Sunday, September 11, 2016

"How Could the Pirate Know Exactly When and Where to Intercept His Victims in Space, Where Ships Are As Hard to See As Motes in the Dark?"

"Lunar Loot."
By Edwin Benson (house name).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, March 1940.
Short short story (5 pages).
Online at SFFAudio HERE (PDF).
(Parental caution: Strong language and violence.)
"Allan Ryan and John Kane sweated hard for that gold quartz, and they weren't going to give it up to a pirate, no matter how clever he was . . ."
For Ryan and Kane mining gold-laced quartz in the Moon's Tycho crater is dangerous work in itself, but now there's the added threat of pirates to worry about. The two miners have a lucrative arrangement with Lunar Mining Company (LMC)—provided they can make that last quarter of a million miles to Earth without getting way-laid and murdered, as other hapless travelers have been, by a mysterious space criminal known only as Murgot:
Time after time he'd sacked ships, forcing the crews to step from the airlock, just as old-time pirates made their victims walk the plank.
As bad as that is, there's something of a mystery about the whole thing:
Murgot seemed to possess an uncanny knowledge of the time and place to intercept LMC ships. When you worked for LMC you staked your life against riches with all the chances on the side of failure. That's why LMC split fifty-fifty with miners.
. . . which to these guys amounts to a cool four million dollars for this load. Collecting it, however, isn't going to be all that easy, because Ryan and Kane are about to find themselves jammed into a situation where, if they don't get skinned alive first, they'll certainly get blown sky high . . . literally.
Tycho crater, 53 miles across and 3 miles deep
Principal characters:
~ Allan Ryan:
   "It'll mean over ten thousand miles of air-travel after we reach Earth, and taking a space ship through air is no cinch. It ain't like a plane. I can't see why that crazy stunt is neces-sary."
~ John Kane:
   "The old man says Murgot won't be expecting us to take off then. I'd a darn sight rather meet him though, than crack up in some jungle on Earth, or in the middle of the Sahara.
But I guess he knows what he's about."
~ Lawrence, the LMC dome boss (a.k.a. "The old man"):
   "You guessed it the first time."
~ Murgot:
   ". . . the scourge of the Lunar Mining Company . . . [his] chief occupation was piracy."
~ Drago:
   "He's always been interested in biology, but he gets so few subjects to vivisect that he hasn't made much progress."

- For an idea of what real moonbases would be like, go to Winchell Chung's Atomic Rockets hypersite (HERE) and scroll down to "Sample Lunar Base" and "Sample Lunar Base 2," both of which are enhanced by many artists' conceptualizations.
- It's a mystery which author using the house name of "Edwin Benson" wrote "Lunar Loot." One of the most consistent contributors to Fantastic (and one who has always made for good copy) was the spectacularly controversial Richard S. Shaver (1907-75); if you've never heard of Shaver you might want to read more about him (HERE), (HERE), and (HERE).

The bottom line: "One could mention many lovable traits in Smee. For instance, after killing, it was his spectacles he wiped instead of his weapon."
J. M. Barrie

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