The Troublemakers

by George O. Smith:

What did Genetics and Hansen’s Folly have
in common? Why, everything … Genetics
was statistical and Hansen’s Folly impossible!


I

The living room reflected wealth, position, good taste. In size it was a full ten feet by fourteen, with nearly an eight-foot ceiling. Light was furnished by glow panels precisely balanced in color to produce light’s most flattering tint for the woman who sat in a delicate chair of authentic, golden-veined blackwood.

The chair itself must have cost a fortune to ship from Tau Ceti Five. It was an ostentation in the eyes of the visitor, who viewed it as evidence of a self-indulgent attitude that would certainly make his job more difficult.

The air in the room was fresh and very faintly aromatic, pleasing. It came draftlessly refreshed at a temperature of seventy-six degrees and a relative humidity of fifty per cent and permitted the entry of no more than one foreign particle (dust) per cubic foot.

The coffee table was another ostentation, but for a different reason than the imported chair of blackwood. The coffee table was of mahogany—terrestrial mahogany—and therefore either antique, heirloom, or both, and in any combination of cases it was priceless. It gave the visitor some dark pleasure to sit before it with his comparison microscope parked on the polished mahogany surface, with the ease of one who always parked his tools on tables and stands made of treasure woods.

There were four persons. Paul Hanford swirled brandy in a snifter with a series of nervous gestures. Mrs. Hanford sat in the blackwood chair unhappily, despite the flattering glow of the wall-panels. Their daughter, Gloria, sat in such a way as to distract the visitor by presenting a target that his eyes could not avoid. Try as he would, his gaze kept straying to the slender, exposed bare ankle and the delicate, high-arched foot visible beneath the hem of the girl’s dress.


Norman Ross, GSch, was the visitor, and he subvocalized his tenth self-indictment as he tore his gaze away from Gloria Hanford’s ankle to look into Paul Hanford’s face. Ross was the Scholar of Genetics for the local division of the Department of Domestic Tranquility and he should have known all about such things, but he obviously did not.

He said, “You can hardly blame yourselves, you know,” although he did not really believe it.

“But what have we done wrong?” asked Mrs. Hanford in a plaintive voice.

Scholar Ross shook his head and caught his gaze in mid-stray before it returned all the way to that alluring ankle. “Genetics, my dear Mrs. Hanford, is a statistical science, not a precise science.” He waved vaguely at the comparison microscope. “There are your backgrounds for seven generations. No one—and I repeat, no one—could have foreseen the issue of a headstrong, difficult offspring from the mating of characteristics such as these. I checked most carefully, most minutely, just to be certain that some obscure but important conflict had not been overlooked by the signing doctor. Doctors, however, do make mistakes.”

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