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All Day September   By:

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Illustrated by van Dongen

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction June 1959. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Some men just haven't got good sense. They just can't seem to learn the most fundamental things. Like when there's no use trying when it's time to give up because it's hopeless....

The meteor, a pebble, a little larger than a match head, traveled through space and time since it came into being. The light from the star that died when the meteor was created fell on Earth before the first lungfish ventured from the sea.

In its last instant, the meteor fell on the Moon. It was impeded by Evans' tractor.

It drilled a small, neat hole through the casing of the steam turbine, and volitized upon striking the blades. Portions of the turbine also volitized; idling at eight thousand RPM, it became unstable. The shaft tried to tie itself into a knot, and the blades, damaged and undamaged were spit through the casing. The turbine again reached a stable state, that is, stopped. Permanently stopped.

It was two days to sunrise, where Evans stood.

It was just before sunset on a spring evening in September in Sydney. The shadow line between day and night could be seen from the Moon to be drifting across Australia.

Evans, who had no watch, thought of the time as a quarter after Australia.

Evans was a prospector, and like all prospectors, a sort of jackknife geologist, selenologist, rather. His tractor and equipment cost two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Fifty thousand was paid for. The rest was promissory notes and grubstake shares. When he was broke, which was usually, he used his tractor to haul uranium ore and metallic sodium from the mines at Potter's dike to Williamson Town, where the rockets landed.

When he was flush, he would prospect for a couple of weeks. Once he followed a stampede to Yellow Crater, where he thought for a while that he had a fortune in chromium. The chromite petered out in a month and a half, and he was lucky to break even.

Evans was about three hundred miles east of Williamson Town, the site of the first landing on the Moon.

Evans was due back at Williamson Town at about sunset, that is, in about sixteen days. When he saw the wrecked turbine, he knew that he wouldn't make it. By careful rationing, he could probably stretch his food out to more than a month. His drinking water kept separate from the water in the reactor might conceivably last just as long. But his oxygen was too carefully measured; there was a four day reserve. By diligent conservation, he might make it last an extra day. Four days reserve plus one is five plus sixteen days normal supply equals twenty one days to live.

In seventeen days he might be missed, but in seventeen days it would be dark again, and the search for him, if it ever began, could not begin for thirteen more days. At the earliest it would be eight days too late.

"Well, man, 'tis a fine spot you're in now," he told himself.

"Let's find out how bad it is indeed," he answered. He reached for the light switch and tried to turn it on. The switch was already in the "on" position.

"Batteries must be dead," he told himself.

"What batteries?" he asked. "There're no batteries in here, the power comes from the generator."

"Why isn't the generator working, man?" he asked.

He thought this one out carefully. The generator was not turned by the main turbine, but by a small reciprocating engine. The steam, however, came from the same boiler. And the boiler, of course, had emptied itself through the hole in the turbine. And the condenser, of course

"The condenser!" he shouted.

He fumbled for a while, until he found a small flashlight... Continue reading book >>

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