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A World Called Crimson

A World Called Crimson

From: A World Called Crimson

When the starship Star of Fire collided with a meteor swarm six
parsecs stellar north of the galactic hub in the year A.D. 2278, it lost
its atmosphere within forty-five minutes. At first it was thought that
every man, woman and child of the four thousand, one hundred and
sixty-six aboard were lost, in this the greatest of all interstellar
disasters. But as was discovered twenty years later in the Purcell
exploration, this was not quite the case. (See PURCELL)

from The ANNALS OF SPACE, Vol. 12

It was the nasty little boy from B Deck who had stolen her doll. She
hated him. He was horrid. She slipped out of their stateroom while her
Mom and Dad were dressing for dinner. She'd find that horrid little boy
on B Deck. She'd scratch his eyes out.

Her name was Robin Sinclair and she was five years old and mad enough to
throw the boy from B Deck out into space, only she didn't know how to go
about that.

She went down the companionway to B Deck, where the people dressed
differently. The colors weren't as bright, somehow, the cloth not so
fine. It was a major distinction in the eyes of a five-year-old girl,
especially one who loved to run her fingers over fine synthetics and who
even had a favorite color. Her favorite color was crimson.

"'Scuse me, mister. Didja see a little boy with a doll with a crimson
dress on?"

A smile. But she was deadly serious. "Not me, young lady."

She walked for a while aimlessly on B Deck. She saw two little boys, but
they weren't the right ones. Pouting now, almost in tears, she was on
the verge of giving up. Mom and Dad could buy her a new doll. Mom and
Dad were richer than anybody, weren't they?

Then, all of a sudden, she saw him. He was just ducking out of sight up
ahead. Under his arm was tucked the doll with the crimson dress, her
favorite doll.

"Hey!" she cried. "Hey, wait for me!"

Her little feet pounding, she raced down the companionway. As she
reached the irising door in the bulkhead, an electric eye opened it for
her. She had never come this way before. It was not as bright and clean
as the rest of the ship. She had not even seen the sign which said
read, anyway.

She caught a quick second glimpse of the boy, and started running as he
rounded a turn in the corridor. Shouting for him to stop, she reached
the turn and saw him up ahead. He looked back at her and stuck out his
tongue and kept running.

* * * * *

It was then that the whole world shuddered, like it was trying to shake
itself to pieces.

Alarm bells clanged everywhere. Whistles shrilled. Pretty soon
uniformed men were running in all directions. Robin Sinclair was
suddenly very frightened. She wanted to go back to A Deck, to her Mom
and Dad, but she had followed the boy through so many twisting, turning
corridors that she knew she would be lost if she tried. She looked
ahead. The boy seemed confident as he made his way. She followed him.
But she was really mad at him now. It was his fault she was so far from
Mom and Dad when a thing like this happened.

* * * * *

Uniformed members of the crew continued rushing by. She heard snatches
of conversation she didn't understand.

"Trying to patch it ..."

"The whole stern section of the ship. Losing air fast ..."

"The lifeboats. I was just down there. Every last one of 'em. Gone. The
meteor took 'em right off into space."

"If the damage can't be repaired ..."

And one man, finally, with a face awful to behold: "Patches won't hold.
We're losing air faster'n it can be replaced. Better tell the Captain."

A man in a lot of gold braid rushed into view. He was
distinguished-looking, but old. Boy, he was old, Robin thought. He
looked as old as her grandfather.

"Captain! We're losing too much air. It can't be replaced."

"Then prepare to abandon ship."

"But, sir, every lifeboat is gone!"

"No lifeboats? No lifeboats!"

The boy stuck his tongue out again. She ran after him, shaking her
little fist. They were completely absorbed in their private enmity while
the word went out that the situation was hopeless and almost five
thousand people prepared to die.

"I've got you now!"

He had run up against a blank wall. She came toward him, holding her
hands out for the doll with the crimson dress. He held it behind his
back. She reached around to get it but he pushed her and she fell down.

"I'll fix you!" she threatened, getting up and rushing toward him again.
Big arms came down, and big hands grabbed her.

"There now, little miss," a voice said. "Why aren't you with your folks?
Time like this, you ought to be with your folks. What is it, B Deck?"

"A Deck," Robin said haughtily. "He's from B. Why is everybody running
around so?"

He was a tall, slat-thin man with a kind-looking face. "Say, wait a
minute!" he suddenly said, looking perplexed. "They all the time said I
was nuts, building that damn thing. Well, I can't fit into it, but maybe
these here kids can."

He scooped Robin up with one hand, got the boy with the other. "I want
my doll!" Robin cried, but the boy held it away from her.

"Take it easy now," the man said. "Take it easy. We'll take care of

* * * * *

He ran with them to one of the repair bays of the great, doom-bound
starship. In one corner, beyond the now useless patching equipment, was
a table. On the table stood a model of the Star of Fire. It was six
feet long and perfect in every external detail. He hadn't got around to
the inside yet. The inside was completely empty. It had rockets and
everything. There was no reason why it wouldn't be perfectly
space-worthy. Why, it would even hold an atmosphere ...

"In you go!" he said.

The little boy was suddenly scared. "I want my Mother," he said. "I
want my Dad."

"In you go."

Robin felt herself lifted, and thrust inside something. It was dark in
there. She moved around and bumped into something. She moved around some
more and bumped against the little boy from B Deck.

"How do you get out of here?" she asked.

"I don't know," he said.

"I want my doll back," she said.

"Oh yeah?"

"You better give it to me."

He said nothing. There was a hissing sound, and a faint roar. Far away,
something slid ponderously.

"Pleasant voyage, little ones!" a voice boomed.

Something sat on her chest all at once, squeezing all the air from her.
It was a great weight holding her motionless, squeezing. She wanted to
cry, but couldn't get the sound out. She wanted her Mom. Mom would know
what to do.

She was crushed and flattened into a tunnel of blackness.

Thirty minutes later, the starship Star of Fire, outworld-bound from
Sol to the starswarms beyond Ophiuchus, lost all its remaining air. It
became an enormous coffin spinning end over end in space amid the blaze
of starlight near the center of the galaxy.

One tiny spaceship, a small model of the huge liner, sped away. If it
went two days finding no planet, its two occupants would perish when the
small oxygen supply gave out. If it found a planet it would circle and
land automatically. The possibility of this was small, but not remote.
For here at the center of the galaxy, stellar distances are more nearly
planetary and most of the stars have attendant planets. But even then,
it would have to be a world capable of supporting their lives ...

They sped on, in all innocence. She was five. He was six. His name was
Charlie Fullerton. He had her doll. She hated him.

* * * * *

Two hours after the tiny model spaceship landed on a planet with three
suns in the sky, Robin Sinclair awoke. She felt cramped and
uncomfortable. It took her a while to orient herself. She had some kind
of a dream. A dream was a funny thing. Mom said it wasn't real. But it
sure was real to her.

She got up and pushed with her hands. A section of the tiny spaceship
sprang away at her touch, admitting blinding light. She lay there with
her eyes tightly shut, but after a while she could see. The boy was
sleeping. She still hated him. He was sleeping with her doll in his
arms. She took the doll and he moved his arms and woke up. She jumped
out of the open spaceship with the doll and started running.

She ran along a beach. But the sand was green. The ocean hissed and
roared and there was nobody else. "N'ya! N'ya! Y'can't catch me!" she
bawled at the top of her voice. And fell down in the sand.

He caught up with her and fell on top of her and they wrestled for the
doll. The surf thundered nearby. The tide, capricious in the grip of the
three suns, rose suddenly, flooding them with chill water. Coughing and
spluttering and choking, they retreated further up the beach.

Soon they quieted down.

"I'm soaking wet," she said.

"My name is Charlie," he said sullenly. "Let's go back now."

"How do we go back?" she wanted to know.

"That's a nice doll," Charlie said.

"You took it from me!" Accusingly.

"Aw, I only wanted to look at it."

"She has a crimson dress and everything."

"This is some world," Charlie said after a while.

"What's a world?"

"Oh, a world is--you know--everything."


"You think it has Indians?"

She said, "It ought to have Indians, anyhow."

"And pirates too?" he asked in a voice full of awe.

She nodded her head very seriously. "I like pirates," she said. "They're
so scarey."

Just then a ship came into view far away across the water. It had
enormous sails and a black hull. On the fore-sail was painted a huge
black skull.

"Let's get out of here!" Charlie cried in alarm. But beetling cliffs
reared behind the beach and although they ran frantically along at the
edge of the green sand, they could find no way to scale the cliffs. The
pirate ship came closer and closer.

They got down whimpering at the base of the cliffs and remained very
still. After a long time the pirate ship came close to shore. A longboat
was dispatched and its oars flashed in the triple sunlight like giant
legs on which the longboat walked across the waves toward the beach.

Then the pirates were ashore. The man who led them had only one leg, and
a peg. He looked very mean.

* * * * *

"It's Blackbeard the Pirate!" said Charlie in a frightened whisper. His
Dad had once read him a story about Blackbeard.

The pirate with the wooden leg suddenly had a black beard.

"The doll!" cried Robin.

"What's the matter?"

"We left her down there. Crimson." She called her doll Crimson because
she had a crimson dress.

Now Blackbeard approached the model spaceship with his crew. They
gathered around it, frowning. Robin watched, her face pale, her eyes
wide. Crimson was there on the sand. They were going to see Crimson.
Even as she was thinking these horrible thoughts, one of the pirates saw
Crimson and picked her up. Blackbeard came over and took the doll and
looked at her. At that moment there was a shout from above the cliffs
and an arrow suddenly transfixed one of the pirates. He fell down
writhing and Blackbeard and the rest of his men raced back to the

"Indians," Charlie whispered knowingly.

The Indians shouted and yelled.

"Are there any cowboys here?" Robin asked hopefully.

"No, sir. No cowboys," Charlie said very definitely.

"I'm hungry," Robin said. "I wish we had something."

With a little squeal of delight, she looked down at her feet. Two
platters of fried chicken, with all the trimmings. Her favorite. They
ate ravenously, not hearing the Indians any more. They watched the
longboat return to the pirate ship. All this way, they could see little
Crimson's dress as Blackbeard took her aboard. Robin finished her fried
chicken and started to cry.

"Girls," said Charlie in disgust.

"I can't help it. Poor Crimson."

"Is she dead?"

"Blackbeard the pirate took her."

"Charles was my grandfather's name. My grandfather died and they named
me Charles."

"I want Crimson!"

"Get down! The Indians will see you."

"The Indians went away. I want Crimson!"

"We could name this beach after Crimson."

"Aw, what do you know? It's only a beach."

"We could name the whole wide world." Charlie gestured expansively.

The green sand of the beach became crimson. The sky had a crimson glow.

"It sure is a funny world," Charlie said. Laughter loud as thunder
echoed in the sky. "A world called Crimson," he added.

* * * * *

The tide came in. Spray and surf bounded off the rocks, wetting them.
"We better go up the hill," Robin said. By hill she meant the
perpendicular cliffs behind them.

The tide thundered in. They were sodden. They clung to the rocks.

"We need an elevator or something," Charlie said.

Golden cables flashed in the sunlight. The gilt elevator cage came down.
They climbed in as a big wave came and battered the rocks. The elevator
went up, up to the top of the cliff. They could see a long way across
the water. They could watch the pirate ship sailing away, the skull
black as night on its sail.

They got out of the elevator at the top of the cliff. They didn't see
any Indians, but they saw the ashes of a campfire.

"Are there lions and tigers and everything?" Robin asked in wonder,
gazing out over the beach and the sea and then turning around to see the
green forest which began fifty yards beyond the edge of the cliff.

"Sure there are lions and tigers," Charlie said matter-of-factly.

* * * * *

Off somewhere in the woods, a big cat roared. Robin whimpered.

"I w-was only fooling," Charlie said, vaguely understanding that you
could somehow make things happen on this world called Crimson.

But he learned a lesson that night. You could make things happen on
Crimson, but you couldn't unmake them.

The tiger roared again. But they were downwind from it and it went
elsewhere in search of prey. Huddled together near the embers of the
Indian campfire, the two children slept fitfully through the cold night.

Then the three suns finally came up on three different sides of the
horizon. Crimson was deadly, but beautiful....

* * * * *

Although credit for the discovery of Aladdin's Planet goes to the
explorer Richard Purcell of Earth, two Earth children actually were
shipwrecked there twenty years before Purcell's expedition. But instead
of paving the way for Purcell, they actually made the exploration more
difficult for him. In fact, it was positively fraught with peril. But
since Aladdin's Planet had become the galaxy's arsenal of plenty, it
was well worth Purcell's effort. As any schoolboy knows in this utopia
of 24th century plenty, Aladdin's Planet, almost exactly at the heart
of the galaxy, where matter is spontaneously created to sweep out in
long cosmic trails across the galaxy, is the home not merely of
spontaneous creation of matter, but spontaneous formed creation, with
any human psyche capable of doing the handwork of God. A planet of great
import ...

--from The ANNALS OF SPACE, Vol. 2

* * * * *

She stood poised for a glorious moment on the very edge of the rock, the
bronze and pink of her glistening in the sun, the spray still clinging
to her from her last dive. Then, grace in every line of her lithe body,
she sprang from the rock in a perfectly executed swan dive.

Charlie helped her out, smiling. "That was pretty," he said.

"Well, you taught me how." Her figure was not yet that of a woman, but
far more than that of a girl. She was very beautiful and Charlie knew
this although he had no standards to judge by, except for the Indian
women they occasionally saw or Blackbeard's slave girls when the pirate
ship came in to trade.

Unselfconsciously, Robin climbed into her gold-mesh shorts. Charlie
helped her fasten the gold-mesh halter. Long, long ago--it seemed an
unreal dream, almost--he had been a very small boy and his mother had
taken him to a show in which everyone danced and sang and wore gold-mesh
clothing. He had never forgotten it, and now all their clothing was

* * * * *

Robin spun around and looked at him. Her tawny blonde hair fell almost
to her waist, and he helped her comb it with a jewel-encrusted comb he
had wished into being a few days before.

"I so like Crimson!" she cried impulsively.

Charlie smiled. "Why, that's a funny thing to say. Is there any other
kind of a place?"

"You mean, but Crimson?"


"I don't know. It is funny. Sometimes I think--"

Charlie smiled at her, a little condescendingly. "Oh, it's the book
again, is it?" he asked.

"All right. It's the book. Stop making fun of me."

Many years ago, when they'd been small children, they had returned to
the ruined spaceship which had brought them to Crimson. It had been
empty except for the book, as if the book had been placed there for them
by whatever power had put them in the spaceship. Naturally, they had not
been able to read, but they kept the book anyway. Then one day, years
later, Robin had wished to be able to read and the next time she lifted
the book and opened it, the magic of the words was miraculously revealed
to her. The book was called A ONE VOLUME ENCYCLOPEDIC HISTORY and it
told about just everything--except Crimson. There was no mention of
Crimson at all. Robin read the book over and over again until she almost
knew it by heart. Even Charlie had listened to it twice all the way
through when she read it, but he had never wished for the ability to
read himself.

Now Charlie asked: "Do you really believe the book? This is Crimson.
This is real."

"I don't know. Sometimes I think this isn't as real as everything in the
book. And sometimes I just don't know."

They walked in silence to their elevator and took it to the top of the
highest cliff. They had wished for a house there, like one Robin had
seen in the book. They had wished for many things to make their lives
interesting, or pleasant. They had peopled Crimson with the fruit of
their wishes, using the ONE VOLUME ENCYCLOPEDIC HISTORY as a guide.

* * * * *

They lived a mile from the Indian Camp. They traded with the Indians
who, strangely, did not know how to wish for things. Neither did the
pirates, or anyone. Just Robin and Charlie. The pirates lived across the
sea on an island. To the south along the shore were Phoenicians, Greeks,
Mayas, Royal Navymen, Submariners, mermaids and Cyclopes. To the north
along the shore were Polynesians, Maoris, Panamanians and Dutchmen.
Inland were Cannibals, Lotus Eaters, a few settlements of cowboys to
make life interesting for the Indians, farmers, Russians, Congressmen
and Ministers. All had been created by Robin and Charlie, who visited
them sometimes. They never believed for a minute that Robin and Charlie
had really created them, although all were amazed by Robin and Charlie's
ability to make things appear out of thin air.

Just as they reached their house, an Indian brave came running down the
trail toward them.

"Skyship come!" he cried, gesturing wildly and excitedly.

"Skyship?" repeated Charlie, looking at Robin. "Have you created any

"No. You know it's a bargain between us. We don't create anything we
don't think we understand."

The Indian was sweating. His name was Tashtu, which meant Wild Eagle,
and he was their go-between with the tribe. "Skyship sweep across
heavens," he said. "Not land. Go up in Wild Country."

Charlie's interest quickened. Wild Country. They had created it on
impulse, about twenty miles from the Indian Camp, midway between the
settlements of Congressmen inland and Cyclopes on the shore. It was a
place of tortuous gorges and rocks and mountains, utterly lifeless. No
one ever went there. Someday, he had always told Robin, they would
explore Wild Country. If there really was a spaceship, and if it had
gone there ...

"No," Robin said. "I know what you're thinking. But I'm perfectly happy

"You just now said you sometimes thought Crimson wasn't real and there
were other, real worlds which--"

"That's different. I can dream, can't I?"

"But don't you see, if a spaceship's really come, maybe they can tell

* * * * *

She gripped his arm. "Charlie. Oh, Charlie, I don't know. I'm afraid.
We've been happy here, haven't we? We really wouldn't want it to
change ..."

"I'm going to Wild Country," Charlie said stubbornly.

Tashtu nodded his head. "It is good that you do. For the braves--"

"Don't tell me they went after the skyship?" Charlie asked.

"Yes, Lord. Skyship come low, ruin crops mile around. War dance follow.
War party leave last sunrise."

"Six hours ago!" Charlie cried. "Can we overtake them?"

Tashtu shrugged. "Hurry, Lord."

"Don't you see," Charlie told Robin. "They're savages. They wouldn't
understand anything like spaceships. They wouldn't want to. If they get
the chance, they'll kill first and ask questions afterwards. We've got
to go to the Wild Country now."

Big and brawny Tashtu was nodding his head earnestly, but Robin seemed
unconvinced. "Why," she said, "there isn't even anything about Wild
Country in the book."

"That's because we made it."

"And besides, the Congressmen are dangerous."

"Congressmen? Don't you mean the Cyclopes?"

"Yes, I'm sorry. The Cyclopes are dangerous."

She couldn't possibly have meant the Congressmen. It was never clear to
either of them precisely what a Congressman did. But there were hundreds
of them on one side of Wild Country and they were forever making
speeches and promises, little round bald men with great, rich voices
and wonderful vocabularies. Charlie loved to hear them speak.

"We go, Lord?" Tashtu asked.

Charlie nodded and went inside swiftly for his rifle. It was modeled
after the most powerful rifle in the encyclopedia and was called a
Mannlicher Elephant Gun. Robin came with her own smaller Springfield

"Ready?" Charlie asked.

"Yes. We can think up food along the trail."

"Hurry, Lord," Tashtu urged.

Charlie could hardly contain his excitement. The Wild Country, at last.
And a spaceship.

* * * * *

By the time they were ready to make planetfall on the unexplored world,
Purcell knew his dislike of Glaudot bordered on actual hatred. Purcell,
who was forty-five years old and a bachelor, liked his spacemen tough,
yes: you had to be tough to land on, explore, and subdue a couple of
dozen worlds, as Purcell himself had done. But he also liked his
spacemen with humility: facing the unknown and sometimes the unknowable
at every step of the way, you needed humility.

Glaudot, younger than Purcell by fifteen years, confident, arrogant, a
lean hard man and handsome in a gaunt-cheeked, saturnine way, lacked
humility. For one thing, he treated the crew like dirt and had treated
them that way since blastoff from Earth almost five months before. For
another, he seemed impatient with Purcell's orders, although Purcell was
not a cautious man, and certainly not a timid one. What had been growing
between them flared out into the open moments before planetfall.

"I can't get over it," Purcell said. "I've never seen a world anything
like it." They had made telescopic observations from within the
atmosphere. "Giants living in caves," Purcell went on. "Sailing ships
flying the Jolly Roger. A town consisting of miniature replicas of the
White House on Earth. Mermaids."

"Don't tell me you really thought you saw mermaids?" Glaudot asked a
little condescendingly.

"All right, I'll admit I only caught a glimpse of them. I thought they
were mermaids. But what about the Indians?"

"Yes," Glaudot admitted. "I saw the Indians."

Using their atmospheric rockets, they had flown over the Indian village
at an altitude of only a few hundred feet, to see bronze-skinned men
rush out of tents and stare up at them in awe. After that, Purcell had
decided to find some desolate spot in which to land, in order not to
risk a too-sudden encounter with any of the fantastically diversified

Now Glaudot said: "You're taking what we saw too literally, Captain.
Why, I remember on Harfonte we had all sorts of hallucinations until
Captain Jamison discovered they were exactly that--we'd been hypnotized
into seeing the things we most feared by powerless natives who really
feared us."

"This isn't Harfonte," Purcell said, a little irritably.

"Yeah, but you weren't there."

"I know that, Glaudot. I'm only trying to point out that each world must
be considered as unique. Each world presents its own problems, which--"

"I say this is like Harfonte all over again. I say if you'd had the guts
to land right smack in the middle of that Indian village, you'd have
seen for yourself. I say to play it close to the vest is ridiculous,"
Glaudot said, and then smiled deprecatingly. "Begging your pardon, of
course, Captain. But don't you see, man, you've got to show the
extraterrestrials, whatever form they take, that Earthmen aren't afraid
of them."

"Caution and fear aren't the same thing," Purcell insisted. He didn't
know why he bothered to explain this to Glaudot. Perhaps it was because
Ensign Chandler, youngest man in the exploration party, was in the
lounge listening to them. Chandler was a nice kid, clean-cut and right
out of the finest tradition of Earth, but Chandler was, like all boys
barely out of their teens, impressionable. He was particularly
impressionable in these, his first months in space.

"When you're cautious it's as much to protect the natives as yourself,"
Purcell went on, and then put into simple words what Glaudot and
Chandler should have learned at the Academy for Exploration, anyway.

When he finished, Glaudot shrugged and asked: "What do you think, Ensign

Chandler blushed slowly. "I--I'd rather not say," he told them. "Captain
Purcell is--the captain."

Glaudot smiled his triumph at Purcell. It was then, for the first time,
that Purcell's dislike for the man became intense. Purcell wondered how
long he'd been poisoning the youth's mind against the doctrines of the

Just then a light glowed in the bulkhead and a metallic voice intoned:
"Prepare for landing. Prepare for landing at once."

Purcell, striding to his blast-hammock, told Glaudot, who was the
expedition's exec, "I'll want the landing party ready to move half an
hour after planetfall."

"Yes, sir," said Glaudot eagerly. At least there was something they
agreed on.

* * * * *

"Men," Purcell told the small landing party as they assembled near the
main airlock thirty-five minutes later, "we have an obligation to our
civilization which I hope all of you understand. While here on this
unknown world we must do nothing to bring discredit to the name of Earth
and the galactic culture which Earth represents."

They had all seen the bleak moon-like landscape through the viewports.
They were eager to get out there and plant the flag of Earth and
determine what the new world was like. There were only eight of them in
the first landing party: others would follow once the eight established
a preliminary base of operations. The eight were wearing the new-style,
light-weight spacesuits which all exploration parties used even though
the temperature and atmosphere of the new world seemed close enough to
Earth-norm. It had long ago been decided at the Academy that chances
couldn't be taken with some unknown factor, possibly toxic, fatal and
irreversible, in an unknown atmosphere. After a day or two of thorough
laboratory analysis of the air they'd be able to chuck their spacesuits
if all went well.

They filed through the airlock silently, Purcell first with the flag of
Earth, then Glaudot, then the others. White faces watched from the
viewport as they clomped across the convoluted terrain.

"Nobody here but us chickens!" Glaudot said, and he laughed, after they
had walked some way across the desolate landscape. "But then, what did
you expect? Captain took us clear of all the more promising places."

The man's only motive, Purcell decided, was his colossal ego. He made no
reply: that would be descending to Glaudot's level.

After they walked almost entirely across the low-walled crater in which
the exploration ship had come down, and after Purcell had planted the
flag on the highest pinnacle within the low crater walls, Glaudot said:

"How's about taking a look-see over the top, Captain? At least that

Purcell wasn't in favor of the idea. It would mean leaving sight of the
ship too soon. But the radio voices of most of the men indicated that
they agreed with Glaudot, so Purcell shrugged and said a pair of
volunteers could go, if they promised to rejoin the main party within
two hours.

Glaudot immediately volunteered. That at least made sense. Glaudot had
the courage of his convictions. Several others volunteered, but the
first hand up had been Ensign Chandler's.

"I don't want to sound like a martinet," Purcell told them. "But you
understand that by two hours I mean two hours. Not a minute more."

"Yes, sir," Chandler said.


"Yes, sir," the Executive Officer replied.

"All right," Purcell said. He walked over to the first of the big
magna-sleds piled high with equipment. "We'll be setting up the base
camp over here. I know the men still in the ship will want to stretch
their legs soon as possible. We don't want to have to go looking for
you, Glaudot."

"Not me, Captain," Glaudot assured him, and walked off toward the crater
rim with young Ensign Chandler.

* * * * *

"What the devil was that?" Chandler said forty-five minutes later.

"Stop jumping at every shadow you see. Relax."

"I thought I saw something moving behind that rock."

"So, go take a look."


"Hell, boy, don't let that Purcell put the fear of the unknown into you
on your very first trip out. Huh, what do you say?"

"Yes, sir, Mr. Glaudot," Ensign Chandler replied.

"After all," Glaudot went on, "we have nothing to be afraid of. We're
still within sight of the ship."

Chandler turned around. "I don't see it," he said.

"From the top of that rock you could."

"Think so?"

"Sure I do. Why don't you take a look if it will make you feel better?"

"All right," Chandler said, and smiled at his own temerity. But he knew
vaguely that he'd been caught in a crossfire between the cautious
Purcell and the bold, arrogant Glaudot. Sometimes he really thought that
the Captain's caution made sense: on Wulcreston, he'd learned at the
Academy, a whole Earth expedition had been slaughtered before contact
because the natives mistook hand telescopes for weapons. And surely on
any world a spacesuited man looked more like a monster than a man
although he was vulnerable in a spacesuit, even more vulnerable than a
naked man because he could only run awkwardly.

All this Chandler thought as he climbed the high rock rampart. He'd send
a subspace letter back to the folks tonight, sure enough, he told
himself. Not only had he been chosen for the preliminary exploration
party, he'd made the first trip out of sight of the spaceship. It
certainly was something to write home about, and Mom would be very
proud ...

He was on top of the rock now. The vast tortuous landscape spread out
below him like a relief map in a mapmaker's nightmare. Far to his left,
beyond Glaudot's spacesuited figure, he could see the projectile-shaped
spaceship resting on its tail fins. And to his right--

He stared. He gawked.

At the last moment he tried to get down from the rock, but his spaceboot
caught on an outcropping and his fatal mistake was standing upright in
an attempt to free it.

Then all at once in a blinding burst of pain he was clutching at
something in his chest but knew as his life ebbed rapidly from his young
body that it would not matter if he was able to pull the cruel shaft

* * * * *

Glaudot went rushing up the side of the rock. He still couldn't believe
his eyes. Ensign Chandler had been impaled by two long feathered shafts,
two arrows. The force of the first one had spun Chandler around and he
lay now with his back arched across the topmost ramparts of the rock,
two arrows protruding from his chest and his life blood, starkly crimson
against the white of the spacesuit, pouring out.

Reaching the top of the rock in an attempt to drag the dying boy down,
Glaudot saw the Indians rushing up the other side of the crater wall.
Indians, he thought incredulously. Indians, as in the American West
hundreds of years ago. Indians ... But just what the hell were they
doing here?

A muscular brave notched an arrow, his right hand drawing the feathered
shaft back to his ear. Quickly Glaudot flung his arms skyward, hoping
that the universal gesture of surrender would be understood. The brave
stood statue-still. His lips opened. He was speaking to another of the
half-dozen Indians in the raiding band, but Glaudot could not hear the
words through his space helmet. He knew his life hung in the balance.

He watched, fascinated and helpless, as the Indian who had slain Ensign
Chandler came toward him.

* * * * *

Tashtu said: "Two raiding bands, Lord. One go north. Other south. We

They had reached the advance Indian camp on the fringe of the Wild
Country. So far they had seen nothing of the Cyclopes who lived in this
part of the world. Of all their creations, Charlie and Robin feared and
avoided only the Cyclopes, the enormous one-eyed giants which had so
intrigued Robin in the encyclopedia that she'd had a compulsion to
create them, and had done so.

"We can't follow both bands," Charlie said, looking troubled.

"Why can't we?" Robin asked. "You go north with some of the braves,
Charlie. I'll go south. We ought to be able to overtake the raiding
parties before anything happens."

"I can't let you go alone."

"All right. I'll take Tashtu with me. Don't you think Tashtu can take
care of me as well as you can?"

"Well, I just don't like the idea--" Charlie began.

"That's silly. If we have to find them before there's trouble, we have
to find them. Well, don't we?"

Charlie gave her an uncertain nod. He had grown up with her and had seen
her every day of his life, but every time he took a good look at her, at
the lovely face and the tawny, long-limbed form ill-concealed by the
gold-mesh garments, it took his breath away. Although in a sense a whole
world was his plaything, he had never seen anything so lovely. Finally
he said, "I guess you're too logical for me. Take care of her, Tashtu."

"With my life, Lord," the Indian vowed as the group broke up. Robin ran
to Charlie and hugged him, kissing his cheek half playfully, half in

"You be careful, too," she said, and went off with Tashtu and several of
the braves.

* * * * *

Naturally she was excited. She knew more about spacemen than Charlie
did. She had read the encyclopedia more carefully, hadn't she? She
wondered what the spacemen would be like. She couldn't help wondering it
because the only man she had ever known, except for those they had
created, was Charlie. Of course, she hadn't told Charlie this in so many
words, but she felt, had always felt, vaguely and now felt clearly, that
before she could settle down contentedly with Charlie, she would have to
know something of the world beyond Crimson. And there was a vast
world--a multitude of worlds--beyond Crimson. She knew that. The
encyclopedia mentioned all of them but did not mention Crimson at all.

They walked for several minutes through green forest, and then abruptly
came to the edge of the Wild Country. Even the idea of the Wild Country
brought an eagerness to Robin's limbs and made her walk more rapidly.
The Wild Country was unknown, wasn't it? They had created it without
knowing quite what they were creating, and had never explored it.

She went ahead with Tashtu over the rocks and crushed pumice. No winds
blew in Wild Country. The air was neither hot nor cold. The landscape
seemed changeless and eternal, as if it had been that way since before
the dawn of history, although actually Charlie and Robin had created it
only a few years before.

They forged on for two hours, Tashtu following the easily read spoor in
the pumice. They came at last to a low crater wall, where the spoor
disappeared. At first Tashtu was confused, but then he pointed to the
top, several hundred feet above their heads. Robin caught a glimpse of
tawny skin and feathers and buckskin in the sunlight.

"Haloo!" Tashtu called, and some of the braves above them whirled, all
speaking excitedly in the clumsy English which was the only tongue they

"Huragpha slay monster," they said. "Capture other monster. But then
see ..." the words drifted off into silence. Obviously, the Indians were
perplexed. "You come, see. Monster, him bleed like man."

At Tashtu's side, Robin rushed up the steep rocky slope. When they
reached the top, breathless and all but exhausted, Robin put her hand to
her mouth with a little cry of horror.

* * * * *

There was a dead man stretched out on the rock there, two arrows
transfixing his chest through the fabric of his spacesuit. The spacesuit
had probably frightened the Indians, but he was a man all right. Had
they been closer, even the Indians would have known that. That poor
man.... Why, he was hardly more than a boy.


And there was another, surrounded now by several of the Indians. "Him
prisoner," said the Indian called Huragpha a little uncertainly.

Robin walked over to the man in the spacesuit. He was a big man, even
bigger than Charlie. He looked very strong, but the spacesuit might have
been deceptive. He looked frightened, but not terrified.

"Are you really a spaceman?" Robin asked.

Glaudot said: "Well, so one of you can speak more than a few grunts.
That's something." He looked carefully at Robin. "Beautiful, too," he
said. The way he said it was not a compliment. It was an objective
statement of fact.

"I know it won't help to say I'm sorry about your friend. Words won't
help, I guess. But--"

"Yeah," Glaudot said. "All right. He's dead. I can't bring him back and
you can't bring him back, sister."

"I'm not your sister," Robin said.

Glaudot told her it was a way of speaking. He couldn't quite believe his
ears. She spoke English as well as he did, which was incredible enough
here on a world halfway across the galaxy. But he got the impression
that she was almost fantastically naive. Yet the Indians--and,
incredibly, they were Indians--seemed to be subservient to her, almost
seemed to worship her.

Glaudot sat down on his space helmet, which he had taken off some
minutes before, and said: "Are you the boss lady around here?"

"Boss lady? I don't understand."

"Are you in charge? Do you run things?"

Robin smiled and said: "I created them."

"I'm sorry. Now I don't get you."

"I said I created them. It's very simple. My friend and I decided a very
long time ago it would be nice or interesting or I forget what, it was
so long ago, if we had some Indians. So, we created Indians."

Glaudot threw his head back and laughed. "For a minute," he said, "you
almost had me believing you." The girl was dressed like a savage, he
told himself, like a beautiful savage, but at least she had a sense of
humor. That was something.

"But what is so funny?" Robin asked.

"You just now said--"

"I know what I said. My friend and I created the Indians. Of course.
Why? Can't you create anything you want? Just anything?"

"All right, sister," Glaudot said a little angrily. He did not like
being made fun of, for he lacked the capacity to laugh at himself. "Just
how much of a fool do you think I am?"

"Why, I don't know," Robin replied. "How much of a fool are you?"

Glaudot glared at her. Purcell was going to be one mad captain when he
was told of Chandler's death, but men had died on expeditions before and
it really wasn't Glaudot's fault. At any rate he had established contact
with somebody of obvious importance among the natives, and Purcell would
appreciate that.

"Never mind," Glaudot said.

"Tell me about being a spaceman. Do you really fly among the stars?"

"Well, yes," Glaudot said, "although it isn't really flying."

"And do you create new stars as you go along?"

* * * * *

There she went again with her talk of creation, as if creating things
out of nothing was the commonest occurrence in the world. Glaudot stood
up. "All right, sister. Show me."

"Why, show you what?"

"Create something."

"You mean," Robin said, disappointed, "you actually can't?"

"Just go ahead and create something."

Robin shrugged. "What would you like?"

Glaudot thought for a moment. "A piano!" he said suddenly. "How about a
piano?" It was complicated enough, he thought. "And while you're at it,
how about telling me how come everyone speaks English--or tries to speak
English around here?"

Robin frowned. "Is there some other way of speaking?"

Glaudot also frowned. That line of thought wouldn't get him anywhere.
"O.K.," he said. "One piano coming up?"

"All right," Robin said.

Glaudot blinked. The pretty girl hadn't moved. She hadn't even changed
her facial expression. But a parlor grand piano stood on the rock before

"Well, I'll be damned," Glaudot said. "What else can you create?"

"We made all the natives here. We made the green and crimson. We made
this whole Wild Country. We made some of the animals too."

"Like--the piano? Out of nothing?"

"Is there another way?"

Glaudot said, "You better come back to the ship with me. Captain'll like
to see you."

Tashtu shook his head. "The Lady Robin awaits the Lord."

Glaudot looked at Robin. "Who's that?"

"Charlie. He's just my friend. I--I don't think I have to wait for him.
I've always been more interested in reading about spacemen than he has.
I'll go with you now if you want."

Tashtu looked unhappy. "Lord Charlie, he say--"

"Well, you wait right here, Tashtu, and tell Charlie where I've gone.
What could be simpler? I'll be all right, don't worry about me."

"Lord Charlie, he say watch you."

"And I say I'm going with the spaceman to his spaceship."

Tashtu bowed. "The Lady has spoken," he said, and watched Robin descend
the rocky rampart and walk back with Glaudot toward the far distant
glint of metal which was this spaceship they were talking about.

* * * * *

"So you can create just anything," Glaudot said.

"I guess so."

A goddess, he thought. A beautiful goddess who ...

Suddenly he stared at her. Who could make him the most powerful man in
the galaxy.

"This spaceship of yours--" she began.

"Wait. Wait a minute. If you can create anything, how's about
re-creating Chandler?"

"Chand-ler? What is Chand-ler?"

"The boy back there. The one your braves killed."

Robin said: "If you wish," and Glaudot held his breath. The power over
life and death, he thought....

He looked down and saw Chandler's spacesuited body there, the two arrows
protruding from his chest. He shook his head. "Not dead," he said. "What
good is he to anybody dead?"

Robin nodded. "I'm sorry," she said. "I just hadn't thought before of
bringing people back to life. It ... why it seems ..."

"What's the matter?"

"I wouldn't really be bringing him back, you know. It would be a copy,
just a copy."

"But a perfect copy?"

"I think so."

"Then if it's just a copy it shouldn't bother you at all, should it?"

"Well ..." Robin said doubtfully.

"Go ahead. Show me you can do it."

Glaudot gaped. Another figure sat alongside Chandler's corpse,
Chandler's second corpse. The other figure got up. It was Chandler.

* * * * *

"Look out!" the new Chandler cried. "Look out--Indians!"

"Just take it easy," Glaudot told him. Glaudot's face was very white,
his eyes big and round and staring.

Chandler looked down at the body on the rocks. His knees buckled and
Glaudot caught him, stopping him from falling. Chandler tried to say
something, but the words wouldn't come. He stared with horrified
fascination at the body, which was an exact copy of himself--or a copy
of the dead man from whom the new living man was copied.

"May we go to your spaceship now?" Robin asked Glaudot politely. "I have
always wished to see a spaceship."

Here was power, Glaudot thought. Incredible power. All the power to
control worlds, to carve worlds from primordial slime, almost, for
yourself. Here was far more power than any man in the galaxy had ever
been offered. Was it his, Glaudot's?

It wouldn't be if he brought the beautiful girl to the spaceship and
Purcell. For Captain Purcell, a devoted servant of the galactic
civilization which he was attempting to spread to the outworlds, would
think in terms of what good the discovery of this girl could bring to
all humanity. But if Glaudot kept her to himself ...

And then another thought almost stunned him. Why merely the girl? She'd
mentioned a friend, hadn't she? Perhaps it was something in the
atmosphere of this strange world, in the very air you breathed. Perhaps
anyone could do it, could create out of nothing--Glaudot included.

"You want to go to the spaceship?" he asked.

"Yes. Oh, yes."

"Then teach me the secret of creation."

"Of making things, you mean? Why, there isn't any secret. Should there
be any secret? You merely--create."

"Show me," said Glaudot.

* * * * *

A table appeared, and savory dishes of food.

"Magician!" cried Chandler.

A great roan stallion, bridled but without a saddle, materialized. Robin
swung up on its broad back and used her bare knees for balance and
control. The stallion cantered off.

"Wait!" cried Glaudot. "Please wait."

The stallion cantered back and Robin alighted. The stallion began to
graze on a patch of grass which suddenly appeared on the naked rock. The
stallion seemed quite content.

"You mean," the new Chandler asked in an awed voice, "she just made
these things? The food. The table. The horse ..."

"Yes," said Glaudot. He concentrated his will on creating a single
flower in the new field of grass. He concentrated his whole being.

But nothing happened.

He glared almost angrily at Robin, as if it were her fault. "I don't
have the power you have," he said.

She nodded. "Only Charlie and me." She looked at the roan stallion.
"Beauty, isn't he? I'll present him to Charlie." She turned to Glaudot.
"Now take me to the ship."

"We ought to get started back there, Mr. Glaudot," Chandler said.

"Yes? Why?"

"But--but I don't have to tell you why! This girl is one of the most
important discoveries that has ever been made. The ability to create
material things ... out of nothing...."

"Show me your planet," Glaudot told Robin, ignoring the younger man. "We
can talk about the spaceship later. You see, I'm an explorer and it's
my job to explore new worlds." He spoke slowly, simply, as he would
speak to a child. Somehow, although the girl was not a child and was
quite the most astonishingly beautiful girl he had ever seen, he thought
that was the right approach.

"Now wait a minute, Mr. Glaudot," Chandler protested. "We both know it's
our duty to bring her to Captain Purcell."

"Maybe you think it's your duty," Glaudot told the younger man. "I don't
think it's mine. And before you run off to the ship to tell that
precious captain of yours, you ought to know that you'd be dead right
now if it hadn't been for me."


"Hell, yes. Those Indians or whatever they were killed you. I asked the
girl to bring you back to life."

"To bring--" echoed Chandler his mouth falling open.

"Actually, she produced a perfect copy of you. A living copy. Do you see
what she offers us, Chandler? Infinite wealth from creativity out of
nothing--and eternal life by copying our bodies each time we die! What
do you say about your precious captain now?"

Chandler seemed confused. He shook his head, staring first at Glaudot
and then at Robin. "The ship," he said. "Our duty ... the captain ..."

Glaudot snorted and told Robin: "Kill him."

"Kill him?"

"Yes. You brought him into being. Now send him out of being."

"But I can't do that. I have no further control once I make something.
And besides I--I wouldn't kill a human being, even if I could."

Fear was in Chandler's eyes. "Mr. Glaudot, listen ..." he began.

"Listen, hell," Glaudot said. "I brought you back to life. I offered you
a share in the greatest power the worlds have ever known. You turned it
down. I'm sorry, Chandler. I'm really sorry for you. But I can't let you
return to the ship, you see. Not until I learn some more about this
world, not until I understand exactly what the girl's power is, and
consolidate my position."

* * * * *

Without waiting to hear more, Chandler began to run. In three great
bounds he reached the grazing roan stallion and leaped on its back,
digging his heels into its flanks. The stallion moved off at a quick
trot as Glaudot drew his blaster and took dead aim at Chandler's
retreating back.

When he had Chandler squarely in his sights, Glaudot began to squeeze
the trigger. But suddenly the trigger-housing-unit of the blaster became
encumbered with tiny vines. There were hundreds of them writhing and
crawling all over the weapon and getting in the sights too so Glaudot
could no longer aim. By the time he tore the vines clear, cursing
savagely, the roan stallion had taken Chandler out of sight on his
retreat toward the spaceship.

Glaudot whirled on Robin. "You did this!" he accused her. "You did it.

"You were going to kill him. You shouldn't have."

"But now you've ruined everything. Not just for me. For us, don't you
see? I could have laid the world at your feet. I could have--listen!
Tell me this--is there any place we can hide? Some place they won't find
us if they come looking, while we work on this power of yours and see
exactly what it can do and what it can't do?"

"I want to see the spaceship, please," said Robin.

"Afterwards, I promise you," Glaudot said. "Why, we can make all the
spaceships we want--out of nothing. Can't we?"

"Yes," said Robin. "I guess so. But even if we hide from your friends,
my friend Charlie will find us. He'll be worried about me and he'll find
us. Charlie can do everything I can do, you see."

* * * * *

Glaudot stared at her with anger in his eyes. Then something else
replaced the anger. No, he thought, Charlie couldn't do everything she
could do. She was beautiful. Her half-nude body summoned desire in him.
Tentatively, ready to withdraw his hand at the first indication of
protest, he touched her bare shoulder. She made no response. She merely
stood there, waiting for some kind of an answer from him.

"Then we'll have to hide from Charlie too. Please believe me," Glaudot
said. "I'm a spaceman and you know very little about spacemen. Do you
want to learn?"

"Yes. Yes, I do."

"Then take me some place even Charlie will have difficulty finding us."

"But he'll know."

"What do you mean he'll know? Don't tell me you can read one another's

"Oh, goodness, no. Nothing like that. But when we were very little I
once told Charlie if ever I got mad at him I would go to hide in the
country of the Cyclopes and he would never be able to find me because
the Cyclopes would eat him. That was after we read about the Cyclopes in
the Ulysses story in our encyclopedia. You see?"

"Cyclopes, huh? You really mean one-eyed giants?"

"Yes. We made them but they don't obey us."

"Can the two of us hide in their land? Is it far?"

"No. Very close. But I don't know if I want--"

"I'm a spaceman, aren't I? And you want to learn all about spacemen and
the worlds beyond this place, don't you? Then come with me!"


"If you say no and I go back to the spaceship we'll blast off and you'll
never see spacemen again the rest of your life," threatened Glaudot.

Robin did not answer. "Well?" Glaudot snapped, as if he was quite
indifferent. "Would you want that to happen?"

"No," Robin admitted after a while.

"Then let's go." They had to hurry, Glaudot knew. Riding that stallion,
that incredible conjured-out-of-nothing stallion, Chandler had probably
reached the spaceship by now. A few words, a few hurried explanations,
and Purcell would lead an armed party out after Glaudot.

Again Robin was silent. Glaudot stood stiffly in front of her, so close
he could reach out and wrap his arms about her. But this wasn't the
time, he told himself. Later ... later ...

"All right," Robin said at last, her eyes looking troubled. "I'll take
you to the land of Cyclopes."

They began to walk, in silence. Half an hour later, the barren terrain
of rocks gave way to a verdant jungle in which the trees were quite the
biggest Glaudot had ever seen and in which even the grass and the
fragrant wild flowers grew over their heads. Glaudot had never felt so

* * * * *

"Wait a minute, Chandler," Captain Purcell said. "I listened in silence
to what you said. All of it, as incredible as it sounded. But you don't
expect me to believe--"

"Look at the horse. Where did I get the horse, sir?"

"So there are horses on this world. So what?"

"But I saw the girl create it out of thin air!"

"Really, Chandler."

"And I saw the corpse. My corpse, Captain. Mine!"

"But hell, man. Glaudot would have come back here with the girl. He
knows his obligation to civilization. He--"

"Glaudot, sir? Does he?"

Purcell scowled and said finally: "Chandler, either you and Glaudot have
made the most astonishing discovery since man first domesticated his
environment and so became more than a reasonably clever animal, or
you're the biggest liar that ever crossed deep space."

Chandler offered his captain a pale smile. "Why don't you find out
which, sir?"

"By God," said Purcell, "I will. McCreedy!" he bawled over the intercom.
"Smith! Wong! I want an armed expedition of twenty-five men ready to
leave the ship in half an hour."

And, exactly half an hour later, the expedition set out with Captain
Purcell and Chandler leading it. Chandler went astride the roan

* * * * *

When Charlie and his small Indian band learned that the action had taken
place to the south, where Robin had gone, they set out quickly in that
direction. The further they went, the more worried Charlie became. If
Robin had met with any kind of success, if she had called off the war
party and established some kind of peaceful relations with the spacemen,
a runner would have been sent to tell them. But the desolate rock-strewn
terrain stretched out before them as devoid of life as the Paleozoic

Charlie urged his men on relentlessly. He was a tireless hiker and since
the braves lived by hunting they could match almost any pace he set.
Finally Charlie saw the second Indian band ahead of them. Slinging the
Mannlicher Elephant Gun, he began to run.

"Tashtu!" he called. "Tashtu!"

The Indian sprinted to him. "Lord," he said breathlessly, "one sky
critter, him die. Turn out man."

"What are you talking about?" Charlie asked.

Tashtu led him to the group of braves which still clustered about Ensign
Chandler's body. "Why?" Charlie demanded, horror-struck. "Why?"

Tashtu told him all that had happened. How the braves had mistaken the
spacesuited man for a monster. How arrows had been fired before they had
learned otherwise. How Robin had come, and gone off with the spaceman.

"To their spaceship?" Charlie asked.

"Yes, Lord. That is what they spoke of." Tashtu pointed to the top of
the rampart of rock. "From there, Lord, you can see it."

Charlie scrambled up the rock. From his giddy perch on top he could see
the tiny silver gleam of the spaceship--and a band of men, led by a man
on horseback, approaching them. Charlie hurried down the rock, half
climbing, half sliding. "They are coming," he said. "Maybe Robin's with
them." He remembered what had happened last time and said: "The rest of
you return to your homes. Tashtu and I will go on ahead."

"But Lord--" Tashtu began.


"I did not like the man. I did not trust him."

"Then why did you let Robin go?"

"Let her, Lord? But surely Robin, the Lady Robin, does not obey a

"All right, all right," Charlie said. "But all the more reason for the
rest of the braves to return to their homes. We can handle this, Tashtu,
you and I. I don't want any more killing."

"Yes, Lord," said Tashtu.

The Indians formed a marching column and moved off. Charlie told Tashtu
what he had seen from the top of the rampart. Then he added: "Let's go
and meet them."

And Charlie and Tashtu set out across the tortuous Wild Country.

* * * * *

"Two men coming!" Chandler cried, reining up the roan stallion.

Captain Purcell signaled his twenty-five men to halt, and their orderly
double file came up short behind him. Pretty soon the two figures could
be seen by all, advancing toward them across the rocks. When they were
close enough, Captain Purcell hailed: "We come in peace!"

"And in peace we come!" Charlie called. A moment later he was shaking
hands gravely with Captain Purcell.

"Tell the captain about--about my corpse," Chandler told Tashtu.

Charlie looked at Chandler. He had seen the dead man. "Did Robin make
you?" he asked in surprise. "We never brought the dead to life before."

"Can you really do it?" Purcell demanded.

"No, not really. But we can copy perfectly--and the copies live."

"You see?" Chandler demanded triumphantly.

Captain Purcell said: "Show me."

* * * * *

Charlie created a brother to the roan stallion. Captain Purcell gawked.
The one example sufficed and he did not ask for more as Glaudot had

"Where's Robin?" Charlie asked. "At the ship?"

Chandler shook his head. "Glaudot went off with her."

"But I thought he was on the ship!"

"He deserted," Chandler said. "With the girl. He wants her. He wants her
power for himself."

Charlie moved very quickly. He swung in front of Chandler and grabbed
his tunic-front, bunching it, ripping it and all but dragging Chandler
clear off his feet before a hand could be raised to stop him. "Where did
they go?" he asked in a terrible voice. "Where are they? Take me to

"But I don't--don't know!" Chandler protested, trying without success to
break free.

It was Captain Purcell who came forward and firmly took Charlie's arm,
pulling him clear of Chandler. "Remember," he said. "In peace. In

Charlie stood with his hands at his sides. His face was white and
strained. "The girl," he said.

"We all want to find out where Glaudot took her," Captain Purcell said.
"We're going to help you. Tell me: could the girl have gone willingly
with Glaudot? To share his mad dream of power, perhaps?"

"Robin?" Charlie cried. "Never!"

"Please, lad," Captain Purcell said. "I want you to think. I want you to
consider everything. You and this girl of yours may have almost godlike
powers, but you've spent your lives on an uncivilized world and
well--frankly--couldn't a sophisticated man like Glaudot turn the girl's
head? Couldn't he confuse her into going off with him, at least
temporarily? And, assuming, he did, he doesn't know this world. He's
aware of that. He'd know we'd be coming after him. Perhaps the girl
would tell him about you. Tell me, man--where would the girl go if she
didn't want you to find her? Is there such a place? Before you answer, I
want you to know that what we do here may be far graver than you think.
It is not merely the safety of one girl we have to consider--but no, you
wouldn't understand ..."

"You mean," Charlie asked, "if this man Glaudot somehow convinces Robin
to use her power as he tells her, he might want to take over all of

"Do you mean this world? Is it called Crimson? Yes--and more than that.
There's no telling how far a man like Glaudot could go with such power.
And with the ability to create all the armament and all the deadly
weapons he needed, and all the missiles to carry those weapons, he might
challenge the entire galaxy--and win!"

The words were strange to Charlie. He only understood them vaguely. Now
Robin, she would understand, he thought. Robin was always more
interested in things like that, Robin who almost knew their encyclopedia
by heart, Robin ...

"Listen," he said. "Listen. We created all the life on this world. We
made Greeks and Royal Navymen and Ministers and Russians and Congressmen
and everything we knew or somehow had heard about or had read in our
book. We get along fine with all of them, except ..."

"Yes," Captain Purcell prompted. "Go on, go on!"

"No, she'd never go there. She was always afraid of them."

"Where, man? Where?"

"No. Robin wouldn't. She just wouldn't."

It was not hot in Wild Country, but sweat trickled down Purcell's face
while he waited for Charlie's answer.

* * * * *

"Show me!" cried Glaudot in rapture. "Show me! Show me! Show me!"

He stood with Robin in a little glade in the Land of the Cyclopes. About
them were heaped all the treasures Glaudot had suddenly demanded. He did
not quite know why. He felt his iron control slipping and permitted it
to slip now, for once he got this wild desire from his system, he knew
only his untroubled iron will would be left, and with it--and the
girl--he might conquer the galaxy.

Heaped about them were jewels and precious metals and deadly weapons,
all of which Robin had summoned into being at Glaudot's orders, while
Glaudot smiled at her. It was almost a frightening smile. She was even a
little sorry she had come away with him, but she could always go back,
couldn't she? She wasn't shackled to this strange man from space, was
she? And the way he looked at her, the desire she saw in his eyes, that
was frightening too. She did not know how to cope with it. Oh, she could
create a duplicate Charlie, for example. Charlie would know what to do.
Charlie would help her. Charlie hadn't read the book as she had read it,
but Charlie was more practical. Still, what would they do with the
duplicate Charlie afterwards? You couldn't uncreate something ...

"A spaceship," Glaudot said suddenly. "Can you create a spaceship out of

* * * * *

Robin nodded slowly. "I can. Yes, I can. It tells all about spaceships
in the book. But I don't know if I want to."

Glaudot let it pass. There was no hurry. He was thinking about the
future, though. If Purcell opposed him, as Purcell would, and managed
to escape in the exploration ship, Glaudot would need a ship to leave
this world ...

"Why not?" he asked, his voice quite calm now, the mania which had
seized him under control now, and only his iron purpose motivating him.

"I--I don't know. You have one spaceship. I guess that's why. What do
you need another one for?"

"It was just a thought," said Glaudot. "It doesn't matter." He kneeled
near the heaps of sun-dazzled jewels. He let them trickle through his
fingers. No, the desire wasn't gone yet. It was still fighting with his
will. And, since he knew his will could win at any time, it pleased him
to give his desire free rein.

He scooped up a handful of jewels. He found a necklace and came close to
Robin and dropped it over her head. The pearls were very white against
her sun-tanned skin. The pearl pendant hung almost to the start of the
dusky valley which cleaved her breasts delightfully and disappeared with
the tanned swell of flesh on either side into the gold-mesh halter.
Glaudot fingered the pendant. His fingers touched flesh. Abruptly he
drew the surprised Robin to him and kissed her lips hungrily.

For a moment she remained passive. She neither returned his ardor nor
fought it. But when his hand

Next: Prologue A Race For A Woman

Previous: Unthinkable

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