The Pirates of Ersatz-Sixty-Two

The Pirates of Ersatz-Sixty-Two

He restrained himself from tearing his hair as he went to where mechanics of the fleet looked over their treasure-trove. He’d come up to the fleet again to gloat and do great things for people who needed him and knew it. But he faced the hopelessness of people to whom his utmost effort seemed mockery because it was so far from being enough.

He gathered together the men who’d tried to keep the fleet’s ships in working order during their flight. They were competent men, of course. They were resolute. But now they had given up hope. Hoddan began to lecture them. They needed machines. He hadn’t brought the machines they wanted, perhaps, but he’d brought the machines to make them with. Here were automatic shapers, turret lathes, dicers. Here were cutting-points for machines these machines could make, to make the machines the colony on Thetis would require. He’d brought these because they had the raw material. They had their ships themselves! Even some of the junk they carried in crates was good metal, merely worn out in its present form. They could make anything they needed with what he’d brought them. For example, he’d show them how to make … say … a lumber saw.

He showed them how to make a lumber saw–slender, rapierlike revolving tool with which a man stabbed a tree and cut outward with the speed of a knife cutting hot butter. And one could mount it so–and cut out planks and beams for temporary bridges and such constructions.They watched, baffled. They gave no sign of hope. They did not want lumber saws. They wanted jungle-breaking machinery.

“I’ve brought you everything!” he insisted. “You’ve got a civilization, compact, on this ship! You’ve got life instead of starvation! Look at this. I make a water pump to irrigate your fields!”

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