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Title: My Fair Planet
Author: Smith, Evelyn E., 1927-2000
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 "My Fair Planet" ***

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                                  My Fair Planet

                                By EVELYN E. SMITH

                               Illustrated by DILLON

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction
March 1958. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the
U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



[Sidenote: _All the world's a stage, so there was room even for this bad
actor ... only he intended to direct it!_]


As Paul Lambrequin was clambering up the stairs of his rooming house, he
met a man whose face was all wrong. "Good evening," Paul said politely
and was about to continue on his way when the man stopped him.

"You are the first person I have encountered in this place who has not
shuttered at the sight of me," he said in a toneless voice with an
accent that was outside the standard repertoire.

"Am I?" Paul asked, bringing himself back from one of the roseate dreams
with which he kept himself insulated from a not-too-kind reality. "I
daresay that's because I'm a bit near-sighted." He peered vaguely at
the stranger. Then he recoiled.

"What is incorrect about me, then?" the stranger demanded. "Do I not
have two eyes, one nose and one mouth, the identical as other people?"

Paul studied the other man. "Yes, but somehow they seem to be put
together all wrong. Not that you can help it, of course," he added
apologetically, for, when he thought of it, he hated to hurt people's
feelings.

"Yes, I can, for, of a truth, 'twas I who put myself together. What did
I do amiss?"

Paul looked consideringly at him. "I can't quite put my finger on it,
but there are certain subtle nuances you just don't seem to have caught.
If you want my professional advice, you'll model yourself directly on
some real person until you've got the knack of improvisation."

"Like unto this?" The stranger's outline shimmered and blurred into an
amorphous cloud, which then coalesced into the shape of a tall,
beautiful young man with the face of an ingenuous demon. "Behold, is
that superior?"

"Oh, far superior!" Paul reached up to adjust a stray lock of hair, then
realized he was not looking into a mirror. "Trouble is--well, I'd rather
you chose someone else to model yourself on. You see, in my profession,
it's important to look as unique as possible; helps people remember you.
I'm an actor, you know. Currently I happen to be at liberty, but the
year before last--"

"Well, whom should I appear like? Should I perhaps pick some fine
upstanding figure from your public prints to emulate? Like your
President, perhaply?"

"I--hardly think so. It wouldn't do to model yourself on someone well
known--or even someone obscure whom you might just happen to run into
someday." Being a kind-hearted young man, Paul added, "Come up to my
room. I have some British film magazines and there are lots of
relatively obscure English actors who are very decent-looking chaps."

       *       *       *       *       *

So they climbed up to Paul's hot little room under the eaves and, after
leafing through several magazines, Paul chose one Ivo Darcy as a likely
candidate. Whereupon the stranger deliquesced and reformed into the
personable simulacrum of young Mr. Darcy.

"That's quite a trick," Paul observed as it finally got through to him
what the other had done. "It would come in handy in the profession--for
character parts, you know."

"I fear you would never be able to acquisition it," the stranger said,
surveying his new self in the mirror complacently. "It is not a trick
but a racial ableness. You see, I feel I can trust you--"

"--Of course I'm not really a character actor; I'm a leading man, but I
believe one should be versatile, because there are times when a really
good character part comes along--"

"--I am not a human being. I am a native of the fifth planet circulating
around the star you call Sirius, and we Sirians have the ableness to
change ourselves into the apparition of any other livid form--"

"I thought that might be a near-Eastern accent!" Paul exclaimed,
diverted. "Is Lebanese anything like it? Because I understand there's a
really juicy part coming up in--"

"I said _Sirian_, not _Syrian_; I do not come from Minor Asia but from
outer space, from an other-where solar system. I am an outworlder, an
extraterrestrial."

"I hope you had a nice trip," Paul said politely. "From Sirius, did you
say? What's the state of the theater there?"

"In its infanticide," the stranger told him, "but--"

"Let's face it," Paul muttered bitterly, "it's in its infancy here, too.
No over-all planning. No appreciation of the fact that all the
components that go to make up a production should be a continuing
totality, instead of a tenuous coalition of separate forces which
disintegrate--"

"You, I comprehend, are disemployed at current. I should--"

"You won't find that situation in Russia!" Paul went on, pleased to
discover a sympathetic audience in this intelligent foreigner. "Mind
you," he added quickly, "I disapprove entirely of their politics. In
fact, I disapprove of all politics. But when it comes to the theater, in
many respects the Russians--"

"--Like to make a proposal to our mutual advanceage--"

"--You wouldn't find an actor there playing a lead role one season and
then not be able to get any parts except summer stock and odd bits for
the next two years. All right, so the show I had the lead in folded
after two weeks, but the critics all raved about my performance. It was
the play that stank!"

"Will you terminate the monologue and hearken unto me!" the alien
shouted.

Paul stopped talking. His feelings were hurt. He had thought Ivo liked
him; now he saw all the outworlder wanted to do was talk about his own
problems.

"I desire to extend to you a position," said Ivo.

"I can't take a regular job," Paul said sulkily. "I have to be available
for interviews. Fellow I knew took a job in a store and, when he was
called to read for a part, he couldn't get away. The fellow who did get
that part became a big star, and maybe the other fellow could have been
a star, too, but now all he is is a lousy chairman of the board of some
department store chain--"

"This work can be undergone at your convention between readings and
interviews, whenever you have the timing. I shall pay you beautifully,
being abundant with U.S.A. currency. I want you to teach me how to act."

"Teach you how to act," Paul repeated, rather intrigued. "Well, I'm not
a dramatic coach, you know; however, I do happen to have some ideas on
the subject. I feel that most acting teachers nowadays fail to give
their students a really thorough grounding in all aspects of the
dramatic art. All they talk about is method, method, method. But what
about technique?"

"I have observed your species with great diligence and I thought I had
acquisitioned your habits and speakings to perfectness. But I fear that,
like my initial face, I have got them awry. I want you to teach me to
act like a human being, to talk like a human being, to think like a
human being."

Paul's attention was really caught. "Well, that _is_ a challenge! I
don't suppose Stanislavsky ever had to teach an extraterrestrial, or
even Strasberg--"

"Then we are in accordance," Ivo said. "You will instruction me?" He
essayed a smile.

Paul shuddered. "Very well," he said. "We'll start now. And I think the
first thing we'd better start with is lessons in smiling."

Ivo proved to be a quick study. He not only learned to smile, but to
frown and to express surprise, pleasure, horror--whatever the occasion
demanded. He learned the knack of counterfeiting humanity with such
skill that, Paul was moved to remark one afternoon when they were
leaving Brooks Brothers after a fitting, "Sometimes you seem even more
human than I do, Ivo. I wish you'd watch out for that tendency to rant,
though. You're supposed to speak, not make speeches."

"I try not to," Ivo said, "but I keep getting carried away by
enthusiasm."

"Apparently I have a real flair for teaching," Paul went on as, expertly
camouflaged by Brooks, the two young men melted into the dense
charcoal-gray underbrush of Madison Avenue. "I seem to be even more
versatile than I thought. Perhaps I have been--well, not wasting but
limiting my talents."

"That may be because your talents have not been sufficiently
appreciated," his star pupil suggested, "or given enough scope."

Ivo was so perceptive! "As a matter of fact," Paul agreed, "it has often
seemed to me that if some really gifted individual, equally adept at
acting, directing, producing, playwriting, teaching, et al., were to
undertake a thorough synthesis of the theater--ah, but that would cost
money," he interrupted himself, "and who would underwrite such a
project? Certainly not the government of the United States." He gave a
bitter laugh.

"Perhaps, under a new regime, conditions might be more favorable for the
artist--"

"Shhh!" Paul looked nervously over his shoulder. "There are Senators
everywhere. Besides, I never said things were _good_ in Russia, just
_better_--for the actor, that is. Of course the plays are atrocious
propaganda--"

"I was not referring to another human regime. The human being is, at
best, save for certain choice spirits, unsympathetic to the arts. We
outworlders have a far greater respect for things of the mind."

Paul opened his mouth; Ivo continued without giving him a chance to
speak, "No doubt you have often wondered just what I am doing here on
Earth?"

The question had never crossed Paul's mind. Feeling vaguely guilty, he
murmured, "Some people have funny ideas of where to go for a vacation."

"I am here on business," Ivo told him. "The situation on Sirius is
serious."

"You know, that's catchy! 'The situation on Sirius is serious'," Paul
repeated, tapping his foot. "I've often thought of trying my hand at a
musical com--"

"I mean we have had a ser--grave population problem for the last couple
of centuries, hence our government has sent out scouts to look for other
planets with similar atmosphere, climate, gravity and so on, where we
can ship our excess population. So far, we have found very few."

When Paul's attention was focused, he could be as quick as anybody to
put two and two together. "But Earth is already occupied. In fact, when
I was in school, I heard something about our having a population problem
ourselves."

"The other planets we already--ah--took over were in a similar state,"
Ivo explained. "We managed to surmount that difficulty."

"How?" Paul asked, though he already suspected the answer.

"Oh, we didn't dispose of _all_ of the inhabitants. We merely weeded out
the undesirables--who, by fortunate chance, happened to be in the
majority--and achieved a happy and peaceful coexistence with the rest."

"But, look," Paul protested. "I mean to say----"

"For instance," Ivo said suavely, "take the vast body of people who
watch television and who have never seen a legitimate play in their
lives and, indeed, rarely go to the motion pictures. Surely they are
expendable."

"Well, yes, of course. But even among them there might be--oh, say, a
playwright's mother--"

"One of the first measures our regime would take would be to establish a
vast network of community theaters throughout the world. And you, Paul,
would receive first choice of starring roles."

"Now wait a minute!" Paul cried hotly. He seldom allowed himself to lose
his temper, but when he did ... he got _angry_! "I pride myself that
I've gotten this far wholly on my own merits. I don't believe in using
influence to--"

"But, my dear fellow, all I meant was that, with an intelligently
coordinated theater and an intellectually adult audience, your abilities
would be recognized automatically."

"Oh," said Paul.

He was not unaware that he was being flattered, but it was so seldom
that anyone bothered to pay him any attention when he was not playing a
role that it was difficult not to succumb. "Are--are you figuring on
taking over the planet single-handed?" he asked curiously.

"Heavens, no! Talented as I am, there are limits. I don't do
the--ah--dirty work myself. I just conduct the preliminary investigation
to determine how powerful the local defenses are."

"We have hydrogen bombs," Paul said, trying to remember details of a
newspaper article he had once read in a producer's ante-room, "and
plutonium bombs and--"

"Oh, I know about all those," Ivo smiled expertly. "My job is checking
to make sure you don't have anything really dangerous."

All that night, Paul wrestled with his conscience. He knew he shouldn't
just let Ivo go on. Yet what else could he do? Go to the proper
authorities? But which authorities were the proper ones? And even if he
found them, who would believe an actor offstage, delivering such
improbable lines? He would either be laughed at or accused of being part
of a subversive plot. It might result in a lot of bad publicity which
could ruin his career.

So Paul did nothing about Ivo. He went back to the usual rounds of
agents' and producers' offices, and the knowledge of why Ivo was on
Earth got pushed farther into the back of his mind as he trudged from
interview to reading to interview.

[Illustration]

It was an exceptionally hot October--the kind of weather when sometimes
he almost lost his faith and began to wonder why he was batting his head
against a stone wall, why he didn't get a job in a department store
somewhere or teaching school. And then he thought of the applause, the
curtain calls, the dream of some day seeing his name in lights above the
title of the play--and he knew he would never give up. Quitting the
theater would be like committing suicide, for off the stage he was alive
only technically. He was good; he knew he was good, so some day, he
assured himself, he was bound to get his big break.

Toward the end of that month, it came. After the maximum three readings,
between which his hopes alternately waxed and waned, he was cast as the
male lead in _The Holiday Tree_. The producers were more interested,
they said, in getting someone who fitted the role of Eric Everard than
in a big name--especially since the female star preferred to have her
luster undimmed by competition.

Rehearsals took up so much of his time that he saw very little of Ivo
for the next five weeks--but by then Ivo didn't need him any more.
Actually, they were no longer teacher and pupil now but companions,
drawn together by the fact that they both belonged to different worlds
from the one in which they were living. Insofar as he could like anyone
who existed outside of his imagination, Paul had grown rather fond of
Ivo. And he rather thought Ivo liked him, too--but, because he couldn't
ever be quite sure of ordinary people's reactions toward him, how could
he be sure of an outworlder's?

Ivo came around to rehearsals sometimes, but naturally it would be
boring for him, since he wasn't in the profession, and, after a while,
he didn't come around very often. At first, Paul felt a twinge of guilt;
then he remembered that he need not worry. Ivo had his own work.

       *       *       *       *       *

The whole _Holiday Tree_ troupe went out of town for the tryouts, and
Paul didn't see Ivo at all for six weeks. Busy, happy weeks they were,
for the play was a smash hit from the start. It played to packed houses
in New Haven and Boston, and the box office in New York was sold out for
months in advance before they even opened.

"Must be kinda fun--acting," Ivo told Paul the morning after the New
York opening, as Paul weltered contentedly on his bed--he had the best
room in the house now--amid a pile of rave notices. At long last, he had
arrived. Everybody loved him. He was a success.

And now that he had read the reviews and they were all favorable, he
could pay attention to the strange things that had happened to his
friend. Raising himself up on an elbow, Paul cried, "Ivo, you're
_mumbling_! After all I taught you about articulation!"

"I got t'hanging 'round with this here buncha actors while y'were gone,"
Ivo said. "They say mumbling's the comin' thing. 'Sides, y'kept yapping
that I declaimed, so--"

"But you don't have to go to the opposite extreme and--_Ivo_!"
Incredulously, Paul took in the full details of the other's appearance.
"What happened to your Brooks Brothers' suits?"

"Hung 'em inna closet," Ivo replied, looking abashed. "I did wear one
las' night, though," he went on defensively. "Wooden come dressed like
this to y'opening. But all the other fellas wear blue jeans 'n leather
jackets. I mean, hell, I gotta conform more'n anybody. Y'know that,
Paul."

"And--" Paul sat bolt upright; this was the supreme outrage--"you've
changed yourself! You've gotten _younger_!"

"This is an age of yout'," Ivo mumbled. "An' I figured I was 'bout ready
for improvisation, like you said."

"Look, Ivo, if you really want to go on the stage----"

"Hell, I don' wanna be no actor!" Ivo protested, far too vehemently.
"Y'know damn' well I'm a--a spy, scoutin' 'round t'see if y'have any
secret defenses before I make m'report."

"I don't feel I'm giving away any government secrets," Paul said, "when
I tell you that the bastions of our defenses are not erected at the
Actors' Studio."

"Listen, pal, you lemme spy the way I wanna an' I'll letcha act the way
you wanna."

Paul was disturbed by this change in Ivo because, although he had
always tried to steer clear of social involvement, he could not
help feeling that the young alien had become in a measure his
responsibility--particularly now that he was a teen-ager. Paul would
even have worried about Ivo, if there hadn't been so many other things
to occupy his mind. First of all, the producers of _The Holiday Tree_
could not resist the pressure of an adoring public; although the
original star sulked, three months after the play had opened in New
York, Paul's name went up in lights next to hers, _over the title of the
play. He was a star._

That was good. But then there was Gregory. And that was bad. Gregory was
Paul's understudy--a handsome, sullen youth who had, on numerous
occasions, been heard to utter words to the effect of: "It's the part
that's so good, not him. If I had the chance to play Eric Everard just
once, they'd give Lambrequin back to the Indians."

Sometimes he had said the words in Paul's hearing; sometimes the remarks
had been lovingly passed on by fellow members of the cast who felt that
Paul ought to know.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I don't like that Gregory," Paul told Ivo one Monday evening as they
were enjoying a quiet smoke together, for there was no performance that
night. "He used to be a juvenile delinquent, got sent to one of those
reform schools where they use acting as therapy and it turned out to be
his _métier_. But you never know when that kind'll hear the call of the
wild again."

"Aaaah, he's a good kid," Ivo said. "He just never had a chanct."

"Trouble is, I'm afraid he's going to _make_ himself a chanct--chance,
that is."

"Aaaah," retorted Ivo, with prideful inarticulateness.

However, when at six-thirty that Friday, Paul fell over a wire stretched
between the jambs of the doorway leading to his private bathroom and
broke a leg, even Ivo was forced to admit that this did not look like an
accident.

"Ivo," Paul wailed when the doctor had left, "what am I going to do? I
refuse to let Gregory go on in my place tonight!"

"Y'gonna hafta," Ivo said, shifting his gum to the other side of his
mouth. "He's y'unnastudy."

"But the doctor said it would be weeks before I can get around again.
Either Gregory'll take over the part completely with his interpretation
and I'll be left out in the cold, or more likely, he'll louse up the
play and it'll fold before I'm on my feet."

"Y'gotta have more confidence in y'self, kid. The public ain't gonna
forgetcha in a few weeks."

But Paul knew far better than the idealistic Ivo how fickle the public
can be. However, he chose an argument that would appeal to the boy.
"Don't forget, he booby-trapped me!"

"Cert'ny looks like it," Ivo was forced to concede. "But watcha gonna
do? Y'can't prove it. 'Sides, the curtain's gonna gwup in a li'l over a
nour--"

Paul gripped Ivo's sinewy wrist. "Ivo, you've got to go on for me!"

"Y'got rocks in y'head or somepin?" Ivo demanded, trying not to look
pleased. "I ain't gotta Nequity card, and even if I did, _he's_
y'unnastudy."

"No, you don't understand. I don't want you to go on as Ivo Darcy
playing Eric Everard. I want you to go on as Paul Lambrequin playing
Eric Everard. _You can do it, Ivo!_"

"Good Lord, so I can!" Ivo whispered, temporarily neglecting to mumble.
"I'd almost forgotten."

"You know my lines, too. You've cued me in my part often enough."

Ivo rubbed his hand over his forehead. "Yeah, I guess I do."

"Ivo," Paul beseeched him, "I thought we were--pals. I don't want to ask
any favors, but I helped you out when you were in trouble. I always
figured I could rely on you. I never thought you'd let me down."

"An' I won't." Ivo gripped Paul's hand. "I'll go on t'night 'n play 'at
part like it ain't never been played before! I'll--"

"No! No! Play it the way I played it. You're supposed to be _me_, Ivo!
Forget Strasberg; go back to Stanislavsky."

"Okay, pal," Ivo said. "Will do."

"And promise me one thing, Ivo. Promise me _you won't mumble_."

Ivo winced. "Okay, but you're the on'y one I'd do 'at for."

Slowly, he began to shimmer. Paul held his breath. Maybe Ivo had
forgotten how to transmute himself. But technique triumphed over method.
Ivo Darcy gradually coalesced into the semblance of Paul Lambrequin. The
show would go on!

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, how was everything?" Paul asked anxiously when Ivo came into his
room shortly after midnight.

"Pretty good," Ivo said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "Gregory
was extremely surprised to see me--asked me half a dozen times how I was
feeling." Ivo was not only articulating, Paul was gratified to notice;
he was enunciating.

"But the show--how did that go? Did anyone suspect you were a ringer?"

"No," Ivo said slowly. "No, I don't think so. I got twelve curtain
calls," he added, staring straight ahead of him with a dreamy smile.
"Twelve."

"Friday nights, the audience is always enthusiastic." Then Paul
swallowed hard and said, "Besides, I'm sure you were great in the role."

But Ivo didn't seem to hear him. Ivo was still wrapped in his golden
daze. "Just before the curtain went up, I didn't think I was going to be
able to do it. I began to feel all quivery inside, the way I do before
I--I change."

"Butterflies in the stomach is the professional term." Paul nodded
wisely. "A really good actor gets them before every performance. No
matter how many times I play a role, there's that minute when the house
lights start to dim when I'm in an absolute panic--"

"--And then the curtain went up and I was all right. I was fine. I was
Paul Lambrequin. I was Eric Everard. I was--everything."

"Ivo," Paul said, clapping him on the shoulder, "you're a born trouper."

"Yes," Ivo murmured, "I'm beginning to think so myself."

For the next four weeks, Paul Lambrequin lurked in his room while Ivo
Darcy played Paul Lambrequin playing Eric Everard.

"It's terrific of you to take all this time away from your duties, old
chap," Paul said to Ivo one day between the matinee and the evening
performances. "I really do appreciate it. Although I suppose you've
managed to squeeze some of them in. I never see you on non-matinee
afternoons."

"Duties?" Ivo repeated vacantly. "Yes, of course--my duties."

"Let me give you some professional advice, though. Be more careful when
you take off your makeup. There's still some grease paint in the roots
of your hair."

"Sloppy of me," Ivo agreed, getting to work with a towel.

"I can't understand why you bother to put on the stuff at all," Paul
grinned, "when all you need to do is just change a little more."

"I know." Ivo rubbed his temples vigorously. "I suppose I just like
the--smell of the stuff."

"Ivo," Paul laughed, "there's no use trying to kid me; you are
stagestruck. I'm sure I have enough pull now to get you a bit part
somewhere, when I'm up and around again, and then you can get yourself
an Equity card. Maybe," he added amusedly, "I can even have you replace
Gregory as my understudy."

       *       *       *       *       *

Later, in retrospect, Paul thought perhaps there had been a curious
expression in Ivo's eyes, but right then he'd had no inkling that
anything untoward was up. He did not find out what had been at the back
of Ivo's mind until the Sunday before the Tuesday on which he was
planning to resume his role.

"Lord, it's going to be good to feel that stage under my feet again," he
said as he went through a series of complicated limbering-up exercises
of his own devisement, which he had sometimes thought of publishing as
_The Lambrequin Time and Motion Studies_. It seemed unfair to keep them
from other actors.

Ivo turned around from the mirror in which he had been contemplating
their mutual beauty, "Paul," he said quietly, "you're never going to
feel that stage under your feet again."

Paul sat on the floor and stared at him.

"You see, Paul," Ivo said, "I am Paul Lambrequin now. I am more Paul
Lambrequin than I was--whoever I was on my native planet. I am more Paul
Lambrequin than _you_ ever were. You learned the part superficially,
Paul, but I really _feel_ it."

"It's not a part," Paul said querulously. "It's me. I've always been
Paul Lambrequin."

"How can you be sure of that? You've had so many identities, why should
this be the true one? No, you only _think_ you're Paul Lambrequin. I
_know_ I am."

"Dammit," Paul said, "that's the identity in which I've taken out Equity
membership. And be reasonable, Ivo--there can't be two Paul
Lambrequins."

Ivo smiled sadly. "No, Paul, you're right. There can't."

Of course Paul had known all along that Ivo was not a human being. It
was only now, however, that full realization came to him of what a
ruthless alien monster the other was, existing only to gratify his own
purposes, unaware that others had a right to exist.

"Are--are you going to--dispose of me, then?" Paul asked faintly.

"To dispose of you, yes, Paul. But not to kill you. My kind has killed
enough, conquered enough. We have no real population problem; that was
just an excuse we made to salve our own consciences."

"You have consciences, do you?" Paul's face twisted in a sneer that he
himself sensed right away was overly melodramatic and utterly
unconvincing. Somehow, he could never be really genuine offstage.

Ivo made a sweeping gesture. "Don't be bitter, Paul. Of course we do.
All intelligent life-forms do. It's one of the penalties of sentience!"

For a moment, Paul forgot himself. "Watch it, Ivo. You're beginning to
ham up your lines."

"We can institute birth control," Ivo went on, his manner subdued. "We
can build taller buildings. Oh, there are many ways we can cope with the
population increase. That's not the problem. The problem is how to
divert our creative energies from destruction to construction. And I
think I have solved it."

"How will your people know you have," Paul asked cunningly, "since you
say you're not going back?"

"_I_ am not going back to Sirius, Paul--_you_ are. It is you who are
going to teach my people the art of peace to replace the art of war."

Paul felt himself turn what was probably a very effective white.
"But--but I can't even speak the language! I--"

"You will learn the language during the journey. I spent those
afternoons I was away making a set of _Sirian-in-a-Jiffy_ records for
you. Sirian's a beautiful language, Paul, much more expressive than any
of your Earth languages. You'll like it."

"I'm sure I shall, but--"

"Paul, you are going to bring my people the outlet for self-expression
they have always needed. You see, I lied to you. The theater on Sirius
is not in its infancy; it has never been conceived. If it had been, we
would never have become what we are today. Can you imagine--a race like
mine, so superbly fitted to practice the dramatic art, remaining in
blind ignorance that such an art exists!"

"It does seem a terrible waste," Paul had to agree, although he could
not be truly sympathetic just then. "But I am hardly equipped--"

"Who is better equipped than you to meet this mighty challenge? Can't
you see that at long last you will be able to achieve your great
synthesis of the theatrical arts--as producer, teacher, director, actor,
playwright, whatever you will, working with a cast of individuals who
can assume any shape or form, who have no preconceived notions of what
can be done and what cannot. Oh, Paul, what a glorious opportunity
awaits you on Sirius V. How I envy you!"

"Then why don't you do it yourself?" Paul asked.

Ivo smiled sadly again. "Unfortunately, I do not have your manifold
abilities. All I can do is act. Superbly, of course, but that's all. I
don't have the capacity to build a living theater from scratch. You do.
I have talent, Paul, but you have genius."

"It _is_ a temptation," Paul admitted. "But to leave my own world...."

"Paul, Earth isn't your world. You carry yours along with you wherever
you go. Your world exists in the mind and heart, not in reality. In any
real situation, you're just as uncomfortable on Earth as you would be on
Sirius."

"Yes, but--"

"Think of it this way, Paul. You're not leaving your world. You're just
leaving Earth to go on the road. It's a longer road, but look at what's
waiting for you at the end of it."

"Yes, look," Paul said, reality very much to the fore in his mind and
heart at that moment, "death or vivisection."

"Paul, do you believe I'd do that to you?" There were tears in Ivo's
eyes. If he was acting, he was a great performer. _I really am one hell
of a good teacher_, Paul thought, _and with lots of raw material like
Ivo to work with, I could.... Could he really mean what he's saying_?

"They won't harm you, Paul, because you will come to Sirius bearing a
message from me. You will tell my people that Earth has a powerful
defensive weapon and you have come to teach them its secret. And it's
true, Paul. The theater is your world's most powerful weapon, its best
defense against the universal enemy--reality."

"Ivo," Paul said, "you really must check that tendency toward bombast.
Especially with a purple speech like that; you've simply got to learn to
underplay. You'll watch out for that when I'm gone, won't you?"

"I will!" Ivo's face lighted up. "Oh, I will, Paul. I promise never to
chew the scenery again. I won't so much as nibble on a prop!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day, the two of them went up to Bear Mountain where Ivo's ship
had been cached all those months. Ivo explained to Paul how the controls
worked and showed him where the clean towels were.

Pausing in the airlock, Paul looked back toward Manhattan. "I'd dreamed
so many years of seeing my name up in lights on Broadway," he murmured,
"and now, just when I made it--"

"I'll keep it up there," Ivo vowed. "I promise. And, meanwhile, you'll
be building a new Broadway up there in the stars!"

"Yes," Paul said dreamily, "that is something to look forward to, isn't
it?" Fresh, enthusiastic audiences, performers untrammeled by tradition,
a cooperative government, unlimited funds--why, there was a whole
wonderful new world opening up before him.

"--In another ten years or so," Ivo was saying, "Sirian actors will be
coming to Earth in droves, making the native performers look sick--"

Paul smiled wisely. "Now, Ivo, you know Equity would never stand for
_that_."

"Equity won't be able to help itself. Public pressure will surge upward
in a mounting wave and--" Ivo stopped. "Sorry. I was ranting again,
wasn't I? It's being out in the open air that does it. I need to be
bounded by the four walls of a theater."

"That's a fallacy," Paul began. "On the Greek stage--"

"Save that for the stars, fella," Ivo smiled. "You've got to leave
before it gets light." Then he wrung Paul's hand. "Good-by, kid," he
said. "You'll knock 'em dead on Sirius."

"Good-by, Ivo." Paul returned the grip. Then he got inside and closed
the airlock door behind him. He did hope Ivo would correct that tendency
toward declamation; on the other hand, it was certainly better than
mumbling.

Paul put a _Sirian-in-a-jiffy_ record on the turntable, because he might
as well start learning the language right away. Of course he'd have no
one to talk to but himself for many months, but then, when all was said
and done, he was his own favorite audience. He strapped himself into the
acceleration couch and prepared for take-off.

"Next week, _East Lynne_," he said to himself.





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