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   Chapter 5 No.5

Uller Uprising By H. Beam Piper Characters: 18203

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

You Can Depend on It It's Wrong

Gongonk Island, with its blue-gray Company buildings, and the Terran green of the farms, and the spaceport with its ring of mooring-pylons empty since the City of Pretoria had lifted out, two days before, for Terra, was dropping away behind. Von Schlichten held his lighter for Paula Quinton, then lit his own cigarette.

"I was rather horrified, Friday afternoon, at the way you and Colonel O'Leary and Mr. Blount were blaspheming against Stanley-Browne," she said. "His book is practically the sociographers' Koran for this planet. But I've been checking up, since, and I find that everybody who's been here any length of time seems to deride it, and it's full of the most surprising misstatements. I'm either going to make myself famous or get burned at the stake by the Extraterrestrial Sociographic Society after I get back to Terra. In the last three months, I've been really too busy with Ex-Rights work to do much research, but I'm beginning to think there's a great deal in Stanley-Browne's book that will have to be reconsidered."

"How'd you get into this, Miss Quinton?" he asked.

"You mean sociography, or Ex-Rights? Well, my father and my grandfather were both extraterrestrial sociographers-anthropologists whose subjects aren't anthropomorphic-and I majored in sociography at the University of Montevideo. And I've always been in sympathy with extraterrestrial races; one of my great-grandmothers was a Freyan."

"The deuce; I'd never have guessed that, as small and dark as you are."

"Well, another of my great-grandmothers was Japanese," she replied. "The family name's French. I'm also part Spanish, part Russian, part Italian, part English ... the usual modern Argentine mixture."

"I'm an Argentino, too. From La Rioja, over along the Sierra de Velasco. My family lived there for the past five centuries. They came to the Argentine in the Year Three, Atomic Era."

"On account of the Hitler bust-up?"

"Yes. I believe the first one, also a General von Schlichten, was what was then known as a war-criminal."

"That makes us partners in crime, then," she laughed. "The Quintons had to leave France about the same time; they were what was known as collaborationists."

"That's probably why the Southern Hemisphere managed to stay out of the Third and Fourth World Wars," he considered. "It was full of the descendants of people who'd gotten the short end of the Second."

"Do you speak the Kragan language, general?" she asked. "I understand it's entirely different from the other Equatorial Ulleran languages."

"Yes. That's what gives the Kragans an entirely different semantic orientation. For instance, they have nothing like a subject-predicate sentence structure. That's why, Stanley-Browne to the contrary notwithstanding, they are entirely non-religious. Their language hasn't instilled in them a predisposition to think of everything as the result of an action performed by an agent. And they have no definite parts of speech; any word can be used as any part of speech, depending on context. Tense is applied to words used as nouns, not words used as verbs; there are four tenses-spatial-temporal present, things here-and-now; spatial present and temporal remote, things which were here at some other time; spatial remote and temporal present, things existing now somewhere else, and spatial-temporal remote, things somewhere else some other time."

"Why, it's a wonder they haven't developed a Theory of Relativity!"

"They have. It resembles ours about the way the Wright Brothers' airplane resembles this aircar, but I was explaining the Keene-Gonzales-Dillingham Theory and the older Einstein Theory to King Kankad once, and it was beautiful to watch how he picked it up. Half the time, he was a jump ahead of me."

The aircar began losing altitude and speed as they came in over Kraggork Swamp; the treetops below blended into a level plain of yellow-green, pierced by glints of stagnant water underneath and broken by an occasional low hillock, sometimes topped by a stockaded village.

"Those are the swamp-savages' homes," he told her. "Most of what you find in Stanley-Browne about them is fairly accurate. He spent a lot of time among them. He never seems to have realized, though, that they are living now as they have ever since the first appearance of intelligent life on this planet."

"You mean, they're the real aboriginal people of Uller?"

"They and the Jeel cannibals, whom we are doing our best to exterminate," he replied. "You see, at one time, the dominant type of mobile land-life was the thing we call a shellosaur, a big thing, running from five to fifteen tons, plated all over with silicate shell, till it looked like a six-legged pine-cone. Some were herbivores and some were carnivores. There are a few left, in remote places-quite a few in the Southern Hemisphere, which we haven't explored very much. They were a satisfied life-form. Outside of a volcano or an earthquake or an avalanche, nothing could hurt a shellosaur but a bigger shellosaur.

"Finally, of course, they grew beyond their sustenance-limit, but in the meantime, some of them began specializing on mobility instead of armor and began excreting waste-matter instead of turning it to shell. Some of these new species got rid of their shell entirely. Parahomo sapiens Ulleris is descended from one of these.

"The shellosaurs were still a serious menace, though. The ancestors of the present Ulleran, the proto-geeks, when they were at about the Java Ape-Man stage of development, took two divergent courses to escape the shellosaurs. Some of them took to the swamps, where the shellosaurs would sink if they tried to follow. Those savages, down there, are still living in the same manner; they never progressed. Others encountered problems of survival which had to be overcome by invention. They progressed to barbarism, like the people of the fishing-villages, and some of them progressed to civilization, like the Konkrookans and the Keegarkans.

"Then, there were others who took to the high rocks, where the shellosaurs couldn't climb. The Jeels are the primitive, original example of that. Most of the North Uller civilizations developed from mountaineer-savages, and so did the Zirks and the other northern plains nomads."

"Well, how about the Kragans?" Paula asked. "Which were they?"

Von Schlichten was scanning the horizon ahead. He pulled over a pair of fifty-power binoculars on a swinging arm and put them where she could use them.

"Right ahead, there; just a little to the left. See that brown-gray spot on the landward edge of the swamp? That's King Kankad's Town. It's been there for thousands of years, and it's always been Kankad's Town. You might say, even the same Kankad. The Kragan kings have always provided their own heirs, by self-fertilization. That's a complicated process, involving simultaneous male and female masturbation, but the offspring is an exact duplicate of the single parent. The present Kankad speaks of his heir as 'Little Me,' which is a fairly accurate way of putting it."

He knew what she was seeing through the glasses-a massive butte of flint, jutting out into the swamp on the end of a sharp ridge, with a city on top of it. All the buildings were multi-storied, some piling upward from the top and some clinging to the sides. The high watchtower at the front now carried a telecast-director, aimed at an automatic relay-station on an unmanned orbiter two thousand miles off-planet.

"They're either swamp-people who moved up onto that rock, or they're mountaineers who came out that far along the ridge and stopped," she said. "Which?"

"Nobody's ever tried to find out. Maybe if you stay on Uller long enough, you can. That ought to be good for about eight to ten honorary doctorates. And maybe a hundred sols a year in book royalties."

"Maybe I'll just do that, general.... What's that, on the little island over there?" she asked, shifting the glasses. "A clump of flat-roofed buildings. Under a red-and-yellow danger-flag."

"That's Dynamite Island; the Kragans have an explosives-plant there. They make nitroglycerine, like all the thalassic peoples; they also make TNT and catastrophite, and propellants. Learned that from us, of course. They also manufacture most of their own firearms, some of them pretty extreme-up to 25-mm for shoulder rifles. Don't ever fire one; it'd break every bone in your body."

"Are they that much stronger than us?"

He shook his head. "Just denser, heavier. They're about equal to us in weight-lifting. They can't run, or jump, as well as we can. We often come out here for games with the Kragans, where the geeks can't watch us. And that reminds me-you're right about that being a term of derogation, because I don't believe I've ever knowingly spoken of a Kragan as a geek, and in fact they've picked up the word from us and apply it to all non-Kragans. But as I was saying, our baseball team has to give theirs a handicap, but their football team can beat the daylights out of ours.

In a tug-of-war, we have to put two men on our end for every one of theirs. But they don't even try to play tennis with us."

"Don't the other natives make their own firearms?"

"No, and we're not going to teach them how. The thalassic peoples here in the Equatorial Zone are fairly good empirical, teaspoon-measure, chemists. Well, no, alchemists. They found out how to make nitroglycerine, and use it for blasting and for bombs and mines, and they screw little capsules of it on the ends of their arrows. Most of their chemistry, such as it is, was learned in trying to prevent organic materials, like wood, from petrifying. Up in the north, where it gets cold, they learned a lot about metallurgy and ceramics, and about forced-draft pneumatics, from having to keep fires going all winter to thaw frozen food. They make air-rifles, to shoot metal darts."

The aircar came in, circling slowly over the town on the big rock, and let down on the roof of the castle-like building from which the watchtower rose. There were a dozen or so individuals waiting for them-the five Terrans, three men and two women, from the telecast station, and the rest Kragans. One of these, dark-skinned but with speckles no darker than light amber, armed only with a heavy dagger, came over and clapped von Schlichten on the shoulder, grinning opalescently.

"Greetings, Von!" he squawked in Kragan, then, seeing Paula, switched over to the customary language of the Takkad Sea country. "It makes happiness to see you. How long will you stay with us?"

"Till the Aldebaran gets in from Konkrook, to pick up the rifles," von Schlichten replied, in Lingua Terra. He looked at his watch. "Two hours and a half ... Kankad, this is Paula Quinton; Paula, King Kankad."

He took out his geek-speaker and crammed it into his mouth. Before any other race on Uller, that would have been the most shocking sort of bad manners, without the token-concealment of the handkerchief. Kankad took it as a matter of course. At some length, von Schlichten explained the nature of Paula's sociographic work, her connection with the Extraterrestrials' Rights Association, and her intention of going to the Arctic mines. Kankad nodded.

"You were right," he said. "I wouldn't have understood all that in your language. If I had read it, maybe, but not if I heard it." He put his upper right hand on Paula's shoulder and uttered a clicking approximation of her name. "I make you one of us," he told her. "You must come back, after the work stops at the mines; if you want to learn about my people, I'll show you what you want to see, and tell you what you want to know. But why not stay here? Why bother about those geeks at the mines; the Company treats them much better than they deserve. Stay here with us; we will make you happy to be with us."

Paula replied slowly: "I thank Kankad, but I must go. Those on Terra who sent me here want me to learn for myself how the workers at the mines are treated. But I will come back-in a hundred, a hundred and fifty days."

Kankad's opal-jeweled grin widened. "Good! We'll be waiting for you." He turned and introduced another Kragan, about his own age, who wore the equipment and insignia of a Company native-major and was freshly painted with the Company emblem. "This is Kormork. He and I have borne young to each other. Kormork, you watch over Paula Quinton." He managed, on the second try, to make it more or less recognizable. "Bring her back safe. Or else find yourself a good place to hide."

Kankad introduced the rest of his people, and von Schlichten introduced the Terrans from the telecast-station. Then Kankad looked at the watch he was wearing on his lower left wrist.

"We will have plenty of time, before the ship comes, to show Paula the town," he suggested. "Von, you know better than I do what she would like to see."

He led the way past a pair of long 90-mm guns to a stone stairway. Von Schlichten explained, as they went down, that the guns of King Kankad's Town were the only artillery above 75-mm on Uller in non-Terran hands. They climbed into an open machine-gun carrier and strapped themselves to their seats, and for two hours King Kankad showed her the sights of the town. They visited the school, where young Kragans were being taught to read Lingua Terra and studied from textbooks printed in Johannesburg and Sydney and Buenos Aires. Kankad showed her the repair-shops, where two-score descendants of Kragan riever-chieftains were working on contragravity equipment, under the supervision of a Scottish-Afrikaner and his Malay-Portuguese wife; the small-arms factory, where very respectable copies of Terran rifles and pistols and auto-weapons were being turned out; the machine-shop; the physics and chemistry labs; the hospital; the ammunition-loading plant; the battery of 155-mm Long Toms, built in Kankad's own shops, which covered the road up the sloping rock-spine behind the city; the printing-shop and book-bindery; the observatory, with a big telescope and an ingenious orrery of the Beta Hydrae system; the nuclear-power plant, part of the original price for giving up brigandage.

Half an hour before the ship from Konkrook was due, they had arrived at the airport, where a gang of Kragans were clearing a berth for the Aldebaran. From somewhere, Kankad produced two cold bottles of Cape Town beer for Paula and von Schlichten, and a bowl of some boiling-hot black liquid for himself. Von Schlichten and Paula lit cigarettes; between sips of his bubbling hell-brew, Kankad gnawed on the stalk of some swamp-plant. Paula seemed as much surprised at Kankad's disregard for the eating taboo as she had been at von Schlichten's open flouting of the convention of concealment when he had put in his geek-speaker.

"This is the only place on Uller where this happens," von Schlichten told her. "Here, or in the field when Terran and Kragan soldiers are together. There aren't any taboos between us and the Kragans."

"No," Kankad said. "We cannot eat each others' food, and because our bodies are different, we cannot be the fathers of each others' young. But we have been battle-comrades, and worksharers, and we have learned from each other, my people more from yours than yours from mine. Before you came, my people were like children, shooting arrows at little animals on the beach, and climbing among the rocks at dare-me-and-I-do, and playing war with toy weapons. But we are growing up, and it will not be long before we will stand beside you, as the grown son stands beside his parent, and when that day comes, you will not be ashamed of us."

It was easy to forget that Kankad had four arms and a rubbery, quartz-speckled skin, and a face like a lizard.

"I have always wished that some of your people could come to Terra, to study," von Schlichten said. "I was talking about it with Sid Harrington, only a short while ago. He thinks it would be a good thing, for your people and for mine."

"Yes. I want Little Me, when he's old enough to travel, to visit your world," Kankad said. "And some of the other young ones. And when Little Me is old enough to take over the rule of our people, I would like to go to Terra, myself."

"Some day, I am going to return to Terra; I would like to have you make the trip with me," von Schlichten said.

"That would be wonderful, Von!" Kankad exclaimed. "I want to see your world, before I die. It must be a wonderful place. A world is what its people make it, and your people must be able to make anything of your world that you would want."

"We almost made a lifeless desert, like the poles of Uller, out of our world, once," von Schlichten told him. "Four hundred and more years ago, we fought great wars among ourselves, with weapons such as I hope will never even be thought of on Uller. Our whole Northern Hemisphere, where our greatest nations were, was devastated; much of it is wasteland to this day. But we put an end to that folly in time; we made one nation out of all our people, and swore never to commit such crimes again, and then we built the ships that took us out to the stars. But I want you to see our world, and some of the other worlds that we have visited, I think you would like it."

"I know I would. And with you to tell me what the things I would see meant...." Kankad was silent for a moment. Then he spoke again, changing the subject abruptly.

"I hope Paula will pardon me, but isn't Paula the kind of Terran that bears young?"

"That's right, Kankad. I never bore any, yet, but that's the kind of Terran I am."

"I like Paula," Kankad said. "She has come all the way from Terra to help us, and to learn about us. Of course, the Kragans don't need that kind of help, and the geeks, who would stick a knife in her as soon as she turned her back on them, don't deserve it. But she wants to learn about us, just as I want to learn about Terra. Von, why don't you and Paula have young?" he asked. "I think that would be fine. Then, Little Paula-Von and Little Me could be friends, long after the three of us are dead and gone."

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