Saturday, October 3, 2009

"The War of the Planets" by Harl Vincent, part 13

This is the thirteenth and final installment of "The War of the Planets", the third published story by Harl Vincent and a sequel to his first story, "The Golden Girl of Munan". It originally appeared in the January 1929 issue of Amazing Stories magazine and has not seen the light of day since. The first twelve installments can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

As we join our story, twenty years have passed since Professor Nilsson, Roy Hamilton, and the nineteen survivors of the destruction of the island of Munan settled in New York City. Thelda Serano has married Hamilton, while her friend Zora has married Nilsson, and the two couples have one child each, Walter Hamilton and Dorothy Nilsson.

The earth has just weathered an attack by a fleet of spaceships from Venus led by Mador, last of the Munanese. The cities of Cincinnati, Youngstown, Houston, and San Diego have been destroyed, while Staten Island and Brooklyn were damaged during a final all-out assault on New York City. Professor Nilsson, Roy, and Walter have returned home to Manhattan see how their loved ones have fared . . .


When the three adventurers burst into Roy's apartment they found three solemn-faced women sitting before the videophone. But, on seeing them, the three women rose as one and, with cries of joy, rushed to the arms of their men. It was a joyous sextet that evening and tears gave way to laughter and merriment. The happiness of the parents was no greater than that of the two younger membes of the party. And then and there consent was given and arrangements made for the marriage of Walter and Dorothy.

Secretary Miller called the professor to the videophone and advised him that the President wished him to appear in Washington on the following day with his two companions. He hinted at a reward for their services, but the professor laughingly protested and asked only to be left alone with his family and friends until the next day. This was agreed to with good natured banter on the part of the Secretary, and the professor returned to the rest of the group.

The women's description of the battle as seen from the city roofs was exceedingly interesting to the men, who had viewed it only from above. The concussions had been so terrific when experienced from below that many of the thick skylights over the upper ways were broken by the numerous shocks. The three air liners destroyed five of the enemy craft altogether and returned safely to their berths. But where the fourth had fallen, its machinery paralyzed by the power radiated from the enemy ship it had neared, great damage was done. The apartments of fully five hundred families were destroyed in its crash down through the city structure and the lives of six hundred citizens in addition to those of its own crew of one hundred and fifty had been snuffed out. On Staten Island nearly eight hundred had lost their lives during the brief time in which that portion of the city was subjected to the atomic storm. And the destruction of property in those few seconds was widespread, an area over a thousand feet in diameter having been torn down through fully fifteen of the upper levels of the city. Six levels of moving ways had been entirely paralyzed and were still not in operation.

After but little more than an hour's conversation the men became so wearied that they could scarcely remain awake. The reaction had set in and it was agreed that they must obtain sleep and plenty of it. Small wonder there was too, for the three had slept only in brief snatches during the preceding five days. So the party broke up at an early hour, the professor taking Zora and Dorothy with him to their own apartment.

Next day the professor was advised by Secretary Miller that the President expected him at the capitol at three P.M. with his two companions and their families. The professor notified Roy and the six met at the Washington Air Line terminal at one o'clock. There they were escorted with considerable ceremony and celebration to the great beam-lane ship that was to rush them to the world capitol.

At two forty-five they disembarked in Washington and were immediately ushered into the presence of the Terrestrial President in his own private office. He personally thanked the men for their work and told them of the meeting that was called for three o'clock in the assembly hall of the Capitol building. They left for this meeting, not knowing what to expect, and were completely astonished when the President led them out to the center of the platform facing an audience of fully fifty thousand people.

Upon their entrance the audience jumped to its feet and the auditorium resounded to the din of the clapping, cheering, and whistling. All about them on the stage were the high officials of the Terrestrial Government, including the Secretaries of all Departments and the Vice Presidents of the European, Asian, African, and South American Divisions. It was a great reception and it was with much confusion for them and with many more cheers from the crowd that the visitors were led to their seats.

* * *

When order was restored, the President stepped to the speaker's desk before the General News Bureau videophone and addressed the two audiences, those present in the auditorium and the vastly greater audience watching and listening to the proceedings in private and public videos all over the world:

"People of the world," he began, "we have assembled today to give honor and thanks to Professor Nilsson and his able assistants, Roy and Walter Hamilton, for their work in saving our civilization from untold disaster -- possibly from complete destruction. It is just twenty years since the professor and Roy Hamilton saved the world from the equally serious menace of the inhabitants of Munan. They were not sufficiently recognized or honored at that time, but it is our intention to make up for it now as well as is possible. I will ask the three heroes of the War of the Planets to step to the desk so that you can all view them at close range."

Roy, Walter, and the professor approached the President in great embarrassment, standing before the large disc of the videophone and directly facing the visible audience. Again the hall rang with the plaudits of those within. The professor fidgeted and fussed. Roy and Walter appeared nervous and ill at ease. But Dorothy hugged her mother and Thelda in her glee.

"Now, ladies and gentlemen," the President continued, "I shall get down to cases. Kardos, the commander of the captured enemy ship, has finally been induced to talk. He has told us many things and from his revelations it is certain that further warlike moves against us are planned by the people of Venus. His story of the machinations and plottings of Mador and the Munanese he brought with him to Venus would make your blood curdle. Further than this Kardos assures us that Mars is inhabited by intelligent creatures and that they are also in league with the people of Venus and are planning an expedition of conquest to our fair planet.

"For nearly five centuries there has been no war on our earth. Therefore no Department of War has been necessary in our unified government. But we have today organized a new Department of Defense -- a department to investigate conditions on the two planets named and to prepare our world to defend itself against any attacks which might be made by them. I hereby appoint Professor Nilsson as Secretary of Terrestrial Defense."

The professor gazed in open-mouthed wonder, while the crowd again went wild with joy.

"Do you accept, Professor?" asked the President.

"Why -- I guess so -- and thank you for the unexpected honor," he stammered.

Zora beamed with pride and Dorothy could scarcely be kept to her seat, so great was her enthusiasm and anticipation.

"Next we come to that brave lad, Walter Hamilton," continued the President. "He it was who thought of the old book wherein he had read of the ancient experiements with material similar to that of which the hulls of the enemy vessels were composed. He it was who obtained this information for the professor, thus making possible the development of the apparatus with which those vessels were destroyed. I hereby present Walter with the highest honor which our Terrestrial Government can bestow upon a private citizen, the Medal of Distinguished Accomplishment."

Once more the hall rang with applause as Walter, blushing to the roots of his hair, stood close while the President pinned to the breast of his coat the coveted decoration. Needless to say, Dorothy was starry-eyed in her joy at this presentation.

"Thank you, Mr. President," said Walter, suddenly finding that his hands had grown unaccountably large and very much in the way. Thrusting them into his pockets, he grinned and shifted from one foot to the other.

"And last, but by no means least," said the President, "we come to Roy Hamilton, Walter's father. It was he who was called to Munan a score of years ago by the golden voice of the woman who is now his helpmate and the mother of his son, whom we have just honored. His work with Professor -- I should say, Secretary -- Nilsson at that time, as in the present case of the War of the Planets showed great courage and the spirit of the soldier. I hereby present him also with the D. A. medal and, in addition, commission him to supervise the art work to be carried out in the building which is to be erected in Washington in memory of those who lost their lives in this, the first interplanetary war."

It was Roy's turn to be surprised and he stammered and flushed even more than had Walter. The commission was a big one and would make him independent for life in addition to increasing his prestige greatly.

"Thank you, sir," he said simply.

The President spoke again: "To conclude this ceremony I wish to extend the sincere gratitude of our entire world to these three. As to Secretary Nilsson -- his discretionary powers in the administration of the new Department are to be absolute and he has the entire resources of the Department of Scientific Research at his disposal, as well as the captured enemy ship. I do not wish to make any definite recommendations as to the personnel of his Department, but I feel that it will be greatly to his advantage if he retains Walter Hamilton as his personal assistant in the great work he is about to carry out. No doubt he will also find Roy Hamilton as loyal an ally and supporter in his new work as he has in the past."

The professor nodded vigorously. "You have taken the words out of my mouth, Mr. President," he said. "I had intended to ask your advice on the very point. My two dear friends shall always be with me."

He grasped the hands of both as pandemonium broke loose in the hall.

Dorothy's pride was manifest to everyone on the platform and when Walter returned to his seat her enthusiastic hugging and kissing of the much flustered youth sent all those dignified officials into raptures of delight.

When, a little later, the meeting broke up with wild demonstrations, Roy and the professor, with Thelda and Zora at their sides, stood in the wings, watching. Walter and Dorothy, all unmindful of the great men crowding about them, stood hand in hand, talking earnestly of the future. Pride in these two filled the hearts of the parents as they too spoke of the future and what it might hold in store for them all.


(continue to Taking Aim at "The War of the Planets")

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