Publication date: June 2011
Digital Book format: ePub (Adobe DRM)
A man may be a scoundrel, a crook, a high-phased confidence man, and still work toward a great dream which will be worth far more than the momentary damage his swindles cost. Excerpt Outside Tycho Station on the Moon, Jess Brinker showed Arne Copeland the odd footprints made in the dust by explorers from Mars, fifty million years ago. A man-made cover of clear plastic now kept them from being trampled. "Who hasn't heard about such prints?" Copeland growled laconically. "There's no air or weather here to rub them out--even in eternity. Thanks for showing a fresh-arrived greenhorn around..." Copeland was nineteen, tough, willing to learn, but wary. His wide mouth was usually sullen, his grey eyes a little narrowed in a face that didn't have to be so grim. Back in Iowa he had a girl. Frances. But love had to wait, for he needed the Moon the way Peary had once needed the North Pole. Earth needed it, too--for minerals; as an easier, jump-off point to the planets because of its weak gravity; as a place for astronomical observatories, unhampered by the murk of an atmosphere; as sites for labs experimenting in forces too dangerous to be conducted on a heavily-populated world, and for a dozen other purposes. Young Copeland was ready for blood, sweat, and tears in his impulse to help conquer the lunar wastes. He sized up big, swaggering Jess Brinker, and admitted to himself that this man, who was at least ten years his senior, could easily be a phony, stalking suckers. Yet, Copeland reserved judgment. Like any tenderfoot anywhere, he needed an experienced man to show him the ropes. He already knew the Moon intimately from books: A hell of silence, some of it beautiful: Huge ringwalls. Blazing sunlight, inky shadow. Grey plains, black sky. Blazing stars, with the great blurry bluish globe of Earth among them. You could yearn to be on the Moon, but you could go bats and die there, too--or turn sour, because the place was too rough for your guts. Afield, you wore a spacesuit, and conversed by helmet radiophone. Otherwise you lived in rooms and holes dug underground, and sealed up. The scant water you dared use was roasted out of gypsum rock. The oxygen you breathed was extracted from lunar oxides by a chemical process. Then air-rejuvenator apparatus reseparated it from the carbon-dioxide you exhaled, so that you could use it over and over. Copeland had read the tales: With that kind of frugality as the price of survival, lunar prospectors could turn selfish to the point of queerness. Afraid somebody might follow them to their mineral claims, they'd take more pains to leave as little spoor as possible than a fox being tracked by dogs. "Speaking of how footprints last around here," Copeland remarked for the sake of conversation, "I understand you've got to be careful--stick to high ridges, and to parts of the flat maria where there's no old volcanic ash or dust of thermal erosion."