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   Chapter 10 No.10

Astounding Stories of Super-Science, March 1930 By Various Characters: 5523

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


he terrible days of the Gray Plague ended in mystery. Much that had puzzled the world, Parkinson, with his Venerian knowledge, explained; but there was one thing, the final, enigmatical act in the strange drama, that was as much of a mystery to him as it was to the rest of the world.

Enigma! Of what significance, of what portent-who could tell?

When the great vessel from the United States, equipped to destroy the meteor of the Venetians, neared the great thoque sphere, they came upon a scene quite different from what they had expected. Parkinson, who was on the ship, was more surprised than the rest, for he had definite knowledge of what, in the natural course of events, they should see. For the others there was nothing so very strange in what they saw; Parkinson had lied, that was all.

When the bacteriologist had left the meteor, there had been a high, bronze-colored tower, a burnished lighthouse, covering its entire top. It had been there-but now it was gone! Only the jagged, arched surface of the meteor remained.

They lowered boats and rowed to the strange island. There they saw something that filled them-Parkinson especially-with a very definite uneasiness. The entire top of the meteor was a twisted, fire-blasted mass of bronze-like metal. Where the tower had been, where the shaft had led into the remarkable interplanetary vehicle, there was now a broken expanse of thoque that flashed fire under the rays of the sun.

Something seemed to have melted, to have fused the tower, until it had crumpled, and had run, filling the entrance of the meteor. There was irrefutable evidence to that effect; no one thought otherwise.

But what agency had done this strange thing?

Someone suggested that it might have been the work of some prearranged mechanism. Parkinson shook his head. Had such been the case, his Venerian knowledge would have told him so.

Obviously, nothing of Earth had done it, nothing of Earth-then something of Venus! Inconclusive conjecture, perhaps, but no other explanation offered itself. Something had sealed the contents of the meteor from the sight of man, something with a purpose. From Venus? The thought was logical, to say the least.

Not for long did they remain there beside the Venerian vehicle; there was naught for them to do, so they turned about and headed toward the United States. They bore tidings that were vaguely disturbing, tidings that none were glad to hear. For, according to all indications, something alien to Earth was still within her confines.

* * *

ehind it all-the meteors, the Plague, the sealing of the Venerian vehicle-is one fact of great significance. No longer is man alone in the universe; no longer is he in isolation! Out of space came a menace, an i

ntelligence striving to wrest from him his right to rule over Earth. No longer can man in his smug complacency think of himself as being secure in his strength. He has been shown the utter folly of such thinking.

The menace-the invaders from Venus-came, and were destroyed, their purposes defeated. Yet-in the vast reaches of space, in worlds of other dimensions, in the cosmic crucible of life that embodies all creation, there may be other forms of life, other menaces, hovering clouds of death, preparing to sweep down upon Earth to snuff out her life. Who can tell?

And who may say that man is free from the Venerian danger? The strange sealing of the meteor implies that the menace is still present. Who knows but what those inhuman Venerian brutes may even now be planning some new invasion, may be preparing to renew their attack upon Earth?

Time alone will tell.

* * *

ROBOT PILOTS FOR AIRCRAFT

erfection of an automatic mechanical piloting mechanism for airplanes has been achieved after several years of experiment at the royal aircraft establishment of Farnborough.

The apparatus has been successfully tried out on various types of planes-two-seater day bombers, large twin-engine night bombers and big flying boats. Its use as a second or relief pilot on long distance flights by Royal Air Force machines is now being considered.

In every test the robot pilot has steered an accurate course for hours at a time and over distances up to 400 miles while human members of the crew have been concerned with other duties.

The basis of the mechanical pilot is a gyroscope that controls pistons connected with the rudder and elevators of the plane. These pistons are actuated by compressed air.

Once a course is set the robot pilot keeps the machine on that route and errors of even a fraction of a degree are instantly and automatically detected and corrected. All the human pilot has to do in a plane so equipped is to take off and land the machine.

The Pilot's Assister is the official name of the new English device. It weighs about 120 pounds.

Flights have been made with the mechanical pilot in all sorts of weather. In dense fog and clouds, when a human pilot would have found it almost impossible to maintain straight or level flight because of the absence of any visible horizon by which to steer, the mechanical pilot flew the plane with absolute accuracy. On one test flight the automatic pilot steered a dead true course from Farnborough in South England, to Newcastle, 270 miles farther north. The human pilot did not touch the controls until it was necessary to land the plane at the destination.

* * *

Hans and I hauled out the heavy casket.

Jetta of the Lowlands

Conclusion

By Ray Cummings

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