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To anyone interested in the roots of modern science fiction, the name of Ray Cummings should be well known. He wrote science fiction and fantasy before the name "science fiction" had been coined, publishing fantastic yarns in Argosy, Munsey's Magazine, and other mainstream pulp magazines. Of course, as soon as the science fiction pulps debuted, he moved to them, where his work received a hearty welcome from fans. Cummings publishing more than 750 novels and short stories over his long career, producing work in many genres, including the mystery field (see "Atom Boy" in this Megapack for one prime example). We are pleased to showcase 25 of his tales, ranging from science fiction to fantasy to mystery...more than 1,500 pages of great reading!

Included are:

THE GIRL IN THE GOLDEN ATOM (1919-1920)
THE GIRL IN THE GOLDEN ATOM, PART 2
THE SILVER VEIL (1921)
THE FIRE PEOPLE (1922)
TWO PROPOSALS (1923)
JETTA OF THE LOWLANDS (1930)
THE WHITE INVADERS (1931)
REQUIEM FOR A SMALL PLANET (1958)
BRIGANDS OF THE MOON (1931)
WANDL THE INVADER (1932)
TARRANO THE CONQUEROR (1930)
PHANTOMS OF REALITY (1930)
DR. FEATHER IN "A SHOT IN THE DARK" (1936)
DR. FEATHER IN "MURDER IN THE FOG" (1937)
DR. FEATHER IN "THE DEAD MAN LAUGHS" (1938)
DR. FEATHER IN "CLUE IN CRIMSON" (1943)
THE WORLD BEYOND (1938)
GADGET GIRL (1944)
PRECIPICE (1945)
PHOTOGRAPH OF DEATH (1945)
STAMP OF DOOM (1946)
THE SCALPEL OF DOOM (1947)
ATOM BOY (1947)
THE LIFTED VEIL (1947)
BEYOND THE VANISHING POINT (1958)
THE GIRL FROM INFINITE SMALLNESS (1940)
PLANET STORIES' FEATURE FLASH: MEET RAY CUMMINGS

And don't forget to search this ebook store for "Wildside Megapack" to see more entries in the series, covering science fiction, fantasy, horror, mysteries, westerns -- and much, much more!

1

"It's a planet," I said. "A little world."

"How little?" Venza demanded.

"One-fifth the mass of the Moon. That's what they've calculated now."

"And how far is it away?" Anita asked. "I heard a newscaster say yesterday...."

"Newscasters!" Venza broke in scornfully. "Say, you can take what they tell you about any danger or trouble and cut it in half; and even then you'll be on the gloomy side. See here, Gregg Haljan."

"I'm not giving you newscasters' blare," I retorted. Venza's extravagant vehemence was always refreshing. The Venus girl glared at me. I added:"Anita mentioned newscasters; I didn't."

Anita was in no mood for smiling. "Tell us, Gregg." She sat upright and tense, her chin cupped in her hands. "Tell us."

"For a fact, they don't know much about it yet. You can call it a planet, a wanderer."

"I should say it was a wanderer!" Venza exclaimed. "Coming from heaven knows where beyond the stars, swimming in here like a comet."

"They calculated its distance yesterday at some sixty-five million miles from Earth," I said. "It isn't so far beyond the orbit of Mars, coming diagonally and heading very nearly for the Sun. But it's not a comet."

The thing was indeed inexplicable; for many weeks now, astronomers had been studying it. This was early summer of the year 2070 A.D. All of us had recently returned from those extraordinary events I have already recounted, when we came close to losing Johnny Grantline's radiactum treasure on the Moon, and our lives as well. My ship, the Planetara, in the astronomical seasons when the Earth, Mars, and Venus were within comfortable traveling distances of each other, had carried mail and passengers from Greater New York to Ferrok-Shahn, of the Martian Union, and to Grebhar, of the Venus Free State. Now it was wrecked on the Moon.

Chapter I

The New Murders

I was standing fairly close to the President of the Anglo-Saxon Republic when the first of the new murders was committed. The President fell almost at my feet. I was quite certain then that the Venus man at my elbow was the murderer. I don't know why, call it intuition if you will. The Venus man did not make a move; he merely stood beside me in the press of the throng, seemingly as absorbed as all of us in what the President was saying.

It was late afternoon. The sun was setting behind the cliffs across the river. There were perhaps a hundred and fifty thousand people within sight of the President, listening raptly to his words. It was at Park Sixty, and I was standing on the Tenth Level.[1] The crowd packed all twelve of the levels; the park was black with people. The President stood on a balcony of the park tower. He was no more than a few hundred feet above me, well within direct earshot. Around him on all sides were the electric megaphones which carried his voice to all parts of the audience. Behind me, a thousand feet overhead, the main aerials were scattering it throughout the city, I suppose five million people were listening to the voice of the President at that moment. He had just said that we must remain friendly with Venus; that in our enlightened age controversies were inevitable, but that they should be settled with sober thought--around the council table. This talk of war was ridiculous. He was denouncing the public news-broadcasters; moulders of public opinion, who every day--every hour--must offer a new sensation to their millions of subscribers.

He had reached this point when without warning his body pitched forward. The balcony rail caught it; and it hung there inert. The slanting rays of the sun fell full upon the ruffled white shirt; white, but turning pink, then red, with the crimson stain welling out from beneath.

Chapter I.

THE COMING OF THE LIGHT.

The first of the new meteors landed on the earth in November, 1940. It was discovered by a farmer in his field near Brookline, Massachusetts, shortly after daybreak on the morning of the 11th. Astronomically, the event was recorded by the observatory at Harvard as the sudden appearance of what apparently was a new star, increasing in the short space of a few hours from invisibility to a power beyond that of the first magnitude, and then as rapidly fading again to invisibility. This star was recorded by two of the other great North American observatories, and by one in the Argentine Republic. That it was comparatively small in mass and exceedingly close to the earth, even when first discovered, was obvious. All observers agreed that it was a heavenly body of an entirely new order.

The observatory at Harvard supplemented its account by recording the falling, just before dawn of the 11th, of an extraordinarily brilliant meteor that flamed with a curious red and green light as it entered the earth's atmosphere. This meteor did not burn itself out, but fell, still retaining its luminosity, from a point near the zenith, to the horizon.

What the farmer saw was a huge fire burning near the center of his field. It was circular in form and about thirty feet in diameter. He was astonished to see it there, but what surprised him more was its peculiar aspect.

It was still the twilight of dawn when he reached the field. He beheld the fire first from a point several hundred yards away. As he explained it, the light--for it was more aptly described as a light than a fire--extended in parallel rays from the ground directly upward into the sky. He could see no line of demarkation where it ended at the top. It seemed to extend into the sky an infinite distance. It was, in fact, as though an enormous searchlight were buried in his field, casting its beam of light directly upward.

Dr. Feather Tries to Prove You Can "Set a Thief to Catch a Thief" (note: short story) Excerpt The fog, almost without warning, swirled out of the East in the late afternoon. Grey at first, then murky green, thick as pea soup, it settled on Grain's Lake. The wind had died; the fog, a dank motionless shroud, merged with the twilight. When night came, Grain's Lake and its forested shores, which were dotted with occasional summer fishing camps, was nothing but solid, soundless blackness. At seven o'clock that evening, an hour after the fog had settled, two small open launches, each carrying two men, groped their way through the turgid murk. They had come from an island three miles out in the open lake and were headed for the north shore, where in the midst of the woods was a small boathouse, and on the knoll behind it, a big, luxurious rustic log cabin bungalow, shrouded by the trees. Throttled down to trolling speed, the two launches were making barely three miles an hour. They were trying to keep fairly together. Before they had been half an hour from the island the men had no clear idea of where they were. They were steering by small compasses and by intuition. Occasionally the men called out to each other, each boat trying to locate the other. But the sodden pea soup fog blurred, muffled and deadened the voices until they were indistinguishable. The low put-put of the little motors was inaudible. In the bow of one of the boats middle-aged, grey-haired Dr. Hollis Hotchkiss sat peering into the fog. There was nothing to see; nothing to hear. Occasionally he waved his flashlight, but its puny beam seemed hardly to penetrate ten feet.
An ingenious detective finds the fatal chord in a fugue of death! note: a short story Excerpt "Dear me, Kit, this visitor certainly is in a hurry." It was eleven P.M. the front door of Dr. Feather's apartment was ringing with steady violence. In his faded old dressing gown and carpet slippers little Dr. Feather sat expectant, while Kit, his small, dark-haired young daughter, went to the door. The visitor was Detective-sergeant Blaine, a plainclothes police detective. Dr. Feather had known him for many years. "Well, well, Sergeant. Come in. Sit down-or are you in a rush? You sounded-" "Murder case," Blaine said. "Mighty glad you haven't gone to bed, Dr. Feather. I sort of hated-" "Oh, that's all right, Sergeant. Murder-" "Right around the corner from here. So I thought, instead of phoning-" "Of course, Sergeant. You think I can be of help? That's fine. Get my shoes, Kit. Hurry, child-can't you see the sergeant is in a rush?" "Yes, Father." "An old musician got murdered," Blaine was saying. "It happened only an hour ago. Captain Mac phoned for me-looks like an inside job. If it is, we got the murderer." "Musician, Sergeant? A musician got murdered?" "Yeah. Maybe you've heard of him, an old-timer. Antoine Giorni. Never heard of him myself, but-" "Antoine Giorni! Dear me, Sergeant, why of course I've heard of him. Twenty years ago, before my girl Kit was born, he was a famous concert pianist. Good gracious, how that takes one back! Why, I can I remember then Antoine Giorni was-" "Yeah. Well, that's him. We got four suspects-two young men an' two young women. They was paired off when the shot was fired. Damn queer layout, Dr. Feather. Looks to me like one couple is innocent an' the other is lyin' its head off. But I'll be dogged if I can figure out which is which."
Finding the body was enough evidence to show just how the killer had worked in cold-blooded wickedness. (note: a short story) Excerpt Old Man Macpherson was dying. There was no argument on that. You could see it in the gray pallor of his face, and hear it in his labored, gasping breaths. And he seemed to know it. He had sent for me in a hurry, late that Friday afternoon, a Friday in mid-October. I found him lying propped up in bed, in his room in the little wooden hotel which stands opposite the Cathedral in the village of St. Catherine de Belfort. His hand clung to mine as I sat beside him on the bed. "Ye came quick, Tom," he murmured. "Thank ye verra much. I made a big mistake, Tom. Ye'll have to be fixin' it. I jus' thought of it." "Mistake? That's out of your line, Mac." I grinned at him. "I didn't know you were really sick when you left the plant this morning in such a hurry or I'd have come with you. Tell me-" "'Twill finish me, this time." He tried to smile, and gasped with an effort to take a deeper breath. "The heart, not so good. Ye've known about that, Tom? The doc, he can't fool me. Not this time." Old Man MacPherson was my assistant at the plant I'm Tom Roberts, Paymaster of the Jacques Cartier Lumber Company. We're a small concern, located in the woods about a mile from St. Catherine. "I jus' happened to remember it, lyin' here," MacPherson was saying. "Yesterday, when I sent to the bank for our payroll money for termorrer-I wasn't feelin' so good, even then, Tom." Mac had completely forgotten that our payroll was considerably increased this week. We had a rush of overtime work and for a new night shift we had been fortunate in getting quite a few additional men. There's no way in and out of St. Catherine except by road-and a pretty rough road at that- through the woods to the town of Pont Noir, some thirty miles away. The armed mailman would arrive tomorrow morning with the registered package of our payroll money from the small branch of the Banque Canadienne Nationale in Pont Noir. But it wouldn't be enough, this week, not by some five thousand dollars.
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