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«Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids», Isaac Asimov

Preface

Back in the 1950s, I wrote a series of six derring-do novels about David "Lucky" Starr and his battles against malefactors within the Solar System. Each of the six took place in a different region of the system and in each case I made use of the astonomical facts-as they were then known.

Now, a quarter-century later, Gregg Press is bringing out the novels in new hardcover editions; but what a quarter-century it has been! More has been learned about the worlds of our Solar System in this last quarter-century than in all the thousands of years of earlier observations.

Prior to the 1950s, you see, we could only look from Earth's surface; since then, we have been able to send out rocket probes to take photographs and make studies at close range.

The only one of the six Lucky Starr novels that has remained untouched by this-at least so far-is LUCKY STARR AND THE PIRATES OF THE ASTEROIDS, which was written in 1953. There is evidence that many of the asteroids may be a little darker and just a little larger than had been thought earlier, but that makes very little difference.

Therefore, Lucky can fight the pirates and engage in his deadly duels right now just as he did a quarter-century ago, when this book was written. It I had to write the novel today, I would hardly have to change a word.

 

Isaac Asimov

DEDICATION

To Frederik Pohl,

That contradiction in terms-

A lovable agent.

 

Chapter 1

 

The Doomed Ship

Fifteen minutes to zero time! The Atlas waited to take off. The sleek, burnished lines of the space-ship glittered in the bright Earthlight that filled the Moon's night sky. Its blunt prow pointed upward into empty space. Vacuum surrounded it and the dead pumice of the Moon's surface was under it. The number of its crew was zero. There wasn't a living person aboard.

 

*  *  *

 

Dr. Hector Conway, Chief Councilor of Science, said, "What time is it, Gus?"

He felt uncomfortable in the Moon offices of the Council. On Earth he would have been at the very top of the stone and steel needle they called Science Tower. He would have been able to look out the window toward International City.

Here on the Moon they did their best. The offices had mock windows with brilliantly designed Earth scenes behind them. They were colored naturally, and lights within them brightened and softened during the day, simulating morning, noon, and evening. During the sleep periods they even shone a dim, dark blue.

It wasn't enough, though, for an Earthman like Con-way. He knew that if he broke through the glass of the windows there would be only painted miniatures before his eyes, and if he got behind that, then there would be just another room, or maybe the solid rock of the Moon.

Dr. Augustus Henree, whom Conway had addressed, looked at his wrist. He said, between puffs at his pipe, "There's still fifteen minutes. There's no point in worrying. The Atlas is in perfect shape. I checked it myself yesterday."

"I know that." Conway's hair was pure white and he looked older than the lank, thin-faced Henree, though they were the same age. He said, "It's Lucky I'm worried about."

"Lucky?"

Conway smiled sheepishly. "I'm catching the habit, I'm afraid. I'm talking about David Starr. It's just that everyone calls him Lucky these days. Haven't you heard them?"

"Lucky Starr, eh? The name suits him. But what about him? This is all his idea, after all."

"Exactly. It's the sort of idea he gets. I think he'll tackle the Sirian Consulate on the Moon next."

"I wish he would."

"Don't joke. Sometimes I think you encourage him in his idea that he ought to do everything as a one-man job. It's why I came here to the Moon, to keep an eye on him, not to watch the ship."

"If that's what you came here for, Hector, you're not on the job."

"Oh well, I can't follow him about like a mother hen. But Bigman is with him. I told the little fellow I would skin him alive if Lucky decided to invade the Sirian Consulate singlehanded."

Henree laughed.

"I tell you he'd do it," grumbled Conway. "What's worse, he'd get away with it, of course."

"Well, then."


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