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´╗┐Title: The Hate Disease
Author: Leinster, Murray, 1896-1975
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 "The Hate Disease" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note:

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


                           THE HATE DISEASE


     The Med Service people hit strange problems as routine: if
     they weren't weirdos, they weren't tough enough to merit Med
     Service attention. Now the essence of a weird problem is
     that it involves a factor nobody ever thought of before ...
     or the absence of one nobody ever missed ...


                          by MURRAY LEINSTER


                    ILLUSTRATED BY JOHN SCHOENHERR

       *       *       *       *       *



I

The Med Ship _Esclipus Twenty_ rode in overdrive while her ship's
company drank coffee. Calhoun sipped at a full cup of strong brew,
while Murgatroyd the _tormal_ drank from the tiny mug suited to his
small, furry paws. The astrogation unit showed the percentage of this
overdrive hop covered up to now, and the needle was almost around to
the stop pin.

There'd been a warning gong an hour ago, notifying that the end of
overdrive journeying approached. Hence the coffee. When breakout came,
the overdrive field must collapse and the Duhanne cells down near the
small ship's keel absorb the energy which maintained it. Then
_Esclipus Twenty_ would appear in the normal universe of suns and
stars with the abruptness of an explosion. She should be somewhere
near the sun Tallien. She should then swim toward that sol-type sun
and approach Tallien's third planet out at the less-than-light-speed
rate necessary for solar-system travel. And presently she should
signal down to ground and Calhoun set about the purpose of his
three-week journey in overdrive.

His purpose was a routine checkup on public health on Tallien Three.
Calhoun had lately completed five such planetary visits, with from one
to three weeks of overdrive travel between each pair. When he left
Tallien Three he'd head back to Sector Headquarters for more orders
about the work of the Interstellar Medical Service.

Murgatroyd zestfully licked his empty cup to get the last least drop
of coffee. He said hopefully:

"_Chee?_" He wanted more.

"I'm afraid," said Calhoun, "that you're a sybarite, Murgatroyd. This
impassioned desire of yours for coffee disturbs me."

"_Chee!_" said Murgatroyd, with decision.

"It's become a habit," Calhoun told him severely. "You should taper
off. Remember, when anything in your environment becomes a normal part
of your environment, it becomes a necessity. Coffee should be a
luxury, to be savored as such, instead of something you expect and
resent being deprived of."

Murgatroyd said impatiently:

"_Chee-chee!_"

"All right, then," said Calhoun, "if you're going to be emotional
about it! Pass your cup."

He reached out and Murgatroyd put the tiny object in his hand. He
refilled it and passed it back.

"But watch yourself," he advised. "We're landing on Tallien Three.
It's just been transferred to us from another sector. It's been
neglected. There's been no Med Service inspection for years. There
could be misunderstandings."

Murgatroyd said, "_Chee!_" and squatted down to drink.

Calhoun looked at a clock and opened his mouth to speak again, when a
taped voice said abruptly:

"_When the gong sounds, breakout will be five seconds off._"

There was a steady, monotonous _tick, tock, tick, tock,_ like a
metronome. Calhoun got up and made a casual examination of the ship's
instruments. He turned on the vision screens. They were useless in
overdrive, of course, Now they were ready to inform him about the
normal cosmos as soon as the ship returned to it. He put away the
coffee things. Murgatroyd was reluctant to give up his mug until the
last possible lick. Then he sat back and elaborately cleaned his
whiskers.

Calhoun sat down in the control chair and waited.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Bong!_" said the loud-speaker, and Murgatroyd scuttled under a chair. He
held on with all four paws and his furry tail. The speaker said,
"_Breakout in five seconds ... four ... three ... two ... one ..._"

There was a sensation as if all the universe had turned itself inside
out, and Calhoun's stomach tried to follow its example. He gulped, and
the feeling ended, and the vision screens came alight. Then there were
ten thousand myriads of stars, and a sun flaming balefully ahead, and
certain very bright objects nearby. They would be planets, and one of
them showed as a crescent.

Calhoun checked the solar spectrum as a matter of course. This was the
sun Tallien. He checked the brighter specks in view. Three were
planets and one a remote brilliant star. The crescent was Tallien
Three, third out from its sun and the Med Ship's immediate
destination. It was a very good breakout; too good to be anything but
luck. Calhoun swung the ship for the crescent planet. He
matter-of-factly checked the usual items. He was going in at a high
angle to the ecliptic, so meteors and bits of stray celestial trash
weren't likely to be bothersome. He made other notes, to kill time.

He reread the data sheets on the planet. It had been colonized three
hundred years before. There'd been trouble establishing a human-use
ecological system on the planet because the native plants and animals
were totally useless to humankind. Native timber could be used in
building, but only after drying-out for a period of months. When
growing or green it was as much water-saturated as a sponge. There had
never been a forest fire here, not even caused by lightning!

There were other oddities. The aboriginal microorganisms here did not
attack wastes of introduced terrestrial types. It had been necessary
to introduce scavenger organisms from elsewhere. This and other
difficulties made it true that only one of the world's five continents
were human-occupied. Most of the land surface was strictly as it had
been before the landing of men--impenetrable jungles of spongelike
flora, dwelt in by a largely unknown useless fauna. Calhoun read on.
Population ... government ... health statistics.... He went through
the list.

He had time to kill, so he rechecked his course and speed relative to
the planet. He and Murgatroyd had dinner. Then he waited until the
ship was near enough to report in.

"Med Ship _Esclipas Twenty_ calling ground," he said when the time
came. He taped his own voice as he made the call. "Requesting
co-ordinates for landing. Our mass is fifty tons. Repeat, five-oh
tons. Purpose of landing, planetary health inspection."

He waited while his taped voice repeated and re-repeated the call. An
incoming voice said sharply:

"_Calling Med Ship! Cut your signal! Do not acknowledge this call! Cut
your signal! Instructions will follow. But cut your signal!_"

Calhoun blinked. Of all possible responses to a landing call, orders
to stop signaling would be least likely. But after an instant he
reached over and stopped the transmission of his voice. It happened to
end halfway through a syllable.

Silence. Not quite silence, of course, because there was the taped
record of background noise which went on all the time the Med Ship was
in space. Without it, the utter absence of noise would be sepulchral.

The voice from outside said:

"_You cut off. Good! Now listen! Do not--repeat, do not!--acknowledge
this call or respond to any call from anyone else! There is a drastic
situation aground. You must not--repeat, must not--fall into the hands
of the people now occupying Government Center. Go into orbit. We will
try to seize the spaceport so you can be landed. But do not
acknowledge this call or respond to any answer from anyone else! Don't
do it! Don't do it!_"

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a click, and somehow the silence was clamorous. Calhoun
rubbed his nose reflectively with his finger. Murgatroyd, bright-eyed,
immediately rubbed his nose with a tiny dark digit. Like all
_tormals_, he gloried in imitating human actions, as parrots and
parakeets imitate human speech. But suddenly a second voice called in,
with a new and strictly professional tone:

"_Calling Med Ship!_" said this second voice. "_Calling Med Ship!
Spaceport Tallien Three calling Med Ship Esclipus Twenty! For landing,
repair to co-ordinates--_"

The voice briskly gave specific instructions. It was a strictly
professional voice. It repeated the instructions with precision.

Out of sheer habit, Calhoun said, "Acknowledge." Then he added
sharply: "Hold it! I've just had an emergency call--"

The first voice interrupted stridently:

"_Cut your signal, you fool! I told you not to answer any other call!
Cut your signal!_"

The strictly professional other voice said coldly:

"_Emergency call, eh? That'll be paras. They're better organized than
we thought, if they picked up your landing request! There's an
emergency, all right! It's the devil of an emergency--it looks like
devils! But this is the spaceport. Will you come in?_"

"Naturally," said Calhoun. "What's the emergency?"

"_You'll find out...._" That was the professional voice. The other
snapped angrily, "_Cut your signal!_" The professional voice again:
"_... you land. It's not...._" "_Cut your signal, you fool! Cut
it...._" The other voice again.

There was confusion. The two voices spoke together. Each was on a
tight beam, while Calhoun's call was broadcast. The voices could not
hear each other, but each could hear Calhoun.

"_Don't listen to them! There's...._" "_to understand, but...._"
"_Don't listen! Don't...._" "_... When you land._"

Then the voice from the spaceport stopped, and Calhoun cut down the
volume of the other. It continued to shout, though muffled. It
bellowed, as if rattled. It mouthed commands as if they were arguments
or reasons. Calhoun listened for fully five minutes. Then he said
carefully into his microphone:

"Med Ship _Esclipus Twenty_ calling spaceport. I will arrive at given
co-ordinates at the time given. I suggest that you take precautions if
necessary against interference with my landing. Message ends."

He swung the ship around and aimed for the destination with which he'd
been supplied--a place in emptiness five diameters out, with the
center of the sun's disk bearing so-and-so and the center of the
planet's disk bearing so-and-thus. He turned the communicator volume
down still lower. The miniature voice shouted and threatened in the
stillness of the Med Ship's control room. After a time Calhoun said
reflectively:

"I don't like this, Murgatroyd! An unidentified voice is telling
us--and we're Med Ship personnel, Murgatroyd!--who we should speak to
and what we should do. Our duty is plainly to ignore such orders. But
with dignity, Murgatroyd! We must uphold the dignity of the Med
Service!"

Murgatroyd said skeptically:

"_Chee_?"

"I don't like your attitude," said Calhoun, "but I'll bear in mind
that you're often right."

Murgatroyd found a soft place to curl up in. He draped his tail across
his nose and lay there, blinking at Calhoun above the furry half-mask.

       *       *       *       *       *

The little skip drove on. The disk of the planet grew large. Presently
it was below. It turned as the skip moved, and from a crescent it
became a half-circle and then a gibbous near-oval shape. In the rest
of the solar system nothing in particular happened. Small and heavy
inner planets swam deliberately in their short orbits around the sun.
Outer, gas-giant planets floated even more deliberately in larger
paths. There were comets of telescopic size, and there were
meteorites, and the sun Tallien sent up monstrous flares, and storms
of improbable snow swept about in the methane atmosphere of the
greater gas giant of this particular celestial family of this sun and
its satellites. But the cosmos in general paid no attention to human
activities or usually undesirable intentions. Calhoun listened,
frowning, to the agitated, commanding voice. He still didn't like it.

Suddenly, it cut off. The Med Ship approached the planet to which it
had been ordered by Sector Headquarters now some months ago. Calhoun
examined the nearing world via electron telescope. On the hemisphere
rolling to a position under the Med Ship he saw a city of some size,
and he could trace highways, and there were lesser human settlements
here and there. At full magnification he could see where forests had
been cut away in wedges and half-squares, with clear spaces between
them. This indicated cultivated ground, cleared for human use in the
invincibly tidy-minded manner of men.

Presently he saw the landing grid near the biggest city--that
half-mile-high, cagelike wall of intricately braced steel girders. It
tapped the planet's ionosphere for all the power that this world's
inhabitants could use, and applied the same power to lift up and let
down the ships of space by which communication with the rest of
humanity was maintained. From this distance, though, even with an
electron telescope, Calhoun could see no movement of any sort. There
was no smoke, because electricity from the grid provided all the
planet's power and heat, and there were no chimneys. The city looked
like a colored map, with infinite detail but nothing which stirred.

A tiny voice spoke. It was the voice of the spaceport.

"_Calling Med Ship. Grid locking on. Right?_"

"Go ahead," said Calhoun. He turned up the communicator.

The voice from the ground said carefully:

"_Better stand by your controls. If anything happens down here you may
need to take emergency action._"

Calhoun raised his eyebrows. But he said:

"All set."

He felt the cushiony, fumbling motions as force fields from the
landing grid groped for the Med Ship and centered it in their complex
pattern. Then there came the sudden solid feeling when the grid locked
on. The Med Ship began to settle, at first slowly but with increasing
speed, toward the ground below.

It was all very familiar. The shape of the continents below him were
strange, but such unfamiliarity was commonplace. The voice from the
ground said matter-of-factly:

"_We think everything's under control, but it's hard to tell with
these paras. They got away with some weather rockets last week and may
have managed to mount war heads on them. They might use them on the
grid, here, or try for you._"

Calhoun said:

"What are paras?"

"_You'll be briefed when you land_," said the voice. It added:
"_Everything's all right so far, though._"

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Esclipus Twenty_ went down and down and down. The grid had locked
on at forty thousand miles. It was a long time before the little ship
was down to thirty thousand and another long time before it was at
twenty. Then more time to reach ten, and then five, and one thousand,
and five hundred. When solid ground was only a hundred miles below
and the curve of the horizon had to be looked for to be seen, the
voice from the ground said:

"_The last hundred miles is the tricky part, and the last five will be
where it's tight. If anything does happen, it'll be there._"

Calhoun watched through the electron telescope. He could see
individual buildings now, when he used full magnification. He saw
infinitesimal motes which would be ground cars on the highways. At
seventy miles he cut down the magnification to keep his field of
vision wide. He cut the magnification again at fifty and at thirty and
at ten.

Then he saw the first sign of motion. It was an extending thread of
white which could only be smoke. It began well outside the city and
leaped up and curved, evidently aiming at the descending Med Ship.
Calhoun said curtly:

"There's a rocket coming up. Aiming at me."

The voice from the ground said:

"_It's spotted. I'm giving you free motion if you want to use it._"

The feel of the ship changed. It no longer descended. The landing-grid
operator was holding it aloft, but Calhoun could move it in evasive
action if he wished. He approved the liberty given him. He could use
his emergency rockets to dodge. A second thread of smoke came
streaking upward.

Then other threads of white began just outside the landing grid. They
rushed after the first. The original rockets seemed to dodge. Others
came up. There was an intricate pattern formed by the smoke trails of
rockets rising and other rockets following, and some trails dodging
and others closing in. Calhoun carefully reminded himself that it was
not likely that there'd be atomic war heads. The last planetary wars
had been fought with fusion weapons, and only the crews of single
ships survived. The planetary populations didn't. But atomic energy
wasn't much used aground, these days. Power for planetary use could be
had more easily from the upper, ionized limits of atmospheres.

A pursuing rocket closed in. There was a huge ball of smoke and a
flash of light, but it was not brighter than the sun. It wasn't atomic
flame. Calhoun relaxed. He watched as every one of the first-ascended
rockets was tracked down and destroyed by another. The last, at that,
was three-quarters of the way up.

The Med Ship quivered a little as the force fields tightened again. It
descended swiftly. It came to ground. Figures came to meet Calhoun as,
with Murgatroyd, he went out of the air lock. Some were uniformed. All
wore the grim expression and harried look of men under long-continued
strain.

The landing-grid operator shook hands first.

"Nice going! It could be lucky that you arrived. We normals need some
luck!"

He introduced a man in civilian clothes as the planetary Minister for
Health. A man in uniform was head of the planetary police. The others
weren't introduced.

"We worked fast after your call came!" said the grid operator. "Things
are lined up for you, but they're bad!"

"I've been wondering," admitted Calhoun dryly, "if all incoming ships
are greeted with rockets."

"That's the paras," said the police head, grimly. "They'd rather not
have a Med Service man here."

       *       *       *       *       *

A ground car sped across the spaceport. It came at a headlong pace
toward the group just outside the Med Ship. There was a sudden howl of
a siren by the spaceport gate. A second car leaped as if to intercept
the first. Its siren screamed again. Then bright sparks appeared near
the first car's windows. Blasters rasped. Incredulously, Calhoun saw
the blue-white of blaster bolts darting toward him. The men about him
clawed for weapons. The grid operator said sharply:

"Get in your ship! We'll take care of this! It's paras!"

But Calhoun stood still. It was instinct not to show alarm. Actually,
he didn't feel it. This was too preposterous! He tried to grasp the
situation and fearfulness does not help at such a time.

A bolt crackled against the Med Ship's hull just beyond him. Blasters
rasped from beside him. A bolt exploded almost at Calhoun's feet.
There were two men in the first-moving ground car, and now that
another car moved to head them off, one fired desperately and the
other tried to steer and fire at the same time. The siren-sounding car
send a stream of bolts at them. But both cars jounced and bounced.
There could be no marksmanship under such conditions.

[Illustration]

But a bolt did hit. The two-man car dipped suddenly to one side. Its
fore part touched ground. It slued around, and its rear part lifted.
It flung out its two passengers and with an effect of great
deliberation it rolled over end for end and came to a stop upside
down. Of its passengers, one lay still. The other struggled to his
feet and began to run--toward Calhoun. He fired desperately, again and
again----

Bolts from the pursuing car struck all round him. Then one struck him.
He collapsed.

Calhoun's hands clenched. Automatically, he moved toward the other
still figure, to act as a medical man does when somebody is hurt. The
grid operator seized his arm. As Calhoun jerked to get free, that
second man stirred His blaster lifted and rasped. The little pellet of
ball-lightning grazed Calhoun's side, burning away his uniform down to
the skin, just as there was a grating roar of blaster fire. The second
man died.

"Are you crazy?" demanded the grid operator angrily. "He was a para!
He was here to try to kill you!"

The police head snapped:

"Get that car sprayed! See if it had equipment to spread contagion!
Spray everything it went near! And hurry!"

There was silence as men came from the spaceport building. They pushed
a tank on wheels before them. It had a hose and a nozzle attached to
it. They began to use the hose to make a thick, foglike, heavy mist
which clung to the ground and lingered there. The spray had the biting
smell of phenol.

"What's going on here?" demanded Calhoun angrily. "Damnation! What's
going on here?"

The Minister for Health said unhappily:

"Why ... we've a public-health situation we haven't been able to meet.
It appears to be an epidemic of ... of ... we're not sure what, but it
looks like demoniac possession."


II

"I'd like," said Calhoun, "a definition. Just what do you mean by a
para?"

Murgatroyd echoed his tone in an indignant, "_Chee-chee!_"

This was twenty minutes later. Calhoun had gone back into the Med Ship
and treated the blaster burn on his side. He'd changed his clothing
from the scorched uniform to civilian garb. It would not look
eccentric here. Men's ordinary garments were extremely similar all
over the galaxy. Women's clothes were something else.

Now he and Murgatroyd rode in a ground car with four armed men of the
planetary police, plus the civilian who'd been introduced as the
Minister for Health for the planet. The car sped briskly toward the
spaceport gate. Masses of thick gray fog still clung to the ground
where the would-be assassins' car lay on its back and where the bodies
of the two dead men remained. The mist was being spread
everywhere--everywhere the men had touched ground or where their car
had run.

Calhoun had some experience with epidemics and emergency measures for
destroying contagion. He had more confidence in the primitive sanitary
value of fire. It worked, no matter how ancient the process of burning
things might be. But very many human beings, these days, never saw a
naked flame unless in a science class at school, where it might be
shown as a spectacularly rapid reaction of oxidation. But people used
electricity for heat and light and power. Mankind had moved out of the
age of fire. So here on Tallien it seemed inevitable that infective
material should be sprayed with antiseptics instead of simply set
ablaze.

"What," repeated Calhoun doggedly, "is a para?"

The Health Minister said unhappily:

"Paras are ... beings that once were sane men. They aren't sane any
longer. Perhaps they aren't men any longer. Something has happened to
them. If you'd landed a day or two later, you couldn't have landed at
all. We normals had planned to blow up the landing grid so no other
ship could land and be lifted off again to spread the ... contagion to
other worlds. If it is a contagion."

"Smashing the landing grid," said Calhoun practically, "may be all
right as a last resort. But surely there are other things to be tried
first!"

Then he stopped. The ground car in which he rode had reached the
spaceport gate. Three other ground cars waited there. One swung into
motion ahead of them. The other two took up positions behind. A
caravan of four cars, each bristling with blast weapons, swept along
the wide highway which began here at the spaceport and stretched
straight across level ground toward the city whose towers showed on
the horizon. The other cars formed a guard for Calhoun. He'd needed
protection before, and he might need it again.

"Medically," he said to the Minister for Health, "I take it that a
para is the human victim of some condition which makes him act
insanely. That is pretty vague. You say it hasn't been controlled.
That leaves everything very vague indeed. How widely spread is it?
Geographically, I mean."

"Paras have appeared," said the Minister for Health, "at every place
on Tallien Three where there are men."

"It's epidemic, then," said Calhoun professionally. "You might call it
pandemic. How many cases?"

"We guess at thirty per cent of the population--so far," said the
Minister for Health, hopelessly. "But every day the total goes up." He
added: "Dr. Lett has some hope for a vaccine, but it will be too late
for most."

Calhoun frowned. With reasonably modern medical techniques, almost any
sort of infection should be stopped long before there were as many
cases as that!

"When did it start? How long has it been running?"

"The first paras were examined six months ago," said the Health
Minister. "It was thought to be a disease. Our best physicians
examined them. They couldn't agree on a cause, they couldn't find a
germ or a virus...."

"Symptoms?" asked Calhoun crisply.

"Dr. Lett phrased them in medical terms," said the Minister for
Health. "The condition begins with a period of great irritability or
depression. The depression is so great that suicide is not infrequent.
If that doesn't happen, there's a period of suspiciousness and
secretiveness--strongly suggestive of paranoia. Then there's a craving
for--unusual food. When it becomes uncontrollable, the patient is
mad!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The ground cars sped toward the city. A second group of vehicles
appeared, waiting. As the four-car caravan swept up to them, one swung
in front of the car in which Calhoun and Murgatroyd rode. The others
fell into line to the rear. It began to look like a respectable
fighting force.

"And after madness?" Calhoun asked.

"Then they're paras!" said the Health Minister. "They crave the
incredible. They feed on the abominable. And they hate us normals
as--devils out of hell would hate us!"

"And after that again?" said Calhoun. "I mean, what's the prognosis?
Do they die or recover? If they recover, in how long? If they die, how
soon?"

"They're paras!" said the Health Minister querulously. "I'm no
physician! I'm an administrator! But I don't think any recover.
Certainly none die of it! They stay--what they've become."

"My experience," said Calhoun, "has been mostly with diseases that one
either recovers from or dies of. A disease whose victims organize to
steal weather rockets and to use them to destroy a ship--only they
failed--and who carry on with an assassination attempt ... that
doesn't sound like a disease! A disease has no purpose of its own.
They had a purpose--as if they obeyed one of their number."

The Minister for Health said uneasily:

"It's been suggested--that something out of the jungle causes what's
happened. On other planets there are creatures who drink blood without
waking their victims. There are reptiles who sting men. There are even
insects which sting men and inject diseases. Something like that seems
to have come out of the jungle. While men sleep--something happens to
them! They turn into paras. Something native to this world must be
responsible. The planet did not welcome us. There's not a native plant
or beast that is useful to us! We have to culture soil-bacteria so
Earth-type plants can grow here! We don't begin to know all the
creatures of the jungle! If something comes out and makes men paras
without their knowledge----"

Calhoun said mildly:

"It would seem that such things could be discovered."

The Health Minister said bitterly:

"Not this thing! It is intelligent! It hides! It acts as if on a plan
to destroy us! Why ... there was a young doctor who said he'd cured a
para! But we found him and the former para dead when we went to check
his claim! Things from the jungle had killed them! They think! They
know! They understand! They're rational, and like devils----"

       *       *       *       *       *

A third group of ground cars appeared ahead, waiting. Like the others,
they were filled with men holding blast rifles. They joined the
procession--the rushing, never-pausing group of cars from the
spaceport. The highway had obviously been patrolled against a possible
ambush or road block. The augmented combat group went on.

"As a medical man," said Calhoun carefully, "I question the existence
of a local, nonhuman rational creature. Creatures develop or adapt to
fit their environment. They change or develop to fit into some niche,
some special place in the ecological system which is their
environment. If there is no niche and no room for a specific creature
in an environment, there is no such creature there! And there cannot
be a place in any environment for a creature which will change it. It
would be a contradiction in terms! We rational humans change the
worlds we occupy! Any rational creature will! So a rational animal is
as nearly impossible as any creature can be. It's true that we've
happened, but--another rational race? Oh, no!"

Murgatroyd said:

"_Chee!_"

The city's towers loomed higher and taller above the horizon. Then,
abruptly, the fast-moving cavalcade came to the edge of the city and
plunged into it.

It was not a normal city. The buildings were not eccentric. All
planets, but very new ones, show local architectural peculiarities, so
it was not odd to see all windows topped by triple arches, or quite
useless pilasters in the brick walls of apartment buildings. These
would have made the city seem only individual. But it was not normal.
The streets were not clean. Two windows in three had been smashed. In
placed Calhoun saw doors that had been broken in and splintered, and
never repaired. That implied violence unrestrained. The streets were
almost empty. Occasional figures might be seen on the sidewalks before
the speeding ground cars, but the vehicles never passed them.
Pedestrians turned corners or dodged into doorways before the
cavalcade could overtake them.

The buildings grew taller. The street level remained empty of humans,
but now and again, many stories up, heads peered out of windows. Then
high-pitched yellings came from aloft. It was not possible to tell
whether they were yells of defiance or derision or despair, but they
were directed at the racing cars.

Calhoun looked quickly at the faces of the men around him. The
Minister for Health looked at once heartbroken and embittered. The
head of the planetary police stared grimly ahead. Screechings and
howlings echoed and re-echoed between the building walls. Objects
began to fall from the windows: bottles, pots and pans. Chairs and
stools twirled and spun, hurtling downward. Everything that was loose
and could be thrown from a window came down, flung by the occupants of
those high dwellings. With them came outcries which were assuredly
cursings.

It occurred to Calhoun that there had been a period in history when
mob-action invariably meant flames. Men burned what they hated and
what they feared. They also burned religious offerings to divers
bloodthirsty deities. It was fortunate, he reflected wryly, that fires
were no longer a matter of common experience, or burning oil and
flaming missiles would have been flung down on the ground cars.

"Is this unpopularity yours?" he asked. "Or do I have a share in it?
Am I unwelcome to some parts of the population?"

"You're unwelcome to paras," said the police head coldly. "Paras don't
want you here. Whatever drives them is afraid the Med Service might
make them no longer paras. And they want to stay the way they are."
His lips twisted. "They aren't making this uproar, though. We gathered
everybody we were sure wasn't ... infected into Government Center.
These people were left out. We weren't sure about them. So they
consider we've left them to become paras and they don't like it!"

Calhoun frowned again. This confused everything. There was talk of
infection, and talk of unseen creatures come out of the jungle, making
men paras and then controlling them as if by demoniac possession.
There were few human vagaries, though, that were not recorded in the
Med Service files. Calhoun remembered something, and wanted to be
sick. It was like an infection, and like possession by devils, too.
There would be creatures not much removed from fields involved,
anyhow.

"I think," he said, "that I need to talk to your counter-para
researchers. You have men working on the problem?"

"We did," said the police head, grimly. "But most of them turned para.
We thought they'd be more dangerous than other paras, so we shot them.
But it did no good. Paras still turn up, in Government Center, too!
Now we only send paras out the south gate. They doubtless make out--as
paras."

       *       *       *       *       *

For a time there was silence in the rushing cars, though a bedlam of
howls and curses came from aloft. Then a sudden shrieking of foreseen
triumph came from overhead. A huge piece of furniture, a couch, seemed
certain to crash into the car in which Calhoun rode. But it swerved
sharply, ran up on the sidewalk, and the couch dashed itself to
splinters where the car should have been. The car went down to the
pavement once more and rushed on.

The street ended. A high barrier of masonry rose up at a cross street.
It closed the highway and connected the walls of apartment buildings
on either hand. There was a gate in it, and the leading car drew off
to one side and the car carrying Calhoun and Murgatroyd ran through,
and there was a second barrier ahead, but this was closed. The other
cars filed in after it, Calhoun saw that windows in these apartment
buildings had been bricked up. They made a many-storied wall shutting
off all that was beyond them.

Men from the barrier went from car to car of the escort, checking men
who had been the escort for Calhoun. The Minister for Health said
jerkily:

"Everybody in Government Center is examined at least once each day to
see if they're turning para or not. Those showing symptoms are turned
out the south gate. Everybody, myself included, has to have a fresh
certificate every twenty-four hours."

The inner gate swung wide. The car carrying Calhoun went through. The
buildings about them ended. They were in a huge open space that must
once have been a park in the center of the city. There were structures
which could not possibly be other than government buildings. But the
population of this world was small. They were not grandiose. There
were walkways and some temporary buildings obviously thrown hastily
together to house a sudden influx of people.

And here there were many people. There was bright sunshine, and
children played and women watched them. There were some--not many--men
in sight, but most of them were elderly. All the young ones were
uniformed and hastily going here or there. And though the children
played gaily, there were few smiles to be seen on adult faces.

"I take it," said Calhoun, "that this is Government Center, where you
collected everybody in the city you were sure was normal. But they
don't all stay normal. And you consider that it isn't exactly an
infection but the result of something that's done to them
by--Something."

"Many of our doctors thought so," said the Minister for Health. "But
they've turned para. Maybe the ... Things got at them because they
were close to the truth."

His head sank forward on his chest. The police head said briefly:

"When you want to go back to your ship, say so and we'll take you. If
you can't do anything for us, you'll warn other planets not to send
ships here."

The ground car braked before one of those square, unornamented
buildings which are laboratories everywhere in the galaxy. The
Minister for Health got out. Calhoun followed him, Murgatroyd riding
on his shoulder. The ground car went away and Calhoun followed into
the building.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a sentry by the door, and an officer of the police. He
examined the Minister's one-day certificate of health. After various
vision-phone calls, he passed Calhoun and Murgatroyd. They went a
short distance and another sentry stopped them. A little farther, and
another sentry.

"Tight security," said Calhoun.

"They know me," said the Minister heavily, "but they are checking my
certificate that as of morning I wasn't a para."

"I've seen quarantines before," said Calhoun, "but never one like
this! Not against disease!"

"It isn't against disease," said the Minister, thinly. "It's against
Something intelligent ... from the jungle ... who chooses victims by
reason for its own purposes."

Calhoun said very carefully:

"I won't deny more than the jungle."

Here the Minister for Health rapped on a door and ushered Calhoun
through it. They entered a huge room filled with the complex of desks,
cameras, and observing and recording instruments that the study of a
living organism requires. The setup for study of dead things is quite
different. Here, halfway down the room's length, there was a massive
sheet of glass that divided the apartment into two. On the far side of
the glass there was, obviously, an aseptic environment room now being
used as an isolation chamber.

A man paced up and down beyond the glass. Calhoun knew he must be a
para because he was cut off in idea and in fact from normal humanity.
The air supplied to him could be heated almost white-hot and then
chilled before being introduced into the aseptic chamber for him to
breath, if such a thing was desired. Or the air removed could be made
incandescent so no possible germ or its spores could get out. Wastes
removed would be destroyed by passage through a carbon arc after
innumerable previous sterilizing processes. In such rooms, centuries
before, plants had been grown from antiseptic-soaked seeds and chicks
hatched from germ-free eggs, and even small animals delivered by
aseptic Caesarean section to live in an environment in which there was
no living microorganism. From rooms like this men had first learned
that some types of bacteria outside the human body were essential to
human health. But this man was not a volunteer for such research.

He paced up and down, his hands clenching and unclenching. When
Calhoun and the Minister for Health entered the outer room, he glared
at them. He cursed them, though inaudibly because of the sheet of
glass. He hated them hideously because they were not as he was;
because they were not imprisoned behind thick glass walls through
which his every action and almost his every thought could be watched.
But there was more to his hatred than that. In the midst of fury so
great that his face seemed almost purple, he suddenly yawned
uncontrollably.

Calhoun blinked and stared. The man behind the glass wall yawned again
and again. He was helpless to stop it. If such a thing could be, he
was in a paroxysm of yawning, though his eyes glared and he beat his
fists together. The muscles controlling the act of yawning worked
independently of the rage that should have made yawning impossible.
And he was ashamed, and he was infuriated, and he yawned more
violently than seemed possible.

"A man's been known to dislocate his jaw, yawning like that," said
Calhoun detachedly.

A bland voice spoke behind him.

"But if this man's jaw is dislocated, no one can help him. He is a
para. We cannot join him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Calhoun turned. He found himself regarded with unctuous condescension
by a man wearing glittering thick eyeglasses--and a man's eyes have to
be very bad if he can't wear contacts--and a uniform with a caduceus
at his collar. He was plump. He was beaming. He was the only man
Calhoun had so far seen on this planet whose expression was neither
despair nor baffled hate and fury.

"You are Med Service," the beaming man observed zestfully. "Of the
Interstellar Medical Service, to which all problems of public health
may be referred! But here we have a real problem for you! A contagious
madness! A transmissible delusion! An epidemic of insanity! A plague
of the unspeakable!"

The Minister for Health said uneasily:

"This is Dr. Lett. He was the greatest of our physicians. Now he is
nearly the last."

"Agreed," said the bland man, as zestfully as before. "But now the
Interstellar Medical Service sends someone before whom I should bow!
Someone whose knowledge and experience and training is so infinitely
greater than mine that I become abashed! I am timid! I am hesitant to
offer an opinion before a Med Service man!"

It was not unprecedented for an eminent doctor to resent the implied
existence of greater skill or knowledge than his own. But this man
was not only resentful. He was derisive.

"I came here," said Calhoun politely, "on what I expected to be a
strictly routine visit. But I'm told there's a very grave public
health situation here. I'd like to offer any help I can give."

"Grave!" Dr. Lett laughed scornfully. "It is hopeless for poor
planetary doctors like myself! But not, of course, for a Med Ship
man!"

Calhoun shook his head. This man would not be easy to deal with. Tact
was called for. But the situation was appalling.

"I have a question," said Calhoun ruefully. "I'm told that paras are
madmen, and there's been mention of suspicion and secretiveness which
suggests schizo-paranoia and--so I have guessed--the term para for
those affected in this way."

"It is not any form of paranoia," said the planetary doctor,
contemptuously. "Paranoia involves suspicion of everyone. Paras
despise and suspect only normals. Paranoia involves a sensation of
grandeur, not to be shared. Paras are friends and companions to each
other. They co-operate delightedly in attempting to make normals like
themselves. A paranoiac would not want anyone to share his greatness!"

Calhoun considered, and then agreed.

"Since you've said it, I see that it must be so. But my question
remains. Madness involves delusions. But paras organize themselves.
They make plans and take different parts in them. They act rationally
for purposes they agree on--such as assassinating me. But how can they
act rationally if they have delusions? What sort of delusions do they
have?"

The Minister for Health said thinly:

"Only what horrors out of the jungles might suggest! I ... I cannot
listen, Dr. Lett. I cannot watch, if you intend to demonstrate!"

The man with thick glasses waved an arm. The Minister for Health went
hastily out. Dr. Lett made a mirthless sound.

"He would not make a medical man! Here is a para in this aseptic room.
He is an unusually good specimen for study. He was my assistant and I
knew him when he was sane. Now I know him as a para. I will show you
his delusion."

He went to a small culture oven and opened the door. He busied himself
with something inside. Over his shoulder he said with unction:

"The first settlers here had much trouble establishing a human-use
ecology on this world. The native plants and animals were useless.
They had to be replaced with things compatible with humans. Then there
was more trouble. There were no useful scavengers--and scavengers are
essential! The rat is usually dependable, but rats do not thrive on
Tallien. Vultures--no. Of course not. Carrion beetles ... Scarabeus
beetles ... The flies that produce maggots to do such good work in
refuse disposal.... None thrive on Tallien Three! And scavengers are
usually specialists, too. But the colony could not continue without
scavengers! So our ancestors searched on other worlds, and presently
they found a creature which would multiply enormously and with a fine
versatility upon the wastes of our human cities. True, it smelled like
an ancient Earth-animal called skunk--butyl mercaptan. It was not
pretty--to most eyes it is revolting. But it was a scavenger and there
was no waste product it would not devour."

Dr. Lett turned from the culture oven. He had a plastic container in
his hand. A faint, disgusting odor spread from it.

"You ask what the delusions of para may be?" he grinned derisively. He
held out the container. "It is the delusion that this scavenger, this
eater of unclean things, this unspeakable bit of slimy, squirming
flesh--paras have the delusion that it is the most delectable of
foodstuffs!"

He thrust the plastic container under Calhoun's nose. Calhoun did not
draw in his breath while it remained there. Dr. Lett said in mocking
admiration:

"Ah! You have the strong stomach a medical man should have! The
delusion of the para is that these squirming, writhing objects are
delightful! Paras develop an irresistible craving for them! It is as
if men on an Earth-like world develop an uncontrollable hunger for
vultures and rats and--even less tolerable things. These
scavengers--paras eat them! So normal men would rather die than become
paras!"

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]

Calhoun gagged in purely instinctive revulsion. The things in the
plastic container were gray and small. Had they been still, they might
have been no worse to look at than raw oysters in a cocktail. But they
squirmed. They writhed.

"I will show you," said Dr. Lett amiably.

He turned to the glass plate which divided the room into halves. The
man behind the thick glass now pressed eagerly against it. He looked
at the container with a horrible, lustful desire. The thick-eyeglassed
man clucked at him, as if at a caged animal one wishes to soothe. The
man beyond the glass yawned hysterically. He seemed to whimper. He
could not take his eyes from the container in the doctor's hands.

"So!" said Dr. Lett.

He pressed a button. A lock-door opened. He put the container inside
it. The door closed. It could be sterilized before the door on the
other side would open, but now it was arranged to sterilize itself to
prevent contagion from coming out.

The man behind the glass uttered inaudible cries. He was filled with
beastly, uncontrollable impatience. He cried out at the mechanism of
the contagion-lock as a beast might bellow at the opening through
which food was dropped into its cage.

That lock opened, inside the glass-walled room. The plastic container
appeared. The man leaped upon it. He gobbled its contents, and Calhoun
was nauseated. But as the para gobbled, he glared at the two
who--with Murgatroyd--watched him. He hated them with a ferocity which
made veins stand out upon his temples and fury empurple his skin.

Calhoun felt that he'd gone white. He turned his eyes away and said
squeamishly:

"I have never seen such a thing before."

"It is new, eh?" Said Dr. Lett in a strange sort of pride. "It is new!
I ... even I!... have discovered something that the Med Service does
not know!"

"I wouldn't say the Service doesn't know about similar things," said
Calhoun slowly. "There are ... sometimes ... on a very small scale ...
dozens or perhaps hundreds of victims ... there are sometimes similar
irrational appetites. But on a planetary scale ... no. There has never
been a ... an epidemic of this size."

He still looked sick and stricken. But he asked:

"What's the result of this ... appetite? What does it do to a para?
What change in ... say ... his health takes place in a man after he
becomes a para?"

"There is no change," said Dr. Lett blandly. "They are not sick and they
do not die because they are paras. The condition itself is no more
abnormal than ... than diabetes! Diabetics require insulin. Paras ...
something else. But there is prejudice against what paras need! It is as
if some men would rather die than use insulin and those who did use it
became outcasts! I do not say what causes this condition. I do not
object if the Minister for Health believes that jungle creatures creep
out and ... make paras out of men." He watched Calhoun's expression.
"Does your Med Service information agree with me?"

"No-o-o," said Calhoun. "I'm afraid it inclines to the idea of a
monstrous cause, but it really isn't much like diabetes."

"But it is!" insisted Lett. "Everything digestible, no matter how
unappetizing to a modern man, has been a part of the regular diet of
some tribe of human savages! Even prehistoric Romans ate dormice
cooked in honey! Why should the fact that a needed substance happens
to be found in a scavenger...."

"The Romans didn't crave dormice," said Calhoun. "They could eat them
or leave them alone."

The man behind the thick glass glared at the two in the outer room. He
hated them intolerably. He cried out at them. Blood vessels in his
temples throbbed with his hatred. He cursed them.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I point out one thing more," said Dr. Lett. "I would like to have the
co-operation of the Interstellar Medical Service. I am a citizen of
this planet and not without influence. But I would like to have my
work approved by the Med Service. I submit that in some areas on
ancient Earth, iodine was put into the public water-supply systems to
prevent goiters and cretinism. Fluorine was put into drinking water to
prevent caries. On Tralee the public water supply has traces of zinc
and cobalt added. These are necessary trace elements. Why should you
not concede that here there are trace elements or trace compounds
needed----"

"You want me to report that," said Calhoun, flatly. "I couldn't do it
without explaining--a number of things. Paras are madmen, but they
organize. A symptom of privation is violent yawning. This ...
condition appeared only six months ago. This planet has been colonized
for three hundred years. It could not be a naturally needed trace
compound."

Dr. Lett shrugged, eloquently and contemptuously.

"Then you will not report what all this planet will certify," he said
curtly. "My vaccine----"

"You would not call it a vaccine if you thought it supplied a
deficiency--a special need of the people of Tallien. Could you give me
a small quantity of your ... vaccine?"

"No," said Dr. Lett blandly. "I am afraid you are not willing to be
co-operative. The little of my vaccine that is available is needed for
high officials, who must be protected from the para condition at all
costs. I am prepared to make it on a large scale, though, for the
whole population. I will see, then, that you have as much of it as you
need."

Calhoun seemed to reflect.

"No," he admitted, "I'm not ready to co-operate with you, Dr. Lett. I
have a very uncomfortable suspicion. I suspect that you carry a small
quantity of your vaccine with you all the time. That you cannot bear
the idea of being without it if you should need it. I say that because
it is a symptom of other ... similar conditions. Of other ... abnormal
appetites."

Dr. Lett had been bland and grinning in mockery. But the amusement
left his face abruptly.

"Now ... what do you mean by that?" he demanded.

Calhoun nodded his head toward the para behind the glass wall.

"That poor devil nearly yawned his head off before you gave him his
diet of scavengers, Dr. Lett. Do you ever yawn like that ... so you
make sure you've always your vaccine with you to stop it? Aren't you a
para, Dr. Lett? In fact, aren't you the ... monstrous cause of ...
paras?"

Murgatroyd cried "_Chee! Chee! Chee!_" in great agitation, because Dr.
Lett had snatched up a dissecting scalpel and crouched to leap upon
Calhoun. But Calhoun said:

"Easy, Murgatroyd! He won't do anything regrettable!"

He had a blaster in his hand, bearing directly upon the greatest and
most skillful physician on Tallien Three. And Dr. Lett did not do
anything regrettable. But his eyes burned with the fury of a madman.


III

Five minutes later, or possibly ten, Calhoun went out to where the
Minister for Health paced miserably up and down the corridor outside
the laboratory. The Minister looked white and sick, as if despite
himself he'd been picturing the demonstration Lett would have given
Calhoun. He did not meet Calhoun's eyes. He said uneasily:

"I'll take you to the Planetary President, now."

"No," said Calhoun. "I got some very promising information from Dr.
Lett. I want to go back to my ship first."

"But the President is waiting to see you!" protested the Minister for
Health. "There's something he wants to discuss!"

"I want," Calhoun observed, "to have something to discuss with him.
There is intelligence back of this para business. I'd almost call it
demoniac intelligence. I want to get back to my ship and check on what
I got from Dr. Lett."

The Minister for Health hesitated, and then said urgently:

"But the President is extremely anxious----"

"Will you," asked Calhoun politely, "arrange for me to be taken back
to my ship?"

The Minister for Health opened his mouth and closed it. Then he said
apologetically--and it seemed to Calhoun--fearfully:

"Dr. Lett has been our only hope of conquering this ... this epidemic.
The President and the Cabinet felt that they had to ... give him full
authority. There was no other hope! We didn't know you'd come. So ...
Dr. Lett wished you to see the President when you left him. It won't
take long!"

Calhoun said grimly:

"And he already has you scared! I begin to suspect I haven't even time
to argue with you!"

"I'll get you a car and driver as soon as you've seen the President.
It's only a little thing----"

Calhoun growled and moved toward the exit from the laboratory. Past
the sentries. Out to the open air. Here was the wide clear space which
once had been a park for the city and the site of the government
building of Tallien Three. A little distance away, children played
gaily. But there were women who watched them with deep anxiety. This
particular space contained all the people considered certainly free of
the para syndrome. Tall building surrounded the area which once had
been tranquil and open to all the citizens of the planet. But now
those buildings were converted into walls to shut out all but the
chosen--and the chosen were no better off for having been someone's
choice.

"The capital building's over yonder," said the Minister, at once
urgently and affrightedly and persuasively. "It's only a very short
walk! Just yonder!"

"I still," said Calhoun, "don't want to go there." He showed the
Minister for Health the blaster he'd aimed at Dr. Lett only minutes
ago. "This is a blaster," he said gently. "It's adjusted for low power
so that it doesn't necessarily burn or kill. It's the adjustment used
by police in case of riot. With luck, it only stuns. I used it on Dr.
Lett," he added unemotionally. "He's a para. Did you know? The vaccine
he's been giving to certain high officials to protect them against
becoming para--it satisfies the monstrous appetite of para without
requiring them to eat scavengers. But it also produces that appetite.
In fact, it's one of the ways by which paras are made."

The Minister for Health stared at Calhoun. His face went literally
gray. He tried to speak, and could not.

Calhoun added again, as unemotionally as before:

"I left Dr. Lett unconscious in his laboratory, knocked out by a
low-power blaster bolt. He knows he's a para. The President is a para,
but with a supply of 'vaccine' he can deny it to himself. By the look
on your face you've just found out you can't deny it to yourself any
longer. You're a para, too."

The Minister for Health made an inarticulate sound. He literally wrung
his hands.

"So," said Calhoun, "I want to get back to my ship and see what I can
do with the 'vaccine' I took from Dr. Lett. Do you help me, or don't
you?"

The Minister for Health seemed to have shriveled inside his garments.
He wrung his hands again. Then a ground car braked to a stop five
yards away. Two uniformed men jumped out. The first of them jerked at
his blaster in its holster on his hip.

"That's the _tormal_!" he snapped. "This's the man, all right!"

Calhoun pulled the trigger of his blaster three times. It whined
instead of rasping, because of its low-power setting. The Minister for
Health collapsed. Before he touched ground the nearer of the two
uniformed men seemed to stumble with his blaster halfway drawn. The
third man toppled.

"Murgatroyd!" said Calhoun sharply.

"_Chee!_" shrilled Murgatroyd. He leaped into the ground car beside
Calhoun.

       *       *       *       *       *

The motor squealed because of the violence with which Calhoun applied
the power. It went shrilly away with three limp figures left behind
upon the ground. But there wouldn't be instant investigation. The
atmosphere in Government Center was not exactly normal. People looked
apprehensively at them. But Calhoun was out of sight before the first
of them stirred.

"It's the devil," said Calhoun as he swung to the right at a roadway
curve, "to have scruples! If I'd killed Lett in cold blood, I'd have
been the only hope these people could have! Maybe they'd have let me
help them!"

He made another turn. There were buildings here and there, and he was
hardly out of sight of where he'd dropped three men. But it was
astonishing that action had been taken so quickly after Lett regained
consciousness. Calhoun had certainly left him not more than a quarter
of an hour before. The low-power blaster must have kept him stunned
for minutes. But immediately he'd recovered he'd issued orders for the
capture or the killing of a man with a small animal with him, a
_tormal_. And the order would have been carried out if Calhoun hadn't
happen to have his own blaster actually in his hand.

But the appalling thing was the over-all situation as now revealed.
The people of Government Center were turning para and Dr. Lett had all
the authority of the government behind him. He was the government for
the duration of the emergency. But he'd stay the government because
all the men in high office were paras who could conceal their
condition only so long as Dr. Lett permitted it. Calhoun could picture
the social organization to be expected. There'd be the tyrant; the
absolute monarch at its head. Absolutely submissive citizens would
receive their dosage of vaccine to keep them "normals" so long as it
pleased their masters. Anyone who defied him or even tried to flee
would become something both mad and repulsive, because subject to
monstrous and irresistible appetite. And the tyrant could prevent even
their satisfaction! So the citizens of Tallien Three were faced with
an ultimate choice of slavery, or madness, for themselves and their
families.

Calhoun swerved behind a government building and out of the parking
area beyond. Obviously, he couldn't leave Government Center by the way
he'd entered it. If Lett hadn't ordered him stopped, he'd be ordering
it now. And Murgatroyd was an absolute identification.

Again he turned a corner, thrusting Murgatroyd down out of sight. He
turned again, and again.... Then he began concentratedly to remember
where the sunset-line had been upon the planet when he was waiting to
be landed by the grid. He could guess at an hour and a half, perhaps
two, since he touched ground. On the combined data, he made a guess at
the local time. It would be mid-afternoon. So shadows would lie to the
northeast of the objects casting them. Then--

He did not remain on any straight roadway for more than seconds. But
now when he had a choice of turnings, he had a reason for each choice.
He twisted and dodged about--once he almost ran into children playing
a ritual game--but the sum total of his movements was steadily
southward. Paras were turned out of the south gate. That gate, alone,
would be the one where someone could go out with a chance of being
unchallenged.

       *       *       *       *       *

He found the gate. The usual tall buildings bordered it to left and
right. The actual exit was bare concrete walls slanting together to an
exit to the outer world; no more than a house-door wide. Well back
from the gate, there were four high-side trucks with armed police in
the truck-bodies. They were there to make sure that paras turned out,
or who went out of their own accord when they knew their state, would
not come back.

He stopped the ground car and tucked Murgatroyd under his coat. He
walked grimly toward the narrow exit. It was the most desperate of
gambles, but it was the only one he could make. He could be killed, of
course, if anybody suspected him of attempting exit at any gate.

He got out, unchallenged. The concrete walls rose higher and higher as
he walked away from the trucks and the police who would surely have
blasted him had they guessed. The way he could walk became narrowed.
It became a roofed-over passageway, with a turn in it so it could not
be looked through end to end. Then--he reached open air once more.

Nothing could be less dramatic than his actual escape. He simply
walked out. Nothing could be less remarkable than his arrival in the
city outside of Government Center. He found himself in a city street,
rather narrow, with buildings as usual all about him, whose windows
were either bricked shut, or smashed. There were benches against the
base of one of those buildings, and four or five men, quite unarmed,
lounged upon them. When Calhoun appeared one of them looked up and
then arose. A second man turned to busy himself with something behind
him. They were not grim. They showed no sign of being mad. But Calhoun
had already realized that the appetite which was madness came only
occasionally, only at intervals which could probably be known in
advance. Between one monstrous hunger-spell and another, a para might
look and act and actually be as sane as anybody else. Certainly Dr.
Lett and the President and the Cabinet members who were paras acted
convincingly as if they were not.

One of the men on the benches beckoned.

"This way," he said casually.

Murgatroyd poked his head out of Calhoun's jacket. He regarded these
roughly dressed men with suspicion.

"What's that?" asked one of the five.

"A pet," said Calhoun briefly.

The statement went unchallenged. A man got up, lifting a small tank
with a hose. There was a hissing sound. The spray made a fine, foglike
mist. Calhoun smelled a conventional organic solvent, well-known
enough.

"This's antiseptic," said the man with the spray. "In case you got
some disease inside there."

The statement was plainly standard, and once it had been exquisite
irony. But it had been repeated until it had no meaning any more,
except to Calhoun. His clothing glittered momentarily where the spray
stood on its fibres. Then it dried. There was the faintest possible
residue, like a coating of impalpable dust. Calhoun guessed its
significance and the knowledge was intolerable. But he said between
clenched fists.

"Where do I go now?"

"Anywheres," said the first man. "Nobody'll bother you. Some normals
try to keep you from getting near'em, but you can do as you please."
He added disinterestedly. "To them, too. No police out here!"

He went back to the bench and sat down. Calhoun moved on.

       *       *       *       *       *

His inward sensations were unbearable, but he had to continue. It was
not likely that instructions would have reached the para organization
yet. There was one. There must be one. But eventually he would be
hunted for even on the unlikely supposition that he'd gotten out of
Government Center. Not yet, but presently.

He went down the street. He came to a corner and turned it. There were
again a few moving figures in sight. There might be one pedestrian in
a city block. This was how they'd looked in the other part of the
city, seen from a ground car. On foot, they looked the same. Windows,
too, were broken. Doors smashed in. Trash on the streets....

None of the humans in view paid any attention to him at all, but he
kept Murgatroyd out of sight regardless. Walking men who came toward
him never quite arrived. They turned off on other streets or into
doorways. Those who moved in the same direction never happened to be
overtaken. They also turned corners or slipped into doors. They would
be, Calhoun realized dispassionately, people who still considered
themselves normals, out upon desperate errands for food and trying
hopelessly not to take contagion back to those they got food for. And
Calhoun was shaken with a horrible rage that such things could happen.
He, himself, had been sprayed with something.... And Dr. Lett had held
out a plastic container for him to smell.... He'd held his breath then,
but he could not keep from breathing now. He had a certain period of
time, and that period only, before--

He forced his thoughts back to the Med Ship when it was twenty miles
high, and ten, and five. He'd watched the ground through the electron
telescope and he had a mental picture of the city from the sky. It was
as clear to him as a map. He could orient himself. He could tell where
he was.

A ground car came to a stop some distance ahead. A man got out, his
arms full of bundles which would be food. Calhoun broke into a run.
The man tried to get inside the doorway before Calhoun could arrive.
But he would not leave any of the food.

Calhoun showed his blaster.

"I'm a para," he said quietly, "and I want this car. Give me the keys
and you can keep the food."

The man groaned. Then he dropped the keys on the ground. He fled into
the house.

"Thanks," said Calhoun politely to the emptiness.

He took his place in the car. He thrust Murgatroyd again out of sight.

"It's not," he told the _tormal_ with a sort of despairing humor,
"that I'm ashamed of you, Murgatroyd, but I'm afraid I may become
ashamed of myself. Keep low!"

He started the car and drove away.

He passed through a business district, with many smashed windows. He
passed through canyons formed by office buildings. He crossed a
manufacturing area, in which there were many ungainly factories but no
sign of any work going on. In any epidemic many men stay home from
work to avoid contagion. On Tallien Three nobody would be willing to
risk employment, for fear of losing much more than his life.

There there was a wide straight highway leading away from the city but
not toward the spaceport. Calhoun drove his stolen car along it. He
saw the strange steel embroidery of the landing grid rising to the
height of a minor mountain against the sky. He drove furiously. Beyond
it. He had seen the highway system from twenty miles height, and ten,
and five. From somewhere near here stolen weather rockets had gone
billowing skyward with explosive war heads to shatter _Esclipus
Twenty_.

They'd failed. Now Calhoun went past the place from which they had
been launched, and did not notice. Once he could look across flat
fields and see the spaceport highway. It was empty. Then there was
sunset. He saw the topmost silvery beams and girders of the landing
grid still glowing in sunshine which no longer reached down to the
planet's solid ground.

He drove. And drove. Government Center might put a road block to the
spaceport, just in case. But they'd really believe him still hiding
somewhere in Government Center with no hope of--actually--accomplishing
anything but his own destruction.

       *       *       *       *       *

After sunset he was miles beyond the spaceport. When twilight was
done, he'd crossed to another surface road and was headed back toward
the city. But this time he would pass close to the spaceport. And two
hours after sundown he turned the car's running-lights off and drove a
dark and nearly noiseless vehicle through deep-fallen night. Even so,
he left the ground car a mile from the tall and looming lacework of
steel. He listened with straining ears for a long time.

Presently he and Murgatroyd approached the spaceport, on foot, from a
rather improbable direction. The gigantic, unsubstantiated tower rose
incredibly far toward the sky. As he drew near it he crouched lower
and lower so he was almost crawling to keep from being silhouetted
against the stars. He saw lights in the windows of the grid's control
building. As he looked, a lighted window darkened from someone moving
past it inside. There was an enormous stillness, broken only by faint,
faint noises of the wind in the metal skeleton.

He saw no ground cars to indicate men brought here and waiting for
him. He went very cautiously forward. Once he stopped and
distastefully restored his blaster to lethal-charge intensity. If he
had to use it, he couldn't hope to shoot accurately enough to stun an
antagonist. He'd have to fight for his life--or rather, for the chance
to live as a normal man, and to restore that possibility to the people
in the ghastly-quiet city at the horizon and the other lesser cities
elsewhere on this world.

He took infinite precautions. He saw the Med Ship standing valiantly
upright on its landing fins. It was a relief to see it. The grid
operator could have been ordered to lift it out to space--thrown away
to nowhere, or put in orbit until it was wanted again, or....

That was still a possibility. Calhoun's expression turned wry. He'd
have to do something about the grid. He must be able to take off on
the ship's emergency rockets without the risk of being caught by the
tremendously powerful force fields by which ships were launched and
landed.

He crept close to the control building. No voices, but there was
movement inside. Presently he peered in a window.

The grid operator who'd been the first man to greet him on his
landing, now moved about the interior of the building. He pushed a
tank on wheels. With a hose attached to it, he sprayed. Mist poured
out and splashed away from the side walls. It hung in the air and
settled on the desks, the chairs, and on the control board with its
dials and switches. Calhoun had seen the mist before. It had been used
to spray instead of burning the bodies of the two men who'd tried to
murder him, and their wrecked ground car, and everywhere that the car
was known to have run. It was a decontaminant spray; credited with the
ability to destroy the contagion that made paras out of men.

Calhoun saw the grid operator's face. It was resolute beyond
expression, but it was very, very bitter.

Calhoun went confidently to the door and knocked on it. A savage voice
inside said:

"Go away! I just found out I'm a para!"

Calhoun opened the door and walked inside. Murgatroyd followed. He
sneezed as the mist reached his nostrils.

"Ive been treated," said Calhoun, "so I'll be a para right along with
you, after whatever the development period is. Question: Can you fix
the controls so nobody else can use the grid?"

The grid operator stared at him numbly. He was deathly pale. He did
not seem able to grasp what Calhoun had said.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]

"I've got to do some work on the para condition," Calhoun told him. "I
need to be undisturbed in the ship, and I need a patient further along
toward being a para than I am. It'll save time. If you'll help, we may
be able to beat the thing. If not, I've still got to disable the
grid."

The grid operator said in a savage, unhuman voice:

"I'm a para. I'm trying to spray everything I've touched. Then I'm
going to go off somewhere and kill myself--"

Calhoun drew his blaster. He adjusted it again to non-lethal
intensity.

"Good man!" he said approvingly. "I'll have a similar job to do if I'm
not a better medical man than Lett! Will you help me?"

Murgatroyd sneezed again. He said plaintively:

"_Chee!_"

The grid's operator looked down at him, obviously in a state of shock.
No ordinary sight or sound could have gotten through to his
consciousness. But Murgatroyd was a small, furry animal with long
whiskers and a hirsute tail and a habit of imitating the actions of
humans. He sneezed yet again and looked up. There was a handkerchief
in Calhoun's pocket. Murgatroyd dragged it out and held it to his
face. He sneezed once more and said, "_Chee!_" and returned the
handkerchief to its place. He regarded the grid operator
disapprovingly. The operator was shocked out of his despair. He said
shakenly:

"What the devil--" Then he stared at Calhoun. "Help you? How can I
help anybody? I'm a para!"

"Which," said Calhoun, "is just what I need. I'm Med Service, man!
I've got a job to do with what they call an epidemic! I need a para
who's willing to be cured! That's you! Let's get this grid fixed so it
can't work and--"

There was a succession of loud clicks from a speaker unit on the wall.
It was an emergency-wave, unlocking the speaker from its Off position.
Then a voice:

"_All citizens attention! The Planetary President is about to give you
good news about the end of the para epidemic!_"

A pause. Then a grave and trembling voice came out of the speakers:

"_My fellow-citizens, I have the happiness to report that a vaccine
completely protecting normals against the para condition, and curing
those already paras, has been developed. Dr. Lett, of the planetary
health service, has produced the vaccine which is already in
small-scale production and will shortly be available in large
quantities, enough for everyone! The epidemic which has threatened
every person on Tallien Three is about to end! And to hasten the time
when every person on the planet will have the vaccine in the required
dosage and at the required intervals, Dr. Lett has been given complete
emergency authority. He is empowered to call upon every citizen for
any labor, any sum, any sacrifice that will restore our afflicted
fellow-citizens to normality, and to protect the rest against falling
a victim to this intolerable disease. I repeat: a vaccine has been
found which absolutely prevents anyone from becoming a para, and which
cures those who are paras now. And Dr. Lett has absolute authority to
issue any orders he feels necessary to hasten the end of the epidemic
and to prevent its return. But the end is sure!_"

The speaker clicked off. Calhoun said wryly:

"Unfortunately, I know what that means. The President has announced
the government's abdication in favor of Dr. Lett, and that the
punishment for disobeying Lett is--madness."

He drew a deep breath and shrugged his shoulders.

"Come along! Let's get to work!"


IV

As it happened, the timing was critical, though Calhoun hadn't
realized it. There were moving lights on the highway to the city at
the moment Calhoun and the grid operator went into the Med Ship and
closed the air-lock door behind them. The lights drew nearer. They
raced. Then ground cars came rushing through the gate of the spaceport
and flung themselves toward the wholly peaceful little Med Ship where
it stood seeming to yearn toward the sky. In seconds they had it
ringed about, and armed men were trying to get inside. But Med Ships
land on very many planets, with very many degrees of respect for the
Interstellar Medical Service. On some worlds there is great integrity
displayed by spaceport personnel and visitors. On others there is
pilfering, or worse. So Med Ships are not easily broken into.

They spent long minutes fumbling unskillfully at the outer air-lock
door. Then they gave it up. Two car loads of men went over to the
control building, which now was dark and silent. Its door was not
locked. They went in.

There was consternation. The interior of the control building reeked
of antiseptic spray--the spray used when a para was discovered. In
some cases, the spray a para used when he discovered himself. But it
was not reassuring to the men just arrived from Government Center.
Instead of certifying to their safety, it told of horrifying danger.
Because despite a broadcast by the planetary president, terror of
paras was too well-established to be cured by an official statement.

The men who'd entered the building stumbled out and stammered of what
they'd smelled inside the building. Their companions drew back,
frightened by even so indirect a contact with supposed contagion. They
stayed outside, while a man who hadn't entered used the police-car
communicator to report to the headquarters of the planetary police.

The attempt to enter the ship was known inside, of course. But Calhoun
paid no attention. He emptied the pockets of the garments he'd worn
into the city. There were the usual trivia a man carries with him. But
there was also a blaster--set for lower-power bolts--and a small
thick-glass phial of a singular grayish fluid, and a plastic
container.

He was changing to other clothing when he heard the muttering report,
picked up by a ship-receiver tuned to planetary police wave length. It
reported affrightedly that the Med Ship could not be entered, and the
grid's control building was dark and empty and sprayed as if to
destroy contagion. The operator was gone.

Another voice snapped orders in reply. The highest authority had given
instructions that the Med Ship man now somewhere in the capital city
must be captured, and his escape from the planet must be prevented at
all costs. So if the ship itself could not be entered and disabled,
get the grid working and throw it away. Throw it out to space! Whether
there was contagion in the control building or not, the ship must be
made unusable to the Med Ship man!

"They think well of me," said Calhoun. "I hope I'm as dangerous as Dr.
Lett now believes." Then he said crisply: "You say you're a para. I
want the symptoms: how you feel and where. Then I want to know your
last contact with scavengers."

       *       *       *       *       *

The intentions of the police outside could be ignored. It wouldn't
matter if the Med Ship were heaved out to space and abandoned. He was
in it. But it couldn't happen. The grid operator had brought away
certain essential small parts of the grid control system. Of course
the ship could be blown up. But he'd have warning of that. He was safe
except for one thing. He'd been exposed to whatever it was that made a
man a para. The condition would develop. But he did have a thick-glass
container of grayish fluid, and he had a plastic biological-specimen
container. One came from Dr. Lett's safest pocket. It would be
vaccine. The other came from the culture oven in the doctor's
laboratory.

The thick-glass phial was simply that. Calhoun removed the cover from
the other. It contained small and horrible squirming organisms,
writhing in what was probably a nutrient fluid to which they could
reduce human refuse. They swarm jerkily in it so that the liquid
seemed to seethe. It smelled. Like skunk.

The grid operator clenched his hands.

"Put it away!" he commanded fiercely. "Out of sight! Away!"

Calhoun nodded. He locked it in a small chest. As he put down the
cover he said in an indescribable tone:

"It doesn't smell as bad to me as it did."

But his hands were steady as he drew a sample of a few drops from the
vaccine bottle. He lowered a wall panel and behind it there was a
minute but astonishingly complete biological laboratory. It was
designed for microanalysis--the quantitative and qualitative analysis
of tiny quantities of matter. He swung out a miniaturized Challis
fractionator. He inserted half a droplet of the supposed vaccine and
plugged in the fractionator's power cable. It began to hum.

The grid operator ground his teeth.

"This is a fractionator," said Calhoun. "It spins a biological sample
through a chromatograph gele."

The small device hummed more shrilly. The sound rose in pitch until it
was a whine, and then a whistle, and then went up above the highest
pitch to which human ears are sensitive. Murgatroyd scratched at his
ears and complained:

"_Chee! Chee! Chee!_"

"It won't be long," Calhoun assured him. He looked once at the grid
operator and then looked away. There was sweat on the man's forehead.
Calhoun said casually: "The substance that makes the vaccine do what
it does do is in the vaccine, obviously. So the fractionator is
separating the different substances that are mixed together." He
added, "It doesn't look much like chromatography, but the principle's
the same. It's an old, old trick!"

It was, of course. That different dissolved substances can be
separated by their different rates of diffusion through wetted powders
and geles had been known since the early twentieth century, but was
largely forgotten because not often needed. But the Med Service did
not abandon processes solely because they were not new.

Calhoun took another droplet of the vaccine and put it between two
plates of glass, to spread out. He separated them and put them in a
vacuum drier.

"I'm not going to try an analysis," he observed. "It would be silly to
try to do anything so complicated if I only need to identify
something. Which I hope is all I do need!"

He brought out an extremely small vacuum device. He cleaned the
garments he'd just removed, drawing every particle of dust from them.
The dust appeared in a transparent tube which was part of the machine.

"I was sprayed with something I suspect the worst of," he added. "The
spray left dust behind. I _think_ it made sure that anybody who left
Government Center would surely be a para. It's another reason for
haste."

The grid operator ground his teeth again. He did not really hear
Calhoun. He was deep in a private hell of shame and horror.

The inside of the ship was quiet, but it was not tranquil. Calhoun
worked calmly enough, but there were times when his inwards seemed to
knot and cramp him, which was not the result of any infection or
contagion or demoniac possession, but was reaction to thoughts of the
imprisoned para in the laboratory. That man had gobbled the
unspeakable because he could not help himself, but he was mad with
rage and shame over what he had become. Calhoun could become like
that--

       *       *       *       *       *

The loud-speaker tuned to outside frequencies muttered again. Calhoun
turned up its volume.

"_Calling Headquarters_!" panted a voice. "_There's a mob of paras
forming in the streets in the Mooreton quarter! They're raging! They
heard the President's speech and they swear they'll kill him! They
won't stand for a cure! Everybody's got to turn para! They won't have
normals on the planet! Everybody's got to turn para or be killed!_"

The grid operator looked up at the speaker. The ultimate of bitterness
appeared on his face. He saw Calhoun's eyes on him and said savagely:

"That's where I belong!"

Murgatroyd headed straight for his cubbyhole and crawled into it.

Calhoun got out a microscope. He examined the dried glass plates from
the vacuum drier. The fractionator turned itself off and he focused on
and studied the slide it yielded. He inspected a sample of the dust
he'd gotten from the garments that had been sprayed at the south gate.
The dust contained common dust particles and pollen particles and
thread particles and all sorts of microscopic debris. But throughout
all the sample he saw certain infinitely tiny crystals. They were too
small to be seen separately by the naked eye, but they had a definite
crystalline form. And the kind of crystals a substance makes are not
too specific about what the substance is, but they tell a great deal
about what it cannot be. In the fractionator slide he could get more
information--the rate-of-diffusion of a substance in solution ruled
out all but a certain number of compounds that it could be. The two
items together gave a definite clue.

Another voice from the speaker:

"_Headquarters! Paras are massing by the north gate! They act ugly!
They're trying to force their way into Government Center! We'll have
to start shooting if we're to stop them! What are our orders?_"

The grid operator said dully:

"They'll wreck everything. I don't want to live because I'm a para,
but I haven't acted like one yet. Not yet! But they have! So they
don't want to be cured! They'd never forget what they've done. They'd
be ashamed!"

Calhoun punched keys on a very small computer. He'd gotten an
index-of-refraction reading on crystals too small to be seen except
through a microscope. That information, plus specific gravity, plus
crystalline form, plus rate of diffusion in a fractionator, went to
the stores of information in the computer's memory banks somewhere
between the ship's living quarters and its outer skin.

A voice boomed from another speaker, tuned to public-broadcast
frequency:

"_My fellow-citizens, I appeal to you to be calm! I beg you to be
patient! Practice the self-control that citizens owe to themselves and
their world, I appeal to you...._"

Outside in the starlight the Med Ship rested peacefully on the ground.
Around and above it the grid rose like geometric fantasy to veil most
of the starry sky. Here in the starlight the ground-car communicators
gave out the same voice. The same message. The President of Tallien
Three made a speech. Earlier, he'd made another. Earlier still he'd
taken orders from the man who was already absolute master of the
population of this planet.

Police stood uneasy guard about the Med Ship because they could not
enter it. Some of their number who had entered the control building
now stood shivering outside it, unable to force themselves inside
again. There was a vast, detached stillness about the spaceport. It
seemed the more unearthly because of the thin music of wind in the
landing grid's upper levels.

At the horizon there was a faint glow. Street lights still burned in
the planet's capitol city, but though buildings rose against the sky
no lights burned in them. It was not wise for anybody to burn lights
that could be seen outside their dwellings. There were police, to be
sure. But they were all in Government Center, marshaled there to try
to hold a perimeter formed by bricked-up apartment buildings. But most
of the city was dark and terribly empty save for mobs of all sizes but
all raging. Nine-tenths of the city was at the mercy of the paras.
Families darkened their homes and, terrified, hid in corners and in
closets, listening for outcries or the thunderous tramping of madmen
at their doors.

In the Med Ship the loud-speaker went on:

"_I have told you,_" said the rounded tones of the Planetary
President--but his voice shook, "_I have told you that Dr. Lett has
perfected and is making a vaccine which will protect every citizen and
cure every para. You must believe me, my fellow-citizens. You must
believe me! To paras, I promise that their fellows who were not
afflicted with the same condition will forget! I promise that no one
will remember what... what has been done in delirium! What has taken
place--and there have been tragedies--will be blotted out. Only be
patient now! Only...._"

       *       *       *       *       *

Calhoun went over his glass slides again while the computer stood
motionless, apparently without life. But he had called for it to find,
in its memory banks, an organic compound of such-and-such a
crystalline form, such-and-such a diffusion rate, such-and-such a
specific gravity, and such-an-such a refractive index. Men no longer
considered that there was any effective limit to the number of organic
compounds that were possible. The old guess at half a million
different substances was long exceeded. It took time even for a
computer to search all its microfilmed memories for a compound such as
Calhoun had described.

He paced restlessly while the computer consulted its memory with faint
whirrings of cooling blowers, and occasional chucklings as memory
cubes full of exceedingly complex stereomolecules of recorded
information were searched.

"Maybe," Calhoun said, "this isn't so much a new disease as a
modification of a very old one. The very ancient Hate Disease--for the
most important symptom of this particular malady is the hate it's
stirred up. I've seen a number of sick planets--but the hate index on
this one earns it a record score." He paused for a moment as the
computer did an extra-special burping chuckle, and slipped in an
entire new case of memory cubes. "Hm-m-m ... if what we're looking for
is a vaccine against hate we'd really have something.

"But I'm afraid not. That's too happy an outcome. We'll just call this
Hate Disease, Tallien Three strain. It's standard practice," Calhoun
continued, "to consider that everything that can happen, does.
Specifically, that any compound that can possibly exist, sooner or
later must be formed in nature. We're looking for a particular one. It
must have been formed naturally at some time or another, but never
before has it appeared in quantity enough to threaten a civilization.
Why?"

Murgatroyd licked his right-hand whiskers. He whimpered a little--and
Murgatroyd was a very cheerful small animal, possessed of exuberant
health and a fine zest in simply being alive. Exposed to contagion, it
was the admirable talent of his kind to react instantly and violently,
producing antibodies so promptly that no conceivable disease could
develop. _Tormals_ were cherished and respected members of the
Interstellar Medical Service because they could produce within hours
antibodies for any possible infection, and the synthesis of such
antibodies could be begun and any possible plague defeated. But
Murgatroyd was not happy now.

"It's been known for a long time," said Calhoun impatiently, "that no
form exists alone. Every living creature exists in an environment, in
association with all the other living creatures around it. But this is
true of compounds, too! Anything that is part of an environment is
essential to that environment. So even organic compounds are as much
parts of a planetary life system as ... say ... rabbits on a Terran
type world. If there are no predators, rabbits will multiply until
they starve."

Murgatroyd said, "_Chee!_" as if complaining to himself.

"Rats," said Calhoun somehow angrily, "have been known to do that on a
derelict ship. There was a man named Malthus who said we humans would
some day do the same thing. But we haven't. We've take over a galaxy.
If we ever crowd this, there are more galaxies for us to colonize,
forever! But there have been cases of rats and rabbits multiplying
past endurance. Here we've got an organic molecule that has multiplied
out of all reason! It's normal for it to exist, but in a normal
environment it's held in check by other molecules which in some sense
feed on it; which control the population of this kind of molecule as
rabbits or rats are controlled in a larger environment. But the check
on this molecule isn't working, here!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The booming voice of the Planetary President went on and on and on.
Memoranda of events taking place were handed to him, and he read them
and argued with the paras who had tried to rush the north gate of
Government Center, to make its inhabitants paras like themselves. But
the Planetary President tried to make oratory a weapon against
madness.

Calhoun grimaced at the voice. He said fretfully:

"There's a molecule which has to exist because it can. It's a part of
a normal environment, but it doesn't normally produce paras. Now it
does! Why? What is the compound or the condition that controls its
abundance? Why is it missing here? What is lacking? What?"

The police-frequency speaker suddenly rattled, as if someone shouted
into a microphone.

"_All police cars! Paras have broken through a building wall on the
west side! They're pouring into the Center! All cars rush! Set
blasters at full power and use them! Drive them back or kill them!_"

The grid operator turned angry, bitter eyes upon Calhoun.

"The paras--we paras!--don't want to be cured!" he said fiercely. "Who'd
want to be normal again and remember when he ate scavengers? I haven't
yet, but--who'd be able to talk to a man he knew had devoured ...
devoured--" The grid operator swallowed. "We paras want everybody to be
like us, so we can endure being what we are! We can't take it any other
way--except by dying!"

He stood up. He reached for the blaster Calhoun had put aside when he
changed from the clothes he'd worn in the city.

"...And I'll take it that way!"

Calhoun whirled. His fist snapped out. The grid operator reeled out.
The blaster dropped from his hand. Murgatroyd cried out shrilly, from
his cubbyhole. He hated violence, did Murgatroyd.

Calhoun stood over the operator, raging:

"It's not that bad yet! You haven't yawned once! You can stand the
need for monstrousness for a long while yet! And I need you!"

He turned away. The President's voice boomed. It cut off abruptly.
Another voice took its place. And this was the bland and unctuous
voice of Dr. Lett.

"_My friends! I am Dr. Lett! I have been entrusted with all the powers
of the government because I, and I alone, have all the power over the
cause of the para condition. From this moment I am the government! To
paras--you need not be cured unless you choose. There will be places
and free supplies for you to enjoy the deep satisfactions known only
to you! To nonparas--you will be protected from becoming paras except
by your own choice. In return, you will obey! The price of protection
is obedience. The penalty for disobedience will be loss of protection.
But those from whom protection is withdrawn will not be supplied with
their necessities! Paras, you will remember this! Nonparas, do not
forget it_!" His voice changed. "_Now I give an order! To the police
and to nonparas: You will no longer resist paras! To paras: You will
enter Government Center quietly and peacefully. You will not molest
the nonparas you come upon. I begin at once the organization of a new
social system in which paras and nonparas must co-operate. There must
be obedience to the utmost--_"

       *       *       *       *       *

The grid operator cursed as he rose from the floor. Calhoun did not
notice. The computer had finally delivered a strip of paper on which
was the answer he had demanded. And it was of no use. Calhoun said
tonelessly:

"Turn that off, will you?"

While the grid operator obeyed, Calhoun read and reread the strip of
tape. He had lacked something of good color before, but as he reread,
he grew paler and paler. Murgatroyd got down restlessly from his
cubbyhole. He sniffed. He went toward the small locked chest in which
Calhoun had put away the plastic container of living scavengers. He
put his nose to the crack of that chest's cover.

"_Chee!_" he said confidently. He looked at Calhoun. Calhoun did not
notice.

"This," said Calhoun, completely white, "This is bad! It's ... it's an
answer, but it would take time to work it out, and we haven't got the
time! And to make it and to distribute it--"

The grid operator growled. Dr. Lett's broadcast had verified
everything Calhoun said. Dr. Lett was now the government of Tallien
Three. There was nobody who could dare oppose him. He could make
anybody into a para, and then deny that para his unspeakable
necessities. He could turn anybody on the planet into a madman with
ferocious and intolerable appetites, and then deny them their
satisfaction. The people of Tallien Three were the slaves of Dr. Lett.
The grid operator said in a deadly voice:

"Maybe I can get to him and kill him before--"

Calhoun shook his head. Then he saw Murgatroyd sniffing at the chest
now holding the container of live scavengers. Open, it had had a faint
but utterly disgusting odor. Locked up, Calhoun could not smell it.
But Murgatroyd could. He sniffed. He said impatiently to Calhoun:

"_Chee! Chee-chee!_"

Calhoun stared. His lips tightened. It was the function of the
_tormal_ members of the Med Service to react to any infection more
swiftly than humans could do, and to develop antibodies which
destroyed that infection and could be synthesized to cure it in
humans. But Murgatroyd was immune only to infections. To toxins. He
was not immune to an appetite-causing molecule demanding more of
itself on penalty of madness. Murgatroyd had no more inherent
resistance than a man.

"_Chee-chee!_" he chattered urgently. "_Chee-chee-chee!_"

"It's got him," said Calhoun. He felt sickened. "It'll have me.
Because I can't synthesize anything as complex as the computer says is
needed to control the molecular population that makes paras!"

Murgatroyd chattered again. He was indignant. He wanted something and
Calhoun didn't give it to him. He could not understand so preposterous
a happening. He reached up and tugged at Calhoun's trouser-leg.
Calhoun picked him up and tossed him the width of the control room.
He'd done it often, in play, but this was somehow different.
Murgatroyd stared incredulously at Calhoun.

"To break it down," said Calhoun bitterly, "I need aromatic olefines
and some acetone, and acetic-acid radicals and methyl submolecular
groups. To destroy it absolutely I need available unsaturated
hydrocarbons--they'll be gases! And it has to be kept from reforming
as it's broken up, and I may need twenty different organic radicals
available at the same time! It's a month's work for a dozen competent
men just to find out how to make it, and I'd have to make it in
quantity for millions of people and persuade them of its necessity
against all the authority of the government and the hatred of the
paras, and then distribute it--"

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]

Murgatroyd was upset. He wanted something that Calhoun wouldn't give
him. Calhoun had shown impatience--almost an unheard-of thing!
Murgatroyd squirmed unhappily. He still wanted the thing in the chest.
But if he did something ingratiating....

He saw the blaster, lying on the floor. Calhoun often petted him when,
imitating, he picked up something that had been dropped. Murgatroyd
went over to the blaster. He looked back at Calhoun. Calhoun paced
irritably up and down. The grid operator stood with clenched hands,
contemplating the intolerable and the monstrous.

Murgatroyd picked up the blaster. He trotted over to Calhoun. He
plucked at the man's trouser-leg again. He held the blaster in the
only way his tiny paw could manage it. A dark, sharp-nailed finger
rested on the trigger.

"_Chee-chee!_" said Murgatroyd.

He offered the blaster. Calhoun jumped when he saw it in Murgatroyd's
paw. The blaster jerked, and Murgatroyd's paw tightened to hold it. He
pulled the trigger. A blaster-bolt crashed out of the barrel. It was a
miniature bolt of ball-lightning. It went into the floor, vaporizing
the surface and carbonizing the multi-ply wood layer beneath it. The
Med Ship suddenly reeked of wood smoke and surfacer. Murgatroyd fled
in panic to his cubbyhole and cowered in its farthest corner.

But there was a singular silence in the Med Ship. Calhoun's expression
was startled; amazed. He was speechless for long seconds. Then he said
blankly:

"Damnation! How much of a fool can a man make of himself when he works
at it? Do you smell that?" He shot the question at the grid operator.
"Do you smell that? It's wood smoke! Did you know it?"

Murgatroyd listened fearfully, blinking.

"Wood smoke!" said Calhoun between his teeth. "And I didn't see it!
Men have had fires for two million years and electricity for half a
thousand. For two million years there was no man or woman or child who
went a full day without breathing in some wood smoke! And I didn't
realize that it was so normal a part of human environment that it was
a necessary one!"

There was a crash. Calhoun had smashed a chair. It was an oddity
because it was make of wood. Calhoun had owned it because it was odd.
Now he smashed it to splinters and piled them up and flung
blaster-bolt after blaster-bolt into the heap. The air inside the Med
Ship grew pungent; stinging; strangling. Murgatroyd sneezed. Calhoun
coughed. The grid operator seemed about to choke. But in the white fog
Calhoun cried exultantly:

"Aromatic olefines! Acetone! Acetic acid radicals and methyl
submolecular groups! And smoke has unsaturated hydrocarbon gases. This
is the stuff our ancestors have breathed in tiny quantities for a
hundred thousand generations! Of course it was essential to them! And
to us! It was a part of their environment, so they had to have a use
for it! And it controlled the population of certain molecules...."

The air system gradually cleared away the smoke, but the Med Ship
still reeked of wood-smoke smells.

"Let's check on this thing!" snapped Calhoun. "Murgatroyd!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Murgatroyd came timidly to the door of his cubbyhole. He blinked
imploringly at Calhoun. At a repeated command he came unhappily to his
master. Calhoun petted him. Then he opened the chest in which a
container held living scavengers which writhed and swam and seemed to
seethe. He took out that container. He took off the lid.

Murgatroyd backed away. His expression was ludicrous. There was no
question but that his nose was grievously offended. Calhoun turned to
the grid operator. He extended the sample of scavengers. The grid man
clenched his teeth and took it. Then his face worked. He thrust it
back into Calhoun's hand.

"It's--horrible!" he said thickly. "Horrible!" Then his jaw dropped.
"I'm not a para! Not ... a para--" Then he said fiercely. "We've got
to get this thing started! We've got to start curing paras--"

"Who," said Calhoun, "will be ashamed of what they remember. We can't
get co-operation form them! And we can't get co-operation from the
government! The men who were the government are paras and they've
given their authority to Dr. Lett. You don't think he'll abdicate, do
you? Especially when it's realized that he was the man who developed
the strain of scavengers that secrete this modified butyl mercaptan
that turns men into paras!"

Calhoun grinned almost hysterically.

"Maybe it was an accident. Maybe he found himself the first para and
was completely astonished. But he couldn't be alone in what he knew
was--degradation. He wanted others with him in that ghastly state. He
got them. Then he didn't want anybody not to be like himself.... We
can't get help from him!"

Exultantly, he flipped switches to show on vision screens what went on
in the world outside the ship. He turned on all the receivers that
could pick up sounds and broadcasts. Voices came in:

"_There's fighting everywhere! Normals won't accept paras among them!
Paras won't leave normals alone.... They touch them; breathe on
them--and laugh! There's fighting--_" The notion that the para state
was contagious was still cherished by paras. It was to be preferred to
the notion that they were possessed by devils. But there were some who
gloried in the more dramatic opinion. There were screamings on the
air, suddenly, and a man's voice panting: "_Send police here fast! The
paras have gone wild. They're--_"

Calhoun seated himself at the control desk. He threw switches there.
He momentarily touched a button. There was a slight shock and the
beginning of a roar outside. It cut off. Calhoun looked at the vision
plates showing outside. There was swirling smoke and steam. There were
men running in headlong flight, leaving their ground cars behind them.

"A slight touch of emergency rocket," said Calhoun. "They've run away.
Now we end the plague on Tallien Three."

The grid operator was still dazed by the continued absence of any
indication that he might ever become a para. He said unsteadily:

"Sure! Sure! But how?"

"Wood smoke," said Calhoun. "Emergency rockets. Roofs! There's been no
wood smoke in the air on this planet because there are no forest fires
and people don't burn fuel. They use electricity. So we start the
largest production of wood smoke that we find convenient, and the
population of a certain modified butyl mercaptan molecule will be
reduced. Down to a normal level. Immediately!"

The emergency rocket bellowed thunderously and the little Med Ship
rose.

       *       *       *       *       *

There have been, of course, emergency measures against contagion all
through human history. There was a king of France, on Earth, who had
all the lepers in his kingdom killed. There have been ships and houses
burned to drive out plague, and quarantines which simply interfered
with human beings were countless. Calhoun's measure on Tallien was
somewhat more dramatic than most, but it had good justification.

He set fire to the planet's capital city. The little Med Ship swept
over the darkened buildings. Her emergency rockets made thin pencils
of flame two hundred feet long. She touched off roofs to the east, and
Calhoun rose to see which way the wind blew. He descended and touched
here and there....

Thick, seemingly suffocating masses of wood smoke flowed over the
city. They were not actually strangling, but they created panic. There
was fighting in Government Center, but it stopped when the mysterious
stuff--not one man in a hundred had ever seen burning wood or smelled
its smoke--the fighting stopped and all men fled when a choking,
reeking blanket rolled over the city and lay there.

It wasn't a great fire, considering everything. Less than ten per cent
of the city burned, but ninety-odd per cent of the paras in it ceased
to be paras. More, they had suddenly regained an invincible aversion
to the smell of butyl mercaptan--even a modified butyl mercaptan--and
it was promptly discovered that no normal who had smelled wood smoke
became a para. So all the towns and even individual farmhouses would
hereafter make sure that there was pungent wood smoke to be smelled
from time to time by everybody.

But Calhoun did not wait for such pleasant news. He could not look for
gratitude. He'd burned part of the city. He'd forced paras to stop
being paras and become ashamed. And those who hadn't become paras
wanted desperately to forget the whole matter as soon as possible.
They couldn't, but gratitude to Calhoun would remind them. He took
appropriate action.

With the grid operator landed again, and after the grid was operable
once more and had sent the Med Ship a good five planetary diameters
into space--some few hours after the ship was in overdrive
again--Calhoun and Murgatroyd had coffee together. Murgatroyd
zestfully licked his emptied tiny mug, to get the last least taste of
the beverage. He said happily, "_Chee!_" He wanted more.

"Coffee," said Calhoun severely, "has become a habit with you,
Murgatroyd! If this abnormal appetite develops too far, you might
start yawning at me, which would imply that your desire for it was
uncontrollable. A yawn caused by what is called a yen has been known
to make a man dislocate his jaw. You might do that. You wouldn't like
it!"

Murgatroyd did not reply.

"You don't believe it, eh?" said Calhoun. Then he said: "Murgatroyd,
I'm going to spend odd moments all the rest of my life wondering about
what happens to Dr. Lett! They'll kill him, somehow. But I suspect
they'll be quite gentle with him. There's no way to imagine a
punishment that would really fit! Isn't that more interesting than
coffee?"

"_Chee! Chee! Chee!_" said Murgatroyd insistently.

"It wasn't wise to stay and try to make an ordinary public-health
inspection. We'll send somebody else when things are back to normal."

"_Chee!!!_" said Murgatroyd loudly.

"Oh, all right!" said Calhoun. "If you're going to be emotional about
it, pass you cup!"

He reached out his hand, Murgatroyd put his tiny mug in it. Calhoun
refilled it. Murgatroyd sipped zestfully.

The Med Ship _Esclipus Twenty_ went on in overdrive, back toward
sector headquarters of the Interstellar Medical Service.

       *       *       *       *       *





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