Wrap science with erotica and it will sell. This selection is from Adam, a soft-core men's magazine from 1958. I was in high school then and would have found the narrative interesting...for scientific purposes only.
"Journey for Lucia"
LUCIA NORTH SWORE with a proficiency that belied her appearance and manner of innate, fastidious gentility as the screen she was watching exploded in a confused kaleidoscope of zigzag lines and blinding flashes of light. Then, blushing as she regained self-control, she turned to the two men in the laboratory with her and said, "Sorry…but it's so damned frustrating. I really thought we had it this time."
"You were great," said Allan Franklin warmly. "Just great, Lucia. You held the beam on for almost thirty seconds." Franklin was administrative chief of the department of Earthconductivity, of which Lucia was currently the star scientist. He was a rather stocky, chunkily handsome man in his late forties, who coupled a sunlamp tan with loud sports clothes and a let's-not-break-eggs attitude toward Lucia.
Dr. Dwight Philbin, director of Carteret General Research Laboratories, a tall, distinguished gentleman with large dignity and a small mustache, frowned and said, thoughtfully, "What caused the interference, Dr. North?"
Lucia ran strong, feminine fingers through her trimly short-cut, dark blonde hair and replied, "I wish to heaven I knew, Dr. Philbin. Actually, what do we know about the core of the earth? The interference factors are limitless." Then, again, "I'm sorry. Perhaps, next time..."
"You'll hit it, Lucia," said Allan Franklin, encouragingly.
"I hope so," Dr. Philbin remarked, still frowning. "I've got to have a sound progress report for our board meeting next month. This project is eating up a large portion of our budget."
"Any suggestions?" Lucia looked up from the match with which she had just lit a cigarette. She felt suddenly very much a woman, rather than a scientist, very much a woman and very much alone. She wished either of these men would look at her, talk to her, or at least think of her as a woman instead of a scientific project.
"I wish I could offer you something constructive," said Dr. Philbin, thoughtfully tugging at the left end of his mustache. "Unfortunately, my duties as director of this institution forbid my spending as much time as I'd like in the laboratories. All I can tell you is to go ahead and keep plugging, Dr. North."
"I'll keep my fingers crossed, Lucia," said Allan Franklin. "Better luck next time. Be seeing you."
The two men moved through the door, leaving Lucia alone with her imperfect machine. She sat on a tall stool, puffing her cigarette and thinking dark thoughts. It began very much to look as if Project Earthworm was going to prove the Waterloo of what had, until recently been a brilliantly promising scientific career.
Lucia had been something of a child prodigy, whizzing through her university's undergraduate courses in two-and-a-half years, and emerging at seventeen with Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi keys, to boot. Her line had been structural geology—study of the earth—to which, in postgraduate courses, she had added learning and original research in the semi allied fields of seismology and communications. Her current project, the one for which Carteret Laboratories had hired her two years before—tele-radar penetration of the planet's core through a combination of her specialties. Its purpose—increased knowledge of earth, with ultimate ability to chart future earthquakes and continent-drift.
Results, to date—zero.
Now 26, Lucia considered her life as a human being to date, and came up with the same total—zero. Her preoccupation with her career—the preoccupation that had advanced her so far, so swiftly, had cut her off from the usual interests of women—namely, men.
Like most persons of genius, contrary to popular belief, Lucia was possessed of comeliness both of feature and body. Her face, innocent of makeup as an Italian movie star's, was fair and clear of skin over interesting, broad bone-structure that verged on the exotic. Her eyes were green-hazel, her lips well cut, full and expressive. Her figure, beneath its tight girdling and tailored suit, was a near-perfect 35-24-35. She was five feet four inches tall in her nylons and weighed a trim 120 pounds. Lucia had never had a man.
She thought, Either I scare hell out of them with the old I.Q., or this job keeps me too dammed busy. She wondered why it was usually the least intelligent girls who got happily splashed over the tabloid headlines, and wondered how a girl with brains went about landing herself a sex-life. She considered Allan Franklin—certainly, he would be willing, since he fancied himself as smarter than she, and he certainly enjoyed running after her little lab assistants. But Lucia was unable to work up much of a head of steam over him—Allan was too hearty, too beefy, too much the loud laughing party boy for all of his undoubted abilities. She wanted an adult male, not an overgrown college sophomore.
Dr. Philbin—now there was another kettle of bouillabaisse. Dignified, of the highest intelligence and, if the rumors about his divorce were true, capable of high romantic amour. But he moved on such a stratospheric plane of society women, top movie folk and top scientists that he was miles out of reach. Still, she thought with a sigh, if she only could get him to look at her as a woman…
She dropped her cigarette to the concrete floor, ground it out with a sensible, medium high, square heel, and gave up vaporizing. Approaching the instrument that had played her false, she eyed the turned-off geoscreen balefully. Before consenting to the morning's showing, she had tried hundreds of combinations of the score of delicate volume and tuning and selecting knobs that were banked along its right side. She had been sure she would be able to produce at least a two-minute record of earth-core activity some three thousand miles down—and then the interference had arisen, as usual.
Again she ran fingers through her hair and glared at the instrument of her betrayal. What else, she wondered, could she equip it with? It had everything from magnetic amplification for the flicker of time required for its waves to reach their destination and return. Once it achieved its destination in the heart of the planet, it had quadruple power-amplification to maintain it against the vagaries of the dense unknown masses its beam was intended to pierce.
"Bitch!'' murmured Lucia, glowering at it. "You did it to me again!" Then, on impulse, she flipped every button. The box whined a rising complaint, and, to complete the crescendo. Lucia snapped the quadruple power amplification on full.
The screen, which had been registering a cacophony of leaping, zany patterns, suddenly blazed into blinding brightness. The shrill whine snapped off as if cut with a sharp knife. Then patterns again leaped, formed a vague shape, leaped madly again and coalesced into—a woman's face!
It was a delicate, beautiful face that looked exotically Un-American, Un-African, Un-Asiatic—but, rather, a blend of all three. It was framed in dark hair, short as Lucia's own but without curl. The shoulders exposed with it appeared absolutely minus clothing. Believing that she had somehow tuned in on a routine television entertainment program, Lucia uttered a short, very sharp curse-word and moved to turn it off.
Then the delicate lips of the woman on the screen moved, and an odd, husky feminine voice said, in strangely accented English, "Hold it, Dr. North. I want to talk to you."
Lucia could only stare her disbelief and gulp, "Who the devil are you?" Her name was Mei-ling Dupuy, and her identity, as stated, proven even more incredible to the scientist. "I'm what we call a student," she said. "My time is almost two centuries in your future. I've been waiting weeks for you to put more power on your temporal-control beam."
"What do you want?" said Lucia, becoming increasingly convinced she was the victim of a practical joke, but willing to go along with it for the moment.
What Mei-ling Dupuy wanted was even more unlikely than her talking across time. She was anxious, she said, to do some first-hand research on certain facets of twentieth-century communications techniques that had not reached her age with complete records. Lucia was about to tell her she'd send her a package of birdseed in the morning, when Mei-ling added, "Apparently you seek a means of screening the mineral composition and motion of the earth's core—right?"
"It's hardly a secret," Lucia admitted, grudgingly.
"According to our records, Dr. North," said the face on the screen, "you found it, and more—but, from my observation over the past weeks, you need help. Well, we have all the facts and records you need in our laboratory files—the North-Philbin Research Complex."
"That's dandy," said Lucia. "But how do I get at them?" Then Mei-ling's conclusion got through, and she added, "North-Philbin?"
"Correct,' said Mei-ling. She went on to explain her proposition. Although physical time-travel was out of the question, there was a means, newly-developed in her own era, of personality transference, by which the two women could exchange bodies for a designated time. "A month should do it for both' of us," she stated.
A bemused Lucia agreed, and listened with partial awareness while Mei-ling briefed her on conditions in the future. Then Mei-ling said, "If you'll just sit directly in front of the screen and try not to think of anything for a moment, I'm' sure transfer can be effected. One thing, though—whatever happens, don't let anyone know about it. This is still strictly illegal. But I need this information for my thesis if I'm to be upped a level next year. Remember, just make your mind a blank, doctor."
"That should be easy," said Lucia. She pulled over the stool and sat on it, trying to make her mind empty. It was impossible, looking at the alien face—if it was an alien face—in the screen. She closed her eyes, and, for a moment, let relaxation creep over her. She felt something—something quick and indescribable—pass through her, and then she opened her eyes to shake off the joke or whatever it was…
She was looking at a much larger screen—one in which she saw her own image in a color, sharpness and richness not yet known on television screens in her own era. She decided, not for the first time, that she really ought to do something about her hair—and then her image spoke.
"Signing off now," she said. "Try to communicate at this same time in two weeks. Good luck, doctor…"
The image vanished, and Lucia, in a daze, looked down at herself and gasped. This body was not her own. It was slimmer, browner—and nuder. Save for a sort of clout about her middle, which was gaily embroidered in blue and silver, and a pair of soft, comfortable sandals of some material whose nature she did not know, Lucia was naked. Her breasts, she noted with alarm, were smaller and, mercifully, quite firm. She turned around, found a mirror on the wall, moved to it and peered at Mei-ling's exquisitely delicate face.
There were other differences. This body into which she had been transferred so incredibly was a far more vibrant, if less effulgent, instrument than her own. She was aware of a heightened sensitivity, of a sensual awareness of scent and color and sound that made her feel like a tuning fork. Yet, within her new chassis, she remained Lucia North, brilliant, frustrated, a little dull outside of her chosen profession.
Panic swept over her as she realized she knew next to nothing about the world into which she had been projected—for there was no doubting the reality of the amazing experience. She wished she had really listened to Mei-ling's briefing before the transfer was effected. She found the tiny pocket in her clout, with its incredibly compact and efficient makeup kit, noted in the mirror the smooth, creamy, coating of dark red that covered her lips. Experimentally, she ran her tongue over, it discovered she liked the taste—a sweet, fruity flavor.
Spotting a couch, she lay down and concentrated—for Lucia had a total recall memory, and it was all at once vital for her to recall every syllable of a briefing she had ignored as merely part of a practical juke. She was still putting the final fragments together in her mind when Dr. Ivan Juarez walked into the room and said, "Crack out of it, honeycomb. We've got to take the readings."
She knew it was Ivan, because Mei-ling had described her immediate superior at the laboratory—tall, dark and ugly. She rose, not speaking, and went through her paces, pushing buttons as ordered to registered recordings of various geological densities—not only on earth, but on the other planets of the Solar System. As she followed orders, she felt fascination beginning to overwhelm her. So this was where her work was leading into a complete core-through study of other worlds!
She gawked so long at the registration of the composition of Saturn's rings that Ivan said sharply, "For Guiseppi's sake, honeycomb. You've looked at it often enough before. Crack out of it!"
Lucia cracked, although it was not easy as she began to get an inkling of some of the techniques employed in the lab. They were as far ahead of the twentieth century as her own time was ahead of the Crusades. She thought, if it was a dream, it was certainly going to be a profitable one.
Then Ivan punched a final button, clearing the various screens on which the figures had registered. His officious attitude vanishing, Ivan said, in friendly fashion, "Well, that's that for today, honeycomb. How about an energy tablet with me? My frau won't be home till late."
"Okay," said Lucia, too busy wondering whether that expression was obsolete to be concerned at the nature of the energy tablet. Ivan from a small, transparent case from his clout pocket, rolled out a couple of pills and handed her one. She managed to swallow it, as he did his, without water, after which he got out a couple of cigarettes and offered her one. She was about to ask for a light when she saw that his had ignited merely by his inhaling it. She did likewise and sat down on the sofa. There Ivan joined her, causing her to be acutely conscious both of her near-nudity and his. He was, she noted with alarm, a well-muscled male animal.
"They're making better tablets these days," he informed her. "No flashfires or fizzle-outs any more. Just a slow built that stays with you the right length of time."
"Right," she said, wondering what in hell he was talking about. She let him chatter on while they finished their smokes, and was about to ask him for another cigarette when the tablet hit her.
She could not remember feeling as she now felt since schoolgirl adolescence—the sensual, tingling warmth that spread through her, from her loins to her fingertips, slowly, delightfully, implacably. Helplessly, she looked at Ivan, saw by the glow of his pale eyes and the flare of his nostrils that he was feeling a similar reaction.
He dropped his cigarette to the floor, where it vanished in a tiny puff of smoke. She did likewise. He rose and stepped out of his clout, and, when she was hesitant, motioned her impatiently to do the same. There was not even so much as a kiss between them before they were locked on the sofa in what Lucia could only think of—as much as her hyperstimulated feelings allowed her to think—as the ultimate intimate embrace. For a moment, the unviolated spinster in her inner being strove to assert itself - but then the wayward body of Mei-ling Dupuy, abetted by the energy tablet, had its way and took full control.
Dr. Lucia North, wearing another woman's body—Dr. Lucia North, B.S., D. Sc., Ph.D., Fellow of the North American Academy of Science, Endowed Special Project Research Officer of the Philbin Research Laboratories—Dr. Lucia North cohabited for the first time in her twenty-six years!
And Dr. Lucia North, wearing another woman's body, enjoyed it immensely!
When it was over, Ivan looked at her quizzically and said, "You've been working on it, honeycomb. Where'd you get the schoolgirl approach?"
"You liked?" an appalled Lucia heard herself say.
"Refreshing," was the only reply. Ivan dressed himself, stood up and said, "Tomorrow…same time, right?"
"Right," said Lucia, reminding herself that it was neither her own era or her own body. She found her apartment house without trouble, thanks to the directions of Mei-ling which she finally remembered, and discovered certain short-comings to pushbutton living. Feeling ravenously hungry, she pushed what she thought was the steak-button and emerged with a cereal mixture that barely answered the hunger in her stomach. However, she managed to get straightened out and wound up with a tolerable chicken Marengo. A young man named Nils, about whom Mei-ling had forgotten to brief her, turned up after dinner and shared another energy pill with her—with the same results as at the lab. When it was over, he, too, said, "Sugarbett, you're different tonight somehow."
And again, Lucia heard herself ask, "You like?"
"Bloodyright," was the reply. "I'll have to tell Sonya about it…she's been promising me some new kicks."
Who Sonya was, Lucia never found out, for she never saw Nils again during her four-week stay in the future. But evidently, sex, in the twenty-second century, was something people took as easily as they did their meals. Little by little, she acquired some understanding of what lay behind the morality, or lack of it. With the development of anti-pregnancy shots, plus the banishment of venereal disease, plus the anti-frustration attitude of an ever-growing body of psychiatric opinion, sex had simply become a pleasure and function as necessary and as little regarded generally as food or drink.
Yet, romantic love of a sort still existed, being marked by kissing, petting and the other amorous approaches of a by-gone day, including the Eskimo nose-rub. Otherwise, it was direct, simple, marked only by subtleties in the act itself. Before two weeks were out, Lucia found herself savoring men as variously as she savored various dishes in a restaurant menu in her own era.
What was more, the system worked, for there was virtually no crime on earth, When a couple fell honestly in love and wanted children, they had them—though the reduction of sex to a mere amusement had, with the anti-pregnancy shots, solved the teeming overpopulation problem before the planet was inundated with people.
Their science was, to Lucia, incredible. Much of it, even with her background, she was unable to understand. But she learned enough, in two weeks, to solve the problem facing her at the lab back in her own time, and to acquire both a vision of and some practical knowledge of other key scientific developments; the basis of space travel through heat-proof alloys and atomic-current generators that could work in a vacuum without producing dangerous rocket flares; rhodomagetics, the untouched—in her era—science of the attraction of non-iron minerals for one another and its uses in industry; inverse gravity, which enabled conveyors to fly without propulsion.
She also received enough sex to make up for her twenty-six barren years. At the end of two weeks, she made contact with Mei-ling as promised. The woman inhabiting her body reported, "I've got your problem straightened out, Lucia. It was the internal-drift effect that was blocking you and only needed reliable polarization to cut through. I've also added a surprise for you. I'll leave a memo in your pocketbook…clumsy contraption…so you can pick it up when we switch bodies again." Lucia thanked her and reported briefly on her own progress, mentioning the men. Mei-ling laughed and said, "If I'd had any idea of what it was like at this end, I'd have warned you. You must have been shocked."
"I was…a little," said Lucia. "How about you?"
"It's wonderful," said Mei-ling, her eyes—Lucia's eyes—glowing like the eyes of some large jungle cat. "You don't know what it's like to have to go out and trap a man, after having everything so bloody easy."
"Don't tell me…I can guess," said Lucia. Only after the contact was broken, did she feel a pang of worry over what her opposite number might be doing with her body. Then, in the press of study, lab-work and sex, Lucia forgot all about it.
She remembered, two weeks later, when she found herself once more back in her own lab, in her own time, in her own body. For there had been some changes made. Her hair had been curled, her face was coated with makeup, her body was unfamiliarly scented, her tailored suit had been replaced by a dress that clung with persistence to every good point of her figure. Furthermore, her body tingled with the same vital awareness that Mei-ling's had felt. She was still Dr. North—but several degrees nearer the equator.
She was still adjusting herself to her reflection in the wall-mirror when chunky Allan Franklin burst in, red of face and waving a lurid exposé magazine in his hand.
"I warned you, Lucia," he shouted at her. "I told you there'd be repercussions from the way you've been behaving lately. Look at this…!"
He thrust the opened magazine at her, and she found herself looking at a picture of herself in a most revealing neckline, sitting between two leering, important looking males, in what was obviously a New York cabaret. The headline read, in sixteen-point red type—
IS AMERICA'S ANSWER TO MADAME
CURIE A FLESHPOT SEXPOT ?
CURIE A FLESHPOT SEXPOT ?
The rest of it was in kind. Thanks to her month in the twenty-first century, Lucia read it with more interest than horror. Apparently, Mei-ling had been cutting up capers outside the laboratory as well as inside it. Her swath of male conquests, if the story was accurate, included a top movie star, two Texas oil billionaires, an undersecretary of state and a college president. Mei-ling, it appeared, had not found twentieth century males too difficult.
She was also interested in the adjectives the magazine story applied to her—luscious, glamorous, devastating—and even more in the label they gave her as the woman who had, "opened up whole new fields of scientific discovery in the past few weeks."
She looked up at Allan, who was regarding her with working features, and said, "Hey! I'm doing okay, aren't I?"
Allan Franklin collapsed on the couch and put his head in his hands and groaned. "I feel as if it's all my fault," he said. "I should have sensed what was coming the day you and I…well, the day you changed. But I was worried about Jeanne and the kids. I should have let everything go and stayed with you."
"Oh, come on, Allan," said Lucia. "It wasn't as bad as all that."
"It was wonderful…the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me!" he cried, lifting bloodshot eyes to look up at her. "And to think I let you slip through my fingers after we had kissed the lips of Venus together…right on this couch!" He hammered it resentfully with the flat of his hand.
"You're getting your metaphors mixed," said Lucia lightly. "Now, Allan, I've got work to do."
He rose obediently, then paused to say, "But have you thought what you're doing to the Institute, Lucia? This sort of scandal—he rapped the magazine she was still holding "can ruin us."
"I don't see how," Lucia replied. "I have enough new material ready really to put Philbin Labs on the map. So how can what I do in my own time hurt us? If the trustees get difficult, we can simply sell some of my discoveries."
"But it's not…it's not nice!" was all he could manage. He faded out of the room as she motioned him to leave.
Alone, Lucia headed for her pocketbook and Mei-ling's promised memoranda. As she studied them, thanks to her research in the future, she was able to understand what her opposite number had accomplished with little trouble. And what she saw made her raise her newly penciled eyebrows and purse her bright vermilion lips into a silent whistle.
Mei-ling had done far more than solve the problem of measuring the content and movement of earth's core. She had, incredibly, used Lucia's research, plus her own knowledge, to come up with an invention that was certain to put Philbin Research on the wings of prosperity forever. She had discovered a simple, eminently practical method of transmitting television long distance by beams through the earth itself, instead of merely through wires around the curve of its surface!
Lucia was digesting the subtler points of Mei-ling's invention when Dr. Philbin himself entered her lab. He looked a lot younger than he had a month earlier, if a great deal more harassed. He said, "Lucia, darling, I've come across that magazine article. Have you seen it?"
"Oh, yes," said Lucia. "Allan was kind enough to show it to me just now."
"It's not funny," said Dr. Philbin, sinking in his turn on the couch. "The trustees are making things damnably hot for me. I wish I knew…I mean, I can't understand…what's come over you. You were always a fine and valuable person, but recently…" He stopped, looking at her with a sort of wistful helplessness.
"…but now," she finished for him, "I'm a lot less fine and a lot more valuable, is that it, Dwight?"
"I didn't say that," he said doggedly. "I only said I can't understand it. It's as if you'd…er…expanded, both personally and in science. Where do you, suppose it will stop?"
Recalling that in two centuries the Philbin Labs would be the Philbin-North Labs, Lucia decided there was no call for worry. So she said, enjoying the thought of this man and hating Mei-ling for having enjoyed him with her body, "Isn't that really up to you?"