Jupiter Jones, naked and helpless in the slime of that vile world cursed the space warp that had flung him down among its groveling mutants. For their rising, excited whispers proclaimed him a knight in shining armor their only hope against the terrible octopods who enslaved them!
The Mizar, a glittering needle with stubby, backswept wings, hurtled out of deep space, arced into orbital flight a thousand kilometers above the surface of the planet. The starship had approached from the night side. Now, as it decelerated rapidly, it flashed into the raw orange daylight of the planet's KI type sun, angled downward into the stratosphere.
Inside the Mizar's control blister, Jupiter Jones lifted red-rimmed eyes to the fuel gauge. It showed only a few centigrams left. Little more than enough to land.
He swore under his breath, hunched lower over the controls, a long, loose-framed man with a shock of red hair and vivid green eyes. The olive uniform of the Galactic Colonization Board was wrinkled as if it had been slept in, and he had allowed his beard to grow. The bushy orange-red mass of it hid his face almost to the eyes.
He was alone in the ship. He'd been alone, operating the Mizar single-handed since Briggs, his co-pilot, had gone crazy and killed himself.
It had been a damned inconsiderate thing for Briggs to do, Jones felt. Not that he could altogether blame the co-pilot.
They had blundered into a space warp beyond Alpha Centaurus. The Mizar had been flung into an uncharted region of the cosmos, hundreds, perhaps thousands of parsecs from Sol. Hopelessly lost, the chance of ever finding their way back to Earth had been slimmer than trying to locate one certain atom of oxygen in Earth's envelope of air. Briggs had cracked under the strain.
When the co-pilot had failed to relieve him at the end of his watch, Jupiter Jones had switched the controls over to ?George,? the, robot pilot, and had gone in search of him. He'd found Briggs dead in his bunk. An analysis of his stomach had revealed that he'd taken cyanide. There had been no note. Nothing.