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Title: Black Man's Burden
Author: Reynolds, Mack, 1917-1983
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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BLACK MAN'S BURDEN

BY MACK REYNOLDS

Illustrated by Schoenherr


[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact &
Fiction December 1961 and January 1962. Extensive research did not
uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was
renewed.]

    "Take up the white man's burden
    Send forth the best ye breed...."
    --Kipling

       *       *       *       *       *

     The turmoil in Africa is only beginning--and it must grow worse
     before it's better. Not until the people of Africa know they are
     Africans--not warring tribesmen--will there be peace....



I


The two-vehicle caravan emerged from the sandy wastes of the _erg_ and
approached the small encampment of Taitoq Tuareg which consisted of
seven goat leather tents. They were not unanticipated, the camp's scouts
had noted the strange pillars of high-flung dust which were set up by
the air rotors an hour earlier and for the past fifteen minutes they had
been visible to all.

Moussa-ag-Amastan, headman of the clan, awaited the newcomers at first
with a certain trepidation in spite of his warrior blood. Although he
hadn't expressed himself thus to his followers, his first opinion had
been that the unprecedented pillars were djinn come out of the erg for
no good purpose. It wasn't until they were quite close that it could be
seen the vehicles bore resemblance to those of the Rouma which were of
recent years spreading endlessly through the lands of the Ahaggar Tuareg
and beggaring those who formerly had conducted the commerce of the
Sahara.

But the vehicles traveling through the sand dunes! That had been the
last advantage of the camel. No wheeled vehicle could cross the vast
stretches of the ergs, they must stick to the hard ground, to the
tire-destroying gravel.

They came to a halt and Moussa-ag-Amastan drew up his teguelmoust
turban-veil even closer about his eyes. He had no desire to let the
newcomers witness his shocked surprise at the fact that the desert
lorries had no wheels, floated instead without support, and now that
they were at a standstill settled gently to earth.

There was further surprise when the five who issued forth from the two
seemingly clumsy vehicles failed to be Rouma. They looked more like the
Teda to the south, and the Targui's eyes thinned beneath his
teguelmoust. Since the French had pulled out their once dreaded Camel
Corps there had been somewhat of a renaissance of violence between
traditional foes.

However, the newcomers, though dark as Negro Bela slaves, wore Tuareg
dress, loose baggy trousers of dark indigo-blue cotton cloth, a loose,
nightgownlike white cotton shirt, and over this a _gandoura_ outer
garment. Above all, they wore the teguelmoust though they were
shockingly lax in keeping it properly up about the mouth.

Moussa-ag-Amastan knew that he was backed by ten or more of his
clansmen, half of whom bore rifles, the rest Tuareg broadswords,
Crusader-like with their two edges, round points and flat rectangular
cross-members. Only two of the strangers seemed armed and they
negligently bore their smallish guns in the crooks of their arms. The
clan leader spoke at strength, then, but he said the traditional "_La
bas_."

"There is no evil," repeated the foremost of the newcomers. His Tamabeq,
the Berber language of the Tuareg confederations, seemed perfect.

Moussa-ag-Amastan said, "What do you do in the lands of the Taitoq
Tuareg?"

The stranger, a tall, handsome man with a dominating though pleasant
personality, indicated the vehicles with a sweep of his hand. "We are
Enaden, itinerant smiths. As has ever been our wont, we travel from
encampment to encampment to sell our products and to make repair upon
your metal possessions."

Enaden! The traveling smiths of the Ahaggar, and indeed of the whole
Sahara, were a despised and ragged lot at best. Few there were that ever
possessed more than a small number of camels, a sprinkling of goats,
perhaps a sheep or two. But these seemed as rich as Roumas, as Europeans
or Americans.

Moussa-ag-Amastan muttered, "You jest with us at your peril, stranger."
He pointed an aged but still strong hand at the vehicles. "Enaden do not
own such as these."

The newcomer shrugged. "I am Omar ben Crawf and these are my followers,
Abrahim el Bakr Ma el Ainin, Keni Ballalou and Bey-ag-Akhamouk. We come
today from Tamanrasset and we are smiths, as we can prove. As is known,
there is high pay to be earned by working in the oil fields, at the dams
on the Niger, in the afforestation projects, in the sinking of the new
wells whose pumps utilize the rays of the sun, in the developing of the
great new oases. There is much Rouma money to be made in such work and
my men and I have brought these vehicles specially built in the new
factories in Dakar for desert use."

"Slave work!" one of Moussa-ag-Amastan's kinsmen sneered.

Omar ben Crawf shrugged in obvious amusement, but there was a warmth and
vitality in the man that quickly affected even strangers. "Perhaps," he
said. "But times change, as every man knows and today there no longer
need be hunger, nor illness, nor any want--if a man will but work a
fraction of each day."

"Work is for slaves," Moussa-ag-Amastan barked.

The newcomer refused to argue. "But all slaves have been freed, and
where in the past this meant nothing since the Bela had no place to go,
no way to live save with his owner, today it is different and any man
can go and find work on the many projects that grow everywhere. So the
slaves slip away from the Tuareg, and the Teda and Chaamba. Soon there
will be no more slaves to do the work about your encampments. And then
what, man of the desert?"

"We'll fight!" Moussa-ag-Amastan growled. "We Tuareg are warriors,
bedouin, free men. We will never be slaves."

"_Inshallah._ If God wills it," the smith agreed politely.

"Show us your wares," the old chieftain snapped. "We chatter like women.
Talk can wait until the evening meal and in the men's quarters of my
tent." He approached the now parked vehicles and his followers crowded
after him. From the tents debouched women and children. The children
were completely nude, and the Tuareg women were unveiled for such are
the customs of the Ahaggar Tuareg that the men go veiled but women do
not.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the lorries was so constructed that a side could be raised in
such fashion to display a wide variety of tools, weapons, household
utensils, and textiles. Ohs and ahs punctuated the air, women being the
same in every land. Two of the smiths brought forth metal-working
equipment of strange design and set up shop to one side. A broken bolt
on an aged Lebel rifle was quickly repaired, a copper cooking pot
brazed, some harness tinkered with.

Of a sudden, Moussa-ag-Amastan said, "But your women, your families,
where are they?"

The one who had been introduced as Abrahim el Bakr, an open-faced man
whose constant smiling seemed to take a full ten years off what must
have been his age, explained. "On the big projects, one can find
employment only if he allows his children to attend the new schools. So
our wives and children remain near Tamanrasset while the children learn
the lore of books."

"Rouma schools!" one of the warriors sneered.

"Oh, no. There are few Roumas remaining in all the land now," the smith
said easily. "Those that are left serve us in positions our people as
yet cannot hold, in construction of the dams, in the bringing of trees
to the desert, but soon, even they will be unneeded."

"_Our_ people?" Moussa-ag-Amastan rumbled ungraciously. "You are smiths.
The smiths have no people. You are neither Kel Rela, Tégehé Mellet,
Taitoq, nor even Teda, Chaambra, or Ouled Tidrarin."

One of the smiths said easily, "In the great new construction camps, in
the new towns, with their many ways to work and become rich, the tribes
are breaking up. Tuareg works next to Teda and a Moor next to a former
Haratin serf." He added, as though unthinkingly, even as he displayed an
aluminum pan to a wide-eyed Tuareg matron, "Indeed, even the clans break
up and often Tuareg marries Arab or Sudanese or Rifs down from the
north ... or even we Enaden."

The clansmen were suddenly silent, in shocked surprise.

"That cannot be true!" the elderly chief snapped.

Omar ben Crawf looked at him mildly. "Why should my follower lie?"

"I do not know, but we will talk of it later, away from the women and
children who should not hear such abominations." The chief switched
subjects. "But you have no flocks with you. How are we to pay for these
things, these services?"

"With money."

The old man's face, what little could be seen through his teguelmoust,
darkened. "We have little money in the Ahaggar."

The one named Omar nodded. "But we are short of meat and will buy
several goats and perhaps a lamb, a chicken, eggs. Then, too, as you
have noted, we have left our women at home. We will need the services of
cooks, some one to bring water. We will hire servants."

The other said gruffly, "There are some Bela who will serve you."

The smith seemed taken aback. "Verily, El Hassan has stated that the
product of the labor of the slave is accursed."

"El Hassan! Who is El Hassan and why should the work of a slave be
accursed?"

One of the tribesmen said, "I have heard of this El Hassan. Rumors of
his teachings spread through the land. He is to lead us all, Tuareg,
Arab and Sudanese, until we are all as rich as Roumas."

Omar said, "It is well known that the Roumas and especially the
Americans are all rich as Emirs but none of them ever possess slaves.
The bedouin have slaves but fail to prosper. Verily, the product of the
labor of the slave is accursed."

"Madness," Moussa-ag-Amastan muttered. "If you do not let our slave
women do your tasks, then they will remain undone. No Tuareg woman will
work."

       *       *       *       *       *

But the headman of his clan was wrong.

The smiths remained four days in all, and the abundance of their
products was too much. What verbal battles might have taken place in the
tent of Moussa-ag-Amastan, and in those of his followers, the smiths
couldn't know, but Tuareg women are not dominated by their men. On the
second day, three Tuareg women applied for the position of servants, at
surprisingly high pay. Envy ran roughshod when they later displayed the
textiles and utensils they purchased with their wages.

Nor could the aged Tuareg chief prevent in the evening discussions
between the men, a thorough pursuing of the new ideas sweeping through
the Ahaggar. Though these strangers proclaimed themselves lowly
Enaden--itinerant desert smiths--they were obviously not to be dismissed
as a caste little higher than Haratin serfs. Even the first night they
were invited to the tent of Moussa-ag-Amastan to share the dinner of
shorba soup, cous cous and the edible paste _kaboosh_, made of cheese,
butter and spices. It was an adequate desert meal, meat being eaten not
more than a few times a year by such as the Taitoq Tuareg who couldn't
afford to consume the animals upon which they lived.

After mint tea, one of the younger Tarqui leaned forward. He said, "You
have brought strange news, oh Enaden of wealth, and we would know more.
We of the Ahaggar hear little from outside."

Moussa-ag-Amastan scowled at his clansman, for his presumption, but Omar
answered, his voice sincere and carrying conviction. "The world moves
fast, men of the desert, and the things that were verily true even
yesterday, have changed today."

"To the sorrow of the Tuareg!" snapped Moussa-ag-Amastan.

The other looked at him. "Not always, old one. Surely in your youth you
remember when such diseases as the one the Roumas once called the
disease of Venus, ran rampant through the tribes. When trachoma, the
sickness of the eyes, was known as the scourge of the Sahara. When half
the children, not only of Bela slaves and Haratin serfs, but also of the
Surgu noble clans, died before the age of ten."

"Admittedly, the magic of the Roumas cured many such ills," an older
warrior growled.

"Not their magic, their learning," the smith named El Ma el Ainin put
in. "And, verily, now the schools are open to all the people."

"Schools are not for such as the Bela and Haratin," the clan chief
protested. "The Koran should not be taught to slaves."

El Ma el Ainin said gently, "The Koran is not taught at all in the new
schools, old one. The teachings of the Prophet are still made known to
those interested, in the schools connected with the mosques, but only
the teachings of science are made in the new schools."

"The teachings of the Rouma!" a Tuareg protested, carefully slipping his
glass of tea beneath his teguelmoust so that he could drink without his
mouth being obscenely revealed.

Omar ben Crawf laughed. "That is what we have allowed the Roumas to have
us believe for much too long," he stated. "El Hassan has proven
otherwise. Much of the wisdom of science has its roots in the lands of
Asia and of Africa. The Roumas were savages in skins while the earliest
civilizations were being developed in Africa and Asia Minor. Hardly a
science now developed by the Roumas of Europe and America but had its
beginning with us." He turned to the elderly chief.

"You Tuareg are of Berber background. But a few centuries ago, the
Berbers of Morocco, known as the Moors to the Rouma, leavened only with
a handful of Jews and Arabs, built up in Spain the highest civilization
in all the world of that time. We would be foolish, we of Africa, to
give credit to the Rouma for so much of what our ancestors presented to
the world."

The Tuareg were astonished. They had never heard such words.

Moussa-ag-Amastan was not appeased. "You sound like a Rouma, yourself,"
he said. "Where have you learned of all this?"

The smiths chuckled their amusement.

Abrahim el Bakr said, "Verily, old one, have you ever seen a black
Rouma?"

Omar ben Crawf, the headman of the smiths, went on. "El Hassan has
proclaimed great new beliefs that spread through all North Africa, and
eventually, _Inshallah_, throughout the continent. Through his great
learning he has assimilated the wisdom of all the prophets, all the
wisemen of all the world, and proclaims their truths."

The Tuareg chief was becoming increasingly irritated. Such talk as this
was little short of blasphemy to his ears, but the fascination of the
discussion was beyond him to ignore. And he knew that even if he did his
young men, in particular, would only seek out the strangers on their own
and then he would not be present to mitigate their interest. In spite of
himself, now he growled, "What beliefs? What truths? I know not of this
El Hassan of whom you speak."

Omar said slowly, "Among them, the teachings of a great wise man from a
far land. That all men should be considered equal in the eyes of society
and should have equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness."

"Equal!" one of the warriors ejaculated. "This is not wisdom, but
nonsense. No two men are equal."

Omar waggled a finger negatively. "Like so many, you fail to explore the
teaching. Obviously, no man of wisdom would contend that all men are
equally tall, or strong, or wise, or cunning, nor even fortunate. _No_
two men are equal in such regards. But all men should have equal right
to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, whatever that might mean
to him as an individual."

One of the Tuareg said slyly, "And the murderer of one of your kinsmen,
should he, too, have life and liberty, in the belief of El Hassan?"

"Obviously, the community must protect itself against those who would
destroy the life or liberty of others. The murderer of a kinsman of
mine, as well as any other man, myself included, should be subject
equally to the same law."

It was a new conception to members of a tribal society such as that of
the Ahaggar Tuareg. They stirred under both its appeal and its negation
of all they knew. A man owed alliance to his immediate family, to his
clan, his tribe, then to the Tuareg confederation--in decreasing degree.
Beyond that, all were enemies, as all men knew.

One protested slowly, seeking out his words, "Your El Hassan preaches
this equality, but surely the wiser man and the stronger man will soon
find his way to the top in any land, in any tribe, even in the nations
of the Rouma."

Omar shrugged. "Who could contend otherwise? But each man should be free
to develop his own possibilities, be they strength of arm or of brain.
Let no man exploit another, nor suppress another's abilities. If a Bela
slave has more ability than a Surgu Tuareg noble, let him profit to the
full by his gifts."

There was a cold silence.

Omar finished gently by saying, "Or so El Hassan teaches, and so they
teach in the new schools in Tamanrasset and Gao, in Timbuktu and Reggan,
in the big universities at Kano, Dakar, Bamako, Accra and Abidian. And
throughout North Africa the wave of the future flows over the land."

"It is a flood of evil," Moussa-ag-Amastan said definitely.

       *       *       *       *       *

But in spite of the antagonism of the clan headman and of the older
Tuareg warriors, the stories of the smiths continued to spread. It was
not even beyond them to discuss, long and quietly, with the Bela slaves
the ideas of the mysterious El Hassan, and to talk of the plentiful
jobs, the high wages, at the dams, the new oases, and in the
afforestation projects.

Somehow the news of their presence spread, and another clan of nomad
Tuareg arrived and pitched their tents, to handle the wares of the
smiths and to bring their metal work for repair. And to listen to their
disturbing words.

As amazing as any of the new products was the solar powered, portable
television set which charged its batteries during the daylight hours and
then flashed on its screen the images and the voices and music of
entertainers and lecturers, teachers and storytellers, for all to see.
In the beginning it had been difficult, for the eye of the desert man is
not trained to pick up a picture. He has never seen one, and would not
recognize his own photograph. But in time, it came to them.

The programs originated in Tamanrasset and in Salah, in Zinder and Fort
Lamy and one of the smiths revealed that the mysterious waves, that fed
the device its programs, were bounced off tiny moons which the Rouma had
rocketed up into the sky for that purpose. A magic understandable only
to marabouts and such, without doubt.

At the end of their period of stay, the smiths, to the universal
surprise of all, gave the mystery device to two sisters, kinswomen of
Moussa-ag-Amastan, who were particularly interested in the teachers and
lecturers who told of the new world aborning. The gift was made in the
full understanding that all should be allowed to listen and watch, and
it was clear that if ever the set needed repair it was to be left
untinkered with and taken to Tamanrasset or the nearest larger
settlement where it would be fixed free of charge.

There were many strange features about the smiths, as each man could
see. Among others, were their strange weapons. There had been some soft
whispered discussion among the warriors in the first two days of their
stay about relieving the strangers of their obviously desirable
possessions--after all, they weren't kinsmen, not even Tuareg. But on
the second day, the always smiling one named Abrahim el Bakr had been on
the outskirts of the _erg_ when a small group of gazelle were flushed.
The graceful animals took off at a prohibitive rifle range, as usual,
but Abrahim el Bakr had thrown his small, all but tiny weapon to his
shoulder and _flic flic flic_, with a sound no greater than the cracking
of a ground nut, had knocked over three of them before the others had
disappeared around a dune.

Obviously, the weapons of the smiths were as great as their learning and
their new instruments. It was discouraging to a raider by instinct.

Then, too, there was the strangeness of the night talks their leader was
known to have with his secret _Kambu_ fetish which was able to answer
him in a squeaky but distinct voice in some unknown tongue, obviously a
language of the djinn. The _Kambu_ was worn on a strap on Omar's wrist,
and each night at a given hour he was wont to withdraw to his tent and
there confer.

On the fourth night, obviously, he was given instruction by the _Kambu_
for in the morning, at first light, the smiths hurriedly packed, broke
camp, made their good-byes to Moussa-ag-Amastan and the others and were
off.

Moussa-ag-Amastan was glad to see them go. They were quite the most
disturbing element to upset his people in many seasons. He wondered at
the advisability of making their usual summer journey to the Tuareg
sedentary centers. He had a feeling that if the clan got near enough to
such centers as Zinder to the south, or Touggourt to the north, there
would be wholesale desertion of the Bela, and, for that matter, even of
some of his younger warriors and their wives.

However, there was no putting off indefinitely exposure to this danger.
Even in such former desert centers as Tessalit and In Salah, the
irrigation projects were of such magnitude that there was a great labor
shortage. But always, of course, as the smiths had said, if you worked
at the projects your children must needs attend the schools. And that
way lay disaster!

The five smiths took out overland in the direction of Djanet on the
border of what had once been known as Libya and famed for its cliffs
which tower over twenty-five hundred feet above the town. Their solar
powered, air cushion, hover-lorries, threw up their clouds of dust and
sand to right and left, but they made good time over the _erg_. A good
hovercraft driver could do much to even out a rolling landscape,
changing his altitude from a few inches here to as much as twenty-five
feet there, given, of course, enough power in his solar batteries,
although that was little problem in this area where clouds were
sometimes not seen for years on end.

This was back of the beyond, the wasteland of earth. Only the interior
of the Arabian peninsula and the Gobi could compete and, of course, even
the Gobi was beginning to be tamed under the afforestation efforts of
the teeming multitudes of China who had suffered its disastrous storms
down through the millennia.

       *       *       *       *       *

Omar checked and checked again with the instrument on his wrist, asking
and answering, his voice worried.

Finally they pulled up beside a larger than usual wadi and Omar ben
Crawf stared thoughtfully out over it. The one they had named Abrahim el
Bakr stood beside him and the others slightly to the rear.

Abrahim el Bakr nodded, for once his face unsmiling. "Those cats'll come
down here," he said. "Nothing else would make sense, not even to an
Egyptian."

"I think you're right," Omar growled. He said over his shoulder, "Bey,
get the trucks out of sight, over that dune. Elmer, you and Kenny set
the gun up over there. Solid slugs, and try to avoid their cargo. We
don't want to set off a Fourth of July here. Bey, when you're finished
with the trucks, take that Tommy-Noiseless of yours and flank them from
over behind those rocks. Take a couple of clips extra, for good
luck--you won't need them, though."

"How many are there supposed to be?" Abrahim el Bakr asked, his voice
empty of humor now.

"Eight half-trucks, two armed jeeps, or land-rovers, one or the other.
Probably about forty men, Abe."

"All armed," Abe said flatly.

"Um-m-m. Listen, that's them coming. Right down the _wadi_. Get going
men. Abe, you cover me."

Abe Bakr looked at him. "Wha'd'ya mean, cover you, man? You slipped all
the way round the bend? Listen, let me plant a couple quick land mines
to stop 'em and we'll get ourselves behind these rocks and blast those
cats half way back to Cairo."

"We'll warn them as per orders."

"Crazy man, like you're the boss, Homer," Abe growled. "But why'd I ever
leave New Jersey?" He made his way to the right, to the top of the
wadi's bank and behind a clump of thorny bush. He made himself
comfortable, the light Tommy-Noiseless with its clip of two hundred .10
caliber, ultra-high velocity shells resting before him on a flat rock
outcropping. He thoughtfully flicked the selector to the explosive side
of the clip. Let Homer Crawford say what he would about not setting off
a Fourth of July, but if he needed covering in the moments to come, he'd
need it bad.

The chips were down now.

The convoy, the motors growling their protests of the hard going even
here at the gravel bottomed wadi river bed, made its way toward them at
a pace of approximately twenty kilometers per hour.

The lead jeep--Skoda manufacture, Homer Crawford noted cynically--was
some thirty meters in advance. It drew to a halt upon seeing him and a
turbaned Arab Union trooper swung a Brenn gun in his direction.

An officer stood up in the jeep and yelled at Crawford in Arabic.

The American took a deep breath and said in the same language, "You're
out of your own territory."

The officer's face went poker-expressionless. He looked at the lone
figure, dressed in the garb of the Tuareg, even to the turban-veil which
covers all but the eyes of these notorious Apaches of the Sahara.

"This is no affair of yours," the lieutenant said. "Who are you?"

Homer Crawford said very clearly, "Sahara Division, African Development
Project, Reunited Nations. You're far out of your own territory,
lieutenant. I'll have to report you, and also to demand that you turn
and go back to your origin."

The lieutenant flicked his hand, and the trooper behind the Brenn gun
sighted the weapon and tightened his trigger finger.

Crawford dropped to the ground and rolled desperately for a slight
depression that would provide cover. He could have saved himself the
resultant bruises and scratches. Before the Brenn gun spoke even once,
there was a _Götterdammerung_ of sound and the three occupants of the
jeep, driver, lieutenant and gunner were swept from the vehicle in a
nauseating obscenity of exploding flesh, uniform cloth, blood and bone.

[Illustration]

To the side, Abe Bakr behind his thorn bush and rock vantage point
turned the barrel of his Tommy-Noiseless to the first of the half
tracks. Already Arab Union troopers were debouching from them, some
firing at random and at unseen targets. However, the so-called Enaden
smiths were well concealed, their weapons silenced except for the
explosion of the tiny shells upon reaching their target.

It wasn't much of a fight. The recoilless automatic rifle manned by
Elmer Allen and Kenny Ballalou swept the wadi, swept it of life, at
least, but hardly swept it clean. What few individuals were left, in
what little shelter was to be found in the dry river's bottom, were
picked off easily, if not neatly by the high velocity automatics in the
hands of Abe Bakr and Bey-ag-Akhamouk.

Afterwards, the five of them, standing at the side of the wadi, stared
down at their work.

Elmer Allen muttered a bitter four-letter obscenity. He had once headed
a pacifist group at the University in Kingston, Jamaica. Now his teeth
were bared, as they always were when he went into action. He hated it.

Of them all, Bey-ag-Ahkamouk was the least moved by the slaughter. He
grumbled, "Guns, explosives, mortar, flame throwers. If there is
anything in the world my people don't need in the way of _aid_, it's
weapons."

"Our people," Homer Crawford said absently, his eyes--taking in the
scene beneath them--empty, as though unseeing. He hated the need for
killing, almost as badly as did Elmer Allen.

Bey looked at him, scowling slightly, but said nothing. There had been
mild rebuke in his leader's voice.

"Well," Abe Bakr said with a tone of mock finality in his voice, as
though he was personally wiping his hands of the whole affair, "how are
you going to explain all this jazz to headquarters, man?"

Homer said flatly, "We were attacked by this unidentified group of, ah,
gun runners, from some unknown origin. We defended ourselves, to the
best of our ability."

Elmer Allen looked at the once human mess below them. "We certainly
did," he muttered, scowling.

"Crazy man," Abe said, nodding his agreement to the alibi.

The others didn't bother to speak. Homer Crawford's unit was well knit.

He said after a moment. "Abe, you and Kenny get some dynamite and plant
it in this wadi wall in a few spots. We'll want to bury this whole mess.
It wouldn't do for someone to come along and blow himself up on some of
these scattered land mines, or find himself a bazooka or something to
use on his nearest blood-feud neighbor."



II


The young woman known as Izubahil was washing clothes in the Niger with
the rest but slightly on the outskirts of the chattering group of women,
which was fitting since she was both a comparative stranger and as yet
unselected by any man to grace his household. Which, in a way, was
passingly strange since she was comely enough. Clad as the rest with
naught but a wrap of colored cloth about her hips, her face and figure
were openly to be seen. Her complexion was not quite so dark as most.
She came from up-river, so she said, the area of the Songhoi, but by the
looks of her there was more than average Arab or Berber blood in her
veins. Her lips and nose were thinner than those of her neighbors.

Yes, it was strange that no man had taken her, though it was said that
in her shyness she repulsed any advances made by either the young men,
or their wealthier elders who could afford more than one wife. She was a
nothing-woman, really, come out of the desert alone, and without
relatives to protect her interests, but still she repulsed the advances
of those who would honor her with a place in their house, or tent.

She had come out of the desert, it was known, with her handful of
possessions done up in a packet, and had quietly and unobtrusively taken
her place in the Negro community of Gao. Little better than a slave or
Gabibi serf, she made her meager living doing small tasks for the
better-off members of the community.

But she knew her place, was dutifully shy and quiet spoken, and in the
town or in the presence of men, wore her haik and veil. Yes, it was
passing strange that she found no man. On the face of it, she was
getting no younger, surely she must be into her twenties.

Up to their knees in the waters of the Niger, out beyond the point where
the dugout canoes were pulled up to the bank, their ends resting on the
shore, they pounded their laundry. Laughing, chattering, gossiping. Life
was perhaps poor, but still life was good.

Someone pretended to see a crocodile and there was a wild scampering for
the shore. And then high laughter when the jest was revealed. Actually,
all the time they had known it a jest, since it was their most popular
one--there were seldom crocodiles this far north in the Niger bend.

There was a stir as two men dressed in the clothes of the Rouma
approached the river bank. It was not forbidden, but good manners called
for males to refrain from this area while the woman bathed and washed
their laundry, without veil or upper garments. These mean were obviously
shameless, and probably had come to stare. From their dress, their faces
and their bearing, they were strangers. Possibly Senegalese, up from the
area near Dakar, products of the new schools and the new industries
mushrooming there. Strange things were told of the folk who gave up the
old ways, worked on the dams and the other new projects, sent their
little ones to the schools, and submitted to the needle pricks which
seemed to compose so much of the magic medicine being taught in the
medical schools by the Rouma witchmen.

One of them spoke now in Songhoi, the _lingua franca_ of the vicinity.
Shamelessly he spoke to them, although none were his women, nor even his
tribal kin. None looked at him.

"We seek a single woman, an unwed woman, who would work for pay and
learn the new ways."

They continued their laundry, not looking up, but their chatter dribbled
away.

"She must drop the veil," the man continued clearly, "and give up the
haik and wear the new clothes. But she will be well paid, and taught to
read and be kept in the best of comfort and health."

There was a low gasp from several of the younger women, but one of the
eldest looked up in distaste. "Wear the clothes of the Rouma!" she said
indignantly. "Shameless ones!"

The man's voice was testy. He himself was dressed in the clothing worn
always by the Rouma, when the Rouma had controlled the Niger bend. He
said, "These are not the clothes of the Rouma, but the clothes of
civilized people everywhere."

The women's attention went back to their washing. Two or three of them
giggled.

The elderly woman said, "There are none here who will go with you, for
whatever shameless purpose you have in your mind."

But Izubahil, the strange girl come out of the desert from the north,
spoke suddenly. "I will," she said.

There was a gasp, and all looked at her in wide-eyed alarm. She began
making her way to the shore, her unfinished washing still in hand.

The stranger said clearly, "And drop the veil, discard the haik for the
new clothing, and attend the schools?"

There was another gasp as Izubahil said definitely, "Yes, all these
things." She looked back at the women. "So that I may learn all these
new ways."

The more elderly sniffed and turned their backs in scorn, but the
younger stared after her in some amazement and until she disappeared
with the two strangers into one of the buildings which had formerly
housed the French Administration officers back in the days when the area
was known as the French Sudan.

Inside, the boy strangers turned to her and the one who had spoken at
the river bank said in English, "How goes it?"

"Heavens to Betsy," Isobel Cunningham said with a grin, "get me a drink.
If I'd known majoring in anthropology was going to wind up with my doing
a strip tease with a bunch of natives in the Niger River, I would have
taken up Home Economics, like my dear old mother wanted!"

They laughed with her and Jacob Armstrong, the older of the two, went
over to a sideboard and mixed her a cognac and soda. "Ice?" he said.

"Brother, you said it," she told him. "Where can I change out of these
rags?"

"On you they look good," Clifford Jackson told her. He looked
surprisingly like the Joe Louis of several decades earlier.

"That's enough out of you, wise guy," Isobel told him. "Why doesn't
somebody dream up a role for me where I can be a rich paramount chief's
favorite wife, or something? Be loaded down with gold and jewelry, that
sort of thing."

Jake brought her the drink. "Your clothes are in there," he told her,
motioning with his head to an inner room. "It wouldn't do the job," he
added. "What we're giving them is the old Cinderella story." He looked
at his watch. "If we get under way, we can take the jet to Kabara and go
into your act there. It's been nearly six months since Kabara and
they'll be all set for the second act."

She knocked back the brandy and made her way to the other room, saying
over her shoulder, "Be with you in a minute."

"Not that much of a hurry," Cliff called. "Take your time, gal, there's
a bath in there. You'll probably want one after a week of living the way
you've been."

"Brother!" she agreed.

Jake was making himself a drink. He said easily to Cliff Jackson,
"That's a fine girl. I'd hate her job. We get the easy deal on this
assignment."

Cliff said, "You said it, Nigger. How about mixing me a drink, too?"

"Nigger!" Jake said in mock indignation. "Look who's talking." His voice
took on a burlesque of a Southern drawl. "Man when the Good Lawd was
handin' out _cullahs_, you musta thought he said _umbrellahs_, and said
give me a nice black one."

Cliff laughed with him and said, "Where do we plant poor Isobel next?"

Jake thought about it. "I don't know. The kid's been putting in a lot of
time. I think after about a week in Kabara we ought to go on down to
Dakar and suggest she be given another assignment for a while. Some of
the girls, working out of our AFAA office don't do anything except drive
around in recent model cars, showing off the advantages of emancipation,
tossing money around like tourists, and living it up in general."

       *       *       *       *       *

On the flight up-river to Kabara, Isobel Cunningham went through the
notes she'd taken on that town. It was also on the Niger, and the
assignment had been almost identical to the Gao one. In fact, she'd gone
through the same routine in Ségou, Ké-Macina, Mopti, Gôundam and Bourem,
above Gao, and Ansongo, Tillabéri and Niamey below. She was stretching
her luck, if you asked her. Sooner or later she was going to run into
someone who knew her from a past performance.

Well, let the future take care of the future. She looked over at Cliff
Jackson who was piloting the jet and said, "What're the latest
developments? Obviously, I haven't seen a paper or heard a broadcast for
over a week."

Cliff shrugged his huge shoulders. "Not much. More trouble with the
Portuguese down in the south."

Jake rumbled, "There's going to be a bloodbath there before it's over."

Isobel said thoughtfully, "There's been some hope that fundamental
changes might take place in Lisbon."

Jake grunted his skepticism. "In that case the bloodbath would take
place there instead of in Africa." He added, "Which is all right with
me."

"What else?" Isobel said.

"Continued complications in the Congo."

"That's hardly news."

"But things are going like clockwork in the west. Kenya, Uganda,
Tanganyika." Cliff took his right hand away from the controls long
enough to make a circle with its thumb and index finger. "Like
clockwork. Fifty new fellows from the University of Chicago came in last
week to help with the rural education development and twenty or so men
from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore have wrangled a special grant for a new
medical school."

"All ... Negroes?"

"What else?"

Jake said suddenly, "Tell her about the Cubans."

Isobel frowned. "Cubans?"

"Over in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan area. They were supposedly helping
introduce modern sugar refining methods--"

"Why supposedly?"

"Why not?"

"All right, go on," Isobel said.

Cliff Jackson said slowly, "Somebody shot them up. Killed several,
wounded most of the others."

The girl's eyes went round. "Who ... and why?"

The pilot shifted his heavy shoulders again.

Jake said, "Nobody seems to know, but the weapons were modern. Plenty
modern." He twisted in his bucket seat, uncomfortably. "Listen, have you
heard anything about some character named El Hassan?"

Isobel turned to face him. "Why, yes. The people there in Gao mentioned
him. Who is he?"

"That's what I'd like to know," Jake said. "What did they say?"

"Oh, mostly supposed words of wisdom that El Hassan was alleged to have
made with. I get it that he's some, well you wouldn't call him a
nationalist since he's international in his appeal, but he's evidently
preaching union of all Africans. I get an undercurrent of
anti-Europeanism in general, but not overdone." Isobel's expressive face
went thoughtful. "As a matter of fact, his program seems to coincide
largely with our own, so much so that from time to time when I had
occasion to drop a few words of propaganda into a conversation, I'd
sometimes credit it to him."

Cliff looked over at her and chuckled. "That's a coincidence," he said.
"I've been doing the same thing. An idea often carries more weight with
these people if it's attributed to somebody with a reputation."

Jake, the older of the three said: "Well, I can't find out anything
about him. Nobody seems to know if he's an Egyptian, a Nigerian, a
MOR ... or an Eskimo, for that matter."

"Did you check with headquarters?"

"So far they have nothing on him, except for some other inquiries from
field workers."

Below them, the river was widening out to the point where it resembled
swampland more than a waterway. There were large numbers of waterbirds,
and occasional herds of hippopotami. Isobel didn't express her thoughts,
but a moment of doubt hit her. What would all this be like when the dams
were finished, the waters of this third largest of Africa's rivers,
ninth largest of the world's, under control?

She pointed. "There's Kabara." The age-old river port lay below them.
Cliff slapped one of his controls with the heel of his hand and the
craft began to sink earthward.

       *       *       *       *       *

They took up quarters in the new hotel which adjoined the new elementary
school, and Isobel immediately went into her routine.

Dressed and shod immaculately, her head held high in confidence, she
spent considerable time mingling with the more backward of the natives
and especially the women. Six months ago, she had given a performance
similar to that she had just finished in Gao, several hundred miles down
river.

Now she renewed old acquaintances, calling them by name--after checking
her notes. Invariably, their eyes bugged. Their questions came thick,
came fast in the slurring Songhoi and she answered them in detail. They
came quickly under her intellectual domination. Her poise, her obvious
well being, flabbergasted them.

In all, they spent a week in the little river town, but even the first
night Isobel slumped wearily in the most comfortable chair of their
small suite's living room.

She kicked off her shoes, and wiggled weary toes.

"If my mother could see me now," she complained. "After giving her all
to get the apple of her eye through school, her wayward daughter winds
up living with two men in the wilds of deepest Africa." She twisted her
mouth puckishly.

Cliff grunted, poking around in a bag for the bottle of cognac he
couldn't remember where he had packed. "Huh!" he said. "The next time
you write her you might mention the fact that both of them are
continually proposing to you and you brush it all off as a big joke."

"Huh, indeed!" Isobel answered him. "Proposing, or propositioning? If
either of you two Romeos ever rattle the doorknob of my room at night
again, you're apt to get a bullet through it."

Jake winced. "Wasn't me. Look at my gray hair, Isobel. I'm old enough to
be your daddy."

"Sugar daddy, I suppose," she said mockingly.

"Wasn't me either," Cliff said, criss-crossing his heart and pointing
upward.

"Huh!" said Isobel again, but she was really in no mood for their usual
banter. "Listen," she said, "what're we accomplishing with all this
masquerade?"

Cliff had found the French brandy. He poured three stiff ones and handed
drinks to Isobel and Jake.

He knew he wasn't telling her anything, but he said, "We're a king-size
rumor campaign, that's what we are. We're breaking down institutions the
sneaky way." He added reflectively. "A kinder way, though, than some."

"But this ... what did you call it earlier, Jake?... this Cinderella act
I go through perpetually. What good does it do, really? I contact only a
few hundreds of people at most. And there are millions here in Mali
alone."

"There are other teams, too," Jake said mildly. "Several hundreds of us
doing one thing or another."

"A drop in the bucket," Isobel said, her piquant sepian face registering
weariness.

Cliff sipped his brandy, shaking his big head even as he did so. "No,"
he said. "It's a king-size rumor campaign and it's amazing how effective
they can be. Remember the original dirty-rumor campaigns back in the
States? Suppose two laundry firms were competing. One of them, with a
manager on the conscience-less side, would hire two or three
professional rumor spreaders. They'd go around dropping into bars,
barber shops, pool rooms. Sooner or later, they'd get a chance to drop
some line such as _did you hear about them discovering that two lepers
worked at the Royal Laundry_? You can imagine the barbers, the
bartenders, and such professional gossips, passing on the good word."

Isobel laughed, but unhappily. "I don't recognize myself in the
description."

Cliff said earnestly, "Sure, only few score women in each town you put
on your act, really witness the whole thing. But think how they pass it
on. Each one of them tells the story of the miracle. A waif comes out of
the desert. Without property, without a husband or family, without
kinsfolk. Shy, dirty, unwanted. Then she's offered a good position if
she'll drop the veil, discard the haik, and attend the new schools. So
off she goes--everyone thinking to her disaster. Hocus-pocus, six months
later she returns, obviously prosperous, obviously healthy, obviously
well adjusted. Fine. The story spreads for miles around. Nothing is so
popular as the Cinderella story, and that's the story you're putting
over. It's a natural."

"I hope so," Isobel said. "Sometimes I think I'm helping put over a
gigantic hoax on these people. Promising something that won't be
delivered."

Jake looked at her unhappily. "I've thought the same thing, sometimes,
but what are you going to be with people at this stage of
development--_subtle_?"

Isobel dropped it. She held out her glass for more cognac. "I hope
there's something decent to eat in this place. Do you realize what I've
been putting into my tummy this past week?"

Cliff shuddered.

Isobel patted her abdomen. "At least it keeps my figure in trim."

"Um-m-m," Jake pretended to leer heavily.

Isobel chuckled at him in a return to good humor. "Hyena," she accused.

"Hyena?" Jake said.

"Sure, there aren't any wolves in these parts," she explained. "How long
are we going to be here?"

The two men looked at each other. Cliff said, "Well, we'd like to finish
out the week. Guy named Homer Crawford has been passing around the word
to hold a meeting in Timbuktu the end of this week."

"Crawford?"

"Homer Crawford, some kind of sociologist from the University of
Michigan, I understand. He's connected with the Reunited Nations African
Development Project, heads one of their cloak and dagger teams."

Jake grunted. "Sociologist? I also understand that he put in a hitch
with the Marines and spent kind of a shady period of two years fighting
with the FLN in Algeria."

"On what side?" Cliff said interestedly.

"Darn if I know."

Isobel said, "Well, we have nothing to do with the Reunited Nations."

Cliff shook his large head negatively. "Of course not, but Crawford
seems to think it'd be a good idea if some of us in the field would get
together and ... well, have sort of a bull session."

Jake growled, "We don't have much in the way of co-operation on the
higher levels. Everybody seems to head out in all directions on their
own. It can get chaotic. Maybe in the field we could give each other a
few pointers. For one, I'd like to find out if any of the rest of these
jokers know anything about that affair with the Cubans over in the
Sudan."

"I suppose it can't hurt," Isobel admitted. "In fact, it might be fun
swapping experiences with some of these characters. Frankly, though, the
stories I've heard about the African Development teams aren't any too
palatable. They seem to be a ruthless bunch."

Jake looked down into his glass. "It's a ruthless country," he murmured.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dolo Anah, as he approached the ten Dogon villages of the Canton de
Sangha, was first thought to be a small bird in the sky. As he drew
nearer, it was decided, instead, that he was a larger creature of the
air, perhaps a vulture, though who had ever seen such a vulture? As he
drew nearer still, it was plain that in size he was more nearly an
ostrich than vulture, but who had ever heard of a flying ostrich, and
besides--

No! It was a man! But who in all the Dogon had ever witnessed such a
_juju_ man? One whose flailing limbs enabled him to fly!

The ten villages of the Dogon are perched on the rim of the Falaise de
Bandiagara. The cliffs are over three hundred feet high and the villages
are similar to Mesa Verde of Colorado, and as unaccessible, as
impregnable to attack.

But hardly impregnable to arrival by helio-hopper.

When Dolo Anah landed in the tiny square of the village of Irèli, the
first instinct of Amadijuè the village witchman was to send post haste
to summon the Kanaga dancers, but then despair overwhelmed him. Against
powers such as this, what could prevail? Besides, Amadijuè had not
arrived at his position of influence and affluence through other than
his own true abilities. Secretly, he rather doubted the efficacy of even
the supposedly most potent witchcraft.

But this!

Dolo Anah unstrapped himself from the one man helio-hopper's small
bicyclelike seat, folded the two rotors back over the rest of the craft,
and then deposited the seventy-five pound vehicle in a corner, between
two adobe houses. He knew perfectly well that the local inhabitants
would die a thousand deaths of torture rather than approach, not to
speak of touching it.

Looking to neither right nor left, walking arrogantly and carrying only
a small bag--undoubtedly housing his _gris gris_, as Amadijuè could well
imagine--Dolo Anah headed for the largest house. Since the whole village
was packed, bug-eyed, into the square watching him there were no
inhabitants within.

He snapped back over his shoulder, "Summon all the headmen of all the
villages, and all of their eldest sons; summon all the Hogons and all
the witchmen. Immediately! I would speak with them and issue orders."

He was a small man, clad only in a loincloth, and could well have been a
Dogon himself. Surely he was black as a Dogon, clad as a Dogon, and he
spoke the native language which is a tongue little known outside the
semi-desert land of Dogon covered with its sand, rocks, scrub bush and
baobab trees. It is not a land which sees many strangers.

The headmen gathered with trepidation. All had seen the juju man descend
from the skies. It had been with considerable relief that most had noted
that he finally sank to earth in the village of Irèli instead of their
own. But now all were summoned. Those among them who were Kanaga dancers
wore their masks and costumes, and above all their gris gris charms, but
it was a feeble gesture. Such magic as this was unknown. To fly through
the air _personally_!

Dolo Anah was seated to one end of the largest room of the largest house
of Irèli when they crowded in to answer his blunt summons. He was seated
cross-legged on the floor and staring at the ground before him.

The others seemed tongue-tied, both headmen and Hogons, the highly
honored elders of the Dogon people. So Amadijuè as senior witchman took
over the responsibility of addressing this mystery juju come out of the
skies.

"Oh, powerful stranger, how is your health?"

"Good," Dolo Anah said.

"How is the health of thy wife?"

"Good."

"How is the health of thy children?"

"Good."

"How is the health of thy mother?"

"Good."

"How is the health of thy father?"

"Good."

"How is the health of thy kinswomen?"

"Good."

"How is the health of thy kinsmen?"

"Good."

To the traditional greeting of the Dogon, Amadijuè added hopefully,
"Welcome to the villages of Sangha."

His voice registering nothing beyond the impatience which had marked it
from the beginning, Dolo Anah repeated the routine.

"Men of Sangha," he snapped, "how is your health?"

"Good," they chorused.

"How is the health of thy wives?"

"Good!"

"How is the health of thy children?"

"Good!"

"How is the health of thy mothers?"

"Good!"

"How is the health of thy fathers?"

"Good!"

"How is the health of thy kinswomen?"

"Good!"

"How is the health of thy kinsmen?"

"Good!"

"I accept thy welcome," Dolo Anah bit out. "And now heed me well for I
am known as Dolo Anah and I have instructions from above for the people
of the Dogon."

Sweat glistened on the faces and bodies of the assembled Dogon headmen,
their uncharacteristically silent witchmen, the Hogons and the sons of
the headmen.

"Speak, oh juju come out of the sky," Amadijuè fluttered, but proud of
his ability to find speech at all when all the others were stricken dumb
with fear.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dolo Anah stared down at the ground before him. The others, their eyes
fascinated as though by a cobra preparing to strike its death, focused
on the spot as well.

Dolo Anah raised a hand very slowly and very gently and a sigh went
through his audience. The dirt on the hut floor had stirred. It stirred
again and slowly, ever so slowly, up through the floor emerged a milky,
translucent ball. When it had fully emerged, Dolo Anah took it up in his
hands and stared at it for a long moment.

It came to sudden light and a startled gasp flushed over the room, a
gasp shared by even the witchmen, Amadijuè included.

Dolo Anah looked up at them. "Each of you must come in turn and look
into the ball," he said.

Faltering, though all eyes were turned to him, Amadijuè led the way. His
eyes rounded, he stared, and they widened still further. For within,
mystery upon mystery, men danced in seeming celebration. It was as
though it was a funeral party but of dimensions never known before, for
there were scores of Kanaga dancers, and, yes, above all other wonders,
some of the dancers were Dogon, without doubt, but others were Mosse and
others were even Tellum!

Amadijuè turned away, shaken, and Dolo Anah spoke sharply, "The rest,
one by one."

They came. The headmen, the Hogons, the witchmen and finally the sons of
the headmen, and each in turn stared into the ball and saw the tiny men
within, doing their dance of celebration, Dogon, Mosse and Tellum
together.

When all had seen, Dolo Anah placed the ball back on the ground and
stared at it and slowly it returned to from whence it came, and Dolo
Anah gently spread dust over the spot. When the floor was as it had
been, he looked up at them, his eyes striking.

"What did you see?" he spoke sharply to Amadijuè.

There was a tremor in the village witchman's voice. "Oh juju, come out
of the sky, I saw a great festival and Dogon danced with their enemies
the Mosse and the Tellum--and, all seemed happy beyond belief."

The stranger looked piercingly at the rest. "And what did you see?"

Some mumbled, "The same. The same," and others, terrified still, could
only nod.

"That is the message I have come to give you. You will hold a great
conference with the people of the Tellum and the people of the Mosse and
there will be a great celebration and no longer will there be Dogon,
Mosse and Tellum, but all will be one. And there will be trade, and
there will be marriage between the tribes, and no longer will there be
three tribes, but only one people and no longer will the headmen and
witchmen of the tribes resist the coming of the new schools, and all the
young people will attend."

Amadijuè muttered, "But, great juju come out of the sky, these are our
blood enemies. For longer than the memory of the grandfathers of our
eldest Hogon we have carried the blood feud with Tellum and Mosse."

"No longer," Dolo Anah said flatly.

Amadijuè held shaking hands out in supplication, to this dominating juju
come out of the skies. "But they will not heed us. Tellum and Mosse have
hated the Dogon for all time. They will wreak their vengeance on any
delegation come to make such suggestions to them."

"I fly to see their headmen and witchmen immediately," Dolo Anah bit out
decisively. "They will heed my message." His tone turned dangerous. "As
will the headmen and witchmen of the Dogon. If any fail to obey the
message from above, their eyes will lose sight, their tongues become
dumb, and their bellies will crawl with worms."

Amadijuè's face went ashen.

At long last the headman of all the Sangha villages spoke up, his voice
trembling its fear. "But the schools, oh great juju--as all the Dogon
have decided, in tribal conference--the schools are evil for our youth.
They teach not the old ways--"

Dolo Anah cut him short with the chop of a commanding hand. "The old
ways are fated to die. Already they die. The new ways are the ways of
the schools."

Amazed at his own temerity, the head chief spoke once more. "But, since
the coming of the French, we have rejected the schools."

Dolo Anah looked at him in scorn. "These will not be schools of the
French. They will be the schools of Bantu, Berber, Sudanese and all the
other peoples of the land. And when your young people have attended the
schools and learned their wisdom they in turn will teach in the schools
and in all the land there will be wisdom and good life. Now I have
spoken and all of you will withdraw save only the sons of the headmen."

They withdrew, making a point each and every one not to turn their backs
to this bringer of disastrous news and leaving only the terror-stricken
young men behind them.

       *       *       *       *       *

When all were gone save the dozen youngsters, Dolo Anah looked at them
contemplatively. He shrugged finally and said, pointing with his finger,
"You, you and you may leave. The others will remain." The three darted
out, glad of the reprieve.

He looked at the remainder. "Be unafraid," he snapped. "There is no
reason to fear me. Your fathers and the Hogons and the so-called
witchmen, are fools, nothing-men. Fools and cowards, because they are
impressed by foolish tricks."

He pointed suddenly. "You, there, what is your name?"

The youth stuttered, "Hinnan."

"Very well, Hinnan. Did you see me approach by the air?"

"Yes ... yes ... juju man."

"Don't call me a juju man. There is no such thing as juju. It is
nonsense made by the cunning to fool the stupid, as you will learn when
you attend the schools."

Hinnan took courage. "But I saw you fly."

"Have you never seen the great aircraft of the white men of Europe and
America go flying over? Or have none of you witnessed these craft
sitting on the ground at Mopti or Niamey. Surely some of you have
journeyed to Mopti."

"Yes, but they are great craft. And you flew alone and without the great
wings and propellers of the white-man's aircraft."

Dolo Anah chuckled. "My son, I flew in a helio-hopper as they are
called. They are the smallest of all aircraft, but they are not magic.
They are made in the factories of the lands of Europe and America and
after you have finished school and have found a position for yourself in
the new industries that spread through Africa, then you will be able to
purchase one quite cheaply, if you so desire. Others among you might
even learn to build them, themselves."

Hinnan and the others gasped.

Dolo Anah went on. "And observe this." He dug into the ground before him
and revealed the crystal ball that had magically appeared before. He
showed to them the little elevator device beneath it which he
manipulated with a small rubber bulb which pumped air underneath.

One or two of them ventured a scornful laugh, at the obviousness of the
trick.

Dolo Anah took up the ball and unscrewed the base. Inside were a
delicate arrangement of film on a continuous spool so that the scene
played over and over again, and a combination of batteries and bulbs to
project the scene on the ball's surface. He explained, in patient
detail, the workings of the supposed magic ball. Two of the boys had
seen movies on trips to Mopti, the others had heard of them.

Finally one, highly encouraged now, as were the others, said, "But why
do you show us this and shame us for our foolishness?"

Dolo Anah nodded encouragement at the teen-ager. "I do not shame you, my
son, but your fathers and the Hogons and the so-called witchmen. For
long ages the Dogon have been led by the oldest members of the tribe,
the Hogons. This can be nonsense because in spite of your traditions age
does not necessarily bring wisdom. In fact, senility as it is called can
bring childish nonsense. A people should be governed by the wisest and
best among them, not by tradition, by often silly beliefs handed down
from one generation to another."

Hinnan, who was eldest son of the head chief, said, "But why do you tell
us this, after shaming our fathers and the old men of the Dogon?"

For the first time since the elders had left, Dolo Anah's eyes gleamed
as before. "Because you will be the leaders of the Dogon tomorrow, most
like. And it is necessary to learn these great truths. That you attend
the schools and bring to the Dogon tomorrow what they did not have
yesterday, and do not have today."

"But suppose we tell them of how you have deceived them?" the other
articulate Dogon lad said.

Dolo Anah chuckled and shook his head. "They will not believe you, boy.
They will be afraid to believe you. And besides, men are almost
everywhere the same. It is difficult for an older man to learn from a
younger one, especially his own son. It is vanity, but it is true." His
mouth twisted in memory. "When I was a lad myself, on the beaches of an
island far from here in the Bahamas, my father beat me on more than one
occasion, indignant that I should wish to attend the white man's
schools, while he and his father before him had been fishermen. Beneath
his indignation was the fear that one day I would excel him."

"You are right," Hinnan said uncomfortably, "they would not believe us."
Instinctively, the son of the head chief assumed leadership of the
others. "We will keep this secret between us," he said to them.

Dolo Anah came to his feet, yawned, stretched his legs and began to pack
his gadgets into the small valise he carried. "Good luck, boys," he said
unthinkingly in English.

As he left the hut, he emerged into a respectfully cleared area around
the hut. Without looking left or right he approached his folded
helio-hopper, made the few adjustments that were needed to make it
air-borne, strapped himself into the tiny saddle, flicked the start
control and to the accompaniment of a gasp from the entire village of
Irèli, took off in a swoop.

In a matter of moments, he had disappeared to the north in the direction
of the Mosse villages.



III


The Emir Alhaji Mohammadu, the Galadima Dawakin, Kudo of Kano, boiled
furiously within as his gold plated Rolls Royce progressed through the
Saba N'Gari section of town, the quarter outside the dirt walls of the
millennium old city. He rode seated alone in the middle of the rear seat
and his single counselor sat beside the chauffeur. Before them, a jeep
load of his bodyguard, dressed in their uniforms of red and green,
cleared the way. Another jeep followed similarly laden.

They entered through one of the ancient gates and swept up the principal
street. They stopped before the recently constructed luxury hotel in the
center of town and the bodyguard leapt from the jeeps and took positions
to each side of the entry. The counselor popped out from his side of the
car and beat the chauffeur to the task of opening the Emir's door.

Emir Alhaji Mohammadu was a tall man and a heavy one, his white robed
figure towered some six and a half feet and his scales put him over the
three hundred mark. He was in his mid fifties and almost a quarter
century of autocratic position had marked his face with permanent scowl.
He stomped now into the western style hotel.

His counselor, Ahmadu Abdullah, had already procured the information
necessary to locate the source of the Emir's ire and now scurried before
his chief, leading the way to the suite occupied by the mysterious
strangers. He banged heavily on the door, then stepped behind his master
as it opened.

One of the strangers, clad western style, opened the door and stepped
aside courteously motioning to the large inner room. The Emir strutted
arrogantly inside and stared in high irritation at the second and elder
stranger who sat there at a heavy table. This one came to his feet, but
there was no sign of acknowledgment of the Emir's rank. It was not too
long a time before that men prostrated themselves in Alhaji Mohammadu's
presence.

He looked at them. Though both were of dark complexion, there seemed no
manner of typing them. Certainly they were neither Hausa nor Fulani,
there being no signs of Hamitic features, but neither were they Ibo or
Yoruba from farther south. The Emir's eyes narrowed and he wondered if
these two were Nigerians at all!

He barked at them in Hausa and the older answered him in the same
language, though there seemed a certain awkwardness in its use.

Emir Alhaji Mohammadu blared, "You dare summon me, Kudo of this city?
You presume--"

They had resumed seats behind the table and the two of them looked at
him questioningly. The older one interrupted with a gently raised hand.
"Why did you come?"

Still glaring, the Emir turned to the cringing Ahmadu Abdullah and
motioned curtly for the counselor to speak. Meanwhile, the ruler's eyes
went around the room, decided that the couch was the only seat that
would accommodate his bulk, and descended upon it.

Ahmadu Abdullah brought a paper from the folds of his robes. "This lying
letter. This shameless attack upon the Galadima Dawakin!"

The younger stranger said mildly, "If the charges contained there are
incorrect, then why did you come?"

The Emir rumbled dangerously, ignoring the question. "What is your
purpose? I am not a patient man. There has never been need for my
patience."

The spokesman of the two, the older, leaned back in his chair and said
carefully, "We have come to demand your resignation and self-exile."

A vein beat suddenly and wildly at the gigantic Emir's temple and for a
full minute the potentate was speechless with outrage.

Ahmadu Abdullah said quickly, "Fantastic! Ridiculous! The Galadima
Dawakin is lawful ruler and religious potentate of three million devoted
followers. You are lying strangers come to cause dissention among the
people of Kano and--"

The spokesman for the newcomers took up a sheaf of papers from the table
and said, his voice emotionless, "The reason you came here at our
request is because the charges made in that letter you bear are valid
ones. For a quarter century, you, Alhaji Mohammadu, have milked your
people to your own profit. You have lived like a god on the wealth you
have extracted from them. You have gone far, far beyond the legal and
even traditional demands you have on the local population. Funds
supposedly to be devoted to education, sanitation, roads, hospitals and
a multitude of other developments that would improve this whole
benighted area, have gone into your private pocket. In short, you have
been a cancer on your people for the better part of your life."

"All lies!" roared the Kudo.

The other shook his head. "No. We have carefully gathered proof. We can
submit evidence to back every charge we have made. Above all, we can
prove the existence of large sums of money you have smuggled out of the
country to Switzerland, London and New York to create a reserve for
yourself in case of emergency. Needless to say, these funds, too, were
originally meant for the betterment of the area."

The Emir's eyes were narrow with hate. "Who are you? Whom do you
represent?"

"What difference does it make? This is of no importance."

"You represent my son, Alhaji Fodio! This is what comes of his studies
in England and America. This is what comes of his leaving Kano and
spending long years in Lagos among those unbeliever communists in the
south!"

The younger stranger chuckled easily. "That is about the last tag I
would hang on your son's associates," he said in English.

But the older stranger was nodding. "It is true that we hope your son
will take over the Emirate. He represents progress. Frankly, his plans
are to end the office as soon as the people are educated to the point
where they can accept such change."

"End the office!" the Emir snarled. "For a thousand years my
ancestors--"

       *       *       *       *       *

The spokesman of the strangers shook his head wearily. "Your ancestors
conquered this area less than two centuries ago in a jehad led by Othman
Dan. Since then, you Fulani have feudalistically dominated the Hausa,
but that is coming to an end."

The Emir had come to his feet again, in his rage, and now he towered
over the table behind which the two sat as though about to physically
attack them. "You speak as fools," he raged.

"Are you so stupid as to believe that these matters you have brought up
are understandable to my people? Have you ever seen my people?" He
sneered in a caricature of humor. "My people in their grass and bush
huts? With not one man in a whole village who can add sums higher than
those he can work out on his fingers? With not one man who can read the
English tongue, nor any other? Would you explain to these the matters of
transferring gold to the Zürich banks? Would you explain to these what
is involved in accepting dash from road contractors and from politicians
in Lagos?"

He sneered at them again. "And do you realize that I am church as well
as state? That I represent their God to my people? Do you think they
would take your word against _mine_, their Kudo?"

In talking, he had brought a certain calm back to himself. Now he felt
reassured at his own words. He wound it up. "You are fools to believe my
people could understand such matters."

"Then actually, you don't deny them?"

"Why should I bother?" the Emir chuckled heavily.

"That you have taken for personal use the large sums granted this area
from a score of sources for roads, hospitals, schools, sanitation,
agricultural modernization?"

"Of course I don't deny it. This is my land. I am the Kudo, the Emir,
the Galadima Dawakin. Whatever I choose to do in Kano and to all my
people is right because I wish it. Schools? I don't want them corrupting
my people. Hospitals for these Hausa serfs? Nonsense! Roads? They are
bad for they allow the people to get about too easily and that leads to
their exchanging ideas and schemes and leads to their corruption. Have I
appropriated all such sums for my own use? Yes! I admit it. Yes! But you
cannot prove it to such as my people, you who represent my son. So
be-gone from Kano. If you are here tomorrow, you will be arrested by the
same men of my bodyguard who even now seek my son, Alhaji Fodio. When he
is captured, it will be of interest to revive some of the methods of
execution of my ancestors."

The Emir turned on his heel to stalk from the room but the older of the
two murmured, "One moment, please."

Alhaji Mohammadu paused, his face dark in scowl again.

The spokesman said agreeably, "It is true that your people, and
particularly your Hausa serfs, have no understanding of international
finance nor of national corruption methods such as the taking of _dash_.
However, they are susceptible to other proof." The other man raised his
voice. "John!"

From an inner room came another stranger, making their total number
three. He was grinning and in one hand held a contraption which boasted
a conglomeration of lenses, switches, microphones, wires and triggers.
"Got it perfectly," he said. You'd think it had all been rehearsed.

While the Emir and his counselor stared in amazement, the spokesman of
the strangers said, "How long before you can project?"

"Almost immediately."

The other young man left the room and returned with what was obviously a
movie projector. He set it up at one end of the table, pointed at a
white wall, and plugged it in to a convenient outlet.

Before the Emir had managed to control himself beyond the point of
saying any more than, "What is all this?" the cameraman had brought a
magazine of film from his instrument and inserted it in the projector.

The photographer said conversationally, to the hulking potentate, "You'd
be amazed at the advances in cinema these past few years. Film speed,
immediate development, portable sound equipment. You'd be amazed."

Someone flicked out the greater part of the room's light. The projector
buzzed and on the wall was thrown a re-enactment of everything that had
been said and done in the room for the past ten minutes.

When it was over, the lights went on again.

The spokesman said conversationally, "I assume that if this film were
shown throughout the villages, even your Hausa serfs would be convinced
that throughout your reign you have systematically robbed them."

Emir Alhaji Mohammadu, the Galadima Dawakin, Kudo of Kano, his face in
shock, turned and stumbled from the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

The gymkhana, or fantasia as it is called in nearby Morocco, was under
full swing before Abd-el-Kader and the camel- and horse-mounted warriors
of his Ouled Touameur clan came dashing in, rifles held high and with
great firing into the air. The Ouled Touameur were the noblest clan of
the Ouled Allouch tribe of the Berazga division of the Chaambra nomad
confederation--the noblest and the least disciplined. There were
whispered rumors going about the conference as to the identity of the
mysterious raiders who were preying upon the new oases, the oil and road
building camps and the endless other new projects springing up, all but
magically, throughout the northwestern Sahara.

The gymkhana was in full swing with racing and feasting, and
storytellers and conjurers, jugglers and marabouts. And in the air was
the acrid distinctive odor of _kif_, for though Mohammed forbade alcohol
to the faithful he had naught to say about the uses of _cannabis sativa_
and what is a great festival without the smoking of _kif_ and the eating
of _majoun_?

The tribes of the Chaambra were widely represented, Berazga and Mouadhi,
Bou Rouba and Ouled Fredj, and there was even a heavy sprinkling of the
sedentary Zenatas come down from the towns of Metlili, El Oued and El
Goléo. Then, of course, were the Haratin serfs, of mixed Arab-Negro
blood, and the Negroes themselves, until recently openly called slaves,
but now--amusingly--named servants.

The Chaambra were meeting for a great ceremonial gymkhanas, but also, as
was widely known, for a _djemaa el kebar_ council of elders and chiefs,
for there were many problems throughout the Western Erg and the areas of
Mzab and Bourara. Nor was it secret only to the inner councils that the
meeting had been called by Abd-el-Kader, of Shorfu blood, direct
descendent of the Prophet through his daughter Fatima, and symbol to the
young warriors of Chaambra spirit.

Of all the Ouled Touameur clan Abd-el-Kader alone refrained from
discharging his gun into the air as they dashed into the inner circle of
khaima tents which centered the gymkhana and provided council chambers,
dining hall and sleeping quarters for the tribal and clan heads.
Instead, and with head arrogantly high, he slipped from his stallion
tossing the reins to a nearby Zenata and strode briskly to the largest
of the tents and disappeared inside.

_Bismillah!_ but Adb-el-Kader was a figure of a man! From his turban,
white as the snows of the Atlas, to his yellow leather boots, he wore
the traditional clothing of the Chaambra and wore them with pride. Not
for Abd-el-Kader the new clothing from the Rouma cities to the north,
nor even the new manufactures from Dakar, Accra, Lagos and the other
mushrooming centers to the south.

His weapons alone paid homage to the new ways. And each fighting man
within eyesight noted that it was not a rifle slung over the shoulder of
Abd-el-Kader but a sub-machine gun. Bismillah! This could not have been
so back in the days when the French Camel Corps ruled the land with its
hand of iron.

The djemaa el kebar was already in session, seated in a great circle on
the rug and provided with glasses of mint tea and some with water pipes.
They looked up at the entrance of the warrior clan chieftain.

       *       *       *       *       *

El Aicha, who was of Maraboutic ancestry and hence a holy man as well as
elder of the Ouled Fredj, spoke first as senior member of the
conference. "We have heard reports that are disturbing of recent months,
Abd-el-Kader. Reports of activities amongst the Ouled Touameur. We would
know more of the truth of these. But also we have high interest in your
reason for summoning the djemaa el kebar at such a time of year."

Abd-el-Kader made a brief gesture of obeisance to the Chaambra leader, a
gesture so brief as to verge on disrespect. He said, his voice clear and
confident, as befits a warrior chief, "Disturbing only to the old and
unvaliant, O El Aicha."

The old man looked at him for a long, unblinking moment. As a youth, he
had fought at the Battle of Tit when the French Camel Corps had broken
forever the military power of the Ahaggar Tuareg. El Aicha was no
coward. There were murmurings about the circle of elders.

But when El Aicha spoke again, his voice was level. "Then speak to us,
Abd-el-Kader. It is well known that your voice is heard ever more by the
young men, particularly by the bolder of the young men."

The fighting man remained standing, his legs slightly spread. The Arab,
like the Amerind, likes to make speech in conference, and eloquence is
well held by the Chaambra.

"Long years ago, and only shortly after the death of the Prophet, the
Chaambra resided, so tell the scribes, in the hills of far away Syria.
But when the word of Islam was heard and the true believers began to
race their strength throughout all the world, the Chaambra came here to
the deserts of Africa and here we have remained. Long centuries it took
us to gain control of the wide areas of the northern and western desert
and many were the battles we fought with our traditional enemies the
Tuareg and the Moors before we controlled all the land between the Atlas
and the Niger and from what is now known as Tunisia to Mauritania."

All nodded. This was tribal history.

Abd-el-Kader held up four fingers on which to enumerate. "The Chaambra
were ever men. Warriors, bedouin; not for us the cities and villages of
the Zenatas, and the miserable Haratin serfs. We Chaambra have ever been
men of the tent, warriors, conquerors!"

El Aicha still nodded. "That was before," he murmured.

"That will always be!" Abd-el-Kader insisted. His four fingers were
spread and he touched the first one. "Our life was based upon, one, war
and the spoils of war." He touched the second finger. "Two, the toll we
extracted from the caravans that passed from Timbuktu to the north and
back again. Three, from our own caravans which covered the desert trails
from Tripoli to Dakar and from Marrakech to Kano. And fourth"--he
touched his last finger--"from our flocks which fed us in the
wilderness." He paused to let this sink in.

"All this is verily true," muttered one of the elders, a _so-what_
quality in his voice.

Abd-el-Kader's tone soured. "Then came the French with their weapons and
their multitudes of soldiers and their great wealth with which to pursue
the expenses of war. And one by one the Tuareg and the Teda to the south
and the Moors and Nemadi, yes, and even the Chaambra fell before the
onslaughts of the Camel Corps and their wild-dog Foreign Legion." He
held up his four fingers again and counted them off. "The four legs upon
which our life was based were broken. War and its spoils was prevented
us. The tolls we charged caravans to cross our land were forbidden. And
then, shortly after, came the motor trucks which crossed the desert in a
week, where formerly the journey took as much as a year. Our camel
caravans became meaningless."

Again all nodded. "Verily, the world changes," someone muttered.

The warrior leader's voice went dramatic. "We were left with naught but
our flocks, and now even they are fated to end."

The elderly nomads stirred and some scowled.

"At every water hole in the desert teams of the new irrigation
development dig their wells, install their pumps which bring power from
the sun, plant trees, bring in Haratin and former slaves--_our_
slaves--to cultivate the new oases. And we are forbidden the water for
the use of our goats and sheep and camels."

"Besides," one of the clan chiefs injected, "they tell us that the goat
is the curse of North Africa, nibbling as it does the bark of small
trees, and they attempt to purchase all goats until soon there will be
few, if any, in all the land."

"So our young people," Abd-el-Kader pressed on, "stripped of our former
way of life, go to the new projects, enroll in the schools, take work in
the new oases or on the roads, and disappear from the sight of their
kinsmen." He came to a sudden halt and all but glared at them,
maintaining his silence until El Aicha stirred.

"And--?" El Aicha said. This was all obviously but preliminary.

Abd-el-Kader spoke softly now, and there was a different drama in his
voice. "And now," he said, "the French are gone. All the Rouma, save a
handful, are gone. In the south the English are gone from the lands of
the blacks, such as Nigeria and Ghana, Sierra Leone and Gambia. The
Italians are gone from Libya and Somaliland and the Spanish from Rio de
Oro. Nor will they ever return for in the greatest council of all the
Rouma they have decided to leave Africa to the African."

They all stirred again and some muttered and Abd-el-Kader pushed his
point. "The Chaambra are warriors born. Never serfs! Never slaves! Never
have we worked for any man. Our ancestors carved great empires by the
sword." His voice lowered again. "And now, once more, it is possible to
carve such an empire."

He swept his eyes about their circle. "Chiefs of the Chaambra, there is
no force in all the Sahara to restrain us. Let others work on the roads,
planting the new trees in the new oases, damming the great Niger, and
all the rest of it. We will sweep over them, and dominate all. We, the
Chaambra, will rule, while those whom Allah intended to drudge, do so.
We, the Chosen of Allah, will fulfill our destiny!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Abd-el-Kader left it there and crossed his arms on his chest, staring at
them challengingly.

Finally El Aicha directed his eyes across the circle of listeners at two
who had sat silently through it all, their burnooses covering their
heads and well down over their eyes. He said, "And what do you say to
all this?"

"Time to go into your act, man," Abe Bakr muttered, under his breath.

Homer Crawford came to his feet and pushed back the hood of the
burnoose. He looked over at the headman of the Ouled Touameur warrior
clan, whose face was darkening.

In Arabic, Crawford said, "I have sought you for some time,
Abd-el-Kader. You are an illusive man."

"Who are you, Negro?" the fighting man snapped.

Crawford grinned at the other. "You look as though you have a bit of
Negro blood in your own veins. In fact, I doubt if there's a so-called
Arab in all North Africa, unless he's just recently arrived, whose
family hasn't down through the centuries mixed its blood with the local
people they conquered."

"You lie!"

Abe chuckled from the background. The Chaambra leader was at least as
dark of complexion as the American Negro. Not that it made any
difference one way or the other.

"We shall see who is the liar here," Homer Crawford said flatly. "You
asked who I am. I am known as Omar ben Crawf and I am headman of a team
of the African Development Project of the Reunited Nations. As you have
said, Abd-el-Kader, this great council of the headmen of all the nations
of the world--not just the Rouma--has decided that Africa must be left
to the Africans. But that does not mean it has lost all interest in
these lands. It has no intention, warrior of the Chaambra, to allow such
as you to disrupt the necessary progress Africa must make if it is not
to become a danger to the shaky peace of the world."

Abd-el-Kader's eyes darted about the tent. So far as he could see, the
other was backed only by his single henchman. The warrior chief gained
confidence. "Power is for those who can assert it. Some will rule. It
has always been so. Here in the Western Erg, the Chaambra will rule, and
I, Abd-el-Kader will lead them!"

Homer Crawford was shaking his head, almost sadly it seemed. "No," he
said. "The day of rule by the gun is over. It must be over because at
long last man's weapons have become so great that he must not trust
himself with them. In the new world which is still aborning so that half
the nations of earth are in the pains of labor, government must be by
the most wise and most capable."

In a deft move the sub-machine gun's sling slipped from the desert man's
shoulder and the short, vicious gun was in hand. "The strong will always
rule!" the Arab shouted. "Time was when the French conquered the
Chaambra, but the French have allowed their strength to ebb away, and
now, armed with such weapons as these, we of the Sahara will again
assert our birthright as the Chosen of Allah!"

Abe Baker chuckled. "That cat sure can lay on a speech, man." As though
magically, a snub-nosed hand weapon of unique design appeared in his
dark hand.

El Aicha's voice was suddenly strong and harsh. "There shall be no
violence at a djemaa el kebar."

Homer ignored the automatic weapon in the hands of the excited Arab. He
said, and there was still a sad quality in his voice. "The gun you carry
is a nothing-weapon, desert man. When the French conquered this land
more than a century ago they were armed with single-shot rifles which
were still far in advance of your own long barrelled flintlocks. Today,
you are proud of that tommy gun you carry, and, indeed, it has the fire
power of a company of the Foreign Legion of a century past. However,
believe me, Abd-el-Kader, it is a nothing-weapon compared to those that
will be brought against the Chaambra if they heed your words."

The desert leader put back his head and laughed his scorn.

He chopped his laughter short and snapped, more to the council of chiefs
than to the stranger. "Then we will seize such weapons and use them
against those who would oppose us. In the end it is the strong who win
in war, and the Rouma have gone soft, as all men know. I, Abd-el-Kader
will have these two killed and then I shall announce to the assembled
tribes the new jedah, a Holy War to bring the Chosen of Allah once again
to their rightful position in the Sahara."

"Man," Abe Baker murmured pleasantly, "you're going to be one awful
disappointed cat before long."

El Aicha said mildly, "Such decisions are for the djemaa el kebar to
make, O Abd-el-Kader, not for a single chief of the Ouled Touameur."

The desert warrior chief sneered openly at the old man. "Decisions are
made by those with the strength to enforce them. The young men of the
Chaambra support me, and my men surround this tent."

"So do mine," Homer Crawford said decisively. "And I have come to arrest
you and take you to Columb-Béchar where you will be tried for your
participation in recent raids on various development projects."

El Aicha repeated his earlier words. "There shall be no violence at a
djemaa el kebar."

The Ouled Touameur chief's eyes had narrowed. "You are not strong enough
to take me."

       *       *       *       *       *

In English, Abe Baker said, "Like maybe these young followers of this
cat need an example laid on them, man."

"I'm afraid you're right," Crawford growled disgustedly.

The younger American came to his feet. "I'll take him on," Abe said.

"No, he's nearer to my size," Crawford grunted. He turned to El Aicha,
and said in Arabic, "I demand the right of a stranger in your camp to a
trial by combat."

"On what grounds?" the old man scowled.

"That my manhood has been spat upon by this warrior who does his
fighting with his loud mouth."

The assembled chiefs looked to Abd-el-Kader, and a rustling sigh went
through them. A hundred times the wiry desert chieftain had proven
himself the most capable fighter in the tribes. A hundred times he had
proven it and there were dead and wounded in the path he had cut for
himself.

Abd-el-Kader laughed aloud again. "Swords, in the open before the
ascan."

Homer Crawford shrugged. "Swords, in the open before the assembled
Chaambra so that they may see how truly weak is the one who calls
himself so strong."

Abe said worriedly, in English, "Listen, man, you been checked out on
swords?"

"They're the traditional weapon in the Arab _code duello_," Homer said,
with a wry grin. "Nothing else would do."

"Man, you sound like you've been blasting pot and got yourself as high
as those cats out there with their _kif_. This Abd-el-Kader was probably
raised with a sword in his hand."

Abd-el-Kader smiling triumphantly, had spun on his heel and made his way
through the tent's entrance. Now they could hear him shouting orders.

El Aicha looked up at Homer Crawford from where he sat. His voice
without inflection, he said, "Hast thou a sword, Omar ben Crawf?"

"No," Crawford said.

The elderly tribal leader said, "Then I shall loan you mine." He
hesitated momentarily, before adding, "Never before has hand other than
mine wielded it." And finally, simply, "Never has it been drawn to
commit dishonor."

"I am honored."

Outside, the rumors had spread fast and already a great arena was
forming by the packed lines of Chaambra nomads. At the tent entrance,
Elmer Allen, his face worried, said, his English in characteristic
Jamaican accent, "What did you chaps do?"

"Duel," Abe growled apprehensively. "This joker here has challenged
their top swordsman to a fight."

Elmer said hurriedly, "See here, gentlemen, the hovercraft are parked
over behind that tent. We can be there in two minutes and away from--"

Crawford's eyes went from Elmer Allen to Abe Baker and then back again.
He chuckled, "I don't think you two think I'm going to win this fight,"
he said.

"What do you know about swordsmanship?" Elmer Allen said accusingly.

"Practically nothing. A little bayonet practice quite a few years ago."

"Oh, great," Abe muttered.

Elmer said hurriedly, "See here, Homer, I was on the college fencing
team and--"

Crawford grinned at him. "Too late, friend."

As they talked, they made their way to the large circle of men. In its
center, Abd-el-Kader was stripping to his waist, meanwhile laughingly
shouting his confidence to his Ouled Touameur tribesmen and to the other
Chaambra of fighting age. No one seemed to doubt the final issue.
Beneath his white burnoose he wore a gandoura of lightweight woolen
cloth and beneath that a longish undershirt of white cotton, similar to
that of the Tuareg but with shorter and less voluminous sleeves. This
the desert fighter retained.

Crawford stripped down too, nude to the waist. His body was in excellent
trim, muscles bunching under the ebony skin. A Haratin servant came up
bearing El Aicha's sword.

Homer Crawford pulled it from the scabbard. It was of scimitar type, the
weapon which had once conquered half the known world.

From within the huge circle of men, Abd-el-Kader swung his own blade in
flashing arcs and called out something undoubtedly insulting, but which
was lost in the babble of the multitude.

"Well, here we go," Crawford grunted. "You fellows better station
yourselves around just on the off chance that those Ouled Touameur
bully-boys don't like the decision."

"We'll worry about that," Abe said unhappily. "You just see you get out
of this in one piece. Anything happens to you and the head office'll
make me head of this team--and frankly, man I don't want the job."

Homer grinned at him, and began pushing his way through to the center.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Arab cut a last switch in the air, with his whistling blade and
started forward, in practiced posture. Homer awaited him, legs spread
slightly, his hands extended slightly, the sword held at the ready but
with point low.

Abe Baker growled, unhappily, "He said he didn't know anything about the
swords, and the way he holds it bears him out. That Arab'll cut Homer to
ribbons. Maybe we ought to do something about it." As usual, under
stress, he'd dropped his beatnik patter.

Elmer Allen looked at him. "Such as what? There are at least three
thousand of these tribesmen chaps here watching their favorite sport.
What did you have in mind doing?"

Abd-el-Kader hadn't remained the victor of a score of similar duels
through making such mistakes as underestimating his foe. In spite of the
black stranger's seeming ignorance of his weapon, the Arab had no
intention of being sucked into a trap. He advanced with care.

His sword darted forward, quickly, experimentally, and Homer Crawford
barely caught its razor edge on his own.

Save for his own four companions, the crowd laughed aloud. None among
them were so clumsy as this.

The Ouled Touameur chief was convinced. He stepped in fast, the blade
flicked in and out in a quick feint, then flicked in again. Homer
Crawford countered clumsily.

And then there was a roar as the American's blade left his hand and flew
high in the air to come to the ground again a score of feet behind the
desert swordsman.

For a brief moment Abd-el-Kader stepped back to observe his foe, and
there was mockery in his face. "So thy manhood has been spat upon by one
who fights only with his mouth! Almost, braggart, I am inclined to give
you your life so that you may spend the rest of it in shame. Now die,
unbeliever!"

Crawford stood hopelessly, in a semicrouch, his hands still slightly
forward. The Arab came in fast, his sword at the ready for the death
stroke.

[Illustration]

Suddenly, the American moved forward and then jumped a full yard into
the air, feet forward and into the belly of the advancing Arab. The
heavily shod right foot struck at the point in the abdomen immediately
below the sternum, the solar plexus, and the left was as low as the
groin. In a motion that was almost a bounce off the other's body,
Crawford came lithely back to his feet, jumped back two steps, crouched
again.

But Abd-el-Kader was through, his eyes popping agony, his body writhing
on the ground. The whole thing, from the time the Arab had advanced on
the disarmed man for the kill, hadn't taken five seconds.

His groans were the only sounds which broke the unbelieving silence of
the Chaambra tribesmen. Homer Crawford picked up the fallen leader's
sword and then strolled over and retrieved that of El Aicha. Ignoring
Abd-el-Kader, he crossed to where the tribal elders had assembled to
watch the fight and held out the borrowed sword to its owner.

El Aicha sheathed it while looking into Homer Crawford's face. "It has
still never been drawn to commit dishonor."

"My thanks," Crawford said.

Over the noise of the crowd which now was beginning to murmur its
incredulity at their champion's fantastic defeat, came the voice of Abe
Baker swearing in Arabic and yelling for a way to be cleared for him. He
was driving one of the hovercraft.

[Illustration]

He drew it up next to the still agonized Abd-el-Kader and got out
accompanied by Bey-ag-Akhamouk. Silently and without undue roughness
they picked up the fallen clan chief and put him into the back of the
hover-lorry, ignoring the crowd.

Homer Crawford came up and said in English, "All right, let's get out of
here. Don't hurry, but on the other hand don't let's prolong it. One of
those Ouled Touameur might collect himself to the point of deciding he
ought to rescue his leader."

Abe looked at him disgustedly. "Like, where'd you learn that little
party trick, man?"

Crawford yawned. "I said I didn't know anything about swords. You didn't
ask me about judo. I once taught judo in the Marines."

"Well, why didn't you take him sooner? He like to cut your head off with
that cheese knife before you landed on him."

"I couldn't do it sooner. Not until he knocked the sword out of my hand.
Until then it was a sword fight. But as soon as I had no sword then in
the eyes of every Chaambra present, I had the right to use any method
possible to save myself."

Bey-ag-Akhamouk looked up at the sun to check the time. "We better speed
it up if we want to get this man to Columb-Béchar and then get on down
over the desert to Timbuktu and that meeting."

"Let's go," Homer said. The second hovercraft joined them, driven by
Elmer Allen, and they made their way through the staring, but
motionless, crowds of Chaambra.



IV


Once the city of Timbuktu was more important in population, in commerce,
in learning than the London, the Paris or the Rome of the time. It was
the crossroads where African traffic, east and west, met African
traffic, north and south; Timbuktu dominated all. In its commercial
houses accumulated the wealth of Africa; in its universities and mosques
the wisdom of Greece, Rome, Byzantium and the Near East--at a time when
such learning was being destroyed in Dark Ages beset Europe.

Timbuktu's day lasted but two or three hundred years at most. By the
middle of the Twentieth Century it had deteriorated into what looked
nothing so much as a New Mexico ghost town, built largely of adobe. Its
palaces and markets has melted away to caricatures of their former
selves, its universities were a memory of yesteryear, its population
fallen off to a few thousands. Not until the Niger Projects, the dams
and irrigation projects, of the latter part of the Twentieth Century did
the city begin to regain a semblance of its old importance.

Homer Crawford's team had come down over the Tanezrouft route, Reggan,
Bidon Cinq and Tessalit; that of Isobel Cunningham, Jacob Armstrong and
Clifford Jackson, up from Timbuktu's Niger River port of Kabara. They
met in the former great market square, bordered on two sides by the one
time French Administration buildings.

Isobel reacted first. "Abe!" she yelled, pointing accusingly at him.

Abe Baker pretended to cringe, then reacted. "Isobel! Somebody _told_ me
you were over here!"

She ran over the heavy sand, which drifted through the streets, to the
hovercraft in which he had just pulled up. He popped out to meet her,
grinning widely.

"Why didn't you look me up?" she said accusingly, presenting a cheek to
be kissed.

"In Africa, man?" he laughed. "Kinda big, Africa. Like, I didn't know if
you were in the Sahara, or maybe down in Angola, or wherever."

She frowned. "Heaven forbid."

Abe turned to the others of his team who had crowded up behind him. It
had been a long time since any of them had seen other than native women.

"Isobel," he said, "I hate to do this, but let me introduce you to Homer
Crawford, my immediate boss and slave driver, late of the University of
Michigan where he must've found out where the body was--they gave him a
doctorate. Then here's Elmer Allen, late of Jamaica--British West
Indies, not Long Island--all he's got is a master's, also in sociology.
And this is Kenneth Ballalou, hails from San Francisco, I don't think
Kenny ever went to school, but he seems to speak every language ever."
Abe turned to his final companion. "And this is our sole _real_ African,
Bey-ag-Akhamouk, of Tuareg blood, so beware, they don't call the Tuareg
the Apaches of the Sahara for nothing."

Bey pretended to wince as he held out his hand. "Since Abe seems to be
an education snob, I might as well mention the University of Minnesota
and my Political Science."

Jake Armstrong and Cliff Jackson had come up behind Isobel, and were now
introduced in turn. The older man said, "A Tuareg in a Reunited Nations
team? Not that it makes any difference to me, but I thought there was
some sort of policy."

"I was taken to the States when I was three," Bey said. "I'm an American
citizen."

Isobel was chattering, in animation, with Abe Baker. It developed they'd
both been reporters on the school paper at Columbia. At least, they'd
both started as reporters, Isobel had wound up editor.

Since their introduction, Homer Crawford had been vaguely frowning at
her. Now he said, "I've been trying to place where I'd seen you before.
Now I know. Some photographs of Lena Horne, she was--"

Isobel dropped a mock curtsy. "Thank you, kind sir, you don't have to
tell me about Lena Horne, she's a favorite. I have scads of tapes of
her."

"Brother," Elmer Allen said dourly, "how's anybody going to top that?
Homer's got the inside track now. Let's get over to this meeting. By the
cars, helio-copters and hovercraft around here, you got more of a
turnout than I expected, Homer."

The meeting was held in what had once been an assembly chamber of the
officials of the former _Cercle de Tombouctou_, when this had all been
part of French Sudan. It was the only room in the vicinity which would
comfortably hold all of them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Elmer Allen had been right, there was something like a hundred persons
present, almost all men but with a sprinkling of women, such as Isobel.
More than half were in native costume running the gamut from Nigeria to
Morocco and from Mauritania to Ethiopia. They were a competent looking,
confident voiced gathering.

Homer Crawford knocked with a knuckle on the table that stood at the
head of the hall and called for silence. "Sorry we're late," he said,
"Particularly in view of the fact that the idea of this meeting
originated with my team. We had some difficulty with a nomad raider, up
in Chaambra country."

Someone from halfway back in the hall said bitterly, "I suppose in
typical African Development Project style, you killed the poor man."

Crawford said dryly, "_Poor man_ isn't too accurate a description of the
gentleman involved. However, he is at present in jail awaiting trial."
He got back to the meeting. "I had originally thought of this being an
informal get-together of a score or so of us, but in view of the numbers
I suggest we appoint a temporary chairman."

"You're doing all right," Jake Armstrong said from the second row of
chairs.

"I second that," an unknown called from further back.

Crawford shrugged. His manner had a cool competence. "All right. If
there is no objection, I'll carry on until the meeting decides, if it
ever does, that there is need of elected officers."

"I object." In the third row a white haired, but Prussian-erect man had
come to his feet. "I wish to know the meaning of this meeting. I object
to it being held at all."

Abe Baker called to him, "Dad, how can you object to it being held if
you don't know what it's for?"

Homer Crawford said, "Suppose I briefly sum up our mutual situation and
if there are any motions to be made--including calling the meeting
quits--or decisions to come to, we can start from there."

There was a murmur of assent. The objector sat down in a huff.

Crawford looked out over them. "I don't know most of you. The word of
this meeting must have spread from one group or team to another. So what
I'll do is start from the beginning, saying little at first with which
you aren't already familiar, but we'll lay a foundation."

He went on. "This situation which we find in Africa is only a part of a
world-wide condition. Perhaps to some, particularly in the Western World
as they call it, Africa isn't of primary importance. But, needless to
say, it is to we here in the field. Not too many years ago, at the same
period the African colonies were bursting their bonds and achieving
independence, an international situation was developing that threatened
future peace. The rich nations were getting richer, the poor were
getting poorer, and the rate of this change was accelerating. The
reasons were various. The population growth in the backward countries,
unhampered by birth control and rocketing upward due to new sanitation,
new health measures, and the conquest of a score of diseases that have
bedeviled man down through the centuries, was fantastic. Try as they
would to increase per capita income in the have-not nations, population
grew faster than new industry and new agricultural methods could keep
up. On top of that handicap was another; the have-not nations were so
far behind economically that they couldn't get going. Why build a
bicycle factory in Morocco which might be able to turn out bikes for,
say, fifty dollars apiece, when you could buy them from automated
factories in Europe, Japan or the United States for twenty-five
dollars?"

Most of his audience were nodding agreement, some of them impatiently,
as though wanting him to get on with it.

Crawford continued. "For a time aid to these backward nations was left
in the hands of the individual nations--especially to the United States
and Russia. However, in spite of speeches of politicians to the
contrary, governments are not motivated by humanitarian purposes. The
government of a country does what it does for the benefit of the ruling
class of that country. That was the reason it was appointed the
government. Any government that doesn't live up to this dictum soon
stops being the government."

"That isn't always so," somebody called.

Homer Crawford grinned. "Bear with me a while," he said. "We can debate
till the Niger freezes over--later on."

He went on. "For instance, the United States would _aid_ Country X with
a billion dollars at, say four per cent interest, stipulating that the
money be spent in America. This is aid? It certainly is for American
business. But then our friends the Russians come along and loan the same
country a billion rubles at a very low interest rate and with supposedly
no strings attached, to build, say, a railroad. Very fine indeed, but
first of all the railroad, built Russian style and with Russian
equipment, soon needs replacements, new locomotives, more rolling stock.
Where must it come from? Russia, of course. Besides that, in order to
build and run the railroad it became necessary to send Russian
technicians to Country X and also to send students from Country X to
Moscow to study Russian technology so that they could operate the
railroad." Crawford's voice went wry. "Few countries, other than commie
ones, much desire to have their students study in Moscow."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a slight stirring in his audience and Homer Crawford grinned
slightly. "You'll pardon me if in this little summation, I step on a few
ideological toes--of both East and West.

"Needless to say, under these conditions of _aid_ in short order the
economies of various countries fell under the domination of the two
great collossi. At the same time the other have nations including Great
Britain, France, Germany and the newly awakening China, began to realize
that unless they got into the _aid_ act that they would disappear as
competitors for the tremendous markets in the newly freed former
colonial lands. Also along in here it became obvious that philanthropy
with a mercenary basis doesn't always work out to the benefit of the
receiver and the world began to take measures to administer aid more
efficiently and through world bodies rather than national ones.

"But there was still another problem, particularly here in Africa. The
newly freed former colonies were wary of the nations that had formerly
owned them and often for good reasons, always remembering that
governments are not motivated by humanitarian reasons. England did not
free India because her heart bled for the Indian people, nor did France
finally free Algeria because the French conscience was stirred with
thoughts of Freedom, Equality and Fraternity."

A voice broke in from halfway down the hall, a voice heavy with British
accent. "I say, why did you Yanks free the Philippines?"

Homer Crawford laughed, as did several other Americans present. "That's
the first time I've ever been called a Yankee," he said. "But the point
is well taken. By freeing the islands we washed our hands of the
responsibility of such expensive matters as their health and education,
and at the same time we granted freedom we made military and economic
treaties which perpetuated our fundamental control of the Philippines.

"The point is made. The distrust of the European and the white man as a
whole was prevalent, especially here in Africa. However, and
particularly in Africa, the citizens of the new countries were almost
unbelievably uneducated, untrained, incapable of engineering their own
destiny. In whole nations there was not a single lawyer or--"

"That's no handicap," somebody called.

There was laughter through the hall.

Homer Crawford laughed, too, and nodded as though in solemn agreement.
"However, there were also no doctors, engineers, scientists. There were
whole nations without a single college graduate."

He paused and his eyes swept the hall. "That's where we came in. Most of
us here this afternoon are from the States, however, also represented to
my knowledge are British West Indians, a Canadian or two, at least one
Panamanian, and possibly some Cubans. Down in the southern part of the
continent I know of teams working in the Portuguese areas who are
Brazilian in background. All of us, of course, are Africans racially,
but few if any of us know from what part of Africa his forebears came.
My own grandfather was born a slave in Mississippi and didn't know his
father; my grandmother was already a hopeless mixture of a score of
African tribes.

"That, I assume, is the story of most if not all of us. Our ancestors
were wrenched from the lands of their birth and shipped under conditions
worse than cattle to the New World." He added simply, "Now we return."

There was a murmur throughout his listeners, but no one interrupted.

"When the great powers of Europe arbitrarily split up Africa in the
Nineteenth Century they didn't bother with race, tribe, not even
geographic boundaries. Largely they seemed to draw their boundary lines
with ruler and pencil on a Mercator projection. Often, not only were
native nations split in twain but even tribes and clans, and sometimes
split not only one way but two or three. It was chaotic to the old
tribal system. Of course, when the white man left various efforts were
made from the very start to join that which had been torn apart a
century earlier. Right here in this area, Senegal and what was then
French Sudan merged to form the short-lived Mali Federation. Ghana and
French Guinea formed a shaky alliance. More successful was the
federation of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibar, which of course,
has since grown.

"But there were fantastic difficulties. Many of the old tribal
institutions had been torn down, but new political institutions had been
introduced only in a half-baked way. African politicians, supposedly
'democratically' elected, had no intention of facing the possibility of
giving up their individual powers by uniting with their neighbors. Not
only had the Africans been divided tribally but now politically as well.
But obviously, so long as they continued to be Balkanized the chances of
rapid progress were minimized.

"Other difficulties were manifold. So far as socio-economics were
concerned, African society ran the scale from bottom to top. The Bushmen
of the Ermelo district of the Transvaal and the Kalahari are stone age
people still--savages. Throughout the continent we find tribes at an
ethnic level which American Anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan called
barbarism. In some places we find socio-economic systems based on
chattle slavery, elsewhere feudalism. In comparatively few areas,
Casablanca, Algiers, Dakar, Cairo and possibly the Union we find a
rapidly expanding capitalism.

"Needless to say, if Africa was to progress, to increase rapidly her per
capita income, to depart the ranks of the have-nots and become have
nations, these obstacles had to be overcome. That is why we are here."

"Speak for yourself, Mr. Crawford," the white haired objector of ten
minutes earlier, bit out.

       *       *       *       *       *

Homer Crawford nodded. "You are correct, sir. I should have said that is
the reason the teams of the Reunited Nations African Development Project
are here. I note among us various members of this project besides those
belonging to my own team, by the way. However, most of you are under
other auspices. We of the Reunited Nations teams are here because as
Africans racially but not nationally, we have no affiliation with clan,
tribe or African nation. We are free to work for Africa's progress
without prejudice. Our job is to remove obstacles wherever we find them.
To break up log jams. To eliminate prejudices against the steps that
must be taken if Africa is to run down the path of progress, rather than
to crawl. We usually operate in teams of about half a dozen. There are
hundreds of such teams in North Africa alone."

He rapped his knuckle against the small table behind which he stood.
"Which brings us to the present and to the purpose of suggesting this
meeting. Most of you are operating under other auspices than the
Reunited Nations. Many of you duplicate some of our work. It occurred to
me, and my team mates, that it might be a good idea for us to get
together and see if there is ground for co-operation."

Jake Armstrong called out, "What kind of co-operation?"

Crawford shrugged. "How would I know? Largely, I don't even know who you
represent, or the exact nature of the tasks you are trying to perform. I
suggest that each group of us represented here, stand up and announce
their position. Possibly, it will lead to something of value."

"I make that a motion," Cliff Jackson said.

"Second," Elmer Allen called out.

The majority were in favor.

Homer Crawford sat down behind the table, saying, "Who'll start off?"

Armstrong said, "Isobel, you're better looking than I am. They'd rather
look at you. You present our story."

Isobel came to her feet and shot him a scornful glance. "Lazy," she
said.

Jake Armstrong grinned at her. "Make it good."

Isobel took her place next to the table at which Crawford sat and faced
the others.

She looked at the chairman from the side of her eyes and said, "After
that allegedly _brief_ summation Mr. Crawford made, I have a sneaking
suspicion that we'll be here until next week unless I set a new
precedent and cut the position of the Africa for Africans Association
shorter."

Isobel got her laugh, including one from Homer Crawford, and went on.

"Anyway, I suppose most of you know of the AFAA and possibly many of you
belong to it, or at least contribute. We've been called the African
Zionist organization and perhaps that's not too far off. We are largely,
but not entirely an American association. We send out our teams, such as
the one my colleagues and I belong to, in order to speed up progress
and, as our chairman put it, eliminate prejudices against the steps that
must be taken if Africa is to run down the path of progress instead of
crawl. We also advocate that Americans and other non-African-born
Negroes, educated in Europe and the Americas, return to Africa to help
in its struggles. We find positions for any such who are competent,
preferably doctors, educators, scientists and technicians, but also
competent mechanics, construction workers and so forth. We operate a
school in New York where we teach native languages and lingua franca
such as Swahili and Songhai, in preparation for going to Africa. We
raise our money largely from voluntary contributions, and largely from
American Negroes although we have also had government grants, donations
from foundations, and from individuals of other racial backgrounds. I
suppose that sums it up."

Isobel smiled at them, returned to her chair to applause, probably due
as much to her attractive appearance as her words.

Crawford said, "When we began this meeting we had an objection that it
be held at all. I wonder if we might hear from that gentleman next?"

The white haired, ramrod erect, man stood next to his chair, not
bothering to come to the head of the room. "You may indeed," he snapped.
"I am Bishop Manning of the United Negro Missionaries, an organization
attempting to accomplish the only truly important task that cries for
completion on this largely godless continent. Accomplish this, and all
else will fall into place."

Homer Crawford said, "I assume you refer to the conversion of the
populace."

"I do indeed. And the work others do is meaningless until that has been
accomplished. We are bringing religion to Africa, but not through white
missionaries who in the past lived _off_ the natives, but through Negro
missionaries who live _with_ them. I call upon all of you to give up
your present occupations and come to our assistance."

Elmer Allan's voice was sarcastic. "These people need less superstition,
not more."

The bishop spun on him. "I am not speaking of superstition, young man!"

Elmer Allen said. "All religions are superstitions, except one's own."

"And yours?" the Bishop barked.

"I'm an agnostic."

The bishop snorted his disgust and made his way to the door. There he
turned and had his last word. "All you do is meaningless. I pray you,
again, give it up and join in the Lord's work."

Homer Crawford nodded to him. "Thank you, Bishop Manning. I'm sure we
will all consider your words." When the older man was gone, he looked
out over the hall again. "Well, who is next?"

       *       *       *       *       *

A thus far speechless member of the audience, seated in the first row,
came to his feet. His face was serious and strained, the face of a man
who pushes himself beyond the point of efficiency in the vain effort to
accomplish more by expenditure of added hours.

He came to the front and said, "Since I'm possibly the only one here who
also has objections to the reason for calling this meeting, I might as
well have my say now." He half turned to Crawford, and continued. "Mr.
Chairman, my name is Ralph Sandell and I'm an officer in the Sahara
Afforestation Project, which, as you know, is also under the auspices of
the Reunited Nations, though not having any other connection with your
own organization."

Homer Crawford nodded. "We know of your efforts, but why do you object
to calling this meeting?" He seemed mystified.

"Because, like Bishop Manning, I think your efforts misdirected. I think
you are expending tremendous sums of money and the work of tens of
thousands of good men and women, in directions which in the long run
will hardly count."

Crawford leaned back in surprise, waiting for the other's reasoning.

Ralph Sandell obliged. "As the chairman pointed out, the problem of
population explosion is a desperate one. Even today, with all the
efforts of the Reunited Nations and of the individual countries involved
in African aid, the population of this continent is growing at a pace
that will soon outstrip the arable portion of the land. Save only
Antarctica, Africa has the smallest arable percentage of land of any of
the continents.

"The task of the Afforestation Project is to return the Sahara to the
fertile land it once was. The job is a gargantuan one, but ultimately
quite possible. Here in the south we are daming the Niger, running our
irrigation projects farther and farther north. From the Mauritania area
on the Atlantic we are pressing inland, using water purification and
solar pumps to utilize the ocean. In the mountains of Morocco, the water
available is being utilized more efficiently than ever before, and the
sands being pushed back. We are all familiar with Egypt's ever
increasingly successful efforts to exploit the Nile. In the Sahara
itself, the new solar pumps are utilizing wells to an extent never
dreamed of before. The oases are increasing in a geometric progression
both in number and in size." He was caught up in his own enthusiasm.

Crawford said, interestedly, "It's a fascinating project. How long do
you estimate it will be before the job is done?"

"Perhaps a century. As the trees go in by the tens of millions, there
will be a change in climate. Forest begets moisture which in turn allows
for more forest." He turned back to the audience as a whole. "In time we
will be able to farm these million upon million of acres of fertile
land. First it must go into forest, then we can return to field
agriculture when climate and soil have been restored. This is our prime
task! This is our basic need. I call upon all of you for your support
and that of your organizations if you can bring their attention to the
great need. The tasks you have set yourselves are meaningless in the
face of this greater one. Let us be practical."

"Crazy man," Abe Baker said aloud. "Let's be practical and cut out all
this jazz." The youthful New Yorker came to his feet. "First of all you
just mentioned it was going to take a century, even though it's going
like a geometric progression. Geometric progressions get going kind of
slow, so I imagine that your scheme for making the Sahara fertile again,
won't really be under full steam until more than halfway through that
century of yours, and not really ripping ahead until, maybe two thirds
of the way. Meanwhile, what's going to happen?"

"I beg your pardon!" Ralph Sandell said stiffly.

"That's all right," Abe Baker grinned at him. "The way they figure,
population doubles every thirty years, under the present rate of
increase. They figure there'll be three billion in the world by 1990,
then by 2020 there would be six billions, and in 2050, twelve billions
and twenty-four by the time your century was up. Old boy, I suggest the
addition of a Sahara of rich agricultural land a century from now
wouldn't be of much importance."

"Ridiculous!"

"You mean me, or you?" Abe grinned. "I once read an article by Donald
Kingsbury. It's reprinted these days because it finished off the subject
once and for all. He showed with mathematical rigor that given the
present rate of human population increase, and an absolutely unlimited
technology that allowed instantaneous intergalactical transportation and
the ability to convert anything and everything into food, including
interstellar dust, stars, planets, everything, it would take only seven
thousand years to turn the total mass of the total universe into human
flesh!"

The Sahara Afforestation official gaped at him.

The room rocked with laughter.

Irritated, Sandell snapped again, "Ridiculous!"

"It sure is, man," Abe grinned. "And the point is that the job is
educating the people and freeing them to the point where they can
develop their potentialities. Educate the African and he will see the
same need that does the intelligent European, American, or Russian for
that matter, to limit our population growth." He sat down again, and
there was a scattering of applause and more laughter.

Sandell, still glowering, took his seat, too.

Homer Crawford, who'd been hard put not to join in the amusement, said,
"Thanks to both of you for some interesting points. Now, who's next? Who
else do we have here?"

       *       *       *       *       *

When no one else answered, a smallish man, dressed in the costume of the
Dogon, to the south, came to his feet and to the head of the room.

In a clipped British accent, he said, "Rex Donaldson, of Nassau, the
Bahamas, in the service of Her Majesty's Government and the British
Commonwealth. I have no team. Although our tasks are largely similar to
those of the African Development Project, we field men of the African
Department usually work as individuals. My native pseudonym is usually
Dolo Anah."

He looked out over the rest. "I have no objection to such meetings as
this. If nothing else, it gives chaps a bit of an opportunity to air
grievances. I personally have several and may as well state them now.
Among other things, it becomes increasingly clear that though some of
the organizations represented here are supposedly of the Reunited
Nations, actually they are dominated by Yankees. The Yankees are seeping
in everywhere." He looked at Isobel. "Yes, such groups as your Africa
for Africans Association has high flown slogans, but wherever you go,
there go Yankee ideas, Yankee products, Yankee schools."

Homer Crawford's eyebrows went up. "What is your solution? The fact is
that the United States has a hundred or more times the educated Negroes
than any other country."

Donaldson said, doggedly, "The British Commonwealth has done more than
any other element in bringing progress to Africa. She should be given
the lead in developing the continent. A good first step would be to make
the pound sterling legal tender throughout the continent. And, as things
are now, there are some _seven hundred_ different languages, not
counting dialects. I suggest that English be made the lingua franca
of--"

An excitable type, who had been first to join in the laughter at
Sandell, now jumped to his feet. "_Un moment, Monsieur!_ The French
Community long dominated a far greater portion of Africa than the
British flag flew over. Not to mention that it was the most advanced
portion. If any language was to become the lingua franca of all Africa,
French would be more suitable. Your ultimate purpose, Mr. Donaldson, is
obvious. You and your Commonwealth African Department wish to dominate
for political and economic reasons!"

He turned to the others and spread his hands in a Gallic gesture. "I
introduce myself, Pierre Dupaine, operative of the African Affairs
sector of the French Community."

"Ha!" Donaldson snorted. "Getting the French out of Africa was like
pulling teeth. It took donkey's years. And now look. This chap wants to
bring them back again."

Crawford was knuckling the table. "Gentlemen, Gentlemen," he yelled. He
finally had them quieted.

Wryly he said, "May I ask if we have a representative from the
government of the United States?"

A lithe, inordinately well dressed young man rose from his seat in the
rear of the hall. "Frederic Ostrander, C.I.A.," he said. "I might as
well tell you now, Crawford, and you other American citizens here, this
meeting will not meet with the approval of the State Department."

Crawford's eyes went up. "How do you know?"

The C.I.A. man said evenly, "We've already had reports that this
conference was going to be held. I might as well inform you that a
protest is being made to the Sahara Division of the African Development
Project."

Crawford said, "I suppose that is your privilege, sir. Now, in accord
with the reason for this meeting, can you tell us why your organization
is present in Africa and what it hopes to achieve?"

Ostrander looked at him testily. "Why not? There has been considerable
infiltration of all of these African development organizations by
subversive elements...."

"Oh, Brother," Cliff Jackson said.

"... And it is not the policy of the State Department to stand idly by
while the Soviet Complex attempts to draw Africa from the ranks of the
free world."

Elmer Allen said disgustedly, "Just what part of Africa would you really
consider part of the Free World?"

The C.I.A. man stared at him coldly. "You know what I mean," he rapped.
"And I might add, we are familiar with your record, Mr. Allen."

Homer Crawford said, "You've made a charge which is undoubtedly as
unpalatable to many of those present as it is to me. Can you
substantiate it? In my experience in the Sahara there is little, if any,
following of the Soviet Complex."

An agreeing murmur went through the room.

Ostrander bit out, "Then who is subsidizing this El Hassan?"

Rex Donaldson, the British Commonwealth man, came to his feet. "That was
a matter I was going to bring up before this meeting."

Homer Crawford, fully accompanied by Abe Baker and the rest of their
team, even Elmer Allen, burst into uncontrolled laughter.



V


When Homer Crawford, Abe Baker, Kenny Ballalou, Elmer Allen and
Bey-ag-Akhamouk had laughed themselves out, Frederic Ostrander, the
C.I.A. operative stared at them in anger. "What's so funny?" he snapped.

From his seat in the middle of the hall, Pierre Dupaine, operative for
the French Community, said worriedly, "_Messieurs_, this El Hassan is
not amusing. I, too, have heard of him. His followers are evidently
sweeping through the Sahara. Everywhere I hear of him."

There was confirming murmur throughout the rest of the gathering.

Still chuckling, Homer Crawford said, a hand held up for quiet, "Please,
everyone. Pardon the amusement of my teammates and myself. You see,
there is no such person as El Hassan."

"To the contrary!" Ostrander snapped.

"No, please," Crawford said, grinning ruefully. "You see, my team
_invented_ him, some time ago."

Ostrander could only stare, and for once his position was backed by
everyone in the hall, Crawford's team excepted.

Crawford said doggedly, "It came about like this. These people need a
hero. It's in their nomad tradition. They need a leader to follow. Given
a leader, as history has often demonstrated, and the nomad will perform
miracles. We wished to spread the program of the African Development
Project. Such items as the need to unite, to break down the old
boundaries of clan and tribe and even nation, the freeing of the slave
and serf, the upgrading of women's position, the dropping of the veil
and haik, the need to educate the youth, the desirability of taking jobs
on the projects and to take up land on the new oases. But since we
usually go about disguised as Enaden itinerant smiths, a poorly thought
of caste, our ideas weren't worth much. So we invented El Hassan and
everything we said we ascribed to him, this mysterious hero who was
going to lead all North Africa to Utopia."

Jake Armstrong stood up and said, sheepishly, "I suppose that my team
unknowingly added to this. We heard about this mysterious El Hassan and
he seemed largely to be going in the same direction, and for the same
reason--to give the rumors we were spreading weight--we ascribed the
things we said to him."

Somebody farther back in the hall laughed and said, "So did I!"

Homer Crawford extended his hands in the direction of Ostrander, palms
upward. "I'm sorry, sir. But there seems to be your mysterious
subversive."

Angered, Ostrander snapped, "Then you admit that it was you, yourself,
who have been spreading these subversive ideas?"

"Now, wait a minute," Crawford snapped in return. "I admit only to those
slogans and ideas promulgated by the African Development Project. If any
so-called subversive ideas have been ascribed to El Hassan, it has not
been through my team. Frankly, I rather doubt that they have. These
people aren't at any ethnic period where the program of the Soviet
Complex would appeal. They're largely in a ritual-taboo tribal society
and no one alleging any alliance whatsoever to Marx would contend that
you can go from that primitive a culture to what the Soviets call
communism."

"I'll take this up with my department chief," Ostrander said angrily.
"You haven't heard the last of it, Crawford." He sat down abruptly.

Crawford looked out over the room. "Anybody else we haven't heard from?"

A middle-aged, heavy-set, Western dressed man came to his feet and
cleared his throat. "Dr. Warren Harding Smythe, American Medical Relief.
I assume that most of you have heard of us. An organization supported
partially by government grant, partially by contributions by private
citizens and institutions, as is that of Miss Isobel Cunningham's Africa
for Africans Association." He added grimly, "But there the resemblance
ends."

He looked at Homer Crawford. "I am to be added to the number not in
favor of this conference. In fact, I am opposed to the presence of most
of you here in Africa."

Crawford nodded. "You certainly have a right to your opinion, doctor.
Will you elucidate?"

Dr. Smythe had worked his way to the front of the room, now he looked
out over the assemblage defiantly. "I am not at all sure that the task
most of you work at is a desirable one. As you know, my own organization
is at work bringing medical care to Africa. We build hospitals, clinics,
above all medical schools. Not a single one of our hospitals but is a
school at the same time."

Abe Baker growled, "Everybody knows and values your work, Doc, but
what's this bit about being opposed to ours?"

Smythe looked at him distastefully. "You people are seeking to destroy
the culture of these people, and, overnight thrust them into the
pressures of Twentieth Century existence. As a medical doctor, I do not
think them capable of assimilating such rapid change and I fear for
their mental health."

There was a prolonged silence.

Crawford said finally, "What is the alternative to the problems I
presented in my summation of the situation that confronts the world due
to the backward conditions of such areas as Africa?"

"I don't know, it isn't my field."

There was another silence.

Elmer Allen said finally, uncomfortably, "It _is_ our field, Dr.
Smythe."

Smythe turned to him, his face still holding its distaste. "I understand
that the greater part of you are sociologists, political scientists and
such. Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I do not think of the social
sciences as exact ones."

He looked around the room and added, deliberately, "In view of the
condition of the world, I do not have a great deal of respect for the
product of your efforts."

There was an uncomfortable stirring throughout the audience.

Clifford Jackson said unhappily, "We do what we must do, doctor. We do
what we can."

Smythe eyed him. He said, "Some years ago I was impressed by a paragraph
by a British writer named Huxley. So impressed that I copied it and have
carried it with me. I'll read it now."

The heavy-set doctor took out his wallet, fumbled in it for a moment and
finally brought forth an aged, many times folded, piece of yellowed
paper.

He cleared his throat, then read:

"_To the question_ quis custodiet custodes?--_who will mount guard over
our guardians, who will engineer the engineers?--the answer is a bland
denial that they need any supervision. There seems to be a touching
belief among certain Ph.Ds in sociology that Ph.Ds in sociology will
never be corrupted by power. Like Sir Galahad's, their strength is the
strength of ten because their heart is pure--and their heart is pure
because they are scientists and have taken six thousand hours of social
studies. Alas, high education is not necessarily a guarantee of higher
virtue, or higher political wisdom._"

The doctor finished and returned to his seat, his face still
uncompromising.

       *       *       *       *       *

Homer Crawford chuckled ruefully. "The point is well taken, I suppose.
However, so was the one expressed by Mr. Jackson. We do what we must,
and what we can." His eyes went over the assembly. "Is there any other
group from which we haven't heard?"

When there was silence, he added, "No group from the Soviet Complex?"

Ostrander, the C.I.A. operative, snorted. "Do you think they would admit
it?"

"Or from the Arab Union?" Crawford pursued. "Whether or not the Soviet
Complex has agents in this part of Africa, we know that the Arab Union,
backed by Islam everywhere, has. Frankly, we of the African Development
Project seldom see eye to eye with them which results in considerable
discussion at Reunited Nations meetings."

There was continued silence.

Elmer Allen came to his feet and looked at Ostrander, his face surly. "I
am not an advocate of what the Soviets are currently calling communism,
however, I think a point should be made here."

Ostrander stared back at him unblinkingly.

Allen snorted, "I know what you're thinking. When I was a student I
signed a few peace petitions, that sort of thing. How--or why they
bothered--the C.I.A. got hold of that information, I don't know, but as
a Jamaican I am a bit ashamed of Her Majesty's Government. But all this
is beside the point."

"What is your point, Elmer?" Crawford said. "You speak, of course, as an
individual not as an employee of the Reunited Nations nor even as a
member of my team."

"Our team," Elmer Allen reminded him. He frowned at his chief, as though
surprised at Crawford's stand. But then he looked back at the rest. "I
don't like the fact that the C.I.A. is present at all. I grow
increasingly weary of the righteousness of the prying for what it calls
subversion. The latest definition of subversive seems to be any chap who
doesn't vote either Republican or Democrat in the States, or
Conservative in England."

Ostrander grunted scorn.

Allen looked at him again. "So far as this job is concerned--and by the
looks of things, most of us will be kept busy at it for the rest of our
lives--I am not particularly favorable to the position of either side in
this never-warming cold war between you and the Soviet Complex. I have
suspected for some time that neither of you actually want an ending of
it. For different reasons, possibly. So far as the States are concerned,
I suspect an end of your fantastic military budgets would mean a
collapse of your economy. So far as the Soviets are concerned, I suspect
they use the continual _threat_ of attack by the West to keep up their
military and police powers and suppress the freedom of their people.
Wasn't it an old adage of the Romans that if you feared trouble at home,
stir up war abroad? At any rate, I'd like to have it on the record that
I protest the Cold War being dragged into our work in Africa--by either
side."

"All right, Elmer," Crawford said, "you're on record. Is that all?"

"That's all," Elmer Allen said. He sat down abruptly.

"Any comment, Mr. Ostrander?" Crawford said.

Ostrander grunted, "Fuzzy thinking." Didn't bother with anything more.

The chairman looked out over the hall. "Any further discussion, any
motions?" He smiled and added, "Anything--period?"

Finally Jake Armstrong came to his feet. He said, "I don't agree with
everything Mr. Allen just said; however, there was one item where I'll
follow along. The fact that most of us will be busy at this job for the
rest of our lives--if we stick. With this in mind, the fact that we have
lots of time, I make the following proposal. This meeting was called to
see if there was any prospect of we field workers co-operating on a
field worker's level, if we could in any way help each other, avoid
duplication of effort, that sort of thing. I suggest now that this
meeting be adjourned and that all of us think it over and discuss it
with the other teams, the other field workers in our respective
organizations. I propose further that another meeting be held within the
year and that meanwhile Mr. Crawford be elected chairman of the group
until the next gathering, and that Miss Cunningham be elected secretary.
We can all correspond with Mr. Crawford, until the time of the next
meeting, giving him such suggestions as might come to us. When he sees
fit to call the next meeting, undoubtedly he will have some concrete
proposals to put before us."

Isobel said, _sotto voce_, "Secretaries invariably do all the work, why
is it that men always nominate a woman for the job?"

Jake grinned at her, "I'll never tell." He sat down.

"I'll make that a motion," Rex Donaldson clipped out.

"Second," someone else called.

Homer Crawford said, "All in favor?"

Those in favor predominated considerably.

       *       *       *       *       *

They broke up into small groups for a time, debating it out, and then
most left for various places for lunch.

Homer Crawford, separated from the other members of his team, in the
animated discussions that went on about him, finally left the
fascinating subject of what had happened to the Cuban group in Sudan,
and who had done it, and went looking for his own lunch.

He strolled down the sand-blown street in the general direction of the
smaller market, in the center of Timbuktu, passing the aged, wind
corroded house which had once sheltered Major Alexander Gordon Laing,
first white man to reach the forbidden city in the year 1826. Laing
remained only three days before being murdered by the Tuareg who
controlled the town at that time. There was a plaque on the door
revealing those basic facts. Crawford had read elsewhere that the city
was not captured until 1893 by a Major Joffre, later to become a Marshal
of France and a prominent Allied leader in the First World War.

By chance he met Isobel in front of the large community butcher shop,
still operated in the old tradition by the local Gabibi and Fulbe,
formerly Songhoi serfs. He knew of a Syrian operated restaurant nearby,
and since she hadn't eaten either they made their way there.

The menu was limited largely to local products. Timbuktu was still
remote enough to make transportation of frozen foodstuffs exorbitant.
While they looked at the bill of fare he told her a story about his
first trip to the city some years ago while he was still a student.

He had visited the local American missionary and had dinner with the
family in their home. They had canned plums for desert and Homer had
politely commented upon their quality. The missionary had said that they
should be good, he estimated the quart jar to be worth something like
one hundred dollars. It seems that some kindly old lady in Iowa,
figuring that missionaries in such places as Timbuktu must be in dire
need of her State Fair prize winning canned plums, shipped off a box of
twelve quarts to missionary headquarters in New York. At that time,
France still owned French Sudan, so it was necessary for the plums to be
sent to Paris, and thence, eventually to Dakar. At Dakar they were
shipped through Senegal to Bamako by narrow gauge railroad which ran
periodically. In Bamako they had to wait for an end to the rainy season
so roads would be passable. By this time, a few of the jars had
fermented and blown up, and a few others had been pilfered. When the
roads were dry enough, a desert freight truck took the plums to Mopti,
on the Niger River where they waited again until the river was high
enough that a tug pulling barges could navigate, by slow stages, down to
Kabara. By this time, one or two jars had been broken by inexpert
handling and more pilfered. In Kabara they were packed onto a camel and
taken to Timbuktu and delivered to the missionary. Total time elapsed
since leaving Iowa? Two years. Total number of jars that got through?
One.

Isobel looked at Homer Crawford when he finished the story, and laughed.
"Why in the world didn't that missionary society refuse the old lady's
gift?"

He laughed in return and shrugged. "They couldn't. She might get into a
huff and not mention them in her will. Missionary societies can't afford
to discourage gifts."

She made her selection from the menu, and told the waiter in French, and
then settled back. She resumed the conversation. "The cost of
maintaining a missionary in this sort of country must have been
fantastic."

"Um-m-m," Crawford growled. "I sometimes wonder how many millions upon
millions of dollars, pounds and francs have been plowed into this
continent on such projects. This particular missionary wasn't a medical
man and didn't even run a school and in the six years he was here didn't
make a single convert."

Isobel said, "Which brings us to our own pet projects. Homer--I can call
you Homer, I suppose, being your brand new secretary...."

He grinned at her. "I'll make that concession."

"... What's your own dream?"

He broke some bread, automatically doing it with his left hand, as
prescribed in the Koran. They both noticed it, and both laughed.

"I'm conditioned," he said.

"Me, too," Isobel admitted. "It's all I can do to use a knife and fork."

He went back to her question, scowling. "My dream? I don't know. Right
now I feel a little depressed about it all. When Elmer Allen spoke about
spending the rest of our lives on this job, I suddenly realized that was
about it. And, you know"--he looked up at her--"I don't particularly
like Africa. I'm an American."

She looked at him oddly. "Then why stay here?"

"Because there's so much that needs to be done."

"Yes, you're right and what Cliff Jackson said to the doctor was
correct, too. We all do what we must do and what we can do."

"Well, that brings us back to your question. What is my own dream? I'm
afraid I'm too far along in life to acquire new ones, and my basic dream
is an American one."

"And that is--?" Isobel prompted.

He shrugged again, slightly uncomfortable under the scrutiny of this
pretty girl. "I'm a sociologist, Isobel. I suppose I seek Utopia."

She frowned at him as though disappointed. "Is Utopia possible?"

"No, but there is always the search for it. It's a goal that recedes as
you approach, which is as it should be. Heaven help mankind if we ever
achieve it; we'll be through because there will be no place to go, and
man needs to strive."

They had finished their soup and the entree had arrived. Isobel picked
at it, her ordinarily smooth forehead wrinkled. "The way I see it,
Utopia is not heaven. Heaven is perfect, but Utopia is an engineering
optimum, the best-possible-human-techniques. Therefore we will not have
_perfect_ justice in Utopia, nor will _everyone_ get the exactly proper
treatment. We design for optimum--not perfection. But granting this,
then attainment is possible."

She took a bite of the food before going on thoughtfully. "In fact, I
wonder if, during man's history, he hasn't obtained his Utopias from
time to time. Have you ever heard the adage that any form of government
works fine and produces a Utopia provided it is managed by wise,
benevolent and competent rulers?" She laughed and said mischievously,
"Both Heaven and Hell are traditionally absolute monarchies--despotisms.
The form of government evidently makes no difference, it's who runs it
that determines."

Crawford was shaking his head. "I've heard the adage but I don't accept
it. Under certain socio-economic conditions the best of men, and the
wisest, could do little if they had the wrong form of government.
Suppose, for instance, you had a government which was a
military-theocracy which is more or less what existed in Mexico at the
time of the Cortez conquest. Can you imagine such a government working
efficiently if the socio-economic system had progressed to the point
where there were no longer wars and where practically everyone were
atheists, or, at least, agnostics?"

She had to laugh at his ludicrous example. "That's a rather silly
situation, isn't it? Such wise, benevolent men, would change the
governmental system."

Crawford pushed his point. "Not necessarily. Here's a better example.
Immediately following the American Revolution, some of the best, wisest
and most competent men the political world has ever seen were at the
head of the government of Virginia. Such men as Jefferson, Madison,
Monroe, Washington. Their society was based on chattel slavery and they
built a Utopia _for themselves_ but certainly not for the slaves who
out-numbered them. Not that they weren't kindly and good men. A man of
Jefferson's caliber, I am sure, would have done anything in the world
for those darkies of his--except get off their backs. Except to grant
them the liberty and the right to pursue happiness that he demanded for
himself. He was blinded by self interest, and the interests of his
class."

"Perhaps they didn't want liberty," Isobel mused. "Slavery isn't
necessarily an unhappy life."

"I never thought it was. And I'm the first to admit that at a certain
stage in the evolution of society, it was absolutely necessary. If
society was to progress, then there had to be a class that was freed
from daily drudgery of the type forced on primitive man if he was to
survive. They needed the leisure time to study, to develop, to invent.
With the products of their studies, they were able to advance all
society. However, so long as slavery is maintained, be it necessary or
not, you have no Utopia. There is no Utopia so long as one man denies
another his liberty be it under chattel slavery, feudalism, or
whatever."

Isobel said dryly, "I see why you say your Utopia will never be reached,
that it continually recedes."

He laughed, ruefully. "Don't misunderstand. I think that particular goal
can and will be reached. My point was that by the time we reach it,
there will be a new goal."

       *       *       *       *       *

The girl, finished with her main dish, sat back in her chair, and looked
at him from the side of her eyes, as though wondering whether or not he
could take what she was about to say in the right way. She said, slowly,
"You know, with possibly a few exceptions, you can't enslave a man if he
doesn't want to be a slave. For instance, the white man was never able
to enslave the Amerind; he died before he would become a slave. The
majority of Jefferson's slaves _wanted to be slaves_. If there were
those among them that had the ability to revolt against slave
psychology, a Jefferson would quickly promote such. A valuable human
being will be treated in a manner proportionate to his value. A wise,
competent, trustworthy slave became the major domo of the master's
estate--with privileges and authority actually greater than that of free
employees of the master."

Crawford thought about that for a moment. "I'll take that," he said.
"What's the point you're trying to make?"

"I, too, was set a-thinking by some of the things said at the meeting,
Homer. In particular, what Dr. Smythe had to say. Homer, are we sure
these people _want_ the things we are trying to give them?"

He looked at her uncomfortably. "No they don't," he said bluntly.
"Otherwise we wouldn't be here, either your AFAA or my African
Development Project. We utilize persuasion, skullduggery, and even force
to subvert their institutions, to destroy their present culture. Yes.
I've known this a long time."

"Then how do you justify your being here?"

He grinned sourly. "Let's put it this way. Take the new government in
Egypt. They send the army into some of the small back-country towns with
bayoneted rifles, and orders to use them if necessary. The villagers are
forced to poison their ancient village wells--one of the highest of
imaginable crimes in such country, imposed on them ruthlessly. Then they
are forced to dig new ones in new places that are not intimately
entangled with their own sewage drainage. Naturally they hate the
government. In other towns, the army has gone in and, at gun point,
forced the parents to give up their children, taken the children away
in trucks and 'imprisoned' them in schools. Look, back in the States
we have trouble with the Amish, who don't want their children to
be taught modern ways. What sort of reaction do you think the
tradition-ritual-tabu-tribesmen of the six thousand year old Egyptian
culture have to having modern education imposed on their children?"

Isobel was frowning at him.

Crawford wound it up. "That's the position we're in. That's what we're
doing. Giving them things they need, in spite of the fact they don't
want them."

"But _why_?"

He said, "You know the answer to that as well as I do. It's like giving
medical care to Typhoid Mary, in spite of the fact that she didn't want
it and didn't believe such things as typhoid microbes existed. We had to
protect the community against her. In the world today, such backward
areas as Africa are potential volcanoes. We've got to deal with them
before they erupt."

The waiter came with the bill and Homer took it.

Isobel said, "Let's go Dutch on that."

He grinned at her. "Consider it a donation to the AFAA."

Out on the street again, they walked slowly in the direction of the old
administration buildings where both had left their means of
transportation.

Isobel, who was frowning thoughtfully, evidently over the things that
had been said, said, "Let's go this way. I'd like to see the old Great
Mosque, in the Dyingerey Ber section of town. It's always fascinated
me."

Crawford said, looking at her and appreciating her attractiveness, all
over again, "You know Timbuktu quite well, don't you?"

"I've just finished a job down in Kabara, and it's only a few miles
away."

"Just what sort of thing do you do?"

She shrugged and made a moue. "Our little team concentrates on breaking
down the traditional position of women in these cultures. To get them to
drop the veil, go to school. That sort of thing. It's a long story
and--"

Homer Crawford suddenly and violently pushed her to the side and to the
ground and at the same time dropped himself and rolled frantically to
the shelter of an adobe wall which had once been part of a house but now
was little more than waist high.

"Down!" he yelled at her.

She bug-eyed him as though he had gone suddenly mad.

There was a heavy, stub-nosed gun suddenly in his hand. He squirmed
forward on elbows and belly, until he reached the corner.

"What's the matter?" she blurted.

He said grimly, "See those three holes in the wall above you?"

She looked up, startled.

He said, grimly, "They weren't there a moment ago."

What he was saying, dawned upon her. "But ... but I heard no shots."

He cautiously peered around the wall, and was rewarded with a puff of
sand inches from his face. He pulled his head back and his lips thinned
over his teeth. He said to her, "Efficiently silenced guns have been
around for quite a spell. Whoever that is, is up there in the mosque.
Listen, beat your way around by the back streets and see if you can find
the members of my team, especially Abe Baker or Bey-ag-Akhamouk. Tell
them what happened and that I think I've got the guy pinned down. That
mosque is too much out in the open for him to get away without my seeing
him."

"But ... but who in the world would want to shoot you, Homer?"

"Search me," he growled. "My team has never operated in this immediate
area."

"But then, it must be someone who was at the meeting."



VI


"That is was," Homer said grimly. "Now, go see if you can find my lads,
will you? This joker is going to fall right into our laps. It's going to
be interesting to find out who hates the idea of African development so
much that they're willing to commit assassination."

But it didn't work out that way.

Isobel found the other teammates one by one, and they came hurrying up
from different directions to the support of their chief. They had been a
team for years and operating as they did and where they did, each man
survived only by selfless co-operation with all the others. In action,
they operated like a single unit, their ability to co-operate almost as
though they had telepathic communication.

From where he lay, Homer Crawford could see Bey-ag-Akhamouk,
Tommy-Noiseless in hands, snake in from the left, running low and
reaching a vantage point from which he could cover one flank of the
ancient adobe mosque. Homer waved to him and Bey made motions to
indicate that one of the others was coming in from the other side.

Homer waited for a few more minutes, then waved to Bey to cover him. The
streets were empty at this time of midday when the Sahara sun drove the
town's occupants into the coolness of dark two-foot-thick walled houses.
It was as though they were operating in a ghost town. Homer came to his
feet and handgun in fist made a dash for the front entrance.

Bey's light automatic _flic flic flicked_ its excitement and dust and
dirt enveloped the wall facing Crawford. Homer reached the doorway,
stood there for a full two minutes while he caught his breath. From the
side of his eye he could see Elmer Allen, his excellent teeth bared as
always when the Jamaican went into action, come running up to the right
in that half crouch men automatically go into in combat, instinctively
presenting as small a target as possible. He was evidently heading for a
side door or window.

The object now was to refrain from killing the sniper. The important
thing was to be able to question him. Perhaps here was the answer to the
massacre of the Cubans. Homer took another deep breath, smashed the door
open with a heavy shoulder and dashed inward and immediately to one
side. At the same moment, Abe Baker, Tommy-Noiseless in hand, came in
from the rear door, his eyes darting around trying to pierce the gloom
of the unlighted building.

Elmer Allen erupted through a window, rolled over on the floor and came
to rest, his gun trained.

"Where is he?" Abe snapped.

Homer motioned with his head. "Must be up in the remains of the
minaret."

Abe got to the creaking, age-old stairway first. In cleaning out a
hostile building, the idea is to move fast and keep on the move. Stop,
and you present a target.

But there was no one in the minaret.

"Got away," Homer growled. His face was puzzled. "I felt sure we'd have
him."

Bey-ag-Akhamouk entered. He grunted his disappointment. "What happened,
anyway? That girl Isobel said a sniper took some shots at you and you
figure it must've been somebody at the meeting."

"Somebody at the meeting?" Abe said blankly. "What kind of jazz is that?
You flipping, man?"

Homer looked at him strangely.

"Who else could it be, Abe? We've never operated this far south. None of
the inhabitants in this area even know us, and it certainly couldn't
have been an attempt at robbery."

"There were some cats at that meeting didn't appreciate our ideas, man,
but I can't see that old preacher or Doc Smythe trying to put the slug
on you."

Kenny Ballalou came in on the double, gun in hand, his face anxious.

Abe said sarcastically, "Man, we'd all be dead if we had to wait on
you."

"That girl Isobel. She said somebody took a shot at the chief."

Homer explained it, sourly. A sniper had taken a few shots at him, then
managed to get away.

Isobel entered, breathless, followed by Jake Armstrong.

Abe grunted, "Let's hold another convention. This is like old home town
week."

Her eyes went from one of them to the other. "You're not hurt?"

"Nobody hurt, but the cat did all the shooting got away," Abe said
unhappily.

Jake said, and his voice was worried, "Isobel told me what happened. It
sounds insane."

They discussed it for a while and got exactly nowhere. Their
conversation was interrupted by a clicking at Homer Crawford's wrist. He
looked down at the tiny portable radio.

"Excuse me for a moment," he said to the others and went off a dozen
steps or so to the side.

They looked after him.

Elmer Allen said sourly, "Another assignment. What we need is a union."

Abe adopted the idea. "Man! Time and a half for overtime."

"With a special cost of living clause--" Kenny Ballalou added.

"And housing and dependents allotment!" Abe crowed.

They all looked at him.

Bey tried to imitate the other's beatnik patter. "Like, you got any
dependents, man?"

Abe made a mark in the sand on the mosque's floor with the toe of his
shoe, like a schoolboy up before the principal for an infraction of
rules, and registered embarrassment. "Well, there's that cute little
Tuareg girl up north."

"Ha!" Isobel said. "And all these years you've been leading me on."

Homer Crawford returned and his face was serious. "That does it," he
muttered disgustedly. "The fat's in the fire."

"Like, what's up, man?"

Crawford looked at his right-hand man. "There are demonstrations in
Mopti. Riots."

"Mopti?" Jake Armstrong said, surprised. "Our team was working there
just a couple of months ago. I thought everything was going fine in
Mopti."

"They're going fine, all right," Crawford growled. "So well, that the
local populace wants to speed up even faster."

They were all looking their puzzlement at him.

"The demonstrations are in favor of El Hassan."

Their faces turned blank. Crawford's eyes swept his teammates. "Our
instructions are to get down there and do what we can to restore order.
Come on, let's go. I'm going to have to see if I can arrange some
transportation. It'd take us two days to get there in our outfits."

Jake Armstrong said, "Wait a minute, Homer. My team was heading back for
Dakar for a rest and new assignments. We'd be passing Mopti anyway. How
many of you are there, five? If you don't haul too much luggage with
you; we could give you a lift."

"Great," Homer told him. "We'll take you up on that. Abe, Elmer, let's
get going. We'll have to repack. Bey, Kenny, see about finding some
place we can leave the lorries until we come back. This job shouldn't
take more than a few days at most."

"Huh," Abe said. "I hope you got plans, man. How do you go about
stopping demonstrations in favor of a legend you created yourself?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Mopti, also on the Niger, lies approximately three hundred kilometers to
the south and slightly west of Timbuktu, as the bird flies. However, one
does not travel as the bird flies in the Niger bend. Not even when one
goes by aircraft. A forced landing in the endless swamps, bogs, shallow
lakes and river tributaries which make up the Niger at this point, would
be suicidal. The whole area is more like the Florida Everglades than a
river, and a rescue team would be hard put to find your wreckage. There
are no roads, no railroads. Traffic follows the well marked navigational
route of the main channel.

Homer Crawford had been sitting quietly next to Cliff Jackson who was
piloting. Isobel and Jake Armstrong were immediately behind them and Abe
and the rest of Crawford's team took up the remainder of the aircraft's
eight seats. Abe was regaling the others with his customary chaff.

Out of a clear sky, Crawford said bitterly, "Has it occurred to any of
you that what we're doing here in North Africa is committing genocide?"

The others stared at him, taken aback. Isobel said, "I beg your pardon?"

"Genocide," Crawford said bitterly. "We're doing here much what the
white men did when they cleared the Amerinds from the plains, the
mountains and forests of North America."

Isobel, Cliff and Jake frowned their puzzlement. Abe said, "Man, you
just don't make sense. And, among other things, there're more Indians in
the United States than there was when Columbus landed."

Crawford shook his head. "No. They're a different people. Those cultures
that inhabited the United States when the first white men came, are
gone." He shook his head as though soured by his thoughts. "Take the
Sioux. They had a way of life based on the buffalo. So the whites
deliberately exterminated the buffalo. It made the plains Indians'
culture impossible. A culture based on buffalo herds cannot exist if
there are no buffalo."

"I keep telling you, man, there's more Sioux now than there were then."

Crawford still shook his head. "But they're a different people, a
different race, a different culture. A mere fraction, say ten per cent,
of the original Sioux, might have adapted to the new life. The others
beat their heads out against the new ways. They fought--the Sitting Bull
wars took place after the buffalo were already gone--they drank
themselves to death on the white man's firewater, they committed
suicide; in a dozen different ways they called it quits. Those that
survived, the ten per cent, were the exceptions. They were able to
adapt. They had a built-in genetically-conferred self discipline enough
to face the new problems. Possibly eighty per cent of their children
couldn't face the new problems either and they in turn went under. But
by now, a hundred years later, the majority of the Sioux nation have
probably adapted. But, you see, the point I'm trying to make? They're
not the _real_ Sioux, the original Sioux; they're a new breed. The
plains living, buffalo based culture, Sioux are all dead. The white men
killed them."

Jake Armstrong was scowling. "I get your point, but what has it to do
with our work here in North Africa?"

"We're doing the same thing to the Tuareg, the Teda and the Chaambra,
and most of the others in the area in which we operate. The type of
human psychology that's based on the nomad life can't endure settled
community living. Wipe out the nomad way of life and these human beings
must die."

Abe said, unusually thoughtful, "I see what you mean, man. _Fish gotta
swim, bird gotta fly_--and nomad gotta roam. He flips if he doesn't."

Homer Crawford pursued it. "Sure, there'll be Tuareg afterward ... but
all descended from the fraction of deviant Tuareg who were so
abnormal--speaking from the Tuareg viewpoint--that they liked settled
community life." He rubbed a hand along his jawbone, unhappily. "Put it
this way. Think of them as a tribe of genetic claustrophobes. No matter
what a claustrophobe promises, he can't work in a mine. He has no choice
but to break his promise and escape ... or kill himself trying."

Isobel was staring at him. "What you say, is disturbing, Homer. I didn't
come to Africa to destroy a people."

He looked back at her, oddly. "None of us did."

Cliff said from behind the aircraft's controls, "If you believe what
you're saying, how do you justify being here yourself?"

"I don't know," Crawford said unhappily. "I don't know what started me
on this kick, but I seem to have been doing more inner searching this
past week or so than I have in the past couple of decades. And I don't
seem to come up with much in the way of answers."

"Well, man," Abe said. "If you find any, let us know."

Jake said, his voice warm, "Look Homer, don't beat yourself about this.
What you say figures, but you've got to take it from this angle. The
plains Indians had to go. The world is developing too fast for a few
thousand people to tie up millions of acres of some of the most fertile
farm land anywhere, because they needed it for their game--the
buffalo--to run on."

"Um-m-m," Homer said, his voice lacking conviction.

"Maybe it's unfortunate the _way_ it was done. The story of the
American's dealing with the Amerind isn't a pretty one, and usually
comfortably ignored when we pat ourselves on the back these days and
tell ourselves what a noble, honest, generous and peace loving people we
are. But it did have to be done, and the job we're doing in North Africa
has to be done, too."

Crawford said softly, "And sometimes it isn't very pretty either."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mopti as a town had grown. Once a small river port city of about five
thousand population, it had been a river and caravan crossroads somewhat
similar to Timbuktu, and noted in particular for its spice market and
its Great Mosque, probably the largest building of worship ever made of
mud. Plastered newly at least twice a year with fresh adobe, at a
distance of only a few hundred feet the Great Mosque, in the middle of
the day and in the glare of the Sudanese sun, looks as though made of
gold. From the air it is more attractive than the grandest Gothic
cathedrals of Europe.

Isobel pointed. "There, the Great Mosque."

Elmer Allen said, "Yes, and there. See those mobs?" He looked at Homer
Crawford and said sourly, "Let's try and remember who it was who first
thought of the El Hassan idea. Then we can blame it on him."

Kenny Ballalou grumbled, "We all thought about it. Remember, we pulled
into Tessalit and found that prehistoric refrigerator that worked on
kerosene and there were a couple of dozen quarts of Norwegian beer, of
all things, in it."

"And we bought them all," Abe recalled happily. "Man, we hung one on."

Homer Crawford said to Cliff, "The Mopti airport is about twelve miles
over to the east of the town."

"Yeah, I know. Been here before," Cliff said. He called back to
Ballalou, "And then what happened?"

"We took the beer out into the desert and sat on a big dune. You can
just begin to see the Southern Cross from there. Hangs right on the
horizon. Beautiful."

Bey said, "I've never heard Kenny wax poetic before. I don't know which
sounds more lyrical, though, that cold beer or the Southern Cross."

Kenny said, "Anyway, that's when El Hassan was dreamed up. We kicked the
idea around until the beer was all gone. And when we awoke in the
morning, complete with hangover, we had the gimmick which we hung all
our propaganda on."

"El Hassan is turning out to be a hangover all right," Elmer Allen
grunted, choosing to misinterpret his teammate's words. He peered down
below. "And there the poor blokes are, rioting in favor of the product
of those beer bottles."

"It was crazy beer, man," Abe protested. "Real crazy."

Homer Crawford said, "I wish headquarters had more information to give
us on this. All they said was there were demonstrations in favor of El
Hassan and they were afraid if things went too far that some of the hard
work that's been done here the past ten years might dissolve in the
excitement; Dogon, Mosse, Tellum, Sonrai start fighting among each
other."

Jake Armstrong said, "That's not my big worry. I'm afraid some ambitious
lad will come along and supply what these people evidently want."

"How's that?" Cliff said.

"They want a leader. Someone to come out of the wilderness and lead them
to the promised land." The older man grumbled sourly. "All your life you
figure you're in favor of democracy. You devote your career to expanding
it. Then you come to a place like North Africa. You're just kidding
yourself. Democracy is meaningless here. They haven't got to the point
where they can conceive of it."

"And--" Elmer Allen prodded.

Jake Armstrong shrugged. "When it comes to governments and social
institutions people usually come up with what they want, sooner or
later. If those mobs down there want a leader, they'll probably wind up
with one." He grunted deprecation. "And then probably we'll be able to
say, Heaven help them."

Isobel puckered her lips. "A leader isn't necessarily a misleader,
Jake."

"Perhaps not necessarily," he said. "However, it's an indication of how
far back these people are, how much work we've still got to do, when
that's what they're seeking."

"Well, I'm landing," Cliff said. "The airport looks free of any kind of
manifestations."

"That's a good word," Abe said. "Manifestations. Like, I'll have to
remember that one. Man's been to school and all that jazz."

Cliff grinned at him. "Where'd you like to get socked, beatnik?"

"About two feet above my head," Abe said earnestly.

       *       *       *       *       *

The aircraft had hardly come to a halt before Homer Crawford clipped
out, "All right, boys, time's a wasting. Bey, you and Kenny get over to
those administration buildings and scare us up some transportation. Use
no more pressure than you have to. Abe, you and Elmer start getting our
equipment out of the luggage--"

Jake Armstrong said suddenly, "Look here, Homer, do you need any help?"

Crawford looked at him questioningly.

Jake said, "Isobel, Cliff, what do you think?"

Isobel said quickly, "I'm game. I don't know what they'll say back at
AFAA headquarters, though. Our co-operating with a Sahara Development
Project team."

Cliff scowled. "I don't know. Frankly, I took this job purely for the
dough, and as outlined it didn't include getting roughed up in some riot
that doesn't actually concern the job."

"Oh, come along, Cliff," Isobel urged. "It'll give you some experience
you don't know when you'll be able to use."

He shrugged his acceptance, grudgingly.

Jake Armstrong looked back at Homer Crawford. "If you need us, we're
available."

"Thanks," Crawford said briefly, and turned off the unhappy stare he'd
been giving Cliff. "We can use all the manpower we can get. You people
ever worked with mobs before?"

Bey and Kenny climbed from the plane and made their way at a trot toward
the airport's administration buildings. Abe and Elmer climbed out, too,
and opened the baggage compartment in the rear of the aircraft.

"Well, no," Jake Armstrong said.

"It's quite a technique. Mostly you have to play it by ear, because
nothing is so changeable as the temper of a mob. Always keep in mind
that to begin with, at least, only a small fraction of the crowd is
really involved in what's going on. Possibly only one out of ten is
interested in the issue. The rest start off, at least, as idle
observers, watching the fun. That's one of the first things you've got
to control. Don't let the innocent bystanders become excited and get
into the spirit of it all. Once they do, then you've got a mess on your
hands."

Isobel, Jake and Cliff listened to him in fascination.

Cliff said uncomfortably, "Well, what do we do to get the whole thing
back to tranquillity? What I mean is, how do we end these
demonstrations?"

"We bore them to tears," Homer growled.

They looked at him blankly.

"We assume leadership of the whole thing and put up speakers."

Jake protested, "You sound as though you're sustaining not placating
it."

"We put up speakers and they speak and speak, and speak. It's almost
like a fillibuster. You don't say anything particularly interesting, and
certainly nothing exciting. You agree with the basic feeling of the
demonstrating mob, certainly you say nothing to antagonize them. In this
case we speak in favor of El Hassan and his great, and noble, and
inspiring, and so on and so forth, teachings. We speak in not too loud a
voice, so that those in the rear have a hard time hearing, if they can
hear at all."

Cliff said worriedly, "Suppose some of the hotheads get tired of this
and try to take over?"

Homer said evenly, "We have a couple of bully boys in the crowd to take
care of them."

Jake twisted his mouth, in objection. "Might that not strike the spark
that would start up violence?"

Homer Crawford grinned and began climbing out of the plane. "Not with
the weapons we use."

"Weapons!" Isobel snapped. "Do you intend to use weapons on those poor
people? Why, it was you yourself, you and your team, who started this
whole El Hassan movement. I'm shocked. I've heard about your reputation,
you and the Sahara Development Project teams. Your ruthlessness--"

Crawford chuckled ruefully and held up a hand to stem the tide. "Hold
it, hold it," he said. "These are special weapons, and, after all, we've
got to keep those crowds together long enough to bore them to the point
where they go home."

Abe came up with an armful of what looked something like tent-poles.
"The quarterstaffs, eh, Homer?"

"Um-m-m," Crawford said. "Under the circumstances."

"Quarterstaffs?" Cliff Jackson ejaculated.

Abe grinned at him. "Man, just call them pilgrim's staffs. The least
obnoxious looking weapon in the world." He looked at Cliff and Jake.
"You two cats been checked out on quarterstaffs?"

Jake said, "The more I talk to you people, the less I seem to understand
what's going on. Aren't quarterstaffs what, well, Robin Hood and his
Merry Men used to fight with?"

"That's right," Homer said. He took one from Abe and grasping it
expertly with two hands whirled it about, getting its balance. Then
suddenly, he drooped, leaning on it as a staff. His face expressed
weariness. His youth and virility seemed to drop away and suddenly he
was an aged religious pilgrim as seen throughout the Moslem world.

"I'll be damned," Cliff blurted. "Oop, sorry Isobel."

"I'll be damned, too," Isobel said. "What in the world can you do with
that, Homer? I was thinking in terms of you mowing those people down
with machine guns or something."

Crawford stood erect again laughingly, and demonstrated. "It's probably
the most efficient handweapon ever devised. The weapon of the British
yeoman. With one of these you can disarm a swordsman in a matter of
seconds. A good man with a quarterstaff can unhorse a knight in armor
and batter him to death, in a minute or so. The only other handweapon
capable of countering it is another quarterstaff. Watch this, with the
favorable two-hand leverage the ends of the staff can be made to move at
invisibly high speeds."

Bey and Kenny drove up in an aged wheeled truck and Abe and Elmer began
loading equipment.

Crawford looked at Bey who said apologetically, "I had to liberate it.
Didn't have time for all the dickering the guy wanted to go through."

Crawford grunted and looked at Isobel. "Those European clothes won't do.
We've got some spare things along. You can improvise. Men and women's
clothes don't differ that much around here."

"I'll make out all right," Isobel said. "I can change in the plane."

"Hey, Isobel," Abe called out. "Why not dress up like one of these Dogon
babes?"

"Some chance," Isobel hissed menacingly at him. "A strip tease you want,
yet. You'll see me in a haik and like it, wise guy."

"Shucks," Abe grinned.

Crawford looked critically at the clothing of Jake and Cliff. "I suppose
you'll do in western stuff," he said. "After all, this El Hassan is
supposed to be the voice of the future. A lot of his potential followers
will already be wearing shirts and pants. Don't look _too_ civilized,
though."

When Isobel returned, Crawford briefed his seven followers. They were to
operate in teams of two. One of his men, complete with quarterstaff
would accompany each of the others. Abe with Jake, Bey with Cliff, and
he'd be with Isobel. Elmer and Kenny would be the other twosome, and,
both armed with quarterstaffs would be troubleshooters.

"We're playing it off the cuff," he said. "Do what comes naturally to
get this thing under control. If you run into each other, co-operate, of
course. If there's trouble, use your wrist radios." He looked at Abe and
Bey. "I know you two are packing guns underneath those _gandouras_. I
hope you know enough not to use them."

Abe and Bey looked innocent.

Homer turned and led the way into the truck. "O.K., let's get going."



VII


Driving into town over the dusty, pocked road, Homer gave the newcomers
to his group more background on the care and control of the genus _mob_.
He was obviously speaking through considerable experience.

"Using these quarterstaffs brings to mind some of the other supposedly
innoxious devices used by police authorities in controlling unruly
demonstrations," he said. "Some of them are beauties. For instance, I
was in Tangier when the Moroccans put on their revolution against the
French and for the return of the Sultan. The rumor went through town
that the mob was going to storm the French Consulate the next day.
During the night, the French brought in elements of the Foreign Legion
and entrenched the consulate grounds. But their commander had another
problem. Journalists were all over town and so were tourists. Tangier
was still supposedly an international zone and the French were in no
position to slaughter the citizens. So they brought in some special
equipment. One item was a vehicle that looked quite a bit like a
gasoline truck, but was filled with water and armored against thrown
cobblestones and such. On the roof of the cabin was what looked
something like a fifty caliber but which was actually a hose which shot
water at terrific pressure. When the mob came, the French unlimbered
this vehicle and all the journalists could say was that the mob was
dispersed by squirting water on it, which doesn't sound too bad after
all."

Isobel said, "Well, certainly that's preferable to firing on them."

Homer looked at her oddly. "Possibly. However, I was standing next to
the Moorish boy who was cut entirely in half by the pressure spray of
water."

The expression on the girl's face sickened.

Homer said, "They had another interesting device for dispersing mobs. It
was a noise bomb. The French set off several."

"A noise bomb?" Cliff said. "I don't get it."

"They make a tremendous noise, but do nothing else. However, members of
the mob who aren't really too interested in the whole thing--just sort
of along for the fun--figure that things are getting earnest and that
the troops are shelling them. So they remember some business they had
elsewhere and take off."

Isobel said suddenly, "You like this sort of work, don't you?"

Elmer Allen grunted bitterly.

"No," Homer Crawford said flatly. "I don't. But I like the goal."

"And the end justifies the means?"

Homer Crawford said slowly, "I've never answered that to my own
satisfaction. But I'll say this. I've never met a person, no matter how
idealistic, no matter how much he played lip service to the contention
that the ends do not justify the means, who did not himself use the
means he found available to reach the ends he believed correct. It seems
to be a matter of each man feeling the teaching applies to everyone
else, but that he is free to utilize any means to achieve his own noble
ends."

"Man, all that jazz is too much for me," Abe said.

They were entering the outskirts of Mopti. Small groups of obviously
excited Africans of various tribal groups, were heading for the center
of town.

"Abe, Jake," Crawford said. "We'll drop you here. Mingle around. We'll
hold the big meeting in front of the Great Mosque in an hour or so."

"Crazy," Abe said, dropping off the back of the truck which Kenny
Ballalou, who was driving, brought almost to a complete stop. The older
Jake followed him.

The rest went on a quarter of a mile and dropped Bey and Cliff.

Homer said to Kenny, "Park the truck somewhere near the spice market.
Preferably inside some building, if you can. For all we know, they're
already turning over vehicles and burning them."

Crawford and Isobel dropped off near the pottery market, on the banks of
the Niger. The milling throngs here were largely women. Elements of half
a dozen tribes and races were represented.

Homer Crawford stood a moment. He ran a hand back over his short hair
and looked at her. "I don't know," he muttered. "Now I'm sorry we
brought you along." He leaned on his staff and looked at her worriedly.
"You're not very ... ah, husky, are you?"

She laughed at him. "Get about your business, sir knight. I spent nearly
two weeks living with these people once. I know dozens of them by name.
Watch this cat operate, as Abe would say."

She darted to one of the over-turned pirogues which had been dragged up
on the bank from the river, and climbed atop it. She held her hands high
and began a stream of what was gibberish to Crawford who didn't
understand Wolof, the Senegalese lingua franca. Some elements of the
crowd began drifting in her direction. She spoke for a few moments, the
only words the surprised Homer Crawford could make out were _El Hassan_.
And she used them often.

She switched suddenly to Arabic, and he could follow her now. The drift
of her talk was that word had come through that El Hassan was to make a
great announcement in the near future and that meanwhile all his people
were to await his word. But that there was to be a great meeting before
the Mosque within the hour.

She switched again to Songhoi and repeated substantially what she'd said
before. By now she had every woman hanging on her words.

A man on the outskirts of the gathering called out in high irritation,
"But what of the storming of the administration buildings? Our leaders
have proclaimed the storming of the reactionaries!"

Crawford, leaning heavily on the pilgrim staff, drifted over to the
other. "Quiet, O young one," he said. "I wish to listen to the words of
the girl who tells of the teachings of the great El Hassan."

The other turned angrily on him. "Be silent thyself, old man!" He raised
a hand as though to cuff the American.

Homer Crawford neatly rapped him on the right shin bone with his
quarterstaff to the other's intense agony. The women who witnessed the
brief spat dissolved in laughter at the plight of the younger man. Homer
Crawford drifted away again before the heckler recovered.

He let Isobel handle the bulk of the reverse-rabble rousing. His bit was
to come later, and as yet he didn't want to reveal himself to the
throngs.

       *       *       *       *       *

They went from one gathering place of women to another. To the spice
market, to the fish and meat market, to the bathing and laundering
locations along the river. And everywhere they found animated groups of
women, Isobel went into her speech.

At one point, while Homer stood idly in the crowd, feeling its temper
and the extent to which the girl was dominating them, he felt someone
press next to him.

A voice said, "What is the plan of operation, Yank?"

Homer Crawford's eyebrows went up and he shot a quick glance at the
other. It was Rex Donaldson of the Commonwealth African Department. The
operative who worked as the witchman, Dolo Anah. Crawford was glad to
see him. This was Donaldson's area of operations, the man must have got
here almost as soon as Crawford's team, when he had heard of the
trouble.

Crawford said in English, "They've been gathering for an outbreak of
violence, evidently directed at the Reunited Nations projects
administration buildings. I've seen a few banners calling for El Hassan
to come to power, Africa for the Africans, that sort of thing."

The small Bahamian snorted. "You chaps certainly started something with
this El Hassan farce. What are your immediate plans? How can I
co-operate with you?"

A teenage boy who had been heckling Isobel, stooped now to pick up some
dried cow dung. Almost absently, Crawford put his staff between the
other's legs and tripped him up, when the lad sprawled on his face the
American rapped him smartly on the head.

Crawford said, "Thanks a lot, we can use you, especially since you speak
Dogon, I don't think any of my group does. We're going to hold a big
meeting in front of the square and give them a long monotonous talk,
saying little but sounding as though we're promising a great deal. When
we've taken most of the steam out of them, we'll locate the ringleaders
and have a big indoor meeting. My boys will be spotted throughout the
gang. They'll nominate me to be spokesman, and nominate each other to be
my committee and we'll be sent to find El Hassan and urge him to take
power. That should keep them quiet for a while. At least long enough for
headquarters in Dakar to decide what to do."

"Good Heavens," Donaldson said in admiration. "You Yanks are certainly
good at this sort of thing."

"Takes practice," Homer Crawford said. "If you want to help, ferret out
the groups who speak Dogon and give them the word."

Out of a sidestreet came running Abe Baker at the head of possibly two
or three hundred arm waving, shouting, stick brandishing Africans. A few
of them had banners which were being waved in such confusion that nobody
could read the words inscribed. Most of them seemed to be younger men,
even teen-agers.

"Good Heavens," Donaldson said again.

At first snap opinion, Crawford thought his assistant was being pursued
and started forward to the hopeless rescue, but then he realized that
Abe was heading the mob. Waving his staff, the New Yorker was shouting
slogans, most of which had something to do with "El Hassan" but
otherwise were difficult to make out.

The small mob charged out of the street and through the square, still
shouting. Abe began to drop back into the ranks, and then to the edge of
the charging, gesticulating crowd. Already, though, some of them seemed
to be slowing up, even stopping and drifting away, puzzlement or
frustration on their faces.

Those who were still at excitement's peak, charged up another street at
the other side of the square.

In a few moments, Abe Baker came up to them, breathing hard and wiping
sweat from his forehead. He grinned wryly. "Man, those cats are way out.
This is really Endsville." He looked up at where Isobel was haranguing
her own crowd, which hadn't been fazed by the men who'd charged through
the square going nowhere. "Look at old Isobel up there. Man, this whole
town's like a combination of Hyde Park and Union Square. You oughta hear
old Jake making with a speech."

"What just happened?" Homer asked, motioning with his head to where the
last elements of the mob Abe'd been leading were disappearing down a
dead-end street.

"Ah, nothing," Abe said, still watching Isobel and grinning at her.
"Those cats were the nucleus of a bunch wanted to start some action.
Burn a few cars, raid the library, that sort of jazz. So I took over for
a while, led them up one street and down the other. I feel like I just
been star at a track meet."

"Good Heavens," Donaldson said still again.

"They're all scattered around now," Abe explained to him. "Either that
or their tongues are hanging out to the point they'll have to take five
to have a beer. They're finished for a while."

Isobel finished her little talk and joined them. "What gives now?" she
asked.

Rex Donaldson said, "I'd like to stay around and watch you chaps
operate. It's fascinating. However, I'd better get over to the park.
That's probably where the greater number of the Dogon will be." He
grumbled sourly, "I'll roast those blokes with a half dozen bits of
magic and send them all back to Sangha. It'll be donkey's years before
they ever show face around here again." He left them.

Homer Crawford looked after him. "Good man," he said.

Abe had about caught his breath. "What gives now, man?" he said. "I
ought to get back to Jake. He's all alone up near the mosque."

"It's about time all of us got over there," Crawford said. He looked at
Isobel as they walked. "How does it feel being a sort of reverse agent
provocateur?"

Her forehead was wrinkled, characteristically. "I suppose it has to be
done, but frankly, I'm not too sure just what we are doing. Here we go
about pushing these supposed teachings of El Hassan and when we're taken
up by the people and they actually attempt to accomplish what we taught
them, we draw in on the reins."

"Man, you're right," Abe said unhappily. He looked at his chief. "What'd
you say, Homer?"

"Of course she's right," Crawford growled. "It's just premature, is all.
There's no program, no plan of action. If there was one, this thing here
in Mopti might be the spark that united all North Africa. As it is, we
have to put the damper on it until there is a definite program." He
added sourly, "I'm just wondering if the Reunited Nations is the
organization that can come up with one. And, if it isn't, where is there
one?"

The mosque loomed up before them. The square before it was jam packed
with milling Africans.

"Great guns," Isobel snorted, "there're more people here than the whole
population of Mopti. Where'd they all come from?"

"They've been filtering in from the country," Crawford said.

"Well, we'll filter 'em back," Abe promised.

       *       *       *       *       *

They spotted a ruckus and could see Elmer Allen in the middle of it, his
quarterstaff flailing.

"On the double," Homer bit out, and he and Abe broke into a trot for the
point of conflict. The idea was to get this sort of thing over as
quickly as possible before it had a chance to spread.

They arrived too late. Elmer was leaning on his staff, as though needing
it for support, and explaining mildly to two men who evidently were
friends of a third who was stretched out on the ground, dead to the
world and with a nasty lump on his shaven head.

Homer came up and said to Elmer, in Songhai, "What has transpired, O
Holy One?" He made a sign of obeisance to the Jamaican.

The two Africans were taken aback by the term of address. They were
unprepared to continue further debate, not to speak of physical action,
against a holy man.

Elmer said with dignity, "He spoke against El Hassan, our great leader."

For a moment the two Africans seemed to be willing to deny that, but Abe
Baker took up the cue and turned to the crowd that was beginning to
gather. He held his hands out, palms upward questioningly, "And why
should these young men beset a Holy One whose only crime is to love El
Hassan?"

The crowd began to murmur and the two hurriedly picked up their fallen
companion and took off with him.

Homer said in English, "What really happened?"

"Oh, this chap was one of the hot heads," Elmer explained. "Wanted some
immediate action. I gave it to him."

Abe chuckled, "Holy One, yet."

Spotted through the square, holding forth to various gatherings of the
mob were Jake Armstrong, Kenny Ballalou and Cliff Jackson. Even as Homer
Crawford sized up the situation and the temper of the throngs of
tribesmen, Bey entered the square from the far side at the head of two
or three thousand more, most of whom were already beginning to look
bored to death from talk, talk, talk.

Isobel came up and looked questioningly at Homer Crawford.

He said, "Abe, get the truck and drive it up before the entrance to the
mosque. We'll speak from that. Isobel can open the hoe down, get the
crowd over and then introduce me."

Abe left and Crawford said to Isobel, "Introduce me as Omar ben Crawf,
the great friend and assistant of El Hassan. Build it up."

"Right," she said.

Crawford said, "Elmer first round up the boys and get them spotted
through the audience. You're the cheerleaders and also the sergeants at
arms, of course. Nail the hecklers quickly, before they can get
organized among themselves. In short, the standard deal." He thought a
moment. "And see about getting a hall where we can hold a meeting of the
ringleaders, those are the ones we're going to have to cool out."

"Wizard," Elmer said and was gone on his mission.

Isobel and Homer stood for a moment, waiting for Abe and the truck.

She said, "You seem to have this all down pat."

"It's routine," he said absently. "The brain of a mob is no larger than
that of its minimum member. Any disciplined group, almost no matter how
small can model it to order."

"Just in case we don't have the opportunity to get together again, what
happens at the hall meeting of ringleaders? What do Jake, Cliff and I
do?"

"What comes naturally," Homer said. "We'll elect each other to the most
important positions. But everybody else that seems to have anything at
all on the ball will be elected to some committee or other. Give them
jobs compiling reports to El Hassan or something. Keep them busy. Give
Reunited Nations headquarters in Dakar time to come up with something."

She said worriedly, "Suppose some of these ringleaders are capable,
aggressive types and won't stand for us getting all the important
positions?"

Crawford grunted. "We're _more_ aggressive and more capable. Let my team
handle that. One of the boys will jump up and accuse the guy of being a
spy and an enemy of El Hassan, and one of the other boys will bear him
out, and a couple of others will hustle him out of the hall." Homer
yawned. "It's all routine, Isobel."

Abe was driving up the truck.

Crawford said, "O.K., let's go, gal."

"Roger," she said, climbing first into the back of the vehicle and then
up onto the roof of the cab.

Isobel held her hands high above her head and in the cab Abe bore down
on the horn for a long moment.

Isobel shrilled, "Hear what the messenger from El Hassan has come to
tell us! Hear the friend and devoted follower of El Hassan!"

At the same time, Jake, Kenny, and Cliff discontinued their own
harangues and themselves headed for the new speaker.

       *       *       *       *       *

They stayed for three days and had it well wrapped up in that time. The
tribesmen, bored when the excitement fell away and it became obvious
that there were to be no further riots, and certainly no violence,
drifted back to their villages. The city dwellers returned to the
routine of daily existence. And the police, who had mysteriously
disappeared from the streets at the height of the demonstrations, now
magically reappeared and began asserting their authority somewhat
truculently.

At the hall meetings, mighty slogans were drafted and endless committees
formed. The more articulate, the more educated and able of the
demonstrators were marked out for future reference, but for the moment
given meaningless tasks to keep them busy and out of trouble.

On the fourth day, Homer Crawford received orders to proceed to Dakar,
leaving the rest of the team behind to keep an eye on the situation.

Abe groaned, "There's luck for you. Dakar, nearest thing to a good old
sin city in a thousand miles. And who gets to go? Old sour puss, here.
Got no more interest in the hot spots--"

Homer said, "You can come along, Abe."

Kenny Ballalou said, "Orders were only you, Homer."

Crawford growled, "Yes, but I have a suspicion I'm being called on the
carpet for one of our recent escapades and I want backing if I need it."
He added, "Besides, nothing is going to happen here."

"Crazy man," Abe said appreciatively.

Jake said, "We three were planning to head for Dakar today ourselves.
Isobel, in particular, is exhausted and needs a prolonged rest before
going out among the natives any more. You might as well continue to let
us supply your transportation."

"Fine," Homer told him. "Come on Abe, let's get our things together."

"What do we do while you chaps are gone?" Elmer Allen said sourly. "I
wouldn't mind a period in a city myself."

"Read a book, man," Abe told him. "Improve your mind."

"I've read a book," Elmer said glumly. "Any other ideas?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Dakar is a big, bustling, prosperous and modern city shockingly set down
in the middle of the poverty that is Africa. It should be, by its
appearance, on the French Riviera, on the California coast, or possibly
that of Florida, but it isn't. It's in Senegal, in the area once known
as French West Africa.

Their aircraft swept in and landed at the busy airport.

They were assigned an African Development Project air-cushion car and
drove into the city proper.

Dakar boasts some of the few skyscrapers in all Africa. The Reunited
Nations occupied one of these in its entirety. Dakar was the center of
activities for the whole Western Sahara and down into the Sudan. Across
the street from its offices, a street still named Rue des Résistance in
spite of the fact that the French were long gone, was the Hotel
Juan-les-Pins.

[Illustration]

Crawford and Abe Baker had radioed ahead and accommodations were ready
for them. Their western clothing and other gear had been brought up from
storage in the cellar.

At the desk, the clerk didn't blink at the Tuareg costume the two still
wore. This was commonplace. He probably wouldn't have blinked had Isobel
arrived in the costume of the Dogon. "Your suite is ready, Dr.
Crawford," he said.

The manager came up and shook hands with an old customer and Homer
Crawford introduced him to Isobel, Jake and Cliff, requesting he do his
best for them. He and Abe then made their excuses and headed for the
paradise of hot water, towels, western drink and the other amenities of
civilization.

On the way up in the elevator, Abe said happily, "Man, I can just
_taste_ that bath I'm going to take. Crazy!"

"Personally," Crawford said, trying to reflect some of the other's
typically lighthearted enthusiasm, "I have in mind a few belts out of a
bottle of stone-age cognac, then a steak yea big and a flock of French
fries, followed by vanilla ice cream."

Abe's eyes went round. "Man, you mean we can't get a good dish of cous
cous in this town?"

"Cous cous," Crawford said in agony.

Abe made his voice so soulful. "With a good dollop of rancid camel
butter right on top."

Homer laughed as they reached their floor and started for the suite.
"You make it sound so good, I almost believe you." Inside he said,
"Dibbers on the first bath. How about phoning down for a bottle of
Napoleon and some soda and ice? When it comes, just mix me one and bring
it in, that hand you see emerging from the soap bubbles in that tub,
will be mine."

"I hear and obey, O Bwana!" Abe said in a servile tone.

By the time they'd cleaned up and had eaten an enormous western style
meal in the dining room of the Juan-les-Pins, it was well past the hour
when they could have made contact with their Reunited Nations superiors.
They had a couple of cognacs in the bar, then, whistling happily, Abe
Baker went out on the town.

Homer Crawford looked up Isobel, Jake and Cliff who had, sure enough,
found accommodations in the same hotel.

Isobel stepped back in mock surprise when she saw Crawford in western
garb. "Heavens to Betsy," she said. "The man is absolutely extinguished
in a double-breasted charcoal gray."

He tried a scowl and couldn't manage it. "The word is _distinguished_,
not extinguished," he said. He looked down at the suit, critically. "You
know, I feel uncomfortable. I wonder if I'll be able to sit down in a
chair instead of squatting." He looked at her own evening frock. "Wow,"
he said.

Cliff Jackson said menacingly, "None of that stuff, Crawford. Isobel has
already been asked for, let's have no wolfing around."

Isobel said tartly, "Asked for but she didn't answer the summons." She
took Homer by the arm. "And I just adore extinguish--oops, I mean
distinguished looking men."

They trooped laughingly into the hotel cocktail lounge.

The time passed pleasantly. Jake and Cliff were good men in a field
close to Homer Crawford's heart. Isobel was possibly the most attractive
woman he'd ever met. They discussed in detail each other's work and all
had stories of wonder to describe.

Crawford wondered vaguely if there was ever going to be a time,
in this life of his, for a woman and all that one usually connects
with womanhood. What was it Elmer Allen had said at the Timbuktu
meeting? "... _most of us will be kept busy the rest of our lives at
this._"

In his present state of mind, it didn't seem too desirable a prospect.
But there was no way out for such as Homer Crawford. What had Cliff
Jackson said at the same meeting? "_We do what we must do._" Which, come
to think of it, didn't jibe too well with Cliff's claim at Mopti to be
in it solely for the job. Probably the man disguised his basic idealism
under a cloak of cynicism; if so, he wouldn't be the first.

They said their goodnights early. All of them were used to Sahara hours.
Up at dawn, to bed shortly after sunset; the desert has little fuel to
waste on illumination.

In the suite again, Homer Crawford noted that Abe hadn't returned as
yet. He snorted deprecation. The younger man would probably be out until
dawn. Dakar had much to offer in the way of civilization's fleshpots.

He took up the bottle of cognac and poured himself a healthy shot,
wishing that he'd remembered to pick up a paperback at the hotel's
newsstand before coming to bed.

He swirled the expensive brandy in the glass and brought it to his nose
to savor the bouquet.

But fifteen-year-old brandy from the cognac district of France should
not boast a bouquet involving elements of bitter almonds. With an
automatic startled gesture, Crawford jerked his face away from the
glass.

He scowled down at it for a long moment, then took up the bottle and
sniffed it. He wondered how a would-be murderer went about getting hold
of cyanide in Dakar.

Homer Crawford phoned the desk and got the manager. Somebody had been in
the suite during his absence. Was there any way of checking?

He didn't expect satisfaction and didn't receive any. The manager, after
finding that nothing seemed to be missing, seemed to think that perhaps
Dr. Crawford had made a mistake. Homer didn't bother to tell him about
the poisoned brandy. He hung up, took the bottle into the bathroom and
poured it away.

In the way of precautions, he checked the windows to see if there were
any possibilities of entrance by an intruder, locked the door securely,
put his handgun beneath his pillow and fell off to sleep. When and if
Abe returned, he could bang on the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the morning, clad in American business suits and frankly feeling a
trifle uncomfortable in them, Homer Crawford and Abraham Baker presented
themselves at the offices of the African Development Project, Sahara
Division, of the Reunited Nations. Uncharacteristically, there was no
waiting in anterooms, no dealing with subordinates. Dr. Crawford and his
lieutenant were ushered directly to the office of Sven Zetterberg.

Upon their entrance the Swede came to his feet, shook hands abruptly
with both of them and sat down again. He scowled at Abe and said to
Homer in excellent English, "It was requested that your team remain in
Mopti." Then he added, "Sit down, gentlemen."

They took chairs. Crawford said mildly, "Mr. Baker is my right-hand man.
I assume he'd take over the team if anything happened to me." He added
dryly, "Besides, there were a few things he felt he had to do about
town."

Abe cleared his throat but remained silent.

Zetterberg continued to frown but evidently for a different reason now.
He said, "There have been more complaints about your ... ah ... cavalier
tactics."

Homer looked at him but said nothing.

Zetterberg said in irritation, "It becomes necessary to warn you almost
every time you come in contact with this office, Dr. Crawford."

Homer said evenly, "My team and I work in the field Dr. Zetterberg. We
have to think on our feet and usually come to decisions in split
seconds. Sometimes our lives are at stake. We do what we think best
under the conditions. At any time your office feels my efforts are
misdirected, my resignation is available."

The Swede cleared his throat. "The Arab Union has made a full complaint
in the Reunited Nations of a group of our men massacring thirty-five of
their troopers."

Homer said, "They were well into the Ahaggar with a convoy of modern
weapons, obviously meant for adherents of theirs. Given the opportunity,
the Arab Union would take over North Africa."

"This is no reason to butcher thirty-five men."

"We were fired upon first," Crawford said.

"That is not the way they tell it. They claim you ambushed them."

Abe put in innocently, "How would the Arab Union know? We didn't leave
any survivors."

Zetterberg glared at him. "It is not easy, Mr. Baker, for we who do the
paper work involved in this operation, to account for the activities of
you hair-trigger men in the field."

"We appreciate your difficulties," Homer said evenly. "But we can only
continue to do what we think best on being confronted with an
emergency."

The Swede drummed his fingers on the desk top. "Perhaps I should remind
you that the policy of this project is to encourage amalgamation of the
peoples of the area. Possibly, the Arab Union will prove to be the best
force to accomplish such a union."

Abe grunted.

Homer Crawford was shaking his head. "You don't believe that Dr.
Zetterberg, and I doubt if there are many non-Moslems who do. Mohammed
sprung out of the deserts and his religion is one based on the
surroundings, both physical and socio-economic."

Zetterberg grumbled, argumentatively, though his voice lacked
conviction, "So did its two sister religions, Judaism and Christianity."

Crawford waggled a finger negatively. "Both of them adapted to changing
times, with considerable success. Islam has remained the same and in all
the world there is not one example of a highly developed socio-economic
system in a Moslem country. The reason is that in your country, and
mine, and in the other advanced countries of the West, we pay lip
service to our religions, but we don't let them interfere with our day
by day life. But the Moslem, like the rapidly disappearing
ultra-orthodox Jews, lives his religion every day and by the rules set
down by the Prophet fifteen centuries ago. Everything a Moslem does from
the moment he gets up in the morning is all mapped out in the Koran.
What fingers of the hand to eat with, what hand to break bread with--and
so on and so forth. It can get ludicrous. You should see the bathroom of
a wealthy Moslem in some modern city such as Tangier. Mohammed never
dreamed of such institutions as toilet paper. His followers still obey
the rules he set down as an alternative."

"What's your point?"

"That North Africa cannot be united under the banner of Islam if she is
going to progress rapidly. If it ever unites, it will be in spite of
local religions--Islam and pagan as well; they hold up the wheels of
progress."

Zetterberg stared at him. The truth of the matter was that he agreed
with the American and they both knew it.

He said, "This matter of physically assaulting and then arresting the
chieftain"--he looked down at a paper on his desk--"of the Ouled
Touameur clan of the Chaambra confederation, Abd-el-Kader. From your
report, the man was evidently attempting to unify the tribes."

Crawford was shaking his head impatiently. "No. He didn't have
the ... dream. He was a raider, a racketeer, not a leader of purposeful
men. Perhaps it's true that these people need a hero to act as a symbol
for them, but he can't be such as Abd-el-Kader."

"I suppose you're right," the Swede said grudgingly. "See here, have you
heard reports of a group of Cubans, in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan to help
with the new sugar refining there, being attacked?"

The eyes of both Crawford and Baker narrowed. There'd been talk about
this at Timbuktu. "Only a few rumors," Crawford said.

The Swede drummed his desk with his nervous fingers. "The rumors are
correct. The whole group was either killed or wounded." He said
suddenly, "You had nothing to do with this, I suppose?"

Crawford held his palms up, in surprise, "My team has never been within
a thousand miles of Khartoum."

Zetterberg said, "See here, we suspect the Cubans might have supported
Soviet Complex viewpoints."

Crawford shrugged, "I know nothing about them at all."

Zetterberg said, "Do you think this might be the work of El Hassan and
his followers?"

Abe started to chuckle something, but Homer shook his head slightly in
warning and said, "I don't know."

"How did that affair in Mopti turn out, these riots in favor of El
Hassan?"

Homer Crawford shrugged. "Routine. Must have been as many as ten
thousand of them at one point. We used standard tactics in gaining
control and then dispersing them. I'll have a complete written report to
you before the day is out."

Zetterberg said, "You've heard about this El Hassan before?"

"Quite a bit."

"From the rumors that have come into this office, he backs neither East
nor West in international politics. He also seems to agree with your
summation of the Islamic problem. He teaches separation of Church and
State."

"They're the same thing in Moslem countries," Abe muttered.

Zetterberg tossed his bombshell out of a clear sky. "Dr. Crawford," he
snapped, "in spite of the warnings we've had to issue to you repeatedly,
you are admittedly our best man in the field. We're giving you a new
assignment. Find this El Hassan and bring him here!"

Zetterberg leaned forward, an expression of somewhat anxious sincerity
in his whole demeanor.



VIII


Abe Baker choked, and then suddenly laughed.

Sven Zetterberg stared at him. "What's so funny?"

"Well, nothing," Abe admitted. He looked to Homer Crawford.

Crawford said to the Swede carefully, "Why?"

Zetterberg said impatiently, "Isn't it obvious, after the conversation
we've had here? Possibly this El Hassan is the man we're looking for.
Perhaps this is the force that will bind North Africa together. Thus
far, all we've heard about him has been rumor. We don't seem to be able
to find anyone who has seen him, nor is the exact strength of his
following known. We'd like to confer with him, before he gets any
larger."

Crawford said carefully, "It's hard to track down a rumor."

"That's why we give the assignment to our best team in the field," the
Swede told him. "You've got a roving commission. Find El Hassan and
bring him here to Dakar."

Abe grinned and said, "Suppose he doesn't want to come?"

"Use any methods you find necessary. If you need more manpower, let us
know. But we must talk to El Hassan."

Homer said, still watching his words, "Why the urgency?"

The Reunited Nations official looked at him for a long moment, as though
debating whether to let him in on higher policy. "Because, frankly, Dr.
Crawford, the elements which first went together to produce the African
Development Project, are, shall we say, becoming somewhat unstuck."

"The glue was never too strong," Abe muttered.

Zetterberg nodded. "The attempt to find competent, intelligent men to
work for the project, who were at the same time altruistic and
unaffected by personal or national interests, has always been a
difficult one. If you don't mind my saying so, we Scandinavians,
particularly those not affiliated with NATO come closest to filling the
bill. We have no designs on Africa. It is unfortunate that we have
practically no Negro citizens who could do field work."

"Are you suggesting other countries have designs on Africa?" Homer said.

For the first time the Swede laughed. A short, choppy laugh. "Are you
suggesting they haven't? What was that convoy of the Arab Union bringing
into the Sahara? Guns, with which to forward their cause of taking over
all North Africa. What were those Cubans doing in Sudan, that someone
else felt it necessary to assassinate them? What is the program of the
Soviet Complex as it applies to this area, and how does it differ from
that of the United States? And how do the ultimate programs of the
British Commonwealth and the French Community differ from each other and
from both the United States and Russia?"

"That's why we have a Reunited Nations," Crawford said calmly.

"Theoretically, yes. But it is coming apart at the seams. I sometimes
wonder if an organization composed of a membership each with its own
selfish needs can ever really unite in an altruistic task. Remember the
early days when the Congo was first given her freedom? Supposedly the
United Nations went in to help. Actually, each element in the United
Nations had its own irons in the fire, and usually their desires
differed."

The Swede shrugged hugely. "I don't know, but I am about convinced, and
so are a good many other officers of this project, that unless we soon
find a competent leader to act as a symbol around which all North
Africans can unite, find such a man and back him, that all our work will
crumble in this area under pressure from outside. That's why we want El
Hassan."

Homer Crawford came to his feet, his face in a scowl. "I'll let you know
by tomorrow, if I can take the assignment," he said.

"Why tomorrow?" the Swede demanded.

"There are some ramifications I have to consider."

"Very well," the Swede said stiffly. He came to his own feet and shook
hands with them again. "Oh, there's just one other thing. This
spontaneous meeting you held in Timbuktu with elements from various
other organizations. How did it come out?"

Crawford was wary. "Very little result, actually."

Zetterberg chuckled. "As I expected. However, we would appreciate it,
doctor, if you and your team would refrain from such activities in the
future. You are, after all, hired by the Reunited Nations and owe it all
your time and allegiance. We have no desire to see you fritter away this
time with religious fanatics and other crackpot groups."

"I see," Crawford said.

The other laughed cheerfully. "I'm sure you do, Dr. Crawford. A word to
the wise."

       *       *       *       *       *

They remained silent on the way back to the hotel.

In the lobby they ran into Isobel Cunningham.

Homer Crawford looked at her thoughtfully. He said, "We've got some
thinking to do and some ideas to bat back and forth. I value your
opinion and experience, Isobel, could you come up to the suite and sit
in?"

She tilted her head, looked at him from the side of her eyes. "Something
big has happened, hasn't it?"

"I suppose so. I don't know. We've got to make some decisions."

"Come on Isobel," Abe said. "You can give us the feminine viewpoint and
all that jazz."

They started for the elevator and Isobel said to Abe, "If you'd just be
consistent with that pseudo-beatnik chatter of yours, I wouldn't mind.
But half the time you talk like an English lit major when you forget to
put on your act."

"Man," Abe said to her, "maybe I was wrong inviting you to sit in on
this bull session. I can see you're in a bad mood."

In the living room of the suite, Isobel took an easy-chair and Abe threw
himself full length on his back on a couch. Homer Crawford paced the
floor.

"Well?" Isobel said.

Crawford said abruptly, "Somebody tried to poison me last night. Got
into this room somehow and put cyanide in a bottle of cognac Abe and I
were drinking out of earlier in the evening."

Isobel stared at him. Her eyes went from him to Abe and back.
"But ... but, why?"

Crawford ran his hand back over his wiry hair in puzzlement. "I ... I
don't know. That's what's driving me batty. I can't figure out why
anybody would want to kill me."

"I can," Abe said bluntly. "And that interview we just had with Sven
Zetterberg just bears me out."

"Zetterberg," Isobel said, surprised. "Is he in Africa?"

Crawford nodded to her question but his eyes were on Abe.

Abe put his hands behind his head and said to the ceiling, "Zetterberg
just gave Homer's team the assignment of bringing in El Hassan."

"El Hassan? But you boys told us all in Timbuktu that there was no El
Hassan. You invented him and then the rest of us, more or less
spontaneously, though unknowingly, took up the falsification and spread
your work."

"That's right," Crawford said, still looking at Abe.

"But didn't you tell Sven Zetterberg?" Isobel demanded. "He's too big a
man to play jokes upon."

"No, I didn't and I'm not sure I know why."

"I know why," Abe said. He sat up suddenly and swung his feet around and
to the floor.

The other two watched him, both frowning.

Abe said slowly, "Homer, you _are_ El Hassan."

His chief scowled at him. "What is that supposed to mean?"

The younger man gestured impatiently. "Figure it out. Somebody else
already has, the somebody who took a shot at you from that mosque. Look,
put it all together and it makes sense.

"These North Africans aren't going to make it, not in the short period
of time that we want them to, unless a leader appears on the scene.
These people are just beginning to emerge from tribal society. In the
tribes, people live by rituals and taboos, by traditions. But at the
next step in the evolution of society they follow a Hero--and the
traditions are thrown overboard. It's one step up the ladder of cultural
evolution. Just for the record, the Heroes almost invariably get
clobbered in the end, since a Hero must be perfect. Once he is found
wanting in any respect, he's a false prophet, a cheat, and a new,
perfect and faultless Hero must be found.

"O.K. At this stage we need a Hero to unite North Africa, but this time
we need a real super-Hero. In this modern age, the old style one won't
do. We need one with education, and altruism, one with the dream, as you
call it. We need a man who has no affiliations, no preferences for
Tuareg, Teda, Chaambra, Dogon, Moor or whatever. He's got to be truly
neutral. O.K., you're it. You're an American Negro, educated, competent,
widely experienced. You're a natural for the job. You speak Arabic,
French, Tamabeq, Songhai and even Swahili."

Abe stopped momentarily and twisted his face in a grimace. "But there's
one other thing that's possibly the most important of all. Homer, you're
a born leader."

"Who _me_?" Crawford snorted. "I hate to be put in a position where I
have to lead men, make decisions, that sort of thing.

"That's beside the point. There in Timbuktu you had them in the palm of
your hand. All except one or two, like Doc Smythe and that missionary.
And I have an idea even they'd come around. Everybody there felt it.
They were in favor of anything you suggested. Isobel?"

She nodded, very seriously. "Yes. You have a personality that goes over,
Homer. I think it would be a rare person who could conceive of you
cheating, or misleading. You're so obviously sincere, competent and
intelligent that it, well, _projects_ itself. I noticed it even more in
Mopti than Timbuktu. You had that city in your palm in a matter of a few
hours."

Homer Crawford shifted his shoulders, uncomfortably.

Abe said, "You might dislike the job, but it's a job that needs doing."

Crawford ran his hand around the back of his neck, uncomfortably. "You
think such a project would get the support of the various teams and
organizations working North Africa, eh?"

"Practically a hundred per cent. And even if some organizations or even
countries, with their own row to hoe, tried to buck you, their
individual members and teams would come over. Why? Because it makes
sense."

Homer Crawford said worriedly, "Actually, I've realized this, partially
subconsciously, for some time. But I didn't put myself in the role.
I ... I wish there really was an El Hassan. I'd throw my efforts behind
him."

"There will be an El Hassan," Abe said definitely. "And you can be him."

Crawford stared at Abe, undecided.

Isobel said, suddenly, "I think Abe's right, Homer."

       *       *       *       *       *

Abe seemed to switch the tempo of his talk. He said, "There's just one
thing, Homer. It's a long range question, but it's an important one."

"Yes?"

"What're your politics?"

"My politics? I haven't any politics here in North Africa."

"I mean back home. I've never discussed politics with you, Homer, partly
because I haven't wanted to reveal my own. But now the question comes
up. What is your position, ultimately, speaking on a world-wide basis?"

Homer looked at him quizzically, trying to get at what was behind the
other's words. "I don't belong to any political party," he said slowly.

Abe said evenly, "I do, Homer. I'm a Party member."

Crawford was beginning to get it. "If you mean do I ultimately support
the program of the Soviet Complex, the answer is definitely no. Whether
or not it's desirable for Russia or for China, is up to the Russians and
Chinese to decide. But I don't believe it's desirable for such advanced
countries as the United States and most of Western Europe. We've got
large problems that need answering, but the commies don't supply the
answers so far as I'm concerned."

"I see," Abe said. He was far, far different than the laughing, beatnik
jabbering, youngster he had always seemed. "That's not so good."

"Why not?" Homer demanded. His eyes went to where Isobel sat, her face
strained at all this, but he could read nothing in her expression, and
she said nothing.

Abe said, "Because, admittedly, North Africa isn't ready for a communist
program as yet. It's in too primitive a condition. However, it's
progressing fast, fantastically fast, and the coming of El Hassan is
going to speed things up still more."

Abe said deliberately, "Possibly twenty years from now the area _will_
be ready for a communist program. And at that time we don't want
somebody with El Hassan's power and prestige against us. We take the
long view, Homer, and it dictates that El Hassan has to be secretly on
the Party's side."

Homer was nodding. "I see. So that's why you shot at me in Timbuktu."

Abe's eyes went wary. He said, "I didn't know you knew."

Crawford nodded. "It just came to me. It had to be you. Supposedly, you
broke into the mosque from the back at the same moment I came in the
front. Actually, you were already inside." Homer grunted. "Besides, it
would have been awfully difficult for anyone else to have doped that
bottle of cognac on me. What I couldn't understand, and still can't, was
motive. We've been in the clutch together more than once, Abe."

"That's right, Homer, but there are some things so important that
friendship goes by the board. I could see as far back as that meeting
something that hadn't occurred to either you or the others. You were a
born El Hassan. I figured it was necessary to get you out of the way and
put one of our own--perhaps me, even--in your place. No ill feelings,
Homer. In fact, now I've just given you your chance. You could come in
with us--"

Even as he was speaking, his eyes moved in a way Homer Crawford
recognized. He'd seen Abe Baker in action often enough. A gun flicked
out of an under-the-arm holster, but Crawford moved in anticipation. The
flat of his hand darted forward, chopped and the hand weapon was on the
floor.

As Isobel screamed, Abe countered the attack. He reached forward in a
jujitsu maneuver, grabbed a coat sleeve and a handful of suit coat. He
twisted quickly, threw the other man over one hip and to the floor.

But Homer Crawford was already expertly rolling with the fall, rolling
out to get a fresh start.

Abe Baker knew that in the long go, in spite of his somewhat greater
heft, he wouldn't be able to take his former chief in the other man's
own field. Now he threw himself on the other, on the floor. Legs and
arms tangled in half realized, quickly defeated holds and maneuvers.

Abe called, "Quick, Isobel, the gun. Get the gun and cover him."

She shook her head, desperately. "Oh no. No!"

Abe bit out, his teeth grinding under the punishment he was taking,
"That's an order, _Comrade Cunningham_! Get the gun!"

"No. No, I can't!" She turned and fled the room.

Abe muttered an obscenity, bridged and crabbed out of the desperate
position he was in. And now his fingers were but a few inches from the
weapon. He stretched.

Homer Crawford, heavy veins in his own forehead from his exertions,
panted, "Abe, I can't let you get that gun. Call it quits."

"Can't, Homer," Abe gritted. His fingers were a few fractions of an inch
from the weapon.

Crawford panted, "Abe, there's just one thing I can do. A karate blow.
_I_ can chop your windpipe with the side of my hand. Abe, if I do, only
immediate surgery could save your--"

Abe's fingers closed about the gun and Crawford, calling on his last
resources, lashed out. He could feel the cartilage collapse, a sound of
air, for a moment, almost like a shriek filled the room.

The gun was meaningless now. Homer Crawford, his face agonized, was on
his knees beside the other who was threshing on the floor. "Abe," he
groaned. "You made me."

Abe Baker's face was quickly going ashen in his impossible quest for
oxygen. For a last second there was a gleam in his eyes and his lips
moved. Crawford bent down. He wasn't sure, but he thought that somehow
the other found enough air to get out a last, "Crazy man."

When it was over, Homer Crawford stood again, and looked down at the
body, his face expressionless.

From behind him a voice said, "So I got here too late."

Crawford turned. It was Elmer Allen, gun in hand.

Homer Crawford said dully, "What are you doing here?"

Elmer looked at the body, then back at his chief. "Bey figured out what
must have happened at the mosque there in Timbuktu. We didn't know what
might be motivating Abe, but we got here as quick as we could."

"He was a commie," Crawford said dully. "Evidently, the Party decided I
stood in its way. Where are the others?"

"Scouring the town to find you."

Crawford said wearily, "Find the others and bring them here. We've got
to get rid of poor Abe, there, and then I've got something to tell you."

"Very well, chief," Elmer said, holstering his gun. "Oh, just one thing
before I go. You know that chap Rex Donaldson? Well, we had some
discussion after you left. This'll probably surprise you Homer,
but--hold onto your hat, as you Americans say--Donaldson thinks you
ought to _become_ El Hassan. And Bey, Kenny and I agree."

Crawford said, "We'll talk about it later, Elmer."

       *       *       *       *       *

He knocked at her door and a moment later she came. She saw who it was,
opened for him and returned to the room beyond. She had obviously been
crying.

Homer Crawford said, but with no reproach in his voice, "You should have
helped me, to be consistent."

"I knew you'd win."

"Nevertheless, once you'd switched sides, you should have attempted to
help me. If you had, maybe Abe would still be alive."

She took a quick agonized breath, and sat down in one of the two chairs,
her hands clasped tightly in her lap. She said, "I ... I've known Abe
since my early teens."

He said nothing.

"In college, he was the cell leader. He enlisted me into the Party."

Crawford still didn't speak.

She said defiantly, "He was an idealist, Homer."

"I know that," Crawford said. "And along with it, he's saved my life, on
at least three different occasions in the past few years. He was a good
man."

It was her turn to hold silence.

Homer hit the palm of his left hand with the fist of his right. "That's
what so many don't realize. They think this is all a kind of cowboys and
Indians affair. The good guys and the bad guys fighting it out. And, of
course, all the good guys are on our side and their side is composed of
bad guys. They don't realize that many, even most, of the enemy are
fighting for an ideal, too--and are willing to die for it, or do things
sometimes even harder than dying."

He paced the floor for an agonized moment, before adding. "The fact that
the ideal is a false one--or so, at least, is my opinion--is beside the
point."

He suddenly dropped it and switched subjects. "This isn't as much a
surprise to me as you possibly think, Isobel. There was only one way
that episode in Timbuktu could have taken place. Abe was waiting for me
to pass that mosque. But I had to pass. I had to be _fingered_ as the
old gangster expression had it. And you led me into the ambush."

He looked down at her. "But what changed his mind? Why did he offer,
tonight, to let me take over the El Hassan leadership?"

Isobel said, her voice low. "In Timbuktu, when Abe saw the way things
were going, he realized you'd have to be liquidated, otherwise El Hassan
would be a leader the Party couldn't control. He tried to eliminate you,
and then tried again with the cognac. Last night, however, he checked
with local party leaders and they decided that he'd acted too
precipitately. They suggested you be given the opportunity to line up
with the Party."

"And if I didn't?" Homer said.

"Then you were to be liquidated."

"So the finger is still on me, eh?"

"Yes, you'll have to be careful."

He looked full into her face. "How do you stand now?"

She returned his frank look. "I'm the first follower to dedicate her
services to El Hassan."

"So you want to come along?"

"Yes," she said simply.

"And you remember what Abe said? That in the end the Hero invariably
gets clobbered? Sooner or later, North Africa will outgrow the need for
a Hero to follow and then ... then El Hassan and his closest followers
have a good chance of winding up before a firing squad."

"Yes, I know that."

Homer Crawford ran his hand back over his short hair, wearily. "O.K.,
Isobel. Your first instructions are to contact those two friends of
yours, Jake Armstrong and Cliff Jackson. Try to convert them."

"What are you going to be doing ... El Hassan?"

"I'm going over to the Reunited Nations to resign from the African
Development Project. I have a sneaking suspicion that in the future they
will not always be seeing eye to eye with El Hassan. Nor will the other
organizations currently helping to advance Africa--whilst still at the
same time keeping their own irons in the fire. Possibly the commies
won't be the only ones in favor of liquidating El Hassan's assets."





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