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Wind   By: (1917-2007)

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WIND

By CHARLES L. FONTENAY

When you have an engine with no fuel, and fuel without an engine, and a life and death deadline to meet, you have a problem indeed. Unless you are a stubborn Dutchman and Jan Van Artevelde was the stubbornest Dutchman on Venus.

Jan Willem van Artevelde claimed descent from William of Orange. He had no genealogy to prove it, but on Venus there was no one who could disprove it, either.

Jan Willem van Artevelde smoked a clay pipe, which only a Dutchman can do properly, because the clay bit grates on less stubborn teeth.

Jan needed all his Dutch stubbornness, and a good deal of pure physical strength besides, to maneuver the roach flat groundcar across the tumbled terrain of Den Hoorn into the teeth of the howling gale that swept from the west. The huge wheels twisted and jolted against the rocks outside, and Jan bounced against his seat belt, wrestled the steering wheel and puffed at his pijp . The mild aroma of Heerenbaai Tabak filled the airtight groundcar.

There came a new swaying that was not the roughness of the terrain. Through the thick windshield Jan saw all the ground about him buckle and heave for a second or two before it settled to rugged quiescence again. This time he was really heaved about.

Jan mentioned this to the groundcar radio.

"That's the third time in half an hour," he commented. "The place tosses like the IJsselmeer on a rough day."

"You just don't forget it isn't the Zuider Zee," retorted Heemskerk from the other end. "You sink there and you don't come up three times."

"Don't worry," said Jan. "I'll be back on time, with a broom at the masthead."

"This I shall want to see," chuckled Heemskerk; a logical reaction, considering the scarcity of brooms on Venus.

Two hours earlier the two men had sat across a small table playing chess, with little indication there would be anything else to occupy their time before blastoff of the stubby gravity boat. It would be their last chess game for many months, for Jan was a member of the Dutch colony at Oostpoort in the northern hemisphere of Venus, while Heemskerk was pilot of the G boat from the Dutch spaceship Vanderdecken , scheduled to begin an Earthward orbit in a few hours.

It was near the dusk of the 485 hour Venerian day, and the Twilight Gale already had arisen, sweeping from the comparatively chill Venerian nightside into the superheated dayside. Oostpoort, established near some outcroppings that contained uranium ore, was protected from both the Dawn Gale and the Twilight Gale, for it was in a valley in the midst of a small range of mountains.

Jan had just figured out a combination by which he hoped to cheat Heemskerk out of one of his knights, when Dekker, the burgemeester of Oostpoort, entered the spaceport ready room.

"There's been an emergency radio message," said Dekker. "They've got a passenger for the Earthship over at Rathole."

"Rathole?" repeated Heemskerk. "What's that? I didn't know there was another colony within two thousand kilometers."

"It isn't a colony, in the sense Oostpoort is," explained Dekker. "The people are the families of a bunch of laborers left behind when the colony folded several years ago. It's about eighty kilometers away, right across the Hoorn, but they don't have any vehicles that can navigate when the wind's up."

Heemskerk pushed his short billed cap back on his close cropped head, leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his comfortable stomach.

"Then the passenger will have to wait for the next ship," he pronounced. "The Vanderdecken has to blast off in thirty hours to catch Earth at the right orbital spot, and the G boat has to blast off in ten hours to catch the Vanderdecken ."

"This passenger can't wait," said Dekker... Continue reading book >>




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