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Postmark Ganymede   By: (1935-)

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Consider the poor mailman of the future. To "sleet and snow and dead of night" things that must not keep him from his appointed rounds will be added, sub zero void, meteors, and planets that won't stay put. Maybe he'll decide that for six cents an ounce it just ain't worth it.

"I'm washed up," Preston growled bitterly. "They made a postman out of me. Me a postman!"

He crumpled the assignment memo into a small, hard ball and hurled it at the bristly image of himself in the bar mirror. He hadn't shaved in three days which was how long it had been since he had been notified of his removal from Space Patrol Service and his transfer to Postal Delivery.

Suddenly, Preston felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up and saw a man in the trim gray of a Patrolman's uniform.

"What do you want, Dawes?"

"Chief's been looking for you, Preston. It's time for you to get going on your run."

Preston scowled. "Time to go deliver the mail, eh?" He spat. "Don't they have anything better to do with good spacemen than make letter carriers out of them?"

The other man shook his head. "You won't get anywhere grousing about it, Preston. Your papers don't specify which branch you're assigned to, and if they want to make you carry the mail that's it." His voice became suddenly gentle. "Come on, Pres. One last drink, and then let's go. You don't want to spoil a good record, do you?"

"No," Preston said reflectively. He gulped his drink and stood up. "Okay. I'm ready. Neither snow nor rain shall stay me from my appointed rounds, or however the damned thing goes."

"That's a smart attitude, Preston. Come on I'll walk you over to Administration."

Savagely, Preston ripped away the hand that the other had put around his shoulders. "I can get there myself. At least give me credit for that!"

"Okay," Dawes said, shrugging. "Well good luck, Preston."

"Yeah. Thanks. Thanks real lots."

He pushed his way past the man in Space Grays and shouldered past a couple of barflies as he left. He pushed open the door of the bar and stood outside for a moment.

It was near midnight, and the sky over Nome Spaceport was bright with stars. Preston's trained eye picked out Mars, Jupiter, Uranus. There they were waiting. But he would spend the rest of his days ferrying letters on the Ganymede run.

He sucked in the cold night air of summertime Alaska and squared his shoulders.

Two hours later, Preston sat at the controls of a one man patrol ship just as he had in the old days. Only the control panel was bare where the firing studs for the heavy guns was found in regular patrol ships. And in the cargo hold instead of crates of spare ammo there were three bulging sacks of mail destined for the colony on Ganymede.

Slight difference , Preston thought, as he set up his blasting pattern.

"Okay, Preston," came the voice from the tower. "You've got clearance."

"Cheers," Preston said, and yanked the blast lever. The ship jolted upward, and for a second he felt a little of the old thrill until he remembered.

He took the ship out in space, saw the blackness in the viewplate. The radio crackled.

"Come in, Postal Ship. Come in, Postal Ship."

"I'm in. What do you want?"

"We're your convoy," a hard voice said. "Patrol Ship 08756, Lieutenant Mellors, above you. Down at three o'clock, Patrol Ship 10732, Lieutenant Gunderson. We'll take you through the Pirate Belt."

Preston felt his face go hot with shame. Mellors! Gunderson! They would stick two of his old sidekicks on the job of guarding him.

"Please acknowledge," Mellors said.

[Illustration: "The iceworms were not expecting any mail just the mailman."]

Preston paused... Continue reading book >>

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