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Title: Oomphel in the Sky
Author: Piper, H. Beam, 1904-1964
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 "Oomphel in the Sky" ***

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OOMPHEL ...
... IN THE SKY

By H. BEAM PIPER

+--------------------------------------------------------------+
|                                                              |
| Transcriber's Note                                           |
|                                                              |
| This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact--Science    |
| Fiction, November 1960. Extensive research did not uncover   |
| any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was |
| renewed.                                                     |
|                                                              |
+--------------------------------------------------------------+

[Illustration]

     _Since Logic derives from postulates, it never has, and never will,
     change a postulate. And a religious belief is a system of
     postulates ... so how can a man fight a native superstition with
     logic? Or anything else...?_

Illustrated by Bernklau


Miles Gilbert watched the landscape slide away below him, its quilt of
rounded treetops mottled red and orange in the double sunlight and, in
shaded places, with the natural yellow of the vegetation of Kwannon. The
aircar began a slow swing to the left, and Gettler Alpha came into view,
a monstrous smear of red incandescence with an optical diameter of two
feet at arm's length, slightly flattened on the bottom by the western
horizon. In another couple of hours it would be completely set, but by
that time Beta, the planet's G-class primary, would be at its
midafternoon hottest. He glanced at his watch. It was 1005, but that was
Galactic Standard Time, and had no relevance to anything that was
happening in the local sky. It did mean, though, that it was five
minutes short of two hours to 'cast-time.

He snapped on the communication screen in front of him, and Harry Walsh,
the news editor, looked out of it at him from the office in Bluelake,
halfway across the continent. He wanted to know how things were going.

"Just about finished. I'm going to look in at a couple more native
villages, and then I'm going to Sanders' plantation to see Gonzales. I
hope I'll have a personal statement from him, and the final
situation-progress map, in time for the 'cast. I take it Maith's still
agreeable to releasing the story at twelve-hundred?"

"Sure; he was always agreeable. The Army wants publicity; it was
Government House that wanted to sit on it, and they've given that up
now. The story's all over the place here, native city and all."

"What's the situation in town, now?"

"Oh, it's still going on. Some disorders, mostly just unrest. Lot of
street meetings that could have turned into frenzies if the police
hadn't broken them up in time. A couple of shootings, some
sleep-gassing, and a lot of arrests. Nothing to worry about--at least,
not immediately."

That was about what he thought. "Maybe it's not bad to have a little
trouble in Bluelake," he considered. "What happens out here in the
plantation country the Government House crowd can't see, and it doesn't
worry them. Well, I'll call you from Sanders'."

He blanked the screen. In the seat in front, the native pilot said:
"Some contragravity up ahead, boss." It sounded like two voices speaking
in unison, which was just what it was. "I'll have a look."

The pilot's hand, long and thin, like a squirrel's, reached up and
pulled down the fifty-power binoculars on their swinging arm. Miles
looked at the screen-map and saw a native village just ahead of the dot
of light that marked the position of the aircar. He spoke the native
name of the village aloud, and added:

"Let down there, Heshto. I'll see what's going on."

The native, still looking through the glasses, said, "Right, boss." Then
he turned.

His skin was blue-gray and looked like sponge rubber. He was humanoid,
to the extent of being an upright biped, with two arms, a head on top of
shoulders, and a torso that housed, among other oddities, four lungs.
His face wasn't even vaguely human. He had two eyes in front, close
enough for stereoscopic vision, but that was a common characteristic of
sapient life forms everywhere. His mouth was strictly for eating; he
breathed through separate intakes and outlets, one of each on either
side of his neck; he talked through the outlets and had his scent and
hearing organs in the intakes. The car was air-conditioned, which was a
mercy; an overheated Kwann exhaled through his skin, and surrounded
himself with stenches like an organic chemistry lab. But then, Kwanns
didn't come any closer to him than they could help when he was hot and
sweated, which, lately, had been most of the time.

"A V and a half of air cavalry, circling around," Heshto said. "Making
sure nobody got away. And a combat car at a couple of hundred feet and
another one just at treetop level."

He rose and went to the seat next to the pilot, pulling down the
binoculars that were focused for his own eyes. With them, he could see
the air cavalry--egg-shaped things just big enough for a seated man,
with jets and contragravity field generators below and a bristle of
machine gun muzzles in front. A couple of them jetted up for a look at
him and then went slanting down again, having recognized the Kwannon
Planetwide News Service car.


The village was typical enough to have been an illustration in a
sociography textbook--fields in a belt for a couple of hundred yards
around it, dome-thatched mud-and-wattle huts inside a pole stockade with
log storehouses built against it, their flat roofs high enough to
provide platforms for defending archers, the open oval gathering-place
in the middle. There was a big hut at one end of this, the khamdoo, the
sanctum of the adult males, off limits for women and children. A small
crowd was gathered in front of it; fifteen or twenty Terran air
cavalrymen, a couple of enlisted men from the Second Kwannon Native
Infantry, a Terran second lieutenant, and half a dozen natives. The rest
of the village population, about two hundred, of both sexes and all
ages, were lined up on the shadier side of the gathering-place, most of
them looking up apprehensively at the two combat cars which were
covering them with their guns.

Miles got to his feet as the car lurched off contragravity and the
springs of the landing-feet took up the weight. A blast of furnacelike
air struck him when he opened the door; he got out quickly and closed it
behind him. The second lieutenant had come over to meet him; he extended
his hand.

"Good day, Mr. Gilbert. We all owe you our thanks for the warning. This
would have been a real baddie if we hadn't caught it when we did."

He didn't even try to make any modest disclaimer; that was nothing more
than the exact truth.

"Well, lieutenant, I see you have things in hand here." He glanced at
the line-up along the side of the oval plaza, and then at the selected
group in front of the khamdoo. The patriarchal village chieftain in a
loose slashed shirt; the shoonoo, wearing a multiplicity of amulets and
nothing else; four or five of the village elders. "I take it the word of
the swarming didn't get this far?"

"No, this crowd still don't know what the flap's about, and I couldn't
think of anything to tell them that wouldn't be worse than no
explanation at all."

He had noticed hoes and spades flying in the fields, and the cylindrical
plastic containers the natives bought from traders, dropped when the
troops had surprised the women at work. And the shoonoo didn't have a
fire-dance cloak or any other special regalia on. If he'd heard about
the swarming, he'd have been dressed to make magic for it.

"What time did you get here, lieutenant?"

"Oh-nine-forty. I just called in and reported the village occupied, and
they told me I was the last one in, so the operation's finished."

That had been smart work. He got the lieutenant's name and unit and
mentioned it into his memophone. That had been a little under five hours
since he had convinced General Maith, in Bluelake, that the mass
labor-desertion from the Sanders plantation had been the beginning of a
swarming. Some division commanders wouldn't have been able to get a
brigade off the ground in that time, let alone landed on objective. He
said as much to the young officer.

"The way the Army responded, today, can make the people of the Colony
feel a lot more comfortable for the future."

"Why, thank you, Mr. Gilbert." The Army, on Kwannon, was rather more
used to obloquy than praise. "How did you spot what was going on so
quickly?"

This was the hundredth time, at least, that he had been asked that
today.

"Well, Paul Sanders' labor all comes from neighboring villages. If
they'd just wanted to go home and spend the end of the world with their
families, they'd have been dribbling away in small batches for the last
couple of hundred hours. Instead, they all bugged out in a bunch, they
took all the food they could carry and nothing else, and they didn't
make any trouble before they left. Then, Sanders said they'd been
building fires out in the fallow ground and moaning and chanting around
them for a couple of days, and idling on the job. Saving their strength
for the trek. And he said they had a shoonoo among them. He's probably
the lad who started it. Had a dream from the Gone Ones, I suppose."

"You mean, like this fellow here?" the lieutenant asked. "What are they,
Mr. Gilbert; priests?"

He looked quickly at the lieutenant's collar-badges. Yellow trefoil for
Third Fleet-Army Force, Roman IV for Fourth Army, 907 for his regiment,
with C under it for cavalry. That outfit had only been on Kwannon for
the last two thousand hours, but somebody should have briefed him better
than that.

He shook his head. "No, they're magicians. Everything these Kwanns do
involves magic, and the shoonoon are the professionals. When a native
runs into something serious, that his own do-it-yourself magic can't
cope with, he goes to the shoonoo. And, of course, the shoonoo works all
the magic for the community as a whole--rain-magic, protective magic for
the village and the fields, that sort of thing."

The lieutenant mopped his face on a bedraggled handkerchief. "They'll
have to struggle along somehow for a while; we have orders to round up
all the shoonoon and send them in to Bluelake."

"Yes." That hadn't been General Maith's idea; the governor had insisted
on that. "I hope it doesn't make more trouble than it prevents."

The lieutenant was still mopping his face and looking across the
gathering-place toward Alpha, glaring above the huts.

"How much worse do you think this is going to get?" he asked.

"The heat, or the native troubles?"

"I was thinking about the heat, but both."

"Well, it'll get hotter. Not much hotter, but some. We can expect
storms, too, within twelve to fifteen hundred hours. Nobody has any idea
how bad they'll be. The last periastron was ninety years ago, and we've
only been here for sixty-odd; all we have is verbal accounts from memory
from the natives, probably garbled and exaggerated. We had pretty bad
storms right after transit a year ago; they'll be much worse this time.
Thermal convections; air starts to cool when it gets dark, and then
heats up again in double-sun daylight."

It was beginning, even now; starting to blow a little after Alpha-rise.

"How about the natives?" the lieutenant asked. "If they can get any
crazier than they are now--"

"They can, and they probably will. They think this is the end of the
world. The Last Hot Time." He used the native expression, and then
translated it into Lingua Terra. "The Sky Fire--that's Alpha--will burn
up the whole world."

"But this happens every ninety years. Mean they always acted this way at
periastron?"

He shook his head. "Race would have exterminated itself long ago if they
had. No, this is something special. The coming of the Terrans was a
sign. The Terrans came and brought oomphel to the world; this a sign
that the Last Hot Time is at hand."

"What the devil _is_ oomphel?" The lieutenant was mopping the back of
his neck with one hand, now, and trying to pull his sticky tunic loose
from his body with the other. "I hear that word all the time."

"Well, most Terrans, including the old Kwannon hands, use it to mean
trade-goods. To the natives, it means any product of Terran technology,
from paper-clips to spaceships. They think it's ... well, not exactly
supernatural; extranatural would be closer to expressing their idea.
Terrans are natural; they're just a different kind of people. But
oomphel isn't; it isn't subject to any of the laws of nature at all.
They're all positive that we don't make it. Some of them even think it
makes us."


When he got back in the car, the native pilot, Heshto, was lolling in
his seat and staring at the crowd of natives along the side of the
gathering-place with undisguised disdain. Heshto had been educated at
one of the Native Welfare Commission schools, and post-graded with
Kwannon Planetwide News. He could speak, read and write Lingua Terra. He
was a mathematician as far as long division and decimal fractions. He
knew that Kwannon was the second planet of the Gettler Beta system,
23,000 miles in circumference, rotating on its axis once in 22.8
Galactic Standard hours and making an orbital circuit around Gettler
Beta once in 372.06 axial days, and that Alpha was an M-class pulsating
variable with an average period of four hundred days, and that Beta
orbited around it in a long elipse every ninety years. He didn't believe
there was going to be a Last Hot Time. He was an intellectual, he was.

He started the contragravity-field generator as soon as Miles was in his
seat. "Where now, boss?" he asked.

"Qualpha's Village. We won't let down; just circle low over it. I want
some views of the ruins. Then to Sanders' plantation."

"O.K., boss; hold tight."

He had the car up to ten thousand feet. Aiming it in the map direction
of Qualpha's Village, he let go with everything he had--hot jets,
rocket-booster and all. The forest landscape came hurtling out of the
horizon toward them.

Qualpha's was where the trouble had first broken out, after the bug-out
from Sanders; the troops hadn't been able to get there in time, and it
had been burned. Another village, about the same distance south of the
plantation, had also gone up in flames, and at a dozen more they had
found the natives working themselves into frenzies and had had to
sleep-gas them or stun them with concussion-bombs. Those had been the
villages to which the deserters from Sanders' had themselves gone; from
every one, runners had gone out to neighboring villages--"The Gone Ones
are returning; all the People go to greet them at the Deesha-Phoo. Burn
your villages; send on the word. Hasten; the Gone Ones return!"

Saving some of those villages had been touch-and-go, too; the runners,
with hours lead-time, had gotten there ahead of the troops, and there
had been shooting at a couple of them. Then the Army contragravity began
landing at villages that couldn't have been reached in hours by foot
messengers. It had been stopped--at least for the time, and in this
area. When and where another would break out was anybody's guess.

The car was slowing and losing altitude, and ahead he could see thin
smoke rising above the trees. He moved forward beside the pilot and
pulled down his glasses; with them he could distinguish the ruins of the
village. He called Bluelake, and then put his face to the view-finder
and began transmitting in the view.


It had been a village like the one he had just visited, mud-and-wattle
huts around an oval gathering-place, stockade, and fields beyond. Heshto
brought the car down to a few hundred feet and came coasting in on
momentum helped by an occasional spurt of the cold-jets. A few sections
of the stockade still stood, and one side of the khamdoo hadn't fallen,
but the rest of the structures were flat. There wasn't a soul, human or
parahuman, in sight; the only living thing was a small black-and-gray
quadruped investigating some bundles that had been dropped in the
fields, in hope of finding something tasty. He got a view of
that--everybody liked animal pictures on a newscast--and then he was
swinging the pickup over the still-burning ruins. In the ashes of every
hut he could see the remains of something like a viewscreen or a
nuclear-electric stove or a refrigerator or a sewing machine. He knew
how dearly the Kwanns cherished such possessions. That they had
destroyed them grieved him. But the Last Hot Time was at hand; the whole
world would be destroyed by fire, and then the Gone Ones would return.

So there were uprisings on the plantations. Paul Sanders had been
lucky; his Kwanns had just picked up and left. But he had always gotten
along well with the natives, and his plantation house was literally a
castle and he had plenty of armament. There had been other planters who
had made the double mistake of incurring the enmity of their native
labor and of living in unfortified houses. A lot of them weren't around,
any more, and their plantations were gutted ruins.

And there were plantations on which the natives had destroyed the klooba
plants and smashed the crystal which lived symbiotically upon them. They
thought the Terrans were using the living crystals to make magic. Not
too far off, at that; the properties of Kwannon biocrystals had opened a
major breakthrough in subnucleonic physics and initiated half a dozen
technologies. New kinds of oomphel. And down in the south, where the
spongy and resinous trees were drying in the heat, they were starting
forest fires and perishing in them in hecatombs. And to the north, they
were swarming into the mountains; building great fires there, too, and
attacking the Terran radar and radio beacons.

Fire was a factor common to all these frenzies. Nothing could happen
without magical assistance; the way to bring on the Last Hot Time was
People.

Maybe the ones who died in the frenzies and the swarmings were the lucky
ones at that. They wouldn't live to be crushed by disappointment when
the Sky Fire receded as Beta went into the long swing toward apastron.
The surviving shoonoon wouldn't be the lucky ones, that was for sure.
The magician-in-public-practice needs only to make one really bad
mistake before he is done to some unpleasantly ingenious death by his
clientry, and this was going to turn out to be the biggest
magico-prophetic blooper in all the long unrecorded history of Kwannon.

A few minutes after the car turned south from the ruined village, he
could see contragravity-vehicles in the air ahead, and then the fields
and buildings of the Sanders plantation. A lot more contragravity was
grounded in the fallow fields, and there were rows of pneumatic
balloon-tents, and field-kitchens, and a whole park of engineering
equipment. Work was going on in the klooba-fields, too; about three
hundred natives were cutting open the six-foot leafy balls and getting
out the biocrystals. Three of the plantation airjeeps, each with a pair
of machine guns, were guarding them, but they didn't seem to be having
any trouble. He saw Sanders in another jeep, and had Heshto put the car
alongside.

"How's it going, Paul?" he asked over his radio. "I see you have some
help, now."

"Everybody's from Qualpha's, and from Darshat's," Sanders replied. "The
Army had no place to put them, after they burned themselves out." He
laughed happily. "Miles, I'm going to save my whole crop! I thought I
was wiped out, this morning."

He would have been, if Gonzales hadn't brought those Kwanns in. The
klooba was beginning to wither; if left unharvested, the biocrystals
would die along with their hosts and crack into worthlessness. Like all
the other planters, Sanders had started no new crystals since the hot
weather, and would start none until the worst of the heat was over. He'd
need every crystal he could sell to tide him over.

[Illustration]

"The Welfarers'll make a big forced-labor scandal out of this," he
predicted.

"Why, such an idea." Sanders was scandalized. "I'm not forcing them to
eat."

"The Welfarers don't think anybody ought to have to work to eat. They
think everybody ought to be fed whether they do anything to earn it or
not, and if you try to make people earn their food, you're guilty of
economic coercion. And if you're in business for yourself and want them
to work for you, you're an exploiter and you ought to be eliminated as a
class. Haven't you been trying to run a plantation on this planet, under
this Colonial Government, long enough to have found that out, Paul?"


Brigadier General Ramón Gonzales had taken over the first--counting
down from the landing-stage--floor of the plantation house for his
headquarters. His headquarters company had pulled out removable
partitions and turned four rooms into one, and moved in enough screens
and teleprinters and photoprint machines and computers to have outfitted
the main newsroom of _Planetwide News_. The place had the feel of a
newsroom--a newsroom after a big story has broken and the 'cast has gone
on the air and everybody--in this case about twenty Terran officers and
non-coms, half women--standing about watching screens and smoking and
thinking about getting a follow-up ready.

Gonzales himself was relaxing in Sanders' business-room, with his belt
off and his tunic open. He had black eyes and black hair and mustache,
and a slightly equine face that went well with his Old Terran Spanish
name. There was another officer with him, considerably younger--Captain
Foxx Travis, Major General Maith's aide.

"Well, is there anything we can do for you, Miles?" Gonzales asked,
after they had exchanged greetings and sat down.

"Why, could I have your final situation-progress map? And would you be
willing to make a statement on audio-visual." He looked at his watch.
"We have about twenty minutes before the 'cast."

"You have a map," Gonzales said, as though he were walking tiptoe from
one word to another. "It accurately represents the situation as of the
moment, but I'm afraid some minor unavoidable inaccuracies may have
crept in while marking the positions and times for the earlier phases of
the operation. I teleprinted a copy to _Planetwide_ along with the one I
sent to Division Headquarters."

He understood about that and nodded. Gonzales was zipping up his tunic
and putting on his belt and sidearm. That told him, before the brigadier
general spoke again, that he was agreeable to the audio-visual
appearance and statement. He called the recording studio at _Planetwide_
while Gonzales was inspecting himself in the mirror and told them to get
set for a recording. It only ran a few minutes; Gonzales, speaking
without notes, gave a brief description of the operation.

"At present," he concluded, "we have every native village and every
plantation and trading-post within two hundred miles of the Sanders
plantation occupied. We feel that this swarming has been definitely
stopped, but we will continue the occupation for at least the next
hundred to two hundred hours. In the meantime, the natives in the
occupied villages are being put to work building shelters for themselves
against the anticipated storms."

"I hadn't heard about that," Miles said, as the general returned to his
chair and picked up his drink again.

"Yes. They'll need something better than these thatched huts when the
storms start, and working on them will keep them out of mischief.
Standard megaton-kilometer field shelters, earth and log construction. I
think they'll be adequate for anything that happens at periastron."

Anything designed to resist the heat, blast and radiation effects of a
megaton thermonuclear bomb at a kilometer ought to stand up under what
was coming. At least, the periastron effects; there was another angle to
it.

"The Native Welfare Commission isn't going to take kindly to that.
That's supposed to be their job."

"Then why the devil haven't they done it?" Gonzales demanded angrily.
"I've viewed every native village in this area by screen, and I haven't
seen one that's equipped with anything better than those log
storage-bins against the stockades."

"There was a project to provide shelters for the periastron storms set
up ten years ago. They spent one year arguing about how the natives
survived storms prior to the Terrans' arrival here. According to the
older natives, they got into those log storage-houses you were
mentioning; only about one out of three in any village survived. I could
have told them that. Did tell them, repeatedly, on the air. Then, after
they decided that shelters were needed, they spent another year hassling
over who would be responsible for designing them. Your predecessor here,
General Nokami, offered the services of his engineer officers. He was
frostily informed that this was a humanitarian and not a military
project."


Ramón Gonzales began swearing, then apologized for the interruption.
"Then what?" he asked.

"Apology unnecessary. Then they did get a shelter designed, and started
teaching some of the students at the native schools how to build them,
and then the meteorologists told them it was no good. It was a dugout
shelter; the weathermen said there'd be rainfall measured in meters
instead of inches and anybody who got caught in one of those dugouts
would be drowned like a rat."

"Ha, I thought of that one." Gonzales said. "My shelters are going to be
mounded up eight feet above the ground."

"What did they do then?" Foxx Travis wanted to know.

"There the matter rested. As far as I know, nothing has been done on it
since."

"And you think, with a disgraceful record of non-accomplishment like
that, that they'll protest General Gonzales' action on purely
jurisdictional grounds?" Travis demanded.

"Not jurisdictional grounds, Foxx. The general's going at this the wrong
way. He actually knows what has to be done and how to do it, and he's
going right ahead and doing it, without holding a dozen conferences and
round-table discussions and giving everybody a fair and equal chance to
foul things up for him. You know as well as I do that that's
undemocratic. And what's worse, he's making the natives build them
themselves, whether they want to or not, and that's forced labor. That
reminds me; has anybody started raising the devil about those Kwanns
from Qualpha's and Darshat's you brought here and Paul put to work?"

Gonzales looked at Travis and then said: "Not with me. Not yet, anyhow."

"They've been at General Maith," Travis said shortly. After a moment,
he added: "General Maith supports General Gonzales completely; that's
for publication. I'm authorized to say so. What else was there to do?
They'd burned their villages and all their food stores. They had to be
placed somewhere. And why in the name of reason should they sit around
in the shade eating Government native-type rations while Paul Sanders
has fifty to a hundred thousand sols' worth of crystals dying on him?"

"Yes; that's another thing they'll scream about. Paul's making a profit
out of it."

"Of course he's making a profit," Gonzales said. "Why else is he running
a plantation? If planters didn't make profits, who'd grow biocrystals?"

"The Colonial Government. The same way they built those storm-shelters.
But that would be in the public interest, and if the Kwanns weren't
public-spirited enough to do the work, they'd be made to--at about half
what planters like Sanders are paying them now. But don't you realize
that profit is sordid and dishonest and selfish? Not at all like drawing
a salary-cum-expense-account from the Government."

"You're right, it isn't," Gonzales agreed. "People like Paul Sanders
have ability. If they don't, they don't stay in business. You have
ability and people who don't never forgive you for it. Your very
existence is a constant reproach to them."

"That's right. And they can't admit your ability without admitting their
own inferiority, so it isn't ability at all. It's just dirty underhanded
trickery and selfish ruthlessness." He thought for a moment. "How did
Government House find out about these Kwanns here?"

"The Welfare Commission had people out while I was still setting up
headquarters," Gonzales said. "That was about oh-seven-hundred."

"This isn't for publication?" Travis asked. "Well, they know, but they
can't prove, that our given reason for moving in here in force is false.
Of course, we can't change our story now; that's why the
situation-progress map that was prepared for publication is incorrect as
to the earlier phases. They do not know that it was you who gave us our
first warning; they ascribe that to Sanders. And they are claiming that
there never was any swarming; according to them, Sanders' natives are
striking for better pay and conditions, and Sanders got General Maith to
use troops to break the strike. I wish we could give you credit for
putting us onto this, but it's too late now."

He nodded. The story was that a battalion of infantry had been sent in
to rescue a small detail under attack by natives, and that more troops
had been sent in to re-enforce them, until the whole of Gonzales'
brigade had been committed.

"That wasted an hour, at the start," Gonzales said. "We lost two native
villages burned, and about two dozen casualties, because we couldn't get
our full strength in soon enough."

"You'd have lost more than that if Maith had told the governor general
the truth and requested orders to act. There'd be a hundred villages and
a dozen plantations and trading posts burning, now, and Lord knows how
many dead, and the governor general would still be arguing about whether
he was justified in ordering troop-action." He mentioned several other
occasions when something like that had happened. "You can't tell that
kind of people the truth. They won't believe it. It doesn't agree with
their preconceptions."


Foxx Travis nodded. "I take it we are still talking for nonpublication?"
When Miles nodded, he continued: "This whole situation is baffling,
Miles. It seems that the government here knew all about the weather
conditions they could expect at periastron, and had made plans for them.
Some of them excellent plans, too, but all based on the presumption that
the natives would co-operate or at least not obstruct. You see what the
situation actually is. It should be obvious to everybody that the
behavior of these natives is nullifying everything the civil government
is trying to do to ensure the survival of the Terran colonists, the
production of Terran-type food without which we would all starve, the
biocrystal plantations without which the Colony would perish, and even
the natives themselves. Yet the Civil Government will not act to stop
these native frenzies and swarmings which endanger everything and
everybody here, and when the Army attempts to act, we must use every
sort of shabby subterfuge and deceit or the Civil Government will
prevent us. What ails these people?"

"You have the whole history of the Colony against you, Foxx," he said.
"You know, there never was any Chartered Kwannon Company set up to
exploit the resources of the planet. At first, nobody realized that there
were any resources worth exploiting. This planet was just a scientific
curiosity; it was and is still the only planet of a binary system with a
native population of sapient beings. The first people who came here were
scientists, mostly sociographers and para-anthropologists. And most of
them came from the University of Adelaide."

Travis nodded. Adelaide had a Federation-wide reputation for left-wing
neo-Marxist "liberalism."

"Well, that established the political and social orientation of the
Colonial Government, right at the start, when study of the natives was
the only business of the Colony. You know how these ideological cliques
form in a government--or any other organization. Subordinates are always
chosen for their agreement with the views of their superiors, and the
extremists always get to the top and shove the moderates under or out.
Well, the Native Affairs Administration became the tail that wagged the
Government dog, and the Native Welfare Commission is the big muscle in
the tail."

His parents hadn't been of the left-wing Adelaide clique. His mother
had been a biochemist; his father a roving news correspondent who had
drifted into trading with the natives and made a fortune in keffa-gum
before the chemists on Terra had found out how to synthesize hopkinsine.

"When the biocrystals were discovered and the plantations started, the
Government attitude was set. Biocrystal culture is just sordid money
grubbing. The real business of the Colony is to promote the betterment
of the natives, as defined in University of Adelaide terms. That's to
say, convert them into ersatz Terrans. You know why General Maith
ordered these shoonoon rounded up?"

Travis made a face. "Governor general Kovac insisted on it; General
Maith thought that a few minor concessions would help him on his main
objective, which was keeping a swarming from starting out here."

"Yes. The Commissioner of Native Welfare wanted that done, mainly at the
urging of the Director of Economic, Educational and Technical
Assistance. The EETA crowd don't like shoonoon. They have been trying,
ever since their agency was set up, to undermine and destroy their
influence with the natives. This looked like a good chance to get rid of
some of them."

Travis nodded. "Yes. And as soon as the disturbances in Bluelake
started, the Constabulary started rounding them up there, too, and at
the evacuee cantonments. They got about fifty of them, mostly from the
cantonments east of the city--the natives brought in from the flooded
tidewater area. They just dumped the lot of them onto us. We have them
penned up in a lorry-hangar on the military reservation now." He turned
to Gonzales. "How many do you think you'll gather up out here, general?"
he asked.

"I'd say about a hundred and fifty, when we have them all."

Travis groaned. "We can't keep all of them in that hangar, and we don't
have anywhere else--"

Sometimes a new idea sneaked up on Miles, rubbing against him and
purring like a cat. Sometimes one hit him like a sledgehammer. This one
just seemed to grow inside him.

"Foxx, you know I have the top three floors of the Suzikami Building;
about five hundred hours ago, I leased the fourth and fifth floors,
directly below. I haven't done anything with them, yet; they're just as
they were when Trans-Space Imports moved out. There are ample water,
light, power, air-conditioning and toilet facilities, and they can be
sealed off completely from the rest of the building. If General Maith's
agreeable, I'll take his shoonoon off his hands."

"What in blazes will you do with them?"

"Try a little experiment in psychological warfare. At minimum, we may
get a little better insight into why these natives think the Last Hot
Time is coming. At best, we may be able to stop the whole thing and get
them quieted down again."

"Even the minimum's worth trying for," Travis said. "What do you have in
mind, Miles? I mean, what procedure?"

"Well, I'm not quite sure, yet." That was a lie; he was very sure. He
didn't think it was quite time to be specific, though. "I'll have to
size up my material a little, before I decide on what to do with it.
Whatever happens, it won't hurt the shoonoon, and it won't make any more
trouble than arresting them has made already. I'm sure we can learn
something from them, at least."

Travis nodded. "General Maith is very much impressed with your grasp of
native psychology," he said. "What happened out here this morning was
exactly as you predicted. Whatever my recommendation's worth, you have
it. Can you trust your native driver to take your car back to Bluelake
alone?"

"Yes, of course."

"Then suppose you ride in with me in my car. We'll talk about it on the
way in, and go see General Maith at once."


Bluelake was peaceful as they flew in over it, but it was an uneasy
peace. They began running into military contragravity twenty miles
beyond the open farmlands--they were the chlorophyll green of Terran
vegetation--and the natives at work in the fields were being watched by
more military and police vehicles. The carniculture plants, where
Terran-type animal tissue was grown in nutrient-vats, were even more
heavily guarded, and the native city was being patroled from above and
the streets were empty, even of the hordes of native children who
usually played in them.

The Terran city had no streets. Its dwellers moved about on
contragravity, and tall buildings rose, singly or in clumps, among the
landing-staged residences and the green transplanted trees. There was a
triple wire fence around it, the inner one masked by vines and the
middle one electrified, with warning lights on. Even a government
dedicated to the betterment of the natives and unwilling to order
military action against them was, it appeared, unwilling to take too
many chances.

Major General Denis Maith, the Federation Army commander on Kwannon, was
considerably more than willing to find a temporary home for his witch
doctors, now numbering close to two hundred. He did insist that they be
kept under military guard, and on assigning his aide, Captain Travis, to
co-operate on the project. Beyond that, he gave Miles a free hand.

Miles and Travis got very little rest in the next ten hours. A
half-company of engineer troops was also kept busy, as were a number of
Kwannon Planetwide News technicians and some Terran and native mechanics
borrowed from different private business concerns in the city. Even the
most guarded hints of what he had in mind were enough to get this last
co-operation; he had been running a news-service in Bluelake long enough
to have the confidence of the business people.

He tried, as far as possible, to keep any intimation of what was going
on from Government House. That, unfortunately, hadn't been far enough.
He found that out when General Maith was on his screen, in the middle of
the work on the fourth and fifth floors of the Suzikami Building.

"The governor general just screened me," Maith said. "He's in a tizzy
about our shoonoon. Claims that keeping them in the Suzikami Building
will endanger the whole Terran city."

"Is that the best he can do? Well, that's rubbish, and he knows it.
There are less than two hundred of them, I have them on the fifth floor,
twenty stories above the ground, and the floor's completely sealed off
from the floor below. They can't get out, and I have tanks of sleep-gas
all over the place which can be opened either individually or all
together from a switch on the fourth floor, where your sepoys are
quartered."

"I know, Mr. Gilbert; I screen-viewed the whole installation. I've seen
regular maximum-security prisons that would be easier to get out of."

"Governor general Kovac is not objecting personally. He has been
pressured into it by this Native Welfare government-within-the-Government.
They don't know what I'm doing with those shoonoon, but whatever it is,
they're afraid of it."

"Well, for the present," Maith said, "I think I'm holding them off. The
Civil Government doesn't want the responsibility of keeping them in
custody, I refused to assume responsibility for them if they were kept
anywhere else, and Kovac simply won't consider releasing them, so that
leaves things as they are. I did have to make one compromise, though."
That didn't sound good. It sounded less so when Maith continued: "They
insisted on having one of their people at the Suzikami Building as an
observer. I had to grant that."

"That's going to mean trouble."

"Oh, I shouldn't think so. This observer will observe, and nothing else.
She will take no part in anything you're doing, will voice no
objections, and will not interrupt anything you are saying to the
shoonoon. I was quite firm on that, and the governor general agreed
completely."

"She?"

"Yes. A Miss Edith Shaw; do you know anything about her?"

"I've met her a few times; cocktail parties and so on." She was young
enough, and new enough to Kwannon, not to have a completely indurated
mind. On the other hand, she was EETA which was bad, and had a master's
in sociography from Adelaide, which was worse. "When can I look for
her?"

"Well, the governor general's going to screen me and find out when
you'll have the shoonoon on hand."

Doesn't want to talk to me at all, Miles thought. Afraid he might say
something and get quoted.

"For your information, they'll be here inside an hour. They will have to
eat, and they're all tired and sleepy. I should say 'bout
oh-eight-hundred. Oh, and will you tell the governor general to tell
Miss Shaw to bring an overnight kit with her. She's going to need it."


He was up at 0400, just a little after Beta-rise. He might be a
civilian big-wheel in an Army psychological warfare project, but he
still had four newscasts a day to produce. He spent a couple of hours
checking the 0600 'cast and briefing Harry Walsh for the indeterminate
period in which he would be acting chief editor and producer. At 0700,
Foxx Travis put in an appearance. They went down to the fourth floor, to
the little room they had fitted out as command-post, control room and
office for Operation Shoonoo.

There was a rectangular black traveling-case, initialed E. S., beside
the open office door. Travis nodded at it, and they grinned at one
another; she'd come early, possibly hoping to catch them hiding
something they didn't want her to see. Entering the office quietly, they
found her seated facing the big viewscreen, smoking and watching a
couple of enlisted men of the First Kwannon Native Infantry at work in
another room where the pickup was. There were close to a dozen
lipstick-tinted cigarette butts in the ashtray beside her. Her private
face wasn't particularly happy. Maybe she was being earnest and
concerned about the betterment of the underpriviledged, or the satanic
maneuvers of the selfish planters.

Then she realized that somebody had entered; with a slight start, she
turned, then rose. She was about the height of Foxx Travis, a few inches
shorter than Miles, and slender. Light blond; green suit costume. She
ditched her private face and got on her public one, a pleasant and
deferential smile, with a trace of uncertainty behind it. Miles
introduced Travis, and they sat down again facing the screen.

It gave a view, from one of the long sides and near the ceiling, of a
big room. In the center, a number of seats--the drum-shaped cushions the
natives had adopted in place of the seats carved from sections of tree
trunk that they had been using when the Terrans had come to
Kwannon--were arranged in a semicircle, one in the middle slightly in
advance of the others. Facing them were three armchairs, a
remote-control box beside one and another Kwann cushion behind and
between the other two. There was a large globe of Kwannon, and on the
wall behind the chairs an array of viewscreens.

"There'll be an interpreter, a native Army sergeant, between you and
Captain Travis," he said. "I don't know how good you are with native
languages, Miss Shaw; the captain is not very fluent."

"Cushions for them, I see, and chairs for the lordly Terrans," she
commented. "Never miss a chance to rub our superiority in, do you?"

"I never deliberately force them to adopt our ways," he replied. "Our
chairs are as uncomfortable for them as their low seats are for us.
Difference, you know, doesn't mean inferiority or superiority. It just
means difference."

"Well, what are you trying to do, here?"

"I'm trying to find out a little more about the psychology back of
these frenzies and swarmings."

"It hasn't occurred to you to look for them in the economic wrongs these
people are suffering at the hands of the planters and traders, I
suppose."

"So they're committing suicide, and that's all you can call these
swarmings, and the fire-frenzies in the south, from economic motives,"
Travis said. "How does one better oneself economically by dying?"

She ignored the question, which was easier than trying to answer it.


"And why are you bothering to talk to these witch doctors? They aren't
representative of the native people. They're a lot of cynical
charlatans, with a vested interest in ignorance and superstition--"

"Miss Shaw, for the past eight centuries, earnest souls have been
bewailing the fact that progress in the social sciences has always
lagged behind progress in the physical sciences. I would suggest that
the explanation might be in difference of approach. The physical
scientist works _with_ physical forces, even when he is trying, as in
the case of contragravity, to nullify them. The social scientist works
_against_ social forces."

"And the result's usually a miserable failure, even on the
physical-accomplishment level," Foxx Travis added. "This storm shelter
project that was set up ten years ago and got nowhere, for instance.
Ramón Gonzales set up a shelter project of his own seventy-five hours
ago, and he's half through with it now."

"Yes, by forced labor!"

"Field surgery's brutal, too, especially when the anaesthetics run out.
It's better than letting your wounded die, though."

"Well, we were talking about these shoonoon. They are a force among the
natives; that can't be denied. So, since we want to influence the
natives, why not use them?"

"Mr. Gilbert, these shoonoon are blocking everything we are trying to do
for the natives. If you use them for propaganda work in the villages,
you will only increase their prestige and make it that much harder for
us to better the natives' condition, both economically and
culturally--"

"That's it, Miles," Travis said. "She isn't interested in facts about
specific humanoid people on Kwannon. She has a lot of high-order
abstractions she got in a classroom at Adelaide on Terra."

"No. Her idea of bettering the natives' condition is to rope in a lot of
young Kwanns, put them in Government schools, overload them with
information they aren't prepared to digest, teach them to despise their
own people, and then send them out to the villages, where they behave
with such insufferable arrogance that the wonder is that so few of them
stop an arrow or a charge of buckshot, instead of so many. And when that
happens, as it does occasionally, Welfare says they're murdered at the
instigation of the shoonoon."

"You know, Miss Shaw, this isn't just the roughneck's scorn for the
egghead," Travis said. "Miles went to school on Terra, and majored in
extraterrestrial sociography, and got a master's, just like you did. At
Montevideo," he added. "And he spent two more years traveling on a Paula
von Schlicten Fellowship."


Edith Shaw didn't say anything. She even tried desperately not to look
impressed. It occurred to him that he'd never mentioned that fellowship
to Travis. Army Intelligence must have a pretty good _dossier_ on him.
Before anybody could say anything further, a Terran captain and a native
sergeant of the First K.N.I. came in. In the screen, the four sepoys who
had been fussing around straightening things picked up auto-carbines and
posted themselves two on either side of a door across from the pickup,
taking positions that would permit them to fire into whatever came
through without hitting each other.

What came through was one hundred and eighty-four shoonoon. Some wore
robes of loose gauze strips, and some wore fire-dance cloaks of red and
yellow and orange ribbons. Many were almost completely naked, but they
were all amulet-ed to the teeth. There must have been a couple of miles
of brass and bright-alloy wire among them, and half a ton of bright
scrap-metal, and the skulls, bones, claws, teeth, tails and other
components of most of the native fauna. They debouched into the big
room, stopped, and stood looking around them. A native sergeant and a
couple more sepoys followed. They got the shoonoon over to the
semicircle of cushions, having to chase a couple of them away from the
single seat at front and center, and induced them to sit down.

The native sergeant in the little room said something under his breath;
the captain laughed. Edith Shaw gaped for an instant and said,
"_Muggawsh_!" Travis simply remarked that he'd be damned.

"They do look kind of unusual, don't they?" Miles said. "I wouldn't
doubt that this is the biggest assemblage of shoonoon in history. They
aren't exactly a gregarious lot."

"Maybe this is the beginning of a new era. First meeting of the Kwannon
Thaumaturgical Society."

A couple more K.N.I. privates came in with serving-tables on
contragravity floats and began passing bowls of a frozen native-food
delicacy of which all Kwanns had become passionately fond since its
introduction by the Terrans. He let them finish, and then, after they
had been relieved of the empty bowls, he nodded to the K.N.I. sergeant,
who opened a door on the left. They all went through into the room they
had been seeing in the screen. There was a stir when the shoonoon saw
him, and he heard his name, in its usual native mispronunciation,
repeated back and forth.

"You all know me," he said, after they were seated. "Have I ever been an
enemy to you or to the People?"

"No," one of them said. "He speaks for us to the other Terrans. When we
are wronged, he tries to get the wrongs righted. In times of famine he
has spoken of our troubles, and gifts of food have come while the
Government argued about what to do."

[Illustration]

He wished he could see Edith Shaw's face.

"There was a sickness in our village, and my magic could not cure it,"
another said. "Mailsh Heelbare gave me oomphel to cure it, and told me
how to use it. He did this privately, so that I would not be made to
look small to the people of the village."

And that had infuriated EETA; it was a question whether unofficial help
to the natives or support of the prestige of a shoonoo had angered them
more.

"His father was a trader; he gave good oomphel, and did not cheat.
Mailsh Heelbare grew up among us; he took the Manhood Test with the boys
of the village," another oldster said. "He listened with respect to the
grandfather-stories. No, Mailsh Heelbare is not our enemy. He is our
friend."

"And so I will prove myself now," he told them. "The Government is angry
with the People, but I will try to take their anger away, and in the
meantime I am permitted to come here and talk with you. Here is a chief
of soldiers, and one of the Government people, and your words will be
heard by the oomphel machine that remembers and repeats, for the
Governor and the Great Soldier Chief."

They all brightened. To make a voice recording was a wonderful honor.
Then one of them said:

"But what good will that do now? The Last Hot Time is here. Let us be
permitted to return to our villages, where our people need us."

"It is of that that I wish to speak. But first of all, I must hear your
words, and know what is in your minds. Who is the eldest among you? Let
him come forth and sit in the front, where I may speak with him."


Then he relaxed while they argued in respectfully subdued voices.
Finally one decrepit oldster, wearing a cloak of yellow ribbons and
carrying a highly obscene and ineffably sacred wooden image, was brought
forward and installed on the front-and-center cushion. He'd come from
some village to the west that hadn't gotten the word of the swarming;
Gonzales' men had snagged him while he was making crop-fertility magic.

Miles showed him the respect due his advanced age and obviously great
magical powers, displaying, as he did, an understanding of the regalia.

"I have indeed lived long," the old shoonoo replied. "I saw the Hot Time
before; I was a child of so high." He measured about two and a half feet
off the floor; that would make him ninety-five or thereabouts. "I
remember it."

"Speak to us, then. Tell us of the Gone Ones, and of the Sky Fire, and
of the Last Hot Time. Speak as though you alone knew these things, and
as though you were teaching me."

Delighted, the oldster whooshed a couple of times to clear his outlets
and began:

"In the long-ago time, there was only the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit
made the World, and he made the People. In that time, there were no more
People in the World than would be in one village, now. The Gone Ones
dwelt among them, and spoke to them as I speak to you. Then, as more
People were born, and died and went to join the Gone Ones, the Gone Ones
became many, and they went away and build a place for themselves, and
built the Sky Fire around it, and in the Place of the Gone Ones, at the
middle of the Sky Fire, it is cool. From their place in the Sky Fire,
the Gone Ones send wisdom to the people in dreams.

"The Sky Fire passes across the sky, from east to west, as the
Always-Same does, but it is farther away than the Always-Same, because
sometimes the Always Same passes in front of it, but the Sky Fire never
passes in front of the Always-Same. None of the grandfather-stories, not
even the oldest, tell of a time when this happened.

"Sometimes the Sky Fire is big and bright; that is when the Gone Ones
feast and dance. Sometimes it is smaller and dimmer; then the Gone Ones
rest and sleep. Sometimes it is close, and there is a Hot Time;
sometimes it goes far away, and then there is a Cool Time.

"Now, the Last Hot Time has come. The Sky Fire will come closer and
closer, and it will pass the Always-Same, and then it will burn up the
World. Then will be a new World, and the Gone Ones will return, and the
People will be given new bodies. When this happens, the Sky Fire will go
out, and the Gone Ones will live in the World again with the People; the
Gone Ones will make great magic and teach wisdom as I teach to you, and
will no longer have to send dreams. In that time the crops will grow
without planting or tending or the work of women; in that time, the game
will come into the villages to be killed in the gathering-places. There
will be no more hunger and no more hard work, and no more of the People
will die or be slain. And that time is now here," he finished. "All the
People know this."

"Tell me, Grandfather; how is this known? There have been many Hot Times
before. Why should this one be the Last Hot Time?"

"The Terrans have come, and brought oomphel into the World," the old
shoonoo said. "It is a sign."

"It was not prophesied beforetime. None of the People had prophesies of
the coming of the Terrans. I ask you, who were the father of children
and the grandfather of children's children when the Terrans came; was
there any such prophesy?"


The old shoonoo was silent, turning his pornographic ikon in his hands
and looked at it.

"No," he admitted, at length. "Before the Terrans came, there were no
prophesies among the People of their coming. Afterward, of course, there
were many such prophesies, but there were none before."

"That is strange. When a happening is a sign of something to come, it is
prophesied beforetime." He left that seed of doubt alone to grow, and
continued: "Now, Grandfather, speak to us about what the People believe
concerning the Terrans."

"The Terrans came to the World when my eldest daughter bore her first
child," the old shoonoo said. "They came in great round ships, such as
come often now, but which had never before been seen. They said that
they came from another world like the World of People, but so far away
that even the Sky Fire could not be seen from it. They still say this,
and many of the People believe it, but it is not real.

"At first, it was thought that the Terrans were great shoonoon who made
powerful magic, but this is not real either. The Terrans have no magic
and no wisdom of their own. All they have is the oomphel, and the
oomphel works magic for them and teaches them their wisdom. Even in the
schools which the Terrans have made for the People, it is the oomphel
which teaches." He went on to describe, not too incorrectly, the
reading-screens and viewscreens and audio-visual equipment. "Nor do the
Terrans make the oomphel, as they say. The oomphel makes more oomphel
for them."

"Then where did the Terrans get the first oomphel?"

"They stole it from the Gone Ones," the old shoonoo replied. "The Gone
Ones make it in their place in the middle of the Sky Fire, for
themselves and to give to the People when they return. The Terrans stole
it from them. For this reason, there is much hatred of the Terrans among
the People. The Terrans live in the Dark Place, under the World, where
the Sky Fire and the Always-Same go when they are not in the sky. It is
there that the Terrans get the oomphel from the Gone Ones, and now they
have come to the World, and they are using oomphel to hold back the
Sky-Fire and keep it beyond the Always-Same so that the Last Hot Time
will not come and the Gone Ones will not return. For this reason, too,
there is much hatred of the Terrans among the People."

"Grandfather, if this were real there would be good reason for such
hatred, and I would be ashamed for what my people had done and were
doing. But it is not real." He had to rise and hold up his hands to
quell the indignant outcry "Have any of you known me to tell not-real
things and try to make the People act as though they were real? Then
trust me in this. I will show you real things, which you will all see,
and I will give you great secrets, which it is now time for you to have
and use for the good of the People. Even the greatest secret," he added.

There was a pause of a few seconds. Then they burst out, in a hundred
and eighty-four--no, three hundred and sixty eight--voices:

_"The Oomphel Secret, Mailsh Heelbare?"_

He nodded slowly. "Yes. The Oomphel Secret will be given."

He leaned back and relaxed again while they were getting over the
excitement. Foxx Travis looked at him apprehensively.

"Rushing things, aren't you? What are you going to tell them?"

"Oh, a big pack of lies, I suppose," Edith Shaw said scornfully.

Behind her and Travis, the native noncom interpreter was muttering
something in his own language that translated roughly as: "This better
be good!"

The shoonoon had quieted, now, and were waiting breathlessly.

"But if the Oomphel Secret is given, what will become of the shoonoon?"
he asked. "You, yourselves, say that we Terrans have no need for magic,
because the oomphel works magic for us. This is real. If the People get
the Oomphel Secret, how much need will they have for you shoonoon?"

Evidently that hadn't occurred to them before. There was a brief flurry
of whispered--whooshed, rather--conversation, and then they were silent
again. The eldest shoonoo said:

"We trust you, Mailsh Heelbare. You will do what is best for the People,
and you will not let us be thrown out like broken pots, either."

"No, I will not," he promised. "The Oomphel Secret will be given to you
shoonoon." He thought for a moment of Foxx Travis' joking remark about
the Kwannon Thaumaturgical Society. "You have been jealous of one
another, each keeping his own secrets," he said. "This must be put away.
You will all receive the Oomphel Secret equally, for the good of all the
People. You must all swear brotherhood, one with another, and later if
any other shoonoo comes to you for the secret, you must swear
brotherhood with him and teach it to him. Do you agree to this?"


The eldest shoonoo rose to his feet, begged leave, and then led the
others to the rear of the room, where they went into a huddle. They
didn't stay huddled long; inside of ten minutes they came back and took
their seats.

"We are agreed, Mailsh Heelbare," the spokesman said.

Edith Shaw was impressed, more than by anything else she had seen.
"Well, that was a quick decision!" she whispered.

"You have done well, Grandfathers. You will not be thrown out by the
People like broken pots; you will be greater among them than ever. I
will show you how this will be.

"But first, I must speak around the Oomphel Secret." He groped briefly
for a comprehensible analogy, and thought of a native vegetable, layered
like an onion, with a hard kernel in the middle. "The Oomphel Secret is
like a fooshkoot. There are many lesser secrets around it, each of which
must be peeled off like the skins of a fooshkoot and eaten. Then you
will find the nut in the middle."

"But the nut of the fooshkoot is bitter," somebody said.

He nodded, slowly and solemnly. "The nut of the fooshkoot is bitter," he
agreed.

They looked at one another, disquieted by his words. Before anybody
could comment, he was continuing:

"Before this secret is given, there are things to be learned. You would
not understand it if I gave it to you now. You believe many not-real
things which must be chased out of your minds, otherwise they would
spoil your understanding."

That was verbatim what they told adolescents before giving them the
Manhood Secret. Some of them huffed a little; most of them laughed. Then
one called out: "Speak on, Grandfather of Grandfathers," and they all
laughed. That was fine, it had been about time for teacher to crack his
little joke. Now he became serious again.

"The first of these not-real things you must chase from your mind is
this which you believe about the home of the Terrans. It is not real
that they come from the Dark Place under the World. There is no Dark
Place under the World."

Bedlam for a few seconds; that was a pretty stiff jolt. No Dark Place;
who ever heard of such a thing? The eldest shoonoo rose, cradling his
graven image in his arms, and the noise quieted.

"Mailsh Heelbare, if there is no Dark Place where do the Sky Fire and
the Always-Same go when they are not in the sky?"

"They never leave the sky; the World is round, and there is sky
everywhere around it."

They knew that, or had at least heard it, since the Terrans had come.
They just couldn't believe it. It was against common sense. The oldest
shoonoo said as much, and more:

"These young ones who have gone to the Terran schools have come to the
villages with such tales, but who listens to them? They show disrespect
for the chiefs and the elders, and even for the shoonoon. They mock at
the Grandfather-stories. They say men should do women's work and women
do no work at all. They break taboos, and cause trouble. They are
fools."

"Am I a fool, Grandfather? Do I mock at the old stories, or show
disrespect to elders and shoonoon? Yet I, Mailsh Heelbare, tell you
this. The World is indeed round, and I will show you."

The shoonoo looked contemptuously at the globe. "I have seen those
things," he said. "That is not the World; that is only a make-like." He
held up his phallic wood-carving. "I could say that this is a make-like
of the World, but that would not make it so."

"I will show you for real. We will all go in a ship." He looked at his
watch. "The Sky Fire is about to set. We will follow it all around the
world to the west, and come back here from the east, and the Sky Fire
will still be setting when we return. If I show you that, will you
believe me?"

"If you show us for real, and it is not a trick, we will have to believe
you."


When they emerged from the escalators, Alpha was just touching the
western horizon, and Beta was a little past zenith. The ship was moored
on contragravity beside the landing stage, her gangplank run out. The
shoonoon, who had gone up ahead, had all stopped short and were staring
at her; then they began gabbling among themselves, overcome by the
wonder of being about to board such a monster and ride on her. She was
the biggest ship any of them had ever seen. Maybe a few of them had been
on small freighters; many of them had never been off the ground. They
didn't look or act like cynical charlatans or implacable enemies of
progress and enlightenment. They were more like a lot of schoolboys
whose teacher is taking them on a surprise outing.

"Bet this'll be the biggest day in their lives," Travis said.

"Oh, sure. This'll be a grandfather-story ten generations from now."

"I can't get over the way they made up their minds, down there," Edith
Shaw was saying. "Why, they just went and talked for a few minutes and
came back with a decision."

They hadn't any organization, or any place to maintain on an
organizational pecking-order. Nobody was obliged to attack anybody
else's proposition in order to keep up his own status. He thought of the
Colonial Government taking ten years not to build those storm-shelters.

Foxx Travis was commenting on the ship, now:

"I never saw that ship before; didn't know there was anything like that
on the planet. Why, you could lift a whole regiment, with supplies and
equipment--"

"She's been laid up for the last five years, since the heat and the
native troubles stopped the tourist business here. She's the old
_Hesperus_. Excursion craft. This sun-chasing trip we're going to make
used to be a must for tourists here."

"I thought she was something like that, with all the glassed
observation deck forward. Who's the owner?"

"Kwannon Air Transport, Ltd. I told them what I needed her for, and they
made her available and furnished officers and crew and provisions for
the trip. They were working to put her in commission while we were
fitting up the fourth and fifth floors, downstairs."

"You just asked for that ship, and they just let you have it?" Edith
Shaw was incredulous and shocked. They wouldn't have done that for the
Government.

"They want to see these native troubles stopped, too. Bad for business.
You know; selfish profit-move. That's another social force it's a good
idea to work with instead of against."

The shoonoon were getting aboard, now, shepherded by the K.N.I. officer
and a couple of his men and some of the ship's crew. A couple of sepoys
were lugging the big globe that had been brought up from below after
them. Everybody assembled on the forward top observation deck, and Miles
called for attention and, finally, got it. He pointed out the three
viewscreens mounted below the bridge, amidships. One on the left, was
tuned to a pickup on the top of the Air Terminal tower, where the Terran
city, the military reservation and the spaceport met. It showed the view
to the west, with Alpha on the horizon. The one on the right, from the
same point, gave a view in the opposite direction, to the east. The
middle screen presented a magnified view of the navigational globe on
the bridge.

Viewscreens were no novelty to the shoonoon. They were a very familiar
type of oomphel. He didn't even need to do more than tell them that the
little spot of light on the globe would show the position of the ship.
When he was sure that they understood that they could see what was
happening in Bluelake while they were away, he called the bridge and
ordered Up Ship, telling the officer on duty to hold her at five
thousand feet.

The ship rose slowly, turning toward the setting M-giant. Somebody
called attention that the views in the screens weren't changing.
Somebody else said:

"Of course not. What we see for real changes because the ship is moving.
What we see in the screens is what the oomphel on the big building sees,
and it does not move. That is for real as the oomphel sees it."

"Nice going," Edith said. "Your class has just discovered relativity."
Travis was looking at the eastward viewscreen. He stepped over beside
Miles and lowered his voice.

"Trouble over there to the east of town. Big swarm of combat
contragravity working on something on the ground. And something's on
fire, too."

"I see it."

"That's where those evacuees are camped. Why in blazes they had to bring
them here to Bluelake--"

That had been EETA, too. When the solar tides had gotten high enough to
flood the coastal area, the natives who had been evacuated from the
district had been brought here because the Native Education people
wanted them exposed to urban influences. About half of the shoonoon who
had been rounded up locally had come in from the tide-inundated area.

"Parked right in the middle of the Terran-type food production area,"
Travis was continuing.

That was worrying him. Maybe he wasn't used to planets where the
biochemistry wasn't Terra-type and a Terran would be poisoned or, at
best, starve to death, on the local food; maybe, as a soldier he knew
how fragile even the best logistics system can be. It was something to
worry about. Travis excused himself and went off in the direction of the
bridge. Going to call HQ and find out what was happening.


Excitement among the shoonoon; they had spotted the ship on which they
were riding in the westward screen. They watched it until it had
vanished from "sight of the seeing-oomphel," and by then were over the
upland forests from whence they had been brought to Bluelake. Now and
then one of them would identify his own village, and that would start
more excitement.

Three infantry troop-carriers and a squadron of air cavalry were rushing
past the eastward pickup in the right hand screen; another fire had
started in the trouble area.

The crowd that had gathered around the globe that had been brought
aboard began calling for Mailsh Heelbare to show them how they would go
around the world and what countries they would pass over. Edith
accompanied him and listened while he talked to them. She was bubbling
with happy excitement, now. It had just dawned on her that shoonoon were
fun.

None of them had ever seen the mountains along the western side of the
continent except from a great distance. Now they were passing over them;
the ship had to gain altitude and even then make a detour around one
snow-capped peak. The whole hundred and eighty-four rushed to the
starboard side to watch it as they passed. The ocean, half an hour
later, started a rush forward. The score or so of them from the
Tidewater knew what an ocean was, but none of them had known that there
was another one to the west. Miles' view of the education program of the
EETA, never bright at best, became even dimmer. _The young men who have
gone to the Terran schools ... who listens to them? They are fools._

There were a few islands off the coast; the shoonoon identified them on
the screen globe, and on the one on deck. Some of them wanted to know
why there wasn't a spot of light on this globe, too. It didn't have the
oomphel inside to do that; that was a satisfactory explanation. Edith
started to explain about the orbital beacon-stations off-planet and the
radio beams, and then stopped.

"I'm sorry; I'm not supposed to say anything to them," she apologized.

"Oh, that's all right. I wouldn't go into all that, though. We don't
want to overload them."

She asked permission, a little later, to explain why the triangle tip
of the arctic continent, which had begun to edge into sight on the
screen globe, couldn't be seen from the ship. When he told her to go
ahead, she got a platinum half-sol piece from her purse, held it on the
globe from the classroom and explained about the curvature and told them
they could see nothing farther away than the circle the coin covered. It
was beginning to look as though the psychological-warfare experiment
might show another, unexpected, success.

[Illustration]

There was nothing, after the islands passed, but a lot of empty water.
The shoonoon were getting hungry, but they refused to go below to eat.
They were afraid they might miss something. So their dinner was brought
up on deck for them. Miles and Travis and Edith went to the officers'
dining room back of the bridge. Edith, by now, was even more excited
than the shoonoon.

"They're so anxious to learn!" She was having trouble adjusting to that;
that was dead against EETA doctrine. "But why wouldn't they listen to
the teachers we sent to the villages?"

"You heard old Shatresh--the fellow with the pornographic sculpture and
the yellow robe. These young twerps act like fools, and sensible people
don't pay any attention to fools. What's more, they've been sent out
indoctrinated with the idea that shoonoon are a lot of lying old fakes,
and the shoonoon resent that. You know, they're not lying old fakes.
Within their limitations, they are honest and ethical professional
people."

"Oh, come, now! I know, I think they're sort of wonderful, but let's
don't give them too much credit."

"I'm not. You're doing that."

"_Huh?_" She looked at him in amazement. "Me?"


"Yes, you. You know better than to believe in magic, so you expect them
to know better, too. Well, they don't. You know that under the
macroscopic world-of-the senses there exists a complex of biological,
chemical and physical phenomena down to the subnucleonic level. They
realize that there must be something beyond what they can see and
handle, but they think it's magic. Well, as a race, so did we until only
a few centuries pre-atomic. These people are still lower Neolithic, a
hunting people who have just learned agriculture. Where we were twenty
thousand years ago.

"You think any glib-talking Kwann can hang a lot of rags, bones and old
iron onto himself, go through some impromptu mummery, and set up as
shoonoo? Well, he can't. The shoonoon are a hereditary caste. A shoonoo
father will begin teaching his son as soon as he can walk and talk, and
he keeps on teaching him till he's the age-equivalent of a graduate M.D.
or a science Ph. D."

"Well, what all is there to learn--?"

"The theoretical basis and practical applications of sympathetic magic.
Action-at-a-distance by one object upon another. Homeopathic magic: the
principle that things which resemble one another will interact. For
instance, there's an animal the natives call a shynph. It has an
excrescence of horn on its brow like an arrowhead, and it arches its
back like a bow when it jumps. Therefore, a shynph is equal to a bow and
arrow, and for that reason the Kwanns made their bowstrings out of
shynph-gut. Now they use tensilon because it won't break as easily or
get wet and stretch. So they have to turn the tensilon into shynph-gut.
They used to do that by drawing a picture of a shynph on the spool, and
then the traders began labeling the spools with pictures of shynph. I
think my father was one of the first to do that.

"Then, there's contagious magic. Anything that's been part of anything
else or come in contact with it will interact permanently with it. I
wish I had a sol for every time I've seen a Kwann pull the wad out of a
shot-shell, pick up a pinch of dirt from the footprint of some animal
he's tracking, put it in among the buckshot, and then crimp the wad in
again.

"Everything a Kwann does has some sort of magical implications. It's
the shoonoo's business to know all this; to be able to tell just what
magical influences have to be produced, and what influences must be
avoided. And there are circumstances in which magic simply will not
work, even in theory. The reason is that there is some powerful
counter-influence at work. He has to know when he can't use magic, and
he has to be able to explain why. And when he's theoretically able to do
something by magic, he has to have a plausible explanation why it won't
produce results--just as any highly civilized and ethical Terran M.D.
has to be able to explain his failures to the satisfaction of his late
patient's relatives. Only a shoonoo doesn't get sued for malpractice; he
gets a spear stuck in him. Under those circumstances, a caste of
hereditary magicians is literally bred for quick thinking. These old
gaffers we have aboard are the intellectual top crust among the natives.
Any of them can think rings around your Government school products. As
for preying on the ignorance and credulity of the other natives, they're
only infinitesimally less ignorant and credulous themselves. But they
want to learn--from anybody who can gain their respect by respecting
them."

Edith Shaw didn't say anything in reply. She was thoughtful during the
rest of the meal, and when they were back on the observation deck he
noticed that she seemed to be looking at the shoonoon with new eyes.

In the screen-views of Bluelake, Beta had already set, and the sky was
fading; stars had begun to twinkle. There were more fires--one, close to
the city in the east, a regular conflagration--and fighting had broken
out in the native city itself. He was wishing now, that he hadn't
thought it necessary to use those screens. The shoonoon were noticing
what was going on in them, and talking among themselves. Travis, after
one look at the situation, hurried back to the bridge to make a
screen-call. After a while, he returned, almost crackling with
suppressed excitement.

"Well, it's finally happened! Maith's forced Kovac to declare martial
rule!" he said in an exultant undertone.

"Forced him?" Edith was puzzled. "The Army can't force the Civil
Government--"

"He threatened to do it himself. Intervene and suspend civil rule."

"But I thought only the Navy could do that."

"Any planetary commander of Armed Forces can, in a state of extreme
emergency. I think you'll both agree that this emergency is about as
extreme as they come. Kovac knew that Maith was unwilling to do it--he'd
have to stand court-martial to justify his action--but he also knew that
a governor general who has his Colony taken away from him by the Armed
Forces never gets it back; he's finished. So it was just a case of the
weaker man in the weaker position yielding."

"Where does this put us?"

"We are a civilian scientific project. You are under orders of General
Maith. I am under your orders. I don't know about Edith."

"Can I draft her, or do I have to get you to get General Maith to do
it?"

"Listen, don't do that," Edith protested. "I still have to work for
Government House, and this martial rule won't last forever. They'll all
be prejudiced against me--"

"You can shove your Government job on the air lock," Miles told her.
"You'll have a better one with Planetwide News, at half again as much
pay. And after the shakeup at Government House, about a year from now,
you may be going back as director of EETA. When they find out on Terra
just how badly this Government has been mismanaging things there'll be a
lot of vacancies."

The shoonoon had been watching the fighting in the viewscreens. Then
somebody noticed that the spot of light on the navigational globe was
approaching a coastline, and they all rushed forward for a look.


Travis and Edith slept for a while; when they returned to relieve him,
Alpha was rising to the east of Bluelake, and the fighting in the city
was still going on. The shoonoon were still wakeful and interested;
Kwanns could go without sleep for much longer periods than Terrans. The
lack of any fixed cycle of daylight and darkness on their planet had
left them unconditioned to any regular sleeping-and-waking rhythm.

"I just called in," Travis said. "Things aren't good, at all. Most of
the natives in the evacuee cantonments have gotten into the native city,
now, and they've gotten hold of a lot of firearms somehow. And they're
getting nasty in the west, beyond where Gonzales is occupying, and in
the northeast, and we only have about half enough troops to cope with
everything. The general wants to know how you're making out with the
shoonoon."

"I'll call him before I get in the sack."

He went up on the bridge and made the call. General Maith looked as
sleepy as he felt; they both yawned as they greeted each other. There
wasn't much he could tell the general, and it sounded like the glib
reassurances one gets from a hospital about a friend's condition.

"We'll check in with you as soon as we get back and get our shoonoon put
away. We understand what's motivating these frenzies, now, and in about
twenty-five to thirty hours we'll be able to start doing something about
it."

The general, in the screen, grimaced.

"That's a long time, Mr. Gilbert. Longer than we can afford to take, I'm
afraid. You're not cruising at full speed now, are you?"

"Oh, no, general. We're just trying to keep Alpha level on the horizon."
He thought for a moment. "We don't need to keep down to that. It may
make an even bigger impression if we speed up."

He went back to the observation deck, picked up the PA-phone, and called
for attention.

"You have seen, now, that we can travel around the world, so fast that
we keep up with the Sky Fire and it is not seen to set. Now we will
travel even faster, and I will show you a new wonder. I will show you
the Sky Fire rising in the west; it and the Always-Same will seem to go
backward in the sky. This will not be for real; it will only be seen so
because we will be traveling faster. Watch, now, and see." He called the
bridge for full speed, and then told them to look at the Sky-Fire and
then see in the screens where it stood over Bluelake.

That was even better; now they were racing with the Sky-Fire and
catching up to it. After half an hour he left them still excited and
whooping gleefully over the steady gain. Five hours later, when he came
back after a nap and a hasty breakfast, they were still whooping. Edith
Shaw was excited, too; the shoonoon were trying to estimate how soon
they would be back to Bluelake by comparing the position of the Sky Fire
with its position in the screen.


General Maith received them in his private office at Army HQ; Foxx
Travis mixed drinks for the four of them while the general checked the
microphones to make sure they had privacy.

"I blame myself for not having forced martial rule on them hundreds of
hours ago," he said. "I have three brigades; the one General Gonzales
had here originally, and the two I brought with me when I took over
here. We have to keep at least half a brigade in the south, to keep the
tribes there from starting any more forest fires. I can't hold Bluelake
with anything less than half a brigade. Gonzales has his hands full in
his area. He had a nasty business while you were off on that world
cruise--natives in one village caught the men stationed there off guard
and wiped them out, and then started another frenzy. It spread to two
other villages before he got it stopped. And we need the Third Brigade
in the northeast; there are three quarters of a million natives up
there, inhabiting close to a million square miles. And if anything
really breaks loose here, and what's been going on in the last few days
is nothing even approaching what a real outbreak could be like, we'll
have to pull in troops from everywhere. We must save the Terran-type
crops and the carniculture plants. If we don't, we all starve."

Miles nodded. There wasn't anything he could think of saying to that.

"How soon can you begin to show results with those shoonoon, Mr.
Gilbert?" the general asked. "You said from twenty-five to thirty hours.
Can you cut that any? In twenty-five hours, all hell could be loose all
over the continent."

Miles shook his head. "So far, I haven't accomplished anything
positive," he said. "All I did with this trip around the world was
convince them that I was telling the truth when I told them there was no
Dark Place under the World, where Alpha and Beta go at night." He
hastened, as the general began swearing, to add: "I know, that doesn't
sound like much. But it was necessary. I have to convince them that
there will be no Last Hot Time, and then--"


The shoonoon, on their drum-shaped cushions, stared at him in silence,
aghast. All the happiness over the wonderful trip in the ship, when they
had chased the Sky Fire around the World and caught it over Bluelake,
and even their pleasure in the frozen delicacies they had just eaten,
was gone.

_"No--Last--Hot--Time?"_

"Mailsh Heelbare, this is not real! It cannot be!"

"The Gone Ones--"

"The Always-Cool Time, when there will be no more hunger or hard work or
death; it cannot be real that this will never come!"

He rose, holding up his hands; his action stopped the clamor.

"Why should the Gone Ones want to return to this poor world that they
have gladly left?" he asked. "Have they not a better place in the middle
of the Sky Fire, where it is always cool? And why should you want them
to come back to this world? Will not each one of you pass, sooner or
later, to the middle of the Sky Fire; will you not there be given new
bodies and join the Gone Ones? There is the Always-Cool; there the crops
grow without planting and without the work of women; there the game come
into the villages to be killed in the gathering-places, without hunting.
There you will talk with the other Gone Ones, your fathers and your
fathers' fathers, as I talk with you. Why do you think this must come to
the World of People? Can you not wait to join the Gone Ones in the Sky
Fire?"

Then he sat down and folded his arms. They were looking at him in
amazement; evidently they all saw the logic, but none of them had ever
thought of it before. Now they would have to turn it over in their minds
and accustom themselves to the new viewpoint. They began whooshing among
themselves. At length, old Shatresh, who had seen the Hot Time before,
spoke:

"Mailsh Heelbare, we trust you," he said. "You have told us of wonders,
and you have shown us that they were real. But do you know this for
real?"

"Do you tell me that you do not?" he demanded in surprise. "You have had
fathers, and fathers' fathers. They have gone to join the Gone Ones. Why
should you not, also? And why should the Gone Ones come back and destroy
the World of People? Then your children will have no more children, and
your children's children will never be. It is in the World of People
that the People are born; it is in the World that they grow and gain
wisdom to fit themselves to live in the Place of the Gone Ones when they
are through with the bodies they use in the World. You should be happy
that there will be no Last Hot Time, and that the line of your
begettings will go on and not be cut short."

There were murmurs of agreement with this. Most of them were beginning
to be relieved that there wouldn't be a Last Hot Time, after all. Then
one of the class asked:

"Do the Terrans also go to the Place of the Gone Ones, or have they a
place of their own?"

He was silent for a long time, looking down at the floor. Then he raised
his head.

"I had hoped that I would not have to speak of this," he said. "But,
since you have asked, it is right that I should tell you." He hesitated
again, until the Kwanns in front of him had begun to fidget. Then he
asked old Shatresh: "Speak of the beliefs of the People about how the
World was made."

"The great Spirit made the world." He held up his carven obscenity. "He
made the World out of himself. This is a make-like to show it."

"The Great Spirit made many worlds. The stars which you see in dark-time
are all worlds, each with many smaller worlds around it. The Great
Spirit made them all at one time, and made people on many of them. The
Great Spirit made the World of People, and made the Always-Same and the
Sky Fire, and inside the Sky Fire he made the Place of the Gone Ones.
And when he made the Place of the Gone Ones, he put an Oomphel-Mother
inside it, to bring forth oomphel."


This created a brief sensation. An Oomphel-Mother was something they had
never thought of before, but now they were wondering why they hadn't. Of
course there'd be an Oomphel-Mother; how else would there be oomphel?

"The World of the Terrans is far away from the World of People, as we
have always told you. When the Great Spirit made it He gave it only an
Always-Same, and no Sky Fire. Since there was no Sky Fire, there was no
place to put a Place of the Gone Ones, so the Great Spirit made the
Terrans so that they would not die, but live forever in their own
bodies. The Oomphel-Mother for the World of the Terrans the Great Spirit
hid in a cave under a great mountain.

"The Terrans whom the Great Spirit made lived for a long time, and then,
one day, a man and a woman found a crack in a rock, and went inside, and
they found the cave of the Oomphel-Mother, and the Oomphel-Mother in it.
So they called all the other Terrans, and they brought the
Oomphel-Mother out, and the Oomphel-Mother began to bring forth Oomphel.
The Oomphel-Mother brought forth metal, and cloth, and glass, and
plastic; knives, and axes and guns and clothing--" He went on,
cataloguing the products of human technology, the shoonoon staring more
and more wide-eyed at him. "And oomphel to make oomphel, and oomphel to
teach wisdom," he finished. "They became very wise and very rich.

"Then the Great Spirit saw what the Terrans had done, and became angry,
for it was not meant for the Terrans to do this, and the Great Spirit
cursed the Terrans with a curse of death. It was not death as you know
it. Because the Terrans had sinned by laying hands on the
Oomphel-Mother, not only their bodies must die, but their spirits also.
A Terran has a short life in the body, after that no life."

"This, then, is the Oomphel Secret. The last skin of the fooshkoot has
been peeled away; behold the bitter nut, upon which we Terrans have
chewed for more time than anybody can count. Happy people! When you die
or are slain, you go to the Place of the Gone Ones, to join your fathers
and your fathers' fathers and to await your children and children's
children. When we die or are slain, that is the end of us."

[Illustration]

"But you have brought your oomphel into this world; have you not brought
the curse with it?" somebody asked, frightened.

"No. The People did not sin against the Great Spirit; they have not laid
hands on an Oomphel-Mother as we did. The oomphel we bring you will do
no harm; do you think we would be so wicked as to bring the curse upon
you? It will be good for you to learn about oomphel here; in your Place
of the Gone Ones there is much oomphel."

"Why did your people come to this world, Mailsh Heelbare?" old Shatresh
asked. "Was it to try to hide from the curse?"

"There is no hiding from the curse of the Great Spirit, but we Terrans
are not a people who submit without strife to any fate. From the time of
the Curse of Death on, we have been trying to make spirits for
ourselves."

"But how can you do that?"

"We do not know. The oomphel will not teach us that, though it teaches
everything else. We have only learned many ways in which it cannot be
done. It cannot be done with oomphel, or with anything that is in our
own world. But the Oomphel-Mother made us ships to go to other worlds,
and we have gone to many of them, this one among them, seeking things
from which we try to make spirits. We are trying to make spirits for
ourselves from the crystals that grow in the klooba plants; we may fail
with them, too. But I say this; I may die, and all the other Terrans now
living may die, and be as though they had never been, but someday we
will not fail. Someday our children, or our children's children, will
make spirits for themselves and live forever, as you do."

[Illustration]

"Why were we not told this before, Mailsh Heelbare?"

"We were ashamed to have you know it. We are ashamed to be people
without spirits."

"Can we help you and your people? Maybe our magic might help."

"It well might. It would be worth trying. But first, you must help
yourselves. You and your people are sinning against the Great Spirit as
grievously as did the Terrans of old. Be warned in time, lest you answer
it as grievously."

"What do you mean, Mailsh Heelbare?" Old Shatresh was frightened.

"You are making magic to bring the Sky Fire to the World. Do you know
what will happen? The World of People will pass whole into the place of
the Gone Ones, and both will be destroyed. The World of People is a
world of death; everything that lives on it must die. The Place of the
Gone Ones is a world of life; everything in it lives forever. The two
will strive against each other, and will destroy one another, and there
will be nothing in the Sky Fire or the World but fire. This is wisdom
which our oomphel teaches us. We know this secret, and with it we make
weapons of great destruction." He looked over the seated shoonoon,
picking out those who wore the flame-colored cloaks of the fire-dance.
"You--and you--and you," he said. "You have been making this dreadful
magic, and leading your people in it. And which among the rest of you
have not been guilty?"

"We did not know," one of them said. "Mailsh Heelbare, have we yet time
to keep this from happening?"

"Yes. There is only a little time, but there is time. You have until
the Always-Same passes across the face of the Sky-Fire." That would be
seven hundred and fifty hours. "If this happens, all is safe. If the Sky
Fire blots Out the Always Same, we are all lost together. You must go
among your people and tell them what madness they are doing, and command
them to stop. You must command them to lay down their arms and cease
fighting. And you must tell them of the awful curse that was put upon
the Terrans in the long-ago time, for a lesser sin than they are now
committing."

"If we say that Mailsh Heelbare told us this, the people may not believe
us. He is not known to all, and some would take no Terran's word, not
even his."

"Would anybody tell a secret of this sort, about his own people, if it
were not real?"

"We had better say nothing about Mailsh Heelbare. We will say that the
Gone Ones told us in dreams."

"Let us say that the Great Spirit sent a dream of warning to each of
us," another shoonoo said. "There has been too much talk about dreams
from the Gone Ones already."

"But the Great Spirit has never sent a dream--"

"Nothing like this has ever happened before, either."

He rose, and they were silent. "Go to your living-place, now," he told
them. "Talk of how best you may warn your people." He pointed to the
clock. "You have an oomphel like that in your living-place; when the
shorter spear has moved three places, I will speak with you again, and
then you will be sent in air cars to your people to speak to them."

They went up the escalator and down the hall to Miles' office on the
third floor without talking. Foxx Travis was singing softly, almost
inaudibly:

    _"You will eeeeat ... in the sweeeet ... bye-and-bye,
    You'll get oooom ... phel in the sky ... when you die!"_

Inside, Edith Shaw slumped dispiritedly in a chair. Foxx Travis went to
the coffee-maker and started it. Miles snapped on the communication
screen and punched the combination of General Maith's headquarters. As
soon as the uniformed girl who appeared in it saw him, her hands moved
quickly; the screen flickered, and the general appeared in it.

"We have it made, general. They're sold; we're ready to start them out
in three hours."

Maith's thin, weary face suddenly lighted. "You mean they are going to
co-operate?"

He shook his head. "They think they're saving the world; they think
we're co-operating with them."

The general laughed. "That's even better! How do you want them sent
out?"

"The ones in the Bluelake area first. Better have some picked K.N.I. in
native costume, with pistols, to go with them. They'll need protection,
till they're able to get a hearing for themselves. After they're all
out, the ones from Gonzales' area can be started." He thought for a
moment. "I'll want four or five of them left here to help me when you
start bringing more shoonoon in from other areas. How soon do you think
you'll have another class for me?"

"Two or three days, if everything goes all right. We have the villages
and plantations in the south under pretty tight control now; we can
start gathering them up right away. As soon as we get things stabilized
here, we can send reinforcements to the north. We'll have transport for
you in three hours."

The general blanked out. He turned from the screen. Travis was laughing
happily.

"Miles, did anybody ever tell you you were a genius?" he asked. "That
last jolt you gave them was perfect. Why didn't you tell us about it in
advance?"

"I didn't know about it in advance; I didn't think of it till I'd
started talking to them. No cream or sugar for me."

"Cream," Edith said, lifelessly. "Why did you do it? Why didn't you just
tell them the truth?"

Travis asked her to define the term. She started to say something bitter
about Jesting Pilate. Miles interrupted.

"In spite of Lord Beacon, Pilate wasn't jesting," he said. "And he
didn't stay for an answer because he knew he'd die of old age waiting
for one. What kind of truth should I have told them?"

"Why, what you started to tell them. That Beta moves in a fixed orbit
and can't get any closer to Alpha--"

"There's been some work done on the question since Pilate's time,"
Travis said. "My semantics prof at Command College had the start of an
answer. He defined truth as a statement having a practical
correspondence with reality on the physical levels of structure and
observation and the verbal order of abstraction under consideration."

"He defined truth as a statement. A statement exists only in the mind of
the person making it, and the mind of the person to whom it is made. If
the person to whom it is made can't understand or accept it, it isn't
the truth."

"They understood when you showed them that the planet is round, and they
understood that tri-dimensional model of the system. Why didn't you let
it go at that?"

"They accepted it intellectually. But when I told them that there wasn't
any chance of Kwannon getting any closer to Alpha, they rebelled
emotionally. It doesn't matter how conclusively you prove anything, if
the person to whom you prove it can't accept your proof emotionally,
it's still false. Not-real."

"They had all their emotional capital invested in this Always-Cool
Time," Travis told her. "They couldn't let Miles wipe that out for them.
So he shifted it from this world to the next, and convinced them that
they were getting a better deal that way. You saw how quickly they
picked it up. And he didn't have the sin of telling children there is no
Easter Bunny on his conscience, either."


"But why did you tell them that story about the Oomphel Mother?" she
insisted. "Now they'll go out and tell all the other natives, and
they'll believe it."

"Would they have believed it if I'd told them about Terran scientific
technology? Your people have been doing that for close to half a
century. You see what impression it's made."

"But you told them--You told them that Terrans have no souls!"

"Can you prove that was a lie?" Travis asked. "Let's see yours.
Draw--_soul_! Inspection--_soul_!"

Naturally. Foxx Travis would expect a soul to be carried in a holster.

"But they'll look down on us, now. They'll say we're just like animals,"
Edith almost wailed.

"Now it comes out," Travis said. "We won't be the lordly Terrans, any
more, helping the poor benighted Kwanns out of the goodness of our
hearts, scattering largess, bearing the Terran's Burden--new model, a
give-away instead of a gun. Now _they'll_ pity _us_; they'll think
_we're_ inferior beings."

"I don't think the natives are inferior beings!" She was almost in
tears.

"If you don't, why did you come all the way to Kwannon to try to make
them more like Terrans?"

"Knock it off, Foxx; stop heckling her." Travis looked faintly
surprised. Maybe he hadn't realized, before, that a boss newsman learns
to talk like a commanding officer. "You remember what Ramón Gonzales was
saying, out at Sanders', about the inferior's hatred for the superior as
superior? It's no wonder these Kwanns resent us. They have a right to;
we've done them all an unforgivable injury. We've let them see us doing
things they can't do. Of course they resent us. But now I've given them
something to feel superior about. When they die, they'll go to the Place
of the Gone Ones, and have oomphel in the sky, and they will live
forever in new bodies, but when we die, we just die, period. So they'll
pity us and politely try to hide their condescension toward us.

"And because they feel superior to us, they'll want to help us. They'll
work hard on the plantations, so that we can have plenty of biocrystals,
and their shoonoon will work magic for us, to help us poor benighted
Terrans to grow souls for ourselves, so that we can almost be like them.
Of course, they'll have a chance to exploit us, and get oomphel from us,
too, but the important thing will be to help the poor Terrans. Maybe
they'll even organize a Spiritual and Magical Assistance Agency."


THE END


+---------------------------------------------------------------+
|                                                               |
| Errata                                                        |
|                                                               |
| The following typographical errors, which occurred once each, |
| were corrected in the text.                                   |
|                                                               |
|                                                               |
| radiaion              radiation                               |
| plan                  planet                                  |
| Biocrysal             Biocrystal                              |
| Trans-Sapce           Trans-Space                             |
| institigation         instigation                             |
| then                  than                                    |
| phalic                phallic                                 |
| no                    not                                     |
| tide-innundated       tide-inundated                          |
| ox-planet             off-planet                              |
| infinitesmally        infinitesimally                         |
| makelike              make-like                               |
|                                                               |
+---------------------------------------------------------------+





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