“A Matter of Importance” is a 1959 science fiction novelette by Murray Leinster. It is about a couple of inter-stellar policemen who are investigating the disappearance of an inter-planetary spaceship.
Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:
When the spaceship carrying his future daughter-in-law is forced to land on an abandoned and rural planet, Sergeant Madden and his junior partner are called upon to handle the disabled vessel. They make the long journey out to Procyron III, but are amazed to find that the ship is no longer there! What started out as a routine service call has suddenly turned into an in-depth police investigation. As they scour the planet for clues, they discover an elaborate plot by an alien race – and now the situation is even more urgent and delicate! What will the cool headed cop do to make sure that all ends well? Tune in to this fine story to find out all the details!
“Attention Traffic,” said the voice. “The following report has been received and verified as off-planet. Message follows.” That voice ceased and was replaced by another, which wavered and wabbled from the electron-spurts normal to solar systems and which make for auroras on planets. “Mayday mayday mayday,” said the second voice. “Call for help. Call for help. Ship Cerberus major breakdown overdrive heading Procyron III for refuge. Help urgently needed.” There was a pause. “Mayday mayday mayday. Call for help—”
Sergeant Madden’s face went blank. Timmy’s girl was on the Cerberus.
My Two Cents:
• The good:
- The idea of how the ship disappeared is pretty cool – I quite enjoyed reading about how it all happened. Kind of unique too.
- I liked all the banter about how policemen are better peace keepers than the military. I’m not sure everyone would agree, but I thought it was kind of funny.
• The bad:
- There is a little too much talking in this story for my taste. That may be a side-effect of when it was written, but it was still kind of annoying.
- There are a few mild occurrences of strong language – but nothing too awfully intense.
• Page Count: 28
• Word Count: 13,754
Where you can find “A Matter of Importance”:
- This novelette first appeared in the September 1959 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.
- You can read a nice online version of “A Matter of Importance” at The Project Gutenberg website.
Some Interesting Links:
- Did you know that Murray Leinster was the pen name for William Fitzgerald Jenkins? Yep. You can learn more about this science fiction author at Wikipedia.
- Special thanks to Variety SF for pointing out this great story!
Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like Chance Encounter, about two men who accept dangerous but lucrative assignments as crewmen on an exploration ship to the edge of the galaxy, by A. Bertram Chandler.