Slave Planet
Chapter 14

Public Domain

The mixture of feelings inside Cadnan was entirely new to him, and he couldn’t control it very well. He found himself shaking without meaning to, and was unable to stop himself. There was relief, first of all, that it was all over, that he no longer had to worry about what Marvor might have planned, or whether Marvor were going to involve him. There was fright, seeing anyone carry through such a foolhardy, almost impious idea in the teeth of the masters. And there was simple disappointment, the disappointment of a novice theologue who has seen his pet heretic slip the net and go free.

For Cadnan had tried, earnestly, night after night, to convert Marvor to the new truths the elders had shown him. They were luminously obvious to Cadnan, and they set the world in beautiful order; but, somehow, he couldn’t get through to Marvor at all, couldn’t express the ideas he had well enough or convincingly enough to let Marvor see how beautiful and true all of them really were. For a time, in fact, he told himself with bitterness that Marvor’s escape had really been all his own fault. If he’d only had more talks with Marvor, he thought cloudily, or if he’d only been able to speak more convincingly...

But regret is part of a subjunctive vocabulary. At least one writer has noted that the subjunctive is the mark of civilization. This may be true: it seems true: in Cadnan’s case, at any rate, it certainly was true. Uncivilized, he spent little time in subjunctive moods. All that he had done, all that Marvor had done, was open to him, and he remembered it often—but, once the bad first minutes were past, he remembered everything with less and less regret. The mixture, as it stood, was heady enough for Cadnan’s untrained emotions.

He had tried to talk to Marvor about the truths, of course. Marvor, though, had been obstinately indifferent. Nothing made any impression on his hardened, stubborn mind. And now he was gone.

Dara had the news first. She came into their common room at the end of the day, very excited, her hands still moving as if she were turning handles in the refinery even after the close of work. Cadnan, still feeling an attraction for her, and perceiving now that something had disturbed her, stayed where he was squatting. Attraction for Dara, and help given to her, might lead to mating, and mating was against the rule. But Dara came to him.

“Do you know what happens with Marvor?” she said. Her voice, always quiet, was still as sweet to Cadnan as it had ever been. “He is gone, and the masters do not know where.”

The mixture of emotions began: surprise and relief first, then regret and disappointment, then fear, all boiling and bubbling inside him like a witch’s stew. He spoke without thinking: “He is gone to break the chain of obedience. He is gone to find others who think as he thinks.”

“He is escaped,” Dara said. “It is the word the masters use, when they speak of this.”

“It happens before now,” Cadnan told her. “There are others, whom he joins.”

Dara shut her eye. “It is true. But I know what happens when there is an escape. In the place where my work is, there is one from Great Bend Tree. She tells me of what happens.”

Dara fell silent and Cadnan watched her nervously. But he had no chance to speak: she began again, convulsively.

“When this other escapes it is from a room of Great Bend Tree.” Cadnan nodded: he and Dara were of Bent Line Tree, and hence in a different room. The segregation, simple for the masters, was handy and unimportant, and so it was used. Cadnan thought it natural: every tree had its own room.

“Do they find the one who escapes?” he asked.

“They find him. The masters come in and they punish the others from the room.”

Precedent was clearly recognizable, even though it made no sense. Those who had not escaped surely had no reason to be punished, Cadnan thought. But what the masters had done to Great Bend Tree they would do to Bent Line Tree.

Everyone would be punished.

With a shock he realized that “everyone” included Dara.

He heard himself speak. “You must go.”

Dara looked at him innocently. “Go?” she said.

“You must go as Marvor has gone. The masters do not take you for punishment if you go.”

“There is nothing for me to do,” she said, and her eye closed. “No. I wait for you, but only to tell you this: there is nothing I can do.”

“Marvor is gone,” Cadnan said slowly. “You, too, can go. Maybe the masters do not find you. If you stay you are punished. If you go and they do not find you there is no punishment for you.” It amazed him that she could not see so clear a point.

“Then all can go,” she said. “All can escape punishment.”

Cadnan grunted, thinking that over. “Where one goes,” he said at last, “one can go. Maybe many can not go.”

Her answer was swift. “And you?”

“I stay here,” he said, trying to sound as decisive as possible.

Dara turned away. “I do not listen to your words,” she said flatly. “I do not hear you or see you.”

Cadnan hissed in anguish. She had to understand... “What do I say that is wrong? You must—”

“You speak of my going alone,” she said. “But that is me, and no more. What of the others?”

“Marvor,” Cadnan said after a second. “He is to come and aid them. He tells me this. We join him and come back with him, away from here, to where he stays now. Then none of us are punished.” He paused. “It will be a great punishment.”

“I know,” Dara said. “Yet one does not go alone.”

Her voice was so low that Cadnan could barely hear it, but the words were like sharp stones, stabbing fear into his body. For the first time, he saw clearly exactly what she was driving at. And after a long pause, she spoke again.

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