ALAN E. NOURSE
[Transcriber's note: Extensive research
did not uncover
that the copyright
on this publication
DAVID McKAY COMPANY, INC.
COPYRIGHT (C) 1959, 1960 BY ALAN E. NOURSE
_All rights reserved_
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NO. 60-7199
Manufactured in the United States of America
VAN REES PRESS . NEW YORK
_Typography by Charles M. Todd_
Sixth Printing, April 1973
Part of this book was published in _Amazing Science Fiction Stories_
1 The Intruder 3
2 Hospital Seattle 15
3 The Inquisition 25
4 The Galactic Pill Peddlers 37
5 Crisis on Morua VIII 54
6 Tiger Makes a Promise 66
7 Alarums and Excursions 78
8 Plague! 98
9 The Incredible People 107
10 The Boomerang Clue 121
11 Dal Breaks a Promise 136
12 The Showdown 151
13 The Trial 165
14 Star Surgeon 175
The shuttle plane from the port of Philadelphia to Hospital Seattle had
already gone when Dal Timgar arrived at the loading platform, even
though he had taken great pains to be at least thirty minutes early for
"You'll just have to wait for the next one," the clerk at the
dispatcher's desk told him unsympathetically. "There's nothing else you
"But I _can't_ wait," Dal said. "I have to be in Hospital Seattle by
morning." He pulled out the flightschedule
and held it under the
clerk's nose. "Look there! The shuttle wasn't supposed
to leave for
another forty-five minutes!"
The clerk blinked at the schedule, and shrugged. "The seats were full,
so it left," he said. "Graduation time, you know. Everybody has to be
somewhere else, right away. The next shuttle goes in three hours."
"But I had a reservation
on this one," Dal insisted.
"Don't be silly," the clerk said sharply. "Only graduates can get
reservations this time of year--" He broke off to stare at Dal Timgar,
a puzzled frown on his face. "Let me see that reservation."
Dal fumbled in his pants pocket for the yellow reservation
slip. He was
wishing now that he'd kept his mouth shut. He was acutely conscious
the clerk's suspicious
stare, and suddenly he felt extremely
The Earth-cut trousers
had never really fit Dal very well; his legs were
too long and spindly, and his hips too narrow to hold the pants up
properly. The tailor
in the Philadelphia shop had tried three times to
make a jacket
fit across Dal's narrow shoulders, and finally had given
up in despair. Now, as he handed the reservation
slip across the
counter, Dal saw the clerk staring at the fine gray fur that coated the
back of his hand and arm. "Here it is," he said angrily. "See for
The clerk looked at the slip and handed it back indifferently. "It's a
valid reservation, all right, but there won't be another shuttle to
Hospital Seattle for three hours," he said, "unless you have a priority
card, of course."
"No, I'm afraid I don't," Dal said. It was a ridiculous
the clerk knew it. Only physicians in the Black Service of Pathology and
a few Four-star Surgeons had the power to commandeer public aircraft
whenever they wished. "Can I get on the next shuttle?"
"You can try," the clerk said, "but you'd better be ready when they
start loading. You can wait up on the ramp if you want to."
Dal turned and started across the main concourse of the great airport.
He felt a stir of motion
at his side, and looked down at the small pink
fuzz-ball sitting in the crook of his arm. "Looks like we're out of
luck, pal," he said gloomily. "If we don't get on the next plane, we'll
miss the hearing
altogether. Not that it's going to do us much good to
be there anyway."
The little pink fuzz-ball on his arm opened a pair of black shoe-button
eyes and blinked up at him, and Dal absently
stroked the tiny creature
with a finger. The fuzz-ball quivered happily and clung closer to Dal's
side as he started up the long ramp to the observation
Automatic doors swung open as he reached the top, and Dal shivered in
the damp night air. He could feel the gray fur that coated his back and
neck rising to protect him from the coldness
and dampness that his body
was never intended by nature to endure.
Below him the bright lights of the landing
fields and terminal
of the port of Philadelphia spread out in panorama, and he thought with
a sudden pang of the great space-port in his native city, so very
different from this one and so unthinkably far away. The field below was
teeming with activity, alive with men and vehicles. Moments before, one
of Earth's great hospital ships had landed, returning from a cruise
into the heart of the galaxy, bringing in the gravely
ill from a dozen
star systems for care in one of Earth's hospitals. Dal watched as the
long line of stretchers poured from the ship's hold with white-clad
orderlies in nervous
attendance. Some of the stretchers were encased in
tanks; a siren wailed across the field as an
emergency truck raced up with fresh gas bottles for a chlorine-breather
from the Betelgeuse system, and a derrick crew spent fifteen minutes
lifting down the special liquidammonia
tank housing a native of
All about the field were physicians supervising the process of
in the colors that signified their medical
specialties. At the foot of the landing
crane a Three-star Internist in
the green cape of the Medical Service--obviously the commander
ship--was talking with the welcoming dignitaries of Hospital Earth.
Half a dozen doctors in the Blue Service of Diagnosis were checking new
lab supplies ready to be loaded aboard. Three young Star Surgeons swung
by just below Dal with their bright scarlet
capes fluttering in the
breeze, headed for customs and their first Earthside liberty in months.
Dal watched them go by, and felt the sick, bitter feeling in the pit of
that he had felt so often in recent months.
He had dreamed, once, of wearing the scarlet
cape of the Red Service of
Surgery too, with the silver star of the Star Surgeon on his collar.
That had been a long time ago, over eight Earth years ago; the dream had
faded slowly, but now the last vestige
of hope was almost gone. He
thought of the long years of intensive
training he had just completed in
school of Hospital Philadelphia, the long nights of studying
for exams, the long days spent in the laboratories and clinics in order
to become a physician
of Hospital Earth, and a wave of bitterness
through his mind.
_A dream_, he thought hopelessly, _a foolish idea and nothing more. They
knew before I started that they would never let me finish. They had no
intention of doing so, it just amused them to watch me beat my head on a
stone wall for these eight years._ But then he shook his head and felt a
of the thought. It wasn't quite true, and he knew it. He
had known that it was a gamble
from the very first. Black Doctor
Arnquist had warned him the day he received his notice of admission
school. "I can promise you nothing," the old man had said,
"except a slender
chance. There are those who will fight to the very end
to prevent you from succeeding, and when it's all over, you may not win.
But if you are willing
to take that risk, at least you have a chance."
Dal had accepted the risk with his eyes wide open. He had done the best
he could do, and now he had lost. True, he had not received the final,
irrevocable word that he had been expelled from the medical
Hospital Earth, but he was certain now that it was waiting
for him when
he arrived at Hospital Seattle the following morning.
The loading ramp was beginning
to fill up, and Dal saw half a dozen of
his classmates from the medical
school burst through the door from the
station below, shifting their day packs from their shoulders and
chattering among themselves. Several of them saw him, standing
himself against the guard rail. One or two nodded coolly
away; the others just ignored him. Nobody greeted him, nor even smiled.
Dal turned away and stared down once again at the busy activity on the
"Why so gloomy, friend?" a voice behind him said. "You look as though
the ship left without you."
Dal looked up at the tall, dark-haired young man, towering
at his side,
and smiled ruefully. "Hello, Tiger! As a matter of fact, it _did_ leave.
for the next one."
"Where to?" Frank Martin frowned down at Dal. Known as "Tiger" to
everyone but the professors, the young man's nickname
fit him well. He
was big, even for an Earthman, and his massive
shoulders and stubborn
jaw only served to emphasize
his bigness. Like the other recent
graduates on the platform, he was wearing the colored cuff and collar
the probationary physician, in the bright green of the Green Service of
Medicine. He reached out a huge hand and gently
rubbed the pink
fuzz-ball sitting on Dal's arm. "What's the trouble, Dal? Even Fuzzy
looks worried. Where's your cuff and collar?"
"I didn't get any cuff and collar," Dal said.
"Didn't you get an assignment?" Tiger stared at him. "Or are you just
taking a leave first?"
Dal shook his head. "A permanent
leave, I guess," he said bitterly.
"There's not going to be any assignment
for me. Let's face it, Tiger.
I'm washed out."
"Oh, now look here--"
"I mean it. I've been booted, and that's all there is to it."
"But you've been in the top ten in the class right through!" Tiger
protested. "You know you passed your finals. What is this, anyway?"
Dal reached into his jacket
and handed Tiger a blue paper envelope. "I
should have expected it from the first. They sent me this instead of my
cuff and collar."
Tiger opened the envelope. "From Doctor Tanner," he grunted. "The Black
Plague himself. But what is it?"
"Read it," Dal said.
"'You are hereby
directed to appear before the medical
in the council chambers in Hospital Seattle at 10:00 A.M., Friday, June
24, 2375, in order that your application
to a General
Practice Patrol ship may be reviewed. Insignia will not be worn. Signed,
Hugo Tanner, Physician, Black Service of Pathology.'" Tiger blinked at
the notice and handed it back to Dal. "I don't get it," he said finally.
"You applied, you're as qualified as any of us--"
"Except in one way," Dal said, "and that's the way that counts. They
don't want me, Tiger. They have never wanted me. They only let me go
through school because Black Doctor Arnquist made an issue of it, and
they didn't quite dare to veto him. But they never intended to let me
finish, not for a minute."
For a moment the two were silent, staring down at the busy landing
procedures below. A warning
light was flickering across the field,
signaling the landing
of an incoming shuttle ship, and the supply cars
broke from their positions in center of the field and fled like beetles
for the security
of the garages. A loudspeaker blared, announcing the
incoming craft. Dal Timgar turned, lifting Fuzzy gently
from his arm
into a side jacket
pocket and shouldering his day pack. "I guess this is
my flight, Tiger. I'd better get in line."
Tiger Martin gripped Dal's slender
four-fingered hand tightly. "Look,"
he said intensely, "this is some sort of mistake that the training
council will straighten
out. I'm sure of it. Lots of guys have their
applications reviewed. It happens all the time, but they still get their
"Do you know of any others in this class? Or the last class?"
"Maybe not," Tiger said. "But if they were washing you out, why would
the council be reviewing it? Somebody must be fighting for you."
"But Black Doctor Tanner is on the council," Dal said.
"He's not the only one on the council. It's going to work out. You'll
"I hope so," Dal said without conviction. He started for the loading
line, then turned. "But where are _you_ going to be? What ship?"
Tiger hesitated. "Not assigned yet. I'm taking
a leave. But you'll be
hearing from me."
The loading call blared from the loudspeaker. The tall Earthman seemed
about to say something more, but Dal turned away and headed across
toward the line for the shuttle plane. Ten minutes later, he was aloft
as the tiny plane speared up through the black night sky and turned its
needle nose toward the west.
* * * * *
He tried to sleep, but couldn't. The shuttle trip from the Port of
Philadelphia to Hospital Seattle was almost two hours long because of
passenger stops at Hospital Cleveland, Eisenhower City, New Chicago, and
Hospital Billings. In spite of the help of the pneumatic seats and a
sleep-cap, Dal could not even doze. It was one of the perfect clear
nights that often occurred in midsummer
now that weather control could
modify Earth's air currents so well; the stars glittered against the
backdrop above, and the North American continent
of clouds. Dal stared down at the patchwork of lights that flickered up
at him from the ground below.
Passing below him were some of the great cities, the hospitals, the
research and training centers, the residential zones and supply centers
of Hospital Earth, medical
center to the powerful Galactic
of the health of a thousand
intelligent races on a thousand planets of a thousand distant star
systems. Here, he knew, was the ivory tower of galactic medicine, the
hub from which the medical
care of the confederation
arose. From the
huge hospitals, research
centers, and medical
schools here, the
physicians of Hospital Earth went out to all corners of the galaxy. In
outpost clinics, in the gigantic
hospital ships that
served great sectors of the galaxy, and in the General Practice Patrol
ships that roved from star system
to star system, they answered the
calls for medicalassistance
from a multitude
of planets and races,
wherever and whenever
they were needed.
Dal Timgar had been on Hospital Earth for eight years, and still he was
a stranger here. To him this was an alien planet, different in a
thousand ways from the world where he was born and grew to manhood. For
a moment now he thought of his native home, the second planet
of a hot
yellow star which Earthmen called "Garv" because they couldn't pronounce
its full name in the Garvian tongue. Unthinkably distant, yet only days
away with the power of the star-drive motors that its people had
developed thousands of years before, Garv II was a warm planet, teeming
with activity, the trading center of the galaxy and the governmental