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´╗┐Title: Easy Does It
Author: Von Wald, E. G.
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 "Easy Does It" ***

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



                             EASY DOES IT

                           BY E. G. VON WALD

               _Hal was stranded in the wilderness with
               a beautiful girl, and it was surprisingly
              enjoyable--while his conditioning was off.
             But, after all, how uncivilized can one get?_

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                Worlds of If Science Fiction, May 1955.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Hal Webber leaned back in the soft Formair Executive's seat. Although
he twisted and shifted his position restlessly, he received the same
sensation of perfect, comfortable support no matter which way he
sat in it. Which was only natural, of course. Formair was the best
suspend-field furniture manufactured.

As he squirmed about, he had a faint, puzzled frown on his face, and in
his stomach he felt a lurking sensation of unaccustomed tension. Hal
simply could not understand it.

There was a faint humming sound, as the door panel slid back. His
father entered the office.

"Well Hal," the old man murmured softly with a placid smile of
satisfaction. "We've done it."

"Done what? Oh, you mean the new coloration process?"

"Yes. It will quintuple the net value of the family fortune within a
year. We may be the richest people in the world then."

"That's nice," Hal said mildly.

His father flicked a finger across a sensitive spot on the front of the
desk and relaxed as a perfect Formair attendant's chair sprang into
existence to fit his gross, soft body.

"Yes indeed," he said with a mild sigh. "It's been a long, long time
that we've been working for that. Worked mighty hard, too."

"That's right," murmured Hal, a little more forcefully than necessary.
"Splendid."

His father's eyebrows rose at the unusual emphasis, but he was much
too cultured to question the point. He continued along the lines of
the conversation already started. "We'll have to do something for
Bruchner. He has been of tremendous assistance on that project. Did it
practically all by himself. He is a very intelligent man, even if he is
an Outlander."

"Bruchner," said Hal with mild irritation. "All I hear around here
lately is Bruchner. What is he, anyway? Nothing but a savage."

"Eh?" said his father softly, raising his eyebrows again in polite
inquiry.

"If Bruchner is such a brilliant fellow, why doesn't he take the
Treatment and become civilized? I sometimes get a little tired of an
employee who tells me I'm wrong all the time."

"But he is almost always right when he makes such statements, Hal,"
Webber pointed out mildly. "For instance, just the other day I asked
him about the color range to be used with the new process on the
Formair Skydome. He stated flatly that blue was a normal color for sky.
Just like that. I was a little startled, of course, at his lack of
courtesy. But after I thought it over a while, blue did seem to be a
nice color for sky."

"Aaa, blue," Hal muttered. "What's wrong with the green we've always
used in the past?"

Mr. Webber sighed and squirmed a little to get the chair into a more
comfortable fit. Attendant's chairs were not quite as comfortable
as the Executive type, even if they were Formair. Then he cocked an
eyebrow and looked at his son with mild concern. "Hal, my boy, what's
the trouble? I've never seen you so completely upset in all my life."

"I feel funny," murmured Hal. "As a matter of fact, I feel awful. Maybe
there's some connection."

"Ill," the old man nodded agreeably. "Yes, I thought you looked it when
I came in here. Something in the set of your mouth. Tight, sort of."

With an expression of mild surprise, Hal reached up and tentatively
felt around his mouth with a cleanly manicured forefinger.

"Son," Webber murmured, "how long has it been since you had your last
CC Treatment?"

"Eight years," Hal admitted. "It's a little overdue, I suppose, but
surely--" His voice trailed off softly, as his mind seized upon the
possibility.

"That's probably what it is," Webber replied. That was a pretty
definite statement for someone to make about another's sensations, but
anyone could see that the old man was concerned over his son. "Five
years is the standard period at your age. Why haven't you taken it?"

"Well, you know," Hal whispered. "It's that new thing they have in it
now."

"Ah," said his father with comprehension. "That's right, I forgot all
about that. A change. But you won't mind, really you won't. You just
think you will."

"Perhaps so," Hal said, and hastily changed the subject of conversation
to a less depressing topic. "The new coloration process is a real
success, you say?"

"Absolutely. We can now provide flexible hue and chroma for the
complete Formair line--Airchair, Aircab and Airdome. We'll be the only
one who has it, and since every Proprietor on the planet will want
our new equipment as fast as we turn it out, we'll put every other
firm completely out of the business. I've already worked out a method
so that we can convert to export goods, too, without waiting for the
economic balance to be readjusted. Of course, the colonies will have to
curtail a little, but we don't have to concern ourselves with them."

"Yes," agreed Hal.

"Bruchner has been very useful to us on it," the old man repeated
again. "We'll have to show him we appreciate it."

Hal's mouth tightened just perceptibly at the mention of the
redoubtable engineer, but he said nothing. His father continued in his
soft, mild voice. "We must make him a present of something. Should
it be money? Can't give him property, of course, because he isn't a
citizen."

"I don't like the idea of giving an Outlander money. They get their
allotments and that's enough wealth. If you give them money, they will
be able to buy more than their allotment, and that could very easily
upset our own economic balance, you know."

"Quite true," Webber agreed. Then he smiled with placid inspiration. "I
know. We'll give him fame. We'll name the process after him."

"Well," Hal said doubtfully, "I guess that would do it."

"I think so. He's been a great help. As a matter of fact, though, most
of the Outlanders are helpful. A pity they won't take the Treatments
and become citizens. It seems sort of sad the way their emotions cut
them up at times. Like old Tanan last month. Why, up to then he was
almost like a civilized man--even without the treatments."

"I know," Hal said tonelessly. "It was his son, wasn't it?"

"Yes. Curious that the old man should be so concerned over that
little unpleasantness. So his son did get a little excited and kill a
Proprietor and was executed himself. No reason for his father to carry
on so about it, is there? I tried to get him to take the Treatment
then, but--well, after all, you can hardly expect an uncivilized
Outlander to appreciate the advantages, can you?"

"No." Hal did not refer to the fact that the new element recently put
into the standard CC Treatment was causing him to postpone taking it
himself, but his father seemed to sense his thought.

"You won't mind it, son. Really you won't. The Treatment will take care
of the whole thing. It's perfectly obvious that you are suffering from
the effects of the delay right at this moment."

"Oh Chaos," Hal swore softly. "Why did they have to go and put that
element in anyway?"

"Now Hal, you know better than that," his father chided him gently. "It
was either include a marital inclination or else go in for a complete
program of artificial insemination. The women have a vote too, you
know, and they wouldn't hear of it. They don't object to carrying
a child for a few months--that's always been in their conditioning
for some reason or another. But they insisted that if they had to be
mothers, the men would have to be fathers. And they insisted on a
standard, civilized marriage contract to cover the situation."

"I know, I know. I've heard all the arguments. Racial suicide and all.
Nonsense. We can always import Outlanders and force them to take the
Treatment. Outlanders," he pointed out with suitable, mild, cultured
disgust, "breed like animals."

"No son, that wouldn't do the job. We have to keep the blood line.
Outlanders don't have it, you know. If they did, they would have
permitted themselves to be civilized long ago."

Hal's fingers drummed nervously on the desk top, and his father again
raised an eyebrow in mild concern. He shook his head thoughtfully.

Guiltily, Hal stopped his fingers from their satisfying tattoo. He
bunched them into a fist instead, and then gazed at it with mild
unbelief.

"All right," he finally whispered. "This is simply awful. And it looks
as if in order to be cured, I'll have to get me a wife along with it. A
pity, though. Everything was perfectly mild without one."

"You'll be mild with a wife, Hal," his father assured him softly.
"You don't like the prospect now, because it means change. Change, of
course, is always unpleasant. But the Treatment will take care of it
all right. I know that I didn't expect things to work out so mildly
with a wife. It was optional back in those days, and if it hadn't
been for your mother's family money, I never would have married.
Particularly her--with her family history of fecundity. As witnessed
by the children we produced--you and your sister. But Formair needed
the money, and I was the only available man in the Webber clan. When
I agreed to make the sacrifice, they made me president of the firm,
because it isn't often that a man will do so much for his own family.
Shows real character. It's in the cultured family blood, naturally."

Hal had heard all this many, many times before, but he listened without
irritation. Or at least, with only the mild irritation that was the
result of his present unstable condition.

"Yes indeed," his father went on in his mild, comfortable voice.
"Hardly knew she was around the house, though, once the Treatment was
over with. It was just as if she had been around all my life. Marvelous
process."

"All right," Hal murmured. "I'll take it."

"Be a good idea to pick out a wife first. Sometimes there are a
few minor adjustments to make because of outstanding individual
characteristics. You get an absolutely perfect fit that way, you know."
He stood up and walked toward the door, the flabby muscles of his body
easily supporting the two pounds relative of his weight.

"The Ansermet family has a female available, I believe," he murmured
as he walked. "Excellent choice. But you better have the probability
checked anyway."

"I know about her," Hal replied thoughtfully. "But what's she like?
Have you ever met her?"

His father smiled benignly back at him, as he practically floated
through the doorway. "That doesn't matter a bit," he said mildly. "It
doesn't make any difference at all what either of you are like. The
Treatment will bring you both back to absolute, statistical normal,
and you'll both be a perfect fit for each other. Quite pleasantly
civilized."

The door hummed shut behind him.

"Well," Hal announced aloud to himself, "guess that's it."

He ordered the automatic secretary to make all suitable arrangements
and then stood up. He walked to the elevator, where a soft, hissing
breeze conveyed his temporary one-tenth pound relative gently up the
tube to the roof. There his weight returned to its normal two pounds
relative, and he spoke to the robot attendant. "My cab." His Formair
Aircab was promptly and quietly delivered, and Hal stepped inside.

"Destination?" a voice inquired softly from the control bank.

"Take me to the nearest available Civilization Conditioning Treatment
Center."

At once, the cab took off. It was a silent and comfortable motion. Hal
had always liked flying.

The automatic pilot was speaking to him gently. "Central Authority
advises that the nearest available CCT Center at this time is in
the metropolis of Knoxville. This requires traversing interurban
wilderness."

Hal frowned just slightly. He had never seen the interurban wilderness,
of course, and had not the slightest desire to do so. That was chaos.
He inquired, "How soon can the local Center take me?"

"Three days, seven hours twenty minutes from reference time. Mark
time ... mark!" the robot announced the temporal point of reference.

"Too long," Hal replied wearily. "Let's go to Knoxville. And shut off
all outside views. I do not wish to see the chaos."

The Aircab obediently turned and transposed through the suspend-field
of the York metropolis Airdome. It was an effortless passing, since the
field that constituted the wall structure of the Aircab was exactly in
phase with that of the Airdome field. Both were Formair manufacture, of
course.

The pleasant, silent, effortless motion of the Aircab soon produced its
usual somnolent effect on him, and he dozed comfortably off. He slept
the entire trip.

At Knoxville, he spoke to the Center Technician briefly, advising the
master robot of the possibility of his altered economic status, and the
matter was thoroughly checked by the computer at Central Authority.
Every conceivable source of psychosomatic tension and internal conflict
was studied, and suitable alterations on Hal's master curve plotted.
The process took ten minutes, while Hal dozed under the soothing warmth
of the examination cap. There was a crackling buzz, and it was over.

He awoke immediately, and felt wonderful. No tension. No irritation.
Not the slightest bit of his recent restlessness. Hal was delighted.
On the way out of the cubicle, he encountered another Proprietor, and
smiled at him with perfect, civilized mildness.

"York," he ordered his Aircab. Once again, the sleek button-shaped
vehicle soared up through the Airdome and out over the interurban
wilderness. Hal contentedly went to sleep right in the middle of the
pilot's automatic rundown of flight data.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was jolted awake by a raucous rattle from the control bank. Blinking
his eyes sleepily, he said, "Please stop all that noise. What is the
trouble?"

A very unpleasant and notably ungentle voice replied, "Apologies sir.
We are out of control. Aircrash has occurred."

Aircrash! An almost unheard-of thing that sometimes happened to people
who used inferior equipment like that produced by firms other than
Formair. People were even known to be killed by it.

"Report," he said quietly, then flinched a little at the raucous
scratching of the speech mechanism.

"Reference point ... mark! Altitude eleven thousand three hundred
seventy one feet. Velocity reduced to two hundred nine point nine
miles per hour. Locus: seven hundred point eight miles from nearest
civilized metropolis, which is York." The voice continued, but became
unintelligible as the mangled circuits faltered.

Seven hundred miles from civilization! Wilderness. Chaos; that settled
it, of course. Hal smiled gently as he realized that he was about to
die. A civilized man obviously could not be expected to survive in
chaos. He observed that he was breathing more strenuously, and realized
that it was the result of the rapid failure of the antigravity field.
Never in his life had Hal been under the full force of the earth's mass
field, but he knew the symptoms. Once he had been exposed to a one-half
gee for a few hours. Very unpleasant, he recalled.

The automatic pilot's unintelligible speech suddenly stopped
altogether. There was a heavy, awkward lurch that threw Hal forward
against the front panel. But before he struck it, the field generator
failed completely, the panel ceased to exist, and Hal was flying
through the air. He shut his eyes, and placidly waited for death.

A moment later, he hit the ground sharply, rolled over and over, and
lay still.

He sighed heavily. Death? He had always fancied that death would be a
complete absence of sensation, and no consciousness of effort whatever.
Instead, his breath was coming in deep, heavy sighs, his head hurt, his
arm was aching, and something was tickling his nose.

"Come on, wake up," a voice said briskly.

Hal opened his eyes and looked up at a golden-framed face. It was the
face that had been speaking, and the pleasingly shaped lips now moved
again. "You aren't hurt, you know. Just a little shaken up."

Hal continued to stare at the woman for a moment, then muttered
"Umph," and struggled to a sitting posture. It was a great effort in
the unaccustomed full earth gravitational field. The woman was an
Outlander, no doubt about it. That was evident from her highly spirited
tone of voice. But as Hal looked around at the strange picture of
undisturbed interurban wilderness, he found that most astonishingly
he did not mind it. As a matter of fact, he rather liked her tone of
voice. It was all very puzzling.

"What happened?" he muttered heavily, his eyes moving back to the
landscape and the small metal boxes which housed the now defunct
suspend-field generators.

"There must have been something wrong with your Aircab," she replied.
"You crashed. The same way I did a couple days ago." The woman walked
over to the generator boxes, picked them up and brought them back to
where he was still sitting on the grass. "We'll need these," she
explained. "There are emergency supplies inside them."

Hal didn't move. She waited a moment, then said lightly, tossing her
golden hair, "Come along now. We're way out in the wilderness, you
know, and there aren't any robots to bring us our dinner."

"Wilderness," Hal murmured. "That's right. Well, I guess we'll die
here."

"Oh nonsense!" She stamped her foot with impatience. "This would have
to happen to me. Of all people to be stranded with in the wilderness, I
have to get one of you insipid, gutless Proprietors."

"Oh yes?" Hal said with unconscious anger, lurching to his feet. "Who's
insipid and gutless? I'm considerably more civilized than you are."
Quick surprise crossed her face as she listened. Hal continued his
angry speech. "Why is it that all you savages always think you know how
to live better than your superiors? If you are so clever, why aren't
you civilized?"

"Well, listen to him. You sound almost human."

She was laughing at him!

"Damn savage," he growled. He turned and strode purposefully away from
her across the soft matting of grass.

"Where do you think you are going?" she called.

"Away from here," he replied. But the rapid pace in the unaccustomed
gravity was very quickly taking his energy. His breath came in deep,
labored gasps already, and he could scarcely move his feet.

He stopped abruptly, and looked at the distant horizon. There was
nothing in sight that indicated civilization. These regions had
not been inhabited for two hundred and fifty years--ever since
the severance of the planetary colonies from political control by
the motherland, and the settling of the Proprietors into their
well-separated, civilized cities. The land was all owned by the
Proprietors, but was unnecessary, and hence not used.

He felt a light touch on his arm.

"I'm sorry," she apologized softly. "I can understand you a little, but
you're so completely under the influence of your horrible personality
conditioning methods that you can't possibly understand me."

"Who's under what influence?" Hal said in a valiant attempt to express
his irritation, but his voice held the obvious weakness of fatigue.

"You poor boy," she sympathized. "You don't sound very much influenced
by it right now."

At her words, Hal suddenly became aware of the unaccustomed vigor
of his own emotions, and he was puzzled by it. But it seemed oddly
unimportant for some reason. "How come you can handle this awful weight
so easily?" he asked her.

Her laughter was light and delightful. "We spend most of our lives
under natural conditions, not under an antigravity machine. I've only
been on Earth for a few months, visiting my father. But a lot of that
time was spent out here in this beautiful wilderness."

"Horrible chaos," he muttered. He glanced up and observed a mild, blue,
cloud-studded sky. "Why it is blue, after all. Isn't it?"

"What's blue?"

"The skydome."

She glanced up thoughtfully. "Of course it's blue. And this is not one
of your artificial skys. This is the real thing. There's no artificial
weather control out here, you know. You get natural sunlight, natural
winds, storms, rain--oh, lots of things."

"Gahh," said Hal.

"What makes you surprised at finding that the sky is blue?"

"Probably because I never saw it before. The only time I ever heard
of its being anything other than green was when an engineer we have
working for us at the factory said it was blue."

"Well, never mind the sky. Let's find some place where we can get a
little shelter for the night." She began to lead him slowly along an
animal trail to a cluster of trees on a nearby stream. She walked with
the obviously delayed pace one takes with invalids, but Hal had a
difficult time keeping up.

Finally, she said, "Here's a pretty good place. Sit down next to that
tree. You must be worn out."

"Oooo," he groaned, reclining back against a broad, rough oak trunk,
then stiffening painfully away from it again. "It doesn't fit," he
mourned plaintively.

"Now you're sounding silly again," she scolded. "Go on, lean back.
There aren't any suspend-field lounges out here for you, so you take
what you get."

Obediently, he relaxed against the rough, twisting bark. He was very,
very tired. On second thought, even this rugged seat was comfortable.
He sighed heavily, and then looked pensively around again. "Oh well,
what does it matter? We'll be dead soon."

"Don't talk like that!" she snapped with annoyance.

"Why?" he inquired listlessly. "Everybody knows a civilized human being
can't possibly survive in the wilderness. That's why no one ever comes
here. And I'd just as soon die right now, if you have anything suitable
for killing."

The woman stared at him with a tight frown between her eyebrows. Then
she shook her head with wonder. "How you people can call yourselves
civilized is beyond me. You yourself don't seem so bad, except that you
don't have any guts. They've trained it all out by now."

"Please," begged Hal. "You sound like that uncouth engineer that works
for us. Impertinent."

"That what engineer?" she demanded spiritedly. "Who are you, anyway?"

"I'm Webber. Hal Webber. The engineer is a savage--oh sorry." He smiled
weakly. "You're a savage, too. Guess you Outlanders don't regard
yourselves as such."

"No we don't," she snapped. "And if it weren't for us, you silly fools
here on Earth would have died out long ago."

"Outlanders are noted for their misplaced pride, of course," Hal
commented with a mildness that was impelled by fatigue rather than
civilized conditioning.

"Oh are we now?" she said angrily, standing up and bending over him.
"And who do you think you are, Lord Proprietor? Some humble god,
perhaps? Let me tell you something, Hal Webber, I've heard about you.
You know who I am? My name is Lois Bruchner. That uncouth engineer you
just referred to happens to be my father."

Hal was puzzled. "What on earth is the matter?" he asked. "Why are you
so excited?"

"You called my father uncouth."

"Why get excited about that? After all--" Hal gestured weakly, trying
to reason with her, "--it's only your father. I didn't say you were
uncouth. Funny thing is--I like you."

"Suppose I called your father names?" she demanded, her lower lip
protruding belligerently.

"You can call him anything you like as far as I am concerned."

Lois Bruchner stood there a moment, her mouth open in astonishment.
Then she sat down beside him again quietly.

"That's right," she murmured, "they even educate love out of you."

Hal sighed heavily, and slid away from the tree onto the rough, rocky
ground. It was painful, but he was so tired. His breath came in
regular, deep sighs as he went to sleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

By the time he woke, Lois had constructed a kind of primitive lean-to
shelter over him. Hal was amazed. The sheltering purpose of the
structure was evident to him, and he was startled that she should have
been able to design such a thing on the spur of the moment.

She heard him stir and looked up from the fire she had built in front
of the lean-to. "Hungry?" she asked.

He was ravenous, but his muscles ached in every fibre. His wonder at
her cleverness disappeared abruptly when he tried to move. He rolled
over groaning and helpless.

Immediately, she was at his side, pushing him back onto the bed of dry,
fragrant grass she had put him on. "Now don't try to move around," she
admonished. "Just a few days, and you'll be all right."

"Oooo," Hal groaned. "This is awful."

"There, there," she murmured solicitously. "I've made you some soup.
You'll like it."

"Soup," he groaned. "I want food. Good solid synthomeat. Don't you have
any food?"

"Solid food in your stomach so soon in this heavy gravity would kill
you."

She went away and returned quickly with a little cup and spoon, and
proceeded to empty the container into his lax mouth a few drops at a
time. After a while, he ceased his protesting. It was less painful
to swallow the slop than to fight it. Very soon afterward, he lost
consciousness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Later, he was again aware of his surroundings. He felt tremendously
better, and observed with a peculiar satisfaction that it was morning.
Funny sounds were in the air, which he eventually recognized as the
cries of wild birds and insects. Insects? He blinked his eyes and
struggled to a sitting position, and looked worriedly around. Insects
can carry disease, he remembered. And wild animals were reported to be
carnivorous.

His clumsy motions awakened Lois, who had been sleeping beside him. Hal
looked down at her with a vague wonder. Such a nice looking savage,
he thought, as she popped open her eyes. She smiled a pleased morning
smile at him and lazily stretched.

"Hi," she said. "How do you feel?"

"Quite mild," Hal admitted with wonder. "Odd, too. That junk you fed me
last night must have some very efficient drug in it."

"Junk I fed you last night?" Lois echoed, sitting up. Then she laughed
her amusement. "Oh, you mean that soup. That wasn't last night, Hal
Webber. That was last week."

"But--I just woke up," he protested.

"Yes." She smiled at him, reaching up and patting his cheek
affectionately. "You've been a little delirious. Gravity trauma, very
common. You get used to it fast, but that's one thing they didn't
condition you to, I guess, and your conscious promptly rejected the
possibility."

Sudden remembrance came to Hal of the agony it had been to move
the last time he remembered trying it. Cautiously he lifted an arm
and flexed it. He glanced back at Lois, who was watching him with
amusement. "It feels all right now. Heavy and clumsy, but no pain."

"Good." She stood up and brushed her unruly hair away from her
forehead. "I'll fix your breakfast just as soon as I take my bath, all
right?" she said. Hal nodded absently. The stream was twenty yards
away, and Lois walked quickly over to it. There she pulled her jumper
over her head and dove into the crystal water. "Eeii, it's cold!" she
shrieked. Her vigorous splashing threw sharp brilliance in the early
morning sunlight. After a few minutes, she came out, letting the water
dry on her soft, golden skin.

Hal was watching her in open-mouthed admiration. It was a most
remarkable sensation, this pleasure at seeing her move in that lithe,
supple way. He had never before experienced such a thing.

As she came up on the grassy bank, she noticed his rapt gaze, and
quickly snatched up her single garment and held it in front of her.
"All right," she told him briskly. "You too. You're much too big for me
to handle effectively, so you haven't had a decent bath since we got
here. And it gets pretty hot during the day."

Obediently, as if in a vic-spell, Hal stood up and walked to the
water's edge, keeping his eyes on her.

"Look where you're going," she said sharply, and he shook his head
dazedly. He slowly removed his clothing, dropped it on the ground, and
jumped into the water.

That was the end of the spell. The water was like ice, he howled like
a wounded animal and tried to jump out again. But the gravity made him
clumsy and he fell back with a great splash. He rose again, gasping and
sputtering, making wild, awkward movements--in a frenzy to get out of
the excruciating coldness. Finally he was lying on the grass, panting
and exhausted.

Lois was standing over him, her pale blue eyes dancing with delight.
"What a spectacle," she bubbled merrily. "You should have seen
yourself. I sure wish I had a vic-o-graph with me. Such performances
should be preserved."

Unaccountably, Hal found himself gurgling like a delighted baby, and
then laughing with her in loud, uncivilized guffaws.

After a few minutes, they were both worn out with hilarity. Lois
sighed. She gave him a brimming smile, and went on back to the lean-to.
"Get your clothes on," she said. "I'll have some breakfast for you in a
few minutes."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was food, Hal agreed, but it was not very good. It had come out of
the standard emergency ration from the Aircab master units, and no
power on earth could have made it very palatable. And the supply was
nearly gone.

"I don't know how we can get back," she said thoughtfully, as she
chewed on a wafer. "Plenty of Aircabs go by--I've seen a dozen or
so during the past week. But nobody ever looks out of them except
Outlanders, and there aren't many of us around. So there isn't any
point in building a signal fire."

Hal did not reply. He lay back on the grass, his belly full with
unaccustomed satisfaction, staring at the blue sky. He decided that he
still preferred green. "It's sort of a washed-out color," he murmured.

"What?"

"The sky. It's sort of pallid and weak-looking."

"That's haze. But spoken like a big, strong man," she said lightly. And
then wistfully added, "A pity they always take it out of you."

Hal frowned, and looked down from the sky to the windblown dampness of
her golden hair. "What do you mean by that?" he inquired.

"Nothing." Her gaze returned modestly to her wafer, and she continued
the former subject. "We were talking about getting back to what you
call civilization, remember? Or do you prefer we become the new Adam
and Eve lost in the wilderness?" she asked, her eyes dancing. "We could
start a new primitive dynasty of plains savages."

"Oh." Hal's mind came back to the immediate problem. "Oh, yes, that's
right. We have to get back." He frowned a moment. "Well now, let's see.
There're a number of emergency stations spotted around the interurban
wilderness. Can't just remember where I learned about them--must have
been Treatment information." He thoughtfully picked up a stick and
began drawing diagrams of maps in the loose soil. "There." He pointed
with the stick. "One of them should be about two hundred miles north
of where we are now, provided the automatic pilot of my Aircab was
accurate in its final position fix."

Lois was looking at the crude map when he glanced back up at her. There
seemed to be a sadness in her expression. She nodded her head at the
map. "From that it looks like those emasculating treatments do some
good after all."

"Don't talk like that," he reproved her. "The Civilization Conditioning
Treatment is the basis of our culture."

She started to speak, hesitated, and then blurted out, "What,
precisely, does it do for you?"

"Don't you know?" Hal asked astonished, and then answered his own
question. "Oh, of course, Outlanders would hardly know much about
civilized history. Well, before interplanetary exploration was started,
there weren't any areas at all like this wilderness. The planet was
much too crowded. The people lived in huge, contiguous cities and were
incessantly battling with each other for economic survival, social
survival and animal survival. The vast majority of the population
couldn't stand it. They developed all kinds of psychogenic illnesses.
The impact of the uncontrolled inclinations of individuals meeting the
absolute self-control required by civilization was killing them.

"Then, gradually, the Civilization Conditioning process was developed.
What happened then was just what you would expect--the people who
took the Treatments were so much better adapted to civilized living
conditions that the others simply didn't have a chance. Just as soon
as planetary colonies were opened up, the savages were all shipped
off. There were a lot of riots and small-scale wars for a while, but
eventually the superior conditioning of the civilized people won out.

"After things had stabilized again, anyone who wanted to was permitted
to become an Earth citizen, but he had to take the Treatment, and keep
it up. But by that time, most savages had a lot of peculiar prejudices
against it, so the population of Earth has remained very small. The
robotic defenses of the Proprietors protected the planet from further
invasion, and now the robotic police maintain order everywhere in the
system.

"Of course, the planets are extremely poor in natural resources, so
we supply the basic material, even though we relinquished political
control long ago. The colonies pay us by sending unusually gifted
technicians like your father to work for us. Naturally, Outlanders
have no rights, whatsoever, here. Not even the right to life or
freedom or payment of the material allotment. But unless they commit
a crime or otherwise interfere with the Proprietors, there is not the
slightest danger of being molested by any citizen, because citizens are
civilized."

Hal stopped his history lecture and looked back up at her. "The
Treatment is responsible for the entire rational order of our culture,
as you probably know."

"But look how insipid it makes you all," she burst out. "You're so weak
and wishy-washy. There isn't a noble or even a strong sentiment in your
entire society."

"That is how the process works. It is nothing but a series of checks
and balances artificially installed in the subconscious which make
strong sentiments unnecessary, and which prevent unstable activity.
The result is a perfectly smooth existence with no ups or downs, and a
perfect cooperation between civilized people."

Lois thought this over for a moment. Then she asked curiously, "How
do you account for the fact that you--after all the Treatments you
have taken--are so different from other Proprietors? You, well--"
she stumbled, blushing a little--"you seem perfectly normal in your
reactions."

Hal shook his head. "I don't know. Maybe my last Treatment had an error
in it." But he shook his head again at that idea, because the computer
at Central Authority never made mistakes. "It _is_ strange."

"I think it's wonderful." She smiled at him with quick radiance.

Hal grinned happily back at her, feeling an alien surge of joy as he
looked at the smile and at her. "Well, whatever it is, for the next few
months or so it looks like we'll be savages in fact."

       *       *       *       *       *

They were. And they took a long time walking north to their
destination. It was a remarkably satisfying experience for Hal. And it
was for Lois, too, as she pointed out to him the night after they found
the emergency station. There was a small Formair shelter at the place,
and a simple automatic distress transmitter which was set in operation
by one push of a button. Symbols marked on the case of the transmitter
assured them that assistance would be forthcoming within twelve hours.

It was their first night in a civilized shelter, and their last night
together in the wilderness. Early the next morning, an Authority Aircab
came humming swiftly down to the meadow where they were waiting.

Once inside the Aircab, Hal became taciturn and thoughtful, but Lois
was not disturbed. She talked enough for both of them. Hal luxuriated
in the pleasant reawakened rapport with the things of civilization.

Back at the city, they went to Bruchner's residence, and Lois' father
rushed outside to greet them. Lois ran happily to him, embracing
him, and volubly explaining how wonderful Hal was, how he had saved
her from being gobbled up by a lot of wild animals, and how strong
he was, and sundry other affectionately innocuous exaggerations. Hal
looked curiously on for a few minutes in idle wonder at the strange
attachments of Outlanders. Then Lois proudly pulled him over next to
her.

"Isn't he wonderful? And we're in love--oh, so much in love."

"Lois," Bruchner mumbled unhappily. "There are some things you have to
be told. I should have told you before--"

"You don't have to tell me anything," she bubbled happily. "You can
say all you want to about the Proprietors, but this one is different.
He's--he's real!"

Hal laughed diffidently, and moved a little further away from her. He
gazed around at the city, recognizing it with thirsty familiarity,
happily part of it again. The experience of the past three months
already seemed far away.

"Hal," Lois murmured, suddenly aware of his rapidly growing coolness.
"Hal, darling, what's wrong?"

"Why nothing at all, uh, Lois." He looked at her uncomfortably for a
moment, and backed a step further. "It's just--well, you know."

"Oh no you don't," she cried, rushing up to him and grabbing his arm.
"Where are you going--Dad!"

"Please, Miss Bruchner," Hal murmured mildly, disengaging his arm from
her. He gazed hungrily around him again the moment she let go, and
looked back at her only when he was startled by a sudden, choking sob.
Lois was staring at him, her fist to her mouth, the pale blue eyes
brimming.

"Oh no!" she cried tremulously.

"Lois," Bruchner said, his voice sounding harsh with repressed
emotions, "come in here. You've got to know what the situation is." He
put his arm around her trembling shoulders and led her off, glaring at
Hal in helpless fury.

The moment they were out of sight, Hal turned and stepped back into
the Aircab. He ordered it to take him home. His parents were there,
watching a vic-entertainment, which Hal promptly turned off.

"Who did that?" his father mumbled, coming immediately out of the
trance. "Hal? That wasn't a very nice thing to do, son."

"Why Hal," his mother sighed mildly. "You're not dead after all.
How nice. Don't pay any attention to your father--it wasn't a very
interesting vic anyway."

"Shouldn't turn it off like that, though."

"Um, sorry," Hal apologized gently. He relaxed into the comfortable,
perfect fit of a Formair lounge. "Just thought I'd let you know I'm
still alive."

"Well, we're glad," his mother murmured absently. "Must have been
pretty awful."

"That's the funny thing about it, though--I didn't mind it a bit at
the time. Very curious. I had an Outlander woman with me--Bruchner's
daughter, as a matter of fact."

"Oh dear," Mrs. Webber sighed. "Poor Hal."

"Well, like I say, it wasn't exactly mild, but it was quite tolerable,
somehow." He frowned just slightly, and shook his head at the
puzzling incongruity. He recalled his three months of association
with the uncivilized woman, somewhat wistfully contemplating strong,
overpowering sentiments in a chaotic wilderness. "Anyway," he said at
last, "I'm home again, and it's all over. I won't have to have anything
to do with her now."

"Yes," Mrs. Webber murmured. "Odd that you should have survived though,
isn't it? I thought a civilized man in the wilderness would die almost
at once."

Webber gave the cultured equivalent of a mild snort. "Of course he
could survive. Oh--" and he laughed softly in apology "--that's right.
I forgot to tell you about that."

The eyes of his wife politely turned to him and he explained. "A couple
of weeks after our son here apparently had been killed, I happened
to run into an Authority physician. I mentioned it to him, just in
passing. He told me that there was a factor in the CC Treatment that
provided for such things.

"It seems that the Civilization Conditioning they give you is only
designed to enable a man to survive in a city. In order for the
conditioning to function, you have to have that civilized urban
environment. Once the environment is removed, the conditioned complex
has nothing to react against, and the man immediately becomes
almost--but not quite--as savage as a typical Outlander.

"That way, a civilized man can always manage to live in the wilderness,
given half a chance. Once he gets back into a city again, the proper,
civilized environment is returned, the conditioning starts functioning
immediately and presto!--the man is civilized again."

"Well now, that's nice," Mrs. Webber said placidly. "Wouldn't like to
see my boy dead."

"Yes," her husband mused. "The physician told me that right after we
decided Hal was dead. I was going to mention it to you, but it slipped
my mind somehow."

"Well, you're just a tiny bit forgetful at times, dear." Mrs. Webber
sighed softly and turned to her son. "Hal, dear, it's awfully nice to
see you back again. Would you be kind enough to switch the vic back
on?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Contentedly, Hal complied, and was himself immediately carried away by
the vicarious entertainment, pleased to put the disturbing dream of the
past three months comfortably behind him.





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