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´╗┐Title: If You Was A Moklin
Author: Leinster, Murray
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 "If You Was A Moklin" ***

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                          If You Was a MOKLIN

                          By MURRAY LEINSTER

                    Illustrated by HARRY ROSENBAUM

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



                You'd love Earthmen to pieces, for they
                may look pretty bad to themselves, but
                not to you. You'd even want to be one!


Up to the very last minute, I can't imagine that Moklin is going to be
the first planet that humans get off of, moving fast, breathing hard,
and sweating awful copious. There ain't any reason for it. Humans have
been on Moklin for more than forty years, and nobody ever figures there
is anything the least bit wrong until Brooks works it out. When he
does, nobody can believe it. But it turns out bad. Plenty bad. But
maybe things are working out all right now.

_Maybe!_ I hope so.

At first, even after he's sent off long reports by six ships in a row,
I don't see the picture beginning to turn sour. I don't get it until
after the old _Palmyra_ comes and squats down on the next to the last
trip a Company ship is ever going to make to Moklin.

Up to that very morning everything is serene, and that morning I am
sitting on the trading post porch, not doing a thing but sitting there
and breathing happy. I'm looking at a Moklin kid. She's about the size
of a human six-year-old and she is playing in a mud puddle while her
folks are trading in the post. She is a cute kid--mighty human-looking.
She has long whiskers like Old Man Bland, who's the first human to open
a trading post and learn to talk to Moklins.

Moklins think a lot of Old Man Bland. They build him a big tomb,
Moklin-style, when he dies, and there is more Moklin kids born with
long whiskers than you can shake a stick at. And everything looks okay.
_Everything!_

Sitting there on the porch, I hear a Moklin talking inside the trade
room. Talking English just as good as anybody. He says to Deeth, our
Moklin trade-clerk, "But Deeth, I can buy this cheaper over at the
other trading post! Why should I pay more here?"

Deeth says, in English too, "I can't help that. That's the price here.
You pay it or you don't. That's all."

I just sit there breathing complacent, thinking how good things
are. Here I'm Joe Brinkley, and me and Brooks are the Company on
Moklin--only humans rate as Company employees and get pensions, of
course--and I'm thinking sentimental about how much humaner Moklins are
getting every day and how swell everything is.

The six-year-old kid gets up out of the mud puddle, and wrings out her
whiskers--they are exactly like the ones on the picture of Old Man
Bland in the trade room--and she goes trotting off down the road after
her folks. She is mighty human-looking, that one.

The wild ones don't look near so human. Those that live in the forest
are greenish, and have saucer eyes, and their noses can wiggle like an
Earth rabbit. You wouldn't think they're the same breed as the trading
post Moklins at all, but they are. They crossbreed with each other,
only the kids look humaner than their parents and are mighty near the
same skin color as Earthmen, which is plenty natural when you think
about it, but nobody does. Not up to then.

I don't think about that then, or anything else. Not even about the
reports Brooks keeps sweating over and sending off with every Company
ship. I am just sitting there contented when I notice that Sally, the
tree that shades the trading post porch, starts pulling up her roots.
She gets them coiled careful and starts marching off. I see the other
trees are moving off, too, clearing the landing field. They're waddling
away to leave a free space, and they're pushing and shoving, trying to
crowd each other, and the little ones sneak under the big ones and they
all act peevish. Somehow they know a ship is coming in. That's what
their walking off means, anyhow. But there ain't a ship due in for a
month, yet.

They're clearing the landing field, though, so I start listening for
a ship's drive, even if I don't believe it. At first I don't hear a
thing. It must be ten minutes before I hear a thin whistle, and right
after it the heavy drone that's the ground-repulsor units pushing
against bedrock underground. Lucky they don't push on wet stuff, or a
ship would sure mess up the local countryside!

I get off my chair and go out to look. Sure enough, the old _Palmyra_
comes bulging down out of the sky, a month ahead of schedule, and the
trees over at the edge of the field shove each other all round to make
room. The ship drops, hangs anxious ten feet up, and then kind of sighs
and lets down. Then there's Moklins running out of everywhere, waving
cordial.

They sure do like humans, these Moklins! Humans are their idea of what
people should be like! Moklins will wrestle the freight over to the
trading post while others are climbing over everything that's waiting
to go off, all set to pass it up to the ship and hoping to spot friends
they've made in the crew. If they can get a human to go home with them
and visit while the ship is down, they brag about it for weeks. And do
they treat their guests swell!

They got fancy Moklin clothes for them to wear--soft, silky guest
garments--and they got Moklin fruits and Moklin drinks--you ought to
taste them! And when the humans have to go back to the ship at takeoff
time, the Moklins bring them back with flower wreaths all over them.

Humans is tops on Moklin. And Moklins get humaner every day. There's
Deeth, our clerk. You couldn't hardly tell him from human, anyways. He
looks like a human named Casey that used to be at the trading post, and
he's got a flock of brothers and sisters as human-looking as he is.
You'd swear--

But this is the last time but one that a Earth ship is going to land
on Moklin, though nobody knows it yet. Her passenger port opens up
and Captain Haney gets out. The Moklins yell cheerful when they see
him. He waves a hand and helps a human girl out. She has red hair and
a sort of businesslike air about her. The Moklins wave and holler and
grin. The girl looks at them funny, and Cap Haney explains something,
but she sets her lips. Then the Moklins run out a freight-truck, and
Haney and the girl get on it, and they come racing over to the post,
the Moklins pushing and pulling them and making a big fuss of laughing
and hollering--all so friendly, it would make anybody feel good inside.
Moklins like humans! They admire them tremendous! They do everything
they can think of to be human, and they're smart, but sometimes I get
cold shivers when I think how close a thing it turns out to be.

Cap Haney steps off the freight-truck and helps the girl down. Her eyes
are blazing. She is the maddest-looking female I ever see, but pretty
as they make them, with that red hair and those blue eyes staring at me
hostile.

"Hiya, Joe," says Cap Haney. "Where's Brooks?"

I tell him. Brooks is poking around in the mountains up back of the
post. He is jumpy and worried and peevish, and he acts like he's trying
to find something that ain't there, but he's bound he's going to find
it regardless.

"Too bad he's not here," says Haney. He turns to the girl. "This is
Joe Brinkley," he says. "He's Brooks' assistant. And, Joe, this is
Inspector Caldwell--Miss Caldwell."

"Inspector will do," says the girl, curt. She looks at me accusing.
"I'm here to check into this matter of a competitive trading post on
Moklin."

"Oh," I says. "That's bad business. But it ain't cut into our trade
much. In fact, I don't think it's cut our trade at all."

"Get my baggage ashore, Captain," says Inspector Caldwell, imperious.
"Then you can go about your business. I'll stay here until you stop on
your return trip."

I call, "Hey, Deeth!" But he's right behind me. He looks respectful and
admiring at the girl. You'd swear he's human! He's the spit and image
of Casey, who used to be on Moklin until six years back.

"Yes, sir," says Deeth. He says to the girl, "Yes, ma'am. I'll show you
your quarters, ma'am, and your baggage will get there right away. This
way, ma'am."

He leads her off, but he don't have to send for her baggage. A pack of
Moklins come along, dragging it, hopeful of having her say "Thank you"
to them for it. There hasn't ever been a human woman on Moklin before,
and they are all excited. I bet if there had been women around before,
there'd have been hell loose before, too. But now the Moklins just hang
around, admiring.

There are kids with whiskers like Old Man Bland, and other kids with
mustaches--male and female both--and all that sort of stuff. I'm
pointing out to Cap Haney some kids that bear a remarkable resemblance
to him and he's saying, "Well, what do you know!" when Inspector
Caldwell comes back.

"What are you waiting for, Captain?" she asks, frosty.

"The ship usually grounds a few hours," I explain. "These Moklins are
such friendly critters, we figure it makes good will for the trading
post for the crew to be friendly with 'em."

"I doubt," says Inspector Caldwell, her voice dripping icicles, "that I
shall advise that that custom be continued."

Cap Haney shrugs his shoulders and goes off, so I know Inspector
Caldwell is high up in the Company. She ain't old, maybe in her
middle twenties, I'd say, but the Caldwell family practically owns
the Company, and all the nephews and cousins and so on get put into
a special school so they can go to work in the family firm. They get
taught pretty good, and most of them really rate the good jobs they
get. Anyhow, there's plenty of good jobs. The Company runs twenty or
thirty solar systems and it's run pretty tight. Being a Caldwell means
you get breaks, but you got to live up to them.

Cap Haney almost has to fight his way through the Moklins who want to
give him flowers and fruits and such. Moklins are sure crazy about
humans! He gets to the entry port and goes in, and the door closes and
the Moklins pull back. Then the _Palmyra_ booms. The ground-repulsor
unit is on. She heaves up, like she is grunting, and goes bulging up
into the air, and the humming gets deeper and deeper, and fainter and
fainter--and suddenly there's a keen whistling and she's gone. It's all
very normal. Nobody would guess that this is the last time but one a
Earth ship will ever lift off Moklin!

Inspector Caldwell taps her foot, icy. "When will you send for Mr.
Brooks?" she demands.

"Right away," I says to her. "Deeth--"

"I sent a runner for him, ma'am," says Deeth. "If he was in hearing of
the ship's landing, he may be on the way here now."

He bows and goes in the trade room. There are Moklins that came to see
the ship land, and now have tramped over to do some trading. Inspector
Caldwell jumps.

"Wh-what's that?" she asks, tense.

The trees that crowded off the field to make room for the _Palmyra_ are
waddling back. I realize for the first time that it might look funny
to somebody just landed on Moklin. They are regular-looking trees, in
a way. They got bark and branches and so on. Only they can put their
roots down into holes they make in the ground, and that's the way
they stay, mostly. But they can move. Wild ones, when there's a water
shortage or they get too crowded or mad with each other, they pull up
their roots and go waddling around looking for a better place to take
root in.

The trees on our landing field have learned that every so often a ship
is going to land and they've got to make room for it. But now the ship
is gone, and they're lurching back to their places. The younger ones
are waddling faster than the big ones, though, and taking the best
places, and the old grunting trees are waving their branches indignant
and puffing after them mad as hell.

I explain what is happening. Inspector Caldwell just stares. Then Sally
comes lumbering up. I got a friendly feeling for Sally. She's pretty
old--her trunk is all of three feet thick--but she always puts out a
branch to shade my window in the morning, and I never let any other
tree take her place. She comes groaning up, and uncoils her roots, and
sticks them down one by one into the holes she'd left, and sort of
scrunches into place and looks peaceful.

"Aren't they--dangerous?" asks Inspector Caldwell, pretty uneasy.

"Not a bit," I says. "Things can change on Moklin. They don't have to
fight. Things fight in other places because they can't change and they
get crowded, and that's the only way they can meet competition. But
there's a special kind of evolution on Moklin. Cooperative, you might
call it. It's a nice place to live. Only thing is everything matures so
fast. Four years and a Moklin is grown up, for instance."

She sniffs. "What about that other trading post?" she says, sharp.
"Who's back of it? The Company is supposed to have exclusive trading
rights here. Who's trespassing?"

"Brooks is trying to find out," I says. "They got a good complete line
of trade goods, but the Moklins always say the humans running the place
have gone off somewhere, hunting and such. We ain't seen any of them."

"No?" says the girl, short. "_I'll_ see them! We can't have competition
in our exclusive territory! The rest of Mr. Brooks' reports--" She
stops. Then she says, "That clerk of yours reminds me of someone I
know."

"He's a Moklin," I explain, "but he looks like a Company man named
Casey. Casey's Area Director over on Khatim Two now, but he used to be
here, and Deeth is the spit and image of him."

"Outrageous!" says Inspector Caldwell, looking disgusted.

There's a couple of trees pushing hard at each other. They are
fighting, tree-fashion, for a specially good place. And there's others
waddling around, mad as hell, because somebody else beat them to the
spots they liked. I watch them. Then I grin, because a couple of young
trees duck under the fighting big ones and set their roots down in the
place the big trees was fighting over.

"I don't like your attitude!" says Inspector Caldwell, furious.

She goes stamping into the post, leaving me puzzled. What's wrong with
me smiling at those kid trees getting the best of their betters?

       *       *       *       *       *

That afternoon Brooks comes back, marching ahead of a pack of
woods-Moklins with greenish skins and saucer eyes that've been guiding
him around. He's a good-looking kind of fellow, Brooks is, with a good
build and a solid jaw.

When he comes out of the woods on the landing field--the trees are
all settled down by then--he's striding impatient and loose-jointed.
With the woods-Moklins trailing him, he looks plenty dramatic, like a
visi-reel picture of a explorer on some unknown planet, coming back
from the dark and perilous forests, followed by the strange natives who
do not yet know whether this visitor from outer space is a god or what.
You know the stuff.

I see Inspector Caldwell take a good look at him, and I see her eyes
widen. She looks like he is a shock, and not a painful one.

He blinks when he sees her. He grunts. "What's this? A she-Moklin?"

Inspector Caldwell draws herself up to her full five-foot-three. She
bristles.

I say quick, "This here is Inspector Caldwell that the _Palmyra_ dumped
off here today. Uh--Inspector, this is Brooks, the Head Trader."

They shake hands. He looks at her and says, "I'd lost hope my reports
would ever get any attention paid to them. You've come to check my
report that the trading post on Moklin has to be abandoned?"

"I have not!" says Inspector Caldwell, sharp. "That's absurd! This
planet has great potentialities, this post is profitable and the
natives are friendly, and the trade should continue to increase. The
Board is even considering the introduction of special crops."

That strikes me as a bright idea. I'd like to see what would happen if
Moklins started cultivating new kinds of plants! It would be a thing to
watch--with regular Moklin plants seeing strangers getting good growing
places and special attention! I can't even guess what'll happen, but I
want to watch!

"What I want to ask right off," says Inspector Caldwell, fierce, "is
why you have allowed a competitive trading post to be established,
why you did not report it sooner, and why you haven't identified the
company back of it?"

Brooks stares at her. He gets mad.

"Hell!" he says. "My reports cover all that! Haven't you read them?"

"Of course not," says Inspector Caldwell. "I was given an outline of
the situation here and told to investigate and correct it."

"Oh!" says Brooks. "That's it!"

Then he looks like he's swallowing naughty words. It is funny to see
them glare at each other, both of them looking like they are seeing
something that interests them plenty, but throwing off angry sparks
just the same.

"If you'll show me samples of their trade goods," says Inspector
Caldwell, arrogant, "and I hope you can do _that_ much, I'll identify
the trading company handling them!"

He grins at her without amusement and leads the way to the inside of
the trading post. We bring out the stuff we've had some of our Moklins
go over and buy for us. Brooks dumps the goods on a table and stands
back to see what she'll make of them, grinning with the same lack of
mirth. She picks up a visi-reel projector.

"Hmm," she says, scornful. "Not very good quality. It's...." Then she
stops. She picks up a forest knife. "This," she says, "is a product
of--" Then she stops again. She picks up some cloth and fingers it. She
really steams. "I see!" she says, angry. "Because we have been on this
planet so long and the Moklins are used to our goods, the people of the
other trading post _duplicate_ them! Do they cut prices?"

"Fifty per cent," says Brooks.

I chime in, "But we ain't lost much trade. Lots of Moklins still trade
with us, out of friendship. Friendly folks, these Moklins."

Just then Deeth comes in, looking just like Casey that used to be here
on Moklin. He grins at me.

"A girl just brought you a compliment," he lets me know.

"Shucks!" I says, embarrassed and pleased. "Send her in and get a
present for her."

Deeth goes out. Inspector Caldwell hasn't noticed. She's seething over
that other trading company copying our trade goods and underselling us
on a planet we're supposed to have exclusive. Brooks looks at her grim.

"I shall look over their post," she announces, fierce, "and if they
want a trade war, they'll get one! We can cut prices if we need to--we
have all the resources of the Company behind us!"

Brooks seems to be steaming on his own, maybe because she hasn't read
his reports. But just then a Moklin girl comes in. Not bad-looking,
either. You can see she is a Moklin--she ain't as convincing human as
Deeth is, say--but she looks pretty human, at that. She giggles at me.

"Compliment," she says, and shows me what she's carrying.

I look. It's a Moklin kid, a boy, just about brand-new. And it has my
shape ears, and its nose looks like somebody had stepped on it--my nose
is that way--and it looks like a very small-sized working model of me.
I chuck it under the chin and say, "Kitchy-coo!" It gurgles at me.

"What's your name?" I ask the girl.

She tells me. I don't remember it, and I don't remember ever seeing
her before, but she's paid me a compliment, all right--Moklin-style.

"Mighty nice," I say. "Cute as all get-out. I hope he grows up to have
more sense than I got, though." Then Deeth comes in with a armload
of trade stuff like Old Man Bland gave to the first Moklin kid that
was born with long whiskers like his, and I say, "Thanks for the
compliment. I am greatly honored."

She takes the stuff and giggles again, and goes out. The kid beams at
me over her shoulder and waves its fist. Mighty humanlike. A right cute
kid, any way you look at it.

Then I hear a noise. Inspector Caldwell is regarding me with loathing
in her eyes.

"Did you say they were friendly creatures?" she asks, bitter. "I think
affectionate would be a better word!" Her voice shakes. "You are going
to be transferred out of here the instant the _Palmyra_ gets back!"

"What's the matter?" I ask, surprised. "She paid me a compliment and
I gave her a present. It's a custom. She's satisfied. I never see her
before that I remember."

"You _don't_?" she says. "The--the _callousness_! You're revolting!"

Brooks begins to sputter, then he snickers, and all of a sudden he's
howling with laughter. He is laughing at Inspector Caldwell. Then I get
it, and I snort. Then I hoot and holler. It gets funnier when she gets
madder still. She near blows up from being mad!

We must look crazy, the two of us there in the post, just hollering
with laughter while she gets furiouser and furiouser. Finally I have to
lay down on the floor to laugh more comfortable. You see, she doesn't
get a bit of what I've told her about there being a special kind of
evolution on Moklin. The more disgusted and furious she looks at me,
the harder I have to laugh. I can't help it.

       *       *       *       *       *

When we set out for the other trading post next day, the atmosphere
ain't what you'd call exactly cordial. There is just the Inspector and
me, with Deeth and a couple of other Moklins for the look of things.
She has on a green forest suit, and with her red hair she sure looks
good! But she looks at me cold when Brooks says I'll take her over to
the other post, and she doesn't say a word the first mile or two.

We trudge on, and presently Deeth and the others get ahead so they
can't hear what she says. And she remarks indignant, "I must say Mr.
Brooks isn't very cooperative. Why didn't he come with me? Is he
afraid of the men at the other post?"

"Not him," I says. "He's a good guy. But you got authority over him and
you ain't read his reports."

"If I have authority," she says, sharp, "I assure you it's because I'm
competent!"

"I don't doubt it," I says. "If you wasn't cute, he wouldn't care. But
a man don't want a good-looking girl giving him orders. He wants to
give them to her. A homely woman, it don't matter."

       *       *       *       *       *

She tosses her head, but it don't displease her. Then she says, "What's
in the reports that I should have read?"

"I don't know," I admit. "But he's been sweating over them. It makes
him mad that nobody bothered to read 'em."

"Maybe," she guesses, "it was what I need to know about this other
trading post. What do you know about it, Mr. Brinkley?"

I tell her what Deeth has told Brooks. Brooks found out about it
because one day some Moklins come in to trade and ask friendly why we
charge so much for this and that. Deeth told them we'd always charged
that, and they say the other trading post sells things cheaper, and
Deeth says what trading post? So they up and tell him there's another
post that sells the same kind of things we do, only cheaper. But
that's all they'll say.

So Brooks tells Deeth to find out, and he scouts around and comes
back. There is another trading post only fifteen miles away, and it is
selling stuff just like ours. And it charges only half price. Deeth
didn't see the men--just the Moklin clerks. We ain't been able to see
the men either.

"Why haven't you seen the men?"

"Every time Brooks or me go over," I explain, "the Moklins they got
working for them say the other men are off somewhere. Maybe they're
starting some more posts. We wrote 'em a note, asking what the hell
they mean, but they never answered it. Of course, we ain't seen their
books or their living quarters--"

"You could find out plenty by a glimpse at their books!" she snaps.
"Why haven't you just marched in and made the Moklins show you what you
want to know, since the men were away?"

"Because," I says, patient, "Moklins imitate humans. If we start
trouble, they'll start it too. We can't set a example of rough stuff
like burglary, mayhem, breaking and entering, manslaughter, or bigamy,
or those Moklins will do just like us."

"Bigamy!" She grabs on that sardonic. "If you're trying to make me
think you've got enough moral sense--"

I get a little mad. Brooks and me, we've explained to her, careful, how
it is admiration _and_ the way evolution works on Moklin that makes
Moklin kids get born with long whiskers and that the compliment the
Moklin girl has paid me is just exactly that. But she hasn't listened
to a word.

"Miss Caldwell," I says, "Brooks and me told you the facts. We tried to
tell them delicate, to spare your feelings. Now if you'll try to spare
mine, I'll thank you."

"If you mean your finer feelings," she says, sarcastic, "I'll spare
them as soon as I find some!"

So I shut up. There's no use trying to argue with a woman. We tramp on
through the forest without a word. Presently we come on a nest-bush.
It's a pretty big one. There are a couple dozen nests on it, from the
little-bitty bud ones no bigger than your fist, to the big ripe ones
lined with soft stuff that have busted open and have got cacklebirds
housekeeping in them now.

There are two cacklebirds sitting on a branch by the nest that is
big enough to open up and have eggs laid in it, only it ain't. The
cacklebirds are making noises like they are cussing it and telling it
to hurry up and open, because they are in a hurry.

"That's a nest-bush," I says. "It grows nests for the cacklebirds. The
birds--uh--fertilize the ground around it. They're sloppy feeders and
drop a lot of stuff that rots and is fertilizer too. The nest-bush and
the cacklebirds kind of cooperate. That's the way evolution works on
Moklin, like Brooks and me told you."

She tosses that red head of hers and stamps on, not saying a word.
So we get to the other trading post. And there she gets one of these
slow-burning, long-lasting mads on that fill a guy like me with awe.

There's only Moklins at the other trading post, as usual. They say the
humans are off somewhere. They look at her admiring and polite. They
show her their stock. It is practically identical with ours--only they
admit that they've sold out of some items because their prices are low.
They act most respectful and pleased to see her.

But she don't learn a thing about where their stuff comes from or what
company is horning in on Moklin trade. And she looks at their head
clerk and she burns and burns.

       *       *       *       *       *

When we get back, Brooks is sweating over memorandums he has made,
getting another report ready for the next Company ship. Inspector
Caldwell marches into the trade room and gives orders in a controlled,
venomous voice. Then she marches right in on Brooks.

"I have just ordered the Moklin sales force to cut the price on all
items on sale by seventy-five per cent," she says, her voice trembling
a little with fury. "I have also ordered the credit given for Moklin
trade goods to be doubled. They want a trade war? They'll get it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

She is a lot madder than business would account for. Brooks says,
tired, "I'd like to show you some facts. I've been over every inch of
territory in thirty miles, looking for a place where a ship could land
for that other post. There isn't any. Does that mean anything to you?"

"The post is there, isn't it?" she says. "And they have trade goods,
haven't they? And we have exclusive trading rights on Moklin, haven't
we? That's enough for me. Our job is to drive them out of business!"

But she is a lot madder than business would account for. Brooks says,
very weary, "There's nearly a whole planet where they could have
put another trading post. They could have set up shop on the other
hemisphere and charged any price they pleased. But they set up shop
right next to us! Does _that_ make sense?"

"Setting up close," she says, "would furnish them with customers
already used to human trade goods. And it furnished them with Moklins
trained to be interpreters and clerks! And--" Then it come out, what
she's raging, boiling, steaming, burning up about. "And," she says,
furious, "it furnished them with a Moklin head-clerk who is a very
handsome young man, Mr. Brooks! He not only resembles you in every
feature, but he even has a good many of your mannerisms. You should be
very proud!"

With this she slams out of the room. Brooks blinks.

"She won't believe anything," he says, sour, "except only that man is
vile. Is that true about a Moklin who looks like me?"

I nod.

"Funny his folks never showed him to me for a compliment-present!" Then
he stares at me, hard. "How good is the likeness?"

"If he is wearing your clothes," I tell him, truthful, "I'd swear he is
you."

Then Brooks--slow, very slow--turns white. "Remember the time you went
off with Deeth and his folks, hunting? That was the time a Moklin got
killed. You were wearing guest garments, weren't you?"

I feel queer inside, but I nod. Guest garments, for Moklins, are like
the best bedroom and the drumstick of the chicken among humans. And a
Moklin hunting party is something. They go hunting _garlikthos_, which
you might as well call dragons, because they've got scales and they fly
and they are tough babies.

The way to hunt them is you take along some cacklebirds that ain't
nesting--they are no good for anything while they're honeymooning--and
the cacklebirds go flapping around until a _garlikthos_ comes after
them, and then they go jet-streaking to where the hunters are, cackling
a blue streak to say, "Here I come, boys! Hold everything until I get
past!" Then the _garlikthos_ dives after them and the hunters get it
as it dives.

You give the cacklebirds its innards, and they sit around and eat,
cackling to each other, zestful, like they're bragging about the other
times they done the same thing, only better.

"You were wearing guest garments?" repeats Brooks, grim.

I feel very queer inside, but I nod again. Moklin guest garments are
mighty easy on the skin and feel mighty good. They ain't exactly
practical hunting clothes, but the Moklins feel bad if a human that's
their guest don't wear them. And of course he has to shed his human
clothes to wear them.

"What's the idea?" I want to know. But I feel pretty unhappy inside.

"You didn't come back for one day, in the middle of the hunt, after
tobacco and a bath?"

"No," I says, beginning to get rattled. "We were way over at the
Thunlib Hills. We buried the dead Moklin over there and had a hell of a
time building a tomb over him. Why?"

"During that week," says Brooks, grim, "and while you were off wearing
Moklin guest garments, somebody came back wearing your clothes--and got
some tobacco and passed the time of day and went off again. Joe, just
like there's a Moklin you say could pass for me, there's one that could
pass for you. In fact, he did. Nobody suspected either."

I get panicky. "But what'd he do that for?" I want to know. "He didn't
steal anything! Would he have done it just to brag to the other Moklins
that he fooled you?"

"He might," says Brooks, "have been checking to see if he could fool
me. Or Captain Haney of the _Palmyra_. Or--"

He looks at me. I feel myself going numb. This can mean one hell of a
mess!

"I haven't told you before," says Brooks, "but I've been guessing at
something like this. Moklins like to be human, and they get human
kids--kids that look human, anyway. Maybe they can want to be smart
like humans, and they are." He tries to grin, and can't. "That rival
trading post looked fishy to me right at the start. They're practicing
with that. It shouldn't be there at all, but it is. You see?"

I feel weak and sick all over. This is a dangerous sort of thing! But
I say quick, "If you mean they got Moklins that could pass for you and
me, and they're figuring to bump us off and take our places--I don't
believe that! Moklins _like_ humans! They wouldn't harm humans for
_anything_!"

Brooks don't pay any attention. He says, harsh, "I've been trying to
persuade the Company that we've got to get out of here, fast! And they
send this Inspector Caldwell, who's not only female, but a redhead to
boot! All they think about is a competitive trading post! And all she
sees is that we're a bunch of lascivious scoundrels, and since she's a
woman there's nothing that'll convince her otherwise!"

Then something hits me. It looks hopeful.

"She's the first human woman to land on Moklin. And she has got red
hair. It's the first red hair the Moklins ever saw. Have we got time?"

He figures. Then he says, "With luck, it ought to turn up! You've hit
it!" And then his expression sort of softens. "If that happens--poor
kid, she's going to take it hard! Women hate to be wrong. Especially
redheads! But that might be the saving of--of humanity, when you think
of it."

I blink at him. He goes on, fierce, "Look, _I'm_ no Moklin! You know
that. But if there's a Moklin that looks enough like me to take my
place.... You see? We got to think of Inspector Caldwell, anyhow. If
you ever see me cross my fingers, you wiggle your little finger. Then I
know it's you. And the other way about. Get it? You swear you'll watch
over Inspector Caldwell?"

"Sure!" I say. "Of course!"

I wiggle my little finger. He crosses his. It's a signal nobody but us
two would know. I feel a lot better.

       *       *       *       *       *

Brooks goes off next morning, grim, to visit the other trading post and
see the Moklin that looks so much like him. Inspector Caldwell goes
along, fierce, and I'm guessing it's to see the fireworks when Brooks
sees his Moklin double that she thinks is more than a coincidence.
Which she is right, only not in the way she thinks.

Before they go, Brooks crosses his fingers and looks at me significant.
I wiggle my little finger back at him. They go off.

I sit down in the shade of Sally and try to think things out. I am all
churned up inside, and scared as hell. It's near two weeks to landing
time, when the old _Palmyra_ ought to come bulging down out of the
sky with a load of new trade goods. I think wistful about how swell
everything has been on Moklin up to now, and how Moklins admire humans,
and how friendly everything has been, and how it's a great compliment
for Moklins to want to be like humans, and to get like them, and how no
Moklin would ever dream of hurting a human and how they imitate humans
joyous and reverent and happy. Nice people, Moklins. But--

The end of things is in sight. Liking humans has made Moklins smart,
but now there's been a slip-up. Moklins will do anything to produce
kids that look like humans. That's a compliment. But no human ever sees
a Moklin that's four or five years old and all grown up and looks so
much like him that nobody can tell them apart. That ain't scheming.
It's just that Moklins like humans, but they're scared the humans might
not like to see themselves in a sort of Moklin mirror. So if they did
that at all, they'd maybe keep it a secret, like children keep secrets
from grownups.

Moklins are a lot like kids. You can't help liking them. But a human
can get plenty panicky if he thinks what would happen if Moklins get to
passing for humans among humans, and want their kids to have top-grade
brains, and top-grade talents, and so on....

I sweat, sitting there. I can see the whole picture. Brooks is worrying
about Moklins loose among humans, outsmarting them as their kids grow
up, being the big politicians, the bosses, the planetary pioneers,
the prettiest girls and the handsomest guys in the Galaxy--everything
humans want to be themselves. Just thinking about it is enough to make
any human feel like he's going nuts. But Brooks is also worrying about
Inspector Caldwell, who is five foot three and red-headed and cute as a
bug's ear and riding for a bad fall.

They come back from the trip to the other trading post. Inspector
Caldwell is baffled and mad. Brooks is sweating and scared. He slips
me the signal and I wiggle my little finger back at him, just so I'll
know he didn't get substituted for without Inspector Caldwell knowing
it, and so he knows nothing happened to me while he was gone. They
didn't see the Moklin that looks like Brooks. They didn't get a bit of
information we didn't have before--which is just about none at all.

Things go on. Brooks and me are sweating it out until the _Palmyra_
lets down out of the sky again, meanwhile praying for Inspector
Caldwell to get her ears pinned back so proper steps can be taken, and
every morning he crosses his fingers at me, and I wiggle my little
finger back at him.... And he watches over Inspector Caldwell tender.

       *       *       *       *       *

The other trading post goes on placid. They sell their stuff at half
the price we sell ours for. So, on Inspector Caldwell's orders, we cut
ours again to half what they sell theirs for. So they sell theirs for
half what we sell ours for, so we sell ours for half what they sell
theirs for. And so on. Meanwhile we sweat.

Three days before the _Palmyra_ is due, our goods are marked at just
exactly one per cent of what they was marked a month before, and the
other trading post is selling them at half that. It looks like we are
going to have to pay a bonus to Moklins to take goods away for us to
compete with the other trading post.

Otherwise, everything looks normal on the surface. Moklins hang around
as usual, friendly and admiring. They'll hang around a couple days just
to get a look at Inspector Caldwell, and they regard her respectful.

Brooks looks grim. He is head over heels crazy about her now, and she
knows it, and she rides him hard. She snaps at him, and he answers her
patient and gentle--because he knows that when what he hopes is going
to happen, she is going to need him to comfort her. She has about wiped
out our stock, throwing bargain sales. Our shelves are almost bare. But
the other trading post still has plenty of stock.

"Mr. Brooks," says Inspector Caldwell, bitter, at breakfast, "we'll
have to take most of the _Palmyra's_ cargo to fill up our inventory."

"Maybe," he says, tender, "and maybe not."

"But we've got to drive that other post out of business!" she says,
desperate. Then she breaks down. "This--this is my first independent
assignment. I've got to handle it successfully!"

He hesitates. But just then Deeth comes in. He beams friendly at
Inspector Caldwell.

"A compliment for you, ma'am. Three of them."

She goggles at him. Brooks says, gentle, "It's all right. Deeth, show
them in and get some presents."

Inspector Caldwell splutters incredulous, "But--but--"

"Don't be angry," says Brooks. "They mean it as a compliment. It is,
actually, you know."

Three Moklin girls come in, giggling. They are not bad-looking at
all. They look as human as Deeth, but one of them has a long, droopy
mustache like a mate of the _Palmyra_--that's because they hadn't ever
seen a human woman before Inspector Caldwell come along. They sure have
admired her, though! And Moklin kids get born fast. Very fast.

They show her what they are holding so proud and happy in their arms.
They have got three little Moklin kids, one apiece. And every one of
them has red hair, just like Inspector Caldwell, and every one of them
is a girl that is the spit and image of her. You would swear they are
human babies, and you'd swear they are hers. But of course they ain't.
They make kid noises and wave their little fists.

Inspector Caldwell is just plain paralyzed. She stares at them, and
goes red as fire and white as chalk, and she is speechless. So Brooks
has to do the honors. He admires the kids extravagant, and the Moklin
girls giggle, and take the compliment presents Deeth brings in, and
they go out happy.

When the door closes, Inspector Caldwell wilts.

"Oh-h!" she wails. "It's true! You didn't--you haven't--they can make
their babies look like anybody they want!"

Brooks puts his arms around her and she begins to cry against his
shoulder. He pats her and says, "They've got a queer sort of evolution
on Moklin, darling. Babies here inherit desired characteristics. Not
_acquired_ characteristics, but _desired_ ones! And what could be more
desirable than you?"

I am blinking at them. He says to me, cold, "Will you kindly get the
hell out of here and stay out?"

I come to. I says, "Just one precaution."

I wiggle my little finger. He crosses his fingers at me.

"Then," I says, "since there's no chance of a mistake, I'll leave you
two together."

And I do.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Palmyra_ booms down out of the sky two days later. We are all
packed up. Inspector Caldwell is shaky, on the porch of the post,
when Moklins come hollering and waving friendly over from the landing
field pulling a freight-truck with Cap Haney on it. I see other
festive groups around members of the crew that--this being a scheduled
stop--have been given ship-leave for a couple hours to visit their
Moklin friends.

"I've got the usual cargo--" begins Cap Haney.

"Don't discharge it," says Inspector Caldwell, firm. "We are
abandoning this post. I have authority and Mr. Brooks has convinced me
of the necessity for it. Please get our baggage to the ship."

He gapes at her. "The Company don't like to give in to competition--"

"There isn't any competition," says Inspector Caldwell. She gulps.
"Darling, you tell him," she says to Brooks.

He says, lucid, "She's right, Captain. The other trading post is purely
a Moklin enterprise. They like to do everything that humans do. Since
humans were running a trading post, they opened one too. They bought
goods from us and pretended to sell them at half price, and we cut
our prices, and they bought more goods from us and pretended to sell
at half the new prices.... Some Moklin or other must've thought it
would be nice to be a smart businessman, so his kids would be smart
businessmen. Too smart! We close up this post before Moklins think of
other things...."

He means, of course, that if Moklins get loose from their home planet
and pass as humans, their kids can maybe take over human civilization.
Human nature couldn't take that! But it is something to be passed on to
the high brass, and not told around general.

"Better sound the emergency recall signal," says Inspector Caldwell,
brisk.

We go over to the ship and the _Palmyra_ lets go that wailing siren
that'll carry twenty miles. Any crew member in hearing is going to beat
it back to the ship full-speed. They come running from every which
way, where they been visiting their Moklin friends. And then, all of
a sudden, here comes a fellow wearing Moklin guest garments, yelling,
"Hey! Wait! I ain't got my clothes--"

And then there is what you might call a dead silence. Because lined up
for checkoff is another guy that comes running at the recall signal,
and he is wearing ship's clothes, and you can see that him and the guy
in Moklin guest garments are just exactly alike. Twins. Identical. The
spit and image of each other. And it is for sure that one of them is a
Moklin. But which?

Cap Haney's eyes start to pop out of his head. But then the guy in
_Palmyra_ uniform grins and says, "Okay, I'm a Moklin. But us Moklins
like humans so much, I thought it would be nice to make a trip to Earth
and see more humans. My parents planned it five years ago, made me look
like this wonderful human, and hid me for this moment. But we would not
want to make any difficulties for humans, so I have confessed and I
will leave the ship."

He takes it as a joke on him. He talks English as good as anybody. I
don't know how anybody could tell which was the human guy and which one
the Moklin, but this Moklin grins and steps down, and the other Moklins
admire him enormous for passing even a few minutes as human among
humans.

We get away from there so fast, he is allowed to keep the human uniform.

       *       *       *       *       *

Moklin is the first planet that humans ever get off of, moving fast,
breathing hard, and sweating copious. It's one of those things that
humans just can't take. Not that there's anything wrong with Moklins.
They're swell folks. They like humans. But humans just can't take the
idea of Moklins passing for human and being all the things humans want
to be themselves. I think it's really a false alarm. I'll find out
pretty soon.

Inspector Caldwell and Brooks get married, and they go off to a post on
Briarius Four--a swell place for a honeymoon if there ever was one--and
I guess they are living happy ever after. Me, I go to the new job the
Company assigns me--telling me stern not to talk about Moklin, which I
don't--and the Space Patrol orders no human ship to land on Moklin for
any reason.

But I've been saving money and worrying. I keep thinking of those three
Moklin kids that Inspector Caldwell knows she ain't the father of. I
worry about those kids. I hope nothing's happened to them. Moklin kids
grow up fast, like I told you. They'll be just about grown now.

I'll tell you. I've bought me a little private spacecruiser, small but
good. I'm shoving off for Moklin next week. If one of those three ain't
married, I'm going to marry her, Moklin-style, and bring her out to a
human colony planet. We'll have some kids. I know just what I want my
kids to be like. They'll have plenty of brains--_top-level brains_--and
the girls will be _real_ good-looking!

But besides that, I've got to bring some other Moklins out and start
them passing for human, too. Because my kids are going to need other
Moklins to marry, ain't they? It's not that I don't like humans. I do!
If the fellow I look like--Joe Brinkley--hadn't got killed accidental
on that hunting trip with Deeth, I never would have thought of taking
his place and being Joe Brinkley. But you can't blame me for wanting to
live among humans.

Wouldn't you, if you was a Moklin?





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