Authors: Victor Appleton II
THE TOM SWIFT INVENTION ADVENTURES
BY VICTOR APPLETON II
This unauthorized tribute is based upon the original TOM SWIFT JR. characters.
As of this printing, copyright to The New TOM SWIFT Jr. Adventures is owned by SIMON & SCHUSTER
This edition privately printed by RUNABOUT © 2011
THE RED SIGNAL flashed on the remote control box of the Swifts’ private TV network. A blond youth of eighteen with deep-set blue eyes unhooked his long legs from the rungs of a stool and swung away from a drawing board to which was tacked the blueprint of a submarine. He flicked on the videophone.
"What’s up?" Tom Swift asked Kaye, Swift Enterprises’ Key West telecaster, as the man’s grim face settled into focus on the screen.
"Another Caribbean ship attack, Tom. It’s the ninth so far." Walking in front of some palm trees, the telecaster continued, "I’m at Marlin Bay, talking to survivors. I have bad news. A passenger freighter, the
has been sunk. Your chief engineer is among those missing!"
"He’s reported lost along with the captain and purser. The rest were picked up in lifeboats." Kaye passed the microphone to a stout man who was saying nervously, "—but I really don’t know what happened. Neither does anyone else on board. I was sitting on deck reading when—
—everyone blacked out! As I came to, the ship was sinking and I got into one of the lifeboats. A schooner picked us up."
"Did you hear any gunfire, any explosions before the blackout?" Kaye asked him.
"No. Nothing like that. Just a sort of buzzing noise, like you hear around those big electric transformer stations."
"Do you think the missing men might be in other boats that weren’t picked up?" Kaye questioned.
A Coast Guard officer stepped into view. He told Kaye that survivors of similar attacks on other vessels had also mentioned hearing an odd sound just before everyone had blacked out.
"In those attacks the robbers took various valuables before the passengers revived," the officer said. "But they didn’t sink the ships." The officer paused, looking off-camera. "I’ve just been told that the captain and purser have been located among the survivors. But no word on the other one."
"Thanks, Graham," Tom said to the video newscaster, his voice husky with emotion. "I’m signing off now." Switching off the videophone, Tom dashed out of the lab-office, which was annexed to the huge underground hangar that lay beneath Swift Enterprises’ private airfield. Reaching the aircraft runway above, he leapt onto one of the moving ridewalks that criss-crossed the four-mile-square facility and was whisked rapidly toward the office he shared with his father. His anxiety for Hank Sterling increased by the minute.
"The news will be a shock to Dad," Tom murmured worriedly. Hank Sterling’s late father had been Damon Swift’s closest friend for thirty years. They had worked and fought their way together through countless tight situations concerning Swift Enterprises and its numerous affiliates. In the several branches of Swift Enterprises throughout the country they had installed a private satellite-linked TV network, each videophone staffed by Swift employees who, like Graham Kaye, were broadcast professionals. Recently, John Sterling’s son Hank had become Enterprises’ chief of engineering, and a good friend to Tom. He and Tom had just returned from a dangerous trip to the Andes in Tom’s Flying Lab.
At this moment Tom’s usual smile of pride in his family’s accomplishments was absent. His thoughts were centered entirely on the terrible climax to Hank Sterling’s business cruise to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. Hank had intended to discuss some engineering concerns, regarding the licensed local manufacture of Swift aircraft, with the Dominican government in the relaxed, vacationlike environment of the cruise. That accomplished, he was now the latest victim of the strange attacks that had plagued not only the Caribbean, but the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic seaways off America’s southeastern coast.
Arriving at the multistory main administration building, Tom made for the office like a whirlwind. His mad dash was stopped by Munford Trent, the Swifts’ efficient secretary.
"Your father’s not here," he said. "I’ve been trying to reach him by televoc at the underground hangar but he doesn’t answer."
"That’s where I’m just coming from," Tom responded. "I thought I ought to speak to Dad face to face, instead of using the televoc." The televoc device, a Swift invention, was a microminiaturized personal communicator that allowed the speaker and listener to be inaudible to others. The transciever was concealed in a silver pin usually clipped to the collar.
"Well," continued Trent, "an urgent phone call from the Defense Department has just come in—specifically from ONDAR."
Tom’s eyes widened at this calm announcement. "The Office of National Defense Applied Research?"
"That’s the one," was Trent’s dry rejoinder. "Anyway, I have Admiral Krevitt cooling his heels on hold, so I had better—"
"I’ll take it," Tom offered. Calming himself and picking up the phone, he greeted Krevitt, to whom he had spoken several times in the past. Tom explained that his father was temporarily away from his desk.
"I see," Krevitt said briskly. "Well, you’re certainly perfectly adequate to convey the purpose of this call to your father."
"What can we do for you?"
"Tom, we need the Swifts’ scientific help on these Caribbean attacks. Frankly we’re baffled by the blackout technique." The admiral explained that his department had been unable to figure out by what method persons on the victim ships were knocked unconscious just before the looters came aboard.
"We’ve proven it’s not an inside job," he said. "All passengers, as well as the ships, have been thoroughly searched for the stolen items after the attacks. But that only makes the problem worse. Who are these mysterious raiders, and how can they disappear so quickly after plundering the ships? You know, we’ve tried to develop nonlethal ‘blackout’ weapons ourselves, but so far we haven’t cracked the nut. I’m a practical man, but I can almost believe the attacks were engineered by space pirates!"
Though his caller could not see it, Tom nodded. "We’ll certainly help you all we can, Admiral Krevitt. Dad and I have a special reason of our own for wanting to clear up this mystery."
This would not be the first mystery Tom had solved. In his Flying Lab he had tracked down a group of clever spies responsible for the kidnapping of several scientists, returning to the United States from South America only weeks before.
"I’ve just heard about the attack on the
, Tom, and the loss—that is, the disappearance—of Mr. Sterling." The officer expressed his concern and sympathy, stressing the efforts of ONDAR to investigate and counteract the attacks. He said that since the
was the first ship to be sunk, his department believed that it might be because something had gone wrong in the attackers’ plans.
"It’s possible your Hank Sterling might not have blacked out for some reason," the admiral suggested.
"Which would mean," Tom added, "that the pirates, fearing he’d guessed their secret blackout method, took him prisoner."
"If it’s true, and we can locate Mr. Sterling," Admiral Krevitt replied, "it may lead us to the hideout of those devils!"
"Nothing would suit me better than to find them," Tom said. Promising to put his father in touch with ONDAR, Tom concluded the conversation and he strode rapidly from the office.
I think I know where Dad is,
Tom thought as he stepped back on the ridewalk. Moments later he was using his electronic key to beam open a sturdy door marked HIGH-PRESSURE LAB. Stepping within he was relieved to see his father look up from a workbench littered with notes and blueprints.
"I figured you had to be here, Dad," Tom remarked. "With all these metal pressure tanks around you, it’s no wonder the televoc signal couldn’t get through."
"Yes," replied Damon Swift. "I had an impulse to come here after lunch and do some work on the jetmarine intake configuration rather than going back to the office as I’d planned. Why, is someone looking for me?" Mr. Swift couldn’t help noticing the disturbed expression on Tom’s face.
Tom briefly told him the alarming news. Mr. Swift listened intently, his face turning pale with concern. "Hank missing!" he murmured. "Oh no!" Then he added, "But you say there’s some hope?"
"Yes, according to Admiral Krevitt of ONDAR." Tom recounted the telephone conversation. "So there’s a good chance he’s alive and being held captive by the ‘sea snipers,’ as the papers call them."
"It’s also possible he was set adrift," said Mr. Swift thoughtfully. "We don’t know yet whether all the lifeboats on the
are accounted for, or if other floatation devices might have been on board."
"We don’t know much at all," agreed Tom. "Let’s take up the
and scope out the general area of the ocean where the
was attacked and sunk. That’s step one."
"And step two?"
"Step two is to speed up finishing the new two-man sub and go after those pirates! I don’t think they can be tracked and taken by a surface vessel or aircraft."
"You think the pirates may be operating with a sub?" Mr. Swift questioned. "I assumed a plane or high-speed boat was involved."
"Maybe I’ve just got submarines on the brain," Tom replied, "but it makes sense, doesn’t it? A sub is pretty invisible underwater unless you’re in a sonar-defended region, and these vessels were all attacked in the open commercial sea-lanes. Maybe they get close to the surface and extend some sort of ray-projector like a periscope. A blackout ray knocks everyone out, then the pirates board the ship from a sub and loot it."
"Quite a system," Mr. Swift reflected, "and devised by men who won’t be easy to capture."
"Suppose I warm up the
while you phone Mother and the office to let them know the situation," Tom suggested.
Twenty minutes later the majestic solar-powered, jet-lifted craft, outfitted with a small crew, took off from Swift Enterprises’ private airfield. The stratoship zoomed toward the Caribbean area at transonic speed, and in an amazingly brief time the search was on—high over the ocean one minute, then so low the
barely cleared the waves. It did not miss an inch of the territory on which a lifeboat from the
might be bobbing.
"I guess we’ll have to admit defeat, Tom," Mr. Swift finally announced, dejected. "Turn her toward home and let’s hope that Hank is still alive. Your mother was going to speak to Mrs. Sterling, and I should give her a call myself." Not a word passed between the two Swifts until the
was being berthed at four o’clock. Then Tom spoke.
"I feel sure Hank Sterling’s being held a prisoner by those pirates, Dad. With the atomic sub I could beat them at their own game."
"You certainly could, Tom," his father agreed. "I wish I could feel more hopeful than I do."
As Mr. Swift returned to the office he shared with Tom in the administration building, Tom decided to resume his work in the underground hangar annex, which was only steps away from the
. Entering the lab, the young inventor was delighted to find his pal Bud Barclay draped on the arm of a comfortable leather chair, awaiting him with a humorously quizzical look on his face.
A handsome, dark-haired youth with a well-built, supple body, Bud was the great-grandson of Ned Newton, the close comrade of the first Tom Swift, who had gained worldwide fame as an inventor. Having moved to Shopton from San Francisco while in high school, Bud had worked with Tom at the Enterprises plant for a couple years under a special internship program. He was not only Tom’s personal pilot and best friend, but Tom’s "sounding board." His quips and questions helped Tom clarify his thoughts.
"Hi, Bud!" Tom greeted him. "Glad you’re back, pal." Bud had made a morning run by air to Minneapolis to pick up a specially machined part for use on Tom’s jetmarine.
back," Bud retorted wryly, "after running off to the Caribbean in that overgrown jet of yours."
"I would have waited for you, Bud, but—"
"I heard about Hank," said Bud soberly. "If there’s any chance he’s alive, you can count me in on the rescue."
Tom nodded, grateful.
After an awkward silence between the two dedicated friends, Bud said: "Is that your new sub over there?" He gestured toward a plastic model on a nearby workbench.
"That’s her," Tom said, "my two-man baby atomic sub."
Bud rose from his chair and picked up the model to examine it.
is right. Isn’t it a little
Tom burst out laughing. "It’s a model, bonehead! The real jetmarine is 28 feet long, 10 feet high at the highest, and 6 feet wide—which is still mighty small. It’s near completion over on the far side of the hangar. You can’t see it from here because the
fueling trestle is in the way."