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The Man Who Staked the Stars   By: (1925-)

The Man Who Staked the Stars by Katherine MacLean

First Page:

Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Planet Stories July 1952. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.




Bryce Carter could afford a smug smile. For hadn't he risen gloriously from Thieves Row to director of famed U.T.? Was not Earth, Moon, and all the Belt, at this very moment awaiting his command for the grand coup? And wasn't his cousin from Montehedo a star sent help?

"What do I do for a living?" repeated the slim dark skinned young man in the next seat of the Earth Moon liner. "I'm a witch doctor," he answered with complete sincerity.

"What do you do? I mean, what do they hire you for?" asked Donahue with understandable confusion and a touch of nervousness.

[Illustration: Bracing themselves, Bryce and Pierce gave the body a combined strong shove toward Earth. Two gone. ]

"I'm registered as a psychotherapist," said the dark skinned young man. He looked too young to be practicing a profession, barely nineteen, but that could be merely a sign of talent, Donahue reflected. The new teaching and testing methods graduated them young.

"I know I am a witch doctor because my grandfather and his father and his father's father were witch doctors and I learned a special technique from my uncles who are registered therapists with medical degrees like mine. But the technique is not the one you find in the books, it is ... unusual. They don't say where they learned it but it's not hard to guess." The dark youth shrugged cheerfully. "So I'm a witch doctor."

"That's an interesting thought," said Donahue. It would be a long three day trip to the Moon and he had expected to be bored, but this conversation was not boring. "What do you do?" he again asked. "Specifically." Donahue had rugged features, a dark tan and attractively sun bleached hair worn a little too long. He exuded a sort of rough charm which branded him one of the class of politicians, and he knew how to draw people out, so now he settled himself more comfortably for an extended spell of listening. "Tell me more and join me in a drink." He signalled the hostess and continued with the right mixture of admiring interest and condescending scepticism. "You don't chant spells and hire ghosts, do you?"

"Not exactly." The dark innocent looking young face smiled with a cheerful flash of white teeth. "I'll tell you what I did to a man, a man named Bryce Carter."

A group of men sat in a skyscraper at Cape Hatteras, with their table running parallel to a huge floor to ceiling window that overlooked the clouded sky and gray waves of the Atlantic. They were the respected directors of Union Transport, and, like most men of high position, they had a keen sense of self preservation and a knowledge of ways and means that included little in the way of scruples.

The chairman rapped lightly. "Gentlemen, your attention please. I have an announcement to make."

The buzz of talk at the long table stopped and the fourteen men turned their faces. The meeting had been called a full week early, and they expected some emergency as an explanation. "A disturbing announcement, I am afraid. Someone is using this corporation for illegal purposes." The chairman's voice was mild and apologetic.

Bryce Carter, second from the opposite end, was brought to a shock of tense balanced alertness. How much did he know? He gave no sign of emotion, but reached for a cigarette to cover any change in his breathing, fumbling perhaps more than usual.

The men at the long table waited, showing a variety of bored expressions that never had any connection with their true reactions. The chairman was a small, inconspicuous, sandy haired man whose ability they respected so deeply that they had elected him the chairman to have him where they could watch him... Continue reading book >>

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