Nine stories in this collection are part of Cordwainer Smiths future history, several involving the Instrumentality. The last five stories are not part of the common future history, although Smith pursues his usual themes in them.
“No, No, Not Rogov!” is set shortly after World War II. Rogov and his wife, both scientists and members of the Soviet elite, work on an espionage machine (often killing human test subjects) by which they will be able to tune in and confuse the thoughts of others. When Rogov tries the completed machine, a slight miscalculation causes him to see the beautiful celebration of The Glory and Affirmation of Man being held in 13,582 c.e.. As a result of seeing this celebration, he falls into a permanent trance. Rogov’s wife, who caught a glimpse of the fabulous vision, refuses to continue the experiments.
In “War No. 81-Q,” set in 2127 c.e., the Mongolian Alliance and the Americans receive permission to wage war with radio-controlled aero-ships. When Jack Bearden takes control of the remaining American ships, he falters, realizing that he is an overrated hero. He goes on to eke out a victory and gain fame as the Charles Lindbergh of the twenty-second century.
“Mark Elf” is set in the era following the Ancient Wars. Laird, a telepath, locates an ancient satellite carrying Carlotta vom Acht in suspended animation. In the forest where she lands, Carlotta confronts the strange creatures roaming Earth, including Mark Elf, a machine that kills anybody not having German thoughts. She is protected by a talking bear, who tells her that Laird, who sees in her the regeneration of the True Men, will be her husband.
(The entire section is 712 words.)