Thursday, September 3, 2009

"The Golden Girl of Munan" by Harl Vincent, part 3

This is the third installment of "The Golden Girl of Munan", the first published story by pioneering science fiction writer Harl Vincent; the first two installments can be found here and here. The story first appeared in the June 1928 issue of Amazing Stories magazine, and was republished in 2001 in the anthology Rainbow Fantasia, edited by Forrest J. Ackerman and Anne Hardin.

As we join our story, Roy Hamilton, an artist in New York City in the year 2406, receives a videophone call from a mysterious woman who warns him that a society of outcasts on an uncharted Pacific island called Munan are planning to wipe out the rest of the world. She tells Hamilton that he and his friend Professor Nilsson must travel to Munan to foil their plans. When they meet, Nilsson agrees to help Hamilton . . .


During the succeeding two weeks Roy and the professor were very busy indeed. Many things there were to be accomplished, and they dared take no one into their confidence. One of the most important items was to provide some means of warning the world in case their mission should be unsuccessful. This was done by writing a complete record of the affair and the part they intended to take in it, sealing the records and depositing them with a bank president who was intimately known to the professor. They left instructions that the packet was to be opened only in case it was not called for in person on the fifteenth day of February at noon. They had two weeks from the time of their start in which to save mankind! And mankind had only five days from that period in which to save itself, if they failed! The date set by the Munanese was the twentieth.

This detail satisfactorily arranged, they applied themselves to the task of making ready for the journey to Munan. On the third day after the mysterious disarrangement of the videophone system, which was still the main topic of conversation and conjecture by the experts, the professor took Roy with him to his laboratory.

“Roy,” he said, “I have a big surprise for you. One I did not intend to make public at once. Possibly I shall never be able to publish it now. But it is going to serve us admirably in our present dilemma.”

“We sure do need any help that can be obtained from your discoveries. I hope that you have something that will save the day,” Roy said, as they entered the laboratory building.

“At least,” said the professor, “we have here the vehicle which is going to carry us to Munan swiftly and safely. Whether it will bring us back, remains to be seen.”

Leading the way to a large room on the second floor, he commenced removing the canvas cover from what resembled the hull of a small submarine boat of the early twentieth century. As the cover was completely withdrawn, there was revealed a cigar-shaped metal body about sixty feet long and fifteen feet in its largest diameter. This did in some way resemble the archaic under-water craft.

“This is a big surprise, my boy,” the professor stated, “and we are going to have time to test it thoroughly before starting on the big adventure. This is an aero, the like of which has never before been constructed.

“Unlike the standard aeros mine does not depend upon beam energy for its motive power. Had we to rely upon the regular thing, we should be in a bad way for the job at hand. No existing beam could be used, since none are set for the proper direction. Thus we should have been compelled either to construct our own beam transmitter, for which there would not be time, or to take the Thomas Energy Company into our confidence and arrange for them to provide our power.

“My aero utilizes stray electronic energy as the old time sailing vessels used the winds of the ocean. But here we obtain both lifting force and propelling power from the losses of the regular energy beams. Of course you know that there are some losses in our standard beam transmission systems. These are very slight, but are constantly building up a supply of stray impulses, completely filling the earth’s atmosphere envelope and extending far our into space. This storage of energy will continue as long as it remains unused, and until my discovery there was no means of tapping this huge reservoir. In the meanwhile all space is gradually filling up with these stray electrons, which are merely chasing each other about at terrific speed but produce no useful energy.

“The most important part of my discovery is a peculiar metal alloy which has the property of absorbing this potential energy and converting it into useful forms. If the use of this form of energy ever becomes universal, the present stored supply will eventually become exhausted. When this occurs, the use of the stray impulses will have to be reduced to a total amount not exceeding the usable losses of the regular energy systems. We have no free energy here and never will have. We are merely increasing the efficiency of the present energy systems.”

They entered the aero, which was provided with a tiny galley, a small but perfectly equipped dining salon, a cabin having sleeping accommodations for twelve persons, and the control room which also contained the propelling machinery. Storage compartments , refrigerating and heating equipment and ballast filled the spaces between the rectilinear walls and floors and the curvilinear outer shell. Roy exclaimed at the luxury of the appointments as he followed the professor through the cabin and into the control room.

All of the propulsion machinery and the controls were housed in a cubicle in the bow which was not over twelve feet square. In the center of this, mounted on a heavy pedestal, was a sphere about two feet in diameter. For all the world this reminded Roy of one of the globes used during his school days in the study of the geography of the earth and other planets. The sphere was constructed of metal having a purplish tinge and its surface was covered with fine corrugations. Two small driving motors were in evidence, and the sphere was so mounted as to permit its axis to be swung into any angle with relation to the longitudinal axis of the cigar-shaped vessel. Mounted upon a pair of encircling rings and so arranged that its position with relations to the sphere could be varied at will, was a truncated cone about a foot long and six inches in diameter at the large end. This object was constructed of the same purplish metal and its axis was directed toward the contour of the sphere tangentially.

In the front of the room was the control platform. Two or three control levers, a periscope arrangement for obtaining unobstructed vision in all directions, and a glass case containing the navigating instruments completed the equipment of this pilot house.

“Is this all there is to it, Prof?” asked Roy.

“Absolutely all,” replied the professor. “Simple, is it not? Let me explain it to you briefly so that you will understand something of the operation of the aero which is to carry us on our mission.

“You have observed the sphere and the conical object trained upon it. Both are of adamite, the alloy which I mentioned. When in operation, the sphere is protonically charged, and the truncated cone of adamite collects the electrons, taking them from their regular orbits and redirecting them in a continuous stream against whichever portion of the sphere it is pointed at. If you remember your ancient history, you will recall that in the early twentieth century a vessel for travel on the ocean surface was invented by one Flettner. This vessel obtained its driving force from the winds by means to two large vertical rotors on the deck. In much the same way as these forces, we utilize the stray electronic energy to drive our aero.

“Our sphere may be rotated on its axis in any plane. The electron collector may be directed upon its surface at any angle. By proper adjustments of the angles and the speed of rotation of the sphere, we obtain both lifting power and propulsive force. The direction and speed of our vessel is determined by the force transmitted to its hull through the pedestal. This force is the resultant of the angles and velocities, and its direction and magnitude may be varied at will. We are not limited in this resultant force as was Flettner. He was dealing with winds of low velocity, whereas we are utilizing an electron stream with a velocity of 186,000 miles a second.

The speed attainable by our aero is limited only by the density of the atmosphere and the temperature we can bear in our cabins. I have found that about six hundred miles per hour is as fast as I want to travel at ordinary altitudes, since at much greater speed the room temperature becomes somewhat uncomfortable, even with the refrigeration system in operation. This is due to the friction of the atmosphere on the hull. Of course at greater altitudes, the air density decreases and the speed may be proportionally increased. Were we to proceed outside the atmosphere, we should be able to approach the velocity of light, if we so desired.”

This partial, but lucid, description was fairly well understood by Roy, and he was utterly astounded by what he had seen and heard. It seemed so absurdly simple that he wondered why it had not been thought of centuries ago. And what a storehouse of this energy must now be in reserve, he thought, after the centuries during which these stray impulses had been accumulating.

With the inspection of the Pioneer, as the professor had named his machine, completed, they went ahead with plans for the trip. It was agreed that Roy should gather and store in the Pioneer all clothing, foodstuffs and the like which would be required, while the professor was to spend his time in stocking the aero with the scientific needs of the expedition.

The succeeding nine days were spent in making these preparations, and in making two trial trips in the Pioneer, the aero performing beautifully on both occasions. An important feature of the trial trips was Roy’s instruction in the operation of the aero. He learned easily, and was pronounced a finished pilot at the end of the second journey.

All was in readiness on the twenty-eighth of January and the two men contemplated the results of their labor with satisfaction. Roy had provided several changes of raiment for both; tropical and arctic regalia being included, in case of their being take far from their course and making a forced landing in some rigorous climate. Condensed, but appetizing food and drink had been provided in sufficient quantity for a two months trip in case so long a time was found necessary for some unforeseen reason. All such supplies had been carefully stowed away in the rear compartments of the Pioneer.

The professor had installed oxygen apparatus on board the Pioneer in case of the necessity of entering high altitudes. He had packed away, in various compartments, numbers of scientific instruments. The purposes of these were unknown to Roy, but the professor assured him that many might be found necessary. Stores of chemicals and of laboratory equipment for chemical experiments were included. The professor also had taken a number of odd weapons from his extensive collection. Some of these he said were very effective, regardless of the ancient source. In addition to these, he told Roy, there were weapons of his own devising, which might prove a great surprise to the Munanese, should it become necessary to use them.

With this work completed, the professor set about plotting their course. He proved to be no mean navigator. To be on the safe side, he figured on an average speed of four hundred miles an hour. Their course as laid out, passed directly over New Orleans and measured almost exactly seven thousand miles from New York. It therefore behooved them to leave seventeen and a half hours in advance of the time set by the girl for their arrival. This meant that the start would be made at eight thirty in the morning of January thirty-first, and arrangements were made accordingly.

In the short time intervening, the two were occupied in straightening out their personal affairs so that all would be in order in case of their failure to return. This was a comparatively simple matter for each, since neither had any immediate relatives to be concerned over.

Finally the morning of the fateful day arrived, bright and clear but very cold. At a half hour before the appointed time, both men were in the laboratory.

The sliding roof had been opened over the Pioneer and all was in readiness. With the interior of the aero comfortably heated, both men sat in the control room watching the minute hand of the chronometer as it approached the time of eight thirty. Minutes seemed hours and neither spoke.

At last the time was at hand, and the professor was at the controls. Precisely on the minute, he turned the switch which started the sphere revolving, and adjusted its angle with reference to the cone, which was pointed directly upward beneath the sphere. Without a sound, the Pioneer arose vertically, gathering speed as the revolutions of the sphere became faster and faster. They were off!

(continue to part 4)

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