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´╗┐Title: The Issahar Artifacts
Author: Bone, Jesse F. (Jesse Franklin), 1916-1986
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.

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THE ISSAHAR ARTIFACTS

By J. F. BONE


 _Lincoln said it eons ago.... It took
 a speck of one-celled plant life on a
  world parsecs away to prove it for
           all the galaxy._


The following manuscript was discovered during the excavation of a
lateral connecting link between the North-South streamways in Narhil
Province near Issahar on Kwashior. The excavator, while passing through
a small valley about 20 yursts south of the city, was jammed by a mass
of oxidized and partially oxidized metallic fragments. On most worlds
this would not be unusual, but Kwashior has no recorded history of
metallic artifacts. The terrestrial operator, with unusual presence of
mind, reported the stoppage immediately. Assasul, the District
Engineering monitor, realized instantly that no metallic debris should
exist in that area, and in consequence ordered a most careful excavation
in the event that the artifacts might have cultural significance.

The debris proved to be the remnants of an ancient spaceship similar to
those described in Sector Chronicles IV through VII, but of much smaller
size and cruder design--obviously a relic of pre-expansion days. Within
the remnants of the ship was found a small box of metal covered with
several thicknesses of tar and wax impregnated fabric which had been
mostly destroyed. The metal itself was badly oxidized, but served to
protect an inner wooden box that contained a number of thin sheets of a
fragile substance composed mainly of cellulose which were brown and
crumbling with age. The sheets were covered with runes of _lingua
antiqua_ arranged in regular rows, inscribed by hand with a carbon-based
ink which has persisted remarkably well despite the degenerative
processes of time. Although much of the manuscript is illegible,
sufficient remains to settle for all time the Dannar-Marraket
Controversy and lend important corroborating evidence to the Cassaheb
Thesis of Terrestrial migrations.

The genuineness of this fragment has been established beyond doubt.
Radiocarbon dating places its age at ten thousand plus or minus one
hundred cycles, which would place it at the very beginning of the
Intellectual Emergence. Its importance is beyond question. Its
implications are shocking despite the fact that they conform to many of
the early legends and form a solid foundation for Dannar's Thesis which
has heretofore been regarded as implausible. In the light of this
material, the whole question of racial origins may well have to be
reevaluated. Without further comment, the translated text is presented
herewith. You may draw your own conclusions. Go with enlightenment.

                                -BARRAGOND-
                                Monitor of Cultural Origins and Relics
                                Kwashior Central Repository

       *       *       *       *       *

I have decided after some thought, to write this journal. It is, I
suppose, a form of egotism--for I do not expect that it shall ever be
read in the event that I am unable to leave this place. Yet it affords
me a certain satisfaction to think that a part of me will remain long
after I have returned to dust. In any event, I feel that one is not
truly dead if a part of his personality remains. Many of the ancients
such as Homer, Phidias, Confucius, Christ, da Vinci, Lincoln, Einstein,
Churchill--and many others--live on through their works when otherwise
they would long since have been forgotten and thus be truly dead.
Earth's history is full of such examples. And while I have no
expectation of an immortality such as theirs, it flatters my ego to
think that there will be some part of me which also will survive ...

_(Note: There are several lines following this which are obliterated,
defaced or unreadable. There are more to follow. In the future such gaps
in the content will be indicated thus: ...)_

... I expect that it is a basic trait of character, for spacemen must be
gregarious, and although I am not truly a spaceman I have been in space
and, in consequence, my character is no different from my
ex-crewmates--at least in that respect. I think as time passes I shall
miss the comfort of companionship, the sense of belonging to a group,
the card games, the bull sessions, the endless speculation on what comes
next, or what we will do when the voyage is over and we are again on
Earth ...

... I particularly recall Gregory. Odd, but I never knew his surname, or
maybe it was his given name, for Gregory could function as well in one
respect as the other. He would boast continually of what he would do to
wine, women, and song once we returned to Earth. Poor Gregory. The
meteor that hulled our ship struck squarely through the engine room
where he was on duty. Probably he never knew that he had died. At least
his fate had the mercy of being brief. Certainly it is not like mine. It
was ... given ...

There was plenty of time for the survivors to reach the lifeboats, and
in our decimated condition there were plenty of boats--which increased
our chances of living by a factor of four ... I suppose that it was
foolish to give way to the feeling of every man for himself but I am not
a spaceman trained to react automatically to emergencies. Neither am I a
navigator or a pilot, although I can fly in an emergency. I am a
biologist, a specialist member of the scientific staff--essentially an
individualist. I knew enough to seal myself in, push the eject button
and energize the drive. However, I did not know that a lifeboat had no
acceleration compensators, and by the time the drive lever returned to
neutral, I was far out in space and thoroughly lost. I could detect no
lifeboats in the vicinity nor could I raise any on the radio. I later
found that a transistor malfunctioned, but by then I was well out of
range, stranded between the stars in the black emptiness of space. After
reading the manual on lifeboat operation there was but one course open.
I selected the nearest G-type star, set the controls on automatic, and
went into cold sleep. There was nothing else to do. If I remained awake
I would be dead of oxygen starvation long before I reached a habitable
world. The only alternative was the half-death of frozen sleep and the
long wait until the boat came within range of the sun I had selected.

       *       *       *       *       *

I awoke in orbit around this world, and after I recovered full use of my
faculties and checked the analyzer, I decided to land. I'm afraid I did
a rather bad job of it, since I used the chemical rockets too late, and
the plasma jets scorched a considerable amount of acreage in the meadow
where I finally came to rest. However, the residual radioactivity is
low, and it is safe enough to walk outside.... The life boat is lying
beside a small stream which empties into a circular pool of blue water
in the center of a small meadow. The fiery trail of the jets and rockets
has burned a hundred-foot-wide path across the meadow, and the upper
edge of the pool, and ends in a broad, blackened circle surrounding the
boat. I came down too fast the last few feet, and the drive tubes are a
crumpled mess inextricably fused with the bent landing pads. This boat
will never fly again without extensive repairs which I cannot perform.
But the hull is otherwise sound, and I am comfortable enough except for
a few rapidly healing bruises and contusions. In a few days I should be
well enough to explore....

I am surprised that this world is so capable of supporting human life.
The consensus of scientific opinion has been that less than one out of
50,000 planets would be habitable. Yet I have struck paydirt on the
first try. Perhaps I am lucky. At any rate I am alive, and my lifeboat,
while somewhat damaged by an inept landing, is still sufficiently intact
to serve as a shelter, and the survival kits are undamaged, which should
make my stay here endurable if not pleasant ... and we are learning a
great deal about our galaxy with the development of the interstellar
drive--not the least of which is that authoritative opinion is mere
opinion and far from authoritative.

This world on which I find myself is in every respect but one similar to
Earth. There is no animate life--only plants. No birds fly, no insects
buzz, no animals rustle the silent underbrush. The only noise is the
wind in the trees and grasses. I am utterly alone. It is a strange
feeling, this loneliness. There is a feeling of freedom in it, a release
from the too-close proximity of my fellow men. There is the pleasure of
absolute privacy. But this will undoubtedly pall. Already I find that I
am anxious for someone to talk to, someone with whom I can share ideas
and plans. There ...

... which I cannot explain. But one thing is certain. My first
impression of this place was wrong. The life here, if not animate, is at
least intelligent--and it is not friendly. Yet neither does it hate. It
observes me with a slow, methodical curiosity that I can sense at the
very threshold of consciousness. It is a peculiar sensation that is
quite indescribable--unpleasant--but hardly terrifying. I suppose I can
feel it more than a normal person because I am a biologist and it is
part of my training and specialized skill to achieve a certain rapport
with my surroundings. I first noticed it yesterday. It came suddenly,
without warning, a vague uneasiness, like the feeling when one awakens
from a partially remembered but unpleasant dream. And it has been
increasing ever since.

       *       *       *       *       *

The principal impressions I received from this initial contact were an
awareness of self and a recognizance of identity--the concept of _cogito
ergo sum_ came through quite clearly. I wonder what Descartes would
think of an alien intelligence quoting his dogma.... I think it is
animal, despite the absence of animal life in this area. The thought
patterns are quick and flexible. And they have been increasing in power
and precision at an appreciable rate. I am sure that it is aware of me.
I shall call the feeling "it" until I can identify the source more
accurately. Certainly "it" appears to be as good a description as any,
since there is no consciousness of sex in the thought patterns. I wonder
what sort of ... and to my surprise I _swore_! I do not ordinarily
curse or use obscenities--not because they are obscene but because they
are a poor and inexact means of conveying ideas or impressions. But in
this case they were particularly appropriate. No other words could so
precisely describe my feelings. Me, a rational intelligence, succumbing
to such low-level emotional stimuli! If this keeps on, the next thing I
know I will be seeing little green men flitting through the trees.... Of
course, this world is unnatural, which makes its effect on the nervous
system more powerful, yet that does not explain the feeling of tension
which I have been experiencing, the silent straining tension of an
overloaded cable, the tension of a toy balloon overfull with air. I have
a constant feeling of dreadful expectancy, of imminent disaster, mixed
with a sense of pain and a lively--almost childlike--curiosity. To say
that this is disquieting would be a complete understatement, this state
of chronic disease, mixed with occasional rushes of terror. I am certain
that my nervous system and emotional responses are being examined, and
catalogued like a visceral preparation in an anatomy laboratory. There
is something infinitely chilling about this mental dissection.

... and after a careful search of the area I found precisely nothing.
You who may read this will probably laugh, but I cannot. To me this is
no laughing matter. I find myself jumping at the slightest noise, an
increase in the wind, the snap of an expanding hull plate, the crackle
of static over my radio. I whirl around to see who, or _what_, is
watching me. My skin crawls and prickles as though I were covered with
ants. My mind is filled with black, inchoate dread. In three words, _I'm
scared stiff_! Yet there is nothing tangible--nothing I should be
frightened about, and this terrifies me even more. For I know where this
continual fear and worry can lead--to what ends this incessant
stimulation can reach.

       *       *       *       *       *

Under pressure my body reacts, preparing me to fight or flee. My
adrenals pump hormones into my bloodstream, stimulating my heart and my
sympathetic nervous system, making glucose more available to my muscles.
My peripheral capillaries dilate. Intestinal activity stops as blood is
channeled into the areas which my fear and my glands decide will need it
most. I sweat. My vision blurs. All the manifold changes of the fight or
flight syndrome are mobilized for instant action. But my body cannot be
held in this state of readiness. The constant stimulation will
ultimately turn my overworked adrenal glands into a jelly-like mess of
cystic quivering goo. My general adaptation syndrome will no longer
adapt. And I will die.

But I am not dead yet. And I have certain advantages. I am intelligent.
I know what faces me. And I can adjust. That is one of the outstanding
characteristics of the human race--the ability to adjust to our
environment, or, failing that, to adjust our environment to us. In
addition, I have my hands, tools, and materials to work with here in the
lifeboat. And finally I am desperate! I should be able to accomplish
something. There must be ...

       *       *       *       *       *

... But it is not going well. There are too many parts which I do not
know by sight. If I were a more competent electronicist I would have had
the parts assembled now and would be sending a beacon signal clear
across this sector. The pressure hasn't been any help. It doesn't get
greater, but it has become more insisting--more demanding. I seem to
feel that it _wants_ something, that its direction has become more
channelized. The conviction is growing within me that I am destined to
be _absorbed_.

The fear with which I live is a constant thing. And I still keep looking
for my enemy. In a strange, impersonal way it has become my enemy for
though it does not hate, it threatens my life. My waking hours are hell
and my sleep is nightmare. Strange how a man clings to life and sanity.
It would be so easy to lose either. Of one thing I am certain--this
cannot go on much longer. I cannot work under pressure. I must act. I
shall try again to find my enemy and kill it before it kills me. It is
no longer a question of ...

... Never again shall I wish to be alone. If I get out of this alive I
am going to haunt crowds. I will surround myself with people. Right now
I would give my soul to have one--just one--person near me. Anyone. I
feel certain that two of us could face this thing and lick it. If
necessary we could face it back to back, each covering the other. I am
now getting impressions. Sensory hallucinations. I am floating. I swim.
I bathe luxuriantly in huge bathtubs and the water runs through my body
as though I were a sponge. Have you ever felt _porous_?...

... and that last attack was a doozer! I wrecked a week's work looking
for the little man who wasn't there. The urge to kill is becoming more
intense. I want to destroy the author of my misery. Even though I am
still a balanced personality--polite language for being sane--I can't
take much more of this. I will not go mad, but I will go into the
adrenal syndrome unless I can end this soon.

Nothing I have done seems to help. For a while I was sure that the music
tapes held the pressure back, but the enemy is used to them now. I am
still working on the subspace beacon. The radio and most of the control
linkages have gone into it. It looks like an electronicist's nightmare,
but if the survival manual is right, it will work. It has to work! I
dread the time when I shall have to cannibalize the recorder. Can't
help thinking that Shakespeare was right when he wrote that bit about
music soothing the savage breast. It may not soothe the enemy, for it
isn't savage, but it certainly soothes me, even though there's something
repetitive about it after a half a hundred playings. My breast's savage
all right. Fact is, it's downright primitive when an attack starts. I
can feel them coming now. I keep wondering how much longer I can last.
Guess I'm getting morbid....

More nightmares last night. I drowned three times and a purple octopus
gave me an enema. Woke up screaming, but got an idea from it. Funny that
I never thought of it before. Water's the fountainhead of life, and
there is no real reason for assuming my enemy is terrestrial. He could
just as well be aquatic. I'll find out today--maybe. Just to be doing
something positive--even thinking--makes me feel better....

       *       *       *       *       *

_Got it!_ I know where it is! And I know how to kill it. Fact is, I've
already done it! Now there's no more pressure. God--what a relief! This
morning I burned the meadow and cut down the nearest trees surrounding
this clearing and nothing happened. I expected that. Then I checked the
water. Nothing in the stream, but the pond was _green_!--filled almost
to the edge with a mass of algae! A hundred-foot platter of sticky green
slime, cohesive as glue and ugly as sin. It _had_ to be it--and it was.
I never saw algae that cohered quite like that. So I gave it about fifty
gallons of rocket juice--red fuming nitric acid--right in the belly.
Then I sat down and let the tension flow out of me, revelling in its
pain, laughing like crazy as it turned brown--and the pressure
disappeared. No tension at all now. The place is as quiet and peaceful
as the grave. I want to laugh and laugh--and run through the burned
meadow and roll in the ashes so grateful am I for my deliverance.

Got the idea of killing the monster from a splash of rocket fuel on the
bank of the stream and my memory of the pain in the early feelings. But
it was nothing compared to the feeling when the acid hit that damned
mass of green slime! Even though my brain was screaming at me, I felt
good. I should put a couple of hundred gallons into the stream just to
make sure--but I can't afford it. I need the fuel to run the generators
to propagate the wave that'll bring me home if someone hears it. And
they'll hear it all right. My luck is in. Now I'm going to sleep--_sweet
sleep that knits the ravelled sleeve of care_--Shakespeare, old man, you
had a phrase for everything! I love you. I love everything. I even feel
sorry for that poor plant ... of guilt. It couldn't help the fact that
my jets set up a mutation. And being intelligent it _had_ to be
curious. Of course, no one would believe me if I started talking about
intelligent algae. But what's so odd about that? Even the most complex
life forms are just aggregations of individual cells working together.
So if a few individual cells with rudimentary data-storage capacity got
the idea of uniting why couldn't they act like a complex organism?

       *       *       *       *       *

It is useless to speculate on what might have happened had that thing
lived. But it's dead now--burned to death in acid. And although
destruction of intelligent life is repugnant to me, I cannot help
feeling that it is perhaps better that it is gone. Considering how
rapidly it developed during its few weeks of life, and the power it
possessed, my mind is appalled at its potential. I've had my experience
and that's enough. Lord! but I'm tired. I feel like a wrung-out sponge.
Guess I'll rest for a little while ...

... and received a reply to my signal! They heterodyned it right back
along my own beam. They'll be landing in a week. I don't think I'll take
this manuscript with me. I couldn't use it--and somehow I don't feel
like burning it. Maybe I'll make a time capsule out of it. It will be
amusing to speculate about what sort of a reaction it'll provoke,
providing it is ever read. I can see them now, huge-headed humans,
wrinkling their noses and saying "Intelligent algae--fantastic--the man
must have been mad!"

_The manuscript ends here--and of course we know that the "man" was not
mad. He left behind a rich heritage indeed, for those few cells that
escaped his wrath and floated down to the sea. Did we but know his
origin we would erect a suitable memorial if we had to travel to the
farthest reach of our galaxy. But the names he quotes are not in our
repositories and as for the word "Earth" which he used for his
homeworld, I need not remind my readers that the intelligent terrestrial
inhabitants of the 22,748 planets of this sector use the term "Earth" or
its synonyms "soil" and "world" to describe their planets. Of course,
the term "Homewater" is gradually replacing this archaic concept as we
extend our hegemony ever more widely across the disunited worlds of the
galaxy._

_At that it seems strange that the unknown author's race should have
passed. As individuals they had so many advantages, while we are so weak
and individually so helpless. They could do almost everything except
communicate and cooperate. We can do but little else, yet our larger
aggregations can control entire worlds, some peopled perhaps with
descendants of this very individual. It merely proves that Dannar's
statement in the preface of his Thesis is correct._

"United, cohesive cooperation is the source of irresistible strength."


THE END



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Amazing Science Fiction Stories_ April
    1960. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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