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He had seen the reconstructions of his own ancestors, five or ten million years ago; the mask now stiffening into a grimace of death might have belonged to any one of them. There was the same low, ridged forehead, close-set eyes, muscular but chinless jaw, protruding teeth. It was not the first time he had met this pattern, for variations of it were common on many worlds, yet it always filled him with wonder, and with a sense of kinship that spanned the evolutionary gulfs.
The leopard and its victim vanished from view; the chorus of fear and anger died away. Clindar watched, and waited.
Slowly and cautiously, the hominids cwoodless colored pencilsame down from the trees, in which they did not seem to be completely at home. They walked on all fours, but from time to time reared up on their hind limbs and took several steps in an upright position. Abruptly, as if they had spotted the leopard again, they all fled in panic, away from the river and the trees. As they ran, they became true bipeds, covering considerable distances without their forelimbs touching the ground.
Clindar followed them with some difficulty, and at first thought he had lost them. Then he spotted their brown figures swarming up the almost vertical face of a sandstone cliff, heading for a cave some fifty feet from the ground. It was a well-chosen refuge, for the entrance was too high to be reached by the great cats. Such a choice of dwelling place might be instinctive, but it might also indicate the dawn of intelligence. These creatures, Clindar told himself with mounting excitement, would certainly merit watching.
Through long but fascinating hours at the periscope, he grew to know them all, and to learn the pattern of their behavior. There werewoodless colored pencils only ten of them-four males, three females, three infants-and physically they were unimpressive specimens, living always on the edge of hunger. Most of their food was obtained by foraging among grasses and shrubs, but they were not exclusively vegetarian. They ate meat whenever they could get it, which was seldom, for they were inefficient hunters. About the only animals that fell prey to them were tortoises, small rodents, and occasional fish that they could catch in the shallows of the river.
Because they did not possess the simplest tools, they could not even take proper advantage of such rare and accidental windfalls as a mired elephant, or an antelope that had broken its leg. The meat would rot before they could tear it all out with their teeth; and they could not fight off the big carnivores that would be attracted to such a feast.
It was a wonder that they had survived, and their future did not look promising. Clindar was not in the least surprised when one of the infants died, apparently of starvation, and the little body was thrown out of the cave for the hyenas to carry away. These creatures had not yet learned the useful accomplishment of burying their dead, lest they lead wild animals to the living.
But Clindar, with the experience of many worlds behind him, knew that appearances could be deceptive. These unprepossessing near-apes had one great advantage over all the other creatures of their planet. They were still unspecialized; they had not yet become trapped in any evolutionary cul-de-sac. Almost every animal could beat them in some respect-in strength, or speed, or hearing, or natural armament. There was no single skill in which the hominids excelled, but they could do everything after a fashion. Where the other animals had become virtuosos, they had specialized in a universal mediocrity-and therein, a million years hence, might lie their salvation. Having failed to adapt themselves to their environment, they might yet one day change it to suit their own desires.
Other humanoid races, times without number, had taken a different road. Clindar had seen, either with his own eyes or through the records of other explorers, those who had chosen to specialize-though the choice, of course, was never a conscious one. He had seen near-men who could run like the wind, swim like fish, hunt in the dark with sonar or infrared senses; on one world of exceptionally low gravity he had even encountered men who could fly. Most of these specialists had been extremely successful; so successful that they had had no need to develop more than a rudimentary intelligence.
And therefore they were doomed, though they might flourish for a million years. Sooner or later, the envirwoodless colored pencilsonment to which they were so perfectly adapted would change, and they could not change with it. They were too far from the crucial fork in the evolutionary road ever to retrace their steps.
On this world, the choice remained; the irrevocable decision between brain and body had not yet been made. The future was still in the balance. Here, on this tropical plain, the balance might be tipped-in favor of intelligence.
It was surprising how quickly all the animals grew accustomed to the ship; because it did nothing, and merely stood motionless on its tripod of legs, they soon came to regard it as part of the landscape. In the heat of noon, lions would shelter beneath it, and sometimes elephants and dinotheria would rub their thick hides against the landing gear. Clindar preferred to choose a moment when none of the larger or more dangerous beasts were around when he made his first exit
From the underbelly of the ship a transparent, cylindrical tube ten feet in diameter lowered itself until it had reached ground level, down this, in an equally transparent cage, rode Clindar and his equipment. The curving walls slid open, and he stepped out onto the new world.
He was insulated from it, as completely as if he were still inside the ship, but the flexible suit that surrounded him from head to foot was only a minor inconvenience. He had full freedom of movement, for there was no external vacuum to make the suit stiff and rigid. Indeed, he could even breathe the surrounding atmosphere-after it had been scrubbed and filtered and purified by the small processing pack on his chest. The air of this planet might carry lethal organisms, but it was not poisonous.
He walked slowly away from the ship, feeling his balance in this alien gravity and accustoming himself to the weight of his equipment. Besides the usual communication and recording gear, he was carrying nets, small boxes for specimens, a geologist's hammer, a compact explosive powered drill, and a coil of thin but immensely strong rope. And though he had no offensive weapons, he had some extremely effective defensive ones. The land through which he was walking seemed absolutely barren of animal life, but he knew that this was an illusion. Thousands of eyes were watching him from trees and grass and undergrowth, and as he moved slowly along one of the trails which the herbivores had beaten to the waterhole, he was also conscious that the normal patterns of sound had changed. The creatures of this world knew that something strange had come into their lives, there was a hushed expectancy about the land-a subdued excitement that communicated itself to Clindar. He did not anticipate trouble, or danger; but if it came, he was ready for it.
He had already chosen his vantage point, a large rock about a hundred yards from the watering place where the hominid had been killed. Near the summit was a cave formed by two boulders resting against each other, it would provide just the shelter and concealment he needed. Such a desirable residence was not, of course, empty, it contained several large, indignant, and undoubtedly poisonous snakes. He ignored them, since they could not harm him through the tough yet almost invisible envelope of his suit.
He set up his cameras and his directional microphones, reported back to the ship, and waited.
For the first few days he merely observed without interference. He learned the order in which the various animals came to the water, until he could predict their arrival with fair accuracy. Above all, he studied the little group of hominids, until he knew them as individuals and had christened them all with appropriate private names. There was Greypate, the oldest and most aggressive, who dominated all the others. There were Crookback and One-Hand and Broken-Fang, but the most interesting was the young adult that Clindar had called Moon-Watcher, because he had once spotted him at dusk, standing on a low rock and staring motionless into the face of the rising moon. The posture itself was unusual, for the hominids seldom stood erect for more than a few seconds at a time, but even more striking was the suggestion of conscious thought and wonder. Perhaps this was an illusion; yet Clindar doubted if any other inhabitant of this world ever stopped to stare at the moon. Nor was it, in this environment, a very sensible thing to do. Clindar was strangely relieved when the creature started to trot back toward its cave, away from the unsleeping perils of the night.
His first attempt to collect specimens was not a success. A small antelope, with graceful, corkscrew horns, had apparently become detached from the herd and was wandering along the trail to the waterhole in a rather distracted manner. Clindar got it in the sight of his narcotic gun, aimed carefully at the fleshy part of the flank, and squeezed the trigger. With barely a sound, the dart whispered to its target.
The antelope started, though no more violently than if a mosquito had bitten it. For a moment there was no other reaction-but the biochemists had done their work well. The animal walked three or four paces, and then collapsed in a heap.
Clindar hurried out of the cave to collect his victim. He was halfway down the sloping rockface woodless colored pencilswhen there was a flash of yellow, and almost before he had realized what had happened, the antelope was gone. A passing leopard had outsmarted an intelligence that could span the Galaxy.
Some hunters would have cursed; Clindar merely laughed and went back to his cave. Two hours later, he shot Moon-Watcher.
He reached the fallen hominid only seconds after the flying dart. Beneath its hairy pelt the body was well muscled but undernourished, he had no difficulty at all in lifting it and carrying it back to the ship, where a thorough examination could be made.
Moon-Watcher was still unconscious, but breathing steadily, when the elevator took him up into the ship. He slept peacefully in the sealed test chamber for many hours, while scores of instruments measured his reactions and beams of radiation scanned the interior of his body as if it had been made of glass. His head was shaved, with considerable difficulty, for the hair was a matted and well-populated tangle, and electrodes were attached to his scalp. In the mother ship, thousands of miles above the earth, the great computers probed and analyzed the patterns of cerebral activity, so much simpler than their own; and presently they delivered their verdict.
When it was all finished, Clindar carried Moon Watcher back to the elevator and down to ground level. He left him still unconscious, propped up against one of the landing legs, and guarded him from the ship until he had come to his senses. He would have done the same with any other animal; centuries of traveling through the empty wastes of the universe had given him an intense reverence for life in all its forms. Though he never hesitated to kill when it was necessary, he always did so with reluctance.
Presently Moon-Watcher stirred drowsily, scratched his newly bared scalp with obvious astonishment, and staggered to his feet. He proceeded for a few yards in a wavering line, then became aware of the ship looming above him, and stopped to examine it. Perhaps he thought it was some peculiar kind of rock, for he showed no signs of alarm. After a few minutes, now much steadier, he set off briskly in the direction of his cave, and soon disappeared from view.
When the intelligence profiles and brain-capacity assessments came down from the mother ship, Clindar brooded over them for a long time, discussed them with his colleagues, and asked the computers far overhead for their extrapolations into the future. There was potential here- several billion brain cells, as yet only loosely interconnected. Whether that potential could ever be realized depended on time and luck. Time could not be hurried; but luck was not altogether beyond the power of intelligent control.
Here was a situation common in the history of stellar exploration, though it was new to Clindar himself. Often the ships of his people had arrived at a world where some creature was at the watershed between instinct and conscious thought, and in the early days there had been much debate about the appropriate action. Some argued that it was better to stand aside and to leave the ultimate decision to chance and nature; but when this was done, the result was almost always the same. The universe was as indifferent to intelligence as it was to life, left to themselves, the dawning minds had less than one chance in a hundred of survival. Most of them achieved no more than a tragic consciousness of their own doom, before they were swept into oblivion.
In these circumstances, the choice was clear-though not all races would have been sufficiently unselfish to make it. When an emerging species could be helped, aid was given. But too much assistance could also be fatal, and it was necessary to aim for a minimum of interference, lest the rising culture become no more than a distorted echo of an alien society.
For in the long run a species, like an individual, had to stand on its own feet, and find its own destiny. Clindar was very well aware of this, as he studied the hominids and prepared to play God.
There had been a heavy rainstorm, and the world around him was tantalizingly fresh and sparkling beyond the impermeable barrier of his suit. On such a morning, it seemed a crime to kill, nor was there any exoneration in the knowledge that thousands of hidden deaths were occurring every minute in this shining land.
The hunter from the stars stood at the edge of the Savannah, choosing his victim. Out to the horizon he could see uncountable numbers of gazelles and antelopes and wildebeest and zebras-or creatures whose descendants would one day bear these names-browsing on the sea of grass. He raised his weapon to his shoulder, aimed through it like a telescope, and pressed the firing stud. There was a flicker of light, barely visible in the fierce glare of the African sun, and a young gazelle dropped so swiftly and silently that none of its companions took the slightest notice. Even when Clindar walked out to collect the body-unmarked except for the charred hole above the heart-they trotted only a few yards away and regarded him with only mild alarm.
He threw the gazelle over his shoulder and set off at a brisk walk toward the cave of the hominids. Before he had gone three hundred yards he realized, with some amusement, that he was being stalked by a saber-toothed tiger that had emerged from the undergrowth at the edge of the plain.
He put down the gazelle and turned to face the great cat. When it saw that he was aware of it, the tiger growled softly and opened its jaws in a terrifying display of fangs. At the same moment, it quickened its pace.
Clindar also wasted no time. He threw a switch on his suit, and at once the air was rent by a hideous, undulating howl as of a thousand souls in torment. Out on the plain, the flocks of herbivores began to stampede, and even above the cacophony of the siren he could hear the drumming of their hooves like a distant thunder.
The tiger reared up on its haunches, slashing viciously at the empty air in itwoodless colored pencilss surprise. Then it droppewoodless colored pencilsd back to the ground and, to Clindar's utter astonishment, continued its advance. It was very brave, or very stupid, or very hungry. In any event, it was very dangerous.
Clindar whipped his projector into the firing position, and barely had time to defocus it before the tiger charged. This time there was no visible flash, for the beam fanned out over too wide an area to produce its characteristic scintillation. But when the tiger reached the ground it was already blind, for it had stared into the light of a hundred suns. Clindar had no difficulty in avoiding it as it staggered away, shaking its massive head from side to side in confusion.
It would be at least an hour before the magnificent beast's sight returned to normal; as it tottered away, Clindar hoped that it would not injure itself by crashing into any obstacles.
There were no more interruptions in his morning walk, and presently, not even winded by his exertions, he arrived at the cliff face where the hominids lived. Keeping in full view, and making as much noise as possible, he placed his offering immediately beneath the opening of the cave. Then he moved back a hundred yards, sat down, and waited with the patience of a being who had already seen a thousand birthdays and could, if he wished, see endless thousands more.
There must, he knew, be many eyes watching him from the darkness of the cave, and behind those eyes would be dim brains in which fear and hunger strove together. It would be rare indeed for the hominids to encounter such a windfall as this, for the gazelles could outrun them easily and they had not yet invented any of the arts of the hunter.
It was a full hour before the oldest of the males appeared in the shadows of the opening, started outside for a few seconds and then disappeared again into the gloom. Nothing else happened for another hour or so then Clindar's friend Moon-Watcher emerged, looked around nervously, and started to descend the face of the cliff. He scuttled across to the dead gazelle, which was now surrounded by a cloud of buzzing flies, and paused here for a moment, obviously torn with agonizing indecision.
Clindar could read the creature's mind with the utmost ease. Shall I feast here, it was saying to itself, and risk being eaten myself-or shall I carry this banquet back to the safety of the cave-where I will have to share it with the others?
Moon-Watcher solved his excruciating problem by a compromise. He buried his fangs in the neck of the gazelle, and with great difficulty, tore out a hunk of bloody meat. Then he threw the corpse over his shoulder and swarmed up the rockface with quite astonishing speed.
Lesson one was over. Feeling very satisfied, Clindar went back to the ship. He did not expect that the hominids would leave the cave again that day.
Seven gazelles and two antelopes later, he had made considerable progress. When he left his present at the foot of the cliff, the whole family would emerge and quarrel over it. Their table manners left much to be desired, but they were beginning to take him for granted. Though he sat in full view, a strange and utterly alien figure in his shimmering protective envelope, they appeared quite unafraid of him. Every day he had moved a little closer, until now he sat within fifty feet of the dining place.
Before the hominids became completely dependent upon him, and forgot how to fend for themselves, he would take the next step.
GIFT FROM THE STARS
Jupiter was a brilliant star, almost vertically above him, as Clindar walked through the sleeping bush an hour before dawn. Up there, half a billion miles away, was the entrance of the Star Gate, and the road across the light-years that led to his infinitely more distant home. It was a road with many branches, most of them still unexplored and leading to destinations which were perhaps unimaginable. Down a few of those byways were the lonely civilizations scattered so sparsely throughout this arm of the galactic spiral. One day this world might be among them; but that time could not come for at least a million years.
The hominids never left their cave during the hours of darkness, but Clindar could hear them barking and quarreling sleepily as they prepared to meet the new day. He placed his bribe-a young boar-at the foot of the cliff, where they were bound to pass. This time, however, he did not withdraw. He sat down only a few feet away from the sacrifice, and waited.
The stars faded from the sky, Jupiter last of all. Presently the rays of the rising sun began to gild the face of the cliff, moving slowly downward until they shone straight into the cave. Then, from the interior, came a sudden excited chattering, and the high-pitched "EekEek" which Clindar had grown to recognize as an alarm signal. The hominids had spotted him.
He could see their hairy figures milling around in the entrance, undecided what to do next. If they did not pluck up enough courage to come down in a reasonable time, Clindar would leave. But he would take the boar with him, and hope that they would draw the conclusion that food and friendship were inseparably linked.
To his pleased surprise he did not have long to wait. Moving slowly but steadily, Moon- Watchwoodless colored pencilser was descending the face of the cliff. He got to within twenty feet of ground level and then paused to survey the situation. Presumably he still felt quite confident that he was safe, and in ordinary circumstances he would have been right. Only a nimble ape, and not one of the great cats, would be able to scale this almost vertical rock.
Clindar pulled a knife from his equipmenwoodless colored pencilst belt, and, with rather more energy than skill, started to disjoint the boar. It must, he thought, look like magic to MoonWatcher to see how swiftly the tough meat came apart; he was performing in a few seconds acts which took the hominids many minutes of tearing and biting. When he had detached a foreleg, he held it out to his fascinated spectator.
He was patient, and Moon-Watcher was hungry, but the result was not inevitable. For many minutes the creature hovered hesitantly on the face of the cliff, descending a few feet, then hastily scrambling upward again. At last it made its decision, and gathered all its courage together. Still prepared for instant flight, Moon-Watcher dropped from the face of the cliff and started to sidle towards Clindar, approaching him in a cautious, crab-wise manner. Every few steps he stood upright for a second, grimacing and showing his teeth. He was obviously trying to demonstrate that he could defend himself if the need arose.
It took him several minutes, with numerous retreats and hesitations, to cross the last few feet. While he was doing this, Clindar pretended to chew avidly at the leg of boar, holding it out invitingly from time to time.
Abruptly, it was snatched from his hand, and in seconds Moon-Watcher was halfway up the cliff, carrying his prize between his teeth. Patiently, Clindar started to slice away at the carcass once more, waiting for the next move. It came within the hour, when Moon-Watcher returned for a second helping. This time, Graypate and Broken Fang followed him part of the way down the cliff face, anxious to see how it was done.
So the experiment in primitive diplomacy continued, day after day-sometimes in the morning before the hominids had left their cave, sometimes in the evening as they returned from the day's foraging. By the end of a week, Clindar had become accepted as an honorary member of the tribe. They were completely unafraid of him, and would squat in a circle watching his actions from a few feet away. Some of the infants would scamper over and touch him, until scolded by their mothers; but the adults still avoided direct contact. They were inquisitive, but not yet friendly.
To Clindar it was a weird, almost unreal existence, this daily switching between two worlds a million years apart. While his colleagues were probing the planet with the most advanced instruments of their science, he was mentally identifying himself with creatures who had barely reached the dawn of reason. He had to see through their eyes, remember the limitations of their clumsy fingers, imagine the slow processes of their brains when they were confronted with something new. Fortunately, there was the experience of others to guide him; when he was aboard the scoutship, he would search the records of the past, learning what earlier expeditions had done, on other worlds. He could profit from their successes, and avoid their mistakes.
Because speech still lay a million years in the future, the only way to instruct these creatures was by example. And because his people excelled in anything they turned their minds to, Clindar was soon the most efficient hunter on the planet. He was surprised, and a little disturbed, to find how much he enjoyed it. The ancient instincts had not wholly died, even though it had been a hundred thousand generations since they had last been given rein.
His favorite weapon was the thighbone of one of the larger antelopes; with its knobbly end, it formed a perfect natural club, much superior to any branch that could be wrenched off a tree. With a single well-placed blow it could kill animals up to the size of the hominids themselves, and it could drive off creatures that were far larger. Clindar was anxious to prove this, and had thought of staging a demonstration. As it turned out, his wish was granted without any deliberate planning.
The horde-it could not yet be granted the name of tribe-had now completely identified him with food, and the males were ready to follow him wherever he went. Even those females who were not burdened with infants would sometimes stop gathering leaves and fruit to accompany him, in the hope of profiting from his success.
They found the dead zebra only a few hundred yards from the scoutship, surrounded by the hyenas that had run it down. There were six of the mangy, unprepossessing scavengers worrying the carcass; confident that nothing smaller than a lion could disturb them, they continued their feasting as Clindar approached. Behind his back he could hear his pupils chattering nervously as they kept their distance.
The hyenas looked at Clindar warily, snarling and holding their ground, as he came nearer. He was the first biped they had ever seen-indeed, the only biped in all this world-but his strangeness did not alarm them. They were certain that they could protect their spoils.
A second later, they were not so sure. Clindar advanced on them like a whirlwind, a club in each hand-for he was completely ambidextrous-and started raining blows on the startled beasts. Too astonished to fight back, they fled, yelping hideously; then one of them regained his courage, spun around, and launched himself straight at Clindar's head.
That was good; it must not seem too easy, or the hominids would put too great a faith in these primitive weapons, and get themselves into disastrous situations. They must learn that a club would not make them invincible, and that the outcome of a fight would still depend on their own skill and strength.
Nevertheless, Clindar cheated, it was not really a fair demonstration, though it sewoodless colored pencilsrved its purpose admirably. He was far more powerful and better coordinated than these clumsy ape-men, and in an emergency he could move with a speed which very few animals on this world could match. Moreover, he was completely protected by the flexible yet incredibly tough film that insulated him from the microscopic killers that teemed in air and soil. The hyena did not really have a chance.
Clindar had already moved aside as it went hurtling by him, drifting past in slow motion to his accelerated senses. He caught it one terrific blow with the club as it sailed by-misjudging his strength, because the bone splintered and snapped and he was left holding the stump in his hand. But it did not matter, the hyena was dead before it reached the ground. The others, who had turned to watch the fight and were prowling hopefully in the near distance, did not wait for a further demonstration.
During the fight, the hominids had also kept their distance, but at least they had not been scared away. Now they approached with a kind of nervous eagerness, their attention equally divided between Clindar and his victim.
Moon-Watcher, always in the forefront, reached him first. He edged over to the slain hyena, put out a cautious paw, touched the body, and quickly withdrew. Twice he repeated this, until he was convinced that the animal was really dead. Then his jaw dropped in a comical expression of astonishment, and he stared at Clindar as if he could not believe his eyes.
Clindar held out the second, unbroken dub in his right hand, and waited. This was the moment; no better one would ever come. If Moon-Watcher had not learned the lesson now, he would never do so.
The hominid came slowly toward him, then squatted down only five feet away; he had never approached so closely before. Holding his head slightly on one side in an attitude of intense concentration, he stared at the bone held rigidly in Clindar's hand. Then he reached out a paw and touched the crude club.
His fingers grasped the end, and tugged gently at it. Clindar held firm for a moment, then released his grip.
Moon-Watcher drew the bone away from him, looked at it intently, then began to sniff and nibble at it. A spasm of disappointment shot through Clindar's mind; the lesson was already forgotten. This was just another morsel of food-not a key to the future, a tool that could lead to the mastery of this world, and of many others.
Then Moon-Watcher suddenly remembered. He jumped to his feet, and began to dance around waving the club in his right paw. As long as he kept moving, he could rear almost upright; only when he stood still did he have to use his free forelimb as a support. He had already begun to make the awesome and irrevocable transition from quadruped to biped.
The little dance lasted about five seconds; then Moon-Watcher shot off on a tangent. He raced toward the dead hyena in such a frenzy of excitement that his companions, who had already started to quarrel over the feast, scattered in fright.
Awkwardly, but with an energy that made up for his lack of skill, Moon-Watcher began to pound the carcass with his club, while the others looked on with awed astonishment. Clindar alone understood what was happening, and knew that this world had come to a turning point in time. To the most promising of its creatures, he had given the first tool; and the history of yet another race had begun.
FAREWELL TO EARTH
During the next five years, as the scoutships drifted far and wide over the face of the planet gathering thousands of specimens and millions of items of information, Clindar revisited the hominids many times. He never went hunting with them again; they had learned that lesson with astonishing-indeed, with ominous-speed, and all the males now knew how to use clubs when the need arose. Instead he had tried to introduce other tools, of which the most important were stone knives and hammers.
These small hand tools, crude though they might appear at first sight, represented a gigantic leap forward in technology. They multiplied the efficiency-and therefore the chance of survival-of their users many times. With a properly shaped flint one could dig up tough roots and hack off succulent branches which would otherwise be exhausting and laborious to collect. And a small, round pebble that fitted the hand nicely could split bones to get at the marrow, or crack animal skulls to reach the tenderest and most well-protected of all meat.
One day, if all went well, the hominids would not only use tools-they would make them; and they would make them of metal and of plastic and, in the end, of pure fields of force. But how they would use those tools-whether for good or for evil-was beyond prediction, and to be revealed only by the passing of the ages.
They had been given their initial impetus, and that woodless colored pencilswas all that one could, or should, do for a species at this level of intelligence; the rest was up to them. The outcome might yet be disastrous, as it had often been in the past. Failures could not be avoided, but they could be expunged; if one world was lost, there were many others. For Clindar's race, driven by impulses long buried in their own infancy, were gardeners in the field of stars. They sowed, and often they reaped. But sometimes they had to weed.
For the last time, Clindar stood on the African plain, brooding over his experiment with destiny. Above him loomed the globe of the scoutship, already throbbing with the energies that would soon carry him up to the lonely heights of space. And on his shoulder, completely unafraid, sat one of the little ape-children, searching hopefully for lice and salt crystals in the folds of his outer clothing. Clindar had long since been able to discard his protective envelope; he was now immune to the micro-fauna of this world, and carried nothing in his own body that could destroy the life around him.
A few yards away, the mother hominid was plucking berries; she had ignored her child completely, as if quite confident that it was in safe hands. She could never guess. thought Clindar, how much this little creature's chances of survival had improved. The tribe had prospered, thanks to the tools and weapons he had given it; no longer was it starving and defenseless. Even the big cats had begun to avoid these animals whose forelimbs, though they had no claws, could inflict such stinging pain.
A series of musical notes sounded from the communicator at Clindar's waist; his friends were growing impatient. He could not blame them; awoodless colored pencilsll these years they had remained insulated from this world, while he took the risks- and the rewards. Their turn would come later, on other planets, while he watched the instruments and recorders from the safety of the ship. Where was Moon- Watcher? Not far away, he was sure. He gave the three piercing whistles that the hominid had learned to recognize as his signal, and waited.
A few minutes later, there was a rustling in the undergrowth, and Moon-Watcher emerged, carrying a small gazelle over his shoulder. He grimaced and chittered with pleasure at the sight of his friend, and started to lope toward him with the awkward but swift three-limbed gait he employed when one of his forepaws was holding something.
In the last five years Moon-Watcher had matured and aged a good deal, and was now nearing the-doubtless violent-end of his short life. But he was in good condition, with only a few bald patches on his chest and thighs and he was well fed. He had lost his left ear in a fight with a hyena a few months ago, and that in itself was a sign of progress. None of his ancestors would have dreamed of competing with the snarling scavengers of the plains.
Still carrying the infant on his shoulder, Clindar moved out from the shadow of the ship to meet his friend. Perhaps the baby was Moon-Watcher's; there was no way of telling, for mating among the hominids was completely promiscuous and stable family relations were still ages in the future. The infants were indiscriminately mothered by all the females, and cuffed out of the way by all the males.
This open place would do well enough. Clindar reached out his hand toward Moon-Watcher, and waited. In the early days the hominid had avoided all contact, especially when he was carrying food, but now he was no longer in the least shy. Trustingly, he held out his free hand toward Clindar, and for the last time they touched across the gulfs that sundered them.
Clindar tugged the hairy paw upward, so that MoonWatcher stood teetering on his hind legs. in the position his remote descendants must one day assume if they were ever to free their hands and their minds. He turned his face toward the ship, and gave the slight twist of the head that signified "now." The brief affirmative tone came from his communicator almost at once, and he let Moon- Watcher's hand drop back to the ground.
Ages after the little hominid's bones had dissolved into dust this recording of their farewell would still exist, to be recalled whenever Clindar pleased. He would add others to it, in the years and the millennia that lay ahead, until the time came-if it ever did-when at last he was tired of the Universe, and of immortality.
Silent as rising smoke, the bubble of the scoutship lifted from the African plain and dwindled into the sky. Moon-Watcher never saw it go; the gazelle he had killed now engaged his full attention. Soon he would forget his visitor-but not the gifts he had brought from the stars.
And his descendants would use them, with ever increasing skill, until it was time for the next meeting.
There was one small but important matter still to woodless colored pencilsbe arranged, and the ship landed briefly on the Moon to do it. In the lunar midnight, the cold rocks split and scattered as the traction fields tore into them, digging the cavity that would protect the Sentinel from all foreseeable accidents of time and space. The black tetrahedron was set upon its supporting apron, and then sealed off from the light of the sun and the light of the earth. The broken rock was poured back into place; in a few thousand years, the incessant rain of meteor dust would have hidden the scar completely.
But the buried machine's magnetic signal would shout its presence to the empty sky, and any intelligence that came this way could not fail to observe it. If, ages hence, Moon-Watcher's descendants attained the freedom of space, they must pause here on the way to the stars, and those who had set them on the road would know that they were coming, and would prepare to welcome them.
Or it might be that a culture would arise on this planet flourish briefly in the innocent belief that the universe revolved around it, and then sink back once more into the dim twilight of preconscious thought, rejoining the animal kingdom from which it had emerged. Such civilizations were too numerous to be counted, far less examined, in this galaxy of a hundred billion worlds. Though they might contain many marvels and hold much of interest, yet one had to pass them by. Indeed, few lasted long enough for a second visit; they were ephemeral flashes of intelligence, flickering like fireflies in the cosmic night.
But once a species had begun to move out from its native world, and had become aware of the universe around it, it was worthy of attention. Only a space-faring culture could truly transcend its environment, and join others in giving a purpose to creation. Therefore such cultures had to be detected and cherished, when they merited it, which was not always the case. The sentinel beacons that now kept hopeful watch upon more than a million planets sometimes brought bad news as well as good.
As the ship lifted from the heart of Tycho, Clindar caught one last glimpse of the blue-green globe hanging motionless in the lunar sky. Africa was turned toward him, warming itself in the rays of the hidden sun. He wished he could have stayed longer-a hundred years, at least-but new worlds were calling, far down the unimaginable convolutions of the Star Gate.
It was unlikely that he would ever know the outcome of the chain reaction he had started here; the chances were that it would die out in a few generations, and leave no trace. In these early stages disease or changing climate or accident could so easily wipe out the glimmering, predawn intelligence, before it was strong enough to protect itself against the blind forces of the Universe.
For if the stars and the galaxies had the least concern for mind, or the slightest awareness of its presence, that was yet to be proved.
THE BIRTH OF HAL
The movie 2001 has often been criticised as lacking human interest, and having no real characters-except HAL. In leaping straight from the Pleistocene into space, Stanley Kubrick bypassed all the problems that would have been involved in developing the personal backgrounds of the astronauts, the political and cultural impact produced by the discovery of the monolith, and the general details of life at the beginning of the next century. We could have written a whole book about that; in fact, we did....
And when we had done so, we realized that it was irrelevant to the main theme of the movie. To havewoodless colored pencils developed all this background material-besides adding a couple of hours to the running time and several millions to the cost-would have thrown the whole story out of focus. So the novel contains only a few pages set on Earth, 2001 AD, while the film ignores the subject completely, and jumps straight into space.
One of the problems facing any science-fiction writer who is aiming for the general public is how much to explain, and how much to take for granted. He must try not to leave his readers baffled, but at the same time must avoid those disguised lectures which are all too typical of the genre ("Now tell me, Professor...."). At one time, Stanley hoped to get around this problem-as far as the movie was concerned-by opening with a short documentary-type prelude, in which noted scientists and philosophers would establish the credibility of our theme. With this idea in mind, he sent Roger Caras around the world, to interview, on film, more than twenty authorities on space, computers, anthropology-even religion. They included the astronomers Harlow Shapley, Sir Bernard Lovell, Fred Whipple, Frank Drake; Dr. Margaret Mead (who was a space bug long before Sputnik) and the great Russian scientist A. I. Oparin, the first man to point out (in the 1920's) a plausible way in which life could arise from the simple chemicals of the primitive Earth.
These interviews, many of them quite fascinating, were never used-a fact which understandably upset some of the distinguished and busy men involved. (Transcripts of several interviews may be found in Jerry Agel's The Making of Kubrick's 2001.) But as it turned out, to have incorporated them in the film would have been aesthetically impossible; it also proved to be unnecessary. We did not have to educate the public, as the headlong rush of astronautical events did it for us.
While the film was in production, the first space rendezvous (Gemini VI and VII) took place. Luna IX landed in the Ocean of Storms and gave us our first close-ups of the lunar surface from a distance of a few inches. (Too late to help the Art Department-all our lunar scenes had already been shot-but fortunately our educated guesses had been pretty close to the reality.) Most astonishing and unexpected of all-the discovery of the first apparently artificial radio sources in outer space was announced just a month before the movie was premiered. (April 1968). We now believe that the so-called "pulsars" are natural objects (neutron stars), but it was interesting to see how ready the public and the scientists were to consider seriously the "Little Green Men" hypothesis.
And at the end of that same year, Apollo 8 looped round the Moon, and half the human race heard that unforgettable Christmas message from another world. It was just as well, therefore, that Stanley had thrown his audience straight into space, without wasting time on preliminaries. A cautious, pedestrian approach would have resulted in instant obsolescence.
Nevertheless, I was quite sorry to lose many of the Earthbound sequences, which established the background for the expedition to Jupiter (or Saturn, as we later decided in the novel version). They included several items of-I hope-painless exposition, such as the attempt in the chapter entitled "Universe" to describe a film giving the scale of the cosmos. I have since encountered two films (one by Charles Eames) made on precisely these lines. The section that follows also reveals the early evolution of HAL (or Socrates, or Athena, as he/she was christened in earlier versions). It will be seen that in the course of writing, HAL lost mobility but gained enormously in intelligence.
And while I am on this subject, I would like to demolish one annoying and persistent myth, which started soon after the movie was released. As is clearly stated in the novel (Chapter 16), HAL stands for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer. (No, I'm not going to explain that, except to say that it gets the best of both worlds in computer design.) However, about once a week some character spots the fact that HAL is one letter ahead of IBM, and promptly assumes that Stanley and I were taking a crack at that estimable institution.
As it happened, IBM had given us a good deal of help, so we were quite embarrassed by this, and would have changed the name had we spotted the coincidence. For coincidence it is, even if the odds are twenty-six cubed, or 17,576 to 1. (Just checked by HAL Jr., the beautiful 9100A calculator that my friends at Hewlett-Packard gave me at Christmas 1969.)
The following seven chapters contain only part of the Earthbound background material that Stanley and I developed; I have omitted thousands of words of description and characterization which are no longer of interest. (There is no record that I ever answered Stanley's question: "Do they sleep in their pajamas?") What is left, however, is still relevant, and will be for a long time to come-until the first encounter with aliens actually takes place.
It will be noticed that in this first version we decided not to keep the purpose of the mission a secret; in reality, I very mwoodless colored pencilsuch doubt whether this could be done, for the length of time we assumed in the film. And on rereading, after all these years, the last chapter-"Midnight, Washington"-I have suddenly remembered that just four years after those words were written, I received an invitation to a White House d inner in honor of the first men who would fly around the Moon, that coming Christmas. But I was already on my way to Ceylon, and so missed the opportunity to wish good luck to Borman, Anders, and Lovell.
I have never quite forgiven Bill Anders for resisting the temptation, which he later admitted had passed through his mind, of radioing back to Earth the discovery of a large, black monolith on the Far Side of the Moon....