The Beasts in the Void, p.1Paul W. Fairman
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This etext was produced from Imagination April 1956. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
The Beasts In The Void
_Paul W. Fairman_
Illustrated by W. E. Terry
Holloway was used to big game hunters and their expeditions to other worlds. But this trip was sheer madness--a space ship stalking among--
* * * * *
The examiner looked doubtful and said, "But Mr. Holloway, regulationsrequire that I read your log before I take verbal testimony."
Holloway's face was drawn and ravaged. His bloodshot eyes sat inblack pits. They were trained on the Examiner but looked through himrather than at him.
Holloway said, "But, I _must_ talk! I've got to tell you about it. Ihave to keep talking."
Holloway's words tumbled out. "It started in the control cabin therein deep space. When Mrs. Kelvey came in. She was the blonde one. Iturned around and she said, 'Captain, there's a great big tiger in thecompanionway.'"
The desperate Holloway, fearful of being stopped or running out ofwords, went into minute detail. "She made the statement as a poutingcomplaint, almost casually. Then, before I could speak, she realizedwhat she'd said and her face changed. A kind of horrified double-take.'_A tiger? In the companionway of a space ship?_' This last was anincredulous question she asked herself. Then she fainted. I lookedoutside. I thought I saw something blurred and indistinct but itvanished quickly if it was really there at all. The companionway wasempty. No tiger. No animal of any kind--"
The Examiner, holding up a hand of protest, looked like a mandirecting traffic. "Please, Mr. Holloway--please. We must rememberregulations."
Holloway's eyes closed for a moment but he resolutely forced them openas though afraid of something.
The scene was Holloway's two-room suite in the Space Port Hotel. Therewere three men present--Holloway, skipper of the _Space King_, JohnMason, Port Resident, and Merle Kennedy, Section Examiner for theSpace Authority people. Kennedy regarded Holloway with frank concern.Good heavens--the man was a complete mess. Looked ready to collapse.Kennedy turned to Mason. "This can be postponed, you know."
Mason was regarding Holloway also. Strange, he thought; Holloway hadleft in a fanfare of publicity. Now it appeared his return would beeven more dramatic. Maybe Holloway was that kind of a chap; the kindthings just happened to.
He was quite young though he certainly didn't look it now. He'd beenknown as a playboy ever since his father struck it big in Venusianoil. But good-looking, personable, he had worn the label well. He'dbeen good copy because the public regarded him with patronizingaffection. To them, he'd been a nice kid having fun; not a youngwastrel wasting his father's money.
Naturally he would pick a glamour girl to play the romantic femininerole and Melody Hayden had filled the bill perfectly. Together, theyhad enchanted the public. Princess and Prince Charming stuff. Thentragedy. Disaster in a rocketing sports car; Melody's coffin sealedbefore the funeral; young Holloway coming off without a scratch.Melody's death was a bombshell and everyone asked. _What will he donow?_ expecting of course, something sensational.
He didn't let them down. Dramatically, he announced a completely newlife. He bought a space ship and foreswore his old ways. He had quitea reputation as a big game hunter. He'd stalked the vicious Plutonianice bears and lain in Venusian swamps waiting for the ten-ton lizardsto rise out of the slime. He had knocked over the wiliest of animals,a telepathic Uranian mountain wolf and had dropped in flight a Martianradar-bat, a feat duplicated by only three other marksmen of record.
So what more natural occupation than guiding hunting parties in deepspace? Holloway had been obviously torn by Melody's tragic death.Perhaps out among the stars he could forget.
* * * * *
There had been some trouble, Mason recalled, in clearing Holloway'sfirst cruise. A party of five. Not to any established hunting groundbut a D. U. thing. _Destination Unknown_, and they were alwaystrouble. Clearance had been made, though, and now--here was Hollowayback again--dramatically of course--with one of his party dead and theother four in trance-like stupors. Strange.
And stranger still, Holloway's reason for wanting to talk immediately;with no rest--no medical attention:
"It will help keep me awake. I mustn't go to sleep. Can't I make youunderstand? _I've got to stay awake._"
Mason pitied the man. He turned to Kennedy. "I have the log here, sir.Perhaps you could go over it now--"
Holloway leaned forward. "I'll tell you what's in the log. Every wordof it. If I just sit here waiting--"
Mason laid a hand on his knee. "It's all right, old chap. I won't letyou go to sleep. You and I will talk while Mr. Kennedy goes throughthe log. It won't take long."
Mason handed the book to Kennedy. He was almost apologetic. "It's astrange log, sir, It--"
"Strange?" Kennedy frowned. Logs had no right to be strange. Therewere regulations--rules stating exactly how a log should be kept.
"Well sir, the lad is young. His first trip. I just meant there'sperhaps a little more in the log than should appear there."
"We'll see," Kennedy said. There was a slight frost on his words. Ifdisciplinary measures were in the offing it would pay not to get toocozy with Holloway and the Resident.
Kennedy opened the log. The first entry was dated June 3rd, 4:10 p. m.Earth time. Kennedy frowned. Permissible of course, but sloppy, verysloppy. The better skippers computed from Orion immediately afterblast-off. Kennedy set back and began to read:
_June 3rd, 4:10 p. m._
We blasted at 2:18 p. m. A good getaway. Course 58.329 by the polarangle. No blast sickness among the passengers. They are old hands. Iput the automatic board into control at 3:50 p. m. I checked thetubes. Pressures balanced and equal.
I don't like this cruise. I don't like Murdo. He's a domineering slob.The other four, well--Keebler is an alcoholic, Kelvey an empty-headedopportunist. I don't particularly dislike them. They're just aworthless pair who would rather fawn on Murdo and take his insultsthan work for a living. The two wives are both young. Martha Keeblerhas a child's mind in a woman's body. Jane Kelvey is an oversexedwitch with an indecent exposure complex. I may have trouble with her.Already she's parading around in skimpy shorts and a bra. EvidentlyMurdo doesn't care for women. He pays no attention to her. Money andpower are his dish. And a terrible restlessness.
Melody baby--I wish you were here--
_June 4th, 3:00 p. m._
I had a talk with Murdo about this silly cruise. Tried to swing himonto something that makes a little more sense. Pluto, Venus,Ganymede--some hunting ground I'm familiar with. No good. Even asuggestion and he thinks you're crossing him and snorts like a bull.Still demands to go to this place where big game prowls in space.Where elephants and leopards and snakes and anything you can name flyaround your ship and look in your ports. Where you do your hunting inspace suits right out in the void.
Why in hell did I fall for this idiocy? Guess I just didn't care.Maybe I thought it was a good idea because it sounded like a cruiseyou could get killed on without much trouble. No--I shouldn't saythat. Melody wouldn't like me to say it. She was so wonderful--solevel-headed. How wrong they all were about us. About her. Because shewas so beautiful, I guess. I tried to tell them I'd married an angeland they took bets among themselves on how
Course 28.493 by the polar angle. Went through small asteroidfield....
* * * * *
Kennedy looked up sharply. He frowned. "This log is unacceptable."
Holloway was pacing the floor, his eyes blank and terrible"Unacceptable?"
"Course and position should be noted within each twenty-four hourperiod. You missed June 5th entirely. You--" Kennedy leafed throughthe pages. "Why at times you missed three and four days in
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