* * * * *
"You mean you're from the past?" Dan croaked.
"The past? I'm afraid I don't follow you."
"You don't mean--we're all going to die out and monkeys are going to take over?" Dan blurted.
"Monkeys? Let me see. I've heard of them. Some sort of small primate, like a miniature Anthropos. You have them at home, do you? Fascinating!" He shook his head regretfully. "I certainly wish regulations allowed me to pay your sector a visit."
"But you are time travelers," Dan insisted.
"Time travelers?" Ghunt laughed aloud.
"An exploded theory," Dzhackoon said. "Superstition."
"Then how did you get to the park from here?"
"A simple focused portal. Merely a matter of elementary stressed-field mechanics."
"That doesn't tell me much," Dan said. "Where am I? Who are you?"
"Explanations are in order, of course," Ghunt said. "Have a chair. Now, if I remember correctly, in your locus, there are only a few species of Anthropos extant--"
"Just the one," Dzhackoon put in. "These fellows look fragile, but oh, brother!"
"Oh, yes; I recall. This was the locus where the hairless variant systematically hunted down other varieties." He clucked at Dan reprovingly. "Don't you find it lonely?"
"Of course, there are a couple of rather curious retarded forms there," Dzhackoon said. "Actual living fossils; sub-intellectual Anthropos.
There's one called the gorilla, and the chimpanzee, the orangutan, the gibbon--and, of course, a whole spectrum of the miniature forms."
"I suppose that when the ferocious mutation established its supremacy, the others retreated to the less competitive ecological niches and expanded at that level," Ghunt mused. "Pity. I assume the gorilla and the others are degenerate forms?"
"Excuse me," Dan said. "But about that explanation...."
"Oh, sorry. Well, to begin with Dzhackoon and I are--ah--Australopithecines, I believe your term is. We're one of the many varieties of Anthropos native to normal loci. The workers in yellow, whom you may have noticed, are akin to your extinct Neanderthals. Then there are the Pekin derivatives--the blue-faced chaps--and the Rhodesians----"
"What are these loci you keep talking about? And how can cave men still be alive?"
Ghunt's eyes wandered past Dan. He jumped to his feet. "Ah, good day, Inspector!" Dan turned. A grizzled Australopithecine with a tangle of red braid at collar and wrists stared at him glumly.
"Harrumph!" the Inspector said. "Albinism and alopecia. Not catching, I hope?"
"A genetic deficiency, excellency," Dzhackoon said. "This is a Homo Sapiens, a naturally bald form from a rather curious locus."
"Sapiens? Sapiens? Now, that seems to ring a bell." The olster blinked at Dan. "You're not--" He waggled fingers in instinctive digital-mnemonic stimulus. Abruptly he stiffened. "Why, this is one of those fratricidal deviants!" He backed off. "He should be under restraint, Ghunt! Constable! Get a strong-arm squad in here! This creature is dangerous!"