Monday, September 7, 2009

"The Golden Girl of Munan" by Harl Vincent, part 7

This is the seventh installment of "The Golden Girl of Munan", the first published story by pioneering science fiction writer Harl Vincent; the first six installments can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here. The story first appeared in the June 1928 issue of Amazing Stories magazine, and was reprinted 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. She warns him that a society of outcasts on an uncharted Pacific island called Munan are planning to wipe out the rest of the world. Hamilton 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 travel to Munan, where they are greeted by Hamilton's mysterious woman, Thelda Serano, and her chief advisor, Landon. They learn that the Zar, the leader of the Munanese, plans to attack the world with a fleet of invisible areos armed with disintegration bombs. All that stands in the way of the Zar's scheme is the tiny group of rebels led by Thelda, along with Hamilton and Nilsson themselves . . .


At the finish of Landon’s talk, Thelda had bowed her head into her arms, which had been folded before her on the table. Roy sat in stunned silence, while the professor drummed nervously on the table top with his fingers, staring at Landon all the while. Finally the professor started shooting rapid-fire questions at Landon, and Thelda straightened up with interest, though her eyes were brimming with tears. Roy wanted then, more than anything in the world, to take her in his arms; to comfort her and cheer her. He had the utmost confidence in the professor’s wizardry.

“Landon,” asked the professor, “you say these invisible aeros are stored in an arsenal directly across and on the other side of this mountain?”

“Yes, that is correct, Professor, but this arsenal is under heavy guard, you must remember,” replied Landon.

“Have you any samples of the metal crysinum and of the deadly liquid with which the bombs are filled?”

“We have several articles constructed of crysinum but the liquid has never been seen by any of us. In fact, so great is the secrecy surrounding the production of this liquid that the chemists engaged in the work have been kept isolated by the several Zars for centuries. The secret has been handed down through the generations of this one family, who have all been chemists.”

“Have you knowledge of the exact location of the storage vault of the crysinum bombs, Landon?”

“We have suspicion that they are stored in caverns similar to these, under the arsenal on the other side of Leyris. Even now, one of our number who is employed in the arsenal, is investigating this very point. She may be discovered as a spy at any time and executed. When Doreen, for that is her name, joins us, you may question her yourself, Professor.”

“Very good, Landon. Now you might enlighten me on just one more point. You say that Paul Serano, before his death, had developed the equipment with which you paralyzed the video and made the call to Roy. Is that equipment still in existence?”

“It is, Professor. It is located in a smaller cavern only a few steps from here. I will show it to you.”

At this the professor arose and followed Landon through another winding passage, up a flight of steps cut into the stone, and to a small compartment fitted out as a workshop. As he examined the various mechanisms in this room, some completed, other only partly so, he commented to Landon regarding the stone steps that they had just mounted. These were considerably worn as if by long usage, and Landon gravely explained that the caverns had been the refuge of similar fugitives for centuries.

“It is a pity that Paul could not have lived to complete his wonderful work,” remarked the professor in admiration, as he examined some of the results of Serano’s labor, “but I do see a faint glimmer of hope here. For one thing, here is a beam-transmitter not unlike some of our own, and after I master its workings, we may be able to find a good use for it.”

When they returned to the council chamber, several others of the group had arrived, and the professor sat at the table and addressed them:

“Friends, I do not want to seem officious,” he said, “but I believe it will be to the advantage of all concerned if you will give complete authority to me over all activities of the group from now on. I see a vague basis for hope, but our work must be done with the greatest care, or failure will be the result. Will this be agreeable?”

Thelda answered at once, “Indeed it will, Professor. I am sure that all here will agree now, and I can vouch for the rest. We trust you implicitly and I, for one, feel encouraged already. Do the rest of you here consent?”

There was a chorus of assent, and the professor asked at once, “Where is Doreen, the lady member, who, you stated, was employed at the arsenal?”

Doreen and the professor drew aside to a settee and conversed animatedly for several minutes. Roy saw that Zora watched this procedure closely, and he chuckled to himself. When the professor returned to the council table, he stated that he would like to have some private conversation with Roy. Not that he had any secret plans, he explained, but that he wanted Roy’s advice on something he had in mind before putting it to the test. Naturally there was no objection, so he and Roy retired to Serano’s workshop.

“Roy,” he said as they entered the room, “this is even more serious than I had contemplated, and although I have an idea forming in my mind already, there is one big obstacle which may block the successful carrying out of the plan. The young lady I just spoke with told me that she is confident that the supply of the deadly liquid and of the crysinum bombs is in one greater chamber immediately beneath the arsenal. She has, however, been unable to locate this chamber, and is now fearful of entire failure, since she has been under more or less suspicion for several days. It is absolutely necessary that I obtain a sample of this liquid; also that the precise location of the supply be determined. One possibility is suggested by another statement of Doreen’s. She told me that Pietro, the commander in charge of the arsenal – a man with a viciousness of disposition not exceeded by any of the Munanese – has a soft spot in his heart for Zora, who is employed in the Zar’s palace as tutor to his children. She suggests that, through Zora, this information might be obtained.”

The professor flushed as he repeated the last words, much to Roy’s secret delight. “Well, how do you think this could be arranged?” asked Roy.

“By the usual power of woman over man,” he replied. “The trouble in this case is that Zora has repulsed him for years. Besides, she is under constant surveillance in the daytime, when in the Zar’s household. I hesitate to approach her on the subject, as I consider her a very high type of woman and she might seriously resent the suggestion. What do you think?”

“But,” Roy answered, “we are all in this thing to the bitter end, and I am sure that she, as well as any of the others, will do anything that might be necessary. I can see your interest in this admirable woman – as you, no doubt, can see mine in the glorious Thelda. But we must not think of personal preferences now. My advice is to put it up to her at once.”

They reentered the council chamber, and the professor called Thelda, Zora, and Landon aside to talk over the matter. To his surprise, Zora did not oppose the plan, although she made it plain how repugnant it was to her to be compelled to change her attitude with respect of Pietro’s suit. She felt, however, that she would be able to act the part. Knowing how important such a move might be, she did not hesitate. It was decided that she would return to her duties and again take up her normal life in her city apartment, using her own judgment as to the best means of ensnaring Pietro and inveigling him into a disclosure of the desired information. It was with the deepest regret that the professor completed the arrangements and, as a final precaution, he provided Zora with one of their ancient hand weapons and taught her how to use it. Zora felt that at least a week would be required for her work, and the portion of the group which was assembled bid her good-bye and good luck when she left. The professor accompanied her to the end of the passageway and did not return for some little time. What took place between them at this parting will never be recorded. But when he returned, he seated himself at the council table with the most serious mien he had displayed since their arrival.

(continue to part 8)

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