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Title: Cubs of the Wolf
Author: Jones, Raymond F., 1915-1994
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Cubs of the Wolf" ***

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[Illustration: MARKOVIA]



CUBS OF THE WOLF

BY RAYMOND F. JONES

 _It may be that there is a weapon that, from the
 viewpoint of the one it's used on, is worse than
 lethal. You might say that death multiplies you by
 zero; what would multiplication by minus one do?_

Illustrated by Rogers


In the spring the cherry blossoms are heavy in the air over the campus
of Solarian Institute of Science and Humanities. On a small slope that
rims the park area, Cameron Wilder lay on his back squinting through the
cloud of pink-white petals to the sky beyond. Beside him, Joyce Farquhar
drew her jacket closer with an irritated gesture. It was still too cold
to be sitting on the grass, but Cameron didn't seem to notice it--or
anything else, Joyce thought.

"If you don't submit a subject for your thesis now," she said, "you'll
take another full six months getting your doctorate. Sometimes I think
you don't really want it!"

Cameron stirred. He shifted his squinting gaze from the sky to Joyce and
finally sat up. But he was staring ahead through the trees again as he
took his pipe from his pocket and began filling it slowly.

"I _don't_ want it if it's not going to mean anything after I get it,"
he said belligerently. "I'm not going to do an investigation of some
silly subject like The Transience of Venusian Immigrants in Relation to
the Martian Polar Ice Cap Cycle. Solarian sociologists are the butt of
enough ridicule now. Do something like that and for the rest of your
life you get knocking of the knees whenever anybody inquires about the
specialty you worked in and threatens to read your thesis."

"Nobody's asking you to do anything you don't want to. But _you_ picked
the field of sociology to work in. Now I don't see why you have to act
such a purist that it takes months to find a research project for your
degree. Pick something--anything!--I don't care what it is. But if you
don't get a degree and an appointment out of the next session I don't
think we'll ever get married--not ever."

Cameron removed his pipe from his mouth with a precise grip and
considered it intently as it cupped in his hands. "I'm glad you
mentioned marriage," he said. "I was just about to speak of it myself."

"Well, don't!" said Joyce. "After three years--Three years!"

He turned to face her and smiled for the first time. He liked to lead
her along occasionally just to watch her explode, but he was not always
sure when he had gone too far. Joyce had a mind like a snapping, random
matching calculator while he operated more on a slow, carefully shaping
analogue basis, knowing things were never quite what they seemed but
trying to get as close an approximation of the true picture as possible.

"Will you marry me now?" he said.

The question did not seem to startle her. "No degree, no
appointment--and no chance of getting one--we couldn't even get a
license. I hope you aren't suggesting we try to get along without one,
or on a forgery!"

Cameron shook his head. "No, darling, this is a perfectly bona fide
proposal, complete with license, appointment, the works--what do you
say?"

"I say this spring sun is too much for you." She touched the dark mass
of his hair, warmed by the sun's rays, and put her head on his shoulder.
She started to cry. "Don't tease me like that, Cameron. It seems like
we've been waiting forever--and there's still forever ahead of us. You
can't do anything you want to--"

Cameron put his arms about her, not caring if the whole Institute
faculty leaned out the windows to watch. "That's why you should
appreciate being about to marry such a resourceful fellow," he said more
gently. And now he dropped all banter. "I've been thinking about how
long it's been, too. That's why I decided to try to kill a couple of
sparrows with one pebble."

Joyce sat up. "You aren't serious--?"

Cameron sucked on his pipe once more. "Ever hear of the Markovian
Nucleus?" he said thoughtfully.

Joyce slowly nodded her head. "Oh, I think I've heard the name
mentioned," she murmured, "but nothing more than that."

"I've asked for that as my research project."

"But that's clear out of the galaxy--in Transpace!"

"Yes, and obviously out of bounds for the ordinary graduate researcher.
But because of the scholarship record I've been able to rack up here I
took a chance on applying to the Corning Foundation for a grant. And
they decided to take a chance on me after considerable and not entirely
painless investigation. That's why you were followed around like a
suspected Disloyalist for a month. My application included a provision
for you to go along as my wife. Professor Fothergill notified me this
morning that the grant had been awarded."

"Cam--" Joyce's voice was brittle now. "You aren't fooling me?"

He gathered her in his arms again. "You think I would fool about
something like that, darling? In a week you'll be Mrs. C. Wilder, and as
soon as school is out, on your way to the Markovian Nucleus. And
besides, it took me almost as much work preparing the research
prospectus as the average guy spends on his whole project!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Sometimes Joyce Farquhar wished Cameron were a good deal different than
he was. But then he wouldn't have been Cameron, and she wouldn't want to
marry him, she supposed. And somehow, while he fell behind on the
mid-stretch, he always managed to come in at the end with the rest of
the field. Or just a little bit ahead of it.

Or a good deal ahead of it. As now. It took her a few moments to realize
the magnitude of the coup he had actually pulled off. For weeks she had
been depressed because he refused to use some trivial, breeze research
to get his degree. He could have started it as much as a year ago, and
they could have been married now if he'd set himself up a real cinch.

But now they were getting married anyway--and Cameron was getting the
kind of research deal that would satisfy his frantic desire for
integrity in a world where it counted for little, and his wish to
contribute something genuine to the sociological understanding of
sentient creatures.

Their marriage, as was customary, would be a cut and dried affair. A
call to the license bureau, receipt of formal sanction in the mail--she
supposed Cameron had already made application--and a little party with a
few of their closest friends on the campus. She wished she had lived in
the days when getting married was much easier to do, and something to
make a fuss about.

She stirred and sat up, loosening the jacket as the sun came from behind
a puff of cloud. "You could have told me about this a long time ago,
couldn't you?" she said accusingly.

Cameron nodded. "I could have. But I didn't want to get false hopes
aroused. I didn't have much hope the deal would actually go through,
myself. I think Fothergill is pretty much responsible for it."

"Transpace--" Joyce said dreamily. "Tell me about the Markovian Nucleus.
Why is it important enough for a big research study, anyway?"

"It's a case of a leopard who changed his spots," said Cameron. "And
nobody knows how or why. The full title of the project is A Study of the
Metamorphosis of the Markovian Nucleus."

"What happened? How are they any different from the way they used to
be?"

"A hundred and fifty years ago the Markovians were the meanest,
nastiest, orneriest specimens in the entire Council of Galactic
Associates. The groups of worlds in one corner of their galaxy, which
make up the Nucleus, controlled a military force that outweighed
anything the Council could possibly bring to bear against them.

"With complete disregard of any scheme of interplanetary rules or order
they harassed and attacked peaceful shipping and inoffensive cultures
throughout a wide territory. They were something demanding the Council's
military action. But the Council lacked the strength.

"For years the Council dragged on, debating and threatening
ineffectively. But nothing was ever done. And then, so gradually it was
hardly noticed, the harassments began to die down. The warlike posturing
was abandoned by the Markovians. Within a period of about seventy or
eighty years there was a complete about-face. They wound up as good
Indians, peaceful, coöperative and intelligent members of the Council."

"Didn't anybody ever find out why?" asked Joyce.

"No. Nobody _wanted_ to find out. In the early years the worlds of the
Council were hiding behind their collective hands hoping with all their
might that the threat might go away if they kept their eyes closed long
enough. And by some miracle of all miracles, when they parted their
fingers for a scared glimpse, the threat _had_ disappeared.

"When they could breathe a little more easily it seemed a foolish thing
to bring out this old skeleton from the closet again, so a perpetual
state of hush was established. Finally, the whole thing was practically
forgotten except for a short paragraph in an occasional history text.
But no politician or historian has ever dared publicly to question the
mysterious why of the Markovian's about-face."

"Sociologists should have done it long ago," said Joyce.

"There was always the political pressure, of course," said Cameron. "But
the real reason was simply our preoccupation with making bibliographies
of each others' papers. It's going to take a lot of leg work, something
in which our formal courses don't give us any basic training. Fothergill
understands that--it's why he pushed me so hard with the Foundation. And
Riley up there is capable of seeing it, too.

"I showed him that here was a complex of at least a hundred and ten
major planets, inhabited by a fairly homogenous, civilized people,
speaking from a technological point of view at least. And almost
overnight some force changed the entire cultural posture. I made him see
that identification of that force is of no small interest to us right
now. If it operated once, it could operate again--and would its results
be as happy a second time?

"Riley got the Foundation to kick through enough for you and me to make
a start. A preliminary survey is about all it will amount to, actually,
but if we show evidence of something tangible I'll get my degree, you'll
get your basic certification--and we'll both return in charge of a
full-scale inquiry with a staff big enough to really dig into things
next year.

"Now--about this matter of marriage which you didn't want me to speak
of--"

"Keep talking, Cam--you're doing wonderfully!"

       *       *       *       *       *

They got married at once, even though there were several weeks of school
which had to be finished before they could leave. Among their friends on
the campus there were a good many whispered remarks about the insanity
of Joyce and Cameron in planning such a fantastic excursion, but Joyce
was certain there was as much envy as criticism in the eyes of her
associates. It might be true when they asserted that every conceivable
sociological factor or combination of factors could be found and
analyzed right here in the Solar System, but a husband who could finagle
a way to combine a honeymoon trip halfway across space with his graduate
research thesis was a rare specimen. Joyce played her advantage for all
it was worth.

Two weeks before departure time, however, Cameron was called to the
office of Professor Fothergill. As he entered he found a third man
present, wearing a uniform he recognized at once as belonging to the
Council Secretariat.

"I'll wait outside," he said abruptly as Fothergill turned. "I got your
message and came right over. I didn't know--"

"Sit down," said Fothergill. "Cameron, this is Mr. Ebbing, whose
position you no doubt recognize. Mr. Ebbing, Mr. Wilder."

The men shook hands and took seats across from each other. Fothergill
sat between them at the polished table. "The Council, it seems, has
developed an interest in your proposed research among the Markovians,"
he said. "I'll let Mr. Ebbing tell you about it."

Cameron felt a sinking anticipation within him as he turned to the
secretary. Surely the Council wasn't going to actively oppose the
investigation after so long a time!

The secretary coughed and shuffled the papers he drew from his case.
"It's not actually the Council's interest," he said, and Cameron was
immediately relieved. "But I have been asked by the Markovian Nucleus,
through their representative, to suggest that they would like to save
you the long and unnecessary trip. He offers to co-operate to the
fullest degree by causing all necessary materials to be transferred to
your site of study right here. He feels that this is the least they can
do since so much interest appears to exist in the Nucleus."

Cameron stared at the secretary, trying to discern what the man's own
attitude might be, but Ebbing gave no sign of playing it any way but
straight.

"It sounds like a polite invitation to stay home and mind our own
business," said Cameron finally. "They don't want company."

The secretary's expression changed to acknowledgment of the correct
appraisal. "They don't want any investigation into the Metamorphosis of
the Markovian Nucleus. There is no such thing. It is entirely a myth."

"Says the Markovians--!"

Ebbing nodded. "Says the Markovians. Other worlds, both within and
without the Council have persisted in spreading tales and rumors about
the Markovians for a long time. They don't like it. They are willing to
co-operate in having a correct analysis of their culture published, but
they don't want any more of these infamous rumors circulated."

"Then why aren't they willing to promote such an investigation? This
would be their big chance--if their ridiculous position were true!"

"They _are_ willing. I've told you the representative has offered to
send you all needed material showing the status of their culture."

Cameron looked at the secretary for a long time before speaking again.
"What's your position?" he asked finally. "Are we being ordered off the
investigation?"

"The Markovian representative doesn't want to go to quite that extreme.
He knows that, too, would react unfavorably towards his people. Here's
his point: So far, he's blocked news of your proposed research getting
to his home worlds. But he knows that if you do carry it out in the
manner you propose it is going to make a lot of the home folks mighty
unhappy and they'll demand to know why he didn't stop it. So he's trying
to satisfy both sides at once."

"Why will the people in the Nucleus be made unhappy by our coming?"

"Because you'll go there trying to track down the basis for the rumors
that defame the Markovian character. You'll bring forcibly to their
attention the fact that the rest of the Universe believes the Markovians
are basically a bunch of pirates."

"And the Markovians don't like to hear these things?"

"Definitely not."

"So you tell me the research is not being forbidden, but that the
Markovians won't like it. Suppose I tell you, then, I'm not going to
give up short of an order from the Council itself. But I am willing to
camouflage the investigation if necessary. I'll make no open mention of
what outside opinion says of the Markovians. I'll simply make a study of
their history and character as it becomes available to me."

Ebbing nodded slowly, his eyes fixed on Cameron's face. "I would say
that would be eminently satisfactory," he said. "I will inform the
representative of your decision."

Then his face became more severe. "The Council will be pleased to learn
of your willingness to be discreet. I wonder if you understand that the
Foundation came to us upon receipt of your application, for official
clearance of the project. It coincided quite fortuitously with the plans
of the Council itself. For a long time we have been concerned with the
lack of information regarding the Markovian situation and have been at a
loss as to how to improve our situation.

"Your proposed investigation seemed the answer, but we anticipated the
Markovian objection and had to make certain you would co-operate to his
satisfaction. I believe this will do it."

"Why is the Council concerned?" said Cameron. "Have the Markovians
changed their attitude in any way?"

"No--but the rest of us remember, even though we don't speak of it, that
the Nucleus was never punished for its depredations, nor was it ever
defeated. Its strength is as great as ever in proportion to the other
Council worlds.

"What are the chances and potentialities of the Nucleus worlds ever
again becoming the marauders they once were? That is the question which
we feel must be answered. Without knowing, we are sitting on a powder
keg in which the fuse may or may not be lighted. Will you bring us back
the answer we need?"

Cameron felt a sudden grimness which had not been present before. "I'll
do all I can," he said soberly. "If the information is there I'll bring
it back."

       *       *       *       *       *

After the secretary had gone and Fothergill turned from the door to
rejoin him Cameron sat in faintly shocked consideration of the Council's
unexpected support. It took his research out of the realm of the purely
sociological and projected it into politics and diplomacy. He was
pleased by their confidence, but not cheered by the added
responsibility.

"That's a lucky break," said Fothergill enthusiastically, "and I'm
beginning to suspect you may be rather badly in need of all the breaks
you can get once you land among the Markovians. Don't forget for a
single minute that you are dealing with the sons and grandsons of
genuine pirates."

The professor sat down again. "There's one other little item of interest
I turned up the other day. You should know about it before you leave.
The Markovian Nucleus is somewhat of a hotbed of Ids."

"Ids--you mean the Idealists--?"

Fothergill nodded. "Know anything about them?"

"Not much, except that they are a sort of parasitic group, living
usually in a servant relationship to other races on terran-type worlds.
As I recall, even they claim that they do not know the planet or even
the galaxy of their origin, because they have been wanderers for so many
generations among alien races. Perhaps it would be a good idea to make a
study of them, too--I don't know that a thorough one has ever been
made."

"That's what I wanted to warn you about," said Fothergill, smiling.
"Stick to one subject at a time. The Ids _would_ make a nice research
project in themselves, and maybe you can get around to it eventually.
But leave them alone for the present and don't become distracted from
your basic project among the Markovians. The policy of the Corning
Foundation is to demand something very definite in return for the money
they lay on the line. You won't get to go back next year unless you
produce. That's why I don't want you to get sidetracked in any way."


II

Cameron admitted to himself that he was getting more edgy as the day of
departure approached, but he tried to keep Joyce from seeing it. He was
worried about the possible development of further opposition now that
the Markovian had expressed his displeasure, and he was worried about
their reception once they reached the Nucleus. He wondered why they had
not seen in advance that it would be an obvious blunder to let the
Markovians be aware of their real purpose. It didn't even require a
pirate ancestry to make groups unappreciative about resurrection of
their family skeletons.

But no other hindrance appeared, and on the evening before their
departure Fothergill called that word had been received from Ebbing
stating the Markovian representative had approved the visit now that
Cameron had expressed a change in his objectives. Their coming had been
announced to the Markovian people and the way prepared for an official
welcome.

Cameron was pleased by the change of attitude. He was hit for the first
time, however, by the full force of the fact that he was taking his
bride to a pirate center which the Council had never overthrown and
which was active only moments ago, culturally speaking.

If any kind of trouble should develop the Council would be almost
impotent in offering them assistance. On the face of it, there was no
reason to expect trouble. But the peculiarly oblique opposition of the
Markovian delegate in the Council continued to make him uneasy.

His tentative suggestion that he would feel better if he knew she were
safe on Earth brought a blistering response from Joyce, which left him
with no doubts about carrying out his original plans.

And then, as the last of their packing was completed and they were ready
to call it a day, the phone buzzed. Cameron hesitated, determined to let
it go unanswered, then punched the button irritably on audio only.

Instead of the caller, he heard the voice of the operator. "One moment
please. Interstellar, Transpace, printed. Please connect visio."

It was like a shock, he thought afterwards. There was no one he knew who
could be making such a call to him. But automatically he did as
directed. Joyce had come up and was peering over his shoulder now. The
screen fluttered for a moment with polychrome colors and cleared. The
message, printed for English translation, stood out sharply. Joyce and
Cameron exclaimed simultaneously at the titling. It was from Premier
Jargla, Executive Head of the Markovian Government.

"To Wilder, Cameron and Joyce," it read, "greetings and appreciation for
your proposed visit to the Markovian Nucleus for study of our history
and customs. We have not been before so honored. We feel, however, that
it is an imposition on your Foundation and on you personally to require
that you make the long journey to the Nucleus for this purpose alone.
While we would be honored to entertain you--"

It was the same proposition as Ebbing had reported the delegate offered.
Only this time it was from the head of the Markovian government himself.

They sat up nearly all the rest of the night considering this new
development. "Maybe you shouldn't go, after all," said Joyce once.
"Maybe this is something that needs bigger handling than we can possibly
give it."

Cameron shook his head. "_I've_ got to go. They haven't closed the door
and said we can't come. If I backed out before they did, I'd be known
the rest of my life as the guy who was _going_ to crack the Markovian
problem. But I'd much rather you--"

"No! If you're going, so am I."

       *       *       *       *       *

They consulted again with Fothergill and finally drafted as polite a
reply as possible, explaining they were newly married, desired to make
the trip a honeymoon excursion primarily and conduct an investigation
into Markovian culture to prevent the waste of the wonderful opportunity
their visit would afford them.

An hour before takeoff a polite acknowledgment came back from the
Nucleus assuring them a warm welcome and congratulating them on their
marriage. They went at once to the spaceport and took over their
stateroom. "Before anything else happens to try to pull us off this
investigation," Cameron said.

The trip would be a long one, involving more than two months subjective
time, because no express runs moved any distance at all in the direction
of the Nucleus. It was necessary to transfer three times, with days of
waiting between ships on planets whose surface conditions permitted
exploration only in cumbersome suits that could not be worn for more
than short periods. Most of the waiting time was spent in the visitors'
chambers at the landing fields.

These seemed to grow progressively worse. The last one could not
maintain a gravity below 2G, and the minimum temperature available was
104 degrees. There was a three-day wait here and Joyce spent most of it
lying on the bed, under the breeze of a fan which seemed to have
required a special dispensation of the governing body to obtain.

[Illustration: CAMERON]

Cameron, however, was unwilling to spend his time this way in spite of
the discomfort imposed by any kind of activity. Humidity was a physical
factor which seemed to have gone undiscovered by the inhabitants of the
planet they were on. He was sure it was constantly maintained within a
fractional per cent of one hundred as he donned a clean pair of trunks
and staggered miserably along the corridor toward a window that gave a
limited view of the city about them.

That was when he discovered that they were to be accompanied on the
remainder of the journey by a Markovian citizen and his Id servant.

The visitors' chamber in which these semi-terran conditions were
supplied consisted of only three suites. The other two had been empty
when Cameron and Joyce arrived the night before. Now a Markovian Id
occupied a seat by the window. He glanced up with warm friendliness and
invited Cameron to join him.

Cameron hesitated, undecided for a moment whether to return to his suite
for the portable semantic translator used in his profession at times
like this. He always felt there was something decidedly unprofessional
about resorting to their use and had spent many hours trying to master
Markovian before leaving. He understood the Id well enough and decided
to see if he could get along without the translator.

"Thanks," he said, taking a seat. "I don't suppose there's much else to
do except look at the scenery here."

The Id showed obvious surprise that Cameron spoke the language without
use of an instrument. His look of pleasure increased. "It is not often
we find one of your race who has taken the trouble to make himself
communicable with us. You must be expecting to make a long stay?"

Cameron's sense of caution returned as he remembered the previous
results of indiscreet announcement of his purpose. He wiped the stream
of sweat from his face and neck and took a good look at the Id.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Idealists were of an anthropomorphic race, dark-skinned like the
terran Indian. Very few of them had ever appeared on Earth, however, and
this was actually Cameron's first view of one in the flesh. He knew
something of their reputation and characteristics from very brief study
at the Institute--but no one really knew very much of the Ids as far as
Earthmen were concerned. The warning of Fothergill to keep to the main
line of his research sank to the bottom of his mind as he leaned toward
the stranger with a fresh sense of excitement inside him.

"I have never felt you could understand another man unless you spoke his
language," he said in his not too stumbling Markovian.

The Id, like himself, was dressed in the briefest of garments and
perspiration poured from the dark skin as he nodded. "You speak sounder
wisdom than one usually meets in a stranger," he said. "May I introduce
myself: Sal Karone, servant of the Master Dalls Ret Marthasa?"

Cameron introduced himself and cautiously explained that he and Joyce
were on their honeymoon, but had a side interest in the history and
customs of the Markovian Nucleus. "My people know so little about you,"
he said, "it would be a great privilege to be able to take back
information that would increase our mutual understanding."

"All that the Idealists have belongs to every man and every race," said
Sal Karone solemnly. "What we can give you may be had for the asking.
But I would give you a word of warning about my Masters."

Cameron felt the flesh of his back tingle with sudden chill as the eyes
of the Id turned full upon him.

"Do not try to find out the hidden things of the Masters. That is what
you have come for, is it not, Cameron Wilder? That is why you have taken
so much trouble to learn the language which we speak. I say do not
inquire of the things about which they do not wish to speak. My Masters
are a people who cannot yet be understood by the men of other worlds. In
time there will be understanding, but that time is not yet. You will
only bring disaster and disappointment upon us and yourselves by
attempting to hasten that time."

"I assure you I have no intention of prying," said Cameron haltingly. He
fumbled for the right Markovian words. "You have misunderstood--We come
only in friendship and with no intention of disturbing--"

The Id nodded sagely. "So many crises are originated by good intentions.
But I am sure that now you understand the feelings of my Masters in
these things that you will be concerned only with your own enjoyment
while in the Nucleus. And do come to the centers of the Idealists, for
there is much we can show you, and our willingness has no limits."

For a moment it was impossible for Cameron to remember that he was
dealing with a mere servant of the Markovians. The Id's words were so
incisive and his manner so commanding that it seemed he must be speaking
in his own right.

And then his manner changed. His boldness vanished and he spoke
obsequiously. "You will forgive me," he said, "but this is a matter
concerning which there is much feeling."

       *       *       *       *       *

Cameron Wilder was more than willing to agree with this sentiment. As he
returned to his own quarters he debated telling Joyce of his encounter
with the Id, deciding finally that he'd have to mention it since they'd
all be traveling together, but omitting the Id's repetition of the
previous warnings.

He did not meet the Markovian, nor did he encounter the Id again in the
waiting quarters. It was not until they had embarked on the last leg of
the journey and had been aboard the vessel for half a day that they met
a second time.

The ship was not a Markovian or a terran-type vessel of any kind.
Another week's wait would have been required for one of those. As it
was, their quarters were not too uncomfortable although very limited.
The bulk of the vessel was designed for crew and passengers very much
unlike Terran or Markovian, and only a few suites were provided for
accommodation of such races.

This threw the travelers to the Nucleus in close association again.
Their suites opened to a common lounge deck and when Cameron and Joyce
went out they found Sal Karone and the Markovian, Marthasa, already
there.

The Id was on his feet instantly. With a sharp bow he introduced the
newcomers to his Master. Dells Marthasa stood and extended a hand with a
smile. "I believe that is your greeting on Earth, is it not?" he said.

"You must be familiar with our home world," said Cameron, returning the
handshake.

"Only a little, through my studies," said the Markovian. "Enough to make
me want to hear much more. Please join us. Since my _sargh_ told me we
would be traveling together I have looked forward to your company."

The term, _sargh_, as Cameron learned shortly was applied to all Ids
attached to Markovians. It had a connotation somewhere between servant
and companion. Sal Karone remained in the background, but there was no
servility in his manner. His eyes remained respectfully--almost fondly;
that was the right word, Cameron thought curiously--on Marthasa.

While the Id was slender in build, the Markovian was taller and bulkier.
His complexion was also dark, but not quite so much so as the Id's. He
was dressed in loose, highly colored attire that gave Cameron an
impression of an Oriental potentate of his own world.

But somehow there was a quality in Marthasa's manner that was jarring.
It would have been less so if the Markovian had been less
anthropomorphic in form and feature, but Cameron found it difficult to
think of him as anything but a fellow man.

A man of arrogance and ill manners, and completely unaware that he was
so.

It was apparent in his gestures and in the negligence with which he
leaned back and surveyed his companions. "You'll be surprised when you
see the Nucleus," he said. "We sometimes hear of rumors circulated among
Council worlds that Markovian culture is rather backward."

"I've never heard anything of that kind," said Cameron. "In fact we've
heard almost nothing at all of the Nucleus. That's why we decided to
come."

"I'm sure we can make you glad you did. Don't you think so, Karone?"

The face of the Id was very sober as he nodded solemnly and said,
"Indeed, Master." His burning eyes were boring directly into Cameron's
own.

"I want to hear about your people, about Earth," said Marthasa. "Tell me
what you would like to see and do while you're in the Nucleus."

While Joyce answered, explaining they hardly knew what there was to be
seen, Cameron's attention was fixed by the problem of the strange
relationship between the two men--the two races. In the face of the Id
there seemed a serenity, a dignity that the Markovian would never know.
Why had the Ids failed to lift themselves out of servility to a state of
independence, he wondered?

Joyce explained the story about their honeymoon trip and built their
interest in Markovian culture as casual indeed. As she went on, Marthasa
seemed to be struck by a sudden thought.

"I insist that you make your headquarters with me during your stay," he
said. "I can see that you learn everything possible about the Nucleus
while you are here. My son is a Chief Historian at our largest research
library and my daughter has the post of Assistant Curator at our Museum
of Science and Culture. You will never have a better opportunity to
examine the culture of the Nucleus!"

Cameron winced inwardly at the thought of Marthasa's companionship
during their whole stay, and yet the Markovian's statement might be
perfectly true--there would be no better opportunity to make their
study.

"We have an official note of welcome from your Executive Head, Premier
Jargla," he said. "While we would be very happy to accept your
invitation, it may be that he has different plans for our reception."

Marthasa waved a hand. "I shall arrange for my appointment as your
official host. Consider it agreed upon!"

It was agreed. But Joyce was not as optimistic as Cameron in regarding
it an aid to their study. "If they have a general aversion to talking
about their pirate ancestry, Marthasa is just the boy to put us off the
track," she said. "If he gets a clue to what we really want to know,
he'll keep us busy looking at everything else until we give up and go
home."

Cameron leaned back in the deep chair with his hands behind his head.
"It's not too hard to imagine Marthasa's great-great-grandfather running
down vessels in space and pillaging helpless cities on other planets.
The veneer of civilization on him doesn't look very thick."

"It's not hard to imagine Marthasa doing it," said Joyce. "A scimitar
between his teeth would be completely in character!"

"If all goes well, you will probably see just that--figuratively
speaking, of course. Where a cultural shift has been so great as this
one you are certain to see evidence of both levels in conflict with one
another. It's like a geologic fault line. Once we learn enough about the
current mores the anomalies will stand out in full view. That's what we
want to watch for."

"One thing that's out of character right now is his offer of assistance
through his son, the Chief Historian," said Joyce. "That doesn't check
with the previous invitations to stay home. Once they let us have access
to their historical records we'll have them pegged."

"We haven't got it yet," said Cameron. "We can't be sure just what
they'll let us see. But for my money I'd just as soon tackle the
question of the Ids. Sal Karone is twice the man Marthasa is, yet he
acts like he has no will of his own when the Markovian is around."

"The Roman-slave relationship," said Joyce. "The Markovians probably
conquered a large community of the Ids in their pirate days and brought
them here as slaves. And I'll bet they are very much aware that the Ids
are the better men. Marthasa knows it. That's why he has to put on a
show in front of Sal Karone. He's the old Roman merchant struggling to
keep up his conviction of superiority before the Greek scholar slave."

"The Ids aren't supposed to be slaves. According to the little that's
known they are completely free. I'm going to get Marthasa's version of
it, anyway. Fothergill and the Foundation can't object to that much
investigation of the Ids."

He found the Markovian completely willing to talk about his _sargh_. On
the last day of the voyage they managed to be alone for a time without
the presence of Sal Karone.

Marthasa shook his head in answer to Cameron's question. "No, the
_sargh_ is not a slave--not in the sense I believe you mean it. None of
the Ids are. It's a matter of religion with them to be attached to us
the way they are. They have some incomprehensible belief that their
existence is of no value unless they are serving their fellow beings.
Since that means _all_ of them they can't be satisfied by serving each
other so they have to pick on some other race.

"I don't recall when they first showed up in the Nucleus, but it's been
many generations ago. There've been Ids in my family for a half dozen
generations anyway."

"They had space flight, so they came under their own power?" Cameron
asked incredulously.

"No. Nothing like that. You can't imagine _them_ building spaceships can
you? They migrated at first as lowest-class passengers on the commercial
lines. Nobody knows just where they came from. They don't even know
their home worlds. At first we tried to persuade them to go somewhere
else, but then we saw how useful they could be with their fanatic belief
in servitude.

"At present there is probably no family in the Nucleus that doesn't have
at least one Id _sargh_. Many of us have one for every member of the
family." Marthasa paused. The tone of his voice changed. "When you've
had one almost all your life as I've had Sal Karone it--well, it does
something to you."

"What do you mean?" Cameron asked cautiously.

"Consider the situation from Sal Karone's point of view. He has no life
whatever that is his own. His whole purpose is to give me companionship
and satisfy my requirements. And I don't have to force him in any way.
It's all voluntary. He's free to leave, even, any time he wants to. But
I'm certain he never will."

"Why do you feel so sure of this?"

"It's hard to explain. I feel as if I've become so much a part of him
that he couldn't survive alone any more. He's the one who's made it that
way, not me. I have become indispensable to his existence. That's the
way I explain it to myself. Most of my friends agree that this is about
right."

"It's rather difficult to understand a relationship like that--unless
you put it in terms I am familiar with on Earth."

"Yes--? What would it be called among your people?"

"When a man so devotes his life to another we say it is because of
love."

Marthasa considered the word. "You would be wrong," he said. "It is just
that in some way we have become indispensable to the Ids. They're
parasites, if you want to put it that way. But they provide us a
relationship we can get nowhere else, and that does us a great deal of
good. That's what I meant when I said it does something to us."

"What about the Id's own culture? Haven't they any community ties among
themselves, or do they ignore their own kind?"

"We've never investigated very much. I suppose some of our scholars know
the answer to that, but the rest of us don't. The Ids have communities,
all right. Not all of them are in service as _sarghs_ at one time. They
have little groups and communities on the outskirts of our cities, but
they don't amount to much. As a race they are simply inferior. They
don't have the capacity for a strong culture of their own, so they can't
exist independently and build a social structure like other people. It's
this religion of theirs that does it. They won't let go of it, and as
long as they hang onto it they can't stand on their own feet. But you
don't need to feel sorry for them. We treat them all right."

"Of course--didn't mean to imply anything else," said Cameron. "Do you
know if there are other Id groups serving in other galaxies?"

"Must be thousands of them altogether. Out beyond the Nucleus, away from
your galaxy, you can't find a planet anywhere that isn't using the Ids.
It's a wonderful setup. The Ids get what they want, and we get _sarghs_
with nothing like the slave relationship you had in mind. With slaves
there's rebellion, constant need of watchfulness, and no genuine
companionship. A _sargh_ is different. He can be a man's friend."


III

They came out of the darkness of Transpace that evening and the stars
returned in the glory of a million closely gathered suns. The Markovian
Nucleus lay in a galaxy of tightly packed stars that made bright the
nights of all their planets. It was a spectacle for Cameron, who had
traveled but little away from the Solar System, and for Joyce who had
never traveled at all.

Marthasa and Sal Karone were with them in the lounge watching the
screens as the ship changed drives. The Markovian squinted a moment and
pointed to a minor dot near the corner of the view. "That's our
destination. Another six hours and you can set foot on the best planet
in the whole Universe!"

If it had been mere enthusiasm, Cameron could have taken it with
tolerant understanding. But Marthasa's smugness and arrogance had not
deserted him once since the beginning of this leg of the trip.
Objectively, as a cultural facet to be examined, it was interesting, but
Cameron agreed with Joyce that it was going to be difficult to live
with.

The unsolved puzzle, however, was Sal Karone. It was obvious that the Id
was sensitive to the gauche ways of the Master, yet his equally obvious
devotion was unwavering.

Marthasa had sent word ahead to the government that he desired the
Terrans to be his guests. Evidently he was a person of influence for
assent was returned immediately.

His planet was a colorful world, banded by huge, golden deserts and
pinkish seas. The dense vegetation of the habitable areas was blue with
only a scattered touch of green. Cameron wondered about the chemistry
involved.

The landing was made at a port that bordered a sea. The four of them
were the only ones disembarking, and before the car that met them had
reached the edge of the city the ship was gone again.

A pirates' lair, Cameron thought, without the slightest touch of
amusement. The field looked very old, and from it he could imagine
raiders had once taken off to harass distant shipping and do wanton
destruction of cities and peoples on innocent worlds.

He watched the face of Marthasa as they rode through the city. There was
a kind of Roman splendor in what they saw, and there was a crude Roman
pride in the Markovian who was their host. The arrogance, that was not
far from cruelty, could take such pride in the sweep of spaceships
embarking on missions of murder and plunder.

And yet all this barbarism had been put aside. Only the arrogance
remained, expressed in Marthasa's tone as he called their attention to
the features of the city and landscape through which they passed. It
wasn't pleasing particularly to Terran tastes, but Cameron guessed that
it represented a considerable accomplishment to the Markovians. Stone
appeared to be the chief building material, and, while the craftsmanship
was exact, the lines of the structures lacked the grace of the Greek and
Roman monuments of which Cameron was reminded.

They came at last to the house of Marthasa. There was no doubt now that
he was a man of wealth or importance--probably both. He occupied a vast,
villa-like structure set on a low hill overlooking the city. It was a
place of obvious luxury in the economic scale of the Markovians.

They were assigned spacious quarters overlooking a garden of incredible
colors beyond the transparent wall facing it. Sal Karone was also
assigned duties as their personal attendant, which Cameron grasped
intuitively was a gesture of supreme honor among the Markovians. He
thanked Marthasa profusely for this courtesy.

After getting unpacked they were shown through the house and grounds and
met Marthasa's family. His wife was a woman of considerable beauty even
by Terran standards, but there was a sharpness in her manner and a sense
of coldness in the small black eyes that repelled Cameron and Joyce even
as the thoughtless actions of Marthasa had done.

Cameron looked carefully for the same qualities in the three smaller
children who were at home, and found them easily. In none of them was
there the aura of serenity possessed by the Id servants.

When they were finally alone that night Cameron sat down to make some
notes on their observations up to date. "The fault line I mentioned is
so obvious you can't miss it," he said to Joyce. "It's as if they're
living one kind of life because they think it's the thing to do, but all
their thoughts and feelings are being drawn invisibly in another
direction--and they're half ashamed of it."

"Maybe the Ids have something to do with it. Remember Marthasa's
statement that the relationship of the _sarghs_ does something to the
Markovians? If we found out exactly what that something is, we might
have the answer."

Cameron shook his head. "I've tried to fit it together that way, too,
but it just doesn't add up. The basic premise of the Ids is asceticism
and there never was any strength in that idea. Marthasa is probably
right in his estimate of the Ids. They have achieved an internal
serenity but only through compensating their basic weakness with the
crude strength of the Markovians and other races to which they cling.
They haven't the strength to build a civilization of their own.
Certainly they haven't got the power to influence the whole Nucleus.
No--we'll have to look a good deal farther than the Ids before we find
the answer. I'm convinced of that, even though I'd like to find out
exactly what makes _them_ tick. Maybe next trip--"

       *       *       *       *       *

The following days were spent in almost profitless activity as far as
their basic purpose in being in the Nucleus was concerned. Marthasa and
his wife took them on long tours through the city and into the scenic
areas of the continent. They promised trips over the whole planet and to
other worlds of the Nucleus. There seemed no end to the sight-seeing
that was proposed for them to do.

Cameron improved his facility with the language, and Joyce was beginning
to get along without the translator. They were introduced to a
considerable number of other Markovians, including the official
representative of Premier Jargla. This gave them added contact with the
Markovian character, but Marthasa and his family seemed so typical of
the race that scarcely anything new was learned from the others.

At no time was anything hinted in reference to the original reluctance
to have the Terrans visit the Nucleus. All possible courtesy was shown
them now, and Cameron dared not mention the invitations to stay home. He
felt the situation was as penetrable as a thick wall of sponge rubber
backed by a ten-foot foundation of steel.

After three weeks of this, however, he cautiously broached the subject
of meeting the son and daughter of Marthasa in regard to visiting the
library and museum. He had met each of them just once and found them
rather cool to his presence. He had not dared express his interest in
their specialties at that time.

Marthasa was favorable and apologetic, however. "I have intended to
arrange it," he said. "There have been so many other things to do that I
have neglected your interest in these things. We won't neglect it any
longer. Suppose we make an appointment for this afternoon? Zlenon will
be able to give you his personal attention."

[Illustration: JOYCE]

Zlenon was Marthasa's son, who held the position of Chief Historian at
the research library. He was more slender and darker than his father,
and lacking in his volubility and glad-handedness.

He greeted Cameron's request with a tolerant smile. "You have to be
quite specific, Mr. Wilder, when you say you would like to know about
the history of the Markovian Nucleus. You understand the Nucleus
consists of over a hundred worlds and has a composite history extending
back more than thirty thousand of your years in very minute detail."

Cameron countered with a helpless shrug and smile. "I'm afraid I'll have
to depend on your good nature to guide me through such a mass. I don't
intend to become a student of Markovian history, of course, but perhaps
you have adequate summaries with which a stranger could start. Going
backward, let us say, for perhaps two or three hundred Terran years?"

"Of course--some very excellent ones are available--" He moved toward
the reading table nearby and began punching a selection of buttons.

As Cameron and Joyce moved to follow, Marthasa waved a hand expansively
and started out the other way. "I can see you're going to be set for a
while. I'll just leave you here, and send the car back after I reach the
house. Don't be late for dinner."

They nodded and smiled and turned to Zlenon. The Markovian was watching
them with pin-point eyes. "I wondered if there was any _particular_
problem in which you might be interested," he said calmly. "If there
is--?"

Cameron shook his head hastily. "No--certainly not. Just general
information--"

The Historian turned his attention to the table and began explaining its
use to the Terrans, showing how they could obtain recording of any
specific material they wished to choose. It would appear in either
printed or pictorial form or could be had on audio if they wanted it.
Once he was certain they could make their own selections he left them to
their study.

"This is the best break we could possibly have hoped for," Joyce
whispered as Zlenon disappeared from their sight. "We can get anything
we want in the whole library if I understand the operation of this
gadget the way I think I do."

"That's the way it looks to me," Cameron answered. "But don't get your
hopes too high. There must be a catch in it somewhere, the way they were
trying to shoo us away from coming here."

       *       *       *       *       *

They punched the buttons for the history of the planet they were on,
scanning slowly from the present to earlier years. There were endless
accountings of trading and commercial treaties between members of the
Nucleus as shifts of economic balance occurred. There were stories of
explorations and benevolent contacts with races on the outer worlds.
Details of their most outstanding scientific discoveries, which seemed
to come with profligate rapidity--

Cameron whipped back through the pages of the histories, searching only
for a single item, one clue to the swift evolution from barbarism to
peaceful co-operation. After an hour he was in the middle of that
critical period when the Council despaired of its inability to cope with
the Markovian menace.

But the stories of commerce and invention and far-flung exchange with
other peoples continued. Nowhere was there any reference to the violence
of the period. They went back two hundred--five hundred years--beyond
the time when Council members first made contact with the Nucleus.

There was nothing.

Cameron sat back in complete puzzlement as it became apparent that it
was useless to go back further. "The normal thing would be for them to
brag all over the place about their great conquests. Even races who
become comparatively civilized citizens ordinarily let themselves go
when it comes to history. If they've had a long record of conquest and
bloodshed, they say so with plenty of chest pounding. Of course, it's
padded out to reflect their righteous conquest over tyranny, but it's
always there in _some_ form.

"But nothing up to now has been normal about the development of the
Markovian problem and this really tops it off--the complete omission of
any reference to their armed conquests."

"Maybe this planet didn't participate very much. Perhaps only a small
number of the Nucleus worlds were responsible for it," said Joyce.

Cameron shook his head. "No. The Council records show that the Nucleus
as a unit was responsible, and that virtually all the worlds are
specifically mentioned. And even if this one had been out of it
completely you could still expect references to it because there was
constant interchange with most of the other planets. We can try another
one, though--"

They tried one more, then a half dozen in quick scanning. They swept
through a summarization of the Nucleus as a whole during that critical
period.

There was nothing to show that the Markovians had ever been anything but
peace-loving citizens intent on pursuit of science, commerce, and the
arts.

"This could have been rigged for our special benefit," said Joyce
thoughtfully as they ended the day's futile search. "They didn't want to
apply enough pressure to keep us from coming, but they did want to make
sure we wouldn't find out anything about their past."

Cameron shook his head slowly. "It couldn't have been done in the time
they've had. Simply cutting out what they didn't want to show us
wouldn't have done it. There's too much cross reference to all periods
involved. It's a complete phony, but it's not something done on the spur
of the moment just for our benefit. It's too good for that."

"Maybe they've had it for a _long_ time--just in case somebody like us
should come along."

"It's possible, but I don't think that's right either," said Cameron. "I
can't give you any reason for thinking so--except the phoniness goes
deeper than merely deceiving an investigator. Somehow I have the feeling
that the Markovians are even deceiving themselves!"

       *       *       *       *       *

They left the building and took the car back to the house of Marthasa
without seeing Zlenon again. Their Markovian host was waiting. Cameron
thought he sensed a trace of tension in Marthasa that wasn't there
before as he led them to seats in the garden.

"We don't like to boast about the Nucleus," he said with his customary
volubility, "but we have to admit we are proud of our science and
technology. Few civilizations in the Universe can match it. That's not
to disparage the fine accomplishments of the Terrans, you understand,
but it's only _natural_ that out here on these older worlds--"

They listened half attentively, trying in their imaginations to pierce
the armor he used to defend so frantically the thing the Markovians did
not want the outer worlds to know anything about.

The talk went on during mealtime. Marthasa's wife caught the spirit of
it and they both regaled the Terrans with accounts of the grandeur of
Markovian exploits. Cameron grew more and more depressed by it, and as
they retired to their rooms early he began to realize how absolutely
complete was the impasse into which they had been driven.

"They've let us in," he said to Joyce. "They've shown us the history
they've written of themselves. There's no way in the Universe we can
stand up and boldly challenge that history and call them the liars we
know they are."

"But they must know of the histories written on other Council worlds
about their doings," said Joyce. "Maybe we could reach a point where we
could at least ask about them. Ask how it is that other histories show
that a hundred and twenty years ago a fleet of Markovian ships swept
unexpectedly out of space and looted and decimated the planet Lakcaine
VI. Ask why the Markovian history says only that the Nucleus concluded
six new commercial treaties to the benefit of all worlds concerned in
that period, without any mention of Lakcaine VI."

"When you start asking questions like that you've got to be ready to
run. And if it fizzles out you've lost all chance of coming back for a
second try. That could fizzle out because they simply deny the validity
of all history outside their own."

"Then we might as well pack and go home if you're not going to challenge
any of this stuff they hand out. We won't find the answer by standing
around and taking _their_ word on everything."

"I forgot to tell you one thing," Cameron said slowly. "We may not have
to take their word for it. Someone else here knows the truth of the
situation, also."

"Who?"

"The Ids." He told her then of the warning Sal Karone had given him
aboard the ship on the way to the Nucleus, the statement that "My
Masters are a people who cannot yet be understood by the men of other
worlds."

"The Ids know what the Markovians are and what they are trying to hide.
I had almost overlooked that simple fact."

"But you can't go out and challenge them to tell the truth any more than
you can the Markovians!" Joyce protested. "Because Sal Karone went out
of his way to warn you doesn't mean he's going to get real buddy-buddy
and tell you everything you want to know."

"No, of course not. But there's one little difference between him and
the Markovians. He has admitted openly that he knows why we're here.
None of the Markovians have done that yet. We don't have to challenge
him because there already exists the tacit understanding that something
is decidedly phony.

"And besides, he invited us to come and visit the Id communities outside
the city. I think that's an invitation we should accept just as soon as
possible."


IV

Sal Karone had not repeated his invitation that the Terrans visit the Id
communities, but he showed no adverse reaction when Cameron said they
would like to take him up on his previous offer.

"You will be very welcome," he said. A soft smile lightened his
features. "I will notify my leaders you will come."

With a start, Cameron realized that the existence of any kind of
community probably implied leaders, but he had ignored this in view of
Marthasa's insistence that the Ids had no culture of their own. He
wondered just how untrue that assertion might be.

For the first time, he sensed genuine disapproval in the attitude of
Marthasa when he mentioned plans to go with Sal Karone to the Id
centers. "There's nothing out there you'd want to see," the Markovian
said. "Their village is only a group of crude huts in the forest. It'll
be a waste of your time to go out there when there's so much else we
could show you."

"Sal Karone suggested the visit before we arrived," said Cameron. "He'd
be hurt if we turned him down. Perhaps just to satisfy him--"

Angry indecision hid behind Marthasa's eyes. "Well--maybe that makes it
different," he said finally. "We try to do everything possible to make
the Ids happy. It's up to you if you want to waste your time on the
visit."

"I think I do. Sal Karone has been very attentive and pleasant to us.
It's a small favor in return."

       *       *       *       *       *

Early in the morning, two days later, they left with Sal Karone
directing them to the Idealist center. They discovered that the term, at
the edge of the city, was a mere euphemism. It was a long two-hour trip
at the high speed of which the Markovian cars were capable.

The city itself vanished, and a thickly wooded area took its place
during the last half of the journey, reminding them of the few remote,
peaceful forests of Earth. Then, as the car slowed, they left the
highway for a rough trail that led for a number of miles back into the
forest. They came at last into a clearing circled by rough wooden
dwellings possessing all the appearance of crude, primitive existence on
little more than a subsistence level.

"This is the village of our Chief," said Sal Karone. "He will be pleased
to explain all you may wish to know about the Idealist Way."

Cameron was shocked almost beyond speech by his first sight of the
clearing. He had tried to prepare for the worst, but he had told himself
that the Markovian's estimate of the Ids could not be true. Now he was
forced to admit that it was. In contact with all the skills of their
Masters, which they would certainly be permitted to learn if they wanted
to, the Ids chose primitive squalor when they were on their own.

Their serenity could be little more than the serenity of the savage who
has no wants or goals and is content to merely serve those whose
ambitions are greater. It was the serenity and peacefulness of death.
The Ids had died--as a race--long ago. The Markovians were loud,
boastful, and obnoxious, but that could be discounted as the awkwardness
of youth in a race that would perhaps be very great in the Universe at a
time when the Ids were wholly forgotten.

Cameron felt depressed by the sight. He began to doubt the wisdom of his
coming here in hope of finding an answer to the Markovian deception. The
warning of Sal Karone on shipboard seemed now like nothing more than a
half ignorant demonstration of loyalty toward the Markovian Masters.
Possibly there had been some talk which the Id had overheard and he had
taken it upon himself to warn the Terrans--knowing perhaps nothing of
the matter which the Markovians were reluctant to expose.

If he could have done so gracefully, Cameron felt he would have turned
and gone back without bothering with the interview. His curiosity about
the Ids themselves had all but vanished. The answer to their situation
was obvious. And he had maintained such high hope that somehow his
expectation in them would be fulfilled during this visit.

There was a satisfying cleanliness apparent in everything as Sal Karone
led them to the largest of the buildings. Joyce seemed to be enjoying
herself as she surveyed the surroundings with an interest Cameron had
lost.

As they entered the doorway a thin, straight old man with a white beard
arose from a chair and approached them in greeting. The ancient,
conventional, patriarchal order, Cameron thought. He could see the whole
setup in a nutshell right now. Squalid communities like this where the
too-old and the too-young were nurtured on the calcified traditions to
which nothing was ever added. The able serving in the homes of the
Markovians, providing sustenance for themselves and those who depended
on them. The Markovians were generous indeed in not referring to the Ids
as slaves. There was little else they could ever be called.

The Chief was addressed as Venor by Sal Karone, who introduced them. "It
is kind of you to include our village in your visit to the Nucleus,"
said Venor. "There are many more spectacular things to see."

"There is often greatest wisdom in the least spectacular," said Cameron,
trying to sound like a sage. "Sal Karone was kind enough to invite us to
your center and said there was much you could show us."

"The things of the soul are not possible to _show_," said Venor gently.
"We wish there were time that we might teach you some of the great
things our people have learned in their long wanderings. I am told that
your profession and your purpose in being here is the study of races and
their actions and the things they have learned."

With a start, Cameron came to greater attention. He was certain he had
never given any such information in the presence of Sal Karone or
Marthasa. Yet even Venor knew he was a sociologist! Here was the first
knowledge that must lie behind the evidence of the undercurrent of
objections of the Markovian representative in the Council and Premier
Jargla.

And this primitive patriarch was in possession of it.

Relations between the individuals of this planet were something far more
complex than Cameron had assumed. He hesitated a moment before speaking.
Just why had this bait been so innocently thrown to him? Marthasa had
never mentioned it. Yet had the Markovians asked for an attempt to get
an admission from him for their own purposes? And what purposes--?

He abandoned caution, and nodded. "Yes, that is the thing I am
interested in. I had hoped to study the history and ways of the
Markovians. As Sal Karone has told me, they don't want strangers to make
such a study. You are perhaps not so unwilling to be known--?"

"We wish the entire Universe might know of us and be as we are."

"You hardly make that possible, subjugating your identity so completely
to that of another race. The worlds will never know of you unless you
become strong and unified as a people and obtain a name of your own."

"Our name is known," said Venor. "We are the Idealists. You will not
find many worlds on which we are unknown, and they call us the ones who
serve. Even on your world you have the saying of a philosopher who
taught that any who would be master should become the servant of all.
Your people once understood it."

"Not as a literal undertaking," said Cameron. "You can't submerge your
entire racial identity as you have done. That is not what the saying
meant."

"To us it does," said Venor solemnly. "We would master the Universe--and
therefore we must serve it. That is the core of the law of the
Idealists."

       *       *       *       *       *

Cameron let his gaze scan through the window to the small clearing in
the thick forest, to the circle of wooden houses. _We would master the
Universe_--he restrained a smile.

"You cannot believe this," said Venor, "because you have never
understood the mark of the servant or the mark of the master. How often
is there difficulty in distinguishing one from the other!"

And how often do the illusions of the mind ease the privations of the
body, Cameron thought. So that was the source of the Idealist serenity.
Wherever they went they considered themselves the masters through
service--and conversely, those they served became the slaves, he
supposed. It was a pleasant, easy philosophy that hurt no one. Except
the ones who believed it. They died the moment they accepted it, for all
initiative and desire were gone.

"The master is he who guides the destiny of a man or a race," said Venor
almost in meditation. "He is not the man who gathers or disperses the
wealth, or who builds the cities and the ships to the stars. The master
is he who teaches what must be done with these things and how a people
shall expend their lives."

"And the Markovians do this, in obedience to you?" said Cameron
whimsically.

"Wherever my people are," answered Venor, "strife ceases and peace
comes. Who can do this is master of worlds."

There was a strange solemnity about the voice and figure of the old
Idealist that checked the sense of ridiculousness in Cameron. It seemed
somehow strangely moving.

"You believe the worlds are better," he asked gently, "just because you
are there?"

"Yes," said Venor, "because we are there."

There was a pathos about it that fired Cameron's anger. On scores of
worlds there were primitive groups like this one, blinding themselves
with a glory that didn't exist, in the grip of ancient, meaningless
traditions. The younger ones--like Sal Karone--were intelligent, worth
salvaging, but they could never be lifted out of this mire of false
belief unless they could be shown how empty it was.

"Nothing you have said explains the mystery of how this great thing is
accomplished," said Cameron almost angrily. "Even if we wanted to
believe it were true, it is still as utterly incomprehensible as before
we came."

"There is a saying among us," said Venor kindly. "Translated into your
tongue it would be: How was the wild dog tamed, and a saddle put upon
the fierce stallion?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Stubbornly, then, Venor would say no more about the philosophy of the
Idealists. He spoke freely of the many other worlds upon which the
Idealists lived and served, and he affirmed the tradition that they did
not even know the place of their origin, the planet that might have been
their home world.

He was evasive, however, when Cameron asked when the first contact was
made between his people and the Markovians. There was something that the
Ids, too, were holding back, the sociologist thought, and there was no
apparent reason for it.

Recklessly, he decided nothing could be lost by attempting to blast for
it. "Why have the Markovians consistently lied to us?" he said. "They've
given us their history--and if your people know the feelings of other
worlds they know this history is a lie. Only a few generations ago the
Markovians pirated and plundered these worlds, and now they pose as
little tin gods with a silver halo. Why?"

Sal Karone stood by with a look of horror on his face, but Venor made no
sign of alarm at this forbidden question. He merely inclined his held
slowly and repeated, "How was the wild dog tamed, and a saddle put upon
the fierce stallion?"

       *       *       *       *       *

That was the end of the interview. The Ids insisted, however, that he
inspect the rest of the village and they personally guided the Terrans
on the tour. Cameron's trained eye took in at a glance, however, the
evidence supporting his previous conclusion. The artifacts and buildings
demonstrated a primitive forest culture. The other individuals he saw
were almost entirely the old and very young--the ones unsuitable as
servants to the Markovians. Venor explained that family life among them
paralleled in general that of the Masters. Whole Idealist families lived
and served as units in the Markovian household. Exceptions existed in
the case of Sal Karone and others of his age who were separated from
their families and had not yet begun their own.

As they returned to the car Venor took their hands. He pressed Cameron's
warmly and looked into his eyes with deep sincerity. "You have made us
glad by your presence," he said. "And when the time comes for you to
return, we shall repay all the pleasure you have given us."

"I'm afraid we won't be able to do that," said Cameron. "We appreciate
your hospitality, but I'm sure time will not permit us to visit you
again, as much as we'd like to." In the past few minutes he had reached
the conclusion that further research on this whole planet was futile.
The best thing they could do was go somewhere else in the Nucleus and
make a fresh start.

Venor shook his head, smiling. "We will see each other again, Joyce and
Cameron. I feel that the day will be very soon."

It was senseless to let himself be irritated by the senile patriarch who
spoke out of a world of illusion but Cameron could not help feeling
nettled as he started back to the city. Somehow it seemed impossible to
regard Venor as merely a specimen for sociological research. The Chief
of the Idealists reached out of his unreal world and made his contact
with the Terrans a personal thing--almost as if he had spent all his
life waiting for their coming. There was a sense of intimacy against
which Cameron rebelled, and yet it was not an unpleasant thing.

Cameron's mind oscillated between the annoyance of Venor's calm
assertion that they would be back shortly, and the nonsense of the Id
belief that they controlled the civilizations in which they were
servants. How was the wild dog tamed, and a saddle put upon the fierce
stallion?

He smiled faintly to himself, wondering if the Markovians were fully
aware that the Ids regarded them as tamed dogs and saddled stallions.
They couldn't help knowing, of course, but it was hard to imagine
Marthasa and his wife being very much amused by such an estimate. The
situation would be intolerable, however, if it were met by anything
except amusement. It might be a mildly explosive subject, but he was
going to find out about that one small item before moving on, anyway,
Cameron decided.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sal Karone was strangely silent during the whole of the return trip. He
offered no comments and made only brief, noncommittal replies to
questions about the country through which they passed. He seemed
depressed by the results of their visit. Probably because the violation
of his warning to not question the lives of the Markovians. It was a
curious evidence of their completely unreal, proprietary attitude in
respect to their Masters. They'd have to investigate Marthasa's response
as thoroughly as possible. There seemed to be no taboo on discussion of
the Ids with him.

His annoyance at their acceptance of the invitation to the Id village
appeared to have vanished as he greeted them upon their return. "We
delayed eating, thinking you'd be back in time. If you'll join us in the
dining room as soon as you're ready--?"

The villa of Marthasa seemed different after the day's experience with
the Ids, although Cameron was certain nothing had changed either in a
physical way or in their relations with the Markovians. It was as if his
senses had been somehow sharpened to detect an undercurrent of feeling
of which he had previously been unaware. Glancing at Joyce, he sensed
she felt the same.

"I have the feeling that we missed something," she said, as they changed
clothes to join Marthasa and his wife. "There was something Venor wanted
us to know and wouldn't say. I would almost like to go back there again
before we go away."

Cameron was surprised at his own annoyance with Joyce's statement. It
reflected the impressions in his own mind which he was trying to ignore.
"Nonsense," he said. "There's no use trying to read great profundity in
the words of an old patriarch of the woods. He's nothing except what he
appears to be."

The Markovians talked easily of Venor and the rest of the Ids. "We have
tried to get him to join us in the city," said Marthasa as the meal
began, "but he won't hear of it. It seems to give him a sense of
importance to live out there alone with his retinue and have the other
Ids come to him with their problems. He's a kind of arbiter and
patriarch to all of them for many miles around."

[Illustration]

While Marthasa talked Cameron tried to bring his awareness of all the
varied facets of the problem together and see it whole, as he now
understood it. The Markovians, a vast pirate community, had voluntarily
abandoned freebooting for reasons yet to be discovered. They had turned
their backs upon it so forcibly that they hid even the history of their
depredations. And one of their last acts must have been the capture of a
large colony of Idealists who were forced into servitude. Now the Ids
compensated their enslavement by the religious belief that service made
them masters over the ex-pirates, convincing themselves that _they_ had
changed the Markovians, taming them like wild dogs, saddling them as
fierce stallions--

Cameron wondered if he dared, and then dismissed the thought that there
could be any risk. It was too ridiculous!

       *       *       *       *       *

There was even a half-malicious smile on his lips as he broke into
Marthasa's conversation. "One of the things that made me very curious
today," he said, "was the general reaction of your people to the
Idealist illusion that they have _tamed_ you--as expressed in their
aphorism about how was the wild dog--?"

He never finished. Across the table the faces of the Markovians had
frozen in sudden bitterness. The shield of friendliness vanished under
the cold glare from their eyes.

Marthasa's lips seemed to curl as he whispered, "So you came like all
the rest! And we wanted so much to believe you were honest. A study! A
chance to find material for lies about the Nucleus to spread among all
the Council worlds."

He continued almost sadly, "You will be confined to your quarters until
transfer authorities can arrange for your return to Earth. And you may
be sure that never again will such a scheme get one of your kind into
the Nucleus again."

But there was no hint of sadness in his wife's face. She glared coldly.
"I said they should never had been permitted to come!"

Cameron rose in sudden bewildered protest. "I assure you we have no
intention--" he began.

And then he stopped. In one moment of incredible clarity while they
stood there, eyes locked in bitter stares, he understood. He knew the
myth was not a myth. It was cold, unbelievable reality. The Ids _had_
tamed the Markovians.

In a moment of fear he wondered if it were anything more than a thin
shell that could be shattered by a whisper from a stupid dabbler in
cultures, who really knew nothing at all about the profession to which
he pretended.


V

As if upon some secret signal Sal Karone appeared from the serving room
at their left.

"Our visitors are no longer our guests," Marthasa said sharply with
accusing eyes still upon Cameron. "They will remain in their rooms until
time for deportation.

"I trust it will not be necessary to use force," he said directly to
Cameron.

"Of course not. But won't you let me explain--won't you even allow an
apology for breaking a taboo we did not understand?"

"Is it not taboo among all civilized peoples, including your own, to
invent and spread lies about those who wish you only well?"

It was useless to argue, Cameron saw. He turned, taking Joyce's arm, and
allowed Sal Karone to lead them back to their rooms. As they paused at
the doorway the Id spoke without expression on his dark face. "This is
not a good thing, Cameron Wilder. It would have been best for you to
have considered my warning."

He turned and stepped away, locking the door behind him.

Joyce slumped on the bed in dejection. "This is a fine fix we've got
ourselves into, being declared _persona non grata_ before we even get a
good start! They'll remember _that_ back home when A Study of the
Metamorphosis of the Markovian Nucleus is mentioned in professional
circles!"

"Don't rub it in," Cameron said, half angrily. "How was I to know that
was such a vicious taboo? It can't be any secret to the Markovians that
the Ids look upon them as tamed. Why should they get their hackles up
because _I_ mentioned it?"

"All I know is we're washed up as of now. What do we do when we get back
home?"

Cameron stood with his back to her, looking through the windows to the
garden beyond. "I'm not thinking of that," he said. "Can't you see we
haven't failed? We've almost got it--the thing we came to find. We
_knew_ why the Markovians suddenly became good Indians. The Ids actually
did tame them. We've got to find out how such an apparently impossible
thing could be done."

"Do you really believe that's what happened?" asked Joyce.

Cameron nodded. "It's the only thing there is to believe. If it weren't
true, Marthasa and his wife would have laughed it off as nonsense.
Getting all huffy and talking about deportation for cooking up lies is
the best proof you could ask for that we hit pay dirt. Don't ask me how
I think the Ids could do it. _That's_ what I'm going to find out."

"How?"

"I don't know."

But he did have an idea that if he could somehow get word to the old Id
chieftain help could be had. He knew he was straining to believe things
he wanted to believe, yet it seemed as if this were almost the very
thing Venor had tried to convey the day before but had left unspoken.

There was only one possibility of establishing contact, however, and
that was through Sal Karone. A remote chance indeed, Cameron thought, in
view of the relationship between the Markovian and his _sargh_. As a
last resort it was worth trying, however.

It looked as if they would not have even this chance as the evening grew
darker. Cameron kept watch through the windows in the hope of signaling
Sal Karone in case he should appear. They hoped he might come to the
room for a final check of their needs for the night as he usually did.

But he did not appear.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cameron finally went to bed after Joyce was long asleep. He turned
restlessly, beating his mind with increasing wonder as to how it could
be so incredibly true that the Idealists were the actual masters of the
Nucleus. That they had somehow tamed the murderous, piratical
Markovians. He couldn't have known this was it!

One thing he could understood, however, was the Markovians reluctance to
have visitors--and their careful watch over them. Marthasa had been more
than a host, he thought. He was a guard as well, trying to keep the
Terrans from discovering the unpleasant reality concerning the influence
of the Ids. He had slipped in allowing the visit to Venor.

At dawn there was the sound of their door opening and Cameron whirled
from his dressing, hopeful it might be Sal Karone. It was Marthasa,
however, grim and distant. "I have obtained word that your deportation
can be accomplished today. Premier Jargla has been informed and concurs.
The Council has been notified and offers no protestations. You will
ready yourselves before the evening hour."

He slammed the door behind him. Joyce turned down the covers in the
other room and sat up. "I wonder if he isn't even going to feed us
today?"

Cameron made no answer. He finished dressing hurriedly and kept a
frantic watch for any sign of Sal Karone.

At last there was a knock on the door and the Id appeared with breakfast
on a cart. Cameron exhaled with relief that it was not one of the other
_sarghs_ in the household.

Sal Karone eyed them impassively as he wheeled in and arranged the food
on the table by a window. Cameron watched, estimating his chances.

"Your Chief, Venor, was very kind to us yesterday," he said quietly.
"Our biggest regret in leaving is that our conversation with him must go
unfinished."

Sal Karone paused. "Were there things you had yet to say to him?" he
asked.

"No--there were things Venor wanted to tell us. You heard him. He wanted
us to come back. It is completely impossible for us to see him again
before we go?"

Sal Karone straightened and set the utensils on the table. "No, it is
not impossible. I have been instructed to bring you back to the village
if it should be your request."

Cameron felt a surge of eager excitement within him. "When? Our
deportation is scheduled for today. How can we get there? How can we
avoid Marthasa and the Markovians?"

"Stand very quietly," said Sal Karone, that sense of power and command
in his voice and bearing as Cameron had seen it once before aboard the
spaceship. "Now," he said. "Close your eyes."

There was a sudden wrenching twist as if two solid surfaces had slammed
them from front and back, and a third force had thrust them sideways.

They opened their eyes in the wooden house of Venor, in the village of
the Idealists.

       *       *       *       *       *

"We owe you apologies," said Venor. "We hope you are not harmed in any
way."

Cameron stared around uncertainly. Joyce clutched his hand. "How did
we--?" Cameron stammered.

"Teleportation is the descriptive term in your language, I believe,"
said Venor. "It was rather urgent that you come without further delay so
we resorted to it. Nothing else would do in the face of Marthasa's
action. Sit down if you will, please. If you wish to rest or eat, your
quarters are ready."

"Our quarters--! Then you _did_ expect us back. You knew this was going
to happen exactly as it has!"

"Yes, I knew," said Venor quietly. "I planned it this way when word
first came to us of your visit."

"I think we are entitled to explanations," Cameron said at last. "We
seem to have been pieces in a game we knew nothing about."

And it had taken this long for the full impact of Venor's admission of
teleportation to hit him. He closed his eyes in a moment's reaction of
fright. He didn't want to believe it--and knew he must. These
Idealists--who could master galaxies and tame the wild Markovians--was
there anything they could not do?

"Not a game," Venor protested. "We planned this because we wanted you to
see what you have seen. We wanted a man of Earth to know what we have
done."

"But don't the Markovians realize the foolishness of deporting us
because we stumbled onto the relationship between you and them? And if
you are in control how can they issue such an order--unless you want
it?"

"Our relationship is more complex than that. There are different levels
of control. We operate the one that brought you here--" He let Cameron
consider the implication of the unfinished statement.

Then he continued, "To understand the Markovians' reason for deporting
you, consider that on Earth men have tamed wolves and made faithful,
loyal dogs who can be trusted. Dogs who have forever lost the knowledge
their ancestors were fierce marauders ready to rip and tear the flesh of
any man or beast that came their way.

"Consider the dogs only a generation or two from the vicious wolves who
were their forebears. The old urges have not entirely died, yet they
want to know man's affection and trust. Could you remind them of what
their kind once was without stirring up torment within them?

"So it is with the Markovians. They are peaceful and creative, but only
a few generations behind them are pirates who were not fit to sit in the
Councils of civilized beings. They have no tradition of culture to
support them. It knocks the props out from under them, so to speak, to
have it known what lies behind them. They cannot be friends with such a
man. They cannot even endure the knowledge among themselves."

"Then I was right!" Cameron exclaimed. "Their phony history _was_ set up
to deceive their own people as well as others."

"Yes. The dog would destroy all evidence of his wolf ancestry. It has
been an enormous project, but the people of the Nucleus have been at it
a long time. They have concocted a consistent history which leaves out
all evidence of their predatory ancestry. The items of reality which
were possible to leave have been retained. The gaps between have been
bridged by fictionized accounts of glorious undertakings and
discoveries. Most of the Markovian science has been taken from other
cultures, but now their history boasts of heroes and discoverers who
never lived and who were responsible for all the great science they
enjoy."

"But nothing stable can be built upon such an unhealthy foundation of
self-deception!" Cameron protested.

"It is not unhealthy--not at the present moment," said Venor. "The time
will come when it, too, will be thrust aside and a tremendous effort of
scholarship will extract the elements of truth and find that which was
suppressed. But the Markovians themselves will do it--a generation of
them who can afford to laugh at the fears and fantasies of their
ancestors."

"This tells us nothing of how you were able to make a creative people
out of a race of pirate marauders," said Cameron.

"I gave you the key," said Venor. "It was one used long ago by your own
people before it was abandoned.

"How was the savage wolf tamed to become the loyal, friendly dog? Did
ancient man try to exterminate the wolves that came to his caves and
carried off his young? Perhaps he tried. But he learned, perhaps
accidentally, another way of conquest. He found the wolf's cubs, and
learned to love them. He brought the cubs home and cared for them
tenderly and his own children played with them and fed them and loved
them.

"It took time, but eventually there were no more wild wolves to trouble
man, because he had discovered a great friend, the dog. And man plus dog
could handle wolf with ease. Dog forgot in time what his forebears were
and became willing to defend man against his own kind--because man loved
him.

"It happened again and again. Agricultural man hated the wild horse that
ate his grain and trampled his fields. But he learned to love the horse,
too, after a while. Again--no more wild horses."

"But you can't take a predatory, savage pirate and love him into
decency!" Cameron protested.

"No," Venor agreed. "It is too difficult ordinarily at that level, and
wasteful of time and resources. But I didn't say that is what happened.
You don't tame a wolf by loving it, but the _cubs_--yes. And even
pirates have cubs, who are susceptible to being loved.

"The first weapon was hate. But after learning the futility of it,
sentient creatures discovered another, the succeeding evolutionary
emotion. It is pure savagery in its destructive power, a thousand times
more effective in annihilating the enemy.

"You've thought 'Love thy enemy' was a soft, gentle, futile doctrine!
Actually, instead of merely killing the enemy it twists his personality,
destroys his identity. He continues to live, but he has lost his
integrity as an entity. The wolf cub never becomes an adult wolf. He
becomes Dog.

"It is not a doctrine of weakness, but the ultimate weapon of
destruction. It can be used to induce any orientation desired in the
mind of the enemy. He'll do everything you want him to--because he has
your love."

       *       *       *       *       *

"How did you apply that to the Markovians?" asked Joyce in almost a
whisper.

"It was one of the most difficult programs we have ever undertaken,"
said Venor. "There were comparatively few of us and such a tremendous
population of Markovians. We had predicted long ago, even before the
organization of the Council, the situation would grow critical and
dangerous. By the time the Council awoke to the fact and started its
futile debates we had made a strong beginning.

"We arranged to be in the path of a Markovian attack on one of the
worlds where our work was completed. The Markovians were only too happy
to take us into slavery and use us as victims in their brutal sports."

"You didn't deliberately fall into a trap where you allowed yourselves
to be killed and tortured by them?" exclaimed Cameron.

Venor smiled. "The Markovians thought we did. We could hardly do that,
of course. Our numbers were so small compared with theirs that we
wouldn't have lasted very long. And, obviously, it would have been
plain stupid. There is one key that must not be forgotten: An effective
use of love requires an absolute superiority on the levels attainable by
the individual to be tamed. So, in this case, we had to have power to
keep the Markovians from slaughtering us or we would have been unable to
accomplish our purpose.

"Teleportation is of obvious use here. Likewise, psychosomatic controls
that can handle any ordinary wound we might permit them to inflict. We
gave them the illusion of slaughtering and torturing us, but our numbers
did not dwindle."

"Why did you give them such an illusion?" Joyce asked. "And you say you
_permitted_ them to inflict wounds--?"

Venor nodded. "We were in their households, you see, employed as slaves
and assigned the care of their young. The cubs of the wolf were given
into our hands to love--and to tame.

"These Markovian children were witnesses to the supposed torture and
killing of those who loved them. It was a tremendous psychic impact and
served to drive their influence toward the side of the slaves. And even
the adults slowly recognized the net loss to them of doing away with
servants so skilled and useful in household tasks and caring for the
young. The games and brutality vanished spontaneously within a short
time. Markovians, young and old, simply didn't want them any longer.

"During the maturity of that first generation of young on whom we
expended our love our position became more secure. These were no longer
wolves. They had become dogs, loyal to those who had loved them, and we
could use them now against their own kind. Influences to abandon piracy
against other peoples began to spread throughout the Nucleus.

"Today the Markovians are no longer a threat capable of holding the
Council worlds in helpless fear. They long ago ceased their
depredations. Their internal stability is rising and is almost at the
point where we shall be able to leave them. Our work here is about
finished."

"Surely all this was unnecessary!" Joyce said. "With your powers of
teleportation and other psionic abilities you must possess it should
have been easy for you to _control_ the Markovians directly, force them
to cease their piracy--"

"Of course," said Venor. "That would have been so much easier for us.
And so futile. The Markovians would have learned nothing through being
taken over by us and operated externally. They would have remained the
same. But it was our desire to change them, teach them, accomplish
genuine learning within them. It is always longer and more difficult
this way. The results, however, are more lasting!"

"_Who_ are you people--_what_ are you?" Cameron said with sudden
intensity. "You have teleportation--and how many other unknown psychic
powers? You have forced us to believe you can tame such a vicious world
as the Markovian Nucleus once was.

"But where is there a life of your own? With all your powers you must
live at the whim of other cultures. Where is _your_ culture? Where is
your own purpose? In spite of all you have, your life is a parasitical
one."

Venor smiled gently. "Is not the parent--or the teacher--the servant of
the child?" he said. "Has it not always been so if a species is to rise
very far in its conquest of the Universe?

"But this does not mean that the parent or teacher has no life of his
own. You ask where is our culture? The culture of _all_ worlds is ours.
We don't have great cities and vast fleets. The wolf cubs build these
for us. They carry us across space and shelter us in their cities.

"Our own energies are expended in a thousand other and more profitable
ways. We have sought and learned a few of the secrets of life and mind.
With these we can move as you were moved, when we choose to do so. From
where I sit I can speak with any of our kind on this planet or any world
of the entire Nucleus. And a few of us, united in the effort, can touch
those in distant galaxies.

"What culture would you have us acquire, that we do not have?" Venor
finished.

       *       *       *       *       *

Without answer, Cameron arose and strode slowly to the window, his back
to the room. He looked out upon the rude wooden huts and the towering
forest beyond. He tried to tell himself it was all a lie. Such things
couldn't be. But he could feel it now with increasing strength, as if
all his senses were quickening--the benign aura, the indefinable wash of
power that seemed to lap at the edge of his mind.

Out of the corner of his eye he could see Joyce's face, almost radiant
as she, too, sensed it here in the presence of the Ids.

Love, as a genuine power, had been taught by every Terran philosopher of
any social worth. But it had never really been tried. Not in the way the
Ids understood it. Cameron felt he could only guess at the terrible
discipline of mind it required to use it as they did. The analogy of the
wolf cubs was all very well, and man had learned to go that far. But
there is a difference when your own kind is involved, he thought.

Perhaps it was out of sheer fear of each other that men continued to try
to sway with hate, the most primitive of all their weapons.

It's easy to hate, he thought. Love is hard, and because it is, the
tough humans who can't achieve it and have the patience to manipulate it
must scorn it. The truly weak ones, they're incapable of the stern and
brutal self-discipline required of one who loves his enemy.

But men had known how. Back in the caves they had known how to conquer
the wolf and the wild horse. Where had they lost it?

The vision of the buildings and the forest with its eternal peace was
still in his eyes. What else could you want, with the whole Universe in
the palm of your hand?

He turned sharply. "You tricked us into betraying ourselves to Marthasa,
and you said that you planned it this way when you first heard of our
coming. But you have not yet said why. Why did you want us to see what
you had done?"

"You needed to have evidence from the Markovians themselves," said
Venor. "That is why I led you to the point where the admission would be
forced from them. The problem you came to solve is now answered, is it
not? Is there anything to prevent you returning to Earth and writing a
successful paper on the mystery of the Markovians?"

"You know very well there is," said Cameron with the sudden sense that
Venor was laughing gently at him. "Who on Earth would believe what you
have told me--that a handful of meek, subservient Ids had conquered the
mighty Markovian Nucleus?"

He paused, looking at Joyce who returned his intense gaze.

"Is that all?" said Venor finally.

"No that is not all. After taking us to the heights and showing us
everything that lies beyond, are you simply going to turn us away
empty-handed?"

"What would you have us give you?"

"This," said Cameron, gesturing with his hand to include the circle of
all of them, and the community beyond the window. "We want what you have
discovered. Is your circle a closed one--or can you admit those who
would learn of your ways but are not of your race?"

Venor's smile broadened as he arose and stepped toward them, and they
felt the warm wave of acceptance from his mind even before he spoke.
"This is what we brought you here to receive," he said. "But you had to
ask for yourselves. We wanted men of Earth in our ranks. There are many
races and many worlds who make up the Idealists. That is why it is said
that the Ids do not know the home world from which they originally came.
It is true, they do not. We are citizens of the Universe.

"But we have never been represented by a native of Earth, which needs us
badly. Will you join us, Terrans?"


THE END

[Illustration]



Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from _Astounding Science Fiction_ November 1955.
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.





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