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The Hero   By:

The Hero by Elaine Wilber

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Willy was undoubtedly a hero. The difficulty lies in deciding which side he was on....

[Illustration: Illustrated by Paul Orban ]

Two months after the landing, Ship UXB 69311 was rigged out with most things needed to make life bearable, if not interesting, for the crew. Perched on the manicured, blue green sod of the planet Engraham, its inner parts were transformed and refitted for the many months of the Exploration. No effort and no flight of imagination had been spared to make the ship resemble more a country club than a barracks. With the permission of Colonel Mondrain, the crew's bunkroom had been completely rearranged, and a segment thereof made into a quietly elegant bar. Plans for this eventual rejuvenation had been fomenting throughout the very tiresome and very monotonous journey.

When they first landed, the natives fled, and thus it was easy to liberate furnishings from the adjacent village. When the inhabitants returned, after the purposes of the visiting Earthman were acknowledged to be harmless, they proved to be too courteous to carp about a few missing articles.

The chairs, of a very advanced design and most comfortable, were made of a light and durable metal alloy thus far unknown to Earth. The bar (which was probably not its purpose on Engraham, no one knew or cared what its function had been) was of a design so futuristic that it would have turned a modern artist mad. The utensils, also liberated, were unbelievably delicate, yet strong and easy to wash. At first, since the Earth had not intended the Exploration to resemble the type that Texas stationed servicemen like to run in Matamoros, there was nothing to drink in the utensils. But hardly six weeks had passed before the first hero of the Exploration, a man named O'Connors, discovered a palatable fruit growing on nearby bushes. By means of a system of improvised pipes (also liberated) it was no time at all before tasty beverages, somewhat strident but quite effective, were being run off and consumed in quantities. The machine known as O'Connors Joy Juicer was concealed behind the bar, and all that was ever seen on the bar when Colonel Mondrain or the Doctors were around was an innocuous fruit juice.

The Earth Command had stocked the ship with reading material, most of it of a disgustingly educational nature, in photostatic cards: and the second hero of the Exploration was a man named Kosalowsky, who discovered in the psychology sections the works of Freud and Krafft Ebing. After this discovery, a few interesting discussions arose.

After these changes had been made, there was very little to do.

The Earth Command had assumed that the natives of Engraham would resent the Explorations (most planets did), and so had sent along the crew of thirty men for protection. All had labored mightily to become part of this special crew, chosen for endurance and known war like qualities. For once they got back to Earth, all were slated to be mustered out of service immediately, decorated to the ears, and awarded full, life time pensions. Many already had contracts to appear on television and one man, Blunt, hinted at a long term Hollywood contract.

But once they got there, there was little to do after all. A guard was posted; instruments were checked; and, although the necessity seemed slight, the ship was kept primed for instantaneous emergency take off. On the day corresponding to Earth's Saturday, the ship was G. I.'d from stem to stern. The maintenance crew made sure that no parts deteriorated or got liberated by enterprising natives. But the natives were not an inventive race. It was discovered by the Doctors (Anker, Frank, Pelham and Flandeau) that the natives literally did not know how to steal. They were backward. Dr. Flandeau, who was making great strides with the language, reported that there was some evidence that the Engrahamites had once possessed this skill, along with murder, mayhem, bad faith, and politics, but had lost it, through a deterioration of the species... Continue reading book >>

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