and degenerated into a rough trail for ground vehicles soon after
that. "How many people are there on this planet?" I asked my driver.
He never took his eyes from the road. "Two and a half million, last
census," he said, with great respect.
That explained things, of course. As the population grew, the cities
would expand and the forests would go under. It had happened on Earth,
and on every settled planet. As recently as 1850, for instance, large
tracts of New York City, where I make my home, were farm and forest;
why, in 1960 the population was only about eight million, and they
thought the place had reached its height.
Wohlen had only begun its drive to citify the planet. Give it another
hundred and fifty years and the guerrillas couldn't exist, for simple
lack of any place to hide and to live independently.
Unfortunately, the Government didn't have a hundred and fifty years.
Judging from what I'd seen, the Government didn't have a hundred and
fifty days. Rationing was in force at all the markets we'd passed on
the way out, and there seemed to be a lot of cops. That's always a bad
sign; it means normal processes are beginning to break down and
anarchy is creeping in.
I thought about it. Three months was an outside limit. If I couldn't
finish the job in three months, it might as well never be finished.
It's always nice to have a deadline, I told myself.
The car stopped at a place in the road that looked like any other
place in the road. I got out, adjusted my knapsack and started away
from the road, into the jungle that bordered it. The hypno I'd taken
had told me there were farms scattered through the jungle, but I
didn't know exactly where, and I didn't even want to find out. The
knapsack was heavy, but I decided I could stand the weight.
In five minutes I was surrounded by jungle, without any quick way to
tell me where the road had been. There was a trail, and maybe human
beings had used it, but it was no more than a scratch in the
That was green, like Earth's, and mostly spiny. I managed to scratch
myself twice and then I learned to duck. After that the time went by
slowly. I just kept walking, without much of an idea where I was
going. After a couple of hours I was good and lost, which was just
what I wanted. It was starting to get dark, so I took the opportunity
of building a fire. I dug in my knapsack and found some food and
started to cook it. I was still watching it heat up when I heard the
noise behind me.
Those boys were good. He'd sneaked up through the jungle and come
within a foot of me without my hearing him. I jumped up just as if I
hadn't expected him and whirled around to face him.
He had his heater out and was covering me with it. I didn't reach for
anything; I just watched him. He was a big man, almost as tall as I
was and solidly built, with a jaw like a bulldog's and tiny, sparklingDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>