The Pirates of Ersatz-Sixty-Four

The Pirates of Ersatz-Sixty-Four

Hoddan taught them. In one day there were five ships being brought into better operating condition–for ultimate futility–because of what he’d brought. Two days. Three. Mechanics began to come to the liner. Those who’d learned first pompously passed on what they knew. On the fourth day somebody began to use a vision-tape machine to get information on a fine point in welding. On the fifth day there were lines of men waiting to use them.

On the sixth day a mechanic on what had been a luxury passenger liner on the other side of the galaxy–but it was scores of years ago–asked to talk to Hoddan by spacephone. He’d been working feverishly at the minor repairs he’d been unable to make for so long. To get material he pulled a crate off one of the junk machines supplied the fleet. He looked it over. He believed that if this piece were made new, and that replaced with sound metal, the machine might be usable!

Hoddan had him come to the liner which was now the flagship of the fleet. Discussion began. Shaping such large pieces of metal which could be taken from here or there–shaping such large pieces of metal…. Hoddan began to draw diagrams. They were not clear. He drew more. Abruptly, he stared at what he’d outlined. Electronics…. He saw something remarkable. If one applied a perfectly well-known bit of pure-science information that nobody bothered with– He finished the diagram and a vast, soothing satisfaction came over him.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” he said. “Not enough room!”He looked about him. Insensibly, as he talked to the first man on the fleet to show imagination, other men had gathered around. They were now absorbed.

“I think,” said Hoddan, “that we can make an electronic field that’ll soften the cementite between the crystals of steel, without heating up anything else. If it works, we can make die-forgings and die-stampings with plastic dies! And then that useless junk you’ve got can be rebuilt–“

They listened gravely, nodding as he talked. They did not quite understand everything, but they had the habit of believing him now. He needed this and that in the huge cargo spaces of the ship the leader had formerly used.

“Hm-m-m,” said Hoddan. “How about duplicating these machines and sending them over?”

They looked estimatingly at the tool-shop equipment. It could be made to duplicate itself–

The new machine shop, in the ancient ark of space, made another machine shop for another ship. In the other ship that tool shop would make another for another ship, which in turn….

By then Hoddan had a cold-metal die-stamper in operation. It was very large. It drew on the big ship’s drive unit for power. One put a rough mass of steel in place between plastic dies. One turned on the power. For the tenth of a second–no longer–the steel was soft as putty. Then it stiffened and was warm. But in that tenth of a second it had been shaped with precision.

It took two days to duplicate the jungle-plow Hoddan had first been shown, in new sound metal. But after the first one worked triumphantly, they made forty of each part at a time and turned out jungle-plow equipment enough for the subjugation of all Thetis’ forests.There were other enterprises on hand, of course. A mechanic who stuttered horribly had an idea. He could not explain it or diagram it. So he made it. It was an electric motor very far ahead of those in the machines of Colin. Hoddan waked from a cat nap with a diagram in his head. He drew it, half-asleep, and later looked and found that his unconscious mind had designed a power-supply system which made Walden’s look rather primitive–

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