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The Colonists   By: (1915-1994)

The Colonists by Raymond F. Jones

First Page:


By Raymond F. Jones

Illustrated by Paul Orban

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science Fiction June 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: If historical precedent be wrong what qualities, then, must man possess to successfully colonize new worlds? Doctor Ashby said: "There is no piece of data you cannot find, provided you can devise the proper experimental procedure for turning it up." Now about the man and the procedure.... ]

This was the rainy year. Last year had been the dry one, and it would come again. But they wouldn't be here to see it, Captain Louis Carnahan thought. They had seen four dry ones, and now had come the fourth wet one, and soon they would be going home. For them, this was the end of the cycle.

At first they had kept track of the days, checking each one off on their calendars, but the calendars had long since been mingled indistinguishably with the stuff of the planet itself along with most of the rest of their equipment. By that time, however, they had learned that the cycle of wet and dry seasons was almost precisely equivalent to a pair of their own Terran years, so they had no more need for the calendars.

But at the beginning of this wet season Carnahan had begun marking off the days once again with scratches on the post of the hut in which he lived. The chronometers were gone, too, but one and three quarters Earth days equalled one Serrengian day, and by that he could compute when the ships from Earth were due.

He had dug moats about the hut to keep rain water from coming in over his dirt floor. Only two of the walls were erected, and he didn't know or much care whether he would get the other two up or not. Most of the materials had blown away during the last dry period and he doubted very much that he would replace them. The two available walls were cornered against the prevailing winds. The roof was still in good shape, allowing him a sufficient space free of leaks to accommodate his cooking and the mat which he called a bed.

He picked up a gourd container from the rough bench in the center of the room and took a swallow of the burning liquid. From the front of the hut he looked out over the rain swept terrain at the circle of huts. Diametrically across from him he could see Bolinger, the little biologist, moving energetically about. Bolinger was the only one who had retained any semblance of scientific interest. He puttered continually over his collection, which had grown enormously over the eight year period.

When they got back, Bolinger at least would have some accomplishment to view with pride. The rest of them ?

Carnahan laughed sharply and took another big swallow from the gourd, feeling the fresh surge of hot liquor already crossing the portals of his brain, bringing its false sense of wisdom and clarity. He knew it was false, but it was the only source of wisdom he had left, he told himself.

He staggered back to the bed with the gourd. He caught a glimpse of his image in the small steel mirror on the little table at the end of the bed. Pausing to stare, he stroked the thick mat of beard and ran his fingers through the mane of hair that had been very black when he came, and was now a dirty silver grey.

He hadn't looked at himself for a long time, but now he had to. He had to know what they would see when the ships of Earth came to pick up the personnel of the Base and leave another crew. The image made him sick.

At the beginning of this final season of the rains, all his life before coming to Serrengia seemed like a dream that had never been real. Now it was coming back, as if he were measuring the final distance of a circle and approaching once again his starting point. He kept remembering more and more... Continue reading book >>

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