HE PUT a twenty-dollar platinum coin into the slot and the analyst, after a pause, lit up. Its eyes shone with sociability and it swiveled about in its chair, picked up a pen and pad of long yellow paper from its desk and said, "Good morning, sir. You may begin."
"Hello, Dr. Jones. I guess you're not the same Dr. Jones who did the definitive biography of Freud; that was a century ago." He laughed nervously; being a rather poverty-stricken man he was not accustomed to dealing with the new fully homeostatic psychoanalysts. "Um," he said, "should I free-associate or give you background material or just what?"
Dr. Jones said, "Perhaps you could begin by telling me who you are und warum mich -- why you have selected me."
"I'm George Munster of catwalk 4, building WEF-395, San Francisco condominium established 1996."
"How do you do, Mr. Munster." Dr. Jones held out its hand, and George Munster shook it. He found the hand to be of a pleasant body-temperature and decidedly soft. The grip, however, was manly.
"You see," Munster said, "I'm an ex-GI, a war veteran. That's how I got my condominium apartment at WEF-395; veterans' preference."
"Ah yes," Dr. Jones said, ticking faintly as it measured the passage of time. "The war with the Blobels."
"I fought three years in that war," Munster said, nervously smoothing his long, black, thinning hair. "I hated the Blobels and I volunteered; I was only nineteen and I had a good job -- but the crusade to clear the Sol System of Blobels came first in my mind."
"Um," Dr. Jones said, ticking and nodding.
George Munster continued, "I fought well. In fact I got two decorations and a battlefield citation. Corporal. That's because I single-handedly wiped out an observation satellite full of Blobels; we'll never know exactly how many because of course, being Blobels, they tend to fuse together and unfuse confusingly." He broke off, then, feeling emotional. Even remembering and talking about the war was too much for him. . . he lay back on the couch, lit a cigarette and tried to become calm.
The Blobels had emigrated originally from another star system, probably Proxima. Several thousand years ago they had settled on Mars and on Titan, doing very well at agrarian pursuits. They were developments of the original unicellular amoeba, quite large and with a highly-organized nervous system, but still amoeba, with pseudopodia, reproducing by binary fission, and in the main offensive to Terran settlers.
The war itself had broken out over ecological considerations. It had been the desire of the Foreign Aid Department of the UN to change the atmosphere on Mars, making it more usable for Terran settlers. This change, however, had made it unpalatable for the Blobel colonies already there; hence the squabble.
And, Munster reflected, it was not possible to change half the atmosphere of a planet, the Brownian movement being what it was. Within a period of ten years the altered atmosphere had diffused throughout the planet, bringing suffering -- at least so they alleged -- to the Blobels. In retaliation, a Blobel armada had approached Terra and had put into orbit a series of technically sophisticated satellites designed eventually to alter the atmosphere of Terra. This alteration had never come about because of course the War Office of the UN had gone into action; the satellites had been detonated by self-instructing missiles. . . and the war was on.
Dr. Jones said, "Are you married, Mr. Munster?"
"No sir," Munster said. "And --" He shuddered. "You'll see why when I've finished telling you. See, Doctor --" He stubbed out his cigarette. "I'll be frank. I was a Terran spy. That was my task; they gave the job to me because of my bravery in the field. . . I didn't ask for it."
"I see," Dr. Jones said.
"Do you?" Munster's voice broke. "Do you know what was necessary in those days in order to make a Terran into a successful spy among the Blobels?"
Nodding, Dr. Jones said, "Yes, Mr. Munster. You had to relinquish your human form and assume the repellent form of a Blobel."
Munster said nothing; he clenched and unclenched his fist, bitterly. Across from him Dr. Jones ticked.
That evening, back in his small apartment at WEF-395, Munster opened a fifth of Teacher's scotch, sat by himself sipping from a cup, lacking even the energy to get a glass down from the cupboard over the sink.
What had he gotten out of the session with Dr. Jones today? Nothing, as nearly as he could tell. And it had eaten deep into his meager financial resources. . . meager because --
Because for almost twelve hours out of the day he reverted, despite all the efforts of himself and the Veterans' Hospitalization Agency of the UN, to his old war-time Blobel shape. To a formless unicellular-like blob, right in the middle of his own apartment at WEF-395.
His financial resources consisted of a small pension from the War Office; finding a job was impossible, because as soon as he was hired the strain caused him to revert there on the spot, in plain sight of his new employer and fellow workers.
It did not assist in forming successful work-relationships.
Sure enough, now, at eight in the evening, he felt himself once more beginning to revert; it was an old and familiar experience to him, and he loathed it. Hurriedly, he sipped the last of the cup of scotch, put the cup down on a table. . . and felt himself slide together into a homogenous puddle.
The telephone rang.
"I can't answer," he called to it. The phone's relay picked up his anguished message and conveyed it to the calling party. Now Munster had become a single transparent gelatinous mass in the middle of the rug; he undulated toward the phone -- it was still ringing, despite his statement to it, and he felt furious resentment; didn't he have enough troubles already, without having to deal with a ringing phone?
Reaching it, he extended a pseudopodium and snatched the receiver from the hook. With great effort he formed his plastic substance into the semblance of a vocal apparatus, resonating dully. "I'm busy," he resonated in a low booming fashion into the mouthpiece of the phone. "Call later." Call, he thought as he hung up, tomorrow morning. When I've been able to regain my human form.
The apartment was quiet, now.
Sighing, Munster flowed back across the carpet, to the window, where he rose into a high pillar in order to see the view beyond; there was a light-sensitive spot on his outer surface, and although he did not possess a true lens he was able to appreciate -- nostalgically -- the sight of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the playground for small children which was Alcatraz Island.
Dammit, he thought bitterly. I can't marry; I can't live a genuine human existence, reverting this way to the form the War Office bigshots forced me into back in the war times. . . .
He had not known then, when he accepted the mission, that it would leave this permanent effect. They had assured him it was "only temporary, for the duration," or some such glib phrase. Duration my ass, Munster thought with furious, impotent resentment. It's been eleven years, now.
The psychological problems created for him, the pressure on his psyche, were immense. Hence his visit to Dr. Jones.
Once more the phone rang.
"Okay," Munster said aloud, and flowed laboriously back across the room to it. "You want to talk to me?" he said as he came closer and closer; the trip, for someone in Blobel form, was a long one. "I'll talk to you. You can even turn on the vidscreen and look at me." At the phone he snapped the switch which would permit visual communication as well as auditory. "Have a good look," he said, and displayed his amorphous form before the scanning tube of the video.
Dr. Jones' voice came: "I'm sorry to bother you at your home, Mr. Munster, especially when you're in this, um, awkward condition. . ." The homeostatic analyst paused. "But I've been devoting time to problem-solving vis-a-vis your condition. I may have at least a partial solution."
"What?" Munster said, taken by surprise. "You mean to imply that medical science can now --"
"No, no," Dr. Jones said hurriedly. "The physical aspects lie out of my domain; you must keep that in mind, Munster. When you consulted me about your problems it was the psychological adjustment that --"
"I'll come right down to your office and talk to you," Munster said. And then he realized that he could not; in his Blobel form it would take him days to undulate all the way across town to Dr. Jones' office. "Jones," he said desperately, "you see the problems I face. I'm stuck here in this apartment every night beginning about eight o'clock and lasting through until almost seven in the morning. . . I can't even visit you and consult you and get help --"
"Be quiet, Mr. Munster," Dr. Jones interrupted. "I'm trying to tell you something. You're not the only one in this condition. Did you know that?"
Heavily, Munster said, "Sure. In all, eighty-three Terrans were made over into Blobels at one time or another during the war. Of the eighty-three --" He knew the facts by heart. "Sixty-one survived and now there's an organization called Veterans of Unnatural Wars of which fifty are members. I'm a member. We meet twice a month, revert in unison. . ." He started to hang up the phone. So this was what he had gotten for his money, this stale news. "Goodbye, Doctor," he murmured.
Dr. Jones whirred in agitation. "Mr. Munster, I don't mean other Terrans. I've researched this in your behalf, and I discover that according to captured records at the Library of Congress fifteen Blobels were formed into pseudo-Terrans to act as spies for their side. Do you understand?"
After a moment Munster said, "Not exactly."
"You have a mental block against being helped," Dr. Jones said. "But here's what I want, Munster; you be at my office at eleven in the morning tomorrow. We'll take up the solution to your problem then. Goodnight."
Wearily, Munster said, "When I'm in my Blobel form my wits aren't too keen, Doctor. You'll have to forgive me." He hung up, still puzzled. So there were fifteen Blobels walking around on Titan this moment, doomed to occupy human forms -- so what? How did that help him? Maybe he would find out at eleven tomorrow.
When he strode into Dr. Jones' waiting room he saw, seated in a deep chair in a corner by a lamp, reading a copy of Fortune, an exceedingly attractive young woman.
Automatically, Munster found a place to sit from which he could eye her. Stylish dyed-white hair braided down the back of her neck. . . he took in the sight of her with delight, pretending to read his own copy of Fortune. Slender legs, small and delicate elbows. And her sharp, clearly-featured face. The intelligent eyes, the thin, tapered nostrils -- a truly lovely girl, he thought. He drank in the sight of her. . . until all at once she raised her head and stared coolly back at him.
"Dull, having to wait," Munster mumbled.
The girl said, "Do you come to Dr. Jones often?"
"No," he admitted. "This is just the second time."
"I've never been here before," the girl said. "I was going to another electronic fully-homeostatic psychoanalyst in Los Angeles and then late yesterday Dr. Bing, my analyst, called me and told me to fly up here and see Dr. Jones this morning. Is this one good?"
"Um," Munster said. "I guess so." We'll see, he thought. That's precisely what we don't know, at this point.
The inner office door opened and there stood Dr. Jones. "Miss Arrasmith," it said, nodding to the girl. "Mr. Munster." It nodded to George. "Won't you both come in?"
Rising to her feet, Miss Arrasmith said, "Who pays the twenty dollars then?"
But the analyst had become silent; it had turned off.
"I'll pay," Miss Arrasmith said, reaching into her purse.
"No, no," Munster said. "Let me." He got out a twenty-dollar piece and dropped it into the analyst's slot.
At once, Dr. Jones said, "You're a gentleman, Mr. Munster." Smiling, it ushered the two of them into its office. "Be seated, please. Miss Arrasmith, without preamble please allow me to explain your -- condition to Mr. Munster." To Munster it said, "Miss Arrasmith is a Blobel."
Munster could only stare at the girl.
"Obviously," Dr. Jones continued, "presently in human form. This, for her, is the state of involuntary reversion. During the war she operated behind Terran lines, acting for the Blobel War League. She was captured and held, but then the war ended and she was neither tried nor sentenced."
"They released me," Miss Arrasmith said in a low, carefully-controlled voice. "Still in human form. I stayed here out of shame. I just couldn't go back to Titan and --" Her voice wavered.
"There is great shame attached to this condition," Dr. Jones said, "for any high-caste Blobel."
Nodding, Miss Arrasmith sat, clutching a tiny Irish linen handkerchief and trying to look poised. "Correct, Doctor. I did visit Titan to discuss my condition with medical authorities there. After expensive and prolonged therapy with me they were able to induce a return to my natural form for a period of --" She hesitated. "About one-fourth of the time. But the other three-fourths. . . I am as you perceive me now." She ducked her head and touched the handkerchief to her right eye.
"Jeez," Munster protested, "you're lucky; a human form is infinitely superior to a Blobel form - I ought to know. As a Blobel you have to creep along. . . you're like a big jellyfish, no skeleton to keep you erect. And binary fission -- it's lousy, I say really lousy, compared to the Terran form of -- you know. Reproduction." He colored.
Dr. Jones ticked and stated, "For a period of about six hours your human forms overlap. And then for about one hour your Blobel forms overlap. So all in all, the two of you possess seven hours out of twenty-four in which you both possess identical forms. In my opinion --" It toyed with its pen and paper. "Seven hours is not too bad. If you follow my meaning."
After a moment Miss Arrasmith said, "But Mr. Munster and I are natural enemies."
"That was years ago," Munster said.
"Correct," Dr. Jones agreed. "True, Miss Arrasmith is basically a Blobel and you, Munster, are a Terran, but --" It gestured. "Both of you are outcasts in either civilization; both of you are stateless and hence gradually suffering a loss of ego-identity. I predict for both of you a gradual deterioration ending finally in severe mental illness. Unless you two can develop a rapprochement." The analyst was silent, then.
Miss Arrasmith said softly, "I think we're very lucky, Mr. Munster. As Dr. Jones said, we do overlap for seven hours a day. . . we can enjoy that time together, no longer in wretched isolation." She smiled up hopefully at him, rearranging her coat. Certainly, she had a nice figure; the somewhat low-cut dress gave an ideal clue to that.
Studying her, Munster pondered.
"Give him time," Dr. Jones told Miss Arrasmith. "My analysis of him is that he will see this correctly and do the right thing."
Still rearranging her coat and dabbing at her large, dark eyes, Miss Arrasmith waited.
The phone in Dr. Jones' office rang, a number of years later. He answered it in his customary way. "Please, sir or madam, deposit twenty dollars if you wish to speak to me."
A tough male voice on the other end of the line said, "Listen, this is the UN Legal Office and we don't deposit twenty dollars to talk to anybody. So trip that mechanism inside you, Jones."
"Yes, sir," Dr. Jones said, and with his right hand tripped the lever behind his ear that caused him to come on free.
"Back in 2037," the UN legal expert said, "did you advise a couple to marry? A George Munster and a Vivian Arrasmith, now Mrs. Munster?"
"Why yes," Dr. Jones said, after consulting his built-in memory banks.
"Had you investigated the legal ramifications of their issue?"
"Um well," Dr. Jones said, "that's not my worry."
"You can be arraigned for advising any action contrary to UN law."
"There's no law prohibiting a Blobel and a Terran from marrying."
The UN legal expert said, "All right, Doctor, I'll settle for a look at their case histories."
"Absolutely not," Dr. Jones said. "That would be a breach of ethics."
"We'll get a writ and sequester them, then."
"Go ahead." Dr. Jones reached behind his ear to shut himself off.
"Wait. It may interest you to know that the Munsters now have four children. And, following the Mendelian Law, the offspring comprise a strict one, two, one ratio. One Blobel girl, one hybrid boy, one hybrid girl, one Terran girl. The legal problem arises in that the Blobel Supreme Council claims the pure-blooded Blobel girl as a citizen of Titan and also suggests that one of the two hybrids be donated to the Council's jurisdiction." The UN legal expert explained, "You see, the Munsters' marriage is breaking up; they're getting divorced and it's sticky finding which laws obtain regarding them and their issue."
"Yes," Dr. Jones admitted, "I would think so. What has caused their marriage to break up?"
"I don't know and don't care. Possibly the fact that both adults and two of the four children rotate daily between being Blobels and Terrans; maybe the strain got to be too much. If you want to give them psychological advice, consult them. Goodbye." The UN legal expert rang off.
Did I make a mistake, advising them to marry? Dr. Jones asked itself. I wonder if I shouldn 't look them up; I owe at least that to them.
Opening the Los Angeles phone book, it began thumbing through the Ms.
These had been six difficult years for the Munsters.
First, George had moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles; he and Vivian had set up a household in a condominium apartment with three instead of two rooms. Vivian, being in Terran form three-fourths of the time, had been able to obtain a job; right out in public she gave jet flight information at the Fifth Los Angeles Airport. George, however --
His pension comprised an amount only one-fourth that of his wife's salary and he felt it keenly. To augment it, he had searched for a way of earning money at home. Finally in a magazine he had found this valuable ad:
So in 2038 he had bought his first pair of frogs imported from Jupiter and had begun raising them for swift profits, right in his own condominium apartment building, in a corner of the basement that Leopold, the partially-homeostatic janitor, let him use gratis.
But in the relatively feeble Terran gravity the frogs were capable of enormous leaps, and the basement proved too small for them; they ricocheted from wall to wall like green ping pong balls and soon died. Obviously it took more than a portion of the basement at QEK-604 Apartments to house a crop of the damned things, George realized.
And then, too, their first child had been born. It had turned out to be a pure-blooded Blobel; for twenty-four hours a day it consisted of a gelatinous mass and George found himself waiting in vain for it to switch over to a human form, even for a moment.
He faced Vivian defiantly in this matter, during a period when both of them were in human form.
"How can I consider it my child?" he asked her. "It's -- an alien life form to me." He was discouraged and even horrified. "Dr. Jones should have foreseen this; maybe it's your child -- it looks just like you."
Tears filled Vivian's eyes. "You mean that insultingly."
"Damn right I do. We fought you creatures -- we used to consider you no better than Portuguese sting-rays." Gloomily, he put on his coat. "I'm going down to Veterans of Unnatural Wars Headquarters," he informed his wife. "Have a beer with the boys." Shortly, he was on his way to join with his old war-time buddies, glad to get out of the apartment house.
VUW Headquarters was a decrepit cement building in downtown Los Angeles left over from the twentieth century and sadly in need of paint. The VUW had little funds because most of its members were, like George Munster, living on UN pensions. However, there was a pool table and an old 3-D television set and a few dozen tapes of popular music and also a chess set. George generally drank his beer and played chess with his fellow members, either in human form or in Blobel form; this was one place in which both were accepted.
This particular evening he sat with Pete Ruggles, a fellow veteran who also had married a Blobel female, reverting, as Vivian did, to human form.
"Pete, I can't go on. I've got a gelatinous blob for a child. My whole life I've wanted a kid, and now what have I got? Something that looks like it washed up on the beach."
Sipping his beer -- he too was in human form at the moment -- Pete answered, "Criminy, George, I admit it's a mess. But you must have known what you were getting into when you married her. And my God, according to Mendel's Law, the next kid --"
"I mean," George broke in, "I don't respect my own wife; that's the basis of it. I think of her as a thing. And myself, too. We're both things." He drank down his beer in one gulp.
Pete said meditatively, "But from the Blobel standpoint --"
"Listen, whose side are you on?" George demanded.
"Don't yell at me," Pete said, "or I'll deck you."
A moment later they were swinging wildly at each other. Fortunately Pete reverted to Blobel form in the nick of time; no harm was done. Now George sat alone, in human shape, while Pete oozed off somewhere else, probably to join a group of the boys who had also assumed Blobel form.
Maybe we can find a new society somewhere on a remote moon, George said to himself moodily. Neither Terran nor Blobel.
I've got to go back to Vivian, George resolved. What else is there for me? I'm lucky to find her; I'd be nothing but a war veteran guzzling beer here at VUW Headquarters every damn day and night, with no future, no hope, no real life. . .
He had a new money-making scheme going now. It was a home mail-order business; he had placed an ad in the Saturday Evening Post for MAGIC LODE-STONES REPUTED TO BRING YOU LUCK. FROM ANOTHER STAR-SYSTEM ENTIRELY! The stones had come from Proxima and were obtainable on Titan; it was Vivian who had made the commercial contact for him with her people. But so far, few people had sent in the dollar-fifty.
I'm a failure, George said to himself.
Fortunately the next child, born in the winter of 2039, showed itself to be a hybrid; it took human form fifty percent of the time, and so at last George had a child who was -- occasionally, anyhow -- a member of his own species.
He was still in the process of celebrating the birth of Maurice when a delegation of their neighbors at QEK-604 Apartments came and rapped on their door.
"We've got a petition here," the chairman of the delegation said, shuffling his feet in embarrassment, "asking that you and Mrs. Munster leave QEK-604."
"But why?" George asked, bewildered. "You haven't objected to us up until now."
"The reason is that now you've got a hybrid youngster who will want to play with ours, and we feel it's unhealthy for our kids to --"
George slammed the door in their faces.
But still, he felt the pressure, the hostility from the people on all sides of them. And to think, he thought bitterly, that I fought in the war to save these people. It sure wasn 't worth it.
An hour later he was down at VUW Headquarters once more, drinking beer and talking with his buddy Sherman Downs, also married to a Blobel.
"Sherman, it's no good. We're not wanted; we've got to emigrate. Maybe we'll try it on Titan, in Viv's world."
"Chrissakes," Sherman protested, "I hate to see you fold up, George. Isn't your electromagnetic reducing belt beginning to sell, finally?"
For the last few months, George had been making and selling a complex electronic reducing gadget which Vivian had helped him design; it was based in principle on a Blobel device popular on Titan but unknown on Terra. And this had gone over well; George had more orders than he could fill. But --
"I had a terrible experience, Sherm," George confided. "I was in a drugstore the other day, and they gave me a big order for my reducing belt, and I got so excited --" He broke off. "You can guess what happened. I reverted. Right in plain sight of a hundred customers. And when the buyer saw that he canceled the order for the belts. It was what we all fear. . . you should have seen how their attitude toward me changed."
Sherm said, "Hire someone to do your selling for you. A full-blooded Terran."
Thickly, George said, "I'm a full-blooded Terran, and don't you forget it. Ever."
"I just mean --"
"I know what you meant," George said. And took a swing at Sherman. Fortunately he missed and in the excitement both of them reverted to Blobel form. They oozed angrily into each other for a time, but at last fellow veterans managed to separate them.
"I'm as much Terran as anyone," George thought-radiated in the Blobel manner to Sherman. "And I'll flatten anyone who says otherwise."
In Blobel form he was unable to get home; he had to phone Vivian to come and get him. It was humiliating.
Suicide, he decided. That's the answer.
How best to do it? In Blobel form he was unable to feel pain; best to do it then. Several substances would dissolve him. . . he could for instance drop himself into a heavily-chlorinated swimming pool, such as QEK-604 maintained in its recreation room.
Vivian, in human form, found him as he reposed hesitantly at the edge of the swimming pool, late one night.
"George, I beg you -- go back to Dr. Jones."
"Naw," he boomed dully, forming a quasi-vocal apparatus with a portion of his body. "It's no use, Viv. I don't want to go on." Even the belts; they had been Viv's idea, rather than his. He was second even there. . . behind her, falling constantly farther behind each passing day.
Viv said, "You have so much to offer the children."
That was true. "Maybe I'll drop over to the UN War Office," he decided. "Talk to them, see if there's anything new that medical science has come up with that might stabilize me."
"But if you stabilize as a Terran," Vivian said, "what would become of me?"
"We'd have eighteen entire hours together a day. All the hours you take human form!"
"But you wouldn't want to stay married to me. Because, George, then you could meet a Terran woman."
It wasn't fair to her, he realized. So he abandoned the idea.
In the spring of 2041 their third child was born, also a girl, and like Maurice a hybrid. It was Blobel at night and Terran by day.
Meanwhile, George found a solution to some of his problems.
He got himself a mistress.
He and Nina arranged to meet each other at the Hotel Elysium, a rundown wooden building in the heart of Los Angeles.
"Nina," George said, sipping Teacher's scotch and seated beside her on the shabby sofa which the hotel provided, "you've made my life worth living again." He fooled with the buttons of her blouse.
"I respect you," Nina Glaubman said, assisting him with the buttons. "In spite of the fact -- well, you are a former enemy of our people."
"God," George protested, "we must not think about the old days -- we have to close our minds to our pasts." Nothing but our future, he thought.
His reducing belt enterprise had developed so well that now he employed fifteen full-time Terran employees and owned a small, modern factory on the outskirts of San Fernando. If UN taxes had been reasonable he would by now be a wealthy man. . . brooding on that, George wondered what the tax rate was in Blobel-run lands, on Io, for instance. Maybe he ought to look into it.
One night at VUW Headquarters he discussed the subject with Reinholt, Nina's husband, who of course was ignorant of the modus vivendi between George and Nina.
"Reinholt," George said with difficulty, as he drank his beer, "I've got big plans. This cradle-to-grave socialism the UN operates. . . it's not for me. It's cramping me. The Munster Magic Magnetic Belt is --" He gestured. "More than Terran civilization can support. You get me?"
Coldly, Reinholt said, "But George, you are a Terran; if you emigrate to Blobel-run territory with your factory you'll be betraying your --"
"Listen," George told him, "I've got one authentic Blobel child, two half-Blobel children, and a fourth on the way. I've got strong emotional ties with those people out there on Titan and Io."
"You're a traitor," Reinholt said, and punched him in the mouth. "And not only that," he continued, punching George in the stomach, "you're running around with my wife. I'm going to kill you."
To escape, George reverted to Blobel form; Reinholt's blows passed harmlessly deep into his moist, jelly-like substance. Reinholt then reverted too, and flowed into him murderously, trying to consume and absorb George's nucleus.
Fortunately fellow veterans pried their two bodies apart before any permanent harm was done.
Later that night, still trembling, George sat with Vivian in the living room of their eight-room suite at the great new condominium apartment building ZGF-900. It had been a close call, and now of course Reinholt would tell Viv; it was only a question of time. The marriage, as far as George could see, was over. This perhaps was their last moment together.
"Viv," he said urgently, "you have to believe me; I love you. You and the children -- plus the belt business, naturally -- are my complete life." A desperate idea came to him. "Let's emigrate now, tonight. Pack up the kids and go to Titan, right this minute."
"I can't go," Vivian said. "I know how my people would treat me, and treat you and the children, too. George, you go. Move the factory to Io. I'll stay here." Tears filled her dark eyes.
"Hell," George said, "what kind of life is that? With you on Terra and me on Io -- that's no marriage. And who'll get the kids?" Probably Viv would get them. . . but his firm employed top legal talent -- perhaps he could use it to solve his domestic problems.
The next morning Vivian found out about Nina. And hired an attorney of her own.
"Listen," George said, on the phone talking to his top legal talent, Henry Ramarau. "Get me custody of the fourth child; it'll be a Terran. And we'll compromise on the two hybrids; I'll take Maurice and she can have Kathy. And naturally she gets that blob, the first so-called child. As far as I'm concerned it's hers anyhow." He slammed the receiver down and then turned to the board of directors of his company. "Now where were we?" he demanded. "In our analysis of Io tax laws."
During the next weeks the idea of a move to Io appeared more and more feasible from a profit and loss standpoint.
"Go ahead and buy land on Io," George instructed his business agent in the field, Tom Hendricks. "And get it cheap; we want to start right." To his secretary, Miss Nolan, he said, "Now keep everyone out of my office until further notice. I feel a attack coming on. From anxiety over this major move off Terra to Io." He added, "And personal worries."
"Yes, Mr. Munster," Miss Nolan said, ushering Tom Hendricks out of George's private office. "No one will disturb you." She could be counted on to keep everyone out while George reverted to his war-time Blobel shape, as he often did, these days; the pressure on him was immense.
When, later in the day, he resumed human form, George learned from Miss Nolan that a Doctor Jones had called.
"I'll be damned," George said, thinking back to six years ago. "I thought it'd be in the junk pile by now." To Miss Nolan he said, "Call Doctor Jones, notify me when you have it; I'll take a minute off to talk to it." It was like old times, back in San Francisco.
Shortly, Miss Nolan had Dr. Jones on the line.
"Doctor," George said, leaning back in his chair and swiveling from side to side and poking at an orchid on his desk. "Good to hear from you."
The voice of the homeostatic analyst came in his ear, "Mr. Munster, I note that you now have a secretary."
"Yes," George said, "I'm a tycoon. I'm in the reducing belt game; it's somewhat like the flea-collar that cats wear. Well, what can I do for you?"
"I understand you have four children now --"
"Actually three, plus a fourth on the way. Listen, that fourth, Doctor, is vital to me; according to Mendel's Law it's a full-blooded Terran and by God I'm doing everything in my power to get custody of it." He added, "Vivian -- you remember her -- is now back on Titan. Among her own people, where she belongs. And I'm putting some of the finest doctors I can get on my payroll to stabilize me; I'm tired of this constant reverting, night and day; I've got too much to do for such nonsense."
Dr. Jones said, "From your tone I can see you're an important, busy man, Mr. Munster. You've certainly risen in the world, since I saw you last."
"Get to the point," George said impatiently. "Why'd you call?"
"I, um, thought perhaps I could bring you and Vivian together again."
"Bah," George said contemptuously. "That woman? Never. Listen, Doctor, I have to ring off; we're in the process of finalizing on some basic business strategy, here at Munster, Incorporated."
"Mr. Munster," Dr. Jones asked, "is there another woman?"
"There's another Blobel," George said, "if that's what you mean." And he hung up the phone. Two Blobels are better than none, he said to himself. And now back to business. . . He pressed a button on his desk and at once Miss Nolan put her head into the office. "Miss Nolan," George said, "get me Hank Ramarau; I want to find out --"
"Mr. Ramarau is waiting on the other line," Miss Nolan said. "He says it's urgent."
Switching to the other line, George said, "Hi, Hank. What's up?"
"I've just discovered," his top legal advisor said, "that to operate your factory on Io you must be a citizen of Titan."
"We ought to be able to fix that up," George said.
"But to be a citizen of Titan --" Ramarau hesitated. "I'll break it to you easy as I can, George. You have to be a Blobel."
"Dammit, I am a Blobel," George said. "At least part of the time. Won't that do?"
"No," Ramarau said, "I checked into that, knowing of your affliction, and it's got to be one hundred percent of the time. Night and day."
"Hmmm," George said. "This is bad. But we'll overcome it, somehow. Listen, Hank, I've got an appointment with Eddy Fullbright, my medical coordinator; I'll talk to you after, okay?" He rang off and then sat scowling and rubbing his jaw. Well, he decided, if it has to be it has to be. Facts are facts, and we can't let them stand in our way.
Picking up the phone he dialed his doctor, Eddy Fullbright.
The twenty-dollar platinum coin rolled down the chute and tripped the circuit. Dr. Jones came on, glanced up and saw a stunning, sharp-breasted young woman whom it recognized -- by means of a quick scan of its memory banks -- as Mrs. George Munster, the former Vivian Arrasmith.
"Good day, Vivian," Dr. Jones said cordially. "But I understood you were on Titan." It rose to its feet, offering her a chair.
Dabbing at her large, dark eyes, Vivian sniffled, "Doctor, everything is collapsing around me. My husband is having an affair with another woman. . . all I know is that her name is Nina and all the boys down at VUW Headquarters are talking about it. Presumably she's a Terran. We're both filing for divorce. And we're having a dreadful legal battle over the children." She arranged her coat modestly. "I'm expecting. Our fourth."
"This I know," Dr. Jones said. "A full-blooded Terran this time, if Mendel's Law holds. . . although it only applied to litters."
Mrs. Munster said miserably, "I've been on Titan talking to legal and medical experts, gynecologists, and especially marital guidance counselors; I've had all sorts of advice during the past month. Now I'm back on Terra but I can't find George -- he's gone!"
"I wish I could help you, Vivian," Dr. Jones said. "I talked to your husband briefly, the other day, but he spoke only in generalities. . . evidently he's such a big tycoon now that it's hard to approach him."
"And to think," Vivian sniffled, "that he achieved it all because of an idea I gave him. A Blobel idea."
"The ironies of fate," Dr. Jones said. "Now, if you want to keep your husband, Vivian --"
"I'm determined to keep him, Doctor Jones. Frankly I've undergone therapy on Titan, the latest and most expensive. . . it's because I love George so much, even more than I love my own people or my planet."
"Eh?" Dr. Jones said.
"Through the most modern developments in medical science in the Sol System," Vivian said, "I've been stabilized, Doctor Jones. Now I am in human form twenty-four hours a day instead of eighteen. I've renounced my natural form in order to keep my marriage with George."
"The supreme sacrifice," Dr. Jones said, touched.
"Now, if I can only find him, Doctor --"
At the ground-breaking ceremonies on Io, George Munster flowed gradually to the shovel, extended a pseudopodium, seized the shovel, and with it managed to dig a symbolic amount of soil. "This is a great day," he boomed hollowly, by means of the semblance of a vocal apparatus into which he had fashioned the slimy, plastic substance which made up his unicellular body.
"Right, George," Hank Ramarau agreed, standing nearby with the legal documents.
The Ionan official, like George a great transparent blob, oozed across to Ramarau, took the documents and boomed, "These will be transmitted to my government. I'm sure they're in order, Mr. Ramarau."
"I guarantee you," Ramarau said to the official, "Mr. Munster does not revert to human form at any time; he's made use of some of the most advanced techniques in medical science to achieve this stability at the unicellular phase of his former rotation. Munster would never cheat."
"This historic moment," the great blob that was George Munster thought-radiated to the throng of local Blobels attending the ceremonies, "means a higher standard of living for Ionans who will be employed; it will bring prosperity to this area, plus a proud sense of national achievement in the manufacture of what we recognize to be a native invention, the Munster Magic Magnetic Belt."
The throng of Blobels thought-radiated cheers.
"This is a proud day in my life," George Munster informed them, and began to ooze by degrees back to his car, where his chauffeur waited to drive him to his permanent hotel room at Io City.
Someday he would own the hotel. He was putting the profits from his business in local real estate; it was the patriotic -- and the profitable -- thing to do, other Ionans, other Blobels, had told him.
"I'm finally a successful man," George Munster thought-radiated to all close enough to pick up his emanations.
Amid frenzied cheers he oozed up the ramp and into his Titan-made car.