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´╗┐Title: Prelude to Space
Author: Haseltine, Robert W.
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 "Prelude to Space" ***

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[Illustration]

    You're certain to be included in a survey at one time or another.
    However, there's one you may not recognize as such. Chances are it
    will be more important than you imagine. It could be man's--


Prelude To Space

_By Robert W. Haseltine_


I was climbing the steep side of a central Wisconsin hill, holding my
bow away from my body for balance, when I first saw the stranger. He sat
on a stump at the crest and watched me struggle up. As I drew nearer I
panted out a greeting and received his cheerful "Hi" in return. When I
finally reached the top, I threw myself on the ground and began catching
my breath.

He didn't say anything at first, just looked at the bow and the quiver
of arrows on my back. Finally he said, "May I look at it?" and reached
for the bow. I handed it to him. He examined it carefully and returned
it.

"Beautiful workmanship. Is that all you use?" he asked.

"I never cared much for guns," I answered. "I've always thought a bow
gave the animal more of an even chance for his life."

We talked then on the various aspects of hunting and how the crisp fall
air seemed to make the deer seem closer than during the heat of summer.
While we talked I tried to place the reason he disturbed me, but I
couldn't seem to do it. He was dressed in an old plaid shirt and
dungarees and his blond hair wasn't many shades removed from my own
straw thatch. But there was something odd about him that I couldn't
quite find.

"Perhaps it's the cloth." His words surprised me. "You see, it hasn't
been discovered on this planet as yet." My face must have shown
astonishment because he went on in the same vein. "I admit it's
confusing, but it's also true. My clothes weren't made on Earth." He
chuckled then, deep in his throat. "I don't blame you for being
confused. I know how I would feel if I met an extraterrestrial being
before space travel was a reality."

I kept staring at him. Finally I blurted out, "What in Sam Hill are you
talking about?"

He leaned forward on the stump and his face grew earnest. "You might say
I'm a poll taker. I have to decide certain things from various
interviews with individuals I meet."

"What are you trying to prove?" I asked.

"I'm sorry, but I can't tell you that until I'm finished with the
interview. If I told you, your interest in the subject would tend to
prejudice your answers."

"Fair enough. What do you want to ask me?"

He pulled out a notebook and smiled. "These questions may seem a little
silly but I must have straight answers to them. Will you go along with
me?"

I nodded my head.

"Let's see now. If you were the head of a government and wanted to
ascertain whether another country was ready for admission into the
United Nations, what would you do?"

I shrugged. "I suppose I would read books and magazines from the country
and possibly have an interview with the heads of the government. After I
had collected my data I could then act upon it."

"For the sake of argument suppose the books and other periodicals were
written so as to be prejudicial in favor of the government, and the
heads also were coloring what they said."

I thought for a minute. "In that case I suppose I would secretly place
someone inside the country to interview the people and get a first hand
view of the situation. Then I would act on his data."

       *       *       *       *       *

He nodded his head. "Yes, the people themselves and the conditions they
live in will give you the needed data." He turned a page in the book.
"Now suppose that you wished to know if a certain planet was ready to
enter into an organization such as the Galactic Federation, what would
you do?"

"I suppose I'd act as I did before. Place people inside the various
areas of the planet to interview and observe. They would bring back the
information needed to ascertain whether they would be an asset or a
detriment to the organization."

I thought to myself that the question was a trifle silly; after all,
hadn't science proved that life couldn't exist on the other planets in
our system?

He relaxed after I answered and his smile was brighter than the previous
ones. "Right," he said. "Naturally we had to learn the language first,
but now a first-hand check can be made. You see, there is a civilization
out there," he raised his hand and swept the sky, "and we have to check
to see if this planet is ready to take its place as an adult
civilization with the rest of us.

"Earth, within a very short time, will be reaching her fingers into
space. Once she gets there she will be eligible to join the Galactic
Federation."

"That's all right," I said, "then we can exchange culture and knowledge
with other civilizations."

"Yes, if you are eligible to join."

"But you said that once we reach space we will be eligible."

"Look at it this way," he said. "The main purpose of the Galactic
Federation is to promote peace and understanding among the various
planets. Earth would have to be prepared to take its place as just
another member, and not an important member at that. Earth, you see, is
one of the smaller planets and also would be the latest one to join.

"In times past some planets have reached space without being fully
prepared for what they would find. They still had internal troubles on
their own worlds. We had to place them in quarantine until they reached
that degree of civilization where they were ready to live in peace. Now
we check a planet before it reaches the space-travel stage. We find out
the reactions of the inhabitants to certain situations."

"What sort of situations?" I asked.

"Well, naturally we want to see their artifacts as an indication as to
their advancement. We have to know what the average man thinks of space
travel and trade with other planets. And their ideas on peace and their
feelings towards their fellow men. All are very important.

"Actually, when a planet once enters the Federation the people are the
ones to decide on peace and war. So if the majority of the people on a
planet are peace-loving that planet is ready to enter the Federation."

"But how do you find out all these things?" I asked. "When a man finds
out what you are trying to prove he may lie because he wants to get into
space."

His eyes held a mischievous glint as he answered. "Simple, the art of
telepathy has been highly developed among my race. I have your thoughts
on everything I've mentioned. Later, when all the data from thousands of
similar interviews is in it will be evaluated and the decision made as
to whether your world will be allowed to reach space. We have the means
of keeping you from it if we decide you aren't yet ready."

He stood up and I followed suit. "I must be going now," he sighed. "This
work keeps me on the run and I have many more interviews to make.
Believe me, it was a pleasure meeting you. I hope we meet again--later."
We shook hands and he strolled over the hill into the valley.

Perhaps I should have followed him, but it wouldn't have done any good,
really. Because a few moments later I saw something shimmering over the
top of the hill. It was big and disc-shaped and shot into the sky with a
speed that was unbelievable.

I still don't know what to think about him or what we talked about. I'm
going to keep watching the papers though, and hoping he got the right
answers. If we reach the Moon I'll know he did....



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Imagination_ May 1954. 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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