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´╗┐Title: The Crowded Colony
Author: Drexel, Jay B.
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 "The Crowded Colony" ***

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                          THE CROWDED COLONY

                           By Jay B. Drexel

             Oh, how decadent these Martians were! Burke,
             Barnes and the rest of the Conquerors laughed
             loudly at the dusty shrines, those crude and
           homely temples in the desert. More softly laughed
            the Martians, who dreamed of laughing last....

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                       Planet Stories Fall 1950.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


When the Martians had built the village of Kinkaaka there had been
water in the canal, a cool, level sweep of green water from the
northern icecap. Now there was none, and Kinkaaka clung to the upper
swell of the bank and curved its staggered residential terraces like
tragic brows over the long slope of sand and clay, the dead wall
baked criss-cross by the sun, that bore at its deep juncture with the
opposite bank the pitiful, straggling trench cut by Mars' last moving
waters an untold time ago.

Kinkaaka's other side, away from the canal, was coated rust-red by
the desert winds that came with sunset. Here were the crumbling
market arenas of the ancient traders, the great mounds of underground
warehouses long empty; and here now, with Mars' conquest, was
the "native" section into whose sandstone huts the village's few
inhabitants were shoved firmly, but not brutally, to rest when they
weren't needed to work.

Like most of the Conquerors, Jack Burke and his companions preferred
the canal side of Kinkaaka. There they could sit in the stone-cool
shade of the Expedition Restaurant and look through the broad glassless
windows down the sun-scalded canal bank, across to the opposite slope
with its dotting of nomad caves, the desert beyond and the red-tainted
blue of the sky.

"Happy day we came to Mars," said Jack Burke. He picked up his stone
mug and drank with a shudder.

He was big and brown, typical of the Conquerors, and spoke, as they
all did when within earshot of natives, the Martian dialect which the
Linguistics Squad had translated and reasoned to completion from the
pages of script found in the metal cairn, half-buried in desert sands
and upon which they had conveniently almost landed their space-cube
upon arrival two days ago.

That was one of the dicta of the Psychologists: Always speak the native
tongue, and learn it preferably from graphics or a specimen before
contacting the native collective.

There were other policies as strange, or more so; but the
Psychologists, off-world in the home-ship and poring over the
translations beamed to them, must know what they were doing.

Barnes looked up in quick response to Burke's sarcasm. Of the three
Conquerors at this table, he was the smallest. He fiddled nervously
with his one-pronged fork, turning a piece of badly cooked _huj_ over
and over, not looking at it.

"That," he said, and he included the _huj_, "is a mouthful. There
doesn't seem to be a Martian in this village who can cook worth a
damn, and you--" this to the pasty faced Martian who stood attentively
by--"are no exception. You're getting off easy with this job, Martian.
Or would you rather go back to digging up history with the rest of your
tribe?"

"I am sorry." The Martian advanced and bobbed his head. "The
preparation of your foodstuffs is difficult for me to comprehend. Would
you care to try something else, perhaps?"

Barnes skidded the fork onto the plate and put his hands flat on the
stone table. "No. Just take this away."

The Conquerors watched the creature as it moved silently off with the
plate of _huj_. All except Randolph, the youngest of the trio.

       *       *       *       *       *

He sat nearest the stone-silled window, his gaze reaching out distantly
over the sandscape. On the far bank of the canal he could see a few
natives with their guards, emerging from a wood and stone structure
that thrust finger-shaped into the pink sky.

"No race should have its soul dissected," he said slowly. "Not, at
least, until they're extinct and can't feel it." He avoided Barnes'
sudden, sharp look. "Our Archaeologists over there--" pointing at the
moving dots--"are poking around in burial crypts or sacred temples or
whatever--it's like cutting someone up alive. We don't know what those
things mean to these Martians."

Barnes laughed, more of a snort. "You speak as if 'these Martians' were
people." He leaned forward and blinked his emphasis. "What in hell
ever happened to you that you've got such ideas? Primitive, misshapen
morons--you can't think of them as persons! Don't let an Intelligence
Officer hear you talking that way or you'll find yourself getting
shipped home!"

Randolph's eyes flicked Barnes' heavy face, then turned to the mural on
the restaurant wall.

"This is very beautiful," he said. He bent closer, examining the
delicate work. "This isn't moronic. You're wrong, Barnes."

Burke spoke harshly: "You'd better shut up, Randolph. You're sitting
there emoting over decadent art and there's an Intelligence Officer at
the bar."

Young Randolph stiffened and forced a smile. "Of course, the Martians
are a degenerated race. Our Archaeologists have revealed that Mars was
spiritually effeminized thousands of years ago. Our colonization will
have a reforming effect upon them. It is a healthy thing. That is our
mission in time and space."

The Martian had returned and was again standing at service. Randolph
caught his eye and flushed, returned his gaze to the mural.

Burke cleared his throat. The Intelligence Officer at the bar was still
looking icily at Randolph's back, twiddling his drink with a wooden
mixer.

"You cannot doubt," Barnes took up the fraying thread, "that our
conquest of these Martians is a very good thing. For them. I ...
for _us_, too.... That is our mission in time and space. The first
desert shrine--the metal one from which we learned this tongue we
speak--is ugly enough proof. Sheaves of manuscript, recording the most
disgusting standards and attitudes. And the contents of subsequently
found structures--like that one across the canal--show an even greater
decline into sensualism and the subjugation of creative energies."

The Martian stood quietly, his small-featured face blank and smooth. He
was meant to hear all this.

"I heard one of our Archaeologists say something about the language of
that first shrine--the metal one--being different from all the others."
Randolph shifted his great bulk to lean back against the wall. "The
others are mostly alike, but this one we learned is totally different."

The Martian's eyes flickered.

"So what?" Barnes grunted. "Dialects. Same thing at home."

"But, I mean they--"

"But what? These Martians here speak the language we learned, don't
they?"

"But--"

"Hell! Do you speak _Ahrian_?"

"You know I don't."

"So when we get through investigating here and move on to other
villages, we'll find Martians who speak the other dialects."

The Martian said: "Will there be anything else, sirs?"

"Not," said Barnes, "unless you would like to try some _noedan_."

"No thank you, sir."

Randolph and Burke raised their eyehoods humorously. Then they looked a
little less amused as Barnes' voice hardened.

"You might like it, Martian. Try it." He pulled a tough green wad of
_noedan_ from his pouch and tore off a strip. "I think the sooner you
Martians get used to doing as we do and liking the things we like, the
better off you'll be. Now take this _noedan_ and use it."

"Oh, for hell's sake, Barnes--" Randolph put out a hand. "Let him
alone. He doesn't want it. It makes him sick."

The Intelligence Officer got up from the bar and started for the table,
his eyes hard, his aural fronds quivering with emotion.

Burke spotted him and seemed to shrug. "You asked for it, kid," he told
Randolph. "Give my love to the home worlds. You're through on Mars."

"Maybe that's what I wanted," said Randolph.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Intelligence Officer halted beside the table and Randolph got up
without a word and left with him.

Burke and Barnes watched them down the winding clay street, saw them
enter a portable teleport booth, one of the several scattered about
Kinkaaka to facilitate trips to and from the space-cube. The door
closed, the light blinked on and off, then the booth was open again,
empty.

"On his way back to the home-ship and Parna," grunted Burke, "and I
don't know but that I envy him."

"You too?"

"Yeah. Now that there's no damned Intelligence Officer around, me too."

"Disgrace and all?"

"That's what stops me--" and noticing the angry color to Barnes'
_uiye_--"and the glory of our mission. Hell, anyone can get homesick,
can't they?"

During the few moments of Randolph's arrest and departure the Martian
had disappeared. Barnes grunted and shoved the _noedan_ back into his
pouch and finished his drink.

"You'll never get anywhere acting like that," said Burke after a
short silence. "You can't shove our ways down their throats and get
cooperation."

Barnes got up a little angrily. "Who wants to get anywhere? What do we
want out of these creatures? They smell! How are we _supposed_ to act?
We own their smelly little world--"

"Randolph might say we don't own it."

"Shut up, Burke. I'm sick of that!"

Barnes started for the door and Burke got up to follow. They stepped
out onto the hot clay of the street, moving their top-skins against the
tight-fitting impact of the sun's rays.

"_I_ don't want anything from them, Burke. _I'm_ the one who should be
sent home. _I_ want to go home. Why should we go around labeled with
Martian names? Barnes, Randolph, Burke, Smith--good God! And talking
this _jsu_-twisting _sutz_ of a language Martian of all the time
speaking!"

Burke chuckled, deep in his sac. "The Psychologists dreamed it up--to
make us seem less alien. We speak their sounds. And we take their
names. After all, no trouble at all is better than the little they
might be able to give us if they got excited."

They went down the street toward the teleport booth, two big octopoids,
the sun warming their glistening brown backs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The "Martian" was in the cool back room of the restaurant, seated
before a group of his kind. This was afternoon rest period, and some
freedom to congregate existed then.

A man turned from the wall slit through which he had watched the exit
of Burke and Barnes.

"Those things make me sick, Burke," he said to the "Martian". "How can
you get so close to them and keep your stomach? They smell."

Burke shrugged. "You get used to it, Barnes."

He bent down and lifted the lid of a box that was stamped: FIRST MARS
EXPEDITION--2006. He took out a heavy proton-buster, broke the grip and
examined its load of white pellets.

"It's been two days now," he went on, "and I'm convinced at last that
this one party is all. Scouts, perhaps, from a parent ship off in deep
space. And I've listened to them talk. If they don't return, nobody's
going to come looking for them. They come from that kind of society.
The others will mark Sol off as a bad bet and move on."

He clicked the gun together. "They still think we're the race pictured
in the Martian crypts and temples--and in your translations, Randolph.
Coincidence eh? that the old Martians were humanoid and their
appearance not discrepant with ours."

"We colonize Mars," mused Randolph, "and Beta Centauri colonizes us as
Martians. Ring around the rosy."

Burke stood there, the proton-buster in his hand. "And it was cosmic
coincidence that the Centaurians landed their ship at practically
the same spot we'd set down only three days before. And it's almost
incredible that they came to this village where we had taken up
headquarters and addressed us in English!" He turned to Barnes. "You're
the Psych-man ... let's have it again. Slowly."

Barnes half turned from the wall slit where he had been keeping an eye
out for Centaurians. "They found our ship and took it to be a primitive
shrine of some sort, never dreaming it was a vehicle, a space-craft."
He waved another man to the slit and stretched his legs as he sat
down on a crate. He struck a match and cupped it into his pipe.
"I'm almost certain that they didn't even recognize the mechanisms
as such. Their ship, as you've all seen, is a cube of pure energy,
configurated--they're that alien. Also, I believe they're military men,
soldiers and minor technicians. The top specialists are probably on the
other ship, away from possible danger and biding their talents until
called."

The watcher's hand went up and fluttered for silence, and Barnes paused
while heavy, meaty footsteps scuffled the clay outside. When they had
passed, he spoke again, softly:

"Fortunately, there wasn't room in our ship for a library, or they
might have encountered the Terrestrial mind and caught on. But they
learned our language--English, and a damned neat trick--from Randolph's
written translations of the Martian _inscriptiones sensuales_ he was
working on. And when they came here and addressed us in that language
and we responded, nolens-volens they took us for Martians and judged
us by the context of those translations--foolish, vain and harmless,
but perhaps with some value as workers. They even took our names from
the nameplates on our bunks, something that would have found favor with
the perverse Fourth-Era Martians they presumed us to be." He sucked at
his pipe which had gone out. "Their Psychologists are clever--maybe a
little too clever. They think we have no violence potential."

Randolph seemed almost entranced. "But how could they have worked out
the phonetics?"

Barnes grinned, lifted a shoulder in admiration and envy. "I don't
know.... Ask _them_."

"They couldn't know they were _our_ names," said Randolph.

"No, but they thought they were native names. Thank God, we got the
pitch right off and were able to carry the farce."

"Why didn't they just kill us?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Barnes frowned and struck another match. "That would've been the really
smart thing to do, Dolph, but they're not brutes and they're not making
war. Their intention is to colonize, and we might as well be insects
for all we could mean to them or do to stand up to them."

"But if we have to be dealt with at all, we're in the way--"

Barnes had the pipe going. He shook his head. "We're not in their way;
we're underfoot, and only a sick mind makes a point of stepping on
ants. Would you kill a talking louse?"

Randolph grinned. "Yes."

"No, you wouldn't--not until you'd given it a going over."

"They're not sick in a killing way," Burke grunted, "but they seem to
feel that their colonizations act as cathartic to wayward worlds. Just
look at them, and you know that's sick."

"The people," said Barnes, "at the bottom of any movement--a pun,
gentlemen--are always fed on dream-stuff. Soldiers always are. Truth
is, maybe the big boys at home think they can find enough use for us to
warrant keeping us alive. As laborers, as subjects for experimentation,
as pets."

Burke looked out the window at the reddening sky. Then he gathered
their attention by standing up.

"If we hadn't been here," he said, "they would have gone on to Earth
and taken over. As is, they think Mars is nothing to write home about,
but they're sticking around to study awhile--not us, the supposed
latter Martians, the degenerates, but to search out and study the bones
of Mars' civilization back when it was dynamic. Maybe there's something
worth learning. That's what they think."

He hefted the proton-buster. Barnes and Smith and Kirk and Randolph
and Jason and all the others got guns from the box.

There was a hiss and they turned to the window. Rising above the
visible cluster of roof-domes from some point in the other side of
the village was a smaller edition of the Centaurians' space-cube. It
glinted once, high up, and was gone.

"There goes a pretty decent person," said Burke. "I'm glad we don't
have to kill him. He appreciated Randolph's watercolor painting of the
canal." His voice was regretful. "How alien can you get? _His_ name
was Randolph, and he's going home in disgrace."

[Illustration: _"There goes a pretty decent person," said Burke. "I'm
glad we don't have to kill him."_]

Night was coming. Burke's face hardened. The Centaurians would be
coming too, ready to herd the Martians into their sleeping huts.

"One alien ship, terribly armed," Burke went on, "and sixty Centaurians
walking around unarmed because they think we're pansies." He cocked the
gun. "They'll never leave Kinkaaka to bring back more."





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