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No Hiding Place   By:

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Turnabout may not always be fair play in the gulfs between the stars. But so destructive and malicious are the Agronians of this story that we can readily forgive Richard Smith for filling their ship with an unexpected reversal of a victory technique almost too ghastly to contemplate. We have no sympathy for them and neither has Mr. Smith. Still, we're rather glad he decided to make human heroism the cornerstone of a most exciting tale of conflict in space.

no hiding place

by ... Richard R. Smith

The Earth was enveloped in atomic fire and the ship was a prize of war. But disaster may make victory mandatory.

The ship leaped toward the stars, its engines roaring with a desperate burst of energy and its bulkheads audibly protesting the tremendous pressures.

In the control room, Emmett Corbin listened to the screech of tormented metal and shuddered. The heat was suffocating, and acrid fumes assailed his nostrils and burned his eyes until he almost cried out in pain.

Despite the agony, his gaze did not waver from the video set across the room. In the screen, Earth was a rapidly diminishing orb, charred and mottled with glowing atomic fires.

Everything , a far corner of his mind whispered. Everything on Earth is dead!

He was a carpenter and luckily, he had been working inside the barricades of an Army spaceport when the news came that the enemy had broken through the defense ring beyond Pluto. He had continued nailing the cedar siding on the building, knowing that if he stopped his work and waited, he would start screaming.

An MP running by the building several minutes later had shouted at him, urging him to board one of the ships on the landing field. In those last hours, they had loaded the few remaining spaceships as quickly as possible, ignoring the importance of the passengers. He reflected that many millionaires and influential politicians were now dead simply because they hadn't been close enough to the spaceports when the unexpected news came. Watching the pilots as they sat tense before the controls, he felt overcome with helplessness.

The passenger on his right was a girl red haired and undeniably attractive. He remembered her name. It was Gloria White, and she was the daughter of Colonel White who had led the expedition to Venus. Her father had died months before but his friends had used their influence to establish her as a secretary on the spaceport where it was assumed she would be comparatively safe.

He had seen her frequently but almost always at a distance. She had been friendly enough, but she had never exchanged more than a few casual words with him. He had often paused in his work to admire her. But now, aboard one of the last ships to leave Earth, he evaluated her only as another passenger.

The man on his left was dressed expensively. His general appearance radiated prestige although his fleshy face was filled with disbelief as if he were witnessing a fantastic nightmare.

Rinnnng! Rinnnng! Corbin's thoughts were interrupted by a clamoring alarm bell declaring by its volume and insistence that the danger was still acute. That bell will ring until the ship is destroyed , he thought wildly. It could very well mean that the ship will be destroyed!

The pilots leaped away from the controls as if they had abruptly become white hot. " Rocket ," one of them screamed. "Enemy rocket on our tail!"

Corbin turned suddenly and ran across the room in sudden, blind panic. "We can't shake it! Nobody can shake one!" Mumbling incoherently, he grabbed a spacesuit and began to don it.

The room was suddenly a seething mass of confusion. The pilots distributed spacesuits and helped passengers into them while the cabin continued to sway and lurch. Fear crazed passengers ran aimlessly in circles. Some fainted and others were shocked into immobility.

Emmett had barely finished securing his helmet when the ship shook violently and he was knocked to the floor. The lights fluttered, then went out... Continue reading book >>




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