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The planet savers, p.1
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       The Planet Savers, p.1

         Part #1 of Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley
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The Planet Savers

  Produced by Greg Weeks, Meredith Bach, and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at

  [Transcriber's Note:

  This etext was produced from Amazing Stories, November, 1958. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

  Curly brackets and a preceding underscore have been used to indicate subscripted numbers.]







  the planet savers

  _Marion Zimmer Bradley has written some of the finest science fiction in print. She has been away from our pages too long. So this story is in the nature of a triumphant return. It could well be her best to date._

  By the time I got myself all the way awake I thought I was alone. I waslying on a leather couch in a bare white room with huge windows,alternate glass-brick and clear glass. Beyond the clear windows was aview of snow-peaked mountains which turned to pale shadows in theglass-brick.

  Habit and memory fitted names to all these; the bare office, the orangeflare of the great sun, the names of the dimming mountains. But beyond apolished glass desk, a man sat watching me. And I had never seen the manbefore.

  He was chubby, and not young, and had ginger-colored eyebrows and afringe of ginger-colored hair around the edges of a forehead which wasotherwise quite pink and bald. He was wearing a white uniform coat, andthe intertwined caduceus on the pocket and on the sleeve proclaimed hima member of the Medical Service attached to the Civilian HQ of theTerran Trade City.

  I didn't stop to make all these evaluations consciously, of course. Theywere just part of my world when I woke up and found it taking shapearound me. The familiar mountains, the familiar sun, the strange man.But he spoke to me in a friendly way, as if it were an ordinary thing tofind a perfect stranger sprawled out taking a siesta in here.

  "Could I trouble you to tell me your name?"

  That was reasonable enough. If I found somebody making himself at homein my office--if I had an office--I'd ask him his name, too. I startedto swing my legs to the floor, and had to stop and steady myself withone hand while the room drifted in giddy circles around me.

  The man in the mirror was a stranger.]

  "I wouldn't try to sit up just yet," he remarked, while the floor calmeddown again. Then he repeated, politely but insistently, "Your name?"

  "Oh, yes. My name." It was--I fumbled through layers of what felt likegray fuzz, trying to lay my tongue on the most familiar of all sounds,my own name. It was--why, it was--I said, on a high rising note, "Thisis damn silly," and swallowed. And swallowed again. Hard.

  "Calm down," the chubby man said soothingly. That was easier said thandone. I stared at him in growing panic and demanded, "But, but, have Ihad amnesia or something?"

  "Or something."

  "What's my _name_?"

  "Now, now, take it easy! I'm sure you'll remember it soon enough. Youcan answer other questions, I'm sure. How old are you?"

  I answered eagerly and quickly, "Twenty-two."

  * * * * *

  The chubby man scribbled something on a card. "Interesting.In-ter-est-ing. Do you know where we are?"

  I looked around the office. "In the Terran Headquarters. From youruniform, I'd say we were on Floor 8--Medical."

  He nodded and scribbled again, pursing his lips. "Can you--uh--tell mewhat planet we are on?"

  I had to laugh. "Darkover," I chuckled, "I hope! And if you want thenames of the moons, or the date of the founding of the Trade City, orsomething--"

  He gave in, laughing with me. "Remember where you were born?"

  "On Samarra. I came here when I was three years old--my father was inMapping and Exploring--" I stopped short, in shock. "He's dead!"

  "Can you tell me your father's name?"

  "Same as mine. Jay--Jason--" the flash of memory closed down in themiddle of a word. It had been a good try, but it hadn't quite worked.The doctor said soothingly, "We're doing very well."

  "You haven't told me anything," I accused. "Who are you? Why are youasking me all these questions?"

  He pointed to a sign on his desk. I scowled and spelled out the letters."Randall ... Forth ... Director ... Department ..." and Dr. Forth made anote. I said aloud, "It is--_Doctor_ Forth, isn't it?"

  "Don't you know?"

  I looked down at myself, and shook my head. "Maybe _I'm_ Doctor Forth,"I said, noticing for the first time that I was also wearing a white coatwith the caduceus emblem of Medical. But it had the wrong feel, as if Iwere dressed in somebody else's clothes. _I_ was no doctor, was I? Ipushed back one sleeve slightly, exposing a long, triangular scar underthe cuff. Dr. Forth--by now I was sure _he_ was Dr. Forth--followed thedirection of my eyes.

  "Where did you get the scar?"

  "Knife fight. One of the bands of those-who-may-not-enter-cities caughtus on the slopes, and we--" the memory thinned out again, and I saiddespairingly, "It's all confused! What's the matter? Why am I up onMedical? Have I had an accident? Amnesia?"

  "Not exactly. I'll explain."

  I got up and walked to the window, unsteadily because my feet wanted towalk slowly while I felt like bursting through some invisible net andstriding there at one bound. Once I got to the window the room stayedput while I gulped down great breaths of warm sweetish air. I said, "Icould use a drink."

  "Good idea. Though I don't usually recommend it." Forth reached into adrawer for a flat bottle; poured tea-colored liquid into a throwawaycup. After a minute he poured more for himself. "Here. And sit down,man. You make me nervous, hovering like that."

  I didn't sit down. I strode to the door and flung it open. Forth's voicewas low and unhurried.

  "What's the matter? You can go out, if you want to, but won't you sitdown and talk to me for a minute? Anyway, where do you want to go?"

  The question made me uncomfortable. I took a couple of long breaths andcame back into the room. Forth said, "Drink this," and I poured it down.He refilled the cup unasked, and I swallowed that too and felt the hardlump in my middle begin to loosen up and dissolve.

  * * * * *

  Forth said, "Claustrophobia too. Typical," and scribbled on the cardsome more. I was getting tired of that performance. I turned on him totell him so, then suddenly felt amused--or maybe it was the liquorworking in me. He seemed such a funny little man, shutting himself upinside an office like this and talking about claustrophobia and watchingme as if I were a big bug. I tossed the cup into a disposal.

  "Isn't it about time for a few of those explanations?"

  "If you think you can take it. How do you feel now?"

  "Fine." I sat down on the couch again, leaning back and stretching outmy long legs comfortably. "What did you put in that drink?"

  He chuckled. "Trade secret. Now; the easiest way to explain would be tolet you watch a film we made yesterday."

  "To watch--" I stopped. "It's your time we're wasting."

  He punched a button on the desk, spoke into a mouthpiece. "Surveillance?Give us a monitor on--" he spoke a string of incomprehensible numbers,while I lounged at ease on the couch. Forth waited for an answer, thentouched another button and steel louvers closed noiselessly over thewindows, blacking them out. I rose in sudden panic, then relaxed as theroom went dark. The darkness felt oddly more normal than the light, andI leaned back and watched the flickers clear as one wall of the officebecame a large visionscreen. Forth came and sat beside me on the leathercouch, but in the picture Forth was there, sitting at his desk, watchinganother man, a stranger, walk into the office.
  Like Forth, the newcomer wore a white coat with the caduceus emblems. Idisliked the man on sight. He was tall and lean and composed, with adour face set in thin lines. I guessed that he was somewhere in histhirties. Dr.-Forth-in-the-film said, "Sit down, Doctor," and I drew along breath, overwhelmed by a curious, certain sensation.

  _I have been here before. I have seen this happen before._

  (And curiously formless I felt. I sat and watched, and I knew I waswatching, and sitting. But it was in that dreamlike fashion, where thedreamer at once watches his visions and participates in them....)

  * * * * *

  "Sit down, Doctor," Forth
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