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Fee of the Frontier   By: (1918-1997)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Amazing Stories August 1960. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

They didn't think of themselves as pioneers. They simply had a job to do. And if they had to give up money, or power, or love or life itself that was the




From inside the dome, the night sky is a beautiful thing, even though Deimos and Phobos are nothing to brag about. If you walk outside, maybe as far as the rocket field, you notice a difference.

Past the narrow developed strip around the dome, the desert land lies as chilled and brittle as it did for eons before Earthmen reached Mars. The sky is suddenly raw and cruel. You pull your furs around your nose and check your oxygen mask, and wish you were inside something, even a thin wall of clear plastic.

I like to stand here, though, and look out at it, just thinking about how far those ships grope out into the dark nowadays, and about the men who have gone out there on a few jets and a lot of guts. I knew a bunch of them ... some still out there, I guess.


There was a time when nearly everything had to be rocketed out from Earth, before they organized all those chemical tricks that change the Martian crops to real food. Domes weren't fancy then. Adequate, of course; no sense in taking chances with lives that cost so much fuel to bring here. Still, the colonies kept growing. Where people go, others follow to live off them, one way or another. It began to look like time for the next step outward.

Oh, the Asteroids ... sure. Not them. I did a bit of hopping there in my own time. In fact on account of conditions beyond my choice and control I spent too much time on the wrong side of the hull shields. One fine day, the medics told me I'd have to be a Martian for the rest of my life. Even the one way hop back to Earth was "not recommended."

So I used to watch the ships go out. I still remember one that almost missed leaving. The Martian Merchant. What joker thought that would be a good name for an exploring ship I can't imagine, but it always happens that way.

I was starting my cross country tractor line then, and had just made the run from Schiaparelli to Asaph Dome, which was not as nice as it is now but still pretty civilized for the time. They had eight or ten bars, taverns, and other amusements, and were already getting to be quite a city.

One of the taverns near the western airlock was named the Stardust , and I was approaching, measuring the sand in my throat, when these spacers came out. The first one in sight was a blocky, dark haired fellow. He came rolling through the door with a man under each arm.

Just as I got there, he made it to his feet somehow and cracked their heads together exactly hard enough to bring peace. He acted like a man used to handling things with precision. He glanced quickly at me out of a square, serious face, then plunged back through the splintered door toward the breakup inside.

In a moment, he came out again, with two friends who looked the worse for wear. The tall, lean youngster wore a junior pilot's bands on the sleeves of his blue uniform. His untidy hair was rumpled, as if someone had been hanging onto it while in the process of giving him the shiner.

The other one was shorter and a good deal neater. Even with his tunic ripped down the front, he gave the impression of making it his life business to be neat. He was turning gray at the temples and growing a little bulge under his belt, which lent a dignity worthy of his trim mustache and expression of deferential politeness. He paused briefly to hurl an empty bottle at someone's head... Continue reading book >>

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