Triplanetary by Edward Elmer Smith Page 1 of 176
Pirates of Space
Apparently motionless to her passengers and crew, the Interplanetary liner Hyperion bored serenely onward through space at normal acceleration.
In the railed-off sanctum in one corner of the control room a bell tinkled, a smothered whirr was heard, and Captain Bradley frowned as he studied the brief message upon the tape of the recorder--a message flashed to his desk from the operator's panel. He beckoned, and the second officer, whose watch it now was, read aloud:
"Reports of scout patrols still negative."
"Still negative." The officer scowled in thought. "They've already searched beyond the widest possible location of the wreckage, too. Two unexplained disappearances inside a month--first the Dione, then the Rhea--and not a plate nor a lifeboat recovered. Looks bad, sir. One might be an accident; two might possibly be a coincidence...."
His voice died away. What might that coincidence mean?
"But at three it would get to be a habit," the captain finished the thought. "And whatever happened, happened quick. Neither of them had time to say a word--their location recorders simply went dead. But of course they didn't have our detector screens nor our armament. According to the observatories we're in clear ether, but I wouldn't trust them from Tellus to Luna. You have given the new orders, of course?"
"Yes, sir. Detectors full out, all three courses of defensive screen on the trips, projectors manned, suits on the hooks. Every object detected in the outer space to be investigated immediately--if vessels, they are to be warned to stay beyond extreme range. Anything entering the fourth zone is to be rayed."
"Right--we are going through!"
"But no known type of vessel could have made away with them without detection," the second officer argued. "I wonder if there isn't something in those wild rumors we've been hearing lately?"