Cosmic Yo-Yo by Ross Rocklynne appeared in the Summer 1945 issue of Planet Stories.
The Cosmic Yo-yo is a fairly short Blue-collar space romance by Ross Rocklynne. This one was panned a bit in the letters to the editor in the following issue, partly because of its rather silly premise, but I actually really liked this one.
A couple of asteroid haulers have created a business out of convincing rich folks on Earth that it would be great to have asteroids in their back yard. Truly the gift for someone who has everything! Of course, they’ve also got rivals who’ve taken their idea and are in heated competition.
A job to retrieve a highly particular asteroid for the wedding of a billionaire’s granddaughter goes awry when the haulers find a beautiful woman with a raygun camping out on just such an asteroid and claiming common law squatter’s rights. While trying to negotiate some sort of deal for the asteroid, the rival haulers show up with two guns to their one, vying to fulfill the same contract. After a scuffle, the rivals are off with the asteroid with our heroes tossed into space.
All three of them pursue the rivals with the asteroid – the woman reveals that the asteroid is for HER wedding; she had reluctantly agreed to marry her grandfather’s protégé if he could get an asteroid for them to be married on top of, and she never thought that her grandfather would manage to actually retrieve this particular asteroid. If the rival haulers get the asteroid back, she’ll be forced to marry; even if they retrieve the asteroid, if the heroes fulfill their contract, she’ll still be forced to marry – except she and one of the haulers have fallen in love. Maybe something can be worked out, but first they need to stop those asteroid jackers!
The asteroid hauling ships use a special inertia free technology that allows them to travel at incredible speeds in any directions without incurring G forces; of course the asteroid still has inertia, as does the young woman’s ship. These two factors give the haulers a chance to catch up with their rivals, but how to stop them? They don’t have any weapons. They figure out they can use the woman’s ship as yo-yo to ram their rival; the inertia-less hauler ship could shove and catch tethered ship, pounding their rivals until they were forced to surrender the asteroid.
The woman is devastated by the prospect of being forced to marry someone she doesn’t love, especially now that she and the asteroid hauler are in love; the hauler tells her not to worry, though, he has a plan. He arranges for a last-minute delivery of the asteroid, just in time for the wedding, and quickly cashes in the old man’s check. Right as the wedding is about to begin, the asteroid collapses and washes away much of the assembly in a torrent of silver goo as hauler whisks the bride-to-be off to safety – the asteroid had been made up largely of frozen mercury and the hauler timed the delivery just such that the interior would have fully thawed right as the wedding was about underway. No telling what happened to the rest of the wedding guests or what the environmental damage was from dropping a glob of mercury the size of a mountain onto someone’s estate, but the haulers and the young woman live happily ever after, and that’s what really matters.
Again, the interesting notions in this piece are not so much the spaceships or the asteroids, but ideas of class and entrepreneurial spirit. Like many stories from the pulp era, space is a place where blue-collar folks can be small business owners making an honest living. It’s a story of honest businessmen triumphing over dishonest business men. And the clever raygun toting dame doesn’t want some guy that her grandfather has taken under his golden wing; she likes the self-made spaceman – of course the self-made spaceman doesn’t see himself as worthy of her unless he can adequately provide for her, hence why he’s gotta complete his haul, even if it would’ve been easier to just renege on his contract and run off with her.