The Return

H. Beam Piper
Return, by H. Beam Piper and John J.

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Title: The Return
Author: H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire
Illustrator: Kelly Freas
Release Date: July 17, 2006 [EBook #18855]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

Produced by Greg Weeks, Sankar Viswanathan, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at

Transcriber's Note:
This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction, January, 1954. Extensive
research did not uncover any evidence that the copyright on this publication was


[Illustration: ]
* * * * *

The isolated little group they found were doing fine-- but their religion was most
strange--and yet quite logical!
Illustrated by Kelly Freas
Altamont cast a quick, routine, glance at the instrument panels and then looked down
through the transparent nose of the helicopter at the yellow-brown river five hundred feet
below. Next he scraped the last morsel from his plate and ate it.
"What did you make this out of, Jim?" he asked. "I hope you kept notes, while you
were concocting it. It's good."

"The two smoked pork chops left over from yesterday evening," Loudons said, "and
that bowl of rice that's been taking up space in the refrigerator the last couple of days
together with a little egg powder, and some milk. I ground the chops up and mixed them
with the rice and the other stuff. Then added some bacon, to make grease to fry it in."
Altamont chuckled. That was Loudons, all right; he could take a few left-overs, mess
them together, pop them in the skillet, and have a meal that would turn the chef back at
the Fort green with envy. He filled his cup and offered the pot.
"Caffchoc?" he asked.
Loudons held his cup out to be filled, blew on it, sipped, and then hunted on the ledge
under the desk for the butt of the cigar he had half-smoked the evening before.
"Did you ever drink coffee, Monty?" the socio-psychologist asked, getting the cigar
drawing to his taste.
"Coffee? No. I've read about it, of course. We'll have to organize an expedition to
Brazil, some time, to get seeds, and try raising some."
Loudons blew a smoke ring toward the rear of the cabin.
"A much overrated beverage," he replied. "We found some, once, when I was on that
expedition into Idaho, in what must have been the stockroom of a hotel. Vacuum-packed
in moisture-proof containers, and free from radioactivity. It wasn't nearly as good as
caffchoc. But then, I suppose, a pre-bustup coffee drinker couldn't stomach this stuff
we're drinking." He looked forward, up the river they were following. "Get anything on
the radio?" he asked. "I noticed you took us up to about ten thousand, while I was
Altamont got out his pipe and tobacco pouch, filling the former slowly and carefully.
"Not a whisper. I tried Colony Three, in the Ozarks, and I tried to call in that tribe of
workers in Louisiana; I couldn't get either."
"Maybe if we tried to get a little more power on the set--"
That was Loudons, too, Altamont thought. There wasn't a better man at the Fort,
when it came to dealing with people, but confront him with a problem about things, and
he was lost. That was one of the reasons why he and the stocky, phlegmatic social
scientist made such a good team, he thought. As far as he, himself, was concerned, people
were just a mysterious, exasperatingly unpredictable, order of things which were subject
to no known natural laws. That was about the way Loudons thought of things; he couldn't
psychoanalyze them.
He gestured with his pipe toward the nuclear-electric conversion unit, between the
control-cabin and the living quarters in the rear of the box-car-sized helicopter.
"We have enough power back there to keep this windmill in the air twenty-four hours
a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, for the next fifteen years," he said. "We
just don't have enough radio. If I'd step up the power on this set any more, it'd burn out
before I could say, 'Altamont calling Fort Ridgeway.'"
"How far are we from Pittsburgh, now?" Loudons wanted to know.
Altamont looked across the cabin at the big map of the United States, with its red and
green and blue and yellow patchwork of vanished political
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