presents a detailed summary of:
THE STRUGGLE IN SPACEby Aleksandr Beliayev
1. ONE SUMMER EVENING
It is New Year's Eve, 1928, in Moscow. I put on headphones to listen to some TASS news reports. That's the last thing I remember. Suddenly, it is summer and I am sitting next to a tree-lined walk. Numerous young, healthy people are walking by, all dressed in Greeklike tunics. I can't tell if they're men or women. And, strangest of all, many are seemingly carrying on conversations with themselves, talking into their hands.
The History of:
I am puzzled and light up a cigarette. This causes a sensation. I am immediately surrounded by the people, who look at me aghast and astonished. They talk to me in a foreign language. One of them talks into a disc in his hand. (It's a radiophone! We never even dreamed of something like that in Moscow.)
A man with wings appears in the sky and lands. This is Ell, a historian who speaks Russian. I offer to shake his hand. This surprises and frightens him. He gingerly touches my palm with his fingers as if afraid of contracting some disease. Ell wants to know where I've come from and the purpose of my flight. I don't know.
It seems I am in the city of Radiopolis in the Pan-European and Pan-Asiatic Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Moscow is a three-minute flight away, but I must be questioned before I can go there. I ask if I'm under arrest. Ell doesn't know the word "arrest" and has to look it up in a dictionary. Ell says I'm not under arrest and that he will return at midnight--10 o'clock. (Their clocks are on the decimal system.)
A citizen named Eh-ah takes me to an "aviette", a small craft with propellers in front and above. Noiselessly we take off and fly high into the sky to a floating platform with a domelike building on it, an air observatory.
2. MY PRISON IN THE AIR
I am brought onto the floating air observatory. In the distance, on the ground far below, I can see the glittering domes of the Kremlin. But it is somehow different. The Moscow River has been straightened. Eh-ah takes me inside the dome on the air observatory. I only know that Eh-ah is female because Ell referred to her as such.
I have difficulty making Eh-ah understand that I am hungry, but finally she brings me a single wafer and a glass of water. I eat the wafer and my hunger suddenly vanishes.
I walk outside and see six lanes of flying traffic criss-crossing the sky. On the platform are poles with ropes and bags on them. Out of curiosity, I pull one of the ropes. I can't let go of the rope and am yanked off the platform into mid-air. The bag inflates into a parachute. I fearfully straddle the trapezelike swing as I float gently downward.
3. THE SHORTEST NIGHT
I parachute down toward the Kremlin. There is a grove of Cypress trees growing nearby. I land in the middle of the Kremlin, which is covered in snow. The snow is cold, but doesn't melt in my warm hands or in the warm air. Ell and Eh-ah quickly arrive. They say that now that I've seen the "museum", the will take me back to the air observatory.
Back at the air observatory, a young girl, looking like a ballerina, enters with a radio-photo. This is Li, assistant to the great astronomer Tun. (It turns out that Li is really a 32-year-old man. Ell, who looks to be 35 or 40 is really 85.)
Ell studies the photo, which is a picture of an American agent. He says that I bear no resemblance to the photo and that suspicion about me is removed.
Ell says difficult times are ahead and that they may have to reinstitute the Military Revolutionary Council. I grow sleepy. He gives me an anti-fatigue pill and my weariness immediately disappears. (Here in the future they never sleep-- it's a waste of time.)
Ell then gives me a history lesson: Revolution rolled through Europe and Asia. The American capitalists sent a fleet to oppose it, but they were defeated by the united Red seamen of England, Germany, France, and Russia. Workers riots began in America and the new, expanded USSR sent help. But the Americans developed a Death Ray, which destroyed the entire Red fleet, except for a single submarine. The Death Ray is heat-producing and life-destroying, but can also destroy the tissues of a living organism by ultra-short waves of electricity--a form of radio. The USA surrounded itself with a wall of upward-directed Death Rays, which vaporized attacking Soviet rocket ships.
Science Fiction or Fact ?
Tesla's Death Ray
And how it almost
The Americans then sent the Death Ray along the 40th parallel, laying waste to a 100-kilometer swath across Spain, Italy, the Balkans, Asia Minor, Turkestan, China, Korea, and Japan. After this, the USSR suspended its attacks on the USA, waiting for their technology to catch up. Now, however, thanks in part to Li, the Soviets have a defensive shield against the Death Rays and an equally destructive Death Ray of their own. But they cannot penetrate the American defensive curtain.
A Negro worker in the US shore defensive system has recently defected, revealing that the underground revolutionary movement continues in the USA and that revolutionaries have even infiltrated the shore defense system. The USA, in turn, intends to send spies to the USSR to discover a weakness then destroy it with Death Rays from within.
Ell then introduces me to an audio-visual learning program which uses certain radio waves to help me learn their language. It is amazing! I become fluent rapidly.
Li and Eh-ah enter with news. Evidence of an American spy ship has been discovered!
4. LAND OF MEMORIES
The next morning, Eh-ah tells me the air observatory is kept aloft by propellers on the bottom and is stabilized by gyroscopes. The motors are powered by radio waves.
Ell gives me a pair of wings and trains him in how to use them. We then fly off to the Kremlin. Ell tells me that the cypress trees grow year round because they have changed the climate, using solar energy collected in Turkestan. In the Kremlin, which is now a museum of old Moscow, we enter an exact replica of the commissariat where I was working in 1928. Ell quizzes me about details of the era- -a final test to make sure that I am not a fraud. I pass the test.
"Not only have we abolished cities, but we don't have any government anymore, nor any offices. As for Soviet officials, we keep them in our Moscow museum as mannequins only. But they are so lifelike you can take them for lives ones."
Ell tells me that here in the future they have done away with the need for Soviet officials, but they keep a few replicas of them in the museum.
We receive a report that Li has found a smashed airship--possibly an American spy ship--near the Red Sea. We use special binoculars to view the crash site. Ell, Eh-ah, and I then get into a zeppelinlike airship to go there ourselves.
5. ON THE RED SEA SHORE
We arrive on the shore of the Red Sea at the site of the crashed airship. After investigation, Ell decides the ship was destroyed purposely as a ruse to deceive us. The American, or Americans, probably escaped in a second airship. Vadi, Li's friend and chess partner from Mecca, arrives to assist. He notices a strange airship in the sky and immediately dispatches a flock of airplanes to pursue. We get in our airship to join the chase.
6. THE LITTLE WHITE HOUSE
The American spy ship eludes us. Li offers to let me stay with him at his house, which is in what used to be called Nizhni-Novgorod. On the way back, I remark that there must be many crashes with so many ships in the air. Li says that on the contrary, radio waves are used to keep ships out of each other's path so that crashes are nonexistent.
As soon as our feet touch the platform outside Li's house, lights turn on automatically. We enter the house. Li says the bodies of people here in the future are not as rugged as we were in the past and that they can't stand up as well to diseases. Hence, after every trip, they fumigate themselves. We are fumigated.
"We consider it our duty as good citizens to fumigate ourselves."
Li comments that we must change my appearance to match more with the moderns. First of all, my hair must go. (People of the future are practically hairless, although some people wear very short hair as a type of retro-fashion.) Li sprays me with a hair-destroying product, and my hair, eyebrows, and body hair all fall out. Li is too squeamish to pick up my fallen hair, so it is brushed up and sent out to be burned. Li also wants to burn my Moscow suit of clothes, but I convince him to keep it for the museum. I am given a silvery tunic in the local style. Li lies on a table and mechanical arms give him a rub-down. Lighting in the house is provided by light-exuding bacteria.
Then through the miracle of viewscreens, much like teleconferencing, I meet Li's wife, Een, and their son Tsal, who are in the South Altai Mountains of Asia. Their other son, Koh, is on guard duty in Arabia, hoping to catch the American spy.
7. I SEE ALL, HEAR ALL, KNOW ALL
Li, I, Een, and Tsal, in our different locations, sit down to dinner. With a push of a button a table and dishes appear in front of us. I take a sip of a special drink. It is a veritable symphony of taste. It gives me a feeling of delight, gaiety, and a lucidity to my thoughts. It is not alcohol, but rather a drink which removes all toxins and cleanses the brain. The food is the same.
During conversation I discover that here in the future they have done away with schools, because life and learning have become one, a principle which was begun in the Soviet schools of my day. All the machinery of society is so simple that teenagers can run it and enjoy doing so. While manning the machinery, they learn via radio lectures. Nowadays they hardly ever read books. They find radio much more efficient for imparting knowledge.
Also, they have done away with crowds here in the future. There is no need for film houses, theaters, concert halls, etc. Everything is projected directly into your home. Vadi radios with a solution to a chess problem.
Dinner is interrupted by a broadcast from Radiopolis. There are uprisings in America. Workers there temporarily captured a radio station and broadcast an appeal for help, saying that they were being mowed down by the Death Rays.
Li and I then go out for a flight in an airboat. Vadi radios that the American ship has been spotted again. We join the pursuit. The American ship destroys some pursuers with its Death Ray. Our ship, however, is impervious to the rays, thanks to an invention of Li's. We chase the Americans into the Arctic Circle, then the spies try to flee straight upward to the boarder of space. Failing in that attempt, they them plunge straight downward into the Black Sea, hiding underwater. While other ship continue the search, we depart.
8. THE HARNESSED SUN
Li and I land in Turkestan where giant mirrors collect solar energy, which is then transmitted by radio to all parts of the nation. We go underground where a beautiful desert-oasis-like underground city has been built.
We go outside again. A tiny black cloud appears in the clear sky. Lightening flashes out of this cloud, destroying many of the giant solar mirrors. Hundreds of workers immediately set to work, without any orders given or shouting at all. They quickly clean up the debris and install new mirrors. The sudden destructive storm was the work of the Americans, who exploited a small break in the air barriers to condense atmospheric electricity and cause a thunderstorm to strike at the power installations. The plan won't work anymore because Li sets up dischargers which can disperse thunderstorms as soon as they form.
Eh-ah comes up and whispers something to Li. Li grimly tells me, "We are ready to attack America."
9. THE LAST WAR BEGINS
I travel with Li in his airship. He is one of only 72 controllers sent to direct the massive mechanical Red army of tanks, airships, and amphibious vehicles, all directed by radio waves. This will be a war of machines, not men. Victory will go to the side with superior technology.
We soon cross the Atlantic and come up on the barren shore of America. The enemy's mechanical army approaches, and a titanic battle of machines ensues. The American's detect the location of some of our controllers and destroy them, crippling the part of our army under their direction. But, in the end, Li declares that victory is ours. Just then, however, the Americans detect our location. To escape destruction, our airship uses special drills in its fuselage to burrow deep underground, cutting through everything, even solid granite, with no effort at all.
"In the sky, the airships of the two opposing sides crashed head-on like two huge thunder clouds. These clouds shot forth sheaves of fire. As they clashed, airships smashed to smithereens and fell to the ground in veritable showers of metal splinters, in rain sheets of liquefied metal."
10. THE BATTLE OF NEW YORK
After several hours of burrowing underground, our ship digs back up to the surface. We are in the center of New York City, a city surrounded by glass walls and made up of only one tremendous skyscraper, higher than the tallest mountain. People run around in confusion, then turn and flee in terror as one of the glass walls breaks. They are afraid of catching cold.
These Americans looks like children with rickets. Disproportionately large heads with no hair, huge ears, and large, round eyes, tiny chins, and big round bellies that hang down to their knees.
Leaving our mechanic, Nehr with the ship, Li, Eh-ah, and I get in an elevator of the gigantic skyscraper and ride up to the 500th floor. There we meet Smith, our American agent. He is a high-ranking engineer, one of the few afforded the right to live in the city itself, usually reserved for only the rich aristocrats. All the workers and most other engineers must live in the factories outside the ten skyscraper cities. He tells us our side has won the battle. Smith, however, has cut communications, so that only the lower floors know of this yet.
Two of the three bankers who rule America have managed to escape. A third, Clines, is still in the building. We enter his suite, furnished with gold, malachite, diamonds, marble staircases and unimaginable luxuries. We enter Clines's study. He is outraged and tries to incinerate by pushing a button. It doesn't work, of course, because Smith has already deactivated all his weapons.
Smith tells Clines that he is under arrest. Clines finally submits, but says he must go to the next room to get his pills. Clines is so fat that he can't walk by himself, but must use an automatic chair. Clines goes to the next room and hurls himself out the window. An American plane flies by, puts out an net and tries to catch him, but misses. Clines is caught by a Red plane. Lots of other of the capitalist lords also leap out of their windows and the American and Soviet planes buzz around vying to catch them.
An American plane flies by a window in Clines's apartment, and four black-clad figures leap out. We run and lock ourselves in an inner room. The door is soon riddled with bullets. Smith says we shouldn't worry and aims a small box at us all. It coats us with Omega rays, which make us immune to the bullets. The black- clad men burst into the room and fire at us, but their bullets turn to vapor. The men then call for reinforcements, intending by sheer numbers to defeat us. But I am a veritable Hercules compared to these weak, flabby Americans. I can pick them up a dozen at a time and hurl them out of the way. So we start to battle our way out of the apartment, through this sea of weak capitalists.
"Smith stepped toward the door and its stream of bullets. He stood there, turning around and around, as if in a shower. A thin cloud of steam encircled him. The bullets were turning into harmless vapor!"
11. LIVING MACHINES
The battle continues. My companions and I become exhausted and are in danger of being defeated. But Nehr, at the ship, sounds a loud siren. The sound kills the wicked Americans, so weak and accustomed to only the quiet of the skyscraper. We make it back to the ship and start to fly out to the factories.
We travel over the countryside and land on the roof of an enormous factory, covering over 120 square kilometers. Under the roof of the factory is where the workers are born, live, and die, never once seeing the sky. Inside the factory we encounter bizarre freaks, genetically engineered by the capitalist bosses to make them parts of machines: some have no legs and enormous arms, perfectly suited for keeping two large factory wheels in motion; others are only 60 centimeters high, kept in tiny boxes where they run around pushing various buttons; still others are two stories tall, developed to lift supplies between levels of the factory. Fortunately, such freaks make up only a small portion of the work force, the vast majority of which are relatively normal.
We go back to the roof of the factory. Suddenly, thunderbolts crash down and smash parts of the factory roof, just like what happened at the solar energy station in Turkestan. And from the sky rings out a large booming voice: "Greetings from Clines!" Clines has escaped. We get in our ship to pursue him, using radio waves to locate his ship.
12. IN THE LAND OF WHITE SAVAGES
We move south in our pursuit of Clines's ship. Somewhere over South America Clines uses an unknown type of ray to disable our ship. As it plummets downward, we put on our wings and leap out the door. The ship crashes in a swamp. We land safely in the tropical forest, filled with parrots, monkeys, and snakes. We crawl through the trees, then find a clearing near a cave. Without their anti-fatigue pills, my companions immediately fall asleep. Remembering my readings about primitive peoples, I manage to start a fire by rubbing sticks together.
Just then, we are pounced upon by a group of savages wearing animals skins. I hope aloft a flaming branch. They are awestruck and immediately knee down and bow to me. I see now that these savages, though tanned, are white-skinned. And they talk English. Smith speaks with them for a while then says we will go with them to their village and that they view me as "Mister God of Fire".
As we walk to the village, Smith tells me that these savages are the descendants of the armies of unemployed American workers who, as early as in the 20th century, began wandering around. They eventually migrated down to South America and lost all knowledge of culture and science.
13. THE LIBERATED WORLD
In the village of the savages, I play the role of fire god, keeping a bonfire going and holding nightly services. We have a radio receiver and hear a concerned Ell trying to contact us. We have no transmitter, however, so we cannot respond. We also intercept messages from Clines to his henchmen, so we know that he is looking for us, too.
We can't fly away, because the wings of Li, Nehr, and Smith were broken in the fray with the savages. Only my wings and Eh-ah's work. My companions are getting weaker because their supply of nutrition tablets is running out and they just can't bring themselves to eat the real food--fruits, nuts, etc.--of the forest.
After several nights, we learn via radio reports that some Soviet search ships will be passing by only 10 kilometers from our location. So at midnight, Eh-ah and myself, carrying lighted torches, fly out, hoping to catch the attention of the search ships. We see a ship and signal to it. It catches us in a net, and we let our torches drop to the ground. We are brought on board the ship and--horror of horrors--it is an American ship. They take us to a secret facility at the bottom of the ocean near Antarctica.
14. THE SUN RISES
At the secret American base, Clines demands to know where Li and Smith are. Eh-ah and I, of course, tell him nothing. A doctor examines me and is particularly excited by the composition of my blood, saying the level of red corpuscles is 200% above normal. Then, they start transfusing blood from me directly into Clines, to prolong his life. After many days of this, I grow weak. They plan to transplant some of my organs into Clines as well, then kill me if I'm not already dead. They will also take blood transfusions from Eh-ah, but her blood is not nearly so rich in red corpuscles as mine.
During a transfusion session, Clines monitors a broadcast from Radiopolis. Li and Smith are there. They were rescued the very night of our capture. It seems a Soviet ship passed by shortly after Eh-ah and I were grabbed. The noticed our extinguished torches and searched the area until they found Li, Smith, and Nehr. Li, on the broadcast, speaks directly to Clines, giving him 24 hours to surrender or face immediate destruction.
Clines and his engineers have been working on plans to take a rocket up into outer space and live there indefinitely. Unfortunately, their supplies of food would run out after two or three years and they would have to send scout ships down to earth to replenish their supply of cellular material. Such scout ships, however, would inevitably be discovered and destroyed. So, ultimately, Clines is doomed. Clines therefore decides that if he is to die, so will everyone else. He will take the rocket up into the sky then detonate all of the world's atomic energy, killing himself and every living being on the planet.
Preparations for this dastardly plan begin immediately and we blast off from the bottom of the ocean and into the sky. Our captors forget about Eh-ah myself. We decide that we must blow up the ship before Clines can destroy the world. We search the storerooms and find some bombs. We detonate the bombs.
I wake up back in my old Moscow apartment. A doctor is there. He says, "Lie quietly. You are delirious. You've been very sick, but the danger is now completely past."