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This was a short story in an anthology. I read it in the 1970s in a hardback copy checked out of a library. At that time, I was reading many SF anthologies, such as the Spectrum series, the various Best of F&SF volumes, and many others. This was probably far from new when I read it, I rather suspect it of being from the 1950s, but I am not at all sure. I don't recall anything about the cover or the author's name.

This was a puzzle story, with stock if not cardboard characters, as I recall. The story was in English, and had something of a 1950s SF magazine style, or I think it did.

The plot as I recall it:

Before the story opens there was some kind of disaster in a secret (perhaps government sponsored) lab. The lab has been destroyed, and all the scientists and technicians working there killed. All the lab notes and records were also destroyed, so no one knows just what the lab was trying to do. Nearby buildings have also been destroyed or seriously damaged.

The disaster has left behind what seems to be a local space warp or wormhole (I am sure the term "wormhole" was not used) in the form of a sphere about 1-2 feet in diameter. Air rushes into this sphere and vanishes, creating strong winds nearby.

Characters are concerned that this warp will eventually render Earth airless. So, they hire a man who has a reputation for quenching oil-rig fires by "blowing them out" with explosive charges. He is hired to place such a charge near the warp with the idea that the explosion will disrupt the warp. The story is told entirely from this man's point of view. He does so, and the charge is detonated, but the warp is unaffected. I think there was a second attempt, using a larger, "shaped" charge intended to send a jet of hot gas right at the warp locus. The warp is unaffected. Several other things are tried, with the oil-fire man as an interested spectator. Then he is engaged for a third attempt. This time he uses a tracked vehicle (like a military tank, but with manipulator arms) and the charge to be placed is a tactical nuke.

I recall a vivid description of driving the tracked vehicle over the rubble left by the initial disaster and the previous explosions.

The nuke is set and triggered, but after things are cool enough to check, the warp is unchanged.

Then the VP character has an idea. He tells those in charge that he thinks he knows how to solve the problem. His fee, if he succeeds, will be full title to the lab site, plus expenses. They agree.

He drives the vehicle in again, this time taking a contraption he has made consisting of two steel hemispheres, hinged together, on a base. He carefully places the base just below the warp locus. Then the hemispheres are unlocked and swing together, with the warp locus inside. The warp is still there, but Earth's air can't get into it. I also recall a mention that the vehicle stalled, because of broken-off reinforcing rod sticking up from concrete rubble getting stuck in the tread, just as the correct position was achieved.

The winds are calm, the problem is solved. One of the people in charge asks the VPC what he will do with the land. He points out that the containment device has a spigot, and says that he plans to sell high-quality vacuum, in whatever quantity a customer might want.

That was the "twist ending" and the end of the story.

I don't recall any descriptive phrase to search on, nor the name of any characters.

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    "In the other story (whose title I don't recall, but it was probably published in Analog), a bare something (perhaps a wormhole whose other end is in open space) is created, and begins to suck the Earth's air away. The hero builds a dome around it, but leaves a valve in the side to sell vacuum." - news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28427173
    – Valorum
    Mar 27 at 6:25
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    "The Permanent Implosion" by McLaughline maybe? Mar 27 at 7:17
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    Does this answer your question? Research lab punches hole through space into vacuum
    – Otis
    Mar 27 at 15:35
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    @Otis I'm closing it the other way, as this question is more detailed and the answer here has a better link.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 27 at 16:37
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    I have now read the story via the link, and I reconfirm that it is indeed the story I recall. I suspect I read it in the Analog 4 Anthology. Afte reading it, I wonder if the wind effects described in the story are scientifically realistic. @Rand al'Thor would a separate question on that point be appropriate? Mar 27 at 16:43

1 Answer 1

19

This sounds very much like "The Permanent Implosion" a short story by Dean McLaughlin. As in the question a wormhole has been opened, which in the story is called a "congruency", which is creating a gale by sucking the Earth's atmosphere into it. The oil capper, Mick Candido, tries various oil well techniques to deal with it, and eventually encloses the congruency within two metal hemispheres. The hemispheres did not fit together perfectly, so a trickle of air still escaped, but it was a tolerable level.

As the OP recalled the twist in the story was:

"I'm starting a new business," Candido said. "That's why I wanted this chunk of land. I'm going to sell vacuums, - the emptiest vacuums in the world. How much do you think they'll pay for a real gallon of nothing - no impurities?"

It can be read online in the February 1964 issue of Analog at the Luminist archive - complete with the cover illustration of the metal hemispheres.

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    I am convinced. Now to find a copy. Mar 27 at 7:33
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    @DavidSiegel I've added a link Mar 27 at 7:38
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    Thanks for introducing me to the Luminist Archive. I often have trouble finding old magazines in the Internet Archive, and this one is nicely laid out chronologically. Mar 27 at 15:26
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    @Clara thanks for the answer, and the link. I have now read the story. I find I remember several descriptive passages, but some are not quite in the place I recalled them. Several descriptions I had thought part of the third journey to the lab site were in fact part of the first, for example. But this is very clearly the story I had in mind. Thanks again. Mar 27 at 16:47
  • @Clara Diaz Sanchez I have a pretty good memory for plot details, and somehow this story stuck strongly in my mind, , although I think it was something like 40 years ago that i read it. That often happens for me, but usually I remember titel amd/or author as well. Mar 27 at 23:30

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