After the morning inspection tour, Tardo, the Solar Council’s Planetary Aid agent, and his companion, Peo, were taken to the castle which stood on a hill overlooking the area.
Tardo and Peo were entertained royally at luncheon by Saranta, their host, who appeared to be the wealthy overlord of this portion of the planet. The meal was delicious--tender, inch-thick steaks served with delicate wine sauce and half a dozen of the planet’s exotic vegetables, topped off by a cool fruit dessert.
“My recommendation will be of considerable importance to you,” said Tardo as they ate. “If it is favorable, there is certain technical aid aboard ship which will be made available to you at once. Of course, you will not receive advanced equipment from the Solar Council until there is a more thorough investigation.”
“I’m afraid our culture is too simple and agrarian to win your approval,” said Saranta modestly.
“That isn’t a major consideration. The Council understands the difficulties that have faced colonies in other star systems. There are certain fundamental requirements, of course: no abnormal religious practices, no slavery ... well, you understand what I mean.”
“We really feel that we have done well since we ... our ancestors, that is ... colonized our world a thousand years ago,” said Saranta, toying with a wineglass. A smiling servant filled the glasses of Tardo and Peo. “You see, there was no fuel for the ship to explore other planets in the system, and the ship just rusted away. Since we are some distance from the solar system, yours is the first ship that has landed here since colonization.”
“You seem to have been lucky, though,” said Peo. He was navigator of the Council ship, and had asked to accompany Tardo on the brief inspection trip. “You could have landed on a barren planet.”
“Well, no, the colonizers knew it was liveable, from the first exploration expedition,” said Saranta. “There were difficulties, of course. Luxuriant vegetation, but no animal life, so we had no animals to domesticate. Pulling a plow is hard work for a man.”
“But you were able to solve this situation in a humanitarian way?” asked Tardo, peering at him keenly. “That is to say, you didn’t resort to slavery?”
Saranta smiled and spread his hands slightly.
“Does this look like a slave society to you?” he countered. “The colonists were anxious to co-operate to make the planet liveable. No one objected to work.”
“It’s true we’ve seen no slaves, that we know about,” said Tardo. “But two days is a short time for inspection. I must draw most of my conclusions from the attitudes of you and the others who are our hosts. How about the servants here?”
“They are paid,” answered Saranta, and added ruefully: “There are those of us who think they are paid too well. They have a union, you know.”
“A carry-over from Earth, no doubt,” he commented. “An unusual one, too, for a culture without technology.”