The Terror From The Depths
Publication date: June 2011
Digital Book format: PDF (Adobe DRM)
Commander John Hanson challenges an appalling denizen of the watery world Hydrot. Excerpt "Good afternoon, sir," nodded Correy as I entered the navigating room. He glanced down at the two glowing three-dimensional navigating charts, and drummed restlessly on the heavy frames. "Afternoon, Mr. Correy. Anything of interest to report?" "Not a thing, sir!" growled my fire-eating first officer. "I'm about ready to quit the Service and get a job on one of the passenger liners, just on the off chance that something exciting might eventually happen." "You were born a few centuries too late," I chuckled. Correy loved a fight more than any man I ever knew. "The Universe has become pretty well quieted down." "Oh, it isn't that; it's just this infernal routine. Just one routine patrol after another; they should call it the Routine Patrol Service. That's what the silver-sleeves at the Base are making of it, sir." At the moment, Correy meant every word he said. Even old-timers develop cases of nerves, now and then, on long tours of duty in small ships like the Ertak. Particularly men like Correy, whose bodies crave physical action. There wasn't much opportunity for physical activity on the Ertak; she was primarily a fighting ship, small and fast, with every inch of space devoted to some utilitarian use. I knew just how Correy felt, because I'd felt the same way a great many times. I was young, then, one of the youngest commanders the Special Patrol Service had ever had, and I recognized Correy's symptoms in a twinkling. "We'll be re-outfitting at the Arpan sub-base in a couple of days," I said carelessly. "Give us a chance to stretch our legs. Have you seen anything of the liner that spoke to us yesterday?" I was just making conversation, to get his mind out of its unhealthy channel. "The Kabit? Yes, sir; we passed her early this morning, lumbering along like the big fat pig that she is." A pig, I should explain, is a food animal of Earth; a fat and ill-looking creature of low intelligence. "The old Ertak went by her as though she were standing still. She'll be a week and more arriving at Arpan. Look: you can just barely make her out on the charts." I glanced down at the twin charts Correy had indicated. In the center of each the red spark that represented the Ertak glowed like a coal of fire; all around were the green pinpricks of light that showed the position of other bodies around us. The Kabit, while comparatively close, was just barely visible; her bulk was so small that it only faintly activated the super-radio reflex plates upon the ship's hull. "We're showing her a pretty pair of heels," I nodded, studying our position in both dimensions. "Arpan isn't registering yet, I see. Who's this over here; Hydrot?" "Right, sir," replied Correy. "Most useless world in the Universe, I guess. No good even for an emergency base." "She's not very valuable, certainly," I admitted. "Just a ball of water whirling through space. But she does serve one good purpose; she's a sign-post it's impossible to mistake." Idly, I picked up Hydrot in the television disk, gradually increasing the size of the image until I had her full in the field, at maximum magnification.