Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

Hard At Work

Part of: JUNITER
From: A Journey In Other Worlds

In a few moments Ayrault returned with pencils, a pair of
compasses, and paper.

"Let us see, in the first place," said Deepwaters, "how long the
journey will take. Since a stone falls 16.09 feet the first
second, and 64+ feet the next, it is easy to calculate at what
rate your speed would increase with the repulsion twice that of
the ordinary traction. But I think this would be too slow. It
will be best to treble or quadruple the apergetic charge, which
can easily be done, in which case your speed will exceed the
muzzle-velocity of a projectile from a long-range gun, in a few
seconds. As the earth's repulsion decreases, the attraction of
mars and Jupiter will increase, and, there being no resistance,
your gait will become more and more rapid till it is necessary to
reverse the charge to avoid being dashed to pieces or being
consumed like a falling star by the friction in passing through
Jupiter's atmosphere. You can be on the safe side by checking
your speed in advance. You must, of course, be careful to avoid
collisions with meteors and asteroids but if you do, they will be
of use to you, for by attracting or repelling them you can change
your course to suit yourself, and also theirs in inverse ratio to
their masses. Jupiter's moons will be like head and stern lines
in enabling you to choose the part of the surface on which you
wish to land. With apergy it is as essential to have some heavy
body on which to work, within range, as to have water about a
ship's propellers. Whether, when apergy is developed,
gravitation is temporarily annulled, or reversed like the late
attraction of a magnet when the current is changed, or whether it
is merely overpowered, in which case your motion will be the
resultant of the two, is an unsettled and not very important
point; for, though we know but little more of the nature of
electricity than was known a hundred years ago, this does not
prevent our producing and using it."

"Jupiter, when in opposition," he continued, "is about
380,000,000 miles from us, and it takes light, which travels at
the rate of 190,000 miles a second, just thirty-four minutes to
reach the earth from Jupiter. If we suppose the average speed of
your ship to be one- five-hundredth as great, it will take you
just eleven days, nineteen hours and twenty minutes to make the
journey. You will have a fine view of Mars and the asteroids,
and when 1,169,000 miles from Jupiter, will cross the orbit of
Callisto, the fifth moon in distance from the giant planet. That
will be your best point to steer by."

"I think," said Ayrault, "as that will be the first member of
Jupiter's system we pass, and as it will guide us into port, it
would be a good name for our ship, and you must christen her if
we have her launched."

"No, no," said Deepwaters, "Miss Preston must do that; but we
certainly should have a launch, for you might have to land in the
water, and you must be sure the ship is tight."

"Talking of tight ships," said Bearwarden, passing a decanter of
claret to Stillman, "may remind us that it is time to splice the
'main brace.' There's a bottle of whisky and some water just
behind you," he added to Deepwaters, "while three minutes after I
ring this bell," he said, pressing a button and jerking a handle
marked '8,' "the champagne cocktails will be on the desk."

"I see you know his ways," said Stillman to Bearwarden, drooping
his eyes in Deepwaters's direction.

"Oh, yes, I've been here before," replied Deepwaters. "You see,
we navy men have to hustle now-a-days, and can't pass our time in
a high-backed chair, talking platitudes."

At this moment there was a slight rumbling, and eight champagne
cocktails, with the froth still on, and straws on a separate
plate, shot in and landed on a corner of the desk.

"Help yourselves, gentlemen," said Bearwarden, placing them on a
table; "I hope we shall find them cold."

"Do you know," said Deepwaters to Ayrault, while rapidly making
his cocktail disappear, "the Callisto's cost with its outfit will
be very great, especially if you use glucinum, which, though the
ideal metal for the purpose, comes pretty high? I suggest that
you apply to Congress for an appropriation. This experiment
comes under the 'Promotion of Science Act,' and any bill for it
would certainly pass."

"No, indeed," replied Ayrault; "the Callisto trip will be a
privilege and glory I would not miss, and building her will be a
part of it. I shall put in everything conducive to success, but
will come to the Government only for advice."

"I will send a letter to all our ambassadors and consuls," said
Stillman, "to telegraph the department anything they may know or
learn that will be of use in adjusting the batteries, controlling
the machine, or anything else, and will turn over to you in a
succinct form all information that may be relevant, for without
such sorting you would be overwhelmed."

"And I," said Deepwaters, "will order the commanders of our
vessels to give you a farewell salute at starting, and to pick
you up in case you fail. When you have demonstrated the
suitability of apergy," he continued, "and the habitability of
Jupiter and Saturn--,which, with their five and eight moons,
respectively, and rings thrown in, must both be vastly superior
to our little second-rate globe--we will see what can be done
towards changing our orbit, and if we cannot swing a little
nearer to our new world or worlds. Then we'll lower, or rather
raise, the boats in the shape of numerous Callistos, and have a
landing-party ready at each opposition, while a man or two can be
placed in charge of each projectile to bring it back in ballast.
Thus we may soon have regular interplanetary lines."

"As every place seems to have been settled from some other," said
Cortlandt, "I do not see why, with increased scientific
facilities, history should not repeat itself, and this be the
point from which to colonize the solar system; for, for the
present at least, it would seem that we could not get beyond

"As it will be quite an undertaking to change the orbit, said
Deepwaters, "we shall have time meanwhile to absorb or run out
all inferior races, so that we shall not make the mistake of
extending the Tower of Babel."

"He is putting on his war-paint," said Stillman, "and will soon
want a planet to himself."

"I see no necessity for even changing the orbit," said
Bearwarden, "except for the benefit of those that remain. If
this attempt succeeds, it can doubtless be repeated. An increase
in eccentricity would merely shorten the journey, if aphelion
always coincided with opposition, which it would not."

"Let us know how you are getting on," said Deepwaters to Ayrault,
"and be sure you have the Callisto properly christened. Step
lively there, landlubbers!" he called to Stillman; "I have an
appointment at Washington at one, and it is now twenty minutes
past twelve. We can lunch on the way."

Ayrault immediately advertised for bids for the construction of a
glucinum cylinder twenty-five feet in diameter, fifteen feet high
at the sides, with a domed roof, bringing up the total height to
twenty-one feet, and with a small gutter about it to catch the
rain on Jupiter or any other planet they might visit. The sides,
roof, and floor were to consist of two sheets, each one third of
an inch thick and six inches apart, the space between to be
filled with mineral wool, as a protection against the intense
cold of space. There were also to be several keels and supports
underneath, on which the car should rest. Large, toughened
plate-glass windows were to be let into the roof and sides, and
smaller ones in the floor, all to be furnished with thick shades
and curtains. Ayrault also decided to have it divided into two
stories, with ceilings six and a half to seven and a half feet
high, respectively, with a sort of crow's nest or observatory at
the top; the floors to be lattice- work, like those in the
engine-room of a steamer, so that when the carpets were rolled up
they should not greatly obstruct the view. The wide, flat base
and the low centre of gravity would, he saw, be of use in
withstanding the high winds that he knew often prevailed on

As soon as possible he awarded the contract, and then entering
his smart electric trap, steered for Vassar University along what
was the old post-road--though its builders would not have
recognized it with its asphalt surface, straightened curves, and
easy grades--to ask his idol to christen the Callisto when it
should be finished.

Starting from the upper end of Central Park, he stopped to buy
her a bunch of violets, and then ran to Poughkeepsie in two

Sylvia Preston was a lovely girl, with blue eyes, brown hair, and
perfect figure, clear white skin, and just twenty. She was
delighted to see him, and said she would love to christen the
Callisto or do anything else that he wished. "But I am so sorry
you are going away," she went on. "I hate to lose you for so
long, and we shall not even be able to write."

"Why couldn't we be married now," he asked, "and go to Jupiter
for our honeymoon?"

"I'm afraid, dear," she answered, "you would be sorry a few years
hence if I didn't take my degree; and, besides, as you have asked
those other men, there wouldn't be room for me."

"We could have made other arrangements," he replied, "had I been
able to persuade you to go."

"Won't you dine with us at Delmonico's this evening, and go to
the play?" she asked. "Papa has taken a box."

"Of course I will," he said, brightening up. "What are you going
to wear?"

"Oh, I suppose something light and cool, for it's so hot," she

"I'll go now, so as to be ready," he said, getting up and going
towards the door to which Sylvia followed him.

A man in livery stood at the step of the phaeton. Ayrault got in
and turned on the current, and his man climbed up behind.

On turning into the main road Ayrault was about to increase his
speed, when Sylvia, who had taken a short cut appeared at the
wayside carrying her hat in one hand and her gloves in the other.

"I couldn't let you go all by yourself," she said. "The fact is,
I wanted to be with you."

"You are the sweetest thing that ever lived, and I'll love you
all my days," he said, getting down and helping Sylvia to the
seat beside him. "What a nuisance this fellow behind is!" he
continued--referring to the groom-- "for, though he is a Russian,
and speaks but little English, it is unpleasant to feel he is

"You'll have to write your sweet nothings, instead of saying
them," Sylvia replied.

"For you to leave around for other girls to see," answered
Ayrault with a smile.

"I don't know what your other girls do," she returned, "but with
me you are safe."

Ayrault fairly made his phaeton spin, going up the grades like a
shot and down like a bird. On reaching New York, he left Sylvia
at her house, then ran his machine to a florist's, where he
ordered some lilies and roses, and then steered his way to his
club, where he dressed for dinner. Shortly before the time he
repaired to Delmonico's--which name had become historical, though
the founders themselves were long dead--and sat guard at a table
till Sylvia, wearing his flowers and looking more beautiful than
any of them, arrived with her mother and father, and Bearwarden,
whom they knew very well.

"How are the exams getting on, Miss Preston?" Bearwarden asked.

"Pretty well," she replied, with a smile. "We had English
literature yesterday, and natural history the day before. Next
week we have chemistry and philosophy."

"What are you taking in natural history?" asked Bearwarden, with

"Oh, principally physical geography, geology, and meteorology,"
she replied. "I think them entrancing."

"It must be a consolation," said Ayrault, "when your best hat is
spoiled by rain, to know the reason why. Your average," he
continued, addressing Sylvia, "was ninety in the semi-annuals,
and I haven't a doubt that the finals will maintain your record
for the year."

"Don't be too sure," she replied. "I have been loafing awfully,
and had to engage a 'grind' as a coach."

After dinner they went to the play, where they saw a presentation
of Society at the Close of the Twentieth Century, which Sylvia
and Ayrault enjoyed immensely.

A few days after the Delmonico dinner, while Bearwarden,
Cortlandt, and Ayrault sat together discussing their plans, the
servant announced Ayrault's family physician, Dr. Tubercle
Germiny, who had been requested to call.

"Delighted to see you, doctor," said Ayrault, shaking hands.
"You know Col. Bearwarden, our President, and Dr. Cortlandt--an
LL. D., however, and not a medico."

"I have had the pleasure," replied Dr. Germiny, shaking hands
with both.

"As you may be aware, doctor," said Ayrault, when they were
seated, "we are about to take a short trip to Jupiter, and, if
time allows, to Saturn. We have come to you, as one familiar
with every known germ, for a few precautionary suggestions and
advice concerning our medicine-chest."

"Indeed!" replied Dr. Germiny, "a thorough knowledge of
bacteriology is the groundwork of therapeutics. It is
practically admitted that every ailment, with the exception of
mechanical injuries, is the direct result of a specific germ; and
even in accidents and simple fractures, no matter what may be the
nature of the bruise, a micro-organism soon announces its
presence, so that if not the parent, it is the inseparable
companion, in fact the shadow, of disease. Now, though not the
first cause in this instance, it has been indubitably proved,
that much of the effect, the fever and pain, are produced and
continued by the active, omnipresent, sleepless sperm. Either
kill the micrococcus or heal the wound, and you are free from
both. It being, therefore, granted that the ills of life are in
the air, we have but to find the peculiar nature of the case in
hand, its habits, tastes, and constitution, in order to destroy
it. Impoverish the soil on which it thrives, before its arrival,
if you can foresee the nature of the inoculation to which you
will be exposed, by a dilute solution of itself, and supply it
only with what it particularly dislikes. For an already
established tubercle requiring rapid action of the blood, such as
may well exist among the birds and vertebrates of Jupiter and
Saturn, I suggest a hypodermic rattlesnake injection, while
hydrocyanic acid and tarantula saliva may also come in well. The
combinations that so long destroyed us have already become our

"I see you have these poisons at your fingers' ends," said
Ayrault, "and we shall feel the utmost confidence in the remedies
and directions you prescribe."

They found that, in addition to their medicine-chest, they would
have to make room for the following articles, and also many more:
six shot-guns (three double-barrel 12-bores, three magazine
10-bores,) three rifles, three revolvers; a large supply of
ammunition (explosive and solid balls), hunting-knives,
fishing-tackle, compass, sextant, geometrical instruments, canned
food for forty days, appliance for renewing air, clothing, rubber
boots, apergetic apparatus, protection-wires, aneroid barometer,
and kodaks.

Next: Good-bye

Previous: Far-reaching Plans

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 604