The old racketeer breathed a sigh of relief. “Well,” he said. “I’m glad that’s over. I thought we’d never get a break.” That was almost like the old days…
I thought the old man would never lay her in her orbit. How long we been sweatin’ it out, anyhow? “Four hours, eh? Well, a four hour buck is pretty rare, nowadays, isn’t it?”
“Never seen a longer one, eh? Well, I’ll tell you, back in the old days, son, a four hour buck would have been sheer luck. We’d have patted ourselves on the back for weeks for getting into the fall so quick. In those days, ten and twenty hour bucks were common. Why, I remember once, when we bucked space till we were a quarter of a million miles beyond the moon’s orbit. ”
“Three mortal days we fought our jets to get into the fall. A dozen times, the old man swore that things were O.K., and we’d get out a guitar for a song or two, and then wha-ang would go the alarm bell and we’d be bucking space for another spell.”
Well, after three days, come to find out, a great big meteor had set a course parallel to ours and its gravity was throwing us off, every time our course was laid.
“It didn’t take Old Sam long to straighten things out, once he found out about that; but he sure had a pooped out crew for a week after.”
“Old Sam—that was our captain. Yessir, son, you’re looking at a guy that once bucked space with the real Old Sam, himself. Sam Buckridge, the top spaceman of them all. All them stories you’ve heard about Sam—I reckon you’ve found them hard to believe—but most of them are true.”
“For instance, I remember the time—
“Huh? What’s that? Never heard tell of Sam Buckridge?
“Oh no! Don’t tell me that I’m stuck here in space, in the end of a misbegotten Fourth of July sky rocket, with nobody for company but a satin pink earthworm who never even heard of Sam Buckridge.
“Now that beats me. I thought everybody had heard of Old Sam. Sit down son. There’s nothing much for us to do, now that she’s in orbit, so I’ll just while away an hour or so, bringing your education up to date.
“You see, this Sam–…
And with this introduction another recruit is initiated into the art of tall tale telling, twenty-second century variety. For, strange as it may seem, in this modern world of ours; a new legend, a new group of folk tales and a new ballad is growing up, a series as fresh and spontaneous as was that of Robin Hood in the twelfth century or Paul Bunyan in the twentieth.
Whenever and wherever men have found time to rest from sweat producing toil, they have found time to spin the yarn, to throw the bull, to flog the dolphin or fight the comet. And never has any time ever been as opportune as the long days in a space ship, after the orbit has been laid and the vessel is in free fall. For then the crew has literally nothing to do. The long struggle to lay the rocket in its orbit, a back breaking job if there ever was one, is over and the men find time hanging ever heavier on their hands. So the guitars are brought out and the songs begin, those endless songs such as we have all heard at one time or another, where every man tries to add a verse that he has heard on some previous voyage, or maybe, if he has imagination, that he has made up himself.
The songs they sing will usually be about the trials and tribulations of the rocket man, or about his bravery or exceptional sexual vigor, or his superiority to the earthworms and the colonists.
And the yarns are almost sure to be about the adventures of some favorite hero of his, such as Alman Taylor or Hilary Boone, the pirate; or, last but by no means least, Sam Buckridge.
The origin of this character, like the origin of his predecessors, Hercules, Robin Hood, Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, is shrouded in mystery. For example, in preparing this article, the author went through a tremendous amount of material in an attempt to trace down the beginnings of the name, Sam Buckridge. But the search has been unrewarded save for a single reference, in a magazine of over a century ago.
Adam Magarian, writing in a magazine called “Pursuit of Happiness,” sad that spacemen of that day called loud-mouthed blustering and bragging “buckrodging” and that a man who was guilty of this kind of conduct was known as a “buckrodger”: But if this is the real origin of Sam’s name, it is of little help, for the origin of that word is as lost in the mists of the past as is the origin of the name for which we are searching.
But if the true origin of the name be lost, the legendary origin of the character is very definite. All the yarn spinners are agreed that his father was a famous blast hand named “Bull Schmitt” and that his mother was a beautiful Spanish senorita named Prieta Del Toro.
Prieta was a chorus girl in Portomars, back in the days when that now-thriving metropolis was a domed colonial town, full of hard free-spending men and equally hard gold digging women. Here, in an atmosphere not unlike medieval Ireland, or the United States in the nineteenth century, or any other land where Aryan People were building up a new civilization, Bull Schmitt wooed and won his sweetheart, and, eventually carried her off in his rocket.
Prieta was pregnant when they left Mars, and the trip was almost too much for her. Bull was forced to land his rocket on Hydrophobia, the curious dumbbell-shaped rock which was, in those days, the only satellite Mars had.
Here his famous son was born and here Sam gave his first evidence of the greatness that was someday to be his. They say that one day his mother refused him something and he went into a regular tantrum. He kicked and screamed and finally ran out of the house and ran down to the place where the two halves of Hydrophobia were joined and, planting his feet on one side of the planet, he began pushing the other side until he tore the satellite right in two!
Of course, that wasn’t so wonderful, considering the slight gravity— Sam accomplished far more wonderful things later on— but one thing can be said about this first exploit of his, it was permanent. Mars had two satellites after that, one named Hydros, and the other named “Phobos”. They kept those names for a good many years, but Hydros means “water” in Greek, and that never did seem like a good name for such a dry little rock.
So, a few years ago, when the rocket companies started charging a dime a glass for water on the rocket liners, people got sarcastic and changed the name of “Hydros” to Deimos.
It might be better to tell the rest of the story in the language of the men who originated it, for much of the color is lost when one translates it into the precise literary language of the earthworms. So, stripped of a bit of profanity and vulgarity, and eliminating the pauses for expectoration, here is the story as you might hear it today, on any cargo rocket:
“Well, this here young fellow grew older, and as the days passed, his beautiful Spanish mother took to missing the lad for a while each day. Course, on Earth or Mars, that wouldn’ta meant much, but out there on Phobos, where it’s all vacuum and two hundred below except inside the little dome that Bull had made, it was a pretty serious business.
“Bull took young Sam in hand and in an hour or so she had wormed the whole story out of him. To make a long story short, the young fellow had been practicing living in a vacuum. He’d started by just opening locks and dashing out on the surface for a minute or two; but he had lengthened the time a little more each day until, by the time Bull questioned him, he was able to stay out on the surface of Phobos for a whole hour at a time.
“Old Bull saw right away that there’d be a tremendous in that, so he encouraged the lad, and Sam kept on practicing. By the time he was three years old, he’d got to where he could get along without air for a whole day at a time. And a good thing it was that he did, too, for more than once in the following years, he saved his life by that very knack which he developed there on Phobos.
“Now, I know that there statement will be hard for a bunch of earthworms to believe, but, so help me, it’s true as gospel. I ain’t saying every man could train himself to live in a vacuum for days at a time, you understand, but Sam wasn’t any ordinary man. Sam was a wonder, a regular bullion-volt, hundred-mile-a-second wonder, and he could do a lot of things the average man couldn’t do.
“Just the same, it’s ree-markable what practice can do. When I was a young man, I got so’s I could stay out in space for twenty minutes or more, myself, and that’s the solemn truth.
“Well, getting back to Sam– He kept a-growing bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger, until Bull decided that he was just a little too big for Phobos. You see, Sam had got hold of some sports magazine and had got all excited over football. And Phobos wasn’t such an awfully big satellite—
“So Bull and Prieta decided to take Sam to Earth for his education. They blasted off from Phobos sometime in Sam’s tenth year with Bull and Preita in the control room and Sam acting as jet room crew. He weighted, planted, tamped and insulated the steering cartridges all by himself, which, in my estimation is pretty good for a youngster just going on eleven.
“But they hadn’t gone far when tragedy struck. A big meteor slapped into Bull’s rocket and cut it right smack in two. Sam stared falling back to Mars, and Bull and Prieta kept right on going, the way they had been, only faster, for the meteor had struck them in such a way that it speeded them up quite a bit.
“Sam never heard of his parents again, and neither did anyone else, and the memory of them was such a sore spot with Sam that he even changed his name to Buckridge so he wouldn’t be reminded of his father.
“Some people do say, though, that Bull’s parents were never crashed into no sun or planet, but, hurled hither and thither by different gravity pulls, they were forced to fall into first one orbit and then another. And those folks claim that Bull Schmitt and Prieta Del Toro are still being flung about in space to this day. And I, for one, am inclined to believe them.
“As for Sam, he started falling down towards Mars, and it was a good thing for him that he had practiced living in a vacuum, for he hadn’t a c.c. of air in all that busted rocket. The rocket just missed Mars and took up a spiral orbit around it, coming closer and closer, and every revolution. About the twenty-second time it went around, it was only about twenty feet above the ground, and Sam saw it was nearly time to jump. Just before the rocket crashed, Sam gave an enormous big jump, sailed through space and landed right smack on his nose. He slid, too, slid right off across the horizon for nearly forty miles; and splattered sand and rock so high, wide and handsome that he left a big, deep valley straight across the landscape.
Fifteen years later, the explorer, John Riverside, found that valley and named it the Riverside Rift. I understand they’ve made a National Park out of it, recently and that the geologists have advanced some complicated theory about how it was formed.
“Well, I can tell them there was nothing complicated about it. It was plowed up by Sam Buckridge’s nose.
“When Sam picked himself up, he found himself in the driest, dustiest, emptiest desert that you could find on all Mars. “Flat, red and sand” were about all the adjectives you could use to describe it unless you used a jet hand’s vocabulary, which, of course, has words that won’t fit into a respectable magazine.
“Sam didn’t mind it, though. It was choice building lots as far as he was concerned, him having been raised on Phobos. So he set off toward a low range of hills in the distance and reached them just before sundown.
“He found a likely looking nest of rocks and curled up in it and went to sleep.
He woke up because the light of Phobos was shining in his eyes and something was tickling him all over. He sat up and looked around and in a moment he saw what was causing the tickling. There were about twenty or thirty little animals gathered around, little things about the size of a good sized squirrel, and they were all nibbling at something on the ground.
At first, Sam thought they were skeletons of animals because their ribs projected out beyond their fur for a good inch. But they certainly were alive, and he’d have sworn they were eating something. Then he remembered having heard about these animals before and he knew they were the famous Martian shadow eaters. These shadow eaters had once been quite ordinary little rodent-like animals, way backing the early days of mars, when there was plenty of air and water on the planet. But the seas had dried up and the land gradually became desert, and the little creatures were cut off from their food supply, and it began to look as if the whole species must starve to death.
“They got thinner and thinner until their ribs stuck out all over. Then they got thinner and thinner until their ribs really did stick out all over. And when, on rare occasions, one of them actually got a square meal, it was usually too much for him and he died of indigestion.
At last one of them got the bright idea of nibbling on shadows; and by the time that the mossy vegetation that grows over the surface of Mars had spread over the desert in which they lived, the creatures digestive organs had changed so much that they couldn’t adapt themselves to heavy eating; and to this day, they haunt the drier, dustier parts of Mars, living on the shadows of such vegetable and animal life as they can find.
“Well, all this popped into Sam’s mind by the time he’d jumped up out of his sleep. He noticed at once that his shadow was a wee bit ragged around the edges, but not much damage was done to it yet, and it would be all right if he could manage to keep the creatures away from it, from here on in.
“Of course, he jumped over into the shadow of a big rock at first, and hid there. Sam figured he wouldn’t have a shadow, hiding behind that rock, but the creatures were too smart to let that hold them. They just attacked the shadow of the rock, tearing off chunks and spitting them out again, until within fifteen minutes, they’d nibbled it all away and Sam’s shadow was exposed. Sam had to run for another rock.
“Well, this kept up for several hours. An animal has to have awfully sharp teeth to tear into a shadow and those shadow eaters had teeth so sharp that it didn’t take them no time to tear apart the shadow of a rock. Young Sam was really beginning to worry, leaping from one rock to another, when he saw Deimos rising above the horizon.
“He gave a sigh of relief, for he had already figured out what he was going to do. He kept on jumping from rock to rock until Deimos was high enough for him to have two shadows, one from Deimos and one from Phobos. Then he stepped out from his shelter, pegged down one of his shadows with a couple of dornicks, gave a sudden violent jump and tore loose from his second shadow entirely. Then he was off like a streak of greased lightening, the shadow he had left trying as hard as it could to keep up with him, leaving his extra shadow as a prey for the shadow eaters.
Sam didn’t mind losing that extra shadow—a man doesn’t usually need but one— but for the rest of his life he was kind of sensitive about standing in two lights.
“Well, now, for the first time, Sam was on a regular planet. He’d heard about Mars and Venus and the earth from his father, but the place he found himself in didn’t look much like the Mars he had pictured from the stories his father had told. He decided he’d have to hunt for this “Portomars” he’d heard his father talk about, little realizing how big Mars was and how far away Portomars might be.
It took him ten years to find the colony and during that time, he had to live on the land, getting his air and water and food wherever he could. It was a hard life, in fact, it would have killed an ordinary man in about two days, but it just made Sam harder and harder, until, when he finally came upon Portomars one day, he must have been the hardest, toughest, meanest creature in the solar system.
The watchman at the locker gate of the big dome of Portomars was playing a game of solitaire and wishing his job was a little more exciting, when all of a sudden the signal rang that meant somebody wanted in from outside. He leaned over and pushed the button that manipulated the lock.
Couple minutes later, he heard the inner door of the lock open and he looked up to see who was coming in. Then he let out a screech and leaped back against the wall, unable to believe his eyes.
It was a sort of man, there naked as a new born jay-bird if you don’t count dirt and scratches—but if you count dirt and scratches, he was the most over-dressed man on Mars. He was mounted on a ten foot desert polybrash*, holding all ten of its tentacles in one hand and swinging a Martian sand snake in the other for a whip. A big ‘bull-dozer” about the size of a great Dane was trotting behind the polybrash like a coach dog, and the color combination of a green and blue polybrash, a plant that it was named after the flower and not after the old Greek in the myth that was so stuck on himself that he starved to death looking at his reflection in the water. Sam couldn’t approve of such a character, for Sam himself was extremely modest and only had scorn for the sort of racketeers who spend their time telling tall tales of their adventures in space. Facts were all Sam had time to tell and facts were all he wanted to hear from anybody else.
For instance, one time Johnny Wayer, who was Sam’s jet-room chief, was sitting around telling some wild yarn about a fellow who had captured a comet and kept it tied up on some asteroid. Sam reproached Johnny sternly for stretching the truth and said he was quite sure that no comet could ever be tamed.
Johnny stood up and swore that he was telling the unvarnished truth and that he was willing to put his money where his mouth was and bet that a comet could be tamed. Sam snapped at the bet that quick, and so it was arranged to go out around Jupiter and pick up one of the Jovian comets.
So they shifted course and off they went. They picked up a likely looking comet without no trouble and Sam laid an orbit parallel to it. Johnny got a good long cable and in no time at all, he’d made a lasso of it and roped the comet.
But a comet is a darn quick customer and, although Johnny aimed for its head, it almost slipped entirely through the noose before Johnny tightened it. Result was, Johnny found he had the comet by the tail, and no sooner did it see that its tail was caught, than it started hell-bent for the sun. Johnny snubbed his line around the ship and hung on for dear life, and away they went.
When they got closer to the sun, the comet’s tail stretches out for millions of miles, and as a comet always faces the sun and lets its tail stream out in the opposite direction, rounding the sun was like a regular game of “crack the whip” for Sam and his crew. A perihelion, they must have been going several thousand miles a second.
But they got around without breaking loose and as they started out away from the sun, Sam saw that they were going to intersect the earth’s orbit, just about the time the earth reached them. This gave him an idea and he whispered it to Johnny, so Johnny jetted over to the North Pole and snubbed the comet’s tail to that, adding a bowline knot for good measure.
“All right,” says Sam to Johnny Wayer. “There’s your comet, shipshape and in her cradle. Now, let’s see you tame her.”
Johnny’s eyes bugged out a bit at that. He thought he’d done quite a job, tying that comet down, but now he realized that his job had only begun. He was game though. I’ll have to admit he tried. But shucks—He knew that Sam was right all the time. Ad after a week or so, he had to admit that you couldn’t tame a comet.
For that comet was really wild. It bucked and sun fished; it switched and whip lashed; it butted and flung itself around until Sam was afraid it was going to tear the earth right out of its orbit. When Sam saw that the comet had torn the magnetic pole clean away from the true pole and down into Baffin Land, he was about to call it quits, but fortunately, just about that time, Johnny admitted he’d lost the bet and—the comet broke loose.
It left about half of its tail tied to the pole and took off for the deepest parts of space, and astronomers say that it has never been seen from that day to this.
Its tail is still there, though, and if you get up into the northern latitudes, you can still see it flickering over the pole. The earthworms have named it the Roaring Alice, or something like that.
But Sam never tried to tie up another comet. He realized it was too dangerous. That comet had almost pulled the earth right out of its place. To this day, the North Pole doesn’t point exactly to the North Star anymore. It’s several degrees off.”
If all the stories that have been told about Sam Buckridge were to be written down, they would undoubtedly fill several books. There are long sagas that are little more than continual variations on a single theme, stories obviously dreamed up by men utterly unversed in any form of literature, and there are little antidotes, hardly more than a few sentences, so full of humor and double meaning that they are true classics.
There is the story of how Sam dug the Martian Canals and why he dug them, there are stores of the men who made up his crew—Johnny Wayer, “Putz” Svennsen and “Goosie” Stratemeyer, and there are stories of how he inevitably, cleared the orbits of the pirates.
But the greatest feat of all, to most tellers of tales, was the great battle Sam had with the phoenix of space.
“This here Phoenix,” says the old racketeer, was a bird of sorts; at least, most people figured it was a bird because it had something like wings that stuck out from its body, but it was like no other bird that you ever heard of.
“For one thing, it lived in space. And it lived on hydrogen. It ate hydrogen and its peculiar metabolism built up the hydrogen into helium and used the released energy to keep the bird alive. For another thing, it had a wing spread of two thousand miles! The first peculiarity was what started that historic battle, and you’ll have to admit that the second peculiarity was enough to make that battle historical.
“You see, space had gotten to be a pretty dangerous place to travel in. Rockets were disappearing entirely too frequently, and the people were beginning to believe that the space pirates had come back. So the Interplanetary Board of Control called in Sam and asked him to investigate and find out where the ships were disappearing to.
“Well, what was actually happening was this. In the old days, with the use of the old Nielsen atomic Drive, most of the ship’s exhaust was hydrogen, and when a rocket roared out into space, the Phoenix would get a whiff of the hydrogen and come whizzing along in the wake of the rocket, gobbling up the hydrogen as it came. It was faster than any rocket except maybe Sam’s, so sooner or later, it would catch up with rocket and there’d be one more gulp and that would be the end of that rocket. ‘Course, to the bird, that rocket would be just a bit of roughage in an otherwise enjoyable meal.
“Sam was plowing along between the earth and Mars, where most of the disappearances has taken place, when “Putz” Svenssen, the big Swedish radar man, shouted that something was coming up from behind.
“’It looks like a bird, he hollered. ‘But if it’s a bird, it’s one that’d make Sinbad’s roc look like a gnat.’”
“Sam dashed to the vision screen, but he barely had time to get one good look when a terrific gulp sounded through the walls of the rocket and the vision screen went dark.
‘”He’s swallowed us!’ Sam bellowed, figuring out instantly what had happened. ‘Stand by the gun, boys, we’re gonna have to shoot our way out.’”
“Well, sir, that was one time that Sam had an idea that was strictly from Yngvi. The bird’s stomach was so big that the range of Sam’s guns didn’t even carry from the rocket to the walls of that stomach. So after they’d fired a hundred shells or so, with no results, they gave it up. Then Sam had another idea.
“’When them shells shot out, I heard a swish, like,’ he announced, ‘That means there’s an atmosphere in this here bird’s belly. Test it, Johnny.’
Johnny did so and found an atmosphere of hydrogen at about four pounds pressure. Sam ordered the compressors out, and told them to pump hydrogen in and oxygen out. As they emptied the oxygen bottles, they filled them with hydrogen. For a whole day, they kept this up and then Sam announced that he was satisfied. The mixture of gas in the bird’s stomach was about two hydrogen to one oxygen, and then Sam gave a squirt from the main jets in the rear.
There was a terrific flash and an explosion, the God-awfulest explosion any of the crew had ever heard, and the rocket went flying out of that bird’s gullet at over ten miles a second. The bird, bothered for the first time in its life by gas on the stomach, would probably have fled on its own hook, but that terrific belch sent it off backwards at the same speed that Sam was taking in the opposite direction. They ended up about forty million miles apart, with Sam only a couple of million miles from Mars.
Sam fell down to the red planet, madder than a wet hen. It had been a long time since he had had a foeman worthy of his steel, but a two thousand mile wide bird seemed like it might be enough to challenge even his ingenuity. He stamped over to the government offices, reported his findings and began to order apparatus and instruments like mad.
“Within a week, his rocket was stocked with H-bombs, oxygen bottles, tracer instruments and a hundred other gadgets. ‘I’m off,’ he shouted to the Commissioner of Space Travel. ‘I’ll bring back the critter that’s been devouring our rockets, dead or alive.”
“’Don’t you dare!’ the commissioner shouted, all panicky. ‘Don’t you dare to bring him back, dead or alive.’”
“Sam laughed, and shouted his first order to Johnny Wayer. Two hours later, they were out in space, on their first orbit, with a keen eye out for the bird that had challenged Sam’s claim to supremacy in the void.
“That old bird must have had a pretty good bit of intelligence, for he avoided Sam for weeks. Sam blasted as often as possible, taking first one orbit and then another in an attempt to lure the bird with the hydrogen he left in his wake, but the bird wasn’t having any, thanks. Sam even sprinkled powdered sugar through one of the pilot jets, hoping that the bird would be tempted with icing on its hydrogen, but it was no use.
“And then—just when they were about to give up, Svenssen spied the bird, lurking around on the far side of the moon. That side was almost completely uninhabited in those days and it made an ideal spot for the bird to hide in. It couldn’t be seen from the earth, and the bird could see every rocket that passed the moon’s orbit on the way out. It had probably had that hiding place for months, which accounted for the high percentage of disappearances lately.
“Sam decided there was only one thing to do, so he unlimbered a big H-bomb and dropped it directly into the cent of the big mare where the bird was resting. But the bird wasn’t asleep by any means, and when the bomb hit, it was the moon it hit and not the bird at all. The bird had just moved out of the way about five hundred miles, just enough to avoid an unpleasantness caused by the bomb.
“Sam was a little irritated by the miss, so he ordered another bomb dropped. Unfortunately for Sam, and the moon, and the future of the human race on the moon, the bird managed to duck again.
“Then Sam lost his temper. He hurled bomb after bomb at that creature, and every time he missed, Sam got madder. When he ran out of fusion bombs, he began hurling fission bombs, and when he ran out of them, he heaved ordinary explosives; but the bird ducked them all, and the sounds that came through the radio sounded amazingly like chuckling.
“When Sam had used up every thing he had, the moon was a sight to behold. The whole face of it was full of craters from ten feet to a hundred miles across, and it had been ruined permanently for anything but mining, and it’s stayed ruined right up to this very day.
“Well, when Sam’s bombs were exhausted, seems like the bird knew it. It left the moon and took off into space like all hell was after it; and if you ask me, something a darned sight worse was. Sam was tailing the bird like the bird had tailed the rockets it devoured.
“Out past Mars past the asteroids, and finally past Jupiter the bird fled, and never slowed down until it almost reached Saturn. But it had been flying all the way up hill, without any chance to absorb any food, and just this of Saturn’s orbit, it turned around in a huge curve that carried it back toward the sun.
“Sam tagged right along, staying just so far behind the thing, for he hadn’t any idea of what he’d do, it he caught up; but just inside Venus’s orbit, an idea hit him like a streak of lightning.
“Break out them casks of rock salt that’s stored in the nose; he shouted. ‘And unlimber all the forward guns.’
The bird kept heading on an orbit that would round the sun just inside the orbit of Mercury, and it was just inside that orbit that Sam let her have it. Sam’s rocket wasn’t more than fifty miles from the bird’s tail when his guns crashed out. They’d been crammed to the muzzle with salt, and that salt was scattered for a hundred miles around, ahead of Sam’s flight. The bird stopped in its tracks, flopped wildly for a moment, and then started falling into the sun.
“’What happened?’ hollered Johnny Wayer from the jet-room. “What happened to the bird Sam?’
“’I salted her down!’ yelled Sam, fair wild with delight. “I fixed her up like you’d fix any darn bird. I sprinkled salt on her tail.’”
“Well, there isn’t much more to tell and what there is, is sad. Sam and his crew watched the bird fall down and down until it disappeared into the blinding glory of the sun’s atmosphere. Then Sam called his men together and made them a speech.
“’Men,’ he says. ‘We’ve won, temporary. But the sun is full of hydrogen, and it won’t be no time until that bird will be strong again, and eager to get out into space and start doing damage. If we want to keep that bird out of the space lanes, it’s up to us to keep her out. We got to follow her down into the sun, and keep her there.’ His men nodded silently and as silently they turned to their duties. A few minutes later, their refrigeration units going full blast, the Narcissus plunged into the sun.
Down, down, they went, one thousand, ten thousand, and a hundred thousand miles. In the very heart of the sun, they found the Phoenix, and with the salt and the power of Sam’s jets, they’ve kept her there.
“And they’re there to this day. I know that some folks tell a different story—something about Sam retiring with some girl and living happily ever after. But shucks! That’s just wishful thinking. Sam’s right down there in the sun, guarding the bird and seeing to it that it tends proper to the duties Sam has assigned to it.
“And if you don’t believe this, just ask some astronomer what it is that keeps the sun shining and giving off heat. If he don’t tell you it’s the Solar Phoenix, I’ll eat my hat. Yes, and yours too.”