Alternate orbits (Ace double) by A. Bertram Chandler

By A. Bertram Chandler

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But the necessary maneuvers had been worked out in advance. At the right moment Grimes would come hard to port, presenting his stern to the Iron Warrior. Andersen would loose off his rocket, aiming for a point just abaft the break of the other ship’s fo’c’sle head, where men were already standing by. They would grab the light, nylon rocket line, use it to pull aboard the heavier messenger, use that to drag the end of the towing wire aboard, shackling it to the port anchor cable. After that, it would be plain sailing (Grimes hoped).

Above it was only the mast from which sprouted antennae, radar scanners, anemometers and the like, that was topped by the powerful, group-flashing Steep Island light. Grimes walked slowly to join Sonya and his host, gazed out through the clear glass into the darkness. At regular intervals the beam of the light, a sword of misty radiance, swept overhead. Far to the south, a loom of luminescence on the distant sea horizon, was Port Stellar, and to east and west, fainter still, were other hazy luminosities, island cities, island states.

The magnetic storm, the gauss-jammer thrown light millennia off course, her pile dead and the hungry emergency diesels gulping precious hydrocarbons to feed power to the Ehrenhaft generators, the long plunge into and through the Unknown; the desperate search for a world, any world, that would sustain human life ... Lode Messenger stumbled upon Aquarius and made a safe landing in the vicinity of the North Magnetic Pole. Like all the later ships of her period she carried a stock of fertilized ova, human and animal, a wide variety of plant seeds and an extensive technical library.

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