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They Also Serve   By: (1933-)

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This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction September 1961. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.




Illustrated by Douglas

Why should people hate vultures? After all, a vulture never kills anyone...

The launch carrying the mail, supplies and replacements eased slowly in toward the base, keeping the bulk of the Moon between itself and Earth. Captain Ebor, seated at the controls, guided the ship to the rocky uneven ground with the easy carelessness of long practice, then cut the drive, got to his walking tentacles, and stretched. Donning his spacesuit, he left the ship to go over to the dome and meet Darquelnoy, the base commander.

An open ground car was waiting for him beside the ship. The driver, encased in his spacesuit, crossed tentacles in a sloppy salute, and Ebor returned the gesture quite as sloppily. Here on the periphery, cast formalities were all but dispensed with.

Ebor stood for a moment and watched the unloading. The cargo crew, used to working in spacesuits, had one truck already half full. The replacements, unused to spacesuits and, in addition, awed and a bit startled by the bleakness of this satellite, were moving awkwardly down the ramp.

Satisfied that the unloading was proceeding smoothly, Ebor climbed aboard the ground car, awkward in his suit, and settled back heavily in the seat to try to get used to gravity again. The gravity of this Moon was slight, of course barely one sixth the gravity of the Home World or most of the colonies but it still took getting used to, after a long trip in free fall.

The driver sat at the controls, and the car jerked into motion. Ebor, looking up, noticed for the first time that the dome wasn't there any more. The main dome, housing the staff and equipment of the base, just wasn't there.

And the driver, he now saw, was aiming the car toward the nearby crater wall. Extending two of his eyes till they almost touched the face plate of his helmet, he could see activity at the base of the crater wall, and what looked like an air lock entrance. He wondered what had caused the change, which had obviously been done at top speed. The last time he'd been here, not very long ago, the dome had still been intact, and there had been no hint of any impending move underground.

The driver steered the car into the open air lock, and they waited until the first cargo truck had lumbered in after them. Then the outer door closed, the pumps were turned on, and in a minute the red light flashed over the inner door. Ebor removed the spacesuit gratefully, left it in the car, and walked clumsily through the inner door into the new base.

A good job had been done on it, for all the speed. Rooms and corridors has been melted out of the rock, the floors had been carpeted, the walls painted, and the ceiling lined with light panels. All of the furnishings had been transferred here from the original dome, and the result looked, on the whole, quite livable. As livable as the dome had been, at least.

But the base commander, Darquelnoy, waiting for his old friend Ebor near the inner door of the lock, looked anything but happy with the arrangement. At Ebor's entrance he raised a limp tentacle in weary greeting and said, "Come in, my friend, come in. Tell me the new jokes from home. I could use some cheering up."

"None worth telling," said Ebor. He looked around. "What's happened here?" he asked. "Why've you gone underground? Why do you need cheering up?"

Darquelnoy clicked his eyes in despair. "Those things !" he cried. "Those annoying little creatures on that blasted planet up there!"

Ebor repressed an amused ripple. He knew Darquelnoy well enough to know that the commander invariably overstated things. "What've they been up to, Dar?" he asked. "Come on, you can tell me over a hot cup of restno... Continue reading book >>

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