Fair and Warmer


6. Nuclear Breakdown

Curl was floating langorously in his comfortable focus, eyes half closed and glazed, mouth droolingly limp and hands carelessly askew. He formed his hyperimage to appear erect and neat--and with a politely interested expression--while he idly contemplated the telepathic picture being projected into his own mind.

"I see you've recovered," he said. "Splendid."

"Yes, but what an ordeal," Tensor replied. His image took on the appearance of a relieved smile. "If it ever happens again--I don't know."

"It was that bad?" Curl showed suitable lazy civilized sympathy. "I was afraid. All that teleporting of yourself and things."

"It took me almost ten minutes to recover from it," Tensor said grimly.

"Tsk tsk. That's a lot of lactic acid to locate and destroy. But the Council will appreciate it, even if Prime did complain, poor fellow."

"Well, I promised to investigate and I'm a man of my thought. Of course, the curiosity vanished as soon as I got into actual communication with one of them."

"They communicate?" Curl permitted his image to appear mildly astonished, which was the only civilized thing to do. "Tell me about it."

"It's crude, but in some things successful," Tensor explained. "The alien I contacted was a female, for instance. When I adjusted for relative somatic sympathy so that I could stand the poor, uncivilized creature, I naturally acquired the full appetites of a male animal and this female seemed to understand some of my thoughts very well.

"You simply can't imagine the violent somatic compulsions one encounters under such a balance."

"Horrible," agreed Curl. "But I understand, my boy. I once fathered a child--must have been at least a couple of thousand years ago. Purely out of scientific interest, of course, and never again." The physician paused and added, "Matter of fact, it's quite likely that you're that child. Can't ever tell about these things, you know."

Tensor nodded in polite agreement and continued with his own story. "It wasn't at all bad while it was going on, because I was pretty well anesthetized from body chemicals. But the hangover was terrific."

"Yes, no doubt." Curl appeared to consider a moment before asking. "What about this uncivilized hubbub the Prime raised that caused the council to order him to destroy himself?"

"Oh, that. Well, just as I was about to leave, this primitive I was with coaxed me into playing an interesting but remarkably violent sport with her. And about the same time, it appears that her superiors, for some unknown reason, decided to destroy her. It seems that the aliens' Council doesn't let them take care of it themselves."

"Uh, huh. How did they accomplish it?"

"They used some nuclear breakdown devices, which I imagine serve their primitive society quite well. The devices have appetites built into them for a certain kind of target so they will know where to go.

"But when I agreed to play this game, I naturally set up a privacy focus, so the ship we were in just didn't exist for the nuclear devices. They kept on looking, though, and finally found a lot of similar ships back at the alien's main camp. Made an awful mess out of one of the Prime's favorite landscapes, I understand."

"Well," Curl replied engagingly, "Prime should have had better self-control. I don't blame the Council a bit, and it does fix things up rather nicely." His image smiled into Tensor's mind and then hesitated as he saw the concern there. "Doesn't it?"

"Uh, yes. All except for the alien female that insists on staying with me, now, since none of her people is left on the planet. I told her two or three times to go ahead and destroy herself if she wanted; but she just rumples up my hair, grins at me and says she already has." He looked worriedly at Curl.

"Well, that's just one of those things, I guess," Curl murmured philosophically. Sensing a local distraction approaching Tensor at that moment, he politely withdrew from the other man's mind. (End)