Friday 25 September 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18th

Or so The Economist says. It includes She was stunned by the lack of caution in the Roe v Wade ruling of 1973 that legalised abortion; though she certainly approved of the outcome, reform should have come through state legislatures, where it was slowly starting to appear, of which I approve. Looking, I don't see I've written about this so I'll write it here: Roe vs Wade, however desireable it might be from a societal point of view as a reflection of changing times is - as I understand it - on very thin ice, constitutionally: founded on two weak links: a right-to-abortion derived from a right-to-privacy; and the right-to-privacy itself. And it is certainly a point of view - which I definitely sympathise with - that a lot of the bitterness in the abortion debate in the USA stems from it having been removed from the political process, where people's enthusiasm could have some outlet, to the judicial, where it cannot.

However, der Ekonmeister skips lightly over where Brian dares to tread: A cheer for Ginsburg, and a wish that she retired in 2013. At the moment she is a secular saint and cannot be criticised - well, not by anyone who expects their words to be read - but she is the very antithesis of nothing in his life Became him like the leaving it. In that she clung on to her power, thereby losing Obama the chance to replace her with someone else "on her side". And she did cling on; it was after all by then her life, and she could not bear to let it go, putting herself above her party at the very least, and above her country, if you like many believe that the USA has lost by allowing the Mango Mussolini to appoint a third judge.


Since this is now my Roe vs Wade page: there's a quasi-interesting article in the New Yorker from 2015 attempting to argue that repro-rights folk aka those in favour of abortion should have based their arguments on equality, not privacy. That's slightly strange as an argument, I think, though I'm open to correction on this point, because I think in RvW it was the court that made up the justification, not the litigants.

But that same article did teach me that is wasn't RvW that made up the right to privacy, that was done earlier in Griswold v. Connecticut, in the context of contraception; from which we get the language that the right was to be found in the "penumbras" and "emanations" of other constitutional protections.

Oh, and as Timmy points out (though I saw it first...), there's a great deal of drivel talked about RvS, for example What will they do if that 6-3 court overturns Roe v Wade and bans abortion across the entire country? But Reversing RvW wouldn't ban abortion, of itself: it would merely make alws doing so constitutional, in the states that wished to do so.

Sunday 20 September 2020

Book review: Space, Time and Nathaniel

IMG_20200919_215326 A Brian Aldiss collection of short stories; possibly his first. For some reason, I've kept it: perhaps I like the front cover; and it is thin. I liked one of the stories (Conviction) enough to OCR it. Here's a review by someone who likes the collection. I guess I like it too. There's nothing dramatically exciting, but generally they are clever. Or inventive. The downside is, in places, a little too much material from English suburbia of the fifties and sixties, which must have been a somewhat drab place.

Contains the surreal Journey to the Goat Star.

Saturday 19 September 2020

Brian Aldiss: Conviction

IMG_20200919_215326 A short story from the collection "Space, Time and Nathaniel". Of which Aldiss says A fourteen story collection, compiled at a time when BWA had had only thirteen stories published. The stories form a romp across many of the then standard themes of SF; the marked stylishness and frequent elegiac notes (as, for instance, in ‘The Failed Men’) serve as a warning of more ambitious volumes ahead. That seems true: these are early stories, very much "scifi" unlike say the Drowned World which is more dreamlike, but showing more literary talent and playful inventiveness that was the norm. Goodreads gives the collection 3.5/5 which is not unreasonable.

OCR'd by Google Lens. Note that "Ped2" should be "Ped2" (except the top of the 2 should be level with the top of the d).


The four Supreme Ultralords stood apart from the crowd, waiting, speaking to nobody. Yet Mordegon, son of Great Mordregon; Antibes Isis of Sirius III, the Proctor Superior from the Tenth Sector; Delphi J. Bunswacki, Ruler of the Margins; and Ped2 of the Dominion of the Sack watched, as did the countless other members of the Diet of the Ultralords of the Home Galaxy, the entrance into their council chamber of the alien, David Stevens of Earth.

Stevens hesitated on the threshold of the hall. The hesitation was part-natural, part-feigned; he had come here primed to play a part and knowing a pause for awe might be expected of him; but he had not calculated on the real awe which filled him. He had come to stand trial, for himself, for Earth, he had come prepared-as far as a man may prepare for the unpredictable. Yet, as the dolly ushered him into the hall, he knew crushingly that the task was to be more terrible than any he had visualized. 

The cream of the Galaxy took in his hesitation. 

He started to walk towards the dais upon which Mordegon and his colleagues waited. The effort of forcing his legs to go into action set a dew of perspiration on his forehead. 

"God help me!” he whispered. But these were the gods of the galaxy; was there, over them, One with no material being and infinite power? Enough. Concentrate. 

Squaring his shoulders, Stevens walked between the masses shapes of the rulers of the Home Galaxy. Although it had been expressly stated before he left Earth that no powers, such as telepathy, which he did not possess, would be used against him, he could feel a weight of mental power all round him. Strange faces watched him, some just remotely human, strange robes stirred as he brushed past them. The diversity! he thought. The astounding, teeming womb of the universe!

Pride suddenly gripped him. He found courage to stare back into multitudinous eyes. They should be made to know the mettle of man. Whatever they were planning to do with him, he also had his own plans for them.

Just as it seemed only fitting to him that man should walk in his hall, it seemed no less fitting that of all the millions on Earth, be David Stevens, should be that man. With the egotism inherent a junior races, he felt sure he could pass their trial. What if he had been awed at first? A self-confident technological civilization, proud of its exploration projects on Mercury and Neptune, is naturally somewhat abashed by the appearance of a culture spreading luxuriously over fifty hundred thousand planets.

With a flourish, he bowed before Mordegon and the other Supreme Ultralords. 

"I offer greetings from my planet Earth of Sol,” he said in a resonant voice.

"You are welcome here, David Stevens of Earth,” Mordegon replied graciously. A small object the size of a hen's egg floated fifteen inches from his beak. All other members of the council, Stevens included, were attended by similar devices, automatic interpreters.

Mordegon was mountainous. Below his beak head, his body bulged like an upturned grand piano. A cascade of clicking black and white ivory rectangles clothed him. Each rectangle, Stevens noted, rotated perpetually on its longitudinal axis, fanning him, ventilating him, as if he burned continually of an inexorable disease (which was in fact the case).

"I am happy to come here in peace;" Stevens said. “And shall be still happier to know why I have been brought here. My journey has been long and partially unexplained." 

At the word "peace", Mordegon made a grimace like a smile, although his beak remained unsmiling.

"Partially, perhaps; but partially is not entirely," Mordregon said. "The robot ship told you you would be collected to stand trial in the name of Earth. That seems to us quite sufficient information to work on." 

The automatic translators gave an edge of irony to the Ultralord's voice. The tone brought faint colour to Stevens's cheeks. angry, and suddenly happy to let them see he was angry. 

"Then you have never been in my position," he said "Mine was an executive post at Port Ganymede. I never had anything to do with politics. I was down at the methane reagent post when your robot ship arrived and designated me in purely arbitrary fashion. I was simply told I would be collected for trial in three months-like a convict-like a bundle of dirty laundry!"
He looked hard at them, anxious to sec their first reaction to his anger, wondering whether he had gone too far. Ordinarily, Stevens was not a man who indulged his emotions. When he spoke, the hen's egg before his mouth sucked up all sound, leaving the air dry and silent, so that he was unable to hear the translation going over; he thought, half-hopefully, that it might omit the outburst in traditional interpreter fashion. This hope was at once crushed.

"Irritation means unbalance," said Delphi J. Bunswacki. It was the only sentence he spoke throughout the interview. On his shoulders, a mighty brain siphoned its thoughts beneath a trans parent skull case; he wore what appeared to be a garishly cheap blue pinstripe suit, but the stripes moved as symbiotic organisms plied up and down them ceaselessly, ingurgitating any microbes which might threaten the health of Delphi. J. Bunswacki. 

Slightly revolted, Stevens turned back to Mordegon. 

"You are playing with me," he said quietly. "Do I abuse your hospitality by asking you to get down to business?" 

That, he thought, was better. Yet what were they thinking? His manner is too unstable? He seems to be impervious to the idea of his own insignificance? This was going to be the whole of hell: to have to guess what they were thinking, knowing they knew he was guessing, not knowing how many levels above his own their IQ was. 

Acidic apprehension turned in Stevens's stomach, His hand fluttered up to the lump below his right ear; he fingered it nervously, and only with an effort broke off the betraying gesture. To this vast concourse, he was insignificant: yet to Earth, to Earth he was their sole hope. Their sole hope!-And he could not keep himself from shaking.

Mordegon was speaking again. What had he been saying? 

"...customary. Into this hall in the city of Grapfth on the planet Xaquibadd in the Periphery of the Dominion of the Sack are invited all new races, each as it is discovered." 

Those big words don't frighten me, Stevens told himself, because, to a great extent, they did. Suddenly he saw the solar system as a tiny sack, into which he longed to crawl and hide.

"Is this place Grapfth the centre of your Empire?" he asked. 

"No; as I said, it is in a peripheral region-for safety reasons you understand," Mordegon explained. 

"Safety reasons? You mean you are afraid of me?"

Mordegon raised a brow at Ped2 of the Sack. Ped2, under an acre of coloured, stereoscopic nylon, was animated cactus, more beautiful, more intricate than his clothing. Captive butter Aliens on germanium, degravitized chains turned among the blossoms his head; they fluttered up and then re-alighted as Ped2 nodded spoke briefly to the Earthman. "Every race has peculiar talents or abilities of its own," he explained, "It is partly to discover those abilities that you aliens are invited here. Unfortun ately, your predecessor turned out to be a member of a race of self-propagating nuclear weapons left over from some ancient war or other. He talked quite intelligently, until one of us mentioned the key word 'goodwill', whereupon he exploded and blew this entire hall to bits."

Reminiscent chuckles sounded round him as he told the story. 

Stevens said angrily: "You expect me to believe that? Then how have you all survived?"

"Oh, we are not really here,” Ped2 said genially, interlocking a nest of spikes behind his great head. "You can't expect us to make the long journey to Xaquibadd every time some petty little system-no offence of course-is discovered. You're talking to three-dimensional images of us; even the hall's only there-or here, if you prefer it (location is merely a philosophical quibble) in a sort of sub-molecular fashion."

Catching sight of the dazed look on the Earthman's face, Ped2 could not resist driving home another point. (His was a childish race: theologians had died out among them only some four thousand years ago.) 

"We are not even talking to you in a sense you would understand, David Stevens of Earth,” he said. "Having as yet no instantaneous communication across light-year distances, we are letting a robot brain on Xaquibadd do the talking for us. We can check with it afterwards; if a mistake has been made, we can always get in touch with you."
It was said not without an easy menace, but Stevens received st a part of it eagerly. They had as yet no instantaneous communicator! No sub-radio, that could leap light-years without time lag! Involuntarily, he again fingered the tiny lump beneath the lobe of his right ear, and then thrust his hand deep into his pocket. So Earth had a chance of bargaining with these colossi after all! His confidence soared. 

To Ped2, Mordregon was saying: "You must not mock our invited guest."

"I have heard that word 'invited' from you before," Stevens said. "This has all seemed to me personally more like a summons. Your robot, without further explanation, simply told me it would be back for me in three months, giving me time to prepare for trial."

"That was reasonable, surely?" Mordegon said, "It could have interviewed you then, unprepared." 

"But it didn't say what I was to prepare for," Stevens replied, exasperation bursting into his mind as he remembered those three months. What madness they had been, as he spent them preparing frantically for this interview: all the wise and cunning men of the system had visited him: logicians, actors, philosophers, generals, mathematicians. ...And the surgeons! Yes, the skilful surgeons, burying the creations of the technologists in his ear and throat.

And all the while he had marvelled: Why did they pick me

"Supposing it hadn't been me?" he said to Mordregon aloud. "Supposing it had been a madman or a man dying of cancer you picked on?"

Silence fell. Mordegon looked at him piercingly and then answered slowly: "We find our random selection principle entirely satisfactory, considering the large numbers involved. Whoever is brought here is responsible for his world. Your mistakes or illnesses are your world's mistakes or illnesses. If a madman or a cancerous man stood in your place now, your world would have to be destroyed; worlds which have not been made free from such scourges by the time they have interplanetary travel must be eradicated. The galaxy is indestructible, but the security of the galaxy is a fragile thing."

All the light-heartedness seemed gone from the assembly of Ultralords now. Even Ped? of the Dominion of the Sack sat bolt upright, looking grimly at the Earthman. Stevens himself had gone chill, his throat was as dry as his sleeve. Every time he spoke he betrayed a chunk of the psychological atmosphere of Earth.

During the three months' preparation, during the month-long voyage here in a completely automatic ship, he had chased his mind round to come only to this one conclusion: that through him Man was to be put to a test for fitness. Thinking of the mental homes and hospitals of Earth, his poise almost deserted him; but clenching his fists together behind his back-what matter if the assembly saw that betrayal of strain, so long as the searching eyes of Mordregon did not?-he said in a voice striving to remain firm: "So then I have come here on trial?" 

"Not you only but your world Earth and the trial has already begun!" The voice was not Mordregon's nor Ped2's. It belonged to Amtibis Isis of Sirius III, the Proctor Superior of the Tenth Sector, who had not yet spoken. He stood like a column, twelve feet high, his length clad in furled silver, a dark cluster of eyes at his summit probing down at Stevens. He had what the others, what even Mordegon lacked: majesty. 

Surreptitiously, Stevens touched his throat. The device nestling there would be needed presently; with its assistance he might win through. This Empire had no sub-radio; in that fact lay his and Earth's hope. But before Antibes Isis hope seemed stupidity.

"Since I am here I must necessarily submit to your trial," Stevens said. "Although where I come from, the civilized thing is to tell the defendant what he is defending, how he may acquit himself and which punishment is hanging over his head. We also have the courtesy to announce when the trial begins, not springing it on the prisoner half-way through." 

A murmur circling round the hall told him he had scored a minor point. As Stevens construed the problem, the Ultralords were looking for some cardinal virtue in man which, if Stevens manifested it, would save Earth; but which virtue did this multi coloured mop consider important? He had to pull his racing mind up short to hear Arntibis Isis's reply to his thrust.

"You are talking of a local custom tucked away in a barren pocket of the galaxy," the level voice said. "However, your intellect being what it is, I shall enumerate the how and the wherefore. Be it known then, David Stevens of Earth, that through you your world is on trial before the Supreme Diet of the Ultra lords of the Second Galaxy. Nothing personal is intended; indeed, you yourself are barely concerned in our business here, except as a mouthpiece. If you acquit yourself—and we are more than im partial, we are eager for your success, though less than hopeful your race Man will become Full Fledgling Members of our great concourse of beings, sharers of our skills and problems. If you fail, your planet Earth will be annihilated-utterly." 

"And you call that civilized?" Stevans began hotly.

We deal with fifty planets a week here," Mordegon interrupted. Its the only possible system-cuts down endless bureaucracy." 

"Yes, and we just can't afford fleets to watch these unstable communities any more," one of the Ultralords from the body of the hall concurred. "The expense...:"

Do you remember that ghastly little time-swallowing reptile from somewhere in the Magellans?" Ped2 chuckled reminiscently. "He had some crazy scheme for a thousand years' supervision of his race."

"I'd die of boredom if I watched them an hour," Mordegon said, shuddering.

"Order, please!" Antibes Isis snapped. When there was silence, he said to Stevens: "And now I will give you the rules of the trial. Firstly, there is no appeal from our verdict; when the session is over, you will be transported back to Earth at once, and the verdict will be delivered almost as soon as you land there.

"Next, I must assure you we are scrupulously fair in our decision, although you must understand that the definition of fairness differs from sector to sector. You may think we are ruthless; but the Galaxy is a small place and we have no room for useless members within our ranks. As it is we have this trouble. with the Eleventh Galaxy on our hands. However.... 

"Next, many of the beings present have powers which you would regard as supernormal, such as telepathy, deep-vision, precognition, outfarling, and so on. These powers they are holding in abeyance, so that you are judged on your own level as far as possible. You have our assurance that your mind will not be read.

"There is but one other rule; you will now proceed with your own trial."

For a space of a few chilly seconds, Stevens stared unbelievingly at the tall column of Amtibis Isis: that entity told him nothing. He looked round at Mordregon, at the others, at the phalanx of figures silent in the hall. Nobody moved. Gazing round at the incredible sight of them, Stevens realized sadly how far, far from home he was.

" own trial?" he echoed. The Ultralords did not reply. He had had all the help, if help it was; now he was on his own: Earth's fate was in the scales. Panic threatened him but he fought it down; that was a luxury he could not afford. Calculation only would help him. His cold hand touched the small lump at his throat; his judges had, after all, virtually played into his hands. He was not unprepared. 

"My own trial," he repeated more firmly.

Here was the classic nightmare made flesh, he thought. Dreams of pursuit, degradation, annihilation were not more terrible than this static dream where one stands before watchful eyes explaining one's existence, speaking, speaking to no avail because if there is right it is not in words, because if there is a way of delivering the soul it is not to this audience. He thought, I must all my life have had some sort of a fixation about judgement without mercy; now I've gone psychopathic-r'll spend all my ears up before this wall of eyes, trying to find excuses for some crime I don't know I've committed. 

He watched the slow revolutions of Mordregon's domino costume. No, this was reality, not the end results of an obsession. To treat it as other than reality was the flight from fear; that was not Steven's way: he was afraid, but he could face it.

He spoke to them. 

"I presume by your silence," he said, "that you wish me to formulate both the questions and the answers, on the principle that two different levels of intelligence are thus employed; it being as vital to ask the right question as to produce the correct answer,

"This forcing of two roles upon me obviously doubles my chance of failure, and I would point out that this is, to me, not justice but a mockery.

"Should I, then, say nothing more to you? Would you accept that silence as a proof that my world can distinguish justice from injustice, surely one of the prime requisites of a culture?"

He paused, only faintly hopeful. It could not be as simple as that. Or could it? If it could the solution would seem to him just a clever trick; but to these deeper brains it might appear otherwise. His thoughts swam as he tried to see the problem from their point of view. It was impossible: he could only go by his own standards, which of course was just what they wanted. Yet still he kept silence, trusting it more than words. 

"Your point accepted. Continue," said Ped2 brusquely, but he gave Stevens an encouraging nod. 

So it was not going to be as easy as that. He pulled a hand kerchief from a pocket and wiped his forehead, thinking wildly: Would they accept that as a defence: that I am near enough to the animal to sweat but already far enough away to object to the fact? Do they sweat, any of them? Perhaps they think sweat's a good thing. How can I be sure of anything?" 

Like every other thought to his present state of mind, it turned circular and short-circuited itself. 

He was an Earthman, six foot three, well proportioned, he made good in a tough spot on Ganymede, he knew a very ly woman called Edwina, Suppose they would be content n hearing about her, about her beauty, about the way she oled when Stevens left Earth. He could tell them about the just being alive and thinking of Edwina: and the prodding knowledge that in ten years their youth would be sliding away.

Nonsense! he told himself. They wouldn't take sentiment here; these beauties wanted cold fact. Momentarily, he thought of all the other beings who had stood in the past where he stood now, groping for the right thing to say. How many had found it? 

Steadying himself, Stevens began to address the Ultralords again.

"You will gather from what I say that I am hoping to demonstrate that I possess and understand one virtue so admirable that because of it you will, in your wisdom, be able to do nothing but spare me. Since modesty happens to be one of my virtues, I cannot enumerate the others: sagacity, patience, courage, loyalty, reverence, kindness, for example-and humour, as I hope that remark may hint to you. But these virtues are, or should be, common possessions of any civilization; by them we define civilization, and you presumably are looking for some thing else.

"You must require me to produce evidence of something less obvious... something Man possesses which none of you have." 

He looked at the vast audience and they were silent. That damned silence!

"I'm sure we do possess something like that. I'll think of it if you'll give me time. (Pause.) I suppose it's no good throwing myself on your mercy? Man has mercy-but that's not a virtue at all acceptable to those without it."

The silence grew round him like ice forming over a Siberian lake. Were they hostile or not? He could not tell anything from their attitude; he could not think objectively. Reverse that idea: he thought subjectively. Could he twist that into some sort of a weird virtue which might appeal to them, and pretend there was special value in thinking subjectively? 

Hell, this was not his line of reasoning at all; he was not cut out to be a metaphysician. It was time he played his trump card. With an almost imperceptible movement of a neck muscle, he switched on the little machine in his throat. Immediately its droning awoke, reassuring him. 

"I must have a moment to think," Stevens said to the assembly. 

Without moving his lips, he whispered: "Hello, Earth, are you there, Earth? Dave Stevens calling across the light-years. Do you hear me?"

After a moment's pause, the tiny lump behind his ear throbbed and a shadowy voice answered: "Hello, Stevens, Earth Centre here. We've been listening out for you. How are you doing?"

"The trial is on. I don't think I'm making out very well." His lips were moving slightly; he covered them with his hand, standing if deep in cogitation. It looked, he thought, very suspicious. He went on: "I can't say much. For one thing, I'm afraid they ill detect this beam going out and regard our communication as infringing their judicial regulations."

"You don't have to bother about that, Stevens. You should know that a sub-radio beam is undetectable. Can we couple you up with the big brain as pre-arranged? Give it your data and it'll come up with the right answer."

"I just would not know what to ask it, Earth; these boys haven't given me a lead. I called to tell you I'm going to throw up the game. They're too powerful! I'm just going to put them the old preservation plea: that every race is unique and should be spared on that account, just as we guard wild animals from extinction in parks-even the dangerous ones. O.K.?"

The reply came faintly back: "You're on the spot, feller, we stand by your evaluation. Good luck and out.

Stevens looked round at the expressionless faces. Many of the beings present had gigantic ears; one of them possibly probably-had heard the brief exchange. At that he made his own face expressionless and spoke aloud.

"I have nothing more to say to you," he announced. "Indeed, I already wish I had said nothing at all. This court is a farce. If you tried all the insects, would they have a word to say in their defence? No! So you would kill them-and as a result you yourself would die. Insects are a vital factor. So is Man, How can we know our own potentialities? If you know yours, it is because you have ceased to develop and are already doomed to extinction. I demand that Man, who has seen through this stunt, be left to develop in his own fashion, unmolested, 

"Gentlemen, take me back home!"

He ended in a shout, and carried away by his own outburst expected a round of applause. The silence was broken only by a polite rustling. For a moment, he thought Mordegon glanced encouragingly at him, and then the figures faded away, and he was left standing alone, gesticulating in an empty hall. 

A robot came and led him back to the automatic ship.

In what was estimated to be a month, Stevens arrived back at Luna One and was greeted there by Lord Sylvester as he stepped from the galactic vessel. 

They pumped each other heartily on the back.

"It worked! I swear it worked" Stevens told the older man.

"Did you try them with reasoning?” Sylvester asked eagerly. 

"Yes-at least, I did my best. But I didn't seem to be getting anywhere, and then I chucked it up. I remembered what you said, that if they were masters of the galaxy they must be practical men to stay there, and that if we dangled before their variegated noses a practical dinkum which they hadn't got they'd be queuing up for it." 

"And they hadn't got an instantaneous communicator!" Sylvester exclaimed, bursting into a hoot of laughter. 

"Naturally not, the thing being an impossibility, as our scientists proved long ago! But the funny bit was, Syl, they accidentally told me they hadn't got one. And I didn't even have to employ that argument for having no mind-readers present." 

"So that little bit of recording we fixed up behind your ugly great ear did the trick?"

"It sounded so absolutely genuine I almost believed it was the real thing." Stevens said enthusiastically. "I'm convinced we ve won the day with that gadget."

And then, perversely, the sense of triumph that had buoyed him all the way home deserted him. The trick was no longer clever: to have duped the Ultralords gave him suddenly nothing but disappointment. With listless surprise at this reaction, he realized he knew himself less well than he had believed. 

He glanced at the gibbous Earth, low over Luna's mountains: it was the colour of verdigris. 

All the while, Sylvester chattered on excitedly. 

"Phew! You knock at least nine years off the ten I've aged since you left! When do we get the verdict, Dave?—the mighty Yea or Nay!" 

"Any time now—but I'm convinced the Ultralords are in the bag. Some of the mammoth ears present must have picked your voice up."

Sylvester commenced to beat Stevens's back again. Then he sobered and said: "Now we'll have to think about stalling the when they come and ask for portable sub-radios. Still, that can wait; after all, we didn't actually tell them we had them! Mean while, I've been stalling off the news-hounds here-the Galactics can't prove more awkward than they've been. Then the President wants to see you-but before that there's a drink waiting for you, and Edwina is sitting nursing it."

"Lead the way!" Stevens said, a little more happily.

"You look a bit gloomy all of a sudden," Sylvester commented, "Tired, I expect?"

"It has been a strain...." 

As he spoke, the door of his transport slammed shut behind him and the craft lifted purposefully off the field, silent on its cosmic drive. Stevens waved it a solemn farewell and turned away quickly, hurrying with Sylvester across to the domes of Luna One. A chillness was creeping over him again. 

Our Council of the Ultralords must be certain it pronounced the correct verdict when aliens such as Stevens are under examination; consequently, it has to have telepaths present during the trials. All it asks is, simply, integrity in the defendants-that is the simple touchstone: yet it is too difficult for many of them. The men of Earth tortured themselves chasing phantoms, cooking up chimeras. Stevens had integrity, yet would not trust to it. Those who are convicted of dishonesty perish; we have no room for them.

The robot craft swung away from Luna and headed at full speed towards Earth, the motors in its warhead ticking expectantly, counting out the seconds to annihilation.

And that, of course, would be the end of the story-for Earth at least. It would have been completely destroyed, as is usual in such distressing cases, but Mordegon, who was amused by Stevens's bluff, decided that, after all, the warped brains of Earthmen might be useful in coping with the warped brains of the enemy Eleventh Galaxy. He called it "an expedient war-time measure."

Quietly, he deflected the speeding missile from its target, ordering it to return home. He sent this message by sub-radio, of course; dangerous aliens must necessarily be deluded at times.