Next Door, Next World

by: Douglas

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
ISBN: N/A
Language: English
Published: 1 week ago
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Excerpt

ungrily, the cradled vessel's great steel nose pointed up to the distant stars. She was the Cosmos XII, newest and sleekest of the Space Service's rapidly-expanding wing of interstellar scout ships, and she was now ready for operational work.

Major Lance Cooper, a big man with space-tanned features, stood in the shadow of the control bunker and watched the swarm of ground crewmen working at last-minute speed atop the loading tower. Inside him burned a hunger, too.

Hunger, and another emotion—pride.

The pride swelled Lance's open-collared khaki shirt, as he envisioned himself at the ship's controls within a few minutes. Finally, after long years of study, sweat and dedication, he'd made it to the Big League. No more jockeying those tubby old rocket-pots to Luna! From here on, he was going to see, taste, feel what the universe was like way, way out—in Deep Space. The Cosmos XII, like her earlier sisters, was designed to plow through that shuddery nowhere the cookbooks identified as "hyperspace."

Lance's glance shifted upward, scanning the velvet backdrop of frosty white points of light against which the slender, silverish, almost wingless form stood framed. More stars than a man could visit in a lifetime! And some already within grasp!

His exultant feeling grew, and Lance kept his head tilted backward. Alpha Centauri, the most popular target, was not visible at this latitude; and Barnard's star, besides being far too faint, lay on the other side of the sun. But there shone Sirius, just as bright as it had glittered for the Greeks, and frosty Procyon, a little to the north. Both orbs twinkled and beckoned, evoking strange and demanding dreams!

One day, Man would be able to make landings. Teams of scientists outfitted to the eyebrows and trained to cope with any environment or emergency, would explore unknown jungles, llanos, steppes; tramp up and down fertile vales and hills under blue-hot alien suns. Perhaps, they might even contact native species boasting human intelligence: mammalian hunters and fishers, city-building lizards, sky-probing arachnids—who knew what?

But now, of course, all that Headquarters permitted of flights was the most furtive of reconnoitering. You hoisted your scout ship aloft under high-gee, cleared the ecliptic, then swung out of normal space and jumped. When you materialized in the new sector, you set your cameras clicking, toggled all the other instruments into recording radiation, gravity pressures, spectroscopy, at slam-bang speed. The very instant your magnetic tapes got crammed to capacity, you pressed six dozen panic buttons and scooted like a scared jackrabbit for Home, Sweet Home.

Adventure? It wasn't even mentioned on the travel posters, yet.

But, adventure would follow.

Some day.

Meanwhile, at the taxpayers' expense, you—the guardian of the Peace—had enjoyed the billion-dollar thrill of viewing our Solar System from light-years and light-years of distance. Or so the manual said, right here on Insert Page 30-Dash-11-Dash-6....