Captain Hu Neska of the spaceship “Searcher” looked down at the planet
they were orbiting. His excitement was almost uncontrollable. Of all the years that he had been in the employ of the Empire
of Earth and Colonised Space, thirty-one of them as captain of the “Searcher”, he had never dreamed that he would
have such a find as this. He was looking down at the first planet that had been discovered that was inhabited by beings that
were obviously intelligent. That the inhabitants appeared somewhat primitive in no way lessened his excitement. They were
humanoid. The computer had checked the records and found that this section of space had never been visited before. It was
a first time ever find that would make him famous and rich.
Commander Jek, second in command, shared his excitement. He too would reap huge
benefits from the discovery, as would all the crew.
“Jek, look at that. Do you realise what this means for us? We can retire
and never have to work again. The Empire will reward us enormously for this find. Every one of us on this ship will be rich,”
“Yes, Captain,” breathed Jek, “Intelligent life! It's unbelievable
that after all this time of space exploration; we have finally found intelligent life. When do you intend to send a shuttle
down to make contact with them?” He was anxious to get down to the planet's surface as soon as possible. There could
be treasures that could bring them an additional bonus, the size of which depended on what they discovered.
“We will go down as soon as the computer has checked out the planet for
dangerous elements or virus'. We don't want to take any chances now, do we?”
The ship's computer checked the planet thoroughly and finally gave it a green
certificate that also contained a warning that there were four unknown and unrecognisable radiation's that the sun was emitting.
The Captain would have to assume responsibility if it was decided to expose members of the crew to them. The computer added
that as there were humanoid beings on the surface, one could assume that the radiations were harmless.
Captain Neska and Commander Jek took the shuttle together with six armed crewmembers
to one of the villages that had been observed from the ship. He had no way of knowing which of the villages would be classed
as the 'capital' of the cluster of fifteen that were spread over a radius of about eighty miles. The villages averaged a hundred
or so houses that appeared to be large enough for families of six to eight members.
Although he was not expecting any trouble, Neska had armed the crew with lasers
and instructed them to set their weapons to maximum power. He could not afford to take any chances at this stage.
“Shoot only at my command or if you meet with any aggression,” he
said, “keep your eyes and ears open for any tricks. The inhabitants will be as surprised as we are at finding there
is intelligent life other than theirs. They may or may not like it,” he said.
The shuttle landed close to the village and the guards immediately fanned out
in a half circle around the airlock. Neska and Jek alighted and stood surveying the scene. Approaching them from the village
was a group of men who seemed to be naked except for a piece of cloth that covered their genitals. They did not appear to
be armed in any way. Neska waited for them to come to him. It would give them the advantage if the villager's curiosity humbled
themselves in the presence of space travellers.
The approaching group stopped a few yards away from the half circle of guards
and stood waiting. Neska turned to Jek. “Let's see if we can make ourselves understood,” he said. Jek put a retraining
hand on his arm. “We should use the recommended way according to the manual to communicate with them,” he said,
“I believe that one of the rules are that we are not to smile at them as the showing of teeth is usually associated
with aggression. Rather like an animal snarling.”
Neska looked at the group before him. He could see a lot of teeth.
“Are they snarling at us or smiling?” he asked, “It looks to
me like they are smiling. We haven't time to read up the manual. We'll play it by ear,” he said.
Raising his hands high in a gesture of friendship, Neska smiled at them.
“We,” he began, spreading his hands wide to indicate all those with
him, “come in peace.” He paused after each word as if believing that if he spoke slowly they would understand.
Behind him, Jek chuckled, “That was original. I thought you were going to tell them that we were gods from heaven come
to guide them.”
“If you can do any better, you are welcome to try,” replied Neska.
Jek declined the offer, “That is your privilege, sir, I wouldn't deprive you of it.”
As he spoke one of the villagers came towards them. As he came near they noticed
that he was a young man of about thirty years old. He was about five feet ten inches tall and his skin was deeply tanned.
He was well built, rather like someone who took care of himself physically. His dress consisted of a small square of cloth
or leather that covered his groin.
“He's not wearing anything under that piece of material,” said Neska.
“No. I wonder what the latest fashion is for their women?” mused Jek.
The young man reached them and smiled, showing a perfect set of gleaming white
teeth. “My name is Nye. I am the leader of this village. Welcome to Diata, our planet.” Neska and Jek looked at
each other, unable to believe their ears. The last thing they expected was to be addressed in their own language.
“You speak Universal English!” said Neska, when he had recovered from
his surprise, “How did you learn that?”
“It is our language. It has always been our language, ever since The Mother
and The Father landed here,” said the young man who called himself Nye.
“You mean that this is a colony of the Empire? But that is not possible.
There are no records of this part of the universe being explored,” said Jek.
“When you say 'The Mother and The Father' you mean the First Father and
his wife, don't you? The First family?” asked Neska.
“Not exactly,” said Nye.
“Who is in charge here? Where is the First Father?” Jek wanted to
“As I said, I am the leader of this village. If you want to see the Father
you will have to go north for about fifty miles. He is leader of Hometown.”
“Contact this Hometown and tell the First Father that Captain Neska of the
space vessel 'Searcher' and a representative of the Empire of Earth and Colonised space wishes to see him immediately,”
said Neska. He turned away from Nye and whispered to Jek.
“We will have to show these primitives that we are not used to chasing all
over the place to find anyone no matter what they call him or how important he is to them.”
The man who called himself Nye smiled again, his perfect teeth white against the
deep tan of his face.
“We do not have communicators here on Diata. If you wish to see the Father
you will have to go to him,” he said, “You see, he is a very man as we all are here. If I cannot be of any further
assistance to you, then I must be on my way.” Nye turned to go.
“Wait a minute! Don't you realise that you are talking to a representative
of the Empire? You do as you are told. You will send someone to bring the First Father here, now.”
“Very well, if you don't mind the wait. I will send a messenger to Hometown.
Fifty miles is quite a long way on foot, so expect a few days wait.”
“You must have transport. Hovercars, shuttles or other means,” said
“You don't understand our situation here. The Mother and the Father crashed
here a long time ago and we do not have such luxuries here,” said Nye, “Now I will go and send that messenger
for you and get on with my business.”
Jek bent his head and whispered in Neska's ear.
“We don't want to be hanging around here for days, Captain. Don't you think
it would be worth going there? You could make it sound as if you are doing them a favour.” Neska and Jek had been together
on the Searcher for many years and they had become close friends. It was because of this friendship that Jek could talk to
his Captain in this way. Neska nodded. He too, had no desire to sit around waiting. He turned to Nye.
“Never mind. We will go there. Understand that we are not used to this and
in future you will show more respect for an ambassador of the Empire. We will require a guide to show us where this Hometown
is.” As he spoke another young man approached.
“Ahh, perhaps this young man is free to take you,” said Nye. He turned
to the newcomer and said, “These people want to go to Hometown to see the Father. Would you be able to show them where
“Yes, I would be delighted to help.” He looked at Neska and said,
“My name is Shim, what's yours?”
“You will refer to me as Captain Neska. This is Commander Jek.” Shim
smiled politely, “When would you like to go to Hometown?” he asked. Neska made it abundantly clear that he wished
to leave immediately.
It took only a few minutes to arrive over Hometown. The central house was obviously
an ancient prefabricated structure with added extensions. The primitive beacon dome on the roof identified it as an out of
date emergency house. Jek pointed out the spacecraft close to the edge of the lake.
“Look at that, Captain. How the hell did they get here in a craft like that?
It must have come out of a museum. Look how small it is!”
“Hm, I wonder how badly damaged it is. Maybe it can be repaired. Not that
these people would know how to use it. The Empire might be interested.”
“You can land there on the green, if you like. The Father lives in the house
in the centre.” Shim interrupted them and pointed out the green that he was referring to. Neska nodded and gave the
command to land.
As the shuttle dropped lower, they saw small figures emerging from the central
“They are coming to greet us. Now we will speak to someone of authority,”
said the Captain. By the time they had landed a small group had gathered and was waiting.
As before the guards filed out and fanned to make a half circle to protect the
Captain and the shuttle, their lasers at the ready. Then Captain Neska alighted from the shuttle and stood waiting.
One of the men left the group and came towards them. It might as well have been
a repeat of the previous village. The man was about thirty, well built and bronzed. He too, was dressed as the other natives,
wearing only a piece of leather that was hanging loose from a cord tied around his waist.
“Hello. I am Peto, the leader of Hometown. Welcome, we have never had visitors
to our planet before. What can we do to help you?” The young man smiled at them, he too, had perfect teeth.
“I want to see the First Father, young man. I am an ambassador of the Empire
of Earth and Colonised Space and do not wish to waste any time. Take us to him immediately, please.”
“I am known as The Father. I am the head leader of the people of Diata,”
said Peto, as he felt Shim's mind contact his, “I told you he was arrogant. When you get into his mind, you can see
that he cares about nothing but what he will gain when he reports finding Diata to this Empire he claims to represent.”
Peto acknowledged Shim's thought. “We will have to be careful what we say
and do then, won't we?” He turned his attention to Neska who was speaking.
“Who is this Diata? Why do you say you are the head of her people?”
“Diata is the name of this planet. It was named after my mother, who is
known as The Mother to every one of our community,” explained Peto.
“Then I had better speak to your mother if she is the senior dignitary,”
“You may see her if you wish,” said Peto, “But I am of higher
'rank'. I understood that you wanted to speak to the highest authority.”
“You? You are too young to be the First Father. Or is your father dead?”
“My father is dead. He was killed when his spacecraft crashed here. My mother
took over leadership until I became of age and she handed the responsibility to me. You may still see my mother if you wish.
Please come in so that we can be more comfortable. You can also meet The Mother.” Peto led the way into the house.
“Your men will be served refreshments while we talk,” said Peto. Neska
looked at Jek, his eyes narrowing suspiciously.
“The men can wait outside but they are not to be given anything. Commander
Jek will accompany one guard and me. It is tradition,” said Neska, making a transparent excuse to cover his distrust.
“As you wish, Captain. I can understand your suspicions, nevertheless, please
understand that we have no wish to harm you or your men,” said Peto, “You are our guests and we want you to be
Jek laughed. “You can rest assured that we have no fear that you would harm
us. Our craft if orbiting this planet and is monitoring our movements right now. If you should attempt to do anything rash,
then my men will wipe out your village and the others also,” he said, feeling that it was necessary to warn Peto.
“I'm sure that there will be no need for them to try,” replied Peto.
He wondered why Jek had threatened them and why Neska did not rebuke him for it. Neska however, felt that Peto's reply was
almost a challenge. He didn't know why. These people would be no match against the armoury that the 'Searcher' carried.
They sat down in the lounge and Eelan entered with some glasses and a jug of fruit
juice. Neska and Jek could not help staring at her. She was the first woman that they had seen on the planet. They were not
expecting to see a shapely young woman dressed in a short leather skirt and an open sleeveless jacket that was so short that
it hardly covered her breasts. They watched as she poured out the drinks and left the room. As she left, another shapely young
woman entered the room. She was dressed as the first but she came and sat down with them.
“This is The Mother, gentlemen. Mother, this is Captain Neska and Commander
Jek. They are officials of some Empire,” said Peto, introducing them.
“The Empire of Earth and Colonised Space. An Empire of which you are apart,”
corrected Neska, “As you came from Earth as colonists you are therefore subjects of the Empire. But what is this, are
you trying to trick us? You address this woman as your mother and yet she is no older than you are! You mean she is acting
as First Mother, don't you?”
“We know of no Empire and we are certainly no part of one. We are independent
here and we wish to remain so,” said Peto, ignoring the questions.
“You cannot remain independent now that we know you are here. The Governors
of Earth won't allow that. All colonised planets are subject to the Empire.” Neska laughed at the idea that these people
thought that they could be independent of the powerful Empire. Jek too, was amused at such an absurdity.
“What can this Empire do for us? We have managed without it for nearly three
hundred years,” said Peto.
“The Empire can give you all kinds of help. You will be supplied with transportation,
for instance. You do not have any here, do you? Then there is modern machinery that can do your work for you. Tools, labour
savers, clothes to wear. Many other things that all the other planets are enjoying.”
“And what will these things cost?” asked Diata.
“Well, of course it will cost you something. You will have to trade with
the Empire. You trade what you have in return for what you want from the Empire. That is how everyone benefits.”
The talks went on for some time. Neska trying to find out more about the planet
and its resources, while Peto and Diata skilfully avoided giving away anything that they did not wish Neska and Jek to know.
Eventually Neska and Jek left to return to the orbiting space craft. As soon as he got back on board he got in touch with
his head office and reported his find. The reply came quicker than he dared hope for. A high-ranking official of the Empire
had replied, with the request for information regarding the mineral contents of the planet in question and all nearby planets
and satellites. They were not to make any further contact with the colony until further notice. Meanwhile Neska was to make
as complete report as possible on everything they knew about the people and their customs. It was assumed that they had been
very observant while they were on the planet's surface and had asked many questions.
Neska made out his report and after reading it he realised that they knew nothing
at all about the people of the planet. He suddenly felt very incompetent. How could he explain to the officials that they
had not learned a thing from these primitive people? He was Captain of an Empire vessel and had made the biggest discovery
since the beginning of the Empire and he had failed to learn anything worth reporting. With sinking heart he realised that
he was getting old and his job had been too easy in the past. Years of failures had taken their toll.
Jek was feeling the same sense of failure as he reviewed his own report. He felt
anger as he realised that Peto and Diata had skilfully directed the talks to their own advantage. They had asked leading questions
that had encouraged Neska and himself to boast about the Empire and the power that it had. Neska had been too eager to talk
instead of listening. He himself had been caught up in the conversations and had also got carried away.
“They tricked us, Jek. They tricked us and we can't do a thing about it.
We have been told to do nothing until further notice. We can't let the Empire know that we allowed them to trick us. We will
keep it all to ourselves or we are going to look like idiots. We will. Say that we kept the talks to a minimum, as we wanted
to get advice from head office. Is that clear?” Neska knew that Jek had to agree.
“Yes Captain, that's very clear.” He refrained from making any further
comment. He was glad that the Captain had taken the responsibility of both their failures. If necessary he could now say that
he was ordered to say nothing. The Empire could be extremely harsh towards those that it considered being incompetent.
The only thing that was in their favour was the report of an analysis of the planet's
mineral make up. The ship's computer had discovered that the planet had a rich source of sycnel, a rare mineral that had been
discovered on one of the moons of a planet that had been colonised many years ago. It was used in nuclear power plants and
virtually eliminated radioactive waste. Until now, it was the only source ever found and was extremely rare. The entire moon
had only sufficient supply to experiment with and it would be completely used up within two years.
This discovery alone made Diata extremely desirable to the Empire, the Governors
of which were quick to respond
On learning that the inhabitants were virtual primitives, without any luxuries
such as hovercars, communicators, labour-savers or even clothes, the Governors ordered Neska to leave the vicinity of the
planet and surrounding space. A commercial freighter was dispatched to Diata containing all manner of goods that were considered
luxurious and desirable on other inhabited planets.
Aboard the freighter were the Empire's two top sales representatives.
Edwan Crayle, a forty-year-old man that had been employed by the Empire for most
of his working life. His unscrupulous methods had earned him the enviable position of being the Empire's most important and
successful sales representative. The position had taken its toll and he looked older than his forty years. He had the unique
privilege of being able to settle deals without having to get authorisation from the Empire's officials.
Careen Soman, was a woman in her early thirties. She had earned her reputation
as a successful sales representative by having no inhibitions as to way she obtained a deal that was to her satisfaction.
She had used her methods to gain a high position within the Empire's commercial branches. She kept her body in good shape
with regular workouts in spite of the time spent in space.
They were both surprised when they received notice from the highest level that
they were to hand all their present negotiations to other representatives and to await further instructions. It had never
happened before and they were curious to know what was in store for them. Although Crayle appeared outwardly confident, he
was a little worried as he knew the Governors had replaced employees in the past leaving them with virtually nothing. There
would be nothing that he could do if that happened. Anyone who objected to the methods that the Governors used was not around
Careen Soman, on the other hand, had not seen the under-handed way that the Governors
sometimes did things. She could not imagine them being anything but just in their dealings. She naively believed that if the
Governors punished anyone it was for a just reason. She was looking forward to finding out what their instructions would be.
The first they knew that things were happening was when the freighter began to
move into position for time warp. Crayle immediately called him on the communicator.
“Where are we going, Cap. Anywhere interesting?” he asked.
“We are just awaiting the co-ordinates for our destination. Apparently we
are going to a newly found planet that is already inhabited,” said the Captain.
“You mean aliens? They have actually found aliens?” He had visions
of trying to sell to six-legged monsters.
“No, they are human. The records show that a spacecraft went missing about
five hundred years ago. Apparently it crashed on an earth type planet and the survivors managed to start a colony there. I
understand that there are quite a few villages established there now.”
“So that means it is virgin territory as far as we are concerned. We should
make a real killing there. Do you know what they have to trade?” Crayle could see huge commissions coming his way. Careen
could sell the women domestic goods and other stuff that women go for and he would concentrate on industry and other goods
that the men jump at.
“No, I don't know what they have. My orders are to wait for an Empire official
to join us, so it must be big. They have never done that before as far as I know. They are also very secretive about it,”
said the Captain. Crayle frowned. He did not like the sound of that. An Empire official would take the biggest cut of the
commission and Careen and he would not be able to do a thing about it. He wondered what it was that interested the Governors
There was a knock on the door and Careen entered.
“What's happening, Edwan? Where are we going?” she asked. Crayle looked
at her. She always dressed in figure hugging clothes that implied that she was always trying to attract the attention of the
opposite sex. He had tried to get her into bed but so far she had tactfully put him off. He knew that she would readily sleep
with anyone who could be of advantage to her. Unfortunately for him, he had nothing to offer that would further her career
at the moment. Still, he thought, who knows what the future holds?
He explained what he had learned from the Captain, including the news that an
Empire official would be joining them. She reacted as he had.
“Oh. So maybe this is not so hot after all. Why couldn't they leave it up
to us? We have brought them huge profits in the past without their help,” she said. She looked disappointed. They would
have to do things the way the official wanted and that could cramp their style.
“There should still be big commission coming our way even if he takes the
biggest share. This is virgin territory, Careen. Think what a colony like this would buy. They have never had what we can
offer. They will have nothing to match our goods. Five hundred years of struggling along with what they can make with their
bare hands. No technology. Nothing. They will be jumping over one another to buy.”
“Well, I hope you are right. We will just have to wait and see,” said
Careen. She could see the possibilities but she didn't want Crayle to see how excited she was. She never forgot that they
were in competition with each other. Part of her commission went to him, as he was her superior. She would dearly love to
have his job.
The Empire official arrived in a space shuttle that had the Empire's emblem emblazoned
on the hull. The Captain of the freighter had never had the honour of such an important guest aboard his ship. He went out
of his way to welcome the official, almost to the point of grovelling. Careen's opinion of him went down to rock bottom.
The official turned out to be a man in his mid fifties. He was balding and what
little hair he had was silvery grey. He was about five feet three inches in height and wore the official uniform of the Empire's
Councillors, which consisted of a tunic and trousers that were meant to be tight but his thin legs made them appear baggy.
The only impressive thing about him was his uniform. His cold grey eyes looked over the Captain and his officers without any
sign of approval.
“I am Councillor Normec. You may take me to my rooms. I will meet with you
when I am settled in. In the meantime, these are the co-ordinates for the destination. You will enter them in and proceed
as soon as possible.” He handed the Captain a small package and waited impatiently while the Captain instructed his
second in command to take the co-ordinates to the navigator.
“This way Councillor, I'm sure that you will be comfortable in the rooms
that I have had prepared for you. Please understand that this is a freighter and it was not built with the niceties that you
are no doubt accustomed to. Nevertheless, I will ensure that you will have all the comforts that we can offer,” said
the Captain. He extended his arm to show the way, bowing as he did so.
“I'm sure that I will not be
comfortable, but this is an important mission so I will have to suffer the inconvenience, I suppose,” said the Councillor,
unsmiling. He waved his hand, indicating to the Captain to get on with it.
The freighter was already in orbit around Diata when Councillor Normec called
a meeting with Crayle and Careen. As the two sales representatives entered they noticed that the Captain had not been invited.
“This meeting is to inform you what is required of you by the Governors,”
said Normec, “The planet we are now orbiting happens to be rich in the mineral sycnel. Sycnel, you may or may not already
know, is an extremely rare mineral that can revolutionise our nuclear power sources throughout the Empire. The unique advantage
of sycnel is that it is non-radioactive and therefore there will be no problem of waste disposal. There is only one other
source of this mineral that we know of in the entire universe, and that source will only supply us for a year or two before
it is exhausted. Until now the total supply of sycnel, apart from what is on this planet, is only two pounds nine ounces.
The amount is too small to be of any practical use and has only been used for experimental purposes.
This planet's rich sycnel content will enable the Empire to have unlimited power
“The inhabitants have no knowledge of its value to us or it's use. You are
to bargain for the rights to all the sycnel on the planet. The Governors want to establish excavation sites, buildings and
land for the ships to remove the sycnel. These sites are to manned by men from the Empire and will be in full control of the
Empire. If necessary you will trade for the land that contains the sycnel. You will impress upon them that they do not have
anything that the Empire can use apart from the sycnel. The cheaper you can get it for us the better.
“Under no circumstances are you to inform the inhabitants the real value
of the sycnel. Is that understood?”
Crayle looked at Careen then back to Normec.
“Yes sir, I think that is quite clear. I'm sure that we will have no problems.
In fact I don't understand why you needed to suffer the inconvenience of making this trip yourself. My colleague and I are
quite capable of handling this ourselves. We are quite experienced in such matters,” said Crayle. Careen looked at him,
surprised. Wow, she thought, he is sticking his neck out, talking to a Councillor like that.
“Your job is to make them want our goods. What I have to do is persuade
them to see the benefits of being an official colony of the Empire. Once we have achieved that there should be no trouble
from them, we can do what we like with them,” said Normec. Careen could see that the real aim was to get control of
these people in order to exploit them.
“Councillor, we don't know the value of this sycnel ourselves. How do we
bargain with them? Do we bargain in tons, pounds or what? And for what value in goods?” she asked. She was a sales representative.
She always tried to get the best deal she could but she had never cheated those that she dealt with. She felt that Normec
expected her to do just that.
“As I said, you are to bargain for the sole rights to the sycnel. Once we
have the right to that, then we can take as much as we want. If you can get those rights for nothing at all, that would be
excellent. On the other hand, you may use the complete stock of this freighter to get those rights. That would not be good,”
answered Normec, meaningfully.
“That sounds easy enough. We will have to get to know them first, to find
out what their values are. They may be pretty shrewd and hard to get through to, though. Just one thing, where exactly is
the sycnel on this planet? We will need to know that in order to bargain with them,” said Crayle.
“You can have as long as it takes. But I don't want to be here any longer
than necessary. I will make my appearance to them as soon as you have persuaded them that our goods are a necessity to them.
As for the situation of the sycnel, it is to the south but I want you to get them to allow us to make a survey of the planet.
You can say that we wish to see what the planet has to offer in exchange for our goods. I understand that you two are the
most persuasive sales people in our employ. I expect you to prove it. Now if there are no more questions, I suggest you go
and start making plans for your campaign.” Normec made it clear that he no longer wished to continue the meeting, so
they made their way out of the room and went back to Crayle's office.
Crayle and Careen took the cargo shuttle down to the planet's surface. On board
they had a large selection of goods, including a selection of hovercars, textiles, ready made clothes for both men and women,
domestic and industrial machines.
They landed close to the old spacecraft. They had been informed that the village
was called Hometown and that the First Father lived there.
“You wait here and I'll take one of the hovercars to the village to make
contact with the First Father. I'll try and bring him back with me. Hopefully his wife as well. You get some things ready
that might appeal to her.” Crayle wanted to be alone with the leader of the people at first. He found it distracting
when there were others present while he was negotiating.
“Don't be long, then. Remember that I am a woman all alone on an unknown
planet. Anything could happen to me,” said Careen.
“Nothing that you can't handle,” said Crayle, “Anyway, I shouldn't
Crayle glided the hovercar out of the hold of the cargo shuttle and it sped silently
towards the village. The houses were made of timber except for one. This was a prefabricated building with some timber extension.
It was obviously the main building of the village and he guessed that it was the home of the First Father. He brought the
hovercar to a halt close to the house so that it could be viewed not only from the house but also from the other houses nearby.
He knew the value of having goods on display.
The door of the house opened and a man came out. Crayle's eyes widened as he saw
that the man was naked except for a small piece of leather covering his private parts.
“Can I help you?” the man asked. Crayle approached him and smiled.
“I am looking for the First Father, I believe he lives here.” The
man smiled back at him, displaying his perfect white teeth.
“I am known as The Father. It is probably me that you are looking for. Crayle
looked the man over. He seemed a little too young to be the First Father. Still, he thought, it might be to his advantage.
It is usually easier to persuade someone younger than himself.
“I'm glad that I've found you home. I wanted to talk to you about something
to your advantage and to the advantage of your people. May I come in?”
“Of course, you are welcome to come in,” said Peto. He stood aside
to allow Crayle to enter. They went into the lounge and Peto indicated a seat.
“Please sit down and make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink?”
“A cold drink would be very nice, thank you,” said Crayle. He did
not want any intoxicating drinks while he was working. Too much was at stake on this visit.
Peto went to the door and called out to someone called Diata to bring a cold drink
and returned to sit on a settee opposite Crayle.
“What is it you wish to speak to me about?” he asked Crayle.
“Well, actually my people sent me here. They were delighted when they heard
that this delightful planet was found. As soon as they knew about it and your colony here they wanted to help you. They realised
that you have been missing out on so much of the ways that make life so enjoyable and they wanted you to have the benefits
of these things as soon as possible. I understand that your colony was established here something like five hundred years
ago and in all that time there has been no contact with Earth and it's colonies throughout space. That is five hundred years of progress that you have lost. I am here
to eliminate that loss.
“Take, for example, the means by which I arrived at this house. It took
me only a minute or two to get here from the old ship down by the lake. The carriage I used is called a hovercar and can transport
you and your family or friends anywhere on this planet quickly and safely and in comfort.” Crayle paused to allow his
words to sink in. At that moment, Diata entered with the drinks. If Crayle was surprised at Peto's dress, he was astounded
at Diata's. She came in and set his drink before him, bending down to place it on the low table. Her tiny leather top was
open at the front and he had an eye level view of her well-formed breasts. The only other covering she had was a little mini
skirt of leather. He thought of Careen. If she was hoping to stun the men with her dress she was going to be disappointed.
Peto noticed the surprised look on Crayle's face. His mind sought Diata's.
“He is not used to seeing women dressed like you, Mum. Your beauty has stunned
“What does he want,” she thought back.
“He is bringing beads for the natives by the sound of it.” Peto turned
his attention to Crayle.
“We do have a shuttle that we use. It came from the spacecraft. We find
it quite adequate for us. By the way, what shall we call you?”
“Oh, I'm sorry I didn't introduce myself. My name is Edwan Crayle but please
call me Edwan. You are.”
“Peto. This is The Mother. Her name is Diata,” said Peto.
“Aha, they named you after the planet, I take it. A pretty name too, if
I may say so.”
“No,” smiled Peto, “The planet was named after her.” Crayle
did not understand and thought that Peto was having a little sarcastic joke at his expense. He didn't like the way his sales
approach had suddenly lost its impact. Maybe he shouldn't have asked for a drink. He thought that he would have to start all
over and was about to do so when Peto spoke again.
“We have all that we need here. We have learned to live the way we do and
are all quite happy and contented.”
Crayle could not take his eyes off Diata as she swayed over to the settee and
sat down elegantly next to Peto. He then noticed that she was a little older than Peto. Maybe two or three years older. He
forced his mind back to the reason that he was here.
“Yes, I can understand that you make good use of the shuttle, but just think
for a moment, how useful it would be if everyone had a hovercar. Or at least every family. There would be no problem of visiting
friends or relatives no matter how far away they lived. Just jump in the hovercar and you can be there in no time. And the
real joy of it is that everyone can afford to have one.”
“What do you mean by 'afford to have one'?” asked Diata, “We
do not have any currency here. We have never had the need for currency.”
“Not currency. I don't mean currency.
A simple trading deal is all that is needed.”
“But we don't trade here either,” said Diata.
“Oh come now, you must trade with one another. For instance, the next village
may have a good crop of vegetables, more than they need. Your village may have a better supply of something else. They give
you some of their vegetables for some of what you have. Surely that goes on here.” The door opened and Eelan entered
just in time to hear what Crayle had said.
“Nothing like that goes on here. Everything belongs to everybody. We are
one big family here. We give and take,” said Eelan.
Again, Crayle was taken off guard. Eelan was dressed just like Diata. Just as
beautiful, but in a different way. Her hair was longer and a little fairer. She was also a little younger than Diata. He was
suddenly glad that he had not made the mistake of voicing his previous conviction that Diata was the wife of Peto. He realised
that in all probability this girl was his wife.
“Excuse me, Edwan. This is Eelan, my sister. Eelan, this is Edwan. He has
come to offer us some means of transport,” said Peto. His mind entered Eelan's and she received his thought. “He
likes you too, look at the way his mouth is drooling.” Crayle's mouth was not exactly drooling but it was open. He could
not believe that these beautiful women could dress like that without being self-conscious. It was he that felt uncomfortable
“Why should we want transport?” asked Eelan. She projected her thoughts
to Peto, “He can like me as much as he wants but he is definitely not my type.”
Crayle felt that he had lost any advantage that he may have had and needed to
start again. The smile he gave them was brighter than he felt.
“I can see that you have not yet realised the benefits of personal transport,
but there are many other useful commodities that we have brought for you. Look at this communicator.” He showed them
a communicator that he was wearing on his wrist. “With these you can call your friends and relatives any time you want
and converse with them without leaving you home. You can be anywhere on the planet and speak to them. Let me demonstrate.
My assistant is waiting in the shuttle that we arrived in. I will call her.” Crayle switched on the communicator and
“Hi Careen. I am at the home of the First Father and I am demonstrating
the communicator. How are the displays getting on?” Careen's voice came back clearly.
“Fine. I could do with some help, though. How long are you going to be?”
“Not long now. I don't want to outstay my welcome here with these kind people.
See you soon. Good-bye.” He switched off and turned to Peto again.
“There, you see how simple it is to use? Can you see the benefits of having
these? If everyone had one of these, you could call for help if you were in trouble or just call and say hello to someone,”
Crayle said. His hopes were sinking fast as he saw that they were not impressed at all with his demonstration. He decided
to call it a day and try again another time.
Shak, in the next village came through to Peto's mind. “I've been listening
in, Dad, and probing a little deeper into his mind. There's a nasty piece of work in orbit right now that is more important
to keep an eye on. He's an important official of this Empire of theirs. It seems that he is waiting for Crayle to soften you
up before he makes his move.”
“Thanks Shak. Crayle's about to leave. He's had enough for now.”
Crayle, completely unaware of the conversation that Peto was having with Shak,
stood up and made to leave.
“Well, I do appreciate your hospitality. Look. Why don't I pick you and
your family up tomorrow and take you to the shuttle. I would like to show you around the showrooms that we have. I know that
you will find it very interesting. Perhaps it would be a good idea to pick up some of the leaders of the other villages. They
would certainly be interested.”
Peto shrugged. He still wanted to learn more about the intentions of this Empire.
The more he learned the more ominous it sounded. He felt that the peaceful way of life that he and his family enjoyed was
being threatened. He could not understand the attitude of these Earth people. It was all so contrary to what he had learned
from Comp and his mother. Neska had come with weapons that he was prepared to use. Not against any threat but to exercise
his power. He had given the impression that the Empire was to be feared, as he himself feared it.
Now, Shak had discovered from Crayle's sub-conscious mind that there was an official
of that Empire orbiting in space that Crayle feared. Peto reasoned that if the ones that were subject to the Empire actually
feared it, then it was not something that he wanted anywhere near his family. He had to find out what the Empire wanted and
how he could protect Diata from it.
“Very well,” he said, in answer to Crayle's suggestion, “I will
arrange for some of the leaders to be here tomorrow. It will have to be late afternoon, you understand?”
“Of course I understand. Tomorrow afternoon will be fine for us. I will
ensure that everything is ready for you,” said Crayle. They would need time to pass the news to the nearest villages
and to travel here, he thought. It would also give him time to work out a sales strategy. Things had not gone too well for
him today. He had thought that the job would be easy and that he would be well on the way to concluding at least some deals.
Peto Diata and Eelan went to the door to see him off. Crayle strolled to the hovercar
trying to look casual as he got into the car and waved. He sped away across the field to impress them with the ease of control
and the car's speed.
Peto and the women were not the slightest impressed.
“So much for that,” said Peto. He made mental contact with all the
leaders to inform them of the results of the meeting with Crayle. As he had expected, they had all been listening in to the
“You can all come to the shuttle tomorrow if you want,” said Peto,
“I will need Luka, or someone else of the third generation at least, to be with me.”
“Peto, I thought you ought to know that they are after something that they
call sycnel. It seems to be a mineral that we have here on Diata. It also appears to be pretty important to them that they
get hold of it,” said Luka.
“All right Luka, thanks. We'll leave it here for now and learn some more
Crayle arrived back at the shuttle and went into his office. Careen was waiting
there drinking coffee. As he entered she looked up expectantly.
“Well, how did it go?” she asked. He looked at her and shook his head.
“Not good. I couldn't seem to get through to them at all. I'm sure my approach
was all right but it didn't seem to appeal to them. I've arranged for them to come here tomorrow. When they see the goods
they are bound to like something.” Crayle declined to tell her that it was when Diata entered the room that he lost
the impact that he was working towards. He deliberately neglected to tell her about the way they were dressed. She would find
that out for herself the next day. He could imagine her reaction to seeing Peto with only his leather square on. He smiled
to himself at the thought.
The next day was a busy one for Careen and Crayle. They displayed the hovercars
on the ground outside the shuttle. There were three models. A twelve-seat car that could also be used as a camper for those
that still liked the outdoor life. Then there was the luxurious six-seat model that had every gadget that the designers could
think of. This was the one that Crayle had taken the previous day. Last was the smaller sports model. It was the fastest of
them all and generally appealed to the younger generation.
There were two hovertrucks for industrial use with self loading and unloading
Outside were also displayed the gardening equipment. Self motivated robots that
made sure that all kinds of gardens, from flower to orchards were kept free of all weeds, undesirable insects and diseases.
There was robot controlled farm equipment for small and large farms that relieved the farmer of all the hard work.
Inside the shuttle, the showrooms were tastefully displayed with textiles, men
and women's wear, both conventional and disposable, machines that sorted out the various materials and washed them accordingly
then dried and pressed them. There were ornaments, carpets, bedding, jewellery and a thousand other commodities. It was like
a huge department stores with everything displayed to make the onlooker covert them.
When they were completely satisfied, they relaxed to prepare their minds and thoughts
for the coming evening. Crayle knew that this was the make or break show. He and Careen had to put all they had into selling
themselves and their wares that evening. For the first time in his career he had doubts about his ability to sell. He had
even thought that he would have to rely on Careen to make the breakthrough for them both.
“Careen, we can't afford to be in competition with one another on this.
We have to work with each other. This is big and if we don't make good, we are both finished,” he said.
Careen looked at him in surprise. She had never heard him talk like that before.
“What's the matter? This should be a piece of cake. We are giving them all
this for some old rocks and soil that they would never miss. They will be killing each other to get it all. Old Normec will
be patting us on the back,” she replied. After the day before, he didn't share her enthusiasm.
The time came for Crayle to go to the village to pick up Peto and the others.
Crayle took the twelve-seat car. He was surprised to see that there were ten men waiting at the house. He wondered who they
were. They were all young men, so he doubted that they were village leaders. He felt a little let down. Seeing Peto, he beckoned
“We have plenty of time to pick up any of the village leaders before we
go to the showrooms. It won't take long in this beauty,” he said, patting the hovercar.
“These are all village leaders from various villages around here. Some of
the leaders were unable to come as there is work to do,” said Peto, “We are ready to go whenever you are.”
Crayle looked around.
“Isn't your wife coming? Or your sister? There is so much that would interest
The women may come along later, if they want to. There is no more room in this
car, is there? They will make their own way there,” said Peto.
“Very well, let's go. I thought that it would be a good idea if you took
the controls to see how easy it is to control one of these cars. Just get into the control seat and I will explain.”
Peto did as Crayle requested. The controls were similar to the shuttle that he
was used to, having a joystick that just needed to be moved in the direction that you wanted the car to go. The main difference
was that there was no altitude lever.
Crayle began to explain the controls to him when Peto just moved the car off and
proceeded to the cargo shuttle as if he had been using a hovercar all his life.
Although called 'hovercars', they were not truly hovercrafts. The name had been
in use from the days of ancient air cushioned hovercraft. Hovercars worked on the principle of magnetic cushioning. A computer
gathered information from sensors that detected the magnetic poles of the surface below the vehicle and altered the magnetic
poles of a series of coils around the underneath of the vehicle to identical poles. The result was that the vehicle and the
surface repelled each other.
“That's it! You've picked that up quick!” said Crayle. He turned to
the others, “See how easy it is to control? Anyone can use a hovercar, and you can all have one! Just wait until you
see the sports model! You will love it.”
Peto stopped the car at the shuttle and they all alighted. Crayle took them into
the shuttle and watched to see their reaction to the displays. He saw that they were all smiling and nodding as if in approval.
Feeling relieved, he asked them to look around while he fetched his assistant. He could have called her on the communicator
but he wanted to be close to her when she arrived and saw the men.
“By the way. Today, if there is anything that you like you can take it away
with you as a gift from us. It doesn't matter what it is.” He left them and went looking for Careen. He found her in
his office patiently waiting.
“They are here, Careen. Come and meet them,” he said, “They
seem to be in a more acceptable mood today. Let's go and sell.”
He led her to where he had left the leaders, making sure that he could see her
face at all times. When Careen did see them, her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. One of the men was sitting on his
heels, looking at something close to the floor. She had an unrestricted view of everything he had. She glanced quickly around
the room at the other men, noting that they were all practically naked. Then she looked at Crayle, her eyes saying, “You
wait!” Crayle had never believed that he would see the day when Careen would be embarrassed at seeing a few men. Her
cheeks were red but she kept control of her poise.
“Gentlemen, this is my assistant, Careen Soman. Careen, these gentlemen
are the leaders of some of the villages here,” said Crayle.
“Good evening, gentlemen. I hope you will enjoy our show this evening. If
there is anything that you would like to know, please don't hesitate to ask,” she said, keeping her eyes fixed on their
“Well, we have certainly made an impression on her. She is embarrassed at
our dress.” All the leaders received Luka's thought. They had all seen Careen's embarrassment.
“It was Crayle. He hadn't told her how we dress and he has played a trick
on her. She wasn't expecting it,” replied Shak.
Careen soon recovered from her initial shock and had begun to use her sensuality
to impress the young men as they went from item to item. She knew how to use her body to her advantage. When she walked in
front of them, she made sure that she swayed her hips. When she showed them a particular feature, she would lean close to
them, her breast just 'accidentally' brushing against one of them. She would lean forward to allow them to see her cleavage.
She had used these methods so successfully many, many times in her career.
It was when Eelan and several other women arrived that she realised that her methods
would not work here. The women were beautiful. Their figures were perfect, without the need for any support. They walked with
such effortless grace which most women on Earth would find almost impossible when wearing so little. She had expected the
women to be as scantily dressed as the men were but had not been prepared for such beauty and elegance. For the first time
in her adulthood, she felt inferior.
Both she and Crayle had tried to interest the men and women with the products
that they had but they both felt that they were not getting through to them.
Careen pulled Crayle aside. “How can you sell a washing machine to people
who don't wear clothes? How can you sell sewing machines to them? Of what use are disposable clothes to them?” she whispered.
“I don't know. I'm having the same problem. They don't want anything. Not
even as a gift! Nothing impresses them,” answered Crayle.
The evening came to a close. Crayle took them all back to the village. He took
the women first and then the men. He was quiet, saying nothing as he guided the hovercar to Peto's house. As Peto alighted
he spoke to Crayle.
“Edwan. Bring Careen and yourself here tomorrow and have a meal with us.
There is something that I would like to discuss with you both.” Crayle's hopes rose. Perhaps he and Careen had failed
to read the signs of success with these people because they were of a different culture.
“I would be happy to accept your invitation. I'm sure that Careen would
be, too,” Crayle said, “What time would you like us to arrive?”
“Come in the evening. It doesn't matter what time. Come when you feel the
time is just right.” Peto turned to go into the house, ending any further conversation. Crayle started back for the
shuttle and thought about Peto's parting words. What a strange thing to say, he thought. He shrugged to himself and soon forgot
about it as he thought that tomorrow they may have a list of orders waiting for them.
That evening Crayle received a message from the freighter. Normec wanted a report
from him and Careen. They made their reports and Crayle included in his that he believed that they would have what they came
for the following evening. He explained that they had been invited to dinner at the First Father's home and that he was certain
it was for the purpose of receiving a substantial order from the leaders.
Careen was doubtful. “I'm not sure that you should have said that in your
report yet,” she said, “We could just as well be getting our marching orders.”
“I hope not. It would mean that we are finished as far as the Empire is
concerned. We will end up with a small subsistence income for the rest of our lives. If we fail, the Empire's armed forces
will move in and destroy these people and they'll take what they want anyway. That will be a pity as they seem to be quite
“It's the women that you like. I saw you ogling them while they weren't
“What about you and the men! I knew that you would enjoy being with them.”
Careen scowled at him. “Why didn't you warn me about them? I thought that
you wanted us to work together and you played a trick like that on me,” she said bitterly.
“I just wanted to see the look on your face when you saw them. At least,
you can understand how I felt when I first saw the women walk in the room at the house! It threw me completely off my spiel.”
They talked for a while about the day's events then finally they both retired
for the night, feeling disappointed and wondering what was wrong with their usually successful skills.
The following morning Peto had a meeting with three men and a woman at his home.
The four had special abilities that had come to light when they were quite young. They had discovered that they were able
to control, to an extent, the actions of Kandeer and other animals by means of their willpower. They had only used this power
on animals and birds, mainly for amusement when they were children. When it was discovered, it was impressed upon them that
it would be unkind and impolite to use their power on humans. Subsequently, the four had suppressed their unusual ability
and had not used it since they were children. Now, they had been called to the meeting to discuss the possibility of their
using their talents to help protect the planet from being abused by the Empire.
Peto looked at the four before him. There was Chon, a six foot three inch tall,
slimly built man with fair hair and deep blue eyes. He had a ready smile that seemed to emphasise his thin features. Peto
remembered that as Chon grew up there was a great deal of speculation about him because of his
height. Many had wondered if his tallness would turn out to be a new effect of the sun's radiations.
Then there was Garel. He was dark, with brown eyes and was of average height for
a Diatan. He tended to be a little shy when in company of more than two or three persons, keeping in the background and letting
the others do the talking.
Jem was also dark with brown eyes. He was a little shorter than average but was
of stockier build. He was also more athletic than the average Diatan.
Shiel, the woman, was typical of all women of Diata. Beautiful and elegant. She
had dark hair, a sure sign that her line of descent was from The Mother.
“Are you sure that you can do it?” asked Peto when he had explained
to them what he wanted them to do. There was no hesitation in their affirmative replies.
“It worked on the Kandeer. I don't see why it shouldn't work on them,”
said Chon, confidently.
“Well, tonight you will have the chance to find out. This is my plan.”
Peto went on to explain his plan to them in detail. It was the results of their abilities that would determine whether they
would be used for more important purposes later. What they were going to try had never been done before, so that evening was
going to be an opportunity to experiment. Peto and the leaders had come to the conclusion that their future was threatened.
They had never expected to have other humans visit them after so long and their meetings with the Earthmen so far had not
impressed them at all.
“Will you be able to reach them from here?” he asked. He did not want
anything to go wrong.
“All we need to do is for two or more of us, if necessary, to combine power.
One of us will do it while the others boost him. There shouldn't be any problems,” said Chon.
“All right. You do it Chon. Garel, you do whatever it is you do to help
Chon. Shiel and Jem will assist if necessary. You will be next door with Ata. I will expect you to start when I project to
you this evening. I want you to let me know if there are any problems.” They assured him that they understood what was
required of them.
“OK, we'll see you tonight,” said Peto. There was a brief flicker
of light in the room and they were gone.
The day seemed to drag by for Careen and Crayle. Uppermost in their minds was
whether or not they had managed to make any sales. Both were aware that their futures depended on it. As a result of the strain,
both had been irritable and the slightest thing would cause them to argue.
“I wish I had never heard of this place,” said Crayle. He had been
hoping to retire in another two years. If they failed to please Normec and the Governors, he would end up with nothing. They
would make sure that all his savings would not be available when he needed them. He had heard of even very rich men and women
who had displeased the Governors in some way suddenly becoming poverty stricken.
Careen too, had been thinking along similar lines.
She had worked hard to get where she was, in more ways than one. She had enjoyed an excellent position for a female
of her age. She had no desire to end up with just a subsistence benefit.
“So do I. It sounded too good to be true, a few days ago. Now it's a nightmare.”
They could do nothing but wait for the time to pass. They were both ready well
before time. After getting dressed, Careen entered Crayle's office where he was whiling away the time drinking a quality wine
that he had opened for the leaders to taste while they were there the day before.
“How do I look?” she asked. She was wearing a bikini top made of a
shiny silver material that clung to her like a second skin. It was fastened between her breasts with a jewelled clasp. Brief
white shorts and white sandals completed her outfit.
“I'd say that you looked perfectly stunning. I would have thought you would
wear a slinky evening gown as we are invited to dinner,” said Crayle, approvingly, “Care to join me in a drink
to calm the nerves?”
“Sure, but don't get any ideas. This outfit is strictly for our hosts.”
They sat down and finished the bottle.
In Ata's house, Chon, Garel, Jem and Shiel were waiting when Peto's thought came
“Do it now,” he commanded. Chon and Garel closed their eyes.
In the shuttle, Crayle stood up, “It's time we were going,” he said,
looking at the clock on the office wall. Careen also looked at the time.
“Isn't it a bit early? We are going to dinner, aren't we?”
“Yes, but its time to go.”
“Edwan. We don't want to arrive too early, they might not appreciate it.”
“It's all right. They are waiting for us. Trust me, I know. Don't ask me
how.” Careen looked at him and shrugged, resignedly.
“OK. I'm ready. It will be better than sitting here!”
They left the shuttle and Careen headed for the luxury hovercar. Crayle followed
Chon still had his eyes closed. Crayle stopped.
“No. We won't take that one, we'll go in the sports model,” he said.
“Why?” asked Careen, surprised. She knew he liked the luxury model
best. It was her favoured also.
“I don't know. Call it a hunch,” he said. Again, Careen shrugged.
They got into the hovercar and sped towards the village.
As they arrived outside Peto's house, the door opened and Peto came out to greet
“You are right on time,” he said, come on in.”
They entered and Diata greeted them. There were several men and women already
“Please sit down and make yourselves at home,” said Diata. “Would
you like to taste our wine?” She brought a tray of goblets filled with a liquid. Crayle and Careen accepted one each.
The goblets were made of a metal that they did not recognise and were engraved with an intricate design. Careen looked at
hers. They were quite beautiful. She wondered where they had come from as there appeared to be no industry on the planet.
The wine was unusual but very pleasant and she thought that it must be a vintage wine.
“I hope you like Kandeer. That's what we are having for dinner.” Eelan
had come over to them, “We find it delicious, but then we are used to it, I suppose.”
“I am sure that we will. I've been looking forward to tasting the local
food,” replied Careen. She noticed that the leather garments that the women were wearing were now different. They were
sparkling with colour that changed with every movement. They reminded her of sequins but she could see that they were not.
She tried to see what it was that made them shimmer and sparkle like they did. Eelan saw her looking at her top and looked
down at herself to see what it was that intrigued Careen.
“Oh, I'm sorry,” said Careen, noticing her look down, “I was
looking at the way your clothes sparkle. What makes them do that?”
“These are what we wear on special occasions. It is the feathers of the
forest birds that we put on the Kandeer leather,” explained Eelan.
“Birds? I haven't seen any birds yet.” She turned to Crayle, “Have
you seen any birds, Edwan?” Crayle thought for a moment then shook his head.
“No, I can't say
I have,” he said.
“They are forest creatures. They never leave the forest except when they
are disturbed. Then it is a really beautiful sight,” said Eelan. Careen looked closer at the feathers.
“If they sparkle like that, I imagine that it is quite a sight,” she remarked. She saw that different feathers had a different basic colour and that they
were arranged in a pattern on the garment. Some feathers had quite strong bright colours but most were of pastel shades. Eelan
explained that there were thirty-nine species of birds in the forest. The larger the bird, the brighter the colour. She pointed
to one of the feathers.
“This came from a tiny little bird this big.” She held her index finger
and thumb about an inch apart, “And this one came from a bird this big.” She stretched her arms as wide as she
“They really are beautiful,” said Careen. Diata had been listening
with interest to the conversation.
“Do you really like them?” she asked Careen.
“Oh yes. I've never seen anything like it. Even butterfly wings wouldn't
have the same effect as these feathers,” replied Careen, enthusiastically.
“Then come with me.” Diata took her by the hand and led her out of
the room and took her to her bedroom. Opening a drawer in a dressing table, she took out two garments and handed them to Careen.
“I have just finished making these. I would like you to have them.”
“Oh, they are gorgeous. But I couldn't. Really, I couldn't. They must have
taken you ages to make.”
“Take them as a gift, please. Try them on,” urged Diata. Kita entered
“There you are. I was looking for you. I haven't been able to talk to you
yet.” Diata smiled and introduced her to Careen.
“I have just given these to Careen and was suggesting that she tried them
on.” Kita nodded in agreement.
“Yes, you must try them on. Even if it is only to see if they fit,”
Careen felt the leather. It was soft and delightful to touch. Softer than chamois.
She made up her mind that she would like to see how it felt and how she would look in them. She smiled at Diata and Kita.
“All right, I will,” she said. She took of her bikini top and shorts and put the Kandeer skirt on over her panties. Kita shook her head. “No,
that's not right. There shouldn't be anything beneath the skirt,” she said, “It is supposed to be next to your
Careen hesitated, momentarily, then removed the rest of her clothes and put the
Kandeer garments on, helped by Kita and Diata. When they were in place, she looked into the full-length mirror of highly polished
metal. She raised her eyebrows in approval at her reflection. She could understand why the women liked to wear these clothes.
The leather felt good against her skin. She turned this way and that way to see herself. When she had seen enough, she began
to take them off. Kita saw what she was doing and stopped her.
“Why don't you leave them on?” she asked. Careen looked at her, shaking
“No way! I couldn't. I am not a prude in any way, but this is a little too
revealing by our standards. I can imagine Edwan's reaction if he saw me dressed like this.”
“You will only be dressed like us. Doesn't he approve of our dress?”
“Oh yes, he approves all right. He loves it.” Careen didn't say why
he loved it.
“There you are then. Leave it on,” said Diata.
“No! Definitely no,” said Careen. In the house next door, Chon closed
Careen was about to remove the top of the outfit when she caught a glimpse of
her reflection again and decided to have another look at herself. Once again she twisted first one way then another as she
tried to see herself from every angle.
“Oh, all right, I'll try it. If he starts wisecracking, I'll take it off.
“Good. That's settled,” said Diata. They went back to the lounge.
As they entered there was a chorus of favourable comments from everyone. Careen
made her way to the seat where she had been sitting and stopped. The lounge seat was low. She was faced with a problem that
she had never had before. How was she going to sit down without giving everybody a view of everything she had? It wasn't that
she had never worn short skirts before. She had done so often but she had always worn underwear as well. She tried to remember
how the other women sat so elegantly. Finally she sat on the edge of the seat and slid her rear to the back of the seat, tucking
the short skirt of leather between her thighs self-consciously, keeping her knees tightly pressed together. She looked up
to see Crayle smiling at her and nodding approvingly. She glared at him and wondered why she had agreed to wear the outfit.
Chon and Garel, waiting in Ata's house, exchanged smiling glances.
Dinner was served at a large table in the dining room. Crayle could not help noticing
that the tabletop was made of some kind of white translucent stone. He ran his fingers over the surface. It was smooth and
cool to his touch. The legs of the table were metal and ornately shaped. The seats around it were of matching design but were
padded and finished in soft Kandeer leather that had been bleached white to match the tabletop. The cutlery, which had been
neatly laid before each seat, was equally impressive. The knives, forks and spoons were engraved with the same intricate design
as the goblets. Crayle and Careen sensed the luxury of the furnishing and decor of the room. Crayle was about to comment on
it when several young people entered the room bearing large trays laden with food. He was given a plate that he guessed was
made of the same stone as the tabletop. His plate was soon filled with a variety of different foods that he had never seen
before. He recognised one of them as a meat that he guessed was the Kandeer meat that Eelan had mentioned earlier.
During the meal the conversation ranged through a number of subjects of no particular
importance. It was when they had finished eating and were having the last of the wine that Crayle brought up the subject of
“Have you and the others given any more thought to what we have to offer
your planet, Peto?” he asked. Peto looked around the table and smiled.
“We have all given it a great deal of thought, Edwan. The truth is, that
we find that you really do not have anything that we need. We are quite content with what we already have and see no advantage
for us to have these commodities that you would like us to have. What we are curious about, though is, what do you want from us?” Crayle laughed, partly to cover his disappointment
and partly in an effort to imply indifference.
“Well actually, an analysis of you planet has already been made and there
appears to be nothing of any value to the Empire here. Had you been more advanced in industry or agriculture or mining or
something, then I would say 'yes', there is something that we want. But, the Empire is keen to help even those that have nothing
to trade. In such cases as that, the Empire will accept even rocks and soil as token payment to bring you up to date with
the rest of mankind. I think I heard that there is a mineral of some kind that could
be useful as there is a substance in it that can be extracted and used. It is of little value but I am sure that I can persuade
the Empire to accept it as a means of trade.”
Shiel, in the next house, reached into Peto's mind.
“He's lying, Peto. They want that mineral more than anything else. He believes
that it is the most valuable mineral in the universe.”
Peto acknowledged her and replied, “Yes Shiel, I know. He's bluffing.”
“What would they use the extract for?” he asked Crayle. Crayle shook
“I'm not sure. I think they use it for strengthening plastics,” he
“He's lying again! He doesn't know much about it but he does know that it
will be used for nuclear power. It is very rare in the universe,” projected Shiel. Shak, who had been listening in silence,
suddenly spoke up.
“Where exactly is this mineral on our planet?” Crayle became instantly
wary. He didn't want them to find it and possibly discover it's true value.
“We would have to survey the planet to find it, I'm afraid. I believe that
it is in the Southern Hemisphere somewhere. It is worthless to you of course. Refining factories are needed to extract the
substance from it. To you it is just worthless rock and soil. Besides, you do not have the means to transport it. All your
villages are in the Northern Hemisphere, aren't they?”
Shak nodded and was silent again but his mind spoke to Peto.
“He really doesn't know where it is. He doesn't want us to find it before
his superior comes here to see you.” Peto leaned towards Crayle as if to confide in him.
“Edwan. As I said, you and your Empire have nothing that we need. We would
like to be left alone as we were before that Captain Neska arrived here. If your Empire really wants to help us, it can do
so by staying away and allowing us to progress in our own way. That is what we
want the Empire to do for us.”
“But Peto,” pleaded Crayle, “Can't you see how useful even communicators
would be to you? Or hovercars? Think of the old ones of your people. They could call for help if they needed it. They could
get about in a hovercar when their legs get weak and they are not as sprightly as you and I. You are not thinking ahead. You
are thinking only in terms of you younger ones here.”
Careen was listening. She hadn't seen any elderly people here. She turned to Diata.
“Where are the aged people, Diata?” she asked, “What do you
do with them?”
“Our older ones are well cared for. As Eelan said yesterday, we are one
big happy family here. We all take care of each other,” answered Diata, smiling.
“Let's go into the lounge,” said Peto, “We don't want a difference
of opinion spoil our evening, do we? Careen, Edwan, we have no intentions of trading with your Empire for anything. Believe
me, that's final.” He led the way into the lounge and they sat down. Careen was devastated at Peto's announcement. She
sat down, completely forgetting that she was wearing 'native' dress. Everybody in the room sensed the fear that emanated from
her. Shiel and Jem, in the house next door with Chon and Garel, looked at each other, horrified. They had never experienced
fear themselves and it shocked them. Jem reached out for Peto's mind.
“You have frightened them Peto, their minds are filled with fear. They are
afraid what that official on the freighter will do to them.”
“That's right. Careen feels that you have destroyed her life!” added
“We can sense it too,” said Peto, “So it is this Empire official
that pulls their strings. We have to remember that they and their Empire will destroy our lives if we let them. If they are
so afraid of their own kind, think how afraid we will be made to feel.”
Shim, who had been left in another village thirty miles away with another group
of men experimenting on another plan, came into Shak's mind.
“They have not had any success, Shak. The distance is too great even with
eight of them boosting each other. They say that they don't think they could reach no matter how many are together in the
boosting. They are tired now and I've told them to stop trying. We are going to have to think of something else. How are things
with you? Can I come over?”
“Of course. We are all in the lounge, so avoid that room,” replied
In the dining room there was a faint flicker of light and a moment later Shim
entered the lounge.