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Elegy   By: (1929-1967)

Elegy by Charles Beaumont

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By Charles Beaumont

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy February 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: It was an impossible situation: an asteroid in space where no asteroid should have been with a city that could only have existed back on Earth!]

"Would you mind repeating that?"

"I said, sir, that Mr. Friden said, sir, that he sees a city."

"A city?"

"Yes sir."

Captain Webber rubbed the back of his hand along his cheek.

"You realize, of course, that that is impossible?"

"Yes sir."

"Send Mr. Friden in to see me, at once."

The young man saluted and rushed out of the room. He returned with a somewhat older man who wore spectacles and frowned.

"Now then," said Captain Webber, "what's all this Lieutenant Peterson tells me about a city? Are you enjoying a private little joke, Friden?"

Mr. Friden shook his head emphatically. "No sir."

"Then perhaps you'd like to explain."

"Well, sir, you see, I was getting bored and just for something to do, I thought I'd look through the screen not that I dreamed of seeing anything. The instruments weren't adjusted, either; but there was something funny, something I couldn't make out exactly."

"Go on," said Captain Webber, patiently.

"So I fixed up the instruments and took another look, and there it was, sir, plain as could be!"

"There what was?"

"The city, sir. Oh, I couldn't tell much about it, but there were houses, all right, a lot of them."

"Houses, you say?"

"Yes sir, on an asteroid."

Captain Webber looked for a long moment at Mr. Friden and began to pace nervously.

"I take it you know what this might mean?"

"Yes sir, I do. That's why I wanted Lieutenant Peterson to tell you about it."

"I believe, Friden, that before we do any more talking I'll see this city for myself."

Captain Webber, Lieutenant Peterson and Mr. Friden walked from the room down a long corridor and into a smaller room. Captain Webber put his eye to a circular glass and tapped his foot.

He stepped back and rubbed his cheek again.

"Well, you were right. That is a city or else we've all gone crazy. Do you think that we have?"

"I don't know, sir. It's not impossible."

"Lieutenant, go ask Mr. Milton if he can land us on an asteroid. Give him all the details and be back in ten minutes." Captain Webber sighed. "Whatever it is," he said, "it will be a relief. Although I never made a special announcement, I suppose you knew that we were lost."

"Oh yes, sir."

"And that we ran almost entirely out of fuel several months ago, in fact shortly after we left?"

"We knew that."

The men were silent.

"Sir, Mr. Milton says he thinks he can land us but he can't promise exactly where."

"Tell Mr. Milton that's good enough."

Captain Webber waited for the young man to leave, then looked again into the glass.

"What do you make of it, sir?"

"Not much, Friden, not much. It's a city and that's an asteroid; but how the devil they got there is beyond me. I still haven't left the idea that we're crazy, you know."

Mr. Friden looked.

"We're positioning to land. Strange "

"What is it?"

"I can make things out a bit more clearly now, sir. Those are earth houses."

Captain Webber looked. He blinked.

"Now, that ," he said, " is impossible. Look here, we've been floating about in space for how long is it?"

"Three months, sir."

"Exactly. For three months we've been bobbling aimlessly, millions of miles from earth. No hope, no hope whatever. And now we're landing in a city just like the one we first left, or almost like it. Friden, I ask you, does that make any sense at all?"

"No, sir."

"And does it seem logical that there should be an asteroid where no asteroid should be?"

"It does not."

They stared at the glass, by turns.

"Do you see that, Friden?"

"I'm afraid so, sir... Continue reading book >>

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