by David Duncan
Dr. Clarence Peccary was an objective man. His increasing irritation was caused, he realized, by the fear that his conscience was going to intervene between him and the vast fortune that was definitely within his grasp. Millions. Billions! But he wanted to enjoy it.
He didn’t want to skulk through life avoiding the eyes of everyone he met—particularly when his life might last for centuries. So he sat glowering at the rectangular screen that was located just above the control console of Roger Staghorn’s great digital computer.
At the moment Peccary was ready to accuse Staghorn of having no conscience whatsoever. It was only through an act of scientific detachment that he reminded himself that Staghorn neither had a fortune to gain nor cared about gaining one. Staghorn’s fulfillment was in Humanac, the name he’d given the electronic monster that presently claimed his full attention. He sat at the controls, his eyes luminous behind the magnification of his thick lenses, his lanky frame arched forward for a better view of Humanac’s screen. Far from showing annoyance at what he saw, there was a positive leer on his face.
As well there might be.
On the screen was the full color picture of a small park in what appeared to be the center of a medium-sized town. It was a shabby little park. Rags and tattered papers waggled indolently in the breeze. The grass was an unkempt, indifferent pattern of greens and browns, as though the caretaker took small pains in setting his sprinklers. Beyond the square was a church, its steeple listing dangerously, its windows broken and its heavy double doors sagging on their hinges.