David Grinnell (Donald A. Wollheim) 1914-1990
Ajax Calkins was lolling about on the veranda of his billion dollar mansion bordering Great Slave Lake. He was despondent over not having a world to conquer, like Genghis Khan or Christopher Columbus. He needed to dominate something. After all, in this modern world of 2080, when mankind had conquered most of the solar system, he shouldn't be sitting around moping. As it happened, however, he received a message from Anton Smallways, a sort of real estate agent for the solar system, offering him a world in the Fore-Jupiter asteroid group. This was a collection of planetoids caught in Jupiter's orbit that preceded that planet in its eternal revolution around the Sun. These small worlds were in perpetual danger of being taken over by Saturnians, who were another species in the solar system who were vying with Earth for control of all the planets. The miners that lived on that worldlet needed support and supplies and they were willing to name Ajax King if he'd come and help them.
Ajax was enthused, but before he could take off, Emily Hackenschmidt, an agent for the Earth-Mars Space Administration, dedicated to preserving peace in the the sub-Jupiter section of the system, arrived at his house and informed him that his plans for domination of the planetoid he had in mind were illegal and that he'd be subject to massive fines and jail time if he continued with his project. With the help of his robot-butler (purposely constructed with built-in agreement coils), Ajax managed to elude the agent and make his way to Mars, where he befriended a giant spider (Mars was inhabited with multiple species from all over the system). Smallways explained that since the asteroid in question was just outside the official EMSA zone, it was perfectly legal for him to sell it and for Ajax to buy it. Wuj (the giant spider) decided to go along with the idea and they all set off in the Destiny (Ajax's spaceship) to assume possession of his new kingdom.
Arriving at their new home, the voyagers were delighted to see that they were greeted with enthusiasm by the miners and that the world was a comfortable one, being roundish and fully equipped with modern conveniences. But Emily shows up and wants to arrest him for violating EMSA protocols; at just about the same time, a giant fleet from Saturn is picked up on the radar intending to take over Ajax' world. The miners get the idea of re-aligning the orbits of the surrounding asteroids to confuse the aliens but when the explosions are set off the achieve this, their own world gets thrown completely out of orbit and accelerates toward the Sun. Noting that the surface of the planetoid is being flung off in pieces, they come to the conclusion that it actually was a spaceship itself, probably created by another race five million years ago just before a gigantic explosion destroyed their civilization.
Emily wants to get Ajax arrested so she sneaks off in her own ship to contact the EMSA forces which are on their way to confront the Saturnians. Ajax chases her in his ship, but it's blown up and he's cast adrift in a small lifeboat. After several weeks he's picked up on the verge of starvation by a sail-freighter making a routine trip between Earth and Mars. These giant ships were driven by solar winds and took years to travel between the two planets. The crew consisted of Zen-like humans and other species who value silence and meditation. After quite a while, Ajax convinces the captain of the ship to let him use the ship's lifeboat to find his errant world. When he does, Emily and Wuj are there and have figured out how to run the vessel and they all set out, after some disagreement involving the applicability of EMSA regulations, to save the solar system from the vile Saturnians. Which they do, in quite a clever fashion.
David Grinnell is one of the pseudonyms of Donald Wollheim, a major power in the early development of science fiction magazines. He started a number of them and was managing editor of others, as well as writing stories and novels himself. This was a funny and light-hearted production, well-written and imagined even though it violated all sorts of physical laws, such as gravitation and the speed of light. But that's what sci fi is known for, anyway. This is the first installment of "Old SciFi January", invented by Jean at Howling Frog blog, and featured here with gratitude. More to come, lol...