MoboReader> Literature > The Space Pioneers

   Chapter 18 No.18

The Space Pioneers By Carey Rockwell Characters: 14043

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Governor Hardy was not to be found. Strong made inquiries around the Administration Building and among the colonists but he could find no trace of the governor. The only thing Strong learned was that Hardy had spent the last two weeks wandering around in the outlying wilderness areas of the satellite, alone, apparently searching for something. But the Solar Guard captain realized that it would be a waste of time to race around the planet searching aimlessly for the governor. He became more and more convinced that Hardy was hiding. His suspicions were increased when he found Vidac waiting for him in the deserted lobby of the Administration Building with a warrant for his arrest. The warrant had been signed by Hardy.

"Before I place myself in your hands," said Strong, "I want to see the governor."

"Considering that you committed a crime by aiding the escape of the Space Cadets," said Vidac, "that will not be possible."

"I demand to see the governor!"

Vidac turned to Winters who was standing by his side. "Take him," he ordered.

Winters whipped out his paralo-ray gun, and before he could move, a paralyzing charge froze the Solar Guard captain in his tracks.

"Take him to my quarters," said Vidac. "And stay with him. I'm going to organize a searching party and find those cadets."

"Right," said Winters.

As Vidac walked away, Winters picked up the paralyzed body of the Solar Guard officer and carried him awkwardly to the slidestairs. Though under the effects of the paralo ray, Strong's mind still continued to function. Even as Winters carried him across his shoulder like a stick of wood, Strong was planning his escape. He figured Winters would release him from the ray charge once inside Vidac's quarters and he was ready to go into action.

Winters opened the panel to Vidac's spacious office and carried Strong through to the other side where the lieutenant governor's sleeping quarters were located. He put the helpless man down on the bed, and stepping back to the panel, flipped on the neutralizer of the ray gun. He fired, releasing Strong from the frozen suspension.

Strong felt the jolts of the neutralizer charge but he clamped his teeth together to keep them from chattering and stayed rigid. He had to remain still, as if the neutralizer charge had not released him, in order to make his plan work. Winters waited for Strong to move, and when he didn't, stepped closer, prodding him with the barrel of the gun. In a flash Strong leaped up and grabbed the ray gun. Twisting it out of the surprised man's hand, he brought the weapon down on the man's neck. Winters dropped to the floor like a stone.

Then Strong scrambled to his feet and cold-bloodedly turned the ray on Winters, blasting him into immobility. He turned grimly toward the panel and raced to the slidestairs. If Vidac had a warrant for his arrest, signed by Hardy, then Vidac knew where Hardy was. If he could follow the lieutenant governor, he might possibly learn just where the mystery of Roald began and who was after what and why.

* * *

After leaving the jet car and climbing into the desolate hills surrounding Roald City, Tom, Roger, and Astro watched from the safety of a ridge the quick search Vidac and Winters had made to find them. When the two men had returned to the superhighway and blasted back toward the city, taking both jet cars, the three boys made their way slowly through the night down the opposite side of the hills and headed for the Logan farm. When the sun star rose over the satellite's horizon, the three boys were stretched out flat on their stomachs in a field, watching the morning activity of Jane, Billy, and Hyram Logan about the farm.

"Think we can get them to help us?" asked Roger.

"It's the only thing we can do," said Astro. "If they won't, we might as well give ourselves up. I'm so hungry I could eat a whole cow!"

"What kind of a cow?" asked Roger. "There aren't any on Roald, remember? We drink synthetic milk."

"I could even eat a synthetic cow!" was Astro's grim rejoinder.

"Come on, you two," said Tom. "We might as well try it. You think they're alone?"

"They don't act as though there's anyone around but themselves," said Roger. "But I don't know-"

"I thought I saw a curtain move at that window on the left a while ago," commented Astro, "and all three of them were outside."

"Probably a breeze," said Tom. "You cut over to the right, Astro. I'll go straight in, and you take the left, Roger. That way, if anything goes wrong, one or two of us might get away."

"All set?" asked Roger.

"Ready," nodded Astro.

"Let's go."

The three boys separated, and a moment later, when his unit mates were in position, Tom stood up and walked across the clearing, exposing himself to the house. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Astro and Roger moving in on the left and right. Billy was working in the front yard with his father, mixing chemicals. Jane was standing by the doorway of the house digging in a bed of flowers. Tom continued to walk right through the front yard and was only ten feet away from Billy before the youngster looked up.

"Tom!"

Logan turned and saw the cadet walking toward him. He stared. After a night scrambling around the hills, Tom looked as if he had been shoveling coal.

"Hello, Mr. Logan," said Tom, looking around. "Are you alone?"

"Yes," Logan replied. "Where are the other boys?"

"They're coming," said Tom, waving his arm toward his friends.

Astro and Roger rose from their places of concealment and darted forward.

"Get in the house, quick!" ordered Logan. "Vidac and his flunky Winters were out here last night and-" He didn't finish. The unmistakable roar of a jet car approaching rapidly was heard. The cadets raced for the house, following Jane into the farmer's bedroom, where they hid in a closet. Jane returned to the front of the house and stood with her father and Billy to watch the cloud of dust kicked up by the jet car as it raced along the dirt road toward them.

"If it's them space crawlers again," said Logan to his children, "let me do the talking."

"Who else could it be?" asked Jane.

"I don't know," said Logan. "But remember, if it is Vidac, we might be the only thing between those three boys inside and a long term on a prison rock!"

The jet car entered the cleared area in front of the house and stopped in a cloud of dust. Logan, grim-faced, followed by Billy and Jane walked across the yard to the car and waited. The door opened and a man in the uniform of an enlisted spaceman climbed out.

"Jeff Marshall!" yelled Billy.

"Hello, Mr. Logan, Jane, Billy." Jeff noticed the sudden look of relief that passed over Logan's face. "Is there something wrong?"

"Not a thing, Jeff," said Logan. "Come on in the house. We've got a surprise for you."

"Thank you, sir," said Jeff. "But I'm afraid I'm not in the mood for surprises. The cadets have escaped and the whole countryside is crawling with Vidac's men looking

for them. There's a reward of a thousand credits for their capture-dead or alive!"

Logan patted the sergeant on the shoulder. "Stop worrying, Jeff. The cadets are in the house."

"What?"

Logan nodded his head. "Come on inside." He paused and spoke to his son. "Billy, you scoot down the road to the bend and watch the main highway. If anyone turns off into our road, you let me know right away!"

"Yes, sir," replied Billy and dashed down the road. Jeff followed Jane and Logan into the house, and a few moments later, after exchanging enthusiastic greetings, he and the cadets waited hungrily for Jane to prepare breakfast.

Finishing the hearty meal in short order and sipping hot bracing coffee, the three cadets took turns in telling Jeff of their conversations with Strong, their escape, and their near encounter with Vidac on the highway the night before.

"What made you come out here, Jeff?" Tom finally asked.

"Well, when I discovered that you had escaped, I knew you'd head for one of two places, the spaceport or here. I hung around the spaceport all night waiting for you to show up, and when you didn't, I came here."

"That's dangerous," said Logan. "If you figured it that way, Vidac can do the same thing. I wouldn't want him to find you boys here. Not that I don't want to help you, but Vidac might try to connect me with you and the missing professor. I couldn't take a risk like that with Billy and Jane. We're in enough trouble."

The farmer then told them how Vidac had forced him to sign a release on his land while threatening Jane with a ray gun.

"We have to get to the bottom of this mess," said Tom. "The only trouble is we don't know what he's after or why he's trying to frame us."

"Well," said Roger, glancing at his watch, "whatever we decide, we'd better do it quickly. It's almost noon."

"Noon!" exclaimed Logan. "Why it can't be more than nine at the most!" He pulled out a large gold watch from his coverall pocket. "Sure-it's a quarter to nine!"

Jeff looked at his watch. "Same here!" He smiled. "You must be wrong, Roger."

"You probably forgot to wind it," said Tom. He glanced casually at his own watch and suddenly exclaimed. "Say, my watch has three-thirty!"

"And mine says four twenty-two!" cried Astro.

Roger and Tom looked at each other, eyes widening.

"You don't think-?" began Tom, hardly daring to breathe.

"Yes, I do!" said Roger. "Remember what happened to the instruments?"

"Uranium!" exclaimed Astro.

The word echoed in the kitchen like the blast of a bomb. The boys looked at each other, too startled to explain to Logan and Jane, who, though they were listening intently, were unable to fathom the boys' reasoning.

"Where were you last night?" asked Jeff quickly.

Roger described as nearly as he could remember the exact route that they had traveled in making their way to the Logan farm.

"Hey, I think I've got the answer, fellows!" Tom suddenly exclaimed. "If Vidac came out here last night and took over Mr. Logan's farm, and we're falsely accused of getting rid of the professor, and the professor is missing, there must be something to tie it all together. Vidac wouldn't do the things he's done, unless he's got a rocket-blasting good reason!"

Roger quickly added, "And he wouldn't try to buck Captain Strong unless he was playing for high stakes!"

"Right," said Tom. "The only thing that could have caused our watches to go haywire, like the ships instruments, would be uranium. Lots of uranium. And uranium is the only thing valuable enough to make Vidac take such long chances."

"But how can you tell it's uranium?" asked Logan.

"Our watches are not ordinary timepieces, sir," explained Tom. "They are specially constructed for use in space travel. Each watch is electrically controlled and highly sensitive."

"Electric?" repeated Logan in amazement. "Electric wrist watches? That small thing?"

Tom smiled. "Each is charged by a miniature power pack, sir."

"The uranium deposits out in the hills affected these watches," continued Astro, "the same way they affected the electronic instruments on the spaceships coming in to Roald."

"I'll tell you what," said Jeff. "I'll make a check."

"Wait a minute," said Logan. "I just remembered something-"

"What, sir?" asked Tom.

"Professor Sykes! He was out here poking around in my fields and up in the hills from dawn till dark. Said he was making some soil tests. I yelled at him for stepping all over some baby fruit trees."

"That's it, then," said Roger grimly. "This area is jumping with uranium and Vidac now has title to the land!"

"Don't be so sure," said Tom. "We still need proof."

"Isn't using force to take the land away proof enough?" snapped Logan.

"Wait a minute!" said Jeff. "If you want proof, I know where to get it."

"Where?" asked Tom.

"The professor's work journal!"

"Think he'd record it in there?" asked Tom. "It's pretty valuable information."

"Yes," said Jeff. "He even logs the amount of coffee he drinks in the morning! He puts down everything!"

"You think the journal is still in the lab?" asked Tom.

"Sure it is. I saw it before I left."

"Then we've got Vidac right where we want him!" exclaimed Roger.

"No, we haven't," said Tom. "We haven't got the professor to prove it! Vidac's still the boss on this hunk of space rock, and we're still wanted for murder!"

The door burst open and Billy raced into the room. "A jet car just turned off the highway! It's coming here!"

"We've got to get out of here!" said Tom. He turned to Jeff. "If it's Vidac, tell him you've come to take Jane out on a date. That should explain your presence. Then get the professor's journal and give it to Captain Strong. He'll know what to do!"

Roger and Astro were cramming food in their pockets. "Come on, Tom," said Roger. "I can hear the jets."

"What are you boys going to do?" asked Jane.

"Try to get to the Polaris," replied Tom. "Then we'll hunt for the professor. If we don't find him, we're sunk. He's the key to the whole thing."

Astro and Roger had tumbled out the window and were racing toward the safety of the near-by hills. Tom gave Jeff a final handshake and dived out the window after them. Running toward the clump of bushes where Astro and Roger had just disappeared, he dived for cover, just as Vidac's car roared into the clearing. The boys saw Vidac and Bush get out of the car, and after inspecting Jeff's, turn and stride into the house.

"Come on," said Tom. "We've got to get to the Polaris!"

The three boys turned away and hurried from the farm. In a few minutes, after scrambling to the top of the nearest hill, they turned back to look down on the farmhouse and saw Jeff escorting Jane to his car.

"So far so good," said Tom. "Let's go."

They walked off and were soon lost in the tangle of scrub grass and dry gullies, their destination the Polaris and the solution to the mystery of Professor Sykes's disappearance.

* * *

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares