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Behind the Sandrat Hoax


Redrust Northeast Bunker, New Venus, July 17, 2208. Sam Mathews, missing converter technician from the Kalahell Solar Conversion District, was today admitted to Redrust Medical Center. Mathews's sand-buggy overturned May 17, in the middle of the Waterless Kalahell Desert.

* * *

Date: July 19, 2208

From: Robert Howland, Director, Kalahell Conv. Dist.

To: Philip Baumgartner, Director, Redrust Med. Cen.

Subject: Sam Mathews

Recode: 083KCrm-1

Phil: Hope you will patch Mathews up and get him back to us as soon as possible. We are eager to learn how Mathews survived two months in the Kalahell, starting with two one-quart canteens of water.

* * *

Date: July 20, 2208

From: Philip Baumgartner, Director, Redrust Med. Cen.

To: Robert Howland, Director, Kalahell Conv. Dist.

Subject: Weak Patient

Recode: 083kcRM-2

Bob: Sorry, there's no question of getting Mathews back to you quickly. With a sheet and a blanket over him, you still see his ribs. Besides, he's incoherent.

* * *

July 22, 2208

Howland to Baumgartner


Phil: I hope you will listen carefully to every incoherent word Mathews speaks. Please bear in mind, we found his overturned sand-buggy, with water tank burst, three hundred miles from Redrust Northeast Bunker. There is no known water in between, and the vegetation is dry as dust from April to Ocnovdec. How did he do it?

* * *

I August 24, 2208

Baumgartner to Howland


Bob: Sorry this reply is late. Our supply ship cracked up on its last trip, with a crew of four and nine offworld tourists. We suddenly had eleven badly burned men to care for, and little time for Mathews. However, we will see if we can learn anything for you.

* * *

I August 30, 2208

Baumgartner to Howland


Subject: Pure Lunacy

Bob: Sorry, but we're sending Mathews to Verdant Hills Medical Center. Their facility is big enough to handle his case, I think. If not, they will send him to Lakes Central. Too bad, but he went through quite an experience, as you realize.

* * *

Purgatory 2, 2208

Howland to Baumgartner


Subject: Nut Stunts

Phil: Yes, I realize what Mathews went through: He crossed three hundred miles of desert on two quarts of water. That's what I'm trying to find out about. From the heading of your message, I take it Mathews has gotten "mentally unbalanced" now it's time for him to go back on duty. Look, Phil, try to remember, Mathews is a case-hardened "sandrat" of long experience. This is not your average patient. You let a sandrat get his chosen angle on a situation, and he will stand it on its head. Don't send Mathews to Verdant Hills. Hold him till the cyclone pack goes through here, then send him to us. And Phil, will you tell me what Mathews said about his experience? This is important to us here.

* * *

Purgatory 16, 2208

Baumgartner to Howland


Robert: In dealing with my own patients, under treatment at this facility, I rely on my clinical judgment, balanced by the professional opinion of my staff, and not on sandrat amateur psychology. Mathews had been released, for observation at Verdant Hills Medical Center. And I am not at liberty to divulge confidential details, from the closed files, on this case. Note, please, that this communication is the 3rd transmission of a series, repeated periodically over land-line central cable, and by semaphore across fault-gaps, crush-zones, and landshifts, and that transmission between remote peripheral stations may be delayed during periods of intense meteorological or seismic activity.

* * *

Hell 14, 2208

Howland to Baumgartner

083 KCrm-8

Dear Doctor: I wonder if, in the full wisdom of your clinical judgment, balanced by all the professional personnel on your staff, any of you qualified people had the wit to try to put yourselves in the place of your lowly sandrat patient, and see how things looked to him? What does your clinical judgment tell you about someone who has spent years in the dustbowl of this poverty-stricken sandpit planet? How will this sandrat react when he gets the chance to be sent, free of charge, to a comparative Garden of Eden, provided he can just prove he's nuts? I won't waste breath describing the stunts some of these birds have staged, just to get back to Bonescorch for a week. And far be it from me to pry into the confidential privileged communications between you and one of my best technicians on a matter vital to the Kalahell Conversion District. No. Better that my men should die of thirst when their vehicles give out than that you should open your closed files. Sorry if my message seemed unprofessional, Phil. Forgive me for presuming on our former friendship. Note, please, that this communication is the 6th transmission of a series . . .

* * *

Date: Hell 30, 2208

From: Philip Baumgartner, Director, Redrust Med. Cen.

To: Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services

Subject: Interservice Friction

Recode: 082RMmc-1

Sir: I am sending separately a record of my recent correspondence with Mr. Robert Howland, Director of the Kalahell Solar Conversion District. As the correspondence will show, a difference of opinion regarding medical treatment of one of my patients has caused some friction between us. I call this matter to your attention because of recent failures in certain electrical facilities at the Redrust Medical Center. These power failures, of precisely thirty and sixty-second duration, have formed a pattern which it seems to me could not be random. I do not accuse Director Howland of being the cause of this serious interference, but I feel that this matter should be investigated without delay. I would appreciate your assistance in this matter. Note, please, that this communication is the 2nd transmission of a series, repeated periodically.

* * *

Date: Salvation 6, 2208

From: Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services

To: Philip Baumgartner, Director, Redrust Med. Cen.

Subject: Ego Reduction

My boy, if I were a purely conventional Chief of Medical Services, I would have your jackass hide drying in the breeze this minute; but it is your great good fortune that I have a large capacity for suffering fools gladly, and also am somewhat short of replacements for you at the moment. You have committed three really outstanding stupidities. First, you have "pulled rank" on an equal. You may regard yourself as enormously superior, mentally, socially, and professionally, to Director Howland, but kindly observe that Director Howland is Director Howland. Kindly do not increase my difficulties by your ineffectual efforts to snub those to whom you are not superior. Second, if you do try it, show the forethought not to commit the additional stupidity of voluntarily doing it in fully documented form, where anyone may see your ego, complete with scalpel, stethoscope, and halo, spread-eagled in all its glory. Third, when you have done it, do not expect me to get you out of the mess. Just exactly what do you propose that I do? Suppose I should take this matter up with the Chief of Power Production? As he is just as busy as I am, or almost so, he will be in an equally irritated mood after examining the records. Certainly, he will request Director Howland to check this power interruption. However, you may count on it, the field of power-supply zionids, or the theory of tertiary trilovolt transmission zone interactions, or whatever may happen to be involved, will be so abstruse and complex that neither you nor I will have any idea whether what follows is justice, persecution, or the operations of someone's sense of humor. Kindly note that I am not interested in becoming involved in this, particularly since this power interruption obviously does not risk your patients' well-being, or you would plainly and unequivocally say so. All it is doing, therefore, is to sweat your ego, and far be it from me to interfere. Permit me, however, to make a suggestion. You, obviously, have two main alternatives: a) You may demand in an authoritative way that Director Howland come to heel like a chastised dog. In this case, I strongly suspect that the Director will suddenly discover that your difficulty shows the danger of incipient overload of the flarnitic leads of the intercontinental power net or something equally nice, and a disaster team will descend on you and make your present discomfort look like heaven; b) Alternatively, you might send a simply manly note of apology for your highflown missive of Purgatory 16th, explaining what is doubtless the truth, that you were overtired. Express your willingness to help solve the problem. I fully authorize your opening the files for this purpose. I await with interest the results of your joint investigation of the matter, as I frankly would like to know how any human could cross three hundred miles of the Kalahell Desert alone on foot, starting with just two quarts of water, and with nothing between him and his destination but dried-out vegetation and dust. I am setting additional inquiries in motion on this matter and advise you to start your investigation promptly, if you wish to receive credit for the solution. Note, please, that this communication is the 4th transmission of a series, repeated . . .


Date: Salvation 14, 2208

From: R. Stewart Belcher, Director, Verd. Hills Med. Cen.

To: Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services

Subject: Sam Mathews

Recode: 081mcVN-2

Sir: In answer to your inquiry, yes, we had a patient by the name of Sam Mathews here. He arrived from Redrust Med. Cen. in a special reinforced straitjacket, and we shipped him out in a padded cocoon. As for his condition—well—if you will permit me to drop the usual lingo, this fellow was stark raving nuts. I would hesitate to try to pin it down any closer. We sent him straight to Lakes Central. He got here Purgatory 16th, and we got rid of him on the 18th. Note, please, that this is the 4th of a series . . .

* * *

Date: Salvation 15, 2208

From: Martin Merriam, Director, Lakes Cen. Med. Cen.

To: Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services

Subject: Sam Mathews.

Recode: 082mcLM-2

Sir: Yes, we do have a patient here named Sam Mathews. Mr. Mathews is under treatment at our Outpatient Clinic. His case is highly interesting, and I think, offers many insights into the nature of religious fanaticism. You see, Mathews was employed for years as a technician, tending solar-conversion units out in the Kalahell Desert. One day, while far out, an unexpected tornado hit, his sand-buggy overturned, his water tank burst, and he found himself isolated in this waterless desert. The psychic shock must have been formidable. Tchnudi, who is handling his case, is slowly bringing the infraconscious symbolism to the surface; but, of course, the process cannot be hurried. Subjectively, Mathews evidently experienced a vision, which left him convinced he was under the care of a being called the Prophet Awashi. Tchnudi, by the way, finds an intriguing symbolism in the name of this prophet. By the time Mathews emerged from the desert, the whole thing was quite real to him. However, his latent fanaticism only burst to the surface when he was told that he was to be sent back to the Kalahell. Instead, he insisted that he go on to the "promised land," as the Prophet had commanded him. This incident, I think, offers many possibilities for theoretical insights. Tchnudi is treating the psychosis by what might be called "psychiatric hydrotherapy." The patient is encouraged to swim and boat and is responding quite well, despite occasional relapses. We have high hopes of achieving an eventual cure. Note, please, that this message is the 6th . . .

* * *

Salvation 23, 2208

Cathcart to Baumgartner


Subject: Sam Mathews

Well, my boy, I would like to know the results of your investigations thus far. Note, please, that this message is the 4th . . .

* * *

Salvation 24, 2208

Baumgartner to Cathcart


Sir: I can only say that Mathews was incoherent when he arrived here and insane when he left.

He appeared to be progressing nicely, but our treatment was interrupted by the crash of a supply ship, so that we necessarily may have neglected Mathews to some extent. Note, please, that this message is the 9th . . .

* * *

Salvation 20, 2208

Cathcart to Baumgartner


Subject: Evasion

Dear boy: You may not believe it, but there are worse places on this planet than Redrust. Specifically, let me call to your attention Medical Outpost 116, located in a spot picturesquely named "Ssst," from what happens when you spit on the sand. Outpost 116 is situated in the center of a kind of natural bowl. When the sun reaches the zenith over this bowl, it is possible to be burned simultaneously on all exposed surfaces of the body, whether the said surfaces happen to face up, down, north, south, east, or west. Owing to the really excessive seismic activity in the region, this is a surface station, of the type mounted on very large skids designed to flex with the waves when the quakes hit. Unfortunately, the elastic-rebound qualities of the skids sometimes react unfavorably with the seismic waves, so that you are going up when the ground is going down, and vice versa. The mechanical qualities, insulation, etc., of the station have suffered accordingly. Permit me to point out that this outpost has been untenanted for some time, as I have been unable to find anyone with the unique qualities desirable in the occupant of this station. Let me point out, it would be of great value for the Service to know how Mathews survived so long without water. Of course, you need not trouble yourself with this problem if it bores you. Note, please, that this message is the 6th . . .

* * *

II August 3, 2208

Baumgartner to Cathcart


Sir: I send separately complete copies of all records of this Center pertaining to former patient Samuel Mathews. I realize that it may be of some interest that this patient survived severe exposure over a relatively long period. However, determination of the cause of this anomaly is not possible with the facilities available at this Center. We lack sufficient advanced computer backup to correlate the data. In any case, data-sifting, data-analysis, and theoretical synthesis is not the function of this Center.

* * *

II August 6, 2208

Cathcart to Baumgartner


Subject: Reassignment

Sir: Effective on receipt of this message, you are removed as Director of Redrust Medical Center, and reassigned to Medical Outpost 116. You will report to Medical Outpost 116 on the next supply ship, traveling by way of Kalahell Water Extraction Center and South Bonescorch Junction. Your assignment is: a) to repair and render fit for occupancy Medical Outpost 116; b) to occupy Medical Outpost 116 until further notice, maintaining it in optimal condition, and duly operating all recording equipment relating to solar radiation, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind-speed, incidence and severity of sandstorms, cyclones, groundslips, seismic tremor, etc., etc.; c) to render medical assistance to the occupants of the Equatorial Conversion District. To facilitate your medical-assistance patrols, Medical Outpost 116 will be equipped with one (1) Model STV-4 sand-buggy. You are cautioned to operate this vehicle with due care, as vehicle malfunction, especially in the prolonged dry season, is a major factor in the mortality rate of the Equatorial Conversion District. Bear in mind that, due to electromagnetic disturbances, and violent meteorological and seismic activity, outside help is not to be anticipated.

* * *

Date: II August 14, 2208

From: Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services

To: Robert Howland, Director, Kalahell Conv. Dist.

Subject: Desert Survival

Recode: 081MCkc-1

Sir: I am sending, separately, recordings of Sam Mathews' conversations at Redrust Medical Center. It would appear that he expected to die and was passing along information he considered important. For instance, there is the following:

Attendant: Don't overtire yourself, Mr. Mathews. Just settle back.

Mathews: No. I've got to tell—

Attendant: Not now.

Mathews: It's for my buddies. Look—

Attendant: Lie back, please. Don't overtire yourself.

Mathews: Who cares? I know I won't make it. Somebody else can make it. Listen—

Attendant: Of course you'll make it. Now, I've got to give you this—

Mathews: Write this down, will you? The rat story's right. You can eat grass and all. You can eat dry scratchweed. You can—

Attendant: Sure you can.

Mathews: You've got to get one alive. You can't cook it.

Attendant: Just lie back.

Mathews: Are you going to write it down?

Attendant: Sure. Let me just pull your sleeve up.

Mathews: Then you can eat anything. Even scratchweed. It turns to water in your stomach.

Attendant: Just lie still while we get the hypogun . . . There.

Mathews: Are you going to write this down? Do you follow?

Attendant: Sure. You don't cook the scratchweed. Now—

Mathews: No! You don't get it! It's the rat you don't cook!

Attendant: Sure. Sure. You cook the weed, you don't cook the rat. Lie back.

Mathews: It's not . . . you eat it raw . . . the weed . . . you wouldn't, anyway . . .

Attendant: Lie down, now.

Mathews: No . . . But the rat . . . you . . . important to remember . . . the rat . . .

Attendant: Sure . . . Whew! He's under. Finally.

Dr. Hinmuth: Try to keep your reassurances more general. Avoid specifics.

This conversation seems to show Mathews trying to get something across. I would value your opinion as to what this something might be.

* * *

Date: II August 18, 2208

From: Robert Howland, Director, Kalahell Conv. Dist.

To: Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services

Subject: Desert Survival

Recode: 081mcKC-2

Sir: Many thanks. I've wanted these records for a long time. As for Mathews's "rat story"—that's a kind of legend. The basis is a creature called a sandrat that burrows at the base of the larger chalaqui weed and sunrustle stalks. This creature is active while other local life is estivating. The legend is that if a man will catch a sandrat, cut out its digestive tract and eat it raw, he will be able to live in the desert without water. This is supposed to have been the secret of "Desert Bill," an early settler renowned for his ability to survive the desert. I've never taken the story seriously, and considering what you have to do to test it, I don't know anyone who has tested it. But I'm calling for volunteers.

* * *

September 17, 2208

Howland to Cathcart


Sir: Well, it took work to find volunteers, and I had to offer a week's leave in the worst fleshpot in the hemisphere. But we have now tried it out. Don't ask me how it could be, but one volunteer went almost three weeks without water, and another went sixteen days. This won't convince everyone, but I'm notifying all the conversion districts. Now, if a man gets stranded, he has a chance.

* * *

September 19, 2208

Cathcart to Howland


Sir: Congratulations. I now have a cage of sandrats myself, but no volunteers. What's the name of that fleshpot? Once I have volunteers, I intend to impose controls so stringent no one in his right mind can question the results. Of course, that won't include everybody.


Princeps, New Venus, Ocnovdec 30, 2208. Dr. Charles de P. Bancroff, Director-in-Chief of the Interscience Federation today rebuked Dr. Quincy Cathcart for his "sandrat hoax."

In an unprecedentedly severe public statement, Dr. Bancroff charged: "This absurd parody of an experiment exposes New Venus Science to the ridicule of more mature scientific bodies everywhere. Numerous palpable errors in this widely publicized—I might almost say widely advertised—report qualify it as a treatise on 'What to Avoid in Science.'

"To begin with, the sample employed was not pure. Assuming the results to be as stated, no one could say what agent or agents were responsible.

"Second, it is absurd to suggest that such results could be possible; obviously, digestive action would destroy the ingested tissue, and with it its presumed magical power to change food into drink.

"Third, even assuming the ingested tissues were not digested, peristaltic action would reject it from the body.

"This should give some suggestion of the flaws in this 'experiment.' Even laymen can understand such fallacies.

"However, to the scientist, other flaws are at once evident. This experiment is not 'elegant.' It lacks the sense of 'form' which gives the conviction of validity. Moreover, there is nothing quantitative about it.

"There can be no excuse for such an imposture.

"I call upon Dr. Cathcart to publicly admit that this so-called experiment is nothing more nor less than a hoax. This may, at least, permit New Venus Science to regain some shreds of scientific credibility."

Operations Central, New Venus, Janfebmar 4, 2209. Dr. Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services, today replied to the criticism of Dr. Charles de P. Bancroff. Referring to Dr. Bancroff as a "pedant laboriously mining his rut," Dr. Cathcart stated:

"In the formal organization of which we are both members, Dr. Bancroff is an administrator, not a scientist. As a scientist, I decline to accept any judgment based on Dr. Bancroff's opinions. That his statement is unscientific is easily shown:

"1) He bases his argument on the grounds that my experiment might cause 'New Venus Science' to lose caste in the eyes of others. This is suppression of data for fear of unpopularity.

"2) He states that the experiment cannot be correct, because it disagrees with his presuppositions. This is the attempted refutation of physical facts by favored theories.

"3) He objects that the experiment is not 'elegant,' and hence cannot be true. This is the subordination of Science to Esthetics.

"4) He complains that the experiment is not 'quantitative.' Note that each volunteer ate one sandrat digestive tract and then, while carefully and continuously supervised, existed for stated days, hours and minutes without drinking water. All that is required of an experiment is that it proves a point, and that the facts be so reported as to be capable of independent check. It is unscientific to include irrelevant data and superfluous charts and calculations merely to make the experiment 'look scientific.'

"My learned colleague's objections are those of the scholastic pedant, not of the scientist.

"In science, theories are based on facts, not vice-versa."

Princeps, New Venus, Janfebmar 6, 2209. By 8-4 vote, the Personnel and Appointments Committee today fired Dr. Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services. By unanimous vote, the Committee on Professional Conduct formally censured Dr. Cathcart for "unprofessional conduct."

Rathbone, New Venus, Janfebmar 8, 2208. Dr. Quincy Cathcart, former Chief of Medical Services, in a brief statement commented on his expulsion from office and the formal rebuke delivered by the Interscience Federation. Dr. Cathcart said:

"By these measures, the governing bodies of the so-called Interscience Federation reveal themselves as composed largely of sycophants, obsequious to an administrator who, as I have demonstrated, does not know what science is. These people may, of course, take their stand with whoever they wish. I will stand with Galileo."

Princeps, New Venus, Janfebmar 8, 2209. By 7-5 vote, the Committee on Accreditation today placed Quincy Cathcart on "indefinite suspension of professional status." A spokesman explained: "This means Cathcart cannot practice, and further that no paper or presentation of his may be considered by any accepted medium for the dissemination of professional information or opinion."

The action was taken "to avert harmful public controversy."


Rathbone, New Venus, April 16, 2209. Two magnetic-sieve prospectors reached here today, haggard from exposure and lack of rest, to tell of a waterless trek across the Salamari Waste. They attribute their survival to "travel by night, an accurate map, and two raw sandrats."

Flarnish, New Venus, May 1, 2209. Doctors here are puzzled by the case of a fourteen-year-old boy who eats grass, refuses to drink water, and apparently suffers no harmful effects. He insists he ate a sandrat.

Bonedry, New Venus, May 26, 2209. Hank J. Percival, proprietor of the Last Chance Supply Mart, reports a brisk sale of sandrats to prospectors, surveyors, and cable riggers, setting out across the Bonescorch Plateau.

Princeps, New Venus, May 29, 2209. Experiments carried out under the auspices of the Interscience Federation "demonstrate that the effectiveness of sandrat ingestion in preventing dehydration is a myth. Careful experimentation with measured quantities of crushed digestive tissues of laboratory sandrats shows no statistical increase in resistance to dehydration."

South Bonescorch Junction, New Venus, June 10, 2209. Philip Baumgartner, from Medical Outpost 116, collapsed shortly after arrival here this morning. Baumgartner explained that his sand-buggy broke down "ten to twelve days ago" and he'd been on foot ever since. A small wire cage lined with sunrustle stalks, and now empty, was found secured to his pack straps. Such sandrat kits are sold locally for use in case the purchaser gets lost without water.

Princeps, New Venus, June 22, 2209. By order of R. Q. Harling, Planetary Food and Drug Administrator, all sales of "sandrats or related rodents, for use in preventing dehydration," were today forbidden as "dangerous to the public health, both directly in light of possible infestation by possible indigenous intestinal parasites and indirectly because of the mistaken belief that sandrat internal organs are a specific against dehydration. This myth has been thoroughly exploded by controlled scientific experimentation."

Bonedry, New Venus, June 26, 2209. Hank J. Percival, proprietor of the Last Chance Supply Mart stated today he is continuing sales of sandrats, "as pets."

Broke and Ended, New Venus, June 27, 2209. Sandra Corregiano, a missing tourist on the Trans-Desert Safari, was today brought out after an extensive search around Mineral Flats. Miss Corregiano explained that she had caught a sandrat. "I hated to kill the poor thing," she said, "and I nearly died with the—you know—what you have to do with them. But then I was all right."

Princeps, New Venus, July 6, 2209. Planetary Food and Drug Administrator Harling today warned that he will "proceed to the courts" in all cases wherein sandrats are sold contrary to law. Administrator Harling added that he will prosecute offenders "vigorously, to the full extent of the enforcement resources at my disposal."

Princeps, New Venus, July 8, 2209. The Planetary Food and Drug Administration today released results of chemical analysis of the sandrat digestive tract, by an independent and analytical laboratory "of recognized standing." No cause for protection against dehydration was found.

Bonedry, New Venus, July 10, 2209. The bodies of two Planetary Food and Drug Administration field agents were found near here this morning. Evidence seems to show that the two PFADA agents shot each other in a gun battle. Cause of the fight is not known.

South Bonescorch Junction, New Venus, July 14, 2209. A PFADA agent was found dead in the wreckage of his sand-buggy this morning. Evidence thus far uncovered appears to indicate that the sand-buggy's engine exploded.

Slag Hills, New Venus, July 19, 2209. The body of a PFADA field agent found here the day before yesterday was today shipped back to Princeps. Cause of death was a large bullet hole in the left chest.

Princeps, New Venus, July 20, 2209. PFADA administrator Harling today announced that enforcement of his sandrat-sales policy is being "temporarily suspended, pending completion of a massive public-education campaign."

Princeps, New Venus, July 22, 2209. Dr. Charles de P. Bancroff, Director-in-Chief of the Interscience Federation, today unveiled results of a new experiment "to determine the possible effects of sandrat ingestion." The intestinal tracts of sixteen sandrats, raised at the PFADA laboratories nearby, were "thoroughly macerated, divided into one hundred portions, and each weighed portion mixed with a weighed sample of a specific local plant. In no instance was the proportion of water significantly increased by admixture with sandrat intestine." Dr. Bancroff stated: "I am amazed that superstition can persist in the face of repeated consistently negative experimental evidence."

Dry Hole, New Venus, July 28, 2209. Sixteen inmates of the Dry Hole Correctional Training Institute have disappeared in the last month. It is believed the prisoners are getting away as fast as they can catch sandrats. Owing to the isolated location of the Institute, and the local lack of surface water, it was never thought necessary to use an escape-proof outer wall.

Princeps, New Venus, I August 4, 2209. Officials of the Interscience Federation today announced new measures to "eradicate the sandrat superstition." A concerted effort will be made to coordinate teaching materials of all types, to render this superstition psychologically distasteful. Special mention was made of the trideo film, Disaster in the Desert, which, said a spokesman, "illustrates, step by step, the chain of causation leading from acceptance of the myth to the ultimate test, when the family sand-vehicle malfunctions in the desert. Then there is this distressing scene with the sandrats, and afterward we experience the deterioration of the family, physically and mentally, and the horror as they try to eat sunrustle stalks and other things of that type, and realize that they don't turn into water. We got Peter de Vianhof and Celeste Silsine for the principal characters—the stars of our show—and we think they've done a really superb and convincing job for us. It's one thing to just be told an old wives' tale is false. It's something else to actually experience it this way, right before your eyes." Another official stated, "We're going to pull out all the stops. We're going to crush this superstition."


Date: Frigidor 26, 2212

From: Presley Mark, President, New Earth Research

To. Col. J. J. Conrobert, C. O., Stilwell Base, New Earth

Subject: Dehydrated Water?

Con: Sorry this reply is late, but we've had a little trouble here. Some jackass greased the liquid air machine. Regarding your query as to whether there is any way to solidify water without freezing, I would certainly say, "No." But some vague memory keeps circulating through my mind.

What's your problem?

* * *

Date: Frigidor 27, 2212

From: J. J. Conrobert, C. O., Stilwell Base, New Earth

To: Presley Mark, President, New Earth Research

Subject: Outposts

Pres: The problem is, I've got eighteen detached observation posts in this freezebox, and supplying them is driving me nuts.

I've tried to explain through channels that these outposts serve no useful purpose, that anything incoming—aliens, bootleg spacecraft, planetary raiders, you name it—will show up on the screens. The generals tell me screens can be fooled and visual observation is a useful backup. That's that.

Well, we've got pretty rugged terrain. These observation posts are at high elevations, sunk into windswept crags overlooking wide sweeps of territory. We can't provision them from the air, because of dangerous winds and violently unpredictable meteorological conditions in general. We supply them from the ground. There's no vehicle or pack animal that can handle this. We do it. Every time we supply these outposts, it's like a battle. What gets us worst is water. In summer, it sloshes and shifts. In winter, the snow is contaminated by spores of the parasite of a solitary overgrown wolf that gets moisture by gulping snow. This parasite will infest humans, which complicates everything from the first snowfall to the middle of summer.

Yes, I realize waste can be purified, but kindly think over our budget, our conditions and the unscientific viewpoint of the troops.

Incidentally, I might add that this solitary powerful wolf finds our isolated snow-melting water-boiling shelters ideal for winter headquarters.

Now, these difficulties are samples. They don't exhaust the list. All these things interlock; you can't do this for one reason, or that for another reason. But if we could eliminate this water-delivery problem, with its complications of liquidity, freezing-point, spores, melt-houses, snow-wolves, etc., it would simplify things enormously.

Could you work up some kind of gelatin, and when it cools it's a powder. Then when it's eaten, the water is released? Never mind if it weighs twice as much. We would gladly trade complications for some straightforward drudgery.

* * *

Date: Frigidor 29, 2212

From: Mark, New Earth Research

To: J. J. Conrobert, Stilwell

Subject: Nonliquid Non-Ice Water

Con: Am onto a weird track that may solve your problem—a discovery made on our sister planet. True to form, they ganged up on the discoverer, who showed some originality. Will let you know what I find out.

* * *

Date: September 16, 2212

From: Mark, New Earth Research

To: J. J. Conrobert, Stilwell

Subject: Waterless Water

Con: My investigations into New Venus "science" disclose that there is a creature there called a "sandrat" that lives on dry stalks while the other creatures sleep out the hot weather. For years, the local people have known this, and it appears that someone, stranded without water, decided that if he ate the creature, maybe he could do it, too.

Obviously, this couldn't work. But he tried it, and it did work.

Our experiments show that, in this particular animal's digestive system, there's a culture of microorganisms that breaks down cellulose. These microorganisms are passed on from generation to generation, when the mother sandrat feeds the baby pre-chewed food.

When the human eats the sandrat, the human's digestive juices naturally tend to kill the microorganisms. But the human is hoping against hope that he too can now process dried weeds and make water out of them. He promptly chokes down dried weed. The microorganisms go to work on it and produce among other things, a kind of porous charcoal dust, and water. The cellulose, you see, is (C6H10O5), or [C6(H2O)5], provided you remember the hydrogen and oxygen are not actually joined as water to form a hydrate. The microorganism takes care of this problem. Don't ask me how just yet. It will take us a while to figure this out. But here is your dry water, if you don't mind the weight penalty.

Evidently, the New Venus authorities fed their laboratory sandrats on starchy food and water. This microorganism, for some reason, doesn't like starch, and dies for lack of cellulose. Hence, their experiments demonstrated that the actual facts were imaginary. By means of a propaganda campaign, they rammed this revelation down the throats of the populace. Nice, eh?

To get back to our problem, we've tried cultures of the microorganism and find they will work on sawdust, amongst other forms of cellulose. Am sending cultures and live sandrats for your own use.

Don't know if this solves your problem, but it's a start. Incidentally, we find we get the best results with the raw digestive tract of the sandrat. Let me know how military discipline solves this problem.

We are also interested to see how New Venus "science" will explain the dilemma created by our report. We are releasing it in a special way.

* * *

Rathbone, New Venus, II August 16, 2212. Quincy Cathcart, a seed salesman here, today made public the text of a communication from Dr. C. J. Horowitz, Director of Research at the prestigious New Earth Research Corporation. Dr. Horowitz's message reads, in part:

". . . We wish to publicly acknowledge the prior date of your investigations into this important matter and to acknowledge further that your conclusions have been found to be entirely accurate.

"Owing to your researches, our efforts have been greatly facilitated.

"Mr. Presley Mark, President of the Corporation, has suggested your name for our Mark Medal and accompanying cash award. As you may know, this prize has not been awarded for three years, so that the award money has accumulated. We will be in touch. . . "

* * *

Princeps, New Venus, II August 18, 2212. P. L. Sneel, spokesman for the Legal Staff Section of the Interscience Federation, today warned that Quincy Cathcart, Rathbone seed salesman, "cannot legally accept any payment, emolument, reward, prize, or other recompense for performance of services which he is legally debarred from rendering. Under Sections 223, 224, and 226, Cathcart must refuse such payment or suffer the full legal penalties."

Rathbone, New Venus, II August 20, 2212. J. Harrington Savage, prominent Princeps attorney visiting at the home of Dr. Quincy Cathcart, today announced that "this allegation of the Legal Staff Section of the Interscience Federation is in violation of Section 6, which specifically prohibits ex post facto laws. Dr. Cathcart may be rewarded, to any extent and without limitation, for past services, rendered at a time when his outstanding qualifications were fully accredited. Any attempt of the Interscience Federation to enforce this ruling will be met with legal action on whatever scale may prove necessary."

Princeps, New Venus, August 22, 2212. R. J. Rocklash, of the law firm of Savage and Rocklash, today announced that he represents the relatives of one hundred sixty-two exposure victims lost in desert localities. Mr. Rocklash charges, "These people are victims of the propaganda of the Interscience Federation, which struck from their hands the obvious remedy and thus killed them."

Princeps, New Venus, II August 23, 2212. P. L. Sneel, of the Interscience Federation's legal staff, revealed today that the Federation, "as a gesture of reconciliation toward a former colleague fallen from grace," will not insist that Quincy Cathcart refuse payment for past services; "but Cathcart must be exceedingly careful to remember that he is debarred from undertaking to render any services, now or in the future, for which he is professionally disqualified."

Rathbone, New Venus, August 24, 2212. J. Harrington Savage, attorney for Dr. Quincy Cathcart, today warned the Interscience Federation that, "no gesture of reconciliation has any legal standing whatever in this matter. The Interscience Federation statement of II August 23, 2212 presupposes that the Federation may grant or withhold prosecution as an act of favoritism. This calls into question the propriety of Federation policy and its legal validity under sections 66, 67, and 68, governing the relations of governmental authorities and the citizens of New Venus. We are examining the very serious implications of this statement. If need be, a broad legal attack will be instituted to crush the evils inherent in such arbitrary and unprincipled behavior."

Princeps, New Venus, II August 26, 2212. Byron T. Fisher, well known popular author, arrived here today on the spaceliner Queen of Space. Mr. Fisher has come "to do research on my new book, The Martyrs and Tyrants of Science."

Dry Hole, New Venus, II August 29, 2212. Three tourists stumbled out of the desert here at first light this morning and attributed their safe arrival to "sandrats and chalaqui weed." They displayed official Interscience Federation Tourist Guide pamphlets warning that "the quaint belief that ingestion of sandrats digestive organs will obviate the need for water is simply an old wives' tale. Scientific experimentation demonstrates that the sandrat is as dependent upon liquid water as any other creature." All three tourists stated that this pamphlet was what nearly killed them.

Princeps, New Venus, September 6, 2212. In chaotic sessions of the governing bodies of the Interscience Federation the following actions were today taken: Dr. Charles de P. Bancroff stepped down as Director-in-Chief, citing reasons of health. By unanimous vote, the Committee on Accreditation reversed its former decree, to restore the full qualifications of Dr. Quincy Cathcart, former Chief of Medical Services. The Committee on Professional Conduct narrowly defeated a motion to overturn its formal rebuke of Dr. Cathcart, whose name, however, was returned to the active roster. In a further upheaval, the Legal Staff Section was drastically overhauled. So far, the Board has proved unable to select a successor to Dr. Bancroff, and is reportedly split into violent factions.

Princeps, New Venus, September 8, 2212. Dr. Sherrington Shiel was today named Director-General of the Interscience Federation. Dr. Charles de P. Bancroff resigned from the Board of Directors, to become head of a special Internal Procedures Study Group. Dr. Shiel's elevation vacated the post of Chief of Medical Services, and the Personnel and Appointments Committee unanimously approved Dr. Cathcart as Chief of Medical Services. An inside observer who asked not to be identified observed that, "Now we have Justice. Whether we get Truth out of it remains to be seen."

* * *

Date: September 12, 2212

From: Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services

To: Philip Baumgartner, Medical Outpost 116

Subject: Reassignment

Recode: 121MC-m116-1

Sir: Owing to retirements and promotions, the position of Director of Redrust Medical Center is now open. If you wish to accept this position let me know at your earliest convenience. I appreciate that you may encounter some difficulty in leaving your present post until the rains subside, in view of the surrounding bowl-shaped terrain. As I recall, the station has waterproof seals, and a cable-and-drum device to allow it to float up off its skids. I trust you have kept the cable well greased.

* * *

Date: Ocnovdec 26, 2212

From: Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services

To: Robert Howland, Director, Kalahell Conv. Dist.

Subject: Science Wipes Out Superstition

Recode: 121MCkc-1

Sir: I quote, for your edification, the following from the newly published Pamphlet 2P-103 of the Interscience Federation Press, titled, Rusty Learns About Biotechnology:

"Yes, Rusty, for years people died in the desert, when a plentiful supply of water was as near as the nearest vegetation—dry and useless though it seemed. At that time, the organized research facilities of the Interscience Federation had not yet created Biaqua. But there was a way—by ingestion of the common sandrat—to avoid the more harmful effects of extreme solar exposure."

"Gee, Doctor! Didn't the people know about it?"

"No, Rusty. Opinion Research instituted in April, 2211, showed that 92.65% of persons responding believed ingestion of the internal organs of the sandrat would have no effect on dehydration; 4.17% believed it might have some effect; 2.49% did not mark their ballots correctly; and only 0.69% believed it would prevent dehydration, and most of these lived in primitive outlying regions and believed it purely on the basis of superstition and folklore.

"Today, we instruct all travelers to carry Biaqua, and in emergency to overcome their squeamishness and rely on this simple biotechnological means of obtaining water from dry plant tissue . . . "

Pamphlet 2P-103 goes on in this vein for many pages.

Incidentally, I have informed the New Earth Research Corporation that you carried out the first formal experiments on this subject. The credit belongs to you, not me.

* * *

Date: Ocnovdec 28, 2212

From: Robert Howland, Director, Kalahell Conv. Dist.

To: Quincy Cathcart, Chief of Medical Services

Subject: Sandrats

Recode: 121mcKC-2

Sir: No, you are the one who risked your neck. Anyway, it appears to me the credit would ultimately go to Desert Bill, but how do you get it to him?

If you'd like to do something for me, I am chronically short of trained personnel. As you recall, some time ago, one of my converter technicians, Sam Mathews, turned up at Redrust Medical Center, tried to explain the plain truth and finally decided that if he was going to be thought nuts, he'd be nuts in the most profitable way. He is still enjoying a free vacation at Lakes Central.

Not long ago, one of my assistants went there on business and had a talk with Mathews. Mathews complains that when he goes to bed at night, the cot seems to be bobbing up and down. He walks with a rolling gait, as if he had spent his life on the water. Dr. Tchnudi, who is analyzing him, is trying to get at his basic subconscious mechanisms, and he is straining Mathews's powers of invention. Mathews thus has hydrotherapy coming out of his ears, and he hungers and thirsts after some place where he can "look anywhere, and not see more than one canteen of water at a time."

I hope you will take care of this, as I have just the spot for him.

* * *

Ocnovdec 30, 2212

Cathcart to Roberts


Sir: I am happy to say that Tchnudi willingly let go of Mathews, stating that he believed he, Tchnudi, had effected a complete cure. Mathews is on his way back to you, and if you will just hang him up for a week or so and let the water drain out, I imagine he will be all right.

Meanwhile Tchnudi, elated over the "cure," is elaborating his sessions with Mathews into a gigantic tome that doubtless will make his reputation, will very possibly found a school of thought and perhaps make him "immortal."

This Mathews case has certainly been illustrative of the continuing conquest of uninformed prejudice by the rational forces of science.

The only trouble is, there are times when it's a little hard to tell which is which.

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