By A. Bertram Chandler (1912-84).
First appearance: Startling Stories, January 1952.
Novelette (21 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
"Want a Rigellian flower garden, a Moonflower, or a Chlorian prayer mat? These space sleuths will find it—at a price!"When somebody offers you a deal that seems too good to be true, you can be excused for being skeptical; and so it is with Callaghan, an experienced space pilot, after Brent, an old but definitely not dear acquaintance, offers him a lucrative job piloting the starship Collector to the planet Tregga in the Achernar system in search of a unique artifact, something so rare that a compulsive collector, a multi-billionaire, is willing to pay Brent any amount to get his hands on it—and Brent, in turn, is willing to do something that makes outright murder look almost humane in comparison. Like we said, too good to be true . . .
An agreeable simile: "It shone with a cold, cold radiance of its own, like the light of a wan, old moon reflected from a smooth, icy sea."
Typo: "the predominate vegetation of Tregga" [although some sources say it's acceptable]
- For years A. Bertram Chandler's science fiction was wildly popular, with many
reprints; read all about him at Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), a tribute site
(HERE), the AustLit webpage (HERE), and, of course, the bibliographical listings
on the ISFDb (HERE).
Achernar, visible, according to Wikipedia (HERE), "in the deep southern sky";
science fiction authors, comic book artists, computer game designers, and TV
scriptwriters have used Achernar as a place to tell their stories (HERE).
The bottom line: "The first thing I started collecting was stamps. Until I started discovering girls. That was the end of stamps."
— Eli Broad