"Men of the Darkside"
57 megamiles from Earth, the planet Mercury, smallest planet in theSolar System and closest to the Sun, revolves in its eighty-eight day orbitaround the Sun.
Little is known of Mercury and, as yet, no attempts have been made atsurface exploration. The planet does not revolve about its own axis and,therefore, its two hemispheres are indirect contrast. The side facing theSun is bathed in constant heat, with temperatures so high that many metalsremain in a constantly liquid state. The opposite face of Mercury is inconstant darkness, with never-ending sub-zero temperature. There is thepossibility of life, however, in a belt of eternal twilight between thetwo extreme zones.
Long-range rocket-cruisers, based on Venus, have scouted Mercury andtheir radar-scope photos have revealed the Twilight Zone to be inhabited.Spectrographic analysis, however, has failed to reveal what form this lifetakes and all attempts by the most powerful video-transceivers to establishcommunication with Mercury have failed. All space captains have, therefore,been placed under strict orders not to attempt any landings on Mercury,and Space Marines are under constant alert, ready for any possible disturbances originating on Mercury.
On Earth, preparations are being made for a preliminary surface exploration by units of the Solar Guards. The spaceship Golden Arrow(1), now at the Space Academy spaceport, is being outfitted for the expedition and will be commanded by Captain Storm(2), now attached to the Academy for the training of space cadets.
However, unknown to the Grand Council of Earth, the men of the darkside of Mercury, men who live in perpetual night, are already engaged in sub-surface construction of a giant space fleet, intended for use in the conquest of Earth. Aware of the planned expedition to their planet, the men of the darkside are determined to stop it before their secret can be revealed.It is at this time that (3), Tom Ranger ,a boy of sixteen and an honor-graduate of Primary Space School, is admitted to Space Academy as a Space Cadet.
Arriving at Space Academy, Tom meets two boys of like age who are also assigned to duty under Captain Storm, and with whom he will spend the next four years of his academy life. One, Kitai Kuk(4), comes from Venus, the son of venusian colonials. His speech and facial characteristics reflect life on the neighboring planet. Kit and Tom develop an immediate friendship. However, the other member of the section, Bruce Howard(5), proves to be an arrogant bully who doesn't hesitate to use any deceitful trick to get what he wants. He suceeds in being appointed Senior Cadet for the section, giving him rank over Tom and Kit, by sending Tom on a wild goose chase to the spaceport. There, Tom witnesses the crash of a giant rocket-cruiser and, when it is learned that the cruiser was sabotaged, Tom is immediately placed under suspicion, along with Kit, because neither of them had any business being there. In addition, Tom's harmonica is found in the possession of a dead Portal Guard.With great difficulty, Tom finally clears himself and Kit of all suspicion and helps Captain Storm track down the real saboteur and killer, a man from the darkside of Mercury who admits to have tried to sabotage the Golden Arrow and forestall the expedition to Mercury. There is a sudden interstellar distress call from an outpost of the Solar Guards on Venus. Before Captain Storm can learn any details, video-tranceiver communication is broken and the outpost is silent. Captain Storm takes off in the Golden Arrow, immediately, with Tom, Kit, and Bruce as part of his crew, to investigate the trouble on the outpost. They weather a severe galactic storm en route, which throws them off course and endangers their fuel supply but finally reach the venusian outpost. They find it deserted. There is no evidence of any kind of a fight -- the equipment is undamaged -- but the Solar Guardsmen stationed at the outpost are missing. A search party is organized immediately in the belief that the strange and menacing venusian wildlife may have attacked and overcome the missing men. But that theory is disproven when they find evidence of jet-blasts on the ground, indicating the landing of a spaceship. Returning to the outpost, to report their findings to Earth, Captain Storm and the cadets find the unknown spaceship has returned and the men of the darkside of Mercury swarming over the Golden Arrow and around the outpost. They are seemingly isolated and helpless now -- unable to call for assistance and equipped only with small side-arms. However, taking advantage of the Mercurians' inability to cope with light, since they are inherently creatures of darkness, Captain Storm manages to take command of the situation. After a bitter battle, a truce is declared and the Mercurians return to their planet, agreeing to peaceful interplanetary negotiations and fulfilling the purpose of the Solar Guards. Returning to Earth in the Golden Arrow, Captain Storm and the Space Cadets immediately become embroiled in a new adventure -- an adventurewith...
the Pirates of the Planetoids!
Names Revised from Synopsis for Program Broadcast
(2) Captain Steve Strong
(3) Tom Corbett
(5) Roger Manning
Revised Version (C) 1997 by Geoffrey Tolle