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The Merchants of Venus   By:

The Merchants of Venus by A. H. Phelps

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By A. H. PHELPS, Jr.

Illustrated by FREAS

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

[Sidenote: A pioneer movement is like a building the foundation is never built for beauty! ]

The telephone rang. Reluctantly, Rod Workham picked it up. Nothing good had come from that phone in six years, and his sour expression was almost an automatic reflex.

"Workham here," he said.

He held the phone an inch away from his ear, but the tirade exceeded his expectations it would have been audible a foot away:

"Workham! How long do you think we're going to stand for this! At the rate you're going, there won't be a man left on Venus or a dollar in the budget! What kind of a personnel director are you? Don't you know this project is vital to every person on Earth? Thirty more resignations came in on this last mail flight."

Rod put the receiver gently on his desk. General Carlson raved and ranted this way every time a colonist quit, and Rod knew he was not expected to answer, even if given the chance. The general would carry on for about five minutes and then would slam down the phone himself.

He dialed another number on the other phone.

"This is Rod, Dave," he said when he got an answer. "Carlson is on the other phone, yelling at my desk blotter. He says thirty more resignations came in just now. That right?"

"Close enough, Rod twenty three pulled out. That makes seventy eight per cent resigned in less than "

"Spare me the statistics Carlson's probably blatting them right now. How do they break down? Are they mostly farmers or technicians?"

"There were only nine technicians left, and all of them quit with this bunch. The rest were farmers." Dave Newson must be smoking his pipe, Rod decided grinding sounds were coming over the phone. "That doesn't leave very much on Venus to start a colony with a few farmers, some trappers. And the scientific personnel damn it, they seem to stick it out all right "

"Their contracts are different," Rod reminded him. "They go on a two year hitch and then come back to Earth if they want to. The ones who are there are the ones who can take it and are signed up again."

There was a speculative pause on the other end of the line. "Say, Rod," Newson said slowly. "Why not leave this last batch of quitters right where they are? Every one of them. They signed up for the project with their eyes open. Why don't you just refuse to bring them home? ... they'd have to make a go of the colony to save their filthy necks!"

Rod grinned nastily. "I'd like to do it but even General Carlson wouldn't dare. We'd never get another colonist off Earth, once it got out. They wouldn't trust us. Our first problem is to get a self supporting society on Venus and that might do it, all right. But our main job is to relieve the crowding on Earth, and that means large numbers of people will have to go willingly later on. If we get tough with these babies, who will take a chance later on that we won't repeat the trick?"

"But we lose a hundred potential colonists every time one of these quitters starts talking about why he left! More harm is done by letting them come back than would result from leaving them where they are." Again the speculative pause. "Maybe you could shoot them on arrival?"

"I'll suggest it to the general when I see him," Rod said, "if he doesn't shoot me first. Now, can you get me the files on this latest group? And I'd like to see the staff psychologist here, along with all the interviewers who handled and passed the group. We'll see what we can salvage out of this. And if you see Jaimie, send him along too, will you? Maybe our gambling historian can find us something useful in the Project Record."

"The files are already on the way... Continue reading book >>

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