The Three Planeteers [The Two Thousand Centuries Series] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Edmond Hamilton
eBook Category: Science Fiction
eBook Description: Their D'Artagnan Was A Woman! In this classic space opera, when Haskell Trask, tyrant of the League of Cold Worlds (Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune), seeks to conquer the democratic Alliance of Inner Worlds, freedom's last hope lies the outlaw trio known as the Three Planeteers. Secretly agents of the Alliance, the Planeteers--Sual Ave of Venus, Gunner Welk of Mercury, and John Thorn of Earth--learn that Trask possesses a terrible new weapon powerful enough to defeat the space navies of the inner worlds. All Trask needs is to locate and seize the system's only known supply of the power metal, radite. Fleeing Earth in a running space battle with the police, the Planeteers discover that the only person who can lead them safely to the radite is Lana Cain, the legendary Pirate Princess of the buccaneering Companions of Space. When the Planeteers learn Cain's real mission is to clear her father of a false charge of piracy, the four join forces, and she agrees to help them find the radite. But news of their plan leaks out to her fellow members of the Companions, and soon Lana and the Planeteers are being sought by both the Companions of Space and the League of Cold Worlds. From planet to planet, in space, on asteroids and moons, Lana and the Planeteers must battle against impossible odds to prevent the radite from falling into the wrong hands. And their only chance of success rests in the questionable loyalty of the self-pitying, pleasure-lovingin old space pirate, Stilicho Keene and the fangs of a space dog named Ool. This is the first ever book republication of this epic 1940s space adventure from the legendary pulp, Startling Stories. What Hamilton did best, according to Donald Tuck's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, "involved the creation and popularization of the classic early space operas [presenting] galaxy-spanning conflicts between humans and other races, piratical or merely monstrous, [which in turn] did much to define the field's sense of wonder?" That Hamilton did all this without ever losing the human scale, indeed, the human touch, is a tribute to his genius and evident even in such a thundering adventure as this celebrated romance of the future.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, Published: 2005
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2005
This eBook is part of the following series:
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR AND BOOK
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Jules Verne Award winner Edmond Hamilton (1904-1977) was one of the three formative pioneers of what some dismissively refer to as "space opera" and others as "the novel of intra- and interstellar adventure." His earliest works, like the Federation of Suns or Interstellar Patrol series (1928-30), or Comet Doom (1927), The Three Planeteers (1940), and The Star Kings (1949), available from Renaissance E Books), are colorful, pell-mell adventure stories as befits Hamilton's youth. Later, in the 1960s, he would return to his roots for a series of novels and stories that combined the vivid interstellar settings early work with the more thoughtful perceptions and the moody, poetic style he had developed as he matured. These include The City at World's End (1957, available from Renaissance E Book), The Star of Life (1959), and The Haunted Stars (1961). What Hamilton did best, according to Donald Tuck's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, "involved the creation and popularization of the classic early space operas [presenting] galaxy-spanning conflicts between humans and other races, piratical or merely monstrous, [which in turn] did much to define the field's sense of wonder..." That Hamilton did all this without ever losing the human scale, indeed, the human touch, is a tribute to his genius and evident in such a thundering adventure as The Three Planeteers (which, as the title implies, is his homage to one of his favorite childhood novels, as The Star Kings pays homage to The Prisoner of Zenda, only in Hamilton's version of The Three Musketeers, his D'Artagnan, fittingly for a man married to a tomboy who grew up to be a celebrated writer of tough-guy fiction, is a woman!).
* * * *
TOMORROW'S WORLD'S WORLDS
Instead of talking about myself, I'd like to talk a little about The Three Planeteers. A very common supposition in science fiction seems to be that when interplanetary travel is finally achieved, and there are populations of colonizing Earthmen on the other worlds, they will all be ruled by the same government and law, and that war and strife will be forgotten. Now, I never could see that as inevitable. In fact, it always seemed more reasonable to me to suppose that every world would have its own government. And here's why:
Just think of what an effect distance has right here on Earth. Englishmen migrate to America, and a century or so later they find they just can't get along with the parent country any more, and declare their independence. The same thing happens to the Spaniards who colonized South and Central America. It's happening right now to South Africa and Australia.
Now, if that is true right now on Earth, surely it will be even more true in the future in the Solar System! Think of yourself, a few hundred years from now, on Mars. Your father was born on Mars, and your grandfather. You know that several generations back one of your ancestors came here from Earth, but you don't feel any loyalty to Earth. Mars is your world. And yet here you are, with a government on Earth making the laws by which you live. Those Earth people don't know Martian conditions, and don't know what is or is not practical out here on your world. What would you do, in a situation like that? If precedent or history mean anything, ten to one you'd shine up your trusty atom-gun and go out with a lot of your fellow Martians to win your independence from Earth. And the chances are that you'd win it.
And in the centuries that followed, your descendants would be more and more true Martians, wouldn't they? They'd be modified by generations of life in a new environment. Free people of the different worlds, all of the same Earth stock, would grow more and more unlike each other. If they couldn't settle their differences they'd go to war. That's the speculative background of The Three Planeteers. But it isn't any history of the future. It's a story. I hope it's a good story.
* * * *
* * * *
THE THREE PLANETEERS
From Earth, Venus and Mercury, three Musketeers of Space, accompanied by a female D'Artagnan, rocket out in a grim battle against the League of the Cold Worlds!
* * * *
Comrades of Peril
THEY sauntered through the crowded, krypton lit street bordering the great New York spaceport, casually, as though there was not a reward on their heads. An Earthman, a Venusian, and a huge Mercurian, looking merely like three ordinary space-sailors in their soiled, drab jackets and trousers.
But inwardly John Thorn, the lean, dark-headed Earthman of the trio, was queerly tense. He felt the warning of that sixth sense which tells of being watched. His brown, hard-chinned face showed nothing of what he felt, and he was smiling as though telling some joke as he spoke to his two companions.
"We're being followed," he said. "I've felt it, since we left the spaceport. I don't know who it is."
Sual Av, the bald, bow-legged Venusian, laughed merrily as though at a jest. His bright green eyes glistened, and there was a wide grin on his ugly, froglike face.
"The police?" he chuckled.
Gunner Welk, the huge Mercurian, growled in his throat. His shock of yellow hair seemed to bristle on his head, his massive face and cold blue eyes hardening belligerently.
"How in hell's name would the Earth police spot us so quickly after our arrival?" he muttered.
"I don't think it's the police," John Thorn said, his black eyes still smiling casually. "Stop at the next corner, and we'll see who passes us."
At the corner gleamed a luminous red sign, "THE CLUB OF WEARY SPACEMEN." In and out of the vibration-joint, thus benevolently named, were streaming dozens of the motley throng that jammed the blue-lit street. Reedy-looking red Martians, squat and surly Jovians, hard-bitten Earthmen-sailors from all the eight inhabited worlds, spewed up by the great spaceport nearby. There were many naval officers and men, too--a few in the crimson of Mars, the green of Venus and blue of Mercury, but most of them in the gray uniform of the Earth Navy.
John Thorn and his two comrades paused on the corner as though debating whether or not to enter the vibration-joint. Inwardly, Thorn was tautly alert to everyone who passed in the shuffling throngs. Every moment, his sense of peril grew greater. He was now certain that they were being watched from close at hand.
Sual Av suddenly grinned. "Look at that, John. It's a new one."
The Venusian nodded his bald head toward the corner of the chromaloy building, which was plastered with advertisements and official notices. Among them was a bright new poster.
"WANTED--THE THREE PLANETEERS
"Reward of one million dollars offered by the Earth Police for any information leading to the arrest of the outlaws known as the Three Planeteers.'
Sual Av's green eyes gleamed with droll humor in his froglike face.
"They've raised the price on us, John. We ought to feel flattered."
Gunner Welk was reading the rest of the notice in a low, rumbling voice.
"The identities and descriptions of the Three Planeteers follow: John Thorn, Earthman, twenty-eight years old, deserter from the Earth Navy--"
"That's enough," Sual Av chuckled. "The rest is just a long list of our heinous exploits."
John Thorn took a long, green cigarette of Martian rail leaf from his pocket and scratched its tip against the wall, thus igniting it. As he puffed on it, Thorn spoke under his breath.
"Get ready, boys--here comes our shadow, if my guess is right."
Neither the grinning, bald Venusian nor the big Mercurian changed expression. But their hands casually dropped to the side of their jackets, where atom-pistols bulged their pockets.
A man in the gray uniform of a noncom of the Earth Navy was shouldering toward them out of the passing throng. He was a middle-aged man with a flat, grizzled face.
"Can you spare a smoke, sailor?" he asked Thorn.
"Of course," John Thorn answered calmly, and fished one of the green cigarettes from his pocket. He kept his face bent as he handed it over.
"Thanks," muttered the man, and was gone in the throng.
"A false alarm, after all," grunted Gunner Welk.
"No," clipped Thorn. "I know that man. He was one of my non-coms before I deserted the Navy. He knows I'm John Thorn, which means that he knows we're the Planeteers. He's gone for the police."
Thorn's gaze swiveled rapidly. Then he pushed his companions toward the swinging door of the vibration-joint.
"In here!" he exclaimed. "We can go out another door."
Thrumming music hit John Thorn and his comrades in the faces as they entered the place. It was a room clogged with greenish smoke. Men at tables in the center were arguing in bull voices as they drank black Venusian wine or brown Earth whisky. In the booths around the walls, many more men sprawled, somnolent, sleepy faces relaxed under the pale violet rays of the brain-soothing happiness vibrations."
Thorn's lean figure shouldered through the noisy, crowded tables, the bald-pated Venusian and the towering Mercurian following closely. They were half-way across the crowded place toward the back door, when there was a rush of feet through the front entrance.
Thorn twisted his head. Two men in the white uniform of the Earth Police had just burst in. With them was the grizzled non-com. The latter instantly pointed at Thorn and his two companions.
"There they are!" he yelled. "The Three Planeteers!"
For a moment, the noisy throng in the place was petrified. Even that motley, hard-bitten crowd was frozen by the sudden declaration that there in their midst stood the three half-legendary interplanetary outlaws.
Then the foremost of the two policemen, drawing his atom pistol, yelled to Thorn.
"Stand where you are!"
Thorn's pistol was already in his hand, as was the big Mercurian's.
"The lights, Gunner!" Thorn cried.
At the same moment, Thorn shot up toward the ceiling with the quickness of a wolf's snap.
The pellets from his and the Mercurian's pistols hit the big cluster of krypton lights in the ceiling. The flare of white proton fire from the exploding pellets was followed by an abrupt extinguishing of the lights. The place was plunged into darkness, except for the faint blue glow of the "happiness vibration" booths.
Scores of voices yelled in the darkness, and shadowy figures surged forward in a melee of reeling, clutching shapes. Some shouted for lights, others to guard the door. Everyone in the room had suddenly remembered the big reward for the capture of the Planeteers.
"This way," chuckled Sual Av's throaty voice in the darkness. The Venusian was stolidly clearing a path through the crowd.
Men sought to hold the three in the darkness, cried out that they were escaping. Gunner Welk's huge fists thudded down in resounding blows, while Thorn struck with the heavy barrel of his atom-pistol.
Suddenly Sual Av was pulling them out of a shadowy riot, through a door. They stumbled out into an unlighted alley. As they did so, they heard the whiz and roar of rocketcars racing up to the front entrance of the Club of Weary Spacemen.
"Police," grunted Gunner Welk. "They'll be around here in a minute."
"Come on!" cried Thorn, starting down the dark alley in a run. "We're all right now if we keep clear of spy-plates."
"Yes," came the Venusian's chuckle as he ran beside them. "The last place they'll look for the Planeteers is the mansion of the Chairman!"
* * * *
A half-hour later, the three comrades were two miles across the city from the spaceport, having threaded devious ways to avoid the omnipresent spy-plates of the police.
"Spy-plates" were televisor eyes mounted throughout the city, some openly but many more cunningly concealed, by which police headquarters could keep watch on all parts of the metropolis.
The Planeteers entered the deep shadow of tall trees that bordered extensive grounds. Through the trees glimmered the lighted windows of a magnificent metal mansion. The three comrades moved soundlessly as phantoms toward it.
The mansion was the official residence of the Chairman of the Earth Government. It was on a scale commensurate with the dignity of the elected executive of the planet. The huge tower that housed the Earth Government itself soared into the starlight from a great park nearby.
The Planeteers met no guards as they slipped cautiously toward the rear of the impressive mansion. There was a broad terrace here, splashed with blue-white light from a single window. John Thorn and his comrades stole up onto the terrace toward that window.
Thorn peered tautly into the lighted room. It was a small, paneled study. The only furniture was a big desk which lay in the blue-white pool of a krypton lamp. A gray-haired man sat at this desk, writing.
"It's the Chairman," Thorn whispered. "And he's alone."
"Good," muttered Gunner Welk. "That makes it easier!"
Thorn gently reached and pushed on the window. It was unlocked, and swung inward on soundless hinges. He stepped silently in upon the soft rug, and Sual Av and Gunner Welk followed as noiselessly.
The man at the desk suddenly looked up. His haggard, aging face stiffened as he beheld, ten feet from him, the three silent men--the lean, browned young Earthman, the bald, bow-legged Venusian, and the towering, hard-faced Mercurian.
"The Planeteers!" exclaimed the Chairman, rising to his feet. "Thank God, you're here!"