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´╗┐Title: Pioneer
Author: Hardy, William
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 "Pioneer" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from Imagination Stories of Science and
    Fantasy February 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
    that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.


                               PIONEER


                          _By William Hardy_


     If you could travel through time to a few years hence you'd
     find a stone monument in honor and memory of a brave deed
     you may shy away from!

       *       *       *       *       *



I didn't much like the way Max--that's the guy who trained
me--fastened the broad leather straps over my body. There was a smell
of nervous excitement in the air and Max's hand trembled as he fumbled
with the buckles. Thinking back on it, the whole morning had been like
that. Nervous and excited.

Right after breakfast, Max had given me a good bath and loaded me in
the car. I always like to ride in the car and this time Max even
allowed me to stick my head out the window. He doesn't usually let me
do that, but I was too engrossed in the exhilarating rush of air to
pay any attention to the change of routine. When we drew up in front
of a large brick building a multitude of strange and peculiar odors
assailed my nose, tantalizingly anonymous. Max's big hand caught me
before I got halfway through the window. That disgusted me, because I
wanted to investigate the funny smells, and I pouted all the way into
the building. As the events of the next hour progressed I got madder
and madder.

First there was the doctor, poking around in my mouth, stabbing my
eyes with a blinding beam of light, and prodding and squeezing my
body. It reminded me of the day I came to live with Max and I was
tempted to take a hunk out of this doctor's hand like I did the other
one. But Max was there and that stopped me. I didn't want to see the
hurt look that would come to his eyes every time I did something
wrong.

After the doctor finished Max led me into a gleaming white room where
I was surrounded by a gushing mob of women dressed in white uniforms.
Their "Ohs!" and "Ahs!" and "Isn't he beautiful!"--I'm not beautiful
and I detest the description--put the finishing touch to what had once
been a wonderful day. I flopped to the floor, trying to ignore them.
Then, indignities of indignities, one of the "girls" tried to pick up
my eighty pounds of blue-gray masculinity. That was the last straw!

I let out a deep-throated growl, and sprang clear of her encircling
arms. Fangs bared, ears flat against my head, I must have presented a
terrifying appearance to the women, because they fled to all corners
of the room, squealing and bleating like a bunch of sheep.

For the fun of it, I made a short dash at the one who had tried to
pick me up. With a high-pitched scream she slumped to the floor in a
dead faint. I could hardly keep from laughing as I turned to search
for a new victim. About this time Max came barging through the door
and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, putting an end to my fun. He
wasn't mad, although he pretended to be, and I could detect the humor
in his voice while he scolded me.

Back in the car again, Max roared with laughter while patting me on
the head and saying, "You old devil, you!" in that special way he has
when amused at something I've done. When he finally got control of
himself, he started the car and drove in the direction of the funny
smells. As the smells got stronger, I began to get uneasy. Looking at
Max, I sensed that he was uneasy too. "What was going on?" I wondered
as the car dipped down a ramp and entered a dimly lit cave where the
smells became overpowering.

The cave was jammed with huge tank-trucks and that was where the
strange smells were coming from. I don't know what was in the trucks,
but Max said something about nitric acid and hydrozine fuel when he
noticed my interest in them. Leaving the car, we walked down a short
passage branching off the cave, climbed a couple flights of stairs and
emerged in the bright sunlight. I nearly yipped in surprise as I
caught sight of the over-grown thing beside me. It looked for all the
world like a giant cigar that had been cut in half and stood on end.
There were still three or four trucks around the base of the thing and
a kind of fear spread through my mind. The magic of the strange smells
was gone and here, at close quarters, the smell was raw and
uninviting.

       *       *       *       *       *

Max led me to a group of men and they talked for a few minutes. I
didn't pay much attention to what they said until one of them, a big
man with a lot of stars on his shoulder, reached down and patted my
back. "Better get him loaded," said the Starman. "Only ten minutes
till blast-off."

Max led me to a kind of open-air elevator and started up the side of
the gleaming monster. At the top Max put me into a padded cage inside
the cigar, fastened the straps, and patted me. Then he was gone and a
large door slid into place, leaving me in vile smelling, pitch
darkness. I lay there quietly, but the uneasy feeling kept getting
worse. A sudden hissing noise nearly scared me to death; then I
remembered my training. The hissing was only air, the same as had been
in the cage at home, and wouldn't hurt me. Even so, I struggled
against the straps, trying to reach them with my teeth. Nothing doing
and again I lay quiet--waiting.

I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew my cage was
trembling violently and a powerful roaring dinned in my ears. This
lasted only a second, then something crushed my body flat in the cage.
My legs grew heavy and a racking, tearing pain ripped at my muscles. A
black film blotted out the lighter blackness of my cage.

I don't know what happened in the interval, but when I came to the
roar was gone and my body felt like it was floating in the air. My
head felt swollen and I experienced some difficulty in swallowing. I
couldn't hear a thing except the hiss of air and I was suddenly
overcome by the feeling that I was a long way from home.

Slowly I became aware that my body was regaining its weight. The cage
was becoming quite warm now and I licked my nose, wishing for a cold
drink of water. Suddenly I was jerked against the straps and I forgot
all about my other troubles. The jerks didn't hurt me as much as they
scared me. I had experienced somewhat the same thing when Max hit the
car brakes hard, but he wasn't here to pat me reassuringly.

The cage was getting real hot now and the jerks were coming with
increasing frequency. The air had stopped too and I desperately wanted
a drink. The last thing I remember before the crash was wishing that
Max would open the door and let me out like he always had at home.

Max's gentle voice sounded a long way off. "Good boy!" he kept
repeating. "Good boy!" I couldn't find the strength to open my eyes so
I just lay quietly and listened to the talk, thankful that the smell,
that had penetrated the entire day, was gone now.

"I was afraid that those parachutes wouldn't cut the speed enough to
get him down alive," said the Starman who had patted my back earlier.

"No sign of radiation," said a strange voice. "His blood count is
normal and he isn't hurt physically unless there are internal
injuries."

"What about his weakness?" asked Max, patting me.

"You'd be weak too, if you had been through the ordeal he has," said
Strange-voice. "He'll get over that soon and live to father a good
many space-puppies."

Strange-voice was absolutely right in his forecast and it's with
pardonable fatherly pride that I lead each new family to the great
stone monument which reads: "_In honor of Rex, a German Shepherd dog,
who pioneered man's first flight into outer space._"

       *       *       *       *       *





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