"No. As I say, the hero was dictator, and he simply eliminated noses."
The First District Court of Thankyou
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It was called, The First District Court of Thankyou, which was a court
you could take people to, if you felt they hadn't been properly grateful for something
you had done. If the defendant lost his case, the court gave him a choice between thanking
the plaintiff in public, or going into solitary confinement on bread and water for a month.
According to Trout, eighty per cent of those convicted chose the black hole.
Pan-Galactic Three-Day Pass
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It was an exciting story, all about a man who was serving on a sort of Space-Age
Lewis and Clark expedition. The hero's name was Sergeant Raymond Boyle.
The expedition had reached what appeared to be the absolute and final rim of the universe.
There didn't seem to be anything beyond the solar system they were in, and they were
setting up equipment to sense the faintest signals that might be coming from the
slightest anything in all that black velvet nothing out there.
Sergeant Boyle was an Earthling. He was the only Earthling on the expedition.
In fact, he was the only creature from the Milky Way. The other members were from all
over the place. The expedition was a joint effort supported by about two hundred galaxies.
Boyle wasn't a technician. He was an English teacher. The thing was that Earth was the only
place in the whole known universe where language was used. It was a unique Earthling invention.
Everybody else used mental telepathy, so Earthlings could get pretty good jobs as language
teachers just about anywhere they went.
The reason creatures wanted to use language instead of mental telepathy was that they
found out they could get so much more done with language. Language made them so much
more active. Mental telepathy, with everybody constantly telling everybody everything, produced
a sort of generalized indifference to all information. But language, with its slow,
narrow meanings, made it possible to think about one thing at a time--to start thinking in terms of
Boyle was called out of his English class, was told to report at once to the commanding
officer of the expedition. He couldn't imagine what it was all about. He went into the
C.O.'s office, saluted the old man. Actually the C.O. didn't look anything like an old man.
He was from the planet Tralfamadore, and was about as tall as an Earthling beer can.
Actually, he didn't look like a beercan, either. He looked like a little plumber's friend.
He wasn't alone. The chaplain of the expedition was there, too. The padre was from the
planet Glinko-X-3. He was an enormous sort of Portuguese man-o'-war, in a tank of sulfuric
acid on wheels. The chaplain looked grave. Something awful had happened.
The chaplain told Boyle to be brave, and then the C.O. said there was very bad news from
home. The C.O. said there had been a death back home, that Boyle was being given an emergency three-day
pass, that he should get ready to leave right away.
"Is it--is it--Mom?" said Boyle, fighting back the tears. "Is it Pop? Is it Nancy?" Nancy
was the girl next door. "Is it Gramps?"
"Son--" said the C.O., "brace yourself. I hate to tell you this: It isn't who has died.
It's what has died."
"What's died, my boy, is the Milky Way."
Last modified: May 29, 1997
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