Jandrax 10

“What do you know about sensory deprivation?”
“Enough to recognize my own problem,” she snapped.

Andrax smiled. “Then you know that drawing into yourself at this moment is the worst thing you can do. Would it help to know that almost all the colonists feel as you do?”

Her shrug said I don’t know.

“Talk to Helene about it. Odds are she’ll share your feelings and you’ll both be better for the conversation.”

Jan continued to circulate, looking for trouble. At this crucial point, the psychological state of his charges bore more potential for danger than the environment. Later, when the first groups had begun to adjust, they would form a stable core on which the remaining colonists could lean.

He let his eyes encompass the empty horizon.

Damn! It was easier in the green belt where the danger was constant, but where there was not the potential for mass madness a potential exacerbated by the religious temper of the colony.

Within half a local year, the melt and the herds would reach this spot. Before that time, they must erect fortifications. For that they would need timber, but as yet he could spare no timber-cutting parties.

That girl, Angi. She had shown more signs of vertigo than most, but he had had an ulterior motive in seeking her out. She was young, pretty, and very female. With sixty-two male and only thirty-six female colonists, only those who adapted most quickly and realized the permanence of their plight, would find wives.

Polyandry would come later. It was inevitable.

***

Every day the landing craft brought down new colonists. Nur Mohammet and Tennyson Risley of the crew were working on a ground-effect machine to be used for surface transportation. Relying only on the landing craft to transport their daily meat would be unwise.

A month passed. The skimmer took over the run to the green belt – a shorter run every day. Only Captain Childe remained in orbit, unwilling yet to give up on the Lydia.

Jan took time every day to spend at least a few minutes with Angi, not neglecting to give attention to the half-dozen other girls of appropriate age. In his estimation, none of the others matched Angi, but one never knew. Angi’s suitors were increasing in number and boldness.

Jan had just managed to catch Angi alone when Tenn Risley found him.

“Jan. Its Jason. He’s been killed.”

Jan felt himself stiffen up inside. Of all his companions, the only one he would have called a friend was Jason. Angi touched his arm, saying, “I’m sorry.

“How did it happen?”

“Tree fell on him.” Jason had piloted the skimmer with a crew of colonists up into the mountains on a cutting expedition. “Dubois just called in to tell us. Someone has to hike up there because none of the cutters can run the skimmer.”

“Was anyone else hurt?” Angi asked.

“They didn’t say, so I suppose not. Oh, one of your brothers was on the crew, wasn’t he?”

“Yes. Jean.

***

Jan and Tenn started at daybreak. The skimmer required a fairly flat roadway, so it had followed the river Lydia. Jan and Tenn would have had to follow it anyway to stay near water. The air was so dry that they required vast quantities of liquid.

The cutters met them and Jan offered each a brief nod. He knew everyone by now. It was his job to do so. Jean Dumezil, Angi’s younger brother, wore his usual flat expression, but Alexandre Chambard and Lucien Dubois were clearly moved.

They had covered the body with a sleeping bag.

*****

A couple of notes here on words I would change if I were rewriting.

Paragraph 6, exacerbate. It’s exactly the right word for meaning, but the wrong word for mood. Today I would say made worse.

Paragraph 9, polyandry. Again, the perfect word was the wrong word. I should have said polygamy and accepted the slight loss of accuracy. By the way, if you didn’t take Anthropology 101, polygamy is multiple spouses, polygyny is multiple wives, and polyandry is multiple husbands.

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