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The Test Colony   By: (1915-1979)

The Test Colony by Winston K. Marks

First Page:



Illustrated by Kelly Freas

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

[Sidenote: Benson did his best to keep his colony from going native, but what can you do when the Natives have a rare human intelligence and know all about the facts of life? ]

It was the afternoon of our arrival. Our fellow members of the "test colony" were back in the clearing at the edge of the lake, getting their ground legs and drinking in the sweet, clean air of Sirius XXII. I was strolling along the strip of sandy beach with Phillip Benson, leader of our group, sniffing the spicy perfume of the forest that crowded within twenty feet of the water's edge.

Half a billion miles overhead, Sirius shone with an artificially white glow. Somewhere on the horizon, Earth lay, an invisible, remote speck of dust we had forsaken 24 dreary, claustrophobic months ago.

The trip had taken its toll from all of us, even tough minded Phil Benson. We both found it difficult to relax and enjoy the invigorating, oxygen rich air and the balmy climate. As official recorder, I was trying to think of words suitable to capture the magnificence, the sheer loveliness of the planet which would be our home for at least four years, perhaps forever.

Each absorbed in his own thoughts, Benson and I were some 500 yards from the clearing when he stopped me with a hand on my arm. "Who is that?" he demanded.

Up the beach where he pointed, two naked forms emerged from the calm waters. They skipped across the sand and began rolling together playfully in the soft grasses at the forest's edge. Even at this distance they were visibly male and female.

"I can't make them out," I said. My only thought was that one of the young couples had swum down ahead of us and was enjoying the first privacy attainable in two years.

Benson's eyes were sharper. "Sam, they they look like "

Our voices must have reached them, for they sprang apart and rose to their feet facing us.

"Like youngsters," I supplied.

"We have no kids with us," Benson reminded me. He began to move forward, slowly, as though stalking a wild animal.

"Wait, Phil," I said. "The planet is uninhabited. They can't be "

He continued shuffling ahead, and I followed. Within 20 paces I knew he was right. Whoever they were they hadn't come with us!

Benson stopped so quickly I bumped into him. "Look, Sam! Their hands and feet! Four digits and no thumbs!"

I could now make out the details. The two forms were not quite human. The toes were long and prehensile. The fingers, too, were exceptionally long, appearing to have an extra joint, but as Benson mentioned, there was no opposing thumb.

They stood well apart now, the female seeking no protection from the male. Curiosity was written in their faces, and when we stopped advancing they began edging forward until they were only five yards away.

Their outlines, instead of becoming clearer, had fuzzed up more as they approached. Now it was evident that their bodies were lightly covered with a silky hair, some two or three inches long. It had already dried out in the warm sun and was standing out away from their skins like golden haloes.

They stood well under five feet tall, and in every detail, except the body hair and digits, appeared to be miniature adults, complete with navels.

Even in the midst of the shock of surprise, I was taken by their remarkable beauty. "They're true mammals!" I exclaimed.

"Without a doubt," Benson said, eyeing the full contours of the lithe little female. Her pink flesh tones were a full shade lighter than those of the male. Both had well spaced eyes under broad foreheads. Their fine features were drawn into fearless, half quizzical, half good natured expressions of deep interest... Continue reading book >>

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