There were nine major planets in the Solar System, and it was within their boundaries that man first set up interplanetary commerce and began trading with the ancient Martian civilization. And then they discovered a tenth planet – a maverick!
This tenth world, if it had an orbit, had a strange one, for it was heading inwards from interstellar space, heading close to the Earth-Mars spaceways, upsetting astronautic calculations and raising turmoil on the two inhabited worlds.
But even so none suspected then just how much trouble this new world would make. For it was WANDL THE INVADER and it was no barren planetoid. It was a manned world, manned by minds and monsters and traveling into our system with a purpose beyond that of astronomical accident!
186 pages, with a reading time of ~3.0 hours (46,664 words), and first published in 1932. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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“It’s a planet,” I said. “A little world.”
“How little?” Venza demanded.
“One-fifth the mass of the Moon. That’s what they’ve calculated now.”
“And how far is it away?” Anita asked. “I heard a newscaster say yesterday….”
“Newscasters!” Venza broke in scornfully. “Say, you can take what they tell you about any danger or trouble and cut it in half; and even then you’ll be on the gloomy side. See here, Gregg Haljan.”
“I’m not giving you newscasters’ blare,” I retorted. Venza’s extravagant vehemence was always refreshing. The Venus girl glared at me. I added: “Anita mentioned newscasters; I didn’t.”
Anita was in no mood for smiling. “Tell us, Gregg.” She sat upright and tense, her chin cupped in her hands. “Tell us.”
“For a fact, they don’t know much about it yet. You can call it a planet, a wanderer.”
“I should say it was a wanderer!” Venza exclaimed. “Coming from heaven knows where beyond the stars, swimming in here like a comet.”
“They calculated its distance yesterday at some sixty-five million miles from Earth,” I said. “It isn’t so far beyond the orbit of Mars, coming diagonally and heading very nearly for the Sun. But it’s not a comet.”
The thing was indeed inexplicable; for many weeks now, astronomers had been studying it. This was early summer of the year 2070 A.D. All of us had recently returned from those extraordinary events I have already recounted, when we came close to losing Johnny Grantline’s radiactum treasure on the Moon, and our lives as well. My ship, the Planetara, in the astronomical seasons when the Earth, Mars, and Venus were within comfortable traveling distances of each other, had carried mail and passengers from Greater New York to Ferrok-Shahn, of the Martian Union, and to Grebhar, of the Venus Free State. Now it was wrecked on the Moon.
I had been under navigating officer of the Planetara. Upon her, I had met Anita Prince, whose only living relative, her brother, was among those killed in the struggle with the brigands; Anita and I were soon to marry, we hoped.
I was waiting now in Greater New York upon the decision of the Line officials regarding another spaceship. Perhaps I would have command of it, since Captain Carter of the Planetara had been killed.
It was a month or so before that adventure, April, 2070, that this mysterious visitor from interstellar space first appeared upon our astronomical horizon. A little thing, at first, a mere unusual dot, a pinpoint on a photo-electric star diagram which should not have been there. It occasioned no comment at the time, save that some thought it might be another planet beyond Pluto; but this was not taken seriously enough to get into the newscasts. None of us had heard about it as late as May, when the Planetara set out on what was to be her final voyage.
Presently, it was seen that the object could not be a planet of our solar system; Coming in at tremendous speed, it daily changed its aspect, gathering velocity until soon it was not a dot, but a streak on every diagram-plate.
In a week or so the thing passed from an astronomical curiosity to an item of public news. And now, early in June, when it had cut through the orbit of Jupiter and was approaching that of Mars, fear was growing. The visitor was a menace. No astronomical body could come among us, with a mass as great as a fifth of the Moon, without causing trouble.
The newscasters, with a ready skill for lurid possibilities, were blaring of all sorts of horrible events impending.
I told the girls all I knew of the approaching wanderer. The density was similar to that of Earth. The oncoming velocity and the calculated elements of its orbit now were such that within a few weeks more the new planet would round our Sun and presumably head outward again. It would pass within a few million miles of us, causing a disturbance to Earth’s orbit, even a change of the inclination of our axis, affecting our tides and our climate.
“So I’ve heard,” Venza interrupted me. “They say that, and then they stop. Why can’t a newscaster tell you what is so mysterious?”
“For a very good reason, Venza: because you can’t throw people into a panic. This whole thing, up to today, has been withheld from the public of Earth and Venus. The Martian Union tried to withhold it, but could not. Every heliogram between the worlds is censored.”
“And still,” said Venza sarcastically, “you don’t tell us what is so mysterious about this wanderer.”
“For one thing,” I said, “it changes its direction. No normal heavenly body does that. They calculated the elements of its orbit last April. They’ve done it twenty times since, and every time the projected orbit is different. Just a little at first, but last week the accursed thing actually took a sudden turn, as though it were a spaceship.”