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Lloyd Biggle, Jr.


It came to O'Brien quite suddenly that he was dying.

He was lying in a sturdy woven-vine hammock, almost within reach of the flying spray where the waves broke in on the point. The caressing warmth of the sun filtered through the ragged sao trees. The shouts of the boys spearing fish off the point reached him fitfully on playful gusts of fragrant wind. A full gourd hung at his elbow. He had been half-dozing in a drowsy state of peaceful contentment when the realization snapped coldly across his idle thoughts and roused him to icy wakefulness.

He was dying.

The fact of death disturbed him less than the realization that he should have thought of it sooner. Death was inevitable from the instant of birth, and O'Brien was a long lifetime from babyhood. He wondered, sometimes, just how old he might be. Certainly a hundred, perhaps even a hundred and fifty. In this dreamy land, where there were no seasons, where the nights were moist and the days warm and sunny, where men measured age by wisdom, it was difficult to keep an alert finger on the elusive pulse of time. It was impossible.

But O'Brien did not need a calendar to tell him he was an old man.

The flaming-red hair of his youth had faded to a rusty gray. His limbs were stiff each morning from the night's dampness. The solitary hut he had built on the lovely rise of ground above the point had grown to a sprawling village, as his sons, and grandsons and great-grandsons, and now great-great grandsons, brought home their wives. It was the village of langru, the village of fire-topped men, already famous, already a legend. Maidens were eager to mate with the young men of fire, whether their hair was red or the native blond. The sturdiest youths came to court the daughters of fire, and many of them defied tradition and settled in the village of their wives.

O'Brien had enjoyed a good life. He knew he had lived far beyond the years that would have been his in the crazed rush of a civilized land. But he was dying, and the great dream that had grown until it shaped his life among these people was beyond his reach.

He jerked erect, shook his fist at the sky, and shouted hoarsely in a long-unused language. "What are you waiting for? What are you waiting for?"

As soon as O'Brien appeared on the beach, a dozen boys came splashing towards him. "Langri!" they shouted. "Langri!"

They leaped about him excitedly, holding up fish for his approval, waving their spears, laughing and shouting. O'Brien pointed up the beach, where a large dugout canoe was drawn up on the sand.

"To the Elder," he said.

"Ho! To the Elder! Ho! To the Elder!"

They raced ahead of him, scrambling furiously for places because the canoe would not hold them all. O'Brien waded into the melee, restored order, and told off the six he wanted for paddlers. The others raced into the surf after the canoe, swimming around and under it until the paddlers got up speed.

The boys shouted a song as they dipped their paddles—a serious song, for this was serious business. The Langri wished to see the Elder, and it was their solemn duty to make haste.

O'Brien leaned back wearily and watched the foam dancing under the outriggers. He had little taste for traveling, now that his years were relentlessly overtaking him. It was pleasant to lounge in his hammock with a gourd of fermented fruit juice, acting the part of a venerable oracle, respected, even worshipped. When he was younger he had roamed the length and breadth of this world. He had even built a small sailing boat and sailed completely around it, with the only tangible result being the discovery of a few unlikely islands. He had trekked tirelessly about the lone continent, mapping it and speculating on its resources.

He knew that he was a simple man, a man of action. The natives' awe of his supposedly profound wisdom alarmed and embarrassed him. He found himself called upon to settle complex sociological and economic problems, and because he had seen many civilizations and remembered something of what he had seen, he achieved a commendable success and enjoyed it not at all.

But O'Brien knew that the sure finger of doom was pointing directly at this planet and its people, and he had pondered, and debated with himself on long walks along the sea, and paced his hut through the hours of misty night while he devised stratagems, and finally he was satisfied. He was the one man in the far-flung cosmos who could possibly save this world that he loved, and these people he loved, and he was ready to do it. He could do it, if he lived.

And he was dying.

The afternoon waned and evening came on. Fatigue touched the boys' faces and the singing became strained, but they worked on tirelessly, keeping their rhythm. Miles of coast drifted by, and scores of villages, where people recognized the Langri and crowded the shore to wave.

Dusk was hazing the distant sea and purpling the land when they made the turn into a shallow bay and rode the surf up onto a wide, sloping beach studded with canoes. The boys leaped up and heaved the canoe far up onto the beach. They slumped to the sand in exhaustion, and bounced up a moment later, beaming with pride. They would be guests of honor, tonight, at any hut in the village they chose to visit. Had they not brought the Langri?

They moved through the village in a procession that gained in numbers with each hut they passed. Respectful adults and awed children stepped forth and solemnly followed after O'Brien. The Elder's hut was apart from the others, at the top of the hill, and the Elder stood waiting there, a smile on his wrinkled face, his arms upraised. Ten paces away O'Brien stopped and raised his own arms. The villagers watched silently.

"I greet you," O'Brien said.

"Your greetings are as welcome as yourself."

O'Brien stepped forward, and they clasped hands. This was not a native form of greeting, but O'Brien used it with the older men who were almost life-long friends.

"I ordered a feast in the hope that you would come," the Elder said.

"I came in the hope there would be a feast," O'Brien returned.

With the formalities thus satisfied, the villagers began to drift away, murmuring approval. The Elder took O'Brien's arm and led him past the hut, to a small grove of trees where the hammocks hung. They stood facing each other.

"Many days have passed," the Elder said.

"Many," O'Brien agreed.

He looked at his friend closely. The Elder's tall, gaunt frame seemed as sturdy as ever, but his hair was silvery white. The years had traced lines in his face, and more years had deepened them, and dimmed the brightness in his eyes. Like O'Brien, he was old. He was dying.

They settled themselves in the hammocks, and lay facing each other. A young girl brought gourds to them, and they sipped the drink and rested in silence as the darkness closed in.

"The Langri is no longer a traveler," the Elder said.

"The Langri travels when the need arises," O'Brien said.

"Let us then talk of that need."

"Later. After we have eaten. Or tomorrow—tomorrow would be better."

"Tomorrow, then," the Elder said.

The girl returned with pipes and a glowing coal, and they smoked in silence while fires leaped high in the darkness and the rippling night breeze brought the savory odors of the coming feast blended with the crisp sea air. They finished their pipes and solemnly took their places of honor.

* * *

In the morning they walked together along the shore, and seated themselves on a knoll overlooking the sea. Sweet-scented blossoms crowded up around them, nodding in the wind. The morning light sparkled brightly on the leaping water. Brightly-colored sails of the fishing fleet were pinned flower-like to the horizon. To their left, the village rested sleepily on the side of the hill, with only three thin plumes of smoke drifting upwards. Small boys romped in the surf, or walked timidly along the beach to stare up at the Elder and the Langri.

"I am an old man," O'Brien said.

"The oldest of old men," the Elder agreed promptly.

O'Brien smiled wanly. To a native, old meant wise. The Elder had paid him the highest of compliments, and he felt only frustrated— weary.

"I am an old man," he said again, "and I am dying."

The Elder turned quickly.

"No man lives forever," O'Brien said.

"True. And the man who fears death dies of fear."

"My fear is not for myself."

"The Langri has no need to fear for himself. But you spoke of a need."

"Your need. The need of all your people, and of my people."

The Elder nodded slowly. "As always, we listen well when the Langri speaks."

"You remember," O'Brien said, "that I came from afar, and stayed because the ship that brought me could fly no more. I came to this land by chance, because I had lost my way, and because my ship had a serious sickness."

"I remember."

"Others will come. And then others, and then more others. There will be good men and bad, but all will have strange weapons."

"I remember," the Elder said. "I was there when you slew the birds."

"Strange weapons," O'Brien repeated. "Our people will be helpless. The men from the sky will take this land—whatever they want of it. They will take the beaches and even the sea, the mother of life itself. They will push our people back to the hills, where they will not know how to live. They will bring strange sickness to our people, so that entire villages lie in the fire of death. Strangers will fish the waters and swim. There will be huts taller than the tallest trees and the strangers that crowd the beaches will be thicker than the fish that run off the point. Our own people will be no more."

"You know this to be true?"

O'Brien inclined his head. "It will not happen this day, or the next, but it will happen."

"It is a terrible need," the Elder said quietly.

O'Brien inclined his head again. He thought, This lovely, unspoiled land, this wonderful, generous, beautiful people . . . A man was so helpless when he was dying.

They sat in silence for a time, two old men in the bright sunshine, waiting for the darkness. O'Brien reached out and plucked the blossoms near him, one at a time, and crushed their fragile whiteness in his hands.

The Elder turned a grave face on O'Brien. "Cannot the Langri prevent this thing?"

"The Langri can prevent it," O'Brien said, "if the men from the sky come this day or the next. If they delay longer, the Langri cannot prevent it, because the Langri is dying."

"Now I understand. The Langri must show us the way."

"The way is strange and difficult."

"We shall do what we must do."

O'Brien shook his head. "The way is difficult. Our people may not be able to follow, or the path the Langri chooses may be the wrong one."

"What does the Langri require?"

O'Brien stood up. "Send the young men to me, four hands at a time. I will choose the ones I need."

"The first will come to you this day."

O'Brien gripped his hand, and moved quickly away. His six great-great grandsons were waiting for him on the beach. They hoisted the sail, for the wind was at their back on the return trip. O'Brien looked back as they moved swiftly out of the bay. The Elder stood motionless on the knoll, hands upraised, as long as O'Brien could see him.

* * *

O'Brien did not know the official names of the planet, or even if it had an official name. He was only a dumb mechanic, but a good one, and he had been knocking around in space since he was twelve. He had gotten tired being the bottom rung of everyone's ladder, so he had gotten himself a battered government surplus survey ship, and scraped together some supplies, and given a dispatcher five hundred credits to be looking the other way when he took off.

He had no right to be piloting a spaceship or any other kind of ship, but he'd seen it done enough to think he knew the fundamentals. The ship had a perverse streak that matched his own. He had to exhaust his profanity and kick the control panel a few times before it would settle down and behave itself. Pointing it in the right direction was another matter. Probably any bright high school kid knew more about navigation than he did, and his only support came from an out-of-date "Simplified Astrogation for the Layman." He was lost ninety per cent of the time and only vaguely aware of his whereabouts the other ten per cent, but it didn't matter.

He wanted to see some places that were off the usual space lines, and maybe do a little prospecting, and enjoy being his own boss as long as his supplies lasted. He couldn't stop at any of the regular ports, because the authorities would take one look at his nonexistent license and ground him permanently. But some of the smaller, privately owned ports were always in need of a good mechanic, and he could slip in for a night landing, work a couple of weeks until he'd earned enough to get his ship restocked, and slip back into space without exciting anyone.

He did his prospecting, too, nosing about on dozens of asteroids and moons and small planets that were either undiscovered or forgotten. Quite inexplicably he struck it rich. He stuffed his little ship with platinum ore and started back to civilization to realize his fortune.

As usual he was lost, and he wandered aimlessly through space for a month, conserving his fuel and nursing his worn engines. This planet had seemed his best chance, and it was almost his last chance because a faulty fuel gauge misled him, and he ran out of fuel and crashed on landing.

The natives made him welcome. He became a hero by turning his flaming pistol on a large species of bird that sometimes preyed on children. He used up all of his magazines, but he rendered the bird extinct. He explored the lone continent, and found deposits of coal and some metals—insignificant, but enough to lead the natives immediately into a bronze age. Then he turned to the sea, gave the canoes outriggers and sails, and continued his exploring.

By that time he had lost interest in being rescued. He was the Langri. He had his wives and his children. His village was growing. He could have been the Elder at a relatively young age, but the idea of him, an alien, ruling these people seemed repugnant to him. His refusal enhanced the natives' respect for him. He was happy.

He also began to worry. The planet had such scanty natural resources that no one would be attracted to it by prospective plunder. It had another resource that rendered it priceless.

It was a beautiful world. Its beaches were smooth and sandy, its waters were warm, its climate admirable. To the people of the myriads of harsh worlds whose natural riches attracted large populations, dry worlds, barren worlds, airless worlds, it would be a paradise. Those who could leave their bleak atmosphere domes, or underground caverns, or sand-blown villages for a few days in this sweet-smelling, oxygen rich atmosphere could face their lives with renewed courage.

Luxury hotels would line the beaches. Lesser hotels, boarding houses, cottages would press back into the forest. Millionaires would indulge in spirited bidding for choice stretches of beach on which to locate their mansions. The beaches would be choked with vacationers. Ships would offer relaxing sea cruises. Undersea craft would introduce the vacationers to the fantastically rich marine life. Crowded wharves would harbor fishing boats for hire. Industries would grow up to supply the tourists. It would be a year-round business because the climate was delightful the year around—a multibillion credit business.

The natives, of course, would be crowded out. Exterminated. There were laws to protect the natives, and an impressive colonial bureau to enforce them, but O'Brien knew too well how such laws worked. The little freebooter who tried to pick up a few quick credits received a stiff fine and a prison term. The big-money operators incorporated, applied for charters, and indulged in a little good-natured bribery. Then they went after their spoils under the protection of the very laws that were supposed to protect the natives.

And a century or two later scholars would be bemoaning the loss of the indigenous population. "They had a splendid civilization. It's a pity. It really is."

The young men came from all the villages. They swung lightly down the coast with flashing paddles and rollicking songs. Twenty at a time they came, tall, bronze, their blond hair bleached white by their days in the sun. They beached their canoes along the point, and moved with awed reverence into the presence of the Langri.

His questions startled them. They grappled awkwardly with strange ideas. They struggled to repeat unutterable sounds. They underwent tests of strength and endurance. They came and went, and others took their places, and finally O'Brien had chosen a hundred.

Back in the forest O'Brien built a new village. He moved in with his hundred students, and began his teaching. The days were too few and too short, but they worked from dawn until darkness, and often far into the night, while the other natives loyally brought food, and the villages in turn sent women to prepare it, and the entire people watched and wondered and waited.

O'Brien taught what he knew, and improvised when he had to. He taught language and law and science. He taught economics and sociology and military discipline. He taught guerrilla warfare and colonial procedure. He taught the history of the people of the galaxy, and the young natives sat under the stars at night and stared open-mouthed at the heavens while O'Brien told of flaming space wars and fantastic creatures and worlds beyond worlds.

The days passed, and became a year, and two years, and three. The young men brought wives to the village. The young couples called O'Brien father, and brought their first born for his blessing. And the teaching went on, and on.

O'Brien's strength waned. The damp nights left him feverish, and his swollen limbs tormented him. But he labored on, and he began to teach the Plan. He ordered practice invasion alerts, and his grim seriousness startled the natives of other villages out of their gay indolence. The Plan slowly took on form and understanding.

When finally O'Brien was too weak to leave his hammock he gathered the most brilliant youths about him and the lessons continued.

One bright afternoon O'Brien lost consciousness. He was carried back to his village, to his favorite grove near the sea. Word went out along the shore: the Langri is dying. The Elder came, and the head men of all the villages. They placed a woven canopy over his hammock, and he lived on through the night, unconscious and breathing laboriously, while the natives waited humbly with heads bowed.

It was morning when he opened his eyes. The sea was lovely in the soft sunlight, but he missed the shouts of the boys rollicking in the surf. They know I'm dying, he thought.

He looked at the saddened faces of the men about him. "Friends . . ." he said. And then, in a tongue that was strange to them, he whispered, "before God—before my God and theirs—I have done my best."

The fire of death leaped high on the beach that night, and the choked silence of mourning gripped the villages. The next day the hundred young men moved back to their village in the forest to grapple doubtfully with the heritage the Langri had left to them.


The Rirga was outbound on a routine patrol mission, and Commander Ernst Dillinger was relaxing quietly in his quarters with his robot chess player. He had neatly trapped the robot's queen, and was moving in for the kill when his communications officer interrupted.

He saluted, and handed Dillinger a message. "Confidential," he said.

Dillinger knew from his apologetic manner and the speed with which he made his departure that the news was not good. The man was already closing the door when Dillinger glanced at the message and uncoiled himself in an anguished bellow. The bellow brought him scurrying back.

Dillinger tapped the paper. "This is an order from the sector governor."

"Yes, sir." The communications officer made it sound as if that information was somehow news to him.

"Ships of the fleet do not take orders from bureaucrats and fly-bynight politicians. You will kindly inform his highness that I received my orders from Fleet Headquarters, that I am currently on a third-priority assignment, and that the fact that I am passing through one corner of his alleged territory does not give him automatic control over my movements."

The communications officer fumbled, and produced a notebook. "If you will dictate the message, sir—"

"I just gave you the message. You're a communications officer. Haven't you got enough command of language to tell him to go to hell in a flattering way?"

"I suppose so, sir."

"Do so. And send Lieutenant Protz in here."

The communications officer made a panicky exit.

Lieutenant Protz sauntered in a moment later, met Dillinger's foreboding scowl with a grin, and calmly seated himself.

"What sector are we in, Protz?' Dillinger asked.

"2397," Protz said promptly.

"And how long are we going to be in Sector 2397?"

"Forty-eight hours."

Dillinger slammed down the message. "Too long."

"Some colony in trouble?"

"Worse than that. The sector governor has lost four scratchers."

Protz straightened up and swallowed his grin. "By all that's space-worthy! Four of them? Look—I have a leave coming up next year. I'm sorry I won't be able to see you through this, but I wouldn't give up that leave if it were a dozen scratchers. You'll just have to find them without me."

"Shut up!" Dillinger snarled. "Not only does this oaf of a governor lose four survey ships at one crack, but he has the insufferable nerve to order me to start looking for them. Order, mind you. I'm letting him know that we have a chain-of-command procedure in the space navy, but he'll have time to get through to headquarters and have the order issued there. They'll be happy to oblige, of course, as long as the Rirga is in the general area."

Protz reached over and took the paper. "So they send a battle cruiser to look for four survey ships." He read, and chuckled. "It could be worse. We might find them all in the same place. The 719 turned up missing, so they sent the 1123 to look for it. And then they sent the 572 after the 719 and the 1123, and the 1486 after the 719 and the 1123 and the 572. Lucky thing for them we happened to be here. That nonsense could have gone on indefinitely."

Dillinger nodded. "Seems curious, doesn't it?"

"We can rule out mechanical failure. Those scratchers are dependable, and four of them wouldn't bubble out at the same time. Do you suppose maybe one of these worlds is civilized to the point of primitive space travel, and is picking them off?"

"Possibly," Dillinger said. "But not very likely. Not more than a tenth of the planets in this sector have been surveyed, but the entire sector has been charted, and the fleet used it for training maneuvers a couple of times. If one of these worlds has developed space travel, someone would have noticed it. No—I figure we'll find all four scratchers on one planet. The same trouble that caught the first caught the others. Whether we can do any good remains to be seen. An unsurveyed world can offer some queer kinds of trouble. Go down to the chart room, and see if you can narrow down the search area. We might even be lucky."

Twenty-four hours later Fleet Headquarters made it official, and the Rirga altered course. Protz paced the chart room, whistling cheerfully and making deft calculations on a three-dimensional slide rule. A technician was verifying them on a battery of computers, and having trouble keeping up.

Dillinger scowled at the co-ordinates Protz handed to him. "You figure this system is as good a bet as any?"

"Better than any." Protz stepped to the chart. "The 719 last reported in from here, on course—so. There are three possibilities, but only this one is directly on its course. I'd say it's ten to one that this is it. There shouldn't be more than one habitable planet. We can wind this up in a couple of days."

Dillinger snorted. "Only one planet to search for four scratchers!

You've been in space too long. Have you forgotten how big a planet is?"

"Like you said, we might be lucky."

They were lucky. There was one habitable planet, with a single, narrow, sub-tropical continent. On their first observation they sighted the four glistening survey ships, parked neatly in a row, on a low rise overlooking the sea.

Dillinger studied the observation data, squinted at the film strips, and exploded. "Damn! This will cost us a week, anyway, and those fools have just taken some time off to go fishing."

"We'll have to land," Protz said. "We can't be certain."

Dillinger looked up from the film strips, a faint smile on his face. "Sure we'll land. Take a good look at these. We'll land, and after I kick those scratcher crews in the pants, I'm going fishing."

The Rirga came ponderously to rest a thousand yards down the shore. There were the inevitable scientific tests. A security unit made a meticulous search of the landing area, and dispatched a squad to investigate the survey ships under cover of the alert Rirga gunners. Dillinger strode down the ramp, sniffed the sea breeze hungrily, and headed towards the beach.

Protz came up a moment later. "The scratchers are deserted. Looks as if they just walked off and left them."

"We'll have to root them out," Dillinger said. "Notify headquarters."

Protz hurried away.

Dillinger walked slowly back to the Rirga. The landing area was being consolidated. Patrols were pushing inland and along the shore. One signaled the discovery of a deserted native village. Dillinger shrugged indifferently, and went to his quarters. He poured himself a drink and stretched out on his bunk, wondering if there was anything on board that would pass for fishing equipment.

Protz's voice snapped out of the intercom. "Commander?"

"I'm relaxing," Dillinger said.

"We've found a native."

"The Rirga should be able to cope with one native without harassing its commanding officer."

"Maybe I should say the native found us. He wants to speak to the commanding officer."

Dillinger's reflexes were slow. It was a full ten seconds before he sat up abruptly, spilling his drink.

"He speaks Galactic," Protz said. "They're bringing him in now. What shall we do with him?"

"Set up a tent. I'll receive him with due ceremony."

A short time later, resplendent in a ribbon-decked dress uniform, he hurried down the ramp. The tent had been set up, and an honor guard posted around it. The men were, it seemed to Dillinger, struggling to keep their faces straight. A moment later he understood why. The native was a model of bodily perfection, young, intelligent-looking. He wore only a loin cloth of doubtful manufacture. His red hair was dazzling in the bright sunlight.

Standing before him in full dress uniform, Dillinger saw the humor of the occasion, and smiled. The native stepped forward, his face serious, his manner confident. He extended his hand. "How do you do. I am Fornri."

"I am Commander Dillinger," Dillinger responded, almost automatically. He stepped ceremoniously aside, and allowed the native to precede him into the tent. Dillinger, and a number of his officers, filed after him.

The native ignored the chairs, and faced Dillinger. "It is my sad duty to inform you that you and the personnel of your ship are under arrest."

Dillinger sat down heavily. He turned to Protz, who grinned and winked. Behind him an officer failed to suppress a chuckle. Because the native had spoken in a firm tone of voice, his words carried beyond the tent. Much whispering and some ill-concealed laughter drifted in to them.

A red-headed native who possessed not so much as a dull spear had calmly walked in and placed the Rirga under arrest. It was a gag worth retelling—if anyone would believe it.

Dillinger ignored Protz's wink. "What are the charges?"

The native recited tonelessly, "Landing in a restricted area, willful avoidance of customs and quarantine, failure to land at a proper immigration point with official clearance, suspicion of smuggling, and bearing arms without proper authority. Follow me, please, and I will lead you to your detention area."

Protz was suddenly solemn. "He didn't learn to speak Galactic like that from the scratcher crews," he whispered. "It's only been a month since the first ship was reported missing."

Dillinger whirled on the officers that surrounded him. "You will kindly stop grinning. This is a serious matter."

The grinning stopped.

"You see, you idiots, this man represents civil authority. Unless there are special arrangements to the contrary, military personnel are subject to the laws of any planet which has a central government. If there are several autonomous governments . . ." He turned to the native. "Does this planet have a central government?"

"It does," the native said.

"Do you have the personnel of the survey ships under detention?"

"We do."

"Order all personnel back to the ship," Dillinger said to Protz. He said to the native, "You understand—I'll have to communicate with my superiors about this."

"On two conditions. All weapons which have been brought from the ship are considered confiscated. And no one except yourself will be permitted to return to the ship."

Dillinger turned to Protz. "Have the men stack their arms at a place he designates."

Eight days passed before Dillinger was able to get down to final negotiations. Before the conference started he asked to speak with one of the survey men. Natives brought him into the tent, tanned, robust-looking, wearing a native loin cloth. He grinned sheepishly at Dillinger.

"I'm almost sorry to see you, commander."

"How have you been treated?"

"Perfect. Couldn't ask for better treatment. The food is wonderful. They have a drink that I'll swear is the best thing in the galaxy. They built us some huts on the seashore, and told us where we could go and what we could do, and left us alone. Except for the ones that bring our food, and some fishing boats, we hardly see any natives."

"Three native women apiece, I suppose," Dillinger said dryly.

"Well, no. The women haven't come near us. Otherwise, if you're thinking of naming this planet you can call it Paradise. We've been mostly swimming and spearing fish. You should see the fish in that ocean!"

"You weren't harmed?"

"No. They took us by surprise, and disarmed us, and that was it. Same went for the other ships."

"That's all I want to know," Dillinger said.

The natives led him away, and Dillinger opened the negotiations. He sat on one side of a table, flanked by two of his officers. Fornri and two other young natives faced him across the table.

"I am authorized," Dillinger said, "to accept unconditionally your listing of fines and penalties. Four hundred thousand credits have been transferred to the credit of your government in the Bank of the Galaxy." He passed a credit memo across the table. Fornri accepted it indifferently.

"This planet's status as an independent world will be recognized," Dillinger went on. "Its laws will be respected by the Galactic Federation and enforceable in Federation courts where Federation citizens are involved. We shall furnish your government with a communications center, so that contact with the Federation can be maintained, and ships wishing to land may obtain official permission.

"In return, we shall expect immediate release of personnel, return of equipment, and departure clearance for Federation ships."

"That is satisfactory," Fornri said. "Providing, of course, that the terms of the agreement are in writing."

"It will be taken care of immediately," Dillinger said. He hesitated, feeling a bit uneasy. "You understand—this means that you must return all weapons which you have confiscated, both from the Rirga and the survey ships."

"I understand," Fornri said. He smiled. "We are a peaceful people. We do not need weapons."

Dillinger took a deep breath. For some reason he had expected the negotiations to collapse at that point. "Lieutenant Protz," he said, "will you see that the terms are drawn up for signature?"

Protz nodded, and got to his feet.

"One moment," Dillinger said. "There is one thing more. We must have an official name for your planet. What do you call it?"

Fornri seemed puzzled. "Sir?"

"Up to now, you have only been co-ordinates and a number to us. You must have a name. It is probably best that you name your own planet. If you don't, someone else will, and you might not like it. It can be your native name for the planet, or a descriptive term—anything you like."

Fornri hesitated. "Perhaps we should discuss the matter."

"By all means," Dillinger said. "But one word of caution. Once the planet has been named, it will be infernally difficult to change it."

"I understand," Fornri said.

The native withdrew, and Dillinger settled back with a smile, and sipped from a tumbler of the native drink. The drink was everything the survey man had claimed.

Perhaps Paradise would be a good name for the place, he thought. But then—better to let the natives decide. Paradise might mean something very different to them. All sorts of complications resulted when planets were named by outsiders. He remembered the famous story of the survey ship calling for help from a swamp on a strange planet. "Where are you?" Base had demanded. The survey ship gave its coordinates, and added, quite needlessly, "It's a helluvaplace." The people of that planet had been trying for two centuries to have its name changed, but on all the official charts it was still Helluvaplace.

"Your sun, too," he called after Fornri. "We'll have to name that."

Three hours later they were in space, on their way to Fron, the sector capital. Protz looked back at the dwindling planet, and shook his head. "Langri. What do you suppose it means?"

On Fron, Dillinger reported to the sector governor. "So they call it Langri," the governor said. "And—you say they speak Galactic?"

"Speak it rather well, with a kind of provincial accent."

"Easily accounted for, of course. A ship touched down there some time in the past. People liked the place and stayed, maybe. Did you see any traces of such a ship, or ships?"

"No. We didn't see anything except what they wanted us to see." "Yes. Awkward position you stumbled into. Not your fault, of course. But those survey men . . ." He shook his head. "What beats me is that they learned Galactic. Normally the aliens would learn the native language, unless there was a crowd of them. There is a native language, isn't there?"

"I can't say. I never heard any of them speak anything but Galactic. Of course I didn't hear them talking among themselves. They withdrew well out of hearing whenever they had to confer about something. But now that I think about it, I did overhear some kids speaking Galactic."

"Interesting," the governor said. "Langri—that must be a native word. I'd better attach a philologist to the staff we'll place there. I'd like to know how they happened to learn Galactic and keep on speaking it, and I'd like to know how long it's been since there were aliens in their midst. Very interesting."

"They're an intelligent people," Dillinger said. "They drove a good bargain, but they were very civilized about it. My orders say I'm to pick up an ambassador for Langri, and the personnel to form a permanent station there. Know anything about that?"

"I'll furnish the personnel for the station. The ambassador has been appointed, and he should be along in a few days. In the meantime, give your men some leave and enjoy yourselves."

A week later H. Harlow Wembling, Ambassador to Langri, waddled up the ramp to the Rirga, carrying his ample paunch like a ceremonial badge of honor. He bullied the duty officer, snarled at the crew, and, when Dillinger called at his quarters to pay his respects, demanded a member of the space navy to serve as his valet for the duration of his time on board.

Dillinger emerged wiping his brow, and gave Protz his precise opinion of the new ambassador in words that made the executive officer wince and rub his ears thoughtfully.

"Are you going to give him what he wants?" Protz asked.

"I told him," Dillinger said, still savoring his remarks, "I told him that the only person on board likely to have that much free time would be myself, and I lack the proper qualifications. It's too bad. It's really a shame."

"Oh, we'll be rid of him in no time."

"I was thinking of the natives on Langri. It's politics, of course.

Wembling will be a party stalwart, getting paid off for years of loyal service and campaign donations. It happens all the time, and most of the appointees are decent enough. Some of them are even competent, but there's always the exceptional case where a man thinks the word Ambassador in front of his name elevates him forty degrees towards divinity. So why does our planet have to draw this one?"

"It's probably nothing to worry about. These political appointees never keep their jobs long. Anyway, it's no concern of ours."

"It's my concern," Dillinger said. "I negotiated the Langri treaty and I feel some responsibility for the place."

They delivered Ambassador Wembling to Langri, along with the personnel to set up a permanent Federation station. There was one last-minute altercation with Wembling when he suddenly insisted that half of the Rirga's crew be left to guard the station. Then they were back in space, ready, as Dillinger said, to forget Langri and get back to work.

But he did not forget Langri and there were many times in the months and years that followed that he found himself reminiscing dreamily of perfect beaches and water swarming with fish and sea air blended with the perfume of myriads of flowers. Now there would be the place for a vacation, he would think. Or for retirement—what a place that would be for a retired naval officer!


An obsolete freighter, bound from Quiron to Yorlan on a little-used space route, disappeared. Light-years away a bureaucrat with a vivid imagination immediately thought of piracy. Orders went out, and Lieutenant Commander James Vorish, of the battle cruiser Hiln, changed course and resigned himself to a monotonous six months of patrolling.

A week later his orders were canceled. He changed course again, and mulled over the development with Lieutenant Robert Smith.

"Someone's been stirring up an indigenous population," Vorish said. "We're to take over, and protect Federation citizens and property."

"Some people never learn," Smith said. "But—Langri? Where the devil is Langri? I've never heard of it."

Vorish thought it was the most beautiful place he had ever seen. To the west, that is. Trees stretched glistening pale-green foliage over the narrow beach. Flowers were closing delicately beautiful petals as the evening sun abandoned them. Waves rippled in lazily from an awesomely blue sea.

Behind him, the hideous skeleton of an enormous building under construction stood out sharply in the dusk. The afternoon shift was busily and loudly at work. Clanging sounds and thuds echoed along the shore. Motors chugged and gurgled. Mercifully, the uncertain light disguised the havoc the construction work had wrought in the unspoiled forest.

The man Wembling was still talking. "It is your duty to protect the lives and property of citizens of the Federation."

"Certainly," Vorish said. "Within reason. The installation you want would take a division of troops and a million credits worth of equipment. And even then it wouldn't be foolproof. You say part of the time the natives come in from the sea. We'd have to ring the entire peninsula."

"They're unprincipled scoundrels," Wembling said. "We have a right to demand protection. I can't keep men on the job if they're in terror of their lives."

"How many men have you lost?"

"Why, none. But that isn't the natives' fault."

"You haven't lost anybody? What about property? Have they been damaging your equipment or supplies?"

"No," Wembling said. "But only because we've been alert. I've had to turn half my crew into a police force."

"We'll see what we can do," Vorish said. "Give me some time to get the feel of the situation, and then I'll talk with you again."

Wembling summoned two burly bodyguards, and hurried away. Vorish strode on along the beach, returned a sentry's salute, and stood looking out to sea.

"There's nobody out in front of us, sir," the sentry said. "The natives—"

He halted abruptly, challenged, and then saluted. Smith came down the slope, nodded at Vorish, and faced west.

"What'd you get?" Vorish asked.

"There's something mighty queer about this situation. These 'raids' Wembling talked about—the natives usually come one at a time, and they don't come armed. They simply sneak in here and get in the way—lie down in front of a machine, or something like that— and the work has to stop until someone carries them away and dumps them back in the forest."

"Have any natives been hurt?"

"No. The men say Wembling is pretty strict about that. It's gotten on the men's nerves because they never know when a native is going to pop up in front of them. They're afraid if one did get hurt the others would come with knives or poison arrows, or some such thing."

"From what I've seen of Wembling, my sympathy is with the natives. But I have my orders. We'll put a line of sentry posts across the peninsula, and distribute some more about the work area. It's the best we can do, and even that will be a strain on our personnel. Some of the specialized ratings are going to howl when we assign them to guard duty."

"No," Smith said. "No, they won't. A couple of hours on this beach are worth eight hours of guard duty. I'll start spotting the sentry posts."

Vorish went back to the Hiln, and became the target of an avalanche of messengers. Mr. Wembling would like to know . . . Mr. Wembling suggests . . . If it would not be too much trouble . . . Compliments of Mr. Wembling . . . Mr. Wembling says. . . At your earliest convenience . . . Mr. Wembling's apologies, but . . .

Damn Mr. Wembling! Vorish had been on the point of telling his communications officer to put in a special line to Wembling's office. He breathed a sigh of relief over his narrow escape, and gave a junior officer the full-time assignment of dealing with Wembling's messengers.

Smith strode in out of the darkness from his job of posting the sentries. "Native wants to see you," he said. "I have him outside."

Vorish threw up his hands. "Well, I heard Wembling's side of it. I might as well hear theirs. I hate to ask, but I suppose Wembling will let us have an interpreter."

"He might if he had any, but he hasn't. These natives speak Galactic."

"Now look here." He paused, shook his head. "No, I see you aren't joking. I guess this planet is just different. Bring him in."

The native introduced himself as Fornri, and confidently clasped Vorish's hand. His hair blazed vividly red in the cold glow of the overhead light. He accepted a chair, and sat down calmly. "I understand," he said, "that you are members of the Space Navy of the Galactic Federation of Independent Worlds. Is that correct?"

Vorish stopped staring long enough to acknowledge that it was correct.

"In behalf of my government," Fornri said, "I ask your assistance in repelling invaders of our world."

"The devil!" Smith muttered.

Vorish studied the native's earnest young face before venturing a reply. "These invaders," he said finally. "Are you referring to the construction project?"

"I am," Fornri said.

"Your planet has been classified 3C by the Federation, which places it under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Bureau. Wembling & Company have a charter from the Bureau for their project here. They are hardly to be considered invaders."

Fornri spoke slowly and distinctly. "My government has a treaty with the Galactic Federation of Independent Worlds. The treaty guarantees the independence of Langri, and also guarantees the assistance of the Federation in the event that Langri is invaded from outer space. I am calling upon the Galactic Federation of Independent Worlds to fulfill its guarantee."

"Let's have the Index," Vorish said to Smith. He took the heavy volume, checked the contents, and found a page headed Langri. "Initial survey contact in '84," he said. "Four years ago. Classified 3C in September of '85. No mention of any kind of treaty."

Fornri took a polished tube of wood from his belt, and slipped out a rolled paper. He passed it to Vorish, who unrolled it and smoothed it flat. It was a carefully written copy of an obviously official document. Vorish looked at the date, and turned to the Index. "Dated in June of '84," he said to Smith. "A month and a half after the initial survey contact. It classifies Langri as 5X."

"Genuine?" Smith asked.

"It looks genuine. I don't suppose these people could have made it up. Do you have the original of this document?"

"Yes," Fornri said.

"Of course he wouldn't carry it around with him. Probably doesn't trust us, and I can't blame him."

He passed the paper over to Smith, who scrutinized it carefully and returned it. "It would be a little odd for classification of a new planet to be delayed for a year and a half after the initial survey contact. If this thing is genuine, then Langri was reclassified in '85."

"The Index doesn't say anything about reclassification," Vorish said. He turned to Fornri. "Until we were ordered to this planet, we had never heard of Langri, so of course we know nothing about its classification. Tell us how it happened."

Fornri nodded. He spoke Galactic well, with an accent that Vorish could not quite place. Occasionally he had to pause and grope for a word, but his narrative was clear and concise. He described the coming of survey men, their capture, and the negotiations with the officers of the Rirga. What followed brought scowls to their faces.

"Wembling? Wembling was the first ambassador?"

"Yes, sir," Fornri said. "He mocked the authority of our government, insulted our people, and bothered our women. We asked your government to take him away, and it did."

"Probably he has plenty of political pull," Smith said. "He got the planet reclassified, and got himself a charter. Pretty effective revenge for a supposed insult."

"Or maybe he just saw an opportunity to make money here," Vorish said. "Was your government given formal notification of the termination of the treaty and Langri's reclassification?"

"No," Fornri said. "After Wembling there came another ambassador, a Mr. Gorman. He was a good friend of my people. Then a ship came and took him and all of the others away. We were told nothing. Next came Mr. Wembling with many ships and many men. We told him to leave, and he laughed at us and began to build the hotel."

"He's been building for nearly three years," Vorish said. "He isn't getting along very fast."

"We have hired an attorney many worlds away," Fornri said. "Many times he has obtained the conjunction, and made the work stop. But then each time the judge has stopped the conjunction."

"Injunction?" Smith exclaimed. "You mean you've made a lawsuit out of this?"

"Bring Lieutenant Charles in here," Vorish said. Smith routed the Hiln's young legal officer out of bed. With the help of Charles they quizzed Fornri at length on the futile legal action taken by the government of Langri against H. Harlow Wembling.

The story was both amazing and pathetic. The Federation station had taken its communication equipment when it was withdrawn. The natives were helpless when Wembling arrived, and they knew better than to attempt a show of force. Fortunately they had found a friend on Wembling's staff—Fornri wouldn't say whom—and he had managed to put them in touch with an attorney and the attorney had gone to court for them enthusiastically, many times.

He could not intervene in the matter of the violated treaty, because the government had sole jurisdiction there. But he had attacked Wembling's activities on a number of counts, some of which Fornri did not understand. In one instance Wembling had been accused of violating his charter, which gave him exclusive rights to develop Langri's natural resources. Wembling's work on his hotel was halted for months, until a judge ruled that a planet's vacation and resort potential was a natural resource. The natives had just won the most recent round, when a court held Wembling liable for damages because he'd torn down an entire village in clearing ground for the hotel. His charter, the court said, did not permit him to usurp private property. But the damages had been mild, and now Wembling was back at work, and the attorney was trying to think of something else. He was also lobbying to get something done about the broken treaty, but there had been no promise of success there.

"Lawsuits cost money," Vorish observed.

Fornri shrugged. Langri had money. It had four hundred thousand credits which the Federation had paid to it, and it had the proceeds of a good weight of platinum ore which the friend on Wembling's staff had managed to smuggle out for them.

"There's platinum on Langri?" Vorish asked.

"It didn't come from Langri," Fornri said.

Vorish drummed impatiently on his desk. The Langri situation involved several noteworthy mysteries, but just for a start he'd like to know how the natives had happened to be speaking Galactic when the first survey men arrived. And then—platinum ore that didn't come from Langri. He shook his head. "I don't think you'll ever defeat Wembling in court. You may give him a few temporary setbacks, but in the long run he'll win out. And he'll ruin you. Men like him have too much influence, and all the financial backing they need."

"The conjunctions give us time," Fornri said. "Time is what we need—time for the Plan."

Vorish looked doubtfully at Smith. "What do you think?"

"I think we're obligated to make a full report on this. The treaty was negotiated by naval officers. Naval Headquarters should be filled in on what's happened."

"Yes. We should send them a copy of this—but a copy of a copy may not swing much weight. And the natives probably won't want to turn loose the original." He turned to Fornri. "I'm going to send Lieutenant Smith with you. He will bring a couple of men along. None of them will be armed. Take them wherever you like, and guard them any way you like, but they must make their own photographs of the treaty before we can help you."

Fornri considered the matter briefly, and agreed. Vorish sent Smith off with two technicians and their equipment, and settled down to compose a report. He was interrupted by a young ensign who gulped, flushed crimson, and stammered, "Excuse me, sir. But Mr. Wembling—"

"What now?" Vorish said resignedly.

"Mr. Wembling wants sentry post number thirty-two moved. The lights are interfering with his sleep."

In the morning Vorish strolled around the project to take a good look at Wembling's embryo hotel. Wembling joined him, wearing a revoltingly-patterned short-sleeved shirt and shorts. His arms and legs were crisply tanned, his face pale under an outlandish sun helmet.

"A thousand accommodations," Wembling said. "Most of them will be suites. There'll be a big pool on the terrace overlooking the beach. Some people can't stand salt water, you know. I have the men laying out a golf course. There'll be two main dining rooms and half a dozen small ones that will specialize in food from famous places. I'll have a whole fleet of boats to take people fishing. I might even have a submarine or two—those jobs with rows of observation ports. You might not believe it, but there are hundreds of worlds where people have never seen an ocean. Why, there are worlds where people don't even have water to bathe in. They have to use chemicals. If some of those people can come to Langri, and live a little, now and then, a lot of head doctors are going to be out of work. This project of mine is nothing but a service to humanity."

"Is that so?" Vorish murmured. "I wasn't aware that yours was a nonprofit organization."

"Huh? Of course I'll make a profit. A darned good profit. What's wrong with that?"

"From what I've seen of your hotel, the only minds you'll be saving will be those of the poor, broken-down millionaires."

Wembling indulged in a grandiose gesture. "Just a beginning. Have to put the thing on a sound financial basis right from the start, you know. But there'll be plenty of room for the little fellows. Not in water-front hotels, but there'll be community beaches, and hotels with rights of access, and all that sort of thing. My staff has it all worked out."

"It's just that I'm trained to look at things differently," Vorish said. "We in the Space Navy devote our lives to the protection of humanity, but if you'll look at the current pay scale you'll see that there's no profit motive."

"There's nothing wrong with taking a profit. Where would the human race be today if nobody wanted a profit? We'd be living in grass huts back on old Terra, just like these Langri natives. There's a good example of a nonprofit society. I suppose you'd like that."

"It doesn't look so bad to me," Vorish murmured.

But Wembling did not hear him. He whirled and darted away, sputtering an unbelievably pungent profanity. A native, dashing in from nowhere, had attached himself to a girder that was about to be swung aloft. Workmen were valiantly striving to remove him—gently. The native clung stubbornly. Work stopped until he was pried loose and carried away.

Lieutenant Smith came up in time to see the drama carried to its comical conclusion.

"What do they expect to gain?" Vorish said.

"Time," Smith said. "Didn't you hear what that native said? They need time for the Plan—whatever that means."

"Maybe they're planning some kind of a massive uprising."

"I doubt it. They seem to be essentially a peaceful people."

"I wish them luck," Vorish said. "This Wembling is a tough customer. He's a self-activated power unit. I wonder how his weight holds up, the way he tears around keeping things humming."

"Maybe he eats all night. Want to look over the sentry layout?"

They turned away. In the distance they heard Wembling, his voice high-pitched with excitement, getting the work going again. A moment later he caught up with them and walked jauntily along beside Vorish.

"If you'd put in the kind of defense line I want," he said, "I would-n't have that trouble."

Vorish did not reply. It was obvious that Wembling was going out of his way to avoid injuring the natives, but Vorish doubted that his motives were humanitarian. Inept handling of the native problem might embarrass him in some future court test.

On the other hand, Wembling was not worried in the least about the Space Navy's injuring the natives. The blame for that action could not possibly fall upon him. He had demanded that Vorish erect an electronic barrier that would incinerate any native attempting to pass.

"At the very worst," Vorish said, "the natives are only a minor nuisance."

"They haven't got much for weapons," Wembling said. "But they have enough to cut throats, and there's a hell of a lot of natives in this place if they all decide to come at me at once. And then, their mucking about the project is slowing things down. I want 'em kept out."

"I don't think your throat is in danger, but we'll do what we can to keep them out."

"Guess I can't ask more than that," Wembling said. He chuckled good-naturedly, and looped his arm through Vorish's.

Smith had sited his sentry posts to make a shrewd use of the infrequent irregularities in terrain. He had men at work now, clearing the ground for better visibility. Wembling sauntered along reviewing the results with the casual aloofness of an Admiral of the Fleet. Suddenly he pulled Vorish to a halt.

"This defense line of ours. We'll have to move it."

Vorish regarded him coldly. "Why?"

"In the next two or three weeks we're going to start work on the golf course. We wouldn't be able to get more than half of it this side of the line. Maybe not that much. So we'll have to move it. It wouldn't be safe to have my men working off by themselves. But there's no hurry—tomorrow will do."

"Supposing you tell me what you have in mind," Vorish said.

Wembling summoned a survey party, and they set out under the watchful eyes of a military escort. They moved west along the peninsula, which widened sharply until it became a part of the mainland. They pushed their way through the trees as the perspiring Wembling, enjoying himself immensely, gestured and talked his way around the prospective golf course.

An hour later Vorish took another look at the acreage the golf course was to occupy, and gave Wembling a flat refusal. "The line would be too long here," he said. "I wouldn't have enough men."

Wembling grinned. "The commander is always pulling my leg. You've got plenty of men. They're all down there on the beach."

"My men are working in shifts, just as yours are. If I put those men on guard duty, I won't have any relief for them."

"We both know you could set up an impassable defense that wouldn't require any men," Wembling said.

"We both know I'm not going to do it. Your men can work without naval protection. They'll be safe."

"All right. If that's the way you want it. But if anything happens to them—"

"There's one more thing," Vorish said. "What are you going to do about that abandoned native village where the eighth hole is supposed to be?"

Wembling gazed contemptuously at the distant huts. "Tear it down. Nobody lives there."

"You can't do that," Vorish said. "It's native property. You'll have to get permission."

"Whose permission?"

"The natives' permission."

Wembling threw back his head, and laughed uproariously. "Let 'em take it to court, if they want to waste their money. That last case must have cost 'em close to a hundred thousand, and know what their damages were? Seven hundred and fifty credits. The sooner they use up their money, the sooner they stop bothering me."

"My orders call for the protection of natives and native property just as I protect you and your property," Vorish said. "The natives won't stop you, but I will."

He strode away without looking back. He was in a hurry to get to his office on the Hiln, and have a talk with Lieutenant Charles. There was something he remembered reading, a long time ago, in his little-used manual of military government . . .

The days drifted by pleasantly, ruffled only by Wembling's violent protests whenever a native slipped through to slow down construction. Vorish kept an alert eye on Wembling's Operation Golf Course, and waited impatiently for some official reaction to his report on the Langri treaty.

Official reaction there was none, but Wembling's work-crew steadily sliced its way back into the forest. Trees were being hauled away to be cut into lumber. The delicately-speckled grain would make an exquisite and novel paneling for the hotel's interior.

The crew reached the deserted native village and worked completely around it. They made no effort to trespass, though Vorish saw them casting nervous glances in that direction from time to time, as though they hoped it would go away.

Making his morning rounds of the sentry posts, Vorish paused occasionally to turn his binoculars on the work around the village.

"You're sticking your neck out," Smith said. "I hope you realize that."

Vorish made no reply. He had his own opinion of naval officers who were unduly concerned for their necks. "There's Wembling," he said.

With his bodyguards panting on his heels, Wembling was moving at his usual fast pace across the cleared ground. His foreman came forward to meet him. Wembling spoke briefly, and pointed. The foreman turned to his men, and pointed. A moment later the first hut was overturned.

"Let's go," said Vorish.

Smith signaled a squad of navy men into action, and hurried after him. The men reached the village first, and cleared out Wembling's men. Wembling was frozen in impotent rage when Vorish arrived.

Vorish paused to study the row of toppled huts. "Did you have permission from the natives to do this?" he asked.

"Hell, no," Wembling said. "I've got a charter. What can they do about it?"

"Place these men under arrest," Vorish said, and turned away.

Somewhat to his surprise, Wembling said nothing. His aspect was that of a man thinking deeply.

Vorish confined Wembling to his tent, under arrest. He halted all work on the hotel. Then he forwarded a complete report on the incident to Naval Headquarters, and sat back to await results.

The indifference of headquarters to his Langri report had intrigued him. Had someone filed it away as unimportant, or was there a corrupt conspiracy high up in the government? Either way, injustice was being done. The natives wanted time for something they called the Plan. Vorish wanted time to call someone's attention to what was going on. It would be a shame to allow Wembling to finish his hotel while the report on the Langri situation lay in an underling's desk drawer.

With Wembling under arrest and the work stopped, Vorish watched in amusement while Wembling got off frantic messages to exalted persons high up in the Federation government.

"Now," Vorish told himself with satisfaction, "let's see them ignore Langri this time."

The days had added up to three weeks when Headquarters suddenly broke the silence. The battle cruiser Bolar was being dispatched, under Admiral Corning. The admiral would make an on-the-spot investigation.

"It doesn't sound as if you're being relieved," Smith said. "Do you know Corning?"

"I've served under him several times, at various places and ranks. You might call him an old friend."

"That's fortunate for you."

"It could be worse," Vorish admitted. He felt that he'd covered himself well, and Corning, even though he was crusty, temperamental and a stickler for accuracy, would not go out of his way to make trouble for a friend.

Vorish turned out an honor guard for the admiral, and received him with full ceremony. Corning stepped briskly down the ramp from the Bolar and glanced about approvingly.

"Glad to see you, Jim," he said, his eyes on one of Langri's inviting beaches. "Nice place here. Nice place." He turned to Vorish, and studied his tanned face. "And you've been making good use of it. You've put on weight."

"You've lost weight," Vorish said.

"Always was skinny," Corning said. "I make up for it in height. Did I ever tell you about the time—" He glanced at the circle of respectfully attentive officers, and dropped his voice. "Let's go where we can talk."

Vorish dismissed his men, and took Corning to his office in the Hiln. The admiral said nothing along the way, but his sharp eyes surveyed Vorish's defense arrangements, and he clucked his tongue softly.

"Jim," Corning said, as Vorish closed the door, "just what is going on here?"

"I want to give you some background," Vorish said, and told him about the treaty and its violation. Corning listened intently, muttering an occasional "Damn!"

"You mean they took no official action on it at all?" he demanded.

"That's exactly what they did."

"Damn! Sooner or later somebody's head will roll over that. But it'll probably be the wrong head, and that treaty really has nothing to do with this mess you've gotten yourself into. Not officially, anyway, because officially the treaty doesn't exist. Now what's this nonsense about a few native huts?"

Vorish smiled. He felt that he was on firm ground there—he'd had a long conference with Fornri, exploring all of the angles. "According to my orders," he said, "I'm an impartial referee here. I'm to protect Federation citizens and property, but I am also to protect the natives against any infringements upon their customs, means of livelihood, and so on. Paragraph seven."

"I've read it."

"The idea is that if the natives are treated properly, Federation citizens and property are a lot less likely to need protection. That particular native village is more than just a collection of empty huts. It seems to have some religious significance to the natives. They call it the Teacher's Village, or some such thing."

"Teacher or leader," Corning said. "Sometimes they're the same thing to primitive peoples. That might make the village a kind of shrine. I take it that this Wembling busted right in and started tearing the place apart."

"That's what he did."

"And you warned him ahead of time that he should get the natives' permission, and he laughed it off. All right. Your conduct was not only proper, there—it was commendable. But why did you have to close the whole works down? You could have protected that village, and made him put his golf course somewhere else, and he would have screamed to high heaven without getting anything but laughed at. But you had to stop everything. Were you trying to get fired? You've cost Wembling a lot of time and a lot of money, and now he has a real grievance. And he's got plenty of influence."

"It isn't my fault if he wasted time and money," Vorish said. "I advised headquarters of my action immediately. They could have reversed that order any time they chose."

"That's just it. They didn't dare, because there was always the chance that things might blow up. They didn't know the situation here. You caused a pretty stew at headquarters. Why did you arrest Wembling, and keep him in his tent under guard?"

"For his own protection. He'd defiled a sacred place, and I'd be responsible if anything happened to him."

For the first time Corning smiled. "So that's the line. Not bad. It all comes down to a matter of judgment, and that makes it your opinion against Wembling's. You flip your coin and you take your choice, and no one who wasn't on the spot is entitled to vote." He nodded. "I'll follow that up in my report. Wembling stepped out of line. Definitely. The consequences might have been serious. I can't rightly say that your action was too drastic, because I wasn't here at the time. I don't exactly see what you were trying to do, or maybe I do, but I'll back you up as much as I can. I guess I can keep you from being shot."

"Oh," Vorish said. "So they were going to shoot me. I wondered."

"They were . . . they are . . . going to do their worst." Corning looked steadily at Vorish. "I don't much like it, but I have my orders. You'll return to Galaxia on the Hiln, under arrest—to stand court-martial. Personally I don't think you have much to worry about. I can't see them going ahead with it, but right now they think they want to try."

"I won't worry," Vorish said. "I've studied this thing through pretty carefully. I rather hope they try, though. I'll insist on a public court-martial, of course, and . . . but I'm afraid they won't do it. Anyway, I'm glad I'll be leaving Langri in capable hands."

"Not my hands," Corning said. "Not for long. The 984th Squadron is on its way now, to take over. Eleven ships. They're not taking any chance on this thing getting out of hand. The commander is Ernst Dillinger—just made admiral a few months ago. Know him?"


The fishing boat was still in position, far out. Dillinger raised his binoculars, lowered them. As far as he could see, the natives were—fishing. He returned to his desk and sat gazing seaward at the fleck of color that was the sail.

The plush spaciousness of his office annoyed him. It was only his second day in the quarters Wembling had persuaded him to occupy in the completed wing of Hotel Langri, and he was spending most of his time pacing in out-sized circles about the work that piled up on his desk.

He was worried about the natives. He was worried about an enigmatic something or other which they called the Plan, and which they intimated would eventually sweep Wembling and his workers and his hotels right off the planet.

With Hotel Langri opening for business in a few months, and work already beginning on two other hotels, Dillinger knew that the legal expulsion of Wembling had become a flat impossibility. So what were the natives planning? Illegal expulsion? The use of force? With a squadron of the Space Navy standing by?

He got to his feet again and walked over to the curved expanse of tinted plastic that formed the window. The fishing boat was still there. Every day it was there. But perhaps, as Protz suggested, the water off the point was merely a good place to fish.

His intercom clicked. "Mr. Wembling, sir."

"Send him in," Dillinger said, and turned towards the door.

Wembling entered jauntily, hand outstretched. "Morning, Ernie."

"Good morning, Howard," Dillinger said, blinking at Wembling's ridiculously patterned shirt.

"Come down to the lounge for a drink?"

Dillinger lifted a stack of papers from his desk, and dropped it. "Sure."

They walked down a palatial corridor to the lounge, and a uniformed attendant took their orders and brought the drinks. Dillinger idly stirred the ice in his glass and looked through the enormous window at the terrace, and the beach beyond. Wembling's landscaping crew had done its work well. Velvety grass and colorful shrubs surrounded the hotel. The pool, ready for use, stood deserted. Off-duty navy men and workers crowded the beach, and speared fish off the point.

Wembling prated enthusiastically over the progress he was making on his new sites, which were fifty miles down the coast in both directions.

"It's a headache to me, your scattering these sites all over the place," Dillinger said. "I have to guard them."

Wembling reached over and patted his arm. "You're doing a good job, Ernie. We haven't had any trouble since you took over. I'm putting in a good word for you where it'll do the most good."

"There's room for fifty hotels right here on the peninsula," Dillinger said. "Not to mention a few golf courses."

Wembling turned a veiled smile in his direction. "Politics and law," he murmured. "Stay away from both of them, Ernie. You have brains and talent, but it isn't that kind of brains and talent."

Dillinger flushed, and turned his gaze to the window again. The fishing boat was a mere speck on the horizon. It was probably drifting or sailing slowly, but it seemed motionless.

"Have you heard anything about Commander Vorish?" Wembling asked.

"The last I heard, he'd taken the Hiln on training maneuvers."

"Then—they didn't fire him?"

"They investigated him," Dillinger said with a grin. "But all he got was a commendation for handling himself well in a difficult situation. My guess is that any action against him would have resulted in publicity, and someone didn't want publicity. Of course I don't know anything about politics and law. Did you want Vorish fired?"

Wembling shook his head thoughtfully. "No. I had no grudge against him. There's no profit in grudges. We both had a job to do, but he went at his the wrong way. All I wanted was to get on with the work, and after he left I passed the word along to go easy on him. But I thought they'd kick him out of the navy, and if they did I wanted him back here on Langri. I think he understood these natives, and I can always use a man like that. I told him to get in touch with my Galaxia Office, and they'd make arrangements to get him back here. But I never heard from him."

"He didn't get fired. The next time you see him he'll probably be an admiral."

"The same goes for you," Wembling said. "If you ever leave the navy, come back to Langri. I'm going to have a big enterprise to run here, and I'll need all the good men I can get. And good men aren't always easy to find."

Dillinger turned aside to hide his smile. "Thanks. I'll remember that."

Wembling slapped the table, and pushed himself erect. "Well, back to work. Chess tonight?"

"Better make it late," Dillinger said. "I've got to get that work cleaned up."

He watched Wembling waddle away. He had to admire the man. Even if he loathed him, and loathed his methods, he had to admire him. He got things done.

Protz was waiting for him when he got back to his office— Commander Protz, now, Captain of the Rirga, the flag ship of Dillinger's 984th Squadron. Dillinger nodded at him, and spoke into his intercom.

"I don't want to be disturbed." He switched it off, and turned to Protz. "What's the score?"

"We're losing," Protz said. "It definitely didn't crash. According to the sentry, it came in for a perfect landing back in the forest. Wembling isn't missing a supply ship, and we know it didn't belong to us. The recon planes have been taking the tops out of the trees in that area, and they can't spot a thing."

"So it wasn't Wembling's," Dillinger said. Since he'd gotten the first report on the unidentified ship, at dawn that morning, he'd been thinking that it had to be Wembling's. He turned in his chair, and looked out to sea. "So the natives have visitors."

"Whoever it was, they were expected," Protz said. "They got the ship camouflaged in a hurry. Maybe they had a landing pit dug there."

"Wembling thinks someone in his supply fleet has been keeping the natives in touch with that attorney of theirs. I suppose we should have monitored the planet. But we'd have to leave a ship in orbit, and we've needed every man, with Wembling building hotels all over the place. Well, the ship is here. The question now, is—what is it doing?"

"Smuggling arms?"

"Just what we need to make this assignment interesting. Has Intelligence turned up anything?"

"Nothing up to 0800 this morning. Want to make a ground search for the ship?"

"It would take too many men. If they have a landing pit, even a ground search might miss it—and we'd be too late now if we did find it. They'll have it unloaded. No. Let Intelligence work on it, and give them more men if they think they can use them."

"Anything else?"

"Get ready for the worst. Protz, of all the jobs the navy has given me to do, this one is the dirtiest. I hoped I'd get out of it without a shot fired at the natives. I'd much rather shoot Wembling."

The thing had been mishandled from the start, Dillinger thought. This attorney the natives had gotten ahold of was probably competent enough—even Wembling admitted that. He'd caused Wembling some trouble, but Wembling was putting the finishing touches on Hotel Langri just the same.

Wembling's chief weapon was political pull. Politics should be fought with politics, with public opinion, and not in a court of law. He'd tried to explain that, once, to Fornri, but the native seemed uninterested. The Plan, Fornri said, would take care of everything. He did not seem to realize that it was already too late.

If Dillinger had known in time what was happening to Langri, he believed he could have stopped it. Documented information, furnished anonymously to the wealthy ethnological foundations, to opposition newspapers on key planets, to opposition leaders in the Federation Congress—the resultant explosion would have rocked the government and rocked Wembling right off Langri.

But he had not known until he reported to Admiral Corning and assumed command on Langri. Then he had done what he could. He had prepared a hundred copies of a statement on the Langri situation, and accompanied each with a photo of the original treaty. But he did not dare entrust them to normal communication channels, and he had to wait until one of his officers went on leave to get them on their way. They had probably reached their destinations by this time, and they would be studied and investigated, and eventually there would be some action. But it was too late. Wembling would have most of what he wanted, and probably other vultures, armed with charters, would be coming to the plunder of Langri.

It was tough on the natives. Wembling's men were eating a lot of fresh fish, and the natives' fishing boats had all but vanished from the sites where Wembling was working. Langri had a big native population—too big, and most of its food came from the sea. The word was that the natives weren't getting enough to eat.

Late in the afternoon, Dillinger called Wembling. "You have men flying back and forth all the time," he said. "Have they noticed any unusual native activity?"

"I didn't hear about any," Wembling said. "Want me to check?"

"I wish you would."

"Hold on a minute."

He heard Wembling snapping out an order. A moment later, he said to Dillinger, "Do you think the natives are up to something?"

"I know they are, but I can't figure out what it is."

"You'll handle them," Wembling said confidently. "There was a time when I wanted them annihilated, but since you've been keeping them out of my hair, I'd just as soon live and let live. Hell, they might even be a tourist attraction when I get things going here. Maybe they weave baskets, or carve voodoo charms, or something like that. I'll sell them in the hotel lobby."

"I'm not worrying about their basket weaving," Dillinger said dryly.

"Anyway . . . just a moment. Ernie? Nobody saw anything unusual."

"Thanks. I'm afraid I'll have to call off that chess game. I'll be busy."

"Too bad. Tomorrow night, then?"

"We'll see."

Langri would have been enchanting by moonlight, but there was no moon. Wembling had a scheme to produce artificial moonlight, but until he put it into operation night would smother the planet's beauty in blackness.

Looking down into the blackness, Dillinger saw light. At every native village there were dozens of fires. Often their outlines blurred together into one brilliant patch of light. When they were farther apart, they appeared as a multitude of bright dots leaping up into the darkness.

"You say it isn't normal?" Dillinger asked the recon pilot.

"Definitely not, sir. They fix their evening meal along about dark, when the fishing boats get in. When that's over with, you can fly the whole coast without seeing a flash of light. Except where our men are. I've never seen even one fire going this late."

"It's a pity we know so little about these natives," Dillinger said. "The only one I've ever talked with is this Fornri, and there's always something—distant about him. I never know what he's thinking. Colonial Bureau should have sent a team to study them. They could use some help, too. Their fishing will fall off even more when Wembling gets a mob of tourists out on the water. They'll need some agriculture. What do you make of it, Protz?"

"It's suggestive, but darned if I know what it suggests."

"I know what it suggests," Dillinger said. "A strange ship lands this morning, and tonight every native on the planet stays up all night. They're getting ready for something. We'd better get back and make a few preparations of our own."

There was little that he could do. He had a defense line around each of Wembling's three building sites. He had his ships sited to give maximum support. All that had been worked out months before. He placed his entire command on alert, doubled the guard on the beaches, and set up mobile reserves. He wished he had a few army officers to help out. He'd spent his entire adult life learning how to wage war in space, and now for the first time in his military career he was faced with the possibility of battle, and he was landbound, and in danger of being embarrassed by hordes of untrained natives.

The night intelligence sheet arrived at dawn, virtually blank. Except for the fires there was nothing to report. Dillinger passed it across to Protz, who glanced at it and passed it back.

"Go down and see Wembling," Dillinger said. "Tell him to give his men the day off, and keep them in their quarters. I don't want to see one of them around. That goes for him, too."

"He'll howl."

"He'd better not howl to me. If we knew these natives better, maybe we could see this thing from their point-of-view. Somehow I just can't see them hitting us with an armed attack. It'd get a lot of them killed, and it wouldn't accomplish a thing. Surely they know that as well as we do. Now if you were a native, and you wanted to stop Wembling's work, what would you do?"

"I'd kill Wembling."

Dillinger slapped his desk disgustedly. "O.K. Give him an armed guard."

"What would you do?"

"I'd plant some kind of explosive at carefully chosen points in the hotels. If it didn't stop the project altogether, it'd throw an awful delay at Wembling's grand opening. You know—"

"That might be it," Protz said. "It makes more sense than an all-out attack. I'll put special guard details around the buildings."

Dillinger rose and went to the window. Dawn was touching Langri with its usual lavish beauty. The sea was calmly blue under the rising sun. Off the point . . .

Dillinger swore softly.

"What's the matter?" Protz said.

"Look." Dillinger pointed out to sea.

"I don't see anything."

"Where's the fishing boat?"

"It isn't there."

"Every day as long as we've been on this planet there's been a fishing boat working off the point. Get the recon planes out. Something is decidedly fishy."

Thirty minutes later they had their report. Every fishing boat on Langri was beached. The natives were taking the day off.

"They seem to be congregating in the largest villages," the intelligence officer said. "A7—that's Fornri's village, you know—has the biggest crowd. And then B9, D4, F12—all along the coast. There are fires all over the place."

Dillinger studied a photo map, and the officer circled the villages as he called them off. "At this point," Dillinger said, "there's just one thing we can do. We'll go over and have a little talk with Fornri."

"How many men do you want?" Protz asked.

"Just you and I. And a pilot."

They slanted down to a perfect landing in the soft sand of the beach. The pilot stayed with the plane, and Dillinger and Protz climbed the slope to the village, making their way through throngs of natives. Dillinger's embarrassment increased with each forward step. There was no sign of a sinister conspiracy. A holiday atmosphere prevailed, the gaily dressed natives laughing and singing around the fires—singing in Galactic, an accomplishment that never ceased to intrigue Dillinger. The natives respectfully made way for them. Otherwise, except for timid glances from the children, they were ignored.

They reached the first huts and paused, looking down the village street. Mouth-watering odors of a feast in preparation reminded Dillinger that he had missed breakfast. At the far end of the street, near the largest hut, native men and women stood quietly in line. Dillinger waited helplessly for some official acknowledgment of his presence.

Suddenly Fornri appeared before him, and accepted his hand. "We are honored," Fornri said, but his face, usually so blandly expressionless, revealed an emotion which Dillinger found difficult to interpret. Was he angry, or merely uneasy? "May I inquire as to the purpose of your visit?" he asked.

Dillinger looked at Protz, who shrugged and looked the other way. "I came to . . . to observe," Dillinger said lamely.

"In the past, you have not interfered in the lives of my people. Is that to be changed?"

"No. I am not here to interfere."

"Then your presence is not required here. This does not concern you."

"Everything that happens on Langri concerns me," Dillinger said. "I came to learn what is happening here. I intend to know."

Fornri withdrew abruptly. Dillinger watched him walk away, watched a group of young natives gather around him. Their manner was quiet, but urgent.

"Funny thing," Protz mused. "With any primitive society I've ever seen, the old men run things. Here on Langri, it's the young men. I'll bet there isn't a man in that crowd who's much over thirty."

Fornri returned. He was uneasy—there could be no doubt of that. He gazed earnestly at Dillinger's face before he spoke. "We know that you have been a friend to my people, and helped us when you could. It is the Mr. Wembling who is our enemy. If he knew, he would attempt to interfere."

"Mr. Wembling will not interfere," Dillinger said.

"Very well. We are holding an election."

Dillinger felt Protz's hand tighten on his arm. He repeated dumbly, "An election?"

Fornri spoke proudly. "We are electing delegates to a constitutional convention."

An idyllic setting. The forest clearing overlooking the sea. Women preparing a feast. Citizens waiting quietly for their turns in the grass voting hut. Democracy in action.

"When the constitution is approved," Fornri went on, "we shall elect a government. Then we shall apply for membership in the Galactic Federation of Independent Worlds."

"Is it legal?" Protz demanded.

"It is legal," Fornri said. "Our attorney has advised us. The main requirement is fifty per cent literacy. We have over ninety per cent literacy. We could have done it much sooner, you see, but we did not know that we needed only fifty per cent."

"You are to be congratulated," Dillinger said. "If your application for Federation membership is accepted, I suppose your government will force Wembling to leave Langri."

"We intend that Langri shall belong to us. It is the Plan."

Dillinger held out his hand. "I wish you every good fortune with your election, and with your application for Federation membership."

With a last glance at the line by the voting hut, they turned and walked slowly back to the plane. Protz whistled, and rubbed his hands together. "And that," he said, "will finish Wembling."

"At least we've solved the mystery of that unknown ship," Dillinger said. "It was their attorney, coming to advise them and help them draw up a constitution. As for this finishing Wembling, you're wrong. The Wemblings in this galaxy don't finish that easily. He's ready for this. You might almost say he's been expecting it."

"What can he do?"

"No court of justice would make him give up what he already has. The natives can keep him from grabbing more land, but what he's developed will be his. He acquired it in good faith, under a charter granted by the Federation. Maybe he'll get to connect up his sites and own a hundred mile stretch of coast. If he doesn't, he has enough space at each site to build a thundering big resort. These enormous golf courses he's been laying out—that land is developed. He'll get to keep it, and there'll be room there for another hundred hotels on each site if he wants to build them. He'll flood the sea with pleasure fishermen, and starve the natives."

Dillinger looked back at the village, and shook his head sadly. "Do you realize what a tremendous accomplishment that is? Ninety per cent literacy. How they must have worked! And they were beaten before they started. The poor devils."


The normal behavior of a forest trail, Dillinger thought, would be to wander—around trees, away from thickets, generally following the path of least resistance. This trail did not wander. It might have been laid out by a surveyor, so straight did it run. It was an old trail, and a well-worn trail. Trees must have been cut down, but there were no traces of the stumps.

Ahead of him, Fornri and a half dozen other young natives kept a steady, killing pace and did not look back. They had covered a good five miles, and there seemed to be no end to it. Dillinger was perspiring, and already tired.

Fornri had come to him at Hotel Langri. "We would like for you to come with us," he said. "You alone." And Dillinger had come.

Hotel Langri was all but deserted. At dawn tomorrow the 984th Squadron would head back into space, where it belonged. Wembling and his workmen had already left. Langri had been returned to the possession of its rightful owners.

It had been an absurdly simply thing, this Plan of the natives— absurdly simple and devastatingly effective. First there had been the application for Federation membership, which fortunately had arrived in Galaxia just as Dillinger's anonymous letters went off with a resounding explosion that overturned the government, caused a turmoil in the Colonial Bureau and Navy Department, and stirred up repercussions as far away as Langri, where a committee touched down briefly for a stormy investigation.

The application was acted upon immediately, and it received unanimous approval.

Wembling was undisturbed. His attorneys were on the job before the last vote was counted, and the native government received a court order to honor Wembling with firm title to the land he had already developed. This the Langri government did, and so complacently that Wembling slyly added several hundred acres to his claim without stirring up a ripple of protest.

Then came the masterstroke, which not even Wembling had foreseen.


Dillinger had been present when Fornri handed Wembling his first tax billing from the government of Langri. Wembling had screamed himself hoarse, and pounded his desk, and vowed he would fight it through every court in the galaxy, but he found the courts to be strangely out of sympathy with him.

If the elected representatives of the people of Langri wished to impose an annual property tax equal to ten times the property's assessed valuation, that was their legal right. It was Wembling's misfortune that he owned the only property on the planet which had an assessed valuation worth recording. Ten times the worth of a grass hut was a negligible value above zero. Ten times the worth of Wembling's hotels amounted to ruin.

The judges were in perfect agreement with Wembling that the government's action was unwise. It would discourage construction and industry and hold back the planet's development indefinitely. In time that would be perfectly obvious to the people of Langri, and then it would be their privilege to elect representatives who would write more lenient tax laws.

In the meantime, Wembling must pay the tax.

It left him a choice of not paying and being ruined, or paying and being much more severely ruined, and he chose not to pay. The government confiscated his property for nonpayment of taxes, and the Langri situation was resolved to the satisfaction of all but Wembling and his backers. Hotel Langri was to become a school and university for the native children. The offices of government would occupy one of the other hotels. The natives were undecided as to what to do with the third, but Dillinger was certain they would use it wisely.

As for Wembling, he was now an employee of the people of Langri. Even the natives admired the way he got things done, and there were islands, many islands, it turned out, far out in the sea where happy vacationers would not interfere with the natives' fishing grounds. Would Mr. Wembling, Fornri asked, like to build hotels on those islands and run them for the Government of Langri? Mr. Wembling would. Mr. Wembling did, in fact, wonder why he had not thought of that in the first place. He negotiated a contract with the natives' attorney, moved his men to the islands, and enthusiastically began planning a whole series of hotels.

Dillinger, following the natives along a forest path, felt serenely at peace with himself and the galaxy around him.

The path ended in an enormous clearing, carpeted with thick grass and flowers. Dillinger stopped to look around, saw nothing, and hurried to catch the natives.

On the opposite side of the clearing was another path, but this one ended abruptly at a rough pile of stones, a cairn, perhaps, jutting up from the forest floor. Beyond it, rusting, overgrown with vines, hidden by towering trees, lay an old survey ship.

"One of your people once came to live among us," Fornri said. "This was his ship."

The natives stood with hands clasped behind them, their heads bowed reverently. Dillinger waited, wondering what was expected of him. Finally he asked, "There was just one man?"

"Just one," Fornri said. "We have often thought that there may be those who wondered what happened to him. Perhaps you could tell them."

"Perhaps I could," Dillinger said. "I'll see."

He struggled through the undergrowth and circled the ship, looking for a name or an identification number. There was none. The air lock was closed. As Dillinger stood contemplating it, Fornri said, "You may enter if you like. We have placed his things there."

Dillinger walked up the wobbly ramp, and stumbled along a dark passageway. The dim light that filtered into the control room gave the objects there a ghostlike aspect. On a table by the control panel were small mementos, personal effects, books, piles of papers. Dillinger thoughtfully handled a rusted pocket knife, a rosary, a broken compass.

The first book he picked up was a diary. George F. O'Brien's diary. The entries, written in a precisely penciled hand, were too dim to read. He took the books and papers to the air lock, sat down on the ramp, and began to turn the pages.

There were detailed entries describing O'Brien's early days on the planet, more than a century before. Then the entries became less regular, the dates uncertain as O'Brien lost track of time. Dillinger came to the end, found a second volume, and continued reading.

Just another freebooter, he thought, kicking around on a strange planet, prospecting for metals, enjoying himself with a native harem. Surely it was not this man . . .

The change came subtly down through the years, as O'Brien came to identify himself with the natives, became one of them, and finally faced the future. There was an astute summary of Langri's potential as a resort planet, that might have been written by Wembling. There was a dire warning as to the probable fate of the natives. "If I live," O'Brien had written, "I do not think this will happen."

And if he should not live?

"Then the natives must be taught what to do. There must be a Plan. These things the natives must know."

Government and language. Interplanetary relations. History. Economics, commerce and money. Politics. Law and colonial procedure. Science.

"Not just one man!" Dillinger exclaimed to himself. "He couldn't have!"

The initial landing, probably by a survey ship. Steps to observe in capturing the crew. Negotiations, list of violations and penalties. Achievement of independent status. Steps to Federation membership. Steps to follow when independent status was violated.

"Not just one man!"

It was all there, laboriously written out by an uneducated man who had vision and wisdom and patience. By a great man. It was a brilliant prognostication, with nothing lacking but Wembling's name—and Dillinger had the impression that O'Brien had known more than a few Wemblings in his day. It was all there, everything that had happened, right up to the final master stroke, the ten-to-one tax rate on the hotels.

Dillinger closed the last notebook, carried the papers back to the control room and carefully rearranged things as he had found them. Some day Langri would have its own historians, who would sift through these papers and send the name of George F. O'Brien across the galaxy in dryly-written tomes read only by other historians. The man deserved a better fate.

But perhaps verbal tradition would keep his memory a living thing on Langri far into the future. Perhaps, even now, around the fires, there were legendary tales of what O'Brien had done and said. Or perhaps not. It was difficult for an outsider to probe into such matters, especially if he were a naval officer. That sort of thing required a specialist.

Dillinger took a last look at the humble relics, took a step backwards, and came to a full salute.

He left the ship, carefully closing the air lock behind him. Dusk had settled quickly there, deep in the forest, but the natives were waiting, still in attitudes of reverence.

"I suppose you've looked those things over," Dillinger said.

Fornri seemed startled. "No . . ."

"I see. Well, I found out—as much as there is to find out about him. If he has any family surviving, I'll see that they know what happened to him."

"Thank you," Fornri said.

"Were there no others who came and lived among you?"

"He was the only one."

Dillinger nodded. "O'Brien was a truly great man. I wonder if you fully realize that. I suppose in time you'll have O'Brien villages and O'Brien streets and O'Brien buildings, and all that sort of thing, but he deserves a really important monument. Perhaps—a planet can be named after a man, you know. You should have named your planet O'Brien."

"O'Brien?" Fornri said. He looked blankly at the others, turned back to Dillinger. "O'Brien? Who is O'Brien?"


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