Read Captain Future 09 - Quest Beyond the Stars (Winter 1942) Online

Authors: Edmond Hamilton

Tags: #Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Captain Future 09 - Quest Beyond the Stars (Winter 1942)

 

 

 

#9 Winter 1942

 

Introduction

 

A Complete Book-Length Scientifiction Novel

Quest Beyond the Stars

by Edmond Hamilton

Ride With Curt Newton, the world’s greatest space-farer, and the Futuremen as they leave the known star trails to penetrate the source of cosmic rays, the very core of the universe!

 

 

 

Radio Archives • 2012

Copyright Page

 

Copyright © 1942 by Better Publications, Inc. © 2012 RadioArchives.com. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form.

 

 

These pulp stories are a product of their time. The text is reprinted intact, unabridged, and may include ethnic and cultural stereotyping that was typical of the era.

 

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ISBN 978-1610818384

Introduction

The original introduction to Captain Future as it appeared in issue #1

 

The Wizard of Science! Captain Future!

The most colorful planeteer in the Solar System makes his debut in this, America's newest and most scintillating scientifiction magazine — CAPTAIN FUTURE.

This is the magazine more than one hundred thousand scientifiction followers have been clamoring for! Here, for the first time in scientifiction history, is a publication devoted exclusively to the thrilling exploits of the greatest fantasy character of all time!

Follow the flashing rocket-trail of the
Comet
as the most extraordinary scientist of nine worlds have ever known explores the outposts of the cosmos to the very shores of infinity. Read about the Man of Tomorrow today!

Meet the companions of Captain Future, the most glamorous trio in the Universe!

Grag, the giant, metal robot; Otho, the man-made, synthetic android; and aged Simon Wright, the living Brain.

This all-star parade of the most unusual characters in the realm of fantasy is presented for your entertainment. Come along with this amazing band as they rove the enchanted space-ways — in each issue of CAPTAIN FUTURE!

 

Quest Beyond the Stars

A Complete Book-Length Scientifiction Novel

by Edmond Hamilton

 

Ride With Curt Newton, the world’s greatest space-farer, and the Futuremen as they leave the known star trails to penetrate the source of cosmic rays, the very core of the universe!

 

 

Chapter 1: Waning World

 

THE unchanging dusk of a dying planet reigned over the somberly silent city. The huge red orb of the Sun hung perpetually at the horizon, peering like a giant eye at the tragedy that was being enacted in this ancient metropolis of the little planet Mercury. Thin and cold was the air. It was so thin, indeed, that the lungs had to gulp it feverishly to secure enough oxygen to maintain life. And it was so dry that its touch seemed to wither the skin. Year by year, the air and water of the little world had failed, until now —

A pathetic parade was winding through the gleaming chromaloy towers of this city of the Twilight Zone. Mercurian men and women and children, swarthy small-statured people, clutched bundles of their most precious possessions as they dully shuffled toward the spaceport.

“Move along, please,” came the constant quiet urging of uniformed officers of the Planet Police.

The tragic-eyed marchers made no answer. And the throngs of their fellow Mercurians who lined the streets and watched them pass also maintained a dead silence in which an aching agony was implicit.

“Move along!”

The shuffling throng wound on to the edge of the big spaceport on which a score of mammoth, cigar-shaped space-liners lay waiting.

Then the heavy silence of tragedy was abruptly broken. A pallid Mercurian man in the forefront of the marchers, who had been leading his wife and two small children, suddenly stopped and turned.

“Why should we go?” he cried, his voice raw with desperation. “Why should we be the ones who have to leave our home world?”

A sad-eyed old man answered.

“We were chosen in the great lottery, Than Thabar. We must be the ones to migrate to Ganymede this time.”

“But why should
any
of us have to leave Mercury?” Than Thabar cried rebelliously. “Our ancestors have lived here for ages. We know no other world. Yet each few months, the System Government holds the accursed lottery that condemns thousands of us to migrate to distant Ganymede, to leave our native planet forever.”

An officer of the Planet Police, a handsome Venusian, hurried up. His face showed sympathy as he cautioned the desperate Mercurian.

“You can’t help feeling like that, I know,” the officer admitted. “But there’s no help for it. You know as well as I do that these migrations must continue, that the air and water of the planet are waning so constantly that it can support fewer and fewer people.”

Than Thabar was unappeased. He pointed agitatedly toward a group of massive cubical structures near the spaceport. They were immense buildings from which giant nozzles speared into the dusky sky.

“The artificial atmosphere-plants are still operating!” he declared. “They have for many generations kept our people from perishing, and they have not failed. There’s no reason for these forced migrations!”

 

HIS words were a spark in tinder, to the throng behind him. The Mercurian emigrants grasped at a last straw of hope that might save them from leaving their world. They took up Than Thabar’s cry, desperate for any chance to avoid the sundering of ancient ties.

“Than Thabar is right! The atmosphere plants are still operating and there’s no reason for forcing us to leave Mercury!”

“It’s all a scheme of the System Government — they want to have Ganymede colonized, so they — force us Mercurians to emigrate there by this excuse!”

Younger, wilder spirits raised a new cry.

“Let’s refuse to go! Let’s wreck those ships to show them we mean to stay here!”

A chorus of shouts roared approval. Not only the desperate migrants, but also their fellow Mercurians, who had gathered to watch the tragic exodus, now flamed into rebellion.

“No more migrants for Ganymede! Mercurians, hold together and do not let them force us from our world! Wreck the ships!”

The migrants dropped their bundles. Clubs and stones were snatched up and brandished as weapons. A few atom-guns appeared in the crowd. They began surging in a menacing tide of humanity toward the big spaceships parked out on the tarmac.

A thin line of Planet Police tried in vain to hold them back. The Venusian commander of the officers looked badly worried. He could not order his men to use their atom-guns on these people. Such an action would set Mercury aflame with revolt. Yet if he did not quell this mutiny, the orders of the System Government would be henceforth ignored.

“Mercurians, listen to me!” he cried to the shouting crowd. “You can’t do this. The decision of the Government —”

He was swept aside like a straw. The Mercurian crowd poured out onto the tarmac, bent on destroying the ships.

A single man was running toward the ships from a different direction, from the big atmosphere-plants west of the spaceport. He reached the ships first, and, with a bound, sprang up onto the stern of one of the craft and faced the coming crowd.

He was a striking figure, his tall, stalwart young form clad in a drab zipper-suit, his red hair bathed in the fierce brilliance of the brooding sun. That red hair marked him as an Earthman.

He cried out in a clear, ringing voice.

“Mercurians, do you want your wives and children to die?”

That question caught the crowd. These rebellious men were husbands and fathers. They stopped, looking up at the tall dauntless Earthman.

They saw a young man, whose bronzed, handsome face bore the Stamp of powerful intelligence, whose clear gray eyes possessed an earnest sincerity, whose magnetic quality held them.

“Do you want your families to die of asphyxiation and thirst?” the red-haired young Earthman repeated forcibly. “It’s what will happen if you halt the migrations ordered by the Government. There won’t be enough air or water on Mercury for all your people. Your weakest, the old and the very young, will be the first to die.”

The man Than Thabar, whose action had precipitated the mutiny, made answer.

“Why should that happen? The artificial atmosphere-plants are operating the same as they have always done in the past!”

The tall young Earthman shook his head vigorously.

“The plants are failing. They are failing for lack of sufficient raw materials.”

The red-head’s voice rang out.

“You ail know the peculiar problem of Mercury. You know that this little planet has such small mass and such consequent low velocity of escape for molecules of air that its atmosphere tends constantly to dissipate into space. That process has been counterbalanced by the atmosphere-plants that produce air and water synthetically from mineral oxides. But now the supply of available oxides on this planet is becoming exhausted.

“It is impractical to bring oxides from other planets. All the spaceships in the System could not bring enough. Therefore the only course possible at present is to remove part of your population to Ganymede until some way of increasing the artificial supply of air and water can be found. Then you can all return to Mercury.”

“How do we know that the System Government will ever find such a way?” demanded one still mutinous Mercurian.

“It is marshaling all its powers to solve that problem,” assured the Earthman earnestly. “We will find a way. I promise you that I will not rest until I have discovered the means of replenishing the exhausted atmosphere and hydrosphere of Mercury.”

“And who are you that your promise should mean anything to us?” skeptically cried one doubtful mutineer.

The tall young Earthman answered simply.

“My name is Curtis Newton. Some of you may have heard of me under another name, that of Captain Future.”

“Captain Future!”

It was a low cry of wonder that broke from the lips of the Mercurian throng. They stared up at the man whose tall figure stood outlined in the red blaze of the enormous Sun.

This man was one of the great mysteries of the Solar System. Everyone had heard of him, but few had seen him. Everyone had repeated tales of Captain Future’s incredible exploits as a scientist, as a space-farer, as the most audacious of all planeteers.

Everyone knew his name and that of the three strange Futuremen who were his comrades.

But probably never before had so large a throng heard him announce his identity. Wonder replaced their desperation for the moment. And Curt Newton took quick advantage of the opportunity.

“I came here to Mercury at the Government’s request, to try to find a way to revive its wasted atmosphere,” he told them earnestly. “Somehow, somewhere, I will find that way! And when I do, Mercury will live again, and you will all be able to return here.

“Until then,” he went on rapidly, “You must obey the orders of the Government. Those of you chosen for migration must go to Ganymede. You and your families will be safe there till you can return to Mercury.”

A doubtful silence reigned. The crowd looked up at the man who had just made that promise. And something in Captain Future’s strong face, something in his quiet gray eyes, convinced them.

“We will go, Captain Future.” It was Than Thabar who spoke. “We have heard of the great feats you have accomplished on other worlds and we know that you will keep your promise to revive Mercury.”

He turned to his companions.

“Come, men — we had better get aboard the ships.”

 

IN A half hour, all the migrants had embarked. The space-ships lifted one by one into the dusky heavens, and arrowed out into the void toward Jupiter’s moon to the echo of thundering rockets.

Curt Newton watched them depart from the side of the spaceport. He had been joined by a curious-looking individual who seemed a man of no known planetary race.

He was a lithe, rubbery-looking, white-skinned man with oddly slanted green eyes in a keen, mobile face. His head was quite hairless, and his voice made a curious hissing as he spoke anxiously to Curt.

“Chief, you were crazy to make that promise! Oh, it got them quieted down to promise them that you’d revive Mercury’s atmosphere, but how in the name of ten thousand sun-imps are you going to
do
it?”

“I wish I knew, Otho,” Curt answered ruefully. There was a quirk of humor in his gray eyes as he added, “It’s going to make a nice little problem.”

“A nice little problem!” groaned Otho. “Devil take such problems. Now we’ll have to sweat in laboratories and workshops when I had a jaunt to Pluto all planned.”

Otho was one of the Futuremen. He was almost the strangest of that strange group, for he was a synthetic man or android. Otho’s body had been created in the laboratory, long ago. He had mental genius of high type, he had physical skill and agility and swiftness beyond any human in the System, but he was different from other men.

He was different, and deep down in his mind he brooded over that basic difference. The gay, mocking humor, the devil-may-care recklessness of Otho, were a psychic shield for that brooding.

“How
can
you restore Mercury’s atmosphere?” he was expostulating. “You agreed with me that those atmosphere-plants can’t solve the problem — can’t produce enough synthetic air or water for lack of oxides.”

“Yes, that’s so,” Curt Newton admitted, gazing thoughtfully across the dusky spaceport. “There aren’t enough oxides in the System to provide Mercury with synthetic air and water for an indefinite time.”

“Then where are you going to get your air and water for this world?” Otho demanded exasperatedly. “You can’t make matter out of nothing!”

Curt’s gray eyes suddenly gleamed.

“No, you can’t make matter out of nothing,” he muttered slowly. “Or — can you?”

He turned, pulling the bewildered android with him across the tarmac to a small space-ship parked at its farthest edge.

“Otho, you’ve given me an idea. We’re going home at once to consult Simon and Grag. I think I have a glimmer of the answer.”

“Where
is
that answer, then?” Otho demanded puzzledly.

Curt pointed into the dusky sky.

“Out there, Otho — out beyond everything we know, if I’m right. Out where even we have never ventured before! Come on — we’re rocketing home in a hurry!”

 

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