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´╗┐Title: A Bad Town for Spacemen
Author: Scott, Robert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.


*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Bad Town for Spacemen" ***


                       _A Bad Town For Spacemen_

                            BY ROBERT SCOTT

                      There was a reason why the
                     city acted the way it did ...
                        and we were the reason!

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
               Worlds of If Science Fiction, July 1962.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


I stepped back out of the gutter and watched the tight clot of men
disappear around the corner. They hadn't really been menacing, just had
made it obvious they weren't going to break up. And that I had better
get out of their way. I got. We were well trained.

The neon of the bar across the street flickered redly on my uniform.
I watched the slush trickle off my boots for a while, then made up my
mind and headed into the bar. It was a mistake.

New York had always been considered safe for us. Of course there were
many parts of the country that were absolutely forbidden "for your own
good" and others that were "highly dangerous" or at least "doubtful."
But New York had always been a haven. The stares there had even been
admiring sometimes, especially in the beginning.

But things had changed. I had realized that about half an hour after
touchdown, when we were being herded through Health Check, Baggage
Check, Security Check ... you know the lot. Before, there had been
friendly questions, genuine interest in the Mars colony, speculations
about the second expedition to Venus, even a joke or two. This time
the examiners' only interest seemed to be in fouling us up as much as
possible. And when we finally got through the rat race, New York was
bleak.

I should have stayed with the rest, I guess, and of course a public
bar was the last place any smart spaceboy would have gone to. But I had
some nice memories of bars, memories from the early days.

The whole room went silent, as though a tube had blown, when I shoved
through the door. I got over to an empty table as quickly as I could
and inspected the list of drinks on the dispenser. This one had a lot
of big nickel handles sticking up over the drink names and the whole
job was shaped like one of those beer kegs you used to see pictures of.
What I mean is, this was an _authentic_ bar.

Phony as hell.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the way this sounds, you can guess the kind of mood I'd gotten
in. The noise had picked up again right after I sat down and some
of the drunker drunks were knocking the usual words around, in loud
whispers and with lots of glances at me. One of the pro-girls (her hair
was green and her blouse covered her breasts--another change while I
was out) gave me a big wink and then jabbed the man next to her and
squawked with laughter.

I fed a bill into the change machine at the table and then dribbled
several coins (prices had gone up too) into the dispenser.

I guess I must have had several, because after a while I began to feel
cheerful. The noise that was coming out of the box in the corner
started to sound like music, and I got to tapping and rocking. And
smiling, I guess. And that's what triggered it.

People had been coming and going, but mainly coming. And the crowd at
the bar had been getting louder, and one guy there had been getting
louder than the rest. All of a sudden, he slammed down his glass and
headed for my table. He orbited around it for a while, staring at me,
and then settled jerkily down in the chair across from me.

"Why all the hilarity, spaceboy? Feeling proud of yourself?"

He looked pretty wobbly and pretty soft and pretty old. And very angry.
But I was kind of wobbly myself by that time. And anyway there are
strict rules about us and violence. _Very_ strict. So I just tried to
make the smile bigger and said, "I'm just feeling good. We had a good
run and we brought in some nice stuff."

"Nice stuff," he said, kind of mincing. "Buddy, do you know what you
can do with your sandgems and your windstones?"

"We brought back some other things too. There was a good bit of uranium
and--"

"We don't need it!" He was getting purple. "We don't need anything from
you."

"And maybe _we_ don't need you." I was getting sort of fired up
myself. "Carversville is self-sufficient now. You can't give us
anything."

"Well, why the hell don't you stay there? Why don't all of you stay off
Earth? There's no place for you here."

I could have pointed out that we brought things that Earth really
needed, that Mars and Venus had literally worlds of natural resources,
while Earth had almost finished hers. But he began to quiet down then
and I began to feel the loneliness again, the sense of loss. You can't
go home again ... that phrase kept poking around in my skull.

Suddenly he sat up and looked straight at me, and his eyes really
focused for the first time. "What lousy luck. What incredibly lousy
luck. And how could anyone have known?"

It wasn't hard to peg what he was talking about. "It was probably
_good_ luck that the first space crew was selected the way it was," I
said. "Otherwise you'd have had a dead ship full of dead men and no
knowing why. But that one man brought the ship back."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. And the scientists figured everything out. About
radiation in space being lethal to almost all types of man. But there
was one thing that made a man immune. One thing."

"The scientists tried to find a protective covering that would be
practicable. They tried to synthesize slaves that would protect you.
It wasn't our fault that they couldn't."

"No, not your fault." His eyes had begun to dull again. "Just a matter
of enough melanin in the skin. That's all...." Then he straightened up
and slammed his fist on the table. "Damn you, did you know I was a jet
pilot a long time ago? Did you know I was going to be one of the space
pioneers? Open up brave new worlds for Man...."

He sat there staring at me for a minute or so and the last thing he
said was, "Don't you come here again--nigger."

I got up and left the table and walked out of the bar. I wasn't
provoked. As I said before, we were well trained.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first time I realized where I was was when I bumped into the fence
around the spacefield. I must have walked all the way over there from
the bar. I had a memory of crumbling buildings and littered streets.
Things had changed while I had been out there. They were letting the
city run down.

As I started to walk along the fence to the gate, I saw the ship
towering against the stars. The stars and the ship. And tomorrow there
would be colonists getting aboard.

I stopped and looked till I knew where home was and who the real exiles
were.

I stopped feeling sorry for myself. And started feeling sorry for them.





*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Bad Town for Spacemen" ***

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