Tom Swift and His Electronic Retroscope

BOOK: Tom Swift and His Electronic Retroscope
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THE TOM SWIFT INVENTION ADVENTURES

TOM SWIFT

AND HIS ELECTRONIC

RETROSCOPE

BY VICTOR APPLETON II

This unauthorized tribute is based upon the original TOM SWIFT JR. characters.

As of this printing, copyright to The New TOM SWIFT Jr. Adventures is owned by SIMON & SCHUSTER

This edition privately printed by RUNABOUT © 2011
www.tomswiftlives.com

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1
A SUDDEN DROP

"THIS is a new kind of scientific expedition," Bud Barclay remarked with a grin, "bringing pygmies out of the Yucatan jungle!"

"A bit different from our space cruises," Tom Swift agreed with a chuckle. "Bud, these small men are not pygmies; just the shortest of their particular tribe of Mayan Indians. Doctors hope to learn a lot by studying them. For one thing, their pulse rate is twenty points lower than ours."

"And speaking as one of those doctors," added Doc Simpson, "we overpriced medical types are also interested in finding out how they manage to live to be over a hundred, on the average. After all, if the secret gets around, people might not need us any more—I might have to go back to school!"

The famous blond-haired inventor was piloting his equally famous Flying Lab high above the rugged Mexican highlands, accompanied by a small crew of friends from Swift Enterprises in Shopton, New York. Bud, his best pal and copilot, sat beside him. The two youths gazed out the big, downsloping viewpane with eagerness as the eastern mountains that hedged the great central plateau of Mexico gave way to the coastal plain. The skyship had left Mexico City only minutes before, streaking almost due east at supersonic speed.

A fourth man stood behind Tom and Bud next to young Doc Simpson, who was the chief physician at Enterprises as well as a researcher in the field of medicine. Chow Winkler, big in all directions and well-seasoned by the Texas sun, suddenly said, "Bet my last grain o’ cayenne pepper those pygmies won’t come!" A born skeptic, he nudged his ten-gallon hat forward toward the bridge of his nose. The chunky, bald-headed man served as chef for the Swifts’ various expeditions.

Chow squinted out the plane window and shook his head worriedly. "We’ll prob’ly end up with arrows in our backs!" he prophesied.

"You’re
prob’ly
right," Doc nodded; "especially if you keep calling them
pygmies!"

"The rest of us needn’t worry about filling their dinner pots." Bud winked at Tom. "One look at a nice plump specimen like you, Chow, and they’ll toss us back on the shelf!"

"Y-y-you mean th-these Injuns we’re lookin’ for are cannibals?" The grizzled cook turned pale deep in the creases of his prairie tan. "Brand my sagebrush stew, I should’ve stayed on home grounds back at Enterprises." Chow made his headquarters at the Swifts’ huge, ultramodern experimental station. It was here that Tom and his father developed their revolutionary inventions.

"Relax, pardner." Tom soothed the Texan with a smile. "Flyboy here is pulling your leg again. The Mayas are really a very fine and peaceful people."

"They ain’t savages?" Chow gulped.

"Far from it. They’re full-blooded descendants of the ancient peoples who ruled here before Columbus and built great temples."

"And practiced human sacrifice," Bud added with an ominous chuckle.

"Not any more, of course," Tom said.

"So they’s contented, happy people nowadays, hmm?" asked Chow with a baleful look at Bud.

"Well," Tom replied, "I guess it depends whom you ask. But we can rule out ritual sacrifice."

Bud continued his affectionate teasing. "The Mayas may be peaceful now, but there are still plenty of jaguars around in the Yucatan jungle. Those big spotted cats can really be mean when they’re cornered."

Chow grinned feebly. "Wa-aal, I’ll stay in my corner if those cats’ll stay in theirs! Say, how long you figure on bein’ in that jungle, Tom?"

"Not longer than a few days, Chow. Doc expects to identify his subject-group quickly. As for me, I just plan to make some field tests of the new camera, then head back to Enterprises. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try out the retroscope on some real ruins that have been weathered by centuries of exposure." Tom had been developing a television-type electronic camera which he hoped to use in restoring, photographically, ancient writing and carving for study by archaeologists.

After winging across the blue waters of the Bahia de Campeche, the three-decker super-jet
Sky Queen
flew on across the lush green Yucatan Peninsula. Tom now consulted a video-display map to find the tiny Mayan village where they were to pick up the five natives. In keeping with Doc Simpson’s grant from Grandyke University, he was to locate his subjects among the ever-shrinking population of Maya descendents who had largely retained their traditional ways and culture. An ethnographer from the University of Mexico, Professor Castillez, had directed him to the tribal village he had been studying, named Huratlcuyon. He was to meet the Shopton team there.

"Where can we land, anyway?" Bud asked, worried. The terrain below was a dense green mass of tropical rain forest, with the shore of the Caribbean Sea visible off to the southeast. There appeared to be no spot to set down.

"Strange," muttered Tom. "We’re approaching the coordinates where the work crew from Polyuc was supposed to clear a landing spot for us." Polyuc was the only sizable town near their destination; even so, it was a good fifty miles distant, with only winding unpaved roads threading together the various small settlements that dotted the jungle.

Simpson frowned with concern. "Our contacts in Mexico City confirmed that the field had been cleared and finished as of last Wednesday."

Tom looked up and combined his shrug with a grin of reassurance. "Don’t worry, Doc. Even if we can’t land the
Queen
right off, we’ll work something out."

"Looks as if you’ll have to use your new plane," Bud told Tom.

"Say, boss, that’s right!" enthused Chow. "A few of us can use that there blimp t’get down on the ground, jest like ole Columbus used his little dinghy-boats t’go ashore from his big ships."

He was referring to another of Tom’s amazing new inventions, which he had brought along in the
Sky Queen
’s hangar-hold. This tiny plane was part jet and part dirigible. After the dirigible’s bag was filled with helium, so the plane could float without power, the bag could then be slowly deflated to bring the ship gently to earth. As Tom hoped to perfect the inflatable balloon-bag apparatus to a point where it could become standard equipment for small aircraft, making disastrous, fatal air crashes a thing of the past, Bud Barclay had nicknamed the craft a "parachute plane," instantly shortened to
paraplane
by Tom and his crew. It was his first test model that was now in the hold, previously stowed in the
Sky Queen
in preparation for testing upon the return to Shopton.

"You’re right, Bud, Chow." Tom turned back and spoke over the cabin microphone to Slim Davis. "Report to the flight compartment!" He then changed frequencies and called Professor Castillez on the ground.

"We can see you, Tom," radioed the ethnologist. "You’re about two miles west of north."

"I’m amazed we can’t see
you,
Professor."

"Ah, blame the jungle for that!" was the wry response. "And of course Huratlcuyon is very small, and blends in very well with the landscape. But we will see each other shortly, at any rate."

Despite the difficulty it took only a minute more to sight the village far below—a cluster of about fifteen oblong huts, green and brown in color. Cutting the main engines, Tom fed power to the jet lifters to hold the ship steady in its present position, hovering at 3100 feet. Slim, a veteran Enterprises pilot and a good friend of Tom and Bud, entered the compartment a moment later.

"What’s up, skipper? We almost there?"

"The village is right below, but we’ll have to use the paraplane for a landing," Tom explained. "Bud and I will get it ready. Take over."

"An’ I’m comin’ along," Chow declared.

As Slim eased into the pilot’s seat, Tom discussed with him the plan for here on out. He was to pilot the big craft a dozen miles back along their route, to a broad low plateau they had spotted, barren of underbrush and large enough to accommodate the Flying Lab. "A road passed nearby, and we’ve caught glimpses of it now and then as we’ve approached Huratlcuyon. Once you’re down we can use Professor Castillez’s truck to ferry the equipment over—may take two trips, though."

Tom, Bud, Doc, and Chow hurried out through the passageway and down the metal stairs to the cargo hold, a true flying hangar that filled half the
Sky Queen
’s bottom deck. The sleek little paraplane, its wings folded neatly back parallel to the fuselage, awaited them in its launch-cradle. Other auxiliary craft customarily brought along in the hangar had been left at Swift Enterprises for regular inspection and repair, giving the paraplane plenty of room.

"Mighty cute. But now that I see ’er—jest
how
we goin’ to float down in this contraption?" Chow eyed the strange-looking craft uneasily. "I thought it was s’posed to have some kind o’ balloon ’r gas bag ’r somethin’. But I sure-t’-hey cain’t see how you’d go about fitting somethin’ like that inside sech a dinky li’l ole thing." The fuselage of the domed, wedge-nosed jetcraft was scarcely bigger than a compact car!

"Don’t let her modest size fool you," Tom replied with a smile. He reached over and patted a long rounded bulge on top of the fuselage that ran its length like a backbone. "The dirigible bag is deflated now and stowed inside this pod. We’ll blow it up with helium as soon as we’re airborne. It inflates almost instantly, like the safety airbags in cars."

"Okay, if’n you say so. But don’t wait too long, Tom!"

As several crewmen stood by in the hold compartment, watching with interest, Tom and Bud checked over the paraplane and readied it for launch, and Doc Simpson and Chow climbed into the cabin of the paraplane, Doc clutching a canvas bag of medical equipment. The interior of the craft was set up like the passenger compartment of a car, one pair of seats side-by-side in front, a second row just behind. Tom took his place at the controls and adjusted his headset as Bud climbed in next to him.

"All ready, skipper?" Slim’s voice came over the earphones.

"Thumbs up!" Tom exclaimed excitedly. "Lower away!" Then Slim pressed a button on the main control board. As an alarm sounded, all the crewmen who had come down to watch hustled out of the compartment. The metal deck began to descend like an elevator platform, lowered by piston-muscled struts. Twenty-two feet below the Flying Lab’s fuselage, a gentle bump announced that the deck had reached position.

A light blinked on, signaling all clear. Tom warmed up the engine, his heart pounding. Although he had test-flown the paraplane back home in Shopton, this would be its first real tryout under different atmospheric flight conditions.

Chow gripped the sides of his bucket seat, pop-eyed with excitement. Bud Barclay flashed the young inventor a tense grin. "Here goes, pal!"

"You said it!" Tight-lipped, Tom flicked a switch to release the spring-chocks and open the throttle.

With a mighty
swo-o-oosh
of jet power, the paraplane shot out from the
Queen
’s suspended hangar platform! An instant later, before they had even cleared the stratoship’s tail, the wings of the craft swung outward from the fuselage, snapping into position so quickly they looked like the blades of a fan.

As the wings bit into the airstream, Tom expected them to provide a smooth lifting effect. Instead, the ship gave a lurch that almost jarred the three occupants from their seats. Chow’s foghorn bellow whooped a nervous "R-r-ride ’em, cowboy!" White-faced, he tried to force a grin as the small craft rocked and rolled alarmingly.

Tom fought the controls and managed to steady the ship. Then he steered it in a tight swooping circle to an altitude several hundred feet below the hovering
Sky Queen
.

"Now to try out the gas bag." Tom’s fingers flew over the control panel. With a muffled sound the pod split open along its length and the big balloon-bag shot out and upward, stretching to its full extension in the space of two seconds as Tom’s boggling passengers craned their necks to get the view above them.

"Now I’d call that
fast!"
marveled Doc Simpson. "I suppose it’s the helium you pump in that makes the bag go rigid, eh?"

"Nope!" Happy with the smooth operation of his invention, Tom shook his head nonchalantly. "The material of the liftbag is transifoil, interwoven in long, airtight strips. That’s why it has a metallic sheen to it."

"Transifoil," Bud repeated. "That’s the stuff you invented for your space solartron’s atom-snatchers."

"Oh yeah," said Chow. "The stuff that unfolds itself, then folds itself back up, no muss no fuss!"

"That’s it," said Tom. "Tough, durable, lightweight, and ultra thin—just a few angstroms thick,
much
thinner than a human hair."

"Even thinner than
your
hair, Chow!" gibed Bud.

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