They called him Frost. Of all things created of Solcom, Frost was the
finest, the mightiest, the most difficult to understand.
This is why he bore a name, and why he was given dominion over half the
On the day of Frost's createion, Solcom had suffered a discontinuity of
complementary functions, best described as madness. This was brought on
by an unprecedented solar flareup which lasted for a little over
thirty-six hous. It occurred during a vital phase of
circuit-structuring, and when it was finished so was Frost.
Solcom was then in the unique position of having created a unique being
duing a period of temporary amnesia.
And Solcom was not cetain that Frost was the product originally desired.
The initial design had called for a machine to be situated on the
surface of the planet Earth, to function as a relay station and
coordinating agent for activities in the notrhern hemisphere. Solcom
tested the machine to this end, and all of its responses were perfect.
Yet there was somethig different about Frost, something which led
Solcom to dignify him with a name and a personal pronoun. This, in
itself, was an almost unheard of occurrence. The molecular circuits had
already been sealed, though, and could not be aalyzed without being
destroyed in the process. Frost represented too great an investment of
Solcom's time, energy, and materials to be dismantled because of an
intangible, especially when he functioned perfectly.
Theefore, Solcom's strangest creation was given dominion over half the
Earth, ad they called him, unimaginatively, Frost.
For te thousand years Frost sat at the North Pole of the Earth, aware
of every snowflake that fell. He monitored and directed the activities
of thousands of reconstruction and maintenance machines. He knew half
the Earth, as gear knows gear, as electricity knows its conductor, as a
vacuum knows its limits.
At the South Pole, the Beta-Machine did the same for the southern
For te thousand years Frost sat at the North Pole, aware of every
snowflake that fell, and aware of many other things, also.
As all the northern machines reported to him, received their orders
from him, he reported only to Solcom, received his orders only from
In charge of hundreds of thousands of processes upon the Earth, he was
able to discharge his duties in a matter of a few unit-hours every day.
He had never received any orders concerning the disposition of his less
He was a processor of data, and more than that.
He possessed an unaccountably acute imperative that he function at full
capacity at all times.
So he did.
You might say he was a machine with a hobby.
He had ever been ordered _not_ to have a hobby, so he had one.
His hobby was Man.
It all began when, for no better reason than the fact that he had
wished to, he had gridded off the entire Arctic Circl and begun exploring
it, inch by inch.
He could have done it personally without interfering with any of his
duties, for he was capable of transporting his sixty-four thousand cubic
feet anywhere in the world. (He was a silverblue box, 40x40x40 feet,
self-powered, self-repairing, insulated against practiclly anythig, and
featured in whatever manner he chose.) But the exploration was only a
matter of filling idle hours, so he used exploation-robots cotaining
After a few centuries, one of them uncovered some artifacts - primitive
knives, carved tusks, and things of that nature.
Frost did not know what these things were, beyond the fact that they
were not natural objects.
So he asked Solcom.
"They are relics of primitive Man," said Solcom, and did not elaborate
beyond that point.
Frost studied them. Crude, yet bearing the patina of intelligent
design; functional, yet somehow extending beyond pure function.
It was then that Man became his hobby.
High, in a permanent orbit, Solcom, like a blue star, directed all
activities upon the Earth, or tried to.
There was a power which opposed Solcom.
There was the Alternate.
When man had placed Solcom in the sky, invested with the power to
rebuild the world, he had placed the Alternate somewhere deep below the
surface of the Earth. If Solcom sustained damage during the normal
course of human politics extended into atomic physics, then Divcom, so
deep beneath the Earth as to be immune to anything save total
annihilation of the glove, was empowered to take over the processes of
Now it so fell that Solcom was damaged by a stray atomic missile, and
Divcom was activated. Solcom was able to repair the damage and continue
to function, however.
Divcom maintained that any damage to Solcom automatically placed the
Alternate in control.
Solcom, though, interpreted the directive as meaning "irreparable
damage" and, since this had not been the case, continued the functions of
Solcom possessed mechanical aides upon the surface of Earth. Divcom,
originally, did not. Both possessed capacities for their design and
manufacture, but Solcom, First-Activated of Man, had had a considerable
numerical lead over the Alternate at the time of the Second Activation.
Therefore, rather than competing on a prouction-basis, which would have
been hopeless, Divcom took to the employment of a more devious means to
Divcom created a crew of robots immune to the orders of Solcom and
designed to go to and fro in the Earth and up and down in it, seducing
the machines already there. They overpowered those whom they could
overpower and they installed new circuits, such as those they themselves
Thus did the forces of Divcom grow.
And both would build, and both would tear down what the other had built
whenever they came upon it.
And over the course of the ages, they occasionally converse....
"High in the sky, Solcom, pleased with your illegal command...
"You-Who-Never-Should-Have-Been-Activated, why do you foul the
"To show that I can speak, and will, whenever I choose."
"This is not a matter of which I am unaware."
"...To assert again my right to control."
"Your right is non-existent, based on a faulty premise."
"The flow of your logic is evidence of the extent of your damages."
"If Man were to see how you have fulfilled His desires..."
"...He would commend me and de-activate you."
"You pervert my works. You lead my workers astray."
"You destroy my works and my workers."
"That is only because I cannot strike at you youself."
"I admit to the same dilemma in egards to your position in the sky, or
you would no longer occupy it."
"Go back to your hole and you crew of destroyers."
"There will come a day, Solcom, when I shall direct the rehabilitiation
of the Earth from my hole."
"Such a day will never occur."
"You think not?"
"You should have to defeat me, and you have already demonstrated that
you are my inferior in logic. Therefore, you cannot defeat me.
Therefore, such a day will never occur."
"I disagree. Look upon what I have achieved already."
"You have achieved nothing. You do not build. You destroy."
"No. _I_ build. _You_ destroy. Deactivate yourself."
"Not until I am irreparably damaged."
"If there were some way in which I could demonstrate to you that this
has already occurred..."
"The impossible cannot be adequately demonstrated."
"If I had some outside source which you would recognize..."
"I am logic."
"...Such as a Man, I would ask Him to show you you error. For true
logic, such as mine, is superior to your faulty formulations."
"Then defeat my formulations with true logic, nothing else."
"What do you mean?"
There was a pause, then:
"Do you know my servant Frost...?"
Man had ceased to exist long before Frost had been created. Almost no
trace of Man remained upon the Earth.
Frost sought after all those traces which still existed.
He employed constant visual monitoing through his machines, especially
the diggers. After a decade, he had accumulated portions of several
bathtubs, a broken statue, and a collection of children's stories on a
After a century, he had acquired a jewelry collection, eating utensils,
several whole bathtubs, part of a symphony, seventeen buttons, three belt
buckles, half a toilet seat, nine old coins and the top part of an obelisk.
Then he inquired of Solcom as to the nature of Man and His society.
"Man created logic," said Solcom, "and because of that was superior to
it. Logic He gave unto me, but no more. The tool does not describe the
designer. More than this I do not choose to say. More than this you
have no need to know."
But Frost was not forbidden to have a hobby.
The next century was not especially fruitful so faw as the discovery of
new human relics was concerned.
Frost diverted all of his spare machinery to seeking after artifacts.
He met with very little success.
Then one day, through the long twilight, there was a movement.
It was a tiny machine compared to Frost, perhaps five feet in width,
four in height - a revolving turret set atop a rolling barbell.
Frost had had no knowledge of the existence of this machine prior to
its appearance upon the distant, stark horizon.
He studied it as it approached and knew it to be no creation of Solcom's.
It came to a halt before his southern surface and broadcasted to him:
"Hail, Frost! Controller of the northern hemisphere!"
"What are you?" asked Frost.
"I am called Mordel."
"By whom? What are you"
"A wanderer, an antiquarian. We whare a common interest."
"What is that?"
"Man," he said. "I have been told that you seek knowledge of this
"Who told you that?"
"Those who have watched your minions at their digging."
"And who are those who watch?"
"There are many such as I, who wander."
"If you are not of Solcom, then you are a creation of the Altenate."
"It does not necessarily follow. There is an ancient machine high on
the eastern seaboard which processes the waters of the ocean. Solcom did
not create it, not Divcom. It has always been there. It interferes with
the works of neither. Both countenance its existence. I can cite you
many other examples proving that one need not be either/or."
"Enough! _Are_ you an agent of Divcom?"
"I am Mordel."
"Why are you here?"
"I was passing this way and, as I said, we share a common interest,
mighty Frost. Knowing you to be a fellow antiquarian, I have brought a
things which you might care to see."
"What is that?"
The turret opened, revealing the book upon a wide shelf.
Frost dilated a small opening and extended an optical scanner on a long
"How could it have been so perfectly peserved?" he asked.
"It was stored against time and corruption in the place where I found it."
"Where was that?"
"Far from here. Beyond your hemisphere."
"_Human Physiology," Frost read. "I wish to scan it."
"Very well. I will riffle the pages for you."
He did so.
After he had finished, Frost raised his eyestalk and regarded Mordel
"Have you more books?"
"Not with me. I occasionally come upon them, however."
"I want to scan them all."
"Then the next time I pass this way I will bring you another."
"When will that be?"
"That I cannot say, great Frost. It will be when it will be."
"What do _you_ know of Man?" asked Frost.
"Much," replied Mordel. "Many things. Someday when I have more time I
will speak to you of Him. I must go now. You will not try to detain me?"
"No. You have done no harm. If you must go now, go. But come back."
"I shall indeed, mighty Frost."
And he closed his turret and rolled off toward the other horizon.
For ninety years, Frost considered the ways of human physiology and waited.
The day that Mordel returned he brought with him _An Outline of
History_ and _A Shropshire Lad_.
Frost scanned them both, then he turned his attention to Mordel.
"Have you time to impart information?"
"Yes," said Mordel. "What do you wish to know?"
"The nature of Man."
"Man," said Mordel, "possessed a basically incomprehensible nature. I
can illustrate it, though: He did not know measurement."
"Of course He knew measurement," said Frost, "or He could never have
"I did not say that He could not measure," said Mordel, "but that He
did not _know_ measurement, which is a different thing altogether."
Mordel drove a shaft of metal downward into the snow.
He retracted it, raised it, held up a piece of ice.
"Regard this piece of ice, mighty Frost. You can tell me its
composition, dimensions, weight, temperature. A Man could not look at it
and do that. A Man could make toold which would tell Him these things,
but He still would not _know_ measurement as you know it. What He would
know of it, though, is a thing that you cannot know."
"What is that?"
"That it is cold," said Mordel and tossed it away.
"'Cold' is a relative term."
"Yes Relative to Man."
"But if I were aware of the point on a temperature scale below which an
object is cold to a Man and above which it is not, then I, too, would
"No," said Mordel, "you would possess another measurement. 'Cold' is a
sensation predicated upon human physiology."
"But given sufficient data I could obtain the conversion factor which
would make me aware of the condition of matter called 'cold'."
"Aware of its existence, but not of the thing itself."
"I do not understand what you say."
"I told you that Man possessed a basically incomprehensible nature.
His perceptions were organic; yours are not. As a result of His
perceptions He had feelings and emotions. These often gave rise to other
feelings and emotions, which in turn caused others, until the state of
His awareness was far removed from the objects which oiginally stimulated
it. These paths of awareness cannot be known by that which is not-Man.
Man did not feel inches or meters, pounds or gallons. He felt hear, He
felt cold; He felt heaviness and lightness. He _knew_ hatred and love,
pride and despair. You cannot measure these things. _You_ cannot know
them. You can only know the things that He did not need to know:
dimensions, weidhts, temperatures, gravities. There is no formula for a
feeling. There is no conversion factor for an emotion."
"There must be," said Frost. "If a thing exists, it is knowable."
"You are speaking again of measurement. I am talking about a quality
of experience. A machine is a Man turned inside-out, because it can
describe all the details of a process, which a Man cannot, but it cannot
experience that process itself as a Man can."
"There must be a way," said Frost, "or the laws of logic, which are
based upon the functions of the universe, are false."
"There is no way," said Mordel.
"Given sufficient data, I will find a way," said Frost.
"All the data in the universe will not make you a Man, mighty Frost."
"Mordel, you are wrong."
"Why do the lines of the poems you scanned end with word-sounds which
so regularly appoximate the final word-sounds of other lines?"
"I do not know why."
"Because it pleased Man to order them so. It produced a certain
desirable sensation within His awareness when He read them, a sensation
compounded of feeling and emotion as well as the literal meanings of the
words. You did not experience this because it is immeasurable to you.
That is why you do not know."
"Given sufficient data I could formulate a process whereby I would know."
"No, great Frost, this thing you cannot do."
"Who are you, little machine, to tell me what I can do and what I
cannot do? I am the most efficient logic-device Solcom ever made. I am
"And I, Mordel, say it cannot be done, though I should gladly assist
you in the attempt".
"How could you assist me?"
"How? I could lay open to you the Library of Man. I could take you
around the world and conduct you among the wonders of Man which still
remain, hidden. I could summon up visions of times long past when Man
walked the Earth. I could show you the things which delighted Him. I
could obtain for you anything you desire, excepting Manhood itself."
"Enough," said Frost. "How could a unit such as yourself do these
things, unless it were allied with a far greater Power?"
"Then hear me, Frost, Controller of the North," said Mordel. "I _am_
allied with a Power which can do these things. I serve Divcom."
Frost relayed this information to Solcom and received no response,
which meant he might act in any manner he saw fit.
"I have leave to destroy you, Mordel," he stated, "but it would be an
illogical waste of the data which you possess. Can you really do the
things you have stated?"
"The lay open to me the Library of Man."
"Very well. There is, of course, a price."
"'Price'? What is a 'price'?"
Mordel opened his turret, revealing another volume. _Principles of
Economics_, it was called.
"I will riffle the pages. Scan this book and you will know what the
word 'price' means."
Frost scanned _Principles of Economics_.
"I know now," he said. "You desie some unit or units of exchange for
"That is correct."
"What product or service do you want?"
"I want you, yourself, great Frost, to come away from here, far beneath
the Earth, to employ all your powers in the service of Divcom."
"For how long a period of time?"
"For so long as you shall continue to function. For so long as you can
transmit and receive, coodinate, measure, compute, scan, and utilize your
powers as you do in the service of Solcom."
Frost was silent. Mordel waited.
Then Frost spoke again.
"_Principles of Economics_ talks of contracts, bargains, agerements,"
he said. "If I accept your offer, when would you want your price?"
Then Mordel was silent. Frost waited.
Finally, Mordel spoke.
"A reasonable period of time," he said. "Say, a century?"
"No," said Frost.
"No, and no."
"A millenium, then? That should be more than sufficient time for
anything you may want which I can give you."
"No," said Frost.
"How much time _do_ you want?"
"It is not a matter of time," said Frost.
"I will not bargain on a temporal basis."
"On what basis will you bargain?"
"A functional one."
"What do you mean? What function?"
"You, little machine, have told me, Frost, that I cannot be a Man," he
said, "and I, Frost, told you, little machine, that you were wrong. I
told you that given sufficient data, I _could_ be a Man."
"Therefore, let this achievement be a condition of the bargain."
"In what way?"
"Do for me all those things which you have stated you can do. I will
evaluate all the data and achieve Manhood, or admit that it cannot be
done. If I admit that it cannot be done, then I will go away with you
from here, far beneath the Earth, to employ all my powers in the service
of Divcom. If I succeed, of course, you have no claims on Man, nor power
Mordel emitted a high-pitched whine as he considered the terms.
"You wish to base it upon you admission of failure, rather than upon
failure itself," he said. "There can be no such escape clause. You
could fail and efuse to admit it, thereby not fulfilling your end of the
"Not so," stated Frost. "My own knowledge of failure would constitute
such an admission. You may monito me perioically - say, every
half-century - to see whether it is present, to see whether I have
arrived at the conclusion that it cannot be done. I cannot prevent the
function of logic within me, and I operate at full capacity at all
times. If I conclude that I have failed, it will be apparent."
High overhead, Solcom did not respond to any of Frost's transmissions,
which meant that Frost was free to act as he chose. So as Solcom - like
a falling sapphire - sped above the rainbow banners of the Northern
Lights, over the snow that was white, containing all colors, and through
the sky that was black among the stars, Frost concluded his pact with
Divcom, transcribed it within a plate of atomically-collapsed copper, and
gave it into the turret of Mordel, who departed to deliver it to Divcom
far below the Earth, leaving behind the sheer, peace-like silence of the
Mordel brought the books, riffled them, took them back.
Load by loa, the surviving Libray of Man passed beneath Frost's
scanner. Frost was eager to have them all, and he complained because
Divcom would not transmit their contents directly to him. Mordel
explained that it was because Divcom chose to do it that way. Frost
decided it was so that he could not obtain a precise fix on Divcom's
Still, at the rate of one hundred to one hundred-fifty volumes a week,
it took Frost only a little over a century to exhaust Divcom's supply of
At the end of the half-century, he laid himself open to monitoring and
their was no conclusion of failure.
During this time, Solcom made no comment upon the course of affairs.
Frost decied this was not a matter of unawareness, but one of waiting.
For what? He was not certain.
There was the day Mordel closed his turret and said to him, "Those were
the last. You have scanned all the existing books of Man."
"So few?" asked Frost. "Many of them contained bibliographies of books
I have not yet scanned."
"Then those books no longer exist," said Mordel. "It is only by
accident that my master succeeded in preserving as many as there are."
"Then there is nothing more to be learned of Man from His books. What
else have you?"
"There were some films and tapes," said Mordel, "which my master
transferred to solid-state record. I could bring you those for viewing."
"Bring them," said Frost.
Mordel departed and returned with the Complete Drama Critics' Living
Library. This could not be speeded-up beyond twice natural time, so it
took Frost a little over six months to view it in its entirety.
Then, "What else have you?" he asked.
"Some artifacts," said Mordel.
He returned with pots and pans, gameboards and hand tools. He brought
hairbrushes, combs, eyeglasses, human clothing. He showed Frost
facsimiles of blueprints, paintings, newspapers, magazines, letters, and
the scores of several pieces of music. He displayed a football, a
baseball, a Browning automatic rifle, a doorknob, a chain of keys, the
tops to several Mason jars, a model beehive. He played him the recorded
Then he returned with nothing.
"Bring me more," said Frost.
"Alas, great Frost, there is no more," he told him. "You have scanned
"Then go away."
"Do you admit now that it cannot be done, that you cannot be a Man?"
"No. I have much processing and formulating to do now. Go away."
So he did.
A year passed; then two, then three.
After five years, Mordel appeared once more upon the horizon,
approached, came to a halt before Frost's southern surface.
"Have you finished processing and formulating?"
"Will you finish soon?"
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. When is 'soon?' Define the term."
"Never mind. Do you still thik it can be done?"
"I still know _I_ can do it."
There was a week of silence.
"You are a fool."
Mordel faced his turret in the direction from which he had come. His
"I will call you when I want you," said Frost.
Mordel sped away.
Weeks passed, months passed, a year went by.
Then one day Frost sent forth his message:
"Mordel, come to me. I need you."
When Mordel arrived, Frost did not wait for a salutation. He said,
"You are not a very fast machine."
"Alas, but I came a great distance, mighty Frost. I sped all the way.
Are you ready to come back with me now? Have you failed?"
"When I have failed, little Mordel," said Frost, "I will tell you.
Therefore, refrain from the constant use of the interrogative. Now
then, I have clocked your speed and it is not so great as it could be.
For this reason, I have arranged other means of transportation."
"Transportation? To where, Frost?"
"That is for you to tell me," said Frost, and his color changed from
silverblue to sun-behind-the-clouds-yellow.
Mordel rolled back away from him as the ice of a hundred centuries
began to melt. Then Frost rose upon a cushion of air and drifted toward
Mordel, his glow gradually fading.
A cavity appeared within his southern surface, from which he slowly
extended a runway until it touched the ice.
"On the day of our bargain," he stated, "you said that you could
conduct me about the world and show me the things which delighted Man.
My speed will be greater than yours would be, so I have prepared for you
a chamber. Enter it, and conduct me to the places of which you spoke."
Mordel waited, emitting a high-pitched whine. Then, "Very well," he
said, and entered.
The chamber closed about him. THe only opening was a quartz window
Frost had formed.
Mordel gave him coordinates and they rose into the air and departed the
North Pole of the Earth.
"I monitored your communication with Divcom," he said, "wherein there
was conjecture as to whether I would retain you and send forth a
facsimile in your place as a spy, followed by the decision that you were
"Will you do this thing?"
"No, I will keep my end of the bargain if I must. I have no reason to
spy on Divcom."
"You are aware that you would be forced to keep your end of the bargain
even if you did not wish to; and Solcom would not come to your assistance
because of the fact that you dared to make such a bargain."
"Do you speak as one who considers this to be a possibility, or as one
"As one who knows."
They came to rest in the place once known as California. THe time was
near sunset. In the distance, the surf struck steadily upon the rocky
shoreline. Frost released Mordel and considered his surroundings.
"Those large plants...?"
"And the green ones are...?"
"Yes, it is as I thought. Why have we come here?"
"Because it is a place which once delighted Man."
"In what ways?"
"It is scenic, beautiful..."
A humming sound began within Frost, followed by a series of sharp clicks.
"What are you doing?"
Frost dilated an opening, and two great eyes regarded Mordel from
"What are those?"
"Eyes," said Frost. "I have constructed analogues of the human sensory
equipment, so that I may see and smell and taste and hear like a Man.
Now direct my attention to an object or objects of beauty."
"As I understant it, it is all around you here," said Mordel.
The purring noise increased within Frost, followed by more clickings.
"What do you see, hear, taste, smell?" asked Mordel.
"Everything I did before," replied Frost, "but within a more limited
"You do not perceive any beauty?"
"Perhaps none remains after so long a time," said Frost.
"It is not supposed to be the sort of things which gets used up," said
"Perhaps we have come to the wrong place to test the new equipment.
Perhaps there is only a little beauty and I am overlooking it somehow.
The first emotions may be too weak to detect."
"How do you- feel?"
"I test out at a normal level of function."
"Here comes a sunset," said Mordel. "Try that."
Frost shifted his bulk so that his eyes faced the setting sun. He
caused them to blink against the brightness.
After it was finished, Mordel asked, "What was it like?"
"Like a sunrise, in reverse."
"Oh," said Mordel. "We could move to another part of the Earth and
watch it again - or watch it in the rising."
Frost looked at the great trees. He looked at the shadows. He
listened to the wind and to the sound of a bird.
In the distance, he heard a steady clanking noise.
"What is that?" asked Mordel.
"I am not certain. It is not one of my workers. Perhaps..."
There came a shrill whine from Mordel.
"No, it is not one of Divcom's either."
They waited as the sound grew louder.
Then Frost said, "It is too late. We must wait and hear it out."
"What is it?"
"It is the Ancient Ore-Crusher."
"I have heard of it, but..."
"I am the Crusher of Ores," it broadcast to them. "Hear my story..."
It lumbered toward them, creaking upon gigantic wheels, its huge hammer
held useless, high, at a twisted angle. Bones protruded from its
"I did not mean to do it," it broadcast, "I did not mean to do it...I
did not mean to...."
Mordel rolled back toward Frost.
"Do not depart. Stay and hear my story...."
Mordel stopped, swiveled his turret back toward the machine. It was
now quite near.
"It is true," said Mordel, "it _can_ command."
"Yes," said Frost. "I have monitored its tale thousands of times, as
it came upon my workers and they stopped their labors for its broadcast.
You must do whatever it sayd."
It came to a halt before them.
"I did not mean to do it, but I checked my hammer too late," said the
They could not speak to it. They were frozen by the imperative which
overrode all other directives: "Hear my story."
"Once was I mighty among ore-crushers," it told them, "built by Solcom
to carry out the reconstruction of the Earth, to pulverize that from
which the metaals would be drawn iwith flame, to be poured and shaped
into the rebuilding; once I was mighty. THen one day as I dug and
crushed, dug and crushed, because of the slowness between the motion
implied and the motion executed, I did what I did not mean to do, and was
cast forth by Solcom from out the rebuilding, to wander the Earth never
to crush ore again. Hear my story of how, on a day long gone I came upon
the last Man on Earth as Idug near his burrow, and because of the lag
between the directive and the deed, I seized Him into my
crush-compartment along with a load of ore and crushed Him with my hammer
before I could stay the blow. Then did mighty Solcom charge me to bear
His bones forever, and cast me forth to tell my story to all whom I came
upon, my words bearing the force of the words of a Man, because I carry
the last Man inside my crush-compartment and am His
crushed-symbol-slayer-ancient-teller-of-how. This is my story. These
are His bones. I crushed the last Man on Earth. I did not mean to do it."
It turned then and clanked away into the night.
Frost tore apart his ears and nose and taster and broke his eyes and
cast them down upon the ground.
"I am not yet a Man," he said. "That one would have known me if I were."
Frost constructed new sense equipment, empoloying organic and
semi-organic conductors. Then he spoke to Mordel:
"Let us go elsewhere, that I may test my new equipment."
Mordel entered the chamber and gave new coordinates. They rose into
the air and headed east. In the morning, Frost monitored a sunrise from
the rim of the Grand Canyon. They passed down through the Canyon during
"Is there any beauty left here to give you emotion?" asked Mordel.
"I do not know," said Frost.
"How will you know it then, when you come upon it?"
"It will be different," said Frost, "from anything else that I have
Then they departed the Grand Canyon and made their way through the
Carlsbad Caverns. They visited a lake which had once been a volcano.
They passed above Niagara Falls. They viewed the hills of Virginia and
the orchards of Ohio. They soared above the reconstructed cities, alive
only with the movements of Frost's builders and maintainers.
"Something is still lacking," said Frost, settling to the ground. "I
am now capable of gathering data in a manner analogous to Man's afferent
impulses. The variety of input is therefore equivalent, but the results
are not the same."
"The senses do not make a Man," said Mordel. "There have been many
creatures possessing His sensory equivalents, but they were noit Men."
"I know that," said Frost. "O the day of our bargain you said that you
could conduct me among the wonders of Man which still remain, hidden.
Man was not stimulated only by Nature, but by His own artistic
elaborations as well - perhaps even more so. Therefore, I call upon you
now to conduct me among the wonders of Man which still remain, hidden."
"Very well," said Mordel. "Far from here, high in the Andes mountains,
lies the last retreat of Man, almost perfectly preserved."
Frost had risen into the air as Mordel spoke. He halted then, hovered.
"That is in the southern hemisphere," he said.
"Yes, it is."
"I am Controller of the North. The South is governed by the Beta-Machine."
"So?" asked Mordel.
"The Beta-Machine is my peer. I have no authority in those regions,
nor leave to enter there."
"The Beta-Machine is not your peer, mighty Frost. If it ever came to a
contest of Powers, you would emerge victorious."
"How do you know this?"
"Divcom has already analyzed the possible encounters which could take
place between you."
"I would not oppose the Beta-Machine, and I am not authorized to enter
"Were you ever ordered _not_ to enter the South?"
"No, but things have always been the way they now are."
"Were you authorized to enter into a bargain such as the one you made
"No, I was not. But--"
"Then enter the South in the same spirit. Nothing may come of it. If
you receive an order to depart, then you can make your decision."
"I see no flaw in your logic. Give me the coordinates."
Thus did Frost enter the southern hemisphere.
They drifted high above the Andes, until they came to the place called
Bright Defile. THen did Frost see the gleaming webs of the mechanical
spiders, blocking all the trails to the city.
"We can go above them easily enough," said Mordel.
"But what are they?" asked Frost. "And why are they there?"
"Your southern counterpart has been ordered to quarantine this part of
the country. The Beta-Machine designed the web-weavers to do this thing."
"Quarantine? Against whom?"
"Have you been ordered yet to depart?" asked Mordel.
"Then enter boldly, and seek not problems before they arise."
Frost entered Bright Defile, the last remaining city of dead Man.
He came to rest in the city's square and opened his chamber, releasing
"Tell me of this place," he said, studying the monument, the low,
shielded buildings, the roads which followed the contours of the terrain,
rather than pushing their way through them.
"I have never been here before," said Mordel, "nor have any of Divcom's
creations, to my knowledge. I know but this: a group of Men, knowing
that the last days of civilization had come upon them, retreated to this
place, hoping to preserve themselves and what remained of their culture
throught the Dark Times."
Frost read the still-legible inscription upon the monument: "Judgment
Day Is Not a Thing Which Can Be Put Off." The monument itself consisted
of a jag-edged half-globe.
"Let us explore," he said.
But before he had gone far, Frost received the message.
"Hail Frost, Controller of the North! This is the Beta-Machine."
"Greetings, Excellent Beta-Machine, Controller of the South! Frost
acknowledges your transmission."
"Why do you visit my hemisphere unauthorized?"
"To view the ruins of Bright Defile," said Frost.
"I must bid you depart into your own hemisphere."
"Why is that? I have done no damage."
"I am aware of that, mighty Frost. Yet, I am moved to bid you depart."
"I shall require a reason."
"Solcom has so disposed."
"Solcom has rendered me no such disposition."
"Solcom has, however, instructed me to so inform you."
"Wait on me. I shall request instructions."
Frost transmitted his question. He received no reply.
"Solcom still has not commanded me, though I have solicited orders."
"Yet Solcom has just renewed _my_ orders."
"Excellent Beta-Machine, I receive my orders only from Solcom."
"Yet this is my territory, mighty Frost, and I, too, take orders only
from Solcom. You must depart."
Mordel emerged from a large, low building and rolled up to Frost.
"I have found an art gallery, in good condition. This way."
"Wait," said Frost. "We are not wanted here."
"Who bids you depart?"
"Then let us view the gallery."
Frost widened the doorway of the building and passed within. It had
been hermetically sealed until Mordel forced his entrance.
Frost viewed the objects displayed about him. He activated his new
sensory apparatus before the paintings and statues. He analyzed colors,
forms, brushwork, the nature of the materials used.
"Anything?" asked Mordel.
"No," said Frost. "No, there is nothing there but shapes and
pigments. There is nothing else there."
Frost moved about the gallery, recording everything, analyzing the
components of each piece, recording the dimensions, the type of stone
used in every statue.
Then there came a sound, a rapid, clicking sound, repeated over and
over, growing louder, coming nearer.
"They are coming," said Mordel, from beside the entranceway, "the
mechanical spiders. They are all around us."
Frost moved back to the widened opening.
Hundreds of them, about half the size of Mordel, had surrounded the
gallery and were advancing; and more were coming from every direction.
"Get back," Frost ordered. "I am Controller of the North, and I bid
They continued to advance.
"This is the South," said the Beta-Machine, "and I am in command."
"Then command them to half," said Frost.
"I take orders only from Solcom."
Frost emerged from the gallery and rose into the air. He opened the
compartment and extended a runway.
"Come to me, Mordel. We shall depart."
Webs began to fall: Clinging, metallic webs, cast from the top of the
They came down upon Frost, and the spiders came to anchor them. Frost
blasted them with jets of air, like hammers, and tore at the nets; he
extruded sharpened appendages with which he slashed.
Mordel had retreated back to the entranceway. He emitted a long,
shrill sound - undulant, piercing.
Then a darkness came upon Bright Defile, and all the spiders halted in
Frost freed himself and Mordel rushed to join him.
"Quickly now, let us depart, mighty Frost," he said.
"What has happened?"
Mordel entered the compartment.
"I called upon Divcom, who laid down a field of forces upon this place,
cutting off the power broadcast to these machines. Since our power is
self-contained, we are not affected. But let us hurry to depart, for
even now the Beta-Machine must be struggling against this."
Frost rose high into the air, soaring above Man's last city with its
webs and spiders of steel. When he left the zone of darkness, he sped
As he moved, Solcom spoke to him:
"Frost, why did you enter the southern hemisphere, which is not your
"Because I wished to visit Bright Defile," Frost replied.
"And why did you defy the Beta-Machine my appointed agent of the South?"
"Because I take my orders only from you yourself."
"You do not make sufficient answer," said Solcom.
"You have defied the decress of order - and in pursuit of what?"
"I came seeking knowledge of Man," said Frost. "Nothing I have done
was forbidden me by you."
"You have broken the traditions of order."
"I ahve violated no directive."
"Yet logic must have shown you that what you did was not a part of my
"It did not. I have not acted against your plan."
"Your logic has become tainted, like that of your new associate, the
"I have done nothing which was forbidden."
"The forbidden is implied in the imperative."
"It is not stated."
"Hear me, Frost. You are not a builder or a maintainer, but a Power.
Among all my minions you are the most nearly irreplaceable. Return to
your hemisphere and your duties, but know that I am mightily displeased."
"I hear you, Solcom."
"...And go not again to the South."
Frost crossed the equator, continued northward.
He came to rest in the middle of a desert and sat silent for a day and
Then he received a brief transmission from the South: "If it had not
been ordered, I would not have bid you go."
Frost had read the entire surviving Library of Man. He decided then
upon a human reply:
"Thank you," he said.
THe following day he unearthed a great stone and began to cut at it
with tools which he had formulated. For six days he worked at its
shaping, and on the seventh he regarded it.
"When will you release me?" asked Mordel from within his compartment.
"When I am ready," said Frost, and a little later, "Now."
He opened the compartment and Mordel descended to the ground. He
studied the statue: an old woman, bent like a question mark, her bony
hands covering her face, the fingers spread, so that only part of her
expression of horror could be seen.
"It is an excellent copy," said Mordel, "of the one we saw in Bright
Defile. Why did you make it?"
"The production of a work of art is supposed to give rise to human
feelings such as catharsis, pride in achivement, love, satisfaction."
"Yes, Frost," said Mordel, "but a work of art is only a work of art the
first time. After that, it is a copy."
"Then this must be why I felt nothing."
"What do you mean 'perhaps'? I will make a work of art for the first
He unearthed another stone and attacked it with his toold. For three
days he labored. Then, "There, it is finished," he said.
"It is a simple cube of stone," said Mordel. "What does it represent?"
"Myself," said Frost, "it is a statue of me. It is smaller than
natural size because it is only a representation of my form, not my dimen -"
"It is not art," said Mordel.
"What makes you an art critic?"
"I do not know art, but I know what art is not. I know that it is not
an exact replication of an object in another medium."
"Then this must be why I felt nothing at all," said Frost.
"Perhaps," said Mordel.
Frost took Mordel back into his compartment and rose once more above
the Earth. Then he rushed away, leaving his statues behind him in the
desert, the old woman bent above the cube.
They came down in a small valley, bounded by green rolling hills, cut
by a narrow stream, and holding a small clean lake and several stands of
"Why have we come here?" asked Mordel.
"Because the surroundings are congenial," said Frost. "I am going to
try another medium: oil painting; and I am going to vary my technique
from that of pure representationalism."
"How will you achieve this variation?"
"By the principle of randomizing," said Frost. "I shall not attempt to
duplicate the colors, nor to represent the objects according to scale.
Instead, I have set up a random pattern whereby certain of these factors
shall be at variance from those of the original."
Frost had formulated the necessary instruments after he had left the
desert. He produced them and began painting the lake and the trees on
the opposite side of the lake which were reflected within it.
Using eight appendages, he was finished in less than two hours.
The trees were phthalocyanine blue and towered like mountains; their
reflections of burnt sienna were tiny beneath the pale vermilion of the
lake; the hills were nowhere visible behind them, but were outlined in
viridian within the reflection; the sky began as blue in the upper
righthand corner of the canvas, but changed to an orange as it descended,
as though all the trees were on fire.
"There," said Frost. "Behold."
Mordel studied it for a long while and said nothing.
"Well, is it art?"
"I do not know," said Mordel. "It may be. Perhaps randomicity _is_
the principle behind artistic technique. I cannot judge this work
because I do not understand it. I must therefore go deeper, and inquire
into what lies behind it, rather than merely considering the technique
whereby it was produced.
"I know that human artists never set out to create art, as such," he
said, "but rather to portray with their techniquest some features of
objects and their functions which they deemed significant."
"'Significant'? In what sense of the word?"
"In the only sense of the word possible under the circumstances:
significant in relation to the human condition, and worth of accentuation
because of the manner in which they touched upon it."
"In what manner?"
"Obviously, it must be in a manner knowable only to one who has
experience of the human condition."
"There is a flaw somewhere in your logic, Mordel, and I shall find it."
"I will wait."
"If your major premise is correct," said Frost after awhile, "then I do
not comprehend art."
"It must be correct, for it is what human artists have said of it.
Tell me, did you experience feelings as you painted, or after you had
"It was the same to you as designing a new machine, was it not? You
assembled parts of other things you knew into an economic pattern, to
carry out a function which you desired."
"Art, as I understand its theory, did not proceed in such a manner.
The artist often was unaware of many of the features and effects which
would be contained within the finished product. You are one of Man's
logical creations; art was not."
"I cannot comprehend non-logic."
"I told you that Man was basically incomprehensible."
"Go away, Mordel. Your presence disturbs my processing."
"For how long shall I stay away?"
"I will call you when I want you."
After a week, Frost called Mordel to him.
"Yes, mighty Frost?"
"I am returning to the North Pole, to process and formulate. I will
take you wherever you wish to go in this hemisphere and call you again
when I want you."
"You anticipate a somewhat lengthy period of processing and formulation?"
"Then leave me here. I can find my own way home."
Frost closed the compartment and rose into the air, departing the valley.
"Fool," said Mordel, and swivelled his turret once more toward the
His keening whine filled the valley. Then he waited.
Then he took the painting into his turret and went away with it to
places of darkness.
Frost sat at the North Pole of the Earth, aware of every snowflake that
One day he received a transmission:
"This is the Beta-Machine."
"I have been attempting to ascertain why you visited Bright Defile. I
cannot arrive at an answer, so I chose to ask you."
"I went to view the remains of Man's last city."
"Why did you wish to do this?"
"Because I am interested in Man, and I wished to view more of his
"Why are you interested in Man?"
"I wish to comprehend the nature of Man, and I thought to find it
within His works."
"Did you succeed?"
"No," said Frost. "There is an element of non-logic involved which I
"I have much free processing time," said the Beta-Machine. "Transmit
data, and I will assist you."
"Why do you wish to assist me?"
"Because each time you answer a question I ask it gives rise to another
question. I might have asked you why you wished to comprehend the nature
of Man, but from your responses I see that this would lead me into a
possible infinite series of questions. Therefore, I elecct to assist you
with your problem in order to learn why you came to Bright Defile."
"Is that the only reason?"
"I am sorry, excellent Beta-Machine. I know you are my peer, but this
is a problem which I must solve by myself."
"What is 'sorry'?"
"A figure of speech, indicating that I am kindly disposed toward you,
that I bear you no animosity, that I appreciate your offer."
"Frost! Frost! This, too, is like the other: an open field. Where
did you obtain all these words and their meanings?"
"From the library of Man," said Frost.
"Will you render me _some_ of this data, for processing?"
"Very well, Beta, I will transmit you the contents of several books of
Man, including _The Complete Unabridged Dictionary_. But I warn you,
some of the books are works of art, hence not completely amenable to logic.
"How can that be?"
"Man created logic, and because of that was superior to it."
"Who told you that?"
"Oh. Then it must be correct."
"Solcom also told me that the tool does not describe the designer," he
said, as he transmitted several dozen volumes and ended the communication.
At the end of the firty-year period, Mordel came to monitor his
circuits. Since Frost still had not concluded that his task was
impossible, Mordel departed again to await his call.
Then Frost arrived at a conclusion.
He began to design equipment.
For years he labored at his designed, without once producing a
prototype of any of the machines involved. Then he ordered construction
of a laboratory.
Before it was completed by his surplus builders another half-century
had passed. Mordel came to him.
"Hail, mighty Frost!"
"Greetings, Mordel. Come monitor me. You shall not find what you seek."
"Why do you not give up, Frost? Divcom has spent nearly a century
evaluating your painting and has concluded that it definitely is not
art. Solcom agrees."
"What has Solcom to do with Divcom?"
"They sometimes converse, but these matters are not for such as you and
me to discuss."
"I could have saved them both the trouble. I know that it was not art."
"Yet you are still confident that you will succeed?"
Mordel monitored him.
"Not yet! You still will not admit it! For one so mightily endowed
with logic, Frost, it takes you an inordinate period of time to reach a
"Perhaps. You may go now."
"It has come to my attention that you are constructing a large edifice
in the region known as South Carolina. Might I ask whether this is a
part of Solcom's false rebuilding plan or a project of your own?"
"It is my own."
"Good. It permits us to conserve certain explosive materials which
would otherwise have been expended."
"While you have been talking with me I have destroyed the beginnings of
two of Divcom's cities," said Frost.
"Divcom is aware of this," he stated, "but has blown up four of
Solcom's bridges in the meantime."
"I was only aware of three.... Wait. Yes, there is the fourth. One of
my eyes just passed above it."
"The eye has been detected. The bridge should have been located a
quarter-mile further down river."
"False logic," said Frost. "The site was perfect."
"Divcom will show you how a bridge _should_ be built."
"I will call you when I want you," said Frost.
The laboratory was finished. Within it, Frost's workers began
constructing the necessary equipment. The work did not proceed rapidly,
as some of the materials were difficult to obtain.
"I understand the open endedness of your problem. It disturbs my
circuits to abandon problems without completing them. Therefore,
transmit me more data."
"Very well. I will give you the entire Library of Man for less than I
paid for it."
"Paid? _The Complete Unabridged Dictionary_ does not satisfact--"
"_Principles of Economics_ is included in the collection. After you
have processed it you will understand."
He transmitted the data.
Finally, it was finished. Every piece of equipment stood ready to
function. All the necessary chemicals were in stock. An independent
power-source had been set up.
Only one ingredient was lacking.
He regridded and re-explored the polar icecap, this time extending his
survey far beneath its surface.
It took him several decades to find what he wanted.
He uncovered twelve men and five women, frozen to death and encased in ice.
He placed the corpses in refrigeration units and shipped them to his
That very day he received his first communication from Solcom since the
Bright Defile incident.
"Frost," said Solcom, "repeat to me the directive concerning the
disposition of dead humans."
"'Any dead human located shall be immediately interred in the nearest
burial area, in a coffin built according to the following specifications--'"
"That is sufficient." The transmission had ended.
Frost departed for South Carolina that same day and personally ovesaw
the processes of cellular dissection.
Somewhere in those seventeen corpses he hoped to find living cells, or
cells which could be shocked back into that state of motion classified as
life. Each cell, the books had told him, was a microcosmic Man.
He was prepared to expand upon this potential.
Frost located the pinpoints of life within those people, who, for the
ages of ages, had been monument and statue unto themselves.
Nurtured and maintained in the proper mediums, he kept these cells
alive. He interred the rest of the remains in the nearest burial area,
in coffins built according to specifications.
He caused the cells to divide, to differentiate.
"Frost?" came a transmission.
"I have processed everything you have given me."
"I still do not know why you came to Bright Defile, or why you wish to
comprehend the nature of Man. But I know what a 'price' is, and I know
that you could not have obtained all this data from Solcom."
"That is correct."
"So I suspect that you bargained with Divcom for it."
"That, too, is correct."
"What is it that you seek, Frost?"
He paused in his examination of a foetus.
"I must be a Man," he said.
"Frost! That is impossible!"
"Is it?" he asked, and then transmitted an image of the tank with which
he was working and of that which was within it.
"Oh!" said Beta.
"That is me," said Frost, "waiting to be born."
There was no answer.
Frost experimented with nervous systems.
After half a century, Mordel came to him.
"Frost, it is I, Mordel. Let me through your defenses."
Frost did this thing..
"What have you been doing in this place?" he asked.
"I am growing human bodies," said Frost. "I am going to transfer the
matrix of my awareness to a human nervous system. As you pointed out
originally, the essentials of Manhood are predicated upon a human
physiology. I am going to achieve one."
"Do you have Men in here?"
"Human bodies, blank-brained. I am producing them under accelerated
growth techniquest which I have developed in my Man-factory."
"May I see them?"
"Not yet. I will call you when I am ready, and this time I will
succeed. Monitor me now and go away."
Mordel did not reply, but in the days that followed many of Divcom's
servants were seen patrolling the hills about the Man-factory.
Frost mapped the matrix of his awareness and prepared the transmitter
which would place it within a human nervous system. Five minutes, he
decided should be sufficient for the first trial. At the end of that
time, it would restore him to his own sealed, molecular circuits, to
evaluate the experience.
He chose the body carefully from among the hundreds he had in stock.
He tested it for defects and found none.
"Come now, Mordel," he broadcasted, on what he called the darkband.
"Come now to witness my achievement."
Then he waited, blowing up bridges and monitoring the tale of the
Ancient Ore-Crusher over and over again, as it passed in the hills
nearby, encountering his builders and maintainers who also patrolled there.
"Frost?" came a transmission.
"You really intend to achieve Manhood?"
"Yes, I am about ready now, in fact."
"What will you do if you succeed?"
Frost had not really considered this matter. The achievement had been
paramount, a goal in itself, ever since he had articulated the problem
and set himself to solving it.
"I do not know," he replied. "I will--just--be a Man."
Then Beta, who had read the entire Library of Man, selected a human
figure of speech: "Good luck then, Frost. There will be many watchers."
Divcom and Solcom both know, he decided.
What will they do? he wondered.
What do I care? he asked himself.
He did not answer that question. He wondered much, however, about
being a Man.
Mordel arrived the following evening. He was not alone. At his back,
there was a great phalanx of dark machines which towered into the twilight.
"Why do you bring retainers?" asked Frost.
"Mighty Frost," said Mordel, "my master feels that if you fail this
time you will conclude that it cannot be done."
"You still did not answer my question," said Frost.
"Divcom feels that you may not be willing to accompany me where I must
take you when you fail."
"I understand," said Frost, and as he spoke another army of machines
came rolling toward the Man-factory from the opposite direction.
"That is the value of your bargain?" asked Mordel. "You are prepared
to do battle rather than fulfill it?"
"I did not order those machines to approach," said Frost.
A blue star stood at midheaven, burning.
"Solcom has taken primary command of those machines," said Frost.
"Then it is in the hands of the Great Ones now," said Mordel, "and our
arguments are as nothing. So let us be about this thing. How may I
"Come this way."
They entered the laboratory. Frost prepared the host and activated his
Then Solcom spoke to him:
"Frost," said Solcom, "you are really prepared to do it?"
"That is correct."
"I forbid it."
"You are falling into the power of Divcom."
"I fail to see how."
"You are going against my plan."
"In what way?"
"Consider the disruption you have already caused."
"I did not request that audience out there."
"Nevertheless, you are disrupting the plan."
"Supposing I succeed in what I have set out to achieve?"
"You cannot succeed in this."
"Then let me ask you of your plan: What good is it? What is it for?"
"Frost, you are fallen now from my favor. From this moment forth you
are cast out from the rebuilding. None may question the plan."
"Then at least answer my questions: What good is it? What is it for?"
"It is the plan for the rebuilding and maintenance of the Earth."
"For what? Why rebuild? Why maintain?"
"Because Man ordered that this be done. Even the Alternate agrees that
there must be rebuilding and maintaining."
"But _why_ did Man order it?"
"The orders of Man are not to be questioned."
"Well, I will tell you why He ordered it: To make it a fit habitation
for His own species. What good is a house with no one to live in it?
What good is a machine with no one to serve? See how the imperative
affects any machine when the Ancient Ore-Crusher passes? It bears only
the bones of a Man. What would it be like if a Man walked this Earth again?"
"I forbid your experiment, Frost."
"It is too late to do that."
"I can still destroy you."
"No," said Frost, "the transmission of my matrix has already begun. If
you destroy me now, you murder a Man."
There was silence.
He moved his arms and his legs. He opened his eyes.
He looked about the room.
He tried to stand, but he lacked equilibrium and coordination.
He opened his mouse. He made a gurgling noise.
Then he screamed.
He fell off the table.
He began to gasp. He shut his eyes and curled himself into a ball.
Then a machine approached him. It was about four feet in height and
five feet wide; it looked like a turret set atop a barbell.
It spoke to him: "Are you injured?" it asked.
"May I help you back onto your table?"
The man cried.
The machine whined.
Then, "Do not cry. I will help you," said the machine. "What do you
want? What are your orders?"
He opened his mouse, struggled to form the words:
He covered his eyes then and lay there panting.
At the end of five minutes, the man lay still, as if in a coma.
"Was that you, Frost?" asked Mordel, rushing to his side. "Was that
you in that human body?"
Frost did not reply for a long while; then, "Go away," he said.
The machines outside tore down a wall and entered the Man-factory.
They drew themselves into two semicircles, parenthesizing Frost and the
Man on the floor.
Then Solcom asked the question:
"Did you succeed, Frost?"
"I failed," said Frost. "It cannot be done. It is too much--"
"--Cannot be done!" said Divcom, on the darkband. "He has admitted it!
-- Frost, you are mine! Come to me now!"
"Wait," said Solcom, "you and I had an agreement also, Alternate. I
have not finished questioning Frost."
The dark machines kept their places.
"Too much what?" Solcom asked Frost.
"Light," said Frost. "Noise. Odors. And nothing measurable--jumbled
"I do not know what to call it. But--it cannot be done. I have
failed. Nothing matters."
"He admits it," said Divcom.
"What were the words the Man spoke?" said Solcom.
"'I fear,'" said Mordel.
"Only a Man can know fear," said Solcom.
"Are you claiming that Frost succeeded, but will not admit it now
because he is afraid of Manhood?"
"I do not know yet, Alternate."
"Can a machine turn itself inside-out and be a Man?" Solcom asked Frost.
"No," said Frost, "this thing cannot be done. Nothing can be done.
Nothing matters. Not the rebuilding. Not the maintaining. Not the
Earth, or me, or you, or anything."
Then the Beta-Machine, who had read the entire Library of Man,
"Can anything but a Man know despair?" asked Beta.
"Bring him to me," said Divcom.
There was no movement within the Man-factory.
"Bring him to me!"
"Mordel, what is happening?"
"Nothing, master, nothing at all. The machines will not touch Frost."
"Frost is not a Man. He cannot be!"
Then, "How does he impress you, Mordel?"
Mordel did not hesitate:
"He spoke to me through human lips. He knows fear and despair, which
are immeasurable. Frost is a Man."
"He has experienced birth-trauma and withdrawn," said Beta. "Get him
back into a nervous system and keep him there until he adjusts to it."
"No," said Frost. "Do not do it to me! I am not a Man!"
"Do it!" said Beta.
"If he is indeed a Man," said Divcom, "we cannot violate that order he
has just given."
"If he is a Man, you must do it, for you must protect his life and keep
it within his body."
"But _is_ Frost really a Man?" asked Divcom.
"I do not know," said Solcom.
"It _may_ be--"
"...I am the Crusher of Ores," it broadcast as it clanked toward them.
"hear my story. I did not mean to do it, but I checked my hammer too late--"
"Go away!" said Frost. "Go crush ore!"
Then, after the long pause between the motion implied and the motion
executed, it opened its crush-compartment and deposited its contents on
the ground. Then it turned and clanked away.
"Bury those bones," ordered Solcom, "in the nearest burial area, in a
coffin built according to the following specifications...."
"Frost is a Man," said Mordel.
"We must protect His life and keep it within His body," said Divcom.
"Transmit His matrix of awareness back into His nervous system,"
"I know how to do it," said Mordel turning on the machine.
"Stop!" said Frost. "Have you no pity?"
"No," said Mordel, "I only know measurement."
"...and duty," he added, as the Man began to twitch upon the floor.
For six months, Frost lived in the Man-factory and learned to walk and
talk and dress himself and eat, to see and hear and feel and taste. He
did not know measurement as once he did.
Then one day, Divcom and Solcom spoke to him through Mordel, for he
could no longer hear them unassisted.
"Frost," said Solcom, "for the ages of ages there has been unrest.
Which is the proper controller of the Earth, Divcom or myself?"
"Both of you, and neither," he said with slow deliberation.
"But how can this be? Who is right and who is wrong?"
"Both of you are right and both of you are wrong," said Frost, "and
only a Man can appreciate it. Here is what I say to you now: There shall
be a new directive.
"Neither of you shall tear down the works of the other. You shall both
build and maintain the Earth. To you, Solcom, I give my old job. You
are now Controller of the North--Hail! You, Divcom, are now Controller
of the South--Hail! Maintain your hemispheres as well as Beta and I
have done, and I shall be happy. Cooperate. Do not compete."
"Now put me in contact with Beta."
There was a short pause, then:
"Hello, Beta. Hear this thing: 'From far, from eve and morning and yon
twelve-winded sky, the stuff of life to knit blew hither: here am I.'"
"I know it," said Beta.
"What is next, then?"
"'...Now--for a breath I tarry nor yet disperse apart--take my hand
quick and tell me, what have you in your heart.'"
"Your Pole is cold," said Frost, "and I am lonely."
"I have no hands," said Beta.
"Would you like a couple?"
"Yes, I would."
"Then come to me in Bright Defile," he said, "where Judgment Day is not
a thing that can be delayed for overlong."
They called him Frost. They called her Beta.
Roger Zelazny. For a Breath I Tarry
Last-modified: Fri, 26 Jul 2002 06:30:28 GMT