The Currents of Space (Page 66)

"Yes. Yes. There’s nothing surprising in that. Spatio-analysis is ready for that theory. If Rik had not come up with it, someone else would have shortly. In fact, similar theories have been advanced before, but they were never taken seriously. They were put forward before the techniques of Spatio-analysis were developed and no one was ever able to account for the sudden acquisition of excess carbon by the star in question.

"But now we know there are carbon currents. We can plot their courses, find out what stars intersected those courses in the past ten thousand years, check that against our records for nova formation and radiation variations. That’s what Rik must have done. Those must have been the calculations and observations he tried to show the Townman. But that’s all beside the immediate point.

"What must be arranged for now is the immediate beginning of an evacuation of Florina."

"I thought it would come to that," said Fife composedly.

"I’m sorry, Junz," said Abel, "but that’s quite impossible."

"Why impossible?"

"When will Florina’s sun explode?"

"I don’t know. From Elk’s anxiety a year ago, I’d say we had little time."

"But you can’t set a date?"

"Of course not."

"When will you be able to set a date?"

"There’s no way of telling. Even if we get Elk’s calculations, it would all have to be rechecked."

"Can you guarantee that the Spatio-analyst’s theory will prove to be correct?"

Junz frowned. "I am personally certain of it, but no scientist can guarantee any theory in advance."

"Then it turns out that you want Florina evacuated on mere speculation."

"I think the chance of killing the population of a planet is not one that can be taken."

"If Florina were an ordinary planet I would agree with you. But Florina bears the Galactic supply of kyrt. It can’t be done."

Junz said angrily, "Is that the agreement you came to with Fife while I was gone?"

Fife intervened. He said, "Let me explain, Dr. Junz. The government of Sark would never consent to evacuate Florina, even if the I.S.B. claimed it had proof of this nova theory of yours. Trantor cannot force us because while the Galaxy might support a war against Sark for the purpose of maintaining the kyrt trade, it will never support one for the purpose of ending it."

"Exactly," said Abel. "I am afraid our own people would not support us in such a war."

Junz found revulsion growing strong within him. A planet full of people meant nothing against the dictates of economic necessity!

He said, "Listen to me. This is not a matter of one planet, but of a whole Galaxy. There are now twenty full novae originating within the Galaxy every year. In addition, some two thousand stars among the Galaxy’s hundred billion shift their radiation characteristics sufficiently to render uninhabitable any habitable planet they may have. Human beings occupy one million stellar systems in the Galaxy. That means that on an average of once every fifty years some inhabited planet somewhere becomes too• hot for life. Such cases are a matter of historical record. Every five thousand years some inhabited planet has a fifty-fifty chance of being puffed to gas by a nova.

"If Trantor does nothing about Florina, if it allows it to vaporire with its people on it, that will serve notice to all the people of the Galaxy that when their own turn comes they may expect no help, if such help is in the way of the economic convenience of a few powerful men. Can you risk that, Abel?

"On the other hand, help Florina and you will have shown that Trantor puts its responsibility to the people of the Galaxy above the maintenance of mere property rights. Trantor will win good will that it could never win by force."

Abel bowed his head. Then he shook it wearily. "No, Junz. What you say appeals to me, but it is not practical. I can’t count on emotions as against the assured political effect of any attempt to end the kyrt trade. In fact, I think it might be wise to avoid investigating the theory. The thought that it might be true would do too much harm."

"But what if it is true?"

"We must work on the assumption that it is not. I take it that when you were gone a few moments ago it was to contact the I.S.B."


"No matter. Trantor, I think, will have enough influence to stop their investigations."

"I’m afraid not. Not these investigations. Gentlemen, we will soon have the secret of cheap kyrt. There will be no kyrt monopoly within a year, whether or not there is a nova."

"What do you mean?"

"The conference is reaching the essential point now, Fife. Kyrt grows only on Florina of all inhabited planets. Its seeds produce ordinary cellulose elsewhere. Florina is probably the only inhabited planet, on a chance basis, that is currently pre-nova, and it has probably been pre-nova since it first entered the carbon current, perhaps thousands of years ago, if the angle of intersection was small. It seems quite probable, then, that kyrt and the prenova stage go together."

"Nonsense," said Fife.

"Is it? There must be a reason why kyrt is kyrt on Florina and cotton elsewhere. Scientists have tried many ways of artificially producing kyrt elsewhere, but they tried blindly, so they’ve always failed. Now they will know it is due to factors induced in a pre-nova stellar system."

Fife said scornfully, "They’ve tried duplicating the radiation qualities of Fife’s sun."

"With appropriate arc lights, yes, that duplicated the visible and ultraviolet spectrum only. What about radiation in the infrared and beyond? What about magnetic fields? What about electron emission? What about cosmic-ray effects? I’m not a physical biochemist so there may be factors I know nothing about. But people who are physical biochemists will be looking now, a whole Galaxy of them. Within the year, I assure you, the solution will be found.