Repairmen of Cyclops
Repairmen of Cyclops
The sky rang with the reverberation of fierce white
sunlight like the interior of a blue drum. Wind hot as the
breath of a furnace teased the silver ocean into ripples,
and the ripples shattered the sun’s image into ablazing
pathway of diamond fragments. Itching with sweat,
aching with tension, Justin Kolb had to narrow his eyes
even behind his wholeface visor because the response-
limit of the glass was exceeded if he turned his head
towards that glistening track over the water and the
opacity curve took a sudden dive towards complete
Maddeningly, it was to sunward that he had caught
the first wing-glints.
He had expected that the sight of the Jackson’s buz-
zards would crystallise his formless tension into the old
familiar excitement, re-unite mind and body into the effi-
cient combination, as much weapon as person, which was
Juson Kolb at peak operational efficiency. He had been
trying for so long to get away on his own like this, on
the hunter’s trail which now had to make do for his old,
preferred pastimes, that the strain of habituation to wait-
ing had soured his keen anticipation of the chase.
Only till I see the buzzards, he had promised himself.
But he’d seen the buzzards at last, when he had half
decided he was too far north even at this season, two
days past midsummer, and the instant of thrill had
beenan instant. Now he was back in the slough of
dreary awareness which had plagued him the whole of
yesterday and the whole of the day before. He was con-
scious of suffocating heat, of blinding brightness, of
prickling perspiration, of cramp from keeping the skim-
mer level and aligned despite the tag of the waves. His
hands were slippery on the controls, and the hard butt of
his harpoon-gan seemed to take up twice as much room
on the skimmer’s deck as it usually did.
Briefly, he shut his eyes, wishing with all his force that
somehow time could turn back and he could be free to
return to space.
Cyclops, though, was a relatively poor world. It could
not support luxury spaceflight. Out there, a man had to
be productivemining asteroids, servicing solar power
relays, doing some clock-around job with the absolute
concentration of machinery.
What the hell am I now? A gigolo.
The thought passed. True or not, he was at least able
to indulge this much of his thirst for excitement and
challenge; if he had taken any other of the courses open
to him, he would have been drudging away this glorious
summer in a city or on a farm or in some squalid fish-
ing-port, pestered continually by the demands of other
people, by the need to stack up work-credits, by holes in
his shoes or leaks in his roof.
Even her high-and-mightiness is preferable to that. ..
He biinked. The wing-glints had come again, and this
time remained in view instead of vanishing into the blur
of heat-haze and shimmery reflection along the skyline.
His pulse beat faster as he began to count: five, six
eight, ten, at least a dozen and possibly more.
Name of the cosmos, but it must be a giantf
For one moment, uncharacteristic alarm filled him. He
had come deliberately to this northern extreme of the
wolfsharks* range, because those that beat a path of
slaughter more than a hundred miles from the equatorial
shallows which were their customary habitat were cer-
tain to be the largest and greediest specimens, and after
his long impatient chafing in Frecity he had felt nothing
less than a monster would compensate him.
But seeing a dozen or more buzzards hovering was ft
It was perhaps the most characteristic sight on Cy-
clops: Jackson’s buzzards, swift, cniel-taloned, steely-
winged, on the track of a wolfshark, which killed for
savage delight and not for hunger, so that even the mon-
strous appetites of the birds were easily glutted by its
gore-leaking victims. At this time of year, nearer the
equator, one could look out over the sea and espy as
many as five or six groups of the carrion-eaters follow-