The Currents of Space (Page 47)

Genro said, "Say, would you mind if I tried to fly this ship?"

"I have no objection. Can you handle this model?" asked Terens with an excellent imitation of nonchalance.

"I think so," said the other with a little smile. "I flatter myself I can handle any of the regular models. Anyway, I’ve taken the liberty of calling the control tower and there’s a take-off pit available. Here’s my yachtsman’s license if you’d like to see it before I take over."

Terens gave it as cursory a glance as Genro had given his. "The controls are yours," he said.

The ship rolled out of the hangar like an air-borne whale, moving slowly, its diamagnetized hull clearing the smooth-packed clay of the field by three inches.

Terens watched Genro handling the controls with finger-tip precision. The ship was a live thing under his touch. The small replica of the field that was upon the visiplate shifted and changed with each tiny motion of every contact.

The ship came to a halt, pinpointed at the lip of a take-off pit. The diamagnetic field strengthened progressively towards the ship’s prow and it began tipping upward. Terens was mercifully unaware of this as the pilot room turned on its universal gimbals to meet the shifting gravity. Majestically, the ship’s rear flanges fitted into the appropriate grooves of the pit. It stood upright, pointing to the sky.

The duralite cover of the take-off pit slipped into its recess, revealing the neutralized lining, a hundred yards deep, that received the first energy thrusts of the hyperatornic motors.

Genro kept up a cryptic exchange of information with the control tower. Finally, "Ten seconds to take-off," he said.

A rising red thread in a quartz tube marked off the disappearing seconds. It made contact and the first surge of power tore backward.

Terens grew heavier, felt himself pressing against the seat. Panic tore at him.

He grunted, "How does it handle?"

Genro seemed impervious to acceleration. His voice had almost its natural timbre as he said, "Moderately well."

Terens leaned back in his chair, trying to relax with the pressure, watching the stars in the visiplate turn hard and bright as the atmosphere vanished from between himself and them. The kyrt next to his skin felt cold and damp.

They were out in space now. Genro was putting the ship through its paces. Terens had no way of telling that first hand but he could see the stars march steadily across the visiplate as the yachtsman’s long, slim fingers played with the controls as though they were the keys of a musical instrument. Finally a bulky orange segment of a globe filled the visiplate’s clear surface.

"Not bad," said Genro. "You keep your craft in good condition, Deamone. It’s small but it has its points."

Terens said carefully, "I suppose you’d like to test its speed and its jumping capacity. You may, if you like. I have no objection."

Genro nodded. "Very well. Where do you suggest we take ourselves? What about-" He hesitated, then went on, "Well, why not to Sark?"

Terens breathed a little more quickly. He had expected that. He was on the point of believing himself to be living in a world of magic. How things forced his moves, even without his connivance. It would not have been difficult to convince him that it was not "things" but design that prompted the moves. His childhood had been steeped in the superstitions that the Squires fostered among the natives and such things are hard to outgrow. On Sark was uk with his returning memories. The game was not over.

He said wildly, "Why not, Genro?"

Genro said, "Sark it is then."

With gathering speed, the globe of Florina slanted out beyond the visiplate’s view and the stars returned.

"What’s your best time on the Sark-Florina run?" asked Genro.

"Nothing record-breaking," said Terens. "About average."

"Then you’ve done it in better than six hours, I suppose?"

"On occasion, yes."

"Do you object to my trying to shave five?"

"Not at all," said Terens.

It took hours to reach a point far enough from star-mass distortion of the space fabric to make a jump possible.

Terens found wakefulness a torture. This was his third night with little or no sleep and the tensions of the days had exaggerated that lack.

Genro looked at him askance. "Why don’t you turn in?"

Terens forced an expression of liveliness onto his sagging facial muscles. He said, "It’s nothing. Nothing."

He yawned prodigiously and smiled in apology. The yachtsman turned back to his instruments and Terens’ eyes glazed over once again.

Seats in a space-yacht are comfortable by very necessity. They must cushion the person against accelerations. A man not particularly tired can easily and sweetly fall asleep upon them. Terens, who could, at the moment, have slept on broken glass, never knew when he passed the border line.

He slept for hours; he slept as deeply and as dreamlessly as ever in his life.

He did not stir; he showed no single sign of life other than his even breathing when the skullcap was removed from his head.

Terens woke blearily, slowly. For long minutes he had not the slightest notion of his whereabouts. He thought he was back in his Townman’s cottage. The true state of affairs seeped back in stages. Eventually he could smile at Genro, who was still at the controls, and say, "I guess I fell asleep."

"I guess you did. There’s Sark." Genro nodded toward the large white crescent in the visiplate.

"When do we land?"

"About an hour."

Terens was awake enough now to sense a subtle change in the other’s attitude. It was an icy shock to him that the steel-gray object in Genro’s hand turned out to be the graceful barrel of a needle-gun.