Two planets clash for lunar treasure! Gregg Haljan was aware that there was a certain danger in having the giant spaceship Planetara stop off at the moon to pick up Grantline’s special cargo of moon ore. For that rare metal–invaluable in keeping Earth’s technology running–was the target of many greedy eyes.
But nevertheless he hadn’t figured on the special twist the clever Martian brigands would use. So when he found both the ship and himself suddenly in their hands, he knew that there was only one way in which he could hope to save that cargo and his own secret–that would be by turning space-pirate himself and paying the Brigands Of The Moon back in their own interplanetary coin.
Here is a science-fiction classic, as exciting and ingenious as only a master of super-science could write.
279 pages, with a reading time of ~4.25 hours (69,816 words), and first published in 1931. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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Our ship, the space-flyer, Planetara, whose home port was Greater New York, carried mail and passenger traffic to and from both Venus and Mars. Of astronomical necessity, our flights were irregular. The spring of 2070, with both planets close to the Earth, we were making two complete round trips. We had just arrived in Greater New York, one May evening, from Grebhar, Venus Free State. With only five hours in port here, we were departing the same night at the zero hour for Ferrok-Shahn, capital of the Martian Union.
We were no sooner at the landing stage than I found a code flash summoning Dan Dean and me to Divisional Detective Headquarters. Dan “Snap” Dean was one of my closest friends. He was electron-radio operator of the Planetara. A small, wiry, red-headed chap, with a quick, ready laugh and the kind of wit that made everyone like him.
The summons to Detective-Colonel Halsey’s office surprised us. Dean eyed me.
“You haven’t been opening any treasure vaults, have you, Gregg?”
“He wants you, also,” I retorted.
He laughed. “Well, he can roar at me like a traffic switch-man and my private life will remain my own.”
We could not think why we should be wanted. It was the darkness of mid-evening when we left the Planetara for Halsey’s office. It was not a long trip. We went on the upper monorail, descending into the subterranean city at Park Circle 30.
We had never been to Halsey’s office before. Now we found it to be a gloomy, vaultlike place in one of the deepest corridors. The door lifted.
“Gregg Haljan and Daniel Dean.”
The guard stood aside. “Come in.”
I own that my heart was unduly thumping as we entered. The door dropped behind us. It was a small blue-lit apartment–a steel-lined room like a vault.
Colonel Halsey sat at his desk. And the big, heavy-set, florid Captain Carter–our commander on the Planetara–was here. That surprised us: we had not seen him leave the ship.
Halsey smiled at us gravely. Captain Carter spoke with an ominous calmness: “Sit down, lads.”
We took the seats. There was an alarming solemnity about this. If I had been guilty of anything that I could think of, it would have been frightening. But Halsey’s words reassured me.
“It’s about the Grantline Moon Expedition. In spite of our secrecy, the news has gotten out. We want to know how. Can you tell us?”
Captain Carter’s huge bulk–he was about as tall as I am–towered over us as we sat before Halsey’s desk. “If you lads have told anyone–said anything–let slip the slightest hint about it….”
Snap smiled with relief; but he turned solemn at once. “I haven’t. Not a word!”
“Nor have I!” I declared.
The Grantline Moon Expedition! We had not thought of that as a reason for this summons. Johnny Grantline was a close friend of ours. He had organized an exploring expedition to the Moon. Uninhabited, with its bleak, forbidding, airless, waterless surface, the Moon–even though so close to the Earth–was seldom visited. No regular ship ever stopped there. A few exploring parties of recent years had come to grief.
But there was a persistent rumor that upon the Moon, mineral riches of fabulous wealth were awaiting discovery. The thing had already caused some interplanetary complications. The aggressive Martians would be only too glad to explore the Moon. But the United States of the World, which came into being in 2067, definitely warned them away. The Moon was Earth territory, we announced, and we would protect it as such.
There was, nevertheless, a realization by our government, that whatever riches might be upon the Moon should be seized at once and held by some reputable Earth Company. And when John Grantline applied, with his father’s wealth and his own scientific record of attainment, the government was glad to grant him its writ.
The Grantline Expedition had started six months ago. The Martian government had acquiesced to our ultimatum, yet brigands have been known to be financed under cover of a government disavowal. And so our expedition was kept secret.
My words need give no offence to any Martian who comes upon them. I refer to the history of our Earth only. The Grantline Expedition was on the Moon now. No word had come from it. One could not flash helios even in code without letting all the universe know that explorers were on the Moon. And why they were there, anyone could easily guess.
And now Colonel Halsey was telling us that the news was abroad! Captain Carter eyed us closely; his flashing eyes under the white bushy brows would pry a secret from anyone.
“You’re sure? A girl of Venus, perhaps, with her cursed, seductive lure! A chance word, with you lads befuddled by alcolite?”
We assured him that we had been careful. By the heavens, I know that I had been. Not a whisper, even to Snap, of the name Grantline in six months or more.
Captain Carter added abruptly, “We’re insulated here, Halsey?”