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Chapter XXI

            The Considines looked out over the street from their apartment-room window and marveled at the number of people in the street below them. After the great Exodus from Venus and the later evacuation from the Moon they were practically forced from their comfortable home on the outskirts of the city. Generally kind and generous, they gladly bowed to the unwritten law of the land. Almost every small family living in a large house sold out to a much larger family. The prices placed on real estate were outrageous, but the houses had to be sold to people who were uprooted from their homes on the planets. Into the comfortable four-room bungalow made for two or at the very most four, moved a family of twelve from Mars.
            Although they were probably mutants, having such a larger family, they were paid no attention by the neighbors. There were so many mutants or suspected mutants that it was almost impossible to control them. Laws by a liberal but scant majority in the Renald Congress protected the mutants from discrimination, but the laws weren't enforced to any great extent. Partly, the normal populace helped the mutants. Wherever the mutants happened to settle, there was a general shift in the employment of the city. The menial laborers immediately quit their jobs in favor of the mutants who, since theirs was a much lower standard of living, worked for a much lower wage. Jobs which needed all brawn and no brain were gladly given to the mutants by the former workers, who now could settle down as office or small-store clerks.
            The unemployment levels all over the world hit fantastic highs and lows. For a few weeks after the tremendous influx of manpower from the planets, millions of people in a single city were jobless. Gradually the government subsidized, and small business initiated, more and more shops, stores, and recreational and educational facilities exclusively for the lower mentality of the mutants. Industry was smothered by the sudden increase of demand, but as more factories and workshops were put into business to accommodate the spiraling population figures, more people went to work, got money, spent it, built more factories. The Law of Supply and Demand was turning cartwheel after cartwheel, tripping over itself to keep up with the economic boom.
            Fortunately for the finances of the world the monetary system of Earth was carried with the pioneers to the planets. Since the beginning of the 21st Century the Earth was peacefully divided into the west and the east: the west land area of America, from the Arctic Circle to the South Pole; and the eastern world, Eurasia, which included the former continent of Africa, likewise from the South Pole to the Arctic Circle. The small country which had only lately made its appearance on the world scene, Transantarctica, was yet to be considered on a par with the colossi of the East and West.
            Alex Considine turned his eyes away from the milling crowds below. "Come, Art," he called to his son, "we'll have our own celebration." He went for the hundredth time that day to the calendar, lifted the leaf which said December 31, 2016, and looked at the year 2017. He wished he could see what that new year would hold for his tiny family. Idly he picked the day calendar up from the desk and flipped through its pages. The painfully familiar black pages in the middle of June hit his eyes again. A dim thin echo threaded through his memory: "I can't promise you your life after six months." For the umpteenth time he wondered why he had ordered black for the third week in June. It was bad enough to know that you were going to die soon, but to be reminded of it each and every day---but then, he wanted it that way. He wanted to know that he would die; he didn't want any hope to lighten him, and then have that hope taken away, as it surely would be. He told himself again and again that he was doomed to die of cancer.
            "Dad, WHY don't you get rid of those black pages?" Art didn't like the idea of the thought of death being before him every minute of the day. He knew that his father wanted him to get used to the idea of his dying, but why this eternal torture?
            Mr. Considine smiled at his son and told him again. "It must be that way---if you have any sadness, lose it gradually now. It will be easier now than after." Oh, it was so hard to make him understand. They had always been so close. During the last few months he had endeavored to let his son be more on his own, but it was practically impossible. There had always been such a tight bond between the two. Alex sincerely hoped that this was the best way. It had to be the best way. As one by one, the chimes, the bells, and the whistles and the clocks, joined in to herald the new year, Alex felt old and feeble: this was to be the last New Year's Eve he would ever wish out. Art silently sat by his father as he tore off the much-thumbed leaf of the calendar and crumpled it into the wastebasket.
             They had been so close.