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Title: A World by the Tale
Author: Garrett, Randall, 1927-1987
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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                         Transcriber's Note:

  This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction October 1963.
  Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright
  on this publication was renewed.


                         A WORLD BY THE TALE


    This is about the best-hated author on Earth. Who was
    necessarily pampered and petted because of his crime against
    humanity....


                         BY SEATON McKETTRIG

                      ILLUSTRATED BY LEO SUMMERS

       *       *       *       *       *



Exactly three minutes after the Galactic left the New York apartment
of Professor John Hamish McLeod, Ph.D., Sc.D., a squad of U.B.I. men
pushed their way into it.

[Illustration]

McLeod heard the door chime, opened the door, and had to back up as
eight men crowded in. The one in the lead flashed a fancily engraved
ID card and said: "Union Bureau of Investigation. You're Professor
Mac-Lee-Odd." It was a statement, not a question.

"No," McLeod said flatly, "I am not. I never heard of such a name." He
waited while the U.B.I. man blinked once, then added: "If you are
looking for Professor MuhCloud, I'm he." It always irritated him when
people mispronounced his name, and in this case there was no excuse
for it.

"All right, Professor McLeod," said the U.B.I. agent, pronouncing it
properly this time, "however you want it. Mind if we ask you a few
questions?"

McLeod stared at him for half a second. Eight men, all of them under
thirty-five, in top physical condition. He was fifteen years older
than the oldest and had confined his exercise, in the words of
Chauncey de Pew, to "acting as pallbearer for my friends who take
exercise." Not that he was really in poor shape, but he certainly
couldn't have argued with eight men like these.

"Come in," he said calmly, waving them into the apartment.

Six of them entered. The other two stayed outside in the hall.

Five of the six remained standing. The leader took the chair that
McLeod offered him.

"What are your questions, Mr. Jackson?" McLeod asked.

Jackson looked very slightly surprised, as if he were not used to having
people read the name on his card during the short time he allowed them to
see it. The expression vanished almost instantaneously. "Professor," he
said, "we'd like to know what subjects you discussed with the Galactic who
just left."

McLeod allowed himself to relax back in his chair. "Let me ask you two
questions, Mr. Jackson. One: What the hell business is it of yours?
Two: Why do you ask me when you already know?"

Again there was only a flicker of expression over Jackson's face.
"Professor McLeod, we are concerned about the welfare of the human
race. Your ... uh ... co-operation is requested."

"You don't have to come barging in here with an armed squad just to
ask my co-operation," McLeod said. "What do you want to know?"

Jackson took a notebook out of his jacket pocket. "We'll just get a
few facts straight first, professor," he said, leafing through the
notebook. "You were first approached by a Galactic four years ago, on
January 12, 1990. Is that right?"

McLeod, who had taken a cigarette from his pack and started to light
it, stopped suddenly and looked at Jackson as though the U.B.I. man
were a two-headed embryo. "Yes, Mr. Jackson, that is right," he said
slowly, as though he were speaking to a low-grade moron. "And the
capital of California is Sacramento. Are there any further matters of
public knowledge you would like to ask me about? Would you like to
know when the War of 1812 started or who is buried in Grant's Tomb?"

Jackson's jaw muscles tightened, then relaxed. "There's no need to get
sarcastic, professor. Just answer the questions." He looked back at
the notebook. "According to the record, you, as a zoologist, were
asked to accompany a shipment of animals to a planet named ... uh ...
Gelakin. You did so. You returned after eighteen months. Is that
correct?"

"To the best of my knowledge, yes," McLeod said with heavy, biting
sarcasm. "And the date of the Norman Conquest was A.D. 1066."

Jackson balled his fists suddenly and closed his eyes. "Mac. Loud.
_Stop._ It." He was obviously holding himself under rigorous
restraint. He opened his eyes. "There are reasons for asking these
questions, professor. Very good reasons. Will you let me finish?"

McLeod had finished lighting his cigarette. He snapped his lighter off
and replaced it in his pocket. "Perhaps," he said mildly. "May I make
a statement first?"

Jackson took a deep breath, held it for a moment, then exhaled slowly.
"Go ahead."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Thank you." There was no sarcasm in McLeod's voice now, only
patience. "First--for the record--I'll say that I consider it
impertinent of you to come in here demanding information without
explanation. No, Jackson; don't say anything. You said I could make a
statement. Thank you. Second, I will state that I am perfectly aware
of why the questions are being asked.

"No reaction, Mr. Jackson? You don't believe that? Very well. Let me
continue.

"On January twelve, nineteen-ninety, I was offered a job by certain
citizens of the Galactic Civilization. These citizens of the Galactic
Civilization wanted to take a shipload of Terrestrial animals to their
own planet, Gelakin. They knew almost nothing about the care and
feeding of Terrestrial animals. They needed an expert. They should
have taken a real expert--one of the men from the Bronx Zoo, for
instance. They didn't; they requested a zoologist. Because the request
was made here in America, I was the one who was picked. Any one of
seven other men could have handled the job, but I was picked.

"So I went, thus becoming the first Earthman ever to leave the Solar
System.

"I took care of the animals. I taught the Galactics who were with me
to handle and feed them. I did what I was paid to do, and it was a
hard job. None of them knew anything about the care and feeding of
elephants, horses, giraffes, cats, dogs, eagles, or any one of the
other hundreds of Terrestrial life forms that went aboard that ship.

"All of this was done with the express permission of the Terrestrial
Union Government.

"I was returned to Earth on July seventeen, nineteen-ninety-one.

"I was immediately taken to U.B.I. headquarters and subjected to
rigorous questioning. Then I was subjected to further questioning
while connected to a polyelectro-encephalograph. Then I was subjected
to hearing the same questions over again while under the influence of
various drugs--in sequence and in combination. The consensus at that
time was that I was not lying nor had I been subjected to what is
commonly known as 'brain washing'. My memories were accurate and
complete.

"I did not know then, nor do I know now, the location of the planet
Gelakin. This information was not denied me by the Galactics; I simply
could not understand the terms they used. All I can say now--and all
I could say then--is that Gelakin is some three point five kiloparsecs
from Sol in the general direction of Saggitarius."

"You don't know any more about that now than you did then?" Jackson
interrupted, suddenly and quickly.

"That's what I said," McLeod snapped. "And that's what I meant. Let me
finish.

"I was handsomely paid for my work in Galactic money. They use the
English word 'credit', but I'm not sure the English word has exactly
the same meaning as the Galactic term. At any rate, my wages, if such
I may call them, were confiscated by the Earth Government; I was given
the equivalent in American dollars--after the eighty per cent income
tax had been deducted. I ended up with just about what I would have
made if I had stayed home and drawn my salary from Columbia University
and the American Museum of Natural History.

"Please, Mr. Jackson. I only have a little more to say.

"I decided to write a book in order to make the trip pay off.
'Interstellar Ark' was a popularized account of the trip that made me
quite a nice piece of change because every literate and half-literate
person on Earth is curious about the Galactics. The book tells
everything I know about the trip and the people. It is a matter of
public record. Since that is so, I refused to answer a lot of
darn-fool questions--by which I mean that I refuse to answer any more
questions that you already know the answers to. I am not being
stubborn; I am just sick and tired of the whole thing."

Actually, the notoriety that had resulted from the trip and the book
had not pleased McLeod particularly. He had never had any strong
desire for fame, but if it had come as a result of his work in zoology
and the related sciences he would have accepted the burden. If his
"The Ecology of the Martian Polar Regions" had attracted a hundredth
of the publicity and sold a hundredth of the number of copies that
"Interstellar Ark" had sold, he would have been gratified indeed. But
the way things stood, he found the whole affair irksome.

Jackson looked at his notebook as if he expected to see answers
written there instead of questions. Then he looked back up at McLeod.
"All right then, professor, what about this afternoon's conference.
_That_ isn't a matter of public record."

"And technically it isn't any of your business, either," McLeod said
tiredly. "But since you have the whole conversation down on tape, I
don't see why you bother asking me. I'm well aware that you can pick
up conversations in my apartment."

Jackson pursed his lips and glanced at another of the agents, who
raised his eyebrows slightly.

McLeod got it in spite of the fact that they didn't intend him to. His
place was bugged, all right, but somehow the Galactic had managed to
nullify their instruments! No wonder they were in such a tizzy.

McLeod smiled, pleased with himself and with the world for the first
time that afternoon. He decided, however, that he'd better volunteer
the information before they threatened him with the Planetary Security
Act. That threat would make him angry, he knew, and he might say
something that would get him in real trouble.

It was all right to badger Jackson up to a certain point, but it would
be foolish to go beyond that.

"However," he went on with hardly a break, "since, as you say, it is
not a matter of public record, I'm perfectly willing to answer any
questions you care to ask."

"Just give us a general rundown of the conversation," Jackson said.
"If I have any questions, I'll ... uh ... ask them at the proper
time."

       *       *       *       *       *

McLeod did the best he could to give a clear picture of what the
Galactic had wanted. There was really very little to it. The Galactic
was a member of a race that McLeod had never seen before: a humanoid
with red skin--fire-engine, not Amerindian--and a rather
pleasant-looking face, in contrast to the rather crocodilian features
of the Galactic resident. He had introduced himself by an
un-pronounceable name and then had explained that since the name meant
"mild" or "merciful" in one of the ancient tongues of his planet, it
would be perfectly all right if McLeod called him "Clement." Within
minutes, it had been "Clem" and "Mac."

McLeod could see that Jackson didn't quite believe that. Galactics, of
whatever race, were aloof, polite, reserved, and sometimes
irritatingly patronizing--never buddy-buddy. McLeod couldn't help what
Jackson might think; what was important was that it was true.

What Clem wanted was very simple. Clem was--after a manner of
speaking--a literary agent. Apparently the Galactic system of book
publishing didn't work quite the way the Terrestrial system did; Clem
took his commission from the publisher instead of the author, but was
considered a representative of the author, not the publisher. McLeod
hadn't quite understood how that sort of thing would work out, but he
let it pass. There were a lot of things he didn't understand about
Galactics.

All Clem wanted was to act as McLeod's agent for the publication of
"Interstellar Ark."

"And what did you tell him?" Jackson asked.

"I told him I'd think it over."

Jackson leaned forward. "How much money did he offer?" he asked
eagerly.

"Not much," McLeod said. "That's why I told him I'd think it over. He
said that, considering the high cost of transportation, relaying,
translation, and so on, he couldn't offer me more than one thousandth
of one per cent royalties."

Jackson blinked. "One _what_?"

"One thousandth of one per cent. If the book sells a hundred thousand
copies at a credit a copy, they will send me a nice, juicy check for
one lousy credit."

Jackson scowled. "They're cheating you."

"Clem said it was the standard rate for a first book."

Jackson shook his head. "Just because we don't have interstellar
ships and are confined to our own solar system, they treat us as
though we were ignorant savages. They're cheating you high, wide, and
handsome."

"Maybe," said McLeod. "But if they really wanted to cheat me, they
could just pirate the book. There wouldn't be a thing I could do about
it."

"Yeah. But to keep up their facade of high ethics, they toss us a sop.
And we have to take whatever they hand out. You _will_ take it, of
course." It was more of an order than a question.

"I told him I'd think it over," McLeod said.

Jackson stood up. "Professor McLeod, the human race needs every
Galactic credit it can lay its hands on. It's your duty to accept the
offer, no matter how lousy it is. We have no choice in the matter. And
a Galactic credit is worth ten dollars American, four pounds U.K., or
forty rubles Soviet. If you sell a hundred thousand copies of your
book, you can get yourself a meal in a fairly good restaurant and
Earth will have one more Galactic credit stashed away. If you don't
sell that many, you aren't out anything."

"I suppose not," McLeod said slowly. He knew that the Government could
force him to take the offer. Under the Planetary Security Act, the
Government had broad powers--very broad.

"Well, that isn't my business right now," Jackson said. "I just wanted
to find out what this was all about. You'll hear from us, Professor
McLeod."

"I don't doubt it," said McLeod.

The six men filed out the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alone, McLeod stared at the wall and thought.

Earth needed every Galactic credit it could get; that was certain. The
trouble came in getting them.

Earth had absolutely nothing that the Galactics wanted. Well, not
absolutely, maybe, but so near as made no difference. Certainly there
was no basis for trade. As far as the Galactics were concerned, Earth
was a little backwater planet that was of no importance. Nothing
manufactured on the planet was of any use to Galactics. Nothing grown
on Earth was of any commercial importance. They had sampled the
animals and plants for scientific purposes, but there was no real
commercial value in them. The Government had added a few credits to
its meager collection when the animals had been taken, but the amount
was small.

McLeod thought about the natives of New Guinea and decided that on the
Galactic scale Earth was about in the same position. Except that there
had at least been gold in New Guinea. The Galactics didn't have any
interest in Earth's minerals; the elements were much more easily
available in the asteroid belts that nearly every planetary system
seemed to have.

The Galactics were by no means interested in bringing civilization to
the barbarians of Earth, either. They had no missionaries to bring new
religion, no do-gooders to "elevate the cultural level of the
natives." They had no free handouts for anyone. If Earthmen wanted
anything from them, the terms were cash on the barrelhead. Earth's
credit rating in the Galactic equivalent of Dun & Bradstreet was
triple-Z-zero.

[Illustration]

A Galactic ship had, so to speak, stumbled over Earth fifteen years
before. Like the English explorers of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth
Centuries, the Galactics seemed to feel that it was necessary to
install one of their own people on a new-found planet, but they were
not in the least interested in colonization nor in taking over Earth's
government. The Galactic Resident was not in any sense a Royal
Governor, and could hardly even be called an ambassador. He and his
staff--a small one, kept more for company than for any necessary
work--lived quietly by themselves in a house they'd built in Hawaii.
Nobody knew what they did, and it didn't seem wise to ask.

The first Galactic Resident had been shot and killed by some religious
nut. Less than twenty-four hours later, the Galactic Space Navy--if
that was the proper term--had come to claim the body. There were no
recriminations, no reprisals. They came, "more in sorrow than in
anger," to get the body. They came in a spaceship that was easily
visible to the naked eye long before it hit the atmosphere--a sphere
three kilometers in diameter. The missiles with thermonuclear warheads
that were sent up to intercept the ship were detonated long before
they touched the ship, and neither Galactics nor Earthmen ever
mentioned them again. It had been the most frightening display of
power ever seen on Earth, and the Galactics hadn't even threatened
anyone. They just came to get a body.

Needless to say, there was little danger that they would ever have to
repeat the performance.

The national governments of Earth had organized themselves hurriedly
into the Terrestrial Union. Shaky at first, it had gained stability
and power with the years. The first thing the Union Government had
wanted to do was send an ambassador to the Galactic Government. The
Galactic Resident had politely explained that their concept of
government was different from ours, that ambassadors had no place in
that concept, and, anyway, there was no capital to send one to.
However, if Earth wanted to send an observer of some kind....

Earth did.

Fine. A statement of passenger fares was forthcoming; naturally, there
were no regular passenger ships stopping at Earth and there would not
be in the foreseeable future, but doubtless arrangements could be made
to charter a vessel. It would be expensive, but....

If a New Guinea savage wants to take passage aboard a Qantas airliner,
what is the fare in cowrie shells?

As far as McLeod knew, his book was the first thing ever produced on
Earth that the Galactics were even remotely interested in. He had a
higher opinion of the ethics of the Galactics than Jackson did, but a
thousandth of a per cent seemed like pretty small royalties. And he
couldn't for the life of him see why his book would interest a
Galactic. Clem had explained that it gave Galactics a chance to see
what they looked like through the eyes of an Earthman, but that seemed
rather weak to McLeod.

Nevertheless, he knew he would take Clem's offer.

       *       *       *       *       *

Eight months later, a shipload of Galactic tourists arrived. For a
while, it looked as though Earth's credit problem might be solved.
Tourism has always been a fine method for getting money from other
countries--especially if one's own country is properly picturesque.
Tourists always had money, didn't they? And they spend it freely,
didn't they?

No.

Not in this case.

Earth had nothing to sell to the tourists.

Ever hear of _baluts_? The Melanesians of the South Pacific consider
it a very fine delicacy. You take a fertilized duck egg and you bury
it in the warm earth. Six months later, when it is nice and overripe,
you dig it up again, knock the top off the shell the way you would a
soft-boiled egg, and eat it. Then you pick the pinfeathers out of your
teeth. _Baluts._

Now you know how the greatest delicacies of Earth's restaurants
affected the Galactics.

Earth was just a little _too_ picturesque. The tourists enjoyed the
sights, but they ate aboard their ship, which was evidently somewhat
like a Caribbean cruise ship. And they bought nothing. They just
looked.

And laughed.

And of course they all wanted to meet Professor John Hamish McLeod.

When the news leaked out and was thoroughly understood by Earth's
population, there was an immediate reaction.

Editorial in _Pravda_:

     The stupid book written by the American J. H. McLeod has
     made Earth a laughingstock throughout the galaxy. His
     inability to comprehend the finer nuances of Galactic
     Socialism has made all Earthmen look foolish. It is too bad
     that a competent Russian zoologist was not chosen for the
     trip that McLeod made; a man properly trained in the
     understanding of the historical forces of dialectic
     materialism would have realized that any Galactic society
     must of necessity be a Communist State, and would have
     interpreted it as such. The petty bourgeois mind of McLeod
     has made it impossible for any Earthman to hold up his head
     in the free Socialist society of the galaxy. Until this
     matter is corrected....

News item Manchester _Guardian_:

     Professor James H. McLeod, the American zoologist whose book
     has apparently aroused a great deal of hilarity in Galactic
     circles, admitted today that both Columbia University and
     the American Museum of Natural History have accepted his
     resignation. The recent statement by a University spokesman
     that Professor McLeod had "besmirched the honor of Earthmen
     everywhere" was considered at least partially responsible
     for the resignations. (See editorial.)

Editorial, Manchester _Guardian_:

     ... It is a truism that an accepted wit has only to say,
     'Pass the butter,' and everyone will laugh. Professor
     McLeod, however, far from being an accepted wit, seems
     rather to be in the position of a medieval Court Fool, who
     was laughed _at_ rather than _with_. As a consequence, all
     Earthmen have been branded as Fools....

Statement made by the American Senator from Alabama:

     "He has made us all look like jackasses in the eyes of the
     Galactics, and at this precarious time in human history it
     is my considered opinion that such actions are treasonous to
     the human race and to Earth and should be treated and
     considered as such!"

Book review, _Literary Checklist_, Helvar III, Bornis Cluster:

     "Interstellar Ark, an Earthman's View of the Galaxy,"
     translated from the original tongue by Vonis Delf, Cr. 5.00.
     This inexpensive little book is one of the most
     entertainingly funny publications in current print. The
     author, one John McLeod, is a member of a type 3-7B race
     inhabiting a planet in the Outer Fringes.... As an example
     of the unwitting humor of the book, we have only to quote
     the following:

     "I was shown to my quarters shortly before takeoff. Captain
     Benarly had assigned me a spacious cabin which was almost
     luxurious in its furnishings. The bed was one of the most
     comfortable I have ever slept in."

     Or the following:

     "I found the members of the crew to be friendly and
     co-operative, especially Nern Cronzel, the ship's
     physician."

     It is our prediction that this little gem will be enjoyed
     for a long time to come and will be a real money-maker for
     its publishers.

       *       *       *       *       *

_They haven't hanged me yet_, McLeod thought. He sat in his apartment
alone and realized that it would take very little to get him hanged.

How could one book have aroused such wrath? Even as he thought it,
McLeod knew the answer to that question. It wasn't the book. No one
who had read it two and a half years before had said anything against
it.

No, it wasn't the book. It was the Galactic reaction to the book.
Already feeling inferior because of the stand-offish attitude of the
beings from the stars, the Homeric laughter of those same beings had
been too much. It would have been bad enough if that laughter had been
generated by one of the Galactics. To have had it generated by an
Earthman made it that much worse. Against an Earthman, their rage was
far from impotent.

Nobody understood _why_ the book was funny, of course. The joke was
over their heads, and that made human beings even angrier.

He remembered a quotation from a book he had read once. A member of
some tribal-taboo culture--African or South Pacific, he forgot
which--had been treated at a missionary hospital for something or
other and had described his experience.

"The white witch doctor protects himself by wearing a little round
mirror on his head which reflects back the evil spirits."

Could that savage have possibly understood what was humorous about
that remark? No. Not even if you explained to him why the doctor used
the mirror that way.

_Now what?_ McLeod thought. He was out of a job and his bank account
was running low. His credit rating had dropped to zero.

McLeod heard a key turn in the lock. The door swung open and Jackson
entered with his squad of U.B.I. men.

"Hey!" said McLeod, jumping to his feet. "What do you think this is?"

"Shut up, McLeod," Jackson growled. "Get your coat. You're wanted at
headquarters."

McLeod started to say something, then thought better of it. There was
nothing he could say. Nobody would care if the U.B.I. manhandled him.
Nobody would protest that his rights were being ignored. If McLeod got
his teeth knocked in, Jackson would probably be voted a medal.

McLeod didn't say another word. He followed orders. He got his coat
and was taken down to the big building on the East River which had
begun its career as the United Nations Building.

He was bundled up to an office and shoved into a chair.

Somebody shoved a paper at him. "Sign this!"

"What is it?" McLeod asked, finding his voice.

"A receipt. For two thousand dollars. Sign it."

McLeod looked the paper over, then looked up at the burly man who had
shoved it at him. "_Fifty thousand Galactic credits!_ What is this
for?"

"The royalty check for your unprintably qualified book has come in,
Funny Man. The Government is taking ninety-eight per cent for income
taxes. Sign!"

McLeod pushed the paper back across the desk. "No. I won't. You can
confiscate my money. I can't stop that, I guess. But I won't give it
legal sanction by signing anything. I don't even see the two thousand
dollars this is supposed to be a receipt for."

Jackson, who was standing behind McLeod, grabbed his arm and twisted.
"Sign!" His voice was a snarl in McLeod's ear.

Eventually, of course, he signed.

       *       *       *       *       *

"'Nother beer, Mac?" asked the bartender with a friendly smile.

"Yeah, Leo; thanks." McLeod pushed his quarter across the bar with one
hand and scratched negligently at his beard with the fingers of the
other. Nobody questioned him in this neighborhood. The beard, which
had taken two months to grow, disguised his face, and he had given his
name as McCaffery, allowing his landlord and others who heard it to
make the natural assumption that he was of Irish descent.

He was waiting. He had been forced to move from his apartment; nobody
wanted that dirty so-and-so, Professor McLeod, around. Besides, his
money was running short. He had never seen the two thousand. "You'll
get that when the Galactic bank cashes your royalty check," he had
been told. He was waiting.

Not hiding. No. That wasn't possible. The U.B.I. could find him
easily when they wanted him. There was no place he could have hidden
from them for very long. A man needs friends to stay hidden from an
efficient police organization for very long, and John Hamish McLeod
had no friends. "Jack McCaffery" had, since he was a pleasant kind of
fellow who made friends easily when he wanted them. But he had no
illusions about his new friends. Let them once suspect, however
faintly, that Good Old Jack McCaffery was really that Professor
McLeod, and the game would be up.

The U.B.I. would find him again all right, whenever it wanted him. And
McLeod hoped it would be soon because he was down to his last hundred
bucks.

So he waited and thought about fifty thousand Galactic credits.

The mathematics was simple, but it conveyed an awful lot of
information. To make fifty thousand credits from one thousandth of one
percent royalties on a book selling at five credits the copy, one must
needs sell a billion copies. Nothing to it.

                 5X·10to the power of -5 = 5·10to the power of 4

              Ergo:       X = 10to the power of 9

McLeod drew the equations on the bar with the tip of a wet forefinger,
then rubbed them out quickly.

A billion copies in the first year. He should have seen it. He should
have understood.

How many planets were there in the galaxy?

How many people on each planet?

Communication, even at ultralight velocities, would be necessarily
slow. The galaxy was just too big to be compassed by the human
mind--or even by the mind of a Galactic, McLeod suspected.

How do you publish a book for Galactic, for galaxy-wide, consumption?
How long does it take to saturate the market on each planet? How long
does it take to spread the book from planet to planet? How many people
were there on each planet who would buy a good book? Or, at least, an
entertaining one.

McLeod didn't know, but he suspected that the number was huge. McLeod
was a zoologist, not an astronomer, but he read enough on astronomy to
know that the estimated number of Earth-type planets alone--according
to the latest theory--ran into the tens of millions or hundreds of
millions. The--

A man sat down on the stool next to McLeod and said something loud
enough and foul enough to break the zoologist's train of thought.

"Gimme a shot, Leo," he added in an angry voice.

"Sure, Pete," the bartender said. "What's the trouble?"

"_Tourists_," Pete said with a snarl. "Laffin' attus alla time like we
was monkeys inna zoo! Bunch 'em come inta day." He downed his whiskey
with a practiced flip of the wrist and slammed it on the bar. Leo
refilled it immediately. "I shunt gripe, I guess. Gotta haffa credit
offen 'em." He slapped down a five dollar bill as though it had
somehow been contaminated.

The bar became oddly quiet. Everyone had heard Pete. Further,
everyone had heard that another shipload of Galactics had landed and
were, at the moment, enjoying the sights of New York. A few of them
knew that Pete was the bell-captain in one of the big midtown hotels.

McLeod listened while Pete expounded on the shame he had had to
undergo to earn half a credit--a lousy five bucks.

McLeod did some estimating. Tourists--the word had acquired an even
more pejorative sense than it had before, and now applied only to
Galactics--bought nothing, but they tipped for services, unless the
services weren't wanted or needed. Pete had given them information
that they hadn't had before--where to find a particular place. All in
all, the group of fifteen Galactics had given out five or six credits
in such tips. Say half a credit apiece. There were, perhaps, a hundred
Galactics in this shipload. That meant fifty credits. Hm-m-m.

They didn't need anyone to carry their bags; they didn't need anyone
to register them in hotels; they didn't need personal service of that
kind. All they wanted to do was look. But they wouldn't pay for
looking. They had no interest in Broadway plays or the acts in the
night-clubs--at least, not enough to induce them to pay to see them.
This particular group had wanted to see a hotel. They had wandered
through it, looking at everything and laughing fit to kill at the
carpets on the floor and the electric lighting and such. But when the
management had hinted that payment for such services as letting them
look should be forthcoming, they had handed half a credit to someone
and walked out. Then they had gone to the corner of Fifty-first and
Madison and looked for nothing.

Fifty credits for a shipload. Three shiploads a year. Hell, give 'em
the benefit of the doubt and say _ten_ shiploads a year. In a hundred
years, they'd add another fifty thousand to Earth's resources.

McLeod grinned.

And waited.

       *       *       *       *       *

They came for him, eventually, as McLeod had known they would.

But they came long before he had expected. He had given them six
months at the least. They came for him at the end of the third month.

It was Jackson, of course. It would have to be Jackson. He walked into
the cheap little room McLeod had rented, followed by his squad of men.

He tossed a peculiar envelope on the bed next to McLeod.

"Letter came for you, humorist. Open it."

McLeod sat on the edge of the bed and read the letter. The envelope
had already been opened, which surprised him none.

It looked very much like an ordinary business letter--except that
whatever they used for paper was whiter and tougher than the paper he
used.

He was reminded of the time he had seen a reproduction of a Thirteenth
Century manuscript alongside the original. The copy had been set up
in a specially-designed type and printed on fine paper. The original
had been handwritten on vellum.

McLeod had the feeling that if he used a microscope on this letter the
lines and edges would be just as precise and clear as they appeared to
the naked eye, instead of the fuzziness that ordinary print would
show.

The way you tell a synthetic ruby from a natural ruby is to look for
flaws. The synthetic doesn't have any.

This letter was a Galactic imitation of a Terran business letter.

It said:

     Dear Mac,

     I am happy to report that your book, "Interstellar Ark," is
     a smash hit. It looks as though it is on its way to becoming
     a best seller. As you already know by your royalty
     statement, over a billion copies were sold the first year.
     That indicates even better sales over the years to come as
     the reputation of the book spreads. Naturally, our
     advertising campaign will remain behind it all the way.
     Congratulations.

     Speaking of royalty checks, there seems to be some sort of
     irregularity about yours. I am sorry, but according to
     regulations the check must be validated in the presence of
     your Galactic Resident before it can be cashed. Your
     signature across the back of it doesn't mean anything to our
     bankers.

     Just go to your Galactic Resident, and he'll be happy to
     take care of the matter for you. That's what he's there for.
     The next check should come through very shortly.

                                   All the best,

                                            Clem.

[Illustration]

_Better and better_, McLeod thought. He hadn't expected to be able to
do anything until his next royalty check arrived. But now--

He looked up at Jackson. "All right. What's next?"

"Come with us. We're flying to Hawaii. Get your hat and coat."

McLeod obeyed silently. At the moment, there was nothing else he could
do. As a matter of fact, there was nothing he wanted to do more.

It was no trouble at all for Professor McLeod to get an audience with
the Galactic Resident, but when he was escorted in by Jackson and his
squad, the whole group was halted inside the front door.

The Resident, a tall, lean being with a leathery, gray face that
somehow managed to look crocodilian in spite of the fact that his head
was definitely humanoid in shape, peered at them from beneath
pronounced supraorbital ridges. "Is this man under arrest?" he asked
in a gravelly baritone.

"Er ... no," said Jackson. "No. He is merely in protective custody."

"He has not been convicted of any crime?"

"No sir," Jackson said. His voice sounded as though he were unsure of
himself.

"That is well," said the Resident. "A convicted criminal cannot, of
course, use the credits of society until he has become rehabilitated."
He paused. "But why protective custody?"

"There are those," said Jackson, choosing his words with care, "who feel
that Professor McLeod has brought disgrace upon the human race ... er ...
the Terrestrial race. There is reason to believe that his life may be in
danger."

McLeod smiled wryly. What Jackson said was true, but it was carefully
calculated to mislead.

"I see," said the Resident. "It would appear to me that it would be
simpler to inform the people that he has done no such thing; that,
indeed, his work has conferred immense benefits upon your race. But
that is your own affair. At any rate, he is in no danger here."

He didn't need to say anything else. Jackson knew the hint was an
order and that he wouldn't get any farther with his squad.

McLeod spoke up. "Subject to your permission, sir, I would like to
have Mr. Jackson with me."

The Galactic Resident smiled. "Of course, professor. Come in, both of
you." He turned and led the way through the inner door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nobody bothered to search either of them, not even though they must
know that Jackson was carrying a gun. McLeod was fairly certain that
the gun would be useless to Jackson if he tried to assert his
authority with it. If Clem had been able to render the U.B.I.'s
eavesdropping apparatus inoperable, it was highly probable that the
Galactic Resident would have some means of taking care of weapons.

"There are only a few formalities to go through," the Resident said
pleasantly, indicating chairs with a gesture. The room he had led them
to didn't look much different from that which would be expected in any
tastefully furnished apartment in New York or Honolulu.

McLeod and Jackson sat down in a couple of comfortable easy-chairs
while the Resident went around a large desk and sat down in a swivel
chair behind it. He smiled a little and looked at McLeod. "Hm-m-m. Ah,
yes. Very good." It was as though he had received information of some
kind on an unknown subject through an unknown channel, McLeod thought.
Evidently that was true, for his next words were: "You are not under
the influence of drugs nor hypnotic compulsion, I see. Excellent,
professor. Is it your desire that this check be converted to cash?" He
made a small gesture. "You have only to express it, you see. It would
be difficult to explain it to you, but rest assured that such an
expression of will--while you are sitting in that chair--is impressed
upon the structure of the check itself and is the equivalent of a
signature. Except, of course, that it is unforgeable."

"May I ask a few questions first?" McLeod said.

"Certainly, professor. I am here to answer your questions."

"This money--is it free and clear, or are there Galactic taxes to
pay?"

If the Galactic Resident had had eyebrows, it is likely that they
would have lifted in surprise. "My dear professor! Aside from the fact
that we run our ... er ... government in an entirely different manner,
we would consider it quite immoral to take what a man earns without
giving services of an exact kind. I will charge you five credits for
this validation, since I am rendering a service. The bank will take a
full tenth of a percent in this case because of the inconvenience of
shipping cash over that long distance. The rest is yours to do with as
you see fit."

_Fifty-five credits out of fifty thousand_, McLeod thought. _Not bad
at all._ Aloud, he asked: "Could I, for instance, open a bank account
or buy a ticket on a star-ship?"

"Why not? As I said, it is your money. You have earned it honestly;
you may spend it honestly."

Jackson was staring at McLeod, but he said nothing.

"Tell me, sir," McLeod said, "how does the success of my book compare
with the success of most books in the galaxy?"

"Quite favorably, I understand," said the Resident. "The usual income
from a successful book is about five thousand credits a year. Some run
even less than that. I'm not too familiar with the publishing
business, you understand, but that is my impression. You are, by
Galactic standards, a very wealthy man, professor. Fifty thousand a
year is by no means a median income."

"Fifty thousand a _year_?"

"Yes. About that. I understand that in the publishing business one can
depend on a life income that does not vary much from the initial
period. If a book is successful in one area of the galaxy it will be
equally successful in others."

"How long does it take to saturate the market?" McLeod asked with a
touch of awe.

"Saturate the--? Oh. Oh, I see. Yes. Well, let's see. Most publishing
houses can't handle the advertising and marketing on more than a
thousand planets at once--the job becomes too unwieldy. That would
indicate that you sold an average of a million copies per planet,
which is unusual but not ... ah ... miraculous. That is why you can
depend on future sales, you see; over a thousand planets the
differences in planetary tastes averages out.

"Now if your publishers continue to expand the publication at the rate
of a thousand planets a year, your book should easily last for another
century. They can't really expand that rapidly, of course, since the
sales on the planets they have already covered will continue with
diminishing success over the next several years. Actually, your
publishers will continue to put a billion books a year on the market
and expand to new planets at a rate that will balance the loss of
sales on the planets where it has already run its course. Yes,
professor, you will have a good income for life."

"What about my heirs?"

"Heirs?" The Galactic Resident blinked. "I'm afraid I don't quite
follow you."

"My relatives. Anyone who will inherit my property after my death."

The Resident still looked puzzled. "What about them?"

"How long can they go on collecting? When does the copyright run out?"

The Galactic Resident's puzzlement vanished. "Oh my dear professor!
Surely you see that it is impossible to ... er ... inherit money one
hasn't earned! The income stops with your death. Your children or your
wife have done nothing to earn that money. Why should it continue to
be paid out after the earner has died? If you wish to make provisions
for such persons during your lifetime, that is your business, but the
provisions must be made out of money you have already earned."

"Who does get the income, then?" McLeod asked.

The Galactic Resident looked thoughtful. "Well, the best I can explain to
you without going into arduous detail is to say that our ... er ...
government gets it. 'Government' is not really the proper word in this
context, since we have no government as you think of it. Let us merely say
that such monies pass into a common exchequer from which ... er ... public
servants like myself are paid."

McLeod had a vision of a British Crown Officer trying to explain to a
New Guinea tribesman what he meant when he said that taxes go to the
Crown. The tribesman would probably wonder why the Chief of the
English Tribe kept cowrie shells under his hat.

"I see. And if I am imprisoned for crime?" he asked.

"The payments are suspended until the ... er ... rehabilitation is
complete. That is, until you are legally released."

"Is there anything else that can stop the payments?"

"Not unless the publishing company fails--which is highly unlikely. Of
course, a man under hypnotic compulsion or drugs is not considered
legally responsible, so he cannot transact any legal business while he
is in that state, but the checks are merely held for him until that
impediment is removed."

"I see." McLeod nodded.

He knew perfectly well that he no more understood the entire workings
of the Galactic civilization than that New Guinea tribesman understood
the civilization of Great Britain, but he also knew that he understood
more of it than Jackson, for instance, did. McLeod had been able to
foresee a little of what the Resident had said.

"Would you do me the service, sir," McLeod said, "of opening a bank
account for me in some local bank?"

"Yes, of course. As Resident, I am empowered to transact business for
you at your request. My fees are quite reasonable. All checks will
have to go through me, of course, but ... hm-m-m ... I think in this
case a twentieth of a per cent would be appropriate. You will be
handling fairly large amounts. If that is your wish, I shall so
arrange it."

"Hey!" Jackson found his tongue. "The Earth Union Government has a
claim on that! McLeod owes forty-nine thousand Galactic credits in
income taxes!"

If the Galactic Resident was shocked at the intimation that the
Galactic "government" would take earned money from a man, the
announcement that Earth's government did so was no surprise to him at
all. "If that is so, I am certain that Professor McLeod will behave as
a law-abiding citizen. He can authorize a check for that amount, and
it will be honored by his bank. We have no desire to interfere with
local customs."

"I am certain that I can come to an equitable arrangement with the
Earth authorities," said McLeod, rising from his chair. "Is there
anything I have to sign or--"

"No, no. You have expressed your will. Thank you, Professor McLeod; it
is a pleasure to do business with you."

"Thank you. The pleasure is mutual. Come on, Jackson, we don't need to
bother the Resident any more just now."

"But--"

"Come on, I said! I want a few words with you!" McLeod insisted.

Jackson sensed that there would be no point in arguing any further
with the Resident, but he followed McLeod out into the bright Hawaiian
sunshine with a dull glow of anger burning in his cheeks. Accompanied
by the squad, they climbed into the car and left.

       *       *       *       *       *

As soon as they were well away from the Residence, Jackson grabbed
McLeod by the lapel of his jacket. "All right, humorist! What was the
idea of that? Are you trying to make things hard for yourself?"

"No, but _you_ are," McLeod said in a cold voice. "Get your hands off
me. I may get you fired anyway, just because you're a louse, but if
you keep acting like this, I'll see that they toss you into solitary
and toss the key away."

"What are you talking about?" But he released his hold.

"Just think about it, Jackson. The Government can't get its hands on
that money unless I permit it. As I said, we'll arrive at an equitable
arrangement. And that will be a damn sight less than ninety-eight
percent of my earnings, believe me."

"If you refuse to pay, we'll--" He stopped suddenly.

"--Throw me in jail?" McLeod shook his head. "You can't get money
while I'm in jail."

"We'll wait," said Jackson firmly. "After a little while in a cell,
you'll listen to reason and will sign those checks."

"You don't think very well, do you, Jackson? To 'sign' a check, I have
to go to the Galactic Resident. As soon as you take me to him, I
authorize a check to buy me a ticket for some nice planet where there
are no income taxes."

Jackson opened his mouth and shut it again, frowning.

"Think about it, Jackson," McLeod continued. "Nobody can get that
money from me without my consent. Now it so happens that I want to
help Earth; I have a certain perverse fondness for the human race,
even though it is inconceivably backward by Galactic standards. We
have about as much chance of ever becoming of any importance on the
Galactic scale as the Australian aborigine has of becoming important
in world politics, but a few thousand years of evolution may bring out
a few individuals who have the ability to do something. I'm not sure.
But I'm damned if I'll let the boneheads run all over me while they
take my money.

"I happen to be, at the moment--and through sheer luck--Earth's only
natural resource as far as the galaxy is concerned. Sure you can put
me in jail. You can kill me if you want. But that won't give you the
money. I am the goose that lays the golden eggs. But I'm not such a
goose that I'm going to let you boot me in the tail while you steal
the gold.

"Earth has no other source of income. None. Tourists are few and far
between and they spend almost nothing. As long as I am alive and in
good health and out of prison, Earth will have a nice steady income of
fifty thousand Galactic credits a year.

"Earth, I said. Not the Government, except indirectly. I intend to see
that my money isn't confiscated." He had a few other plans, too, but
he saw no necessity of mentioning them to Jackson.

"If I don't like the way the Government behaves, I'll simply shut off
the source of supply. Understand, Jackson?"

"Um-m-m," said Jackson. He understood, he didn't like it, and he
didn't know what to do about it.

"One of the first things we're going to do is start a little
'information' flowing," McLeod said. "I don't care to live on a planet
where everybody hates my guts, so, as the Resident suggested, we're
going to have to start a propaganda campaign to counteract the one
that denounced me. For that, I'll want to talk to someone a little
higher in the Government. You'd better take me to the head of the
U.B.I. He'll know who I should speak to for that purpose."

Jackson still looked dazed, but it had evidently penetrated that
McLeod had the upper hand. "Wha ... er ... what did you say, sir?" he
asked, partially coming out of his daze.

McLeod sighed.

"Take me to your leader," he said patiently.

       *       *       *       *       *





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