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´╗┐Title: Spoken For
Author: Morrison, William Douglas
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 "Spoken For" ***

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                              SPOKEN FOR

                          By WILLIAM MORRISON

                          Illustrated by EMSH

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
               Galaxy Science Fiction Fiction July 1955.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

              He was lost--anyone could see that--but she
             had no idea how entirely lost he was nor why!

Half of Jupiter's great disk and most of the other moons were below the
horizon when the man stepped out of the plane and changed her life. As
far as Carol Marsh was concerned, he was ordinary enough in appearance.
And she wasn't ordinarily attracted to ordinary men.

He was slightly over medium height, his features were not quite
regular, and he had a deep tan over what had started out as a sunburn,
so that she decided he had misjudged the strength of the sun on some
planet with a thin atmosphere.

She frowned as she watched him look around. She was annoyed by the fact
that it took him almost a minute to get his bearings and realize that
she was first, a human being and second, a girl well worth a man's

Even the troubled expression in his eyes was something she held
against him. A man shouldn't look troubled. A man should be confident,
self-assured in a manner that also assured the girl he spoke to.
She remembered that back on Earth John Burr had been completely

It was startling to realize that it was with this newcomer, whose
appearance she had every reason to dislike, that she had fallen
suddenly and completely in love, as suddenly and completely as if she
had fallen off a cliff.

"I'm looking for some people," he said. "But I suppose--" His very
voice was ill at ease, and that was something else she should have held
against him. And against herself. She had always resented men whose
voices betrayed their lack of confidence. "I suppose it's no use," he
went on. "I'd recognize the house."

"Who are the people you're looking for?"

He took out a wallet, and from it drew a stereo picture. Two children,
a boy and a girl, were standing with a smiling young woman in front
of a sturdy, old-fashioned plastic house. Their clothes were out of
fashion by a year or so, but that depended on where you were. Mars, for
instance, was always three years behind Earth. Here on Ganymede, on the
other hand, you might even be ahead of Earth in some respects.

       *       *       *       *       *

As Carol's eyes lifted to his, she saw him staring at the picture with
such longing that she at once knew herself for a fool. _They're his
wife and children_, she thought. _He's trying to find them. And I had
to fall in love with him at first sight._

His eyes were on her now, and she said, "I'm sorry, I've never seen

"Have you lived around here long?"

"Five years."

"Then this can't be the place." He stood there irresolutely and started
to turn slowly away without even a word of thanks to her.

"My father may have heard about them," said Carol, knowing herself for
a fool again.

Past experience, she told herself ruefully, had taught her nothing. The
thing to do was to let him go and forget him as quickly as possible,
before she learned anything about him, before her feeling for him
could become anything more than an irrational, momentary impulse. The
stronger the bonds of knowledge and interest between them, the more
painful they would be to break. And the breaking was inevitable.

The house where she and her father lived was a simple dome-shaped
building, its walls and furniture both made of a silicon plastic whose
raw materials had come from the ground on which it stood. There were
rugs and draperies of a slightly different composition, woven on the
all-purpose Household Helper that her father had bought before leaving
Earth. They lived comfortably enough, she thought, as she led the man

But he hardly noticed the house or anything in it. When they reached
the library and her father looked up from the book he was reading,
only then did the man display interest. The book was a favorite of her
father's and it made him unhappy to cut his reading short.

Nevertheless, he turned off the projector, stood up, and said, "Yes,

"This man is looking for some--some friends of his, Dad. I thought you
might be able to help him."

She held out the picture and, to her relief, her father stared at that
instead of at her. Sometimes he was a little too shrewd; if she was
making a fool of herself, there was no need for him to know it. He
could be a sardonic man and he did not suffer fools gladly, even in his
own family. He was of the opinion that she had used up her quota of
foolishness with John Burr.

He was shaking his head. "Sorry, I've never seen them. Are you sure
they live around here?"

"No," said the man. "I'm not sure. I'm not sure of anything, except
that they're my wife and kids. And I've got to find them."

"Have you checked at the District Office?"

"I did that first. They couldn't help me, but they said their records
weren't complete yet."

"They're complete enough, I should think. Maybe they don't list every
prospector who wanders around without settling down, but they wouldn't
be likely to miss a woman and two children. I'm afraid that you're
wasting your time looking on Ganymede."

The man's face clouded. "It isn't a waste of my time," he said. "I've
got nothing else to do with it. And I have to find them. They need me."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Marsh looked away from the man to his daughter, and Carol was a
little slow in avoiding his eyes. "I see," he said, and she had an idea
of what he meant by that. He saw too much.

If he knew, there was nothing she could do about it. She said, "Perhaps

She paused, and the man said dully, "Callendar."

"Perhaps if Mr. Callendar would have dinner with us and tell us a
little more, we'd be better able to help."

"Not a bad idea, Carol. We should know a little more."

Carol selected a dinner and pressed the button that would start its

Her father said casually, "You are a stranger to Ganymede, aren't you,
Mr. Callendar?"

"I'm not sure of that," said the man.

Her father's eyebrows went up.

Carol said, "But you do come from one of Jupiter's moons?"

"I can't remember which one. There are a lot of things that my memory's
hazy about. I can't even recall the name of the company I worked for as
an engineer."

"That may not be so strange. I find difficulty remembering the school
where I taught on Earth. P.S. 654, wasn't it, Dad?"

"P.S. 634," Mr. Marsh corrected briefly.

"You see?" she said. "Do you remember your wife's name? And the names
of your children?"

"I wouldn't forget _them_," he said. "My wife's name was Mona." He
stared at the wall for a moment, his face without expression. "I can
still see the way she looked when I left to undergo treatment. Paul
was--let's see, he must be about nine, maybe ten, by this time. And
Wilma must be six or seven. I remember how scared she was that time she
found a harmless little phytopod. She thought it was going to bite her."

"Phytopod?" said Carol. "We don't have them around here. What do they
look like?"

"They're small and furry, and have two feet that look like roots. When
they stand still you're likely to mistake them for plants."

"You _do_ recall some things," said Carol.

"The little things that don't tell me where to look. I remember the
time we went on a picnic--I don't recall how many moons there were in
the sky--and the ground began to shake. It didn't do any damage, but
Wilma was terrified. Paul took it in his stride, though."

"There aren't any earthquakes on Ganymede," said her father. "If your
memory of that incident is correct, you're looking in the wrong place."

"I suppose so," he said. "But what's the right place?"

"Perhaps if you thought of a few more incidents, we might figure it
out. It's the little things you don't forget that can be most helpful."

       *       *       *       *       *

What nonsense, thought Carol, although she kept the thought to herself.
The little things can be most _harmful_. They keep the pain, and the
memory of pain, alive and vivid. She remembered little things about
John all too well--the careless way he wore his clothes, and the way he
combed his hair, the cigarettes he smoked, and the foods he liked to
eat. And the stupid way she had let herself fall in love with him.

She hadn't even had the excuse of its happening suddenly, as it had
happened now. She had begun to love John as she had come to know him,
disregarding all the evidence of his selfishness, of his genuine
inability to care for any one else than John Burr.

Unaware of what was going on in her mind, Callendar was saying, with
somewhat more animation than he had previously shown, "I think you're
right, Mr. Marsh. I've kept my troubles too much to myself. Maybe you
can't actually do anything for me, but it wouldn't hurt me to talk. I
should have done my talking long ago. When they found me."

"Where did they find you?" asked her father. "And what did you mean
before, when you said you're not sure of anything?"

"They picked me up in a lifeboat, drifting some place between Mars and
Jupiter. The motor was off, but the power pile was working, and the
air-purifying equipment was on. I was apparently hibernating. I might
have been that way for six months or a year."

"And you don't remember--" said Carol.

"There's plenty I don't remember, but as I've said, my memory isn't a
complete blank. My wife and I and the kids had settled down in a new
colony--exactly where it was is one of the things I forget. I believe
now that it wasn't Ganymede. Maybe it was some other moon of Jupiter's.

"Anyway, I seem to recall having some trouble with my health, and being
taken onto an inter-planetary hospital ship for treatment--L-treatment,
they called it. That's where they put me to sleep. What happened after
that, I can only guess. The ship must have been involved in some
accident. I must have been transferred to the lifeboat."

"Alone?" asked Carol's father.

"No. There were two other patients with me. They were found dead. I was
the only one left alive. The bodies of the crew members who transferred
us weren't found at all. They might have gone back for more patients
and then been unable to get away again."

"Who found your lifeboat?"

"The crew of a freighter, who spotted it drifting across a space lane.
They took me on board and revived me. But they were in a hurry and
didn't have much time to stay and investigate."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Marsh was thoughtful and silent.

Carol asked, "Weren't there any records in the lifeboat?"

"Nobody thought of that, at least not in the beginning. At first, when
I regained consciousness, my mind was almost a complete blank. Then I
began to remember things, but not enough. I couldn't recall where the
colony had been, and after I had recovered enough to be able to get
around, I began looking for my wife and children. I haven't come across
a trace of them, although I've been on many worlds."

The food had long been ready and waiting. Until now, no one had thought
of getting it. He stared as if through the wall and Carol, after she
had set the dishes before him, had to remind him of their presence.
When he did eat, it was automatically, without enjoyment.

Afterward, her father surprised Carol by saying, "Why not stay with us
overnight, Mr. Callendar? We have an extra room, and tomorrow I may be
able to give you a little helpful information."

The man's eyes came alive. "You're serious? You think that from what I
told you, you'll be able to guess where I came from?"

"I used the word 'might.' Don't get your hopes up too much."

His face fell again. "Thanks for warning me," he said in a flat tone.

When, later on, he had gone to his room, Carol said, "Dad, do you
really think you can help him?"

"That depends on your idea of help. Why are you so interested in him?
Perhaps you're falling in love with him, Carol?"

"I think so."

"Under the circumstances, that's completely idiotic. Would there be any
sense in asking _why_ you fell in love with him?"

"Well, he looked so _lost_! I guess it's maternal--"

"As genuine a case of the grand passion as I've ever encountered," he
said drily. "Almost as genuine as your previous experience."

Carol flushed. "He isn't like John."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Fortunately, you are right. Burr was essentially a selfish baby. I
can't imagine him spending _his_ life looking for a wife and children
he had lost. In future, Carol, if you must fall in love at all, do it
suddenly. You choose much better that way."

"Yes, I know," she said. "Except for the fact that the wife and
children may interfere. But don't worry, Dad. This time I'm not
quitting my job and moving several million miles away to try to forget."

"There'll be no need for that." His face took on a troubled expression.
"You'll have to face your problem right here."

       *       *       *       *       *

"You haven't answered _my_ question," said Carol. "Do you really think
you can help him?"

"That isn't an easy one to answer. We'll have to prepare him for a
shock, Carol. A first-class shock. That's why I wanted to be sure you
were in love with him. It may make things easier for him to stand."

"What things?"

Her father hesitated. "Have you ever heard of this L-treatment he

She shook her head.

"I thought not. Carol," he said, and his voice was unexpectedly full
of compassion, "you're going to have a very sick man on your hands. It
won't be pleasant for either you or me, and it's going to be horrible
for him. But it must be gone through. He must be told."

"For heaven's sake, what is it?"

"The L in L-treatment," he said slowly, "stands for longevity. That
was what he was treated for. But you see now why it was found to be
dangerous and discontinued. The reason you never heard of it is that
it was developed and discarded two hundred years ago. Callendar wasn't
adrift in space for a year or two, as he thinks. He was adrift for two

"No! Oh, _no_!"

"That's why the clothes in those pictures seemed odd. They've been in
style and out again half a dozen times, with slight changes each time.
That is why, furthermore, he can't find his wife and children on any of
Jupiter's moons. The moons were first colonized ninety years ago."

"But he says--"

"He'll never see his wife and children again. They've lived their lives
and died and been buried in the past. He should have died with them in
his own time and not lived into ours."

"No," said Carol, "or I'd never have known him."

She was white and trembling, and her father pulled her to him and let
her head rest on his shoulder.

Mr. Marsh said, "Perhaps you're right. I don't know. Anyway, he'll have
to be told. And for your sake, I'd better do the telling."

Carol was silent, and they both thought of the sleeping man who didn't
know that his old life had ended and that a new life was to begin so
painfully in the morning.

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