The Man with a Thousand Names

Steven Masters climbed down the ladder to the surface of the planet, 
wondering how he should feel. It seemed degrading that he had first 
to ease himself backward out of the airlock, just like an ordinary 
member of the crew, and then gingerly edge down the slats of the ladder.
  Were films being taken? How would he look from the rear? He had a 
sense of moving awkwardly. He cringed with that awareness. And yet - a 
mixed reaction....If people on Earth were really viewing this, then 
someone would be naming him as being the person on the ladder at 
this moment.
  That possibility had its own stimulation. They're looking at me. They're 
seeing me!
  His thought was: I'll go over and climb that hill, and see what this 
stupid place looks like. 
  As his feet touched the soil, Steven tried for a moment to imagine that, 
really, his contact with the new planet was the one that counted.
As he had that thought, he let go of the ladder and braced himself 
within the frame of his spacesuit and all its paraphernalia.
  Almost fell. Staggered, stumbled, fought a terrible unbalance. Good 
God, he was disgracing himself. 
  A full, perspiring minute later, he had himself braced in a leaning-back
posture. And now he discovered what it was that had overbalanced him. One
of the two hooks hanging down over his shoulder had caught in the handle
of a canister, which had been left at the foot of the ladder. The sudden 
pull of the heavy object had flung him off center. Whereupon his need to 
keep going and the continuing weight of the object had acted one against 
the other, and the tough material of the spacesuit had prevented him from
feeling what it was.
  Steven released the hook. And stood there in such a rage that he could 
scarcely see. 
  But he realized presently that apparently none of the other crew members
had noticed his wild antic.
  The overstimulated feeling remained. But his anger dimmed, yielded to 
a particular confusion. It was a moment of stress, and an ever so tiny
sliver of truth poked up through his normal condition of self-delusion.
The minescule message from somewhere inside him whispered that his
aloofness during the trip had not endeared him to his fellow travellers.
The realization roused in him a progression of increasing irritation that 
ended up as outrage. But, even so, a restraining thought remained. Better
not complain.
  He was walking hurriedly now in the direction of the nearest of a series
of low hills. Noticing, as he approached - not volcanic. It had a steep
slope, a lot of brush, mostly yellowish in color, but some green, with a 
hint of blue here and there. Pretty leaves, L-shaped, of all things.
Nothing like that on Earth, or other discovered planets. Well (tolerantly), 
they did get a little education into me, in spite of all my resistance.
  Yet (he couldn't help realizing) I'm already bored. The feeling: So there
would be many new plants and animals. But such detail really didn't matter
to the son of the world's richest man.
  Images of comfort flashed through his mind, as he had that thought.
Fleeting pictures of fancy cars, glittering, available aircraft, well-dressed
girls overly anxious to please the handsome heir. Elegant interiors, great
homes, magnificent hotels, kowtowing servants - ('yes, Mr Masters?
Anything else, Mr Masters? Shall I bring the car out, Mr Masters?' His own 
response: A shurg and a don't-bother-me attitude. 'I'll call you when I 
need you.' But if they weren't there: 'Where the hell have you been
all this time?')
  On the trip to Mittend, he had discovered that there were things that
money could not buy. His father's position had secured him a berth in the 
spaceship. It could not, once the craft was en route, take him off it, or
turn it back. Such brazen use of money influence, the world did not openly
  He'd tried, by God! - and alienated everybody aboard. Not that their
reactions had mattered. In certain emotional states, he was a super-
communicator of negation.
  Okay, so I'm bored. So you poor little creatures are looking forward to 
another green planet. Waiting breathlessly to see all the little birdies and
the real estate. My God, it kills me just to think of spending three weeks 
more in space, and then a month there, and then all that endless six weeks
getting back.
  As he strode along, bored, kind of angry, even making small movements of 
impatience with each step, he looked at the yellow-green world that was 
beginning to be slightly below him, now that he was climbing. Because the 
oxygen content of the air was Earth-level, he had taken his helmet off, and
dropped it casually. So he could see with his naked eyes a distant forest of
trees, glints of a winding river. He despised the beauty that greeted his gaze
from every direction, and grimaced at the scent of the growing things around 
  A tiny, oh, ever so tiny, portion of the impatience was with himself. Steven
Masters going to Mittend with the first landing party. His first expressed 
wish, spoken while drunk, had brought those wonderful headlines. Reading them,
and the long columns about himself and his father, had done that stupid ego
business. And, also, he saw now, the newspaper accounts had expanded into 
total purpose what had originally been a minor boastful remark at a party, 
and - in fact - had no purpose at all. 
  He mentally looked back an that asinity, pictured the dreary consequence. 
The conviction came suddenly: I can't survive this. It's too much. 
  A sense of disaster, and of how meaningless exploration really was, was like
a weight upon him, as he stood finally on the crest of the hill, and gazed at
all the horizons that he could see.
  An odd thouhgt-feeling passed through his mind at that instant: 'Mother, 
we pass on to you an image of the intruder. Have we your permission, and your 
power, to deal with it?'
  Steven was occasionally startled by his own stream of consciousness. But 
not very often, and not this time. This utterly insane meaningness flicked 
through his awareness, and was gone. What dominated him was irritation. There
was a long ridge ahead of him, higher than all the little hills, on one of 
which he stood now. The ridge barred most of his view toward the, well, west.
  All right, all right, he thought, resigned, I'll go over there. After all
the one thing I've always had is a kind of stubborness. Mostly, that had been 
in connection with girls. It had always enraged him when some pretty little
thing, instead of lying down when he pointed at the nearest bed, started the 
stereotyped nonsense, and made it necessary fro him to grab her, and personally
undress her. Whereupon, she would sigh, and relax, evidently satisfied that now
it really meant something. 
  The way to the ridge was down into a hollow, and then up a long, shallow but
jagged slope. As Steven reached the low point of the hollow, he came unexpectedly
on a narrow stream, almost hidden in a shaggy, grasslike overhang. The water
bubbled, and made those small sounds, and gave off a damp odor. There were little
dark creatures in it. And, because he was surprised, he was, for instants only, 
reminded of a vacation when he was a boy, on one of his father's ranch properties
- a narrow stream like this, also half-hidden, and discovered suddenly by an 
eight-year-old. What a joy then, what a sense of discovery, what - 
  His mind figuratively clamped down on that pure memory. Fifteen years of
progressively more saturnine 'maturity' - he called it - in instants moved 
massively into the time spaces between then and now. 
  Maturity?...How can you both despise being the son of a super-rich man, and 
take advantage of it every chance you get? Steven had worked it out easily. 
Have total contempt for all mankind. Take the attitude that money means nothing.
Have a sneer for the old stupe, your father, for having wasted his life
accumulating the worthless stuff. And, because you don't care, spend his money
with a cynical profligacy.
  Steven jumped the little creek, and he did two automatic positive things,
then. First, he began the climb up toward the ridge, and, second, he estimated
the distance to the top of the ridge at a quarter of a mile. In a way they were
his two assets: to keep going forward, not just sitting, or lying down for long, 
or getting involved in some unchanging situation. His second asset was his
locational awareness. Like a homing pigeon, he could judge directions and
distances. It was not an area where he had dark thoughts, or twisted memories,
or those sequential images which, in hallucinatory fashion, paraded through his
mind like daytime dreams, providing him with an endless stream of fantasies by 
which he justified his behavior. In his time he had awakened from drunken
stupor in strange beds, and yet had always known quickly where he was. 
  He was still striding toward the ridge, and about a hundred feet from what
seemed to be a high point...when he saw the naked people.
  'Mother, it sees us! Give us more power!'
  Masters stopped. Then he did a half-twisting thing with his body. It was an
unrehearsed movement, not entirely new or entirely different from anything 
he had ever done. There was the time he had stepped off a curb - and stepped
back again with an unrehearsed rapidity, when a steam car, silent as a dark
night in the country, hissed toward and then through the space where he had
been a moment earlier.
  In his fashion, he had been quick, then. He spun in the direction the car 
was going, and he registered the license number imperishably in his vindictive
mind. And so began a three-year court battle, backed by the Masters money,
while Steven fabricated a more and more elaborate charge against the unfortunate
owner of the steam car, early getting a judgment for a million dollars, based
on the totally false claim that he knew the man, and that it had been an attempt
at murder. It took the Supreme Court to overthrow the judgment. That was about 
$84.000 in legal fees later for the belatedly successful defendant. 
  By then Steven believed every word of his own lies. He talked a lot after that,
cynically, about how difficult it was for wealthy people to secure justice. 
  On several other occasions, he had responded to sudden threat with a jump, or
a twist of his body, or a quick confusion of mind and muscles. Quick, because
such things never lasted long for him. Even now, as he poised in awful
premonition, the memories of other threats passed swiftly through his mind.
And then he had the awareness that the dozen people off there to his left were
not as nude as he had believed in that first look. They wore halters of some 
kind, which covered small portions of the mid-torso of each individual.
  A second, incredibly sharp realization came. It was so sharp it hurt his 
insides, so intense it could be compared only to those moments of passionate
hatred that he had experienced so many times in his easily offended past: the 
realization that this was not, not, NOT going to be an occasion when a 
court action would later win him the kind of satisfaction that always came to
him when he finally go even with some - his own term - S.O.B.
  Beleatedly, after so many thoughts, some of them brand-new, after at least
thirty seconds of half crouching and half cringing, he started hesitantly in
a direction that would take him away from the strange men.
  What he did was only partly running, and even then only slowly. He felt 
within himsem a strong resistance to retreating, and a reluctance to move in
the wrong direction. Almost, it was as if some barrier inside him interfered
with each step. After less than a minute, when he saw that the men were not
hurrying either, he slowed to a walk. 
  Steven continued striding rapidly but unhappily. His course was taking him 
roughly parallell to the ridge. Already, there was a patch of uneven ground
between him and the hill over which he had originally come. And it was
apparent that he would have to get back to the ship by way of a second hill,
since the group of savages - he had by now noticed that they were carrying
what seemed to be short spears, and so their low cultural status was obvious - 
could head him off if he tried going back the way he had come. 
  For some reason his discovery that they were in the spearweapon stage of
development made what was happening less dangerous. The whole episode seemed 
peaceful, somehow. Around him was a silent wilderness; the only sound, his
own heavy boots, and the noise made by his spacesuit, as its various parts
stroked each other. It was the suit, suddenly, that seemed to be the principal 
hindrance to his movements.
  The moment he had that thought, he began to unscrew and unbolt, and to ease
tightening levers. It was a superbly designed construction. In those final
moments of udressing himself out of the spacesuit, he did have to stop, and 
standing first on one leg and then the other, rid himself of the lower section.
  It was as he straightened from that task, free of the awkward mass, that he
saw a second group of the semi-naked people had come up from a gully less than
a hundred yards away. This group also carried spears, and - also - headed
towards him.
  Steven broke into a run, heading now, since he was cut off from the second
hill, toward the rough ground which he had been trying to avoid. He was
thinking: This is ridiculous. 
  He came abrubtly to the little creek. But it was not quite that little here, 
nor quite so shallow. After only a moment's hesitation, he plunged in, went 
down to his hips on the first step, and down to his neck on the second; and
then, furious, he was climbing up a steep underwater embankment. He emerged
soaking wet, sank up to his knees in mud, and then he was out of the water, 
and in among the rocks and other debris. Once more running.
  Almost at once he stumbled and fell. Got up. Stepped into a hole and 
wrenched his ankle getting out. His impulse was to limp. But when he looked
at his pursuers, the two groups of spearmen had somehow made better progress
than he had - and were now dangerously close to inserting themselves between
him and the top of the hill toward which lay whatever escape was available 
to him. The nearest group was only an electrifying twenty-five yards or so
from him, and he could see their human faces.
  It was one ot those moments when time seems to stand still (but really
does'nt). A moment in which everybody seems frozen in space (but only Steven
actually was).
  As he saw their faces unmistakably, their identity hit him for the first
  Human beings!
  It didn't hit him very hard. A strictly scientific anthropologist would
have been more stimulated than he was. An emotional anthropologist would 
have just about fallen apart with excitement; that was an inner condition
unknown to sophisticates like Steven. Steven had no specialist convictions.
But he had been present, because he couldn't avoid it, when the subject
of other races on other planets had been discussed by experts. And so the 
reality did not impinge, and did hold him unmoving while he looked, and 
looked, for several seconds. What he saw was that the natives of Mittend
were not exactly white. There was some mix in them. That was the way he
thought of it, because he was a little bit of a mix of himself, and had
on occasion referred to Steven Masters as being a citizen of the world - 
laughingly, of course. His great-grandmother had been a mixture of Indian
and white, nobody knew exactly which quantities of which. Nor did they
care, because she was a fabulous beauty. His grandfather had married a 
very pretty woman who had a touch of Chinese and Hawaiian in her. Steven's 
fatther had married a girl of German-Russian origin with black hair and
a Spanish look to her. (Those Spaniards have been everywhere.)
  What particularly fascinated Steven - and froze him - was not so much
that the ... Mittendians ... were human, but that they all looked a little
bit like Steven, seen close up. By the time he had savored that awareness, 
they were close, indeed. 
  His next realization was that he was running furiously, panting as he ran,
sounding and feeling, out of condition. He was climbing now; the hill seemed
much steeper going up it from this side than it had seemed coming down.
  Incredibly, at this later instant of time, it dawned on him that he had 
been foolish in venturing off by himself; such thoughts simply did not occur
to him, normally. He did what he did when he wanted it, and to hell with it.
But now, for the first time a thought came: You madman, call for help!
  He parted his lips a little wider; they were already open from each 
exhausted gasp. Through that enlarged opening, he emitted a small sound.
  It was so small. It made an almost infinitesimal impact on the air.
But what it did do was stir up a memory of a time when he had locked himself
in the upper floor of the Masters Five-story New York mansion; mostly used
for storage, it had roomsf for a couple of the younger male servants. 
  No one ever did quite succed in understanding how he had got locked into 
the storage side. It took a key that you had to turn; and at fifteen,
presumably, a boy should be smart enough to observe that it was unwise to 
lock a door from the inside, and then lose the key. (He had thrown it out
the window, and pretended to himself that it had slipped from his fingers.)
  Standing at that window later, as it was getting dark, he called out to
an employee. At least, Steven claimed afterward that he called out; and 
maybe he was genteel about it, and merely spoke loudly enough to be heard 
four feet away instead of ninety-four. But that was not his description of 
the event later. 
  Embelleshed, the account included the possibility that the man, whose
name was Mark Broehm, had locked him in, and then had stood on the lawn 
below, and laughed at his discomforture.
  'He was just crazy down there, Dad. He must absolutely hate me, and maybe
hates rich people.'
  His father, who had so many things on his mind all the time, this time
wondered - for more than just split instants - how come his son was the one
who ran up against these strange, angry people. Briefly, then, he was
motivated. As a result, for a minute, he talked to the boy. 
  He said, in effect, that truth was best. That the punishment for a harm-
ful act or lie was automatic. You remained psychologically connected to 
the harmed or lied-to person, and to that extend were not free.
  Presumably God and Steven should have known the truth. But Steven,
in fact, had the affair well twisted in his mind. It became the time when
'one of the servants tried to kill me, for no reason. I only spoke to him
twice all the time he was around. And maybe that's why. Maybe he felt 
rejected. Maybe he wanted some attention.'
  Out of the mouth of a fifteen-year-old came that truth. Maybe
Steven wanted some attention from a perennially preoccupied father.
  The memory, and the running, and the vague attempt to cry out - and the 
inability to - were a confusion of the end of a chase in which he was the
pursued, and his pursuers were only steps away.
  In those final few moments, as the strangers closed in on him, and
reached, Steven cringed. It was an inner shrinking. The feeling was that 
unclean, alien flesh would for the first time since life began on Earth 
touch an Earthman's skin. He felt that thought in his every shuddering cell.
  The next instant of eternity - it happened. A Mittendian spread of fingers 
brushed his right shoulder. Slipped off. Reached again, and this time caught
him by the arm, and spun him around.
  Deep inside Steven, something screamed.
  'Mother, the touch, the feel - it's too much. There's a thousand names
in this thing. Quick, move it!'
  Steven stared at where the two glasses of beer lay on the dingy floor of 
the bar. From behind him, the bartender's voice came sharply: 'Mark, what
the hell was that about? Wake up!'
  Steven turned. It was an automatic movement, part of an enormous confusion.
In those initial moments, he did not think of himself as the person who had
beed addressed. But he thought vaguely: Mark? Mark who?
  Almost blankly, as he turned his head, he saw the outside window of the
bar. It had some words in black letters on it. Seen from where he stood 
inside they were:

                                         MOOR WOBLE

Moments later, still screaming somewhere in his interior, and still mentally 
light-years from being willing for the rest of his life to answer to the name
of Mark Broehm, he was lying on the floor.