First serialized in the 1954 October to December editions of "Incredible Tales of Scientific Wonder", here is the classic space opera that inspired the 1990's UPN television series. =============================================================== ROCKETSHIP VOYAGER A thrilling Tale of Transgalactic Adventure by K. C. Hunter. Once they had been bitter enemies. Now they were stranded on the far side of the galaxy, and must work together to survive! Chapter I: FASTER THAN LIGHT Through the trackless void between Jupiter and Mars hurtled the cigar-shaped vessel that was UNRS Voyager. A thousand feet of gleaming hull and glowering rocket-tubes, sleek gun blisters and swept-back wings, spinning radar dishes and slender antennae. A vessel built for peace but ready for war, now halfway from one to the other. Buried deep within the rocketship was the control-room known (for reasons lost in the vanished past of the pre-Atomic era) as the Bridge. At the helm was Tom Paris, a dashingly handsome Space Lieutenant with a bold shock of sandy-blonde hair. His steady hands gripped the control and thrust levers; his earphones were attuned to the maneuvers relayed from Astrogation. To his left sat Hyun Kim, a callow ensign from the megacities of Pan-Asia whose almond-shaped eyes took swift readings from the electroptical board that monitored everything from life-support systems to hull integrity. An alteration in the oxygen-helium mix of the synthetic atmosphere, a shift in balance off the rocket's axis of thrust, a flux in the electromagnetic fields of the Cochrane Drive: all could spell disaster if not reacted to decisively. Around them was a horseshoe-shaped array of scopes and telescreens, where commtechs scanned the electromagnetic spectrum and radarmen kept an omni-directional watch for any rocketship or meteorite. But it was the man lying on an acceleration couch with his eyes closed to the distracting sight of those screens who first detected the danger. Tech Lieutenant TuV'k—whose dark skin and sharply-pointed ears presented a satanic visage to those unfamiliar with the serenity and mental discipline of a Martian Adept—wore the copper skullcap of an eloptic field amplifier on his shaven head, wired into the Hieronymus Machine that projected his extrasensory perception across the immensity of Outer Space. "Object on intercept course," he warned. "Mr. Kim, sound General Quarters." "GENERAL QUARTERS! GENERAL QUARTERS!" blared the bullhorns on every deck of Voyager. "ALL HANDS MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS! OBJECT ON INTERCEPT COURSE! SET MATERIAL CONDITION ZEBRA THROUGHOUT THE SHIP!" Men and women tumbled from capsules where they had been resting after months of combat and raced for their assigned station. Those already on duty strapped on safety webbing or anchored themselves on the handgrips recessed into every surface—an essential feature on a space-vessel which could change in an instant from constant acceleration to the weightlessness of free-fall. As each compartment was manned its collision-hatches were sealed, isolating them in case of a catastrophic hull breach. "Captain on the Bridge!" someone announced. A scuttle-hatch in the deckplates had swung upward to reveal a bouffant of Titian hair surmounting grayish-blue eyes that scanned the Bridge the moment they came level with the tween-deck. Fingers tipped with clear-polished nails gripped a handhold, and with a practiced movement a slender figure sprung onto the deck: a handsome woman in her late-thirties, the austerity of her space-black uniform failing to conceal the feminine curvature underneath. She had the short stature of a veteran spacer, and her voice cracked with the authority of one used to command. "Tactical Psionics, report!" ordered Captain Kathryn Janeway. "Unknown object approaching incredibly fast," replied TuV'k. "Gun batteries loaded and radar-locked. A-missiles primed in tubes Three, Five and Seven." "Adjust our heading, Mr. Paris. See if it follows. Ship's status, Mr. Kim?" "All decks secure, ma'am. All stations manned and ready." "The object is altering course," said the Senior Radarman, peering into the hood of his scope. "Matching velocities with us. That's no meteorite." "Steady as you go, Mr. Paris." Captain Janeway strapped herself into an acceleration couch, swung the lap console over her chest and keyed the intercraft. "Bridge to Astrogation, give us a look at our visitor. It seems determined to have a look at us, after all." Thermoscopes and electronic telescopes tracked and locked on target, and the resulting image relayed to the telescreens on the Bridge. Magnification was unnecessary: the intruder Brobdingnagian in its dimensions. At first they could not comprehend what they were seeing. It was as if someone had erected a vast wall in Space to block their path. Then details became apparent: parallel surfaces forming the shape of an enormous cube, covered in a latticework of girders, transit-tubes, sensor antennae and radiator panels. A triumph of function over form, assembled without thought to aesthetics like an industrial plant of the 20th Century. "What do you make of it, TuV'k?" asked Janeway. "Could that be a Jovian vessel?" "Negative, Captain. Its appearance does not match any vessel encountered by Spacefleet." "Motive power?" "Unknown. I can detect no emission trail from a reaction drive." "It's massive!" exclaimed Kim. "Radar measures its size at almost seven cubic miles. There could be thousands of people living on that thing!" "It must be a generation ship," said Janeway, her scientific curiosity aroused. The nuclear rocket and the contraterrene drive had opened the Solar System for exploration and settlement, but travel to other stars remained the mere speculation of science-fiction writers. A journey to even the closest star was beyond the lifespan of any human crew, but in theory it was possible if the vessel was large enough to house a self-sustaining colony within its own bulkheads. Could this be Humanity's first contact with an interstellar species? How many years (centuries even!) had they been traveling? "Sparks, try hailing them." "On which frequency, ma'am?" The question threw Janeway for a moment. Did these extraterrans even use radio? "Start with the Intersolar Distress Frequency," she said, "then use your discretion. Try Terran-English, Esperanto, High and Low Martian... anything you can think of. Maybe these aliens have been monitoring our broadcasts like in those old scientifilms." The commtech never had a chance to try any of them. A shockwave rippled through the Bridge that hurled the crew against their safety webbing. A radarman who had unbuckled his restraints to pick up a dropped grease pencil was thrown clear across the deck. He got to his feet, turning the air blue with curses... then gaped in astonishment as he found himself standing halfway up the bulkhead, as if Voyager had been toppled on its side. Kim stared at his board, unable to believe what the gauges were telling him. "Captain, we appear to be caught in some kind of... gravitation beam!" "I need a better description than that, Mr. Kim!" "I can't explain it, ma'am... an intense gravitational field just appeared out of nowhere! It's somehow focused on Voyager... it's dragging us towards that cube-ship!" 'He's talking nonsense', thought Janeway. Gravity could not be switched on and off like an electromagnet. Yet the repeaters on her lap console told the same story; every gravimeter had jumped into the red zone. "Helm, any heading; just get us out of here!" Paris slammed forward the thrust lever and felt his couch shudder as the hydraulics absorbed the shock of acceleration. Emitting more radioactive energy in a microsecond than was expended in World Wars Two and Three, the Cochrane Drive hurled Voyager against its confinement. "We're free!" Paris exclaimed. "We're moving, we're..." His jaw dropped. "By the Twelve Moons of Jupiter!" The cold pinpoints of distant stars had blurred into incandescent blue lines streaking across the telescreens, while the rearward-pointing electroscopes showed those same lines shifting to a crimson red before vanishing into a blackness darker than the far reaches of the void. 'We're moving so fast that light-waves can't catch up,' thought Janeway, stunned at the implications. 'That's impossible... WE'VE CROSSED THE THRESHOLD OF LIGHT SPEED!' Only one thought motivated her. They had to stop, before Voyager got so far from Earth they could never return! "TuV'k!" shouted Janeway. Automatic restraints had pulled her tight into the couch; she hit the release button and twisted herself around against the G-forces to face her Tactical Psionics Officer. "Find out where that gravity field is coming from and get us a firing solution!" Beads of sweat glistened on his ebony features as TuV'k tried to shut out his extrasensory awareness of the mind-warping speed at which they travelled, to focus all his attention on the alien colossus. His dark eyes stared sightlessly at the bulkhead as his hands roamed across the ballistics integrator, adjusting dials and Vernier scales. Janeway held her breath as if even a single exhalation might distract him from his task. "I have a solution," gasped TuV'k, "but at this speed I would not advise__" "FIRE!" The rocketship rang like a carillon as the torpedo tubes hurled their atom-tipped missiles into Space, the dirigible rockets blazing to life the moment they were clear of the hull. The telescreens flared with a terrible radiance and pain burst in Janeway's skull as the couch smashed into her and then there was only blackness.