BY JAMES CAUSEY
Regardless of scientific attainment, any culture
is vulnerable to inhibition. And Saxon was a good
agent; no culture nor individual would sway his
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Worlds of If Science Fiction, February 1955.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
Here the forest was green and cool. A soft, damp wind promised rain.The colonists moved down the ramp, staring at the crew members pilingcrates of supplies in the meadow beyond.
Frowns. Then whispers.
Saxon glanced up. His nostrils flared. "Hurry," he told the crewmen,and came forward, beaming. He was tired. It showed in his feverish,too-bright smile as he said, "Afraid Engineering's a little behindschedule. They'll be here tomorrow morning to erect your city. Tonightyou'll have to rough it."
Reactions varied. The women murmured and moved closer to their men.Some smiled. One man thoughtfully eyed the mounting pyramid of supplies.
"You're getting a choice world, Jarl," Saxon said, clapping him onthe shoulder. "Survey spent thirty years here, balancing the ecology,wiping out the bugs and carnivores. Eden." Saxon tasted the word likewine.
Jarl Madsen's face was stone. "Aren't they all named Eden?"
From the forest came a chittering bark, like anthropomorphic laughter.Saxon shivered, remembering the thing that chittered, the three-inchfangs and the talons. "Hardly," he lied. "That, incidentally, was aNarl. Herbivore, very harmless."
Madsen walked past him, towards the supplies.
Saxon moved among the colonists, shaking hands, congratulating,speaking of green fields and good crops and a virgin planet where everyman could carve an empire. These last moments were the worst, when yousaid goodbye, knowing that thirty percent of them would be dead withinthe week. He saw Madsen opening a supply case. Damn him! Just threemore minutes!
The last crew member dumped his load and hurried into the airlock.Saxon started casually after him, too late. Madsen stood there, hisgrin taut, nailed on.
"Primitive pre-fab shelters," he said thickly. "Axes and seeds! Thecity was a lie. We're on our own, is that it? Why—"
Saxon's palm flashed and Madsen fell writhing. There were shouts, handsclawing at him as he tore free, sprinting for the ship.
Always running, he thought bitterly. I'm getting old.
He walked through the silent corridors of the ship, a lonely figurein the black uniform of the Inhibition Corps, and once he staredthrough the porthole at Eden XXI, a mottled sphere receding into thestar-frosted night. His mouth twisted. Conceive a colony in fear, breedit in terror. Watch it adapt, grow. If it grows too fast, hurt it. Hurtit with disease, famine, dictatorship. If it keeps growing—destroy it.
The captain came down the corridor and stood at respectful attentionbefore the black uniform. "Stereo call, Commander. Prime Base."
Saxon slowly went to his cabin. The stereo panel was flashing steadycrimson to designate top priority and he restrained a savage impulseto shut the thing off. He slumped in the control chair, and the tri-diimage of a man at a desk slowly coalesced. It was a granite-featuredold man with eyes like blue ice, and Saxon's head snapped sharplyerect. It was Primus Gant, Corps Director. At ninety parsecs Gant'sfeatures were slightly hazed, but his voice was clear, sharp as a sword.
"My extrapolation went through an hour ago. Also my resignation."
Nothing moved in Gant's face or his eyes. Saxon said stiffly,"Planetfall uneventful. Area inimical. Initial shock conception,probable God-betrayal mythology by fourth generation. Those thingsin the forest should get thirty percent of them the first week.Weaponless, they'll run. The two to one female ratio should make for anagricultural matriarchy by the sixth generation. Recommend intermittentcheck at that time." He took a slow angry breath. "Why didn't we givethem weapons?"
Gant's smile was acid. "Because we haven't yet tried an agriculturalmatriarchy, Commander. Because the lower the initial survival factor,the slower the culture development. Getting squeamish?"
Saxon said doggedly, "They didn't have a chance."
"Neither did twenty million people on Earth in the last atomic war."The Director's voice was soft. "All colonists volunteer. Some have avision. Others have a latent power drive that stasis can't satisfy.They're misfits regardless, potential threats to stasis. Remember yourlast leave, Commander? I believe you met my son."
Saxon nodded curtly. He remembered the Director's son as a quiet,soft-spoken youth with the yearning for far places in his eyes.
"I had hoped he would qualify for the Corps." Gant looked suddenlyold, tired. "Instead he's volunteering for Colonial Service. Did youever lose a son, Commander?"
They stared at each other across the humming emptiness and Saxonfinally whispered, "I'm sorry."
"Stasis is all we can afford," the Director said numbly. "Man can'thave Utopia yet. Because he's still—Man. Perhaps he'll never have it.But by God he'll try! Resignation withdrawn?"
Saxon nodded. He could not speak.
"I'm glad. The ship's captain had orders to burn you down had yourefused." Gant's face was wooden. "Inhibition agents never quit, theyjust die in harness. You'll take the lifeboat to Eden XI for sixthgeneration check. Good hunting, Commander."
The image faded. Saxon sat for a long time, staring into the darkness.
Eden XI was three parsecs distant, near Algol. For the next ten hoursSaxon paced the marvelously equipped lifeboat and absorbed data fromthe robot recorder. He stared at the hard crystal ache of the stars andthought of the Director's son. He thought about the shining cities ofEarth, and about stasis.
It meant control of a billion people, a rigid planetary economy. Itmeant the Assassination branch of the Corps. Assassination (carefullycontrived to appear accidental) took care of those few malcontentswho were either too smart or too stupid to sign up for colonization.It meant a gradual weeding out of the unsane, the power-mad, it meantlearning the true meaning of sanity and peace and racial brotherhood.
And it meant the stagnation of science, a thick film of dust gatheringon the textbooks of the military tactician, and warships rotting atanchor. It meant the white spire of the Stasis Administration Center atNew Washington, and the words graven over the golden portals:
Know thyself, Man. Or die!
Was the dream worth it?
Or was Man doomed to die like a brawling ape, playing with lightning?
Saxon could not answer.
Meanwhile the colonies had to be inhibited. One interplanetary warcould smash the fragile structure so painstakingly built over the lastfew hundred years. This was the turning point, the final cross-roads ofMan's destiny.
Saxon smiled bleakly.
Ultimately there would be a colony they could neither inhibit ordestroy. The adaptive ultimate. That colony would be Man no longer, butHomo Superior.
But by then, it wouldn't matter.
The lifeboat came in on the night side of Eden XI, and hung above theblue mountains like a basking shark. Saxon checked his coordinates.This had been the original landing site, almost two hundred years ago.He switched the infra-view on maximum, and began to cruise in wideningspirals. These sixth generation hops were usually routine. If nomadic,a few political shifts could help warp the culture into a set pattern.A simple matter to play the visiting deity, pick one warped psychotic,and invest him with power. A dictatorship was by far the best way ofinhibiting a young culture. Agricultural city-states were almost aseasy. Designate a particular crop as sacred, kill the rotation program,impoverish the land, introduce serfdom.
By dawn, Saxon found what he was looking for. A row of cleared fieldsand a farmhouse. He reconnoitered a hundred miles farther and frowned.There was no clump of dwellings, no sign of a village trading community.
He brought the ship down in a forest three miles away from thefarmhouse and camouflaged it to look like a great mossy boulder. Hespent the entire morning testing the atmosphere and the soil with asavage patience. In the early years of the Corps, virus mutations hadtaken a fearful toll of intermittent spotters.
Finally he discarded his uniform and selected a pair of homespuns fromthe ship's wardrobe locker. Under the homespuns reposed his utilitykit, a miniature arsenal.
Late that afternoon he emerged from the forest and stood at the edgeof the cleared fields, a weatherbeaten itinerant, obviously willing tochop wood for a meal. Abruptly his jaw muscle twitched.
The scene was pastoral, perfect.
The man, plowing the south forty. The little girl, playing in theshadow of the sleepy farmhouse.
But no beast pulled that plow. A giant of a man with power andintelligence stamped on his bronze features pushed the plow by hand, ina die-straight furrow.
The little girl was blonde and elfin. She wore sandals, her tunic wasbrief and plain. She was playing follow-the-leader—
With a robot.
The robot was tall. The sun struck sparks from its steel carapace as itlumbered after the girl. Saxon stood frozen as she came flying towardshim in a burst of tossing blond hair and laughter, as she saw him andcame to a dead halt.
"Hello," Saxon said. He tried to smile.
"Hello." Her inflection was slurred. After six generations, naturally.Her blue eyes sparkled. "Foot-sore, stranger?"
The words had the cadence of a ritual greeting. Saxon stared at therobot and said carefully, "Yes."
"He's only a primer model," she said, following his gaze. "Next yearwhen I'm twelve Father promised to install secondary circuits. Myname's Veena. What's yours?"
Saxon introduced himself, as the giant at the plow came forward. Hiswhite smile was a benediction, his voice a lambent organ. "Welcome,rover. Haven't seen one of you in months. I'm Lang. Agriculturalhobbyist. You'll stay?"
His tone was almost pleading. Saxon nodded inarticulately, followedthem towards the farmhouse. His hands were shaking.
The interior of the house was—dimensionless.
For a moment Saxon thought he was still outside. A silver brook tinkledthrough the mossy carpet that was the floor. The south wall was agolden vista of ripe wheat rippling in the warm breeze that ruffled hishair. Birds twittered in the sun-flecked foliage overhead.
"Nice house," Saxon said numbly.
Lang's smile was different. "A bit pretentious, I'm afraid. Grandfatherbuilt it right after the landing. We've been too lazy to do muchremodeling. A remarkable man, Grandfather."
That explained it, Saxon thought in relief. One titan in an infantcolony, warping it into a Utopian mold, passing on the heritage of hisgenius. How long, he wondered coldly, before they built starships andreturned to demolish the Earth which had exiled them?
"It must be wonderful to be a rover," Veena said wistfully. "Lang, canI go with him when he leaves?"
"You haven't completed Basic Ecology. Mentor's waiting for yourafternoon session."
Veena pouted and went outside to her robot. Lang grinned. "Theprecocious brat's beginning to ask him questions he can't answer. SoonI'll have to install a few more circuits."
Saxon shivered. Regardless of scientific attainment, any culture isvulnerable to inhibition.
So said his agent's handbook.
Later he met Veena's mother, Merl, a handsome woman with calm grayeyes who served them dinner by firelight. It was a good dinner.These colonists seemed like good people. A shame they qualified forinhibition.
Gently, Saxon began to probe.
In only six generations the colonists has scattered throughout theentire hemisphere. Although the matrix of their culture seemed to bethe individual family unit, they lived according to whim. Some livedin small communal groups. Some lived alone. Some, by choice, werewanderers, rovers. They had science. Their philosophy seemed nebulous,based on a benevolent ecology, brotherhood with all living things.
Six generations ago, the ecology on this world hardly had beenbenevolent for man. This area of the continent had been a steamingmarsh, swarming with hungry saurians. Now it was all meadow and forest.
Saxon said thoughtfully, "Have you ever felt the need for organization?For a leader?"
He leaned back and waited for the seed to sprout. Two years ago on EdenVIII, near Rigel, he had said the same thing to a sixth-generationshaman, and it took scarcely a month for the shaman to start anintra-tribal war.
But now the seed fell on sterile ground. Lang said, "I don'tunderstand. Any problem which cannot be solved at family level isreferred to the annual council."
"A leader." Saxon was patient. "One strong man to represent everybody.To settle all problems as he sees fit?"
"Remember, Father?" Veena prodded. "Those arboreal cannibalsGrandfather used to mention? They had a nomadic tribal culture based onbrute strength."
Lang nodded somberly. "Good analogy. The most favorable extrapolationindicated a racial life expectancy of only ten thousand years. Theiremotional stability index was nil, they would eventually have destroyedthemselves. The first generation decided it would be more merciful toexterminate them. An unwise decision,