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Title: Wind
Author: Fontenay, Charles Louis, 1917-2007
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Wind" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


                         By CHARLES L. FONTENAY

            _When you have an engine with no fuel, and fuel
            without an engine, and a life-and-death deadline
           to meet, you have a problem indeed. Unless you are
           a stubborn Dutchman--and Jan Van Artevelde was the
                     stubbornest Dutchman on Venus._

Jan Willem van Artevelde claimed descent from William of Orange. He had
no genealogy to prove it, but on Venus there was no one who could
disprove it, either.

Jan Willem van Artevelde smoked a clay pipe, which only a Dutchman can
do properly, because the clay bit grates on less stubborn teeth.

Jan needed all his Dutch stubbornness, and a good deal of pure physical
strength besides, to maneuver the roach-flat groundcar across the
tumbled terrain of Den Hoorn into the teeth of the howling gale that
swept from the west. The huge wheels twisted and jolted against the
rocks outside, and Jan bounced against his seat belt, wrestled the
steering wheel and puffed at his _pijp_. The mild aroma of
Heerenbaai-Tabak filled the airtight groundcar.

There came a new swaying that was not the roughness of the terrain.
Through the thick windshield Jan saw all the ground about him buckle and
heave for a second or two before it settled to rugged quiescence again.
This time he was really heaved about.

Jan mentioned this to the groundcar radio.

"That's the third time in half an hour," he commented. "The place tosses
like the IJsselmeer on a rough day."

"You just don't forget it _isn't_ the Zuider Zee," retorted Heemskerk
from the other end. "You sink there and you don't come up three times."

"Don't worry," said Jan. "I'll be back on time, with a broom at the

"This I shall want to see," chuckled Heemskerk; a logical reaction,
considering the scarcity of brooms on Venus.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours earlier the two men had sat across a small table playing
chess, with little indication there would be anything else to occupy
their time before blastoff of the stubby gravity-boat. It would be their
last chess game for many months, for Jan was a member of the Dutch
colony at Oostpoort in the northern hemisphere of Venus, while Heemskerk
was pilot of the G-boat from the Dutch spaceship _Vanderdecken_,
scheduled to begin an Earthward orbit in a few hours.

It was near the dusk of the 485-hour Venerian day, and the Twilight Gale
already had arisen, sweeping from the comparatively chill Venerian
nightside into the superheated dayside. Oostpoort, established near some
outcroppings that contained uranium ore, was protected from both the
Dawn Gale and the Twilight Gale, for it was in a valley in the midst of
a small range of mountains.

Jan had just figured out a combination by which he hoped to cheat
Heemskerk out of one of his knights, when Dekker, the _burgemeester_ of
Oostpoort, entered the spaceport ready room.

"There's been an emergency radio message," said Dekker. "They've got a
passenger for the Earthship over at Rathole."

"Rathole?" repeated Heemskerk. "What's that? I didn't know there was
another colony within two thousand kilometers."

"It isn't a colony, in the sense Oostpoort is," explained Dekker. "The
people are the families of a bunch of laborers left behind when the
colony folded several years ago. It's about eighty kilometers away,
right across the Hoorn, but they don't have any vehicles that can
navigate when the wind's up."

Heemskerk pushed his short-billed cap back on his close-cropped head,
leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his comfortable

"Then the passenger will have to wait for the next ship," he pronounced.
"The _Vanderdecken_ has to blast off in thirty hours to catch Earth at
the right orbital spot, and the G-boat has to blast off in ten hours to
catch the _Vanderdecken_."

"This passenger can't wait," said Dekker. "He needs to be evacuated to
Earth immediately. He's suffering from the Venus Shadow."

Jan whistled softly. He had seen the effects of that disease. Dekker was

"Jan, you're the best driver in Oostpoort," said Dekker. "You will have
to take a groundcar to Rathole and bring the fellow back."

       *       *       *       *       *

So now Jan gripped his clay pipe between his teeth and piloted the
groundcar into the teeth of the Twilight Gale.

Den Hoorn was a comparatively flat desert sweep that ran along the
western side of the Oost Mountains, just over the mountain from
Oostpoort. It was a thin fault area of a planet whose crust was
peculiarly subject to earthquakes, particularly at the beginning and end
of each long day when temperatures of the surface rocks changed. On the
other side of it lay Rathole, a little settlement that eked a precarious
living from the Venerian vegetation. Jan never had seen it.

He had little difficulty driving up and over the mountain, for the Dutch
settlers had carved a rough road through the ravines. But even the
2-1/2-meter wheels of the groundcar had trouble amid the tumbled rocks
of Den Hoorn. The wind hit the car in full strength here and, though the
body of the groundcar was suspended from the axles, there was constant
danger of its being flipped over by a gust if not handled just right.

The three earthshocks that had shaken Den Hoorn since he had been
driving made his task no easier, but he was obviously lucky, at that.
Often he had to detour far from his course to skirt long, deep cracks in
the surface, or steep breaks where the crust had been raised or dropped
several meters by past quakes.

The groundcar zig-zagged slowly westward. The tattered violet-and-indigo
clouds boiled low above it, but the wind was as dry as the breath of an
oven. Despite the heavy cloud cover, the afternoon was as bright as an
Earth-day. The thermometer showed the outside temperature to have
dropped to 40 degrees Centigrade in the west wind, and it was still
going down.

Jan reached the edge of a crack that made further progress seem
impossible. A hundred meters wide, of unknown depth, it stretched out of
sight in both directions. For the first time he entertained serious
doubts that Den Hoorn could be crossed by land.

After a moment's hesitation, he swung the groundcar northward and raced
along the edge of the chasm as fast as the car would negotiate the
terrain. He looked anxiously at his watch. Nearly three hours had passed
since he left Oostpoort. He had seven hours to go and he was still at
least 16 kilometers from Rathole. His pipe was out, but he could not
take his hands from the wheel to refill it.

He had driven at least eight kilometers before he realized that the
crack was narrowing. At least as far again, the two edges came together,
but not at the same level. A sheer cliff three meters high now barred
his passage. He drove on.

       *       *       *       *       *

Apparently it was the result of an old quake. He found a spot where
rocks had tumbled down, making a steep, rough ramp up the break. He
drove up it and turned back southwestward.

He made it just in time. He had driven less than three hundred meters
when a quake more severe than any of the others struck. Suddenly behind
him the break reversed itself, so that where he had climbed up coming
westward he would now have to climb a cliff of equal height returning

The ground heaved and buckled like a tempestuous sea. Rocks rolled and
leaped through the air, several large ones striking the groundcar with
ominous force. The car staggered forward on its giant wheels like a
drunken man. The quake was so violent that at one time the vehicle was
hurled several meters sideways, and almost overturned. And the wind
smashed down on it unrelentingly.

The quake lasted for several minutes, during which Jan was able to make
no progress at all and struggled only to keep the groundcar upright.
Then, in unison, both earthquake and wind died to absolute quiescence.

Jan made use of this calm to step down on the accelerator and send the
groundcar speeding forward. The terrain was easier here, nearing the
western edge of Den Hoorn, and he covered several kilometers before the
wind struck again, cutting his speed down considerably. He judged he
must be nearing Rathole.

Not long thereafter, he rounded an outcropping of rock and it lay before

A wave of nostalgia swept over him. Back at Oostpoort, the power was
nuclear, but this little settlement made use of the cheapest, most
obviously available power source. It was dotted with more than a dozen

Windmills! Tears came to Jan's eyes. For a moment, he was carried back
to the flat lands around 's Gravenhage. For a moment he was a
tow-headed, round-eyed boy again, clumping in wooden shoes along the
edge of the tulip fields.

But there were no canals here. The flat land, stretching into the
darkening west, was spotted with patches of cactus and leather-leaved
Venerian plants. Amid the windmills, low domes protruded from the earth,
indicating that the dwellings of Rathole were, appropriately, partly

       *       *       *       *       *

He drove into the place. There were no streets, as such, but there were
avenues between lines of heavy chains strung to short iron posts,
evidently as handholds against the wind. The savage gale piled dust and
sand in drifts against the domes, then, shifting slightly, swept them
clean again.

There was no one moving abroad, but just inside the community Jan found
half a dozen men in a group, clinging to one of the chains and waving to
him. He pulled the groundcar to a stop beside them, stuck his pipe in a
pocket of his plastic venusuit, donned his helmet and got out.

The wind almost took him away before one of them grabbed him and he was
able to grasp the chain himself. They gathered around him. They were
swarthy, black-eyed men, with curly hair. One of them grasped his hand.

"_Bienvenido, señor_," said the man.

Jan recoiled and dropped the man's hand. All the Orangeman blood he
claimed protested in outrage.

Spaniards! All these men were Spaniards!

       *       *       *       *       *

Jan recovered himself at once. He had been reading too much ancient
history during his leisure hours. The hot monotony of Venus was
beginning to affect his brain. It had been 500 years since the
Netherlands revolted against Spanish rule. A lot of water over the dam
since then.

A look at the men around him, the sound of their chatter, convinced him
that he need not try German or Hollandsch here. He fell back on the
international language.

"Do you speak English?" he asked. The man brightened but shook his head.

"_No hablo inglés_," he said, "_pero el médico lo habla. Venga

He gestured for Jan to follow him and started off, pulling his way
against the wind along the chain. Jan followed, and the other men fell
in behind in single file. A hundred meters farther on, they turned,
descended some steps and entered one of the half-buried domes. A
gray-haired, bearded man was in the well-lighted room, apparently the
living room of a home, with a young woman.

"_Él médico_," said the man who had greeted Jan, gesturing. "_Él habla

He went out, shutting the airlock door behind him.

"You must be the man from Oostpoort," said the bearded man, holding out
his hand. "I am Doctor Sanchez. We are very grateful you have come."

"I thought for a while I wouldn't make it," said Jan ruefully, removing
his venushelmet.

"This is Mrs. Murillo," said Sanchez.

The woman was a Spanish blonde, full-lipped and beautiful, with golden
hair and dark, liquid eyes. She smiled at Jan.

"_Encantada de conocerlo, señor_," she greeted him.

"Is this the patient, Doctor?" asked Jan, astonished. She looked in the
best of health.

"No, the patient is in the next room," answered Sanchez.

"Well, as much as I'd like to stop for a pipe, we'd better start at
once," said Jan. "It's a hard drive back, and blastoff can't be

The woman seemed to sense his meaning. She turned and called: "_Diego!_"

A boy appeared in the door, a dark-skinned, sleepy-eyed boy of about
eight. He yawned. Then, catching sight of the big Dutchman, he opened
his eyes wide and smiled.

The boy was healthy-looking, alert, but the mark of the Venus Shadow was
on his face. There was a faint mottling, a criss-cross of dead-white

Mrs. Murillo spoke to him rapidly in Spanish and he nodded. She zipped
him into a venusuit and fitted a small helmet on his head.

"Good luck, _amigo_," said Sanchez, shaking Jan's hand again.

"Thanks," replied Jan. He donned his own helmet. "I'll need it, if the
trip over was any indication."

       *       *       *       *       *

Jan and Diego made their way back down the chain to the groundcar. There
was a score of men there now, and a few women. They let the pair go
through, and waved farewell as Jan swung the groundcar around and headed
back eastward.

It was easier driving with the wind behind him, and Jan hit a hundred
kilometers an hour several times before striking the rougher ground of
Den Hoorn. Now, if he could only find a way over the bluff raised by
that last quake....

The ground of Den Hoorn was still shivering. Jan did not realize this
until he had to brake the groundcar almost to a stop at one point,
because it was not shaking in severe, periodic shocks as it had earlier.
It quivered constantly, like the surface of quicksand.

The ground far ahead of him had a strange color to it. Jan, watching for
the cliff he had to skirt and scale, had picked up speed over some
fairly even terrain, but now he slowed again, puzzled. There was
something wrong ahead. He couldn't quite figure it out.

Diego, beside him, had sat quietly so far, peering eagerly through the
windshield, not saying a word. Now suddenly he cried in a high thin

"_Cuidado! Cuidado! Un abismo!_"

Jim saw it at the same time and hit the brakes so hard the groundcar
would have stood on its nose had its wheels been smaller. They skidded
to a stop.

The chasm that had caused him such a long detour before had widened,
evidently in the big quake that had hit earlier. Now it was a canyon,
half a kilometer wide. Five meters from the edge he looked out over
blank space at the far wall, and could not see the bottom.

Cursing choice Dutch profanity, Jan wheeled the groundcar northward and
drove along the edge of the abyss as fast as he could. He wasted half an
hour before realizing that it was getting no narrower.

There was no point in going back southward. It might be a hundred
kilometers long or a thousand, but he never could reach the end of it
and thread the tumbled rocks of Den Hoorn to Oostpoort before the G-boat

There was nothing to do but turn back to Rathole and see if some other
way could not be found.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jan sat in the half-buried room and enjoyed the luxury of a pipe filled
with some of Theodorus Neimeijer's mild tobacco. Before him, Dr. Sanchez
sat with crossed legs, cleaning his fingernails with a scalpel. Diego's
mother talked to the boy in low, liquid tones in a corner of the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jan was at a loss to know how people whose technical knowledge was as
skimpy as it obviously was in Rathole were able to build these
semi-underground domes to resist the earth shocks that came from Den
Hoorn. But this one showed no signs of stress. A religious print and a
small pencil sketch of Señora Murillo, probably done by the boy, were
awry on the inward-curving walls, but that was all.

Jan felt justifiably exasperated at these Spanish-speaking people.

"If some effort had been made to take the boy to Oostpoort from here,
instead of calling on us to send a car, Den Hoorn could have been
crossed before the crack opened," he pointed out.

"An effort was made," replied Sanchez quietly. "Perhaps you do not fully
realize our position here. We have no engines except the stationary
generators that give us current for our air-conditioning and our
utilities. They are powered by the windmills. We do not have gasoline
engines for vehicles, so our vehicles are operated by hand."

"You push them?" demanded Jan incredulously.

"No. You've seen pictures of the pump-cars that once were used on
terrestrial railroads? Ours are powered like that, but we cannot operate
them when the Venerian wind is blowing. By the time I diagnosed the
Venus Shadow in Diego, the wind was coming up, and we had no way to get
him to Oostpoort."

"Mmm," grunted Jan. He shifted uncomfortably and looked at the pair in
the corner. The blonde head was bent over the boy protectingly, and over
his mother's shoulder Diego's black eyes returned Jan's glance.

"If the disease has just started, the boy could wait for the next Earth
ship, couldn't he?" asked Jan.

"I said I had just diagnosed it, not that it had just started, _señor_,"
corrected Sanchez. "As you know, the trip to Earth takes 145 days and it
can be started only when the two planets are at the right position in
their orbits. Have you ever seen anyone die of the Venus Shadow?"

"Yes, I have," replied Jan in a low voice. He had seen two people die of
it, and it had not been pleasant.

Medical men thought it was a deficiency disease, but they had not traced
down the deficiency responsible. Treatment by vitamins, diet,
antibiotics, infrared and ultraviolet rays, all were useless. The only
thing that could arrest and cure the disease was removal from the dry,
cloud-hung surface of Venus and return to a moist, sunny climate on

Without that treatment, once the typical mottled texture of the skin
appeared, the flesh rapidly deteriorated and fell away in chunks. The
victim remained unfevered and agonizingly conscious until the
degeneration reached a vital spot.

"If you have," said Sanchez, "you must realize that Diego cannot wait
for a later ship, if his life is to be saved. He must get to Earth at

       *       *       *       *       *

Jan puffed at the Heerenbaai-Tabak and cogitated. The place was aptly
named. It was a ratty community. The boy was a dark-skinned little
Spaniard--of Mexican origin, perhaps. But he was a boy, and a human

A thought occurred to him. From what he had seen and heard, the entire
economy of Rathole could not support the tremendous expense of sending
the boy across the millions of miles to Earth by spaceship.

"Who's paying his passage?" he asked. "The Dutch Central Venus Company
isn't exactly a charitable institution."

"Your _Señor_ Dekker said that would be taken care of," replied Sanchez.

Jan relit his pipe silently, making a mental resolution that Dekker
wouldn't take care of it alone. Salaries for Venerian service were high,
and many of the men at Oostpoort would contribute readily to such a

"Who is Diego's father?" he asked.

"He was Ramón Murillo, a very good mechanic," answered Sanchez, with a
sliding sidelong glance at Jan's face. "He has been dead for three

Jan grunted.

"The copters at Oostpoort can't buck this wind," he said thoughtfully,
"or I'd have come in one of those in the first place instead of trying
to cross Den Hoorn by land. But if you have any sort of aircraft here,
it might make it downwind--if it isn't wrecked on takeoff."

"I'm afraid not," said Sanchez.

"Too bad. There's nothing we can do, then. The nearest settlement west
of here is more than a thousand kilometers away, and I happen to know
they have no planes, either. Just copters. So that's no help."

"Wait," said Sanchez, lifting the scalpel and tilting his head. "I
believe there is something, though we cannot use it. This was once an
American naval base, and the people here were civilian employes who
refused to move north with it. There was a flying machine they used for
short-range work, and one was left behind--probably with a little help
from the people of the settlement. But...."

"What kind of machine? Copter or plane?"

"They call it a flying platform. It carries two men, I believe. But,

"I know them. I've operated them, before I left Earth. Man, you don't
expect me to try to fly one of those little things in this wind? They're
tricky as they can be, and the passengers are absolutely unprotected!"

"_Señor_, I have asked you to do nothing."

"No, you haven't," muttered Jan. "But you know I'll do it."

Sanchez looked into his face, smiling faintly and a little sadly.

"I was sure you would be willing," he said. He turned and spoke in
Spanish to Mrs. Murillo.

The woman rose to her feet and came to them. As Jan arose, she looked up
at him, tears in her eyes.

"_Gracias_," she murmured. "_Un millón de gracias._"

She lifted his hands in hers and kissed them.

Jan disengaged himself gently, embarrassed. But it occurred to him,
looking down on the bowed head of the beautiful young widow, that he
might make some flying trips back over here in his leisure time.
Language barriers were not impassable, and feminine companionship might
cure his neurotic, history-born distaste for Spaniards, for more than
one reason.

Sanchez was tugging at his elbow.

"_Señor_, I have been trying to tell you," he said. "It is generous and
good of you, and I wanted _Señora_ Murillo to know what a brave man you
are. But have you forgotten that we have no gasoline engines here? There
is no fuel for the flying platform."

       *       *       *       *       *

The platform was in a warehouse which, like the rest of the structures
in Rathole, was a half-buried dome. The platform's ring-shaped base was
less than a meter thick, standing on four metal legs. On top of it, in
the center, was a railed circle that would hold two men, but would crowd
them. Two small gasoline engines sat on each side of this railed circle
and between them on a third side was the fuel tank. The passengers
entered it on the fourth side.

The machine was dusty and spotted with rust, Jan, surrounded by Sanchez,
Diego and a dozen men, inspected it thoughtfully. The letters USN*SES
were painted in white on the platform itself, and each engine bore the
label "Hiller."

Jan peered over the edge of the platform at the twin-ducted fans in
their plastic shrouds. They appeared in good shape. Each was powered by
one of the engines, transmitted to it by heavy rubber belts.

Jan sighed. It was an unhappy situation. As far as he could determine,
without making tests, the engines were in perfect condition. Two
perfectly good engines, and no fuel for them.

"You're sure there's no gasoline, anywhere in Rathole?" he asked

Sanchez smiled ruefully, as he had once before, at Jan's appellation for
the community. The inhabitants' term for it was simply "_La Ciudad
Nuestra_"--"Our Town." But he made no protest. He turned to one of the
other men and talked rapidly for a few moments in Spanish.

"None, _señor_," he said, turning back to Jan. "The Americans, of
course, kept much of it when they were here, but the few things we take
to Oostpoort to trade could not buy precious gasoline. We have
electricity in plenty if you can power the platform with it."

Jan thought that over, trying to find a way.

"No, it wouldn't work," he said. "We could rig batteries on the platform
and electric motors to turn the propellers. But batteries big enough to
power it all the way to Oostpoort would be so heavy the machine couldn't
lift them off the ground. If there were some way to carry a power line
all the way to Oostpoort, or to broadcast the power to it.... But it's a
light-load machine, and must have an engine that gives it the necessary
power from very little weight."

Wild schemes ran through his head. If they were on water, instead of
land, he could rig up a sail. He could still rig up a sail, for a
groundcar, except for the chasm out on Den Hoorn.

The groundcar! Jan straightened and snapped his fingers.

"Doctor!" he explained. "Send a couple of men to drain the rest of the
fuel from my groundcar. And let's get this platform above ground and tie
it down until we can get it started."

Sanchez gave rapid orders in Spanish. Two of the men left at a run,
carrying five-gallon cans with them.

Three others picked up the platform and carried it up a ramp and
outside. As soon as they reached ground level, the wind hit them. They
dropped the platform to the ground, where it shuddered and swayed
momentarily, and two of the men fell successfully on their stomachs. The
wind caught the third and somersaulted him half a dozen times before he
skidded to a stop on his back with outstretched arms and legs. He turned
over cautiously and crawled back to them.

Jan, his head just above ground level, surveyed the terrain. There was
flat ground to the east, clear in a fairly broad alley for at least half
a kilometer before any of the domes protruded up into it.

"This is as good a spot for takeoff as we'll find," he said to Sanchez.

The men put three heavy ropes on the platform's windward rail and
secured it by them to the heavy chain that ran by the dome. The platform
quivered and shuddered in the heavy wind, but its base was too low for
it to overturn.

Shortly the two men returned with the fuel from the groundcar,
struggling along the chain. Jan got above ground in a crouch, clinging
to the rail of the platform, and helped them fill the fuel tank with it.
He primed the carburetors and spun the engines.

Nothing happened.

       *       *       *       *       *

He turned the engines over again. One of them coughed, and a cloud of
blue smoke burst from its exhaust, but they did not catch.

"What is the matter, _señor_?" asked Sanchez from the dome entrance.

"I don't know," replied Jan. "Maybe it's that the engines haven't been
used in so long. I'm afraid I'm not a good enough mechanic to tell."

"Some of these men were good mechanics when the navy was here," said
Sanchez. "Wait."

He turned and spoke to someone in the dome. One of the men of Rathole
came to Jan's side and tried the engines. They refused to catch. The man
made carburetor adjustments and tried again. No success.

He sniffed, took the cap from the fuel tank and stuck a finger inside.
He withdrew it, wet and oily, and examined it. He turned and spoke to

"He says that your groundcar must have a diesel engine," Sanchez
interpreted to Jan. "Is that correct?"

"Why, yes, that's true."

"He says the fuel will not work then, _señor_. He says it is low-grade
fuel and the platform must have high octane gasoline."

Jan threw up his hands and went back into the dome.

"I should have known that," he said unhappily. "I would have known if I
had thought of it."

"What is to be done, then?" asked Sanchez.

"There's nothing that can be done," answered Jan. "They may as well put
the fuel back in my groundcar."

Sanchez called orders to the men at the platform. While they worked, Jan
stared out at the furiously spinning windmills that dotted Rathole.

"There's nothing that can be done," he repeated. "We can't make the trip
overland because of the chasm out there in Den Hoorn, and we can't fly
the platform because we have no power for it."

Windmills. Again Jan could imagine the flat land around them as his
native Holland, with the Zuider Zee sparkling to the west where here the
desert stretched under darkling clouds.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jan looked at his watch. A little more than two hours before the
G-boat's blastoff time, and it couldn't wait for them. It was nearly
eight hours since he had left Oostpoort, and the afternoon was getting
noticeably darker.

Jan was sorry. He had done his best, but Venus had beaten him.

He looked around for Diego. The boy was not in the dome. He was outside,
crouched in the lee of the dome, playing with some sticks.

Diego must know of his ailment, and why he had to go to Oostpoort. If
Jan was any judge of character, Sanchez would have told him that.
Whether Diego knew it was a life-or-death matter for him to be aboard
the _Vanderdecken_ when it blasted off for Earth, Jan did not know. But
the boy was around eight years old and he was bright, and he must
realize the seriousness involved in a decision to send him all the way
to Earth.

Jan felt ashamed of the exuberant foolishness which had led him to spout
ancient history and claim descent from William of Orange. It had been a
hobby, and artificial topic for conversation that amused him and his
companions, a defense against the monotony of Venus that had begun to
affect his personality perhaps a bit more than he realized. He did not
dislike Spaniards; he had no reason to dislike them. They were all
humans--the Spanish, the Dutch, the Germans, the Americans, even the
Russians--fighting a hostile planet together. He could not understand a
word Diego said when the boy spoke to him, but he liked Diego and wished
desperately he could do something.

Outside, the windmills of Rathole spun merrily.

There was power, the power that lighted and air-conditioned Rathole,
power in the air all around them. If he could only use it! But to turn
the platform on its side and let the wind spin the propellers was

He turned to Sanchez.

"Ask the men if there are any spare parts for the platform," he said.
"Some of those legs it stands on, transmission belts, spare propellers."

Sanchez asked.

"Yes," he said. "Many spare parts, but no fuel."

Jan smiled a tight smile.

"Tell them to take the engines out," he said. "Since we have no fuel, we
may as well have no engines."

       *       *       *       *       *

Pieter Heemskerk stood by the ramp to the stubby G-boat and checked his
watch. It was X minus fifteen--fifteen minutes before blastoff time.

Heemskerk wore a spacesuit. Everything was ready, except climbing
aboard, closing the airlock and pressing the firing pin.

What on Venus could have happened to Van Artevelde? The last radio
message they had received, more than an hour ago, had said he and the
patient took off successfully in an aircraft. What sort of aircraft
could he be flying that would require an hour to cover eighty
kilometers, with the wind?

Heemskerk could only draw the conclusion that the aircraft had been
wrecked somewhere in Den Hoorn. As a matter of fact, he knew that
preparations were being made now to send a couple of groundcars out to
search for it.

This, of course, would be too late to help the patient Van Artevelde was
bringing, but Heemskerk had no personal interest in the patient. His
worry was all for his friend. The two of them had enjoyed chess and good
beer together on his last three trips to Venus, and Heemskerk hoped very
sincerely that the big blond man wasn't hurt.

He glanced at his watch again. X minus twelve. In two minutes, it would
be time for him to walk up the ramp into the G-boat. In seven minutes
the backward count before blastoff would start over the area

Heemskerk shook his head sadly. And Van Artevelde had promised to come
back triumphant, with a broom at his masthead!

It was a high thin whine borne on the wind, carrying even through the
walls of his spacehelmet, that attracted Heemskerk's attention and
caused him to pause with his foot on the ramp. Around him, the rocket
mechanics were staring up at the sky, trying to pinpoint the noise.

Heemskerk looked westward. At first he could see nothing, then there was
a moving dot above the mountain, against the indigo umbrella of clouds.
It grew, it swooped, it approached and became a strange little flying
disc with two people standing on it and _something_ sticking up from its
deck in front of them.

A broom?

No. The platform hovered and began to settle nearby, and there was Van
Artevelde leaning over its rail and fiddling frantically with whatever
it was that stuck up on it--a weird, angled contraption of pipes and
belts topped by a whirring blade. A boy stood at his shoulder and tried
to help him. As the platform descended to a few meters above ground, the
Dutchman slashed at the contraption, the cut ends of belts whipped out
wildly and the platform slid to the ground with a rush. It hit with a
clatter and its two passengers tumbled prone to the ground.

"Jan!" boomed Heemskerk, forcing his voice through the helmet diaphragm
and rushing over to his friend. "I was afraid you were lost!"

Jan struggled to his feet and leaned down to help the boy up.

"Here's your patient, Pieter," he said. "Hope you have a spacesuit in
his size."

"I can find one. And we'll have to hurry for blastoff. But, first, what
happened? Even that damned thing ought to get here from Rathole faster
than that."

"Had no fuel," replied Jan briefly. "My engines were all right, but I
had no power to run them. So I had to pull the engines and rig up a
power source."

Heemskerk stared at the platform. On its railing was rigged a tripod of
battered metal pipes, atop which a big four-blade propeller spun slowly
in what wind was left after it came over the western mountain. Over the
edges of the platform, running from the two propellers in its base, hung
a series of tattered transmission belts.

"Power source?" repeated Heemskerk. "That?"

"Certainly," replied Jan with dignity. "The power source any good
Dutchman turns to in an emergency: a windmill!"


Transcriber's Note

This etext was produced from _Amazing Science Fiction Stories_ April
1959. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
typographical errors have been corrected without note.

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