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Prologue The Rocket Satellite







From: After London

In the depths of space, some twenty thousand miles from the earth, the
body of Professor Jameson within its rocket container cruised upon an
endless journey, circling the gigantic sphere. The rocket was a
satellite of the huge, revolving world around which it held to its
orbit. In the year 1958, Professor Jameson had sought for a plan whereby
he might preserve his body indefinitely after his death. He had worked
long and hard upon the subject.

Since the time of the Pharaohs, the human race had looked for a means by
which the dead might be preserved against the ravages of time. Great had
been the art of the Egyptians in the embalming of their deceased, a
practice which was later lost to humanity of the ensuing mechanical age,
never to be rediscovered. But even the embalming of the Egyptians--so
Professor Jameson had argued--would be futile in the face of millions of
years, the dissolution of the corpses being just as eventual as
immediate cremation following death.

The professor had looked for a means by which the body could be
preserved perfectly forever. But eventually he had come to the
conclusion that nothing on earth is unchangeable beyond a certain limit
of time. Just as long as he sought an earthly means of preservation, he
was doomed to disappointment. All earthly elements are composed of atoms
which are forever breaking down and building up, but never destroying
themselves. A match may be burned, but the atoms are still unchanged,
having resolved themselves into smoke, carbon dioxide, ashes, and
certain basic elements. It was clear to the professor that he could
never accomplish his purpose if he were to employ one system of atomic
structure, such as embalming fluid or other concoction, to preserve
another system of atomic structure, such as the human body, when all
atomic structure is subject to universal change, no matter how slow.

He had then soliloquized upon the possibility of preserving the human
body in its state of death until the end of all earthly time--to that
day when the earth would return to the sun from which it had sprung.
Quite suddenly one day he had conceived the answer to the puzzling
problem which obsessed his mind, leaving him awed with its wild, uncanny
potentialities.

He would have his body shot into space enclosed in a rocket to become a
satellite of the earth as long as the earth continued to exist. He
reasoned logically. Any material substance, whether of organic or
inorganic origin, cast into the depths of space would exist
indefinitely. He had visualized his dead body enclosed in a rocket
flying off into the illimitable maw of space. He would remain in perfect
preservation, while on earth millions of generations of mankind would
live and die, their bodies to molder into the dust of the forgotten
past. He would exist in this unchanged manner until that day when
mankind, beneath a cooling sun, should fade out forever in the chill,
thin atmosphere of a dying world. And still his body would remain intact
and as perfect in its rocket container as on that day of the far-gone
past when it had left the earth to be hurled out on its career. What a
magnificent idea!

At first he had been assailed with doubts. Suppose his funeral rocket
landed upon some other planet or, drawn by the pull of the great sun,
were thrown into the flaming folds of the incandescent sphere? Then the
rocket might continue on out of the solar system, plunging through the
endless seas of space for millions of years, to finally enter the solar
system of some far-off star, as meteors often enter ours. Suppose his
rocket crashed upon a planet, or the star itself, or became a captive
satellite of some celestial body?

It had been at this juncture that the idea of his rocket becoming the
satellite of the earth had presented itself, and he had immediately
incorporated it into his scheme. The professor had figured out the
amount of radium necessary to carry the rocket far enough away from the
earth so that it would not turn around and crash, and still be not so
far away but what the earth's gravitational attraction would keep it
from leaving the vicinity of the earth and the solar system. Like the
moon, it would forever revolve around the earth.

He had chosen an orbit sixty-five thousand miles from the earth for his
rocket to follow. The only fears he had entertained concerned the huge
meteors which careened through space at tremendous rates of speed. He
had overcome this obstacle, however, and had eliminated the
possibilities of a collision with these stellar juggernauts. In the
rocket were installed radium repulsion rays which swerved all
approaching meteors from the path of the rocket as they entered the
vicinity of the space wanderer.

The aged professor had prepared for every contingency, and had set down
to rest from his labors, reveling in the stupendous, unparalleled
results he would obtain. Never would his body undergo decay; and never
would his bones bleach to return to the dust of the earth from which all
men originally came and to which they must return. His body would remain
millions of years in a perfectly preserved state, untouched by the hoary
palm of such time as only geologists and astronomers can conceive.

His efforts would surpass even the wildest dreams of H. Rider Haggard,
who depicted the wondrous, embalming practices of the ancient nation of
Kor in his immortal novel, "She," wherein Holly, under the escort of the
incomparable Ayesha, looked upon the magnificent, lifelike masterpieces
of embalming by the long-gone peoples of Kor.

With the able assistance of a nephew, who carried out his instructions
and wishes following his death, Professor Jameson was sent upon his
pilgrimage into space within the rocket he himself had built. The nephew
and heir kept the secret forever locked in his heart.

* * * * *

Generation after generation had passed upon its way. Gradually humanity
had come to die out, finally disappearing from the earth altogether.
Mankind was later replaced by various other forms of life which
dominated the globe for their allotted spaces of time before they too
became extinct. The years piled up on one another, running into
millions, and still the Jameson Satellite kept its lonely vigil around
the earth, gradually closing the distance between satellite and planet,
yielding reluctantly to the latter's powerful attraction.

Forty million years later, its orbit ranged some twenty thousand miles
from the earth while the dead world edged ever nearer the cooling sun
whose dull, red ball covered a large expanse of the sky. Surrounding
the flaming sphere, many of the stars could be perceived through the
earth's thin, rarefied atmosphere. As the earth cut in slowly and
gradually toward the solar luminary, so was the moon revolving ever
nearer the earth, appearing like a great gem glowing in the twilight
sky.

The rocket containing the remains of Professor Jameson continued its
endless travel around the great ball of the earth whose rotation had now
ceased entirely--one side forever facing the dying sun. There it pursued
its lonely way, a cosmic coffin, accompanied by its funeral cortege of
scintillating stars amid the deep silence of the eternal space which
enshrouded it. Solitary it remained, except for the occasional passing
of a meteor flitting by at a remarkable speed on its aimless journey
through the vacuum between the far-flung worlds.

Would the satellite follow its orbit to the world's end, or would its
supply of radium soon exhaust itself after so many eons of time,
converting the rocket into the prey of the first large meteor which
chanced that way? Would it some day return to the earth as its nearer
approach portended, and increase its acceleration in a long arc to crash
upon the surface of the dead planet? And when the rocket terminated its
career, would the body of Professor Jameson be found perfectly preserved
or merely a crumbled mound of dust?





Next: 40000000 Years After

Previous: The Jameson Satellite



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