Fred Saberhagen – The Golden People

Adam held up a hand. “The Space Force knows about your ship. I was wondering if I should mention it to you, but then I assumed you already knew they did.”

“Your assumption was quite correct. And General Lorsch I suppose is worried lest we be bringing our ship here, and planning to upset things for her somehow? Well, we are. Our ninety-eight siblings are bringing our ship along to Golden now. It’ll be here when we need it.”

Adam got to his feet. He walked a little distance and turned back. “Ray? I don’t like this. I mean this between you and the Space Force. I know them, and I know Jovians, I suppose better than anyone else does.”

“I’m sure you do, Adam. And what is it you don’t like, precisely?”

“They don’t understand you, Ray. And I’m not sure you understand them. As soon as that ship of yours arrives in normal space near Golden they’re going to arrest whoever’s operating it-or try to arrest them. They consider that kind of a ship illegal, and they take things like that seriously.”

Ray threw back his head, and his laughter roared out, sudden and surprising. The log rocked under him. “No, Adam, we’re not going to fight a battle against the Space Force-although we could. Sorry if I let you think that, even for a minute. We’ll park our ship about six hundred kilometers above the Ringwall, and there they’ll surround us with a large force-I hope-trying to arrest us as you say.

“We can keep them at arm’s length, until events on the surface below have made it possible for them to join us in our endeavors, and convinced them that they should do so. Does that help to set your mind at ease?”

“No, Ray. No, not really. Events on the surface? What events? I don’t understand. Look, I’m just a slow human. Take it easy and explain it all to me slowly.”

“Adam, we’re just going to have to show the Field-builders to the Space Force. It’s a case where mere explaining and arguing won’t do the job.”

“Show them how?”

“Bring them out into the open, out of their dungeons into the light of day. Display them as they really are. I and a few others are going to teleport to the Ringwall from here-from in the Stem or somewhere near it. We ought to be able to reach the Ringwall in, I suppose, five or six jumps. We’ll do that while our ship and the Space Force ships are above it. The enemy can be found there, at the Ringwall. And they have the key to the Field there with them, Adam. I’ve felt it. I’ve seen it in their minds. Once we arrive there, we’ll be able to take that key into our possession. We’ll turn the place upside down and inside out if need be.”

It was all coming at Adam too fast, much too fast. “You, and a few others, are just going to walk in on the Field-Builders and do all this to them? How many of them are there?”

Ray strode over to where he had dropped his bow. He picked the weapon up and stood there gripping it. “I’m not sure, but we can do it. Numbers won’t count for that much, not in our part of the struggle. A little later we will need the ships and weapons of the Space Force-that’s why I’m taking steps to make sure they’ll be on hand. There’ll be plenty for our brothers and sisters of the normal Earth-descended strain to do; but basically, primarily, this is Jovian business. We are not going to submit to being laboratory animals for the Field-builders; we don’t intend to sit here like rats in a cage, tapping our noses against the Field.”

Ray was obviously bitter, and deeply angry. Again, Adam thought that he had never seen Ray quite like this before.

Adam himself felt small and inadequate, as he rarely had since he had been a toddler. He asked Ray: “Why are you telling me all this?”

“Because you are a Jovian,” Ray answered.

“Doc never knew about you,” Ray was explaining, a little later, when Adam again felt capable of listening to explanations. “I was only two years old, myself, and a long way from being able to assume leadership, when the other children began trying to duplicate Doc’s experiments. That Ganymede installation was and is a huge place. There were vast areas within it that Doc hardly ever entered, and we had a good deal of freedom. And we had abilities that Doc never imagined, at least until much later. He didn’t miss a little genetic material from his stock.

“When you were decanted, Adam, one of the laboratory workers was bribed into seeing to it that you were transported to Earth safely. At that point, something about my colleagues’ plan went wrong-they couldn’t oversee the details from the distance of Ganymede, and you wound up in a public Home instead of a real one as they had intended. My elder siblings tell me they were sorry about that, and I believe them; but as events turned out, we all had to follow you into similar places, at least temporarily, as you know. By the time I was fourteen, I had learned about the experiment that produced you, and I was anxious to get a look at the result. I managed to get myself assigned to the Home that you were in, when it became necessary to go into one-the rest, as they say in stories, you know.”

“. but I never guessed.”

Ray grinned at him. “Oh, and one more thing, Ad-Merit has never known. She’ll be as surprised as you are.”

It was all too much. Adam sat down on the log again, making a helpless gesture.

“I haven’t told you any of this before,” Ray went on, “because there have been times, many times in fact, when it seemed a distinct disadvantage to anyone to be known as a Jovian. Also, I admit, my older siblings expressed some curiosity about how you would develop, living in an environment substantially different from ours. Whether you’ve gained or lost by now knowing your heritage-who can say?”

Adam continued just to sit there. He felt numbed, stunned, like part of the log himself. He looked at Ray for a while, then stared into space, then looked back at Ray again. He couldn’t doubt any of this, basically, that Ray was telling him.

He, Adam Mann, was a Jovian. He wondered if the curious kids who had created him had given him some other name at first. If so, he didn’t think he wanted to know what it was.

No wonder that all his life he had known a sense of being different from the people he lived among, a chronic sense of outrage at the surrounding human idiocy.

“I am telling you this now,” said Ray, “because very soon I am going to need the willing help of every Jovian mind and body. And you have it all, Adam. Whatever talents we have are yours, at least in potential.” Ray was calmly ready to resume his archery practice, and now the big man’s bowstring thrummed again.

Adam raised his eyes just in time to see the arrow hit home. A perfect shot, as always. And now, for himself too, for Adam Mann.

Gradually the realization was growing in him. A foretaste of the new world that he was about to enter. A Jovian world, in which he might climb to heights that were now beyond even his imagination.

“This is what I call the right way to convalesce,” said Vito Ling, pulling two rabbit-like hoppers out of his game bag, and dropping them on a rock beside the cooking fire. The biochemistry of Gold-en’s native life ran so closely parallel with that of Earth that an inhabitant of either world could generally provide safe nourishment for an inhabitant of the other.

“Convalesce!” Ray laughed. “I think you’ve just been loafing for the past week. Like me.”

“And I’m glad,” said Merit, on her knees beside the fire and feeding it with kindling. “I’m not eager for you two to vanish back into Fieldedge, and find a way to spoil this planet. I’ve decided I like Golden just the way it is.”

“We’ll convert our scientists to Field-lovers yet,” Adam said. Several days had passed since he heard Ray’s revelations. Ray had said he hadn’t yet told Merit much about the coming struggle, though she was certainly aware of his perceptions of the Field-builders’ minds. And Vito had as yet been told nothing.

Merit had been informed, by Ray, of the truth of Adam’s Jovian origin. And, as far as Adam could tell, she had been as astonished by the news as he was himself.

Immediately afterward she had come to Adam with a strange look in her face: “Ray just told me.”

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