- Author: Donald A. Wollheim
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[Transcriber note: Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]Cecile Matschat, Editor
Carl Carmer, Consulting Editor THE JOHN C. WINSTON COMPANY
Philadelphia Toronto Copyright, 1959
By Donald A. Wollheim FIRST EDITION Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 59-5328 Manufactured in the United States of America For—
Three denizens of this minor planet:
Eleanor, Bill, and of course Janet. Contents
The Mysterious Ninth World
Chapter 1. Special Delivery—by Guided Missile
Chapter 2. The Valley of Stolen Sunlight
Chapter 3. The Secret of A-G 17
Chapter 4. The Hidden Skyport
Chapter 5. Up the Rope of Space
Chapter 6. Sunward Ho!
Chapter 7. Hot Spot on Mercury
Chapter 8. The Veil of Venus
Chapter 9. The Ocean Primeval
Chapter 10. The Dying Planet
Chapter 11. Martians Don't Care
Chapter 12. At Rope's End
Chapter 13. The Pole of Callisto
Chapter 14. Rockets Away!
Chapter 15. Ice Cold on Oberon
Chapter 16. In Orbit Around Pluto
Chapter 17. Stronghold of the Lost Planet
Chapter 18. Sacrifice on the Sacred Moon
Chapter 19. The Museum of Galactic Life
About the Author
Other Winston Science Fiction Novels
While the circumnavigation of the solar system seems farfetched, it may not be once the problem of effective anti-gravitational control is solved. In this book I have assumed that the many researchers now actually at work on this problem will achieve such a result in the next decade. It is not at all impossible that they may—for we all know that the more minds that work at a problem, the sooner it will be solved. The discovery of a means of negating, reversing or otherwise utilizing the immense force of gravitation for space flight purposes is now thought to be within the bounds of probability. It should occur some time within the next hundred years, possibly in even the short period I assume here.
Once solved, the severe handicaps imposed on space exploration by the weight and chemical limitations of rockets would no longer apply. The whole timetable of our conquest of the planets in our solar system would be tremendously speeded up, from hot Mercury all the way out to frigid Pluto.
In describing the visits of the spaceship Magellan to the planets, I have endeavored to adhere to known facts and the more reasonable assumptions about each of these worlds. The planet Pluto, however, deserves further comment, occupying as it does both an important role in this adventure and a unique one in actual astronomical lore.
Back at the dawn of this century, many astronomers, and notably Dr. Percival Lowell, studied certain irregularities in the orbit and motion of Neptune, at that time believed to be the outermost planet. They decided that these eccentricities (or perturbations, as they are called) could only be caused by the presence of another, yet undiscovered planet beyond Neptune.
Following this line of research, a young astronomer, Dr. Clyde Tombaugh, working at Lowell's own observatory, was able to announce on March 13, 1930, that he had finally found this ninth world, which he named Pluto.
In the years that have followed, Pluto has proven to be a truly puzzling planet. Unlike its neighbors from Jupiter outward, it is not a giant world, light and gaseous in nature. Instead, it belongs physically to the small, dense inner planets of which Earth is one.
The latest viewpoint on this planet, whose size and weight seem quite like those of Earth, is that it may not be a true child of the Sun, but an outsider captured as it roamed the trackless realms of galactic space. Its orbit is highly eccentric and rather lopsided, taking it as far away from the Sun as four and a half billion miles and as close to the Sun as two and three-quarter billion miles, thereby cutting inside the orbit of Neptune itself. In fact, during the period from 1969 to 2009 (covering most of the lifetimes of the younger readers of this book) Pluto will not be the ninth planet, but the eighth, for it will be at its closest in those years. Huge Neptune will thus regain temporarily the title of being the Sun's farthest outpost!
This orbital eccentricity has lead some astronomers to speculate on the possibility that Pluto may once have been briefly held as a satellite of Neptune. And following that line of thought, the possibility also has been suggested that Neptune's larger moon, Triton, may once have been a companion of Pluto which failed to break away from Neptune's grip!
I think that the first men to land on Pluto are going to make some very astonishing discoveries. But I am also sure that they will never go there in rockets. They will have to make the immense trip by some more powerful means—like the anti-gravitational drive.
D.A.W.The Secret of the Ninth Planet Chapter 1.
Special Delivery—by Guided Missile
On the morning that the theft of the solar system's sunlight began, Burl Denning woke up in his sleeping bag in the Andes, feeling again the exhilaration of the keen, rarefied, mountain air. He glanced at the still sleeping forms of his father and the other members of the Denning expedition, and sat up, enjoying the first rays of the early morning.
The llamas were already awake, moving restlessly back and forth on their padded feet, waiting for their tender to arise and unleash them. The mules were standing patiently as ever, staring quietly into the distant misty panorama of the mountains.
It was, thought Burl, a dim day, but this he supposed was due to the earliness of the morning. As the Sun rose, it would rapidly bring the temperatures up, and its unshielded rays would force them to cover up as they climbed along the high mountain passes.
The sky was cloudless as usual. Burl assumed that the dimness was due to volcanic dust, or some unseen high cloud far away. And, indeed, as the expedition came to life, and the day began in earnest, nobody paid any attention to the fact that the Sun was not quite so warm as it should have been.
The Denning expedition, questing among the untracked and forgotten byways of the lost Inca ruins in the vast, jagged mountains of inland Peru, was not alone in failing to notice the subtle channeling away of the Sun's warmth and brilliance. They were, in this respect, one with virtually the entire population of Earth.
In New York, in San Francisco, in Philadelphia and Kansas City, people going about their day's chores simply assumed that there must be clouds somewhere—the temperature only slightly less than normal for a July day. A few men shaded their eyes and looked about, noticing that the heat was not so intense—and thought it a blessing.
In some places in Europe, there were clouds and a little rain, and the dimness was ascribed to this. It was raining in much of Asia, and there were scattered afternoon showers throughout Latin America, which were standard for the season. There was a flurry of snow in Melbourne and a cold blow in Santiago de Chile.
The men in the weather bureaus noted on their day's charts that temperatures were a few degrees lower than had been predicted, but that was nothing unusual. Weather was still not entirely predictable, even with the advances of meteorology that were to be expected of the latter years of the twentieth century.
The world was reading about other things than the vagaries of the weather. In the United States, baseball occupied the headlines, and the nonathletic-minded could find some speculative interest in the completion of another manned space platform racing along in its eternal orbit twelve thousand miles away from Earth's surface. The U.S. Moon Base in the center of the Crater Ptolemaeus had described the appearance of this platform in an interesting radio dispatch which appeared on the first pages of most newspapers. The third prober rocket sent to Venus had been unreported for the tenth day after penetrating the clouds that hid that planet's surface from human eyes. It was, like its two predecessors, a minimum-sized, unmanned instrument device designed to penetrate the clouds and radio back data on the nature of the Venusian atmosphere and the surface. But after its first report, nothing more had been heard.
Some discussion was going on in science circles about what had happened. Speculation centered on the possible success of other types of prober rockets, but it was universally agreed that the time had not come when a manned rocket could safely undertake the difficult trip to Venus and return.
The years of space flight since the orbiting of Sputnik I back in 1957 had produced many fascinating results, but they had also brought a realization of the many problems that surrounded the use of rockets for space flight. It was generally believed that no one should risk a manned flight until absolutely everything possible that could be learned by robot and radio-controlled missiles had been learned. It now looked as if Venus and Mars trips were still a dozen years away.
Burl Denning was keenly interested in all of this. As a senior in high school, the newly expanding frontiers of the universe represented something special to his generation. It would be men of his own age who would eventually man those first full-scale expeditions to neighbor worlds. By the time he was out of college, with an engineering degree, he might himself hope to be among those adventurers of space.
Burl was torn between two interests. Archaeology was both a profession and a hobby in the Denning family. His grandfather had been among the first to explore the jungle ruins of Indochina. His father, although a businessman and industrial engineer, made annual vacation pilgrimages to the ruins of the old Indian civilizations of the Americas. Burl had been with him once before, when they had trekked through the chicle forests of Guatemala in search of a lost Mayan city. And now they were again on a quest, this time for the long-forgotten treasure of the Incas.
Burl was thoroughly familiar with the techniques of tracking down the ancient records of mankind. He got along well with natives and primitive people; he knew the arts of wilderness survival; he knew the delicate techniques of sifting sand and dirt to turn up those priceless bits of pottery and chipped stone that could supply pages of the forgotten epics of human history.
However, later in the day it seemed as if their particular camp had petered out. There were ruins there—a broken-down wall, a dry well and a bit of eroded bas-relief lying on its side. Burl's father looked at him thoughtfully. The tall, sandy-haired youth was sitting astraddle a pile of dust, methodically sifting it through a wide-mesh strainer. A large pile of sifted sand gave evidence of the length of his efforts, and one broken bit of clay was the only result he had obtained.
Two of the Indian guides sat patiently in the shade, watching them. One was digging slowly, turning up more dirt to be sifted.
"I think we've had enough here," said the elder Denning. "Burl, you can knock off. Tomorrow we'll pull up stakes and see what is in the next valley. We'll try to follow that old Inca road over the mountains. I don't believe anyone has ever penetrated there—and the airplane surveys indicated some evidence of human dwellings."
Burl nodded, and set the sifter down. He'd learned to curb his natural energies for the exacting tasks required of serious scientific research. "Okay," he said, "I was hoping you'd move on soon, Dad. This looked like a washout from the first. I'd say this place was sacked and ruined even before the Incas fell."
The older man nodded. "I suppose so. Well, let's wash up and see what's for supper."
They went down to the icy mountain stream to wash the dirt from their hands. "It's been a nice day," Burl commented. "In spite of the Sun being out steadily, it wasn't hot at all. Cooler than yesterday."
Mark Denning looked up at the sky and the Sun lowering toward the horizon. "There must have been some volcanic dust in the heavens," he said. "The Sun's been a bit dimmed, have you noticed?"