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´╗┐Title: Solomon's Orbit
Author: Carroll, William
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Solomon's Orbit" ***

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                 Solomon's Orbit

     There will, sooner or later, be problems
 of "space junk," and the right to dump in space.
               But not like this...!

                by William Carroll

             Illustrated by Schoenherr

"Comrades," said the senior technician, "notice the clear view of North
America. From here we watch everything; rivers, towns, almost the
people. And see, our upper lens shows the dark spot of a meteor in
space. Comrades, the meteor gets larger. It is going to pass close to
our wondrous machine. Comrades ... Comrades ... turn to my channel. It
is no meteor--it is square. The accursed Americans have sent up a house.
Comrades ... an ancient automobile is flying toward our space machine.
Comrades ... it is going to--Ah ... the picture is gone."

Moscow reported the conversation, verbatim, to prove their space vehicle
was knocked from the sky by a capitalistic plot. Motion pictures clearly
showed an American automobile coming toward the Russian satellite.
Russian astronomers ordered to seek other strange orbiting devices
reported: "We've observed cars for weeks. Have been exiling technicians
and photographers to Siberia for making jokes of Soviet science. If
television proves ancient automobiles are orbiting the world, Americans
are caught in obvious attempt to ridicule our efforts to probe mysteries
of space."

       *       *       *

Confusion was also undermining American scientific study of the heavens.
At Mount Palomar the busy 200-inch telescope was photographing a strange
new object, but plates returned from the laboratory caused astronomers
to explode angrily. In full glory, the photograph showed a tiny image of
an ancient car. This first development only affected two photographers
at Mount Palomar. They were fired for playing practical jokes on the
astronomers. Additional exposures of other newfound objects were made.
Again the plates were returned; this time with three little old cars
parading proudly across the heavens as though they truly belonged among
the stars.

The night the Russian protest crossed trails with the Palomar report,
Washington looked like a kid with chicken pox, as dozens of spotty
yellow windows marked midnight meetings of the nation's greatest minds.
The military denied responsibility for cars older than 1942. Civil
aviation proved they had no projects involving motor vehicles. Central
Intelligence swore on their classification manual they were not dropping
junk over Cuba in an attempt to hit Castro. Disgusted, the President
established a civilian commission which soon located three more reports.

Two were from fliers. The pilot of Flight 26, New York to Los Angeles,
had two weeks before reported a strange object rising over Southern
California about ten the evening of April 3rd. A week after this report,
a private pilot on his way from Las Vegas claimed seeing an old car
flying over Los Angeles. His statement was ignored, as he was arrested
later while trying to drink himself silly because no one believed his

Fortunately, at the approximate times both pilots claimed sighting
unknown objects, radar at Los Angeles International recorded something
rising from earth's surface into the stratosphere. Within hours after
the three reports met, in the President's commission's office, mobile
radar was spotted on Southern California hilltops in twenty-four-hour
watches for unscheduled flights not involving aircraft.

Number Seven, stationed in the Mount Wilson television tower parking
lot, caught one first. "Hey fellows," came his excited voice, "check 124
degrees, vector 62 now ... rising ... 124 degrees ... vector 66 ...

_Nine_ and _Four_ caught it moments later. Then _Three_, Army long-range
radar, picked it up. "O.K., we're on. It's still rising ... leaving the
atmosphere ... gone. Anyone else catch it?" Negative responses came from
all but _Seven_, _Nine_ and _Four_. So well spread were they, that
within minutes headquarters had laid four lines over Southern
California. They crossed where the unsuspecting community of Fullerton
was more or less sound asleep, totally unaware of the making of history
in its back yard.

       *       *       *       *       *

The history of what astronomers call Solomon's Orbit had its beginning
about three months ago. Solomon, who couldn't remember his first name,
was warming tired bones in the sun, in front of his auto-wrecking yard a
mile south of Fullerton. Though sitting, he was propped against the
office; a tin shed decorated like a Christmas tree with hundreds of hub
caps dangling from sagging wooden rafters. The back door opened on two
acres of what Solomon happily agreed was the finest junk in all
California. Fords on the left, Chevys on the right, and across the
sagging back fence, a collection of honorable sedans whose makers left
the business world years ago. They were known as Solomon's "Classics."

The bright sun had Solomon's tiny eyes burrowed under a shaggy brow
which, added to an Einstein-like shock of white hair, gave him the
appearance of a professor on sabbatical. Eyes closed, Solomon was
fondling favorite memories, when as a lad he repaired steam tractors and
followed wheat across central plains of the United States. Happiness
faded as the reverie was broken by spraying gravel signaling arrival of
a customer's car.

"There's Uncle Solomon, Dad," a boy's voice was saying. "He gives us
kids good deals on hot-rod parts. You've just gotta take a look at his
old cars, 'cause if you want a classic Uncle Solomon would make you a
good deal, too. I just know he would."

"Sure, Son, let's go in and see what he's got," replied a man's voice.
As Solomon opened his eyes, the two popped into reality. Heaving himself
out of the sports car bucket seat that was his office chair, Solomon
stood awaiting approach of the pair.

"Mr Solomon, Georgie here tells me you have some fine old cars for

"Sure have. Sure have. They're in back. Come along. I'll show you the
short cuts." Without waiting for a reply, Solomon started, head bent,
white hair blowing; through the office, out the back door and down
passages hardly wide enough for a boy, let alone a man. He disappeared
around a hearse, and surfaced on the other side of a convertible,
leading the boy and his father a chase that was more a guided tour of
Solomon's yard than a short cut. "Yes, sir, here they are," announced
Solomon over his shoulder. Stepping aside he made room for the boy and
his father to pass, between a couple of Ford Tudors.

Three pair of eyes, one young, one old, the other tired, were faced by
two rows of hulks, proud in the silent agony of their fate. Sold, resold
and sold again, used until exhaustion set in, they reached Solomon's for
a last brave stand. No matter what beauties they were to Solomon's
prejudiced eyes; missing fenders, rusted body panels, broken wheels and
rotted woodwork bespoke the utter impossibility of restoration.

"See, Dad, aren't they great?" Georgie gleefully asked. He could just
imagine shaking the guys at school with the old Packard, after Dad
restored it.

"Are you kidding?" Georgie's Dad exploded, "Those wrecks aren't good for
anything but shooting at the moon. Let's go." Not another word did he
say. Heading back to the car parked outside Solomon's office, his
footsteps were echoed by those of a crestfallen boy. Solomon, a figure
of lonely dejection in the gloom overshadowing his unloved old cars, was
troubled with smog causing his eyes to water as tired feet aimlessly
found their way back to his seat in the sun.

That night, to take his mind off worrisome old cars, Solomon began
reading the previous Sunday's newspaper. There were pictures of moon
shots, rockets and astronauts, which started Solomon to thinking; "So,
my classics are good only for shooting at the moon. This thing called an
ion engine, which creates a force field to move satellites, seems like a
lot of equipment. Could do it easier with one of my old engines, I bet."

As Solomon told the people in Washington several months later, he was
only resting his eyes, thinking about shop manuals and parts in the back
yard. When suddenly he figured there was an easier way to build a
satellite power plant. But, as it was past his bedtime, he'd put one
together tomorrow.

It was late the next afternoon before Solomon had a chance to try his
satellite power plant idea. Customers were gone and he was free of
interruption. The engine of his elderly Moreland tow-truck was brought
to life by Solomon almost hidden behind the huge wooden steering wheel.
The truck lumbered carefully down rows of cars to an almost completely
stripped wreck holding only a broken engine. In a few minutes, Solomon
had the engine waving behind the truck while he reversed to a clear
space near the center of his yard.

Once the broken engine was blocked upright on the ground, Solomon backed
his Moreland out of the way, carried a tray of tools to the engine and
squatted in the dirt to work. First, the intake manifold came off and
was bolted to the clutch housing so the carburetor mounting flange faced
skyward. Solomon stopped for a minute to worry. "If it works," he
thought, "when I get them nearer each other, it'll go up in my face."
Scanning the yard he thought of fenders, doors, wheels, hub caps and ...
that was it. A hub cap would do the trick.

At his age, running was a senseless activity, but walking faster than
usual, Solomon took a direct route to his office. From the ceiling of
hub caps, he selected a small cap from an old Chevy truck. Back at the
engine, he punched a hole in the cap, through which he tied a length of
strong twine. The cap was laid on the carburetor flange and stuck in
place with painter's masking tape. He then bolted the exhaust manifold
over the intake so the muffler connection barely touched the hub cap.
Solomon stood up, kicked the manifolds with his heavy boots to make sure
they were solid and grunted with satisfaction of a job well done.

He moved his tray of tools away and trailed the hub cap twine behind the
solid body of a big old Ford station wagon. He'd read of scientists in
block houses when they shot rockets and was taking no chances.
Excitement glistened Solomon's old eyes as what blood pressure there was
rose a point or two with happy thoughts. If his idea worked, he would be
free of the old cars, yet not destroy a single one. Squatting behind the
station wagon, to watch the engine, Solomon gingerly pulled the twine to
eliminate slack. As it tightened, he tensed, braced himself with a free
hand on the wagon's bumper, and taking a deep breath, jerked the cord.
Tired legs failed and Solomon slipped backward when the hub cap broke
free of the tape and sailed through the air to clang against the wagon's
fender. Lying on his back, struggling to rise, Solomon heard a slight
swish as though a whirlwind had come through the yard. The scent of
air-borne dust bit his nostrils as he struggled to his feet.

       *       *       *

Deep in the woods behind Solomon's yard two boys were hunting crows.
Eyes high, they scanned branches and horizons for game. "Look, there
goes one," the younger cried as a large dark object majestically rose
into the sky and rapidly disappeared into high clouds.

"Yup, maybe so," said the other. "But it's flying too high for us."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I must be a silly old man," Solomon thought, scanning the cleared space
behind his tow truck where he remembered an engine. There was nothing
there, and as Solomon now figured it, never had been. Heart heavy with
belief in the temporary foolishness of age, Solomon went to the hub
cap, glittering the sun where it lit after bouncing off the fender. It
was untied from the string, and in the tool tray, before Solomon
realized he'd not been daydreaming. In the cleared area, were two old
manifold gaskets, several rusty nuts, and dirt blown smooth in a wide
circle around greasy blocks on which he'd propped the now missing

That night was a whirlwind of excitement for Solomon. He had steak for
dinner, then sat back to consider future success. Once the classic cars
were gone, he could use the space for more profitable Fords and Chevys.
All he'd have to do would be bolt manifolds from spare engines on a
different car every night, and he'd be rid of it. All he used was vacuum
in the intake manifold, drawing pressure from the outlet side of the
exhaust. The resulting automatic power flow raised anything they were
attached to. Solomon couldn't help but think, "The newspapers said
scientists were losing rockets and space capsules, so a few old cars
could get lost in the clouds without hurting anything."

Early the next morning, he towed the oldest hulk, an Essex, to the
cleared space. Manifolds from junk engines were bolted to the wheels but
this time carburetor flanges were covered by wooden shingles because
Solomon figured he couldn't afford to ruin four salable hub caps just to
get rid of his old sedans. Each shingle was taped in place so they could
be pulled off in unison with a strong pull on the twine. The tired Essex
was pretty big, so Solomon waited until bedtime before stumbling through
the dark to the launching pad in his yard. Light from kitchen matches
helped collect the shingle cords as he crouched behind the Ford wagon.
He held the cords in one calloused hand, a burning match in the other so
he could watch the Essex. Solomon tightened his fist, gave a quick tug
to jerk all shingles at the same time, and watched in excited
satisfaction as the old sedan rose in a soft swish of midsummer air
flowing through ancient curves of four rusty manifold assemblies.

Day after day, only a mile from Fullerton, Solomon busied himself buying
wrecked cars and selling usable parts. Each weekday night--Solomon never
worked on Sunday--another old car from his back lot went silently
heavenward with the aid of Solomon's unique combination of engine vacuum
and exhaust pressure. His footsteps were light with accomplishment as he
thought, "In four more days, they'll all be gone."

       *       *       *

While the Fullerton radar net smoked innumerable cigarettes and cursed
luck ruining the evening, Solomon scrambled two eggs, enjoyed his coffee
and relaxed with a newly found set of old 1954 Buick shop manuals. As
usual, when the clock neared ten, he closed his manuals and let himself
out the back door.

City lights, reflected in low clouds, brightened the way Solomon knew
well. He was soon kneeling behind the Ford wagon without having stumbled
once. Only two kitchen matches were needed to collect the cords from a
big Packard, handsome in the warmth of a moonless summer night. With a
faint "God Bless You," Solomon pulled the shingles and watched its
massive hulk rise and disappear into orbit with his other orphans.

If you'd been able to see it all, you'd have worried. The full circle of
radar and communications crews around Fullerton had acted as though the
whole town were going to pussyfoot away at sundown. _Nine_ was hidden in
a curious farmer's orange grove. _Seven_ was tucked between station
wagons in the back row of a used car lot. _Four_ was assigned the
loading dock of a meat-packing plant, but the night watchman wouldn't
allow them to stay. They moved across the street behind a fire station.
_Three_ was too big to hide, so it opened for business inside the
National Guard Armory.

They all caught the Packard's takeoff. Degree lines from the four
stations around Fullerton were crossed on the map long before Solomon
reached his back door. By the time bedroom lights were out and covers
under his bristly chin, a task force of quiet men was speeding on its
way to surround four blocks of country land; including a chicken ranch,
Solomon's junk yard and a small frame house. Dogs stirred, yapping at
sudden activity they alone knew of, then nose to tail, returned to sleep
when threats of intrusion failed to materialize.

The sun was barely up when the chicken farmer was stopped a block from
his house, Highway patrolmen slowly inspected his truck from front to
back, while three cars full of civilians, by the side of the road,
watched every move. Finding nothing unusual, a patrolman reported to the
first civilian car then returned to wave the farmer on his way. When the
widow teacher from the frame house, started for school, she too, was
stopped. After a cursory inspection the patrolman passed her on. Two of
the three accounted for. What of the third?

       *       *       *       *       *

Quietly a cavalcade formed, converged in Solomon's front yard and parked
facing the road ready for quick departure. Some dozen civilians muddied
shoes and trousers circling the junk yard, taking stations so they could
watch all approaches. Once they were in position, a Highway patrolman
and two civilians went to Solomon's door.

His last cup of coffee was almost gone as Solomon heard the noise of
their shoes, followed by knuckles thumping his front door. Wondering
who could be in such a hurry, so early in the morning, he pulled on
boots and buttoned a denim jacket as he went to answer. "Hello," said
Solomon to the patrolman, while opening the door. "Why you bother me so
early? You know I only buy cars from owners."

"No, Mr. Solomon, we're not worried about your car buying. This man,
from Washington, wants to ask you a few questions."

"Sure, come in," Solomon replied.

The questions were odd: Do you have explosives here? Can you weld metal
tanks? What is your education? Were you ever an engineer? What were you
doing last night? To these, and bewildering others, Solomon told the
truth. He had no explosives, couldn't weld, didn't finish school and was
here, in bed, all night.

Then they wanted to see his cars. Through the back door, so he'd not
have to open the office, Solomon led the three men into his yard. Once
inside, and without asking permission, they began searching like a
hungry hound trailing a fat rabbit. Solomon's eyes, blinking in the
glare of early morning sun, watched invasion of his privacy. "What they
want?" he wondered. He'd broken no laws in all the years he'd been in
the United States. "For what do they bother a wrecking yard?" he asked

His depressing thoughts were rudely shattered by a hail from the larger
civilian, standing at the back of Solomon's yard. There, three old cars
stood in an isolated row. "Solomon, come here a moment," he shouted.
Solomon trudged back, followed by the short civilian and patrolman who
left their curious searching to follow Solomon's lead. When he neared,
the tall stranger asked, "I see where weeds grew under other cars which,
from the tracks, have been moved out in the past few weeks. How many did
you have?"

"Twenty; but these are all I have left," Solomon eagerly replied, hoping
at last he'd a customer for the best of his old cars. "They make classic
cars, if you'd take the time to fix them up. That one, the Hupmobile, is
the last--"

"Who bought the others?" the big man interrupted.

"No one," quavered Solomon, terror gripping his throat with a nervous
hand. Had he done wrong to send cars into the sky? Everyone else was
sending things up. Newspapers said Russians and Americans were racing to
send things into the air. What had he done that was wrong? Surely there
was no law he'd broken. Wasn't the air free, like the seas? People
dumped things into the ocean.

"Then where did they go?" snapped his questioner.

"Up there," pointed Solomon. "I needed the space. They were too good to
cut up. No one would buy them. So I sent them up. The newspapers--"

"You did what?"

"I sent them into the sky," quavered Solomon. So this is what he did
wrong. Would they lock him up? What would happen to his cars? And his

"How did you ... no! Wait a minute. Don't say a word. Officer, go and
tell my men to prevent anyone from approaching or leaving this place."
The patrolman almost saluted, thought better of it, and left grumbling
about being left out of what must be something big.

Solomon told the civilians of matching vacuum in intake manifolds to
pressure from exhaust manifolds. A logical way to make an engine that
would run on pressure, like satellite engines he'd read about in
newspapers. It worked on a cracked engine block, so he'd used scrap
manifolds to get rid of old cars no one would buy. It hadn't hurt
anything, had it?

       *       *       *

Well, no, it hadn't. But as you can imagine, things happened rather
fast. They let Solomon get clean denims and his razor. Then without a
bye-your-leave, hustled him to the Ontario airport where an unmarked jet
flew him to Washington and a hurriedly arranged meeting with the
President. They left guards posted inside the fence of Solomon's yard,
so they'll cause no attention while protecting his property. A rugged
individual sits in the office and tells buyers and sellers alike, that
he is Solomon's nephew. "The old man had to take a trip in a hurry."
Because he knows nothing of the business, they'll have to wait until
Solomon returns.

Where's Solomon now? Newspaper stories have him in Nevada showing the
Air Force how to build gigantic intake and exhaust manifolds, which the
Strategic Air Command is planning to attach to a stratospheric
decompression test chamber. They figure if they can throw it into the
sky, they can move anything up to what astronomers now call Solomon's
Orbit, where at last count, sixteen of the seventeen cars are still
merrily circling the earth. As you know, one recently hit the Russian
television satellite.

The Russians? We're told they're still burning their fingers trying to
orbit a car. They can't figure how to control vacuum and pressure from
the manifolds. Solomon didn't tell many people about the shingles he
uses for control panels, and the Russians think control is somehow
related to kitchen matches a newspaper reporter found scattered behind a
station wagon in Solomon's junk yard.

Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _Analog Science Fact Science Fiction_
    November 1962. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
    the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling
    and typographical errors have been corrected without note.

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