John C. Wright is producing pulp in the form of LOST ON THE LAST CONTINENT. Twenty-Seven episodes posted to date. Read a review here by Superversives SF’s own A. M. Freeman.
LOST ON THE LAST CONTINENT, Episode One
Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, a dream
The Diamond Sutra
*** *** ****
Colonel Preston Lost did not think of himself as reckless, because he believed in preparation, proper equipment, patience in stalking the prey.
But, if truth be told, he was not a cautious man.
When the stormclouds parted, and he glimpsed the glowing, unearthly craft he chased through the wild hurricane above the Bermuda Triangle, Preston Lost gritted his teeth in an odd smile, gripped the joystick, dropped the nose of the superhighspeed pursuit plane sharply down, opened the throttle of the jet engines, and ignited his afterburners.
He squinted through the small, sloped, triangular windows of his rocketplane. The solid sheets of rain blocked his sight. The unidentified flying object was disk-shaped, bathed in a nimbus of strange light, and changed course and speed with sudden, strange jerks of motion that defied normal laws of inertia. It moved like no aircraft and no missile known to man.
The flying disk dove into black cloud. At furious speed Preston dove in after, engines roaring. The winds roared louder. Preston had little fear of being spotted.
The cockpit vibrated and the hull groaned. More than one of his gauge needles crept toward red.
The magnificent machine was dubbed the Shooting Star VII. She had been built for one purpose. This purpose.
The black hull was bat-shaped, streamlined to the ultimate degree. She had no tailfin, no large surfaces to reflect radar. She was, in fact, an aerospace plane. No ordinary jet, she was driven by a combination of ramjets and liquid-fuel rockets. She could achieve supersonic speeds and low earth orbit.
Equally sophisticated was in her military-grade detection gear. He lost sight of the flying disk amid turbulent cloud and the hellish flares of lightning. But his instruments continued to mark the location of the fleeing quarry.
The altimeter blinked a warning. Sealevel was approaching. Somewhere below the curtain of cloud, the wind-lashed ocean waters were waiting. Preston’s eyes narrowed. Did the flying disk intend to ditch?
The cloudwrack parted. Preston, lightheaded from his dive, wondered if he were hallucinating. For it looked like the cloud had opened a huge, red eye. It was staring at him.
Like a hooded lantern opening, a strange, bright, ruby beam, wide as a highway, spilled out from the center of the apparition and splashed across the knotted textures of surrounding cloud. Perched between the clouds was an erubescent maelstrom surrounded by streamers of bright vapor, with a tightly-wound spiral of electric discharges circling them in turn.
Into the spotlight beam of red now shot the flying disk, as it jerked into yet another impossible, right-angled turn, and was yanked into acceleration even more impossible.
It flew toward the vortex, directly toward the middle. The eye shaped apparition now grew wide, as if startled at the approach of the disk. Or as if opening in welcome.
For suddenly Preston realized what he was seeing: The resemblance to an eye was accidental. The white vaporclouds formed the sclera; the flares of Saint Elmo’s Fire formed the iris; the red light was issuing from the pupil. But it really was a maelstrom, a whirlpool.
And this whirlpool, like that around a bathtub drain, let into a pipe, a tunnel. A tunnel, yes, without walls, and opening into a direction that seemed to have no place to be in three dimensional space. But still a tunnel.
The thing was impossible. It was a hole in midair.
The red pupil was like a porthole, a window. A widow into where?