The Currents of Space (Page 68)

"No," said Rik vehemently. "It’s a different case. Earth has its past, Dr. Junz. Many people may not believe it, but we of Earth know that Earth was the original planet of the human race."

"Well, perhaps. I can’t say, one way or the other."

"It was. It’s a planet that can’t be abandoned; it mustn’t be abandoned. Someday we’ll change it, change its surface back to what it once must have been. Till then-we’re staying."

Valona said softly, "And I’m an Earthwoman now."

Rik was looking out at the horizon. Upper City was as garish as ever, but the people were gone.

He said, "How many are left on Florina?"

"About twenty million," said Junz. "We work slower as we go along. We have to keep our withdrawals balanced. The people that are left must always maintain themselves as an economic unit in the months that are left. Of course, resettlement is in its earliest stages. Most of the evacuees are still in temporary camps on neighboring worlds. There is unavoidable hardship."

"When will the last person leave?"

"Never, really."

"I don’t understand."

"The Townman has applied unofficially for permission to remain. It’s been granted, also unofficially. It won’t be a matter of public record."

"Remain?" Elk was shocked. "But for the sake of all the Galaxy, why?"

"I didn’t know," said Junz, "but I think you explained it when you talked of Earth. He feels as you do. He says he can’t bear the thought of leaving Florina to die alone."