Classic Australian SF 3: Vandals of the Void
by James Morgan Walsh (with an Introduction by Sean McMullen)
A series of unexplained events in space. A confederation of planets and mysterious aliens that threaten it. An Away Team investigating a spaceship showing no signs of life. A cloaking device using sophisticated enemy technology. Sounds like an episode of Star Trek, doesn’t it? The only thing is Vandals of the Void was published 35 years before the first original Star Trek episode was shown.
Or is it more a precursor to Star Wars? Witness fiction’s first interplanetary space war. Where did these crested invaders come from? And why were they threatening to bring destruction to the three civilised planets? In a breathless world of space pirates and disintegrator rays, Interplanetary Guard Jack Sanders discovers the unexpected during a voyage to Mars: romance with the impressive, alluring Jansca Dirka…and a war of the worlds. Vandals of the Void is space opera on a grand scale.
Alarmed, we swung our eyes skywards. For a time we could see nothing save our four remaining colleagues maneuvering against the ceiling of cloud. As though someone had ripped the sky open with a bright steel blade, the cloud rack parted and through the opening, one by one, brazenly disdaining concealment, came the eighty ships or so of the Mercurian armada.
They had been closer than we thought. Glistening golden shapes, the smallest of the size of the Cosmos, they slowly settled down, secure in their own overwhelming power…
One of our four ships, the closest to the descending host, suddenly whirled, flashing its heat ray as it moved. The ray landed on the nose of the foremost space-ship. There came a red glow, and almost instantly an explosion set the air rocking. Perhaps the Mercurian was carrying explosive material. At any rate for the second time our puny heat ray, almost by accident it seemed, was the spark to touch off the powder and blow the ship to fragments…
One moment we were dazzled by that whirling circle of gold. The next the whole visible round of the cloud-wrapped sky had turned that unearthly electric blue — and the very heavens seemed to be raining molten metal on us.