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Sjambak   By: (1916-)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from If Worlds of Science Fiction July 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note. Within the text, [=o] represents a lowercase o with an upper macron.

[Illustration]

Wilbur Murphy sought romance, excitement, and an impossible Horseman of Space. With polite smiles, the planet frustrated him at every turn until he found them all the hard way!

SJAMBAK

By Jack Vance

Illustrated by VIRGIL FINLAY

Howard Frayberg, Production Director of Know Your Universe! , was a man of sudden unpredictable moods; and Sam Catlin, the show's Continuity Editor, had learned to expect the worst.

"Sam," said Frayberg, "regarding the show last night...." He paused to seek the proper words, and Catlin relaxed. Frayberg's frame of mind was merely critical. "Sam, we're in a rut. What's worse, the show's dull!"

Sam Catlin shrugged, not committing himself.

" Seaweed Processors of Alphard IX who cares about seaweed?"

"It's factual stuff," said Sam, defensive but not wanting to go too far out on a limb. "We bring 'em everything color, fact, romance, sight, sound, smell.... Next week, it's the Ball Expedition to the Mixtup Mountains on Gropus."

Frayberg leaned forward. "Sam, we're working the wrong slant on this stuff.... We've got to loosen up, sock 'em! Shift our ground! Give 'em the old human angle glamor, mystery, thrills!"

Sam Catlin curled his lips. "I got just what you want."

"Yeah? Show me."

Catlin reached into his waste basket. "I filed this just ten minutes ago...." He smoothed out the pages. "'Sequence idea, by Wilbur Murphy. Investigate "Horseman of Space," the man who rides up to meet incoming space ships.'"

Frayberg tilted his head to the side. "Rides up on a horse ?"

"That's what Wilbur Murphy says."

"How far up?"

"Does it make any difference?"

"No I guess not."

"Well, for your information, it's up ten thousand, twenty thousand miles. He waves to the pilot, takes off his hat to the passengers, then rides back down."

"And where does all this take place?"

"On on " Catlin frowned. "I can write it, but I can't pronounce it." He printed on his scratch screen: CIRGAMESÇ.

"Sirgamesk," read Frayberg.

Catlin shook his head. "That's what it looks like but those consonants are all aspirated gutturals. It's more like 'Hrrghameshgrrh'."

"Where did Murphy get this tip?"

"I didn't bother to ask."

"Well," mused Frayberg, "we could always do a show on strange superstitions. Is Murphy around?"

"He's explaining his expense account to Shifkin."

"Get him in here; let's talk to him."

Wilbur Murphy had a blond crew cut, a broad freckled nose, and a serious sidelong squint. He looked from his crumpled sequence idea to Catlin and Frayberg. "Didn't like it, eh?"

"We thought the emphasis should be a little different," explained Catlin. "Instead of 'The Space Horseman,' we'd give it the working title, 'Odd Superstitions of Hrrghameshgrrh'."

"Oh, hell!" said Frayberg. "Call it Sirgamesk."

"Anyway," said Catlin, "that's the angle."

"But it's not superstition," said Murphy.

"Oh, come, Wilbur ..."

"I got this for sheer sober sided fact. A man rides a horse up to meet the incoming ships!"

"Where did you get this wild fable?"

"My brother in law is purser on the Celestial Traveller . At Riker's Planet they make connection with the feeder line out of Cirgamesç."

"Wait a minute," said Catlin. "How did you pronounce that?"

"Cirgamesç. The steward on the shuttle ship gave out this story, and my brother in law passed it along to me."

"Somebody's pulling somebody's leg."

"My brother in law wasn't, and the steward was cold sober."

"They've been eating bhang ... Continue reading book >>




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