make him settle down. Only it ain't. Not in Biggs' case. It's having just the opposite effect. Making him flighty as a coot. Lancelot ain't been worth a tinker's dam on this trip. He can't do a single thing right! Remember our take-off, Sparks? From Long Island port? The one where we—"
"—lifted gravs two full minutes before schedule?" I finished. "Don't I just! I almost did a swan dive through the aft bulkhead. Why? Did he—?"
"Mmm-hmm! And he also plotted the course that took us nine degrees off trajectory. And he heaved the ship into a Van-Maeden spiral by signaling for a double-jet port blast in midspace. And he—" Hanson paused, panting with wrath. "But why go on? The point is, the very thought of marriage has ruined him. And we can't depend on him to help us with this assignment. And Uranus is a long way from here. A lo-o-oong way!"
I winced. I said, "Look, Skipper—must you say it thataway? With icicles in your voice, I mean?"
But orders is orders. We lifted gravs as commanded at 11.20 Martian Constant Time—that's 3-X-9 Solar Relative—and pointed our prow toward the spot in space where, some billion and a half odd miles away, Uranus was lounging about a wan and distant Sun like a gigantic snowball. That is, we attempted to point our prow in that direction. Cap Hanson's astrogation came a cropper on this problem. He called me to the control turret. He asked, "Sparks, have you seen him?"
"You mean Mr. Biggs? No, sir."
"Well, go find him. In the first place, none of us except him know how to chart to intersect Uranus' orbit, and in the second place, we don't know how to operate that crazy velocity intensifier of his'n, and—" Fretfully. "—and in the third place, I don't like this in the first place!"
So I made a tour of the ship, and found him where I should have looked first. In his own cabin, raptly fondling a cabinet photograph of Diane Hanson—soon-to-be Biggs. He glanced up as I entered, and his phenomenal Adam's apple, an auricular escalator if I ever saw one, bobbed in greeting.
"Hello, Sparks," he said dreamily, and held out the picture for my inspection. "She's lovely, isn't she?"
I said, "Don't look now, Mr. Biggs, but that cheery little noise you've been ignoring is the audio buzzer beside your elbow. It's for you. The skipper wants you topside."
Biggs looked startled.
"Me? But there must be some mistake. I'm off duty until tomorrow morning."
"Guess again," I told him. "It so happens that you are the only mugg—I mean—officer around here who knows how to finagle that velocity intensifier of yours. So you're elected. After all, if we're going to Uranus"—
That got him. He popped off his hip pockets like a thunderbolt from the blooie!
"Okay," I said gloomily. "And you watch yours." I stared at him curiously, though. "What's the matter; didn't you know?"
"Know! Of course not! B-but—" His fluid larynx did handsprings. "But I can't go to Uranus! I told her I'd be home in ten days!"
I said, "Then she'd better not hold her breath till you get there. You led with your chin, Lieutenant, when you told the president of our beloved corporation about your new invention. He'd decided to give it a work-out. And as near as I can figure—" This was what had been worrying me from the start. "It will take us about ten months to get to Uranus, and another twelve to get back!"
But, surprisingly, it was my dejection