Philip Jose Farmer
To Sam Mines,
who saw deeper than the others
'I've got to get out,' Hal Yarrow could hear someone muttering from a great distance. 'There must be a way out.'
He woke up with a start, and he realized that he had been the one talking. Moreover, what he had said as he emerged from his dream had no connection at all to it. His half-waking words and the dream were two discrete events.
But what had he meant by those mumbled words? And where was he? Had he actually traveled in time or had he experienced a subjective dream? It had been so vivid that he was slow in returning to this level of the world.
A look at the man sitting beside him cleared his mind. He was in the coach to Sigmen City in the year 550 B.S. (Old Style 3050 A.D., his scholar's mind told him.) He was not, as in the time travel? dream? on a strange planet many light-years from here, many years from now. Nor was he face to face with the glorious Isaac Sigmen, the Forerunner, real be his name.
The man beside him looked sidewise at Hal. He was a lean fellow with high cheekbones, straight black hair, and brown eyes which had a slight Mongoloid fold. He was dressed in the light blue uniform of the engineering class and wore on his left breast an aluminum emblem which indicated he was in the upper echelon. Probably, he was an electronics engineer with a degree from one of the better trade schools.
The man cleared his throat, and he said, in American, 'A thousand pardons,abba.I know I shouldn't be talking to you without permission. But you did say something to me as you awoke. And, since you're in this cabin, you have temporarily equated yourself. In any event, I've been dying to ask you a question. I'm not called Nosy Sam for nothing.'
He laughed nervously and said, 'Couldn't help overhearing what you told the stewardess when she challenged your right to sit here. Did I hear you right, or did you actually tell her you was agoat?'
Hal smiled and said, 'No. Not a goat. I'm ajoat.From the initial letters ofjack-of-all-trades.You weren't too mistaken, however. In the professional fields, ajoathas about as much prestige as a goat.'
He sighed and thought of the humiliations endured because he had chosen not to be a narrow specialist. He looked out the window because he did not want to encourage his seatmate to talk. He saw a bright glow far off and up, undoubtedly a military spaceship entering the atmosphere. The few civilian ships made a slower and unobtrusive descent.
From the height of sixty thousand meters, he looked down on the curve of the North American continent. It was a blaze of light with, here and there, some small bands of darkness and an occasional large band. The latter would be a mountain range or body of water on which man had not yet succeeded in building residences or industries. The great city. Megalopolis. Think – only three hundred years ago, the entire continent had a mere two million population. In another fifty years – unless something catastrophic happened, such as war between the Haijac Union and the Israeli Republics – the population of North America would be fourteen, maybe fifteen, billion!
The only area in which living room was deliberately denied was the Hudson Bay Wildlife Preserve. He had left the Preserve only fifteen minutes ago, yet he felt sick because he would not be able to return to it for a long time.
He sighed again. The Hudson Bay Wildlife Preserve. Trees by the thousands, mountains, broad blue lakes, birds, foxes, rabbits, even, the rangers said, bobcats. There were so few, however, that in ten years they would be added to the long list of extinct animals.
Hal could breathe in the Preserve, could feel uncon-stricted. Free. He also could feel lonely and uneasy at times. But he was just beginning to get over that when his research among the twenty French-speaking inhabitants of the Preserve was finished.
The man beside him shifted as if he were trying to get up courage to speak again to the professional beside him. After some nervous coughs, he said, 'Sigmen help me, I hope I ain't offended you. But I was wondering...'
Hal Yarrow felt offended because the man was presuming too much. Then, he reminded himself of what the Forerunner had said.All men are brothers, though some are more favored by the father than others.And it was not this man's fault that the first-class cabin had been filled with people with higher priorities and Hal had been forced to choose between taking a later coach or sitting with the lower echelon.
'It'sshibwith me,' said Yarrow. He explained.
The man said, 'Ah!' as if he were relieved. 'Then, you won't perhaps mind one more question? Don't call me Nosy Sam for nothing, like I said. Ha! Ha!'
'No, I don't mind,' said Hal Yarrow. 'Ajoat,though a jack-of-all trades, does not make all sciences his field. Heisconfined to one particular discipline, but he tries to understand as much of all the specialized branches of it as he can. For instance, I am a linguisticjoat.Instead of restricting myself to one of the many areas of linguistics, I have a good general knowledge of that science. This ability enables me to correlate what is going on in all its fields, to search out things in one specialty which might be of interest to a man in another specialty, and to notify him of this item. Otherwise, the specialist, who doesn't have the time to read the hundreds of journals in his field alone, might be missing something that would aid him.
'All the professional studies have their ownjoatsdoing this. Actually, I'm very lucky to be in this branch of science. If I were, for example, a medicaljoat,I'd be overwhelmed. I'd have to work with a team ofjoats.Even then, I couldn't be a genuine jack-of-all-trades. I'd have to restrict myself to one area of medical science. So tremendous is the number of publications in each specialty of medicine-or of electronics or physics or just about any science you might want to mention-that no man or team could correlate the entire discipline. Fortunately, my interest has always been in linguistics. I am, in a way, favored. I even have time to do a little research myself and so add to the avalanche of papers.
'I use computers, of course, but even the most complex computer complex is an idiot savant. It takes a human mind-a rather keen one, if I do say so myself-to perceive that certain items have more significance than others and to make a meaningful association between or among them.