Bedlam Planet

Bedlam Planet by John Brunner Read Free Book Online

Book: Bedlam Planet by John Brunner Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Brunner
suggestion that Sigrid and I needed to put some kind of symbolic mark on this planet by making love on one of its beaches? I suppose I do.” Pie was frowning as he spoke. “After all, there are two points which at the time worried me terribly. The first was that this wasn’t the kind of casual coupling we’d enjoyed on the way out, and there’d been plenty of those, although I preferred Carmen and she Pyotr. We liked the occasional change well enough. But this was …”
    “Of course. And that’s the second point. When we came back to the ship and admitted rather shamefacedly to Carmen and Pyotr what we’d done—I say ‘we’ because although I’d started it she was overtaken by the same need within a few minutes—then, of course, there was the dreadful period of anxiety while they made certain we hadn’t picked up a germ or poisoned ourselves or anything. But later on, because the work-schedule demanded it, Pyotr and Carmen were away from the ship together for much longer than Sigrid and I had been. And they never felt the same impulse. Itwas as though once was enough. But that once was indispensable.”
    There was another pause. During it Parvati found herself looking at him speculatively, and he diagnosed the thoughts which lay behind her expression with unerring accuracy. He touched her leg again.
    “I’m sorry, Parvati. You’re a lovely woman, but—but I feel doomed to be alone for a while longer yet.”
    With an effort she recovered her detachment. She said, “Yes, Dennis. And in spite of what I said to you this morning, please don’t think that I don’t recognise what a tremendous amount of effort it’s costing you to damp down your frustration. It must be pure hell to find yourself among so many other people who have got exactly what they want, when you never wanted it in your life.”
    “I couldn’t have put it more neatly myself,” Dennis said with a wry twist of his mouth. He hesitated. “I think I may get over it, though, provided I can manage to give the right sops to the Cerberus of my subconscious by going off on trips like the one I’m going to start tomorrow for Ulla. I know I shan’t ever be able to indulge my urge to explore on the scale I was used to when I was—well,
But I guess maybe I can learn to make do with half a loaf. There is one thing I’ve been meaning to ask you, though.”
    “Ask away.”
    “It’s hard to put into words, but what it amounts to is this: Asgard sprang a trap on me once, when this really was an alien planet and there were only two couples here. Are there likely to be any other traps, when there are hundreds or maybe even thousands of people here?”
    “Yes,” Parvati said. “But who can say what they will be?”
    Dennis licked his lips and glanced around to see whether anyone else might have overheard the remark. Parvati had timed it, however, for a moment when a dance had ended and the couples nearby had startedto surge towards the bar. He said, “Thanks. I don’t suppose that’s a point you make to many of us.”
    “It’s good to hear you say ‘us’,” Parvati countered dryly. “But you’re right, of course. The information to draw the conclusion exists and is available. But we shall have to work our way through a lot of tribal stages, including the one where you have an in-group which constitutes a repository of traditional wisdom, before we can attempt the kind of free educational structure that exists on Earth. You see why?”
    “For all our skills, the scale of what we’re trying to do dwarfs us to the condition of Bushmen,” Dennis said. “And I include myself, and say ‘us’, because I’m the odd-job man in our microcosmic culture. True or false?”
    “So what are these traps most likely to consist in? I was victim of one, and since I’m not getting my heart’s desire by being here, I might well be victim of another.”
    Parvati turned her large dark eyes upward. Tonight the moon was

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