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قراءة كتاب Thompson's Cat

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Thompson's Cat

Thompson's Cat

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 1



[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Planet Stories September 1952. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

The weird, invisible insect depopulated an entire planet. Now it was felling Thompson's crew as his ship hurtled toward the sun ... certain death for all, including the disease carrier. Forgotten in the panic was Buster, Thompson's wise cat.

"It's a dead world," Thompson spoke. There was awe in his voice, and in spite of his sure knowledge that nothing could happen to him or to his crew here on this world, there was also somewhere inside of him the trace of a beginning fear.

Standing beside him on the rooftop of the building, Kurkil spoke in a whisper, asking a question that had been better unasked. "What killed it?"

Thompson stirred fretfully. He hadn't wanted to hear this question, he didn't want to hear it now. His gaze went automatically to the trim lines of the space cruiser resting quietly in the square below the building. His spirits lifted at the sight. That was his ship, he was in charge of this far-flung exploring expedition thrown out from Sol Cluster to the fringes of the universe, thrown out by Earth-sired races beginning their long exploration of the mysteries of space and of the worlds of space. There was pride in the sight of the ship and pride in the thought of belonging to this space-ranging race. Then his gaze went over the deserted city radiating in all directions from them and he was aware again of the touch of fear.

Resolutely he turned the feeling out of his mind, began seeking an answer to Kurkil's question.

This place had been a city once. If you counted buildings and streets, tall structures where people might work quietly and effectively, broad avenues leading out to trim homes where they might rest in peace after their labors of the day, if you counted these things as being important, it was still a city. But if you thought that the important element in the make-up of a city was its inhabitants then this place no longer deserved the name.

It had no inhabitants.

"I don't know what killed it," Thompson said. Before landing they had circled this world. From the air they had seen more than a dozen cities such as this one. All of them dead, all of them deserted, all of them with streets overgrown by shrubbery, the pavements buckling from the simple pressure of roots pushing upward, the buildings falling away into ruin for the same reason. But they had seen no inhabitants. They had seen the roads the inhabitants had built to connect their cities, deserted now. They had seen the fields where these people had once worked, fields that now were turning back into forests. They had seen no evidence of landing fields for air craft or space ships. The race that had built the cities had not yet learned the secret of wings.

From the roof of the building where they stood, the only living creatures to be seen were visible through the plastic viewport of the ship below them—Grant, the communication specialist, and Buster, the ship's cat.

Grant had been left to guard the vessel. Buster had been required to remain within the ship, obviously against his will. He had wanted to come with Thompson. A trace of a grin came to Thompson's face at the sight of the cat. He and Buster were firm mutual friends.

"I don't like this place," Kurkil spoke suddenly. "We shouldn't have landed here."

Kurkil paused, then his voice came again, stronger now, and with overtones of fear in it. "There's death here." He slapped at his arm, stared around him.

"What happened?"

"Something bit me." He showed the back of his hand. A tiny puncture was visible.

"Some insect," Thompson said. The matter of an insect bite was of no concern. Kurkil, and every other member of this expedition, were disease-proof. Back in Sol Cluster vaccines and