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Title: Master of Life and Death
Author: Silverberg, Robert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Master of Life and Death" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                          of Life and Death_

                           ROBERT SILVERBERG

                               ACE BOOKS
                     A Division of A. A. Wyn, Inc.
                23 West 47th Street, New York 36, N. Y.

                       MASTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

                  Copyright 1957, by A. A. Wyn, Inc.
                          All Rights Reserved

                            For Antigone--
                       Who Thinks We're Property

                           Printed in U.S.A.

      [Transcriber's Note: Extensive research did not uncover any
  evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


By the 23rd century Earth's population had reached seven billion.
Mankind was in danger of perishing for lack of elbow room--unless
prompt measures were taken. Roy Walton had the power to enforce those
measures. But though his job was in the service of humanity, he soon
found himself the most hated man in the world.

For it was _his_ job to tell parents their children were unfit to live;
_he_ had to uproot people from their homes and send them to remote
areas of the world. Now, threatened by mobs of outraged citizens,
denounced and blackened by the press, Roy Walton had to make a
decision: resign his post, or use his power to destroy his enemies,
become a dictator in the hopes of saving humanity from its own folly.
In other words, should he become the MASTER OF LIFE AND DEATH?



He had to adopt the motto--_the ends justify the means_.


His reward for devoted service was--an assassin's bullet.


His ambition was to fill his brother's shoes--but he underestimated
their size.


His specialty was sugarcoating bitter pills.


With the pen as his only weapon, could he save his son?


He died for discovering the secret of immortality.


The offices of the Bureau of Population Equalization, vulgarly known
as Popeek, were located on the twentieth through twenty-ninth floors
of the Cullen Building, a hundred-story monstrosity typical of
twenty-second-century neo-Victorian at its overdecorated worst. Roy
Walton, Popeek's assistant administrator, had to apologize to himself
each morning as he entered the hideous place.

Since taking the job, he had managed to redecorate his own office--on
the twenty-eighth floor, immediately below Director FitzMaugham's--but
that had created only one minor oasis in the esthetically repugnant
building. It couldn't be helped, though; Popeek was unpopular, though
necessary; and, like the public hangman of some centuries earlier, the
Bureau did not rate attractive quarters.

So Walton had removed some of the iridescent chrome scalloping that
trimmed the walls, replaced the sash windows with opaquers, and changed
the massive ceiling fixture to more subtle electroluminescents. But the
mark of the last century was stamped irrevocably on both building and

Which was as it should be, Walton had finally realized. It was the last
century's foolishness that had made Popeek necessary, after all.

His desk was piled high with reports, and more kept arriving via
pneumochute every minute. The job of assistant administrator was
a thankless one, he thought; as much responsibility as Director
FitzMaugham, and half the pay.

He lifted a report from one eyebrow-high stack, smoothed the crinkly
paper carefully, and read it.

It was a despatch from Horrocks, the Popeek agent currently on duty in
Patagonia. It was dated _4 June 2232_, six days before, and after a
long and rambling prologue in the usual Horrocks manner it went on to
say, _Population density remains low here: 17.3 per square mile, far
below optimum. Looks like a prime candidate for equalization._

Walton agreed. He reached for his voicewrite and said sharply, "Memo
from Assistant Administrator Walton, re equalization of ..." He paused,
picking a trouble-spot at random, "... central Belgium. Will the
section chief in charge of this area please consider the advisability
of transferring population excess to fertile areas in Patagonia?
Recommendation: establishment of industries in latter region, to ease

He shut his eyes, dug his thumbs into them until bright flares of light
shot across his eyeballs, and refused to let himself be bothered by
the multiple problems involved in dumping several hundred thousand
Belgians into Patagonia. He forced himself to cling to one of Director
FitzMaugham's oft-repeated maxims, _If you want to stay sane, think of
these people as pawns in a chess game--not as human beings._

Walton sighed. This was the biggest chess problem in the history of
humanity, and the way it looked now, all the solutions led to checkmate
in a century or less. They could keep equalizing population only so
long, shifting like loggers riding logs in a rushing river, before
trouble came.

There was another matter to be attended to now. He picked up the
voicewrite again. "Memo from the assistant administrator, re
establishment of new policy on reports from local agents: hire a staff
of three clever girls to make a précis of each report, eliminating
irrelevant data."

It was a basic step, one that should have been taken long ago. Now,
with three feet of reports stacked on his desk, it was mandatory. One
of the troubles with Popeek was its newness; it had been established so
suddenly that most of its procedures were still in the formative stage.

He took another report from the heap. This one was the data sheet of
the Zurich Euthanasia Center, and he gave it a cursory scanning. During
the past week, eleven substandard children and twenty-three substandard
adults had been sent on to Happysleep.

That was the grimmest form of population equalization. Walton initialed
the report, earmarked it for files, and dumped it in the pneumochute.

The annunciator chimed.

"I'm busy," Walton said immediately.

"There's a Mr. Prior to see you," the annunciator's calm voice said.
"He insists it's an emergency."

"Tell Mr. Prior I can't see anyone for at least three hours." Walton
stared gloomily at the growing pile of paper on his desk. "Tell him he
can have ten minutes with me at--oh, say, 1300."

Walton heard an angry male voice muttering something in the outer
office, and then the annunciator said, "He insists he must see you
immediately in reference to a Happysleep commitment."

"Commitments are irrevocable," Walton said heavily. The last thing in
the world he wanted was to see a man whose child or parent had just
been committed. "Tell Mr. Prior I can't see him at all."

Walton found his fingers trembling; he clamped them tight to the edge
of his desk to steady himself. It was all right sitting up here in this
ugly building and initialing commitment papers, but actually to _see_
one of those people and try to convince him of the need--

The door burst open.

A tall, dark-haired man in an open jacket came rushing through and
paused dramatically just over the threshold. Immediately behind him
came three unsmiling men in the gray silk-sheen uniforms of security.
They carried drawn needlers.

"Are you Administrator Walton?" the big man asked, in an astonishingly
deep, rich voice. "I have to see you. I'm Lyle Prior."

The three security men caught up and swarmed all over Prior. One of
them turned apologetically to Walton. "We're terribly sorry about this,
sir. He just broke away and ran. We can't understand how he got in
here, but he did."

"Ah--yes. So I noticed," Walton remarked drily. "See if he's planning
to assassinate anybody, will you?"

"Administrator Walton!" Prior protested. "I'm a man of peace! How can
you accuse me of--"

One of the security men hit him. Walton stiffened and resisted the urge
to reprimand the man. He was only doing his job, after all.

"Search him," Walton said.

They gave Prior an efficient going-over. "He's clean, Mr. Walton.
Should we take him to security, or downstairs to health?"

"Neither. Leave him here with me."

"Are you sure you--"

"Get out of here," Walton snapped. As the three security men slinked
away, he added, "And figure out some more efficient system for
protecting me. Some day an assassin is going to sneak through here
and get me. Not that I give a damn about myself, you understand; it's
simply that I'm indispensable. There isn't another lunatic in the world
who'd take this job. Now _get out_!"

They wasted no time in leaving. Walton waited until the door closed
and jammed down hard on the lockstud. His tirade, he knew, was wholly
unjustified; if he had remembered to lock his door as regulations
prescribed, Prior would never have broken in. But he couldn't admit
that to the guards.

"Take a seat, Mr. Prior."

"I have to thank you for granting me this audience," Prior said,
without a hint of sarcasm in his booming voice. "I realize you're a
terribly busy man."

"I am." Another three inches of paper had deposited itself on Walton's
desk since Prior had entered. "You're very lucky to have hit the
psychological moment for your entrance. At any other time I'd have
had you brigged for a month, but just now I'm in need of a little
diversion. Besides, I very much admire your work, Mr. Prior."

"Thank you." Again that humility, startling in so big and commanding a
man. "I hadn't expected to find--I mean that you--"

"That a bureaucrat should admire poetry? Is that what you're groping

Prior reddened. "Yes," he admitted.

Grinning, Walton said, "I have to do _something_ when I go home at
night. I don't really read Popeek reports twenty-four hours a day. No
more than twenty; that's my rule. I thought your last book was quite

"The critics didn't," Prior said diffidently.

"Critics! What do they know?" Walton demanded. "They swing in cycles.
Ten years ago it was form and technique, and you got the Melling Prize.
Now it's message, political content that counts. That's not poetry, Mr.
Prior--and there are still a few of us who recognize what poetry is.
Take Yeats, for instance--"

Walton was ready to launch into a discussion of every poet from Prior
back to Surrey and Wyatt; anything to keep from the job at hand,
anything to keep his mind from Popeek. But Prior interrupted him.

"Mr. Walton...."


"My son Philip ... he's two weeks old now...."

Walton understood. "No, Prior. Please don't ask." Walton's skin felt
cold; his hands, tightly clenched, were clammy.

"He was committed to Happysleep this morning--potentially tubercular.
The boy's perfectly sound, Mr. Walton. Couldn't you--"

Walton rose. "_No_," he said, half-commanding, half-pleading. "Don't
ask me to do it. I can't make any exceptions, not even for you. You're
an intelligent man; you understand our program."

"I voted for Popeek. I know all about Weeding the Garden and the
Euthanasia Plan. But I hadn't expected--"

"You thought euthanasia was a fine thing for _other_ people. So did
everyone else," Walton said. "That's how the act was passed." Tenderly
he said, "I can't do it. I can't spare your son. Our doctors give a
baby every chance to live."

"_I_ was tubercular. They cured me. What if they had practiced
euthanasia a generation ago? Where would my poems be now?"

It was an unanswerable question; Walton tried to ignore it.
"Tuberculosis is an extremely rare disease, Mr. Prior. We can wipe
it out completely if we strike at those with TB-susceptible genetic

"Meaning you'll kill any children I have?" Prior asked.

"Those who inherit your condition," Walton said gently. "Go home, Mr.
Prior. Burn me in effigy. Write a poem about me. But don't ask me to do
the impossible. I can't catch any falling stars for you."

Prior rose. He was immense, a hulking tragic figure staring broodingly
at Walton. For the first time since the poet's abrupt entry, Walton
feared violence. His fingers groped for the needle gun he kept in his
upper left desk drawer.

But Prior had no violence in him. "I'll leave you," he said somberly.
"I'm sorry, sir. Deeply sorry. For both of us."

Walton pressed the doorlock to let him out, then locked it again and
slipped heavily into his chair. Three more reports slid out of the
chute and landed on his desk. He stared at them as if they were three

In the six weeks of Popeek's existence, three thousand babies had been
ticketed for Happysleep, and three thousand sets of degenerate genes
had been wiped from the race. Ten thousand subnormal males had been
sterilized. Eight thousand dying oldsters had reached their graves
ahead of time.

It was a tough-minded program. But why transmit palsy to unborn
generations? Why let an adult idiot litter the world with subnormal
progeny? Why force a man hopelessly cancerous to linger on in pain,
consuming precious food?

Unpleasant? Sure. But the world had voted for it. Until Lang and his
team succeeded in terraforming Venus, or until the faster-than-light
outfit opened the stars to mankind, something had to be done about
Earth's overpopulation. There were seven billion now and the figure was
still growing.

Prior's words haunted him. _I was tubercular ... where would my poems
be now?_

The big humble man was one of the great poets. Keats had been
tubercular too.

_What good are poets?_ he asked himself savagely.

The reply came swiftly: _What good is anything, then?_ Keats,
Shakespeare, Eliot, Yeats, Donne, Pound, Matthews ... and Prior. How
much duller life would be without them, Walton thought, picturing
his bookshelf--his one bookshelf, in his crowded little cubicle of a
one-room home.

Sweat poured down his back as he groped toward his decision.

The step he was considering would disqualify him from his job if he
admitted it, though he wouldn't do that. Under the Equalization Law, it
would be a criminal act.

But just one baby wouldn't matter. Just one.

Prior's baby.

With nervous fingers he switched on the annunciator and said, "If there
are any calls for me, take the message. I'll be out of my office for
the next half-hour."


He stepped out of the office, glancing around furtively. The outer
office was busy: half a dozen girls were answering calls, opening
letters, coordinating activities. Walton slipped quickly past them into
the hallway.

There was a knot of fear in his stomach as he turned toward the
lift tube. Six weeks of pressure, six weeks of tension since Popeek
was organized and old man FitzMaugham had tapped him for the
second-in-command post ... and now, a rebellion. The sparing of a
single child was a small rebellion, true, but he knew he was striking
as effectively at the base of Popeek this way as if he had brought
about repeal of the entire Equalization Law.

Well, just one lapse, he promised himself. I'll spare Prior's child,
and after that I'll keep within the law.

He jabbed the lift tube indicator and the tube rose in its shaft. The
clinic was on the twentieth floor.


At the sound of the quiet voice behind him, Walton jumped in surprise.
He steadied himself, forcing himself to turn slowly. The director stood

"Good morning, Mr. FitzMaugham."

The old man was smiling serenely, his unlined face warm and friendly,
his mop of white hair bright and full. "You look preoccupied, boy.
Something the matter?"

Walton shook his head quickly. "Just a little tired, sir. There's been
a lot of work lately."

As he said it, he knew how foolish it sounded. If anyone in Popeek
worked harder than he did, it was the elderly director. FitzMaugham
had striven for equalization legislature for fifty years, and now, at
the age of eighty, he put in a sixteen-hour day at the task of saving
mankind from itself.

The director smiled. "You never did learn how to budget your strength,
Roy. You'll be a worn-out wreck before you're half my age. I'm glad
you're adopting my habit of taking a coffee break in the morning,
though. Mind if I join you?"

"I'm--not taking a break, sir. I have some work to do downstairs."

"Oh? Can't you take care of it by phone?"

"No, Mr. FitzMaugham." Walton felt as though he'd already been tried,
drawn, and quartered. "It requires personal attention."

"I see." The deep, warm eyes bored into his. "You ought to slow down a
little, I think."

"Yes, sir. As soon as the work eases up a little."

FitzMaugham chuckled. "In another century or two, you mean. I'm afraid
you'll never learn how to relax, my boy."

The lift tube arrived. Walton stepped to one side, allowed the Director
to enter, and got in himself. FitzMaugham pushed _Fourteen_; there was
a coffee shop down there. Hesitantly, Walton pushed _twenty_, covering
the panel with his arm so the old man would be unable to see his

As the tube began to descend, FitzMaugham said, "Did Mr. Prior come to
see you this morning?"

"Yes," Walton said.

"He's the poet, isn't he? The one you say is so good?"

"That's right, sir," Walton said tightly.

"He came to see me first, but I had him referred down to you. What was
on his mind?"

Walton hesitated. "He--he wanted his son spared from Happysleep.
Naturally, I had to turn him down."

"Naturally," FitzMaugham agreed solemnly. "Once we make even one
exception, the whole framework crumbles."

"Of course, sir."

The lift tube halted and rocked on its suspension. The door slid back,
revealing a neat, gleaming sign:

                              _FLOOR 20_
                     _Euthanasia Clinic and Files_

Walton had forgotten the accursed sign. He began to wish he had avoided
traveling down with the director. He felt that his purpose must seem
nakedly obvious now.

The old man's eyes were twinkling amusedly. "I guess you get off here,"
he said. "I hope you catch up with your work soon, Roy. You really
should take some time off for relaxation each day."

"I'll try, sir."

Walton stepped out of the tube and returned FitzMaugham's smile as the
door closed again. Bitter thoughts assailed him as soon as he was alone.

_Some fine criminal you are. You've given the show away already! And
damn that smooth paternal smile. FitzMaugham knows! He must know!_

Walton wavered, then abruptly made his decision. He sucked in a deep
breath and walked briskly toward the big room where the euthanasia
files were kept.

       *       *       *       *       *

The room was large, as rooms went nowadays--thirty by twenty, with deck
upon deck of Donnerson micro-memory-tubes racked along one wall and a
bank of microfilm records along the other. In six weeks of life Popeek
had piled up an impressive collection of data.

While he stood there, the computer chattered, lights flashed. New facts
poured into the memory banks. It probably went on day and night.

"Can I help--oh, it's you, Mr. Walton," a white-smocked technician
said. Popeek employed a small army of technicians, each one faceless
and without personality, but always ready to serve. "Is there anything
I can do?"

"I'm simply running a routine checkup. Mind if I use the machine?"

"Not at all, sir. Go right ahead."

Walton grinned lightly and stepped forward. The technician practically
backed out of his presence.

_No doubt I must radiate charisma_, he thought. Within the building he
wore a sort of luminous halo, by virtue of being Director FitzMaugham's
protégé and second-in-command. Outside, in the colder reality of the
crowded metropolis, he kept his identity and Popeek rank quietly to

Frowning, he tried to remember the Prior boy's name. Ah ... Philip,
wasn't it? He punched out a request for the card on Philip Prior.

A moment's pause followed, while the millions of tiny cryotronic
circuits raced with information pulses, searching the Donnerson
tubes for Philip Prior's record. Then, a brief squeaking sound and a
yellow-brown card dropped out of the slot:


    _PRIOR, Philip Hugh. Born 31 May 2232, New York General Hospital,
    New York. First son of Prior, Lyle Martin and Prior, Ava Leonard.
    Wgt. at birth 5lb. 3oz._

An elaborate description of the boy in great detail followed, ending
with blood type, agglutinating characteristic, and gene-pattern,
codified. Walton skipped impatiently through that and came to the
notification typed in curt, impersonal green capital letters at the
bottom of the card:

              _EXAMINED AT N Y EUTH CLINIC 10 JUNE 2332_

                       _EUTHANASIA RECOMMENDED_

He glanced at his watch: the time was 1026. The boy was probably still
somewhere in the clinic lab, waiting for the figurative axe to descend.

Walton had set up the schedule himself: the gas chamber delivered
Happysleep each day at 1100 and 1500. He had about half an hour to save
Philip Prior.

He peered covertly over his shoulder; no one was in sight. He slipped
the baby's card into his breast pocket.

That done, he typed out a requisition for explanation of the
gene-sorting code the clinic used. Symbols began pouring forth,
and Walton puzzledly correlated them with the line of gibberish on
Phillip Prior's record card. Finally he found the one he wanted: _3f2,

He scrapped the guide sheet he had and typed out a message to the
machine. _Revision of card number 3216847AB1 follows. Please alter in
all circuits._

He proceeded to retype the child's card, omitting both the fatal symbol
_3f2_ and the notation recommending euthanasia from the new version.
The machine beeped an acknowledgement. Walton smiled. So far, so good.

Then, he requested the boy's file all over again. After the customary
pause, a card numbered 3216847AB1 dropped out of the slot. He read it.

The deletions had been made. As far as the machine was concerned,
Philip Prior was a normal, healthy baby.

He glanced at his watch. 1037. Still twenty-three minutes before this
morning's haul of unfortunates was put away.

Now came the real test: could he pry the baby away from the doctors
without attracting too much attention to himself in the process?

       *       *       *       *       *

Five doctors were bustling back and forth as Walton entered the main
section of the clinic. There must have been a hundred babies there,
each in a little pen of its own, and the doctors were humming from one
to the next, while anxious parents watched from screens above.

The Equalization Law provided that every child be presented at its
local clinic within two weeks of birth, for an examination and a
certificate. Perhaps one in ten thousand would be denied a
certificate ... and life.

"Hello, Mr. Walton. What brings you down here?"

Walton smiled affably. "Just a routine investigation, Doctor. I try to
keep in touch with every department we have, you know."

"Mr. FitzMaugham was down here to look around a little while ago. We're
really getting a going-over today, Mr. Walton!"

"Umm. Yes." Walton didn't like that, but there was nothing he could
do about it. He'd have to rely on the old man's abiding faith in his
protégé to pull him out of any possible stickiness that arose.

"Seen my brother around?" he asked.

"Fred? He's working in room seven, running analyses. Want me to get him
for you, Mr. Walton?"

"No--no, don't bother him, thanks. I'll find him later." Inwardly,
Walton felt relieved. Fred Walton, his younger brother, was a doctor in
the employ of Popeek. Little love was lost between the brothers, and
Roy did not care to have Fred know he was down there.

Strolling casually through the clinic, he peered at a few plump,
squalling babies, and said, "Find many sour ones today?"

"Seven so far. They're scheduled for the 1100 chamber. Three tuberc,
two blind, one congenital syph."

"That only makes six," Walton said.

"Oh, and a spastic," the doctor said. "Biggest haul we've had yet.
Seven in one morning."

"Have any trouble with the parents?"

"What do you think?" the doctor asked. "But some of them seemed to
understand. One of the tuberculars nearly raised the roof, though."

Walton shuddered. "You remember his name?" he asked, with feigned calm.

Silence for a moment. "No. Darned if I can think of it. I can look it
up for you if you like."

"Don't bother," Walton said hurriedly.

He moved on, down the winding corridor that led to the execution
chamber. Falbrough, the executioner, was studying a list of names at
his desk when Walton appeared.

Falbrough didn't look like the sort of man who would enjoy his work. He
was short and plump, with a high-domed bald head and glittering contact
lenses in his weak blue eyes. "Morning, Mr. Walton."

"Good morning, Doctor Falbrough. You'll be operating soon, won't you?"

"Eleven hundred, as usual."

"Good. There's a new regulation in effect from now on," Walton said.
"To keep public opinion on our side."


"Henceforth, until further notice, you're to check each baby that
comes to you against the main file, just to make sure there's been no
mistake. Got that?"

"_Mistake?_ But how--"

"Never mind that, Falbrough. There was quite a tragic slip-up at one
of the European centers yesterday. We may all hang for it if news gets
out." _How glibly I reel this stuff off_, Walton thought in amazement.

Falbrough looked grave. "I see, sir. Of course. We'll double-check
everything from now on."

"Good. Begin with the 1100 batch."

Walton couldn't bear to remain down in the clinic any longer. He left
via a side exit, and signaled for a lift tube.

Minutes later he was back in his office, behind the security of a
towering stack of work. His pulse was racing; his throat was dry. He
remembered what FitzMaugham had said: _Once we make even one exception,
the whole framework crumbles._

Well, the framework had begun crumbling, then. And there was little
doubt in Walton's mind that FitzMaugham knew or would soon know what he
had done. He would have to cover his traces, somehow.

The annunciator chimed and said, "Dr. Falbrough of Happysleep calling
you, sir."

"Put him on."

The screen lit and Falbrough's face appeared; its normal blandness had
given way to wild-eyed tenseness.

"What is it, Doctor?"

"It's a good thing you issued that order when you did, sir! You'll
never guess what just happened--"

"No guessing games, Falbrough. Speak up."

"I--well, sir, I ran checks on the seven babies they sent me this
morning. And guess--I mean--well, one of them shouldn't have been sent
to me!"


"It's the truth, sir. A cute little baby indeed. I've got his card
right here. The boy's name is Philip Prior, and his gene-pattern is

"Any recommendation for euthanasia on the card?" Walton asked.

"No, sir."

Walton chewed at a ragged cuticle for a moment, counterfeiting great
anxiety. "Falbrough, we're going to have to keep this very quiet.
Someone slipped up in the examining room, and if word gets out that
there's been as much as one mistake, we'll have a mob swarming over us
in half an hour."

"Yes, sir." Falbrough looked terribly grave. "What should I do, sir?"

"Don't say a word about this to _anyone_, not even the men in the
examining room. Fill out a certificate for the boy, find his parents,
apologize and return him to them. And make sure you keep checking for
any future cases of this sort."

"Certainly, sir. Is that all?"

"It is," Walton said crisply, and broke the contact. He took a deep
breath and stared bleakly at the far wall.

The Prior boy was safe. And in the eyes of the law--the Equalization
Law--Roy Walton was now a criminal. He was every bit as much a criminal
as the man who tried to hide his dying father from the investigators,
or the anxious parents who attempted to bribe an examining doctor.

He felt curiously dirty. And, now that he had betrayed FitzMaugham and
the Cause, now that it was done, he had little idea why he had done
it, why he had jeopardized the Popeek program, his position--his life,
even--for the sake of one potentially tubercular baby.

Well, the thing was done.

No. Not quite. Later, when things had quieted down, he would have to
finish the job by transferring all the men in the clinic to distant
places and by obliterating the computer's memories of this morning's

The annunciator chimed again. "Your brother is on the wire, sir."

Walton trembled imperceptibly as he said, "Put him on." Somehow, Fred
never called unless he could say or do something unpleasant. And
Walton was very much afraid that his brother meant no good by this
call. No good at all.


Roy Walton watched his brother's head and shoulders take form out of
the swirl of colors on the screen. Fred Walton was more compact, built
closer to the ground than his rangy brother; he was a squat five-seven,
next to Roy's lean six-two. Fred had always threatened to "get even"
with his older brother as soon as they were the same size, but to
Fred's great dismay he had never managed to catch up with Roy in height.

Even on the screen, Fred's neck and shoulders gave an impression of
tremendous solidity and force. Walton waited for his brother's image to
take shape, and when the time lag was over he said, "Well, Fred? What

His brother's eyes flickered sleepily. "They tell me you were down here
a little while ago, Roy. How come I didn't rate a visit?"

"I wasn't in your section. It was official business, anyway. I didn't
have time."

Walton fixed his eyes sharply on the caduceus emblem gleaming on Fred's
lapel, and refused to look anywhere else.

Fred said slowly, "You had time to tinker with our computer, though."

"Official business!"

"Really, Roy?" His brother's tone was venomous. "I happened to
be using the computer shortly after you this morning. I was
curious--unpardonably so, dear brother. I requested a transcript of
your conversation with the machine."

Sparks seemed to flow from the screen. Walton sat back, feeling numb.
He managed to pull his sagging mouth back into a stiff hard line and
say, "That's a criminal offense, Fred. Any use I make of a Popeek
computer outlet is confidential."

"Criminal offence? Maybe so ... but that makes two of us, then. Eh,

"How much do you know?"

"You wouldn't want me to recite it over a public communications system,
would you? Your friend FitzMaugham might be listening to every word of
this, and I have too much fraternal feeling for that. Ole Doc Walton
doesn't want to get his bigwig big brother in trouble--oh, no!"

"Thanks for small blessings," Roy said acidly.

"You got me this job. You can take it away. Let's call it even for now,
shall we?"

"Anything you like," Walton said. He was drenched in sweat, though
the ingenious executive filter in the sending apparatus of the screen
cloaked that fact and presented him as neat and fresh. "I have some
work to do now." His voice was barely audible.

"I won't keep you any longer, then," Fred said.

The screen went dead.

Walton killed the contact at his end, got up, walked to the window. He
nudged the opaquer control and the frosty white haze over the glass
cleared away, revealing the fantastic beehive of the city outside.

_Idiot!_ he thought. _Fool!_

He had risked everything to save one baby, one child probably doomed
to an early death anyway. And FitzMaugham knew--the old man could see
through Walton with ease--and Fred knew, too. His brother, and his

FitzMaugham might well choose to conceal Roy's defection this time,
but would surely place less trust in him in the future. And as for

There was no telling what Fred might do. They had never been
particularly close as brothers; they had lived with their parents (now
almost totally forgotten) until Roy was nine and Fred seven. Their
parents had gone down off Maracaibo in a jet crash; Roy and Fred had
been sent to the public crèche.

After that it had been separate paths for the brothers. For Roy, an
education in the law, a short spell as Senator FitzMaugham's private
secretary, followed last month by his sudden elevation to assistant
administrator of the newly-created Popeek Bureau. For Fred, medicine,
unsuccessful private practice, finally a job in the Happysleep section
of Popeek, thanks to Roy.

_And now he has the upper hand for the first time_, Walton thought. _I
hope he's not thirsting for my scalp._

He was being ground in a vise; he saw now the gulf between the
toughness needed for a Popeek man and the very real streak of softness
that was part of his character. Walton suddenly realized that he had
never merited his office. His only honorable move would be to offer his
resignation to FitzMaugham at once.

He thought back, thought of the Senator saying, _This is a job for a
man with no heart. Popeek is the cruelest organization ever legislated
by man. You think you can handle it, Roy?_

_I think so, sir. I hope so._

He remembered going on to declare some fuzzy phrases about the need
for equalization, the immediate necessity for dealing with Earth's
population problem.

_Temporary cruelty is the price of eternal happiness_, FitzMaugham had

Walton remembered the day when the United Nations had finally
agreed, had turned the Population Equalization Bureau loose on a
stunned world. There had been the sharp flare of flash guns, the
clatter of reporters feeding the story to the world, the momentary
high-mindedness, the sense of the nobility of Popeek....

And then the six weeks of gathering hatred. No one liked Popeek. No one
liked to put antiseptic on wounds, either, but it had to be done.

Walton shook his head sorrowfully. He had made a serious mistake by
saving Philip Prior. But resigning his post was no way to atone for it.

He opaqued the window again and returned to his desk. It was time to go
through the mail.

The first letter on the stack was addressed to him by hand; he slit it
open and scanned it.

    _Dear Mr Walton_,

    _Yesterday your men came and took away my mother to be kild. She
    didn't do nothing and lived a good life for seventy years and I want
    you to know I think you people are the biggest vermin since Hitler
    and Stalin and when youre old and sick I hope your own men come for
    you and stick you in the furnace where you belong. You stink and
    all of you stink._

    Signed, _Disgusted_

Walton shrugged and opened the next letter, typed in a crisp voicewrite
script on crinkly watermarked paper.


    _I see by the papers that the latest euthanasia figures are the
    highest yet, and that you have successfully rid the world of many
    of its weak sisters, those who are unable to stand the gaff, those
    who, in the words of the immortal Darwin "are not fit to survive."
    My heartiest congratulations, sir, upon the scope and ambition of
    your bold and courageous program. Your Bureau offers mankind its
    first real chance to enter that promised land, that Utopia, that
    has been our hope and prayer for so long._

    _I do sincerely hope, though, that your Bureau is devoting careful
    thought to the type of citizen that should be spared. It seems
    obvious that the myriad spawning Asiatics should be reduced
    tremendously, since their unchecked proliferation has caused such
    great hardship to humanity. The same might be said of the Europeans
    who refuse to obey the demands of sanity; and, coming closer to
    home, I pray you reduce the numbers of Jews, Catholics, Communists,
    anti-Herschelites, and other freethinking rabble, in order to make
    the new reborn world purer and cleaner and ..._

With a sickly cough Walton put the letter down. Most of them were just
this sort: intelligent, rational, bigoted letters. There had been the
educated Alabamian, disturbed that Popeek did not plan to eliminate all
forms of second-class citizens; there had been the Michigan minister,
anxious that no left-wing relativistic atheists escape the gas chamber.

And, of course, there were the other kind--the barely literate letters
from bereaved parents or relatives, accusing Popeek of nameless crimes
against humanity.

Well, it was only to be expected, Walton thought. He scribbled his
initials on both the letters and dropped them into the chute that led
to files, where they would be put on microfilm and scrupulously stored
away. FitzMaugham insisted that every letter received be read and so

Some day soon, Walton thought, population equalization would be
unnecessary. Oh, sure, euthanasia would stick; it was a sane and, in
the long run, merciful process. But this business of uprooting a few
thousand Belgians and shipping them to the open spaces in Patagonia
would cease.

Lang and his experimenters were struggling to transform Venus into a
livable world. If it worked, the terraforming engineers could go on to
convert Mars, the bigger moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and perhaps even
distant Pluto, if some form of heating could be developed.

There would be another transition then. Earth's multitudes would be
shipped wholesale to the new worlds. Perhaps there would be riots; none
but a few adventurers would go willingly. But some would go, and that
would be a partial solution.

And then, the stars. The faster-than-light project was top secret, so
top secret that in Popeek only FitzMaugham knew what was being done on
it. But if it came through....

Walton shrugged and turned back to his work. Reports had to be read,
filed, expedited.

The thought of Fred and what Fred knew bothered him. If only there
were some way to relive this morning, to let the Prior baby go to the
chamber as it deserved....

Tension pounded in him. He slipped a hand into his desk, fumbled, found
the green, diamond-shaped pellet he was searching for, and swallowed
the benzolurethrin almost unthinkingly. The tranquilizer was only
partly successful in relaxing him, but he was able to work steadily,
without a break, until noon.

He was about to dial for lunch when the private screen he and
FitzMaugham used between their offices glowed into life.


The director's face looked impossibly tranquil.


"I'm going to have a visitor at 1300. Ludwig. He wants to know how
things are going."

Walton nodded. Ludwig was the head American delegate to the United
Nations, a stubborn, dedicated man who had fought Popeek for years;
then he had seen the light and had fought just as strenuously for its
adoption. "Do you want me to prepare a report for him?" Walton asked.

"No, Roy. I want you to be here. I don't want to face him alone."


"Some of the UN people feel I'm running Popeek as a one-man show,"
FitzMaugham explained. "Of course, that's not so, as that mountain of
work on your desk testifies. But I want you there as evidence of the
truth. I want him to see how much I have to rely on my assistants."

"I get it. Very good, Mr. FitzMaugham."

"And another thing," the Director went on. "It'll help appearances if
I show myself surrounded with loyal young lieutenants of impeccable
character. Like you, Roy."

"Thank you, sir," Walton said weakly.

"Thank _you_. See you at 1300 sharp, then?"

"Of course, sir."

The screen went dead. Walton stared at it blankly. He wondered if this
were some elaborate charade of the old man's; FitzMaugham was devious
enough. That last remark, about loyal young lieutenants of impeccable
character ... it had seemed to be in good faith, but was it? Was
FitzMaugham staging an intricate pretense before deposing his faithless

Maybe Fred had something to do with it, Walton thought. He decided
to have another session with the computer after his conference with
FitzMaugham and Ludwig. Perhaps it still wasn't too late to erase the
damning data and cover his mistake.

Then it would be just his word against Fred's. He might yet be able to
brazen through, he thought dully.

He ordered lunch with quivering fingers, and munched drearily on the
tasteless synthetics for awhile before dumping them down the disposal


At precisely 1255 Walton tidied his desk, rose and for the second time
that day, left his office. He was apprehensive, but not unduly so;
behind his immediate surface fears and tensions lay a calm certainty
that FitzMaugham ultimately would stick by him.

And there was little to fear from Fred, he realized now. It was next to
impossible for a mere lower-level medic to gain the ear of the director
himself; in the normal course of events, if Fred attempted to contact
FitzMaugham, he would automatically be referred to Roy.

No; the danger in Fred's knowledge was potential, not actual, and there
might still be time to come to terms with him. It was almost with a
jaunty step that Walton left his office, made his way through the busy
outer office, and emerged in the outside corridor.

Fred was waiting there.

He was wearing his white medic's smock, stained yellow and red by
reagents and coagulants. He was lounging against the curving plastine
corridor wall, hands jammed deep into his pockets. His thick-featured,
broad face wore an expression of elaborate casualness.

"Hello, Roy. Fancy finding _you_ here!"

"How did you know I'd be coming this way?"

"I called your office. They told me you were on your way to the lift
tubes. Why so jumpy, brother? Have a tough morning?"

"I've had worse," Walton said. He was tense, guarded. He pushed the
stud beckoning the lift tube.

"Where you off to?" Fred asked.

"Confidential. Top-level powwow with Fitz, if you have to know."

Fred's eyes narrowed. "Strictly upper-echelon, aren't you? Do you have
a minute to talk to a mere mortal?"

"Fred, don't make unnecessary trouble. You know--"

"_Can it._ I've only got a minute or two left of my lunch hour. I want
to make myself perfectly plain with you. Are there any spy pickups in
this corridor?"

Walton considered that. There were none that he knew of, and he knew of
most. Still, FitzMaugham might have found it advisable to plant a few
without advertising the fact. "I'm not sure," he said. "What's on your

Fred took a pad from his pocket and began to scrawl a note. Aloud he
said, "I'll take my chances and tell you about it anyway. One of the
men in the lab said another man told him you and FitzMaugham are both
secretly Herschelites." His brow furrowed with the effort of saying one
thing and writing another simultaneously. "Naturally, I won't give you
any names yet, but I want you to know I'm investigating his background
very carefully. He may just have been shooting his mouth off."

"Is that why you didn't want this to go into a spy pickup?" Walton

"Exactly. I prefer to investigate unofficially for the time being."
Fred finished the note, ripped the sheet from the pad and handed it to
his brother.

Walton read it wordlessly. The handwriting was jagged and untidy, for
it was no easy feat to carry on a conversation for the benefit of any
concealed pickups while writing a message.

It said, _I know all about the Prior baby. I'll keep my mouth shut
for now, so don't worry. But don't try anything foolish, because I've
deposited an account of the whole thing where you can't find it._

Walton crumpled the note and tucked it into his pocket. He said,
"Thanks for the information, Fred. I'll keep it in mind."

"Okay, pal."

The lift tube arrived. Walton stepped inside and pressed _twenty-nine_.

In the moment it took for the tube to rise the one floor, he thought,
_So Fred's playing a waiting game.... He'll hold the information over
my head until he can make good use of it._

That was some relief, anyway. No matter what evidence Fred had already
salted away, Walton still had a chance to blot out some of the
computer's memory track and obscure the trail to that extent.

       *       *       *       *       *

The lift tube opened; a gleaming sign listed the various activities of
the twenty-ninth floor, and at the bottom of the list it said _D. F.
FitzMaugham, Director_.

FitzMaugham's office was at the back of a maze of small cubicles
housing Popeek functionaries of one sort or another. Walton had
made some attempt to familiarize himself with the organizational
stratification of Popeek, but his success thus far had been minimal.
FitzMaugham had conceived the plan half a century ago, and had lovingly
created and worked over the organization's structure through all the
long years it took before the law was finally passed.

There were plenty of bugs in the system, but in general FitzMaugham's
blueprint had been sound--sound enough for Popeek to begin functioning
almost immediately after its UN approval. The manifold departments, the
tight network of inter-reporting agencies, the fantastically detailed
budget with its niggling appropriations for office supplies and its
massive expenditures for, say, the terraforming project--most of these
were fully understood only by FitzMaugham himself.

Walton glanced at his watch. He was three minutes late; the
conversation with his brother had delayed him. But Ludwig of the UN
was not known to be a scrupulously punctual man, and there was a high
probability he hadn't arrived.

The secretary in the office guarding FitzMaugham's looked up as Walton
approached. "The director is in urgent conference, sir, and--oh, I'm
sorry, Mr. Walton. Go right in; Mr. FitzMaugham is expecting you."

"Is Mr. Ludwig here yet?"

"Yes, sir. He arrived about ten minutes ago."

Curious, Walton thought. From what he knew of Ludwig he wasn't the man
to arrive early for an appointment. Walton and FitzMaugham had had
plenty of dealings with him in the days before Popeek was approved, and
never once had Ludwig been on time.

Walton shrugged. If Ludwig could switch his stand so decisively from an
emphatic anti-Popeek to an even more emphatic pro-Popeek, perhaps he
could change in other respects as well.

Walton stepped within the field of the screener. His image, he knew,
was being relayed inside where FitzMaugham could scrutinize him
carefully before admitting him. The director was very touchy about
admitting people to his office.

Five seconds passed; it usually took no more than that for FitzMaugham
to admit him. But there was no sign from within, and Walton coughed

Still no answer. He turned away and walked over to the desk where the
secretary sat dictating into a voicewrite. He waited for her to finish
her sentence, then touched her arm lightly.

"Yes, Mr. Walton?"

"The screen transmission seems to be out of order. Would you mind
calling Mr. FitzMaugham on the annunciator and telling him I'm here?"

"Of course, sir."

Her fingers deftly flipped the switches. He waited for her to announce
him, but she paused and looked back at Walton. "He doesn't acknowledge,
Mr. Walton. He must be awfully busy."

"He _has_ to acknowledge. Ring him again."

"I'm sorry, sir, but--"

"_Ring him again._"

She rang, reluctantly, without any response. FitzMaugham preferred the
sort of annunciator that had to be acknowledged; Walton allowed the
girl to break in on his privacy without the formality of a return buzz.

"Still no answer, sir."

Walton was growing impatient. "Okay, devil take the acknowledgment.
Break in on him and tell him I'm waiting out here. My presence is
important inside."

"Sir, Mr. FitzMaugham absolutely forbids anyone to use the annunciator
without his acknowledgment," the girl protested.

He felt his neck going red. "I'll take the responsibility."

"I'm sorry, sir--"

"All right. Get away from that machine and let _me_ talk to him. If
there are repercussions, tell him I forced you at gunpoint."

She backed away, horrified, and he slid in behind the desk. He made
contact; there was no acknowledgment. He said, "Mr. FitzMaugham, this
is Roy. I'm outside your office now. Should I come in, or not?"

Silence. He stared thoughtfully at the apparatus.

"I'm going in there," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

The door was of solid-paneled imitation wood, a couple of inches thick
and probably filled with a good sturdy sheet of beryllium steel.
FitzMaugham liked protection.

Walton contemplated the door for a moment. Stepping into the screener
field, he said, "Mr. FitzMaugham? Can you hear me?" In the ensuing
silence he went on, "This is Walton. I'm outside with a blaster, and
unless I get any orders to the contrary, I'm going to break into your

Silence. This was very extraordinary indeed. He wondered if it were
part of some trap of FitzMaugham's. Well, he'd find out soon enough. He
adjusted the blaster aperture to short-range wide-beam, and turned it
on. A soft even flow of heat bathed the door.

Quite a crowd of curious onlookers had gathered by now, at a respectful
distance. Walton maintained the steady heat. The synthetic wood was
sloughing away in dribbly blue masses as the radiation broke it down;
the sheet of metal in the heart of the door was gleaming bright red.

The lock became visible now. Walton concentrated the flame there, and
the door creaked and groaned.

He snapped the blaster off, pocketed it, and kicked the door soundly.
It swung open.

He had a momentary glimpse of a blood-soaked white head slumped over a
broad desk--and then someone hit him amidships.

He was a man about his own height, wearing a blue suit woven through
with glittering gold threads; Walton's mind caught the details with odd
clarity. The man's face was distorted with fear and shock, but Walton
recognized it clearly enough. The ruddy cheeks, the broad nose and
bushy eyebrows, belonged to Ludwig.

The UN man. The man who had just assassinated Director FitzMaugham.

He was battering his fists into Walton, struggling to get past him and
through the wrecked door, to escape somewhere, anywhere. Walton grunted
as a fist crashed into his stomach. He reeled backward, gagging and
gasping, but managed to keep his hand on the other's coat. Desperately
he pulled Ludwig to him. In the suddenness of the encounter he had no
time to evaluate what had happened, no time to react to FitzMaugham's

His one thought was that Ludwig had to be subdued.

His fist cracked into the other's mouth; sharp pain shot up through his
hand at the impact of knuckles against teeth. Ludwig sagged. Walton
realized that he was blocking the doorway; not only was he preventing
Ludwig from escaping, he was also making it impossible for anyone
outside to come to his own aid.

Blindly he clubbed his fist down on Ludwig's neck, spun him around,
crashed another blow into the man's midsection. Suddenly Ludwig pulled
away from him and ran back behind the director's desk.

Walton followed him ... and stopped short as he saw the UN man pause,
quiver tremulously, and topple to the floor. He sprawled grotesquely on
the deep beige carpet, shook for a moment, then was still.

Walton gasped for breath. His clothes were torn, he was sticky with
sweat and blood, his heart was pounding from unaccustomed exertion.

_Ludwig's killed the director_, he thought leadenly. _And now Ludwig's

He leaned against the doorpost. He was conscious of figures moving past
him, going into the room, examining FitzMaugham and the figure on the

"Are you all right?" a crisp, familiar voice asked.

"Pretty winded," Walton admitted.

"Have some water."

Walton accepted the drink, gulped it, looked up at the man who had
spoken. "Ludwig! How in hell's name--"

"A double," the UN man said. "Come over here and look at him."

Ludwig led him to the pseudo-Ludwig on the floor. It was an incredible
resemblance. Two or three of the office workers had rolled the body
over; the jaws were clenched stiffly, the face frozen in an agonized

"He took poison," Ludwig said. "I don't imagine he expected to get out
of here alive. But he did his work well. God, I wish I'd been on time
for once in my life!"

Walton glanced numbly from the dead Ludwig on the floor to the live
one standing opposite him. His shocked mind realized dimly what had
happened. The assassin, masked to look like Ludwig, had arrived at
1300, and had been admitted to the director's office. He had killed the
old man, and then had remained inside the office, either hoping to make
an escape later in the day, or perhaps simply waiting for the poison to
take effect.

"It was bound to happen," Ludwig said. "They've been gunning for the
senator for years. And now that Popeek was passed...."

Walton looked involuntarily at the desk, mirror bright and uncluttered
as always. Director FitzMaugham was sprawled forward, hands
half-clenched, arms spread. His impressive mane of white hair was
stained with his own blood. He had been clubbed--the simplest, crudest
sort of murder.

Emotional reaction began. Walton wanted to break things, to cry, to let
off steam somehow. But there were too many people present; the office,
once sacrosanct, had miraculously become full of Popeek workers,
policemen, secretaries, possibly some telefax reporters.

Walton recovered a shred of his authority. "All of you, _outside_!" he
said loudly. He recognized Sellors, the building's security chief, and
added, "Except you, Sellors. You can stay here."

The crowd melted away magically. Now there were just five in the
office--Sellors, Ludwig, Walton, and the two corpses.

Ludwig said, "Do you have any idea who might be behind this, Mr.

"I don't know," he said wearily. "There are thousands who'd have wanted
to kill the director. Maybe it was a Herschelite plot. There'll be a
full investigation."

"Mind stepping out of the way, sir?" Sellors asked. "I'd like to take
some photos."

Walton and Ludwig moved to one side as the security man went to work.
It was inevitable, Walton thought, that this would happen. FitzMaugham
had been the living symbol of Popeek.

He walked to the battered door, reflecting that he would have it
repaired at once. That thought led naturally to a new one, but before
it was fully formed in his own mind, Ludwig voiced it.

"This is a terrible tragedy," the UN man said. "But one mitigating
factor exists. I'm sure Mr. FitzMaugham's successor will be a fitting
one. I'm confident you'll be able to carry on FitzMaugham's great work
quite capably, Mr. Walton."


The new sign on the office door said:

                             _ROY WALTON_
                          _Interim Director_
                  _Bureau of Population Equalization_

He had argued against putting it up there, on the grounds that his
appointment was strictly temporary, pending a meeting of the General
Assembly to choose a new head for Popeek. But Ludwig had maintained it
might be weeks or months before such a meeting could be held and that
there was no harm in identifying his office.

"Everything under control?" the UN man asked.

Walton eyed him unhappily. "I guess so. Now all I have to do is start
figuring out how Mr. FitzMaugham's filing system worked, and I'll be
all set."

"You mean you don't know?"

"Mr. FitzMaugham took very few people into his confidence," Walton
said. "Popeek was his special brain-child. He had lived with it so long
he thought its workings were self-evident to everyone. There'll be a
period of adjustment."

"Of course," Ludwig said.

"This conference you were going to have with the director yesterday
when he--ah, what was it about?" Walton asked.

The UN man shrugged. "It's irrelevant now, I suppose. I wanted to find
out how Popeek's subsidiary research lines were coming along. But I
guess you'll have to go through Mr. FitzMaugham's files before you know
anything, eh?" Ludwig stared at him sharply.

Suddenly, Walton did not like the cheerful UN man.

"There'll be a certain period of adjustment," he repeated. "I'll let
you know when I'm ready to answer questions about Popeek."

"Of course. I didn't mean to imply any criticism of you or of the late
director or of Popeek, Mr. Walton."

"Naturally. I understand, Mr. Ludwig."

Ludwig took his leave at last, and Walton was alone in the late Mr.
FitzMaugham's office for the first time since the assassination. He
spread his hands on the highly polished desk and twisted his wrists
outward in a tense gesture. His fingers made squeaking sounds as they
rubbed the wood surface.

It had been an uneasy afternoon yesterday, after the nightmare of the
assassination and the subsequent security inquisition. Walton, wrung
dry, had gone home early, leaving Popeek headless for two hours. The
newsblares in the jetbus had been programmed with nothing but talk of
the killing.

"A brutal hand today struck down the revered D. F. FitzMaugham,
eighty-one, Director of Population Equalization. Security officials
report definite prospects of solution of the shocking crime, and...."

The other riders in the bus had been vehemently outspoken.

"It's about time they let him have it," a fat woman in sleazy old
clothes said. "That baby killer!"

"I knew they'd get him sooner or later," offered a thin, wispy-haired
old man. "They _had_ to."

"Rumor going around he was really a Herschelite...."

"Some new kid is taking over Popeek, they say. They'll get him too,
mark my words."

Walton, huddling in his seat, pulled up his collar, and tried to shut
his ears. It didn't work.

_They'll get him too, mark my words._

He hadn't forgotten that prophecy by the time he reached his cubicle in
upper Manhattan. The harsh words had drifted through his restless sleep
all night.

Now, behind the safety of his office door, he thought of them again.

He couldn't hide. It hadn't worked for FitzMaugham, and it wouldn't for

Hiding wasn't the answer. Walton smiled grimly. If martyrdom were
in store for him, let martyrdom come. The work of Popeek had to go
forward. He decided he would conduct as much of his official business
as possible by screen; but when personal contact was necessary, he
would make no attempt to avoid it.

He glanced around FitzMaugham's office. The director had been a product
of the last century, and he had seen nothing ugly in the furnishings
of the Cullen Building. Unlike Walton, then, he had not had his office

That would be one of the first tasks--to replace the clumsy battery of
tungsten-filament incandescents with a wall of electroluminescents, to
replace the creaking sash windows with some decent opaquers, to get rid
of the accursed gingerbread trimming that offended the eye in every
direction. The _thunkety-thunk_ air-conditioner would have to go too;
he'd have a molecusorter installed in a day or two.

The redecorating problems were the minor ones. It was the task of
filling FitzMaugham's giant shoes, even on an interim basis, that
staggered Walton.

He fumbled in the desk for a pad and stylus. This was going to call for
an agenda. Hastily he wrote:

    _1. Cancel F's appointments_
    _2. Investigate setup in Files_
        _a) Lang terraforming project_
        _b) faster-than-light_
        _c) budget--stretchable?_
        _d) locate spy pickups in building_
    _3. Meeting with section chiefs_
    _4. Press conference with telefax services_
    _5. See Ludwig ... straighten things out_
    _6. Redecorate office_

He thought for a moment, then erased a few of his numbers and changed
_Press conference_ to _6._ and _Redecorate office_ to _4._ He licked
the stylus and wrote in at the very top of the paper:

    _0. Finish Prior affair._

In a way, FitzMaugham's assassination had taken Walton off the hook
on the Prior case. Whatever FitzMaugham suspected about Walton's
activities yesterday morning no longer need trouble him. If the
director had jotted down a memorandum on the subject, Walton would be
able to find and destroy it when he went through FitzMaugham's files
later. And if the dead man had merely kept the matter in his head,
well, then it was safely at rest in the crematorium.

Walton groped in his jacket pocket and found the note his brother had
slipped to him at lunchtime the day before. In the rush of events,
Walton had not had a chance to destroy it.

Now, he read it once more, ripped it in half, ripped it again, and
fed one quarter of the note into the disposal chute. He would get rid
of the rest at fifteen-minute intervals, and he would defy anyone
monitoring the disposal units to locate all four fragments.

Actually, he realized he was being overcautious. This was Director
FitzMaugham's office and FitzMaugham's disposal chute. The director
wouldn't have arranged to have his _own_ chute monitored, would he?

Or would he? There was never any telling, with FitzMaugham. The old man
had been terribly devious in every maneuver he made.

The room had the dry, crisp smell of the detecting devices that had
been used--the close-to-the-ground, ugly metering-robots that had
crawled all over the floor, sniffing up footprints and stray dandruff
flakes for analysis, the chemical cleansers that had mopped the blood
out of the rug. Walton cursed at the air-conditioner that was so
inefficiently removing these smells from the air.

The annunciator chimed. Walton waited impatiently for a voice, then
remembered that FitzMaugham had doggedly required an acknowledgment.
He opened the channel and said, "This is Walton. In the future no
acknowledgment will be necessary."

"Yes, sir. There's a reporter from _Citizen_ here, and one from Globe

"Tell them I'm not seeing anyone today. Here, I'll give them a
statement. Tell them the Gargantuan task of picking up the reins where
the late, great Director FitzMaugham dropped them is one that will
require my full energy for the next several days. I'll be happy to hold
my first official press conference as soon as Popeek is once again
moving on an even keel. Got that?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Make sure they print it. And--oh, listen. If anyone shows up
today or tomorrow who had an appointment with Director FitzMaugham,
tell him approximately the same thing. Not in those flowery words, of
course, but give him the gist of it. I've got a lot of catching up to
do before I can see people."

"Certainly, Director Walton."

He grinned at the sound of those words, _Director Walton_. Turning away
from the annunciator, he took out his agenda and checked off number
one, _Cancel FitzMaugham's appointments_.

Frowning, he realized he had better add a seventh item to the list:
_Appoint new assistant administrator_. Someone would have to handle his
old job.

But now, top priority went to the item ticketed zero on the list:
_Finish Prior affair_. He'd never be in a better position to erase the
evidence of yesterday's illegality than he was right now.

"Connect me with euthanasia files, please."

A moment later a dry voice said, "Files."

"Files, this is Acting Director Walton. I'd like a complete transcript
of your computer's activities for yesterday morning between 0900 and
1200, with each separate activity itemized. How soon can I have it?"

"Within minutes, Director Walton."

"Good. Send it sealed, by closed circuit. There's some top-level stuff
on that transcript. If the seal's not intact when it gets here, I'll
shake up the whole department."

"Yes, sir. Anything else, sir?"

"No, that'll be--on second thought, yes. Send up a list of all doctors
who were examining babies in the clinic yesterday morning."

       *       *       *       *       *

He waited. While he waited, he went through the top layer of memoranda
in FitzMaugham's desk.

There was a note on top which read, _Appointment with Lamarre, 11
June--1215. Must be firm with him, and must handle with great delicacy.
Perhaps time to let Walton know._

Hmm, that was interesting, Walton thought. He had no idea who Lamarre
might be, but FitzMaugham had drawn a spidery little star in the
upper-right-hand corner of the memo sheet, indicating crash priority.

He flipped on the annunciator. "There's a Mr. Lamarre who had an
appointment with Director FitzMaugham for 1215 today. If he calls, tell
him I can't see him today but will honor the appointment tomorrow at
the same time. If he shows up, tell him the same thing."

His watch said it was time to dispose of another fragment of Fred's
message. He stuffed it into the disposal chute.

A moment later the green light flashed over the arrival bin;
FitzMaugham had not been subject, as Walton had been in his previous
office, to cascades of material arriving without warning.

Walton drew a sealed packet from the bin. He examined the seal
and found it untampered, which was good; it meant the packet had
come straight from the computer, and had not even been read by the
technician in charge. With it was a typed list of five names--the
doctors who had been in the lab the day before.

Breaking open the packet, Walton discovered seven closely-typed sheets
with a series of itemized actions on them. He ran through them quickly,
discarding sheets one, two, and three, which dealt with routine
activities of the computer in the early hours of the previous day.

Item seventy-three was his request for Philip Prior's record card. He
checked that one off.

Item seventy-four was his requisition for the key to the clinic's
gene-sorting code.

Item seventy-five was his revision of Philip Prior's records, omitting
all reference to his tubercular condition and to the euthanasia
recommendation. Item seventy-six was the acknowledgment of this

Item seventy-seven was his request for the boy's record card--this
time, the amended one. The five items were dated and timed; the
earliest was 1025, the latest 1037, all on June tenth.

Walton bracketed the five items thoughtfully, and scanned the rest of
the page. Nothing of interest there, just more routine business. But
item ninety-two, timed at 1102, was an intriguing one:

_92: Full transcript of morning's transactions issued at request of Dr.
Frederic Walton, 932K104AZ._

Fred hadn't been bluffing, then; he actually had possession of all the
damning evidence. But when one dealt with a computer and with Donnerson
micro-memory-tubes, the past was an extremely fluid entity.

"I want a direct line to the computer on floor twenty," he said.

After a brief lag a technician appeared on the screen. It was the same
one he had spoken to earlier.

"There's been an error in the records," Walton said. "An error I
wouldn't want to perpetuate. Will you set me up so I can feed a direct
order into the machine?"

"Certainly, sir. Go ahead, sir."

"This is top secret. Vanish."

The technician vanished. Walton said, "Items seventy-three through
seventy-seven on yesterday morning's record tape are to be deleted,
and the information carried in those tubes is to be deleted as well.
Furthermore, there is to be no record made of this transaction."

The voicewrite on floor twenty clattered briefly, and the order
funneled into the computer. Walton waited a moment, tensely. Then he
said, "All right, technician. Come back in where I can see you."

The technician appeared. Walton said, "I'm running a check now. Have
the machine prepare another transcript of yesterday's activities
between 0900 and 1200, and also one of today's doings for the last
fifteen minutes."

"Right away, sir."

While he waited for the new transcripts to arrive, Walton studied the
list of names on his desk. Five doctors--Gunther, Raymond, Archer, Hsi,
Rein. He didn't know which one of them had examined the Prior baby, nor
did he care to find out. All five would have to be transferred.

Meticulously, he took up his stylus and pad again, and plotted a
destination for each:

    _Gunther ... Zurich._
    _Raymond ... Glasgow._
    _Archer ... Tierra del Fuego._
    _Hsi ... Leopoldville._
    _Rein ... Bangkok._

He nodded. That was optimum dissemination; he would put through notice
of the transfers later in the day, and by nightfall the men would be on
their way to their new scenes of operation. Perhaps they would never
understand why they had been uprooted and sent away from New York.

The new transcripts arrived. Impatiently Walton checked through them.

In the June tenth transcript, item seventy-one dealt with smallpox
statistics for North America 1822-68, and item seventy-two with the
tally of antihistamine supply for requisitions for Clinic Three. There
was no sign of any of Walton's requests. They had vanished from the
record as completely as if they had never been.

Walton searched carefully through the June eleventh transcript for any
mention of his deletion order. No, that hadn't been recorded either.

He smiled, his first honest smile since FitzMaugham's assassination.
Now, with the computer records erased, the director dead, and the
doctors on their way elsewhere, only Fred stood in the way of Roy's
chance of escaping punishment for the Prior business.

He decided he'd have to take his chances with Fred. Perhaps brotherly
love would seal his lips after all.


The late Director FitzMaugham's files were spread over four floors of
the building, but for Walton's purposes the only ones that mattered
were those to which access was gained through the director's office

A keyboard and screen were set into the wall to the left of the desk.
Walton let his fingers rest lightly on the gleaming keys.

The main problem facing him, he thought, lay in not knowing where to
begin. Despite his careful agenda, despite the necessary marshaling
of his thoughts, he was still confused by the enormity of his job.
The seven billion people of the world were in his hands. He could
transfer fifty thousand New Yorkers to the bleak northern provinces of
underpopulated Canada with the same quick ease that he had shifted five
unsuspecting doctors half an hour before.

After a few moments of uneasy thought he pecked out the short message,
_Request complete data file on terraforming project_.

On the screen appeared the words, _Acknowledged and coded; prepare to

The arrival bin thrummed with activity. Walton hastily scooped out
a double handful of typed sheets to make room for more. He grinned
in anguish as the paper kept on coming. FitzMaugham's files on
terraforming, no doubt, covered reams and reams.

Staggering, he carted it all over to his desk and began to skim through
it. The data began thirty years earlier, in 2202, with a photostat of
a letter from Dr. Herbert Lang to FitzMaugham, proposing a project
whereby the inner planets of the solar system could be made habitable
by human beings.

Appended to that was FitzMaugham's skeptical, slightly mocking reply;
the old man had kept everything, it seemed, even letters which showed
him in a bad light.

After that came more letters from Lang, urging FitzMaugham to plead
terraforming's case before the United States Senate, and FitzMaugham's
increasingly more enthusiastic answers. Finally, in 2212, a notation
that the Senate had voted a million-dollar appropriation to Lang--a
miniscule amount, in terms of the overall need, but it was enough to
cover preliminary research. Lang had been grateful.

Walton skimmed through more-or-less familiar documents on the nature of
the terraforming project. He could study those in detail later, if time
permitted. What he wanted now was information on the current status of
the project; FitzMaugham had been remarkably silent about it, though
the public impression had been created that a team of engineers headed
by Lang was already at work on Venus.

He shoved whole handfuls of letters to one side, looking for those of
recent date.

Here was one dated 1 Feb 2232, FitzMaugham to Lang: it informed the
scientist that passage of the Equalization Act was imminent, and that
Lang stood to get a substantial appropriation from the UN in that
event. A jubilant reply from Lang was attached.

Following that came another, 10 May 2232, FitzMaugham to Lang:
official authorization of Lang as an executive member of Popeek, and
appropriation of--Walton's eyes bugged--five billion dollars for
terraforming research.

Note from Lang to FitzMaugham, 14 May: the terraforming crew was
leaving for Venus immediately.

Note from FitzMaugham to Lang, 16 May: best wishes, and Lang was
instructed to contact FitzMaugham without fail at weekly intervals.

Spacegram from Lang to FitzMaugham, 28 May: arrived at Venus safely,
preparing operation as scheduled.

The file ended there. Walton rummaged through the huge heap, hoping to
discover a later communiqué; by FitzMaugham's own request, Lang should
have contacted Popeek about four days ago with his first report.

Possibly it had gone astray in delivery, Walton thought. He spent
twenty minutes digging through the assorted material before remembering
that he could get a replacement within seconds from the filing computer.

He typed out a requisition for any and all correspondence between
Director FitzMaugham and Dr. Herbert Lang that was dated after 28 May

The machine acknowledged, and a moment later replied, _This material is
not included in memory banks_.

Walton frowned, gathered up most of his superfluous terraforming data,
and deposited it in a file drawer. The status of the project, then,
was uncertain: the terraformers were on Venus and presumably at work,
but were yet to be heard from.

The next Popeek project to track down would be the faster-than-light
spaceship drive. But after the mass of data Walton had just absorbed,
he found himself hesitant to wade through another collection so soon.

He realized that he was hungry for the sight of another human being. He
had spent the whole morning alone, speaking to anonymous underlings via
screen or annunciator, and requisitioning material from an even more
impersonal computer. He wanted noise, life, people around him.

He snapped on the annunciator. "I'm calling an immediate meeting of the
Popeek section chiefs," he said. "In my office, in half an hour--at
1230 sharp. Tell them to drop whatever they're doing and come."

       *       *       *       *       *

Just before they started to arrive, Walton felt a sudden sick wave of
tension sweep dizzyingly over him. He pulled open the top drawer of
his new desk and reached for his tranquilizer tablets. He suffered a
moment of shock and disorientation before he realized that this was
FitzMaugham's desk, not his own, and that FitzMaugham forswore all
forms of sedation.

Chuckling nervously, Walton drew out his wallet and extracted the extra
benzolurethrin he carried for just such emergencies. He popped the
lozenge into his mouth only a moment before the spare figure of Lee
Percy, first of the section chiefs to arrive, appeared in the screener
outside the door.

"Roy? It's me--Percy."

"I can see you. Come on in, Lee."

Percy was in charge of public relations for Popeek. He was a tall,
angular man with thick corrugated features.

After him came Teddy Schaunhaft, clinic coordinator; Pauline Medhurst,
personnel director; Olaf Eglin, director of field agents; and Sue
Llewellyn, Popeek's comptroller.

These five had constituted the central council of Popeek. Walton, as
assistant administrator, had served as their coordinator, as well as
handling population transfer and serving as a funnel for red tape.
Above them all had been FitzMaugham, brooding over his charges like an
untroubled Wotan; FitzMaugham had reserved for himself, aside from the
task of general supervision, the special duties attendant on handling
the terraforming and faster-than-light wings of Popeek.

"I should have called you together much earlier than this," Walton said
when they were settled. "The shock, though, and the general confusion--"

"We understand, Roy," said Sue Llewellyn sympathetically. She
was a chubby little woman in her fifties, whose private life was
reported to be incredibly at variance with her pleasantly domestic
appearance. "It's been rough on all of us, but you were so close to Mr.

There was sympathetic clucking from various corners of the room. Walton
said, "The period of mourning will have to be a brief one. What I'm
suggesting is that business continue as usual, without a hitch." He
glanced at Eglin, the director of field agents. "Olaf, is there a man
in your section capable of handling your job?"

Eglin looked astonished for a moment, then mastered himself. "There
must be five, at least. Walters, Lassen, Dominic--"

"Skip the catalogue," Walton told him. "Pick the man you think is best
suited to replace you, and send his dossier up to me for approval."

"And where do _I_ go?"

"You take over my slot as assistant administrator. As director of field
agents, you're more familiar with the immediate problems of my old job
than anyone else here."

Eglin preened himself smugly. Walton wondered if he had made an unwise
choice; Eglin was competent enough, and would give forth one hundred
percent effort at all times--but probably never the one hundred two
percent a really great administrator could put out when necessary.

Still, the post had to be filled at once, and Eglin could pick up the
reins faster than any of the others.

Walton looked around. "Otherwise, activities of Popeek will continue as
under Mr. FitzMaugham, without a hitch. Any questions?"

Lee Percy raised an arm slowly. "Roy, I've got a problem I'd like to
bring up here, as long as we're all together. There's a growing public
sentiment that you and the late director were secretly Herschelites."
He chuckled apologetically. "I know it sounds silly, but I just report
what I hear."

"I'm familiar with the rumor," Walton said. "And I don't like it much,
either. That's the sort of stuff riots are made of."

The Herschelites were extremists who advocated wholesale sterilization
of defectives, mandatory birth control, and half a dozen other
stringent remedies for overpopulation.

"What steps are you taking to counteract it?" Walton asked.

"Well," said Percy, "we're preparing a memorial program for FitzMaugham
which will intimate that he was murdered by the Herschelites, who hated

"Good. What's the slant?"

"That he was too easygoing, too humane. We build up the Herschelites as
ultrareactionaries who intend to enforce their will on humanity if they
get the chance, and imply FitzMaugham was fighting them tooth and nail.
We close the show with some shots of you picking up the great man's
mantle, etcetera, etcetera. And a short speech from you affirming the
basically humanitarian aims of Popeek."

Walton smiled approvingly and said, "I like it. When do you want me to
do the speech?"

"We won't need you," Percy told him. "We've got plenty of stock
footage, and we can whip the speech out of some spare syllables you
left around."

Walton frowned. Too many of the public speeches of the day were
synthetic, created by skilled engineers who split words into their
component phonemes and reassembled them in any shape they pleased. "Let
me check through my speech before you put it over, at least."

"Will do. And we'll squash this Herschelite thing right off the bat."

Pauline Medhurst squirmed uneasily in her chair. Walton caught the hint
and recognized her.

"Uh, Roy, I don't know if this is the time or the place, but I got that
transfer order of yours, the five doctors...."

"You did? Good," Walton said hurriedly. "Have you notified them yet?"

"Yes. They seemed unhappy about it."

"Refer them to FitzMaugham's book. Tell them they're cogs in a mighty
machine, working to save humanity. We can't let personal considerations
interefere, Pauline."

"If you could only explain why--"

"Yeah," interjected Schaunhaft, the clinic coordinator suddenly. "You
cleaned out my whole morning lab shift down there. I was wondering--"

Walton felt like a stag at bay. "Look," he said firmly, cutting
through the hubbub, "_I_ made the transfer. I had reasons for doing
it. It's your job to get the five men out where they've been assigned,
and to get five new men in here at once. You're not required to make
explanations to them--nor I to you."

Sudden silence fell over the office. Walton hoped he had not been too
forceful, and cast suspicion on his actions by his stiffness.

"Whew!" Sue Llewellyn said. "You really mean business!"

"I said we were going to run Popeek without a hitch," Walton replied.
"Just because you know my first name, that doesn't mean I'm not going
to be as strong a director as FitzMaugham was."

_Until the UN picks my successor_, his mind added. Out loud he said,
"Unless you have any further questions, I'll ask you now to return to
your respective sections."

He sat slumped at his desk after they were gone, trying to draw on some
inner reserve of energy for the strength to go on.

One day at the job, and he was tired, terribly tired. And it would be
six weeks or more before the United Nations convened to choose the next
director of Popeek.

He didn't know who that man would be. He expected they would offer the
job to him, provided he did competent work during the interim; but,
wearily, he saw he would have to turn the offer down.

It was not only that his nerves couldn't handle the grinding daily
tension of the job; he saw now what Fred might be up to, and it stung.

What if his brother were to hold off exposing him until the moment the
UN proffered its appointment ... and then took that moment to reveal
that the head of Popeek, far from being an iron-minded Herschelite, had
actually been guilty of an irregularity that transgressed against one
of Popeek's own operations? He'd be finished. He'd be laughed out of
public life for good--and probably prosecuted in the bargain--if Fred
exposed him.

And Fred was perfectly capable of doing just that.

Walton saw himself spinning dizzily between conflicting alternatives.
Keep the job and face his brother's exposé? Or resign, and vanish into
anonymity. Neither choice seemed too appealing.

Shrugging, he dragged himself out of his chair, determined to shroud
his conflict behind the mask of work. He typed a request to Files,
requisitioning data on the faster-than-light project.

Moments later, the torrent began--rising from somewhere in the depths
of the giant computer, rumbling upward through the conveyor system,
moving onward toward the twenty-ninth floor and the office of Interim
Director Walton.


The next morning there was a crowd gathered before the Cullen Building
when Walton arrived.

There must have been at least a hundred people, fanning outward from a
central focus. Walton stepped from the jetbus and, with collar pulled
up carefully to obscure as much of his face as possible, went to

A small red-faced man stood on a rickety chair against the side of the
building. He was flanked by a pair of brass flagpoles, one bearing the
American flag and the other the ensign of the United Nations. His voice
was a biting rasp--probably, thought Walton, intensified, sharpened,
and made more irritating by a harmonic modulator at his throat. An
irritating voice put its message across twice as fast as a pleasant one.

He was shouting, "This is the place! Up here, in this building, that's
where they are! That's where Popeek wastes our money!"

From the slant of the man's words Walton instantly thought:

He repressed his anger and, for once, decided to stay and hear the
extremist out. He had never really paid much attention to Herschelite
propaganda--he had been exposed to little of it--and he realized
that now, as head of Popeek, he owed it to himself to become familiar
with the anti-Popeek arguments of both extremist factions--those who
insisted Popeek was a tyranny, and the Herschelites, who thought it was
too weak.

"This Popeek," the little man said, accenting the awkwardness of the
word. "You know what it is? It's a stopgap. It's a silly, soft-minded,
half-hearted attempt at solving our problems. It's a fake, a fraud, a

There was real passion behind the words. Walton distrusted small men
with deep wells of passion; he no more enjoyed their company than he
did that of a dynamo or an atomic pile. They were always threatening to

The crowd was stirring restlessly. The Herschelite was getting to them,
one way or another. Walton drew back nervously, not wanting to be
recognized, and stationed himself at the fringe of the crowd.

"Some of you don't like Popeek for this reason or that reason. But let
me tell you something, friends ... you're wronger than they are! We've
got to get tough with ourselves! We have to face the truth! Popeek is
an unrealistic half-solution to man's problems. Until we limit birth,
establish rigid controls over who's going to live and who isn't, we--"

It was straight Herschelite propaganda, undiluted. Walton wasn't
surprised when someone in the audience interrupted, growling, "And
who's going to set those controls? You?"

"You trusted yourselves to Popeek, didn't you? Why hesitate, then, to
trust yourselves to Abel Herschel and his group of workers for the
betterment and purification of mankind?"

Walton was almost limp with amazement. The Herschelite group was so
much more drastic in its approach than Popeek that he wondered how they
dared come out with these views in public. Animosity was high enough
against Popeek; would the public accept a group more stringent yet?

The little man's voice rose high. "Onward with the Herschelites!
Mankind must move forward! The Equalization people represent the forces
of decay and sloth!"

Walton turned to the man next to him and murmured, "But Herschel's a
fanatic. They'll kill all of us in the name of mankind."

The man looked puzzled; then, accepting the idea, he nodded. "Yeah,
buddy. You know, you may have something there."

That was all the spark needed. Walton edged away surreptitiously and
watched it spread through the crowd, while the little man's harangue
grew more and more inflammatory.

Until a rock arced through the air from somewhere, whipped across the
billowing UN flag, and cracked into the side of the building. That was
the signal.

A hundred men and women converged on the little man on the battered
chair. "_We have to face the truth!_" the harsh voice cried; then
the flags were swept down, trampled on. Flagpoles fell, ringing
metallically on the concrete; the chair toppled. The little man was
lost beneath a tide of remorseless feet and arms.

A siren screamed.

"Cops!" Walton yelled from his vantage point some thirty feet away, and
abruptly the crowd melted away in all directions, leaving Walton and
the little man alone on the street. A security wagon drew up. Four men
in gray uniforms sprang out.

"What's been going on here? Who's this man?" Then, seeing Walton, "Hey!
Come over here!"

"Of course, officer." Walton turned his collar down and drew near. He
spotted the glare of a ubiquitous video camera and faced it squarely.
"I'm Director Walton of Popeek," he said loudly, into the camera. "I
just arrived here a few minutes ago. I saw the whole thing."

"Tell us about it, Mr. Walton," the security man said.

"It was a Herschelite." Walton gestured at the broken body crumpled
against the ground. "He was delivering an inflammatory speech aimed
against Popeek, with special reference to the late Director FitzMaugham
and myself. I was about to summon you and end the disturbance, when
the listeners became aware that the man was a Herschelite. When they
understood what he was advocating, they--well, you see the result."

"Thank you, sir. Terribly sorry we couldn't have prevented it. Must be
very unpleasant, Mr. Walton."

"The man was asking for trouble," Walton said. "Popeek represents
the minds and hearts of the world. Herschel and his people seek to
overthrow this order. I can't condone violence of any sort, naturally,
but"--he smiled into the camera--"Popeek is a sacred responsibility to
me. Its enemies I must regard as blind and misguided people."

He turned and entered the building, feeling pleased with himself. That
sequence would be shown globally on the next news screenings; every
newsblare in the world would be reporting his words.

Lee Percy would be proud of him. Without benefit either of rehearsal or
phonemic engineering, Walton had delivered a rousing speech and turned
a grisly incident into a major propaganda instrument.

And more than that, Director FitzMaugham would have been proud of him.

But beneath the glow of pride, he was trembling. Yesterday he had saved
a boy by a trifling alteration of his genetic record; today he had
killed a man by sending a whispered accusation rustling through a mob.

_Power._ Popeek represented power, perhaps the greatest power in the
world. That power would have to be channeled somehow, now that it had
been unleashed.

The stack of papers relating to the superspeed space drive was still on
his desk when he entered the office. He had had time yesterday to read
through just some of the earliest; then, the pressure of routine had
dragged him off to other duties.

Encouraged by FitzMaugham, the faster-than-light project had
originated about a decade or so before. It stemmed from the fact that
the ion-drive used for travel between planets had a top velocity, a
limiting factor of about ninety thousand miles per second. At that
rate, it would take some eighteen years for a scouting party to visit
the closest star and report back ... not very efficient for a planet in
a hurry to expand outward.

A group of scientists had set to work developing a subspace warp drive,
one that would cut across the manifold of normal space and allow speeds
above light velocity.

All the records were here: the preliminary trials, the budget
allocations, the sketches and plans, the names of the researchers.
Walton ploughed painstakingly through them, learning names,
assimilating scientific data. It seemed that, while it was still in its
early stages, FitzMaugham had nurtured the project along with money
from his personal fortune.

For most of the morning Walton leafed through documents describing
projected generators, types of hull material, specifications,
speculations. It was nearly noon when he came across the neatly-typed
note from Colonel Leslie McLeod, one of the military scientists in
charge of the ultradrive project. Walton read it through once, gasped,
and read it again.

It was dated 14 June 2231, almost one year ago. It read:

    _My dear Mr. FitzMaugham:_

    _I'm sure it will gladden you to learn that we have at last achieved
    success in our endeavors. The X-72 passed its last tests splendidly,
    and we are ready to leave on the preliminary scouting flight at


It was followed by a note from FitzMaugham to McLeod, dated 15 June:

    _Dr. McLeod:_

    _All best wishes on your great adventure. I trust you'll be
    departing, as usual, from the Nairobi base within the next few days.
    Please let me hear from you before departure._


The file concluded with a final note from McLeod to the director, dated
19 June 2231:

    _My dear Mr. FitzMaugham:_

    _The X-72 will leave Nairobi in eleven hours, bound outward, manned
    by a crew of sixteen, including myself. The men are all impatient
    for the departure. I must offer my hearty thanks for the help you
    have given us over the past years, without which we would never have
    reached this step._

    _Flight plans include visiting several of the nearer stars, with
    the intention of returning either as soon as we have discovered a
    habitable extrasolar world, or one year after departure, whichever
    first occurs._

    _Sincere good wishes, and may you have as much success when you
    plead your case before the United Nations as we have had
    here--though you'll forgive me for hoping that our work might make
    any population equalization program on Earth totally superfluous!_


Walton stared at the three notes for a moment, so shocked he was unable
to react. So a faster-than-light drive was not merely a hoped-for
dream, but an actuality--with the first scouting mission a year absent

He felt a new burst of admiration for FitzMaugham. What a marvelous old
scoundrel he had been!

Faster-than-light achieved, and the terraforming group on Venus, and
neither fact released to the public ... or even specifically given to
FitzMaugham's own staff, his alleged confidants.

It had been shrewd of him, all right. He had made sure nothing could
go wrong. If something happened to Lang and his crew on Venus--and it
was quite possible, since word from them was a week overdue--it would
be easy to say that the terraforming project was still in the planning
stage. In the event of success, the excuse was that word of their
progress had been withheld for "security reasons."

And the same would apply to the space drive; if McLeod and his men
vanished into the nether regions of interstellar space and never
returned, FitzMaugham would not have had to answer for the failure of
a project which, as far as the public knew, was still in the planning
stage. It was a double-edged sword with the director controlling both

And now Walton was in charge. He hoped he would be able to continue
manipulations with an aplomb worthy of the late Director FitzMaugham.

The annunciator chimed. "Dr. Lamarre is here for his appointment with
you, Mr. Walton."

Walton was caught off guard. His mind raced furiously. _Lamarre? Who
the dickens--oh, that left-over appointment of FitzMaugham's._

"Tell Dr. Lamarre I'll be glad to see him in just a few minutes,
please. I'll buzz you when I'm ready."

Hurriedly he gathered up the space-flight documents and jammed them in
a file drawer near the data on terraforming. He surveyed his office;
it looked neat, presentable. Glancing around, he made sure no stray
documents were visible, documents which might reveal the truth about
the space drive.

"Send in Dr. Lamarre," he said.

Dr. Lamarre was a short, thin, pale individual, with an uncertain wave
in his sandy hair and a slight stoop of his shoulders. He carried a
large, black leather portfolio which seemed on the point of exploding.

"Mr. Walton?"

"That's right. You're Dr. Lamarre?"

The small man handed him an engraved business card.

                          _T. ELLIOT LAMARRE_

Walton fingered the card uneasily and returned it to its owner.
"Gerontologist? One who studies ways of increasing the human life-span?"


Walton frowned. "I presume you've had some previous dealings with the
late Director FitzMaugham?"

Lamarre gaped. "You mean he didn't _tell_ you?"

"Director FitzMaugham shared very little information with his
assistants, Dr. Lamarre. The suddenness of my elevation to this post
gave me little time to explore his files. Would you mind filling me in
on the background?"

"Of course." Lamarre crossed his legs and squinted myopically across
the desk at Walton. "To be brief, Mr. FitzMaugham first heard of my
work fourteen years ago. Since that time, he's supported my experiments
with private grants of his own, public appropriations whenever
possible, and lately with money supplied by Popeek. Naturally, because
of the nature of my work I've shunned publicity. I completed my final
tests last week, and was to have seen the director yesterday. But--"

"I know. I was busy going through Mr. FitzMaugham's files when you
called yesterday. I didn't have time to see anyone." Walton wished he
had checked on this man Lamarre earlier. Apparently it was a private
project of FitzMaugham's and of some importance.

"May I ask what this 'work' of yours consists of?"

"Certainly. Mr. FitzMaugham expressed a hope that someday man's life
span might be infinitely extended. I'm happy to report that I have
developed a simple technique which will provide just that." The little
man smiled in self-satisfaction. "In short," he said, "what I have
developed, in everyday terms, is immortality, Mr. Walton."


Walton was becoming hardened to astonishment; the further he excavated
into the late director's affairs, the less susceptible he was to the
visceral reaction of shock.

Still, this stunned him for a moment.

"Did you say you'd perfected this technique?" he asked slowly. "Or that
it was still in the planning stage?"

Lamarre tapped the thick, glossy black portfolio. "In here. I've got it
all." He seemed ready to burst with self-satisfaction.

Walton leaned back, spread his fingers against the surface of the desk,
and wrinkled his forehead. "I've had this job since 1300 on the tenth,
Mr. Lamarre. That's exactly two days ago, minus half an hour. And in
that time I don't think I've had less than ten major shocks and half a
dozen minor ones."


"What I'm getting at is this: just why did Director FitzMaugham sponsor
this project of yours?"

Lamarre looked blank. "Because the director was a great humanitarian,
of course. Because he felt that the human life was short, far too
short, and he wished his fellow men to enjoy long life. What other
reason should there be?"

"I know FitzMaugham was a great man ... I was his secretary for
three years." (_Though he never said a word about you, Dr. Lamarre_,
Walton thought.) "But to develop immortality at this stage of man's
existence...." Walton shook his head. "Tell me about your work, Dr.

"It's difficult to sum up readily. I've fought degeneration of the
body on the cellular level, and my tests show a successful outcome.
Phagocyte stimulation combined with--the data's all here, Mr. Walton. I
needn't run through it for you."

He began to hunt in the portfolio, fumbling for something. After a
moment he extracted a folded quarto sheet, spread it out, and nudged it
across the desk toward Walton.

The director glanced at the sheet; it was covered with chemical
equations. "Spare me the technical details, Dr. Lamarre. Have you
tested your treatment yet?"

"With the only test possible, the test of time. There are insects in my
laboratories that have lived five years or more--veritable Methuselahs
of their genera. Immortality is not something one can test in less
than infinite time. But beneath the microscope, one can see the cells
regenerating, one can see decay combated...."

Walton took a deep breath. "Are you aware, Dr. Lamarre, that for the
benefit of humanity I really should have you shot at once?"


Walton nearly burst out laughing; the man looked outrageously funny
with that look of shocked incomprehension on his face. "Do you
understand what immortality would do to Earth?" he asked. "With no
other planet of the solar system habitable by man, and none of the
stars within reach? Within a generation we'd be living ten to the
square inch. We'd--"

"Director FitzMaugham was aware of these things," Lamarre interrupted
sharply. "He had no intention of administering my discovery wholesale
to the populace. What's more, he was fully confident that a
faster-than-light space drive would soon let us reach the planets, and
that the terraforming engineers would succeed with their work on Venus."

"Those two factors are still unknowns in the equation," Walton said.
"Neither has succeeded, as of now. And we can't possibly let word of
your discovery get out until there are avenues to handle the overflow
of population already on hand."

"So you propose--"

"To confiscate the notes you have with you, and to insist that you
remain silent about this serum of yours until I give you permission to
announce it."

"And if I refuse?"

Walton spread his hands. "Dr. Lamarre, I'm a reasonable man trying to
do a very hard job. You're a scientist--and a sane one, I hope. I'd
appreciate your cooperation. Bear with me a few weeks, and then perhaps
the situation will change."

Awkward silence followed. Finally Lamarre said, "Very well. If you'll
return my notes, I promise to keep silent until you give me permission
to speak."

"That won't be enough. I'll need to keep the notes."

Lamarre sighed. "If you insist," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he was again alone, Walton stored the thick portfolio in a file
drawer and stared at it quizzically.

_FitzMaugham_, he thought, _you were incredible!_

Lamarre's immortality serum, or whatever it was, was deadly. Whether
it actually worked or not was irrelevant. If word ever escaped that an
immortality drug existed, there would be rioting and death on a vast

FitzMaugham had certainly seen that, and yet he had sublimely
underwritten development of the serum, knowing that if terraforming and
the ultradrive project should fail, Lamarre's project represented a
major threat to civilization.

Well, Lamarre had knuckled under to Walton willingly enough. The
problem now was to contact Lang on Venus and find out what was
happening up there....

"Mr. Walton," said the annunciator. "There's a coded message arriving
for Director FitzMaugham."

"Where from?"

"From space, sir. They say they have news, but they won't give it to
anyone but Mr. FitzMaugham."

Walton cursed. "Where is this message being received?"

"Floor twenty-three, sir. Communications."

"Tell them I'll be right down," Walton snapped.

He caught a lift tube and arrived on the twenty-third floor moments
later. No sooner had the tube door opened than he sprang out, dodging
around a pair of startled technicians, and sprinted down the corridor
toward communications.

Here throbbed the network that held the branches of Popeek together.
From here the screens were powered, the annunciators were linked, the
phones connected.

Walton pushed open a door marked _Communications Central_ and
confronted four busy engineers who were crowded around a complex
receiving mechanism.

"Where's that space message?" he demanded of the sallow young engineer
who approached him.

"Still coming in, sir. They're repeating it over and over. We're
triangulating their position now. Somewhere near the orbit of Pluto,
Mr. Walton."

"Devil with that. Where's the message?"

Someone handed him a slip of paper. It said, _Calling Earth. Urgent
call, top urgency, crash urgency. Will communicate only with D. F.

"This all it is?" Walton asked. "No signature, no ship name?"

"That's right, Mr. Walton."

"Okay. Find them in a hurry and send them a return message. Tell them
FitzMaugham's dead and I'm his successor. Mention me by name."

"Yes, sir."

He stamped impatiently around the lab while they set to work beaming
the message into the void. Space communication was a field that dazzled
and bewildered Walton, and he watched in awe as they swung into

Time passed. "You know of any ships supposed to be in that sector?" he
asked someone.

"No, sir. We weren't expecting any calls except from Lang on Venus--"
The technician gasped, realizing he had made a slip, and turned pale.

"That's all right," Walton assured him. "I'm the director, remember? I
know all about Lang."

"Of course, sir."

"Here's a reply, sir," another of the nameless, faceless technicians
said. Walton scanned it.

It read, _Hello Walton. Request further identification before we
report. McL._

A little shudder of satisfaction shook Walton at the sight of the
initialed _McL._ at the end of the message. That could mean only
McLeod--and _that_ could mean only one thing: the experimental starship
had returned!

Walton realized depressedly that this probably implied that they
hadn't found any Earth-type worlds among the stars. McLeod's note to
FitzMaugham had said they would search for a year, and would return
home at the end of that time if they had no success. And just about a
year had elapsed.

He said, "Send this return message: McLeod, Nairobi, X-72.
Congratulations! Walton."

The technician vanished again, leaving Walton alone. He gazed moodily
at the complex maze of equipment all around him, listened to the steady
_tick-tick_ of the communication devices, strained his ears to pick up
fragments of conversation from the men.

After what seemed like an hour, the technician returned. "There's a
message coming through now, sir. We're decoding it as fast as we can."

"Make it snappy," Walton said. His watch read 1429. Only twenty minutes
had passed since he had gone down there.

A grimy sheet of paper was thrust under his nose. He read it:

    _Hello Walton, this is McLeod. Happy to report that experimental
    ship X-72 is returning home with all hands in good shape, after
    a remarkable one-year cruise of the galaxy. I feel like Ulysses
    returning to Ithaca, except we didn't have such a hard time of it._

    _I imagine you'll be interested in this: we found a perfectly
    lovely and livable world in the Procyon system. No intelligent life
    at all, and incredibly fine climate. Pity old FitzMaugham couldn't
    have lived to hear about it. Be seeing you soon. McLeod._

Walton's hands were still shaking as he pressed the actuator that would
let him back into his office. He would have to call another meeting of
the section chiefs again, to discuss the best method of presenting this
exciting news to the world.

For one thing, they would have to explain away FitzMaugham's failure
to reveal that the X-72 had been sent out over a year ago. That could
be easily handled.

Then, there would have to be a careful build-up: descriptions of the
new world, profiles of the heroes who had found it, etcetera. Someone
was going to have to work out a plan for emigration ... unless the
resourceful FitzMaugham had already drawn up such a plan and stowed it
in Files for just this anticipated day.

And then, perhaps Lamarre could be called back now, and allowed to
release his discovery. Plans buzzed in Walton's mind: in the event that
people proved reluctant to leave Earth and conquer an unknown world,
no matter how tempting the climate, it might be feasible to dangle
immortality before them--to restrict Lamarre's treatment to volunteer
colonists, or something along that line. There was plenty of time to
figure that out, Walton thought.

He stepped into his office and locked the door behind him. A glow of
pleasure surrounded him; for once it seemed that things were heading in
the right direction. He was happy, in a way, that FitzMaugham was no
longer in charge. Now, with mankind on the threshold of--

Walton blinked. _Did I leave that file drawer open when I left the
office?_ he wondered. He was usually more cautious than that.

The file was definitely open now, as were the two cabinets adjoining
it. Numbly he swung the cabinet doors wider, peered into the shadows,
groped inside.

The drawers containing the documents pertaining to terraforming and to
McLeod's space drive seemed intact. But the cabinet in which Walton had
placed Lamarre's portfolio--that cabinet was totally empty!

_Someone's been in here_, he thought angrily. And then the anger
changed to agony as he remembered what had been in Lamarre's portfolio,
and what would happen if that formula were loosed indiscriminately in
the world.


The odd part of it, Walton thought, was that there was absolutely
nothing he could do.

He could call Sellors and give him a roasting for not guarding his
office properly, but that wouldn't restore the missing portfolio.

He could send out a general alarm, and thereby let the world know that
there was such a thing as Lamarre's formula. That would be catastrophic.

Walton slammed the cabinet shut and spun the lock. Then, heavily,
he dropped into his chair and rested his head in his arms. All the
jubilation of a few moments before had suddenly melted into dull

Suspects? Just two--Lamarre, and Fred. Lamarre because he was obvious;
Fred because he was likely to do anything to hurt his brother.

"Give me Sellors in security," Walton said quietly.

Sellors' bland face appeared on the screen. He blinked at the sight of
Walton, causing Walton to wonder just how ghastly his own appearance
was; even with the executive filter touching up the transmitted image,
sprucing him up and falsifying him for the public benefit, he probably
looked dreadful.

"Sellors, I want you to send out a general order for a Dr. Lamarre.
You'll find his appearance recorded on the entrance tapes for today;
he came to see me earlier. The first name is--ah--Elliot. T. Elliot
Lamarre, gerontologist. I don't know where he lives."

"What should I do when I find him, sir?"

"Bring him here at once. And if you catch him at home, slap a seal
on his door. He may be in possession of some very important secret

"Yes, sir."

"And get hold of the doorsmith who repaired my office door; I want the
lock calibration changed at once."

"Certainly, sir."

The screen faded. Walton turned back to his desk and busied himself in
meaningless paper work, trying to keep himself from thinking.

A few moments later the screen brightened again. It was Fred.

Walton stared coldly at his brother's image. "Well?"

Fred chuckled. "Why so pale and wan, dear brother? Disappointed in

"What do you want?"

"An audience with His Highness the Interim Director, if it please His
Grace." Fred grinned unpleasantly. "A private, audience, if you please,

"Very well. Come on up here."

Fred shook his head. "Sorry, no go. There are too many tricky spy
pickups in that office of yours. Let's meet elsewhere, shall we?"


"That club you belong to. The Bronze Room."

Walton sputtered. "But I can't leave the building now! There's no one

"Now," Fred interrupted. "The Bronze Room. It's in the San Isidro,
isn't it? Top of Neville Prospect?"

"All right," said Walton resignedly. "There's a doorsmith coming up
here to do some work. Give me a minute to cancel the assignment and
I'll meet you downstairs."

"You leave now," Fred said. "I'll arrive five minutes after you. And
you won't need to cancel anything. _I_ was the doorsmith."

       *       *       *       *       *

Neville Prospect was the most fashionable avenue in all of New York
City, a wide strip of ferroconcrete running up the West Side between
Eleventh Avenue and the West Side Drive from Fortieth to Fiftieth
Street. It was bordered on both sides by looming apartment buildings in
which a man of wealth might have as many as four or five rooms to his
suite; and at the very head of the Prospect, facing down-town, was the
mighty San Isidro, a buttressed fortress of gleaming metal and stone
whose mighty, beryllium-steel supports swept out in a massive arc five
hundred feet in either direction.

On the hundred fiftieth floor of the San Isidro was the exclusive
Bronze Room, from whose quartz windows might be seen all the sprawling
busyness of Manhattan and the close-packed confusion of New Jersey just
across the river.

The jetcopter delivered Walton to the landing-stage of the Bronze
Room; he tipped the man too much and stepped within. A door of dull
bronze confronted him. He touched his key to the signet plate; the door
pivoted noiselessly inward, admitting him.

The color scheme today was gray: gray light streamed from the
luminescent walls, gray carpets lay underfoot, gray tables with gray
dishes were visible in the murky distance. A gray-clad waiter, hardly
more than four feet tall, sidled up to Walton.

"Good to see you again, sir," he murmured. "You have not been here of

"No," Walton said. "I've been busy."

"A terrible tragedy, the death of Mr. FitzMaugham. He was one of our
most esteemed members. Will you have your usual room today, sir?"

Walton shook his head. "I'm entertaining a guest--my brother, Fred.
We'll need a compartment for two. He'll identify himself when he

"Of course. Come with me, please."

The gnome led him through a gray haze to another bronze door, down a
corridor lined with antique works of art, through an interior room
decorated with glowing lumi-facts of remarkable quality, past a broad
quartz window so clean as to be dizzyingly invisible, and up to a
narrow door with a bright red signet plate in its center.

"For you, sir."

Walton touched his key to the signet plate; the door crumpled like a
fan. He stepped inside, gravely handed the gnome a bill, and closed the

The room was tastefully furnished, again in gray; the Bronze Room was
always uniformly monochromatic, though the hue varied with the day and
with the mood of the city. Walton had long speculated on what the club
precincts would be like were the electronic magic disconnected.

Actually, he knew, none of the Bronze Room's appurtenances had any
color except when the hand in the control room threw the switch. The
club held many secrets. It was FitzMaugham who had brought about
Walton's admission to the club, and Walton had been deeply grateful.

He was in a room just comfortably large enough for two, with a single
bright window facing the Hudson, a small onyx table, a tiny screen
tastefully set in the wall, and a bar. He dialed himself a filtered
rum, his favorite drink. The dark, cloudy liquid came pouring instantly
from the spigot.

The screen suddenly flashed a wave of green, breaking the ubiquitous
grayness. The green gave way to the bald head and scowling face of
Kroll, the Bronze Room's door-man.

"Sir, there is a man outside who claims to be your brother. He alleges
he has an appointment with you here."

"That's right, Kroll; send him in. Fulks will bring him to my room."

"Just one moment, sir. First it is needful to verify." Kroll's face
vanished and Fred's appeared.

"Is this the man?" Kroll's voice asked.

"Yes," Walton said. "You can send my brother in."

       *       *       *       *       *

Fred seemed a little dazed by the opulence. He sat gingerly on the
edge of the foamweb couch, obviously attempting to appear blasé and
painfully conscious of his failure to do so.

"This is quite a place," he said finally.

Walton smiled. "A little on the palatial side for my tastes. I don't
come here often. The transition hurts too much when I go back outside."

"FitzMaugham got you in here, didn't he?"

Walton nodded.

"I thought so," Fred said. "Well, maybe someday soon I'll be a member
too. Then we can meet here more often. We don't see enough of each
other, you know."

"Dial yourself a drink," Walton said. "Then tell me what's on your
mind--or were you just angling to get an invite up here?"

"It was more than that. But let me get a drink before we begin."

Fred dialed a Weesuer, heavy on the absinthe, and took a few sampling
sips before wheeling around to face Walton. He said, "One of the minor
talents I acquired in the course of my wanderings was doorsmithing.
It's really not very difficult to learn, for a man who applies himself."

"You were the one who repaired my office door?"

Fred smirked. "I was. I wore a mask, of course, and my uniform
was borrowed. Masks are very handy things. They make them most
convincingly, nowadays. As, for instance, the one worn by the man who
posed as Ludwig."

"What do you know about--"

"_Nothing._ And that's the flat truth, Roy. I didn't kill FitzMaugham,
and I don't know who did." He drained his drink and dialed another.
"No, the old man's death is as much of a mystery to me as it is to you.
But I have to thank you for wrecking the door so completely when you
blasted your way in. It gave me a chance to make some repairs when I
most wanted to."

Walton held himself very carefully in check. He knew exactly what Fred
was going to say in the next few minutes, but he refused to let himself
precipitate the conversation.

With studied care he rose, dialed another filtered rum for himself, and
gently slid the initiator switch on the electroluminescent kaleidoscope
embedded in the rear wall.

A pattern of lights sprang into being--yellow, pale rose, blue, soft
green. They wove together, intertwined, sprang apart into a sharp
hexagon, broke into a scatter-pattern, melted, seemed to fall to the
carpet in bright flakes.

"Shut that thing off!" Fred snapped suddenly. "Come on! Shut it! _Shut

Walton swung around. His brother was leaning forward intently, eyes
clamped tight shut. "Is it off?" Fred asked. "Tell me!"

Shrugging, Walton canceled the signal and the lights faded. "You can
open your eyes, now. It's off."

Cautiously Fred opened his eyes. "None of your fancy tricks, Roy!"

"Trick?" Walton asked innocently. "What trick? Simple decoration,
that's all--and quite lovely, too. Just like the kaleidowhirls you've
seen on video."

Fred shook his head. "It's not the same thing. How do I know it's not
some sort of hypnoscreen? How do I know what those lights can do?"

Walton realized his brother was unfamiliar with wall kaleidoscopes.
"It's perfectly harmless," he said. "But if you don't want it on, we
can do without it."

"Good. That's the way I like it."

Walton observed that Fred's cool confidence seemed somewhat shaken.
His brother had made a tactical error in insisting on holding their
interview here, where Walton had so much the upper hand.

"May I ask again why you wanted to see me?" Walton said.

"There are those people," Fred said slowly, "who oppose the entire
principle of population equalization."

"I'm aware of that. Some of them are members of this very club."

"Exactly. Some of them are. The ones I mean are the gentry, those still
lucky enough to cling to land and home. The squire with a hundred acres
in the Matto Grosso; the wealthy landowner of Liberia; the gentleman
who controls the rubber output of one of the lesser Indonesian islands.
These people, Roy, are unhappy over equalization. They know that sooner
or later you and your Bureau will find out about them and will equalize
them ... say, by installing a hundred Chinese on a private estate, or
by using a private river for a nuclear turbine. You'll have to admit
that their dislike of equalization is understandable."

"Everyone's dislike of equalization is understandable," Walton said. "I
dislike it myself. You got your evidence of that two days ago. No one
likes to give up special privileges."

"You see my point, then. There are perhaps a hundred of these men in
close contact with each other--"


"Ah, yes," Fred said. "A league. A conspiracy, it might almost be
called. Very, very shady doings."


"I work for them," Fred said.

Walton let that soak in. "You're an employee of Popeek," he said. "Are
you inferring that you're both an employee of Popeek and an employee
of a group that seeks to undermine Popeek?"

Fred grinned proudly. "That's the position on the nose. It calls for
remarkable compartmentalization of mind. I think I manage nicely."

Incredulously Walton said, "How long has this been going on?"

"Ever since I came to Popeek. This group is older than Popeek. They
fought equalization all the way, and lost. Now they're working from
the bottom up and trying to wreck things before you catch wise and
confiscate their estates, as you're now legally entitled to do."

"And now that you've warned me they exist," Walton said, "you can be
assured that that's the first thing I'll do. The second thing I'll do
will be to have the security men track down their names and find out if
there was an actual conspiracy. If there was, it's jail for them. And
the third thing I'll do is discharge you from Popeek."

Fred shook his head. "You won't do any of those things, Roy. You can't."


"I know something about you that wouldn't look good if it came out
in the open. Something that would get you bounced out of your high
position in a flash."

"Not fast enough to stop me from setting the wheels going. My successor
would continue the job of rooting out your league of landed gentry."

"I doubt that," Fred said calmly. "I doubt it very much--because _I'm_
going to be your successor."


Crosscurrents of fear ran through Walton. He said, "What are you
talking about?"

Fred folded his arms complacently. "I don't think it comes as news to
you that I broke into your office this morning while you were out. It
was very simple: when I installed the lock, I built in a canceling
circuit that would let me walk in whenever I pleased. And this morning
I pleased. I was hoping to find something I could use as immediate
leverage against you, but I hadn't expected anything as explosive as
the portfolio in the left-hand cabinet.

"Where is it?"

Fred grinned sharply. "The contents of that portfolio are now in very
safe keeping, Roy. Don't bluster and don't threaten, because it won't
work. I took precautions."


"And you know as well as I what would happen if that immortality serum
got distributed to the good old man in the street," Fred said. "For one
thing, there'd be a glorious panic. That would solve your population
problem for, a while, with millions killed in the rush. But after
that--where would you equalize, with every man and woman on Earth
living forever, and producing immortal children?"

"We don't know the long-range effects yet--"

"Don't temporize. You damned well know it'd be the biggest upheaval the
world has ever seen." Fred paused. "My employers," he said, "are in
possession of the Lamarre formulas now."

"And with great glee are busy making themselves immortals."

"No. They don't trust the stuff, and won't use it until it's been
tried on two or three billion guinea pigs. Human ones."

"They're not planning to release the serum, are they?" Walton gasped.

"Not immediately," Fred said. "In exchange for certain concessions
on your part, they're prepared to return Lamarre's portfolio to you
without making use of it."

"Concessions? Such as what?"

"That you refrain from declaring their private lands open territory for
equalization. That you resign your post as interim director. That you
go before the General Assembly and recommend me as your successor."


"Who else is best fitted to serve the interests I represent?"

Walton leaned back, his face showing a mirth he scarcely felt. "Very
neat, Fred. But full of holes. First thing, what assurance have I that
your wealthy friends won't keep a copy of the Lamarre formula and use
it as a bludgeon in the future against anyone they don't agree with?"

"None," Fred admitted.

"Naturally. What's more, suppose I refuse to give in and your employers
release the serum to all and sundry. Who gets hurt? Not me; I live in a
one-room box myself. But they'll be filling the world with billions and
billions of people. Their beloved estates will be overrun by the hungry
multitudes, whether they like it or not. And no fence will keep out a
million hungry people."

"This is a risk they recognize," Fred said.

Walton smiled triumphantly. "You mean they're bluffing! They know they
don't dare release that serum, and they think they can get me out of
the way and you, their puppet, into office by making menacing noises.
All right. I'll call their bluff."

"You mean you refuse?"

"Yes," Walton said. "I have no intention of resigning my interim
directorship, and when the Assembly convenes I'm going to ask for the
job on a permanent basis. They'll give it to me."

"And my evidence against you? The Prior baby?"

"Hearsay. Propaganda. I'll laugh it right out of sight."

"Try laughing off the serum, Roy. It won't be so easy as all that."

"I'll manage," Walton said tightly. He crossed the room and jabbed down
on the communicator stud. The screen lit; the wizened face of the tiny
servitor appeared.


"Fulks, would you show this gentleman out of my chamber, please? He has
no further wish to remain with me."

"Right away, Mr. Walton."

"Before you throw me out," Fred said, "let me tell you one more thing."

"Go ahead."

"You're acting stupidly--though that's nothing new for you, Roy. I'll
give you a week's grace to make up your mind. Then the serum goes into

"My mind is made up," Walton said stiffly. The door telescoped and
Fulks stood outside. He smiled obsequiously at Walton, bowed to Fred,
and said to him, "Would you come with me, please?"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was like one of those dreams, Walton thought, in which you were a
butler bringing dishes to the table, and the tray becomes obstinately
stuck to your fingertips and refuses to be separated; or in which the
Cavendishes are dining in state and you come to the table nude; or in
which you float downward perpetually with never a sign of bottom.

There never seemed to be any way out. Force opposed force and he seemed
doomed always to be caught in the middle.

Angrily he snapped the kaleidoscope back on and let its everchanging
swirl of color distract him. But in the depth of the deepest violet he
kept seeing his brother's mocking face.

He summoned Fulks.

The gnome looked up at him expectantly. "Get me a jetcopter," Walton
ordered. "I'll be waiting on the west stage for it."

"Very good, sir."

Fulks never had any problems, Walton reflected sourly. The little man
had found his niche in life; he spent his days in the plush comfort of
the Bronze Room, seeing to the wants of the members. Never any choices
to make, never any of the agonizing decisions that complicated life.

Decisions. Walton realized that one particular decision had been made
for him, that of seeking the directorship permanently. He had not been
planning to do that. Now he had no choice but to remain in office as
long as he could.

He stepped out onto the landing stage and into the waiting jetcopter.
"Cullen Building," he told the robopilot abstractedly.

He did not feel very cheerful.

       *       *       *       *       *

The annunciator panel in Walton's office was bright as a Christmas
tree; the signal bulbs were all alight, each representing someone
anxious to speak to him. He flipped over the circuit-breaker,
indicating he was back in his office, and received the first call.

It was from Lee Percy. Percy's thick features were wrinkled into a
smile. "Just heard that speech you made outside the building this
morning, Roy. It's getting a big blare on the newsscreens. Beautiful!
Simply beautiful! Couldn't have been better if we'd concocted it

"Glad you like it," Walton said. "It really was off the cuff."

"Even better, then. You're positively a genius. Say, I wanted to tell
you that we've got the FitzMaugham memorial all whipped up and ready to
go. Full channel blast tonight over all media at 2000 sharp ... a solid
hour block. Nifty. Neat."

"Is my speech in the program?"

"Sure is, Roy. A slick one, too. Makes two speeches of yours blasted in
a single day."

"Send me a transcript of my speech before it goes on the air," Walton
said. "I want to read and approve that thing if it's supposed to be
coming out of my mouth."

"It's a natural, Roy. You don't have to worry."

"_I want to read it beforehand!_" Walton snapped.

"Okay, okay. Don't chew my ears off. I'll ship it to you posthaste,
man. Ease up. Pop a pill. You aren't loose, Roy."

"I can't afford to be," Walton said.

He broke contact and almost instantly the next call blossomed on the
screen. Walton recognized the man as one of the technicians from
communications, floor twenty-three.


"We heard from McLeod again, sir. Message came in half an hour ago and
we've been trying to reach you ever since."

"I wasn't in. Give me the message."

The technician unfolded a slip of paper. "It says, 'Arriving Nairobi
tonight, will be in New York by morning. McLeod.'"

"Good. Send him confirmation and tell him I'll keep the entire morning
free to see him."

"Yes, sir."

"Oh--anything from Venus?"

The technician shook his head emphatically. "Not a peep. We can't make
contact with Dr. Lang at all."

Walton frowned. He wondered what was happening to the terraforming
crew up there. "Keep trying, will you? Work a twenty-four-hour-a-day
schedule. Draw extra pay. But get in touch with Lang, dammit!"

"Y-yes, sir. Anything else?"

"No. Get off the line."

As the contact snapped Walton smoothly broke connection again, leaving
ten more would-be callers sputtering. A row of lights a foot long
indicated their presence on the line. Walton ignored them and turned
instead to his newsscreen.

The 1400 news was on. He fiddled with the controls and saw his own face
take form on the screen. He was standing outside the Cullen Building,
looking right out of the screen at himself, and in the background could
be seen a huddled form under a coat. The dead Herschelite.

Walton of the screen was saying, "... The man was asking for trouble.
Popeek represents the minds and hearts of the world. Herschel and his
people seek to overthrow this order. I can't condone violence of any
sort, naturally, but Popeek is a sacred responsibility to me. Its
enemies I must regard as blind and misguided people."

He was smiling into the camera, but there was something behind the
smile, something cold and steely, that astonished the watching Walton.
_My God_, he thought. _Is that genuine? Have I really grown so hard?_

Apparently he had. He watched himself turn majestically and stride
into the Cullen Building, stronghold of Popeek. There was definitely a
commanding air about him.

The commentator was saying, "With those heartfelt words, Director
Walton goes to his desk in the Cullen Building to carry out his weighty
task. To bring life out of death, joy out of sadness--this is the
job facing Popeek, and this is the sort of man to whom it has been
entrusted. Roy Walton, we salute you!"

The screen panned to a still of Director FitzMaugham. "Meanwhile," the
commentator went on, "Walton's predecessor, the late D. F. FitzMaugham,
went to his rest today. Police are still hoping to uncover the group
responsible for his brutal slaying, and report a good probability of
success. Tonight all channels will carry a memorial program for this
great leader of humanity. D. F. FitzMaugham, hail and farewell!"

A little sickened, Walton snapped the set off. He had to admire Lee
Percy; the propaganda man had done his job well. With a minor assist
from Walton by way of a spontaneous speech, Percy had contrived to gain
vast quantities of precious air time for Popeek. All to the good.

The annunciator was still blinking violently; it seemed about to
explode with the weight of pent-up, frustrated calls. Walton nudged a
red stud at the top and Security Chief Sellors entered the screen.

"Sellors, sir. We've been looking for this Lamarre. Can't find him


"We checked him to his home. He got there, all right. Then he
disappeared. No sign of him anywhere in the city. What now, sir?"

Walton felt his fingers quivering. "Order a tracer sent out through
all of Appalachia. No, cancel that--make it country-wide. Beam his
description everywhere. Got any snaps?"

"Yes, sir."

"Get them on the air. Tell the country this man is vital to global
security. Find him, Sellors."

"We'll give it a try."

"Better than that. You'll _find_ him. If he doesn't turn up within
eight hours, shift the tracer to world-wide. He might be anywhere--and
he has to be found!"

Walton blanked the screen and avoided the next caller. He called his
secretary and said, "Will you instruct everyone now calling me to refer
their business downstairs to Assistant Administrator Eglin. If they
don't want to do that, tell them to put it in writing and send it to
me. I can't accept any more calls just now." Then he added, "Oh, put me
through to Eglin myself before you let any of those calls reach him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Eglin's face appeared on the private screen that linked the two
offices. The small man looked dark-browed and harried. "This is a hell
of a job, Roy," he sighed.

"So is mine," Walton said. "Look, I've got a ton of calls on the wire,
and I'm transferring them all down to you. Throw as many as you can
down to the subordinates. It's the only way to keep your sanity."

"Thanks. Thanks loads, Roy. All I need now is some more calls."

"Can't be helped. Who'd you pick for your replacement as director of
field agents?" Walton asked.

"Lassen. I sent his dossier to you hours ago."

"Haven't read it yet. Is he on the job already?"

"Sure. He's been there since I moved up here," Eglin said. "What--"

"Never mind," said Walton. He hung up and called Lassen, the new
director of field agents.

Lassen was a boyish-looking young man with stiff sandy hair and a
sternly efficient manner. Walton said, "Lassen, I want you to do a job
for me. Get one of your men to make up a list of the hundred biggest
private estates still unequalized. I want the names of their owners,
location of the estates, acreage, and things like that. Got it?"

"Right. When will you want it, Mr. Walton?"

"Immediately. But I don't want it to be a sloppy job. This is top
important, double."

Lassen nodded. Walton grinned at him--the boy seemed to be in good
control of himself--and clicked off.

He realized that he'd been engaged in half a dozen high-power
conversations without a break, over a span of perhaps twenty minutes.
His heart was pounding; his feet felt numb.

He popped a benzolurethrin into his mouth and kept on going. He
would need to act fast, now that the wheels were turning. McLeod
arriving the next day to report the results of the faster-than-light
expedition, Lamarre missing, Fred at large and working for a conspiracy
of landowners--Walton foresaw that he would be on a steady diet of
tranquilizers for the next few days.

He opened the arrival bin and pulled out a handful of paper. One thick
bundle was the dossier on Lassen; Walton initialed it and tossed
it unread into the Files chute. He would have to rely on Eglin's
judgement; Lassen seemed competent enough.

Underneath that, he found the script of the FitzMaugham memorial
program to be shown that evening. Walton sat back and started to skim
through it.

It was the usual sort of eulogy. He skipped rapidly past FitzMaugham's
life and great works, on to the part where Interim Director Walton
appeared on the screen to speak.

This part he read more carefully. He was very much interested in the
words that Percy had placed in his mouth.


The speech that night went over well ... almost.

Walton watched the program in the privacy of his home, sprawled out
on the foamweb sofa with a drink in one hand and the text of Percy's
shooting-script in the other. The giant screen that occupied nearly
half of his one unbroken wall glowed in lifelike colors.

FitzMaugham's career was traced with pomp and circumstance, done
up in full glory: plenty of ringing trumpet flourishes, dozens of
eye-appealing color groupings, much high-pitched, tense narrative.
Percy had done his job skillfully. The show was punctuated by
quotations from FitzMaugham's classic book, _Breathing Space and
Sanity_. Key government figures drifted in and out of the narrative
webwork, orating sonorously. That pious fraud, M. Seymour Lanson,
President of the United States, delivered a flowery speech; the old
figurehead was an artist at his one function, speechmaking. Walton
watched, spellbound. Lee Percy was a genius in his field; there was no
denying that.

Finally, toward the end of the hour, the narrator said, "The work
of Popeek goes on, though its lofty-minded creator lies dead at an
assassin's hand. Director FitzMaugham had chosen as his successor a
young man schooled in the ideals of Popeek. Roy Walton, we know, will
continue the noble task begun by D. F. FitzMaugham."

For the second time that day Walton watched his own face appear on
a video screen. He glanced down at the script in his hand and back
up at the screen. Percy's technicians had done a brilliant job. The
Walton-image on the screen looked so real that the Walton on the couch
almost believed he had actually delivered this speech--although he
knew it had been cooked up out of some rearranged stills and a few
brokendown phonemes with his voice characteristics.

It was a perfectly innocent speech. In humble tones he expressed his
veneration for the late director, his hopes that he would be able to
fill the void left by the death of FitzMaugham, his sense of Popeek as
a sacred trust. Half-listening, Walton began to skim the script.

Startled, Walton looked down at the script. He didn't remember having
encountered any such lines on his first reading, and he couldn't find
them now. "This morning," the pseudo-Walton on the screen went on, "we
received _contact from outer space_! From a faster-than-light ship
sent out over a year ago to explore our neighboring stars.

"News of this voyage has been withheld until now for security reasons.
But it is my great pleasure to tell you tonight that the stars have at
last been reached by man.... A new world waits for us out there, lush,
fertile, ready to be colonized by the brave pioneers of tomorrow!"

Walton stared aghast at the screen. His simulacrum had returned now to
the script as prepared, but he barely listened.

He was thinking that Percy had let the cat out for sure. It was a
totally unauthorized newsbreak. Numbly, Walton watched the program
come to its end, and wondered what the repercussions would be once the
public grasped all the implications.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was awakened at 0600 by the chiming of his phone. Grumpily he
climbed from bed, snapped on the receiver, switched the cutoff on the
picture sender in order to hide his sleep-rumpled appearance, and said,
"This is Walton. Yes?"

A picture formed on the screen: a heavily-tanned man in his late
forties, stocky, hair close cropped. "Sorry to roust you this way, old
man. I'm McLeod."

Walton came fully awake in an instant. "McLeod? Where are you?"

"Out on Long Island. I just pulled into the airport half a moment ago.
Traveled all night after dumping the ship at Nairobi."

"You made a good landing, I hope?"

"The best. The ship navigates like a bubble." McLeod frowned worriedly.
"They brought me the early-morning telefax while I was having
breakfast. I couldn't help reading all about the speech you made last

"Oh. I--"

"Quite a crasher of a speech," McLeod went on evenly. "But don't you
think it was a little premature of you to release word of my flight. I

"It was quite premature," Walton said. "A member of my staff inserted
that statement into my talk without my knowledge. He'll be disciplined
for it."

A puzzled frown appeared on McLeod's face. "But _you_ made that speech
with your own lips! How can you blame it on a member of your staff?"

"The science that can send a ship to Procyon and back within a year,"
Walton said, "can also fake a speech. But I imagine we'll be able to
cover up the pre-release without too much trouble."

"I'm not so sure of that," said McLeod. He shrugged apologetically.
"You see, that planet's there, all right. But it happens to be the
property of alien beings who live in the next world. And they're not so
happy about having Earth come crashing into their system to colonize!"

Somehow Walton managed to hang onto his self-control, even with this
staggering news crashing about him. "You've been in contact with these
beings?" he asked.

McLeod nodded. "They have a translating gadget. We met them, yes."

Walton moistened his lips. "I think there's going to be trouble," he
said. "I think I may be out of a job, too."

"What's that?"

"Just thinking out loud," Walton said. "Finish your breakfast and meet
me at my office at 0900. We'll talk this thing out then."

       *       *       *       *       *

Walton was in full command of himself by the time he reached the Cullen

He had read the morning telefax and heard the newsblares: they all
screamed the sum and essence of Walton's speech of the previous night,
and a few of the braver telefax outfits went as far as printing a
resumé of the entire speech, boiled down to Basic, of course, for
benefit of that substantial segment of the reading public that was
most comfortable while moving its lips. The one telefax outfit most
outspokenly opposed to Popeek, _Citizen_, took great delight in giving
the speech full play, and editorializing on a subsequent sheet against
the "veil of security" hazing Popeek operations.

Walton read the _Citizen_ editorial twice, savoring its painstaking
simplicities of expression. Then he clipped it out neatly and shot it
down the chute to public relations, marked _Attention: Lee Percy_.

"There's a Mr. McLeod waiting to see you," his secretary informed him.
"He says he has an appointment."

"Send him in," Walton said. "And have Mr. Percy come up here also."

While he waited for McLeod to arrive, Walton riffled through the
rest of the telefax sheets. Some of them praised Popeek for having
uncovered a new world; others damned them for having hidden news of the
faster-than-light drive so long. Walton stacked them neatly in a heap
at the edge of his desk.

In the bleak, dark hours of the morning, he had expected to be
compelled to resign. Now, he realized, he could immeasurably strengthen
his own position if he could control the flow of events and channel
them properly.

The square figure of McLeod appeared on the screen. Walton admitted him.

"Sir. I'm McLeod."

"Of course. Won't you sit down?"

McLeod was tense, stiffly formal, very British in his reserve and
general bearing. Walton gestured uneasily, trying to cut through the
crackle of nervousness.

"We seem to have a mess on our hands," he said. "But there's no mess so
messy we can't muddle through it, eh?"

"If we have to, sir. But I can't help feeling this could all have been

"No. You're wrong, McLeod. If it _could_ have been avoided, it would
have been avoided. The fact that some idiot in my public relations
department gained access to my wire and found out you were returning is
incontrovertible; it happened, despite precautions."

"Mr. Percy to see you," the annunciator said.

The angular figure of Lee Percy appeared on the screen. Walton told him
to come in.

Percy looked frightened--terrified, Walton thought. He held a folded
slip of paper loosely in one hand.

"Good morning, sir."

"Good morning, Lee." Walton observed that the friendly _Roy_ had
changed to the formal salutation, _sir_. "Did you get the clipping I
sent you?"

"Yes, sir." Glumly.

"Lee, this is Leslie McLeod, chief of operations of our successful
faster-than-light project. Colonel McLeod, I want you to meet Lee
Percy. He's the man who masterminded our little newsbreak last night."

Percy flinched visibly. He stepped forward and laid his slip of paper
on Walton's desk. "I m-made a m-mistake last night," he stammered. "I
should never have released that break."

"Damned right you shouldn't have," Walton agreed, carefully keeping
any hint of severity from his voice. "You have us in considerable
hot water, Lee. That planet isn't ours for colonization, despite the
enthusiasm with which I allegedly announced it last night. And you
ought to be clever enough to realize it's impossible to withdraw and
deny good news once you've broken it."

"The planet's not ours? But--?"

"According to Colonel McLeod," Walton said, "the planet is the property
of intelligent alien beings who live on a neighboring world, and who
no more care to have their system overrun by a pack of Earthmen than we
would to have extrasolar aliens settle on Mars."

"Sir, that sheet of paper ..." Percy said in a choked voice.

Walton unfolded it. It was Percy's resignation. He read the note
carefully twice, smiled, and laid it down. Now was his time to be

"Denied," he said. "We need you on our team, Lee. I'm authorizing a ten
percent pay-cut for one week, effective yesterday, but there'll be no
other penalty."

"Thank you, sir."

_He's crawling to me_, Walton thought in amazement. He said, "Only
don't pull that stunt again, or I'll not only fire you but blacklist
you so hard you won't be able to find work between here and Procyon.

"Yes, sir."

"Okay. Go back to your office and get to work. And no more publicity
on this faster-than-light thing until I authorize it. No--cancel that.
Get out a quick release, a followup on last night. A smoke screen, I
mean. Cook up so much cloudy verbiage about the conquest of space that
no one bothers to remember anything of what I said. And play down the
colonization angle!"

"I get it, sir." Percy grinned feebly.

"I doubt that," Walton snapped. "When you have the release prepared,
shoot it up here for my okay. And heaven help you if you deviate from
the text I see by as much as a single comma!"

Percy practically backed out of the office.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Why did you do that?" McLeod asked, puzzled.

"You mean, why did I let him off so lightly?"

McLeod nodded. "In the military," he said, "we'd have a man shot for
doing a thing like that."

"This isn't the military," Walton said. "And even though the man
behaved like a congenital idiot yesterday, that's not enough evidence
to push him into Happysleep. Besides, he knows his stuff. I can't
afford to discharge him."

"Are public relations men that hard to come by?"

"No. But he's a good one--and the prospect of having him desert to the
other side frightens me. He'll be forever grateful to me now. If I had
fired him, he would've had half a dozen anti-Popeek articles in the
_Citizen_ before the week was out. And they'd ruin us."

McLeod smiled appreciatively. "You handle your job well, Mr. Walton."

"I have to," Walton said. "The director of Popeek is paid to produce
two or three miracles per hour. One gets used to it, after a while.
Tell me about these aliens, Colonel McLeod."

McLeod swung a briefcase to Walton's desk and flipped the magneseal. He
handed Walton a thick sheaf of glossy color photos.

"The first dozen or so are scenes of the planet," McLeod explained.
"It's Procyon VIII--number eight out of sixteen, unless we missed a
couple. We checked sixteen worlds in the system, anyway. Ten of 'em
were methane giants; we didn't even bother to land. Two were ammonia
supergiants, even less pleasant. Three small ones had no atmosphere
at all worth speaking about, and were no more livable looking than
Mercury. And the remaining one was the one we call New Earth. Take a
look, sir."

Walton looked. The photos showed rolling hills covered with
close-packed shrubbery, flowing rivers, a lovely sunrise. Several of
the shots were of indigenous life--a wizened little four-handed monkey,
a six-legged doglike thing, a toothy bird.

"Life runs to six limbs there," Walton observed. "But how livable can
this place be? Unless your photos are sour, that grass is _blue_ ...
and the water's peculiar looking, too. What sort of tests did you run?"

"It's the light, sir. Procyon's a double star; that faint companion
gets up in the sky and does tricky things to the camera. That grass may
look blue, but it's a chlorophyll-based photosynthesizer all the same.
And the water's nothing but H_{2}O, even with that purple tinge."

Walton nodded. "How about the atmosphere?"

"We were breathing it for a week, and no trouble. It's pretty rich in
oxygen--twenty-four percent. Gives you a bouncy feeling--just right for
pioneers, I'd say."

"You've prepared a full report on this place, haven't you?"

"Of course. It's right here." McLeod started to reach for his briefcase.

"Not just yet," Walton said. "I want to go through the rest of these
snapshots." He turned over one after another rapidly until he came to
a photo that showed a strange blocky figure, four-armed, bright green
in color. Its neckless head was encased in a sort of breathing mask
fashioned from some transparent plastic. Three cold, brooding eyes
peered outward.

"What's this?" Walton asked.

"Oh, that." McLeod attempted a cheerful grin. "That's a Dirnan. They
live on Procyon IX, one of the ammonia-giant planets. They're the
aliens who don't want us there."


Walton stared at the photograph of the alien. There was intelligence
there ... yes, intelligence and understanding, and perhaps even a sort
of compassion.

He sighed. There were always qualifications, never unalloyed successes.

"Colonel McLeod, how long would it take your ship to return to the
Procyon system?" he asked thoughtfully.

McLeod considered the question. "Hardly any time, sir. A few days,
maybe. Why?"

"Just a wild idea. Tell me about your contact with these--ah--Dirnans."

"Well, sir, they landed after we'd spent more than a week surveying New
Earth. There were six of them, and they had their translating widget
with them. They told us who they were, and wanted to know who we were.
We told them. They said they ran the Procyon system, and weren't of a
mind to let any alien beings come barging in."

"Did they sound hostile?" Walton asked.

"Oh, no. Just businesslike. We were trespassing, and they asked us to
get off. They were cold about it, but not angry."

"Fine," Walton said. "Look here, now. Do you think you could go back
to their world as--well as an ambassador from Earth? Bring one of the
Dirnans here for treaty talks, and such?"

"I suppose so," McLeod said hesitantly. "If it's necessary."

"It looks as if it may be. You had no luck in any of the other nearby


"Then Procyon VIII's our main hope. Tell your men we'll offer double
pay for this cruise. And make it as fast as you know how."

"Hyperspace travel's practically instantaneous," McLeod said. "We spent
most of our time cruising on standard ion drive from planet to planet.
Maneuvering in the subspace manifold's a snap, though."

"Good. Snap it up, then. Back to Nairobi and clear out of there as
soon as you're ready. Remember, it's urgent you bring one of the aliens
here for treaty talks."

"I'll do my best," McLeod said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Walton stared at the empty seat where McLeod had been, and tried to
picture a green Dirnan sitting there, goggling at him with its three

He was beginning to feel like a juggler. Popeek activity proceeded on
so many fronts at once that it quite dazzled him. And every hour there
were new challenges to meet, new decisions to make.

At the moment, there were too many eggs and not enough baskets. Walton
realized he was making the same mistake FitzMaugham had, that of
carrying too much of the Popeek workings inside his skull. If anything
happened to him, the operation would be fatally paralyzed, and it would
be some time before the gears were meshing again.

He resolved to keep a journal, to record each day a full and
mercilessly honest account of each of the many maneuvers in which he
was engaged. He would begin with his private conflict with Fred and the
interests Fred represented, follow through with the Lamarre-immortality
episode, and include a detailed report on the problems of the
subsidiary projects, New Earth and Lang's terraforming group.

That gave him another idea. Reaching for his voicewrite, he dictated
a concise confidential memorandum instructing Assistant Administrator
Eglin to outfit an investigatory mission immediately; purpose, to go
to Venus and make contact with Lang. The terraforming group was nearly
two weeks overdue in its scheduled report. He could not ignore them any

The everlasting annunciator chimed, and Walton switched on the screen.
It was Sellors, and from the look of abject terror on the man's face,
Walton knew that something sticky had just transpired.

"What is it, Sellors? Any luck in tracing Lamarre?"

"None, sir," the security chief said. "But there's been another
development, Mr. Walton. A most serious one. _Most_ serious."

Walton was ready to expect anything--a bulletin announcing the end of
the universe, perhaps. "Well, tell me about it," he snapped impatiently.

Sellors seemed about ready to collapse with shame. He said hesitantly,
"One of the communications technicians was making a routine check of
the building's circuits, Mr. Walton. He found one trunk-line that
didn't seem to belong where it was, so he checked up and found out that
it had been newly installed."

"Well, what of it?"

"It was a spy pickup with its outlet in your office, sir," Sellors
said, letting the words tumble out in one blur. "All the time you were
talking this morning, someone was spying on you."

Walton grabbed the arms of his chair. "Are you telling me that your
department was blind enough to let someone pipe a spy pickup right into
this office?" he demanded. "Where did this outlet go? And is it cut

"They cut it off as soon as they found it, sir. It went to a men's
lavatory on the twenty-sixth floor."

"And how long was it in operation?"

"At least since last night, sir. Communications assures me that it
couldn't possibly have been there before yesterday afternoon, since
they ran a general check then and didn't see it."

Walton groaned. It was small comfort to know that he had had privacy
up till last evening; if the wrong people had listened in on his
conversation with McLeod, there would be serious trouble.

"All right, Sellors. This thing can't be your fault, but keep your eyes
peeled in the future. And tell communications that my office is to be
checked for such things twice a day from now on, at 0900 and at 1300."

"Yes, sir." Sellors looked tremendously relieved.

"And start interrogating the communications technicians. Find out who's
responsible for that spy circuit, and hold him on security charges. And
locate Lamarre!"

"I'll do my best, Mr. Walton."

While the screen was clearing, Walton jotted down a memorandum to
himself: _investigate Sellors_. So far, as security chief, Sellors had
allowed an assassin to reach FitzMaugham, allowed Prior to burst into
Walton's old office, permitted Fred to masquerade as a doorsmith long
enough to gain access to Walton's private files, and stood by blindly
while Lee Percy tapped into Walton's private wire and some unidentified
technician strung a spy pickup into the director's supposedly sacred

No security chief could have been as incompetent as all that. It had to
be a planned campaign, directed from the outside.

He dialed Eglin.

"Olaf, you get my message about the Venus rescue mission okay?"

"Came through a few minutes ago. I'll have the specs drawn up by

"Devil with that," Walton said. "Drop everything and send that ship out
_now_. I've got to know what Lang and his crew are up to, and I have
to know right away. If we don't produce a livable Venus, or at least
the possibility of one, in a couple of days, we'll be in for it on all

"Why? What's up?"

"You'll see. Keep an eye on the telefax. I'll bet the next edition of
_Citizen_ is going to be interesting."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was.

The glossy sheets of the 1200 _Citizen_ extruded themselves from a
million receivers in the New York area, but none of those million
copies was as avidly pounced on as was Director Walton's. He had been
hovering near the wall outlet for ten minutes, avidly awaiting the
sheet's arrival.

And he was not disappointed.

The streamer headline ran:


And under it in smaller type:

    _Greenskinned Uglies Put Feet In Director Walton's Big Mouth_

He smiled grimly and went on to the story itself. Written in the best
approved _Citizen_ journalese, it read:

    _Fellow human beings, we've been suckered again. The_ Citizen _found
    out for sure this morning that the big surprise Popeek's Interim
    Director Walton yanked out of his hat last night has a hole in it._

    _It's sure dope that there's a good planet up there in the sky for
    grabs. The way we hear it, it's just like earth only prettier, with
    trees and flowers (remember them?). Our man says the air there is
    nice and clean. This world sounds okay._

    _But what Walton didn't know last night came home to roost today.
    Seems the folks on the next planet out there don't want any sloppy
    old Earthmen messing up their pasture--and so we ain't going to have
    any New Earth after all. Wish-washy Walton is a cinch to throw in
    the towel now._

    _More dope in later editions. And check the edit page for extra

It was obvious, Walton thought, that the spy pickup which had been
planted in his office had been a direct pipe line to the _Citizen_ news
desk. They had taken his conversation with McLeod and carefully ground
it down into the chatty, informal, colloquial style that made _Citizen_
the world's most heavily-subscribed telefax service.

He shuddered at what might have happened if they'd had their spy
pickup installed a day earlier, and overheard Walton in the process of
suppressing Lamarre's immortality serum. There would have been a lynch
mob storming the Cullen Building ten minutes after the _Citizen_ hit
the waves with its exposé.

Not that he was much better off now. He no longer had the advantage of
secrecy to cloak his actions, and public officials who were compelled
to conduct business in the harsh light of public scrutiny generally
didn't hold their offices for long.

He turned the sheet over and searched for the editorial column, merely
to confirm his expectations.

It was captioned in bold black:


And went on to say:

    _Non-human beings have said "Whoa!" to our plans for opening up a
    new world in space. These aliens have put thumbs down on
    colonization of the New Earth discovered by Colonel Leslie McLeod._

    _Aside from the question of why Popeek kept word of the McLeod
    expedition from the public so long, there is this to consider--will
    we take this lying down?_

    _We've got to find space for us to live. New Earth is a good place.
    The answer to the trouble is easy: we take New Earth. If the
    greenskins don't like it, bounce 'em!_

    _How about it? What do we do? Mr. Walton, we want to know. What

It was an open exhortation to interstellar warfare. Dispiritedly,
Walton let the telefax sheets skitter to the floor, and made no move to
pick them up.

War with the Dirnans? If _Citizen_ had its way, there would be. The
telefax sheet would remorselessly stir the people up until the cry for
war was unanimous.

_Well_, thought Walton callously, _a good war would reduce the
population surplus. The idiots!_

       *       *       *       *       *

He caught the afternoon newsblares. They were full of the _Citizen_
break, and one commentator made a point-blank demand that Walton either
advocate war with the Dirnans or resign.

Not long afterward, UN delegate Ludwig called.

"Some hot action over here today," he told Walton. "After that
_Citizen_ thing got out, a few of the Oriental delegates started
howling for your scalp on sixteen different counts of bungling. What's
going on, Walton?"

"Plenty of spy activity, for one thing. The main problem, though, is
the nucleus of incompetent assistants surrounding me. I think I'm going
to reduce the local population personally before the day is out. With a
blunt instrument, preferably."

"Is there any truth in the _Citizen_ story?"

"Hell, yes!" Walton exclaimed. "For once, it's gospel! An enterprising
telefax man rigged a private pipe line into my office last night and
no one caught it until it was too late. Sure, those aliens are holding
out. They don't want us coming in there."

Ludwig chewed at his lip. "You have any plans?"

"Dozens of them. Want some, cheap?" He laughed, a brittle, unamused

"Seriously, Roy. You ought to go on the air again and smooth this thing
over. The people are yelling for war with these Dirnans, and half of
us over here at the UN aren't even sure the damned creatures exist.
Couldn't you fake it up a little?"

"No," Walton said. "There's been enough faking. I'm going on the air
with the truth for a change! Better have all your delegates over there
listening in, because their ears are in for an opening."

As soon as he was rid of Ludwig he called Lee Percy.

"That program on the conquest of space is almost ready to go," the
public relations man informed him.

"Kill it. Have you seen the noon _Citizen_?"

"No; been too busy on the new program. Anything big?"

Walton chuckled. "Fairly big. The _Citizen_ just yanked the rug out
from under everything. We'll probably be at war with Procyon IX by
sundown. I want you to buy me air space on every medium for the 1900
spot tonight."

"Sure thing. What kind of speech you want us to cook up?"

"None at all," Walton said. "I'm going to speak off the cuff for a
change. Just buy the time for me, and squeeze the budget for all it's


The bright light of the video cameras flooded the room. Percy had
done a good job; there was a representative from every network, every
telefax, every blare of any sort at all. The media had been corralled.
Walton's words would echo round the world.

He was seated behind his desk--seated, because he could shape his words
more forcefully that way, and also because he was terribly tired. He
smiled into the battery of cameras.

"Good evening," he said. "I'm Roy Walton, speaking to you from the
offices of the Bureau of Population Equalization. I've been director
of Popeek for a little less than a week, now, and I'd like to make a
report--a progress report, so to speak.

"We of Popeek regard ourselves as holding a mandate from you, the
people. After all, it was the world-wide referendum last year that
enabled the United Nations to put us into business. And I want to tell
you how the work of Popeek is going.

"Our aim is to provide breathing space for human beings. The world is
vastly overcrowded, with its seven billion people. Popeek's job is to
ease that overcrowdedness, to equalize the population masses of the
world so that the empty portions of the globe are filled up and the
extremely overcrowded places thinned out a little. But this is only
part of our job--the short-range, temporary part. We're planning for
the future here. We know we can't keep shifting population from place
to place on Earth; it won't work forever. Eventually every square inch
is going to be covered, and then where do we go?

"You know the answer. We go _out_. We reach for the stars. At present
we have spaceships that can take us to the planets, but the planets
aren't suitable for human life. All right, we'll _make_ them suitable!
At this very moment a team of engineers is on Venus, in that hot, dry,
formaldehyde atmosphere, struggling to turn Venus into a world fit for
oxygen-breathing human beings. They'll do it, too--and when they're
done with Venus they'll move on to Mars, to the Moon, perhaps to the
big satellites of Jupiter and Saturn too. There'll be a day when the
solar system will be habitable from Mercury to Pluto--we hope."

"But even that is short-range," Walton said pointedly. "There'll be
a day--it may be a hundred years from now, or a thousand, or ten
thousand--when the entire solar system will be as crowded with humanity
as Earth is today. We have to plan for that day, too. It's the _lack_
of planning on the part of our ancestors that's made things so hard for
us. We of Popeek don't want to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past.

"My predecessor, the late Director FitzMaugham, was aware of this
problem. He succeeded in gathering a group of scientists and
technicians who developed a super space drive, a faster-than-light ship
that can travel to the stars virtually instantaneously, instead of
taking years to make the trip as our present ships would.

"The ship was built and sent out on an exploratory mission. Director
FitzMaugham chose to keep this fact a secret. He was afraid of arousing
false hopes in case the expedition should be a failure.

"The expedition was _not_ a failure! Colonel Leslie McLeod and his men
discovered a planet similar to Earth in the system of the star Procyon.
I have seen photographs of New Earth, as they have named it, and I can
tell you that it is a lovely planet ... and one that will be receptive
to our pioneers."

Walton paused a moment before launching into the main subject of his

"Unfortunately, there is a race of intelligent beings living on a
neighboring planet of this world. Perhaps you have seen the misleading
and inaccurate reports blared today to the effect that these people
refuse to allow Earth to colonize in their system. Some of you have
cried out for immediate war against these people, the Dirnans.

"I must confirm part of the story the telefax carried today: the
Dirnans are definitely not anxious to have Earth set up a colony on a
world adjoining theirs. We are strangers to them, and their reaction is
understandable. After all, suppose a race of strange-looking creatures
landed on Mars, and proceeded with wholesale colonization of our
neighboring world? We'd be uneasy, to say the least.

"And so the Dirnans are uneasy. However, I've summoned a Dirnan
ambassador--our first diplomatic contact with intelligent alien
creatures!--and I hope he'll be on Earth shortly. I plan to convince
him that we're peaceful, neighborly people, and that it will be to our
mutual benefit to allow Earth colonization in the Procyon system.

"I'm going to need your help. If, while our alien guest is here, he
discovers that some misguided Earthmen are demanding war with Dirna,
he's certainly not going to think of us as particularly desirable
neighbors to welcome with open arms. I want to stress the importance of
this. Sure, we can go to war with Dirna for possession of Procyon VIII.
But why spread wholesale destruction on two worlds when we can probably
achieve our goal peacefully?

"That's all I have to say tonight, people of the world. I hope you'll
think about what I've told you. Popeek works twenty-four hours a day
in your behalf, but we need your full cooperation if we're going to
achieve our aims and bring humanity to its full maturity. Thank you."

       *       *       *       *       *

The floodlights winked out suddenly, leaving Walton momentarily
blinded. When he opened his eyes again he saw the cameramen moving
their bulky apparatus out of the office quickly and efficiently. The
regular programs had returned to the channels--the vapid dancing and
joke-making, the terror shows, the kaleidowhirls.

Now that it was over, now that the tension was broken, Walton
experienced a moment of bitter disillusionment. He had had high hopes
for his speech, but had he really put it over? He wasn't sure.

He glanced up. Lee Percy stood over him.

"Roy, can I say something?" Percy said diffidently.

"Go ahead," Walton said.

"I don't know how many millions I forked over to put you on the media
tonight, but I know one thing--we threw a hell of a lot of money away."

Walton sighed wearily. "Why do you say that?"

"That speech of yours," Percy said, "was the speech of an amateur. You
ought to let pros handle the big spiels, Roy."

"I thought you liked the impromptu thing I did when they mobbed that
Herschelite. How come no go tonight?"

Percy shook his head. "The speech you made outside the building was
different. It had emotion; it had punch! But tonight you didn't come
across at all."


"I'd put money behind it." Acidly Percy said, "You can't win the public
opinion by being reasonable. You gave a nice smooth speech. Bland ...
folksy. You laid everything on the line where they could see it."

"And that's wrong, is it?" Walton closed his eyes for a moment. "_Why?_"

"Because they won't listen! You gave them a sermon when you should have
been punching at them! Sweet reason! You can't be _sweet_ if you want
to sell your product to seven billion morons!"

"Is that all they are?" Walton asked. "Just morons?"

Percy chuckled. "In the long run, yes. Give them their daily bread and
their one room to live in, and they won't give a damn what happens
to the world. FitzMaugham sold them Popeek the way you'd sell a car
without turbines. He hoodwinked them into buying something they hadn't
thought about or wanted."

"They _needed_ Popeek, whether they wanted it or not. No one needs a
car without turbines."

"Bad analogy, then," Percy said. "But it's true. They don't care a
blast about Popeek, except where it affects them. If you'd told them
that these aliens would kill them all if they didn't act nice, you'd
have gotten across. But this sweetness and light business--oh, no, Roy.
It just doesn't work."

"Is that all you have to tell me?" Walton asked.

"I guess so. I just wanted to show you where you had a big chance and
muffed it. Where we could have helped you out if you'd let us. I don't
want you to think I'm being rude or critical, Roy; I'm just trying to
be helpful."

"Okay, Lee. Get out."


"Go away. Go sell ice to the Eskimos. Leave me alone, yes?"

"If that's the way you want it. Hell, Roy, don't brood over it. We can
still fix things up before that alien gets here. We can put the content
of tonight's speech across so smoothly that they won't even know

"_Get out!_"

Percy skittered for the door. He paused and said, "You're all wrought
up, Roy. You ought to take a pill or something for your nerves."

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, he had his answer. An expert evaluation of the content and effect
of his speech.

Dammit, he had _tried_ to reach them. Percy said he hadn't, and Percy
probably was right, little as Walton cared to admit the fact to himself.

But was Percy's approach the only one? Did you have to lie to them,
push them, treat them as seven billion morons?

Maybe. Right now billions of human beings--the same human beings Walton
was expending so much energy to save--were staring at the kaleidowhirl
programs on their videos. Their eyes were getting fixed, glassy. Their
mouths were beginning to sag open, their cheeks to wobble, their lips
to droop pendulously, as the hypnosis of the color patterns took effect.

This was humanity. They were busy forgetting all the things they had
just been forced to listen to. All the big words, like _mandate_ and
_eventually_ and _wholesale destruction_. Just so many harsh syllables
to be wiped away by the soothing swirl of the colors.

And somewhere else, possibly, a poet named Prior was listening to his
baby's coughing and trying to write a poem--a poem that Walton and a
few others would read excitedly, while the billions would ignore it.

Walton saw that Percy was dead right: Roy Walton could never have sold
Popeek to the world. But FitzMaugham, that cagy, devious genius, did
it. By waving his hands before the public and saying abracadabra, he
bamboozled them into approving Popeek before they knew what they were
being sold.

It was a lousy trick, but FitzMaugham had realized that it had to be
done. Someone had killed him for it, but it was too late by then.

And Walton saw that he had taken the wrong track by trying to be
reasonable. Percy's callous description of humanity as "seven billion
morons" was uncomfortably close to the truth. Walton would have to make
his appeal to a more subliminal level.

Perhaps, he thought, at the level of the kaleidowhirls, those endless
patterns of colored light that were the main form of diversion for the
Great Unwashed.

_I'll get to them_, Walton promised himself. _There can't be any
dignity or nobility in human life with everyone crammed into one
sardine can. So I'll treat them like the sardines they are, and hope
I can turn them into the human beings they could be if they only had

He rose, turned out the light, prepared to leave. He wondered if the
late Director FitzMaugham had ever faced an internal crisis of this
sort, or whether FitzMaugham had known these truths innately from the

Probably, the latter was the case. FitzMaugham had been a genius, a
sort of superman. But FitzMaugham was dead, and the man who carried on
his work was no genius. He was only a mere man.

       *       *       *       *       *

The reports started filtering in the next morning. It went much as
Percy had predicted.

_Citizen_ was the most virulent. Under the sprawling headline, _WHO'S
KIDDING WHO?_ the telefax sheet wanted to know what the "mealy-mouthed"
Popeek director was trying to tell the world on all media the night
before. They weren't sure, since Walton, according to _Citizen_, had
been talking in "hifalutin prose picked on purpose to befuddle John Q.
Public." But their general impression was that Walton had proposed some
sort of sellout to the Dirnans.

The sellout idea prevailed in most of the cheap telefax sheets.

"Behind a cloud of words, Popeek czar Walton is selling the world
downstream to the greenskins," said one paper. "His talk last night was
strictly bunk. His holy-holy words and grim face were supposed to put
over something, but we ain't fooled--and don't you be fooled either,

The video commentators were a little kinder, but not very. One called
for a full investigation of the Earth-Dirna situation. Another wanted
to know why Walton, an appointed official and not even a permanent
one at that, had taken it upon himself to handle such high-power
negotiations. The UN seemed a little worried about that, even though
Ludwig had made a passionate speech insisting that negotiations with
Dirna were part of Walton's allotted responsibilities.

That touched off a new ruckus. "How much power does Walton have?"
_Citizen_ demanded in a later edition. "Is he the boss of the world?
And if he is, who the devil is he anyway?"

That struck Walton harder than all the other blows. He had been
gradually realizing that he did, in fact, control what amounted to
dictatorial powers over the world. But he had not yet fully admitted it
to himself, and it hurt to be accused of it publicly.

One thing was clear: his attempt at sincerity and clarity had been
a total failure. The world was accustomed to subterfuge and verbal
pyrotechnics, and when it didn't get the expected commodity, it grew
suspicious. Sincerity had no market value. By going before the public
and making a direct appeal, Walton had aroused the suspicion that he
had something hidden up his sleeve.

When _Citizen's_ third edition of the day openly screamed for war with
Dirna, Walton realized the time had come to stop playing it clean. From
now on, he would chart his course and head there at any cost.

He tore a sheet of paper from his memo pad and inscribed on it a brief
motto: _The ends justify the means!_

With that as his guide, he was ready to get down to work.


Martinez, security head for the entire Appalachia district, was a
small, slight man with unruly hair and deep, piercing eyes. He stared
levelly at Walton and said, "Sellors has been with security for twenty
years. It's absurd to suggest that he's disloyal."

"He's made a great many mistakes," Walton remarked. "I'm simply
suggesting that if he's not utterly incompetent he must be in someone
else's pay."

"And you want us to break a man on your say-so, Director Walton?"
Martinez shook his head fussily. "I'm afraid I can't see that. Of
course, if you're willing to go through the usual channels, you could
conceivably request a change of personnel in this district. But I don't
see how else--"

"Sellors will have to go," Walton said. "Our operation has sprung too
many leaks. We'll need a new man in here at once, and I want you to
double-check him personally."

Martinez rose. The little man's nostrils flickered ominously. "I
refuse. Security is external to whims and fancies. If I remove Sellors,
it will undermine security self-confidence all throughout the country."

"All right," sighed Walton. "Sellors stays. I'll file a request to have
him transferred, though."

"I'll pigeonhole it. I can vouch for Sellors' competence myself,"
Martinez snapped. "Popeek is in good hands, Mr. Walton. Please believe

Martinez left. Walton glowered at the retreating figure. He knew
Martinez was honest--but the security head was a stubborn man, and
rather than admit the existence of a flaw in the security structure he
had erected, Martinez would let a weak man continue in a vital position.

Well, that blind spot in Martinez' makeup would have to be compensated
for, Walton thought. One way or another, he would have to get rid of
Sellors and replace him with a security man he could trust.

He scribbled a hasty note and sent it down the chute to Lee Percy. As
Walton anticipated, the public relations man phoned minutes later.

"Roy, what's this release you want me to get out? It's
fantastic--Sellors a spy? How? He hasn't even been arrested. I just saw
him in the building."

Walton smirked. "Since when do you have such a high respect for
accuracy?" he asked. "Send out the release and we'll watch what

The 1140 newsblares were the first to carry the news. Walton listened
cheerlessly as they revealed that Security Chief Sellors had been
arrested on charges of disloyalty. According to informed sources, said
the blares, Sellors was now in custody and had agreed to reveal the
nature of the secret conspiracy which had hired him.

At 1210 came a later report: Security Chief Sellors had temporarily
been released from custody.

And at 1230 came a still later report: Security Chief Sellors had been
assassinated by an unknown hand outside the Cullen Building.

Walton listened to the reports with cold detachment. He had foreseen
the move: Sellors' panicky employers had silenced the man for good.
_The ends justify the means_, Walton told himself. There was no reason
to feel pity for Sellors; he had been a spy and death was the penalty.
It made no real difference whether death came in a federal gas chamber
or as the result of some carefully faked news releases.

Martinez called almost immediately after word of Sellors' murder
reached the blares. The little man's face was deadly pale.

"I owe you an apology," he said. "I acted like an idiot this morning."

"Don't blame yourself," Walton said. "It was only natural that you'd
trust Sellors; you'd known him so long. But you can't trust anyone
these days, Martinez. Not even yourself."

"I will have to resign," the security man said.

"No. It wasn't your fault. Sellors was a spy and a bungler, and he paid
the price. His own men struck him down when that rumor escaped that he
was going to inform. Just send me a new man, as I asked--and make him a
good one!"

Keeler, the new security attaché, was a crisp-looking man in his early
thirties. He reported directly to Walton as soon as he reached the

"You're Sellors' replacement, eh? Glad to see you, Keeler." Walton
studied him. He looked tough and hard and thoroughly incorruptible.
"I've a couple of jobs I'd like you to start on right away. First, you
know Sellors was looking for a man named Lamarre. Let me fill you in on
that, and--"

"No need for that," Keeler said. "I was the man Sellors put on the
Lamarre chase. There isn't a trace of him anywhere. We've got feelers
out all over the planet now, and no luck."

"Hmm." Walton was mildly annoyed; he had been wishfully hoping Sellors
had found Lamarre and had simply covered up the fact. But if Keeler had
been the one who handled the search, there was no hope of that.

"All right," Walton said. "Keep on the hunt for Lamarre. At the moment
I want you to give this building a thorough scouring. There's no
telling how many spy pickups Sellors planted here. Top to bottom, and
report back to me when the job is done."

Next on Walton's schedule was a call from communications. He received
it and a technician told him, "There's been a call from the Venus ship.
Do you want it, sir?"

"Of course!"

"It says, 'Arrived Venus June fifteen late, no sign of Lang outfit yet.
Well keep looking and will report daily.' It's signed, 'Spencer.'"

"Okay," Walton said. "Thanks. And if any further word from them comes,
let me have it right away."

The fate of the Lang expedition, Walton reflected, was not of immediate
importance. But he would like to know what had happened to the group.
He hoped Spencer and his rescue mission had something more concrete to
report tomorrow.

The annunciator chimed. "Dr. Frederic Walton is on the line, sir. He
says it's urgent."

"Okay," Walton said. He switched over and waited for his brother's face
to appear on the screen. A nervous current of anticipation throbbed in

"Well, Fred?" he asked at length.

"You've been a busy little bee, haven't you?" Fred said. "I understand
you have a new security chief to watch over you."

"I don't have time to make conversation now," Walton snapped.

"Nor do I. You fooled us badly, with that newsbreak on Sellors. You
forced us into wiping out a useful contact prematurely."

"Not so useful," Walton said. "I was on to him. If you hadn't killed
him, I would have had to handle the job myself. You saved me the

"My, my! Getting ruthless, aren't we!"

"When the occasion demands," Walton said.

"Fair enough. We'll play the same way." Fred's eyes narrowed. "You
recall our conversation in the Bronze Room the other day, Roy?"


"I've called to ask for your decision," Fred said. "One way or the

Walton was caught off guard. "But you said I had a week's grace!"

"The period has been halved," Fred said. "We now see it's necessary to
accelerate things."

"Tell me what you want me to do. Then I'll give you my answer."

"It's simple enough. You're to resign in my favor. If it's not done
by nightfall tomorrow, we'll find it necessary to release the Lamarre
serum. Those are our terms, and don't try to bargain with me."

Walton was silent for a moment, contemplating his brother's cold face
on the screen. Finally he said, "It takes time to get such things done.
I can't just resign overnight."

"FitzMaugham did."

"Ah, yes--if you call that a resignation. But unless you want to
inherit the same sort of chaos I did, you'd better give me a little
time to prepare things."

Fred's eyes gleamed. "Does that mean you'll yield? You'll resign in my

"There's no guarantee the UN will accept you," Walton warned. "Even
with my recommendation, I can't promise a one hundred percent chance of

"We'll have to risk it," said Fred. "The important step is getting you
out of there. When can I have confirmation of all this?"

Walton eyed his brother shrewdly. "Come up to my office tomorrow at
this time. I'll have everything set up for you by then, and I'll be
able to show you how the Popeek machinery works. That's one advantage
you'll have over me. FitzMaugham kept half the workings in his head."

Fred grinned savagely. "I'll see you then, Roy." Chuckling, he added,
"I knew all that ruthlessness of yours was just skin deep. You never
were tough, Roy."

       *       *       *       *       *

Walton glanced at his watch after Fred had left the screen. The time
was 1100. It had been a busy morning.

But some of the vaguenesses were beginning to look sharper. He knew,
for instance, that Sellors had been in the pay of the same organization
that backed Fred. Presumably, this meant that FitzMaugham had been
assassinated by the landed gentry.

But for what reason? Surely, not simply for the sake of assassination.
Had they cared to, they might have killed FitzMaugham whenever they

He saw now why the assassination had been timed as it had. By the time
the conspirators had realized that Walton was sure to be the old man's
successor, Fred had already joined their group. They had ready leverage
on the prospective director. They knew they could shove him out of
office almost as quickly as he got in, and supplant him with their
puppet, Fred.

Well, they were in for a surprise. Fred was due to appear at Walton's
office at 1100 on the morning of the seventeenth to take over command.
Walton planned to be ready for them by then.

There was the matter of Lamarre. Walton wanted the little scientist and
his formula badly. But by this time Fred had certainly made at least
one copy of Lamarre's documents; the threat would remain, whether or
not Popeek recovered the originals.

Walton had twenty-four hours to act. He called up Sue Llewellyn,
Popeek's comptroller.

"Sue, how's our budget looking?"

"What's on your mind, Roy?"

"Plenty. I want to know if I can make an expenditure of--say, a
billion, between now and nightfall."

"A _billion_? You joking, Roy?"

"Hardly." Walton's tone was grim. "I hope I won't need it all. But
there's a big purchase I want to make ... an investment. Can you
squeeze out the money? It doesn't matter where you squeeze it from,
either, because if we don't get it by nightfall there probably won't be
a Popeek by the day after tomorrow."

"What _are_ you talking about, Roy?"

"Give me a yes or no answer. And if the answer's not the one I want to
hear, I'm afraid you can start looking for a new job, Sue."

She uttered a little gasp. Then she said, "Okay, Roy. I'll play along
with you, even if it bankrupts us. There's a billion at your disposal
as of now, though Lord knows what I'll use for a payroll next week."

"You'll have it back," Walton promised. "With compound interest."

His next call was to a man he had once dealt with in his capacity of
secretary to Senator FitzMaugham. He was Noel Hervey, a registered
securities and exchange slyster.

Hervey was a small, worried-looking little man, but his unflickering
eyes belied his ratty appearance. "What troubles you, Roy?"

"I want you to make a stock purchase for me, pronto. Within an hour,

Hervey shook his head instantly. "Sorry, Roy. I'm all tied up on a hefty
monorail deal. Won't be free until Wednesday or Thursday, if by then."

Walton said, "What sort of money will you be making on this big deal of
yours, Noel?"

"Confidential! You wouldn't invade a man's privacy on a delicate matter

"Will it be worth five million dollars for you, Noel?"

"Five million--hey, is this a gag?"

"I'm awfully serious," Walton said. "I want you to swing a deal for me,
right away. You've heard my price."

Hervey smiled warmly. "Well, start talking, friend. Consider me hired."

       *       *       *       *       *

A few other matters remained to be tended to hurriedly. Walton spent
some moments talking to a communications technician, then sent out an
order for three or four technical books--_Basic Kaleidowhirl Theory_
and related works. He sent a note to Lee Percy requesting him to stop
by and see him in an hour, and told his annunciator that for no reason
whatsoever was he to be disturbed for the next sixty minutes.

The hour passed rapidly; by its end, Walton's head was slightly
dizzy from too much skimming, but his mind was thrumming with new
possibilities, with communications potentials galore. Talk about
reaching people! He had a natural!

He flipped on the annunciator. "Is Mr. Percy here yet?"

"No, sir. Should I send for him?"

"Yes. He's due here any minute to see me. Have there been any calls?"

"Quite a few. I've relayed them down to Mr. Eglin's office, as

"Good girl," Walton said.

"Oh, Mr. Percy's here. And there's a call for you from communications."

Walton frowned. "Tell Percy to wait outside a minute or two. Give me
the call."

The communications tech on the screen was grinning excitedly. He said,
"Subspace message just came in for you, sir."

"From Venus?"

"No, sir. From Colonel McLeod."

"Let's have it," Walton said.

The technician read, "'To Walton from McLeod, via subspace radio: Have
made successful voyage to Procyon system, and am on way back with
Dirnan ambassador on board. See you soon, and good luck--you'll need

"Good. That all?"

"That's all, sir."

"Okay. Keep me posted." He broke contact and turned to the annunciator.
Excitement put a faint quiver in his voice. "You can send in Mr. Percy
now," he said.


Walton looked up at the public relations man and said, "How much do you
know about kaleidowhirls, Lee?"

"Not a hell of a lot. I never watch the things, myself. They're bad for
the eyes."

Walton smiled. "That makes you a nonconformist, doesn't it? According
to the figures I have here, the nightly kaleidowhirl programs are
top-ranked on the rating charts."

"Maybe so," Percy said cautiously. "I still don't like to watch them.
What goes, Roy?"

"I've suddenly become very interested in kaleidowhirls myself," Walton
said. He leaned back and added casually, "I think they can be used as
propaganda devices. My brother's reaction to one gave me the idea,
couple days ago, at the Bronze Room. For the past hour or so, I've been
studying kaleidowhirls in terms of information theory. Did you know
that it's possible to get messages across via kaleidowhirl?"

"Of course," Percy gasped. "But the Communications Commission would
never let you get away with it!"

"By the time the Communications Commission found out what had been
done," Walton said calmly, "we wouldn't be doing it any more. They
won't be able to prove a thing." Sarcastically he added, "After
spending a lifetime in public relations, you're not suddenly getting a
rush of ethics, are you?"

"Well ... let's have the details, then."

"Simple enough," Walton said. "We feed through a verbal
message--something like _Hooray for Popeek_ or _I Don't Want War With
Dirna_. We flash it on the screen for, say, a microsecond, then cover
it up with kaleidowhirl patterns. Wait two minutes, then flash it
again. Plenty of noise, but the signal will get through if we flash it
often enough."

"And it'll get through deep down," Percy said. "Subliminally. They
won't even realize that they're being indoctrinated, but suddenly
they'll have a new set of opinions about Popeek and Dirna!" He
shuddered. "Roy, I hate to think what can happen if someone else gets
to thinking about this and puts on his own kaleidowhirl show."

"I've thought of that. After the Dirna crisis is over--after we've put
over our point--I'm going to take steps to make sure no one can use
this sort of weapon again. I'm going to frame someone into putting on a
propaganda kaleidowhirl, and then catch him in the act. That ought to
be sufficient to wise up the Communications Commission."

"In other words," Percy said, "you're willing to use this technique
_now_. But since you don't want anyone else to use it, you're willing
to give up future use of it yourself as soon as the Dirna trouble is

"Exactly." Walton shoved the stack of textbooks over to the PR man.
"Read these through first. Get yourself familiar with the setup. Then
buy a kaleidowhirl hour and get a bunch of our engineers in there to
handle the special inserts. Okay?"

"It's nasty, but I like it. When do you want the program to begin?"

"Tomorrow. Tonight, if you can work it. And set up a poll of some kind
to keep check on the program's effectiveness. I want two messages
kaleidowhirled alternately: one supporting Popeek, one demanding a
peaceful settlement with the aliens. Have your pulse takers feel out
the populace on those two propositions, and report any fluctuation to
me immediately."

"Got it."

"Oh, one more thing. I suspect you'll have some extra responsibilities
as of tomorrow, Lee."


"Your office will have one additional medium to deal with. Telefax. I'm
buying _Citizen_ and we're going to turn it into a pro-Popeek rag."

Percy's mouth dropped in astonishment; then he started to laugh.
"You're a wonder, Roy. A genuine wonder."

       *       *       *       *       *

Moments after Percy departed, Noel Hervey, the security and exchange
slyster, called.

"Well?" Walton asked.

Hervey looked preoccupied. "I've successfully spent a couple of hundred
million of Popeek's money in the last half-hour, Roy. You now own the
single biggest block of _Citizen_ stock there is."

"How much is that?"

"One hundred fifty-two thousand shares. Approximately thirty-three

"Thirty-three percent! What about the other eighteen percent?"

"Patience, lad, patience. I know my job. I snapped up all the small
holdings there were, very quietly. It cost me a pretty penny to farm
out the purchases, too."

"Why'd you do that?" Walton asked.

"Because this has to be handled very gingerly. You know the ownership
setup of _Citizen_?"


"Well, it goes like this: Amalgamated Telefax owns a twenty-six percent
chunk, and Horace Murlin owns twenty-five percent. Since Murlin also
owns Amalgamated, he votes fifty-one percent of the stock, even though
it isn't registered that way. The other forty-nine percent doesn't
matter, Murlin figures. So I'm busy gathering up as much of it as I
can for you--under half a dozen different brokerage names. I doubt
that I can get it all, but I figure on rounding up at least forty-nine
percent. Then I'll approach Murlin with a Big Deal and sucker him into
selling me six percent of his _Citizen_ stock. He'll check around, find
out that the remaining stock is splintered ninety-seven different ways,
and he'll probably let go of a little of his, figuring he still has

"Suppose he doesn't?" Walton asked.

"Don't worry," Hervey said confidently. "He will. I've got a billion
smackers to play with, don't I? I'll cook up a deal so juicy he can't
resist it--and all he'll have to do to take a flyer will be to peel off
a little of his _Citizen_ stock. The second he does that, I transfer
all the fragmented stock to you. With your controlling majority of
fifty-one percent, you boot Murlin off the Board, and the telefax sheet
is yours! Simple? Clear?"

"Perfectly," Walton said. "Okay. Keep in touch."

He broke contact and walked to the window. The street was packed with
people scrambling in every direction, like so many ants moving at
random over the ground. Many of them clutched telefax sheets--and the
most popular one was the _Citizen_. Many of them would gape and goggle
at kaleidowhirl programs, come evening.

Walton suddenly tightened his fist. In just that way, he thought,
Popeek was tightening its hold on the public by capturing the mass
media. If Hervey's confidence had any justification in truth, they
would own the leading anti-Popeek telefax sheet by tomorrow. With
subtle handling over the course of several days, they could swing
the slant of _Citizen_ around to a pro-Popeek stand, and do it so
surreptitiously that it would seem as though the sheet had never had
any other policy.

As for the kaleidowhirl subterfuge--that, Walton admitted, was hitting
below the belt. But he had resolved that all would be fair during the
current crisis. There would be time enough for morality after war had
been averted.

At about 1430 that day, Walton took advantage of a lull in activities
to have a late lunch at the Bronze Room. He felt that he had to get
away from the confining walls of his office for at least some part of
the afternoon.

The Bronze Room had adopted cerise as its color scheme for the day.
Walton selected a private room, lunched lightly on baked chlorella
steak and filtered rum, and dialed a twelve-minute nap. When the alarm
system in the foamweb couch stirred him to wakefulness, he stretched
happily, some of the choking tension having been washed out of him.

Thoughtfully, he switched on the electroluminescent kaleidoscope and
stared at it. It worked on the same principle as the kaleidowhirl
programs beamed over the public video, except that the Bronze Room
provided closed-channel beaming of its own kaleidoscopic patterns;
tending more to soft greens and pale rose, they were on a higher
esthetic plane, certainly, than the jagged, melodramatic purples and
reds the video channels sent out for popular consumption.

But it was with a certain new apprehension that Walton now studied the
kaleidoscopic pattern. Now that he knew what a dangerous weapon the
flashing colors could be, how could he be certain that the Bronze Room
proprietors were not flashing some scarcely seen subliminal command at
him this very moment?

He turned the set off with a brusque gesture.

_The ends justify the means._ A nice homily, he thought, which allowed
him to do almost anything. It brought to mind the rationale of Ivan
Karamazov: without God, everything is permissible.

But both God and Dostoevski seem to be obsolete these days, he reminded
himself. God is now a lean young man with an office on the twenty-ninth
floor of the Cullen Building--and as for Dostoevski, all he did was
write books, and therefore could not have been of any great importance.

He felt a tremor of self-doubt. Maybe it had been unwise to let
kaleidowhirl propaganda loose on the world; once unleashed, it might
not be so easily caged again. He realized that as soon as the Popeek
campaign was over, he would have to make sure some method was devised
for pre-checking all public and closed-channel kaleidoscopic patterns.

The most damnable part of such propaganda techniques, he knew, was that
you could put over almost any idea at all without arousing suspicion on
the part of the viewer. He wouldn't know he'd been tampered with; you
could tell him so, after the new idea had been planted, and by then he
wouldn't believe you.

Walton dialed another filtered rum, and lifted it to his lips with a
slightly shaky hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Mr. Ludwig of the United Nations called while you were out, sir,"
Walton was told upon returning to his office. "He'd like you to call
him back."

"Very well. Make the connection for me."

When Ludwig appeared, Walton said, "Sorry I missed your call. What's

"Special session of the Security Council just broke up. They passed
a resolution unanimously and shipped it on to the Assembly. There's
going to be an immediate hearing to determine the new permanent head of

Walton clamped his lips together. After a moment he said, "How come?"

"The Dirnan crisis. They don't want a mere interim director handling
things. They feel the man dealing with the aliens ought to have full UN

"Should I interpret that to mean I get the job automatically?"

"I couldn't swear to it," said Ludwig. "General consensus certainly
favors you to continue. I'd advise that you show up at the hearing in
person and present your program in detail; otherwise they may stick
some smooth-talking politico in your place. The noise is slated to
start at 1100, day after tomorrow. The eighteenth."

"I'll be there," Walton said. "Thanks for the tip."

He chewed the end of his stylus for a moment, then hastily scribbled
down the appointment. As of now, he knew he couldn't worry too strongly
about events taking place the day after tomorrow--not with Fred
arriving for a show-down the next morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day began busily enough. Hervey was the first to call.

"The _Citizen's_ sewed up, Roy! I had dinner with Murlin last night and
weaseled him out of four percent of _Citizen_ stock in exchange for a
fancy tip on the new monorail project out Nevada way. He was grinning
all over the place--but I'll bet he's grinning out of the other side of
his mouth this morning."

"Is it all arranged?" Walton asked.

"In the bag. I was up by 0700 and consolidating my holdings--_your_
holdings, I mean. Forty-seven percent of the stock I had fragmented in
a dozen different outfits; the other two percent outstanding belonged
to rich widows who wouldn't sell. I lumped the forty-seven percent
together in your name, then completed the transfer on Murlin's four
percent and stuck that in there too. _Citizen_ telefax is now the
property of Popeek, Roy!"

"Fine work. How much did it cost?"

Then he said, "Four hundred eighty-three million and some change. Plus
my usual five percent commission, which in this case comes to about two
and a quarter million."

"But I offered you five million," Walton said. "That offer still goes."

"You want me to lose my license? I spend years placing bribes to get a
slyster's license, and you want me to throw it away for an extra couple
million? Uh-uh. I'll settle for two and a quarter, and damn good doing
I call that for a day's work."

Walton grinned. "You win. And Sue Llewellyn will be glad to know it
didn't cost the whole billion to grab _Citizen_. You'll be over with
the papers, won't you?"

"About 1000," the slyster said. "I've gotta follow through for Murlin
on his monorail deal first. The poor sucker! See you in an hour."


Rapidly Walton scribbled memos. As soon as the papers were in his
hands, he'd serve notice on Murlin that a stock-holders' meeting was
to be held at once. After that, he'd depose Murlin, fire the present
_Citizen_ editors, and pack the telefax sheet with men loyal to Popeek.

Fred was due at 1100. Walton buzzed Keeler, the new security chief, and
said, "Keeler, I have an appointment with someone at 1100. I want you
to station three men outside my door and frisk him for weapons as he
comes in."

"We'd do that anyway, sir. It's standard procedure now."

"Good. But I want you to be one of the three. And make sure the two who
come with you are tight-mouthed. I don't want _any_ newsbreaks on this."

"Right, sir."

"Okay. Be there about 1050 or so. About 1115, I'm going to press
my door opener, and I want you and your men to break in, arrest my
visitor, and spirit him off to the deepest dungeon security has. And
leave him there. If Martinez wants to know what's going on, tell him
I'll take responsibility."

Keeler looked vaguely puzzled, but merely nodded. "We frisk him first,
then let him talk to you for fifteen minutes. Then we come in on signal
and take him away. I've got it."

"This man's a dangerous anti-Popeek conspirator. Make sure he's drugged
before he gets out of my office. I don't want him making noise."

The annunciator sounded. "Man from communications has a message for
you, Mr. Walton."

He switched over from Keeler to communications and said, "Go ahead."

"From McLeod, Mr. Walton. We just got it. It says, 'Arriving Nairobi on
the 18th, will be in your office with Dirnan following morning if he
feels like making the trip. Otherwise will you come to Nairobi?'"

"Tell him yes, if necessary," Walton said.

He glanced at his watch. 0917. It looked like it was going to be hectic
all day.

And Fred was due at 1100.


Hervey showed up at 1003, grinning broadly. He unfolded a thick wad of
documents and thrust them at Walton.

"I hold in my hand the world's most potent telefax sheet," Hervey said.
He flipped the documents casually onto Walton's desk and laughed.
"They're all yours. Fifty-one percent, every bit of it voting stock.
I told Murlin about it just before I left him this morning. He turned

"What did he say?"

"What _could_ he say? I asked him offhandedly if he knew where all the
outstanding _Citizen_ stock was, and he said yes, it was being held by
a lot of small holders. And then I told him that somebody was buying
out the small holders, and that I was selling my four percent to him.
That's when he started to change colors. When I left he was busy making
phone calls, but I don't think he'll like what he's going to find out."

Walton riffled through the papers. "It's all here, eh? Fine work. I'll
put through your voucher in half an hour or so, unless you're in a

"Oh, don't rush," Hervey said. He ran a finger inside his collar.
"Couple of security boys outside, y'know. They really gave me a

"I'm expecting an assassin at 1100," Walton said lightly. "They're on
the lookout."

"Oh? A close friend?"

"A relative," Walton said.

Fred arrived promptly at 1100. By that time Walton had already set the
machinery in operation for the taking-over of _Citizen_.

The first step had been to call Horace Murlin and confirm the fact that
Popeek now owned the telefax sheet. Murlin's fleshy face was a curious
shade of rose-purple; he sputtered at Walton for five minutes before
admitting he was beaten.

With Murlin out of the way, Walton selected a new editorial staff for
the paper from a list Percy supplied. He intended to keep the reporting
crew of the old regime intact; _Citizen_ had a fantastically efficient
newsgathering team, and there was no point in breaking it up. It was
the policy-making level Walton was interested in controlling.

The 1000 edition of _Citizen_ was the last under the old editors. They
had received word from Murlin about what had happened, and by 1030,
when Walton sent his dismissal notices over, they were already cleaning
out their desks.

That 1000 edition was a beauty, though. The lead headline read:


And most of the issue was devoted to inflammatory pro-war anti-Popeek
journalism. A full page of "letters from the readers"--actually
transcribed phone calls, since few of _Citizen's_ readers were
interested in writing letters--echoed the editorial stand. One "letter"
in particular caught Walton's attention.

It was from a Mrs. P.F. of New York City Environ, which probably meant
Jersey or lower Connecticut, and it was short and to the point:

    _To the Editor_--

    _Horray for you. Popeek is a damned crime and that Walton criminal
    ought to be put away and we ought to kill those greenskins up there
    before they kill us. We gotta have room to live._

_Kill them before they kill us._ Walton snickered. All the old
hysterias, the old panic reactions, come boiling up again in times of

He looked at his hand. It was perfectly steady, even though his wrist
watch told him Fred would be here in just a few minutes. A week ago, a
situation like this would have had him gobbling benzolurethrin as fast
as he could unwrap the lozenges.

The ghostly presence of FitzMaugham seemed to hover in the room. _The
ends justify the means_, Walton told himself grimly, as he waited for
his brother to arrive.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fred was dressed completely in black, from his stylish neo-Victorian
waistcoat and the bit of ribbon at his throat to the mirror-bright
leather pumps on his feet. The splendor of his clothing was curiously
at odds with the coarseness of his features and the stockiness of his

He walked into Walton's office at the stroke of 1100 and sighed
deeply--the sigh of a man about to take permanent possession. "Good
morning, Roy. I'm on time, as always."

"And looking radiant, my dear brother." Walton gestured appreciatively
at Fred's clothes. "It's been a long time since I've seen you in
anything but your lab smock."

"I gave notice at the lab yesterday, night after I spoke to you. I'm
no longer an employee of Popeek. And I felt I should dress with the
dignity suitable to my new rank." He grinned buoyantly. "Well, ready to
turn over the orb and scepter, Roy?"

"Not exactly," Walton said.


"But I promised you I'd resign in your favor today, Fred. I don't think
I ever used those words, but I certainly implied it, didn't I?"

"Of course you did. You told me to come here at 1100 and you'd arrange
the transfer."

Walton nodded. "Exactly so." He waited a long moment and then said
quietly, "I lied, Fred."

He had chosen the words carefully, for maximum impact. He had not
chosen wrongly.

For a brief instant Fred's face was very pale against the blackness of
his garb. Total disbelief flickered across his eyes and mouth.

Walton had considered his brother's mental picture of him--the elder
brother, virtuous, devoted to hard work, kind to animals, and just a
little soft in the head. Also, extremely honest.

Fred hadn't expected Walton to be lying. And the calm admission stunned

"You're not planning to go through with it, then?" Fred asked in a dead


"You realize what this means in terms of the serum, don't you? The
moment I get out of here and transmit your refusal to my employers,
they'll begin wholesale manufacture and distribution of the Lamarre
serum. The publicity won't be good, Roy. Nor the result."

"You won't get out of here," Walton said.

Another shock wave rippled over Fred's face. "You can't be serious,
Roy. My employers know where I am; they know what I'm here for. If they
don't hear from me within twenty-four hours, they'll proceed with serum
distribution. You can't hope to--"

"I'll risk it," Walton interrupted. "If nothing else, I'll have a
twenty-four extension. You didn't really think I could hand Popeek over
to you on a platter, Fred? Why, I don't even know how secure my _own_
position is here. So I'm afraid I'll have to back down on my offer.
You're under arrest, Fred!"

"_Arrest!_" Fred sprang from his seat and circled around the desk
toward Walton. For a moment the two brothers stared at each other,
faces inches apart. Walton put one hand on his brother's shoulder and,
gripping tightly, forced him around to the front of the desk.

"You had this all planned, didn't you?" Fred said bitterly. "Yesterday,
when you talked to me, you knew this was what you were going to do.
But you said you'd yield, and I believed you! I don't fool easy, but I
thought I had you pegged because you were my brother. I _knew_ you. You
wouldn't do a sneaky thing like this."

"But I did," Walton said.

Suddenly, Fred jumped. He charged at Walton blindly, head down.

In the same motion, Walton signaled for Keeler and his men to break
in, and met Fred's charge. He caught his brother in midstride with a
swinging punch that sent his head cracking back sharply.

Fred's face twisted and writhed, more in astonishment than pain. He
stepped back, rubbing his chin. "You've changed," he said. "This job's
made you tough. A year ago you would never have done this to me."

Walton shrugged. "Look behind you, Fred. And this time you can trust

Fred turned warily. Keeler and two other gray-clad security men stood

"Drug him and take him away," Walton said. "Have him held in custody
until I notify Martinez."

Fred's eyes widened. "You're a _dictator_!" he said hoarsely. "You just
move people around like chessmen, Roy. Like chessmen."

"Drug him," Walton repeated.

Keeler stepped forward, a tiny hypodermic spray cupped in his hand.
He activated it with a twitch of his thumb and touched it to Fred's
forearm. A momentary hum droned in the office as the vibrating spray
forced the drug into Fred's arm.

He slumped like an empty sack. "Pick him up," Keeler ordered. "Take him
and let's get going."

       *       *       *       *       *

The story broke in the 1300 edition of _Citizen_, and from the general
tone of the piece Walton could see the fine hand of Lee Percy at work.

The headline was:


After the usual string of subheads, all in the cheerful, breezy, barely
literate _Citizen_ style, came the body of the story:

    _A guy tried to bump Popeek top number Roy Walton today. Security
    men got there in time to keep Walton from getting the same finisher
    as dead Popeek boss FitzMaugham got last week._

    _Walton says he's all right; the assassin didn't even come close. He
    also told our man that he expects good news on the New Earth bit
    soon. We like the sound of those words. Popeek may be with the
    stream after all. Who knows?_

The voice was that of _Citizen_, but the man behind the voice was
thinking a little differently. Had the previous editors of _Citizen_
been handling the break, the prevailing tone would most likely have
been too-bad-he-missed.

Walton called Percy after the edition came out. "Nice job you did on
our first _Citizen_," he said approvingly. "It's just what I want: same
illiterate style, but a slow swerving of editorial slant until it's
completely pro-Popeek."

"Wait till you see tomorrow's paper. We're just getting the hang of
it! And we'll have our first kaleidowhirl show at 2000 tonight. Cost a
fortune to buy in, but we figured that's the best hour."

"What's the buried message?"

"As you said," Percy told him. "A pro-Popeek job and some pacifist
stuff. We've got a team of pollsters out now, and they say the
current's predominantly going the other way. We'll be able to tell if
the kaleidowhirl stuff works out, all right."

"Keep up the good work," Walton said. "We'll get there yet. The alien
isn't due to arrive for another day or so--McLeod gets into Nairobi
tomorrow some time. I'm going to testify before the UN tomorrow, too. I
hope those UN boys are watching our pretty color patterns tonight."

Percy grinned. "Boy, you bet!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Walton threw himself energetically into his work. It was taking shape,
now. There were still some loose ends, of course, but he was beginning
to feel that some end to the tangle of interlocking intrigues was in

He checked with a public recreation director and discovered there would
be a block forum on West 382nd Street at 1830 that night. He made a
note to attend, and arranged to have a synthetic mask fashioned so he
wouldn't have to reveal his own identity.

Twenty-four hours. In that time, Fred's employers would presumably
be readying themselves to loose Lamarre's serum on the world; an
extraterrestrial being would be landing on Earth--and, by then, Walton
would have been called to render an account of his stewardship before
the United Nations.

The annunciator chimed again. "Yes?" Walton said.

"Mr. O'Mealia of Mount Palomar Observatory, calling long distance to
talk to you, sir."

"Put him on," Walton said puzzledly.

O'Mealia was a red-faced individual with deep-set, compelling eyes.
He introduced himself as a member of the research staff at Mount
Palomar. "Glad I could finally reach you," he said, in a staccato burst
of words. "Been trying to call for an hour. Made some early-morning
observations of Venus a little while ago, and I thought you'd be

"Venus? What?"

"Cloud blanket looks awfully funny, Mr. Walton. Blazing away like
sixty. Got the whole staff down here to discuss it, and the way it
looks to us there's some sort of atomic chain-reaction going on in
Venus' atmosphere. I think it's those terraforming men you Popeek folk
have up there. I think they've blown the whole place up!"


Walton stepped off the jetbus at Broadway and West 382nd Street, paused
for a moment beneath a street lamp, and fingered his chin to see if his
mask were on properly. It was.

Three youths stood leaning against a nearby building. "Could you tell
me where the block meeting's being held?" Walton asked.

"Down the street and turn left. You a telefax man?"

"Just an interested citizen," Walton said. "Thanks for the directions."

It was easy to see where the block meeting was; Walton saw streams of
determined-looking men and women entering a bulky old building just off
382nd Street. He joined them and found himself carried along into the

Nervously he found a seat. The auditorium was an old one, predominantly
dark brown and cavernous, with row after row of hard wooden folding
chairs. Someone was adjusting a microphone on stage. A sharp metallic
whine came over the public-address system.

"Testing. Testing, one two three...."

"It's all right, Max!" someone yelled from the rear. Walton didn't turn
around to look.

A low undercurrent of murmuring was audible. It was only 1815; the
meeting was not due to start for another fifteen minutes, but the hall
was nearly full, with more than a thousand of the local residents
already on hand.

The fifteen minutes passed slowly. Walton listened carefully to the
conversations around him; no one was discussing the Venus situation.
Apparently his cloud of censorship had been effective. He had
instructed Percy to keep all word of the disaster from the public
until the 2100 newsblares. By that time, the people would have been
exposed to the indoctrinating kaleidowhirl program at 2000, and their
reaction would be accordingly more temperate--he hoped.

Also, releasing the news early would have further complicated the
survey Walton was trying to make by attending this public meeting.
The Index of Public Confusion increased factorially; one extra
consideration for discussion and Walton's task would be hopelessly

At exactly 1830, a tall, middle-aged man stepped out on the stage. He
seized the microphone as if it were a twig and said, "Hello, folks.
Glad to see you're all here tonight. This is an important meeting
for us all. In case some of you don't know me--and I do see some new
faces out there--I'm Dave Forman, president of the West 382nd Street
Association. I also run a little law business on the side, just to help
pay the rent." (Giggles.)

"As usual in these meetings," Forman went on, "we'll have a brief
panel discussion, and then I'll throw the thing open to you folks for
floor discussion. The panelists tonight are people you all know--Sadie
Hargreave, Dominic Campobello, Rudi Steinfeld. Come on out here, folks."

The panelists appeared on the stage diffidently. Sadie Hargreave was
a short, stout, fierce-looking little woman; Campobello was chunky,
balding, Steinfeld tall and ascetic. Walton was astonished that there
should be such camaraderie here. Was it all synthetic? It didn't seem
that way.

He had always remained aloof, never mingling with his neighbors in
the gigantic project where he lived, never suspecting the existence
of community life on this scale. But, somehow, community life had
sprung up in this most Gargantuan of cities. Organizations within each
project, within each block perhaps, had arisen, converting New York
into an interlocking series of small towns. _I ought to investigate
the grass roots more often_, Walton thought. _Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid
having a night on the town._

"Hello, folks," Sadie Hargreave said aggressively. "I'm glad I can
talk to you tonight. Gosh, I want to speak out. I think it's crazy to
let these thing-men from outer space push us around. I for one feel we
ought to take strong action against that space world."

Cries of "Yeah! Yeah! Go to it, Sadie!" rose from the audience.

Skillfully she presented three inflammatory arguments in favor of
war with Dirna, backing up each with a referent of high emotional
connotation. Walton watched her performance with growing admiration.
The woman was a born public relations technician. It was too bad she
was on the other side of the fence.

He saw the effect she had: people were nodding in agreement, grimacing
vehemently, muttering to themselves. The mood of the meeting, he
gathered, was overwhelmingly in favor of war if Dirna did not yield New

Dominic Campobello began his address by inviting all and sundry to his
barber shop; this was greeted with laughter. Then he launched into a
discourse on Popeek as an enemy of mankind. A few catcalls, Walton
noted, but again chiefly approval. Campobello seemed sincere.

The third man, Rudi Steinfeld, was a local music teacher. He, too,
spoke out against Popeek, though in a restrained, dryly intellectual
manner. People began yawning. Steinfeld cut his speech short.

It was now 1900. In one hour Percy's kaleidowhirl program would be

Walton stayed at the block meeting until 1930, listening to citizen
after citizen rise and heap curses upon Popeek, Dirna, or Walton,
depending on where his particular ire lay. At 1930 Walton rose and left
the hall.

He phoned Percy. "I'm on West 382nd Street. Just attended a block
meeting. I'd say the prevailing sentiment runs about ninety percent
agin us. We don't have the people backing our program any more, Lee."

"We never did. But I think we'll nail 'em now. The kaleidowhirl's ready
to go, and it's a honey. And I think _Citizen_ will sell 'em too! We're
on our way, Roy."

"I hope so," Walton said.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was unable to bring himself to watch Percy's program, even though he
reached his room in time that night. He knew there could be no harm in
watching--at least not for him--but the idea of voluntarily submitting
his mind to external tampering was too repugnant to accept.

Instead he spent the hour dictating a report on the block meeting, for
benefit of his pollster staff. When he was done with that, he turned
to the 2100 edition of _Citizen_, which came clicking from the telefax
slot right on schedule.

He had to look hard for the Venus story. Finally he found it tucked
away at the bottom of the sheet.


    _A big blowup took place on the planet Venus earlier today. Sky-men
    who watched the popoff say it was caused by an atomic explosion in
    the planet's atmosphere._

    _Meanwhile, attempts are being made to reach the team of Earth
    engineers working on Venus. No word from them yet. They may be

Walton chuckled. _They may be dead_, indeed! By now Lang and his team,
and the rescue mission as well, lay dead under showers of radioactive
formaldehyde, and Venus had been turned into a blazing hell ten times
less livable than it had been before.

Percy had mishandled the news superbly. For one thing, he had
carefully neglected to link Lang with Popeek in any way. That was good
connotative thinking. It would be senseless to identify Popeek in the
public mind with disasters or fiascos of any kind.

For another, the skimpy insignificance of the piece implied that it
had been some natural phenomenon that sent Venus up in flames, not the
fumbling attempts of the terraformers. Good handling there, too.

Walton felt cheerful. He slept soundly, knowing that the public
consciousness was being properly shaped.

       *       *       *       *       *

By 0900, when he arrived at his office, the pollsters had reported a
ten percent swing in public opinion, in the direction of Popeek and
Walton. At 1000, _Citizen_ hit the slots with an extra announcing that
prospects for peaceful occupation of New Earth looked excellent. The
editorial praised Walton. The letters-to-the-editor column, carefully
fabricated by Lee Percy, showed a definite upswing of opinion.

The trend continued, and it was contagious. By 1100, when Walton
left the Cullen Building and caught a jetcopter for United Nations
Headquarters, the pro-Popeek trend in public opinion was almost

The copter put down before the gleaming green-glass facade of UN
Headquarters; Walton handed the man a bill and went inside, where a
tense-faced Ludwig was waiting for him.

"They started early," Ludwig said. "It's been going on since 1000."

"How do things look?"

"I'm puzzled, Roy. Couple of die-hards are screaming for your scalp,
but you're getting help from unexpected quarters. Old Mogens Snorreson
of Denmark suddenly got up and said it was necessary for the safety
of mankind that we give you a permanent appointment as director of

"_Snorreson?_ But hasn't he been the one who wanted me bounced?"

Ludwig nodded. "That's what I mean. The climate is changing, definitely
changing. Ride the crest, Roy. The way things look now, you may end up
being swept into office for life."

They entered the giant Assembly hall. At the dais, a black-faced man
with bright teeth was speaking.

"Who's that?" Walton whispered.

"Malcolm Nbono, the delegate from Ghana. He regards you as a sort of
saint for our times."

Walton slipped into a seat in the gallery and said, "Let's listen from
here before we go down below. I want to catch my breath."

The young man from Ghana was saying, "... Crisis points are common
to humanity. Many years ago, when my people came from their colonial
status and achieved independence, we learned that painstaking
negotiations and peaceful approaches are infinitely more efficacious
than frontal attack by violent means. In my eyes, Roy Walton is an
outstanding exponent of this philosophy. I urge his election as
director of the Bureau of Population Equalization."

A heavy-bearded, ponderous man to Nbono's right shouted "Bravo!" at
that point, and added several thick Scandinavian expletives.

"That's good old Mogens. The Dane really is on your side this morning,"
Ludwig said.

"Must have been watching the kaleidowhirl last night," Walton murmured.

The delegate from Ghana concluded with a brief tremolo cadenza praising
Walton. Walton's eyes were a little moist; he hadn't realized he was a
saint. Nbono tacked on an abrupt coda and sat down.

"All right," Walton said. "Let's go down there."

They made a grand entrance. Ludwig took his seat behind the neon
_United States_ sign, and Walton slid into the unoccupied seat to
Ludwig's right. A definite stir of interest was noticeable.

The secretary-general was presiding--beady-eyed Lars Magnusson of
Sweden. "I see Mr. Walton of Popeek has arrived," he commented. "By a
resolution passed unanimously yesterday, we have invited Mr. Walton
this morning to address us briefly. Mr. Walton, would you care to speak

"Thank you very much," Walton said. He rose.

The delegates were staring at him with great interest ... and,
somewhere behind them, obscured by the bright lights of the cameras,
there were, he sensed, a vast multitude of onlookers peering at him
from the galleries.

Onlookers who had seen Percy's kaleidowhirl last night, evidently. A
thunderous wave of applause swept down on him. _This is too easy_, he
thought. _That kaleidowhirl program seems to have hypnotized everybody._

He moistened his lips.

"Mr. Secretary-General, members of the Assembly, friends: I'm very
grateful for this chance to come before you on my own behalf. It's
my understanding that you are to choose a permanent successor to Mr.
FitzMaugham today. I offer myself as a candidate for that post."

He had planned a long, impassioned, semantically loaded speech to sway
them, but the happenings thus far this morning convinced him it was
unnecessary. The kaleidowhirl had done the work for him.

"My qualifications for the post should be apparent to all. I worked
with the late Director FitzMaugham during the formative days of
Popeek. Upon his death I succeeded to his post and have efficiently
maintained the operation of the Bureau during the eight days since his

"There are special circumstances which dictate my continuation
in office. Perhaps you know of the failure of our terraforming
experiments--the destruction of our outpost on Venus, and the permanent
damage done to that planet. The failure of this project makes it
imperative that we move outward to the stars to relieve our population

He took a deep breath. "In exactly four hours," he said, "a
representative of an alien race will land on Earth to confer with
the director of Popeek. I cannot stress too greatly the importance
of maintaining a continuity of thought and action within our Bureau.
Bluntly, it is essential that _I_ be the one who deals with this alien.
I ask for your support. Thank you."

He took his seat again. Ludwig was staring at him, aghast.

"Roy! What kind of a speech was that? You can't just _demand_ the job!
You've got to give reasons! You have to--"

"Hush," Walton said. "Don't worry about it. Were you watching the
kaleidowhirls last night?"

"Me? Of course not!"

Walton grinned. "_They_ were," he said, gesturing at the other
delegates. "I'm not worried."


Walton left the Assembly meeting about 1215, pleading urgent Popeek
business. The voting began at 1300, and half an hour later the result
was officially released.

The 1400 _Citizen_ was the first to carry the report.


    _The General Assembly of the United Nations gave Roy Walton a
    healthy vote of confidence today. By a 95-0 vote, three abstaining,
    he was picked to succeed the late D. F. FitzMaugham as Popeek czar.
    He has held the post on a temporary basis for the past eight days._

Walton rang up Percy. "Who wrote that _Citizen_ piece on me?" he asked.

"I did, chief. Why?"

"Nicely done, but not enough sock. Get all those three-syllable words
out of it by the next edition. Get back to the old _Citizen_ style of
jazzy writing."

"We thought we'd brush it up a little now that you're in," Percy said.

"No. That's dangerous. Keep to the old style, but revamp the content.
We're rolling along, now. What's new from the pollsters?"

"Fifty percent swing to Popeek. You're the most popular man in the
country, as of noon. Churches are offering up prayers for you. There's
a move afoot to make you President of the United States in place of old

"Let Lanson keep his job," Walton chuckled. "I'm not looking for any
figurehead jobs. I'm too young. When's the next _Citizen_ due?"

"At 1500. We're keeping up hourly editions until the crisis is over."

Walton thought for a moment. "I think 1500's too early. The Dirnan
arrives in Nairobi at 1530 our time. I want a big splash in the 1600
edition--but not a word before then!"

"I'm with you," Percy said, and signed off.

A moment later the annunciator said, "There's a closed-circuit call for
you from Batavia, sir."

"From where?"

"Batavia. Java."

"Let's have it," Walton said.

A fleshy face filled the screen, the face of a man who had lived a soft
life in a moist climate. A rumbling voice said, "You are Walton."

"I am Walton."

"I am Gaetano di Cassio. Pleased of making the acquaintance, Signor
Director Walton. I own rubber plantation in the area here."

Walton's mind immediately clocked off the top name on the list of
landed proprietors Lassen had prepared for him:

_di Cassio, Gaetano. 57. Holdings estimated at better than a billion
and a quarter. Born Genoa 2175, settled in Amsterdam 2199. Purchased
large Java holding 2211._

"What can I do for you, Mr. di Cassio?"

The rubber magnate looked ill; his fleshy face was beaded with globules
of sweat. "Your brother," he grunted heavily. "Your brother worked for
me. I sent him to see you yesterday. He has not come back."

"Indeed?" Walton shrugged. "There's a famous phrase I could use at this
point. I won't."

"Make no flippancies," di Cassio said heavily. "Where is he?"

Walton said, "In jail. Attempted coercion of a public official." He
realized di Cassio was twice as nervous and tense as he was.

"You have jailed him," di Cassio repeated flatly. "Ah, I see. Jail."
The audio pickup brought in the sound of stertorous breathing. "Will
you not free him?" di Cassio asked.

"I will not."

"Did he not tell you what would happen if he would not be granted his

"He told me," Walton said. "Well?"

The fat man looked sick. Walton saw that the bluff was going to be
unsuccessful; that the conspirators would not dare put Lamarre's drug
into open production. It had been a weapon without weight, and Walton
had not let himself be cowed by it.

"Well?" Walton repeated inflexibly.

"You trouble me sorely," said di Cassio. "You give my heart pain, Mr.
Walton. Steps will have to be taken."

"The Lamarre immortality serum--"

The face on the screen turned a leaden gray. "The serum," di Cassio
said, "is not entered into this talking."

"Oh, no? My brother Fred made a few remarks--"

"Serum _non esiste_!"

Walton smiled calmly. "A nonexistent serum," he said, "has,
unfortunately, nonexistent leverage against me. You don't scare me, di
Cassio. I've outbluffed you. Go take a walk around your plantation.
While you still have it, that is."

"Steps will be taken," di Cassio said. But his malevolence was hollow.
Walton laughed and broke contact.

He drew Lassen's list from his desk and inscribed a brief memo to Olaf
Eglin on it. These were the hundred biggest estates in the world.
Within a week, there would be equalized Japanese living on all of them.

He called Martinez of security. "I've ordered my brother Fred remanded
to your care," he said.

"I know." The security man sounded peeved. "We can't hold a man
indefinitely, not even on your say-so, Director Walton."

"The charge is conspiracy," Walton said. "Conspiracy against the
successful operation of Popeek. I'll have a list of the ringleaders on
your desk in half an hour. I want them rounded up, given a thorough
psyching, and jailed."

"There are times," Martinez said slowly, "when I suspect you exceed
your powers, Director Walton. But send me the list and I'll have the
arrests made."

       *       *       *       *       *

The afternoon crawled. Walton proceeded with routine work on half
a dozen fronts, held screened conferences with each of his section
chiefs, read reports augmenting what he already knew of the Venus
disaster, and gobbled a few benzolurethrin tranquilizers.

He called Keeler and learned that no sign of Lamarre had come to
light yet. From Percy he discovered that _Citizen_ had added two
hundred thousand subscribers overnight. The 1500 edition had a lengthy
editorial praising Walton, and some letters that Percy swore were
genuine, doing the same.

At 1515 Olaf Eglin called to announce that the big estates were in the
process of being dismembered. "You'll be able to hear the howls from
here to Batavia when we get going," Eglin warned.

"We have to be tough," Walton told him firmly.

At 1517 he devoted a few minutes to a scientific paper that proposed
terraforming Pluto by establishing synthetic hydrogen-fusion suns
on the icy planet. Walton skimmed through the specifications, which
involved passing a current of several million amperes through a tube
containing a mixture of tritium and deuterium. The general idea, he
gathered, was to create electromagnetic forces of near-solar intensity;
a pulsed-reaction engine would supply a hundred megawatts of power
continuously at 10,000,000 degrees centigrade.

_Has possibilities_, Walton noted, and forwarded the plan on to Eglin.
It sounded plausible enough, but Walton was personally skeptical of
undertaking any more terraforming experiments after the Venus fiasco.
There were, after all, limits to the public relations miracles Lee
Percy could create.

At 1535 the annunciator chimed again. "Call from Nairobi, Africa, Mr.


McLeod appeared on the screen.

"We're here," he said. "Arrived safely half a microsecond ago, and
all's well."

"How about the alien?"

"We have him in a specially constructed cabin. Breathes hydrogen and
ammonia, you know. He's very anxious to see you. When can you come?"

Walton thought for a moment. "I guess there's no way of transporting
him here, is there?"

"I wouldn't advise it. The Dirnans are very sensitive about traveling
in such a low gravitational field. Makes their stomachs queasy, you
know. Do you think you could come out here?"

"When's the earliest?"

"Oh--half an hour?" McLeod suggested.

"I'm on my way," said Walton.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sprawling metropolis of Nairobi, capital of the Republic of Kenya,
lay at the foot of the Kikuyu Hills, and magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro
towered above it. Four million people inhabited Nairobi, finest of the
many fine cities along Africa's western coast. Africa's Negro republics
had built soundly and well after achieving their liberation from
colonial status.

The city was calm as Walton's special jet decelerated for landing
at the vast Nairobi airport. He had left at 1547 New York time; the
transatlantic trip had taken two hours and some minutes, and there was
an eight-hour time zone differential between Kenya and New York. It
was now 0313 in Nairobi; the early-morning rain was falling right on
schedule as the jet taxied to a halt.

McLeod was there to meet him. "The ship's in the hills, five miles out
of town. There's a copter waiting for you here."

Moments after leaving the jetliner, Walton was shepherded aboard the
'copter. Rotors whirred; the 'copter rose perpendicularly until it hung
just above the cloud-seeders at 13,000 feet, then fired its jets and
streaked toward the hills.

It was not raining when they landed; according to McLeod, the night
rain was scheduled for 0200 in this sector, and the seeders had already
been here and moved on to bring rain to the city proper. A groundcar
waited for them at the airstrip in the hills. McLeod drove, handling
the turboelectric job with skill.

"There's the ship," he said proudly, pointing.

Walton felt a sudden throat lump.

The ship stood on its tail in the midst of a wide, flat swath of
jet-blackened concrete. It was at least five hundred feet high, a
towering pale needle shimmering brightly in the moonlight. Wideswept
tailjets supported it like arching buttresses. Men moved busily about
in the floodlighted area at its base.

McLeod drove up to the ship and around it. The flawless symmetry of the
foreside was not duplicated behind; there, a spidery catwalk ran some
eighty feet up the side of the ship to a gaping lock, and by its side a
crude elevator shaft rose to the same hatch.

McLeod drew efficient salutes from the men as he left the car; Walton,
only puzzled glares.

"We'd better take the elevator," McLeod said. "The men are working on
the catwalk."

Silently they rode up into the ship. They stepped through the open
airlock into a paneled lounge, then into narrow companionways. McLeod
paused and pressed down a stud in an alcove along the way.

"I'm back," he announced. "Tell Thogran Klayrn that I've brought
Walton. Find out whether he'll come out to talk to him."

"I thought he had to breathe special atmosphere," Walton said. "How can
he come out?"

"They've got breathing masks. Usually they don't like to use them."
McLeod listened at the earpiece for a moment, then nodded. To Walton
he said, "The alien will see you in the lounge."

       *       *       *       *       *

Walton had barely time to fortify himself with a slug of filtered rum
when a crewman appeared at the entrance to the lounge and declared
ostentatiously, "His Excellency, Thogran Klayrn of Dirna."

The alien entered.

Walton had seen the photographs, and so he was partially prepared. But
only partially.

The photos had not given him any idea of size. The alien stood eight
feet high, and gave an appearance of astonishing mass. It must have
weighed four or five hundred pounds, but it stood on two thick legs
barely three feet long. Somewhere near the middle of the columnar
body, four sturdy arms jutted forth strangely. A neckless head topped
the ponderous creature--a head covered entirely with the transparent
breathing mask. One of the hands held a mechanical device of some sort;
the translating machine, Walton surmised.

The alien's hide was bright-green, and leathery in texture. A faint
pungent odor drifted through the room, as of an object long immersed in

"I am Thogran Klayrn," a booming voice said. "Diplomasiarch of Dirna. I
have been sent to talk with Roy Walton. Are you Roy Walton?"

"I am." Walton's voice sounded cold and dry to his own ears. He knew he
was too tense, pressing too hard. "I'm very glad to meet you, Thogran

"Please sit. I do not. My body is not made that way."

Walton sat. It made him feel uncomfortable to have to crane his neck
upward at the alien, but that could not be helped. "Did you have a
pleasant trip?" Walton asked, temporizing desperately.

A half-grunt came from Thogran Klayrn. "Indeed it was so. But I do not
indulge in little talk. A problem we have, and it must be discussed."

"Agreed." Whatever a diplomasiarch might be on Dirna, it was _not_ a
typical diplomat. Walton was relieved that it would not be necessary to
spend hours in formalities before they reached the main problem.

"A ship sent out by your people," the alien said, "invaded our system
some time ago. In command was your Colonel McLeod, whom I have come to
know well. What was the purpose of this ship?"

"To explore the worlds of the universe and to discover a planet where
we of Earth could settle. Our world is very overcrowded now."

"So I have been given to know. You have chosen Labura--or, in your
terms, Procyon VIII--as your colony. Is this so?"

"Yes," Walton said. "It's a perfect world for our purposes. But Colonel
McLeod has informed me that you object to our settling there."

"We do so object." The Dirnan's voice was cold. "You are a young and
active race. We do not know what danger you may bring to us. To have
you as our neighbors--"

"We could swear a treaty of eternal peace," Walton said.

"Words. Mere words."

"But don't you see that we can't even _land_ on that planet of yours!
It's too big, too heavy for us. What possible harm could we do?"

"There are races," said the Dirnan heavily, "which believe in violence
as a sacred act. You have long-range missiles. How might we trust you?"

Walton squirmed; then sudden inspiration struck him. "There's a planet
in this system that's as suitable for your people as Labura is for
ours. I mean Jupiter. We could offer you colonial rights to Jupiter in
exchange for the privilege of colonizing Labura!"

The alien was silent for a moment. Considering? There was no way of
telling what emotions passed across that face. At length the alien
said, "Not satisfactory. Our people have long since reached stability
of population. We have no need of colonies. It has been many thousands
of your years since we have ventured into space."

Walton felt chilled. _Many thousands of years!_ He realized he was up
against a formidable life form.

"We have learned to stabilize births and deaths," the Dirnan went on
sonorously. "It is a fundamental law of the universe, and one that you
Earthfolk must learn sooner or later. How you choose to do it is your
own business. But we have no need of planets in your system, and we
fear allowing you to enter ours. The matter is simple of statement,
difficult of resolution. But we are open to suggestions from you."

Walton's mind blanked. Suggestions? What possible suggestion could he

He gasped. "We have something to offer," he said. "It might be of value
to a race that has achieved population stability. We would give it to
you in exchange for colonization rights."

"What is this commodity?" the Dirnan asked.

"Immortality," Walton said.


He returned to New York alone, later that night, too tired to sleep
and too wide awake to relax. He felt like a poker player who had
triumphantly topped four kings with four aces, and now was fumbling
in his hand trying to locate some of those aces for his skeptical

The alien had accepted his offer. That was the one solid fact he was
able to cling to, on the lonely night ride back from Nairobi. The rest
was a quicksand of ifs and maybes.

_If_ Lamarre could be found....

_If_ the serum actually had any value....

_If_ it was equally effective on Earthmen and Dirnans....

Walton tried to dismiss the alternatives. He had made a desperately
wild offer, and it had been accepted. New Earth was open for
colonization, _if_....

The world outside the jet was a dark blur. He had left Nairobi at 0518
Nairobi time; jetting back across the eight intervening time zones, he
would arrive in New York around midnight. Ultrarapid jet transit made
such things possible; he would live twice through the early hours of
June nineteenth.

New York had a fifteen minute rain scheduled at 0100 that night. Walton
reached the housing project where he lived just as the rain was turned
on. The night was otherwise a little muggy; he paused outside the main
entrance, letting the drops fall on him. After a few minutes, feeling
faintly foolish and very tired, he went inside, shook himself dry, and
went to bed. He did not sleep.

Four caffeine tablets helped him get off to a running start in the
morning. He arrived at the Cullen Building early, about 0835, and spent
some time bringing his private journal up to date, explaining in detail
the burden of his interview with the alien ambassador. Some day, Walton
thought, a historian of the future would discover his journal and find
that for a short period in 2232 a man named Roy Walton had acted as
absolute dictator of humanity. The odd thing, Walton reflected, was
that he had absolutely no power drive: he had been pitchforked into the
role, and each of his successive extra-legal steps had been taken quite
genuinely in the name of humanity.

Rationalization? Perhaps. But a necessary one.

At 0900 Walton took a deep breath and called Keeler of security. The
security man smiled oddly and said, "I was just about to call you, sir.
We have some news, at last."

"News? What?"

"Lamarre. We found his body this morning, just about an hour ago.
Murdered. It turned up in Marseilles, pretty badly decomposed, but we
ran a full check and the retinal's absolutely Lamarre's."

"Oh," Walton said leadenly. His head swam. "Definitely Lamarre," he
repeated. "Thanks, Keeler. Fine work. Fine."

"Something wrong, sir? You look--"

"I'm very tired," Walton said. "That's all. Tired. Thanks, Keeler."

"You called me about something, sir," Keeler reminded him gently.

"Oh, I was calling about Lamarre. I guess there's no point in--thanks,
Keeler." He broke the contact.

For the first time Walton felt total despair, and, out of despair,
came a sort of deathlike calmness. With Lamarre dead, his only hope of
obtaining the serum was to free Fred and wangle the notes from him. But
Fred's price for the notes would be Walton's job. Full circle, and a
dead end.

Perhaps Fred could be induced to reveal the whereabouts of the notes.
It wasn't likely, but it was possible. And if not? Walton shrugged.
A man could do only so much. Terraforming had proved a failure,
equalization was a stopgap of limited value, and the one extrasolar
planet worth colonizing was held by aliens. Dead end.

_I tried_, Walton thought. _Now let someone else try._

He shook his head, trying to clear the fog of negation that suddenly
surrounded him. His thinking was all wrong; he had to keep trying, had
to investigate every possible avenue before giving up.

His fingers hovered lightly over a benzolurethrin tablet, then drew
back. Stiffly he rose from his chair and switched on the annunciator.

"I'm leaving the office for a while," he said hoarsely. "Send all calls
to Mr. Eglin."

He had to see Fred.

       *       *       *       *       *

Security Keep was a big, blocky building beyond the city limits proper,
a windowless tower near Nyack, New York. Walton's private jetcopter
dropped noiselessly to the landing stage on the wide parapet of the
building. He contemplated its dull-bronze metallic exterior for a

"Should I wait here?" the pilot asked.

"Yes," Walton said. With accession to the permanent directorship he
rated a private ship and a live pilot. "I won't be here long."

He left the landing stage and stepped within an indicated screener
field. There was a long pause. The air up here, Walton thought, is
fresh and clean, not like city air.

A voice said, "What is your business here?"

"I'm Walton, director of Popeek. I have an appointment with Security
Head Martinez."

"Wait a moment, Director Walton."

None of the obsequious _sirring_ and _pleasing_ Walton had grown
accustomed to. In its way, the bluntness of address was as refreshing
as the unpolluted air.

Walton's keen ears detected a gentle electronic whirr; he was being
thoroughly scanned. After a moment the metal door before him rose
silently into a hidden slot, and he found himself facing an inner door
of burnished copper.

A screen was set in the inner door.

Martinez' face confronted him.

"Good morning, Director Walton. You're here for our interview?"


The inner door closed. This time, two chunky atomic cannons came
barreling down to face him snout first. Walton flinched involuntarily,
but a smiling Martinez stepped before them and greeted him. "Well, why
are you here?"

"To see a prisoner of yours. My brother, Fred."

Martinez frowned and passed a delicate hand through his rumpled hair.
"Seeing prisoners is positively forbidden, Mr. Walton. Seeing them in
person, that is. I could arrange a closed-circuit video screening for

"Forbidden? But the man's here on my word alone. I--"

"Your powers, Mr. Walton, are still somewhat less than infinite. This
is one rule we never have relaxed, and never will. The prisoners in the
Keep are under constant security surveillance, and your presence in the
cell block would undermine our entire system. Will video do?"

"I guess it'll have to," Walton said. He was not of a mind to argue now.

"Come with me, then," said Martinez.

The little man led him down a dim corridor into a side room, one entire
wall of which was an unlit video screen. "You'll have total privacy
in here," Martinez assured him. He did things to a dial set in the
right-hand wall, and murmured a few words. The screen began to glow.

"You can call me when you're through," Martinez said. He seemed to
glide out of the room, leaving Walton alone with Fred.

The huge screen was like a window directly into Fred's cell. Walton met
his brother's bitter gaze head on.

Fred looked demonic. His eyes were ringed by black shadows; his hair
was uncombed, his heavy-featured face unwashed. He said, "Welcome to my
palatial abode, dearest brother."

"Fred, don't make it hard for me. I came here to try to clarify things.
I didn't _want_ to stick you away here. I _had_ to."

Fred smiled balefully. "You don't need to apologize. It was entirely
my fault. I underestimated you; I didn't realize you had changed. I
thought you were the same old soft-hearted dope I grew up with. You

"Possibly." Walton wished he had taken that benzolurethrin after all.
Every nerve in his body seemed to be jumping. He said, "I found out
today that Lamarre's dead."


"So there's no possible way for Popeek to obtain the immortality serum
except through you. Fred, I need that serum. I've promised it to the
alien in exchange for colonization rights on Procyon VIII."

"A neat little package deal," Fred said harshly. "_Quid pro quo._ Well,
I hate to spoil it, but I'm not going to tell where the _quo_ lies
hidden. You're not getting that serum out of me."

"I can have you mind blasted," Walton said. "They'll pick your mind
apart and strip it away layer by layer until they find what they want.
There won't be much of _you_ left by then, but we'll have the serum."

"No go. Not even you can swing that deal," Fred said. "You can't get a
mind-pick permit on your lonesome: you need the President's okay. It
takes at least a day to go through channels--half a day, if you pull
rank. And by that time, Roy, I'll be out of here."


"You heard me clear enough. _Out._ Seems you're holding me here on
pretty tenuous grounds. Habeas corpus hasn't been suspended yet, Roy,
and Popeek isn't big enough to do it. I've got a writ. I'll be sprung
at 1500 today."

"I'll have you back in by 1530," Walton said angrily. "We're picking up
di Cassio and that whole bunch. That'll be sufficient grounds to quash
your habeas corpus."

"Ah! Maybe so," Fred said. "But I'll be out of here for half an hour.
That's long enough to let the world know how you exercised an illegal
special privilege and spared Philip Prior from Happysleep. Wiggle out
of that one, then."

Walton began to sweat.

Fred had him neatly nailed this time.

Someone in security evidently had let him sneak his plea out of the
Keep. Martinez? Well, it didn't matter. By 1500 Fred would be free,
and the long-suppressed Prior incident would be smeared all over the
telefax system. That would finish Walton; affairs were at too delicate
an impasse for him to risk having to defend himself now. Fred might not
be able to save himself, but he could certainly topple his brother.

There was no possible way to get a mind-pick request through before
1500; President Lanson himself would have to sign the authorization,
and the old dodderer would take his time about it.

Mind picking was out, but there was still one weapon left to the head
of Popeek, if he cared to use it. Walton moistened his lips.

"It sounds very neat," he said. "I'll ask you one more time: will you
yield Lamarre's serum to me for use in my negotiations with the Dirnan?"

"Are you kidding? No!" Fred said positively. "Not to save your life or
mine. I've got you exactly where I want you, Roy. Where I've wanted you
all my life. And you can't wriggle out of it."

"I think you've underestimated me again," Walton said in a quiet voice.
"And for the last time."

He stood up and opened the door of the room. A gray-clad security man
hovered outside.

"Will you tell Mr. Martinez I'm ready to leave?" Walton said.

The jetcopter pilot was dozing when Walton reached the landing stage.
Walton woke him and said, "Let's get back to the Cullen Building, fast."

The trip took about ten minutes. Walton entered his office, signaling
his return but indicating he wanted no calls just yet. Carefully,
thoughtfully, he arranged the various strands of circumstance in his
mind, building them into a symmetrical structure.

Di Cassio and the other conspirators would be rounded up by nightfall,
certainly. But no time element operated there; Walton knew he could
get mind-pick authorizations in a day or so, and go through one after
another of them until the whereabouts of Lamarre's formula turned up.
It was brutal, but necessary.

Fred was a different problem. Unless Walton prevented it, he'd be freed
on his writ within hours--and when he revealed the Prior incident, it
would smash Walton's whole fragile construct to flinders.

He couldn't fight habeas corpus. But the director of Popeek did have
one weapon that legally superseded all others. Fred had gambled on his
brother's softness, and Fred had lost.

Walton reached for his voicewrite and, in a calm, controlled voice,
began to dictate an order for the immediate removal of Frederic Walton
from Security Keep, and for his prompt transference to the Euthanasia
Clinic on grounds of criminal insanity.


Even after that--for which he felt no guilt, only relief--Walton felt
oppressive foreboding hanging over him. Martinez phoned, late that day,
to inform him that the hundred landowners had been duly corralled and
were being held in the lower reaches of Security Keep.

"They're yelling and squalling," Martinez said, "and they'll have
plenty of high-power legal authority down here soon enough. You'd
better have a case against them."

"I'm obtaining an authorization to mind blast the one named di Cassio.
He's the ringleader, I think." Walton paused for a moment, then asked,
"Did a Popeek copter arrive to pick up Frederic Walton?"

"Yes," Martinez said. "At 1406. A lawyer showed up here waving a writ,
a little while later, but naturally we had no further jurisdiction."
The security man's eyes were cold and accusing, but Walton did not

"1406?" he repeated. "All right, Martinez. Thanks for your cooperation."

He blanked the screen. He was moving coolly, crisply now. In order to
get a mind-pick authorization, he would have to see President Lanson
personally. Very well; he would see President Lanson.

The shrunken old man in the White House was openly deferential to
the Popeek head. Walton stated his case quickly, bluntly. Lanson's
watery, mild eyes blinked a few times at the many complexities of the
situation. He rocked uneasily up and down.

Finally he said, "This mind picking--it's absolutely necessary?"

"Absolutely. We must know where that serum is hidden."

Lanson sighed heavily. "I'll authorize it," he said. He looked beaten.

Washington to New York was a matter of some few minutes. The precious
authorization in his hands, Walton spoke to di Cassio via the screener
setup at Security Keep, informed him of what was going to be done with
him. Then, despite the fat man's hysterical protests, he turned the
authorization over to Martinez with instructions to proceed with the
mind pick.

It took fifty-eight minutes. Walton waited in a bare, austere office
somewhere in the Keep while the mind-picking technicians peeled away
the cortex of di Cassio's mind. By now Walton was past all ambivalence,
all self-doubt. He thought of himself as a mere robot fulfilling a
preset pattern of action.

At 1950 Martinez presented himself before Walton. The little security
head looked bleak.

"It's done. Di Cassio's been reduced to blubber and bone. I wouldn't
want to watch another mind picking too soon."

"You may have to," Walton said. "If di Cassio wasn't the right one, I
intend to go straight down the line on all hundred-odd of them. One of
them dealt with Fred. One of them must know where the Lamarre papers

Martinez shook his head wearily. "No. There won't need to be any more
mind-picking. We got it all out of di Cassio. The transcript ought to
be along any moment."

As the security man spoke, an arrival bin in the office flashed and
a packet arrived. Walton broke impatiently for the bin, but Martinez
waved him away. "This is my domain, Mr. Walton. Please be patient."

With infuriating slowness, Martinez opened the packet, removed some
closely-typed sheets, nodded over them. He handed them to Walton.

"Here. Read for yourself. Here's the record of the conversation between
your brother and di Cassio. I think it's what you're looking for."

Walton accepted the sheets tensely and began to read:

    Di Cassio: _You have a what?_

    Fred Walton: _An immortality serum. Eternal life. You know. Some
    Popeek scientist invented it, and I stole his notebook from my
    brother's office. It's all here._

    Di Cassio: _Buono! Excellent work. Excellent. Immortality, you say?_

    Fred Walton: _Damned right. And it's the weapon we can use to pry
    Roy out of office. All I have to do is tell him he'd better get out
    of the way or we'll turn the serum loose on humanity, and he'll
    move. He's an idealist--stars in his eyes and all that. He won't
    dare resist._

    Di Cassio: _This is marvelous. You will, of course, send the serum
    formula to us for safe keeping?_

    Fred Walton: _Like hell I will. I'm keeping those notes right where
    they belong--inside my head. I've destroyed the notebooks and had
    the scientist killed. The only one who knows the secret is yours
    truly. This is just to prevent double-crossing on your part, di
    Cassio. Not that I don't trust you, you understand._

    Di Cassio: _Fred, my boy--_

    Fred Walton: _None of that stuff. You gave me a free hand. Don't
    try to interfere now._

Walton let the transcript slip from his numb hands to the floor.

"My God," he said softly. "My God!"

Martinez' bright eyes flicked from Walton to the scattered papers
on the floor. "What's the trouble? You've got Fred in your custody,
haven't you?"

"Didn't you read the order I sent you?"

Martinez chuckled hollowly. "Well, yes--it was a Happysleep
authorization. But I thought it was just a way of avoiding that
writ ... I mean ... your own _brother_, man?"

"That was no dodge," Walton said. "That was a Happysleep order, and I
meant it. Really. Unless there was a slip-up, Fred went to the chamber
four hours ago. And," said Walton, "he took the Lamarre formula along
with him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Alone in his office in the night-shadowed Cullen Building, Walton
stared at his own distorted reflection mirrored in the opaqued windows.
On his desk lay the slip of paper bearing the names of those who had
gone to Happysleep in the 1500 gassing.

Frederic Walton was the fourth name on the list. For once, there had
been no slip-ups.

Walton thought back over the events of the last nine days. One of his
earliest realizations during that time had been that the head of Popeek
held powers of life and death over humanity.

Godlike, he had assumed both responsibilities. He had granted life to
Philip Prior; that had been the start of this chain of events, and the
first of his many mistakes. Now, he had given death to Frederic Walton,
an act in itself justifiable, but in consequence the most massive of
his errors.

All his scheming had come to naught. Any help now would have to come
from without.

Wearily, he snapped on the phone and asked for a connection to Nairobi.
The interstellar swap would have to be canceled; Walton was unable to
deliver the goods. Fred would have the final smirk yet.

Some minutes later, he got through to McLeod.

"I'm glad you called," McLeod said immediately. "I've been trying to
reach you all day. The Dirnan's getting rather impatient; this low
gravity is making him sick, and he wants to get going back to his home

"Let me talk to him. He'll be able to leave right away."

McLeod nodded and vanished from the screen. The alien visage of Thogran
Klayrn appeared.

"I have been waiting for you," the Dirnan said. "You promised to call
earlier today. You did not."

"I'm sorry about that," Walton told him. "I was trying to locate the
papers to turn over to you."

"Ah, yes. Has it been done?"

"No," Walton said. "The serum doesn't exist any more. The man who
invented it is dead, and so is the only other man who knew the formula."

There was a moment of startled silence. Then the Dirnan said, "You
assured me delivery of the information."

"I know. But it can't be delivered." Walton was silent a long while,
brooding. "The deal's off. There was a mix-up and the man who had the
data was--was inadvertently executed today."

"_Today_, you say?"

"Yes. It was an error on my part. A foolish blunder."

"That is irrelevant," the alien interrupted peevishly. "Is the man's
body still intact?"

"Why, yes," Walton said, taken off guard. He wondered what plan the
alien had. "It's in our morgue right now. But--"

The alien turned away from the screen, and Walton heard him conferring
with someone beyond the field of vision. Then the Dirnan returned.

"There are techniques for recovering information from newly dead
persons," Thogran Klayrn said. "You have none of these on Earth?"

"Recovering information?" Walton stammered. "No, we don't."

"These techniques exist. Have you such a device as an
electroencephalograph on Earth?"

"Of course."

"Then it is still possible to extract the data from this dead man's
brain." The alien uttered a wistful wheeze. "See that the body comes
to no harm. I will be at your city shortly."

For a moment Walton did not understand.

Then he thought, _Of course. It had to happen this way._

He realized the rent in the fabric had been bound up, his mistakes
undone, his conscience granted a reprieve. He felt absurdly grateful.
That all his striving should have been ruined at the last moment would
have been intolerable. Now, all was made whole.

"Thanks," he said with sudden fervor. "Thanks!"

       *       *       *       *       *

_14 May 2233...._

       *       *       *       *       *

Roy Walton, director of the Bureau of Population Equalization, stood
sweltering in the sun at Nairobi Spaceport, watching the smiling people
file past him into the towering, golden-hulled ship.

A powerful-looking man holding a small child in his arms came up to him.

"Hello, Walton," he said in a majestic basso.

Walton turned, startled. "Prior!" he exclaimed, after a moment's

"And this is my son, Philip," said Prior. "We'll both be going as
colonists. My wife's already aboard, but I just wanted to thank you--"

Walton looked at the happy, red-cheeked boy. "There was a medical exam
for all volunteer colonists. How did you get the boy through _this_

"Legitimately," Prior said, grinning. "He's a perfectly healthy, normal
boy. That potential TB condition was just that--potential. Philip got
an A-one health clearance, so it's New Earth and the wide ranges for
the Prior family!"

"I'm glad for you," Walton said absently. "I wish I could go."

"Why can't you?"

"Too much work here," Walton said. "If you turn out any poetry up
there, I'd like to see it."

Prior shook his head. "I have a feeling I'll be too busy. Poetry's
really just a substitute for living, I'm getting to think. I'll be too
busy _living_ up there to write anything."

"Maybe," said Walton. "I suppose you're right. But you'd better move
along. That ship's due to blast pretty soon."

"Right. Thanks again for everything," Prior said, and he and the child
moved on.

Walton watched them go. He thought back over the past year. _At least_,
he thought, _I made one right guess. The boy deserved to live._

The loading continued. One thousand colonists would go this first trip,
and a thousand more the next day, and a thousand and a thousand more
until a billion of Earth's multitudes were on the new world. There was
a great deal of paperwork involved in transporting a billion people
through space. Walton's desk groaned with a backlog of work.

He glanced up. No stars were visible, of course, in the midday sky, but
he knew that New Earth was out there somewhere. And near it, Dirna.

_Some day_, he thought, _we'll have learned to control our growth. And
that will be the day the Dirnans give us back our immortality formula._

A warning siren sounded suddenly, and ship number one sprang up
from Earth, hovered for a few instants on a red pillar of fire, and
vanished. Director Walton looked blankly at the place where the ship
had been, and, after a moment, turned away. Plenty of work waited for
him back in New York.

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