Venus Rising
They make their homes in the cliffs next to the
island. Many of them were killed by the Cetans for cruel sport and
for their glorious plumage, or when they tried to protect us. Their
numbers are now badly diminished, but they will recover in time and
reproduce again.
    “ We on the island were not so fortunate.
We were all too old to produce young ones. I am the last of our
group, and when I die, we will be extinct. The non-humans among us
went first, six of them, and then my dear mate and two more within
a day of each other. We remaining three lived on, adding the sum of
our individual knowledge to the computer’s memory banks. At last
there were only two of us. Ten days ago my dear friend Tula died,
who stood by me through heartache and joy for so many years, and I
dug the last grave in the burial plot on the side of the island
nearest the cliffs. The birds will watch over all of them.
    “ For myself there will be no grave, unless
the one who reads this when I am gone will inter my remains. All is
in order here on the island. I have finished with the computer. Its
memory banks were filled with information about the planet and our
lives here. But I have never trusted machinery. I much prefer the
mind, human or other, and so I have turned off the power and have
handwritten this very brief account of our history. I do not know
if anyone will ever find it, but still I hope.
    “ I grow tired. I will rest a while, and
for safety’s sake, I will lock the notebook and the key for the
computer into a drawer. The couch looks most inviting.”
     
    Tarik closed the book, his face solemn.
    “And so,” he said softly, “Dulan locked up
the book and the key, and went across the room to rest. And very
likely never rose again.”
    “How lonely it must have been,” Narisa
whispered, “to be the last, with such memories and nothing to do
but wait for death. Tarik, we still don’t know if the writer was a
man or a woman.”
    “I suppose,” he said reluctantly, “that
information is somewhere in the computer. Or there might be medical
information that would help us analyze the bones. I know men and
women have different pelvic bones, and there are other skeletal
differences. But I don’t think I want to disturb Dulan except to
bury the remains with proper respect. Does it really matter so
much? That person on the couch, of whatever gender, was a victim of
the Jurisdiction.”
    “No, of the Cetans.” Narisa’s eyes narrowed,
her lips curled with the contempt and disgust she felt. “Always the
Cetans, those vile creatures.”
    “The Cetans have been blamed for entirely too
much. The people who died on this planet would not have been found
here, totally unprotected, if the Assembly had not banished them
from the Jurisdiction,” Tarik said flatly. “They were only a few of
the millions who died needlessly from one cause or other, not all
of them having to do with the Cetans. Don’t try to defend the Act
of Banishment, or the Assembly that passed it, to me.”
    Narisa believed he was still angry with her
for her earlier rejection of him, and that was why he spoke so
sharply now. Perhaps, also, he had been as affected as she by
Dulan’s story and wanted to hide his feelings.
    She had always been taught that telepaths
were an immoral, wicked group, but faced with this tragic story,
she could feel only sympathy for Dulan and the other settlers.
    Surely, in all the wide galaxy, there ought
to be room to accommodate those who were different from
Jurisdiction norms.
    She decided to overlook Tarik’s remarks, as
she had tried to thrust out of her mind other things he had said
about the Jurisdiction and the Assembly that ruled it. She kept
silent, not wanting to irritate him further, and not wanting to
admit aloud her own sudden qualms about an important Jurisdiction
law. The unsettled feeling she had experienced since landing on
this planet had intensified as she listened to Dulan’s story. The
possibility that the laws the

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