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longer before we can start harvesting again."
"Have we any supplies on hand now?"
"A few tons of assorted blooms mainly the red-purples. The Earth shipment last Tuesday
took off almost everything."
George fell into a reverie.
His brother waited a moment and said sharply, "Well, what's on your' mind? What's the
news from Aresopolis?"
"Domned bad! The quake's leveled three-fourths o' Ares- opolis and the rest's pretty much
gutted with fire, I rackon. There 're fifty thousand that'll have t' camp out nights. That's no fun
in Martian autumn weather with the Airth gravity system broken down."
Alien whistled, "Pneumonia!"
"And common colds and influenza and any o' half doz'n diseases t' say nothing o' people
bairnt.  Old Vincent is raising cain."
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"Wants blooms?"
"He's only got a two-day supply on hand. He's got t' have more."
Both, were speaking quietly, almost with indifference, with the vast understatement that is all
that makes great crises bearable.
There was a pause and then George spoke again, "What's the best we c'n do?"
"Not under a week not if we kill ourselves to do it. If they could send over a ship as soon
as the storm dies down, we might be able to send what we have as a temporary supply until
we can get over with the rest."
"Silly even t' think o' that. The Aresopolis port is just ruins. They haven't a ship t' their
names."
Again silence. Then Alien spoke in a low, tense voice. "What are you waiting for? What's
that look on your face for?"
"I'm waiting fr y' t' admit y'r domned machines have failed y' in the fairest emairgency we've
had t' meet."
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"Admitted," snarled the Earthman.
"Good! And now its up t' me t' show y' what human in- genuity can do." He handed a sheet
of paper to his brother, "There's a copy of the message I sent Vincent."
Alien looked long at his brother and slowly read the pen- cilled scribbling.
"Will deliver all we have on hand in thirty-six hours. Hope it will keep you going the few days
until we can get a real shipment out. Things are a little rough out here."
"How are you going to do it?" demanded Alien, upon fin- ishing.
"I'm trying to show y'," answered George, and Alien real- ized for the first time that they had
left Central and were out in the caverns.
George led the way for five minutes and stopped before an object bulking blackly in the
dimness. He turned on the sec- tion lights and said, "Sand truck!"
The sand truck was not an imposing object. With the low driving car in front and the three
squat, open-topped freight- cars behind, it presented a picture of obsolete decrepitude.
Fifteen years ago, it had been relegated to the dust-heap by the sand-sleds and
rocket-freights.
The Ganymedan was speaking, "Checked it an hour ago, m'self, and 'tis still in wairking
order. It has shielded bearings,
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air conditioning unit f'r the driving car, and an intairnal com- bustion engine."
The other looked up sharply. There was an expression of distaste on his face. "You mean it
burns chemical fuel."
"Yup! Gas'line. That's why I like it. Reminds me o' Gany- mede. On Gannie, I had a gas
engine that "
"But wait a while. We haven't any of that gasoline."
"No, rackon not. But we got lots o' liquid hydrocarbons round the place. How about Solvent
D? That's mostly octane. We've got tanks o' it."
Alien said, "That's so; but the truck holds only two."
"I know it. I'm one."
"And I'm the other."
George grunted, "I rackond y'd say that but this isn't going t' be a push-button machine job.
Rackon y'r up t' it, Airthman?"
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"I reckon I am Gannie."
The sun had been up some two hours before the sand- truck's engine whirred into life, but
outside, the murk had become, if anything, thicker.
The main driveway within the caverns was ahum with activity. Grotesque figures with eyes
peering through the thick glass of improvised air-helmets stepped back as the truck's broad,
sand-adapted wheels began their slow turn. The three cars behind had been piled high with
purple blooms, canvas covers had been thrown over them and bound down tightly, and
now the signal was given to open the doors.
The lever was jerked downwards and the double doors sep- arated with sand-clogged
protests. Through a gray whirl of inblown sand, the truck made its way outwards, and behind
it sand-coated figures brushed at their air-helmets and closed the doors again. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]