Thursday, September 10, 2009

"The Golden Girl of Munan" by Harl Vincent, part 10

This is the tenth installment of "The Golden Girl of Munan", the first published story by pioneering science fiction writer Harl Vincent; the first nine installments can be found here, 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. Zora succeeds in her mission, but falls unconscious while defending herself from an over-amorous military officer . . .


The eighth day had passed and still no word from Zora. The group was becoming panic-stricken and the professor, although deeply worried and heartsick himself, was endeavoring to calm and reassure them. For three days the members of the group who lived in the city had been unable to learn of Zora’s whereabouts. She had not been seen, either at her apartment or at the Zar’s palace during that time. Further than this, it had been reported this last day that Pietro had disappeared, and the authorities were at this moment searching for him. A strange woman had been seen to enter the arsenal grounds with him, but neither had been observed to leave. Possibly, even now, the authorities were searching underground passages for the two. The situation had never seemed more serious.

Roy had been avoiding Thelda for several days, as she had avoided him, though it hurt him greatly to do this. Now, in this hour of darkness, she turned to him for comfort and he was overjoyed. They were seated apart from the remainder of the group in solemn conversation, when all were startled by the shrill cry of a feminine voice from the passage and Zora, haggard, worn, and bedraggled, burst in upon them. Thrusting a small metal cylinder into the professor’s hand, she cried, “Here is the sample,” and collapsed in a heap at his feet. Tenderly he lifted her limp body and, in sudden abandon, pressed his lips to hers. Realizing that he had betrayed himself, he flushed to the roots of his hair, relinquished her to the women, and rushed off to the workshop with the crysinum cylinder which she had handed to him.

No time was to be lost as the excitement in the city might well lead to their detection. Frenziedly the professor worked in the laboratory, with Roy and Landon drafted as assistants. At last Roy was doing something to help and he was happier than he had been since the first day. Soon Thelda came to the workshop with Zora, who had been revived by the kind administrations of the women of the group. With a fond glance at the professor, who returned it with some embarrassment, she told her story:

“Professor, you must go right ahead with your work,” she started, “for I am a hunted woman now and there is a chance that we may be discovered, though I am pretty sure that I left no trace in coming here. It was necessary for me to dispose of seven Munanese with your marvelous weapon, but as they are utterly destroyed, leaving no tell-tale bodies, the chances that my escape can be traced are fairly remote. If no others saw me, we are safe.”

With great rapidity, she told her story up to the point where she had struggled with Pietro in the underground storeroom. All listened intently while the professor proceeded with the first test of the deadly fluid.

Great was the care with which he handled the small cylinder which Zora had brought. He spread on the floor a sheet of crysinum about four feet square, then directed Roy and Landon to bring him as large a loose stone as they could carry from one of the passageways. The two men struggled back with a block of stone between them which must have weighed close to two hundred pounds. This they deposited on the sheet of crysinum in the center of the room. All stood aloof at the professor’s bidding as, carefully, he allowed one drop of the precious liquid to fall on the surface of the rock. As it struck, there was a slight puff of yellow vapor at the point of contact. They watched in astonishment as the vapor quickly surrounded the stone with a venomous sputtering. Immediately the rock began to shrink in size and, in less time than it takes to tell, the large piece of solid granite had completely vanished, leaving not a trace on the surface of the glistening crysinum sheet.

The onlookers let forth a simultaneous gasp as the last of the rock disappeared, looking at each other in wondering realization that the properties of this fluid had not been exaggerated in the slightest degree. Zora, as soon as she had recovered from the surprise of the sight, continued with her story, and the professor went on with his experiments:

“When I recovered consciousness in the underground chamber, I realized that I had lain there for a long time. Now I know that it was for nearly seventy-two hours. I remembered what had occurred. Hearing no sound, I felt around for Pietro’s body, but could not find it. However, I found his torch and, as it flooded the cavern with light, I saw that there was no body in sight. Near the spot where I had lain in a coma, I found all of the metal articles his pockets had contained, including the instrument with which he had obtained entrance to the spiral stair. I could not then understand what had become of him – whether he was still alive and had left of his own accord, or whether his dead body had been removed by others. At any rate, I did not forget what I had come for and, advancing to the open vat of the deadly liquid, I filled the little crysinum cylinder carefully.

“Then I approached the instrument which had belonged to Pietro and cautiously crept up the spiral stair. When I reached the metal wall, I listened intently, but could hear no sound. Placing the instrument near the wall, as I had seen Pietro do, I located a small switch or push-button on its side. This catch I pressed. As had occurred when we entered, the crackling flame appeared and the wall vanished. I stepped into the room through which we had passed, and found it deserted. It was still night and I extinguished Pietro’s light. With a palpitating heart, I traversed the length of the building and stepped into the open air. Keeping in the shadows as much as I could, I finally came to the gates without having been discovered. My problem now was to get out, and I racked my brain for some means of doing so. Only the two guards were in sight and they paced to and fro before the locked metal gates. Finally I tiptoed close to the bars and addressed the nearest guard softly. He drew over to the gate, and I tried to convince him that Pietro had sent me out alone. He called the other guard at once and both leveled their weapons at me. There was nothing for me to do but point your weapons at each in turn and press the button. As a purple ray shot forth twice in rapid succession, both bodies stiffened, emitted a purple aura for a moment, and disappeared into thin air as we have just seen that stone vanish. Now I understood what had become of Pietro and I was glad – glad. It is horrible to feel that way, but I could not help it.

“Luckily the nearest guard had been very close to the gate, for, with his disintegration, there fell to the ground the bunch of keys which had swung from his belt. These were within my reach and, thrusting my arms through the bars, I obtained them and let myself out, re-locking the gates behind me. As I ran down the hill from the arsenal, I plunged straight into the arms of four of the Zar’s police. Eluding them, I continued at the greatest speed of which I was capable. Apparently they wanted to capture me alive, for they did not discharge their weapons. The first gained on me, then the second and third, and in turn I was forced to dispose of them with the disintegrating ray. I had become exhausted, but I kept on running until I reached the entrance to our retreat. I thought that I had lost my fourth pursuer but, just as the stone swung aside for my entrance, he crept up on me from the underbrush. That was when you heard me scream. Luckily, I was able to get the professor’s weapon into action again and I disposed of him as I had the others.” She shuddered at the memory of the wholesale slaughter.

All were much excited over this story, especially the professor, but the two women left at once so as to permit the professor and his two assistants to continue with their work.

Zora’s narrative was later repeated to the assembled council, who now numbered but nineteen, excluding the three men who were hard at work. Several had been killed that day in the city, during the excitement which followed the discovery of Pietro’s disappearance and of the open entrance to the secret vault under the arsenal. The disappearance of the two guards and four of the Zar’s police had given the impression that a great conspiracy was under way, and the Zar was executing suspects right and left. The professor would indeed have to hurry.

(continue to part 11)

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