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Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert

  Book Description

  Even the author of Dune—the best-selling science fiction novel of all time—had trouble getting published. At first.

  Frank Herbert wanted to be a writer, and though today his name is practically synonymous with worldbuilding and epic science fiction, Herbert didn’t start out with a particular genre in mind. He wrote mainstream stories, mysteries, thrillers, mens’ adventure pieces, humorous slice-of-life tales, and, yes, some science fiction.

  For the first time, this collection presents thirteen completed short stories that Frank Herbert never published in his lifetime. These tales show a great breadth of talent and imagination. Readers can now appreciate the writing of one of the field’s masters in a kaleidoscope of new stories.

  Smashwords Edition – 2016

  WordFire Press

  ISBN: 978-1-61475-409-1

  Copyright © Copyright © 2016 Herbert Properties LLC

  “The Yellow Coat” recently appeared in Fiction River: Pulse Pounders, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, WMG Publishing, 2015

  “The Daddy Box” recently appeared in The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert, Tor Books, 2014.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission of the copyright holder, except where permitted by law. This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously.

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  Cover design by Janet McDonald

  Art Director Kevin J. Anderson

  Cover artwork images by Dollar Photo Club

  Book Design by RuneWright, LLC

  Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta, Publishers

  Published by

  WordFire Press, an imprint of

  WordFire, Inc.

  PO Box 1840

  Monument, CO 80132


  Book Description

  Title Page

  Buried Treasure

  The Unpublished Short Stories of Frank Herbert

  The Cage

  The Illegitimate Stage

  A Lesson in History


  The Iron Maiden

  Thriller and Adventure

  The Wrong Cat

  The Yellow Coat

  The Heat’s On

  The Little Window

  The Waters of Kan-E

  Paul’s Friend

  Science Fiction

  Public Hearing

  The Daddy Box

  If You Liked …

  About the Author

  Other WordFire Press Titles by Frank Herbert

  Buried Treasure

  The Unpublished Short Stories of Frank Herbert

  Even the author of Dune—the best-selling science fiction novel of all time—had trouble getting published. At first.

  Frank Herbert wanted to be a writer, and though today his name is practically synonymous with worldbuilding and epic science fiction, Herbert didn’t start out with a particular genre in mind. He wrote mainstream stories, mysteries, thrillers, mens’ adventure pieces, humorous slice-of-life tales, and, yes, some science fiction.

  In his early years, Herbert faced many rejections. His submissions came close-but-not-quite at magazine after magazine. Frank Herbert was an inspired writer with an unpredictable muse. He wrote what he wanted to write, about the characters and the situations that struck his fancy, paying very little attention to the market or the requirements of the magazines to which he submitted.

  As a result, his stories were often the wrong length—too short to be released as a novel but too long for traditional periodicals. Magazines liked his work but could not use it. His agent also had a frustrating time finding a home for Herbert’s work.

  And yet he kept writing.

  Finally, in 1956, he found success, placing his novel The Dragon in the Sea with Doubleday, which received wide critical acclaim and made him a writer to watch.

  So Herbert wrote another novel … which he couldn’t get published. And another novel, and more short stories, and other novels. He kept trying, with his subjects wandering all over the map, until finally he wrote Dune, which was possibly the most unpublishable SF novel of all, rejected more than twenty times before it was finally released by a house that specialized in auto repair manuals.

  And eventually, that novel made him a world-famous author.

  In Frank Herbert’s files, we found the completed and polished manuscripts for four novels—High Opp, Angels’ Fall, A Game of Authors, and A Thorn in the Bush—all of which have been released, as Herbert wrote them, from WordFire Press.

  We also found the submission manuscripts for thirteen completed short stories, all of which failed to find a home in the magazines of the day. This volume collects all those previously unpublished stories, including the mystery/thrillers “The Yellow Coat,” “The Heat’s On,” “The Wrong Cat,” and “The Little Window”; humorous mainstream stories “The Illegitimate Stage,” “Wilfred,” and “The Iron Maiden”; serious mainstream stories “The Cage” and “A Lesson in History”; South Sea adventure stories “Paul’s Friend” and “The Waters of Kan-E”; and science fiction tales “Public Hearing” and “The Daddy Box.”

  Readers can now appreciate the writing of one of the field’s masters in a kaleidoscope of stories that have not previously seen print. Enjoy.

  —Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson


  The Cage

  Davis straightened the diagonal fold in the blanket at the foot of his hospital bed, smoothing the U.S.N. initials. He knew the corpsman, Blackie, was standing behind him, and Davis wondered if he’d be able to take it as he’d seen some of the others do. He’d seen it coming in the corpsman’s small, close-set eyes—the way they watched out of the corners—and the sadistic twist of the mouth that smiled without showing teeth. Davis knew he was lucky to have stayed in the ward three days without getting it sooner. “Seventeen” was notorious: Igor Blackston ran it on fear, and he seemed to have a sixth sense to tell him which of the “observation cases” would not rebel at his treatment.

  Out of the corner of his eye, Davis watched the corpsman’s feet advancing, and the fear began to rise. Blackie leaned over to examine the bed. That was the way it always started. Criss-crossed shadows from the barred window at the head of the bed framed one eye in the corpsman’s square face. This man was all dark corners, Davis thought.

  “A lousy job!” Blackie said. He ripped the blankets off the bed. “Do it again—right this time.”

  Turning, he placed a heel on Davis’ slippered left foot, grinding it deliberately. Davis screamed. Blackie lifted his foot and turned back. He put his right hand to his chin as though pondering some question. “Oh, did I step on your foot? I’m sorry.” The right hand described a short arc and cracked against Davis’ jaw, staggering him back onto the bed.

  “Don’t scream,” Blackie said. “It gives people the wrong idea. Only crazy people scream.”

  Davis clenched his fist and started to push himself off the bed. Out of the corner of his eye he saw two others, the red-haired corpsman and the stocky one they called Shorty, moving down the passage between the beds. Suddenly Davis realized they were afraid of Blackie, too. But Blackie was in charge here.

/>   “Don’t get tough,” Blackie said. “We’d have to restrain you.”

  Davis waited, and the others paused.

  “If the bed isn’t made when the chow cart comes through, you don’t eat,” the corpsman said, and turned away.

  Lifting the covers off the floor, Davis shook the spread free and placed it over the back of his chair. He took a blanket and threw it over the bed. As he smoothed it, he saw the occupant of the next bed standing at the foot.

  “Just take it,” the other said. “It’s easier that way.”

  The chow cart banged against the outside bars as Davis finished. He looked up. The corpsmen gathered at the head desk apparently weren’t paying any attention to him. He stepped to the foot of the bed and waited his turn. The cart was pushed through the doors, and Blackie took up the ladle. That was a bad sign. The head corpsman didn’t have to do the menial work. When the cart came up, Davis took a spoon, picked a bowl, and held it out. Blackie dipped a small portion of mush into the ladle and upended it into the bowl, poured a few drops of milk over it, and moved on. Davis compressed his lips and remained silent. He knew better than to reach for a cup of coffee or one of the halved grapefruits. He’d seen the young marine across the ward try it yesterday. Blackie’d sent the boy out back to the loony ward last night.

  Blackie pushed the cart on up the line, stopping at each bed to give the others a complete breakfast. Davis, watching the corpsman, noticed that Blackie never turned his back on any of the patients, and when he stopped to serve the big Negro at the head of the ward, he stayed on the opposite side of the cart. “Blackie’s afraid,” he thought.

  After breakfast, Davis moved over and took his place in the line at the shaving stand. The clang of the inner door brought his head around. A corpsman stood outside the bars with a sheaf of papers. Blackie opened the door and took the papers.

  A cuff on his arm brought Davis around. Shorty was holding out a razor and one of the tiny shaving cream tubes. Automatically, Davis took the razor and tube. He stepped into the washroom and found an unoccupied bowl and mirror. The day’s growth of beard made his cheeks appear hollow. “More of their program to lower morale,” he thought: “let you shave only every other day.” His eyes were bloodshot under their thin brows. He put a hand to his head where the cargo hatch had hit him. It still felt tender after all these weeks. Funny they’d stick him in a place like this just because he was hit on the head … take all his clothes, censor his mail, even light his cigarettes for him because he couldn’t have matches.

  Looking sideways, Davis saw the eyes of the man beside him staring back from the mirror. Their wild light suddenly made him glad the corpsman was watching from the door. He opened his shaving cream tube and began to lather his face.

  After returning the razor, Davis headed for the magazine rack. If he could read for a while, maybe he could forget these sadistic bastards. He debated whether or not it would be wise to try to talk to the doctor. Then he wondered why no one else had ever talked. The white walls of the ward seemed too close to him. He shook his head.


  Blackie was sitting at the desk by the inner door. “Come here,” he said.

  Davis walked up to the desk and stood before it, pulling his bathrobe tighter around him.

  “You’re up for X-ray today,” the corpsman said. “Be ready at ten thirty.”

  Nodding his head, Davis turned away.

  “When I’m through talking to you, I’ll let you know.” Blackie’s voice was low. Davis turned back and saw that the corpsman was standing.

  “I just wanted to warn you against telling any funny stories while you’re outside. It’d be easy for me to turn in a report that you have a persecution complex. Know what that means?”

  Davis remained silent.

  “That means you’d be diagnosed as a paranoid. They’d send you up the river to Bethesda and a nice, quiet padded cell. You’d think this cage was heaven.” He paused. “Don’t forget it. That’s all.” He waved the back of his hand toward Davis to signify that he was finished.

  At ten thirty, Shorty came down the bed line with a sheaf of papers. “Emlot, Davis, Granowski, Parker, come with me.”

  Davis took his place with the others and followed the corpsman outside. They went up the disinfectant smelling hall, climbed some stairs, down another hall, and sat on a bench outside a door marked “X-ray Lab.” Davis went in after Emlot. The impersonal technician ordered him up nude on a bare table and set his head for the picture.

  In the chill of the room, with his skin against the cold slab, Davis felt as if this was the way he’d appear on a morgue slab. He pushed the thought out of his mind. Those sons of bitches had him thinking like a crazy man.

  When the X-rays were completed, the corpsman led them downstairs again and rapped for the outer door of the cage to be opened. He held Davis’ arm and allowed the others to pass through.

  “You gotta see Doctor Knauffer,” he said.

  They went down another hallway and through the fracture ward. Davis wondered if the patients in here knew he was from Seventeen. They didn’t seem to be paying any particular attention. At the end of the ward was an office with a lettered board across the door: “R.J. Knauffer, Lieut. Comdr., MC, U.S.N.” The corpsman rapped twice.

  “Come in,” a voice said.

  Davis entered and sat down on a chair opposite the tailored neatness of the doctor. He felt out of place in the bathrobe.

  A full-toothed smile passed across Doctor Knauffer’s tanned face. He raised his manicured hands and steepled them before him, elbows resting on the desk.

  “Do people pick on you or talk about you behind your back?” he asked.

  Davis felt his body grow chill. What had that son of a bitch Blackie said?

  “No … no, sir.”

  Doctor Knauffer glanced down at a paper between his elbows.

  Was that the ward report?

  The doctor looked up. “Have you ever been hit on the head before?”

  “A couple of times, sir. When I was a kid I was hit with a baseball. And a girl beaned me with her books once.”

  Doctor Knauffer smiled. “Well, you see, what bothers us is that you fainted after being discharged from sickbay and sent back to duty. I went to school with Doctor Logan and have every confidence in his diagnosis. There really was no reason for you to faint unless …” The doctor lowered his hands and picked up the papers. “Are you certain you fainted? After all, the navy does get tiresome at times, and a good rest in a hospital …”

  Davis felt the fear tightening his throat, constricting his chest. What were they trying to do to him? He hadn’t asked to come here. “I … I guess I really fainted, sir.”

  “You guess you fainted, but you’re not certain. Is that it?”

  “Sir, I passed out.”

  “Have you ever spent much time in a hospital before?”

  “No, sir.”

  “I find from the report here that you were in sick bay on the Ajax for three days after you were hit by the hatch.”

  “That isn’t very long, sir.”

  The doctor’s face hardened. “No, it isn’t. Well, you go back to your ward, and we’ll wait until we see the pictures. They’ll be down shortly.”

  Davis stood up. “Uh, doctor …”

  “Yes.” Doctor Knauffer already was going on to other papers.

  “I wonder if it would be possible for me to get transferred to another ward?”

  The doctor looked up sharply. “Why do you want to be transferred?”

  “Why, I … uh …”

  “Are you certain no one is picking on you—the corpsmen, for instance?”

  “Oh, no, sir. They’re very good to me.”

  “I see. Well, why do you want a transfer?”

  “It’s just that I don’t like the atmosphere in there, sir … all of the …”

  “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to stand that atmosphere for at least a week. We have to make a thorough check on you.”

  Back in the ward, Blackie caught his arm as he came through the door. “And what did we tell the doctor this morning?” he asked.

  Davis was pleased to notice the fear in Blackie’s eyes. He stifled the urge to give a flip answer. “I didn’t tell him anything.”

  Blackie brought up his knee and caught Davis in the groin. Davis collapsed on the floor with his leg doubled under him.

  “See that you don’t,” the corpsman said.

  Rolling over, Davis started to rise. Through the bars he saw Doctor Knauffer turn the corner down the hall and come striding toward the cage. Davis stood up and hobbled toward his bed.

  Doctor Knauffer rapped on the bars and the corpsman in the middle cage pushed the buzzer for the outer door. The doctor paused at the head desk a moment, talking to Blackie, then made his way down the aisle to Davis’ bed.

  “I saw you on the floor as I came down the hall,” he said. “What happened?”

  Davis looked up and saw Blackie’s eyes on him. Did he dare tell the doctor the truth? Blackie’s eyes were unwavering.

  “I tripped, sir.”

  “Tripped? On what?”

  “On my slippers, sir.”

  “Oh? Blackston said you seemed to fall down in a faint, but that you got right back up, so he didn’t assist you. Has there ever been any epilepsy in your family?”

  Again Davis felt the chill. Why wouldn’t they leave him alone and send him back to duty? A fellow could take that out there, but not this.

  “I asked you if there’s ever been any epilepsy in your family,” the doctor repeated.

  “Huh? Oh. I don’t know, sir.”

  “Well, I came over to have another chat with you, son. The pictures came down right after you left. They show no fracture. Frankly, I’m afraid we may have to send you up to Bethesda for further examination unless we can get some ready explanation of your case.”

  Davis turned his head and looked out the barred window to the other barred windows across the courtyard. “This … this epilepsy—you think I have it, sir?”

  “No, but you could have a mild form—petit mal.”