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´╗┐Title: The Anglers of Arz
Author: Dee, Roger, 1914-2004
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 "The Anglers of Arz" ***

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                           The Anglers of Arz

                              By Roger Dee

                        Illustrated by BOB MARTIN

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science
Fiction January 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: _In order to make Izaak Walton's sport complete, there must
be an angler, a fish, and some bait. All three existed on Arz but there
was a question as to which was which._]

[Illustration: _There were two pinkish, bipedal fishermen on the tiny

The third night of the _Marco Four's_ landfall on the moonless Altarian
planet was a repetition of the two before it, a nine-hour intermission
of drowsy, pastoral peace. Navigator Arthur Farrell--it was his turn to
stand watch--was sitting at an open-side port with a magnoscanner ready;
but in spite of his vigilance he had not exposed a film when the
inevitable pre-dawn rainbow began to shimmer over the eastern ocean.

Sunrise brought him alert with a jerk, frowning at sight of two pinkish,
bipedal Arzian fishermen posted on the tiny coral islet a quarter-mile
offshore, their blank triangular faces turned stolidly toward the beach.

"They're at it again," Farrell called, and dropped to the mossy turf
outside. "Roll out on the double! I'm going to magnofilm this!"

Stryker and Gibson came out of their sleeping cubicles reluctantly,
belting on the loose shorts which all three wore in the balmy Arzian
climate. Stryker blinked and yawned as he let himself through the port,
his fringe of white hair tousled and his naked paunch sweating. He
looked, Farrell thought for the thousandth time, more like a retired
cook than like the veteran commander of a Terran Colonies expedition.

Gibson followed, stretching his powerfully-muscled body like a wrestler
to throw off the effects of sleep. Gibson was linguist-ethnologist of
the crew, a blocky man in his early thirties with thick black hair and
heavy brows that shaded a square, humorless face.

"Any sign of the squids yet?" he asked.

"They won't show up until the dragons come," Farrell said. He adjusted
the light filter of the magnoscanner and scowled at Stryker. "Lee, I
wish you'd let me break up the show this time with a dis-beam. This
butchery gets on my nerves."

Stryker shielded his eyes with his hands against the glare of sun on
water. "You know I can't do that, Arthur. These Arzians may turn out to
be Fifth Order beings or higher, and under Terran Regulations our
tampering with what may be a basic culture-pattern would amount to armed
invasion. We'll have to crack that cackle-and-grunt language of theirs
and learn something of their mores before we can interfere."

Farrell turned an irritable stare on the incurious group of Arzians
gathering, nets and fishing spears in hand, at the edge of the
sheltering bramble forest.

"What stumps me is their motivation," he said. "Why do the fools go out
to that islet every night, when they must know damned well what will
happen next morning?"

Gibson answered him with an older problem, his square face puzzled. "For
that matter, what became of the city I saw when we came in through the
stratosphere? It must be a tremendous thing, yet we've searched the
entire globe in the scouter and found nothing but water and a scattering
of little islands like this one, all covered with bramble. It wasn't a
city these pink fishers could have built, either. The architecture was
beyond them by a million years."

       *       *       *       *       *

Stryker and Farrell traded baffled looks. The city had become something
of a fixation with Gibson, and his dogged insistence--coupled with an
irritating habit of being right--had worn their patience thin.

"There never was a city here, Gib," Stryker said. "You dozed off while
we were making planetfall, that's all."

Gibson stiffened resentfully, but Farrell's voice cut his protest short.
"Get set! Here they come!"

Out of the morning rainbow dropped a swarm of winged lizards, twenty
feet in length and a glistening chlorophyll green in the early light.
They stooped like hawks upon the islet offshore, burying the two Arzian
fishers instantly under their snapping, threshing bodies. Then around
the outcrop the sea boiled whitely, churned to foam by a sudden
uprushing of black, octopoid shapes.

"The squids," Stryker grunted. "Right on schedule. Two seconds too late,
as usual, to stop the slaughter."

A barrage of barbed tentacles lashed out of the foam and drove into the
melee of winged lizards. The lizards took the air at once, leaving
behind three of their number who disappeared under the surface like
harpooned seals. No trace remained of the two Arzian natives.

"A neat example of dog eat dog," Farrell said, snapping off the
magnoscanner. "Do any of those beauties look like city-builders, Gib?"

Chattering pink natives straggled past from the shelter of the thorn
forest, ignoring the Earthmen, and lined the casting ledges along the
beach to begin their day's fishing.

"Nothing we've seen yet could have built that city," Gibson said
stubbornly. "But it's here somewhere, and I'm going to find it. Will
either of you be using the scouter today?"

Stryker threw up his hands. "I've a mountain of data to collate, and
Arthur is off duty after standing watch last night. Help yourself, but
you won't find anything."

       *       *       *       *       *

The scouter was a speeding dot on the horizon when Farrell crawled into
his sleeping cubicle a short time later, leaving Stryker to mutter over
his litter of notes. Sleep did not come to him at once; a vague sense of
something overlooked prodded irritatingly at the back of his
consciousness, but it was not until drowsiness had finally overtaken him
that the discrepancy assumed definite form.

He recalled then that on the first day of the _Marco's_ planetfall one
of the pink fishers had fallen from a casting ledge into the water, and
had all but drowned before his fellows pulled him out with extended
spear-shafts. Which meant that the fishers could not swim, else some
would surely have gone in after him.

And the Marco's crew had explored Arz exhaustively without finding any
slightest trace of boats or of boat landings. The train of association
completed itself with automatic logic, almost rousing Farrell out of his

"I'll be damned," he muttered. "No boats, and they don't swim. _Then how
the devil do they get out to that islet?_"

He fell asleep with the paradox unresolved.

       *       *       *       *       *

Stryker was still humped over his records when Farrell came out of his
cubicle and broke a packaged meal from the food locker. The visicom over
the control board hummed softly, its screen blank on open channel.

"Gibson found his lost city yet?" Farrell asked, and grinned when
Stryker snorted.

"He's scouring the daylight side now," Stryker said. "Arthur, I'm going
to ground Gib tomorrow, much as I dislike giving him a direct order.
He's got that phantom city on the brain, and he lacks the imagination to
understand how dangerous to our assignment an obsession of that sort can

Farrell shrugged. "I'd agree with you offhand if it weren't for Gib's
bullheaded habit of being right. I hope he finds it soon, if it's here.
I'll probably be standing his watch until he's satisfied."

Stryker looked relieved. "Would you mind taking it tonight? I'm
completely bushed after today's logging."

Farrell waved a hand and took up his magnoscanner. It was dark outside
already, the close, soft night of a moonless tropical world whose moist
atmosphere absorbed even starlight. He dragged a chair to the open port
and packed his pipe, settling himself comfortably while Stryker mixed a
nightcap before turning in.

Later he remembered that Stryker dissolved a tablet in his glass, but at
the moment it meant nothing. In a matter of minutes the older man's
snoring drifted to him, a sound faintly irritating against the velvety
hush outside.

Farrell lit his pipe and turned to the inconsistencies he had uncovered.
The Arzians did not swim, and without boats....

It occurred to him then that there had been two of the pink fishers on
the islet each morning, and the coincidence made him sit up suddenly,
startled. Why two? Why not three or four, or only one?

He stepped out through the open lock and paced restlessly up and down on
the springy turf, feeling the ocean breeze soft on his face. Three days
of dull routine logwork had built up a need for physical action that
chafed his temper; he was intrigued and at the same time annoyed by the
enigmatic relation that linked the Arzian fishers to the dragons and
squids, and his desire to understand that relation was aggravated by the
knowledge that Arz could be a perfect world for Terran colonization.
That is, he thought wryly, if Terran colonists could stomach the weird
custom pursued by its natives of committing suicide in pairs.

He went over again the improbable drama of the past three mornings, and
found it not too unnatural until he came to the motivation and the means
of transportation that placed the Arzians in pairs on the islet, when
his whole fabric of speculation fell into a tangled snarl of
inconsistencies. He gave it up finally; how could any Earthman
rationalize the outlandish compulsions that actuated so alien a race?

He went inside again, and the sound of Stryker's muffled snoring fanned
his restlessness. He made his decision abruptly, laying aside the
magnoscanner for a hand-flash and a pocket-sized audicom unit which he
clipped to the belt of his shorts.

He did not choose a weapon because he saw no need for one. The torch
would show him how the natives reached the outcrop, and if he should
need help the audicom would summon Stryker. Investigating without
Stryker's sanction was, strictly speaking, a breach of Terran
Regulations, but--

"Damn Terran Regulations," he muttered. "I've got to _know_."

Farrell snapped on the torch at the edge of the thorn forest and entered
briskly, eager for action now that he had begun. Just inside the edge of
the bramble he came upon a pair of Arzians curled up together on the
mossy ground, sleeping soundly, their triangular faces wholly blank and

He worked deeper into the underbrush and found other sleeping couples,
but nothing else. There were no humming insects, no twittering
night-birds or scurrying rodents. He had worked his way close to the
center of the island without further discovery and was on the point of
turning back, disgusted, when something bulky and powerful seized him
from behind.

A sharp sting burned his shoulder, wasp-like, and a sudden overwhelming
lassitude swept him into a darkness deeper than the Arzian night. His
last conscious thought was not of his own danger, but of Stryker--asleep
and unprotected behind the _Marco's_ open port....

       *       *       *       *       *

He was standing erect when he woke, his back to the open sea and a
prismatic glimmer of early-dawn rainbow shining on the water before him.
For a moment he was totally disoriented; then from the corner of an eye
he caught the pinkish blur of an Arzian fisher standing beside him, and
cried out hoarsely in sudden panic when he tried to turn his head and
could not.

He was on the coral outcropping offshore, and except for the involuntary
muscles of balance and respiration his body was paralyzed.

The first red glow of sunrise blurred the reflected rainbow at his feet,
but for some seconds his shuttling mind was too busy to consider the
danger of predicament. _Whatever brought me here anesthetized me first_,
he thought. _That sting in my shoulder was like a hypo needle._

Panic seized him again when he remembered the green flying-lizards; more
seconds passed before he gained control of himself, sweating with the
effort. He had to get help. If he could switch on the audicom at his
belt and call Stryker....

He bent every ounce of his will toward raising his right hand, and

His arm was like a limb of lead, its inertia too great to budge. He
relaxed the effort with a groan, sweating again when he saw a fiery
half-disk of sun on the water, edges blurred and distorted by tiny
surface ripples.

On shore he could see the _Marco Four_ resting between thorn forest and
beach, its silvered sides glistening with dew. The port was still open,
and the empty carrier rack in the bow told him that Gibson had not yet
returned with the scouter.

He grew aware then that sensation was returning to him slowly, that the
cold surface of the audicom unit at his hip--unfelt before--was pressing
against the inner curve of his elbow. He bent his will again toward
motion; this time the arm tensed a little, enough to send hope flaring
through him. If he could put pressure enough against the stud....

The tiny click of its engaging sent him faint with relief.

"Stryker!" he yelled. "Lee, roll out--_Stryker_!"

The audicom hummed gently, without answer.

He gathered himself for another shout, and recalled with a chill of
horror the tablet Stryker had mixed into his nightcap the night before.
Worn out by his work, Stryker had made certain that he would not be
easily disturbed.

The flattened sun-disk on the water brightened and grew rounder. Above
its reflected glare he caught a flicker of movement, a restless
suggestion of flapping wings.

       *       *       *       *       *

He tried again. "Stryker, help me! I'm on the islet!"

The audicom crackled. The voice that answered was not Stryker's, but

"Farrell! What the devil are you doing on that butcher's block?"

Farrell fought down an insane desire to laugh. "Never mind that--get
here fast, Gib! The flying-lizards--"

He broke off, seeing for the first time the octopods that ringed the
outcrop just under the surface of the water, waiting with barbed
tentacles spread and yellow eyes studying him glassily. He heard the
unmistakable flapping of wings behind and above him then, and thought
with shock-born lucidity: _I wanted a backstage look at this show, and
now I'm one of the cast_.

The scouter roared in from the west across the thorn forest, flashing so
close above his head that he felt the wind of its passage. Almost
instantly he heard the shrilling blast of its emergency bow jets as
Gibson met the lizard swarm head on.

Gibson's voice came tinnily from the audicom. "Scattered them for the
moment, Arthur--blinded the whole crew with the exhaust, I think. Stand
fast, now. I'm going to pick you up."

The scouter settled on the outcrop beside Farrell, so close that the hot
wash of its exhaust gases scorched his bare legs. Gibson put out thick
brown arms and hauled him inside like a straw man, ignoring the native.
The scouter darted for shore with Farrell lying across Gibson's knees in
the cockpit, his head hanging half overside.

Farrell had a last dizzy glimpse of the islet against the rush of green
water below, and felt his shaky laugh of relief stick in his throat. Two
of the octopods were swimming strongly for shore, holding the rigid
Arzian native carefully above water between them.

"Gib," Farrell croaked. "Gib, can you risk a look back? I think I've
gone mad."

The scouter swerved briefly as Gibson looked back. "You're all right,
Arthur. Just hang on tight. I'll explain everything when we get you safe
in the _Marco_."

Farrell forced himself to relax, more relieved than alarmed by the
painful pricking of returning sensation. "I might have known it, damn
you," he said. "You found your lost city, didn't you?"

Gibson sounded a little disgusted, as if he were still angry with
himself over some private stupidity. "I'd have found it sooner if I'd
had any brains. It was under water, of course."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the _Marco Four_, Gibson routed Stryker out of his cubicle and mixed
drinks around, leaving Farrell comfortably relaxed in the padded control
chair. The paralysis was still wearing off slowly, easing Farrell's fear
of being permanently disabled.

"We never saw the city from the scouter because we didn't go high
enough," Gibson said. "I realized that finally, remembering how they
used high-altitude blimps during the First Wars to spot submarines, and
when I took the scouter up far enough there it was, at the ocean
bottom--a city to compare with anything men ever built."

Stryker stared. "A marine city? What use would sea-creatures have for

"None," Gibson said. "I think the city must have been built ages ago--by
men or by a manlike race, judging from the architecture--and was
submerged later by a sinking of land masses that killed off the original
builders and left Arz nothing but an oversized archipelago. The squids
took over then, and from all appearances they've developed a culture of
their own."

"I don't see it," Stryker complained, shaking his head. "The pink

"Are cattle, or less," Gibson finished. "The octopods are the dominant
race, and they're so far above Fifth Order that we're completely out of
bounds here. Under Terran Regulations we can't colonize Arz. It would be
armed invasion."

"Invasion of a squid world?" Farrell protested, baffled. "Why should
surface colonization conflict with an undersea culture, Gib? Why
couldn't we share the planet?"

"Because the octopods own the islands too, and keep them policed,"
Gibson said patiently. "They even own the pink fishers. It was one of
the squid-people, making a dry-land canvass of his preserve here to pick
a couple of victims for this morning's show, that carried you off last

"Behold a familiar pattern shaping up," Stryker said. He laughed
suddenly, a great irrepressible bellow of sound. "Arz is a squid's
world, Arthur, don't you see? And like most civilized peoples, they're
sportsmen. The flying-lizards are the game they hunt, and they raise the
pink fishers for--"

Farrell swore in astonishment. "Then those poor devils are put out there
deliberately, like worms on a hook--angling in reverse! No wonder I
couldn't spot their motivation!"

Gibson got up and sealed the port, shutting out the soft morning breeze.
"Colonization being out of the question, we may as well move on before
the octopods get curious enough about us to make trouble. Do you feel up
to the acceleration, Arthur?"

Farrell and Stryker looked at each other, grinning. Farrell said: "You
don't think I want to stick here and be used for bait again, do you?"

He and Stryker were still grinning over it when Gibson, unamused,
blasted the _Marco Four_ free of Arz.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Anglers of Arz" ***

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