“Hang on tight, nearly there….
Just a little bit more…..
Disengage warp drive, return to normal space Scotty.”
I hear the captain speak these words from where I sit strapped, immobilized in my chair. My gut aches. I hate that inside out sensation you get when you break through the superficies. Shouldn’t have ate that donut, think I’m gonna be sick.
Close my eyes, it’ll pass, it always does. I test out the restraints. No good, he’s got me wrapped up tight. God, where has he brought me?
I look across the bridge, the crew are staring out into space entranced by something. Cautiously I turn my head to consider what it is that has the crew so rapt.
A planet is centered before us radiantly spinning. Mesmerized I consider the marble that turns before my eyes and catch my breath. I did not expect to see such beauty this deep into the galaxy.
“Where is this place? ” once again I test the straps. Hurt my wrists. I clenched too tight on the jump. Stupid. Why did I feel nervous? I never feel nervous when we jump. Damn, I wish I hadn’t failed. I could have been back on Kalgan it’s sabacc night at Luke’s. Probably miss it now.
Need to settle. Breath I tell myself. But I don’t want to listen.
“Relax, they’re for your own safety. I’ve just brought you here to show you something. Look, look out there.”
“Show me what?” I stare daggers at him. Oh he’s so perfect, mister perfect. Perfect my ass. He’s downright annoying. I know I’m being stupid but it helps. Gotta settle somehow.
“Look, stop fidgeting, I’m trying to show you something!”
I glare at him. Go to hell! I look away. God I’m an idiot, why didn’t I do it! Arrghh! I scream in rage as I try to free myself again. All I end up with are bruised wrists and a bleeding tongue. I spit the blood on the floor beside me and he looks at me in disgust. Here we go, the lecture. He’s got that look again.
I point my chin towards the planet outside to change the subject, to get him to look anywhere else but at me.
“It’s Terra. So what? Why’d you have to bring me here to see it?
“Because you should know this, it’s important, that’s why.”
“I shouldn’t have to tell you that should I?”
I drop my head. He’s right, I know. Damn it, I hate it when he’s right.
“OK OK don’t rub it in. Look, retract the straps. I get it. I want to know.”
I mean it this time too. I didn’t realize that Terra was that beautiful. Now I’m here I want to know. But I can’t give in too easy. He’d get worried if I did and where would that leave our relationship?
He clicks the remote. Ah, at last, wrists are freed. I stand up, bit wobbly. Really went overboard trying to break the restraints. Come on, let’s get this over with.
“Here take it. Let’s talk about it.” he hands it to me.
It’s heavier than I remembered, sore wrists I realize. I open it up once more. It looks different this time. More real. Must be the theater of being out here, orbiting the place it came from.
I look back up at the planet again. I hear nothing but silence. It stirs me. Then I see. Everyone’s just staring at the planet. I mean it’s just a planet. Gee people, we’ve colonized hundreds of them. But it is beautiful, as far as planets go. I’ll give them that.
“OK, give me the synopsis of your understanding? At what state is the civilization in?”
“They’re still quite primitive by our standards. I mean they’ve just discovered luminescence. Mechanics are still low efficiency, mostly pressurized water vapor.” I look at him expectantly, proud of myself. Where did that come from? I look back down at the object in my hands, a slow sense of awe begins to crawl over me. It begins in the back of my neck, like a tingle. Pretty soon my scalp is buzzing. A realization was slowly forming in my mind.
“I’m impressed” he said, smiling at me. I stand a little taller, get out of my hunch. I had more to say.
“These people” I continued, nodding towards the marble, “they do not even have means of atmospheric levitation yet, let alone intra or extra planetary communication. How did this come to be?” I raise the object before my eyes like a treasured prize I finally see it for what it truly is. I shake my head, only now understanding. Why did I not pay attention before? Oh fool, I’ve had it all this time and I never knew.
“But how….?” It was all I could manage, but it said enough.
“Exactly. Now you realize how important it is. Tell me what he achieved.”
I hold it in both hands now as I try to remember the secrets within. They were forged so long ago. We owe them everything.
“In a land barely out of being powered by camp fires this man built an interplanetary vessel. This man threw caution to the wind and left Terra’s surface. He planet hopped! To Tui, not far admittedly, but given the technology he was surrounded with, can you believe it? Was he the first?”
“I cannot say. Things get lost in the depths of time. Tell me more, what else can you remember?”
I’m already lost in thought as I consider what’s contained within this ancient object I hold. Images fill my mind, images from my holocom. Images impossible to believe. There are so few left. Only 2D and in poor condition. But oh how people lived in this primitive world. I touch my wrist to activate my holocom. The images flash before my eyes.
I am astounded that this man was able to travel to Tui from a civilisation so bereft of any advanced technology.
“In a way he was the first. His creation, his Astronaut broke the boundaries forever. The science involved was far ahead of its day.”
I stare out at the orb before me and can only nod at the words. He’s right. This man was a genius. I bow my head feeling contrite.
“I’m sorry I failed.” I hug the artifact to my chest, as if I am apologizing to it as well.
“There’s a lesson in your contrition. Sometimes you need to break through boundaries, like this man did. Sometimes you need to be pushed outside of your comfort zone, as I have done with you today.”
“You’re right father. I understand now.” I consider the object in my hand.
“Can we go home now. I have a book to read.”
“I thought you wanted to go play sabacc?”
“No, somehow I think reading this book will be more fun.” I look up and smile at him while hugging the book even closer to my chest.
“I’m glad you think that way Judi. I’m sorry about the restraints. I didn’t want you to hurt yourself through the Warp Jump. It’ll serve you right for failing your book report.”
He turned from me and faced the crew watching him intently.
“Number One, engage Warp Drive, we’re going home.”
I do hope that you’ll forgive the storyline above. My main objective in presenting my post this way was to try, in no doubt a very inadequate way, to give you a glimpse of something world changing.
Imagine a world with no automobiles, no aircraft, no telephone, barely any electricity and machines that are largely steam driven. To those within the warp jumping spaceship above it seemed primitive. To us today it seems primitive.
Now imagine if in such a place a man was able to create a spacecraft to travel to a neighboring world. It would seem incongruous, out of place, fantastical wouldn’t it?
Thus was the world of Earth (Terra) in the year of 1880.
However, despite the archaic technology of the time there was a man in Earth’s past who dreamed to dream such things.
That man was Percy Greg. One of the fathers of Science Fiction writing.
In August 1880 he released a book that changed the rules forever.
The book was called “Across The Zodiac: The Story of a Wrecked Record”
Percy Greg as a result of this book pioneered the sub-genre of of Sword and Planet.
The book contains a number of groundbreaking ideas in addition to interplanetary space travel (in 1880 people, can you believe it?).
“Astronaut” was the name of the spaceship in Percy’s book and it may have very well been the first recorded use of that word.
In addition Percy Greg was the first author to create an alien language for his novel when he gave voice to the diminutive Martians that the story’s narrator encounters. Consider the legacy that this fathered for the likes of Tolkien and Star Trek fans alike among many others.
His spaceship was powered by the technology he called “apergy” a form of anti-gravitational energy. Years later this was described as using frequency to release the latent force found within all atomic matter.*
For me the thing I find the most inspiring about this work by Percy Greg was the backdrop within which he wrote this amazing tale.
Consider that in 1880, only 15 short years after the conclusion to the American Civil War he wrote a book about a spaceship flying to Mars!
On the shelves of bookstores during the decade of the ’80’s (that’s the 1880’s) Percy’s little book “Across the Zodiac” sat next to literary giants. I’m sure you’ve heard of them:
And sitting there, on the same shelves next to these world famous literary works was Percy Greg’s little Science Fiction novel, dreaming to dream. Perhaps the little book was too innocent or naive to realize its own brashness.
So in the end this post is dedicated to you Percy Greg and to the power of your dreams, the originality of your brilliance and to the legacy of inter-planetary travel that you helped to create. A legacy that all passionate followers of Science Fiction thank you for.
Across the Zodiac may be a forgotten piece of creativity compared to others of the era, but I doubt that the others can claim for themselves the same honors.
In the words of our Captain we bow to you Percy Greg, for you had the courage, the foresight and the passion “to go where no man has gone before”.
I will leave you with a brief passage from the book itself. In a world before satellites, Google Earth or Google Maps, before NASA, before the Apollo missions and before real Astronauts, Percy Greg dreamed of flying into space. When his mind, aboard the spaceship of his creativity launched itself into the heavens he turned and gazed back upon our planet, 3rd rock from the sun, and had these words to say…….
“…..so to my eyes the Earth was surrounded by a halo somewhat resembling the solar corona as seen in eclipses, if not nearly so brilliant, but, unlike the solar corona, coloured, with a preponderance of red so decided as fully to account for the peculiar hue of the eclipsed Moon. To paint this, unless means of painting light—the one great deficiency which is still the opprobrium of human art—were discovered, would task to the uttermost the powers of the ablest artist, and at best he could give but a very imperfect notion of it. To describe it so that its beauty, brilliancy, and wondrous nature shall be in the slightest degree appreciated by my readers would require a command of words such as no poet since Homer—nay, not Homer himself—possessed.”
Percy Greg – Across the Zodiac, Ch. 2. Pg. 42
No wonder others also dreamed his dream in the 130 plus years that have followed.
If you are interested in seeing more of “Across the Zodiac” it is available to read at Archive.org. Click on the image below to go to the site. Or this link to Amazon.
* “Apergy” was later described this way by Clara Jessup Moore in a paper she wrote in 1888 entitled “Some Truths About Keely” responding to criticism to his book Keely’s Secrets. The paper was later reproduced in The New York Home Journal in January 1896. In essence apergy is what they termed “vibratory physics” an area of study that also fascinated many other scientists of this era including the most renowned, Nikola Tesla. Both Keely and Tesla believed that among many other things the creation of a perpetual motion engine was possible. Both men were discredited and their science suppressed. Now I wonder why that is?
Fuel for another post, another day somewhere in Brett’s Future……
In the meantime, have you seen this amazing video of the universe? Got a spare 4m26s? Have a look………Our Universe……..is awesome!
Thank you for reading, you honor me.
May the apergy be with you,