Type ShortStory
Date 1950-12
Tags anti-war, time travel, science fiction

A Stone and a Spear

An expert in biological warfare, Dr. Hamon Dell, grows a conscience and retires to become a farmer. He begins growing vegetables and sending them as gifts to his former colleagues. After a year, he asks one such colleague, Dr. Curtis Johnson, to pay him a visit. Johnson goes, with the additional assignment to tempt Dell back to his former work if at all possible. Dell refuses:

"They want me to produce even deadlier toxins than those I gave them," Dell said viciously. "They want some that can kill ten million people in four minutes instead of only one million--"

"Any man would go insane if he looked at it that way. It would be the same as gun-makers being tormented by the vision of torn men destroyed by their bullets, the sorrowing families--"

"And why shouldn't the gun-makers be tormented?" Dell's voice was low with controlled hate. "They are men like you and me who give the war-makers new tools for their trade."

Scientists, he says, have become the modern mercenaries:

"Even in the old days, kings and emperors hired mercenaries to fight their wars. The militarists don't buy swords now. They buy brains. We're the mercenaries of the new day, Curt, you and I. Once there was honor in our profession. We searched for truth for its own sake, and because it was our way of life. Once we were the hope of the world because science was a universal language.

"What a horrible joke that turned out to be! Today we are the terror of the world. The war-makers built us fine laboratories, shining palaces, and granted every whim--for a price. They took us up to the hills and showed us the whole world and we sold our souls for it.

"Look what happened after the last war. Invading armies carried off prize Nazi brains like so much loot, set the scientists up in big new laboratories, and these new mercenaries keep right on pouring out knowledge for other kings and emperors.

"Their loyalty is only to their science. But they can't experiment for knowledge any more, only weapons and counter-weapons. You'll say I'm anti-war, even, perhaps, anti-American or pro-Russian. I am not against just wars, but I am against unjust slaughter. And I love America too much to let her destroy herself along with the enemy."

Why the change of heart? It turns out that men have come from the future with warnings of dire consequences if events continue on their current path. In order to prevent the horrors of the future, they are orchestrating a biological war of their own: the vegetables contain a substance that alters the brain to induce empathy in people.

For some men, the brain cannot take the change--the old habits are too ingrained--and it kills them. Dell, it turns out, was such a man. Before dying, he sends Johnson to meet the men from the future, so that he can understand what must be done.

In the end, Johnson resolves to retire, himself, and grow vegetables.

Name Role
Raymond F. Jones Author

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