A Spaceship Named McGuire

by: Douglas

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
Language: English
Published: 1 week ago
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o. Nobody ever deliberately named a spaceship that. The staid and stolid minds that run the companies which design and build spaceships rarely let their minds run to fancy. The only example I can think of is the unsung hero of the last century who had puckish imagination enough to name the first atomic-powered submarine Nautilus. Such minds are rare. Most minds equate dignity with dullness.

This ship happened to have a magnetogravitic drive, which automatically put it into the MG class. It also happened to be the first successful model to be equipped with a Yale robotic brain, so it was given the designation MG-YR-7—the first six had had more bugs in them than a Leopoldville tenement.

So somebody at Yale—another unsung hero—named the ship McGuire; it wasn't official, but it stuck.

The next step was to get someone to test-hop McGuire. They needed just the right man—quick-minded, tough, imaginative, and a whole slew of complementary adjectives. They wanted a perfect superman to test pilot their baby, even if they knew they'd eventually have to take second best.

It took the Yale Space Foundation a long time to pick the right man.

No, I'm not the guy who tested the McGuire.

I'm the guy who stole it.

Shalimar Ravenhurst is not the kind of bloke that very many people can bring themselves to like, and, in this respect, I'm like a great many people, if not more so. In the first place, a man has no right to go around toting a name like "Shalimar"; it makes names like "Beverly" and "Leslie" and "Evelyn" sound almost hairy chested. You want a dozen other reasons, you'll get them.

Shalimar Ravenhurst owned a little planetoid out in the Belt, a hunk of nickel-iron about the size of a smallish mountain with a gee-pull measurable in fractions of a centimeter per second squared. If you're susceptible to spacesickness, that kind of gravity is about as much help as aspirin would have been to Marie Antoinette. You get the feeling of a floor beneath you, but there's a distinct impression that it won't be there for long. It keeps trying to drop out from under you.

I dropped my flitterboat on the landing field and looked around without any hope of seeing anything. I didn't. The field was about the size of a football field, a bright, shiny expanse of rough-polished metal, carved and smoothed flat from the nickel-iron of the planetoid itself. It not only served as a landing field, but as a reflector beacon, a mirror that flashed out the sun's reflection as the planetoid turned slowly on its axis. I'd homed in on that beacon, and now I was sitting on it.

There wasn't a soul in sight. Off to one end of the rectangular field was a single dome, a hemisphere about twenty feet in diameter and half as high. Nothing else.

I sighed and flipped on the magnetic anchor, which grabbed hold of the metal beneath me and held the flitterboat tightly to the surface. Then I cut the drive, plugged in the telephone, and punched for "Local."

The automatic finder searched around for the Ravenhurst tickler signal, found it, and sent out a beep along the same channel.

I waited while the thing beeped twice. There was a click, and a voice said: "Raven's Rest. Yes?" It wasn't Ravenhurst.

I said: "This is Daniel Oak. I want to talk to Mr. Ravenhurst."

"Mr. Oak? But you weren't expected until tomorrow."

"Fine. I'm early. Let me talk to Ravenhurst."

"But Mr. Ravenhurst wasn't expecting you to—"

I got all-of-a-sudden exasperated....