“You will not tell me how to run my own division.” The words were spaced, like steel rivets, evenly into the air. Dr. Haenlingen looked around the meeting-room, her face not even defiant but simply assured.
Willis, of Labor, was the first to recover. “It’s not that we’d like to interfere—” he began.
She didn’t let him finish. “That’s a lie.” Her voice was not excited. It carried the length of the room, and left no echoes.
“Now, Dr. Haenlingen—” Rogier, Metals chairman and head of the meeting, began.
“Don’t soft-soap me,” the old woman snapped. “I’m too old for it and I’m too tough for it. I want to look at some facts, and I want you to look at them, too.” She paused, and nobody said a word. “I want to start with a simple statement. We’re in trouble.”
“That’s exactly the point,” Willis began in his thin, high voice. “It’s because we all appreciate that fact—”
“That you want to tamper,” the old woman said. “Precisely.” The others were seated around the long gleaming table of native wood. Dr. Haenlingen stood, her back rigid, at one end, facing them all with a cold and knowing eye. “But I won’t allow tampering in my department. I can’t allow it.”
Rogier took a deep breath. The words came like marshmallow out of his overstuffed body. “I would hardly call a request for information ‘tampering’,” he said.
“I would,” Dr. Haenlingen told him tartly. “I’ve had a very good reason, over the years, to keep information about my section in my own hands.”
Rogier’s voice became stern. “And that is?”
“That is,” Dr. Haenlingen said, “fools like you.” Rogier opened his mouth, but the old woman gave him no chance. “People who think psychology is a game, or at any rate a study that applies only to other people, never to them. People who want to subject others to the disciplines of psychology, but not themselves.”
“As I understand it—” Rogier began.
“You do not understand it,” the old woman said flatly. “I understand it because I have spent my life learning to do so. You have spent your life learning to understand metals, and committees. Doubtless, Dr. Rogier, you understand metals—and committees.”
Her glance swept once more round the table, and she sat down. There was a second of silence before Dward, of Research, spoke up. Behind glassy contact lenses his eyes were, as always, unreadable. “Perhaps Dr. Haenlingen has a point,” he said. “I know I’d hate to have to lay out my work for the meeting before I had it prepared. I’m sure we can allow a reasonable time for preparation—”
“I’m afraid we can’t,” Rogier put in, almost apologetically.
“Of course we can’t,” the old woman added. “First of all, I wasn’t asking for time for preparation. I was asking for non-interference. And, second, we don’t have any time at all.”
“Surely matters aren’t that serious,” Willis put in.
“Matters,” the old woman said, “are a good deal more serious than that. Has anyone but me read the latest reports from the Confederation?”
“I think we all have,” Rogier said calmly.
“Well, then,” the old woman asked, “has anyone except myself understood them?” The head turned, the eyes raked the table. “Dr. Willis hasn’t, or he wouldn’t be sounding so hopeful. The rest of you haven’t, or you wouldn’t be talking about time. Rogier, you haven’t, or you’d quit trying to pry and begin trying to prepare.”
“Preparations have begun,” Rogier said. “It’s just for that reason that I want to get some idea of what your division—”
“Preparations,” she said. The word was like a curse. “There’s been a leak, and a bad leak. We may never know where it started. A ship’s officer, taking metals back, a stowaway, anything. That doesn’t matter: anyone with any sense knew there had to be a leak sooner or later.”
“We’ve taken every possible precaution,” Willis said.
“Exactly,” Dr. Haenlingen told him. “And the leak happened. I take it there’s no argument about that—given the figures and reports we now have?”
There was silence.
“Very well,” she went on. “The Confederation is acting just as it has always been obvious they would act: with idealism, stupidity and a gross lack of what is called common sense.” She paused for comment: there was none. “Disregarding the fact that they need our shipments, and need them badly, they have begun to turn against us. Against what they are pleased to call slavery.”
“Well?” Rogier asked. “It is slavery, isn’t it?”
“What difference do labels make?” she asked. “In any case, they have turned against us. Public opinion is swinging heavily around, and there isn’t much chance of pushing it back the other way. The man in the street is used to freedom. He likes it. He thinks the Alberts ought to be free, too.”
“But if they are,” Willis said, “the man in the street is going to lose a lot of other things—things dependent on our shipments.”
“I said they were illogical,” Dr. Haenlingen told him patiently. “Idealism almost always is. Logic has nothing to do with this—as anyone but a fool might know.” She got up again, and began to walk back and forth along the end of the table. “There are still people who are convinced, God knows why, that minds work on logic. Minds do not work on anything resembling logic. The laws on which they do work are only now beginning to be understood and codified: but logic was thrown out the window in the days of Freud. That, gentlemen, was a long time ago. The man in the Confederation street is going to lose a lot if he insists on freeing the Alberts. He hasn’t thought of that yet, and he won’t think of it until after it happens.” She paused, at one end of her walk, and put her hands on her hips. “That man is suffering from a disease, if putting it that way makes it easier for you to see. The disease is called idealism. Its main symptom is a disregard for consequences in favor of principles.”
“But surely—” Willis began.
“Dr. Willis, you are outdoing yourself,” the old woman cut in. “You sound as if you are hopeful about idealism resting somewhere even in us. And perhaps it does, perhaps it does. It is a persistent virus. But I hope we can control its more massive outbreaks, gentlemen, and not attempt to convince ourselves that this disease is actually a state of health.” She began to pace again. “Idealism is a disease,” she said. “In epidemic proportions, it becomes incurable.”
“Then there is nothing to be done?” Dward asked.
“Dr. Rogier has his preparations,” the old woman said. “I’m sure they are as efficient as they can be. They are useless, but he knows that as well as I do.”
“Now wait a—” Rogier began.
“Against ships of the Confederation, armed with God alone knows what after better than one hundred years of progress? Don’t be silly, Dr. Rogier. Our preparations are better than nothing, perhaps, but not much better. They can’t be.”
Having reached her chair again, she sat down in it. The meeting was silent for better than a minute. Dr. Rogier was the first to speak. “But, don’t you see,” he said, “that’s just why we need to know what’s going on in your division. Perhaps a weapon might be forged from the armory of psychology which—”
“Before that metaphor becomes any more mixed,” Dr. Haenlingen said, “I want to clear one thing up. I am not going to divulge any basic facts about my division, now or ever.”
“I want you to listen to me carefully,” she said. “The tools of psychology are both subtle and simple. Anyone can use a few of them. And anyone, in possession of only those few, will be tempted to put them to use. That use is dangerous, more dangerous than a ticking bomb. I will not run the risk of such danger.”
“Surely we are all responsible men—” Rogier began.
“Given enough temptation,” Dr. Haenlingen said, “there is no such thing as a responsible man. If there were, none of us would be here, on Fruyling’s World. None of us would be masters, and none of the Alberts slaves.”