The Protector

by Betsy Curtis

Public Domain

Science Fiction Story: There's a fortune in a boxer who feels no pain. This one didn't, except in odd ways....

Tags: Science Fiction   Novel-Classic  

How come I live here on Gorlin permanent? Well, it’s something like this.

There is nobody real surprised when some scientist writes an article in the Sunday supplement about the primitive tribes of Anestha dying out probably. The Anesthon natives is freaks, anyway, and folks just naturally figure they can’t last long in stiff competition. If you are like them and your body don’t feel any pain any time, you need a nursemaid around to keep you from doing dumb things, like walking in front of a truck or starving to death.

I am here on Gorlin a couple times and know about ‘em. Some folks think it’s comical to watch the space crews think up ways to give an Anesthon a workout. I see one Anesthon girl--a real looker she is, too--dance fourteen hours before she gives out, just for a bottle of perfume and one of them Venusian fur lounge robes. They sure enjoy their pleasures, even if they never feel no pain. You feeling any? More thiska?

Hey, Noor! Another round of thiska for the boys!

Well, they can feel your feelings, and any thoughts that are about them, too. I guess all they live for is pleasure and a pat on the back. One time a little runty Anesthon guy even builds a whole stone blockhouse for a first looie, when the looie thinks real hard that the little guy looks like a first-rate hod carrier. Time the house is built, the Anesthon’s hands is all bloody and one ankle broke where a chunk of rock drops on him. He don’t notice it, of course.

Pierre gets all worked up about them Anestha dying out. That’s my boy Pierre, the heavyweight. I name him Pierre so’s nobody thinks he is tough till afterward. He comes from Gorlin. Of course I have to stable him on Venus long enough for a legal residence, or the Boxing Commission would have him investigated and maybe banned from the ring as a telepath. Tough training him, too. He can’t see the sense of fighting, but, man, he can stay in the ring all night. He never does get real speedy on his feet, but he learns fast and packs a wicked left. I don’t have to lie when I am thinking real hard he is champeen material.

Anyhow, Pierre gets all worked up over his race getting extinct. He has a sister who is glenched to some nice boy and his old man is some sort of a chief. He is all for beating it back by the next via-Venus ship to see what is getting at the old folks at home. I calm him down though, give him a couple of shots of thiska and say I better take him around to see that scientist-dopester and get the inside first. I have to go everywhere with him to see he doesn’t break a leg and forget to tell me about it.

So we hop a TAT in Chi and make for Washington where this science fellow is with some Smithsonian Institute. He is nice enough about seeing us, but he can’t figure how a Chinaman like Pierre has any call to be steamed up about the Anestha (you seen these Anestha with their slick black hair and goldy skin and smooth eyelids like a Earth Chinaman) so I have to break down and tell him about Pierre being an Anesthon.

That scientist is pretty peeved with me bringing Pierre into the Earth system, but when I tell him Pierre wants to go back to help out the folks, he kind of clams up and says the article is just one of those Sunday paper things. There don’t really seem to be anything wrong on Gorlin except that all the workers are getting more careless than usual, falling off walls they are building and getting hit by rocks during blasting, or walking in front of full cars in the mines.

Pierre gives the man a look. “Workers? Mines? Blasting?” he says. “What gives? There are no mines on Gorlin,” he says, “just a few quarries and a lot of big farms. We never have to kill ourselves working. What gives?” he says.

“Oh,” the man comes back, “there’s a couple big targ mines in full swing. Some big Earth concern is shipping out the stuff five freighters a day to Mercury for mass insulation. All native workers. They don’t get paid much--weej cigarettes, bubble bath, some thiska, electro-fur blankets, stuff like that--but I don’t hear yapping. If I do, I report anything that looks like slavery.” Of course he says it with a lot of grammar and it takes him a half hour, but that is the slant.

He wants to gab some then with Pierre. I see that the boy is getting jittery and homesick, too, when the guy starts raving about swimming in the flaff pools and the feeling of katweela petals under your bare feet, so I says we have to catch a plane and get out of there.

Pierre still wants to head for Gorlin. He says his people must be unhappy about something or they are more careful. Life on Gorlin is too much fun to just go and die for no reason.

I try to pep him up on the way back to Chi, talking about his next fight with Kid Bop, but he says he can’t see any reason in fighting, either, just now. I tell him I think he kind of likes fighting, but he says what he likes is the nice things I think about him when he wins, and he is too worried about his family to pay much attention to what I think just now.

Well, we are both pretty flush from one of the best fight seasons I ever see and a rest won’t hurt the boy, so I say okay, we are going by the first liner off the Flats.

“You don’t have to go, Joe,” he says. “Keep your dough and train a couple more kids. I may not be back,” he says.

“Look, boy,” I says, “you know what the food is like on them liners,” I says, kind of kidding, “and if there’s nobody around to cram it down you, you don’t eat, and if you don’t eat, you starve--and if you starve, you are in no condition to cheer up your sister and your old man. Besides,” I says, “I can afford a vacation and you’re the only fighter I want to work with. You’ve got a real future,” I says, “and I’m going to bring you back alive.”

I guess that makes him feel kind of good, because he grins first time since he reads that paper and says, “All right, Joe, come on along.”

We buy a few pretties and neckties in the station and ship out of Chi for the Flats on the next TAT. Pierre wants to get some perfume for his sister, but I tell him we can get better on Venus, where all the good stuff is made.

The trip from Venus Space Base to Gorlin is fast on account of over-drive, but even so I have no trouble passing Pierre off as a fighter who has the jitters and is headed for a vacation where he learns to take it easy the easy way. He is always burning his fingers or his mouth on a cigarette, and I have to keep an eye on him all the time. Nerves, I explain to the passengers.

When we land, Pierre is all for hunting up his folks, but I says no, if there is some trouble, it is smarter to case the joint. We check in at the swanky tourist hotel. She is new since I am on Gorlin a couple years ago and what class! She is built around one of the biggest flaff pools on the whole planet and our room is completely lined with padded velvety stuff, sort of a deep red color, and the bathroom has a cloudrift shower that you nearly float away on.

But Pierre just doesn’t relax. I keep trying to make him get in the shower, but it is no use. He says he is just too worried to take any pleasure in it. I don’t think we ought to go scouting till night and that is thirty some hours yet, but when I see he is settling down to wear the fuzz right off the floor walking round and round, I give in, feed him a sandwich I bring from the ship, and we stroll off in the woods like we are looking for flowers.

There are no signs around the hotel saying which way to the mines, so we set off to circle the hotel and spaceport clearing to look for the rail-line that brings the targ to the port. I figure we have gone about two-thirds of the way around when I nearly fall over a guy sitting on the ground with his head in his hands. What I think is katweela flowers is just the red Anesthon kloa he has on. He looks up sort of dull and then he sees Pierre with me. He lets out a yip and sits back hard on the ground and moans. Pierre yanks the fellow up on his feet and hugs him and starts to jabber away so fast I can’t tell what he is saying. Foreigners always talk faster than anybody else. The other guy puts in a word or two every once in a while and then he scrams off through the trees.

“That’s Noor,” Pierre informs me, “the guy my sister Jennel is glenched to. He’s gonna get us a couple of kloas so nobody’ll notice us around the mine. He’s feeling mighty low, but I can’t figure out why. He says Jennel and the old man are okay, only he can’t ever carry Jennel to his own house because he ain’t man enough. I don’t get it. He can make a good fighter, Joe.”

Before you can count three, Noor is back again with the kloas and Pierre strips and gets into his. I ain’t too keen to show my shapelies, but Pierre starts grabbing my shirt and I have to put the kloa on or else. The boys head south at a good clip and I tag along trying to catch up and find out the score. When Pierre sees I am making like winded, he slows down and tells me we are going to the mine owner’s fancy dump about two miles down the drag. Pierre says Noor tells him the mine owner doesn’t like him and he has to leave us when we get in sight of the house.

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