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´╗┐Title: Where There's Hope
Author: Bixby, Jerome, 1923-1998
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 "Where There's Hope" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration]


    _The women had made up their minds, and nothing--repeat,
    nothing--could change them. But _something_ had to give...._


WHERE THERE'S HOPE

By Jerome Bixby

Illustrated by Kelly Freas


"If you called me here to tell me to have a child," Mary Pornsen said,
"you can just forget about it. We girls have made up our minds."

Hugh Farrel, Chief Medical Officer of the Exodus VII, sighed and leaned
back in his chair. He looked at Mary's husband. "And you, Ralph," he
said. "How do you feel?"

Ralph Pornsen looked at Mary uncomfortably, started to speak and then
hesitated.

Hugh Farrel sighed again and closed his eyes. It was that way with all
the boys. The wives had the whip hand. If the husbands put up an
argument, they'd simply get turned down flat: no sex at all, children or
otherwise. The threat, Farrel thought wryly, made the boys softer than
watered putty. His own wife, Alice, was one of the ringleaders of the
"no babies" movement, and since he had openly declared warfare on the
idea, she wouldn't even let him kiss her good-night. (For fear of losing
her determination, Farrel liked to think.)

He opened his eyes again to look past the Pornsens, out of the curving
port of his office-lab in the Exodus VII's flank, at the scene outside
the ship.

At the edge of the clearing he could see Danny Stern and his crew, tiny
beneath the cavernous sunbeam-shot overhang of giant leaves. Danny was
standing up at the controls of the 'dozer, waving his arms. His crew was
struggling to get a log set so he could shove it into place with the
'dozer. They were repairing a break in the barricade--the place where
one of New Earth's giant saurians had come stamping and whistling
through last night to kill three colonists before it could be blasted
out of existence.

It was difficult. Damned difficult. A brand-new world here, all ready
to receive the refugees from dying Earth. Or rather, all ready to be
_made_ ready, which was the task ahead of the Exodus VII's personnel.

An Earth-like world. Green, warm, fertile--and crawling, leaping,
hooting and snarling with ferocious beasts of every variety. Farrel
could certainly see the women's point in banding together and refusing
to produce children. Something inside a woman keeps her from wanting to
bring life into peril--at least, when the peril seems temporary, and
security is both remembered and anticipated.

Pornsen said, "I guess I feel just about like Mary does. I--I don't see
any reason for having a kid until we get this place ironed out and safe
to live in."

"That's going to take time, Ralph." Farrel clasped his hands in front of
him and delivered the speech he had delivered so often in the past few
weeks. "Ten or twelve years before we really get set up here. We've got
to build from the ground up, you know. We'll have to find and mine our
metals. Build our machines to build shops to build more machines.
There'll be resources that we _won't_ find, and we'll have to learn what
this planet has to offer in their stead. Colonizing New Earth isn't
simply a matter of landing and throwing together a shining city. I only
wish it were.

"Six weeks ago we landed. We haven't yet dared to venture more than a
mile from this spot. We've cut down trees and built the barricade and
our houses. After protecting ourselves we have to eat. We've planted
gardens. We've produced test-tube calves and piglets. The calves are
doing fine, but the piglets are dying one by one. We've got to find out
why.

"It's going to be a long, long time before we have even a minimum of
security, much less luxury. Longer than you think.... So much longer
that waiting until the security arrives before having children is out of
the question. There are critters out there--" he nodded toward the port
and the busy clearing beyond--"that we haven't been able to kill. We've
thrown everything we have at them, and they come back for more. We'll
have to find out what _will_ kill them--how they differ from those we
_are_ able to kill. We are six hundred people and a spaceship, Ralph. We
have techniques. That's _all_. Everything else we've got to dig up out
of this planet. We'll need people, Mary; we'll need the children. We're
counting on them. They're vital to the plans we've made."

Mary Pornsen said, "Damn the plans. I won't have one. Not now. You've
just done a nice job of describing all my reasons. And all the other
girls feel the same way."

       *       *       *       *       *

She looked out the window at the 'dozer and crew. Danny Stern was still
waving his arms; the log was almost in place. "George and May Wright
were killed last night. So was Farelli. If George and May had had a
child, the monster would have trampled it too--it went right through
their cabin like cardboard. It isn't fair to bring a baby into--"

Farrel said, "Fair, Mary? Maybe it isn't fair _not_ to have one. _Not_
to bring it into being and give it a chance. Life's always a gamble--"

"_It_ doesn't exist," Mary said. She smiled. "Don't try circumlocution
on me, Doc. I'm not religious. I don't believe that spermatozoa and an
ovum, if not allowed to cuddle up together, add up to murder."

"That isn't what I meant--"

"You were getting around to it--which means you've run out of good
arguments."

"No. I've a few left." Farrel looked at the two stubborn faces: Mary's,
pleasant and pretty, but set as steel; Ralph's, uncomfortable,
thoughtful, but mirroring his definite willingness to follow his wife's
lead.

Farrel cleared his throat. "You know how important it is that this
colony be established? You know that, don't you? In twenty years or so
the ships will start arriving. Hundreds of them. Because we sent a
message back to Earth saying we'd found a habitable planet. Thousands of
people from Earth, coming here to the new world we're supposed to get
busy and carve out for them. We were selected for that task--first of
judging the right planet, then of working it over. Engineers, chemists,
agronomists, all of us--we're the task force. We've got to do the job.
We've got to test, plant, breed, re-balance, create. There'll be a lot
of trial and error. We've got to work out a way of life, so the
thousands who will follow can be introduced safely and painlessly into
the--well, into the organism. And we'll need new blood for the jobs
ahead. We'll need young people--"

Mary said, "A few years one way or the other won't matter much, Doc.
Five or six years from now this place will be a lot safer. Then we women
will start producing. But not now."

"It won't work that way," Farrel said. "We're none of us kids any
longer. I'm fifty-five. Ralph, you're forty-three. I realize that I must
be getting old to think of you as young. Mary, you're thirty-seven. We
took a long time getting here. Fourteen years. We left an Earth that's
dying of radioactive poisoning, and we all got a mild dose of that. The
radiation we absorbed in space, little as it was, didn't help any. And
that sun up there--" again he nodded at the port--"isn't any help
either. Periodically it throws off some pretty damned funny stuff.

"Frankly, we're worried. We don't know whether or not we _can_ have
children. Or _normal_ children. We've got to find out. If our genes have
been bollixed up, we've got to find out why and how and get to work on
it immediately. It may be unpleasant. It may be heart-breaking. But
those who will come here in twenty years will have absorbed much more of
Earth's radioactivity than we did, and an equal amount of the space
stuff, and this sun will be waiting for them.... We'll have to know what
we can do for them."

"I'm not a walking laboratory, Doc," Mary said.

"I'm afraid you are, Mary. All of you are."

Mary set her lips and stared out the port.

"It's got to be done, Mary."

She didn't answer.

"It's going to be done."

"Choose someone else," she said.

"That's what they all say."

She said, "I guess this is one thing you doctors and psychologists
didn't figure on, Doc."

"Not at first," Farrel said. "But we've given it some thought."

MacGuire had installed the button convenient to Farrel's right hand,
just below the level of the desk-top. Farrel pressed it. Ralph and Mary
Pornsen slumped in their chairs. The door opened, and Doctor John J.
MacGuire and Ted Harris, the Exodus VII's chief psychologist, came in.

       *       *       *       *       *

When it was over, and the after-play had been allowed to run its course,
Farrel told the Pornsens to go into the next room and shower. They came
back soon, looking refreshed. Farrel ordered them to get back into their
clothes. Under the power of the hypnotic drug which their chairs had
injected into them at the touch of the button, they did so. Then he told
them to sit down in the chairs again.

MacGuire and Harris had gathered up their equipment, piling it on top of
the operating table.

MacGuire smiled. "I'll bet that's the best-monitored, most hygienic sex
act ever committed. I think I've about got the space radiations effect
licked."

Farrel nodded. "If anything goes wrong, it certainly won't be our fault.
But let's face it--the chances are a thousand to one that something
_will_ go wrong. We'll just have to wait. And work." He looked at the
Pornsens. "They're very much in love, aren't they? And she was receptive
to the suggestion--beneath it all, she was burning to have a child, just
like the others."

MacGuire wheeled out the operating table, with its load of serums,
pressure-hypos and jury-rigged thingamabobs which he was testing on
alternate couples. Ted Harris stopped at the door a moment. He said, "I
think the suggestions I planted will turn the trick when they find out
she's pregnant. They'll come through okay--won't even be too angry."

Farrel sighed. They'd been over it in detail several times, of course,
but apparently Harris needed the reassurance as much as he did. He said:
"Sure. Now scram so I can go back into my act."

Harris closed the door. Farrel sat down at his desk and studied the pair
before him. They looked back contentedly, holding hands, their eyes
dull.

Farrel said, "How do you feel?"

Ralph Pornsen said, "I feel fine."

Mary Pornsen said, "Oh, I feel _wonderful_!"

Deliberately Farrel pressed another button below his desk-top.

The dull eyes cleared instantly.

"Oh, you've given it some thought, Doc?" Mary said sweetly. "And what
have you decided?"

"You'll see," Farrel said. "Eventually."

He rose. "That's all for now, kids. I'd like to see you again in one
month--for a routine check-up."

Mary nodded and got up. "You'll still have to wait, Doc. Why not admit
you're licked?"

Ralph got up too, and looked puzzled.

"Wow," he said. "I'm tired."

"Perhaps just coming here," Farrel said, "discharged some of the tension
you've been carrying around."

The Pornsens left.

Farrel brought out some papers from his desk and studied them. Then,
from the file drawer, he selected the record of Hugh and Alice Farrel.
Alice would be at the perfect time of her menstrual cycle tomorrow....

Farrel flipped his communicator.

"MacGuire," he said. "Tomorrow it's me."

MacGuire chuckled. Farrel could have kicked him. He put his chin in his
hands and stared out the port. Danny Stern had the log in place in the
barricade. The bulldozer was moving on to a new task. His momentary
doubt stilled, Farrel went back to work.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty-one years later, when the ships from Earth began arriving, the
log had been replaced by a stone monument erected to the memory of the
Exodus VII, which had been cut apart for its valuable steel. Around the
monument was a park, and on three sides of the park was a shining
town--not really large enough to be called a city--of plastic and stone,
for New Earth had no iron ore, only zinc and a little copper. This was
often cause for regret.

Still it was a pretty good world. The monster problem had been licked by
high-voltage cannon. Now in their third generation since the landing,
the monsters kept their distance. And things grew--things good to eat.

And even without steel, the graceful, smoothly-functioning town looked
impressive--quite a thing to have been built by a handful of beings with
two arms and two legs each.

It hadn't been, entirely. But nobody thought much about that any more.
Even the newcomers got used to it. Things change.


THE END



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _If Worlds of Science Fiction_ November
    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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