To my friend
(anybody who buys three of my
books is a friend of mine, friend,
whether he wants to be or not)
Gerry de la Ree --
With appreciation of your appreciation --
Edward E. Smith, PhD.
(Gerry de la Ree was a science fiction editor and publisher).
From the review at the start of Gray Lensman.
Time went on; the prodigiously long blood-lines, so care fully manipulated by Mentor of Arisia, neared culmination. Lensman Kimball Kinnison was graduated Number One of his class-as a matter of fact, although he did not know it, he was Number One of his time. And his female counterpart and complement, Clarrissa MacDougall of the red-bronze-auburn hair and the gold-flecked tawny eyes, was a nurse in the Patrol's immense hospital at Prime Base.
Shortly after graduation Kinnison was called to Prime Base by Port Admiral Haynes. Space piracy had become an organized force; and, under the leadership of someone or something known as "Boskone", had risen to such heights of power as to threaten seriously the Galactic Patrol itself. In one respect Boskonia was ahead of the Patrol, its scientists having developed a source of power vastly greater than any known to Galactic Civilization. It had fighting ships of a new and extraordinary type, from which even convoyed shipping was no longer safe. Being faster than the Patrol's fastest cruisers and yet more heavily armed than its heaviest battleships, they had been doing practically as they pleased throughout space.
For one particular purpose, the engineers of the Patrol had designed and built one ship-the Britannia. She was the fastest thing in space, but for offensive armament she had only one weapon, the "Q-gun". Kinnison was put in command of this vessel, with orders to: 1) Capture a Boskonian war-vessel of late model; 2) Learn her secrets of power; and 3) Transmit the information to Prime Base.
He found and took such a warship. Sergeant Peter van Buskirk led the storming party of Valerians-men of human ancestry, but of extraordinary size, strength, and agility because of the enormous gravitation of the planet Valeria-in wiping out those of the pirate crew not killed in the battle between the two vessels.
The Brittania's scientists secured the desired data. It could not be transmitted to Prime Base, however, as the pirates were blanketing all channels of communication. Boskonian warships were gathering for the kill, and the crippled Patrol ship could neither run nor fight. Therefore each man was given a spool of tape bearing a complete record of everything that had occurred; and, after setting up a director-by-chance to make the empty ship pursue an unpredictable course in space, and after rigging bombs to destroy her at the first touch of a ray, the Patrolmen paired off by lot and took to the lifeboats.
The erratic course of the cruiser brought her near the lifeboat manned by Kinnison and vanBuskirk, and there the pirates tried to stop her. The ensuing explosion was so violent that flying wreckage disabled practically the entire personnel of one of the attacking ships, which did not have time to go free before the crash. The two Patrolmen boarded the pirate vessel and drove her toward Earth, reaching the solar system of Velantia before the Boskonians headed them off. Again taking to their lifeboat, they landed upon the planet Delgon, where they were rescued from a horde of Catlats by one Worsel-later to become Lensman Worsel of Velantia-a highly intelligent winged reptile.
By means of improvements upon Velantian thought- screens the three destroyed a group of the Overlords of Delgon, a sadistic race of monsters who had been preying upon the other peoples of the system by sheer power of mind. Worsel then accompanied the two Patrolmen to Velantia, where all the resources of the planet were devoted to the preparation of defenses against the expected attack of the Boskonians. Several other lifeboats reached Velantia, guided by Worsel's mind working through Kinnison's ego and Lens.
Kinnison intercepted a message from Helmuth, who "spoke for Boskone", and traced his communicator beam, thus getting his first line upon Boskone's Grand Base. The pirates attacked Velantia, and six of their warships were captured. In these six ships, manned by Velantian crews, the Patrolmen again set out for Earth and Prime Base.
Then Kinnison's Bergenholm, the generator of the force which makes inertialess flight possible broke down, so that he had to land upon Trenco for repairs. Trenco, the tempestuous, billiard-ball-smooth planet where it rains forty-seven feet and five inches every night and where the wind blows at eight hundred miles an hour-Trenco, the source of thionite, the deadliest of all deadly drugs. Trenco, whose weirdly-charged ether and atmosphere so distort beams and vision that it can be policed only by such beings as the Rigellian's, who possess the sense of perception instead of those of sight and hearing!
Lensman Tregonsee, of Rigel Four, then in command of the Patrol's wandering base upon Trenco, supplied Kinnison with a new Bergenholm and he again set out for Tellus.
Meanwhile Helmuth had deduced that some one particular Lensman was the cause of all his set-backs; and that the Iens, a complete enigma to all Boskonians, was in some way connected with Arisia. That planet had always been dreaded and shunned by all spacemen. No Boskonian who had ever approached that planet could be compelled, even by the certainty of death, to go near it again.
Thinking himself secure by virtue of thought-screens given him by a being from a higher-echelon planet named Ploor, Helmuth went alone to Arisia, determined to learn all about the Iens. There he was punished to the verge of insanity, but was permitted to return to his Grand Base alive and sane: "Not for your own good, but for the good of that struggling young Civilization which you oppose.
Kinnison reached Prime Base with the all-imporant data. By building super-powerful battleships, called "maulers", the Patrol gained a temporary advantage over Boskonia, but a stalemate soon ensued. Kinnison developed a plan of action whereby he hoped to locate Helmuth's Grand Base; and asked Port Admiral Haynes for permission to follow it. In lieu of that, however, Haynes told him that he had been given his Release; that he was an Unattached Lensman- a "Gray" Lensman, popularly so called, from the color of the plain leather uniforms they wear. Thus he earned the highest honor which the Patrol can give, for the Gray Lensman works under no supervision or direction whatever. He is as absolutely a free agent as it is possible to be. He is responsible to no one; to nothing save his own conscience. He is no longer of Tellus, nor of the Solarian System, but of Civilization as a whole. He is no longer a cog in the immense machine of the Patrol: wherever he may go he is the Patrol!
In quest of a second line upon Grand Base, Kinnison - scouted a pirate stronghold upon Aldebaran I. Its personnel, however, were not even near-human, but were wheelmen, possessed of the sense of perception; hence Kinnison was discovered before he could accomplish anything and was very seriously wounded. He managed to get back to his speedster and to send a thought to Port Admiral Haynes, who rushed ships to his aid. In Base Hospital Surgeon-Marshal Lacy put him back together; and, during a long and quarrelsome convalescence, Nurse Clarrissa MacDougall held him together. And Lacy and Haynes connived to promote a romance between nurse and Lensman.
As soon as he could leave the hospital he went to Arisia in the hope that he might be given advanced training-a theretofore unthought-of idea. Much to his surprise he learned that he had been expected to return for exactly such training. Getting it almost killed him, but he emerged from the ordeal infinitely stronger of mind than any man had ever been before; and possessed of a new sense as well-the sense of perception, a sense somewhat analogous to sight, but of vastly greater power, depth, and scope, and not dependent upon light.
After trying out his new mental equipment by solving a murder mystery upon Radelix, he succeeded in entering an enemy base upon Boyssia II. There he took over the mind of a communications officer and waited for the opportunity of getting the second, all-important line to Boskonia's Grand Base. An enemy ship captured a hospital ship of the Patrol and brought it in to Boyssia Base. Nurse MacDougall, head nurse of the captured vessel, working under Kinnison's instructions, stirred up trouble which soon became mutiny. Helmuth, from Grand Base, took a hand; thus enabling Kinnison to get his second line.
The hospital ship, undetectable by virtue of the Lensman's nullifier, escaped from Boyssia II and headed for Earth at full blast. Kinnison, convinced that Helmuth was really Boskone himself, found that the intersection of his two lines-and therefore the pirates' Grand Base-lay in star cluster AC 2S7736, well outside the galaxy. Pausing only long enough to destroy the Wheelmen of Aldebaran I, the project in which his first attempt had failed so dismally, he set out to investigate Helmuth's headquarters. He found a stronghold impregnable to any massed attack the Patrol could throw against it, manned by beings each wearing a thought-screen. His sense of perception was suddenly cut off-the pirates had thrown a thought-screen around the entire planet. He then returned to Prime Base, deciding en route that boring from within was the only possible way in which that stupendous fortress could be taken.
In consultation with Port Admiral Haynes, the zero hour was set, at which time the massed Grand Fleet of the Patrol was to attack Helmuth's base with every projector that could be brought to bear.
Pursuant to his plan, Kinnison again visited Trenco, where the Patrol forces extracted for him fifty kilograms of thionite, the noxious drug which, in microgram inhalations, makes the addict experience all the sensations of doing whatever it is that he wishes most ardently to do. The larger the dose, the more intense the sensations; the slightest overdose resulting in an ecstatic death. Thence to Helmuth's planet; where, working through the unshielded brain of a dog, he let himself into the central dome. Here, just before the zero minute, he released his thionite into the air-stream, thus wiping out all the pirate personnel except Helmuth, who, in his inner sanctum, could not be affected.
The Grand Fleet of the Patrol attacked, but Helmuth would not leave his retreat, even to try to save his Base. Therefore Kinnison had to go in after him. Poised in the air of Helmuth's inner sphere there was an enigmatic, sparkling ball of force which the Lensman could not understand, and of which he was in consequence extremely suspicious.
But the storming of that quadruply-defended inner stronghold was precisely the task for which Kinnison's new and ultra-cumbersome armor had been designed; and in the Gray Lensman went.
"No generalisation is true, not even this one."