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Title: It's All Yours
Author: Merwin, Sam, 1910-1996
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 "It's All Yours" ***

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    _It was a strange and bitter Earth over which the Chancellor
    ruled--a strange and deformed world. There were times when the
    Chancellor suspected that he really was a humanistic old fool, but
    this seemed to be his destiny and it was difficult to be anything
    else. Human, like all other organic life on Earth, was dying. Where
    it spawned, it spawned monsters. What was to be the answer?_


  it's
   all
 yours

 _by ... Sam Merwin, Jr._


 It was a lonely thing to rule over a dying world--a
 world that had become sick, so terribly sick....


The Chancellor's private washroom, discreetly off the innermost of his
official suite of offices, was a dream of gleaming black porcelain and
solid gold. Each spout, each faucet, was a gracefully stylized mermaid,
the combination stall shower-steam room a marvel of hydraulic comfort
and decor with variable lighting plotted to give the user every sort of
beneficial ray, from ultraviolet to black heat.

But Bliss was used to it. At the moment, as he washed his hands, he was
far more concerned with the reflection of his face in the mirror above
the dolphin-shaped bowl. With a sort of wry resignation, he accepted the
red rims of fatigue around his eyes, the batch of white at his left
temple that was spreading toward the top of his dark, well-groomed head.
He noted that the lines rising from the corners of his mouth to the
curves of his nostrils seemed to have deepened noticeably during the
past few days.

As he dried his hands in the air-stream, he told himself that he was
letting his imagination run away with him--imagination had always been
his weakness, and a grave failing for a head of state. And while he drew
on his special, featherweight gloves, he reminded himself that, if he
was aging prematurely, it was nobody's fault but his own. No other man
or woman approaching qualification for the job would have taken it--only
a sentimental, humanistic fool like himself.

He took a quick sip from the benzedral fountain, waited for the
restorative to do its work. Then, feeling moderately refreshed, he
returned to his office, sank into the plastifoam cushions of the chair
behind his tabletop mountain of a desk and pressed the button that
informed Myra, his confidential secretary, he was ready.

There were five in the delegation--by their collars or robes, a priest,
a rabbi, a lama, a dark-skinned Watusi witchman and a white robed abbess
draped in chaste, flowing white. Automatically, he surveyed them,
checking. The priest's right shoe was twice as broad as his left, the
rabbi's head, beneath the black cap that covered it, was long and thin
as a zucchini squash. The witchman, defiantly bare and black as ebony
from the waist up, had a tiny duplicate of his own handsome head
sprouting from the base of his sternum. The visible deformities of the
lama and abbess were concealed beneath their flowing robes. But they
were there--they had to be there.

Bliss rose as they entered and said, waving a gloved hand at the chairs
on their side of the desk, "Greetings, sirs and madam--please be
seated." And, when they were comfortable, "Now, to what do I owe the
honor of this visit?"

He knew, of course--sometimes he thought he knew more than any man
should be allowed or able to know--but courtesy and custom demanded the
question. It was the witchman who answered. Apparently he was spokesman
for the group.

He said, speaking beautiful Cantabrigian English, "Honorable sir, we
have come as representatives of the religions of the world, not to
protest but in a spirit of enquiry. Our flocks grow increasingly
restive, when they are not leaving us altogether, our influence grows
less. We wish to know what steps, if any, are being taken toward
modification or abrogation of the sterility program. Without hope of
posterity, mankind is lost."

While the others murmured their agreement, Bliss focused his gaze on the
sealed lids of the tiny face sprouting from the Watusi's breastbone. He
wondered if there were eyes behind them, if there were a tongue behind
those tiny clamped lips, and what words such a tongue would utter if it
could speak.

"We are waiting, honorable sir," the spokesman said.

Shaking himself free of the absorption, Bliss glanced at the
teleprompter on his desk. Efficient as ever, Myra had their names there
before him. He said, "Gentle R'hau-chi, I believe a simple exposition
of our situation, and of what programs we are seeking to meet and
mitigate it with, will give you the answers. Not, perhaps, the answers
you seek, but the answers we must accept ..."

Although the reports from World Laboratories changed from day to day, he
knew the speech by heart. For the problem remained. Humanity, like
virtually all other organic life on Earth, was dying. Where it spawned,
it spawned monsters. On three-dimensional vidar rolls, he showed them
live shots of what the laboratories were doing, what they were trying to
do--in the insemination groups, the incubators, the ray-bombardment
chambers, the parthenogenesis bureau.

Studying them, he could see by their expressions, hear by the prayers
they muttered, how shocking these revelations were. It was one thing to
know what was going on--another for them to see for themselves. It was
neither pretty--nor hopeful.

When it was over, the rabbi spoke. He said, in deep, slightly guttural,
vastly impressive intonations, "What about Mars, honorable sir? Have you
reached communication with our brothers and sisters on the red planet?"

Bliss shook his head. He glanced at the alma-calendar at his elbow and
told them, "Mars continues to maintain silence--as it has for two
hundred and thirty-one years. Ever since the final war."

They knew it, but they had to hear it from him to accept it even
briefly. There was silence, long wretched silence. Then the abbess
spoke. She said, "Couldn't we send out a ship to study conditions first
hand, honorable sir?"

Bliss sighed. He said, "The last four spaceships on Earth were sent to
Mars at two-year intervals during the last perihelions. Not one of them
came back. That was more than a half century ago. Since I accepted this
office, I have had some of our ablest remaining scientific brains
working on the problem of building a new ship. They have not been
successful." He laid his gloved hands, palms upward, on the desk, added,
"It appears that we have lost the knack for such projects."

When they were gone, he walked to the broad window and looked out over
the World Capital buildings at the verdant Sahara that stretched
hundreds of miles to the foot of the faintly purple Atlas Mountains on
the northwestern horizon. A blanket of brilliant green, covering what
had once been the greatest of all Earthly deserts--but a poisonous
blanket of strange plant mutations, some of them poisonous beyond
belief.

Truly, Bliss thought, he belonged to a remarkable species. Man had
conquered his environment, he had even, within the limits of the Solar
System, conquered space. He had planted, and successfully, his own kind
on a neighboring planet and made it grow. But man had never, at least
on his home planet, conquered himself.

Overpopulation had long since ceased to be a problem--the atomic wars
had seen to that. But, thanks to the miracles of science--atomics and
automation--man had quickly rebuilt the world into a Garden of Eden with
up-to-date plumbing. He might have won two planets, but he had turned
his Eden into an arbor of deadly nightshade.

Oddly, it had not been the dreadful detonations of thermo-nuclear bombs
that had poisoned his paradise--though, of course, they had helped. It
had been the constant spillage of atomic waste into the upper atmosphere
that had spelled ruin. Now, where four billion people had once lived in
war and want, forty million lived in poisoned plenty. He was chancellor
of a planet whose ruling species could not longer breed without
disaster.

His was the last generation. It should have been a peaceful generation.
But it was not.

For, as population decreased, so did the habitable areas of Earth. The
formerly overpopulated temperate regions were now ghastly jungles of
self-choking mutant plant growth. Only what had been the waste
areas--Antarctica, the Gobi, Australia, Patagonia and the Sahara-Arabia
districts--could still support even the strange sorts of human life that
remained.

And the forty millions still alive were restless, frightened, paranoiac.
Each believed his own group was being systematically exterminated in
favor of some other. None had yet faced the fact that humanity, for all
practical purposes, was already dead on Earth.

He sensed another presence in the room. It was Myra, his secretary,
bearing a sheaf of messages in one hand, a sheaf of correspondence for
him to sign in the other. She said, "You look beat, chancellor. Sit
down."

Bliss sat down. Myra, as his faithful and efficient amanuensis for more
than fifteen years, had her rights. One of them was taking care of him
during working hours. She was still rather pretty, he noted with
surprise. An Afro-Asian with skin like dark honey and smooth, pleasant,
rather flat features. It was, he thought, a pity she had that third eye
in her forehead.

She stood beside him while he ran through the letters and signed them.
"Meeting of the regional vice-chancellors tomorrow, eh?" he said as he
handed them back to her.

"Right, chancellor," she said crisply. "Ten o'clock. You may have to
take another whirlwind trip to tell them the situation is well in hand."

He grunted and glanced at the messages, scanned them quickly, tossed
them into the disposal vent beside his desk. Myra looked moderately
disapproving. "What about that possible ship from Mars?" she asked.
"Shouldn't you look into it?"

He grunted again, looked up at her, said, "If I'd looked into every
'ship from Mars' astronomy has come up with in the nine years I've held
this office, I'd never have had time for anything else. You can lay odds
it's a wild asteroid or something like that."

"They sound pretty sure this time," Myra said doubtfully.

"Don't they always?" he countered. "Come on, Myra, wrap it up. Time to
go home."

"Roger, boss," she said, blinking all three eyes at him.

Bliss turned on the autopi and napped while the gyrojet carried him to
his villa outside Dakar. Safely down on the roof of the comfortable,
automatic white house, he took the lift down to his second-floor suite,
where he showered and changed into evening sandals and clout. He
redonned his gloves, then rode down another two flights to the terrace,
where Elise was waiting for him in a gossamer-thin iridescent eggshell
sari. They kissed and she patted the place on the love-seat beside her.
She had a book--an old-fashioned book of colored reproductions of
long-since-destroyed old masters on her lap. The artist was a man named
Peter Paul Rubens.

Eyeing the opulent nudes, she giggled and said, "Don't they look
awfully--plain? I mean, women with only two breasts!"

"Well--yes," he said. "If you want to take that angle."

"Idiot!" she said. "Honestly, darling, you're the strangest sort of man
to be a World Chancellor."

"These are strange times," he told her, smiling without mirth, though
with genuine affection.

"Suppose--just suppose," she said, turning the pages slowly, "biology
should be successful in stabilizing the species again. Would they _have_
to set it back that far? I mean, either we or _they_ would feel awfully
out of style."

"What would you suggest?" he asked her solemnly.

"Don't be nasty," she said loftily. Then she giggled again and ruffled
his hair. "I wish you'd have it dyed one color," she told him. "Either
black or gray--or why not a bright puce?"

"What's for dinner?" he asked, adding, "If I can still eat after that."

       *       *       *       *       *

The regional vice-chancellors were awaiting him in the
next-to-the-innermost office when Bliss arrived at World
Capital the next morning. Australia, Antarctica, Patagonia, Gobi,
Sahara-Arabia--they followed him inside like so many penguins in the
black-and-white official robes. All were deathly serious as they stated
their problems.

Gobi wanted annual rainfall cut from 60 to 45 centimeters.

Sahara-Arabia was not receiving satisfactory food synthetics--there had
been Moslem riots because of pork flavor in the meat.

Patagonia was suffering through a species of sport-worm that was
threatening to turn it into a desert if biology didn't come up with a
remedy fast.

Antarctica wanted temperature lowered from a nighttime norm of 62°
Fahrenheit to 57.6°. It seemed that the ice in the skating rinks, which
were the chief source of exercise and entertainment for the populace,
got mushy after ten p.m.

Australia wanted the heavy uranium deposits under the Great Central
Desert neutralized against its causing further mutations.

For a moment, Bliss was tempted to remind his viceroys that it was not
going to make one bit of difference whether they made their spoiled
citizens happy or not. The last man on Earth would be dead within fifty
years or so, anyway. But that would have been an unpardonable breach of
taste. Everyone _knew_, of course, but it was never mentioned. To state
the truth was to deny hope. And without hope, there was no life.

Bliss promised to see that these matters were tended to at once, taking
each in turn. This done, they discussed his making another whirlwind
trip through the remaining major dominions of the planet to bolster
morale. He was relieved when at last, the amenities concluded, the
penguins filed solemnly out. He didn't know which he found more
unattractive--Gobi's atrophied third leg, strapped tightly to the inside
of his left thigh and calf, or Australia's jackass ears. Then, sternly,
he reminded himself that it was not their fault they weren't as lucky as
himself.

Myra came in, her three eyes aglow, and said, "Boss, you were wrong for
once in your life."

"What is it this time?" he asked.

"About that Martian ship," she repeated. "It just landed on the old
spaceport. You can see it from the window."

"For God's sake!" Bliss was on his feet, moving swiftly to the window.
It was there--needle-nosed, slim as one of the mermaids in his private
washroom, graceful as a vidar dancer. The entire length of it gleamed
like silver in the sunlight.

Bliss felt the premature old age that had been crowding upon him of late
fall away like the wool of a sheep at shearing. Here, at last, was
hope--real hope. After almost two and a half centuries of
non-communication, the men of the infant planet had returned to the aid
of the aging planet. For, once they saw the condition of Earth, and
understood it, there could be no question of anything else.

Mars, during the years of space-flight from Earth, had been the outlet
for the mother planet's ablest, toughest, brightest, most aggressive
young men and women. They had gone out to lick a hostile environment,
they had been hand-picked for the job--and they had done it. The ship,
out there in the poisonous Sahara, was living proof of their success.

He turned from the window and went back to his desk. He said, "Myra,
have their leader brought here to see me as soon as possible."

"_Roger!_" she said, leaving him swiftly, gracefully. Again he thought
it was too bad about her third eye. It had made it awfully hard for her
to find a husband. He supposed he should be grateful, since it had made
him an incomparably efficient secretary.

The young man was space-burned and silver-blond of hair. He was broad
and fair of feature and his body was tall and lean and perfect in his
black, skin-tight uniform with the silver rocket-burst on the left
breast. He stood at attention, lifted a gauntleted hand in salute and
said, "Your excellency, Chancellor Bliss--Space-Captain Hon Yaelstrom of
Syrtis City, Mars, bearing official rank of Inter-planetary legate
plenipotentiary. My papers, sir."

He stood stiff as a ramrod and laid a set of imposing-looking documents
on the vast desk before Bliss. His accent was stiff as his spinal
column. Bliss glanced casually at the papers, nodded and handed them
back. So this, he thought, was how a "normal," a pre-atomic, a
non-mutated human, looked. Impressive.

Catching himself wandering, he pushed a box of costly smokes toward the
ambassador.

"_Nein_--no thank you, sir," was the reply.

"Suppose you sit down and tell me what we can do for you," said Bliss,
motioning toward a chair.

"Thank you, sir, I prefer to stand," was the reply. And, when Bliss
motioned that it was all right, "My mission is not a happy one,
excellency. Due to overpopulation on Mars, I have been sent to inform
the government of Earth that room must be made to take care of our
overpopulation."

"I see," Bliss leaned back in his chair, trying to read the situation
correctly. "That may take a little doing. You see, we aren't exactly
awash with real estate here."

The reply was rigid and harsh. Captain Yaelstrom said, "I regret to
remind your excellency that I have circled this planet before landing.
It is incredibly rich in plant growth, incredibly underpopulated. And I
assure your excellency that my superiors have not sent me here with any
idle request. Mars must have room to emigrate."

"And if we find ourselves unable to give it to you?"

"I fear we shall have to take it, your excellency."

Bliss studied the visitor from space, then said, "This is rather sudden,
you know. I fear it will take time. You must have prospered amazingly on
Mars to have overpopulated the planet so soon."

"Conditions have not been wholly favorable," was the cryptic reply. "But
as to time, we are scarcely in condition to move our surplus population
overnight. It will take years--perhaps decades--twenty-five years at a
minimum."

Twenty-five years! That was too soon. If Captain Yaelstrom were a
typical Martian, there was going to be trouble. Bliss recalled again
that Earth had sent only its most aggressive young folk out to the red
planet. He made up his mind then and there that he was somehow going to
salvage for Earth its final half-century of peace.

He said, "How many people do you plan to send here, Captain?"

The ambassador hesitated. Then he said, "According to the computations
of our experts, taking the population curve during the next twenty-five
years into account, there will be seventeen million, three hundred
thirty-two thousand five hundred--approximately."

The figure was too large to be surplus, Bliss decided. It sounded to him
as if humanity were about to abandon Mars completely. He wondered what
the devil had gone wrong, decided this was hardly the time to ask. He
offered Captain Yaelstrom a drink, which was refused, then asked him if
he wouldn't like to wash up.

To his mild surprise, the ambassador nodded eagerly. "I shall be
grateful," he said. "You have no idea how cramped spaceship quarters can
be."

"I can imagine," said Bliss dryly. He led the way into the
black-and-gold washroom, was amused at the slight but definite popping
of ambassadorial eyes. Earth might be dying, he thought, but at least
her destroyers would leave a heritage. He motioned toward the basin with
its mermaid taps and Captain Yaelstrom hesitated, then began pulling off
his black gauntlets.

Bliss thought of something. "You mentioned twenty-five years," he said.
"Is that Martian time or Earth time?"

"Martian time," said the ambassador, letting the water run over his
hands.

Twenty-five years, Martian time--a Martian year was 1.88 Earth years.
Bliss exhaled and said, "I think perhaps we shall be able to come to an
agreement. It will take a little time, of course--channels, and all
that."

The Martian held his hands in front of the air-drier. They were strong,
brown hands with long, muscular fingers. Bliss looked at them and knew
the whole story. For, like himself, Captain Yaelstrom had seven fingers
on each. Man had done no better on Mars than he had at home. The reason
for such a desperate move as emigration was all too clear.

Captain Yaelstrom stood back from the bowl, then noticed the stall
shower. He said, "What is this? We have nothing like it on Mars."

Bliss explained its several therapeutic uses, then said, "Perhaps you'd
like to try it yourself while I order us luncheon."

"May I, excellency?" the Martian legate asked eagerly.

"Go right ahead," said Bliss magnanimously. "It's all yours."



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Fantastic Universe_ November 1956.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
    typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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