Read Tom Swift and His Flying Lab Online

Authors: Victor Appleton II

Tom Swift and His Flying Lab

BOOK: Tom Swift and His Flying Lab





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





"SO YOU’RE the famous Tom Swift!" said the pretty girl—no, the
pretty girl—behind the counter. She pushed a tray bearing two steaming coffees across the countertop as she eyed the two young men standing in front of her. One of them, whom she already knew as a "regular," was the taller of them by a shade, with black hair and gray eyes and the square muscular build of an athlete. He seemed on the verge of breaking out laughing.

But her words were aimed at the other one, whose blond hair was close-cropped but carelessly ragged and whose deep-set blue eyes were, it seemed to her,
full of thought.
This one was more slender, like a swimmer or a runner. At the moment he seemed to be struggling to come up with something to say.

"Um, yes, that’s right," replied Tom Swift. "I mean—about my name, not the famous part. I’m not

interjected Tom’s friend Bud. "But just wait until the world sees that new Flying Lab of yours!" After a moment of awkward silence, Bud suddenly whacked the back of his hand against his forehead. "Oh, sorry—manners! Miss Bashalli Prandit, allow me to introduce my good friend Mr. Thomas Swift. Mr. Swift, Miss Prandit."

Tom shook Bashalli’s hand as a grin broke out on his face. "Pleased to meet you. Bud here makes it his personal mission to introduce me to—to—"

"To all the pretty young girls in Shopton?" Bashalli smiled reassuringly. "It’s really a nice compliment, isn’t it? And I
wanted to meet you, Thomas Swift."

Tom looked blank. "You have? By the way, how
you know my name?"

"You mean, besides the fact that you look just like your pictures in all the papers? Besides the fact that you came in with Bud Barclay, who promised to bring you by? Besides—this?" She pointed a delicate finger at Tom’s chest and he tilted his chin down to look.

"Oh, right," said Tom; "my name tag. We were just leaving from a lecture up the street when Bud said we should—"

here we are," finished Bud. "I told Tom The Glass Cat has the best fresh-brewed coffee in town."

"You told the truth, then," commented Bashalli with a quaint, clipped accent. "The coffee is very good; the tea is better; and the scones are—what is it you say here?—to die of."

Tom started to correct her, but got only as far as "To die
when Bud coughed loudly and unconvincingly, cutting him off. Getting the point, Tom asked instead, "So, your name, um—Greek, isn’t it?"

Bashalli shook her head, beginning to wipe the counter as the boys sipped their coffees. "I hardly think so. It is Pakistani, and Pakistan is where I was born. My mother was from India, though, and her mother was a British nanny from the old times when the British ruled in Calcutta. So this charming accent you hear is a mixture of many things—even American, because I have been in this country since I was twelve years old."

As Tom and Bud moved to sit down at a little table near the coffeehouse door, Bud motioned for Bashalli to join them. She cast a quick look around—there were no other customers at the moment—and back toward the kitchen. Then, deciding, she tossed her cloth aside and gracefully eased down in a chair. "Well, it
feel good to sit down," she said. "My older brother Moshan, who is boss here, is very sweet and dotes on me, but he says we must show Good Old American Industriality at all times. And what
it, do you know?"

Bud nodded in Tom’s direction. "It’s sitting right there, personified as Thomas Edison Swift."

Tom reddened at this, and Bashalli said, "Ah, how sweet, a man who blushes!" But seeing that Tom was embarrassed, she quickly added, "Now then. Thomas Edison—your third President, I do believe."

"No," Tom replied, "though that was a good guess. Edison was a very great inventor. The light bulb, the phonograph—that was how music was played before CDs—all sorts of improvements to the telegraph; electric dynamos…"

"Then he was a very important man," said Bashalli, "and I think you have his name because you too are to be very important." Tom started to shake his head modestly when Bud chimed in with enthusiasm. "Believe it! Tom comes from a whole line of important people, people who have changed the world by—by inventing most of it!"

And as Bud Barclay explained it, with Tom correcting him now and then on a point of fact, it seemed to be just as he had said.

"First was Henry Swift, who came to America in 1751 with his young bride," began Bud, as if reciting. "He claimed to be a grandson of Jonathan Swift, the writer, but nobody really knows."

"Jonathan Swift," mused Bashalli. "I have heard that name. I know! The story of the little people."

Gulliver’s Travels
. Which was a pretty fantastic story—maybe that’s where the family got its inventiveness."

Bashalli nodded. "I believe it could be possible."

"A few generations later," Bud continued, "there was Lewis Swift, who became a famous astronomer."

"He discovered comets," said Tom.

"The science element," commented Bashalli.

Resuming the list, Bud said, "Barton Swift, he’s the one who really made the family fortune in the 1890s with the first Swift patent, the… er, it doesn’t sound like much, but it saved a lot of labor—a motorized butter churn."

At this Bashalli put a hand to her mouth to suppress a giggle. "Please forgive me," she said. "It was the
you said it, Bud."

"That’s okay," said Tom with a grin. "Now we get into the twentieth century, and Barton’s son, the first Tom Swift—Thomas Archimedes Swift. My great-grandfather."

"Ah, that must be the one we read about in the books," said Bashalli thoughtfully. "All those marvelous inventions!"

"That’s right," Tom responded; "his adventures were more like fiction than fact. There were lighter-than-air dirigibles—"

"Blimps," Bud explained.

"And also regular motorized aircraft, electric automobiles, submarines, a giant cannon—the forerunner of the spent plutonium cannons we use today—an x-ray television, his electric rifle—"

"The TASER used by police stands for Tom A. Swift Electric Rifle," interjected Bud.

"Then there was his magnetic silencer for airplane motors, and what he called his ‘photo telephone’ which is like an early version of the videocams people attach to their computers!"

"I am overwhelmed!" cried Bashalli. "Is there anything he

"Oh, sure," replied Tom blandly. "The jet engine, the home computer, the atom bomb…"

"A pity," commented Bashalli dryly.

"Old Tom’s kids were kind of a dud generation," Bud resumed, hastily interrupting Tom. "They mostly managed the Swift Construction Company, which Barton had started here in Shopton with the proceeds from the—from his invention—and later on, Swift Enterprises."

"But my father, Damon Swift—"

"Named after a pal of the first Tom Swift," said Bud in a mock-whisper.

"Dad had a lot to do with the early development of the space shuttle; and then later he worked under contract on several of the automated Mars probes."

Bashalli smiled with just a touch of mischief. "The ones that worked, I would suppose."

"Sure," Tom responded. "That is… mostly."

"And now this Damon Swift runs Swift Enterprises, that wonderful huge place that goes on and on at the edge of town. And you, the new Tom—you are the genius inventor in residence?"

"You got it!" exclaimed Bud. "My pal has brains where most of us have bones. Wait’ll he tells you about the
Sky Queen,
his new—"

But the conversation was interrupted as Tom, who was sitting nearest the open door, abruptly rose to his feet, a strange expression on his face.

"Listen! You hear that?"

Setting his coffee cup on the table, Tom dashed out onto the sidewalk, followed by Bud and Bashalli. All along Commerce Avenue—Shopton’s major thoroughfare—people on the sidewalk were looking right and left, up and down, seeking the cause of the uncanny whistling sound that seemed to be coming from some long ways off, but which was steadily getting louder.

Suddenly Tom pointed. "Look!"

Toward the northeast Commerce Avenue ended at the recreation pier on Lake Carlopa. In that direction, above the lake, a dark speck was silhouetted against the pale blue afternoon sky.

"What is it?" asked Bashalli, shading her eyes against the glare.

"I don’t…" Tom began. And then his face blanched. "It’s coming this way!"

Reacting quickly, Bud instinctively yanked Tom and Bashalli back toward The Glass Cat. "It must be homing in on Commerce Avenue!"

The three young people had no time to think. Something fiery-white and oblong flashed by them at second-story height, and they felt a sharp blast of heat, as if a furnace door had briefly opened and shut. In an instant the object had passed beyond the southwest end of the avenue eight blocks distant, vanishing from sight behind a stand of tall trees that blocked their view.

Suddenly the ground trembled from a massive shock! The plate glass window of the coffeehouse split into a spiderweb-pattern of cracks, and a deep, full-throated
rolled over Shopton.

"Tom!" whispered Bud, breathlessly. "That’s—"

"I know, Bud," Tom said, his voice heavy with concern. "That’s the direction of Swift Enterprises!"



"I’D BETTER check in with Harlan," Tom said tensely.

"If you want to use the phone in—" Bashalli began; and then she paused. Half-turning to Bud, she asked in a low tone, "Is he all right? What is he doing?"

Tom was standing motionless on the sidewalk, a somewhat far-off look in his eyes. Bashalli could see barely-perceptible twitching movements in Tom’s jaw and lips, which were slightly parted, and now and then he frowned and nodded his head as if listening to a voice. But there was not a sound to be heard!

Despite the gravity of the situation Bud chuckled and drew her aside, speaking softly. "It’s just science, Bash. See that little metal thing on his shirt collar?"

Bashalli nodded. "Yes. You have one as well. I thought it was just a decorative pin."

"That’s what you’re supposed to think. But it’s really a kind of telephone."

"Aha! An electronic mind reader?"

Bud laughed softly. "Not yet! The gadget picks up the movements in your jaw, tongue, and throat that correspond to spoken words, puts the words into your stored ‘voice’ pattern, and then sends it by digitized signal to the receiving unit. You touch it to activate it, then tell it what ID number to ‘dial’. When you’re using it for listening, it beams a signal right into your… your
hearing nerve
in a way that blocks-out extraneous sounds. It’s called a televoc."

"I much like the idea that no one will have to
on a cellphone while waiting in line," said Bashalli with a smile. "By the way—‘auditory nerve’."

"Bud—listen!" Tom called out. "I’ll put Harlan on your televoc." But as he moved to touch the tiny device, he glanced in Bashalli’s direction and paused. "No—I’ll put it on audible mode, so we can all hear."

At a touch of his finger, the air around Tom—but only up to a distance of about ten feet—was filled with the deep and harried voice of Harlan Ames, Swift Enterprises’ longtime chief of security.

"—so the damage appears minimal, as far as what I see out my window," Ames was saying. Tom cut him off.

"Harlan, Bud’s online now. Would you summarize what you just told me?"

"Sure," Ames replied. "In fact, I’m starting to get in some reports now, so I have more information for you too, Tom. About three minutes ago something blew a big hole in the dirt field just off runway eleven. I thought it was an underground pipeline accident, or maybe a bomb. What you describe sounds like a missile—and I’m getting calls from all over the plant that our crews saw something zoom over the outer fence and dive right into the ground. Thing is, this object never showed up on Enterprises radar, not the GH nor the FH."

"What are those?" whispered Bashalli to Bud. "GH and FH?"

"GH stands for ‘ground-hugging’," Bud whispered back. "It’s our special radar security system that we use inside the Enterprise grounds. ‘FH’ means ‘far horizon’. We use it to keep an eye on aircraft."

"Is there any reason Bud and I shouldn’t come in?" Tom queried Ames.

"Knowing the two of you, I doubt I could stop you. At any rate, there’s no indication of any further danger at the moment."

Unless there’s another phantom missile attack!
thought Tom as he broke the connection with Swift Enterprises. "C’mon, Bud!" he said. Then turning hastily to Bashalli, he added, "Sorry to run off, but… come by some time and I’ll give you the tour of our Swift Museum."

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