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´╗┐Title: Lost Art
Author: Hawk, G. K.
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 "Lost Art" ***

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



                               LOST ART

                             BY G. K. HAWK

                     _They lived by and for push
                       buttons and machines, and
                    knew nothing else. But Endicott
                         remembered about the
                       old, old days--when a man
                      could save a life without a
                          push-button...._

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
               Worlds of If Science Fiction, March 1955.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Stiff fingers of icy, wind-driven snow beat a tattoo on the hull of the
cargo ship, filtered through the jagged tears in the metal skin, sifted
down over the useless control board with its dead gauges and bank upon
bank of pushbuttons. Amidship, a wind-thrashed branch screechingly
scraped the reverberating hull, and the sound, like the rasp of sliding
hatch covers, echoed through the ship.

Dazedly, Allison watched the sifting snow settle on the buttons, each
one acquiring a grotesque, lop-sided, conical hat which grew as he
stared. He reached forward an already stiffening finger and brushed one
of the hats away, and almost idly watched another one form in its place.

"Come on, Allison, come on. Snap out of it." Endicott came out of the
passageway into the control room, returned from his inspection of the
machinery. "You hurt in the landing?"

Allison didn't answer. He shivered and pushed another inquisitive
finger at the control board; the finger selected a certain button and
pushed it steadily. There was no click of a hidden relay, no whir of
little motors springing to life.

"You can punch that button or any of the others from now until--It
won't do any good. We're dead." The plume of Endicott's frozen breath
drifted over Allison's shoulder, merged with the sifting snow.

"Dead?" Allison echoed in a sleepwalker's voice. "Dead," he repeated
and jabbed the button again and again.

"In a manner of speaking," Endicott's white-sandy brows drew together
in a frown. "We're off the powercast--our receiver, I guess."

"No power." Allison was following better, was waking up. "That
means--Can't you fix it, Chief?"

"Nope. I tried, but something in its guts is burned out. No power."
Endicott beat his old blue-veined hands together.

Allison's frost-numbed fingers picked at the straps on his reclining
geeseat, and he stepped to the light metal deck. He shivered and
punched the button on the control board again. He was seized by a spasm
of uncontrollable shaking. "No power means--no heat!" Panic crept into
his voice.

Endicott said nothing but looked at the tier upon tier of buttons,
functionless now.

Allison looked at the board, too, his narrow shoulders hunched.
"They've never failed before," he muttered through chattering teeth.

"What?" Endicott seemed bemused.

"The buttons. Punch 'em, and you always get what you want--except now!"

"Now, now," Endicott said soothingly. "Panic isn't going to help us
any. All we have to do is sit tight--and wait. They'll send a relief
ship out--"

"When?"

"In the morning. Morning, sure. They had us on the 'viewer, don't
forget. They'll know exactly where to look."

"They won't be able to locate us in this white stuff."

"I tell you they know precisely where we are. And anyway the scanviewer
will pick us up."

"I don't think they'll ever find us." Allison slumped down on his
transverse geeseat, stared wide-eyed at the drift forming slowly inside
the torn metal of the windward side of the control room. "This white
stuff scares me." He shivered, then got up hastily, his boots slipping
slightly on the snow-slick decking, and punched the button again. "It's
got to work!" he cried and beat on the board with his fist.

"Stop that!" Endicott said sharply.

There was a crack of a slap in the control room, then silence.

In a moment Endicott said in his soothing voice, "Sorry, Allison.
Everything'll be all right. Don't you worry."

"If you say so, Chief." Allison stood in the center of the control
room, his arms slack by his sides.

"We'll be all right," Endicott said. "We have food capsules--"

"Sure, Chief."

"We'll be all right, except--" Endicott peered through the rents in the
hull into the storm outside. "All we have to do is sit tight," he added
hastily.

"We'll freeze tonight without heat." Allison's voice was still
breathless with panic.

"Yeah. Yeah, I've been thinking about that. There's some thing
'way down deep in my mind--something I can't quite get--" Endicott
still looked out at the storm-thrashed trees, a puzzled expression
wrinkling his face. "Something from my childhood--I was born a long
time before you, you know, before they set up state conditioning homes
for children. Long before they set up this 'everything-from-buttons'
business. Lived with my own people, I did, and I seem to remember--seem
to remember--" The puzzled expression became a frown of concentration.
"Or maybe it was something I read a long time ago," he mused.

"Did what?" Allison perked up.

"Read. You wouldn't know what that was. Everything comes from buttons
now, entertainment, food, light, heat--everything.... No, it was from
my childhood, I'm sure. I remember my people used to take me out in
the country--" Endicott mused on while a cloak of snow grew on the
shoulders of his jacket, and the light began to fade.

"Out in the country? What for? Nobody goes out there." Allison's eyes
gleamed slightly in the growing dusk.

"--for picnics. And--" Endicott's eyes brightened, and one hand
clenched.

"For what?" Allison's head thrust forward.

"What?" Endicott snapped, irritated at having his train of thought
broken.

"What did your people take you in the country for?"

"A picnic.... Yes, yes, that's it! I remember now!" Endicott's words
poured out.

"You know it is forbidden to think of the old days."

"Shut up! Let me think. You want heat, don't you?"

"It's forbidden to think of the old days," Allison repeated stubbornly.
"You'll get heat when I report this--in a different way."

"Shut up! Look, you want to keep from freezing tonight?" Endicott
glared. "All right. Come with me and do as I say." Without a backward
glance Endicott crossed the slippery deck and entered the passageway.
At the midship cargo natch he stopped.

"How are you going to open it without power?" Allison's breath-plume
shot over Endicott's shoulder. "It's locked and unlocked by a button on
the control board. Remember Chief?"

"Stop gloating, Allison. This is for your benefit as well as mine.
There's an escape hatch in the control room."

"That's controlled by power, too."

"Yes, but in these older models the hatch also has a manual control, as
I remember." Endicott moved off toward the control room.

Allison hesitated, then followed, and joined Endicott as he began to
search the control board. Endicott found the emergency lever for the
escape hatch and tugged on it, turning his head to watch the hatch
in the side of the hull, back of his seat. The hatch, big enough for
one man to pass through at a time, popped, crackling with frost, and
stirred slightly.

"Now, Allison, my boy, let's put our shoulders to it." Endicott was in
high spirits again.

As soon as the hatch swung open, Endicott put his head and shoulders
through the opening, squinting his eyes against the icy snow which
swirled past him. He grabbed a handhold on the outside of the hull and
pulled his legs through, and dropped into the snow alongside the ship.

Allison's head and shoulders appeared in the opening, and in a moment
he was beside Endicott. "Now what?" Allison yelled above the wind.

Endicott looked toward the clearing in which they had landed, then
turned to face the trees around the disabled ship. He waded through the
snow to the nearest one and reflectively took hold of a dry branch over
his head, tugged it several times as though judging its resiliency,
before snapping it off.

"Now, Allison, you see what I did? Well, you do the same, only gather
an armload of branches. When you have them, bring them to me at the
ship. And keep on gathering them until I tell you to stop."

Allison stood still in the deep snow, peering suspiciously at Endicott
through the snow-swirl. "Is this something from the old--?"

"Never mind that now, Allison," Endicott said patiently. "Let's not
worry about all that twaddle. You want to be warm, don't you? So, just
do as I say."

Allison's eyebrows shot up and lowered instantly, and his face set in
stubborn planes. "If this is from the old days I'm not sure I want any
part of it." He looked furtively over his shoulders at the gloomy woods.

"There are no Conditioning Committees here, Allison," Endicott said
testily. "Get on with it."

Allison took a few reluctant steps toward the nearest tree. Endicott
started back to the ship with his branch, looking back over his
shoulder.

"No, no, Allison. See those green needles? It won't do at all.
Dry branches, Allison, _dry_ branches." The whipping wind carried
Endicott's words over the few yards.

"I can't see how these--branches?--are going to keep us warm. It seems
like a lot of useless trouble getting them," Allison said sulkily,
suspicion and fear unabated.

Endicott didn't answer. Instead, he went to the side of the ship away
from the wind and began tramping the snow down into a flat, hard
floor. He broke his branch into short lengths over his knee, then, in
a nearly forgotten gesture, slapped at his uniform until he remembered
that he had no pockets. For a moment he stood still, his eyes roving
over the side of the ship until it came to one of the jagged tears.
With a little self-congratulatory chuckle, he began scraping one of
the lengths of wood over the torn metal, catching the splinters and
shavings in the palm of one hand.

Allison dropped his armload of branches by the ship, waged an inner
battle between fear of the unknown and curiosity in which curiosity
won, and stood watching Endicott arrange the branches in a crib around
the neatly piled shavings. Endicott, on one knee by the crib, worked
steadily, laying the pieces of wood with care and a returning sense
of sureness, with only brief pauses to flex his freezing fingers.
Finally, with a smile of satisfaction on his face, Endicott got to his
feet, and the nearly forgotten gesture at the pocketless uniform was
repeated.

Slowly, Endicott's lined face altered. He looked hastily at the
watchful Allison and hastily looked away; he looked at the completed
crib, and his tongue licked his lips; he looked along the side of the
damaged ship, and his eyes narrowed thoughtfully; finally, he looked
into the swirl of the icy snow, and he shivered. His hands ceased their
pawing, fell slowly, to hang slack by his sides. He was not smiling as
he turned away.

"What were you looking for?" Allison asked curiously.

"I just remembered something else," said Endicott, his voice was very
soft in the stillness, "we used to have something called a match to
start those picnic fires."





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