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and during the embryo stage they are telepathic. But this aspect of the
problem is not in your area.
 Constant and savage conflict is such a vital part of their lives, Conway
went on,  that they sicken and die without it. For that reason the preparation
of accommodation for this life-form will be much more difficult than any you
have been asked to provide hitherto. The compartment will have to be
structurally robust. Captain Fletcher, here, will be able to give you
information on the beastie s physical strength and degree of mobility, and if
he sounds as if he is exaggerating, believe me, he is not. The cargo chamber
on
Rhabwar had to be completely rebuilt after the FSOJ had been confined in it
during an eleven-hour trip to the hospital.
 My tibia needed repairing, too, Fletcher said dryly.
Before Conway could go on there was another interruption. Colonel Hardin, who
was the hospital s Dietician-in-Chief, said,  I get the impression that your
FSOJ fights and eats its food, Doctor. Now, you must be aware of the rule here
that live food is never provided, only synthesized animal tissue or imported
vegetation if the synthesizers can t handle it. Some of the food animals used
in the Federation bear a close resemblance to other sentient Galactic
citizens, many of whom find the eating of nonvegetable matter repugnant and-
 No problem, Colonel, Conway broke in.  The FSOJ will eat anything. Your
biggest headache will be the accommodation, which is going to resemble more
closely a medieval torture chamber than a hospital ward.
 Are we to be given information regarding the purpose of this project?
asked an officer whom Conway had not seen before. He wore the yellow tabs of a
maintenance specialist and the insignia of a major. He smiled as he went on.
 It would help guide us in the initial design work, as well as satisfying our
curiosity.
 The work is not secret, Conway replied,  and the only reason I would not
like it to be discussed widely is that we may fall short of our expectations.
This, considering the fact that I have been given charge of the project, could
cause personal embarrassment, no more than that.
 Continuous conception takes place within every member of this species,
he went on briskly,  and the intention is to closely study this process with
the ultimate aim of inhibiting the effects of the mechanism which destroys the
sentient and telepathic portion of the embryo s brain prior to its birth. If a
newly born Protector retained its sentience and telepathic faculty, it could
in time communicate with its own Unborn and, hopefully, establish a bond which
would make it impossible for them to harm each other. We will also be trying
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to gradually reduce the violence of the environmental beating they take and
stimulate, medically rather than physically, the release of the complex
secretions which are triggered by this activity. That way they should
gradually get out of the habit of trying to kill and eat everything they see.
Also, the answers we find must enable the FSOJs to continue to survive on
their frightful planet, and help them escape from the evolutionary trap which
has rendered impossible any chance of the species developing a civilized
culture.
They have a lot in common with the Gogleskans, he thought. Smiling, he added,
 But this is one of my problems. Another is making sure that you fully
understand yours.
There followed a long and at times overheated discussion at the end of which
they understood all of the problems-including the need for urgency. Their
captive Protector could not be held indefinitely in the old Tralthan
Observation
Ward on Level 202 with a couple of FROB maintenance engineers taking turns at
beating it with metal bars. The two Hudlars, despite their immense strength
and fearsome aspect, were kindly souls, and the work-in spite of constant
reassurances that the activity was necessary for the Protector s
well-being-was causing them serious psychological discomfort.
Everybody had problems, Conway thought. But his own most immediate one,
hunger, was easily solved.
He had timed his visit to the dining hall to coincide with the meal schedule
of Rhabwar s medical team, primarily to see Murchison, and he found
Prilicla, Naydrad, and Danalta with her at a table designed for Melfan ELNTs.
The pathologist did not speak until he had finished tapping out his food
selection, an enormous steak with double the usual accessories.
 Obviously you are still yourself, she said, looking enviously at his plate,
 or your alter egos are nonvegetarian. Synthetics are still fattening, you
know. Why is it you don t grow an abdomen like a pregnant Crepellian?
 It s my psychological approach to eating which is responsible, Conway said
with a grin as he initiated major surgery on the steak.  Food is simply a fuel
which has to be burned up. It must be obvious to you all that I am not
enjoying this.
Naydrad made an untranslatable Kelgian noise and continued eating.
Prilicla maintained its stable hover above the table without comment, and
Danalta was in the process of growing a pair of Melfan manipulators while the
rest of its body resembled a lumpy green pyramid with a single eye on top.
 I m still myself, he said to Murchison,  with just a shade of Gogleskan
FOKT. I ve been given the Protector case, among others, and that is what I
wanted to talk to you about. Temporarily I m an acting Diagnostician, with
full responsibility and authority regarding treatment, and may call on any
assistance
I require. I do need help, badly, but I don t know exactly what kind as yet.
Neither do I want to pester other Diagnosticians, even politely, and certainly
not the Diagnostician-in-Charge of Pathology. So I shall have to be devious
and approach Thornnastor through you, its chief assistant, to get the sort of
advice
I need.
Murchison watched his refueling operation for a moment without speaking, then
she said seriously,  You don t have to be circumspect with Thornnastor, you
know. It badly wants to be involved in the Protector case, and would have been
placed in charge if it hadn t been for the fact that you were the Senior with
firsthand experience of the beastie, and you were already being considered for
Diagnostician status. Thorny will be happy to assist you in every way
possible.
 In fact, if you don t ask for its help, she ended, smiling,  our Chief of
Pathology will walk all over you with its six outsize feet.
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 I, too, would like to assist you, friend Conway, Prilicla joined in.
 But considering the massive musculature of the patient, my cooperation will
not be close.
 And I, Danalta said.
 And I, Naydrad said, looking up from the green mess which its Kelgian taste
buds were finding so delectable,  will continue doing as I m told.
Conway laughed.  Thank you, friends. To Murchison, he said,  I ll go back to
Pathology with you and talk to Thornnastor. And I m not proud. If I were to
mention the Gogleskan problem, and the FROB geriatrics, and the other odds and
ends which-
 Thornnastor, Murchison said firmly,  likes to know, and stick its outsize
olfactory sensor into everything.
He felt much better after the meeting with the Chief of Pathology which,
because the Tralthan s waking and sleeping cycle was much longer than that of
an
Earth-human, took the remainder of his duty period. Thornnastor was the
biggest gossip in the hospital; it just could not keep any of its mouths shut,
but its information on virtually every aspect of extraterrestrial pathology, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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