Repairmen of Cyclops by John Brunner

veloping some new biological and generic skills, or

Eighteen, where there are some language changes going

on which will eventually influence the whole pattern of

human communication.”

“Think of Five,” Maddalena countered. “Unless they’ve

licked the cerebral palsy problem, the survivors there are

back to grunting like apes.”

There was silence for a feW minutes. Unhappily, Lan-

genschmidt chewed his lower lip and stared at Mad-

dalena, wondering what next to say.

The problem was a recurrent one, and had been de-

bated for a century and a half. Its roots, though, lay

much further backto be precise, some seven hundred

and seventy years before, when the primary of a planet

called Zarathustra went nova. For six hundred and thirty

years thereafter, it was believed that only a small handful

of refugees had escapedto Baucis Alpha, on the

Solward side. Then, without warning, radio signals be-

gan to be received from the opposite direction; fruit of

generation upon generation of dedicated workers start-

ing from no better level than the salvaged scrap in a

single starship, climaxing in the conversion of an as-

teroid into a huge generating station fed by solar power

and oriented to form a bowl-like transmission antenna

for messages limping at light-speed back to civilisation.

They came from Lex’s Planet, otherwise known as

ZRP One: the first Zarathustra Refugee Planet to be lo-

cated and recontacted. Now, it was part of the galactic

union, and regarded as a civilised world.

From there, it had been learned that no fewer than

three thousand ships got away from the night side of

Zarathustia, and the far quadrant of its orbit, carrying

some two and a quarter million people. The Patrol, con-

stituted a couple of centuries before, was given the task

of tracking down the remaining survivors, if any.

Twenty-one worlds had now been found where fugi-

tives had landed. On some, they had not only survived,

but built up during their period of isolation quite inter-

esting and respectable cultures. Few of them boasted

technology to more than rudimeritary level, but some

had other achievementssuch as those Langenschmidt

had cited to Maddalenawhich promised new avenues

for human cultural or scientific development.

After much argument and heart-searching, the non-in-

terference rule was formulated and applied. Unless the

ZRP’s succeeded in re-contacting civilisation themselves,

they were to be left to evolve along the paths they had

themselves created. There were many reasons for this.

On some planets there had been evolutionary changes

due to environment: on all, there had been cultural dis-

ruption, and centuries of “natural” breeding, four to five

generations per century, had magnified the discontinuity.

Perhaps most significant of all, galactic civilisation was

slowing down its former progress, as though the distance

between the stars imposed a psychological as well as

physical barrier on cross-fertilisation of cultures. Seem-

ingly, one felt there was little point in research or inven-

tiveness when for all one could determine on some other

of the 260 human planets the same work had already

been carried out.

Left to themselves, it was suggested, the ZRP’s might

rediscover the basic human drives of curiosity and ulti-

mately re-infect the rest of the race.

Elsewhere, there had been a cultural smoothing

process. Worlds like Earth were looked np to, but only

the superficialities of fashion spread, not the real changes

which underlay them, and consequently things were

much the same everywhere as they had been when the

Patrol was set up. Backward worlds struggled to catch

~up to the average standard, and some did so, but the

worlds above average were placid and lacked any initia-

tive. –

Maddalena stirred in her chair and raised her eyes to

her old friend’s rejuvenated face. “Who’s spearheading

the campaign this time? ZRP One as usual, presumably.”

Langenschmidt pounced. “No, and that’s the most in-

teresting part of it. It used to be fashionable for One to

shout about the shocking way their kinfolk were being

left to rot instead of rescued and brought home. But this

conservative tradition has died out lately, and I think this

is because it’s taken until now for One to mesh com-

pletely with galactic civilisation and discover just how

great a change was wrought in their own culture by

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Categories: John Brunner