Fantastic Voyage - By Isaac Asimov


This story, which has grown into both a book and film, has several authors, all of whom have contributed to its present form in many different ways. For all of us, it was a long and arduous task and a great challenge, but also one of deep satisfaction and, I may say, of great delight. When Jay L. Bixby and I wrote our original story, little did we know where it would lead or what would become of it in the hands of men of great imagination and superb artistry-Saul David, the film's producer; Richard Fleischer, the director and inspired conjurer of fancy; Harry Kleiner, who wrote the screenplay; Dale Hennesy, the art director and an artist in his own right; and the doctors and scientists who gave us so much of their time and their thinking. And finally, Isaac Asimov, who lent his pen and great talent to give form and reality to this phantasmagoria of facts and fancy.

Chapter 1: PLANE

It was an old plane, a four-engine plasma jet that had been retired from active service, and it came in along a route that was neither economical nor particularly safe. It nosed through the cloud banks on a trip that took it twelve hours where five might have sufficed with a rocket-powered supersonic.

And there was well over an hour to go.

The agent aboard knew that his part of the job wouldn't be finished till the plane touched down and that the last hour would be the longest.

He glanced at the only other man in the large passenger cabin-napping for the moment, with his chin buried in his chest.

The passenger didn't look particularly striking or impressive, but at the moment, he was the most important man in the world.

General Alan Carter looked up glumly when the colonel walked in. Carter's eyes were pouchy and the corners of his mouth sagged. He tried to bend the paper-clip he was manhandling back into shape and it flicked out of his hand.

"Nearly got me that time," said Colonel Donald Reid, calmly. His sandy hair lay back smoothly but his short, graying mustache bristled. He wore his uniform with the same indefinable unnaturalness that the other did. Both were specialists, drafted for work in a super-specialty, with military rank for convenience and, considering the applications of the field, somewhat out of necessity.

Both had the CMDF insignia. Each letter, was in a small hexagon, two above, three below. The middle hexagon of the three bore the symbol that further classified the man. In the case of Reid, it was the caduceus that marked him as a medical man.

"Guess what I'm doing," said the general.

"Flipping paper-clips."

"Sure. And counting the hours, too. Like a fool!" His voice rose a controlled notch. "I sit here with my hands wet, my hair sticky, my heart pounding, and I count the hours. Only now it's the minutes. Seventy-two minutes, Don. Seventy-two minutes and they're down at the airport."

"All right. Why be nervous, then? Is there anything wrong?"

"No. Nothing. He was picked up safely. He was taken right out of their hands with, as far as we know, not a hitch. He got safely into the plane, an old one ..:'

"Yes. I know."

Carter shook his head. He wasn't interested in telling the other something new; he was interested in talking. "We figured that They would figure that We would figure time was of the utmost importance, so that We would pile him into an X-52 and rocket him through inner space. Only We figured They would figure that and have the anti-missile network at saturation level ... "

Reid said, "Paranoia, we call it in my profession. I mean, for anyone to believe They'd do that. They'd risk war and annihilation."

"They might risk just that to stop what's happening. I'd almost feel we ought to risk it if the situation were reversed. -So we took a commercial plane, a four-engine plasma jet. I was wondering if it could take off, it was so old."

"Did it?"

"Did it what?" For a moment, the general had sunk into blackened thought.

"Take off?"

"Yes, yes. It's coming along fine. I get my reports from Grant."

"Who's he?"

"The agent in charge. I know . him. With him in charge, I feel as safe as it is possible to feel, which isn't much. Grant ran the whole thing; flicked Benes out of their hands like a seed out of a watermelon."

"Well, then?"

"But I still worry. I tell you, Reid, there's only one safe way of handling matters in this darned racket. You've