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´╗┐Title: Divinity
Author: Morrison, William Douglas, 1853-1943
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Divinity" ***

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                                DIVINITY

                          BY WILLIAM MORRISON

                          ILLUSTRATED BY FREAS


           Bradley had one fear in his life. He had to escape
           regeneration. To do that, he was willing to take
           any chance, coward though he was--even if it meant
           that he had to become a god!


Bradley seemed to have escaped regeneration. Now he had only death to
worry about.

Ten minutes before, he had been tumbling through the air head over
heels, helpless and despairing. And before that--

He remembered how his heart had been in his mouth as he had crept down
the corridor of the speeding ship. He could hear Malevski's voice coming
faintly through one of the walls, and had been tempted to run back,
fearful of being shot down on the spot if he were caught. He had fought
back the temptation and kept on. No one had seen him as he crept into
the lifeboat.

"This is your one chance," he told himself. "You have to take it. If
they get you back to port, you're finished."

Luck had been with him. They were broadcasting the results of the
Mars-Earth matches at the time, and most of the crew were grouped around
the visors. He had picked the moment when news came of a sensational
upset, and for a minute or two after the lifeboat blasted off, no one
realized what had happened. When the truth did penetrate, they had a
hard time swinging the ship around, and by then the lifeboat was out of
radar range. He was free.

He had exulted wildly for a moment, until it struck him that freedom in
space might be a doubtful gift. He would have to get to some civilized
port, convince the port authorities that he had been shipwrecked and
somehow separated from the other crew members, and then lose himself
quickly in the crowd of people that he hoped would fill the place. There
would be risks, but he would take them. It would be better than running
out of air and food in space.

[Illustration]

It had been the best possible plan, and it had gone wrong, all wrong. He
had been caught, before he knew it, in the gravity of a planet he had
overlooked. The lifeboat had torn apart under the combined stresses of
its forward momentum and its side rockets blasting full force, and he
had been hurled free in his space suit, falling slowly at first, then
faster, faster, faster--

The automatic parachutes had suddenly sprung into operation when he
reached a critical speed, and he had slowed down and stopped tumbling.
He fell more gently, feet first, and when he landed it was with a shock
that jarred but did no real damage.

       *       *       *       *       *

Slowly he picked himself up and fumbled at the air valve. Something in
the intake tubes had jammed under the shock of landing, and the air was
no longer circulating properly. Filled with the moisture of his own
breath, it felt hot and clammy, and clouded the viewplates.

If he had kept all his wits about him he would have tried to remember,
before he took a chance, whether the planet had an oxygen atmosphere,
and whether the oxygen was of sufficient concentration to support human
life. Not that he had any real choice, but it would have been good to
know. As it was, he turned the air valve automatically, and listened
nervously as the stale air hissed out and the fresh air hissed in.

He took a deep breath. It didn't kill him. Instead, it sent his blood
racing around with new energy. Slowly the moisture evaporated from his
viewplates. Slowly he began to see.

He perceived that he was not alone. A group of people stood in front of
him, respectful, their own eyes full of fear and wonder. Some one
uttered a hoarse cry and pointed at his helmet. The unclouding of the
viewplates must have stricken them with awe.

The air was wonderful to breathe. He would have liked to remove his
helmet and fill his lungs with it unhampered, expose his face to its
soft caress, expand his chest with the constriction of the suit. But
these people--

They must have seen him tumble down from the sky and land unhurt. They
carried food and flowers, and now they were kneeling down to him as to
a--Suddenly he realized. To them he was a god.

The thought of it made him weak. To Malevski and the ship's crew he was
a criminal, a cheap chiseler and pickpocket, almost a murderer, escaping
credit for _that_ crime only by grace of his own good luck and his
victim's thick skull. They had felt such contempt for him that they
hadn't even bothered to guard him too carefully. They had thought him a
complete coward, without the courage to risk an escape, without the
intelligence to find the opportunities that might be offered to him.

They hadn't realized how terrified he was of the thing with which they
threatened him. Regeneration, the giving up of his old identity? Not for
him. They hadn't realized that he preferred the risks of a dangerous
escape to the certainty of _that_.

And here he was a god.

       *       *       *       *       *

He lifted his hand without thinking, to wipe away the perspiration that
covered his forehead. But before the hand touched his helmet he realized
what he was doing, and let the hand drop again.

To the people watching him the gesture must have seemed one of double
significance. It was at once a sign of acceptance of their food and
flowers, and their offer of good-will, and at the same time an order to
withdraw. They bowed, and moved backwards away from him. Behind him they
left their gifts.

They seemed human, human enough for the features on the men's faces to
impress him as strong and resourceful, for him to recognize that the
women were attractive. And if they were human, the food must be fit for
human beings. Whether it was or wasn't, however, again he had no choice.

He waited until they were out of sight, and then, stiffly, he removed
his helmet and ate. The food tasted good. And with his helmet off, with
the wind on his face, and the woods around him whispering in his ears,
it was a meal fit for the being they thought him to be.

He was a god. Possibly it was the space suit which made him one,
especially the goggle-eyed helmet. He could take no chance of becoming
an ordinary mortal, and that would mean that he would have to wear the
space suit continually. Or at least the helmet. That, he decided, was
what he would do. That would leave his body reasonably free, and at the
same time impress them with the fact that he was different from them.

By manipulating the air valve he would be able to make the viewplates
cloud and uncloud at will, thus giving dramatic expression to his
feelings. It would be a pleasant game to play until he had learned
something of their language. It would be safer than trying to make
things clear to them with speech and gestures that they could not
understand anyway.

He wondered how long it would be before Malevski would find the
shattered lifeboat drifting in space, and then trace its course and
decide where he had landed. That would be the end of his divinity.
Meanwhile, until then--

Until then he was a god. Unregenerated. Permanently unregenerated.
Holding his helmet, he threw back his head and laughed loud and long,
and wondered what his mother would have thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

For awhile he was being left alone. They were afraid of him, of course,
fearful of intruding with their merely mortal affairs upon the
meditations of so divine a being. Later, however, curiosity and perhaps
a desire to show him off to newcomers might draw them back. In the
interval, it would be well to find out what sort of place this was in
which he had landed.

He looked around him. There were trees, with sharp green branches, sharp
green twigs, sharp red leaves. He shuddered as he thought of what would
have happened to him if he had fallen on the point of a branch. The
trees seemed rigid and unbending in the wind that caressed his face.
There were no birds that he could see. Small black objects bounded from
one branch to another as if engaged in complicated games of tag. He
wondered if the games were as serious as the one he had been playing
with Malevski, with himself as It.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were no ground animals in sight. If any showed up later, they
couldn't be too dangerous, not with the natives living here in such
apparent peace and contentment. There probably wouldn't be anything that
his pocket gun, which he had taken the precaution to remove from the
lifeboat before that shattered, wouldn't be able to handle.

Near him was a strange spring, or little river, or whatever you might
call it. It broke from the ground, ran along the hard rocky surface for
a dozen feet, and then plunged underground again. There were other
springs of a similar nature scattered here and there, and now he
realized that their combined murmuring was the noise he had mistaken, on
first removing his helmet, for the rustle of the wind in the woods.

He would have enough to drink. The natives would bring him food. What
else could any reasonable man want?

It wasn't the kind of life he had dreamed of. No Martian whiskey, no
drugs, no night spots, no bigtime gamblers slapping him on the back and
calling him "pal," no brassy blondes giving him the eye. Still, it was
better than the life he had actually lived, much better. It would do, it
would have to do.

       *       *       *       *       *

From what he had seen of the natives, he liked them--and feared them.
For all their mistaken faith in him, they seemed to be no fools. How
many times before had men from some supposedly superior civilization
dropped in upon the people of a new world and made that first impression
of divinity, only to have the original attitude of worship by the
natives give way to disillusion and contempt? Who was that fellow they
told about in the history books he had read as a kid? Cortez, way back
on Earth, when that planet itself had offered unexplored territory. And
later on it had happened on one of the moons of Jupiter, and on several
planets outside the System. The explorers had been gods, until they had
been found out. Then they had been savage murderers, plunderers, devils.

It would be too bad if he were found out. He was one against them all,
he would never be able to fight off so many enemies. More than that, he
was a stranger here, he needed friends. No, he mustn't be found out.

"Better put on your helmet, dope," he told himself savagely. "They'll be
coming back soon, and if they find you without it--" He put on his
helmet, still muttering to himself. It wouldn't make any difference if
he were overheard. They didn't know Earth language and would take his
words for oracular utterances. He could talk to himself all he wanted,
and from the looks of things, there would be no one to understand him.
He hoped he didn't grow crazy and eccentric, like those hermits who had
been lost alone in space for too many years.

The helmet was the first nuisance. There would be others too. He
couldn't even talk in what had become his natural manner, with a whine
in every word, a whine that came from being treated with contempt by
police and fellow-criminals alike. A god had to speak with slow gravity,
with dignity. A god had to walk like a god. A god had endless
responsibilities here, it seemed.

He thought again of his mother. Ever since he could remember, it had
been, "Georgie, wipe your nose!" and, "Georgie, keep your fingers out of
the cake!" and Georgie do this and _don't_ do that. A fine way to speak
to a god. Even after he had grown up, his mother had continued to treat
him like a baby. She had never got over examining his face and his ears
and his fingernails to make sure that he had cleaned them properly. He
couldn't so much as comb his hair to suit her; all through his abortive
attempt at college, and later at a job, she had done it for him.

But she had been a lioness in his defense later on, when he had given
way to that first irresistible impulse to dip his fingers in the till
and get away with what he thought would be unnoticed petty cash. It had
been her fault that the thing had happened, of course. She could have
given him a decent amount of spending money, instead of doling it out to
him from his own wages as if she were giving money for candy to a
schoolboy. She could have treated him more like the man he was supposed
to be.

Still, he couldn't complain. She had stuck to him all the way through,
whatever the charges against him. When that lug of a traveling salesman
had accused her Georgie of picking his pockets, and that female refugee
from a TV studio had charged poor harmless Georgie with slugging her, it
was his mother who had stood up in court and denounced them, and
solemnly told judge and jury what a sweet, kind, helplessly innocent
lamb her Georgie was. It wasn't her fault if no one had quite believed
her.

Now he was on his own, without any possibility of help from her. And in
what the ads called a "responsible position" that she had never so much
as dreamed he could fill.

Unfortunately, now that he had reached so exalted a level, there seemed
to be few possibilities of promotion. There appeared only the chance, on
the one hand, that the natives would find him out and slaughter him, and
on the other that Malevski would track him down and bring him back to
Earth for the punishment he dreaded.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a good thing he had put on his helmet. Not far away, a group of
the natives was approaching, laden with more food and flowers. It was
larger than the previous group. Evidently, as he had anticipated, they
were showing him off to newcomers.

He came to a stately halt and waited for them to approach. He could see
the surprise on their faces as they noted his change of costume, and he
watched nervously as they stopped to whisper among themselves. It would
be too bad for him if they didn't like it.

But they didn't seem to mind. One of them, a very impressive old man
with green hair flecked with red, stepped in front of the others and
made a speech, a melodious speech full of liquid sounds that were
neither quite vowels nor consonants. He didn't have the slightest idea
of what the individual words meant. But the significance of the speech
as a whole was clear enough. As it came to an end, they presented him
with more food and flowers.

Bradley cleared his throat. And then, with as deep and impressive a
voice as he could manage, he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me
great pleasure to accept your nomination. I promise you that if elected
I shall keep none of my promises."

It was his first speech to them, and he enjoyed making it so much that
every time he saw them during the next few days--they settled down to
coming twice a day, morning and night--he made it again, with
variations, listing the wonderful things he would do for them if elected
to the office.

After awhile, as he began to enjoy the ceremony for its own sake, he
didn't mind at all putting the helmet on for two short periods every
day. Having so little contact with them, he could learn their language
only very slowly. He could distinguish the word for flowers from that
for food, although he himself could pronounce neither. He knew the names
of a few plants, a few parts of the body. And he learned a few names of
people. The red-green haired old man was, as close as he could make the
sounds, Yanyoo. He took the trouble to notice that the prettiest girl
was Aoooya.

       *       *       *       *       *

At first everything had been exceedingly peaceful. But about a week
after his arrival--he couldn't be sure exactly how many days had passed,
because he hadn't kept count--he learned of some of the dangers they
faced.

It was while they were holding the morning ceremony that the thing came
out of the forest. At first he thought that a tree had moved. It was
green, with reddish blotches like clusters of needle leaves, and it
seemed to ooze forward toward them from among the trees. Aoooya noticed
it first, and pointed and screamed. It was the size of a tiger, thought
Bradley, and might be even more dangerous. He had difficulty keeping
his eyes on the rapidly moving creature through the goggles of his
helmet. He was aware of gleaming eyes, of two rows of dull green teeth,
and of muscles that rippled under the green fur.

Several of the men had little blowpipes, through which they released a
shower of darts. But the darts bounced off the fur, and the thing came
on. Bradley fumbled for his gun, and almost dropped it in his
excitement. When he finally brought it up into aiming position, his hand
was trembling, and his finger could hardly catch the trigger.

The thing leaped into the air at the old man, Yanyoo, just as the gun
went off. The body vaporized first, leaving for a fraction of a second
the fierce head and the powerful legs apparently supporting themselves
in the air. Then part of the head went, and the rest fell to the ground.
But sheer momentum carried the green smoky vapor on, so that it
surrounded first the old man, then several of the girls, and after them,
Bradley himself. They were all yelling, all but Bradley, who put away
his gun and muttered to himself in relief, and then the wind began to
dissipate the vapor, and on the ground there was left only part of a
head and six torn legs.

They were bowing to him and raising their voices high in thanks. It was
easy, thought Bradley. Really, it was a cinch to be a god. The beasts
that were such great dangers to them were mere trifles to him. To him,
with a gun loaded with a thousand thermal charges each of which was
capable of blasting armor plate. The thing wouldn't even have come close
if he himself hadn't been such a timid, cowardly fool. Put Malevski in
his place, and the detective would have got the creature as it came out
of the trees. He wasn't Malevski.

It was a good thing for him that they couldn't know that. Now his
position was completely secure. Now he could relax and enjoy his divine
life.

He didn't realize that a much greater danger was yet to come. He found
that out after the evening ceremony.

       *       *       *       *       *

The group that came to see him this time was bigger than ever.
Evidently, to honor him they had dropped all other work. Yanyoo seemed
to have constituted himself Bradley's priest. He made a tremendously
long and rhapsodic-sounding speech, but at the end there was no donation
of the usual food and flowers. Instead, Yanyoo backed away, all the
others doing the same, and looking at Bradley as if expecting him to
follow them.

He followed. In this manner, with his worshippers walking respectfully
backwards, they arrived at what seemed to Bradley to be an ordinary
small hut. Outside the hut was what he took for a curiously shaped log
of wood. The inside of the hut was in shadow, but as his eyes became
accustomed to the dimness, he saw something in one corner. It was a
weird-looking head, also of wood.

It struck him then. The log of wood had been the old god, good enough to
worship until he had come along and shown them what a god could really
do. Now it had been contemptuously deposed and decapitated. The hut was
a shrine. It was all his.

He _had_ been promoted after all. The thought didn't please him in the
least. Suppose _he_ failed them too--and that was very possible, for he
had no idea of what miracles they expected of him. Then he would be
deposed and--he gagged at the thought, but he knew that he had to finish
it--decapitated.

But for the moment there was no thought of deposing him. The gifts they
offered were more lavish than ever. And in addition to the food and
flowers, there was something new. A jug, filled with a warm,
sweetish-smelling liquid. He could get the odor faintly through the
intake valve of his helmet. Later on, when his worshippers were gone and
he had his helmet off, he realized that it smelled up the entire hut.

It couldn't be harmful. Nothing that they had offered him so far was
harmful. He took a sip--and sighed with content. This was one of the few
things he had been lacking. There was alcohol, and there were flavors
and essences that reminded him of the drinks he had encountered on a
dozen planets. But this was first class stuff, not diluted or
adulterated with the thousand and one synthetics that were put in to
stretch a good thing as far as it could go.

Without realizing the danger, he downed the entire contents of the jug.

       *       *       *       *       *

He felt good. He hadn't felt so good in years, not since his mother had
made him a special cake for his birthday when he was--let me see now,
was it eight or nine? No matter, it had been many years ago, and the
occasion had been notable for the fact that she had let him drink some
of the older people's punch, made with a tiny bit of some alcoholic
drink. He felt _very_ good. He picked up his helmet and put it on his
head, and stuck the stem of a green flower rakishly through the exit
valve of the helmet, so that the flower seemed to dance every time he
exhaled, and staggered out of his hut.

He was fortunate that it was dark. "I'm drunk," he told himself. "Never
been so drunk in my life. Never felt so good. Mother never felt so good.
Malevski never felt so good."

He passed a shadowy figure in the dark and said, "Hiya, friend and
worshipper. Ever see a god drunk before?"

The figure bowed, and kept its head lowered until he had moved on.

"Drunk or sober, I'm shtill divine," he said proudly. And he began to
sing, loudly and impressively, his voice orchestral in his own ears
within the confines of the helmet. "Ould Lang Shyne, she ain't what she
ushed to be, ain't what she ushed to be--" The words came easily, and as
it seemed, naturally to his lips.

After awhile, however, he tired of them. After awhile he found that his
legs had tired of them. He sat down with a thump under a spiky tree and
said solemnly, "Never felt so good in my life. Never felt so happy--it's
a lie. I don't feel good."

He didn't, not any more. He felt sick to his stomach. A touch of sober
thought had corroded the happiness of his intoxication, and he was sick
and afraid. Today their god was a hero, today they would forgive him
everything. But did they actually _prefer_ a drunken god? No.
Drunkenness made a god human, all too human. A drunken god was a weak
god, and his hold on his worshippers was their belief in his strength.
As he valued his life, he must get drunk no more.

"Ain't gonna get drunk no more, no more," he sang sadly and solemnly to
himself, and finally he fell asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

He awoke with a hangover and a memory. He was not one of those men who
when sober forget all they have done when drunk. He remembered
everything. And he knew that he must put drunkenness away from him.

That morning they brought him only food and flowers. But at the evening
ceremony they presented him once more with a jug of liquor as an
additional reward for his destruction of the deadly beast. For the first
time, Bradley took an active part in the ceremony. He held up the jug
and said in grave tones, "In the name of Carrie Nation, I renounce thee
and all thy works."

Then he poured out the liquor and smashed the jug on the ground.

After that, the smashing of the jug was part of the ceremony of
worshipping him. It left him unhappy at first, but sober. After awhile,
the unhappiness disappeared, but the soberness remained. From now on, he
would act as a god should act.

The natives were not stupid, he saw that very clearly. The first jugs
they had offered him had been beautiful objects, of excellent
workmanship. But when they perceived that the only use he had for them
was to break them, the quality deteriorated rapidly. Now the jugs they
brought him were crude things indeed, made for the sole purpose of being
smashed. He wondered how many other tribes had tricked their gods
similarly.

No, they were not at all stupid. It struck him that with such advantages
of civilization as he himself had enjoyed, they would have gone much
further than he did. Two weeks or so after he had come down from the sky
to be their god, he saw that they had learned from him. One of the young
men appeared during the day wearing a wooden helmet. It was a helmet
obviously patterned after his own, although it had no glass or plastic,
and the openings in front of the eyes were left blank. The mythical
Earth-hero, Prometheus, had brought fire down from the skies. He had
brought the Helmet. He was Bradley, the Helmet-Bringer.

Even at that he had underestimated his worshippers. He had thought at
first that the helmets were meant merely for ornament and decoration. He
learned better one day when a swarm of creatures like flying lizards
swept down out of a group of trees in a fierce attack. He had not known
that such creatures existed here, and now that he saw them, he realized
how fortunate it was that they were not more numerous. They had sharp
teeth and sharper claws, and they tore at his head with a ferocity that
struck fear into his heart. His gun was of less use than usual against
them. He could catch one or two, but the others moved too swiftly for
him to aim.

By this time, others of the natives wore wooden helmets, and he could
see how the sharp claws ripped splinter after splinter from them. But
the birds or lizards, or whatever they were, didn't go unscathed. From a
sort of skin bellows, several of the natives blew a gray mist at them,
and where the mist made contact with the leather skin, the flying
creatures seemed to be paralyzed in mid-flight, and they fell to the
ground, where they were easily crushed to death. By the time they had
given up the fight and fled, half a dozen of them were lying dead.

They were evidently useless for food because of the poison they
contained. He was surprised to see, however, that the natives still had
a use for them. They dragged the dead creatures into a field of growing
crops, and left them there to rot into fertilizer.

But such incidents as this, he found, were to be rare. For the most
part, the life here was peaceful, and he found himself liking it more
and more. Now, without laughter, he wondered again what his mother would
have thought of him.

She would have been proud. He realized now that she had done her best
for him. And when every one else had given up hope for him, she had not.
Perhaps she had protected him too much--but she had early learned the
need for protection. He could look at her now in a new light. Her own
father had died early in life, and then her husband soon after her son
had been born. She had faced a tough fight, and had thought to spare him
what she herself had gone through. Too bad she hadn't realized exactly
what she was doing. She was bringing him up with the ability, as the old
epigram had it, to resist everything but temptation.

The temptation to steal that petty cash, to put his hands into a drunk's
pocket and lift the man's wallet, to lie to a pretty girl, to slug a
helpless victim--he had resisted none of them. He had resisted nothing
until that day he had poured the jugful of liquor on the ground and
smashed the jug itself.

But could he blame his mother for all that? It had all been his own
fault.

       *       *       *       *       *

And it would be his own fault if he failed to resist the new temptation
that now reared its pretty head--Aoooya. She had taken to coming to his
hut-shrine for a private little ceremony of her own. You might almost
have thought that she had fallen in love with him as an individual. He
wondered whether she had been impressed by his helmet. Did she take that
to be his actual head? No, of course not. They had made helmets for
themselves, therefore they knew that the thing he wore was also a
helmet. Perhaps they knew more about him than he thought.

But they continued to worship him, that was the main thing. And Aoooya
brought him, every day, little presents, special flowers and food
delicacies, that argued a personal affection.

This was a danger that he recognized from the beginning. Perhaps a god
_might_ fall in love with a mortal without losing his godliness.
Perhaps. It had happened before. But, however the rest of the tribe
might react to the idea, Bradley had noticed one young man who liked to
stay near the girl, and he knew that this rival wouldn't take kindly to
it at all. He might resent the god's behavior. And what happened when
these people didn't like the way a god behaved? Why, they struck his
head off.

The god might act first, of course. The young man wouldn't stand a
chance against him if he used his gun. In fact, Bradley could blast the
other man unobserved, make him disappear into vapor, without leaving any
traces of how he died. That was murder, but if a god couldn't get away
with murder, what sort of god was he? A pretty poor, cheap sort indeed.
Yes, he could make his own rules.

And he could go on, maintaining his godhood by little murders of that
sort, and other deadly miracles, until they hated him more than they
loved him. That would follow inevitably. And then, when they all hated
him, not even his gun would save him. Then--

"You're a liar," he told himself fiercely. "That isn't the thing you're
afraid of. Your weakness is that you don't have a murderous nature. You
could kill one or two of them and get away with it, and you'd be able to
control yourself and kill no more. That time you hit the man over the
head, you didn't intend to kill him either. You were more frightened, at
first, anyway, by the thought that you might have killed him, than by
the danger of being caught. You were overjoyed when he lived.

"You hate to kill, that's your trouble. You've had a sense of
responsibility all along, but it never had a chance to develop. Now it's
developed. You feel responsible for these people, for Aoooya and for the
rest of them. That's why you can't take advantage of them. You've been
posing as a rebel all your life, and you're just a respectable,
law-abiding citizen at heart."

He winced at the thought. His own society had never accepted him at his
own valuation. This one took him for a much greater being than he took
himself, and there seemed to be nothing to do but to live up to what he
was expected to be.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the same, Aoooya continued to be a tempting morsel, and sooner or
later, he feared, he would not be able to resist her. And then the
planet itself provided a diversion.

They had never seen such a thing and had no idea of what it presaged,
but he knew. He had heard of it on Earth and on Venus, and he had seen
it on other planets where the rock formations had not yet settled down.
A little hollow appeared first in the ground, and then the hollow was
pushed out and suddenly blown into the air. Steam whistled through the
newly made vent, a shower of steam and hot dust and red hot fragments of
rock. Slowly the vent grew, until the cloud from the terrifying geyser
darkened the sky and spread panic through the tribe.

He knew what would happen next. They were running around in terror, but
not for one moment was he himself in doubt. He donned his complete space
suit, in order to impress them the more, then stalked into the middle of
them, and said, "Pick up all your possessions and follow me."

They stared at him, and he showed them what he meant by picking up the
belongings of one household in his gloved hands, and handing them to a
waiting woman. Then, when they had grasped the idea and were gathering
all they owned, he led them toward the safety of the trees. Five minutes
after they had set off, the lava began to flow from the new-born
volcano, scorching the ground for a hundred yards around, sparks smoking
and smoldering in the treetops.

The head start he had given them was enough to help them escape the
resultant forest fire. All that day they traveled, until finally they
came to a forest which couldn't burn, and here they rested. And here
they settled down to build their lives anew.

It must have been a comfort to know that a god had led them to safety
and was helping them make the new start. Bradley helped them with his
gun, which blasted dangerous beasts, and even more with his slightly
superior knowledge. He showed them how to fashion tools from stone and
how to use these to build better huts. He taught them how to make swords
and other weapons, so that henceforth they wouldn't be forced to rely
for defense on poison alone. He was the most industrious god since
Vulcan. And in helping them he found that he had no time for Aoooya.

Came the day when the new village settled down to its changed routine of
life. The morning ceremony before his new shrine had just been
completed, but Bradley was not satisfied. Something was wrong. Yanyoo's
demeanor, Aoooya's--

With a shock, Bradley realized what it was. From old Yanyoo down the
line, none of the natives seemed to have their original fear of him.
There was respect, there was affection, certainly, but the respect and
affection were those due an older brother rather than a god.

And he was not displeased. Being a god had been a wearying business.
Being a friend might be a great deal more pleasant. Yes, the change was
something to be happy about.

       *       *       *       *       *

But he had little time to be happy. For that same morning, there came
what he had so long dreaded. Out of a clear, shipless sky, Malevski
appeared, strolling toward him as casually as if he had been there all
along, and said, "Nice little ceremony you have here."

"Hello, Malevski. Don't give me the credit. They thought it up."

"Ingenious. Almost as ingenious as the way they've used the help you
gave them. We had this tribe listed long ago as a very capable one, far
behind the rest of its System in development, it's true, but only
because it had started late up the evolutionary ladder. It had been
doing very nicely on its own, and we didn't want to interfere unless we
could give it some real help.

"I'll admit that I had a few qualms at first, when we traced you here
and learned that you had landed among them. But we've been observing you
for the past day and a half--our space ship landed beyond that burned
out stretch of ground, not too close to that volcano--and I'll have to
admit that, judging from your past record, I didn't think you had it in
you."

"I suppose that's over with now," said Bradley.

"Yes, you're finished with being a god. We don't believe in kidding the
natives, Bradley!"

Bradley nodded ruefully. "They don't seem to believe in it, either. I
guess they found out I wasn't a god before I did. But it didn't seem to
matter to them." He sighed, and turned toward the new village. "Do you
mind, if I sort of--well, hold a farewell ceremony before we go? They
won't understand, but they'll feel better than if I just go off...."

Malevski shook his head firmly. "No, no time for that. I'll have to get
out a full report, and we're in a hurry to get off. Any word you'd like
to have sent out to your mother, Bradley, before we blast?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Bradley looked back again, and his shoulders came up more firmly. He'd
taught his people here, and led them; but he'd learned a few things
himself--he'd found he could take what was necessary. He'd found that
the easiest way wasn't always the best, that getting drunk was no way
out, and that real friendship and respect meant more than the words of
big-shots. Maybe he'd learned enough to be able to take regeneration....

He managed to grin, a little lopsidedly, at Malevski. "Yeah. You might
send her a message. Tell her I'm fine, and that I've learned to wipe my
own nose. I think she'll be glad to hear that."

"She will," Malevski told him. "When she hears that you're Provisional
Governor of this planet, she'll even believe it."

"Provisional Governor?" Bradley stood with his mouth open, staring. He
shook his head. "But what about regeneration...?"

Malevski laughed. "You're appointed, on the basis of my first report
about what you're doing here, Bradley," he answered. "As to regeneration
... well, you think about it, while we bring in the supplies we're
supposed to leave for you, before we blast out of here."

He went off, chuckling, towards his ship, leaving Bradley to puzzle over
it.

Then, just as Malevski disappeared, he understood. Damn it, they'd
tricked him! They'd left him here where he had to be a god and assume
the responsibilities of a god. And through that, he'd been
regenerated--completely, thoroughly regenerated!

Suddenly, he was chuckling as hard as Malevski as he swung around and
went back to face his former worshippers. And they were coming forward
to meet him, their friendly smiles matching his own.



Transcriber's Note

This etext was produced from _Space Science Fiction_ 1953. Extensive
research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this
publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have
been corrected without note.





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