Read Captain Future 01 - The Space Emperor (Winter 1940) Online

Authors: Edmond Hamilton

Tags: #Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Captain Future 01 - The Space Emperor (Winter 1940)

 

 

 

#1 Winter 1940

 

Introduction

 

A Complete Book-Length Scientifiction Novel

Captain Future and the Space Emperor

by Edmond Hamilton

Follow the quest of Curtis Newton, wizardman of science, as he scours the worlds of tomorrow in the hunt for the greatest interplanetary outlaw of all time! A creeping menace invades the galaxy in a sweep of interplanetary conquest— and Captain Future meets his most powerful enemy... the Space Emperor!

 

 

 

Radio Archives • 2012

Copyright Page

 

Copyright © 1940 by Better Publications, Inc. © 2012 RadioArchives.com. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form.

 

 

These pulp stories are a product of their time. The text is reprinted intact, unabridged, and may include ethnic and cultural stereotyping that was typical of the era.

 

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ISBN 978-1610818308

Introduction

The original introduction to Captain Future as it appeared in issue #1

 

The Wizard of Science! Captain Future!

The most colorful Planeteer in the Solar System makes his debut in this, America’s newest and most scintillating scientifiction magazine — CAPTAIN FUTURE.

This is the magazine more than one hundred thousand scientifiction followers have been clamoring for! Here, for the first time in scientifiction history, is a publication devoted exclusively to the thrilling exploits of the greatest fantasy character of all time!

Follow the flashing rocket-trail of the Comet as the most extraordinary scientist of nine worlds have ever known explores the outposts of the cosmos to the very shores of infinity. Read about the Man of Tomorrow today!

Meet the companions of Captain Future, the most glamorous trio in the Universe!

Grag, the giant, metal robot; Otho, the man-made, synthetic android; and aged Simon Wright, the living Brain.

This all-star parade of the most unusual characters in the realm of fantasy is presented for your entertainment. Come along with this amazing band as they rove the enchanted space-ways — in each issue of CAPTAIN FUTURE!

 

Captain Future and the Space Emperor

A Complete Book-Length Scientifiction Novel

by Edmond Hamilton

 

Follow the quest of Curtis Newton, wizardman of science, as he scours the worlds of tomorrow in the hunt for the greatest interplanetary outlaw of all time! A creeping menace invades the galaxy in a sweep of interplanetary conquest— and Captain Future meets his most powerful enemy... the Space Emperor!

 

 

Chapter 1: Doom on Jupiter

 

THE chill, uncanny breath of a dark menace millions of miles away pervaded the spacious, softly-lit office high in the greatest of New York’s mighty towers.

The man who sat there at an ebonite desk was worried. Facing a broad window which framed the stupendous pinnacles of the moonlit city, he could feel that cold, malign aura. He shuddered at the thought of what he knew was happening even at this moment.

“It can’t go on,” he muttered sickly to himself. “That horror must be stopped, somehow. Or else —”

James Carthew, President of the Earth Government which had ruled all humanity since the last World War, was not an old man. Fifty was considered the prime of life, in these days. But the appalling responsibilities of guiding the destinies of all mankind had aged this man before his time.

His gray-short hair was thinning around his high forehead. There were deep lines of strain in his keen, powerful face, and his dark eyes were haunted by haggard weariness and lurking fear.

As the door of his office opened his thin hands gripped the edges of his desk convulsively.

North Bonnel, his slender, dark young secretary, entered.

“The liner from Jupiter just landed, sir,” he reported. “I had a flash from the spaceport.”

“Thank heavens!” Carthew muttered. “Sperling should be here in five minutes. He knows I’m waiting for his report.”

Bonnel hesitated.

“I hope he’s reached the bottom of that mystery out there. The special committee of Jupiter citizens called by televisor again this evening.”

“I know — calling to protest again about conditions on Jupiter,” Carthew said bitterly. “Each one of them trying to voice a louder complaint than the others.”

“You can hardly blame them, sir,” the young secretary ventured to say. “Things must be pretty horrible out there on Jupiter, with that hideous thing spreading as it is.”

“Sperling will have found out what’s causing it,” the President asserted confidently. He looked at the perpetual uranium clock on his desk. “He ought to be arriving any second —”

A scream from somewhere in the lower levels of the great Government Tower cut him off. It was a woman’s scream.

There were many girl clerks employed here in the huge Government Headquarters for Earth and its planet colonies. Even at night, some of them were always in the building. But what had frightened one of them into uttering that agonized scream?

James Carthew had risen to his feet behind his desk, his aging face paling with sudden apprehension. The secretary started violently.

“Something wrong, sir! I’d better see —”

He started toward the door. It was suddenly flung open from outside.

Young Bonnel recoiled wildly.

“My God!” he cried.

In the open door stood a hideous and incredible figure, a monstrosity out of a nightmare.

It was a giant, hunched ape, hairy and abhorrent. Its squat figure wore a man’s zipper-suit of white synthesilk. In the too-tight garment, the creature looked like a gruesome travesty on humanity, its brutish, hairy face a bestial mask, jaws parted to reveal great fangs. Its eyes blazed with a cold glitter as it started into the room. “Look out!” Bonnel yelled frantically.

 

A WHITE-FACED guard in the dark uniform of the Planet Police appeared in the door. He leveled his flare-gun swiftly at the monstrous ape.

“Wait — don’t shoot!” James Carthew cried suddenly, as he looked into the monster’s hairy face.

His warning was too late. The guard had seen nothing but an incredible, menacing creature advancing toward the President. He had squeezed the trigger.

The little flare from the pistol struck the ape’s broad back. The creature’s bestial face contorted in sudden agony. With a deep, almost human groan, it collapsed.

James Carthew, with a cry of horror, jumped forward. His face was paper-white as he bent over the creature.

The ape’s eyes, strange
blue
eyes, had a dying light in them as they looked up at the President. The creature strove to speak.

From the hairy throat came a hoarse, gurgling rattle — dying words, thickened to a brutish growl, but dimly recognizable.

“Jupiter — the Space Emperor — causing atavism —” the thing gasped hoarsely in dying accents.

It sought to raise its head, its fading blue eyes weirdly human in agonized apprehension and appeal as they looked up at the President.

“Danger from —”

And then, as it sought to form another word, life ebbed swiftly, and the creature sank back, its eyes glazing.

“Dead!” Carthew exclaimed, trembling violently.

“My God, it talked!” cried the white-faced guard. “That ape — talked!”

“It’s not an ape. It’s a man!” said James Carthew hoarsely.

He got to his feet. Guards and officials were running alarmedly into the office.

“Get out — all of you,” Carthew whispered, making a gesture with his trembling hand.

Horrified, still staring at the monstrous, hairy corpse on the floor, they withdrew and left the President and his secretary alone with the macabre corpse.

“Good God — those blue eyes — it couldn’t be Sperling!” cried the shuddering young secretary.

“Yes, it’s Sperling all right,” James Carthew said softly. “I recognized him, by his eyes, a moment too late. John Sperling, our best secret agent — transformed into that dead brute on the floor!”

“You sent him to investigate the horror on Jupiter, and he fell prey to it!” Bonnel exclaimed hoarsely. “He changed, like those others out there, from man to brute. Yet he was still man enough to try to get here and make his report!”

The pale young secretary looked beseechingly at his chief.

“What
is
it that’s causing that horrible wave of monstrosities out on Jupiter? Hundreds of cases in the last month — hundreds of men changing into apish brutes!”

“Whatever it is, it’s something bigger than just Jupiter,” Carthew whispered haggardly. “Suppose this strange plague spreads to the other planets — to Earth?”

Bonnel blanched at the hideousness of the suggestion.

“Good God, that must not happen!”

The President looked down at the hairy body that a few weeks before had been the keenest, most stalwart man in the whole force of the Planet Police secret agents.

“Sperling may have written out a report,” Carthew muttered. “Secret agents are not supposed to do so, but —”

 

HASTILY, the young secretary searched the clothing of the hairy creature. He uttered a little exclamation as he drew forth a paper.

It was covered with crude, almost illegible writing, like the scrawl of a child. It was headed, “To the President.” Carthew read it aloud:

 

Ship only one day from Earth, but feel myself changing so fast, I fear I won’t be able to talk or think clearly by then. Was stricken by the atavism on Jupiter, days ago. Tried to get back to Earth to report what I learned, before I became completely unhuman.

I’ve learned that the blight on Jupiter is being caused by a mysterious being called the Space Emperor. Don’t know whether he’s Earthman or a Jovian. How he causes this doom, I don’t know, but it is some power he uses secretly on Earthmen there. I felt nothing of it, until I noticed myself changing, becoming foggy-minded, brutish.

Can’t write much more now — getting hard to hold pen — haven’t dared to leave my cabin on this ship, I’ve changed so badly — mind getting foggier — wish I could have learned more —

 

The young secretary’s eyes had horror and pity in them as James Carthew read the last words.

“So Sperling failed to learn anything except that this horrible flight was being deliberately caused by some human agency!” he exclaimed. “Think of him huddling in his cabin all the way back to Earth, becoming more brutish each day, hoping to reach Earth while he was still human —”

“We’ve no time to think of Sperling now!” Carthew explained, his voice high and raw. “It’s the people out there on Jupiter, and on the other planets, we must think of now — the arresting of this terror!”

James Carthew was feeling the awful weight of his responsibility, in this moment. The nine planets from Mercury to Pluto had entrusted their welfare to his care. And now he felt the approach of a mysterious, dreadful peril, a dark and un-guessable horror spreading like subtle poison.

The first reports of the blight had come from Jupiter, weeks before. Out on that mightiest of planets, whose vast jungles and great oceans were still largely unexplored, there flourished a sizable Earth colony. Centering around the capital of Jovopolis were dozens of smaller towns of Earthmen, engaged in working mines, and timbering, and in great grain-growing projects.

From one of those colonial towns near Jovopolis had come the first incredible reports. Earthmen — changing into beasts! Earthmen inexplicably being transformed into ape-like animals, their bodies and minds becoming more brutish each day. A horrible retracing of the road of human evolution! The victims had become atavisms — biological throwbacks hurled down the ladder of evolution.

Carthew had hardly believed those first reports. But soon had come ample corroboration. Already hundreds of Earthmen had been stricken by the dreadful change. The colonists out there were becoming panicky.

Carthew had sent scientists, men skilled in planetary medicine, to fight the horrid plague. But they had been unable to stop the cases of atavism, or even learn their cause. And neither had the secret agents of the Planet Police been able to learn much. Sperling, ace agent of them all, had learned but little, despite his sacrifice.

“We’ve got to do something at once, to check this blight,” Carthew declared shakenly. “We know now, at least, that these atavism cases are being caused deliberately, by this being Sperling called the Space Emperor.”

“But if Sperling, our best agent, couldn’t succeed, who in the world can?” Bonnel cried.

 

JAMES CARTHEW went to the window and stepped out onto the little balcony. He looked up at the full moon that sailed in queenly splendor high above the soaring towers of nighted New York.

There was a look of desperation in the’ President’s aging, haunted face as he gazed up at the shining white face of the lonely satellite.

“There’s only one thing left to do,” he said purposefully. “I’m going to call Captain Future.”

The secretary stiffened.

“Captain Future? But the whole world will know this is a perilous emergency, if you call
him!”

“This
is
a perilous emergency!” exclaimed his superior. “We’ve got to call him. Televise the meteorological rocket-patrol base at Spitzbergen. Order them to flash the magnesium flare signal from the North Pole.”

“Very well, sir,” acceded the secretary, and went to the televisor.

He came back a little later to the balcony, where James Carthew was gazing in anxiety toward the moon.

“The flare is being set off at the North Pole” he reported.

They waited, then, in tense silence. An hour passed — and another. The uranium clock showed it was past midnight.

Far out beyond New York’s towers, the moon was declining from the zenith. They could see the distant rocket-flash of liners taking off from the spaceport for far Venus or Saturn or Pluto.

“Why doesn’t Captain Future come?” North Bonnel burst out, unable to keep silent longer. “That ship of his can get from the moon to Earth in a few hours — he should be here by now.”

James Carthew’s gray head lifted.

“He will be here. He’s never yet failed to answer our call.”

“As a matter of fact, I’m here now, sir,” said a deep, laughing voice.

It came from the balcony outside the window. A big, redheaded young man had miraculously appeared there, as though by magic.

“Curt Newton — Captain Future!” cried the President eagerly.

 

CURT NEWTON was a tall, well-built young man. His unruly shock of red hair towered six feet four above the floor, and his wide lithe shoulders threatened to burst the jacket of his gray synthesilk zipper-suit. He wore a flat tungstite belt in which was holstered a queer-looking pistol, and on his left hand was a large, odd ring.

This big young man’s tanned, handsome face had lines of humor around the mouth, crinkles of laughter around the eyes. Yet behind the bantering humor in those gray eyes there lurked something deep and purposeful, some hidden, overpowering determination.

“Captain Future!” repeated James Carthew to this big young man. “But where’s your ship, the
Comet?”

“Hanging onto the wall outside by its magnetic anchor,” answered Curt Newton cheerfully. “Here come my comrades now.”

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