Russ Evans, Pilot 3497, Rocket Squad Patrol 34, unsnapped his seat belt,
and with a slight push floated "up" into the air inside the weightless
ship. He stretched himself, and yawned broadly.
"Red, how soon do we eat?" he called.
"Shut up, you'll wake the others," replied a low voice from the rear of
the swift little patrol ship. "See anything?"
"Several million stars," replied Evans in a lower voice. "And--" His
tone became suddenly severe. "Assistant Murphy, remember your manners
when addressing your superior officer. I've a mind to report you."
A flaming head of hair topping a grinning face poked around the edge of
the door. "Lower your wavelength, lower your wavelength! You may think
you're a sun, but you're just a planetoid. But what I'd like to know,
Chief Pilot Russ Evans, is why they locate a ship in a forlorn, out of
the way place like this--three-quarters of a billion miles, out of
planetary plane. No ships ever come out here, no pirates, not a chance
to help a wrecked ship. All we can do is sit here and watch the other
fellows do the work."
"Which is exactly why we're here. Watch--and tell the other ships where
to go, and when. Is that chow ready?" asked Russ looking at a small
clock giving New York time.
"Uh--think she'll be on time? Come on an' eat."
Evans took one more look at the telectroscope screen, then snapped it
off. A tiny, molecular towing unit in his hand, he pointed toward the
door to the combined galley and lunch room, and glided in the wake of
"How much fuel left?" he asked, as he glided into the dizzily spinning
room. A cylindrical room, spinning at high speed, causing an artificial
"weight" for the foods and materials in it, made eating of food a less
difficult task. Expertly, he maneuvered himself to the guide rail near
the center of the room, and caught the spiral. Braking himself into
motion, he soon glided down its length, and landed on his feet. He bent
and flexed his muscles, waiting for the now-busied assistant to get to
the floor and reply.
"They gave us two pounds extra. Lord only knows why. Must expect us to
clean up on some fleet. That makes four pound rolls left, untouched, and
two thirds of the original pound. We've been here fifteen days, and have
six more to go. The main driving power rolls have about the same amount
left, and three pound rolls in each reserve bin," replied Red, holding a
curiously moving coffee pot that strove to adjust itself to rapidly
changing air velocities as it neared the center of the room.
"Sounds like a fleet's power stock. Martian lead or the terrestrial
isotope?" asked Evans, tasting warily a peculiar dish before him. "Say,
this is energy food. I thought we didn't get any more till Saturday."
The change from the energy-less, flavored pastes that made up the
principal bulk of a space-pilot's diet, to prevent over-eating, when no
energy was used in walking in the weightless ship, was indeed a welcome
"Uh-huh. I got hungry. Any objections?" grinned the Irishman.
"None!" replied Evans fervently, pitching in with a will.
Seated at the controls once more, he snapped the little switch that
caused the screen to glow with flashing, swirling colors as the
telectroscope apparatus came to life. A thousand tiny points of flame
appeared scattered on a black field with a suddenness that made them
seem to snap suddenly into being. Points, tiny dimensionless points of
light, save one, a tiny disc of blue-white flame, old Sol from a
distance of close to one billion miles, and under slight reverse
magnification. The skillful hands at the controls were turning
adjustments now, and that disc of flame seemed to leap toward him with a
hundred light-speeds, growing to a disc as large as a dime in an
instant, while the myriad points of the stars seemed to scatter like
frightened chickens, fleeing from the growing sun, out of the screen.
Other points, heretofore invisible, appeared, grew, and rushed away.