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Opis ebooka The Space Pioneers (Illustrated Edition) - Carey Rockwell

When Tom Corbett and his Polaris unit mates, Roger and Astro, were assigned to the great expedition of one thousand space ships carrying pioneer colonists billions of miles to the satellite Roald, they did not dream that they were facing the most thrilling adventures of their careers.

Opinie o ebooku The Space Pioneers (Illustrated Edition) - Carey Rockwell

Fragment ebooka The Space Pioneers (Illustrated Edition) - Carey Rockwell

The Space Pioneers

THE TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET

by: Carey Rockwell

Technical Advisor: Willy Ley

Lot’s Cave Edition at:

www.EuroMarkCompany.com

A TOM CORBETT Space Cadet Adventure

THE SPACE PIONEERS

By CAREY ROCKWELL

WILLY LEY Technical Adviser

LOUIS GLANZMAN Illustrator

First Edition Published by:

GROSSET & DUNLAP Publishers New York

COPYRIGHT, 1953, BY

ROCKHILL RADIO

U.S. copyright on this publication NOT renewed,

Under Rule 6 Clearance, Now in Public Domain

This Euromark Edition Published by:

Lot’s Cave, Inc.

The Space Pioneers, © 2015, Euromark

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

CONTENTS

ILLUSTRATIONS

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Author Note

Space Academy

Space Cadet

Other Novels

ILLUSTRATIONS

Frontispiece

Her nose pointed skyward, the Polaris was ready to blast off

The Solar Guard worked late into the night, examining every ship in the Alliance

The speedy little ship shot ahead of the fleet toward the gigantic mass of asteroids

The Polaris landed safely on the surface of the satellite

Bush pulled a paralo-ray gun from his belt and said, “All right, march!”

“Hasn't anybody figured out why four hundred ships crashed in landing?” Strong asked.

“We better take it easy, Astro,” said Tom. “Turn off the lights.”

CHAPTER 1

THE SPACE PIONEERS

“Go on, Astro,” shouted the young Space Cadet. “Boot that screwy ball with everything you've got!”

The three cadets of the Polaris unit raced down the Academy field toward the mercuryball, a plastic sphere with a vial of mercury inside. At the opposite end of the field, three members of the Arcturus unit ran headlong in a desperate effort to reach the ball first.

Astro, the giant Space Cadet from Venus, charged toward the ball like a blazing rocket, while his two unit mates flanked him, ready to block out their opponents and give Astro a clear shot at the ball.

On the left wing, Tom Corbett, curly-haired and snub-nosed, ran lightly down the field, while on the opposite wing, Roger Manning, his blond hair cut crew style, kept pace with him easily. The two teams closed. Roger threw a perfect block on his opposing wingman and the two boys went down in a heap. Tom side-stepped the Arcturus cadet on his side and sent him sprawling to the ground. He quickly cut across the field and threw his body headlong at the last remaining member of the opposition. Astro was free to kick the ball perfectly for a fifty-yard goal.

Jogging back toward their own goal line, the three Polaris cadets congratulated each other. Astro's kick had tied the score, two-all.

“That was some feint you pulled on Richards, Tom,” said Roger. “You sucked him in beautifully. I thought he was going to tear up the field with his nose!”

Tom grinned. Compliments from Roger were few and far between.

Astro clapped his hands together and roared, “All right, fellas, let's see if we can't take these space bums again! Another shot at the goal—that's all I need!”

Lining up at the end of the field again, the cadets kept their eyes on the cadet referee on the side lines. They saw him hold up his hand and then drop it suddenly. Once again the teams raced toward the ball in the middle of the field. When they met, Roger tried to duplicate Tom's feat and feint his opponent, but the other cadet was ready for the maneuver and stopped dead in his tracks. Roger was forced to break stride just long enough for the Arcturus cadet to dump him to the ground and then race for Astro. Tom, covering Astro on the left wing, saw the cadet sweeping in and lunged in a desperate attempt to stop him. But he missed, leaving Astro unprotected against the three members of the Arcturus unit. With his defense gone, Astro kicked at the ball frantically but just grazed the side of it. The mercury inside the ball began to play its role in the game, and as though it had a brain of its own, the ball spun, stopped, bounced, and spiraled in every direction, with the cadets kicking, lunging, and scrambling for a clean shot. Finally Astro reached the tumbling sphere and booted it away from the group. There was a roar of laughter from the Arcturus unit and a low groan from Tom and Roger. Astro saw that he had kicked the ball over his own goal line.

“Why, you clobber-headed Venusian hick!” yelled Roger. “Can't you tell the difference between our goal and theirs?”

Astro grinned sheepishly as the three jogged back to their own goal to line up once more.

“Lay off, Roger,” said Tom. “How come you didn't get Richards on that play?”

“I slipped,” replied the blond cadet.

“Yeah, you slipped all right,” growled Astro good-naturedly, “with a great big assist from Richards.”

“Ah, go blast your jets,” grumbled Roger. “Come on! Let's show those space crawlers what this game is all about!”

But before the cadet referee could drop his hand, a powerful, low-slung jet car, its exhaust howling, pulled to a screeching stop at the edge of the field and a scarlet-clad enlisted Solar Guardsman jumped out and spoke to him. Sensing that it was something important, the two teams jogged over to surround the messenger.

“What's up, Joe?” asked Roger.

The enlisted spaceman, an Earthworm cadet who had washed out of the Academy but had re-enlisted in the Solar Guard, smiled. “Orders for the Polaris unit,” he said, “from Captain Strong.”

“What about?” asked Roger.

“Report on the double for new assignments,” replied the guardsman.

“Yeeeeooooow!” Astro roared in jubilation. “At last we can get out of here. I've been doing so blamed much classroom work, I've forgotten what space looks like.”

“Know where we're going, Joe?” asked Tom.

“Uh-uh.” Joe shook his head. He turned away, then stopped, and called back, “Want a lift back to the Tower?”

Before Tom could answer, Richards, the captain of the Arcturus unit spoke up. “How about finishing the game, Tom? It's been so long since we've had such good competition we hate to lose you. Come on. Only a few more minutes.”

Tom hesitated. It had been a long time since the two units had played together, but orders were orders. He looked at Roger and Astro. “Well, what about it?”

“Sure,” said Roger. “We'll wipe up these space jokers in nothing flat! Come on!”

There was a mock yell of anger from the Arcturus unit and the two teams raced back to their starting positions. In the remaining minutes of play, the cadets played hard and rough. First one team would score and then the other. A sizable crowd of cadets had gathered to watch the game and cheered lustily as the players tore up and down the field. Finally, when both teams were nearly exhausted, the game was over and the score was eight to seven in favor of the Polaris unit. Roger had made the final point after Tony Richards had left the game with a badly bruised hip. A substitute called in from the bystanders, an Earthworm cadet, had eagerly joined the Arcturus team for the last minutes of play but had been hopelessly outclassed by the teamwork of the Polaris unit.

Promising a return match soon, Roger, Tom, and Astro hurried to their lockers, showered, and dressed in their senior cadet uniforms of vivid blue, then raced to the nearest slidewalk to head toward the main group of buildings that made up Space Academy.

Whisked along on the moving belt of plastic that formed the principle method of transportation in and around the Academy grounds, Tom turned to his unit mates. “What do you think it'll be?” he asked.

“You mean the assignment?” asked Roger, answering his own question in the next breath. “I don't know. But anything to get out of here. I've been on Earth so long that I'm getting gravity-itis!”

Tom smiled. “It'll sure be nice to get up in the wide, high, and deep again,” he said, glancing up at the cloudless sky.

“Say it again, spaceman,” breathed Astro. “One more lesson on the differential potential between chemical-burning rocket fuels and reactant energy and I'll blast off without a spaceship!”

Roger and Tom laughed. They both sympathized with the big cadet's inability to cope with the theory of atomic energy and fuel conservation in spaceships. In charge of the power deck on the Polaris, Astro earlier had gained firsthand experience in commercial rocket ships as an able spaceman and later had been accepted in the Academy for cadet training. The son of colonists on Venus, the misty planet, his formal education was limited, and though he had no equal while on the power deck of a rocket ship, in theory and classroom study he had to depend on Roger and Tom to help him get passing grades.

The slidewalk moved smoothly and easily toward the gleaming Tower of Galileo, the largest and most imposing of the structures of Space Academy. Made entirely of clear crystal mined on Titan, satellite of Saturn, the Tower rose over the smaller buildings like a giant shimmering jewel. Housing the administration offices of the Solar Guard and the Space Academy staff, it also contained Galaxy Hall, the museum of space, which attracted thousands of visitors from every part of the Solar Alliance.

Tom Corbett, his eyes caressing the magnificent gleaming Tower, remembered the first time he had seen it. While it hadn't been so long in months or years since becoming a Space Cadet, it seemed as though he had been at the Academy all of his life and that it was his home. In the struggle to develop into a well-knit dependable rocket team, composed of an astrogator, power-deck cadet, and a command cadet, Tom had assumed the leadership of the unit, and the relationship between Astro, Roger Manning, and himself had ripened until they were more like brothers than three young men who had grown up millions of miles apart.

As they rode toward the Tower, the three cadets could see the green-clad first-year Earthworms getting their first taste of cadet life--hours of close-order formations and drills. The nearer they came to the Tower, the more intense and colorful became the activity as the crisscrossing slidewalks carried enlisted guardsmen in their red uniforms, and the officers of the Solar Guard in magnificent black and gold, across the quadrangle to the various dormitories, laboratories, lecture rooms, mess halls, and research rooms. Space Academy was a beehive of activity, with the education of thousands of cadets and the operational mechanics of the Solar Guard going on incessantly, day and night, never stopping in its avowed task of defending the liberties of the planets, safeguarding the freedom of space, and upholding the cause of peace throughout the universe.

As their slidewalk glided over the quadrangle, Roger suddenly turned to his unit mates. “Think we might get assigned to that radar project they're setting up on the Moon?” he asked. “I have a few ideas—”

Tom laughed. “He can't wait until he gets his hands on that new scanner Dr. Dale just finished, Astro,” he said with a wink.

The big Venusian snorted. “Can you imagine the ego of that guy? Dr. Dale spends almost a year building that thing, with the help of the leading electronic scientists in the Alliance, and he can't wait to tell them about a few of his ideas!”

“I didn't mean that,” complained Roger. “All I said was—”

“You don't have to say a word, hot-shot,” interrupted Astro. “I can read your thoughts as though they were flashed on a stereo screen!”

“Oh, yeah!” growled Roger. “You should be that telepathic for your exams. Why didn't you read my thoughts when I beat my brains out trying to explain that thrust problem the other night?” He turned to Tom, shrugging his shoulders in mock despair. “Honestly, Tom, if I didn't know that he was the best power jockey in the Academy, I'd say he was the dumbest thing to leave Venus, including the dinosaurs in the Academy Zoo!”

With a hamlike hand Astro suddenly grabbed for Roger's neck, but the wiry cadet dashed along the slidewalk out of reach and the big Venusian rumbled after him. Tom roared with laughter.

As he started to follow his unit mates, one of the passengers on the slidewalk grabbed Tom by the arm and he turned to see Mike McKenny, Chief Warrant Officer in the enlisted Solar Guard and the first instructor the Polaris unit had met on their arrival at the Academy.

“Corbett!” demanded McKenny. “Are those two space crawlers still acting like monkeys out of their cages?”

Tom laughed and shook hands with the elderly spaceman. “Yes, sir,” he said. “But you could hardly call Astro a monkey!”

“More along the lines of a Venusian gorilla, if you ask me!” snorted McKenny. The short, squat spaceman's eyes twinkled. “I've been hearing some mighty fine things about you three space bongos, Tommy. It's a wonder the Solar Guard didn't give you a unit citation for aiding in the capture of Coxine, the pirate!”

“Thanks, Mike. Coming from you that compliment really means something!”

“Just be sure you keep those two space lunatics in their proper cages,” said Mike, indicating Roger and Astro, who at the moment were racing back and forth along the slidewalk bumping passengers left and right, “and you'll all be heroes someday.”

“Yes, sir,” said Tom. He glanced up, and noticing that he was in front of the Tower building, hopped to the walkway, waving a cheery good-by to Mike. “Blast over to our mess and have dinner with us some night, Mike!” he yelled to the departing figure.

“And interrupt the happiest hours in Astro's life?” bawled Mike. “No thank you!”

Tom laughed and turned to the huge open doorway of the Tower where Roger and Astro waited for him impatiently. In a few moments the three were being carried to the upper floors of the crystal structure by a spiraling band of moving plastic that stretched from the top of the Tower to the many floors below surface level. Tom glanced at his wrist chronograph as they stepped off the slidestairs and headed for Captain Strong's quarters.

“We're about twenty minutes late,” he said to Roger and Astro. “Hope Captain Strong's in good spirits!”

“If he isn't,” said Roger, “we can—”

“Don't say it,” protested Astro. “I only just finished working off my last bunch of galley demerits.”

They stopped in front of a door, straightened their uniforms, and then slid the door to one side and stepped smartly into the room. They came to rigid attention before a massive desk, flanked by two wall windows of clear sheet crystal reaching from ceiling to floor. Standing at the window, Captain Steve Strong, Polaris unit cadet supervisor, his broad shoulders stretching under his black-and-gold uniform, turned to face them, his features set in grim lines of trouble.

“Polaris unit reporting for orders, sir,” said Tom. The three cadets saluted crisply.

Strong snapped a return salute and walked to the front of his desk. “Getting pretty big for your britches, aren't you?” he growled. “I've been watching you from this window. I saw the messenger deliver my orders to you, and then, I saw you return to your game and finish it, apparently deciding that the business of the Solar Guard can wait!”

“But, sir—” Roger started to say.

“Close your exhaust, Manning!” snapped Strong. “I'm doing the talking!”

“Yes, sir,” stammered the blond-haired cadet.

“Well, Cadets,” asked Strong in a silken voice, “if I sent you to Commander Walters' office on the double, do you think I could trust you to get there on the double?”

“Oh, yes, sir,” replied Tom. “Yes, sir!” The other two boys nodded violently.

“Then blast out of here and report to Commander Walters for your assignments. Tell him I'll be there in a few minutes.”

“Yes, sir!” said Tom, and the three cadets saluted sharply.

“Unit—” bawled Strong, “dis—missed!”

Outside in the hall once more, the three cadets wiped their faces.

“Captain Strong definitely was not in a good mood!” commented Roger.

“I've never seen him so angry!” said Tom. “Wonder why.”

“Think it might be something to do with our assignments?” asked Astro.

“Never can tell, Astro,” said Tom. “And there's only one way to find out. That's to get to Commander Walters' office on the double!”

Without another word the cadets hurried to the slide-stairs, each of them hungry for excitement. Already having participated in three outstanding adventures, the cadet members of the Polaris unit were eager to begin a fourth.

CHAPTER 2

“There's no doubt that the success or failure of this project will influence the thinking of the Solar Alliance with regard to further expansion, Governor Hardy,” said Commander Walters to the man sitting stiffly in front of him. “And my congratulations on your appointment to head the expedition.”

A tall, lean man with iron-gray hair, the commander of Space Academy, sat behind his desk, back ramrod straight in his black-and-gold senior officer's uniform, and casually toyed with a paper cutter on his desk as he spoke to Christopher Hardy, a short, thin man with a balding head and sharp features.

“Thank you, Commander,” replied Hardy, in a thin, reedy voice. “It's a great honor and I certainly don't foresee anything that can prevent the expedition from being a complete success. We have the best equipment and, I hope, we'll have the finest men.”

The soft chime of a muted bell interrupted Walters as he was about to reply. He opened the switch to the interoffice teleceiver behind his desk, then watched the image of his aide appear on the teleceiver screen.

“What is it, Bill?” asked Walters.

“Polaris unit reporting for orders, sir,” replied the enlisted guardsman. “Cadets Corbett, Manning, and Astro.”

“Very well, send them in,” said Walters. Switching off the teleceiver, he turned back to Governor Hardy. “Ever hear of the Polaris unit, sir?” he asked.

Hardy paused, rubbing his chin before answering. “No, can't say that I have.” He smiled. “From the look on your face, I see I should know about them, though.”

Walters smiled back. “I'll just say this about them. Of all the cadet units trained here at the Academy in the last twenty years, these three lads are just about perfection. Just the material you'll need on your initial operation.”

Governor Hardy raised his hand in mock protest. “Please! No brain trusts!”

“Well, they have the brains all right.” Walters laughed. “But they have something else, an instinctive ability to do the right thing at the right time and that indefinable something that makes them true men of space, rather than ordinary ground hogs simply transplanted into space.”

As the commander spoke, the massive door to his office rolled back and Tom, Roger, and Astro stepped in briskly, coming to stiff attention in front of the desk.

“Polaris unit reporting for duty, sir,” said Tom. “Cadets Corbett, Manning, and Astro.”

“At ease,” said Walters.

The three boys relaxed and glanced quickly at the governor who had watched their entrance with interest. Walters came around in front of the desk and gestured toward Hardy.

“Boys, I want you to meet Governor Hardy.”

The three cadets nodded respectfully. They knew all about the governor's achievements in establishing the first colony on Ganymede, and his success with the first exploratory expedition to outer space.

“Sit down, boys,” said Walters, indicating a near-by couch. “Governor Hardy will explain things from here on in. Where is Captain Strong?”

“He said he'd be along in a few moments, sir,” replied Roger.

“Well,” said Walters, turning to Hardy, “no sense in beginning without Steve. Only have to repeat yourself.” He turned to Astro but not before he saw a grimace of annoyance cloud the governor's face. “How are you making out with your classroom studies, Astro?”

“Uh—ah—” stammered the giant Venusian, “I'm doing all right, sir,” he managed finally.

Walters suppressed a smile and turned to Hardy.

“One of the most important aspects of our training methods here at the Academy, Governor,” began Walters, returning to his desk, “is for the cadet to learn to depend on his unit mates. Take Astro, for instance.”

The two men glanced at the big cadet who shuffled his feet in embarrassment at being the center of attention.

“Astro,” continued Walters, “is rather shaky in the field of theory and abstract-scientific concepts. Yet he is capable of handling practically any situation on the power deck of a spaceship. He literally thinks with his hands.”

“Most commendable,” commented Hardy dryly. “But I should think it would be difficult if he ever came face to face with a situation where his hands were bound.” There was the lightest touch of sarcasm in his voice.

“I assure you, Governor,” said Walters, “that wouldn't stop him either. But my point is this: Since a cadet unit is assembled only after careful study of their individual psychograph personality charts and is passed and failed as a unit, even though a boy like Cadet Astro might make a failing grade, his unit mates, Cadets Manning and Corbett, can pull him through by making higher passing marks. You see, an average is taken for all three and they pass or fail as a unit.”

“Then they are forced, more or less, to depend on each other?” asked Hardy.

“Yes. In the beginning of their training. Later on, the cadets learn for themselves that it is better for all of them to work together.”

Once again the bell in back of Walters' desk chimed and he turned to speak on the teleceiver to his aide.

“Captain Strong is here, sir,” repeated the enlisted man.

“Send him right in,” said Walters. Seconds later the door slid back and Steve Strong entered and saluted.

After the introductions were completed and the Solar Guard captain had taken a seat with his cadet unit, Commander Walters immediately launched into the purpose of the meeting.

“Steve,” he began, “Governor Hardy here has been appointed by the Solar Council to head one of the most important projects yet attempted by the Alliance.”

The cadets edged to the front of the couch and listened intently for what the commander was about to say.

“But perhaps I had better let the governor tell you about it himself,” concluded Walters abruptly and settled back in his chair.

Captain Strong and the cadets swung around to face the governor, who rose and looked at each of them steadily before speaking.

“Commander Walters stressed the fact that this was an important project,” he said finally. “No one can say how important it will be for the future. It might mean the beginning of an entirely new era in the development of mankind.” He paused again. “The Solar Alliance has decided to establish a new colony,” he announced. “The first colony of its kind outside the solar system in deep space!”

“A star colony!” gasped Strong.

The cadets muttered excitedly among themselves.

“The decision,” continued the governor, “has been made only after much debate in the Solar Council Chamber. There have been many arguments pro and con. A week ago a secret vote was taken, and the project was approved. We are going to establish a Solar Alliance colony on a newly discovered satellite in orbit around the sun star Wolf 359, a satellite that has been named Roald.”

“Wolf 359!” exclaimed Roger. “That's more than thirteen light years away—” He was stopped by Tom's hand clamped across his mouth.

Governor Hardy looked at Roger and smiled. “Yes, Wolf 359 is pretty far away, especially for a colony. But preliminary expeditions have investigated and found the satellite suitable for habitation, with fertile soil and an atmosphere similar to our own. With the aid of a few atmosphere booster stations, it should be as easy for a colonist to live there as he would on Venus—or any tropical planet.”

“Where are you going to get the colonists, sir?” asked Strong.

Hardy began to pace back and forth in front of Walters' desk, waving his hands as he warmed up to his subject. “Tonight, on a special combined audioceiver and teleceiver broadcast to all parts of the Solar Alliance, the president of the Solar Council will ask for volunteers—men who will take man's first step through deep space to the stars. It is a step, which, in the thousands of years ahead, will eventually lead to a civilization of Earthmen throughout all space!”

Tom, Roger, and Astro sat in silent awe as they listened to the plans for man to reach toward the stars. Spacemen by nature and adventurers in spirit, they were united in the belief that someday Earthmen would set foot on all the stars and never stop until they had seen the last sun, the last world, the last unexplored corner of the cosmos.

“The colonists,” continued Hardy, “will come from all over the system. One thousand of them—the strongest and sturdiest men out of the billions that inhabit the planets around us; one thousand, to live on Roald for a period of seven years.”

Tom, his eyes bright, asked, “Won't everybody want to go, sir?”

Walters and Hardy smiled. “We expect a rush, Corbett,” answered Walters. “You three and Captain Strong have been selected to aid in screening the applicants.”

“Will there be any special tests, sir?” asked Strong. “I have to agree with Corbett that just about everyone will want to go.”

“Yes, Strong,” said Hardy. “Everyone will want to go. In fact, we estimate that there will be literally millions of applicants!”

Roger emitted a long, low whistle. “It'll take years to screen all of them, sir.”

Hardy smiled. “Not really, Manning. The psychographs will eliminate the hundreds of thousands of misfits, the men who will want to go for selfish reasons, who are running away from the past, or are dissatisfied with their lack of success in life and embittered because of failure. We can expect many criminal types. Those will be eliminated easily. We have set a specific quota from each of the satellites, planets, and asteroid colonies. I have already established the stations for the preliminary screening. We will screen the remainder until we have the required thousand.”

“What will our part be, sir?” asked Tom.

“Once each applicant has been approved by the psychographs, his background will be thoroughly investigated. We may find criminal types who show the blackest of careers, but who would turn over a new leaf if given the chance and prove to be more valuable than men with the best of backgrounds who merely want to get away from it all. We don't want that kind of colonist. We want people who have faith in the project; people who are not afraid of work and hardships. Your screening job will be simple. Each of you has a special talent which Commander Walters feels is outstanding. Corbett in leadership, administration, and command; Manning in electronics; Astro in atomic power and propulsion. You will talk to the applicants and give them simple tests. An important point in any applicant's favor will be his ability to improvise and handle three, four, or five jobs, where a less imaginative person would do but one. Talk to them, sound them out, and then write your report. Captain Strong will review your opinions and make recommendations to me. I will finally approve or disapprove the applications.”

“Will this cost the applicants anything, sir?” asked Roger. “For instance, will the rich applicants have a better chance than the poor?”

Hardy's face turned grim. “Only the people that fit our standards will be allowed to go, Manning. Regardless.”

“Yes, sir,” said Roger.

“The Solar Alliance,” continued Hardy, “has established a fund for this project. Each applicant will be lent as much in material as he needs to establish himself on Roald. If he operates an exchange, for instance, selling clothes, equipment, or food, then the size of his exchange will determine the size of the loan. He will repay the Solar Alliance by returning one-fourth of his profits over a period of seven years. Each colonist will be required to remain on the satellite for that seven-year period. After that, should he leave, he would be required to sell all his rights and property on Roald.”

“And the farmers, sir,” asked Tom, “and all the rest. Will they all be treated the same way?”

“Exactly the same, according to their individual abilities. Of course we wouldn't take a man who had been a shoemaker and advance him the capital to become a farmer.”

“Will the quota of one thousand colonists include women and children?” asked Astro.

“No, but allowances have been made for them. One thousand colonists means one thousand men who can produce. However, a man may take his family,” Hardy went on, adding, “providing, of course, that he doesn't mean twenty-three children, aunts, uncles, and so forth.”

The three cadets looked at each other dumfounded. The very idea of the project was staggering, and as Strong, Hardy, and Commander Walters began to discuss the details of the screening system, they turned to each other excitedly.

“This is the greatest thing that's happened since Jon Builker made his trip into deep space!” whispered Tom.

“Yeah,” nodded Astro, “but I'm scared.”

“About what?” asked Roger.

“Having the responsibility of saying No to a feller that wants to go.”

The big cadet seemed to be worried and Tom attempted to explain what the job would really be.

“It's not a question of saying an outright No,” said Tom. “You just ask the applicant about his experience with motors and reactors to see if he really knows his stuff.”

Astro seemed to accept Tom's explanation, but he still seemed concerned as they all turned to Commander Walters, who had finished the discussion around the desk and was giving Captain Strong his orders.

“You and the cadets, along with Governor Hardy, will blast off tonight and go to Venusport for the first screenings.” He faced the cadets. “You three boys have a tremendous responsibility. In many cases your decisions might mean the difference between success or failure in this mission. See that you make good decisions, and when you've made them, stick by them. You will be under the direct supervision of Captain Strong and Governor Hardy. This is quite different from your previous assignments, but I have faith in you. See that you handle yourselves like spacemen.”

The three cadets saluted sharply, and after shaking hands with their commander, left the room.