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Authors: Donald A. Wollheim

One Against the Moon

BOOK: One Against the Moon
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Title: One Against the Moon
Author: Donald A. Wollheim
Release Date: December 17, 2015 [EBook #50713]
Language: English
Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at
One Against the Moon


The World Publishing Company

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 56-9261



Copyright 1956 by Donald A. Wollheim. All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form
without written permission from the publisher, except for brief
passages included in a review appearing in a newspaper or magazine.
Manufactured in the United States of America.

[Transcriber's Note: Extensive research did not uncover any
evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

A fixed star in a fickle sky


The Secret of Saturn's Rings
The Secret of the Martian Moons

Terror in the Modern Vein
Every Boy's Book of Science-Fiction
The Portable Novels of Science
Flight into Space
Adventures on Other Planets
The Pocket Book of Science-Fiction


One Against the Moon
1. To Dream of Stars

That morning began like all the preceding mornings of the past two years with the tinny jangling of the little alarm clock on Robin Carew's bureau. Opening his black eyes, he struggled into a sitting position on the narrow bed, reached out his hand and turned off the alarm. He yawned, swung his feet to the floor, rubbed his eyes. It was half past seven again of another workday morning.

There was no inkling that this day would be any different from others. It was Monday again, which meant the start of the next five and a half days' stretch of work. Sunday had come and gone, now just a memory of a walk in the city's small park and sitting on a bench under the afternoon sun reading a library book on astronomy.

Well, there was no getting around it, Robin thought. The stars, the glory of the heavens—for him perhaps they would always be just a daydream of his idle hours, never to be more than a vision of the imagination, a thrill to be shared only by the printed words of other men's observations and doings.

He got up, yawned his entire five foot three, stared in the tarnished mirror over the worn bureau. He looked blankly at himself, then suddenly winked. Ah, he thought, while there's life there's hope—and besides, he had to get to work. He ran a brush through his tousled brown hair, took off his pajamas, and climbed into his work clothes. Grabbing his towel and his toothbrush, he opened the door and went out into the hall toward the washroom.

The facilities at the Y were always clean at least, and maybe in a few more months he would be promoted out of the apprentice class at the factory. Then he could afford to get a bigger room on the floor above with his own washstand and shower.

After he had returned and finished dressing, he glanced out the narrow window. He could just make out a slit of sky and spot the sidewalk below. It was a sunny day, he saw, and a warm one. Putting on his jacket, he left his cap behind and went out, locking the door of his little room behind him.

Not waiting for the creaky elevator, he skipped down the iron stairs to the lobby. Waving hello to a couple of his fellow boarders, he made his way over to the newsstand. There he paused to glance at the headlines, to scan the racks of magazines to see if there were any he might think of buying that he hadn't seen before. He didn't notice any. His eye, rapidly discarding the featured stories in the papers about the usual crimes and politics, was caught by a small heading:


Robin stopped, rapidly glanced over the story. He wished he had the time to read the whole story, but he knew he hadn't. Anyway, he could probably borrow a copy during lunch hour from one of the fellows. But it was stories like that which fascinated him.

As he went into the cafeteria at the Y and sat eating a quick breakfast, he thought about the story. He'd always been fascinated by rockets and the stars. Even when still a kid at the orphanage, he'd read everything he could get on the subject. He'd never stopped doing so. Now that he was out of the school, out on his own the past three years, he still had the bug.

The White Sands and Redstone rocket experiments were making headlines more and more. The first dozen little satellites had been thrilling reading—the discussions of the permanent artificial satellite program, now under way, was even more so, for it promised to be the beginning of the long-projected Space Platform, from which in turn would come the first real space flight.

Robin wished he knew more of the things that were going on. Somewhere out there in the West, on the deserts and sands of New Mexico a couple of thousand miles away, history was being made. Many of the fellows working there couldn't be much older than he.

But fate was a grim and arbitrary thing. For others, a college education could bring to a fine point the talent for mathematics and chemistry and physics that was needed for this work. For an orphan boy, however, the world reserved less glamorous and more immediately practical objectives. Oh, sure, he'd had a chance at a scholarship, but somehow he just hadn't made it. The manual training programs stressed at the State Home had just not allowed him the extra time to study for a scholarship. Even though his instructors had given him the chance, he simply hadn't been able to make it.

For him, the study of abstract science was to be a matter of home reading. He'd devoured all the books in the library on the stars. And he still dreamed, even while working in the carpentry shop of the factory here, of flying through space on wings of flame.

Perhaps, if he'd had a mother and father like most fellows, he'd have gone to college, might even now be on his way to help the rocket men conquer the universe. But his folks had died somewhere in the holocaust of war, back during the fall of Hitler's Germany, back when he was just a frightened and helpless kid of seven.

As he had agreed a thousand times since then, Robin reflected, as he spooned cereal to his mouth, he was lucky even so. For somehow the GI's had found a battered, dirty envelope sewn into his worn internment-camp jacket with identification that proved him the American-born son of American parents, who had been interned in the enemy country. But where his parents were ... well, there had been some terrible bombing in those days. There was never any trace of the Carews. Robin had only a vague memory of his people, somewhere lost amid a nightmare of terror.

As most of the kids in the orphanage had, Robin dreamed of someday finding his folks, of finding them rich. But it was, as always, a dream. The American army had brought him home, had sought to trace his folks, and had failed. Well, Robin still was lucky. It was no shame to be a workingman in a democratic country.

Time was passing. Robin hastily gulped down the glass of milk he knew he needed for his daily labors, and, paying his check, dashed out. He caught the bus at the corner, crowding in with others on their way, and rode it for fifteen minutes out to the edge of town where the big plant stood.

He jumped off and headed for the main gates. He noticed a large crowd of men standing in front of them. Why were they standing, he thought, why didn't they go on in, punch their cards? He came up to them, saw them standing around talking uneasily, some milling around, holding their lunch pails idly in their hands. Robin pushed through to the main gate. He saw a knot of men staring at a sign tacked on the post. He got closer and read it.

It was a statement from the management. It seemed that the plant was closed for six weeks, due to a combination of circumstances. There was a shortage in the raw materials because of the heavy floods in the mining areas that spring, and so the management had decided to take advantage of that shortage to retool and recondition the works. Men in several departments would be called in during the next few days, the rest would be laid off temporarily. Another notice tacked below that stated that the company had arranged with the union for compensation during the period.

Robin stared at the notice numbly for a minute. He himself had not yet been admitted to the union, for he was only a learning apprentice. For him there would possibly be only a period of six barren, workless weeks. He wandered away from the gates, drifted around idly, listening to the groups of men talking.

Most of them seemed to be taking it calmly enough. Several of them were talking with growing enthusiasm of organizing a hunting-and-fishing trip upstate for the next week or so. One was talking of going home to visit the old folks back at the farm. Most of them seemed to be looking forward more or less to a period of loafing around at home with their families.

Suddenly Robin felt more alone than usual. For him, there was no family. Even at its best an orphanage has a certain coldness, a certain impersonal precision that can never make up for the warmth of family life. He had friends there, but surely by this time they, too, had left, having gone into business or into the armed forces.

The cold halls of the Y offered no particular relaxation. Even utilizing the city library to burrow deep into his favorite imaginative studies of science seemed a barren prospect for six whole weeks.

He wandered away from the men, walked along the great factory wall, hands in his pockets, strolling slowly away from the city, along the road to the open country, beyond the end of the bus lines. He thought about himself. He took stock of himself.

Nearly twenty now, he was a good mechanic, a pretty good carpenter, handy. He'd always be able to get a job somewhere in which he could work with his hands. He'd never thought too much though about the future. He would be taken sooner or later by the armed forces. They hadn't needed him and he hadn't thought about volunteering first. He was always a little sensitive about his height, for he was short for his age. This had probably operated subconsciously to keep him from joining up.

I could sign up now, he thought. This might be the time. Besides, he went on in his reasoning, if I volunteered I could pick my own branch of the service. I could pick the Air Force and maybe get to see some rockets and jets in action. I couldn't rate a pilot's commission because I'm no college man, but I bet I could qualify as a mechanic, get to work on the rocket planes. Why, maybe I could even manage to get sent to White Sands, work on the Space Platform and the Artificial Satellites. Maybe someday I'll be one of the guys who help tool up the first rocket to the moon!

He found himself growing excited at the thought. But, he reminded himself, my chances are slim of getting what I want. There are so many good guys in the Air Force, my own chance of being sent to one particular place is small, really small.

Somehow, he knew if he couldn't be around the rockets, he wouldn't be happy under discipline. He'd had enough barracks life in the orphanage, more didn't appeal to him without some special compensation—something like White Sands.

BOOK: One Against the Moon
13.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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