dimecres, 31 d’agost de 2016

Ex-vector Commander Jim Channing strode purposefully to the reception desk of Planet Enterprises, Inc. "I want," he told the well-built blonde who was making an interested survey of his lean features, "to buy a planet." "Yes, sir." Her interest evaporated. She took a card from a filing cabinet and handed it to him. "If you will just fill this out." It was a simple questionnaire—type, location, size—and Channing's stylo moved rapidly over it. He hesitated only at the last, stark question, "How much are you prepared to pay?" Then he wrote neatly in the space provided "One hundred thousand credits." That was exactly the amount of his signing-off bonus. It also represented his total finances. The unimaginative minds that calculated the pay of a red-blooded space officer didn't take into account all the attractive ways of spending it that a rumbustious pioneer Vector provided. He gave the blonde the card and she wrote a name on it. The smile she gave him was altogether impersonal. She liked the look of the big, gangling fellow with "Space" written all over his bronzed face and crinkled blue eyes, but.... She said, "Will you come this way, please?" The name on the desk identified him as "Mr. Folan" and he was a tall, affable man. "I think we can suit you, Commander—er—Mr. Channing," he said, "though what we have in mind mightn't be quite as large as you wish. Earth-type planets come rather high, you know. Now if you were to choose a Sirius- or a Vega-type—" "Thank you, no," Jim said firmly. He had heard too much about the hazards of alien-type planets. "In that case," Mr. Folan said busily, "let's see what we have available." A month later the doors of the automatic shuttle slid across and admitted Jim Channing to the third planet of Phylox Beta. It also disgorged one spaceboat, a clutter of machinery, a thousand tons of strawberry plants and a fully equipped house. While he was still taking in the first glimpse of his future home, the massive doors slammed shut and the giant ship took off smoothly and silently. A moment later it winked into sub-space. He was in business. The planet possessed only one sizable island—it could hardly be dignified by the name of continent. The rest was covered by a vast ocean. Still, as Folan had explained, he couldn't really expect anything more—not in the line of an Earth-type, anyway—for the money. He spent a week figuring out the remote controls that operated the planting machinery. Once it clanked into operation, it worked entirely on its own. He had only to push a few buttons to send it lumbering in new directions and the big island steadily took on a resemblance to a huge strawberry patch while Channing fished and lounged in the sun. When the galactic trade agent came, the strawberries were waiting for him, neatly piled into a mountain of gleaming cans. He was a friendly, talkative little man, glad to exercise his tongue again after the lonely months in space. "What are you growing here?" he asked Channing. "Strawberries." The friendly smile disappeared. "Every planet in the Galaxy seems to be growing strawberries this year. I can't even give them away." "But I thought the Ursa Major colonies—" The little man shook his head. "So does everyone else. There's a million tons of strawberries the colonies can't use headed there already. Now if it was upklin seeds—" "Upklin seeds?" The agent looked at him in surprise. "You mean you haven't heard about upklin seeds?" "No. Not a thing." "Well, of course, you are a newcomer. It's this new race that's been discovered somewhere in The Sack. They are as rich as all get-out and they have a passion for upklin seeds. Trouble is they can't grow them on local planets and they are offering fancy prices to anybody that can supply them. I paid a thousand credits a bushel for them to your next-door neighbor on the fourth planet last week. Got a hundred bushels." Channing did a bit of mental arithmetic. A hundred thousand credits for one crop. Whew! "Could I grow them here?" The agent shook his head. "You need p

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