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Earthmen Bearing Gifts



Earthmen Bearing Gifts







From: Earthmen Bearing Gifts

Dhar Ry sat alone in his room, meditating. From outside the door he
caught a thought wave equivalent to a knock, and, glancing at the door,
he willed it to slide open.

It opened. "Enter, my friend," he said. He could have projected the idea
telepathically; but with only two persons present, speech was more
polite.

Ejon Khee entered. "You are up late tonight, my leader," he said.

"Yes, Khee. Within an hour the Earth rocket is due to land, and I wish
to see it. Yes, I know, it will land a thousand miles away, if their
calculations are correct. Beyond the horizon. But if it lands even twice
that far the flash of the atomic explosion should be visible. And I have
waited long for first contact. For even though no Earthman will be on
that rocket, it will still be first contact--for them. Of course our
telepath teams have been reading their thoughts for many centuries,
but--this will be the first physical contact between Mars and Earth."

Khee made himself comfortable on one of the low chairs. "True," he said.
"I have not followed recent reports too closely, though. Why are they
using an atomic warhead? I know they suppose our planet is uninhabited,
but still--"

"They will watch the flash through their lunar telescopes and get
a--what do they call it?--a spectroscopic analysis. That will tell them
more than they know now (or think they know; much of it is erroneous)
about the atmosphere of our planet and the composition of its surface.
It is--call it a sighting shot, Khee. They'll be here in person within a
few oppositions. And then--"

Mars was holding out, waiting for Earth to come. What was left of Mars,
that is; this one small city of about nine hundred beings. The
civilization of Mars was older than that of Earth, but it was a dying
one. This was what remained of it: one city, nine hundred people. They
were waiting for Earth to make contact, for a selfish reason and for an
unselfish one.


Martian civilization had developed in a quite different direction from
that of Earth. It had developed no important knowledge of the physical
sciences, no technology. But it had developed social sciences to the
point where there had not been a single crime, let alone a war, on
Mars for fifty thousand years. And it had developed fully the
parapsychological sciences of the mind, which Earth was just beginning
to discover.

Mars could teach Earth much. How to avoid crime and war to begin with.
Beyond those simple things lay telepathy, telekinesis, empathy....

And Earth would, Mars hoped, teach them something even more valuable to
Mars: how, by science and technology--which it was too late for Mars to
develop now, even if they had the type of minds which would enable them
to develop these things--to restore and rehabilitate a dying planet, so
that an otherwise dying race might live and multiply again.

Each planet would gain greatly, and neither would lose.

And tonight was the night when Earth would make its first sighting shot.
Its next shot, a rocket containing Earthmen, or at least an Earthman,
would be at the next opposition, two Earth years, or roughly four
Martian years, hence. The Martians knew this, because their teams of
telepaths were able to catch at least some of the thoughts of Earthmen,
enough to know their plans. Unfortunately, at that distance, the
connection was one-way. Mars could not ask Earth to hurry its program.
Or tell Earth scientists the facts about Mars' composition and
atmosphere which would have made this preliminary shot unnecessary.

Tonight Ry, the leader (as nearly as the Martian word can be
translated), and Khee, his administrative assistant and closest friend,
sat and meditated together until the time was near. Then they drank a
toast to the future--in a beverage based on menthol, which had the same
effect on Martians as alcohol on Earthmen--and climbed to the roof of
the building in which they had been sitting. They watched toward the
north, where the rocket should land. The stars shone brilliantly and
unwinkingly through the atmosphere.



In Observatory No. 1 on Earth's moon, Rog Everett, his eye at the
eyepiece of the spotter scope, said triumphantly, "Thar she blew,
Willie. And now, as soon as the films are developed, we'll know the
score on that old planet Mars." He straightened up--there'd be no more
to see now--and he and Willie Sanger shook hands solemnly. It was an
historical occasion.

"Hope it didn't kill anybody. Any Martians, that is. Rog, did it hit
dead center in Syrtis Major?"

"Near as matters. I'd say it was maybe a thousand miles off, to the
south. And that's damn close on a fifty-million-mile shot. Willie, do
you really think there are any Martians?"

Willie thought a second and then said, "No."

He was right.





Next: Citadel

Previous: A Question Of Courage



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