Friday, September 4, 2009

"The Golden Girl of Munan" by Harl Vincent, part 4

This is the fourth installment of "The Golden Girl of Munan", the first published story by pioneering science fiction writer Harl Vincent; the first three installments can be found here, 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. Nilsson agrees to help Hamilton. He readies his newly-designed areo, the Pioneer, and the two take off for Munan . . .


When the needle of the altimeter registered four thousand feet, the professor changed the angles of the sphere and cone, headed in a southwesterly direction, and settled down to a steady speed of four hundred miles an hour.

At eleven eighteen by the chronometer they passed over New Orleans, and by eleven forty were headed out across the Gulf of Mexico. At one thirty in the afternoon they were leaving the southwest coast of Mexico and passing over the broad expanse of the Pacific. The professor now turned the controls over to Roy, instructing him to keep the helm so adjusted that the needle of the inductor compass continued to point to the vertical mark. The altimeter was to be kept at four thousand feet while the professor went astern for his lunch.

Roy took the controls with enthusiasm. He could not understand the professor’s matter-of-factness, though he could understand his hunger, as neither had stopped for breakfast. Roy was beginning to feel the pangs of hunger himself. They were more than five hours out now; practically a third of their journey had been completed. As time passed, the impression left in Roy’s mind by the golden voice which had brought about this trip, became stronger and stronger. The rich, mellow tones of this voice seemed to ring in his ears, drawing him on. Something within his consciousness told him that he was going to his destiny. Reckless of the future, this thought grew on him until he began planning all sorts of things. But these were happy thoughts; somehow he had no thought of the dangers to be encountered, nor of the fact that his own life and those of countless billions of his fellow-men depended on the success of this expedition.

His meditations were cut short by the return of his friend, who announced that he was feeling much better after a hearty lunch. Relinquishing the controls, Roy suddenly realized that he was even hungrier than he had thought, and betook himself to the miniature saloon for his own lunch. He found that the professor had kindly prepared an appetizing meal for him. An atomic percolator on the table was busily preparing steaming hot coffee for him, and he shouted his thanks through to the professor before he sat down to eat. The meal was piping hot and delicious. He returned to the controls much refreshed.

By now it was four p.m. by the chronometer; their journey was nearly half over. As Roy peered at the periscope reflector, noting that nothing but the tumbling surface of the Pacific was visible in all directions far below them, the professor startled him with a remark:

“Well, we will not be running into darkness for hours yet, but if my weather sense is correct, we are going to encounter a storm very soon.”

“What,” exclaimed Roy, “no darkness for hours? Why, it is after four o’clock now, and these are the shortest days of the year.”

“Yes. Four o’clock, Washington time,” said the professor dryly, “but you must remember that we have been traveling away from the sunset hour. We shall not see nightfall for four hours or more, if my dead reckoning is correct. At two a.m. tomorrow by our time, we shall be in Munan. There it will be only ten p.m. of today’s date.”

“Right. I never thought of the difference in time, Prof,” was Roy’s response, “but look at the periscope. Isn’t that a storm coming up, way ahead of us?”

“Yes, that must be the one I smelled,” the professor responded, “but the Pioneer has nothing to fear. We shall simply go up over it, and I hope that by the time we reach Munan, the storm will have passed. In fact, I know it will, because such storms usually cover a comparatively small area, although they travel rapidly. However, their speed is as nothing compared with ours, and even if it is traveling in the direction of Munan, we shall far outdistance it.”

With that the professor manipulated the controls, and the altimeter at once showed the increase in altitude. Six thousand, eight, ten, twelve thousand feet and there it stopped.

“There is no real need of rising further, as we shall be well above the storm now,” said the professor. “But I would like to test out the oxygen apparatus, so we are going up further. I shall be compelled to correct my reckoning on this account, but that will not be difficult, and if we lose any time, it can be quickly made up by increased speed.”

Closing one valve and opening another, the professor pulled back the altitude control; the cone swung way around to a new position, and the Pioneer shot skyward at an angle of about forty-five degrees.

“That is what those railings around the operating platform are there for,” laughed the professor, as Roy swung about and wildly grabbed for one to keep his balance. “Better strap yourself into the seat beside mine here, as we may do a little more of this sort of thing before we return to a lower level.”

Roy complied, as the professor adjusted his own strap. A slight hiss told of the functioning of the oxygen apparatus, and Roy glanced at the altimeter. Already it showed forty thousand feet, and was mounting rapidly. Their speed was tremendous; fifty thousand feet a minute now by the ‘rate of rise’ indicator. At their angle, this meant over eleven hundred miles an hour, air speed. Fifty, seventy, one hundred, two, three, four hundred thousand feet read the altimeter and there was the Pioneer restored to an even keel. Roy took a deep breath. It was becoming very cold, but the professor had already turned on the atomic heat and soon the control room returned to a normal temperature.

“I must provide for thermostatic control of the room temperature, when I get the time,” spoke the professor, more to himself than to Roy, “but our oxygen supply seems to function perfectly anyhow. We are far outside the upper limits of the atmosphere now, and we have been for several minutes.

“Everything seems to work to perfection,” was Roy’s only reply, as the descent started at a reduced speed.

When they had finally returned to their altitude of four thousand feet, the storm was far astern, but they could see from the turbulent surface of the ocean that it had been a serious squall. The professor again gave over the controls to Roy and disappeared astern. He returned soon and announced that they were but slightly off their course and somewhat ahead of their time schedule, rather than behind. Making a minor correction in the setting of the compass, he told Roy that he wanted to lie down for a short while to get a little rest, and returned to the cabin.

Roy had plenty of time in which to think while the professor rested, and as the distance to Munan became rapidly less, he thought more and more on the seriousness of their mission. Still the voice which had brought them kept intruding on his consciousness. He began to believe that there was some thought transference connected with this, for he simply could not shake off the impression of the voice. It was now somewhat different than when he had heard it over the video; then it had been sad and pleading; now it was confident, cheering. But it retained the charm, the golden quality which had first interested and captivated him.

When the professor returned, night had long since fallen and only a few hours of the trip remained. He advised Roy to get some sleep himself, saying that he would remain at the controls anyway until they landed. Roy was too excited, however, and occupied the seat at the professor’s side for the rest of the journey.

At last only half an hour remained and soon, directly ahead, they made out a faint speck of light which grew rapidly in size until it was finally discerned as the lights of a city in the distance. Again the Pioneer arose until an altitude of about fifteen thousand feet was attained. All lights were extinguished, with the exception of the small ones in the instrument case, and soon they were directly over Munan. The time was exactly two by their chronometer as the vertical descent commenced, and in a few seconds they made out the outlines of the island.

The city itself occupied only a small portion of the island’s surface. The remainder of its area was in darkness, with the exception of scattered groups of lights which probably marked the locations of farms and mines. Shortly, they located two tiny spots of green light in one of the darkest spots on the island.

“Your friend certainly kept her word,” said the professor, as he maneuvered the Pioneer to a position directly over the two green beacons, which appeared to be about three hundred feet apart. “The neutralizing wall must have been out of service all right, and there are the green beacons as big as life.”

Swiftly, but without a shock at landing, the Pioneer dropped between the two guiding lights and came to rest as the professor opened the switch.

(continue to part 5)

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