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Authors: J. T. McIntosh

Worlds Apart

BOOK: Worlds Apart
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(front blurb)

"A highly imaginative science fiction thriller . . . Four star rating." --Boston Traveler

"Mr. McIntosh has worked out with beautifully convincing detail the sociological and cultural develop- ments of his colony in space, and its conflict with a later shipload of des- perate authoritarians." --N.Y. Herald Tribune

"Thought-provoking as well as entertaining" --South Bend Tribune

WORLDS APART

Origintal title: BORN LEADER

J.T. McIntosh

Complete and Unabridged

AVON PUBLICATIONS, INC. 575 Madison Avenue -- New York 22, N.Y.

Copyright, 1954, by James MacGregor. Published by arrangement with Doubleday & Company, Inc. Printed in the U.S.A.

Worlds Apart

I

1

Marrying Toni was one of the formative experiences in the lives of young Mundans. She represented one of the anythings that everyone felt he had to try once.

But Rog Foley had tried it once. He had been Toni's second husband, when they were both seventeen. "And once was enough," he told Toni, without heat. "When we broke it up we had reasons that seemed perfectly good to both of us. They still seem good to me."

Toni sighed. "You sound almost as if you mean it," she said. "But I'll come along anyway."

"Do you know where I'm going?"

"Since there's nothing up here except what's left of New Paris, I suppose you must be going there."

"Have you any idea why?"

"No."

"There won't be anything interesting to see. And I promise you nothing interesting will happen."

"I suppose not," said Toni agreeably, making no move to turn back. Rog frowned at her as they started up the hill. "Why bother me?" he asked mildly. "With animal attraction like yours you should be able to marry pretty nearly anybody you like."

"Pretty nearly," Toni admitted without conceit, "but I want you, Rog."

"Why? The situation hasn't changed."

"Oh yes it has. You're on the Council now and that's only the start. You're going up, Rog, and I want to go with you."

Rog grinned but said nothing. That was one of the things he could appreciate about Toni. She was a realist. There were quite a few things he could appreciate about Toni, but there was one basic roason why they would never make a good pair. Toni was a game hunter -- the man who married her and stayed married to her would have to he a man who mattered, who was somebody, and who nevertheless had time and attention to spare for Toni.

Rog mattered, or was going to matter, and he was somebody. But he would never have much time or attention to spare for any woman, as a woman. She would have to fit in her domestic life with him here and there, in odd corners, when Rog didn't happen to be planning coups and shaping empires.

New Paris was only twenty years old, and the climate of Mundis was mild. If the village had been built well in the first place, the houses would still have been in quite good condition after twenty years, despite the rains. But it hadn't been built well. The people who built it had been hardly more than children when they left Earth, and few of them had had time to learn anything there about building.

The igneous rock of Mundis was light and easy to cut and shape -- too easy. Some of the walls that were built collapsed under their own pressure and because of their brittle inflexibilty. And though the wood of Mundis was strong and fine if properly seasoned, it was very difficult to season it. If it wasn't seasoned properly, it shrank and warped and split cantankerously. Few of the wooden or stone houses built by the founder colonists twenty years ago stood now as they had been meant to stand.

"You'll have to marry again soon, Rog," said Toni persuasively. "Even you won't be able to find a way out of it."

Toni certainly had a point there. For more than two years, while Toni by her process of trial and error had been looking for the right man -- still passionately sure he existed -- Rog had been single.

It couldn't be allowed to go on, in a community where one of the primary goals was maximum reproduction.

Rog considered the matter. Yes, he would certainly have to marry. Alice Bentley was the obvious choice of the girls who were old enough and still unmarried -- most of them only just old enough. But Rog had planned that Alice should marry Fred Mitchell, whatever anyone else said. And apart from Alice he could think of no girl who would make him a reasonable partner for life.

It would just have to be another interim marriage, then. He sighed. He didn't like the idea much. Like Toni, he felt there should be something better.

They were climbing the hill that was the eastern wall of the Lemon valley. Strictly, Lemon was the whole plain -- the name had been given to it because it was in exactly the shape of a lemon. But the township which was growing in one corner had no other name; it was Lemon, too. Already the name had lost most of its significance, for lemons wouldn't grow on Mundis. The young Mundans like Rog and Toni, who were both twenty-one and had been born in New Paris, had never seen a lemon.

There were many other things the young Mundans had never seen. Cities, mountains, seas, ships, trains, cars, bridges, rivers, snow, storms. Little things like paper clips and postage stamps and metal badges and Yale keys. Big things like skyscrapers and airliners and factories and the rearing mushroom of the atom bomb. Things you would fully realize they couldn't have seen, like streets and neon lights and traveling circuses and the devastation left by a tornado. Things you would be inclined to forget they couldn't have seen, things you might take it for granted they had in Lemon -- patent medicines, mistletoe, money, tobacco, alcohol, coal -- and skirts.

Rog and Toni were both tanned a clear, very light brown. The temperature on Mundis was fairly constant: sixty degrees before dawn, sixty-five soon after dawn, then seventy, seventy-five, eighty. Sometimes eighty-five or ninety, but not often. Then gradually back to sixty again. Sometimes as low as fifty-five during the night.

Rog wore only shorts and sandals. The shorts were cuffed in the Mundan fashion -- at the waist and legs the material was heavily starched and curved smoothly outwards as if half peeled off. This was supposed to be so that the restless air could get at the skin of the whole body and remove surplus moisture from it, but clearly it didn't have much effect in that direction. It was just a fashion, with no more apparent reason for it than fashions usually had.

For the rest, Rog had a striking, arresting face. His hair was black, neatly cut and parted, and his eyebrows were blacker. He was of average height and rather thin. His ribs showed plainly and his arms and legs were all muscle and bone, with no irregularities padded out. He looked young, but not too young for men to follow him.

Toni wore a green ket. No one knew where the name came from, not even the founder colonists, and certainly as far as the young Mundans were concerned there had always been kets. Kets weren't always the same, but the general pattern was a one-piece garment fitting the torso closely but not tightly, the trunks cuffed at the legs and sections scooped out elsewhere where this was decently possible. Toni's ket had a big oval cutout, split in two by a broad strip running from below the left breast to the right hip.

Toni wasn't beautiful; that wasn't the right word. She had long, lovely legs, true, but for the rest she was merely immensely attractive. She was no cold beauty. She would have been a torch singer, if Lemon had had any torch singers. Her hair was blond and her eyes jet black. The effect was explosive.

Abruptly, as they climbed the last stretch, Toni turned and dug Rog playfully in the stomach with her elbow. She was like that. He scuffled with her, almost as he was meant to. Not quite. The not quite showed Toni she was wasting her time. She broke free and walked on, laughing and unresentful

Rog wasn't at all averse to a stormy interlude with Toni, but one way or another it would be a weapon she could, and certainly would, use. It would enable her to make scenes and say things about him and generally make life difficult for him. Toni was an honest sort of girl, and people believed what she said.

They reached the top of the hill and wandered into the deserted village -- four lines of huts forming a square. The explanation for the formation had stood there for ten years, more gaunt and bare every month until at last there was nothing left of it.

The ship from Earth, also called the Mundis, had landed in the middle of the flat top of the hill twenty-two years before, and the first settlement had been built round it. Rog could remember it towering over the huts like a monument. That was what it was; a monument to Earth and the technology which had produced the ship.

Piece by piece, once it had been established that Mundis would support human life, the ship had been unloaded, stripped to a shell, and then broken up. Steel and iron were useful, and there had been a lot of steel in the hull of the ship. The steel had gone to make knives, wheel frames, ploughs; girders, and simple machines; it was all gone, and ironworking, meantime, was almost at a standstill. Not for scores of generations, if ever, would the Mundans be able to build anything like that ship.

Rog tapped walls, pushed open doors, and stamped on the floors inside. The houses were batter preserved than he had expected. Apart from the daily rain, hot, torrential, and usually brief, there was nothing in the climate of Mundis to destroy the works of man, Toni followed him around, at first not much interested in what he was doing, but later more and more curious.

"Thinking of starting a new settlement, Rog?" she asked.

"Yes," said Rog.

He spoke quite casually, as if it didn't matter, but Toni was startled.

"You don't mean that?" she demanded.

Rog shrugged. "All right, then," he said agreeably. "I don't mean it."

Toni wasn't reassured. "You /could/ mean it," she said suspiciously. "It's just the kind of tricky, crazy thing you might do, Rog."

"What's crazy about itP"

Toni, for once, was serious and earnest. "I know we have our disagreements with the old folks," she exclaimed, "but you can't split Lemon in two, Rog. You just can't! We're doing very well as we are. Surely you're not going to ruin all that's been done just for the sake of your own ambition -- "

"I thought you were ambitious too, Toni," interrupted Rog, amused.

"Yes, but I don't want anything that means splitting Lemon," retorted Toni. "Don't you see -- "

"Hold it, Toni," said Rog. "I'll promise you one thing. I won't do anything that only /I/ want."

He squinted along a wall to see how much the planks were warped.

"Whatever you've got in mind," said Toni, puzzled but no longer disturbed, "I don't see it."

"I didn't show you it," Rog murmured.

Mundis had plenty of vegetation, but no birds, reptiles, animals, or insects. Nor were there signs that there had ever been any. There were bacteria, as omnipresent as on Earth. No bigger, more complex form of life existed, except the plants.

The plants were complex enough, some of them, but neither mobile nor intelligent. A few were similar to Earth plants. None, naturally enough in view of the similarity in conditions, were startlingly dissimilar. Even the bacteria fell into the same classes. Human metabolism had no trouble in dealing with them, except for a mild fever at first when countless minor battles were going on in every founder colonist's blood stream.

Presently, having seen most of the houses, inside and out, Rog was satisfied. He threw himself on the coarse grass. "Let's rest," he said "and then go back."

Toni was going to drop beside him, but he put his hand flat on her diaphragm as she dropped and gently swung her a yard away, for safety. She laughed and tried to bite his hand.

"You know, Rog," said Toni frankly, going back to her earlier subject, "you encourage me by presenting no alternative. If you really didn't want me to bother you, you'd find some way -- "

"I found it long ago," said Rog casually. "The time isn't right for it yet, that's all."

"Oh," said Toni, half disappointed, half pleased. "What is it? Is it interesting? Or is it something I won't want to do?"

"It's wild enough for you. Nobody else would co-operate. You might."

Toni sat up excitedly. "Tell me."

"No." He cosed his eyes.

All the breath was knocked out of him and he opened his eyes again. Toni was kneeling astride him, bouncing on his stomach. "Tell me," she demanded. "Tell me, tell me, tell me." With each repetition she bounced again.

He heaved. Toni was strong, but he was stronger. She sailed over his head and turned with a lithe twist of her body to land on her shoulder.

"Would I spoil anything by letting it out too soon?" he asked.

She jumped up Hghtly. "No," she admitted.

"Then stop bothering me, and let's get back to Lemon before the rain starts."

2

Except for the township, the valley of Lemon was one vast farm. There were a few other cultivated fields outside the valley now, but all the cattle remained in and around Lemon. The Mundans wanted big herds, but they wanted to retain control of the world's new life cycle. Regretfully they had destroyed the rabbits they had brought. Sooner or later, if they were allowed to live, they would escape and overrun the planet. The complete absence of natural enemies, other living creatures of any kind, would mean that they would multiply to untold billions and strip the whole planet. Their numbers might be so vast that they would attack and destroy the human settlement.

BOOK: Worlds Apart
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