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A Transmutation of Muddles by Horace Brown Fyfe

A TRANSMUTATION OF MUDDLES

_An experienced horse-trader, bargain-haggler, and general swapper has a very special talent for turning two headaches into one aspirin pill...._

By H. B. FYFE

Illustrated by Van Dongen

The rugged little stellar scout ship flared down to the surface of Kappa Orionis VII about a mile from the aboriginal village. The pilot, Lieutenant Eric Haruhiku, scorched an open field, but pointed out to Louis Mayne that he had been careful to disturb neither woodland nor shoreline.

"The Kappans are touchy about those, Judge," he explained, "They fish a lot, as you'd guess from all these shallow seas, and they pick fruit in the forests; but they don't farm much."

"No use provoking trouble," Mayne approved. "It's a long way from Rigel."

"It's a longer way from Sol," said the pilot.

"Don't I know, boy! If it weren't, I'd be just another retired space captain, quietly struggling with my ranch on Rigel IX. As it is, to get the grant, I had to remain on call as an arbitrator."

"Somebody has to settle these things," said Haruhiku. "There's not much law way out here, except what the Space Force can apply. Well, if you'll excuse me, sir, I'll have them get out the helicopter and take us over to the village."

"Let me see that last message again, before you go," Mayne requested.

The pilot extracted a sheet from his clipboard and handed it to Mayne as he left. Mayne studied the text with little pleasure.

Terran Space Force headquarters on Rigel IX wished to inform him that the long awaited envoy from Terra to Kappa Orionis VII not only had arrived but had departed two days behind Mayne.

It was hoped, the communication continued, that nothing would interfere with the desired objective of coming to some friendly agreement with the Kappans that would permit Terran use of the planet as a base for spaceships. The envoy, of course, was prepared to offer trade inducements and various other forms of help to the semi-civilized natives. Mayne was requested to lay whatever groundwork he could.

_In my spare time, no doubt_, he reflected. _I'm to settle this silly business any way at all--as long as the natives get their way. But has anybody told the government about insurance companies? If it costs money or a lawsuit, will they back me up?_

He felt himself to be in a ridiculous dilemma. The Kappans were reported to have seized a Terran spaceship as it landed to trade. Naturally, the captain had squawked for help. He claimed he had crashed; his insurance company thought otherwise; the Kappans seemed to have some entirely different idea in mind. Mayne had been summoned into action to render a decision, after the rough and ready system of these settlements on the surface of Terra's sphere of explored space.


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