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The Black Tide   By: (1908-1990)

The Black Tide by Arthur G. Stangland

First Page:

Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science Fiction March 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.


By Arthur G. Stangland

Illustrated by Ed Valigursky

Space in its far dark reaches can be fickle with a man; it can shatter his dreams, fill him with fear and hate. It can also cure a man if he is strong enough.

It filled all the ebony depths of space. Twirling slowly in awesome majesty, the meteor scintillated like a massive black diamond. And with its onrush came a devastating sense of doom. He looked everywhere. To the front, to the side, and below there was no escape. Transfixed, he stared at the great rock flashing in the fire of myriad suns as it

Bill Staker, passenger rocket captain for Interplanetary Lines, came fully awake in his New York hotel room. For a minute, he lay unmoving on his bed, savoring the delicious sensation of weight. No queazy stirring in the pit of his belly for lack of gravity, no forced squinting because of muscular re orientation.

With a muttered curse he unwound himself from his covers and sat up. For a moment he rested his head in his hands, thinking, only a nightmare, thank God, only a nightmare.

He lifted his head, and found cold sweat on his hands. Then sighing in relief he swung his feet over the edge of his bed.

A glance at the clock showed 10:45 p.m. Monday, June 10th, 2039. Heavily, he clumped across the room in the peculiar flat footed gait of a spaceman accustomed to magnetic contact shoes. Cigarette in hand he sank into a heavy chair, touched a button on the arm, then sat back to watch the telescreen.

It was a rehash of the day's news. In nasal tones a senator was accusing the Republicrats of raising taxes. Then followed scenes from a spectacular fire. Suddenly, Bill's drooping eyelids popped open.

[Illustration: The small meteor ripped through the Space Bird's crew compartment, blinding the radar scope and severing communication with Earth .]

A commentator was saying, "... the two rockets of the Staker Space Mining Company, ready for a scouting trip to the asteroid Beta Quadrant."

A close up of Tom Staker followed. Tall, rangy, with blond hair like straw in the wind. Bill laid his cigarette in a tray and with critical interest leaned forward to look at his brother.

"We figure to find uranium," Tom was saying, with a glance toward the vertical rockets, "all through the Beta Quadrant. Our departure is waiting on the return of my brother, Bill, from his Mars to Earth run."

A reporter asked Tom, "Private enterprise is unique in these days of virtual monopolies. What's the story behind it?"

"Well, our great grandfather, George Staker, believed passionately in private enterprise," Tom began. "Somewhere around 1952 or 1953 he established a trust fund for his third generation descendants to finance any project they think worthwhile. And he got an ironclad guarantee from the government that the trust fund for private enterprise would be honored in the future. You see, my ancestor was quite a romanticist. In one of his books entitled 'The Philosophy of Science' he says 'People of this dawning Atomic Age little realize they are living in a vast dream. A dream that is slowly taking objective shape. A tool here, a part there, a plan on some drafting table. Men of ideas are pointing the way, structuring the inner dream world of a generation. Even today's science fiction literature contains important ideas for the dreams become reality of tomorrow.'" Tom finished up, "With our Project Venture, Bill and I are going to bring a dream into reality making a little on the side, of course!"

The commentator ended his interview with: "And so, we await with great interest the carrying out of George Staker's dream, a man whose Twentieth Century ideas of private enterprise have blown a breath of fresh air into an age of dull dreams and little imagination... Continue reading book >>

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