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WE take great pleasure in introducing to our readers, Mr. Ed Earl Repp, our new author, whom we consider one of the most promising science-aviation fiction writers of the day.

In his initial story, the author introduces so many new instrumentalities of science as applied to aviation, that it fairly takes your breath away. Stories of aviation of the future are always intensely interesting, because they bring to our vision in the most thrilling way, pictures of strange ways of conquering distance. And if the story is as good as the present one, it makes not only interesting reading but gives one a prophetic insight as well.

While some of the things mentioned in this story may sound improbable to-day, there is no denying that they may become commonplace long before the period mentioned in this story will have been reached.


BEYOND GRAVITY

by Ed Earl Repp

CHAPTER I
The Leviathan

IT was an exceptionally quiet afternoon in Denver, the sky was devoid of the usual swarms of private aircraft. Ordinarily these should be many afolt, transporting their owners, with bird-like grace and leisure, along their varied pleasure and business pursuits. But the absence of these swarms on this day was perplexing, at least to one who had been accustomed to watching the various types of craft darting hither and yon along the ordinary airlanes above Denver, the huh city of western aero travel.

On an ordinary day one would have seen a constant stream of trim-looking, graceful and swift craft of various types and proportions, forming a perfect cross as they sped along the governmental lanes to and from Los Angeles, Chicago and New York; or El Paso, Vancouver and Alaska.

Intently I scanned the air. I was standing at the time at my huge, specially built-in exposure on the eastern side of my hotel-apartment on the hundred and ninetieth floor of the new Orville Wright Aero Hotel and Terminal Building which had recently been erected in the memory of the early pioneer of aviation. It was my favorite spot, and I leaned lazily against the massive frame of the big window, while studying the oddly vacant sky in front of me. For miles and miles I could see over the rolling western plains. Far to the south I could see the white streak of the Great American Desert looming oddly against a background of solid green. Occasionally I could catch a glimpse of the Colorado, a silver thread, winding its way snakelike through a maze of mountains; and when the atmosphere was just right it was possible for me to see even the great inland sea formed by the reconstructed Boulder Dam.

Here and there were speeding craft which, by looking at my radio-controlled chronometer timepiece, I accepted as being the usual hourly planes bringing in the mail from outlying points off the lanes of ordinary travel. Needless for me to say, as early as 1950, the government had laid out a system of airways transversing the entire United States with direct lanes for air travel. This afforded the necessary protection to the countless planes that ordinarily should be soaring over Denver, and allowed them to avoid the treacherous atmospheres that made air travel over certain portions of the Rocky Mountains indeed dangerous. Only government planes were allowed to stray off the established lanes—the private craft being forced to observe the law rigidly. Moreover, privately owned planes were forbidden to rise above the 25,000 foot level, thus keeping them well below the upper levels of commercial travel. Planes violating the legislation, put into effect in 1975, were immediately brought to earth, their screws made dead and cylinders locked by a powerful system of radioactive forces broadcasted by the government observation and policing stations. The culprit piloting the offending craft was dealt with immediately and severely in accordance with the statutory provisions for such offenders. There was no place in the air for those who for sheer love of adventure endangered the serene souls traveling in the majestic air-liners in the higher levels. Presently my eyes roved to the east. Through the pale haze, that hangs like a ghostly curtain from the sky, over the country some miles east of Denver, I caught sight of a tiny speck that grew gradually in size until it loomed majestically and awesomely in the air like some terrestrial spectre. I was surprised to see that it was a gigantic air-cruiser and traveling at a terrific speed in a lane high above the usual level for ordinary commercial flight.

I watched the advancing leviathan of the air with growing interest as it sped like an arrow straight toward the hotel. Even at its distance of more than a score of miles I could see that its geometrically shaped nose was colored with the traditional insignia of the United States Air Forces. The craft was the first of its kind to have ever cruised in the direction of Denver and suddenly I remembered having seen it under construction through the screen of my super-sensitive 42 power television receiver. I was awed at the tremendous speed of the leviathan and intently watched its advance toward the great landing atop the Wright Aero Hotel. In a few seconds it shot to within three miles of my building and allowed me a chance to take in the graceful stream lines, rear aileron laterals and a rigid stabilizing fin rising from the rounded top surface of the craft's long, narrow cylindrical body. Unlike other modern craft, the leviathan displayed not a single screw! She seemed totally absent of propellers and I studied her undersurface for a glimpse of her propulsion principles. As the craft came closer, I noticed a dozen or more streaks of pale blue fire trailing. With a hissing sound that grew to a roar as the ship neared the landing, the streaks of fire slowly disappeared in a wraith of pale vapor. Suddenly the nose of the craft dipped downward, and just as suddenly, the blue streaks vomiting from underneath her rear aileron laterals and elevating aerofoils, vanished. From out of horizontal chambers constructed along the sides of the craft's body just below a long line of cabin windows, there appeared gradually, two wide stabilizing aerofoils, spreading like the wings of an eagle, that floated the ship to a graceful landing. I expected to feel a tremendous quake surge through the building as the craft landed, but there was not the slightest quiver.

A Pleasant Meeting

INTERESTED in this new type of ship, I dashed out of my apartment and in a minute I was standing on the landing beside it. Over the nose of the ship I noticed for the first time the controlling compartment enclosed entirely behind thick, transparently rigid asbestos gelatin, the new form of glass that I had read could withstand the terrific heat caused by the great friction through the atmosphere. This great craft I thought certainly needed that protection! Hadn't it come into view and landed from a distance of probably more than twenty-five miles in the space of a minute? I doubted, as I scanned the ship admiringly, that twenty-five miles per minute was all this great air-cruiser was capable of doing!

As I strode along the ship toward the narrowing tail, my nostrils dilated under a force of some strange gaseous substance. A thin wisp of vapor seemed to be issuing from a spot underneath the aileron laterals. Fourteen tubes in all protruded from under the laterals—in a diamond shape formation. They were thick and powerful-looking and glowed with a peculiar blue luminosity that, even at the distance where I stood, seemed to burn my skin sharply. Truly, there were the vents from which issued the propulsion explosions! Internal combustion engines with outlet manifolds extending to the tubes under the laterals, with the centrifugal force of a rocket, gave this great ship its astounding speed.

True, the combustion of gaseous substances to cause the "rocket" propulsion force was not entirely new. It had been evolved in 1927 by a German, and utilized for the first time to propel an old time racing car. I remembered seeing the historic machine in the International Museum for Mechanical and Scientific Expansion over in New York. But what I saw now was truly a great piece of work, the result, no doubt of years and years of steady research and experimentation. What really awed me was the absolute secrecy that the government used in preparing this leviathan of the air for service. Now, it was doubtlessly upon its maiden voyage or trial cruise out of the big station at Kitty Hawk. Now the world was going to really learn something about modern aviation! In comparison with this tremendous craft, our commercial ships seemed like mere pigmies in both longitudinal surface and velocity. This craft, I speculated, would be capable of outdistancing with little effort, even the fastest of our tiny sport model racing planes of the humming bird principle.

I was studying intently the under-carriage of the great ship, lost in absorbing the construction of the unusual claw-like grips, which, tightly clamped, apparently by suction, to the floor of the landing, held the ship firmly. Suddenly I felt a hand touch my shoulder. I jumped nervously.

"Come on, Mr. Holdon and I'll show you something worth looking at!" I heard a laughing voice. I was surprised at the mention of my name for I had kept close to my apartment and my amusing television since I had left New York for a summer vacation in Denver. I turned and found myself staring into the bright young face of Lieutenant Bob Allison, son of my lifelong friend and benefactor, Senator Allison.

"Bob!" I cried happily, for I was very glad to see the smiling features before me. "What——how on earth—what are you doing here? Your dad talked with me only this morning and he told me that you were stationed at Kitty Hawk. Of course he must have been mistaken for you couldn't be two places at once. Tell me about yourself, Bob. What do you think of this contraption of the United States Air Forces? Quite a ship, eh?"

"You bet, Mr. Holdon!" he replied eagerly. "She's a real boat. Dad was right too, for I am stationed at Kitty Hawk. I left there just exactly an hour and twenty minutes ago and here I am at Denver."

"You—y-o-u what?" I stared at him incredulously.

"Why sure, Mr. Holdon, I left Kitty Hawk at 2:20 this afternoon——in this ship, the U. S. A. F. Annihilator, and it is just 3:45 now. Surprised, aren't you? You ought to be, riding around in old tubs that can't do better than 550 miles per hour. Why, Mr. Holdon, this craft here can do sixteen hundred miles per hour without effort. Imagine Colonel Lindbergh doing the Atlantic in 36 hours in 1926! I don't envy him that flight after a cruise in the Annihilator!"

I laughed softly at his references to dear old Lindy who had performed such a wonderful feat in the old days. But of a certainty, our heroes of to-day were gaining new glories almost daily. Take Lieutenant-Colonel Brockenridge, for instance. He succeeded several years ago in an attempt to fly around the entire globe without a single stop and when he reached the starting point his plane was functioning with such perfectness that he continued around a second time. That was a wonderful feat for the advancement of aviation but of course it did not hold the dangers that confronted Lindbergh, considering the development of aircraft since his historical flight in "The Spirit of St. Louis."

"My lord, Bob, you young bloods will get yourselves killed yet!" I groaned, holding his steady hand in my nervous grip. "Why all the secrecy about this wonderful Annihilator? It will revolutionize all aviation!"

"Well, you see, Mr. Holdon, the government does not want to be caught again unprepared as it was fifty years ago when the Eastern Powers swooped down on us. With this ship and five thousand others like it we have the supremacy of the air at last. By that supremacy we can force the entire world to maintain perfect harmony in peace and no more will they attempt to add rich old Uncle Samuel to their long lists of conquests. To gain superiority over anything absolute secrecy must be practiced. Of course, the government gave the public an insight into the construction of the craft, but so far as mechanical principles are concerned, only a few have been thus far permitted to know them. I don't think it will revolutionize the aviation industry to any great extent, in view of the fact that the government will not permit ships of this type to be constructed for public use. At least not for the present."

Something About Joan

"AND you came here in the Annihilator, Bob? I'll bet your father will have a fit at you taking such chances." I said.

"No, Mr. Holdon, he won't." the young man smiled. "Confidentially, he is responsible for me being one of its commanding pilots. He saw to it that I received a commission on board the Annihilator. But, believe me, I had to work for it!"

"Certainly you did, Bob! I know you well. You are like your father in many ways. He wouldn't accept anything unless he was absolutely certain that he had earned it. Robert, your father is one of the finest men in this country and you should be proud of him!"

"Thank you, Mr. Holdon. I'm sure that the feeling is mutual all around. Naturally I'm proud of dad. He's the best fellow, and the finest friend I've ever had. But speaking of friends, Mr. Holdon, where's Joan?"

"Joan? Oh, you mean that death-defying young sprout of mine? Well, Robert, my boy, that girl is going to mean the end of me yet! I can't keep her out of the air. She left this morning for Los Angeles, to go bathing. Said she'd be back about mid-afternoon. I'll have to tame that young lady, Bob!"

Young Allison laughed delightedly, his even white teeth beaming softly. His trim, slightly upcurled mustache that was the fad among the smarter young officers of the day, did not add much to his handsome face. Bob Allison would have been handsome even under a six months' growth of whiskers.

"Tame her, Mr. Holdon? Do you think you could do it after all these years? She always was as wild as any of the youngsters in our set. You know I haven't seen Joan in ten years ? She was at school in Warsaw when I entered the Government Academy of Aviation at New Orleans. Does she still have that funny little nose that the youngsters used to kid her about?"

"That's right, Bob, it must be ten years since you saw her, at that! Joan was an odd youngster and that upturned nose was the main source of her worry. I'll bet she licked all the kids in Washington over it, but wait until you see Joan as she is now. Why Bob she's as ugly as a greasy accelerator!"

I squinted at the Lieutenant to see how he accepted my teasing word-picture of my untameable daughter. I expected to see his face cloud but he continued smiling pleasantly.

"Joan couldn't be as ugly as all that, Mr. Holdon. I might say frankly that I believe you're having some fun at ray expense. Go right ahead and have it because it does not alter my brain-picture of Joan. I've always admired her in spite of die fact that she used to think that I was put on this earth for the sole purpose of making fun of her nose."

I whistled softly.

"Don't tell me you're in love with a girl you haven't seen in ten years, Bob!"

His face colored under the taunt. He stared down at his neat-fitting boots.

"Wel-l-l, Mr. Holdon, I don't just know whether I am or not. I've always admired Joan. I thought her little nose was cute."

"No, my boy, Joan no longer has that nose. Nature took its course and developed a nose that would cause the Statue of Liberty to hang her head in shame. Joan is as good to look at as she is wild and fearless, Bob. It'll take a good man——a damn good man to tame that youngster! If you can do it, you have my blessing!"

Bob's face brightened perceptibly and his steel blue eyes snapped eagerly. He gave my hand an appreciative squeeze and grinned bashfully. I scanned the western skies searching for a glimpse of Joan's trim little areospeedster with its brilliant red and orchid color-scheme. The air was queerly vacant except for commercial planes.

"Darn funny, Bob," I remarked uneasily, "that on a day like this there are so few planes in the air! What do you think is keeping the swarms in their hangars?"

"Why, Mr. Holdon, didn't you get the government bulletin over the television requesting pleasure ships to remain out of the air to-day?"

"No, I didn't!" I said, surprised.

"Well that's the reason why the sky seems so deserted. The government broadcast a bulletin this morning requesting that all air travel with the exception of necessary flight, be suspended for twelve hours. That was a protective measure to give the Annihilator right of way from Kitty Hawk to points west."

"So that's it, eh? And that Joan had to take-off in the face of a government order prohibiting it! I must have fell asleep after she left this morning, Bob, and failed to hear the gong on my television receiver. If I had known, you bet Joan would not have hopped off."

Joan Arrives

"OH well, you needn't be alarmed over that. She's in no danger of crossing our combustion exhausts because we are not going farther west than Denver. When we take to the air this evening we cut a straight line across the Divide for New York to map a new route for official aircraft."

"I'm a little bit worried about Joan—in fact, Bob, I'm always worried about the little...

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