Voyage From Yesteryear

Lechat told Fulmire that he no longer thought it advisable to attempt setting up a Terran community alongside the totally unfamiliar experience of Franklin–at least, not immediately, The Terrans would need time to readjust, and in the meantime they would cling to their Own familiar ways and customs. The proximity of Franklin would only cause tensions. Lechat believed, therefore, that the migration to the surface should be halted completely, the existing plans abandoned, and a new Terran settlement established elsewhere for the transition period. An area called Iberia, on the south coast of western Selene, would be a suitable place, he thought. Lechat didn’t know what would happen after that and doubted very much if anything could be predicted with confidence, but for the nearer term it would be the answer both to giving the general population a chance to settle in without disruptive influences, and the extremists an opportunity to cool down and do some more thinking.

Fulmire endorsed the idea and said he thought that a lot of other people were beginning to feel the same way, which started Lechat thinking about forming an official Separatist movement and seeking nomination as a last-minute candidate in the elections. Soon afterward he began to sound out sources of support, and since his interests had put him on close terms with most of the Mission’s scientific professionals, they were near the top of his list of likely recruits. Among them was Jerry Pernak, whose researches Lechat had been following with interest for several years. Accordingly, Lechat invited Pernak and Eve Verity to dinner with him one evening in the Françoise, a restaurant in the Columbia District frequented mainly by political and media people, and explained his situation.

“I don’t think it could work,” Pernak said, shaking his head after Lechat had finished. “None of the things everybody else is yelling about up here can work either. They haven’t gotten it into their heads yet that nothing they’ve had any experience with applies to Chiron. This is a whole new phenomenon with its own new rules.”

“How do you mean, Jerry?” Lechat asked across the table. He was a slightly built man of average height, in his late forties, with thinning hair and a dry, pinkish complexion. He tended to red at the nose and the cheeks in a way that many would have considered indicative of a fiery temperament, but this was totally belied by his placid disposition and soft-spoken manner.

Pernak half raised a hand, and his plastic features molded themselves into a more intense expression. “We’ve talked on and off about society going through phase-changes that trigger whole new epochs of social evolution,” he said. “Well, that’s exactly what’s happened down there. You can’t extrapolate any of our rules into this culture. They don’t apply. They don’t work on Chiron.’

Lechat didn’t respond immediately. Eve Verity elaborated. “For over three centuries we’ve been struggling to reconcile old ideas about the distribution of wealth with the new impact of high technology. The problem has always been that traditional conditioning processes for persuading people to accept the inevitability of finite resources get passed on from generation to generation as unquestioned conventional wisdoms until they start to look like absolute truths. Wealth was always something that had to be competed and fought for. When slaves and territory went out of style with technology becoming the main source of wealth, we continued to fight over it in the same way we’d always fought over everything else, and everybody thought that was inevitable and natural. They couldn’t separate the old theories from the new facts.” Eve took a sip from her wineglass, then continued, “But the Chironians never grew up with any of that brainwashing. They made a clean start with science and advanced technologies all around them and taken for granted, and they understand that new technologies create new resources …without limit.”

Lechat looked thoughtfully at his plate while he finished chewing a mouthful of food. “You make them all sound like millionaires,” he commented.

“That’s exactly what they are,” Pernak said. “In the material sense, anyway. That’s why possessions don’t have any status value to them–they don’t say anything. That’s why you won’t find any absolute leaders down there either.” “How come?” Lechat asked, puzzled.

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