Saturday, September 19, 2009

"The War of the Planets" by Harl Vincent, part 1

As promised, the Johnny Pez blog now presents "The War of the Planets", Harl Vincent's sequel to his first published story, "The Golden Girl of Munan". "The War of the Planets" first and only appearance in print was in the January 1929 issue of Amazing Stories magazine, seven months after the publication of the original story. It is now twenty years since the events in "The Golden Girl of Munan" took place, and Thelda Serano Hamilton is dozing in the New York apartment she shares with her husband . . .

The War of the Planets
by Harl Vincent


In a large airy room, handsomely furnished and decorated in the prevailing style of the better class of apartments of the twenty-fifth century, sat a beautiful woman. The chair in which she reposed was deep-cushioned, and the luxuriousness of its upholstery had lured her to doze in its seductive embrace. Her eyes were closed, the long lashes sweeping cheeks of ivory. The rosy lips curved in a smile that bespoke contented dreams. A mass of red-gold hair tumbled about her head and shoulders in enchanting disarray, presenting an altogether beautiful picture.

Her dreams were happy indeed, dating back two decades to the year 2406 when she was but a young girl. The most frequently occurring theme was a panorama of the trip to New York in Professor Nilsson’s aero, the Pioneer, leaving the watery grave of the island of Munan with Roy Hamilton at her side – dear Roy, who soon became her beloved husband and the father of their son Walter, now a fine upstanding young man of nineteen. Visions of their welcome in the metropolis of the world; of the happiness of her dearest friend Zora in the love of that other new-found companion, the professor – of the wonderment of the rest of their group at the new environment – all found a place in the fantasy.

This was Thelda, the “golden girl” of Munan, whose voice had called Roy and the professor to her far-off home and whose action in so doing had resulted in the annihilation of that terrible island and the consequent salvation of the outside world from the horrible destruction which had been planned by the Munanese.

The years had dealt kindly with Thelda. Her life had been so supremely happy since her escape from the island of hate, that not one wrinkle of care marred that beautiful face. Her contentment in the love of her husband and of their splendid son had served to enhance the loveliness which had first enthralled Roy. Indeed, to see her with her son, one would be constrained to think of them as sister and brother, rather than as mother and son.

The smile on her face became even more happy as her dreams carried her along later years of the twenty that followed her marriage.

“Mother!” excitedly called out the voice of a clear-eyed, strapping youth who rushed pell-mell into the room. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” he continued, observing her quick start, “I didn’t know you were napping.”

“Walter, dear,” she replied, as she sat erect and smoothed back her tumbled golden locks, “it is a happy awakening from happy dreams of the past to find you at my side.

“But what brings you in so obviously wrought up, Walter?”

“Oh, mother, there is the most interesting news,” said the boy, as he stooped for a hasty kiss and immediately rushed to a nearby table where reposed the videophone.

He turned a small lever labeled “General News,” and immediately the voice of a news announcer filled the room while the disc of the instrument lighted brilliantly.

The scene in the disc was that of the dome room of a large observatory, where the astronomer could be seen at the eyepiece of his telescope.

“Now,” spoke the voice of the announcer, “we have transferred ourselves to Castle Mountain Observatory, near Banff. It was from here that the first news of the strange manifestations in the heavens was given out, and the astronomer is now training his telescope on the locus of the phenomenon, so that adjustments can be made to permit the world to see for itself through the medium of the videophone disc.

“Please stand by until the necessary connections are made.”

“What is it all about, son?” asked Thelda in surprise.

“No one seems to know, mother. But, as near as I can make out from the public news video on the square, a large group of spherical objects has been sighted in the heavens about a hundred thousand miles from the earth. These are progressing in our direction at great speed and none of our astronomers are agreed as to their nature. The public ways are packed with people and everyone is greatly concerned.”

“That is strange, isn’t it?” responded his mother. “But if these bodies are already close to our earth, why is it that they were not seen before?”

“I don’t know, mother, unless it is because they came from an infinite distance and could not be seen by our most powerful telescopes while much farther away. And, though the first reports are most contradictory, everyone fears the worst. The people on the northbound moving ways are pushing and jostling and fighting to be first to get out of the city. As if it would do them any good to be in the open country if any calamity threatens our world from the heavens!” The boy’s voice was scornful.

* * *

At that moment the news announcer’s voice burst forth from the videophone:

“Connections have now been established with the great reflector at Castle Mountain. If you darken your rooms, you will find that the newly discovered phenomenon is dimly visible in the disc of your instrument.”

Walter switched off the lights and drew two chairs close to the videophone.

Thelda joined him there and the two gazed intently at the disc.

The view was very indistinct at first, but, as their eyes became accustomed to the darkness, a small group of weird objects became visible in the center of the disc. These appeared to be a mass of closely associated spherical organisms, more like fish eggs than anything else to which they could be compared. However, they were not as closely packed. A noticeable space separated each globule from its fellows and, after watching for some little time, they observed that the positions of each were constantly shifting with relation to the others. They seemed to be floating in a mass, but aimlessly as regards formation – drifting hither and yon as if blown about by errant winds. The size of a single globe as seen in the disk of the video was less than a quarter inch in diameter.

The voice of the announcer droned endlessly as the two watched and listened in amazement:

“Measurements taken at this observatory show that each of these objects is four to five hundred feet in diameter. Were it not for the extreme power of this, the world’s greatest reflector, the objects would scarcely have been located for another twenty-four hours. Their speed has been estimated as one thousand miles an hour and the present distance from the earth one hundred and eight thousand miles. If nothing occurs to alter their velocity or to deflect them from their present course, they will reach our earth in four and one half days. Speculation is rife as to what will happen if this transpires, but no satisfactory conclusion can be reached until it has been determined what the objects are. It is not considered probably that they are fragments of larger celestial bodies on account of their uniformity in size and their true spherical shape. Nothing definite can be said about it yet.”

At this juncture their individual call sounded from the videophone and Walter flipped back the news lever to permit the incoming personal call to be made. The disc flashed brightly and the face of his father appeared.

“Hello, folks,” spoke the cheery voice of the man they both loved. “Why in the world are you sitting in the darkness? Oh, I know – you have been listening to the absurd reports of some menace from the skies. Don’t pay any attention to them. There is nothing to be alarmed about. But, what I called for was to tell you that I am leaving for home right away and that good old Prof. Nilsson is coming for dinner and is bringing Zora and Dorothy with him. That will please you I know, Walter,” he concluded with a wink at Thelda.

“Why, that is lovely, Daddy,” spoke Thelda, “I shall make arrangements at once.”

“All right, dear. I’ll be home in ten minutes, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to keep an eye on that son of ours this evening,” grinned Roy. “So long.”

The disc went dark and the voice was gone.

Thelda snapped on the lights and when she turned to look at Walter she saw that he was blushing like a girl. She smiled inwardly, knowing that Walter’s fondness for Dorothy, the daughter of Zora and the professor, had ripened into real love. Well, they would be a fine couple, a good match when the time came, she thought; this fine, black-haired, firm-jawed son of hers and the petite, vivacious, blonde Dorothy would be very happy together.

(continue to part 2)

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