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´╗┐Title: Not Fit for Children
Author: Smith, Evelyn E.
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 "Not Fit for Children" ***

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

                         NOT FIT FOR CHILDREN

                          By EVELYN E. SMITH

                      Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                   Galaxy Science Fiction May 1953.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

            Trading with the natives was like taking candy
                from a kid--but which were the natives?

Ppon lowered himself hastily to the orlop and ran toward me. "Hurry
up, Qan!" he projected on a sub-level, trying to escape my mother's
consciousness. "They're coming! All the others are up already."

"Who's coming?" my mother wanted to know, but her full interest was
absorbed by her work, and she gave us only the side of her mind. "You
youngsters really must learn to think clearly."

"Yes'm." Ppon projected suitable youthful embarrassment, but on a lower
level he was giggling. Later I must give him another warning; we young
ones could not yet separate the thought channels efficiently, so it was
more expedient not to try.

"The _zkuchi_ are coming," I lied glibly, knowing that the old ones
accept inanity as merely a sign of immaturity, "on hundreds of golden
wings that beat faster than light."

Grandfather removed a part of his mind from his beloved work. "The
_zkuchi_ are purely mythological creatures," he thought crossly.
"You're old enough to know better than that.... Qana," he appealed to
my mother, "why do you let him believe in such nonsense?"

"The _zkuchi_ are part of our cultural heritage, Father," she
projected gently. "We must not let the young ones forget our heritage.
Particularly if we are to be here for some time."

"It seems to me you're unnecessarily pessimistic," he complained. "You
know I've never failed you yet. We shall get back, I promise you. It's
just that the transmutation takes time."

"But it's taken such a long time already," she thought sadly.
"Sometimes I begin to have doubts." Then she apparently remembered that
serious matters should not be discussed before us young ones. As if
we didn't know what was going on. "Run along and play, children," she
advised, "but don't forget to check the atmosphere first."

Grandfather started to excogitate something about how it would be
better if Ppon went and helped his father while I stayed and did
my lessons--you never seem to escape from lessons anywhere in the
Universe--but we got away before he could finish.

       *       *       *       *       *

Topside, the others were jumping up and down in their excitement.
Ztul, the half-wit, was so upset he actually _spoke_: "Hurry, Qan, the
tourists are coming!"

"Ztul, you must never, _never_ make words aloud!" I thought fiercely.
"The old ones might hear and find out about the game."

"It's a harmless game," Ppon contributed. "And useful, too. Your
grandfather needs the stuff."

"Yes," I agreed, "but perhaps the old ones wouldn't see it that way.
They might even stop the game. Adults have funny ideas, and there's no
use asking for trouble."

There was a chorus of assenting thought from the others. All of us had
our family troubles.

We got to work. Quickly we arranged the interiors of the shelters which
we had cleverly built out of materials borrowed from below when the old
ones' perceptions were directed elsewhere. The essential structure
of the materials had not been changed and could easily be replaced
when the time came, but there was no use having to give involved
explanations. The old ones never seemed to understand anything.

At first we had just built the shelters as play huts, but when the
first tourists had misunderstood, we had improved upon the original
misconception. Now we had a regular street full of rude dwellings.
Lucky for us the old ones never came topside.

As the little spaceship landed, Ppon and I and four of the others were
ready at its door to form a welcoming committee. The rest dispersed to
play villagers. The others took turns alternating the two roles, but I,
of course, was always leader. After all, I'd made up the game.

Two members of the crew dropped lightly out of the ship and slid a ramp
into place. Then the passengers--there was a sizable group this time, I
noted with satisfaction--came, followed by Sam, the guide, a grizzled
old human. He grinned at us. We were old friends, for he'd been leading
these tours for ten of their Earth years.

The passengers stopped at the foot of the ramp and Sam ran forward
to face them. By now we were used to the appearance of the human
beings--small, binocular, with smooth, pasty skins--although they had
really frightened us when we first laid eyes on them.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Now, you see, folks," Sam bellowed through his megaphone, "the
scientists don't know everything. They said life could not exist out
here in the Asteroid Belt--and, behold, life! They said these little
planets were too small, had too little gravity to hold an atmosphere.
But you just breathe in that air, as pure and fresh and clean as the
atmosphere of our own Earth! Speaking of gravity, you'll notice that
we're walking, not floating. Matter of fact, you'll notice it's even a
little hard to walk; you seem a bit heavier than at home. And they said
there would be hardly any gravity. No, folks, those scientists know a
lot of things, I won't deny that, but they sure don't know everything."

"Amazing!" a small, bespectacled male passenger said. "I can hardly
believe my own senses!"

"Watch out for him," Ppon projected to me. "I think he's a scientist of
some kind."

"Don't teach your ancestor to levitate," I conceptualized back.

Of course what struck the passengers first was neither the atmosphere
nor the gravity; it was us. They never failed to be surprised,
although the travel folders should have shown them what to expect.
One of the folders had a picture of me, amusingly crude and
two-dimensional, it's true, but not entirely unflattering. I'm not
really purple, just a sort of tender fuchsia, but what could you expect
from the rudimentary color processes they used? Sam had let me have the
original and I always wished I could show it to Mother, but I couldn't
without having to explain where it had come from.

"They're so cute!" a thin female screamed. "Almost like big squirrels,
really, except for all those arms." Her teeth protruded more than those
of the small rodent she was thinking about, or than mine, for that

"Be careful, ma'am," the guide warned her. "They speak English."

"They do? How clever of them. Why, they must be quite intelligent,

"They are of a pretty high order of intelligence," the guide agreed,
"although their methods of reasoning have always baffled scientists.
Somehow they seem to _sense_ scientists, think of them as their
enemies, and just clam up entirely."

"I think they're just simply too cute," she said, gazing at me fondly.

"Ah, _srrk_ yourself, madam," I excogitated, confident that humans
were non-telepathic.

       *       *       *       *       *

She looked a little disturbed, though; I'd better watch myself. After
all, as leader I had to set a good example.

"This here is Qan," the guide introduced me. "Headman or chief or
something of the tribe. He is always on hand to greet us."

"Welcome, travelers from a distant star," I intoned, wrapping my
mother's second-best cloak more impressively about me, "to the humble
land of the _Gchi_. Come in peace, go in peace."

"Why, he speaks excellent English," the scientist exclaimed.

"They pick up things very fast," Sam explained.

"Natives can be very, very shrewd," a stout female commented, clutching
her handbag tightly.

"And now," Sam said, "we will visit the rude dwellings of this simple,
primitive, but hospitable people."

"_People!_" Ppon projected. "You better mind your language, Buster!
People, indeed!"

"Our friend Qan will lead the way." Sam waved toward me.

I smiled back at him, but didn't move.

"Whatsa matter?" he hissed. "Don't you trust me? Your old pal Sam?"

"No," I whispered back. "Last time I let you pay me at the end of the
tour, the take was $3.75 short."

He tried another tack. "But look, Qan, it's a hell of a job getting all
those coins together. Why can't you take paper money instead?"

"What good would paper money do me up here?"

"What I can't figure out is what good the metal does you up here,

I beamed. "We eat it."

Muttering to himself, he walked over to the ship and called one of the
crewmen. They dragged a bag out of the ship's hold. Puffing, they laid
it at my feet. I tossed it to Ztul.

"Count it," I ordered out loud, "and if there's any missing, no one
leaves this planet alive." I snarled ferociously.

Everybody laughed. It was part of the act.

"You will notice," Sam announced as we led the way down the street,
"that the _Gchi_ are all about the same size. No young ones among them.
We don't know whether this is because they reproduce differently from
us, or because they have concealed their offspring."

"The children must be dear little creatures," the toothy female gushed.
"If even the adults are cute when they're seven or eight feet tall,
the little ones must be simply precious.... Tell me, Chief, do you have
any children?"

"Don't understand," I grunted. "Concept unfamiliar. Not know what
children is."

"Funny," remarked the scientist, "he was speaking perfectly good
English before."

"Watch yourself, kid," Ppon ideated warningly to me.

"Children are ..." she began and stopped. "They're--well, how do you

       *       *       *       *       *

Ppon, the _oosh_-head, took it upon himself to answer. "If you'll just
step into my hut, madam, I'll be delighted to show you."

"If you ask me," the scientist stated, "these are frauds."

"Whaddya mean frauds?" Sam demanded indignantly.

"Human beings dressed up as extraterrestrials. They speak too good an
English. Their concepts are too much like ours. Their sense of humor is
equally vul--too similar."

"You and your big mouth!" I projected to Ppon.

"Look who's thinking!" he excogitated back. I could see I'd have to
give him a mind-lashing later.

It was up to me to save the situation. "If you would like to examine me
more closely, sir," I addressed the scientist, "you will see that I
am not a human being."

He approached me dubiously.

"Closer," I said, looking him in the eye, as I bared my teeth and
growled. "I have five eyes, sir, and you will notice that I am looking
at you with each one of them. I have seven arms, sir--" here I reached
out to grab him "--and you will notice that they are all living tissue."

"No, you couldn't be a human being," he agreed, backing away as soon as
I released my grip, "but the whole thing is ... odd. Very odd."

"If anthropologists on Earth can't explain all the customs of the
primitives there," Sam tried to placate him, "how can we explain the
behavior of extraterrestrials? Let's go into some of the houses. The
chief has kindly given us his permission to look around."

"Our houses are your houses," I stated, bowing graciously.

As always, the tourists grew extremely enthusiastic about the
furniture in our simple dwellings. "What lovely--er--things you have,"
squirrel-tooth commented. "What are they used for?"

"Well, the _pryu_ is for the _mrach_, of course," I explained glibly,
"and the _wrooov_ is much used for _cvrking_ the _budz_, although the
_ywrl_ is preferred by the less discriminating.

"Oh," she said. "How I should love to have one of the--'_wroov_' I
think it was you said, for my very own. I wonder whether...."

By a curious coincidence, Hsoj arrived at this point, carrying a tray
full of things and stuff.

"Artifacts!" he shouted. "Nice artifacts! Who wants to buy artifacts?"

       *       *       *       *       *

All the tourists did. They were pretty good artifacts, if I do say
so myself. I'd made them out of the junk I rescued from our dustbins
before the disintegration unit got to work. Honestly, I can't
understand how the old ones can complain about our being wasteful and
then go and throw away all sorts of perfectly useful things.

"You must pay the natives in metal," the guide explained. "They accept
only coins."

"Why?" the stout female wanted to know. "Do they really eat metal?"

"I doubt it. One of them ate a couple of pounds of Earth candy a
tourist gave him last time and he seemed to enjoy it without ill

"Without ill effects!" Ppon excogitated. "You should have seen Ztul
afterward, boy!"

"Look, Mac." A short fat human offered Hsoj a small silver coin and
then five larger brown ones. "Which would you rather have?"

"Them." Hsoj pointed unhesitatingly to the brown coins.

A smile rippled covertly through the tourists.

"They're a simple and child-like people, but really so good-natured,"
Sam footnoted.

All of us gave simple good-natured smiles as Hsoj accepted the gift of
the brown coins.

"Keep up the good work," I projected. "We can use all the copper we can

"You like metal, dear?" a female asked Hsoj. She unfastened a belt from
around her waist. "Would you take this in exchange for some of your
pretty things?"

"Say 'yes,'" I conceptualized. "That's steel. Old and worthless to her,
but not to us."

"I know, I know," Hsoj ideated impatiently. "What makes you think
you're the only one who knows anything?"

Never had we got such a big haul before, because everybody seemed to
have all sorts of metal stuff on him that he valued less than coins.

Now came the sad part of the spiel. "Remember, folks, these simple,
honest individuals you see before you are but the scanty remnants of a
once-proud race who spanned the skies. For their ancestors must have
been godlike indeed to have erected such edifices as that commanding
structure over there." Sam pointed to the portable atmosphere machine
which was set up several _yebil_ away to give our playground proper
air. "Once glorious, now fallen into ruin and decay."

"You're going to catch _muh_ from the old ones," Ppon ideated, "when
they find out you haven't been keeping the machine clean."

"Don't be a silly _oosh_," I thought back with a mental grin. "I'm
using the atmosphere machine to create atmosphere."

"You're getting to be as stupid as a human," he thought in disgust.

"May we go inside?" the scientific passenger asked Sam.

"No, indeed," I said hastily. "It is our temple, sacred to the gods. No
unbeliever may set foot in it."

"What are the basic tenets of your religion?" the scientist wanted to

"We do not talk about it," I said with dignity. "It is tabu. Bad form."

       *       *       *       *       *

"And now," announced the guide, glancing at his watch, "we have just
time for the war dance before we leave for Vesta."

"Against whom are they planning a war?" asked a small passenger,
turning pale.

"It's a vestigial ritual," Sam explained quickly, "dating back to the
days when there were other--er--when there was somebody to fight. Just
an invocation to the gods ... general stuff like that ... nothing to be
afraid of. Isn't it so, Qan?"

"Quite so," I replied, folding all my arms across my mother's cloak.
"Come in peace, go in peace. Our motto."

We started the dance. It wouldn't have got us a passing mark in first
grade, where we'd learned it _rffi_ ago, but our version of the dance
of the _zkuchi_ was plenty good enough for the tourists.

"If I ever visit Earth, _Janna_ forbid," I thought to Ppon as we
executed an intricate caracole, "I'm going to wear earplugs all the

The dance finished.

"Now everybody get together!" Sam shouted, clapping his hands to round
up his charges. "We are about to leave little _Gchik_."

"He should only know what _gchik_ means," Ppon sniggered mentally.

"Little _Gchik_ is barren, dying, its past glories all but forgotten,"
Sam almost sobbed, "but still its simple, warm-hearted inhabitants
carry on bravely...."

"Couldn't we _do_ something for them?" suggested the stout female.

Everybody murmured assent. This contingency arose all too often--a
result of our being just too lovable.

"No one can help us," I said in a deep voice, pulling the cloak over
my face. The _idzik_ feathers trimming it tickled like crazy. "We must
dree our own weird alone. Besides, the air of _Gchik_ has a deleterious
effect upon human beings if they're exposed to it for longer than four

There was a mad scramble to reach the ship.

"Stand by the atmosphere machine, Hsoj," I instructed, "to poison a
little air in case anybody wants to take a sample."

The scientist actually did, in a little bottle he seemed to have
brought along for the purpose; but he got off the "asteroid" as rapidly
as the rest of them, after that.

We watched the spaceship dwindle to a silver mote in the distance.

"Whew," Ppon thought, sinking to the surface. "That war dance sure
takes a lot out of a fellow."

       *       *       *       *       *

Then he conceptualized indignantly as he--as well as the rest of
us--floated off the top level. "Somebody's cut the gravity!"

"Must be Grandfather," I mentalized. "I suppose he thinks we've been
out long enough, so he's warning us, just as if we were a bunch of
infants. I guess we'd better go inside, though. Let's not forget to
turn off the atmosphere, fellows. It uses too much energy and the old
ones won't let us play topside any more."

"You know everything, don't you, Qan?" Ppon sneered.

I ignored him. "Pretty good haul," I excogitated as I hefted the bags
of metal. "Here, Ztul, catch!"

"You always make me carry everything!" he complained.

Grandfather caught us as we lowered ourselves from the airlock. I
figured he must have been getting suspicious or otherwise he'd never
have left his beloved engines.

"What's this you youngsters have?" he wanted to know, pouncing on
our bags. "Metal, eh? I suppose you were going to make another fake
meteorite out of it for me, were you?"

"I thought you wanted metal, Grandfather," I sulked. He could have been
more appreciative.

"Certainly I want metal. You know I need it to get the drive working
again. But what I want to know is where you got it from. I'd think you
stole it, but how could even little _muhli_ like you steal out here in

"They have always brought you metal from time to time, Father," Mother
projected, coming out as she overthought us. "So clever of them, I
always thought."

"Yes, but I've been thinking that their encountering so many meteorites
was a singularly curious coincidence. And they were curious meteorites,
too. I suppose the young ones made them themselves."

"But out of what, Father? You know we don't have any spare metal on
the ship. That's why you haven't been able to get the repairs finished
before. Where else could they get the metal but from meteorites?"

"I don't know where they get their metal from, but certainly not from
meteorites. These pieces here are artifacts. Look, the metal has been
more or less refined and roughly formed into shapes with crude designs
upon them. Tell me the truth, Qan, where did you get these?"

"Some people gave them to us," I replied sullenly.

"People?" asked my mother. "What are people?"

"Natives of this solar system. They call themselves people."

"Nonsense!" my grandfather interjected. "It's just another one of your
fantasies. You know what the astronomers say--none of the planets of
this little system is capable of supporting life."

"They come from the third planet," I persisted, trying to keep from
disgracing myself by _fllwng_ in front of the other young ones. "There
is life there. All of us have seen them. Besides, there is the metal."

My companions chorused agreement.

"You see, Father," my mother smiled, stroking my head with three hands,
"the wise ones are not always right."

       *       *       *       *       *

My grandfather nodded his head slowly. "It is not impossible, I
suppose. I hope it is true that these--people _gave_ you and your
friends the metal, Qan."

"Oh, yes, Grandfather," I thought anxiously. "Of their own free will."

"Well--" he continued, not altogether convinced--"this lot should be
enough to repair the engines. Perhaps, when we take off, we should have
a look at the youngsters' third planet on the way home."

"But this trip has taken such a long time already, Father," my mother
protested. "Almost a _rff_; the young ones have missed nearly two
semesters of school. And Qan has been getting some very peculiar
ideas--from those _people_, I suppose."

"But if there is some sort of intelligent life," Grandfather thought,
"it's our duty to visit it. Next time we need to stop the ship for
repairs, it might be more convenient to put in at this third planet
instead of just hanging out there in space. And the young ones say the
natives seem to be friendly."

"I'd like to see Sam's face when he comes back and finds his 'asteroid'
gone," I conceptualized.

"Yes," Ppon agreed, with the edge of his mind, but his main channel was
turned in another direction. "That is the end of this game now, you
know. In the next game _I_ shall be leader."

"Oh, yes?" I thought back. "I'm the leader and I'm staying leader,
because I am the biggest and cleverest."

"Children!" my mother protested, distressed. "I'm afraid you've picked
up some really unpleasant concepts from those dreadful natives."

"Come, come, Qana," Grandfather ideated, "we mustn't be intolerant."

"Perhaps not," she replied with heat, "and I know the natives probably
don't know any better, but I am not going to have my young one or
anyone else's contaminated. Visit the third planet if you wish, but not
this time. You'll have to make a special trip for it. I'm not going to
let you stop off there while the young ones are aboard. It's obviously
no fit place for children."

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Not Fit for Children" ***

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