John Keith Laumer
Greylorn, by John Keith Laumer

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Title: Greylorn
Author: John Keith Laumer
Release Date: October 13, 2007 [EBook #23028]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Greg Weeks, LN Yaddanapudi and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

Keith Laumer is a writer new to science fiction. In this story he displays the finesse, artistry and imagination of an old pro. Here is one of the tightest, tautest stories of interplanetary adventure in a long while:

The murmur of conversation around the conference table died as the World Secretary entered the room and took his place at the head of the table.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said. "I'll not detain you with formalities today. The representative of the Navy Department is waiting outside to present the case for his proposal. You all know something of the scheme; it has been heard and passed as feasible by the Advisory Group. It will now be our responsibility to make the decision. I ask that each of you in forming a conclusion remember that our present situation can only be described as desperate, and that desperate measures may be in order."
The Secretary turned and nodded to a braided admiral seated near the door who left the room and returned a moment later with a young gray-haired Naval Officer.
"Members of the Council," said the admiral, "this is Lieutenant Commander Greylorn." All eyes followed the officer as he walked the length of the room to take the empty seat at the end of the table.
"Please proceed, Commander," said the Secretary.
"Thank you, Mr. Secretary." The Commander's voice was unhurried and low, yet it carried clearly and held authority. He began without preliminary.
"When the World Government dispatched the Scouting Forces forty-three years ago, an effort was made to contact each of the twenty-five worlds to which this government had sent Colonization parties during the Colonial Era of the middle Twentieth Centuries. With the return of the last of the scouts early this year, we were forced to realize that no assistance would be forthcoming from that source."
The Commander turned his eyes to the world map covering the wall. With the exception of North America and a narrow strip of coastal waters, the entire map was tinted an unhealthy pink.
"The latest figures compiled by the Department of the Navy indicate that we are losing area at the rate of one square mile every twenty-one hours. The organism's faculty for developing resistance to our chemical and biological measures appears to be evolving rapidly. Analyses of atmospheric samples indicate the level of noxious content rising at a steady rate. In other words, in spite of our best efforts, we are not holding our own against the Red Tide."
A mutter ran around the table, as Members shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
* * * * *
"A great deal of thought has been applied to the problem of increasing our offensive ability. This in the end is still a question of manpower and raw resources. We do not have enough. Our small improvements in effectiveness have been progressively offset by increasing casualties and loss of territory. In the end, alone, we must lose."
The Commander paused, as the murmur rose and died again. "There is however, one possibility still unexplored," he said. "And recent work done at the Polar Research Station places the possibility well within the scope of feasibility. At the time the attempt was made to establish contact with the colonies, one was omitted. It alone now remains to be sought out. I refer to the Omega Colony."
A portly Member leaned forward and burst out, "The location of the colony is unknown!"
The Secretary intervened. "Please permit the Commander to complete his remarks. There will be ample opportunity for discussion when he has finished."
"This contact was not attempted for two reasons," the Commander continued. "First, the precise location was not known; second, the distance was at least twice that of the earlier colonies. At the time, there was a feeling of optimism which seemed to make the attempt superfluous. Now the situation has changed. The possibility of contacting Omega Colony now assumes paramount importance.
"The development of which I spoke is a new application of drive principle which has given to us a greatly improved effective velocity for space propulsion. Forty years ago, the minimum elapsed time of return travel to the presumed sector within which the Omega World should lie was about a century. Today we have the techniques to construct a small scouting vessel capable of making the
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