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FAREWELL TO EARTH

During the next five years, as the scoutships drifted far and wide over the face of the planet gathering thousands of specimens and millions of items of information, Clindar revisited the hominids many times. He never went hunting with them again; they had learned that lesson with astonishing-indeed, with ominous-speed, and all the males now knew how to use clubs when the need arose. Instead he had tried to introduce other tools, of which the most important were stone knives and hammers.

These small hand tools, crude though they might appear at first sight, represented a gigantic leap forward in technology. They multiplied the efficiency-and therefore the chance of survival-of their users many times. With a properly shaped flint one could dig up tough roots and hack off succulent branches which would otherwise be exhausting and laborious to collect. And a small, round pebble that fitted the hand nicely could split bones to get at the marrow, or crack animal skulls to reach the tenderest and most well-protected of all meat.

One day, if all went well, the hominids would not only use tools-they would make them; and they would make them of metal and of plastic and, in the end, of pure fields of force. But how they would use those tools-whether for good or for evil-was beyond prediction, and to be revealed only by the passing of the ages.

They had been given their initial impetus, and that was all that one could, or should, do for a species at this level of intelligence; the rest was up to them. The outcome might yet be disastrous, as it had often been in the past. Failures could not be avoided, but they could be expunged; if one world was lost, there were many others. For Clindar's race, driven by impulses long buried in their own infancy, were gardeners in the field of stars. They sowed, and often they reaped. But sometimes they had to weed.

For the last time, Clindar stood on the African plain, brooding over his experiment with destiny. Above him loomed the globe of the scoutship, already throbbing with the energies that would soon carry him up to the lonely heights of space. And on his shoulder, completely unafraid, sat one of the little ape-children, searching hopefully for lice and salt crystals in the folds of his outer clothing. Clindar had long since been able to discard his protective envelope; he was now immune to the micro-fauna of this world, and carried nothing in his own body that could destroy the life around him.

A few yards away, the mother hominid was plucking berries; she had ignored her child completely, as if quite confident that it was in safe hands. She could never guess. thought Clindar, how much this little creature's chances of survival had improved. The tribe had prospered, thanks to the tools and weapons he had given it; no longer was it starving and defenseless. Even the big cats had begun to avoid these animals whose forelimbs, though they had no claws, could inflict such stinging pain.

(...)

 

(Arthur C. Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001)

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