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By Earthlight   By: (1918-1988)

By Earthlight by Bryce Walton

First Page:

Transcriber's Note:

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

We all have to die sometime, but it's more the manner of our going, and the reason why we must die when we do that's the rub.

By Earthlight

by BRYCE WALTON

[Illustration]

The rocket skin was like a dun colored wall in the dim light under the hill. Three anonymous men who were beyond suspicion, who had worked on the rocket, were taking Barlow up in the elevator, up along the rocket's curving walls.

Earlier, scores of men had climbed up many ladders to various platforms where doors opened into the rocket's compartments for the insertion and repair of the many highly specialized instruments.

It was still so damn still here!

Some guards were way down below somewhere in the shadows, but they didn't notice anything. The three men were regular workers and there were last minute things to be done. It all looked quite logical.

Over in the blockhouse, some of America's most important political and military figures were sitting over instruments and charts, waiting, discussing.

One of the three men was talking, explaining things to Barlow about the rocket, about the pressure suit he was to wear. Barlow listened and got it all straight. Barlow was helped into the suit. It weighed 700 pounds, and after they had encased him in it all but the huge helmet plate he lay there absolutely helpless, on a dolly, waiting to be rolled into the rocket's compartment.

The anonymous faces he'd never seen before, and would never see again, looked down at him. He blinked several times and moistened his lips. The suit was like a lead coffin. He didn't feel dead, but supposedly dead and unable to tell any one. A ridiculous way to feel!

What was the matter with him? He'd expected to die, all the time, from the start. Everybody died! Few could experience what he was experiencing. Death was worth this. One last kick, the biggest kick of all for Hal Barlow. You lived for kicks, so what was the matter?

He couldn't move his limbs; he could barely lift his head. Encased in 700 pounds of suit. Helpless. A pencil flash flickered on and off. A couple of eyes shone. A whisper. "The kit is fastened to your belt. The instructions are in an air tight capsule inside the kit. If you're caught, and the paper's removed, it will disintegrate; now we'll slide you inside."

The helmet slid over his face. It was absolutely dark. The suit, all enclosing mobile shelter, atmosphere pressure, temperature control, mobility and electric power to manipulate tools. Its own power plant. It reprocessed continuously the precious air breathed by the occupant, putting it back into circulating supply after enriching it. The rocket was cold and alien and it would support no life; the suit alone protected him. The rocket was just metal and gadgets; only the suit stood between him and an agonizing death from acceleration, deceleration, extremes of heat and cold.

The dolly was rolling him in through the small opening. His encased body being slid, stuffed, jammed into something like a wad of ammo into a barrel. His body was entirely constricted. He couldn't hear anything. It was black. He could shift his massive helmet slightly. It clanged against metal, and the sound inside the helmet was like rusty thunder.

His blood boiled softly. He felt like a child shut up in the dark. He thought of the radio in the suit, and desperately manipulated the controls by the small control panel in the metal hand of the suit.

The voices seemed to quiet whatever had been boiling up in him. He had started to scream; he remembered that now. Somehow, with an intense effort, he had suppressed the scream, clamped his teeth on it... Continue reading book >>




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