to a continually recurring death agony.
"On Meatball," he continued grimly, "there is no such thing as pretending to
be dead, sleeping or unconsciousness. You are either moving and alive or still
and dead. Even the young of
Surreshun's race rotate during gestation until-"
"You've made your point, Doctor," said O'Mara, approaching once again. His
right hand, palm upward, held three tablets. "I won't give you a shot because
stopping you to do so will cause distress, obviously. Instead I'll give you
three of these sleep-bombs. The effects will be sudden and you will be out for
at least forty-eight hours. I shall erase the tape while you're unconscious.
There will be a few residual memories and impressions when you awaken, but no
panic.
"Now open your mouth, Doctor. Your eyes will close by themselves
Conway awoke in a tiny cabin whose austere color scheme told him that he was
aboard a
Federation cruiser and whose wall plaque narrowed it down to Cultural Contact
and Survey vessel
Descartes. An officer wearing Major's insignia was sitting in the single,
fold-down chair, overcrowding the cabin while studying one of the thick
Meatball files. He looked up.
"Edwards, ship's medical officer," he said pleasantly. "Nice to have you with
us, Doctor.
Are you awake?"
Conway yawned furiously and said, "Half."
"In that case," said Edwards, moving into the corridor so that Conway could
have room to dress, "the Captain wants to see us.
Descartes was a large ship and its control room was spacious enough to contain
Surreshun's life-support system without too much inconvenience to the officers
manning it. Captain Williamson had invited the roller to spend most of its
time there-a compliment which could be appreciated by any astronaut regardless
of species-and for a being who did not know the meaning of sleep it had the
advantage of always being manned. Surreshun could talk to them, after a
fashion.
The vessel's computer was tiny compared with the monster which handled
Translation at
Sector General, and even then only a fraction of its capacity could be spared
for translation purposes since it still had to serve the ship. As a result the
Captain's attempts at communicating complex psycho political ideas to
Surreshun were not meeting with much success.
The officer standing behind the Captain turned and he recognized Harrison.
Conway nodded and said, "How's the leg, Lieutenant?"
"Fine, thank you," said Harrison. He added seriously, "It troubles me a little
when it rains, but that isn't often in a spaceship..
"If you must make conversation, Harrison," said the Captain with controlled
irritation, "please make intelligent conversation." To Conway he said briskly,
"Doctor, its governmental system is completely beyond me-if anything it
appears to be a form of paramilitary anarchy. But we must contact its
superiors or, failing this, its mate or close relatives. Trouble is, Surreshun
doesn't even understand the concept of parental affection and its sex
relationships seem to be unusually complex..
"That they are," said Conway with feeling.
"Obviously you know more than we do on this subject," said the Captain,
looking relieved.
"I had hoped for this. As well as sharing minds for a few minutes it was also
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your patient, I'm told?"
Conway nodded. "It was not really a patient, sir, since it wasn't sick, but it
cooperated during the many physiological and psychological tests. It is still
anxious to return home and almost as anxious for us to make friendly contact
with its people. What is the problem, sir?"
Basically the Captain's problem was that he had a suspicious mind and he was
giving the
Meatball natives credit for having similar minds. So far as they were
concerned Surreshun, the first being of their race to go into space, had been
swallowed up by Descartes' cargo lock and taken away.
"They expected to lose me," Surreshun put in at that point, "but they did not
expect to have me stolen."
Their subsequent reaction on Descartes' return was predictable- every form of
nastiness of which they were capable had been hurled at the ship. The nuclear
missiles were easily evaded or knocked out, but Williamson had withdrawn
because their warheads had been of a particularly dirty type and surface life
would have been seriously affected by fallout if the attack had been allowed
to continue. Now he was returning again, this time with Meatball's first
astronaut, and he must prove to the planetary authorities and/or Surreshun's
friends that nothing unpleasant had happened to it.
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The easiest way of doing this would be to go into orbit beyond the range of
their missiles and let Surreshun itself spend as much time as necessary
convincing its people that it had not been tortured or had its mind taken over
by some form of monstrous alien life like the Captain.
Its vehicle's communications equipment had been duplicated so there was no
technical problem.
Nevertheless, Williamson felt that the proper procedure would be for him to
communicate with the
Meatball authorities and apologize for the mistake before Surreshun spoke.
"The original purpose of this exercise was to make friendly contact with these
people,"
Williamson concluded, "even before you people at the hospital got so excited
about these thought-
controlled tools and decided that you wanted more of them."
"My reason for being here is not altogether commercial," said Conway, in the
tone of one whose conscience is not altogether clear. He went on, 'So far as
the present problem is concerned, I can help you. The difficulty stems from
your not understanding their complete lack of parental and filial affection or
any other emotional ties other than the brief but very intense bond which
exists prior to and during the mating process. You see, they really do hate
their fathers and everyone else who . .
"Help us, he said," muttered Edwards.
Everyone else who is directly related to them," Conway went on.
"As well, some of Surreshun's more unusual memories have remained in my mind.
This sometimes occurs after exposure to an unusually alien personality, and [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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