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The Riwanians

Premiered June 24, 2003

Chapter Four


Woody strode almost casually into the control room, seemingly oblivious to the fact he had spent three days with an alien culture residing on a planet light years from earth. He had observed, walked among, and talked to intelligent beings with a diverse and unique culture. He had seen hints of exceptional technological achievement intermixed with an almost primitive life style. And yet, his attitude was one of frustration and boredom. Instead of unbridled interest and excitement, he had the look of disappointment.

On the other hand Marie had had only brief opportunities to leave the ship. Instead she had spent the bulk of her time analyzing the geologic, remote sensing, and survey data taken from space. As the planetary base's geologist, her priorities interfered with her preferences. In addition, standing orders required Sorrenson, Woody or herself to always be aboard as Command Duty Officer. Sorrenson, as the planetary base senior scientist, had quite naturally pulled rank. Woody's position as the planetary base technologist, gave him priority for extended forays. The result was Marie Thomas had seen little of Riwan, and was still very much excited about her first "First Contact". Her enthusiasm clashed noticeably with Woody's.

"Woody!" she announced, "What's happening?"

Woody smiled, but didn’t recognize the enthusiastic need for news and assumed her question was merely a greeting. "Nothing!" he snorted, sarcastically. Then he asked, with a bit of a glint in his eye, "Unless of course you'd like to make something happen."

"Don't be absurd," she answered, a bit too abruptly. "Come on Woody; fill me in on what's out there. I've been caged for practically the whole duration. You're my only source. Everyone else but the Captain is running twenty hours a day."

Woody was only slightly wounded by the rebuke (it was definitely not his first). Collapsing into the Engineer's control console chair, he answered, "There really isn't much. Technologically the local populace is backward."

"What?" Thomas was almost indignant at the challenge to her conclusions. "You're kidding.  There is all sorts of evidence of a substantial technology. Just open your…"

"Whoa! Slow down!"  Woody had lifted his arms as if to ward off the onslaught. "I didn't say the technology in evidence is backward; I said the local people are. There is a difference."

"Oh." It was Marie's only comment. She sat watching Woody, intent upon his next clarifying statement. She would not ask again, knowing he must eventually respond.

"I've talked to dozens of the Riwanians, several who apparently traveled some distance just to meet the ship's engineer, and they're all about the level of Newtonian physics or less."

"Obviously you haven't talked to the right ones."

"Oh I agree. The problem is to find the right ones. Every time I ask to see a scientist, an engineer, or a designer; 'Good 0le' Gertrude either blanks out, or the aliens refer me to the priests and/or The Gods. Apparently they don't have any local professionals, or at least they don't label them as such. What's more, there doesn't appear to be any real structure in their society, so that you can't even ask to see whoever's in charge."

"What about the industrial centers?"

"Ah, precisely!" Woody chortled with glee. "You have it! The solution!  Only the nearest one is approximately 3.893 times the maximum permitted distance from the ship. Our Captain has been, unfortunately, rather explicit: 'There will be no forays into the surrounding area for a distance of more than one mile if unescorted, and a maximum of two miles if escorted or by invitation of one of the aliens.' Positively disgusting!”

"Well that's no problem. I expect Michaels to lift the restrictions at any time now.

"The sooner the better. Boredom is fast setting in."

Marie watched Woody for a moment, her thinking suddenly focused on the why's and where's of this man who was her occasional lover. In a rare moment of personal insight, she asked gently, "Find her?"

Woody, who had momentarily turned away to look disgustedly at the confines of the control room, jerked his head back, his mind perplexed by the question. "Who?"

"The girl at the landing."

"Oh, her." Woody watched Marie carefully, surprised at the question. Curious as to Marie's purpose, he answered simply, "No, haven't seen her again." Then quietly, to avoid possible misinterpretation, "Of course, I wasn't looking for her especially. I do have other duties on a foray."

"Naturally," Marie smiled.

Woody was reaching hard for a clever comeback, when Michaels walked purposely into the room. Behind him, "Rip" Moltz walked with a measured gait. Michaels wasted no time, "Woodward, gather the clan. I want a "round table" within the hour."

"Aye, sir." Woody reacted instinctively, and began "normal recall" procedures for the four crew members still outside the ship. The last one arrived within 35 minutes.


The 'Round Table' was used this time as a standard means of presenting the varied experiences of each crew member as they encountered them in their forays around the local area. The method utilized the Intrepid's design by allowing each member to present all their data, relevant or otherwise; verbally, with the use of graphic displays, and in the form of video tapes of each of their respective experiences, and in such a way that the other officers could witness the events and conversations first hand, comment on them, and in general interact with each other. In essence it provided all of the officers with virtually the same experiences as the officer who had recorded the incident or data.

The intent was to avoid an individual from glossing over important information because of personal attitudes and perceptions. It also provided a means of keeping all members of the planetary survey team up to date on all the latest information of what had been learned by the others.

In the typical mode of the Space Navy, reports were provided by the higher ranking officers first. Even the Captain was included, because of his secondary duty as Planetary Base Linguistics Officer.

In his no-nonsense style, Michaels began. "The initial establishment of a basic conversation level and verification of intentional format has been completed. Each of you should have available the ability to carry on a basic conversation, and I presume no one is having any major difficulties. Having monitored several of the conversations, I realize Gertrude has been producing a large number of "blanks", but these should be limited to fairly technical and "non-correlation" terms, from now on." There was a gentle murmur of agreement from the crew; Michaels continued after a brief glance around the table.  "Basic analysis programs J-3, J-5, J-6 and J-10 are now in process in order to investigate the language for any indications of psychology, culture, etc.

“As you’re probably aware, the frequency of occurrence of common terms often provides a strong indication of cultural features which are emphasized by a society. An immediate result of these analyses is that the language, as provided by their dictionary, the 'Book of Communications', contains very few technical terms. In fact one conclusion from the analysis is the Riwanians have a minimal technology. This is probably a faulty conclusion, for it is based on a book which they have provided for our use, and which may very well be written so as to prevent our learning the full extent of their technology until our intentions are better understood."

Woody and Marie looked at each other, shaking their heads in agreement. But Moltz disagreed, "Captain, I would seriously doubt the Riwanians are that subtle or clever. Based on what I've seen so far, they are, without exception, totally open and honest. There has been no indication that any subject is taboo about which they are not willing to discuss in depth."

"I appreciate the point, Rip; but there is no assurance that anyone has had the opportunity to talk with anyone in authority. If we were to believe what we have seen so far, we would have to conclude that the Riwanians' society has virtually no structure. I would prefer to reserve a final opinion until we have gone further a field and presumably encountered the higher echelons of their society."

"We have no assurance and indeed no references whatsoever, to the existence of any higher authority," Rip replied, "Except of course, to their constant references to The Gods."

"Which brings up the next point. Whether or not the Riwanians who produced the 'Book of Communications' have intentionally limited the technological terms in the book or not; they have certainly made no similar limitations with respect to their -- for lack of a better word -- religion. The Riwanians have an exceptionally large vocabulary of religious words and religion-related topics. There is a heavy dose of standard expressions, all of which relate to religion or directly to The Gods. The Gods themselves dominate the language by direct and indirect references. The initial indications strongly suggest the religion of 'The Gods' and their relationship with them are an absolutely integral factor in their lives. Indeed, The Gods appear to be far and away the most important feature in the Riwanians' culture."

Michaels then looked at each of them over his console. "For our purposes it is critical that each of us recognize the importance of religion and 'The Gods' to the Riwanians. Clearly an offense against The Gods or the Riwanians' religion is in all probability the most serious offense in which we are likely to err. I realize I may have at some point, mentioned the undesirability of incidents here on Riwan…”  A slight ripple of amusement moved around the table, and with an ironic smile, Michaels continued, "And the linguistics indications are that those incidents which are most likely to disrupt our present honeymoon with the Riwanians, are religious ones.

"As you are all aware, religion is often a highly complex, highly evolved, and frequently not entirely consistent, rational, or logical entity. Thus we must approach it gingerly. Do not presume that the friendliness, the almost casual acceptance of our arrival, or the rather impressive hospitality of the natives is guaranteed. An innocent act insulting to their Gods or religion may easily turn the Riwanians into a deadly religious tirade. There is, I admit, nothing to suggest that they will easily switch their personalities to religious fanaticism; but their distinctive and apparently wide spread respect for their Gods is probably a good indication they will not tolerate any disrespect.

"Therefore, it behooves all of us to treat religious topics and/or discussions with great care. Even if you think you're on the right track of something hot, don't follow it up with your usual budding enthusiasm. Hold off for later.  Show a little patience. Bring up your observations at Round Table so that we can all contribute to avoiding unintentional blunders. Then you can go back for further detail and clarification. In short, don't rush in where wise men fear to tread!"

When everyone had acknowledged the mandate, Michaels then finished his report. "Each of you should specifically note any words which were not properly translated, or if you suspect the accuracy of the translation. We must remember all languages are blessed with an inordinate amount of slang, and that variations in accents from one individual to another is quite sufficient to hard press the best of computerized translations. There is also the possibility, as we discussed earlier with respect to technological subjects, our present dictionary, while quite extensive, may not be complete."

Settling back slightly the Captain continued to glance about at the other officers on the opposite side of the octagonal table. Without turning his head, he said, "Max."

Sorrenson began immediately, the consoles springing to life with scenes of Riwanian ecology. "For Biological Files: Initial indications are for an established, well balanced ecology. According to the Riwanians there are no large, carnivores; and in fact we've seen nothing larger than a rabbit. One Riwanian with whom I talked, even showed surprise at the idea of a man-eating any thing. And with the absence of large carnivores, there is apparently no hunting or any other similar type sport. I may have shocked one Riwanian when I explained hunting to him.  The idea of going after a small, furry rabbit with a weapon with which to blast him into kingdom come was a bit horrifying to him. However, there is a fair amount of fishing, so the analogy of hunting large animals and fishing for large fish seems to have satisfied my friend.

"While there is a clear absence of large animals, there is a considerable variety of animal life in general. Most are small, very furry creatures. They would make great pets, but I was unable to determine if the Riwanians even had a word for pet. I suspect they don't, and in fact may find the concept objectionable. I would therefore suggest we should avoid talking about 'pets' for the time being, until we determine whether or not our habits as a race of taking pets would prove to be very distasteful from the viewpoint of the Riwanians, and thus lower our esteem in their eyes.

"I should also point out that very little of the animal life is really large enough for eating. Consequently, I suspect the Riwanians are near-vegetarians, with a small but significant intake of fish. There does appear to be an abundance and large diversity of that source of protein. I anticipate my next thrust will be a more detailed investigation of the oceans, rivers, etc, and the fish population. This of course, implies that I would have to go beyond the present maximum travel restrictions, in order to study the habitats first hand."

When Michaels failed to respond to the indirect request, Sorrenson continued, "One aspect that is particularly striking is the apparently very well-balanced ecology. There is literally nothing in excess. All the animal forms of life seem to have a multitude of enemies. There is a minimum of specialization, which incidentally implies a very stable ecology."

"How so?  Woody seemed genuinely interested.

"If a species has only one or two natural enemies, a significant variation in the number of predators will quickly effect the population of the prey. For example, if you kill off coyotes in large numbers, the rabbit population explodes, because you've broken the balance which kept the rabbit population in check. On the other hand, in the late 1970 and 1980's, when man virtually wiped out the wolves in the northern reaches of North America, the caribou herds had a population increase. While this might appear advantageous, it was actually just the opposite, for it sapped their strength.  The wolves had in effect been removing the weak caribou from the herd, and the abrupt lack of this action caused the near extinction of the caribou. With the increased population, there was severe overgrazing and the strong caribou began perishing along with the weak. There is some chance the species will yet recover, but the fear now is that the caribou will simply fluctuate widely in an overpopulation and underpopulation cycle until one year when they die out completely. Consequently, in both the rabbit and caribou cases, there was a single natural predator and thus an inherently unstable situation.

"The noteworthy point here on Riwan is that minimal specialization implies that almost any creature can be prey to any other creature. In effect, everything eats everything. Mature adults of one species prey on the young and weakening old of most others. And if one species has a significant variation in population, even in a particular area, that species has such a variety of predators and prey that the ecological balance is not strongly affected. It may be of interest to note that a rain forest is the most stable ecological system on earth. Its tremendous diversity of plant, animal, and insect life gives it the same type of exceptional stability.

"At this point I've barely scratched the surface in cataloging all of the species. Interestingly, the Riwanians apparently are not interested in doing their own cataloging, preferring to allow the discovery of new species to each individual."

Stevens, with just a hint of pride, added, "That's an interesting point, because their educational techniques make extensive use of 'self-discovery' methods. They assume it is more fun for the individual to find out about life on their own."

"Which ties in with my estimates." Max smiled at Kat quickly, before continuing, "The bottom line of course, is we do not have the advantage of an established biological science here on Riwan to draw on. The Riwanians do seem to know a great deal about their animal world, but seem intent on not writing any of their observations down. Accordingly we may have to spend a fair amount of our own research in cataloging in order to gain a good picture of the zoological features of the planet."

"How far are you in the Botany Research Phase?" Michaels asked.

"Only a very tentative and cursory review. We've already noticed from space that many of the heavily treed areas are confined to fairly distinct patterns. That is, there are areas of forest and areas of clearing. In the forest, however, there is a surprising diversity of trees, all within small areas. I did find a few small stands of trees of the same species, but in general they're thrown together rather chaotically."

"More diversity, implying better ecological stability?" Marie asked.


"What about the fact that the forests or wilderness areas appear almost planned in their general outlines?"

"First, we have to distinguish between wilderness areas and forests. The forests are interspersed in small segments throughout the 'civilized areas', and I emphasize the quotes. In addition the forests have a noticeable lack of undergrowth, making it easy to wander through them at leisure. As far as the wilderness areas, I haven't a clue -- just not enough time to look into that aspect, as of yet.

"Finally, I've seen no evidence of any significant pollution. Riwan appears to be a very idyllic planet with no ecology problems."

"Thank you, Max," Michaels replied. "Any other points?"

Van Lantz leaned forward, "You didn't mention reptiles."

"I did to the Riwanians, but apparently the translator failed me. I just couldn't get the point across. You have to remember the Riwanians like to ask as many questions as they answer. Time goes very quickly that way.”

"If the failure to translate reptiles is related to the non-correspondence of concepts; does that suggest there are no reptiles, or even no cold-blooded species?" Van Lantz asked.

"Not necessarily," Michaels interjected. "Depends on how Max phrased the questions."

"I specifically attempted to interject the concept of cold-blooded creatures. Their response was a question as to why I was interested in dead species."

There was a momentary silence as each of them considered Max's observations. Then Van Lantz mused, "No reptiles might be a very interesting evolutionary feature."

When there was no response, the Captain went on with the reports, "Thomas?"

Marie smiled slightly and began, "For Geologic Files. Water covers about 82% of the surface. The landmass, however, involves no large continental areas, and is in fact well distributed over the planet." As Marie continued, the consoles showed graphic displays overlaying the large scale features of the planet. The displays constantly fluctuated with a variety of data and analysis functions, as if Marie was intent upon trying to overwhelm the others with information. "There are no large ocean areas corresponding to the size of the Atlantic, except at the poles. From 60° north to 60° south, there is nothing larger than the Gulf of Mexico.

“This evenly-distributed landmass has a couple of potentially nice features. One, there are no large oceanic spaces with which to generate large hurricanes, except in the polar regions which are largely ice bound. The second advantage is the availability of water and seas to most areas, even the more mountainous. There are no major desert areas. In fact there appears to be no extremes of climate, and with a tilt of the planet's axis of only 9.72° with respect to the plane of the planet's orbit about their sun, there is less of a seasonal fluctuation. All of these features may contribute to the stability Max has just discussed."

"That bothers me." When everyone had turned toward Van Lantz, he continued, "Why is everything here so damn stable?"

"I've asked myself the same question," responded Max. "And as yet, I have received no satisfactory answers. On the other hand the question has raised an additional concern: Can a world with such inherent stability, be capable of dealing with something as radical a destabilizing event as a space ship from another planet? Is our simple presence here enough to throw a monkey wrench into this whole, carefully structured society and ecology?"

"When you say 'structured', do you mean artificially?"

"Oh, no. I still believe we're dealing with an evolutionary ecology. But it's one where a really radical departure from the norm might upset the balance."

"How can such a stable ecology be susceptible to external influence?"

"If you introduce a pride of lions into a deer park, you take a relatively stable culture and radically change it. Whales and Dolphins got along fine with their world until man started harvesting them. Even as stable an ecology as a rain forest will go the way of the Panda Bear when you bring in bulldozers and concrete."

"But we're missing one point," Van Lantz added. "We're seeing an ecology and a society which are apparently running on automatic. That implies an incredible amount of stability. Ecologically, I can buy such stability based on the diversity of the ecology -- because there we're still dealing with entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The diverse or chaotic is stable, and this allows for increasing entropy. But…," Van Lantz leaned forward even more intently, "The society we've observed does not have the same diversity. Everyone does the same sort of things and gets along fine. For this well-ordered society, and I stress the word 'ordered', the stability can not be that great without a significant energy input."

"In other words, there has to be something present, which is maintaining the status quo," Kat added.

"If not, then we're violating the Second Law, and I'm not ready to concede that." Van Lantz frowned slightly.

Sorrenson grimaced, "Neither am I. But in fact, there is diversity! Everyone does his own thing. There is apparently no social structure to be maintained." Van Lantz merely frowned.

Then Michaels raised his hand slightly, "Obviously we don't have enough information yet. Van Lantz's point is a good one, and we should continue to consider it. Meanwhile, unless there is some other point that needs to be made, let's continue with the reports."

Thomas glanced around and when no one objected, she continued her report. “Initial indications are that the planet's core and mantle are very similar to Earth's. The survey from space gave us a fair amount of information in this regard. On the other hand, there is only meager evidence of any significant geologic activity, with no apparent faults or unusual geologic, large scale structures. The only notable item is that the land areas appear to be under laid with a massive layer of rock which runs along the surface at a depth of 100 to 500 feet. This layer is extensive in the low lands, but is significantly reduced in the more mountainous regions. There are no comparable layers of subsurface rocks in any of the oceanic areas or seas."

"What type of rock is it?"

"No idea as yet; as it doesn't fit any of our patterns. I can't even measure the depth of the layer. All I know for sure is that it appears very massive and very dense. As a matter of fact, it has been a nuisance in the core and subsurface investigations. Most of the useful data on the planet's interior are based on our over flight of the water areas; the land masses have very limited data."

Max interjected, "I would think such an extensive formation would be very significant in the geology of the overall planet."

"Obviously the first thing to do is to find an outcropping and analyze the rock."

Marie frowned heavily at Steven's suggestion; Marie had already formulated the same obvious fact. On the other hand, there was no reason not to capitalize on Steven's bringing it up. "Fortunately there appears to be either an outcropping of the rock nearby, or at the very least, one near the surface. I would strongly recommend a field trip to investigate."

The Captain quickly asked, "How far is 'near by'?"

"7.6 miles."

Woody squinted slightly as he watched Marie. The number she had just quoted, had a familiar ring. Then carefully he asked, "How far is the outcropping from the area of our suspected industrial site?"

Marie smiled only very slightly. "Actually it's quite near -- about the same location, as a matter of fact."

Max smiled at the maneuvering. Michaels frowned. He did not like any kind of in-fighting among his officers, no matter how friendly or well intentioned. His answering question was pointedly blunt. "Would your proposal include a combined effort: Investigating the outcropping as well as the potential technology at the 'industrial site'?"

Marie quickly recognized the hand-slapping aspect of the question. "It would. I estimate two days in travel time, round trip. With two to five days on site, I think I could cover the geologic aspects in less than one day, and spend the additional time on technology."

"Who do you recommend goes: You or Woodward?"

Marie answered as precisely as possible. "I recommend I go. I have a better geologic background, and I feel that aspect is the number one priority. We know the outcropping exists, but we are only speculating on the technological aspects. If there is sufficient technology, I can notify Lt. Woodward, and then finish up my geologic investigations by the time he arrives. We can then team up to get a perspective on the technology."

Stevens grinned to herself, thinking that the teaming up sounded like
more fun that either the geology or the technology.


Woody glanced briefly at Marie, before he answered Michaels. "I agree with Commander Thomas. Her plan appears well thought out."

Marie stifled her surprised look. Then, while trying to figure a reason for Woody's generosity, it suddenly came to her: The girl! He's still trying to find that girl!

Michaels appeared not at all surprised. He knew Woody well enough never to be surprised at Woody's easy acceptance of giving in to other people's requests. And the plan was not all that bad. Normally Michaels would have sent Woody, but Thomas was more than capable enough. And on a long trip from home base, she was probably a better choice. Certainly she could in fact kill two birds with one stone, and of course, she outranked Woody. The only drawback was that Max would have to stay closer to the ship while Thomas was gone. But that could be handled. There would be plenty of lab work for Sorrenson. Wait a few days and Thomas could take a trip.

"Lieutenant Woodward, your report."

Woody began. "Technology Report: A cursory survey of the life styles of the Riwanians suggest the technology available to the natives is minimal. Based on conversations with a diverse group of individuals, I would estimate the general population to be at a level of classical Newtonian Mechanics. Their knowledge of electronics and electrodynamics is practically non-existent with the notable exception of a fairly well developed understanding of basic magnetism.

“Optics, for example, is limited to an understanding of reflection and refraction, but apparently no one has carried this understanding to the development of lens.  And from what I’ve seen, they may not need such things as glasses, binoculars, and the like.  More specifically, I've met no one with any inkling of relativity, astro-physics, quantum mechanics, or space contraction theories. Their knowledge of their solar system is quite basic, but at least they don't seem to have any misconceptions. They understand their planetary motion and that of the other planets, but just don't have a lot of additional detailed information.

"Against this backdrop of a relatively technologically backward society, there are several isolated examples of an advanced and high level technology. These features, however, are mostly in the hands of the priests. I have not gone into a deeper investigation, because of the religious aspect. If the technology is not available to the people, but instead limited to the priests; this may not be an unintentional factor."

"Good point, but specifically what evidence do you have of an advanced technology?"

"Principally a metal, which I have been unable to rationally analyze. There is a temple like building in quadrant 4-32; a circum-photo is on your console now. If you look carefully at what appears to be the structural supports, you will see the metal. I did some "hands-off' analysis and drew a complete blank. With great effort, I avoided the temptation of ripping some of it off to bring back for extensive destructive testing. Of course, there is also the question of whether or not I would have been able to cut out a sample.  The metal appears to be fairly substantial."

Van Lantz seemed particularly interested. "The heavy bluish tint reminds me of some new alloys based on steel and titanium. Do you have any idea how old the samples shown here are?"

"I asked my friend, Loraxn. He did his typical blank look; then responded with the fact it was older than his father."  When Van Lantz only shrugged, Woody went on, "The rest of the basics are on the console. Everything adds up to a low technology society, about level T-2."

"Anything else," Michaels asked.

"There is one item that seems worth mentioning. And it may be the clue to the low level of technology" When no one spoke, Woody continued, "No one here on Riwan works for anyone else. In fact these people are so individualistic that no one -- and I mean no one -- works as a team. Teamwork is in fact a completely alien concept to them. And without team work, technological advances are regulated to the resources of individuals. Combined with their educational system of 'self-discovery', there is very little opportunity for an individual to learn directly from his forebears and thus avoid the time consuming task of having to experience everything themselves. Everyone starts out from square one, and the lack of teamwork helps to ensure no one ever gets an extra advantage. The low level of technology may be a direct result of the prevalence of individuality."

"No team work at all?" Max seemed incredulous.

"None that I’ve seen. Let me give you an idea of the response I got from Loraxn. Refer to your console."

With Woody selecting data channels for presentation, the video replay appeared on the screen. The remote video recorder showed Woody and Loraxn near a pleasant 'way station' along one of the minor avenues of the Riwanian countryside. Loraxn was talking (via Gertrude).

"Let us stop for a bit here at Mondren, provided of course you wish to stop as well. I would like to ask more questions of you, if you will give such time to me. You may want to ask more questions yourself. Such an interchange is fair, I think."

"Indeed I do have more questions. And this seems a nice place to stop." As they sat down, Woody glanced about at the small, idyllic Japanese-style garden, containing a hand crafted bench below a wooden-sheltered roof. Woody looked about the small garden and all its individual and unique features. Loraxn seemed content to do likewise. Then Woody spoke.

"This is a marvelous place; who built it?"

Loraxn looked surprised.  Then nonchalantly he said, "Mondren. Why else should we call it Mondren if Mondren did not build it?"

"Seems reasonable, but did he do it all himself?"

Loraxn's surprised look turned to one of amazement. "Of course, Mondren did it all. The Gods provided the earth and flowers, the wood and metal fastenings, the grass and sky; but Mondren made the garden into its present configuration."

"And no one else helped Mondren?"

"Why do you ask if another helped? Mondren was not in peril. He did this as an act of love for The Gods."

"I was only wondering if others had helped Mondren, had worked together as a team. The garden and woodwork are so well done I thought Mondren might have had help. Perhaps someone else might have fashioned the bench that we're sitting on."

"You are truly very strange. Had someone other than Mondren made this bench, would we not call it by that other person's name? Is that not logical? But no, we call it Mondren because Mondren made it -- again logical. And how could two people work together? That is not logical."

"Don't Riwanians work together as a team in other things?"

"What is this thing you call a 'team'?"

"A team is two or more individuals working toward a common goal."

"You mean like a community serving The Gods in some way; or all Riwanians working to keep the world beautiful?"

"Not quite on that scale. Say two or three individuals working together
to build another, bigger and better garden."

"Very strange you are. Truly, very strange. How can one be an individual, if they do not work as an individual? Why would any rational being work on something which was not theirs? If two people work together, they are no longer individuals. If they work on the same thing, what are we to call the result? How can we credit both of them?"

"They share the credit."

"How do they share the credit? They are individuals with varying talents. How could the credit be apportioned?"

"They could each receive half credit."

"Irrational! Surely it is obvious each did not devote exactly 50% of the talent, creativity, and effort. Even if they carefully apportioned their talents on some basis, anyone who occasioned upon their result would most likely not see the result from the same basis, and thus would perceive a different crediting. And how would one call the result if there were two names? One name before the other would imply different contributions and by an indeterminable amount.

"No, no this is illogical. What is the purpose of doing anything if the credit must be shared? There is no possible way to accurately assign credit for a joint project. And without credit for a task, there is no motivation. If there is no motivation, there cannot be action."

"Let me give you a better example. In music we have many songs which are written by two people. One individual writes the melody or the musical notes; the other individual writes the lyrics or words."

"Amazing! You mean one writes words for another's music?" Then Loraxn's face lit up. "But wait, which comes first? Does one write words, then music; or the other way around? Or do they write together?"

"Well normally the music is written first, and then the lyrics."

"And whose name goes first?"

"Traditionally the writer of the music has his or her name first."

Loraxn's face became suspicious and cynical. "I think that if I wrote words only, I would not like tradition."

The console went blank, as Woody continued his report to the Intrepid's crew. "It goes on like this for another fifteen minutes. The end result is they don't have teams because team work implies shared credit, and if credit cannot be clearly and precisely apportioned, then the motivation for work vanishes. It's so logical, that it hurts."

Ryerson interjected, "I ran into something of the same thing in the medical area. However, I should note that in accidents, or when someone needs help, everyone does whatever each person can. They work together in emergencies, but there are absolutely no standing-teams to react to emergencies. In all cases, everyone just pitches in until the immediate danger is over."

"And," Stevens added, "It's worth noting that in those emergencies, receiving credit is not the motivation. Everyone helps as part of their duty to The Gods. When there is no emergency, their duty is to themselves."

"Fascinating!" Max muttered mostly to himself. "There are no teams -- and without teamwork, there is very limited advancement in their technology. With limited technological change, there is a greater stability. Absolutely incredible!"

Michaels then interrupted. "Anything else to report?"

"Just a couple of items, Captain," Woody answered. "First, the effectively low technology of the Riwanians appears to be no barrier to their happiness. Nor is there any evidence of deprivation or a constant struggle for survival. They appear to have pleasant homes, with more than adequate possessions. On the other hand I have been unable to locate from where the majority of material possessions derive. Some of the items appear a bit too finished for handicrafts.  Consequently, I suspect our so-called "industrial centers" really are industrial centers, and are the source from which the majority of finished products derive.

"At the same time, there are a multitude of 'how-to' books. Anyone can and usually is a do-it-yourselfer. The educational system is apparently devoted to practical concepts of living. Each person builds their own homes, grows their own food, and generally goes their own way. An interesting by product of this is that as far as I can tell, no one inherits from anyone else. Everyone starts out on equal footing, on the ground floor, and works up to whatever level is best suited for themselves.

"This of course ties in with one of the educational features. In their last years of school the students live in dormitories, but spend part of their time in building a home for themselves for when they leave school. They never presume to impose themselves, even temporarily on someone else."

Michaels interrupted "Interesting point. But let's cover the educational details later. Any other technological factors you would like to discuss?"

"No, sir," Woody smiled, just a bit sheepishly.

"Commander Ryerson?"

Shari Ryerson smiled sweetly. "Thank you, Captain." Then with a bit
more formality, "The medical technology is apparently, and I emphasize the word, 'apparently', at a fairly moderate level. However, it appears to get great results. Perhaps many of you have already noticed that there are few if any sick people. Everyone appears to be in excellent health. The health-care facilities I've visited appear rather impressive, but lack considerably in sophistication. By that I mean there appears to be minimal equipment for diagnosis and treatment."

"There is, of course, always the possibility the equipment is very sophisticated, and thus beyond me. I tried to get an idea of what the capabilities of the equipment were; but all I got was concern for whatever ailed me. For example:"

The consoles showed Shari talking to one of the priests who apparently spent most of his time at the medical facility. Behind them was a large hospital-like bed, with a few unidentifiable attachments.

"What ailments can you treat here?" Shari asked.

"I doubt I fully understand. I do not know what ailment you have. And I don't understand why you would want to 'treat' an ailment."

"Perhaps a bad choice of words. I would mean what ailment can be cured here?"

"As before, what ailment do you have?"

Shari looked blank for a moment. Then, "Can you repair a broken leg?"

The priest suddenly looked horrified. "Oh Shari, your leg is broken?" Immediately the priest was trying to help Shari to the bed. "You should have said something earlier. We did not need to stand."

"But my leg is not broken. I'm sorry, I only wanted to know that in the event my leg was broken could the machine fix my leg?"

Suddenly the priest came up short. He looked perplexed for a moment, "But the machine does not fix . . ." Suddenly he lit up. "Oh, you wish to know what types of things may be cured here, in the event that accidents occur."

"Yes, that's it exactly."

"The answer is everything, but death. Broken legs, broken arms, even broken heads. Sometimes The Gods see the pain is too great to justify the continuation of life because of the many broken parts of the body; or because the person has voluntarily given up the desire for life. Then the person will find peace."

Shari suddenly looked quite intent. Very carefully she considered her
next question. "How does the person find peace? Do The Gods help?"

“The Gods always help in everything. But for one who is broken badly, The Gods make the person comfortable, while the body releases its hold on life."

Shari's face had the intensity of suddenly breaking through a barrier. But a natural caution (promulgated by intensive training) urged her to back off for now. She took, instead, a different tack. "What about disease?"

"What is disease?"

"Sickness, a malfunction of the body."

"You mean some sort of accident?"

"No. A disease might be caused by bacteria, or a virus. Perhaps someone eats bad food or bad water."

"But food and water are for life. They are necessary to replenish our bodies. How can they be bad?"

"Doesn't anyone ever feel bad, or feel they can no longer function normally?"

"Well, no one feels good all the time. But no one feels so bad they 'stop functioning'."

"Do The Gods do anything for someone who feels bad?"

"But why? To feel good, to feel bad, is life. The Gods do not unnecessarily interfere with life."

"But what if one has a severe headache?"

"From an accident?"

"No, perhaps from working too much in the sun."

"Then the answer is for that person to stop working in the sun. The headache is his or her warning."

"Isn't there some cure?"

"Time cures."

"But the pain the person suffers..."

"But you have said the pain is a headache caused by too much work in the sun. The person has voluntarily worked too much in the sun. The pain is justified and correct for the person who has abused his own body."

Shari looked perplexed and turned to look at the video recorder for a moment. Then the console went blank.

Shari continued on her report. "As near as I can figure it, they do not have disease as we know it. Or perhaps more accurately, they do not recognize it as such. What I obtained from the continuation of the video tape you just saw was that everyone goes through periodic check ups. And the periods between check ups varies with the individual."

"How so?"

"Whenever some one reports for a check up, they are also told by the priest at the end of the check up, as to when to come back again. The time period between check ups varies from as little as a few days to several months. I was unable to figure out how the priest comes up with the date for each individual's next appointment."

Max asked, "Could this be a very effective preventative medicine set up?"

"It may well be; I do know they have a standard saying: 'The body is but another temple of The Gods'. If you follow this logic, you have to suspect that health care is a religious duty. I just can't say now if the health care facilities are really all that useful, or more accurately, what their true capabilities are. These 'clinics' may be nothing more than a place for euthanasia and a resting place while time heals any and everything; or they may actually treat and/or cure disease without anyone every realizing a disease, as such, is present."

"That seems a bit far fetched," Van Lantz said skeptically.

"Let me rephrase. The priest seems blissfully ignorant of any possible goings-on when the Riwanians have their periodic check ups. The priest ushers the person into a special room, and then comes in later to escort that person out, say a little prayer with the individual to thank The Gods for their thoughtfulness, and then tells them when to come back for their next appointment."

"But you have no evidence this 'health care' facility accomplishes anything other than to reassure the healthy people that they are indeed healthy. Their hospital may be nothing more than a giant placebo factory."

"That's correct in terms of disease. I do suspect broken bones and the like are adequately treated."

"Why?" Van Lantz continued to look skeptical.

"Because even Riwanians have accidents. And there is no evidence of any deformities or broken limbs which were not adequately treated." 

When Van Lantz said nothing, but appeared only to be thinking intently, Michaels asked, "Anything else, Commander?"

"Only to reinforce Woody's observations on teams. In case of accidents, there appears to be no emergency vehicles or ambulances. When someone is hurt, everyone pitches in as necessary and gets the victim to the health care facility. Once there, they leave everything to The Gods, and go nonchalantly about their business."

Marie asked, "Nonchalantly?"

"Oh, yes. Decidedly so. Once the person is in the hands of The Gods,
everyone figures there is nothing for them to do." Marie continued to look a bit bewildered, causing
Shari to add, "Now I have no evidence that in the event of a really serious accident, where death was a possibility some friends might not hang around to find out if their friend was going to survive."

"Did you suggest to them the presence of emergency vehicles might mean the difference between life and death in some cases?"

"I did, but the priest assured me that any such critical questions were in the hands of The Gods. People acting to snatch someone back from the jaws of death might be considered, according to the priest, to be interfering with the desires of The Gods. Apparently the belief in the Gods is so strong and the people's faith that their Gods will always do what is best for them so intense; that extraordinary efforts at preserving life are just not done. According to the priest, death is part of life. When one has lived a full life, why should one fear death?"

"But what about the children?"

"The children are watched a bit more carefully.  They are kept closer to their schools and to the nearby medical facilities.  Therefore they have much less opportunity to have an accident far from help."

When Marie seemed sufficiently satisfied, or at least could not think of another question, and Shari had indicated she had nothing more to say; Moltz began his report on the Riwanians' religion. "Hopefully, the magnitude of the problem of deciphering the complete structure and detail of the Riwanians' religion is abundantly evident. Clearly the Riwanians' preoccupation with their Gods is the overriding concern in their lives, and dominates whatever is in second place.

"The Riwanians apparently enjoy a very pleasant life, and if what we've been told is true; they owe their health, their basic necessities, and their luxuries to the generosity of their Gods. The Riwanians clearly produce their own food for themselves and the priests, and keep busy in providing themselves with the other essentials. But they always hasten to add that all gifts come from The Gods.

"The impressive point is that the people enjoy an almost complete freedom to do anything they like. Their enormous preoccupation with their Gods pervades their very lives. But amazingly, they do not appear to spend a great deal of time in ceremony or other prescribed religious functions. They simply enjoy life and accept the fact of the good life as a gift from The Gods."

"Aren't there any formal duties or requirements, like attendance at religious services?"

"Apparently not."

Woody smiled a cynical smile. "Does this religious fever predominate throughout the population?"

Moltz thought for a moment. "First, I would not describe it as 'religious fever'. Religion is number one in their lives, but they do not display any hint of religious fanaticism. For example they apparently expect absolutely nothing from us in terms of our acceptance of their Gods. Secondly, the majority appear to be very religious, although a few seem to be a bit more individualistic than the norm. And while these individualists do not appear particularly religious, they are not about to consider that perhaps The Gods are not real."

"In this society of no teams and all individuals, an individualist must really be an extreme."

"I've met one, and he is, as you say, an extreme. His name is Rydax, and he could easily be from another world. His idea of communicating with me was on the order of one or two questions per month. I got the feeling that his attention span was about 5 to 10 seconds or that I personally was singularly uninteresting. But even in the midst of my discussions with this person so loath to discuss anything with anyone, I did receive the impression that to him, The Gods were very real indeed."

There was a momentary pause, before Moltz continued, "The only evidence of a hierarchy I've encountered so far is the apparent authority of the educators and priests. Below them are the people; above them are The Gods. And that's about all that I've discovered thus far. The priests and educators are supposedly at the same level, but carefully distinct and with no formal ties between the two subsets. I have not yet identified how each of the two groups is selected, but apparently there are no novices or subordinates. All of the hierarchy consists of adults of apparently equal and autonomous rank. More evidence of their essential individuality."

"What about that princess, or whoever she was, that we saw at the landing?" Woody asked.

Moltz looked blank for a moment. Then he said, "Good Lord! I forgot to ask."

Michaels frowned slightly before saying, "Go on with your report."

Moltz then noted the question for future reference and went back to his console of notes. Then he laughed slightly. "I think it is noteworthy that The Gods have no individual names. They are 'The Gods', but there is no such-and-such God. Interestingly, the essential individuality of the Riwanians is not carried forth in their religion." For a moment there was no apparent reaction from the other Intrepid crew members. "Well, I thought it was interesting," Rip added, with a smile.

The others smiled, while Michaels said, "Continue."

"Part of our problem in communications has been the lack of the Riwanians ever volunteering information. They will happily answer any question, but they simply do not elaborate. In fact there is no word for 'elaborate' in their language. The importance of this fact extends to more than a means to frustrate our appetites for information. It is linked, I think, to their religion. It seems as if additional elaboration to the Riwanians comes under the category of boasting, a decidedly self-serving gesture. Consequently each of us must make special efforts to ask the right questions, and to follow up on these with clarifications. It may easily take ten to twelve questions in order to get one complete answer because there appears to be a cultural or religious bias against running off at the mouth. The Riwanians will answer all questions very carefully, and very literally, and in the process ask a lot of their own; but will never ramble, or volunteer clarifying information. We will simply have to ask the right questions!!"

Max added, "I must admit that subtlety is certainly not one of their better qualities.  Everything is taken quite literally."

"Exactly. And again that means asking the right question is essential. They will neither volunteer information nor respond in anything but the most literal sense."

Max interjected, "Sounds like the essence of basic research in science. Answers are relatively easy to come by; asking the correct question is what's tough."

Agreeing Moltz went on. "The connection with their religion or moral code is that to ramble-on would imply they are attempting to draw attention to themselves by their knowledge, and their sense of Gods-induced independence would never allow this. They appear to avoid like the plague any hint of seeking or soliciting praise."

"What do you mean by, 'Gods-induced independence'?" Michaels asked.

"I have no concrete evidence, but I get a strong feeling that individuality, independence, and the non-concept of team is as a direct result of a code, one imposed by The Gods. The priests have certainly conveyed the impression that The Gods would frown heavily on any concerted action by more than one person. If this is the case, then The Gods directly or indirectly contribute to the low level of technology."

"Now that I do find interesting," Woody responded.

"Elaborate on how their independence prevents complete answers," Michaels commanded.

"This gets a bit complicated, but I'll try." Moltz took a breath and continued -- his brow furrowed deeply in thought. "The Riwanians always do things for the value they receive directly, and never for the praise they might receive from others. As an independent individual, the praise from others would be questionable, somewhat in the spirit of sharing credit. I.e., it's not done. There are, in fact, no testimonials, no rewards for the best of anything. If the person cannot receive his reward for an action directly and wholly within himself, then he avoids the action. This has the benefit of no one ever attempting to impress another, or to take some action purely for the potential praise they might receive.”

"No testimonials seem to be a benefit also," Max commented. "I never could stand those testimonials and mutual-admiration societies."

Moltz smiled, "There are apparently a few minor exceptions. You will recall the Riwanians' applause on our arrival. For exceptional achievements by individuals, a Riwanian may applaud; but it's strictly an individual decision. On the other hand there appears to be one single instance where applause and some praise, in the form of songs is expected if not demanded. And that case is when the Riwanians wish to honor the Chosen."

"Who are the Chosen?" Shari asked.

Moltz raised his eyebrows. "No idea. I'm not even sure the term refers to a person. All I know is they do have a clear, specific directive for honoring the Chosen, and to keep this praise, or this gift -- as one of the priests called it -- in order to keep this gift a true gift of value, the Riwanians do not praise others or other acts in this fashion. A testimonial for anyone else would diminish the uniqueness of the honor for the Chosen, and this is something which is strictly taboo."

When the others only looked thoughtful, Moltz continued, "In talking to the priests, I picked up one very important concept, one that could easily be carved in stone, as the 'Code of the Riwanians', and that was: 'UNIQUENESS IMPLIES VALUE'. Something unique is valuable; something common place has a more limited' value. Diamonds are valuable because of their rarity; sand is cheap because it's plentiful. The key to value is the uniqueness. To praise a minor act, for whatever justification or reason, reduces the value of the praise. And when the truly praise worthy occurs, there would simply be no way to adequately praise the exceptional act."

"Uniqueness is just another way of defining the value of the individual, don't you think?" Kat asked.

"Absolutely," Rip smiled back.

"Anything else?" Michaels asked.

"Just one thing; which ties in with some of the other observations. The
Riwanians have a society where each adult individual is apparently allowed and even encouraged, to do their own thing -- although within the confines of a very liberal law system. The result is chaotic 'in social or governmental terms."

"And chaos implies greater stability," Max smiled.

"Precisely," Rip agreed. "The minimum organizational structure, in terms of schools, religion, and laws requires the minimum energy input to maintain it." For just a moment, Rip glanced at Van Lantz. Then, "This minimal energy input requirement causing as a consequence the stability of their society has been referred to by the priests, as 'One of the Greatest Gifts of The Gods'."

"A gift, you say. They credit The Gods even for the basic organization of their society," Max asked?

"Definitely," Moltz confirmed.

"That's really no surprise," Van Lantz said. "They attribute everything to The Gods."

"Not quite." Moltz turned again to Van Lantz. "They are careful to call the garden Woody showed us earlier, by the name of the builder. They credit The Gods for the grass and the flowers, but the garden is Mondren's."

"Perhaps." Van Lantz was clearly not convinced. For a moment he just sat there; something still nagging at this mind. Shaking his head, "I just have trouble accepting this Utopia, this Garden of Eden."

Moltz smiled. "You're not alone. I keep expecting to find the snake in the grass, myself."

Kat frowned. "You're all cynics. Why can't this be Utopia? I'm not saying it is.  We don't have enough information yet. But perhaps, just perhaps, it is. And who knows, the snake in the grass may not even be recognizable as such to our cultural bias."

Van Lantz added, "There's an old saying which pretty well describes a universal truth: 'There ain't no free lunch!' Somewhere, somehow, you have to pay for what you receive. Kat may be right, in that the Riwanians may be paying for a free ride in such a way they do not look at it as a payment, and we, on the other hand, might find it an unacceptable price."

Kat's face took on a serious look, before she began to speak. "Perhaps the price the Riwanians are paying is the lack of lasting social relationships. They may not have enemies, but then they may have no friends either. And while they may not be required to obligate themselves to others, they may also miss out on the joys of making strong commitments to people." When the others made no immediate comment, Kat glanced downward and added, "Individualism may be nice in that the individual without ties to others can do pretty much what they want. But they can also be lonely as hell."

For several long moments, no one said anything. They were all very much individuals themselves, and as a consequence they had all been lonely at one time or the other.

Then Van Lantz added a complementary thought, "Without team work, there is no esprit de corps."

Woody, talking primarily to himself, added, "Growing old without a mate, might be more than lonely."

Shari sat still for several moments, her countenance a bit sad. Quietly she said, "Marriage or other similar commitments have never been a guarantee against loneliness. All too often a member of a team can be effectively ostracized by the other team members. But may also find themselves in a position where they can not even sever their relationship with the others, and as a consequence must continue to bear whatever pain the others care to inflict. And while I suspect Larry is correct about an unfortunate lack of esprit de corps, I have seen very little evidence of loneliness among the Riwanians. They are constantly gathering together for impromtu social events."

When the others looked at Shari questioning her idea, she continued on with a bit more aggressiveness. "The important thing in their social gatherings is the variety of one-on-one relationships, coupled with the constant renewing of older and dearer friendships. Every Riwanian has a large variety of close friends."

Kat interrupted, "But just meeting people is not the same as getting to really know them."

Shari smiled, "But you forget one thing. The Riwanians are not looking for permanent relationships. Consequently they are much more open in their social interactions."

Kat smiled sheepishly. "You haven't quite convinced me as yet. But I'll have to do some thinking before we continue our little discussion."

The others laughed, while Max, a bit more sober, said, "Both of you have some good points. We'll simply have to spend more time looking into this aspect of the Riwanians." Then as an afterthought, he added, "There is no motivation for progress, and consequently no progress; perhaps that's their Achilles Heel."

Moltz gently answered, "On the other hand, individual definitions for progress implies the need if not the desirability for individual goals, individual methods, and individual motivations. There's no need for society to progress if the individual is free to progress by himself. Better yet, the individual is also better equipped to determine just what he considers as progress. He does not have to accept someone else's definition of progress or happiness or whatever.  It’s the ultimate of internal validation – and a total lack of external validation."

Van Lantz smiled as he quoted, "Freedom is having a cage whose bars are further away than one cares to fly".

Moltz shook his head in agreement. "Plus, the common goal is the sum of the individual's goals. The only legitimate purpose of any government is to eliminate the need for itself."

Michaels immediately recognized the credo of one of earth's multiple political parties in the last statement, and saw the reaction of several others as well. Quickly he said, "If you're finished, Rip; we'll move on to agriculture."

Van Lantz picked up on the Captain's suggestion with only a momentary pause to allow for Moltz's acknowledgement. Then as the consoles came back to life with a series of farming scenes, Lt. Van Lantz began, "Farming is based on spirals. The individual is invariably also a farmer; somewhat in the tradition of the Incas of Earth. Their word for work was the same as for farm. Apparently the same applies here. The individual farmer selects an irrigation outlet, usually a natural spring near to his home and begins plowing in ever-larger circles, until he has enough plowed ground to accommodate his needs. The size of the circles tend to vary slightly depending on the farmer's preference for different types of food and the space necessary to grow that type of food. There is some equipment with which to make the farming easier, but the equipment is fairly rudimentary, and thus the farming is fairly time consuming on the active days of planting and harvesting.

"There is a minimum of parasites and destructive insects. The Riwanians ignore what little there is, so that they use no pesticides or insect control measures. The idea is to live and let live, I am told. Additionally the exceptionally rich soil in the local area means there are no fertilization requirements. The end result is farming with a minimum of effort.

"There is no apparent land ownership, but the people do sometimes trade in food on a bartering basis. No money changes hands and the bartering is low key, with most crops having a previously specified value.  A portion of each crop is also set aside and gifted to The Gods, primarily at the religious centers, schools, and hospitals – in other words, the priests, educators, and students are provided with all the obvious needs. 

"Generally each individual produces some of every possible crop or vegetable which he enjoys himself. The trading becomes important not because there is any specialization in crops by one person, but because the plantings of different crops are staggered in time. The minimal fluctuation in seasonal climatic changes allows for virtual year-round harvesting."

"I have been unable as yet to gather any reasonably reliable information on other areas of the planet with respect to the fertility of the soil, etc. At the same time I have no evidence to suggest that will be significant differences."

Turning and looking up at Michaels, "The rest of the formal report is on the console. Are there any questions?"  

When there were none, Michaels turned back to Van Lantz and asked, "Anything to add?"

"One item, somewhat outside my specialty," Van Lantz answered. "I'll put it on the console, and let everyone make their own judgments." The console screen showed Van Lantz as he approached a Riwanian. The Riwanian was in the process of hitting a round ball against an irregular wall with a small cup-like racket, and then hitting it again after one bounce on the grassy area in front of the wall. It was not unlike someone practicing tennis against a wall. But because of the unpredictability of the ball coming off the irregular surface of the wall, the apparent game kept the Riwanian moving with considerable agility. Larry watched the game for several moments, until the Riwanian took notice of him. Then almost abruptly, the Riwanian let the ball bounce off and he turned to Van Lantz. "Greetings, I am called Arcanz. Did you wish to ask a question or seek direction?"

"Yes, a question, thank you. I am called Van Lantz. I was interested in your game or sport."


"Yes. I wondered how it was played."

"Oh?" Arcanz seemed puzzled, as if the question made no sense. Then shrugging his shoulders, and looking at the wall, he answered, "I hit ball toward wall with racket. When the ball bounces back from the wall, I try to hit ball back toward wall again. I keep hitting ball until I miss." Arcanz turned to Larry for a moment, his eyes seeming to say, 'Isn't it obvious?"

Larry forged on. "Are there any rules to the game? Can more than one person play?"

"Why rules? I play as I wish. Rules are made by The Gods. Why should they make rules for my leisure?"

"Rules would allow others to play the same game with you and under the same conditions."

"Why would others play my game? Wall is not big enough. We would run into each other."

"You could get a bigger wall."

"Why? This wall is big enough for me."

"But to allow someone else to play with you."

"If another wants to play, he plays when I finish."

Larry frowned slightly; Arcanz continued to look perplexed. Then Larry took a different tack. "Are there sports where two or more can play?"

"Oh yes. Anyone can play any sport that they desire."

"At the same time?"

"Certainly. Why not?"


"Why together?"

"To compete against each other; to determine who plays best."

"But how can you compare how different people play, when they play as they wish?"

"That's why the sport or game would have rules. Thus each person would play under the same rules, the same conditions."

"But each person would have differing talents. Therefore they could not play under the same conditions."

"But the rules allow you to determine which is best at a particular sport or game."

"But whoever selects the rules would most likely prove to be the best." Arcanz looked at Larry's belt translator in total bewilderment. Then he looked back at Larry. "Perhaps, words are not clear. I understand only you wish to determine who plays best. Why would you want this? Has it any value?"

Larry watched him for a moment. Then, "It is a way to improve one's ability to play."

For a moment Arcanz seemed to understand. "I suppose I improve my ability by playing. But why is such improvement necessary? For what purpose do I improve? There is no practical value in being able to hit ball back; it is only the exercise and enjoyment I receive while doing it." When Larry did not immediately respond, Arcanz asked, "And why should it be necessary for me to compare myself with others. If I said I was best, would not the other be required to say that he is less? Why would you want such a thing?"

No competition, Larry thought; try something else. Then, "Do you have games where one person throws the ball to another, and then the second person throws it back to the first?"

"Arcanz thought a moment, seeming to understand again.  "I think I understand now. To play together, you mean two people take turns throwing the ball?"

"Yes, that's it exactly."

"I see. An interesting idea." Then, as if a decision had been made, "I don't think so. I throw ball against wall to amuse myself. But to throw ball against another person might result in injury to them."

"But the other person would try to catch the ball, just as you try to hit the ball coming off the wall."

"But a person's ability to catch the ball would depend upon the other person's ability to throw the ball. And I am sure I could throw the ball so you could not catch it."

"But you could also throw the ball so that another could catch it."

"Perhaps. But not consistently. I might make a mistake, throw it wrong, and you might be hurt by my mistake. Such an action could generate strife, and I could be held responsible."

"Then you do not have any such games?"

Arcanz squinted slightly as he looked at Larry. "Games to hurt each other?"

"No. Games where two people play the same game together." Then quickly, as an afterthought, "Games where one person helps another." Arcanz thought intensely for several moments. "I don't think so. If another person needs help, it is not a game. If a person plays a game, he does not need help. Understand?"

The console blanked off, as Larry made the quick summary, "No team sports, no competitive sports, and no sports as we know it."

"Apparently," Max said.

"Very interesting," Moltz added. "Fanatical individualism."

"Let's continue," Michaels interrupted. Then he simply looked toward Stevens.

Kat immediately brightened, "Education/Family Report. The children spend four years as infants and/or preschoolers, then four years of 'initial schooling'. This is followed by four years of religious training which includes many of the basic subjects as well. Finally they receive four years of education at essentially a secondary school level where they learn a multitude of trades. The trades involve forms of food production and supporting activities, plus carpentry, plumbing, and so forth. In addition they are introduced to a more liberal education ranging from art and landscaping to physics and geometry. By the time they are 16, they are considered adults.

"Their educational system is largely based on 'discovery methods', interlaced with a careful, rote learning of the 'Rules of The Gods'. These 'Rules', incidentally do not appear to be written down anywhere, but constitute the oral traditions of the race."

"Do they have any formal education beyond the age of 16?"

"No. They are expected as adults to continue to learn and study, and to
continue their education. But the adult education is exclusively informal and based on the inclinations of the individual. Apparently the childhood education system gives them a good basis for self-motivated education after the age of 16."

Woody interrupted, "The fact they receive only 12 years of formal education, and at a relatively early age; also explains why their technology doesn't change. There would be no time to educate children to any new advances in science and engineering."

"Apparently there is little effort to even attempt to incorporate new technology," Kat answered. "New discoveries may be reported to the priests and/or written down, but The Gods essentially allow for only a slow accumulation of knowledge, and even then, only after some time has elapsed. What the priests consider the 'Installation of New Knowledge' is slowly and subtly entered into the society and the educational structure. Even then the new information may remain unread and effectively hidden in the libraries and books for years."

"One gets the feeling the priests are holding out on the people."

"I'm not quite sure. The way they explain it is that science and technology are free for all to question, to discover (or rather, rediscover), to investigate for one's own sake; and not for a select few who have managed to absorb all the previous discoveries and who can be considered to be on the fore front of knowledge. This way countless numbers may discover Archimedes' Principle, and each enjoy his or her own reward. Because the Principle is not so advanced that it takes fifteen or twenty years of preparation to get there; almost anyone can reach it with a bit of luck. And inasmuch as any honor or reward for the 'original inventor' by their contemporaries is non-existent, there is no concern that Archimedes' Principle be attributed to Archimedes in the first place."

"You know," Woody interjected, "That makes a lot of sense. When I was a kid, I made a homemade telescope. And I can still remember the thrill that I got when I looked at Saturn, and was able to just make out the rings. I knew about them of course and had seen countless pictures. But seeing them in my own way was one of the biggest thrills in my life."

Marie grinned, "It's a helluva way to run a planet."

"Oh, I don't know. It seems very individually ideal to me. And it does provide for the all important control of their lives." When no one said anything in response, Kat wondered if they were following her argument. When several looked as if they had missed the point, she began to explain. "As you may be aware, there is a growing agreement among earth sciences that the basic drives of man to preserve life and to acquire food and shelter may also need extension to include a basic drive of man to control his destiny. It now appears to be a universal truth that the control of one's destiny is the prime motivation for most all actions. Control of one's life is thus more important than having one's life provided for. People don't just want food given to them; they want to be able to demand it.

"It would appear to me the basic ‘Control Drive Theory’ would apply to the Riwanians. By educating their children so as to provide them with a strong but very basic foundation; by not force feeding the young with already 'established' knowledge, and instead letting them discover much of the glories of the world by themselves; they do not deny to their children, the essential joys associated with discovery."

No one seemed to take the bait on Kat's favorite argument. After a momentary pause, Michaels asked, "Anything else to add to your report, Stevens."

Kat frowned slightly, "No sir."

"Very well. I think it is abundantly clear we've barely scratched the surface on understanding these people. The priests clearly have an overriding importance, which we must concentrate on. By the same token, we must do nothing to offend or infringe upon their prerogatives. For the next several days, I want to concentrate more heavily on the social structure, and less on the physical attributes of the planet. It is much more critical that we learn how to deal with their society than their ecology. We're not likely to run aground on any physical problems or to be eaten by any large carnivores. But we still have ample opportunity to turn the hierarchy against us, and that appears to be the priests. All indications are that they are the ones with the power. So we must quickly learn how to deal with that directly.

“We'll postpone the technical trip to the suspected industrial site for now. If it's purely technical, then there's no hurry.  With respect to the social organization of the Riwanians, I want some answers before we tackle what may be a substantial increase in our contact with the powers that be. Are there any questions?"

There were none.


Copyright 1983, 1996, 2003 Dan Sewell Ward

Chapter Three -- First Contact

Forward to:

Chapter Five -- The Funny Bone



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