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´╗┐Title: Shango
Author: Jakes, John
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 "Shango" ***

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                             BY JOHN JAKES

                   _Valaya was a primitive society,
                         yet the natives had a
                       way of communicating that
                     had the experts stumped...._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
             Worlds of If Science Fiction, February 1956.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

"This," said chief Van Isaac, "is our new trouble spot." The older
man's rodlike finger probed decisively at a violet dot placed on a thin
yellow line of a circle, third out from a sun. Other dots peppered the
giant glazed star map, companions of which hung on the other three
walls of the chamber. "Valaya is the name of the place," Van Isaac
continued. "Perhaps you know something about it."

"Not much," said the other, a thirtyish, lean man by the name of Arnold
Koven. "I mean, not a great deal besides what the telefilms have
screamed for the past two weeks. Revolution, slaughter, tribe against
tribe." Koven placed a cigarette between his lips, and his eyes smiled
with gentle cynicism. "Valaya has a Creole sound."

"You'll have no vacation, believe me," Van Isaac responded. "During
the colonization, Valaya was peopled largely by residents of the
Caribbean. The inhabitants have intermarried over the past sixty years,
so there is a slight blue Martian strain. Valaya was seeded with sugar
and tin to provide for economy, but left rather backward--by choice of
the colonists." Koven moved his eyes from the star map to his superior.

"Have you localized the trouble?"

"Yes. These raids have moved from the small north continent--" Van
Isaac touched one of a row of studs on the desk. An immense rear
projection lantern view on the wall where the map had been, settled
into focus.

"The raids are the combined effort of the people of the north
continent, which is small. The attacks are focused across the channel
to the larger south continent. Somehow, the people on North have
been inveigled into believing they have a right to South. Our only
bit of information is that a man named Bruschloss--" Koven suddenly
straightened in the theatrical gloom where his cigarette smoke floated
torpidly. "Bruschloss? The one you used to call The Hog?"

"The Hog, yes. He is a citizen of the Betelgeuse Bloc with
right-of-entry to any of our planets. He claims to be solely interested
in setting up a trading company on Valaya, with headquarters at the
village of Maru. But the attacks date from two weeks after he arrived.
So," said Van Isaac, tone hardening, "I know he is undoubtedly behind
all this, and I want him stopped."

"Any G. C. I. A. men around Maru?" Koven inquired.

"The local agent for the continent, named Spotwood. He says Bruschloss
has conversed privately with the local ruler. Spotwood couldn't plant
cameras or sound equipment at the conferences--our own blasted code
forbids it. But the rub is that the ruler has in no way communicated
with any of the other tribes on North. _In no way_," Van Isaac
repeated, with a fist on the desk for emphasis. "They have drums. The
drums say nothing Spotwood can't understand. All perfectly innocent.
They have runners. No runners. No flare signals. No secret meetings.
Spotwood has hired three or four dozen breeds to do his spying, but he
has absolutely no idea of how the ruler manages to organize the other
tribes into these precise, well-timed, well-generaled raids across the

"I'm to find out?" asked Koven. "And stop the proceedings?"

"Exactly. Spotwood's good, but...."

       *       *       *       *       *

At the spaceport, Koven pushed his way through the jabbering crowd,
checked his baggage onto the Valaya flight, had coffee, and got
something to read from a Vendobook. He chose a volume entitled _The
Twilight of Meaningism_, by Dr. Reywill of Memphis University. As the
long iron dagger of the rocket cut burning through the blue curtain of
the sky, he settled down in his compartment to read.

Dr. Reywill's work turned out to be an historical analysis of the
forces which, toward the end of the twentieth century, catalyzed the
arts into pure sensation, utterly devoid of meaning or communication.
During the middle of that century, with poetry restricted to the hands
of the few who wailed that their mechanized age did not understand
them, poetry became exceedingly private in imagery and meaning. In a
natural evolution, it completely lost all meaning and became a charming
musical form several cuts above the primitive. When the masses found
they could merely accept verse as a pleasantry whose sound intrigued
them as a rattle intrigues a child, poetry, regained its audience. The
same condition held true for music, the dance, painting and sculpture.
To Koven, born when Meaningism was two hundred years dead, the notion
that a poem could say something seemed quaint and even a trifle

Twenty-eight hours later Koven landed in Maru, knowing a good deal more
about the history of contemporary poetry, but knowing nothing which
would help him unravel the puzzle of the raids.

       *       *       *       *       *

"No Van Isaac wasn't kidding," Jimmy Spotwood said. "The colonization
board worked Valaya over from one end to the other. This is genuine,
authentic and otherwise real tropicana."

Koven stood at the window of Spotwood's shack, which looked down a long
street to the central clearing which formed the crossroads of Maru.
Bluish sky spread out overhead like sheets of hot metal, and the almost
poisonously colorful foliage stuttered gently in a hot breeze. The
nearly undressed inhabitants, skins belying only a touch of the bluish
blood from Mars, idled along from hut to hut, talking or playing with
the children. The only note of turmoil was sounded by the slapping skin
drums from the far side of the village. Koven turned around to his host.

"Are they beating the drums for any purpose?" he wanted to know.

Spotwood took a drink from a sanitary plastic bubble. "Once a month
everybody on North gets together for a shindig." He smirked with
good-natured lasciviousness. "The whole rigamarole is years old.
Guarantees that plenty of good strong babies will be born, and that
the crops won't fail, or some such rot. O'course," Spotwood said
laconically, "this monthly assembly would be the logical time to
suspect, if they ever did anything but put on a sexual exhibition in
that clearing down the road. Maybe," he added, "the head dancer's
pelvis--a female, by the way--is tattooed with a message in some sort
of invisible ink our poor old Earth eyes can't see. Her belly gyrations
would guarantee high readership, if nothing else."

Koven smiled thinly, as a knock rattled on the slatted door.

Spotwood's eyes slitted down and jumped briefly to Koven's, in a glance
which the latter interpreted to read, _News isn't slow in Maru. I'll
bet this is the prime mover._ Koven instinctively patted the flat
pistol beneath his coat, his back to the door as Spotwood opened it.

"I understand we have a visitor in the village," came the sound of an
unpleasant, wet and wheezing voice.

"You're right," said Spotwood. "Come on in, Bruschloss."

Molding his face into a careful expression of relaxed disinterest,
Koven turned around to face The Hog.

Bruschloss extended a pink gobby hand. "Koven, did you say? I'm always
delighted to see anyone here with Earth blood in his veins." He
laughed self-consciously, and the rolling folds of his belly quivered.
"Even though we are on opposite sides of the political fence we can
still be friends, I hope. You arrived at a good time. Tonight's the
celebration." He seemed to breathe more quickly at the thought; he
savored the words like a man aroused by a fetish.

"Spotwood's been telling me," Koven said.

"Has he, eh? He enjoys them too, I'll wager." No reply from Spotwood,
save the pop of another gin globe being opened.

"Have a drink, Bruschloss?" Spotwood asked.

"No, I don't think so. Liquor makes me very sleepy. I want to be alert
for the ceremony tonight. I love to watch Chemin dance."

"Quite a woman," Spotwood agreed.

"Er ... what is your line of business?" inquired Bruschloss of Koven,
elevating the wrinkles on his steaming forehead into an expression of

"I came to help Jimmy finish up in a hurry."

"Trying to discover whether you might seed Valaya for platinum?" asked
Bruschloss with perfect innocence.

Spotwood snickered. "What's the matter with you, Bruschloss? Are you
sure you haven't had a drink? You know it's petro I'm after."

"Of course! I am stupid, forgive me." A self-conscious pause ensued,
while no one spoke. Then Bruschloss, as if snatching at any clue that
might tell him more about the visitor to Maru, spied Koven's book,
slung carelessly along with his other gear on the deal table. "A book!"
exclaimed The Hog, rolling forward. "Mr. Koven, it delights me to find
a literate man in this wilderness." He turned a few pages, leaving
black sweaty thumb prints on the thin plastic leaves.

"The disappearance of meaning from poetry, eh?" he said, snapping the
book closed. "I must read it some time, if you'll lend it."

Koven said he would, and Bruschloss made a quick exit. He seemed to do
things in opposites. First he had been straining to remain and keep
conversation alive. Last, he had been straining to leave as rapidly as
possible. In spite of the man's slovenly appearance, Koven knew he had
a dangerous enemy. Bruschloss would have had to be an utter moron to
believe that Koven had come to Maru simply to aid Spotwood. Spotwood
himself, as if sensing Koven's appraisal of the man from the Betelgeuse
Bloc, spoke:

"Watch him. He's got three uglies up at his place who do nothing all
day but drink and play cards. They're here in case of trouble."

Koven smiled thinly. "I hope we can accommodate them."

       *       *       *       *       *

Toward the end of the sixteen-hour-day, after Spotwood had prepared
dinner from food cubes, Koven decided to take a stroll around the
village. The citizens hardly gave him a glance, engrossed in eating
within their houses. From glimpses Koven caught, they hardly looked
like a warlike crew, and yet he had read the tales of atrocities
committed across the strait on South, and he felt a crawly sensation on
his spine. Tonight, perhaps, plans would be laid for the next attack,
while he knew nothing about the process which would probably go on
right around him. Certainly the people of Valaya weren't 'paths. He
knew that much.

Koven crossed the central clearing and turned left toward the village
fringe. He passed the final few dwellings and turned left again, up a
slight wooded rise, back across which he could reach Spotwood's house.
As he crossed the spine of the ridge, he thought he noticed a movement
along to his right, and turned in that direction. He caught sight of an
arm arching forward, and a small circular object spiraling down toward
his head through the spicy air. Instinctively trained, Koven pumped
his legs and slid out forward along the ground, rolling, watching
the object go spinning crazily by against the darkening heavens. He
extended an arm, caught a tree and jerked himself around into the
protection of its thick trunk as a flat explosion tore the air and
smashed his eardrums. He closed his eyes tightly. The blazing white
flash lasted only a second.

Struggling up, he had time only to see the scooped-out pit along the
spine's crest, smoking like a raw wound, where the bomb had struck.
Boots bit earth, coming in his direction at a dead run. Koven crouched
in tree shadow, hoping that his adversary had not seen him scramble to
safety in the illusive light on the hill. He snaked the flat pistol
free of its casing just as the attacker broke through a clump of brush.
Koven had a fleeting impression of massive size, a meaty face and short
spiky dark hair. Then he was on his feet, charging against his enemy,
who abruptly saw him and ground to a halt.

The attacker's mouth made a red startled O, and one heavy hand labored
to bring up a heavy pistol. But Koven had already fired. The pale thin
beam lanced out in complete silence. The enemy dropped his weapon but
had no time to utter a sound. The skin of his head began to blacken
and fall away in charring strips. Koven always felt relieved when a
man shot like that fell, for he did not have to look at the bubbling
horror of burning flesh and gristle.

Swinging around, Koven scrutinized the village. No clamor, no outcry
had been made. The central street overflowed now, for the short night
had nearly begun, and torches began to flare, throwing up great roiling
shadows on the trees as the crowd babbled and pressed down to the main

Why in the name of sense had the attack come now? at this precise
moment? Spotwood had been in Maru for months, and had said nothing
about any sort of attack on him. Certainly Bruschloss suspected
Spotwood. All men from Earth had to be suspect here, to a man from the
Betelgeuse Bloc. Therefore something about himself which, offhand, he
couldn't pinpoint, had driven The Hog far enough into fear to send this

This point Spotwood verified after Koven jogged back to the house at a
run. Spotwood scratched his chin and whistled. "Why the blazes is he
after you right away?" Spotwood asked.

"I'm wondering the same."

"He must think you've found out how he organizes the raids."

"That's the hell of it. I haven't."

From the central clearing came a staccato increase in the tempo of the
drumming. Spotwood swiveled around, listening, while Koven continued
to scowl dismally at the floor. Spotwood snagged a light coat from the
corner and slipped into it. "They'll be starting in a minute. Come on."
Once again he managed to grin. "You don't want to miss Chemin. They
call the dance a shango. I often wince when I think what a pastor would
call it."

Koven followed Spotwood from the shanty, and they trudged down the
blue-lit street toward the swaying mob in the clearing. Koven quickly
outlined a few facts to his companion. They must pretend not to notice
the surprise on the face of Bruschloss, which would certainly be
present when Koven turned up alive. Moreover, Koven made it clear that
they should not even look the least suspiciously in The Hog's direction.

"Tough order," Spotwood offered. "Bruschloss sees you alive, he knows
you probably saw, and killed, the man who tried to get you. He figures
you described the killer to me, and also figures I pegged him down for
you as one of his assistants."

"Still, let's try to bluff it out."

They pressed through the edges of the crowd, ignored, for the watchers
concentrated upon the figures diving and turning and stamping their
feet on the earth in the center of the ring, clad in feathers and
little else, skins shining and polished by sweat in the bubbling light
of the ghastly blue flares. Spotwood shouldered off to stand a fair
distance away, and Koven found a slight break in the crowd and crouched
down on his haunches, stabbing a cigarette into his mouth. From the
rear of the circle a young girl appeared, very beautiful, with a tuft
of feathers at her hip, and her breasts oiled and glowing like metal
cones. Koven gathered this was Chemin, for the name passed on many
tongues. A circle of male dancers closed around her.

Koven kept his head straight front, but moved his eyes in their
sockets, so that he could see Bruschloss, backed up by two men with
thick shoulders standing directly behind. The trio blurred almost out
of sight at the edge of Koven's line of vision. Bruschloss sat bent
forward, his rolled belly heaving, and the sweaty, stubbled skin of his
face looking rotted in the blue light. He followed each movement of the
dancer Chemin with obscene concentration, but Koven, switching his eyes
front, had the unpleasant feeling that the two burly companions were
scrutinizing him.

Chemin's dance became less sexual for a few moments, became the sort of
dance you might almost expect to see on a photovision variety hour; a
dance without specific meaning.

Abruptly the palms of Koven's hands felt wet.

He lurched to his feet and searched the crowd for Spotwood. The crowd
seemed intensely quiet during Chemin's performance. Each man had his
eyes riveted to the flying hands and undulating body of the girl in the
center. Koven inched his way free of the crowd, still keeping watch on
the dance. He just broke from the edges as Chemin disappeared into the
darkness from which she had come, and pairs of males and females, with
sharp, biting cries, began again the ritual.

With a throbbing in his nerves that always came when he was very close
to something he worked for, Koven cut around a series of huts in time
to see the girl Chemin disappear into one of them. Looking left and
right, seeing no one except the crowd at the rear of the hut forming
this edge of the ring, he eased out the pistol and stepped through the

Chemin sat with her head resting wearily on her arms, as if the dancing
had drained her last reserve of energy. The light scuff of Koven's
shoes on dirt caused her to whip her head up, and he realized again how
attractive she was, in spite of the perspiration filming her body and
the tired haggardness of her features.

"Don't make a single sound," he warned. "I'll fire."

Gradually the spasmodic quivering in her throat subsided. "You are the
new man here with Spotwood," she said, frightened.

Koven nodded. "I came to find out how Bruschloss organized the attacks
on South, through your ruler." The Hog's name washed the light of truth
for a moment into her eyes, and Koven pressed on, sure. "We didn't know
how the plans for attack were circulated on this continent. But you've
been giving the plans, out there in the ring. That solo dance had a

"Fertility ..." she began.

"Oh, no. Before and after it, yes. But the women paid no attention to
your solo dance. The men did. They were attentive. They were waiting
for and receiving orders, weren't they? Orders your ruler had to give
through a dance, because Spotwood was here, and you couldn't dare give
them in a way he might understand."

"You are wrong."

Koven stepped forward and pressed the pistol against Chemin's breast.
In the badly-lit tent he could still see the flesh of that breast
harden. "Am I wrong?"

A tiny tongue caressed her lips in anxiety. "What are you going to do
with me?"

"Do you have more to tell them?"

"No, I...."

"Tell the truth." The pistol muzzle ground an ugly white pit in her

"Yes, I have more."

"When you dance, tell the people to kill Bruschloss and his two men,
immediately. Orders from your ruler. Bruschloss is a traitor, tell

Aghast: "I could not...."

"Would you rather die?"

"The ruler will know...."

"You show me where he is sitting. I'll take care of him. If you should
give the wrong message when you dance ... if they should turn on me,
I'll still manage to kill you before they get me. So it's entirely up
to you whether you live or die." He recognized acceptance in her bowed
neck. "I want you to show me how the dance works. Show me the motions,
the gestures you use to explain plans for the attack."

Chemin gazed obliquely at him with tormented eyes. Then she crossed
her wrists and moved her fingers in a fluttering motion. "This is the
sign for a small peninsula south of here, on the strait. This ..." She
pantomimed again. "... is the sign which means meeting place. This...."
And so she rehearsed the various signals, and then the message Koven
had issued, while he kept his pistol trained on her. He knew now what
had alarmed Bruschloss, what had prompted the attack so suddenly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Chemin danced, in the ring again. Koven stood almost directly behind
the ruler, fitting a tiny cylindrical attachment to the muzzle of his
pistol, to reduce the power for close range. Once more the men glued
their eyes on the dancing figure. Seconds after the dance had begun,
the ruler uttered a sharp gasp and lurched up from his woven chair
as he read the new message. Koven's hand touched him and he stepped
around the chair in the darkness. Koven slid the pistol forward and
triggered it. Only a faint white glow showed flush against the belly
of the ruler. With the smell of burned flesh eating in his nostrils,
Koven lowered the ruler's body to the ground. The crowd to either
side had surged forward slightly, beginning to talk curiously now,
paying no attention to Koven. Across the ring, Bruschloss blinked and
gestured sweatily, while his two assistants closed in tight against his
shoulders. The drums slapped in a frenzy.

Koven saw a man break from the edge of the ring and lurch across toward
Bruschloss. Chemin stopped her dance, collapsing to her knees. One of
Bruschloss' men shot the first attacker, but by then the crowd had
broken, and men boiled forward, and Koven heard The Hog's scream as a
sea of writhing backs and arms and legs closed over him. The sounds
were gruesome.

Koven turned and raced up the long street to Spotwood's house. The
seemingly careless agent reeled in moments later, to hear Koven
finishing at the communicator set: "... that's right, two Control
squads. And for God's sake make it within twenty minutes, before they
decide to massacre us." He threw down a switch and swung around on the
stool, grinning lopsidedly. Down the long avenue echoed screams, and an
angry mob shouting.

"Bang! Like that!" Spotwood breathed. "What the hell happened?"

Koven sketched it quickly.

"You knew," Spotwood said in astonishment, pointing to the table,
"because of that book you happened to read?"

Koven nodded. "The arts no longer convey meaning, but the ruler of Maru
managed to put it back in. Something you didn't look for. Something I
wouldn't have looked for ... if I hadn't stopped at a Vendobook."

"You think they'll come after us?" Spotwood asked.

Koven glanced out the window. At the street's end, pieces of something
meaty and red had been hoisted up by the crowd on long, sharp poles.
They glistened in the flaring light.

"They may. They're in a wild mood. Once Control takes over, though,
the attacks will be a thing of the past. But until then...."

"Holy God," Spotwood breathed. He went toward a cupboard, stopped
at the table and glanced down. Nearly in awe, he read aloud, "_The
Twilight of Meaningism_. Mph." An emphatic shake of the head. Then he
unlimbered a pistol from the cupboard, and they sat down to wait.

Twenty-three minutes later 'copters were snarling across the night over
the village, and beams cut swathes back and forth over a sea of tossing
bluish faces. Spotwood stood up with a sigh, stretched and took down
two gin bubbles, saying to Koven, "Have a drink."

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Shango" ***

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