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Criminal Negligence   By: (1911-1978)

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[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction June 1955. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.]



Somebody was going to have to be left behind ... and who it would be was perfectly obvious....


Illustrated by Freas

Warden Halloran smiled slightly. "You expect to have criminals on Mars, then?" he asked. "Is that why you want me?"

"Of course we don't, sir!" snapped the lieutenant general. His name was Knox. "We need men of your administrative ability "

"Pardon me, general," Lansing interposed smoothly, "I rather think we'd better give the warden a ... a more detailed picture, shall we say? We have been rather abrupt, you know."

"I'd be grateful if you would," Halloran said.

He watched the lanky civilian as Lansing puffed jerkily on his cigar. A long man, with a shock of black hair tumbling over a high, narrow forehead, Lansing had introduced himself as chairman of the project's coördinating committee ... whatever that was.

"Go ahead," grunted Knox. "But make it fast, doctor."

Lansing smiled at the warden, carefully placed his cigar in the ash tray before him and said, "We've been working on the ships night and day. Both the dust itself and its secondary effects are getter closer to us all the time. We've been so intent on the job it's really been a race against time! that only yesterday one of my young men remembered the Mountain State Penitentiary was well within our sphere of control."

"The country what's left of it has been split up into regions," the general said. "So many ships to each region."

"So," Lansing went on, "learning about you meant there was another batch of passengers to round up. And when I was told the warden was yourself I know something of your career, Mr. Halloran I was delighted. Frankly," he grinned at Knox, "we're long on military and scientific brass and short on people who can manage other people."

"I see." Halloran pressed a buzzer on his desk. "I think some of my associates ought to be in on this discussion."

"Discussion?" barked Knox. "Is there anything to discuss? We simply want you out of here in an hour "

"Please, general!" the warden said quietly.

If the gray clad man who entered the office at that moment heard the general's outburst, he gave no sign. He stood stiffly in front of the warden's big desk, a little to one side of the two visitors, and said, "Yes sir, Mr. Halloran?"

"Hello, Joe. Know where the captain is?"

"First afternoon inspection, sir." He cocked an eye at the clock on the wall behind Halloran. "Ought to be in the laundry about now."

The warden scribbled a few words on a small square of paper. "Ask him to come here at once, please. On your way, please stop in at the hospital and ask Dr. Slade to come along, too." He pushed the paper across the desk to the inmate. "There's your pass."

"Yes sir. Anything else, warden?" He stood, a small, square figure in neat gray shirt and pants, seemingly oblivious to the ill concealed stares of the two visitors.

Halloran thought a moment, then said, "Yes ... I'd like to see Father Nelson and Rabbi Goldsmid, too."

"Uh, Father Nelson's up on the Row, sir. With Bert Doyle."

"Then we'll not bother him, of course. Just the others."

"Yes, sir. On the double."

Lansing slouched around in his chair and openly watched Joe Mario walk out. Then he turned back to Halloran and said, "That chap a ... a trusty, warden?"

"To a degree. Although we no longer use the term. We classify the inmates according to the amount of responsibility they can handle."

"I see. Ah " he laughed embarrassedly, "this is the first time I've been in a prison. Mind telling me what his crime was?"

Halloran smiled gently... Continue reading book >>

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