The Lanson Screen and Other Stories by Arthur Leo Zagat
Four stories of conflict, war, espionage, and the end of the world by Arthur Leo Zagat.
The Lanson Screen and Other Stories – Four stories of conflict, war, espionage, and the end of the world by Arthur Leo Zagat.
The Lanson Screen was the source story for the original Outer Limits episode: The Bellero Shield starring Martin Landau and Sally Kellerman. The original air date was February 10, 1964.
The Great Dome on Mercury (1932) – Trapped in the great dome, Darl valiantly defends Earth’s outpost against the bird-man of Mars and his horde of pygmy henchmen.
When the Sleepers Woke (1932) – Only two small groups of people— enemies— survive the vast desolation of the Final War.
The Green Ray (1938) – Under the Curtain of the Aurora Borealis Two Men Struggle for a Lethal Formula
Chapter I – The Weapon
Chapter II – The Stolen Cipher
Chapter III – Vance’s Corpse
Chapter IV – Ho-Lung Unmasked
The Lanson Screen (1936) – What Man Can Do Man Can Undo— Yet No Earthly Power Could Penetrate the Invisible Barrier that Isolated a Great City From the World!
Chapter I – War Maneuvers—1937
Chapter II – The Screen
Chapter III – 1997
Chapter IV – The Doom Within
Arthur Leo Zagat (1896–1949) was an American lawyer and writer of pulp fiction and science fiction. Trained in the law, he gave it up to write professionally. Zagat is noted for his collaborations with fellow lawyer Nat Schachner. During the last two decades of his life, Zagat wrote short stories prolifically. About 500 pieces appeared in a variety of pulp magazines, including Thrilling Wonder Stories, Argosy, Dime Mystery Magazine, Horror Stories, Operator No. 5 and Astounding.
The Lanson Screen and Other Stories has 8 illustrations.
Excerpt: The Lanson Screen
HARRY OSBORN, First Lieutenant U. S. Army Air Corps, banked his wide-winged bombing plane in an easy, swooping curve. In the distance New York’s white pinnacles caught the sun above a blue-grey billowing of twilight ground-haze. A faint smile lifted the corners of his lips as he glanced overside, saw a train crawl along shining rails and come to a halt. Brown dots appeared from the passenger car behind its locomotive and clustered in ordered confusion about the other oblong that completed the train’s complement.
What appeared from his altitude to be a rather large pocket-handkerchief slid from the car and spread out on the grass. A metal tube glittered in the sun, came into motion, swivelling to the east. It looked like a cap-pistol, but Osborn knew it to be an eighteen-inch railroad gun.
He slanted down through lambent air. The terrain below was flat, lushly green. It was entirely vacant save at the very center of its five-mile sweep of marsh. Here a small hut was visible in the middle of a hundred-yard area ringed by a water-filled moat.
Two manikins stood before the structure. One was clothed in o.d., the other in black. The civilian’s tiny arms gesticulated, and he went into the house. The army man moved sharply into an automobile and sped in the direction of the waiting artillery train.
“Five minutes to zero, Harry.” The voice of Jim Rayners, his observer, sounded in the pilot’s earphones, “What’s the dope?”
“Target practice, Jim.” We’re to spot for the railroad gun and then we’re to bomb. The target is— Good Lord!”
The plane wabbled with Osborn’s sudden jerk on its stick, steadied. “Harry!” Raynes exclaimed. “What is it, Harry?”
“The target’s that house down there. There’s a man inside it. I saw him go in.”
“The hell! What’s the big idea?”
“Search me. There’s no mistake though. Orders say ‘absolute secrecy is to be maintained by all participants in this maneuver as to anything they may observe . . .’ ”
“Maybe it’s an execution. Something special. Maybe—”
” ‘. . . and this order is to be obeyed to the letter no matter what the apparent consequences.’ ” Osborn finished. “General Darius Thompson signed it personally, not ‘by direction.’ Tie that, will you?”
“I can’t. But— it’s orders.” Osborn leveled out, got his eyes focused on the astounding target.
Suddenly there was nothing within the watery circle. Not blackness, or a deep hole, or anything similarly startling but understandable. It was as if a blind spot had suddenly developed in his own visual organs so that he could not see what there was at that particular point, although the wide green expanse of the swampy plain was elsewhere clear and distinct.
A KEY scraped in the door of a third floor flat on Amsterdam Avenue. Junior’s two-year-old legs betrayed him and he sprawled headlong on the threadbare rug in the little foyer.
John Sims bent to his first-born, tossed him into the air, caught him and chuckled at the chubby, dirt-grimed face. He’d been tired as the devil a moment before. But now— June Sims was flushed from the heat of the kitchen range, but her black hair was neat and a crisply ironed house dress outlined her young, slim figure. Junior was a warm bundle against her breasts as she kissed John.
“You’re early, dear. I’m glad.”
“Me too. What’s for supper?”
“Pot roast.” June’s hazel eyes danced. “Johnny, mother phoned. She’s going to come over tomorrow night to take care of Junior so that we can go out and celebrate your birthday.”
“That’s right! Tomorrow is May ninth!”
“Yes. Listen, I have it all planned. ‘Alone With Love’ is playing at the Audubon. We’ll see that, and then splurge with chow mein. I’ve saved two dollars out of the house money just for that.”
“You have! Maybe you’d better get yourself a hat. I saw an ad—”
“Nothing doing. We’re going to celebrate! You go downtown.”
And so on, and on. . . .
“They’re starting, Harry.”
Raynes’ businesslike crispness somewhat eased Lieutenant Osborn’s feeling that something uncanny was happening down there and his hand was steady as he jerked the stick to cope with the bump of the big gun’s discharge. A dirt mushroom sprouted in the field.
“Short, two-tenths. Right, four point three,” Jim intoned, correcting the range.
A white panel on the ground acknowledged his message. The cannon fired again and slid back in the oil-checked motion of its recoil.
“Over, a tenth. Center.”
The target was bracketed, the next try must be a hit. Harry banked, leveled out. The brown dots that were the gunners jerked about feverishly, reloading. Whatever it was that obscured his vision of the shack would be smashed in a moment now.
The gunners were clear. The pilot saw an officer’s arm drop in signal to fire. Yellow light flickered from the big rifle. Osborn imagined he saw the projectile arc just under his plane. His eyes flicked to where that house should be.
And nothing happened! No geyser of dirt to show a miss, no dispersal of that annoying blind spot. Had the gun misfired?
Wait? What was that black thing gliding in mid-air, sliding slowly, then more rapidly toward the ground? The shell that could pierce ten inches of armor was incredibly falling along what seemed the surface of an invisible hemisphere.
It reached the grass and exploded with the contact. The earth it threw up spattered against—nothing. Why hadn’t the shell exploded on contact with whatever had stopped it? What was going on down there?
“I—I can’t make a report, sir.” There was a quiver in Jim’s phlegmatic voice. Even his aplomb had now been pierced. “I think it would have been a hit, but—”
Again and again the great gun fired. Osborn and Raynes got the signal to go ahead, dropped five three-hundred pound bombs point-blank on the mysterious nothingness. The area around the circular canal was pitted, excavated, scarred as No Man’s Land had never been.
Aviation Lieutenant Harry Osborn flew back to Mitchel Field in the gathering dusk. His young head was full of dizzy visions. Armies, cities, a whole nation blanketed from attack by invisibility. Spheres of nothingness driving deep into enemy territory, impregnable.
It was good to be alive, and in the o.d. uniform, on this eighth day of May in 1937.”
Excerpt From: Arthur Leo Zagat. “The Lanson Screen and Other Stories”
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