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The Guardians   By:

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Transcriber's note: This story was published in Astounding Science Fiction , June 1955. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.




It's not always "The Truth shall set you free!" Sometimes it's "Want of the Truth shall drive you to escape!" And that can be dangerous!

Illustrated by van Dongen

Mryna Brill intended to ride the god car above the rain mist. For a long time she had not believed in the taboos or the Earth god. She no longer believed she lived on Earth. This paradise of green floored forests and running brooks was something called Rythar.

Six years ago, when Mryna was fourteen, she first discovered the truth. She asked a question and the Earth god ignored it. A simple question, really: What is above the rain mist? God could have told her. Every day he answered technical questions that were far more difficult. Instead, he repeated the familiar taboo about avoiding the Old Village because of the Sickness.

And consequently Mryna, being female, went to the Old Village. There was nothing really unusual about that. All the kids went through the ruins from time to time. They had worked out a sort of charm that made it all right. They ran past the burned out shells of the old houses and they kept their eyes shaded to ward off the Sickness.

But even at fourteen Mryna had outgrown charms and she didn't believe in the Sickness. She had once asked the Earth god what sickness meant, and the screen in the answer house had given her a very detailed answer. Mryna knew that none of the hundred girls and thirty boys inhabiting Rythar had ever been sick. That, like the taboo of the Old Village, she considered a childish superstition.

The Old Village wasn't large three parallel roads, a mile long, lined with the charred ruins of prefabs, which were exactly like the cottages where the kids lived. It was nothing to inspire either fear or legend. The village had burned a long time ago; the grass from the forest had grown a green mantle over the skeletal walls.

For weeks Mryna poked through the ruins before she found anything of significance a few, scorched pages of a printed pamphlet buried deep in the black earth. The paper excited her tremendously. It was different from the film books photographed in the answer house. She had never touched anything like it; and it seemed wonderful stuff.

She read the pamphlet eagerly. It was part of a promotional advertisement of a world called Rythar, "the jewel of the Sirian Solar System."

The description made it obvious that Rythar was the green paradise where Mryna lived the place she had been taught to call Earth. And the pamphlet had been addressed to "Earthmen everywhere."

Mryna made her second find when she was fifteen, a textbook in astronomy. For the first time in her life she read about the spinning dust of the universe lying beyond the eternal rain mist that hid her world.

The solid, stable Earth of her childhood was solid and stable no longer, but a sphere turning through a black void. Nor was it properly called Earth, but a planet named Rythar. The adjustment Mryna had to make was shattering; she lost faith in everything she believed.

Yet the clock work logic of astronomy appealed to her orderly mind. It explained why the rain mist glowed with light during the day and turned dark at night. Mryna had never seen a clear sky. She had no visual data to tie her new concept to.

For six years she kept the secret. She hid the papers and the astronomy text which she found in the Old Village... Continue reading book >>

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