Author Archives: Marlene

A Short Story About The Panama Canal

It was about ten o’clock at night, and I was walking around with Joe Maynard at the Panama Canal. Joe was my good buddy at the United States Navy Yard, Long Beach, California, where my boat is now completing its sea trials. I had just told him about the weird-looking planes the Navy used to have, which could be faster than most of the planes that are being used now. Old Joe then told me that he had where I could see some planes that no longer existed. He said that he had been working at the Panama Canal once during the bridge-building program, and his great-uncle, who was the chief of maintenance for the canal, took him to a little-known spot that had been set aside for the newer planes that were no longer needed. It was a dry-dock, which had been practically forgotten and was in a condition of disrepair, and the area where the planes were was completely jungle-grown and hidden from view.

One of the planes was a PBY, the type that could be self-righting and could float with all its bulkheads and made it quite impossible for it to sink. The other planes were newer types, and I couldn’t quite recall their markings. Joe told me that we were getting closer to the spot that he had found, and that we should get to it soon. “Right there it is, Pete,” Joe said. “I remember it like yesterday. Come on, we’ll get in and take a look around.” We got inside and walked down to where we found a small room and an accompanying office. It was the control tower and the control officer’s office, and we could see it clearly.

The place was like a museum and had been just recently abandoned. It was huge and huge-looking, and when we walked in, we lost our thoughts in the magnitude of this remnant from the Panama Canal. It was a complete, furnished room, and in it was a helipad right in the center, furnished with a set of steps that led to a large room in the front. Exactly in front of us was a panel of switches and a teletype machine. There were many toggle switches, the kind a radar operator would have, a log-calendar machine, a small intercom set for listening in, a moving-picture camera set in a holder, and a large radar screen that was complete with a target-identifying device. The whole room was furnished with sets of radio equipment, one of which was radio telephone equipment, and the switches and the telephone sets were hundreds of years ahead of their time. There was a large spotlight accompanied by a voice-activated camera set in a holder, and these two things alone were a precious cargo of treasure. The rest of the room contained a bed, a desk, a leather chair, a smaller chair, a stool, a small table, a very small bar containing glasses, a decanter, a set of silverware, a small refrigerator, and many trays of food.

Other than the fact one could see where some kind of fire had engulfed half of the room, there was no physical damage, and this room seemed to be the command module of the ship. It had more controls than any of the space-capsule control rooms I had seen in the movies, and it seemed that if some enemy craft were to appear on the radar screen, all it would take was one enemy fighter near this area for the vessel to automatically outsmart the fighter. The whole room was of metal, except for the floor, and it seemed that some enemy spy had attempted to get in and sabotaged the room. There was still fresh wreckage, and if one looked closely enough, he could still see the holes where the enemy had tried to cut through the floor with some kind of tool. Satellite detection screens, radar detection equipment, navigational equipment, heat-detection equipment, map-making equipment, and many more things of special interest were of this craft’s capsule, and it seemed like the yacht of the world. The room also had two built-in desks that could be set on one side of the room or together, and the desks were made of some unstable-property of metal that was of extreme durability.

One wall contained a large starboard window, which would give the operator a view of various parts of the canal, or he could use it at night to have a clear view of the heavens. There are no celestial bodies in the night sky except for the moon, so here he could have a clear view at night of the sky with the large spotlight, which could be used to send signals to other crafts. The other wall contained a port area that contained a large metal panel, which could be sectioned off in the rear by a sliding panel that would separate the room in half. One could enter in the back of the panel to get to the high-speed elevator that would take him up to his flight deck twice as fast as the quickest elevator in existence at the moment.

There were no controls on the elevator, but once it was set in operation, it would stop at flight deck without the aid of any alert operator. All he had to do was to pull one large lever that controlled the timing of the elevator. Now that is the kind of equipment that would give pilots the advantage in combat. If you examine these objects in detail, it is apparent that they are not of this world. It was not made by the people of this planet, but no one has yet been able to determine who did make it or how it got to this planet. There was a very large helipad outside the room, and if one scaled down the size of the room to a normal size, it would take a good ten minutes to walk from the back to the front, and each wall contained a door that led out into a corridor that contained a series of rooms that led to the main body of the ship. The ship, as I recalled from Joe’s story, was about four thousand feet from end to end. The control tower was the control room from which this ship was controlled, and outside the window was a set of steps that led to a designated spot on the ground where a smaller, self-powered elevator could be placed to take a person or persons from the ground to the main body of the ship. And it should be mentioned that Joe told me that once his great-uncle took him to a room that contained a set of these elevators, and one switch that ran them. The elevators were built into the main body of the ship, and it was from these elevators that the pilots would take off. The elevators would carry them from the main body of the ship, where the elevators would be placed and kept until use, and protection and could be placed and kept until use and protection could be given to the ship and its occupants. The elevators were built mainly for protection because they were made of extremely-durable metal and could not be destroyed by anything, and the only thing that could destroy them was a self-destruct system that Joe thought was never used.

I was looking out the window trying to recall the whole story, and Joe was looking at the different sections of the room. “Come on, Pete,” Joe said, “let’s go over to the next room, and we’ll see what that room was like.” We walked out and turned left and could see a door and a set of stairs, and we went inside and walked down a corridor to a room that was about the size of the control tower’s room, and we could see that this was the sleeping quarters. There were two bunks, and there was a desk and a chair, and there were three closets and a shelf. We went back and looked at the other room and could see that it was furnished just like the other room, but it was less complicated and was the control room area. “We’ll see what’s behind those doors at the end of those two corridors,” Joe said, “and then we’ll be on our way back. Maybe you can figure out some of this.”

Inside the room that contained the desks was a shower, a toilet, a built-in sink, and a stand-up shower. One could see that this space was used as a laboratory at some time, because each closet contained stock of chemicals, beakers, test tubes, flasks, discs, microscope slides, microscopes, discs, thermometers, an air-conditioning system, and all the accessories of a modern scientist’s room. “Come on, let’s go to the next one,” Joe said. The next room was just an infirmary. There was a large bed that contained a set of sheets, some towels, and that was it.