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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CONDITIONALLY HUMAN *** Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
Conditionally Human


Illustrated by DAVID STONE

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Science Fiction February 1952.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

They were such cute synthetic creatures, it
was impossible not to love them. Of course,
that was precisely why they were dangerous!

There was no use hanging around after breakfast. His wife was in a hurt mood, and he could neither endure the hurt nor remove it. He put on his coat in the kitchen and stood for a moment with his hat in his hands. His wife was still at the table, absently fingering the handle of her cup and staring fixedly out the window at the kennels behind the house. He moved quietly up behind her and touched her silk-clad shoulder. The shoulder shivered away from him, and her dark hair swung shiningly as she shuddered. He drew his hand back and his bewildered face went slack and miserable.

"Honeymoon's over, huh?"

She said nothing, but shrugged faintly.

"You knew I worked for the F.B.A.," he said. "You knew I'd have charge of a district pound. You knew it before we got married."

"I didn't know you killed them," she said venomously.

"I won't have to kill many. Besides, they're only animals."

"Intelligent animals!"

"Intelligent as a human imbecile, maybe."

"A small child is an imbecile. Would you kill a small child?"

"You're taking intelligence as the only criterion of humanity," he protested hopelessly, knowing that a logical defense was useless against sentimentality. "Baby—"

"Don't call me baby! Call them baby!"

Norris backed a few steps toward the door. Against his better judgment, he spoke again. "Anne honey, look! Think of the good things about the job. Sure, everything has its ugly angles. But think—we get this house rent-free; I've got my own district with no bosses around; I make my own hours; you'll meet lots of people that stop in at the pound. It's a fine job, honey!"

She sipped her coffee and appeared to be listening, so he went on.

"And what can I do? You know how the Federation handles employment. They looked over my aptitude tests and sent me to Bio-Administration. If I don't want to follow my aptitudes, the only choice is common labor. That's the law."

"I suppose you have an aptitude for killing babies?" she said sweetly.

Norris withered. His voice went desperate. "They assigned me to it because I liked babies. And because I have a B.S. in biology and an aptitude for dealing with people. Can't you understand? Destroying unclaimed units is the smallest part of it. Honey, before the evolvotron, before Anthropos went into the mutant-animal business, people used to elect dogcatchers. Think of it that way—I'm just a dogcatcher."

Her cool green eyes turned slowly to meet his gaze. Her face was delicately cut from cold marble. She was a small woman, slender and fragile, but her quiet contempt made her loom.

He backed closer to the door.

"Well, I've got to get on the job." He put on his hat and picked at a splinter on the door. He frowned studiously at the splinter. "I—I'll see you tonight." He ripped the splinter loose when it became obvious that she didn't want to be kissed.

He grunted a nervous good-by and stumbled down the hall and out of the house. The honeymoon was over, all right.

He climbed in the kennel-truck and drove east toward the highway. The suburban street wound among the pastel plasticoid cottages that were set approximately two to an acre on the lightly wooded land. With its population legally fixed at three hundred million, most of the country had become one big suburb, dotted with community centers and lined with narrow belts of industrial development. Norris wished there were someplace where he could be completely alone.

As he approached an intersection, he saw a small animal sitting on the curb, wrapped in its own bushy tail. Its oversized head was bald on top, but the rest of its body was covered with blue-gray fur. Its tiny pink tongue was licking daintily at small forepaws with prehensile thumbs. It was a cat-Q-5. It glanced curiously at the truck as Norris pulled to a halt.

He smiled at it from the window and called, "What's your name, kitten?"

The cat-Q-5 stared at him impassively for a moment, let out a stuttering high-pitched wail, then: "Kiyi Rorry."

"Whose child are you, Rorry?" he asked. "Where do you live?"

The cat-Q-5 took its time about answering. There were no houses near the intersection, and Norris feared that the animal might be lost. It blinked at him, sleepily bored, and resumed its paw-washing. He repeated the questions.

"Mama kiyi," said the cat-Q-5 disgustedly.

"That's right, Mama's kitty. But where is Mama? Do you suppose she ran away?"

The cat-Q-5 looked startled. It stuttered for a moment, and its fur crept slowly erect. It glanced around hurriedly, then shot off down the street at a fast scamper. He followed it in the truck until it darted onto a porch and began wailing through the screen, "Mama no run ray! Mama no run ray!"

Norris grinned and drove on. A class-C couple, allowed no children of their own, could get quite attached to a cat-Q-5. The felines were emotionally safer than the quasi-human chimp-K series called "neutroids." When a pet neutroid died, a family was broken with grief; but most couples could endure the death of a cat-Q or a dog-F. Class-C couples were allowed two lesser units or one neutroid.

His grin faded as he wondered which Anne would choose. The Norrises were class-C—defective heredity.

He found himself in Sherman III Community Center—eight blocks of commercial buildings, serving the surrounding suburbs. He stopped at the message office to pick up his mail. There was a memo from Chief Franklin. He tore it open nervously and read it in the truck. It was something he had been expecting for several days.

Attention All District Inspectors:
Subject: Deviant Neutroid.

You will immediately begin a systematic and thorough survey of all animals whose serial numbers fall in the Bermuda-K-99 series for birth dates during July 2234. This is in connection with the Delmont Negligency Case. Seize all animals in this category, impound, and run proper sections of normalcy tests. Watch for mental and glandular deviation. Delmont has confessed to passing only one non-standard unit, but there may be others. He disclaims memory of deviant's serial number. This could be a ruse to bring a stop to investigations when one animal is found. Be thorough.

If allowed to reach age-set or adulthood, such a deviant could be dangerous to its owner or to others. Hold all seized K-99s who show the slightest abnormality in the normalcy tests. Forward to central lab. Return standard units to their owners. Accomplish entire survey project within seven days.

C. Franklin

Norris frowned at the last sentence. His district covered about two hundred square miles. Its replacement-quota of new neutroids was around three hundred animals a month. He tried to estimate how many of July's influx had been K-99s from Bermuda Factory. Forty, at least. Could he do it in a week? And there were only eleven empty neutroid cages in his kennel. The other forty-nine were occupied by the previous inspector's "unclaimed" inventory—awaiting destruction.

He wadded the memo in his pocket, then nosed the truck onto the highway and headed toward Wylo City and the district wholesale offices of Anthropos, Inc. They should be able to give him a list of all July's Bermuda K-99 serial numbers that had entered his territory, together with the retailers to whom the animals had been sold. A week's deadline for finding and testing forty neutroids would put him in a tight squeeze.

He was halfway to Wylo City when the radiophone buzzed on his dashboard. He pulled into the slow lane and answered quickly, hoping for Anne's voice. A polite professional purr came instead.

"Inspector Norris? This is Doctor Georges. We haven't met, but I imagine we will. Are you extremely busy at the moment?"

Norris hesitated. "Extremely," he said.

"Well, this won't take long. One of my patients—a Mrs. Sarah Glubbes—called a while ago and said her baby was sick. I must be getting absent-minded, because I forgot she was class C until I got there." He hesitated. "The baby turned out to be a neutroid. It's dying. Eighteenth order virus."


"Well, she's—uh—rather a peculiar woman, Inspector. Keeps telling me how much trouble she had in childbirth, and how she can't ever have another one. It's pathetic. She believes it's her own. Do you understand?"

"I think so," Norris replied slowly. "But what do you want me to do? Can't you send the neutroid to a vet?"

"She insists it's going to a hospital. Worst part is that she's heard of the disease. Knows it can be cured with the proper treatment—in humans. Of course, no hospital would play along with her fantasy and take a neutroid, especially since she couldn't pay for its treatment."

"I still don't see—"

"I thought perhaps you could help me fake a substitution. It's a K-48 series, five-year-old, three-year set. Do you have one in the pound that's not claimed?"

Norris thought for a moment. "I think I have one. You're welcome to it, Doctor, but you can't fake a serial number. She'll know it. And even though they look exactly alike, the new one won't recognize her. It'll be spooky."

There was a long pause, followed by a sigh. "I'll try it anyway. Can I come get the animal now?"

"I'm on the highway—"

"Please, Norris! This is urgent. That woman will lose her mind completely if—"

"All right, I'll call my wife and tell her to open the pound for you. Pick out the K-48 and sign for it. And listen—"


"Don't let me catch you falsifying a serial number."

Doctor Georges laughed faintly. "I won't, Norris. Thanks a million." He hung up quickly.

Norris immediately regretted his consent. It bordered on being illegal. But he saw it as a quick way to get rid of an animal that might later have to be killed.

He called Anne. Her voice was dull. She seemed depressed, but not angry. When he finished talking, she said, "All right, Terry," and hung up.

By noon, he had finished checking the shipping lists at the wholesale house in Wylo City. Only thirty-five of July's Bermuda-K-99s had entered his territory, and they were about equally divided among five pet shops, three of which were in Wylo City.

After lunch, he called each of the retail dealers, read them the serial numbers, and asked them to check the sales records for names and addresses of individual buyers. By three o'clock, he had the entire list filled out, and the task began to look easier. All that remained was to pick up the thirty-five animals.

And that, he thought, was like trying to take a year-old baby away from its doting mother. He sighed and drove to the Wylo suburbs to begin his rounds.

Anne met him at the door when he came home at six. He stood on the porch for a moment, smiling at her weakly. The smile was not returned.

"Doctor Georges came," she told him. "He signed for the—" She stopped to stare at him. "Darling, your face! What happened?"

Gingerly he touch the livid welts down the side of his cheek. "Just scratched a little," he muttered. He pushed past her and went to the phone in the hall. He sat eying it distastefully for a moment, not liking what he had to do. Anne came to stand beside him and examine the scratches.

Finally he lifted the phone and dialed the Wylo exchange. A grating mechanical voice answered, "Locator center. Your party, please."

"Sheriff Yates," Norris grunted.

The robot operator, which had on tape the working habits of each Wylo City citizen, began calling numbers. It found the off-duty sheriff on its third try, in a Wylo pool hall.

"I'm getting so I hate that infernal gadget," Yates grumbled. "I think it's got me psyched. What do you want, Norris?"

"Cooperation. I'm mailing you three letters charging three Wylo citizens with resisting a Federal official—namely me—and charging one of them with assault. I tried to pick up their neutroids for a pound inspection—"

Yates bellowed lusty laughter into the phone.

"It's not funny. I've got to get those neutroids. It's in connection with the Delmont case."

Yates stopped laughing. "Oh. Well, I'll take care of it."

"It's a rush-order, Sheriff. Can you get the warrants tonight and pick up the animals in the morning?"

"Easy on those warrants, boy. Judge Charleman can't be disturbed just any time. I can get the newts to you by noon, I guess, provided we don't have to get a helicopter posse to chase down the mothers."

"That'll be all right. And

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