THE HISTORY OF PLANET P-19 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"So here we are waiting then," Vail said at last. "Let's pass
the time pleasantly. Would you like to tell me the history of
"'Like' in the sense of: enjoy, take pleasure in?"
"'Like' in the sense of: proceed to second-best option. Since
I didn't learn it all up beforehand."
Eddon looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, then nodded. He
began rattling out facts in a rapid-fire voice.
"Planet P-19 was first colonized 170 years ago. Human expansion
across the galaxy was still in full swing then. P-19 had suitable
oxygen atmosphere, suitable sunlight, suitable H2O conditions.
Not exactly the same as Standard Earth Environment, but not too
different. Main disadvantage was the metallic composition of the
"Mainly iron and cupro-nickel," Vail added helpfully. "With a
high proportion of lead and zinc on the surface."
She smiled back at Eddon's quirked eyebrows. "No, I didn't read
it up. Let's just call it witches' intuition."
"OK. So with a metallic composition like that, the planet needed
tending. A nursling planet. You know about nursling planets?"
"Oh-aaah. The plant life has be be built up very gradually. Beginning
at the bottom of the chain, first lichens, then mosses. You try
and get the lower forms started, drawing on available minerals.
When the lichens and mosses can sustain their own life-cycle,
they become eco-factories producing more and more organic material.
Eventually there should be enough organic material to start growing
edible plants. Over a thousand years you can make a whole planet
"Right. After about 80 years, nearly one twentieth of the surface
of P-19 was covered with lichen. The colonists had enough land
under cultivation to look after their own food supply. 'Colonists'
meaning, in this case, administrators, scientists and agricultural
workers. The administrators and scientists were sent out by the
Hegemony on term-contracts, to provide control and expertise.
The agricultural workers were permanent Ñ political drop-outs,
anti-urbanites, ex-crims, the usual volunteers. Anyone mad enough
to prefer a bare survival existence at the edge of the galaxy
to the civilized pleasures of a well-settled planet. No brain-power
required, just manual labour. Hence the nickname 'peasants'."
"Sort of similar to the nickname 'witches'? I like them already."
"Yeah? You'll find plenty to like on P-19 then, because it's
only the agricultural workers that are left now. They took over
in the Breakaway Ñ their revolution against the Hegemony. At first
it was peasants and scientists versus administrators. Then the
scientists changed sides after the original Governor was stripped
of power. The Hegemony brought in troops and the rebels were driven
out into the uninhabitable zones. They were starving to death,
almost finished, when suddenly this one scientist turned up on
the rebel side Ñ Argid ev Ghair . . . The rebels under Argid ev
Ghair developed new tactics. The rebellion went on for two years,
and in the end the Hegemony called it quits. They shipped out
the troops and administrators and the rest, and left the planet
to go its own way."
"So what started the revolution in the first place?"
"The original Governor. He had this thing about the Anti-Human.
You know about that? There's a huge patch of it just beyond the
frontier here, beyond the Walder-J system. When they discovered
it, this fool of a Governor wanted to become a conqueror. Thought
he could overcome the Anti-Human by sending out ships to wipe
out the webs. I suppose nobody knew the size of it then. Still,
this Governor must've been a raving megalomaniac. It was when
he tried to conscript the agricultural workers into forming a
military force that the Breakaway began. All totally unnecessary.
Should never have happened."