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Let's look back at today.

7000 years from now, no more may be known of today than we know of almost legendary Troy, buried less than half that long, or of the Toltec and Pre-Dynastic Egyptian empires. Civilizations can not be reconstructed from archaeological data alone. And books are one with dust after 7000 years.

What then will they think of us in the great future that is to come'? Not surely that each and every one of their scientific, fiction-like wonders had its origin and factual basis in OUR TODAY.

Yet that is what we shall find in this first and subsequent Roundabout views of the present, while adventuring in remote time to come.

* * *

Punctually at five minutes to nine on the 2nd of sol, in the year 9193, E.S. Technician Jonz entered the main lecture hall of Tellurian University and, in the only chair with which the auditorium was equipped, seated himself facing the rows of ground glass screens that filled the huge room. His entrance having served as a signal to the engineers in the balcony control room, in a moment the screens were glowingbrightly beneath the iridium number plates that surrounded each. Immediately the class began to assemble.

The young Educational Science Technician, his plain but not unattrartive features set in their characteristic serious mold, composed himself to wait while in their homes scattered across the face of the globe the thousands of his students bolted their breakfast tablets to be before their televisors on the stroke of the hour. Rapidly their life-size images began to appear on the numbered screens. Soon there were but a score or two of screens still blank, then a dozen, three, one—and still one.

Frowning, the technician regarded the uncompromising emptiness of the ninteen-hundred-and-thirty-ninth screen. Unprecedented! Twenty-three seconds past the hour and—His frown vanished as a girl's fare appeared with startling abruptness on the screen.

The face, as no. 1939 sat back triumphantly from suddenly mastering the enigma of her televisor's tuning dials, revealed itself as that which a forgotten age might have called lovely, giving due heed to shadowed blue eyes and a sweep of soft brown hair, and pert, taking into account an impish turn of lips and a certain uptilt of nose. Young E. S. Technician Jonz charactterized it rather as a harmonious combination of plastic surfaces. And yet he felt the description somehow inadequate. . . .

Collecting himself with a start, the Technician took the amplifier from its hook and plated it on his head. It rested there like the outlandish headpieces worn by the ancient kings before the age of Frankness, gleaming points pressing into his scalp over the principal brain centers. Without preamble, then, he began his lecture, and a stir passed through the class visible on the television screens as his brain potentials, led off by a maze of fine wires that wound into a co-axial cable and coiled across the floor to the transformers in the control room, carried his first thought directly into the minds of his far-flung students.

"In opening the humanities section of the 1263rd session of the University," telepathed E. S. Technician Jonz, "I have but one preliminary observation to make. It is at the insistance of the Dean of Students that two-way television has been installed. His belief is that allowing everyone. to see everyone else—" the Technician gestured to the silvered wall behind him, mirroring to each student the entire classroom— "will promote a valuable cooperative spirit. For my part I hopet that the innovation will not prove a distraction to you in the serious pursuit of higher—"

Somehow E. S. Technician Jonz' eyes had strayed to a certain screen. Strange, how her eyes crinkled when-

Quickly changing the direction of his thoughts he resumed with a sharpness that widened the girl's smile, "The next thing we know, they will be asking us to come together in person, and use our voices—" the Technician 's thoughts waves were fairly surcharged with emotional repulsion—"like our more violently insane, or animals in pain!"

"Hmph! So I sound like a sick cow!"

The intruding thought impinged lightly upon Technician Jonz' mind, but somehow he was certain it had originated with the girl in television screen 1939. Instinctively feeling a challenge, he set out to meet it: "It is many thousand years since man has forsaken brute speech for mental communication. Unfortunately, the devasting wars of the third millenium left few traces of such civilization as may have existed previously. And true, the absence of graven records, in conjunction with archaelogical artifacts of considerable engineering skill, such as airships, indicates that man in the twentieth and preceding centuries was but an illiterate if gifted savage. But," he concluded triumphantly, "all authorities agree that it is at least ten thousand years since the voice has been used in communication between human beings!"

He darted a glance at No. 1939. Somewhat nettled to find her still smiling in unreasonable amusement, he continued swiftly: "It is our object in this first lecture to obtain a true historical perspective. While man, according to the findings of anthropologists, has tenanted the earth for about one million years, he remained a primitive creature until less than 7000 years ago! I can conceive no better illustration of this fact than one involving the very matter of mental communication already touched upon."

The Technician was on familiar ground now. His thoughts fairly crackled. "It is true, as I have informed you, that long before the twentieth century telepathy had become man's sole method of direct communication. But in how crude a form it prevailed! Thc proof is in an archaelogical discovery in which I had the honor of sharing while on the Third Brstd Mid-Western Expedition, to the site of the legendary city of Tchaikago.

"Tchaikago—or Chicago—if you recall the story, was supposed to have been utterly destroyed during the twentieth century in a struggle between Fascism and Democracy, which according to some were rival esoteric philosophies of that time. Others would have it that they are merely symbols of Good and Evil, characterizing the opposing forces of Capital and Labor in the Nine Hundred Years War, that pitiful struggle between two archaic and artificially differentiated groups using the power of science to wrest from each other the bounty it could have given both. In any case, digging at a new location, we came upon unmistakable signs of human habitation. It was there, in the first building unearthed, that we made the discovery—a tall, narrow, closet-like wooden box, on its door the nearly obliterated cabalistic symbols: PUBL TEL.

"Later excavations and subsequent investigations convinced us of the nu-tune of this object. It was an aid in telepathic communication! So mentally impotent were the ancients of this day that they found it necessary to seal themselves in these coffin-like boxes—mind you that they had no ventilation—until temperature, pulse, and respiration were violently increased, until perspiration exuded from every pore and a condition of near-coma prevailed—and only then were they able to communicate with each other! . . .

"May I offer a—an alternative explanation?"

There was no doubt, this time, that the interjected thought had originated with the girl visible in television screen 1939. Though surprised, the Technician indulgently consented.

The girl, the screen showing her leaning forward in the chair before her televisor, in whichever of a thousand remote climes she might live, earnestly began: "What you discovered had nothing to do with telepathy. It was a booth—a station—for using a mechanical instrument called the telephone. . . ." She hesitated. "Yes, we—they used their voices to communicate then. But," she quickly added, "they weren't weren't mentally impotent. . . ."

The echo of his own thought escaped E. S. Technician Jonz—by virtue of his engrossment in a physiological phenomenon. A disproportionate amount of blood had come to the girl's face, as if she were—he sought, and found, the archaic term—blushing. Meanwhile the girl swiftly continued.

"They were well on their way to it, however—telepathic communication, I mean. Extra Sensory Perception they called it then. Psychologists in universities were studying it, to see how it worked and how it could be developed. Other scientists were trying to find out what it was.

"They discovered that the brain is a storehouse of electric energy, released in waves in thinking. They were beginning to identify certain brain potentials with particular states of consciousness and emotion, and different wave lengths with definite areas of the brain and functions of the mind. And in their experiments, they even put contraptions on their subjects like the funny thing on your head to carry the brain potentials to transformers to be built up, so—" the girl concluded with a toss of her head that sent highlights rippling down the sheer silie sleeveless blouse that met trim silie shorts at an oven trimmer waist— "I guess there isn't anything now that the twentieth century didn't well start!"

E. S. Technician Jonz' frown vanished with a sudden inspiration. This, beyond doubt, should prove a deadly blow, particularly to a feminine antagonist. He directed his inspired thought to the class. "If there are any of you inclined to agree with the young lady, only regard her clothing. Like your own it is, of course, the universal fabric we call silic, after the silica constituent in the glass of which it is made. It is soft and lustrous, yet it has a greater tensile strength than steel; it is both waterproof and non-inflammable. Compare silica with the strawlike fabrics which the ancients made from course animal hair or the secretion of insect larve!"

He stopped abruptly, feeling rather well pleased with himself, but it seemed he had hardly finished his thought before the girl was replying. "That's not fair. They made synthetic fabrics-rayon out of cellulose, and artificial silk by forcing collodion through fine apertures, just to begin. And what 's more, they made silic!—even if they didn't call it that."

E. S. Technician Jonz' complacency had been slowly dwindling. Now it vanished completely. His frown reappeared and with it a certain puzzlement: as the girl added, "I don't know if the process was the same, but I'll bet the results were every bit as good. The thread was made by breaking up glass with steam under such terrific pressure that a twelve ounce bottle would produce a single fiber five thousand miles in length! You might have seen it—I mean, one place where glass fabric and clothing were made during the twentieth century isn't—wasn't far from Chicago—Owens, Illinois."

A pedant Technician Jonz might have been, but not a fool. Beyond doubt there was something strange about this girl. He had not failed to note a certain confusion about time in her mind, alongside her remarkably detailed, if accurate, knowledge of ancient history. Moreover, no archaelogical excavation had ever been made at any place called Owens, Illinois.

This last fact he imparted to the class, sitting in his chair, his true feelings hidden to any but the most intuitive observer, then added, "Let us leave until some later lecture the details of our superior achievements and conclude briefly with a more general comparison between today and the twentieth century. I believe all will concede we have made consirlerahle social advances.

"We escape all the crassness of that former age, the hurly burly of large assemblages, the psychic disturbances of individual human contacts. Ours is a more aesthetic life, one that is conductive to creative effort. The power of the cosmos floods into man on his Olympian heights, and"-was there a hint of bitterness in the Technician's glance at screen 1939?—" women is his equal.

"Formerly people came together in groups for diversion, and in couples in response to the animal mating instinct. For our diversion today we need not stir from our homes. The television screen, for example, brings the theatre to us. Or if I wish to relax over a game of chess with one of my University colleagues, we play mentally, as I am communicating with you. As for perpetuating the race, for twenty centuries synthesized ova and chemical fertilization have replaced that compulsion on men and women to seek out each other, sacrificing the splendid personal isolation which is the superiority of our social organization."

He concluded with a proud, little-boy defiance and suddenly seemed very much alone as, preparatory to dismissing the class, he rose to his feet in the great hall of numbered glass screens. Perhaps that is why the girl smiled now more with her eyes, grown luminous, than her lips. And perhaps that is why she asked, "Haven't you forgotten that mating isn't all there is to love? There's companionship-"

"And aren't you," sharply interrupted the Technician, "merely rationalizing with some romantic nonsense this obvious inferiority in the social organization of the century you have chosen to defend?"

The girl's smile drained away. Green flecks seemed to appear in her eyes. "Oh, allright. then. Let 's see if you can take it too. The twentieth century did start chemical fertilization! In fact, in the ninteenth century, sea urchins were produced that way. Later, frogs and rabbits. And finally, though they were satisfied at the start to let it develop only as far as the beginning of cell division, a human ova was fertilized artificially!"

"The class," telepathed E. S. Technician Jonz, "is dismissed!" and snatched the amplifier from his head. Until the television screens were blank again he stood there. Though he may have imagined it, he thought he saw contrition on the face of the girl in screen 1939 as her image disappeared on the fading glow. Then, feeling a vague unrest, he strode out of the lecture hall and left the University.

It was the same peculiar dissatisfaction which made him proceed homeward on foot. From the corridor outside the lecture hall he could have when the pneumatic tube, which burrowed beneath the city, or the mono-gyro, whose spiderweb tracks hung from every tower. No one ever walked. But at no other time would the emptiness of the streets have struck E. S. Technician Jonz as undesirable. In a brown study he trudged along until-"

Hi! Professor." Later, Technician Jonz would remember that it had happened exactly as he came abreast Public Airport. 312, District, 32. But at the moment, there was too much to which he had to adjust himself. Her peculiar salutation; it meant nothing to him and yet it meant everything, for though he did not know the words, the intention was obviously friendly. And she had spoken-or had that been the pealing of a bell?

"I am extremely pleased to meet you—Miss 1939," said Technician Jonz, and was so astounded to find that his own voice had a not unpleasant timbre—or perhaps was so engrossed with blue eyes and smiling lips—that he said nothing more for a moment. Then, as if aimouru-ing an amazing discovery, "I had no idea you lived within a thousand miles of here."

"Another disadvantage of television, telepathy—and isolation."

Jonz smiled, and immediately became a much more attractive young man. "Perhaps you are right," he agreed amiably. "Are yon going my way?"


It was a lie, and Technician Jonz knew it from the impish turn of her lips. But his capitulation was complete. "Then will you go my way?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied, more softly.

Several squares later Technician Jonz sighed and ventured to remark that this was most pleasant.

"Then you were lonely," the girl said. "And you do sec, don 't you. what I meant by companionship. it's not primitive. It's—"

"Yes. But you're lonely too. \Where are you from?"

The girl hesitated.

"Never mind," Technician Jonz said firmly. He was a different man now. A man—as an earlier century phrased it-with a maid. "At least you're a stranger here, so there is much I can show you. This afternoon, the energy plants. Tonight, Galaxy Park."

"What's that?"

"An amusement park. You'll see plenty that was never dreamed of in the twentieth century."


"Well, maybe."