The Long Result

The Long Result by John Brunner Read Free Book Online

Book: The Long Result by John Brunner Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Brunner
Tags: Science-Fiction
the Tau Cetians are involved – a race which as you said yourself was already on the way to eventual spaceflight.’
    ‘Yes. Yes, I see all that. I can also see I’m due for an argument with Tinescu. He denies that this League is worth worrying about.’
    ‘Let him come and sit in my chair for a while!’ bin Ishmael exclaimed, slapping the top of his desk.
    ‘You were telling me about your plans for the Tau Cetians,’ I reminded him. ‘Excuse me probing, but this is outside my regular field, and I’m curious.’
    ‘Yes, you’re more in human colonial work than alien contact, aren’t you? I’m surprised to find Tinescu involving you with this… Oh, never mind; he must have reasons.’ He leaned back, gazing at the ceiling.
    ‘Cultural survey missions are the next big step. Got to be doubly sure what is and what is not safe to trade with them. In the way of information, I mean. For instance, the Sagittarians are completely co-operative, as I’m sure you know. Their psychology doesn’t include the concept of competition, let alone violence. So we gave them radio-tracers without hesitation, and they found the techniques immensely useful. They have this big thing in silicon-oxygen genetics and tailor living creatures to their own specifications. But to have radio-tracers you need virtually the whole of nuclear physics, and we couldn’t give that to a warlike species. Are you with me?’
    I was, naturally. He was only rehashing standard Bureau principles which one picked up even without being directly involved in alien contact. We didn’t hand over potentially dangerous techniques; equally, we didn’t infringe on any major racial goals, for fear of taking the spirit out of the species. In concrete terms, the Tau Cetians would doubtless ask for the stardrive. They wouldn’t get it. By the time they’d developed a world language and their own interplanetary ships, they’d almost certainly invent a stardrive of their own – and who could say? It might even be superior to ours, which suffered from all kinds of drawbacks, such as thenuisance of having to use a set of engines once and once only, for some reason I didn’t fully understand but which was connected with the effect of stressed-space fields on intra-atomic distances.
    There wasn’t much more for me to learn here, obviously. I made to rise, but at that moment the phone went and I paused.
    ‘Doc, we’ve finished with that subsonic converter now – we have the full specs and we’re ready to start building some of our own. But since we only have one I thought you’d like it back as soon as possible.’
    ‘Thanks very much,’ bin Ishmael confirmed. ‘Have it sent to my office, would you?’ He cut the circuit and looked at me.
    ‘Before you go, do you think it would be a good idea if the Tau Cetians met an official of the Bureau? Taking away their courier was probably a blow, but meeting you and being told who you are would help cancel that. They don’t have too high an opinion of human beings, quite candidly – the Starhomers made a lot of tactless errors in handling them, including the type of people they chose as members of the delegation.’
    I said slowly, ‘In what way, especially?’
    ‘Well, you or I would have chosen a couple of scientists and a couple of psychologists, or the nearest available equivalent. The Starhomers picked four high functionaries. Politicians, if you like. The interpreter is the only one who’s really caught on, for instance, to the fact that our slow reactions aren’t due to stupidity but to our lower metabolic rate.’ He turned to a cupboard behind him. ‘Reminds me – I’m running short of chronodrin. Must have some more sent up.’
    I hesitated. I didn’t really want to involve myself – I had my own work back at the Bureau. But suddenly I remembered all those cracks about my job with ‘Poor Relations’,and came to a decision. It would harm me, even if I wasn’t in alien contact, if something went

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