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The Graveyard of Space   By: (1928-2008)

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Transcriber's note:

This etext was produced from Imagination April 1956. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

[Illustration: Illustrated by H. W. McCauley]


Nobody knew very much about the Sargasso area of the void; only one thing was certain: if a ship was caught there it was doomed in

The Graveyard Of Space


Milton Lesser

He lit a cigarette, the last one they had, and asked his wife "Want to share it?"

"No. That's all right." Diane sat at the viewport of the battered old Gormann '87, a small figure of a woman hunched over and watching the parade of asteroids like tiny slow moving incandescent flashes.

Ralph looked at her and said nothing. He remembered what it was like when she had worked by his side at the mine. It had not been much of a mine. It had been a bust, a first class sure as hell bust, like everything else in their life together. And it had aged her. Had it only been three years? he thought. Three years on asteroid 4712, a speck of cosmic dust drifting on its orbit in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. Uranium potential, high the government had said. So they had leased the asteroid and prospected it and although they had not finished the job, they were finished. They were going home and now there were lines on Diane's face although she was hardly past twenty four. And there was a bitterness, a bleakness, in her eyes.

The asteroid had ruined them, had taken something from them and given nothing in return. They were going home and, Ralph Meeker thought, they had left more than their second hand mining equipment on asteroid 4712. They had left the happy early days of their marriage as a ghost for whomever tried his luck next on 4712. They had never mentioned the word divorce; Diane had merely said she would spend some time with her sister in Marsport instead of going on to Earth....

"We'd be swinging around to sunward on 4712," Ralph mused.

"Please. That's over. I don't want to talk about the mine."

"Won't it ever bother you that we never finished?"

"We finished," Diane said.

He smoked the cigarette halfway and offered it to her. She shook her head and he put the butt out delicately, to save it.

Then a radar bell clanged.

"What is it?" Ralph asked, immediately alert, studying the viewport. You had to be alert on an old tub like the Gormann '87. A hundred tonner, it had put in thirty years and a billion and some miles for several owners. Its warning devices and its reflexes it was funny, Ralph thought, how you ascribed something human like reflexes to a hundred tons of battered metal were unpredictable.

"I don't see anything," Diane said.

He didn't either. But you never knew in the asteroid belt. It was next to impossible to thread a passage without a radar screen and completely impossible with a radar screen on the blink and giving you false information. You could shut it off and pray but the odds would still be a hundred to one against you.

"There!" Diane cried. "On the left! The left, Ralph "

He saw it too. At first it looked like a jumble of rocks, of dust as the asteroid old timers called the gravity held rock swarms which pursued their erratic, dangerous orbits through the asteroid belt.

But it was not dust.

"Will you look at that," Diane said.

The jumble of rocks which they were ready to classify as dust swam up toward them. Ralph waited, expecting the automatic pilot to answer the radar warning and swing them safely around the obstacle. So Ralph watched and saw the dark jumble of rocks silvery on one side where the distant sunlight hit it apparently spread out as they approached it. Spread out and assume tiny shapes, shapes in miniature.

"Spaceships," Diane said. "Spaceships, Ralph. Hundreds of them."

They gleamed like silver motes in the sun or were black as the space around them. They tumbled slowly, in incredible slow motion, end over end and around and around each other, as if they had been suspended in a slowly boiling liquid instead of the dark emptiness of space... Continue reading book >>

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