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ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



COSMIC YO-YO

By ROSS ROCKLYME

"Want an asteroid in your backyard?
We supply 'em cheap.
Trouble also handled without charge."
Interplanetary Hauling Company. (ADVT.)

BOB PARKER, looking through the photo-amplifiers at the wedge-shaped asteroid, was plainly flabbergasted. Not in his wildest imaginings had he thought they would actually find what they were looking for.

"Cut the drive!" he yelled at Queazy. "I've got it, right on the nose. Queazy, my boy, can you imagine it? We're in the dough. Not only that, we're rich I Come here!"

Queazy discharged their tremendous inertia into the motive-tubes in such a manner that the big, powerful ship was moving at the same rate as the asteroid below— 47.05 miles per second. He came slogging back excitedly, put his eyes to the eyepiece. He gasped, and his big body shook with joyful ejaculations.

"She checks down to the last dimension," Bob chortled, working with slide-rule and logarithm tables. "Now all we have to do is find out if she's made of tungsten, iron, quartz crystals, and cinnabar! But there couldn't be two asteroids of that shape anywhere else in the Belt, so this has to be it!" He jerked a badly crumpled ethergram from his pocket, smoothed it out, and thumbed his nose at the signature.

"Wheel Mr. Andrew S. Burnside, you owe us five hundred and fifty thousand dollars!"

Queazy straightened. A slow, likeable smile wreathed his tanned face. "Better take it easy," he advised, "until I land the ship and we use the atomic whirl spectroscope to determine the composition of the asteroid."

"Have it your way," Bob Parker sang, happily. He threw the ethergram to the winds and it fell gently to the deck-plates. While Queazy—so called because his full name was Quentin Zuyler—dropped the ship straight down to the smooth surface of the asteroid, and clamped it tight with magnetic grapples, Bob flung open the lazarette, brought out two space-suits. Moments later, they were outside the ship, with star-powdered infinity spread to all sides.

In the ship, the ethergram from Andrew S. Burnside, of Philadelphia, one of the richest men in the world, still lay on the deck-plates. It was addressed to: Mr. Robert Parker, President Interplanetary Hauling & Moving Co., 777 Main S'treet, Satterfield City, Fontanaland, Mars. The ethergram read:

Received your advertising literature a week ago. Would like to state that yes I would like an asteroid in my back yard. Must meet following specifications: 506 feet length, long enough for wedding procession; 98 feet at base, tapering to 10 feet at apex; 9-12 feet thick; topside smooth-plane, underside rough-plane; composed of iron ore, tungsten, quartz crystals, and cinnabar. Must be in my back yard before 11:30 AM. my time, for important wedding June 2, else order is void. Will pay $5.00 per ton.

BOB PARKER had received that ethergram three weeks ago. And if The Interplanetary Hauling & Moving Co., hadn't been about to go on the rocks (chiefly due to the activities of Saylor & Saylor, a rival firm) neither Bob nor Queazy would have thought of sending an answering ethergram to Burnside stating that they would fill the order. It was, plainly, a hair-brained request. And yet, if by some chance there was such a rigidly specified asteroid, their financial worries would be over. That they had actually discovered the asteroid, using their mass-detectors in a weight-elimination process, seemed like an incredible stroke of luck. For there are literally millions of asteroids in the asteroid belt, and they had been out in space only three weeks.

The "asteroid in your back yard" idea had been Bob Parker's originally. Now it was a fad that was sweeping Earth, and Burnside wasn't the first rich man who had decided to hold a wedding on top of an asteroid. Unfortunately, other interplanetary moving companies had cashed in on that brainstorm, chiefly the firm of the Saylor brothel's—which persons Bob Parker intended to punch in the nose some day. And would have before this if he hadn't been lanky and tall while they were giants. Now that he and Queazy had found the asteroid, they were desperate to get it to its destination, for fear that the Saylor brothers might get wind of what was going on, and try to beat them out of their profits. Which was not so farfetched, because the firm of Saylor & Saylor made no pretense of being scrupulous.

Now they scuffed along the smooth-plane topside of the asteroid, the magnets in their- shoes keeping them from stepping off into space. They came to the broad base of the asteroid-wedge, walked over the edge and "down" the twelve-foot thickness. Here they squatted, and Bob Parker happily clamped the atomic-whirl spectroscope to the rough surface. By the naked eye, they could see iron ore, quartz crystals, cinnabar, but he had the spectroscope and there was no reason why he shouldn't use it. He satisfied himself as to the exterior of the asteroid, and then sent the twin beams deep into its heart. The beams crossed, tore atoms from molecules, revolved them like an infinitely fine powder. The radiations from the sundered molecules traveled back up the beams to the atomic-whirl spectroscope. Bob watched a pointer which moved slowly up and up—past tungsten, past iridium, past gold—

Bob Parker said, in astonishment, "Hell! There's something screwy about this business. Look at that point—"

Neither he nor Queazy had the opportunity to observe the pointer any further. A cold, completely disagreeable feminine voice said,

"May I ask what you interlopers are doing on my asteroid?"

Bob started so badly that the spectroscope's settings were jarred and the lights in its interior died. Bob twisted his head around as far as he could inside the "aquarium"—th...

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