Lieutenant Jon Jarl of the Space Patrol in
THE WORLD STEALERS
from Captain Marvel Adventures #78 (1947)
Lieutenant Jon Jarl of the Space Patrol was cruising between Mars and Earth
when the radio message came from headquarters.
"You deserve a well-earned rest, Lieutenant Jarl. You are granted two weeks' leave. You are off duty as of this moment. Enjoy yourself!"
"Yippee!", said Jon exuberantly, grabbing the controls and setting his course for Earth. "Me for a nice two weeks at Miami Beach and the most I'm going to do is shoo the flies away."
It was some hours later that Jon peered through the front port at Earth, thinking of his coming vacation --but Earth wasn't there! Had he for once set his controls wrong? Such a dumb error but he was puzzled as he checked the instruments. According to them, Earth should have been directly in front of him.
Either the instruments were wrong --or Earth had moved out of its orbit.
"Of course, Earth didn't move out of its orbit.", grinned Jon at the ridiculous thought. But then his face went slack. "OR DID IT?"
With shaking fingers he used the space octant, triangulating with the Sun and Mars, and finally located Earth. The octant dropped from his fingers. "Great Jupiter!", Jon gasped aloud, completely stunned. "The Earth actually is out of its orbit!"
It was crazy! Insane! Impossible! How could a great big world like Earth, obeying the age-old laws of gravity, be slipping out of its orbit? Then another stunning thought hit Jon.
"It can't happen by itself! Therefore, someone is causing it! Someone is moving a world!"
But how? Who would do such a thing? And why? Nobody could move a world out of its orbit unless he was a greater scientist and mastermind than Earth had ever known. It would take billions upon billions of megawatts. Who or what had a machine like that?
Scanning the region nearest Earth with his small space telescope, Jon suddenly spotted a tiny black object to one side. It was tiny in proportion to huge Earth but it was actually a gigantic object, as Jon soon saw when he rocketed close.
It was a giant space ship, over a mile long, and from its stern came out a long beam of some amazing radiation that seemed to be towing Earth along, like a barge behind a tug.
Jon radioed headquarters. "Attention! Huge space tug pulling Earth out of its orbit."
The answer came back in a bellow. "Don't you think we know it? Good lord, the whole universe is changing around us as we leave Earth's orbit around the Sun. Stop that ship, Lieutenant! We can't get a cruiser there for hours. Stop that ship!"
"And this", groaned Jon, "is my vacation!".
But the next instant he shot his tiny rocket ship close to the huge monster. He tried to signal it by radio but no response came. Grimly, Jon opened fire with his ray cannon. He gave it full power, enough to blast a mountain to atoms.
But the giant alien craft showed not a dent or mark and kept right on towing Earth away!
Jon shot forward and landed on top the giant ship, like a flea on an elephant. He hoped to be able to get inside and find out who or what was doing this, and why...
As Jon stepped out of his ship in a space suit, the surface of the huge space craft dropped out from under his feet. A portion of the hull had opened, like a trap door, pulling him in. Jon alighted in a huge room and found himself face to face with the ship's operators.
Jon blinked. He had seen many queer creatures on other planets but these aliens were the strangest of all --for they were exactly like Earthmen! And yet Jon could see they weren't Earthmen at all, by their queer clothing of spun metals. And their eyes --they were cold, ruthless, and infinitely wise.
One alien had been aiming a small gadget at Jon's head. Now he put it down and said, "I used the mind probe and learned your language from your thoughts. Now I can speak to you. We saw you approach and try to attack us with your pitiful little gun. It made us laugh."
Jon boiled at the arrogance of the alien. "Who are you?", he demanded. "Where did you come from? And why are you moving Earth from its orbit? Don't you realize our world is filled with our people?"
"Is it?", retorted the alien. "Too bad. You see, we want your world. I'm afraid your people will just have to die, that's all. As we pull Earth away from the Sun, they'll all freeze to death."
Jon groaned, wishing this were a nightmare, but he knew it wasn't.
The alien went on. "We're from Alpha Centauri, the star nearest to your solar system. We have only three planets around our Sun. We need more space to live in. You have nine worlds. Surely, you can spare us one of them?"
"Stealing a world!", gasped Jon. "So that's what you're doing! But, good heavens, why did you pick Earth? That's our best world...
"Naturally.", nodded the alien. "That's why we want it. But enough of this. You piddling fools can't stop us, you know. Our tractor-beam, fed by protonic power, will tow Earth all the way to Alpha Centauri. Then we'll put Earth into an orbit around our Sun, and colonize it." He jerked his thumb, giving directions to the other aliens. "Now toss this Earthling out. Don't bother killing him. He can't harm us."
Jon was hustled away and thrust out through the trap door near his rocket ship. Slowly, draggingly, he climbed in, turned on his rockets and took off. Like the crack of doom, a voice rang through his head, "Earth is being stolen! We can't stop these mighty scientists! The human race is doomed!".
Even if a space cruiser came, it could do nothing. Not even all the fleets of battle-wagons that kept peace in the space lanes could do anything. The Alpha Centaurians had protonic power, which Jon vaguely knew to be immeasurably greater than atomic power!
Jon was close to madness in that moment. All he could do was stare helplessly and watch Earth being dragged away. Before long, Earth would be out in the chilly wastes of space, away from the Sun; and all life on the green planet would be snuffed out.
Yes, Jon nearly went mad! Or did he really go mad! For all of a sudden he was yelling and screeching at the top of his voice. "I'll stop you! I'm only one man with one little ship but I'll stop you, watch and see!"
And like a madman, he shot his tiny ship to a position between the alien ship and Earth. Below him he could see the strange pulsating "tractor-beam" which was towing Earth away. He opened his bomb-bay and dropped down a small black object, straight into the beam.
It was an atomic bomb, such as the Space Police carried for extreme emergency. But how could it work? How could it do anything to an intangible beam? It was sheer madness, of course...
But something did happen. The atomic bomb hit the beam and exploded. And suddenly, the beam turned a fiery, ghastly green. At the Earth end, it let go and curled! It curled like a whiplash and shot back to the alien ship. Like a giant whip, wielded by some world-sized monster, it hit the alien ship and sheared it in half. The ship's crew spilled into open space and died. Then the two broken halves of the alien ship drifted off into space, lifeless.
The menace was over! Earth was no longer being dragged away. But what would happen now? Jon turned to watch the globe of Earth. And then, relieved, he saw it slowly go back --back to its old orbit. Vaguely, Jon knew the reason for that. The alien ship had been fighting the Sun's gravity, dragging Earth away from it. Now, as the Sun's gravity reasserted itself, Earth went back to its age-old orbit. It was something like a rubber band being stretched, and then snapping back. In a few hours Earth would be back where it belonged and all would be normal.
The madness had gone out of Jon's eyes. Quietly, he spoke into his radio, reporting to headquarters. "Aliens from Alpha Centauri were using protonic power to tow Earth. But protonic power is derived from protons and an atomic bomb utilizes atoms. When the protons and atoms met, it was like two bulls crashing head-on That finished the aliens. That is all."
But before he snapped the set off, he added --"P.S. I'm going to Earth on my vacation, as before but I'm taking five extra hours to make up for the delay caused by the aliens."