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To Choke an Ocean   By: (1916-1986)

To Choke an Ocean by Jesse F. Bone

First Page:

Transcriber's note:

This etext was produced from the September, 1960, issue of If . Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.




Illustrated by Wood

[Sidenote: Gourmets all agree that nothing can beat oysters on the half shell not even the armed might of the Terran Confederation! ]

"Nice that you dropped in," the man in the detention room said. "I never expected a visit from the Consul General. It makes me feel important."

"The Confederation takes an interest in all of its citizens' welfare," Lanceford said. "You are important! Incidentally, how is it going?"

"Not too bad. They treat me all right. But these natives sure are tough on visitors. I've never been checked so thoroughly in all my life and now this thirty day quarantine! Why, you'd think I was carrying the plague instead of a sample case!"

The chubby little commercial traveller probably had a right to complain, Lanceford thought. After all, a Niobian quarantine station isn't the pleasantest sort of environment. It's not meant to be comfortable, physical discomfort being as good a way as any to discourage casual visitors. The ones who have fortitude enough to stand the entry regulations can get in, but tourists seldom visit Niobe. However, the planet's expanding economy offered a fertile field for salesmen, and men of that stripe would endure far worse hardships than a port of entry in pursuit of the Almighty Credit.

Now this fellow, George Perkins, was a typical salesman. And despite his soft exterior there was a good hard core inside.

Lanceford looked him over and decided that he would last. "You came here of your own free will, didn't you?" he asked.

"If you call a company directive free will," Perkins answered. "I wouldn't come here for a vacation, if that's what you mean. But the commercial opportunities can't be ignored."

"I suppose not, but you can hardly blame the Niobians for being suspicious of strangers. Perhaps there's no harm in you. But they have a right to be sure; they've been burned before." Lanceford uncoiled his lean gray length from the chair and walked over to the broad armorglas window. He stared out at the gloomy view of Niobe's rainswept polar landscape. "You know," he continued, "you might call this Customs Service a natural consequence of uninvestigated visitors." He brooded over the grayness outside. A polar view was depressing scrubby vegetation, dank grassland, the eternal Niobian rain. He felt sorry for Perkins. Thirty days in this place would be sheer torture.

"It must have been quite some disturbance to result in this." Perkins waved his hand at the barren room. "Sounds like you know something about it."

"I do. In a way you might say that I was responsible for it."

"Would you mind telling me?"

"I wouldn't mind at all." Lanceford looked at his watch. "If I have the time, that is. I'm due to be picked up in an hour, but Niobians have some quaint conceptions of time. So if you want to take a chance that I won't finish "

"Go ahead."

"To start with, take a look at that insigne over the door. The whole story's right there."

Perkins eyed the emblem of the Niobian Customs Service. It was a five pointed star surrounding a circle, superimposed over the typically Terran motto: "Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Safety." He nodded.

"How come the Terran style?" he asked.

"That's part of the story. Actually that insigne's a whole chapter of Niobe's history. But you have to know what it stands for." Lanceford sighed reminiscently. "It began during the banquet that celebrated the signing of the Agreement which made Niobe a member of the Confederation. I was the Director of the BEE's Niobe Division at that time. As a matter of fact, I'd just taken the job over from Alvord Sims... Continue reading book >>

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