I am looking for a short story I found in a collection of 50's science fiction stories. I have looked all over and searched through online collections that I could access.

During a battle an Earth fighter ship evades the enemy by flying along with large sperm from alien creatures who are mating. The ship enters the egg and grows more powerful. The pilot takes his comrades back to the egg to help them transform.

It may have been called something like Easter Eggs. Robert Carr may have been the author but I cannot verify it.

Any ideas?

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    When I googled Robert Carr "easter eggs", I found this isfdb page. – sjl Sep 17 '12 at 16:17

"Early Bird", a short story by Theodore R. Cogswell and Theodore L. Thomas, was first published in 1973, not the '50s, but it fits your plot description very well. There is a Wikipedia page for this story.

Here is an excerpt:

The spermatazoa reached an altitude of half a kilometer before achieving homing ability. They circled, losing altitude until their newly activated homing mechanisms picked up the high-frequency emissions of the distant egg. Then tiny jets began pouring carbon dioxide, and flattened leading edges bit into the atmosphere as they arced toward their objective.

Each was a flattened cylinder, twenty meters long, with a scythe-shaped sensing element protruding from a flattened head, each with a pair of long tails connected at the trailing edge by a broad ribbon. It was an awesome, armada, plowing through the turbulent atmosphere, homing on the distant signal.

As the leaders of the sperm swarm appeared over the horizon, Gog's sensors locked in. The selection time was near. Energy banks cut in and fuel converters began to seethe, preparing for the demands of the activated weapons system. At twenty kilometers, a long-range beam locked in on the leading spermatazoon. It lacked evasive ability and a single frontal shot fused it. Its remnants spiraled to the surface, a mass of carbonized debris interspersed with droplets of glowing metal.

The shock of its destruction spread through the armada and stimulated wild, evasive gyrations on the part of the rest. But Gog's calculators predicted the course of one after another, and flickering bolts of energy burned them out of the sky. None was proving itself fit to survive. Then, suddenly, there was a moment of confusion in her intricate neural network. An intruder was approaching from the wrong direction. All her reserve projectors swiveled and spat a concentrated cone of lethal force at the rogue gamete that was screaming down through the atmosphere. Before the beam could take effect, a milky nimbus surrounded the approaching stranger and it continued on course unharmed. She shifted frequencies. The new bolt was as ineffective as the last. A ripple of excited anticipation rippled through her great bulk. This was the one she'd been waiting for!

Robert Spencer Carr's novelette "Easter Eggs" (alternate titles "Those Men From Mars" and "The Invaders") is a completely different story. Originally published in the September 24, 1949 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, it was reprinted in (among other places) American Science Fiction #20, 1953, which is available at the Internet Archive.

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  • Yes. I read this in an anthology, "Orion's Sword: The Future at War Vol. III". – LAK Jan 7 '15 at 21:00

I remember something similar - in a older collection, the story had a real 'Golden Age' feel to it. As I recall, it was the last days of the [galactic/Terran][Empire]. The [space patrol] is a shadow of what it was, and the [pirates/barbarians] are beating them at every turn. The protagonist is forced down on an unknown planet that is inhabited by a complete machine ecology. He crashes into, or is eaten by a [giant mechanical centipede][Mother] who rebuilds and upgrades his ship. He then leads his comrades back to the planet for upgrades and they destroy the enemy.

Mentally, I have this filed right alongside 'The Spectre General' by Ted Cogswell and 'The Witches of Karres' by Schmitz, but I still haven't tracked it down.

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  • Thank you! You know how these questions can be 'catching'; this has bothered me since I read it. I guess I was close, I read it in the Campbell anthology, and John Campbell was the Golden Age. And by the author of 'The Spectre General' at that! – ImaginaryEvents Jun 28 '13 at 23:36

You mentioned Easter Eggs by Robert Spencer Carr. The description doesn't seem to match, but here it is:

Alien visitation as a chance to espouse American moral superiority vis-a-vis the USSR: one Martian lands in Washington D. C. (in a ship conveniently marked with the astronomical symbol for Mars) and another lands outside the Kremlin. Martians, we learn, are an ancient species who are dying out due to lack of the four precious elements which make Earth the “Garden of Eden of our solar system:” oxygen, water, earth, and blue sky (?). Even though they apparently require the same environment as humans, we are forcefully reminded nonetheless that theirs is an “alien intelligence, aloof, inhuman, inconceivably remote from our ways of reasoning.” Despite this, each is swayed by the arguments of their respective hosts – with the American offering a “fifth essential element of life… Its name is freedom” – and they become a pair of Cold Warriors and use their ships to fight to the death. The victor returns to Mars to summon forth a host of his species in order to enforce the victory of his side – but no one on Earth is sure which was the winner.

Also featuring a buffoonish general who refuses to listen to reason or scientists (“No life on Mars. Subject is closed.” To which an Einstein-ish character says “In science, no subject is ever closed. Only minds.”) and a woman who at first refuses to give up her fulfilling secretarial job in the White House to move to the Midwest with her fiancé, only to have the events of the story remove her “confusion.”

It was also released as Those Men from Mars and The Invaders.

It appeared in at least two different collections. Beyond Infinity of works by Carr and The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1950 from a number of authors, edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty. The latter also appeared as the Science Fiction Omnibus which added the stories from The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1949.

As I said, this doesn't seem to match your description. I'm including it in case they just left out the parts you remember, or if you are remembering a different story from one of the same collections.

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