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The Space Rover   By: (1895-1986)

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The Space Rover

By Edwin K. Sloat

[Transcriber's note: This etext was produced from Astounding Stories February 1932. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Young Winford heads a desperate escape from the prison mines of Mercury.

[Illustration: Winford leaped out into space along the cable. ]

Evan Winford leaned wearily against the controls of the little space sphere, and stared out of the window at the planet, Mercury, which lay a million miles sunward. Fail now? He gritted his teeth. No! He would wrench victory from Fate after all, even though at this moment mine guards must be searching the nearby mountains, for him and his companions, and a warning was being broadcast to all the planets and space ships to watch the little prison tender ship, the one that was used to transfer prisoners from liners out in space to Mercury and its Interplanetary Council prison mines to which all who were sentenced came on one way tickets only. This was the first time, Winford reflected grimly, that the sphere had ever carried outbound passengers.

A long, quavering wail sounded from the hold below. Winford scowled. That fellow, Agar, again. Too bad, for he was unquestionably an engineering genius and thoroughly dependable when he didn't get one of his spells and imagine he was a godo dog on the red steppes of his native Mars. A little rest and gentle treatment would unquestionably work wonders. Again the wail, followed this time by a series of growls.

Winford slid open the door that separated the control nest from the hold of the little prison tender ship. The other five men had withdrawn to the other side of the cabin and were watching listlessly the big, ragged, barrel chested Martian crouching on all fours against the side of the cabin and ferociously baring his teeth.

"What's the matter down there?" called Winford sharply.

Six pairs of eyes looked up at him. Agar forgot he was a dog and stared with the rest. They were an unkempt, ragged lot with unshaven faces and the dirty, white canvas uniforms of mine prisoners. The group was composed of four Martians and two Venusians.

"Let's go back," growled Nizzo, whose squat, powerful body and long arms bespoke his Venus ancestry. "It's death out here. No food. No water, excepting the emergency ration you have up there in the box. That will scarcely last till we can reach Mercury again. Now you tell us that the fuel is nearly exhausted. Let's go back. I say! We don't want to swing about the Sun in this as our tomb for all eternity. At least we eat and drink at the mines, even though the whips of the drivers hurry us on to an early death."

"You're crazy, Nizzo," harshly retorted Winford. "You know what they do when escaped prisoners are brought back, or come of their own free will. The Universe knows nothing of the caged saurians in the warden's gardens, nor of the incorrigible prisoners that go to feed them. But I know we all of us know. Far better to remain out here and die whole, than to be devoured alive by a slobbering horror."

A heated argument ensued among the men below. Presently Nizzo looked up again.

"But you have no plan," he shouted at the Earthman. "We have followed you blindly so far, and here we are off the traffic lanes. Our only hope of being picked up now is one of space patrol ships. And short shrift may we expect from them!"

Winford scowled impatiently.

"Listen, men," he began. "This is a desperate venture, I know, and I picked every one of you carefully. You are not common scum of the prison mines. Every man of you can be depended upon to put through a daring escape of this nature. Every man of you is an innocent victim of the rotten politicians and corrupt officials that now hold sway in the Three Planets. Take Jarl there, for example." He indicated a big, patient, resigned Martian. "He is under life sentence in the penal mines simply because his brother in law wanted his lands and wealth... Continue reading book >>

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