Castaways of Space can be found in




ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



SUPER-SCIENCE FICTION October, 1958

CASTAWAYS OF SPACE

by DAN MALCOLM

It was McDermott's job to rescue the Robinson Crusoes
of the star lanes — whether they wanted to be rescued
or not. Sometimes these castaways wanted to stay lost

LIEUTENANT McDermott was having a couple of drinks in the Nine Planets Bar on Albireo XII when his wristband bleeped, telling him to report to Patrol headquarters for assignment. McDermott scowled. This was his time off, and he didn't give a damn what Headquarters said. He cupped his hand tightly around the drinkflask and took a long slug. The wristband bleeped again, impatiently.

McDermott waited a minute or two and finished his drink. Then he switched the band to audio and said in a sour tone, "McDermott reporting. What is it?"

The thin, edgy voice of the Officer of the Day said, "Job for you, Mac. There's been a kidnapping and we want you to do the chasing."

"I'm off duty. Get Squires."

"Squires is in sick-bay having his head sewed back on," was the acid reply. "Get out of that bar and get yourself down here in five minutes or—"

The threat was unvoiced, but McDermott didn't need much persuasion. He knew his status as a Galaxy Patrol Corpsman was shaky enough, and a couple more black marks would finish him completely. He didn't like that idea. Getting booted out of the crime-prevention unit would mean he would have to go back to working for a living, and at his age that wasn't nice to think about.

"Okay," he rumbled. "Be right there."

He pulled a platinoid five-credit coin from his pocket, fingered its embossed surface lovingly for a moment, and spun it down on the counter. The bartender slid two small coppers back at him in change. Pocketing them, McDermott grinned apologetically at the gray-skinned Denebian floozie he had been making plans about until the call to HQ, and shouldered his way out of the bar. He walked pretty well, considering there was nearly five credits' worth of straight Sirian rum under his belt.

McDermott held his liquor pretty well. He was a big man, six-three and two hundred sixty pounds, and there was plenty of alcohol-absorbing bulk there to gobble up the stuff as he poured it down his throat.

His car, with the official nova-emblem of the Galaxy Patrol Corps, was sitting outside the bar. He tumbled into it, jabbed the start-button fiercely, and shot away from the curb. The trip to Headquarters took him twenty minutes, which was pretty good time considering that the building was halfway across town.

Sergeant Thom was at the night desk, a wizened little Aldebaranian who looked up as McDermott came through the door and said, "Better leg it upstairs, Mac. Davis is on tonight and he wants you fast."

"He's waited this long," McDermott said. "He can wait a little longer. No sense rushing around."

McDERMOTT took the gravtube upstairs and entered the Officer of the Day's cubbyhole without knocking. The O.D. was Captain Davis, a forty-year veteran of the Corps who lived a model life himself and who had several times expressed himself rather harshly on the subject of McDermott's drinking.

Now he looked at McDermott with an expression of repugnance on his face and said in his tight little voice, "I'm sorry to have found it necessary to pull you off your free time, Lieutenant."

McDermott said nothing. Davis went on, "A matter has come up and at the moment you're the only man at this base who can handle it. A girl named Nancy Hollis has been kidnapped—an Earthgirl, visiting this world on a tour with her parents. The father is a big-wheel diplomat making a galactic junket. She was plucked out of her hotel room and carted away in a Model XV-108 ship by a man identified only as Blaine Hassolt of this city. Know him?"

McDermott shook his head.

Davis shrugged. "Well, no matter. The girl left a scribbled note and we got on the trail pretty fast after the snatch. Hassolt was heading outsystem with her and we slapped a spy-vector on the ship. We followed it as far as we could. It disappeared pretty fast and as far as we can compute it crashlanded on Breckmyer IV. We saw the ship in orbit around that world and we saw a small lifeship detach from the main and skedaddle down to the planetary surface. Lifeships land, but they don't take off. That means Hassolt and the girl are somewhere on Breckmyer IV. Get out there and find them, Mac."

Moistening his lips, McDermott said, "You're sure it's Breckmyer IV?"

"Yes."

"Oh."


McDermott knew that planet. It was a stinking hot one, whose moderate zones were intolerable and whose tropical zones were sheer hell. It was inhabited by primitive humanoids and there were no Terran settlements anywhere on the planet. He was being handed a lousy job, maybe even a suicide job. But the kidnapped girl's father was a big-wheel diplomat, and policy dictated making at least a token effort to get her off Breckmyer IV, if she had survived the landing. The Corps had to send someone down there to look around —and the least valu...

This is only a preview of this story. The site administrator is evaluating methods to bring it to you.