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Authors: Robert A Heinlein

The Star Beast

BOOK: The Star Beast
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Teaser

The STAR
BEAST
by Robert A. Heinlein
 
Jacket, title page, and endpapers
by C
LIFFORD
G
EARY

Robert Heinlein
’s “space zoo” is unique—there is an unusual animal in each of his books. Lummox, whose story is told in this book, is an extraordinary creature that endears itself to us in the first chapters.

The creature is—we believe as we read—the pet of John Thomas Stuart XII—a good many years from now. At the end we discover Lummox has quite different ideas about the relationship. What is Lummox? It is some time before the reader really finds out.

Robert A. Heinlein

Robert Heinlein is one of the outstanding science-fiction writers of today, and his stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. Willy Ley has said of him: “In science-fiction circles it has become customary to use Robert A. Heinlein as the standard; unfortunately for most writers that standard is too high.”

Heinlein wanted first to become an astronomer and this interest in stars persisted through his training at Annapolis and his service in the Navy. And now that he is writing science-fiction, the stars are in their proper places and his space flight formulas are mathematically correct.

Books by
Robert A. Heinlein

Published by
CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS

THE STAR BEAST

STARMAN JONES

THE ROLLING STONES

BETWEEN PLANETS

FARMER IN THE SKY

RED PLANET

SPACE CADET

ROCKET SHIP GALILEO

By Other Publishers

TOMORROW THE STARS
 (EDITED BY R.A.H.)

EYOND THIS HORIZON

SIXTH COLUMN

THE MAN WHO SOLD THE MOON

WALDO & MAGIC, INC.

THE GREEN HILLS OF EARTH

THE PUPPET MASTERS

ASSIGNMENT IN ETERNITY

REVOLT IN 2100

Copyright

JACKET AND TITLE PAGE BY CLIFFORD GEARY

COPYRIGHT
1954
BY ROBERT A. HEINLEIN

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA   A

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NO
. 54-9431

Some excerpts from this book were first published in
THe Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction
under the title “Star Lummox.”

Dedication

For
DIANE
and
CLARK

Contents
I
L-Day

CHAPTER I

L-Day

LUMMOX
was bored and hungry. The latter was a normal state; creatures of Lummox’s breed were always ready for a little snack, even after a full meal. Being bored was less usual and derived directly from the fact that Lummox’s chum and closest associate, John Thomas Stuart, had not been around all day, having chosen to go off somewhere with his friend Betty.

One afternoon was a mere nothing; Lummox could hold his breath that long. But he knew the signs and understood the situation; John Thomas had reached the size and age when he would spend more and more time with Betty, or others like her, and less and less time with Lummox. Then there would come a fairly long period during which John Thomas would spend practically no time with Lummox but at the end of which there would arrive a new John Thomas which would presently grow large enough to make an interesting playmate.

From experience Lummox recognized this cycle as necessary and inevitable; nevertheless the immediate prospect was excruciatingly boring. He lumbered listlessly around the back yard of the Stuart home, looking for anything—a grasshopper, a robin, anything at all that might be worth looking at. He watched a hill of ants for a while. They seemed to be moving house; an endless chain was dragging little white grubs in one direction while a countermarching line returned for more grubs. This killed a half hour.

Growing tired of ants, he moved away toward his own house. His number-seven foot came down on the ant hill and crushed it, but the fact did not come to his attention. His own house was just big enough for him to back into it and was the end building of a row of decreasing size; the one at the far end would have made a suitable doghouse for a chihuahua.

Piled outside his shed were six bales of hay. Lummox pulled a small amount off one bale and chewed it lazily. He did not take a second bite because he had taken as much as he thought he could steal and not have it noticed. There was nothing to stop him from eating the entire pile—except the knowledge that John Thomas would bawl him out bitterly and might even refuse for a week or more to scratch him with the garden rake. The household rules required Lummox not to touch food other than natural forage until it was placed in his manager; Lummox usually obeyed as he hated dissension and was humiliated by disapproval.

Besides, he did not want hay. He had had hay for supper last night, he would have it again tonight, and again tomorrow night. Lummox wanted something with more body and a more interesting flavor. He ambled over to the low fence which separated the several acres of back yard from Mrs. Stuart’s formal garden, stuck his head over and looked longingly at Mrs. Stuart’s roses. The fence was merely a symbol marking the line he must not cross. Lummox had crossed it once, a few years earlier, and had sampled the rose bushes…just a sample, a mere appetizer, but Mrs. Stuart had made such a fuss that he hated to think about it even now. Shuddering at the recollection, he backed hastily away from the fence.

But he recalled some rose bushes that did not belong to Mrs. Stuart, and therefore in Lummox’s opinion, did not belong to anybody. They were in the garden of the Donahues, next door west. There was a possible way, which Lummox had been thinking about lately, to reach these “ownerless” rose bushes.

The Stuart place was surrounded by a ten-foot concrete wall. Lummox had never tried to climb over it, although he had nibbled the top of it in places. In the rear there was one break in it, where the gully draining the land crossed the property line. The gap in the wall was filled by a massive grating of eight-by-eight timbers, bolted together with extremely heavy bolts. The vertical timbers were set in the stream bed and the contractor who had erected it had assured Mrs. Stuart that it would stop Lummox, or a herd of elephants, or anything else too big-hipped to crawl between the timbers.

Lummox knew that the contractor was mistaken, but his opinion had not been asked and he had not offered it. John Thomas had not expressed an opinion either, but he had seemed to suspect the truth; he had emphatically ordered Lummox not to tear the grating down.

Lummox had obeyed. He had sampled it for flavor, but the wooden timbers had been soaked in something which gave them a really unbearable taste; he let them be.

But Lummox felt no responsibility for natural forces. He had noticed, about three months back, that spring rains had eroded the gully so that two of the vertical timbers were no longer imbedded but were merely resting on the dry stream bed. Lummox had been thinking about this for several weeks and had found that a gentle nudge tended to spread the timbers at the bottom. A slightly heavier nudge might open up a space wide enough without actually tearing down the grating…

Lummox lumbered down to check up. Still more of the stream bed had washed away in the last rain; one of the vertical timbers hung a few inches free of the sand. The one next to it was barely resting on the ground. Lummox smiled like a simple-minded golliwog and carefully, delicately insinuated his head between the two big posts. He pushed gently.

Above his head came a sound of rending wood and the pressure suddenly relieved. Startled, Lummox pulled his head out and looked up. The upper end of one eight-by-eight had torn free of its bolts; it pivoted now on a lower horizontal girder. Lummox clucked to himself. Too bad…but it couldn’t be helped. Lummox was not one to weep over past events; what has been, must be. No doubt John Thomas would be vexed…but in the meantime here was an opening through the grating. He lowered his head like a football linesman, set himself in low gear, and pushed on through. There followed several sounds of protesting and rending wood and sharper ones of broken bolts, but Lummox ignored it all; he was on the far side now, a free agent.

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