Returning Home

Synopsis

In 2077, Tony Waltrop goes for a short assignment on Octula, a planet of continual winter. Here he meets and marries Anna, a vivacious human. Anna and her father, an important merchant on Octula, are unaware of Tony’s life on Earth, where another wife and family await his return.

Things are never easy for humans on Octula. Unsettled differences between the Science Party and the Military Party cause Tony’s assignment to be lengthened, and he is soon involved in a Great War. His assignment to create the government’s commerce policy is abandoned so he can run the budget affairs of the Science Party’s war effort.

Anna’s brothers travel back and forth to Earth frequently. Surely they will find out about his past.


Sample Pages

Introduction and Early Days

My name is Tony. I am an old man, now eight-five. My children, both here in Pennsylvania and in Octula, have asked me to create an autobiography that tells of my travels and my loves.

Today, my mind is clear and my memory is excellent.

Here is the way things work: God is essentially a computer. God’s central processing unit, or CPU, turns Its attention to one program at a time, processes an instruction, and then turns Its attention to another program. You are a program. I am a program. Everybody else is a program. Every rock, tree, and bird is a program. When the CPU is turned toward something else, you are dormant. You do not exist at that time.

Like a program running on any other computer, you do not realize anything is happening when the CPU is not turning Its attention toward you. You think you alone receive the attentions of the CPU. For this reason, you do not realize every other entity is part of you and you are part of every other entity. But, it is true.

Arriving in Octula

After 127 days the spacecraft landed in Octula, on a special platform that folded to entirely enclose the ship just after touchdown. For several hours before landing the ship circumnavigated the planet, and the Captain pointed out, via the ship-wide loudspeaker, numerous interesting sites. These included the famous Fulcan Waterfall, the Ice Steps, and the Granite Wall. All these are pictured in the many books about Octula, but they were new to me and I thought, as I first looked onto Octula, I had never seen such beautiful sights on Earth.

The State Department’s resident ambassador met the craft and took charge of moving my luggage and equipment to my room at the ambassador’s quarters. The ambassador was a man of about 65 years, with a distinguished appearance and a formal way of speaking. I felt I was hearing dialogue that was well rehearsed and well used, and I somewhat resented it. “Just another damned consultant to house and feed,” the ambassador’s manner said.

We rode to the embassy in a 1982 Rolls Royce Silver Spur. The ambassador assured me the car was the most reliable of any on Octula since gasoline and oil were imported from Earth regularly. That was my first and last ride in a Rolls Royce.

We took a brief tour around New Philadelphia, the small capitol city of Octula where the American colony resided. I saw various government buildings, the post office, a gasoline station, and a general store. I saw hundreds of Octulians, dressed in smocks and trousers. I also saw about fifteen humans on the main street, all bundled up in parkas and gloves.

“Yes,” the ambassador recited, “the climate here is always cold. We are exactly on the planet’s equator, and still we find the temperature always too low for our comfort.”

I was warm enough in the car, but I had been asked to pack my ski jacket, boots, and mask.

“Do the inhabitants of this planet live on the equator, too?” I asked.

“Not as a rule,” he replied. “Almost all the forty-four million Octulians live within eleven hundred miles of the equator, but some towns are even more distant. You see, their very light complexions are a result of not getting much starlight, and they are better able than humans to endure the cold.”

We drove into the embassy’s underground garage. The chauffeur, a human, was met by several Octulians and this crew unloaded my baggage and equipment and delivered it to a comfortable room in the embassy. These Octulians were much, much taller and thinner than humans but had extremely large heads and hands. They were very pale, paler than albino humans.

“You will stay here,” the ambassador said, “until your house is ready. I believe it will be vacated in a week or two, when the current occupant returns to Earth on the next flight.”

The ambassador’s wife, a comely woman of about sixty, was much more enthusiastic in her welcome. She showed me the bar and told me to ring at any time of the day or night for food. Regular meals for the entire household would be served at four different, set times and I was expected to show up at the table. She talked as though my visit were the best thing that had ever happened on Octula.

The weather in New Philadelphia was cold when I arrived. Later I learned it is cold all the time and snow showers are the norm every day. Even at the equator of the planet, the temperature does not reach much above thirty degrees.

The streets and sidewalks of New Philadelphia are cleared electronically of snow almost immediately. On Octula electricity and other power supplies are cheap; a system of street warmers is in operation at all times, resulting in clear and warm streets and sidewalks. It is very beautiful to see the houses and trees covered with snow and very convenient to have the streets entirely clear.

Do not worry about religion. God does not care about your beliefs. God’s only interest in your sojourn in the universe is to feel your pleasures and your pains. What does God care about your understanding of Its great plan? You are merely a pawn in the game.

Getting Settled in Octula

I stayed at the ambassador’s house for six weeks. The first two weeks were to be devoted to touring the city and the outlying regions to get an orientation and to learn the locations of the governmental offices. These two weeks were also to be used to become accustomed to the atmosphere and to learn how to monitor my breathing so I would not faint from an improper supply of oxygen. I also learned how to shop and how to order in a restaurant.

None of the Octulians assigned to the embassy spoke English; they spoke only Octulan. I was driven by the ambassador’s major domo, an Octulian, in a two-person vehicle to see the four offices in New Philadelphia where I would meet my clients. I used my translating computer to determine what the major domo said, and I found he was pleasant and sometimes witty.

The reason I was in Octula became apparent to me. The government was in a state of confusion after the removal of the Military Party by the Science Party. The scientists knew they wanted to oust the military officers running the place, but they had no idea what to do next. They had elected an elderly Octulian as the head of the government, but they had not at that time organized the various departments. I had an interest in what Americans called Treasury and Commerce, but what did scientists know about money and business?

I also saw the outside of my assigned house, and I located it on the map of New Philadelphia. The four client sites were within easy walking distance.

The ambassador’s wife helped me find a cook and a part-time housekeeper. The American who was vacating my house did not use domestic help, although this is the norm in Octula.

I found out there is almost no manual labor on Octula. Everything is automated. Those Octulians who do not have the intelligence to become scientists or the strength to become part of the armed forces are either idle or become domestic workers. There are no shopkeepers, no bankers, no factory workers, no construction workers, no miners, and no lawyers on Octula. Goods are distributed by automated devices that service small stores. If you want a can of soup, you go into a general store, sit at a computer monitor, and press buttons until the soup you want is displayed. A few seconds later your can of soup is on the checkout counter with your bill. There are so few choices that shopping is easy.

Ordering in a restaurant is also easy. The menu is displayed on a computer monitor and you press buttons to make your selection. An automaton delivers the food to your table and collects your money.
Other work is also done by automatons. The mining of silicon is accomplished by a scientist who monitors the work of robots, computers handle the work of lawyers, and houses are built by automatons under the direction of a scientist.

Medical workers are essentially scientists who staff hospitals and clinics with the help of automatons.
The average Octulian is much more intelligent than the average human. There are no idiots on Octula because Octulians of extremely low intelligence are murdered before their second birthday. There are no exceptions; this society does not have the resources or the patience to work with the mentally crippled.

When God wants to experience how it feels to be murdered for a lack of intelligence, God sends a representative to Octula.


 
 
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