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Think Yourself to Death   By: (1928-2008)

Think Yourself to Death by Stephen Marlowe

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[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Amazing Stories March 1957. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: If you've never read a Johnny Mayhem story before, you are in for a treat. Johnny, who wears different bodies the way ordinary people wear clothes, is one of the most fascinating series characters in science fiction. ]

When he reached Ophiuchus, Johnny Mayhem was wearing the body of an elderly Sirian gentleman.

Nothing could have been more incongruous. The Sirian wore a pince nez, a dignified two piece jumper in a charcoal color, sedate two tone boots and a black string tie.

The loiterers in the street near the Galactic Observer's building looked, and pointed, and laughed. Using the dignity of the dead Sirian, whose body he wore like other people wear clothing, Johnny Mayhem ignored them. They had a point, of course. It was hot and humid on Ophiuchus IX. The loiterers in the dusty, evil smelling streets wore nothing but loin cloths.

Mayhem went inside the building, which was air conditioned. Probably it was the only air conditioned structure on the entire planet. Mayhem dabbed at his Sirian forehead gratefully, mopping at sweat. As near as he could figure, his life expectancy in this body was down to three days, Earth style. He wondered fleetingly why the Galactic League had sent him here to Ophiuchus. He shrugged, knowing he would find out soon enough.

The Galactic Observer on Ophiuchus IX, a middle aged Indian from Bombay named Kovandaswamy, wore an immaculate white linen loin cloth on his plump body and a relieved smile on his worried face when Mayhem entered his office. The two men shook hands.

"So you're Mayhem?" Kovandaswamy said in English. "They told me to expect you, sir. Pardon my staring, but I've never been face to face with a legend before. I'm impressed."

Mayhem laughed. "You'll get over it."

"Well, at least as a Sirian gentleman, you're not very prepossessing. That helps."

"It wasn't my idea. It never is."

"I know. I know that, sir." Kovandaswamy got up nervously from his desk and paced across the room. "Do you know anything about Ophiuchus IX, Mayhem?"

"Not much. It's one of the Forgotten Worlds, isn't it?"

"Precisely, sir. Ophiuchus IX is one of scores of interstellar worlds colonized in the first great outflux from Earth."

"You mean during the population pressure of the 24th century?"

"Exactly. Then Ophiuchus IX, like the other Forgotten Worlds, was all but forgotten. As you know, Mayhem, the first flux of colonization receded like a wave, inertia set in, and the so called Forgotten Worlds became isolated from the rest of the galaxy for generations. Only in the past fifty years are we finding them again, one by one. Ophiuchus IX is typical, isolated from the galaxy at large by a dust cloud that "

"I know. I came through it."

"It was colonized originally with Indians from southern and eastern India, on Earth. That's why the Galactic League appointed me Observer. I'm an Indian. These people well, they're what my people might have developed into if they'd lived for hundreds of years in perfect isolation."

"What's the trouble?"

Kovandaswamy answered with a question of his own. "You are aware of the Galactic League's chief aim?"

"Sure. To see that no outworld, however small or distant, is left in isolation. Is that what you mean?"

"Yes," agreed Kovandaswamy. "Their reason is obvious. For almost a thousand years now the human race has outpaced its social and moral development with development in the physical sciences. For almost a thousand years mankind has had the power to destroy itself. In isolation this is possible. With mutual interchange of ideas, it is extremely unlikely... Continue reading book >>

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