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A Transmutation of Muddles   By: (1918-1997)

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An experienced horse trader, bargain haggler, and general swapper has a very special talent for turning two headaches into one aspirin pill....


Illustrated by Van Dongen

The rugged little stellar scout ship flared down to the surface of Kappa Orionis VII about a mile from the aboriginal village. The pilot, Lieutenant Eric Haruhiku, scorched an open field, but pointed out to Louis Mayne that he had been careful to disturb neither woodland nor shoreline.

"The Kappans are touchy about those, Judge," he explained, "They fish a lot, as you'd guess from all these shallow seas, and they pick fruit in the forests; but they don't farm much."

"No use provoking trouble," Mayne approved. "It's a long way from Rigel."

"It's a longer way from Sol," said the pilot.

"Don't I know, boy! If it weren't, I'd be just another retired space captain, quietly struggling with my ranch on Rigel IX. As it is, to get the grant, I had to remain on call as an arbitrator."

"Somebody has to settle these things," said Haruhiku. "There's not much law way out here, except what the Space Force can apply. Well, if you'll excuse me, sir, I'll have them get out the helicopter and take us over to the village."

"Let me see that last message again, before you go," Mayne requested.

The pilot extracted a sheet from his clipboard and handed it to Mayne as he left. Mayne studied the text with little pleasure.

Terran Space Force headquarters on Rigel IX wished to inform him that the long awaited envoy from Terra to Kappa Orionis VII not only had arrived but had departed two days behind Mayne.

It was hoped, the communication continued, that nothing would interfere with the desired objective of coming to some friendly agreement with the Kappans that would permit Terran use of the planet as a base for spaceships. The envoy, of course, was prepared to offer trade inducements and various other forms of help to the semi civilized natives. Mayne was requested to lay whatever groundwork he could.

In my spare time, no doubt , he reflected. I'm to settle this silly business any way at all as long as the natives get their way. But has anybody told the government about insurance companies? If it costs money or a lawsuit, will they back me up?

He felt himself to be in a ridiculous dilemma. The Kappans were reported to have seized a Terran spaceship as it landed to trade. Naturally, the captain had squawked for help. He claimed he had crashed; his insurance company thought otherwise; the Kappans seemed to have some entirely different idea in mind. Mayne had been summoned into action to render a decision, after the rough and ready system of these settlements on the surface of Terra's sphere of explored space.

Regretfully, he made his way now to the cubbyhole allowed him on the cramped scout, where he changed to a more formal tunic of a bright blue he hoped would look impressive to native eyes. By the time he was ready, the helicopter was waiting. He and Haruhiku entered, and the crewman at the controls took off for the scene of the dispute.

Arriving over the village, they hovered a few minutes while Haruhiku studied the lay of the land. The lieutenant had been to this world before, long enough to pick up some of the language and customs, so Mayne was content to follow his advice about landing a little way off from a spaceship that towered outside the village.

They came down about a hundred yards away, between a rutted sort of road and a long hut covered by a curved, thatched roof.

"They're expecting us," said Haruhiku, gesturing at the group before the hut.

It consisted of half a dozen humans and several of the Kappan natives. The latter, naturally, caught Mayne's eye first. The most imposing individual among them stood about five feet tall. The planet being of about the same mass as Terra, the Kappan probably weighed over two hundred and fifty pounds... Continue reading book >>

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