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The Long Voyage   By: (1908-1997)

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When we published Carl Jacobi's last story we had no assurance he would be with us so soon again. For when a uniquely gifted science fantasy writer becomes radio active on the entertainment meter and goes voyaging into the unknown, he may be gone from the world we know for as long as yesterday's tomorrow. But Carl Jacobi has not only returned almost with the speed of light he has brought with him shining new nuggets of wonder and surmise.

the long voyage

by ... Carl Jacobi

The secret lay hidden at the end of nine landings, and Medusa dark was one man's search for it in the strangest journey ever made.

A soft gentle rain began to fall as we emerged from the dark woods and came out onto the shore. There it was, the sea, stretching as far as the eye could reach, gray and sullen, and flecked with green white froth. The blue hensorr trees, crowding close to the water's edge, were bent backward as if frightened by the bleakness before them. The sand, visible under the clear patches of water, was a bleached white like the exposed surface of a huge bone.

We stood there a moment in silence. Then Mason cleared his throat huskily.

"Well, here goes," he said. "We'll soon see if we have any friends about."

He unslung the packsack from his shoulders, removed its protective outer shield and began to assemble the organic surveyor, an egg shaped ball of white carponium secured to a segmented forty foot rod. While Brandt and I raised the rod with the aid of an electric fulcrum, Mason carefully placed his control cabinet on a piece of outcropping rock and made a last adjustment.

The moment had come. Even above the sound of the sea, you could hear the strained breathing of the men. Only Navigator Norris appeared unconcerned. He stood there calmly smoking his pipe, his keen blue eyes squinting against the biting wind.

Mason switched on the speaker. Its high frequency scream rose deafeningly above us and was torn away in unsteady gusts. He began to turn its center dial, at first a quarter circle, and then all the way to the final backstop of the calibration. All that resulted was a continuation of that mournful ululation like a wail out of eternity.

Mason tried again. With stiff wrists he tuned while perspiration stood out on his forehead, and the rest of us crowded close.

"It's no use," he said. "This pickup failure proves there isn't a vestige of animal life on Stragella on this hemisphere of the planet, at least."

Navigator Norris took his pipe from his mouth and nodded. His face was expressionless. There was no indication in the man's voice that he had suffered another great disappointment, his sixth in less than a year.

"We'll go back now," he said, "and we'll try again. There must be some planet in this system that's inhabited. But it's going to be hard to tell the women."

Mason let the surveyor rod down with a crash. I could see the anger and resentment that was gathering in his eyes. Mason was the youngest of our party and the leader of the antagonistic group that was slowly but steadily undermining the authority of the Navigator.

This was our seventh exploratory trip after our sixth landing since entering the field of the sun Ponthis. Ponthis with its sixteen equal sized planets, each with a single satellite. First there had been Coulora; then in swift succession, Jama, Tenethon, Mokrell, and R 9. And now Stragella. Strange names of strange worlds, revolving about a strange star.

It was Navigator Norris who told us the names of these planets and traced their positions on a chart for us. He alone of our group was familiar with astrogation and cosmography. He alone had sailed the spaceways in the days before the automatic pilots were installed and locked and sealed on every ship.

A handsome man in his fortieth year, he stood six feet three with broad shoulders and a powerful frame. His eyes were the eyes of a scholar, dreamy yet alive with depth and penetration. I had never seen him lose his temper, and he governed our company with an iron hand... Continue reading book >>

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