Robert sheckley — a wind is rising
A Wind Is Rising
Outside, a wind was rising. But within the station, the two men had other things on their minds. Clayton turned the handle of the water faucet again and waited. Nothing happened.
“Try hitting it,” said Nerishev.
Clayton pounded the faucet with his fist. Two drops of water came out.
A third drop trembled on the spigot's lip, swayed and fell. That was all.
“That does it,” Clayton said bitterly. “That damned water pipe is blocked again. How much water we got in storage?”
“Four gallons-assuming the tank hasn't sprung another leak,” said Nerishev. He stared at the faucet, tapping it with long, nervous fingers.
He was a big, pale man with a sparse beard, fragile-looking in spite of his size. He didn't look like the type to operate an observation station on a remote and alien planet. But the Advance Exploration Corps had discovered, to its regret, that there was no type to operate a station.
Nerishev was a competent biologist and botanist. Although chronically nervous, he had surprising reserves of calm. He was the sort of man who needs an occasion to rise to. This, if anything, made him suitable to pioneer a planet like Carella I.
“I suppose somebody should go out and unblock the water pipe,” said Nerishev, not looking at Clayton.
“I suppose so,” Clayton said, pounding the faucet again. “But it's going to be murder out there. Listen to it!”
Clayton was a short man, bull-necked, red-faced, powerfully constructed. This was his third tour of duty as a planetary observer.
He had tried other jobs in the Advance Exploration Corps, but none suited him. PEP-Primary Extraterrestrial Penetration-faced him with too many unpleasant surprises. It was work for daredevils and madmen.
But Base Operations was much too tame and restricting.
He like the work of a planetary observer, though. His job was to sit tight on a planet newly opened by the PEP boys and checked out by a drone camera crew. All he had to do on this planet was stoically endure discomfort and skillfully keep himself alive. After a year of this, the relief ship would remove him and note his report. On the basis of the report, further action would or would not be taken.
Before each tour of duty, Clayton dutifully promised his wife that this would be the last. After this tour, he was going to stay on Earth and work on the little farm he owned. He promised…
But at the end of each rest leave, Clayton journeyed out again, to do the thing for which he was best suited: staying alive through skill and endurance.
But this time, he had had it. He and Nerishev had been eight months on Carella. The relief ship was due in another four months. If he came through alive, he was going to quit for good.
“Just listen to that wind,” Nerishev said.
Muffled, distant, it sighed and murmured around the steel hull of the station like a zephyr, a summer breeze.
That was how it sounded to them inside the station, separated from the wind by three inches of steel plus a soundproofing layer.
“It's rising,” Clayton said. He walked over to the windspeed indicator.
According to the dial, the gentle-sounding wind was blowing at a steady 82 miles an hour.
A light breeze on Carella.
“Man, oh man!” Clayton said. “I don't want to go out there. Nothing's worth going out there.”
“It's your turn,” Nerishev pointed out.
“I know. Let me complain a little first, will you? Come on, let's get a forecast from Smanik.”