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Cubs of the Wolf   By: (1915-1994)

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[Illustration: MARKOVIA]



It may be that there is a weapon that, from the viewpoint of the one it's used on, is worse than lethal. You might say that death multiplies you by zero; what would multiplication by minus one do?

Illustrated by Rogers

In the spring the cherry blossoms are heavy in the air over the campus of Solarian Institute of Science and Humanities. On a small slope that rims the park area, Cameron Wilder lay on his back squinting through the cloud of pink white petals to the sky beyond. Beside him, Joyce Farquhar drew her jacket closer with an irritated gesture. It was still too cold to be sitting on the grass, but Cameron didn't seem to notice it or anything else, Joyce thought.

"If you don't submit a subject for your thesis now," she said, "you'll take another full six months getting your doctorate. Sometimes I think you don't really want it!"

Cameron stirred. He shifted his squinting gaze from the sky to Joyce and finally sat up. But he was staring ahead through the trees again as he took his pipe from his pocket and began filling it slowly.

"I don't want it if it's not going to mean anything after I get it," he said belligerently. "I'm not going to do an investigation of some silly subject like The Transience of Venusian Immigrants in Relation to the Martian Polar Ice Cap Cycle. Solarian sociologists are the butt of enough ridicule now. Do something like that and for the rest of your life you get knocking of the knees whenever anybody inquires about the specialty you worked in and threatens to read your thesis."

"Nobody's asking you to do anything you don't want to. But you picked the field of sociology to work in. Now I don't see why you have to act such a purist that it takes months to find a research project for your degree. Pick something anything! I don't care what it is. But if you don't get a degree and an appointment out of the next session I don't think we'll ever get married not ever."

Cameron removed his pipe from his mouth with a precise grip and considered it intently as it cupped in his hands. "I'm glad you mentioned marriage," he said. "I was just about to speak of it myself."

"Well, don't!" said Joyce. "After three years Three years!"

He turned to face her and smiled for the first time. He liked to lead her along occasionally just to watch her explode, but he was not always sure when he had gone too far. Joyce had a mind like a snapping, random matching calculator while he operated more on a slow, carefully shaping analogue basis, knowing things were never quite what they seemed but trying to get as close an approximation of the true picture as possible.

"Will you marry me now?" he said.

The question did not seem to startle her. "No degree, no appointment and no chance of getting one we couldn't even get a license. I hope you aren't suggesting we try to get along without one, or on a forgery!"

Cameron shook his head. "No, darling, this is a perfectly bona fide proposal, complete with license, appointment, the works what do you say?"

"I say this spring sun is too much for you." She touched the dark mass of his hair, warmed by the sun's rays, and put her head on his shoulder. She started to cry. "Don't tease me like that, Cameron. It seems like we've been waiting forever and there's still forever ahead of us. You can't do anything you want to "

Cameron put his arms about her, not caring if the whole Institute faculty leaned out the windows to watch. "That's why you should appreciate being about to marry such a resourceful fellow," he said more gently. And now he dropped all banter. "I've been thinking about how long it's been, too. That's why I decided to try to kill a couple of sparrows with one pebble."

Joyce sat up. "You aren't serious ?"

Cameron sucked on his pipe once more. "Ever hear of the Markovian Nucleus?" he said thoughtfully... Continue reading book >>

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