The York Problem
The York Problem
BY HERBERT D. KASTLE
Warfare, diplomacy, art, music, science, religion—have all
failed to secure peace for the world. But still there is hope
for Mankind. Another experiment remains: change the color
line—and let's see what happens....
[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.]
They sat around the table, thirteen men dressed in the prescribed blueof their office. They spoke quietly, without tension, and they allseemed alike. Commissioner Dobu summed up this meeting of the EarthCouncil of Prevention and Correction of Non-Conformity.
"It is to be regretted," he said, "that the juvenile deliquency problemremains unsolved in York. It is also to be noted, and included in thelocal reports of the sector captains, that the problem has existed somesix hundred years, since 3046, speaking in general figures. Therefore,the fault lies not with us—though this point is to be hinted at ratherthan stated per se, Peaceful Sirs."
The council members accepted his aside, with brief nods and briefersmiles, for the problem of York was nothing to smile at.
Dobu cleared his throat and continued. "Since the Federated GalacticBill of Inherent Human Rights forbids psychiatric treatment orsyndromic surgery against an individual's wishes, and since thepeople of York under the fanatic tutorship of their church mastersconsider psychiatry a sacrilege, there is no easy solution—no humanesolution. But people who have refused all advice, aid and educationfor six hundred years no longer deserve humane treatment. Therefore,as we have done on so many other occasions, and as has been doneby our predecessors, we present what we feel is the only solution.Namely, that York as a community, and the people of York as a whole,be eliminated in whatever manner the Federated Galactic Council seesfit. Sterilization appears to be the method most suitable. But eveneuthanasia would not be out of order."
Mala Wang yawned as she read the commissioner's report. It was like allthe others she'd sent to Galactic Council in the four years she'd beenwith the CPCNC. And nothing had ever happened; not unless you countedthe Report-Received flashes.
She inserted a fresh strip into the feeder, worked the keysefficiently, and began sending. "Federated Galactic Council, CentauriTwo, Code CPCNC-Earth. Most Peaceful Sirs: In the meeting of July,3646, the problem of York, its adult inhabitants, and more particularlyits juvenile delinquents...."
Some forty minutes later, she was finished. She shut off the feeder,opened the ejector, and waited. Before she'd finished buffing the nailson her left hand, the ejector began clicking. "Report Received" emergedon the tape. Mala shrugged and pushed back her chair, but anotherseries of clicks stopped her.
"Urgently request operator stand by for results emergency session,Federated Galactic Council, being called at this time. Business:Continuing reports of CPCNC-Earth on York Sector."
Mala stared at the tape, and slowly her eyes grew wide and herlips parted. Then she threw the inter-departmental switch and rangCommissioner Dobu. As soon as Dobu's face materialized on the screen,she said, "Peaceful Sir! I've just received a message that indicatesthe Galactic Council is going to take action on your reports!"
A half-hour later, the Earth Council of Prevention and Correction ofNon-Conformity was reconvened, waiting for the Galactic Council'sdecision. They were all wondering whether it would be sterilization oreuthanasia.
John Stevens was irritable. He'd been that way for weeks now, or was itmonths? Anyway, life was getting to be a foul-blooded pain!
He saw the empty can, kicked it, watched it bounce along the crackedpavement. When it stopped bouncing, he was again faced with hisproblem: What to do on a hot July afternoon?
He considered going down to Frank's Vizio Palace, but decided againstit. Not that he was afraid of the Sinais, but it was too hot to invadeenemy territory alone. Besides, he had brained all this month's viziosand new ones wouldn't be in for at least a week. So he leaned againstthe tenement's warped wall and looked for more cans to kick. On a daylike this, he thought, a kid could almost wish vacation was over andschool back in operation.
Then he saw Pete Smith and waved a languid hand. "How's thepure-blood?" he asked.
"Living," Pete answered. "And I can see Mr. Aryan's doing all rightfor—"
Both froze as the patrol bubble turned the corner on racing treads andpulled up short. John considered making a run for it, but saw it wastoo late. Pete had arrived at the same conclusion.
"They picked our lips on the vocal-box," Pete whispered. "We're introuble."
John didn't have a chance to answer. The two Blasts were out oftheir bubble and coming toward them. The tall one said mechanically,"Section twenty-seven, Earth Ordinances, using profane language onpublic lanes. Subsection twelve, covering classification of terms ofracial-superiority as profanity due to its negation of established factand the harmful effects—"
"Oh, shove it, Blast," Pete muttered. "We know the public scroll. Soyou picked us up on the box. So what?"
The CPCNC officer looked at him. "You people never will learn. Whydon't you accept the status quo, learn to live like human beings?"
"That's what I always say," John murmured sarcastically.
The Blast stepped in and slapped him, hard. John rocked back on hisheels, clenched his fists, but did nothing. The Blast slapped himagain, not quite so hard but with a great deal more deliberation. Johnbit his lip and dropped his eyes.
"Yeah," he said. "Why don't we act like human beings!"
The second Blast, a shorter, heavier man, waved his companion away."Easy, Farn. Don't let this Yorker get you." He turned to the twoadolescents, something like pity in his brown eyes. "We'll let it pass,this time. But we've got you down on our photopads. The next offensemeans Re-education House."
Neither boy said a word, but John's cheek burned and something in hischest burned even more.
The conciliatory Blast hesitated; then said, "Why don't you boys comedown to Composite Youth Center? We've got the latest vizios, athletic—"
"We're members of Race-Through-God," John said, a quiet satisfactionin his voice. "The scroll says we can't be forced to attend CYC. Ourmaster told us that. We go to meetings regularly."
Farn, the Blast who had slapped John, whirled around and stamped backto the bubble. "C'mon, Stan!" he called. "This filthy slum sickens me!"
Stan nodded, but lowered his voice to a confidential murmur. "You'llnever get out of York, be issued a space visa, or do anything worthwhile if you stick to the race-church stuff, boys. You don't know whatthe Galaxy is like—the planets, the beautiful cities. It's reallysomething. Just sign up for CYC. After that, you can qualify forIntegration and meet some really beautiful ladies."
"We got our own ladies," John said, sullen and irritated. And hisemotions bothered him. He should be enraged, after the slaps andsacriligeous lecture; not irritated. "We don't want Integration."
Stan shrugged wearily. "All right. So you'll stick in this archaichole, and eventually try to kill one of us, and end up on a euthanasiatable. And one day the Galactic Council will get fed up and clean outthe lot of you." He turned to the bubble, speaking over his shoulder."Watch your steps. Any gang fights, stealing, or profanity will get yousix months. The Blasts in Re-education won't slap—they'll use electroson your fannies!"
When the bubble went down the street and around the corner, Pete spateloquently. John was still fighting his irritation, his vast sense ofdissatisfaction, but he spat too, and said, "Man, I'd love to do acarve on all Outsiders!"
"John!" a shrill voice called. "John, you getting into trouble again?"
John turned light blue eyes to the left and looked at the ground floorwindow. "Oh, ease up, Ma! Can't an Aryan stand up to a foul-bloodOutsider?"
"John!" the gray-haired, prematurely-old woman screeched. Her eyesdarted up and down the street and her voice dropped to an intensewhisper. "Don't you use those words in public! A profanity charge isall we need, what with your father drinking—"
John tried to interrupt, but she raised her voice again and shouted himdown.
"Don't you go getting into trouble, bringing those Blasts aroundbothering God-fearing folk who want to be left alone! It's you kidsthat make it tough for the rest of us. That rabble would let us be ifyou—"
John rubbed his short-cropped blond hair in exasperation, and stalkedto the corner. Pete followed, and they paused near the curb, ignoringthe tirade which continued behind them. Finally, the woman stoppedspeaking and drew her head back inside the window.
The street was old, cracked in many places. But it didn't matter.The only traffic was the ramshackle public snake which ran onceevery half-hour, and an occasional transport, and the Blast bubbleswhich were constantly on the prowl for profanity, theft, attacks onOutsiders, and juvenile delinquency.
"For once in a foul-blood lifetime," John exploded, "let's cut adifferent caper! I'm sick of fighting the Sinais and Albines and Sonsof Musso. I want Upper City, where we can pick up some high loot."
Pete's thick jaw fell open and he stared at his blond, slendercompanion. "Upper City! But the Blasts—"
"It's a free Galaxy, ain't it?" John snapped. "We're allowed anywhereour disks take us, ain't we? So I want to travel Upper City."
"They'll watch us," Pete muttered. "Even if we could grab some loot, Idon't like it there. My old man works as custodian in a food vendro.I went with him a few times and I didn't like it. The Outsiders lookat us as if we smelled bad, and they don't sit near when we're on thesnake. I tell you it's tough, John. Let's get a few of the boys andraid the Sons of Musso."
John hesitated, and then decided that as leader of the Adolphs he hadto follow through on what he'd said. He moved into the street andwalked casually to the snake stop. "If you're jetting out, okay. But Idon't operate that way."
Pete didn't move. "You been there lately?" he jeered. "You know whatit's like?"
John acted as if he were too disgusted to answer. He'd been to UpperCity several times, but that was years ago, when he was a baby and hismother had gone against the Divine-Angel-Church master's wishes and hadhim inoculated against cancer. Everyone was doing it on the sly anyway,so she took him for his three shots. Then she'd switched to theRace-Through-God sect, and it was like the other, only there the masterlet it be known he'd taken his anti-cancer shots like everyone else.But John didn't remember much of Upper City, except that the people hadlooked at them with amusement and some contempt. He'd wondered why theydid, but when he asked his mother she'd said he'd find out for himself.
He had. The foul-blood trash! They had no pride. And they were allalike!
He searched for a disk as the snake appeared at the corner. The jointedseries of cars moved slowly on its tractor-like treads, turbo exhaustfiltering through the block-tube high on the engine. Each year itseemed to get slower, noisier, shabbier.
John stepped into car three as the snake stopped. He placed his diskin the slot, waited a moment, then moved inside as the Clear buzzersounded. He'd tried to fake his disk a few times, cutting imitationsfrom plastic cans, but the auto-guard was too damn smart. It alwaysrang for the Blast each snake carried in a little booth hinged to thelast car.
He found a seat near a window and glanced around. Not half-filled thisearly in the day. Later, when four o'clock came, it would be jammed. Heturned to the window and watched the familiar shabby streets flow by.As they entered Sinai territory, he felt a tightening of the stomachmuscles. But then he laughed and remembered he was on the snake, notinvading. Nevertheless, when two big kids got on and took seats acrossthe aisle, he knew a moment of fear. They were Sinais, all right. He'dseen the muscular one in a caper last winter. And they knew him for anAdolph.
They exchanged glares, and John kept his face tough. The muscular Sinaitook out a knife, holding it low so no one but John could see and beganto run his finger over the blade. John reached for his own sticker;then stopped. He grinned and whistled ONE GALAXY, ONE PEOPLE. TheSinais didn't like it. It was equivalent to calling them Outsiders. Buttheir corner came