By Ralph Sholto (?-?).
First appearance: Fantastic Adventures, July 1952.
Reprinted in Fantastic, February 1969.
Novelette (25 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE.
(Parental caution: Strong language and graphic violence.)
"The alien galaxy had a strange hobby: they collected planets. And now they wanted to make Earth a star specimen!"What's the difference between a collector and a thief? Permission, of course. Rex and his partner Johnny on the Dog Star are making a cargo run carrying contraband when they literally run into an invisible planet that just happens to be passing through the Solar System; they don't know it at first, but this planet has been stolen and the population murdered to fulfill a purchasing contract without the permission of its inhabitants.
It also just so happens that Colleen and her dad Saul on the Flying Boxcar receive the same rough treatment as the Dog Star, forcing them all to make unscheduled landings on the pur-loined planet, where they'll find trouble aplenty from a homicidal brotherhood, swarms of killer androids, and, in Rex's case, a "red-headed, streamlined hellion" . . .
Characters to note:
~ Rex Moran, captain of the Dog Star, out of Minneapolis:
"Good lord! It's all city. Completely built up from one pole to the other. Every square mile of this planet has construction on it."
~ Johnny Calhoun, pilot and astrogator of the Dog Star:
"They ain't human. They keep getting up."
~ Colleen Barnum of the Flying Boxcar, out of Detroit:
"I told you I don't like you eating in your underwear!"
~ Saul Barnum of the Flying Boxcar, Collen's father:
"We've been jobbed. Grab a rafter and swing."
~ Brother William:
"You are a most refreshing bit of femininity. I have plans for you."
~ Lugo and Morkon:
"We are the sole worry of the Brothers at the moment. We are considered vermin who must be eradicated from the planet . . ."
~ The minions:
"They are dreadful enemies to have. They are partially human but have the unreasoning tenacity of cold metal. They never sleep. Endlessly, day after day, they hunt us down. They are as implacable as time itself."
~ "THE INSTRUMENTS at Palomar and Wilson registered an alien body crossing the solar orbits. The intruder, whatever it was, pulled Mars forty thousand miles out of its lane. From all indications, the thing would be hauled around by Mercury and would dive straight into the sun."
~ "Suddenly a door flew open and a terrified creature burst into the room. It was almost naked, its skin a sickly, unhealthy white. It had four arms and two legs, with short, bristly black hair covering its skull. Its feet were huge, comically so, but there was nothing comic
in the terror radiated by this creature. That quality was of a universal nature."
~ "A superficial explanation of Cosmophysics is necessary before you can begin to under-stand. You see, the universe as you know it is a relatively small unit of the infinite. Without the proper transportation equipment, the best you could ever do would be to travel in an ever-lasting circle. At the outer dimensions of this universe, as with all others, time and space become one and form circular boundaries: so the universe you know can be likened to a bubble in which you go around and around. . . . There are time and space spheres so large they could contain this universe a million times over."
~ "You, for instance, have a remarkably soft heart. You are a sentimentalist and as gener-ous as all outdoors. But you won't admit it even to yourself, and you keep it hidden under a cloak of synthetic savageness. . . . Another thing: whatever mistake you have made, whatever sin is eating at your conscience—fear not. You will not follow the path of evil to its ultimate end. You have already proven that."
~ "She hit him like an oversized bumblebee. Her legs went around his waist, her arms around his neck. Her white teeth slashed out and found his ear. With a curse, Rex jerked her free and held her at arm's length while she kicked and struggled. His face was a whirlpool of surprised rage. But gradually the rage faded to give place to a grin. 'You're a hellcat for fair,' he said."
Plothole: That "ancient ray gun that had seen better days."
Typo: "Neither man waited to sat goodbye"
- Whoever "Ralph Sholto" was (our guess is he was the magazine's editor incognito), he didn't produce much fiction under that name; see the ISFDb (HERE).
- TV Tropes discusses examples of the ecumenopolis (HERE).
The bottom line: "Guns are dangerous. You can get hurt that way."
— Saul Barnum