1000 Years After Our World Died - A Man and a Woman With the Future of Humanity in Their Hands The distant future - New York is a jungle in more ways than one. Exotic flora and fauna thrive - savage tribes of cannibalistic sub-humans fight for dominance. It’s a place of little hope! The last vestiges of humanity set out across America’s devastated landscape in search of their dream. Led by hope that dies and is reborn again at every turn - enticed onward by a mysterious and vast black chasm 500 miles deep - does the future threaten extinction for mankind? - or offer one last chance of redemption?
Nineteen days from the discovery of the biplane, a singular happening for a desolate world took place on the broad beach that now edged the city where once the sluggish Providence River had flowed seaward.
For here, clad in a double suit of leather that Beatrice had made for him, Allan Stern was preparing to give the rehabilitated Pauillac a try-out.
Day by day, working incessantly when not occupied in hunting or fishing, the man had rebuilt and overhauled the entire mechanism. Tools he had found a-plenty in the ruins, tools which he had ground and readjusted with consummate care and skill. Alcohol he had gathered together from a score of sources. All the wooden parts, such as skids and levers and propellers, long since vanished and gone, he had cleverly rebuilt.
And now the machine, its planes and rudders covered with strongly sewn buckskin, stretched as tight as drum heads, its polished screw of the Chauviere type gleaming in the morning sun, stood waiting on the sands, while Stern gave it a painstaking inspection.
“I think,” he judged, as he tested the last stay and gave the engine its final adjustment. “I think, upon my word, this machine’s better today than when she was first built. If I’m not mistaken, buckskin’s a better material for planes than ever canvas was -- it’s far stronger and less porous, for one thing -- and as for the stays, I prefer the braided hide. Wire’s so liable to snap.
“This compass I’ve rigged on gimbals here, beats anything Pauillac himself ever had. What’s the matter with my home-made gyrostat and anemometer? And hasn’t this aneroid barometer got cards and spades over the old-style models?”
Enthusiastic as a boy, Stern shook his head and smiled delightedly at Beatrice as he expounded the merits of the biplane and its fittings. She, half glad, half anxious at the possible outcome of the venture, stood by and listened and nodded as though she understood all the minutiae he explained.
“So then, you’re ready to go up this morning?” she asked, with just a quiver of nervousness in her voice. “You’re quite certain everything’s all right -- no chance of accident? For if anything happened --”
“There, there, nothing can happen, nothing will!” he reassured her.
“This motor’s been run three hours in succession already without skipping an explosion. Everything’s in absolute order, I tell you. And as for the human, personal equation, I can vouch for that myself!”
Stern walked around to the back of the machine, picked up a long, stout stake he had prepared, took his ax, and at a distance of about twelve feet behind the biplane drove the stake very deep into the hard sand.
He knotted a strong leather cord to the stake, brought it forward and secured it to the frame of the machine.
“Now, Beatrice,” he directed, “when I’m ready you cut the cord. I haven’t any corps of assistants to hold me back till the right moment and then give me a shove, so the best I can do is this. Give a quick slash right here when I shout. And whatever happens don’t be alarmed. I’ll come back to you safe and sound, never fear. And this afternoon it’s ‘All Aboard for Boston!”’
Smiling and confident, he cranked the motor. It caught, and now a chattering tumult filled the air, rising, falling, as Stern manipulated throttle and spark to test them once again.
Into the driver’s seat he climbed, strapped himself in and turned to smile at Beatrice.
Then with a practiced hand he threw the lever operating the friction-clutch on the propeller-shaft. And now the great blades began to twirl, faster, faster, till they twinkled and buzzed in the sunlight with a hum like that of a gigantic electric fan.
The machine, yielding to the urge, tugged forward, straining at its bonds like a whippet eager for a race. Beatrice, her face flushed with excitement, stood ready with the knife.
Louder, faster whirled the blades, making a shiny blur; a breeze sprang out behind them; it became a wind, blowing the girl’s hair back from her beautiful face.
Stern settled himself more firmly into the seat and gripped the wheel.
The engine was roaring like a battery of Northrup looms. Stern felt the pull, the power, the life of the machine. And his heart leaped within him at his victory over the dead past, his triumph still to be!
“All right!” he cried. “Let go -- let go!”
The knife fell. The parted rope jerked back, writhing, like a wounded serpent.
Gently at first, then with greater and greater speed, shaking and bouncing a little on the broad, flat wheels that Stern had fitted to the alighting gear, the plane rolled off along the firm-beaten sands.