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Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction, October, 1959. Extensive research did not reveal any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Dialect spellings, contractions and discrepancies have been retained.

UNSPECIALIST

[Illustration]

A machine can be built to do any accurately described job better than any man. The superiority of a man is that he can do an unexpected, undescribed, and emergency job ... provided he hasn't been especially trained to be a machine.

BY MURRAY F. YACO

Banner ripped open his orders, read them, stared in disbelief for a quick moment, then cursed wildly while reaching for the telephone.

"Hello, Gastonia? Yes, I got 'em. What kinda way to waste our time you lunkheads think ... oh, it's you, colonel!"

Banner dropped the receiver and let it dangle. He sank into the only soft chair in the apartment and watched hypnotically as the phone's receiver limply coiled and uncoiled at the end of the wire.

Somebody knocked on, then opened the door. "Hi, pretty boy, you got our orders?"

"Come on in and hear about it," Banner said. He got up from the chair, ran his hands compulsively through his recently short cropped red hair, hung up the phone and shoved the orders into his co pilot's hands.

Warcraft read them over three times, then sank into the chair just vacated by Banner. Finally while Banner poured them both a drink he managed to blurt, "Potato fertilizer and tractor fuel Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no!"

"Oh, yes, yes, yes," Banner said bitterly. "We are heroes of the spaceways; yes, indeed. We train for ten years. Acquire great skill in the art of the patrol. We dedicate ourselves to the protection of the Federation. We ready ourselves for war. We gird our young, strong loins, we "

"You're getting hysterical," said Warcraft, who poured himself another drink, began pacing the floor and took up where Banner had left off. "We've never even been lost on patrol. And now they do this. It's unbelievable! Potato fertilizer and tractor fuel. We're supposed to travel thirty six light years, pick up one thousand sleds of the stuff, deliver it to some God forsaken farm planet another thirty years out, and return to base. You know what they'll do then?" He turned to Banner, pointed his finger accusingly and repeated, "You know what they'll do then?"

"How would I know," said Banner, glumly staring into his drink.

"Well, I can tell you what they'll do. Yes, sir, I can tell you." Warcraft's pudgy face and oversize brown eyes seemed to melt into each other, giving him the appearance of an angry, if not very bright, chimpanzee.

"O.K., what'll they do?" Banner said.

"They'll give us medals. That's what they'll do. For safe delivery of one million tons of tractor fuel, you two fine specimens of manhood are hereby presented with the Order of the Oil. And for your courageous service in delivering two million tons of potato fertilizer, you are also awarded the shield of "

"Never mind," Banner said. "It could be worse. They could've saddled us with a Bean Brain. Come on. Let's go to some bar and get sober. We're leaving for freight duty at 1700."

The Bean Brain met them at the air lock. "Name is Arnold. Here's my orders." Banner stared at Warcraft, Warcraft stared at Arnold.

"Get inside," said Banner.

The Bean Brain smiled, "Er ... could you sort of lead the way? I've never been inside a ship before. If you got some kind of can, it would save a mess. I'll probably vomit a while."

They stopped calling him Bean Brain three days later. He was still sick, miserably spacesick, and neither Banner nor Warcraft had the heart to keep needling him. On the fourth day he managed to get up and around. They ate their first meal together that day. "Let's get something straight right off the bat," Banner said... Continue reading book >>




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