Steve didn’t hesitate a moment longer. As the huge claws grasped the moon of Etos, he fired the main motors and XL5 rocketed across space towards the captured moon.
“We’ve got to get alongside whatever’s powering that thing!” Steve explained.
The XL craft was soon skirting past Etos and there on the other side was a dome-like structure attached at the top of the gigantic claws.
“Looks like that’s where we need to go. Might as well try the civil approach first.” He flicked the radio circuit to transit and spoke into the microphone, “This is Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol calling unidentified vessel. Please respond.”
To Steve’s surprise, they did.
“This is Captain Drex of the Drex Mining Corporation. How may I help you?”
“Captain Drex, it appears that you’re trying to remove Etos from its orbit around Lokeg. I’ll have to ask that you cut your motors and prepare to be boarded.”
Drex sounded surprised as he replied, “Boarded? For what reason?”
Steve patiently explained, “We suspect that you may have had something to do with the disappearance of other moons in this sector. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“I don’t understand.” Drex said in a tone full of hurt, “How can you accuse me of stealing these lumps of rock? Don’t you realise how untidy they are – floating up here in space when they could be mined for valuable materials?”
“Untidy?” Venus exclaimed. “Steve, I do believe he’s gone tootie!”
“I don’t follow, Captain.” Steve said, aware that Venus may be quite right, “These moons belong in the orbit of the planets around which you found them. Removing them from those orbits has negatively affected the environmental balance of those planets.”
“En-viron-men-tal?” Drex said, sounding the word out as though he’d never heard it before.
“Yes, the weather patterns and so forth. It has made living conditions for the inhabitants difficult, even dangerous in some cases.”
“Living conditions?!” This time there was a definite note of panic in Drex’s voice, “But there was no life on any of those planets – I checked most carefully!”
“Maybe you did, but I can assure you that each of those planets has a small population.”
“This is terrible news!” Drex all but wailed, “I have made a grave error! Please wait!”
“Steve, look!” Venus said pointing out at Etos.
The huge claws of Drex’s vessel were retracting, leaving the moon where it was.
Drex’s voice came over the radio again, “I did not realise! I am sorry! I must return the moons at once. Thank goodness I have not begun to mine them as yet.”
“You mean they’re all still intact?” Steve asked.
“Yes! They orbit my home world, waiting to be harvested for minerals. I must fetch them at once!”
Steve smiled at the earnestness in Drex’s voice, “Is there anything we can do to assist you?”
“All I ask is that you forgive my mistake. I did not intend harm toward anyone. I did not know that removing the moons would put living beings at risk. I am a robot – my function is to safeguard living beings.”
“That’s okay, Drex.” Steve said with a grin, “We’ve got a robot on our crew and we know that robots can make mistakes just the way that living beings can. Now, if we can get those moons back to where there’re supposed to be, I reckon that’ll be good enough.”
“Thank you, Colonel Zodiac.”
Steve turned to Venus, “Well Venus, this has turned out to be quite a mission. Five missing moons on their way back to where they ought to be – that’s a one heck of a big return for a single day’s work!”