Aboard the Alien Spacecraft

"Good God!"

Miriam's exclamation so early in the morning reflected both surprise and repulsion. In answer to my repeated knocking signals, the huge, round platform had risen again above the surface of the water and now, in broad daylight, the sight was much more impressive.


The slightly domed platform lay, just as it had yesterday evening, with its edge level with the surface of the water. Its surface was for the most part as smooth as polished stone and dark gray in color with scattered patches of off white which made it appear as though someone had been throwing around bags of flour.


Over this otherwise perfectly smooth surface ran innumerable ragged, charred grooves which ended in a small crater, as though something had exploded there. Nearly all the scratches and grooves ran in one direction and gave the impression that the spaceship had been grazed by enemy fire or that someone had been at work with a blow torch.


All in all, it was an ominous sight, and Miriam's reaction was not very reasoning.

"Stef, please don't go. Something as alien as that can only spell trouble for Us all."

She was right, of course.


There was something wrong about entering this thing, but even the latent fear from last evening and the leaden feeling in my stomach brought on by the sight of this forbidding platform were not enough to hold me back. A few moments later I was sitting on the edge of the platform, drying my feet after wading through the water, I donned my shoes and socks and, armed with sandwiches, thermos and note paper, I began to look for the opening that they had described.


I had hardly taken a couple of steps when a round, safe-like door slowly began to open near the edge and a small quantity of sand and water which had settled in the joint was blown away by a stream of compressed air. I went closer and looked down through a round hole, about three feet in diameter, into a cube-shaped space about eight feet across.


Once again, I heard the voice.

"Welcome on board. Be careful as you come below. The ladder is dangerous for you."

Indeed, the "ladder" was nothing more than a pole with staggered steps on either side formed to place my feet.


I stopped in my descent and waved to Miriam, saying,

"Don't worry. I'll be back around five o'clock. The reception has been very friendly, and it's really quite cozy in here."

Once below, I cast my eyes around the room. Unimaginably complicated equipment lined the walls and the ceiling.


The only things that were vaguely familiar were huge reels and drums, wound with every possible size of cable and pipe. In the floors was a metal door that looked remarkably earthly, with a round knob in the middle over which I nearly stumbled. In one corner stood a kind of desk with rows of knobs, and above, a panoramic screen, about five feet long and three feet high, that glowed with a soft green fluorescent light. Behind the desk stood a strangely normal-looking chair with a metal frame and leather upholstery.

The voice invited me to sit and explained that the seat had unlimited possibilities for adjustment but that certain instructions from the voice would be necessary before I could be comfortably seated.

"Yes, thank you. What happens now?"

"Introductions would seem to be the best way to start. Will you answer a few questions?"

"Yes, of course."

"How should we address you?" "Call me Stef."

"All right, Stef. The language we speak is not your own language, although it seems to be. It is the language of all living species in this universe. Even a plant or an animal will understand it. This language was spoken on Earth before the Babylonian confusion of tongues. You don't hear words but sounds that are directly reflected by your emotional structure, the life-field. Therefore, don't try to understand words, but listen to the reflections of your soul."

"Is that a kind of thought transference?"

"Not exactly, but you can compare it with that."

"I understand."

"How old are you?"

"I am forty-three."

"Are you in good health?"

"Yes, perfect."

"Have you a high social function?"

"High? What do you mean by high? I am the director of a business with a few hundred employees."

"So you are a representative of the directing class of the Westblock?"

"I don't quite understand the question. What do you mean by Westblock?"

"Let Us ask, then: are you a supporter of a free economy?"

"Yes, without a doubt."

"Now it is your turn. Would you perhaps like to see Us from dose up?"

I tensed involuntarily, and my heart began to beat faster.

"I am afraid that I will get a shock if I see you."

"That is true. Nothing is more intense than a visual confrontation with another intelligent race. Do you feel strong enough not to panic?"

"Now that I know that I have nothing to fear from you, I will not panic."

"You certainly have nothing to fear from us; on the contrary, we are indebted to you. Look through the window to the right of the screen. When we turn on the light, you will be able to look into our navigation room. Ready? Right, then, here we go."

I looked into a huge, round chamber, about forty-five feet across and nine feet high.


From the decompression chamber I could see over the greatest part of the navigation area, with its vast contents of instruments and control panels.


Strangely, all the instruments and panels were mounted on the floor with walkways alongside and separated by vertical metal grills that reached the roof. Everything was dark blue in color, almost black, causing a very strange lighting effect.


The dominating blue-black surfaces acted as an almost invisible background against which all the white or polished metal knobs, handles and instruments stood out in dear relief as though luminous. The encompassing vertical wall of the dome looked as though it was made of glass; the highly polished material reflected strongly and gave a very strange lighting effect from the reflections. On many of the panels diversely colored lights burned, interposed by dark transparent strips on which flashes or darting lines could be seen.


An imposing piece of technology.


I suddenly realized that there was no sign of life whatsoever.

"Well, where are you, then?"

"Prepare yourself. You may see Us now."

A light came on illuminating an area directly in front of the window. I sprang back!


In spite of my mental preparation, the paralyzing fear had returned quite suddenly and cold shivers ran over my scalp, through my neck and over my shoulders. On the other side of the window, in a half circle as though at a conference table, sat eight strange humanoid beings.


Their faces and forms radiated as much primitive animal power as haughty intelligence superiority.


I felt again the uncertainty of yesterday, a reaction to their obvious superiority and self-assurance. I am convinced that any intelligent man would have felt the same, and that this reaction is a part of our makeup. The same feeling that I did not belong here, that even these steel walls could not protect me from the mental impact made by this intelligent "pressure group" from a much higher level of civilization and development, with their fantastic knowledge, belonging to a strange, distant world.


Their unearthly, somewhat animal, faces, with a dynamic expressive ability, emphasized the difference in our places of origin to such an extent that I am convinced it touches areas that to Us are still taboo, and which have been since time began. When you are unable to draw, how on earth can you expect someone else to draw a face that he has never dreamed existed? How can you create a portrait with words?


My friend, Rudolf Das, who accepted the task of drawing the pictures of this book, was driven nearly to distraction by my dubious attempts to produce a good likeness, one which would demonstrate their superiority. He finally convinced me that even a photograph would not effectively convey what I had in mind. The facial expressions must be left, unhappily, to the imagination of the reader.

It was the hypnotic effect of their eyes, with their large, rectangular pupils) that made the deepest impression on me. They were the thoughtful, peaceful eyes of deep philosophical thinkers that were studying me with quizzical friendliness.


Their heads were about the same size as ours, only slightly deeper toward the back; and in the middle of the skull was a bony ridge that changed into a deep groove in the center of the forehead. It gave the impression of a skull divided into two separate compartments. Toward the back of their heads the ridge ended in a semicircular muscle formation that ran down the neck and into the shoulders, making the side view of the neck much heavier looking than ours. The same is true of the whole construction of their bodies.


They were much more solidly built than we are. Their arms and shoulders, although of much the same proportions as ours, were much heavier and more muscular and, combined with the clawlike hands, gave an impression of strength that would have come a dose second to a bench vise. All this combined with their broad chests and short stocky legs made them look as though they would not even step out of the path of a gorilla!

Their muscle tissue also seemed to be different, more like solid rubber, and their thin skin followed the contours of their muscles more closely than ours.


The top of the head to the back of the neck was covered with short, smooth hair that shone like the coat of a smooth, furry animal. The color of this hair was different with each of them; rust-brown, gold and silver-gray showed either separately or mixed. Their hairless skin had a pale, glasslike sheen to it. Along the edges of the face the skin showed slightly darker gray-brown than in the middle. As they turned their heads, the skin seemed to reflect the light and shade of their surroundings.


This changing color effect was something that caught my attention many times. Their teeth were two seamless white strips, above and below, that closed in a scissor-like fashion. Both their teeth and the yellow-white of their eyes reflected the strange lighting in such a way that their faces looked slightly artificial.


Their movements were also strange.

They could sit or stand perfectly still for much longer periods and more often than we would even attempt, but when in action, their movements were lightning fast and emphasized their tremendous strength. They were like volcanoes. After a period of rest, they would erupt into a wave of energy and temperament that would have made a Spaniard jealous.


They were wearing a kind of uniform in the form of dark-blue, silky overalls, with three-quarter sleeves and a deep V neck. Under this was a white shirt with a rather old fashioned high collar around the back of the neck.


Around their waists was a broad, gold-colored belt, decorated with what seemed to be atom formations, which ran along the edge of the deep V in the neck as well, incorporating, however, still other motifs in its design.

Text for the picture of the humanoid from Iarga

Humanoid from the planet Iarga, which is a little more than ten light-years away from Earth. Although these beings have the same origin and identity as man, and their physique is comparable in many ways, there appear to be many great differences which result from the different planetary conditions.


Their planet is larger, the gravity is nearly 3g, and the atmosphere pressure is more than 7 bar with higher nitrogen and ammonia contents than our air. The average wind speed is less than ours; but the denser atmosphere in combination with heavy rains and the higher terminal velocities, sometimes cause storms that an unprotected human could not survive. To withstand these conditions, they have a short, compact physique with well-developed muscles, especially the legs; armored skulls, and deep-set eyes.


Their darting movements are interposed with periods of rest, during which they only move their heads. They walk stiffly, with short steps, as if they are walking on ice.

They were originally amphibians, and really belong in the water. Their bodies are as streamlined as that of a seal, and are covered with short smooth hair, like an otter. Their hands and feet are large and broad, and they have webs between their fingers and toes. We could not possibly compete with them in a swimming race. They are capable of killing a small whale-sort by ramming it like a torpedo, a group will then tow the catch back to the shore. (swimming).

Their sex drives are different from ours, and they find sex less important; partly because they derive less pleasure from it than we do. The population growth is slow, and they lack the sex signals of humans, such as full lips, ear lobes, pointed nose, protruding female breasts and the external male sex organ.


This is why it is not necessary for them to cover their bodies as we do, their reproduction impulse is born of love and not lust. We seem to be abnormal in this respect. Their weak point is the development of their individuality. They do almost everything in groups (tribes), they think collectively and they obey the laws of their society to the letter.


They live for and through the friendship and love within the group.

I decided to end the silent confrontation.

"I'm sorry that it's taken so long to get used to the sight of you."

"We have only compliments for you. You have remarkable self-control. You demonstrated the same quality with your rescue of our crewman, for which we would once more like to offer our thanks."

"Oh, that was nothing. When I see all the technical capabilities at your disposal, I wonder if my help was really necessary?"

"The value of an unselfish deed cannot in any way be influenced by asking afterwards if it could not have been done in some other way. As a matter of fact, your help came so quickly and efficiently that it would have been impossible for Us to have managed it in a shorter time. It was precisely this speed and efficiency that gave Us the idea that you could possibly be a man with whom we could communicate, the first communication with a representative of this world. Make sure that you realize what this conversation will demand of you. You will be speaking with a race that is far ahead of yours in evolution. This means not only an enormous technical lead, but also the same lead in mental development and inner culture. This last is the most difficult to explain and yet we must make it dear if you are to understand what social stability represents.

"We will therefore lead you, step by step, through the secrets of a highly developed culture, and we will do this by means of a holographic film which will take you to our planet Iarga. We will let you see what the world 'civilization' really means. It will be an interesting experience for you, the value of which is impossible for you to judge at this moment.


But what you also cannot judge is the personal danger involved. We know the dangers and will protect you against them. The most important thing for Us is to ensure that your freedom of thought is not damaged. Freedom of thought is the essence of humanity, and if we were to damage that we would, according to our ethics, be committing a crime. Therefore, we will only convey knowledge to you, and not convictions.

"We wish no discussions. We will only answer questions when you do not understand something, and we will remain silent when you do not agree with Us. We will help you to climb the ladder of knowledge, rung by rung, first to social stability, then to the super culture and, if you can follow this, to the misty heights of cosmic integration.


"We will only give you knowledge. You must remain free to do with this knowledge what you will. If as a result of this knowledge you should find yourself forming any convictions, do so with care. Make sure that they are lasting convictions, born of independent creative thinking, and not the sort of passing convictions that the impact of strenuous visual emotions tend to provoke. These pseudo convictions paralyze individual freedom and make men rigid and dogmatic.

"Knowledge is a material part of the human condition and, as with all material things, it can be mechanized or automated. We have at our disposal a method of teaching that utilizes a certain type of radiation. This takes place at a speed of which you never dreamed. Above your head we have fitted one of these radiation reflectors. It makes the spoken word unnecessary to a great extent.


On the screen in front of you we will show our explanation in the form of a picture story, the words of which serve only to direct your attention in a certain direction; we call this fixing the concentration, but the true source of information is the radiation. You do not have to take notes; information gamed through radiation remains locked in the memory forever.

"Experience this adventure with an open mind. Anything else will disturb your concentration. Do not become angry if we say something that goes against your principles. We have no intention of antagonizing you. If we do so, understand that it is purely a result of our ignorance regarding the many taboos and prejudices of western man."

They started the radiation device working with the film.


At first I was not quite sure what was happening. I felt cold and somewhat lightheaded suddenly, a feeling comparable to having had a little too much wine. You believe you can think very dearly but you feel somewhat removed from reality.


The fantastic film projection was accompanied by a rather childish description of what was to be seen. Now and then a few words brought my attention to the size of something-the height, the speed, the form or the connection between two things, and so on. An endless stream of words and short sentences formed a slender thread of explanation. The essence, the real information, reached me unnoticed, and that was a weird experience. The knowledge that these beings, through their machine, could feed information directly into my brain, strengthened my feeling that

I did not belong here. The difference between Us was too great. I was defenseless. As far as I can gather, radiated information is a combination of visual stimulants and thought transference, all of which takes place at fantastic speed.


The images came in such rapid succession that at first it made me irritable, and only after some considerable time did it become dear what was expected of me. I had only to act as a relaxed spectator, who observes with interest what is happening; they did the rest. It is understandable that this type of information is not suited to the written word and therefore I have attempted to relate everything in the form of a two-sided conversation.


This tends to give the impression that I was a partner in an animated discussion, but nothing is further from the truth. My function during this meeting can be compared with that of a tape recorder. The authenticity of the hologram was so fantastic that it could no longer be describe as a picture.

As long as I kept my head in the correct position, it was just like looking through a window. The three-dimensional, panoramic, color screen offered so persuasive an illusion of reality that after the first few minutes I looked behind the screen to make sure that nothing was there. The adjustment of the picture was controlled by several of the many knobs and handles on the desk in front of me.


My first experience with the radiation took the form of knowing, without further instruction, which of the knobs I had to use to adjust, for example, the focus or the position of the picture on the screen. The test card, a jungle of vertical stripes, vanished and I looked into a great, black hole in the middle of which hung a blinding ball. I recoiled involuntarily, at which the picture blurred, but I quickly got control of myself. The hole was very deep; I was looking into the endlessness of the cosmos.


Against the black, somewhat violet background, sewn with thousands of stars, a gigantic, pink-white ball hung in stately beauty. The planet Iarga.

The sight was very moving. I felt as through I was really present in space and a strange emotion began to flow through me. The cloud formation was, in contrast with that of Earth, unbroken, with small, swirling patterns that caught the sunlight. The pink patches occurred where the sun was able to penetrate deeper into the clouds.


Most remarkable were two gigantic, flat, concentric rings which formed a halo around the planet. They were rather like the rings of our Saturn, except that these consisted of a small inner ring and a much broader outer ring, both casting a sharp band of shadow on the clouds. There was also a large moon to be seen, with the same pockmarked surface as ours. Iarga, the home of these astronauts, is a planet in another solar system, not much more than ten light years away from US. More details of the location of the planet they would not tell me.


The diameter and mass are much greater than the Earth's; the gravitational force is greater and the atmosphere is much thicker. The speed of rotation is much slower than that of Earth, so that the duration of day and night is longer, but the regular tilting of the rings around the planet change certain days into nights and certain nights into days, due to the fact that the rings reflect the sunlight.

As a result, Iarga does not have the regular pattern of day and night that we know. Because of the thicker atmosphere and higher air-pressure, which is of a different composition than ours, Iarga knows no bright sunlight, and sees nothing of the moon or stars. A permanent layer of mist exists at the higher levels of the atmosphere which filters the sunlight.


The color blue only appears in lighter tints and green is more pronounced there than here, which may account for the fact that they seem to have a preference for blue in their artificial lighting. They describe the Earth as the blue planet with the blinding light, and, in contrast, Iarga as the green planet with the misty light. The living conditions are very different from those on Earth.


Temperature extremes are much less than here, but when you hear that the wind speed can reach three times our maximum, and that ram and snowfall can be as much as ten times greater, and you combine this with the fact that the terminal velocity is much higher, it becomes dear that it would be very unwise for any of Us to be caught in a rainstorm on Iarga!


After being informed that a fall from a height of six feet was fatal, I began to understand a little more of the reason for the physical appearance of these Iargans.

The rubbery muscle formations, armored skulls and long arms were products of very different climatic conditions than ours. There earthquakes also seemed to occur with more intensity and frequency than ours. Just as I was beginning to ask myself what the buildings on such a planet would be like, the picture changed and showed the view from a fast-moving spaceship that had just passed through the outer layer of mist around the planet.


Initially, I saw only clouds: above me, the pink layer of mist that I had seen earlier; then a second, broken cloud layer which was primarily responsible for the strange, diffused light on the planet. We passed through this layer at a height of about twenty miles, and viewed from the underside it was a mixture of yellow-gray, brown and greenish clouds that gave a very somber and threatening impression.


Lastly came a cloud layer that in height, form and color, closely resembled ours, and after passing through this, I had an unobstructed view of the surface. We flew over a bright-green ocean with white wave crests.

Above the water ran an orange strip as straight as an arrow, which, separated by a white-beached horse-shoe-shaped island, split and continued in different directions. It was only when the spaceship came steadily lower that I realized what this strip was. A railway bridge! On long, slim towers, high above the water, ran a bridge as far as the eye could see. Along this bridge slim shining torpedoes moved in both directions.


Their speed was only slightly less than that of the spaceship and there were far too many of them for me to count. The distance between the torpedoes was about ten times their own length, all spaced exactly alike along an eight4rack system which was divided into two layers, one above the other. I had little time to study the trains further, for we moved on.

Land came into view - a low-lying coast, split by a broad river with large adjoining lakes-and before my astonished eyes a strange, unearthly panorama unfolded. For as far as the eye could see, the land was divided by the orange railway into regular rectangles. The long torpedoes moved between huge, glass, oiltank like constructions with shiny dome-shaped roofs.


Areas of green on either side of the railway looked something like prehistoric forests. The longer I studied this landscape, the more I became aware that this was ribbon development in its extreme form. The area between the buildings seemed to be used namely for agriculture, only now and then making way for an industrial complex. The camera sped on.


The landscape changed and became undulating, split by walls into huge terraces which compared with the wine fields of Italy. Behind this lay mountains, and in a great bowl between the peaks a red-brown lake came into view. The machine tilted its nose steadily lower until I was able to see vertically below. Around the shores of the lake, numerous buildings were to be seen, among which were several gigantic combs.

In three places, powerful blue-white lights, flanked by orange lights, flashed. Everything pointed to the fact that the spaceship was going to land here, and just at the last second, before the picture vanished, I saw something that made me catch my breath. On the right side of the screen, low above the lake, three shiny discs hung like sentries in the air.


They had the form of perfect, streamlined discuses.

"I saw flying saucers!"

"You saw three of our aircraft."

"In the form of a saucer?"

"Exactly. And if you are interested, we will let you see them."

"I certainly am. Did you come here in something like that?"

"No. These aircraft have about as much in common with our spacecraft as an Indian arrow has with your Mars probe. We hope that you have more important questions to ask than about aircraft."

"Of course. Am I to understand that the glass tanks are your houses?"

"Yes, We call them house rings because they are in fact built in the form of a ring with a covered central recreation area."

"Is the whole planet built in this way?"

"Yes, all areas that are suitable for living are built in this manner." The screen showed a view of a living area from a great height."

"So you all live in the same type of house?"

"From the outside they are all the same, but inside there is great variation."

"The uniformity appalls me. Do your top men also live in the cylinders?" I had an idea, judging from the length of the trains, which I guessed were about one hundred and fifty feet, that these buildings were enormous, at least nine hundred feet in diameter and more than three hundred feet high.

"The words 'top men' suggest something of the Earth's ideas of status; you surely do not imagine that in a higher civilization, standards of justice can exist that allow status to play a part?"

"I don't see what status has to do with more variation in house building. Why not simpler, smaller houses with more privacy?" "Small houses with separate pieces of land form a system that you call 'towns,' and such inefficiency is unthinkable to Us. "Why inefficient? When you have our problem of overpopulation, you must build large cities to house all the people. We cannot afford the luxury of large areas of woodland as you can."

"What do you call overpopulation?"

"Our small country has more than three hundred people to the square kilometer, which in my opinion is quite dense." "Compared to Earth's average of twenty-five to the square kilometer, that is indeed dense. Estimate the number of people living in the area that you see here. Every ring houses about ten thousand. Work it out per rectangle."

"Ten thousand per ring?"

"Yes, and we have more square meters per person than you have."

I did a quick calculation. Each rectangle contained thirty-six rings, so thirty-six times ten thousand is... heavens! Three hundred and sixty thousand! I hadn't expected that. It made each rectangle a complete city!


But, then, it was also a lot of land.

"How long is the rectangle?"

"Roughly ten kilometers."

I judged that the width must then be in the region of six kilometers, so that an area was then sixty square kilometers and therefore my solution must be 600 people per square kilometer.

"I was certainly mistaken about your population - 600 per square kilometer. That's double ours. I was under the impression that it was much less. When I see the space that you have left, I must admit that it is a very clever solution."

"Your answer amuses Us because you have made a small mistake. You have the decimal point in the wrong place."

I calculated again and came to the ridiculous total of six thousand.

"It can't be six thousand."

"It is, Stef. What you see here houses a population of six thousand people to the square kilometer."

"But that's ridiculous. How can you do it? That's twenty times as many as our overpopulated land."

"Your word 'overpopulation' is pure nonsense. Our planet has a population density at least one hundred times greater than yours and we do not speak of overpopulation."

I began to feel uneasy, that was madness. I knew it.


I should never have started this conversation. It was leading nowhere. I stared with new interest at the picture in front of me and tried to calculate the living space of these people. Strange as it may seem, there were no signs of overpopulation.


On the contrary, there was room enough, round the cylinders, and the roads that ran through the woodland areas were in no way obstructed with people or traffic.

"This is so incomparable with anything that we know that I am at a loss for words."

"That is the right attitude. With this confrontation with a totally different world, with totally different standards and a totally different philosophy, we are trying to make it dear that you must not draw comparisons. Doing so prevents you from understanding this world and its level of civilization. Forget your own world and try to understand what is happening here. Try, without prejudice, to follow our explanation, as this alone will be difficult enough.


"The reason for our dense population is the small area of dry-land on our planet. Iarga is almost completely covered with water forming deep oceans, which leaves Us with a surface area of dry-land which can be compared to the area of Australia, and this is distributed over numerous islands. We were faced with the problem of feeding and housing the billions of beings which we needed in order to achieve our creation goal, on the smallest possible area of land. This imposed the greatest demands on our planning and social systems; these demands do not occur on Earth, you have room to spare.

"What we needed to create a high level of culture were three things: freedom, justice and efficiency. We will explain these concepts one at a time, beginning with the last, efficiency.


"You are shocked by the size of our population, but the space surprises you. Strange, eh? It is not so strange when you realize that you are not shocked by the number of people but by the space that is left over in what to you is a ridiculously overpopulated world. You are shocked by our efficiency. To Us, it is the most normal thing in the world, because without this concept, we simply could not exist.


Without efficiency, our world would immediately collapse. You will continually come up against this concept in our explanations because we must make it dear to you how carefully each of the three concepts-freedom, justice and efficiency - we had to employ to reach the level of civilization that can be called stable.


"Also, justice is a condition for efficiency. For example, if houses play a part in showing a difference in status between people, then justice fails, and efficiency in a setting such as this is impossible. It demands, therefore, a different, more social way of life."

This was roughly the beginning of the explanation of the concept of efficiency, and I absorbed it with some difficulty.


Who would expect the description of a super culture to begin with a lecture on efficiency? Anything but that! And it is almost impossible to relate just how efficient they were. Take, for example, their method of planning. It is simply based on the maximum number of people that a given land-area can accommodate.


The housing and the roadways take up the smallest possible area-not more than five percent-in order to leave a maximum of land for farming and natural beauty. The farming areas produce the maximum in food that their technique allows, in order to support their huge population. The woodland areas are necessary to maintain a sufficient quantity of oxygen in the atmosphere and also serve as recreation areas. Everything is used to maximum advantage.

What would you imagine to be the mode of transport of a super culture? You think perhaps supersonic aircraft or rockets, and hovercraft type ships or hover-cars? Out of the question. Anything so inefficient, with so many moving parts which can wear out and require so much maintenance, would be madness on Iarga. What do they use, then?


Very simple. A fully automatic, robot rail system.


Slim torpedo trains that move without creating friction, the only component requiring servicing being the doors, and these are made of such a high quality that they can last at least one hundred years. As a well-brought-up Earth man, I didn't give up too easily and pointed out that our aircraft, so fast and comfortable, were surely much better than trains that can only reach a speed of about four hundred kilometers per hour. I got the most surprising answers. An aircraft is not only inefficient but is downright antisocial!

They only appear on a planet where status still exists, and they are only for the upper classes, because they are useless as a medium of mass transport and the cost per passenger-kilometer is at least ten times that of their rail system. They began to talk about transport capacity. The six-lane rail system between the house blocks (only the upper layer) can transport one million persons per hour operating at maximum capacity. Did I think that aircraft could compete with this?

No, I did not. Confronted with such astronomical figures as these, further argument is pointless. They were not yet finished. Did I really think that their transport was slower than ours?


Yes, I did get that impression.


Well, I was very wrong. I must think in terms of average speed, and the hours that we wasted waiting for connections, delays caused by un-service-ability or bad weather and our wonderfully inefficient traffic jams! Having thought of all this, I was readily prepared to believe them when they said that their average speed of all transport systems together was about five times higher than ours - inclusive aircraft.


Had I mentioned something about comfort? Yes, I had. Wonderful, because comfort was also an aspect of efficiency. Trains had proven to be the cheapest form of transportation, and the only problem that remained was to get as many people as possible to leave their cars at home and use the tram. The only way to do this was through comfort, and this comfort was really something.

These trains were shock free and silent, apart from wind noise.


Due to their position high above the ground and their large windows, they offered a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside, and the interior was so luxurious that it left nothing to be desired. They were unaffected by weather conditions and one hundred percent reliable. The frequency was so high that timetables were unnecessary. Did I now know enough?


Absolutely not! It had gradually become dear to me that their understanding of efficiency was totally different from ours. It influenced their very souls. Efficiency had become almost a religion. One of the most imposing visions on the screen was their trans-oceanic rail connections. A wonderful, orange-colored construction, about seventy-five feet above the restless green water, crossing the ocean in a dead straight line.


I thought at first, perhaps a little naively, that the support towers stood on the ocean floor, but no-nothing so primitive. The whole construction floated, supported by huge balls under the towers which were anchored to the sea bed by adjustable cables.

The balls were placed at a depth where the water always was comparatively peaceful, unaffected by the conditions on the surface. The question that intrigued me was how the trains could function without friction and wear. I discovered that it was not so difficult once superconductive materials and super-magnets, the same sort of materials that were used for the outer skin of their spaceships, were used.


The train was supported on magnetic shoes over its whole length which ran in a hollow rail. Through the polarity and the strength of the magnetic field, the shoes were held floating in the middle of the rail.


A fantastic piece of construction. The system was controlled from large electronic control centers and was almost fully automatic. Optical signaling was not used, so that the speed was unaffected by even the thickest fog. Their cargo trains intrigued me the most, for they were in fact nothing more or less than self-homing containers.


The route program was plugged into the nose of the unit and the ghost train left on its journey without a living sour on board, finding its own way over the rail network to its destination, silent and vibrationless, and without lighting at night.

Some things were rather amusing.


There seemed to be a rather popular pastime that they called traveling in hotel trains. A group of about twenty-five people would order a unit that was fitted out as a self-service hotel and simply go where the mood took them. Everywhere in the beauty spots were "camping's," where the trains could stay for a couple of days or more, and all you needed to do to travel further was to program the unit for its next destination. Traveling this way, often at night, they could cover enormous distances.


As soon as I asked a question that fell outside the program, I received more of their strange answers.

"Can everyone afford to go on in this way?"

"No, nobody can afford it, because we have no money, but everyone can go on holiday in this way if they wish."

At my request, they showed me one of their cars.


In front of one of their huge, glass living cylinders stood a highly streamlined vehicle on ridiculously small wheels; nevertheless, it could be classed as a motor car. My enthusiasm for motor cars was suddenly diverted by the sight of two Iargan women who, accompanied by four small children, were to demonstrate the car. I sat staring at those strange exotic beings so intensely that the explanation about the car was for the most part lost on me.


Their faces were smoother and finer than the astronauts' and they were made up with white and purple stripes on their fore heads and around their eyes. It made me think of Indians on the warpath, and this thought was strengthened by the colorful motifs on their clothing. This 'clothing' seemed to be more for decoration than anything else.


It was just a broad piece of cloth with a hole in the middle that fell over the head and was fastened at the waist with a broad belt, leaving the arms and the sides of the body uncovered. Under this garment, they wore a pair of silky trousers which fastened tightly around the ankles. The shoes over the wide naked feet were open sandals. They carried themselves as refined models would, demonstrating the peculiarities of the car with lightening fast movements.


The strangest thing was that their explanation, which I found inaudible, was directed at me, and due to the perfection of the picture I felt as though I was actually present and the center of their attention.

"Is this the way your women normally dress?"

"We are showing you two mothers with their children, on their way to a recreation area, and we will follow them with the camera. They are wearing holiday clothing, fitting for a day out. We do not find clothes so important and as we do not have any other films on this subject, please confine your attention to the automobile."

The ladies had, in the mean time, entered the car with their restless offspring, and were demonstrating the maneuverability of the vehicle on its tiny wheels.


These wheels only served the purpose of transporting the car from the cylinders to the rail system where, in contrast to the trains, they hung on magnetic shoes under the rails instead of above. This explained the large glass panel that extended under the feet of the occupants of the front seat, giving the vehicle the appearance of a helicopter from a frontal view.


The interior was luxurious-two wide three-seat benches, and behind, the baggage space. There was only one sliding door on one side, and nowhere could I discover any access to the motor. After this demonstration, the ladies rode away along a broad, ocher- colored road, to where the huge central rail system ran between the house cylinders.


The huge "motorways," which looked like thin orange lines from the air, were in fact a three-level road and rail system carrying heavy traffic at unimaginable speeds. The top level was a six-track rail system which carried the long torpedoes, the four inside tracks for fast, long-distance traffic, and the two outer tracks for local traffic.

The other two levels were for the cars, again using the outer tracks for slow, local traffic and the inner tracks for higher speeds and longer distances. The stations were huge, cross-shaped buildings through which the car-tram tracks passed in tunnels. At ground level, around these stations, was a huge bading terminal for the transfer of freight from the rail containers to the wheeled transport.


The camera continued to follow the fantastic journey along the rails and the two ladies who were at the moment playing with their children. The voice called my attention to the house cylinders. The first thing noticeable from dose up is the perfectly smooth exterior, with neither grooves nor joints in evidence. The different floors were visible only as creamy-white bands of about three feet in height, on which rested glass panels about fifteen feet high and sixty feet wide.


The panels were met by anthracite-gray pillars that ran from top to bottom throughout the whole building.

"Isn't it rather warm, all that glass in your houses, cars and trains?"

"No, because it is not ordinary glass at all, but a combination of glass and plastic. It contains two electrically conductive layers with which the transparency can be regulated to give a greater or lesser reflective quality."

The hologram images crossed a broad river, and I could see thousands of Iargans walking along its banks.


I also saw hundreds of small boats braving the strong winds and stormy water. They were catamaran type constructions, with streamlined cabins supported on legs above the water. The hulls were almost completely submerged, and the strangest thing was that the rough water seemed to have no effect on them.


They were fast and made no bow waves.

Picture text

Cross cross-section of one of the floating and rotating house-cylinders. The construction is so stable that despite the heavy Iargan earthquakes, the framework (base, wall, and roof) has a minimum useful life of more than a thousand years. The plastic flats (apartments)(20 x 20 x 6 meter) are removable horizontally.


The diameter of the building is more than 300 meters, the height is 135 meters. It provides housing for 10,000 persons, each with so m2 to themselves, plus a part of the heated communal garden. The smooth exterior is necessary in connection with the strong winds and the rainfall.


Comfort and labor saving have been perfected to such a point that the housewife is freed from housework, but the protection and comfort of the house-cylinders has become subordinate to the creation of the possibility of numerous "human" contacts in the utmost freedom.


The camera allowed me no time for further study.


The landscape changed, the ground became undulating and in the distance high mountains borne in the misty, lazy light of Iarga. The cylinders in their oblong formations continued as far as the eye could see into the foothills and even beyond where the ground was terraced off with long, high walls. As the ground became more mountainous, the buildings stopped, as did the roadway, but the railway continued on through the wild and rocky landscape.


The rest of the journey became real science fiction. Like a giant snake, the railway wended its way around mountain peaks and over deep ravines, across fantastic suspension bridges and along vertical rock walls, now over gaping depths and then over grassy, woody plateaus, and in every suitable spot were the stations and the parking areas for the cars.


This was one huge recreation area, with its rugged mountains and beautiful waterfalls.

Just as we were approaching a large, green mountain lake with nearby buildings, the picture faded and was replaced by the now familiar view of the Iargans' living areas, but I saw it now through different eyes, eyes which had begun to notice the wonderful perfection of this strange world; a world that sustained its huge population through utmost efficiency; a world without refuse, smells, exhaust gases, traffic jams and noise.

I also began to understand a little of something else, and that was the justice that they were always talking about. Although I had only just begun to become acquainted with this distant culture, I understood that everyone here had equal rights. They lived in the same houses, rode in the same cars and stepped into the same trains. There were neither rich nor poor; there was no separation between nationalities, races or colors.

This must be a universally governed planet, but seemingly so strictly governed that everything was streamlined and standardized. What a terrible thought! I had no idea then that my horror at the thought of such monotony was soon to change into longing....


I began to wonder what the millions of miles of railroad must have cost; it was certainly a triumph of engineering.

"Can you give me some idea of what such a transport system costs?"

"That is difficult. We know roughly what a dollar represents in production ability, but to translate that into the cost of a transport system... well, we can only guess. For one billion dollars you would not get much farther than three miles."

"Can't it be done for less?"

"Naturally, but then we would have to make concessions with quality, and that is not our method of working. Such a system can only exist if it is built to last for centuries, otherwise we would constantly be repairing it."

"We'd never be able to afford such quality."

"You see it in front of you. What you need is not a vault full of banknotes, but production capacity. Only a society with a completely efficient economic system can realize such things for itself."

"But can all this be compared to the communist system that we have on Earth?"

"Our cosmic universal economic system can be compared to both communism and the capitalist Western economy. One can also say that our cosmic economics can't be compared with either."

"If we don't have this system on Earth, how can you call it universal?"

"It is only through this system that a race can achieve a cultural level of social stability. And from there onward toward immortality. It is the cosmic condition, based on natural laws."

"What's your definition of culture, then, exactly? I'm beginning to think that we define the word differently."

"That's a very important question, Stef. Culture is the measure through which a society caters to the least fortunate man. The measure in which the sick, invalid, old or poor people are taken care of. In short, the measure of collective unselfishness."


"But what has this got to do with immortality?"

"Just this, that unselfishness makes an intelligent race immortal. But before you can understand this, you will first have to climb the ladder with Us to the misty heights of comic integration."

"Unbelievable! I thought that you practiced efficiency as a sort of religion, but now I see that your economic system is a religion of sorts as well."

"You are beginning to understand, but the word 'religion' is not well chosen."

"Something like it, then?"


"Do you mean that to start with we should build a world with this standard of efficiency and quality?"

"We do not remember ever having suggested that you should build rail systems and cylindrical houses, nor have we said that your population should become as large as ours. You are again needlessly creating comparisons, which you should not do, for it leads you nowhere. Try only to understand how we have used the three essentials of higher culture-freedom, justice and efficiency-in our world, and what culture really is to Us.


Only then will you be able to understand our answer to the great question that you have asked."

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