Adaptation

Mack Reynolds

Preview: Issue 1 of 8

Foreword

Hardly had man solved his basic problems on the planet of his origin than he began to fumble into space. Barely a century had elapsed in the exploration of the Solar System than he began to grope for the stars.

And suddenly, with an all but religious zeal, mankind conceived its fantasy dream of populating the galaxy. Never in the history of the race had fervor reached such a peak and held so long. The question of why was seemingly ignored. Millions of Earth-type planets beckoned and with a lemming-like desperation humanity erupted into them.

But the obstacles were frightening in their magnitude. The planets and satellites of Sol had proven comparatively tractable and those that were suited to man-life were quickly brought under his dominion. But there, of course, he had the advantage of proximity. The time involved in running back and forth to the home planet was meaningless and all Earth's resources could be thrown into each problem's solving.

But a planet a year removed in transportation or even communication? Ay! this was another thing and more than once a million colonists were lost before the Earthlings could adapt to new climates, new flora and fauna, new bacteria—or to factors which the most far out visionary had never fancied, perhaps the lack of something never before missed.

So, mad with the lust to seed the universe with his kind, men sought new methods. To a hundred thousand worlds they sent smaller colonies, as few as a hundred pioneers apiece, and there marooned them, to adapt, if adapt they could.

For a millennium each colony was left to its own resources, to conquer the environment or to perish in the effort.

A thousand years was sufficient. Invariably it was found, on those planets where human life survived at all, man slipped back during his first two or three centuries into a state of barbarism. Then slowly began to inch forward again. There were exceptions and the progress on one planet never exactly duplicated that on another, however the average was surprisingly close to both nadir and zenith, in terms of evolution of society.

In a thousand years it was deemed by the Office of Galactic Colonization such pioneers had largely adjusted to the new environment and were ready for civilization, industrialization and eventual assimilation into the rapidly evolving Galactic Commonwealth.

Of course, even from the beginning, new and unforeseen problems manifested themselves ...

from Man In Antiquity

published in Terra City, Sol

Galactic Year 3, 502.

I

The Coordinator said, "I suppose I'm an incurable romantic. You see, I hate to see you go." Academician Amschel Mayer was a man in early middle years; Dr. Leonid Plekhanov, his contemporary. They offset one another; Mayer thin and high-pitched, his colleague heavy, slow and dour. Now they both showed their puzzlement.

The Coordinator added, "Without me."

Plekhanov kept his massive face blank. It wasn't for him to be impatient with his superior. Nevertheless, the ship was waiting, stocked and crewed.

Amschel Mayer said, "Certainly a last minute chat can't harm." Inwardly he realized the other man's position. Here was a dream coming true, and Mayer and his fellows were the last thread that held the Coordinator's control over the dream. When they left, half a century would pass before he could again check developments.

The Coordinator became more businesslike. "Yes," he said, "but I have more in mind than a chat. Very briefly, I wish to go over your assignment. Undoubtedly redundant, but if there are questions, no matter how seemingly trivial, this is the last opportunity to air them."

What possible questions could there be at this late date? Plekhanov thought.

The department head swiveled slowly in his chair and then back again as he talked. "You are the first—the first of many, many such teams. The manner in which you handle your task will effect man's eternity. Obviously, since upon your experience we will base our future policies on interstellar colonization." His voice lost volume. "The position in which you find yourselves should be humbling."

"It is," Amschel Mayer agreed. Plekhanov nodded his head.

The Coordinator nodded, too. "However, the situation is as near ideal as we could hope. Rigel's planets are all but unbelievably Earthlike. Almost all our flora and fauna have been adaptable. Certainly our race has been.

"These two are the first of the seeded planets. Almost a thousand years ago we deposited small bodies of colonists upon each of them. Since then we have periodically checked, from a distance, but never intruded." His eyes went from one of his listeners to the other. "No comments or questions, thus far?"

Mayer said, "This is one thing that surprises me. The colonies are so small to begin with. How could they possibly populate a whole world in one millennium?"

The Coordinator said, "Man adapts, Amschel. Have you studied the development of the United States? During her first century and a half the need was for population to fill the vast lands wrested from the Amerinds. Families of eight, ten, and twelve children were the common thing, much larger ones were not unknown. And the generations crowded one against another; a girl worried about spinsterhood if she reached seventeen unwed. But in the next century? The frontier vanished, the driving need for population was gone. Not only were drastic immigration laws passed, but the family shrunk rapidly until by mid-Twentieth Century the usual consisted of two or three children, and even the childless family became increasingly common."

Mayer frowned impatiently, "But still, a thousand years. There is always famine, war, disease ..."

Plekhanov snorted patronizingly. "Forty to fifty generations, Amschel? Starting with a hundred colonists? Where are your mathematics?"

The Coordinator said, "The proof is there. We estimate that each of Rigel's planets now supports a population of nearly one billion."

"To be more exact," Plekhanov rumbled, "some nine hundred million on Genoa, seven and a half on Texcoco."

Mayer smiled wryly. "I wonder what the residents of each of these planets call their worlds. Hardly the same names we have arbitrarily bestowed."

"Probably each call theirs The World ," the Coordinator smiled. "After all, the basic language, in spite of a thousand years, is still Amer-English. However, I assume you are familiar with our method of naming. The most advanced culture on Rigel's first planet is to be compared to the Italian cities during Europe's feudalistic era. We have named that planet Genoa. The most advanced nation of the second planet is comparable to the Aztecs at the time of the conquest. We considered Tenochtitlán but it seemed a tongue twister, so Texcoco is the alternative."

"Modernizing Genoa," Mayer mused, "should be considerably easier than the task on semiprimitive Texcoco."

Plekhanov shrugged, "Not necessarily."

The Coordinator held up a hand and smiled at them. "Please, no debates on methods at present. An hour from now you will be in space with a year of travel before you. During that time you'll have opportunity for discussion, debate and hair pulling on every phase of your problem."

His expression became more serious. "You are acquainted with the unique position you assume. These colonists are in your control to an extent no small group has ever dominated millions of others before. No Caesar ever exerted the power that will be in your educated hands. For a half century you will be as gods. Your science, your productive know-how, your medicine—if it comes to that, your weapons—are many centuries in advance of theirs. As I said before, your position should be humbling."

Mayer squirmed in his chair. "Why not check upon us, say, once every decade? In all, our ship's company numbers but sixteen persons. Almost anything could happen. If you were to send a department craft each ten years ..."

The Coordinator was shaking his head. "Your qualifications are as high as anyone available. Once on the scene you will begin accumulating information which we, here in Terra City, do not have. Were we to send another group in ten years to check upon you, all they could do would be interfere in a situation all the factors with which they would not be cognizant."

Amschel Mayer shifted nervously. "But no matter how highly trained, nor how earnest our efforts, we still may fail." His voice worried. "The department cannot expect guaranteed success. After all, we are the first."

"Admittedly. Your group is first to approach the hundreds of thousands of planets we have seeded. If you fail, we will use your failure to perfect the eventual system we must devise for future teams. Even your failure would be of infinite use to us." He lifted and dropped a shoulder. "I have no desire to undermine your belief in yourselves but—how are we to know?—perhaps there will be a score of failures before we find the ideal method of quickly bringing these primitive colonies into our Galactic Commonwealth."

The Coordinator came to his feet and sighed. He still hated to see them go. "If there is no other discussion ..."

II

Specialist Joseph Chessman stood stolidly before a viewing screen. Theoretically he was on watch. Actually his eyes were unseeing, there was nothing to see. The star pattern changed so slowly as to be all but permanent.

Not that every other task on board was not similar. One man could have taken the Pedagogue from the Solar System to Rigel, just as easily as its sixteen-hand crew was doing. Automation at its ultimate, not even the steward department had tasks adequately to fill the hours.

He had got beyond the point of yawning, his mind was a blank during these hours of duty. He was a stolid, bear of a man, short and massive of build.

A voice behind him said, "Second watch reporting. Request permission to take over the bridge."

Chessman turned and it took a brief moment for the blankness in his eyes to fade into life. "Hello Kennedy, you on already? Seems like I just got here." He muttered in self-contradiction, "Or that I've been here a month."

Technician Jerome Kennedy grinned. "Of course, if you want to stay ..."

Chessman said glumly, "What difference does it make where you are? What are they doing in the lounge?"

Kennedy looked at the screen, not expecting to see anything and accomplishing just that. "Still on their marathon argument."

Joe Chessman grunted.

Just to be saying something, Kennedy said, "How do you stand in the big debate?"

"I don't know. I suppose I favor Plekhanov. How we're going to take a bunch of savages and teach them modern agriculture and industrial methods in fifty years under democratic institutions, I don't know. I can see them putting it to a vote when we suggest fertilizer might be a good idea." He didn't feel like continuing the conversation. "See you later, Kennedy," and then, as an afterthought, formally, "Relinquishing the watch to Third Officer."

As he left the compartment, Jerry Kennedy called after him, "Hey, what's the course!"

Chessman growled over his shoulder, "The same it was last month, and the same it'll be next month." It wasn't much of a joke but it was the only one they had between themselves.

In the ship's combination lounge and mess he drew a cup of coffee. Joe Chessman, among whose specialties were propaganda and primitive politics, was third in line in the expedition's hierarchy. As such he participated in the endless controversy dealing with overall strategy but only as a junior member of the firm. Amschel Mayer and Leonid Plekhanov were the center of the fracas and right now were at it hot and heavy.

Joe Chessman listened with only half interest. He settled into a chair on the opposite side of the lounge and sipped at his coffee. They were going over their old battlefields, assaulting ramparts they'd stormed a thousand times over.

Plekhanov was saying doggedly, "Any planned economy is more efficient than any unplanned one. What could be more elementary than that? How could anyone in his right mind deny that?"

And Mayer snapped, " I deny it. That term planned economy covers a multitude of sins. My dear Leonid, don't be an idiot ..."

"I beg your pardon, sir!"

"Oh, don't get into one of your huffs, Plekhanov."

They were at that stage again.

Technician Natt Roberts entered, a book in hand, and sent the trend of conversation in a new direction. He said, worriedly, "I've been studying up on this and what we're confronted with is two different ethnic periods, barbarism and feudalism. Handling them both at once doubles our problems."

One of the junior specialists who'd been sitting to one side said, "I've been thinking about that and I believe I've got an answer. Why not all of us concentrate on Texcoco? When we've brought them to the Genoa level, which shouldn't take more than a decade or two, then we can start working on the Genoese, too."

Mayer snapped, "And by that time we'll have hardly more than half our fifty years left to raise the two of them to an industrial technology. Don't be an idiot, Stevens."

Stevens flushed his resentment.

Plekhanov said slowly, "Besides, I'm not sure that, given the correct method, we cannot raise Texcoco to an industrialized society in approximately the same time it will take to bring Genoa there."

Mayer bleated a sarcastic laugh at that opinion.

Natt Roberts tossed his book to the table and sank into a chair. "If only one of them had maintained itself at a reasonable level of development, we'd have had help in working with the other. As it is, there are only sixteen of us." He shook his head. "Why did the knowledge held by the original colonists melt away? How can an intelligent people lose such basics as the smelting of iron, gunpowder, the use of coal as a fuel?"

Plekhanov was heavy with condescension. "Roberts, you seem to have entered upon this expedition with a lack of background. Consider. You put down a hundred colonists, products of the most advanced culture. Among these you have one or two who can possibly repair an IBM machine, but is there one who can smelt iron, or even locate the ore? We have others who could design an automated textile factory, but do any know how to weave a blanket on a hand loom?

"The first generation gets along well with the weapons and equipment brought with them from Earth. They maintain the old ways. The second generation follows along but already ammunition for the weapons runs short, the machinery imported from Earth needs parts. There is no local economy that can provide such things. The third generation begins to think of Earth as a legend and the methods necessary to survive on the new planet conflict with those the first settlers imported. By the fourth generation, Earth is no longer a legend but a fable ..."

"But the books, the tapes, the films ..." Roberts injected.

"Go with the guns, the vehicles and the other things brought from Earth. On a new planet there is no leisure class among the colonists. Each works hard if the group is to survive. There is no time to write new books, nor to copy the old, and the second and especially the third generation are impatient of the time needed to learn to read, time that should be spent in the fields or at the chase. The youth of an industrial culture can spend twenty years and more achieving a basic education before assuming adult responsibilities but no pioneer society can afford to allow its offspring to so waste its time."

Natt Roberts was being stubborn. "But still, a few would carry the torch of knowledge."

Plekhanov nodded ponderously. "For a while. But then comes the reaction against these nonconformists, these crackpots who, by spending time at books, fail to carry their share of the load. One day they wake up to find themselves expelled from the group—if not knocked over the head."

Joe Chessman had been following Plekhanov's argument. He said dourly, "But finally the group conquers its environment to the point where a minimum of leisure is available again. Not for everybody, of course."

Amschel Mayer bounced back into the discussion. "Enter the priest, enter the warlord. Enter the smart operator who talks or fights himself into a position where he's free from drudgery."

Joe Chessman said reasonably, "If you don't have the man with leisure, society stagnates. Somebody has to have time off for thinking, if the whole group is to advance."

"Admittedly!" Mayer agreed. "I'd be the last to contend that an upper class is necessarily parasitic."

Plekhanov grumbled, "We're getting away from the subject. In spite of Mayer's poorly founded opinions, it is quite obvious that only a collectivized economy is going to enable these Rigel planets to achieve an industrial culture in as short a period as half a century."

Amschel Mayer reacted as might have been predicted. "Look here, Plekhanov, we have our own history to go by. Man made his greatest strides under a freely competitive system."

"Well now ..." Chessman began.

"Prove that!" Plekhanov insisted loudly. "Your so-called free economy countries such as England, France and the United States began their industrial revolution in the early part of the nineteenth century. It took them a hundred years to accomplish what the Soviets did in fifty, in the next century."

"Just a moment , now," Mayer simmered. "That's fine, but the Soviets were able to profit by the pioneering the free countries did. The scientific developments, the industrial techniques, were handed to her on a platter."

Specialist Martin Gunther, thus far silent, put in his calm opinion. "Actually, it seems to me the fastest industrialization comes under a paternal guidance from a more advanced culture. Take Japan. In 1854 she was opened to trade by Commodore Perry. In 1871 she abolished feudalism and encouraged by her own government and utilizing the most advanced techniques of a sympathetic West, she began to industrialize." Gunther smiled wryly, "Soon to the dismay of the very countries that originally sponsored bringing her into the modern world. By 1894 she was able to wage a successful war against China and by 1904 she took on and trounced Czarist Russia. In a period of thirty-five years she had advanced from feudalism to a world power."

Joe Chessman took his turn. He said obdurately, "Your paternalistic guidance, given an uncontrolled competitive system, doesn't always work out. Take India after she gained independence from England. She tried to industrialize and had the support of the free nations. But what happened?"

Plekhanov leaned forward to take the ball. "Yes! There's your classic example. Compare India and China. China had a planned industrial development. None of this free competition nonsense. In ten years time they had startled the world with their advances. In twenty years—"

"Yes," Stevens said softly, "but at what price?"

Plekhanov turned on him. "At any price!" he roared. "In one generation they left behind the China of famine, flood, illiteracy, war lords and all the misery that had been China's throughout history."

Stevens said mildly, "Whether in their admitted advances they left behind all the misery that had been China's is debatable, sir."

Plekhanov began to bellow an angry retort but Amschel Mayer popped suddenly to his feet and lifted a hand to quiet the others. "Our solution has just come to me!"

Plekhanov glowered at him.

Mayer said excitedly, "Remember what the Coordinator told us? This expedition of ours is the first of its type. Even though we fail, the very mistakes we make will be invaluable. Our task is to learn how to bring backward peoples into an industrialized culture in roughly half a century."

The messroom's occupants scowled at him. Thus far he'd said nothing new.

Mayer went on enthusiastically. "Thus far in our debates we've had two basic suggestions on procedure. I have advocated a system of free competition; my learned colleague has been of the opinion that a strong state and a planned, not to say totalitarian, economy would be the quicker." He paused dramatically. "Very well, I am in favor of trying them both."

They regarded him blankly.

He said with impatience, "There are two planets, at different ethnic periods it is true, but not so far apart as all that. Fine, eight of us will take Genoa and eight Texcoco."

Plekhanov rumbled, "Fine, indeed. But which group will have the use of the Pedagogue with its library, its laboratories, its shops, its weapons?"

For a moment, Mayer was stopped but Joe Chessman growled, "That's no problem. Leave her in orbit around Rigel. We've got two small boats with which to ferry back and forth. Each group could have the use of her facilities any time they wished."

"I suppose we could have periodic conferences," Plekhanov said. "Say once every decade to compare notes and make further plans, if necessary."

Natt Roberts was worried. "We had no such instructions from the Coordinator. Dividing our forces like that."

Mayer cut him short. "My dear Roberts, we were given carte blanche. It is up to us to decide procedure. Actually, this system realizes twice the information such expeditions as ours might ordinarily offer."

"Texcoco for me," Plekhanov grumbled, accepting the plan in its whole. "The more backward of the two, but under my guidance in half a century it will be the more advanced, mark me."

"Look here," Martin Gunther said. "Do we have two of each of the basic specialists, so that we can divide the party in such a way that neither planet will miss out in any one field?"

Amschel Mayer was beaming at the reception of his scheme. "The point is well taken, my dear Martin, however you'll recall that our training was deliberately made such that each man spreads over several fields. This in case, during our half century without contact, one or more of us meets with accident. Besides, the Pedagogue's library is such that any literate can soon become effective in any field to the extent needed on the Rigel planets."

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