Robert Sheckley: Alien Harvest

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Robert Sheckley Alien Harvest
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    Alien Harvest
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    Bantam Books, Incorporated
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    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
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    New York
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Alien Harvest: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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This time the humans are taking the offensive! Stan Myakovsky is a once-famous scientist fallen on hard times. Now he dodges spaceship repo men and dreams of the marketability of his cybernetic ant. Then a woman named Julie Lish walks into his life. She is beautiful, mysterious, and totally amoral. She is also skilled in the arts of thievery and Oriental self-defense. What's more, she has a plan so outrageous there might be one chance in a million to pull it off. Together Stan and Julie become the most unlikely pair of pirates in the universe. With a hijacked spaceship and a crew of hardcase misfits, they’re searching for the ultimate pot of gold at the end of a bloody intergalactic rainbow: royal jelly from an alien hive. The only problem is that the fortune lies on the universe’s most godforsaken planet. And once they get their hands on it, they’ll have to fight their way past the aliens to get off the planet alive.

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Alien Harvest

by Robert Sheckley

To my wife, Gail, with all my love

Captain Hoban's Prologue

I was in the middle of the whole thing with Stan and Julie.

I guess almost everybody on Earth knows how it ended. But they don't know how it began.

I've been putting together everything I know about it. I figure it started the morning Stan got the summons.


That morning Stan had to go downtown to the Colonial Mercantile Building on Vesey Street. The day before there had been a ring at his doorbell. Stan hadn't been doing much when it came. He had several experiments going in his cellar laboratory. The lab took up most of the space in the old frame house on Gramercy Park that he had inherited from his father. Stan hadn't been feeling well lately, and although he tried to tell himself it wasn't anything, some little voice within him kept on intruding, telling him, “This could be very serious….”

He had been avoiding his doctor for a while, but now he called up and made an appointment with Dr. Johnston at the Fifty-ninth Street clinic for the next day. That was when the doorbell rang.

The man standing outside was tall and thin, and dressed in a badly pressed gray business suit.

“Are you Professor Myakovsky?”

“I am,” Stan replied.

“Are you the Stanley Myakovsky who wrote the book about Ari the ant?”

“Yes, I am,” Stan repeated. He was starting to feel a little better. This guy seemed to be someone who had read his book, was probably a fan, maybe even wanted an autograph. “What can I do for you?”

“I got a summons for you,” the man said, taking a folded paper out of his pocket and slapping it briskly into Stan's hand. “You are served. Have a nice day, Doctor.” He turned and left.

Stan went back inside and looked over the summons. He had no idea what it was about and the document itself didn't enlighten him. It simply said he was to appear in Courtroom B at 311 Vesey Street the following day, or face the consequences.

Have a nice day.

What a laugh.

It had been so long since Stan had had a nice day, he couldn't remember what one looked like.

The next day he left early for Vesey Street. The Broadway trolley was running again, rumbling past the newly restored buildings of midtown. It was a bright day outside, and despite his depression, Stan started to feel just the slightest lift to his spirits.

That lasted until he got to Vesey Street.

Vesey Street was filled with city and federal buildings, some of them quite old, dating from before the time of the aliens, miraculously unburned during the anarchic days when the aliens ruled. Some of the buildings in this area were brand-spanking-new. There had been a lot of rebuilding since those days. Stan would have liked to have been part of the first days after humans reoccupied their own planet. It must have been exhilarating, reoccupying your own country, having a future again on your own planet. Now, of course, it was business as usual….More or less.

Times were pretty good. America was experiencing a boom. Business was strong. A lot of people were making a lot of money. Some people, of course, were losing a lot of money. It had to come from somewhere.

So it came from people like Stan.

He mounted the stone steps of the Criminal Courts Building. Within, he found a clerk who checked his summons and directed him up a flight of stairs to the correct courtroom.

He walked in. It was a small room with a half-dozen chairs facing a raised desk. The sign on the door had said judge Jacob Lessner, presiding. Behind the desk sat a small man in black robes. He said, “Dr. Stanley Myakovsky?”

“Yes,” Stan replied.

“Come in. I suppose you know what this is about?”

“No, I don't.”

Judge Lessner frowned. “Your lawyer really should keep you better informed.”

Stan nodded, although he knew very well he hadn't been answering his lawyer's calls over the last few days.

“Well, this is a pretty simple matter.” The judge searched among the papers on his desk until he found what he was looking for. “This is a government order seizing your spaceship.”

“The Dolomite?” Stan asked.

The judge searched his paper until he found it. “Yes, of course, that's the name of your ship. You may no longer go aboard.”

“But why?”

“You were sent a notice a month ago advising you of the government's decision to take action against your unpaid bills.”

Stan thought the paper must be somewhere among the unopened mail on his desk. He had been too depressed of late to open any of it. Most of the letters had something bad to say: how this investment or that was sliding to hell on him, or how his patents weren't earning as expected. And even more papers about all his back taxes.

He felt a wave of hopelessness engulf him. He tried to struggle out of it. “They are not allowed to do that. My spaceship is one of the few ways I have of conducting business. If they take that, how am I supposed to pay them what they say I owe?”

“That is not my concern,” the judge stated flatly. “You should have taken that into consideration when you fell so deeply into arrears. In any event, I am hereby notifying you of the government's decision to take your ship. If you have any difficulty with this, you or your lawyer can file a complaint with the clerk down the hall.”

“Thanks a lot,” Stan said bitterly, and left the court room. A few blocks away he found a park bench to sit on. He needed to collect himself. His heart was beating wildly and he was sweating, though it was a mild day. At least, he thought, maybe my bad news for the day is over. I've had my share.

That was before his doctor's appointment, of course.

Dr. Johnston of the Fifty-ninth Street clinic came to the dressing room just as Stan finished knotting his tie.

“How did my tests work out?” Stan asked.

The doctor looked uncomfortable. “Not so good, I'm afraid.”

“But I was here a year ago; you said I was fine!”

“A lot can happen in a year,” the doctor said.

Stan wanted to say, Sure, tell me about it, but he held back.

“Exactly what is the matter?” he asked.

Dr. Johnston answered, “I might as well give it to you straight, Dr. Myakovsky. You were correct in your surmise about those black marks on your chest and back. They are indeed cancers.”

Stan sat down. He needed a moment to think about this. He couldn't believe what he had heard. And yet he had suspected it for months.

Finally he asked, “Is my condition terminal?”

“Yes.” The doctor nodded gravely. “In fact, you don't have much time left. A matter of months. I'm sorry, but it's best to give you the news straight. The condition, as I'm sure you know, is incurable. But its progress can be slowed, and we can ease some of the symptoms. I've already made out a prescription for the medicine we prescribe for such cases.” He handed Stan a folded slip of paper. “And there is also this.”

The doctor held out a small plastic box. Within it, packed in foam rubber, were a dozen ampoules of a bluish liquid.

“This is Xeno-Zip. Have you heard of it?”

Stan nodded. “If memory serves, it is produced from the royal jelly of alien females.”

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