Type ShortStory
Date 1951-01
Tags science fiction, space colony

Susceptibility

Sean Malloy is a Praecursor from the Colonial Adjustments Bureau, sent to investigate why the colonists on Able XII are not using the resources provided for them--housing, fabrication machines, everything needed to give them anything they could ask, without them having to lift a finger. The last Praecursor sent to Able XII sent his ship back empty, his resignation taped to the controls.

When Malloy arrives, he finds the people are still alive and well, but instead of living in the Center homes provided, they are living a rustic life out in the wilderness. He meets the head of the planet, a young woman named Deen Thomason. He finds her topless, chopping down a tree, and pauses to admire the view--nearly being crushed by the falling tree as a result.

Thomason takes him to her home, feeds him a home-cooked meal, and tries to show him why people would choose to live they way she does. Malloy is unconvinced, so Thomason takes him to the one occupied Center on the planet: their penal colony. There, the people, indeed, have everything they could wish, just for asking--and they are miserable.

In the end, Malloy, too, sends off his resignation in his empty ship--he is staying, together with Thomason. He worries about the next Praecursor that will be sent, but she reassures him:

"It was decided a long time ago that what little centralized administration we need should be handled by those of us least likely to be hungry for that sort of power.”

"I don’t get the connection.”

"Village representatives to the general meeting are always unmarried girls, and are always those considered to be the most pleasing to the eye. And we are beginning to find that anyone who has become a Praecursor seems peculiarly . . . susceptible to this sort of existence.”

Praecursors, after all, are people who have themselves freely chosen a more difficult and dangerous life. So a rustic life on Able XII--with a pretty girl as incentive--is just the right apple to tempt them from their high-tech paradise.

Name Role
John D. MacDonald Author

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