The Project Gutenberg eBook of Forbidden flight

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Title: Forbidden flight

Author: Chester Cohen

Release date: March 11, 2024 [eBook #73146]

Language: English

Original publication: New York, NY: Columbia Publications, Inc, 1941

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at



By Chester B. Conant

A Future Fiction Brief

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Future combined with Science Fiction October 1941.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

But for the internal sounds of the ship hurtling through space the silence was complete. It was not long since they had left Earth on their perilously romantic expedition. In the enforced inactivity aboard ship, the half-dozen members of the crew were reliving the events of the past few months, particularly that final meeting of the Junior Rocketeers, an organization of younger space pilots, most of them still in their twenties. The society had been organized late in the 21st Century by the Board of Interuniversal Transportation, Youth Commission, to interest the space-conscious youth of the World in "the furthering of scientific expeditions to planets yet unexplored to extend the knowledge of man." Into this organization had poured young men and women from all walks of life interested in making their hobby of rocketing important as an aid to scientific advancement.

Its success was attested by the fact that the Tellurian Army of Maintenance consistently recruited officers from its membership to be trained as assistant commanders of its extraplanetary forces.

"I am here, Friends, to plead the cause of sanity," Dr. Henry Neist began. Hurt eyes stared at the speaker with disappointment and astonishment. The doctor paused. For a moment, he had the feeling that they hadn't heard, so stunning was the silence. The members of the Junior Rocketeers were thinking, trying to understand, since Dr. Neist was their last hope of official sanction. This same Dr. Neist had been their greatest supporter before and during their many previous expeditions, had helped them, lending his time and patience, even when all others had forsaken them. He had stood as a bulwark for them against the sneering disapproval of the World, the only member of the Board of Interuniversal Transportation who had aided them, fighting with them and for them to the last.

Now he was standing there on the platform with the others—against them. Small wonder it was difficult for them to follow his words, to comprehend his meaning. He fully realized their disappointment and it was only painfully that he continued.

"In the past I have worked with you side by side against a world of doubters and scoffers." He was reading their thoughts. "But I cannot support you in this endeavor. I wish I could...." Dr. Neist paused resignedly. "I'm not thinking of myself, Friends, believe me. The thought of exile to the barren Anos does not frighten me as it hasn't in the past. Twelve of your associates have disappeared—perished—in flights of exploration to Uranus. Yes, surely perished, for if they were alive we should most certainly have heard from them. We are no longer living in the experimental era of the 21st Century. Space travel is an accomplished fact. We have almost completely conquered space. But for a few unexplored, outlying planets, we should have complete knowledge of what was once a great, mysterious universe.

"With such knowledge, Friends, with interuniversal communications perfected, can you still believe that twelve young people could become so lost in space that it were impossible for them to phone us? Think! They had two complete auxiliary sets of uniphones with which they could contact any planet in our universe. The sets were in perfect condition, had been checked and rechecked. Could there have been an accident so inconceivable as to have ruined their phones and left their ship damaged beyond repair? The Staluminum hulls must have been crushed—destroyed—before their instruments could even be touched.

"The two previous expeditions to Uranus have failed horribly, as never before in this century of enlightenment and research. The second expedition should never have been allowed, yet you ask for a third. It's sheer suicide, Friends—sheer suicide. Don't you see that?... I cannot give you my sanction." The last with a definite finality, almost fatalistic in tone. The lines in Dr. Neist's face deepened; he looked like a tired old man as he sank into his seat. He felt their disappointment keenly; perhaps as much as they did themselves.

But the Junior Rocketeers did not realize this at the time. Neist's decision meant the abandonment of an expedition of months of planning, during which they had hardly slept, working night and day to bring their venture to a successful conclusion.

Disconsolately, they trouped out of the hall, hardly speaking. One boy, Reggie Bowan, much younger than his fellows, who had joined the organization hardly a month previously, wiped tears from his eyes as he walked. He expressed the feelings of his dry-eyed but as fully affected seniors.

That night they met in their spacious quarters which were at once laboratory, hangar and factory, wherein they had planned and built the ships which had carried their members to glory on the many expeditions since the inception of their organization only a quarter-century before.

"Are all the entrances being carefully watched?" asked Jason Day. "You haven't forgotten the East Office? The Doctor usually enters from there. We can't trust anyone now."

"The East Office also, Friend Jason—Rita's guarding it." Jason Day was local president of the society. Without turning his long dark face, he assented, "Good. We must work fast, now, and with all possible caution. The Quest has been checked a hundred times; almost everything is ready. I assume you've all had your quota for the evening meal. Dinner is the last meal you'll get on Earth. We'll breakfast on the ship."

Little more than an hour later, the great roar of the Starterocket tubes announced the beginning of the outlawed excursion. Having succeeded in catapulting their burden into space, the incipient rockets now settled down, smouldering, to rest. A thick, black smoke hid them from view.

"Starterockets cleared, Friend Jason," announced young Bowan. No tears now. The lad's face was beaming with a mixture of happiness and perspiration as he awaited further instructions. Jason threw the switch that started the ship's rocket engines almost before the boy's words were finished.

Blanche Holm, the pretty co-pilot, bustled about getting things in readiness for the long, forbidden journey. Humming happily, she set gears and levers in preparation for her turn at the controls. Rita Balter, the only other girl aboard ship, was unpacking and re-packing tools and gear while others were similarly occupied in the after-compartments of the Quest.

In his observatory, where he had paced the floor ceaselessly all night, Dr. Neist watched with deep emotion as the Rocketeers sped into the infinite. Painted along the ship's side in ragged blue he had read: URANUS OR BUST. He smiled sadly at their youthful exuberance. The young fools.... He knew they'd do it. Those old fossils on the Board must have been mad to think they were going to give up the idea after these exhaustive weeks of careful planning. He wished they had. Jason Day was his favorite protege: brilliant, ambitious—they were all a lot of fine kids. He shrugged his shoulders wearily....

A gleaming bronze bullet sped smoothly through space, seeming to nose into the very stars. Inside the bullet Jason was getting ready to take his turn at the controls. He found Blanche weary yet cheerful, looking forward to a rest in the sleeping quarters.

"Look at the indicator, Blanche!" he cried. The needle was quivering madly. "We're nearing it!"

"I know," she replied. "I've been watching it all night. It's been motionless until now. We must just have entered the range of its magnetic field."

"I'll take over," Jason said, excitedly. "You'd better get some sleep."

"I can't sleep now. Let me have a stimulette, will you? I've used all mine."

"Sure ... here." He handed her a capsule. "Blanche—?"


"I'm thinking it wasn't far from here—"

"Yes, Jay, I know. We'll find out soon enough."

"Perhaps too soon. Blanche, you know how I feel about you."

"Of course."

"Maybe we should have married before we left."

"Why so pessimistic, darling? This isn't like you."

"I don't know." He forced a laugh. "Maybe it's the atmosphere."

It was at that moment, peering through the obsoglass in front of him, that he saw it.

"Blanche! Look at that!"

In front of them and a few short miles above them stretched a high fuzzy blanket of haze. Beyond it the torn and twisted remains of the ships of the two previous expeditions, a gruesome chaos of almost unrecognizable wreckage. All this could be seen but dimly through the yellow film.

A moment more and they would pierce the blanket. A feeling of impending doom seized them. Horror-stricken, they huddled together, the instruments and dials now forgotten. The indicator which warned them of their approach had long since burst into fragments, the magnetic pull on the great needle too much even for the duraglass shield to withstand.

The Quest pierced the yellow haze. There was a terrific explosion. Great forces, like unseen hands, tore at the ship, rending the strong Staluminum hull to fragments as though it were an eggshell. When the last fragments had come to rest there was nothing to be seen of the former occupants but a few crimson splotches here and there, scattered about the wreckage.

Only one huge Staluminum plate which had been thrown clear of the ship at the beginning of the explosion remained recognizable. Still legible on one side of the bronze-hued plate were two words:—OR BUST.