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Title: The Ties That Bind
Author: Miller, Walter M., 1923-1996
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 "The Ties That Bind" ***

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                         THE TIES THAT BIND

                        By Walter Miller, Jr.

                      Illustrated by Kelly Freas

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science
Fiction May 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Illustration]

[Sidenote: _The Earth was green and quiet. Nature had survived Man, and
Man had survived himself. Then, one day, the great silvery ships broke
the tranquillity of the skies, bringing Man's twenty-thousand-year-lost
inheritance back to Earth...._]


    "_Why does your brand sae drop wi' blude,
      Edward, Edward?
    Why does your brand sae drop wi' blude,
      And why sae sad gang ye, O?"
    "O I hae kill'd my hawk sae gude,
      Mither, mither;
    O I hae kill'd my hawk sae gude,
      And I had nae mair but he, O._"

    --ANONYMOUS


The Horde of sleek ships arose in the west at twilight--gleaming slivers
that reflected the dying sun as they lanced across the darkling heavens.
A majestic fleet of squadrons in double-vees, groups in staggered
echelon, they crossed the sky like gleaming geese, and the children of
Earth came out of their whispering gardens to gape at the splendor that
marched above them.

There was fear, for no vessel out of space had crossed the skies of
Earth for countless generations, and the children of the planet had
forgotten. The only memories that lingered were in the memnoscripts, and
in the unconscious _kulturverlaengerung_, of the people. Because of the
latter half-memory, the people knew, without knowing why, that the
slivers of light in the sky were ships, but there was not even a word in
the language to name them.

The myriad voices of the planet, they cried, or whispered, or chattered
in awed voices under the elms....

The piping whine of a senile hag: "The ancient gods! The day of the
judging! Repent, repent...."

The panting gasp of a frightened fat man: "The alien! We're lost, we're
lost! We've got to run for the hills!"

The voice of the child: "See the pretty birdlights? See? See?"

And a voice of wisdom in the councils of the clans: "The sons of
men--they've come home from the Star Exodus. Our brothers."

The slivers of light, wave upon wave, crept into the eclipse shadow as
the twilight deepened and the stars stung through the blackening shell
of sky. When the moon rose, the people watched again as the silhouette
of a black double-vee of darts slipped across the lunar disk.

Beneath the ground, in response to the return of the ships, ancient
mechanisms whirred to life, and the tech guilds hurried to tend them. On
Earth, there was a suspenseful night, pregnant with the dissimilar twins
of hope and fear, laden with awe, hushed with the expectancy of twenty
thousand years. The stargoers--they had come home.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Kulturverlaengerung!_" grunted the tense young man in the toga of an
Analyst. He stood at one end of the desk, slightly flushed, staring down
at the haughty wing leader who watched him icily from a seat at the
other end. He said it again, too distinctly, as if the word were a club
to hurl at the wingsman. "_Kulturverlaengerung_, that's why!"

"I heard you the first time, Meikl," the officer snapped. "Watch your
tongue and your tone!"

A brief hush in the cabin as hostility flowed between them. There was
only the hiss of air from the ventilators, and the low whine of the
flagship's drive units somewhere below.

The erect and elderly gentleman who sat behind the desk cleared his
throat politely. "Have you any further clarifications to make, Meikl?"
he asked.

"It should be clear enough to all of you," the analyst retorted hotly.
He jerked his head toward the misty crescent of Earth on the viewing
screen that supplied most of the light in the small cabin. "You can see
what they are, what they've become. And you _know_ what _we_ are."

The two wingsmen bristled slightly at the edge of contempt in the
analyst's voice. The elderly gentlemen behind the desk remained
impassive, expressionless.

The analyst leaned forward with a slow accusing glance that swept the
faces of the three officers, then centered on his antagonist at the
other end of the desk. "You want to _infect_ them, Thaüle?" he demanded.

The wingsman darkened. His fist exploded on the desktop. "Meikl, you're
in contempt! Restrict yourself to answering questions!"

"Yes, sir."

"There will be no further breaches of military etiquette during the
continuance of this conference," the elderly gentleman announced icily,
thus seizing the situation.

After a moment's silence, he turned to the analyst again. "We've got to
refuel," he said flatly. "In order to refuel, we must land."

"Yes, sir. But why not on Mars? We can develop our own facilities for
producing fuel. Why must it be Earth?"

"Because there will be _some existing facilities_ on Earth, even though
they're out of space. The job would take five years on Mars."

The analyst lowered his eyes, shook his head wearily. "I'm thinking of a
billion earthlings. Aren't they worth considering, sir?"

"I've got to consider the men in my command, Meikl. They've been through
hell. We all have."

"The hell was our own making, baron."

"_Meikl!_"

"Sorry, sir."

Baron ven Klaeden paused ominously, then: "Besides, Meikl, your
predictions of disaster rest on certain assumptions not known to be
true. You assume that the recessive determinants still linger in the
present inhabitants. Twenty thousand years is a long time. Nearly a
thousand generations. I don't know a great deal about culturetics, but
I've read that _kulturverlaengerung_ reaches a threshold of extinction
after about a dozen generations, if there's no restimulation."

"Only in laboratory cultures, sir," sighed the analyst. "Under rigid
control to make certain there's no restimulant. In practice, in a
planet-wide society, there's constant accidental restimulation,
unconsciously occuring. A determinant gets restimulated, pops back to
original intensity, and gets passed on. In practice, a kult'laenger
linkage never really dies out--although, it can stay recessive and
unconscious."

"That's too bad," a wingsman growled sourly. "We'll wake it up, won't
we?"

"Let's not be callous," the other wingsman grunted in sarcasm. "Analyst
Meikl has sensitivities."

The analyst stared from one to the other of them in growing
consternation, then looked pleadingly at the baron. "Sir, I was
_summoned_ here to offer my opinions about landing on Earth. You asked
about possible cultural dangers. I've told you."

"You discussed the danger to earthlings."

"Yes, sir."

"I meant 'danger' to the personnel of this fleet--to their esprit, their
indoctrination, their group-efficiency. I take it you see none."

"On the contrary, I see several," said the analyst, coming slowly to his
feet, eyes flashing and darting among them. "Where were you born,
Wingman?" he asked the officer at the opposite end of the desk.

"Lichter Six, Satellite," the officer grunted after a moment of
irritable silence.

"And you?"

"Omega Thrush," said the other wingsman.

All knew without asking that the baron was born in space, his birthplace
one of the planetoid city-states of the Michea Dwarf. Meikl looked
around at them, then ripped up his own sleeve, unsheathed his
rank-dagger, and pricked his forearm with the needle point. A red
droplet appeared, and he wiped at it with a forefinger.

"It's common stuff, gentlemen. We've shed a lot of it. And each of us is
a walking sackful of it." He paused, then turned to touch the point of
his dagger to the viewer, where it left a tiny red trace on the glass,
on the bright crescent of Earth, mist-shrouded, chastely wheeling her
nights into days.

"It came from there," he hissed. "She's your womb, gentlemen. Are you
going back?"

"Are you an analyst or a dramatist, Meikl?" the baron asked sharply,
hoping to relieve the sudden chill in the room. "This becomes silly."

"If you land on her," Meikl promised ominously, "you'll go away with a
fleet full of hate."

Meikl's arm dropped to his side. He sheathed his dagger. "Is my presence
at this meeting still imperative, sir?" he asked the baron.

"Have you anything else to say?"

"Yes--_don't land on Earth_."

"That's a repetition. No further reasons?--in terms of danger to
ourselves?"

The analyst paused. "I can think of nothing worse that could happen to
us," he said slowly, "than just being what we already are."

He snapped his heels formally, bowed to the baron, and stalked out of
the cabin.

"I suggest," said a wingsman, "that we speak to Frewek about tightening
up the discipline in the Intelligence section. That man was in open
contempt, Baron."

"But he was also probably right," sighed the graying officer and
nobleman.

"_Sir--!_"

"Don't worry, Wingsman, there's nothing else to do. We'll have to land.
Make preparations, both of you--and try to make contact with surface.
I'll dictate the message."

When the wingsmen left, it was settled. The baron arose with a sigh and
went to peer morosely at the view of Earth below. Very delicately, he
wiped the tiny trace of blood from the glass. She was a beautiful world,
this Earth. She had spawned them all, as Meikl said--but for this, the
baron could feel only bitterness toward her.

But what of her inhabitants? I'm past feeling anything for them, he
thought, past feeling for any of the life-scum that creeps across the
surface of a world, any world. We'll go down quickly, and take what we
need quickly, and leave quickly. We'll try not to infect them, but
they've already got it in them, the dormant disease, and any infection
will be only a recurrence.

Nevertheless, he summoned a priest to his quarters. And, before going to
the command deck, he bathed sacramentally as if in preparation for
battle.

    "_Your hawk's blude was never sae red,
      Edward, Edward;
    Your hawk's blude was never sae red,
      My dear son, I tell thee, O."
    "O I hae kill'd my red-roan steed,
      Mither, mither;
    O I hae kill'd my red roan steed,
      That erst was sae fair and free, O._"

    --ANONYMOUS

False dawn was in the east when the slivers of light appeared once again
out of the eclipse shadow to rake majestically across the heavens, and
again the children of Earth crowded in teeming numbers from the quiet
gardens to chatter their excitement at the wonder in the sky. But this
time, a message came. The men of the tech clans who tended the newly
activated mechanisms heard it, and the mechanisms memorized it, and
played it again and again for the people, while the linguists puzzled
over the unidentified language used in the transmission.

     PROPAUTH EARTH FROM COMMSTRAFEFLEET THREE, SPACE, KLAEDEN COMM,
     PRESENTS GREETINGS!

     IF YOU HAVE RECORDS, OUR USE OF ANCIENT ANGLO-GERMANIC SHOULD
     MAKE OUR IDENTITY CLEAR. HAVE YOU FUELING FACILITIES FOR 720
     SHIPS OF THOR-NINE CLASS? IF NOT, WE SHALL DEVELOP FACILITIES
     FROM LOCAL RESOURCES, WITH, WE TRUST, YOUR PEACEFUL
     COOPERATION. THIS CADRE NOT REIMMIGRATING, BUT EN ROUTE TO
     URSAN STARS. REQUEST LANDING SUGGESTIONS, IN VIEW OF OUR
     FUELING NEEDS.

     REQUEST INTELLIGENCE CONCERNING PRESENT LEVEL OF TERRESTRIAL
     CULTURE. OUR ORIBITAL OBSERVATIONS INDICATE A STATIC
     AGRARIAN-TECHNICAL COMPLEX, BUT DETAILS NOT AVAILABLE. WE COME
     IN ARMS, BUT WITHOUT ENMITY. PLEASE REPLY, IF POSSIBLE.

     ERNSTLI BARON VEN KLAEDEN, COMMANDING STRAFEFLEET THREE,
     SPACESTRIKE COMMAND, IMPERIAL FORCES OF THE SECESSION

       *       *       *       *       *

So it came, repeated continuously for an hour, followed by an hour of
silence, and then by another hour of repetition. The linguists were
unable to discern meanings. Thousands of memorizers were consulted, but
none knew the words of the harsh voice from the ships. At last, the
sages consulted the books and memnoscripts in the ancient vaults,
pouring over tomes that had been buried for countless centuries. After
hours of hurried study....

"It is found, _it is found_, a tongue of the ancients!" a joyous cry in
the glades and the garden pathways.

Happily, the sages recorded the linguistic structure of the forgotten
tongue on memnoscript, and gave it to a servo translator. Outmoded
mechanisms were being brought out of wraps and prepared for use. The
servos supplied a translation of the message, and the sages studied it.

"It is badly understood," was the curious mutter along the garden
pathways.

"Many words have no words to match them, nor any thoughts that are
similar," was the only explanation the sages could give.

In translation the message seemed meaningless, or unfathomable. Only one
thing was clear. The sons of Man meant to descend again upon the world
of their ancestors. There was a restless unease in the gardens, and
groups of elders gathered in the conference glades to mutter and glance
at the sky. "Invite our brothers to land," was the impetuous cry of the
young, but there were dissenters.

In the Glade of Sopho, a few thoughtful clansmen of Pedaga had gathered
to muse and speak quietly among themselves, although it was not
ordinarily the business of tutors to consider problems that confronted
society as a whole, particularly problems arising outside society
itself. The Pedaga were teachers of the very young, and deliberately
kept themselves childlike in outlook in order to make fuller contact
with the children in their charge.

"I think we should tell them to go away," said Letha, and looked around
at the others for a response.

She got nothing in reply but a flickering glance from Marrita, who sat
morosely on a cool rock by the spring, her chin on her bare knees. Evon
gave her a brief polite smile, to acknowledge the sound of her voice,
but he returned almost at once to absently tearing twigs and glancing up
at the bits of sky that showed through the foliage of the overhanging
trees. Iak and Karrn were whispering together at the far end of the
glade, and had not heard her.

Letha shrugged and leaned back against the tree trunk again, sitting
spraddle-legged this time in the hope of catching Evon's eye. She was a
graceful girl, and while gracefulness is sometimes feline, Letha's was
more nearly kittenish. She was full-bodied and soft, but well-shaped in
spite of a trace of plumpness. Thick masses of black hair fell over
baby-skin shoulders in a pleasing contrast, and while her face was a bit
too round, it radiated a gentle, winning grin, and the sympathetic gaze
of gray-blue eyes. Now she seemed ready to pout. Evon remained
self-absorbed.

"I think we should tell them to go away," she repeated a little sharply.
"They'll all be big and swashbuckling and handsome, and the children
will become unmanageable as soon as they see them. All the little girls
will swoon, and all the little boys will want to go with them."

Evon glanced at her briefly. "It's up to the elders of the Geoark," he
muttered without interest, and prepared to return to his own
meditations.

"And all the _big_ girls will run away with them," she purred with a
tight smile, and stretched a languorous leg out in front of her to
waggle her foot.

Evon shot her a quick glance, held it for a moment, then looked skyward
again. She pursed her lips in irritation and glared at him. Gradually,
she forgave him. Evon was distraught. He _must_ be--because she hadn't
seen him sit still this long in years. He was _always_ doing something,
or looking for something to do. It wasn't like Evon just to sit still
and think. He was a restless, outgoing fellow, nearly always reacting
boisterously, or laughing his staccato laugh. Now he just sat there and
looked puzzledly in the direction of the sky-fleet. Looking puzzled
didn't fit his face, somehow. It was a bony brown face, slightly oily,
with a long narrow jaw that jutted forward like a plowshare under an
elastic smirk. It was a rubbery kind of a face, the kind that could
twist into horrid masks for the amusement of the young. Now it just
drooped.

She stirred restlessly, driven to seek sympathetic understanding.

"You wonder what it's like, Evon?" she asked.

He grunted at her quizzically and shook his head.

"To be one of the children of the Exodus, I mean," she added.

"_Me?_ What _are_ you thinking of, Letha?"

"Of your face. It looks suddenly like a nomad's face. You remind me of
an old schnorrer who used to wander through our gardenboro every year to
play his fiddle, and sing us songs, and steal our chickens."

"I don't fiddle."

"But your eyes are on the sky-fleet."

Evon paused, hovering between irritation and desire to express. "It's
strange," he murmured at last. "It's as if I know them--the star-birds,
I mean. Last night, when I saw them first, it was like looking at
something I expected to happen ... or ... or...."

"Something familiar?"

"Yes."

"You think he has the genemnemon, Marrita?" she asked the blonde girl
who sat on the cool rock by the spring.

Marrita looked up from dabbling her toes in the icy trickle. "I don't
believe in the genemnemon. My great grandfather was a thief."

"How silly! What's that to do with it?"

"He buried a fortune, they say. If there was a genemnemon, I'd remember
where he buried it, wouldn't I?" She pouted, and went back to dabbling a
club toe in the spring.

Evon snorted irritably and arose to stretch. "We lie around here like
sleepy pigs!" he grumbled. "Have the Pedaga nothing to do but wait on
the Geoark to make up its mind?"

"What do you think they'll do?"

"The Geoark? Invite the strangers to land. What else could they do?"

"Tell them to go away."

"And suppose they chose not to go?"

The girl looked bewildered. "I can't imagine anyone refusing the
Geoark."

"Maybe they've got their own Geoark. Why should they cooperate with
ours?"

"_Two_ Geoarks? What a strange idea."

"Is it strange that you and I should have two brains? Or were you aware
that I have one too?"

"Evon! What a _strange_ idea."

He seized her by the ankles and dragged her squealing to the spring,
then set her down in the icy trickle. Marrita moved away, grumbling
complaints, and Letha snatched up a switch and chased him around the
glade, shrieking threats of mayhem, while Evon's laughter broke the
gloomy air of the small gathering, and caused a few other Pedaga to
wander into the clearing from the pathways.

"I think we should prepare a petition for the Geoark," someone
suggested.

"About the sky-fleet? And who knows what to say?"

"I'm afraid," said a girl. "Somehow I'm suddenly afraid of them."

"Our brothers from the Exodus? But they're _people_--such as you and I."

So went the voices. After an hour, a crier came running through the
glade to read another message received from the sky-fleet.

     PROPAUTH EARTH FROM COMMSTRAFEFLEET THREE, SPACE, KLAEDEN COMM,
     PRESENTS GREETINGS!

     HAVING RECEIVED NO ANSWER TO OUR PREVIOUS COMMUNICATION, WE
     HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LAND AT ONCE. I AM IMPOSING AN
     INFORMATIONAL QUARANTINE TO AVOID RESTIMULATING POSSIBLE
     RECESSIVE KULTURVERLAENGERUNG, BUT SUGGEST YOU GUARD
     YOURSELVES. OUR CULTURES HAD A COMMON ORIGIN. WE COME IN ARMS,
     WITHOUT ENMITY.

     ERNSTLI BARON VEN KLAEDEN, COMMANDING STRAFEFLEET THREE,
     SPACESTRIKE COMMAND IMPERIAL FORCES OF THE SECESSION

This was even more mystifying than the previous one, even less
meaningful in translation. One thing was clear, however: the fleet was
going to land, without invitation.

Embarrassed, the elders of the Geoark immediately called the tech clans.
"Can you revive the devices that speak across space?" they asked.

"They are revived," answered the tech clans.

"Then let us speak to our brothers from space."

And so it was that the people of the gardens of Earth sang out:

     BRETHREN TO BRETHREN, PRESENT LOVE LOVE LOVE.

     WE WELCOME YOU TO OUR GLADES AND TO OUR PLACES OF FEEDING AND
     OUR PLACES OF SLEEPING. WE WELCOME YOU TO THE BOSOM OF THE
     WORLD OF BEGINNING. AFTER TWENTY THOUSAND YEARS, EARTH HAS NOT
     FORGOTTEN. COME AMID REJOICING.

     THE ELDERS OF THE GEOARK

"I'm afraid Earth will remember more than it wants to," growled Ernstli
Baron ven Klaeden, as he issued the command to blast into an
atmospheric-braking orbit.

And there was thunder in a cloudless sky.

    "_O your steed was auld and ye hae mair,
      Edward, Edward.
    O your steed was auld and ye hae mair,
      And some other dule ye dree, O."
    "O I hae kill'd my ain father dear,
      Mither, mither;
    O I hae kill'd my ain father dear,
      Alas and woe is me, O._"

    --ANONYMOUS

       *       *       *       *       *

In accordance with the rules of invasion strategy for semi-civilized
planets, the fleet separated itself into three groups. The first group
fell into atmospheric braking; the second group split apart and
established an "orbital shell" of criscrossing orbits, timed and
interlocking, at eight hundred miles, to guard the descent of the first
wave of ships, while the third wave remained in battle formation at
three thousand miles as a rear guard against possible space attack. When
the first wave had finished braking, it fell into formation again and
flew as aircraft in the high stratosphere, while the second wave braked
itself, and the third wave dropped into the orbital shell.

From the first wave, a single ship went down to land, and its
telecameras broadcast a view of a forest garden, slightly charred for a
hundred yards around the ship, with fires blazing along its edges.

"No signs of the natives yet," came the report. "No signs of technology.
No evidence of hostility."

A second ship descended to land a mile from the first. Its telecamera
caught a fleeting glimpse of a man waving from a hilltop, but nothing
more.

One at a time the ships came, with weapon locks open and bristling with
steel snouts. The ships came down at one-mile intervals, the first wave
forming a circle that enclosed an area of forty-six hundred square
miles. The second wave came down to land in a central circle of fifteen
miles diameter. The third wave remained in its orbital shell, where it
would stand guard as long as the fleet was on the ground.

In accordance with the rules of officer's conduct, Baron ven Klaeden,
who had ordered the landing, was the first to expose himself to the
enveloping conditions outside the flagship. He stood in an open lock,
sniffing the autumn air of Earth in late afternoon. It was full of
jet-fire smoke, and smelled of burning brush. The automatic
extinguishers had quenched the flames, but the blackened trees and brush
still roasted and sparked and leaked smoke across the land. Somewhere a
bird was singing through the sunlit haze. Baron ven Klaeden recognized
the sound as made by a living thing, and wondered if the recognition was
born into his bones.

Three hundred and fifty yards to the north, a wingship towered in the
sun, its guns trained outward from the inner circle, and to the south,
another wingship. The baron glanced down at the earth beneath the
flagship. The jets had reduced to ashes something that might have been a
low wooden structure. He shrugged, and glanced across the blackened area
toward the orderly forest. Trees and shrubs, and a carpet of green turf
below, broken here and there by rain-worn rocks and clusters of smaller
fragile leafy stuff that might be food-plants. Vivid splashes of color
blossomed in the shady forest, scarlets and blues and flashes of
brilliant lemon that lived in profusion in the foliage of the shrubbery.
Some of the trees were living masses of tiny flowers, and when the wind
stirred them, petals showered to the ground in fragrant gusts. The wind
changed, and the air that breathed about the commander's face was full
of perfume.

I feel nothing, he thought. Here is beauty and warmth, here is the home
of Man, and almost an Eden, but I feel nothing. It is just another mote
that circles a minor sun, and to me it is only an exploitable supply
dump of Nature, a place to accomplish Procedure 76-A, "Refueling Method
for Terrestroid Planets Without Facilities, Native Labor Exploitable."

It was only a way-station on the long long road from Scorpius to Ursa,
and it meant nothing, nothing at all. It had changed too much. Millenia
ago, when the Star Exodus had burst forth to carry Man halfway across
the galaxy, things had been different. A few colonies had kept accurate
histories of Earth intact, and when the Transpace Empire had gathered
itself into social integration, nearly five thousand years ago, the
histories had been made universally available. The baron had studied
them, but from the viewpoint of the spacer, the history of Humanity had
ceased in any way to be associated with Earth after the Star Exodus. Man
was a space creature, a denizen of the interstellum--or had been, before
the War of Secession--and when history moved into space, Earth was a
half-remembered hamlet. Ven Klaeden had seen the Earth-vistas that the
historians had reconstructed for the museums--vistas of roaring
industrial cities, flaming battlegrounds, teeming harbors and
spaceports. The cities were gone, and Earth had become a carefully
tended Japanese garden.

       *       *       *       *       *

As he stared around, he felt a lessening of the anxiety that had gnawed
at him since the analyst Meikl had predicted dire consequences after the
landing. The cultural blood of Man had diverged into two streams so
vastly different that no intermingling seemed possible to him. It would
be easy, he decided, to keep the informational quarantine. The order had
already been issued. "All personnel are forbidden to attempt the
learning of the current Earth-tongue, or to teach any Empire-culture
language to the natives, or to attempt any written communication with
them. Staff-officers may communicate only under the provisions of
Memorandum J-43-C. The possession of any written or recorded material in
the native tongue, and the giving of written material to the natives,
shall be taken as violations of this order. No sign language or other
form of symbolic communication shall be used. This order shall be in
force until Semantics section constructs a visual code for limited
purposes in dealing with the natives. Staff officers are hereby
authorized to impose any penalty ranging to death upon offenders, and to
try any such cases by summary courts martial. Junior officers authorized
to summarily arrest offenders. Effective immediately. Ven Klaeden,
Comm."

It would keep any interchange to an absolute minimum, he thought. And
Semantics had been ordered to attempt construction of a visual language
in which only the most vital and simple things could be said. Meanwhile,
the staff could attempt to utilize the ancient Anglo-Germanic tongue in
which the messages had been exchanged.

The baron had started to turn back into the lock when his eye caught a
flash of motion near the edge of the forest. Reflexively, he whirled and
crouched, gun flickering into his hand. His eyes probed the shrubs. Then
he saw her, half hidden behind a tree trunk--a young girl, obviously
frightened, yet curious to watch the ships. While he stared at her, she
darted from one trunk to the next closer one. She was already
approaching the edge of the blackened area. The baron shot a quick
glance at the radiation indicators on the inner wall of the airlock. The
instantaneous meter registered in the red. The induced radioactivity in
the ground about the base of the ship's jets was still too high. The
rate-of-decrease meter registered a decrement of point ten units per
unit. That meant it wouldn't be safe for the crew to leave ship for
twenty-three minutes, and that the girl had better stay back.

"_Keep clear!_" he bellowed from the airlock, hoping to frighten her.

She saw him for the first time, then. Instead of being frightened, she
seemed suddenly relieved. She came out into the open and began walking
toward the ship, wearing a smile and gazing up at the lock.

"_Go back, you little idiot!_"

Her answer was a brief sing-song chant and another smile. She kept
coming--into the charred area.

The gun exploded in his fist, and the bullet ricocheted from the ground
near her feet. She stopped, startled, but not sensing hostility. The gun
barked again. The bullet shattered a pebble, and it peppered her legs.
She yelped and fled back into the green garden.

He stood there staring after her for a moment, his face working slowly.
She had been unable to understand his anger. She saw the ships, and was
frightened but curious. She saw a human, and was reassured. Any human.
But was what she saw really human any longer, the baron asked himself
absently. He grunted scornfully, and went back through the lock.

It was easier, even on the ground, to communicate with the elders of the
Geoark by radio, since both parties had set up automatic translators to
translate their own tongues into the old Anglo-German which was a
mutually recorded dead language.

"We have neutralized a circle of land of thirty-one mile radius," ven
Klaeden reported to the elders. "If our selection of this region is
unfortunate, we are open to discussion of alternatives. However, our
measurements indicated that the resources of this area make it best for
_our_ purposes."

"Your landing caused only minor damage, brethren," replied the gentle
voice of the Geoark. "You are welcome to remain as you are."

"Thank you. We consider the occupied area to be under our military
jurisdiction, and subject to property seizures. It will be a restricted
area, closed to civilian population."

"But brethren, thousands of people live in the gardens you have
surrounded!"

"Evacuate them."

"I don't understand."

"_Evacuate_ them. Make them get out."

"My translator is working badly."

The baron turned away from the mike for a moment and grunted to the
colonel in command of ground operations. "Start clearing the occupied
zone. Get the population out unless they'll work for us."

"How much notice?"

The baron paused briefly. "Fifty hours to pack up, plus one additional
hour for each mile the fellow has to stump it to the outer radius."

"My translator is working badly," the voice of the elder was parroting.

"Look," the baron grunted at the mike. "All we want is to accomplish
what we came here for, and then get out--as quickly as possible. We
don't have much time to be polite. I invite the elders of the Geoark to
confer in my flagship. We'll try to make everything clear to you. Is
this agreed?"

"My translator is working badly."

"Aren't you getting anything?"

A pause, then: "I understand that you wish us to come to the place where
the sky-fleet rests."

"Correct."

"But what of the welcome we have made for our brethren in the
feast-glades?"

"I shall dispatch flyers to pick you up immediately. Unless you have
aircraft of your own."

"We have no machinery but the self-sustaining mechanisms in the Earth."

"Any of your population understand the mechanisms?"

"Certainly, brother."

"Then bring technicians. They'll be best able to understand what we
want, and maybe they can make it clear to you."

"As you wish, brother."

The baron terminated the contact and turned to his staff with a
satisfied smile. "I think we shall have what we need and be gone
quickly," he said.

"The elder took it well. They must be afraid of us."

"Respectful awe is more like it," the baron grunted.

"I suggest the answer is in the word 'brethren,'" came a voice from the
back of the room.

"Meikl! What are you doing in here?" ven Klaeden barked irritably.

"You called my department for a man. My department sent me. Shall I go
back?"

"It's up to you, Analyst. If you can keep your ideals corked and be
useful."

Meikl bowed stiffly. "Thank you, sir."

"Having it in mind that our only objective is to go through the
tooling-mining-fueling cycle with a minimum of trouble and time--have
you got any suggestions?"

"About how to deal with the natives?"

"Certainly ... but with the accent on _our_ problems."

Meikl paused to snap the tip from an olophial and sniffed appreciatively
at the mildly alkaloid vapor before replying. "From what we've gathered
through limited observation, I think we'd better gather some more, and
do our suggesting later."

"That constitutes your entire opinion?"

"Not quite. About the question of recessive kulturverlaengerung...."

"_Our_ problems, I said!" the commander snapped.

"It's likely to be our problem, sir."

"How?"

"In Earth culture at the time of the Exodus, there were some patterns
we'd regard as undesirable. We can't know whether we're still carrying
the recessive patterns or not. And we don't know whether the patterns
are still dominant in the natives. Suppose we get restimulated."

"What patterns do you mean?"

"The Exodus was a mass-desertion, in one sense, Baron."

A moment of hush in the room. "I see what you mean," the commander
grunted. "But 'desertion' is a pattern of _action_, not a transmittable
determinant."

Meikl shook his head. "We don't _know_ what is a transmittable
determinant until after it's happened." He paused. "Suppose there's some
very simple psychic mechanism behind the 'pioneer' impulse. We don't
feel it, but our ancestors did, and we might have recessive traces of it
in our kulturverlaengerung lines."

A wingman coughed raucously. "To be blunt with you, Meikl ... I think
this is a lot of nonsense. The whole concept is far-fetched."

"What, the kult'laenger lines?"

"Exactly." The wingsman snorted. "How could things like that get passed
along from father to son. If you people'd stop the mystical gibberish,
and deal in facts...."

"Do you regard parent-child rapport as a fact?" Meikl turned to stare
absently out a viewing port at the trees.

"You mean the telepathic experiments with infants? I don't know much
about it."

"Seventy years ago. On Michsa Three. A hundred parents were given
intensive lessons and intensive practice in playing a very difficult
skill game ... before they became parents. They did nothing but play the
game for three years. Then their babies were taken away from them at the
age of one year. Brought up institutionally. There was a control
group--another hundred whose parents never heard of the skill game."

"Go on."

"So, when the children were ten years old, they did learning-speed tests
on all two hundred."

"Learning the game, you mean?"

"Right. The children whose parents had learned it came out way ahead. So
far ahead that it was conclusive. Sometime during pregnancy and the
first year, the kids had picked up a predisposition to learn the
patterns of the game easily."

"So?"

"So--during infancy, a child is beginning to mirror the patterns of the
parental mind--probably telepathically, or something related. He doesn't
'inherit it' in the genes, but there's an unconscious cultural
mechanism of transmittal--and it's an analog of heredity. The
kulturverlaengerung--and it can linger in a family line without becoming
conscious for many generations."

"How? If they hadn't taught the children to play the game...."

"If they hadn't, it'd still be passed on--as a predisposition-talent--to
the third and fourth and Nth generation. Like a mirror-image of a
mirror-image of a mirror-image ... or a memory of a memory of a
memory...."

"This grows pedantic, and irrelevant," the baron growled. "What are the
chances of utilizing native labor?"

    "_And whatten penance will we dree for that,
      Edward, Edward?
    Whatten penance will ye dree for that?
      My dear son, now tell me, O."
    "I'll set my feet in yonder boat,
      Mither, mither;
    I'll set my feet in yonder boat,
      And I'll fare over the sea, O._"

    --ANONYMOUS

       *       *       *       *       *

Phase-A had been accomplished, after six months of toil. Baltun Meikl,
Analyst Culturetic of Intelligence Section stood on the sunswept hill,
once forested, but now barren except for the stumps of trees, and
watched the slow file of humanity that coursed along the valley, bearing
the hand-hewn ties that were being laid from the opening of the mine
shaft to the ore dump. Glittering ribbons of steel snaked along the
valley, and ended just below him, where a crew of workmen hammered
spikes under the watchful eye of a uniformed foreman. In the distance,
the central ring of grounded ships dominated the land. Spacers and
natives labored together, to lend an impression of egalitarian
cooperation under the autocracy of the officer class.

"How good it is for brethren to be reunited," Meikl's native interpreter
murmured, in the facile tongue devised by Semantics Section for use by
staff officers and Intelligence men in communicating with the natives.

He stared at her profile for a moment, as she watched the men in the
valley. Was she really that blind? Were all of them? Had they no
resistance at all to exploitation, or any concept for it?

Meikl had learned as much as he could of the socio-economic matrix of
the static civilization of the present Earthlings. He had gone into
their glades and gardens and seen the patterns of their life, and he
wondered. Life was easy, life was gay, life was full of idle play.
Somehow, they seemed completely unaware of what they had done to the
planet in twenty thousand years. One of the elders had summed up,
without meaning to, the entire meaning of twenty millenia, with the
casual statement: "_In our gardens, there are no weeds_," and it applied
to the garden of human culture almost as well as it applied to the fauna
and flora of the planet.

This "weedlessness" had not been the goal of any planned project, but
rather, the inevitable result of age-old struggles between Man and
Nature on a small plot of land. When Man despoiled Nature, and
slaughtered her children, Nature could respond in two ways: she could
raise up organisms to survive in spite of Man, and she could raise up
organisms to survive in the service and custody of Man. She had done
both, but the gardener with his weed-hoe and his insect spray and his
vermin exterminators had proved that he could invent new weapons faster
than Nature could evolve tenacious pests, and eventually the life forms
of Earth had been emasculated of the tendency to mutate into disobedient
species. Nature had won many bloody battles; but Man had won the war.
Now he lived in a green world that seemed to offer up its fruits to him
with only a minimum of attention from Man. Nature had learned to survive
in the presence of Man. Yet the natives seemed unaware of the wonder of
their Eden. There was peace, there was plenty.

_This_, he thought, could be the answer to their lack of resistance in
the face of what seemed to Meikl to be sheer seizure and arrogant
exploitation by Baron ven Klaeden and his high command. In a bounteous
world, there were no concepts of "exploitation" or "property seizure" or
"authoritarianism". The behaviour of the starmen appeared as strange, or
fascinating, or laughable, or shocking to such as the girl who stood
beside him on the hill--but not as aggressive nor imperious. When a
foreman issued an order, the workman accepted it as a polite request for
a favor, and did it as if for a friend. Fortunately, ven Klaeden had
possessed at least the good sense to see to it that the individual
natives were well treated by the individual officers in charge of tasks.
There had been few cases of inter-personal hostility between natives and
starmen. The careful semantics of the invented sign-language
accomplished much in the way of avoiding conflicts, and the natives
enthusiastically strived to please.

He glanced at the girl again, her dark hair whipping in the breeze.
Lovely, he thought, and glanced around to see that no one was near.

"You belong to another, Letha?" he asked.

She tossed him a quick look with pale eyes, hesitated. "There is a boy
named Evon...."

He nodded, lips tightening. Stop it, you fool, he told himself. You
can't make love to her. You've got to leave with the rest of them.

"But I don't really belong to him," she said, and reddened.

"Letha, I...."

"Yes, Meikl."

"Nothing. I'm lonely, I guess."

Her eyes wandered thoughtfully toward the ships. "Meikl, why will you
tell us nothing of space--how you've lived since the Exodus?"

"We are an evil people."

"Not so."

She touched his arm, and looked up at him searchingly.

"What is it you wish to know?"

"Why will you never return to your home?"

"To space--but we shall."

"To the worlds of your birth, I mean."

He stiffened slightly, stared at her. "What makes you think we won't?"
he asked, a little sharply.

"Will you?"

So there were leaks after all, he thought. After six months, many things
would be communicated to the natives, even under strictest security.

"No," he admitted, "we can't go back to the worlds of our birth."

"But why? Where are your women and children?"

He wanted to tell her, to see her turn and flee from him, to see the
natives desert the project and keep to their forests until the ships
departed. There had been a translator set up between the Anglo-Germanic
and the present native tongue, and he had fed it the word "war". The
single word had brought five minutes of incomprehensible gibberish from
the native tongue's output. There was no concept to equate it to.

"There is blood on our hands," he grunted, and knew immediately he had
said too much.

She continued to stare at the ships. "What are the metal tubes that
point from the front and the sides of the ships, Meikl?"

There was no word for "guns" or "weapons".

"They hurl death, Letha."

"How can 'death' be hurled?"

Meikl shook himself. He was saying too much. These are the children of
the past, he reminded himself, the same past that had begotten the
children of space. The same traces of the ancient _kulturverlaengerung_
would live in their neural patterns, however recessive and subliminal.
One thing he knew: sometime during the twenty millennia since the
Exodus, they had carefully rooted out the vestigial traces of strife in
their culture. The records had been systematically censored and
rewritten. They were unaware of war and pogroms and persecution. History
had forgotten. He decided to explain to her in terms of the substitute
concepts of her understanding.

"There were twelve worlds, Letha, with the same Geoark. Five of them
wished to break away and establish their separate Geoark. There was a
contention for property."

"Was it settled?" she asked innocently.

He nodded slowly.

It was settled, he thought. We razed them and diseased them and
interpested them and wrecked their civilizations, and revolutions
reduced the remains to barbarism. If a ship landed on a former planet of
the empire, the crew would be lynched and murdered. Under ven Klaeden,
the ships of the Third Fleet were going to seek out an alleged colony in
Ursa, to sell ships, tools, and services to a minor technology that was
approaching its own space-going day, in return for immigration and
nationalization rights--a young civilization full of chaotic expansion.

"There is much you could not understand, Letha," he told her. "Our
cultures are different. All societies go through three phases, and yours
has passed through them all--perhaps into a fourth and final."

"And yours, Meikl?"

"I don't know. First there is the struggle to integrate in a hostile
environment. Then, after integration, comes an explosive expansion of
the culture--_conquest_, a word unknown to you. Then a withering of the
mother-culture, and the rebellious rise of young cultures."

"We were the mother-culture, Meikl?"

He nodded. "And the Exodus was your birth-giving."

"Now we are old and withered, Meikl?"

He looked around at the garden-forests in the distance. A second
childhood? he wondered. Was there a fourth phase?--a final perpetual
youth that would never reach another puberty? He wondered. The coming of
the sky-fleet might be a cultural coitus, but could there be conception?

       *       *       *       *       *

A pair of junior officers came wandering along the ridge, speaking in
low tones and gazing down toward the valley. There was a casual exchange
of salutes as they approached the girl and the analyst. The officers
wore police armbands, and they asked for Meikl's fraternization permit,
using the spacer's tongue.

"Deserter troubles?" he asked, as they returned his papers.

"Nineteen last week," said one of the officers. "We've lost about three
hundred men since we landed."

"Found any of them?"

"Justice Section got sixty-three. The rest are probably hopeless."

Another exchange of salutes. The officers left.

"What did they want, Meikl?" she asked.

"Just idle conversation. It's nearly time for the meeting with the
elders. Let's go."

They began walking along the ridge together in the late sunlight. The
meeting was to attempt to explain to the elders of the Geoark that the
men of the fleet were not free to depart from the occupied zone. The
attempt would be fruitless, but ven Klaeden had ordered it.

From the viewpoint of the high command, three hundred desertions out of
nineteen thousand men over a period of six months was not an important
loss of personnel. What _was_ important: the slow decay of discipline
under the "no force" interdict. A policy of "no arrest" had been
established for the ausland. If a man escaped from the occupied zone,
Justice Section could send a detail to demand his return, but if he
refused, no force would be used, because of the horrified reaction of
the natives. If he were located, a killer was dispatched, armed with a
tiny phial, a hollow needle, and a CO_{2} gun that could be concealed in
the palm of the hand. The killer stalked the deserter until he caught
him alone, fired from cover, and stole quietly away while the deserter
plucked the needle out of his hide to stare at it in horror. He had a
week in which to get back to the occupied zone to beg for immunization;
if he did not, the spot would become alive with fungus, and the fungus
would spread, and within months, he would die rather grimly.

The real danger, Meikl knew, was not to the fleet but to the natives.
The spacers were cultural poison, and each deserter was a source of
infection moving into the native society, a focal point of restimulation
for any recessive kult'laenger lines that still existed in a peaceful
people after twenty thousand years.

"I think Evon will be here," the girl said too casually as they entered
the forest and turned into a path that led to the glade where the elders
had assembled.

He took her arm suddenly, and stopped in the pathway.

"Letha--you have worked for me many months."

"Yes--"

"I love you, Letha."

She smiled very slowly, and lifted her hands to his face. He kissed her
quietly, hating himself.

"You'll take me with you," she said.

"No." It was impossible.

"Then you'll stay."

"It is ... _forbidden_ ... _verboten_...." There was no word in the
tongue.

"I can't understand.... If you love...."

He swallowed hard. For the girl, "love" automatically settled
everything, and consummation must follow. How could he explain.

"Letha--in your culture, 'life' is the highest value."

"How could it be otherwise? Love me, Meikl."

He took a deep breath and straightened. "You understand 'drama', Letha.
I have watched your people. Their lives are continuous conscious
play-acting. Your lives are a dance, but you know you are dancing, and
you dance as you will. Have you watched our people?"

She nodded slowly. "You dance a different dance--act a different play."

"It's not a play, Letha. We act an _unconscious_ drama, and thus the
drama becomes more important than living. And death takes precedence
over life."

She shuddered slightly and stared into his eyes, unbelieving.

"I don't know what you mean."

"Can you understand?--that I love you, and yet my ... my...." He groped
for a word for "duty". "My death-allegiance to the ship-people takes
precedence? I can neither take you nor remain with you."

Something went dead in her eyes. "Let us go to the glade," she said in a
monotone. "It's growing late."

    "_And what will ye leave to your ain mither dear,
      Edward, Edward?
    And what will ye leave to your ain mither dear,
      My dear son, now tell me, O?"
    "The curse of hell frae me sall ye bear,
      Mither, mither;
    The curse of hell frae me sall ye bear;
      Sic counsels ye gave to me, O!_"

    --ANONYMOUS

       *       *       *       *       *

The trouble had begun on the eighteenth day of the ninth month. A party
of unidentified men had stolen into the occupied zone during the night.
Without warning, they killed three guards, seized control of the
dispensary, raided the pharmacy, taking the entire supply of fungus
immunization serum, together with a supply of the deadly phials and
needles. They stole a flyer and departed to the south, skimming low over
the forest to avoid fire from the grounded fleet. The following day, a
leaflet appeared, circulating among the fleet personnel.

    NOTICE OF SANCTUARY
    TO: ALL PERSONNEL
    FROM: AUSLAND COMMITTEE
    SUBJECT: FREEDOM

     1. ANY OFFICER OR MAN WHO WISHES TO RESIGN FROM THE SERVICES OF
     THE IMPERIAL FORCES OF THE SECESSION MAY DO SO OF THIS DATE.

     2. THE PROCEDURE FOR RESIGNATION INVOLVES NO FORMAL STATEMENT.
     A MAN MAY TERMINATE HIS PERIOD OF SERVICE BY DEPARTING FROM THE
     OCCUPIED ZONE.

     3. ANY OFFICER OR MAN WHO ATTEMPTS TO INTERFERE WITH THE
     RESIGNATION OF ANOTHER SHALL BE TRIED IN ABSENTIA BY THIS
     COMMITTEE, AND IF FOUND GUILTY, SHALL INCUR THE DEATH PENALTY.

     AUSLAND COMMITTEE

"An outrageous and preposterous bit of deviltry!" ven Klaeden had
hissed. "Get them. Make an example of them."

In reversal of previous policy, a police party was sent to search for
the self-styled ausland committee, with orders to capture or kill on
sight. The police party hunted down and killed six deserters, dragged
eleven more back to the occupied zone, under the very eyes of the native
population. But the immunizing serum was not recovered.

A few days later, three staff officers and a dozen officers in Justice
Section awoke with yelps in the night to pluck stinging needles from
their skins and scream for the guard to pursue the silent shadows that
had invaded their quarters.

Five men were captured. Three of them were natives. Interrogation failed
to disclose the location of the immunizing serum.

Muttering natives began to desert the project. The five culprits were
brought before the baron.

"Execute them in public, with full dress military ceremony. Then close
the border of the occupied zone. No native may leave, if he has signed a
work contract."

On the day of the execution, the natives attempted to leave en masse.
The police activity along the border approached the proportions of a
massacre.

"We were nearly finished," raged the baron, pacing like an angry
predator in the glade. "Another two weeks, and the first ore would come
out of the crushers. They can't stop us now. They can't quit."

Three elders of the Geoark sat like frozen statues on a mossy boulder,
tight-lipped, not understanding the colonel's tongue, disdaining to
speak in the intermediate language.

"Explain it to them, Meikl. Make it clear."

Pale, trembling with suppressed disapproval, the analyst bowed curtly
and turned to the girl. "Tell them," he said in the Intermedia, "that
death will come to any native who deserts, and that ten auslanders will
die for every man murdered by the renegade committee. Tell them that the
Geoark is...." He paused. There was no word for "hostage."

He was explaining the hostage-concept lengthily, while the girl's face
drained of color. Suddenly she turned away to retch. Meikl stood
stricken for a moment, turned helplessly toward the baron.

"_They_ understood you, damn them!" ven Klaeden snapped. "They know the
Intermedia."

The elders continued to sit stonily on the boulder without acknowledging
that they had heard. One of them sighed deeply and spoke a few words to
the others. They nodded sadly, answered with polite monosyllables.

"_No!_" Letha yelped, suddenly whirling, looking at the elders.

One of them smiled and murmured a few words to her. Then the three of
them slid down from the boulder. The guard who stood at port arms a few
feet away stirred restlessly.

The elders walked casually toward a path leading away from the glade.
The guard looked questioningly at the officers.

"Where are they going?" ven Klaeden demanded.

"Well, Letha?" Meikl muttered.

"I--I don't know--"

"You're lying, girl," the baron grunted, then to the guards: "Tell them
to halt."

"Party, _halt_!" snapped the guard.

The three elderly gentlemen continued toward the path, loose robes
gathered up from spindley shins.

"_Party, halt!_"

The elders murmured conversationally among themselves as they continued.

"HALT, I SAID."

"Take the one in the middle," ordered ven Klaeden.

The guard lifted the snub-nosed shoulder weapon. There was a brief
rattling hiss. The back of the elder's robe went crimson, and he
crumpled at the entrance of the pathway.

The other two continued on their way, their stride unbroken.

"Shoot for the legs, you fool!" barked the baron.

The rattling hiss came again. They fell in the shrubs, whimpering
softly.

Meikl turned away with a choking spasm in his throat, looked around for
Letha. She had vanished from the glade.

"Haul them to the dispensary, keep them prisoner," the baron was
growling.

Meikl turned on him. "Now it's come to this, has it?" he snapped. "From
the beginning, they were willing--even eager, to give what we wanted.
Why did they _stop_ being willing?"

"That's enough, Meikl!"

"I've hardly started. You came here like a tyrant, and they served you
like a friend. You couldn't bear it. 'Brethren', they said. But there's
nothing about 'brethren' in the tactical handbooks, is there, Baron?"

"Shut up."

Ven Klaeden said it quietly, as if bored. He crossed slowly to stand
before the analyst and stare at him icily.

"You speak of the unconscious inheritance of culture, analyst--the
kulturverlaengerung. And you have accused me for being a carrier of the
war plague, eh?"

Meikl paused. The baron's eyes were narrowed, stabbing as if in judgment
or triumph.

"Well, Meikl? Is that what we've done? Inflicted them with conflict?
Brought back the old seeds of hate?"

The analyst drew himself up slightly. "You just killed a man, a man of
dignity," he snarled, "and you cut two others down like weeds."

"Innocent old men." The baron's mouth twisted into a snarl.

"They wanted nothing but to help us."

"Yes, Meikl? And we are the barbarians, eh?"

The analyst spoke disdain with his eyes.

The baron straightened in sudden hauteur. "_Look down at the ground,
Analyst_," he hissed.

Ven Klaeden's sudden change of tone impelled him to obey. His eyes fell
to the turf at his feet--moss covered sod, rich and dark beneath the
green.

The baron kicked a hole in the moss with the toe of his boot. "Tell me
where the infection came from, Analyst," he growled. He scraped at the
hole with his heel. "And why is the dirt so _red_ right here?"

Meikl glanced up slowly. Two men were coming through the shrubs, walking
warily along the path toward the clearing. Ven Klaeden seemed unaware.
He leaned forward to speak through his teeth.

"I give them nothing but what they gave our fathers--their own inner
hell, Meikl--the curse they so carefully forgot. In their Eden."

The man was mad ... perhaps. Meikl's eyes followed the men who
approached through the shrubs. One of them carried a burden--the limp
body of a girl, occasionally visible through the low foliage as they
drew nearer. One of the men was a junior officer, the other a native.
After a moment, he recognized the native....

"Evon!"

As he called out, the baron whirled, hand slipping to the hilt of the
ceremonial sword he wore in the presence of the Geoark. The men stopped.
Meikl stared at the limp figure in the arms of the native.

"_Letha!_"

"Dead," Evon hissed. "They killed her for running...."

They emerged from the shrubs into full view. The officer was holding a
gun.

"Put that away!" ven Klaeden snapped.

The young officer laughed sourly. "Sorry, baron, I'm from the
committee."

"_Guard!_"

There's no one in earshot, Baron."

"Fool!" Ven Klaeden arrogantly whipped out the sword. "Drop that gun, or
I'll blade-whip you!"

"Easy, baron, easy. I'm your executioner...."

The baron straightened haughtily and began a slow advance, a towering
figure of icy dignity in the sun that filtered through the foliage.

"... but I want to take care of this one first." The renegade waved the
gun toward Meikl. "You, Baron, you can have it slower--a needle in your
official rump."

Ven Klaeden, a figure of utter contempt, continued the slow advance with
the sword. The officer's lips tightened. He squeezed the trigger. Ven
Klaeden hesitated, jerking slightly, then continued, his hand pressing
against his abdomen, doubling forward slightly. The officer fired
again--a sharp snap of sound in the glade. The baron stopped, wrestling
with pain ten feet from the pale renegade.

Suddenly he flung the sword. It looped in mid-air and slashed the man's
face from chin to cheekbone. He tripped and tumbled backward as ven
Klaeden slipped to his knees on the moss.

Meikl dived for the gun. By the time he wrestled it away from the
officer with the bloody face, ven Klaeden was sitting like a gaunt
Buddha on the moss, and the body of Letha lay nearby, while a confused
Evon clutched his hands to his face and rocked slowly. Meikl came slowly
to his feet. The renegade officer wiped his face of blood and shrank
back into shrubs.

"Get him," croaked ven Klaeden.

Scarcely knowing why, the analyst jerked the trigger, felt the gun
explode in his fist, saw the renegade topple.

There was a moment of stillness in the glade, broken only by ven
Klaeden's wheezing breath. The baron looked up with an effort, his eyes
traveling over the girl, then up to the figure of the child of Earth.

"Your woman, Earthling?"

Evon lowered his hands, stood dazed and blinking for a moment. He
glanced at Meikl, then at the girl. He knelt beside her, staring, not
touching, and his knee encountered the blade of the sword.

"You have brought us death, you have brought us hate," he said slowly,
his eyes clinging to the sword.

"Pick it up," hissed the baron.

"You will never leave. A party of men is wrecking what you have done.
Then we shall wreck your ships. Then we...."

"Pick it up."

The native hesitated. Slowly, his brown hand reached for the hilt, and
fascination was in his eyes.

"You know what it is for?" the analyst asked.

The native shook his head slowly.

Then it was in his hand, fingers shaping themselves around the hilt--as
the fingers of his fathers had done in the ages before the Star Exodus.
His jaw fell slightly, and he looked up, clutching it.

"_Now_ do you know?" the baron gasped.

"My--my hand--_it_ knows," the native whispered.

Ven Klaeden glanced sourly at Meikl, losing his balance slightly, eyes
glazed with pain. "He'll need it now, won't he, Analyst?" he breathed,
then fell to the moss.

Evon stood up slowly, moistening his lips, feeling the grip of the sword
and touching the red-stained steel. He peered quickly up at Meikl. Meikl
brandished the gun slightly.

The low rumble of a dynamite blast sounded from the direction of the
mines.

"You loved her too," Evon said.

He nodded.

The native held the sword out questioningly, as if offering it.

"Keep it," the analyst grunted. "You remembered its feel after twenty
thousand years. That's why you'll need it."

Some deeds, he thought, would haunt the soul of Man until his end, and
there was no erasing them ... for they _were_ the soul, self-made,
lasting in the ghost-grey fabric of mind as long as the lips of a child
greedily sought the breast of its mother, as long as the child mirrored
the mind of the man and the woman. _Kulturverlaengerung._

The analyst left the native with the sword and went to seek the next in
line of command. The purpose of the fleet must be kept intact, he
thought, laughing bitterly. Yet still he went.


THE END





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