Ace insurance agent Bert Brandon is on his way to the distant planet of Xtar! It seems that the prince of Xtar has been kidnapped, and Interplanetary Insurance, Inc. has insured a machine that may be able to rescue the prince for 100 million credits! Bert has to go there and make sure everything works out.
Bert hops an FTL ship to Xtar and learns about the place where he’s headed. The planet has a perpetual dark side that is filled with dangerous plants and animals. Bert is advised to stay on the light side of the planet. He’s only going to be in two rooms the entire time he’s there, but I’m sure we’ve all headed to the bathroom in a strange new location and ended up on the other side of the planet by mistake.
Professor Dzor is the egghead who is inventing the rescue machine, the “Fourth-Dimensional Retriever”. How does this amazing device work?
So, see! The machine will reach through the fourth dimension, grab the prince, and deposit him in this little cubicle. What could be simpler? Only there’s one problem: it sort of hasn’t been completely invented yet. The Professor still needs some time to get it working.
Bert lets the guy get to work, and soon the Professor announces it’s ready for a test. A push of a button and they hear something thumping in the cabinet. At Dzor’s urging, Bert opens the door to the cabinet, but it’s not the prince who is inside…it’s a mass of writhing tendrils! A dangerous tentacle plant from the dark side of Xtar!
Thankfully Bert lets fly a tremendous sneeze which kills the plant dead!
No sooner is that threat dispatched, though, when someone fires a rocket into the room. It explodes into fiery letters threatening Professor Dzor with death if he doesn’t destroy his machine. Bert decides to stand guard outside the only door to the lab (there are no windows either, which might make one wonder how the rocket got in, but not anyone in the story) while the Professor fine tunes the device.
With an hour left to go, Bert hears cries for help coming from inside the lab. He busts down the door to find the interior totally dark.
The vicious night beast lunges towards Bert, who doesn’t have any weapons available. It looks like he’s a goner until he thinks to…turn on the lights. Blinded, the creature falls helpless to the floor and is easily captured by the guards who appear.
The king also shows up, as the deadline is growing close. Not only is the machine not ready, the Professor is now missing. In five minutes, the I.I.I. will have to pay his majesty a hundred million cosmic rupees! But it suddenly dawns on Bert where the Professor is…as well as the kidnapped prince!
Bert goes to the cabinet of the machine and reveals a hidden trap door containing the two Xtarians (plus one). As the guards haul Dzor and his partner away, Bert explains the plan.
Aaaaand of course, this plan doesn’t make any sense.
Bert reminds the king that, in a way, the prince came out of the machine, so the king is happy to pay I.I.I. its rans…dividend. Bert also asks for the machine — maybe he can make it work! Because apparently the machine was phony by being juuuust shy of working, not by being a complete fraud.
But hey, it turns out Bert’s handy with a hydrospanner!
Fortunately for Triple-I, Bert’s contract stipulates that all life-changing inventions he develops are the sole property of Interplanetary Insurance, Inc., a division of Halliburton XP.
Next week: The Living Camera!
“Rescue Through the Fourth Dimension!”
Mystery in Space #22 (October-November 1954)
Writer: Sid Gerson
Penciler: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Carmine Infantino
Editor: Julius Schwartz