The Devolutionist and the Emancipatrix
Chapter I: The Mental Expedition
The doctor closed the door behind him, crossed to the table, silently offered the geologist a cigar, and waited until smoke was issuing from it. Then he said:
“Well,” bluntly, “what’s come between you and your wife, Van?”
The geologist showed no surprise. Instead, he frowned severely at the end of his cigar, and carefully seated himself on the corner of the table. When he spoke there was a certain rigor in his voice, which told the doctor that his friend was holding himself tightly in rein.
“It really began when the four of us got together to investigate Capellette, two months ago.” Van Emmon was a thorough man in important matters. “Maybe I ought to say that both Billie and I were as much interested as either you or Smith; she often says that even the tour of Mercury and Venus was less wonderful.
“What is more, we are both just as eager to continue the investigations. We still have all kinds of faith in the Venusian formula; we want to ‘visit’ as many more worlds as the science of telepathy will permit. It isn’t that either of us has lost interest.”
The doctor rather liked the geologist’s scientific way of stating the case, even though it meant hearing things he already knew. Kinney watched and waited and listened intently.
“You remember, of course, what sort of a man I got in touch with. Powart was easily the greatest Capellan of them all; a magnificent intellect, which I still think was intended to have ruled the rest. I haven’t backed down from my original position.”
“Van! You still believe,” incredulously, “in a government of the sort he contemplated?”
Van Emmon nodded aggressively. “All that we learned merely strenthens my conviction. Remember what sort of people the working classes of Capellette were? Smith’s ‘agent’ was typical--a helpless nincompoop, not fit to govern himself!” The geologist strove to keep his patience.
“However,” remarked Kinney, “the chap whose mind I used was no fool.”
“Nor was Billie’s agent, the woman surgeon,” agreed Van Emmon, “even if she did prefer ‘the Devolutionist’ to Powart. But you’ll have to admit, doc, that the vast majority of the Capellans were incompetents; the rest were exceptions.”
The doctor spoke after a brief pause. “And--that’s what is wrong, Van?”
“Yes,” grimly. “Billie can’t help but rejoice that things turned out the way they did. She is sure that the workers, now that they’ve been separated from the ruling class, will proceed to make a perfect paradise out of their land.” He could not repress a certain amount of sarcasm. “As well expect a bunch of monkeys to build a steam engine!
“Well,” after a little hesitation, “as I said before, doc, I’ve no reason to change my mind. You may talk all you like about it--I can’t agree to such ideas. The only way to get results on that planet is for the upper classes to continue to govern.”
“And this is what you two have--quarreled about?”
Van Emmon nodded sorrowfully. He lit another cigar absent-mindedly and cleared his throat twice before going on:
“My fault, I guess. I’ve been so darned positive about everything I’ve said, I’ve probably caused Billie to sympathize with her friends more solidly than she would otherwise.”
“But just because you’ve championed the autocrats so heartily--”
“I’m afraid so!” The geologist was plainly relieved to have stated the case in full. He leaned forward in his eagerness to be understood. He told the doctor things that were altogether too personal to be included in this account.
Meanwhile, out in the doctor’s study, Smith had made no move whatever to interrogate the geologist’s young wife. Instead, the engineer simply remained standing after Billie had sat down, and gave her only an occasional hurried glance. Shortly the silence got on her nerves; and--such was her nature, as contrasted with Van Emmon’s--whereas he had stated causes first, she went straight to effects.
“Well,” explosively, “Van and I have split!”
Smith was seldom surprised at anything. This time was no exception. He merely murmured “Sorry” under his breath; and Billie rushed on, her pent-up feelings eager to escape.
“We haven’t mentioned Capellette for weeks, Smith! We don’t dare! If we did, there’d be such a rumpus that we--we’d separate!” Something came up into her throat which had to be choked back before she could go on. Then--
“I don’t know why it is, but every time the subject is brought up Van makes me so WILD!” She controlled herself with a tremendous effort. “He blames me, of course, because of what I did to help the Devolutionist. But I can’t be blamed for sympathizing with the under dog, can I? I’ve always preferred justice to policy, any time. Justice first, I say! And I think we’ve seen--there on Capellette--how utterly impossible it is for any such system as theirs to last indefinitely.”
But before she could follow up her point the door opened and the doctor returned with her husband. Kinney did not allow any tension to develop; instead, he said briskly:
“There’s only a couple of hours remaining between now and dinner time; I move we get busy.” He glanced about the room, to see if all was in place. The four chairs, each with its legs tipped with glass; the four footstools, similarly insulated from the floor; the electrical circuit running from the odd group of machinery in the corner, and connecting four pair of brass bracelets--all were ready for use. He motioned the others to the chairs in which they had already accomplished marvels in the way of mental traveling.
“Now,” he remarked, as he began to fit the bracelets to his wrists, an example which the rest straightway followed; “now, we want to make sure that we all have the same purpose in mind. Last time, we were simply looking for four people, such as had view-points similar to our own. To-day, our object is to locate, somewhere among the planets attached to one of the innumerable sun-stars of the universe, one on which the conditions are decidedly different from anything we have known before.”
Billie and Van Emmon, their affair temporarily forgotten, listened eagerly.
“As I recall it,” Smith calmly observed, “we agreed that this attempt would be to locate a new kind of--well, near-human. Isn’t that right?”
The doctor nodded. “Nothing more or less”--speaking very distinctly--”than a creature as superior as we are, but NOT IN HUMAN FORM.”