Cosmic Slavers [Empire of Evil #1]
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by Robert Arnette
Category: Science Fiction
Description: Before the Venusians Could Conquer the Solar System They First Needed to Kidnap Earth Women for Their Slave Pens! Blood and thunder science fiction from the glory days of the pulp magazines. "A blue Mercurian, arrogance in every line of his shell-covered body, was leading a white Earth-girl up the street. The Earth-girl was practically naked. She walked with head bent, shoulders drooping-a creature without hope. The rope around her slender waist, by which the Mercurian hauled her along, had raised a cruel, circular abrasion on her otherwise smooth brown skin." Ron Kratnick, agent for Earth Intelligence, had been told he would have to endure scenes like this without a blink if he was go go undercover and help smash Darrien, the alien Hitler who dreamed of ruling the nine worlds. And to recruit an army Darrien had made his troops a devilish promise. For he had discovered the one thing which would make the solar system's dregs fight like tigers possessed -- the promise of Earth-women as their own property, to be used as they saw fit. Stopping him seemed like a hopeless task to Kratnick, until he found himself allied with a brainy Earthwoman captive, and a mysterious man whose motives were far from clear. Then Ron Kratnick knew he had a chance - if neither of his new found allies betrayed him!
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner Editions,
eBookwise Release Date: December 2008
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [119 KB]
Reading time: 67-94 min.
A BLUE Mercurian, arrogance in every line of his shell-covered body, was leading a white Earth-girl up the street. The Earth-girl was practically naked. She walked with head bent, shoulders drooping-a creature without hope. The rope around her slender waist, by which the Mercurian hauled her along, had raised a cruel, circular abrasion on her otherwise smooth brown skin.
The girl stumbled and the Mercurian jerked ruthlessly at the rope just as a pair of Darrien's blacktailed Venusian fighters paused in passing to grin and lay lascivious hands upon the girl's body.
The Mercurian snarled and yanked the girl away. "Mine!" he spat, and laid a hand on the zam-gun at his belt. He pushed the girl behind him and faced the two Venusians, ready to kill or be killed in defense of his rare prize.
Ordinarily there would have been quick death here-either one Mercurian spilling out his green blood on the walk, or two Venusians stiff in death, their black tails twitching and snapping. The Venusians, who considered themselves the aristocrats of Darrien's hideous army, had more than once taken loot from their fellow fighters from the other planets. And this young virgin was a prize indeed.
But the Venusians were sated at the moment. Their bellies were full of raw flesh and warming Bizant liquor. So they laughed and moved on, much to the Mercurian's surprise.
Seated at a cafe table nearby, Ron Kratnick was fighting with himself as he had never fought before; battling to hold his fury in check--striving to keep from leaping forward to tear the Mercurian's dome-shaped head from his shoulders. Bright in Ron's senses was the vision of what was going to happen to this girl. Apparently fresh from Earth, probably from America, she had no doubt been taken in one of the rapier-like raids of Darrien's forces and, according to the code of Darrien, she was fair loot of the blue Mercurian soldier.
Ron Kratnick writhed inwardly as he thought of Darrien-that archfiend of the universe; thought of the man's devilish cleverness in discovering the one thing which would make his interplanetary army fight like tigers possessed--the promise of Earth-women as their own property, to be used as they saw fit. The girl, beyond doubt, would be better off dead.
But Ron held himself in by conjuring up the words of Blake Wentworth, Chief of Universal Intelligence: "You'll see some terrible things on Venus, Kratnick. Things done to our women and to captive soldiers that will make your blood boil and well-nigh unseat your reason. Your ability to control yourself will be the mark of your success or failure. When you see a girl raped or tortured, you've got to remember that you can do nothing for her-that your allegiance lies with the millions here on Earth-that your success will mean salvation for them. When you get to Venus, you've got to ignore everything except your prime objective."
"And what is that objective?" Ron had asked. He'd been called, completely unbriefed, from an assignment in Africa, and had come to Chicago with no idea whatever as to what his orders would contain.
Blake Wentworth, a highly capable, but sorely harassed Intelligence Chief, had smiled bitterly. "I'll come to that, but first, let me give you the background." Wentworth's smile twisted into deeper bitterness as he snatched a cigarette from the tray on his desk. "Most of it you know, of course, so we'll just call it blowing of f steam on my part. A man's got to sound off once in a while, or the stuff piles up inside him and cracks him up."
"I understand, sir."
"To a certain extent, maybe, but you can't know how I feel. You can't know that because you haven't been in the saddle-taking the abuse for the mistakes made by others."
There was sympathy in Ron's smile. "I'm a good listener, sir."
"The trouble with this planet, Kratnick, is that they were too cocky. The chosen people and all that silly rot. It came on gradually of course. With the most advanced brains in the universe we naturally were the superiors of the barbaric peoples we found on other planets. Our technical know-how was such that we had no trouble controlling them. And as time went on we considered ourselves as the paternal lords of the universe. The High Council members got up off their fat lard buckets and spouted off about how the blue Mercurians and the Venusians and the Martians loved us and looked to us for guidance.
This was evidently a subject close to Wentworth's spleen because he mashed his cigarette into a tray and his eyes blazed. "Loved us! Any fool with half an eye could see they hated our guts, envied us our advancements and drooled down their tusks at thoughts of getting us by the throats."
Ron had said nothing. There didn't seem to be anything to say. Wentworth scowled at his subordinate much as though he considered it his blame and then went on;
"Then we came up with that foul scheme for getting rid of our own trash and scum. Send them to Venus! Take our mobsters and degenerates and murderers and foist them off on the Venusians, and if the Venusians didn't like it-the hell with them! I remember when a pompous ass of a hypocrite named Lanson made the suggestion in the High Council. I can remember his very words!"
Wentworth had unconsciously burlesqued the voice and attitude of a typical well-fed politician: "Fellow citizens, why should the sweet air of earth be polluted by the breath of such as these? Let's send them to consort with their own kind-the savages in the red jungles of Venus. Let that steaming red planet fulfill the destiny for which it was created-let it be our penal colony."
The Intelligence Chief had stopped for lack of breath and Ron felt called upon to say something. "That was quite a while ago. I was just a kid then."
"Yes and I was still a young man when that groundwork for today's hellishness was laid. But I was in the Service when Darrien reared his rotten head and had to be dealt with."
"That I remember clearly," Ron said. "It was a big issue in the press. After his two attempts to overthrow the government I remember there was a great public clamor for his execution."
"I was a part of that clamor," Wentworth replied grimly, "I went before a Council committee and testified that regardless of Darrien's general rottenness, he had one of the greatest brains of all time; that by sending him to the penal colony of Venusia, we were sewing the seeds of our own possible destruction."
"But they sent him there anyhow."
Wentworth's mood had changed from one of fire to one of moody defeat. "That's right. My words meant nothing and the Council went along with the sobsisters and the so-called humanitarians. As a result, we lighted a time bomb that's going off now. Darrien went to work immediately. Because certain men are criminals it doesn't follow that they have no brains. Darrien combed the cesspools of the universe and came up with brains by the bucketful. In ten years he built a war machine that has us with our backs to the wall. He built the most ferocious army ever conceived by the simple process of offering his soldiers our women as prizes."
It had been Ron's turn to frown.
"But, sir, we aren't exactly helpless. We have four space fleets, any one of which is capable of blowing Venusia out into the void. I'm just an agent and I don't know what goes on on the inside, but I know that's what the public's howling about. They want to know why we haven't done just that-blown Darrien's rat's-nest to Kingdom Come. Your talk of our having our backs to the wall surprises me. I didn't know it was that bad."
"And, neither does the public," Wentworth said grimly. "They blame the Council for not stopping the Earth-raids of Darrien's space ships. That's impossible unless we destroy Venusia."
"Then why don't we?"
"Because we can't."
It was equivalent to saying a man couldn't slap a fly on his own wrist. Ron allowed his expression to mirror surprise but he said nothing. Wentworth lit another cigarette and blew a cloud of smoke out through his nose. He then asked;
"Did you ever hear of the Clanton Space Mine?"
Ron shook his head and Wentworth smiled without humor. "If you had," Wentworth said, "it would mean a leak in Intelligence. Very few people know about it. If the information got out, there'd be panic in the streets."
He punched a button on his desk. A door opened at the far end of the room and a young man entered. The young man had about him, the impersonal air of the scientist. He crossed the room and stood by Wentworth's desk, staring at the Chief through calm, impersonal eyes. Wentworth closed his own eyes, evidently from sheer weariness.
"This is Corbett," he said. "One of our brilliant young brains. Corbett, tell this man about the Clanton Space Mine."
While Wentworth appeared to sleep, the young scientist turned to Ron and spoke in a flat voice as though he were reading his words off a sheet of paper:
"The Clanton Space Mine can be compared, for the sake of understanding its function, to the explosive land mines used in ancient wars to blow up a road over which the enemy was passing. It is used for exactly the same purpose relative to a ship passing through a given area of space. It is an entirely invisible and unregisterable--"
Ron held up a hand. "What do you mean by unregisterable?"
"That its presence cannot be detected by any instruments-at least by any instruments we have been able to devisee."
"This mine consists of a ray and was discovered by Andrew Clanton--"
Wentworth was evidently not asleep because he waved an impatient hand without opening his eyes and said, "The hell with that. Everybody knows Clanton is a scalylegged genius Darrien picked up in a Martian booze house. Tell him how they use the mine."
The youth went on: "To the best of our knowledge, the ray emanates from a central power plant located in the city of Venusia. It is projected so that it forms an umbrella over the city and about seven hundred square miles surrounding it. Functionally, this ray umbrella explodes any missile, lethal or otherwise, which comes down into its area of effectiveness. That area, so far as we can ascertain ', has a depth of about a mile and lies about two hundred miles above the city and surrounding jungles."
"Remember that, Kratnick," Wentworth said, still without opening his eyes. "Seven good men died getting us the information."
There was a moment of silence, after which Wentworth said, "All right. Tell him the rest."
"We know also that there are entrances-tunnels so to speak, through this umbrella--uncontaminated passages in space through which Darrien's ship can enter and exit safe--"
"But," Wentworth cut in, "we don't know where they are."
"Is that all, sir?" the young scientist asked. Wentworth nodded and then Corbett left the room.
"You know the score now, Kratnick," Wentworth said. "You know why Darrien's been holding us helpless. If we can't get through that umbrella with a bombardment squadron, these raids will continue until Earth is in panic and Darrien has recruited enough emboldened fighters from other planets to come down and annihilate us."
"I see why you call the situation serious," Ron said grimly. "What are my orders?"
"They're pretty much equivalent to suicide. I want you to go in and locate that projection plant and put it out of commission."
"Might I ask why I was picked for the job?"
"On your record." Wentworth hesitated, then spoke with an added grimness in his voice. "You're entitled to the truth, Kratnick. I told you seven men had already died in the project. They were all good, but that number includes Tanton, the Mercurian. I banked heavily on him but he's been gone for over four months now, and we're giving him up for dead. Anything Tanton couldn't crack is-well, almost impossible."
Ron was genuinely shocked upon hearing this news--Tanton! The blue Mercurian had been practically a legend among the men of Intelligence. A master of over fifty languages, a graduate of Cambridge and the Harvard University of Advanced Theoretics, he was an unsurpassed nuclear physicist, a recognized composer and -this above all-an incurable adventurer. Why, it was an honor even to be considered for a project on which the great Tanton had failed!
"And there were six others beside Tanton?"
"Our best men right up the line. Three Earthmen, a Martian, and two Plutonians. It's practically a certainty they're all dead. Probably died in agony after being tortured. You may refuse the assignment if you wish."
"How do I get through the umbrella?
"As a member of a Venusian raiding party. At times we get information as to where a raiding party intends to strike. Not very often but when we do, we use that information pretty grimly-we allow the raid to be made and use it to plant an agent in Venusia."
Ron had understood instantly and his stomach tightened in protest at the seeming callousness. Darrien's forces were allowed to make off with a number of Earthlings in order that Intelligence could make a stab at winning this grim struggle. The unfortunates who were captured became hapless pawns in a game that was for keeps-a game where the stakes ran into the millions of lives.
"I know what you're thinking," Wentworth said. "I know it seems treacherous and rotten, but in this business you've got to weigh all the evils and condone the lightest in order to smash the heaviest."
"I understand," Ron said.
"The Raiders come in lots of about five hundred-usually only one ship-and are a mixture from every planet. Fortunately for us, Darrien has recruited a battalion of Earthmen-renegade exiles from our slums and cesspools. We've managed to capture a few of these and when the raid is staged, you're to infiltrate into the marauders. If necessary in order to carry it off-snatch yourself a woman captive and take her back to Venusia."
"I'll be entirely upon my own of course."
"Entirely. One of our space fleets is patrolling continuously off Venusia. We'll give you their wave length and you're to notify them if you succeed in destroying the projector."
Wentworth got to his feet and held out his hand. "And I promise you," he said grimly, "if you can do it, there'll be a big hole in Venus immediately thereafter."
"I'll try my best, sir," Ron said, and shook Wentworth's hand. He had left, terribly sorry for this man who had to sit at a desk with the weight of the whole terrible affair on his shoulders; this man who perhaps saw in his dreams the faces of Earthlings sacrificed in a plan he himself had had to devise.
"Good luck, Kratnick," Wentworth said.
"Thank you, sir," Ron replied.
Crouched in some bushes two nights later on the outskirts of a small town in Iowa, Rod had listened to the chirping of crickets in a nearby swamp and searched the dark skies for signs of a space-ship. He was clad in the tight gray britches and red tunic of Darrien's Earthmen Brigade. He wore the leather harness which distinguished those renegades, and he carried a zam-gun on his hip. In a supply packet at his belt were papers-genuine enough-identifying him as Louis Diehl, a young St. Louis embezzler who had been exiled to Venusia, had returned as one of Darrien's raiders, and was now safely put away in the cell blocks in Chicago. Ron also wore, on his tunic, the tiny, almost imperceptible blue stitching which would identify him for what he was to any agent he chanced to meet.
But I won't meet any, he had told himself. They're all dead and I'm the eighth in line.
The red tail of a space-ship appeared in the sky. Ron crouched in the bushes and thought of Tanton.