May 09, 2007

The Death of Dyna-Soar

The Raven
Andy Oberta, MPH, CIH
(First appearance in Missiles and Rockets, January 27, 1964)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over the reports and figures I'd been working on since fouró
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As if someone gently rapping, rapping at my office door.
"'Tis the janitor," I muttered, "come to dust and sweep the flooró
Only this, and nothing more."

Long into the hallway peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, thinking thoughts that I had not allowed myself before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was a whispered "Dyna-Soar."
This I whispered, and an echo softly murmured, "Dyna-Soar."
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into my office turning, as my ulcer started burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Aha!" said I, a minute later, "its coming from the ventilator!
I'll have a look behind the grate, or this will bug me more and more.
I'll mount a chair, remove the grating and this mystery explore.
A bolt is loose, and nothing more.

From off the duct I pulled the shutter, when with many a flirt and flutter,
Out there flew a saintly raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mein of lord or lady, perched beside my office door -
Upon a bust of Eugen Sanger, on the bookcase by the door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"This program they have chopped and shaven, but, surely none would be so
As to send a lousy raven to review the Dyna-Soar.
Tell me what your need-to-know is, and just what you're looking for."
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Thought its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing on the bookcase by the door
Such a fowl, and, on inquiring what the bird had come there for,
Have it answer, "Nevermore."

And the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he muttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Hatchet men they've sent before.
On the morrow he will leave me, as our hopes have fled before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
Taught by one who is resistant to a program somewhat distant
Even though we've been insistent we know what we are working for - "
From deep within the Pentagon his melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."

But the raven still bequiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled my swivel chair in front of the bird and bust and
Then, upon the leather sinking, I betook myself into linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core.
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushioned naugahyde lining as the lamplight gloated o'er
The pictures on the paneled wall of TFX and Dyna-Soar -
They shall fly - ah, nevermore!

Then it seemed the air got thicker! Was I mad or was I sick, or
Was this raven telling me that they had cancelled Dyna-Soar?
"Wretch!" I cried, "who was it sent you? For what purpose have they
meant you?
It bodes no good in the event you speak the truth of Dyna-Soar,
Don't bother me with rumors wild - we SHALL develop Dyna-Soar!"
Quoth the raven, "nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "Thing of evil! Tell me agent of the devil,
Whether McNamera axed the program, or just cut us back some more.
Will he make a presentation to Congress for appropriations?
Does he plan continuation after Fiscal '64?
Is there funding in the budget" Tell me - tell me, I implore."
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "Thing of evil! Tell me agent of the devil,
Has this man in Washington whom all of us are working for
No semblance of imagination nor a sense of exploration?
Bitter will be our frustration if our work is truly o'er.
Won't he give our team a chance to reinstate the Dyna-Soar?"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sigh of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked,
"Fly back into that air duct - to this place return no more.
Leave no black plumes as a token of that lie you have just spoken!
Cease this blasphemy you're croakin' - quit the bust beside my door!
Leave me to my charts and figures! Leave this office, I implore!
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting
On the bust of Eugen Sanger, on the bookcase by the door.
There he perches, symbolizing efforts at economizing
That succeeded in paralyzing Man's desire to explore.
And the sleek and winged spacecraft that they called the Dyna-Soar -
It shall orbit - nevermore!

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was early last December.
It was felt that very shortly we would be employed no more.
Every day we feared the morrow; vainly we had sought to borrow
Funds to budget us tomorrow for our work on Dyna-Soar -
On the sleek and winged spacecraft that they called the Dyna-Soaró
Cancelled now, forevermore.

The tapping noises which I mention filled me with a curious tensionó
Filled me with an apprehension I had never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating.
"'Tis the janitor entreating entrance at my office dooró
Just the janitor entreating entrance at my office dooró
This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "good fellow, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my office door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you," here I opened wide the dooró
At an empty hall, and nothing more.

(I had first posted this on my old blog. It had made an appearance several times on the internet, usually on SF or space-related newsgroups. I am happy to finally give credit to Andrew F. Oberta. For more information on his career, see his website, or this sub-page on his website.

Posted by Planet Stories at May 9, 2007 11:02 AM
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