Rip Foster in Ride the Gray Planet
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Title: Rip Foster in Ride the Gray Planet
Author: Harold Leland Goodwin
Release Date: April 10, 2006 [eBook #18139]
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***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK RIP FOSTER IN RIDE THE GRAY PLANET***
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A GOLDEN GRIFFON SPACE ADVENTURE
Rip Foster in Ride the Gray Planet
By BLAKE SAVAGE
GOLDEN PRESS NEW YORK
Golden Griffon TM of Western Publishing Company, Inc.
Copyright 1952 by Western Publishing Company, Inc.
All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.
Published by Golden Press, New York, N.Y.
First Golden Griffon Printing, 1969
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE: Spacebound
CHAPTER TWO: Rake That Radiation!
CHAPTER THREE: Capture and Drive!
CHAPTER FOUR: Find the Needle!
CHAPTER FIVE: The Gray World
CHAPTER SIX: Rip's Planet
CHAPTER SEVEN: Earthbound!
CHAPTER EIGHT: Duck—or Die!
CHAPTER NINE: Repel Invaders!
CHAPTER TEN: Get the Scorpion!
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Hard Words
CHAPTER TWELVE: Mercury Transit
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Peril!
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Between Two Fires
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: The Rocketeers
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Ride the Planet!
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Visitors!
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Courtesy—With Claws
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Spacefall
CHAPTER TWENTY: On the Platform
A thousand miles above Earth's surface the great space platform spedfrom daylight into darkness. Once every two hours it circled the earthcompletely, spinning along through space like a mighty wheel of steel andplastic.
Through a telescope on Earth the platform looked to be a lifeless, lonelydisk, but within it, hundreds of spacemen and Planeteers went about theirwork.
In a ready room at the outer edge of the platform, a Planeteer officerfaced a dozen slim, black-clad young men who wore the single goldenorbits of lieutenants. This was a graduating class, already commissioned,having a final informal get-together.
The officer, who wore the three-orbit insignia of a major, was lean andtrim. His short-cropped hair covered his head like a gray fur skull cap.One cheek was marked with the crisp whiteness of an old radiation burn.
"Stand easy," he ordered briskly. "The general instructions of theSpecial Order Squadrons say that it's my duty as senior officer to make afarewell speech. I intend to make a speech if it kills me—and you, too."
The dozen new officers facing him broke into grins. Maj. Joe Barris hadbeen their friend, teacher, and senior officer during six long years oftraining on the space platform. He could no more make a formal speechthan he could breathe high vacuum, and they all knew it.
Lt. Richard Ingalls Peter Foster, whose initials had given him thenickname "Rip," asked, "Why don't you sing for us instead, Joe?"
Major Barris fixed Rip with a cold eye. "Foster, three orbital turns,then front and center."
Rip obediently spun around three times, then walked forward and stood atattention, trying to conceal his grin.
"Foster, what does SOS mean?"
"Special Order Squadrons, sir."
"Right. And what else does it mean?"
"It means 'Help!' sir."
"Right. And what else does it mean?"
"Superman or simp, sir."
This was a ceremony in which questions and answers never changed. It wassupposed to make Planeteer cadets and junior officers feel properlyhumble, but it didn't work. By tradition, the Planeteers were thecockiest gang that ever blasted through high vacuum.
Major Barris shook his head sadly. "You admit you're a simp, Foster. Therest of you are simps, too, but you don't believe it. You've finished sixyears on the platform. You've made a few little trips out into space.You've landed on the moon a couple of times. So now you think you'reseasoned space spooks. Well, you're not. You're simps!"
Rip stopped grinning. He had heard this before. It was part of theroutine. But he sensed that this time Joe Barris wasn't kidding.
The major absently rubbed the radiation scar on his cheek as he lookedthem over. They were like twelve chicks out of the same nest. They wereabout the same size, a compact five feet eleven inches, 175 pounds. Theywore belted, loose black tunics over full trousers which gathered intowhite cruiser boots. The comfortable uniforms concealed any slightdifferences in build. All twelve were lean of face, with hair cropped tothe regulation half inch. Rip was the only redhead among them.
"Sit down," Barris commanded. "Here's my speech."
The twelve seated themselves on plastic stools. Major Barris remainedstanding.
"Well," he began soberly, "you are now officers of the Special OrderSquadrons. You're Planeteers. You are lieutenants by order of the SpaceCouncil, Federation of Free Governments. And—space protect you!—toyourselves you're supermen. But never forget this: To ordinary spacemen,you're just plain simps. You're trouble in a black tunic. They have aboutas much use for you as they have for leaks in their air locks. Some ofthe spacemen have been high-vacking for twenty years or more, and they'retough. They're as nasty as a Callistan teekal. They like to eatPlaneteer junior officers for breakfast."
Lt. Felipe "Flip" Villa asked, "With salt, Joe?"
Major Barris sighed. "No use trying to tell you space chicks anything.You're lieutenants now, and a lieutenant has the thickest skull of anyrank, no matter what service he belongs to."
Rip realized that Barris had not been joking, no matter how flippant hisspeech. "Go ahead," he urged. "Finish what you were going to say."
"Okay. I'll make it short. Then you can catch the Terra rocket and takeyour eight weeks' Earth leave. You won't really know what I'm talkingabout until you've batted around space for a while. All I have to sayadds up to one thing. You won't like it, because it doesn't soundscientific. That doesn't mean it isn't good science, because it is. Justremember this: When you're in a jam, trust your hunch and not your head."
The twelve stared at him, openmouthed. For six years they had been taughtto rely on scientific methods. Now their best instructor and seniorofficer was telling them just the opposite!
Rip started to object, but then he caught a glimmer of meaning. He stuckout his hand. "Thanks, Joe. I hope we'll meet again."
Barris grinned. "We will, Rip. I'll ask for you as a platoon commanderwhen they assign me to cleaning up the goopies on Ganymede." This was themajor's idea of the worst Planeteer job in the solar system.
The group shook hands all around; then the young officers broke for thedoor on the run. The Terra rocket was blasting off in five minutes, andthey were to be on it.
Rip joined Flip Villa, and they jumped on the high-speed track that wouldwhisk them to Valve Two on the other side of the platform. Their gear wasalready loaded. They had only to take seats on the rocket, and their sixyears on the space platform would be at an end.
"I wonder what it will be like to get back to high gravity," Rip mused.The centrifugal force of the spinning platform acted as artificialgravity, but it was considerably less than Earth's.
"We probably won't be able to walk straight until we get our Earth legsback," Flip answered. "I wish I could stay in Colorado with you insteadof going back to Mexico City, Rip. We could have a lot of fun in eightweeks."
Rip nodded. "Tough luck, Flip. But anyway, we have the same assignment."
Both Planeteers had been assigned to Special Order Squadron Four, whichwas attached to the cruiser Bolide. The cruiser was in high space,beyond the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn, doing comet research.
They got off the track at Valve Two and stepped through into the rocket'sinterior. Two seats just ahead of the fins were vacant, and they slidinto them. Rip looked through the thick port beside him and saw thedistinctive blue glow of a nuclear drive cruiser sliding toward theplatform.
"Wave your eye stalks at that job," Flip said admiringly. "Wonder whatit's doing here."
The space platform was a refueling depot, where conventional chemicalfuel rockets topped off their tanks before flaming for space. The newernuclear drive cruisers had no need to stop. Their atomic piles needed newneutron sources only once every few years, and they carried thousands oftons of methane, compressed into solid form, for their reaction mass.
The voice horn in the rocket cabin sounded. "The SCN Scorpius ispassing Valve Two, landing at Valve Eight."
"I thought that ship was with Squadron One on Mercury," Rip recalled."Wonder why they pulled it back here."
Flip had no chance to reply, because the chief rocket officer took up hisstation at the valve and began to call the roll. Rip answered to hisname.
The rocket officer finished the roll, then announced: "Buttoning up intwenty seconds. Blast off in forty-five. Don't bother with accelerationharness. We'll fall free, with just enough flame going for control, afterten seconds of retrothrust to de-orbit."
The ten-second-warning bell sounded, and, before the bell had ceased, thevoice horn blasted. "Get it! Foster, R.I.P., Lieutenant. Report to theplatform commander. Show an exhaust!"
Rip leaped to his feet. "Hold on, Flip. I'll see what the old man wantsand be right back."
"Get flaming," the rocket officer called. "Show an exhaust, like the mansaid. This bucket leaves on time, and we're sealing the port."
Rip hesitated. The rocket would leave without him!
Flip said urgently, "You better ram it, Rip."
He knew he had no choice. "Tell my folks I'll make the next rocket," hecalled, and ran. He leaped through the valve, jumped for the high-speedtrack, and was whisked around the rim of the space platform.
He ran a hand through his short red hair, a gesture of bewilderment. Hisrecords had cleared. So far as he knew, all his papers were in order, andhe had his next assignment. He couldn't figure why the platform commanderwould want to see him. But the horn had called, "Show an exhaust!" whichmeant to get there in a hurry.
He jumped off the track at the main crossrun and hurried toward thecenter of the platform. In a moment he was at the commander's door,waiting to be identified.
The door swung open, and a junior officer in the blue tunic and trousersof a spaceman motioned him to the inner room. "Go in, Lieutenant."
"Thank you." He hurried into the commander's room and stood at attention.
Commander Jennsen, the Norwegian spaceman who had commanded the platformsince before Rip's arrival as a raw cadet, was dictating into his commandrelay circuit. As he spoke, printed copies were being received in theplatform personnel office, at Special Order Squadron headquarters onEarth, aboard the cruiser Bolide in high space, and aboard the newlylanded cruiser Scorpius.
Rip listened, spellbound.
"Foster, R.I.P., Lieutenant, SOS. Serial seven-nine-four-three. AssignedSOS Four. Change orders, effective this date-time. Cancel Earth leave.Subject officer will report to commander, SCN Scorpius, with detachmentof nine men. Senior noncommissioned officer and second in command, Koa,A.P., Sergeant Major, SOS. Serial two-nine-four-one. Commander ofScorpius will transport detachment to coordinates given in basiccruiser astro-course; deliver orders to detachment en route. Takerequired steps for maximum security. This is Federation priority A,Space Council security procedures."
Rip swallowed hard. The highest possible priority, given by theFederation itself, had canceled his leave. Not only that, but the cruiserto which he was assigned was instructed to follow Space Council securityprocedures, which meant that the job, whatever it was, was more urgentthan secret!
Commander Jennsen looked up and saw Rip waiting. He snapped, "Did you getall of that?"
"You'll get written copies on the cruiser. Now flame out of here. Collectyour men and get aboard. The Scorpius leaves in five minutes."
Rip ran. The realization hit him that the big nuclear cruiser had stoppedat the platform for the sole purpose of collecting him and nine enlistedPlaneteers.
The low gravity helped him cover the hundred yards to the personneloffice in five leaps. He swung to a stop by grabbing the push bar of theoffice door. He yelled at the enlisted spaceman on duty. "Where do I findnine men?"
The spaceman looked at him vacantly. "What for? You got a requisition,Lieutenant?"
"Never mind requisitions," Rip snapped.