THE NEW PROJECT
Tom Swift appeared to be calm, although in reality he was about as excited over his latest invention as he ever had been about anything in his life.
"I'm sure it's going to work, Ned!" he said eagerly to his chum as they neared Tom's private laboratory. "With my new device I hope to learn more about the planets. I want to start soon—"
"Listen here!" broke in Ned Newton. "If you're thinking of going to Mars or the moon, just count me out! I've gone with you to many strange places and have never kicked. But this—"
"Hold on, young fellow!" interrupted the youthful inventor with an amused chuckle. "I've nothing like that in mind YET! All I want to do is show you my new 'space eye.'"
"Can't say as I like that word 'yet,'" Ned muttered darkly. "But I'll take a look at your new jigger if you'll promise not to shoot me through space in a rocket or cannon-ball!"
"Word of honor I won't," promised Tom, crossing his heart with mock solemnity. "Well, here we are."
The two boys had reached the laboratory, a small building at the rear of the spacious lawn surrounding Tom's father's home and close to the extensive work of the Swift Manufacturing Company at Shopton.
"I'll bet these shelves have more scientific apparatus on 'em than any other shelves in the world," remarked Ned, as his chum opened the door.
Various cabinets containing hundreds of chemicals stood about. Against one wall was a huge transformer, from which the youthful scientist, Tom Swift, could draw almost any kind of electric current he might desire.
"Here goes!" said the young inventor.
He rolled back a small rug in the middle of the floor to expose a massive steel trap door. This he unlocked by twirling the dial of a complicated mechanism. Some years before Tom had constructed beneath his laboratory an impregnable chamber to safeguard his secret plans. He called it his Chest of Secrets, and guarded it well.
Even Ned Newton, Tom's closest friend and business associate, did not know the entire contents of the massive vault. Only Tom and his father were aware of all the inventions concealed there.
"Some of these inventions must not be known to the world in its present state," the elder man had said.
One of them was the terrible electric death-ray, capable of destroying anything in its path. Only if the United States should be invaded by an enemy power, would this be revealed.
"Here it is," said Tom, joining his chum after a few minutes spent in the vault.
He was carrying a small wooden box which he placed on the desk and opened. If Ned, as he leaned over eagerly, expected to see anything astonishing he was disappointed. Resting on the velvet lining was simply a round disk of a greenish substance perhaps six inches in diameter. This was mounted in a gleaming metal ring from the edges of which there projected five electric binding posts.
"Funny kind of an eye," observed Ned....