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In the mid to late 80's I read a longish short story or short novella (it may have had several chapters) that I like to find again.
I read it in an anthology in Dutch but I'm about 99% certain is was a translation of an English original. I clearly remember that there was also a Keith Laumer Bolo story and (possibly) a Jack Vance Cugel story in that same anthology. (Which isn't saying much. Dutch publishing houses liked to buy English anthologies in bulk, throw everything in a big pile and combine them in different selections into their own compilations.)

What I remember of the plot (it isn't much...):
There is a barren planet that has very nice properties. Gravity, day-length, atmosphere are all very close to ideal for humans.
Two rivaling companies send a terraforming crew to the planet. (The most successful company would be granted ownership of the planet or something like that.)
Over a number of years they both bio-engineer plants, insects, etc. And get in each others way in various methods. I don't remember much about how they went about it. Eventual one crew comes out on top. Story is mainly told from the perspective of the leader of the winning crew.

Interesting bits that stuck in my mind and may help to identify this:

  • At some point some members of both crews meet somewhere planet-side and some threats are made. One guy pulls an energy gun and burns the toes from this opponents feet. (They grow back over time. They have some good medical tech.)
  • Crews are mainly male, but there are some young women whose job it is to entertain (including sex) the men. This is apparently a normal thing in their society. Some sort of community service arrangement for a limited number of years. One of those women later is full crew-member (scientist, botanist?) and becomes the love-interest of the crew-leader.
  • At the very end of the story the crew-leader walks around in a grassy meadow and finds a curious piece of material. Red plastic or glass with a ribbed surface (to the reader clearly part of a traffic-light). He contemplates if it is a leftover from an earlier civilization on the planet. He rejects the idea as absurd and throws it away. The reader is left with a strong suggestion that they rediscovered and terraformed Earth.
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This is Jack Vance's novelette "The World Between" (1953), also known as "Ecological Onslaught".

It has the two competing terraforming crews, from planets called Blue Star and Kay and the interaction of the competing processes results in a wild, but viable world very different (but more interesting) from any of the sterile designs originally intended by the two crews.

At the end, the protagonist stumbles on an ancient sign that establishes that the planet in question is in fact Earth. I found this ending tagged-on and unnecessary to the main message of the story.

The story is collected in the Ace Double Monsters in Orbit / The World Between and other Stories and in the collection Golden Girl and Other Stories.

A Dutch translation, "De Wereld Tussenin", is included in the collection De Beste Science Fiction-Verhalen van Meulenhoff.

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