A World is Born, Leigh Brackett, Comet, July 1941. Note: The copyright for this story has expired in the United States and, thus, now resides in the public domain. 

Out from the cleft where Mel Gray worked, across the flat plain of rock stripped naked by the wind that raved across it, lay the deep valley that sheltered the heart of the Moulton Project.
Hot springs joined to form a steaming river. Vegetation grew savagely under the huge sun. The air, kept at almost constant temperature by the blanketing effect of the hot springs, was stagnant and heavy.
But up above, high over the copper cables that crossed every valley where men ventured, the eternal wind of Mercury screamed and snarled between the naked cliffs.
Three concrete domes crouched on the valley floor, housing barracks, tool-shops, kitchens, store-houses, and executive quarters, connected by underground passages. Beside the smallest dome, joined to it by a heavily barred tunnel, was an insulated hangar, containing the only space ship on Mercury.
In the small dome, John Moulton leaned back from a pile of reports, took a pinch of Martian snuff, sneezed lustily, and said.
"Jill, I think we've done it."
The grey-eyed, black-haired young woman turned from the quartzite window through which she had been watching the gathering storm overhead. The thunder from other valleys reached them as a dim barrage which, at this time of Mercury's year, was never still.
"I don't know," she said. "It seems that nothing can happen now, and yet.... It's been too easy."
"Easy!" snorted Moulton. "We've broken our backs fighting these valleys. And our nerves, fighting time. But we've licked 'em!"
He rose, shaggy grey hair tousled, grey eyes alight.
"I told the IPA those men weren't criminals. And I was right. They can't deny me the charter now. No matter how much Caron of Mars would like to get his claws on this radium."
He took Jill by the shoulders and shook her, laughing.
"Three weeks, girl, that's all. First crops ready for harvest, first pay-ore coming out of the mines. In three weeks my permanent charter will have to be granted, according to agreement, and then....
"Jill," he added solemnly, "we're seeing the birth of a world."
"That's what frightens me." Jill glanced upward as the first flare of lightning struck down, followed by a crash of thunder that shook the dome.
"So much can happen at a birth. I wish the three weeks were over!"
"Nonsense, girl! What could possibly happen?"
She looked at the copper cables, burning with the electricity running along them, and thought of the one hundred and twenty-two souls in that narrow Twilight Belt--with the fierce heat of the Sunside before them and the spatial cold of the Shadow side at their backs, fighting against wind and storm and heat to build a world to replace the ones the War had taken from them.
"So much could happen," she whispered. "An accident, an escape...."
The inter-dome telescreen buzzed its signal. Jill, caught in a queer mood of premonition, went to it.
The face of Dio the Martian appeared on the screen, still wet and dirty from the storm-soaked fields, disheveled from his battle across the plain in the chaotic winds.
"I want to see you, Miss Moulton," he said. "There's something funny I think you ought to know."
"Of course," said Jill, and met her father's eyes. "I think we'll see, now, which one of us is right."
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
The barracks were quiet, except for the mutter of distant thunder and the heavy breathing of exhausted men. Tom Ward crouched in the darkness by Mel Gray's bunk.
"You ain't gonna go soft at the last minute, are you?" he whispered. "Because I can't afford to take chances."
"Don't worry," Gray returned grimly. "What's your proposition?"
"I can give you the combination to the lock of the hangar passage. All you have to do is get into Moulton's office, where the passage door is, and go to it. The ship's a two-seater. You can get her out of the valley easy."
Gray's eyes narrowed in the dark. "What's the catch?"
"There ain't none. I swear it."
"Look, Ward. I'm no fool. Who's behind this, and why?"
"That don't make no difference. All you want ... ow!"
Gray's fingers had fastened like steel claws on his wrist.
"I get it, now," said Gray slowly. "That's why I was sent here. Somebody wanted me to make trouble for Moulton." His fingers tightened agonizingly, and his voice sank to a slow drawl.
"I don't like being a pawn in somebody else's chess game."
"Okay, okay! It ain't my fault. Lemme go." Ward rubbed his bruised wrist. "Sure, somebody--I ain't sayin' who--sent you here, knowin' you'd want to escape. I'm here to help you. You get free, I get paid, the Big Boy gets what he wants. Okay?"
Gray was silent, scowling in the darkness. Then he said.
"All right. I'll take a chance."
"Then listen. You tell Moulton you have a complaint. I'll...."
Light flooded the dark as the door clanged open. Ward leaped like a startled rabbit, but the light speared him, held him. Ward felt a pulse of excitement beat up in him.
The long ominous shadows of the guards raised elongated guns. The barracks stirred and muttered, like a vast aviary waking.
"Ward and Gray," said one of the guards. "Moulton wants you."
Gray rose from his bunk with the lithe, delicate grace of a cat. The monotony of sleep and labor was ended. Something had broken. Life was once again a moving thing.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
John Moulton sat behind the untidy desk. Dio the Martian sat grimly against the wall. There was a guard beside him, watching.
Mel Gray noted all this as he and Ward came in. But his cynical blue eyes went beyond, to a door with a ponderous combination lock. Then they were attracted by something else--the tall, slim figure standing against the black quartz panes of the far wall.
It was the first time he had seen Jill Moulton. She looked the perfect sober apostle of righteousness he'd learned to mock. And then he saw the soft cluster of black curls, the curve of her throat above the dark dress, the red lips that balanced her determined jaw and direct grey eyes.
Moulton spoke, his shaggy head hunched between his shoulders.
"Dio tells me that you, Gray, are not a volunteer."
"Tattletale," said Gray. He was gauging the distance to the hangar door, the positions of the guards, the time it would take to spin out the combination. And he knew he couldn't do it.
"What were you and Ward up to when the guards came?"
"I couldn't sleep," said Gray amiably. "He was telling me bedtime stories." Jill Moulton was lovely, he couldn't deny that. Lovely, but not soft. She gave him an idea.
Moulton's jaw clamped. "Cut the comedy, Gray. Are you working for Caron of Mars?"
Caron of Mars, chairman of the board of the Interplanetary Prison Authority. Dio had mentioned him. Gray smiled in understanding. Caron of Mars had sent him, Gray, to Mercury. Caron of Mars was helping him, through Ward, to escape. Caron of Mars wanted Mercury for his own purposes--and he could have it.
"In a manner of speaking, Mr. Moulton," he said gravely, "Caron of Mars is working for me."
He caught Ward's sharp hiss of remonstrance. Then Jill Moulton stepped forward.
"Perhaps he doesn't understand what he's doing, Father." Her eyes met Gray's. "You want to escape, don't you?"
Gray studied her, grinning as the slow rose flushed her skin, the corners of her mouth tightening with anger.
"Go on," he said. "You have a nice voice."
Her eyes narrowed, but she held her temper.
"You must know what that would mean, Gray. There are thousands of veterans in the prisons now. Their offenses are mostly trivial, but the Prison Authority can't let them go, because they have no jobs, no homes, no money.
"The valleys here are fertile. There are mines rich in copper and pitchblende. The men have a chance for a home and a job, a part in building a new world. We hope to make Mercury an independent, self-governing member of the League of Worlds."
"With the Moultons as rulers, of course," Gray murmured.
"If they want us," answered Jill, deliberately missing the point. "Do you think you have the right to destroy all we've worked for?"
Gray was silent. Rather grimly, she went on.
"Caron of Mars would like to see us defeated. He didn't care about Mercury before radium was discovered. But now he'd like to turn it into a prison mining community, with convict labor, leasing mine grants to corporations and cleaning up big fortunes for himself and his associates.
"Any trouble here will give him an excuse to say that we've failed, that the Project is a menace to the Solar System. If you try to escape, you wreck everything we've done. If you don't tell the truth, you may cost thousands of men their futures.
"Do you understand? Will you cooperate?"
Gray said evenly, "I'm my own keeper, now. My brother will have to take care of himself."
It was ridiculously easy, she was so earnest, so close to him. He had a brief kaleidoscope of impressions--Ward's sullen bewilderment, Moulton's angry roar, Dio's jerky rise to his feet as the guards grabbed for their guns.
Then he had his hands around her slim, firm throat, her body pressed close to his, serving as a shield against bullets.
"Don't be rash," he told them all quietly. "I can break her neck quite easily, if I have to. Ward, unlock that door."
In utter silence, Ward darted over and began to spin the dial. At last he said, "Okay, c'mon."
Gray realized that he was sweating. Jill was like warm, rigid marble in his hands. And he had another idea.
"I'm going to take the girl as a hostage," he announced. "If I get safely away, she'll be turned loose, her health and virtue still intact. Good night."
The clang of the heavy door had a comforting sound behind them.