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     Drax and Dran sat in the great Throne Hall of  Glan,  discussing  life.
Monarchs  by  virtue  of  superior intellect and physique--and the fact that
they were the last two survivors of the race of Glan--theirs was  a  divided
rule over the planet and their one subject, Zindrome, the palace robot.

     Drax had been musing for the past four centuries (theirs was a sluggish
sort) over the possibility of life on other planets in the galaxy.

     Accordingly,  "Dran,"  said  he, addressing the other (who was becoming
mildly curious as to his thoughts), "Dran, I've been thinking. There may  be
life on other planets in the galaxy."

     Dran  considered  his  response  to  this, as the world wheeled several
times about its sun.

     "True," he finally agreed, "there may."

     After several months Drax shot back, "If there is,  we  ought  to  find
out."

     "Why?"  asked  Dran  with  equal  promptness, which caused the other to
suspect that he, too, had been thinking along these lines.

     So he measured his next statement out cautiously,  first  testing  each
word within the plated retort of his reptilian skull.

     "Our  kingdom  is  rather  underpopulated at present," he observed. "It
would be good to have many subjects once more."

     Dran regarded him askance, then slowly turned his head. He  closed  one
eye  and  half-closed  the  other,  taking full stock of his co-ruler, whose
appearance, as he had suspected, was unchanged since the last  time  he  had
looked.

     "That, also, is true," he noted. "What do you suggest we do?"

     This time Drax turned, reappraising him, eye to eye.

     I  think  we ought to find out if there is life on other planets in the
galaxy."

     "Hmm."

     Two quick rounds of the seasons went unnoticed,  then,  "Let  me  think
about it," he said, and turned away.

     After what he deemed a polite period of time, Drax coughed.

     "Have you thought sufficiently?"

     "No."

     Drax  struggled  to  focus  his  eyes  on the near-subliminal streak of
bluish light which traversed, re-traversed and re-re-traversed the  Hall  as
he waited.

     "Zindrome!" he finally called out.


     The   robot  slowed  his  movements  to  a  statue-like  immobility  to
accommodate his master. A feather duster protruded from his right limb.

     "You called, great Lord of Glan?"

     "Yes,  Zindrome,  worthy  subject.  Those  old  spaceships   which   we
constructed  in happier days, and never got around to using. Are any of them
still capable of operation?"

     "I'll check, great Lord."

     He seemed to change position slightly.

     "There are three hundred eighty-two," he announced, "of which four  are
in  functioning  condition,  great  Lord.  I've  checked  all  the operating
circuits."

     "Drax,"  warned  Dran,  "you  are  arrogating  unauthorized  powers  to
yourself  once  more.  You should have conferred with me before issuing that
order."

     "I apologize," stated the other. "I simply wanted to expedite  matters,
should your decision be that we conduct a survey."

     "You  have  anticipated  my decision correctly," nodded Dran, "but your
eagerness seems to bespeak a hidden purpose."

     "No purpose but the good of the realm," smiled the other.

     "That may be, but the last time you spoke of 'the good  of  the  realm'
the civil strife which ensued cost us our other robot."

     "I  have  learned  my  lesson  and  profited  thereby.  I shall be more
judicious in the future."

     "I hope so. Now, about this investigation--which part of the galaxy  do
you intend to investigate first?"

     A tension-filled pause ensued.

     "I had assumed," murmured Drax, "that you would conduct the expedition.
Being  the  more mature monarch, yours should be a more adequate decision as
to whether or not a particular species is worthy of our enlightened rule."

     "Yes, but your youth tends to make you more active than I. The  journey
should  be  more  expeditiously  conducted  by  you." He emphasized the word
"expeditiously."

     "We could both go, in separate ships," offered  Drax.  "That  would  be
truly expeditious--"

     Their heated debating was cut short by a metallic cough-equivalent.

     "Masters,"  suggested Zindrome, "the half-life of radioactive materials
being as ephemeral as it is, I regret to report that only one  spaceship  is
now in operational condition."

     "That settles it, Dran. _You_ go. It will require a steadier _rrand_ to
manage an underpowered ship."

     "And  leave  you  to foment civil strife and usurp unfranchised powers?
No, you go!"

     "I suppose we could _both_ go," sighed Drax.

     "Fine! Leave the kingdom leaderless! _That_ is the kind of muddleheaded
thinking which brought about our present political embarrassment."

     "Masters," said Zindrome, "if _someone_ doesn't go soon the  ship  will
be useless."

     They  both  studied  their  servant, approving the rapid chain of logic
forged by his simple statement.

     "Very well," they smiled in unison, "_you_ go."

     Zindrome bowed quite obsequiously and departed from  the  great  Throne
Hall of Glan.

     "Perhaps  we  should  authorize  Zindrome  to  construct  facsimiles of
himself," stated Dran, tentatively.  "If  we  had  more  subjects  we  could
accomplish more."

     "Are  you  forgetting  our  most  recent  agreement?"  asked  Drax.  "A
superfluity of  robots  tended  to  stimulate  factionalism  last  time--and
certain people grew ambitious..." He let his voice trail off over the years,
for emphasis.

     "I  am  not  certain as to whether your last allusion contains a hidden
accusation," began the other carefully. "If so, permit  me  to  caution  you
concerning  rashness--and  to  remind  you  who  it  was  who engineered the
Mono-Robot Protection Pact."

     "Do you believe things will be different in the case of a multitude  of
organic subjects?" inquired the other.

     "Definitely,"  said Dran. "There is a certain irrational element in the
rationale of the organic being, making it less  amenable  to  direct  orders
than a machine would be. Our robots, at least, were faithful when we ordered
them  to  destroy  each  other.  Irresponsible organic subjects either do it
without being told, which is boorish, or refuse to  do  it  when  you  order
them, which is insubordination."

     "True,"  smiled  Drax,  unearthing a gem he had preserved for millennia
against this occasion. "Concerning organic life the only statement which can
be made with certainty is that life is uncertain."

     "Hmm." Dran narrowed his eyes to slits.  "Let  me  ponder  that  for  a
moment.  Like  much  of  your  thinking  it  seems  to  smack of a concealed
sophistry."

     "It contains none, I assure you. It is the fruit of much meditation."

     "Hmm."


     Dran's pondering was cut short, by the arrival of Zindrome who clutched
two brownish blurs beneath his metal arms.

     "Back already, Zindrome? What have you there? Slow them down so we  can
see them."

     "They are under sedation at present, great Masters. It is the movements
caused  by their breathing which produce the unpleasant vibration pattern on
your retinas. To subject them to more narcosis could prove deleterious."

     "Nevertheless," maintained Dran, "we must  appraise  our  new  subjects
carefully, which requires that we see them. Slow them down some more."

     "You  gave  that  order without-" began Drax, but was distracted by the
sudden appearance of the two hairy bipeds.

     "Warm-blooded?" he asked.

     "Yes, Lord."

     "That bespeaks a very brief life-span."

     "True," offered Dran, "but that kind tends to reproduce quite rapidly."

     "That  observation  tends  to  be  correct,"  nodded  Drax.  "Tell  me,
Zindrome, do they represent the sexes necessary for reproduction?"

     "Yes, Master. There are two sexes among these anthropoids, so I brought
one of each."

     "That was very wise. Where did you find them?"

     "Several billion light years from here."

     "Turn those two loose outside and go fetch us some more."

     The creatures vanished. Zindrome appeared not to have moved.

     "Have you the fuel necessary for another such journey?"

     "Yes, my Lord. More of it has evolved recently."

     "Excellent."

     The robot departed.

     "What sort of governmental setup should be inaugurate this time?" asked
Drax.

     "Set us review the arguments for the various types."

     "A good idea."


     In the midst of their discussion Zindrome returned and stood waiting to
be recognized.

     "What is it, Zindrome? Did you forget something?"

     "No,  great  Lords.  When I returned to the world from which I obtained
the samples I discovered that the race had progressed to the point where  it
developed  fission  processes,  engaged  in  an  atomic  war and annihilated
itself."

     "That was extremely inconsiderate--typical, however, I should  say,  of
warm-blooded instability."

     Zindrome continued to shift.

     "Have you something else to report?"

     "Yes,  great  Masters. The two specimens I released have multiplied and
are now spread over the entire planet of Glan."

     "We should have been advised!"

     "Yes, great Lords, but I was absent and--"

     "They themselves should have reported this action!"

     "Masters, I am afraid they are unaware of your existence."

     "How could that have happened?" asked Dran.

     "We are presently buried beneath several thousand  layers  of  alluvial
rock. The geological shifts--"

     "You  have  your  orders  to maintain the place and clean the grounds,"
glowered Dran. "Have you been frittering away your time again?"

     "No, great Lords! It all occurred during my absence. I shall attend  to
it immediately."

     "First," ordered Drax, "tell us what else our subjects have been up to,
that they saw fit to conceal from us."

     "Recently,"  observed the robot, "they have discovered how to forge and
temper metals. Upon  landing,  I  observed  that  they  had  developed  many
ingenious  instruments  of  a cutting variety. Unfortunately they were using
them to cut one another."

     "Do you mean," roared Dran, "that there is strife in the kingdom?"

     "Uh, yes, my Lord."

     "I will not brook unauthorized violence among my subjects!"

     "_Our_ subjects," added Drax, with a meaningful glare.

     "_Our_ subjects," amended Dran. "We must take immediate action."

     "Agreed."

     "Agreed."

     "I shall issue orders forbidding their engagement in activities leading
to bloodshed."

     "I presume that you mean a joint proclamation," stated Drax.

     "Of course. I was not slighting you, I was simply shaken by  the  civil
emergency.  We  shall  draft an official proclamation. Let Zindrome fetch us
writing instruments."

     "Zindrome, fetch--"

     "I have them here, my Lords."

     "Now, let me see. How shall we phrase it...?"

     "Perhaps I should clean the palace while your Excellencies--"

     "No! Wait right here! This will be very brief and to the point."

     "Mm. 'We hereby proclaim...'"

     "Don't forget our titles."

     "True. 'We, the imperial monarchs of Glan, herebeneath undersigned,  do
hereby...'"

     A  feeble  pulse  of gamma rays passed unnoticed by the two rulers. The
faithful Zindrome diagnosed its nature, however, and tried unsuccessfully to
obtain the monarchs' attention. Finally, he dismissed  the  project  with  a
stoical gesture typical of his kind. He waited.


"There!" they agreed flourishing the document.  "Now you can tell us
what you have been trying to say, Zindrome.  But make it brief, you
must deliver this soon."

     "It  is already too late, great Lords. This race, also, progressed into
civilized states, developed nuclear energy and eradicated itself  while  you
were writing."

     "Barbarous!"

     "Warm-blooded irresponsibility!"

     "May I go clean up now, great Masters?"

     "Soon,  Zindrome,  soon.  First,  though,  I  move  that  we  file  the
proclamation in the Archives  for  future  use,  in  the  event  of  similar
occurrences."

     Dran nodded.

     "I agree. _We_ so order."

     The robot accepted the crumbling proclamation and vanished from sight.

     "You  know,"  Drax  mused,  "there must be lots of radioactive material
lying about now..."

     "There probably is."

     "It could be used to fuel a ship for another expedition."

     "Perhaps."

     "This time we could instruct Zindrome to bring back  something  with  a
longer lifespan and more deliberate habits--somewhat nearer our own."

     "That  would have its dangers. But perhaps we could junk the Mono-Robot
Protection Pact and order Zindrome to manufacture extras of  himself.  Under
strict supervision."

     "That would have its dangers too."

     "At any rate, I should have to ponder your suggestion carefully."

     "And I yours."

     "It's been a busy day," nodded Dran. "Let's sleep on it."

     "A good idea."

     Sounds of saurian snoring emerged from the great Throne Hall of Glan.


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     Last modified 10/7/98

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