Page:Weird Tales volume 36 number 01.djvu/14

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28
 
WEIRD TALES

the audio to Chief Engineer Garrity, and that was that. He relaxed. The skipper said nervously, "Is—is that all?"

"That's all, sir," said Biggs.

The Old Man looked dubious.

"I don't hear nothing unusual," he said.

"You will in a minute," said Biggs. "Ah! There it goes now?"

And darned if it didn't! One minute my ears hummed with the familiar drone of the hypatomics, the next, a weird and piercing whine rose in high, shrill crescendo, torturing our ear-drums for a brief instant until it lost itself in an oblivion of super-sonic inaudibility.

That was all. No moment of oppressive weight as if we were lifting gravs at extra gees, no thunderous bellow of rockets, no anything. The ship rode easily, freely. I must have looked disappointed. To Biggs I said, "Too bad, sir."

"Eh, Sparks?"

"Too bad it didn't work," I said.

Biggs chuckled.

"But it did work, Sparks. We're now traveling at a speed in excess of five hundred million miles per hour!"

Cap Hanson gulped and looked green. "F-five-—?"

"That's right, sir. If you don't believe me take a peek through the viewpanes."

I moved to the fore-wall, slid back the metal slide that covered the quartzite viewpane. Space lay before us—but what space! Not the dark, velvety pall, brightly agleam with an infinitude of starry jewels, that all spacemen know. This was a blotched, striped crazy-quilt of color! Crimson, ochre, emerald—all the hues of the rainbow, of the Aurora. It was beautiful in a mad, fantastic way; there was a faery, magic loveliness to that swift-streaming space that fascinated and at the same time drilled me with dread.

Hanson's eyes bulged, and his voice was fearful.

"We—we've done it again, Biggs! Busted clean out of our universe into something else!"

"No, sir. This is our universe. But we are seeing it as no man has ever seen it before. Our speed is so great that we are seeing the 'landmarks' of space with a distorted viewpoint. Our relationship—or I should say relativity—is no longer to Earth, or any of its sister planets, but to the Greater Constant, the fundamental motion of the universe itself.

"Thus, at one and the same. time, we see the planets as they are and as they were; they are no longer mere points in space, they are streaks of color." And he grinned. "The stars, too. Pretty, aren't they?"

Cap Hanson made weak motions at the viewpane.

"Close it, Sparks! It's giving me the meemies! So if you're right, Biggs—then what? How do we know when we get to Uranus, or near it? If it's just a streak of color?"

"You must reconcile yourself to an entirely new system of astrogation. Up to this time, pilots have just jetted along until they found their goal, then set course for a landing. But with the V-I unit in operation, we 'fly blind' and set our course by strict, mathematical figuring. I have given Mr. Todd a plot-chart. Four days hence when I cut out the V-I unit and return to normal operation on the hypos, we will find Uranus immediately beneath us. And now, if you'll excuse—"

"Wait a minute!" said the skipper. "Suppose we was to meet up with something in space? Like a rogue asteroid?"

Biggs shrugged.

"That hazard is neither heightened nor decreased," he said. "Our monitor-beams will still shunt off the smaller ones. As for the larger—well, you know as well as I that we have never yet found a method of overcoming that danger. It is one of the chances we take when we don space