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Uniform of a Man   By: (1915-2003)

Uniform of a Man by Dave Dryfoos

First Page:

Uniform of a Man

By Dave Dryfoos

Illustrated by Rudolph Palais

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science Fiction March 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: After rescue, revenge was uppermost in Chet Barfield's mind; the hideous, bestial Agvars had to be taught a lesson they'd never forget. His rescuers seemed to disagree, however until Chet learned his lesson too! ]

In the village clearing, under the diffuse red sun of Hedlot, Chet Barfield listened intently. Mostly he heard the villagers, the Agvars, noisy with the disregard for sound that comes of defective hearing.

But above their clamor was another note. No ... Yes! There it was again the swish roar scream of a spaceship!

Chet's heart lifted to the altitude of that ship. Rescue! Rescue was at hand for him, after three years as a prisoner.

Thought of it momentarily overcame the passivity that years of starvation had made his habit. He even forgot himself enough to walk erect a few steps, staring skyward heavenward! within cupped hands.

But the dense hardwood chain on his ankle brought him up short. When it tightened, he remembered, and slouched to all fours again, moving with the gorilla like gait of the Agvars toward the unshaded post he was chained to.

He'd been observed. Pawfulls of dirt stung his bent and whip scarred back, and a treble chorus stung his ears and nerves. The village boys were chanting derisively. Chet had never been able to learn the language, but the tone of voice was unmistakable.

He huddled against the post, knees to chin, hands clasped around his matted hair, awaiting the inevitable sticks and slops. He heard the children's voices fade as they scattered throughout the village of haphazard lean tos in search of especially sickening things to throw. For a few minutes, then, he'd have a breather. But not for long they wouldn't forget....

No. But the fellows hadn't forgotten him, either. He could stand this for a day or two more. A week or a month, even. It didn't matter. This would end soon.

His turn would come! He'd make these devils suffer as he had suffered. He swore it!

He was glad he'd stayed alive for this. It had been a fight to live, a struggle he'd often thought futile while he made it. Learning to eat whatever he could get, training himself to breathe the local atmosphere in the special rhythm its composition required, accepting degradations too cruel for a captive animal, avoiding the resistance that would have brought merciful murder.... All that, yet it felt strange, now, to be so glad he was alive.

He heard the children returning, and crouched lower. A few clots of garbage spattered against the post teasers, to make him angry, so he'd turn to howl his rage, and offer his face as a target.

Good memories, these little beasts had. It was almost a year since he'd last done that....

Well, he had a memory, too. And while they pelted him from fairly close range, now, with sharp rocks among the wads of filth he could take refuge in the memory of those last glorious days on Earth.

Remembrance was itself a change brought by the roaring ship; usually he moped in a vegetative daze. But now he recalled how he'd looked in the tight white uniform: six feet of well fed muscle accentuated by the garment's lines, the blue stars on each lapel just matching his eyes, the peak of his cap harmonizing with the straight line of his jaw.

He remembered how he'd sounded, speaking words of nonchalant and unfelt modesty in the soft Southern voice the girls had liked so well. He could have had his pick of girls. He'd been a picked man himself.

Highly selected that was the phrase. He was highly selected, Chet reminded himself, shrinking as the children came closer and their missiles began to really hurt... Continue reading book >>

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