The creatures came again last night.
The moon had just slipped behind the clouds when we heard the
first rustlings in the grass. Then there was a moment of utter
silence, as if they knew we were listening for them, and finally
there were the familiar hoots and shrieks as they raced to within
fifty meters of us and, still screeching, struck postures of
They fascinate me, for they never show themselves in the
daylight, and yet they manifest none of the features of the true
nocturnal animal. Their eyes are not oversized, their ears cannot
move independently, they tread very heavily on their feet. They
frighten most of the other members of my party, and while I am
curious about them, I have yet to absorb one of them and study it.
To tell the truth, I think my use of absorption terrifies my
companions more than the creatures do, though there is no reason
why it should. Although I am relatively young by my race's
standards, I am nevertheless many millennia older than any other
member of my party. You would think, given their backgrounds, that
they would know that any trait someone of my age possesses must by
definition be a survival trait.
Still, it bothers them. Indeed, it _mystifies_ them, much as
my memory does. Of course, theirs seem very inefficient to me.
Imagine having to learn everything one knows in a single lifetime,
to be totally ignorant at the moment of birth! Far better to split
off from your parent with his knowledge intact in your brain, just
as _my_ parent's knowledge came to him, and ultimately to me.
But then, that is why we are here: not to compare
similarities, but to study differences. And never was there a race
so different from all his fellows as Man. He was extinct barely
seventeen millennia after he strode boldly out into the galaxy
from this, the planet of his birth -- but during that brief
interval he wrote a chapter in galactic history that will last
forever. He claimed the stars for his own, colonized a million
worlds, ruled his empire with an iron will. He gave no quarter
during his primacy, and he asked for none during his decline and
fall. Even now, some forty-eight centuries after his extinction,
his accomplishments and his failures still excite the imagination.
Which is why we are on Earth, at the very spot that was said
to be Man's true birthplace, the rocky gorge where he first
crossed over the evolutionary barrier, saw the stars with fresh
eyes, and vowed that they would someday be his.
Our leader is Bellidore, an Elder of the Kragan people,
orange-skinned, golden fleeced, with wise, patient ways. Bellidore
is well-versed in the behavior of sentient beings, and settles our
disputes before we even know that we are engaged in them.
Then there are the Stardust Twins, glittering silver beings
who answer to each other's names and finish each other's thoughts.
They have worked on seventeen archaeological digs, but even _they_
were surprised when Bellidore chose them for this most prestigious
of all missions. They behave like life mates, though they display
no sexual characteristics -- but like all the others, they refuse
to have physical contact with me, so I cannot assuage my
Also in our party is the Moriteu, who eats the dirt as if it
were a delicacy, speaks to no one, and sleeps upside-down while
hanging from a branch of a nearby tree. For some reason, the
creatures always leave it alone. Perhaps they think it is dead,
possibly they know it is asleep and that only the rays of the sun
can awaken it. Whatever the reason, we would be lost without it,
for only the delicate tendrils that extend from its mouth can
excavate the ancient artifacts we have discovered with the proper
We have four other species with us: one is an Historian, one
an Exobiologist, one an Appraiser of human artifacts, and one
a Mystic. (At least, I _assume_ she is a Mystic, for I can find no
pattern to her approach, but this may be due to my own
shortsightedness. After all, what I do seems like magic to my
companions and yet it is a rigorously-applied science.)
And, finally, there is me. I have no name, for my people do
not use names, but for the convenience of the party I have taken
the name of He Who Views for the duration of the expedition. This
is a double misnomer: I am not a _he_, for my race is not divided
by gender; and I am not a viewer, but a Fourth Level Feeler.
Still, I could intuit very early in the voyage that "feel" means
something very different to my companions than to myself, and out
of respect for their sensitivities, I chose a less accurate name.
Every day finds us back at work, examining the various
strata. There are many signs that the area once teemed with living
things, that early on there was a veritable explosion of life
forms in this place, but very little remains today. There are a
few species of insects and birds, some small rodents, and of
course the creatures who visit our camp nightly.
Our collection has been growing slowly. It is fascinating to
watch my companions perform their tasks, for in many ways they are
as much of a mystery to me as my methods are to them. For example,
our Exobiologist needs only to glide her tentacle across an object
to tell us whether it was once living matter; the Historian,
surrounded by its complex equipment, can date any object, carbon-
based or otherwise, to within a decade of its origin, regardless
of its state of preservation; and even the Moriteu is a thing of
beauty and fascination as it gently separates the artifacts from
the strata where they have rested for so long.
I am very glad I was chosen to come on this mission.
We have been here for two lunar cycles now, and the work goes
slowly. The lower strata were thoroughly excavated eons ago (I
have such a personal interest in learning about Man that I almost
used the word _plundered_ rather than _excavated_, so resentful am
I at not finding more artifacts), and for reasons as yet unknown
there is almost nothing in the more recent strata.
Most of us are pleased with our results, and Bellidore is
particularly elated. He says that finding five nearly intact
artifacts makes the expedition an unqualified success.
All the others have worked tirelessly since our arrival. Now
it is almost time for me to perform my special function, and I am
very excited. I know that my findings will be no more important
that the others', but perhaps, when we put them all together, we
can finally begin to understand what it was that made Man what he
"Are you..." asked the first Stardust Twin.
"...ready?" said the second.
I answered that I was ready, that indeed I had been anxious
for this moment.
"...observe?" they asked.
"If you do not find it distasteful," I replied.
"...scientists," they said. "There is..."
"...that we cannot view..."
I ambulated to the table upon which the artifact rested. It
was a stone, or at least that is what it appeared to be to my
exterior sensory organs. It was triangular, and the edges showed
signs of work.
"How old is this?" I asked.
"...five hundred and sixty-one thousand..."
"...eight hundred and twelve years," answered the Stardust
"I see," I said.
"It is much..."
"...of our finds."
I stared at it for a long time, preparing myself. Then I
slowly, carefully, altered my structure and allowed my body to
flow over and around the stone, engulfing it, and assimilating its
history. I began to feel a delicious warmth as it became one with
me, and while all my exterior senses had shut down, I knew that I
was undulating and glowing with the thrill of discovery. I became
one with the stone, and in that corner of my mind that is set
aside for Feeling, I seemed to sense the Earth's moon looming low
and ominous just above the horizon...
* * *
Enkatai awoke with a start just after dawn and looked up at
the moon, which was still high in the sky. After all these weeks
it still seemed far too large to hang suspended in the sky, and
must surely crash down onto the planet any moment. The nightmare
was still strong in her mind, and she tried to imagine the
comforting sight of five small, unthreatening moons leapfrogging
across the silver sky of her own world. She was able to hold the
vision in her mind's eye for only a moment, and then it was lost,
replaced by the reality of the huge satellite above her.
Her companion approached her.
"Another dream?" he asked.
"Exactly like the last one," she said uncomfortably. "The
moon is visible in the daylight, and then we begin walking down
He stared at her with sympathy and offered her nourishment.
She accepted it gratefully, and looked off across the veldt.
"Just two more days," she sighed, "and then we can leave this
"It is not such a terrible world," replied Bokatu. "It has
many good qualities."
"We have wasted our time here," she said. "It is not fit for
"No, it is not," he agreed. "Our crops cannot thrive in this
soil, and we have problems with the water. But we have learned
many things, things that will eventually help us choose the proper
"We learned most of them the first week we were here," said
Enkatai. "The rest of the time was wasted."
"The ship had other worlds to explore. They could not know we
would be able to analyze this one in such a short time."
She shivered in the cool morning air. "I hate this place."
"It will someday be a fine world," said Bokatu. "It awaits
only the evolution of the brown monkeys."
Even as he spoke, an enormous baboon, some 350 pounds in
weight, heavily muscled, with a shaggy chest and bold, curious
eyes, appeared in the distance. Even walking on all fours it was a
formidable figure, fully twice as large as the great spotted cats.
"_We_ cannot use this world," continued Bokatu, "but someday
_his_ descendants will spread across it."
"They seem so placid," commented Enkatai.
"They _are_ placid," agreed Bokatu, hurling a piece of food
at the baboon, which raced forward and picked it up off the
ground. It sniffed at it, seemed to consider whether or not to
taste it, and finally, after a moment of indecision, put it in its
mouth. "But they will dominate this planet. The huge grass-eaters
spend too much time feeding, and the predators sleep all the time.
No, my choice is the brown monkey. They are fine, strong,
intelligent animals. They have already developed thumbs, they
possess a strong sense of community, and even the great cats think
twice about attacking them. They are virtually without natural
predators." He nodded his head, agreeing with himself. "Yes, it is
they who will dominate this world in the eons to come."
"No predators?" said Enkatai.
"Oh, I suppose one falls prey to the great cats now and then,
but even the cats do not attack when they are with their troop."
He looked at the baboon. "That fellow has the strength to tear all
but the biggest cat to pieces."
"Then how do you account for what we found at the bottom of
the gorge?" she persisted.
"Their size has cost them some degree of agility. It is only
natural that one occasionally falls down the slopes to its death."
"Occasionally?" she repeated. "I found seven skulls, each
shattered as if from a blow."
"The force of the fall," said Bokatu with a shrug. "Surely
you don't think the great cats brained them before killing them?"
"I wasn't thinking of the cats," she replied.
"The small, tailless monkeys that live in the gorge."
Bokatu allowed himself the luxury of a superior smile. "Have
you _looked_ at them?" he said. "They are scarcely a quarter the
size of the brown monkeys."
"I _have_ looked at them," answered Enkatai. "And they, too,
"Thumbs alone are not enough," said Bokatu.
"They live in the shadow of the brown monkeys, and they are
still here," she said. "_That_ is enough."
"The brown monkeys are eaters of fruits and leaves. Why
should they bother the tailless monkeys?"
"They do more than not bother them," said Enkatai. "They
avoid them. That hardly seems like a species that will someday
spread across the world."
Bokatu shook his head. "The tailless monkeys seem to be at an
evolutionary dead end. Too small to hunt game, too large to feed
themselves on what they can find in the gorge, too weak to compete
with the brown monkeys for better territory. My guess is that
they're an earlier, more primitive species, destined for
"Perhaps," said Enkatai.
"There is something about them..."
Enkatai shrugged. "I do not know. They make me uneasy. It is
something in their eyes, I think -- a hint of malevolence."
"You are imagining things," said Bokatu.
"Perhaps," replied Enkatai again.
"I have reports to write today," said Bokatu. "But tomorrow I
will prove it to you."
The next morning Bokatu was up with the sun. He prepared
their first meal of the day while Enkatai completed her prayers,
then performed his own while she ate.
"Now," he announced, "we will go down into the gorge and
capture one of the tailless monkeys."
"To show you how easy it is. I may take it back with me as a
pet. Or perhaps we shall sacrifice it in the lab and learn more
about its life processes."
"I do not _want_ a pet, and we are not authorized to kill any
"As you wish," said Bokatu. "We will let it go."
"Then why capture one to begin with?"
"To show you that they are not intelligent, for if they are
as bright as you think, I will not be able to capture one." He
pulled her to an upright position. "Let us begin."
"This is foolish," she protested. "The ship arrives in
midafternoon. Why don't we just wait for it?"
"We will be back in time," he replied confidently. "How long
can it take?"
She looked at the clear blue sky, as if trying to urge the
ship to appear. The moon was hanging, huge and white, just above
the horizon. Finally she turned to him.
"All right, I will come with you -- but only if you promise
merely to observe them, and not to try to capture one."
"Then you admit I'm right?"
"Saying that you are right or wrong has nothing to do with
the truth of the situation. I _hope_ you are right, for the
tailless monkeys frighten me. But I do not know you are right, and
neither do you."
Bokatu stared at her for a long moment.
"I agree," he said at last.
"You agree that you cannot know?"
"I agree not to capture one," he said. "Let us proceed."
They walked to the edge of the gorge and then began climbing
down the steep embankments, steadying themselves by wrapping their
limbs around trees and other outgrowths. Suddenly they heard a
"What is that?" asked Bokatu.
"They have seen us," replied Enkatai.
"What makes you think so?"
"I have heard that scream in my dream -- and always the moon
was just as it appears now."
"Strange," mused Bokatu. "I have heard them many times
before, but somehow they seem louder this time."
"Perhaps more of them are here."
"Or perhaps they are more frightened," he said. He glanced
above him. "Here is the reason," he said, pointing. "We have
She looked up and saw a huge baboon, quite the largest she
had yet seen, following them at a distance of perhaps fifty feet.
When its eyes met hers it growled and looked away, but made no
attempt to move any closer or farther away.
They kept climbing, and whenever they stopped to rest, there
was the baboon, its accustomed fifty feet away from them.
"Does _he_ look afraid to you?" asked Bokatu. "If these puny
little creatures could harm him, would he be following us down
into the gorge?"
"There is a thin line between courage and foolishness, and an
even thinner line between confidence and over-confidence," replied
"If he is to die here, it will be like all the others," said
Bokatu. "He will lose his footing and fall to his death."
"You do not find it unusual that every one of them fell on
its head?" she asked mildly.
"They broke every bone in their bodies," he replied. "I don't
know why you consider only the heads."
"Because you do not get identical head wounds from different
"You have an overactive imagination," said Bokatu. He pointed
to a small hairy figure that was staring up at them. "Does _that_
look like something that could kill our friend here?"
The baboon glared down into the gorge and snarled. The
tailless monkey looked up with no show of fear or even interest.
Finally it shuffled off into the thick bush.
"You see?" said Bokatu smugly. "One look at the brown monkey
and it retreats out of sight."
"It didn't seem frightened to me," noted Enkatai.
"All the more reason to doubt its intelligence."
In another few minutes they reached the spot where the
tailless monkey had been. They paused to regain their strength,
and then continued to the floor of the gorge.
"Nothing," announced Bokatu, looking around. "My guess is
that the one we saw was a sentry, and by now the whole tribe is
"Observe our companion."
The baboon had reached the floor of the gorge and was tensely
testing the wind.
"He hasn't crossed over the evolutionary barrier yet," said
Bokatu, amused. "Do you expect him to search for predators with a
"No," said Enkatai, watching the baboon. "But if there is no
danger, I expect him to relax, and he hasn't done that yet."
"That's probably how he lived long enough to grow this
large," said Bokatu, dismissing her remarks. He looked around.
"What could they possibly find to eat here?"
"I don't know."
"Perhaps we should capture one and dissect it. The contents
of its stomach might tell us a lot about it."
"It would be so simple, though," he persisted. "All we'd have
to do would be bait a trap with fruits or nuts."
Suddenly the baboon snarled, and Bokatu and Eknatai turned to
locate the source of his anger. There was nothing there, but the
baboon became more and more frenzied. Finally it raced back up the
"What was that all about, I wonder?" mused Bokatu.
"I think we should leave."
"We have half a day before the ship returns."
"I am uneasy here. I walked down a path exactly like this in
"You are not used to the sunlight," he said. "We will rest
inside a cave."
She reluctantly allowed him to lead her to a small cave in
the wall of the gorge. Suddenly she stopped and would go no
"What is the matter?"
"This cave was in my dream," she said. "Do not go into it."
"You must learn not to let dreams rule your life," said
Bokatu. He sniffed the air. "Something smells strange."
"Let us go back. We want nothing to do with this place."
He stuck his head into the cave. "New world, new odors."
"Let me just see what causes that odor," he said, shining his
light into the cave. It illuminated a huge pile of bodies, many of
them half-eaten, most in various states of decomposition.
"What are they?" he asked, stepping closer.
"Brown monkeys," she replied without looking. "Each with its
head staved in."
"This was part of your dream, too?" he asked, suddenly
She nodded her head. "We must leave this place _now_!"
He walked to the mouth of the cave.
"It seems safe," he announced.
"It is never safe in my dream," she said uneasily.
They left the cave and walked about fifty yards when they
came to a bend in the floor of the gorge. As they followed it,
they found themselves facing a tailless monkey.
"One of them seems to have stayed behind," said Bokatu. "I'll
frighten him away." He picked up a rock and threw it at the
monkey, which ducked but held its ground.
Enkatai touched him urgently on the shoulder. "More than
one," she said.
He looked up. Two more tailless monkeys were in a tree almost
directly overhead. As he stepped aside, he saw four more lumbering
toward them out of the bush. Another emerged from a cave, and
three more dropped out of nearby trees.
"What have they got in their hands?" he asked nervously.
"You would call them the femur bones of grass-eaters," said
Enkatai, with a sick feeling in her thorax. "_They_ would call
The hairless monkeys spread out in a semi-circle, then began
approaching them slowly.
"But they're so _puny_!" said Bokatu, backing up until he
came to a wall of rock and could go no farther.
"You are a fool," said Enkatai, helplessly trapped in the
reality of her dream. "_This_ is the race that will dominate this
planet. Look into their eyes!"
Bokatu looked, and he saw things, terrifying things, that he
had never seen in any being or any animal before. He barely had
time to offer a brief prayer for some disaster to befall this race
before it could reach the stars, and then a tailless monkey hurled
a smooth, polished, triangular stone at his head. It dazed him,
and as he fell to the ground, the clubs began pounding down
rhythmically on him and Enkatai.
At the top of the gorge, the baboon watched the carnage until
it was over, and then raced off toward the vast savannah, where he
would be safe, at least temporarily, from the tailless monkeys.
* * *
"A weapon," I mused. "It was a _weapon_!"
I was all alone. Sometime during the Feeling, the Stardust
Twins had decided that I was one of the few things they could not
be objective about, and had returned to their quarters.
I waited until the excitement of discovery had diminished
enough for me to control my physical structure. Then I once again
took the shape that I presented to my companions, and reported my
findings to Bellidore.
"So even then they were aggressors," he said. "Well, it is
not surprising. The will to dominate the stars had to have come
"It is surprising that there is no record of any race having
landed here in their prehistory," said the Historian.
"It was a survey team, and Earth was of no use to them," I
answered. "They doubtless touched down on any number of planets.
If there is a record anywhere, it is probably in their archives,
stating that Earth showed no promise as a colony world."
"But didn't they wonder what had happened to their team?"
"There were many large carnivores in the vicinity," I said.
"They probably assumed the team had fallen prey to them.
Especially if they searched the area and found nothing."
"Interesting," said Bellidore. "That the weaker of the
species should have risen to dominance."
"I think it is easily explained," said the Historian. "_As_
the smaller species, they were neither as fast as their prey nor
as strong as their predators, so the creation of weapons was
perhaps the only way to avoid extinction...or at least the best
"Certainly they displayed the cunning of the predator during
their millennia abroad in the galaxy," said Bellidore.
"One does not _stop_ being aggressive simply because one
invents a weapon," said the Historian. "In fact, it may _add_ to
"I shall have to consider that," said Bellidore, looking
"I have perhaps over-simplified my train of thought for the
sake of this discussion," replied the Historian. "Rest assured
that I will build a lengthy and rigorous argument when I present
my findings to the Academy."
"And what of you, He Who Views?" asked Bellidore. "Have you
any observations to add to what you have told us?"
"It is difficult to think of a rock as being the percursor of
the sonic rifle and the molecular imploder," I said thoughtfully,
"but I believe it to be the case."
"A most interesting species," said Bellidore.
It took almost four hours for my strength to return, for
Feeling saps the energy like no other function, drawing equally
from the body, the emotions, the mind, and the empathic powers.
The Moriteu, its work done for the day, was hanging upside
down from a tree limb, lost in its evening trance, and the
Stardust Twins had not made an appearance since I had Felt the
The other party members were busy with their own pursuits,
and it seemed an ideal time for me to Feel the next object, which
the Historian told me was approximately 23,300 years old.
It was a link of metallic chain, rusted and pitted, and
before I assimilated it, I thought I could see a spot where it had
been deliberately broken...
* * *
His name was Mtepwa, and it seemed to him that he had been
wearing a metal collar around his neck since the day he had been
born. He knew that couldn't be true, for he had fleeting memories
of playing with his brothers and sisters, and of stalking the kudu
and the bongo on the tree-covered mountain where he grew up.
But the more he concentrated on those memories, the more
vague and imprecise they became, and he knew they must have
happened a very long time ago. Sometimes he tried to remember the
name of his tribe, but it was lost in the mists of time, as were
the names of his parents and siblings.
It was at times like this that Mtepwa felt sorry for himself,
but then he would consider his companions' situation, and he felt
better, for while they were to be taken in ships and sent to the
edge of the world to spend the remainder of their lives as slaves
of the Arabs and the Europeans, he himself was the favored servant
on his master, Sharif Abdullah, and as such his position was
This was his eighth caravan -- or was it his ninth? -- from
the Interior. They would trade salt and cartridges to the tribal
chiefs who would in turn sell them their least productive warriors
and women as slaves, and then they would march them out, around
the huge lake and across the dry flat savannah. They would circle
the mountain that was so old that it had turned white on the top,
just like a white-haired old man, and finally out to the coast,
where dhows filled the harbor. There they would sell their human
booty to the highest bidders, and Sharif Abdullah would purchase
another wife and turn half the money over to his aged, feeble
father, and they would be off to the Interior again on another
quest for black gold.
Abdullah was a good master. He rarely drank -- and when he
did, he always apologized to Allah at the next opportunity -- and
he did not beat Mtepwa overly much, and they always had enough to
eat, even when the cargo went hungry. He even went so far as to
teach Mtepwa how to read, although the only reading matter he
carried with him was the Koran.
Mtepwa spent long hours honing his reading skills with the
Koran, and somewhere along the way he made a most interesting
discovery: the Koran forbade a practitioner of the True Faith to
keep another member in bondage.
It was at that moment that Mtepwa made up his mind to convert
to Islam. He began questioning Sharif Abdullah incessantly on the
finer points of his religion, and made sure that the old man saw
him sitting by the fire, hour after hour, reading the Koran.
So enthused was Sharif Abdullah at this development that he
frequently invited Mtepwa into his tent at suppertime, and
lectured him on the subtleties of the Koran far into the night.
Mtepwa was a motivated student, and Sharif Abdullah marveled at
Night after night, as lions prowled around their camp in the
Serengeti, master and pupil studied the Koran together. And
finally the day came when Sharif Abdullah could not longer deny
that Mtepwa was indeed a true believer of Islam. It happened as
they camped at the Olduvai Gorge, and that very day Sharif
Abdullah had his smith remove the collar from Mtepwa's neck, and
Mtepwa himself destroyed the chains link by link, hurling them
deep into the gorge when he was finished.
Mtepwa was now a free man, but knowledgable in only two
areas: the Koran, and slave-trading. So it was only natural that
when he looked around for some means to support himself, he
settled upon following in Sharif Abdullah's footsteps. He became a
junior partner to the old man, and after two more trips to the
Interior, he decided that he was ready to go out on his own.
To do that, he required a trained staff -- warriors, smiths,
cooks, trackers -- and the prospect of assembling one from scratch
was daunting, so, since his faith was less strong than his
mentor's, he simply sneaked into Sharif Abdullah's quarters on the
coast one night and slit the old man's throat.
The next day, he marched inland at the head of his own
He had learned much about the business of slaving, both as a
practitioner and a victim, and he put his knwoledge to full use.
He knew that healthy slaves would bring a better price at market,
and so he fed and treated his captives far better than Sharif
Abdullah and most other slavers did. On the other hand, he knew
which ones were fomenting trouble, and knew it was better to kill
them on the spot as an example to the others, than to let any
hopes of insurrection spread among the captives.
Because he was thorough, he was equally successful, and
soon expanded into ivory trading as well. Within six years he had
the biggest slaving and poaching operation in East Africa.
From time to time he ran across European explorers. It was
said that he even spent a week with Dr. David Livingstone and left
without the missionary ever knowing that he had been playing host
to the slaver he most wanted to put out of business.
After America's War Between the States killed his primary
market, he took a year off from his operation to go to Asia and
the Arabian Peninsula and open up new ones. Upon returning he
found that Abdullah's son, Sharif Ibn Jad Mahir, had appropriated
all his men and headed inland, intent on carrying on his father's
business. Mtepwa, who had become quite wealthy, hired some 500
_askari_, placed them under the command of the notorious ivory
poacher Alfred Henry Pym, and sat back to await the results.
Three months later Pym marched some 438 men back to the
Tanganyikan coast. 276 were slaves that Sharif Ibn Jad Mahir had
captured; the remainder were the remnants of Mtepwa's
organization, who had gone to work for Sharif Ibn Jad Mahir.
Mtepwa sold all 438 of them into slavery and built a new
organization, composed of the warriors who had fought for him
under Pym's leadership.
Most of the colonial powers were inclined to turn a blind eye
to his practices, but the British, who were determined to put an
end to slavery, issued a warrant for Mtepwa's arrest. Eventually
he tired of continually looking over his shoulder, and moved his
headquarters to Mozambique, where the Portugese were happy to let
him set up shop as long as he remembered that colonial palms
needed constant greasing.
He was never happy there -- he didn't speak Portugese or any
of the local languages -- and after nine years he returned to
Tanganyika, now the wealthiest black man on the continent.
One day he found among his latest batch of captives a young
Acholi boy named Haradi, no more than ten years old, and decided
to keep him as a personal servant rather than ship him across the
Mtepwa had never married. Most of his associates assumed that
he had simply never had the time, but as the almost-nightly
demands for Haradi to visit him in his tent became common
knowledge, they soon revised their opinions. Mtepwa seemed
besotted with his servant boy, though -- doubtless remembering his
own experience -- he never taught Haradi to read, and promised a
slow and painful death to anyone who spoke of Islam to the boy.
Then one night, after some three years had passed, Mtepwa
sent for Haradi. The boy was nowhere to be found. Mtepwa awoke all
his warriors and demanded that they search for him, for a leopard
had been seen in the vicinity of the camp, and the slaver feared
They found Haradi an hour later, not in the jaws of a
leopard, but in the arms of a young female slave they had taken
from the Zaneke tribe. Mtepwa was beside himself with rage, and
had the poor girl's arms and legs torn from her body.
Haradi never offered a word of protest, and never tried to
defend the girl -- not that it would have done any good -- but the
next morning he was gone, and though Mtepwa and his warriors spent
almost a month searching for him, they found no trace of him.
By the end of the month Mtepwa was quite insane with rage and
grief. Deciding that life was no longer worth living, he walked up
to a pride of lions that were gorging themselves on a topi carcass
and, striding into their midst, began cursing them and hitting
them with his bare hands. Almost unbelievably, the lions backed
away from him, snarling and growling, and disappeared into the
The next day he picked up a large stick and began beating a
baby elephant with it. That should have precipitated a brutal
attack by its mother -- but the mother, standing only a few feet
away, trumpeted in terror and raced off, the baby following her as
best it could.
It was then that Mtepwa decided that he could not die, that
somehow the act of dismembering the poor Zanake girl had made him
immortal. Since both incidents had occured within sight of his
superstitious followers, they fervently believed him.
Now that he was immortal, he decided that it was time to stop
trying to accomodate the Europeans who had invaded his land and
kept issuing warrents for his arrest. He sent a runner to the
Kenya border and invited the British to meet him in battle. When
the appointed day came, and the British did not show up to fight
him, he confidently told his warriors that word of his immortality
had reached the Europeans and that from that day forth no white
men would ever be willing to oppose him. The fact that he was
still in German territory, and the British had no legal right to
go there, somehow managed to elude him.
He began marching his warriors inland, openly in search of
slaves, and he found his share of them in the Congo. He looted
villages of their men, their women, and their ivory, and finally,
with almost 600 captives and half that many tusks, he finally
turned east and began the months-long trek to the coast.
This time the British were waiting for him at the Uganda
border, and they had so many armed men there that Mtepwa turned
south, not for fear for his own life, but because he could not
afford to lose his slaves and his ivory, and he knew that his
warriors lacked his invulnerability.
He marched his army down to Lake Tanganyika, then headed
east. It took him two weeks to reach the western corridor of the
Serengeti, and another ten days to cross it.
One night he made camp at the lip of the Olduvai Gorge, the
very place where he had gained his freedom. The fires were lit, a
wildebeest was slaughtered and cooked, and as he relaxed after the
meal he became aware of a buzzing among his men. Then, from out of
the shadows, stepped a strangely familiar figure. It was Haradi,
now fifteen years old, and as tall as Mtepwa himself.
Mtepwa stared at him for a long moment, and suddenly all the
anger seemed to drain from his face.
"I am very glad to see you again, Haradi," he said.
"I have heard that you cannot be killed," answered the boy,
brandishing a spear. "I have come to see if that is true."
"We have no need to fight, you and I," said Mtepwa. "Join me
in my tent, and all will be as it was."
"Once I tear your limbs from your body, _then_ we will have
no reason to fight," responded Haradi. "And even then, you will
seem no less repulsive to me than you do now, or than you did all
those many years ago."
Mtepwa jumped up, his face a mask of fury. "Do your worst,
then!" he cried. "And when you realize that I cannot be harmed, I
will do to you as I did to the Zanake girl!"
Haradi made no reply, but hurled his spear at Mtepwa. It went
into the slaver's body, and was thrown with such force that the
point emerged a good six inches on the other side. Mtepwa stared
at Haradi with disbelief, moaned once, and tumbled down the rocky
slopes of the gorge.
Haradi looked around at the warriors. "Is there any among you
who dispute my right to take Mtepwa's place?" he asked
A burly Makonde stood up to challenge him, and within thirty
seconds Haradi, too, was dead.
The British were waiting for them when they reached Zanzibar.
The slaves were freed, the ivory confiscated, the warriors
arrested and forced to serve as laborers on the Mombasa/Uganda
Railway. Two of them were later killed and eaten by lions in the
By the time Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. Patterson shot the
notorious Man-Eaters of Tsavo, the railway had almost reached the
shanty town of Nairobi, and Mtepwa's name was so thoroughly
forgotten that it was misspelled in the only history book in which
* * *
"Amazing!" said the Appraiser. "I knew they enslaved many
races throughout the galaxy -- but to enslave _themselves_! It is
almost beyond belief!"
I had rested from my efforts, and then related the story of
"All ideas must begin somewhere," said Bellidore placidly.
"This one obviously began on Earth."
"It is barbaric!" muttered the Appraiser.
Bellidore turned to me. "Man never attempted to subjugate
_your_ race, He Who Views. Why was that?"
"We had nothing that he wanted."
"Can you remember the galaxy when Man dominated it?" asked
"I can remember the galaxy when Man's progenitors killed
Bokatu and Enkatai," I replied truthfully.
"Did you ever have any dealings with Man?"
"None. Man had no use for us."
"But did he not destroy profligately things for which he had
"No," I said. "He took what he wanted, and he destroyed that
which threatened him. The rest he ignored."
"Such practicality," said Bellidore.
"You call genocide on a galactic scale _practical_?" demanded
"From Man's point of view, it was," answered Bellidore. "It
got him what he wanted with a minimum of risk and effort. Consider
that one single race, born not five hundred yards from us, at one
time ruled an empire of more than a million worlds. Almost every
civilized race in the galaxy spoke Terran."
"Upon pain of death."
"That is true," agreed Bellidore. "I did not say Man was an
angel. Only that, if he was indeed a devil, he was an efficient
It was time for me to assimilate the third artifact, which
the Historian and the Appraiser seemed to think was the handle of
a knife, but even as I moved off to perform my function, I
could not help but listen to the speculation that was taking
"Given his bloodlust and his efficiency," said the Appraiser,
"I'm surprised that he lived long enough to reach the stars."
"It _is_ surprising in a way," agreed Bellidore. "The
Historian tells me that Man was not always homogenous, that early
in his history there were several variations of the species. He
was divided by color, by belief, by territory." He sighed. "Still,
he must have learned to live in peace with his fellow man. That
much, at least, accrues to his credit."
I reached the artifact with Bellidore's words still in my
ears, and began to engulf it...
* * *
Mary Leakey pressed against the horn of the Landrover. Inside
the museum, her husband turned to the young uniformed officer.
"I can't think of any instructions to give you," he said.
"The museum's not open to the public yet, and we're a good 300
kilometers from Kikuyuland."
"I'm just following my orders, Dr. Leakey," replied the
"Well, I suppose it doesn't hurt to be safe," acknowledged
Leakey. "There are a lot of Kikuyu who want me dead even though I
spoke up for Kenyatta at his trial." He walked to the door. "If
the discoveries at Lake Turkana prove interesting, we could be
gone as long as a month. Otherwise, we should be back within ten
to twelve days."
"No problem, sir. The museum will still be here when you
"I never doubted it," said Leakey, walking out and joining
his wife in the vehicle.
Lieutenant Ian Chelmswood stood in the doorway and watched
the Leakeys, accompanied by two military vehicles, start down the
red dirt road. Within seconds the car was obscured by dust, and he
stepped back into the building and closed the door to avoid being
covered by it. The heat was oppressive, and he removed his jacket
and holster and laid them neatly across one of the small display
It was strange. All the images he had seen of African
wildlife, from the German Schillings' old still photographs to the
American Johnson's motion pictures, had led him to believe that
East Africa was a wonderland of green grass and clear water. No
one had ever mentioned the dust, but that was the one memory of it
that he would take home with him.
Well, not quite the only one. He would never forget the
morning the alarm had sounded back when he was stationed in
Nanyuki. He arrived at the settlers' farm and found the entire
family cut to ribbons and all their cattle mutilated, most with
their genitals cut off, many missing ears and eyes. But as
horrible as that was, the picture he would carry to his grave was
the kitten impaled on a dagger and pinned to the mailbox. It was
the Mau Mau's signature, just in case anyone thought some madman
had run beserk among the cattle and the humans.
Chelmswood didn't understand the politics of it. He didn't
know who had started it, who had precipitated the war. It made no
difference to him. He was just a soldier, following orders, and if
those orders would take him back to Nanyuki so that he could kill
the men who had committed those atrocities, so much the better.
But in the meantime, he had pulled what he considered Idiot
Duty. There had been a very mild outburst of violence in Arusha,
not really Mau Mau but rather a show of support for Kenya's
Kikuyu, and his unit had been transferred there. Then the
government found out that Professor Leakey, whose scientific finds
had made Olduvai Gorge almost a household word among East
Africans, had been getting death threats. Over his objections,
they had insisted on providing him with bodyguards. Most of the
men from Chelmswood's unit would accompany Leakey on his trip to
Lake Turkana, but someone had to stay behind to guard the museum,
and it was just his bad luck that his name had been atop the duty
It wasn't even a museum, really, not the kind of museum his
parents had taken him to see in London. _Those_ were museums; this
was just a two-room mud-walled structure with perhaps a hundred of
Leakey's finds. Ancient arrowheads, some oddly-shaped stones that
had functioned as prehistoric tools, a couple of bones that
obviously weren't from monkeys but that Chelmswood was certain
were not from any creature _he_ was related to.
Leakey had hung some crudely-drawn charts on the wall, charts
that showed what he believed to be the evolution of some small,
grotesque, apelike beasts into _homo sapiens_. There were
photographs, too, showing some of the finds that had been sent on
to Nairobi. It seemed that even if this gorge was the birthplace
of the race, nobody really wanted to visit it. All the best finds
were shipped back to Nairobi and then to the British Museum. In
fact, this wasn't a museum at all, decided Chelmswood, but rather
a holding area for the better specimens until they could be sent
It was strange to think of life starting here in this gorge.
If there was an uglier spot in Africa, he had yet to come across
it. And while he didn't accept Genesis or any of that religious
nonsense, it bothered him to think that the first human beings to
walk the Earth might have been black. He'd hardly had any exposure
to blacks when he was growing up in the Cotswolds, but he'd seen
enough of what they could do since coming to British East, and he
was apalled by their savagery and barbarism.
And what about those crazy Americans, wringing their hands
and saying that colonialism had to end? If they had seen what
_he'd_ seen on that farm in Nanyuki, they'd know that the only
thing that was keeping all of East Africa from exploding into an
unholy conflagration of blood and butchery was the British
presence. Certainly, there were parallels between the Mau Mau and
America: both had been colonized by the British and both wanted
their independence...but there all similarity ended. The Americans
wrote a Declaration outlining their grievances, and then they
fielded an army and fought the British _soldiers_. What did
chopping up innocent children and pinning cats to mailboxes have
in common with that? If he had his way, he'd march in half a
million British troops, wipe out every last Kikuyu -- except for
the good ones, the loyal ones -- and solve the problem once and
He wandered over to the cabinet where Leakey kept his beer
and pulled out a warm bottle. Safari brand. He opened it and took
a long swallow, then made a face. If that's what people drank on
safari, he'd have to remember never to go on one.
And yet he knew that someday he _would_ go on safari,
hopefully before he was mustered out and sent home. Parts of the
country were so damned beautiful, dust or no dust, and he liked
the thought of sitting beneath a shade tree, cold drink in hand,
while his body servant cooled him with a fan made of ostrich
feathers and he and his white hunter discussed the day's kills and
what they would go out after tomorrow. It wasn't the shooting that
was important, they'd both reassure themselves, but rather the
thrill of the hunt. Then he'd have a couple of his black boys draw
his bath, and he'd bathe and prepare for dinner. Funny how he had
fallen into the habit of calling them boys; most of them were far
older than he.
But while they weren't boys, they _were_ children in need of
guidance and civilizing. Take those Maasai, for example; proud,
arrogant bastards. They looked great on postcards, but try
_dealing_ with them. They acted as if they had a direct line to
God, that He had told them they were His chosen people. The more
Chelmswood thought about it, the more surprised he was that it was
the Kikuyu that had begun Mau Mau rather than the Maasai. And come
to think of it, he'd notice four or five Maasai _elmorani_ hanging
around the museum. He'd have to keep an eye on them...
"Excuse, please?" said a high-pitched voice, and Chelmswood
turned to see a small skinny black boy, no more than ten years
old, standing in the doorway.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Doctor Mister Leakey, he promise me candy," said the boy,
stepping inside the building.
"Go away," said Chelmswood irritably. "We don't have any
"Yes yes," said the boy, stepping forward. "Every day."
"He gives you candy every day?"
The boy nodded his head and smiled.
"Where does he keep it?"
The boy shrugged. "Maybe in there?" he said, pointing to a
Chelmswood walked to the cabinet and opened it. There was
nothing in it but four jars containing primitive teeth.
"I don't see any," he said. "You'll have to wait until Dr.
Leakey comes back."
Two tears trickled down the boy's cheek. "But Doctor Mister
Leakey, he _promise_!"
Chelmswood looked around. "I don't know where it is."
The boy began crying in earnest.
"Be quiet!" snapped Chelmswood. "I'll look for it."
"Maybe next room," suggested the boy.
"Come along," said Chelmswood, walking through the doorway to
the adjoining room. He looked around, hands on hips, trying to
imagine where Leakey had hidden the candy.
"This place maybe," said the boy, pointing to a closet.
Chelmswood opened the closet. It contained two spades, three
picks, and an assortment of small brushes, all of which he assumed
were used by the Leakeys for their work.
"Nothing here," he said, closing the door.
He turned to face the boy, but found the room empty.
"Little bugger was lying all along," he muttered. "Probably
ran away to save himself a beating."
He walked back into the main room -- and found himself facing
a well-built black man holding a machete-like _panga_ in his right
"What's going on here?" snapped Chelmswood.
"Freedom is going on here, Lieutenant," said the black man in
near-perfect English. "I was sent to kill Dr. Leakey, but you will
have to do."
"Why are you killing anyone?" demanded Chelmswood. "What did
we ever do to the Maasai?"
"I will let the Maasai answer that. Any one of them could
take one look at me and tell you than I am Kikuyu -- but we are
all the same to you British, aren't we?"
Chelmswood reached for his gun and suddenly realized he had
left it on a display case.
"You all look like cowardly savages to me!"
"Why? Because we do not meet you in battle?" The black man's
face filled with fury. "You take our land away, you forbid us to
own weapons, you even make it a crime for us to carry spears --
and then you call us savages when we don't march in formation
against your guns!" He spat contemptuously on the floor. "We fight
you in the only way that is left to us."
"It's a big country, big enough for both races," said
"If we came to England and took away your best farmland and
forced you to work for us, would you think England was big enough
for both races?"
"I'm not political," said Chelmswood, edging another step
closer to his weapon. "I'm just doing my job."
"And your job is to keep two hundred whites on land that once
held a million Kikuyu," said the black man, his face reflecting
"There'll be a lot less than a million when _we_ get through
with you!" hissed Chelmswood, diving for his gun.
Quick as he was, the black man was faster, and with a single
swipe of his _panga_ he almost severed the Englishman's right hand
from his wrist. Chelmswood bellowed in pain, and spun around,
presenting his back to the Kikuyu as he reached for the pistol
with his other hand.
The _panga_ came down again, practically splitting him open,
but as he fell he managed to get his fingers around the handle of
his pistol and pull the trigger. The bullet struck the black man
in the chest, and he, too, collapsed to the floor.
"You've killed me!" moaned Chelmswood. "Why would anyone want
to kill me?"
"You have so much and we have so little," whispered the black
man. "Why must you have what is ours, too?"
"What did I ever do to you?" asked Chelmswood.
"You came here. That was enough," said the black man. "Filthy
English!" He closed his eyes and lay still.
"Bloody nigger!" slurred Chelmswood, and died.
Outside, the four Maasai paid no attention to the tumult
within. They let the small Kikuyu boy leave without giving him so
much as a glance. The business of inferior races was none of their
* * *
"These notions of superiority among members of the same race
are very difficult to comprehend," said Bellidore. "Are you _sure_
you read the artifact properly, He Who Views?"
"I do not _read_ artifacts," I replied. "I _assimilate_ them.
I become one with them. Everything _they_ have experienced, _I_
experience." I paused. "There can be no mistake."
"Well, it is difficult to fathom, especially in a species
that would one day control most of the galaxy. Did they think
_every_ race they met was inferior to them?"
"They certainly behaved as if they did," said the Historian.
"They seemed to respect only those races that stood up to them --
and even then they felt that militarily defeating them was proof
of their superiority."
"And yet we know from ancient records that primitive man
worshipped non-sentient animals," put in the Exobiologist.
"They must not have been survived for any great length of
time," suggested the Historian. "If Man treated the races of the
galaxy with contempt, how much worse must he have treated the poor
creatures with whom he shared his home world?"
"Perhaps he viewed them much the same as he viewed my own
race," I offered. "If they had nothing he wanted, if they
presented no threat..."
"They would have had something he wanted," said the
Exobiologist. "He was a predator. They would have had meat."
"And land," added the Historian. "If even the galaxy was not
enough to quench Man's thirst for territory, think how unwilling
he would have been to share his own world."
"It is a question I suspect will never be answered," said
"Unless the answer lies in one of the remaining artifacts,"
agreed the Exobiologist.
I'm sure the remark was not meant to jar me from my lethargy,
but it occurred to me that it had been half a day since I had
assimilated the knife handle, and I had regained enough of my
strength to examine the next artifact.
It was a metal stylus...
* * *
_February 15, 2103:
Well, we finally got here! The Supermole got us through the
tunnel from New York to London in just over four hours. Even so we
were twenty minutes late, missed our connection, and had to wait
another five hours for the next flight to Khartoum. From there our
means of transport got increasingly more primitive -- jet planes
to Nairobi and Arusha -- and then a quick shuttle to our campsite,
but we've finally put civilization behind us. I've never seen open
spaces like this before; you're barely aware of the skyscrapers of
Nyerere, the closest town.
After an orientation speech telling us what to expect and how
to behave on safari, we got the afternoon off to meet our
traveling companions. I'm the youngest member of the group: a trip
like this just costs too much for most people my age to afford. Of
course, most people my age don't have an Uncle Reuben who dies and
leaves them a ton of money. (Well, it's probably about eight
ounces of money, now that the safari is paid for. Ha ha.)
The lodge is quite rustic. They have quaint microwaves for
warming our food, although most of us will be eating at the
restaurants. I understand the Japanese and Brazilian ones are the
most popular, the former for the food -- real fish -- and the
latter for the entertainment. My roommate is Mr. Shiboni, an
elderly Japanese gentleman who tells me he has been saving his
money for fifteen years to come on this safari. He seems pleasant
and good-natured; I hope he can survive the rigors of the trip.
I had really wanted a shower, just to get in the spirit of
things, but water is scarce here, and it looks like I'll have to
settle for the same old chemical dryshower. I know, I know, it
disinfects as well as cleanses, but if I wanted all the comforts
of home, I'd have stayed home and saved $150,000.
We met our guide today. I don't know why, but he doesn't
quite fit my preconception of an African safari guide. I was
expecting some grizzled old veteran who had a wealth of stories to
tell, who had maybe even seen a civet cat or a duiker before they
became extinct. What we got was Kevin Ole Tambake, a young Maasai
who can't be 25 years old and dresses in a suit while we all
wear our khakis. Still, he's lived here all his life, so I suppose
he knows his way around.
And I'll give him this: he's a wonderful storyteller. He
spent half an hour telling us myths about how his people used to
live in huts called_ manyattas, _and how their rite of passage to
manhood was to kill a lion with a spear. As if the government
would let anyone kill an animal!
We spent the morning driving down into the Ngorongoro Crater.
It's a collapsed_ caldara, _or volcano, that was once taller than
Kilimanjaro itself. Kevin says it used to teem with game, though I
can't see how, since any game standing atop it when it collapsed
would have been instantly killed.
I think the real reason we went there was just to get the
kinks out of our safari vehicle and learn the proper protocol.
Probably just as well. The air-conditioning wasn't working right
in two of the compartments, the service mechanism couldn't get the
temperature right on the iced drinks, and once, when we thought we
saw a bird, three of us buzzed Kevin at the same time and jammed
his communication line.
In the afternoon we went out to Serengeti. Kevin says it used
to extend all the way to the Kenya border, but now it's just a 20-
square-mile park adjacent to the Crater. About an hour into the
game run we saw a ground squirrel, but he disappeared into a hole
before I could adjust my holo camera. Still, he was very
impressive. Varying shares of brown, with dark eyes and a fluffy
tail. Kevin estimated that he went almost three pounds, and says
he hasn't seen one that big since he was a boy.
Just before we returned to camp, Kevin got word on the radio
from another driver that they had spotted two starlings nesting in
a tree about eight miles north and east of us. The vehicle's
computer told us we wouldn't be able to reach it before dark, so
Kevin had it lock the spot in its memory and promised us that we'd
go there first thing in the morning.
I opted for the Brazilian restaurant, and spent a few
pleasant hours listening to the live band. A very nice end to the
first full day of safari.
We left at dawn in search of the starlings, and though we
found the tree where they had been spotted, we never did see them.
One of the passengers -- I think it was the little man from Burma,
though I'm not sure -- must have complained, because Kevin soon
announced to the entire party that this was a_ safari, _that there
was no guarantee of seeing any particular bird or animal, and that
while he would do his best for us, one could never be certain
where the game might be.
And then, just as he was talking, a banded mongoose almost a
foot long appeared out of nowhere. It seemed to pay no attention
to us, and Kevin announced that we were killing the motor and
going into hover mode so the noise wouldn't scare it away.
After a minute or two everyone on the right side of the
vehicle had gotten their holographs, and we slowly spun on our
axis so that the left side could see him -- but the movement must
have scared him off, because though the maneuver took less than
thirty seconds, he was nowhere to be seen when we came to rest
Kevin announced that the vehicle had captured the mongoose
on its automated holos, and copies would be made available to
anyone who had missed their holo opportunity.
We were feeling great -- the right side of the vehicle,
anyway -- when we stopped for lunch, and during our afternoon game
run we saw three yellow weaver birds building their spherical
nests in a tree. Kevin let us out, warning us not to approach
closer than thirty yards, and we spent almost an hour watching and
All in all, a very satisfying day.
Today we left camp about an hour after sunrise, and went to a
new location: Olduvai Gorge.
Kevin announced that we would spend our last two days here,
that with the encroachment of the cities and farms on all the flat
land, the remaining big game was pretty much confined to the
gulleys and slopes of the gorge.
No vehicle, not even our specially-equipped one, was capable
of navigating its way through the gorge, so we all got out and
began walking in single file behind Kevin.
Most of us found it very difficult to keep up with Kevin. He
clambered up and down the rocks as if he'd been doing it all his
life, whereas I can't remember the last time I saw a stair that
didn't move when I stood on it. We had trekked for perhaps half
an hour when I heard one of the men at the back of our strung-out
party give a cry and point to a spot at the bottom of the gorge,
and we all looked and saw something racing away at phenomenal
"Another squirrel?" I asked.
Kevin just smiled.
The man behind me said he thought it was a mongoose.
"What you saw," said Kevin, "was a dik-dik, the last
surviving African antelope."
"How big was it?" asked a woman.
"About average size," said Kevin. "Perhaps ten inches at the
Imagine anything ten inches high being called_ average!
_Kevin explained that dik-diks were very territorial, and that
this one wouldn't stray far from his home area. Which meant that
if we were patient and quiet -- and lucky -- we'd be able to spot
I asked Kevin how many dik-diks lived in the gorge, and he
scratched his head and considered it for a moment and then guessed
that there might be as many as ten. (And Yellowstone has only
nineteen rabbits left! Is it any wonder that all the serious
animal buffs come to Africa?)
We kept walking for another hour, and then broke for lunch,
while Kevin gave us the history of the place, telling us all about
Dr. Leakey's finds. There were probably still more skeletons to be
dug up, he guessed, but the government didn't want to frighten any
animals away from what had become their last refuge, so the bones
would have to wait for some future generation to unearth them.
Roughly translated, that meant that Tanzania wasn't going to give
up the revenues from 300 tourists a week and turn over the crown
jewel in their park system to a bunch of anthropologists. I can't
say that I blame them.
Other parties had begun pouring into the gorge, and I think
the entire safari population must have totaled almost 70 by the
time lunch was over. The guides each seemed to have "their" areas
marked out, and I noticed that rarely did we get within a quarter
mile of any other parties.
Kevin asked us if we wanted to sit in the shade until the
heat of the day had passed, but since this was our next-to-last
day on safari we voted overwhelmingly to proceed as soon as we
were through eating.
It couldn't have been ten minutes later that the disaster
occurred. We were clambering down a steep slope in single file,
Kevin in the lead as usual, and me right behind him, when I heard
a grunt and then a surprised yell, and I looked back to see Mr.
Shiboni tumbling down the path. Evidently he'd lost his footing,
and we could hear the bones in his leg snap as he hurtled toward
Kevin positioned himself to stop him, and almost got knocked
down the gorge himself before he finally stopped poor Mr. Shiboni.
Then he knelt down next to the old gentleman to tend to his broken
leg -- but as he did so his keen eyes spotted something we all had
missed, and suddenly he was bounding up the slopes like a monkey.
He stopped where Mr. Shiboni had initially stumbled, squatted
down, and examined something. Then, looking like Death itself,
he picked up the object and brought it back down the path.
It was a dead lizard, fully-grown, almost eight inches long,
and smashed flat by Mr. Shiboni. It was impossible to say whether
his fall was caused by stepping on it, or whether it simply
couldn't get out of the way once he began tumbling...but it made
no difference: he was responsible for the death of an animal in a
I tried to remember the release we had signed, giving the
Park System permission to instantly withdraw money from our
accounts should we destroy an animal for any reason, even self-
protection. I knew that the absolute minimum penalty was $50,000,
but I think that was for two of the more common birds, and that
ugaama and gecko lizards were in the $70,000 range.
Kevin held the lizard up for all of us to see, and told us
that should legal action ensue, we were all witnesses to what had
Mr. Shiboni groaned in pain, and Kevin said that there was no
sense wasting the lizard, so he gave it to me to hold while he
splinted Mr. Shiboni's leg and summoned the paramedics on the
I began examining the little lizard. Its feet were finely-
shaped, its tail long and elegant, but it was the colors that made
the most lasting impression on me: a reddish head, a blue body,
and grey legs, the color growing lighter as it reached the claws.
A beautiful, beautiful thing, even in death.
After the paramedics had taken Mr. Shiboni back to the lodge,
Kevin spent the next hour showing us how the ugaama lizard
functioned: how its eyes could see in two directions as once,
how its claws allowed it to hang upside down from any uneven
surface, and how efficiently its jaws could crack the carapaces of
the insects it caught. Finally, in view of the tragedy, and also
because he wanted to check on Mr. Shiboni's condition, Kevin
suggested that we call it a day.
None of us objected -- we knew Kevin would have hours of
extra work, writing up the incident and convincing the Park
Department that his safari company was not responsible for it --
but still we felt cheated, since there was only one day left. I
think Kevin knew it, because just before we reached the lodge he
promised us a special treat tomorrow.
I've been awake half the night wondering what it could be?
Can he possibly know where the other dik-diks are? Or could the
legends of a last flamingo possibly be true?
We were all excited when we climbed aboard the vehicle this
morning. Everyone kept asking Kevin what his "special treat" was,
but he merely smiled and kept changing the subject. Finally we
reached Olduvai Gorge and began walking, only this time we seemed
to be going to a specific location, and Kevin hardly stopped to
try to spot the dik-dik.
We climbed down twisting, winding paths, tripping over tree
roots, cutting our arms and legs on thorn bushes, but nobody
objected, for Kevin seemed so confident of his surprise that all
these hardships were forgotten.
Finally we reached the bottom of the gorge and began walking
along a flat winding path. Still, by the time we were ready to
stop for lunch, we hadn't seen a thing. As we sat beneath the
shade of an acacia tree, eating, Kevin pulled out his radio and
conversed with the other guides. One group had seen three dik-
diks, and another had found a lilac-breasted roller's nest with
two hatchlings in it. Kevin is very competitive, and ordinarily
news like that would have had him urging everyone to finish eating
quickly so that we would not return to the lodge having seen less
than everyone else, but this time he just smiled and told the
other guides that we had seen nothing on the floor of the gorge
and that the game seemed to have moved out, perhaps in search of
Then, when lunch was over, Kevin walked about 50 yards away,
disappeared into a cave, and emerged a moment later with a small
wooden cage. There was a little brown bird in it, and while I was
thrilled to be able to see it close up, I felt somehow
disappointed that this was to be the special treat.
"Have you ever seen a honey guide?" he asked.
We all admitted that we hadn't, and he explained that that
was the name of the small brown bird.
I asked why it was called that, since it obviously didn't
produce honey, and seemed incapable of replacing Kevin as our
guide, and he smiled again.
"Do you see that tree?" he asked, pointing to a tree perhaps
75 yards away. There was a huge beehive on a low-hanging branch.
"Yes," I said.
"Then watch," he said, opening the cage and releasing the
bird. It stood still for a moment, then fluttered its wings and
took off in the direction of the tree.
"He is making sure there is honey there," explained Kevin,
pointing to the bird as it circled the hive.
"Where is he going now?" I asked, as the bird suddenly flew
down the river bed.
"To find his partner."
"Partner?" I asked, confused.
"Wait and see," said Kevin, sitting down with his back
propped against a large rock.
We all followed suit and sat in the shade, our binoculars and
holo cameras trained on the tree. After almost an hour nothing had
happened, and some of us were getting restless, when Kevin tensed
and pointed up the river bed.
"There!" he whispered.
I looked in the direction he was pointing, and there,
following the bird, which was flying just ahead of him and
chirping frantically, was an enormous black-and-white animal, the
largest I have ever seen.
"What is it?" I whispered.
"A honey badger," answered Kevin softly. "They were thought
to be extinct twenty years ago, but a mated pair took sanctuary in
Olduvai. This is the fourth generation to be born here."
"Is he going to eat the bird?" asked one of the party.
"No," whispered Kevin. "The bird will lead him to the honey,
and after he has pulled down the nest and eaten his fill, he will
leave some for the bird."
And it was just as Kevin said. The honey badger climbed the
bole of the tree and knocked off the beehive with a forepaw, then
climbed back down and broke it apart, oblivious to the stings of
the bees. We caught the whole fantastic scene on our holos, and
when he was done he did indeed leave some honey for the honey
Later, while Kevin was recapturing the bird and putting it
back in its cage, the rest of us discussed what we had seen. I
thought the honey badger must have weighed 45 pounds, though less
excitable members of the party put its weight at closer to 36 or
37. Whichever it was, the creature was enormous. The discussion
then shifted to how big a tip to leave for Kevin, for he had
certainly earned one.
As I write this final entry in my safari diary, I am still
trembling with the excitement that can only come from encountering
big game in the wild. Prior to this afternoon, I had some doubts
about the safari -- I felt it was overpriced, or that perhaps my
expectations had been too high -- but now I know that it was
worth every penny, and I have a feeling that I am leaving some
part of me behind here, and that I will never be truly content
until I return to this last bastion of the wilderness._
* * *
The camp was abuzz with excitement. Just when we were sure
that there were no more treasures to unearth, the Stardust Twins
had found three small pieces of bone, attached together with a
wire -- obviously a human artifact.
"But the dates are wrong," said the Historian, after
examining the bones thoroughly with its equipment. "This is a
primitive piece of jewelry -- for the adornment of savages, one
might say -- and yet the bones and wire both date from centuries
after Man discovered space travel."
"...deny that we..."
"...found it in the..."
...gorge?" demanded the Twins.
"I believe you," said the Historian. "I simply state that it
seems to be an anachronism."
"It is our find, and..."
"...it will bear our name."
"No one is denying your right of discovery," said Bellidore.
"It is simply that you have presented us with a mystery."
"Give it to..."
"...He Who Views, and he..."
"...will solve the mystery."
"I will do my best," I said. "But it has not been long enough
since I assimilated the stylus. I must rest and regain my
We let the Moriteu go about brushing and cleaning the
artifact, while we speculated on why a primitive fetish should
exist in the starfaring age. Finally the Exobiologist got to her
"I am going back into the gorge," she announced. "If the
Stardust Twins could find this, perhaps there are other things we
have overlooked. After all, it is an enormous area." She paused
and looked at the rest of us. "Would anyone care to come with me?"
It was nearing the end of the day, and no one volunteered,
and finally the Exobiologist turned and began walking toward the
path that led down into the depths of Olduvai Gorge.
It was dark when I finally felt strong enough to assimilate
the jewelry. I spread my essence about the bones and the wire and
soon became one with them...
* * *
His name was Joseph Meromo, and he could live with the money
but not the guilt.
It had begun with the communication from Brussels, and the
veiled suggestion from the head of the multi-national conglomerate
headquartered there. They had a certain commodity to get rid of.
They had no place to get rid of it. Could Tanzania help?
Meromo had told them he would look into it, but he doubted
that his government could be of use.
Just _try_, came the reply.
In fact, more than the reply came. The next day a private
courier delivered a huge wad of large-denomination bills, with a
polite note thanking Meromo for his efforts on their behalf.
Meromo knew a bribe when he saw one -- he'd certainly taken
enough in his career -- but he'd never seen one remotely the size
of this one. And not even for helping them, but merely for being
willing to explore possibilities.
Well, he had thought, why not? What could they conceivably
have? A couple of containers of toxic waste? A few plutonium rods?
You bury them deep enough in the earth and no one would ever know
or care. Wasn't that what the Western countries did?
Of course, there was the Denver Disaster, and that little
accident that made the Thames undrinkable for almost a century,
but the only reason they popped so quickly to mind is because they
were the _exceptions_, not the rule. There were thousands of
dumping sites around the world, and 99% of them caused no problems
Meromo had his computer cast a holographic map of Tanzania
above his desk. He looked at it, frowned, added topographical
features, then began studying it in earnest.
_If_ he decided to help them dump the stuff, whatever it was
-- and he told himself that he was still uncommitted -- where
would be the best place to dispose of it?
Off the coast? No, the fishermen would pull it up two minutes
later, take it to the press, and raise enough hell to get him
fired, and possibly even cause the rest of the government to
resign. The party really couldn't handle any more scandals this
The Selous Province? Maybe five centuries ago, when it was
the last wilderness on the continent, but not now, not with a
thriving, semi-autonomous city-state of fifty-two million people
where once there had been nothing but elephants and almost-
impenetrable thorn bush.
Lake Victoria? No. Same problem with the fishermen.
Dar es Salaam? It was a possibility. Close enough to the
coast to make transport easy, practically deserted since Dodoma
had become the new capital of the country.
But Dar es Salaam had been hit by an earthquake twenty years
ago, when Meromo was still a boy, and he couldn't take the chance
of another one exposing or breaking open whatever it was that he
planned to hide.
He continued going over the map: Gombe, Ruaha, Iringa, Mbeya,
Mtwara, Tarengire, Olduvai...
He stopped and stared at Olduvai, then called up all
Almost a mile deep. That was in its favor. No animals left.
Better still. No settlements on its steep slopes. Only a handful
of Maasai still living in the area, no more than two dozen
families, and they were too arrogant to pay any attention to what
the government was doing. Of that Meromo was sure: he himself was
So he strung it out for as long as he could, collected cash
gifts for almost two years, and finally gave them a delivery date.
Meromo stared out the window of his 34th floor office, past
the bustling city of Dodoma, off to the east, to where he imagined
Olduvai Gorge was.
It had seemed so simple. Yes, he was paid a lot of money, a
disproportionate amount -- but these multi-nationals had money to
burn. It was just supposed to be a few dozen plutonium rods, or so
he had thought. How was he to know that they were speaking of
forty-two _tons_ of nuclear waste?
There was no returning the money. Even if he wanted to, he
could hardly expect them to come back and pull all that deadly
material back out of the ground. Probably it was safe, probably no
one would ever know...
But it haunted his days, and even worse, it began haunting
his nights as well, appearing in various guises in his dreams.
Sometimes it was as carefully-sealed containers, sometimes it was
as ticking bombs, sometimes a disaster had already occurred and
all he could see were the charred bodies of Maasai children spread
across the lip of the gorge.
For almost eight months he fought his devils alone, but
eventually he realized that he must have help. The dreams not only
haunted him at night, but invaded the day as well. He would be
sitting at a staff meeting, and suddenly he would imagine he was
sitting among the emaciated, sore-covered bodies of the Olduvai
Maasai. He would be reading a book, and the words seemed to change
and he would be reading that Joseph Meromo had been sentenced to
death for his greed. He would watch a holo of the Titanic
disaster, and suddenly he was viewing some variation of the
Finally he went to a psychiatrist, and because he was a
Maasai, he choose a Maasai psychiatrist. Fearing the doctor's
contempt, Meromo would not state explicitly what was causing the
nightmares and intrusions, and after almost half a year's worth of
futile attempts to cure him, the psychiatrist announced that he
could do no more.
"Then am I to be cursed with these dreams forever?" asked
"Perhaps not," said the psychiatrist. "_I_ cannot help you,
but just possibly there is one man who can."
He rummaged through his desk and came up with a small white
card. On it was written a single word: MULEWO.
"This is his business card," said the psychiatrist. "Take
"There is no address on it, no means of communicating with
him," said Meromo. "How will I contact him?"
"He will contact you."
"You will give him my name?"
The psychiatrist shook his head. "I will not have to. Just
keep the card on your person. He will know you require his
Meromo felt like he was being made the butt of some joke he
didn't understand, but he dutifully put the card in his pocket
and soon forgot about it.
Two weeks later, as he was drinking at a bar, putting off
going home to sleep as long as he could, a small woman approached
"Are you Joseph Meromo?" she asked.
"Please follow me."
"Why?" he asked suspiciously.
"You have business with Mulewo, do you not?" she said.
Meromo fell into step behind her, at least as much to avoid
going home as from any belief that this mysterious man with no
first name could help him. They went out to the street, turned
left, walked in silence for three blocks, and turned right, coming
to a halt at the front door to a steel-and-glass skyscraper.
"The 63rd floor," she said. "He is expecting you."
"You're not coming with me?" asked Meromo.
She shook her head. "My job is done." She turned and walked
off into the night.
Meromo looked up at the top of the building. It seemed
residential. He considered his options, finally shrugged, and walk
into the lobby.
"You're here for Mulewo," said the doorman. It was not a
question. "Go to the elevator on the left."
Meromo did as he was told. The elevator was paneled with an
oiled wood, and smelled fresh and sweet. It operated on voice
command and quickly took him to the 63rd floor. When he emerged he
found himself in an elegantly-decorated corridor, with ebony
wainscotting and discreetly-placed mirrors. He walked past three
unmarked doors, wondering how he was supposed to know which
apartment belonged to Mulewo, and finally came to one that was
"Come in, Joseph Meromo," said a hoarse voice from within.
Meromo opened the door the rest of the way, stepped into the
apartment, and blinked.
Sitting on a torn rug was an old man, wearing nothing but a
red cloth gathered at the shoulder. The walls were covered by
reed matting, and a noxious-smelling caldron bubbled in the
fireplace. A torch provided the only illumination.
"What _is_ this?" asked Meromo, ready to step back into the
corridor if the old man appeared as irrational as his
"Come sit across from me, Joseph Meromo," said the old man.
"Surely this is less frightening than your nightmares."
"What do you know about my nightmares?" demanded Meromo.
"I know why you have them. I know what lies buried at the
bottom of Olduvai Gorge."
Meromo shut the door quickly.
"Who told you?"
"No one told me. I have peered into your dreams, and sifted
through them until I found the truth. Come sit."
Meromo walked to where the old man indicated and sat down
carefully, trying not to get too much dirt on his freshly-pressed
"Are you Mulewo?" he asked.
The old man nodded. "I am Mulewo."
"How do you know these things about me?"
"I am a _laibon_," said Mulewo.
"A witch doctor?"
"It is a dying art," answered Mulewo. "I am the last
"I thought _laibons_ cast spells and created curses."
"They also remove curses -- and your nights, and even your
days, are cursed, are they not?"
"You seem to know all about it."
"I know that you have done a wicked thing, and that you are
haunted not only by the ghost of it, but by the ghosts of the
future as well."
"And you can end the dreams?"
"That is why I have summoned you here."
"But if I did such a terrible thing, why do you _want_ to
"I do not make moral judgments. I am here only to help the
"And what about the Maasai who live by the gorge?" asked
Meromo. "The ones who haunt my dreams?"
"When _they_ ask for help, then I will help them."
"Can you cause the material that's buried there to vanish?"
Mulewo shook his head. "I cannot undo what has been done. I
cannot even assuage your guilt, for it is a just guilt. All I can
do is banish it from your dreams."
"I'll settle for that," said Meromo.
There was an uneasy silence.
"What do I do now?" asked Meromo.
"Bring me a tribute befitting the magnitude of the service I
"I can write you a check right now, or have money transferred
from my account to your own."
"I have more money than I need. I must have a tribute."
"Bring it back tomorrow night," said Mulewo.
Meromo stared at the old _laibon_ for a long minute, then got
up and left without another word.
He called in sick the next morning, then went to two of
Dodoma's better antique shops. Finally he found what he was
looking for, charged it to his personal account, and took it home
with him. He was afraid to nap before dinner, so he simply read a
book all afternoon, then ate a hasty meal and returned to Mulewo's
"What have you brought me?" asked Mulewo.
Meromo laid the package down in front of the old man. "A
headdress made from the skin of a lion," he answered. "They told
me it was worn by Sendayo himself, the greatest of all _laibons_."
"It was not," said Mulewo, without unwrapping the package.
"But it is a sufficient tribute nonetheless." He reached beneath
his red cloth and withdrew a small necklace, holding it out for
"What is this for?" asked Meromo, examining the necklace. It
was made of small bones that had been strung together.
"You must wear it tonight when you go to sleep," explained
the old man. "It will take all your visions unto itself. Then,
tomorrow, you must go to Olduvai Gorge and throw it down to the
bottom, so that the visions may lay side by side with the
"And that's all?"
"That is all."
Meromo went back to his apartment, donned the necklace, and
went to sleep. That night his dreams were worse than they had ever
In the morning he put the necklace into a pocket and had a
government plane fly him to Arusha. From there he rented a ground
vehicle, and two hours later he was standing on the edge of the
gorge. There was no sign of the buried material.
He took the necklace in his hand and hurled it far out over
the lip of the gorge.
His nightmares vanished that night.
134 years later, mighty Kilimanjaro shuddered as the long-
dormant volcano within it came briefly to life.
One hundred miles away, the ground shifted on the floor of
Olduvai Gorge, and three of the lead-lined containers broke open.
Joseph Meromo was long dead by that time; and, unfortunately,
there were no _laibons_ remaining to aid those people who were now
compelled to live Meromo's nightmares.
* * *
I had examined the necklace in my own quarters, and when I
came out to report my findings, I discovered that the entire camp
was in a tumultuous state.
"What has happened?" I asked Bellidore.
"The Exobiologist has not returned from the gorge," he said.
"How long has she been gone?"
"She left at sunset last night. It is now morning, and she
has not returned or attempted to use her communicator."
"...that she might..."
"...have fallen and..."
"...become immobile. Or perhaps even..."
"...unconscious..." said the Stardust Twins.
"I have sent the Historian and the Appraiser to look for
her," said Bellidore.
"I can help, too," I offered.
"No, you have the last artifact to examine," he said. "When
the Moriteu awakens, I will send it as well."
"What about the Mystic?" I asked.
Bellidore looked at the Mystic and sighed. "She has not said
a word since landing on this world. In truth, I do not understand
her function. At any rate, I do not know how to communicate with
The Stardust Twins kicked at the earth together, sending up a
pair of reddish dust clouds.
"It seems ridiculous..." said one.
"...that we can find the tiniest artifact..." said the other.
"...but we cannot find...
"...an entire exbiologist."
"Why do you not help search for it?" I asked.
"They get vertigo," explained Bellidore.
"...the entire camp," they added defensively.
"I can put off assimilating the last piece until tomorrow,
and help with the search," I volunteered.
"No," replied Bellidore. "I have sent for the ship. We will
leave tomorrow, and I want all of our major finds examined by
then. It is _my_ job to find the Exobiologist; it is _yours_ to
read the history of the last artifact."
"If that is your desire," I said. "Where is it?"
He led me to a table where the Historian and the Appraiser
had been examining it.
"Even _I_ know what this is," said Bellidore. "An unspent
cartridge." He paused. "Along with the fact that we have found no
human artifacts on any higher strata, I would say this in itself
is unique: a bullet that a man chose _not_ to fire."
"When you state it in those terms, it _does_ arouse the
curiosity," I acknowledged.
"...going to examine it...
"...now?" asked the Stardust Twins apprehensively.
"Yes, I am," I said.
"Wait!" they shouted in unison.
I paused above the cartridge while they began backing away.
"...but watching you examine artifacts..."
"...is too unsettling."
And with that, they raced off to hide behind some of the camp
"What about you?" I asked Bellidore. "Would you like me to
wait until you leave?"
"Not at all," he replied. "I find diversity fascinating. With
your permission, I would like to stay and observe."
"As you wish," I said, allowing my body to melt around the
cartridge until it had become a part of myself, and its history
became my own history, as clear and precise as if it had all
* * *
"They are coming!"
Thomas Naikosiai looked across the table at his wife.
"Was there ever any doubt that they would?"
"This was foolish, Thomas!" she snapped. "They will force us
to leave, and because we made no preparations, we will have to
leave all our possessions behind."
"Nobody is leaving," said Naikosiai.
He stood up and walked to the closet. "You stay here," he
said, donning his long coat and his mask. "I will meet them
"That is both rude and cruel, to make them stand out there
when they have come all this way."
"They were not invited," said Naikosiai. He reached deep into
the closet and grabbed the rifle that leaned up against the back
wall, then closed the closet, walked through the airlock and
emerged on the front porch.
Six men, all wearing protective clothing and masks to filter
the air, confronted him.
"It is time, Thomas," said the tallest of them.
"Time for _you_, perhaps," said Naikosiai, holding the rifle
casually across his chest.
"Time for all of us," answered the tall man.
"I am not going anywhere. This is my home. I will not leave
"It is a pustule of decay and contamination, as is this whole
country," came the answer. "We are all leaving."
Naikosiai shook his head. "My father was born on this land,
and his father, and his father's father. _You_ may run from
danger, if you wish; I will stay and fight it."
"How can you make a stand against radiation?" demanded the
tall man. "Can you put a bullet through it? How can you fight air
that is no longer safe to breathe?"
"Go away," said Naikosiai, who had no answer to that, other
than the conviction that he would never leave his home. "I do not
demand that you stay. Do not demand that I leave."
"It is for your own good, Naikosiai," urged another. "If you
care nothing for your own life, think of your wife's. How much
longer can she breathe the air?"
"Why not let _her_ decide?"
"_I_ speak for our family."
An older man stepped forward. "She is _my_ daughter, Thomas,"
he said severely. "I will not allow you to condemn her to the life
you have chosen for yourself. Nor will I let my grandchildren
The old man took another step toward the porch, and suddenly
the rifle was pointing at him.
"That's far enough," said Naikosiai.
"They are Maasai," said the old man stubbornly. "They must
come with the other Maasai to our new world."
"You are not Maasai," said Naikosiai contemptuously. "Maasai
did not leave their ancestral lands when the rinderpest destroyed
their herds, or when the white man came, or when the governments
sold off their lands. Maasai never surrender. _I_ am the last
"Be reasonable, Thomas. How can you not surrender to a world
that is no longer safe for people to live on? Come with us to New
"The Maasai do not run from danger," said Naikosiai.
"I tell you, Thomas Naikosiai," said the old man, "that I
cannot allow you to condemn my daughter and my grandchildren to
live in this hellhole. The last ship leaves tomorrow morning. They
will be on it."
"They will stay with me, to build a new Maasai nation."
The six men whispered among themselves, and then their leader
looked up at Naikosiai.
"You are making a terrible mistake, Thomas," he said. "If you
change your mind, there is room for you on the ship."
They all turned to go, but the old man stopped and turned to
"I will be back for my daughter," he said.
Naikosiai gestured with his rifle. "I will be waiting for
The old man turned and walked off with the others, and
Naikosiai went back into his house through the airlock. The tile
floor smelled of disinfectant, and the sight of the television set
offended his eyes, as always. His wife was waiting for him in the
kitchen, amid the dozens of gadgets she had purchased over the
"How can you speak with such disrespect to the Elders!" she
demanded. "You have disgraced us."
"No!" he snapped. "_They_ have disgraced us, by leaving!"
"Thomas, you cannot grow anything in the fields. The animals
have all died. You cannot even breathe the air without a filtering
mask. _Why_ do you insist on staying?"
"This is our ancestral land. We will not leave it."
"But all the others--"
"They can do as they please," he interrupted. "Enkai will
judge them, as He judges us all. I am not afraid to meet my
"But why must you meet him so soon?" she persisted. "You have
seen the tapes and disks of New Kilimanjaro. It is a beautiful
world, green and gold and filled with rivers and lakes."
"Once Earth was green and gold and filled rivers and lakes,"
said Naikosiai. "They ruined this world. They will ruin the next
"Even if they do, we will be long dead," she said. "I want to
"We've been through all this before."
"And it always ends with an order rather than an agreement,"
she said. Her expression softened. "Thomas, just once before I
die, I want to see water that you can drink without adding
chemicals to it. I want to see antelope grazing on long green
grasses. I want to walk outside without having to protect myself
from the very air I breathe."
She shook her head. "I love you, Thomas, but I cannot stay
here, and I cannot let our children stay here."
"No one is taking my children from me!" he yelled.
"Just because you care nothing for _your_ future, I cannot
permit you to deny our sons _their_ future."
"Their future is here, where the Maasai have always lived."
"Please come with us, Papa," said a small voice behind him,
and Naikosiai turned to see his two sons, eight and five, standing
in the doorway to their bedroom, staring at him.
"What have you been saying to them?" demanded Naikosiai
"The truth," said his wife.
He turned to the two boys. "Come here," he said, and they
trudged across the room to him.
"What are you?" he asked.
"Boys," said the younger child.
"Maasai," said the older.
"That is right," said Naikosiai. "You come from a race of
giants. There was a time when, if you climbed to the very top of
Kilimanjaro, all the land you could see in every direction
belonged to us."
"But that was long ago," said the older boy.
"Someday it will be ours again," said Naikosiai. "You must
remember who you are, my son. You are the descendant of Leeyo, who
killed 100 lions with just his spear; of Nelion, who waged war
against the whites and drove them from the Rift; of Sendayo, the
greatest of all the _laibons_. Once the Kikuyu and the Wakamba and
the Lumbwa trembled in fear at the very mention of the word
Maasai. This is your heritage; do not turn your back on it."
"But the Kikuyu and the other tribes have all left."
"What difference does that make to the Maasai? We did not
make a stand only against the Kikuyu and the Wakamba, but against
_all_ men who would have us change our ways. Even after the
Europeans conquered Kenya and Tanganyika, they never conquered the
Maasai. When Independence came, and all the other tribes moved to
cities and wore suits and aped the Europeans, we remained as we
had always been. We wore what we chose and we lived where we
chose, for we were proud to be Maasai. Does that not _mean_
something to you?"
"Will we not still be Maasai if we go to the new world?"
asked the older boy.
"No," said Naikosiai firmly. "There is a bond between the
Maasai and the land. We define it, and it defines us. It is what
we have always fought for and always defended."
"But it is diseased now," said the boy.
"If I were sick, would you leave me?" asked Naikosiai.
"And just as you would not leave me in my illness, so we will
not leave the land in _its_ illness. When you love something, when
it is a part of what you are, you do not leave it simply because
it becomes sick. You stay, and you fight even harder to cure it
than you fought to win it."
"Trust me," said Naikosiai. "Have I ever misled you?"
"I am not misleading you now. We are En-kai's chosen people.
We live on the ground He has given us. Don't you see that we
_must_ remain here, that we must keep our covenent with En-kai?"
"But I will never see my friends again!" wailed his younger
"You will make new friends."
"Where?" cried the boy. "Everyone is gone!"
"Stop that at once!" said Naikosiai harshly. "Maasai do not
The boy continued sobbing, and Naikosiai looked up at his
"This is _your_ doing," he said. "You have spoiled him."
She stared unblinking into his eyes. "Five-year-old boys are
allowed to cry."
"Not Maasai boys," he answered.
"Then he is no longer Maasai, and you can have no objection
to his coming with me."
"I want to go too!" said the 8-year-old, and suddenly he,
too, forced some tears down his face.
Thomas Naikosiai looked at his wife and his children --
really _looked_ at them -- and realized that he did not know them
at all. This was not the quiet maiden, raised in the traditions of
his people, that he had married nine years ago. These soft sobbing
boys were not the successors of Leeyo and Nelion.
He walked to the door and opened it.
"Go to the new world with the rest of the black Europeans,"
"Will you come with us?" asked his oldest son.
Naikosiai turned to his wife. "I divorce you," he said
coldly. "All that was between us is no more."
He walked over to his two sons. "I disown you. I am no longer
your father, you are no longer my sons. Now go!"
His wife puts coats and masks on both of the boys, then
donned her own.
"I will send some men for my things before morning," she
"If any man comes onto my property, I will kill him," said
She stared at him, a look of pure hatred. Then she took the
children by the hands and led the out of the house and down the
long road to where the ship awaited them.
Naikosiai paced the house for a few minutes, filled with
nervous rage. Finally he went to the closet, donned his coat and
mask, pulled out his rifle, and walked through the airlock to the
front of his house. Visibility was poor, as always, and he went
out to the road to see if anyone was coming.
There was no sign of any movement. He was almost
disappointed. He planned to show them how a Maasai protected what
And suddenly he realized that this was _not_ how a Maasai
protected his own. He walked to the edge of the gorge, opened the
bolt, and threw his cartridges into the void one by one. Then he
held the rifle over his head and hurled it after them. The coat
came next, then the mask, and finally his clothes and shoes.
He went back into the house and pulled out that special trunk
that held the memorabilia of a lifetime. In it he found what he
was looking for: a simple piece of red cloth. He attached it at
Then he went into the bathroom, looking among his wife's
cosmetics. It took almost half an hour to hit upon the right
combinations, but when he emerged his hair was red, as if smeared
He stopped by the fireplace and pulled down the spear that
hung there. Family tradition had it that the spear had once been
used by Nelion himself; he wasn't sure he believed it, but it was
definitely a Maasai spear, blooded many times in battle and hunts
during centuries past.
Naikosiai walked out the door and positioned himself in front
of his house -- his _manyatta_. He planted his bare feet on the
diseased ground, placed the butt of his spear next to his right
foot, and stood at attention. Whatever came down the road next --
a band of black Europeans hoping to rob him of his possessions, a
lion out of history, a band of Nandi or Lumbwa come to slay the
enemy of their blood, they would find him ready.
They returned just after sunrise the next morning, hoping
convince him to emigrate to New Kilimanjaro. What they found was
the last Maasai, his lungs burst from the pollution, his dead eyes
staring proudly out across the vanished savannah at some enemy
only he could see.
* * *
I released the cartridge, my strength nearly gone, my
So that was how it had ended for Man on earth, probably less
than a mile from where it had begun. So bold and so foolish, so
moral and so savage. I had hoped the last artifact would prove to
be the final piece of the puzzle, but instead it merely added to
the mystery of this most contentious and fascinating race.
Nothing was beyond their ability to achieve. One got the
feeling that the day the first primitive man looked up and saw the
stars, the galaxy's days as a haven of peace and freedom were
numbered. And yet they came out to the stars not just with their
lusts and their hatred and their fears, but with their technology
and their medicine, their heroes as well as their villains. Most
of the races of the galaxy had been painted by the Creator in
pastels; Men were primaries.
I had much to think about as I went off to my quarters to
renew my strength. I do not know how long I lay, somnolant and
unmoving, recovering my energy, but it must have been a long time,
for night had come and gone before I felt prepared to rejoin the
As I emerged from my quarters and walked to the center of
camp, I heard a yell from the direction of the gorge, and a moment
later the Appraiser appeared, a large sterile bag balanced atop an
"What have you found?" asked Bellidore, and suddenly I
remembered that the Exobiologist was missing.
"I am almost afraid to guess," replied the Appraiser, laying
the bag on the table.
All the members of the party gathered around as he began
withdrawing items: a blood-stained communicator, bent out of
shape; the floating shade, now broken, that the Exobiologist used
to protect her head from the rays of the sun; a torn piece of
clothing; and finally, a single gleaming white bone.
The instant the bone was placed on the table, the Mystic
began screaming. We were all shocked into momentary immobility,
not only because of the suddenness of her reaction, but because it
was the first sign of life she had shown since joining our party.
She continued to stare at the bone and scream, and finally, before
we could question her or remove the bone from her sight, she
"I don't suppose there can be much doubt about what
happened," said Bellidore. "The creatures caught up with the
Exobiologist somewhere on her way down the gorge and killed her."
"...her too," said the Stardust Twins.
"I am glad we are leaving today," continued Bellidore. "Even
after all these millennia, the spirit of Man continues to corrupt
and degrade this world. Those lumbering creatures can't possibly
be predators: there are no meat animals left on Earth. But given
the opportunity, they fell upon the Exobiologist and consumed her
flesh. I have this uneasy feeling that if we stayed much longer,
we, too, would become corrupted by this world's barbaric
The Mystic regained consciousness and began screaming again,
and the Stardust Twins gently escorted her back to her quarters,
where she was given a sedative.
"I suppose we might as well make it official," said
Bellidore. He turned to the Historian. "Would you please check the
bone with your instruments and make sure that this is the remains
of the Exobiologist?"
The Historian stared at the bone, horror-stricken. "She was
my _friend_!" it said at last. "I cannot touch it as if it were
just another artifact."
"We must know for sure," said Bellidore. "If it is not part
of the Exobiologist, then there is a chance, however slim, that
your friend might still be alive."
The Historian reached out tentatively for the bone, then
jerked its hand away. "I can't!"
Finally Bellidore turned to me.
"He Who Views," he said. "Have you the strength to examine
"Yes," I answered.
They all moved back to give me room, and I allowed my mass to
slowly spread over the bone and engulf it. I assimilated its
history and ingested its emotional residue, and finally I withdrew
"It is the Exobiologist," I said.
"What are the funeral customs of her race?" asked Bellidore.
"Cremation," said the Appraiser.
"Then we shall build a fire and incinerate what remains of
our friend, and we will each offer a prayer to send her soul along
the Eternal Path."
And that is what we did.
The ship came later that day, and took us off the planet, and
it is only now, safely removed from its influence, that I can
reconstruct what I learned on that last morning.
I lied to Bellidore -- to the entire party -- for once I made
my discovery I knew that my primary duty was to get them away from
Earth as quickly as possible. Had I told them the truth, one or
more of them would have wanted to remain behind, for they are
scientists with curious, probing minds, and I would never be able
to convince them that a curious, probing mind is no match for what
I found in my seventh and final view of Olduvai Gorge.
The bone was _not_ a part of the Exobiologist. The Historian,
or even the Moriteu, would have known that had they not been too
horrified to examine it. It was the tibia of a _man_.
Man has been extinct for five thousand years, at least as we
citizens of the galaxy have come to understand him. But those
lumbering, ungainly creatures of the night, who seemed so
attracted to our campfires, are what Man has become. Even the
pollution and radiation he spread across his own planet could not
kill him off. It merely changed him to the extent that we were
no longer able to recognize him.
I could have told them the simple facts, I suppose: that a
tribe of these pseudo-Men stalked the Exobiologist down the gorge,
then attacked and killed and, yes, ate her. Predators are not
unknown throughout the worlds of the galaxy.
But as I became one with the tibia, as I felt it crashing
down again and again upon our companion's head and shoulders, I
felt a sense of power, of exultation I had never experienced
before. I suddenly seemed to see the world through the eyes of the
bone's possessor. I saw how he had killed his own companion to
create the weapon, I saw how he planned to plunder the bodies of
the old and the infirm for more weapons, I saw visions of conquest
against other tribes living near the gorge.
And finally, at the moment of triumph, he and I looked up at
the sky, and we knew that someday all that we could see would be
And this is the knowledge that I have lived with for two
days. I do not know who to share it with, for it is patently
immoral to exterminate a race simply because of the vastness of
its dreams or the ruthlessness of its ambition.
But this is a race that refuses to die, and somehow I must
warn the rest of us, who have lived in harmony for almost five
_It's not over._