THE SKYLARK OF SPACE begins with the hero, Richard Seaton, making an unexpected discovery:
"Petrified with astonishment, Richard Seaton stared after the copper steam-bath.. .a speck in the distance."
Seaton had been electrolysing "his solution of 'X', the unknown metal".
STAR SMASHERS also begins with a discovery; when Jerry Courteney puts a piece of cheddar, for a joke, on the target area of their home-made particle accelerator. 'X' becomes cheddar, and instead of displacing a steam bath, the machine displaces the land lady's cat.
JERRY COURTENEY: "Tall, dark-haired, broad shouldered Jerry Courteney, handsome as a Greek god with a whimsical smile forever playing about his lips, would never be taken for the top notch engineer that he was, the man who walked off with every medal and every award in every field that he chose to study. He looked less like a scholar than the rugged frontiersman that he really was, for he had been born up on the northern border of our country, on a homestead ranch in Alaska, north of the Artic Circle. In that rough environment he had grown up with his four strapping brothers and strapping father, who strapped them all quite well when they got out of line, as high-spirited boys ever will. The others were still there... but Jerry had been bitten by the bug of knowledge..."
And: "A final kiss and the man drove away... After the last glimmer of red tail-light had disappeared in the darkness Dorothy made her way to her room, breathing a long and slightly tremulous, but supremely happy sigh."
SALLY GOODFELLOW: "'Hi,' Sally Goodfellow said cheerfully, strolling in casually, a vision in a green cotton summer frock, almost the same green as her lovely eyes, her shoulder-length hair the colour of golden cornsilk."
"'Chuck, Over here.'
It was Sally, sitting by a window and beckoning him toward her, the last light of day touching her sweet profile with gold. He went over to her, she smiled.
'There's something I want to show you,' she said, and when he was close, she pulled forward the top of her scoop neck dress.
'No bra,' she husked.
Even in that dim light the blush that suffused Chuck's fair skin could be seen as a rising tide of scarlet. Yet, despite his shyness, his reflexes were still hard at work.
'Not until you tell me what the new invention is,' Sally laughed saucily, slapping aside the questing wrist as she pushed shut the neck of her dress.
'Sally, honey, you know I can't, gee, we have an oath...'
'I have something twice as good as an oath,' she murmured, pulling her dress forward again. 'See? The invention?'"
Oh, those womanly wiles... who could resist?
"CHUCK VAN CHIDER, no less of a genius, had had a far easier time of it. A blond giant of a man with arms as thick as a strong man's legs, he was the heart and spirit of the State Stegosauri, the championship football team, the man who could open a hole in any line, who could carry the ball through any number of grappling foe... he was heir to the Van Chider millions... Born with a platinum spoon in his mouth, his father had prospected a plutonium mine on the very spot where the Pleasantville Mental Hospital now stood; he had never known want."
Jerry Courteney installs his 'Cheddite Projector' into the football team's 747, the Pleasantville Eagle.
'There they are,' said Seaton... 'Aerial battleships, eight of 'em. Four are about the shape of ours - no wings, act like 'copters - but I never saw anything like the other four."
Neither had Crane or DuQuesne.
'They must be animals,' Crane decided, finally. 'I do not believe that any engineer, anywhere, would design machines like that.'
Four of the contestants were animals. Here indeed was a new kind of animal - an animal able and eager to engage a first-class battleship.
Each had an enormous, torpedo-shaped body, with scores of long tentacles and a dozen or so immense wings. Each had a row of eyes along each side and a sharp, prow-like beak. Each was covered with scale-like plates of transparent armour; wings and tentacles were made of the same substance.
That it was real and highly effective armour there was no doubt, for each battleship bristled with guns and each gun was putting out an almost continuous stream of fire. Shells bursting against the creatures filled the region with flame and haze, and produced an uninterrupted roll of sound appalling in its intensity.
In spite of that desperate concentration of fire, however, the animals went straight in. Beaks tore yards-wide openings in hulls; flailing wings smashed superstructures flat; writhing, searching tentacles wrenched guns from their mounts and seized personnel...
The remaining battleship was half-wrecked; the animal was as good as new. Thus the final battle did not last long.
The monster darted away after something, which the observers in the Skylark saw for the first time - a fleet of small airships in full flight away from the scene of the battle. Fast as they were, the animal was covering three miles to their one.
'He can't stand for anything like that!' Seaton cried, as he threw on power and the Skylark leaped ahead. 'When I yank him away, Mart, sock him with a Mark Ten!'"
'Who are they fighting?' Jerry asked, concentrating firmly on the controls.
'Hard to tell - wait - one of their cars just got blown over, the driver is crawling out and...ugggh!'
'That's the word for it. A thing with a sort of repulsive purplish yellow body like a tree trunk with sort of openings all over it, four legs like smaller tree trunks and black tentacles sprouting on top where a real person would have a head.'
'Well that's enough for me!' Jerry shouted for them all. 'We just have to come down on the side of the humanoids and show these uggghs what real humans can do.'