Tom Swift and His Giant Telescope/1
The New Project 
Tom Swift appeared to be calm, although in reality he was about as excited over his latest invention as he ever had been about anything in his life.
"I'm sure it's going to work, Ned!" he said eagerly to his chum as they neared Tom's private laboratory. "With my new device I hope to learn more about the planets. I want to start soon--"
"Listen here!" broke in Ned Newton. "If you're thinking of going to Mars or the moon, just count me out! I've gone with you to many strange places and have never kicked. But this--"
"Hold on, young fellow!" interrupted the youthful inventor with an amused chuckle. "I've nothing like that in mind YET! All I want to do is show you my new 'space eye.'"
"Can't say as I like that word 'yet,'" Ned muttered darkly. "But I'll take a look at your new jigger if you'll promise not to shoot me through space in a rocket or cannon-ball!"
"Word of honor I won't," promised Tom, crossing his heart with mock solemnity. "Well, here we are."
The two boys had reached the laboratory, a small building at the rear of the spacious lawn surrounding Tom's father's home and close to the extensive work of the Swift Manufacturing Company at Shopton.
"I'll bet these shelves have more scientific apparatus on 'em than any other shelves in the world," remarked Ned, as his chum opened the door.
Various cabinets containing hundreds of chemicals stood about. Against one wall was a huge transformer, from which the youthful scientist, Tom Swift, could draw almost any kind of electric current he might desire.
"Here goes!" said the young inventor.
He rolled back a small rug in the middle of the floor to expose a massive steel trap door. This he unlocked by twirling the dial of a complicated mechanism. Some years before Tom had constructed beneath his laboratory an impregnable chamber to safeguard his secret plans. He called it his Chest of Secrets, and guarded it well.
Even Ned Newton, Tom's closest friend and business associate, did not know the entire contents of the massive vault. Only Tom and his father were aware of all the inventions concealed there.
"Some of these inventions must not be known to the world in its present state," the elder man had said.
One of them was the terrible electric death-ray, capable of destroying anything in its path. Only if the United States should be invaded by an enemy power, would this be revealed.
"Here it is," said Tom, joining his chum after a few minutes spent in the vault.
He was carrying a small wooden box which he placed on the desk and opened. If Ned, as he leaned over eagerly, expected to see anything astonishing he was disappointed. Resting on the velvet lining was simply a round disk of a greenish substance perhaps six inches in diameter. This was mounted in a gleaming metal ring from the edges of which there projected five electric binding posts.
"Funny kind of an eye," observed Ned. "You can't even see through it."
"You'll soon see through it, all right," retorted Tom, laying the disk on his desk and connecting four dry cells to the binding posts. He placed a small rheostat in the circuit so that the strength of the current might be regulated.
Slowly he moved the little handle over the graduated dial. A minute passed during which, so far as Ned could see, nothing happened. Without warning the green crystal suddenly glowed brightly for a fraction of a second, then could not be seen at all. The polished ring of metal in which it had been mounted alone remained.
"It's gone!" cried Ned in bewilderment. "I can see your desk top right through where it was!"
"No," smiled the inventor, "it's still there as you'll find if you try to poke your finger through the metal ring."
A trifle gingerly his chum extended his hand toward the circle of metal. Though Tom had assured him that the little disk was still in place, Ned was unable to repress a start when his finger touched a cool, polished surface which his eyes told him could not be there.
"Say, that's wonderful!" he exclaimed, staring at the invisible substance with awe. "That stuff must be a hundred times more transparent than the finest plate glass!"
"Yes, and more," said Tom. "But that's not the most wonderful feature of the new substance."
"Well, it's difficult to explain. Even now I know very little about it. I can tell you WHAT it can do, but the WHY is still as much of a mystery as ever. Briefly, this new element, or maybe it's a compound, I'm not sure which, reacts in a very strange manner to light. Let me show you. That'll beat any long-winded theory I could spout."
Going to the door, Tom called in his giant servant Koku, who once had been a prince in his own far-off savage land, before Tom Swift had brought him to Shopton.
"What want, Master?" came a deep-toned reply, as the huge dark-skinned man, who stood a trifle over eight feet in height, entered.
"Just carry outside that telescope there in the corner," requested Tom, pointing to the instrument. "Better be careful; it's a bit heavy."
"Not heavy for Koku," boomed the giant. "Liftum in one hand!"
Though it was not a large instrument as telescopes go, this one, with the massive iron pier upon which it was mounted, weighed not far from four hundred pounds. When Koku clamped his mighty hand about the stand he seemed to lift it as easily as a boy might raise a baseball bat or a golf club.
"I'll never get used to his strength," murmured Ned as the boys followed the giant through the laboratory door, Tom carrying his marvelous green disk.
"He is a big boy, for fair," laughed Tom. "Lucky for our prize-fighters he hasn't gone into the ring."
After carefully placing the telescope where the inventor directed, Koku returned to the bench under a near-by apple tree where it was his wont to rest when he was not needed.
"Now what, Tom?" questioned Ned. "Surely you're not expecting to see stars in broad daylight?"
"Oh, no, though it could be done," returned Tom, pointing the instrument toward the crest of a wooded hill several miles distant from Shopton. "Now we're ready. Take a peek."
"Well," said Ned, peering into the eyepiece, "all I see are a few trees."
"Just stand by," directed his friend, clamping his green disk over the front lens, or objective, of the telescope and turning on the current. As before, the green stuff seemed to vanish. "Now, look again," he said.
No sooner had Ned put his eye to the instrument than he gave a start. "It's magic!" he exclaimed. "Why, that hill seems as if it were right here and the view is much brighter. I can see every leaf on the trees and--yes! even a bird's nest and the little birds in it!"
"Now maybe you have an idea as to how I propose to discover the secret of life on the planets," responded Tom calmly.
"The secret? What do you mean? Surely you don't expect to see men on Mars!"
"I mean to build a telescope with a space eye big enough and powerful enough to do it!" The young inventor's face lit up with a strange light. "It's the greatest thing yet, Ned!"