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Harry Collins 2032







From: The Crowded Earth

Harry's son's house was on the outskirts of Washington, near what had
once been called Gettysburg. Harry was surprised to find that it was
a house, and a rather large one, despite the fact that almost all the
furniture had been scaled down proportionately to fit the needs of a
man three feet high.

But then, Harry was growing accustomed to surprises.

He found a room of his own, ready and waiting, on the second floor;
here the furniture was of almost antique vintage, but adequate in
size. And here, in an atmosphere of unaccustomed comfort, he could
talk.

"So you're a physician, eh?" Harry gazed down into the diminutive
face, striving to accept the fact that he was speaking to a mature
adult. His own son--his and Sue's--a grown man and a doctor! It seemed
incredible. But then, nothing was more incredible than the knowledge
that he was actually here, in his child's home.

"We're all specialists in one field or another," his son explained.
"Every one of us born and surviving during the early experimental
period received our schooling under a plan Leffingwell set up. It was
part of his conditional agreement that we become wards of the state.
He knew the time might come when we'd be needed."

"But why wasn't all this done openly?"

"You know the answer to that. There was no way of educating us under
the prevailing system, and there was always a danger we might be
singled out as freaks who must be destroyed--particularly in those
early years. So Leffingwell relied on secrecy, just as he did during
his experimentation period. You know how you felt about that. You
believed innocent people were being murdered. Would you have listened
to his explanations, accepted the fact that his work was worth the
cost of a few lives so that future billions of human beings might be
saved? No, there was no time for explanation or indoctrination.
Leffingwell chose concealment."

"Yes," Harry sighed. "I understand that better now, I think. But I
couldn't see it then, when I tried to kill him." He flushed. "And I
still can't quite comprehend why he spared me after that attempt."

"Because he wasn't the monster you thought him to be. When I pleaded
with him--"

"You were the one!"

Harry's son turned away. "Yes. When I was told who you really were, I
went to him. But I was only a child, remember that. And he didn't
spare you out of sentimentality. He had a purpose."

"A purpose in sending me to prison, letting me rot all these years
while--"

"While I grew up. I and the others like myself. And while the world
outside changed." Harry's son smiled. "Your friend Richard Wade was
right, you know. He guessed a great deal of the truth. Leffingwell and
Manschoff and the rest of their associates deliberately set out to
assemble a select group of nonconformists--men of specialized talents
and outlooks. There were over three hundred of you at Stark Falls.
Richard Wade knew why."

"And so he was dragged off and murdered."

"Murdered? No, Father, he's very much alive, I assure you. In fact,
he'll be here tonight."

"But why was he taken away so abruptly, without any warning?"

"He was needed. There was a crisis, when Dr. Leffingwell died."
Harry's son sighed. "You didn't know about that, did you? There's so
much for you to learn. But I'll let him tell you himself, when you see
him this evening."

Richard Wade told him. And so did William Chang and Lars Neilstrom and
all the others. During the ensuing weeks, Harry saw each of them
again. But Wade's explanation was sufficient.

"I was right," he said. "There was no Underground when we were at
Stark Falls. What I didn't realize, though, was that there was an
Overground."

"Overground?"

"You might call it that. Leffingwell and his staff formed the nucleus.
They foresaw the social crisis which lay ahead, when the world became
physically divided into the tall and the short, the young and the old.
They knew there'd be a need of individuality then--and they did
create a stockpile. A stockpile of the younger generation, specially
educated; a stockpile of the older generation, carefully selected. We
conspicuous rebels were incarcerated and given an opportunity to think
the problem through, with limited contact with one another's
viewpoints."

"But why weren't we told the truth at the beginning, allowed to meet
face-to-face and make some sensible plans for the future?"

Harry's son interrupted. "Because Dr. Leffingwell realized this would
defeat the ultimate purpose. You'd have formed your own in-group, as
prisoners, dedicated to your own welfare. There'd be emotional ties--"

"I still don't know what you're talking about. What are we supposed to
prepare for now?"

Richard Wade shrugged. "Leffingwell had it all planned. He foresaw
that when the first generation of Yardsticks--that's what they call
themselves, you know--came of age, there'd be social unrest. The young
people would want to take over, and the older generation would try to
remain in positions of power. It was his belief that tensions could be
alleviated only by proper leadership on both sides.

"He himself had an important voice in government circles. He set up an
arrangement whereby a certain number of posts would be assigned to
people of his choice, both young and old. Similarly, in the various
professions, there'd be room for appointees he'd select. Given a year
or two of training, Leffingwell felt that we'd be ready for these
positions. Young men, like your son, would be placed in key spots
where their influence would be helpful with the Yardsticks. Older men
such as yourself would go into other assignments--in communications
media, chiefly. The skillful use of group-psychological techniques
could avert open clashes. He predicted a danger-period lasting about
twenty years--roughly, from 2030 to 2050. Once we weathered that span,
equilibrium would be regained, as a second and third generation came
along and the elders became a small minority. If we did our work well
and eliminated the sources of prejudice, friction and hostility, the
transition could be made. The Overground in governmental circles would
finance us. This was Leffingwell's plan, his dream."

"You speak in the past tense," Harry said.

"Yes." Wade's voice was harsh. "Because Leffingwell is dead, of
cerebral hemorrhage. And his plan died with him. Oh, we still have
some connections in government; enough to get men like yourself out of
Stark Falls. But things have moved too swiftly. The Yardsticks are
already on the march. The people in power--even those we relied
upon--are getting frightened. They can't see that there's time left to
train us to take over. And frankly, I'm afraid most of them have no
inclination to give up their present power. They intend to use
force."

"But you talk as though the Yardsticks were united."

"They are uniting, and swiftly. Remember the Naturalists?"

Harry nodded, slowly. "I was one, once. Or thought I was."

"You were a liberal. I'm talking about the new Naturalists. The ones
bent on actual revolution."

"Revolution?"

"That's the word. And that's the situation. It's coming to a head,
fast."

"And how will we prevent it?"

"I don't know." Harry's son stared up at him. "Most of us believe it's
too late to prevent it. Our immediate problem will be survival. The
Naturalists want control for themselves. The Yardsticks intend to
destroy the power of the older generation. And we feel that if matters
come to a head soon, the government itself may turn on us, too.
They'll have to."

"In other words," said Harry, "we stand alone."

"Fall alone, more likely," Wade corrected.

"How many of us are there?"

"About six hundred," said Harry's son. "Located in private homes
throughout this eastern area. If there's violence, we don't have a
chance of controlling the situation."

"But we can survive. As I see it, that's our only salvation at the
moment--to somehow survive the coming conflict. Then, perhaps, we can
find a way to function as Leffingwell planned."

"We'll never survive here. They'll use every conceivable weapon."

"But since there's no open break with the government yet, we could
still presumably arrange for transportation facilities."

"To where?"

"Some spot in which we could weather the storm. What about
Leffingwell's old hideout?"

"The units are still standing." Harry's son nodded. "Yes, that's a
possibility. But what about food?"

"Grizek."

"What?"

"Friend of mine," Harry told him. "Look, we're going to have to work
fast. And yet we've got to do it in a way that won't attract any
attention; not even from the government. I suggest we set up an
organizing committee and make plans." He frowned. "How much time do
you think we have--a year or so?"

"Six months," his son hazarded.

"Four, at most," Wade said. "Haven't you been getting the full reports
on those riots? Pretty soon they'll declare a state of national
emergency and then nobody will be going anywhere."

"All right." Harry Collins grinned. "We'll do it in four months."

* * * * *

Actually, as it worked out, they did it in just a day or so under
three.

Five hundred and forty-two men moved by jetter to Colorado Springs;
thence, by helicopter, to the canyon hideaway. They moved in small
groups, a few each week. Harry himself had already established the
liaison system, and he was based at Grizek's ranch. Grizek was dead,
but Bassett and Tom Lowery remained and they cooperated. Food would be
ready for the 'copters that came out of the canyon.

The canyon installation itself was deserted, and the only problem it
presented was one of rehabilitation. The first contingent took over.

The jetters carried more than their human cargo; they were filled with
equipment of all sorts--microscans and laboratory instruments and
devices for communication. By the time the entire group was assembled,
they had the necessary implementation for study and research. It was a
well-conceived and well-executed operation.

To his surprise, Harry found himself acting as the leader of the
expedition, and he continued in this capacity after they were
established. The irony of the situation did not escape him; to all
intents and purposes he was now ruling the very domain in which he had
once languished as a prisoner.

But with Wade and Chang and the others, he set up a provisional system
which worked out very well. And proved very helpful, once the news
reached them that open revolt had begun in the world outside.

A battered 'copter landed one evening at dusk, and the wounded pilot
poured out his message, then his life's blood.

Angelisco was gone. Washington was gone. The Naturalists had struck,
using the old, outlawed weapons. And it was the same abroad, according
to the few garbled reports thereafter obtainable only via ancient
shortwave devices.

From then on, nobody left the canyon except on weekly 'copter-lifts to
the ranch grazing lands for fresh supplies. Fortunately, that area was
undisturbed, and so were its laconic occupants. They neither knew nor
cared what went on in the world outside; what cities were reported
destroyed, what forces triumphed or went down into defeat, what
activity or radioactivity prevailed.

Life in the canyon flowed on, more peacefully than the river cleaving
its center. There was much to do and much to learn. It was, actually,
a monastic existence, compounded of frugality, abstinence, continence
and devotion to scholarly pursuits. Within a year, gardens flourished;
within two years herds grazed the grassy slopes; within three years
cloth was being woven on looms in the ancient way and most of the
homespun arts of an agrarian society had been revived. Men fell sick
and men died, but the survivors lived in amity. Harry Collins
celebrated his sixtieth birthday as the equivalent of a second-year
student of medicine; his instructor being his own son. Everyone was
studying some subject, acquiring some new skill. One-time rebellious
natures and one-time biological oddities alike were united by the
common bond of intellectual curiosity.

It was, however, no Utopia. Some of the younger men wanted women, and
there were no women. Some were irked by confinement and wandered off;
three of the fleet of eleven 'copters were stolen by groups of
malcontents. From time to time there would be a serious quarrel. Six

men were murdered. The population dwindled to four hundred and twenty.

But there was progress, in the main. Eventually Banning joined the
group, from the ranch, and under his guidance the study-system was
formalized. Attempts were made to project the future situation, to
prepare for the day when it would be possible to venture safely into
the outside world once again and utilize newly-won abilities.

Nobody could predict when that would be, nor what kind of world would
await their coming. By the time the fifth year had passed, even
shortwave reports had long since ceased. Rumors persisted that
radioactive contamination was widespread, that the population had been
virtually decimated, that the government had fallen, that the
Naturalists had set up their own reign only to fall victim to internal
strife.

"But one thing is certain," Harry Collins told his companions as they
assembled in the usual monthly meeting on the grounds before the old
headquarters building one afternoon in July. "The fighting will end
soon. If we hear nothing more within the next few months, we'll send
out observation parties. Once we determine the exact situation, we can
plan accordingly. The world is going to need what we can give. It will
use what we have learned. It will accept our aid. One of these days--"

And he went on to outline a carefully-calculated program of making
contact with the powers that be, or might be. It sounded logical and
even the chronic grumblers and habitual pessimists in the group were
encouraged.

If at times they felt the situation fantastic and the hope forlorn,
they were heartened now. Richard Wade summed it up succinctly
afterwards, in a private conversation with Harry.

"It isn't going to be easy," he said. "In the old science fiction
yarns I used to write, a group like this would have been able to
prevent the revolution. At the very least, it would decide who won if
fighting actually broke out. But in reality we were too late to
forestall revolt, and we couldn't win the war no matter on whose side
we fought. There's just one job we're equipped for--and that's to win
the peace. I don't mean we'll step out of here and take over the
world, either. We'll have to move slowly and cautiously, dispersing in
little groups of five or six all over the country. And we'll have to
sound out men in the communities we go to, find those who are willing
to learn and willing to build. But we can be an influence, and an
important one. We have the knowledge and the skill. We may not be
chosen to lead, but we can teach the leaders. And that's important."

Harry smiled in agreement. They did have something to offer, and
surely it would be recognized--even if the Naturalists had won, even
if the entire country had sunk into semi-barbarism. No use
anticipating such problems now. Wait until fall came; then they'd
reconnoitre and find out. Wait until fall--

It was a wise decision, but one which ignored a single, important
fact. The Naturalists didn't wait until fall to conduct their
reconnaissance.

They came over the canyon that very night; a large group of them in a
large jetter.

And they dropped a large bomb....





Next: Jesse Pringle 2039

Previous: Eric Donovan 2031



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