Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"The Golden Girl of Munan" by Harl Vincent, part 9

This is the ninth installment of "The Golden Girl of Munan", the first published story by pioneering science fiction writer Harl Vincent; the first eight installments can be found here, 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 travel to Munan in Nilsson's newly-designed areo, the Pioneer, 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 while Roy frets at his enforced idleness . . .


Meanwhile, Zora had been having her troubles. She dared not approach Pietro directly, for this would be certain to arouse his suspicion. Instead, she carried on her work in the Zar’s household as usual. Evenings, attired in the most attractive gowns and looking her absolute best, she frequented the hotel, where she knew that Pietro was accustomed to dine. On the third evening he encountered her in the lobby and stopped at once. A change in expression came over his cruel face, the admiration and tenderness in his demeanor made him appear, for the moment, almost human. As he addressed her, Zora did something she had not done for years. She greeted him civilly and with a half smile. Thus encouraged, Pietro begged her to dine with him. Not wishing to overdo her part, she refused, but after an hour’s insistent pleading on his part, she compromised and agreed to meet him for dinner the following evening. With triumph in his eyes, Pietro left her. She returned to her apartment, there to do a little gloating on her own part. It had not been a bad night’s work, she thought.

The following evening Zora appeared at Pietro’s hotel, ravishingly gowned, and a picture of mature beauty from the top of her exquisitely coiffured head to the soles of her modishly shod feet. Pietro was speechless with admiration at first, but eventually recovered his equanimity and proudly led her to his table in the dining room.

Dinner was a success. Zora was friendly, but not too much so. Pietro was as if enchanted by his companion’s nearness. He was exultant, too, and pressed his advantage to the utmost. He begged her to accompany him to the opera after dinner, but she refused. She cleverly turned the conversation to the subject nearest and dearest to his vain soul; his high position in Munan, and the arsenal of which he had complete command. Zora feigned great interest when he boastingly told of the importance of his work, and insinuatingly, she flattered him until, in his vanity, he finally offered to take her to the arsenal and show her through it. This was the identical thing for which Zora had maneuvered, but she did not display too great enthusiasm and consented to visit his stronghold the next evening only after considerable persuasion from him. Pietro informed her that he could do her no greater honor; that he was risking his position, perhaps even his life, in thus violating the strict order of the Zar that no outsider was ever to be admitted to the arsenal. He thought that, in thus impressing upon her the risk he was running for her sake, she would reward him by further softening in her attitude towards him. Little did he realize the purpose behind her acceptance of his offer. Little did he realize that he had been tricked into making this offer.

Next night Zora appeared at the hotel as usual, but this time she had with her and hidden in her clothes, the hand weapon which the professor had given her, as well as the crysinum receptacle which he had sent. After dining with Pietro she was taken to a small aero, which left from a landing stage on the roof of the hotel. In a few minutes they had reached the gates of the arsenal, where they were stopped by two huge guards who menaced them with leveled weapons. At a curt nod from Pietro, they lowered the weapons and allowed the two to pass, muttering disapproval. With a growl, Pietro warned them to be silent, on pain of death, and with that they entered.

Now was Zora’s opportunity, and she used all the feminine wiles at her command to further put the braggart at her side under her spell. She succeeded admirably, for Pietro took her from one end of the arsenal to the other, explaining to her eager ears all that was seen. Finally they had completed their inspection of all the buildings on the surface and Zora’s heart fluttered wildly as they neared a blank metal wall at the far end of the remotest building. Hesitating for a moment as they faced the wall, Pietro was about to turn around and leave. Something had told Zora that the secret for which she had searched was hidden behind that blank wall, and for a moment she leaned her body close to Pietro, the fragrance of her breath on his face, her eyes bright with expectancy. With a shrug of decision, Pietro took a small instrument from his pocket and placed it close to the metal wall. There was a stream of crackling blue fire between the instrument and the wall and suddenly, before their eyes, the partition had vanished, disclosing a spiral of steps cut into the solid rock and leading downward. He produced a light and again presented the instrument to the point where the metal wall had shut off. Again the crackling flame and the wall was in place, closing them off completely from the room they had just quitted.

As they descended the winding steps Zora counted them carefully while Pietro was informing her, with the greatest solemnity, of the unheard-of privilege she was being accorded. Only five persons in all Munan knew of the whereabouts of this hiding place, he told her. Only the Zar and he were in possession of means of entry, and his life would surely be the penalty were the Zar to learn of this visit. In convincing words, Zora assured him that she would never divulge the fact of the visit to a soul in Munan, making the mental reservation that the professor was not of Munan, therefore that she could tell him without breaking this promise. After counting one hundred and thirty-two steps, Zora followed Pietro into a huge cavern similar to their own council chamber but much larger. Here were stored the nearly two million crysinum bombs, and a vat of the liquid which they contained. Here was the chance for which Zora had worked. She must not fail! Pietro told her of the terrible effectiveness of the bombs, and of the difficulty in producing the liquid content. With the fanatical fluency of the Zarist, he expanded upon the conquest of The Outside which was so soon to come.

While he talked, his greedy eyes devoured her and suddenly, with no warning, he had leaped to her like a wild animal and, extinguishing the light he carried, had her in his arms and was crushing her to him with brutal strength. Zora struggled frantically and finally squirmed into a position where she was able to withdraw the professor’s weapon from the folds of her gown. Breathlessly she held it against Pietro’s writing body and pressed the button. There was a purple flare which lighted the entire cavern momentarily, and Zora lost consciousness!

(continue to part 10)

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