Available as PDF, epub, and Kindle ebook downloads.
This book has 595 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1957-1961 (copyright was not renewed).
The Arcot, Morey, and Wade Trilogy is a trilogy of science fiction novels by John Wood Campbell, starring a trio of heroes, Arcot, Morey and Wade. This edition includes, The Black Star Passes, Islands of Space, and, Invaders from the Infinite. The author also wrote 'Who Goes There?' which was later adapted as the famous film, The Thing in 1982. He was the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, but held many views that distanced him from the science-fiction community, particularly those on race, slavery, and segregation.
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Production notes: This edition of The Arcot, Morey, and Wade Trilogy was published by Global Grey ebooks on the 20th April 2020, and updated on the 22nd March 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'Mountain at Night' by Niko Pirosmani.
High in the deep blue of the afternoon sky rode a tiny speck of glistening metal, scarcely visible in the glare of the sun. The workers on the machines below glanced up for a moment, then back to their work, though little enough it was on these automatic cultivators. Even this minor diversion was of interest in the dull monotony of green. These endless fields of castor bean plants had to be cultivated, but with the great machines that did the work it required but a few dozen men to cultivate an entire county.
The passengers in the huge plane high above them gave little thought to what passed below, engrossed with their papers or books, or engaged in casual conversation. This monotonous trip was boring to most of them. It seemed a waste of time to spend six good hours in a short 3,500 mile trip. There was nothing to do, nothing to see, except a slowly passing landscape ten miles below. No details could be distinguished, and the steady low throb of the engines, the whirring of the giant propellers, the muffled roar of the air, as it rushed by, combined to form a soothing lullaby of power. It was all right for pleasure seekers and vacationists, but business men were in a hurry.
The pilot of the machine glanced briefly at the instruments, wondered vaguely why he had to be there at all, then turned, and leaving the pilot room in charge of his assistant, went down to talk with the chief engineer.
His vacation began the first of July, and as this was the last of June, he wondered what would have happened if he had done as he had been half inclined to do—quit the trip and let the assistant take her through. It would have been simple—just a few levers to manipulate, a few controls to set, and the instruments would have taken her up to ten or eleven miles, swung her into the great westward air current, and leveled her off at five hundred and sixty or so an hour toward 'Frisco'. They would hold her on the radio beam better than he ever could. Even the landing would have been easy. The assistant had never landed a big plane, but he knew the routine, and the instruments would have done the work. Even if he hadn't been there, ten minutes after they had reached destination, it would land automatically—if an emergency pilot didn't come up by that time in answer to an automatic signal.
He yawned and sauntered down the hall. He yawned again, wondering what made him so sleepy.
He slumped limply to the floor and lay there breathing ever more and more slowly.
The officials of the San Francisco terminus of The Transcontinental Airways company were worried. The great Transcontinental express had come to the field, following the radio beam, and now it was circling the field with its instruments set on the automatic signal for an emergency pilot. They were worried and with good reason, for this flight carried over 900,000 dollars worth of negotiable securities. But what could attack one of those giant ships? It would take a small army to overcome the crew of seventy and the three thousand passengers!
The great ship was landing gently now, brought in by the emergency pilot. The small field car sped over to the plane rapidly. Already the elevator was in place beside it, and as the officials in the car drew up under the giant wing, they could see the tiny figure of the emergency pilot beckoning to them. Swiftly the portable elevator carried them up to the fourth level of the ship.
What a sight met their eyes as they entered the main salon! At first glance it appeared that all the passengers lay sleeping in their chairs. On closer examination it became evident that they were not breathing! The ear could detect no heartbeat. The members of the crew lay at their posts, as inert as the passengers! The assistant pilot sprawled on the floor beside the instrument panel—apparently he had been watching the record of the flight. There was no one conscious—or apparently living—on board!
“Dead! Over three thousand people!” The field manager's voice was hoarse, incredulous. “It's impossible—how could they have done it? Gas, maybe, drawn in through the ventilator pumps and circulated through the ship. But I can't conceive of any man being willing to kill three thousand people for a mere million! Did you call a doctor by radio, Pilot?”
“Yes, sir. He is on his way. There's his car now.”
“Of course they will have opened the safe—but let's check anyway. I can only think some madman has done this—no sane man would be willing to take so many lives for so little.” Wearily the men descended the stairs to the mail room in the hold.
The door was closed, but the lock of the door was gone, the magnesium-beryllium alloy burned away. They opened the door and entered. The room seemed in perfect order. The guard lay motionless in the steel guard chamber at one side; the thick, bullet-proof glass made his outlines a little blurred, and the color of his face was green—but they knew there too must be that same pallor they had seen on the other faces. The delicate instruments had brought in the great ship perfectly, but it was freighted with a cargo of dead!
They entered the room and proceeded to the safe, but it was opened as they had expected. The six-inch tungsto-iridium wall had been melted through. Even this unbelievable fact no longer surprised them. They only glanced at the metal, still too hot to touch, and looked about the room. The bonds had been taken. But now they noticed that over the mail-clerk's desk there had been fastened a small envelope. On it was printed:
To the Officials of the San Francisco Airport
Inside was a short message, printed in the same sharp, black letters:
This plane should land safely. If it doesn't, it is your fault, not mine, for the instruments that it carries should permit it. The passengers are NOT dead! They have been put in a temporary state of suspended animation. Any doctor can readily revive them by the injection of seven c.c. of decinormal potassium iodide solution for every 100 pounds of weight. Do NOT use higher concentrations. Lower concentrations will act more slowly.