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Human Error   By: (1915-1994)

Human Error by Raymond F. Jones

First Page:



Illustrated by Paul Orban

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from If Worlds of Science Fiction April 1956. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: The government was spending a billion dollars to convince the human race that men ought to be ashamed to be men instead of errorless, cybernetics machines. But they forgot that an errorless man is a dead man.... ]

During its three years' existence, the first Wheel was probably the subject of more amateur astronomical observations than any other single object in the heavens. Over three hundred reports came in when a call was issued for witnesses to the accident that destroyed the space station.

It was fortunately on the night side of Earth at the time, and in a position of bright illumination by the sun. Two of the observers had movie cameras attached to their ten inch mirrors. The film in one of these was inadequate, but the other carried a complete record of the incident from the moment of the Griseda's first approach, through the pilot's fumbling attempt to correct course, and the final collision.

The scene was lost for a few seconds as the wreckage drifted out of the field. The observer had been watching through a small pilot scope, however, and had wits enough to pan by hand so that he got most of the remaining fall that was visible above his horizon as the locked remnants of the Wheel and the Griseda began their slow, spiral course to Earth.

By the time this scene was finished, word of the disaster was already flashing to Government centers. Joe McCauley, radio operator aboard the Wheel, had been talking with Ed Harris on the Griseda . As a matter of routine, all their conversation was taped, and some of this was recovered from the crash and played back at the investigation.

" and get this," Ed was saying, "my kid had his fifth birthday just last week, and I've got him working through quadratic equations already. You've got to go some to beat that one."

"Doesn't mean a thing," said Joe. "You know how these infant brain boxes burn out. Better take him fishing and forget that stuff for a while. Hey what the devil's going on? You got a truck driver in the control room? I just saw you out the port and it looks like you're right on top of us!"

"Jeez, I dunno. It's been like that ever since we cleared Lunaport. Sometimes I think this guy Cummins trained in a truck the way he Hell, he's comin' up on the wrong side of the Wheel! I relayed the orders to go to the east turret. Acknowledged them himself "

"Ed! I can see you outside the port we're going to hit!"

The words were ripped by the shattering, grinding roar of colliding metal. Then a moment later the blast of an exploding fuel tank.


"Joe yeah, I'm here. Lights gone. Emergency power still on. Take the emergency band if you've still got a rig. I'll stand by "

Joe switched over without comment and called Space Command Base on the emergency channel, which was always monitored. "Wheel just rammed by Griseda ," he said. "Possible loss of orbital velocity. Extent of damage unknown."

Lieutenant James, on duty at the Base, had just returned from a three day leave and was scarcely settled in the routine of his post once more. He glanced automatically at the radar tracking screen and his face paled at the sight of the irregular figure there, slightly out of the centering circle. It was no gag.

"You're dropping," he said. "Orbital velocity must be down. Can you correct?"

"I haven't been able to contact the bridge," said Joe. "Alert all Command and have crash point computed. Stand by."

It developed that the bridge was entirely gone, along with a full thirty percent of the station. Captain West had been spared, however, being on inspection in the other sector of the station. He came on at once as Joe McCauley managed to get the communication lines repatched.

"Emergency red!" he called... Continue reading book >>

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