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.Petulant.Disdainful.Negligible attention span.Unable to function, unwilling to be taught.” Nimbus made a sighing sound.“Even children brought up with no knowledge of Cashling ways still grow up to be Cashlings.Every last one of them.Nature completely defeating nurture.”“But why is that odd?” I asked.“Rabbit babies grow up to be rabbits.Wolf babies grow up to be wolves.All creatures have instincts, and instincts cannot be erased.”“But Cashling instincts have been erased,” Nimbus whispered intensely.“That’s the point, Oar, that’s the whole point.Cashlings haven’t always been useless.Before they were uplifted, they had a thriving ambitious culture.If nothing else, they certainly possessed the instinct to raise their own children.Now they don’t.None of them.Too flighty and easily bored.The only ones with the tiniest bit of initiative are the prophets, and you can see what they’re like.”His misty hand wafted dismissively in the direction of Lord Rye and Lady Bell.“It’s not surprising that affluence leads some people to indolence, but there should be others who buck the trend.Cunning schemers who want everybody else under their thumb, or strong-willed crusaders who fight to change the world.Cashling history has had plenty of striking individuals, both good and bad…but not in the past few millennia.No conquerors, no heroes, no devils, no saints.” He paused.“The only way to explain such a universal absence is some crucial degeneration in the Cashling genome: a dominant mutation that’s made them all peevish and ineffectual.”“In other words,” I said, “some dire calamity has afflicted them with Tired Brains.”“Exactly.And the same thing is happening to other species.Fasskisters, for example—the greatest masters of nanotech in our sector, but these days they hardly work at all.Oh, they still take jobs if they find the assignment amusing (and if the price is right); but they haven’t initiated anything themselves for quite some time.They don’t dream up projects on their own.It’s as if they’re incapable of imagining what they might do: they need an outside commission to kick them into activity.”When the cloud man used the word “kick,” I could not help picturing the way I needed to kick elderly persons on Melaquin in order to elicit any response.Hesitantly I asked, “What do young people think of this, Nimbus? The young Fasskisters and Cashlings.Do they ever look around and say, Why are things not better? What is wrong with us that we cannot accomplish great deeds? Why do we waste hours and days and years on activities we know achieve nothing? How can we stop being broken?”The cloud man’s mist floated close to me, becoming fog all around my eyes.I had the feeling he had actually surrounded me, wrapped himself about my body, enfolding me until I too looked like a creature of mist.“Of course they ask such questions,” he whispered.“Once in a while.When they can force themselves to concentrate.Out in the depths of space, light-years away from anything, I’ve watched Cashlings weep over who they are…who they aren’t…what their race has become.That’s how prophets are born: a moment of clarity, the desire to transform themselves and the universe.“But,” he continued, “it never lasts.They can’t make it last.They’re damaged, Oar—even if they experience a flash of profundity, they can’t sustain it, they can’t use it, they can’t preserve the desire to change.I’ve watched them; they can’t become anything else, not even with other species to learn from.They simply lack the capacity.The Cashlings are lost, and other races are following them into the darkness.On their best days, they long to be truly alive… but they’re physically incapable of pushing themselves past the emptiness.” He paused.“You can’t imagine their heartbreak when they realize they can’t make it work.”“I believe I can imagine it,” I said.My eyes had gone misty… and the mist was not cloud.11 Or so I have been told by human Explorers.Explorers are extremely prone to lecturing on the Diverse Facets Of Alien Life…and then telling most entertaining stories (“This did not happen to me but to a friend”) of instances when an Explorerdiddare to eat a peach [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]