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The Blood of the Moon

By Ray Cummings
Author of "Girl in the Golden Atom," "Brigands of the Moon," etc.


CHAPTER I
Fall of Five Thousand Miles

HE stood before Georg Frear's metal desk, with the blue Morral tube-light shining upon him. He was small and slender, pale as all Lunites, with ringlets of dark hair clustered on his forehead; He had just come through the pressure lock from the airless Moon surface; his air suit hung in deflated baggy folds; his helmet' thrown back.

"I am registered here," he said timidly. "I have brought my dust for you to buy." He took from his belt-hooks two small bags of insulated themacoid and proffered them.

"What name?" asked Georg Frear.

"Lohlo Wills."

Georg found the record card. Parentless, under-age boy miner.

"Your age now? It isn't here."

"I am seventeen Earth-years."

"Do you live alone? No guardian?"

I live alone. My Father, who is dead now, left me the little mine. It is legal? There is one-eighth decimar1 on deposit with you in my name? You will buy my dust and add it?"

1: Decimar: Platinum standard—the approximate equivilent of ten thousand gold-dollars.

His timid voice carried an anxious, frightened note; He stood shifting his weight from one feet to the other while Georg examined the records and tested his offering.

"All current," Georg said, finally. "This values two hundred five and six-tenths gold dollars. Do you want the currency?"

The lad brightened. "Oh, thank you."

He was a romantic-looking young fellow, pinched of face from over-work alone in his tiny mine down on the plains of the Mare Imbrium; but his features were delicately moulded; his big dark eyes had lashes as long as a girl's.

Georg Frear, six-foot, blond young manager of the Archimedes Radium Corporation, had just come in from outside and was still wearing his air suit. By Lunar time-routine it was now just before the evening meal.

The Archimedes Mine, here midway up in the giant mountain crater, was shut downfor the time of sleep. Strange little settlement clinging to the airless, waterless, naked crags of the precipitous mountainside! All under glassite domes, within which Earth's normal air pressure was maintained. There was a huge spread of glassite over the mine workings, with the electro-borers beneath domes of the mine shelters and refineries; and around them, on ledges above and below, hung the honeycomb domes of the workers and their families.

A cluster of government domes was here also, for this was the seat of the Colonial Moon Government. Two thousand mine workers, government officials, and police garrison were housed here, their dwellings all connected by low-lying little air galleries.

FROM the open door oval in the rear of Georg Frear's office came a shouting voice:

"Georg! You, Georg, come here! By the gods—the transport ship attacked—"

Georg leaped to his feet. He had not yet donned an indoor weighted belt or weighted shoes, and the incautious movement flung him perilously upward in the low-vaulted metal office cubby.2

The Moon's gravity is approximately one-sixth that of Earth.

"What's that?" he called.

"The transport ship—come look!"

The small space-flyer of the Archimedes Company had left for Earth only a few hours ago. It carried semi-refined radium dust to the value of some forty decimars. And Governor Allen of the Moon was a passenger on it, making the trip to confer with the President of the World Federation, in London City.

The corridor was only some fifty feet long. Georg, with Lohlo Wills after him, dashed through it, into the low-vaulted rectangle of one of the mine instrument rooms. The Morral lights were ultra dim. Around a small electro-telescope a group of officials was gathered. The telescopic image was magnified through a prism series, and was spread upon a little two-foot mirror grid so that in the gloom all might see it. The mirror with its moving image was a bright spot in the darkness; the figures of the dozen men and the one young girl were a blur, faintly lit by the blue tubes and by the earthlight and starlight which shafted slantingly in through the room's side bull's-eyes.

John Vane, governor in Allen's absence, had called Georg.

"Look! Rob Grant spotted it—audiphoned it from the Crater-peak Observatory," he said. "A Nomad Ship—"

The silent drama of space had almost reached its climax. The little transport ship, Queen of the Starways, showed clearly etched against the starfield of the mirror grid image. And behind arid above it was another shape—a long; black, queerly domed vehicle. A Nomad ship.

No lights were upon it save the faint radiance of its interior glow, visible through the transparency of the glassite double-peaked dome. No signal clusters gave it nationality. An outlaw.

Georg found himself in dimness beside the girl. Her hand reached and clutched him. They peered at the mirror, breathless, wordless. For more than a decade now no Nomad ship had dared to roam the starways. Yet here was one, coming mysteriously so that no telescopic warning of its nearness to the Moon had been given—mysteriously appearing and attacking the little Moon-to-Earth ore-transport.

The attack was already a reality. A bolt, with a rush of blue-green electrons, had already flashed and struck the Moon ship. And now came another, with the transport's short-range answering bolt crossing it like a puny sword dashing against a leaping cutlass in the sky.

THE transport already was in distress. The telescopic image on the mirror grid steadily clung to it; but the starfield on the image was shifting, whirling; a limb of the yellow Earth-disc came into view, and passed with a swoop out of the field. The transport was rolling, out of control—falling—

The Nomad ship had vanished. Out of the narrow vista of the mirror grid. Then Vane swung the telescope barrel. The heavens swooped with a streak of light-points across the little mirror; stopped, and showed the poised black shape of the enemy vessel. Then Vane swung the image back.

The transport was visibly so much larger now! Closer. A rolling, swaying shape. Georg knew it had reached a scant five thousand miles of its Earthward journey. And now it was coming back, Falling for the Moon's face like a crashing meteor.

Vane gasped. "Its dome may be punctured. That first electronic bolt—air rushing out—all of them dead now—"

Georg felt the girl beside him trembling. "No, Aura-I don't think so," he murmured. "Blake will wait—conserve his power—use his repulsive ray later—at the end."

The minutes passed. Half an hour. Silent, rushing fall.

On the mirror, the tumbling little transport seemed poised, motionless, and only the background of stars was moving. But there was that horrible, constant enlargement of visual size. A thousand miles altitude now, as the stricken vessel rushed and tumbled downward. And details were showing up with its nearness. The dome did not seem to be punctured. Perhaps the air on board was still breathable. With clenched hands Georg sat staring, tense, waiting for the inevitable soundless crash. A fall of five thousand miles.


The recent (June 15, 2536) scathing statement of Senator Rathe in the World Congress of London City to the effect that all Martians should be deported from our Moon Colony as undesirables, has stirred an enormous controversy. Fortunately the Government of the Martian Union has accepted Earth's official apology; but nevertheless, the Ilton newscasters of Mars have stirred up much public feeling against Earth people which cannot but be harmful to the friendliness outwardly existing between the two worlds.

Senator Rathe's suggestion is impractical, of course. There is too much Martian capital invested in Lunite industry. And too much Martian blood is mingled in the veins of native-born, loyal Lunites. It is unjust also, for all Martians on the Moon are not trouble-makers. Yet it does seem that of recent years, the human blood which has been spilled upon the Moon has all been caused by Martian lawlessness. Blood of the Moon! The phrase seems destined to go down in history as the symbol of this decade. Humans killing each other on our small bleak satellite, when all the rest of the civilized Universe momentarily is at peace.

Out of this contro...

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