THE PRINCESS AND THE PHYSICIST ***
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The Princess and the Physicist
By EVELYN E. SMITH
Illustrated by KOSSIN
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Science Fiction June 1955.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
Elected a god, Zen the Omnipotent longed
for supernatural powers - for he was also
Zen the All-Put-Upon, a galactic sucker!
Zen the Terrible lay quiescent in the secret retreat which housed his
corporeal being, all the aspects of his personality wallowing in the
luxury of a day off. How glad he was that he'd had the forethought to
stipulate a weekly holiday for himself when first this godhood had
been thrust upon him, hundreds of centuries before. He'd accepted the
perquisites of divinity with pleasure then. It was some little time
before he discovered its drawbacks, and by then it was too late; he had
become the established church.
All the aspects of his personality rested ... save one, that is. And
that one, stretching out an impalpable tendril of curiosity, brought
back to his total consciousness the news that a spaceship from Earth
had arrived when no ship from Earth was due.
_So what?_ the total consciousness asked lazily of itself. _Probably
they have a large out-of-season order for hajench. My hajench going to
provide salad bowls for barbarians!_
When, twenty years previously, the Earthmen had come back to their
colony on Uxen after a lapse of thousands of years, Zen had been
hopeful that they would take some of the Divine Work off his hands.
After all, since it was they who had originally established the
colony, it should be their responsibility. But it seemed that all
humans, not merely the Uxenach, were irresponsible. The Earthmen were
interested only in trade and tribute. They even refused to believe in
the existence of Zen, an attitude which he found extremely irritating
to his ego.
* * * * *
True, Uxen prospered commercially to a mild extent after their return,
for the local ceramics that had been developed in the long interval
found wide acceptance throughout the Galaxy, particularly the low bowls
which had hitherto been used only for burning incense before Zen the
Now every two-bit planet offered hajench in its gift shops.
Culturally, though, Uxen had degenerated under the new Earth
administration. No more criminals were thrown to the skwitch. Xwoosh
lost its interest when new laws prohibited the ancient custom of
executing the losing side after each game.
There was no tourist trade, for the planet was too far from the rest
of the Galaxy. The commercial spaceships came only once every three
months and left the same day. The two destroyers that "guarded" the
planet arrived at rare intervals for fueling or repairs, but the crew
never had anything to do with the Uxenach. Local ordinance forbade the
maidens of Uxen to speak to the outlanders, and the outlanders were not
interested in any of the other native products.
But the last commercial spaceship had departed less than three weeks
before on its regular run, and this was not one of the guard ships.
Zen reluctantly conceded to himself that he would have to investigate
this situation further, if he wanted to retain his reputation for
omniscience. Sometimes, in an occasional moment of self-doubt, he
wondered if he weren't too much of a perfectionist, but then he
rejected the thought as self-sacrilege.
Zen dutifully intensified the beam of awareness and returned it to the
audience chamber where the two strange Earthmen who had come on the
ship were being ushered into the presence of the king by none other
than Guj, the venerable prime minister himself.
"Gentlemen," Guj beamed, his long white beard vibrating in an excess of
hospitality, "His Gracious Majesty will be delighted to receive you at
And crossing his wrists in the secular xa, he led the way to where Uxlu
the Fifteenth was seated in full regalia upon his imposing golden,
Uxlu himself, Zen admitted grudgingly, was an imposing sight to anyone
who didn't know the old yio. The years - for he was a scant decade
younger than Guj - had merely lent dignity to his handsome features, and
he was still tall and upright.
"Welcome, Earthlings, to Uxen," King Uxlu said in the sonorous tones of
the practiced public speaker. "If there is aught we can do to advance
your comfort whilst you sojourn on our little planet, you have but to
He did not, Zen noted with approval, rashly promise that requests
would necessarily be granted. Which was fine, because the god well
knew who the carrier out of requests would be - Zen the Almighty, the
All-Powerful, the All-Put-Upon....
"Thank you, Your Majesty," the older of the two scientists said. "We
merely seek a retired spot in which to conduct our researches."
"Researches, eh?" the king repeated with warm interest. "Are you
"Yes, Your Majesty." Every one of Zen's perceptors quivered
expectantly. Earth science was banned on Uxen, with the result that its
acquisition had become the golden dream of every Uxena, including, of
course, their god.
The older scientist gave a stiff bow. "I am an anthropologist. My
name is Kendrick, Professor Alpheus Kendrick. My assistant, Dr. Peter
Hammond - " he indicated the tall young man with him - "is a physicist."
* * * * *
The king and the prime minister conferred together in whispers. Zen
wished he could join them, but he couldn't materialize on that plane
without incense, and he preferred his subjects not to know that he
could be invisibly present, especially on his day off. Of course, his
Immaterial Omnipresence was a part of the accepted dogma, but there is
a big difference between accepting a concept on a basis of faith or of
"Curious researches," the king said, emerging from the conference,
"that require both physics _and_ anthropology."
"Yes," said Kendrick. "They are rather involved at that." Peter Hammond
shuffled his feet.
"Perhaps some of our technicians might be of assistance to you," the
king suggested. "They may not have your science, but they are very
adept with their hands...."
"Our researches are rather limited in scope," Kendrick assured him. "We
can do everything needful quite adequately ourselves. All we need is a
place in which to do it."
"You shall have our own second-best palace," the king said graciously.
"It has both hot and cold water laid on, as well as central heating."
"We've brought along our own collapsible laboratory-dwelling," Kendrick
explained. "We just want a spot to set it up."
Uxlu sighed. "The royal parks are at your disposal. You will
undoubtedly require servants?"
"We have a robot, thanks."
"A robot is a mechanical man who does all our housework," Hammond, more
courteous than his superior, explained. Zen wondered how he could ever
have felt a moment's uneasiness concerning these wonderful strangers.
"Zen will be interested to hear of this," the prime minister said
cannily. He and the king nodded at one another.
"_Who_ did you say?" Kendrick asked eagerly.
"Zen the Terrible," the king repeated, "Zen the All-Powerful, Zen the
Encyclopedic. Surely you have heard of him?" he asked in some surprise.
"He's Uxen's own particular, personal and private god, exclusive to our
"Yes, yes, of course I've heard about him," Kendrick said, trembling
with hardly repressed excitement.
_What a correct attitude!_ Zen thought. _One rarely finds such
religious respect among foreigners._
"In fact, I've heard a great deal about him and I should like to know
even more!" Kendrick spoke almost reverently.
"He _is_ an extremely interesting divinity," the king replied
complacently. "And if your robot cannot teleport or requires a hand
with the heavy work, do not hesitate to call on Zen the Accommodating.
We'll detail a priest to summon - "
"The robot manages very well all by itself, thank you," Kendrick said
* * * * *
In his hideaway, the material body of Zen breathed a vast multiple sigh
of relief. He was getting to like these Earthmen more and more by the
"Might I inquire," the king asked, "into the nature of your researches?"
"An investigation of the prevalent nuclear ritual beliefs on Uxen in
relation to the over-all matrix of social culture, and we really must
get along and see to the unloading of the ship. Good-by, Your
Majesty ... Your Excellency." And Kendrick dragged his protesting aide
"If only," said the king, "I were still an absolute monarch, I would
teach these Earthlings some manners." His face grew wistful. "Well I
remember how my father would have those who crossed him torn apart by
"If you did have the Earthlings torn apart by wild skwitch, Sire," Guj
pointed out, "then you would certainly never be able to obtain any
information from them."
Uxlu sighed. "I would merely have them torn apart a little - just enough
so that they would answer a few civil questions." He sighed again.
"And, supposing they did happen to - er - pass on, in the process, think
of the tremendous lift to my ego. But nobody thinks of the king's ego
any more these days."
No, things were not what they had been since the time the planet had
been retrieved by the Earthlings. They had not communicated with Uxen
for so many hundreds of years, they had explained, because, after a
more than ordinarily disastrous war, they had lost the secret of space
travel for centuries.
Now, wanting to make amends for those long years of neglect, they
immediately provided that the Earth language and the Earth income tax
become mandatory upon Uxen. The language was taught by recordings.
Since the Uxenach were a highly intelligent people, they had all
learned it quickly and forgotten most of their native tongue except for
a few untranslatable concepts.
"Must be a new secret atomic weapon they're working on," Uxlu decided.
"Why else should they come to such a remote corner of the Galaxy? And
you will recall that the older one - Kendrick - said something about
nuclear beliefs. If only we could discover what it is, secure it for
ourselves, perhaps we could defeat the Earthmen, drive them away - " he
sighed for the third time that morning - "and rule the planet ourselves."
* * * * *
Just then the crown princess Iximi entered the throne room. Iximi
really lived up to her title of Most Fair and Exalted, for centuries
of selective breeding under which the kings of Uxen had seized the
loveliest women of the planet for their wives had resulted in an
outstanding pulchritude. Her hair was as golden as the ripe fruit that
bent the boughs of the iolo tree, and her eyes were bluer than the uriz
stones on the belt girdling her slender waist. Reproductions of the
famous portrait of her which hung in the great hall of the palace were
very popular on calendars.
"My father grieves," she observed, making the secular xa. "Pray tell
your unworthy daughter what sorrow racks your noble bosom."
"Uxen is a backwash," her father mourned. "A planet forgotten, while
the rest of the Galaxy goes by. Our ego has reached its nadir."
"Why did you let yourself be conquered?" the princess retorted
scornfully. "Ah, had I been old enough to speak then, matters would be
very different today!" Although she seemed too beautiful to be endowed
with brains, Iximi had been graduated from the Royal University with
Zen the Erudite was particularly fond of her, for she had been his best
student in Advanced Theology. She was, moreover, an ardent patriot and
leader of the underground Moolai (free) Uxen movement, with which Zen
was more or less in sympathy, since he felt Uxen belonged to him and
not to the Earthlings. After all, he had been there first.
"_Let_ ourselves be conquered!" Her father's voice rose to a squeak.
"_Let_ ourselves! Nobody asked us - we _were_ conquered."
"True, but we could at least have essayed our strength against the
conquerors instead of capitulating like yioch. We could have fought to
the last man!"
"A woman is always ready to fight to the last man," Guj commented.
"Did you hear that, ancient and revered parent! He called me, a
princess of the blood, a - a woman!"
"We are all equal before Zen," Guj said sententiously, making the high
"Praise Zen," Uxlu and Iximi chanted perfunctorily, bowing low.
Iximi, still angry, ordered Guj - who was also high priest - to start
services. Kindling the incense in the hajen, he began the chant.
Of course it was his holiday, but Zen couldn't resist the appeal of
the incense. Besides he was there anyway, so it was really no trouble,
_no trouble_, he thought, greedily sniffing the delicious aroma, _at
all_. He materialized a head with seven nostrils so that he was able to
inhale the incense in one delectable gulp. Then, "No prayers answered
on Thursday," he said, and disappeared. That would show them!
"Drat Zen and his days off!" The princess was in a fury. "Very well,
we'll manage without Zen the Spiteful. Now, precisely what is troubling
you, worthy and undeservedly Honored Parent?"
"Those two scientists who arrived from Earth. Didn't you meet them
when you came in?"
"No, Respected Father," she said, sitting on the arm of the throne. "I
must have just missed them. What are they like?"
* * * * *
He told her what they were like in terms not even a monarch should use
before his daughter. "And these squuch," he concluded, "are undoubtedly
working on a secret weapon. If we had it, we could free Uxen."
"Moolai Uxen!" the princess shouted, standing up. "My friends, must we
continue to submit to the yoke of the tyrant? Arise. Smite the...."
"Anyone," said Guj, "can make a speech."
The princess sat on the steps of the throne and pondered. "Obviously we
must introduce a spy into their household to learn their science and
turn it to our advantage."
"They are very careful, those Earthlings," Guj informed her
superciliously. "It is obvious that they do not intend to let any of us
come near them."
The princess gave a knowing smile. "But they undoubtedly will need at
least one menial to care for their dwelling. I shall be that menial. I,
Iximi, will so demean myself for the sake of my planet! Moolai Uxen!"
"You cannot do it, Iximi," her father said, distressed. "You must not
defile yourself so. I will not hear of it!"
"And besides," Guj interposed, "they will need no servants. All their
housework is to be done by their robot - a mechanical man that performs
all menial duties. And you, Your Royal Highness, could not plausibly
disguise yourself as a machine."
"No-o-o-o, I expect not." The princess hugged the rosy knees
revealed by her brief tunic and thought aloud, "But ... just ...
supposing ... something ... went wrong with the robot.... They do
not possess another?"
"They referred only to one, Highness," Guj replied reluctantly. "But
they may have the parts with which to construct another."
"Nonetheless, it is well worth the attempt," the princess declared.
"You will cast a spell on the robot, Guj, so that it stops."
He sighed. "Very well, Your Highness; I suppose I could manage that!"
Making the secular xa, he left the royal pair. Outside, his voice could
be heard bellowing in the anteroom, "Has any one of you squuch seen my
"There is no need for worry, Venerated Ancestor," the princess assured
the monarch. "All-Helpful Zen will aid me with my tasks."
Far away in his arcane retreat, the divinity groaned to himself.
* * * * *
Another aspect of Zen's personality followed the two Earthmen as they
left the palace to supervise the erection of their prefab by the crew
of the spaceship in one of the Royal Parks. A vast crowd of Uxenach
gathered to watch the novelty, and among them there presently appeared
a sinister-looking old man with a red beard, whom Zen the Pansophic had
no difficulty in recognizing as the prime minister, heavily disguised.
Of course it would have been no trouble for Zen to carry out Guj's
mission for him, but he believed in self-help - especially on Thursdays.
"You certainly fixed us up fine!" Hammond muttered disrespectfully to
the professor. "You should've told the king we were inventing a vacuum
cleaner or something. Now they'll just be more curious than ever....
And I still don't see why you refused the priest. Seems to me he'd be
just what you needed."
"Yes, and the first to catch on to why we're here. We mustn't
antagonize the natives; these closed groups are so apt to resent any
investigation into their mythos."
"If it's all mythical, why do you need a scientist then?"
"A physical scientist, you mean," Kendrick said austerely. "For
anthropology is a science, too, you know."
"Some Earthmen claim actually to have seen these alleged
manifestations," Kendrick went on to explain, "in which case there must
be some kind of mechanical trickery involved - which is where you come
in. Of course I would have preferred an engineer to help me, but you
were all I could get from the government."
"And you wouldn't have got me either, if the Minister of Science didn't
have it in for me!" Peter said irately. "I'm far too good for this
piddling little job, and you know it. If it weren't for envy in high
places - "
"Better watch out," the professor warned, "or the Minister might decide
you're too good for science altogether, and you'll be switched to a
position more in keeping with your talents - say, as a Refuse Removal
_And what is wrong with the honored art of Refuse Removal?_ Zen
wondered. There were a lot of mystifying things about these Earthmen.
* * * * *
The scientists' quaint little edifice was finally set up, and the
spaceship took its departure. It was only then that the Earthmen
discovered that something they called cigarettes couldn't be found in
the welter of packages, and that the robot wouldn't cook dinner or, in
fact, do anything. _Good old Guj_, Zen thought.
"I can't figure out what's gone wrong," Peter complained, as he
finished putting the mechanical man together again. "Everything seems
to be all right, and yet the damned thing won't function."
"Looks as if we'll have to do the housework ourselves, confound it!"
"Uh-uh," Peter said. "You can, but not me. The Earth government put me
under your orders so far as this project is concerned, sir, but I'm not
supposed to do anything degrading, sir, and menial work is classified
as just that, sir, so - "
"All right, all _right_!" Kendrick said. "Though it seems to me if
_I'm_ willing to do it, _you_ should have no objection."
"It's your project, sir. I gathered from the king, though," Peter
added more helpfully, "that some of the natives still do menial labor
"How disgusting that there should still be a planet so backward that
human beings should be forced to do humiliating tasks," Kendrick said.
_You don't know the half of it, either_, Zen thought, shocked all the
way back to his physical being. It had never occurred to him that the
functions of gods on other planets might be different than on Uxen ...
unless the Earthlings failed to pay reverence to their own gods, which
seemed unlikely in view of the respectful way with which Professor
Kendrick had greeted the mention of Zen's Awe-Inspiring Name. Then
Refuse Removal was not necessarily a divine prerogative.
_Those first colonists were very clever_, Zen thought bitterly,
_sweet-talking me into becoming a god and doing all their dirty work.
I was happy here as the Only Inhabitant; why did I ever let those
interlopers involve me in Theolatry? But I can't quit now. The Uxenach
need Me ... and I need incense; I'm fettered by my own weakness. Still,
I have the glimmerings of an idea...._
"Oh, how much could a half-witted menial find out?" Peter demanded.
"Remember, it's either a native servant, sir, or you do the housework
"All right," Kendrick agreed gloomily. "We'll try one of the natives."
* * * * *
So the next day, still attended by the Unseen Presence of Zen, they
sought audience with the prime minister.
"Welcome, Earthmen, to the humble apartments of His Majesty's most
unimportant subject," Guj greeted them, making a very small xa as he
led them into the largest reception room.
Kendrick absently ran his finger over the undercarving of a small gold
table. "Look, no dust," he whispered. "Must have excellent help here."
Zen couldn't help preening just a bit. At least he did his work well;
no one could gainsay that.
"Your desire," Guj went on, apparently anxious to get to the point, "is
my command. Would you like a rojh of dancing girls to perform before
you or - ?"
"The king said something yesterday about servants being available,"
Kendrick interrupted. "And our robot seems to have broken down. Could
you tell us where we could get someone to do our housework?"
An expression of vivid pleasure illuminated the prime minister's
venerable countenance. "By fortunate chance, gentlemen, a small lot of
maids is to be auctioned off at a village very near the Imperial City
tomorrow. I should be delighted to escort you there personally."
"Auctioned?" Kendrick repeated. "You mean they _sell_ servants here?"
Guj raised his snowy eyebrows. "Sold? Certainly not; they are leased
for two years apiece. After all, if you have no lease, what guarantee
do you have that your servants will stay after you have trained them?
When the two scientists had gone, Iximi emerged from behind a
bright-colored tapestry depicting Zen in seven hundred and fifty-three
of his Attributes.
"The younger one is not at all bad-looking," she commented, patting her
hair into place. "I do like big blond men. Perhaps my task will not be
as unpleasant as I fancied."
Guj stroked his beard. "How do you know the Earthlings will select
_you_, Your Highness? Many other maids will be auctioned off at the
The princess stiffened angrily. "They'll pick me or they'll never leave
Uxen alive and you, Your Excellency, would not outlive them."
* * * * *
Although it meant he had to overwork the other aspects of his multiple
personality, Zen kept one free so that the next day he could join
the Earthmen - in spirit, that was - on their excursion in search of a
"If, as an anthropologist, you are interested in local folkways,
Professor," Guj remarked graciously, as he and the scientists piled
into a scarlet, boat-shaped vehicle, "you will find much to attract
your attention in this quaint little planet of ours."
"Are the eyes painted on front of the car to ward off demons?" Kendrick
"Car? Oh, you mean the yio!" Guj patted the forepart of the vehicle.
It purred and fluttered long eyelashes. "We breed an especially bouncy
strain with seats; they're so much more comfortable, you know."
"You mean this is a _live_ animal?"
Guj nodded apologetically. "Of course it does not go very fast. Now if
we had the atomic power drive, such as your spaceships have - "
"You'd shoot right off into space," Hammond assured him.
"Speed," said Kendrick, "is the curse of modern civilization. Be glad
you still retain some of the old-fashioned graces here on Uxen. You
see," he whispered to his assistant, "a clear case of magico-religious
culture-freezing, resulting in a static society unable to advance
itself, comes of its implicit reliance upon the powers of an omnipotent
Zen took some time to figure this out. _But that's right!_ he
concluded, in surprise.
"I thought your god teleported things?" Peter asked Guj. "How come he
doesn't teleport you around, if you're in such a hurry to go places?"
Kendrick glared at him. "Please remember that I'm the anthropologist,"
he hissed. "You have got to know how to describe the Transcendental
Personality with the proper respect."
"We don't have Zen teleport animate objects," the prime minister
explained affably. "Or even inanimate ones if they are fragile.
For He tends to lose His Temper sometimes when He feels that He is