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Loot of the Void   By: (1895-1986)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Astounding Stories September 1932. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

Loot of the Void

By Edwin K. Sloat

[Sidenote: Into the Trap Door City of great spiders goes Penrun after the hidden plunder of the space pirate Halkon.]

Dick Penrun glanced up incredulously.

"Why, that's impossible; you would have to be two hundred years old!" he exclaimed.

Lozzo nervously ran a hand through his white mop of hair.

"But it is true, Sirro," he assured his companion. "We Martians sometimes live three centuries. You should know that I am only a hundred and seventy five, and I do not lie when I say I was a cabin boy under Captain Halkon."

[Illustration: Down from the pinnacle of rock streaked a gigantic spider. ]

His voice sank to a whisper, and he glanced apprehensively about the buffet of the Western Star which was due now in three days at the Martian city of Nurm. Penrun's eyes followed his anxious glances curiously. The buffet was partly filled with passengers, smoking, gossiping women, and men at cards, or throwing dice in the Martian gambling game of diklo , which was the universal fad of the moment. No place could have been safer, Penrun reflected. Doubtless the old man's caution was a lifelong habit acquired in his youth, if he had actually served under Halkon.

Before long the old codger would be saying that he knew the hiding place of Halkon's treasure, about which there were probably more legends and yarns than anything else in the Universe. A century had elapsed since the death of the famous pirate who had preyed on the shipping of the Void with fearless, ruthless audacity and had piled up a fabulous treasure before that fatal day when the massed battle spheres of the Interplanetary Council trapped his ships out near Mercury and blew them to atoms there in the sun beaten reaches of space. Some of the men had been captured; old Lozzo might have been one of them. Penrun knew the history of Halkon from childhood, and for a very good reason.

The ancient Martian stirred uneasily. His piercing blue eyes turned again to Penrun's face.

"Every word I have said is true, Sirro," he repeated hurriedly. "I boarded this ship at New York with the sole intention of discharging my sworn duty and giving a message to the grandson of Captain Orion Halkon, his first male descendant."

Penrun's eyes widened in startled amazement. He, himself, was the grandson of the notorious Halkon, a fact that not more than half a dozen people in the Universe knew or so he had always believed. His mother, Halkon's only daughter, good and upright woman that she was, had hidden that family skeleton far back in the closet and solemnly warned Dick Penrun and his two sisters to keep it there. Yet this old man, who had singled him out of the crowd in the buffet not thirty minutes ago and drew him into conversation, knew the secret. Perhaps he really had been a cabin boy under Halkon!

"I have been serving out the hundred year sentence for piracy the judges imposed on me, a century in your own Earth prison of Sing Sing," muttered Lozzo. "I have just been released. Quick! My inner gods tell me my vase of life is toppling. I swore to your grandfather that I would deliver the message. It is here. Guard well your own life, for this paper is a thing of evil!"

His hand rested nervously on the edge of the table. The ancient blue eyes swept the buffet with a lightning glance. Then he slid his hand forward across the polished wood. Penrun glimpsed a bit of yellow, folded paper beneath it. Then something tweaked his hair. A deafening explosion filled the buffet. Lozzo stiffened, his mouth gaped in a choked scream, and he sprawled across the table, dead.

As he fell, a fat white hand darted over the table toward the oblong of folded, yellow paper lying unprotected on its surface... Continue reading book >>

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