Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Operation: Outer Space
Author: Leinster, Murray, 1896-1975
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 "Operation: Outer Space" ***

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



OPERATION: OUTER SPACE

by

MURRAY LEINSTER



CHAPTER ONE


Jed Cochrane tried to be cynical as the helicab hummed softly through
the night over the city. The cab flew at two thousand feet, where
lighted buildings seemed to soar toward it from the canyons which were
streets. There were lights and people everywhere, and Cochrane
sardonically reminded himself that he was no better than anybody else,
only he'd been trying to keep from realizing it. He looked down at the
trees and shrubbery on the roof-tops, and at a dance that was going on
atop one of the tallest buildings. All roofs were recreation-spaces
nowadays. They were the only spaces available. When you looked down at a
city like this, you had cynical thoughts. Fourteen million people in
this city. Ten million in that. Eight in another and ten in another
still, and twelve million in yet another ... Big cities. Swarming
millions of people, all desperately anxious--so Cochrane realized
bitterly--all desperately anxious about their jobs and keeping them.

"Even as me and I," said Cochrane harshly to himself. "Sure! I'm shaking
in my shoes right along with the rest of them!"

But it hurt to realize that he'd been kidding himself. He'd thought he
was important. Important, at least, to the advertising firm of Kursten,
Kasten, Hopkins and Fallowe. But right now he was on the way--like a
common legman--to take the moon-rocket to Lunar City, and he'd been
informed of it just thirty minutes ago. Then he'd been told casually to
get to the rocket-port right away. His secretary and two technical men
and a writer were taking the same rocket. He'd get his instructions from
Dr. William Holden on the way.

A part of his mind said indignantly, "_Wait till I get Hopkins on the
phone! It was a mixup! He wouldn't send me off anywhere with the
Dikkipatti Hour depending on me! He's not that crazy!_" But he was on
his way to the space-port, regardless. He'd raged when the message
reached him. He'd insisted that he had to talk to Hopkins in person
before he obeyed any such instructions. But he was on his way to the
space-port. He was riding in a helicab, and he was making adjustments in
his own mind to the humiliation he unconsciously foresaw. There were
really three levels of thought in his mind. One had adopted a defensive
cynicism, and one desperately insisted that he couldn't be as
unimportant as his instructions implied, and the third watched the other
two as the helicab flew with cushioned booming noises over the dark
canyons of the city and the innumerable lonely lights of the rooftops.

There was a thin roaring sound, high aloft. Cochrane jerked his head
back. The stars filled all the firmament, but he knew what to look for.
He stared upward.

One of the stars grew brighter. He didn't know when he first picked it
out, but he knew when he'd found it. He fixed his eyes on it. It was a
very white star, and for a space of minutes it seemed in no wise
different from its fellows. But it grew brighter. Presently it was very
bright. It was brighter than Sirius. In seconds more it was brighter
than Venus. It increased more and more rapidly in its brilliance. It
became the brightest object in all the heavens except the crescent moon,
and the cold intensity of its light was greater than any part of that.
Then Cochrane could see that this star was not quite round. He could
detect the quarter-mile-long flame of the rocket-blast.

It came down with a rush. He saw the vertical, stabbing pencil of light
plunge earthward. It slowed remarkably as it plunged, with all the
flying aircraft above the city harshly lighted by its glare. The
space-port itself showed clearly. Cochrane saw the buildings, and the
other moon-rockets waiting to take off in half an hour or less.

The white flame hit the ground and splashed. It spread out in a wide
flat disk of intolerable brightness. The sleek hull of the ship which
still rode the flame down glinted vividly as it settled into the inferno
of its own making.

Then the light went out. The glare cut off abruptly. There was only a
dim redness where the space-port tarmac had been made incandescent for a
little while. That glow faded--and Cochrane became aware of the
enormous stillness. He had not really noticed the rocket's deafening
roar until it ended.

The helicab flew onward almost silently, with only the throbbing pulses
of its overhead vanes making any sound at all.

"_I kidded myself about those rockets, too_," said Cochrane bitterly to
himself. "_I thought getting to the moon meant starting to the stars.
New worlds to live on. I had a lot more fun before I found out the facts
of life!_"

But he knew that this cynicism and this bitterness came out of the hurt
to the vanity that still insisted everything was a mistake. He'd
received orders which disillusioned him about his importance to the firm
and to the business to which he'd given years of his life. It hurt to
find out that he was just another man, just another expendable. Most
people fought against making the discovery, and some succeeded in
avoiding it. But Cochrane saw his own self-deceptions with a savage
clarity even as he tried to keep them. He did not admire himself at all.

The helicab began to slant down toward the space-port buildings. The sky
was full of stars. The earth--of course--was covered with buildings.
Except for the space-port there was no unoccupied ground for thirty
miles in any direction. The cab was down to a thousand feet. To five
hundred. Cochrane saw the just-arrived rocket with tender-vehicles
running busily to and fro and hovering around it. He saw the rocket he
should take, standing upright on the faintly lighted field.

The cab touched ground. Cochrane stood up and paid the fare. He got out
and the cab rose four or five feet and flitted over to the waiting-line.

He went into the space-port building. He felt himself growing more
bitter still. Then he found Bill Holden--Doctor William Holden--standing
dejectedly against a wall.

"I believe you've got some orders for me, Bill," said Cochrane
sardonically. "And just what psychiatric help can I give you?"

Holden said tiredly:

"I don't like this any better than you do, Jed. I'm scared to death of
space-travel. But go get your ticket and I'll tell you about it on the
way up. It's a special production job. I'm roped in on it too."

"Happy holiday!" said Cochrane, because Holden looked about as miserable
as a man could look.

He went to the ticket desk. He gave his name. On request, he produced
identification. Then he said sourly:

"While you're working on this I'll make a phone-call."

He went to a pay visiphone. And again there were different levels of
awareness in his mind--one consciously and defensively cynical, and one
frightened at the revelation of his unimportance, and the third finding
the others an unedifying spectacle.

He put the call through with an over-elaborate confidence which he
angrily recognized as an attempt to deceive himself. He got the office.
He said calmly:

"This is Jed Cochrane. I asked for a visiphone contact with Mr.
Hopkins."

He had a secretary on the phone-screen. She looked at memos and said
pleasantly:

"Oh, yes. Mr. Hopkins is at dinner. He said he couldn't be disturbed,
but for you to go on to the moon according to your instructions, Mr.
Cochrane."

Cochrane hung up and raged, with one part of his mind. Another part--and
he despised it--began to argue that after all, he had better wait before
thinking there was any intent to humiliate him. After all, his orders
must have been issued with due consideration. The third part disliked
the other two parts intensely--one for raging without daring to speak,
and one for trying to find alibis for not even raging. He went back to
the ticket-desk. The clerk said heartily:

"Here you are! The rest of your party's already on board, Mr. Cochrane.
You'd better hurry! Take-off's in five minutes."

Holden joined him. They went through the gate and got into the
tender-vehicle that would rush them out to the rocket. Holden said
heavily:

"I was waiting for you and hoping you wouldn't come. I'm not a good
traveller, Jed."

The small vehicle rushed. To a city man, the dark expanse of the
space-port was astounding. Then a spidery metal framework swallowed the
tender-truck, and them. The vehicle stopped. An elevator accepted them
and lifted an indefinite distance through the night, toward the stars. A
sort of gangplank with a canvas siderail reached out across emptiness.
Cochrane crossed it, and found himself at the bottom of a spiral ramp
inside the rocket's passenger-compartment. A stewardess looked at the
tickets. She led the way up, and stopped.

"This is your seat, Mr. Cochrane," she said professionally. "I'll strap
you in this first time. You'll do it later."

Cochrane lay down in a contour-chair with an eight-inch mattress of foam
rubber. The stewardess adjusted straps. He thought bitter, ironic
thoughts. A voice said:

"Mr. Cochrane!"

He turned his head. There was Babs Deane, his secretary, with her eyes
very bright. She regarded him from a contour-chair exactly opposite his.
She said happily:

"Mr. West and Mr. Jamison are the science men, Mr. Cochrane. I got Mr.
Bell as the writer."

"A great triumph!" Cochrane told her. "Did you get any idea what all
this is about? Why we're going up?"

"No," admitted Babs cheerfully. "I haven't the least idea. But I'm going
to the moon! It's the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me!"

Cochrane shrugged his shoulders. Shrugging was not comfortable in the
straps that held him. Babs was a good secretary. She was the only one
Cochrane had ever had who did not try to make use of her position as
secretary to the producer of the Dikkipatti Hour on television. Other
secretaries had used their nearness to him to wangle acting or dancing
or singing assignments on other and lesser shows. As a rule they lasted
just four public appearances before they were back at desks, spoiled for
further secretarial use by their taste of fame. But Babs hadn't tried
that. Yet she'd jumped at a chance for a trip to the moon.

A panel up toward the nose of the rocket--the upper end of this
passenger compartment--glowed suddenly. Flaming red letters said,
"_Take-off, ninety seconds._"

Cochrane found an ironic flavor in the thought that splendid daring and
incredible technology had made his coming journey possible. Heroes had
ventured magnificently into the emptiness beyond Earth's atmosphere.
Uncountable millions of dollars had been spent. Enormous intelligence
and infinite pains had been devoted to making possible a journey of two
hundred thirty-six thousand miles through sheer nothingness. This was
the most splendid achievement of human science--the reaching of a
satellite of Earth and the building of a human city there.

And for what? Undoubtedly so that one Jed Cochrane could be ordered by
telephone, by somebody's secretary, to go and get on a passenger-rocket
and get to the moon. Go--having failed to make a protest because his
boss wouldn't interrupt dinner to listen--so he could keep his job by
obeying. For this splendid purpose, scientists had labored and dedicated
men had risked their lives.

Of course, Cochrane reminded himself with conscious justice, of course
there was the very great value of moon-mail cachets to devotees of
philately. There was the value of the tourist facilities to anybody who
could spend that much money for something to brag about afterward. There
were the solar-heat mines--running at a slight loss--and various other
fine achievements. There was even a nightclub in Lunar City where one
highball cost the equivalent of--say--a week's pay for a secretary like
Babs. And--

The panel changed its red glowing sign. It said: "_Take-off forty-five
seconds._"

Somewhere down below a door closed with a cushioned soft definiteness.
The inside of the rocket suddenly seemed extraordinarily still. The
silence was oppressive. It was dead. Then there came the whirring of
very many electric fans, stirring up the air.

The stewardess' voice came matter-of-factly from below him in the
upended cylinder which was the passenger-space.

"We take off in forty-five seconds. You will find yourself feeling very
heavy. There is no cause to be alarmed. If you observe that breathing is
oppressive, the oxygen content of the air in this ship is well above
earth-level, and you will not need to breathe so deeply. Simply relax in
your chair. Everything has been thought of. Everything has been tested
repeatedly. You need not disturb yourself at all. Simply relax."

Silence. Two heart-beats. Three.

There was a roar. It was a deep, booming, numbing roar that came from
somewhere outside the rocket's hull. Simultaneously, something thrust
Cochrane deep into the foam-cushions of his contour-chair. He felt the
cushion piling up on all sides of his body so that it literally
surrounded him. It resisted the tendency of his arms and legs and
abdomen to flatten out and flow sidewise, to spread him in a thin layer
over the chair in which he rested.

He felt his cheeks dragged back. He was unduly conscious of the weight
of objects in his pockets. His stomach pressed hard against his
backbone. His sensations were those of someone being struck a hard,
prolonged blow all over his body.

It was so startling a sensation, though he'd read about it, that he
simply stayed still and blankly submitted to it. Presently he felt
himself gasp. Presently, again, he noticed that one of his feet was
going to sleep. He tried to move it and succeeded only in stirring it
feebly. The roaring went on and on and on....

The red letters in the panel said: "_First stage ends in five seconds._"

By the time he'd read it, the rocket hiccoughed and stopped. Then he
felt a surge of panic. He was falling! He had no weight! It was the
sensation of a suddenly dropping elevator a hundred times multiplied. He
bounced out of the depression in the foam-cushion. He was prevented from
floating away only by the straps that held him.

There was a sputter and a series of jerks. Then he had weight again as
roarings began once more. This was not the ghastly continued impact of
the take-off, but still it was weight--considerably greater weight than
the normal weight of Earth. Cochrane wiggled the foot that had gone to
sleep. Pins and needles lessened their annoyance as sensation returned
to it. He was able to move his arms and hands. They felt abnormally
heavy, and he experienced an extreme and intolerable weariness. He
wanted to go to sleep.

This was the second-stage rocket-phase. The moon-rocket had blasted off
at six gravities acceleration until clear of atmosphere and a little
more. Acceleration-chairs of remarkably effective design, plus the
pre-saturation of one's blood with oxygen, made so high an acceleration
safe and not unendurable for the necessary length of time it lasted.
Now, at three gravities, one did not feel on the receiving end of a
violent thrust, but one did feel utterly worn out and spent. Most people
stayed awake through the six-gravity stage and went heavily to sleep
under three gravities.

Cochrane fought the sensation of fatigue. He had not liked himself for
accepting the orders that had brought him here. They had been issued in
bland confidence that he had no personal affairs which could not be
abandoned to obey cryptic orders from the secretary of a boss he had
actually never seen. He felt a sort of self-contempt which it would have
been restful to forget in three-gravity sleep. But he grimaced and held
himself awake to contemplate the unpretty spectacle of himself and his
actions.

The red light said: "_Second stage ends ten seconds._"

And in ten seconds the rockets hiccoughed once more and were silent, and
there was that sickening feeling of free fall, but he grimly made
himself think of it as soaring upward instead of dropping--which was the
fact, too--and waited until the third-stage rockets boomed suddenly and
went on and on and on.

This was nearly normal acceleration; the effect of this acceleration was
the feel of nearly normal weight. He felt about as one would feel in
Earth in a contour-chair tilted back so that one faced the ceiling. He
knew approximately where the ship would be by this time, and it ought to
have been a thrill. Cochrane was hundreds of miles above Earth and
headed eastward out and up. If a port were open at this height, his
glance should span continents.

No.... The ship had taken off at night. It would still be in Earth's
shadow. There would be nothing at all to be seen below, unless one or
two small patches of misty light which would be Earth's too-many great
cities. But overhead there would be stars by myriads and myriads, of
every possible color and degree of brightness. They would crowd each
other for room in which to shine. The rocket-ship was spiralling out and
out and up and up, to keep its rendezvous with the space platform.

The platform, of course, was that artificial satellite of Earth which
was four thousand miles out and went around the planet in a little over
four hours, traveling from west to east. It had been made because to
break the bonds of Earth's gravity was terribly costly in fuel--when a
ship had to accelerate slowly to avoid harm to human cargo. The space
platform was a filling station in emptiness, at which the moon-rocket
would refuel for its next and longer and much less difficult journey of
two hundred thirty-odd thousand miles.

The stewardess came up the ramp, moving briskly. She stopped and glanced
at each passenger in each chair in turn. When Cochrane turned his open
eyes upon her, she said soothingly:

"There's no need to be disturbed. Everything is going perfectly."

"I'm not disturbed," said Cochrane. "I'm not even nervous. I'm perfectly
all right."

"But you should be drowsy!" she observed, concerned. "Most people are.
If you nap you'll feel better for it."

She felt his pulse in a businesslike manner. It was normal.

"Take my nap for me," said Cochrane, "or put it back in stock. I don't
want it. I'm perfectly all right."

She considered him carefully. She was remarkably pretty. But her manner
was strictly detached. She said:

"There's a button. You can reach it if you need anything. You may call
me by pushing it."

He shrugged. He lay still as she went on to inspect the other
passengers. There was nothing to do and nothing to see. Travellers were
treated pretty much like parcels, these days. Travel, like television
entertainment and most of the other facilities of human life, was
designed for the seventy-to-ninety-per-cent of the human race whose
likes and dislikes and predilections could be learned exactly by
surveys. Anybody who didn't like what everybody liked, or didn't react
like everybody reacted, was subject to annoyances. Cochrane resigned
himself to them.

The red light-letters changed again, considerably later. This time they
said: "_Free flight, thirty seconds._"

They did not say "free fall," which was the technical term for a rocket
coasting upward or downward in space. But Cochrane braced himself, and
his stomach-muscles were tense when the rockets stopped again and stayed
off. The sensation of continuous fall began. An electronic speaker
beside his chair began to speak. There were other such mechanisms beside
each other passenger-chair, and the interior of the rocket filled with a
soft murmur which was sardonically like choral recitation.

"_The sensation of weightlessness you now experience_," said the voice
soothingly, "_is natural at this stage of your flight. The ship has
attained its maximum intended speed and is still rising to meet the
space platform. You may consider that we have left atmosphere and its
limitations behind. Now we have spread sails of inertia and glide on a
wind of pure momentum toward our destination. The feeling of
weightlessness is perfectly normal. You will be greatly interested in
the space platform. We will reach it in something over two hours of free
flight. It is an artificial satellite, with an air-lock our ship will
enter for refueling. You will be able to leave the ship and move about
inside the Platform, to lunch if you choose, to buy souvenirs and mail
them back and to view Earth from a height of four thousand miles through
quartz-glass windows. Then, as now, you will feel no sensation of
weight. You will be taken on a tour of the space platform if you wish.
There are rest-rooms--._"

Cochrane grimly endured the rest of the taped lecture. He thought sourly
to himself: "_I'm a captive audience without even an interest in the
production tricks._"

Presently he saw Bill Holden's head. The psychiatrist had squirmed
inside the straps that held him, and now was staring about within the
rocket. His complexion was greenish.

"I understand you're to brief me," Cochrane told him, "on the way up. Do
you want to tell me now what all this is about? I'd like a nice dramatic
narrative, with gestures."

Holden said sickly:

"Go to hell, won't you?"

His head disappeared. Space-nausea was, of course, as definite an
ailment as seasickness. It came from no weight. But Cochrane seemed to
be immune. He turned his mind to the possible purposes of his journey.
He knew nothing at all. His own personal share in the activities of
Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins and Fallowe--the biggest advertising agency in
the world--was the production of the Dikkipatti Hour, top-talent
television show, regularly every Wednesday night between eight-thirty
and nine-thirty o'clock central U. S. time. It was a good show. It was
among the ten most popular shows on three continents. It was not
reasonable that he be ordered to drop it and take orders from a
psychiatrist, even one he'd known unprofessionally for years. But there
was not much, these days, that really made sense.

In a world where cities with populations of less than five millions were
considered small towns, values were peculiar. One of the deplorable
results of living in a world over-supplied with inhabitants was that
there were too many people and not enough jobs. When one had a good job,
and somebody higher up than oneself gave an order, it was obeyed. There
was always somebody else or several somebodies waiting for every job
there was--hoping for it, maybe praying for it. And if a good job was
lost, one had to start all over.

This task might be anything. It was not, however, connected in any way
with the weekly production of the Dikkipatti Hour. And if that
production were scamped this week because Cochrane was away, he would be
the one to take the loss in reputation. The fact that he was on the moon
wouldn't count. It would be assumed that he was slipping. And a slip was
not good. It was definitely not good!

"_I could do a documentary right now_," Cochrane told himself angrily,
"_titled 'Man-afraid-of-his-job.' I could make a very authentic
production. I've got the material!_"

He felt weight for a moment. It was accompanied by booming noises. The
sounds were not in the air outside, because there was no air. They were
reverberations of the rocket-motors themselves, transmitted to the
fabric of the ship. The ship's steering-rockets were correcting the
course of the vessel and--yes, there was another surge of power--nudging
it to a more correct line of flight to meet the space platform coming up
from behind. The platform went around the world six times a day, four
thousand miles out. During three of its revolutions anybody on the
ground, anywhere, could spot it in daylight as an infinitesimal star,
bright enough to be seen against the sky's blueness, rising in the west
and floating eastward to set at the place of sunrise.

There was again weightlessness. A rocket-ship doesn't burn its
rocket-engines all the time. It runs them to get started, and it runs
them to stop, but it does not run them to travel. This ship was floating
above the Earth, which might be a vast sunlit ball filling half the
universe below the rocket, or might be a blackness as of the Pit.
Cochrane had lost track of time, but not of the shattering effect of
being snatched from the job he knew and thought important, to travel
incredibly to do something he had no idea of. He felt, in his mind, like
somebody who climbs stairs in the dark and tries to take a step that
isn't there. It was a shock to find that his work wasn't important even
in the eyes of Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins and Fallowe. That he didn't
count. That nothing counted ...

There was another dull booming outside and another touch of weight. Then
the rocket floated on endlessly.

A long time later, something touched the ship's outer hull. It was a
definite, positive clanking sound. And then there was the gentlest and
vaguest of tuggings, and Cochrane could feel the ship being maneuvered.
He knew it had made contact with the space platform and was being drawn
inside its lock.

There was still no weight. The stewardess began to unstrap the
passengers one by one, supplying each with magnetic-soled slippers.
Cochrane heard her giving instructions in their use. He knew the
air-lock was being filled with air from the huge, globular platform. In
time the door at the back--bottom--base of the passenger-compartment
opened. Somebody said flatly:

"Space platform! The ship will be in this air-lock for some three hours
plus for refueling. Warning will be given before departure. Passengers
have the freedom of the platform and will be given every possible
privilege."

The magnetic-soled slippers did hold one's feet to the spiral ramp, but
one had to hold on to a hand-rail to make progress. On the way down to
the exit door, Cochrane encountered Babs. She said breathlessly:

"I can't believe I'm really here!"

"I can believe it," said Cochrane, "without even liking it particularly.
Babs, who told you to come on this trip? Where'd all the orders come
from?"

"Mr. Hopkins' secretary," said Babs happily. "She didn't tell me to
come. I managed that! She said for me to name two science men and two
writers who could work with you. I told her one writer was more than
enough for any production job, but you'd need me. I assumed it was a
production job. So she changed the orders and here I am!"

"Fine!" said Cochrane. His sense of the ironic deepened. He'd thought he
was an executive and reasonably important. But somebody higher up than
he was had disposed of him with absent-minded finality, and that man's
secretary and his own had determined all the details, and he didn't
count at all. He was a pawn in the hands of firm-partners and assorted
secretaries. "Let me know what my job's to be and how to do it, Babs."

Babs nodded. She didn't catch the sarcasm. But she couldn't think very
straight, just now. She was on the space platform, which was the second
most glamorous spot in the universe. The most glamorous spot, of course,
was the moon.

Cochrane hobbled ashore into the platform, having no weight whatever. He
was able to move only by the curious sticky adhesion of his
magnetic-soled slippers to the steel floor-plates beneath him. Or--were
they beneath? There was a crew member walking upside down on a floor
which ought to be a ceiling directly over Cochrane's head. He opened a
door in a side-wall and went in, still upside down. Cochrane felt a
sudden dizziness, at that.

But he went on, using hand-grips. Then he saw Dr. William Holden looking
greenish and ill and trying sickishly to answer questions from West and
Jamison and Bell, who had been plucked from their private lives just as
Cochrane had and were now clamorously demanding of Bill Holden that he
explain what had happened to them.

Cochrane snapped angrily:

"Leave the man alone! He's space-sick! If you get him too much upset
this place will be a mess!"

Holden closed his eyes and said gratefully:

"Shoo them away, Jed, and then come back."

Cochrane waved his hands at them. They went away, stumbling and holding
on to each other in the eerie dream-likeness and nightmarish situation
of no-weight-whatever. There were other passengers from the moon-rocket
in this great central space of the platform. There was a fat woman
looking indignantly at the picture of a weighing-scale painted on the
wall. Somebody had painted it, with a dial-hand pointing to zero pounds.
A sign said, "_Honest weight, no gravity._" There was the stewardess
from the rocket, off duty here. She smoked a cigarette in the blast of
an electric fan. There was a party of moon-tourists giggling foolishly
and clutching at everything and buying souvenirs to mail back to Earth.

"All right, Bill," said Cochrane. "They're gone. Now tell me why all the
not inconsiderable genius in the employ of Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins and
Fallowe, in my person, has been mobilized and sent up to the moon?"

Bill Holden swallowed. He stood up with his eyes closed, holding onto a
side-rail in the great central room of the platform.

"I have to keep my eyes shut," he explained, queasily. "It makes me ill
to see people walking on side-walls and across ceilings."

A stout tourist was doing exactly that at the moment. If one could walk
anywhere at all with magnetic-soled shoes, one could walk everywhere.
The stout man did walk up the side-wall. He adventured onto the ceiling,
where he was head-down to the balance of his party. He stood there
looking up--down--at them, and he wore a peculiarly astonished and
half-frightened and wholly foolish grin. His wife squealed for him to
come down: that she couldn't bear looking at him so.

"All right," said Cochrane. "You're keeping your eyes closed. But I'm
supposed to take orders from you. What sort of orders are you going to
give?"

"I'm not sure yet," said Holden thinly. "We are sent up here on a
private job for Hopkins--one of your bosses. Hopkins has a daughter.
She's married to a man named Dabney. He's neurotic. He's made a great
scientific discovery and it isn't properly appreciated. So you and I and
your team of tame scientists--we're on our way to the Moon to save his
reason."

"Why save his reason?" asked Cochrane cynically. "If it makes him happy
to be a crackpot--"

"It doesn't," said Holden, with his eyes still closed. He gulped. "Your
job and a large part of my practice depends on keeping him out of a
looney-bin. It amounts to a public-relations job, a production, with me
merely censoring aspects that might be bad for Dabney's psyche.
Otherwise he'll be frustrated."

"Aren't we all?" demanded Cochrane. "Who in hades does he think he is?
Most of us want appreciation, but we have to be glad when we do our work
and get paid for it! We--"

Then he swore bitterly. He had been taken off the job he'd spent years
learning to do acceptably, to phoney a personal satisfaction for the
son-in-law of one of the partners of the firm he worked for. It was
humiliation to be considered merely a lackey who could be ordered to
perform personal services for his boss, without regard to the damage to
the work he was really responsible for. It was even more humiliating to
know he had to do it because he couldn't afford not to.

Babs appeared, obviously gloating over the mere fact that she was
walking in magnetic-soled slippers on the steel decks of the space
platform. Her eyes were very bright. She said:

"Mr. Cochrane, hadn't you better come look at Earth out of the quartz
Earthside windows?"

"Why?" demanded Cochrane bitterly. "If it wasn't that I'd have to hold
onto something with both hands, in order to do it, I'd be kicking
myself. Why should I want to do tourist stuff?"

"So," said Babs, "so later on you can tell when a writer or a scenic
designer tries to put something over on you in a space platform show."

Cochrane grimaced.

"In theory, I should. But do you realize what all this is about? I just
learned!" When Babs shook her head he said sardonically, "We are on the
way to the Moon to stage a private production out of sheer cruelty.
We're hired to rob a happy man of the luxury of feeling sorry for
himself. We're under Holden's orders to cure a man of being a crackpot!"

Babs hardly listened. She was too much filled with the zest of being
where she'd never dared hope to be able to go.

"I wouldn't want to be cured of being a crackpot," protested Cochrane,
"if only I could afford such a luxury! I'd--"

Babs said urgently:

"You'll have to hurry, really! They told me it starts in ten minutes, so
I came to find you right away."

"What starts?"

"We're in eclipse now," explained Babs, starry-eyed. "We're in the
Earth's shadow. In about five minutes we'll be coming out into sunlight
again, and we'll see the new Earth!"

"Guarantee that it will be a new Earth," Cochrane said morosely, "and
I'll come. I didn't do too well on the old one."

But he followed her in all the embarrassment of walking on
magnetic-soled shoes in a total absence of effective gravity. It was
quite a job simply to start off. Without precaution, if he merely tried
to march away from where he was, his feet would walk out from under him
and he'd be left lying on his back in mid-air. Again, to stop without
putting one foot out ahead for a prop would mean that after his feet
paused, his body would continue onward and he would achieve a
full-length face-down flop. And besides, one could not walk with a
regular up-and-down motion, or in seconds he would find his feet
churning emptiness in complete futility.

Cochrane tried to walk, and then irritably took a hand-rail and hauled
himself along it, with his legs trailing behind him like the tail of a
swimming mermaid. He thought of the simile and was not impressed by his
own dignity.

Presently Babs halted herself in what was plainly a metal blister in the
outer skin of the platform. There was a round quartz window, showing the
inside of steel-plate windows beyond it. Babs pushed a button marked
"_Shutter_," and the valves of steel drew back.

Cochrane blinked, lifted even out of his irritableness by the sight
before him.

He saw the immensity of the heavens, studded with innumerable stars.
Some were brighter than others, and they were of every imaginable color.
Tiny glintings of lurid tint--through the Earth's atmosphere they would
blend into an indefinite faint luminosity--appeared so close together
that there seemed no possible interval. However tiny the appearance of a
gap, one had but to look at it for an instant to perceive infinitesimal
flecks of colored fire there, also.

Each tiniest glimmering was a sun. But that was not what made Cochrane
catch his breath.

There was a monstrous space of nothingness immediately before his eyes.
It was round and vast and near. It was black with the utter blackness of
the Pit. It was Earth, seen from its eight-thousand-mile-wide shadow,
unlighted even by the Moon. There was no faintest relief from its
absolute darkness. It was as if, in the midst of the splendor of the
heavens, there was a chasm through which one glimpsed the unthinkable
nothing from which creation was called in the beginning. Until one
realized that this was simply the dark side of Earth, the spectacle was
one of hair-raising horror.

After a moment Cochrane said with a carefully steadied voice:

"My most disparaging opinions of Earth were never as black as this!"

"Wait," said Babs confidently.

Cochrane waited. He had to hold carefully in his mind that this visible
abyss, this enormity of purest dark, was not an opening into nothingness
but was simply Earth at night as seen from space.

Then he saw a faint, faint arch of color forming at its edge. It spread
swiftly. Immediately, it seemed, there was a pinkish glowing line among
the multitudinous stars. It was red. It was very, very bright. It became
a complete half-circle. It was the light of the sun refracted around the
edge of the world.

Within minutes--it seemed in seconds--the line of light was a glory
among the stars. And then, very swiftly, the blazing orb which was the
sun appeared from behind Earth. It was intolerably bright, but it did
not brighten the firmament. It swam among all the myriads of myriads of
suns, burning luridly and in a terrible silence, with visibly writhing
prominences rising from the edge of its disk. Cochrane squinted at it
with light-dazzled eyes.

Then Babs cried softly:

"Beautiful! Oh, beautiful!"

And Cochrane shielded his eyes and saw the world new-born before him.
The arc of light became an arch and then a crescent, and swelled even as
he looked. Dawn flowed below the space platform, and it seemed that seas
and continents and clouds and beauty poured over the disk of darkness
before him.

He stood here, staring, until the steel shutters slowly closed. Babs
said in regret:

"You have to keep your hand on the button to keep the shutters open.
Else the window might get pitted with dust."

Cochrane said cynically:

"And how much good will it have done me to see that, Babs? How can that
be faked in a studio--and how much would a television screen show of
it?"

He turned away. Then he added sourly:

"You stay and look if you like, Babs. I've already had my vanity smashed
to little bits. If I look at that again I'll want to weep in pure
frustration because I can't do anything even faintly as well worth
watching. I prefer to cut down my notions of the cosmos to a tolerable
size. But you go ahead and look!"

He went back to Holden. Holden was painfully dragging himself back into
the rocket-ship. Cochrane went with him. They returned, weightless, to
the admirably designed contour-chairs in which they had traveled to this
place, and in which they would travel farther. Cochrane settled down to
stare numbly at the wall above him. He had been humiliated enough by the
actions of one of the heads of an advertising agency. He found himself
resenting, even as he experienced, the humbling which had been imposed
upon him by the cosmos itself.

Presently the other passengers returned, and the moonship was maneuvered
out of the lock and to emptiness again, and again presently rockets
roared and there was further feeling of intolerable weight. But it was
not as bad as the take-off from Earth.

There followed some ninety-six hours of pure tedium. After the first
accelerating blasts, the rockets were silent. There was no weight.
There was nothing to hear except the droning murmur of unresting
electric fans, stirring the air ceaselessly so that excess moisture from
breathing could be extracted by the dehumidifiers. But for them--if the
air had been left stagnant--the journey would have been insupportable.

There was nothing to see, because ports opening on outer space were not
safe for passengers to look through. Mere humans, untrained to keep
their minds on technical matters, could break down at the spectacle of
the universe. There could be no activity.

Some of the passengers took dozy-pills. Cochrane did not. It was against
the law for dozy-pills to produce a sensation of euphoria, of
well-being. The law considered that pleasure might lead to addiction.
But if a pill merely made a person drowsy, so that he dozed for hours
halfway between sleeping and awake, no harm appeared to be done. Yet
there were plenty of dozy-pill addicts. Many people were not especially
anxious to feel good. They were quite satisfied not to feel anything at
all.

Cochrane couldn't take that way of escape. He lay strapped in his chair
and thought unhappily of many things. He came to feel unclean, as people
used to feel when they traveled for days on end on railroad trains.
There was no possibility of a bath. One could not even change clothes,
because baggage went separately to the moon in a robot freight-rocket,
which was faster and cheaper than a passenger transport, but would kill
anybody who tried to ride it. Fifteen-and twenty-gravity acceleration is
economical of fuel, and six-gravity is not, but nobody can live through
a twenty-gravity lift-off from Earth. So passengers stayed in the
clothes in which they entered the ship, and the only possible concession
to fastidiousness was the disposable underwear one could get and change
to in the rest-rooms.

Babs Deane did not take dozy-pills either, but Cochrane knew better than
to be more than remotely friendly with her outside of office hours. He
did not want to give her any excuse to tell him anything for his own
good. So he spoke pleasantly and kept company only with his own
thoughts. But he did notice that she looked rapt and starry-eyed even
through the long and dreary hours of free flight. She was mentally
tracking the moonship through the void. She'd know when the continents
of Earth were plain to see, and the tints of vegetation on the two
hemispheres--northern and southern--and she'd know when Earth's
ice-caps could be seen, and why.

The stewardess was not too much of a diversion. She was brisk and calm
and soothing, but she became a trifle reluctant to draw too near the
chairs in which her passengers rode. Presently Cochrane made deductions
and maliciously devised a television commercial. In it, a moon-rocket
stewardess, in uniform and looking fresh and charming, would say sweetly
that she went without bathing for days at a time on moon-trips, and did
not offend because she used whoosit's antistinkum. And then he thought
pleasurably of the heads that would roll did such a commercial actually
get on the air.

But he didn't make plans for the production-job he'd been sent to the
moon to do. Psychiatry was specialized, these days, as physical medicine
had been before it. An extremely expensive diagnostician had been sent
to the moon to tap Dabney's reflexes, and he'd gravely diagnosed
frustration and suggested young Dr. Holden for the curative treatment.
Frustration was the typical neurosis of the rich, anyhow, and Bill
Holden had specialized in its cure. His main reliance was on the making
of a dramatic production centering about his patient, which was
expensive enough and effective enough to have made him a quick
reputation. But he couldn't tell Cochrane what was required of him. Not
yet. He knew the disease but not the case. He'd have to see and know
Dabney before he could make use of the extra-special production-crew his
patient's father-in-law had provided from the staff of Kursten, Kasten,
Hopkins and Fallowe.

Ninety-some hours after blast-off from the space platform, the
rocket-ship turned end for end and began to blast to kill its velocity
toward the moon. It began at half-gravity--the red glowing sign gave
warning of it--and rose to one gravity and then to two. After days of
no-weight, two gravities was punishing.

Cochrane thought to look at Babs. She was rapt, lost in picturings of
what must be outside the ship, which she could not see. She'd be
imagining what the television screens had shown often enough, from
film-tapes. The great pock marked face of Luna, with its ring-mountains
in incredible numbers and complexity, and the vast open "seas" which
were solidified oceans of lava, would be clear to her mind's eye. She
would be imagining the gradual changes of the moon's face with nearness,
when the colorings appear. From a distance all the moon seems tan or
sandy in tint. When one comes closer, there are tawny reds and
slate-colors in the mountain-cliffs, and even blues and yellows, and
everywhere there is the ashy, whitish-tan color of the moondust.

Glancing at her, absorbed in her satisfaction, Cochrane suspected that
with only half an excuse she would explain to him how the several
hundreds of degrees difference in the surface-temperature of the moon
between midnight and noon made rocks split and re-split and fracture so
that stuff as fine as talcum powder covered every space not too sharply
tilted for it to rest on.

The feeling of deceleration increased. For part of a second they had the
sensation of three gravities.

Then there was a curious, yielding jar--really very slight--and then the
feeling of excess weight ended altogether. But not the feeling of
weight. They still had weight. It was constant. It was steady. But it
was very slight.

They were on the moon, but Cochrane felt no elation. In the tedious
hours from the space platform he'd thought too much. He was actually
aware of the humiliations and frustrations most men had to conceal from
themselves because they couldn't afford expensive psychiatric
treatments. Frustration was the disease of all humanity, these days. And
there was nothing that could be done about it. Nothing! It simply wasn't
possible to rebel, and rebellion is the process by which humiliation and
frustration is cured. But one could not rebel against the plain fact
that Earth had more people on it than one planet could support.

Merely arriving at the moon did not seem an especially useful
achievement, either to Cochrane or to humanity at large.

Things looked bad.



CHAPTER TWO


Cochrane stood when the stewardess' voice authorized the action. With
sardonic docility he unfastened his safety-belt and stepped out into the
spiral, descending aisle. It seemed strange to have weight again, even
as little as this. Cochrane weighed, on the moon, just one-sixth of what
he would weigh on Earth. Here he would tip a spring-scale at just about
twenty-seven pounds. By flexing his toes, he could jump. Absurdly, he
did. And he rose very slowly, and hovered--feeling singularly
foolish--and descended with a vast deliberation. He landed on the ramp
again feeling absurd indeed. He saw Babs grinning at him.

"I think," said Cochrane, "I'll have to take up toe-dancing."

She laughed. Then there were clankings, and something fastened itself
outside, and after a moment the entrance-door of the moonship opened.

They went down the ramp to board the moon-jeep, holding onto the
hand-rail and helping each other. The tourist giggled foolishly. They
went out the thick doorway and found themselves in an enclosure very
much like the interior of a rather small submarine. But it did have
shielded windows--ports--and Babs instantly pulled herself into a seat
beside one and feasted her eyes. She saw the jagged peaks nearby and the
crenelated ring-mountain wall, miles off to one side, and the smooth
frozen lava of the "sea." Across that dusty surface the horizon was
remarkably near, and Cochrane remembered vaguely that the moon was only
one-fourth the size of Earth, so its horizon would naturally be nearer.
He glanced at the stars that shone even through the glass that denatured
the sunshine. And then he looked for Holden.

The psychiatrist looked puffy and sleepy and haggard and disheveled.
When a person does have space-sickness, even a little weight relieves
the symptoms, but the consequences last for days.

"Don't worry!" he said sourly when he saw Cochrane's eyes upon him. "I
won't waste any time! I'll find my man and get to work at once. Just let
me get back to Earth...."

There were more clankings--the jeep-bus sealing off from the rocket.
Then the vehicle stirred. The landscape outside began to move.

They saw Lunar City as they approached it. It was five giant dust-heaps,
from five hundred-odd feet in height down to three. There were airlocks
at their bases and dust-covered tunnels connecting them, and radar-bowls
about their sides. But they were dust-heaps. Which was completely
reasonable. There is no air on the moon. By day the sun shines down with
absolute ferocity. It heats everything as with a furnace-flame. At night
all heat radiates away to empty space, and the ground-temperature drops
well below that of liquid air. So Lunar City was a group of domes which
were essentially half-balloons--hemispheres of plastic brought from
Earth and inflated and covered with dust. With airlocks to permit
entrance and exit, they were inhabitable. They needed no framework to
support them because there were no stormwinds or earthquakes to put
stresses on them. They needed neither heating nor cooling equipment.
They were buried under forty feet of moon-dust, with vacuum between the
dust-grains. Lunar City was not beautiful, but human beings could live
in it.

The jeep-bus carried them a bare half mile, and they alighted inside a
lock, and another door and another opened and closed, and they emerged
into a scene which no amount of television film-tape could really
portray.

The main dome was a thousand feet across and half as high. There were
green plants growing in tubs and pots. And the air was fresh! It smelled
strange. There could be no vegetation on the rocket and it seemed new
and blissful to breathe really freshened air after days of the canned
variety. But this freshness made Cochrane realize that he'd feel better
for a bath.

He took a shower in his hotel room. The room was very much like one on
Earth, except that it had no windows. But the shower was strange. The
sprays were tiny. Cochrane felt as if he were being sprayed by atomizers
rather than shower-nozzles until he noticed that water ran off him very
slowly and realized that a normal shower would have been overwhelming.
He scooped up a handful of water and let it drop. It took a full second
to fall two and a half feet.

It was unsettling, but fresh clothing from his waiting baggage made him
feel better. He went to the lounge of the hotel, and it was not a
lounge, and the hotel was not a hotel. Everything in the dome was
indoors in the sense that it was under a globular ceiling fifty stories
high. But everything was also out-doors in the sense of bright light and
growing trees and bushes and shrubs.

He found Babs freshly garmented and waiting for him. She said in
businesslike tones:

"Mr. Cochrane, I asked at the desk. Doctor Holden has gone to consult
Mr. Dabney. He asked that we stay within call. I've sent word to Mr.
West and Mr. Jamison and Mr. Bell."

Cochrane approved of her secretarial efficiency.

"Then we'll sit somewhere and wait. Since this isn't an office, we'll
find some refreshment."

They asked for a table and got one near the swimming pool. And Babs wore
her office manner, all crispness and business, until they were seated.
But this swimming pool was not like a pool on Earth. The water was
deeply sunk beneath the pool's rim, and great waves surged back and
forth. The swimmers--.

Babs gasped. A man stood on a board quite thirty feet above the water.
He prepared to dive.

"That's Johnny Simms!" she said, awed.

"Who's he?"

"The playboy," said Babs, staring. "He's a psychopathic personality and
his family has millions. They keep him up here out of trouble. He's
married."

"Too bad--if he has millions," said Cochrane.

"I wouldn't marry a man with a psychopathic personality!" protested
Babs.

"Keep away from people in the advertising business, then," Cochrane told
her.

Johnny Simms did not jounce up and down on the diving board to start. He
simply leaped upward, and went ceilingward for easily fifteen feet, and
hung stationary for a full breath, and then began to descend in literal
slow motion. He fell only two and a half feet the first second, and five
feet more the one after, and twelve and a half after that.... It took
him over four seconds to drop forty-five feet into the water, and the
splash that arose when he struck the surface rose four yards and
subsided with a lunatic deliberation.

Watching, Babs could not keep her businesslike demeanor. She was
bursting with the joyous knowledge that she was on the moon, seeing the
impossible and looking at fame.

They sipped at drinks--but the liquid rose much too swiftly in the
straws--and Cochrane reflected that the drink in Babs' glass would cost
Dabney's father-in-law as much as Babs earned in a week back home, and
his own was costing no less.

Presently a written note came from Holden:

"_Jed: send West and Jamison right away to Dabney's lunar laboratory to
get details of discovery from man named Jones. Get moon-jeep and driver
from hotel. I will want you in an hour.--Bill._"

"I'll be back," said Cochrane. "Wait."

He left the table and found West and Jamison in Bell's room, all three
in conference over a bottle. West and Jamison were Cochrane's scientific
team for the yet unformulated task he was to perform. West was the
popularizing specialist. He could make a television audience believe
that it understood all the seven dimensions required for some branches
of wave-mechanics theory. His explanation did not stick, of course. One
didn't remember them. But they were singularly convincing in cultural
episodes on television productions. Jamison was the prophecy expert. He
could extrapolate anything into anything else, and make you believe that
a one-week drop in the birthdate on Kamchatka was the beginning of a
trend that would leave the Earth depopulated in exactly four hundred and
seventy-three years. They were good men for a television producer to
have on call. Now, instructed, they went out to be briefed by somebody
who undoubtedly knew more than both of them put together, but whom they
would regard with tolerant suspicion.

Bell, left behind, said cagily:

"This script I've got to do, now--Will that laboratory be the set? Where
is it? In the dome?"

"It's not in the dome," Cochrane told him. "West and Jamison took a
moon-jeep to get to it. I don't know what the set will be. I don't know
anything, yet. I'm waiting to be told about the job, myself."

"If I've got to cook up a story-line," observed Bell, "I have to know
the set. Who'll act? You know how amateurs can ham up any script! How
about a part for Babs? Nice kid!"

Cochrane found himself annoyed, without knowing why.

"We just have to wait until we know what our job is," he said curtly,
and turned to go.

Bell said:

"One more thing. If you're planning to use a news cameraman up
here--don't! I used to be a cameraman before I got crazy and started to
write. Let me do the camera-work. I've got a better idea of using a
camera to tell a story now, than--"

"Hold it," said Cochrane. "We're not up here to film-tape a show. Our
job is psychiatry--craziness."

To a self-respecting producer, a psychiatric production would seem
craziness. A script-writer might have trouble writing out a
psychiatrist's prescription, or he might not. But producing it would be
out of all rationality! No camera, the patient would be the star, and
most lines would be ad libbed. Cochrane viewed such a production with
extreme distaste. But of course, if a man wanted only to be famous, it
might be handled as a straight public-relations job. In any case,
though, it would amount to flattery in three dimensions and Cochrane
would rather have no part in it. But he had to arrange the whole thing.

He went back to the table and rejoined Babs. She confided that she'd
been talking to Johnny Simms' wife. She was nice! But homesick. Cochrane
sat down and thought morbid thoughts. Then he realized that he was
irritated because Babs didn't notice. He finished his drink and ordered
another.

Half an hour later, Holden found them. He had in tow a sad-looking
youngish man with a remarkably narrow forehead and an expression of deep
anxiety. Cochrane winced. A neurotic type if there ever was one!

"Jed," said Holden heartily, "here's Mr. Dabney. Mr. Dabney, Jed
Cochrane is here as a specialist in public-relations set-ups. He'll take
charge of this affair. Your father-in-law sent him up here to see that
you are done justice to!"

Dabney seemed to think earnestly before he spoke.

"It is not for myself," he explained in an anxious tone. "It is my work!
That is important! After all, this is a fundamental scientific
discovery! But nobody pays any attention! It is extremely important!
Extremely! Science itself is held back by the lack of attention paid to
my discovery!"

"Which," Holden assured him, "is about to be changed. It's a matter of
public relations. Jed's a specialist. He'll take over."

The sad-faced young man held up his hand for attention. He thought.
Visibly. Then he said worriedly:

"I would take you over to my laboratory, but I promised my wife I would
call her in half an hour from now. Johnny Simms' wife just reminded me.
My wife is back on Earth. So you will have to go to the laboratory
without me and have Mr. Jones show you the proof of my work. A very
intelligent man, Jones--in a subordinate way, of course. Yes. I will get
you a jeep and you can go there at once, and when you come back you can
tell me what you plan. But you understand that it is not for myself that
I want credit! It is my discovery! It is terribly important! It is
vital! It must not be overlooked!"

Holden escorted him away, while Cochrane carefully controlled his
features. After a few moments Holden came back, his face sagging.

"This your drink, Jed?" he asked dispiritedly. "I need it!" He picked up
the glass and emptied it. "The history of that case would be
interesting, if one could really get to the bottom of it! Come along!"
His tone was dreariness itself. "I've got a jeep waiting for us."

Babs stood up, her eyes shining.

"May I come, Mr. Cochrane?"

Cochrane waved her along. Holden tried to stalk gloomily, but nobody can
stalk in one-sixth gravity. He reeled, and then depressedly accommodated
himself to conditions on the moon.

There was an airlock with a smaller edition of the moon-jeep that had
brought them from the ship to the city. It was a brightly-polished metal
body, raised some ten feet off the ground on outrageously large wheels.
It was very similar to the straddle-trucks used in lumberyards on Earth.
It would straddle boulders in its path. It could go anywhere in spite of
dust and detritus, and its metal body was air-tight and held air for
breathing, even out on the moon's surface.

They climbed in. There was the sound of pumping, which grew fainter. The
outer lock-door opened. The moon-jeep rolled outside.

Babs stared with passionate rapture out of a shielded port. There were
impossibly jagged stones, preposterously steep cliffs. There had been no
weather to remove the sharp edge of anything in a hundred million years.
The awkward-seeming vehicle trundled over the lava sea toward the
rampart of mighty mountains towering over Lunar City. It reached a steep
ascent. It climbed. And the way was remarkably rough and the vehicle
springless, but it was nevertheless a cushioned ride. A bump cannot be
harsh in light gravity. The vehicle rode as if on wings.

"All right," said Cochrane. "Tell me the worst. What's the trouble with
him? Is he the result of six generations of keeping the money in the
family? Or is he a freak?"

Holden groaned a little.

"He's practically a stock model of a rich young man without brains
enough for a job in the family firm, and too much money for anything
else. Fortunately for his family, he didn't react like Johnny
Simms--though they're good friends. A hundred years ago, Dabney'd have
gone in for the arts. But it's hard to fool yourself that way now. Fifty
years ago he'd have gone in for left-wing sociology. But we really are
doing the best that can be done with too many people and not enough
world. So he went in for science. It's non-competitive. Incapacity
doesn't show up. But he has stumbled on something. It sounds really
important. It must have been an accident! The only trouble is that it
doesn't mean a thing! Yet because he's accomplished more than he ever
expected to, he's frustrated because it's not appreciated! What a joke!"

Cochrane said cynically:

"You paint a dark picture, Bill. Are you trying to make this thing into
a challenge?"

"You can't make a man famous for discovering something that doesn't
matter," said Holden hopelessly. "And this is that!"

"Nothing's impossible to public relations if you spend enough money,"
Cochrane assured him. "What's this useless triumph of his?"

The jeep bounced over a small cliff and fell gently for half a second
and rolled on. Babs beamed.

"He's found," said Holden discouragedly, "a way to send messages faster
than light. It's a detour around Einstein's stuff--not denying it, but
evading it. Right now it takes not quite two seconds for a message to go
from the moon to Earth. That's at the speed of light. Dabney has
proof--we'll see it--that he can cut that down some ninety-five per
cent. Only it can't be used for Earth-moon communication, because both
ends have to be in a vacuum. It could be used to the space platform,
but--what's the difference? It's a real discovery for which there's no
possible use. There's no place to send messages to!"

Cochrane's eyes grew bright and hard. There were some three thousand
million suns in the immediate locality of Earth--and more only a
relatively short distance way--and it had not mattered to anybody. The
situation did not seem likely to change. But--The moon-jeep climbed and
climbed. It was a mile above the bay of the lava sea and the dust-heaps
that were a city. It looked like ten miles, because of the curve of the
horizon. The mountains all about looked like a madman's dream.

"But he wants appreciation!" said Holden angrily. "People on Earth
almost trampling on each other for lack of room, and people like me
trying to keep them sane when they've every reason for despair--and he
wants appreciation!"

Cochrane grinned. He whistled softly.

"Never underestimate a genius, Bill," he said kindly. "I refer modestly
to myself. In two weeks your patient--I'll guarantee it--will be
acclaimed the hope, the blessing, the greatest man in all the history of
humanity! It'll be phoney, of course, but we'll have Marilyn
Winters--Little Aphrodite herself--making passes at him in hopes of a
publicity break! It's a natural!"

"How'll you do it?" demanded Holden.

The moon-jeep turned in its crazy, bumping progress. A flat area had
been blasted in rock which had been unchanged since the beginning of
time. Here there was a human structure. Typically, it was a dust-heap
leaning against a cliff. There was an airlock and another jeep waited
outside, and there were eccentric metal devices on the flat space,
shielded from direct sunshine and with cables running to them from the
airlock door.

"How?" repeated Cochrane. "I'll get the details here. Let's go! How do
we manage?"

It was a matter, he discovered, of vacuum-suits, and they were tricky to
get into and felt horrible when one was in. Struggling, Cochrane thought
to say:

"You can wait here in the jeep, Babs--"

But she was already climbing into a suit very much oversized for her,
with the look of high excitement that Cochrane had forgotten anybody
could wear.

They got out of a tiny airlock that held just one person at a time. They
started for the laboratory. And suddenly Cochrane saw Babs staring
upward through the dark, almost-opaque glass that a space-suit-helmet
needs in the moon's daytime if its occupant isn't to be fried by
sunlight. Cochrane automatically glanced up too.

He saw Earth. It hung almost in mid-sky. It was huge. It was gigantic.
It was colossal. It was four times the diameter of the moon as seen from
Earth, and it covered sixteen times as much of the sky. Its continents
were plain to see, and its seas, and the ice-caps at its poles gleamed
whitely, and over all of it there was a faintly bluish haze which was
like a glamour; a fey and eerie veiling which made Earth a sight to draw
at one's heart-strings.

Behind it and all about it there was the background of space, so thickly
jeweled with stars that there seemed no room for another tiny gem.

Cochrane looked. He said nothing. Holden stumbled on to the airlock. He
remembered to hold the door open for Babs.

And then there was the interior of the laboratory. It was not wholly
familiar even to Cochrane, who had used sets on the Dikkipatti Hour of
most of the locations in which human dramas can unfold. This was a
physics laboratory, pure and simple. The air smelled of ozone and
spilled acid and oil and food and tobacco-smoke and other items. West
and Jamison were already here, their space-suits removed. They sat
before beer at a table with innumerable diagrams scattered about. There
was a deep-browed man rather impatiently turning to face his new
visitors.

Holden clumsily unfastened the face-plate of his helmet and gloomily
explained his mission. He introduced Cochrane and Babs, verifying in the
process that the dark man was the Jones he had come to see. A physics
laboratory high in the fastnesses of the Lunar Apennines is an odd place
for a psychiatrist to introduce himself on professional business. But
Holden only explained unhappily that Dabney had sent them to learn about
his discovery and arrange for a public-relations job to make it known.

Cochrane saw Jones' expression flicker sarcastically just once during
Holden's explanation. Otherwise he was poker-faced.

"I was explaining the discovery to these two," he observed.

"Shoot it," said Cochrane to West. It was reasonable to ask West for an
explanation, because he would translate everything into televisable
terms.

West said briskly--exactly as if before a television camera--that Mr.
Dabney had started from the well-known fact that the properties of space
are modified by energy fields. Magnetic and gravitational and
electrostatic fields rotate polarized light or bend light or do this or
that as the case may be. But all previous modifications of the constants
of space had been in essentially spherical fields. All previous fields
had extended in all directions, increasing in intensity as the square of
the distance ...

"Cut," said Cochrane.

West automatically abandoned his professional delivery. He placidly
re-addressed himself to his beer.

"How about it, Jones?" asked Cochrane. "Dabney's got a variation? What
is it?"

"It's a field of force that doesn't spread out. You set up two plates
and establish this field between them," said Jones curtly. "It's
circularly polarized and it doesn't expand. It's like a searchlight beam
or a microwave beam, and it stays the same size like a pipe. In that
field--or pipe--radiation travels faster than it does outside. The
properties of space are changed between the plates. Therefore the speed
of all radiation. That's all."

Cochrane meditatively seated himself. He approved of this Jones, whose
eyebrows practically met in the middle of his forehead. He was not more
polite than politeness required. He did not express employer-like
rapture at the mention of his employer's name.

"But what can be done with it?" asked Cochrane practically.

"Nothing," said Jones succinctly. "It changes the properties of space,
but that's all. Can you think of any use for a faster-than-light
radiation-pipe? I can't."

Cochrane cocked an eye at Jamison, who could extrapolate at the drop of
an equation. But Jamison shook his head.

"Communication between planets," he said morosely, "when we get to them.
Chats between sweethearts on Earth and Pluto. Broadcasts to the stars
when we find that another one's set up a similar plate and is ready to
chat with us. There's nothing else."

Cochrane waved his hand. It is good policy to put a specialist in his
place, occasionally.

"Demonstration?" he asked Jones.

"There are plates across the crater out yonder," said Jones without
emotion. "Twenty miles clear reach. I can send a message across and get
it relayed twice and back through two angles in about five per cent of
the time radiation ought to take."

Cochrane said with benign cynicism:

"Jamison, you work by guessing where you can go. Jones works by guessing
where he is. But this is a public relations job. I don't know where we
are or where we can go, but I know where we want to take this thing."

Jones looked at him. Not hostilely, but with the detached interest of a
man accustomed to nearly exact science, when he watches somebody work in
one of the least precise of them all.

Holden said:

"You mean you've worked out some sort of production."

"No production," said Cochrane blandly. "It isn't necessary. A straight
public-relations set-up. We concoct a story and then let it leak out. We
make it so good that even the people who don't believe it can't help
spreading it." He nodded at Jamison. "Right now, Jamison, we want a
theory that the sending of radiation at twenty times the speed of light
means that there is a way to send matter faster than light--as soon as
we work it out. It means that the inertia-mass which increases with
speed--Einstein's stuff--is not a property of matter, but of space, just
as the air-resistance that increases when an airplane goes faster is a
property of air and not of the plane. Maybe we need to work out a theory
that all inertia is a property of space. We'll see if we need that. But
anyhow, just as a plane can go faster in thin air, so matter--any
matter--will move faster in this field as soon as we get the trick of
it. You see?"

Holden shook his head.

"What's that got in it to make Dabney famous?" he asked.

"Jamison will extrapolate from there," Cochrane assured him. "Go ahead,
Jamison. You're on."

Jamison said promptly, with the hypnotic smoothness of the practiced
professional:

"When this development has been completed, not only will messages be
sent at multiples of the speed of light, but matter! Ships! The barrier
to the high destiny of mankind; the limitation of our race to a single
planet of a minor sun--these handicaps crash and will shatter as the
great minds of humanity bend their efforts to make the Dabney
faster-than-light principle the operative principle of our ships. There
are thousands of millions of suns in our galaxy, and not less than one
in three has planets, and among these myriads of unknown worlds there
will be thousands with seas and land and clouds and continents, fit for
men to enter upon, there to rear their cities. There will be starships
roaming distant sun-clusters, and landing on planets in the Milky Way.
We ourselves will see freight-lines to Rigel and Arcturus, and journey
on passenger-liners singing through the void to Andromeda and Aldebaran!
Dabney has made the first breach in the barrier to the illimitable
greatness of humanity!"

Then he stopped and said professionally:

"I can polish that up a bit, of course. All right?"

"Fair," conceded Cochrane. He turned to Holden. "How about a
public-relations job on that order? Won't that sort of publicity meet
the requirements? Will your patient be satisfied with that grade of
appreciation?"

Holden drew a deep breath. He said unsteadily:

"As a neurotic personality, he won't require that it be true. All he'll
want is the seeming. But--Jed, could it be really true? Could it?"

Cochrane laughed unpleasantly. He did not admire himself. His laughter
showed it.

"What do you want?" he demanded. "You got me a job I didn't want. You
shoved it down my throat! Now there's the way to get it done! What more
can you ask?"

Holden winced. Then he said heavily:

"I'd like for it to be true."

Jones moved suddenly. He said in an oddly surprised voice:

"D'you know, it can be! I didn't realize! It can be true! I can make a
ship go faster than light!"

Cochrane said with exquisite irony:

"Thanks, but we don't need it. We aren't getting paid for that! All we
need is a modicum of appreciation for a neurotic son-in-law of a partner
of Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins and Fallowe! A public-relations job is all
that's required. You give West the theory, and Jamison will do the
prophecy, and Bell will write it out."

Jones said calmly:

"I will like hell! Look! I discovered this faster-than-light field in
the first place! I sold it to Dabney because he wanted to be famous! I
got my pay and he can keep it! But if he can't understand it himself,
even to lecture about it ... Do you think I'm going to throw in some
extra stuff I noticed, that I can fit into that theory but nobody else
can--Do you think I'm going to give him starships as a bonus?"

Holden said, nodding, with his lips twisted:

"I should have figured that! He bought his great discovery from you, eh?
And that's what he gets frustrated about!"

Cochrane snapped:

"I thought you psychiatrists knew the facts of life, Bill! Dabney's not
unusual in my business! He's almost a typical sponsor!"

"When you ask me to throw away starships," said Jones coldly, "for a
publicity feature, I don't play. I won't take the credit for the field
away from Dabney. I sold him that with my eyes open. But starships are
more important than a fool's hankering to be famous! He'd never try it!
He'd be afraid it wouldn't work! I don't play!"

Holden said stridently:

"I don't give a damn about any deal you made with Dabney! But if you can
get us to the stars--all us humans who need it--you've got to!"

Jones said, again calmly:

"I'm willing. Make me an offer--not cash, but a chance to do something
real--not just a trick for a neurotic's ego!"

Cochrane grinned at him very peculiarly.

"I like your approach. You've got illusions. They're nice things to
have. I wouldn't mind having some myself. Bill," he said to Dr. William
Holden, "how much nerve has Dabney?"

"Speaking unprofessionally," said Holden, "he's a worm with wants. He
hasn't anything but cravings. Why?"

Cochrane grinned again, his head cocked on one side.

"He wouldn't take part in an enterprise to reach the stars, would he?"
When Holden shook his head, Cochrane said zestfully, "I'd guess that the
peak of his ambition would be to have the credit for it if it worked,
but he wouldn't risk being associated with it until it had worked!
Right?"

"Right," said Holden. "I said he was a worm. What're you driving at?"

"I'm outlining what you're twisting my arm to make me do," said
Cochrane, "in case you haven't noticed. Bill, if Jones can really make
a ship go faster than light--"

"I can," repeated Jones. "I simply didn't think of the thing in
connection with travel. I only thought of it for signalling."

"Then," said Cochrane, "I'm literally forced, for Dabney's sake, to do
something that he'd scream shrilly at if he heard about it. We're going
to have a party, Bill! A party after your and my and Jones' hearts!"

"What do you mean?" demanded Holden.

"We make a production after all," said Cochrane, grinning. "We are going
to take Dabney's discovery--the one he bought publicity rights to--very
seriously indeed. I'm going to get him acclaim. First we break a story
of what Dabney's field means for the future of mankind--and then we
prove it! We take a journey to the stars! Want to make your reservations
now?"

"You mean," said West incredulously, "a genuine trip? Why?"

Cochrane snapped at him suddenly.

"Because I can't kid myself any more," he rasped. "I've found out how
little I count in the world and the estimation of Kursten, Kasten,
Hopkins and Fallowe! I've found out I'm only a little man when I thought
I was a big one, and I won't take it! Now I've got an excuse to try to
be a big man! That's reason enough, isn't it?"

Then he glared around the small laboratory under the dust-heap. He was
irritated because he did not feel splendid emotions after making a
resolution and a plan which ought to go down in history--if it worked.
He wasn't uplifted. He wasn't aware of any particular feeling of being
the instrument of destiny or anything else. He simply felt peevish and
annoyed and obstinate about trying the impossible trick.

It annoyed him additionally, perhaps, to see the expression of
starry-eyed admiration on Babs' face as she looked at him across the
untidy laboratory table, cluttered up with beer-cans.



CHAPTER THREE


It is a matter of record that the American continents were discovered
because ice-boxes were unknown in the fifteenth century. There being no
refrigeration, meat did not keep. But meat was not too easy to come by,
so it had to be eaten, even when it stank. Therefore it was a noble
enterprise, and to the glory of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, to
put up the financial backing for even a crackpot who might get spices
cheaper and thereby make the consumption of slightly spoiled meat less
unpleasant. Which was why Columbus got three ships and crews of
jailbirds for them from a government still busy trying to drive the
Moors out of the last corner of Spain.

This was a precedent for the matter on hand now. Cochrane happened to
know the details about Columbus because he'd checked over the research
when he did a show on the Dikkipatti Hour dealing with him. There were
more precedents. The elaborate bargain by which Columbus was to be made
hereditary High Admiral of the Western Oceans, with a bite of all
revenue obtained by the passage he was to discover--he had to hold out
for such terms to make the package he was selling look attractive.
Nobody buys anything that is underpriced too much. It looks phoney. So
Cochrane made his preliminaries rather more impressive than they need
have been from a strictly practical point of view, in order to make the
enterprise practical from a financial aspect.

There was another precedent he did not intend to follow. Columbus did
not know where he was going when he set sail, he did not know where he
was when he arrived at the end of his voyage, and he didn't know where
he'd been when he got back. Cochrane expected to improve on the
achievement of the earlier explorer's doings in these respects.

He commandeered the legal department of Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins, and
Fallowe to set up the enterprise with strict legality and discretion.
There came into being a corporation called "Spaceways, Inc." which could
not possibly be considered phoney from any inspection of its charter.
Expert legal advice arranged that its actual stock-holders should appear
to be untraceable. Deft manipulation contrived that though its stock was
legally vested in Cochrane and Holden and Jones--Cochrane negligently
threw in Jones as a convenient name to use--and they were officially the
owners of nearly all the stock, nobody who checked up would believe they
were anything but dummies. Stockholdings in West's, and Jamison's and
Bell's names would look like smaller holdings held for other than the
main entrepreneurs. But these stock-holders were not only the legal
owners of record--they were the true owners. Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins
and Fallowe wanted no actual part of Spaceways. They considered the
enterprise merely a psychiatric treatment for a neurotic son-in-law.
Which, of course, it was. So Spaceways, Inc., quite honestly and validly
belonged to the people who would cure Dabney of his frustration--and
nobody at all believed that it would ever do anything else. Not anybody
but those six owners, anyhow. And as it turned out, not all of them.

The psychiatric treatment began with an innocent-seeming news-item from
Lunar City saying that Dabney, the so-and-so scientist, had consented to
act as consulting physicist to Spaceways, Inc., for the practical
application of his recent discovery of a way to send messages faster
than light.

This was news simply because it came from the moon. It got fairly wide
distribution, but no emphasis.

Then the publicity campaign broke. On orders from Cochrane, Jamison the
extrapolating genius got slightly plastered, in company with the two
news-association reporters in Lunar City. He confided that Spaceways,
Inc., had been organized and was backed to develop the Dabney
faster-than-light-signalling field into a faster-than-light-travel
field. The news men pumped him of all his extrapolations. Cynically,
they checked to see who might be preparing to unload stock. They found
no preparations for stock-sales. No registration of the company for
raising funds. It wasn't going to the public for money. It wasn't
selling anybody anything. Then Cochrane refused to see any reporters at
all, everybody connected with the enterprise shut up tighter than a
clam, and Jamison vanished into a hotel room where he was kept occupied
with beverages and food at Dabney's father-in-law's expense. None of
this was standard for a phoney promotion deal.

The news story exploded. Let loose on an overcrowded planet which had
lost all hope of relief after fifty years in which only the moon had
been colonized--and its colony had a population in the hundreds,
only--the idea of faster-than-light travel was the one impossible dream
that everybody wanted to believe in. The story spread in a manner that
could only be described as chain-reaction in character. And of course
Dabney--as the scientist responsible for the new hope--became known to
all peoples.

The experts of Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins and Fallowe checked on the
publicity given to Dabney. Strict advertising agency accounting figured
that to date the cost-per-customer-mention of Dabney and his discovery
were the lowest in the history of advertising. Surveys disclosed that
within three Earth-days less than 3.5 of every hundred interviews
questioned were completely ignorant of Dabney and the prospect of travel
to the stars through his discovery. More people knew Dabney's name than
knew the name of the President of the United States!

That was only the beginning. The leading popular-science show jumped
eight points in audience-rating. It actually reached top-twenty rating
when it assigned a regular five-minute period to the Dabney Field and
its possibilities in human terms. On the sixth day after Jamison's
calculated indiscretion, the public consciousness was literally
saturated with the idea of faster-than-light transportation. Dabney was
mentioned in every interview of every stuffed shirt, he was referred
to on every comedy show (three separate jokes had been invented, which
were developed into one thousand eight hundred switcheroos, most
of them only imperceptibly different from the original trio) and
even Marilyn Winters--Little Aphrodite Herself--was demanding a
faster-than-light-travel sequence in her next television show.

On the seventh day Bill Holden came into the office where Cochrane
worked feverishly.

"Doctor Cochrane," said Holden, "a word with you!"

"Doctor?" asked Cochrane.

"Doctor!" repeated Holden. "I've just been interviewing my patient.
You're good. My patient is adjusted."

Cochrane raised his eyebrows.

"He's famous," said Holden grimly. "He now considers that everybody in
the world knows that he is a great scientist. He is appreciated. He is
happily making plans to go back to Earth and address a few learned
societies and let people admire him. He can now spend the rest of his
life being the man who discovered the principle by which
faster-than-light-travel will some day be achieved. Even when the furor
dies down, he will have been a great man--and he will stay a great man
in his own estimation. In short, he's cured."

Cochrane grinned.

"Then I'm fired?"

"We are," said Holden. "There are professional ethics even among
psychiatrists, Jed. I have to admit that the guy now has a permanent
adjustment to reality. He has been recognized as a great scientist. He
is no longer frustrated."

Cochrane leaned back in his chair.

"That may be good medical ethics," he observed, "but it's lousy business
practice, Bill. You say he's adjusted to reality. That means that he
will now have a socially acceptable reaction to anything that's likely
to happen to him."

Holden nodded.

"A well-adjusted person does. Dabney's the same person. He's the same
fool. But he'll get along all right. A psychiatrist can't change a
personality! All he can do is make it adjust to the world about so the
guy doesn't have to be tucked away in a straight-jacket. In that sense,
Dabney is adjusted."

"You've played a dirty trick on him," said Cochrane. "You've stabilized
him, and that's the rottenest trick anybody can play on anybody! You've
put him into a sort of moral deep-freeze. It's a dirty trick, Bill!"

"Look who's talking!" said Holden wearily. "I suppose the advertising
business is altruistic and unmercenary?"

"The devil, no!" said Cochrane indignantly. "We serve a useful purpose!
We tell people that they smell bad, and so give them an alibi for the
unpopularity their stupidity has produced. But then we tell them to use
so-and-so's breath sweetener or whosit's non-immunizing deodorant
they'll immediately become the life of every party they attend! It's a
lie, of course, but it's a dynamic lie! It gives the frustrated
individual something to do! It sells him hope and therefore
activity--and inactivity is a sort of death!"

Holden looked at Cochrane with a dreary disinterest.

"You're adjusted, Jed! But do you really believe that stuff?"

Cochrane grinned again.

"Only on Tuesdays and Fridays. It's about two-sevenths true. But it does
have that much truth in it! Nobody ever gets anything done while they
merely make socially acceptable responses to the things that happen to
them! Take Dabney himself! We've got a hell of a thing coming along now
just because he wouldn't make the socially acceptable response to having
a rich wife and no brains. He rebelled. So mankind will start moving to
the stars!"

"You still believe it?"

Cochrane grimaced.

"Yesterday morning I sweated blood in a space-suit out in the crater
beyond Jones' laboratory. He tried his trick. He had a small
signal-rocket mounted on the far side of that crater,--twenty-some
miles. It was in front of the field-plate that established the Dabney
field across the crater to another plate near us. Jones turned on the
field. He ignited the rocket by remote control. I was watching with a
telescope. I gave him the word to fire.... How long do you think it took
that rocket to cross the crater in that field that works like a pipe? It
smashed into the plate at the lab!"

Holden shook his head.

"It took slightly," said Cochrane, "slightly under three-fifths of a
second."

Holden blinked. Cochrane said:

"A signal-rocket has an acceleration of about six hundred feet per
second, level flight, no gravity component, mass acceleration only. It
should have taken a hundred seconds plus to cross that crater--over
twenty miles. It shouldn't have stayed on course. It did stay on course,
inside the field. It did take under three-fifths of a second. The gadget
works!"

Holden drew a deep breath.

"So now you need more money and you want me not to discharge my patient
as cured."

"Not a bit of it!" snapped Cochrane. "I don't want him as a patient! I'm
only willing to accept him as a customer! But if he wants fame, I'll
sell it to him. Not as something to lean his fragile psyche on, but
something to wallow in! Do you think he could ever get too famous for
his own satisfaction?"

"Of course not," said Holden. "He's the same fool."

"Then we're in business," Cochrane told him. "Not that I couldn't peddle
my fish elsewhere. I'm going to! But I'll give him old-customer
preference. I'll want him out at the distress-torp tests this afternoon.
They'll be public."

"This afternoon?" asked Holden. "Distress-torp?"

A lunar day is two Earth-weeks-long. A lunar night is equally
long-drawn-out. Cochrane said impatiently:

"I got out of bed four hours ago. To me that's morning. I'll eat lunch
in an hour. That's noon. Say, three hours from now, whatever o'clock it
is lunar time."

Holden glanced at his watch and made computations. He said:

"That'll be half-past two hundred and three o'clock, if you're curious.
But what's a distress-torp?"

"Shoo!" said Cochrane. "I'll send Babs to find you and load you on the
jeep. You'll see then. Now I'm busy!"

Holden shrugged and went away, and Cochrane stared at his own watch.
Since a lunar day and night together fill twenty-eight Earth days of
time, a strictly lunar "day" contains nearly three hundred forty
Earth-hours. To call one-twelfth of that period an hour would be an
affectation. To call each twenty-four Earth hours a day would have been
absurd. So the actual period of the moon's rotation was divided into
familiar time-intervals, and a bulletin-board in the hotel lobby in
Lunar City notified those interested that: "_Sunday will be from 143
o'clock to 167 o'clock A.M._" There would be another Sunday some time
during the lunar afternoon.

Cochrane debated momentarily whether this information could be used in
the publicity campaign of Spaceways, Inc. Strictly speaking, there was
some slight obligation to throw extra fame Dabney's way regardless,
because the corporation had been formed as a public-relations device.
Any other features, such as changing the history of the human race, were
technically incidental. But Cochrane put his watch away. To talk about
horology on the moon wouldn't add to Dabney's stature as a phoney
scientist. It didn't matter.

He went back to the business at hand. Some two years before there had
been a fake corporation organized strictly for the benefit of its
promoters. It had built a rocket-ship ostensibly for the establishment
of a colony on Mars. The ship had managed to stagger up to Luna, but no
farther. Its promoters had sold stock on the promise that a ship that
could barely reach Luna could take off from that small globe with six
times as much fuel as it could lift off of Earth. Which was true.
Investors put in their money on that verifiable fact. But the truth
happened to be, of course, that it would still take an impossible amount
of fuel to accelerate the ship--so heavily loaded--to a speed where it
would reach Mars in one human lifetime. Taking off from Luna would solve
only the problem of gravity. It wouldn't do a thing about inertia. So
the ship never rose from its landing near Lunar City. The corporation
that had built it went profitably bankrupt.

Cochrane had been working feverishly to find out who owned that ship
now. Just before the torp-test he'd mentioned, he found that the ship
belonged to the hotel desk-clerk, who had bought it in hope of renting
it sooner or later for television background-shots in case anybody was
crazy enough to make a television film-tape on the moon. He was now
discouraged. Cochrane chartered it, putting up a bond to return it
undamaged. If the ship was lost, the hotel-clerk would get back his
investment--about a week's pay.

So Cochrane had a space-ship practically in his pocket when the public
demonstration of the Dabney field came off at half-past 203 o'clock.

The site of the demonstration was the shadowed, pitch-dark part of the
floor of a crater twenty miles across, with walls some ten thousand
jagged feet high. The furnace-like sunshine made the plain beyond the
shadow into a sea of blinding brightness. The sunlit parts of the
crater's walls were no less terribly glaring. But above the edge of the
cliffs the stars began; infinitely small and many-colored, with
innumerable degrees of brightness. The Earth hung in mid-sky like a
swollen green apple, monstrous in size. And the figures which moved
about the scene of the test could be seen only faintly by reflected
light from the lava plain, because one's eyes had to be adjusted to the
white-hot moon-dust on the plain and mountains.

There were not many persons present. Three jeeps waited in the
semi-darkness, out of the burning sunshine. There were no more than a
dozen moon-suited individuals to watch and to perform the test of the
Dabney field. Cochrane had scrupulously edited all fore-news of the
experiment to give Dabney the credit he had paid for. There were
present, then, the party from Earth--Cochrane and Babs and Holden, with
the two tame scientists and Bell the writer--and the only two reporters
on the moon. Only news syndicates could stand the expense-account of a
field man in Lunar City. And then there were Jones and Dabney and two
other figures apparently brought by Dabney.

There was, of course, no sound at all on the moon itself. There was no
air to carry it. But from each plastic helmet a six-inch antenna
projected straight upward, and the microwaves of suit-talkies made a
jumble of slightly metallic sounds in the headphones of each suit.

As soon as Cochrane got out of the jeep's air-lock and was recognized,
Dabney said agitatedly:

"Mr. Cochrane! Mr. Cochrane! I have to discuss something with you! It is
of the utmost importance! Will you come into the laboratory?"

Cochrane helped Babs to the ground and made his way to the airlock in
the dust-heap against the cliff. He went in, with two other space-suited
figures who detached themselves from the rest to follow him. Once inside
the odorous, cramped laboratory, Dabney opened his face-plate and began
to speak before Cochrane was ready to hear him. His companion beamed
amiably.

"--and therefore, Mr. Cochrane," Dabney was saying agitatedly, "I insist
that measures be taken to protect my scientific reputation! If this test
should fail, it will militate against the acceptance of my discovery! I
warn you--and I have my friend Mr. Simms here as witness--that I will
not be responsible for the operation of apparatus made by a subordinate
who does not fully comprehend the theory of my discovery! I will not be
involved--"

Cochrane nodded. Dabney, of course, didn't understand the theory of the
field he'd bought fame-rights to. But there was no point in bringing
that up. Johnny Simms beamed at both of them. He was the swimmer Babs
had pointed out in the swimming-pool. His face was completely unlined
and placid, like the face of a college undergraduate. He had never
worried about anything. He'd never had a care in the world. He merely
listened with placid interest.

"I take it," said Cochrane, "that you don't mind the test being made, so
long as you don't have to accept responsibility for its failure--and so
long as you get the credit for its success if it works. That's right,
isn't it?"

"If it fails, I am not responsible!" insisted Dabney stridently. "If it
succeeds, it will be because of my discovery."

Cochrane sighed a little. This was a shabby business, but Dabney would
have convinced himself, by now, that he was the genius he wanted people
to believe him.

"Before the test," said Cochrane gently, "you make a speech. It will be
recorded. You disclaim the crass and vulgar mechanical details and
emphasize that you are like Einstein, dealing in theoretic physics only.
That you are naturally interested in attempts to use your discovery, but
your presence is a sign of your interest but not your responsibility."

"I shall have to think it over--," began Dabney nervously.

"You can say," promised Cochrane, "that if it does not work you will
check over what Jones did and tell him why."

"Y-yes," said Dabney hesitantly, "I could do that. But I must think it
over first. You will have to delay--"

"If I were you," said Cochrane confidentially, "I would plan a speech to
that effect because the test is coming off in five minutes."

He closed his face-plate as Dabney began to protest. He went into the
lock. He knew better than to hold anything up while waiting for a
neurotic to make a decision. Dabney had all he wanted, now. From this
moment on he would be frantic for fear of losing it. But there could be
no argument outside the laboratory. In the airlessness, anything anybody
said by walkie-talkie could be heard by everybody.

When Dabney and Simms followed out of the lock, Cochrane was helping
Jones set up the device that had been prepared for this test. It was
really two devices. One was a very flat cone, much like a coolie-hat and
hardly larger, with a sort of power-pack of coils and batteries
attached. The other was a space-ship's distress-signal rocket, designed
to make a twenty-mile streak of red flame in emptiness. Nobody had yet
figured out what good a distress signal would do, between Earth and
moon, but the idea was soothing. The rocket was four feet long and six
inches in diameter. At its nose there was a second coolie-hat cone, with
other coils and batteries.

Jones set the separate cone on the ground and packed stones around and
under it to brace it. His movements were almost ridiculously deliberate.
Bending over, he bent slowly, or the motion would lift his feet off the
ground. Straightening up, he straightened slowly, or the upward impetus
of his trunk would again lift him beyond contact with solidity. But he
braced the flat cone carefully.

He set the signal-torpedo over that cone. The entire set-up was under
six feet tall, and the coolie-hat cones were no more than eighteen
inches in diameter. He said flatly:

"I'm all ready."

The hand and arm of a space-suited figure lifted, for attention.
Dabney's voice came worriedly from the headphones of every suit:

"I wish it understood," he said in some agitation, "that this first
attempted application of my discovery is made with my consent, but that
I am not aware of the mechanical details. As a scientist, my work has
been in pure science. I have worked for the advancement of human
knowledge, but the technological applications of my discovery are not
mine. Still--if this device does not work, I will take time from my more
important researches to inquire into what part of my discovery has been
inadequately understood and applied. It may be that present technology
is not qualified to apply my discovery--"

Jones said without emotion--but Cochrane could imagine his poker-faced
expression inside his helmet:

"That's right. I consulted Mr. Dabney about the principles, but the
apparatus is my doing, I take the responsibility for that!"

Then Cochrane added with pleasant irony:

"Since all this is recorded, Mr. Dabney can enlarge upon his disinterest
later. Right now, we can go ahead. Mr. Dabney disavows us unless we are
successful. Let us let it go at that." Then he said: "The observatory's
set to track?"

A muffled voice said boredly, by short-wave from the observatory up on
the crater's rim:

"_We're ready. Visual and records, and we've got the timers set to clock
the auto-beacon signals as they come in._"

The voice was not enthusiastic. Cochrane had had to put up his own money
to have the nearside lunar observatory put a low-power telescope to
watch the rocket's flight. In theory, this distress-rocket should make a
twenty-mile streak of relatively long-burning red sparks. A tiny
auto-beacon in its nose was set to send microwave signals at ten-second
intervals. On the face of it, it had looked like a rather futile
performance.

"Let's go," said Cochrane.

He noted with surprise that his mouth was suddenly dry. This affair was
out of all reason. A producer of television shows should not be the
person to discover in an abstruse scientific development the way to
reach the stars. A neurotic son-in-law of an advertising tycoon should
not be the instrument by which the discovery should come about. A
psychiatrist should not be the means of associating Jones--a very junior
physicist with no money--and Cochrane and the things Cochrane was
prepared to bring about if only this unlikely-looking gadget worked.

"Jones," said Cochrane with a little difficulty, "let's follow an
ancient tradition. Let Babs christen the enterprise by throwing the
switch."

Jones pointed there in the shadow of the crater-wall, and Babs moved to
the switch he indicated. She said absorbedly:

"Five, four, three, two, one--"

She threw the switch. There was a spout of lurid red flame.

The rocket vanished.

It vanished. It did not rise, visibly. It simply went away from where it
was, with all the abruptness of a light going out. There was a flurry of
the most brilliant imaginable carmine flame. That light remained. But
the rocket did not so much rise as disappear.

Cochrane jerked his head up. He was close to the line of the rocket's
ascent. He could see a trail of red sparks which stretched to
invisibility. It was an extraordinarily thin line. The separate flecks
of crimson light which comprised it were distant in space. They were so
far from each other that the signal-rocket was a complete failure as a
device making a streak of light that should be visible.

The muffled voice in the helmet-phones said blankly:

"_Hey! What'd you do to that rocket?_"

The others did not move. They seemed stunned. The vanishing of the
rocket was no way for a rocket to act. In all expectation, it should
have soared skyward with a reasonable velocity, and should have
accelerated rather more swiftly from the moon's surface than it would
have done from Earth. But it should have remained visible during all its
flight. Its trail should have been a thick red line. Instead, the red
sparks were so far separated--the trail was so attenuated that it was
visible only from a spot near its base. The observatory voice said more
blankly still:

"_Hey! I've picked up the trail! I can't see it nearby, but it seems to
start, thin, about fifty miles up and go on away from there! That
rocket shouldn't ha' gone more than twenty miles! What happened?_"

"_Watch for the microwave signals_," said Jones' voice in Cochrane's
headphones.

The voice from the observatory squeaked suddenly. This was not one of
the highly-placed astronomers, but part of the mechanical staff who'd
been willing to do an unreasonable chore for pay.

"_Here's the blip! It's crazy! Nothing can go that fast!_"

And then in the phones there came the relayed signal of the auto-beacon
in the vanished rocket. The signal-sound was that of a radar pulse,
beginning at low pitch and rising three octaves in the tenth of a
second. At middle C--the middle of the range of a piano--there was a
momentary spurt of extra volume. But in the relayed signal that louder
instant had dropped four tones. Cochrane said crisply:

"Jones, what speed would that be?"

"_It'd take a slide-rule to figure it_," said Jones' voice, very calmly,
"_but it's faster than anything ever went before._"

Cochrane waited for the next beep. It did not come in ten seconds. It
was easily fifteen. Even he could figure out what that meant! A
signal-source that stretched ten seconds of interval at source to
fifteen at reception ...

The voice from the observatory wailed:

"_It's crazy! It can't be going like that!_"

They waited. Fifteen seconds more. Sixteen. Eighteen. Twenty. The beep
sounded. The spurt of sound had dropped a full octave. The
signal-rocket, traveling normally, might have attained a maximum
velocity of some two thousand feet per second. It was now moving at a
speed which was an appreciably large fraction of the speed of light.
Which was starkly impossible. It simply happened to be true.

They heard the signal once more. The observatory's multiple-receptor
receiver had been stepped up to maximum amplification. The signal was
distinct, but very faint indeed. And the rocket was then traveling--so
it was later computed--at seven-eighths of the speed of light. Between
the flat cone on the front of the distress-torpedo, and the flat cone on
the ground, a field of force existed. The field was not on the back
surface of the torpedo's cone, but before the front surface. It went
back to the moon from there, so all the torpedo and its batteries were
in the columnar stressed space. And an amount of rocket-push that should
have sent the four-foot torpedo maybe twenty miles during its period of
burning, had actually extended its flight to more than thirty-seven
hundred miles before the red sparks were too far separated to be traced
any farther, and by then had kicked the torpedo up impossibly close to
light-speed.

In a sense, the Dabney field had an effect similar to the invention of
railways. The same horsepower moved vastly more weight faster, over
steel rails, than it could haul over a rutted dirt road. The same
rocket-thrust moved more weight faster in the Dabney field than in
normal space. There would be a practical limit to the speed at which a
wagon could be drawn over a rough road. The speed of light was a limit
to the speed of matter in normal space. But on a railway the practical
speed at which a vehicle could travel went up from three miles an hour
to a hundred and twenty. In the Dabney field it was yet to be discovered
what the limiting velocity might be. But old formulas for acceleration
and increase-of-mass-with-velocity simply did not apply in a Dabney
field.

Jones rode back to Lunar City with Cochrane and Holden and Babs. His
face was dead-pan.

Babs tried to recover the mien and manner of the perfect secretary.

"Mr. Cochrane," she said professionally, "will you want to read the
publicity releases Mr. Bell turns out from what Mr. West and Mr. Jamison
tell him?"

"I don't think it matters," said Cochrane. "The newsmen will pump West
and Jamison empty, anyhow. It's all right. In fact, it's better than our
own releases would be. They'll contradict each other. It'll sound more
authentic that way. We're building up a customer-demand for
information."

The small moon-jeep rolled and bumped gently down the long, improbable
highway back to Lunar City. Its engine ran smoothly, as steam-engines
always do. It ran on seventy per cent hydrogen peroxide, first developed
as a fuel back in the 1940s for the pumps of the V2 rockets that tried
to win the Second World War for Germany. When hydrogen peroxide comes in
contact with a catalyst, such as permanganate of potash, it breaks down
into oxygen and water. But the water is in the form of high-pressure
steam, which is used in engines. The jeep's fuel supplied steam for
power and its ashes were water to drink and oxygen to breathe. Steam ran
all motorized vehicles on Luna.

"What are you thinking about, Jones?" asked Cochrane suddenly.

Jones said meditatively:

"I'm wondering what sort of field-strength a capacity-storage system
would give me. I boosted the field intensity this time. The results were
pretty good. I'm thinking--suppose I made the field with a strobe-light
power-pack--or maybe a spot-welding unit. Even a portable strobe-light
gives a couple of million watts for the forty-thousandth of a second.
Suppose I fixed up a storage-pack to give me a field with a few billion
watts in it? It might be practically like matter-transmission, though it
would really be only high-speed travel. I think I've got to work on that
idea a little ..."

Cochrane digested the information in silence.

"Far be it from me," he said presently, "to discourage such high-level
contemplation. Bill, what's on your mind?"

Holden said moodily:

"I'm convinced that the thing works. But Jed! You talk as if you hadn't
any more worries! Yet even if you and Jones do have a way to make a ship
travel faster than light, you haven't got a ship or the capital you
need--."

"I've got scenery that looks like a ship," said Cochrane mildly.
"Consider that part settled."

"But there are supplies. Air--water--food--a crew--. We can't pay for
such things! Here on the moon the cost of everything is preposterous!
How can you try out this idea without more capital than you can possibly
raise?"

"I'm going to imitate my old friend Christopher Columbus," said
Cochrane. "I'm going to give the customers what they want. Columbus
didn't try to sell anybody shares in new continents. Who wanted new
continents? Who wanted to move to a new world? Who wants new planets
now? Everybody would like to see their neighbors move away and leave
more room, but nobody wants to move himself. Columbus sold a promise of
something that had an already-established value, that could be sold in
every town and village--that had a merchandising system already set up!
I'm going to offer just such a marketable commodity. I'll have
freight-rockets on the way up here within twenty-four hours, and the
freight and their contents will all be paid for!"

He turned to Babs. He looked more sardonic and cynical than ever before.

"Babs, you've just witnessed one of the moments that ought to be
illustrated in all the grammar-school history-books along with Ben
Franklin flying a kite. What's topmost in your mind?"

She hesitated and then flushed. The moon-jeep crunched and clanked
loudly over the trail that led downhill. There was no sound outside, of
course. There was no air. But the noise inside the moon-vehicle was
notable. The steam-motor, in particular, made a highly individual
racket.

"I'd--rather not say," said Babs awkwardly. "What's your own main
feeling, Mr. Cochrane?"

"Mine?" Cochrane grinned. "I'm thinking what a hell of a funny world
this is, when people like Dabney and Bill and Jones and I are the ones
who have to begin operation outer space!"



CHAPTER FOUR


Cochrane said kindly into the vision-beam microphone to Earth, "Cancel
section C, paragraph nine. Then section b(1) from paragraph eleven. Then
after you've canceled the entire last section--fourteen--we can sign up
the deal."

There was a four-second pause. About two seconds for his voice to reach
Earth. About two seconds for the beginning of the reply to reach him.
The man at the other end protested wildly.

"We're a long way apart," said Cochrane blandly, "and our talk only
travels at the speed of light. You're not talking from one continent to
another. Save tolls. Yes or no?"

Another four-second pause. The man on Earth profanely agreed. Cochrane
signed the contract before him. The other man signed. Not only the
documents but all conversation was recorded. There were plugged-in
witnesses. The contract was binding.

Cochrane leaned back in his chair. His eyes blinked wearily. He'd spent
hours going over the facsimile-transmitted contract with Joint Networks,
and had weeded out a total of six joker-stipulations. He was very tired.
He yawned.

"You can tell Jones, Babs," he said, "that all the high financing's
done. He can spend money. And you can transmit my resignation to
Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins and Fallowe. And since this is a pretty risky
operation, you'd better send a service message asking what you're to do
with yourself. They'll probably tell you to take the next rocket back
and report to the secretarial pool, I'm afraid. The same fate probably
awaits West and Jamison and Bell."

Babs said guiltily:

"Mr. Cochrane--you've been so busy I had to use my own judgment. I
didn't want to interrupt you--."

"What now?" demanded Cochrane.

"The publicity on the torp-test," said Babs guiltily, "was so good
that the firm was worried for fear we'd seem to be doing it for
a client of the firm--which we are. So we've all been put on a
leave-with-expenses-and-pay status. Officially, we're all sick and the
firm is paying our expenses until we regain our health."

"Kind of them," said Cochrane. "What's the bite?"

"They're sending up talent contracts for us to sign," admitted Babs.
"When we go back, we would command top prices for interviews. The firm,
of course, will want to control that."

Cochrane raised his eyebrows.

"I see! But you'll actually be kept off the air so Dabney can be
television's fair-haired boy. He'll go on Marilyn Winter's show, I'll
bet, because that has the biggest audience on the planet. He'll lecture
Little Aphrodite Herself on the constants of space and she'll flutter
her eyelashes at him and shove her chest-measurements in his direction
and breathe how wonderful it is to be a man of science!"

"How'd you know?" demanded Babs, surprised.

Cochrane winced.

"Heaven help me, Babs, I didn't. I tried to guess at something too
impossible even for the advertising business! But I failed! I failed!
You and my official gang, then, are here with the firm's blessing, free
of all commands and obligations, but drawing salary and expenses?"

"Yes," admitted Babs. "And so are you."

"I get off!" said Cochrane firmly. "Forward my resignation. It's a
matter of pure vanity. But Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins and Fallowe do move
in a mysterious way to latch onto a fast buck! I'm going to get some
sleep. Is there anything else you've had to use your judgment on?"

"The contracts for re-broadcast of the torp-test. The original broadcast
had an audience-rating of seventy-one!"

"Such," said Cochrane, "are the uses of fame. Our cash?"

She showed him a neatly typed statement. For the original run of the
torp-test film-tape, so much. It was to be re-run with a popularization
of the technical details by West, and a lurid extrapolation of things to
come by Jamison. The sponsors who got hold of commercial time with that
expanded and souped-up version would expect, and get, an audience-rating
unparalleled in history. Dabney was to take a bow on the rebroadcast,
too--very much the dignified and aloof scientist. There were other
interviews. Dabney again, from a script written by Bell. And Jones.
Jones hated the idea of being interviewed, but he had faced a
beam-camera and answered idiotic questions, and gone angrily back to his
work.

Spaceways, Inc., had a bank-account already amounting to more than
twenty years of Cochrane's best earning-power. He was selling publicity
for sponsors to hang their commercials on, in a strict parallel to
Christopher Columbus' selling of spices to come. But Cochrane was
delivering for cash. Freight-rockets were on the way moonward now, whose
cargoes of supplies for a space-journey Cochrane was accepting only when
a bonus in money was paid for the right to brag about it. So-and-so's
oxygen paid for the privilege of supplying air-reserves.
What's-his-name's dehydrated vegetables were accepted on similar terms,
with whoosit's instant coffee and somebody else's noodle soup in bags.

"If," said Cochrane tiredly, looking up from the statement, "we could
only start off in a fleet instead of a single ship, Babs, we'd not only
be equipped but so rich before we started that we'd want to stay home to
enjoy it!" He yawned prodigiously. "I'm going to get some sleep. Don't
let me sleep too long!"

He went off to his hotel-room and was out cold before his head had
drifted down to its pillow. But he was not pleased with himself. It
annoyed him that his revolt against being an expendable employee had
taken the form of acting like one of his former bosses in collecting
ruthlessly for the brains--in the case of Jones--and the neurotic
idiosyncrasies--in the case of Dabney--of other men. The gesture by
which he had become independent was not quite the splendid, scornful one
he'd have liked. The fact that this sort of gesture worked, and nothing
else would have, did not make him feel better.

But he slept.

He dreamed that he was back at his normal business of producing a
television show. Nobody but himself cared whether the show went on or
not. The actual purpose of all his subordinates seemed to be to cut as
many throats among their fellow-workers as possible--in a business way,
of course--so that by their own survival they might succeed to a better
job and higher pay. This is what is called the fine spirit of teamwork
by which things get done, both in private and public enterprise.

It was a very realistic dream, but it was not restful.

While he slept, the world wagged on and the cosmos continued on its
normal course. The two moons of Earth--one natural and one
artificial--swung in splendid circles about. A psychiatrist should not
be the means of associ-[Missing text] that planet's divided rings. The
red spot of Jupiter and the bands on that gas-giant world moved in
orderly fashion about its circumference. Light-centuries away, giant
Cepheid suns expanded monstrously and contracted again, rather more
rapidly than their gravitational fields could account for. Double stars
sedately swung about each other. Comets reached their farthest points
and, mere aggregations of frigid jagged stones and metal, prepared for
another plunge back into light and heat and warmth.

And various prosaic actions took place on Luna.

When Cochrane waked and went back to the hotel-room in use as an office,
he found Babs talking confidentially to a woman--girl, rather--whom
Cochrane vaguely remembered. Then he did a double take. He did remember
her. Three or four years before she'd been the outstanding television
personality of the year. She'd been pretty, but not so pretty that you
didn't realize that she was a person. She was everything that Marilyn
Winters was not--and she'd been number two name in television.

Cochrane said blankly:

"Aren't you Alicia Keith?"

The girl smiled faintly. She wasn't as pretty as she had been. She
looked patient. And an expression of patience, on a woman's face, is
certainly not unpleasant. But it isn't glamorous, either.

"I was," she said. "I married Johnny Simms."

Cochrane looked at Babs.

"They live up here," explained Babs. "I pointed him out at the
swimming-pool the day we got here."

"Wonderful," said Cochrane. "How--"

"Johnny," said Alicia, "has bought into your Spaceways corporation. He
got your man West drunk and bought his shares of Spaceway stock."

Cochrane sat down--not hard, because it was impossible to sit down hard
on the moon. But he sat down as hard as it was possible to sit.

"Why'd he do that?"

"He found out you had hold of the old Mars colony ship. He understands
you're going to take a trip out to the stars. He wants to go along. He's
very much like a little boy. He hates it here."

"Then why live--." Cochrane checked the question, not quite in time.

"He can't go back to Earth," said Alicia calmly. "He's a psychopathic
personality. He's sane and quite bright and rather dear in his way, but
he simply can't remember what is right and wrong. Especially when he
gets excited. When they fixed up Lunar City as an international colony,
by sheer oversight they forgot to arrange for extradition from it. So
Johnny can live here. He can't live anywhere else--not for long."

Cochrane said nothing.

"He wants to go with you," said Alicia pleasantly. "He's thrilled. The
lawyer his family keeps up here to watch over him is thrilled, too. He
wants to go back and visit his family. And as a stockholder, Johnny can
keep you from taking a ship or any other corporate property out of the
jurisdiction of the courts. But he'd rather go with you. Of course I
have to go too."

"It's blackmail," said Cochrane without heat. "A pretty neat job of it,
too. Babs, you see Holden about this. He's a psychiatrist." He turned to
Alicia. "Why do you want to go? I don't know whether it'll be dangerous
or not."

"I married Johnny," said Alicia. Her smile was composed. "I thought it
would be wonderful to be able to trust somebody that nobody else could
trust." After a moment she added: "It would be, if one could."

A few moments later she went away, very pleasantly and very calmly. Her
husband had no sense of right or wrong--not in action, anyhow. She tried
to keep him from doing too much damage by exercising the knowledge she
had of what was fair and what was not. Cochrane grimaced and told Babs
to make a note to talk to Holden. But there were other matters on hand,
too. There were waivers to be signed by everybody who went along off
Luna. Then Cochrane said thoughtfully:

"Alicia Keith would be a good name for film-tape ..."

He plunged into the mess of paper-work and haggling which somebody has
to do before any achievement of consequence can come about. Pioneer
efforts, in particular, require the same sort of clearing-away process
as the settling of a frontier farm. Instead of trees to be chopped
and dug up by the roots, there are the gratuitous obstructionists
who have to be chopped off at the ankles in a business way, and
the people who exercise infinite ingenuity trying to get a cut of
something--anything--somebody else is doing. And of course there are
the publicity-hounds. Since Spaceways was being financed on sales of
publicity which could be turned on this product and that,
publicity-hounds cut into its revenue and capital.

Back on Earth a crackpot inventor had a lawyer busily garnering free
advertisement by press conferences about the injury done his client by
Spaceways, Inc., who had stolen his invention to travel through space
faster than light. Somebody in the Senate made a speech accusing the
Spaceway project of being a political move by the party in power for
some dire ultimate purpose.

Ultimately the crackpot inventor would get on the air and announce
triumphantly that only part of his invention had been stolen, because
he'd been too smart to write it down or tell anybody, and he wouldn't
tell anybody--not even a court--the full details of his invention unless
paid twenty-five million in cash down, and royalties afterward. The
project for a congressional investigation of Spaceways would die in
committee.

But there were other griefs. The useless spaceship hulk had to be
emptied of the mining-tools stored in it. This was done by men working
in space-suits. Occupational rules required them to exert not more than
one-fourth of the effort they would have done if working for themselves.
When the ship was empty, air was released in it, and immediately froze
to air-snow. So radiant heaters had to be installed and powered to warm
up the hull to where an atmosphere could exist in it. Its generators had
to be thawed from the metal-ice stage of brittleness and warmed to where
they could be run without breaking themselves to bits.

But there were good breaks, too. Presently a former
moonship-pilot--grounded to an administrative job on Luna--on his own
free time checked over the ship. Jones arranged it. With rocket-motors
of adamite--the stuff discovered by pure accident in a steel-mill back
on Earth--the propelling apparatus checked out. The fuel-pumps had been
taken over in fullness of design from fire-engine pumps on Earth. They
were all right. The air-regenerating apparatus had been developed from
the aeriating culture-tanks in which antibiotics were grown on Earth. It
needed only reseeding with algae--microscopic plants which when supplied
with ultraviolet light fed avidly on carbon dioxide and yielded oxygen.
The ship was a rather involved combination of essentially simple
devices. It could be put back into such workability as it had once
possessed with practically no trouble.

It was.

Jones moved into it, with masses of apparatus from the laboratory in the
Lunar Apennines. He labored lovingly, fanatically. Like most spectacular
discoveries, the Dabney field was basically simple. It was almost
idiotically uncomplicated. In theory it was a condition of the space
just outside one surface of a sheet of metal. It was like that
conduction-layer on the wires of a cross-country power-cable, when
electricity is transmitted in the form of high-frequency alterations and
travels on the skins of many strands of metal, because high-frequency
current simply does not flow inside of wires, but only on their
surfaces. The Dabney field formed on the surface--or infinitesimally
beyond it--of a metal sheet in which eddy-currents were induced in
such-and-such a varying fashion. That was all there was to it.

So Jones made the exterior forward surface of the abandoned spaceship
into a generator of the Dabney field. It was not only simple, it was too
simple! Having made the bow of the ship into a Dabney field plate, he
immediately arranged that he could, at will, make the rear of the ship
into another Dabney field plate. The two plates, turned on together,
amounted to something that could be contemplated with startled awe, but
Jones planned to start off, at least, in a manner exactly like the
distress-torp test. The job of wiring up for faster-than-light travel,
however, was not much more difficult than wiring a bungalow, when one
knew how it should be done.

Two freight-rockets came in, picked up by radar and guided to landings
by remote control. The Lunar City beam receiver picked up music aimed up
from Earth and duly relayed it to the dust-heaps which were the
buildings of the city. The colonists and moon-tourists became familiar
with forty-two new tunes dealing with prospective travel to the stars.
One work of genius tied in a just-released film-tape drama titled
"_Child of Hate_" to the Lunar operation, and charmed listeners saw and
heard the latest youthful tenor gently plead, "_Child of Hate, Come to
the Stars and Love._" The publicity department responsible for the
masterpiece considered itself not far from genius, too.

There was confusion thrice and four and five times confounded. Cochrane
came in to dispute furiously with Holden whether it was better to have a
psychopathic personality on the space-ship or to have a legal battle in
the courts. Cochrane won. Jones arrived, belligerent, to do battle for
technical devices which would cost money.

"Look!" said Cochrane harassedly. "I'm not trying to boss you! Don't
come to me for authority! If you can make that ship take off I'll be in
it, and my neck will be in as much danger as yours. You buy what will
keep my neck as safe as possible, along with yours. I'm busy raising
money and fighting off crackpots and dodging lawsuits and getting
supplies! I've got a job that needs three men anyhow. All I'm hoping is
that you get ready to take off before I start cutting out paperdolls.
When can we leave?"

"We?" said Jones suspiciously. "You're going?"

"If you think I'll stay behind and face what'll happen if this business
flops," Cochrane told him, "you're crazy! There are too many people on
Earth already. There's no room for a man who tried something big and
failed! If this flops I'd rather be a frozen corpse with a happy smile
on my face--I understand that in space one freezes--than somebody living
on assisted survival status on Earth!"

"Oh," said Jones, mollified. "How many people are to go?"

"Ask Bill Holden," Cochrane told him. "Remember, if you need something,
get it. I'll try to pay for it. If we come back with picture-tapes of
outer space--even if we only circumnavigate Mars!--we'll have money
enough to pay for anything!"

Jones regarded Cochrane with something almost like warmth.

"I like this way of doing business," he said.

"It's not business!" protested Cochrane. "This is getting something
done! By the way. Have you picked out a destination for us to aim at?"
When Jones shook his head, Cochrane said harassedly; "Better get one
picked out. But when we make out our sail-off papers, for destination
we'll say, 'To the stars.' A nice line for the news broadcasts. Oh, yes.
Tell Bill Holden to try to find us a skipper. An astrogator. Somebody
who can tell us how to get back if we get anywhere we need to get back
from. Is there such a person?"

"I've got him," said Jones. "He checked the ship for me. Former
moon-rocket pilot. He's here in Lunar City. Thanks!"

He shook hands with Cochrane before he left. Which for Jones was an
expression of overwhelming emotion. Cochrane turned back to his desk.

"Let's see ... That arrangement for cachets on stamps and covers to be
taken along and postmarked Outer Space. Put in a stipulation for extra
payment in case we touch on planets and invent postmarks for them ..."

He worked on, while Babs took notes. Presently he was dictating. And as
he talked, frowning, he took a fountain-pen from his pocket and absently
worked the refill-handle. It made ink exude from the pen-point. On the
moon, the surface tension of the ink was exactly the same as on earth,
but the gravity was five-sixths less. So a drop of ink of really
impressive size could be formed before the moon's weak gravity made it
fall.

Dictating as he worked the pen, Cochrane achieved a pear-shaped
mass of ink which was quite the size of a large grape before it fell
into his waste-basket. It was the largest he'd made to date. It
fell--slow-motion--and splashed--violently--as he regarded it with
harried satisfaction.

More time passed. A moon-rocket arrived from Earth. There were new
tourists under the thousand-foot plastic dome. Out by the former
Mars-ship Jones made experiments with small plastic balloons coated with
a conducting varnish. In a vacuum, a cubic inch of air at Earth-pressure
will expand to make many cubic feet of near-vacuum. If a balloon can
sustain an internal pressure of one ounce to the square foot, a
thimbleful of air will inflate a sizeable globe to that pressure. Jones
was arranging tiny Dabney field robot-generators with tiny atomic
batteries to power them. Each such balloon would be a Dabney field
"plate" when cast adrift in emptiness, and its little battery would keep
it in operation for twenty years or more.

Baggage came up from Earth for Johnny Simms. It was mostly elephant-guns
and ammunition for them. Johnny, as the heir to innumerable millions
back on earth, had had a happy life, but hardly one to give him a
practical view of things. To him, star-travel meant landing on such
exotic planets as the fictioneers had been writing about for a hundred
years or so. He really looked upon the venture into space as a combined
big-game expedition and escape from Lunar City. And he did look forward,
too, to freedom from his family's legal representative and the constant
reminder of ethical and moral values which Johnny preferred happily to
ignore.

Film-tape came up, and cameras to use it in. Every imaginable item an
expedition to space could use or even might use, was thrust upon
Spaceways, Inc. Manufacturers yearned to have their products used in
connection with the hottest news story in decades. There was a steady
trailing of moon-jeeps from the airlocks of Lunar City to the ship.

The time of lunar sunset arrived--503:30 o'clock, half-past five hundred
and three hours. Time was measured from midnight to midnight,
astronomical fashion. The great, blazing sun whose streamer prominences,
even, were too bright to be looked at with the naked eye--the sun neared
and reached the horizon. There was no change in the star-studded sky.
There were no sunset colorings. The incandescent brightness on the
mountains was not lessened in the least. Only the direction of the stark
black shadows shifted.

The glaring sun descended. Its motion was almost infinitely slow. Its
disk was of the order of half a degree of arc, and it took a full hour
to be fully obscured. And then there was at first no difference in the
look of things save that the _Mare Imbrium_--the solidified, arid Sea of
Showers--was as dark as the shadows in the mountains.

They still gleamed brightly. For a very long time the white-hot sunshine
glowed on their flanks. The brightness rose and rose, and blackness
followed it. At long last only the topmost peaks of the Apennines blazed
luridly against a background of stars whose light seemed feeble by
comparison.

Then it was night indeed. But the Earth shone forth, a half-globe of
seas and clouds and continents, vast and nostalgic in the sky. And now
Earthshine fell upon the moon. It was many times brighter than moonlight
ever was upon the Earth. Even at lunar sunset the Earthlight was sixteen
times brighter. At midnight, when the Earth was full, it would be bright
enough for any activity. Actually, the human beings on Luna were nearly
nocturnal in their habits, because it was easier to run moon-jeeps in
frigidity and keep men and machines warm enough for functioning, than it
was to protect them against the more-than-boiling heat of midday on the
moon.

So the activity about the salvaged space-ship increased. There were
electric lights blazing in the demi-twilight, to guide freight vehicles
with their loads. The tourist-jeeps went and returned and went and
returned. The last shipload of travelers from Earth wanted to see the
space-craft about which all the world was talking.

Even Cochrane presently became curious. There came a time when all the
paper-work connected with what had happened was done with, and
conditional contracts drawn up on everything that could be foreseen. It
was time for something new to happen.

Cochrane said dubiously:

"Babs, have you seen the ship?"

She shook her head.

"I think we'd better go take a look at it," said Cochrane. "Do you know,
I've been acting like a damned business man! I've only been out of Lunar
City three times. Once to the laboratory to talk, once to test a
signal-rocket across the crater, and once when the distress-torp went
off. I haven't even seen the nightclub here in the City!"

"You should," said Babs matter-of-factly. "I went once, with Doctor
Holden. The dancing was marvelous!"

"Bill Holden, eh?" said Cochrane. He found himself annoyed. "Took you to
the nightclub; but not to see the ship!"

"The ship's farther," explained Babs. "I could always be found at the
nightclub if you needed me. I went when you were asleep."

"Damn!" said Cochrane. "Hm ... You ought to get a bonus. What would you
rather have, Babs, a bonus in cash or Spaceways stock?"

"I've got some stock," said Babs. "Mr. Bell--the writer, you know--got
in a poker game. He was cleaned out. So I gave him all the money I
had--I told you I cleared out my savings-account before we came up, I
think--for half his shares."

"Either you got very badly stuck," Cochrane told her cynically, "or else
you'll be so rich you won't speak to me."

"Oh, no!" said Babs warmly. "Never!"

Cochrane yawned.

"Let's get out and take a look at the ship. Maybe I can stow cargo or
something, now there's no more paper-work."

Babs said with an odd calm:

"Mr. Jones wanted you out there today--in an hour, he said. I promised
you'd go. I meant to mention it in time."

Cochrane did not notice her tone. He was dead-tired, as only a man can
be who has driven himself at top speed for days on end over a business
deal. Business deals are stimulating only in their major aspects. Most
of the details are niggling, tedious, routine, and boring--and very
often bear-trapped. Cochrane had done, with only Babs' help, an amount
of mental labor that in the offices of Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins and
Fallowe would have been divided among two vice-presidents, six lawyers,
and at least twelve account executives. The work, therefore, would
actually have been done by not less than twenty secretaries. But Babs
and Cochrane had done it all.

In the moon-jeep on the way to the ship he felt that heavy, exhausted
sense of relaxation which is not pleasurable at all. Babs annoyed him a
little, too. She was late getting to the airlock, and seemed breathless
when she arrived.

The moon-jeep crunched and clanked and rumbled over the gently
undulating lava sea beneath its giant wheels. Babs looked zestfully out
of the windows. The picture was, of course, quite incredible. In the
relatively dim Earthlight the moonscape was somehow softened, and yet
the impossibly jagged mountains and steep cliffsides and the razor-edged
passes of monstrous stone,--these things remained daunting. It was like
riding through a dream in which everything nearby seemed fey and
glamorous, but the background was deathly-still and ominous.

There were the usual noises inside the jeep. The air had a metallic
smell. One could detect the odors of oil, and ozone, and varnish, and
plastic upholstery. There were the crunching sounds of the wheels,
traveling over stone. There was the paradoxic gentleness of all the
jeep's motions because of the low gravity. Cochrane even noted the
extraordinary feel of an upholstered seat when one weighs only one-sixth
as much as back on Earth. All his sensations were dreamlike--but he felt
that headachy exhaustion that comes of overwork too long continued.

"I'll try," he said tiredly, "to see that you have some fun before you
go back, Babs. You'll go back as soon as we dive off into whatever we're
diving into, but you ought to get in the regular tourist stuff up here,
anyhow."

Babs said nothing. Pointedly.

The moon-jeep clanked and rumbled onward. The hissing of steam was
audible. The vehicle swung around a pinnacle of stone, and Cochrane saw
the space-ship.

In the pale Earthlight it was singularly beautiful. It had been designed
to lure investors in a now-defunct promotion. It was stream-lined, and
gigantic, and it glittered like silver. It stood upright on its
tail-fins, and it had lighted ports and electric lights burned in the
emptiness about it. But there was only one moon-jeep at its base. A
space-suited figure moved toward a dangling sling and sat in it. He rose
deliberately toward an open airlock-hatch, and the other moon-jeep moved
soundlessly away back toward Lunar City.

There was no debris about. There was no cargo waiting to be loaded.
Cochrane did see a great metal plate, tilted on the ground, with a large
box attached to it by cables. That would be the generators and the
field-plate for a Dabney field. It was plainly to remain on the moon. It
was not underneath the ship. Cochrane puzzled tiredly over it for a
moment. Then he understood. The ship would lift on its rockets, hover
over the plate--which would be generating its half of the field--and
then Jones would switch on the apparatus in the ship itself. The
forward, needle-pointed nose of the ship would become another generator
of the Dabney field. The ship's inertia, in that field, would be
effectively reduced to a fraction of its former value. The rockets,
which might give it an acceleration of a few hundred feet per second
anywhere but in a Dabney field, would immediately accelerate the ship
and all its contents to an otherwise unattainable velocity. The
occupants of the rocket would lose their relative inertia to the same
degree as the ship. They should feel no more acceleration than from the
same rocket-thrust in normal space. But they would travel--

Cochrane felt that there was a fallacy somehow, in the working of the
Dabney field as he understood it. If there was less inertia in the
Dabney field--why--a rocket shouldn't push as hard in it, because, it
was the inertia of the rocket-gases that gave the rocket-thrust. But
Cochrane was much too tired to work out a theoretic objection to
something he knew did work. He was almost dozing when Babs touched his
arm.

"Space-suits, Mr. Cochrane."

He got wearily into the clumsy costume. But he saw again that Babs wore
the shining-eyed look of rapturous adventure that he had seen her wear
before.

They got out of the moon-jeep, one after the other. The sling came down
the space-ship's gleaming side. They got in it, together. It lifted
them.

The vast, polished hull of the space-ship slid past them only ten feet
away. The ground diminished. They seemed less to be lifted than to float
skyward. And in this sling, in this completely unreal ascent, Cochrane
roused suddenly. He felt the acute unease which comes of height. He had
looked down upon Earth from a height of four thousand miles with no
feeling of dizziness. He had looked at Earth a quarter-million miles
away with no consciousness of depth. But a mere fifty feet above the
surface of the moon he felt like somebody swinging out of a skyscraper
window.

Then the airlock opening was beside them, and the sling rolled inward.
They were in the lock, and Cochrane found himself pushing Babs away from
the unrailed opening. He was relieved when the airlock closed.

Inside the ship, with the space-suits off, there was light and warmth,
and a remarkably matter-of-fact atmosphere. The ship had been built to
sell stock in a scheme for colonizing Mars. Prospective investors had
been shown through it. It had been designed to be a convincing
passenger-liner of space.

It was. But Cochrane found himself not needed for any consultation, and
Jones was busy, and Bill Holden highly preoccupied. He saw Alicia
Keith--but her name was Simms now. She smiled at him but took Babs by
the arm. They went off somewhere.

Cochrane waited for somebody to tell him what to look at and to admire.
He saw Jamison, and Bell, and he saw a man he had not seen before. He
settled down in a deeply upholstered chair. He felt neglected. Everybody
was busy. But mostly he felt tired.

He slept.

Then Babs was shaking his arm, her eyes shining.

"Mr. Cochrane!" she cried urgently. "Mr. Cochrane! Wake up! Go on up to
the control-room! We're going to take off!"

He blinked at her.

"We!" Then he started up, and went five feet into the air from the
violence of his uncalculated movement. "We? No you don't! You go back to
Lunar City where you'll be safe!"

Then he heard a peculiar drumming, rumbling noise. He had heard it
before. In the moonship. It was rockets being tested; being burned;
rockets in the very last seconds of preparation before take-off for the
stars.

He didn't drop back to the floor beside the chair he'd occupied. The
floor rose to meet him.

"I've had our baggage brought on board," said Babs, happily. "I'm going
because I'm a stockholder! Hold on to something and climb those stairs
if you want to see us go up! I'm going to be busy!"



CHAPTER FIVE


The physical sensations of ascending to the ship's control-room were
weird in the extreme. Cochrane had just been wakened from a worn-out
sleep, and it was always startling on the moon to wake and find one's
self weighing one-sixth of normal. It took seconds to remember how one
got that way. But on the way up the stairs, Cochrane was further
confused by the fact that the ship was surging this way and swaying
that. It moved above the moon's surface to get over the tilted flat
Dabney field plate on the ground a hundred yards from the ship's
original position.

The Dabney field, obviously, was not in being. The ship hovered on its
rockets. They had been designed to lift it off of Earth--and they
had--against six times the effective gravity here, and with an
acceleration of more gravities on top of that. So the ship rose lightly,
almost skittishly. When gyros turned to make it drift sidewise--as a
helicopter tilts in Earth's atmosphere--it fairly swooped to a new
position. Somebody jockeyed it this way and that.

Cochrane got to the control-room by holding on with both hands to
railings. He was angry and appalled.

The control-room was a hemisphere, with vertical vision-screens
picturing the stars overhead. Jones stood in an odd sort of harness
beside a set of control-switches that did not match the smoothly
designed other controls of the ship. He looked out of a plastic blister,
by which he could see around and below the ship. He made urgent signals
to a man Cochrane had never seen before, who sat in a strap-chair before
many other complex controls with his hands playing back and forth upon
them. A loudspeaker blatted unmusically. It was Dabney's voice, highly
agitated and uneasy.

"_ ... my work for the advancement of science has been applied by other
minds. I need to specify that if the experiment now about to begin does
not succeed, it will not invalidate my discovery, which has been amply
verified by other means. It may be, indeed, that my discovery is so far
ahead of present engineering--._"

"See here!" raged Cochrane. "You can't take off with Babs on board! This
is dangerous!"

Nobody paid any attention. Jones made frantic gestures to indicate the
most delicate of adjustments. The man in the strap-chair obeyed the
instruction with an absorbed attention. Jones suddenly threw a switch.
Something lighted, somewhere. There was a momentary throbbing sound
which was not quite a sound.

"Take it away," said Jones in a flat voice.

The man in the strap-chair pressed hard on the controls. Cochrane
glanced desperately out of one of the side ports. He saw the
moonscape--the frozen lava sea with its layer of whitish-tan moondust.
He saw many moon-jeeps gathered near, as if most of the population of
Lunar City had been gathered to watch this event. He saw the
extraordinary nearness of the moon's horizon.

But it was the most momentary of glimpses. As he opened his mouth to
roar a protest, he felt the upward, curiously comforting thrust of
acceleration to one full Earth-gravity.

The moonscape was snatched away from beneath the ship. It did not
descend. The ship did not seem to rise. The moon itself diminished and
vanished like a pricked bubble. The speed of its disappearance was
not--it specifically was not--attributable to one earth-gravity of lift
applied on a one-sixth-gravity moon.

The loudspeaker hiccoughed and was silent. Cochrane uttered the roar he
had started before the added acceleration began. But it was useless. Out
the side-port, he saw the stars. They were not still and changeless and
winking, as they appeared from the moon. These stars seemed to stir
uneasily, to shift ever so slightly among themselves, like flecks of
bright color drifting on a breeze.

Jones said in an interested voice:

"Now we'll try the booster."

He threw another switch. And again there was a momentary throbbing sound
which was not quite a sound. It was actually a sensation, which one
seemed to feel all through one's body. It lasted only the fraction of a
second, but while it lasted the stars out the side-ports ceased to be
stars. They became little lines of light, all moving toward the ship's
stern but at varying rates of speed. Some of them passed beyond view.
Some of them moved only a little. But all shifted.

Then they were again tiny spots of light, of innumerable tints and
colors, of every conceivably degree of brightness, stirring and moving
ever-so-slightly with relation to each other.

"The devil!" said Cochrane, raging.

Jones turned to him. And Jones was not quite poker-faced, now. Not
quite. He looked even pleased. Then his face went back to impassiveness
again.

"It worked," he said mildly.

"I know it worked!" sputtered Cochrane. "But--where are we? How far did
we come?"

"I haven't the least idea," said Jones mildly as before. "Does it
matter?"

Cochrane glared at him. Then he realized how completely too late it was
to protest anything.

The man he had seen absorbed in the handling of controls now lifted his
hands from the board. The rockets died. There was a vast silence, and
weightlessness. Cochrane weighed nothing. This was free flight
again--like practically all of the ninety-odd hours from the space
platform to the moon. The pilot left the controls and in an accustomed
fashion soared to a port on the opposite side of the room. He gazed out,
and then behind, and said in a tone of astonished satisfaction:

"This is good!--There's the sun!"

"How far?" asked Jones.

"It's fifth magnitude," said the pilot happily. "We really did pile on
the horses!"

Jones looked momentarily pleased again. Cochrane said in a voice that
even to himself sounded outraged:

"You mean the sun's a fifth-magnitude star from here? What the devil
happened?"

"Booster," said Jones, nearly with enthusiasm. "When the field was just
a radiation speed-up, I used forty milliamperes of current to the square
centimetre of field-plate. That was the field-strength when we sent the
signal-rocket across the crater. For the distress-torpedo test, I
stepped the field-strength up. I used a tenth of an ampere per square
centimetre. I told you! And don't you remember that I wondered what
would happen if I used a capacity-storage system?"

Cochrane held fast to a hand-hold.

"The more power you put into your infernal field," he demanded, "the
more speed you get?"

Jones said contentedly:

"There's a limit. It depends on the temperature of the things in the
field. But I've fixed up the field, now, like a spot-welding outfit.
Like a strobe-light. We took off with a light field. It's on now--we
have to keep it on. But I got hold of some pretty storage condensers. I
hooked them up in parallel to get a momentary surge of high-amperage
current when I shorted them through my field-making coils. Couldn't make
it a steady current! Everything would blow! But I had a surge of
probably six amps per square centimetre for a while."

Cochrane swallowed.

"The field was sixty times as strong as the one the distress-torpedo
used? We went--we're going--sixty times as fast?"

"We had lots more speed than that!" But then Jones' enthusiasm dwindled.
"I haven't had time to check," he said unhappily. "It's one of the
things I want to get at right away. But in theory the field should
modify the effect of inertia as the fourth power of its strength. Sixty
to the fourth is--."

"How far," demanded Cochrane, "is Proxima Centaurus? That's the nearest
star to Earth. How near did we come to reaching it?"

The pilot on the other side of the control-room said with a trace less
than his former zest:

"That looks like Sirius, over there ..."

"We didn't head for Proxima Centaurus," said Jones mildly. "It's too
close! And we have to keep the field-plate back on the moon lined up
with us, more or less, so we headed out roughly along the moon's axis.
Toward where its north pole points."

"Then where are we headed? Where are we going?"

"We're not going anywhere just yet," said Jones without interest. "We
have to find out where we are, and from that--"

Cochrane ran his hand through his hair.

"Look!" he protested. "Who's running this show? You didn't tell me you
were going to take off! You didn't pick out a destination! You didn't--"

Jones said very patiently:

"We have to try out the ship. We have to find out how fast it goes with
how much field and how much rocket-thrust. We have to find out how far
we went and if it was in a straight line. We even have to find out how
to land! The ship's a new piece of apparatus. We can't do things with it
until we find out what it can do."

Cochrane stared at him. Then he swallowed.

"I see," he said. "The financial and business department of Spaceways,
Inc., has done its stuff for the time being."

Jones nodded.

"The technical staff now takes over?"

Jones nodded again.

"I still think," said Cochrane, "that we could have done with a little
interdepartmental cooperation. How long before you know what you're
about?"

Jones shook his head.

"I can't even guess. Ask Babs to come up here, will you?"

Cochrane threw up his hands. He went toward the
spiral-ladder-with-handholds that led below. He went down into the main
saloon. A tiny green light winked on and off, urgently, on the far side.
Babs was seated at a tiny board, there. As Cochrane looked, she pushed
buttons with professional skill. Bill Holden sat in a strap-chair with
his face a greenish hue.

"We took off," said Holden in a strained voice.

"We did," said Cochrane. "And the sun's a fifth magnitude star from
where we've got to--which is no place in particular. And I've just found
out that we started off at random and Jones and the pilot he picked up
are now happily about to do some pure-science research!"

Holden closed his eyes.

"When you want to cheer me up," he said feebly, "you can tell me we're
about to crash somewhere and this misery will soon be over."

Cochrane said bitterly:

"Taking off without a destination! Letting Babs come along! They don't
know how far we've come and they don't know where we're going! This is a
hell of a way to run a business!"

"Who called it a business?" asked Holden, as feebly as before. "It
started out as a psychiatric treatment!"

Babs' voice came from the side of the saloon where she sat at a
vision-tube and microphone. She was saying professionally:

"I assure you it's true. We are linked to you by the Dabney field, in
which radiation travels much faster than light. When you were a little
boy didn't you ever put a string between two tin cans, and then talk
along the string?"

Cochrane stopped beside her scowling. She looked up.

"The press association men on Luna, Mr. Cochrane. They saw us take off,
and the radar verified that we traveled some hundred of thousands of
miles, but then we simply vanished! They don't understand how they can
talk to us without even the time-lag between Earth and Lunar City. I was
explaining."

"I'll take it," said Cochrane. "Jones wants you in the control-room.
Cameras? Who was handling the cameras?"

"Mr. Bell," said Babs briskly. "It's his hobby, along with poker-playing
and children."

"Tell him to get some pictures of the star-fields around us," said
Cochrane, "and then you can see what Jones wants. I will do a little
business!"

He settled down in the seat Babs had vacated. He faced the two
press-association reporters in the screen. They had seen the ship's take
off. It was verified beyond any reasonable question. The microwave beam
to Earth was working at capacity to transmit statements from the Moon
Observatory, which annoyedly conceded that the Spaceways, Inc., salvaged
ship had taken off with an acceleration beyond belief. But, the
astronomers said firmly, the ship and all its contents must necessarily
have been destroyed by the shock of their departure. The acceleration
must have been as great as the shock of a meteor hitting Luna.

"You can consider," Cochrane told them, "that I am now an angel, if you
like. But how about getting a statement from Dabney?"

A press-association man, back on Luna, uttered the first profanity ever
to travel faster than light.

"All he can talk about," he said savagely, "is how wonderful he is! He
agrees with the Observatory that you must all be dead. He said so. Can
you give us any evidence that you're alive and out in space? Visual
evidence, for broadcast?"

At this moment the entire fabric of the space-ship moved slightly. There
was no sound of rockets. The ship seemed to turn a little, but that was
all. No gravity. No acceleration. It was a singularly uncomfortable
sensation, on top of the discomfort of weightlessness.

Cochrane said sardonically:

"If you can't take my word that I'm alive, I'll try to get you some
proof! Hm. I'll send you some pictures of the star-fields around us.
Shoot them to observatories back on Earth and let them figure out for
themselves where we are! Displacement of the relative positions of the
stars ought to let them figure things out!"

He left the communicator-board. Holden still looked greenish in his
strap-chair. The main saloon was otherwise empty. Cochrane made his way
gingerly to the stair going below. He stepped into thin air and
descended by a pull on the hand-rail.

This was the dining-saloon. The ship having been built to impress
investors in a stock-sales enterprise, it had been beautifully equipped
with trimmings. And, having had to rise from Earth to Luna, and needing
to take an acceleration of a good many gravities, it had necessarily to
be reasonably well-built. It had had, in fact, to be an honest job of
ship-building in order to put across a phoney promotion. But there were
trimmings that could have been spared. The ports opening upon emptiness,
for example, were not really practical arrangements. But everybody but
Holden and the two men in the control-room now clustered at those ports,
looking out at the stars. There was Jamison and Bell the writer, and
Johnny Simms and his wife. Babs had been here and gone.

Bell was busy with a camera. As Cochrane moved to tell him of the need
for star-shots to prove to a waiting planet that they were alive, Johnny
Simms turned and saw Cochrane. His expression was amiable and unawed.

"Hello," said Johnny Simms cheerfully.

Cochrane nodded curtly.

"I bought West's stock in Spaceways," said Johnny Simms, amusedly,
"because I want to come along. Right?"

"So I heard," said Cochrane, as curtly as before.

"West said," Johnny Simms told him gleefully, "that he was going back to
Earth, punch Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins and Fallowe on their separate
noses, and then go down to South Carolina and raise edible snails for
the rest of his life."

"An understandable ambition," said Cochrane. He frowned, waiting to talk
to Bell, who was taking an infernally long time to focus a camera out of
a side-port.

"It's going to be good when he tries to cash my check," said Johnny
Simms delightedly. "I stopped payment on it when he wouldn't pick up
the tab for some drinks I invited him to have!"

Cochrane forced his face to impassiveness. Johnny Simms was that way, he
understood. He was a psychopathic personality. He was completely
insensitive to notions of ethics. Ideas of right and wrong were as
completely meaningless to him as tones to a tone-deaf person, or pastel
tints to a man who is color-blind. They simply didn't register. His mind
was up to par, and he could be a charming companion. He could experience
the most kindly of emotions and most generous of impulses, which he put
into practice. But he also had a normal person's impulse to less
admirable behavior, and he simply could not understand that there was
any difference between impulses. He put the unpleasing ones into
practice too. He'd been on the moon to avoid extradition because of past
impulses which society called murderous. On this ship it was yet to be
discovered what he would do--but because he was technically sane his
lawyers could have prevented a take off unless he came along. Cochrane,
at the moment, felt an impulse to heave him out an airlock as a probable
danger. But Cochrane was not a psychopathic personality.

He stopped Bell in his picture-taking and looked at the first of the
prints. They were excellent. He went back to the vision-set to transmit
them back to Luna. He sent them off. They would be forwarded to
observatories on Earth and inspected. They literally could not be faked.
There were thousands of stars on each print--with the Milky Way for
background on some--and each of those thousands of stars would be
identified, and each would have changed its relative position from that
seen on earth, with relation to every other star. Astronomers could
detect the spot from which the picture had been taken. But to fake a
single print would have required years of computation and almost
certainly there would have been slip-ups somewhere. These pictures were
unassailable evidence that a human expedition had reached a point in
space that had been beyond all human dreaming.

Then Cochrane had nothing to do. He was a supernumerary member of the
crew. The pilot and Jones were in charge of the ship. Jamison would take
care of the catering, when meal-time came. Probably Alicia Keith--no,
Alicia Simms--would help. Nothing else needed attention. The rockets
either worked or they didn't. The air-apparatus needed no supervision.
Cochrane found himself without a function.

He went restlessly back to the control-room. He found Babs looking
helpless, and Jones staring blankly at a slip of paper in his hands,
while the pilot was still at a blister-port, staring at the stars
through one of those squat, thick telescopes used on Luna for the
examination of the planets.

"How goes the research?" asked Cochrane.

"We're stumped," said Jones painfully. "I forgot something."

"What?"

"Whenever I wanted anything," said Jones, "I wrote it out and gave a
memo to Babs. She attended to it."

"My system, exactly," admitted Cochrane.

"I wrote out a memo for her," said Jones unhappily, "asking for
star-charts and for her to get somebody to set up a system of
astrogation for outside the solar system. Nobody's ever bothered to do
that before. Nobody's ever reached even Mars! But I figured we'd need
it."

Cochrane waited. Jones showed him a creased bit of paper, closely
written.

"I wrote out the memo and put it in my pocket," said Jones, "and I
forgot to give it to Babs. So we can't astrogate. We don't know how. We
didn't get either star-charts or instructions. We're lost."

Cochrane waited.

"Apparently Al was mistaken in the star he spotted as our sun," added
Jones. He referred to the pilot, whom Cochrane had not met before.
"Anyhow we can't find it again. We turned the ship to look at some more
stars, and we can't pick it out any more."

Cochrane said:

"You'll keep looking, of course."

"For what?" asked Jones.

He waved his hand out the four equally-spaced plastic blister-ports.
From where he stood, Cochrane could see thousands of thousands of stars
out those four small openings. They were of every conceivable color and
degree of brightness. The Milky Way was like a band of diamonds.

"We know the sun's a yellow star," said Jones, "but we don't know how
bright it should be, or what the sky should look like beyond it."

"Constellations?" asked Cochrane.

"Find 'em!" said Jones vexedly.

Cochrane didn't try. If a moon-rocket pilot could not spot familiar
star-groups, a television producer wasn't likely to see them. And it was
obvious, once one thought, that the brighter stars seen from Earth would
be mostly the nearer ones. If Jones was right in his guess that his
booster had increased the speed of the ship by sixty to the fourth
power, it would have gone some millions of times as fast as the
distress-torpedo, for a brief period (the ratio was actually something
over nineteen million times) and it happened that nobody had been able
to measure the speed of that test-object.

Cochrane was no mathematician, but he could see that there was no data
for computation on hand. After one found out how fast an acceleration of
one Earth-gravity in a Dabney field of such-and-such strength speeded up
a ship, something like dead reckoning could be managed. But all that
could be known right now was that they had come a long way.

He remembered a television show he'd produced, laid in space on an
imaginary voyage. The script-writer had had one of the characters say
that no constellation would be visible at a hundred light-years from the
solar system. It would be rather like a canary trying to locate the
window he'd escaped from, from a block away, with no memories of the
flight from it.

Cochrane said suddenly, in a pleased tone:

"This is a pretty good break--if we can keep them from finding out about
it back home! We'll have an entirely new program, good for a
thirteen-week sequence, on just this!"

Babs stared at him.

"Main set, this control-room," said Cochrane enthusiastically. "We'll
get a long-beard scientist back home with a panel of experts. We'll
discuss our problems here! We'll navigate from home, with the whole
business on the air! We'll have audience-identification up to a record!
Everybody on Earth will feel like he's here with us, sharing our
problems!"

Jones said irritably:

"You don't get it! We're lost! We can't check our speed without knowing
where we are and how far we've come! We can't find out what the ship
will do when we can't find out what it's done! Don't you see?"

Cochrane said patiently:

"I know! But we're in touch with Luna through the Dabney field that got
us here! It transmitted radiation before, faster than light. It's
transmitting voice and pictures now. Now we set up a television show
which pays for our astrogation and lets the world sit in on the prettier
aspects of our travels. Hm.... How long before you can sit down on a
planet, after you have all the navigational aids of--say--the four best
observatories on Earth to help you? I'll arrange for a sponsor--."

He went happily down the stairs again. This was a spiral stair, and he
zestfully spun around it as he went to the next deck below. At the
bottom he called up to Babs:

"Babs! Get Bell and Alicia Keith and come along to take dictation! I'm
going to need some legal witnesses for the biggest deal in the history
of advertising, made at several times the speed of light!"

And he went zestfully to the communicator to set it up.

And time passed. Data arrived, which at once solved Jones' and the
pilot's problem of where they were and how far they had come--it was,
actually, 178.3 light-years--and they spent an hour making further tests
and getting further determinations, and then they got a destination.

They stopped in space to extrude from the airlock a small package which
expanded into a forty-foot plastic balloon with a minute atomic battery
attached to it. The plastic was an electric conductor. It was a
field-plate of the Dabney field. It took over the field from Earth and
maintained it. It provided a second field for the ship to maintain. The
ship, then, could move at any angle from the balloon. The Dabney field
stretched 178.3 light-years through emptiness to the balloon, and then
at any desired direction to the ship.

The ship's rockets thrust again--and the booster-circuit came into play.
There were maneuverings. A second balloon was put out in space.

At 8:30 Central U. S. Time, on a period relinquished by other
advertisers--bought out--a new program went on the air. It was a
half-hour show, sponsored by the Intercity Credit Corporation--"Buy on
Credit Guaranteed"--with ten straight minutes of commercials interjected
in four sections. It was the highest-priced show ever put on the air. It
showed the interior of the ship's control-rooms, with occasional brief
switches to authoritative persons on Earth for comment on what was
relayed from the far-off skies.

The first broadcast ensured the success of the program beyond possible
dispute. It started with curt conversation between Jones and the pilot,
Al--Jones loathed this part of it, but Al turned out to be something of
a ham--on the problems of approaching a new solar system. Cut to
computers back on Earth. Back to the control-room of the starship.
Pictures of the local sun, and comments on its differentness from the
sun that had nourished the human race since time began.

Then the cameras--Bell worked them--panned down through the ship's
blister-ports. There was a planet below. The ship descended toward it.
It swelled visibly as the space-ship approached. Cochrane stood out of
camera-range and acted as director as well as producer of the opus. He
used even Johnny Simms as an offstage voice repeating stern commands. It
was corny. There was no doubt about it. It had a large content of ham.

But it happened to be authentic. The ship had reached another planet,
with vast ice-caps and what appeared to be no more than a
twenty-degree-wide equatorial belt where there was less than complete
glaciation. The rockets roared and boomed as the ship let down into the
cloud-layers.

Television audiences back on Earth viewed the new planet nearly as soon
as did those in the ship. The time-lag was roughly three seconds for a
distance of 203.7 light-years.

The surface of the planet was wild and dramatic beyond belief. There
were valleys where vegetation grew luxuriantly. There were ranges of
snow-clad mountains interpenetrating the equatorial strip, and there
were masses of white which, as the ship descended, could be identified
as glaciers moving down toward the vegetation.

But as the ship sank lower and lower--and the sound of its rockets
became thunderous because of the atmosphere around it--a new feature
took over the central position in one's concept of what the planet was
actually like.

The planet was volcanic. There were smoking cones everywhere--in the
snow-fields, among the ice-caps, in between the glaciers, and even among
the tumbled areas whose greenness proved that here was an environment
which might be perilous, but where life should thrive abundantly.

The ship continued to descend toward a great forest near a terminal
moraine.



CHAPTER SIX


Jamison declaimed, wearing a throat-mike as Bell zestfully panned his
camera and the ship swung down. It was an impressive broadcast. The
rockets roared. With the coming of air about the ship, they no longer
made a mere rumbling. They created a tumult which was like the growl of
thunder if one were in the midst of the thunder-cloud. It was a numbing
noise. It was almost a paralyzing noise. But Jamison talked with
professional smoothness.

"This planet," he orated, while pictures from Bell's camera went direct
to the transmitter below, "this planet is the first world other than
Earth on which a human ship has landed. It is paradoxic that before men
have walked on Mars' red iron-oxide plains and breathed its thin cold
air, or fought for life in the formaldehyde gales of Venus, that they
should look upon a world which welcomes them from illimitable
remoteness. Here we descend, and all mankind can watch our descent upon
a world whose vegetation is green; whose glaciers prove that there is
air and water in plenty, whose very smoking volcanoes assure us of its
close kinship to Earth!"

He lifted the mike away from his throat and framed words with his lips.
"_Am I still on?_" Cochrane nodded. Cochrane wore headphones carrying
what the communicator carried, as this broadcast went through an angled
Dabney field relay system back to Lunar City and then to Earth. He spoke
close to Jamison's ear.

"Go ahead! If your voice fades, it will be the best possible sign-off.
Suspense. Good television!"

Jamison let the throat-mike back against his skin. The roaring of the
rockets would affect it only as his throat vibrated from the sound. It
would register, even so.

"I see," said Jamison above the rocket-thunder, "forests of giant trees
like the sequoias of Mother Earth. I see rushing rivers, foaming along
their rocky beds, taking their rise in glaciers. We are still too high
to look for living creatures, but we descend swiftly. Now we are level
with the highest of the mountains. Now we descend below their smoking
tops. Under us there is a vast valley, miles wide, leagues long. Here a
city could be built. Over it looms a gigantic mountain-spur, capped with
green. One would expect a castle to be built there."

He raised his eyebrows at Cochrane. They were well in atmosphere, now,
and it had been an obvious defect--condition--necessity of the Dabney
field that both of its plates should be in a vacuum. One was certainly
in air now. But Cochrane made that gesture which in television
production-practice informs the actors that time to cutting is measured
in tens of seconds, and he held up two fingers. Twenty seconds.

"We gaze, and you gaze with us," said Jamison, "upon a world that future
generations will come to know as home--the site of the first human
colony among the stars!"

Cochrane began to beat time. Ten, nine, eight--.

"We are about to land," Jamison declaimed. "We do not know what we shall
find--What's that?" He paused dramatically. "A living creature?--A
living creature sighted down below! We sign off now--from the stars!"

The ending had been perfectly timed. Allowing for a three-second
interval for the broadcast to reach the moon, and just about two more
for it to be relayed to Earth, his final word, "Stars!" had been uttered
at the precise instant to allow a four-minute commercial by Intercity
Credit, in the United States, by Citroen in Europe, by Fabricanos Unidos
in South and Central America, and Near East Oil along the Mediterranean.
At the end of that four minutes it would be time for station
identification and a time-signal, and the divers eight-second flashes
before other programs came on the air.

The rockets roared and thundered. The ship went down and down. Jamison
said:

"I thought we'd be cut off when we hit air!"

"That's what Jones thought," Cochrane assured him. He bellowed above the
outside tumult, "Bell! See anything alive down below?"

Bell shook his head. He stayed at the camera aimed out a blister-port,
storing up film-tape for later use. There was the feel of gravitation,
now. Actually, it was the fact that the ship slowed swiftly in its
descent.

Cochrane went to a port. The ship continued its descent.

"Living creature? Where?"

Jamison shrugged. He had used it as a sign-off line. An extrapolation
from the fact that there was vegetation below. He looked somehow
distastefully out the port at a swiftly rising green ground below. He
was a city man. He had literally never before seen what looked like
habitable territory of such vast extent, with no houses on it. In a
valley easily ten miles long and two wide, there was not a square inch
of concrete or of glass. There was not a man made object in view. The
sky was blue and there were clouds, but to Jamison the sight of
vegetation implied rooftops. There ought to be parapets where roofs
ended to let light down to windows and streets below. He had never
before seen grass save on elevated recreation-areas, nor bushes not
arranged as landscaping, and certainly not trees other than the
domesticated growths which can grow on the tops of buildings. To Jamison
this was desolation. On the moon, absence of structures was
understandable. There was no air. But here there should be a city!

The ship swayed a little as the rockets swung their blasts to balance
the descending mass. The intended Mars-ship slowed, and slowed, and
hovered--and there was terrifying smoke and flame suddenly all
about--and then there was a distinct crunching impact. The rockets
continued to burn, their ferocity diminished. They slackened again. And
yet again. They were reduced to a mere faint murmur.

There was a remarkable immobility of everything. It was the result of
gravity. Earth-value gravity, or very near it. There was a distinct
pressure of one's feet against the floor, and a feeling of heaviness to
one's body which was very different from Lunar City, and more different
still from free flight in emptiness.

Nothing but swirling masses of smoke could be seen out the ports. They
had landed in a forest, of sorts, and the rocket-blasts had burned away
everything underneath, down to solid soil. In a circle forty yards about
the ship the ground was a mass of smoking, steaming ash. Beyond that
flames licked hungrily, creating more dense vapor. Beyond that still
there was only coiling smoke.

Cochrane's headphones yielded Babs' voice, almost wailing:

"_Mr. Cochrane! We must have landed! I want to see!_"

Cochrane pressed the hand-mike button.

"Are we still hooked up to Lunar City?" he demanded. "We can't be, but
are we?"

"_We are_," said Babs' voice mutinously. "_The broadcast went through
all right. They want to talk to you. Everybody wants to talk to you!_"

"Tell them to call back later," commanded Cochrane. "Then leave the beam
working--however it works!--and come up if you like. Tell the moon
operator you'll be away for ten minutes."

He continued to stare out the window. Al, the pilot, stayed in his
cushioned seat before the bank of rocket-controls. The rockets were
barely alight. The ship stayed as it had landed, upright on its triple
fins. He said to Jones:

"It feels like we're solid. We won't topple!"

Jones nodded. The rocket-sound cut off. Nothing happened.

"I think we could have saved fuel on that landing," said Jones. Then he
added, pleased, "Nice! The Dabney field's still on! It has to be started
in a vacuum, but it looks like it can hold air away from itself once
it's established. Nice!"

Babs rushed up the stairs. She gazed impassionedly out of a vision-port.
Then she said disappointedly:

"It looks like--"

"It looks like hell," said Cochrane. "Just smoke and steam and stuff. We
can hope, though, that we haven't started a forest fire, but have just
burned off a landing-place."

They stared out. Presently they went to another port and gazed out of
that. The smoke was annoying, and yet it could have been foreseen. A
moon-rocket, landing at its space-port on Earth, heated the tarmac to
red-hotness in the process of landing. Tender-vehicles had to wait for
it to cool before they could approach. Here the ship had landed in
woodland. Naturally its flames had seared the spot where it came down.
And there was inflammable stuff about, which caught fire. So the ship
was in the situation of a phoenix, necessarily nesting in a
conflagration. Anywhere it landed the same thing would apply, unless it
tried landing on a glacier. But then it would settle down into a lake of
boiling water, amid steam, and could expect to be frozen in as soon as
its landing-place cooled.

Now there was nothing to do. They had to wait. Once the whole ship
quivered very slightly, as if the ground trembled faintly under it. But
there was nothing at which to be alarmed.

They could see that this particular forest was composed mainly of two
kinds of trees which burned differently. One had a central trunk, and it
burned with resinous flames and much black and gray-black smoke. The
other was a curious growth--a solid, massive trunk which did not touch
ground at all, but was held up by aerial roots which supported it aloft
through very many slender shafts widely spread. Possibly the heavier
part was formed on the ground and lifted as its air-roots grew.

It was irritating, though, to be unable to see from the ship so long as
the fire burned outside. The pall of smoke lasted for a long time. In
three hours there were no longer any fiercely blazing areas, but the
ashes still smouldered and smoke still rose. In three hours and a half,
the local sun began to set. There were colorings in the sky, beyond all
comparison glorious. Which was logical enough. When Krakatoa, back on
Earth, blew itself to bits in the eighteen hundreds, it sent such
volumes of dust into the air that sunsets all around the globe were
notably improved for three years afterward. On this planet, smoking
cones were everywhere visible. Volcanic dust, then, made nightfall
magnificent past description. There was not only gold and crimson in the
west. The zenith itself glowed carmine and yellow, and those in the
space-ship gazed up at a sky such as none of them could have imagined
possible.

The colors changed and changed, from yellow to gold all over the sky,
and still the glory continued. Presently there was a deep, deep red,
deep past imagining, and presently faint bluish stars pierced it, and
they stared up at new strange constellations-some very bright
indeed--and all about the ship there was a bed of white ash with glowing
embers in it, and a thin sheet of white smoke still flowed away down the
valley.

It was long after sunset when Cochrane got up from the communicator.
Communication with Earth was broken at last. There was a balloon out in
space somewhere with an atomic battery maintaining all its surface as a
Dabney field plate. The ship maintained a field between itself and that
plate. The balloon maintained another field between itself and another
balloon a mere 178.3 light-years from the solar system. But the
substance of this planet intervened between the nearer balloon and the
ship. Jones made tests and observed that the field continued to exist,
but was plugged by the matter of this newly-arrived-at world. Come
tomorrow, when there was no solid-stone barrier to the passage of
radiation, they could communicate with Earth again.

But Cochrane was weary and now discouraged. So long as talk with Earth
was possible, he'd kept at it. There was a great deal of talking to be
done. But a good deal of it was extremely unsatisfactory.

He found Bill Holden having supper with Babs, on the floor below the
communicator. Very much of the recent talk had been over Cochrane's
head. He felt humiliated by the indignation of scientists who would not
tell him what he wanted to know without previous information he could
not give.

When he went over to the dining-table, he felt that he creaked from
weariness and dejection. Babs looked at him solicitously, and then
jumped up to get him something to eat. Everybody else was again watching
out the ship's ports at the new, strange world of which they could see
next to nothing.

"Bill," said Cochrane fretfully, "I've just been given the dressing-down
of my life! You're expecting to get out of the airlock in the morning
and take a walk. But I've been talking to Earth. I've been given the
devil for landing on a strange planet without bringing along a
bacteriologist, an organic chemist, an ecologist, an epidemiologist, and
a complete laboratory to test everything with, before daring to take a
breath of outside air. I'm warned not to open a port!"

Holden said:

"You sound as if you'd been talking to a biologist with a reputation.
You ought to know better than that!"

Cochrane protested:

"I wanted to talk to somebody who knew more than I did! What could I do
but get a man with a reputation?"

Holden shook his head.

"We psychiatrists," he observed, "go around peeping under the corners of
rugs at what people try to hide from themselves. We have a worm's-eye
view of humanity. We know better than to throw a difficult problem at a
man with an established name! They're neurotic about their reputations.
Like Dabney, they get panicky at the idea of anybody catching them in a
mistake. No big name in medicine or biology would dare tell you that of
course it's all right for us to take a walk in the rather pretty
landscape outside."

"Then who will?" demanded Cochrane.

"We'll make what tests we can," said Holden comfortingly, "and decide
for ourselves. We can take a chance. We're only risking our lives!"

Babs brought Cochrane a plate. He put food in his mouth and chewed and
swallowed.

"They say we can't afford to breathe the local air at all until we know
its bacteriology; we can't touch anything until we test it as a possible
allergen; we can't."

Holden grunted.

"What would those same authorities have told your friend Columbus? On a
strange continent he'd be sure to find strange plants and strange
animals. He'd find strange races of men and he ought to find strange
diseases. They'd have warned him not to risk it. _They_ wouldn't!"

Cochrane ate with a sort of angry vigor. Then he snapped:

"If you want to know, we've got to land! We're sunk if we don't go
outside and move around! We'll spoil our story-line. This is the
greatest adventure-serial anybody on Earth ever tuned in to follow! If
we back down on exploration, our audience will be disgusted and
resentful and they'll take it out on our sponsors!"

Babs said softly, to Holden:

"That's my boss!"

Cochrane glared at her. He didn't know how to take the comment. He said
to Holden:

"Tomorrow we'll try to figure out some sort of test and try the air.
I'll go out in a space-suit and crack the face-plate! I can close it
again before anything lethal gets in. But there's no use stepping out
into a bed of coals tonight. I'll have to wait till morning."

Holden smiled at him. Babs regarded him with intent, enigmatic eyes.

Neither of them said anything more. Cochrane finished his meal. Then he
found himself without an occupation. Gravity on this planet was very
nearly the same as on Earth. It felt like more, of course, because all
of them had been subject only to moon-gravity for nearly three weeks.
Jones and the pilot had been in one-sixth gravity for a much longer
time. And the absence of gravity had caused their muscles to lose tone
by just about the amount that the same time spent in a hospital bed
would have done. They felt physically worn out.

It was a healthy tiredness, though, and their muscles would come back
to normal as quickly as one recovers strength after illness--rather
faster, in fact. But tonight there would be no night-life on the
space-ship. Johnny Simms disappeared, after symptoms of fretfulness akin
to those of an over-tired small boy. Jamison gave up, and Bell, and Al
the pilot fell asleep while Jones was trying to discuss something
technical with him. Jones himself yawned and yawned and when Al snored
in his face he gave up. They retired to their bunks.

There was no point in standing guard over the ship. If the bed of hot
ashes did not guard it, it was not likely that an individual merely
sitting up and staring out its ports would do much good. There were
extremely minor, practically unnoticeable vibrations of the ship from
time to time. They would be volcanic temblors--to be expected. They were
not alarming, certainly, and the forest outside was guarantee of no
great violence to be anticipated. The trees stood firm and tall. There
was no worry about the ship. It was perfectly practical, and even
necessary simply to turn out the lights and go to sleep.

But Cochrane could not relax. He was annoyed by the soreness of his
muscles. He was irritated by the picture given him of the expedition as
a group of heedless ignoramuses who'd taken off without star-charts or
bacteriological equipment--without even apparatus to test the air of
planets they might land on!--and who now were sternly warned not to make
any use of their achievement. Cochrane was not overwhelmed by the
achievement itself, though less than eighteen hours since the ship and
all its company had been aground on Luna, and now they were landed on a
new world twice as far from Earth as the Pole Star.

It is probable that Cochrane was not awed because he had a
television-producer's point of view. He regarded this entire affair as a
production. He was absorbed in the details of putting it across. He
looked at it from his own, quite narrow, professional viewpoint. It did
not disturb him that he was surrounded by a wilderness. He considered
the wilderness the set on which his production belonged, though he was
as much a city man as anybody else. He went back to the control-room.
With the ship standing on its tail that was the highest point, and as
the embers burned out and the smoke lessened it was possible to look out
into the night.

He stared at the dimly-seen trees beyond the burned area, and at the
dark masses of mountains which blotted out the stars. He estimated them,
without quite realizing it, in view of what they would look like on a
television screen. When light objects in the control-room rattled
slightly, he paid no attention. His rehearsal-studio had been rickety,
back home.

Babs seemed to be sleepless, too. There was next to no light where
Cochrane was--merely the monitor-lights which assured that the Dabney
field still existed, though blocked for use by the substance of a
planet. Babs arrived in the almost-dark room only minutes after
Cochrane. He was moving restlessly from one port to another, staring
out.

"I thought I'd tell you," Babs volunteered, "that Doctor Holden put some
algae from the air-purifier tanks in the airlock, and then opened the
outer door."

"Why?" asked Cochrane.

"Algae's Earth plant-life," explained Babs. "If the air is poisonous, it
will be killed by morning. We can close the outer door of the lock, pump
out the air that came from this planet, and then let air in from the
ship so we can see what happens."

"Oh," said Cochrane.

"And then I couldn't sleep," said Babs guilelessly. "Do you mind if I
stay here? Everybody else has gone to bed."

"Oh, no," said Cochrane. "Stay if you like."

He stared out at the dark. Presently he moved to another port. After a
moment he pointed.

"There's a glow in the sky there," he said curtly.

She looked. There was a vast curving blackness which masked the stars.
Beyond it there was a reddish glare, as if of some monstrous burning.
But the color was not right for a fire. Not exactly.

"A city?" asked Babs breathlessly.

"A volcano," Cochrane told her. "I've staged shows that pretended to
show intellectual creatures on other planets--funny how we've been
dreaming of such things, back on Earth--but it isn't likely. Not since
we've actually reached the stars."

"Why since then?"

"Because," said Cochrane, half ironically, "man was given dominion over
all created things. I don't think we'll find rivals for that dominion. I
can't imagine we'll find another race of creatures who could
be--persons. Heaven knows we try to rob each other of dignity, but I
don't think there's another race to humiliate us when we find them!"

After a moment he added:

"Bad enough that we're here because there are deodorants and cosmetics
and dog-foods and such things that people want to advertise to each
other! We wouldn't be here but for them, and for the fact that some
people are neurotics and some don't like their bosses and some are crazy
in other fashions."

"Some crazinesses aren't bad," argued Babs.

"I've made a living out of them," agreed Cochrane sourly. "But I don't
like them. I have a feeling that I could arrange things better. I know I
couldn't, but I'd like to try. In my own small way, I'm even trying."

Babs chuckled.

"That's because you are a man. Women aren't so foolish. We're realists.
We like creation--even men--the way creation is."

"I don't," Cochrane said irritably. "We've accomplished something
terrific, and I don't get a kick out of it! My head is full of business
details that have to be attended to tomorrow. I ought to be uplifted. I
ought to be gloating! I ought to be happy! But I'm worrying for fear
that this infernal planet is going to disappoint our audience!"

Babs chuckled again. Then she went to the stair leading to the
compartment below.

"What's the matter?" he demanded.

"After all, I'm going to leave you alone," said Babs cheerfully. "You're
always very careful not to talk to me in any personal fashion. I think
you're afraid I'll tell you something for your own good. If I stayed
here, I might. Goodnight!"

She started down the stairs. Cochrane said vexedly:

"Hold on! Confound it, I didn't know I was so transparent! I'm sorry,
Babs. Look! Tell me something for my own good!"

Babs hesitated, and then said very cheerfully:

"You only see things the way a man sees them. This show, this trip--this
whole business doesn't thrill you because you don't see it the way a
woman would."

"Such as how? What does a woman see that I don't?"

"A woman," said Babs, "sees this planet as a place that men and women
will come to live on. To live on! You don't. You miss all the real
implications of people actually living here. But they're the things a
woman sees first of all."

Cochrane frowned.

"I'm not so conceited I can't listen to somebody else. If you've got an
idea--"

"Not an idea," said Babs. "Just a reaction. And you can't explain a
reaction to somebody who hasn't had it. Goodnight!"

She vanished down the stairs. Some time later, Cochrane heard the
extremely minute sound of a door closing on one of the cabins three
decks down in the space-ship.

He went back to his restless inspection of the night outside. He tried
to make sense of what Babs had said. He failed altogether. In the end he
settled in one of the over-elaborately cushioned chairs that had made
this ship so attractive to deluded investors. He intended to think out
what Babs might have meant. She was, after all, the most competent
secretary he'd ever had, and he'd been wryly aware of how helpless he
would be without her. Now he tried painstakingly to imagine what changes
in one's view the inclusion of women among pioneers would involve. He
worked out some seemingly valid points. But it was not a congenial
mental occupation.

He fell asleep without realizing it, and was waked by the sound of
voices all about him. It was morning again, and Johnny Simms was
shouting boyishly at something he saw outside.

"Get at it, boy!" he cried enthusiastically. "Grab him! That's the
way--"

Cochrane opened his eyes. Johnny Simms gazed out and down from a
blister-port, waving his arms. His wife Alicia looked out of the same
port without seeming to share his excited approval. Bell had dragged a
camera across the control-room and was in the act of focussing it
through a particular window.

"What's the matter?" demanded Cochrane.

He struggled out of his chair. And Johnny Simms' pleasure evaporated
abruptly. He swore nastily, viciously, at something outside the ship.
His wife touched his arm and spoke to him in a low tone. He turned
furiously upon her, mouthing foulnesses.

Cochrane was formidably beside him, and Johnny Simms' expression of fury
smoothed out instantly. He looked pleasant and amiable.

"The fight stopped," he explained offhandedly. "It was a good fight. But
one of the creatures wouldn't stay and take his licking."

Alicia said steadily:

"There were some animals there. They looked rather like bears, only they
had enormous ears."

Cochrane looked at Johnny Simms with hot eyes. It was absurd to be so
chivalrous, perhaps, but he was enraged. After an instant he turned away
and went to the port. The burned-over area was now only ashes. At its
edge, charcoal showed. And now he could see trees and brushwood on
beyond. The trees did not seem strange, because no trees would have
seemed familiar. The brush did not impress him as exotic, because his
experience with actual plants was restricted to the artificial plants on
television sets and the artificially arranged plants on rooftops. He
hardly let his eyes dwell on the vegetation at all. He searched for
movement. He saw the moving furry rumps of half a dozen unknown
creatures as they dived into concealment as if they had been frightened.
He looked down and could see the hull of the ship and two of the three
take-off fins on which it rested.

The airlock door was opening out. It swung wide. It swung back against
the hull.

"Holden's making some sort of test of the air," Cochrane said shortly.
"The animals were scared when the outside door swung open. I'll see what
he finds out."

He hurried down. He found Babs standing beside the inner door of the
airlock. She looked somehow pale. There were two saucers of greenish
soup-like stuff on the floor at her feet. That would be, of course, the
algae from the air-purifying-system tanks.

"The algae were alive," said Babs. "Dr. Holden went in the lock to try
the air himself. He said he'd be very careful."

For some obscure reason Cochrane felt ashamed. There was a long, a
desperately long wait. Then sounds of machinery. The outer door closing.
Small whistlings--compressed air.

The inner door opened. Bill Holden came out of the lock, his expression
zestfully surprised.

"Hello, Jed! I tried the air. It's all right! At a guess, maybe a little
high in oxygen. But it feels wonderfully good to breathe! And I can
report that the trees are wood and the green is chlorophyll, and this
is an Earth-type planet. That little smoky smell about is completely
familiar--and I'm taking that as an analysis. I'm going to take a walk."

Cochrane found himself watching Babs' face. She looked enormously
relieved, but even Cochrane--who was looking for something of the sort
without realizing it--could not read anything but relief in her
expression. She did not, for example, look admiring.

"I'll borrow one of Johnny Simms' guns," said Holden, "and take a look
around. It's either perfectly safe or we're all dead anyhow. Frankly, I
think it's safe. It feels right outside, Jed! It honestly feels right!"

"I'll come with you," said Cochrane, "Jones and the pilot are necessary
if the ship's to get back to Earth. But we're expendable."

He went back to the control-room. Johnny Simms zestfully undertook to
outfit them with arms. He made no proposal to accompany them. In twenty
minutes or so, Cochrane and Holden went into the airlock and the door
closed. A light came on automatically, precisely like the light in an
electric refrigerator. Cochrane found his lips twitching a little as the
analogy came to him. Seconds later the outer door opened, and they gazed
down among the branches of tall trees. Cochrane winced. There was no
railing and the height bothered him. But Holden swung out the sling. He
and Cochrane descended, dangling, down fifty feet of unscarred, shining,
metal hull.

The ground was still hot underfoot. Holden cast off the sling and moved
toward cooler territory with an undignified haste. Cochrane followed
him.

The smells were absolutely commonplace. Scorched wood. Smokiness. There
were noises. Occasional cracklings from burned tree-trunks not wholly
consumed. High-pitched, shrill musical notes. And in and among the
smells there was an astonishing freshness in the feel of the air.
Cochrane was especially apt to notice it because he had lived in a city
back on Earth, and had spent four days in the moon-rocket, and then had
breathed the Lunar City air for eighteen days more and had just come
from the space-ship whose air was distinctly of the canned variety.

He did not notice the noise of the sling again in motion behind him. He
was all eyes and ears and acute awareness of the completely strange
environment. He was the more conscious of a general strangeness because
he was so completely an urban product. Yet he and Holden were vastly
less aware of the real strangeness about them than men of previous
generations would have been. They did not notice the oddity of croaking
sounds, like frogs, coming from the tree-tops. When they had threaded
their way among leaning charred poles and came to green stuff underfoot
and merely toasted foliage all around, Cochrane heard a sweet,
high-pitched trilling which came from a half-inch hole in the ground.
But he was not astonished by the place from which the trilling came. He
was astonished at the sound itself.

There was a cry behind them.

_"Mr. Cochrane! Doctor Holden!"_

They swung about. And there was Babs on the ground, just disentangling
herself from the sling. She had followed them out, after waiting until
they had left the airlock and could not protest.

Cochrane swore to himself. But when Babs joined them breathlessly, after
a hopping run over the hot ground, he said only:

"Fancy meeting you here!"

"_I--I couldn't resist it_," said Babs in breathless apology. "And you
do have guns. It's safe enough--oh, look!"

She stared at a bush which was covered with pale purple flowers. Small
creatures hovered in the air about it. She approached it and exclaimed
again at the sweetness of its scent. Cochrane and Holden joined her in
admiration.

In a sense they were foolishly unwary. This was completely strange
territory. It could have contained anything. Earlier explorers would
have approached every bush with caution and moved over every hilltop
with suspicion, anticipating deadly creatures, unparalleled monsters,
and exotic and peculiar circumstances designed to entrap the unprepared.
Earlier explorers, of course, would probably have had advice from famous
men to prepare them for all possible danger.

But this was a valley between snow-clad mountains. The river that ran
down its length was fed by glaciers. This was a temperate climate. The
trees were either coniferous or something similar, and the vegetation
grew well but not with the frenzy of a tropic region. There were fruits
here and there. Later, to be sure, they would prove to be mostly
astringent and unpalatable. They were broad-leafed, low-growing plants
which would eventually turn out to be possessed of soft-fleshed roots
which were almost unanimously useless for human purposes. There were
even some plants with thorns and spines upon them. But they encountered
no danger.

By and large, wild animals everywhere are ferocious only when desperate.
No natural setting can permanently be so deadly that human being will be
attacked immediately they appear. An area in which peril is continuous
is one in which there is so much killing that there is no food-supply
left to maintain its predators. On the whole, there is simply a limit to
how dangerous any place can be. Dangerous beasts have to be relatively
rare, or they will not have enough to eat, when they will thin out until
they are relatively rare and do have enough to eat.

So the three explorers moved safely, though their boldness was that of
ignorance, below gigantic trees nearly as tall as the space-ship
standing on end. They saw a small furry biped, some twelve inches tall,
which waddled insanely in the exact line of their progress and with no
apparent hope of outdistancing them. They saw a gauzy creature with
incredibly spindly legs. It flew from one tree-trunk to another,
clinging to rough bark on each in turn. Once they came upon a small
animal which looked at them with enormous, panic-stricken blue eyes and
then fled with a sinuous gait on legs so short that they seemed mere
flippers. It dived into a hole and vanished.

But they came out to clear space. They could look for miles and miles.
There was a savannah of rolling soil which gradually sloped down to a
swift-running river. The grass--if it was grass--was quite green, but it
had multitudes of tiny rose-colored flowers down the central rib of each
leaf. Nearby it seemed the color of Earth-grass, but it faded
imperceptibly into an incredible old-rose tint in the distance. The
mountain-scarps on either side of the valley were sheer and tall. There
was a great stony spur reaching out above the lowland, and there was
forest at its top and bare brown stone dropping two thousand feet sheer.
And up the valley, where it narrowed, a waterfall leaped out from the
cliff and dropped hundreds of feet in an arc of purest white, until it
was lost to view behind tree-tops.

They looked. They stared. Cochrane was a television producer, and Holden
was a psychiatrist, and Babs was a highly efficient secretary. They did
not make scientific observations. The ecological system of the valley
escaped their notice. They weren't qualified to observe that the flying
things around seemed mostly to be furry instead of feathered, and that
insects seemed few and huge and fragile,--and they did not notice that
most of the plants appeared to be deciduous, so indicating that this
planet had pronounced seasons. But Holden said:

"Up in Greenland there's a hospital on a cliff like that. People with
delusions of grandeur sometimes get cured just by looking at something
that's so much greater and more splendid than they are. I'd like to see
a hospital up yonder!"

Babs said, shining-eyed:

"A city could be built in this valley. Not a tall city, with gray
streets and gardens on the roofs. This could be a nice little city like
people used to have. There would be little houses, all separate, and
there'd be grass all around and people could pluck flowers if they
wanted to, to take inside.... There could be families here, and
homes--not living-quarters!"

Cochrane said nothing. He was envious of the others. They saw, and they
dreamed according to their natures. Cochrane somehow felt forlorn.
Presently he said depressedly:

"We'll go back to the ship. You can work out your woman's viewpoint
stuff with Bell, Babs. He'll write it, or you can give it to Alicia to
put over when we go on the air."

Babs made no reply. The absence of comment was almost pointed. Cochrane
realized that she wouldn't do it, though he couldn't see why.

They did go back to the ship. Cochrane sent Babs and Holden up the
sling, first, while he waited down below. It was a singular sensation to
stand there. He was the only human being afoot on a planet the size of
Earth or larger, at the foot of a cliff of metal which was the
space-ship's hull. He had a weapon in his hand, and it should defend him
from anything. But he felt very lonely.

The sling came down for him. He felt sick at heart as it lifted him. He
had an overwhelming conviction of incompetence, though he could not
detail the reasons. The rope hauled him up, swaying, to the dizzy height
of the air-lock door. He could not feel elated. He was partly
responsible for humankind's greatest achievement to date. But he had not
quite the viewpoint that would let him enjoy its contemplation.

The ground quivered very faintly as he rose. It was not an earthquake.
It was merely a temblor, such as anyone would expect to feel
occasionally with six smoking volcanic cones in view. The green stuff
all around was proof that it could be disregarded.



CHAPTER SEVEN


In the United States, some two-hundred-odd light-years away, it happened
to be Tuesday. On this Tuesday, the broadcast from the stars was
sponsored by Harvey's, the national men's clothing chain. Harvey's
advertising department preferred discussion-type shows, because
differences of opinion in the shows proper led so neatly into their
tag-line. "You can disagree about anything but the quality of a Harvey
suit! That's Superb!"

Therefore the broadcast after the landing of the ship on the volcanic
planet was partly commercial, and partly pictures and reports from the
Spaceways expedition, and partly queries and comments by big-name
individuals on Earth. Inevitably there was Dabney. And Dabney was
neurotic.

He did his best to make a shambles of everything.

The show started promptly enough at the beginning. There was a
two-minute film-strip of business-suited puppets marching row on row,
indicating the enormous popularity of Harvey's suits. Then a fast minute
hill-billy puppet-show about two feuding mountaineers who found they
couldn't possibly retain their enmity when they found themselves in
agreement on the quality of Harvey suits. "That's Superb!" The
commercial ended with a choral dance of madly enthusiastic miniature
figures, dancing while they lustily sang the theme-song, "You can
disagree, yes siree, you can disagree, About anything, indeed
everything, you and me, But you can't, no you can't disagree, About the
strictly super, extra super, Qualitee of a Har-ve-e-e-e suit! That's
superb!"

And thereupon the television audience of several continents saw the
faded-in image of mankind's first starship, poised upon its landing-fins
among trees more splendid than even television shows had ever pictured
before. The camera panned slowly, and showed such open spaces as very
few humans had ever seen unencumbered by buildings, and mountains of a
grandeur difficult for most people to believe in.

The scene cut to the space-ship's control-room and Al the pilot acted
briskly as the leader of an exploration-party just returned--though he
actually hadn't left the ship. He introduced Jamison, wearing improvised
leggings and other trappings appropriate to an explorer in wilderness.
Jamison began to extrapolate from his observations out the control-room
port, adding film-clips for authority.

Smoothly and hypnotically, he pictured the valley as the ship descended
the last few thousand feet, and told of the human colony to be founded
in this vast and hospitable area just explored. Mountainside hotels for
star-tourists would look down upon a scene of tranquility and cozy
spaciousness. This would be the first human outpost in the stars. In the
other valleys of this magnificent world there would be pasture-lands,
and humankind would again begin to regard meat as a normal and
not-extravagant part of its diet--on this planet, certainly! There were
minerals beyond doubt, and water-power. The estimate was that at least
the equivalent of the Asian continent had been made available for human
occupation. And this splendid addition to the resources of humanity ...

The second commercial cut Jamison off. Naturally. The sponsor was paying
for time. So for Jamison was substituted the other fiction about the
poor young man who found himself envied by the board of directors of the
firm which employed him. His impeccable attire caused him to be promoted
to vice-president without any question of whether or not he could fill
the job. Because, of course, he wore a Harvey suit.

Alicia Keith showed herself on the screen and gave the woman's viewpoint
as written about by Bell. She talked pleasantly about how it felt to
move about on a planet never before trodden by human beings. She was
interrupted by the pictured face of the lady editor of Joint Networks'
feminine programs, who asked sweetly:

"Tell me, Alicia, what do you think the attainment of the stars will
mean to the Average American housewife in the immediate future? Right
now?"

Then Dabney came on. His appearance was fitted into the sequence from
Lunar City, and his gestures were extravagant as anybody's gestures will
be where their hands and arms weigh so small a fraction of
Earth-normal.

"I wish," said Dabney impressively, "to congratulate the men who have so
swiftly adapted my discovery of faster-than-light travel to practical
use. I am overwhelmed at having been able to achieve a scientific
triumph which in time will mean that mankind's future stretches
endlessly and splendidly into the future!"

Here there was canned applause. Dabney held up his hand for attention.
He thought. Visibly.

"But," he said urgently, "I admit that I am disturbed by the
precipitancy of the action that has been taken. I feel as if I were like
some powerful djinni giving gifts which the recipients may use without
thought."

More canned applause, inserted because he had given instructions for it
whenever he paused. The communicator-operator at Luna City took pleasure
in following instructions exactly. Dabney held up his hand again. Again
he performed feats of meditation in plain view.

"At the moment," he said anxiously, "as the author of this truly
magnificent achievement, I have to use the same intellect which produced
it, to examine the possibility of its ill-advised use. May not
explorers--who took off without my having examined their plans and
precautions--may not over-hasty users of my gift to humanity do harm?
May they not find bacteria the human body cannot resist? May they not
bring back plagues and epidemics? Have they prepared themselves to use
my discovery only for the benefit of mankind? Or have they been
precipitous? I shall have to apply myself to the devising of methods by
which my discovery--made so that Humanity might attain hitherto
undreamed-of-heights--I shall have to devise means by which it will be
truly a blessing to mankind!"

Dabney, of course, had tasted the limelight. All the world considered
him the greatest scientist of all time--except, of course, the people
who knew something about science. But the first actual voyagers in space
had become immediately greater heroes than himself. It was intolerable
to Dabney to be restricted to taking bows on programs in which they
starred. So he wrote a star part for himself.

The bearded biologist who followed him was to have lectured on the
pictures and reports forwarded to him beforehand. But he could not
ignore so promising a lead to show how much he knew. So he lectured
authoritatively on the danger of extra-terrestrial disease-producing
organisms being introduced on Earth. He painted a lurid picture, quoting
from the history of pre-sanitation epidemics. He wound up with a
specific prophecy of something like the Black Death of the middle ages
as lurking among the stars to decimate humanity. He was a victim of the
well-known authority-trauma which affects some people on television when
they think millions of other people are listening to them. They depart
madly from their scripts to try to say something startling enough to
justify all the attention they're getting.

The broadcast ended with a sentimental live commercial in which a
dazzlingly beautiful girl melted into the arms of the worthy young man
she had previously scorned. She found him irresistible when she noticed
that he was wearing a suit she instantly knew by its quality could only
come from Harvey's.

On the planet of glaciers and volcanoes, Holden fumed.

"Dammit!" he protested. "They talk like we're lepers! Like if we ever
come back we'll be carriers of some monstrous disease that will wipe out
the human race! As a matter of fact, we're no more likely to catch an
extra-terrestrial disease than to catch wry-neck from sick chickens!"

"That broadcast's nothing to worry about," said Cochrane.

"But it is!" insisted Holden. "Dabney and that fool biologist presented
space-travel as a reason for panic! They could have every human being on
Earth scared to death we'll bring back germs and everybody'll die of the
croup!"

Cochrane grinned.

"Good publicity--if we needed it! Actually, they've boosted the show.
From now on every presentation has a dramatic kick it didn't have
before. Now everybody will feel suspense waiting for the next show. Has
Jamison got the Purple Death on the Planet of Smoky Hilltops? Will
darling Alicia Keith break out in green spots next time we watch her on
the air? Has Captain Al of the star-roving space-ship breathed in spores
of the Swelling Fungus? Are the space-travellers doomed? Tune in on our
next broadcast and see! My dear Bill, if we weren't signed up for
sponsors' fees, I'd raise our prices after this trick!"

Holden looked unconvinced. Cochrane said kindly:

"Don't worry! I could turn off the panic tomorrow--as much panic as
there is. Kursten, Kasten, Hopkins and Fallowe had a proposal they set
great store by. They wanted to parcel out a big contest for a name for
mankind's second planet. They had regional sponsors lined up. It would
have been worldwide! Advertisers were drooling over the prospect of
people proposing names for this planet on box-tops! They were planning
five million prize-money--and who'd be afraid of us then? But I turned
it down because we haven't got a helicopter. We couldn't stage enough
different shows from this planet to keep it going the minimum six weeks
for a contest like that. Instead, we're taking off in a couple of hours.
Jones agrees. The astronomers back home have picked out another Sol-type
star that ought to have planets. We're going to run over and see what
pickings we can find. Not too far--only twenty-some light-years!"

He regarded Holden quizzically to see how the last phases affected him.
Holden didn't notice it.

"A contest--It doesn't make sense!"

"I know it isn't sense!" said Cochrane. "It's public-relations! I'm
beginning to get my self-respect back. I see now that a
space-exploration job is only as good as its public-relations man!"

He went zestfully to find Babs to tell her to leave the communicator-set
and let queries go unanswered as a matter of simple business policy.

The sling which swung out of the airlock now became busy. They had
landed on this planet, and they were going to leave it, and there had
been a minimum of actual contact with its soil. So Jamison took his
leggings--put on for the show--and he and Bell went down to the ground
and foraged through the woods. Jamison carried one of Johnny Simms'
guns, which he regarded with acute suspicion, and Bell carried cameras.
They photographed trees and underbrush, first as atmosphere and then
with fanatic attention to leaves and fruits or flowers. Bell got
pictures of one of the small, furry bipeds that Cochrane and Holden had
spied when Babs was with them. He got a picture of what he believed to
be a spider-web--it was thicker and heavier and huger than any web on
Earth--and rather fearfully looked for the monster that could string
thirty-foot cables as thick as fishing-twine. Then he found that it was
not a snare at all. It was a construction at whose center something
undiscoverable had made a nest, with eggs in it. Some creature had made
an unapproachable home for itself where its young would not be assailed
by predators.

Al, the pilot, went out of the lock and descended to the ground and went
as far as the edge of the ash-ring. But he did not go any farther. He
wandered about unhappily, pretending that he did not want to go into the
woods. He tried to appear quite content to view half-burnt trees for his
experience of the first extra-terrestrial planet on which men had
landed. He did kick up some pebbles--water-rounded--and one of them had
flecks of what looked like gold in it. Al regarded it excitedly, and
then thought of freight-rates. But he did scrabble for more. Presently
he had a pocket-full of small stones which would be regarded with
rapture by his nieces and nephews because they had come from the stars.
Actually, they were quite commonplace minerals. The flecks of what
looked like gold were only iron pyrates.

Jones did not leave the ship. He was puttering. Nor Alicia. Holden urged
her to take a walk, and she said quietly:

"Johnny's out with a gun. He's hunting. I don't like to be with Johnny
when he may be disappointed."

She smiled, and Holden sourly went away. There had been no particular
consequences of Johnny Simms' inability to remember what was right and
what was wrong. But Holden felt like a normal man about men whose wives
look patient. Even psychiatrists feel that it is somehow disreputable to
illtreat a woman who doesn't fight back. This attitude is instinctive.
It is what is called the fine, deep-rooted impulse to chivalry which is
one of the prides of modern culture.

Holden settled dourly down at the communicator to get an outgoing call
to Earth, when there were some hundreds of incoming calls backed up. By
sheer obstinacy and bad manners he made it. He got a connection to a
hospital where he was known, and he talked to its bacteriologist. The
bacteriologist was competent, but not yet famous. With Holden giving
honest guesses at the color of the sunlight, and its probable
ultra-violet content, and with careful estimates of the exactness with
which burning vegetation here smelled like Earth-plants, they arrived at
imprecise but common sense conclusions. Of the hundreds of thousands of
possible organic compounds, only so many actually took part in the
life-processes of creatures on Earth. Yet there were hundreds of
thousands of species prepared to make use of anything usable. If the
sunlight and temperature of the two worlds were similar, it was somewhat
more than likely that the same chemical compounds would be used by
living things on both. So that there could be micro-organisms on the
new planet which could be harmful. But on the other hand, either they
would be familiar in the toxins they produced--and human bodies could
resist them--or else they would be new compounds to which humans would
react allergically. Basically, then, if anybody on the ship developed
hives, they had reason to be frightened. But so long as nobody sneezed
or broke out in welts, their lives were probably safe.

This comforting conclusion took a long time to work out. Meanwhile Babs
and Cochrane had swung down to the ground and went hiking. Cochrane was
armed as before, though he had no experience as a marksman. In
television shows he had directed the firing of weapons shooting blank
charges--cut to a minimum so they wouldn't blast the mikes. He knew what
motions to go through, but nothing else.

They did not explore in the same direction as their first excursion. The
ship was to take off presently, as soon as this planet had turned enough
for the space-ship's nose to point nearly in the direction of their next
target. They had two hours for exploration.

They came upon something which lay still across their path, like a great
serpent. Cochrane looked at it startledly. Then he saw that the round,
glistening seeming snake was fastened to the ground by rootlets. It was
a plant which grew like a creeper, absorbing nourishment from a vast
root-area. Somewhere, no doubt, it would rear upward and spread out
leaves to absorb the sun's light. It used, in a way, the principle of
those lateral wells which in dry climates gather water too scarce to
collect in merely vertical holes.

They went on and on, admiring and amazed. All about them were
curiosities of adaptation, freaks of ecological adjustment, marvels of
symbiotic cooperation. A botanist would have swooned with joy at the
material all about. A biologist would have babbled happily. Babs and
Cochrane admired without information. They walked interestedly but
unawed among the unparalleled. Back on Earth they knew as much as most
people about nature--practically nothing at all. Babs had never seen any
wild plants before. She was fascinated by what she saw, and exclaimed at
everything. But she did not realize a fraction of the marvels on which
her eyes rested. On the whole, she survived.

"It's a pity we haven't got a helicopter," Cochrane said regretfully.
"If we could fly around from place to place, and send back pictures ...
We can't do it in the ship ... It would burn more fuel than we've got."

Babs wrinkled her forehead.

"Doctor Holden's badly worried because we can't make as alluring a
picture as he'd like."

Cochrane halted, to watch something which was flat like a disk of
gray-green flesh and which moved slowly out of their path with
disquieting writhing motions. It vanished, and he said:

"Yes. Bill's an honest man, even if he is a psychiatrist. He wants
desperately to do something for the poor devils back home who're so
pitifully frustrated. There are tens of millions of men who can't hope
for anything better than to keep the food and shelter supply intact for
themselves and their families. They can't even pretend to hope for more
than that. There isn't more than so much to go around. But Bill wants to
give them hope. He figures that without hope the world will turn
madhouse in another generation. It will."

"You're trying to do something about that!" said Babs quickly. "Don't
you think you're offering hope to everybody back on Earth?"

"No!" snapped Cochrane. "I'm not trying anything so abstract as
furnishing hope to a frustrated humanity! Nobody can supply an
abstraction! Nobody can accomplish an abstraction! Everything that's
actually done is specific and real! Maybe you can find abstract
qualities in it after it's done, but I'm a practical man! I'm not trying
to produce an improved psychological climate, suitable for debilitated
psychos! I'm trying to get a job done!"

"I've wondered," admitted Babs, "what the job is."

Cochrane grimaced.

"You wouldn't believe it, Babs."

There was an odd quivering underfoot. Trees shook. There was no other
peculiarity anywhere. Nothing fell. No rocks rolled. In a valley among
volcanoes, where the smoke from no less than six cones could be seen at
once, temblors would not do damage. What damage mild shakings could do
would have been done centuries since.

Babs said uneasily:

"That feels--queer, doesn't it?"

Cochrane nodded. But just as he and Babs had never been conditioned to
be afraid of animals, they had been conditioned by air-travel at home
and space-travel to here against alarm at movements of their
surroundings. Temblors were evidently frequent at this place. Trees were
anchored against them as against prevailing winds in exposed situations.
Landslides did not remain poised to fall. Really unstable slopes had
been shaken down long ago.

"I wish we had a helicopter," Cochrane repeated. "The look of the
mountains as we came down, with glaciers between the smoking cones--that
was good show-stuff! We could have held interest here until we worked
that naming contest. We could use the extra capital that would bring in!
As it is, we've got to move on with practically nothing accomplished.
The trouble is that I didn't think we would succeed as we have! Heaven
knows I could have gotten helicopters!"

He helped her up a small steep incline, where rock protruded from a
hillside.

The ground trembled again. Not alarmingly, but Babs' hold of his hand
tightened a little. They continued to climb. They came out atop a small
bare prominence which rose above the forest. Here they could see over
the treetops in a truly extensive view. The mountains all about were
clearly visible. Some were ten and some twenty miles away. Some, still
farther, were barely visible in the thin haze of distance. But there was
a thick pall of smoke hovering about one of the farthest. It was
mushroom-shaped. At one time in human history, it would have seemed
typically a volcanic cloud. To Cochrane and Babs, it was typically the
cloud of an atomic explosion.

The ground shook sharply underfoot. Babs staggered.

Flying things rose from the forests in swarms. They hovered and darted
and flapped above the tree-tops. Temblors did not alarm the creatures of
the valley. But ground-shocks like this last were another matter.

A great tree, rearing above its fellows, toppled slowly. With ripping,
tearing noises, it bent sedately toward the smoking, far-away mountain.
It crashed thunderously down upon smaller trees. There were other
rending noises. The flying things rose higher, seeming agitated. Echoes
sounded in the ears of the two atop the hill.

There was another sharp shock. Babs gave a little, inarticulate cry. She
pointed.

There was much smoke in the distance. Over the far-away cone, which was
indistinct in the smoke of its own making--over the edge of the distant
mountains a glare appeared. It was a thin line of bright white light.
With infinite deliberation it began to creep down the slanting,
blessedly remote mountainside.

The ground seemed to shift abruptly, and then shift back. Across and
down the valley, five miles away, a portion of the stony wall detached
itself and slid downward in seeming slow motion. Two more great trees
made ripping sounds. One crashed. There was an enormous darkness above
one part of the sky. Its under side glowed from fires as of hell, in the
crater beneath it. There were sparkings above the mountaintop.

Very oddly indeed, the sky overhead was peacefully blue. But at the
horizon a sheet of fire rolled down mile-long slopes. It seemed to move
with infinite deliberation, but to move visibly at such a distance it
must have been traveling like an express-train. It must have been
unthinkably hot, glaring-white molten stone, thin as water, pouring
downward in a flood of fire.

There was no longer a sensation of the ground trembling underfoot. Now
the noticeable sensation was when the ground was still. Temblors were
practically continuous. There were distinct sharp impacts, as of violent
blows nearby.

Babs stared, fascinated. She glanced up at Cochrane. His skin was white.
There were beads of sweat on his forehead.

"We're safe here, aren't we?" she asked, scared.

"I think so. But I'm not going to take you through falling trees while
this is going on! There's another tree down! I'm worrying about the
ship! If it topples--."

She looked at the nose of the space-ship, gleaming silver metal, rising
from the trees about the landing-spot it had burned clear. A third of
its length was visible.

"If it topples," said Cochrane, "we'll never be able to take off. It has
to point up to lift."

Babs looked from the ship to him, and back again. Then her eyes went
fearfully to the remote mountain. Rumblings came from it now. They were
not loud. They were hardly more than dull growlings, at the lower limit
of audible pitch. They were like faint and distant thunder. There were
flashings like lightning in the cloud which now enveloped the mountain's
top.

Cochrane made an indescribable small sound. He stared at the ship. As
explosion-waves passed over the ground, a faint, unanimous movement of
the treetops became visible. It seemed to Cochrane that the space-ship
wavered as if about to fall from its upright position.

It was not designed to stand such violence as a fall would imply. Its
hull would be dented or rent. It was at least possible that its
fuel-store would detonate. But even if its fall were checked by
still-standing trees about it, it could never take off again. The eight
humans of its company could never juggle it back to a vertical position.
Rocket-thrust would merely push it in the direction its nose pointed.
Toppled, its rocket-thrust would merely shove it blindly over stones and
trees and to destruction.

The ship swayed again. Visibly. Ground-waves made its weight have the
effect of blows. Part of its foundation rested on almost-visible stone,
only feet below the ground-level. But one of the landing-fins rested on
humus. As the shocks passed, that fin-foot sank into the soft soil. The
space-ship leaned perceptibly.

Flying creatures darted back and forth above the tree-tops. Miles away,
insensate violence reigned. Clouds of dust and smoke shot miles into the
air, and half a mountainside glowed white-hot, and there was the sound
of long-continued thunder, and the ground shook and quivered....

There were movements nearby. A creature with yellow fur and the shape of
a bear with huge ears came padding out of the forest. It swarmed up the
bare stone of the hill on which Babs and Cochrane stood.

It ignored them. Halfway up the unwooded part of the hill, it stopped
and made plaintive, high-pitched noises. Other creatures came. Many had
come while the man and girl were too absorbed to notice. Now two more of
the large animals came out into the open and climbed the hill.

Babs said shakily:

"Do you--think they'll--do you think--"

There was a nearer roaring. The space-ship leaned, and leaned....
Cochrane's lips tensed.

The space-ship's rockets bellowed and a storm of hurtling smoke flashed
up around it. It lifted, staggering as its steering-jets tried
frantically to swing its lower parts underneath its mass. It lurched
violently, and the rockets flamed terribly. It lifted again. Its tail
was higher than the trees, but it did not point straight up. It surged
horribly across the top of the forest, leaving a vast flash of flaming
vegetation behind it. Then it steadied, and aimed skyward and
climbed....

Then it was not. Obviously the Dabney field booster had been flashed on
to get the ship out to space. The ship had vanished into emptiness.

The Dabney field had flicked it some hundred and seventy-odd light-years
from Earth's moon in the flicker of a heart-beat. It might have gone
that far again. Whoever was in it had had no choice but to take off, and
no way to take off without suicidal use of fuel in any other way.

Cochrane looked at where the ship had vanished. Seconds passed. There
came the thunderclap of air closing the vacuum the ship's disappearance
had left.

There were squealings behind the pair on the hilltop. Eight of the huge
yellow beasts were out in the open, now. Tiny, furry biped animals
waddled desperately to get out of their way. Smaller creatures scuttled
here and there. A sinuous creature with fur but no apparent legs writhed
its way upward. But all the creatures were frightened. They observed an
absolute truce, under the overmastering greater fear of nature.

Far away, the volcano on the skyline boomed and flashed and emitted
monstrous clouds of smoke. The shining, incandescent lava on its flanks
glared across the glaciers.

Babs gasped suddenly. She realized the situation in which she and
Cochrane had been left.

Shivering, she pressed close to him as the distant black smoke-cloud
spread toward the center of the sky.



CHAPTER EIGHT


Before sunset, they reached the area of ashes where the ship had stood.
Cochrane was sure that if anybody else had been left behind besides
themselves, the landing-place was an inevitable rendezvous. Only three
members of the ship's company had been inside when Babs and Cochrane
left to stroll for the two hours astronomers on Earth had set as a
waiting-period. Jones had been in the ship, and Holden, and Alicia
Simms. Everybody else had been exploring. Their attitude had been
exactly that of sight-seers and tourists. But they could have gotten
back before the take-off.

Apparently they had. Nobody seemed to have returned to the burned-over
space since the ship's departure. The blast of the rockets had erased
all previous tracks, but still there was a thin layer of ash resettled
over the clearing. Footprints would have been visible in it. Anybody
remaining would have come here. Nobody had. Babs and Cochrane were left
alone.

There were still temblors, but the sharper shocks no longer came. There
was conflagration in the wood, where the lurching ship had left a long
fresh streak of forest-fire. The two castaways stared at the round,
empty landing-place. Overhead, the blue sky turned yellow--but where the
smoke from the eruption rose, the sky early became a brownish red--and
presently the yellow faded to gold. Unburned green foliage all about was
singularly beautiful in that golden glow. But it was more beautiful
still as the sky turned rose-pink and then carmine in turn, and then
crimson from one horizon to the other save where the volcanic
smoke-cloud marred the color. Then the east darkened, and became a red
so deep as to be practically black, and unfamiliar bright stars began to
peep through it.

Before darkness was complete, Cochrane dragged burning branches from the
edge of the new fire--the heat was searing--and built a new and smaller
fire in the place where the ship had been.

"This isn't for warmth," he explained briefly, "but so we'll have light
if we need it. And it isn't likely that animals will be anything but
afraid of it."

He went off to drag charred masses of burnable stuff from the burned-out
first forest fire. He built a sort of rampart in the very center of the
clearing. He brought great heaps of scorched wood. He did not know how
much was needed to keep the fire going until dawn.

When he finished, Babs was silently at work trying to find out how to
keep the fire going. The burning parts had to be kept together. One
branch, burning alone, died out. Two red-hot brands in contact kept each
other alight.

"I'm sorry we haven't anything to eat," Cochrane told her.

"I'm not hungry," she assured him. "What are we going to do now?"

"There's nothing to do until morning." Unconsciously, Cochrane looked
grim. "Then there'll be plenty. Food, for one thing. We don't know,
actually, whether or not there's anything really edible on this
planet--for us. It could be that there are fruits or possibly stalks or
leaves that would be nourishing. Only--we don't know which is which. We
have to be careful. We might pick something like poison ivy!"

Babs said:

"But the ship will come back!"

"Of course," agreed Cochrane. "But it may take them some time to find
us. This is a pretty big planet, you know."

He estimated his supply of burnable stuff. He improved the rampart he
had made at first. Babs stared at him. After four or five minutes he
stepped back.

"You can lean against this," he explained. "You can watch the fire quite
comfortably. And it's a sort of wall. The fire will light one side of
you and the wall will feel comforting behind you when you get sleepy."

Babs nodded. She swallowed.

"I--think I see what you mean when you say they may have trouble finding
us, because this planet is so large."

Cochrane nodded reluctantly.

"Of course there's this burned-off space for a marker," he observed
cheerfully. "But it could take several days for them to see it."

Babs swallowed again. She said carefully:

"The--ship can't hover like a helicopter, to search. You said so. It
doesn't have fuel enough. They can't really search for us at all! The
only way to make a real search would be to go back to Earth and--bring
back helicopters and fuel for them and men to fly them.... Isn't that
right?"

"Not necessarily. But we do have to figure on a matter of--well--two or
three days as a possibility."

Babs moistened her lips and he said quickly:

"I did a show once about some miners lost in a wilderness. A period
show. In it, they knew that part of their food was poisoned. They didn't
know what. They had to have all their food. And of course they didn't
have laboratories with which to test for poison."

Babs eyed him oddly.

"They bandaged their arms," said Cochrane, "and put scraps of the
different foodstuffs under the bandages. The one that was poisonous
showed. It affected the skin. Like an allergy-test. I'll try that trick
in the morning when there's light to pick samples by. There are berries
and stuff. There must be fruits. A few hours should test them."

Babs said without intonation:

"And we can watch what the animals eat."

Cochrane nodded gravely. Animals on Earth can live on things that--to
put it mildly--humans do not find satisfying. Grass, for example. But it
was good for Babs to think of cheering things right now. There would be
plenty of discouragement to contemplate later.

There was a flicker of brightness in the sky. Presently the earth
quivered. Something made a plaintive, "_waa-waa-waaaaa!_" sound off in
the night. Something else made a noise like the tinkling of bells. There
was an abstracted hooting presently, which now was nearby and now was
far away, and once they heard something which was exactly like the noise
of water running into a pool. But the source of that particular burbling
moved through the dark wood beyond the clearing.

It was not wholly dark where they were, even aside from their own small
fire. The burning trees in the departing ship's rocket-trail sent up a
column of white which remaining flames illuminated. The remarkably
primitive camp Cochrane had made looked like a camp on a tiny
snow-field, because of the ashes.

"We've got to think about shelter," said Babs presently, very quietly
indeed. "If there are glaciers, there must be winter here. If there is
winter, we have to find out which animals we can eat, and how to store
them."

"Hold on!" protested Cochrane. "That's looking too far ahead!"

Babs clasped her hands together. It could have been to keep their
trembling from being seen. Cochrane was regarding her face. She kept
that under admirable control.

"Is it?" asked Babs. "On the broadcast Mr. Jamison said that there was
as much land here as on all the continent of Asia. Maybe he exaggerated.
Say there's only as much land not ice-covered as there is in South
America. It's all forest and plain and--uninhabited." She moistened her
lips, but her voice was very steady. "If all of South America was
uninhabited, and there were two people lost in it, and nobody knew where
they were--how long would it take to find them?"

"It would be a matter of luck," admitted Cochrane.

"If the ship comes back, it can't hover to look for us. There isn't fuel
enough. It couldn't spot us from space if it went in an orbit like a
space platform. By the time they could get help--they wouldn't even be
sure we were alive. If we can't count on being found right away, this
burned-over place will be green again. In two or three weeks they
couldn't find it anyhow."

Cochrane fidgeted. He had worked out all this for himself. He'd been
disturbed at having to tell it, or even admit it to Babs. Now she said
in a constrained voice:

"If men came to this planet and built a city and hunted for us, it might
still be a hundred years before anybody happened to come into this
valley. Looking for us would be worse than looking for a needle in a
haystack. I don't think we're going to be found again."

Cochrane was silent. He felt guiltily relieved that he did not have to
break this news to Babs. Most men have an instinctive feeling that a
woman will blame them for bad news they hear.

A long time later, Babs said as quietly as before:

"Johnny Simms asked me to come along while he went hunting. I didn't. At
least I--I'm not cast away with him!"

Cochrane said gruffly:

"Don't sit there and brood! Try to get some sleep."

She nodded. After a long while, her head drooped. She jerked awake
again. Cochrane ordered her vexedly to make herself comfortable. She
stretched out beside the wall of wood that Cochrane had made. She said
quietly:

"While we're looking for food tomorrow morning, we'd better keep our
eyes open for a place to build a house."

She closed her eyes.

Cochrane kept watch through the dark hours. He heard night-cries in the
forest, and once toward dawn the distant volcano seemed to undergo a
fresh paroxysm of activity. Boomings and explosions rumbled in the
night. There were flickerings in the sky. But there were fewer temblors
after it, and no shocks at all.

More than once, Cochrane found himself dozing. It was difficult to stay
in a state of alarm. There was but one single outcry in the forest that
sounded like the shriek of a creature seized by a carnivore. That was
not nearby. He tried to make plans. He felt bitterly self-reproachful
that he knew so few of the things that would be useful to a castaway.
But he had been a city man all his life. Woodcraft was not only out of
his experience--on overcrowded Earth it would have been completely
useless.

From time to time he found himself thinking, instead of practical
matters, of the astonishing sturdiness of spirit Babs displayed.

When she waked, well after daybreak, and sat up blinking, he said:

"Er--Babs. We're in this together. From now on, if you want to tell me
something for my own good, go ahead! Right?"

She rubbed her eyes on her knuckles and said,

"I'd have done that anyhow. For both our good. Don't you think we'd
better try to find a place where we can get a drink of water? Water has
to be right to drink!"

They set off, Cochrane carrying the weapon he'd brought from the ship.
It was Babs who pointed out that a stream should almost certainly be
found where rain would descend, downhill. Babs, too, spotted one of the
small, foot-high furry bipeds feasting gluttonously on small round
objects that grew from the base of a small tree instead of on its
branches. The tree, evidently, depended on four-footed rather than on
flying creatures to scatter its seeds. They gathered samples of the
fruit. Cochrane peeled a sliver of the meat from one of the round
objects and put it under his watchstrap.

They found a stream. They found other fruits, and Cochrane prepared the
same test for them as for the first. One of the samples turned his skin
red and angry almost immediately. He discarded it and all the fruits of
the kind from which it came.

At midday they tasted the first-gathered fruit. The flesh was red and
juicy. There was a texture it was satisfying to chew on. The taste was
indeterminate save for a very mild flavor of maple and peppermint mixed
together.

They had no symptoms of distress afterward. Other fruits were less
satisfactory. Of the samples which the skin-test said were
non-poisonous, one was acrid and astringent, and two others had no taste
except that of greenness--practically the taste of any leaf one might
chew.

"I suppose," said Cochrane wryly, as they headed back toward the
ash-clearing at nightfall, "we've got to find out if the animals can be
eaten."

Babs nodded matter-of-factly.

"Yes. Tonight I'm taking part of the watch. As you remarked this
morning, we're in this together."

He looked at her sharply, and she flushed.

"I mean it!" she said doggedly. "I'm watching part of the night!"

He was desperately tired. His muscles were not yet back to normal after
the low gravity on the moon. She'd had more rest than he. He had to let
her help. But there was embarrassment between them because it looked as
if they would have to spend the rest of their lives together, and they
had not made the decision. It had been made for them. And they had not
acknowledged it yet.

When they reached the clearing, Cochrane began to drag new logs toward
the central place where much of last night's supply of fuel remained.
Matter-of-factly, Babs began to haul stuff with him. He said vexedly:

"Quit it! I've already been realizing how little I know about the things
we're going to need to survive! Let me fool myself about masculine
strength, anyhow!"

She smiled at him, a very little. But she went obediently to the fire to
experiment with cookery of the one palatable variety of fruit from this
planet's trees. He drove himself to bring more wood than before. When he
settled down she said absorbedly:

"Try this, Jed."

Then she flushed hotly because she'd inadvertently used his familiar
name. But she extended something that was toasted and not too much
burned. He ate, with weariness sweeping over him like a wave. The cooked
fruit was almost a normal food, but it did need salt. There would be
trouble finding salt on this planet. The water that should be in the
seas was frozen in the glaciers. Salt would not have been leached out of
the soil and gathered in the seas. It would be a serious problem. But
Cochrane was very tired indeed.

"I'll take the first two hours," said Babs briskly. "Then I'll wake
you."

He showed her how to use the weapon. He meant to let himself drift
quietly off to sleep, acting as if he had a little trouble going off.
But he didn't. He lay down, and the next thing he knew Babs was shaking
him violently. In the first dazed instant when he opened his eyes he
thought they were surrounded by forest fire. But it wasn't that. It was
dawn, and Babs had let him sleep the whole night through, and the sky
was golden-yellow from one horizon to the other. More, he heard the
now-familiar cries of creatures in the forest. But also he heard a
roaring sound, very thin and far away, which could only be one thing.

"Jed! Jed! Get up! Quick! The ship's coming back! The ship! We've got to
move!"

She dragged him to his feet. He was suddenly wide-awake. He ran with
her. He flung back his head and stared up as he ran. There was a
pin-point of flame and vapor almost directly overhead. It grew swiftly
in size. It plunged downward.

They reached the surrounding forest and plunged into it. Babs stumbled,
and Cochrane caught her, and they ran onward hand in hand to get clear
away from the down-blast of the rockets. The rocket-roaring grew louder
and louder.

The castaways gazed. It was the ship. From below, fierce flames poured
down, blue-white and raging. The silver hull slanted a little. It
shifted its line of descent. It came down with a peculiar deftness of
handling that Cochrane had not realized before. Its rockets splashed,
but the flame did not extend out to the edge of the clearing that had
been burned off at first. The rocket-flames, indeed, did not approach
the proportion to be seen on rockets on film-tape, or as Cochrane had
seen below the moon-rocket descending on Earth.

The ship settled within yards of its original landing-place. Its rockets
dwindled, but remained burning. They dwindled again. The noise was
outrageous, but still not the intolerable tumult of a moon-rocket
landing on Earth.

The rockets cut off.

The airlock door opened. Cochrane and Babs waved cheerfully from the
edge of the clearing. Holden appeared in the door and shouted down:

"Sorry to be so long coming back."

He waved and vanished. They had, of course, to wait until the ground at
least partly cooled before the landing-sling could be used. Around them
the noises of the forest continued. There were cooling, crackling sounds
from the ship.

"I wonder how they found their way back!" said Babs. "I didn't think
they ever could. Did you?"

"Babs," said Cochrane, "you lied to me! You said you'd wake me in two
hours. But you let me sleep all night!"

"You'd let me sleep the night before," she told him composedly. "I was
fresher than you were, and today'd have been a pretty bad one. We were
going to try to kill some animals. You needed the rest."

Cochrane said slowly:

"I found out something, Babs. Why you could face things. Why we humans
haven't all gone mad. I think I've gotten the woman's viewpoint now,
Babs. I like it."

She inspected the looming blister-ports of the ship, now waiting for the
ground to cool so they could come aboard.

"I think we'd have made out if the ship hadn't come," Cochrane told her.
"We'd have had a woman's viewpoint to work from. Yours. You looked ahead
to building a house. Of course you thought of finding food, but you were
thinking of the possibility of winter and--building a house. You weren't
thinking only of survival. You were thinking far ahead. Women must think
farther ahead than men do!"

Babs looked at him briefly, and then returned to her apparently absorbed
contemplation of the ship.

"That's what's the matter with people back on Earth," Cochrane said
urgently. "There's no frustration as long as women can look ahead--far
ahead, past here and now! When women can do that, they can keep men
going. It's when there's nothing to plan for that men can't go on
because women can't hope. You see? You saw a city here. A little city,
with separate homes. On Earth, too many people can't think of more than
living-quarters and keeping food enough for them--them only!--coming in.
They can't hope for more. And it's when that happens--You see?"

Babs did not answer. Cochrane fumbled. He said angrily:

"Confound it, can't you see what I'm trying to say? We'd have been
better off, as castaways, than back on Earth crowded and scared of our
jobs! I'm saying I'd rather stay here with you than go back to the way I
was living before we started off on this voyage! I think the two of us
could make out under any circumstances! I don't want to try to make out
without you! It isn't sense!" Then he scowled helplessly. "Dammit, I've
staged plenty of shows in which a man asked a girl to marry him, and
they were all phoney. It's different, now that _I_ mean it! What's a
good way to ask you to marry me?"

Babs looked momentarily up into his face. She smiled ever so faintly.

"They're watching us from the ports," she said. "If you want my
viewpoint--If we were to wave to them that we'll be right back, we can
get some more of those fruits I cooked. It might be interesting to have
some to show them."

He scowled more deeply than before.

"I'm sorry you feel that way. But if that's it--"

"And on the way," said Babs. "When they're not watching, you might kiss
me."

They had a considerable pile of the red-fleshed fruits ready when the
ground had cooled enough for them to reach the landing-sling.

Once aboard the ship, Cochrane headed for the control-room, with Jamison
and Bell tagging after him. Bell had an argument.

"But the volcano's calmed down--there's only a wall of steam where the
lava hit the glaciers--and we could fix up a story in a couple of hours!
I've got background shots! You and Babs could make the story-scenes and
we'd have a castaway story! Perfect! The first true castaway story from
the stars--. You know what that would mean!"

Cochrane snarled at him.

"Try it and I'll tear you limb from limb! I've put enough of other
people's private lives on the screen! My own stays off! I'm not going to
have even a phoney screen-show built around Babs and me for people to
gabble about!"

Bell said in an injured tone:

"I'm only trying to do a good job! I started off on this business as a
writer. I haven't had a real chance to show what I can do with this sort
of material!"

"Forget it!" Cochrane snapped again. "Stick to your cameras!"

Jamison said hopefully:

"You'll give me some data on plants and animals, Mr. Cochrane? Won't
you? I'm doing a book with Bell's pictures, and--"

"Let me alone!" raged Cochrane.

He reached the control-room. Al, the pilot, sat at the controls with an
air of special alertness.

"You're all right? For our lined up trip, we ought to leave in about
twenty minutes. We'll be pointing just about right then."

"I'm all right," said Cochrane. "And you can take off when you please."
To Jones he said: "How'd you find us? I didn't think it could be done."

"Doctor Holden figured it out," said Jones. "Simple enough, but I was
lost! When the ground-shocks came, everybody else ran to the ship. We
waited for you. You didn't come." It had been, of course, because
Cochrane would not risk taking Babs through a forest in which trees were
falling. "We finally had to choose between taking off and crashing. So
we took off."

"That was quite right. We'd all be messed up if you hadn't," Cochrane
told him.

Jones waved his hands.

"I didn't think we could ever find you again. We were sixty light-years
away when that booster effect died out. Then Doctor Holden got on the
communicator. He got Earth. The astronomers back there located us and
gave us the line to get back by. We found the planet. Even then I didn't
see how we'd pick out the valley. But Doc had had 'em checking the shots
we transmitted as we were making our landing. We had the whole first
approach on film-tape. They put a crowd of map-comparators to work. We
went in a Space Platform orbit around the planet, transmitting what we
saw from out there--they figured the orbit for us, too--and they checked
what we transmitted against what we'd photographed going down. So they
were able to spot the exact valley and tell us where to come down. We
actually spotted this valley last night, but we couldn't land in the
dark."

Cochrane felt abashed.

"I couldn't have done that job," he admitted, "so I didn't think anybody
could. Hm. Didn't all this cost a lot of fuel?"

Jones actually smiled.

"I worked out something. We don't use as much fuel as we did. We're
probably using too much now. Al--go ahead and lift. I want to check what
the new stuff does, anyhow. Take off!"

The pilot threw a switch, and Jones threw another, a newly installed
one, just added to his improvised control-column. A light glowed
brightly. Al pressed one button, very gently. A roaring set up outside.
The ship started up. There was practically no feeling of acceleration,
this time. The ship rose lightly. Even the rocket-roar was mild indeed,
compared to its take-off from Luna and the sound of its first landing on
the planet just below.

Cochrane saw the valley floors recede, and mountain-walls drop below.
From all directions, then, vegetation-filled valleys flowed toward the
ship, and underneath. Glaciers appeared, and volcanic cones, and then
enormous stretches of white, with smoking dots here and there upon it.
In seconds, it seemed, the horizon was visibly curved. In other seconds
the planet being left behind was a monstrous white ball, and there were
patches of intolerable white sunlight coming in the ports.

And Cochrane felt queer. Jones had given the order for take-off. Jones
had determined to leave at this moment, because Jones had tests he
wanted to make.... Cochrane felt like a passenger. From the man who
decided things because he was the one who knew what had to be done, he
had become something else. He had been absent two nights and part of a
day, and decisions had been made in which he had no part--

It felt queer. It felt even startling.

"We're in a modification of the modified Dabney field now," observed
Jones in a gratified tone. "You know the original theory."

"I don't," acknowledged Cochrane.

"The field's always a pipe, a tube, a column of stressed space between
the field-plates," Jones reminded him. "When we landed the first time,
back yonder, the tail of the ship wasn't in the field at all. The field
stretched from the bow of the ship only, out to that last balloon we
dropped. We were letting down at an angle to that line. It was like a
kite and a string and the kite's tail. The string was the Dabney field,
and the directions we were heading was the kite's tail."

Cochrane nodded. It occurred to him that Jones was very much unlike
Dabney. Jones had discovered the Dabney field, but having sold the
fame-rights to it, he now apparently thought "Dabney Field" was the
proper technical term for his own discovery, even in his own mind.

"Back on the moon," Jones went on zestfully, "I wasn't sure that a field
once established would hold in atmosphere. I hoped that with enough
power I could keep it, but I wasn't sure--"

"This doesn't mean much to me, Jones," said Cochrane. "What does it add
up to?"

"Why--the field held down into atmosphere. And we were out of the
primary field as far as the tail of the ship was concerned. But this
time we landed, I'd hooked in some ready-installed circuits. There was a
second Dabney field from the stern of the ship to the bow. There was the
main one, going out to those balloons and then back to Earth. But there
was--and is--a second one only enclosing the ship. It's a sort of
bubble. We can still trail a field behind us, and anybody can follow in
any sort of ship that's put into it. But now the ship has a completely
independent, second field. Its tail is never outside!"

Cochrane did not have the sort of mind to find such information either
lucid or suggestive.

"So what happens?"

"We have both plates of a Dabney field always with us," said Jones
triumphantly. "We're always in a field, even landing in atmosphere, and
the ship has practically no mass even when it's letting down to landing.
It has weight, but next to no mass. Didn't you notice the difference?"

"Stupid as it may seem, I didn't," admitted Cochrane. "I haven't the
least idea what you're talking about."

Jones looked at him patiently.

"Now we can shoot our exhaust out of the field! The ship-field, not the
main one!"

"I'm still numb," said Cochrane. "Multiple sclerosis of the brain-cells,
I suppose. Let me just take your word for it."

Jones tried once more.

"Try to see it! Listen! When we landed the first time we had to use a
lot of fuel because the tail of the ship wasn't in the Dabney field. It
had mass. So we had to use a lot of rocket-power to slow down that mass.
In the field, the ship hasn't much mass--the amount depends on the
strength of the field--but rockets depend for their thrust on the mass
that's thrown away astern. Looked at that way, rockets shouldn't push
hard in a Dabney field. There oughtn't to be any gain to be had by the
field at all. You see?"

Cochrane fumbled in his head.

"Oh, yes. I thought of that. But there is an advantage. The ship does
work."

"Because," said Jones, triumphant again, "the field-effect depends
partly on temperature! The gases in the rocket-blast are hot, away up in
the thousands of degrees. They don't have normal inertia, but they do
have what you might call heat-inertia. They acquire a sort of fictitious
mass when they get hot enough. So we carry along fuel that hasn't any
inertia to speak of when it's cold, but acquires a lunatic sort of
substitute for inertia when it's genuinely hot. So a ship can travel in
a Dabney field!"

"I'm relieved," acknowledged Cochrane. "I thought you were about to tell
me that we couldn't lift off the moon, and I was going to ask how we got
here."

Jones smiled patiently.

"What I'm telling you now is that we can shoot rocket-blasts out of the
Dabney field we make with the stern of the ship! Landing, we keep our
fuel and the ship with next to no mass, and we shoot it out to where it
does have mass, and the effect is practically the same as if we were
pushing against something solid! And so we started off with fuel for
maybe five or six landings and take-offs against Earth gravity. But with
this new trick, we've got fuel for a couple of hundred!"

"Ah!" said Cochrane mildly. "This is the first thing you've said that
meant anything to me. Congratulations! What comes next?"

"I thought you'd be pleased," said Jones. "What I'm really telling you
is that now we've got fuel enough to reach the Milky Way."

"Let's not," suggested Cochrane, "and say we did! You've got a new star
picked out to travel to?"

Jones shrugged his shoulders. In him, the gesture indicated practically
hysterical frustration. But he said:

"Yes. Twenty-one light-years. Back on Earth they're anxious for us to
check on sol-type suns and Earth-type planets."

"For once," said Cochrane, "I am one with the great scientific minds.
Let's go over."

He made his way to the circular stairway leading down to the main
saloon. On his clumsy way across the saloon floor to the communicator,
he felt the peculiar sensation of the booster-current, which should
have been a sound, but wasn't. It was the sensation which had preceded
the preposterous leap of the space-ship away from Luna, when in a
heart-beat of time all stars looked like streaks of light, and the ship
traveled nearly two light-centuries.

Sunshine blinked, and then shone again in the ports around the saloon
walls. The second shining came from a different direction--as if
somebody had switched off one exterior light and turned on another--and
at a different angle to the floor.

Cochrane reached the communicator. He felt no weight. He strapped
himself into the chair. He switched on the vision-phone which sent
radiation along the field to a balloon two hundred odd light-years from
Earth--that was the balloon near the glacier planet--and then switched
to the field traveling to a second balloon then the last hundred
seventy-odd light-years back to the moon, and then from Luna City down
to Earth.

He put in his call. He got an emergency message that had been waiting
for him. Seconds later he fought his way frantically through no-weight
to the control-room again.

"Jamison! Bell!" he cried desperately. "We've got a broadcast due in
twenty minutes! I lost track of time! We're sponsored on four continents
and we damwell have to put on a show! What the devil! Why didn't
somebody--"

Jamison said obviously from a blister-port where he swung a squat
star-telescope from one object to another:

"Noo-o-o. That's a gas-giant. We'd be squashed if we landed
there--though that big moon looks promising. I think we'd better try
yonder."

"Okay," said Jones in a flat voice. "Center on the next one in, Al, and
we'll toddle over."

Cochrane felt the ship swinging in emptiness. He knew because it seemed
to turn while he felt that he stayed still.

"We've got a show to put on!" he raged. "We've got to fake something--."

Jamison looked aside from his telescope.

"Tell him, Bell," he said expansively.

"I wrote a script of sorts," said Bell apologetically. "The story-line's
not so good--that's why I wanted a castaway narrative to put in it,
though I wouldn't have had time, really. We spliced film and Jamison
narrated it, and you can run it off. It's a kind of show. We ran it as a
space-platform survey of the glacier-planet, basing it on pictures we
took while we were in orbit around it. It's a sort of travelogue.
Jamison did himself proud. Alicia can find the tape-can for you."

He went back to his cameras. Cochrane saw a monstrous globe swing past a
control-room port. It was a featureless mass of clouds, save for
striations across what must be its equator. It looked like the Lunar
Observatory pictures of Jupiter, back in the Sun's family of planets.

It went past the port, and a moon swam into view. It was a very large
moon. It had at least one ice-cap--and therefore an atmosphere--and
there were mottlings of its surface which could hardly be anything but
continents and seas.

"We've got to put a show on!" raged Cochrane. "And now!"

"It's all set," Bell assured him. "You can transmit it. I hope you like
it!"

Cochrane sputtered. But there was nothing to do but transmit whatever
Bell and Jamison had gotten ready. He swam with nightmarelike difficulty
back to the communicator. He shouted frantically for Babs. She and
Alicia came. Alicia found the film-tape, and Cochrane threaded it into
the transmitter, and bitterly ran the first few feet. Babs smiled at
him, and Alicia looked at him oddly. Evidently, Babs had confided the
consequence of their casting-away. But Cochrane faced an emergency. He
began to check timings with far-distant Earth.

When the ship approached a second planet, Cochrane saw nothing of it. He
was furiously monitoring the broadcast of a show in which he'd had no
hand at all. From his own, professional standpoint it was terrible.
Jamison spouted interminably, so Cochrane considered. Al, the pilot, was
actually interviewed by an offscreen voice! But the pictures from space
were excellent. While the ship floated in orbit, waiting to descend to
pick up Babs and Cochrane, Bell had hooked his camera to an amplifying
telescope and he did have magnificent shots of dramatic terrain on the
planet now twenty light-years behind.

Cochrane watched the show in a mingling of jealousy and relief. It was
not as good as he would have done. But fortunately, Bell and Jamison had
stuck fairly close to straight travelogue-stuff, and close-up shots of
vegetation and animals had been interspersed with the remoter pictures
with moderate competence, if without undue imagination. An audience
which had not seen many shows of the kind would be thrilled. It even
amounted to a valid change of pace. Anybody who watched this would at
least want to see more and different pictures from the stars.

Halfway through, he heard the now-muffled noise of rockets. He knew the
ship was descending through atmosphere by the steady sound, though he
had not the faintest idea what was outside. He ground his teeth as--for
timing--he received the commercial inserted in the film. The U. S.
commercials served the purpose, of course. He could not watch the other
pictures shown to residents of other than North America in the
commercial portions of the show.

He was counting seconds to resume transmission when he felt the slight
but distant impact which meant that the ship had touched ground. A very
short time after, even the lessened, precautionary rocket-roar cut off.

Cochrane ground his teeth. The ship had landed on a planet he had not
seen and in whose choice he had had no hand. He was humiliated. The
other members of the ship's company looked out at scenes no other human
eyes had ever beheld.

He regarded the final commercial, inserted into the broadcast for its
American sponsor. It showed, purportedly, the true story of two girl
friends, one blonde and one brunette, who were wall-flowers at all
parties. They tried frantically to remedy the situation by the use of
this toothpaste and that, and this deodorant and the other. In vain! But
then they became the centers of all the festivities they attended, as
soon as they began to wash their hair with Rayglo Shampoo.

Holden and Johnny Simms came clattering down from the control-room
together. They looked excited. They plunged together toward the
stair-well that would take them to the deck on which the airlock opened.

Holden panted,

"Jed! Creatures outside! They look like men!"

The communicator-screen faithfully monitored the end of the commercial.
Two charming girls, radiant and lovely, raised their voices in grateful
song, hymning the virtues of Rayglo Shampoo. There followed brisk
reminders of the superlative, magical results obtained by those who used
Rayglo Foundation Cream, Rayglo Kisspruf Lipstick, and Rayglo home
permanent--in four strengths; for normal, hard-to-wave, easy-to-wave,
and children's hair.

Cochrane heard the clanking of the airlock door.



CHAPTER NINE


He made for the control-room, where the ports offered the highest and
widest and best views of everything outside. When he arrived, Babs and
Alicia stood together, staring out and down. Bell frantically worked a
camera. Jamison gaped at the outer world. Al the pilot made frustrated
gestures, not quite daring to leave his controls while there was even an
outside chance the ship's landing-fins might find flaws in their
support. Jones adjusted something on the new set of controls he had
established for the extra Dabney field. Jones was not wholly normal in
some ways. He was absorbed in technical matters even more fully than
Cochrane in his own commercial enterprises.

Cochrane pushed to a port to see.

The ship had landed in a small glade. There were trees nearby. The trees
had extremely long, lanceolate leaves, roughly the shape of grass-blades
stretched out even longer. In the gentle breeze that blew outside, they
waved extravagantly. There were hills in the distance, and nearby
out-croppings of gray rocks. This sky was blue like the sky of Earth. It
was, of course, inevitable that any colorless atmosphere with
dust-particles suspended in it would establish a blue sky.

Holden was visible below, moving toward a patch of reed-like vegetation
rising some seven or eight feet from the rolling soil. He had hopped
quickly over the scorched area immediately outside the ship. It was much
smaller than that made by the first landing on the other planet, but
even so he had probably damaged his footwear to excess. But he now stood
a hundred yards from the ship. He made gestures. He seemed to be
talking, as if trying to persuade some living creature to show itself.

"We saw them peeping," said Babs breathlessly, coming beside Cochrane.
"Once one of them ran from one patch of reeds to another. It looked
like a man. There are at least three of them in there--whatever they
are!"

"They can't be men," said Cochrane grimly. "They can't!" Johnny Simms
was not in sight. "Where's Simms?"

"He has a gun," said Babs. "He was going to get one, anyhow, so he could
protect Doctor Holden."

Cochrane glanced straight down. The airlock door was open, and the end
of a weapon peered out. Johnny Simms might be in a better position there
to protect Holden by gun-fire, but he was assuredly safer, himself.
There was no movement anywhere. Holden did not move closer to the reeds.
He still seemed to be speaking soothingly to the unseen creatures.

"Why can't there be men here?" asked Babs. "I don't mean actually men,
but--manlike creatures? Why couldn't there be rational creatures like
us? I know you said so but--"

Cochrane shook his head. He believed implicitly that there could not be
men on this planet. On the glacier planet every animal had been
separately devised from the creatures of Earth. There were resemblances,
explicable as the result of parallel evolution. By analogy, there could
not be exactly identical mankind on another world because evolution
there would be parallel but not the same. But if there were even a
mental equal to men, no matter how unhuman such a creature might appear,
if there were a really rational animal anywhere in the cosmos off of
Earth, the result would be catastrophic.

"We humans," Cochrane told her, "live by our conceit. We demand more
than animality of ourselves because we believe we are more than
animals--and we believe we are the only creatures that are! If we came
to believe we were not unique, but were simply a cleverer animal, we'd
be finished. Every nation has always started to destroy itself every
time such an idea spread."

"But we aren't only clever animals!" protested Babs. "We _are_ unique!"

Cochrane glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.

"Quite true."

Holden still stood patiently before the patch of reeds, still seemed to
talk, still with his hands outstretched in what men consider the
universal sign of peace.

There was a sudden movement at the back of the reed-patch, quite fifty
yards from Holden. A thing which did look like a man fled madly for the
nearest edge of woodland. It was the size of a man. It had the
pinkish-tan color of naked human flesh. It ran with its head down, and
it could not be seen too clearly, but it was startlingly manlike in
outline. Up in the control-room Bell fairly yipped with excitement and
swung his camera. Holden remained oblivious. He still tried to lure
something out of concealment. A second creature raced for the woods.

Tiny gray threads appeared in the air between the airlock and the racing
thing. Smoke. Johnny Simms was shooting zestfully at the unidentified
animal. He was using that tracer ammunition which poor shots and worse
sportsmen adopt to make up for bad marksmanship.

The threads of smoke seemed to form a net about the running things. They
dodged and zig-zagged frantically. Both of them reached safety.

A third tried it. And now Johnny Simms turned on automatic fire. Bullets
spurted from his weapon, trailing threads of smoke so that the trails
looked like a stream from a hose. The stream swept through the space
occupied by the fugitive. It leaped convulsively and crashed to earth.
It kicked blindly.

Cochrane swore. Between the instant of the beginning of the creature's
flight and this instant, less than two seconds had passed.

The threads which were smoke-trails drifted away. Then a new thread
streaked out. Johnny Simms fired once more at his still-writhing victim.
It kicked violently and was still.

Holden turned angrily. There seemed to be shoutings between him and
Johnny Simms. Then Holden trudged around the reed-patch. There was no
longer any sign of life in the still shape on the ground. But it was
normal precaution not to walk into a jungle-like thicket in which
unknown, large living things had recently been sighted. Johnny Simms
fired again and again from his post in the airlock. The smoke which
traced his bullets ranged to the woodland. He shot at imagined targets
there. He fired at his previous victim simply because it was something
to shoot at. He shot recklessly, foolishly.

Alicia, his wife, touched Jamison on the arm and spoke to him urgently.
Jamison followed her reluctantly down the stairs. She would be going to
the airlock. Johnny Simms, shooting at the landscape, might shoot
Holden. A thread of bullet-smoke passed within feet of Holden's body. He
turned and shouted back at the ship.

The inner airlock door clanked open. There was the sound of a shot, and
the dead thing was hit again. The bullet had been fired dangerously
close to Holden. There were voices below. Johnny Simms bellowed
enragedly.

Alicia cried out.

There was silence below, but Cochrane was already plunging toward the
stairs. Babs followed closely.

When they rushed down onto the dining-room deck they found Alicia
deathly white, but with a flaming red mark on her cheek. They found
Johnny Simms roaring with rage, waving the weapon he'd been shooting.
Jamison was uneasily in the act of trying to placate him.

"----!" bellowed Johnny Simms. "I came on this ship to hunt! I'm going
to hunt! Try and stop me!"

He waved his weapon.

"I paid my money!" he shouted. "I won't take orders from anybody! Nobody
can boss me!"

Cochrane said icily:

"I can! Stop being a fool! Put down that gun! You nearly shot Holden!
You might still kill somebody. Put it down!"

He walked grimly toward Johnny Simms. Johnny was near the open airlock
door. The outer door was open, too. He could not retreat. He edged
sidewise. Cochrane changed the direction of his advance. There are
people like Johnny Simms everywhere. As a rule they are not classed as
unable to tell right from wrong unless they are rich enough to hire a
psychiatrist. Yet a variable but always-present percentage of the human
race ignores rules of conduct at all times. They are the handicap, the
burden, the main hindrance to the maintenance or the progress of
civilization. They are not consciously evil. They simply do not bother
to act otherwise than as rational animals. The rest of humanity has to
defend itself with police, with laws, and sometimes with revolts, though
those like Johnny Simms have no motive beyond the indulgence of
immediate inclinations. But for that indulgence Johnny would risk any
injury to anybody else.

He edged further aside. Cochrane was white with disgusted fury. Johnny
Simms went into panic. He raised his weapon, aiming at Cochrane.

"Keep back!" he cried ferociously. "I don't care if I kill you!"

And he did not. It was the stark senselessness which makes juvenile
delinquents and Hitlers, and causes thugs and hoodlums and snide lawyers
and tricky business men. It was the pure perversity which makes sane
men frustrate. It was an example of that infinite stupidity which is
crime, but is also only stupidity.

Cochrane saw Babs pulling competently at one of the chairs at one of the
tables nearby. He stopped, and Johnny Simms took courage. Cochrane said
icily:

"Just what the hell do you think we're here for, anyhow?"

Johnny Simms' eyes were wide and blank, like the eyes of a small boy in
a frenzy of destruction, when he has forgotten what he started out to do
and has become obsessed with what damage he is doing.

"I'm not going to be pushed around!" cried Johnny Simms, more
ferociously still. "From now on I'm going to tell you what to do--"

Babs swung the chair she had slid from its fastenings. It came down with
a satisfying "_thunk_" on Johnny Simms' head. His gun went off. The
bullet missed Cochrane by fractions of an inch. He plunged ahead.

Some indefinite time later, Babs was pulling desperately at him. He had
Johnny Simms on the floor and was throttling him. Johnny Simms strangled
and tore at his fingers.

Sanity came back to Cochrane with the effect of something snapping. He
got up. He nodded to Babs and she picked up the gun Johnny Simms had
used.

"I think," said Cochrane, breathing hard, "that you're a good sample of
everything I dislike. The worst thing you do is make me act like you! If
you touch a gun again on this ship, I'll probably kill you. If you get
arrogant again, I will beat the living daylights out of you! Get up!"

Johnny Simms got up. He looked thoroughly scared. Then, amazingly, he
beamed at Cochrane. He said amiably:

"I forgot. I'm that way. Alicia'll tell you. I don't blame you for
getting mad. I'm sorry. But I'm that way!"

He brushed himself off, beaming at Alicia and Jamison and Babs and
Cochrane. Cochrane ground his teeth. He went to the airlock and looked
down outside.

Holden was bent over the creature Johnny Simms had killed. He
straightened up and came back toward the ship. He went faster when the
ground grew hot under his feet. He fairly leaped into the landing-sling
and started it up.

"Not human," he reported to Cochrane when he slipped from the sling in
the airlock. "There's no question about it when you are close. It's more
nearly a bird than anything else. It was warm-blooded. It has a beak.
There are penguins on Earth that have been mistaken for men.

"I did a show once," said Cochrane coldly, "that had clips of old films
of cockfighting in it. There was a kind of gamecock called Cornish Game
that was fairly manshaped. If it had been big enough--Pull in the sling
and close the lock. We're moving."

He turned away. Babs stood by Alicia, offering a handkerchief for Alicia
to put to her cheek. Jamison listened unhappily as Johnny Simms
explained brightly that he had always been that way. When he got excited
he didn't realize what he was doing. He said almost with pride that he
hadn't ever been any other way than that. He didn't really mean to kill
anybody, but when he got excited--.

"What happened?" demanded Holden.

"Our little psychopath," said Cochrane in a grating voice, "put on an
act. He threatened me with a rifle. He hit Alicia first. Jamison, trace
that bullet-hole. See if it got through to the skin of the ship."

He started for the stairs again. Then he was startled by the frozen
immobility of Holden. Holden's face was deadly. His hands were clenched.
Johnny Simms said with a fine boyish frankness:

"I'm sorry, Cochrane! No hard feelings?"

"Yes," Cochrane snapped. "Hard feelings! I've got them!"

He took Holden's arm. He steered him up the steps. Holden resisted for
the fraction of a second, and Cochrane gripped his arm tighter. He got
him up to the deck above.

"If I'd been here," said Holden, unsteadily, "I'd have killed him--if he
hit Alicia! Psychopath or no psychopath--"

"Shut up," said Cochrane firmly. "He shot at me! And in my small way I'm
a psychopath too, Bill. My psychosis is that I don't like his kind of
psychosis. I am psychotically devoted to sense and my possibly quaint
idea of decency. I am abnormally concerned with the real world--and
you'd better come back to it! Look here! I'm pathologically in revolt
against such imbecilities as an overcrowded Earth and people being
afraid of their jobs and people going crackpot from despair. You don't
want me to get cured of that, do you? Then get hold of yourself!"

Bill Holden swallowed. He was still white. But he managed to grimace.

"You're right. Lucky I was outside. You're not a bad psychologist
yourself, Jed."

"I'm better," said Cochrane cynically, "at putting on shows with scrap
film-tape and dream-stuff. So I'm going to look at the films Bell took
as we landed on this planet, and work out some ideas for broadcasts."

He went up another flight, and Holden went with him in a sort of stilly,
unnatural calm. Cochrane ran the film-tape through the reversed camera
for examination.

Outside, there waved long green tresses of extraordinarily elongated
leaves. The patches of reed-like stuff stirred in the breeze. Jamison
appeared in the control-room. He began to question Holden hopefully
about the ground-cover outside. It was not grass. It was broad-leaved.
There would be, Jamison decided happily, an infinitude of under-leaf
forms of life. They would most likely be insects, and there would be
carnivorous other insects to prey upon them. Some species would find it
advantageous to be burrowing insects. There must be other kinds of birds
than the giant specimens that looked like men at a distance, too. On the
glacier planet there had been few birds but many furry creatures.
Possibly the situation was reversed here, though of course it need not
be ...

"Hm," said Cochrane when the films were all run through. "Ice-caps and
land and seas. Plenty of green vegetation, so presumably the air is
normal for humans. Since you're alive, Holden, we can assume it isn't
instantly fatal, can't we? The gravity's tolerable--a little on the
light side, maybe, compared to the glacier planet."

He was silent, staring at the blank wall of the control-room. He
frowned. Suddenly he said:

"Does anybody back on Earth know that Babs and I were castaways?"

"No," said Holden, still very quiet indeed. "Alicia ran the
control-board. She told everybody you were too busy to be called to the
communicator. It was queer with you away! Jamison and Bell tied
themselves in chairs and spliced tape. Johnny, of course"--his voice was
very carefully toneless--"wouldn't do anything useful. I was space-sick
a lot of the time. But I did help Alicia figure out what to say on the
communicator. There must be hundreds of calls backed up for you to
take."

"Good!" said Cochrane. "I'll go take some of them. Jones, could we make
a flit to somewhere else on this planet?"

Jones said negligently,

"I told you we've got fuel to reach the Milky Way. Where do you want to
go?"

"Anywhere," said Cochrane. "The scenery isn't dramatic enough here for a
new broadcast. We've got to have some lurid stuff for our next show.
Things are shaping up except for the need of just the right scenery to
send back to Earth."

"What kind of scenery do you want?"

"Animals preferred," said Cochrane. "Dinosaurs would do. Or buffalo or a
reasonable facsimile. What I'd actually like more than anything else
would really be a herd of buffalo."

Jamison gasped.

"Buffalo?"

"Meat," said Cochrane in an explanatory tone. "On the hoof. The
public-relations job all this has turned into, demands a careful
stimulation of all the basic urges. So I want people to think of steaks
and chops and roasts. If I could get herds of animals from one horizon
to another--."

"Meat-herds coming up," said Jones negligently. "I'll call you."

Cochrane did not believe him. He went down to the communicator again. He
prepared to take the calls from Earth that had been backed up behind the
emergency demand for an immediate broadcast-show that he'd met while the
ship came to its landing. There was an enormous amount of business piled
up. And it was slow work handling it. His voice took six seconds to pass
through something over two hundred light-years of space in the Dabney
field, and then two seconds in normal space from the relay in Lunar
City. It was twelve seconds between the time he finished saying
something before the first word of the reply reached him. It was very
slow communication. He reflected annoyedly that he'd have to ask Jones
to make a special Dabney field communication field as strong as was
necessary to take care of the situation.

The rockets growled and roared outside. The ship lifted. Johnny Simms
came storming up from below.

"My trophy!" he cried indignantly. "I want my trophy!"

Cochrane looked up impatiently from the screen.

"What trophy?"

"The thing I shot!" cried Johnny Simms fiercely. "I want to have it
mounted! Nobody else ever killed anything like that! I want it!"

The ship surged upward more strongly. Cochrane said coldly:

"It's too late now. Get out. I'm busy."

He returned his eyes to the screen. Johnny Simms raced for the stairs. A
little later Cochrane heard shoutings in the control-room. But he was
too busy to inquire.

The ship drifted--with all the queasy sensation of no-weight--and lifted
again, and then there was a fairly long period of weightlessness. At
such times Holden would be greenish and sick and tormented by
space-sickness. Which might be good for him at this particular time. For
a long time, it seemed, there were alternating periods of lift and free
fall, which in themselves were disturbing. Once the free fall lasted
until Cochrane began to feel uneasy. But then the rockets roared once
more and boomed loudly as if the ship were leaving the planet
altogether.

But Cochrane was talking business. In part he bluffed. In part, quite
automatically, he demanded much more than he expected to get, simply
because it is the custom in business not to be frank about anything.
Whatever he asked, the other man would offer less. So he asked too much,
and the other man offered too little, each knowing in advance very
nearly on what terms they would finally settle. Considering the cost of
beam-phone time to Lunar City, not to mention the extension to the
stars, it was absurd, but it was the way business is done.

Presently Cochrane called Babs and Alicia and had them witness a
tentative agreement, which had to be ratified by a board of directors of
a corporation back on Earth. That board would jump at it, but the
stipulation for possible cancellation had to be made. It was
mumbo-jumbo. Cochrane felt satisfyingly competent at handling it.

While the formalities were in progress, the ship surged and fell and
swayed and surged again. Cochrane said ruefully:

"I hate to ask you to work under conditions like this, Babs."

Babs grinned. He flushed a little.

"I know! When you were working for me I wasn't considerate."

"Who am I working for now?"

"Us," said Cochrane. Then he looked guiltily at Alicia. He felt
embarrassment at having said anything in the least sentimental before
her. Considering Johnny Simms, it was not too tactful. Her cheek, where
it had been red, now showed a distinct bruise. He said: "Sorry,
Alicia--about Johnny."

"I got into it myself," said Alicia. "I loved him. He isn't really bad.
If you want to know, I think he simply decided years ago that he
wouldn't grow up past the age of six. He was a rich man's spoiled little
boy. It was fun. So he made a career of it. His family let him. I"--she
smiled faintly, "I'm making a career of taking care of him."

"Something can be done even with a six-year-old," growled Cochrane.
"Holden--. But he wouldn't be the best one to try."

"He definitely wouldn't be the best one to try," said Alicia very
quietly.

Cochrane turned away. She knew how Bill Holden felt. Which might or
might not be comforting to him.

The communicator again. The pictures of foot-high furry bipeds on the
glacier planet had made a sensation on television. A toy-manufacturer
wanted the right to make toys like them. The pictures were copyrighted.
Cochrane matter-of-factly made the deal. There would be miniature
extra-terrestrial animals on sale in all toy-shops within days.
Spaceways, Inc., would collect a royalty on each toy sold.

The rockets boomed, and lessened their noise, and wavered up and down
again. Then there was that deliberate, crunching feel of the great
landing-fins pressing into soil with all the ship's weight bearing down.
The rockets ran on, drumming ever-so-faintly, for a little longer. Then
they cut off.

"We're landed again! Let's see where we are!"

They went up to the control-room. Johnny Simms stood against the wall,
sulking. He had managed his life very successfully by acting like a
spoiled little boy. Now he had lost any idea of saner conduct. At the
moment, he looked ridiculous. But Alicia had a bruised cheek and
Cochrane could have been killed, and Holden had been in danger because
Johnny Simms wanted to and insisted on acting like a rich man's spoiled
little boy.

It occurred to Cochrane that Alicia would probably find recompense for
her humiliation and pain in the little-boy penitence--exactly as
temporary as any other little-boy emotion--when she and Johnny Simms
were alone together.

The ship had come down close to the sunset-line of the planet. Away to
the west there was the glint of blue sea. Dusk was already descending
here. There were smoothly contoured hills in view, and there was a dark
patch of forest on one hilltop, and the trees at the woodland's edge had
the same drooping, grass-blade-like foliage of the trees first seen. But
there were larger and more solid giants among them. The ship had landed
on a small plateau, and downhill from it a spring gushed out with such
force that the water-surface was rounded by pressure from below. The
water overflowed and went down toward the sea.

"I think we're all right," said Al, the pilot. But he stayed in his
seat, in case the ship threatened to sway over. Cochrane inspected the
outer world.

"Well?"

"We sighted what I think you want," said Jones. He looked dead-pan and
yet secretly complacent. "Just watch."

The dusk grew deeper. Colorings appeared in the west. They were very
similar to the sunset-colorings on Earth.

"Not many volcanoes here."

The amount of dust was limited, as on Earth. A great star winked into
view in the east. It was as bright as Venus seen from Earth. It had a
just-perceptible disk. Close to it, infinitely small, there was a speck
of light which seemed somehow like a star. Cochrane squinted at it. He
thought of the great gas-giant world he'd seen out a port on the way
here. It had an attendant moon-world which itself had icecaps and seas
and continents. He called Jamison.

"I think that's the planet," agreed Jamison. "We passed close by it. We
saw it."

"It had a moon," observed Cochrane. "A big one. It looked like a world
itself. What would it be like there?"

"Cooler than this," said Jamison promptly, "because it's farther from
the sun. But it might pick up some heat from reflection from its
primary's white clouds. It would be a fair world. It has oceans and
continents and strings of foam-girt islands. But its sea is strange and
dark and restless. Gigantic tides surge in its depths, drawn by the
planetary colossus about which it swings. Its animal life--."

"Cut," said Cochrane dryly. "What do you really think? Could it be
another inhabitable world for people to move to?"

Jamison looked annoyed at having been cut off.

"Probably," he said more prosaically. "The tides would be monstrous,
though."

"Might be used for power," said Cochrane. "We'll see ..."

Then Jones spoke with elaborate casualness:

"Here's something to look at. On the ground."

Cochrane moved to see. The dusk had deepened still more. The smooth,
green-covered ground had become a dark olive. Where bare hillsides gave
upon the sky, there were dark masses flowing slowly forward. The edges
of the hills turned black, and the blackness moved down their nearer
slopes. It was not an even front of darkness. There were patches which
preceded the others. They did not stay distinct. They merged with the
masses which followed them, and other patches separated in their places.
All of the darkness moved without haste, with a sort of inexorable
deliberation. It moved toward the ship and the valley and the gushing
fountain and the stream which flowed from it.

"What on Earth--" began Cochrane.

"You're not on Earth," said Jones chidingly. "Al and I found 'em. You
asked for buffalo or a reasonable facsimile. I won't guarantee anything;
but we spotted what looked like herds of beasts moving over the green
plains inland. We checked, and they seemed to be moving in this
direction. Once we dropped down low and Bell got some pictures. When he
enlarged them, we decided they'd do. So we lined up where they were all
headed for, and here we are. And here they are!"

Cochrane stared with all his eyes. Behind him, he heard Bell fuming to
himself as he tried to adjust a camera for close-up pictures in the
little remaining light. Babs stood beside Cochrane, staring
incredulously.

The darkness was beasts. They blackened the hillsides on three sides of
the ship. They came deliberately, leisurely onward. They were literally
uncountable. They were as numerous as the buffalo that formerly thronged
the western plains of America. In black, shaggy masses, they came toward
the spring and its stream. Nearby, their heads could be distinguished.
And all of this was perfectly natural.

The cosmos is one thing. Where life exists, its living creatures will
fit themselves cunningly into each niche where life can be maintained.
On vast green plains there will be animals to graze--and there will be
animals to prey on them. So the grazing things will band together in
herds for self-defense and reproduction. And where the ground is covered
with broad-leaved plants, such plants will shelter innumerable tiny
creatures, and some of them will be burrowers. So rain will drain
quickly into those burrowings and not make streams. And therefore the
drainage will reappear as springs, and the grazing animals will go to
those springs to drink. Often, they will gather more densely at
nightfall for greater protection from their enemies. They will even
often gather at the springs or their overflowing brooks. This will
happen anywhere that plains and animals exist, on any planet to the edge
of the galaxy, because there are laws for living things as well as
stones.

Great dark masses of the beasts moved unhurriedly past the ship. They
were roughly the size of cattle--which itself would be determined by the
gravity of the planet, setting a maximum favorable size for grazing
beasts with an ample food-supply. There were thousands and tens of
thousands of them visible in the deepening night. They crowded to the
gushing spring and to the stream that flowed from it. They drank.
Sometimes groups of them waited patiently until the way to the water was
clear.

"Well?" said Jones.

"I think you filled my order," admitted Cochrane.

The night became starlight only, and Cochrane impatiently demanded of Al
or somebody that they measure the length of a complete day and night on
this planet. The stars would move overhead at such-and-such a rate. So
many degrees in so much time. He needed, said Cochrane--as if this order
also could be filled--a day-length not more than six hours shorter or
longer than an Earth-day.

Jones and Al conferred and prepared to take some sort of reading without
any suitable instrument. Cochrane moved restlessly about. He did not
notice Johnny Simms. Johnny had stood sullenly in his place, not moving
to look out the windows, ostentatiously ignoring everything and
everybody. And nobody paid attention! It was not a matter to offend an
adult, but it was very shocking indeed to a rich man's son who had been
able to make a career of staying emotionally at a six-year-old level.

Cochrane's thoughts were almost feverish. If the day-length here was
suitable, all his planning was successful. If it was too long or too
short, he had grimly to look further--and Spaceways, Inc., would still
not be as completely a success as he wanted. It would have been much
simpler to have measured the apparent size of the local sun by any means
available, and then simply to have timed the intervals between its
touching of the horizon and its complete setting. But Cochrane hadn't
thought of it at sunset.

Presently he wandered down to where Babs and Alicia worked in the
kitchen to prepare a meal. He tried to help. The atmosphere was much
more like that in a small apartment back home than on a space-ship among
the stars. This was not in any way such a journey of exploration as the
writers of fiction had imagined. Jamison came down presently and offered
to prepare some special dish in which he claimed to excel. There was no
mention of Johnny Simms. Alicia, elaborately ignoring all that was past,
told Jamison that Babs and Cochrane were now an acknowledged romance and
actually had plans for marriage immediately the ship returned to Earth.
Jamison made the usual inept jests suited to such an occasion.

Presently they called the others to dinner. Jones and Johnny Simms were
long behind the others, and Jones' expression was conspicuously
dead-pan. Johnny Simms looked sulkily rebellious. His sulking had not
attracted attention in the control-room. He had meant to refuse sulkily
to come to dinner. But Jones wouldn't trust him--alone in the
control-room. Now he sat down, scowling, and ostentatiously refused to
eat, despite Alicia's coaxing. He snarled at her.

This, also, was not in the tradition of the behavior of voyagers of
space. They dined in the over-large saloon of a ship that had never been
meant really to leave the moon. The ship stood upright under strange
stars upon a stranger world, and all about it outside there were the
resting forms of thousands upon thousands of creatures like cattle. And
the dinner-table conversation was partly family-style jests about Babs'
and Cochrane's new romantic status, and partly about a television
broadcast which had to be ready for a certain number of Earth-hours yet
ahead. And nobody paid any attention to Johnny Simms, glowering at the
table and refusing to eat.

It was a mistake, probably.

Much, much later, Cochrane and Babs were again in the control-room, and
this time they were alone.

"Look!" said Cochrane vexedly. "Do you realize that I haven't kissed you
since we got back on the ship? What happened?"

"You!" said Babs indignantly. "You've been thinking about something else
every second of the time!"

Cochrane did not think about anything else for several minutes. He began
to recall with new tolerance the insane antics of people he had been
producing shows about. They had reason--those imaginary people--to act
unreasonably.

But presently his mind was working again.

"We've got to make some plans for ourselves," he said. "We can live back
on Earth, of course. We've already made a neat sum out of the broadcasts
from this trip. But I don't think we'll want to live the way one has to
live on Earth, with too many people there. I'd like--."

Somebody came clattering up the stairs from below.

"Johnny?" It was Bell. "Is he up here?"

Cochrane released Babs.

"No. He's not here. Why?"

"He's missing," said Bell apprehensively. "Alicia says he took a gun. A
gun's gone, anyhow. He's vanished!"

Cochrane swore under his breath. A fool asserting his dignity with a gun
could be a serious matter indeed. He switched on the control-room
lights. He was not there. They went down and hunted over the main
saloon. He was not there. Then Holden called harshly from the next deck
down.

There was Alicia by the inner airlock door. Her face was deathly pale.
She had opened the door. The outer door was open too--and it had not
been opened since this last landing by anybody else. The landing-sling
cables were run out. They swung slowly in the light that fell upon them
from the inside of the ship.

A smell came in the opening. It was the smell of beasts. It was a musky,
ammoniacal smell, somehow not alien even though it was unfamiliar. There
were noises outside in the night. Grunting sounds. Snortings. There were
such sounds as a vast concourse of grazing creatures would make in the
night-time, when gathered by thousands and myriads for safety and for
rest.

"He--went out," said Alicia desperately. "He meant to punish us. He's a
spoiled little boy. We weren't nice to him. And--he was afraid of us
too! So he ran away to make us sorry!"

Cochrane went to look out of the lock and to call Johnny Simms back. He
gazed into absolute blackness on the ground. He felt a queasy giddiness
because there was no hand-railing at the outer lock door and he knew the
depth of the fall outside. He raged, within himself. Johnny Simms would
feel triumphant when he was called. He would require to be pleaded with
to return. He would pompously set terms for returning before he was
killed....

Cochrane saw a flash of fire and the short streak of a tracer-bullet's
patch before it hit something. He heard the report of the gun. He heard
a bellow of agony and then a scream of purest terror from Johnny Simms.

Then, from the ground, arose a truly monstrous tumult. Every one of the
creatures below raised its voice in a horrible, bleating cry. The volume
of sound was numbing--was agonizing in sheer impact. There were
stirrings and clickings as of horns clashing against each other.

Another scream from Johnny Simms. He had moved. It appeared that he was
running. Cochrane saw more gun-flashes, there were more shots. He
clenched his hands and waited for the thunderous vibration that would be
all this multitude of animals pounding through the night in blind
stampede.

It did not come. There was only that bleating, horrible outcry as all
the beasts bellowed of alarm and created this noise to frighten their
assailants away.

Twice more there were shots in the night. Johnny Simms fired crazily and
screamed in hysterical panic. Each time the shots and screaming were
farther away.

There were no portable lights with which to make a search. It was
unthinkable to go blundering among the beasts in darkness.

There was nothing to do. Cochrane could only watch and listen helplessly
while the strong beast-smell rose to his nostrils, and the innumerable
noises of unseen uneasy creatures sounded in his ears.

Inside the ship Alicia wept hopelessly. Babs tried in vain to comfort
her.



CHAPTER TEN


The sun rose. Cochrane noted the time, it was fourteen hours since
sunset. The local day would be something more than an Earth-day in
length. The manner of sunrise was familiar. There was a pale gray light
in the sky. It strengthened. Then reddish colors appeared, and changed
to gold, and the unnamed stars winked out one after another. Presently
the nearer hillsides ceased to be black. There was light everywhere.

Alicia, white and haggard, waited to see what the light would show.

But there was heavy mist everywhere. The hill-crests were clear, and the
edge of the visible woodland, and the top half of the ship's shining
hull rose clear of curiously-tinted, slowly writhing fog. But everything
else seemed submerged in a sea of milk.

But the mist grew thinner as the sun shone on it. Its top writhed to
nothingness. All this was wholly commonplace. Even clouds in the sky
were of types well-known enough. Which was, when one thought about it,
inevitable. This was a Sol-type sun, of the same kind and color as the
star which warmed the planet Earth. It had planets, like the sun of
men's home world. There was a law--Bode's Law--which specified that
planets must float in orbits bearing such-and-such relationships to each
other. There must also be a law that planets in those orbits must bear
such-and-such relationships of size to each other. There must be a law
that winds must blow under ordinary conditions, and clouds form at
appointed heights and times. It would be very remarkable if Earth were
an exception to natural laws that other worlds obey.

So the strangeness of the morning to those who watched from the ship was
more like the strangeness of an alien land on Earth than that of a
wholly alien planet.

The lower dawnmist thinned. Gazing down, Cochrane saw dark masses
moving slowly past the ship's three metal landing-fins. They were the
beasts of the night, moving deliberately from their bed-ground to the
vast plains inland. There were bunches of hundreds, and bunches of
scores. There were occasional knots of dozens only.

From overhead and through the mist Cochrane could not see individual
animals too clearly, but they were heavy beasts and clumsy ones. They
moved sluggishly. Their numbers dwindled. He saw groups of no more than
four or five. He saw single animals trudging patiently away.

He saw no more at all.

Then the sunlight touched the inland hills. The last of the morning mist
dissolved, and there were the dead bodies of two beasts near the base of
the ship. Johnny Simms had killed them with his first panicky shots of
the night. There was another dead beast a quarter-mile away.

Cochrane gave orders. Jones and Al could not leave the ship. They were
needed to get it back to Earth, with full knowledge of how to make other
starships. Cochrane tried to leave Babs behind, but she would not stay.
Bell had loaded himself with a camera and film-tape besides a weapon,
before Cochrane even began his organization. Holden was needed for an
extra gun. Alicia, tearless and despairing, would not be left behind.
Cochrane turned wryly to Jamison.

"I don't think Johnny was killed," he said. "He'd gotten a long way off
before it happened, anyhow. We've got to hunt for him. With beasts like
those of last night, there'll naturally be other creatures to prey on
them. We might run into anything. If we don't get back, you get to the
lawyers I've had representing Spaceways. They'll get rich off the job,
but you'll end up rich, too."

"The best bet all around," said Jamison in a low tone, "would be to find
him trampled to death."

"I agree," said Cochrane sourly. "But apparently the beasts don't
stampede. Maybe they don't even charge, but just form rings to protect
their females and young, like musk-oxen. I'm afraid he's alive, but I'm
also afraid we'll never find him."

He marshaled his group. Jones had walkie-talkies ready, deftly removed
for the purpose from space-suits nobody had used since leaving Lunar
City--and Holden took one to keep in touch by. They went down in the
sling, two at a time.

Cochrane regarded the two dead animals near the base of the ship. They
were roughly the size of cattle, and they were shaggy like buffalo. They
had branching, pointed, deadly horns. They had hoofs, single hoofs, not
cloven. They were not like any Earth animal. But horns and hoofs will
appear in any system of parallel evolution. It would seem even more
certain that proteins and amino acids and such compounds as hemoglobin
and fat and muscle-tissue should be identical as a matter of chemical
inevitability. These creatures had teeth and they were herbivorous. Bell
photographed them painstakingly.

"Somehow," said Cochrane, "I think they'd be wholesome food. If we can,
we'll empty a freezing-locker and take a carcass for tests."

Holden fingered his rifle unhappily. Alicia said nothing. Babs stayed
close beside her. They went on.

They came to another dead animal a quarter-mile away. The ground was
full of the scent and the hoofmarks of the departed herd. Bell
photographed again. They did not stop. Johnny Simms had been this way,
because of the carcass. He wasn't here now.

They topped the next rise in the ground. They saw two other slaughtered
creatures. It was wholly evident, now, that these animals did not charge
but only stood their ground when alarmed. Johnny Simms had fired blindly
when he blundered into their groupings.

The last carcass they saw was barely two hundred yards from the one
patch of woodland visible from the ship. Cochrane said with some
grimness.

"If his eyes had gotten used to the darkness, he might have seen the
forest and tried to get into it to get away from those animals."

And if Johnny Simms had not stopped short instantly he reached the woods
and presumable safety, he would be utterly lost by now. There could be
nothing less hopeful than the situation of a man lost on a strange
planet, not knowing in what direction he had blundered on his first
starting out. Even nearby, three directions out of four would be wrong.
Farther away, the chance of stumbling on the way back to the ship would
be nonexistent.

Alicia saw a human footprint on the trodden muck near the last carcass.
It pointed toward the wood.

They reached the wood, and search looked hopeless. Then by purest chance
they found a place where Johnny had stumbled and fallen headlong. He'd
leaped up and fled crazily. For some fifteen yards they could track him
by the trampled dried small growths he'd knocked down in his flight.
Then there were no more such growths. All signs of his flight were lost.
But they went on.

There were strangenesses everywhere, of which they could realize only a
small part because they had been city-dwellers back on Earth. There was
one place where trees grew like banyans, and it was utterly impossible
to penetrate them. They swerved aside. There was another spot where
giant trees like sequoias made a cathedral-like atmosphere, and it
seemed an impiety to speak. But Holden reported tonelessly in the
walkie-talkie, and assured Jones and Al and Jamison that all so far was
well.

They heard a vast commotion of chattering voices, and they hoped that it
might be a disturbance of Johnny Simms' causing. But when they reached
the place there was dead silence. Only, there were hundreds of tiny
nests everywhere. They could not catch a glimpse of a single one of the
nests' inhabitants, but they felt that they were peeked at from under
leaves and around branches.

Cochrane looked unhappy indeed. In cold blood, he knew that Johnny Simms
had left the ship in exactly the sort of resentful bravado with which a
spoiled little boy will run away from home to punish his parents. Quite
possibly he had intended only to go out into the night and wait near the
ship until he was missed. But he'd found himself among the unknown
beasts. He'd gone into blind panic. Now he was lost indeed.

But one could not refuse to search for him simply because it was
hopeless. Cochrane could not imagine doing any less than continuing to
search as long as Alicia had hope. She might hope on indefinitely.

They heard the faint, distant, incisive sound of a shot.

Holden's voice reported it in the walkie-talkie. Cochrane nodded
brightly to Alicia and fired a shot in turn. He was relieved. It looked
like everything would end in a commonplace fashion. The party from the
ship headed toward the source of the other sound.

In half an hour Cochrane was about to fire again. But they heard the
hysterical rat-tat-tat of firing. It seemed no nearer, but it could only
be Johnny Simms.

Cochrane and Holden fired together for assurance to Johnny. Bell took
pictures.

Again they marched toward where the shots had been fired. Again they
trudged on for a long time. Seemingly, Johnny had moved away from them
as they followed him. They breasted a hill, and there was a breeze with
the smell of water in it, and they saw that here the land sloped very
gradually toward the sea, and the sea was in view. It was infinitely
blue and it reached toward the most alluring of horizons. Between them
and the sea there was only low-growing stuff, brownish and sparse. There
was sand underfoot--a curious bluish sand. Only here and there did the
dry-seeming vegetation grow higher than their heads.

More shots. Between them and the sea. Cochrane and Holden fired again.

"What the devil's the matter with the fool?" demanded Holden irritably.
"He knows we're coming! Why doesn't he stand still or come to meet us?"

Cochrane shrugged. That thought was disturbing him too. They pressed
forward, and suddenly Holden exclaimed. "That looks like a man! Two
men!"

Cochrane caught the barest glimpse of something running about, far
ahead. It looked like naked human flesh. It was the size of a man. It
vanished. Another popped into view and darted madly out of sight. They
did not see the newcomers.

"He shot something like that, back where we first landed," said Cochrane
grimly. "We'd better hurry!"

They did hurry. There was a last flurry of shooting. It was automatic
fire. It is not wise to shoot on automatic if one's ammunition is
limited, Johnny Simms' firearm chattered furiously for part of a second.
It stopped short. He couldn't have fired so short a burst. He was out of
bullets.

They ran.

When they drew near him, a hooting set up. Things scattered away. Large
things. Birds the size of men. They heard Johnny Simms screaming.

They came panting to the very beach, on which foam-tipped waves broke in
absolutely normal grandeur. The sand was commonplace save for a slight
bluish tint. Johnny Simms was out on the beach, in the open. He was
down. He had flung his gun at something and was weaponless. He lay on
the sand, shrieking. There were four ungainly, monstrous birds like
oversized Cornish Game gamecocks pecking at him. Two ran crazily away at
sight of the humans. Two others remained. Then they fled. One of them
halted, darted back, and took a last peck at Johnny Simms before it fled
again.

Holden fired, and missed. Cochrane ran toward the kicking, shrieking
Johnny Simms. But Alicia got there first.

He was a completely pitiable object. His clothing had been almost
completely stripped away in the brief time since his last burst of
shots. There were wounds on his bare flesh. After all, the beak of a
bird as tall as a man is not a weapon to be despised. Johnny Simms would
have been pecked to death but for the party from the ship. He had been
spotted and harried by a huntingpack of the ostrich-sized creatures at
earliest dawn. A cooler-headed man would have stood still and killed
some of them, then the rest would either have run away or devoured their
slaughtered fellows. But Johnny Simms was not cool-headed. He had made a
career of being a rich man's spoiled little boy. Now he'd had a fright
great enough and an escape narrow enough to shatter the nerves of a
normal man. To Johnny Simms, the effect was catastrophic.

He could not walk, and the distance was too great to carry him. Holden
reported by walkie-talkie, and Jones proposed to butcher one of the
animals Johnny had killed and put it in a freezer emptied for the
purpose, and then lift the ship and land by the sea. It seemed a
reasonable proposal. Johnny was surely not seriously wounded.

But that meant time to wait. Alicia sat by her husband, soothing him.
Holden moved along the beach, examining the shells that had come ashore.
He picked up one shell more glorious in its coloring than any of the
pearl-making creatures of Earth. This shell grew neither in the flat
spiral nor the cone-shaped form of Earth mollusks. It grew in a
doubly-curved spiral, so that the result was an extraordinary, lustrous,
complex sphere. Bell fairly danced with excitement as he photographed it
with lavish pains to get all the colors just right.

Cochrane and Babs moved along the beach also. It was not possible to be
apprehensive. Cochrane talked largely. Presently he was saying with
infinite satisfaction:

"The chemical compounds here are bound to be the same! It's a new world,
bigger than the glacier planet. Those beasts last night--if they're good
food-stuff--will make this a place like the old west, and everybody
envies the pioneers! This is a new Earth! Everything's so nearly the
same--."

"I never," observed Babs, "heard of blue sand on Earth."

He frowned at her. He stooped and picked up a handful of the beach
stuff. It was not blue. The tiny, sea-broken pebbles were ordinary
quartz and granite rock. They would have to be. Yet there was a
blueness--The blue grains were very much smaller than the white and tan
and gray ones. Cochrane looked closely. Then he blew. All the sand blew
out of his hand except--at last--one tiny grain. It was white. It
glittered greasily. Cochrane moved four paces and wetted his hand in the
sea. He tried to wet the sand-grain. It would not wet.

He began to laugh.

"I did a show once," he told Babs, "about the old diamond-mines. Ever
hear of them? They used to find diamonds in blue clay which was as hard
as rock. Here, blue clay goes out from the land to under the waves. This
is a tiny diamond, washed out by the sea! This is the last thing we
need!" Then he looked at his watch. "We're due on the air in two hours
and a half! Now we've got what we want! Let's go have Holden tell Jones
to hurry!"

But Babs complained suddenly,

"Jed! What sort of life am I going to lead with you? Here we are,
and--nobody can see us--and you don't even notice!"

Cochrane was penitent. In fact, they had to hurry back down the beach to
join the others when the space-ship appeared as a silvery gleam, high in
the air, and then came swooping down with fierce flames underneath it to
settle a quarter-mile inland.

Bell had a picture of the tiny diamond by the time the ground was cool
enough for them to re-enter the ship. The way he photographed it,
against a background which had nothing by which its size could be
estimated, the little white stone looked like a Kohinoor. It was two
transparent pyramids set base to base, and he even got color-flashes
from it. And Jamison, forewarned, took pictures from the air of the
blue-sand areas. They showed the tint the one tiny diamond explained.

The broadcast was highly successful. It began with a four-minute
commercial in which the evils of faulty elimination were discussed with
infinite delicacy, and it was clearly proved--to an audience waiting to
look beyond the stars--that only Greshham's Intestinal Emollient allowed
the body to make full use of vitamins, proteins, and the very newest
enzymatic foundation-substances which everybody needed for really
perfect health. There followed the approach shots to this planet, shots
of the great beast-herds on the plains, views of luxuriant, waving
foliage, the tide of shaggy animals as they came at dusk to their
drinking-place, and there was an all-too-brief picturing of the
blue-tinted soil which the last film-clip of all declared to be
diamondiferous.

Cochrane's direction of this show was almost inspired. The views of the
animal herd were calculated to make any member of his audience think in
simultaneous terms of glamour and adventure--with perfect personal
safety, of course!--and of steaks, chops and roasts. The more gifted
viewers back on Earth might even envision filets mignon. The
infinitesimal diamond with its prismatic glitterings, of course, roused
cupidity of another sort.

There were four commercials cut into these alluring views, the last was
superimposed upon a view Bell had taken of the sunset-colors. And it
might have seemed that the television audience would confuse the charm
of the new world as pictured with the product insistently praised. But
the public was pretty well toughened up against commercials nowadays. It
was not deceived. As usual, it only deceived itself.

But there was no deception about the fact that there was a new and
unoccupied planet fit for human habitation. That was true. And the
fretting overcrowded cities immediately became places where everybody
made happy plans for his neighbor to move there. But the more irritable
people would begin to think vaguely that it might be worth going to, for
themselves.

The ship took off two hours after the broadcast. Part of that time was
taken up with astrogational conferences with astronomers on Earth.
Cochrane had this conference taped for the auxiliary broadcast-program
in which the audience shared the problems as well as the triumphs of the
star-voyagers. Cochrane wanted to get back to Earth. So far as
television was concerned, it would be unwise. The ship and its crew
would travel indefinitely without a lack of sponsors. But for once,
Cochrane agreed entirely with Holden.

"We're heading back," he told Babs, "because if we keep on, people will
accept our shows as just another superior kind of escape-entertainment.
They'll have the dream quality of 'You Win a Million' and the
lottery-shows. They'll be things to dream about but never to think of
doing anything about. We're going to make the series disappointingly
short, in order to make it more convincingly factual. We won't spin it
out for its entertainment-value until it practically loses everything
else."

"No," said Babs. She put her hand in his. She'd found it necessary to
remind him, now and then.

So the ship started home. And it would not return direct to Earth--or
Lunar City--for a very definite reason. Cochrane meant to have all his
business affairs neatly wrapped up before landing. They could get
another show or two across, and some highly involved contracts could be
haggled to completion more smoothly if one of the parties--Spaceways,
Inc.--was not available except when it felt like being available. The
other parties would be more anxious.

So the astrogation-conference did not deal with a direct return to
Earth, but with a small sol-type star not too far out of the direct
line. The Pole Star could have been visited, but it was a double star.
Cochrane had no abstract scientific curiosity. His approach was strictly
that of a man of business. He did the business.

There was, of course, a suitable pause not too far from the second
planet--the planet of the shaggy beasts. They put out a plastic balloon
with a Dabney field generator inside it. It would float in emptiness
indefinitely. The field would hold for not less than twenty years. It
would serve as a beacon, a highway, a railroad track through space for
other ships planning to visit the third world now available to men.
Ultimately, better arrangements could be made.

Jones was already ecstatically designing ground-level Dabney field
installations. There would be Dabney fields extending from star to star.
Along them, as along pneumatic tubes, ships would travel at unthinkable
speeds toward absolutely certain destinations. True, at times they could
not be used because of the bulk of planets between starting-points and
landing-stations. But with due attention to scheduling, it would be a
simple matter indeed to arrange for something close to commuters'
service between star-clusters. He explained all this to Cochrane, with
Holden listening in.

"Oh, surely!" said Cochrane cynically. "And you'll have tax-payers
objecting because you make money. You'll be regulated out of existence.
Were you thinking that Spaceways would run this transportation system
you're planning, without cutting anybody else in on even the glory of
it?"

Jones looked at him, dead-pan. But he was annoyed.

"I want some money," he said. "I thought we could get this thing set up,
and then I could get myself a ship and facilities for doing some really
original work. I'd like to work something out and not have to sell the
publicity-rights to it!"

"I'll arrange it," promised Cochrane. "I've got our lawyers setting up a
deal right now. You're going to get as many tricky patents as you can on
this field, and assign them all to Spaceways. And Spaceways is going to
assign them all to a magnificent Space Development Association, a sort
of Chamber of Commerce for all the outer planets, and all the stuffed
shirts in creation are going to leap madly to get honorary posts on it.
And it will be practically beyond criticism, and it will have the public
interest passionately at its heart, and it will be practically beyond
interference and it will be as inefficient as hell! And the more
inefficient it is, the more it will have to take in to allow for its
inefficiency--and for your patents it has to give us a flat cut of its
gross! And meanwhile we'll get ours from the planets we've landed on and
publicized. We've got customers. We've built up a market for our
planets!"

"Eh?" said Jones in frank astonishment.

"We," said Cochrane, "rate as first inhabitants and therefore
proprietors and governments of the first two planets ever landed on
beyond Earth. When the Moon-colony was formed, there were elaborate laws
made to take care of surviving nation prides and so on. Whoever first
stays on a planet a full rotation is its proprietor and
government--until other inhabitants arrive. Then the government is all
of them, but the proprietorship remains with the first. We own two
planets. Nice planets. Glamorized planets, too! So I've already made
deals for the hotel-concessions on the glacier world."

Holden had listened with increasing uneasiness. Now he said doggedly:

"That's not right, Jed! I don't mind making money, but there are things
that are more important! Millions of people back home--hundreds of
millions of poor devils--spend their lives scared to death of losing
their jobs, not daring to hope for more than bare subsistence! I want to
do something for them! People need hope, Jed, simply to be healthy!
Maybe I'm a fool, but the human race needs hope more than I need money!"

Cochrane looked patient.

"What would you suggest?"

"I think," said Holden heavily, "that we ought to give what we've got to
the world. Let the governments of the world take over and assist
emigration. There's not one but will be glad to do it ..."

"Unfortunately," said Cochrane, "you are perfectly right. They would!
There have been resettlement projects and such stuff for generations.
I'm very much afraid that just what you propose will be done to some
degree somewhere or other on other planets as they're turned up. But on
the glacier planet there will be hotels. The rich will want to go there
to stay, to sight-see, to ride, to hunt, to ski, and to fly in
helicopters over volcanoes. The hotels will need to be staffed. There
will be guides and foresters and hunters. It will cost too much to bring
food from Earth, so farms will be started. It will be cheaper to buy
food from independent farmers than to raise it with hired help. So the
farmers will be independent. There will have to be stores to supply them
with what they need, and tourists with what they don't need but want.
From the minute the glacier planet starts up as a tourist resort, there
will be jobs for hundreds of people. It won't be long before there are
jobs for thousands. There'll be a man-shortage there. Anybody who wants
to can go there to work, and if he doesn't go there expecting a
certified, psychologically conditioned environment, but just a good job
with possible or probable advancement ... That's the environment we
humans want! Presently the hotels won't even be tourist hotels. They'll
just be the normal hotels that exist everywhere that there are cities
and people moving about among them! Then it won't be a tourist-planet,
and tourists will be a nuisance. It'll be home for one hell of a lot of
people! And they'll have made every bit of it themselves!"

Holden said uncomfortably:

"It'll be slow ..."

"It'll be sure!" snapped Cochrane. "The first settlements in America
were failures until the people started to work for themselves! Look at
this planet we're leaving! How many people will come to work that silly
diamond mine! How many will hunt to supply them with meat? How many will
farm to supply the hunters and the miners with other food? And how many
others will be along to run stores and manufacture things ..." He made
an impatient gesture. "You're thinking of encouraging people to move to
the stars to make more room on Earth. You'd get nice passive colonists
who'd obediently move because the long-hairs said it was wise and the
government paid for it. I'm thinking of colonists who'll fight and quite
possibly cheat and lie a little to get jobs where they can take care of
their families the way they want to! I want people to move to get what
they want in spite of any discouragement anybody throws at them. Now
shoo! I'm busy!"

Jones asked mildly:

"At what?"

"The latest proposed deal," said Cochrane impatiently, "is for rights to
bore for oil. The uranium concessions are farmed out. Water-power is
pending--not for cash, but a cut--and--."

Holden said uneasily:

"There's one other thing, Jed. All your plans and all your scheming
could still be blocked if back on Earth they think we might bring
plagues back to Earth. Remember Dabney suggested that? And some
biologist or other agreed with him?"

Cochrane grinned.

"There's a diamond-mine. There are herds of what people will call
cattle. There's food and riches. There's scenery and adventure. There's
room to do things! Nobody could keep political office if he tried to
keep his constituents from food and cash and adventure--even by proxy
when they send expendable Cousin Albert out to see if he can make a
living there. We've got to take reasonable precautions against germs, of
course. We'll have trouble enforcing them. But we'll manage!"

Al called down from the control-room. The ship was sufficiently aligned,
he thought, for their next stopping-place. He wanted Jones to charge the
booster-circuit and flash it over. Jones went.

A little later there was the peculiar sensation of a sound that was not
a sound, but was felt all through one. The result was not satisfactory.
The ship was still in empty space, and the nearest star was still a
star. There was a repetition of the booster-jump. Still not too good.
Thereafter the ship drove, and jumped, and jumped, and drove.

Jamison came down to where Cochrane conducted business via communicator.
He waited. Cochrane said:

"Dammit, I won't agree! I want twelve per cent or I take up another
offer!--What?"

The last was to Jamison. Jamison said uneasily:

"We found another planet. About Earth-size. Ice-caps. Clouds. Oceans.
Seas. Even rivers! But there's no green on it! It's all bare rocks!"

Cochrane thought concentratedly. Then he said impatiently:

"The whiskered people back home said that life couldn't have gotten
started on all the planets suited for it. They said there must be
planets where life hasn't reached, though they're perfectly suited for
it. Make a landing and try the air with algae like we did on the first
planet."

He turned back to the communicator.

"You reason," he snapped to a man on far-away Earth, "that all this is
only on paper. But that's the only reason you're getting a chance at it!
I'll guarantee that Jones will install drives on ships that meet our
requirements of space-worthiness--or government standards, whichever are
strictest--for ten per cent of your company stock plus twelve per cent
cash of the cost of each ship. Nothing less!"

He heard the rockets make the louder sound that was the symptom of
descent against gravity.

The world was lifeless. The ship had landed on bare stone, when Cochrane
looked out the control-room ports. There had been trouble finding a flat
space on which the three landing-fins would find a suitable foundation.
It had taken half an hour of maneuvering to locate such a place and to
settle solidly on it. Then the look of things was appalling.

The landing-spot was a naked mass of what seemed to be basalt polygons,
similar to the Giants' Causeway of Ireland back on Earth. There was no
softness anywhere. The stone which on other planets underlay soil, here
showed harshly. There was no soil. There was no microscopic life to
nibble at rocks and make soil in which less minute life could live. The
nudity of the stones led to glaring colors everywhere. The colors were
brilliant as nowhere else but on Earth's moon. There was no vegetation
at all.

That was somehow shocking. The ship's company stared and stared, but
there could be no comment. There was a vast, dark sea to the left of the
landing-place. Inland there were mountains and valleys. But the
mountains were not sloped. There were heaps of detritus at the bases of
their cliffs, but it was simply detritus. No tiniest patch of lichen
grew anywhere. No blade of grass. No moss. No leaf. Nothing.

The air was empty. Nothing flew. There were clouds, to be sure. The sky
was even blue, though a darker blue than Earth's, because there was no
vegetation to break stone down to dust, or to form dust by its own
decay.

The sea was violently active. Great waves flung themselves toward the
harsh coastline and beat upon it with insensate violence. They shattered
into masses of foam. But the foam broke--too quickly--and left the
surging water dark again. Far down the line of foam there were dark
clouds, and rain fell in masses, and lightning flashed. But it was a
scene of desolation which was somehow more horrible even than the
scarred and battered moon of Earth.

Cochrane looked out very carefully. Alicia came to him, a trifle
hesitant.

"Johnny's asleep now. He didn't sleep at first, and while we were out of
gravity he was unhappy. But he went off to sleep the instant we landed.
He needs rest. Could we--just stay landed here until he catches up on
sleep?"

Cochrane nodded. Alicia smiled at him and went away. There was still the
mark of a bruise on her cheek. She went down to where her husband needed
her. Holden said dourly:

"This world's useless. So is her husband."

"Wait till we check the air," said Cochrane absently.

"I've checked it," Holden told him indifferently. "I went in the port
and sniffed at the cracked outer door. I didn't die, so I opened the
door. There is a smell of stone. That's all. The air's perfectly
breathable. The ocean's probably absorbed all soluble gases, and
poisonous gases are soluble. If they weren't, they couldn't be
poisonous."

"Mmmmmm," said Cochrane thoughtfully.

Jamison came over to him.

"We're not going to stay here, are we?" he asked. "I don't like to look
at it. The moon's bad enough, but at least nothing could live there!
Anything could live here. But it doesn't! I don't like it!"

"We'll stay here at least while Johnny has a nap. I do want Bell to take
all the pictures he can, though. Probably not for broadcast, but for
business reasons. I'll need pictures to back up a deal."

Jamison went away. Holden said without interest:

"You'll make no deals with this planet! This is one you can do what you
like with! I don't want any part of it!"

Cochrane shrugged.

"Speaking of things you don't want any part of--what about Johnny Simms?
Speaking as a psychiatrist, what effect will that business of being in
the dark all night and nearly being pecked to death--what will it do to
him? Are psychopaths the way they are because they can't face reality,
or because they've never had to?"

Holden stared away down the incredible, lifeless coastline at the
distant storm. There was darkness under many layers of cloud. The sea
foamed and lashed and instantly was free of foam again. Because there
were no plankton, no animalcules, no tiny, gluey, organic beings in it
to give the water the property of making foam which endured. There was
thunder, yonder in the storm, and no ear heard it. Over a vast world
there was sunshine which no eyes saw. There was night in which nothing
rested, and somewhere dawn was breaking now, and nothing sang.

"Look at that, Jed," said Holden heavily. "There's a reality none of us
wants to face! We're all more or less fugitives from what we are afraid
is reality. That is real, and it makes me feel small and futile. So I
don't like to look at it. Johnny Simms didn't want to face what one does
grow up to face. It made him feel futile. So he picked a pleasanter role
than realist."

Cochrane nodded.

"But his unrealism of last night put him into a very realistic mess that
he couldn't dodge! Will it change him?"

"Probably," said Holden without any expression at all in his voice.
"They used to put lunatics in snake-pits. When they were people who'd
taken to lunacy for escape from reality, it made them go back to reality
to escape from the snakes. Shock-treatments used to be used, later, for
the same effect. We're too soft to use either treatment now. But Johnny
gave himself the works. The odds are that from now on he will never want
to be alone even for an instant, and he will never again quite dare to
be angry with anybody or make anybody angry. You choked him and he ran
away, and it was bad! So from now on I'd guess that Johnny will be a
very well-behaved little boy in a grown man's body." He said very wryly
indeed, "Alicia will be very happy, taking care of him."

A moment later he added:

"I look at that set-up the way I look at the landscape yonder."

Cochrane said nothing. Holden liked Alicia. Too much. It would not make
any difference at all. After a moment, though, he changed the subject.

"I think this is a pretty good bet, this planet. You think it's no good.
I'm going to talk to the chlorella companies. They grow edible yeast in
tanks, and chlorella in vats, and they produce an important amount of
food. But they have to grow the stuff indoors and they have a ghastly
job keeping everything sterile. Here's a place where they can sow
chlorella in the oceans! They can grow yeast in lakes, out-of-doors!
Suppose they use this world to grow monstrous quantities of unattractive
but useful foodstuff--in a way--wild? It will be good return-cargo
material for ships taking colonists out to our other planets.--I
suppose," he added meditatively, "they'll ship it back in bulk, dried."

Holden blinked. He was jolted out of even his depression.

"Jed!" he said warmly. "Tell that to the world--prove that--and--people
will stop being afraid! They won't be afraid of starving before they can
get to the stars! Jed--Jed! This is the thing the world needs most of
all!"

But Cochrane grimaced.

"Maybe," he admitted it. "But I've tasted the stuff. I think it's foul!
Still, if people want it ..."

He went back down to the communicator to contact the chlorella companies
of Earth, to find out if there was any special data they would need to
pass on the proposal.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so presently the ship took off for home. It landed on the moon
first, and Johnny Simms was loaded into a space-suit and transferred to
Lunar City, where he could live without being extradited back to Earth.
He wouldn't stay there. Alicia guaranteed that. They'd move to the
glacier planet as soon as hotels were built. Maybe some day they'd
travel to the planet of the shaggy beasts. Johnny would never be
troublesome again. He was pathetically anxious, now, to have people like
him, and stay with him, and not under any circumstances be angry with
him or shut him away from them. Alicia would now have a full-time
occupation keeping people from taking advantage of him.

But the ship went back to Earth. And on Earth Jamison became the leading
television personality of all time, describing and extrapolating the
delicious dangers and the splendid industrial opportunities of
star-travel. Bell was his companion and co-star. Presently Jamison
conceded privately to Cochrane that he and Bell would need shortly to
take off on another journey of exploration with some other expedition.
Neither of them thought to retire, though they were well-off enough.
They were stock-holders in the Spaceways company, which guaranteed them
a living.

Cochrane put Spaceways, Inc., into full operation. He fought savagely
against personal publicity, but he worked himself half to death. He
spent hours every day in frenzied haggling, and in the cynical
examination of deftly booby-trapped business proposals. His lawyers
insisted that he needed an office--he did--and presently he had four
secretaries and there developed an entire hierarchy of persons under
him. One day his chief secretary told him commiseratingly that somebody
had waited two hours past appointment-time to see him.

It was Hopkins, who had not been willing to interrupt his dinner to
listen to a protest from Cochrane. Hopkins was still exactly as
important as ever. It was only that Cochrane was more so.

It woke Cochrane up. He stormed, to Babs, and ruthlessly cancelled
appointments and abandoned or transferred enterprises, and made
preparations for a more satisfactory way of life.

They went, in time, to the Spaceways terminal, to take ship for the
stars. The terminal was improvised, but it was busy. Already eighteen
ships a day went away from there in Dabney fields. Eighteen others
arrived. Jones was already off somewhere in a ship built according to
his own notions. Officially he was doing research for Spaceways, Inc.,
but actually nobody told him what to do. He puttered happily with
improbable contrivances and sometimes got even more improbable results.
Holden was already off of Earth. He was on the planet of the shaggy
beasts, acting as consultant on the cases of persons who arrived there
and became emotionally disturbed because they could do as they pleased,
instead of being forced by economic necessity to do otherwise.

But this day Babs and Cochrane went together into the grand concourse of
the Spaceways terminal. There were people everywhere. The hiring-booths
of enterprises on the three planets now under development took
applications for jobs on those remote worlds, and explained how long one
had to contract to work in order to have one's fare paid. Chambers of
Commerce representatives were prepared to give technical information to
prospective entrepreneurs. There were reservation-desks, and
freight-routing desks, and tourist-agency desks ...

"Hmmm," said Cochrane suddenly. "D'you know, I haven't heard of Dabney
in months! What happened to him?"

"Dabney?" said Babs. She beamed. Women in the terminal saw the clothes
she was wearing. They did not recognize her--Cochrane had kept her off
the air--but they envied her. She felt very nice indeed. "Dabney?--Oh, I
had to use my own judgment there, Jed. You were so busy! After all, he
was scientific consultant to Spaceways. He did pay Jones cold cash for
fame-rights. When everything else got so much more important than just
the scientific theory, he got in a terrible state. His family consulted
Doctor Holden, and we arranged it. He's right down this way!"

She pointed. And there was a splendid plate-glass office built out from
the wall of the grand concourse. It was elevated, so that it was
charmingly conspicuous. There was a chastely designed but highly visible
sign under the stairway leading to it. The sign said; "_H. G. Dabney,
Scientific Consultant._"

Dabney sat at an imposing desk in plain view of all the thousands who
had shipped out and the millions who would ship out in time to come. He
thought, visibly. Presently he stood up and paced meditatively up and
down the office which was as eye-catching as a gold-fish bowl of equal
size in the same place. He seemed to see someone down in the concourse.
He could have recognized Cochrane, of course. But he did not.

He bowed. He was a great man. Undoubtedly he returned to his wife each
evening happily convinced that he had done the world a great favor by
permitting it to glimpse him.

Cochrane and Babs went on. Their baggage was taken care of. The
departure of a ship for the stars, these days, was much less complicated
and vastly more comfortable than it used to be when a mere moon-rocket
took off.

When they were in the ship, Babs heaved a sigh of absolute relief.

"Now," she said zestfully, "now you're retired, Jed! You don't have to
worry about anything! And so now I'm going to try to make you worry
about me--not worry about me, but think about me!"

"Of course," said Cochrane. He regarded her with honest affection.
"We'll take a good long vacation. First on the glacier planet. Then
we'll build a house somewhere in the hills back of Diamondville ..."

"Jed!" said Babs accusingly.

"There's a fair population there already," said Cochrane,
apologetically. "It won't be long before a local television station will
be logical. I was just thinking, Babs, that after we get bored with
loafing, I could start a program there. Really sound stuff. Not
commercial. And of course with the Dabney field it could be piped back
to Earth if any sponsor wanted it. I think they would ..."

Presently the ship with Babs and Cochrane among its passengers took off
to the stars. It was a perfectly routine flight. After all, star-travel
was almost six months old. It wasn't a novelty any longer.

Operation Outer Space was old stuff.


THE END.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's notes

The following typos have been corrected. Hyphenation adjusted to reflect
the most common usage in the text.

Page  Typo              Correction
7     expendible        expendable
8     calmy             calmly
8     Takeoff's         Take-off's
9     Takeoff           Take-off
10    night-club        nightclub
13    business-like     businesslike
21    takeoff           take-off
25    moonjeep          moon-jeep
25    The pyschiatrist  The psychiatrist
27    buisinesslike     businesslike
33    Appenines         Apennines
36    Arcturis          Arcturus
37    Why?              Why?"
39    tryin             trying
40    stockholders      stock-holders
41    possiblities      possibilities
56    Columbus',        Columbus'
57    Three of four     Three or four
77    moonrocket        moon-rocket
86    epidomologist     epidemiologist
89    "Why?             "Why?"
91    wrily             wryly
93    chlorophyl        chlorophyll
95    panic-striken     panic-stricken
101   roup              croup
109   Cochrone          Cochrane
110   behind            behind besides
115   wrily             wryly
117   'We'd have        "We'd have
118   back-ground       background
120   sun-light         sunlight
120   'We're in a       "We're in a
125   virtures          virtues
125   normal            normal,
129   maintainance      maintenance
135   extraterrestrial  extra-terrestrial
136   collossus         colossus
137   facsimilie        facsimile
142   eveywhere         everywhere
143   star-ships        starships

The following differently hyphenated words have been left as they were,
since there was no clearly predominant usage.

air-lock      airlock
food-stuff    foodstuffs
ice-caps      icecaps
moon-dust     moondust
re-broadcast  rebroadcast
roof-tops     rooftops
side-rail     siderail
space-ship    spaceship
tree-tops     treetops
ultra-violet  ultraviolet

There are one or more lines of text missing on page 57, marked by
[Missing Text]. This was a printer's error.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Operation: Outer Space" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home