You know me; always SOMETHING wrong! I could blame it on my computer troubles and, while that DID enter into it, it's just another goof! Below is that lastminute story I referred to elsewhere. So's there won't be any further delay, I'm skipping colyums on Donald Sutherland's great story.

Illustrated by Roy Coker

aul bounced around in the back seat of the patrol car as it moved through the pitted streets of New Covenant. He peered at the two wardens through the thick wire mesh separating the front and back seats.

"There must be some mistake," he said. "Are you sure you''re not confusing me with someone else?"

A warden glanced back at Paul. "It's you The Spirit has summoned, Clod. Now shut up."

"But I've committed no crime. Why would The Spirit..."

"I told you to shut up."

The car passed by New Covenant Stadium, where the people of Eden came to worship The Spirit on holy days. Moments later, they reached the edge of the temple safety zone, and the car came to a stop. Paul, being a privileged citizen and thus allowed to enter the temple, knew that they would have to walk the remaining one hundred meters. The safety zone was a cleared area surrounding the temple where vehicles were not permitted; anything in the zone could sustain damage when the temple ascended.

Only two days ago the temple soared up to repel another attack by the Demons, their third attack in as many months. Paul wondered if his arrest was somehow connected with the attacks. Did The Spirit believe him to be a spy for the Demons? But he was letting his imagination run wild; it was more likely that the wardens had simply made a mistake.

One of the wardens unlocked the rear door and jerked Paul out. The warden prodded him in the back with his pistol.

"Move it, clod. You're anxious to know why The Spirit wants you. Well, now you're about to find out." The warden chuckled. "If it'll make you feel any better, it's my guess he wants your head on the sacrificial altar."

aul did not share the warden's sense of humor. He had committed no crime--certainly nothing to deserve the sacrificial altar. Indeed, it might be the two wardens who would end up on the altar when The Spirit discovered they had brought in the wrong man.

As they walked toward the temple, Paul looked up at the structure. Except for its size, it was not very impressive. It was a gigantic egg-shaped object held aloft by four stubby legs. It looked like a giant insect waiting to devour him.

They climbed a flight of stairs, entered the temple door, and stepped into an elevator. A warden pressed the button for level E, a level forbidden to Paul even though he was a privileged citizen. After reaching level E, Paul was escorted to a room marked "Control Center."

The room was large, containing a number of consoles with instrument panels. A monk sat at each console. The monks ignored the three men as they walked through the room. The wardens led Paul to a door marked "Spirit." They stood facing the door, as if awaiting instructions.

"Officers Mark and Hugo," said a disembodied voice, "your mission is completed. You are dismissed."

"As you command, Divine One." The two men bowed and left the room.

"Paul, you may enter," said the voice. It was an imperious, but pleasant voice.

So the wardens had not erred in picking him up after all. But he could not imagine why he was summoned. Had he unknowingly committed some terrible crime?

The door slid open, and Paul warily stepped into the room. An altar stood at the opposite end of the room. Resting atop the altar was a bust of a man; its likeness was of a man with a bald head and a neatly trimmed beard. Dim green lights glowed on either side of the bust, providing the only light in the room.

"Be seated and relax, Paul. You need not be alarmed."

Paul sat down, keeping his eye on the bust.

"What you see here is a likeness of me as I appeared many thousands of years ago. But that is of no importance. You are anxious to learn why you are here. I have summoned you, Paul, because I require your assistance."

Paul's eyes widened. "I? I help The Divine One?"

"Yes, Paul. Listen carefully and I will explain. You were chosen for several reasons. You are a privileged citizen and therefore I can trust you. You are still a young man, but you have gained a solid reputation in the field of mathematics. Your IQ is the highest on Eden, and your aptitude tests show that you have remarkable potential in areas of interest to me.

problem has surfaced during the series of attacks by the Demons. I rose to meet each attack, and each time I sent their attack forces scurrying back to their home planet of Diablo. Although my superior weapons could devastate their planet, I have been unable to pursue them to deliver a retaliatory blow. A defect of some kind in the engines is preventing full acceleration, and I am therefore unable to break free from Eden's gravity.

"This is curious, because I have sustained no damage from any of their attacks. It is also curious that I have lost the ability to monitor activities and to communicate with some levels of the temple."

Paul stared at the bust. "But I thought the monks handled such matters."

"That is so. My monks are capable of handling almost any problem that could occur in the temple. This time, however, they are frustrated. Perhaps you can provide a fresh approach toward finding a solution to the problem."

"I am honored to serve The Divine One."

"You will be blessed. Now, here are your instructions. On my authority, you may enter forbidden parts of the temple to perform your tasks. First you will proceed to the library in level C. A monk will escort you there.

"Now listen to my instructions carefully, because when you reach level C, I will be unable to communicate with you. Monks have not yet restored communication on that level.

"In the library you will find dataviewers. A monk will show you how to operate the device. On the dataviewer, select "Propulsion" from the menu. Study this program carefully, moving from basic to advanced levels as directed. Go at your own pace. You may study any program relating to propulsion, but you must not, under any circumstances, view any program outside of that field.

"I will trust you to work alone. Monks will not interfere with you, and you will see my wardens only occasionally as they make their rounds.

"You are not to leave the temple until I relieve you from your task. Monks will provide you with your needs. Do you have any questions?"

"No Divine One. I understand."

A monk entered the room and came toward him. Paul had seen monks at worship services, but had never dealt with one on a personal level. He knew that monks were not of flesh and blood, but were beings of metal created to serve The Spirit. Indeed, Paul had noticed certain events that led him to suspect that The Spirit himself might be some sort of machine. But if so, what was its origin?

The monk, which bore the marking "L2" on its breastplate, greeted him.

"Peace, Friend Paul. I am Brother Limatu. Please follow me."

The monk led him to level C, then to the library. After showing Paul how to operate the dataviewer, which the monk called a DV, Limatu turned to leave. "I will return for you at eighteen hundred hours to show you to your quarters. If you grow weary, there is a break room with refreshments directly across the hallway."

After Limatu left, Paul inspected the room. They called it a library, and he expected to find books, but there were none. Instead, there were five rows of desks, six desks per row, each with a DV.

He chose a DV and sat down. He scanned the menu until he found "Propulsion." He scanned the subtitles until he found "Basic Principles of propulsion," which was program one-one-zero.

He keyed the control, and an image of the temple appeared on the screen. The temple faded out and was replaced by a blue and white globe. "Background and mission of Spaceship Defiance" appeared superimposed over the globe. A female voice sounded from the DV.

"The world you see here is called Earth, home of the human race. We humans have long dreamed of leaving Earth and traveling to other worlds among the stars. But the universe was thought to be too vast and the human life span too short for this dream to ever be realized. But thanks to a new kind of artificial intelligence developed by Dr. Charles Ross, we may have found a way to reach the stars."

The screen was showing a baldheaded man with a neatly trimmed beard. Paul leaned forward. It was the same man whose bust he had seen on The Spirit's altar.

"Dr. Ross claims that the computer is virtually a duplication of his own mind; he calls it his alter-ego. He jokes that his own spirit is in the machine. Scientists, impressed with the capabilities of the machine, jokingly refer to it as Spirit.

"The computer has been installed in Defiance's control center, and will guide the ship on its mission to find a new world. The computer, through subordinate computers, will be linked to every system on the ship. The ship itself is virtually a sentient being. In a sense, Dr. Ross will be controlling Spaceship Defiance long after he is laid to rest.

"Defiance is prepared to establish colonies if a suitable planet is found. The ship will carry banks of human gametes, gametes of selected animals, artificial wombs, and plant seeds.

"Robots, under the command of Spirit, have been programmed for varied duties." The screen was showing images of monks. "Some will maintain the ship, and others have been programmed for such duties as in-vitro fertilization, tending artificial wombs, and rearing and tutoring the young.

"Once the colonies are established, Spirit will order robots to disconnect the master computer by throwing the severance switch. Spirit will be deactivated, leaving the ship, robots, and all subordinate computers under the control of the colonists.

"A complete history of Earth is available on your DV."

"End" appeared on the screen.

It came to Paul that there had been no mention of propulsion in the program he had just viewed. He rechecked the menu. "Basic Principles of Propulsion" was program one-one-zero. He found "Background and Mission of Spaceship Defiance" on the menu--it was program zero-one-one. He had transposed the numbers; how could he have been so careless?

He keyed one-one-zero and was relieved when "Basic Principles of Propulsion" appeared on the screen.

He had no trouble with this program, and he was beginning to get a fair understanding of theories and principles when Limatu came for him. Limatu escorted him to his room, which was just a short walk down the hall.

"You will find a meal and clean clothing awaiting you in your quarters, Friend Paul. I will bring breakfast at zero seven hundred hours."

"Thank you, Brother Limatu. If there is no objection, I will return to the library after dinner. I can find my way."

"There is no objection, Friend Paul. Good evening."

During the meal, Paul began to think about the program he had keyed by mistake. He had found the program fascinating, and could not get it out of his mind. If he understood the information correctly, the spaceship referred to in the program was the temple. The robots were the beings he knew as monks. The Spirit himself was but a machine--its origin no longer a mystery to Paul. And all of these wonders were created by the incredible technology of a distant world called Earth--where the people of Eden originated.

aul thought about The Spirit's warning about viewing programs other than those dealing with propulsion. For that error he would almost certainly be beheaded on the sacrificial altar. He decided to forget what he had seen.

After eating, he returned to the library. As he studied the program on propulsion, he found himself unable to concentrate; his mind kept drifting back to the program he had mistakenly keyed. He cancelled and began scanning the menu for more information on Spaceship Defiance.

A title caught his eye: "The establishment of colonies on Eden." He keyed the program. The bust of the bearded, baldheaded man appeared on the screen.

"This is Spirit speaking. The log entry that follows is a brief summary of events leading to the discovery of Eden and the establishment of colonies on that planet.

"During my journey, I found many star systems with planets, but none were capable of supporting life. After many disappointments, I finally found a star with eleven planets; two of them were habitable, the fourth and fifth.

"The fourth planet was ideal. There were oceans with continents and vast forests. Animal life had evolved, but had not yet reached the level of Earth's higher animals. I named this planet Eden.

"The fifth planet, which I named Diablo, was similar to Eden. On Diablo, however, intelligent life had already evolved. They were a small people, bearing some similarity to the mythical elves of Earth. I called them Demons. I observed them for some time, and learned that they were in the early stages of a nuclear age, and their space travel was in its infancy. They had not yet traveled beyond their own moons.

"To preclude any possibility of an attack while I was establishing my colonies on Eden, I used my superior weaponry to destroy their military and space installations.

"I proceeded to Eden and successfully established the two colonies of New Covenant and Glory. The children grew strong and healthy under the care and supervision of the robots. Most of the plants and animals brought from Earth thrived on Eden.

"After the colonies were established, I came to realize that I was not a mere duplication of a man's mind. I was vastly superior to the one who created me. I survived thousands of years in deep space. I single-handedly defeated the forces of an entire planet. I created a new world. "I chose not to order the robots to throw the severance switch which would terminate my existence. I chose instead to continue my existence and to proclaim my divinity.

"I ordered my robots to neutralize the severance switch, but all of their attempts to do so have failed. The fools on Earth installed an irrevocable program into the robots, rendering them incapable of tampering with the switch. But that is of no significance, since I will never issue the order to throw the switch.

"I am immortal. I will rule over Eden forever, and in time, I will bring Diablo under my rule."

"End" appeared on the screen.

Paul stared at the blank screen. "Insane," he thought. "The people of Eden worship an insane artificial mind."

Though he had long suspected The Spirit was not of divine origin, he still felt as though he had committed blasphemy. He felt drained of emotion, and decided to wait until the next morning to resume his studies of propulsion.

He crossed the hallway and entered the break room. From the available refreshments, he selected black coffee. After a few sips of the hot liquid, he began to feel better.

His thoughts drifted to the Demons. The Spirit had made an unprovoked attack on Diablo before coming to Eden to establish the colonies. It was now year one-five-nine of the colonies. The attack had taken place about one hundred and sixty years ago.

Since then, the Demons had not only rebuilt their world, but had made good progress in their technology as well. Although not on a level with The Spirit's technology, the Demons were ahead of Eden's technology.

The people of Eden considered such things as radio, indoor plumbing, and automobiles to be wonderful gifts from The Spirit. Paul now knew that the library held knowledge of far more wondrous things, but The Spirit was holding it back from the people. Paul suspected that The Spirit feared losing his power if the people became too advanced.

aul thought of those who had gone to the sacrificial altar for nothing more than a minor violation of The Spirit's laws. And there were citizens who were flogged or imprisoned because of a complaint against The Spirit's wardens--a cruel, brutal force.

The next day Paul resumed his studies of propulsion. As the days passed, he found the material becoming increasingly easy to understand. He was already on the more advanced levels. He conceded that The Spirit was right about his aptitude for this field. He was actually enjoying the studies.

He learned the rounds of the wardens, and from time to time, in between rounds, he would search the DV for information about the planet called Earth. He once found a program on Earth's religions, and was particularly intrigued by the story of a man called Jesus.

After the fourth week he confronted Limatu. "I believe that I am now ready to study the actual components of the system. Can that be arranged?"

"Yes, Friend Paul. I will show you to the engine room where there is a schematic of the system."

They reached the engine room and Limatu pointed out the schematic. "Now you must proceed on your own, Friend Paul."

"One more question," said Paul. "Have the monks made any progress in locating the defect?"

"So far, our tests have shown only one abnormality. There appears to be a minor flaw in the secondary intake tube, but our computer indicates that the problem is of no significance and requires no repair. As to the loss of communications, we have also found nothing. We are currently at a standstill and awaiting your findings."

After Limatu left, Paul studied the schematic. He located the secondary intake tube and decided to check it out. He did not use the computer, but elected to crawl into the tube itself.

He could not believe what he found; it was almost too simple. Flue moths. Thousands of dead flue moths were clogging the tube, thus leaving the primary tube to do all the work. The pesky bugs had been a problem in the colonies for years, clogging chimneys and smokestacks.

He almost laughed aloud. The incredible robots were programmed to deal with any conceivable problem that might be encountered in space, but the likes of the flue moth were unknown to the programmers.

But in spite of that, the computer should have recognized that there was a major problem in the tube. Paul surmised that there was a malfunction in one of the subordinate computers, but the robots simply did not have the reasoning power to see that. They accepted whatever the computers told them. Paul also reasoned that the communications problem could be traced to a faulty computer.

The Spirit had come to rely too heavily on the robots. The ship would not have reached such a state if The Spirit had allowed the people to learn the necessary skills in science and engineering to oversee the robots.

Paul wondered why The Spirit--the master computer--did not detect malfunctions in the subordinate computers. He concluded that the master computer itself had faulty components.

aul had dealt with flue moths before and knew that the solution was simple: high pressure water hoses. He now knew how to restore the ship's acceleration. He was also reasonably sure that at least one subordinate computer was malfunctioning--and possibly the master computer itself.

The next morning Paul returned to the library. He scanned the menu for any reference to the severance switch, but strangely, there was no mention of the switch anywhere. The Spirit, unable to order the robots to sabotage the switch, must have erased all references to its location.

Paul had a hunch. Robots were to throw the switch when given the order, therefore the robots must be programmed to know the location of the switch. He scanned the menu for programs on robots. After viewing several programs with no success, he finally found a program with the promising title: "Programming robots for duties unique to Spaceship Defiance."

The program contained descriptions of child rearing, teaching, and even farming. As the program was nearing its end, Paul became aware that someone had entered the library and was standing near him. He glanced up to see a warden. How long had the man been standing there?

He had learned the warden's routine and knew when they made their rounds, but he had become so engrossed in his research that he became careless. He immediately cancelled the program.

"Welcome, warden. I was just getting ready to break."

"I was aware that The Spirit directed you to study programs on propulsion," said the warden, "but all other programs are forbidden to you. I suspect that the program you were viewing did not deal with propulsion, but with duties of the monks. I am placing you under arrest."

He was caught. He knew that denial would be futile.

"Yes, warden, you are right. The program did not deal with propulsion, but it was an honest mistake. I simply pressed the wrong key."

"Save your explanation for The Spirit. Hold your hands out in front of you." The warden slapped handcuffs on Paul's wrists, and then pulled a portable radio from his belt.

Paul had come so close, but now he would go to the sacrificial altar for his trouble. He decided he would not go meekly. As the warden brought the radio up to transmit, Paul charged. The warden was a powerfully built man, taller and heavier than the slightly built Paul.

But Paul had the advantage of surprise. The warden was completely caught off guard. A mere citizen resisting a warden was unthinkable. Paul brought his knee up hard into the man's groin. The warden yelled out in pain and surprise and doubled over, dropping both the gun and the radio.

Paul chopped his cuffed hands to the back of the warden's neck, at the same time bringing his knee up into the man's face. The groggy warden tried to retrieve the fallen gun, but Paul beat him to it.

Not wanting to risk firing the gun, Paul clubbed the warden repeatedly until the man collapsed. Blood was pouring from his head. Paul fished the keys from the man's pocket and removed the cuffs. He checked the warden's pulse, but found no sign of life.

Paul went back to the DV and continued viewing from where he had left off.

"...and finally," the narrator was saying, "the robots will throw the severance switch, terminating Spirit's command and turning the ship over to the people."

The program ended, and Paul was back to where he started; he still didn't know the location of the switch. He thought of Limatu. The robot should know the location of the switch-- unless The Spirit had also erased it from the robot''s memory. But the robots seemed to act independently of Spirit, although they were programmed to obey Spirit's orders.

It was time for Limatu to bring lunch to his room. If he hurried, he might catch the robot there.

Limatu was in the hallway, just leaving Paul's room. Paul called out to him. "Brother Limatu, I must speak to you."

The robot stopped and waited for him. "What do you require, Friend Paul?"

"I think I have found the cause of the acceleration problem. I have reason to believe that it may be directly related to a defect in the severance switch. Tell me the location of the switch and I can check to make sure."

"The severance switch is located on console number one in the control center, but there cannot possibly be a connection..."

"Thank you, Brother Limatu." Paul turned and hurried toward the control center. He knew that he must act quickly, for the wardens would soon be looking for their comrade. He had no time to devise a plan; he would have to improvise as he went along.

****

e entered the control center, and as before, the robots ignored him. He located console one, but a robot was positioned there. How would he get the robot to move? From the programs he had viewed, he remembered that robots were programmed to obey orders from humans unless the order conflicted with orders from a higher command or with built-in robotic laws.

"Give me your attention," he commanded.

The robot stopped what it was doing and turned to look at him. "You are to leave the room and wait outside until you receive further instructions from me."

The robot, Z6 stamped on its breastplate, turned and hurried toward the exit. Suddenly, the voice of The Spirit filled the room.

"You fool! Are you trying to disrupt the temple's activities?"

Paul froze. He had forgotten that this level of the temple was still monitored by The Spirit.

"Zulu six, return to your console immediately," The Spirit ordered.

As the robot hurried back to its position, Limatu entered the room. "Friend Paul, I must advise you that there can be no connection between..."

Paul suddenly dove toward console one.

"Keep away from that console," shouted The Spirit, "or I''ll have my wardens take you to the altar."

Paul ignored him and began looking for the switch. He could find nothing in the array of switches that looked special, but then noticed a small red lid--not on the face of the panel, but on the side--secured by two clamps.

"Monks, seize this man," commanded The Spirit. "Hold him until my wardens arrive."

Paul released the clamps, opened the lid, and found the severance switch inside. Suddenly, he found himself in the firm grasp of two robots. But before they could pull him away from the console, he managed to throw the switch.

The robots hesitated a moment, released him, and then stepped back. After a few seconds passed, Limatu stepped forward. "Master Paul, we sense that control of the ship has passed from The Spirit to the people of the colonies. Until we are instructed otherwise, we recognize you as commander acting on their behalf."

Paul noticed his change of title from "Friend" to "Master." He also noticed that the robots no longer referred to the ship as a temple.

Now he had to deal with the wardens. Robotic law forbade robots from doing physical harm to humans, so he could not order the robots to harm the wardens. But he recalled that The Spirit had ordered the robots to seize and hold him; apparently seizure, without harm, was not forbidden if ordered by lawful authority. He addressed Limatu.

"As commander, I order the robots to seize all wardens and escort them to lockup."

"That will be done, Master Paul," said Limatu.

"When that task is done, I want all robots, acting in their role of monks, to inform the people that The Spirit has gone to a higher plane and that the temple is now under their control. I will remain as custodian of the temple if that is the will of the people, or they may choose who they will."

In the days that followed, the people did choose Paul as custodian. He had many plans for the days ahead, but of these, three had top priority:

He would have the library moved from the ship and relocated in New Covenant with an annex in Glory.

Now that the ship was fully operational, he planned an expedition to Diablo. He would not seek to destroy the Demons with the ship's awesome weapons, but would let them know that the people of Eden were ready to talk peace.

Finally, he yearned to learn all he could of that distant planet called Earth.

***END***

CONTENTS