Vulcan’s Workshop by Harl Vincent appeared in the June 1932 issue of Astounding Stories.
From Kirk’s escape from the Ice Planet to Riddick’s mad dash out of Crematoria, there’s nothing like a Sci-fi Prison Break story. It’s got all the thrilling suspense of a regular prison break story, but with wild and woolly twists, usually involving extreme environments and/or weird xenomorphic threats. Vulcan’s Workshop is glowing example of the genre.
Luke Fenton is a strongman thug who’s been in and out of more prisons than he can count, but a murder rap finally puts him in so far he may never walk free again – his sentence? Hard labor at Vulcan’s Workshop, a prison where even a six month term is a death sentence for most men.
Vulcan is a tiny planetoid between Mercury and the Sun – even though it’s small, the density of its core translates to five times Earth gravity. Prisoners are forced to work under agonizing conditions that are only possible through the use of harnesses that counteract most of the gravitational effect, mining rare elements and radioactive ores. The guards are able to control the prisoners by deactivating the grav harnesses; one minute you’re carrying 20 or so extra pounds, the next you weigh nearly half a ton. Even guards don’t last long on Vulcan’s Workshop; they stay for a short term before being transferred somewhere less hellish.
Guards get paid based in part on how much work those they oversee get done, so naturally the most hardass guard wants a tough like Fenton in his crew, and Fenton is, of course, determined to take revenge on the system.
Fenton ultimately gets his chance when he meets a guy named Fuller working in the most dangerous and radioactive portion of the prison; Fuller has been planning a daring break, but he’ll need Fenton’s muscle to pull it off.
It’s an exciting, high octane sci-fi story about a great heel-face-turn with lots of action, fist fights and a daring get-away. No dames, but a darn good yarn in spite of it. Check it out here at Project Gutenberg.