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The Bramble Bush   By: (1927-1987)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Analog August 1962. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note. Subscript characters are shown within {braces}.

The Bramble Bush

Usually, if a man's gotten into bad trouble by getting into something, he's a fool to go back. But there are times ...

by Randall Garrett

Illustrated by Schelling

There was a man in our town, And he was wond'rous wise; He jumped into a bramble bush, And scratch'd out both his eyes! Old Nursery Rhyme

Peter de Hooch was dreaming that the moon had blown up when he awakened. The room was dark except for the glowing night light near the door, and he sat up trying to separate the dream from reality. He focused his eyes on the glow plate. What had wakened him? Something had, he was sure, but there didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary now.

The explosion in his dream had seemed extraordinarily realistic. He could still remember vividly the vibration and the cr r r ump! of the noise. But there was no sign of what might have caused the dream sequence.

Maybe something fell, he thought. He swung his legs off his bed and padded barefoot over to the light switch. He was so used to walking under the light lunar gravity that he was no longer conscious of it. He pressed the switch, and the room was suddenly flooded with light. He looked around.

Everything was in place, apparently. There was nothing on the floor that shouldn't be there. The books were all in their places in the bookshelf. The stuff on his desk seemed undisturbed.

The only thing that wasn't as it should be was the picture on the wall. It was a reproduction of a painting by Pieter de Hooch, which he had always liked, aside from the fact that he had been named after the seventeenth century Dutch artist. The picture was slightly askew on the wall.

He was sleepily trying to figure out the significance of that when the phone sounded. He walked over and picked it up. "Yeah?"

"Guz? Guz? Get over here quick!" Sam Willows' voice came excitedly from the instrument.

"Whatsamatter, Puss?" he asked blearily.

"Number Two just blew! We need help, Guz! Fast!"

"I'm on my way!" de Hooch said.

"Take C corridor," Willows warned. "A and B caved in, and the bulkheads have dropped. Make it snappy!"

"I'm gone already," de Hooch said, dropping the phone back into place.

He grabbed his vacuum suit from its hanger and got into it as though his own room had already sprung an air leak.

Number Two has blown! he thought. That would be the one that Ferguson and Metty were working on. What had they been cooking? He couldn't remember right off the bat. Something touchy, he thought; something pretty hot.

But that wouldn't cause an atomic reactor to blow. It obviously hadn't been a nuclear blow up of any proportions, or he wouldn't be here now, zipping up the front of his vac suit. Still, it had been powerful enough to shake the lunar crust a little or he wouldn't have been wakened by the blast.

These new reactors could get out a lot more power, and they could do a lot more than the old ones could, but they weren't as safe as the old heavy metal reactors, by a long shot. None had blown up yet quite but there was still the chance. That's why they were built on Luna instead of on Earth. Considering what they could do, de Hooch often felt that it would be safer if they were built out on some nice, safe asteroid preferably one in the Jovian Trojan sector.

He clamped his fishbowl on tight, opened the door, and sprinted toward Corridor C.

The trouble with the Ditmars Horst reactor was that it lacked any automatic negative feedback system. If a D H decided to go wild, it went wild. Fortunately, that rarely happened... Continue reading book >>

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