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´╗┐Title: Combatman
Author: Davis, John Massie
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 "Combatman" ***

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                               COMBATMAN

                        _By John Massie Davis_

             During colonizing operations a Combatman was
              always in charge--in case of trouble. This
            trip we really had some--a whole planet of it!

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy
                              October 1953
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


As Computerman, I was the first to come out of deep freeze after we
kicked clear of the Time-Warp. So I left the needles in my wrists--the
tubes let me reach Brain One--and started punching data from the
instruments while my fingers were still half stiff. Finally, stiff
fingers or not, I had all the data racked into the primary feed and
decided to check on the passengers. It amused me somewhat to note that
even Brain One was strictly stalling for time when it came to figuring
out where we were, and why. There was much buzzing and clicking but no
tape feeding out, yet. Well, let the Brain figure it out. I had other
things to do.

I strolled back to secondary freeze unit and checked Combatman. He
was on top of the heap, of course--as stiff as a fresh steak, so I
stuck the needles in his wrists and switched to defrost. Automatic
lift pulled him out and beneath him was the male Homonorm and the two
female Homonorms. They came out, too, as the lifts worked, and pretty
soon the cabin looked like a morgue--or a cannibal's shop, if you
prefer. Anyway, they were defrosting, so I left 'em to make a check
on Brain One and see what brilliant, if mechanical conclusion it had
reached. Should be at least an hour before Combatman thawed--even with
the needles pumping.

Brain One was feeding out tape now, slow as a snail considering its
cycling rate, so I figured we were a long way from home. Okay with
me--I'd been around and knew that if we could get somewhere we could
get back. But I wanted, and wanted bad, the data from Time-Warp gauges.
So I watched the tape, decoding mentally as it fed out and feeling, for
a Computerman, an emotion similar to impatience.

We were approaching--the Brain told me--a type three planet,
radiations okay, atmosphere higher in oxygen than home, gravity
slightly lighter in pull than normal--the same junk I'd been picking
up since we started colonizing. Land masses stable, water in the air,
semi-condensed. Good place for colonizing, and this pleased me. We were
out to establish and leave the Homonorms for a generation, and Brain
One had figured all the details out while I was sitting in freeze like
a hamburger. So far, so good.

One thing annoyed, or puzzled me. I kept throwing data from TV and
Radar into Feed-back and asking about population, life forms, land
denizens. All Brain One came up with was Insufficient Data. All right.
It would be just another routine landing on another distant planet.
Then I heard the noise behind me and turned. Combatman stood in the
doorway, his skin still bluish from the freeze, his eyes just clearing
and working into focus.

I looked him over while he stood there, somewhat surprised--if one can
ever be surprised at what his race did. He was hung with enough weapons
to stop a division of Homonorms and I wondered, as I always did, at the
origin of his race. His type always came drifting down from somewhere
north, back home, and all our radar and planes had never found their
homeland. None of them ever talked with humans except to nose in on our
expeditions or break up our wars. This one was quite a specimen, maybe
six feet, about 180 pounds, with the quiet and arrogant strength of his
race. He took a deep breath, still leaning on the door frame.

"Get me some whiskey," his voice was hoarse from disuse and the
Time-Warp, "and get it now."

"Now, see here," I began, "I'm Computerman and in charge of this ship
and...."

       *       *       *       *       *

I didn't finish. With the quiet sureness of a jungle cat he had crossed
the room, taken a handful of my tunic and lifted me from the chair--in
spite of the fact that gravity was nearly normal now because of the
landing jets. His voice was almost velvety.

"Perhaps you didn't hear me. I will repeat once more." He paused while
I considered striking him and then, sensibly, changed my mind. "Get me
some whiskey." Then he dropped me back into the chair.

I'm not Computerman for nothing, so I computed the situation in maybe
a thousandth of a second. No one could push me around, so to prevent
being pushed around I got him his whiskey. He knocked off about a half
pint at a swallow and in a few minutes his skin lost its bluish tinge.
He was awake, and his quick eyes swept the gauges and the TV-Radar
image.

"When do we land?" He made no attempt to be courteous.

I checked Brain One's tape, somewhat rattled. "Twenty-one minutes, four
seconds," I started, resisting a strange impulse to say 'sir', "Near
water, fresh, altitude under one mile from...."

"That's all," he said. "Thanks." He left the room like a cat, crouching
slightly as he went through the door, leaping through and backing
against the wall, but fast, once he cleared. His weapons, all of them,
were so skillfully hung that he didn't make a sound. Somehow, I enjoyed
watching the play of those muscles and felt rather glad to have him
along, rough as he was. Outlying planets often have warlike combat
organizations of their own, and Combatmen have saved many expeditions
like this. Something in their nature, or training--or both--seems to
make them invincible.

I turned back to Brain One, checked the wiring on the denizen circuit
and tried to get more information about possible inhabitants. No luck.
Either there were none or they were so highly civilized they could
block off our probing rays. That had happened before, and it usually
meant a minor war. We always won, though we sometimes had to dig in and
send for the Control Fleet from home. The Fleet was run by Combatmen,
though no Homonorm had ever figured out how they eased into all the key
positions. They were quite a race, all right.

So I sat watching the Radarscreen and the planet, enlarging rapidly.
It looked pretty good--about a quarter to a third land mass, I
guessed--just like home. Combatman came back in the room, quietly.

"Your pap-fed colonists are waking," he grunted. "Better go and
wet-nurse them. They might catch cold." He sat down in the pilot's
chair, much to my annoyance, and swilled away at his bottle. I noticed
he'd replaced the original crock, and felt a moment's concern. After
all, we depended for basic safety on his training, in the event of
encountering hostility. He seemed utterly unconcerned as he lazily
watched the screen.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Homonorms were doing all right, complaining as usual about the cold
and asking silly questions about where we were and what year it was--or
would be at home. I ducked the questions, gave them their hypos and
went back to Brain One and the control panel. One look at controls and
I started boiling; this was the last straw.

"Now, goddamit," I started, "you can boss me around, but when it comes
to...."

"Shut up!"

"I will not shut up...."

"Okay." He was calm, leisurely, even--but before I realized it he was
rising, crossed the room and I had an arm behind me. It didn't hurt but
I felt pretty helpless. Completely helpless, to be truthful.

"Could it be," he appeared to be bored, "that you are tired of having
two arms?" He twisted slightly and I got the idea so I shut up, for
the second time. After a few seconds he sat down in my chair and had
another drink. When I could talk without sputtering I worked up my
mildest voice.

"Would you tell me," I almost choked on the next word, "_Please_, what
in hell is the idea of circling at twenty miles, then dropping to ten
and circling some more? We're wasting tons of fuel which we may need
for--"

"Sure, brainy one, I'll tell you. I want to see what this place looks
like and _I'm_ picking the landing site. Not you or that pile of
rattling tin there." He gestured contemptuously at Brain One.

"Pile of tin!" I couldn't say more so I went back to the rear and
helped the Homonorms find food and the simple plasticlothes they'd be
wearing. The ship lurched suddenly as it changed course at twenty miles
and started circling. Even back here I could hear Brain One clacking in
protest over the conflicting instructions. That big lunk of a fighting
man, of course, hadn't had sense enough to punch Clear and Recompute
when he changed course and I could see the tape in my mind's eye
pouring frantically out with Data Please, Data Please....

Oh, well.

Homonorms were thawing okay but crying like babies from Time-Warp
sickness and space fright. I expected this and let them cry it out.
Meanwhile I got busy with Sensory Receptors to see if anything we knew
of could be blocking Brain One's circuits. This lack of info about
the denizens had me a little worried: it wasn't often Brain One came
up with a blank, on any subject. It made me furious to be working
like mad here while that big oaf lounged in _my_ chair slopping up a
year's supply of stimulant. Defending the ship was his job; he should
be trying to find out what was doing below us. Instead, he sat around
watching Radarscreen just like he was watching the fights his race
staged back home for amusement.

The ship lurched violently. Then it lurched again. I started forward,
worried, but the tailjets blasted and I slammed against a wall, pinned
tight. The pressure cut my wind and I fainted. My last recollection was
the smell of scorching duralumin. We'd been hit, by something.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I revived, we were back at Gravnorm and I staggered, literally,
back to control. My nose was still bleeding, and the Homonorms, of
course, were still unconscious. Combatman sat comfortably in my padded
chair, almost dreamily watching the screen. I felt a surge of anger,
then realized I was too feeble to support such an emotion. Remembering
my Psycho training I redirected to curiosity.

"What...." my voice sounded pretty shaky and Combatman handed me the
bottle, grinning.

"Quite a race down there," he seemed pleased. Then he spat, expertly,
the result landing on the Radarscreen. "Can you work that thing?"

"Of course," I muttered, half-insulted.

"Okay. We're at a hundred miles. Get that in focus as of two miles,
slow the ship and prepare to hold stationary when I see what I want to
know."

Weakly I fumbled with the controls, sniffling back the blood from my
nose.

"And turn off this tin god of yours," he continued. "That clacking
racket annoys me." Casually, he kicked the part of Brain One nearest
him, which was the back of Wiring Panel Six.

"Oh, _no_...." I began. But I did as I was told and ran Brain One
through three clearing cycles, just to make sure. There was no telling
what this lummox may have done in my absence. Now I'd have to check
everything and feed in the information all over again.

Combatman leaned back in the chair like he expected dental work, and
yawned luxuriously. He watched as the screen blurred and focused,
blurred and focused. It was sweeping at two miles and the ship was
slowing. We dropped tail down and Grav changed faster than the interior
hull moved. Finally we settled, and coasted above this planet.

The ship lurched, twice this time almost simultaneously. Then it
lurched steadily. Combatman threw the All Screens switch and watched
the Radar. By now, he was tense.

"At a hundred miles...." he muttered. "What a race this is!"

He watched the screen with eyes that reminded me more of a cat's than a
human's.

"Stop!"

From habit I threw the master Out Switch and everything stopped--our
motion coordinated precisely with the planet's, the Radar focused where
it had been--and I got slammed against a wall again, of course. Well--I
might as well get used to it. When my eyes cleared I studied the
image. It was a rather crude city of considerable size, though poorly,
designed from the light, ventilation and transport angle. There was
considerable movement, apparently ground vehicles of some sort. Then I
looked at Combatman. His face was registering disbelief and something
resembling alarm--though I'd never heard of any of his race being
really frightened.

       *       *       *       *       *

The missile warning light blinked frantically and the ship started
lurching and pitching again. Combatman turned toward me and his face
was taut and urgent.

"How soon can you get into Time-Warp?"

"And--and _leave_?"

"Right, and the sooner the better." He flipped the height control
and we moved, smoothly this time, up away from the missiles blasting
outside our protective screen. "There'll be no colonizing done here."

"But--but our orders were to...."

"No colonizing here. Put your Homonorms back in the freezer and set up
for return. Do it now."

Stunned, I went rearward and told the people. They didn't like the
idea very much, but regulations said that when the ship was attacked,
Combatman was absolute boss. Then I returned. Combatman shot a glance
at me and I nodded, then went to work on the Control panel, reversing
the whole set up.

"When you finish I'll get in your ice box," Combatman said. "And when
you get out of Time-Warp destroy that wiring. None of your ships is to
come back here."

I digested this slowly, wondering how to report to the council. "Why
not?" I ventured. "Perhaps with part of the Control Fleet...."

"The whole Control Fleet wouldn't last two days on a desert of that
world, Brainboy," he said. His eyes misted faintly for a fraction of a
second. "Those denizens, as you call them, are all members of my race,
and this planet was my home--we called it Earth."

He yawned and strode to the rear and the freezer. At the portal he
turned and grinned. "And don't ask me how we get back and forth. I
might get mad and have my whole family drop over--in-laws and all."

I didn't really understand him, so went on with my wiring.



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