Lost on Venus

Chapter 14 - Havatoo

Edgar Rice Burroughs

THEY were all very polite and pleasant, very professional and efficient. First we were bathed; then blood tests were made, our hearts examined, our blood pressure taken, our reflexes checked. After that we were ushered into a large room where five men sat behind a long table.

Ero Shan accompanied us throughout the examination. Like the others, he was always pleasant and friendly. He encouraged us to hope that we would pass the examination successfully. Even yet I did not understand what it was all about. I asked Ero Shan.

“Your companion remarked upon the beauty of Havatoo and its people,” he replied. “This examination is the explanation of that beauty—and of many other things here which you do not yet know of.”

The five men seated behind the long table were quite as pleasant as any of the others we had met. They questioned us rapidly for fully an hour and then dismissed us. From the questions propounded I judged that one of them was a biologist, another a psychologist, one a chemist, the fourth a physicist, and the fifth a soldier.

“Korgan Sentar Ero Shan,” said he who appeared to be the head of the examining board, “you will take custody of the man until the result of the examination is announced. Hara Es will take charge of the girl.” He indicated a woman who had entered the room with us and had been standing beside Nalte.

The latter pressed closer to me. “Oh, Carson! They are going to separate us,” she whispered.

I turned toward Ero Shan to expostulate, but he motioned me to be silent. “You will have to obey,” he said, “but I think you have no reason to worry.”

Then Nalte was led away by Hara Es, and Ero Shan took me with him. A car was waiting for Ero Shan, and in it we were driven into a district of beautiful homes. Presently the car drew up in front of one of these and stopped.

“This is my home,” said my companion. “You will be my guest here until the result of the examination is announced. I wish you to enjoy yourself while you are with me. Do not worry; it will do no good. Nalte is safe. She will be well cared for.”

“At least they have provided me with a beautiful prison and a pleasant jailer,” I remarked.

“PIease do not think of yourself as a prisoner,” begged Ero Shan. “It will make us both unhappy, and unhappiness is not to be tolerated in Havatoo.”

“I am far from unhappy,” I assured him. “On the contrary, I am greately enjoying the experience, but I still cannot understand what crime is charged against Nalte and me that we should have been put on trial for our lives.”

“It was not you who were on trial; it was your heredity,” he explained.

“An answer,” I assured him, “that leaves me as much at sea as I was before.”

We had entered the house as we were conversing, and I found myself amid as lovely surroundings as I have ever seen. Good taste and good judgment had evidently dictated, not only the design of the house, but its appointments as well. From the entrance there was a vista of shrubbery and flowers and trees in a beautiful garden at the end of a wide hall.

It was to this garden that Ero Shan led me and then to an apartment that opened upon it.

“You will ind everything here for your convenience and comfort,” he said. “I shall detail a man to wait upon you; he will be courteous and efficient. But he will also be responsible for your presence when it is again required at the Central Laboratories.

“And now,” he said, seating himself in a chair near a window, “let me try to answer your last question more explicitly.”

“Havatoo and the race that inhabits it are the result of generations of scientific culture. Originally we were a people ruled by hereditary jongs that various factions sought to dominate for their own enrichment and without consideration for the welfare of the remainder of the people.

“If we had a good jong who was also a strong character we were well ruled; otherwise the politicians misruled us. Half of our people lived in direst poverty, in vice, in filth; and they bred like flies. The better classes, refusing to bring children into such a world, dwindled rapidly. Ignorance and mediocrity ruled.

“Then a great jong came to the throne. He abrogated all existing laws and government and vested both in himself. Two titles have been conferred upon him—one while he lived, the other after his death. The first was Mankar the Bloody; the second, Mankar the Savior.

“He was a great warrior, and he had the warrior class behind him. With what seemed utter ruthlessness he wiped out the politicians, and to the positions many of them had filled he appointed the greatest minds of Havatoo—physicists, biologists, chemists, and psychologists.

“He encouraged the raising of children by people whom these scientists passed as fit to raise children, and he forbade all others to bear children. He saw to it that the physically, morally, or mentally defective were rendered incapable of bringing their like into the world; and no defective infant was allowed to live.

“Then, before his death, he created a new form of government—a government without laws and without a king. He abdicated his throne and relinquished the destinies of Havatoo to a quintumvirate that but guides and judges.

“Of these five men one is a sentar (biologist), one an ambad (psychologist), one a kalto (chemist), one a kantum (physicist), and one a korgan (soldier). This quintumvirate is called Sanjong (literally, five-king), and the fitness of its members to serve is determined by examinations smiliar to that which was given you. These examinations are held every two years. Any citizen may take them; any citizen may become one of the Sanjong. It is the highest honor to which a citzen of Havatoo may win, and he may only achieve it through actual merit.”

“And these men make the laws and administer justice,” I remarked.

Ero Shan shook his head. “There are no laws in Havatoo,” he replied. “During the many generations since Mankar we have bred a race of rational people who know the difference between right and wrong, and for such no rules of behaviour are necessary. The Sangjong merely guides.”

“Do you have any difficulty in finding the proper men to form the Sanjong?” I asked.

“None whatever. There are thousands of men in Havatoo capable of serving with honor and distinction. There is a tendency to breed Sanjongs among five of the six classes into which the people of Havatoo are naturally divided.

“When you become more familiar with the city you will discover that the semicircular area facing the Central Laboratories is divided into five sections. The section next to the river and above the Central Laboratories is called Kantum. Here reside the physicists. There are no caste distinctions between the physicists and any of the other five classes, but because they all live in the same district and because their sociate with one another than with members of other classes. The result is that they more often mate with their own kind—the laws of heredity do the rest, and the breed of physicists in Havatoo is constantly improving.

“The next district is Kalto; here live the chemists. The center district is Korgan, the district in which I dwell. It is reserved for the warrior class. Next comes Ambad, the section where the psychologists live; and, last, Sentar, for the biologists, lies along the water front and down the river from the Central Laboratories.

“Havatoo is laid out like the half of a wagon wheel, with the Central Laboratories at the hub. The main sections of the city are bounded by four concentric semicircles. Inside the first is the civic center, where the Central Laboratories are situated; this I have called the hub. Between this and the next semicircle lie the five sub districts. I have just described. Between this and the third semicircle lies the largest district, called Yorgan; here dwell the common people. And in the fourth section, a narrow strip just inside the outer wall, are the shops, markets, and factories.”

“It is all most interesting,” I said, “and to me the most interesting part of it is that the city is governed without laws.”

“Without man-made laws,” Ero Shan corrected me. “We are governed by natural laws with which all intelligent people are conversant. Of course occasionally a citizen commits an act that is harmful to another or to the peace of the city, for the genes of vicious and nonconformist characteristics have not all been eradicated from the germ cells of all of the citizens of Havatoo.

“If one commits an act that is subversive of the rights of others or of the general welfare of the community he is tried by a court that is not hampered by technicalities nor precedent, and which, taking into consideration all of the facts in the case, including the heredity of the defendant, reaches a decision that is final and without appeal.”

“It seems rather drastic to punish a man for the acts of his ancestors,” I remarked.

“But let me remind you that we do not punish,” explained Ero Shan. “We only seek to improve the race to the end that we shall attain the greatest measure of happiness and contentment.”

“Havatoo, with no bad people in it, must be an ideal city in which to live,” I said.

“Oh, there are some bad people,” replied Ero Shan, “for there are bad genes in all of us; but we are a very intelligent race, and the more intelligent people are the better able are they to control their bad impulses. Occasionally strangers enter Havatoo, bad men from the city across the river. How they accomplish it is a mystery that has never been solved, but we know that they come and steal a man or a woman occasionally. Sometimes we catch them, and when we do we destroy them. Rarely, our own people commit crimes, usually crimes of passion; but occasionally one commits a premediated crime. The latter are a menace to the race and are not permitted to survive and transmit their characteristics to future generations or influence the present by their bad examples.”

“As he ceased speaking a very powerfully built man came to the door of the room. “You sent for me, Korgan Sentar Ero Shan?” he asked.

“Come in, Herlak,” said Ero Shan. Then he turned to me. “Herlak will serve and guard you until the result of the examination is announced. You will find him an efficient and pleasant companion.

“Herlak,” he continued, addressing my guard, “this man is a stranger in Havatoo. He has just been before the examining board. You will be responsible for him until the board’s decision has been announced. His name is Carson Napier.”

The man inclined his head. “I understand,” he said.

“You will both dine with me in an hour,” Ero Shan announced as he took his departure.

“If you would like to rest before dinner,” said Herlak, “there is a couch in the next room.”

I went in and lay down, and Herlak came and sat in a chair in the same room. It was evident that he was not going to let me get out of his sight. I was tired, but not sleepy; so I started a conversation with Herlak.

“Are you employed in Ero Shan’s house?” I asked.

“I am a soldier in the unit he commands,” he explained.

“An officer?”

“No, a common soldier.”

“But he asked you to dine with him. In my world officers do not mingle socially with common soldiers.”

Herlak laughed. “Similar social conditions prevailed in Havatoo ages ago,” he said, “but not now. There are no social distinctions. We are all far too intelligent, too cultured, and too sure of ourselves to need artificial conventions to determine our importance. Whether a man cleans a street or is a member of the Sanjong is not so important as is how he performs the duties of his position, his civic morality, and his culture.

“In a city where all are intelligent and cultured all men must be more or less companionable, and an officer suffers no loss of authority by mingling with his men socially.”

“But don’t the soldiers take advantage of this familiarity to impose upon their officers?” I asked.

Herlak looked his surprise. “Why should they?” he demanded. “They know their duties as well as the officer knows his; and it is the aim in life of every good citizen to do his duty, not to evade it.”

I shook my head as I thought of the mess that Earthmen have made of government and civilization by neglecting to apply to the human race the simple rules which they observe to improve the breeds of dogs and cows and swine.

“Do the various classes mingle to the extent of intermarrying?” I asked.

“Of course,” replied Herlak. “It is thus that we maintain the high moral and mental standards of the people. Were it otherwise, the yorgans must deteriorate while the several other classes diverged so greatly from one another that eventually they would have nothing in common and no basis for mutual understanding and regard.”

We talked of many things during that hour while we awaited dinner, and this common soldier of Havatoo discussed the sciences and the arts with far greater understanding and appreciation than I myself possessed. I asked him if he was particularly well educated, and he said that he was not—that all the men and women of Havatoo were schooled alike to a certain point, when a series of elaborate examinations determined the calling for which they were best fitted and in which they would find the greatest happiness.

“But where do you find your street cleaners?” I asked.

“You speak as though some reproach might attach to that calling,” he remonstrated.

“But it is work that many might find distasteful,” I argued.

“Necessary and useful work is never distasteful to the man best fitted to do it. Of course, highly intelligent people prefer creative work, and so these necessary but more or less mechnical duties, which, by the way, are usually done by means of mechanical contrivances in Havatoo, never become the permanent calling of any man. Any one can do them; so every one takes his turn—that is, every one in the yorgan class. It is his contribution to the public welfare—a tax paid in useful labor.”

And now a girl came to summon us to dinner. She was a very lovely girl; her saronglike garment was of fine material, her ornaments of great beauty.

“A member of Ero Shan’s family?” I asked Herlak after she had left.

“She is employed in his house,” replied Herlak. “Korgan Sentar Ero Shan has no family.”

I had heard this Korgan Sentar title attached to Ero Shan’s name previously, and had wondered relative to its significance. The two words mean warrior biologist, but they made no sense to me as a title. I questioned Herlak concerning them as we crossed the garden in response to the summons to dinner.

“The title means that he is both a warrior and a biologist; he has passed examinations admitting him to both classes. The fact that he is a member of one of the other four classes as well as a Korgan makes him an officer and eligible to the title. We common soldiers would not care to serve under any but a brilliant man; and believe me it takes a brilliant man to pass the entrance examination to any of the scientific classes, for he has to pass creditably even in the three to which he is not seeking elevation.”

Herlak led me to a large apartment where I saw Ero Shan, three other men, and six women laughing and talking together. There was a suggestion of a lull in the conversation as we entered the room, and interested glances were cast in my direction. Ero Shan came forward to meet me and then introduced me to the others.

I should have enjoyed that dinner, with its marvelous food and sparkling conversation, and the kindness showed me by the other guests, but I could not rid my mind of a suspicion that their kindness might be prompted by pity—that they might share my doubt as to my ability to pass the hereditary test.

They knew, as well as I did, that the shadow of death was hovering over me. I thought of Duare, and hoped she was safe.

Lost on Venus - Contents    |     Chapter 15 - The Judgment

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