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The Brachi wanted to help, and they had fulfilled just
about all the age-old dreams of men. But they never
realized that human beings can't endure perfection

And What Remains?


I SAID, "BUT, Dad, everybody's going to the Brachi Centers now! All the kids'll say—"

"That's no excuse for you to be a fool, too."

"It's free, and the girls are just robots; why, the Brachi have opened Centers on all other planets."

"That doesn't change the moral issue, Andy."

I threw up my hands. "Now you're talking like a Brachi-baiter!"

"Yes, I suppose I am."

"Listen, Dad, things have changed." I tried to sound reasonable, self-possessed. Dad was stubborn and very old-fashioned; you couldn't get any place with him if you lost your temper. I remembered that; but I didn't know much else about him. In the past ten years, Dad hadn't been home more than a dozen times, and then only for a day or so at a time. "The Brachi have given us these things; it isn't right to turn down your friends, Dad."

"You don't throw over your own standards, either."

"Tripe! We've outgrown them!"

He stood up, clenching his fists. "You're not seventeen yet, Andy; when you're old enough to make up your own mind—"

"Lots of kids at the Center are only fourteen."

He ground his hands together; I heard the knuckles crack. "Go to your room, Andy; go to your room before I wipe that smug expression off your face with my fist!"

He meant it, too; Dad was like that. Every time he came home, he turned the whole house inside out with some new idea about discipline. It had been that way ever since Mom died. Of course, I was furious, too—but Dad was bigger and tougher than I am, naturally. He was a space engineer, and he actually piloted his own cargo carrier. Dad was one of those hairy, muscular guys, and I was ashamed of him; he couldn't wear the regular briefs when he went outside, or everybody would have laughed at him—the younger set, anyway. The old spacers and the Brachi-baiters—men Dad's age—still thought it was okay to look like a draft horse.

I went upstairs and sat on my sun balcony. I felt all tied up inside. The Brachi told us it was wrong to be so frustrated; but they wouldn't do anything to help me personally; I couldn't expect that. The Brachi never interfered in our affairs.

I had one consolation. Dad wouldn't be home very long. In a week or so, he would go back to his space-mining, and I'd be able to relax again.

I pushed the button. Carla came and rubbed my back with the rest oil, which the Brachi import from Mars. Carla was as pretty as a doll, and just my age. But a robot, of course; the Brachi made them for us.

My bedroom door swung open. Dad came in, "Send her away, Andy. I want to talk to you." He was furious, but he was trying not to show it.

I SIGHED, and sent Carla back to the cupboard. Dad sat on the couch beside me; he was wearing briefs and his body gleamed in the red light of sunset. I looked away from him, in embarrassment, so I wouldn't see the knotted muscles of his arms and the mat of graying hair on his chest.

"I'm sorry, Andy," he said stiffly. He put his hand on mine; the palms were rough and calloused. "I've forbidden you to use the Brachi Centers, but how about stepping out with me tonight? We could go to the club and swim for an hour or so, and afterwards—"

"That's old stuff, Dad. The other kids would call me a Brachi-baiter."

He moved away from me, wringing his hands. "Andy! What's happened to you? What's happened to the world?"

"Nothing, Dad."

"Ten years ago, you'd have jumped at the chance to go with me."

"I guess I didn't know' any better; I was only seven then."

Dad looked through the window of my sun balcony at the city. The streets were dark beneath the blazing red-orange of the nightsky. Signs glittered in the canyon blackness and we could see the streaking lights of the autochairs. Occasionally you could still find an old-fashioned motor-car in the city, but it was always run by a sour-faced Brachi-baiter. The rest of us used the autochairs, which the Brachi brought in from one of their Centaurian colonies.

"Andy," Dad said gently, "you're too young to remember what it: was like before the Brachi came. We were building our first cargo rocket, then." His voice was low and tense, seething with an emotion I couldn't understand. "Bill Styles and I. We worked on a shoestring and we worked hard; ten hours, twelve hours a day. We had no outside help, and we wanted none."

"But the Brachi had better ships, didn't they, Dad?"

"That's not the point, Andy. When our ship was finished, she was ours. Our ideas, our brains, our dreams—"

"Only she cracked up and you lost everything, like the Brachi said you would; they would have given you one of their ships, Dad."

"The ship was my dream, Andy; not theirs! It was my problem to solve; I had to do it my own way."

"Even when you did build one that could fly, it was so expensive you couldn't compete with the Brachi carriers."

"Let me finish, please, Andy. Today when I brought the ship in, I wanted a readjustment in the reactor screen. I asked the port lab to make the computations. It was the simplest kind of astro-physics; a schoolboy could have done it. But you know what the lab director said? He'd submit the problem to the Brachi Central! They'd have the figures for him in the morning."

"Well, why not? That's the way we do everything, isn't it?"

"Now, perhaps," he said bitterly. "But when I was a boy—"

"When they give you all the answers for nothing, why should you work them out for yourself?"

He stood very stiff and straight. "You don't understand a thing I'm saying, do you, Andy?"

"Sure, Dad. It's always the same story. You worked hard to build your carrier; and now you're doing okay. We've got this swell house and all the trimmings. But we'd have had it long ago, if you'd let the Brachi help you."

For a full minute he stared at me, saying nothing. Slowly the bitter sneer left his face. When he spoke again, his voice was very gentle. "I've been wrong, Andy; I've been blind—blind to a lot of things. Forgive me. I won't neglect you any longer, my own success isn't that important." He turned toward the door. "I'm going out for an hour or so, Andy, I want you to give me your word you won't go to the Brachi Center while I'm gone."

"I don't see why—"

"Promise me, Andy!"

"All right."

DAD WENT away. As soon as I heard him leave the house, I took my autochair to the Center. A promise like that doesn't mean anything; it's like telling a person you've had a swell time at a party, when really you've been bored stiff.

But I stayed longer than I should have. The Center was pretty crowded and I had to wait; I couldn't even get in to see the picture. They had a new one, which was supposed to be about the hottest thing out, but all the seats were taken. I lit a sniffer and went out on the terrace to smoke it: one of the Brachi directors came over to talk to me.

He draped himself on the lounge post, wrapping three tentacles in the velvet grooves and laying the fourth on my arm so we could talk. He rested his enormous, gourd-like head on the top of the post and studied me with his limpid, antenna eyes.

"Mr. Saggan, I understand your father has come home," he thought through the delicate communication tube. The Brachi always called us Mister, even when our parents still tried to think of us as kids.

"This afternoon." I spoke aloud, although it wasn't actually necessary.

"He has so often refused our help." The thought quivered with sorrow. "Perhaps, Mr. Saggan, you might persuade him—"

"Not Dad; he's a hidebound Brachi-baiter."

"Then help us, please. Find out why he rejects us; what we can do to make amends. This election your people are having—it baffles us, and we must understand."

"Oh, don't worry about that; the Brachists will win."

"Why are the others so much against us? We came here to help your people, Mr. Saggan. We taught you how to set up a -world-government; we have given you machines and techniques to wipe out your slums and your poverty; we have tried to rid each of you of frustration and unhappiness. And now your people make our generosity the only issue in your election."

"The old stooges do; they got to have something to gripe about."

"But brotherhood was one of your commonest dreams; we learned that -when we first set up our analyzers. All your people dreamed of one day achieving brotherhood and equality; you have that now. You wanted to be free of economic fears; you are. Your young people were continually frustrated by the social regulation of your mating instinct; wo set up the centers to eliminate that pressure. What mote can we do?"

"The Brachi-baiters are harmless."

His next thought came slowly, reluctantly, as if it had been torn from the depths of his mind. "We have 1 ailed on so many worlds, Mr. Saggan; we must succeed here."

The attendant came to the terrace door and called my number.

"I mustn't keep you from the robots," the Brachi thought. "If you find any way that we can help your father, come and tell me."

He danced away, his fragile, insect wings flaying the air. There was no need for me to have his specific name in order to find him again. Every Brachi of his classification would know about our conversation, for they had all taken part in it.

WHEN THE Brachi first landed on the earth, that multiplicity of virtually identical personalities led to a great deal of confusion. Gradually we got used to it. The Brachi were an insect species, divided into a complex hierarchy of classifications; all individuals within one classification were, in a sense, the same person, sharing a kind of group mind. If you spoke to one, the conversation included them all. There was no similar communion between the different classifications. Each classification was biologically different from all the others, although the differences were so slight that few men could detect them.

When I returned from the Center, Dad was already home. The least I expected was a Brachi-baiting lecture on morals. Instead he took my hand and said, "I should have known better than to ask, shouldn't I, Andy? Well, after this, it won't happen again. I'm not going away again; I've decided to sell my carrier line."

If Dad had decided to kick me in the teeth, the shock wouldn't have been any worse. I was able to endure his discipline for a week or so every other year; but not any longer.

In panic I tried to persuade him to change his mind, but he said, "I've a lot to make up for, Andy; things we should have been doing together all these years. Hunting; fishing; swimming. Maybe we'll charter a cruiser and go out to one of the frontier planets. And next month I want you to enroll in the university. A degree in engineering or astro-physics—"

Each word he spoke made the disaster seem worse.

"But it's silly to go to college, Dad," I said. "The Brachi do all the brainwork for us now."

"Not for you and me, they don't."

His jaw was hard; his eyes blazed. I had seen that same expression on the faces of the ranting Brachi-baiters. He was my father and I hated him.

Our telecom buzzed. Dad flipped down the lever. On the screen I saw the face of Calvin Canistall—round, baby-pink, flabby. To my way of thinking, Canistall was the most dangerous man on earth. He was a billionaire, the mastermind behind the Brachi-baiters; he was not himself a candidate for the Planetary Congress, but he pulled the strings in the current Anti-Brachist campaign. Of course, Canistall's candidates would never win a majority, but they would take enough seats to keep the Congress in turmoil.

And that was the thing we feared; the Brachi-baiters would go on making their filthy and fantastic accusations until they drove the Brachi away. The Brachi would not interfere in the election, even to prove that the Anti-Brachists were raving fools. And we lived in dread that the Brachi might someday take the ranting for our majority opinion.

"I have your message, Saggan," Canistall said in his familiar, nasal voice. "I want to say how much we appreciate your contribution."

"There's more where that came from."

"And your offer of T-V time—"

"I've been a space engineer for years," Dad cut in. "I've seen the other Brachi worlds; it's time our people knew the truth."

"Most generous, Saggan." Canistall's jowls shook with pleasure. "Unfortunately, it is not our policy to give party backing to a speaker until we have made a thorough investigation of his background."

"I had intended to speak as a private citizen, Canistall."

"By no means. Saggan! Your situation is unusual and—and, frankly, the party needs this sort of help. Will you come into headquarters tomorrow and work out a schedule with me?"

Dad smiled oddly. "Without an investigation, Canistall?"

"I can give you a clearance over my name; the size of your contribution vouches for your sincerity."

Dad closed the connection and turned away from the viewscreen. There was a strange and thoughtful expression on his face, a far-away, calculating look. He looked at me suddenly. "Up to bed, youngster; we've a big day ahead of us tomorrow."

I WENT TO my room, but I couldn't sleep. I not only hated him, but I was ashamed. My Dad had joined the Brachi-baiters. What could I say to the other kids? Or to the Brachi I met at the Center?

And then I realized something else. Dad was staying home for good; he'd never let me go to the Center again.

The next day my ordeal began. Dad dragged me out of bed at dawn. We went riding in the park—on horses! Afterward he took me to his club and made me go in the pool. Of course, it wasn't too bad, because I didn't see any kids my age. Just a lot of muscle-brained old men like Dad, mainly has-beens from the space service.

They were all Brachi-baiters, grousing all the time; and spieling that guck about the good old days.

"The kids ain't got any guts any more."

"They've gone soft in the head."

A panty-waist generation; they can't do anything but hang around the Brachi Centers."

"And ran after the robot women."

"Give them real dames, just once. Just once! Why, these kids are so dim-brained they wouldn't know—"

And more of the same. In a way, I guess you could sympathize with the spacers. There weren't any jobs for them; and they couldn't do anything else. All of our commercial space carrier lines folded after the Brachi came. The Brachi ships were so much more efficient than ours. Dad's line was the one exception, and no one knew how he did it. He used our ships and our pilots; but somehow he was still able to compete with the Brachi carriers.

The funny thing about their grousing at the club was this: the derelict spacers lived there on charity. The club was financed by the Brachi; everyone knew it.

Dad took me to one of the private rooms upstairs. He gave me an old math book and told me to work one of the problems; that was the silliest deal yet. I went to the telecom to tab the question to the Brachi Central—the way we all do; it's a perfectly normal procedure.

Dad ripped the telecom connection out of the wall. "No, Andy; work it yourself."

"Nobody does that any more!"

"Then it's time we started again."

The whole setup was ridiculous. I could have had the answer in half a second; why should I waste any more time on it? And the problem was complete nonsense, as far as I could see.

"I can't do it, Dad."

"Oh, yes you can. The elements are all there. Just use your head."

"But there's no point—"

"You're wrong, Andy." Dad's jaw was set. "There's a reason, and a good one. I don't expect you to understand now, so I won't bore you with an explanation. However, I think I can give you a certain rather decided motivation. You see, my boy, you're going to stay right here in this room until' you come up with an answer. Along toward noon you should begin to be a little hungry; there's nothing like hunger to sharpen a man's wits."

He opened the door. "I've an appointment with Calvin Cranistall. I'll look in on you in an hour or so and see how you're doing."

He went out. The door lock clicked.

I TRIED everything I could think of, but there was no way out of that room. It was on the top floor of the club, seven stories above the street. I tried to attract attention by pounding on the door, but even if the spacers had heard me they probably wouldn't have let me out. Nor could I figure how to reconnect the telecom so I could get my problem through the Brachi Central.

After a while Dad came back.

"I've closed the deal with Cranistall," he explained. He acted as if he expected me to be proud of him! "I'm going on T-V five times a week until the election—in the regular Anti-Brachist spot." Then he picked up the math book and saw my blank paper beneath it. "Still stymied, Andy?"

"I told you I couldn't do it."

"You know, son, we used to make rat mazes. We put cheese where they couldn't get it until they solved the puzzle. You're in about the same spot. If the rats could do it, Andy, you can, too—when you're hungry enough."

He left again, I had never been so frustrated or humiliated. I lay on the floor, screaming and kicking; still no one heard me. When I was exhausted and panting for breath, I got up and went to the window. I came very close, at that moment, to taking my own life.

Until I remembered the Brachi could fly! It was my last hope; frantically I scrawled identical messages on several sheets of paper and threw them toward the street. In five minutes a Brachi hovered outside the window, anxious to help me.

I showed him the problem. He was one of the common classifications and, of course, he couldn't solve it himself. But he flew to Central with it and brought back the solution, all nicely worked out for me.

Dad returned. He was overjoyed when I showed him the result; he clapped me on the back.

"It will come easier tomorrow, Andy. You've done it once for yourself. All you need now is practice."

Dad took me home. He refused to use the autochairs; one of the Anti-Brachists had given him an old car. We drove right through the heart of the city, past the Brachi import rooms, the Brachi Central, and all the new Fun Centers.

"Why can't we take a chair?" I asked him.

"Because the Brachi make them."

"They give them to us, Dad; it doesn't cost anything."

"Andy, the cars are ours; we built them; they're a part of our culture. The autochairs are an invention of another people, foreign imports which have no logical place—"

"But they're better, Dad; safer; more efficient."

"The point is, they aren't our machines. They aren't a logical solution of our technology." He waved his hand toward the clean, white-faced Brachi buildings. "It's an alien culture—an invasion!"

"Dad, that's the way the Brachi-baiters talk. It doesn't make sense. How could the Brachi be invaders, when they've given us so much?"

"It's a new kind of war—and disastrous, because we don't recognize it for what it is. The Brachi came here twenty years ago, when we were making our earliest flights to Mars and Venus. They came slyly, pretending to be friends; they moved against us so insidiously, no one knew what was happening.

"At first they offered us a handful of new gadgets—gifts; trade goods. The machines were wonderful; and they were free. What man wouldn't leap at the chance to use them? Then the Brachi gave us other things. They put up Central to help us solve our technological problems; and pretty soon they were solving all our problems for us. We didn't have to work any longer for ourselves. How could we refuse? It was a bonanza; every man's wish was fulfilled. Finally the Brachi opened the Fun Centers. Andy, they are destroying us—slowly, piecemeal. In another generation we'll be slaves!"

I laughed. How else can you answer a fanatic? "Destroying us?" I repeated. "With generosity?"

"Precisely. We're men, Andy, only when we create our own tools and solve our own problems. The brain makes you what you are—the techniques you use for thinking. When your problems are all solved for you, when you have a kind of super-magic to take away your slightest frustration—" (His hands shook on the wheel; his voice sank to a whisper.) "—then, Andy, you don't have to think any more. You forget what it means to be a man. Then the Brachi conquest is finished. Bloodless and painless—and yet the most terrible threat man has ever faced."

What could I say? It was hopeless. Dad had been completely victimized by the Brachi-baiting poppycock.

THAT NIGHT Dad went on T-V for the Anti-Brachists. I guess Dad must have seemed pretty important to them, because they were running him for the Secretariat of the Planetary Congress—about the most important position in the government. Of course, Dad hadn't a chance of winning, but even the nomination gave him prestige.

In his first speech Dad repeated what he'd told me in the car; and then he added, "Friends, I know these Brachi; I have been a space engineer for better than ten years, and I've seen the other Brachi worlds. I've seen behind the mask of friendship and generosity—the scheming face of the conqueror.

"On the other Brachi worlds the original native population is enslaved, sunk in savagery, lost to its own achievements. Only the Brachi and the Brachi culture survive. Enslavement will be their ultimate gift for us, when we have finally been persuaded to abdicate our rights as thinking beings. The Brachi do not make war with physical violence; they destroy the rational mind. I have seen the Brachi worlds; remember that. I tell you the truth they have tried to hide. Save our world now. Free yourselves by thinking for yourselves again. Resist the Brachi while you are still able to make the decision for yourselves."

Even before Dad came home from the studio, I knew his speech had been a sensation. He was not simply repeating the usual, sour wailing of the Brachi-baiters. Dad made a specific charge, and the majority of his listeners would assume that he spoke the truth. They hadn't sailed the space routes, and Dad had.

It was all a very clever maneuver. Logically, if Dad lied, the Brachi should have defended themselves; yet they would say nothing, because they would never interfere in our affairs.

Within a week the psycho-poll gave the Anti-Brachists a phenomenal two percent gain in the popular vote. If Dad continued to hammer at that same charge until election day, he might easily destroy the Brachist Congressional majority.

Something had to be done to stop him.

Once, when Dad left me alone for an hour, I went to the Brachi Center and begged them to intervene. I saw one of the top-classification Brachi and he flatly refused. "We are acutely distressed, Mr. Saggan, but we cannot take sides in your political quarrels."

"Dad's lying, deliberately. At least you can defend yourselves!"

"We cannot violate the social policy we follow. If your people do not want our gifts, we will go." He passed his thought-filament over my forehead tenderly. "Your father has had an unfortunate experience. Perhaps he has seen one of the world where—" (The thought was heavy with sorrow.) "—where we have failed. We could explain that to him, if he would come to us."

"No chance of that."

"Then there's nothing we can do."

After that I went to the headquarters of the Brachist party. They were realists, suddenly forced to fight for their political existence; in more than a decade, no group had seriously challenged their control of Congress. And now the last psycho-poll gave the Anti-Brachists forty-five percent of the popular vote—with the percentage still rising.

I saw the Director himself. "Sure, kid," he said, "we want to turn off the heat. We've thrown every trick in the book at Saggan; it doesn't do any good."

"But he's lying!"

"It might help if one of the old spacers would go on T-V and tell the people that. At least a spacer could say he's seen the Brachi worlds, too. But we can't get even one of them to join us. They're all members of the club and as thick as—" The Director's eyes widened. "But Saggan's your father, isn't he?"


"Then maybe you can help us."

"I couldn't make a T-V speech!"

"No, just give us some dope—something we can use against him. Shady deals; slippery politics. Something that'd go over with the people."

"But there isn't anything."

The Director snorted. "Listen, kid, no man's a saint. Just give us a toe-hold; we can build up the rest."

"I don't know Dad well enough. He's a space engineer, you see, and he only comes home for a few days every year."

"There might be a business angle. Does he keep any papers at the house?"

"Not much. Oh, there's a portfolio locked in his desk. It wouldn't be important, though. I mean, Dad never—"

"You never know until you look, kid. Get in touch with us if you find anything."

THAT NIGHT, after Dad went to the studio to speak, I broke open his desk. There were only four papers in the portfolio. Three were covered with columns of figures. The amounts were large, but they made no sense to me. The fourth paper was an agreement of some sort between Dad and three other men. One sentence caught my eye, "Precedes of X-374, after purchase of asteroid base, will be divided on the established percentage; a deficit, if any exists, will be made up from assessments against future dividends."

The X-374! I could still remember the month-long T-V story from my boyhood. The X-374 had been a Brachi ore ship, on the robot run. Ten years ago it was boarded in space; the cargo was stolen. The theft had clearly been engineered by trained astrophysicists, who knew how to handle radioactive material; for the robot ship had none of the usual reactor shielding. The X-374 had been the first of a series of robberies from the Brachi robots. In no case had the thief even been identified or the cargo recovered.

But now I knew the truth. Dad and his three partners had taken the cargo. No wonder Dad's carrier had made such phenomenal profits when the Brachi ships drove all the other spacers into retirement! And Dad had the hypocrisy to condemn the Brachi on moral grounds.

I gave the portfolio to the Director of the Brachist party; Dad's masquerade was over.

The Brachists waited until Dad spoke again before they launched their attack. They followed him on the air. The Director himself read off the accusation, while the cameras focused on the agreement.

Dad had just returned from the studio. He stood leaning against the wall and watching the screen. His face was colorless. "You did it, Andy?"

"Yes." I stared into his eyes without flinching. For the first time in my life I was not afraid of him.

"You betrayed me. I'm your father." He spoke with no feeling. Each word fell in the silence like a chunk of cold lead.

"You lied about the Brachi."

"No, Andy. I swear it! They are making war on us. They have destroyed their others words. I have seen it. You must believe me, Andy."

"The word of a thief—"

"My son! You must listen to me!" His voice was a cry choked in his throat. "We stoic their ore; yes. Flow else could I have made my carrier pay? But they came here uninvited; they stole our destiny from us in the first place. And, regardless of what I did, it changes nothing in what I say. It's true, Andy; all of it. The Brachi are our enemies."

HE REACHED for my hand, but I turned away. "I don't think Dad, you'll put that argument over with many people—not now!" "Does it matter who tells the truth, so long as it's true?" He dropped on the lounge, sobbing with his face in his hands. "Andy," he whispered, "1 knew I was taking a risk when I offered the Anti-Brachists my help. I did it for you—for my son; I saw you caught in this filthy Brachist trap, and nothing else mattered."

"You can't hide behind that excuse; it won't go over, either, Dad."

"There were a dozen men who might have betrayed me—any of the spacers at the club; the middlemen who disposed of the ore for us; our spies in the com office. But not you, Andy! Not my own boy." Slowly the pain and the pleading left his voice. He stood up. His face was as cold as chiseled ice. "You want them to do your thinking for you, Andy. You can't think for yourself!"

I smiled. "Once, Dad, you gave me a lecture about the morals of going to a Brachi Center—"

"Morality?" His body shook with bitter laughter. "Just a word, Andy. Nothing more."

We were besieged then by reporters from the T-V news associations. It was Dad's mess, not mine; I went up to my room and left him to handle the questions.

In a way, I suppose I pitied him. The situation was not so much Dad's making as it was the Brachi-baiters', who had sold him their stinking bill of goods. The scandal would wear itself out in a week or so. 1 knew Dad could never be charged with any criminal action; none of our laws applied to space. I rather hoped the publicity and the shame would knock enough sense into Dad's head so he wouldn't oppose the Brachi any longer. Maybe he'd even be willing to talk to them, now. They could do so much to ease his frustration!

The next morning I slept late. For the first time in days Dad didn't come in at dawn and drag me down to the club for a swim. While Carla rubbed my back with rest oil, I snapped on the T-V beside my bed. There was nothing in the new's but the repetition of the Brachist charges against Dad. A spot psycho-poll showed that the Anti-Brachists, in a matter of hours, had lost ten percent of the popular vote.

We were safe; the Brachists would still hold their majority in the Planetary Congress.

When the newscast was over, old Canistall came on the air. Speaking for the Anti-Brachists, he disavowed Dad; the party withdrew the courtesy nomination to the Secretariat. I must say, Canistall ate crow gracefully, but the maneuver wouldn't save much of the AntiBrachist vote.

I went downstairs. Dad was gone. Vaguely I began to worry about him. I called the club and one or two other places where he might have been; but no one had seen him.

Apparently he had returned to his asteroid base. I felt immeasurably relieved.

THAT AFTERNOON I went to the Fun Center. I hadn't been there since Dad came home. It was wonderful to see the old crowd again and to listen to their congratulations. But before I had a chance to select a robot, a top-classification Brachi drew me aside.

"Mr. Saggan, we must talk to your father. Where is he?"

He's gone back to his thieves den, I guess."

"No. We've put tracers on his ship; he hasn't left the earth."

I don't know where he is. I haven't seen him."

"Please, Mr. Saggan; it is very necessary. We know the loyalty and respect your species has for its parent group; but we ask you to forget that now."

If I knew where he was, do you think I'd—"

Mr. Saggan, your father may know why we have failed so often; we must find the answer! Our intention is never to destroy a people, but to help them. We give—we give generously!—all we have. Yet we fail! Why? If your father can tell us that—"

A throbbing explosion shook the Center. A frightened, palefaced boy of fifteen ran toward us screaming.

"Spacers! They've bombed the Central; they're marching here!"

The boy collapsed. The Brachi folded his tentacles upon his thorax and fluttered out over the street. I ran to the door. I saw flames in the distance, leaping from the shattered walls of the Central. The huge problem solver, which the Brachi had built for us, was in ruins.

Angry spacers swarmed in the streets. I saw Dad at the front leading them—all the derelicts from the club, who had lived so long on Brachi charity. They were armed. Dad carried a sub-machine gun.

The spacers came into the Center. They smashed the lovely statues; they ripped up the paintings and the brocade hangings. With the butts of their guns they broke the skulls of the robot women who moved toward them in greeting.

Most of the men and boys in the Center fled. The rest of us crowded in the corridors until the robot police came. The Brachi were there, flying over the destruction, but they made no effort to intervene.

The robot police poured in through every door and the spacers were trapped. They knew the consequences if they refused the order to surrender. Yet the Brachi-baiting fanaticism must have completely unhinged their minds, for that handful of men chose to fight—primitive weapons against the impregnable power of the robots.

The top-classification Brachi tried to save Dad. It was the only time I ever saw them take sides in any of our affairs. But the robots, which they had invented, could obey only the blind directives taped into their electronic brains. My father fell almost at my feet.

THE BATTLE swirled beyond us. In the sudden, dead silence, my father beckoned to me. I knelt beside him. A top-classification Brachi joined us.

"Andy," Dad whispered, "it was for nothing. We lost this battle long ago, when we—when we—" He coughed. Blood trickled down his chin. The Brachi put his communication tentacle on Dad's arm, trying to help him.

Dad's eyes became glittering, glassy. He was looking at me without seeing me. Slowly, painfully, he gasped, "'Man, by thinking only, becomes truly man. Take away thought from man's life, and what remains?' Pestalozzi asked that a long time ago. Now we know the answer—slavery, savagery, and the Brachi."

Dad's head went limp in my arms. And so he died.

The Brachi looked at me. In the corridors of the Center the last sound of conflict died. The robot police marched out into the street.

The Brachi tentacle touched my arm. "Your father knew the answer. Your species is different from ours; the other—the other failures were different, too. Forgive us, Mr. Saggan."

"For what? This was Dad's fault, not yours."

"Out crime is far greater than the murder of one man. And we can do nothing to rectify the disaster of generous intentions. Nothing but—" He cut the thought off before I could catch it. "Remember what your father said, Mr. Saggan. Man, by thinking only, becomes truly man; tomorrow you must begin to think again."

He touched me again, very sadly, and flew away.

This morning the world awoke to disaster.

The Brachi are gone; the raving of the Brachi-baiters has driven our friends away. And the Brachi have taken their revenge. They have destroyed their Centrals, everywhere on earth. They have taken away all their machines, and destroyed the robots. I have pushed the buttons to make Carla get my breakfast for me; she will not move out of the cupboard. If I'm going to eat, I'll have to cook for myself; and I don't know how!

The Brachi have taken away all the pleasure and comfort m out lives. They have left us nothing. Nothing but work—endless, hard work. The Brachi have torn the heart out of our civilization. And what remains?