BORN  OF  MAN  and  woman,  in accordance with Catform Y7 requirements,
Coldworld Class (modified per Alyonal), 3.2-E, G.M.I. option, Jarry Dark was
not suited for existence anywhere in the universe which had guaranteed him a
niche. This was either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you looked at
it.
     So look at it however you would, here is the story:

It is likely that his parents could have afforded the temperature
control unit, but not much more than that.  (Jarry required a
temperature of at least -50 C. to be comfortable.)
     It is unlikely that  his  parents  could  have  provided  for  the  air
pressure control and gas mixture equipment required to maintain his life.
     Nothing  could  be  done  in the way of 3.2-E grav-simulation, so daily
medication and physiotherapy were required. It is unlikely that his  parents
could have provided for this.
     The much-maligned option took care of him, however. It safe-guarded his
health.  It  provided for his education. It assured his economic welfare and
physical well-being.
     It might be argued that Jarry Dark  would  not  have  been  a  homeless
Coldworld Catform (modified per Alyonal) had it not been for General Mining,
Incorporated,  which  had held the option. But then it must be borne in mind
that no one could have foreseen the nova which destroyed Alyonal.
     When his parents had presented themselves at the Public Health  Planned
Parenthood  Center  and  requested  advice and medication pending offspring,
they had  been  informed  as  to  the  available  worlds  and  the  bodyform
requirements  for  them.  They had selected Alyonal, which had recently been
purchased by General Mining for purposes of  mineral  exploitation.  Wisely,
they  had  elected the option; that is to say, they had signed a contract on
behalf of their anticipated offspring, who would be eminently  qualified  to
inhabit  that  world,  agreeing that he would work as an employee of General
Mining until he achieved his majority, at which time he  would  be  free  to
depart  and  seek  employment  wherever  he might choose (though his choices
would admittedly be limited). In return for this guarantee,  General  Mining
agreed to assure his health, education and continuing welfare for so long as
he remained in their employ.
     When  Alyonal  caught  fire  and  went  away,  those Coldworld Catforms
covered by the option who were scattered about the crowded galaxy  were,  by
virtue of the agreement, wards of General Mining.
     This  is  why  Jarry  grew  up in a hermetically sealed room containing
temperature and atmosphere controls,  and  why  he  received  a  first-class
closed circuit education, along with his physiotherapy and medicine. This is
also  why Jarry bore some resemblance to a large gray ocelot without a tail,
had webbing between his fingers and  could  not  go  outside  to  watch  the
traffic  unless  he  wore  a  pressurized  refrigeration suit and took extra
medication.
     All over the swarming galaxy, people took the advice of  Public  Health
Planned  Parenthood  Centers,  and  many  others  had  chosen as had Jarry's
parents. Twenty-eight thousand, five hundred sixty-six of them, to be exact.
In any group of over twenty-eight thousand five  hundred  sixty,  there  are
bound  to  be  a  few  talented individuals. Jarry was one of them. He had a
knack for making money.  Most  of  his  General  Mining  pension  check  was
invested  in  well-chosen  stocks of a speculative nature. (In fact, after a
time he came to own considerable stock in General Mining.)
     When the man from the Galactic Civil Liberties Union had  come  around,
expressing  concern  over the pre-birth contracts involved in the option and
explaining that the Alyonal Catforms would make a good test case (especially
since Jarry's parents lived within jurisdiction of the 877th Circuit,  where
they  would  be assured favorable courtroom atmosphere), Jarry's parents had
demurred, for fear of jeopardizing the General  Mining  pension.  Later  on,
Jarry himself dismissed the notion also. A favorable decision could not make
him  an  E-world  Normform,  and  what else mattered? He was not vindictive.
Also, he owned considerable stock in G.M. by then.
     He loafed in his methane tank and  purred,  which  meant  that  he  was
thinking.  He  operated  his  cryo-computer as he purred and thought. He was
computing the total net worth of all the Catforms in the recently  organized
December Club.
     He  stopped  purring  and  considered a sub-total, stretched, shook his
head slowly. Then he returned to his calculations.
     When he had finished, he dictated a message into  his  speech-tube,  to
Sanza Barati, President of December and his betrothed:
     "Dearest Sanza--the funds available, as I have suspected, leave much to
be desired.  All  the  more  reason  to begin immediately. Kindly submit the
proposal to the business  committee,  outline  my  qualifications  and  seek
immediate  endorsement.  I've finished drafting the general statement to the
membership. (Copy attached.) From these figures, it  will  take  me  between
five  and  ten years, if at least eighty percent of the membership backs me.
So push hard, beloved. I'd like to meet you someday, in a  place  where  the
sky  is  purple.  Yours, always, Jarry Dark, Treasurer. P.S. I'm pleased you
were pleased with the ring."
     Two  years  later,  Jarry  had  doubled  the  net  worth  of  December,
Incorporated.
     A year and a half after that, he had doubled it again.
     When  he  received  the  following letter from Sanza, he leapt onto his
trampoline, bounded into the air, landed upon his feet at the  opposite  end
of his quarters, returned to his viewer and replayed it:

     Dear Jarry,
     Attached are specifications and prices for five more
     worlds. The research staff likes the last one. So do I.
     What do you think? Alyonal II? If so, how about the price?
     When could we afford that much? The staff also says that an
     hundred Worldchange units could alter it to what we want in
     5-6 centuries. Will forward costs of this machinery shortly.
     Come live with me and be my love, in a place where there
     are no walls....
     Sanza

     "One  year,"  he  replied, "and I'll buy you a world! Hurry up with the
costs of the machinery and transport...." When  the  figures  arrived  Jarry
wept icy tears. One hundred machines, capable of altering the environment of
a  world,  plus twenty-eight thousand coldsleep bunkers, plus transportation
costs for the machinery and his people, plus...Too  high!  He  did  a  rapid
calculation.
     He spoke into the speech-tube:
     "...Fifteen  additional  years is too long to wait, Pussycat. Have them
figure the time-span if we were to purchase only twenty  Worldchange  units.
Love and kisses, Jarry."
     During  the days which followed, he stalked above his chamber, erect at
first, then on all fours as his mood deepened.
     "Approximately three thousand years," came the reply. "May your coat be
ever shiny--Sanza."
     "Let's put it to a vote, Greeneyes," he said.

     Quick, a world in 300 words or less! Picture this...
     One land mass, really, containing  three  black  and  brackish  looking
seas; gray plains and yellow plains and skies the color of dry sand; shallow
forests  with  trees  like mushrooms which have been swabbed with iodine; no
mountains, just hills brown, yellow, white, lavender; green birds with wings
like parachutes, bills like sickles, feathers like oak leaves, an inside-out
umbrella behind; six very distant moons,  like  spots  before  the  eyes  in
daytime; grass like mustard in the moister valleys; mists like white fire on
windless  mornings,  albino serpents when the air's astir; radiating chasms,
like fractures in frosted windowpanes; hidden caverns, like chains  of  dark
bubbles; seventeen known dangerous predators, ranging from one to six meters
in  length,  excessively  furred  and fanged; sudden hailstorms, like hurled
hammerheads from a clear  sky;  an  icecap  like  a  blue  beret  at  either
flattened  pole;  nervous  bipeds  a  meter  and  a half in height, short on
cerebrum,  which  wander  the  shallow  forests  and  prey  upon  the  giant
caterpillar's  larva,  as well as the giant caterpillar, the green bird, the
blind burrower, and the offal-eating  murkbeast;  seventeen  mighty  rivers;
clouds  like  pregnant  purple  cows, which quickly cross the land to lie-in
beyond the visible east; stands of windblasted  stones  like  frozen  music;
nights  like  soot, to obscure the lesser stars; valleys which flow like the
torsos of women or instruments  of  music;  perpetual  frost  in  places  of
shadow;  sounds  in  the  morning like the cracking of ice, the trembling of
tin, the snapping of steel strands...
     They knew they would turn it to heaven.

     The vanguard arrived, decked out in refrigeration suits, installed  ten
Worldchange  units in either hemisphere, began setting up cold-sleep bunkers
in several of the larger caverns.
     Then came the members of December down from the sand-colored sky.
     They came and they saw, decided it  was  almost  heaven,  then  entered
their  caverns  and  slept.  Over  twenty-eight  thousand Coldworld Catforms
(modified per Alyonal) came into their own world to sleep for  a  season  in
silence  the sleep of ice and of stone, to inherit the new Alyonal. There is
no dreaming in that sleep. But had there been, their dreams might have  been
as the thoughts of those yet awake.
     "It is bitter, Sanza."
     "Yes, but only for a time--"
     "...To  have  each  other and our own world, and still to go forth like
divers at the bottom of the sea. To have to crawl when you want to leap..."
     "It is only for a short time, Jarry, as the sense will reckon it."
     "But it is really three thousand years! An ice age will come to pass as
we doze. Our former worlds will change so that we would not know  them  were
we to go back for a visit--and none will remember us."
     "Visit what? Our former cells? Let the rest of the worlds go by! Let us
be forgotten  in  the  lands of our birth! We are a people apart and we have
found our home. What else matters?"
     "True...It will be but a few years, and we shall  stand  our  tours  of
wakefulness and watching together."
     "When is the first?"
     "Two and a half centuries from now--three months of wakefulness."
     "What will it be like then?"
     "I don't know. Less warm..."
     "Then let us return and sleep. Tomorrow will be a better day."
     "Yes."
     "Oh! See the green bird! It drifts like a dream..."

When they awakened that first time, they stayed within the Worldchange
installation at the place called Deadland.  The world was already
colder and the edges of the sky were tinted with pink.  The metal
walls of the great installation were black and rimed with frost.  The
atmosphere was still lethal and the temperature far too high.  They
remained within their special chambers for most of the time, venturing
outside mainly to make necessary tests and to inspect the structure of
their home.
     Deadland...Rocks and sand. No trees, no marks of life at all.
     The time of terrible winds was still upon the land, as the world fought
back against  the  fields  of  the  machines. At night, great clouds of real
estate smoothed and sculpted  the  stands  of  stone,  and  when  the  winds
departed  the  desert would shimmer as if fresh-painted and the stones would
stand like flames within the morning and its singing. After the sun came  up
into  the  sky  and hung there for a time, the winds would begin again and a
dun-colored fog would curtain the day.  When  the  morning  winds  departed,
Jarry  and Sanza would stare out across the Deadland through the east window
of the installation, for that was  their  favorite--the  one  on  the  third
floor--where the stone that looked like a gnarly Normform waved to them, and
they  would lie upon the green couch they had moved up from the first floor,
and would sometimes make love as they listened for the winds to rise  again,
or  Sanza  would  sing and Jarry would write in the log or read back through
it, the scribblings of friends and unknowns through the centuries, and  they
would purr often but never laugh, because they did not know how.
     One  morning,  as  they watched, they saw one of the biped creatures of
the iodine forests moving across the land. It  fell  several  times,  picked
itself up, fell once more, lay still.
     "What is it doing this far from its home?" asked Sanza.
     "Dying," said Jarry. "Let's go outside."
     They  crossed  a  catwalk,  descended  to the first floor, donned their
protective suits and departed the installation.
     The creature had risen to its feet and was staggering  once  again.  It
was covered with a reddish down, had dark eyes and a long, wide nose, lacked
a true forehead. It had four brief digits, clawed, upon each hand and foot.
     When  it  saw  them  emerge  from  the Worldchange unit, it stopped and
stared at them. Then it fell.
     They moved to its side and studied it where it lay.
     It continued to stare at them, its dark eyes  wide,  as  it  lay  there
shivering.
     "It will die if we leave it here," said Sanza.
     "...And it will die if we take it inside," said Jarry.
     It raised a forelimb toward them, let it fall again. Its eyes narrowed,
then closed.
     Jarry reached out and touched it with the toe of his boot. There was no
response.
     "It's dead," he said.
     "What will we do?"
     "Leave it here. The sands will cover it."
     They  returned  to the installation, and Jarry entered the event in the
log.
     During their last month of duty, Sanza asked him, "Will everything  die
here  but  us? The green birds and the big eaters of flesh? The funny little
trees and the hairy caterpillar?"
     "I  hope  not,"  said  Jarry.  "I've  been  reading  back  through  the
biologists'  notes. I think life might adapt. Once it gets a start anywhere,
it'll do anything it can  to  keep  going.  It's  probably  better  for  the
creatures  of this planet we could afford only twenty Worldchangers That way
they have three millennia to grow more hair and learn to breathe our air and
drink our water. With a hundred units we might have wiped them out  and  had
to  import  coldworld  creatures  or breed them. This way, the ones who live
here might be able to make it."
     "It's funny," she said, "but the thought just occurred to me that we're
doing here what was done to us. They made us for Alyonal, and a nova took it
away. These creatures came to life in this place, and we're taking it  away.
We're  turning  all  of  life on this planet into what we were on our former
worlds--misfits."
     "The difference, however, is that we are taking our time," said  Jarry,
"and giving them a chance to get used to the new conditions."
     "Still,  I  feel that all that--outside there"--she gestured toward the
window--"is what this world is becoming: one big Deadland."
     "Deadland was here before we came. We haven't created any new deserts."
     "All the animals are moving south. The trees are dying. When  they  get
as  far  south  as  they can go and still the temperature drops, and the air
continues to harm their lungs--then it will be all over for them."
     "By then  they  might  have  adapted.  The  trees  are  spreading,  are
developing thicker barks. Life will make it."
     "I wonder...."
     "Would you prefer to sleep until it's all over?"
     "No; I want to be by your side, always."
     "Then  you must reconcile yourself to the fact that something is always
hurt by any change. If you do this, you will not be hurt yourself."
     Then they listened for the winds to rise.
     Three days later, in the still of sundown, between the winds of day and
the winds of night, she called him to the window. He climbed  to  the  third
floor  and moved to her side. Her breasts were rose in the sundown light and
the places beneath them silver and  dark.  The  fur  of  her  shoulders  and
haunches  was  like  an  aura  of smoke. Her face was expressionless and her
wide, green eyes were not turned toward him.
     He looked out.
     The first big flakes were falling, blue, through the pink  light.  They
drifted  past  the stone and gnarly Normform; some stuck in the thick quartz
windowpane; they fell upon  the  desert  and  lay  there  like  blossoms  of
cyanide; they swirled as more of them came down and were caught by the first
faint  puffs  of  the  terrible winds. Dark clouds had mustered overhead and
from them, now, great cables and nets of  blue  descended.  Now  the  flakes
flashed  past  the  window  like  butterflies,  and  the outline of Deadland
flickered on and off. The pink vanished and there was only  blue,  blue  and
darkening  blue, as the first great sigh of evening came into their ears and
the billows suddenly moved sidewise rather than downwards,  becoming  indigo
as they raced by.

     "The  machine  is  never silent," Jarry wrote. "Sometimes I fancy I can
hear voices in its constant humming, its occasional growling,  its  crackles
of  power.  I  am  alone  here  at the Deadland station. Five centuries have
passed since our arrival. I thought it better to let Sanza  sleep  out  this
tour of duty, lest the prospect be too bleak. (It is.) She will doubtless be
angry.  As  I  lay  half-awake  this  morning, I thought I heard my parents'
voices in the next room. No words. Just the sounds of their voices as I used
to hear them over my old intercom. They must be dead  by  now,  despite  all
geriatrics.  I  wonder  if  they thought of me much after I left? I couldn't
even shake my father's hand without the gauntlet, or kiss my mother goodbye.
It is strange, the feeling, to be this alone, with only  the  throb  of  the
machinery  about  me  as  it  rearranges  the  molecules  of the atmosphere,
refrigerates the world, here in the middle  of  the  blue  place.  Deadland.
This,  despite  the  fact  that  I grew up in a steel cave. I call the other
nineteen stations every afternoon. I am afraid I am becoming something of  a
nuisance. I won't call them tomorrow, or perhaps the next day.
     "I went outside without my refrig-pack this morning, for a few moments.
It is  still  deadly  hot. I gulped a mouthful of air and choked. Our day is
still far off. But I can notice the difference from the last  time  I  tried
it,  two and a half hundred years ago. I wonder what it will be like when we
have finished? --And I, an economist! What will my function be  in  our  new
Alyonal? Whatever, so long as Sanza is happy....
     "The  Worldchanger stutters and groans. All the land is blue for so far
as I can see. The stones still stand, but their shapes are changed from what
they were. The sky is entirely pink now, and it becomes almost maroon in the
morning and the evening. I guess it's really a wine-color,  but  I've  never
seen  wine,  so  I  can't  say for certain. The trees have not died. They've
grown hardier. Their barks are thicker, their leaves darker and larger. They
grow much taller now, I've been told. There are no trees in Deadland.
     "The caterpillars still live. They seem much larger, I understand,  but
it  is  actually  because they have become woollier than they used to be. It
seems that  most  of  the  animals  have  heavier  pelts  these  days.  Some
apparently  have  taken  to  hibernating.  A  strange  thing:  Station Seven
reported that they had thought the bipeds were growing heavier coats.  There
seem  to be quite a few of them in that area, and they often see them off in
the distance. They looked  to  be  shaggier.  Closer  observation,  however,
revealed that some of them were either carrying or were wrapped in the skins
of  dead  animals!  Could  it be that they are more intelligent than we have
given them credit for? This hardly seems possible, since  they  were  tested
quite  thoroughly  by  the Bio Team before we set the machines in operation.
Yes, it is very strange.
     "The winds are still severe. Occasionally, they  darken  the  sky  with
ash.  There  has been considerable vulcanism southwest of here. Station Four
was relocated because of this. I hear Sanza singing now, within  the  sounds
of  the  machine. I will let her be awakened the next time. Things should be
more settled by then. No, that is not true. It is selfishness.  I  want  her
here  beside  me.  I  feel  as  if I were the only living thing in the whole
world. The voices on the radio are ghosts. The clock ticks  loudly  and  the
silences between the ticks are filled with the humming of the machine, which
is  a  kind of silence, too, because it is constant. Sometimes I think it is
not there; I listen for it, I strain my ears, and  I  do  not  know  whether
there  is  a humming or not. I check the indicators then, and they assure me
that the machine is functioning. Or perhaps there is  something  wrong  with
the indicators. But they seem to be all right. No. It is me. And the blue of
Deadland  is  a  kind  of  visual silence. In the morning even the rocks are
covered with blue frost. Is it beautiful  or  ugly?  There  is  no  response
within  me.  It  is a part of the great silence, that's all. Perhaps I shall
become a mystic. Perhaps I shall develop occult powers or achieve  something
bright  and  liberating  as  I  sit here at the center of the great silence.
Perhaps I shall see visions. Already I hear  voices.  Are  there  ghosts  in
Deadland?  No,  there  was never anything here to be ghosted. Except perhaps
for the little biped. Why did it cross Deadland, I wonder? Why did  it  head
for  the center of destruction rather than away, as its fellows did? I shall
never know. Unless perhaps I have a vision. I think it is time  to  suit  up
and  take  a  walk. The polar icecaps are heavier. The glaciation has begun.
Soon, soon things will be better. Soon the  silence  will  end,  I  hope.  I
wonder,  though,  whether  silence  is  not the true state of affairs in the
universe, our little noises serving only to accentuate it, like a  speck  of
black  on  a  field  of  blue.  Everything  was  once silence and will be so
again--is now, perhaps. Will I ever hear real sounds, or only sounds out  of
the silence? Sanza is singing again. I wish I could wake her up now, to walk
with me, out there. It is beginning to snow."

     Jarry awakened again on the eve of the millennium.
     Sanza  smiled  and took his hand in hers and stoked it, as he explained
why he had let her sleep, as he apologized.
     "Of course I'm not angry," she said, "considering I did the same  thing
to you last cycle."
     Jarry stared up at her and felt the understanding begin.
     "I'll  not  do  it  again,"  she  said,  "and  I know you couldn't. The
aloneness is almost unbearable."
     "Yes," he replied.
     "They warmed us both alive last time. I came around first and told them
to put you back to sleep. I was angry then, when I found out  what  you  had
done. But I got over it quickly, so often did I wish you were there."
     "We will stay together," said Jarry.
     "Yes, always."
     They  took  a  flier  from  the  cavern  of  sleep  to  the Worldchange
installation at Deadland, where they relieved the other attendants and moved
the new couch up to the third floor.
     The air of Deadland, while sultry, could  now  be  breathed  for  short
periods of time, though a headache invariably followed such experiments. The
heat  was  still oppressive. The rock, once like an old Normform waving, had
lost its distinctive outline. The winds were no longer so severe.
     On the fourth day, they found some animal tracks which seemed to belong
to one of the larger predators.  This  cheered  Sanza,  but  another,  later
occurrence produced only puzzlement.
     One morning they went forth to walk in Deadland.
     Less  than  a hundred paces from the installation, they came upon three
of the giant caterpillars, dead. They were stiff, as though dried out rather
than frozen, and they were surrounded by rows of markings within  the  snow.
The  footprints  which  led  to  the  scene  and  away from it were rough of
outline, obscure.
     "What does it mean?" she asked.
     "I don't know, but I think we had better photograph this," said Jarry.
     They did. When Jarry spoke to Station Eleven that afternoon, he learned
that similar occurrences had occasionally been noted by attendants of  other
installations. These were not too frequent, however.
     "I don't understand," said Sanza.
     "I don't want to," said Jarry.
     It  did  not  happen  again during their tour of duty. Jarry entered it
into the  log  and  wrote  a  report.  Then  they  abandoned  themselves  to
lovemaking,  monitoring, and occasionally nights of drunkenness. Two hundred
years previously, a biochemist had devoted his tour of duty to experimenting
with compounds which would produce the same reactions  in  Catforms  as  the
legendary  whiskey  did in Normforms. He had been successful, had spent four
weeks on a colossal binge, neglected his duty and been relieved of  it,  was
then  retired  to  his  coldbunk  for the balance of the Wait. His basically
simple formula  had  circulated,  however,  and  Jarry  and  Sanza  found  a
well-stocked  bar  in the storeroom and a hand-written manual explaining its
use and a variety of drinks which might be compounded.  The  author  of  the
document had expressed the hope that each tour of attendance might result in
the  discovery of a new mixture, so that when he returned for his next cycle
the manual would have grown to a size proportionate to his desire. Jarry and
Sanza worked at  it  conscientiously,  and  satisfied  the  request  with  a
Snowflower Punch which warmed their bellies and made their purring turn into
giggles,  so  that  they  discovered  laughter  also.  They  celebrated  the
millennium with an entire bowl of it, and Sanza insisted on calling all  the
other  installations  and  giving  them  the  formula,  right  then,  on the
graveyard watch, so that everyone could share in  their  joy.  It  is  quite
possible  that  everyone  did, for the recipe was well-received. And always,
even after that bowl was but a memory, they kept the laughter. Thus are  the
first simple lines of tradition sometimes sketched.

     "The green birds are dying," said Sanza, putting aside a report she had
been reading.
     "Oh?" said Jarry.
     "Apparently  they've  done  all the adapting they're able to," she told
him.
     "Pity," said Jarry.
     "It seems less than a  year  since  we  came  here.  Actually,  it's  a
thousand."
     "Time flies," said Jarry.
     "I'm afraid," she said.
     "Of what?"
     "I don't know. Just afraid."
     "Why?"
     "Living  the  way  we've been living, I guess. Leaving little pieces of
ourselves in different centuries. Just a few months ago, as my memory works,
this place was a desert. Now it's an  ice  field.  Chasms  open  and  close.
Canyons  appear  and  disappear.  Rivers  dry  up and new ones spring forth.
Everything seems so very transitory. Things  look  solid,  but  I'm  getting
afraid  to touch things now. They might go away. They might turn into smoke,
and   my   hand   will   keep   on   reaching   through   the   smoke    and
touch--something...God,  maybe. Or worse yet, maybe not. No one really knows
what it will be like here when we've finished.  We're  traveling  toward  an
unknown  land  and  it's  too late to go back. We're moving through a dream,
heading toward an idea...Sometimes I  miss  my  cell...and  all  the  little
machines that took care of me there. Maybe _I_ can't adapt. Maybe I'm
like the green bird..."
     "No,  Sanza.  You're not. We're real. No matter what happens out there,
_we_ will last. Everything is changing because we want it to  change.
We're  stronger  than  the world, and we'll squeeze it and paint it and poke
holes in it until we've made it exactly the way we want it. Then we'll  take
it  and  cover  it with cities and children. You want to see God? Go look in
the mirror. God has pointed ears and green eyes. He  is  covered  with  soft
gray fur. When He raises His hand there is webbing between His fingers."
     "It is good that you are strong, Jarry."
     "Let's get out the power sled and go for a ride."
     "All right."
     Up  and  down,  that  day,  they drove through Deadland, where the dark
stones stood like clouds in another sky.

     It was twelve and a half hundred years.
     Now they could breathe without respirators, for a short time.
     Now they could bear the temperature, for a short time.
     Now all the green birds were dead.
     Now a strange and troubling thing began.
     The bipeds came by night, made markings on the snow, left dead  animals
in the midst of them. This happened now with much more frequency than it had
in  the past. They came long distances to do it, many of them with fur which
was not their own upon their shoulders.
     Jarry searched through the history files for all  the  reports  on  the
creatures.
     "This one speaks of lights in the forest," he said. "Station Seven."
     "What...?"
     "Fire," he said. "What if they've discovered fire?"
     "Then they're not really beasts!"
     "But they were!"
     "They  wear  clothing  now.  They  make  some  sort of sacrifice to our
machines. They're not beasts any longer."
     "How could it have happened?"
     "How do you think? _We_ did it. Perhaps they would have remained
stupid--animals--if we had not come along and forced them to  get  smart  in
order  to go on living. We've accelerated their evolution. They had to adapt
or die, and they adapted."
     "D'you think it would have happened if we hadn't come along?" he asked.
     "Maybe--some day. Maybe not, too."
     Jarry moved to the window, stared out across Deadland.
     "I have to find out," he  said.  "If  they  are  intelligent,  if  they
are--human,  like  us,"  he said, then laughed, "then we must consider their
ways."
     "What do you propose?"
     "Locate some of the creatures. See  whether  we  can  communicate  with
them."
     "Hasn't it been tried?"
     "Yes."
     "What were the results?"
     "Mixed.  Some  claim they have considerable understanding. Others place
them far below the threshold where humanity begins."
     "We may be doing a terrible  thing,"  she  said.  "Creating  men,  then
destroying  them. Once, when I was feeling low, you told me that we were the
gods of this world, that ours was the power to  shape  and  to  break.  Ours
_is_  the  power  to  shape  and  break,  but I don't feel especially
divine. What can we do? They have come this far, but do you think  they  can
bear the change that will take us the rest of the way? What if they are like
the  green birds? What if they've adapted as fast and as far as they can and
it is not sufficient? What would a god do?"
     "Whatever he wished," said Jarry.
     That day, they cruised over Deadland in the flier, but the  only  signs
of  life they saw were each other. They continued to search in the days that
followed, but they did not meet with success.
     Under the purple of morning, however, two weeks later, it happened.
     "They've been here," said Sanza.
     Jarry moved to the front of the installation and stared out.
     The snow was broken in several places, inscribed with the lines he  had
seen before, about the form of a small, dead beast.
     "They can't have gone very far," he said.
     "No."
     "We'll search in the sled."
     Now over the snow and out, across the land called Dead they went, Sanza
driving and Jarry peering at the lines of footmarks in the blue.
     They cruised through the occurring morning, hinting of fire and violet,
and the  wind  went  past  them  like a river, and all about them there came
sounds like the cracking of ice, the trembling of tin, the snapping of steel
strands. The bluefrosted stones stood like frozen music, and the long shadow
of their sled, black as ink, raced on ahead of them. A shower of  hailstones
drumming  upon  the  roof of their vehicle like a sudden visitation of demon
dancers, as suddenly was gone. Deadland sloped downward, slanted up again.
     Jarry placed his hand upon Sanza's shoulder.
     "Ahead!"
     She nodded, began to brake the sled.
     They had it at bay.
     They were using clubs and long poles which looked to have fire-hardened
points. They threw stones. They threw pieces of ice.
     Then they backed away and it killed them as they went.
     The Catforms had called it a bear because it was  big  and  shaggy  and
could rise up onto its hind legs...
     This  one was about three and a half meters in length, was covered with
bluish fur and had a thin, hairless snout like the business end of a pair of
pliers.
     Five of the little creatures lay still in the snow. Each time  that  it
swung a paw and connected, another one fell.
     Jarry removed the pistol from its compartment and checked the charge.
     "Cruise by slowly," he told her. "I'm going to try to burn it about the
head."
     His  first  shot  missed,  scoring  the boulder at its back. His second
singed the fur of its neck. He leapt down from the sled then, as  they  came
abreast of the beast, thumbed the power control up to maximum, and fired the
entire charge into its breast, point-blank.
     The  bear  stiffened,  swayed,  fell,  a gaping wound upon it, front to
back.
     Jarry turned and regarded the little creatures. They stared up at him.
     "Hello," he said. "My name is Jarry. I dub thee Redforms--"
     He was knocked from his feet by a blow from behind.
     He rolled across the snow, lights dancing before his eyes, his left arm
and shoulder afire with pain.
     A second bear had emerged from the forest of stone.
     He drew his long hunting knife with his right hand and climbed back  to
his feet.
     As  the  creature  lunged,  he  moved  with  the  catspeed of his kind,
thrusting upward, burying his knife to the hilt in its throat.
     A shudder ran through it, but if cuffed him and he fell once again, the
blade torn from his grasp.
     The Redforms threw more stones, rushed toward  it  with  their  pointed
sticks.
     Then  there  was  a thud and a crunching sound, and it rose up into the
air and came down on top of him.
     He awakened.
     He lay on his back, hurting, and everything he looked at seemed  to  be
pulsing, as if about to explode.
     How much time had passed, he did not know.
     Either he or the bear had been moved.
     The little creatures crouched, waiting.
     Some watched the bear. Some watched him.
     Some watched the broken sled...
     The broken sled...
     He struggled to his feet.
     The Redforms drew back.
     He crossed to the sled and looked inside.
     He  knew she was dead when he saw the angle of her neck. But he did all
the things a person does to be sure, anyway, before  he  would  let  himself
believe it.
     She  had  delivered the deathblow, crashing the sled into the creature,
breaking its back. It had broken the sled. Herself, also.
     He leaned against the wreckage, composed his first prayer, then removed
her body.
     The Redforms watched.
     He  lifted  her  in  his  arms  and  began  walking,  back  toward  the
installation, across Deadland.
     The Redforms continued to watch as he went, except for the one with the
strangely high brow-ridge, who studied instead the knife that protruded from
the shaggy and steaming throat of the beast.

     Jarry asked the awakened executives of December: "What should we do?"
     "She  is  the  first  of our race to die on this world," said Yan Turl,
Vice President.
     "There  is  no  tradition,"  said  Selda  Kein,  Secretary.  "Shall  we
establish one?"
     "I don't know," said Jarry. "I don't know what is right to do."
     "Burial  or  cremation  seem  to  be  the main choices. Which would you
prefer?"
     "I don't--No, not the ground. Give her back to  me.  Give  me  a  large
flier...I'll burn her."
     "Then let us construct a chapel."
     "No. It is a thing I must do in my own way. I'd rather do it alone."
     "As you wish. Draw what equipment you will need, and be about it."
     "Please  send someone else to keep the Deadland installation. I wish to
sleep again when I have finished this thing--until the next cycle."
     "Very well, Jarry. We are sorry."
     "Yes--we are."
     Jarry nodded, gestured, turned, departed.
     Thus are the heavier lines of life sometimes drawn.

     At the southeastern edge of Deadland there  was  a  blue  mountain.  It
stood to slightly over three thousand meters in height. When approached from
the  northwest,  it  gave the appearance of being a frozen wave in a sea too
vast to imagine. Purple clouds rent themselves  upon  its  peak.  No  living
thing  was  to be found on its slopes. It had no name, save that which Jarry
Dark gave it.
     He anchored the flier.
     He carried her body to the highest point  to  which  a  body  might  be
carried.
     He  placed  her  there,  dressed  in  her finest garments, a wide scarf
concealing the angle of her neck, a dark veil covering her emptied features.
     He was about to try a prayer when the hail began to fall.  Like  thrown
rocks, the chunks of blue ice came down upon him, upon her.
     "God damn you!" he cried and he raced back to the flier.
     He climbed into the air, circled.
     Her  garments  were  flapping  in the wind. The hail was a blue, beaded
curtain that separated them from all but these final  caresses:  fire  aflow
from ice to ice, from clay aflow immortally through guns.
     He  squeezed  the trigger and a doorway into the sun opened in the side
of the mountain that had been nameless.  She  vanished  within  it,  and  he
widened the doorway until he had lowered the mountain.
     Then  he  climbed  upward into the cloud, attacking the storm until his
guns were empty.
     He circled then above the molten mesa, there at the  southeastern  edge
of Deadland.
     He circled above the first pyre this world had seen.
     Then he departed, to sleep for a season in silence the sleep of ice and
stone, to inherit the Alyonal. There is no dreaming in that sleep.

     Fifteen   centuries.  Almost  half  the  Wait.  Two  hundred  words  or
less....Picture--
     ...Nineteen mighty rivers flowing, but the black seas  rippling  violet
now.
     ...No  shallow  iodine-colored forests. Mighty shag-barked barrel trees
instead, orange and lime and black and tall across the land.
     ...Great ranges of mountains in  the  place  of  hills  brown,  yellow,
white, lavender. Black corkscrews of smoke unwinding from smoldering cones.
     ...Flowers,  whose  roots  explore the soil twenty meters beneath their
mustard petals, unfolded amidst the blue frost and the stones.
     ...Blind  burrowers  burrowing  deeper;  offal-eating  murk-beasts  now
showing   formidable  incisors  and  great  rows  of  ridged  molars;  giant
caterpillars growing smaller but looking larger because of increasing coats.
     ...The contours of valleys still like the torsos of women, flowing  and
rolling, or perhaps like instruments of music.
     ...Gone much windblasted stone, but ever the frost.
     ...Sounds in the morning as always, harsh, brittle, metallic.
     They were sure that they were halfway to heaven.
     Picture that.

The Deadland log told him as much as he really needed to know.  But he read
back through the old reports, too.
     Then he mixed himself a drink and stared out the third floor window.
     "...Will die," he said, then finished his drink, outfitted himself, and
abandoned his post.
     It was three days before he found a camp.
     He landed the flier at a distance and approached on foot. He was far to
the south  of  Deadland,  where  the  air  was warmer and caused him to feel
constantly short of breath.
     They were wearing animal skins--skins which had been cut for  a  better
fit  and  greater  protection,  skins which were tied about them. He counted
sixteen lean-to arrangements and three campfires. He flinched as he regarded
the fires, but he continued to advance.
     When they saw him, all their little noises stopped, a  brief  cry  went
up, and there was silence.
     He entered the camp.
     The  creatures  stood unmoving about him. He heard some bustling within
the large lean-to at the end of the clearing.
     He walked about the camp.
     A slab of dried meat hung from the center of a tripod of poles.
     Several long spears stood before each dwelling place. He  advanced  and
studied  one. A stone which had been flaked into a leaf-shaped spearhead was
affixed to its end.
     There was the outline of a cat carved upon a block of wood...
     He heard a footfall and turned.
     One of the Redforms moved slowly toward him. It appeared older than the
others. Its shoulders sloped; as it opened its mouth to  make  a  series  of
popping  noises,  he  saw  that some of its teeth were missing; its hair was
grizzled and thin. It bore something in its hands, but Jarry's attention was
drawn to the hands themselves.
     Each hand bore an opposing digit.
     He looked about him quickly, studying the hands of the others.  All  of
them seemed to have thumbs. He studied their appearance more closely.
     They now had foreheads.
     He returned his attention to the old Redform.
     It placed something at his feet, and then it backed away from him.
     He looked down.
     A chunk of dried meat and a piece of fruit lay upon a broad leaf.
     He  picked  up  the  meat, closed his eyes, bit off a piece, chewed and
swallowed. He wrapped the rest in the leaf and placed it in the side  pocket
of his pack.
     He extended his hand and the Redform drew back.
     He  lowered  his hand, unrolled the blanket he had carried with him and
spread it upon the ground. He seated himself, pointed to the  Redform,  then
indicated a position across from him at the other end of the blanket.
     The creature hesitated, then advanced and seated itself.
     "We  are going to learn to talk with one another," he said slowly. Then
he placed his hand upon his breast and said, "Jarry."

     Jarry stood before the reawakened executives of December.
     "They are intelligent," he told them. "It's all in my report."
     "So?" asked Yan Turl.
     "I don't think they will be able to adapt. They  have  come  very  far,
very rapidly. But I don't think they can go much further. I don't think they
can make it all the way."
     "Are you a biologist, an ecologist, a chemist?"
     "No."
     "Then on what do you base your opinion?"
     "I observed them at close range for six weeks."
     "Then it's only a feeling you have...?"
     "You  know  there  are  no  experts  on  a  thing like this. It's never
happened before."
     "Granting their intelligence--granting even that  what  you  have  said
concerning  their  adaptability  is correct--what do you suggest we do about
it?"
     "Slow down the change. Give them a better chance. If they can't make it
the rest of the way, then stop short of our goal. It's already livable here.
We can adapt the rest of the way."
     "Slow it down? How much?"
     "Supposing we took another seven or eight thousand years?"
     "Impossible!"
     "Entirely!"
     "Too much!"
     "Why?"
     "Because everyone stands a three-month watch every  two  hundred  fifty
years.  That's  one  year of personal time for every thousand. You're asking
for too much of everyone's time."
     "But the life of an entire race may be at stake!"
     "You do not know that for certain."
     "No, I don't. But do you feel it is something to take a chance with?"
     "Do you want to put it to an executive vote?"
     "No--I can see that I'll lose. I want  to  put  it  before  the  entire
membership."
     "Impossible. They're all asleep."
     "Then wake them up."
     "That would be quite a project."
     "Don't  you  think  the  fate of a race is worth the effort? Especially
since we're the ones who forced intelligence upon them? We're the  ones  who
made them evolve, cursed them with intellect."
     "Enough!  They  were  right  at  the  threshold. They might have become
intelligent had we _not_ come along"
     "But you can't say for certain! You don't really know! And  it  doesn't
really  matter  how it happened. They're here and we're here, and they think
we're gods--maybe because we do nothing for them but make them miserable. We
have some responsibility to an intelligent race, though.  At  least  to  the
extent of not murdering it."
     "Perhaps we could do a long-range study..."
     "They  could  be  dead  by  then.  I  formally  move, in my capacity as
Treasurer, that we awaken the full membership and put the matter to a vote."
     "I don't hear any second to your motion."
     "Selda?" he said.
     She looked away.
     "Tarebell? Clond? Bondici?"
     There was silence in the cavern that was high and wide about him.
     "All right. I can see when I'm beaten. We will be our own serpents when
we come into our Eden. I'm going now, back to Deadland, to finish my tour of
duty."
     "You don't have to. In fact, it might be better if you sleep the  whole
thing out..."
     "No.  If it's going to be this way, the guilt will be mine also. I want
to watch, to share it fully."
     "So be it," said Turl.

     Two weeks later, when Installation Nineteen tried to raise the Deadland
Station on the radio, there was no response.
     After a time, a flier was dispatched.
     The Deadland Station was a shapeless lump of melted metal.
     Jarry Dark was nowhere to be found.
     Later than afternoon, Installation Eight went dead.
     A flier was immediately dispatched.
     Installation Eight no longer existed. Its attendants were found several
miles away, walking. They told how Jarry  Dark  had  forced  them  from  the
station  at  gunpoint.  Then  he  had  burnt  it  to  the  ground,  with the
fire-cannons mounted upon his flier.
     At about the time they were telling this story, Installation Six became
silent.
     The order went out: MAINTAIN CONTINUOUS RADIO CONTACT  WITH  TWO  OTHER
STATIOINS AT ALL TIMES.
     The  other  order  went  out:  GO  ARMED AT ALL TIMES. TAKE ANY VISITOR
PRISONER.

     Jarry waited. At the bottom of a chasm, parked beneath a shelf of rock,
Jarry waited. An opened bottle stood upon the control board  of  his  flier.
Next to it was a small case of white metal.
     Jarry  took  a  long,  last  drink from the bottle as he waited for the
broadcast he knew would come.
     When it did, he stretched out on the seat and took a nap.
     When he awakened, the light of day was waning.
     The broadcast was still going on...
     "...Jarry. They will be awakened and a referendum will  be  held.  Come
back  to  the  main cavern. This is Yan Turl. Please do not destroy any more
installations. This action is not necessary. We  agree  with  your  proposal
that  a vote be held. Please contact us immediately. We are waiting for your
reply, Jarry..."
     He tossed the empty bottle through the window and raised the flier  out
of the purple shadow into the air and up.

When he descended upon the landing stage within the main cavern, of course
they were waiting for him.  A dozen rifles were trained upon him as he
stepped down from the flier.
     "Remove your weapons, Jarry," came the voice of Yan Turl.
     "I'm  not  wearing  any weapons," said Jarry. "Neither is my flier," he
added; and this was true, for the fire-cannons no longer rested within their
mountings.
     Yan Turl approached, looked up at him.
     "Then you may step down."
     "Thank you, but I like it right where I am."
     "You are a prisoner."
     "What do you intend to do with me?"
     "Put you back to sleep until the end of the Wait. Come down here!"
     "No. And don't try shooting--or using a stun charge or gas, either.  If
you do, we're all of us dead the second it hits."
     "What do you mean?" asked Turl, gesturing gently to the riflemen.
     "My  flier,"  said  Jarry,  "is  a bomb, and I'm holding the fuse in my
right hand." He raised the white metal box. "So long as I keep the lever  on
the  side  of  this  box depressed, we live. If my grip relaxes, even for an
instant, the explosion which  ensues  will  doubtless  destroy  this  entire
cavern."
     "I think you're bluffing."
     "You know how you can find out for certain."
     "You'll die too, Jarry."
     "At  the  moment,  I  don't really care. Don't try burning my hand off,
either, to destroy the fuse,"  he  cautioned,  "because  it  doesn't  really
matter.  Even  if  you  should  succeed,  it  will  cost  you  at  least two
installations."
     "Why is that?"
     "What do you think I did with the fire-cannons? I taught  the  Redforms
how  to  use  them.  At the moment, these weapons are manned by Redforms and
aimed at two installations. If I do not personally visit my gunners by dawn,
they will open fire. After destroying their objectives, they  will  move  on
and try for two more."
     "You trusted those beasts with laser projectors?"
     "That  is  correct.  Now,  will  you begin awakening the others for the
voting?"
     Turl crouched, as if to spring at him, appeared to think better of  it,
relaxed.
     "Why  did  you  do it, Jarry?" he asked. "What are they to you that you
would make your own people suffer for them?"
     "Since you do not feel as I feel," said Jarry, "my reasons  would  mean
nothing  to  you. After all, they are only based upon my feelings, which are
different than your own--for mine are based upon sorrow and loneliness.  Try
this  one,  though:  I  am  their god. My form is to be found in their every
camp. I am the Slayer of Bears from the Desert of the Dead. They  have  told
my  story  for two and a half centuries, and I have been changed by it. I am
powerful and wise and good, so far as they are concerned. In this  capacity,
I  owe  them some consideration. If I do not give them their lives, who will
there be to honor me in snow and chant my story around the fires and cut for
me the best portions of the woolly caterpillar? None, Turl. And these things
are all that my life is worth now. Awaken the others. You have no choice."
     "Very well," said Turl. "And if their decision should go against you?"
     "Then I'll retire, and you can be god," said Jarry.

     Now every day when the sun goes down out of the purple sky, Jarry  Dark
watches  it  in its passing, for he shall sleep no more the sleep of ice and
of stone, wherein there is no dreaming. He has elected to live out the  span
of  his  days  in  a  tiny  instant  of the Wait, never to look upon the New
Alyonal of his people. Every morning, at the new Deadland  Installation,  he
is  awakened  by  sounds like the cracking of ice, the trembling of tin, the
snapping of steel strands, before they come to  him  with  their  offerings,
singing  and  making marks upon the snow. They praise him and he smiles upon
them. Sometimes he coughs.
     Born of man and woman, in  accordance  with  Catform  Y7  requirements,
Coldworld  Class,  Jarry  Dark  was not suited for existence anywhere in the
universe which had guaranteed him a niche. This was either a blessing  or  a
curse,  depending  on how you looked at it. So look at it however you would,
that was the story. Thus does life repay those who would serve her fully.


Популярность: 24, Last-modified: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 16:10:14 GMT