Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"The Golden Girl of Munan" by Harl Vincent, part 8

This is the eighth installment of "The Golden Girl of Munan", the first published story by pioneering science fiction writer Harl Vincent; the first seven installments can be found here, 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. Taking charge of the group, Nilsson sends a woman named Zora on an intelligence-gathering mission . . .


After Thelda, Landon, Roy, and the professor had partaken of a satisfying luncheon in Thelda’s apartments, they returned to the council chamber. The professor and Landon repaired to Serano’s workshop where they spent the afternoon, thus leaving Roy and Thelda together. This suited Roy exactly, and did not seem to be unpleasant to Thelda, either. She spent the time showing him through the various connecting caverns of the underground refuge, and the several luxurious living compartments which had been hollowed from the solid rock. The permanent dwellers were mostly in their living quarters and Roy became better acquainted with these during the several visits they made. More and more he was impressed with the beauty and sweetness of the women in the group. They far outshone the beautiful women of The Outside, not only in physical perfection but in mentality as well. He soon observed that much of their conversation was perfunctory, and seemed to be only a medium of establishing contact for an actual interchange of thoughts. When he remarked about this, Thelda informed him that thought transference among the group was a common accomplishment; that it was a development of their own mentalities and was not shared by the Munanese in general. This amazed Roy and to him accounted for some of the sensations he had had of hearing the golden voice when he was still thousands of miles from Munan. What if Thelda was not reading his thoughts? If she were she must already know that he loved her. It must be then, that she was not unreceptive, since her actions were very friendly, even affectionate. True, this might be due to her gratitude to the two strangers for their response to her plea for assistance. Try as he would he could obtain no inkling of what was in the mind to which his own must be almost an open book. But his resolve to win this glorious creature did not abate in the slightest degree.

That night when the council assembled, Zora, Doreen, and Ramon were missing. They had anticipated the absence of the courageous Zora, but the non-arrival of the other two caused considerable uneasiness in the group.

Thelda, in calling the meeting to order, advised the members of what had been done thus far. Unanimous approval was given of the acceptance of the professor’s leadership, and of what he had already accomplished. The professor then arose and addressed them.

“Dear people. I am not ready as yet to give you any real hope; but I can say that my research thus far has been successful, and that if your dear comrade, Zora, succeeds in her mission, our hopes will be strong indeed. The time is very short, but there is nothing which can be done outside of that which is now being attempted. It will be necessary for Roy and myself to remain hidden away here with those of you who are already forced to reside here permanently. I know that this will gall the adventurous spirit of my friend from The Outside, but it is absolutely imperative, for if either of us ventured forth into Munan and were recognized as strangers and captured by the Zar’s police, all of our plans would be brought to naught.

“This afternoon, with the aid of Landon, who provided me with samples of the metal crysinum, I have learned several things of value. As you know, crysinum is as transparent as crystal, as hard as steel, and as light as aluminum. Today I have, in your deceased leader’s workshop, succeeded in making a chemical analysis of this metal, also in determining its electrical and mechanical properties. I have also constructed several vessels from this material: retorts, beakers, test tubes, for use in analyzing the deadly fluid when we obtain a sample. The most important work of the afternoon was the construction of a receptacle of crysinum which may be used for obtaining the required sample with safety. This receptacle must be placed in Zora’s hands at once, and I would like to have a volunteer to carry it to the city without delay.”

Two-thirds of the assembly volunteered at once, and the professor chose the young woman Allayne and the man Theron to accompany her. Both were residents in the city and, so far, had not been under suspicion. Allayne was well acquainted with the location of Zora’s apartment, and Theron was physically well able to protect her from any ordinary danger she might encounter. When these two left, the professor continued:

“What we would like to do is to obtain one of the crysinum bombs from the Zar’s storage vault, load it and our entire group into my aero, rise vertically ten or fifteen thousand feet and destroy this island by dropping the deadly bomb from the aero. The group could then proceed to The Outside at leisure, since the destruction of the city and its power houses would forever remove the neutralizing wall. Unfortunately, this is impossible, since the size and weight of one of the bombs is entirely too great to permit its successful removal from the heavily guarded secret storehouse. Our next best hope is to obtain a small sample of the compound, with the idea that I shall be able to determine some means of destroying the entire supply from a distance. That is the reason for Zora’s distasteful assignment, and that is why I have sent Allayne and Theron with the crysinum receptacle. Let us have hope.”

When the professor finished, there was a babble of excited voices. All seemed pleased with his progress and all were considerably encouraged. As the evening wore on, the uneasiness over the continued absence of Ramon and Doreen increased. Surely some misfortune must have overtaken both. All that could be done was to hope and pray that they had not been apprehended; that the safety of the remainder of the group had not been endangered by their capture, if captured they had been.

It was very much later when Theron and Allayne returned, and their report confirmed the worst fears of the group regarding the missing members. Doreen had been arrested in the arsenal and executed by the Zarist troops, after being tortured savagely in an effort to learn the whereabouts and identity of her accomplices. The brave girl had steadfastly remained silent and finally died a noble martyr to the cause she had espoused. Ramon had been killed outright by a police officer, when he was discovered in an attempt to carry away some records from the administrative offices of the Zar’s “Council of Five,” where he was employed. In sadness was this news received by the group. The report of the successful meeting with Zora did little to cheer them up. As yet Zora had been able to do nothing; the turmoil caused by Doreen’s discovery made it unthinkable to approach Pietro in any way.

For several days Roy was in a miserable state of mind. The professor spent practically all of his time in the workshop, and Roy felt absolutely useless as an adjunct to the group. What made him feel still worse was the fact that he was being studiously ignored by Thelda. She addressed him pleasantly enough when he saw her, it was true. But he found it impossible to engage her in conversation alone. She always made some excuse to get away, and the little intimate talks in which they had engaged on the first day could not be repeated. After the fifth day he became morose and uncommunicative, spending the greater part of his time in the Pioneer. Little as he saw of the professor, he spoke very little to him when he did see him.

Finally the professor, busy as he was, noticed this, and took Roy to task one night when he returned to his sleeping quarters. “Roy,” he said, “do not let this thing break your spirit. What is tormenting you anyhow?”

“Well, for one thing,” was the response, “I am about as much use around here as two tails would be to a dog. Why was I ever chosen for this expedition?”

“That is not the only trouble with you, my boy. Do not think that I am unaware of your love for the little leader of this group. And do not feel discouraged at her actions. The little girl is aware of your feelings towards her, and is only taking some time to make up her mind as to what to do about you. I have observed her closely several times, and am confident that your feelings are reciprocated and that all will be well. Give her a little time, and do not give up hope. As to your uselessness; what is anyone else in the group doing? Outside of my own efforts, in which I do not now need your help, the only other work for the cause is being done by Zora. I am becoming much worried at her silence. We have only slightly over a week left. So forget your grouch, my boy. Get a good night’s sleep, and you will feel better in the morning.”

Acting upon the professor’s advice, Roy turned in. In the morning he stepped out of the Pioneer with more confidence than he had felt in several days. If he could only get out into the sunshine, he knew that we would feel different.

(continue to part 9)

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