Tales To Astonish #9: "No Way Out"

Tales To Astonish #9
"No Way Out"
May, 1960

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

Steve Chung
"No Review Out"