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قراءة كتاب Potential Enemy

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‏اللغة: English
Potential Enemy

Potential Enemy

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 1


by Mack Reynolds

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Orbit volume 1 number 2, 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Alexander the Great had not dreamed of India, nor even Egypt, when he embarked upon his invasion of the Persian Empire. It was not a matter of being like the farmer: "I ain't selfish, all I want is the land that jines mine." It was simply that after regaining the Greek cities of Asia Minor from Darius, he could not stop. He could not afford to have powerful neighbors that might threaten his domains tomorrow. So he took Egypt, and the Eastern Satrapies, and then had to continue to India. There he learned of the power of Cathay, but an army mutiny forestalled him and he had to return to Babylon. He died there while making plans to attack Arabia, Carthage, Rome. You see, given the military outlook, he could not afford powerful neighbors on his borders; they might become enemies some day.

Alexander had not been the first to be faced with this problem, nor was he the last. So it was later with Rome, and later with Napoleon, and later still with Adolf the Aryan, and still later—

It isn't travel that is broadening, stimulating, or educational. Not the traveling itself. Visiting new cities, new countries, new continents, or even new planets, yes. But the travel itself, no. Be it by the methods of the Twentieth Century—automobile, bus, train, or aircraft—or be it by spaceship, travel is nothing more than boring.

Oh, it's interesting enough for the first few hours, say. You look out the window of your car, bus, train, or airliner, or over the side of your ship, and it's very stimulating. But after that first period it becomes boring, monotonous, sameness to the point of redundance.

And so it is in space.

Markham Gray, free lance journalist for more years than he would admit to, was en route from the Neptune satellite Triton to his home planet, Earth, mistress of the Solar System. He was seasoned enough as a space traveler to steel himself against the monotony with cards and books, with chess problems and wire tapes, and even with an attempt to do an article on the distant earthbase from which he was returning for the Spacetraveler Digest.

When all these failed, he sometimes spent a half hour or so staring at the vision screen which took up a considerable area of one wall of the lounge.

Unless you had a vivid imagination of the type which had remained with Markham Gray down through the years, a few minutes at a time would have been enough. With rare exception, the view on the screen seemed almost like a still; a velvety blackness with pin-points of brilliant light, unmoving, unchanging.

But even Markham Gray, with his ability to dream and to discern that which is beyond, found himself twisting with ennui after thirty minutes of staring at endless space. He wished that there was a larger number of passengers aboard. The half-dozen businessmen and their women and children had left him cold and he was doing his best to avoid them. Now, if there had only been one good chess player—

Co-pilot Bormann was passing through the lounge. He nodded to the distinguished elderly passenger, flicked his eyes quickly, professionally, over the vision screen and was about to continue on his way.

Gray called idly, "Hans, I thought the space patrols very seldom got out here."

"Practically never, sir," the other told him politely, hesitating momentarily. Part of the job was to be constantly amiable, constantly watchful of the passengers out here in deep space—they came down with space cafard at the drop of a hat. Markham Gray reminded Bormann of pictures of Benjamin Franklin he'd seen in