Missing Link

Frank Patrick Herbert
Missing Link, by Frank Patrick

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Title: Missing Link
Author: Frank Patrick Herbert
Release Date: October 27, 2007 [EBook #23210]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII
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Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Astounding Science
Fiction, Volume LXII No. 6, February 1959. Extensive research did not
uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was
The Romantics used to say that the eyes were the windows of the Soul.
A good Alien Xenologist might not put it quite so poetically ... but he
can, if he's sharp, read a lot in the look of an eye!
Illustrated by van Dongen

"We ought to scrape this planet clean of every living thing on it,"
muttered Umbo Stetson, section chief of Investigation & Adjustment.
Stetson paced the landing control bridge of his scout cruiser. His
footsteps grated on a floor that was the rear wall of the bridge during
flight. But now the ship rested on its tail fins--all four hundred
glistening red and black meters of it. The open ports of the bridge
looked out on the jungle roof of Gienah III some one hundred fifty
meters below. A butter yellow sun hung above the horizon, perhaps an
hour from setting.
"Clean as an egg!" he barked. He paused in his round of the bridge,
glared out the starboard port, spat into the fire-blackened circle that the
cruiser's jets had burned from the jungle.
The I-A section chief was dark-haired, gangling, with large head and
big features. He stood in his customary slouch, a stance not improved
by sacklike patched blue fatigues. Although on this present operation
he rated the flag of a division admiral, his fatigues carried no insignia.
There was a general unkempt, straggling look about him.
Lewis Orne, junior I-A field man with a maiden diploma, stood at the
opposite port, studying the jungle horizon. Now and then he glanced at
the bridge control console, the chronometer above it, the big translite

map of their position tilted from the opposite bulkhead. A heavy planet
native, he felt vaguely uneasy on this Gienah III with its gravity of only
seven-eighths Terran Standard. The surgical scars on his neck where
the micro-communications equipment had been inserted itched
maddeningly. He scratched.
"Hah!" said Stetson. "Politicians!"
A thin black insect with shell-like wings flew in Orne's port, settled in
his close-cropped red hair. Orne pulled the insect gently from his hair,
released it. Again it tried to land in his hair. He ducked. It flew across
the bridge, out the port beside Stetson.
There was a thick-muscled, no-fat look to Orne, but something about
his blocky, off-center features suggested a clown.
"I'm getting tired of waiting," he said.
"You're tired! Hah!"
A breeze rippled the tops of the green ocean below them. Here and
there, red and purple flowers jutted from the verdure, bending and
nodding like an attentive audience.
"Just look at that blasted jungle!" barked Stetson. "Them and their
stupid orders!"
A call bell tinkled on the bridge control console. The red light above
the speaker grid began blinking. Stetson shot an angry glance at it.
"Yeah, Hal?"
"O.K., Stet. Orders just came through. We use Plan C. ComGO says to
brief the field man, and jet out of here."
"Did you ask them about using another field man?"
Orne looked up attentively.
The speaker said: "Yes. They said we have to use Orne because of the

records on the Delphinus."
"Well then, will they give us more time to brief him?"
"Negative. It's crash priority. ComGO expects to blast the planet
Stetson glared at the grid. "Those fat-headed, lard-bottomed,
pig-brained ... POLITICIANS!" He took two deep breaths, subsided.
"O.K. Tell them we'll comply."
"One more thing, Stet."
"What now?"
"I've got a confirmed contact."
Instantly, Stetson was poised on the balls of his feet, alert. "Where?"
"About ten kilometers out. Section AAB-6."
"How many?"
"A mob. You want I should count them?"
"No. What're they doing?"
"Making a beeline for us. You better get a move on."
"O.K. Keep us posted."
* * * * *
Stetson looked across at his junior field man. "Orne, if you decide you
want out of this assignment, you just say the word. I'll back you to the

"Why should
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