Rogue Planet Crisis of 1935
The existence of Flash Gordon is an established fact in the Wold-Newton Universe, but this raises a mystery. The Wold-Newton Universe mirrors our own in many important ways. As everyone knows, there is no planet Mongo in our solar system so there must be no Mongo in the Wold-Newton Universe.
However, there is a Mongo in what is sometimes called the “ERB universe” or “Annwyn.” It exists there alongside Mercury, Amtor (Venus), Earth/Pellucidar, Zillikian, Barsoom (Mars), the remnants of Thyoph (asteroid belt), Eurobus (Jupiter), Cyrkranosh (Saturn), Yaksh (Neptune), L'gx'hx (Uranus), and Yuggoth (Pluto).
Ming realized that his own heavily populated solar system could not be conquered easily (even most of the major moons and many of the asteroids are populated in the ERB universe, as is seen in the Captain Future stories of Edmund Hamilton.) so he cast his gaze elsewhere. Mongo's scientists had long known of the existence of other universes and one of these scientists created a way to open a rift between universes. More accurately, he learned how to greatly enlarge existing rifts. Every year the planet Mongo’s orbit caused it to pass through a spatial anomaly which caused the mysterious disappearance of rockets, sailing ships, people, etc. (A similar phenomenon has been encountered on earth and labeled the "Bermuda Triangle").
The scientist found that beaming a powerful energy ray on one of these rifts would cause it to temporarily expand so greatly that it would allow the whole planet to pass through. Ming seized on the idea. The observation of the Mongo scientists had confirmed that, in this new solar system, only the planet Earth was inhabited, and that Earth science was no match for Mongo.
The path for conquest lay open!
In 1934 the rift was opened and Mongo entered our continuum. There had been a terrible miscalculation through. It had always been assumed that Mongo would reappear in the equivalent of its own orbit (between Earth and Mars) in the new solar system. Instead it appeared in an orbit nearly identical to that of Earth. If that weren't bad enough, Mongo has a retrograde orbit! The two planets raced towards each other at alarming speed.
On Mongo, Ming's scientists worked frantically at correcting the situation. On earth there was general panic in the scientific community. The "rogue planet" (as the press dubbed Mongo) was discovered by a Dr. Bronson (a highly fictionalized version of his account was later written by Philip Wylie as the novel "When Worlds Collide").
The scientific community was at a loss. There was no explanation for where the planet had come from, nothing they could do to prevent its collision. The general public doubted that such a thing could be, but the rate of suicide among astronomers skyrocketed.
One man driven to near insanity by the event was Hans Zarkov. He was a brilliant rocketry genius, easily seventy years ahead of his time. He had been the principal designer of the ill-fated rocketship of one Carson Napier several years earlier. In the ensuing years he had completed another prototype ship, a vast improvement over Carson's vehicle.
Zarkov knew that he had to do something, but his mind temporarily cracked under the strain and helplessness of his situation. The normally gentle and rational man abducted two young survivors of an air crash. At gunpoint he forced the athletic "Flash" Gordon and the lovely Dale Arden to help pilot his vessel to Mongo. In his irrational state Zarkov thought that there would be something they could do to avert disaster when they landed, though he had no idea what it would be.
Fortunately, shortly after the crash of the rocket on Mongo, Ming's scientists found that they could use their process to open another rift. The planet shifted back into its own universe and its old orbit with incredible ease.
From the perspective of the Earth scientists, the "rogue planet" was gone, as quickly and mysteriously as it had appeared. The population wrote it off as a hoax, or a horrible mistake by the scientific community. Eager to avert potential panic, the major governments put a lid on the all the information gathered during the crisis. Official statements were issued that the planet had been an optical illusion caused by a natural, but perfectly harmless phenomenon.
On Mongo the masses, who are intentionally kept in a state of scientific ignorance, knew only that there had been many strange signs in the heavens.
Ming knew better, but the near disaster has shaken even his cold heart. He ordered the project abandoned, the ray projector dismantled, and everyone With who had knowledge of the project executed. (Scientific mistakes are never repeated on Mongo.)
Ironically, the seeds of Ming's downfall had been laid. The puny earth vessel which had failed in its original purpose had brought to Mongo the three people who would herald the end of the mighty despot.
Apparently Ming (like most mad scientists and master villains) had never heard the famous line about tampering with “things man was not meant to know.”
©2000 Matthew Baugh