Beyond the Stars by Ray Cummings

Beyond the Stars

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subjects: Science Fiction

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Description

Is the entire universe just one of the atoms of some even greater cosmos? Such was the conception of one scientist - and his effort to prove this theory was to take a party of Americans on an expdition to a place that was literally Beyond the Stars. Racing through the vast depths of space in a vehicle larger than the universe itself – a fantastic concept, and one that only the mind of a master pioneering science fiction talent could conceive and then translate into a classic tale of exciting trans-cosmic exploration that will thrill the most jaded imagination.


182 pages, with a reading time of ~3.0 hours (45,507 words), and first published in 1928. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Excerpt

There is a saying in the Service that when Liner 40 N runs late the whole world waits. It may be true enough; I suppose it is. But to me, as Commander 3 of Liner 40 N on that night in May, 1998, it was a particularly annoying truth.

For I was running late; at the Azores I was a good twenty-eight minutes behind where I should have been, and it hardly made things any easier for me to contemplate an impatient world awaiting me.

All the way from Madrid our port meter 8 had been giving trouble. Then at 15 W. I had no sooner left the coast than a surge of wind from the northwest had swung down upon us, and I lost a good eight minutes trying unsuccessfully to climb over it. A mood of ill-nature possessed me. I was just twenty-four years old, the youngest of the three commanders who alternated on successive flights of the 40 N; this was only my seventh circle since promotion from the small equatorial liner of the East, and running the famous 40 N late under the eyes of a disapproving world disgruntled me.

At Meridian 45 W. the connecting Director at New York called me up. The Northern Express, flying north on Meridian 74 W., was already at New York waiting for me. The Director wasn’t very pleasant about it. If I held up the express in its flight over the Pole and down 106 E., every connection in the Eastern Hemisphere would be disarranged.

The mercurial screen on my desk glowed with its image of the director’s reproving face.

“You can’t expect McIleny to make up your lost time,” he told me. “Not on a night like this. The Bureau reports head winds for him all up to Baffin Land.”

“I’m having a few head winds myself,” I retorted.

But I grinned, and he caught my grin, and smiled back at me.

“Do the best you can,” he said. And disconnected.

I made no ocean stops; but the director at 55 was a fussy fellow. I was due to pass him at ten thousand feet, to clear the north-south lanes for the non-stop Polar freighters; and with this wind and the fog which was now upon me I knew I would receive a sharp rebuke from 55 if I passed too high.

A hum sounded at one of the dozen mercurial screens beside me. Director 55 already annoyed! But it was not he. The small rectangle of screen glowed with its formless silver blurs, took form and color. A girl’s face, ash-blond hair wound around her forehead, her white throat, with the square neck of a pale-blue jacket showing. And her earnest azure eyes searching mine, lighting with recognition as on her own screen she caught my image. Alice!

My annoyance at the threatened director’s call-down died. I seized my headphone, heard her voice.

“Len?”

“Yes, Alice.”

“I’ve been trying to get you all the way from Greenwich. They wouldn’t let me through, not until I told them it was important—I had to get you.” She spoke fast against the moment when the Vocal Traffic Timer would cut her off. “Len, grandfather wants you to come up and see us. At once—when you’re through with this circle. Will you?”

She saw the question on my lips.

“Don’t ask me now—no time, now, Len. But it’s important, and grandfather … do you know where I can find Jim? We want him too, you and Jim.”

“He’s in the Anglo-Detective Division, London Air Service, New York Branch.”

“Yes, I know. But he’s in the air tonight. How can I get him?” Her smile was whimsical. “When I asked for a tracer, the Timer over there told me to get the hell off the air. I guess he thought I wanted to find Jim just to tell him I loved him.”

Her image blurred.

The Mid-Atlantic Timer’s voice broke in. “Fifteen seconds. Last call.”

“I’ll get Jim,” I said hastily. “Bring him with me. Soon as we can get there.”

“Yes. We’re waiting for you. And Len, you won’t need to sleep first. You can sleep after you get here. And tell Jim—”

A click silenced her. The screen went dark.

What could she want of me? It was pleasant to have seen and heard from her, this granddaughter of old Dr. Weatherby. In the stress of getting my appointment and continuous examinations and tests between voyages, I had not seen Alice since leaving the Equatorial Run. Nor Jim Dunkirk either.

I went after him now. The tracers could not rebuff me as they did Alice. They found him at last—at 120°E., 85°N. He was coming up over the Pole, and down Baffin Bay making for New York. His jolly face, with its ever present grin and the shock of fiery red hair above it, glowed on my screen.

“Well, Len, say, it’s great to see you!”

“Alice just called me—Alice Weatherby. Doc wants us both—you and me—something important. Wants to see us. You off at New York?”

“You bet,” he grinned. “Had a chase down through Tibet; every cursed murderer thinks the grand idea is for him to swoop it for Lhasa and parts unknown. I have one here, now. When I get him in his airy cage I’m off duty for a while. Alice wants us?”

“Yes. I don’t know what for. She didn’t have a chance to—”

“Fifteen seconds. Last call.”