The Currents of Space (Page 67)

"Economics is on the side of humanity now. The Galaxy wants cheap kyrt, and if they find it or even if they imagine they will shortly find it, they will want Florina evacuated, not only out of humanity, but out of a desire to turn the tables, at long last, on the kyrt-gouging Sarkites."

"Bluff!" growled Fife.

"Do you think so, Abel?" demanded Junz. "If you help the Squires, Trantor will be looked on not as the saviors of the kyrt trade but of the kyrt monopoly. Can you chance that?"

"Can Trantor chance a war?" demanded Fife.

"War? Nonsense! Squire, in one year your holdings on Florina will be worthless, nova or not. Sell out. Sell out all Florina. Trantor can pay for it."

"Buy a planet?" said Abel in dismay.

"Why not? Trantor has the funds, and its gain in good will among the people of the universe will pay it back a thousandfold. If telling them that you are saving hundreds of millions of lives is not enough, tell them that you will bring them cheap kyrt. That will do it."

"I’ll think about it," said Abel.

Abel looked at the Squire. Fife’s eyes fell.

After a long pause he too said, "I’ll think about it."

Junz laughed harshly. "Don’t think too long. The kyrt story will break quickly enough. Nothing can stop it. After that, neither one of you will have freedom of action. You can each strike a better bargain now."

The Townman seemed beaten. "It’s really true?" he kept repeating. "Really true? No more Florina?"

"It’s true," said Junz.

Terens spread his arms, let them fall against his side. "If you want the papers I got from Rik, they’re filed among vital statistic files in my home town. I picked the dead files, records a century back and more. No one would ever look there for any reason."

"Look," said Junz, "I’m sure we can make an agreement with the I.S.B. We’ll need a man on Florina, one who knows the Florinian people, who can tell us how to explain the facts to them, how best to organize the evacuation, how to pick the most suitable planets of refuge. Will you help us?"

"And beat the game that way, you mean? Get away with murder? Why not?" There were sudden tears in the Townman’s eyes. "But I lose anyway. I will have no world, no home. We all lose. The Floriians lose their world, the Sarkites lose their wealth, the Trantorians their chance to get that wealth. There are no winners at all."

"Unless," said Junz gently, "you realize that in the new Galaxy-a Galaxy safe from the threat of stellar instability, a Galaxy with kyrt available to all, and a Galaxy in which political unification will be so much closer-there will be winners after all. One quadrillion winners The people of the Galaxy, they are the victors."


A Year After

"Rix! Rix!" Selim Junz hurried across the port grounds toward the ship, hands outstretched. "And Lona! I’d never have recognized either of you. How are you? How are you?"

"As well as we could wish. Our letter reached you, I see," said Elk.

"Of course. Tell me, what do you think of it all?" They were walking back together, toward Junz’s offices.

Valona said sadly, "We visited our old town this morning. The fields are so empty." Her clothing was now that of a woman of the Empire, rather than that of a peasant of Florina.

"Yes, it must be dreary for a person who has lived here. It grows dreary even for me, but I will stay as long as I can. The radiation recordings of Florina’s sun are of tremendous theoretical interest."

"So much evacuation in less than a year! It speaks for excellent organization."

"We’re doing our best, Elk. Oh, I think I should be calling you by your real name."

"Please don’t. I’ll never be used to it. I’m Elk. That’s still the only name I remember."

Junz said, "Have you decided whether you’re going to return to Spatio-analysis?"

Rik shook his head. "I’ve decided, but the decision is, no. I’ll never remember enough. That part’s gone forever. It doesn’t bother me, though. I’ll be returning to Earth… By the way, I rather hoped I’d see the Townman."

"I think not. He decided to go off today. I think he’d rather not see you. He feels guilty, I think. You have no grudge against him?"

Rik said, "No. He meant well, and he changed my life in many ways for the better. For one thing, I met Lana." His arm went about her shoulder.

Valona looked at him and smiled.

"Besides," Elk went on, "he cured me of something. I’ve found out why I was a Spatio-analyst. I know why nearly a third of all Spatio-analysts are recruited from the one planet, Earth. Anyone living on a radioactive world is bound to grow up in fear and insecurity. A misstep can mean death and our planet’s own surface is the greatest enemy we have.

"That makes for a sort of anxiety bred into us, Dr. Junz, a fear of planets. We’re only happy in space; that’s the only place we can feel safe."

"And you don’t feel that way any longer, Rik?"

"I certainly don’t. I don’t even remember feeling that way. That’s it, you see. The Townman had set his psychic probe to remove feelings of anxiety and he hadn’t bothered to set the intensity controls. He thought he had a recent, superficial trouble to deal with. Instead there was this deep, ingrained anxiety he knew nothing of. He got rid of all of it. In a sense, it-was worth getting rid of it even though so much else went with it. I don’t have to stay in space now. I can go back to Earth. I can work there and Earth needs men. It always will."

"You know," Junz said, "why can’t we do for Earth what we’re doing for Florina? There’s no need to bring up Earthmen in such fear and insecurity. The Galaxy is big."