Sunday, December 20, 2009

Vardda : The Starmen Of Lyrdis - Leigh Brackett

"I know it must have, but I don't believe it." Trehearne shook his head. "Of all the incredible…
What were you doing there, Edri? How can you come and go on Earth without anyone knowing? What are the Vardda, besides—well, mutants?"
"Trailers. Merchants. The most commercial race in the galaxy." Edri lifted the cover off a tray on a small table by the bunk. "I brought your breakfast. Go ahead and eat while I gabble. How we come and go is fairly simple. We land at odd intervals, here and there in the waste spaces of which Earth has a number. We do our business, and after a while are picked up again. As I told you before, we're exceedingly careful, and the fact that hardly anyone on Earth would believe the truth if they were told it is a protection. Of course, trading in secret that way, we're limited in what we can take, and Earth exports—the genuine articles and not mere copies —command very high prices. You'd be
amazed at the value of French perfumes, Scotch whiskey, and American films on planets you never heard of."
"Do you trade with them all in secret?"
"Good Lord, no! Most worlds, even the very primitive ones, we can deal with quite openly. They might not like us, but they benefit enormously from our commerce."
"Then why not Earth?"
"Well," said Edri, "I don't like to offend your sensibilities as a native of the place, but Earth is a crazy planet. Oh, it's not the only one. There's a number of them scattered about, and we avoid open contact with all of them. You see, Trehearne, most worlds develop, or remain undeveloped, more or less homogeneously in the matter of civilization. I don't mean they're entirely peaceful, because they're not, but in the long run their populations are more predictable, more stable than on the Earth-type worlds that have grown up all out of joint. You know what I mean—on one side of the world atomic power, on the other the wooden plough and the blowgun. Too big a gap, and it makes trouble
all down the line. Now, a primitive society regards war as a sport and takes an honest pleasure in it. A society in a high state of culture regards it as something outgrown and obsolete as hunting game for food. Everybody knows where they are. But when you get a world with great big overlapping mobs of population, every one of them in a different stage of cultural development and every one of them subject to a constant bombardment of outside stimuli they can't assimilate, you have got a mixture that keeps exploding in all directions. We have a healthy desire not to get blown up, and besides, it's impossible to establish any profitable trade with a world continually torn by wars.
So—does that answer your question?"
"I take it," Trehearne said sourly, "that the Vardda don't think much of Earth."
"It's a good world. It'll settle down some day. Nobody can fight forever. They either knock themselves back into barbarism again, or they grow up."

4 out of 5

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