Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Venus Boy
Author: Sutton, Lee
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 "Venus Boy" ***

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



                               Venus Boy

                             BY LEE SUTTON

                    Illustrated by Richard Floethe

                   LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., INC.
                               NEW YORK

         Copyright, 1955, by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Inc.

           Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 54-7882

                         Printed in the U.S.A.

                          All rights reserved

      [Transcriber's Note: Extensive research did not uncover any
  evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



                         To Mildred and Blake



                   "Everything that lives is Holy."
                                   --OLD MARVA SAYING.



_A Hero of Venus_


If you ever make a trip to the green planet of Venus, the first thing
you'll see will be the fifty-foot high statue of Venus' greatest hero.
It stands on the very top of towering New Plymouth Rock at the edge of
the old colony of New Plymouth. Even from the rocket cradle, anyone
can tell that the statue is of a twelve-year-old boy smiling up at the
Venusian jewel bear perched on his shoulder. Cut into the huge rock
below the statue are the words,

                     "Virgil Dare (Johnny) Watson
                         And the Marva, Baba.
                     May their Friendship Endure!"

Virgil Dare Watson, called Johnny by his friends, was the first human
being born on Venus. He was named after Virginia Dare, the first
pioneer child born in North America, and for a long time he was the
only child on all Venus. And that would have been a lonely thing to be
if it had not been for Baba. Baba, the bear, was not only Johnny's pet,
but his best friend, too, and the only one who knew about his three
secrets.

Because of these secrets, Johnny got himself, his jewel bear, Baba, and
the whole colony of New Plymouth into desperate trouble. And because
of these secrets, he also became a hero worthy of a statue--Venus'
greatest hero.



                               Contents


       I THE FIRST TWO SECRETS                   1

      II THE TREASURE OF VENUS                   9

     III A DANGEROUS TARGET                     18

      IV THE THIRD SECRET                       25

       V A MYSTERY INDEED!                      34

      VI INSIDE NEW PLYMOUTH                    45

     VII THE RHINOSAUR STAMPEDE                 54

    VIII ONE SECRET IS REVEALED!                66

      IX THE PRICE OF A BROTHER                 71

       X ALONE IN THE JUNGLE                    81

      XI THE FRIENDS ARE SEPARATED              97

     XII THE PRICE OF A BOY                    107

    XIII OUTWITTING THE OUTLAWS                116

     XIV CAPTURED!                             129

      XV A CITY IN THE TREES                   140

     XVI THE THUNDER OF RHINOSAUR HOOVES       155

    XVII TEACHERS CAN'T PLAY HOOKEY            172

         FACTS ABOUT VENUS                     178



CHAPTER ONE

_The First Two Secrets_


It was rocket day on Venus!--the day the yearly rocket from Earth
arrived, and it was like Christmas, Fourth of July and your birthday
all rolled into one!

In the windowless, one-room New Plymouth school, Johnny Watson, a
stocky twelve-year-old, sat toward the back of the room, a big Venus
geography propped up in front of him. Johnny was supposed to be
studying. Every time Mrs. Hadley, the teacher, glanced his way, a page
of the book slowly turned. The teacher was much too busy with the half
dozen squirming, excited first graders to notice that a small black paw
fastened to a furry blue arm was really turning the pages.

On Johnny's lap sat Baba, a perky-faced little blue bear with stand-up
ears and bright blue eyes. To fool the teacher, the little bear, his
eyes twinkling, flipped the pages one by one.

"We gotta do something quick, Baba!" Johnny whispered to his bouncing,
jewel bear cub in a tight worried voice. "It's only two hours till
school's out."

The little bear peered over at the clock on the wall. He lay a tiny
black paw on his blue button nose and cocked his head as if he were
trying to tell the time.

When school was out everyone would go to the rocket field. Johnny knew
that above all, he and his bouncing bear must not be there! Why Johnny
and Baba dared not go was one of Johnny's three secrets.

There was only one thing to do, Johnny thought. He would have to behave
so badly that as punishment he would be forbidden to go.

"Nudge me when Mrs. Hadley turns around," Johnny whispered. "We're
gonna get out of here!"

The little bear shoved his furry blue snout around the geography and
peered from behind it. His bright eyes followed every move the teacher
made.

The instant Mrs. Hadley turned to write on the blackboard Baba gave the
boy a kick. Johnny slipped down on to his hands and knees in the aisle
and Baba hopped upon his back. Rapidly and silently Johnny crawled
toward the armor room. Behind him a little girl kindergartner began to
giggle.

"Look at the horsie!" she yelled.

Johnny heard the teacher call, "Quiet, children!" The little girl
giggled louder. But he hadn't been seen! He scurried into the armor
room.

As Johnny jumped to his feet and grabbed for his suit of rhinosaur-hide
armor, Baba leaped toward the wall and hooked his claws into the
concrete. Then he scurried straight up the wall like a fly and snatched
up Johnny's headglobe in his tiny black paws. While Johnny wriggled
into the armor Baba fitted the headglobe over the boy's tow head.

Without waiting to zip up, Johnny started toward the door. Baba jumped
from the headglobe shelf and landed on his shoulder with a smack. The
boy's hand was scarcely on the latch when the teacher turned around,
her mouth making an O of surprise. Quickly, Johnny jerked open the door
and dashed through, slamming it closed. There was a space of a few feet
and then another door. Holding the second door open, Johnny snapped
tight his headglobe, while Baba's small fingers pushed and pulled at
the zippers fastening the armor. Both of them scanned the sky.

No arrow-birds.

Johnny grabbed a stone from beside the step and wedged it in the outer
door so it could not close. To keep out these murderous flying lizards,
all buildings were windowless and had double doors. When one door was
open the other automatically locked.

"Johnny, Johnny! You come right back in here!" a muffled voice called.
Johnny sighed regretfully as he slipped out of the schoolhouse into the
pearly green light of Venus.

Baba on his shoulder, he started out at a dead run through the
collection of windowless buildings that made up colony headquarters.
The two had barely made it to the foot of a tall heavily leafed tree
when the door of the main headquarters building began to open.

"Up the meat tree!" Johnny yelled.

Baba leaped from Johnny's shoulder and rolled himself into a furry blue
ball as he fell. The little bear smacked the ground with the sound of
a bouncing basketball and bounced high into the air! At the top of his
bounce his arms and legs shot out; he hooked his claws into the trunk
half way up the meat tree. Baba wasn't called a bouncing bear for
nothing!

Johnny jumped for the nearest branch. Weighed down by his arrow-bird
armor, he was slow pulling himself up--too slow. Baba scurried down the
trunk like a squirrel, his claws scattering bits of bark on Johnny.
Hanging on with three paws he reached out and hooked his claws into
Johnny's armor. One pull from that tiny but powerful arm and Johnny was
sitting on the branch. From there up it was easy. The branches made a
perfect ladder. Soon they were entirely surrounded by green shadowy
leaves.

Johnny carefully pushed aside a green fruit the size of a cantaloup and
looked out. Striding across the dusty road came a tall man in headglobe
and black armor--Captain Thompson of the colony guard. The teacher must
have phoned for help. The man's square face was set in anger as he
kicked the rock away from the schoolhouse door. The teacher stepped out
and Johnny could hear their angry voices.

After a moment Mrs. Hadley went back inside and the guard captain
strode purposefully away toward Mayor Watson's office.

Sitting on a branch swinging his legs, Baba winked a shiny blue eye. He
reached over and patted Johnny on the spot where the boy was likely to
pay for his pranks.

"I think we've done it this time," Johnny whispered. "I hope it's not
just another spanking." Johnny spoke with deep feeling. He had had
three spankings in three days.

The little bear looked sadly down his blue muzzle and made an odd deep
clicking noise in the back of his throat.

"Sure," Johnny said, as if answering the bear's clicks, "I want to go
to the planet-fall, but we just can't."

The bear clicked again.

"I know," Johnny went on, "I know the earthies would give you
chocolate. Besides I was going to have a job." Johnny's eyes began to
shine with tears he wouldn't let come. For the first time he would have
been working on the rocket field with the men instead of being on the
sidelines watching with the women and little kids.

The little bear patted him on the shoulder and clicked in low tones.

"All right, I won't be sad if you won't." Johnny shook the tears away
and tried to make a joke. "Gosh, Baba, you talk funny since _you know
what_." Johnny screwed up his face. "You're such a mushmouth now I can
hardly understand what you say."

Baba stuck out his long blue tongue.

This was Johnny's first secret. His little bear could talk!

Baba's clicks were really the words of his own language. Although he
couldn't make the sounds of the human voice, he could understand people
perfectly. Johnny could both understand what the bear said and speak in
the same clicking language.

This hadn't started out to be a secret at all. As a little boy, Johnny
thought everyone knew that those clicks were Baba's words. When Baba
came to live with him, the little bear cub already knew his own
language, but Johnny was just learning to talk. He learned human words
and click words at the same time, and thought everyone understood them.
When he was almost five, Johnny discovered to his amazement that no one
understood Baba but him. He then went proudly spreading the news that
he and his bear could talk together. When the first person laughed,
Johnny didn't mind. But when everybody laughed at him he began to get a
little mad. The crowning insult was being spanked for lying.

After that, Johnny decided if telling grownups that Baba could talk
only got him licked and laughed at, it might as well be a secret.
Besides, it was fun keeping it secret.

After a few minutes of waiting, Baba scurried along a branch and hung
by his black claws while he thrust his blue button nose through the
twigs and leaves. Johnny followed along another branch.

"Looks clear," Baba clicked. "Let's go!"

"Wait a minute." A quick movement in the distance caught Johnny's eye.
Four men came out of a long grey building marked Hunters Hotel.

Johnny was instantly alert. Colonists always kept a sharp eye on such
men. These were the dangerous marva hunters, whose only law was an
ato-tube gun.

Johnny swung to a branch where he could see better.

"What's up?" Baba clicked.

"Hunters!" clicked Johnny. "They're watching the guard change at the
old stockade."

"Oh."

The two looked at each other. Both knew what was in the stockade,
locked away in the big safe. Marva teeth and claws. Jewel claws and
teeth from grown-up bears just like the cub Baba!

"Come on, Baba." Johnny shinnied back to a place where branches forked
from the trunk of the meat tree. "We'd better check your nails 'fore we
go down."

After making sure no arrow-birds were feeding on the meat fruit, he
undid one of his armor zippers and pulled a bottle of black liquid and
a small brush from an inside pocket. Baba plopped down on his lap.

"Smile," Johnny commanded.

Baba pulled back his lips, showing black teeth. Johnny looked at them
carefully, grunted, and then picked up one of the little bear's paws.
All the nails seemed perfectly black, but on the tip of one of them
there sparkled a point of bright blue.

"Dang it, we gotta find something better than this nail polish. A
little climbing and it's all scraped off." Johnny scowled and dipped
the little brush in the bottle of black liquid. Carefully he painted
the tip of the claw. Looking over the little bear's paws he found four
more claws that showed blue. He painted them, too.

"Now don't climb down when we go, Baba! When the polish is dry, jump."

The little bear nodded.

This was Johnny's second secret. Everyone thought Baba still had his
valueless black baby claws and teeth. But, under the coating of black
nail polish, each of Baba's claws was really a precious blue jewel.

Johnny Watson owned a million dollar pet!



CHAPTER TWO

_The Treasure of Venus_


Yes, a million dollars, maybe even more, and all for one little bear!

Johnny sighed shakily at the thought and hugged his bear to him.

"What's the matter, Johnny?" Baba clicked, waving his claws to dry
them, like a lady getting ready for a party.

"You know," Johnny said, "I was just wishing for the good old days when
you had your baby black nails and your pretty squeaky voice, and we
didn't have to be afraid of anything."

"I'm sorry," Baba clicked. "I couldn't help it. I just grew." Baba
looked so sorrowfully down his nose that Johnny laughed, swung the
little bear up above his head and sat him down on a branch.

"You're a silly," Johnny said. "I know you couldn't help it. I was just
wishing."

Most of all he was wishing that bouncing bears didn't have jewels for
claws at all. But he knew that was a silly wish, too.

Grabbing a branch, Johnny swung himself back to a spot where he could
see the hunters. As he watched, more were arriving. About a mile away a
battered hunting tank came lumbering through the sliding doors of the
fifty-foot high concrete wall surrounding the colony. Outside those
walls, Johnny knew, lay the murderous animal life of the jungle planet.

Every living thing on Venus attacked men. Not just the huge rhinosaurs
and the horned river snakes, but even tiny scarlet apes and pigmy
antelope. Johnny knew the colonists and hunters would never have come
to such a savage place at all without the lure of tremendous wealth to
be made from bouncing bears' claws.

Harder than diamonds and just as clear, these magical jewels shone
soft blue in the night and were blindingly bright in the sun. But that
wasn't the only reason claws were valuable. A tiny piece of claw, or
even of the duller teeth, melted in thousands of tons of plastic, made
that plastic tough enough to be used for the hulls of rocket ships. Men
called it marvaplast.

With such a treasure beckoning, man could not stay away from Venus.
Rockets came hurtling across space filled with hunters. Traders
followed. After the traders came the colonists, led by Johnny's father
and mother.

Johnny sighed again.

"Don't be so sad," Baba clicked. "We've been real lucky so far."

"I suppose so." Johnny had to admit they'd both been lucky. Baba had
been lucky not to be killed as his mother and brother had been. And
Johnny had been lucky to get Baba at all. If there had been any other
way of raising the bear until his black baby claws turned blue, Johnny
never would have gotten him. All other young marva that had been
captured had died. They refused to eat or drink. They simply squatted
down and whimpered piteously until they died of what seemed to be
loneliness and heartbreak.

When Baba had been captured, Mrs. Watson brought him home, hoping to
save his life. Two-year-old Virgil Dare, as Johnny was called then, was
fascinated.

"Ba-ba," he had cried, trying to say bear, and had thrown his arms
around it. Surprisingly, the little bear had stopped whimpering and had
hugged Johnny back. A few minutes later it had eaten some diamond-wood
nuts.

After a week, the colonists had decided that the little bear would
live and he was taken away and put in a small diamond-wood cage for
safe keeping. The little bear promptly refused to eat and almost died,
whimpering over and over a sound that was just like "Johnny, Johnny,
Johnny." It was the only sound he could make beside the clicking noise.
He had to be sent back to the little boy. From then on Virgil Dare was
called Johnny.

He and Baba went everywhere together, even to school. As the years went
by they became closer than brothers and it was easier and easier to
forget that the blue cub was really colony property.

Then, Baba's voice had deepened; the black nails had gradually
loosened; and, all in one Venus night, during Baba's long sleep through
five earth days of darkness, the new nails had come in. Johnny had
a mixture of india ink and nail polish all ready. It had worked for
two months now. But the polish _did_ chip off and the claws had to be
painted over and over.

"Oh, Baba, why can't you be a sensible little bear and stay home where
people can't see you," Johnny said.

"You know why, Johnny," Baba clicked. "You're my kikac." This was a
word in the clicking language that meant friend, pet and brother, all
in one. Baba said kikacs should never be parted.

That was the reason Johnny could not go to see the rocket come. If he
went, Baba was sure to follow. Everyone, colonists and hunters, was
going to be at the field, and if one of them caught sight of a flash of
blue from Baba's claws, it would mean the end of Baba. The colonists
liked the little bear but the colony was very poor. They wouldn't think
long about killing him for his jewel claws. The hunters wouldn't think
at all. They would steal him as quick as the flight of an arrow-bird.

It was a very dangerous situation. But if he could keep from going to
the rocket field, Johnny had a plan. The plan depended on Johnny's
third secret.

Draped over his branch, Johnny kept his eye on the hunters. They just
seemed to be strolling about the settlement now--getting used to the
fact that they were out of the dangerous jungle where they lived in
concrete forts. When the door of the settlement headquarters opened
again, Johnny pulled his head back in among the leaves.

A grey haired man with heavy eyebrows stepped out of the door. It was
Jeb, the old hunter, one of the first men to come to Venus hunting
marva. Now he was one of the colony guards, and a very good friend of
Baba and Johnny.

When the old man came close enough for him to hear, Johnny crawled out
where he could be seen, called down to him, and waved.

"Hi, Jeb--whatcha doing?"

The old man stopped in his tracks, looked carefully around him, then
cocked an eye up into the tree. He frowned, his grey eyebrows making a
V over his deep-set eyes. He shook his head in disapproval, but said
nothing until he was directly under the tree.

"What I'm doin' isn't important," Jeb said in a gruff voice, looking
up at Johnny. "But what are _you_ a-doin' up that tree when you're
supposed to be doin' book work?"

"Aw," Johnny started, "I just...."

"You just made your paw boiling mad, that's what," Jeb interrupted,
"locking the teacher in that way." He snorted.

"Did Dad say anything about keeping me away from the rocket landing?"
Johnny demanded anxiously.

"Nup," answered Jeb. "Cap'n Thompson wanted him to, but he says no,
that you worked real hard all year. But I'm warning you. You better get
on inside that school house, unless you want a good tannin'. Your ma's
out lookin' for you with fire in her eye." He started to walk away.

"Hey, wait a minute Jeb," Johnny called.

"Well?"

"I was watching those hunters. They're sure interested in the stockade.
You better tell Cap'n Thompson."

"We know they're interested. I don't think they'll do anything. That
old reprobate of a Trader Harkness'll keep 'em in line. _You'd_ better
watch out, though. I might tell Cap'n Thompson where he could find him
a hooky-player." With a fierce snort the old man was on his way.

Johnny smiled. He knew Jeb would never tell where he was hiding, in
spite of the gruff warnings. Jeb was a nice old fellow. He'd shot his
marva years before, gone down to earth, spent his millions in a few
wild years and returned to Venus dead broke. In twenty years hunting he
had never made another kill. Marva were as hard to find as they were
valuable.

"Guess you just weren't quite bad enough!" Baba clicked to Johnny. "My
claws are dry. Let's go before your mother finds us."

Johnny crawled down to the little bear.

"We gotta think of something else bad to do. It's that or just plain
refuse to go. But then they'd think something was funny, sure as
shooting!"

"There's lots of ripe meat fruit in the tree," Baba clicked, and
grinned. "Maybe you could drop one on Captain Thompson!"

"Oh boy!" Johnny exclaimed in excitement. Then he frowned. "Aw, he
probably won't come by here again."

"Somebody will!" Baba said. "Let's keep an eye out."

The two of them posted themselves in different parts of the tree and
watched for possible targets for ripe meat fruit. No one seemed to
want to walk under the tree. Finally Johnny caught sight of a short
fat bald-headed man and a tall redhaired man leaving the Hunters Hotel
together. One was Trader Harkness, who all but ran the colony, and the
other, his bodyguard, Rick Saunders. They seemed to be headed for the
trading post and would have to pass directly under Johnny's tree to get
there. Baba saw them at the same time.

"How about Trader Harkness?" the little bear clicked. "Do you think
he'd be a good target?"

"A kind of dangerous one," Johnny clicked back, his heart racing. "But
where's that meat fruit?"

There wasn't any question about his getting into enough trouble this
time. He just hoped he wouldn't get into too much trouble!

Trader Harkness was a very important man, but Johnny didn't like him.
He had started as a hunter and then had turned trader. By killing off
most of his opposition, he had become the only important trader on
Venus. If he hadn't wanted a walled settlement to protect his goods,
the colony might have failed. A hunter would stop at nothing to get
what he needed and the colony had had more than one of its tanks
ambushed and stolen to hunt marva.

A red, ripe meat fruit was not hard to find. Johnny wrenched one from
the branch and held it carefully by its long stem. The size of a small
melon, green meat fruit must be cooked before eating. Once ripe, their
thin skins are plump full of a sweet strong-smelling paste--a natural
high protein baby food.

"There's plenty more," Johnny clicked softly. "Think we ought to get
Rick, too?"

"He's too good a friend," Baba clicked back. "Besides he might not give
me any more chocolate."

Johnny agreed with a laugh, and pushed leaves aside so he could see.
He shivered. Below him came the most powerful man on Venus--a short,
immensely fat man, who waddled forward rather than walked. On earth he
would have been laughed at, but on Venus he was feared and respected.
He liked that respect and demanded it.

Johnny swallowed hard. The man he was going to drop the fruit on had
once been ambushed by five hunters--none of them had survived.



CHAPTER THREE

_A Dangerous Target_


As the two men moved closer to Johnny's and Baba's meat tree, they
appeared to be arguing about something. The trader glittered as he
waddled forward. His armor was of the clearest, brightest marvaplast
plastic, and his fingers were studded with marva jewel rings. They
stopped just a few feet away from the tree. Johnny could tell the
trader was angry. Though he was keeping himself under tight control,
his heavy jaw was set and his little black eyes flashed under his
smooth, hairless brow.

"I'll put it to you straight, Rick," the trader's heavy voice rumbled
up to Johnny. "I couldn't stay in business a year if I did as you asked
me to."

The redhaired bodyguard was flushed. "Well, then, I guess I'll have
to do it," he said in a tight, defiant voice. "If you won't warn the
colonists, I will."

Harkness' jaw tightened. "Better think it over, Rick." His voice was
still controlled and level. He gripped Rick's shoulder with a pudgy,
jeweled hand. "Remember, those hunters trusted me. They figure my
bodyguard wouldn't do anything I told him not to. If you warn the
colonists, I'll have to make it clear you were on your own." His voice
held a threat.

"What do you mean?" Rick demanded, pushing the hand from his shoulder.

"The least I would do would be to fire you back to Earth," he said
ominously.

Johnny drew in his breath. He knew how much Rick wanted to stay on
Venus. The trader got his bodyguards by paying their way to Venus. He
agreed to stake them for hunting if they did good work for a year.
Otherwise they were sent back to Earth. It was said that men who
crossed Trader Harkness never made it alive.

"I'm sorry, Trader," Rick said, "but I'll take my chances. If you don't
like what I do, I'll join the colony."

"I should have guessed it," the trader said contemptuously, "when you
began hanging around that worthless Jeb." The trader paused and then
the threat in his voice was no longer veiled. "Believe me, Saunders,
join that colony and you'll regret it." The heavy man turned slowly and
moved toward his trading post.

Fascinated, Johnny had all but forgotten the meat fruit in his hand.
The trader was almost past him when he remembered. With a little toss
Johnny let go of the juicy fruit. For an instant he thought he had
thrown too far, but the trader waddled forward just right.

With a sickening plop the red fruit exploded on the top of Trader
Harkness' shining headglobe. Dripping purple gobs splattered through
the air slits, smearing the stone-bald head. A strong sweet smell
floated up to Johnny. For a moment Harkness stood perfectly still in
shocked amazement.

Then the tremendous man began to dance about in sheer rage and
discomfort.

"Water!" he yelled, his rumbling voice rising to a shrill cry. "Get
some water!" He was bouncing up and down in an odd way, his clenched
fists hitting the air. All his dignity was gone.

Johnny stared open-mouthed, awed by his own daring. Rick Saunders stool
still a second, and then broke into a guffaw.

"I tell you, get me some water!" Trader Harkness roared. Three or four
hunters and Jeb, the old guard, came running up. They took one look and
they, too, broke into laughter. Jeb was carrying a fire bucket.

"Never thought I'd ever get this chance, Will," Jeb cackled, and
sloshed a bucket of water over Harkness. The water splashed on the bald
head and washed the bits of fruit down the trader's neck and under his
armor. The big man stood there dumb with anger.

Johnny's throat ached with the laughs he'd kept back. He glanced up to
the branch where Baba sat. The little bear's fur was shivering with
fun. His eyes opened wide, and with a whir of clicks meaning, "Watch
me, Johnny," he leaped into space. He kicked up a flurry of dust as he
bounced to the ground and up to his feet in front of the trader and the
other men. By this time the crowd had grown to a dozen men.

Baba stopped a moment to make sure everyone was watching him. Then
the round little bear began a dancing, bouncing waddle up and down.
He clenched his forepaws into little fists and beat the air. His face
was screwed up into a mighty frown. It was a perfect imitation of the
trader. The men's laughter swelled to a roar.

"Rick!" Harkness' voice rumbled out, tight and cold with rage. "Shoot
it!"

The laughter stopped suddenly, almost as if it had been switched off.
It had been so long since anyone had made fun of the trader that the
man had lost his head.

"I can't do that!" Rick's lean brown face was horrified. Then he became
angry. "I wouldn't shoot a kid's pet!"

"Well, I will!" Moving with more speed than it seemed a large man could
muster, the trader's hand snaked toward his holster.

Baba saw the joke had gone too far. He leaped into the air, came down
with a bounce and shot up the tree beside Johnny before the trader
could level the gun at him.

Johnny's mouth went dry. Already the trader was searching the tree for
Baba, his pistol up, the safety switch off. The men stood in shocked
silence.

"He's right beside me, Mr. Harkness!" Johnny shouted, and crawled into
full view. "C'mon, Baba, get on my shoulder. He can't shoot _me_." As
Johnny came into full view, the trader's face grew angrier yet. "Baba
didn't drop that meat fruit, Mr. Harkness," Johnny said firmly. "I did."

"Kid's got guts," one of the hunters muttered.

As Johnny slid down to the ground, he saw his mother pushing her way
through the group of men. Her lips were tight together, her face white.

"You're going to get it," Baba clicked. "Here come your pa and Captain
Thompson, too."

Mrs. Watson strode straight up to Trader Harkness, her eyes blazing.

"You ought to be ashamed!" she said to the man. Then she turned on
Johnny. "And so had you, young man. No planet-fall for you!"

Johnny's heart leaped. He'd done it at last!

"Now, Mr. Harkness," Johnny's mother's voice was very low, "what Baba
and Johnny did was very wrong. I apologize for them. And Johnny will
certainly be punished. Nevertheless, I never want to hear of you or
anyone else threatening Baba again. Is that clear?"

Taken aback, the trader nodded.

"That goes for the whole family, Mr. Harkness." Johnny's father stepped
forward straight and tall and put his arm around his wife's shoulder.
"Not to mention the colony," he went on. "We have a pretty big stake in
that bear."

The fat, short trader seemed suddenly as cold as ice. His heavy jaw
thrust out and his little black eyes looked straight at Johnny's father.

"Valuable or not, I don't have to put up with insults. Not from those
two or any of you. If that's the kind of thanks I get for ten years of
working with you, I'm through. You can fight your own battles now." He
jerked his head around toward Rick. "C'mon!"

"I'm staying," the young man said.

"All right. Stay." The smooth bald head swiveled back to the Watson
family. "I told this man I'd fire him back to Earth. But let him stay.
After the hunters have picked your bones, I'll take care of him." He
turned, and with heavy footsteps walked away. His slow waddle did not
seem funny now. The hunters in the crowd stood for a moment, and then
followed him.

Captain Thompson addressed Johnny's father. "That sounded like a
declaration of war."

Johnny's father nodded grimly. "I think our colony is getting too big
for him," he said slowly. "He's been looking for a way to break with us
and Johnny gave him just the kind of excuse he needed."

"Yep," said Jeb. "But don't be too hard on Johnny. Maybe it's just as
good it happened now when we got marva claws to buy us some extra fire
power."

"You might not have those claws long enough to do any good," Rick
Saunders cut in. "I was just going to warn you. Four hunters just asked
Harkness in on a plan to rob the stockade. The trader turned 'em down,
but...."

"Which four hunters?" Captain Thompson broke in.

A shadow passed over Rick's face. "I don't know which ones." He looked
at Mr. Watson eagerly. "I want to help, though. I'm hoping you'll take
me on as a guard."

"We can sure use you." Jeb stepped up and slapped the young man on the
back.

Mr. Watson appeared to consider for a moment. He looked Rick up and
down, and then glanced at Captain Thompson, who nodded.

"All right, Rick," he said. "You go on over to the guard barracks and
Jeb'll check you out. When you're through, report to Captain Thompson."

Rick Saunders grinned. Old Jeb threw an arm around his shoulder and
they walked off together.

When they were out of hearing Captain Thompson turned to Johnny's
father. "I don't know if I like this," he said. "Harkness may have
planted that man on us. I'm certainly not going to let him get anywhere
near our claws. I'll keep an eye on Saunders personally."

"But, gosh," Johnny broke in, "I heard him arg...."

"I think, Johnny," said his father sternly, "you've said and done
enough for one day. The trader is a proud man and by making a fool of
him you've given the colony a deadly enemy." He turned back to Captain
Thompson. "We'd better change our plans, Captain. It looks like we
should double, maybe even triple the guard...."



CHAPTER FOUR

_The Third Secret_


Three hours later, boy and bear were trudging through the marshberry
fields toward New Plymouth Rock. Johnny's bottom was still warm from
his recent session with a strap. The boy was in full armor. A leather
harness was strapped to the little bear's furry blue back.

The last 'copter had long since left for the rocket field and, except
for guards, the settlement was nearly empty. Because of this Johnny
had been forbidden to leave his house. A lone person without a gun was
supposed to be just what the arrow-birds were looking for. But Johnny
wasn't afraid. He had his third secret.

Johnny reached up and carefully picked one of the apple-sized
marshberries for himself. It was a rich ripe yellow color.

"They are just right this year," Johnny said to Baba.

The little bear nodded gravely. Both he and Johnny had worked hard in
those fields. Everyone did. Marshberries prevented a disease called
colds that Johnny had never had, and were the only crop the colonists
could send back to Earth. They had to be ripe for the yearly rocket or
a year's work was wasted.

Johnny trudged on under the weight of his armor while Baba bounced
along beside him. A mile away loomed New Plymouth Rock. The huge
mesa-like rock made up one corner of the settlement's barrier against
the animals. The thick concrete walls of the settlement, topped with
live wires, were joined to the rock on two sides. On its summit, stood
a stunted diamond-wood tree. This was Johnny's and Baba's destination.

Baba jumped high in the air, made himself into a ball and bounded on
ahead.

"Hurry up!" he clicked.

"Hungry for nuts, eh?" Johnny asked.

"Crunchy ones," the little bear clicked back, turning a somersault in
the air. "Come on, hurry!"

Johnny made a face at Baba. "Bear," he said, "you're certainly getting
bossy lately."

Baba did another somersault, bounced, and landed on Johnny's shoulder
with a thump, almost knocking the boy down. He put his nose in Johnny's
ear.

"I'm a grown-up," he clicked in heavy tones. "Hear my beautiful new
voice?"

Johnny hunched his shoulders hard, spilling Baba to the ground. Then
he grabbed him by the harness, and stood up. While Baba squeaked
piteously, Johnny swung him round and round. At the top of one of the
swings he let go, tossing Baba high into the air.

"Help! Help!" clicked Baba, beating paws into the air, and screwing up
his face. Just before he hit the ground he made himself into a ball. He
hit with a smack and bounced higher than Johnny had thrown him. Both of
them were laughing when he stopped bouncing.

"Gosh, I wish we could have done that for the Earthies!" Johnny said

The two fell silent, both thinking of the fun they were missing at the
rocket field.

They were coming to the end of the marshberry fields. Before them were
the great boulders surrounding New Plymouth Rock. Johnny had made the
harness Baba was wearing for forays among the boulders--forbidden
forays, for arrow-birds nested there. Baba, with his strong nails and
bouncy body, could go straight up the face of rocks. He was small
enough to ride on Johnny's shoulder, but he was powerful too. By
hanging on to Baba's harness, Johnny could go straight up and over
large boulders, armor and all.

"Let's go right by the nests," Baba clicked. "I want to be sure, right
off."

"O. K., worry bear, you lead the way." Johnny began to chant,
"Grandpapa Baba sat in a corner, 'fraid that his shadow would burn in
the fire."

Baba bounced over the smaller rocks in the way. Johnny, weighed down
with headglobe and armor, made his way slowly over them and between
them. Baba helped Johnny over one steep place and then stayed beside
him. It was hard going and Johnny's clothes were drenched with sweat
under his armor before they clambered down the last boulder and on to
a little flat place. They were already high above the level of the
settlement. On one side they were surrounded by high red boulders. On
the other side loomed the sheer cliff of New Plymouth Rock.

Far above them, from many round holes in the rock, came strange
squeaking sounds. Here were the arrow-bird nests! Johnny was deathly
afraid. He'd seen what an arrow-bird could do when it shot itself at a
man.

"Get ready, Baba," he whispered.

"Those are just babies up there," Baba clicked. "No danger yet!"

"Let's climb up and get rid of them!" Johnny suggested. "Then there
won't be any here to...."

"No!" Baba interrupted.

"But why? I'd be protected by my armor and...."

"No!" Baba clicked more firmly. There was a stern but puzzled
expression on the little bear's face. "The arrow-birds are my
friend-pets, I must not hurt them." He used a word in the clicking
language which meant both friend and pet. It was something like the
word "kikac," which he called Johnny--"friend-pet-brother."

"All right," Johnny said, "but I don't understand."

"You mustn't harm them, either," Baba said. "Remember, I brought you
here. Otherwise you wouldn't know where the nests were. Even if you
just tell the grownups and they kill them--well, it would be wrong. I
would have--"

Baba was interrupted by a high whistling, shrieking noise, and the
whir of wings. So quick you couldn't have followed his motions, Johnny
squatted down, curled his feet under him, thrust his hands and forearms
into special armor pockets. Six strangely shaped creatures were diving
straight at him.

Arrow-birds! A dirty greenish yellow, they were long and slender,
over a foot long. One could not tell where their heads left off and
their necks began. They were shaped like long arrow points. Their
gossamer-thin wings were a blur of motion.

Johnny braced himself so that if they hit him he would not be knocked
over. In a fraction of a second they dived within fifty feet of him.

"Go away friend-pets," Baba clicked, as loudly and as fast as he could.
"Go away! Bother us not!" He repeated his cry in a kind of chant, so
rapidly it was almost a trill.

The shrieking whistle changed to a low hum. The arrow-birds pulled out
of their dive. They floated in mid-air, their wings awhir. One had
almost reached Johnny and was hovering in the air only a couple of
yards away. It bent its neck out of arrow position and looked straight
at him. Its little purple eyes glittered against the yellow green skin
of its head.

Then, like a flash, they were gone.

"Whew!" Johnny breathed. He took his hands out of his armor and stood
up. He turned around just in time to see the flight of arrow-birds
crawl into the holes in the rocks that were their nests. This was
Johnny's third secret.

The arrow-birds obeyed Baba!

Right after Baba's voice had changed and his jewel claws had come in,
the two had made this astonishing discovery. They had stumbled upon
this nesting place, and the arrow-birds, frightened for their nests,
had slashed down at Johnny for the first time in his life. But Baba had
cried out desperately in his new deep clicks for them to go away--and
they had. It was like magic.

Staring up at the sheer cliff, Johnny was excited, but afraid. Such
a climb was too dangerous to do just for the fun of it, but Johnny
thought he might have a way of saving Baba. Even when they were much
younger the little bear had been willing to leave Johnny in order to
climb for diamond-wood nuts fresh from the tree. It was the ideal place
for Baba to hide. If Johnny could climb up with him they would be able
to visit often-and Baba was so fond of fresh nuts he might be willing
to use it for a hideout.

Johnny hadn't told Baba about his plan. If they could make it to the
top he would tell the bear then.

The high shrieking whistle began again.

Johnny suddenly had an idea.

"Friend-pets, friend-pets, bother me not. Bother me not," Johnny
clicked quickly, shaping deep clicks just like Baba's in the back of
his throat.

As the birds half-pulled out of their dive, the little bear started to
speak.

"No, let me keep trying," Johnny clicked. "Friend-pets, friend-pets,
bother me not."

At this, the birds hovered about him making squeaking noises, their
heads still in striking position.

"They're puzzled," Baba clicked. "They sense something's wrong. They
expect to be shot at by people. I'll tell them to go and it will be all
right. In a second they could kill you."

"I've still got my armor," said Johnny. "Maybe if I tell them to come
here they'll trust me." Johnny spoke the last in English and the words
sent the birds fluttering farther away. They seemed to be on the point
of making another dive.

Johnny was pale under his headglobe, but clicked, "Friend-pets, come to
your friend."

The flying lizards slowly quieted, squeaking among themselves. Their
wings humming, they hovered closer and closer. There were five of them.
Finally their heads snapped out of arrow position. One of them hovered
in very close.

"Come to me, friend-pet," Johnny clicked to it, and held out his hand.

The creature, watching him carefully with its little purple eyes,
floated even nearer, its wings humming. Very gingerly it came to a
perch on his hand. Its claws were cold and it smelled faintly of meat
fruit.

Johnny breathed deep. He was the only human being who had ever made
friends with an arrow-bird.

Slowly, while the other birds hovered in the air about him, Johnny drew
in his hand and stroked the bird on its folded wings. It shivered under
his touch. But, as he did it no harm, the other birds came closer and
lit on his arms and his shoulders. One peered into his face. Another
poked the air slits of Johnny's headglobe with its sharp bill.

"Baba! Baba!" Johnny cried out. "Do you see this? Do you think I could
sneak one home with us?"

"Your people would kill him, Johnny," Baba clicked. "Go away,
friend-pet," he clicked to the arrow-bird.

The bird looked at Johnny.

"Go, friend-pets," Johnny clicked regretfully to the five birds about
him. With a flash of wings they were gone.

"Gosh," said Johnny. "Gosh!" He unzipped and wriggled out of his armor.
"Baba, I don't _have_ to wear armor ever any more. Do you understand? I
can just walk around like you do!" The words fairly bubbled out of him.
Baba was quiet for a moment, frowning.

"Johnny," he clicked, "I've done something wrong. Something very bad.
I'm not sure why, but I just know it's wrong. Those are my friend-pets,
not yours. If _you_ use the word 'friend-pet' to them, that means you
can never hurt them. You must always help them. But they will always
try to kill your mother and father. It is all mixed up."

"Gee, Baba," Johnny was frowning now, too. "C'mon, let's try the climb
and forget it." From one of the armor straps he unhooked a flashlight
he always brought along for exploring caves. He fastened it to his belt.

A few moments later the two friends were looking up at the bare rock
face that extended three hundred feet straight up.

"Golly, Baba, do you really think you can take us up _there_?" Johnny
asked.

"If you can hold on, I can take you," Baba said from Johnny's shoulder.

"Start up!" Johnny yelled. Baba leaped up onto the wall of rock, his
claws cutting into it. Johnny grasped the harness and hooked his toes
into a crack in the stone.



CHAPTER FIVE

_A Mystery Indeed!_


By the time Baba and Johnny had gone fifty feet up the cliff, Johnny
felt as if his arms were about to be pulled from his shoulders. The boy
helped push with his feet, but that took only a little weight from his
arms. Below him there was nothing but boulders and sharp jagged rocks.
In spite of that danger, he felt that he could hardly keep hold of the
harness. Sweat poured down into his eyes.

"Hurry, Baba," he said through clenched teeth.

"Ledge soon," the little bear clicked. As he speeded up his climb he
slapped his claws deep into the rock, making sharp clapping noises
that echoed among the boulders below. He stopped short and Johnny saw
a place where the rock jutted out a few inches. Gratefully he felt
something solid beneath his feet. He couldn't put his whole foot down,
but he could rest his arms a little.

"Whew," Johnny said, "doesn't the ledge get wider?"

"In a minute," Baba answered. Crabwise, with Johnny still hanging on,
Baba worked along the ledge, which slowly widened until Johnny could
stand alone. They were now on the jungle side of the rock.

A few feet farther on, there was a narrow slit in the rock face that
widened into a small cave. Deep in the cave's darkness Johnny heard
the squeaking of young arrow-birds. As he crept inside he whipped his
flashlight from his belt. Purple eyes glittered at him in the circle
of its light. There was a flutter of wings. Johnny and Baba started to
click at the same time. The fluttering stopped and the birds' heads
disappeared into their nests. The cave ended in a pile of large stones.
Johnny sat down.

"Boy, do my arms ache!" Johnny said. "How about you, Baba?"

"I can climb," Baba answered. "But can you hold on? We have far to go."

"Aren't there any more ledges?" Johnny asked.

"Small ones," Baba answered. "None are wide like this one. Do you still
want to go up?"

"Maybe we could tie me on some way," Johnny said. "Mountain climbers do
it that way."

In a moment the boy and the bear were trying to see what they could
work out. Finally Johnny had Baba use the razor sharp point of one of
his claws to cut a pair of long thin straps from the wide ones on the
harness. These they tied to Johnny's belt and then to Baba's harness
again.

When the straps were finished, Johnny felt rested and they started out
of the cave. They were stopped by the sight below them.

At the foot of the rock there was a wide space of cleared ground,
and then the jungle stretched out. About a half mile away some large
greyish beasts were breaking out of the undergrowth.

"Rhinosaurs!" Johnny shouted, pointing. "Golly, a whole herd of them!"
There were more than thirty of the huge grey-blue saurians. Even at
that distance they could hear the low thunder of the gigantic hooves.
The beasts stayed close to the brush, knocking down small trees as they
came. Johnny knew that heavy ato-tubes were trained on the rhinosaurs
from the guard towers. The guards in the gate towers would have a full
view of them. Johnny also knew that unless the beasts began to charge
the walls, the guards would not fire. If they did, the whole herd might
charge. Topped as they were with electric wires, the heavy fifty-foot
high walls would be hard to breach. But rhinosaurs had smashed those
walls once--before they were thickened and electrified.

"Remember when they attacked and killed a lot of colonists?"

"I remember," Baba clicked. "Your people killed them, too. These
straps...."

Johnny nodded. Because it was made of the skin of an animal the
colonists had killed, he had had a hard time getting Baba to wear that
harness.

"Let's go!" Johnny said.

This time the going was not so hard for Johnny, though they climbed
much farther before he and Baba could rest. The next ledge they reached
was not large enough to let them sit. Baba had to hang to the rock, but
it didn't seem to tire him.

Three more rests, and slowly but surely they were reaching the top. At
the last rest Baba clicked to Johnny in warning.

"The rock is getting softer. If my claws tear away from the rock, just
relax and fall with me. I'll grab again further down."

"All right," he said.

Johnny didn't dare look down. He had been climbing with Baba since he
was three, but never this high before.

They had gone up only a few more feet when Baba's claws began to slip.
Johnny let himself go limp just in case anything happened. Very slowly
Baba's claws slipped down the rock. Then they caught hold again.

"We will have to move to the side," Baba clicked.

Johnny didn't answer. It was up to Baba. The little bear scuttled
crabwise along the side until he found rock that didn't scale off. Then
up they went again. Finally there was a ledge. The two scrambled onto
it. Above the ledge was a gap in the rock, some boulders--and they were
on the top!

A faint wind was blowing, and Johnny could hear it sing through the top
of the stunted diamond-wood tree growing on the summit.

The top of New Plymouth Rock was flat, a hundred feet or more wide,
but with many jutting boulders. Here and there grew small bushes and
patches of grass. The diamond-wood tree sprang directly from the bare
rock.

With shaking fingers Johnny untied the straps and threw himself down on
a patch of green. As he lay there, his breath rustling the grass, he
heard Baba pattering about and wondered how the little bear had so much
energy left.

"Johnny," Baba clicked, "do you want some berries?" Johnny looked up to
see the little bear holding some clear, almost transparent red berries
in his paw. The colonists called them antelope berries because they
grew mainly in antelope country. At that moment Johnny realized he was
very thirsty.

"Thanks, Baba!" He crushed the berries with his teeth and felt the
sour-sweet juice trickle down his throat. He suddenly felt thrilled
with triumph. He was now where no other human had ever been before!

Johnny was just raising his head to look around when he heard the
patter of tiny hooves behind him.

"Look, Johnny!" Baba clicked.

Johnny turned. Running toward them was a herd of the tiniest antelope
he had ever seen. They were barely six inches high, their curled horns
almost as tiny as needles. Head down, they charged directly at him.
Johnny jumped to his feet.

"Friend-pets," Baba clicked gently, "bother us not." The tiny
creatures wheeled about and started back in the direction from which
they had come.

"Oh, Baba, don't send them away," Johnny said. Then, remembering his
success with the arrow-birds, he himself clicked in a low tone, "Come
here, friend-pets. Come here."

The antelope with the longest curled blue horns stopped, turned slowly
around and pawed the ground, his long neck arched. It was just seven
inches high. Johnny laughed. The regular antelope were seven _feet_
high, but otherwise looked exactly the same as these.

Johnny squatted down and, as he moved, the herd turned and ran, making
little whinnying noises. Then they wheeled and returned. The leader
pranced closer and closer and came to a halt within a foot of Johnny.
It was soft blue all over, marked with spots of deeper purple. Its
tiny hooves were blue black, and its eyes glistened with deep purple
highlights. Johnny reached out both his hands and laid them before the
little creature.

"Come," Johnny clicked. Trembling, the little antelope pawed the grass.
Then with mincing steps he came forward and placed his forefeet on one
hand, his hind feet on the other. Very slowly Johnny raised him from
the ground. The small hooves were sharp and dug into the palms of his
hands. The little animal's eyes widened and it snorted in fear. Johnny,
afraid it might fall, set his hands back on the ground.

"Go, friend-pet," he clicked. With a bound the creature returned to his
herd. Together the antelope leaped high over a small boulder and were
gone behind a clump of bushes.

Johnny looked up to see Baba watching him steadily. The little bear
looked at Johnny the same way as when he had spoken to the arrow-birds.

"Friend-pet-brother Johnny," Baba clicked, "I am sure I am doing wrong.
First the arrow-birds and now the antelopes are your friends. But they
are your people's enemies."

"Not the antelopes!" Johnny said. "They fight us some, but we don't
ever bother them except for meat."

"Your people kill them," Baba said, as if that settled matters. "Now
you can't. You've said they were your friends."

"Is that some kind of rule?" Johnny asked.

"You said they were your friends," Baba repeated. "You help your
friends and your friends help you. That is the law and will be the law
as the trees stand. Between friend and friend there is no parting more
than the fingers of a hand." Baba said this in a sort of sing-song of
clicks, like the song of a bird. It was something like a poem.

"Baba," Johnny asked, "how do you know all this? You've never talked
this way before." Johnny squatted down before the little bear, whose
face was screwed up into a puzzled frown.

"I guess I've always known it," Baba clicked. "But it just came back to
me. I don't remember much before I came to live with you, Johnny. But
I do remember being in a high tree. There was one like me whom I loved
very much, and she sang the song I just sang to you. I remember going
to sleep while she sang it. It is a true song, too."

"Would you sing it again?" Johnny asked.

The little bear began again:

    "You help your friends and your friends help you.
    It is the law,
    And will be the law as the trees stand.
    Between friend and friend there is no parting
    More than the fingers of a hand."

This time the little bear really sang, trilling the clicks to a tune
like the roll of a mockingbird's song. Johnny felt very strange. He
patted Baba on the head and then stood up.

"I think I understand," he said, and looked out over the surrounding
countryside, thinking about the little antelope he had just held in his
hands.

"I'm hungry," the little bear clicked. With a jump and a bounce he
started for the stunted diamond-wood tree.

"Baba," Johnny called. The little bear bounced back. "Aren't there
plenty of those nuts here for you to live on? I mean, enough to feed
you regularly if you lived here all the time?"

The little bear nodded yes, but frowned.

"I want to live with you, Johnny," he clicked.

"I know, Baba. But you're in danger. I hoped that if I could show you
I'd be able to visit you, maybe you'd stay."

At the unhappiness on the little bear's face, Johnny hurried on. "Look,
Baba, I can't make you stay here. But somebody's going to find out
about your nails if you stay with me. If you live here, I could come up
and visit you when the nights come, and if we were lucky, I could see
you most every wake-time down by the rocks...." Johnny's voice trailed
off. Baba was looking unhappier and unhappier.

"I want to live with you," Baba repeated. "Remember what the song says
about parting. You stay here with me."

It was Johnny's turn to look unhappy. He didn't want to leave his
father and mother, any more than Baba wanted to leave him. The hard
climb was all for nothing.

"I can't, Baba. You know that," he said sadly.

"I can't either," Baba said.

Johnny continued arguing for a long time but it did no good. Baba
wanted to be with Johnny: there wasn't anything more to say.

"I'm still hungry!" clicked the little bear, plaintively. Then, with a
bounce, Baba was up and away. The little bear was crazier about fresh
diamond-wood nuts than anything else, even chocolate.

Johnny felt sad and confused. He got up. Below him stretched the sweet
green lands of Venus. The hard angles of the walls and the squat grey
buildings of the settlements were somehow out of keeping with the rest
of the land.

There was an almost park-like look about the jungle from this height.
In the distance the towering groves of diamond-wood trees, where the
marva lived, shone blue green against the light green clouds that
were the skies of Venus. Between the blue groves of diamond-wood were
the meadow lands, soft and rolling. At the edges of the meadows were
the lower and darker green meat trees, where the saber-tooth leopards
stalked. The land was laced with rivers that shone in the green light.

It was all so beautiful, and so deadly. In a few hours evening would
begin--almost three Earth days of twilight. Venus turned so slowly that
there was a whole Earth week each of daylight and dark. But of course
people had to sleep and work by Earth days. The thick permanent clouds
surrounding Venus glowed with light hours after sundown, making the
twilight last and last.

Beyond the marshes was the sea--filled, too, with savage life,
flying crocodiles who made nests of the bones of their prey, great
dinosaur-like monsters and shark-snakes. But none of these dared come
onto the land, for the land animals fought them as fiercely as they
fought man.

Except for Baba, all the animals on Venus were determined to kill
Johnny's people. And he had just been making friends with some of those
enemies. He felt strange, as if he were being a traitor to his own
kind. Johnny didn't like that feeling. Suddenly he thought of Baba
living among people and wondered if the little bear felt the same way.

Johnny turned away from the edge of the cliff and kicked a stone. He
began to wander over the top of New Plymouth Rock, peering into bushes
and piles of boulders. He passed near the antelopes grazing on some
grass. They lifted their heads and whinnied, but went on grazing.
Johnny liked that. Beside a pile of small boulders, he found some
arrow-bird nests. He spoke to the birds and all was well.

"That's an odd pile of boulders," Johnny muttered to himself. It didn't
look just right, somehow. He pushed one of the stones and it rolled
down almost to his foot. There was a dark empty space beyond it. He
took his flashlight from his belt and shined it down into the opening.

He almost dropped the flashlight.

The light revealed the shape of a bouncing bear, a marva, just like
Baba!

"Baba!" Johnny turned and yelled, "Come here, quick!"

When he looked back, the bear in the opening had not moved. It was not
blue, but the color of the rock. Johnny stopped shaking. The opening
was the entrance into a cave, and on the wall of the cave was carved
the figure of a bear he had thought was alive.

But he was sure that the bear had been blue!



CHAPTER SIX

_Inside New Plymouth Rock_


Johnny and Baba excitedly started clearing away the pile of boulders
and stones from the mouth of the mysterious cave. Immediately the
arrow-birds began flying around, their heads snapping into striking
position.

"They don't like us doing this," Baba clicked. "They don't like it at
all." He turned to the fluttering birds. "Bother us not! Bother us
not!" he repeated. The birds retreated, but hovered in the air not far
off.

"Go away!" Johnny clicked. The birds squeaked among themselves and went
a little farther away. "I don't understand," Johnny said. "We aren't
bothering their nests." He and Baba each picked up a stone and carried
it away from the cave opening. Johnny watched the arrow-birds from the
corners of his eyes. They dived in closer.

"Go away," came a firm, deep click. The birds stopped in mid-air and
then were gone.

"Gosh," Johnny said to Baba, "you sure made them go that time."

Baba's eyes opened wide.

"I didn't say anything," he clicked.

The bear and the boy looked at one another, puzzled, and then into the
opening. The bear cut in the stone was all they could see.

"Come on, Baba!" Johnny rushed to the opening and knocked down a few
more stones. Baba pushed them farther away. In a few minutes of hard
work the opening was big enough for Johnny to squeeze through. Around
the edge of the cave, the rock was carved with the shapes of many
animals. The floor slanted sharply downward.

"Hurry, Johnny," Baba clicked anxiously. "He may have gone away." The
little bear's eyes were shining with eagerness.

Johnny's heart sank. Baba had not seen another live jewel bear since
he had been captured. He had never seemed interested. But now he was
quivering with excitement. If they found marva, maybe Baba would want
to stay with them! Johnny wanted Baba to be safe, but he didn't want to
lose him for always.

The little bear was already scurrying down the steep slope. Without
stopping to think of danger ahead, Johnny plunged after him. The
ceiling was just high enough for him to stand upright. Flashing his
light into the darkness, Johnny saw that the cave was a long passageway
that curved down into the heart of the great rock.

Soon they were too deep inside for any light to reach them from the
mouth of the cave. Except for the beam of Johnny's flashlight, they
were surrounded by complete darkness. The air was musty and cool and
their footfalls echoed, making scarey hollow noises.

"Stop!" Johnny said. He held his fingers to his lips. His words echoed
and re-echoed in front of them. Then there was almost silence. A soft
padding and clicking sound came from far in the distance. It was the
same kind of noise Baba's feet and claws made on stone.

The two started out again at a half run. The slope was almost too
steep, and Johnny had to slide to a halt to keep from falling. Baba
went bouncing along ahead and out of sight. As the slope became steeper
yet, Johnny had to slide forward carefully. He stumbled and went down
on his back. His flashlight slipped from his hand and went rolling on
down the passage and out of sight.

In a second it was pitch black.

"Baba," Johnny yelled at the top of his lungs. His only answer was his
own voice echoing down the long corridor. He pushed himself up into
a sitting position and slid on forward on the seat of his pants, his
heart beating rapidly.

A few very long minutes later, he saw a light shining in the distance.
It was Baba, the flashlight in his paw.

"Hurry, Johnny!" he clicked. "Hurry."

With the way lighted for him, Johnny got to his feet and could move
faster. As he reached Baba, the passage began to widen and the slope
became less steep.

"I saw him," Baba clicked excitedly. "He was big. I'm sure if we could
catch him he'd be a friend! I tried to talk to him but he went on ahead
just when you called. Oh, Johnny, I do want to find him."

Johnny had never seen Baba so excited.

Suddenly, the passageway ended and they were in a great underground
room. Johnny flashed his light around the walls. They, too, were carved
with scenes of life on Venus. Beneath each carving was a small doorway
leading into a side room. There was one large doorway opposite the one
through which they had entered.

"It looks like a meeting house," Johnny said. "With seats and
everything." He flashed the light on one of the carvings. He had heard
of carvings like these and had seen one once. His father said that they
must have been made by an intelligent life form that had visited Venus
from the stars. This cave must have been where they had hidden from the
animals, just as men now hid from them behind the settlement's great
walls. Johnny was awed.

"Johnny, don't just stand here," Baba clicked. "We've got to find him!"

Johnny looked from opening to opening.

"Which way, Baba?"

The little bear sniffed the air. "I can't tell," he said. "I can't
tell." Hurriedly they made a circle about the great room. When they
came to the large opening, Baba sniffed carefully.

"Maybe here," he clicked, and plunged through.

Down they went as before. This time Johnny grabbed Baba's harness and
they were able to move faster. This corridor was just as steep and
curving as the first one.

In a few minutes they emerged into another room. It was smaller than
the room above and had three small doorways and one large opening.

"Let's try them all," Baba said. Through each of the three small
doorways they entered similar rooms. The fourth opening was another
corridor. Again Baba thought he smelled the path of the marva.

Down that corridor they went, down and down. Finally it ended in
hundreds of the rooms, large and small, the rock was like a honeycomb.
Johnny's flashlight was already growing dim, and they didn't dare try
to search much longer.

Trying to follow the scent they took a side corridor that led from one
small room to another, and came out into a narrow passageway. A faint
light glimmered at the end of it. Baba bounded on ahead, Johnny running
to keep up with him.

The light seeped through a pile of rocks. Johnny flashed his light
through one of the cracks. Behind the pile of rocks the tunnel
continued for several feet. In the light of his flashlight Johnny could
see bits of leather on the floor of the outer part of the cave. Just
beyond them on the other side of the rocks was the cave Johnny and
Baba had rested in while climbing up, the cave in which they had cut
the long straps they had used to tie themselves together for the long
climb upward. The bits of leather on the floor were scraps that had
been left over.

"Why, we're almost to the bottom," Johnny said.

"Yes," Baba clicked. "I guess we can't find him. I don't smell anything
now but arrow-birds," he ended sadly.

"We gotta try," Johnny said firmly. He felt hollow inside when he
thought Baba might go away for good, but he was convinced now that this
was the only way to keep him safe.

"Let's try farther down." Johnny turned around and a few minutes later
they were going down one of the curving main corridors again.

This corridor gradually straightened out. Soon it hardly slanted down
at all. It finally turned into what seemed to be a long underground
tunnel. Johnny had to stoop over to keep from hitting his head on the
ceiling.

The passageway was no longer going through solid rock, and its walls
and floor were a sticky clay. Johnny's and Baba's feet made squishing
noises as they walked. It seemed as if the tunnel would never end. They
walked on and on.

"I think we're going away from New Plymouth Rock," Baba clicked.

"I think so, too," Johnny answered. "We must've already gone 'most a
mile."

The walls had narrowed until Johnny and Baba had to walk single file.
Suddenly the passageway slanted upward and a faint glow of light could
be seen far away. As they began to climb toward the light the ceiling
became so low Johnny had to crawl on his hands and knees. It was a
long, sticky climb.

As they approached within a few yards of the light, Baba stopped,
blocking Johnny's way.

"This cave must end up in the jungle outside the colony wall," the
little bear clicked. "Maybe we ought to stop." He sounded worried.

But Johnny was not going to let this chance pass.

"Go on," he urged.

"But the rhinosaurs...."

"Who's afraid of an old rhinosaur?" Johnny demanded.

"You are," Baba clicked. But he scrambled on.

They emerged into the blinding light in the center of a tangle of
thick, high brush. They were out in the jungle, far away from the rock!

The boy and his bear were covered with mud from head to foot. They
peered carefully around, listening. In the distance they could hear the
rumble of moving rhinosaurs.

As they crept away from the cave, their view continued to be blocked
by large bushes and trees. They couldn't even see New Plymouth Rock.
Stepping quietly and carefully they finally came to an opening in the
brush. Far to the right was the Rock--and, farther in the distance, a
guard tower.

"Get back," Johnny shouted. "The guard will see us." The two jumped
back.

There was a grunt behind them. They turned. Behind a screen of brush, a
great blue-scaled rhinosaur was waking up. It was between them and the
opening to the cave. It snorted with the sound of a deep bass drum, and
heaved up on its feet.

Ahead, at the edge of the clearing, was a tall meat tree. They had two
chances. They could turn quietly and creep away into the brush, hoping
the big beast would not see or hear them. Or, they could make a run for
the meat tree--in full view of the guard tower.



CHAPTER SEVEN

_The Rhinosaur Stampede_


The decision was made for them by the rhinosaur. The great scaled beast
began to turn around, crashing down brush as he moved. In a few seconds
he would be facing directly toward them.

"Tree," Baba clicked very softly. Johnny nodded. The two slinked like
hunting cats toward the tree. They didn't dare look back.

"I think the guard saw us," Baba clicked. "He was waving his arms." The
jewel bear had already climbed part way up the trunk. He motioned for
Johnny to grab the harness.

Not making a sound Johnny took hold of the harness, and the two of them
started up the tree. When they reached the first branch, Johnny let go
the harness and clambered up as quickly and quietly as he could. Only
when they were screened from view by the fleshy leaves of the meat tree
did he dare to look down.

Through little openings between the leaves he could see the rhinosaur.
It was shaking its ugly horned head. Its little black-blue eyes peered
about under blue scaled eyelids. It trumpeted. The deep blasting sound
echoed against the settlement walls. For some minutes it moved around
in the brush, snorting. It paused, snuffing in air in great gulps. Then
it headed straight for the tree and began to trot back and forth under
it.

It had smelled Johnny!

Its hoofbeats on the ground made the limb Johnny sat on tremble. If the
rhinosaur sensed that Johnny was in the tree it was the end. The tree
was easily four feet thick at the base, but a rhinosaur could knock it
down with one rush. Johnny and Baba were on the highest and smallest
branch, but they were barely twenty feet above its head.

The rhinosaur's shoulder brushed against the lowest branch and the
whole tree swayed back and forth as if hit by a hurricane.

Johnny was struck by an idea. "Baba," he whispered, "do you think it
might obey you--just like the arrow-birds?"

"I don't know, Johnny," Baba clicked softly. "I'll try."

Baba started to climb down. By the slow careful way Baba moved, Johnny
knew the little bear was afraid, too. It was an awful chance to take.
Johnny was about to call him back, but as he opened his lips, the
little bear looked up and grinned.

Down Baba went. He was now halfway down the tree, thirty feet from the
ground and level with the eyes of the rhinosaur. It caught sight of
him, snorted, and pawed the ground, digging up shovelfuls of dirt with
each movement.

"Friend-pet! Friend-pet!" Baba clicked and Johnny suddenly wanted to
giggle. Imagine having something that size for a pet!

"Friend-pet!" Baba clicked again, "Go away! Go away! Bother us not!"

The big creature stopped still. Muscles rolled and bunched under the
heavy blue-grey scales. Was he going to charge or leave?

They never found out.

There was a roar of motors behind the beast, the clank of metal, the
deafening blast of an ato-tube gun. The ground shook; leaves showered
down on Johnny.

The guards had sent a tank to rescue them!

Things began to happen too fast for Johnny to keep track. The rhinosaur
roared with pain and wheeled. It had been hit! It charged toward the
oncoming tank--one of the colony's light duty tanks, built for speed
and quick turns. The driver jockied for position. The tank shot down
the clearing, turned and stopped. Its guns were too light to kill the
huge beast, so the gunner did not bother to fire again. They were
trying to draw the rhinosaur away from the tree.

The rhinosaur's hooves thundered, echoing against the walls and the
rocks as it gathered speed. It was almost on top of the tank. With a
roar of the motors the tank shot forward. The rhinosaur was going too
fast to stop or turn. It plunged on past the tank, bellowing its rage.

Almost immediately the tank screeched to a stop beneath the tree. Its
manhole swung open. Rick Saunders' red head emerged.

"Get in here! Quick!" he shouted over the noise of the motor.

Johnny needed no invitation. He was already halfway down the trunk of
the tree. Baba jumped from his perch into the open manhole. As soon as
Johnny was low enough, he grasped a branch, swung on to the top of the
tank, and started down the steel ladder. The tank jumped forward with a
lurch.

The rhinosaur was bearing down on them. Their guns roared, but the
rhinosaur did not stop. As a hand grabbed him, pulling him inside,
Johnny saw the tree topple over as the rhinosaur crashed into it.

"Fire the gate rocket!" someone's shout echoed in the tank. Johnny
recognized Captain Thompson's deep voice.

"Check!" Johnny heard Rick answer. Rick was up in the gun turret.

After the outside light, it seemed very dark in the tank. It smelled
of grease and the burnt air of cannon fire. There was the swish of a
rocket. Johnny knew this rocket was a signal for the guard on duty at
the steel gateways to be ready to open up.

The motors were roaring with a high whining sound which meant they were
going at full speed. The tank bounced and jolted, shaking Johnny from
side to side.

"Get ready for the gate!" warned Captain Thompson from the driver's
seat. The tank seemed to be almost flying now. Johnny set himself
for a violent turn. Like the doors of the houses, the wall gates were
double. Each was a heavy steel portcullis, a great sliding door that
could be raised and lowered. When a tank came in the outer gate its
weight tripped a switch. That switched turned on motors that made the
first gate fall and the second rise. Otherwise fast moving tanks would
have smashed into the second gate.

Johnny slid over to an observation slit. To his left he could see that
the heavy steel gate was rising. His heart raced. When being chased
by rhinosaurs a driver sped straight along the wall and then turned
sharply through the open gate. If he timed it right the rhinosaurs
plunged on and the tank was safe. It took split second timing.

They were right by the gate. Johnny grabbed a brace. With a scream of
the treads, the tank started into a turn.

"Rhinos on the side!" shouted Rick. His guns blasted.

Captain Thompson fought to straighten the tank out of the turn. Baba
was sitting with his paws over his ears, his claws glowing.

There was a bone-shattering crash.

Then Johnny felt himself flying through the air. Everything went
topsy-turvy. He banged his shoulder against the side of the tank. Then
he felt Baba's furry body against his. Rick's feet seemed to come from
nowhere and dig into his back. Johnny grabbed on to something solid and
wedged himself in tight.

The tank was rolling over and over. Something crashed against it again
and again. There was a heavy thud and the sound of breaking metal.
Then everything was still. The motors had stopped. From outside came
the roar of guns and the bellowing of rhinosaurs.

Johnny found himself sprawled on top of Rick Saunders. He was terribly
shaken. Baba was hanging onto one of the rungs of the steel ladder. It
was almost pitch dark. Rick struggled to his feet as Johnny scrambled
from on top of him.

"We're upside down," Baba clicked softly to Johnny.

"What happened, Saunders?" Captain Thompson's heavy voice demanded from
the driver's compartment. "Didn't Harkness teach you to shoot?"

"Four of them rushed us right at the gate," Rick answered. "Did we make
it inside?"

"Think so. Anybody hurt?" Thompson asked.

"Just scratched a little," Johnny answered.

"Good," Captain Thompson grunted. "Is the righting jack O.K.?"

Rick tested a lever.

"O.K."

"Let her rip!"

"Hang on, Johnny," Rick said. "We're going to right her."

Johnny knew just what was going to happen. A tank turned turtle had
meant a dead crew until the righting jack had been attached to each of
the tanks. Compressed air pushed out two rods fore and aft and flipped
the tank right side up.

Johnny braced himself. There was a rush of air. Johnny felt the tank
tip slowly under him. Then it went over with a crash. The tank was
right side up.

"The gate!" Rick exclaimed.

Just above his head Johnny saw light from the observation slit. He
looked out. Then he knew what Rick meant. They and the four rhinosaurs
had reached the gate at the same time. The rhinosaurs were inside. They
had knocked the tank through the outer gateway and had smashed into the
steel door before it was halfway down.

The inner door must have met the same fate for Johnny could see that
the sliding steel plates were bent and jammed open. The rhinosaurs had
kept after the tank until now it lay fifty yards inside the settlement.
Even as Johnny watched, another rhinosaur charged through the opening
and headed into the settlement.

Captain Thompson was grinding on the starter and Rick was working up in
the gun turret.

"The rhinosaurs got through," Johnny clicked to Baba.

"And the tank is broken?" Baba clicked back.

"Yes."

"I have to get out," Baba said. "Maybe I can get the rhinosaurs to...."

"No, Baba," Johnny said. "They're just plain crazy now."

Captain Thompson climbed down out of the driver's compartment.

"The motor's gone. How are the guns?"

"Out of action," Rick answered. "Must be filled with dirt. We can't do
any good here."

"O.K.," Captain Thompson said. "Let's get moving. I'm needed out there!"

Rick undid the wing nuts on the manhole and pushed. Metal squeaked, but
the door stayed in place.

"Jammed!" Rick said. "Get me a crow bar out of the box."

Johnny dived for the tool box and came up with a pry bar. He handed it
to Rick.

"Hurry, man," Captain Thompson said as Rick went to work. His black
angry eyes fixed themselves on Johnny.

"We should have left you out there."

"I'm sorry," Johnny said.

In answer the man cuffed Johnny with the back of his hand. Johnny
couldn't be angry. He knew what a rhinosaur raid was like, and this one
was his fault.

"Oh, leave the kid alone," Rick said from above.

"Leave him alone!" Thompson snorted, and glared first at Johnny and
then at Baba. "The kid and that bear have caused more trouble...."

Captain Thompson stopped talking and stared at Baba. He reached out
suddenly and grabbed the little bear by the paw.

"Well, look at this!" he said in a hushed tone.

In the steamy darkness of the tank Baba's nails shone clear and blue.
The climbing and running had worn off all the paint.

Thompson held up Baba's paws into the light of an observation slit. He
scraped with one of his finger nails.

"Nail polish!" he exclaimed.

The manhole came open with a clang.

"She's open!" Rick called.

Captain Thompson paused only a fraction of a second over Baba and
climbed the ladder.

"Lock the kid and bear in the tank," Thompson ordered. "There's less
danger here for the boy than there would be in the trip to the wall.
You, Rick, go back to the gate. I'll run for headquarters. Make it
fast!" Without another word he was up the ladder and gone.

Rick Saunders reached down and patted Johnny on the shoulder.

"Tough luck about your bear, son," he said, and then he, too, was gone.
The manhole door clanged and Johnny heard a lock click into place. He
hugged Baba to him.

"Gosh, Baba," Johnny said, "what are we going to do now?"

Baba, for once, had nothing to say. Johnny hugged the warm, furry
creature closer to him. Tears began to streak down his cheeks. Baba
didn't like this. He cocked a blue eye at the boy.

"Don't cry, Johnny!" he clicked. "Come on, stop it!" he pleaded. "Why
don't we go up in the turret and see what's happening."

Johnny wiped his tears away and the two climbed into the gun turret.
His stomach tightened. Through the four-inch thick bubble of marvite
plastic he could see the destruction he and Baba had let loose. The
whole settlement lay within view. A half dozen of the giant lizard
beasts had turned, the colony into a dusty hell. Even within the tank
the bellows of the beasts and the roar of guns was almost deafening.
Most of the marshberry fields had already been trampled in the mud. One
of the concrete houses lay crushed into rubble. Johnny was grateful
that almost everyone was at the rocket field.

He gave thanks, too, for Captain Thompson. He could see the big man
marshaling tanks into an organized row. They were going to try to herd
the great beasts out the open gates.

Johnny turned his eyes toward the gates. Someone had manhandled one of
the big ato-tube cannons into the opening, pointing it into the jungle.
His friend, Rick Saunders, ran up to help. A dying rhinosaur lay not
far from the muzzle of the gun. Evidently the other rhinosaurs were too
sensible or too frightened to try the power of that cannon.

Baba was pulling at Johnny's sleeve.

"Look, Johnny, look!" Baba clicked.

Johnny turned and looked toward the settlement again. A heavy duty
hunting tank stood before the settlement stockade and store house. Its
heavy cannon spoke once and the door dissolved. Four men leaped from
the tank and ran inside.

"They're stealing our claws!" Johnny cried out.

Weighed down by the colony's strong box, the four men came out of the
building. Inside that strong box were the colony's precious marva
claws!

The four hunters heaved the safe into the tank's carrier and climbed
inside. With a spurt of dust, the tank rolled on.

A few minutes later it had fought its way through the rhinosaurs and
was passing the place where Johnny and Baba stared out of the turret.
As it came up to the gate the hunting tank's manhole opened and a man
emerged. He waved to Rick, standing beside the cannon. The redhaired
ex-bodyguard waved back. Then he climbed up on the tank and down
inside. The tank rolled on out into the jungle.

Johnny stood, shocked and silent. Out that gate went the last valuable
thing the colony owned!

"I don't understand," Baba clicked. "I thought Rick was the colony's
friend."

"I did, too," Johnny said sadly.



CHAPTER EIGHT

_One Secret is Revealed_


It was now early evening and the Venus skies were a deep clear green.
It was over an hour since the last rhinosaur had been killed or driven
out. The gates had been temporarily repaired. Here and there a small
building had been trodden into rubble.

Johnny and Baba were still locked inside the tank which had been
dragged away from the dangerous fighting. From the turret they were
watching a group of men gathered outside the administration building.
Johnny wished someone would come and let them out.

Finally the crowd broke up. One group of men hopped on to the back of a
tank and headed toward Johnny and Baba. The rest of the crowd followed
on foot.

"I wonder what's up," Johnny said.

Baba shook his head.

"I don't like the looks of it," Johnny went on. "We're in an awful
pickle." He looked down at the little bear's paws. He had painted the
nails again with the nail polish, but he didn't think it would do any
good.

The tank came rumbling to a halt beside them. The two crawled down
from the turret. Johnny heard the men working on the lock. The manhole
door was opened.

"Come on out, Johnny." It was his father's voice. Baba jumped on his
shoulder and Johnny climbed slowly out. Johnny's father and Captain
Thompson were standing on top of the tank, surrounded by a crowd of
grave-faced Venus pioneers. It was odd. None of the men looked angry.
Johnny knew they should be very angry with him. He tried to shape words
to say he'd try to make up for the trouble he'd caused, but the words
would not come.

Mr. Watson reached out and picked Baba from Johnny's shoulder. He
lifted up one of the little bear's paws and looked at it carefully.

"The claws still look black to me," he said. Disappointment, mixed with
relief, came over the faces of the men.

"Let me show you." Captain Thompson, not ungently, took Baba from
Johnny's father.

The little bear looked straight at Johnny, an odd expression in his
deep blue eyes. But he didn't struggle.

Captain Thompson set Baba down on the top of the tank and took one of
the paws in his hands. With his fingernail he scraped at one of the
claws, then another and another. He held the paw up for the men to see.
The claws glowed clear blue in the evening light.

"You see," he said, triumphantly, "it is just as I said. The boy has
been covering them up." The crowd sighed with wonder.

Captain Thompson turned back to Johnny's father. "You'd better tell
the boy right away. It will be easier." Many of the crowd nodded their
agreement. For the first time Johnny made out the object that Captain
Thompson had been carrying. It was a small cage made of diamond-wood.

Johnny's father reached out and touched him on the shoulder.

"You know what happened here today, don't you, Johnny?" he asked in a
grave tone.

"Yes, sir," Johnny answered in a low, shamed voice. "The crop's been
ruined, and those hunters stole our claws."

"That's right," his father said. "And I think you also understand that
if it hadn't been for you, this needn't have happened."

"Yes, sir." The words were almost a whisper. Johnny felt the tears
coming up into his eyes.

"You can understand, then, it's up to you and us to make amends to the
colony."

"Yes, sir." Johnny's whisper was even lower.

"Well, son, I'm sorry to do this, but I have to. I know Baba has been
your pet for a long time, but you are going to have to give him up.
I've just given him back to the colony. Now, get him into the cage, so
we can get this over with."

"But you'll kill him!" Johnny cried out. He reached down and swept the
little bear into his arms.

"No, son, not right away," his father answered. "The rocket captain
says the colony could make some money by showing him alive on Earth
before they--put him to sleep."

"But you know that he'll die. Oh, Daddy, please don't!" Johnny looked
up, pleading, at his father.

Frederick Watson's eyes met Johnny's. They were kind but stern. He
shook his head firmly.

Johnny looked around him through his tears. Baba was warm and furry in
his arms. The men stood about; their faces were grave and determined.
Most still held ato-tubes in their hands. Even at that, Baba had a
chance. Johnny began to click in the ear of the little bear.

"Baba," he clicked very softly, "you can get away, over the wall by the
rock. It isn't very far. I'll throw you as far as I can. If you bounce
like crazy they could never hit you."

But the little bear jumped to the steel tank top.

"No, Johnny," he clicked. "You are my friend-pet-brother, no matter
what happens."

Then, just as if he had been told to go by Johnny, the little bear
walked over to the cage. Captain Thompson was holding a sliding door
open. Baba climbed in. He squatted there and made a little whimpering
noise that was the only sound he could make beside his clicks. He waved
a paw at Johnny.

"The little devil acts almost human," the old guard, Jeb, said from the
crowd.

Only Johnny knew how true that was.

"Better hustle that kid inside a tank," someone shouted. "He hasn't got
any armor on."

Frederick Watson's head jerked around. His eyes widened. In one motion
he took Johnny into his arms and jumped to the ground. Seconds later
Johnny was in a big hunting tank headed for home, a home for the first
time in ten years empty of a little bouncing bear.



CHAPTER NINE

_The Price of a Brother_


Johnny had some tall explaining to do about his lack of armor. He was
in a tight spot, for the less he let anyone know, the more chance he
had to find some way of rescuing Baba.

Johnny was very careful about his explanation. There might still be a
way. The fact that he had been seen on top of New Plymouth Rock made
his explanation easier. He simply said that he had been looking for a
place to hide the little bear and, in order for Baba to help take him
up the rock, he had had to chance taking off his armor. He said nothing
about Baba and the arrow-birds.

Being found in the jungle was harder to explain without telling a
lie--but he managed it. He said that he and Baba had taken a route
down that had made them land on the jungle side of the rock. It didn't
explain why they were beyond the clearing, but his parents seemed to
assume that he had been trying to get among the brush where he could
hide from the animals. He said nothing at all about the caves in the
rock. It was a pretty thin story, but his family was too relieved that
he had come home alive to worry much about it.

It was long past supper time when the explaining was over and his
mother began to prepare a meal.

Ordinarily Johnny's father would not have been home even for supper.
Rocket day was a busy time for the leader of the colony. But with all
the confusion, the business of the day had to be put aside.

It was a strangely sad and silent house. Johnny himself was so good his
parents could hardly recognize him. He had showered without being asked
and changed into clean clothes. His hands were perfectly clean at the
table. His mother had hidden Baba's high chair away; the little bear
had always sat with them at table. It was a quiet meal.

Often after the before-sleep meal Johnny and his father worked on model
rockets, but this evening models were forgotten. Johnny got a book and
his father busied himself with papers. But Johnny didn't read. He kept
thinking of Baba, all alone in the settlement storage house, surrounded
by guards. The whole area was lit up in case hunters should try to
steal the little bear just as they had stolen the marva claws.

The family sat in silence. Once Johnny saw his mother wipe a tear away
from her eyes. He knew she liked Baba, too. But she liked him only as a
pet.

"Dad," he said suddenly. His father looked up from his work. "Would
you--?" Johnny didn't know how to put the question he had to ask. "I
mean ... well, the colony's in pretty bad shape, isn't it?"

"Yes, son," his father said gravely, "it is."

"The million dollars we get for Baba will help out a lot, won't it?"
Johnny was very serious. "But, without it, would everybody starve to
death?"

"A million dollars will help the colony out," his father answered. "But
even without it, nobody would starve. There are the meat fruit and
berries to gather and the animals to hunt. But everyone would have a
very hard time. It isn't a simple thing to keep a colony going. It is
very difficult and very important. Mankind is reaching out, son, and
some day we may inhabit planets of all the stars in the heavens. But
only if Venus colony succeeds. It is a big thing, Johnny." Mr. Watson's
voice was serious, as if he were talking to another man. Johnny was
quiet a minute.

"Dad," he said slowly, "in order to get that million dollars would you
have mother or me"--he paused--"put to sleep?"

"Johnny!" Johnny's mother broke in in a horrified voice. "That's no
question to ask your father."

"I've got to know, Mother. I've just got to," Johnny said earnestly,
his brow wrinkled.

Johnny's father looked at him strangely.

"Did you really think," he asked in a tight, hurt voice, "I would do a
thing like that?"

"Not even Uncle Nathan?" Johnny persisted. Nathan was his mother's
brother.

"All right, Johnny," his father said in a firm voice. "I'll answer you.
No, I wouldn't have you, your mother, _or_ your Uncle Nathan 'put to
sleep' for any amount of money--for the colony or for myself. But you
must understand, Johnny, you aren't the same as a little bouncing bear."

"But Baba--" Johnny began.

"Baba is an animal," Johnny's mother broke in. "I know how you
love him. But you have to understand that your father could not do
differently from what he did." She came over to Johnny and put her arm
around him. "We love Baba, too, and it hurts us to give him up. Still
we must. You do understand, don't you?"

Johnny looked up into his mother's face and smiled. It was a very small
and very weak smile, but a smile none the less.

"I understand," he said, and turned back to his father. "Thanks for
answering my question, Dad." Johnny felt better for the first time
since Baba had been put in the cage. Now he knew just what he had to
do. It was right to do it. Baba was as close to him as _any_ brother.

"Do you think I could go see Baba before sleep time, Dad? You know he
won't eat if I'm not there."

Johnny's father looked at his mother.

"It couldn't do any harm, Fred," she said. "Let the boy go. But he must
be in bed soon."

"All right, son," his father answered. "But remember, the whole thing
is out of our hands now. You'll just have to accept what is going to
happen."

"O.K., Dad," Johnny said. Everything was going to be all right, but
he'd need every ounce of courage he had.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few minutes later Jeb, the old guard, let Johnny and his father into
the store house.

The little bear sat quietly in his cage. There were a dozen uncracked
nuts on the floor. An untouched bar of chocolate lay beside him.

"I'm sure glad to see you!" said old Jeb. "Ever since he got here
the little critter's been sitting just like that, kind of crying to
himself. He wouldn't pay attention even when I gave him the chocolate."

"He'll be all right now," Johnny's father said.

"It probably oughtn't to bother me so much." Jeb closed the door and
stood there with them. He took off his headglobe and scratched his
head. "But my partner'n me caught one of the little ones once. We
watched it just waste away, crying like that all the time. I always
figured we should have let it go. But then there was always the chance
it'd grow up and be worth a million." He glanced down at Johnny, who
was removing his armor, and came to a stumbling halt. "Sorry, kid," he
said. He put his headglobe back on and went out.

As soon as he saw Johnny, the little bear's ears perked up.

"Hi!" he clicked.

Johnny winked.

Johnny's father stood there and watched them.

"Remember, Johnny," he cautioned, "this is just a visit. What the
colony decides in this matter goes."

"I know, Dad," Johnny answered.

"I'll be back in half an hour," his father said. "Get him to eat, if
you can. Night will be here in a few hours and he'll sleep then." With
this he opened the door and left.

Johnny rushed to the cage. His hand was on the latch when the door
opened again. It was old Jeb.

"Sorry, son, but I got orders not to leave you alone with the critter.
If he ever got out he'd be mighty hard to catch." Jeb walked over and
seated himself on a box.

"That's all right," Johnny said, and squatted down in front of the
cage. It wasn't part of the plan for Baba to get away--yet. "Besides,
he wouldn't run away while I'm here," he said.

"Can't take no chances." Jeb sprawled out as if glad to be off his
feet. Johnny turned to Baba.

"Baba," Johnny clicked in the marva language, "can you get out of here,
if you want to?" Johnny didn't like to talk in the clicking language
with Jeb around, but there was no avoiding it.

"Yes," the little bear answered after a time. But then he whimpered
again.

"Doggone it, stop that!" Johnny said in English. Then he clicked, "If
things work out right, you aren't going to have to go to Earth _or_ get
killed."

"But how?" Baba asked. He seemed to revive a little. "If I got out and
came to you they'd just bring me back here."

"I know, but they don't think you're smart enough to do anything else.
They don't know anything except that we were up on the rock."

The little bear grinned. Then suddenly he began to sniff. He looked all
around him, found the chocolate and began to stuff it into his mouth,
making loud smacking noises. Johnny gave a sigh of relief. Baba was on
the mend.

"Now, listen, we've gotta make plans."

"But what can we do, if they know we were on the rock?" Baba clicked
through a mouthful of chocolate mixed with nuts--his favorite
combination.

Johnny took a deep breath. "We could run away into the jungle!" he
clicked. He jumped when Jeb moved away from his box.

"That's quite a racket you two're making." Jeb walked over and peered
at them from under jutting grey eyebrows. "Well, you've got the little
devil to eatin'!" He smiled and waved at Baba. Baba waved back and the
guard laughed. "It's a pity, that what it is. It's just a pity you're
worth so much money!" He went back to his seat.

"But, Johnny," Baba clicked, "you couldn't live in the jungle."

"_You_ can't live _here_--or on Earth. Sooner or later they're going
to--well, they're going to want your claws and teeth. Out there we
would have a chance. Why, we might even find some of the--" He put
in the word 'wild' in English, for there was no word for it in the
clicking language, "--marvas, and we could live with them."

"No!" Baba interrupted. "You might be killed. I can make the
arrow-birds go away, but there are the horned snakes and the leopards
and rhinosaurs and...."

"Wasn't that old rhinosaur about to go away?" Johnny broke in. "Just
because you said so?"

"Maybe," Baba admitted. "He stopped a second. But then we don't know
for sure!"

"I've got to take the chance. I've just got to!" Johnny insisted. "I
can't let them take you away and use you for making somebody's rings
or a mess of plastic. Remember that song you sang." Johnny tried to
sing the little lullaby that Baba had sung on the top of New Plymouth
Rock. The little bear grinned and put his paws over his ears.

"The words are right," he said, "but the tune is all wrong. Listen!"
The little bear sang the song that was like the roll of a mockingbird's
call.

"That's right pretty," Jeb said from his box. "I'd heard men say that
the critters sang, but never did hear one myself. Old hunter friend of
mine said he came on a marva once singing to her little ones that way.
It was so pretty he stopped to listen and by gum if she didn't smell
him and bounce off 'fore he could draw a bead on her."

"Baba sings real well--when he's happy," Johnny said, and turned back
to Baba. "And you sing true, too, Baba," he clicked.

"All right," the little bear clicked. "How will we do it?"

The plan came out in a rush. Johnny had it all worked out. "It's Venus
evening now," Johnny said, "and we're supposed to be in a sleep period.
That means there won't be too many people up but guards. I'll take some
food for me and some matches and a flashlight and some other things."
He paused. "They leave you alone in here, don't they?"

"Yes," clicked Baba.

"Do you think you can cut a hole in the bottom of the cage?" Johnny
asked.

"Easy!" The little bear touched a bar with his claws.

"Good. When you're out, dig a hole in the floor. But be careful. They
have guards walking all around, and they already have lights rigged up.
The switch is in between the double doors. Get your escape holes all
made, turn out the lights, and then scoot! I'll be waiting for you by
the rock. O.K.?"

The little bear nodded. "We'll have to find a place to be when it gets
dark," he clicked. Baba didn't sleep as people did, but during the four
day period of darkness he had to sleep most of the time.

"We'll find some place," Johnny clicked. "Now, listen. I'll try to get
some sleep and I'll be ready in five hours. Don't try to get out before
then. My folks will be asleep and I can slip out of the house. If it
takes you longer, I'll wait."

"Leave it to me," Baba said.

They had everything settled and were playing together through the bars
of the cage when Johnny's father came after him.

"Time for bed, son," his father said. "Say goodbye, now."

Johnny got into his armor, said goodnight to Jeb and followed his
father outside. In the deep green twilight every building of the
settlement stood out sharp and clear. A cool breeze was coming up.
Johnny looked over to New Plymouth Rock. Behind that towering rock lay
the vast and menacing jungle.



CHAPTER TEN

_Alone in the Jungle_


Johnny was afraid. Behind a boulder by New Plymouth Rock, he had been
sitting and waiting for Baba for almost one hour. It was too long a
time to wait with nothing to do but imagine what might happen in the
jungle. Johnny was dressed for the cold night to come in a synthetic
fur parka. Strapped on his back was a pack containing food and jungle
equipment. Beside him was Baba's harness. He was very tired and sleepy.

He leaned over and peeked cautiously from behind the boulder. The
lights around the storage shed were still on. He wondered what was
keeping Baba. He made himself comfortable again and listened to the
night sounds. He listened hard for any sound of rhinosaurs outside.
There was only the sigh of wind through the trampled marshberries.

As he listened, his head nodded down on his breast, and his eyes
closed. He wished Baba would come. Maybe he couldn't make it. Maybe
he.... But his thought trailed off into a dream. He was up in the meat
tree being attacked by a rhinosaur standing twice as high as the tree.
Far away someone began shooting at the rhinosaur. Then the tree was
being shaken back and forth. Baba was clicking something in the dream
Johnny couldn't understand.

"Wake up, Johnny! Wake up!"

Johnny's head jerked up. The shaking was real. It was Baba pushing
his shoulder. The shooting was real too. Men were running about the
settlement with flashlights. It was hard to see for any distance
through the green twilight which would last for many hours longer.

"Hurry, Johnny!" Baba clicked.

"O.K." Johnny said. He was still dazed with sleep as he helped Baba
struggle into his harness. As soon as the harness was on, they began
to run deeper among the boulders. Hundreds of small stones under their
feet made a sound like a landslide. They stopped still, listening.

The men had not heard.

"Maybe we'd better go straight up the main rock," Johnny said.

Baba nodded. Both knew it would be harder work, but safer. Johnny
tested the straps on Baba's harness. There was no time to tie himself
on. This time it was going to be harder for both of them.

Baba didn't dare bounce, so they started right from the foot of the
rock. In the half light it was not likely that the men would see them.
Even if they did, there was a good chance they would hold their fire
when they saw Johnny. If so, the two of them could still get away.
Oddly, Johnny's fear was gone.

From below them came the sound of a man moving among the rocks.

"Quiet, Baba," Johnny whispered.

Baba stopped.

Jeb flashed his light among the rocks and up along the main rock. For
a fraction of a second the light was full on them. But it passed by
without pausing.

"Nothing over here!" Jeb called out in a loud voice. "Dang critter must
have got clear away."

There was the sound of footsteps hurrying toward them. Johnny and Baba
froze to the rock.

"Hey, you two," Jeb's voice came softly, "I don't know what you're
aimin' to do, but you'd better hurry up about it. They're fixin' to
mount searchlights on the wall."

Johnny was flabbergasted. The old hunter was helping them!

There was a chuckle from below.

"Hurry up, now. I don't want no more baby marva a-haunting me like the
one I told you about."

"Thanks," Johnny whispered. "Golly, thanks! Come on, Baba," he clicked,
turning his head back to the little bear.

Baba began to scurry along up the rocks once more.

"Just one thing more," the whisper followed them. "Ain't that clickin'
the way those critters got of talking?"

"Yes," Johnny answered.

"I figgered it, by gosh!" Jeb chuckled deep in his throat. "I just knew
you was fixin' up a getaway. Good luck, you two!"

"Goodbye," Johnny said.

"You are a good man," Baba clicked. "A true friend!"

"Baba said you are a good man and a true friend," Johnny whispered.

"Thank you, Baba," the old man said. Then he was gone.

Baba and Johnny began climbing in earnest now. Johnny couldn't let
himself get tired. As silently as they could, they went on and on.

They climbed for what seemed an hour. Actually it was fifteen minutes
later when they reached the ledge leading to the cave in the rock. They
were barely inside when search lights cut through the twilight and
began to play on the rock.

The two sat down to rest, but not for long. Soon they were tearing down
the pile of rocks at the back of the cave so they could get into the
main caverns. They had talked about staying the night within the inner
rooms, but decided it was too dangerous. Sooner or later the colonists
were bound to drop someone from a helicopter to search for Baba on top
of the rock; and there was too great a chance the entrance would be
discovered.

Once inside the main caverns, the first job was to make their way
through the long passageways to the top of the rock to block the
entrance they had made earlier in the day. It took precious time, but
they had to do it. They almost didn't make it, for as they were filling
in the last stone at the cave mouth they heard the sound of 'copter
motors. Johnny grabbed Baba's harness, and down the long winding
passageways they went, full tilt.

Soon they were picking their way about the brush near the exit of
the long, damp tunnel. Through the green twilight they could see the
searchlights brightening New Plymouth Rock. Baba was sniffing the air.
Johnny listened carefully for the sound of rhinosaurs or of tanks.
There was no evidence of either man or animal.

"We made it, Grandfather Bear!" Johnny said aloud to Baba. "You're
safe!"

Baba grinned. "No rhinosaurs around either," he clicked. "We'd better
hurry."

"Let's stick close to trees for a while--just in case," Johnny
suggested. Only heavy brush surrounded them.

"We'd better get to a tank path," Baba clicked, "or we won't get very
far very fast."

Johnny nodded. He settled his pack on his shoulder and the two moved
forward. Using Johnny's compass they cut through the brush and soon
came to a tank path. It was very still. There was no sound but the wind
rustling the trees. All around them were trees and brush and pools of
deep green shadow.

The first two miles were the easiest. In the absence of rhinosaurs,
there was nothing much to fear here but arrow-birds, and they would
soon be heading for their nests. Most of the Venus animals kept well
away from the settlement. Twice a flight of arrow-birds came shrieking
down at them, and twice Baba's clicks sent them whirring on their way.
Otherwise the jungle was empty of life. It was a relatively safe zone.
But in order to make sure of Baba's safety, they would have to go on
into an area of teeming life.

Johnny thought of the comfort and safety of the settlement, of the love
and protection his parents had given him. He had left a note for his
parents. "I am sorry to take Baba away since he is worth so much to the
colony," he had written. "But he is just like a brother to me. Don't
worry. I will be safe with Baba." He hoped they would understand.

Though he had bravely told his parents not to worry, here in the
jungle, Johnny, himself, was already frightened and very homesick.

"Baba," he said suddenly, "it's going to be hard being away from Mom
and Pop." They were walking now through the thick grove of meat trees
that edged a forest of diamond-woods that loomed up in the distance.

"Yes," Baba clicked, "I know."

"Well, I was thinking," Johnny continued, "that after we find your
people, maybe after a month or so, I could go back home. Later I could
come for visits and things." Johnny watched Baba from the corners of
his eyes to see how the little bear would take to the idea. For a
while, Baba bounded along beside Johnny, his eyes straight ahead.

"I know what it's like being without a mother and father," the little
bear clicked so softly Johnny could hardly hear him. "It happened long
ago, but I remember how it was at first. I can't bear to think of your
going away. But we will see what happens." Baba turned toward Johnny.
"I think you shouldn't have come."

Johnny was sorry for having brought up the subject.

"Let's skip it," he said. "Don't be an unhappy old grandfather bear,"
he joked. "Think about the nuts you'll find right ahead."

The nuts were not really very close. It took a good deal of hiking
before the tank trail began to wind among gigantic trees. Bigger than
Earth redwoods, they rose almost like mountains around them. Here even
the wind did not enter, and beneath their feet was a cushion of fine
leaves. All was silence. Johnny was glad to rest his feet while Baba
gathered a few nuts. Then they trudged on.

Hours later they emerged from the darkness of the diamond-wood forest
into the green twilight of the surrounding meat trees. Johnny was
exhausted.

A sudden coughing roar in the distance sent a shiver up Johnny's back
and brought them to an abrupt halt. It was a saber-tooth leopard!

Johnny heard a slight stir of movement in the underbrush. About them,
birds of all kinds twittered and chirped, readying themselves for the
long darkness of Venus night. They were out of the safety zone.

Though many hours had gone by, it was still Venus evening. He and Baba
had to push on into the deadly part of the jungle before they could
rest.

The leopard's roar had come from far away and there was no immediate
danger, but from that time on the two watched every step they took. A
faint breeze blew in their faces. That was good. Johnny's scent would
not be blown to any of the animals. Johnny set his voice to click,
not to speak. He had to try to forget human speech, and talk always
like Baba. He spoke to Baba constantly in the marva language, and Baba
corrected him when he let his clicks become high pitched as Baba's once
had been.

The meat tree grove was thinning out. The tank tracks were getting
fainter and fainter. Vines wound around the trees and bushes. On the
vines great orange flowers seemed to burn with color in the green
light. Johnny watched the flowers carefully because one might really
be a scarlet ape. Men called these flowers monkey flowers since they
were so near the color of those small apes that lived on the edge of
meat tree groves. As the two adventurers walked, the noises of animals
became louder and more numerous. A large bird fluttered across their
path and went shrieking ahead of them.

Then there was sudden silence. They stopped.

Baba hurriedly clicked loudly into the silence, "Friend-pets,
friend-pets, bother--"

He did not have time to finish the sentence. Johnny was struck suddenly
on the back and sent sprawling on his face. A hundred tiny hands
seemed to be pulling at his hair. He felt a rip of cloth and then a
sharp pain as a small claw cut into his back. Baba was clicking loudly.

As suddenly as he was struck down, the attack on him stopped. Dazed, he
painfully got to his hands and knees.

"Friend-pets, bother us not. Bother us not!" Baba was repeating over
and over again as loudly as he could. Johnny's eyes widened.

Surrounding them were hundreds of tiny monkeys no more than eight
inches high. Scarlet red in color, they sat perfectly still, their eyes
fixed on Johnny and Baba. Sitting high on a nearby bush one of the
little apes held a packet of Johnny's food in its tiny hands. Johnny
stood up to his full height and a low growl went up from the animals.
The monkey with Johnny's packet hurled it at Johnny with surprising
strength. Johnny made a quick catch.

"Thank you," Johnny clicked in the marva tongue. The monkeys chattered
excitedly. "Thank you, friend-pet."

"Give it something," Baba clicked. "Oh, I'm afraid, Johnny. They hate
you so much--I can feel it." Johnny knew why. The skins of these
animals were much in fashion for coats back on Earth.

Johnny reached down for his knife to cut the strings of the packet.
As the knife came in sight a menacing growl went up. As Johnny and
Baba stood there, more and more of the monkeys leaped from the bushes
to join the crowd. The whole path was covered; the trees seemed to
be filled with red flowers. Some of the new-comers were intent upon
rushing Johnny when the knife glittered in the half light. But Baba
stopped them with his sharp, repeated commands.

Johnny cut the packet open. Among other things, a large bag of candy
was inside. He had raided the cupboard well.

"Come here," Johnny clicked, as firmly as he could manage. "Friend-pet,
come here." He pointed at the little creature who had thrown the
package at him. Showing its teeth and growling faintly, the monkey
bounded forward. Johnny held out a piece of candy to it. It sidled
up, snatched the candy, and ran back to the others. It sniffed at the
sweet, chattering wildly. Then its long black tongue went out and
licked it. The monkey's eyes widened and it popped the candy into its
mouth, smacking its lips.

Again Johnny was almost knocked down. He was surrounded, climbed over,
patted, peered at, and deafened by chatter. In a few seconds not a
piece was left.

But the monkeys no longer growled.

"Go away! Go away!" Baba clicked. Reluctantly the animals parted from
Johnny and took to the trees along the path. The branches swayed under
them as they chattered among themselves.

Suddenly, as quickly and mysteriously as they had appeared, the monkeys
were gone. Something was wrong! Johnny's fear returned with the sense
that something was watching him.

Hardly daring to, he looked behind him. There in the half-darkness,
glowed three pairs of green eyes. Crouched ready to spring, a
leopardess was watching them, her two cubs beside her. How long they
had been watching, Johnny never knew. He froze in his tracks. Baba had
not looked around.

"Friend-pets, bother us not, bother us not!" Baba was clicking loudly
in preparation for going forward. As Johnny watched, the leopard,
followed by her cubs, slipped into the jungle.

"You didn't see her," Johnny clicked. "There was a leopardess and two
cubs."

Baba turned in the direction toward which Johnny was pointing. "We'd
better go back," he clicked.

"No," Johnny insisted bravely. "She and her cubs went away when you
began to talk."

"Not _far_ away." Baba sniffed the air. "I can smell them. I smell rain
too."

"Then we'd better find shelter. C'mon. Maybe we better take a path
over to the right, away from the tank trail," Johnny suggested. "The
leopardess went the other way."

Baba nodded.

They trudged on and took the first animal trail to the right. Baba went
slightly ahead, crying "Friend-pets, bother us not!" over and over
again. It was almost a chorus now. Most of the time Baba clicked it,
but when he got tired Johnny took over for a while. They never ceased
repeating the magical words.

Once an antelope walked by their sides a few yards off, but he soon
bounded away. Shortly afterward Johnny thought he saw a large black
shadow moving in the deep brush.

They walked steadily and found nothing but brush land. Then, not a
hundred yards from them, a river shone through the deepening twilight.
The shine of the water stopped them. They had proved they could control
some of the animals, possibly even the leopards and rhinosaurs. But, if
a river snake struck without warning as the monkeys had done, it would
be the end of Johnny.

While Johnny stood where he was, Baba went forward, chanting the cry of
"Bother us not" as he went. When he returned he looked worried.

"It is too dangerous to try to swim," he clicked. "In some places the
branches of the trees on this side almost touch branches of the trees
on the other side. If we keep on the path, maybe we can find a place
where it would be safe to climb over." The path they were on turned and
followed the river.

They walked on for a few minutes. Baba stopped again, sniffing the air.

"I don't like it," he clicked. "The leopards are close again."

They moved forward cautiously, but when minutes passed and no attack
came they walked with more confidence. The magic formula of clicks
seemed to be working. Though nothing bothered them, they knew from
rustling noises and from cries that animals were all about them.
Nowhere could they find a place where the tree branches made a bridge
across the river. Nowhere could they find a place of refuge.

The trail began to lead away from the river toward a little hill that
stood in black outline against the almost darkened sky. Big Venus
fireflies had begun to come out, sparkling like so many blue stars. The
two weary travelers followed the path, hoping it would lead back to the
river. It ended completely at the base of the small rocky hill.

So tired he almost wanted to cry, Johnny sat down in the middle of the
path. Then he noticed a spot of deeper darkness among the rocks. He
jumped to his feet.

"Hey, Baba," he said, "it looks like a cave! Come on!"

The two of them hurried forward. A nice comfortable cave was just what
they were looking for! They were within a few yards of the cave, when
they heard a crashing noise from the underbrush and the pad of soft
footsteps.

A leopardess leaped in front of them, cutting them off from the cave.
The big cat growled low, and two cubs scuttled through the entrance.
The leopardess sat back on her haunches in the mouth of the cave,
her eyes two gold-green lights burning in the dark green of the late
twilight. Slightly larger than an Earth lion, the Venus sabre-tooth
leopard is coal black, marked with golden spots. Her two tusk-like
fangs show why leopards are among the most deadly fighters of all the
Venus animals.

Baba began clicking again.

Johnny stood stock still. The leopardess watched them. She looked as
if she might spring at any moment. Then, with a ripple of her powerful
shoulder muscles, she lay down in the mouth of the cave.

"Let's go before she changes her mind and attacks," Johnny said.

"No, wait!" Baba said. "You stay here."

Slowly Baba walked up to the spot where the big cat was lying, clicking
as he went. She appeared to pay no attention to him, but when he was
right beside her, she stood up. She made a low rumbling in her throat
that sounded strangely like a purr.

When Baba paused, the leopardess made a little coughing sound. The two
cubs, who were as large as collie dogs, came tumbling out of the cave,
their tongues hanging out. They came up to Baba, cocking their heads.
They rubbed themselves in a friendly way against the little bear.

"Come on, Johnny," Baba clicked. "I think we have a home."

His heart in his mouth, Johnny walked forward.

"Friend-pet," he clicked firmly, "I am your friend." Repeating this, he
walked straight up to the deadly beast. He reached out a trembling hand
and patted the ugly fanged head. The creature stood rigid. But as he
petted her, she relaxed and the purring noise began in the back of her
throat. The big head moved around. Her mouth opened slightly and she
licked his hand. She made a little coughing noise and the cubs came up
to him. He petted them, too, and looked at Baba.

"Come on," said the little bear, "let's see what the leopard's house is
like."

Together the two explored the inside of the cave with the help of
Johnny's flashlight. It was surprisingly clean. The big cat had dragged
in straw, which was arranged thickly over part of the floor.

"It sure looks like it would make a good bed," Johnny said. He was so
tired; so much had happened. Trader Harkness and the meat fruit, the
climbing of New Plymouth Rock, the rhinosaur raid and Rick's betrayal,
and the escape into the jungle. Johnny ate a few antelope berries to
quench his thirst, but nothing more. He arranged a place for himself on
the dried grass and curled up. He was almost asleep, when he heard the
big cat come into that part of the cave.

He opened his eyes to see the sabre-tooth leopard looming over him. For
a second he was afraid. Then, just as a house cat will do, she pushed
her paws back and forth into the straw, circled a few times, and lay
down right by his head, pushing him aside. He rearranged his bed and
lay his head against her soft flank.

With his head pillowed against a sabre-tooth leopard, Johnny Watson
slipped off to sleep.



CHAPTER ELEVEN

_The Friends are Separated_


Johnny was hot and sweaty. He was glad to see the cool dark cave ahead.
It was like home to him by now. The mother leopard was lying in front
of the cave, and the two cubs came running to greet them.

"Hi, Pat. Hi, Mike," he called. They came up to be petted.

"They seem happy to see us," Baba clicked as he bounced along.

"And I'm glad to see them," Johnny said. "Golly, I'm hot."

Baba and he had just been down the river trying to find a place where
they might cross. Immediately after the long Venus night was over, they
had gone exploring in hopes of finding a colony of wild marva nearby.
But the only diamond-wood groves close to the cave were still too close
to the settlement. The marva must have left them because of the danger.
The two had gathered a good supply of nuts for Baba, but otherwise the
trip had been useless. Though they were still afraid of the horned
river snakes, there was no way of avoiding crossing the river. If they
went downstream they would soon be in the rhinosaur marshes. Upstream
the river curved back toward the colony.

Johnny and Baba had spent the whole long night in the cave and Johnny
had got to know the leopard family quite well. He had discovered
they, too, had something like a language. It was made up of different
kinds of growls. Each growl meant something, but there weren't many
of them. The mother leopard could say things like "Come," or "Go" to
her kittens. She had a different growl for each of them, though Johnny
named them Pat and Mike. Throughout the time Baba was asleep Johnny had
practiced these growls, until he could talk a little in the leopard
language. He had also taught the little ones to like meat fruit roasted
over the open fire he had had to light to keep warm. All three cats had
been afraid of the fire when he had first lit it. They had soon learned
it was harmless if they didn't step into it. They were very smart
animals, but by no means as smart as Baba. Baba was just as clever as a
person.

All the rest of the animals now seemed friendly, too. Johnny thought he
knew why. Not only the leopards, but all the animals could talk! They
couldn't say much, but just enough to tell one another Johnny wouldn't
hurt them. And all of them could understand the marva language. He and
Baba talked about this, but they weren't yet ready to take a chance on
river snakes. The snakes stayed deep in the water and struck before
they could be seen. It didn't seem likely that they would have learned
Johnny was a friend.

Baba was going to go down to the river by himself. Perhaps he could
find one of the horned snakes and bring it back with him. Then Johnny
could make friends with it. If what Johnny thought was true, then the
snake would tell the others and he and Baba could float safely across
the river on a log they had found.

After patting the mother leopard on the head, Johnny took off his pack
and laid it in the mouth of the cave.

"I think I'll go over to the waterfall and have a shower," he said.

"That's not such a good idea," Baba said. "Stay here. I won't be gone
long."

"Oh, stop worrying, Grandfather!" Johnny laughed. He was stripping
himself down to his shorts. The three leopards sat on their haunches
watching him. They were fascinated by his clothes. The first time he
had taken them off they had been almost afraid of him.

"I'll take Mama Leopard along with me for a guard," Johnny said. "You
tell her, Baba. Maybe I can growl better than you, but she still seems
to do everything you say."

Baba clicked directions to the leopard. She was to go along with Johnny
and protect him. When Baba was through clicking, the mother leopard
came over and licked Johnny, making a growling sound that meant she
understood.

Then with a wave of his paw, Baba bounced away toward the river. Johnny
was happy to see him go. Baba, himself, had suggested that the trip be
taken. It was the first time he had ever offered to leave Johnny for
such a long time. Johnny loved the little bear, and it was fun in the
jungle, but he couldn't help wishing he were home.

The waterfall was not much of a waterfall. A little way from the
leopard's cave was a small spring high up in the rocks. A tiny stream
of water fell about ten feet making a great spray and quite a little
noise. It made a wonderful shower.

The mother leopard lay on the rocks below while Johnny climbed up to
the waterfall. Johnny danced about as the cool water hit his hot dusty
skin. It felt wonderful running all over him. Then he walked into a
pool and splashed happily.

Then Johnny began to sing. With him the little waterfall sang a
tinkling, merry tune that blotted out even the chatter of the birds in
the surrounding trees.

It did not blot out a coughing roar that came from the mother leopard.
Johnny knew that sound. It meant _come_!

Johnny stopped singing and looked down. The leopardess was on her feet
now, looking into the sky. Johnny looked too. A helicopter floated
soundlessly overhead, its jets off.

Johnny looked around for some place to hide. There was none.

The mother leopard crouched. Her muscles rippled under her black and
gold skin. In one mighty spring she was beside him. Before Johnny knew
what was happening, her great jaws opened--and closed around him. The
long sabre teeth barely touched his skin.

With no more effort than if she were carrying a feather, she leaped
through the air with Johnny in her mouth. When she landed Johnny's feet
thumped painfully against a rock. Where she was holding him about the
middle in her teeth, he was unharmed.

Johnny heard the roar of gunfire as the helicopter's motors were
switched on. Still carrying Johnny in her jaws, the mother leopard
screamed in pain. Johnny was tumbled to the ground, half dazed.

A very shaken Johnny watched the mother leopard run away a short
distance, then turn and spring back toward him. A second later she was
standing over Johnny, putting her body between him and the helicopter.
She roared her defiance at the machine. Johnny marveled at her courage.
She started to pick him up again.

The helicopter was getting into a position where it could hit the big
cat without hitting Johnny. In a few seconds the courageous animal
would be dead.

"Run, friend-pet!" he clicked loudly. "Run! They won't hurt me. Run!"
She looked down at him and growled in a questioning way. Her muscles
tensed, and, with a great spring, she was gone. The guns roared, but
the leopard's last bound carried her safely into the brush.

Before Johnny could get to his feet the 'copter was beside him. Two men
in armor and headglobes jumped out.

"Hurry," yelled the pilot from inside. "You just grazed the leopard."

One man grabbed Johnny by the heels, the other by his shoulders. With
one swing he was tossed heavily onto the floor of the 'copter. The two
men jumped in after him. The armored door clanged closed. The motors
roared and they were going straight up into the sky.

Johnny lay quietly on the floor for some moments; he was still dazed by
his fall--and by the sudden turn of events.

"That leopard was crazy," one of the men was saying. "I never saw one
come back like that, except for a cub!"

Johnny looked up into the face of the speaker. It was a thin, narrow
face with full red lips and small black eyes. Johnny didn't know him.

"That was a narrow squeak you had," the hunter said to Johnny, in a
high, nasal voice. "Two minutes later you'd have been leopard food. Are
you hurt?"

Johnny sat up slowly, moving his arms and legs.

"Uh uh," he said.

With a whine of the motors the 'copter went into a hover. It floated
over the spot where they had picked up Johnny.

"What in the name of all the moon devils were you doing out there like
that--stark naked and no armor?"

"Taking a bath." Johnny was too bewildered to make up an excuse.

The man raised his black eyes to heaven and looked at his companion.
"Crazy!" he muttered. "But, kid," he addressed Johnny, "what made--"

"Skip it!" the pilot said, in a low hard voice. The black-eyed man
stopped abruptly. Johnny decided the pilot must be the leader.
The man turned around and looked at Johnny. He was a large man,
slope-shouldered but powerful. His blond hair was slicked down against
his head. Two long red scars cut across a white heavy-jawed face. His
eyes were so pale they were almost white.

"Where's the bear?" he snapped.

Johnny was struck silent. They were after Baba!

"Come on, kid," the low voice came again, "where's the bear?"

"He ran away." Johnny blurted out the first thing he could think of.
"I've had an awful time. We got lost in the jungle and he ran away,
right at first. I lit fires to attract attention and keep off animals,
and the rains put them out and my matches got wet. I've had an awful
time, and...."

"You ain't seen nothing of the bear?" the scar-faced pilot cut in.

Johnny crossed his fingers carefully and looked the big man straight in
the eyes.

"Not since right at first!"

The pale eyes bored into his. Johnny's eyes dropped down.

"The kid's lying!" the big man said to the others, and turned back to
Johnny. "O.K., kid, let's have it straight now!"

But no matter how much they questioned him or how they threatened,
Johnny insisted he did not know where Baba was.

Finally Ed, the blond scar-faced leader, gave up. He turned to the
others. "You guys search the ground," he commanded, "while I call in to
the boss." He turned and dialed the radio telephone on the instrument
board of the 'copter.

"Hello," he said, "I want to speak to the boss." There was a pause.
"Hello," he said again. "We got the kid--found him where Stevenson
thought he saw the fire."

Johnny heard a voice coming back over the instrument. He thought he
recognized it, but he couldn't make out any words.

"No," the pilot spoke into the instrument, "the kid says the bear ran
away, but I think he's lying. We're going to search from the plane.
Can't send anybody down because of the leopards. One had the kid when
we found him." There was another pause. "No, not hurt. When we're
finished I'll drop him at the colony." There was a long pause. Johnny
caught the words, "if I know that bear," and then there was more he
couldn't catch.

"That's a smart idea," the scar-faced man said. "We'll do just what you
said. O.K. Be seeing you!" The pilot turned back to the other two, who
had binoculars trained down into the jungle.

"See anything, Barney?"

"Not a thing, Ed!" the black-eyed man replied.

"You, Shorty?"

The other man shook his head. "Not even a bird."

For over an hour they searched. While they were searching, Ed, the
pilot, put in another call and told someone else what had happened. He
hinted that even if they didn't find the bear, there was still a way
they might get their hands on him.

Johnny sat with his fists clenched. He knew they would shoot if Baba
showed himself.

After an hour went by and the 'copter had gone over every foot of the
surrounding territory, the men had to give up because they were running
low on fuel.

As they went higher up, Johnny peered out. The 'copter veered Venus
east--away from the colony. At that moment Johnny's heart sank. The
hunters weren't taking him home! Baba would have seen the 'copter come
and go. The little bear would think anyone finding Johnny would take
him back to the settlement. Johnny knew just what the little bear would
do. He would go back to the settlement looking for Johnny!

Johnny had succeeded in keeping those hunters from getting Baba; now
the colonists would get him. Or would they? Suddenly Johnny knew whose
voice that had been on the radio telephone. The voice was that of the
trader, Willard Harkness!



CHAPTER TWELVE

_The Price of a Boy_


They were in the air over two hours, traveling at maximum speed, before
they arrived at their destination. This turned out to be a small cabin,
surrounded by the usual high wall, with a space inside the wall for a
helicopter and a tank. It was a hunters' hideout entirely hidden from
view by diamond-wood trees. The pilot had had to work his way through
branches and then fly for a time between the trunks of the great trees
before hovering in for a landing. A man was standing in the yard
waiting for them when they landed.

As soon as Ed shut off the 'copter's motor, the man who was waiting for
them yelled, "No arrow-birds that I can see. Tell the kid to run for
it." The man had been informed about him by the helicopter's radio.

"O.K., kid, scoot!" Ed jabbed Johnny in the ribs.

Johnny scooted. The lodge door slammed behind him and he opened the
inner door. The large central room was surprisingly neat. The floor was
bare but polished. Some hunting trophies were on the windowless walls.

Chained on a perch in one corner of the room, a miserable little
scarlet ape sat huddled up, with its chin upon its knees. When it saw
Johnny it screamed and chattered. Johnny walked toward it, about to
click a greeting.

"Better watch out!" A red head was thrust from the door of another
room. "Ed's monkey is meaner than he is." It was Rick Saunders.

"Glad to see you safe!" The big redhaired man grinned easily, and waved.

"Hullo," Johnny said. He didn't smile. If Rick were here, it meant only
one thing. These were the same men who had stolen the colony's marva
claws! He all but glared at Rick Saunders standing in the inner doorway.

"You don't seem too happy about being rescued," Rick said with a laugh.

"I wasn't rescued. I...." Johnny stopped. He knew he shouldn't have
said that.

Rick's eyebrows went up. "It seems I heard something about a leopard."

"Well, I guess I was rescued--sorta," Johnny admitted lamely.

"I guess you were!" Rick paused, looking at Johnny. "You sure don't
sound very friendly."

"I don't like thieves and traitors," Johnny said defiantly.

"Wait a minute!" Rick began.

At that moment the four hunters entered the room, cutting off the rest
of Rick's sentence. The scarred-faced leader spoke to Rick.

"You know you're not allowed in here. Get out!" His voice was low and
threatening. Rick turned to go.

"Hold it," called Barney, the narrow-faced hunter. "Carry this in to
the kitchen." He dropped a haunch of antelope on the floor.

His face set and calm, Rick walked slowly past Johnny and hoisted the
meat to his shoulder.

"Any other orders?" he asked quietly.

"Yep!" Ed said. "Take the kid with you. Rustle him up clothes of some
kind. Then you can put him to work helping you."

"Come on, Johnny." Rick put his hand on Johnny's shoulder and started
for the door. Johnny followed him, shrugging off the friendly hand.

The kitchen was even neater than the main room. As soon as they entered
the room, Rick tossed the haunch of antelope into the sink. He turned,
faced Johnny, and grasped the boy's shoulders with his big freckled
hands. He seemed angry.

"What's this thieves-and-traitors business mean?" he demanded.

"First you pretended to be on our side," Johnny answered, "and then
you let the rhinosaurs get in so's those hunters could steal our marva
claws."

"So that's what you think," Rick said. He regarded Johnny gravely.
"Does the rest of the colony think that, too?"

Johnny nodded.

"Take a good look at me, Johnny." Rick touched a cloth tied around his
middle like an apron. "I'm cook and housekeeper here, not one of the
gang. I wasn't pretending anything, and I didn't _let_ any rhinosaurs
inside. I came with these outlaws because they had their tank guns
leveled on me."

"But why did they do that?" Johnny demanded.

"Harkness' orders," Rick replied. "Remember his threat?"

"I sure do!" Johnny said. His eyes grew wide. "I was right," he went
on. "I _thought_ Mr. Harkness was the boss those hunters called."

"He sure is the boss," Rick said. "He's given out word he'll pay for
any information about you and Baba. Any information he gets he passes
on to this bunch. The gang has to work for him so he'll market their
stolen claws and arrange their passage to Earth. Why he's even offering
to pay double for Baba just to prevent the colony from getting him."

"Golly!" Johnny breathed. "He really must be sore at us." Johnny sat
down on a kitchen stool. It was cold against his bare bottom. He
looked up at Rick. "Gosh, I'm sorry, Rick. I mean about thinking you
were--well you know."

"That's all right, Johnny." Rick was smiling now. "I'll admit it did
look bad. Let's forget it and get you into some clothes. We have a meal
to fix."

Johnny jumped up. With a friend beside him things didn't seem quite as
bad. Helped by a pair of scissors, Rick soon had him into a pair of cut
down trousers and a baggy shirt. As soon as the clothes were on, the
two started preparing the meal.

As they worked, Johnny questioned Rick about what had happened to him.
Outside of beating him up once, the hunters hadn't treated him too
badly. He was being saved for Trader Harkness. They made Rick stay in
the kitchen and wouldn't let him into the main room except to clean
it up, and then kept a gun on him. The gang kept him from escaping
by a very simple means--they locked up the rhinosaur-hide armor in a
closet. Ed kept the closet keys, as well as the keys to the tank and
helicopter, fastened to his wrist. Rick had been watching carefully but
had not seen one chance to escape.

As Johnny served the meal to the outlaw hunters, he looked the room
over carefully. When the men weren't looking, he clicked a greeting to
the little scarlet ape. It immediately became quite excited. A plan for
escape began to shape itself in Johnny's mind. He said nothing to Rick,
however.

After the outlaws had eaten, Johnny and Rick had their meal. Rick
thought it strange, but Johnny couldn't bring himself to eat any of the
antelope; he remembered all too well the tiny antelope leader he had
held in his hand. When they were finished and had washed the dishes,
Johnny was all too glad for a blanket thrown on the kitchen floor--the
same kind of bed Rick had.

Johnny tried to push away his fears for Baba, but it was a long time
before he could get to sleep.

It seemed only minutes later when he was rudely awakened by a rough
blow on his shoulder. Actually it was ten hours later, as he could see
by the clock above the stove. Johnny reared up to see Ed standing over
him, a smile on his thin lips, his pale eyes jubilant.

"Get up and get your clothes on," he ordered. "We're going places."

Johnny jumped up and reached for the baggy clothes Rick had made him.

"Come on in when you're ready and don't waste any time about it," Ed
directed, and strode back into the other room. Johnny slipped on the
pants and was soon stuffing in the shirt tails of the oversized shirt.
Rick stood by the stove and watched, sympathy in his eyes.

"Baba," he said slowly, "arrived at the colony an hour ago. I was
listening at the door when the call came from Harkness. These guys are
planning--"

"Come on!" Ed stuck his head in through the door and cut Rick off. Numb
with worry, Johnny followed Ed into the main room.

"Better wrap him up in something," the outlaw called Barney said, his
narrow face twisted in a strange grin. "We can't let the arrow-birds
get him now."

Johnny stood while they strapped man-sized armor on him and put a
headglobe on his head. He followed Ed out of the door and into the
helicopter. The outlaw leader seated Johnny beside him, switched on
the motor, and they roared away.

"Where we going?" Johnny asked.

"You'll find out," Ed snapped. "Keep quiet till I tell you to talk!"

They flew on for almost an hour. Then Ed set the helicopter controls on
automatic hover and snapped the radio telephone on. He dialed a number.
Johnny saw that the number was that of Colony Headquarters.

"Hello." Ed made his voice high and nasal. "I have information
concerning Johnny Watson. Let me speak to his father."

The slick-haired blond man put his hand over the telephone mouthpiece.
He grabbed Johnny by the collar and stared directly into his eyes.

"Listen," he said, "when your father comes on, I want you to speak
to him. Tell him you were rescued by us and we've treated you O.K.
Understand?"

Johnny nodded, his mouth dry.

"I'll tell him what happened," Johnny said. He didn't understand why Ed
was making such a fuss about it.

"Hello. Hello. This is Frederick Watson." Johnny was thrilled by the
sound of his father's voice over the telephone.

"Hello, Mr. Watson," Ed said in the fake voice. "We've found your boy
and here he is." Ed handed Johnny the telephone, his hand over the
mouthpiece again. "Remember!" he said in a threatening voice.

"Hello, dad!" Johnny said into the telephone. "I'm safe all right."

"Thank God!" his father's voice replied.

"I was rescued by these men and outside of making me wash dishes and
sleep on the floor, they've treated me fine. I'm--"

Ed took the telephone away from him in mid-sentence.

"But where are you, Johnny?" Johnny could still hear his father's voice.

"Right now," Ed said into the telephone, "Johnny's up in a 'copter. You
needn't try to get a direction finder on us. Rescuing this boy cost us
a lot and we gotta be sure you'll pay us for it."

"I offered a reward." Mr. Watson's voice was anxious.

"It ain't enough," Ed said. "We lost a tank and a 'copter getting him.
He was surrounded by rhinosaurs. We have the boy. You've got a live
marva. I figure it should be a trade. You bring the marva to the old
tank road by the river, and we'll bring the boy. Bring one tank, driven
by one man. That's all. Be there forty-eight hours from now. Do as I
say and the boy will be delivered on schedule."

"Hello, hello." Frederick Watson's voice was frantic. "I don't know if
the colony will--" Ed hung up and snapped off the radio.

"They will," he said.

Johnny's spirits had never been so low. Everything he touched seemed to
turn to disaster. The colony was all but ruined. In trying to protect
Baba he had caused the marshberries to be destroyed and had given these
outlaws a chance to steal the colony's marva claws. By running away
with Baba he hadn't saved the little bear at all. The outlaws, Trader
Harkness' outlaws, were going to get him.

Johnny would not only lose Baba, but the colony, too, would lose its
last chance for survival.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

_Outwitting the Outlaws_


The little red monkey screamed and chattered its hate as Johnny and Ed
stepped through the doorway of the cabin after their eventful flight.
Johnny had noted that the cabin door was the only exit.

As was usual on Venus, the exit was a double door. When the outer door
was open, the inner one could not be opened. It was just like the
school door. If Johnny could once get through the outer door and block
it open, it would be a while before the men could break the lock on
the inner door and get out. Getting out the first door would be the
problem--but not too big a problem. The outlaws didn't think that he
could go into the jungle without armor, so they did not watch him or
the door too carefully.

As soon as they were inside, Ed took off Johnny's oversized armor and
locked it away. He then winked at the other men and sat Johnny down in
front of him on a high stool.

"You know who I am?" Ed asked him.

"Sure," Johnny said. "You're Ed."

The big man cuffed him so hard he fell from the stool.

"Boy," he said, "you never saw me before." He frowned, making his
scarred face as evil as he could. "When you go back to that colony,
you're going to forget you ever saw us. Do you know why?"

From the floor Johnny shook his head.

"Because if you tell anybody our names or anything about us, you know
what we're going to do?" Ed asked.

Again Johnny shook his head.

"We'll catch you and take you out into the jungle and tie you to a
tree without any armor on, and leave you for the arrow-birds. You
understand?"

Johnny nodded his head. They thought they were scaring him.

They talked a little while longer, describing things they might do to
him if he told their names, and Johnny pretended to be afraid.

"All right," Ed said after the lecture. "Get back to the kitchen."

"Can I play with your monkey?" Johnny asked.

"Play with that monkey!" Ed's pale eyebrows went up. "He'd chew an ear
off you. I've been trying to tame him for a month--and he don't do
anything but bite. You leave him alone."

"He won't bite me," Johnny said. "I don't think he will." The monkey
would be a big help in escaping, if only they'd let Johnny get close to
him. "I'll just go get some sugar cubes from the kitchen."

"Let him, Ed. It'll teach the brat a lesson," the narrow-faced Barney
put in.

"O.K." Ed said. "Get bit, if you want to."

Johnny rushed through the open door into the kitchen. Rick was sitting
at the table with a book beside him.

"You got any candy, Rick?" Johnny asked. "Or maybe some sugar cubes?"

"You better not fool with that monk, Johnny," Rick said. "He's plenty
mean, like all the Venus creatures."

"He won't hurt me," Johnny said. He saw a box of sugar cubes in the
cupboard and grabbed it. "Monkeys just love sweets."

"No." Rick leaned over and a big freckled hand closed around Johnny's
small brown one. He took the box of sugar away. "I'm going to tell them
you got scared. Only two things will happen if you try playing with
that monk. You'll get bitten, and they'll get a big laugh."

"Please let me, Rick," Johnny said. He paused a minute and whispered,
"I've got an idea how I can get away."

"What!" Rick exploded. He closed the door and went on in a whisper,
"It's impossible. You haven't any armor. You don't have any weapons or
a tank. Don't be silly." He paused, and looked at Johnny. "Well, how
were you going to do it?"

"Simple," said Johnny. "First I make friends with the monkey. Then I'll
let him go and tell him to run around and jump on Ed and the rest.
While they are chasing him, I'll open the inside door. I'll let him out
first and dive through myself. I'll wedge open the outside door, and by
the time they get their armor on and break the lock on the inside door,
I'll be over the wall and gone." The words tumbled out of him.

Rick shook his head. "Johnny, that week in the jungle has gone straight
to your head. In the first place, how are you going to make friends
with the monkey? Then how are you going to _tell_ him anything? And how
are you going to get any armor?"

"Rick," Johnny said, "I don't need any armor."

"Oh, Johnny!" Rick exclaimed, exasperated.

"They just won't bother me." Johnny took a deep breath. "I can talk to
them, same as I can talk to the monkey!"

"What!"

"Now, listen, Rick," Johnny whispered earnestly, "I wasn't hurt when
I came here, was I? I'd been in the jungle six Earth days without any
armor."

Rick was looking at him with a strange expression.

"Do you remember," Johnny went on, "how I looked when you rescued me
from the rhinosaur?"

Rick nodded.

"Did I have any armor on then?"

Rick stared at Johnny for a few seconds.

"By golly!" His mouth was slightly open in amazement. "You didn't have
any armor on!"

"I wasn't hurt, was I?"

Rick shook his head slowly.

"No," he said, "but what about that leopard and the rhinosaur?"

"The leopard wasn't hurting me," Johnny said. "She was trying to
get me away before the men got me. She was my friend. As for the
rhinosaur--well, Baba and me hadn't learned for sure about them, yet."

"But how can you talk to them?" Rick asked in wonder.

Johnny knew he had no choice, he had to trust Rick completely.

"It was Baba," Johnny said. Then, very quickly, he explained about
Baba's clicks, and told Rick about his three secrets.

"Jeb said something about those clicks one time," Rick said
thoughtfully. "I never dreamed it could be true."

"It _is_ true, though," Johnny insisted.

Ed stuck his scarred face through the doorway.

"Well, kid, getting cold feet about the monk?"

"No, sir!" Johnny said. "Rick was just getting me some cube sugar."

"Well, hurry it up." Ed went back out.

"Johnny," Rick said, "you show me with that monk, and by the moons of
Saturn, I'll come with you, armor or no armor!"

Johnny was bewildered. This was something he hadn't counted on. He
wanted to explain that there was a chance even he, alone, could not
succeed without Baba. Just as Johnny started to speak, Ed appeared in
the doorway again.

"Well?" he said in his heavy voice.

Johnny took the sugar cubes from Rick and followed Ed into the main
room. As he always did, the monkey screamed and chattered at them as
they entered. The little animal was chained to its perch. A spring
catch too strong for its tiny fingers fastened the chain to its collar
and kept it from getting away. The outlaws began to gather around.

"You'll have to stay at the table, way over at the other end of the
room," Johnny said to the men. "He's scared of you." He pointed to the
table, which was as far as possible from the door leading outside.

"All right, all right." The four men seated themselves where Johnny
pointed, ready to watch the fun.

Johnny walked slowly up to the tiny monkey. As he did so, its little
red face twisted and it showed its razor-sharp fangs. It screamed at
him. Then it leaped out, only to be jerked back cruelly as it came to
the end of its chain. But it ran out as far as it could and clawed at
Johnny, its eyes red.

"Friend-pet, friend-pet," Johnny clicked very low in the back of his
throat. The animal stopped screaming and cocked his head at him. It
looked from one side to the other, as if looking for a marva behind
Johnny. Johnny repeated the phrase again and again, holding the sugar
out where the red monkey could see it and smell it.

Johnny didn't have any idea how much the little animal could
understand, but he went on clicking. "I'm your friend. We are going
to get away from these men." He repeated this many times. Then he
remembered that Rick was going to try, too. "You and I and the big man
in the other room are going to escape."

As Johnny talked, he moved forward. Soon he was well in range of the
little monkey's nails. It jumped forward. Johnny put a sugar cube in
its paws. With a gurgle of pleasure, the monkey swallowed the sugar and
put out its paw for more.

"Jump on my shoulder," Johnny clicked. The little creature regarded him
silently. Then, with a graceful hop, it was on his shoulder.

"I don't believe it," Ed's voice rumbled.

As soon as the hunter outlaw spoke, the little monkey growled and bared
his teeth at him. The man muttered something under his breath, angry
that a small boy had done what he couldn't do. He started out toward
them, and was quickly in range of the creature's teeth.

"You'd better not," Johnny said. "He'll--"

The monkey dived at Ed, his teeth slicing into the man's shoulder. The
outlaw jumped back, cursing. Blood ran down his shirt.

"I'm sorry, Ed," Johnny said. "Let me work with him just a little
while, and maybe he'll make friends with you, too." In his anger the
man had picked up a heavy stick to hit the monkey. The other men broke
into laughter.

Ed grunted something, and threw his stick at the men who were laughing.
"Come on," he said, "let's play cards." Johnny turned back to the
monkey.

For almost half an hour Johnny talked to the monkey in the marva
clicking language while the outlaws played cards across the room. He
guessed the little animal could understand a little more than the
mother leopard could. That wasn't too much, but it was enough. He made
the creature understand that when he was released, he was to fly at
the men. He wasn't to hurt them, but make them chase him until Johnny
could get the door open. Then the monkey was to leap for the opening.
The hardest job was getting the monkey to understand that he shouldn't
harm Rick if the ex-bodyguard came with them. Johnny wasn't sure the
monkey understood.

With his back turned to the outlaws, Johnny undid the collar about the
monkey's throat. Keeping the little animal out of their sight he walked
toward the exit door. He picked up an old boot to use on the outer door.

"Hey," Ed suddenly shouted, "where's the monk?"

"After them," Johnny clicked. The monkey leaped at the oncoming Ed. He
clawed his face, then leaped at the other men. He made great jumps by
swinging from light fixtures by his long black tail. Ed wheeled and
charged like a bull after the tiny screaming creature.

"The kid let the crazy thing loose!" he shouted. "Catch it!"

"Shoot him!" yelled Shorty, drawing his ato-tube pistol from its
holster. Ed knocked it from his hand, and it went sliding along the
floor.

"Want to kill us, too, you fool?"

In the excitement Johnny worked the latch on the exit door, and pressed
the button that opened it. He saw Rick half way through the kitchen
door. Rick reached down and grabbed up something from the floor. The
monkey was jumping from head to head among the yelling outlaws. Not one
of them noticed what Johnny was doing.

The door was open. Johnny nodded his head toward Rick, who came at a
dead run. When Rick was almost there, Johnny clicked as loud as he
could, "Come, friend-pet! Come!"

In one leap the little animal sailed across the room and landed on his
shoulder. Johnny and Rick pushed through the door, slammed it behind
them, and opened the outside door.

Johnny paused a second and wedged the boot he had picked up into the
outer door. The outside door could not close and the safety lock would
keep the inner door closed.

"Come on, Johnny," Rick shouted. "This way!" He rushed through the
helicopter landing space toward the tank entrance. Rick pulled the
switch that opened the duro-steel door.

"Dive for the nearest tree trunk," Rick shouted. "They have gun mounts
on the roof."

Johnny ran after Rick, his short legs unable to keep up with the older
man. The little monkey was riding on top of his head, shrieking and
chattering. As soon as they reached the forest the monkey jumped into a
tree.

Johnny stopped dead. He needed that monkey. The little animal could
tell other animals he and Rick were friendly.

"Friend-pet monkey, friend-pet monkey," he clicked, "come with me." For
an instant he was afraid the animal had not heard. Then, with a shock,
he felt it drop down on his head.

"Rick, Rick," he yelled, "stay with me." With relief he heard the
big man coming back. "You gotta stay with me," Johnny panted.
"Arrow-birds." Rick nodded, and ran along beside Johnny.

They ran among the great pillars of the diamond-wood forest until
Johnny thought his breath would come no more. His feet were heavy
against the springing leaves, his legs began to twist with fatigue.
When he was about to fall, Rick whisked him up in his arms.

The little monkey screamed and jumped at Rick's head.

"No, no!" Johnny clicked. The tiny creature jumped back on Johnny's
head, but he had left red claw marks on Rick's face.

Far in the distance they heard the noise of a tank motor starting. The
diamond-wood trees were beginning to thin out. Soon they would be in
the jungle of meat trees which always surrounded a grove of the giant
trees. The sound of a helicopter motor starting up was added to the
sound of the tank. The noise of the tank motor lessened. The outlaws
had headed in the wrong direction. The helicopter was the great danger
now. Hiding under a meat tree, with its heavy leaves, was their best
chance.

"We'd better get under something, Rick," Johnny said. His breath had
returned. "Let me down."

Rick nodded. His breath was coming in great gasps. A heavily leafed
tree surrounded by brush was a few hundred yards ahead of them.
Johnny pointed to it and Rick nodded. Johnny prayed that there were
no arrow-birds feeding there. This close to the hunters' lodge there
shouldn't be many animals--but arrow-birds were always on the watch.

As they worked through the brush to get under the meat tree Johnny
really missed Baba. The first branches were too high for either Johnny
or Rick to reach. If Baba had been there they could have easily climbed
up into the protection of the tree's leaves and branches. Luckily the
brush was high and thick around it, screening them from view from the
side. The tree itself screened off the sky.

Once they had reached the trunk of the tree, they stood wordlessly for
a while, breathing hard.

"Any idea where we are, Rick?" Johnny asked in a whisper.

Rick's big, bony face broke into a smile. He reached into a pocket. Out
came a small map of the Venus continent.

"Not for sure," he said. "But we can't be far from the lodge." He
pointed to a mark on the map. "Once we see the lay of the land, we
should be able to tell." Suddenly Rick froze stone still. Johnny looked
up.

An arrow-bird had flown into the tree. Since its head was not in
position to strike, it was probably looking for a meat fruit. Just as
Johnny saw it, its head turned toward them.

Johnny clicked out a sharp command for it to leave them alone.

As the little purple eyes sought them out, its head snapped into
striking position. But as Johnny clicked on, it moved its head back to
a friendlier position. Its little purple eyes stared directly at them.

Rick regarded Johnny with wonder.

"I don't know what that little bear taught you, but it sure is a
miracle," he said. He then reached into his shirt. "I'm still glad I
got this. Did you see Ed knock it out of Shorty's hand?" He pulled an
ato-tube pistol out of the shirt.

As soon as the gun came out, the red ape leaped from Johnny's head,
screaming. The arrow-bird snapped its head into position to strike.

"Drop it, Rick! Drop it!" Johnny yelled.

Amazement swept over Rick's face.

"But why--?"

"Bother us not, friend-pet," Johnny clicked loudly. At the same time he
knocked the ato-tube from Rick's hand.

He was too late.

The arrow-bird shot with a sickening smack into Rick's shoulder. Almost
as quickly it withdrew its blood-stained beak and was hovering in the
air for another strike.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

_Captured!_


Rick stood rigid, his face twisting with pain, a hand clutching his
upper arm. The greenish bird hovered in the air, its wings a blur of
motion.

"We are friends. We are friends. Bother us not, friend-pet!" Johnny
clicked deep in his throat. The bird continued to hover, its little
purple eyes darting back and forth from Johnny to the wounded Rick. Its
bloody head stayed in arrow position, but it drifted farther away.

Johnny remembered that when he had had an arrow-bird on his shoulder,
the others had left him alone. He dreaded changing his command, but he
did.

"Come to your friend," he clicked firmly. The arrow-bird stared at him
distrustfully, but came closer. The monkey dropped back on Johnny's
head. With a sigh of relief, Johnny saw the arrow-bird's head snap out
of attack position. He put out his hand and the arrow-bird lit on it.

"Are you hurt bad, Rick?" he asked. The words made the arrow-bird
flutter with alarm, but Johnny soothed it by petting it with his other
hand.

Rick shook his head.

"Not too bad," he said through clenched teeth. "The thing seemed to
dodge when you made that clicking noise."

"I'm sorry, Rick," Johnny said. "You just shouldn't have shown that
gun--you'll have to leave it behind. If they think you'd harm any of
them, they'll kill you, just like that. The monkeys almost got me
'cause of a pocket knife."

"I didn't know," Rick said. He looked at the bird on Johnny's shoulder.
"Seems peaceful enough now."

"You better let him sit on your shoulder, Rick." Johnny looked down at
the arrow-bird and stroked it again. When it was quiet he placed it on
Rick's shoulder. The man was nervous and the bird was worried, but they
both did as they were told.

They waited under the tree while the helicopter went back and forth
above them. Johnny looked at Rick's wound. It didn't look too serious,
but Johnny knew better than to count on that. The slightest arrow-bird
wound could be deadly if not treated. Johnny had seen hunters brought
into the colony sick from an untreated scratch. They should have
brought an emergency kit, but the kits were only carried in special
pockets of the armor.

They let Rick's wound bleed to cleanse it as much as possible. Then
Johnny bound the arm tightly and made a sling for it from a piece of
Rick's shirt. Rick gave Johnny his wrist watch to wear, since his
wrist was hidden by the sling. After that they waited. It seemed the
helicopter would never go away. Once it hovered almost directly above
them, but then went on.

While they waited Johnny looked over the map. The outlaw hideout was
not as far from the colony as he had feared. They had to start soon and
make good time, but they just might be able to make it to the meeting
place the outlaws had set before Johnny's father got there. There was a
fighting chance if Rick didn't get too sick.

Finally they heard the sound of the helicopter landing far in the
distance. Taking direction from the map, they set out on their way.
Rick's wound was less painful now, but Johnny kept his eye on his
redhaired friend. They started out at a fast clip, following an animal
track which led in the direction they wanted to go.

In a few hours of steady marching they were a safe distance from the
outlaw hideout. Johnny's idea was working out. Several flights of
arrow-birds had passed them by with no more than a glance in their
direction. One flight had hovered above them while the arrow-bird on
Rick's shoulder twittered and shrieked to them. Then they had flown off
at top speed. A troop of monkeys had also let them pass without doing
them any harm. Hundreds of the small red apes had followed along beside
them for some time. Johnny's monkey chattered to them from his perch on
the boy's head. Then they, too, had swung off through the trees at top
speed. Rick had been awed, for he had never seen Venus animals so close
except when they were attacking.

At first Rick's strides had been long and Johnny had had to run every
few steps to keep up. Now Rick's steps were short and slow. He seemed
to be getting weaker and weaker. They had stopped and cleaned his wound
again at a spring and rebound it, but he was not doing well. The big
redhaired man was pale under his freckles; his lips were set tight.

Johnny kept close beside him as they moved forward. They had worked out
a path to follow that skirted diamond-wood groves and avoided rivers.
It was too easy to become lost in the dense forest, and Johnny was very
unsure of what river snakes would do.

Suddenly Rick stumbled. He stopped and balanced himself by leaning on
Johnny's shoulder. He looked at Johnny with bloodshot eyes, sighed and
crumpled up on the ground. The arrow-bird that had been sitting on his
shoulder hovered in the air above him making little squeaking noises.
He flew toward Johnny and then down an animal trail that led off toward
a diamond-wood grove. As Johnny leaned over to look at Rick the monkey
jumped from Johnny's head.

Johnny stared down at Rick Saunders' face. His cheeks were flushed but
the rest of his face was grey. The little monkey sniffed the wounded
man and chattered something at Johnny. Then he, too, ran down the side
trail. When Johnny paid no attention, he came up to Johnny and plucked
his sleeve, chattering all the while. Johnny looked around. He thought
the monkey was drawing his attention to some antelope berries growing
down the path. Johnny clicked to the little red monkey to gather some.
When the red monkey returned, clutching a cluster of the large berries
in each tiny paw, Johnny took them and squeezed the clear red juice
into Rick's mouth.

The man coughed and turned his face away. But gradually his eyes
opened. They were dull and feverish. His hand went to his shoulder and
he winced. In the few hours that had passed, his arm and shoulder had
already swollen a great deal. He raised his head. Johnny helped him to
his feet, but when he staggered, Johnny helped him lie down again on a
patch of grass by the antelope berry bush.

"I can't go any farther, Johnny." Rick's voice was hoarse. "Those birds
must have some kind of poison on their beaks. That wound feels like
it's on fire."

"It's not poison, Rick," Johnny explained. "They eat the meat fruit and
little pieces stick to their beaks. The pieces get rotten and infect
wounds bad." Johnny remembered that Rick was an Earthie and had been on
Venus barely a year.

"There's only one thing to do," Johnny went on. "I'll have to light a
signal fire with lots of smoke. Somebody'll see us then."

Rick shook his head slowly. "No, Johnny, it won't do. If those hunters
come they'll get you again and they're likely to finish me off. You
take the map and go on...." Rick's voice trailed away. He struggled to
sit up.

Johnny stepped forward, wondering what was wrong. The monkey leaped off
his head and bounded into a tree. Slowly Rick raised his good arm and
pointed directly behind Johnny.

Johnny turned. Staring at him through a bush was a coal black
sabre-toothed leopard, crouched to spring.

"Friend-pet, go away!" Johnny clicked in the marva tongue. Oh, if Baba
were only here! The monkey chattered from a tree.

"Go away! Go away!" Johnny repeated. Then he saw a second leopard. A
third. None of them was his friend, the mother leopard. These leopards
stood almost a foot higher and were solid black. Their sabre fangs were
a full foot long. These were deadly males, hunting in a pack.

The one behind the bush gave a coughing growl. All three slinked slowly
toward Johnny and Rick on silent feet, their mouths half open, their
white teeth shining.

"Go away, bother us not! Friend-pets, bother us not!" Johnny repeated.
The leopards moved smoothly forward, their steel-like muscles rippling
under the shining black fur.

Frantically, Johnny turned to Rick, who was struggling to his feet.

"They won't obey, Rick!"

"Run, Johnny," Rick said. "Run for a tree!" Rick thrust the boy behind
him, but Johnny would not leave his friend. Rick turned, pulling
Johnny, and started to run.

At the same moment a leopard sprang through the air, high over their
heads. A split second later he was in front of them, barring their way,
his gold eyes glistening, his fanged mouth giving forth a low growl.
The growl meant, "Come."

Johnny looked about. Not four steps away was another of the lion-sized
cats. They were ringed around by the creatures. Johnny tried clicking
again, but they paid no attention.

"My arm, Johnny!" Rick groaned. He ran his hand over a forehead which
was dripping sweat. Slowly his legs gave way and he fell in a heap
beside Johnny. The leopards moved closer, their mouths wide. The one in
front was getting so close that Johnny could feel its breath blowing
against his bare arm.

Then it moved too fast for Johnny to follow. Johnny felt the great jaws
close around his middle, and he was hurled off his feet. Frantically he
beat at the big head. The jaws tightened, gripping him painfully. As
Johnny cried out in pain he saw the other two leopards leap upon Rick.

A few seconds later Johnny was being carried down the path in the jaws
of the monster cat. The jaws had tightened no more than was necessary
to hold him firmly as the animal trotted along. From this strange
position Johnny witnessed an even stranger sight. Behind the leopard
carrying Johnny strode the two others. Side by side they walked,
dividing Rick Saunders' weight between them. One had its jaws about
Rick's arms and shoulders; the other held his hips and legs. They moved
along easily, their heads held high so that his feet would not drag on
the ground.

Then Johnny saw that his arrow-bird friend was riding on the shoulder
of one of the leopards that was carrying Rick. He heard a chattering
noise, and knew that the little red monkey was close by.

The leopards were taking them some place, but who could know where?
In his odd position Johnny could not tell even the direction they
were going. But soon they were in the patchwork shadow of a meat tree
forest. Here the leopards had their lairs. But they did not stop. They
went on and on. Johnny kept trying to watch the leopards which carried
Rick. Once in a while he could catch a glimpse of them, Rick's head
bobbing as they moved. He was still unconscious.

Then Johnny heard a shout and a scuffling noise. The leopard carrying
him turned around. Rick was conscious. His head was turning about
wildly and he was yelling. His eyes lit on Johnny.

"What's happening?" he all but screamed.

"They're taking us somewhere," Johnny answered. "They haven't hurt me
yet."

Rick was kicking his feet and struggling, making it hard for the
leopards to walk. Johnny could see their jaws tightening as Rick
struggled.

"You better not fight, Rick," Johnny said. "You can't get away and
they'll just hurt you more. I'll tell them you won't fight if they'll
hold you easier." He clicked the message to the big cats. His own
leopard turned back up the trail, and he couldn't see what the other
leopards did. A few seconds later he heard Rick's voice.

"You were right, Johnny. When I eased up they eased up, too." Then he
laughed in a strained way. "I wish they'd eat us right now and get it
over with."

"Maybe they won't."

They said no more. They were coming to the edge of the meat tree grove.
As was often the case, the last group of meat trees was beside a river.
Beyond was a diamond-wood grove. The three animals plunged into the
cool water, and soon were swimming, with Johnny's and Rick's heads held
well above the water. On the opposite bank they dived into the shadow
of the diamond-wood grove.

As soon as they entered the grove Johnny was startled to see that there
were several antelope walking beside them. Then, suddenly, the little
red monkey he had rescued from Ed was squatting on the leopard's back.
Johnny heard a swishing sound almost under his head. By twisting hard
he could see the ground. There was a river snake crawling beside them.
Its ugly horned head was right beneath him. It was the first time he
had ever seen one.

Then his heart leaped.

He heard the clicking of the marva language. Johnny twisted his body
against the leopard's teeth, trying to see where the clicking was
coming from. The leopard growled, and Johnny lay still again.

"Take the big killer to the healer," the voice clicked. "The little
killer take to the council." The clicks were somehow different from
Baba's, firmer and louder; but Johnny could understand them perfectly.

Johnny caught sight of the two leopards carrying Rick. They were
turning down another path. The river snake and the antelope took the
same path. But Johnny's leopard went on forward. After a short time the
leopard stopped and very carefully opened its jaws and eased Johnny to
the ground. It turned and walked a few steps away. There it crouched.

Johnny got slowly to his feet. The little red monkey jumped on his
head. The arrow-bird perched on his shoulder. In a clearing among the
diamond-wood trees Johnny stood in the center of a circle of jewel
bears, their blue nails glowing in the half light. All but one or
two were dark about the muzzle. They sat on their haunches, staring
straight at Johnny.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

_A City in the Trees_


Except for faint animal sounds in the distance, there was silence in
the diamond-wood grove. More marva than any other person had ever seen
surrounded Johnny. Most of them were dark muzzled and very old. From
old Jeb's hunting tales Johnny knew that as a marva grows older the fur
about its muzzle darkens. A jewel bear with a black muzzle was a rare
thing. This was no ordinary group of marva, but a gathering of elders.
They seemed neither friendly nor unfriendly. They seemed to be waiting
patiently for Johnny to do something.

"Hello," Johnny broke the silence, greeting them in their own clicking
language. "I am very glad to see you." Once started, Johnny had so much
to say the words fairly rushed from him. "Your leopards sure scared
us. Maybe you can tell me how to get to some people quick. Before it
knew we wouldn't hurt it, this arrow-bird wounded my friend and he's
very sick. And Baba's got caught again, and some bad men are trying to
get him. If you could help us get back to the colony, oh, I'd thank
you! Baba's a marva, you know, just like you and he's my best friend.
We tried to find you, but the outlaws captured me and Baba went home
because I'm his friend-pet-brother and he thought I'd be there. Rick
will die if you--"

The torrent of words was cut short by a marva with a coal black
muzzle. He stood up and raised both furry blue paws for silence.

"It was well reported that the little killer can speak our language,"
he clicked, with a sound very like a human chuckle. "You speak well,"
he clicked to Johnny, "but you speak too much at once." A ripple of
amusement passed over the faces of the jewel bears. Then they became
stern once more.

"You must try to tell a little at a time," the old marva continued.
"But first, let me answer one of your questions, for I think you are
full of questions. The red-furred killer has been sent to the healers.
He will soon be treated. We heard of you and of the wound from our
friend-pets. You need not worry, little killer. Our healers have had
many wounds to deal with since your kind has been in the green lands."

"You mean _you_ will fix up my friend?" Johnny asked. "You have
doctors?"

"Yes, little killer," the black muzzled one answered.

"But he won't understand," Johnny said. "He wouldn't let any of you
touch him--not unless I talk to him."

"Follow the leopard, then. He will take you to the healers. Then return
here." The black muzzled marva waved his paw and the leopard rose and
trotted off. Johnny ran beside him.

In another clearing Johnny paused in amazement. It was filled with many
animals. He saw several rhinosaurs with great gaping ato-tube wounds.
A leopard with a cut on its shoulder lay whimpering before a marva,
who was squeezing the juice of some berries upon the cut. Fascinated,
Johnny watched as the marva sewed up the cut--a fine piece of marva
claw for his needle. The berry's juice must have killed the pain for
the leopard stopped whimpering and lay very still.

Then Johnny saw Rick. He was lying on his back, but his eyes were open.
The two leopards were right beside him, their heavy paws holding him
down.

"Rick!" Johnny called, running up to him.

"Get away from here," Rick yelled. "There's a horned snake right beside
me. He'll kill us!"

"No," Johnny answered. "If he'd wanted to, he could have done it long
ago. Rick, we're safe! The leopards brought you here to get your wound
fixed up." Then he clicked to the leopards, "Let him go. He won't run
away." He turned back to Rick. "I just told the leopards you won't run
away," he explained. "Just watch the marva over there."

Unsteadily, Rick got to his feet. He quickly sat down again, overcome
by weakness and amazement. He had caught sight of the marva healers at
work. One was sewing up a rhinosaur. Another was splinting up the leg
of an antelope. Rick shook his head.

"I'm dreaming," he said. "I must be!"

"Isn't it wonderful!" Johnny said. "They're going to fix your wound,
too."

The leopard beside him growled, in the way Johnny knew meant "come."

"I gotta go now," Johnny said. "Goodbye, and don't worry. Let them do
what they want to."

Johnny and the leopard made their way among the sick animals. Johnny
let out a cry of pleasure. There was his friend the leopardess. The
ato-tube burn was not a bad one, and it had already been treated.
She rose when she saw him. Though the big male leopard growled his
disapproval, Johnny ran over and patted her and her cubs before he went
on.

"Is she a friend of yours?" Johnny was startled by the sudden
appearance of the black muzzled marva who had spoken to him earlier.

"Yes, old one," Johnny answered respectfully.

"Come!" the marva addressed the leopardess.

The two leopards, the cubs, Johnny and the marva walked off together.
Soon Johnny was in the circle of marva again. This time he was over his
surprise and he tried to tell his story as clearly as he could. He was
beginning to get worried about the time that was passing, and he looked
at Rick's watch again and again. There was always the chance that the
outlaws would try to get Baba, even though they no longer had Johnny to
give in return. But he told his story as best he could.

In spite of his worry, he had to explain all about men on Venus. He
even had to tell where men came from, since the jewel bears had never
seen stars or planets in their sky. He told about overcrowded Earth and
his father's desire to make a colony. He told about the hunters and
Trader Harkness. He told about his trip into the jungle and how the
outlaws had captured him, and, finally, of his escape with Rick into
the jungle.

The group of marva listened carefully. Sometimes they nodded their
heads in approval of what he had done, and sometimes they seemed
puzzled. But they seemed more friendly when he had finished.

When at last he came to a halt, the old marva who was acting as
spokesman for the group arose.

"You say this young marva friend of yours is named Baba?" The old one
used the word in the clicking language for Baba's name.

"Yes."

"We have heard of him," the black muzzled marva clicked, "though he was
not of our grove. His mother and brother were killed. We have wondered
why he was not killed too, since your people feel we are your enemies.
Our observer on Council Rock has watched your people often, but has
seen little we can understand. Tell us why Baba was not killed at
first."

"I already explained," Johnny said. "His teeth and claws were black.
Now they are blue and, of course, he's worth a lot of money."

"What is this money?" the black muzzled one asked.

Johnny was surprised. The word Baba used for money must not be a real
marva word. If only Baba was here to explain! Johnny tried the best he
could to explain how money works. The marva shook its head in wonder at
the strange ways of men.

"But why do you want our claws and teeth?" the marva asked.

"To make rings and plastic." But they understood neither the word
"ring" nor the word "plastic." Johnny had to explain that plastic was
the material that headglobes were made from. He explained also that
rings and jewelry were used for decoration.

"And that is why we are killed on sight?" asked the marva.

"Yes, old one." It made Johnny sad for himself, for the marva, and for
his people, to have to admit this.

His answer caused a stir among the marva.

"I have one more question," the old marva said. "Why did you come into
the jungle with the marva, Baba?"

"He would have died or been killed otherwise, and he was my brother, or
like my brother. It was like the song he sang:

    "You help your friends
    And your friends help you.
    It is the law
    And will be the law as the trees stand.
    Between friend and friend there is no parting
    More than the fingers of a hand."

"We know the song," the marva said, gently. "But didn't you think
these--" the marva gestured at the leopards, "might kill you?"

"Yes," Johnny said, "but I had to take the chance."

They asked many more questions about men and their ways. Many were hard
for Johnny to answer or even to understand, but he tried very hard to
be as clear and truthful as possible. Finally they seemed satisfied,
and there was again silence in the diamond-wood grove.

With a nod to Johnny the black muzzled marva led the rest of the jewel
bears away, and left Johnny and his animal friends alone. A short
distance away the marva again formed a circle and clicked together
quietly.

Then they called over his friend, the leopardess, the red monkey and
the arrow-bird. They appeared to be asking them questions. Johnny,
left to himself, wondered what was happening. It was all very strange.
Rick's wrist watch said too much time had passed already.

The black muzzled marva returned to Johnny.

"Come with me," he clicked, and walked toward one of the great trees.
One of the younger jewel bears waited at the foot of the tree. "Grasp
him by the shoulders," the black muzzled marva directed Johnny, "and
hold tight." Johnny found he could ride easily on his back. The marva
started up the tree at a breathtaking speed. The full grown marva
climbed three times as fast as Baba could without anything on his back.
Down below them the black muzzled marva followed with the slow dignity
of age. Up and up they went, the full two hundred feet toward the sky.
Johnny looked down at the sick animals and the healers. They looked
very small now.

Finally Johnny and the marva reached the branches. As they came up to
the first huge branch, it appeared to move slowly away from the trunk
of the tree, to reveal a large opening. The tip of the branch was
fastened to a branch above. Two huge snakes the color of the branch
were coiled about it. These snakes had pulled the branch from the
opening so that the marva and Johnny could enter. Johnny could see that
the branch had been hollowed out until it was fairly light.

Once inside, Johnny's eyes were dazzled by light. The young marva
started back down the tree. In a few moments the black muzzled marva
was before Johnny again. He made a little bow.

"Man child," he clicked, "welcome to the tree of Keetack, leader of the
council of this grove. May you have long life."

"Thank you." It was the only thing Johnny could think of to say.

Before him was a beautiful room. There were finely woven grass mats
upon the floor, and in places about the room piles of mats of soft blue
and delicate pinks made places to sit. The room was flooded with light
that came from directly over their heads. The walls were made of the
living wood of the tree carved with many scenes of Venus and colored to
make beautiful designs. Johnny looked up to see where the light came
from. He gasped.

Above them was a great cluster of marva teeth and claws, glowing with
light. When Keetack, the leader of the council, moved forward, the
light floated along the ceiling following him. Finally, Johnny realized
what the light was. It was a cluster of the large Venus fireflies. Each
clasped a marva claw in its tiny feet. As the insect glowed, the claw
multiplied the light. In the middle of the ceiling was a hive where the
fireflies lived. Johnny watched with wonder as the flies went back and
forth from hive to light.

Keetack noticed Johnny's interest. "As one becomes tired," he said,
"another takes his place. We give them food and they give us light. Is
it not a good system?"

Suddenly Johnny understood. "And the rhinosaurs protect you from the
sea beasts...."

"And we help them when they are sick or hurt. We help take care of
their marshberries and see that they have food. All living things are
our friends but the killers of the sea."

"Gee," said Johnny, "it's just perfect."

The little bear appeared to laugh.

"Hardly," he clicked. "We have our quarrels too, and many of our
friends sometimes forget."

"That's right," Johnny said. "The monkeys sure didn't trust those
leopards until after we got here."

"It is hard for many of them," Keetack went on. "I often wonder what
the rhinosaurs will do when there is nothing left to fight. We are
already beginning to make friends with the killers of the sea. Not long
ago the arrow-birds were killers, and it was only in the lifetime of
my great grandfather's great great grandfather's father that we made
friends with the river snakes, so that they, too, do as we advise them
to do."

"You mean obey you?" Johnny asked.

"In a way," Keetack answered, "most of the animals obey us."

"But they don't obey your little ones!" Johnny was excited. "It's
only when your blue teeth come in and your voice gets deep that other
animals will obey you. Isn't that right?"

"Yes," said Keetack. "We say a deep voice is a sign of the coming of
wisdom."

"Then that's why the arrow-birds obeyed Baba and me?"

"Yes," Keetack nodded. "Now would you like to see the remainder of our
tree?"

"Please," Johnny answered politely. "It's a lot like the caves in New
Plymouth Rock."

"Indeed so," said the marva leader. "Those caves served as a yearly
meeting place of the Council of All The Groves. No one tree was large
enough for all to live in while we talked together. Before your people
came to the green lands we had happy times there each year. Now we use
the rock only for watching you."

"I'm sorry," Johnny said.

"Come now," Keetack clicked. "I will show you the tree."

Johnny would have been terribly excited by the suggestion if it hadn't
been for his fear that they were taking too much time.

The whole upper part of the tree was honeycombed with rooms. Each level
was connected by a winding passage as in the caverns of New Plymouth
Rock. Each was lit in the same way. It was not Keetack's tree alone;
several marva families lived there together. As they entered each level
a marva would come forward and welcome Johnny. He was fascinated by the
little ones, who grinned at him just as Baba did.

The marva cubs always came in twos: peeking around from the back of
the mothers were always two pairs of bright blue eyes. But one family
was different. Johnny and Keetack entered that level to the sound of
growling and tumbling and scratching. In the middle of the room a small
bear bounced hard on the floor and up to the ceiling where it clung
like a fly. Below it a coal black leopard cub growled in a way Johnny
understood. It was a pleading growl saying "Come."

As soon as the baby bear hanging on the ceiling saw Johnny and Keetack
he dropped to the floor and stood with his arm around the black leopard
cub. A mother marva came rushing from another room.

"I'm sorry my cubs were so rude," she clicked, "but you know how much
mischief one of ours and a friend-pet-brother can get into."

"Of course," Keetack clicked. "This is the friend-pet-brother of one of
ours, so he will understand."

"Oh, yes!" Johnny said. Then he looked over at the two cubs. The little
marva was still very small and had black claws. "He shows off just like
Baba used to," Johnny exclaimed. Johnny remembered the trouble his
mother had had with Baba's game of walking on the ceiling.

With that they went on, but Johnny touched Keetack on the shoulder.
Though the bear was old, he came no more than to Johnny's shoulder.

"The leopard cub was that marva cub's friend-pet-brother--just as Baba
is mine?" Johnny asked.

For the first time the marva seemed to smile, opening his mouth wide as
Baba did when he grinned.

"We would say _you_ were _his_ friend-pet-brother," the black muzzled
one clicked. "Perhaps it is better to say you are _friend-brothers_. It
is not strange. Many of us have had companions of another race."

"But why is this?" Johnny asked eagerly.

"You have seen that our cubs always come in pairs. The pair is almost
one until they are grown," Keetack explained. "If only one cub is born,
or one of a pair dies, we give the lone cub a friend-pet, a cub of
another race to grow up with him. They become brothers just as you and
Baba did. Without this the lone cub would die. Cubs need the love of a
brother as much as they need food. It is sometimes a very good thing,
for in this way our friends of the plains and the groves are knitted to
us with ties of very deep love."

"Now I understand why Baba would never leave me," Johnny said. And then
he went on earnestly, "And you should understand why I've got to get
back to Baba in the colony. There may still be some way I can save him.
But I don't have much more time."

"I can make no promise yet to let you go," Keetack said. "Still there
may be a way we can save your friend-brother and do something more
besides." He would say no more.

Soon they were back in Keetack's rooms.

"You will wait here," Keetack said.

Johnny seated himself on one of the piles of mats and waited. He didn't
quite understand what was going on, but he wished Keetack would hurry.
He looked at Rick's watch. It had been twelve hours since he had spoken
to his father on Ed's radio telephone. He had only an Earth day and a
half to get to the settlement if he were to keep Baba out of Ed's hands.

A few minutes later Keetack reentered the room, surrounded by some of
the furry bears who lived in his tree. "My friend," he clicked, "I have
a gift from the people of my tree to your people--those whom you say
are making a colony. It is a gift of friendship and a gift of peace. If
the Council of the Grove decides to let you go back, I hope you can use
these to pay for the life of your friend and brother, Baba." In his
hand the marva held a small package wrapped with woven rushes.

"Thank you," Johnny said, and took the package.

"You may unwrap it."

Johnny folded back the stiff material, and gasped. In his hand glowed a
pile of marva claws--hundreds of them!



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

_The Thunder of Rhinosaur Hooves_


A worried Johnny was standing in the center of the clearing once more,
surrounded by the little jewel bears. He now knew this was the grove
council, a group of the wisest bears of the grove. Keetack's gift to
Johnny had impressed them all. They knew it meant that Keetack trusted
Johnny. Yet they were cautious. Johnny's knowledge of them could be
very dangerous.

"It is not right he should go," one of the marva was saying. His muzzle
was still blue, and Johnny knew this meant he was younger than the
rest. "The young killer will return to his people and tell of our ways
and of our houses in the trees. Then the older killers will come with
their death-spitting things and our lives will be gone. I think that we
should hold him here. Otherwise we risk the lives of our people."

Johnny put up his hand as if he were in school. The marva, Keetack, of
the deep black muzzle, pointed at Johnny.

"May I talk now?" Johnny asked. The marva nodded. "I won't tell
anything you don't want me to," he promised earnestly. "With these
claws I'm sure Baba can be saved, but I'm going to have to hurry. If
the outlaws get him they will kill him sure. Don't you understand?"

"We understand," the old marva answered. "But we must be sure of safety
for us and our people. Your people are killers like the beasts of the
sea. You even kill each other. You are a strange people. Still you
risked your life for your friend Baba, just as Baba would risk his.
Your friend with the red fur risked his life to help you. Do you really
think that if your people knew all there is to know about us, they
would not come with the fire spitting things?"

Johnny was silent. He knew Ed would come. He knew Trader Harkness
would, too. He swallowed, for lying to these little bears was something
he just couldn't do.

"For those claws some of my people would do anything," he clicked in a
low voice.

There was complete silence in the grove.

The marva who was young and still blue furred about the muzzle stood
again. Johnny wanted to cry. He had condemned Baba to death, but if
he hadn't done so, maybe all the marva would be killed. He felt they,
too, were his brothers. He broke into sobs and stood there with tears
running down his cheeks.

"We have heard our young friend," the blue-furred marva said. It was
the first time he had not called Johnny a killer. "He gave us the
truth because we have trusted him, and treated him with friendship. I
was wrong. He is to be trusted. Let him go from here with his gifts.
My tree, too, will send a gift. But let him promise to keep secret
anything he thinks may be dangerous to us." The marva seated himself.

"Oh, I promise," Johnny said solemnly. "Cross my heart and hope to die."

"It is agreed among us then?" Keetack asked the group. The furry heads
nodded their agreement. "Young friend, you may go. Your settlement is
three groves away from us. You may have a rhinosaur to ride. It will
take you home with time to spare. You go with a pledge of peace. We
will send messages ahead and no animals will attack you. Nor will any
of our friends attack any man unless he attacks first. You may tell
your people we will give them more claws for such things as we would
like from them. Every two years we marva get a new set of claws and
teeth. The old ones have been saved from generation to generation to
be used for lights and for tools. You may also tell the leaders of
your people we would like to meet with them. Perhaps we can make a
friendship that will endure!"

Johnny had a busy hour ahead of him. First he ran to see Rick among
the sick animals in the other part of the grove. There was no question
of Rick's coming with him. He was still too sick from the arrow-bird's
wound, but he was definitely on the mend. He was lying under a
tree, petting the leopard cubs. Johnny told him what had happened,
carefully omitting where the marva lived, and Rick became more and more
interested. Finally Johnny showed him one of the packets of claws that
he had been given. By now the packets had grown to over a dozen, and he
had placed them in a bag made from his shirt.

"Johnny," Rick said, "you've done a most wonderful thing! Those marva
don't have to worry about being hunted any more. If people can get so
many of those claws and teeth, no one will ever want to hunt for them
again. You tell them that, for me."

Johnny rushed to give the news to the marva. The first one he found was
the young council member who had at first opposed letting him go.

"It pays to trust one another," the marva said simply.

Soon Johnny was ready. The leader of the council brought before him a
huge rhinosaur, one of the biggest Johnny had ever seen.

"Skorkin knows he must obey you," Keetack said. "He will do anything
you ask, and will harm none of your people."

"Hello, friend-pet," Johnny said.

The rhinosaur turned and looked at him with his little blue-black eyes
and grunted a greeting. Johnny noted it. It probably meant "hello."

"Was that his speech?" Johnny asked.

"Yes," Keetack answered. "They have more words than the other creatures
of the green lands. Only the monkeys of all our friend-pets come near
to being as smart as they. They are a people, too, of great courage."

"I know," Johnny said. He remembered the rhinosaur charge at the colony.

At the mention of the word "monkey," the little red ape whom Johnny had
rescued from Ed began to chatter and jump up and down.

"He likes you and wishes to go with you," Keetack said. "Do you want
him to?"

"Oh, yes," Johnny answered. The monkey leaped to his shoulder. Johnny
suddenly had an idea. "Could the leopardess, her cubs, and the
arrow-bird come too?" he asked. "That is, if they want to?"

Keetack understood what was in Johnny's mind and nodded his approval.
"It is a good idea," he clicked. "It would be a good way to prove to
your people that the animals can be friendly."

The leopardess was suddenly beside Johnny, rubbing up against him like
a big cat. She looked up into his face and growled in the way that
Johnny knew meant "come."

Johnny looked at the wrist watch. "We do have to hurry."

He threw the bagful of the precious claws over his shoulder, and
stepped toward the rhinosaur. "How'm I going to get on?" he asked, with
sudden surprise.

A series of grunts came from the rhinosaur, that sounded something like
laughter. Then it lay its horned snout upon the ground, and grunted
again.

"Climb on," Keetack said.

Grasping one of the long snout horns, Johnny climbed aboard his strange
mount.

"Goodbye," he shouted. All around hundreds of the marva were hanging
from their trees. They waved and he waved back. "Let's go!" he clicked
to the rhinosaur.

And so began the race through the jungle. The great rhinosaur moved
forward with thundering speed, the leopardess and her cubs loping
along beside them. When one of the cubs grew tired it leaped on to the
rhinosaur's back, curled up beside Johnny and went peacefully to sleep.
The arrow-bird perched on one of the beast's horns and the monkey
beside it. They did not stop for rain or rivers. Everywhere the jungle
seemed to have blossomed forth with animals, who waved and grunted,
growled, clicked, or sang greetings to them as they went past.

The broad back of the rhinosaur was a perfect place to travel, Johnny
found. It swayed hardly as much as a helicopter and bounced much less
than a tank. It was not long until Johnny had followed the leopard
cub's example. He found a hollow in the big back, curled up and went to
sleep, lulled by the steady swinging movement and the thunder of the
rhinosaur's hooves.

       *       *       *       *       *

Johnny woke with a start. The monkey was pulling on one of his ears;
they had reached the settlement. Johnny glanced down at his watch. He
had slept six hours.

The rhinosaur had stopped right at the edge of the meat tree grove
that bordered the settlement. Through the screen of trees Johnny could
see the high grey walls. It was about half a mile to the gate. Johnny
wiped the sleep out of his eyes and puzzled as to the best way of
making his appearance.

"Go that way," Johnny clicked, and pointed. "But stay where you can't
be seen from the walls." At a slow trot, the rhinosaur carried them to
a place directly in front of the gate to the settlement wall. Johnny
saw that the gate had been repaired. Beside it was a steel door through
which a single man could be admitted.

"You wait here for me," he said to the animals. "Let me down, friend
rhinosaur." He tied his bag of claws to the rhinosaur's horn and then
walked down the huge head to the ground. The arrow-bird flew over and
lit on his shoulder. It had not understood. "Wait," Johnny repeated.
"Wait, I will come back."

The rhinosaur wandered a few yards away and began to munch on some
bushes. The leopard growled to her cubs and began to climb a meat tree
in search of food. Johnny smiled. They were good friends to have.

Johnny slipped through the bushes and trees until only one antelope
berry bush was between him and the wall. The guard tower was directly
in front of him. The men in the tower must have noticed the swaying of
the bushes, for they were looking directly toward the spot where Johnny
stood.

Johnny slipped from behind the bush and stepped into full view. He
smiled and waved jauntily to the guards. As casually as he could he
started toward the door. Halfway there he began to skip for sheer joy.
The guards were staring at him open-mouthed. Obviously he had no armor
on. He had had to use his shirt to make the bag for the claws. The only
clothes he wore was the baggy pair of shorts Rick had made him.

The steel door at the base of the guard tower opened at his touch. He
closed it carefully, opened the inner door and then climbed the stairs
to the guard tower, instead of going straight into the colony. There,
too, were double doors.

"Hello," he said, as he entered.

The three guards on duty were so surprised they couldn't speak for a
second. One of them was Old Jeb. Before they recovered, Johnny went up
to Jeb. "Would you call my father, Jeb, and tell him to come to the
gate?" It was funny to watch their faces.

"Johnny, you're safe!" Jeb suddenly exploded. He swept the boy into his
arms and swung him about. He stopped, pushed the boy away from him, and
tousled his hair. "I can't believe it, but you're safe!"

"Sure am," Johnny said, with a grin. Then he became serious. "How is
Baba? Is he all right?"

"He's been kind of sad and upset, poor little feller," Jeb said. "But
how in thunder did you get here? Last we heard you were being held for
ransom. Your folks have been worried sick."

"Oh, I got away from the outlaws and some friends brought me. Please
call everybody in the colony, will you? Tell them to come to the gate.
I have something important to show them. I've got to go back out to my
friends now. 'Bye." He started toward the door.

"Friends! What friends?" Jeb called.

"You'll find out," Johnny said, with a laugh.

"Hey, you can't go outside without armor," one of the other guards
shouted. But Johnny had slipped out before he could be stopped. He took
the stairs at a run, and was out of the heavy steel wall doors before
the men could follow him.

As he skipped across the open space back to the jungle, he turned his
head, waved to the men in the tower, and smiled.

"Come back here, you little devil!" Jeb shouted through the loudspeaker
the guards used to guide tanks in.

But Johnny shook his head and went back into the brush.

Johnny waited for about ten minutes. All this time the loudspeaker in
the tower was shouting for Johnny to come back in. Finally the voice
changed. It was Johnny's father's voice.

"Johnny," his father said over the speaker. "Come on in here! _Please!_
I'm here now. Johnny!"

Johnny heard a tank starting up inside. He didn't want any tanks coming
after him.

"Come on, friends," he clicked to the animals. He climbed back up on
the rhinosaur's back. The leopard came running up with her cubs. The
arrow-bird and the monkey, taking no chances, followed behind them,
leaped to its usual perch--the top of Johnny's head.

"Let's go!" Johnny clicked to the rhinosaur. "Walk very slowly out
toward the big black place."

Johnny clicked to one of the cubs to jump up on the rhinosaur's back
beside him. Johnny crawled to the broad head of the rhinosaur between
two of its horns. The leopard cub sat on its haunches beside him. The
mother leopard and the other cub ran alongside them. The rhinosaur's
hooves made muffled thunder as he walked.

A big grin on his face, and waving his hand, Johnny emerged from the
jungle into full sight of his father, Jeb, and many others inside the
guard tower.

"Stop when we get a little way from the door," Johnny said to the
rhinosaur. The big beast grunted its understanding.

Johnny and his friends came to a halt close enough to the tower so that
Johnny's voice could be heard.

"Open the gate, please," Johnny shouted. "We want to come inside." He
saw his father's startled face above him. "Hello, Dad. How's Mom? Did
she worry too much?"

"Hello, son." His father's voice was shocked. "Your mother is all
right." He paused. "Where did you.... How did you...?"

"You mean the animals?" Johnny asked, rather enjoying the effect he
was making. "Oh, they're friends of mine. You can let us in. They won't
hurt anybody. I'm bringing a present to pay for Baba and make up for
all the harm we did. Look." He took a packet of the claws and opened
it. He let a handful of the claws run out of one hand into the other
in a shining blue waterfall. Through the microphone he could hear his
father and the other men gasp.

"Come in here quick," Frederick Watson's voice came back over the
loudspeaker.

"Open the gates, please," Johnny repeated.

"But the rhinosaur! And the leopard!"

"They're friends of mine. They brought me here. They won't hurt
anybody. I promise."

The big steel gate slowly opened. Riding on the back of one of the
greatly feared rhinosaurs, Johnny entered the colony.

It seemed that everyone in the colony had heard of Johnny's strange
return. Pioneers--men, women and children, hunters and guards--were
hurrying toward the big gate. At the sight of the rhinosaur, a woman
screamed and the crowd ran, scattering in all directions.

Captain Thompson, two other colonists and a hunter held their ground,
their ato-tube pistols out.

"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" Johnny shouted. Beneath him the rhinosaur
trembled. "He won't hurt you. He's our friend." He stroked the
arrow-bird on his shoulder. "Look! Even an arrow-bird!"

Slowly the ato-tube pistols that had been leveled at them were lowered.
Hesitantly, one or two of the people began to move back toward the
little group.

A woman came running toward Johnny. It was his mother. Tears were
running down her face. Even she was finally stopped by the bewildering
sight of her son surrounded by jungle animals.

"Let me down," Johnny clicked to the rhinosaur. The big animal lowered
his head. A cry went up from the people as the leopardess bounded after
him. Johnny threw his arms about his mother.

"Oh, Johnny, Johnny!" his mother said over and over, holding him tight
against her armor. She stiffened as the mother leopard rubbed against
them and the arrow-bird lit, for a moment, on her shoulder.

"Mother, I want you to meet my friends," Johnny said. "This is Mona,
the leopardess, and her two cubs, Pat and Mike. And this is Skimpy,
the monkey. I haven't named my arrow-bird yet." Then he spoke to the
animals. "This is my mother."

Johnny's mother stood there a moment, too bewildered to speak. The
leopardess licked her hand. Then Johnny led his mother to the rhinosaur.

"This is my friend Skorkin, the rhinosaur. He gave me a ride all the
way here. Isn't he beautiful?" Then he clicked to the rhinosaur, "This
is my mother."

The huge creature grunted.

"Skorkin said 'hello,'" Johnny said.

Her eyes wide with the strangeness of it all, Johnny's mother nodded a
wordless greeting to the creature.

Just then Johnny heard a sound he had been waiting for. It was the
sound of a basketball dropped from a height. He looked up to see Baba
bounding along as fast as he could come. Johnny was off at a dead run
to meet him, leaving his mother and the other animals behind.

The two of them met at top speed, and they met with such impact that
both were tumbled to the ground in a heap of arms, legs, boy and bear.
Both of them were laughing when they got to their feet.

"Oh, Baba, you bad little bear!" Johnny said. "I thought I'd never see
you again!"

"And I!" Baba said.

"You shouldn't have come back here!" Johnny said. "I'll have to punish
you right now!" He grabbed Baba suddenly by the leg, whirled him around
and around above his head and threw him as high as he could in the
air. Throwing his arms around as if frightened to death, the little
bear whimpered and clicked. But just before he hit the ground he made
himself into a ball, and bounced higher than Johnny had thrown him.
Then, on the third bounce, he landed lightly on Johnny's shoulder.

Their delight was cut short by the sight of a fat bald man who
glittered as he walked toward the crowd. For an instant Johnny was
afraid. It was Trader Harkness. Then he remembered--the trader's days
of power were over.

"Mr. Harkness," he called, "I've got something to show you."

"They said you had claws." The trader's little black eyes fixed their
gaze on Johnny.

"Come on, I'll show everybody."

The crowd parted for Johnny and Baba and the trader. By this time
almost all the colonists and visiting hunters were gathered around the
rhinosaur and the leopards. A few bold souls were timidly petting the
cubs. Probably of most interest was the arrow-bird. Tired from all
its riding, it had put its head under its wing and gone fast asleep,
perched on the rhinosaur's horn.

Johnny took the bag he had made from the shirt down from where it hung
beside the arrow-bird. He untied it, revealing the many packets made
from woven rushes. Packet after packet, he spilled the claws out on to
the shirt until there was a great pile of jewels glowing before the
people.

"Where did you get them?" Trader Harkness' voice rumbled. He was
shocked and pale.

"The marva themselves gave them to me for the colony," Johnny replied.
"It's a sign that they and all the animals want to be our friends."

The trader forced his eyes away from the pile of jewels and looked over
his shoulder. Johnny was suddenly conscious of three hunters standing
behind the trader. Ed and his gang!

"I'll take those claws now," the trader said. The gang whipped out
their ato-tubes and leveled them at Johnny and Baba.

The crowd gasped and then fell silent. Johnny's father stepped up, but
one of the hunters waved him back with his gun. Johnny saw he'd been
wrong. There was plenty of fight left in the trader. He glanced around
him; the animals had become very still, waiting his word.

"Friends," Johnny clicked, "stay still. This man is a killer."

Skorkin, the rhinosaur, snorted. The arrow-bird awoke and snapped its
head into arrow position. The monkey bared its teeth, while Mona, the
leopardess, crouched to spring, the muscles of her haunches trembling.

Johnny saw the trader's eyes widen. The leopard was not three feet away
from him. Thinking fast, Johnny stepped carefully over and put a hand
on the leopard's shoulder.

"I wouldn't move, Mr. Harkness," Johnny said, his voice quavering in
spite of himself. "If you don't tell your gang to give their guns to
Captain Thompson, I'll tell the animals to charge. Maybe Ed told you
what I made the monkey do?" Johnny's heart raced. It was a bluff. He
couldn't tell the animals to charge. He knew they might be killed. No
amount of claws would be worth that.

The trader's eyes were fixed on Mona. Then Skorkin snorted again, eager
to fight.

The trader turned brick red. "Do what the kid says," he said in a low,
strangled voice. The ato-tube in Ed's hand wavered and then came down.

There was a deep sigh of relief from the crowd.

Grimly and quietly, Captain Thompson gathered up the guns. "All right,
you men," he said, "there's a room ready for you at the stockade."

The fight was really gone from the trader now. His shoulders slumped,
his head down, he shuffled as he was led away.

Johnny's father stepped forward and embraced him.

"I don't understand how you did it, Johnny," he said. "I don't
understand anything about it. But this is certainly a wonderful day!"



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

_Teachers Can't Play Hookey_


It was now an hour after the Earth rocket had blasted off on its way
back to Earth. Johnny Watson lay on his stomach with his chin cupped
in his hands and looked down from the top of New Plymouth Rock. Beside
him, twisted into the same position, was his friend Baba, his blue
nails glowing in Venus' pearly light. Near the two friends, perched on
a boulder, were two of the large Venus eagles, watching every move they
made.

How changed it all was down in the settlement! People were streaming
back from the rocket field on foot and without armor. Beside the
Jenkins family strode Mona, the leopardess, carrying a basket in her
mouth. In the basket the Jenkins' baby slept. Mona just loved babies.
Down in the marshberry fields three rhinosaurs peacefully browsed.
There were so many berries available now in the sea marshes that no
one had to worry about the few in the fields. The marva had left these
three rhinosaurs to carry people wherever they might want to go.

High in the sky was a faint dot. Baba nudged Johnny and pointed.

"Here comes Keetack," he said in his clicking language. "We'll have to
go down pretty soon."

"I suppose so," Johnny said wearily.

It had been fun for a while being the only person who understood the
marva language. When Dad and the other colonists had gone into the
jungle to talk with the council of all the marva groves, Johnny and
Baba had been there too--the center of attention. When the men spoke,
Baba told the marva what they meant. When the marva spoke, Johnny
had to tell the men what the bears meant. It had been fun being so
important. It had been fun being treated like heroes, but they were
already tired of it. With their new freedom to travel, there was a
whole continent to explore, and hundreds of new friends to make.

Idly, Johnny watched the dot, that Baba said was Keetack, grow into
a bird with a twenty-foot wing spread flying through the sky. In
its claws was a small black-muzzled bouncing bear. Baba's eyes were
magically good. The bird was a Venus eagle--the marva's airplane.
Before men had come and made it dangerous for them, the marva had flown
anywhere they wanted to go in the talons of these great birds. Johnny
knew that the earliest hunters thought the eagles were preying upon the
bears. It was just one more surprising thing about the little bears.
Johnny remembered what Rick had said when he had arrived home, his
wound all healed. He had really grown to respect the marva.

"They have learned to live with other creatures, and have taught all
their friends, as they call the animals, to live in peace together. The
meat eaters have their meat trees so they don't need to attack other
animals--it's amazing," Rick reported.

Johnny remembered how Baba had preened himself when Rick had spoken
that way, and he smiled.

"Hey, Baba," Johnny said, "how soon do you think we could take a trip
all around the groves? We could get Skorkin to carry us, and go visit
everybody."

"You will have to come stay with my people," Baba said. Only a few days
before Baba had discovered a host of aunts, uncles and cousins in one
of the outlying groves. Most important of all he had found his father.
"I've lived with you for years and years. Now it should be your turn."

"Oh, good," said Johnny. "We'll do it, soon as they'll let us go."

"Look, Johnny," Baba pointed. "Look at the trader!"

Below, the fat bald-headed little man, a pack on his back, was heading
into the jungle. He waddled as he walked, but he moved straight along.

"Where's he going?" Baba asked.

"Dad says he's going to start a marshberry farm--if the marva will let
him. But, gosh, it'll be a long time before anyone will help him."

"He can always live on meat fruit and stuff," Baba said. "Nobody likes
him, but they won't bother him if he leaves them alone."

What had happened to the trader and to the outlaws was the strangest
thing of all. The marva had not wanted them punished. They said they
wanted to make friends, not enemies.

The thousands of marva claws that had been given to the colony had made
the claws quite cheap, so that Trader Harkness had become a poor man;
he had been rich in hunting equipment and hunting lodges--now all these
things were valueless. Surprisingly, he had refused to return to Earth.

"Venus is my home," he had said flatly. "I'll get by."

Johnny had to admire his courage, just as he had to admire some of the
hunters who would not stay on Venus. These lean hard-bitten men were
going further on into space.

To Johnny's surprise Keetack admired the hunters, too. "They are
fighters, like the rhinosaurs. Here there is nothing left to fight.
They are people of much courage."

Looking down on the trader, Johnny found he couldn't help feeling sorry
for him.

"Goodbye," he yelled, his voice echoing among the rocks. "Goodbye,
Trader."

The fat man looked up and waved back. Johnny thought he smiled.

"He was a real pioneer," Johnny said.

"Yes," Baba answered, "he'll be all right."

Johnny jumped back suddenly from the edge of the rock and hid behind
some bushes. "Here comes Mom, looking for us!"

Baba quickly dived back out of sight too.

Johnny peeked through the screening of bushes. His mother was riding
toward the rock on Skorkin, the rhinosaur! This hideout was not very
secret. Everybody on Venus knew about it. He stood up, and waved down
to her.

"I'm coming, Mother," he shouted.

His mother nodded and the big rhinosaur turned back toward the
settlement.

In a few minutes Baba and Johnny would be back in school, sitting in
front of a group of men and a group of marva. Baba would be teaching
the marva how to understand the talk of people, while Johnny taught the
men and women how to talk and understand the language of the marva. It
was a hard job.

"I guess we gotta go back!" Johnny mourned.

"I guess so!" Baba agreed sadly.

"There is only one trouble with being a teacher," said Johnny.
"Teachers just can't play hookey." Then he grinned. "Say, I've got an
idea!"

"What?" asked Baba.

"Mom hasn't been doing her homework. Let's give a test today!"

Baba slapped his furry haunches, his blue teeth glowing.

"Let's go!" Johnny clicked to the two eagles. He ran as hard as he
could and leaped off the edge of the high cliff, hurtling down and
down. Right after him, Baba jumped, too.

There was the sound of great wings, and the two tremendous Venus eagles
swept after them. One dived at Johnny, its claws spread. The long
powerful claws hooked into Johnny's belt and whisked him through the
air toward the settlement. The other grasped Baba by the shoulders.
Together the two friends flew on.

"That was fun!" said Johnny.

His furry blue pal nodded his agreement.



Facts About Venus

An Afterword for Curious Boys and Girls (As well as Parents, Teachers
and Librarians)


"Daddy, is this what Venus is really like?" demanded Blake, my
eleven-year-old son. He had just finished reading my manuscript.

I have an idea that among my readers there may be other curious boys
and girls who might ask the same question my son did. This was my
answer:

The job of a science fiction writer, I think, is to spin out tales
about other times and strange planets, using known facts as beginning
points, and without violating any known facts. In _Venus Boy_ I have
tried to do this. I think I have created a picture of life on the
surface of Venus that is possible, if just barely possible.

In addition to being a story teller, I am a librarian, and librarians
love to keep their facts straight. The fact about Venus is that nobody
knows just what it is like on the surface of the planet. Since nobody
knows, I could make it all up.

Many facts _are_ known about Venus, however. Venus is the Sun's
second planet. It is about twenty-five million miles closer to the
Sun than our Earth. Astronomers have measured and "weighed" it. It
is almost exactly the same size as Earth, but its weight (mass) is
twenty per cent less. It turns very slowly on its axis, so that its day
is much longer than an Earth day. Because of a layer of clouds that
surrounds it, the surface cannot be seen even with the most powerful
of telescopes. Thus, astronomers cannot tell just how fast or slow it
turns. A Venus day may be as short as fourteen Earth days or as long as
two hundred and twenty-five Earth days.

If you noticed, you can see I have kept my picture of life on Venus
true to these facts. I had the Venus day be fourteen Earth days long.
Some of the animals and plants were a great deal larger than Earth
animals and plants, a fact that would be expected on a planet with less
gravity than that of Earth.

Of course you might think that because of the clouds that surround
Venus, the planet would be a terribly rainy place. That is not very
probable. By using an instrument called a spectrograph, astronomers
have learned that those heavy clouds are not clouds of water vapor.
Indeed, they can find evidence for little or no water vapor on Venus.
They can detect a great deal of carbon dioxide--but no oxygen.

"But without oxygen, animals couldn't breathe!" I can hear a child who
knows some science say. "Life would be impossible!"

That could be true. Some scientists, in fact most of them, believe
that life _is_ impossible on the surface of Venus. But remember, nobody
knows what is under that heavy layer of clouds, and nobody knows just
what those clouds are.

One astronomer, Rupert Wildt, has advanced a theory about the Venusian
clouds that, I think, would allow for the possibility of life on Venus.
He theorized, on the evidence available to him, that, when Venus was
young, carbon-dioxide and water, in the presence of ultra-violet light,
may have combined to make clouds of one form of plastic! I think it
possible that such clouds would be thick, spongy and permanent, and
that they would join together, so that the inner atmosphere of Venus
could not escape through them. According to his theory Venus could be
like a Christmas present--all wrapped in shining plastic. This could
account for the fact, too, that more than half the light falling on it
from the sun is reflected, making it the brightest of all the planets
or stars, a jewel of a planet.

Under a loose layer of plastic, life could be possible on Venus. If
plant life began under those clouds, then an oxygen atmosphere could
develop. Plants take in carbon dioxide through their leaves and give
out oxygen. Many scientists believe the Earth's atmosphere became rich
with oxygen in this manner. Of course, none of that oxygen in Venus'
atmosphere could get through the thick layer of spongy plastic clouds.
The carbon dioxide that was trapped on the outside would not get
through either.

Scientists believe, too, that Venus may be too hot for life, or too
cold. I think that the clouds and the carbon dioxide trapped outside of
them would serve, on the one hand, to insulate Venus from the hot light
of the nearby sun; and, on the other hand, to hold in its warmth during
the long nights.

As you can see, I have spun my story out of Mr. Wildt's idea of the
plastic clouds of Venus. The rhinosaurs heavy armor, the arrow-bird's
bills, the marva's plastic-strengthening jewel claws, all had their
beginnings in the idea of a plastic planet. It allowed for the creation
of some fairly interesting animals, I think.

While I am on the subject of my animals, I should say a word about the
possibility of animals cooperating the way I have had my Venus animals
cooperate. That, I think, is perfectly possible. On Earth one can find
examples of several creatures living so closely together that if one
kind is killed off the others would all die. In many articles and books
Mr. Ashley Montague has amassed much evidence that shows an instinct
for cooperation is as primary as the instinct of self-preservation. If
we grant the idea of a creature whose intelligence is directed entirely
toward surviving by cooperation, then I think my cooperative animals
are, at the very least, possible.

Possible! That is what I hope my picture of life on Venus is. However,
it must be remembered that it is only _just_ possible. Astronomers
have envisioned Venus as a planet of terrible dust storms, with a
temperature hot enough to boil water. They have spoken of it as a
place of seas of formaldehyde, hot and terrible by day, and freezing
cold at night. Their guesses are probably better than mine. But I must
admit I like my guess a little better. I hope you have enjoyed it.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Venus Boy" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home