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Bart leaned his weight against the length of tough vine while Ed slid the pole under it again and heaved up. There was a snapping, popping sound as a few more tendrils parted. Ed grunted, straightened up, mopped his neck and forehead.

"Rest a minute."

Bart nodded, and the two men stood beside the vine, breathing hard. Across the clearing from them was an L-shaped row of log cabins. Three cabins near the middle of the L were fire-blackened on the side facing the clearing. The center cabin had its door charred through, and its roof burnt partway off. In the field, a little beyond the burned group of cabins, stood a big red dozer. The protective coating on the side of the dozer toward the forest was blistered and peeling.

Bart saw this without really being aware of it. He even glanced over the third of the three cabins without noticing the shape in lighter brown outlined against the charred black. A stranger would have been struck by this shape, which looked like a life-sized, child's drawing of a woman. The legs and trunk were much lighter than the black wood, with a darker outline of coat and skirt, and a faint, arm-length blur reaching toward the blackened cabin door. Bart was used to this, and vaguely noticed it only when Ed said, "I wonder how they'll make out?"

Bart looked around, noticed a little group of men around and under the dozer, and two others slowly walking back from the far end of the field, where there was a row of low rectangular mounds with fresh evergreen boughs laid on them like flowers. Opposite the cabins was a thing that Bart looked at only briefly. He glanced at Ed, and realized that was what Ed was looking at. Ordinarily, Bart avoided the sight of this thing, but he looked at it now.

Across from the cabins, looking unreal and foreign against the trees, was a tall, silvery cylinder about fifteen feet through the base, and tapering to a slender rod at the top. Up the side of this cylinder, and in a ring around the top third of it were big pink letters spelling out:




At the base of the cylinder, looking up at it, were three men. Two were carrying a long rough ladder made of poles. The other had a coil of rope and a crowbar.

Bart looked away from the Hi There! III, and spat on the bare dirt. He said, "If you want the truth, Ed, they've got about as much chance to get in there with that crowbar, as you and I have to cultivate this field with our fingernails."

"I'll bet there's a lot of stuff in there, if we could get it open."

"Sure," said Bart. "As I said the middle of last winter."

Ed looked uncomfortable. Bart said, "We could have chopped him out of the bush in a day, if we'd all worked at it. While the body was intact, we could have held his hands to the lockplate, opened that ship's hatch, and now we'd have it done and over with."

"We had to bury the women."

"Will you kindly tell me why we couldn't have waited a day longer?"

Ed's eyes glinted. He said evenly, "My Nan had a hard life here."

Bart shut his eyes a moment. He said carefully, "I know that, Ed. She was a hard-working woman."

"She was. A good woman."

"That's right."

"It is."

"But we could have waited one day."

"It wouldn't have shown respect. If heavy snow came it might have been spring before we—"

A throaty female call interrupted them.

They looked around. A tall shapely woman wearing a thin dress stood away from the end cabin and called, "Sup-per! Come and get it, boys!"

She repeated this call several times. Bart and Ed glanced at each other. Bart thought of the conversation just past, and said, "I'm sorry, Ed. I don't know how I got onto that again."

Ed's face creased into a slow smile. "That's all right. You may be right, for all I know. I just couldn't have done it that way, that's all."

They started across the field, the raw earth lumpy underfoot. In front of them the woman who had called turned and started back toward the cabin. It would have required great preoccupation not to see that the dress she was wearing tightly molded her figure. This wasn't ideal in a colony where four men had lost their wives in the last six months; but then, this was just one of her ways of stirring up trouble.

Ed squinted at the woman, and growled, "Maybe I shouldn't say it, seeing I'm his brother, but it seems to me Sam could have found a better wife to bring out here than her."

Bart nodded. "If you could persuade him to tone her down a little, it would be a big help."

Ed grunted. "I've tried to warn him what's going to happen. Look what I got for my pains." He put his finger to his lip, to show a badly chipped front tooth.

Bart shook his head. They walked in silence to the cabin, and pushed open the door.

A long table was set up inside the cabin, and two attractive, plainly-dressed women with severe facial expressions were putting stewed meat and potatoes on the table. A tall well-built man had his back turned and was laughing and talking to Sam's wife, who said, "That's simply fascinating, Lonny. You tell me the rest after supper, now."

Ed shut the door hard, and Lonny turned around. He was about six feet tall, and had wavy black hair which he managed to trim short and neat. He was clean-shaven, and smiled with a flash of white teeth.

Ed said, "Sam's coming."

"That so?" said Lonny. He laughed and looked at Sam's wife, who smiled.

Bart said, "Any news?"

Lonny glanced at Bart, and said, "Oh, on the uniwave?"

Bart nodded, and ladled some of the steaming hot stew into his bowl.

Lonny said, "I was just telling Linda. We've got visitors coming. Women."

Bart spilled some of the stew. "Women?"


The door opened and several bearded, tired-looking men filed in. One was a powerfully-built man with a pugnacious look. Sam's wife gave a little throaty cry as he came in. He strode over to her with a possessive look, and bent to kiss her. She tilted her head back, and leaned close to him. The room was silent as they kissed. Bart glanced around and saw that every male eye in the room except his own was fixed on this kiss.

The door came open again, and some more men came in. These were the three from the ship. They were talking as they came in, but stopped as they saw Sam and his wife. In the silence that followed their closing of the door, the kiss went on. One of the men who'd come in glanced around and grinned. "Why so quiet? This a library or something. Hey, Lonny, what's the news?"

Lonny turned around, his face flat and pale.

Sam's wife was now making little noises in her throat. One of the other women stamped her foot, set a tray down hard, and went through an inner door to the other room of the cabin. As she went out, she slammed the door behind her.

The kiss was now gradually starting to break up. The grand finale came as Linda broke away from Sam, her gaze fixed on his, lips tremulous, and a promise plain and clear in every motion. In just a moment now, she would give a shaky half-moan, half-sigh, then turn away and leave the room. Bart was waiting for this moment. So were the rest of the men in the room. Just before it came, Bart said clearly, "Lonny says we're getting some visitors—a bunch of new women."

The men at the table and standing by the door blinked and glanced at Bart. Bart was watching Linda, and saw her eyes narrow. Bart grinned and said, "You said that, didn't you, Lonny? About the women?"

Lonny took a deep breath. "Yeah."

Every male in the room except Bart and Sam was now watching Lonny, who glanced down frowning at his hands clenched white-knuckled at the edge of the table. Bart was still watching Sam's wife, who cast a venomous glance at him, and went out, closing the door a little harder than usual. Sam blinked, then turned around with a puzzled look.

Somebody said, "Snap out of it, Lonny. What's this about women coming? Is that the truth?"

Lonny nodded.

There was an eager silence, and Lonny said, "It isn't what you think. You know what ship they're coming on?"

"No. It's not time yet for the supply ship."

Lonny said bitterly, "Well, then, brace yourself. They're coming on the Hi There! IV."

There was a moment of silence. In this silence, there went through Bart's mind the whole chain of events that had come about after the Hi There! III had come down. He remembered the surprise of the colony as the shining space yacht set down during the first real flurries of winter. He remembered the eagerness with which everyone greeted the stranger. After all, he would have news. Anything seemed welcome that would vary the dull monotony of winter. Bart could still remember the big hatch swinging open and the stranger floating out on a fair-sized dish-shaped grav-skimmer, glancing down and aiming a glittering contraption with a multitude of knobs and lenses at them, and saying:

"Stay just like that, there. That's it. Ah." There was a clicking and a flashing, then the skimmer drifted down to a little above their level. The stranger, nattily dressed, leaned over the side. "Any sport round-about?"

"Sport?" said someone, blank-faced.

"Sport. Hunting. Fishing. You know."

Bart said, "You're a little late. Most of the meat animals on this planet either hibernate or go south for the winter. You'd better leave the fish alone. We lost a man eating fish when we first got here."

The visitor's eyebrows climbed. "Really?"

"Yes. Some of the fish are poisonous. We don't know which are and which aren't."

"Is that so? Fascinating." He glanced away, then looked back. "Do you bury your people?"


"When they die. Do you bury them?"

Bart frowned. "Of course. Why?"

"Where's this chap buried? The one who ate the fish."

Bart glanced across to the far edge of the field, where snow was heaped on the arms of a rough wooden cross.

The visitor followed Bart's gaze. "Oh, yes. Fine." He raised his complexity of knobs and multiple lenses. Snap! Whir. "Splendid," he said. He glanced at Bart. "Any more graves handy?"

"No," said Bart.

"Do you have any scenery? Anything worth looking at?"

Bart didn't say anything for a moment, and the visitor said, "Well, I'll look around. Don't let me keep you." The skimmer rose and paused. The lenses swung across the clearing toward the cabins. Snap! Whir. Snap! Whir. Snap! Whir. The skimmer swung off toward the south and vanished over the trees. The crowd remained standing at the base of the ship. Up above, the big hatch swung silently shut.

Someone turned to Bart. "Too bad you didn't tell him the fish were good to eat."

Before the coming of the Hi There! III, Bart could remember that the colony had been troubled with grudges, misunderstandings, poor crops, lean hunts, insects, wild animals, a lack of tools, equipment and conveniences, and all the things that plague the first isolated colonies on new worlds. But they had never before felt quite the way they felt after the Hi There! III came.

This chain of thought ran on through Bart's head as he looked at Lonny and the other silent men around the table. One of them said thickly, "Who's on the Hi There! IV?"

Lonny said, "I don't know if I got the name right. I think it was Mrs. Sidney Siddleigh-Varnov. That would be his wife . . . I mean widow. And her three daughters."

"When are they coming?"


Bart said, "Did you talk to her yourself?"

"No. Brewster at South Two called me up. They came down there yesterday. The woman wanted to know what happened to her husband. Brewster was sympathetic, at first. He told her her husband had landed here. When he tried to tell her what happened later, she got mad. Brewster said she instructed him to inform us that she was coming here immediately and would demand a satisfactory explanation. I think that was how it was worded."

A noise of disgust went around the table.

Bart said, "Well, let's eat."

After supper, Bart and Ed went back across the field to the root. The sun had set, but it was still light. Ed picked up his pole and slid it under the root. Bart took hold of the length of vine. They heaved. There was a light snapping noise, like the ripping of cloth. They looked at each other.

Bart said, "It's rooted again."

Ed nodded. "I wish we had the dozer going. The dozer could dig this out in no time now."

They heaved, and pried. Occasionally, there was the loud snap and pop of sizable rootlets parting. When they could get no further prying at it, they dug. Finally they stopped to rest.

Ed said, "At least, he came in the winter."

Bart blinked, then saw that Ed was looking toward the three men working on the Hi There! III.


"Then," said Ed, "at least we had our work done. She's going to get here just when we've got to put everything we've got into our work. Otherwise, we starve this winter."

Bart nodded. "But I will bet we don't get much work done while she's here."

Ed glanced down at the root, and said stubbornly, "We're going to get this out."

Bart glanced down at the thing and nodded. He looked up at the chopped-off dead vine dangling overhead. It was thick and tough-looking, just as the vine attached to the live root was thick and tough. Bart noticed a trace of green on the root. "We aren't going to have much time to do it. That thing is putting out shoots already."

"We can't let it get into its second year!"

"I know." He glanced at Ed. "You want to work all night? We can get it out by morning."

Ed nodded. They built a small fire not far away, piled up plenty of extra wood to have on hand, and went on working. Gradually, it got dark.

It was late at night when they came to a place where the root had a head-sized bulge in it, then narrowed down and divided into two parts, each no bigger than a man's thumb.

"Ahh," said Bart, "here we are." He felt along the roots and carefully dug away the dirt around them. He tugged carefully, then dug some more. He felt Ed's hand on his shoulder. The hand tightened. Bart stood still.

Ed growled, "Wind's shifted. Listen."

Bart straightened up slowly. There was a light breeze on his face, from the direction of the cabins. He heard a low masculine voice, and a higher-pitched woman's voice. The sounds of the woman's voice reached him distinctly, "Lonny, dear, what if Sam should wake up?"

Ed swore in a strangled voice, and started to move forward. Bart grabbed his arm. "Wait a minute. She's going to make trouble no matter what we do. If we stop her tonight, we'll have trouble tomorrow night. But if we get this root out now, we're through with it. If we don't there'll be no end of trouble."

"She's my brother's wife."

Bart groaned. "Yes, but look, Ed, you can't stop her. We can stop this root."

"I've got to do it. Let go my arm."

Bart let go. Ed disappeared into the darkness.

Bart swallowed. He bent down and felt the root. He took a deep breath, and worked slowly. The root was only the thickness of his thumb, but it remained that way as he dug. He tugged at it gently, but it stayed firm.

From across the field as he worked came a low giggling. Then there was a gruff voice and a sort of indrawn scream. Next came a thudding and grunting noise. Bart listened to it for a while, then went back to work on the root. After a while, there was a louder thud, and he heard Ed's voice saying what sounded like, "You stay right here."

"Good," thought Bart. He consoled himself that at least Ed had won. Not that he could see what good it would do. He was thinking this several minutes later, when there was a thunderous roar, a blaze of light, and a slim silver shape dropped toward the clearing.

Bart jumped out of the hole, and dove into the nearby forest. It had suddenly occurred to him that the ship might land right on top of him. But when he looked around, he saw that it had settled farther down the field. The outside of the ship was a blaze of floodlights. Bart saw the words Hi There! IV. Then he saw something else.

The ship's lights lit brightly the cabins and the people staring out. They also lit Ed, his face bruised and his clothing torn. In addition, the light lit Sam's wife, who was standing as if frozen in a torn and fairly skimpy nightdress.

The door of Sam's cabin came open. Sam came out and glanced around. "Linda! Where are you? Linda!"

Sam stopped, looking at Ed with his face bruised, and Linda in her nightdress. Next, Sam looked at the people in the doorways, looking at Linda and Ed. Sam stepped back into the cabin and came out with a wrench in one hand. He walked steadily toward Linda and Ed.

Linda said, "Sam, it isn't—" Her voice trailed off, then she tried again. "Sam, dearest . . . you don't . . . understand."

Ed didn't say anything, but merely looked grim as his brother came toward them.

Bart fought off a sense of paralysis and got to his feet. He shouted, "It wasn't Ed, Sam! Look at his face! He just fought for you! It wasn't Ed!"

This had no more visible effect on Sam than shouting at a tornado would have had.

Bart started to run, then he saw something else.

At the door of Lonny's cabin, at the far end of the L-shaped row of cabins, Lonny was looking out, one hand on the door frame. Lonny's face was bruised, with one eye swollen shut and the other half-shut. His cheek was cut, and his nose bloody.

Sam stopped, looking from Lonny to Ed. Suddenly, he said, "Now I see it!" He threw down the wrench.

There was a sharp whack, the noise from a motion so fast Bart missed it. Then Linda was stretched out flat on the ground. Sam bent down, gripped her roughly, and threw her over his shoulder like a sack of grain. He started back to his cabin.

Ed bent over and picked up the wrench. He looked around uncertainly, then glanced at the ship. Bart glanced at the ship. The hatch was open, the four women were staring out. Bart started toward them, thinking this was something else that might as well be gotten out of the way as quickly as possible. Ed came along, and several other men apparently had the same idea.

The women stared out the hatch as if paralyzed. Suddenly one of them said, "Don't . . . don't you come near us! Keep back!"

Slam! The hatch was shut.

Bart looked at Ed, then suddenly laughed. "Something tells me they don't think we treat women very well on this planet."

Together, the two men went back to digging out the root. By six o'clock in the morning, they were exhausted, but they had dug up the root. They piled the last remaining sticks on the coals, and hunched close to the fire as the sticks caught with little spurts of flame.

Ed said, "Now what? Carry it off into the forest?"

"Well," said Bart, "if we can, we want to fix it so it stays fixed. No matter how far we carry it, it'll take root where we set it down, and go to seed. Some of the seeds will scatter, some will root, and we may have this all over again."

There were footsteps behind them, and they turned around. Sam was standing there. He smiled, and said, "I'm sorry, Ed. You tried to tell me."

Ed said, "That's all right."

"I'm sorry about your tooth. I shouldn't have hit my own brother."

"Can't be helped. You have to do what you think's right."

Bart was trying to understand Sam's cheerful look. As far as Bart could see, Sam should look anything but cheerful.

Ed said, "About Linda, Sam—"

Sam said, "She'll be all right. If she tries anything again, I'll brain her. She knows it."

Ed nodded. Bart stared into the fire. Sam said, "You fellows been working pretty hard. Thought I'd come out to help."

Ed said, "We got it dug up. We're figuring what to do with it."

"Burn it?" said Sam. "No, I see that's no good. The first warmth would set it going, same as a heavy rain."

Ed nodded. "We can't chop into its roots, either. That'd start it, too."

Bart said, "If we could sling a rope over a high limb and haul it up into a tree, could it root from there?"

"It'd send stalks down," said Ed. "The thing is, we should have gotten it last fall. Then we could have chopped it up during the cold weather, and burned it a piece at a time."

"Well, we've got to think of something."

Ed said, "Only, we've got to do it soon. See those buds?"

In the gray light of dawn, it was evident that the green buds were swelling. The three men hunched around the thing, considering where to go. Their thoughts were interrupted by a loud clang.

The hatch of Hi There! IV was opened out. A rather handsome woman in her late thirties looked out, with a couple of girls of eighteen or nineteen peering out behind her. The woman's nose looked pinched. She said, "I am going to lift ship and set down in a clearing to the north of here. I don't want my girls exposed to such—indecency—as they were forced to witness last night. But you are going to explain to me very clearly and fully, precisely what happened to my husband. I have a mobile turret on board this yacht. There may be no law on this planet, but I shall see to it that you—animals—pay your legal debts in full."

The hatch slammed shut. Bart, Ed, and Sam glanced at each other. They carried the root into the woods, where they watched the take-off.

Ed said angrily, "A mobile turret."

Sam said, "With her interfering we'll never get our work done. Almost got the dozer fixed, too."

Bart said, "About where to put this root, now."

The three of them looked at each other. A little glint seemed to pass from eye to eye.

Ed said, "There's only one clearing to the north of here that I know of. That's got a stream running through it. Where they tried to start a colony once before."

"I know the place."

They chopped down some saplings, made a rough frame, got strips of hide to bind it together, and put the big root on it. Then they started out through the woods.

When they were almost at the clearing, they paused to peer through some bushes on a low hill overlooking the clearing. The ship was near a gully that had a stream trickling along the bottom of it now, and when the spring rains came would be a roaring river.

Sam said, "Looks like she wanted to stock up on water."

Ed said, "If we sneak down that gully, what's the chance she'll see us?"

Bart nodded. "Good idea. I'll go out and distract them. Suppose you work around out of sight, and I give you fifteen minutes to get to the gully. Then I'll go out and talk to them, and you whistle like a nightbird when you get the thing in place."

"All right," said Ed. "But when we whistle, run! When this root feels the water, it'll think the spring rains have come for sure."

Bart nodded. "Don't worry. I'll run, all right."

He waited fifteen minutes after the others had left, then got up, and went well to his right so he wouldn't get caught between ship and gully when the root was set down. He dropped into the gully, stepped across the water, climbed out, and started toward the ship.

The woman looked out the hatch, pinch-nosed. Various attractive girls peered out behind her. Now that there seemed to be no danger they had a bold look Bart found irritating. None of them said anything, but they all looked him over from head to foot, as if he were a display in a window.

Bart looked at the woman. "I'd like to tell you what happened to your husband."

She looked at him coldly, "It's fortunate for you that you've decided to see reason. I am not bluffing when I say that I have a turret."

"In the ship with you?"

"In the ship with me. Now get on with your explanations."

"Your husband landed here," said Bart, "around the beginning of winter. He took a great number of what I suppose were photographs with some kind of elaborate camera. We warned him about certain dangers on the planet. We tried to tell him this isn't Earth. But your husband was not exactly approachable, and he didn't come to us for advice about what to avoid. Possibly all his equipment gave him a false sense of security. He blundered into a sawtooth plant—"

"A what?"

"Sawtooth plant. It has a spray of long wiry stalks radiating from a large, urn-like cup in the center. These stalks have big thorns, that angle sharply back toward the cup. If you get caught in it and struggle, you no sooner get free of one set of thorns on stalks than you're caught in another—and closer to the cup. The only way to get loose from the thorns is to move forward. Then if you try to pull back, they catch you again. Eventually, you end up in the cup. The cup secretes a digestive fluid. The plant is carnivorous."

The woman turned pale. "Did Sidney—?"

"He got in it. He put up quite a struggle."

"And you didn't help him?"

"He had a sort of cylinder," said Bart. "A fusion pistol, I think it's called. We shouted to him to stand still. It was winter, you see, and the plant wasn't active. If he had stood still, he'd have been all right. But instead, he pulled out this gun and tried to fight the plant. He was like a man caught in a barbed-wire fence who tries to shoot his way free. In the process, he burned away part of the plant; but his aim was a little off, and he also set three of our cabins on fire, killed two of our women outright, and burned another so badly she died later. One of the women he killed was a doctor. Because of her death and the loss of medicines in the fire, we couldn't care properly for another woman who got sick. She died, too."

"That's dreadful. What—Where is Sid now?"

"In the plant."

The woman's hand rose to her mouth. "You mean, you left him there?"

"Personally," said Bart, "I was in favor of getting him out. The rest of the men didn't go along. We buried the women, and then a blizzard came along and covered everything up. By spring, we were too worn out to go down and wrestle the sawtooth plant for him. Besides, we had other work to do."

"Poor Sidney. Did he—" She frowned. "Just a moment, now. You say the plant was inactive. In that event, it might entangle a person, but it could hardly kill him."

"No," said Bart. "One of us shot him with an enzyme-tipped dart before he burned us all to a crisp."

"You shot him? But he didn't kill those people intentionally. He would have paid for every bit of damage. Gladly."

Bart took a deep breath. "Try and tell that to a man who's just seen his wife burned alive. Your husband was still letting out blasts from that gun. He had to be stopped."

The woman's nostrils grew pinched again. "I can't save him now," she said, "but I certainly intend to see to it that he has a decent funeral, at least. You are going to get him out of that dreadful plant, and you will construct a—a—"

"Casket," said Bart in disgust. "Not right now, we won't. We have to cultivate, plant, clear, cut wood, hunt—"

"You will do what I say first. Then you can do whatever you want."

"It will be too late, then. We have to do it in season, or it's no good. Then we'll starve."

"That's unfortunate. You shouldn't have killed my husband."

There was a clear warbling note. A thin tendril snaked up over the bank of the gully, and started to cast around in various directions.

Bart said sharply, "Do you have plenty of food and water in there, and a good supply of air?"

The woman looked startled. "Of course. What—"

"Lock the hatch!" yelled Bart. He turned and sprinted. He ran till he was out of breath. He leaned against a tree till he recovered, then he went to find Ed and Sam, and the three of them watched from a low hill.

Where the middle of the clearing had been was a low jungle of broad green leaves. There was a higher mound in the center, with long stalks swinging slowly around from the top of it, groping for attachment. From under this mound came a blast of dirt and flame. The mound strained upward and dropped back. There was a loud roar. Big leaves blew away to show a net of tangled vines gripping the Hi There! IV. In a blaze of light, the vines nearest the center withered away. Those further out began to glow red, smoke, and burst into flame.

The three men watched intently.

The stalks on top of the mound dove to the ground in long arcs. New tendrils rose from the foliage on all sides and twined around the ship. The ship heaved and dropped back. Big leaves blew away. New tendrils snaked in and grew thick. There was a series of short blasts from the ship. The roar of the rockets and whine of the gravitors alternated with the sizzle and pop of roasting vegetation. Through clouds of steam and smoke the three men could see a fist of big vines gripping the middle and upper sections of the ship.

Ed said, "She may or may not kill it. But I doubt it'll have much strength left to make seed."

"What's more," said Bart, "since that vine is wound around the hatch, we should be able to work in peace for a while."

Sam nodded. "We'll come back later on. See how things are. I imagine a few weeks fighting that vine will tame them women down some."


Bart was checking the cargo list with a crewman from a supply ship later on that year. The crewman was looking around with an expression of puzzlement. "Say," he said, "I was sorry to hear about your—your bad luck last winter. But don't I see some new women here that weren't here before?"

"Volunteers," said Bart. "They came out to join us."

The crewman looked as if he were seeing a river that flowed uphill. He said weakly. "How did you manage that?"

"Well," said Bart, "we had two problems. Either one alone was too tough for us. They both had to be settled fast, like the problem of two mad dogs coming at you from opposite directions."

"Yeah? What did you do?"

"We got out from in between," said Bart. "We combined them. Then they settled each other."



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