Situated as it was in Alaska, and conversant with anthropology, contact with Eskimos came up easily. Dylac Scudd, a young man who had been showing increasing attraction to intellectual stress problems, was brought in to deal with them. In time his holdings were enlarged to include a few native Indian settlements. Now he was sitting within a small but worldwide cosmos, manifesting a sustained-activity approach.
The Worldwide Network complex was practically a visible sight in the surrounding areas, and those populating these regions considered it a possible tourist attraction. There were people out there now, observing Scudd, and when his interval of city scanning was accomplished, it became talk.
"They're getting to be pretty high-and-mighty," a tube-roller told a street surveyor. "That looked like Overseer Scudd. Maybe he's getting ready to do something."
"I wonder if they ever will? No way of asking. Intermediary agencies handle all the public relations for them."
"They'll do it themselves sooner or later. It's just natural to want to get out from time to time."
The huge complex loomed over them as they spoke, seemingly unknowable in the midst of its familiarity. Occasional observers looked at them from windows, seeing them en masse. Spread out around them were havens from the System, if any of them wanted one. They had no cause to resent any of its doings. Nor did they give the System cause to resent them. They would gossip about the comings and goings of the people who worked there, but did no sabotage.
Scudd had been more and more a subject of their talk. They considered him to have changed a lot over the course of time, and were at present using him as a model upon which to base discussions of Systems personnel. The conversation was reaching a head when Scudd appeared in the high window, and in the following days seemed about ready to present itself as an inquiry, but it ran into something else. Information designed for Systems' computers started coming to them instead of the complex. This situation, they found, coincided with the arrival of priests from Tibet. An investigation determined that the Tibetans were finding the use of computer processes unnecessary for interchange at this close a range. How they had gotten there was anybody's guess; there was speculation that actual astral transmission might be involved. "The climate in Tibet helps them do it," a traffic councilor said. "Around here, though, they wouldn't make it. Maybe they accumulated smoke in Tibet that got them here."
They seemed to have brought jobs with them, too. At any rate, they were often found in placements in the area that they had claimed---often they were under bridges or on the roofs of buildings, but just as often they had taken small rooms of their own in other peoples' office suites---and they were in full operation at employments known only to themselves. The automatic reaction of the city was to assimilate them, and they took to that well enough, developing more and more complex occupations with more and more claims upon other people's operations. They were shortly the subject of council meetings. The city had a floating system of town councils, each council constituting a sort of mass representative, a dim reflection of the system by which the country had still been being run in the prior century. The chief item on the agenda seemed to be how to get rid of them. Their presence had no beneficial effect and their maneuvers seemed to be jinxing everyone and everything, whether they were intending to do this or not. Finally an early statement of warfare was issued and a limited skirmish began.
The news of this influx reached the corporate holdings that were part of the systems complex, and was rapid in getting to the central coordinators.
* * *
A visit to his cubicle from an unknown was an unexpected pleasure for Dylac, and he expressed just that. "Tibetans, is it?" he asked Stuck.
"It seemed to me you would know something about them, if anybody would. They say there's quite a few of them."
"It's quite my line. Have you traced out anyone else here who might have an interest in them?"
"The existence of Tibet, two. Possibility of receiving from Tibet, several complexes. Asiatic countries, refer. Eastern religions, two. Primitive lands, five. You're one of the five, by the way."
"Hm, I've got some interest in their religions myself. You don't spot everything. Yes, I think I can tell you about Tibetans. I suppose they are here to see me."
Stuck had surmised this. "Should we find them and send some of them up?"
"Personal relations is a discouraged topic. It could be a bit tricky to find out whether they actually have this intimate objective. Why not express it to them in the form of corporations: executives: names?"
Stuck's face expressed that there was not a good reason for not doing that. However, he said, "They're not in contact with us in precisely that way. Their approach has not been conducive to any process."
"You can haul a few of them into a contacts office, can't you?"
"Now that can be done easily. It was some of the patrollers that took it upon themselves to inform us of this. I suppose we can have contacts established in a few hours. Would you like to be informed of it?"
"Definitely. The sooner I can get to the matter,. the better."
* * *
The Tibetans proved amenable to discussion. There was a lot of discrepancy on the matter of a name, but at last it was ascertained that they were indeed relating to Scudd. His name was several words in Tibet. The result of the contacts was that there was soon a group of five presenting themselves in the office's discussion area.
Dylac was facing what had been for him an abstract problem for many years, and had lately come to the point of becoming a new attitude and resulting in new reactions to the world. As he looked at the Tibetans he wondered how they could constitute anything that would influence him much. Probably he was just reacting to them as alternate beings. His contact with them had given him an increased awareness of what there was in existence. Forced to ignore his actual surroundings by the enforced circumstances of perspective readjustments, he had developed his perception of life in terms of these Tibetans. Finding out what they were actually saying about things would probably wake him out of his new attitude.
They seemed to think that standing in a line in front of him was a proper ceremonious presentation. Stuck stood by the doorway, Rhonson was off-center deeper in the room, and Dilsey was hovering nearby outside as a conference room and office go between.
At least they were being ceremonious.
"Good of you to come here for a visit," Dylac said. "But also, it's probably bad of you. It seems unlikely that you had full consent to make this visit, or obtained a proper visa or other papers for entrance into this country."
There were a few moments of silence by way of a reaction. One of the Tibetans said, "It seems we should have sent an abominable snowman properly in our place. You have the climate to support one of those, we've been told."
"The scientists have taken care of that," Rhonson said. "Climate problems are well under control here."
"Perhaps that is what has been discouraging us in recent times from sending an abominable snowman to your psychologists. But we do have the proper trade routes established for the exchange, and were able to follow the protocols of our earlier attempts."
"Abominable snowman? That'd be in the same category as the Loch Ness Monster," Stuck said.
"I'm glad you see reason," said the Tibetan who had been speaking. "We do not speak favorably about the people in Tibet or about conditions there. It does not compare very favorably with your country. However, we are apt to have certain complaints about your systems of arranging events there. We'd like it to be our country, whether it's got very commendable living standards or not."
"That's as reasonably expressed as something in a high government council," Dylac said. "Very gentlemanly. As we sometimes put it. Why, don't you like it?"
"I've never considered myself to be especially gentle," another of the Tibetans said. Three others demurred. A speaker as yet unheard-from took up the discussion.
"There's too much influence happening in our country, and as you say of things, it's influence as yet unaccounted-for. We cannot have so much happening without seeing about it."
Dylac reflected that a lot of things had been happening for him, too. The Tibetans were having a lot of effect upon him, and it was giving him the appearance to himself of being a lone being against a world, or if not a world, then a cosmos existing somewhere within it. They'd somehow been managing---
"You've somehow been managing to send ideas back this way," Dylac said. "Not that I object to it. Free interchange. Except that those ideas don't seem to have a source or to be exactly ideas. Nor are they transmissions; they're left idle until they're somehow picked up."
There was a silence among the Tibetans that was the sound of running water in another valley. "You need not gather them in," the most recent speaker said. "We have to register things, and what we register is whatever it may be, random whimsicality, perhaps. We were expecting some disciplinary investigation, but when none came, that was all right."
"Of course it was," Rhonson said, surprisingly. "Everything's always all right out there. And conversely, everything's always all wrong, too."
"You know aught of Tibet?" one asked him.
"I have to take some interest in Scudd's dealings."
"We have to find out who is dealing with us at some time or other. We've had gods unknown to us over centuries, but this thing proceeds faster, and the acquaintanceship seems to be getting to be a requirement."
"Well, I've been wondering about you, too. Not that I have any way of dealing further with any of the problems that exist, or any ideas about how to proceed in the light of a closer acquaintanceship. I think your being here alters the nature of the matter, but I don't know what any of the results will be."
"Results aren't expected. We have only to return and tell the people what we have found out about those who see into our land. Then I suppose our responses will become more intelligible, or, if not, more knowledgeable."
They required more insight into a man, then. Scudd knew what a formless deity he must have been to them. But at that distance, he could expect to be formless.
However, he'd taken an interest in that formless impression and become more that way as a person, a change augmented by the material he'd been getting back from the Tibetans. He'd ended up being someone who helped them to become more the way they already were. That wasn't exactly the objective of the people involved in Systems.
A conversation with them seemed one that at this point would not be very profitable, no matter how interesting it might be. He could hardly guarantee them or anyone else of anything. A man had little control over his own being. It seemed he and his corporation and the Tibetans would all be left as observers of happenings in the world as they followed the progress of further relations. All the direct control there could be over circumstances was already being used.
"Very nice buildings, these," one of the Tibetans said. "Perhaps you could give us a tour of them. Then we could go back with the information we needed."
Everyone agreed that their going back to Tibet would be worth the effort and risk of a tour.
* * *
They wanted also to get to know Dylac better, and when they had studied him enough, they would go away.
Dylac liked the greater reality of the Tibetan presence. Perhaps the Establishers had expected such little-known places as Tibet to become more of an influential part of the world as their kind of progress made itself felt. Dylac was indeed a kind of deity in this system, but he need not be set apart from the many. The end of this way of being in the world seemed to have been forestalled by adaptation to mutation. Perhaps Dylac's occupation would, after all, carry him though this life.
The tour day was a special one, and the corporation registered the possibility of further such tours in the future. The Tibetans looked at everything with lively interest, and in the end they were gone again as they had promised.
In the evening, the huge complex used very little light. Although the illumination was adequate for visibility, the buildings still loomed starkly against the night sky, shadowy forms in Earth's night. It was possible that they would manage the interstellar expansion they visualized. All had gone well enough thus far.
Probably Dylac would not be promoted into that expansion. He had all he could do to handle the newly-evolving way of life in the modern world for which he had contracted. But he had not been any distress to the system, so all had gone well enough there, too.
It would be at least interesting to see which way things went in that future as they continued to progress.
Copyright © 2002 by John Thiel