Fantasy Adventures 2
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by Philip J. Harbottle
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Description: The latest Fantasy Adventures anthology features new works by E. C. Tubb ("Figona," a new Dumarest of Terra story), plus Sydney J. Bounds, Eric C. Williams, and David Somers--plus two classic rarities from Tubb and John Russell Fearn ("De-Creation," a short novel).
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, 2002 USA
eBookwise Release Date: October 2002
7 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [259 KB]
Reading time: 166-233 min.
FIGONA A new "Dumarest" story E. C. TUBB
The captain was dying. He had been dying all during their recent voyage, growing skeletal-thin, coughing clots of stained mucus and gobbets of ravaged tissue from decaying lungs. Spending the last of his strength to land safely then to slump in the big chair in the control cabin to stare with glassy eyes at the screens, dials, glowing signals from the assembled panels. Standing beside him Dumarest heard the liquid rasping, the soft rustle of clothing against plastic, saw the twist of the lips, the movements of the hands and eyes, the ghastly sagging of a face now more than old.
"Steady," he soothed. "Just rest easy."
"Rest?" Bazan Deralta heaved in his chair. Coughing he fought the phlegm which clogged his throat. "Earl!"
He positioned the bowl, waited as the captain hawked and spat, clearing his throat, breathing with a harsh, ragged sound. He lifted a protesting hand as Dumarest wiped his lips as he slumped back into his chair.
"No, Earl! That's enough!"
Ignoring him he dipped the cloth into scented water and laved the captain's forehead, throat and cheeks. The flesh burned as if with inner fire.
"How is he?" Entering the control room the navigator stared at the slumped figure. "Bad as ever. The poor devil. He hasn't a hope of making it."
"We could take him to the infirmary."
"Sure," agreed Raistar. He was a tall, aging man with a harassed expression and a curt, blunt manner. "They could take him and check his insides and take samples so as to grow new tissue. When ready they could slice him open and replace his diseased organs and dump him into an amniotic tank. Slowtime would speed the healing. They could fix him up as good as new. It could all be done in a few weeks." Bitterly he added, "All it takes is money."
"He has money. He has the ship."
"And when that's gone, what then?" The navigator shook his head. "And you're wrong, Earl. The captain doesn't own the ship. We all have a share. So we sell it and pay for the treatment. If it works the captain will be alive--but there will be no ship. At his age he hasn't a chance of getting another command. Not even a berth. He'd be stranded."
"Or he doesn't make it." Raistar ignored the comment. "And we still have no ship."
"He's the captain! You just can't let him die!"
"We can't ruin ourselves to give him a chance." Anger tinged the navigator's voice. "You think we don't give a damn? You think we don't care? But the facts are what they are. Either way we'd be stranded. Can you even begin to imagine what that would be like? No berth, no cash, no future. No escape from this hell-hole of a world. It's a gamble we can't win. One we aren't going to take."
"He's right, Earl." Zander had joined them in the control room. "We'll do the best we can but we can't take the captain to the infirmary. The authorities will be notified in case of contamination. The ship will be impounded and there will be heavy fees mounting day by day."
"We can work to pay them."
"It isn't as simple as that," said the engineer. "We can't afford to linger. As soon as Jesso has got us a cargo we're off."
"Without a captain?"
"Raistar can handle the ship. He can take care of the formalities. No one will know about the captain. Once in space we'll do the best we can."
A best that needn't be good enough. None of the drugs they had carried had helped and Dumarest felt a chill of foreboding as he again bathed the burning flesh of the emaciated face. One he had come to know and like too well. A face of a man he had come to think of as a father, someone who had helped, who seemed to understand, to be concerned. One who was going to die.