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Instinct   By: (1911-1981)

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You can keep a good man down, if you've got enough headstart, are alert and persistent ... so long as he limits himself to acting like a good man....

Illustrated by Martinez

It was 047 63 10 when he opened the door. Before his superior could chew him for prepunctuality, Huvane said as the chief looked up and opened his mouth to start:

"Sorry, but you should know. Terra is at it again."

Chelan's jaw snapped shut. He passed a hand over his face and asked in a tone of pure exasperation. "The same?" and as Huvane nodded, Chelan went on, "Why can't they make a mistake and blow themselves out of our hair? How far did they get this time?"

"All the way."

"And out?"

Huvane sat down shaking his head slowly. "Not yet, but they're over the hump, you know." Huvane's face brightened ever so slightly. "I can't be criticized for not counting them, chief. But I'll estimate that there must be at least a couple of hundred atoms of 109 already. And you know that nobody could make 109 if they hadn't already evolved methods of measuring the properties of individual atoms. So as soon as they find that their boom sample doesn't behave like the standard mess out of a bombardment chamber, they won't rest until they find out why. They'll find out. Then it'll be 109, 109, 109 until we're forced to clobber them again."

Bitterly Chelan looked up. "I don't think I need the lecture. I admire their tenacity. I admire their ambition. I admire their blasphemous, consignatory, obscenity attitude of acting as if the Great Creator had concocted the whole glorious Universe for their own playground. Yes," said the chief wearily, "singly they aren't bad traits. Boiled down into the self esteem of a single race, I don't admire them any more. I'm simply scared."

"Yeah. Well, we've got time."

"Not much. What's their space potential this time?"

"Still scragged on the mass inertia relativity barrier. Tailburners ... er, chemical reaction engines. Manned and unmanned orbital flights. Half a dozen landings on their sister planet. No," said Huvane as he saw the chief's puzzlement, "I don't mean Number Two ... the one they call Venus this time. I mean their co orbital companion. The Moon. They still call it that."

The chief looked up wonderingly. "Do you suppose," he asked solemnly, "that there is really something called a 'racial memory'?"

"It's against all the theory," objected Huvane. "But there seems to be " his voice trailed off absently. It returned after some thought: "I've tried to sort it out, just as if I were one of them. The recurrence of their ... er ... 'names of antiquity' as they call them, seem to recur and recur. Their Planet Two, now called Venus, was called Astarte last time, and before that it was Ishtar."

"Other way around."

"No matter. The names are still being used and, according to their belief, merely parallel names culled out of local pagan religious beliefs."

The chief nodded. "That's only part of the parallelism. The big thing is the way they follow the same pattern. Savage, agrarian, urban, right on up the ladder according to the rules of civic science but squabbling and battling all the way right on up and out into space. Hell, Huvane, warfare and conflict I can both understand and cope with, but not the Terran flavor. They don't come out bent on conquest or stellar colonialism. They come out with their little private fight still going on and each side lines up its volume of influence and pits one against the other until the whole section of that spiral arm is glittering like a sputtering spark along a train of black powder. I wish," he said savagely, "that we could cut off that arm and fling it deep into extragalactic space."

Huvane shook his head. "And leave the problem for our children to solve?"

"They'll have one to solve, I think," said Chelan. "In another twenty thousand years the Terrans will be right back doing business at the same old stand. Unless we can solve it for once and for all right now... Continue reading book >>

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