The little green man skidded to a stop at the entrance to his partner’s cabin. “Liy’ack! Liy’ack! We’ve got a problem!” he panted.
His partner, calmer but equally green-skinned, looked up grumpily from his book. The book he was reading was the first ever to emerge from the growing culture on Hockned V. As such, the plot was fairly hackneyed — two feuding families, a romance between their youngest members, tragedy, suicide… But the writing was fresh and illuminating, deeply rooted in…
Rising, Liy’ack followed Suh’ack to the bridge of the starship Bhay’ed. The great science vessel had just emerged from hyperspace in orbit around a little blue-green planet, on yet another lap of its seven-year patrol. That little orb was but one of thirty on their list, just one more race that needed a little push or two along the evolutionary path.
Suh’ack was talking fast. “I called up the logs from the Watcher Probes we left in orbit. When we left, one standard Galactic Year ago, the population of the Prime Race on Sol III was close to ten thousand. And now it’s dwindled to less than half that — in just one Galactic Year!” He handed a portable computer to his partner.
Liy’ack showed no overt emotion. Someone had to remain calm. “Have you checked for the usual causes? Illness? A sudden spurt in the predator population? War?” He looked up from the screen full of graphs to see Suh’ack’s head nodding vigorously.
“It’s none of those, Liy’ack. It’s just that…they’ve simply stopped reproducing!”
Liy’ack grunted. “Fertility issues? Just send out a Medical Probe to…”
Suh’ack looked even more agitated. “Do you think I would have brought this up if it were something so simple?” he demanded. “They’re fine, they’re fertile. But they just aren’t…” his skin reddened slightly. Noticing Liy’ack’s raised eyebrows, he cleared his throat and said, “They just aren’t doing it.”
Liy’ack’s eyes narrowed. “Strange,” he mused. “It’s a Class III race, still nothing more than cavemen. Their primary instinct at this stage should be survival and propagation…and yet…no sexual contact between males and females at all?”
“None in the last nine Galactic Months,” replied Suh’ack.
“Now that is strange,” murmured Liy’ack. “Let’s see if we can think up something…and quick! We need to leave for the Fronase System in two Days.”
Six Galactic Hours later, the two Evolutionists had an answer.
“It’s so simple,” said Suh’ack, yellow eyes glowing in admiration.
“Elementary,” replied a smiling Liy’ack. “For sexual contact within any intelligent race, there must be desire between the males and females. The data shows lack of social interaction between genders leading to lack of sexual intercourse. The conclusion — a lack of desire.”
Suh’ack rubbed his eyes. “So let’s go over this again. We program a Neuro Probe and send it down…”
“…where it implants a post-hypnotic, inter-gender attraction in the minds of those proto-humans,” finished Liy’ack.
“And we have desire!” exulted Suh’ack.
“Make it so, Suh’ack,” ordered Liy’ack. “And then set course for the Fronase System.”
Eight Galactic Months had passed by when the Bhay’ed materialised from hyperspace in orbit around Sol III.
This time, the reports were even more distressing. The population had dwindled away to less than three thousand.
The two Evolutionists sat, slumped in weary disbelief, on the bridge of their vessel.
“It can’t be,” whispered Liy’ack. “Desire leading to sex leading to reproduction leading to propagation…it makes perfect sense.”
“And yet, we’ve failed,” said Suh’ack, a great big tear rolling down his cheek.
The two little green men sat where they were for a while longer. Then, when all hope seemed to have faded, Liy’ack sprang to his feet. “Suh’ack,” he shouted excitedly. “Show me the video logs!”
For the next three Galactic Hours, the two scientists watched a bizarre procession of rituals taking place on the planet rotating lazily below them.
They saw the males slaughter animals for food, and then drag the carcasses to the females. They saw the males make offerings of plants, flowers, hides and oddly-shaped rocks to the females. They saw the males protecting females from animals and elements. They saw the females simpering, occasionally bestowing light touches on the males, who seemed to stand a little taller afterward.
But they saw no sex.
“Ha!” roared Liy’ack. “Courtship rituals!”
Again Suh’ack stood in awe at his partner’s brilliance.
“They’re acting like teenagers on the Homeworld,” continued Liy’ack. “Going on dates, offering gifts…doing everything except consummating their relationships!”
This time, it was Suh’ack who had the solution. “Let’s send another Neuro Probe!” he cried. “And this time, strengthen the urge to reproduce!”
But just as they were programming the Probe, Liy’ack hesitated. “We can’t go wrong this time,” he said seriously. “Or else, by the time we return, the Prime Race of Sol III will be extinct.”
And so they turned up the strength of the implanted urge to maximum, and sent the Neuro Probe on its way.
“After a few millennia, when the population is stable, we’ll turn it down a bit,” Liy’ack said.
Then, they departed for the Fronase System.
Another eight Galactic Months passed by before the Bhay’ed arrived in orbit around that little blue-green planet.
And this time the video logs showed images of success.
The first sexual contacts began to occur just hours after the Neuro Probe had done its work. They could be technically classified as rape, but the Evolutionists would not worry about culture programming for several thousand years. Slowly, the males and females began to enjoy what they were doing, and reaped the fruits — several thousand squalling little fruits — of their labours shortly after.
The Gordins, another race being shepherded along by Liy’ack and Suh’ack, had just discovered agriculture, and with it, alcoholic fermentation. That night, the two Evolutionists got horribly drunk on the fruits of their own labours.
The next Day, they set course for Fronase. They would return to Sol after eight Galactic Months.
But they never did.
Somewhere in the depths of hyperspace, the Bhay’ed’s automated guidance system failed. The ship, crew and all its records perished forever in the flames of a hotly burning star.
And the carefully planned development of thirty Prime Races, including the proto-humans on Sol, was left incomplete.
John’s mind snapped back to attention as Marsha turned on the TV. There was a science show on.
“Look honey,” said Marsha, laughing. “It says here that men think about sex every six seconds.”
But John’s mind was already drifting away from her voice, and his eyes were already glazing over with lust.