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Tales to Astonish 9
"No Way Out"


Story: Unknown
Art: Steve Ditko

Man has traveled far, but no further. Why? What is the secret beyond their reach? Why is there... "No Way Out"

The 21st Century, a time of space travel, where man has settled on nearby planets, and the stars are yet beyond his reach. Another ship heads out for the stars, but it may meet the same fate as the others, and fail to break through the invisible barrier. Seated at the controls, the nervous scientist thinks back, and remembers the events of a year ago. The star ship was built to travel beyond their galaxy, out to the stars, and towards the end of the universe. The ship was built to travel forever. Man is now free to go wherever he chooses, unlike the fish in their bowl. Since the initial flight would never end, a robot was selected to pilot the star ship. The station was set to observe the robot's movements and the starship's progress. The ship was beyond Pluto when it happened. It slowed down, then stopped. All controls were in perfect working order, and the station observers couldn't fathom why this happened.

The controls were not at fault. It was as if an invisible barrier kept the starship from advancing any further. Once it returned to Earth, another approach was tried. Other starships were sent, with some stopped in their tracks, and others going up in flames when they struck the unseen barrier. No more ships were sent. Mankind sought to learn the secrets of the stars, but were defeated. Why?? Gigantic computers were fed information from the earlier flights. The electronic brain sifted through the data to come up with an answer. To the scientists' surprise, there was absolutely nothing wrong with outer space. No reason for the ships to be stopped in their tracks. But there was something out there, stopping the starships, and could only be guessed at. A gathering of the world's top scientists failed to crack the barrier. Instruments fail to detect or measure it. Unless they discover what it is, man will have reached a dead end. One scientist is determined to reach the end of the universe. Another starship with a human being at the controls will be sent. The scientist will personally pilot the starship. If there is a barrier, he will destroy it... or it will destroy him.

Now at the controls of the last starship, Doctor Harris prepares to go past the edge of outer space. The other scientists are monitoring his progress when he reaches the barrier. The starship has stopped, despite the atomic engines going at full blast. Special lenses and filters are unable to see the barrier. No reaction detected on the instruments. It is without mass and is just space. The scientist dons a space suit and leaves the ship. He heads for the barrier. Harris is right up against the barrier, but there's nothing there. The hydrogen drill can cut through anything, but five bits have been worn out without denting the barrier itself.

Back on the starship, the scientist uses a nuclear bomb on the barrier. Forces greater than a thousand H-Bombs have been used, but the barrier still stands. Harris has failed. Mankind will never break through the barrier. Now on Earth, Doctor Harris has lost his confidence and determination. He asks his wife why can't they go past that particular point in outer space. It encircles them completely, as if some unseen higher power were deliberately closing them off. Enclosed like -- like -- Dr. and Mrs. Harris stare at the bowl. The fish are kept in there for their own protection. What of mankind itself? With their weapons, their wars, their foolhardiness, what if mankind is also being protected? But -- by whom?

This story was reprinted in Where Monsters Dwell #34 (March, 1975).

A misattribution claims that the story first appeared in Astonishing Tales #9.

On the splash page, Doctor Harris is seen battering the unseen barrier with his bare fists.

The robot used to pilot the ship resembles the Living Brain from an early issue of The Amazing Spider-Man.

The giant computer takes up an entire room and looks like it was designed for either crossword puzzles or Keno.

The starship's exhaust resembles the magical effects used by Doctor Strange in Strange Tales.

The Harris' have learned the hard way that the bowl game is over for mankind.

Steve Chung
"No Review Out"