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Christopher Anvil
edited by Eric Flint

Part I:
Pandora's Planet

Klide Horsip, Planetary Integrator, prided himself on being much more than a jailer. Each advance of the Integral Union meant more occupied planets, and each one of these planets, like a single tiny component in a giant magnet, must be brought into line with the rest. This was Klide Horsip's job, and he settled to it now with relish.

"Phase I is complete?" he insisted, emphasizing the word.

Brak Moffis, the Military Overseer, smiled ruefully, "Not quite as complete as it often is on these humanoid planets."

"Then give me a brief summary of the details," said Horsip. He cast a quick glance out the landing-boat's window at the curve of the blue and green world below. "Looks promising enough."

"Well," said Moffis, "as far as that goes, it is. It's a Centra-type planet, mean diameter about 0.8, with gravity, oxygen, and temperature ideally suited to human and humanoid life. The percentage of water surface is higher than on Centra—about seventy-five per cent—but it's well distributed, and helps moderate the climate. There are plenty of minerals, including massive quantities of deep nickel-iron that hasn't yet been touched."

Horsip nodded. "And the inhabitants?"

"The usual types of plant and animal life—and, the humanoids."

"Ah, we come to the main point. What stage were the humanoids in when you landed?"

Brak Moffis looked at Horsip and gave a wry smile. "Technologically," said Moffis, "they were very near Centra 0.9, and in some areas higher."

"You aren't serious?"

The Military Overseer shook his head and looked away. "You wouldn't ask me that if you'd been in on the invasion. Perhaps you've heard of Centralis II?"

"The hell-planet! Who hasn't heard of it?" Horsip let his voice show impatience. "What of it?"

"Well," said Moffis, "that gives us ground for comparison. This was worse. Thirty per cent of the Initial Landing Parties were vaporized the first day. Another fifty per cent had their sites eliminated by the second day, and were pinned to the earth that day or the day after. The whole second wave had to funnel through the remaining twenty per cent of sites in isolated regions, and of course that meant the natives retained effective control of the situation everywhere it counted. If you'll imagine yourself wrestling one of the giant snakes of Goa, you'll have a good idea of our position." He raised a hand as Horsip, frowning, started to speak. "Let me summarize. Thirty per cent of our selected sites were eliminated, fifty per cent were in desperate straits, and the remaining twenty per cent were jampacked, overloaded, and only meant for secondary purposes in the first place. All this, mind you, despite the fact that the natives let off a couple of incomplete attacks on each other during the initial stages."

"Hysteria?" scowled Horsip.

"Regional rivalries," said Moffis.

"Well," said Horsip, "give the censorship another silver nova for efficiency. All I ever heard of this was that it was proceeding `according to schedule.' "

"It was," said Moffis, "but it wasn't our schedule."

"I see," said Horsip, his face disapproving. "Well, what did you do?"

"Organized our established sites as fast as possible, and improvised new ones in chosen locations connecting the outer sites to form a defensive perimeter."


"That was what it boiled down to."

"What about the other sites—the fifty per cent under attack?"

"We supplied them as well as we could. When we were built up enough, we started a heavy thrust to split the enemy—I mean, native forces—and at the same time ordered a simultaneous break-out of the surrounded units toward common centers. The idea was to build up strong enough groups so they could fight their way to the perimeter."

"You were actually giving up the original sites?" Horsip looked at the Military Overseer with an expression of offended disbelief.

Moffis looked back coldly. "I'm telling you all this in detail so you'll understand it wasn't the usual matter of slaughtering a molk in a stall, and so you'll be ready in case you run into anything. I'm telling you we had a rough tossing around in the beginning. Maybe you'll have a better idea when I tell you one of our northern groups of Initial Landing Parties ran into this routine:

"The natives vaporized the center of each site with a nuclear bomb, contained the troops remaining in each site with minimum forces, then switched a heavy reserve from one Landing Party to the next, slaughtering them one-after-the-other, in succession. This wasn't brilliance on their part; this was their usual level of performance."

Horsip swallowed and looked serious.

Moffis noted Horsip's reaction and nodded. "I'm no more used to being on the defensive than you are, and I can assure you I didn't enjoy a minute of it. But that's what we were up against. We managed to recover just one large group—about eighteen per cent—of the original Landing Parties, then we pulled back into our perimeter under heavy attack. We had to bring the Fleet down into the atmosphere to get at their communications. At that the ships took losses of better than one-in-five despite the meteor guards. It was touch-and-go for three weeks, then we got the edge, and by the end of the month we had them hamstrung. Then we had some terrific fighting when we broke out of the defensive perimeter. But we won. At the end, we crushed them piecemeal."

"How long did this take?" asked Horsip.

"A hundred and twenty-seven of the planet's days," said Moffis. "Their day is roughly the same length as a day on Centra."

"I see," said Horsip, "and ten to twelve days is considered average."

"Averages don't count with something worse than Centralis II."

* * *

Horsip looked out at the planet, growing big as the landing-boat swung closer. As he watched, he saw a region of pits and craters, a part of the globe that looked as if an angry giant had beat on it with a sledge hammer. He turned away, as if to change the subject.

"What," he asked, "do these humanoid natives look like?"

"A lot like us. They have a pair of anterior and a pair of posterior appendages, one head, eyes, ears, and nose. They walk upright, and have opposable thumbs on the anterior appendages."

"Any significant marking-differences?"

Moffis swallowed. "A few."

"Good," said Horsip, relaxing a bit. "That will save us the trouble of marking them." When Moffis remained quiet, Horsip turned impatiently. "Well, don't just sit there. Enumerate them. What are the differences?"

"A bigger skull," said Moffis, "with a larger brow and a less prominent nose. The females are practically hairless over the greater portion of their bodies, and so are the males, though in less degree."

"Very good," said Horsip, nodding approval. "What else?"

"The vestigial tail is almost completely absorbed. There's no visible stump at all. And the head is set more nearly erect on the body."

"Splendid! Yes, very good indeed." Horsip looked vastly pleased. "You realize the implications?"

"I don't see anything good about it," said Moffis.

"Oh, come, man," said Horsip. "You've had a difficult experience, but don't let it distort your values. This is a propitious start for Planetary Integration. These folk are self-marked, by nature. We'll have no mixed-race trouble here, nor any of the usual marking difficulties, either."

Horsip paused in thought, snapped his fingers and added, "For instance, look at the words that apply to these natives: big-headed, hairless, flat-nosed—"

"But they aren't flat-nosed."

"What does that matter? Didn't you say their noses were smaller?"

"Well, yes. But not flat."

Horsip waved his hand. "Never mind that. We'll call them flat-nosed. Now let's see. Big-headed, hairless, flat-nosed. Wasn't there another—"

"Tailless," supplied Moffis, without enthusiasm.

"Yes, tailless. Well—" Horsip leaned back, and a smile of creative enjoyment crossed his face—"we'll call them `Puff-skulled, hairless, flat-nosed, lop-tails.' Let's see any of our rowdy young bloods try to mate with them after that."

"They will," said Moffis tonelessly.

"But not officially," said Horsip. "And that's what counts." He looked down with pleasurable anticipation at the planet grown large beneath them. He rubbed his hands. "Well," he said, "this is going to be pleasant work. A treat, Moffis."

Moffis shut his eyes as if to ease a pain.

"I hope so," he said.

* * *

A strong guard of heavily-armed soldiers awaited them in the landing area, itself ringed by several formidable lines of spike-bar barriers, thickly sown with leaping-mine trip wires, and covered by deeply dug-in splat-gun emplacements.

Horsip looked the defenses over curiously as he walked with Moffis to a heavily-armored ground-car. He noted that the soldiers carried out their orders readily enough, but without a certain verve usual on newly-conquered planets. "Trouble?" he asked.

Moffis glanced around uneasily. "Roving bands," he said. "You think you've got them wiped out, and they pop up again somewhere else."

They got into the ground-car, an order was shouted outside, and the convoy began to move off. It wound out onto the road like a giant chuffing snake, moving jerkily as gaps opened and closed between vehicles. The going was bumpy till they got out onto the main road, then the cars moved smoothly along. At this stage, Horsip raised up to peer out a shuttered slit in the side of his vehicle. For a hundred yards back from the side of the road, the vegetation was a burnt black. He scowled.

Moffis read his thoughts. "Yes, clearing the roadside is an unusual precaution. But it's either that or get plastered with a can of inflammable liquid when you go by in the car."

"Such an unnecessary width might indicate fear to the natives."

Moffis suppressed a snort.

Horsip looked at him coldly. "Isn't that so?"

"Maybe," said Moffis. "And maybe it indicates fear to a molk when you put heavier bars on his stall. But the main idea is, not to get gored."

"We've already conquered these lop-tails."

"Some of them don't know it yet. That's the trouble."

"We won't convince them by being frightened."

"We won't convince them by being dead, either."

Horsip looked at Moffis coldly. His heavy brows came together and he opened his mouth.

There was a dull boom from somewhere up ahead. Their car slowed suddenly, swerved, and then rolled forward so fast they were thrown hard back against the cushions. Something spanged against the side of the car. The snapping whack of a splat-gun sounded up ahead, was joined by others, and rose to a crescendo as they raced forward and passed to one side of the uproar. Acrid fumes momentarily filled the car, making Horsip cough and his eyes run. Somewhere in the background there was an unfamiliar hammering thud that jarred Horsip's nerves. There was another explosion, and another, now well to the rear. Then the car slowed with a loud squeal from the machinery. Horsip was thrown forward, then slammed back hard as the car raced ahead again. As they settled into a fast steady run, he turned to Moffis with a thoughtful frown. "How much farther do we have to go?"

"We should be about a quarter of the way."

Horsip sat, pale and thoughtful, beside Moffis, who sat, pale and gloomy, all the way to Horsip's new headquarters.

* * *

The site of the new headquarters was not well chosen to convey the effect of untouchable superiority. The site consisted of a large, blackened mountain with a concrete tunnel entrance at the base. The mountain bristled with air-defense cannon, was pocked and lined with shell holes, trenches, bunkers, and spike-bar barriers. Around the tunnel entrance at the base, the barriers, cannon, and splat-gun emplacements were so thick as to excite ridicule. Horsip was about to comment on it when he noted a huge thing like a monster turtle some hundred-and-fifty yards from the entrance. He felt the hair on his neck, back, and shoulders bristle.

"What's that?"

Moffis peered out the slit. "One of the humanoids' traveling forts."

Horsip stared at the long thick cannon that pointed straight at the tunnel entrance. He swallowed. "Ah . . . is it disarmed?" The ground-car's armor plating suddenly seemed very thin. "It is, isn't it?"

Moffis said, "Not exactly. Our engineers are studying it."

"You don't mean the humanoids are still in control of it?"

"Oh, no," said Moffis. "The concussion from our bombardment apparently killed them. Our experts are inside it, trying to figure out the mechanism."

"Oh." Horsip, as his angle of view changed, saw an armored ground-car gradually come into sight, parked near the alien fort. He damned himself for his scare. Of course, the thing was disarmed. But he could not help noticing how ineffectual the ground-car looked beside it. He cleared his throat.

"How many of those, ah, `moving forts' did the humanoids have?"

"Hundreds of them," said Moffis.

They rode in silence through the massive concrete entrance, and Horsip felt an unexpected sense of relief as the thick layer of earth, rock, and cement intervened between himself and the alien world. They rode downward for a long distance, then got out of the ground-car. Moffis showed Horsip around his new headquarters, which consisted of a large suite of rooms comfortably fitted-out; several outer offices with files, clerks, and thick bound volumes of maps and data; and a private inner office paneled in dark wood, with Horsip's desk and chair on a raised dais, and a huge flag of Centra hanging behind it.

Horsip looked everything over in complete silence. Then he looked again around the private office at the desk, dais, and flag. He cleared his throat.

"Let's go into my suite. Do you have the time?"

"I suppose so," said Moffis gloomily. "There isn't a great deal I can do, anyway."

Horsip looked at him sharply, then led the way back to his suite. They sat down in a small study, then Horsip got up, scowling intently, and began to pace the floor. Moffis looked at him curiously.

"Moffis," said Horsip suddenly, "you haven't told me the whole story."

Moffis looked startled.

"Go on," said Horsip. "Let's have it."

"I've summarized—"

"You've left out pieces. Perhaps you've told me the facts and left out interpretations. We need it all." He faced Moffis and pinned him with his gaze.

"Well—" said Moffis, looking uncomfortable.

"You're my military deputy," said Horsip, his eyes never leaving Moffis. "You and I must work together, each supplying the other's lacks. The first rule of planetary integration is to apply the maximum available force, in line with itself. If you apply force in one direction, and I apply force in another direction, the result will be less than if we both apply force in the same direction. That can be proved.

"Now," he said, "you have had a difficult time. You hit with all your strength, and the blow was blunted. The natives showed considerable low cunning in using the brute force at their disposal. Because we are accustomed to swift victories, the slowness of your success discouraged you. I was somewhat surprised at the situation myself, at first.

"However," said Horsip, his voice swelling, "a molk is a molk no matter how many bars he kicks off his stall. He may put up a struggle. It may take twenty times as long as usual to strap his neck to the block and slam the ax through. But when he's dead, he's just as dead as if it was over in a minute. Right?"

"Truth," said Moffis, looking somewhat encouraged.

"All right," said Horsip, pacing. "Now, we've got the molk into the stall, but apparently we're having some little trouble getting his head in the straps. Now, we can't strap a molk in the dark, Moffis. The horns will get us if we try it. We've got to have light. You've got to light up the beast for me with the lantern of knowledge, Moffis, or I can't do my part. How about it?"

* * *

"Well," said Moffis, looking interested and sitting forward on the edge of his chair. "I'm willing, now you put it that way, but where should I start?"

"Start anywhere," said Horsip.

Moffis cleared his throat, and looked thoughtful.

"Well, for one thing," he said at last, "there's this piecemeal filing-down they're doing to us." He hesitated.

"Go on," prompted Horsip. "Talk freely. If it's important, tell me."

"Well," said Moffis, "it doesn't seem important. But take that trip from the landing-boat to here. That wasn't a long trip, yet they knocked out at least one ground-car. If it was the same as other trips like it, they would have put fifteen men out of action, and three ground-cars, at least. Suppose we have three hundred men and fifty ground-cars we can spare as escort between here and the landing-boat place. Each time, they're likely to get hit once, at least. It seems like just a small battle. Not even a battle—just a brush with some die-hard natives.

"But in two trips, we've lost one man out of ten, and one car out of eight."

Moffis paused, frowning. "And the worse of it is, we can't put it down. It's like a little cut that won't stop bleeding. If it just happened here, it would be bad enough. But it happens everywhere and anywhere that we don't have everything screwed down tight."

"But," said Horsip, "see here. Why don't you gather together five thousand men and scour that countryside clean? Then you'll have an end to that. Then, take those five thousand men and clean out the next place." He grew a little excited. "That's what they did to our landing parties, isn't it? Why not spring their own trap on them?"

Moffis looked thoughtful. "We tried something like that earlier, when all this started. But the wear on the ground-cars was terrific. Moreover, they moved only a few scores of men, and we had to move thousands. It was wearing us out. Worse yet, as they only had small bands in action, we couldn't always find them. We'd end up with thousands of men milling around in a little field, and no humanoids. Then, from somewhere else, they'd fire into us." Moffis shivered. "We tried to bring the whole army to bear on them, but it was like trying to shoot insects with a cannon. It didn't work."

"Well," said Horsip, "that was too bad; but still, you had the right idea. But you overdid it."

"I wouldn't be surprised," said Moffis. "None of us were in very good form by then."

Horsip nodded. "But look here, take five thousand men, break them up into units of, say, five hundred each. Train the units to act alone or with others. Take six of the units, and send them to troubled places. Hold the other four in your hand, ready to put them here or there, as needed."

Moffis looked thoughtful. "It sounds good. But what if on their way to the trouble place, these men get fired on?"

Horsip suppressed a gesture of irritation. "Naturally, the five hundred would be split up into units. Say it was ten units of fifty men each. One fifty-man unit would clean out the nest of snakes, and the rest would go on. When they were finished, the unit that had stopped would go after the rest."

Moffis nodded. "Yes, it sounds good."

"What's wrong then?" demanded Horsip.

"The natives' stitching-gun," said Moffis dryly.

"The which?" said Horsip.

"Stitching-gun," said Moffis. "It has a single snout that the darts move into from a traveling belt, like ground-cars on an assembly line. The snout spits them out one at a time and they work ruin on our men. If this five-hundred man team you speak of was hit on the road, and just fifty men from it tried to beat the natives, we'd probably lose all fifty. The only way to win would be to stop the whole five hundred, and let the men fire at them from inside the ground-cars."

"But, listen," said Horsip. "Just how many natives would they be fighting?"

"Twenty, maybe."

Horsip did a mental calculation. "Then you mean one of their men is worth two to three of ours?"

"In this kind of fighting, yes."

* * *

Horsip made a howling sound in his throat, let out the beginning of a string of oaths and cut them off.

"I'm sorry," said Moffis. "I know how you feel."

"All right," said Horsip angrily, raising his hand and making gestures as if brushing away layers of gathering fog, "let's get back to this stitching-gun. It only shoots one dart at a time. How does that make it better than our splat-gun, that can shoot up to twenty-five darts at a time?"

"I don't understand it exactly," said Moffis, "but it has something to do with the way they fight. And then, too, the stitching-gun shoots the darts out fast. It shoots a stream of darts. If the first one misses, the humanoid moves the gun a little and maybe the next one strikes home. If not, he moves it a little more. This time, five or six darts hit our man and down he goes. Now the humanoid looks around for someone else and starts in on him. Meanwhile, another humanoid is feeding belts of darts into the gun—"

"But our splat-guns!" said Horsip exasperatedly. "What are they doing all this time?"

"They're heavy," said Moffis, "and it takes a little while to get them into action. Besides, the enemy . . . I mean, the humanoids . . . have had all night to set their gun up and hide it, and now they pick out their target at will. We have to stop the vehicles to go into action. And that isn't the worst, either."

"Now what?"

"The splat-gun operators can't see the enemy. I mean, the humanoids. They'll be dug in, and concealed. When the gunners do realize where they are, as likely as not the splat-guns can't get at them, because there is nothing but the snout of the stitching-gun to fire at. It's likely to be someone firing from inside the ground-cars that finally picks off the humanoids."

Horsip looked at Moffis thoughtfully. "Are there many more difficulties like this?"

"The planet is full of them," said Moffis. "It seems like heaven compared to what it was when the full-scale fighting was going on, but when you get right down to it, it's hard to see whether we've made any headway since then or not. The maddening part of it is, we can't seem to get a grip on the thing." He hesitated, then went on. "It's too much like trying to wear down a rock with dirt. The dirt wears away instead."

Horsip nodded, made an effort, and looked confident. "Never mind that, Moffis. You've got the molk in the stall for us. He's still kicking, but that just means there's so much the more meat on him."

"I hope so," said Moffis.

"You'll see," said Horsip, "once Planetary Integration gets started on the job."

The staff of Planetary Integration came down on the planet the next day. Soon they were coming in from the landing field in groups. They were talkative people, waving their hands excitedly, their voices higher-pitched than most. Their faces were smug, and in their eyes was a glint of shrewdness and cunning as they regarded the new world around them. Moffis did not look especially confident at their arrival, but Horsip brimmed over with energy and assurance. He began to put the problems to them:

First, what to do about the ambushing on the road?

The answers flew thick as dust in summertime.

Small forts and splat-gun nests could be built along the chief roads. Light patrols could scour the fields alongside to seek out the lop-tails before they got their guns in place. Strips of leaping mines could be laid alongside the roads at a distance, so the lop-tails would have to cross them to do any damage. Light airplanes could drop explosives on them. The problem was easy.

What about the stitching-gun?

Simple. Capture as many as possible from the lop-tails, and teach our men how to use them. Find the factories that made them, and induce the manufacturer to make more. And the same for the place that made their darts. Minor details of the gun's outward appearance could be changed, and a big seal attached, reading "Official Centra Stitching Gun."

Now, the big question: How to end this creeping war?

The Planetary Integration staff had a simple answer for that one. Every time a human was killed, ten of the lop-tails should lose their lives. If that didn't stop the foolishness, then eleven lop-tails should die. If it still went on, then twelve lop-tails. Each time the ratio was raised there should be an impressive announcement. Placards should be scattered over the country, saying, "If you murder a Centran, you kill ten of your own kind."

The lop-tails should be offered full humanoid equality, local self-government, and all the other inducements, on the condition that they were peaceful, and disciplined the rowdy elements that were causing trouble.

Horsip gave the necessary commands to set the machinery in motion.

For a full week, everything worked splendidly.

Horsip was enjoying a hot scented bath when Moffis came charging in. Moffis had a raised black-and-blue welt on his head, his uniform was torn open at the chest, and he looked furious.

Horsip put his hands over his ears.

"Stop that foul-mouthed cursing," said Horsip. "I can't understand a word you're saying."

Moffis shivered all over convulsively.

"I say, your integration program isn't working, that's what I say!"

"Why not?" Horsip looked stunned.

"How do I know why not? Nothing works on this stinking planet!"

Horsip clambered out of the tub into the drip pan. "What's wrong? What's happened?"

"I'll tell you what's wrong! We built the small forts and splat-gun nests just as you told us to. The crews in them have been living a horrible life. They're harassed from morning to night. And just what is the advantage, I'd like to know, of having five hundred men strung out in two dozen little packets that have to be supplied separately, instead of all together where you can do something with them?

"And then, this stitching-gun business. We can't find the manufacturer. Everyone says someone else made it. Or they say they used to make them, but not that model. Or they haven't made them for years. Or we blew up their factory when we attacked. And—hairy master of sin!—by the time we get through going from one place to the other—they talk a different language in each place, you know—we don't know whether we're standing on our hands or our feet. Let me give you an example.

"We took this stitching-gun we captured around to find out who made it. Wouldn't you think they could just look at it and tell us? No, sir! Not them! We showed it to the Mairicuns first. One of them said it didn't look like one of their jobs. He thought the Rushuns made it. The Rushuns said it wasn't one of theirs. Theirs had wheels on them. Try the Beljuns. The Beljuns said they didn't make it. Maybe the Frentsh did. The Frentsh looked it over and said, Oh, no, that was a Nazy job. And where were the Nazies? They were wiped out years ago."

Moffis stared at Horsip in frustration. "Now what do we do? And listen, I'm just giving you a summary of this. You don't know what we went through. Each one of those places has bureaus, and branches, and departments, and nobody trusts anyone else.

"The Rushuns say about the Mairicuns, `What can you expect of those people? Pay no attention to them.'

"The Mairicuns say about the Rushuns, `Oh, well, that's just what the Rushuns say. You can't believe that.'

"Now what do we do?"

* * *

Horsip decided he had dripped long enough, wrapped a bath-blanket around him and began drying himself. Evading the issue, he asked, "How's the casualty rate?"

"We haven't had a man killed since we made the edict."

"Well," said Horsip, brightening, "that worked out, didn't it?"

Moffis looked like he smelled something unpleasant. "I don't know."

"Well, man, why not? What's wrong with that? That's what you wanted, isn't it?"

"Well . . . I guess so."

"Well, then. We're getting a grip on the thing."

"Are we?" Moffis pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket. "Since we gave the edict, we have had three thousand seven hundred sixty-eight slit or punctured tires, one hundred twelve blown-up places in the road, five unoccupied cars rolled over the side of a hill, eighteen cars stuck in tarry gunk on a steep incline, and a whole procession of twenty-six cars that went off the road for no known reason at the bottom of a hilly curve. We have also had break-downs due to sand in the fuel tank, water in the fuel tank, holes in the fuel tank, and vital parts missing from the machinery. Is that an improvement or isn't it? The tires, injured roads, and damaged machinery have to be repaired. That takes work. In this same period we have had"—he turned over the paper—"one hundred twelve men out for sprained backs, ruptures, and so on, and eight men in bad shape due to heart trouble. Also, the men are getting rebellious. You know as well as I do, Centran soldiers hate drudgery. Not only that, but you should see those roads! How do they make them like that in the first place? We can't repair them as well as they're made. I tell you I'm getting fed up with this!"

Horsip scrubbed himself dry, then dressed and went off to see his Planetary Integration staff, now working happily on plans for final integration of the planet into the Integral Union some twenty years in the future. Moffis went along with him. Horsip explained the situation.

A precocious-looking individual with large eye-correctors and thin hair on his hands addressed Moffis in a peevish voice.

"Why," he demanded, "do you fail to assure proper protective precautions for these vehicles?"

"Because," snarled Moffis, "we have all these stinking rattraps to supply, that's why."

"I presume your troops are in possession of all their senses? How can damage be inflicted upon the vehicles when your men maintain proper precautions?"

"What? I just told you!"

"I fail to understand how it can be possible for the natives to approach the vehicles without being apprehended."

Horsip put in quickly, "He means, why aren't they seen?"

Moffis, whose face was glowing red, said fiercely, "Because it's night, that's why! They can't be seen!"

"A simple solution. Carry the operations out in daytime."

Moffis gritted his teeth. "We can't. Every time a car slows down in the daytime, some sharp-shooter half-a-drag away puts a dart through the tires."

Moffis' precocious-looking questioner stared at him in a daze. "Oh," he said, suddenly looking relieved, "exaggeration-for-conversational-effect."

"What?" demanded Moffis.

"I supposed you to be serious about the half-drag accuracy of the projectile."

"About,." Horsip hastily interpreted, "how far the native's gun could shoot with accuracy. He thought you meant it."

"I did mean it," said Moffis.

There was a sound of uneasy movement in the room.

"Theoretically impossible," said someone.

Moffis glared at him. "Would you care to come up and lie down behind a tire?"

Horsip, noting an undesirable effect on the morale of his staff, suggested they put a team to work on the new problem, while the rest continue what they were doing. He ushered the growling Moffis out of the room.

* * *

By the time Horsip had Moffis soothed down, and finally got back to his staff, an uproar had developed over the "meaning" of the "significant datum," that the lop-tails could shoot a gun half-a-drag and hit something with it. This fact seemed to upset a great number of calculations, in the same way that it would upset calculations to find two different lower jaws for the same prehistoric monster.

The arguments were many and fierce, but under Horsip's skillful prompting, they seemed to boil down to a choice between two, either: (a) the lop-tails possessed supernatural powers; or (b) the lop-tails used methods of precision manufacture on their ordinary guns and munitions such as humans used only—and then with great difficulty—on their space-ships.

The possibilities resulting from the acceptance of (a) were too discouraging to think about. Those resulting from (b) led by various routes each time to the same conclusion, that the lop-tails were smarter than the humans.

This unpleasant conclusion led to one that was really ugly, namely, of two races having humanlike characteristics, which race is human, the smart race or the dull race?

At this point in the argument, an unpleasant little man in the back of the room rose up and announced that on the basis of an extension of standard comparative physique types from the humanoid to the human, the lop-tails were more advanced than the Centrans.

But that was the low point in the argument. Soon the hypothesis of "pseudo-intelligence" was introduced to explain the lop-tails' accomplishments. Next, a previously undistinguished staff-member introduced the homely simile of passing over the brow of a hill. If, he said, one went far enough in one direction, he at last came to the very top of the hill. Any further motion in that direction carried one down the slope. True, he said, these lop-tails might go further in certain physical characteristics than the Centrans themselves. But to what point? The Centrans were at the peak, and any ostentatious exaggeration of Centran traits was merely ridiculous.

The excitement abated somewhat, and Horsip got his staff back to work on the pressing problem of supplying the road outposts without losing vehicles in the process. Then he hunted up Moffis.

The Military Overseer was in a room with five humans and a number of lop-tails. Plainly, Moffis was trying to question the lop-tails about something. But the lop-tails were arguing among themselves. Moffis left the room when he saw Horsip, first instructing his subordinates to carry on.

Moffis, wincing as if with a severe headache, said: "What a relief! I'm glad you came along."

"What's wrong?" asked Horsip.

"Interpreters," said Moffis. "These lop-tails all have different languages, and interpreters never agree on what is being said."

"Hah!" said Horsip. "You should have heard what I've just been through."

"This was worse," said Moffis.

"I doubt it," said Horsip, and described it.

Moffis looked gloomy. "I don't care what you call it. This pseudo-intelligence is going to be the end of us yet. Of all the planets I've helped capture or occupy up till now, I've generally had the feeling of outplaying the natives. You know what I mean. After the first clash of arms, you play a deeper game than they do. You manipulate the situation so that if they go against you they're swimming against the current. When you have that advantage, you can use it to get other advantages, till finally you have complete control of the situation."

"They're integrated," said Horsip.

"Yes," said Moffis. "But it isn't working that way here. Ever since the initial clash, we've been losing advantages. We're spread thin. The natives act in such a way that we spread ourselves thinner. I have the feeling we're the ones that are swimming upstream."

"Still," said Horsip, "we're the conquerors."

"I just hope they stay conquered," said Moffis fervently.

"I have an idea," said Horsip.

* * *

Horsip and Moffis spent the next few hours discussing Horsip's idea.

"It's the best thing yet," said Moffis, as they strolled down the hall afterward. A smile of anticipation lighted his face. "It should tie them in knots."

Horsip smiled modestly.

"We'll need plenty of reinforcements," said Moffis, "so I'll send out the request right away."

"Good idea," said Horsip. They strolled past the office of the Planetary Integration staff. A sound of groaning came from within. Horsip spun around.

"Excuse me," said Horsip. Scowling, he went into the room.

As he entered, he saw the whole staff sitting around in attitudes of gloom and dejection. A number of natives were in the room and one was talking earnestly to several members of the staff.

"No! No! No!" the native was saying. "You can't do it that way! If you do, the cars will lurch or even fly off the track every time you get up past a certain speed. You've got to have a transition curve first, see, and then the arc of a circle."

Horsip stopped, puzzled, and looked around.

Beside him, a staff-member with his head in his hands looked up and saw Horsip. Horsip glanced at him and demanded, "What's going on here?"

"We got the natives in to study their language, and . . . and to worm their tribal taboos out of them." His face twisted in pain. "And we wanted to find out the limits of their pseudo-intelligence." Tears appeared in his eyes. "Oh, why did we do it?"

"Will you stop croaking?" snapped Horsip. "What happened? What is all this about?"

"They're smarter than we are!" cried the staff-member. "We tested them. And they're smarter. Oh, God!" He put his head in his hands and started to sob. Several other staff members around the room were crying.

Horsip let out a low growl, stuck his head into the corridor, and bellowed, "Guards!"

A sergeant came running, followed by a number of soldiers.

"Clear these natives out of here!" roared Horsip. "And hold them under guard till I give the word!"

The sergeant snapped, "Yes, sir!" and began to bawl orders.

The natives marched past with knives and guns in their backs.

"Listen," said one of the natives conversationally, as he was hustled out of the room, "if you'd just put holes in the guards of those knives, you could slip them over the gun barrels, and it would make it twice as easy—" His voice faded away in the corridor.

Horsip, furious, turned to glare at his staff. With the natives' voices taken out of the room, the sobbing and whimpering was now plainly audible.

"Stop that!" roared Horsip.

"We can't help it," sobbed several voices in unison, "they're smarter than we are."

"Gr'r'r," said Horsip, his face contorted. He reached out, grabbed one man by the uniform top, and slapped him hard across the face. The man stiffened, his eyes flashing reflexive rage.

"Listen to me!" roared Horsip. "You limp-spined, knock-kneed boobs! Pay attention here, before I—"


"Look up, you slack-jawed—"


"Straighten up, before I—"


"Look up, you—"

Slap! . . . Slap! . . . Slap!

Massaging his fingers, Horsip returned to the head of the silent room.

"Morons," he said angrily. "You boobs, you simpletons, you sub-human—"

"That's just it!" cried one of the men. "The things you just said are—"

"Shut up!" Horsip glared at him, then let his glare roam over each of the others in turn.

"Here you sit," he went one, "the elect of Centra. Not the smartest by a long shot, but good enough to be in Planetary Integration. And you moan because the lop-tails are smarter. Do you make your own mind stronger by putting your heads in your hands and groaning about it? Do you make a muscle stronger by complaining that it's weak? Do you climb a hill by lying down, putting your hands over your eyes, and rolling to the bottom—all because someone else seemed to be a little higher up? Do you?"

There was a feeble scattering of "No's."

" `No'!" said Horsip. "That's right. Now you're starting to think. If you want to be stronger, you use your muscles, so if you want to strengthen your grip, do you let things go loose and sloppy through your fingers? No! You grip down tight on something suited for the purpose. And if you want your mind to grip stronger, do you let it stay limp and loose with self-pity? Do you? No! You grip with it! You take hold of something small enough to work with and grip it, fasten your attention on it, and then you've exercised your mind and you're stronger. Right?"

"Now," he turned to the nearest man. "Fasten your mind on what you've learned from these natives. Hold it steady and think on it. Nothing else. The rest of you, do the same. What an opportunity for you! Then, when you've squeezed all the juice out of what you've learned, boil it down, and put the essence of it on a sheet of paper so I can look it over. Now I am going to be busy, so get to work."

* * *

Horsip stalked out of the room, closed the door firmly, strode down the hall to his suite, and locked the door behind him.

"My God," he groaned. "They are smarter than we are!"

He stripped off his wet clothes, soaked himself in a steaming hot bath, fell onto his bed in a state of exhaustion, and slept sixteen hours without a break.

He awoke feeling refreshed, till he thought of what had happened the day before. With a groan, he got up, and some time later appeared in the Planetary Integration offices, smiling confidently. A stack of papers twice as thick as his hand was waiting for him on his desk. He greeted his staff cheerfully, noted that if they were not exuberant, at least they were not sunk in despair, then picked up the stack of papers and strode out.

Back in his private suite, he plopped the papers down, looked at them uneasily, chose a comfortable seat, loosened the collar of his uniform, got up, checked the door, sat down, and began going through the papers, peeping cautiously at the titles of each report before looking further. Clearly, the natives had unburdened themselves of a vast amount of information. But most of it was very specialized. About a quarter of the way down the list, Horsip came on a thick report labeled: "Love Habits of the Lop-Tail Natives." Firmly he passed over the paper, moved on and found one headed, "Why the Lop-Tails Do Not Have Space Travel." He separated this from the rest, put one labeled "The Mikeril Peril" with it, set it aside, and went on.

When he was through, he had a much smaller pile of papers that he thought worth reading, the lot headed by a paper on "Topics the Lop-Tail Humanoids Avoided Discussing." Before starting to read them, he thought he would just glance through the pile to see that he hadn't missed any. About a quarter of the way through the heap, he came on a thick paper labeled: "Love Habits of the Lop-Tail Natives." Hm-m-m, he thought, there might be important information in that. You never knew—

Firmly, he passed over it and searched through the remaining sheets. He set the pile aside, it slipped off the table, and as he bent to pick it up he came across "Love Habits of the Lop-Tail Natives."

He decided to just glance at the first page.

Fifty-one minutes later, Moffis rudely interrupted Horsip's wide-eyed scrutiny of page eighteen by hammering on the door.

"Now what?" demanded Horsip, opening the door.

Moffis strode in angrily, a large piece of message paper fluttering in his hand.

"The double-damned boob won't reinforce us, that's what! Look at this!" Moffis thrust out the paper.

Horsip read through the usual dates and identification numbers, passed through some double-talk that all boiled down to, "I've thought it over," and then came on the sentence: "Requests for such massive reinforcements at this date would create a most unfavorable atmosphere, and in so far as the Sector Conference on Allocation of Supplies is about to begin, it seems highly inadvisable at this end to produce a general impression of disappointment and/or dissatisfaction concerning the performance of any units of this command."

Horsip's teeth bared involuntarily. He took a deep breath and read on. There were vague hints of promotion if all went well, and subtle insinuations that people would be jammed head first into nuclear furnaces if things went wrong. It ended up with double talk designed to create a sensation of mutual good feeling.

Moffis glared. "Now what do we do?"

Horsip controlled his surging emotions, and took time to think it over. Then he said, "There's a time to smile all over and be as slippery as a snake in a swamp, and then there is a time to roar and pound on tables. Go find out when this Sector Conference meets, and where."

Moffis hurried out of the room.

Horsip went into his office, yanked down a book on protocol, and began drafting a message.

Moffis found him some time later and came in. "I've got the location and time."

"All right," said Horsip, "then send this." He handed over a sheet of paper. "If possible, it ought to be timed so it will arrive just as the conference opens."

Moffis looked at it and turned pale. He read aloud:

"Situation here unprecedented. Require immediate reinforcement by two full expeditionary forces to gain effective control of situation, which has exceeded in violence and danger that of Centralis II."

Moffis swallowed hard. "Do I sign this or do you?"

Horsip glared at him. "I'm signing it. And it would be much more effective if you signed it, too."

"All right," said Moffis. He smiled gamely and went out of the room.

Horsip shivered, went back to his suite, wrapped himself up in a blanket, and began reading "Topics the Lop-Tail Humanoids Avoided Discussing."

Horsip was very thoughtful after reading that paper. Apparently the humanoids were slippery as eels regarding any discussion of military principles or problems. They professed also a great ignorance concerning questions on nuclear fission. They were evasive concerning a glaring discrepancy between the numbers of cannon, traveling forts, et cetera, turned over to the Centrans, and the number that were estimated to have been used in action. Horsip made brief notes on a pad of paper, and turned without pleasure to the next report.

This was a paper headed "The Mikeril Peril." As usual, he felt the hair on the back of his neck rise at mention of the word "Mikeril." Uneasy tingling sensations went up and down his back, probably dating from the childhood days when his mother warned him, "Klide, do you know what happens to bad boys who don't do what they're told? The Mikerils get them." The Mikerils ate Centrans. Or, at least, they had before the humans wiped them out in a series of wars. Horsip pulled the blanket around him and began reading the paper.

"I was discussing problems in statistics with one of the lop-tails," the paper began, "and searching a test problem to put to him, I came across some old data concerning the numerous outbreaks of Mikerils on Centra and other planets we have occupied.

"On the basis of the partial data I gave him, the native was able to accurately date other outbreaks that preceded and followed the period concerning which I had given him information. I was preparing to concede the correctness of his calculations, when he screwed up his face, put his head on one side, and said, `I should estimate the next probable heavy outbreak to take place 67 days, 4 hours, and 13 minutes from now, plus or minus 7.2 minutes.' "

Horsip looked up, the hair on his back rose, and he experienced a severe chill as he seemed to see a big hairy Mikeril sinking its poison-shafts into its victim, its many legs spinning him round and round as it bound him helplessly and carried him off inert.

Then Horsip sank down in his seat, looked over the prediction again, and his eye caught on " `plus or minus 7.2 minutes.' " Horsip decided the native was either vastly overenthusiastic, or else just liked to poke people in the ribs to see them jump. He turned to the next paper.

This one, on "Why the Lop-Tails Do Not Have Space Travel," made difficult reading. Horsip could not reconcile the straightforward title with the involved argument and minute dividing of hairs in the body of the paper. After a hard fight, Horsip got to the last paragraph of the report, which read:

"Summary: In summary, this author states the conclusion that the beings provisionally known as `lop-tailed humanoids' failed to acquire space-traversing mechanisms owing to a regrettable preoccupation with secondary matters pertaining principally to interests other than those regarding the traverse of interplanetary and interstellar regions, primarily; and secondarily, owing to use of that characteristic provisionally known as `pseudointelligence,' the aforesaid beings were enabled to produce locally satisfactory working solutions to certain difficult and specialized problems the solution of which, in a different state of affairs, might well have eventuated in the discovery of the principle known briefly in common professional parlance as the positive null-void (PNV) law. With these conclusions, the native known as Q throughout this paper was in complete accord."

Horsip, dazed from the rough treatment the paper had given him, stared at it in vague alarm. Unable to pin down the exact point that bothered him, he moved on fuzzy-brained to the next report.

This one started off as if it consisted of vital information about the very core of lop-tail psychology. But on close inspection, it turned out to contain a collection of native fairy tales. Horsip read dully about "Pandora's Box, the highly-significant, crystallized expression of the fear-of-the-unknown syndrome, the reaction of retreat-into-the-womb; the tale symbolizes the natives' attitude toward life and their world. The protagonist, Pandora, receives a box (significance of angular shape of typical native container), which she is not supposed to open (see taboo list, below), and a variety of afflictions emerge into the world (Pandora's world)—"

* * *

Horsip looked up angrily to hear a knock sound on the door. He let Moffis in.

"I sent it off," said Moffis.

"What?" snapped Horsip.

"The message to the Sector Conference, of course." He looked sharply at Horsip. "What hit you?"

"Oh, these stinking reports," said Horsip angrily. "Come in and lock the door."

Horsip went back to the reports and told Moffis about them.

"Some are good, and some are bad," said Horsip, "and some are written so you need a translator to explain them to you. It's always been like that, but on this planet, it seems exaggerated. I suppose for the same reason that a ground-car makes more trouble in rough country."

"Well," said Moffis, "maybe I can help you. Let me look over that bunch you've finished. That business about the significant quantities of guns, et cetera, that are missing, makes me uneasy."

"Help yourself," said Horsip.

Moffis picked up the pile and leafed through it. He paused at one report, looked at it, started to pull it out, put it back, scowled, looked at it again, shrugged, pulled it out further, held his place in the pile with one hand, and pulled it out all the way to look at it.

Together they read the reports, Horsip uttering groans and curses, and Moffis saying, "Hm-m-m," from time-to-time.

At last, Horsip threw down several reports with a loud whack, and turned to speak to Moffis.

Moffis was absorbed.

Horsip looked impressed, turned away considerately, stiffened suddenly, turned back, got down on his hands and knees, twisted his head around and looked up from below at the title of what Moffis was reading. The letters stared down at him:

"Love Habits of the Lop-Tail Natives."

Horsip untwisted himself, stood up, brushed himself off, and disgustedly left the room. He strode down the corridor, resolved on action. He was fed up with this feeling of struggling uphill through a river of glue. He was in charge of this planet and he aimed to make his influence felt. The first thing obviously was to take these natives the staff had been questioning, get one of them alone with some guards, then put the questions to him. This business of getting it second or third hand was no good.

He turned a corner, strode to a door marked "Prison," said, "At ease," as the guard snapped to attention, and started in.

"Sir," said the guard desperately, "I wouldn't go in there just now. Things are a little confused right now, sir."

Horsip's brows came together and he strode through the doorway as if propelled by rockets. He halted with equal suddenness on the other side.

Several dazed-looking soldiers were working under the direction of a red-faced officer who was barking oaths and orders in rapid succession. The general direction of the effort seemed to be to get three soldiers who were tied up untied. The trouble was that the three were off the floor, strung by their middles to the upper tier of bars in a cell. When one soldier was successfully pulled to the floor, overenthusiastic soldiers working on the other side of the bars would make a leap upward, seize one of the other soldiers, and haul him down, whereupon the first soldier would fly up out of the hands of the men trying to untie him.

"Captain," said Horsip dryly, "concentrate your effort on one man at a time."

The officer was apparently shouting too loudly to hear.

Wham! Down came one soldier and up went another.

The officer paid not the slightest attention to Horsip's order.

Horsip noticed one of the three tied soldiers slowly bending and unbending from his middle.

The first soldier came down. The second jerked up.

The officer screamed in frustration, threats, oaths, and orders mingled together in a rage that drove the soldiers to jerking frenzy.

Down came the second soldier. Up went the first.

Now the first was down again. Now he was up. Now down again.

Up . . . Down . . . Up . . .

* * *

Every small detail of the scene was suddenly crystal clear to Horsip, as if he were seeing it under thick glass. He felt detached from it all, much like a third person looking on. When he spoke, he did not feel that he gave excessive force to the word. He was hardly conscious of speaking at all. He merely said:


The officer halted in mid-curse. He turned around with the glassy-eyed expression of a fish yanked out of the water on a hook.

The soldiers froze in various postures, then jerked to attention.

The outer door opened up and the guard presented arms.

Horsip said, "Captain, take the two nearest soldiers. Have them pull down that man on the outside of the cell. Now have them hold tight to the rope that's looped up over the bar. Now, take the next two nearest soldiers and have them untie that man. All right. Now, have those next two soldiers stand on the opposite side of those bars, inside the cell, ready to catch that other soldier when the rope is lowered."

The captain, using his hands to move the soldiers around, was following out Horsip's orders in a sort of dumb stupor. The first soldier was untied. The second soldier was cut down. The second soldier was untied. The third soldier was untied, and sat chafing his wrists and hands, and massaging his abdomen.

Horsip motioned the captain into a little cubicle containing a desk and a filing cabinet.

"What's happened here?" said Horsip.

The captain merely blinked.

Horsip tried again. The captain stood there with an unfocused look.

"Report your presence," said Horsip.

The captain's hand came up in a salute, which Horsip returned.

"Sir, Captain Moklis Mogron, 14-0-17682355, 3rd Headquarters Guards, reports his presence."

The captain blinked, and his eyes came to a focus. He seemed to really see Horsip for the first time. He turned pale.

"What happened, Captain?" said Horsip.

"Sir, I—" the captain stopped.

"Just tell me what you saw and heard, as it happened," said Horsip.

"Well, I . . . sir, it all boils down to . . . I just don't remember."

"What's the first thing you do remember?"

"I opened that outside door, and I came in and—Wait. No. The guard came to me and told me the prisoners needed attention. I came in, and . . . and—" He scowled fiercely. "Let's see, I came in, and, let's see, one of the prisoners—yes! The prisoners were out of their cells! . . . But they said that's what they called me in for. The lock design on the cell was no good, and they wanted to show me a better one. One of them was holding a shiny key on a string in the bright light from this desk light . . . now, what was that doing out there?. . . and he said to look at it, and watch it, and keep my eye on it, and he'd explain why I should . . . should—"

The captain looked dazed.

"Report your presence!" snapped Horsip.

The captain did so. Horsip tried several times, but could not get past the point where the natives showed the captain the shiny key in the bright light. Horsip became vaguely aware that he was wasting his time on scattered details, and, as usual on this planet, coming away empty-handed. He sent the captain out to learn from the three soldiers how they had come to be tied up in the air that way. The captain returned to say the natives had told the soldiers about a rope trick, had gotten them over to the bars with a coil of rope, and that was all the soldiers remembered.

Horsip sent out orders to comb the place for the prisoners, and for anyone who had seen them pass to report it.

The prisoners weren't found, and everyone was sure he hadn't seen them.

Horsip went back to his rooms feeling more than ever as if he were struggling uphill through layers of mud.

* * *

The next day passed in a welter of sticky details. The staff had finally figured out how to get supplies to the outposts without having the tires shot out in the process. An armored ground-car towing a string of supply wagons was to approach the outposts, traveling along the roadway at high speed. As the cars passed the outposts, soldiers on the wagons were to throw off the necessary supplies, which the men from the outposts could come out and pick up. In this way, the staff exulted, there would be no need for the cars to slow down; as the natives seemed reluctant to fire at moving vehicles—lest they kill someone and invoke the edict—there should be no more trouble from that source.

To protect vehicles from sabotage at night, the staff proposed the construction of several enormous car parks, to be surrounded by leaping-mine fields and thick spike-bar barriers.

Meanwhile, another convoy of eighteen cars had shot off the bottom of the hilly curve with no known explanation. The staff advised the building of a fortified observation post, with no fewer than two observers on watch at all times, so it could at least be found out what happened.

But the old troubles were not the only ones to deal with. Just as the Planetary Integration team triumphantly handed out answers to thorny problems that had confounded them in the past, word came of something new and worse. The soldiers were getting hard to manage.

Always in the past, on conquered planets, the troops had had some sort of female companionship. The natives had often been actually glad to make alliances with their conquerors. But here, such was not the case. The females of the local species ran shrieking at the approach of a love-starved soldier. This had a bad effect on morale. Worse yet, the lop-tail authorities had been offering to help matters by showing the soldiers instructive moving pictures on the topic, these pictures being the very same ones used to instruct the lop-tail soldiers on how to act toward females. Since seeing these pictures, it was a question who was more afraid of whom, the soldiers or the women. Now there was a sort of boiling resentment and frustration, and there was no telling where it might lead to.

While the staff, under Horsip's direction, was thrashing this problem out, Moffis, red-faced and indignant, came charging into the room.

Horsip sprang from his seat and rushed Moffis out into another room.

"Hairy master of sin!" roared Moffis. "Are you trying to ruin me?"

"Keep your voice down," said Horsip. "What's wrong now?"

"Wrong? That stinking idea for feeding the outposts, that's what's wrong."


"Why?" Moffis growled deep in his throat. He stepped back, his teeth bared and one hand out to his side. "All right. Here I am. I'm on one of these stinking supply-wagons your bright boys say ought to be hooked up to the ground-cars. We're racing along the road at high speed, like we're supposed to. We go over a repaired place in the road. All the wagons go up in the air. I have to hang on for dear life or I go up in the air. Now someone yells, `Three barrels of flour, a sack of mash, three large cans Concentrate B, and a case of .33 splat-gun darts.' "

Moffis glared. "I'm supposed to get this stuff unstrapped and pitched out between the time we bounce over the repaired place and the time the outpost shoots past to one side?"

Horsip hesitated.

"Come on," roared Moffis. "Am I?"

"Well, now, look," said Horsip. "You're not going at it the right way."

"Oh, I'm not, am I?"

Horsip flared: "If you had the sense an officer's supposed to have, you'd know better than to have the stuff strapped in helter-skelter. You'd have a supply schedule strapped to a wagon post, and the supplies all loaded on in reverse order, so it would be no trouble at all—"

"But," said Moffis, "I'm not playing the part of an officer here! I'm one of our soldiers! I'm irked and griped because here I am, a soldier of the Integral Union, and I don't even dare speak to any of the native girls running around. There's no fighting going on—nothing definite—just an endless folderol that isn't getting anywhere. I'm about fed up with the thing. Every time I turn around there's some new makeshift."

"Yes, yes," said Horsip. "I see that—"

"All right," said Moffis, "the point is, the soldier is no mathematician in the first place. If you explain every point of the routine to him—O.K., maybe. But if he isn't used to it, things are going to get snarled up. Well, he hasn't had any training for this routine and it's a mess."

"In time—" said Horsip, groping his way.

"In time, nothing," said Moffis. "It won't work, and that's that. I haven't even had time to tell you everything wrong with it. What do you suppose these barrels and cans do when they hit the ground, anyway?"


"They burst, that's what they do! And I'm here to tell you a soldier that sees his barrel of flour come out the side of a wagon, hit the ground, fly to pieces, and then get swirled all over the road by half-a-dozen sets of wheels is in no frame of mind worth talking about."


"He has to sweep it up with a broom!" roared Moffis. "And by the Great Hungry Mikeril, I tell you, I don't want to be around trying to give that soldier orders until we've unloaded his gun and got his knife away from him. There's got to be some other way of supplying these outposts or I pull in every one of them and to hell with sharp-shooters along the road. At least the men will be able to eat."

"Yes," said Horsip, feeling exhausted, "I see you've got a point there."

"All right," said Moffis. He stopped to swallow and massage his throat. "There's another thing. This car-park idea."

"Surely there's nothing wrong with that."

"No, the idea is all right. The plan on paper looks good. But how many million gross of spike-bars do your people think an army is equipped with, anyway? You're an officer. You know that. We have just so many for ordinary requirements, plus a reserve for desperate situations. And that's it. Well, this planet has been nothing but one big desperate situation since we landed on it. We just don't have the material to make any such big things as these car parks."

"Couldn't you," said Horsip, desperately, "collect a few here and there from your fortifica—"

"No!" roared Moffis, his voice cracking. "Not on your life! Once we start gnawing holes in our own defenses—"

"All right, then," said Horsip, straightening up, "what about the natives? They had armies. They must have used spike-bars. Or, if they didn't, we can teach them how they're made, buy them from them—"

* * *

Moffis looked down at the floor gloomily.

"What's the matter?" said Horsip.

Moffis shook his head. "They didn't use spike-bars."

"Well, then, we can teach—"

"They had their own stuff."

Horsip looked apprehensive. "What?'


Horsip felt himself sinking into a fog of confusion. With an effort he struggled clear. "What did you say?"

"I said, they had their own stuff. Fang-wire."

"What in the world is that?"

"Thick twisted wire with teeth on it."

Horsip goggled. "Is it as good as our spike-bars?"

"As far as coming up against it, one is about as bad as the other."

"Then—why don't we use it?"

Moffis shook his head. "If you ever saw our soldiers laying the stuff out—it comes wound up on little wire barrels. You have to take one end of the stuff, without getting the teeth in you, and pull if free. It comes off twisted, it jumps and vibrates, and the teeth are likely to get you if you try to straighten it out. I saw half a company of soldiers fighting three rolls of fang-wire the only time we ever tried to use it. The wire was winning. The natives were dug in on a hill opposite from us, and they were having hysterics. No, thanks. Never again."

"Listen," said Horsip doggedly, "if they use the stuff, there must be some way to do it."

"That's so," said Moffis, "but if we take the time to train the army all over again in new ways of fighting, we aren't going to get anything else done."

Horsip paced the floor. "I hate to say this, Moffis, but it appears to me to be a plain fact that this victory is tearing the army to pieces."

"I know it," said Moffis.

"Everywhere we come in contact with the natives, something goes wrong."

Moffis nodded.

"All right," said Horsip, his voice rising. "What we need here is drastic action, striking at the root of the trouble."

Moffis watched Horsip uneasily. "What, though?"

"Reconcentration," said Horsip. "The iron rusts fast when it's cut in bits where the air can get at it. Melt it back into a bar and only the surface will rust. Then the bar will keep its strength." Horsip looked hard into Moffis' eyes. "We've got to mass the troops—not just the road outposts, but the occupation districts. Everything. Take over a dominating section of this planet and command it."

"But regulations—in Phase II we have to do it this way!"

"All right," said Horsip, "then we'll go back to Phase I."

"But . . . but that's never been done! That's—" Moffis paused, frowning. "It might work, at that. The devil with regulations."

They gripped each other's arms. Moffis started for the door and walked into a hurrying messenger. They exchanged salutes, Moffis took the paper, looked at it, and handed it to Horsip. Horsip looked at it and read aloud:

"Hold on. Arriving in thirty days. Twenty million troops in motion. Your plan good. Argit, Supreme Integrator."

"I guess we'd better stay put," said Moffis.

Horsip frowned. "Maybe so."

* * *

It was a trying thirty days.

The outposts took to buying food direct from the natives. The road-repair crews fell into an ugly habit of getting out of work by exposing arms or legs and daring the lop-tails to shoot at them. There were so many flesh-wounds that the aid stations began running out of supplies. Troops in the remoter sections began drinking a kind of liquid propellant the lop-tails sold in bottles and cans. It was supposed to cure boredom, but the troops went wild on it, and the reserves were kept bouncing and grinding from one place to another, thinking the war had broken out again.

Planetary Integration did have a few victories to its credit. The trouble on the hilly curve, for instance, proved to be caused by a gang of native boys who came out every few days and stretched a cable across the road at an angle. The speeding ground-cars spun around the curve, slid along the cable and went over the edge. The boys then came out, rolled up the cable, and went home for breakfast. By the time this was discovered, the situation was so uneasy no one thought of asking any more than that the boys be spanked and the cable confiscated.

At intervals, by now, large concentrations of humanoid soldiers were observed in open maneuvers; their troops were fully equipped with stitching-guns, cannons run from place to place by their own engines, and traveling forts in numbers sufficient to turn a man pale at the mere mention.

Horsip watched one of the maneuvers through a double telescope in an observation post on his fortified mountain.

"Is that what you had to fight, Moffis?" he asked, his voice awed.

"That's it," said Moffis. "Only more of them."

Horsip watched the procession of forts, guns and troops roll past in the distance.

"Their airplanes," said Moffis, "were worse yet."

"Then how did you ever win?"

"For one thing," said Moffis, "they weren't expecting it. For another, they wasted energy fighting each other. And our troops were in good order then. They were used to victory, and they were convinced they were superior. Then, too, we used the Fleet to cut the natives' communications lines."

Horsip looked through the telescopes for a while, then straightened up decisively.

"Well, Moffis," he said, "we're in a mess. We're like a man in an ice-block house when the spring thaw sets in. We don't dare step down hard anywhere lest the whole thing fall apart. We've got to walk easy, and just hope the cold wind gets here before it's too late. But there is one thing we ought to do."

"What's that?" said Moffis.

"The reserves. They aren't committed anywhere. We've got to hold them in hand. And if we need them, we want them to be a club, not a length of rotten wood. We've got to train them so hard they don't have any time to get flabby."

"Truth," said Moffis. "There are so many leaks to patch, one forgets other things."

* * *

The occupation army got through twenty-four of the thirty days like a ship sinking slowly on a perfectly even keel.

On the twenty-fifth day, however, a procession of native military might passed by Horsip's mountain headquarters in such strength that the ground was felt to tremble steadily for three hours and a half.

On the twenty-sixth day, a native delegation called on Horsip and politely but very firmly pointed out to him that this military occupation was disrupting business, and was causing all manner of trouble to everyone concerned; it should, therefore, end. Horsip was very agreeable.

On the twenty-seventh day, three hundred traveling forts blocked traffic on one of the main highways for more than two hours.

On the twenty-eighth day, a flying bomb came down a mile-and-a-half from headquarters, and left a hole big enough to hide a rocket fleet in. The ground shuddered and quaked with marching feet. That evening, the native delegation called again on Horsip and stated their position in short pithy sentences, and words of few syllables. Horsip pleaded that he was tied up in red tape. The natives suggested the best way to get rid of red tape was to cut it with a knife.

In the early morning of the twenty-ninth day, a flight of Centran airplanes, trying to scout the strength and direction of the native movements, was forced down by humanoid aircraft, that flew at and around them as if they were standing still. Horsip ordered the rest of his airplanes grounded and kept hidden till he gave the word. The observers of the planes forced down straggled in to report massive enemy concentrations flowing along the roads past the small forts and splat-gun nests as if they did not exist. The troops in the forts and nests were apparently afraid to fire for fear of being obliterated.

Horsip received the reports while Moffis carried out a last minute inspection of the fortifications at and around headquarters. Late that morning, a hot meal was given to all the troops.

At noon, a traveling fort of a size suitable to have trees planted on it and take its place among the foothills was seen approaching headquarters. It moved into range, came up close, and swung its huge gun to aim directly at the concrete doorway heading down into the mountain. Horsip ordered his gunners not to fire, his unexpressed reason being that he was afraid it would have no effect. He then bade Moffis a private farewell, walked out the concrete doorway in full regalia, glanced at the huge fort, laughed, and remarked to a white-faced man at a splat-gun that this would be something to tell his children. He carried out a calm, careful inspection of the fortifications, reprimanding one gunner mildly for flecks of dirt in a gun barrel. He glanced confidently up the mountainside where ranks of cannon-snouts centered on the huge fort. The gunners around him followed his gaze. Horsip returned the salute of the officer in charge and went back below.

On the plain before the mountain, hundreds of traveling forts were grinding across-country, clouds of dust rising up behind them.

"We should open fire," said Moffis.

"No," said Horsip. "Remember, we're playing for time."

The traveling forts swerved and began approaching. Behind them, the hills were alive with troops and guns.

Horsip gave orders that a huge orange cloth be unrolled on the far side of the mountain. A landing boat circling far above did a series of dips and rolls and rose rapidly out of sight.

The traveling forts came closer.

The monster fort just outside headquarters debouched one native who came in under guard and demanded Horsip's surrender.

Horsip suggested they hold truce talks.

The native returned to his fort.

The troops in the distance began spreading out and crossing the plain.

The huge fort moved its gun a minute fraction of an inch, there was a blinding flash, a whirl of smoke. The tunnel entrance collapsed. There was a deafening clap and a duller boom. The ground shook. Tons of dirt slid down over the entrance. There was a fractional instant when the only sound was the last of the dirt sliding down. Then the earth leaped underfoot as the guns on the mountain opened up.

The traveling forts roared closer, their firing a bright winking of lights at first, the boom and roar coming later. The troops behind followed at a run.

Horsip ordered the planes up, to ignore the forts and attack the troops.

Humanoid planes swooped over a nearby hill.

* * *

Life settled into a continuous jar that rattled teeth, dulled thought, and undermined the sense of time. Things began to seem unreal and discontinuous.

Reality passed in streaks and fragments as Horsip ordered the movement of cannon by prepared roadways to replace those put out of action. There was a glaring interval where he seemed to live a whole lifetime while reports came in that enemy troops were swarming up the hillside to silence the guns by hand-to-hand fighting. When the attack slowed he sent a body of reserves to drive the attackers back down and away. But more came on.

The enemy planes began a series of dives, unloosing rockets that bled his troops like long knives stabbed into flesh. Moffis ordered the highest guns to fire on the planes and the rest to carry on as they were. Horsip spent a precious second damning himself for not making that arrangement prior to the battle, and then a yell from the enemy sounded as they surged through the doorway Horsip had thought blocked. He sent a few troops with splat-guns to fire down the corridors, then had to turn his attention to a rush up the reverse side of the hill that had captured a number of the lower gun positions there. He sent in a picked body of the Headquarters Guard he had ordered concealed on the side of the hill for that very purpose.

Evening had at last come, and with it a steady rumbling from the near distance, where the sky was lit with a blue and yellow blaze. Centran ships were pounding the gun positions on the opposite ridge, and their screens were flaring almost continuously with the impact of missiles slammed against them.

The fighting had died out around the mountain, and Horsip and Moffis went out with a small guard to inspect the positions personally. The air was pungent and damp. Their ears felt as if they had layers of cloth over them. There was a thin moon, and here and there on the ground pale glimmerings could be seen as wounded men moved. There was an almost continuous low moan in the air. A soldier with his back against a gun feebly raised a hand as Horsip came near. "The Great One bless you, sir," he said. "We threw 'em back."

Horsip went back to his command post after ordering several guns moved and some spike-bar barriers set up. He felt dazed. He lay down on a cot for a few hours sleep, and was wakened in the early morning to be told an important message had arrived.

On the thirtieth day, five million reinforcements landed.

* * *

Horsip spent the day explaining the situation to Drasmon Argit, the Supreme Integrator.

Argit paced the floor, ate meals, lay down on a couch, stretched, pounded out questions, gave orders to hurrying subordinates, and listened, questioned, listened, as Horsip in a desperate urgency to get the situation across, explained and expounded, using charts, maps, diagrams, and photographs. He tried to get across the sensation of struggling uphill through a river of glue, and was gratified to see that Argit seemed to be getting the idea faster than he—Horsip—had.

After the evening meal was eaten and cleared away in the privacy of a small office, Argit got up and said, "All right, I think I see your point. The natives are technologically more advanced than we are. By a freak, they don't have space travel. We beat them for this reason and because we caught them off guard and they attacked each other. There is also the possibility that they are more intelligent than we.

"All these things are possible. In the course of occupying a million worlds—and there must be that many—who could hope we would not find beings more intelligent than we? Yet these intelligent beings had not yet succeeded in integrating their own planet, much less whole star systems, as we have done. On the contrary, they were about ready to blow their own planet apart when we landed. Why was that?

"You know the principle of the nuclear engines. There is a substance Q that flings out little particles. These little particles strike other atoms of Q which fling out more particles. There is also a substance L which absorbs these particles. Success depends on the correct proportioning of Q and L. There must not be too much L or the particles are absorbed before things can get started. There must not be too much Q or the particles build up so fast that suddenly the whole thing flies apart.

"Now, consider these natives. What are they like? An engine with too much Q, is it not? And what are we like? To speak frankly, Horsip, we have a little too much L, don't you think?"

Horsip nodded reluctantly, then said, "I think I see your point all right, but what are the flying particles in this comparison?"

Argit laughed. "Ideas. From what you tell me of these people, they fairly flood each other with ideas. Horsip, you and I and others in our position have had a difficult time. We are like atoms of Q tearing ourselves apart to try and fling enough particles—ideas—through the general mass so the thing won't all grind to a stop. We only half succeeded. At intervals these Mikerils come along and hurl us halfway back into barbarism. We should be able to merely raise the speed of reaction a little and burn them back into outer space. But we haven't been able to. The machine was running as well as it could already—not enough Q. Horsip, this planet is a veritable mine! There are vast quantities of Q here. It is just what we need!"

Horsip scowled. "Getting it out may be another matter."

Argit nodded. "We only arrived just in time. A little longer and it might all have blown up. We have to fix that first."


"Your idea, first. You intended to mix whole populations up, because the language and customs difficulties would cause much confusion and tie them in knots. That is very good. That would act, you see, to slow up the spread of particles—ideas. But we want these people on our side. To that end, we must first help remove their own difficulties—while serving our own purposes, of course. We couldn't stand too many eruptions like this.

"Horsip, with due consideration for their various levels of civilization, we must transfer groups of young people, and various professional groups, from one region of this planet to others. We will not insist that they mix races or customs; but chemicals react best when divided in small lumps, so—who knows—perhaps it will bring an end to some of these enmities.

"Meanwhile, they are bound to pick up our language. And we will pick up such of their technological skills as we can make use of. They need a universal language. We need new discoveries. Both will profit.

"And then we will offer posts of importance, trade agreements, raw materials—"

"How do we know they are going to accept this?" said Horsip, remembering his own eagerness.

"Ha!" said Argit. "You showed me yourself. They are a born race of teachers and talkers. Every time they've been in here, what has it been? —`Let me show you how that should be done.' `No, look, you have to do it this way.' `Put a hole in the guard of that knife and you can slip it over the gun barrel.' " Argit laughed. "I will bet you the hairy arm of the first Mikeril that attacks us after we get this settled that half the trouble with these people is, they can't find anybody to listen to them."

* * *

Argit opened the door. A number of Centran troops were squatting in a circle outside, where a medical aide was bandaging a wounded native. The native was talking eagerly in the Centran tongue that appeared to seem simple to them, compared to their own languages.

"Now," he was saying, "see here. Put a heavy bolt through this place where these bars come together, and you can vary the focus from here, with one simple motion. See? What's the advantage of having to swing each of these barrels around one at a time? It takes too long. You waste effort. But from here, you just loosen the nut, swing the barrels close, tighten it with the wrench, and you're all set. It'd be easier to carry, too."

The circle of Centrans looked at the native, looked at each other, and all nodded.

"Truth," said one of them somberly.

Argit closed the door.

"You see?" said Argit. "They're born Q material."

Horsip sadly shook his head. "It seems so. But what are our men? Damper rods."

The sound of tramping feet sounded outside in the corridor as the leading elements of more reinforcements marched past.

"That's all right," said Argit. "We need Q material."

The tramping rose to a heavy rumble. Horsip felt reassured and Argit nodded approvingly.

"And more than anything else I can think of," said Argit, speaking over the noise, "these people need damping rods.

"You have to have both."


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