The Lost Bomb by Rog Phillips appeared in the May 1950 issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.
Rog Phillips certainly dominates this issue of Amazing stories with around 50k words of his fiction. Unlike Slaves of the Crystal Brain, The Lost Bomb is published under his own name.
The Lost Bomb is two tales intertwined. Or maybe not intertwined so much as convergent. On one branch of the story, a group of scientists are testing out an all new atomic super weapon, creatively named the “Super Bomb”. A mysterious accident occurs and the bomb vanishes, replaced by a strange blue cloud of unknown energies that is swiftly moving across the planet. What is it? What dangers does it pose to mankind? What happened to the bomb!?
On the other branch of the story, a con man with a beautiful daughter with a heart of gold has built a cosmic whirligig that’s going make him a lot of money. Horace Quinley’s “Cosmic Energy Convert” is really just a bunch of junk that he’s soldered and welded together to look like some serious science machinery. He’s running an illicit power line off the local grid and putting on a show with it for investors who are planning on giving him lots of money for what they think is some kind of Tesla-esque free-power engine.
Quinley’s in a race against time with the hero of the story, Harry Shaw, a lineman for the electric company who’s on his way up; Harry’s fallen head over heels for Ann Quinley, but it’s his job to find the power leak and shut it down.
There’s some cute and fun romance between Harry and Ann, exciting cat and mouse between Harry and Horace, and drama as Harry is torn between love and duty. Meanwhile, the scientists find the bomb, or what’s left of it: the bomb itself is completely intact, but all of the experimental fissionable material is gone! And the blue haze is moving towards land!
Well, the twist is that Quinley’s whirligig actually IS a “Cosmic Energy Converter”, and right when the jig is up and his con’s about to be exposed and he’s facing the real chance of going to prison, his contraption sucks up the dangerous Cosmic Energy of the blue haze, neutralizing its threat. ‘Of course it hadn’t done anything before, because there had been no Cosmic Energy to harness!’
Quinley’s contraption saves the day, the investors end up buying his machine (‘quick, we have’t torn up all the checks yet!’), and Harry’s able stand with Ann by her father with a clear conscience.
The Lost Bomb was a good bit more Campbellian than Slaves of the Crystal Brain—there are a lot of detailed descriptions for the science and engineering wonks who get off on things like the page long description of how Horace put his contraption together–but it still managed to have the charm and fun of the SFF romance, the action and mystery and dames and all that.
Of course the whole time I’m reading it, I had this stuck in my head.
I guess it really WAS Campbellian.
Don’t forget! Duel Visions, by Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen, will be out on February 14th! It’s available for pre-order now in paperback and eBook.