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´╗┐Title: Venus is a Man's World
Author: Tenn, William
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 is a Man's World" ***

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                        Venus Is a Man's World

                            BY WILLIAM TENN

                     Illustrated by GENE FAWCETTE

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                   Galaxy Science Fiction July 1951.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



     Actually, there wouldn't be too much difference if women took
    over the Earth altogether. But not for some men and most boys!


I've always said that even if Sis is seven years older than me--and a
girl besides--she don't always know what's best. Put me on a spaceship
jam-packed with three hundred females just aching to get themselves
husbands in the one place they're still to be had--the planet
Venus--and you know I'll be in trouble.

Bad trouble. With the law, which is the worst a boy can get into.

Twenty minutes after we lifted from the Sahara Spaceport, I wriggled
out of my acceleration hammock and started for the door of our cabin.

"Now you be careful, Ferdinand," Sis called after me as she opened a
book called _Family Problems of the Frontier Woman_. "Remember you're
a nice boy. Don't make me ashamed of you."

I tore down the corridor. Most of the cabins had purple lights on in
front of the doors, showing that the girls were still inside their
hammocks. That meant only the ship's crew was up and about. Ship's
crews are men; women are too busy with important things like government
to run ships. I felt free all over--and happy. Now was my chance to
really see the _Eleanor Roosevelt_!

       *       *       *       *       *

It was hard to believe I was traveling in space at last. Ahead and
behind me, all the way up to where the companionway curved in out
of sight, there was nothing but smooth black wall and smooth white
doors--on and on and on. _Gee_, I thought excitedly, this is _one big
ship_!

Of course, every once in a while I would run across a big scene of
stars in the void set in the wall; but they were only pictures. Nothing
that gave the feel of great empty space like I'd read about in _The Boy
Rocketeers_, no portholes, no visiplates, nothing.

So when I came to the crossway, I stopped for a second, then turned
left. To the right, see, there was Deck Four, then Deck Three, leading
inward past the engine fo'c'sle to the main jets and the grav helix
going _purr-purr-purrty-purr_ in the comforting way big machinery has
when it's happy and oiled. But to the left, the crossway led all the
way to the outside level which ran just under the hull. There were
portholes on the hull.

I'd studied all that out in our cabin, long before we'd lifted, on
the transparent model of the ship hanging like a big cigar from the
ceiling. Sis had studied it too, but she was looking for places like
the dining salon and the library and Lifeboat 68 where we should go in
case of emergency. I looked for the _important_ things.

As I trotted along the crossway, I sort of wished that Sis hadn't
decided to go after a husband on a luxury liner. On a cargo ship, now,
I'd be climbing from deck to deck on a ladder instead of having gravity
underfoot all the time just like I was home on the bottom of the Gulf
of Mexico. But women always know what's right, and a boy can only make
faces and do what they say, same as the men have to do.

Still, it was pretty exciting to press my nose against the slots in the
wall and see the sliding panels that could come charging out and block
the crossway into an airtight fit in case a meteor or something smashed
into the ship. And all along there were glass cases with spacesuits
standing in them, like those knights they used to have back in the
Middle Ages.

"In the event of disaster affecting the oxygen content of
companionway," they had the words etched into the glass, "break glass
with hammer upon wall, remove spacesuit and proceed to don it in the
following fashion."

I read the "following fashion" until I knew it by heart. _Boy_, I said
to myself, _I hope we have that kind of disaster. I'd sure like to get
into one of those! Bet it would be more fun than those diving suits
back in Undersea!_

And all the time I was alone. That was the best part.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then I passed Deck Twelve and there was a big sign. "Notice! Passengers
not permitted past this point!" A big sign in red.

I peeked around the corner. I knew it--the next deck was the hull. I
could see the portholes. Every twelve feet, they were, filled with the
velvet of space and the dancing of more stars than I'd ever dreamed
existed in the Universe.

There wasn't anyone on the deck, as far as I could see. And this
distance from the grav helix, the ship seemed mighty quiet and lonely.
If I just took one quick look....

But I thought of what Sis would say and I turned around obediently.
Then I saw the big red sign again. "Passengers not permitted--"

Well! Didn't I know from my civics class that only women could be Earth
Citizens these days? Sure, ever since the Male Desuffrage Act. And
didn't I know that you had to be a citizen of a planet in order to
get an interplanetary passport? Sis had explained it all to me in the
careful, patient way she always talks politics and things like that to
men.

"Technically, Ferdinand, I'm the only passenger in our family. You
can't be one, because, not being a citizen, you can't acquire an Earth
Passport. However, you'll be going to Venus on the strength of this
clause--'Miss Evelyn Sparling and all dependent male members of family,
this number not to exceed the registered quota of sub-regulations
pertaining'--and so on. I want you to understand these matters, so that
you will grow into a man who takes an active interest in world affairs.
No matter what you hear, women really like and appreciate such men."

Of course, I never pay much attention to Sis when she says such dumb
things. I'm old enough, I guess, to know that it isn't what _Women_
like and appreciate that counts when it comes to people getting
married. If it were, Sis and three hundred other pretty girls like her
wouldn't be on their way to Venus to hook husbands.

Still, if I wasn't a passenger, the sign didn't have anything to do
with me. I knew what Sis could say to _that_, but at least it was an
argument I could use if it ever came up. So I broke the law.

I was glad I did. The stars were exciting enough, but away off to
the left, about five times as big as I'd ever seen it, except in the
movies, was the Moon, a great blob of gray and white pockmarks holding
off the black of space. I was hoping to see the Earth, but I figured it
must be on the other side of the ship or behind us. I pressed my nose
against the port and saw the tiny flicker of a spaceliner taking off,
Marsbound. I wished I was on that one!

Then I noticed, a little farther down the companionway, a stretch of
blank wall where there should have been portholes. High up on the
wall in glowing red letters were the words, "Lifeboat 47. Passengers:
Thirty-two. Crew: Eleven. Unauthorized personnel keep away!"

Another one of those signs.

       *       *       *       *       *

I crept up to the porthole nearest it and could just barely make out
the stern jets where it was plastered against the hull. Then I walked
under the sign and tried to figure the way you were supposed to get
into it. There was a very thin line going around in a big circle that I
knew must be the door. But I couldn't see any knobs or switches to open
it with. Not even a button you could press.

That meant it was a sonic lock like the kind we had on the outer keeps
back home in Undersea. But knock or voice? I tried the two knock
combinations I knew, and nothing happened. I only remembered one voice
key--might as well see if that's it, I figured.

"Twenty, Twenty-three. Open Sesame."

For a second, I thought I'd hit it just right out of all the million
possible combinations--The door clicked inward toward a black hole, and
a hairy hand as broad as my shoulders shot out of the hole. It closed
around my throat and plucked me inside as if I'd been a baby sardine.

I bounced once on the hard lifeboat floor. Before I got my breath and
sat up, the door had been shut again. When the light came on, I found
myself staring up the muzzle of a highly polished blaster and into the
cold blue eyes of the biggest man I'd ever seen.

He was wearing a one-piece suit made of some scaly green stuff that
looked hard and soft at the same time.

His boots were made of it too, and so was the hood hanging down his
back.

And his face was brown. Not just ordinary tan, you understand, but the
deep, dark, burned-all-the-way-in brown I'd seen on the lifeguards
in New Orleans whenever we took a surface vacation--the kind of tan
that comes from day after broiling day under a really hot Sun. His
hair looked as if it had once been blond, but now there were just long
combed-out waves with a yellowish tinge that boiled all the way down
to his shoulders.

I hadn't seen hair like that on a man except maybe in history books;
every man I'd ever known had his hair cropped in the fashionable
soup-bowl style. I was staring at his hair, almost forgetting about the
blaster which I knew it was against the law for him to have at all,
when I suddenly got scared right through.

His eyes.

They didn't blink and there seemed to be no expression around them.
Just coldness. Maybe it was the kind of clothes he was wearing that did
it, but all of a sudden I was reminded of a crocodile I'd seen in a
surface zoo that had stared quietly at me for twenty minutes until it
opened two long tooth-studded jaws.

"Green shatas!" he said suddenly. "Only a tadpole. I must be getting
jumpy enough to splash."

Then he shoved the blaster away in a holster made of the same scaly
leather, crossed his arms on his chest and began to study me. I grunted
to my feet, feeling a lot better. The coldness had gone out of his eyes.

I held out my hand the way Sis had taught me. "My name is Ferdinand
Sparling. I'm very pleased to meet you, Mr.--Mr.--"

"Hope for your sake," he said to me, "that you aren't what you
seem--tadpole brother to one of them husbandless anura."

"_What?_"

"A 'nuran is a female looking to nest. Anura is a herd of same. Come
from Flatfolk ways."

"Flatfolk are the Venusian natives, aren't they? Are you a Venusian?
What part of Venus do you come from? Why did you say you hope--"

He chuckled and swung me up into one of the bunks that lined the
lifeboat. "Questions you ask," he said in his soft voice. "Venus is a
sharp enough place for a dryhorn, let alone a tadpole dryhorn with a
boss-minded sister."

"I'm not a dryleg," I told him proudly. "_We're_ from Undersea."

"_Dryhorn_, I said, not dryleg. And what's Undersea?"

"Well, in Undersea we called foreigners and newcomers drylegs. Just
like on Venus, I guess, you call them dryhorns." And then I told him
how Undersea had been built on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, when
the mineral resources of the land began to give out and engineers
figured that a lot could still be reached from the sea bottoms.

       *       *       *       *       *

He nodded. He'd heard about the sea-bottom mining cities that were
bubbling under protective domes in every one of the Earth's oceans just
about the same time settlements were springing up on the planets.

He looked impressed when I told him about Mom and Pop being one of the
first couples to get married in Undersea. He looked thoughtful when I
told him how Sis and I had been born there and spent half our childhood
listening to the pressure pumps. He raised his eyebrows and looked
disgusted when I told how Mom, as Undersea representative on the World
Council, had been one of the framers of the Male Desuffrage Act after
the Third Atomic War had resulted in the Maternal Revolution.

       *       *       *       *       *

He almost squeezed my arm when I got to the time Mom and Pop were blown
up in a surfacing boat.

"Well, after the funeral, there was a little money, so Sis decided we
might as well use it to migrate. There was no future for her on Earth,
she figured. You know, the three-out-of-four."

"How's that?"

"The three-out-of-four. No more than three women out of every four on
Earth can expect to find husbands. Not enough men to go around. Way
back in the Twentieth Century, it began to be felt, Sis says, what with
the wars and all. Then the wars went on and a lot more men began to die
or get no good from the radioactivity. Then the best men went to the
planets, Sis says, until by now even if a woman can scrounge a personal
husband, he's not much to boast about."

The stranger nodded violently. "Not on Earth, he isn't. Those busybody
anura make sure of that. What a place! Suffering gridniks, I had a
bellyful!"

He told me about it. Women were scarce on Venus, and he hadn't been
able to find any who were willing to come out to his lonely little
islands; he had decided to go to Earth where there was supposed to be a
surplus. Naturally, having been born and brought up on a very primitive
planet, he didn't know "it's a woman's world," like the older boys in
school used to say.

The moment he landed on Earth he was in trouble. He didn't know he had
to register at a government-operated hotel for transient males; he
threw a bartender through a thick plastic window for saying something
nasty about the length of his hair; and _imagine_!--he not only
resisted arrest, resulting in three hospitalized policemen, but he
sassed the judge in open court!

"Told me a man wasn't supposed to say anything except through female
attorneys. Told _her_ that where _I_ came from, a man spoke his piece
when he'd a mind to, and his woman walked by his side."

"What happened?" I asked breathlessly.

"Oh, Guilty of This and Contempt of That. That blown-up brinosaur took
my last munit for fines, then explained that she was remitting the
rest because I was a foreigner and uneducated." His eyes grew dark for
a moment. He chuckled again. "But I wasn't going to serve all those
fancy little prison sentences. Forcible Citizenship Indoctrination,
they call it? Shook the dead-dry dust of the misbegotten, God forsaken
mother world from my feet forever. The women on it deserve their men.
My pockets were folded from the fines, and the paddlefeet were looking
for me so close I didn't dare radio for more munit. So I stowed away."

       *       *       *       *       *

For a moment, I didn't understand him. When I did, I was almost ill.
"Y-you mean," I choked, "th-that you're b-breaking the law right now?
And I'm with you while you're doing it?"

He leaned over the edge of the bunk and stared at me very seriously.
"What breed of tadpole are they turning out these days? Besides, what
business do _you_ have this close to the hull?"

After a moment of sober reflection, I nodded. "You're right. I've also
become a male outside the law. We're in this together."

He guffawed. Then he sat up and began cleaning his blaster. I found
myself drawn to the bright killer-tube with exactly the fascination Sis
insists such things have always had for men.

"Ferdinand your label? That's not right for a sprouting tadpole. I'll
call you Ford. My name's Butt. Butt Lee Brown."

I liked the sound of Ford. "Is Butt a nickname, too?"

"Yeah. Short for Alberta, but I haven't found a man who can draw a
blaster fast enough to call me that. You see, Pop came over in the
eighties--the big wave of immigrants when they evacuated Ontario. Named
all us boys after Canadian provinces. I was the youngest, so I got the
name they were saving for a girl."

"You had a lot of brothers, Mr. Butt?"

He grinned with a mighty set of teeth. "Oh, a nestful. Of course, they
were all killed in the Blue Chicago Rising by the MacGregor boys--all
except me and Saskatchewan. Then Sas and me hunted the MacGregors down.
Took a heap of time; we didn't float Jock MacGregor's ugly face down
the Tuscany till both of us were pretty near grown up."

I walked up close to where I could see the tiny bright copper coils of
the blaster above the firing button. "Have you killed a lot of men with
that, Mr. Butt?"

"Butt. Just plain Butt to you, Ford." He frowned and sighted at
the light globe. "No more'n twelve--not counting five government
paddlefeet, of course. I'm a peaceable planter. Way I figure it,
violence never accomplishes much that's important. My brother Sas,
now--"

       *       *       *       *       *

He had just begun to work into a wonderful anecdote about his brother
when the dinner gong rang. Butt told me to scat. He said I was a
growing tadpole and needed my vitamins. And he mentioned, very
off-hand, that he wouldn't at all object if I brought him some fresh
fruit. It seemed there was nothing but processed foods in the lifeboat
and Butt was used to a farmer's diet.

Trouble was, he was a special kind of farmer. Ordinary fruit would have
been pretty easy to sneak into my pockets at meals. I even found a way
to handle the kelp and giant watercress Mr. Brown liked, but things
like seaweed salt and Venusian mud-grapes just had too strong a smell.
Twice, the mechanical hamper refused to accept my jacket for laundering
and I had to wash it myself. But I learned so many wonderful things
about Venus every time I visited that stowaway....

I learned three wild-wave songs of the Flatfolk and what it is that the
native Venusians hate so much; I learned how you tell the difference
between a lousy government paddlefoot from New Kalamazoo and the
slaptoe slinker who is the planter's friend. After a lot of begging,
Butt Lee Brown explained the workings of his blaster, explained it
so carefully that I could name every part and tell what it did from
the tiny round electrodes to the long spirals of transformer. But no
matter what, he would never let me hold it.

"Sorry, Ford, old tad," he would drawl, spinning around and around in
the control swivel-chair at the nose of the lifeboat. "But way I look
at it, a man who lets somebody else handle his blaster is like the
giant whose heart was in an egg that an enemy found. When you've grown
enough so's your pop feels you ought to have a weapon, why, then's the
time to learn it and you might's well learn fast. Before then, you're
plain too young to be even near it."

"I don't have a father to give me one when I come of age. I don't even
have an older brother as head of my family like your brother Labrador.
All I have is Sis. And _she_--"

"She'll marry some fancy dryhorn who's never been farther South than
the Polar Coast. And she'll stay head of the family, if I know her
breed of green shata. _Bossy, opinionated._ By the way, Fordie," he
said, rising and stretching so the fish-leather bounced and rippled off
his biceps, "that sister. She ever...."

And he'd be off again, cross-examining me about Evelyn. I sat in the
swivel chair he'd vacated and tried to answer his questions. But there
was a lot of stuff I didn't know. Evelyn was a healthy girl, for
instance; how healthy, exactly, I had no way of finding out. Yes, I'd
tell him, my aunts on both sides of my family each had had more than
the average number of children. No, we'd never done any farming to
speak of, back in Undersea, but--yes, I'd guess Evelyn knew about as
much as any girl there when it came to diving equipment and pressure
pump regulation.

How would I know that stuff would lead to trouble for me?

       *       *       *       *       *

Sis had insisted I come along to the geography lecture. Most of the
other girls who were going to Venus for husbands talked to each other
during the lecture, but not _my_ sister! She hung on every word, took
notes even, and asked enough questions to make the perspiring purser
really work in those orientation periods.

"I am very sorry, Miss Sparling," he said with pretty heavy sarcasm,
"but I cannot remember any of the agricultural products of the Macro
Continent. Since the human population is well below one per thousand
square miles, it can readily be understood that the quantity of
tilled soil, land or sub-surface, is so small that--Wait, I remember
something. The Macro Continent exports a fruit though not exactly an
edible one. The wild _dunging_ drug is harvested there by criminal
speculators. Contrary to belief on Earth, the traffic has been growing
in recent years. In fact--"

"Pardon me, sir," I broke in, "but doesn't _dunging_ come only from
Leif Erickson Island off the Moscow Peninsula of the Macro Continent?
You remember, purser--Wang Li's third exploration, where he proved the
island and the peninsula didn't meet for most of the year?"

The purser nodded slowly. "I forgot," he admitted. "Sorry, ladies, but
the boy's right. Please make the correction in your notes."

But Sis was the only one who took notes, and she didn't take that one.
She stared at me for a moment, biting her lower lip thoughtfully, while
I got sicker and sicker. Then she shut her pad with the final gesture
of the right hand that Mom used to use just before challenging the
opposition to come right down on the Council floor and debate it out
with her.

"Ferdinand," Sis said, "let's go back to our cabin."

The moment she sat me down and walked slowly around me, I knew I was
in for it. "I've been reading up on Venusian geography in the ship's
library," I told her in a hurry.

"No doubt," she said drily. She shook her night-black hair out. "But
you aren't going to tell me that you read about _dunging_ in the ship's
library. The books there have been censored by a government agent of
Earth against the possibility that they might be read by susceptible
young male minds like yours. She would not have allowed--this Terran
Agent--"

"Paddlefoot," I sneered.

Sis sat down hard in our zoom-air chair. "Now that's a term," she said
carefully, "that is used only by Venusian riffraff."

"They're not!"

"Not what?"

"Riffraff," I had to answer, knowing I was getting in deeper all the
time and not being able to help it. I mustn't give Mr. Brown away!
"They're trappers and farmers, pioneers and explorers, who're building
Venus. And it takes a real man to build on a hot, hungry hell like
Venus."

"Does it, now?" she said, looking at me as if I were beginning to grow
a second pair of ears. "Tell me more."

"You can't have meek, law-abiding, women-ruled men when you start
civilization on a new planet. You've got to have men who aren't afraid
to make their own law if necessary--with their own guns. That's where
law begins; the books get written up later."

"You're going to _tell_, Ferdinand, what evil, criminal male is
speaking through your mouth!"

"Nobody!" I insisted. "They're my own ideas!"

"They are remarkably well-organized for a young boy's ideas. A boy
who, I might add, has previously shown a ridiculous but nonetheless
entirely masculine boredom with political philosophy. I plan to have a
government career on that new planet you talk about, Ferdinand--after
I have found a good, steady husband, of course--and I don't look
forward to a masculinist radical in the family. Now, who has been
filling your head with all this nonsense?"

       *       *       *       *       *

I was sweating. Sis has that deadly bulldog approach when she feels
someone is lying. I pulled my pulpast handkerchief from my pocket to
wipe my face. Something rattled to the floor.

"What is this picture of me doing in your pocket, Ferdinand?"

A trap seemed to be hinging noisily into place. "One of the passengers
wanted to see how you looked in a bathing suit."

"The passengers on this ship are all female. I can't imagine any of
them that curious about my appearance. Ferdinand, it's a man who has
been giving you these anti-social ideas, isn't it? A war-mongering
masculinist like all the frustrated men who want to engage in
government and don't have the vaguest idea how to. Except, of course,
in their ancient, bloody ways. Ferdinand, who has been perverting that
sunny and carefree soul of yours?"

"Nobody! _Nobody!_"

"Ferdinand, there's no point in lying! I demand--"

"I told you, Sis. I told you! And don't call me Ferdinand. Call me
Ford."

"Ford? _Ford?_ Now, you listen to me, Ferdinand...."

After that it was all over but the confession. That came in a few
moments. I couldn't fool Sis. She just knew me too well, I decided
miserably. Besides, she was a girl.

All the same, I wouldn't get Mr. Butt Lee Brown into trouble if I could
help it. I made Sis promise she wouldn't turn him in if I took her to
him. And the quick, nodding way she said she would made me feel just a
little better.

The door opened on the signal, "Sesame." When Butt saw somebody was
with me, he jumped and the ten-inch blaster barrel grew out of his
fingers. Then he recognized Sis from the pictures.

He stepped to one side and, with the same sweeping gesture, holstered
his blaster and pushed his green hood off. It was Sis's turn to jump
when she saw the wild mass of hair rolling down his back.

"An honor, Miss Sparling," he said in that rumbly voice. "Please come
right in. There's a hurry-up draft."

So Sis went in and I followed right after her. Mr. Brown closed the
door. I tried to catch his eye so I could give him some kind of hint or
explanation, but he had taken a couple of his big strides and was in
the control section with Sis. She didn't give ground, though; I'll say
that for her. She only came to his chest, but she had her arms crossed
sternly.

"First, Mr. Brown," she began, like talking to a cluck of a kid in
class, "you realize that you are not only committing the political
crime of traveling without a visa, and the criminal one of stowing away
without paying your fare, but the moral delinquency of consuming stores
intended for the personnel of this ship solely in emergency?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He opened his mouth to its maximum width and raised an enormous hand.
Then he let the air out and dropped his arm.

"I take it you either have no defense or care to make none," Sis added
caustically.

Butt laughed slowly and carefully as if he were going over each word.
"Wonder if all the anura talk like that. And _you_ want to foul up
Venus."

"We haven't done so badly on Earth, after the mess you men made of
politics. It needed a revolution of the mothers before--"

"Needed nothing. Everyone wanted peace. Earth is a weary old world."

"It's a world of strong moral fiber compared to yours, Mr. Alberta Lee
Brown." Hearing his rightful name made him move suddenly and tower over
her. Sis said with a certain amount of hurry and change of tone, "What
_do_ you have to say about stowing away and using up lifeboat stores?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He cocked his head and considered a moment. "Look," he said finally,
"I have more than enough munit to pay for round trip tickets, but I
couldn't get a return visa because of that brinosaur judge and all
the charges she hung on me. Had to stow away. Picked the _Eleanor
Roosevelt_ because a couple of the boys in the crew are friends of mine
and they were willing to help. But this lifeboat--don't you know that
every passenger ship carries four times as many lifeboats as it needs?
Not to mention the food I didn't eat because it stuck in my throat?"

"Yes," she said bitterly. "You had this boy steal fresh fruit for you.
I suppose you didn't know that under space regulations that makes him
equally guilty?"

"No, Sis, he didn't," I was beginning to argue. "All he wanted--"

"Sure I knew. Also know that if I'm picked up as a stowaway, I'll be
sent back to Earth to serve out those fancy little sentences."

"Well, you're guilty of them, aren't you?"

He waved his hands at her impatiently. "I'm not talking law, female;
I'm talking sense. Listen! I'm in trouble because I went to Earth to
look for a wife. You're standing here right now because you're on your
way to Venus for a husband. So let's."

Sis actually staggered back. "Let's? Let's _what_? Are--are you daring
to suggest that--that--"

"Now, Miss Sparling, no hoopla. I'm saying let's get married, and you
know it. You figured out from what the boy told you that I was chewing
on you for a wife. You're healthy and strong, got good heredity, you
know how to operate sub-surface machinery, you've lived underwater, and
your disposition's no worse than most of the anura I've seen. Prolific
stock, too."

I was so excited I just had to yell: "Gee, Sis, say _yes_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

My sister's voice was steaming with scorn. "And what makes you think
that I'd consider you a desirable husband?"

He spread his hands genially. "Figure if you wanted a poodle, you're
pretty enough to pick one up on Earth. Figure if you charge off to
Venus, you don't want a poodle, you want a man. I'm one. I own three
islands in the Galertan Archipelago that'll be good oozing mudgrape
land when they're cleared. Not to mention the rich berzeliot beds
offshore. I got no bad habits outside of having my own way. I'm also
passable good-looking for a slaptoe planter. Besides, if you marry
me you'll be the first mated on this ship--and that's a splash most
nesting females like to make."

There was a longish stretch of quiet. Sis stepped back and measured him
slowly with her eyes; there was a lot to look at. He waited patiently
while she covered the distance from his peculiar green boots to that
head of hair. I was so excited I was gulping instead of breathing.
Imagine having Butt for a brother-in-law and living on a wet-plantation
in Flatfolk country!

But then I remembered Sis's level head and I didn't have much hope any
more.

"You know," she began, "there's more to marriage than just--"

"So there is," he cut in. "Well, we can try each other for taste." And
he pulled her in, both of his great hands practically covering her
slim, straight back.

Neither of them said anything for a bit after he let go. Butt spoke up
first.

"Now, me," he said, "I'd vote yes."

Sis ran the tip of her tongue kind of delicately from side to side
of her mouth. Then she stepped back slowly and looked at him as if
she were figuring out how many feet high he was. She kept on moving
backward, tapping her chin, while Butt and I got more and more
impatient. When she touched the lifeboat door, she pushed it open and
jumped out.

       *       *       *       *       *

Butt ran over and looked down the crossway. After a while, he shut the
door and came back beside me. "Well," he said, swinging to a bunk,
"that's sort of it."

"You're better off, Butt," I burst out. "You shouldn't have a woman
like Sis for a wife. She looks small and helpless, but don't forget
she was trained to run an underwater city!"

"Wasn't worrying about that," he grinned. "_I_ grew up in the fifteen
long years of the Blue Chicago Rising. Nope." He turned over on his
back and clicked his teeth at the ceiling. "Think we'd have nested out
nicely."

I hitched myself up to him and we sat on the bunk, glooming away at
each other. Then we heard the tramp of feet in the crossway.

Butt swung down and headed for the control compartment in the
nose of the lifeboat. He had his blaster out and was cursing very
interestingly. I started after him, but he picked me up by the seat
of my jumper and tossed me toward the door. The Captain came in and
tripped over me.

I got all tangled up in his gold braid and million-mile space buttons.
When we finally got to our feet and sorted out right, he was breathing
very hard. The Captain was a round little man with a plump, golden face
and a very scared look on it. He _humphed_ at me, just the way Sis
does, and lifted me by the scruff of my neck. The Chief Mate picked me
up and passed me to the Second Assistant Engineer.

Sis was there, being held by the purser on one side and the Chief
Computer's Mate on the other. Behind them, I could see a flock of
wide-eyed female passengers.

"You cowards!" Sis was raging. "Letting your Captain face a dangerous
outlaw all by himself!"

"I dunno, Miss Sparling," the Computer's Mate said, scratching the
miniature slide-rule insignia on his visor with his free hand. "The Old
Man would've been willing to let it go with a log entry, figuring the
spaceport paddlefeet could pry out the stowaway when we landed. But you
had to quote the Mother Anita Law at him, and he's in there doing his
duty. He figures the rest of us are family men, too, and there's no
sense making orphans."

"You promised, Sis," I told her through my teeth. "You promised you
wouldn't get Butt into trouble!"

She tossed her spiral curls at me and ground a heel into the purser's
instep. He screwed up his face and howled, but he didn't let go of her
arm.

"_Shush_, Ferdinand, this is serious!"

It was. I heard the Captain say, "I'm not carrying a weapon, Brown."

"Then _get_ one," Butt's low, lazy voice floated out.

"No, thanks. You're as handy with that thing as I am with a
rocketboard." The Captain's words got a little fainter as he walked
forward. Butt growled like a gusher about to blow.

"I'm counting on your being a good guy, Brown." The Captain's
voice quavered just a bit. "I'm banking on what I heard about the
blast-happy Browns every time I lifted gravs in New Kalamazoo; they
have a code, they don't burn unarmed men."

       *       *       *       *       *

Just about this time, events in the lifeboat went down to a mumble. The
top of my head got wet and I looked up. There was sweat rolling down
the Second Assistant's forehead; it converged at his nose and bounced
off the tip in a sizable stream. I twisted out of the way.

"What's happening?" Sis gritted, straining toward the lock.

"Butt's trying to decide whether he wants him fried or scrambled," the
Computer's Mate said, pulling her back. "Hey, purse, remember when the
whole family with their pop at the head went into Heatwave to argue
with Colonel Leclerc?"

"Eleven dead, sixty-four injured," the purser answered mechanically.
"And no more army stationed south of Icebox." His right ear twitched
irritably. "But what're they saying?"

Suddenly we heard. "By authority vested in me under the Pomona College
Treaty," the Captain was saying very loudly, "I arrest you for
violation of Articles Sixteen to Twenty-one inclusive of the Space
Transport Code, and order your person and belongings impounded for
the duration of this voyage as set forth in Sections Forty-one and
Forty-five--"

"Forty-three and Forty-five," Sis groaned. "Sections Forty-three and
Forty-five, I told him. I even made him repeat it after me!"

"--of the Mother Anita Law, SC 2136, Emergency Interplanetary
Directives."

       *       *       *       *       *

We all waited breathlessly for Butt's reply. The seconds ambled on and
there was no clatter of electrostatic discharge, no smell of burning
flesh.

Then we heard some feet walking. A big man in a green suit swung out
into the crossway. That was Butt. Behind him came the Captain, holding
the blaster gingerly with both hands. Butt had a funny, thoughtful look
on his face.

The girls surged forward when they saw him, scattering the crew to one
side. They were like a school of sharks that had just caught sight of a
dying whale.

"M-m-m-m! Are all Venusians built like that?"

"Men like that are worth the mileage!"

"_I want him!" "I want him!" "I want him!_"

Sis had been let go. She grabbed my free hand and pulled me away. She
was trying to look only annoyed, but her eyes had bright little bubbles
of fury popping in them.

"The cheap extroverts! And they call themselves responsible women!"

I was angry, too. And I let her know, once we were in our cabin.
"What about that promise, Sis? You said you wouldn't turn him in. You
_promised_!"

She stopped walking around the room as if she had been expecting to get
to Venus on foot. "I know I did, Ferdinand, but he forced me."

"My name is Ford and I don't understand."

"Your name is Ferdinand and stop trying to act forcefully like a girl.
It doesn't become you. In just a few days, you'll forget all this and
be your simple, carefree self again. I really truly meant to keep my
word. From what you'd told me, Mr. Brown seemed to be a fundamentally
decent chap despite his barbaric notions on equality between the
sexes--or worse. I was positive I could shame him into a more rational
social behavior and make him give himself up. Then he--he--"

She pressed her fingernails into her palms and let out a long, glaring
sigh at the door. "Then he kissed me! Oh, it was a good enough
kiss--Mr. Brown has evidently had a varied and colorful background--but
the galling idiocy of the man, trying that! I was just getting over the
colossal impudence involved in _his_ proposing marriage--as if _he_ had
to bear the children!--and was considering the offer seriously, on its
merits, as one should consider _all_ suggestions, when he deliberately
dropped the pretense of reason. He appealed to me as most of the savage
ancients appealed to their women, as an emotional machine. Throw the
correct sexual switches, says this theory, and the female surrenders
herself ecstatically to the doubtful and bloody murk of masculine
plans."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a double knock on the door and the Captain walked in without
waiting for an invitation. He was still holding Butt's blaster. He
pointed it at me. "Get your hands up, Ferdinand Sparling," he said.

I did.

"I hereby order your detention for the duration of this voyage, for
aiding and abetting a stowaway, as set forth in Sections Forty-one and
Forty-five--"

"Forty-three and Forty-five," Sis interrupted him, her eyes getting
larger and rounder. "But you gave me your word of honor that no charges
would be lodged against the boy!"

"Forty-one and Forty-five," he corrected her courteously, still staring
fiercely at me. "I looked it up. Of the Anita Mason Law, Emergency
Interplanetary Directives. That was the usual promise one makes to an
informer, but I made it before I knew it was Butt Lee Brown you were
talking about. I didn't want to arrest Butt Lee Brown. You forced
me. So I'm breaking my promise to you, just as, I understand, you
broke your promise to your brother. They'll both be picked up at New
Kalamazoo Spaceport and sent Terraward for trial."

"But I used all of our money to buy passage," Sis wailed.

"And now you'll have to return with the boy. I'm sorry, Miss Sparling.
But as you explained to me, a man who has been honored with an
important official position should stay close to the letter of the law
for the sake of other men who are trying to break down terrestrial
anti-male prejudice. Of course, there's a way out."

"There is? Tell me, please!"

"Can I lower my hands a minute?" I asked.

"No, you can't, son--not according to the armed surveillance provisions
of the Mother Anita Law. Miss Sparling, if you'd marry Brown--now,
now, don't look at me like that!--we could let the whole matter drop.
A shipboard wedding and he goes on your passport as a 'dependent male
member of family,' which means, so far as the law is concerned, that he
had a regulation passport from the beginning of this voyage. And once
we touch Venusian soil he can contact his bank and pay for passage. On
the record, no crime was ever committed. He's free, the boy's free, and
you--"

"--Are married to an uncombed desperado who doesn't know enough to sit
back and let a woman run things. Oh, you should be ashamed!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The Captain shrugged and spread his arms wide.

"Perhaps I should be, but that's what comes of putting men into
responsible positions, as you would say. See here, Miss Sparling, _I_
didn't want to arrest Brown, and, if it's at all possible, I'd still
prefer not to. The crew, officers and men, all go along with me. We
may be legal residents of Earth, but our work requires us to be on
Venus several times a year. We don't want to be disliked by any members
of the highly irritable Brown clan or its collateral branches. Butt
Lee Brown himself, for all of his savage appearance in your civilized
eyes, is a man of much influence on the Polar Continent. In his own
bailiwick, the Galertan Archipelago, he makes, breaks and occasionally
readjusts officials. Then there's his brother Saskatchewan who
considers Butt a helpless, put-upon youngster--"

"Much influence, you say? Mr. Brown has?" Sis was suddenly thoughtful.

"_Power_, actually. The kind a strong man usually wields in a newly
settled community. Besides, Miss Sparling, you're going to Venus for a
husband because the male-female ratio on Earth is reversed. Well, not
only is Butt Lee Brown a first class catch, but you can't afford to be
too particular in any case. While you're fairly pretty, you won't bring
any wealth into a marriage and your high degree of opinionation is not
likely to be well-received on a backward, masculinist world. Then, too,
the woman-hunger is not so great any more, what with the _Marie Curie_
and the _Fatima_ having already deposited their cargoes, the _Mme. Sun
Yat Sen_ due to arrive next month...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Sis nodded to herself, waved the door open, and walked out.

"Let's hope," the Captain said. "Like any father used to say, a man who
knows how to handle women, how to get around them without their knowing
it, doesn't need to know anything else in this life. I'm plain wasted
in space. You can lower your hands now, son."

We sat down and I explained the blaster to him. He was very interested.
He said all Butt had told him--in the lifeboat when they decided to
use my arrest as a club over Sis--was to keep the safety catch all the
way up against his thumb. I could see he really had been excited about
carrying a lethal weapon around. He told me that back in the old days,
captains--sea captains, that is--actually had the right to keep guns
in their cabins all the time to put down mutinies and other things our
ancestors did.

The telewall flickered, and we turned it on. Sis smiled down.
"Everything's all right, Captain. Come up and marry us, please."

"What did you stick him for?" he asked. "What was the price?"

Sis's full lips went thin and hard, the way Mom's used to. Then she
thought better of it and laughed. "Mr. Brown is going to see that I'm
elected sheriff of the Galertan Archipelago."

"And I thought she'd settle for a county clerkship!" the Captain
muttered as we spun up to the brig.

The doors were open and girls were chattering in every corner. Sis came
up to the Captain to discuss arrangements. I slipped away and found
Butt sitting with folded arms in a corner of the brig. He grinned at
me. "Hi, tadpole. Like the splash?"

I shook my head unhappily. "Butt, why did you do it? I'd sure love to
be your brother-in-law, but, gosh, you didn't have to marry Sis." I
pointed at some of the bustling females. Sis was going to have three
hundred bridesmaids. "Any one of them would have jumped at the chance
to be your wife. And once on any woman's passport, you'd be free. Why
Sis?"

"That's what the Captain said in the lifeboat. Told him same thing I'm
telling you. I'm stubborn. What I like at first, I keep on liking. What
I want at first, I keep on wanting until I get."

"Yes, but making Sis sheriff! And you'll have to back her up with your
blaster. What'll happen to that man's world?"

"Wait'll after we nest and go out to my islands." He produced a
hard-lipped, smug grin, sighting it at Sis's slender back. "She'll
find herself sheriff over a bunch of natives and exactly two Earth
males--you and me. I got a hunch that'll keep her pretty busy, though."





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