SF26Micro-Man by Forrest J. Ackerman(拇指兔美照)

 

拇指兔美照
拇指兔美照
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Micro-Man, by Forrest James Ackerman
拇指兔美照


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Title: Micro-Man



Author: Forrest James Ackerman



Release Date: May 29, 2010 [EBook #32579]



Language: English



Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



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MICRO-MAN

BY WEAVER WRIGHT

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Fantasy Book Vol. 1 number 1 (1947). Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


The little man dared to venture into the realm of the Gods—but the Gods were cruel!

The early morning streetcar, swaying and rattling along its tracks, did as much to divert my attention from the book I was reading as the contents of the book itself. I did not like Plato. Comfortable though the seat was, I was as uncomfortable as any collegiate could be whose mind would rather dwell upon tomorrow’s football game than the immediate task in hand—the morning session with Professor Russell and the book on my lap.

My gaze wandered from the book and drifted out the distorted window, then fell to the car-sill as I thought over Plato’s conclusions. Something moving on the ledge attracted my attention: it was a scurrying black ant. If I had thought about it, I might have wondered how it came there. But the next moment a more curious object on the sill caught my eye. I bent over.

I couldn’t make out what it was at first. A bug, perhaps. Maybe it was too small for a bug. Just a little dancing dust, no doubt.

Then I discerned—and gasped. On the sill, there——it was a man! A man on the streetcar’s window sill——a little man! He was so tiny I would never have seen him if it hadn’t been for his white attire, which made him visible against the brown grain of the shellacked wood. I watched, amazed as his microscopic figure moved over perhaps half an inch.

He wore a blouse and shorts, it seemed, and sandals. Something might have been hanging at his side, but it was too small for me to make out plainly. His head, I thought was silver-coloured, and I think the headgear had some sort of knobs on it. All this, of course, I didn’t catch at the time, because my heart was hammering away excitedly and making my fingers shake as I fumbled for a matchbox in my pocket, I pushed it open and let the matches scatter out. Then, as gently as my excitement would allow, I pushed the tiny man from the ledge into the box; for I had suddenly realized the greatness of this amazing discovery.

The car was barely half-filled and no attention had been directed my way. I slid quickly out of the empty seat and hurriedly alighted at the next stop.

In a daze, I stood where I had alighted waiting for the next No. 10 that would return me home, the matchbox held tightly in my hand. They’d put that box in a museum one day!

I collect stamps—I’ve heard about getting rare ones with inverted centers, or some minor deviation that made them immensely valuable. I’d imagined getting one by mistake sometime that would make me rich. But this! They’d billed “King Kong” as “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” but that was only imaginary—a film … a terrifying thought crossed my mind. I pushed open the box hastily: maybe I had been dreaming. But there it was—the unbelievable; the Little Man!

A car was before me, just leaving. Its polished surface had not reflected through the haze, and the new design made so little noise that I hadn’t seen it. I jumped for it, my mind in such a turmoil that the conductor had to ask three times for my fare. Ordinarily, I would have been embarrassed, but a young man with his mind on millions doesn’t worry about little things like that. At least, not this young man.

How I acted on the streetcar, or traversed the five blocks from the end of the line, I couldn’t say. If I may imagine myself, though, I must have strode along the street like a determined machine. I reached the house and let myself into the basement room. Inside, I pulled the shades together and closed the door, the matchbox still in my hand. No one was at home this time of day, which pleased me particularly, for I wanted to figure out how I was going to present this wonder to the world.

I flung myself down on the bed and opened the matchbox. The little man lay very still on the bottom.

“Little Man!” I cried, and turned him out on the quilt. Maybe he had suffocated in the box. Irrational thought! Small though it might be to me, the little box was as big as all outdoors to him. It was the bumping about he’d endured; I hadn’t been very thoughtful of him.

He was reviving now, and raised himself on one arm. I pushed myself off the bed, and stepped quickly to my table to procure something with which I could control him. Not that he could get away, but he was so tiny I thought I might lose sight of him.

Pen, pencil, paper, stamps, scissors, clips—none of them were what I wanted. I had nothing definite in mind, but then remembered my stamp outfit and rushed to secure it. Evidently college work had cramped my style along the collecting line, for the tweezers and magnifier appeared with a mild coating of dust. But they were what I needed, and I blew on them and returned to the bed.

The little man had made his way half an inch or so from his former prison; was crawling over what I suppose were, to him, great uneven blocks of red and green and black moss.

He crossed from a red into a black patch as I watched his movements through the glass, and I could see him more plainly against the darker background. He stopped and picked at the substance of his strange surroundings, then straightened to examine a tuft of the cloth. The magnifier enlarged him to a seeming half inch or so, and I could see better, now, this strange tiny creature.

It was a metal cap he wore, and it did have protruding knobs—two of them—slanting at 45 degree angles from his temples like horns. I wondered at their use, but it was impossible for me to imagine. Perhaps they covered some actual growth; he might have had real horns for all I knew. Nothing would have been too strange to expect.

His clothing showed up as a simple, white, one piece garment, like a shirt and gym shorts. The shorts ended at the knee, and from there down he was bare except for a covering on his feet which appeared more like gloves than shoes. Whatever he wore to protect his feet, it allowed free movement of his toes.

It struck me that this little man’s native habitat must have been very warm. His attire suggested this. For a moment I considered plugging in my small heater; my room certainly had no tropical or sub-tropical temperature at that time of the morning—and how was I to know whether he shivered when he felt chill. Maybe he blew his horns. Anyway, I figured a living Eighth Wonder would be more valuable than a dead one; and I didn’t think he could be stuffed. But somehow I forgot it in my interest in examining this unusual personage.

The little man had dropped the cloth now, and was staring in my direction. Of course, “my direction” was very general to him; but he seemed to be conscious of me. He certainly impressed me as being awfully different, but what his reactions were, I didn’t know.

But someone else knew.


In a world deep down in Smallness, in an electron of a dead cell of a piece of wood, five scientists were grouped before a complicated instrument with a horn like the early radios. Two sat and three stood, but their attention upon the apparatus was unanimous. From small hollowed cups worn on their fingers like rings, came a smoke from burning incense. These cups they held to their noses frequently, and their eyes shone as they inhaled. The scientists of infra-smallness were smoking!

With the exception of a recent prolonged silence, which was causing them great anxiety, sounds had been issuing from the instrument for days. There had been breaks before, but this silence had been long-enduring.

Now the voice was speaking again; a voice that was a telepathic communication made audible. The scientists brightened.

“There is much that I cannot understand,” it said. The words were hesitant, filled with awe. “I seem to have been in many worlds. At the completion of my experiment, I stood on a land which was brown and black and very rough of surface. With startling suddenness, I was propelled across this harsh country, and, terrifyingly, I was falling. I must have dropped seventy-five feet, but the strange buoyant atmosphere of this strange world saved me from harm.

“My new surroundings were grey and gloomy, and the earth trembled as a giant cloud passed over the sky. I do not know what it meant, but with the suddenness characteristic of this place, it became very dark, and an inexplicable violence shook me into insensibility.

“I am conscious, now, of some giant form before me, but it is so colossal that my eyes cannot focus it. And it changes. Now I seem confronted by great orange mountains with curving ledges cut into their sides. Atop them are great, greyish slabs of protecting opaque rock—a covering like that above our Temples of Aerat—’on which the rain may never fall.’ I wish that you might communicate with me, good men of my world. How go the Gods?

“But now! These mountains are lifting, vanishing from my sight. A great thing which I cannot comprehend hovers before me. It has many colors, but mostly there is the orange of the mountains. It hangs in the air, and from the portion nearest me grow dark trees as round as myself and as tall. There is a great redness above, that opens like the Katus flower, exposing the ivory white from which puffs the Tongue of Death. Beyond this I cannot see well, but ever so high are two gigantic caverns from which the Winds of the Legends blow—and suck. As dangerous as the Katus, by Dal! Alternately they crush me to the ground, then threaten to tear me from it and hurl me away.”

My nose was the cavern from which issued the horrifying wind. I noticed that my breath distressed the little man as I leaned over to stare at him, so drew back.

Upstairs, the visor buzzed. Before answering, so that I would not lose the little man, I very gingerly pinched his shirt with the tongs, and lifted him to the table.

“My breath! I am shot into the heavens like Milo and his rocket! I traverse a frightful distance! Everything changes constantly. A million miles below is chaos. This world is mad! A giant landscape passes beneath me, so weird I cannot describe it. I—I cannot understand. Only my heart trembles within me. Neither Science nor the gods can help or comfort in this awful world of Greatness!

“We stop. I hang motionless in the air. The ground beneath is utterly insane. But I see vast uncovered veins of rare metal—and crystal, precious crystal, enough to cover the mightiest Temple we could build! Oh, that Mortia were so blessed! In all this terrifying world, the richness of the crystal and the marvelous metal do redeem.

“Men!—–I see … I believe it is a temple! It is incredibly tall, of black foundation and red spire, but it is weathered, leaning as if to fall—and very bare. The people cannot love their Gods as we—or else there is the Hunger…. But the gods may enlighten this world, too, and if lowered, I will make for it. A sacred Temple should be a haven—friends! I descend.”

The little man’s eye had caught my scissors and a glass ruler as I suspended him above my desk. They were his exposed vein of metal and the precious crystal. I was searching for something to secure him. In the last second before I lowered him, his heart swelled at the sight of the “Temple”—my red and black pen slanting upward from the desk holder.

A stamp lying on my desk was an inspiration. I licked it, turned it gum side up, and cautiously pressed the little man against it feet first. With the thought, “That ought to hold him,” I dashed upstairs to answer the call.

But it didn’t hold him. There was quite a bit of strength in that tiny body.

“Miserable fate! I flounder in a horrid marsh,” the upset thought-waves came to the men of Mortia. “The viscous mire seeks to entrap me, but I think I can escape it. Then I will make for the Temple. The Gods may recognize and protect me there.”


I missed the call—I had delayed too long—but the momentary diversion had cleared my mind and allowed new thoughts to enter. I now knew what my first step would be in presenting the little man to the world.

I’d write a newspaper account myself—exclusive! Give the scoop to Earl. Would that be a sensation for his paper! Then I’d be made. A friend of the family, this prominent publisher had often promised he would give me a break when I was ready. Well, I was ready!

Excited, dashing downstairs, I half-formulated the idea. The headlines—the little man under a microscope—a world afire to see him. Fame … pictures … speeches … movies … money…. But here I was at my desk, and I grabbed for a piece of typing paper. They’d put that in a museum, too!

The stamp and the little man lay just at the edge of the sheet, and he clutched at a “great orange mountain” covered by a “vast slab of curving, opaque glass” like the “Temples of Aerat.” It was my thumb, but I did not see him there.

I thrust the paper into the typewriter and twirled it through.

“I have fallen from the mountain, and hang perpendicularly, perilously, on a limitless white plain. I tremble, on the verge of falling, but the slime from the marsh holds me fast.”

I struck the first key.

“A metal meteor is roaring down upon me. Or is it something I have never before witnessed? It has a tail that streams off beyond sight. It comes at terrific speed.

“I know. The Gods are angry with me for leaving Mortia land. Yes! ‘Tis only They who kill by iron. Their hands clutch the rod in mighty tower Baviat, and thrust it here to stamp me out.”

And a shaking little figure cried: “Baviat tertia!… Mortia mea….” as the Gods struck wrathfully at a small one daring to explore their domain. For little man Jeko had contrived to see Infinity—and Infinity was only for the eyes of the Immortals, and those of the Experience who dwelt there by the Gods’ grace. He had intruded into the realm of the rulers, the world of the After Life and the Gods Omnipotent!

A mortal—in the land of All!

In a world deep down in Smallness, in an electron of a cell of dead wood, five scientists were grouped before the complicated instrument so reminiscent of early radios. But now they all were standing. Strained, perspiring, frightened, they trembled, aghast at the dimensions the experiment had assumed; they were paralysed with terror and awe as they heard of the wrath of the affronted Gods. And the spirit of science froze within them, and would die in Mortia land. “Seek the skies only by hallowed Death” was what they knew. And they destroyed the machine of the man who had found Venquil land—and thought to live—and fled as Jeko’s last thoughts came through.

For many years five frightened little men of an electron world would live in deadly fear for their lives, and for their souls after death; and would pray, and become great disciples, spreading the gospels of the Gods. True, Jeko had described a monstrous world; but how could a mere mortal experience its true meaning? It was really ethereal and beautiful, was Venquil land, and they would spend the rest of their days insuring themselves for the day of the experience—when they would assume their comforted place in the world of the After Life.

As I struck the first letter, a strange sensation swept over me. Something compelled me to stop and look at the typing paper. I was using a black ribbon, but when the key fell away, there was a tiny spot of red….






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SF25Junior by Robert Abernathy(拇指兔美照)

拇指兔美照
拇指兔美照
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Junior, by Robert Abernathy



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Title: Junior



Author: Robert Abernathy



Illustrator: Weiss



Release Date: August 28, 2015 [EBook #49809]



Language: English



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JUNIOR

By ROBERT ABERNATHY

Illustrated by WEISS

[Transcriber’s Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy January 1956.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright
on this publication was renewed.]


All younger generations have been going to the dogs … but this one was genuinely sunk!


“Junior!” bellowed Pater.

Junior!” squeaked Mater, a quavering echo.

“Strayed off again—the young idiot! If he’s playing in the shallows, with this tide going out….” Pater let the sentence hang blackly. He leaned upslope as far as he could stretch, angrily scanning the shoreward reaches where light filtered more brightly down through the murky water, where the sea-surface glinted like bits of broken mirror.

No sign of Junior.

Mater was peering fearfully in the other direction, toward where, as daylight faded, the slope of the coastal shelf was fast losing itself in green profundity. Out there, out of sight at this hour, the reef that loomed sheltering above them fell away in an abrupt cliffhead, and the abyss began.

“Oh, oh,” sobbed Mater. “He’s lost. He’s swum into the abyss and been eaten by a sea monster.” Her slender stem rippled and swayed on its base and her delicate crown of pinkish tentacles trailed disheveled in the pull of the ebbtide.

“Pish, my dear!” said Pater. “There are no sea monsters. At worst,” he consoled her stoutly, “Junior may have been trapped in a tidepool.”

“Oh, oh,” gulped Mater. “He’ll be eaten by a land monster.”

“There ARE no land monsters!” snorted Pater. He straightened his stalk so abruptly that the stone to which he and Mater were conjugally attached creaked under them. “How often must I assure you, my dear, that WE are the highest form of life?” (And, as for his world and geologic epoch, he was quite right.)

“Oh, oh,” gasped Mater.

Her spouse gave her up. “JUNIOR!” he roared in a voice that loosened the coral along the reef.


Round about, the couple’s bereavement had begun attracting attention. In the thickening dusk, tentacles paused from winnowing the sea for their owners’ suppers, stalked heads turned curiously here and there in the colony. Not far away, a threesome of maiden aunts, rooted en brosse to a single substantial boulder, twittered condolences and watched Mater avidly.

“Discipline!” growled Pater. “That’s what he needs! Just wait till I—”

“Now, dear—” began Mater shakily.

“Hi, folks!” piped Junior from overhead.



His parents swiveled as if on a single stalk. Their offspring was floating a few fathoms above them, paddling lazily against the ebb; plainly he had just swum from some crevice in the reef nearby. In one pair of dangling tentacles he absently hugged a roundish stone, worn sensuously smooth by pounding surf.

“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?”

“Nowhere,” said Junior innocently. “Just playing hide-and-go-sink with the squids.”

“With the other polyps,” Mater corrected him primly. She detested slang.

Pater was eyeing Junior with ominous calm. “And where,” he asked, “did you get that stone?”

Junior contracted guiltily. The surfstone slipped from his tentacles and plumped to the sea-floor in a flurry of sand. He edged away, stammering, “Well, I guess maybe … I might have gone a little ways toward the beach….”

“You guess! When I was a polyp,” said Pater, “the small fry obeyed their elders, and no guess about it!”

“Now, dear—” said Mater.

“And no spawn of mine,” Pater warmed to his lecture, “is going to flout my words! Junior—COME HERE!”

Junior paddled cautiously around the homesite, just out of tentacle-reach. He said in a small voice, “I won’t.”

“DID YOU HEAR ME?”

“Yes,” admitted Junior.

The neighbors stared. The three maiden aunts clutched one another with muted shrieks, savoring beforehand the language Pater would now use.

But Pater said “Ulp!”—no more.

“Now, dear,” put in Mater quickly. “We must be patient. You know all children go through larval stages.”

“When I was a polyp …” Pater began rustily. He coughed out an accidentally inhaled crustacean, and started over: “No spawn of mine….” Trailing off, he only glared, then roared abruptly, “SPRAT!”

“I won’t!” said Junior reflexively and backpaddled into the coral shadows of the reef.

“That wallop,” seethed Pater, “wants a good polyping. I mean….” He glowered suspiciously at Mater and the neighbors.

“Dear,” soothed Mater, “didn’t you notice?”

“Of course, I…. Notice what?”

“What Junior was doing … carrying a stone. I don’t suppose he understands why, just yet, but….”

“A stone? Ah, uh, to be sure, a stone. Why, my dear, do you realize what this means?”


Pater was once more occupied with improving Mater’s mind. It was a long job, without foreseeable end—especially since he and his helpmeet were both firmly rooted for life to the same tastefully decorated homesite (garnished by Pater himself with colored pebbles, shells, urchins and bits of coral in the rather rococo style which had prevailed during Pater’s courting days as a free-swimming polyp).

“Intelligence, my dear,” pronounced Pater, “is quite incompatible with motility. Just think—how could ideas congeal in a brain shuttled hither and yon, bombarded with ever-changing sense-impressions? Look at the lower species, which swim about all their lives, incapable of taking root or thought! True Intelligence, my dear—as distinguished from Instinct, of course—pre-supposes the fixed viewpoint!” He paused.

Mater murmured, “Yes, dear,” as she always did obediently at this point.

Junior undulated past, swimming toward the abyss. He moved a bit heavily now; it was growing hard for him to keep his maturely thickening afterbody in a horizontal posture.

“Just look at the young of our own kind,” said Pater. “Scatter-brained larvae, wandering greedily about in search of new stimuli. But, praise be, they mature at last into sensible sessile adults. While yet the unformed intellect rebels against the ending of care-free polyphood, Instinct, the wisdom of Nature, instructs them to prepare for the great change!”

He nodded wisely as Junior came gliding back out of the gloom of deep water. Junior’s tentacles clutched an irregular basalt fragment which he must have picked up down the rubble-strewn slope. As he paddled slowly along the rim of the reef, the adult anthozoans located directly below looked up and hissed irritable warnings.

He was swimming a bit more easily now and, if Pater had not been a firm believer in Instinct, he might have been reminded of the grossly materialistic theory, propounded by some iconoclast, according to which a maturing polyp’s tendency to grapple objects was merely a matter of taking on ballast.

“See!” declared Pater triumphantly. “I don’t suppose he understands why, just yet … but Instinct urges him infallibly to assemble the materials for his future homesite.”


Junior let the rock fragment fall, and began plucking restlessly at a coral outcropping.

“Dear,” said Mater, “don’t you think you ought to tell him…?”

“Ahem!” said Pater. “The wisdom of Instinct—”

“As you’ve always said, a polyp needs a parent’s guidance,” remarked Mater.

Ahem!” repeated Pater. He straightened his stalk, and bellowed authoritatively, “JUNIOR! Come here!”

The prodigal polyp swam warily close. “Yes, Pater?”

“Junior,” said his parent solemnly, “now that you are about to grow down, it behooves you to know certain facts.”

Mater blushed a delicate lavender and turned away on her side of the rock.

“Very soon now,” said Pater, “you will begin feeling an irresistible urge … to sink to the bottom, to take root there in some sheltered location which will be your lifetime site. Perhaps you even have an understanding already with some … ah … charming young polyp of the opposite gender, whom you would invite to share your homesite. Or, if not, you should take all the more pains to make that site as attractive as possible, in order that such a one may decide to grace it with—”

“Uh-huh,” said Junior understandingly. “That’s what the fellows mean when they say any of ’em’ll fall for a few high-class rocks.”

Pater marshaled his thoughts again. “Well, quite apart from such material considerations as selecting the right rocks, there are certain … ah … matters we do not ordinarily discuss.”

Mater blushed a more pronounced lavender. The three maiden aunts, rooted to their boulder within easy earshot of Pater’s carrying voice, put up a respectable pretense of searching one another for nonexistent water-fleas.

“No doubt,” said Pater, “in the course of your harum-scarum adventurings as a normal polyp among polyps, you’ve noticed the ways in which the lower orders reproduce themselves; the activities of the fishes, the crustacea, the marine worms will not have escaped your attention.”

“Uh-huh,” said Junior, treading water.


“You will have observed that among these there takes place a good deal of … ah … maneuvering for position. But among intelligent, firmly rooted beings like ourselves, matters are, of course, on a less crude and direct plane. What among lesser creatures is a question of tactics belongs, for us, to the realm of strategy.” Pater’s tone grew confiding. “Now, Junior, once you’re settled you’ll realize the importance of being easy in your mind about your offspring’s parentage. Remember, a niche in brine saves trying. Nothing like choosing your location well in the first place. Study the currents around your prospective site—particularly their direction and force at such crucial times as flood-tide. Try to make sure you and your future mate won’t be too close down-current from anybody else’s site, since in a case like that accidents can happen. You understand, Junior?”

“Uh-huh,” acknowledged Junior. “That’s what the fellows mean when they say don’t let anybody get the drop on you.”

“Well!” said Pater in flat disapproval.

“But it all seems sort of silly,” said Junior stubbornly. “I’d rather just keep moving around, and not have to do all that figuring. And the ocean’s full of things I haven’t seen yet. I don’t want to grow down!”

Mater paled with shock. Pater gave his spawn a scalding, scandalized look. “You’ll learn! You can’t beat Biology,” he said thickly, creditably keeping his voice down. “Junior, you may go!”

Junior bobbled off, and Pater admonished Mater sternly, “We must have patience, my dear! All children pass through these larval stages….”

“Yes, dear,” sighed Mater.


At long last, Junior seemed to have resigned himself to making the best of it.

With considerable exertions, hampered by his increasing bottom-heaviness, he was fetching loads of stones, seaweed and other debris to a spot downslope, and there laboring over what promised to be a fairly ambitious cairn. Judging by what they could see of it, his homesite might even prove a credit to the colony (so went Pater’s thoughts) and attract a mate who would be a good catch (thus Mater mused).

Junior was still to be seen at times along the reef in company with his free-swimming friends among the other polyps, at some of whom his parents had always looked askance, fearing they were by no means well-bred. In fact, there was strong suspicion that some of them—waifs from the disreputable Shallows district in the hazardous reaches just below the tide-mark—had never been bred at all, but were products of budding, a practice frowned on in polite society.

However, Junior’s appearance and rate of locomotion made it clear he would soon be done with juvenile follies. As Pater repeated with satisfaction—you can’t beat Biology; as one becomes more and more bottle-shaped, the romantic illusions of youth must inevitably perish.

“I always knew there was sound stuff in the youngster,” declared Pater expansively.

“At least he won’t be able to go around with those ragamuffins much longer,” breathed Mater thankfully.

“What does the young fool think he’s doing, fiddling round with soapstone?” grumbled Pater, peering critically through the green to try to make out the details of Junior’s building. “Doesn’t he know it’s apt to slip its place in a year or two?”

“Look, dear,” hissed Mater acidly, “isn’t that the little polyp who was so rude once?… I wish she wouldn’t keep watching Junior like that. Our northwest neighbor heard positively that she’s the child of an only parent!”

“Never mind.” Pater turned to reassure her. “Once Junior is properly rooted, his self-respect will cause him to keep riffraff at a distance. It’s a matter of Psychology, my dear; the vertical position makes all the difference in one’s thinking.”


The great day arrived. Laboriously Junior put a few finishing touches to his construction—which, so far as could be seen from a distance, had turned out decent-looking enough, though it was rather questionably original in design: lower and flatter than was customary.

With one more look at his handiwork, Junior turned bottom-end-down and sank wearily onto the finished site. After a minute, he paddled experimentally, but flailing tentacles failed to lift him. He was already rooted, and growing more solidly so by the moment.

“Congratulations!” cried the neighbors. Pater and Mater bowed this way and that in acknowledgment. Mater waved a condescending tentacle to the three maiden aunts.

“I told you so!” said Pater triumphantly.

“Yes, dear….” said Mater meekly.

Suddenly there were outcries of alarm from the dwellers down-reef. A wave of dismay swept audibly through all the nearer part of the colony. Pater and Mater looked around, and froze.

Junior had begun paddling again, but this time in a most peculiar manner—with a rotary twist and sidewise scoop which looked awkward, but which he performed so deftly that he must have practiced it. Fixed upright as he was now on the platform he had built, he looked for all the world as if he were trying to swim sidewise.

“He’s gone mad!” squeaked Mater.

“I …” gulped Pater, “I’m afraid not.”

At least, they saw, there was method in Junior’s actions. He went on paddling in the same fashion and now he, and his platform with him, were farther away than they had been, and growing more remote as they stared.


Parts of the homesite that was not a homesite revolved in some way incomprehensible to eyes that had never seen the like. And the whole affair trundled along, rocking at bumps in the sandy bottom, and squeaking painfully; nevertheless, it moved.

The polyps watching from the reef swam out and frolicked after Junior, watching his contrivance go and chattering eager questions, while their parents bawled at them to keep away from that.

The three maiden aunts shrieked faintly and swooned in one another’s tentacles. The colony was shaken as it had not been since the tidal wave.

“COME BACK!” thundered Pater. “You CAN’T do that!”

Come back!” shrilled Mater. “You can’t do that!”

“Come back!” gabbled the neighbors. “You can’t do that!”

But Junior was past listening to reason. Junior was on wheels.









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SF20Astounding Stories, June, 1931 by Various(拇指兔美照)

拇指兔美照
拇指兔美照
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Title: Astounding Stories, June, 1931



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Cover

 

Cover

ASTOUNDING

STORIES

20¢

On Sale the First Thursday of Each Month

W. M. CLAYTON, Publisher               HARRY BATES, Editor               DR. DOUGLAS M. DOLD, Consulting Editor


The Clayton Standard on a Magazine Guarantees

That the stories therein are clean, interesting, vivid, by leading writers of the day and purchased under conditions approved by the Authors’ League of America;

That such magazines are manufactured in Union shops by American workmen;

That each newsdealer and agent is insured a fair profit;

That an intelligent censorship guards their advertising pages.

The other Clayton magazines are:

ACE-HIGH MAGAZINE, RANCH ROMANCES, COWBOY STORIES, CLUES, FIVE-NOVELS MONTHLY, ALL STAR DETECTIVE STORIES, RANGELAND LOVE STORY MAGAZINE, WESTERN ADVENTURES AND WESTERN LOVE STORIES.

More than Two Million Copies Required to Supply the Monthly Demand for Clayton Magazines.


VOL. VI, No. 3                    CONTENTS                    June, 1931


COVER DESIGN H. W. WESSO
Painted in Water-Colors from a Scene in “Manape the Mighty.”
THE MAN FROM 2071 SEWELL PEASLEE WRIGHT 295
Out of the Flow of Time There Appears to Commander John Hanson a Man of Mystery from the Forgotten Past.
MANAPE THE MIGHTY. ARTHUR J. BURKS 308
High in Jungle Treetops Swings Young Bentley—His Human Brain Imprisoned in a Mighty Ape. (A Complete Novelette.)
HOLOCAUST CHARLES WILLARD DIFFIN 356
The Extraordinary Story of “Paul,” Who for Thirty Days Was Dictator of the World.
THE EARTHMAN’S BURDEN R. F. STARZL 375
There is Foul Play on Mercury—until Danny Olear of the Interplanetary Flying Police Gets After His Man.
THE EXILE OF TIME RAY CUMMINGS 386
Larry and George from 1935, Mary from 1777—All Are Caught up in the Treacherous Tugh’s Revolt of the Robots in the Time World of 2930. (Part Three of a Four-Part Novel.)
THE READERS’ CORNER ALL OF US 416
A Meeting Place for Readers of Astounding Stories.

Single Copies, 20 Cents In Canada, 25 Cents                                                            Yearly Subscription, $2.00

Issued monthly by The Clayton Magazines, Inc., 80 Lafayette St., New York. N. Y. W. M. Clayton, President; Francis P. Pace, Secretary. Entered as second-class matter December 7, 1929, at the Post Office at New York, N. Y., under Act of March 3, 1879. Title registered as a Trade Mark in the U. S. Patent Office. Member Newsstand Group. For advertising rates address The Newsstand Group, Inc., 80 Lafayette Street, New York; or The Wrigley Bldg., Chicago.


[295]

He clutched at the gangway—and fell.He clutched at the gangway—and fell.

 

 

The Man
From 2071

By Sewell Peaslee Wright

Out of the flow of time there appears to Commander John Hanson a man of mystery from the forgotten past.

Perhaps this story does not belong with my other tales of the Special Patrol Service. And yet, there is, or should be, a report somewhere in the musty archives of the Service, covering the incident.

Not accurately, and not in detail. Among a great mass of old records which I was browsing through the other day, I happened across that report; it occupied exactly three lines in the log-book of the [296]Ertak:

“Just before departure, discovered stowaway, apparently demented, and ejected him.”

For the hard-headed higher-ups of the Service, that was report enough. Had I given the facts, they would have called me to the Base for a long-winded investigation. It would have taken weeks and weeks, filled with fussy questioning. Dozens of stoop-shouldered laboratory men would have prodded and snooped and asked for long, written accounts. In those days, keeping the log-book was writing enough for me and being grounded at Base for weeks would have been punishment.

Nothing would have been gained by a detailed report. The Service needed action rather than reports, anyway. But now that I am an old man, on the retired list, I have time to write; and it will be a particular pleasure to write this account, for it will go to prove that these much-honored scientists of ours, with all their tremendous appropriations and long-winded discussions, are not nearly so wonderful as they think they are. They are, and always have been, too much interested in abstract formulas, and not enough in their practical application. I have never had a great deal of use for them.

 

I

had received orders to report to Earth, regarding a dull routine matter of reorganizing the emergency Base which had been established there. Earth, I might add, for the benefit of those of you who have forgotten your geography of the Universe, is not a large body, but its people furnish almost all of the officer personnel of the Special Patrol Service. Being a native of Earth, I received the assignment with considerable pleasure, despite its dry and uninteresting nature.

It was a good sight to see old Earth, bundled up in her cottony clouds, growing larger and larger in the television disc. No matter how much you wander around the Universe, no matter how small and insignificant the world of your birth, there is a tie that cannot be denied. I have set my ships down upon many a strange and unknown world, with danger and adventure awaiting me, but there is, for me, no thrill which quite duplicates that of viewing again that particular little ball of mud from whence I sprang. I’ve said that before; I shall probably say it again. I am proud to claim Earth as my birth-place, small and out-of-the way as she is.

Our Base on Earth was adjacent to the city of Greater Denver, on the Pacific Coast. I could not help wondering, as we settled swiftly over the city, whether our historians and geologists and other scientists were really right in saying that Denver had at one period been far from the Pacific. It seemed impossible, as I gazed down on that blue, tranquil sea, that it had engulfed, hundreds of years ago, such a vast portion of North America. But I suppose the men of science know.


I

need not go into the routine business that brought me to Earth. Suffice it to say that it was settled quickly, by the afternoon of the second day: I am referring, of course, to Earth days, which are slightly less than half the length of an enaren of Universe time.

A number of my friends had come to meet me, visit with me during my brief stay on Earth; and, having finished my business with such dispatch, I decided to spend that evening with them, and leave the following morning. It was very late when my friends departed, and I strolled out with them to their mono-car, returning the salute of the Ertak’s lone sentry, who was pacing his post before the huge circular exit of the ship.

Bidding my friends farewell, I stood there for a moment under the[297] heavens, brilliant with blue, cold stars, and watched the car sweep swiftly and soundlessly away towards the towering mass of the city. Then, with a little sigh, I turned back to the ship.

The Ertak lay lightly upon the earth, her polished sides gleaming in the light of the crescent moon. In the side toward me, the circular entrance gaped like a sleepy mouth; the sentry, knowing the eyes of his commander were upon him, strode back and forth with brisk, military precision. Slowly, still thinking of my friends, I made my way toward the ship.

I had taken but a few steps when the sentry’s challenge rang out sharply, “Halt! Who goes there?”

I glanced up in surprise. Shiro, the man on guard, had seen me leave, and he could have had no difficulty in recognizing me. But—the challenge had not been meant for me.


B

etween myself and the Ertak there stood a strange figure. An instant before, I would have sworn that there was no human in sight, save myself and the sentry; now this man stood not twenty feet away, swaying as though ill or terribly weary, barely able to lift his head and turn it toward the sentry.

“Friend,” he gasped; “friend!” and I think he would have fallen to the ground if I had not clapped an arm around his shoulders and supported him.

“Just … a moment,” whispered the stranger. “I’m a bit faint…. I’ll be all right….”

I stared down at the man, unable to reply. This was a nightmare; no less. I could feel the sentry staring, too.

The man was dressed in a style so ancient that I could not remember the period: Twenty-first Century, at least; perhaps earlier. And while he spoke English, which is a language of Earth, he spoke it with a harsh and unpleasant accent that made his words difficult, almost impossible, to understand. Their meaning did not fully sink in until an instant after he had finished speaking.

“Shiro!” I said sharply. “Help me take this man inside. He’s ill.”

“Yes, sir!” The guard leaped to obey the order, and together we led him into the Ertak, and to my own stateroom. There was some mystery here, and I was eager to get at the root of it. The man with the ancient costume and the strange accent had not come to the spot where we had seen him by any means with which I was familiar; he had materialized out of the thin air. There was no other way to account for his presence.


W

e propped the stranger in my most comfortable chair, and I turned to the sentry. He was staring at our weird visitor with wondering, fearful eyes, and when I spoke he started as though stung by an electric shock.

“Very well,” I said briskly. “That will be all. Resume your post immediately. And—Shiro!”

“Yes, sir?”

“It will not be necessary for you to make a report of this incident. I will attend to that. Understand?”

“Yes, sir!” And I think it is to the man’s everlasting credit, and to the credit of the Service which had trained him, that he executed a snappy salute, did an about-face, and left the room without another glance at the man slumped down in my big easy chair.

With a feeling of cold, nervous apprehension such as I have seldom experienced in a rather varied and active life, I turned then to my visitor.

He had not moved, save to lift his head. He was staring at me, his eyes fixed in his chalky white face. They were dark, long eyes—abnormally long—and they glittered with a strange, uncanny light.

“You are feeling better?” I asked.[298]

His thin, bloodless lips moved, but for a moment no sound came from them. He tried again.

“Water,” he said.

I drew him a glass from the tank in the wall of my room. He downed it at a gulp, and passed the empty glass back to me.

“More,” he whispered. He drank the second glass more slowly, his eyes darting swiftly, curiously, around the room. Then his brilliant, piercing glance fell upon my face.

“Tell me,” he commanded sharply, “what year is this?”


I

stared at him. It occurred to me that my friends might have conceived and executed an elaborate hoax—and then I dismissed the idea, instantly. There were no scientists among them who could make a man materialize out of nothingness.

“Are you in your right mind?” I asked slowly. “Your question strikes me as damnably odd, sir.”

The man laughed wildly, and slowly straightened up in the chair. His long, bony fingers clasped and unclasped slowly, as though feeling were just returning to them.

“Your question,” he replied in his odd, unfamiliar accent, “is not unnatural, under the circumstances. I assure you that I am of sound mind; of very sound mind.” He smiled, rather a ghastly smile, and made a vague, slight gesture with one hand. “Will you be good enough to answer my question? What year is this?”

“Earth year, you mean?”

He stared at me, his eyes flickering.

“Yes,” he said. “Earth year. There are other ways of … figuring time now?”

“Certainly. Each inhabited world has its own system. There is a master system for the Universe. Who are you, what are you, that you should ask me a question the smallest child should know?”

“First,” he insisted, “tell me what year this is, Earth reckoning.”

I told him, and the light flickered up in his eyes again—a cruel, triumphant light.

“Thank you,” he nodded; and then, slowly and softly, as though he spoke to himself, he added, “Less than half a century off. Less than a half a century! And they laughed at me. How—how I shall laugh at them, presently!”

“You choose to be mysterious, sir?” I asked impatiently.

“No. Presently you shall understand, and then you will forgive me, I know. I have come through an experience such as no man has ever known before. If I am shaken, weak, surprising to you, it is because of that experience.”


H

e paused for a moment, his long, powerful fingers gripping the arms of the chair.

“You see,” he added, “I have come out of the past into the present. Or from the present into the future. It depends upon one’s viewpoint. If I am distraught, then forgive me. A few minutes ago, I was Jacob Harbauer, in a little laboratory on the edge of a mountain park, near Denver; now I am a nameless being hurtled into the future, pausing here, many centuries from my own era. Do you wonder now that I am unnerved?”

“Do you mean,” I said slowly, trying to understand what he had babbled forth, “that you have come out of the past? That you … that you….” It was too monstrous to put into words.

“I mean,” he replied, “that I was born in the year 2028. I am forty-three years old—or I was a few minutes ago. But,”—and his eyes flickered again with that strange, mad light—”I am a scientist! I have left my age behind me for a time; I have done what no other human being has ever done: I have gone centuries into the future!”

“I—I do not understand.” Could[299] he, after all, be a madman? “How can a man leave his own age and travel ahead to another?”

“Even in this age of yours they have not discovered that secret?” Harbauer exulted. “You travel the Universe, I gather, and yet your scientists have not yet learned to move in time? Listen! Let me explain to you how simple the theory is.


I

take it you are an intelligent man; your uniform and its insignia would seem to indicate a degree of rank. Am I correct?”

“I am John Hanson, Commander of the Ertak, of the Special Patrol Service,” I informed him.

“Then you will be capable of grasping, in part at least, what I have to tell you. It is really not so complex. Time is a river, flowing steadily, powerful, at a fixed rate of speed. It sweeps the whole Universe along on its bosom at that same speed. That is my conception of it; is it clear to you?”

“I should think,” I replied, “that the Universe is more like a great rock in the middle of your stream of time, that stands motionless while the minutes, the hours, and the days roll by.”

“No! The Universe travels on the breast of the current of time. It leaves yesterday behind, and sweeps on towards to-morrow. It has always been so until I challenged this so-called immutable law. I said to myself, why should a man be a helpless stick upon the stream of time? Why need he be borne on this slow current at the same speed? Why cannot he do as a man in a boat, paddle backwards or forwards; back to a point already passed; ahead, faster than the current, to a point that, drifting, he would not reach so soon? In other words, why can he not slip back through time to yesterday; or ahead to to-morrow? And if to to-morrow, why not to next year, next century?


T

hese are the questions I asked myself. Other men have asked themselves the same questions, I know; they were not new. But,”—Harbauer drew himself far forward in his chair, and leaned close to me, almost as though he prepared himself to spring—”no other man ever found the answer! That remained for me.

“I was not entirely correct, of course. I found that one could not go back in time. The current was against one. But to go ahead, with the current at one’s back, was different. I spent six years on the problem, working day and night, handicapped by lack of funds, ridiculed by the press—Look!”

Harbauer reached inside his antiquated costume and drew forth a flat packet which he passed to me. I unfolded it curiously, my fingers clumsy with excitement.

I could hardly believe my eyes. The thing Harbauer had handed me was a folded fragment of newspaper, such as I had often seen in museums. I recognized the old-fashioned type, and the peculiar arrangement of the columns. But, instead of being yellow and brittle with age, and preserved in fragments behind sealed glass, this paper was fresh and white, and the ink was as black as the day it had been printed. What this man said, then, must be true! He must—

“I can understand your amazement,” said Harbauer. “It had not occurred to me that a paper which, to me, was printed only yesterday, would seem so antique to you. But that must appear as remarkable to you as fresh papyrus, newly inscribed with the hieroglyphics of the ancient Egyptians, would seem to one of my own day and age. But read it; you will see how my world viewed my efforts!” There was a sharpness, a bitterness, in his voice that made me vaguely uneasy; even though he had solved the riddle of moving in time as men have always moved in[300] space, my first conjecture that I had a madman to deal with might not be so far from the truth. Ridicule and persecution have unseated the reason of all too many men.


The type was unfamiliar to me, and the spelling was archaic, but I managed to stumble through the article. It read, as nearly as I can recall it, like this:

Harbauer Says Time

Is Like Great River

Jacob Harbauer, local inventor, in an exclusive interview, propounds the theory that man can move about in time exactly as a boat moves about on the surface of a swift-flowing river, save that he cannot go back into time, on account of the opposition of the current.

That is very fortunate, this writer feels; it would be a terrible thing for example, if some good-looking scamp from our present Twenty-first Century were to dive into the past and steal Cleopatra from Antony, or start an affair with Josephine and send Napoleon scurrying back from the front and let the Napoleonic wars go to pot. We’d have to have all our histories rewritten!

Harbauer is well-known in Denver as the eccentric inventor who, for the last five or six years, has occupied a lonely shack in the mountains, guarded by a high fence of barbed wire. He claims that he has now perfected equipment which will enable him to project himself forward in time, and expects to make the experiment in the very near future.

This writer was permitted to view the equipment which Harbauer says will shoot him into the future. The apparatus is housed in a low, barn-like building in the rear of his shack.

Along one side of the room is a veritable bank of electrical apparatus with innumerable controls, many huge tubes of unfamiliar shape and appearance, a mighty generator of some kind and an intricate maze of gleaming copper bus-bar.

In the center of the room is a circle of metal, about a foot in thickness, insulated from the flooring by four truncated cones of fluted glass. This disc is composed of two unfamiliar metals, arranged in concentric circles.

Above this disc, at a height of about eight feet, is suspended a sort of grid, composed of extremely fine silvery wires, supported on a frame-work of black insulating material.

Asked for a demonstration of his apparatus, Harbauer finally consented to perform an experiment with a dog—a white, short-haired mongrel that, Harbauer informed us, he kept to warn him of approaching strangers.

He bound the dog’s legs together securely, and placed the struggling animal in the center of the heavy metal disc. Then the inventor hurried to the central control panel and manipulated several switches, which caused a number of things to happen almost at once.

The big generator started with a growl, and settled immediately into a deep hum; a whole row of tubes glowed with a purplish brilliancy. There was a crackling sound in the air, and the grid above the disc seemed to become incandescent, although it gave forth no apparent heat. From the rim of the metal disc, thin blue streamers of electric flame shot up toward the grid, and the little white dog began to whine nervously.

“Now watch!” shouted Harbauer. He closed another switch,[301] and the space between the disc and the grid became a cylinder of livid light, for a period of perhaps two seconds. Then Harbauer pulled all the switches, and pointed triumphantly to the disc. It was empty.

We looked around the room for the dog, but he was not visible anywhere.

“I have sent him nearly a century into the future,” said Harbauer. “We will let him stay there a moment, and then bring him back.”

“You mean to say,” we asked, “that the pup is now roaming around somewhere in the Twenty-second Century?” Harbauer said he meant just that, and added that he would now bring the dog back to the present time. The switches were closed again, but this time it was the metal plate that seemed incandescent, and the grid above that shot out the streaks of thin blue flame. As he closed the last switch, the cylinder of light appeared again, and when the switches were opened, there was the dog in the center of the disc, howling and struggling against his bonds.

“Look!” cried Harbauer. “He’s been attacked by another dog, or some other animal, while in the future. See the blood on his shoulders?”

We ventured the humble opinion that the dog had scratched or bit himself in struggling to free himself from the cords with which Harbauer had bound him, and the inventor flew into a terrible rage, cursing and waving his arms as though demented. Feeling that discretion was the better part of valor, we beat a hasty retreat, pausing at the barbed-wire gate only long enough to ask Mr. Harbauer if he would be good enough, sometime when he had a few minutes of leisure, to dash into next week and bring back some stock market reports to aid us in our investment efforts.

Under the circumstances, we did not wait for a response, but we presume we are persona non grata at the Harbauer establishment from this time on.

All in all, we are not sorry.

I folded the paper and passed it back to him; some of the allusions I did not understand, but the general tone of the article was very clear indeed.


Y

ou see?” said Harbauer, his voice grating with anger. “I tried to be courteous to that man; to give him a simple, convincing demonstration of the greatest scientific achievement in centuries. And the fool returned to write this: to hold me up to ridicule, to paint me as a crack-brained, wild-eyed fanatic.”

“It’s hard for the layman to conceive of a great scientific achievement,” I said soothingly. “All great inventions and inventors have been laughed at by the populace at large.”

“True. True.” Harbauer nodded his head solemnly. “But just the same—” He broke off suddenly, and forced a smile. I found myself wishing that he had completed that broken sentence, however; I felt that he had almost revealed something that would have been most enlightening.

“But enough of that fool and his babblings,” he continued. “I am here as living proof that my experiment is a success, and I have a tremendous curiosity about the world in which I find myself. This, I take it, is a ship for navigating space?”

“Right! The Ertak, of the Special Patrol Service. Would you care to look around a bit?”

“I would, indeed.” There was a tremendous eagerness in the man’s voice.[302]

“You’re not too tired?”

“No; I am quite recovered from my experience.” Harbauer leaped to his feet, those abnormally long, slitted eyes of his glowing. “I am a scientist, and I am most curious to see what my fellows have created since—since my own era.”

I picked up my dressing gown and tossed it to him.

“Slip this on, then, to cover your clothing. You would be an object of too much curiosity to those men who are on duty,” I suggested.

I was taller than he, and the garment came within a few inches of the floor. He knotted the cincture around his middle and thrust his hands into the pockets, turning to me for approval. I nodded, and motioned for him to precede me through the door.


A

s an officer of the Special Patrol Service, it has often been my duty to show parties and individuals through my ship. Most of these parties are composed of females, who have only exclamations to make instead of intelligent comment, and who possess an unbounded capacity for asking utterly asinine questions. It was, therefore, a real pleasure to show Harbauer through the ship.

He was a keen, eager listener. When he asked a question, and he asked many of them, he showed an amazing grasp of the principles involved. My knowledge of our equipment was, of course, only practical, save for the rudimentary theoretical knowledge that everyone has of present-day inventions and devices.

The ethon tubes which lighted the ship, interested him but little. The atomic generators, the gravity pads, their generators, and the disintegrator-ray, however, he delved into with that frenzied ardor of which only a scientist, I believe, is capable.

Questions poured out of him, and I answered them as best I could: sometimes completely, and satisfactorily, so that he nodded and said, “I see! I see!” and sometimes so poorly that he frowned, and cross-questioned me insistently until he obtained the desired information.

In the big, sound-proof navigating room, I explained the operation of the numerous instruments, including the two three-dimensional charts, actuated by super-radio reflexes, the television disc, the attraction meter, the surface-temperature gauge and the complex control system.

“Forward,” I added, “is the operating room. You can see it through these glass partitions. The navigating officer in command relays his orders to men in the operating room, who attend to the actual execution of those orders.”

“Just as a pilot, or the navigating officer of a ship of my day gives his orders to the quartermaster at the wheel,” nodded Harbauer, and began firing questions at me again, going over the ground we had covered, to check up on his information. I was amazed at the uncanny accuracy with which he had grasped such a great mass of technical detail. It had taken me years of study to pick up what he had taken from me, and apparently retained intact, in something more than an hour, Earth time.


I

glanced at the Earth-time clock on the wall of the navigating room as he triumphantly finished his questioning. Less than an hour remained before the time set for our return trip.

“I’m sorry,” I commented, “to be an ungracious host, but I am wondering what your plans may be? You see, we are due to start in less than an hour, and—”

“A passenger would be in your way?” Harbauer smiled as he uttered the words, but there was a gleam in his long eyes that rather startled me, and I wondered if I only imagined the steeliness of his voice. “Don’t let that worry you, sir.”[303]

“It’s not worrying me,” I replied, watching him closely. “I have enjoyed a very remarkable, a very pleasant experience. If you should care to remain aboard the Ertak, I should like exceedingly to have you accompany us to our Base, where I could place you in touch with other laboratory men, with whom you would have much in common.”

Harbauer threw back his head and laughed—not pleasantly.

“Thanks!” he said. “But I have no time for that. They could give me no knowledge that I need, now; you have told me and showed me enough. I understand how you have released atomic energy; it is a matter so simple that a child should have guessed it, and man has wondered about it for centuries, knowing that the power was there, but lacking a key to unfetter it. And now I have that key!”

“True. But perhaps our scientists would like, in exchange, the secret of moving forward in time,” I suggested, reasonably enough.

“What do I care about them?” snapped Harbauer. He loosened the cord of the robe with a quick, impatient gesture, as though it confined him too tightly, and threw the garment from him.


T

hen, suddenly, he took a quick stride toward me, and thrust out his ugly head.

“I know enough now to give me power over all my world,” he cried. “Haven’t you guessed the reason for my interest in your engines of destruction? I came down the centuries ahead of my generation so that I might come back with power in my hand; power to wipe out the fools who have made a mock of me. And I have that power—here!” He tapped his forehead dramatically with his left hand.

“I will bring a new regime to my era!” he continued, fairly shouting now. “I will be what many men have tried to be, and what no man has ever been—master of the world! Absolute, unquestioned, supreme master!” He paused, his eyes glaring into mine—and I knew from the light that shone behind those long, narrow slits, that I was dealing with a madman.

“True; you will,” I said gently, moving carelessly toward the microphone. With that in my hand, a slight pressure on the General Attention signal, and I would have the whole crew of the Ertak here in a moment. But I had explained the workings of the navigating room’s equipment only too well.

“Stop!” snarled Harbauer, and his right hand flashed up. “See this? Perhaps you don’t know what it is; I’ll tell you. It’s an automatic pistol—not so efficient as your disintegrator-ray, but deadly enough. There is certain death for eight men in my hand. Understand?”

“Perfectly.” What an utter fool I had been! I was not armed, and I knew that Harbauer spoke the truth. I had often seen weapons similar to the one he held in the military museums. They are still there, if you are curious—rusty and broken, but not unlike our present atomic pistols in general appearance. They propelled the bullet by the explosion of a sort of powder; inefficient, of course, but, as he had said, deadly enough for the purpose.


G

ood! You are a good sort Hanson, but don’t take any chances. I’m not going to, I promise you. You see,”—and he laughed again, the light in his long eyes dancing with evil—”I’m not likely to be punished for a few killings committed centuries after I’m dead. I have never killed a man, but I won’t hesitate to do so now, if one—or more—should get in my way.”

“But why,” I asked soothingly, “should you wish to kill anyone? You have what you came for, you say; why not depart in peace?”[304]

He smiled crookedly, and his eyes narrowed with cunning.

“You approve of my little plan to dominate the world?” he asked softly, his eyes searching my face.

“No,” I said boldly, refusing to lie to him. “I do not, and you know it.”

“Very true.” He pulled out his watch with his left hand, and held it before his eyes so that he could observe the time without losing sight of me for even an instant. “I doubted that I could secure your willing cooperation; therefore, I am commanding it.

“You see, there are certain instruments and pieces of equipment that I should like to take back to my laboratory with me. Perhaps I would be able to reproduce them without models, but with the models my task will be much easier.

“The question remaining is a simple one: will you give the proper orders to have this equipment removed to the spot where you first saw me, or shall I be obliged to return to my own era without this equipment—leaving behind me a dead commander of the Special Patrol Service, and any other who may try to stop me?”


I

tried to keep cool under the lash of his mocking voice. I have never been adept at holding my temper when I should, but somehow I managed it this time. Frowning, I kept him waiting for a reply, utilizing the time to do what was perhaps the hardest, fastest thinking of my life.

There wasn’t a particle of doubt in my mind regarding his ability to make good his threat, nor his readiness to do so. I caught the faint glimmering of an idea and fenced with it eagerly.

“How are you going to go back to your own period—your own era?” I asked him. “You told me, I believe, that it was impossible to move backward in time.”

“That’s not answering my question,” he said, leering. “Don’t think you’re fooling me! But I’ll tell you, just the same. I can go back to my own era: that is, back to my own actual existence. I shall return just two hours after I leave; I could not go back farther than that, and it’s not necessary that I do so. I can go back only because I came from that present; I am not really of this future at all. I go back from whence I came.”

“But,” I objected, thinking of something I had read in the clipping he had showed me, “you’re not going back to your own era. You cannot. If you returned, you would put your project into execution, and history does not record that activity.” I saw from the sudden narrowing of his abnormally long eyes that I had caught his interest, and I pressed my advantage hastily. “Remember that all the history of your time is written, Harbauer. It is in the books of Earth’s history, with which every child of this age, into which you have thrust yourself, is familiar. And those histories do not record the domination of the world by yourself. So—you are confronted by an impossibility!”


M

y reasoning, now, sounds specious, and yet it was a line of thought which could not be waved aside. I saw Harbauer’s black brows knit together, and mounting anger darken his face. I do not know, but I believe I was never nearer death than I was at that instant.

“Fool!” he cried. “Idiot! Imbecile! Do you think you can confuse me, turn me from my purpose, with words? Do you? Do you believe me to be a child, or a weakling? I tell you, I have planned this thing to the last detail. If I had not found what I sought on this first trip, I would have taken another, a dozen, a score, until I found the information I sought. The last six years of my life[305] I have worked day and night to this end; your histories and your words—”

My plan had worked. The man was beside himself with insane anger. And in his rage he forgot, for an instant, that he was my captor.

Taking a desperate chance, I launched myself at his legs. His weapon roared over my head, just as I struck. I felt the hot gas from the thing beat against my neck; I caught the reeking scent of the smoke. Then we were both on the floor, and locked in a mad embrace.

Harbauer was a smaller man than myself, but he had the amazing strength of a Zenian. He fought viciously, using every ounce of his strength against me, striving to bring his weapon into use, hammering my head upon the floor, racking my body mercilessly, grunting, cursing, mumbling constantly as he did so.

But I was in better trim than Harbauer. I have never seen a laboratory man who could stand the strain of prolonged physical exertion. Bending over test-tubes and meters is no life for a man. At grips with him, I was in my own element, and he was out of his. I let him wear himself out, exerting myself as little as possible, confining my efforts to keeping his weapon where he could not use it.

I felt him weakening at last. His breath was coming in great sobs, and his long eyes started from their sockets with the strained effort he was putting forth. And then, with a single mighty effort, I knocked the pistol from his hand, so that it slid across the floor and brought up with a crash against a wall of the room.

“Now!” I said, and turned on him.


H

e knew, at that moment when I put forth my strength, that I had been playing with him. I read the shock of sudden fear in his eyes. My right arm went about him in a deadly hold; I had him in a grip that paralyzed him. Grimly, I jerked him to his feet, and he stood there trembling with weakness, his shoulders heaving as his breath came and went between his teeth.

“You realize, of course, that you’re not going back?” I said quietly.

“Back?” Half dazed, he stared at me through the quivering lids of his peculiar eyes. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that you’re not going back to your own era. You have come to us, uninvited, and—you’re going to stay here.”

“No!” he shouted, and struggled so desperately to free himself that I was hard put to it to hold him, without tightening my grip sufficiently to dislocate his shoulders. “You wouldn’t do that! I must return; I must prove to them—”

“That’s exactly what must not happen, and what shall not happen,” I interrupted. “And what will not happen. You are in a strange predicament, Harbauer; it is already written that you do not return. Can’t you see that, man? If it were to be that you left this age and returned to your own, you would make known your discovery. History would record it. And history does not record it. You are struggling, not against me, but against—against a fate that has been sealed all these centuries.”


W

hen I had finished, he stared at me as though hypnotized, motionless and limp in my grasp. Then, suddenly, he began to shake and I saw such depths of terror and horror in his eyes as I hope never to see again.

Mechanically, he glanced down at his watch, lifting his wrist into his line of vision as slowly and ponderously as though it bore a great weight.

“Two … two minutes,” he whispered huskily. “Then the automatic[306] switch will close, back in my laboratory. If I am not standing where … where you found me … between the disc and the grid of my time machine, where the reversed energy can reach me, to … to take me back … God!”

He sagged in my arms and dropped to his knees, sobbing.

“And yet … what you say is true. It is already written that I did not return.” His sobs cut harshly through the silence of the room. Pitying his despair, I reached down to give him a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. It is a terrible thing to see a man break down as Harbauer had done.

As he felt my grip on him relax, he suddenly shot his fist into the pit of my stomach, and leaped to his feet. Groaning, I doubled up, weak and nerveless, for the instant, from the vicious, unexpected blow.

“Ah!” shrieked Harbauer. “You soft-hearted fool!” He struck me in the face, sending me crashing to the floor, and snatched up his pistol.

“I’m going, now,” he shouted. “Going! What do I care for your records and your histories? They are not yet written; if they were I’d change them.” He bent over me and snatched from my hand the ring of keys, one of which I had used to unlock the door of the navigating room. I tried to grip him around the legs, but he tore himself loose, laughing insanely in a high-pitched, cackling sound that seemed hardly human.

“Farewell!” he called mockingly from the doorway. Then the door slammed, and as I staggered to my feet, I heard the lock click.


I

must have acted then by instinct or inspiration. There was no time to think. It would take him not more than three or four seconds to make his way to the exit, stroll by the guard to the spot where we had found him, and—disappear. By the time I could arouse the crew, and have my orders executed, his time would be up, and—unless the whole affair were some terrible nightmare—he would go hurtling back through time to his own era, armed with a devastating knowledge.

There was only one possible means of preventing his escape in time. I ran across the room to the emergency operating controls, cut in the atomic generators with one hand and pulled the Vertical-Ascent lever to Full Power.

There was a sudden shriek of air, and my legs almost thrust themselves through my body. Quickly, I pushed the lever back until, with my eye on the altimeter, I held the Ertak at her attained height—something over a mile, as I recall it. Then I pressed the General Attention signal, and snatched up the microphone.

Less than a minute later Correy and Hendricks, fellow officers, were in the room and besieging me with solicitous questions.


I

t had been my idea, of course, to keep Harbauer from leaving the ship, but it was not so destined.

Shiro, the sentry on duty outside the Ertak, was the only witness to Harbauer’s fate.

“I was walking my post, sir,” he reported, “watching the sun come up, when suddenly I heard the sound of running feet inside the ship. I turned towards the entrance and drew my pistol, to be in readiness. I saw the stranger we had taken into the ship appear at the exit, which, as you know, was open.

“Just as I opened my mouth to command him to halt, the Ertak shot up from the ground at terrific speed. The stranger had been about to leap upon me; indeed, he had discharged some sort of weapon at me, for I heard a crash of sound, and a missile of some kind, as you know, passed through my left arm.[307]

“As the ship left the ground, he tried to draw back, but he was off balance, and the inertia of his body momentarily incapacitated him, I think. He slipped, clutched at the gangway across the threads which seal the exit, and then, at a height I estimate to be around five hundred feet, he fell. The Ertak shot on up until it was lost to sight, and the stranger crashed to the ground a few feet from where I was standing—on almost exactly the spot where we first saw him, sir.


A

nd now, sir, comes the part I guess you’ll find hard to believe. When he struck the ground, he was smashed flat; he died instantly. I started to run toward him, and then—and then I stopped. My eyes had not left the spot for a moment, sir, but he—his body, that is—suddenly disappeared. That’s the truth, sir, for I saw it with my own eyes. There wasn’t a sign of him left.”

“I see,” I replied. I believe that I did. We had gone straight up, and his body, by no great coincidence, had fallen upon the spot close to the exit of the Ertak where we had first found him. And his machine, in operation, had brought him, or rather, his mangled body, back to his own age. “You have not mentioned this affair to anyone, Shiro?”

“No, sir. It wasn’t anything you’d be likely to tell: nobody would believe you. I went at once to have my arm attended to, and then reported here according to orders.”

“Very good, Shiro. Keep the entire affair to yourself. I will make all the necessary reports. That is an order—understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then that will be all. Take good care of your arm.”

He saluted with his good hand and left me.


L

ater in the day I wrote in the log-book of the Ertak the report I mentioned at the beginning of this tale:

“Just before departure, discovered stowaway, apparently demented, and ejected him.”

That was a perfectly truthful statement, and it served its purpose. I have given the whole story in detail just to prove what I have so often contended: that these owlish laboratory men whom this age reveres so much are not nearly so wise and omnipotent as they think they are.

I am quite sure that they would have discredited, or attempted to discredit, my story, had I told it at the time. They would have resented the idea that someone so much ahead of them had discovered a principle that still baffles this age of ours, and I would have had no evidence to present.

Perhaps even now the story will be discredited; if so, I do not care. I am much too old, and too near the portals of that impenetrable mystery, in the shadow of which I have stood so many times, to concern myself with what others may think or say.

I know that what I have related here is the truth, and in my mind I have a vivid and rather pitiful picture of a mangled body, bloody and alone, in the barn-like structure the ancient paper had described; a body, broken and motionless, lying athwart the striated metal disc, like a sacrificial victim—a victim and a sacrifice of science.

There have been many such.


[308]

Manape the Mighty

A COMPLETE NOVELETTE

By Arthur J. Burks

There, the words were written.There, the words were written.

CHAPTER I

Castaway

High in jungle treetops swings young Bentley—his human brain imprisoned in a mighty ape.
L

ee Bentley never knew how many others, if any, lived on after the Bengal Queen struck the hidden reef and sank like a stone. He had only a hazy memory of the catastrophe, and recalled that when she had struck and the alarm had gone rocketing through the great passenger boat—though no alarm was really necessary because she went to pieces so fast—that he had leaped far over the rail and swam straight out, fast, in order to escape being dragged down by the suction of the sinking liner.

The screaming of frightened women and children would ring in his ears until the day the grave closed over him—screaming that was made all the more terrible by the crashing roar of the raging black seas which came out of the darkness to make the affair all the more hideous,[309] and to bear down beneath them into the sea the feeble struggling ones who had no chance for their lives. Lifeboats had been smashed in their davits.

Bentley swam straight away after he was satisfied at last that he could do nothing more. He had helped men and women reach bits of wreckage until he could scarcely any longer keep his wearied arms to the task of keeping his own head above water. He knew even as he helped the white-faced ones that few of them would ever live through it, but he was doing the best he knew—a man’s job.

When absolutely sure that he could do nothing further, when he could no longer hear cries of distress, or discover struggling forms in the sea which he might aid, he[310] had turned his back on the graveyard of the Bengal Queen and had struck for shore. He remembered the direction, for before sunset that evening, in company with several ship’s under officers, he had studied the navigation charts upon which each day’s run of the Bengal Queen was shown. Ahead of him now was the coast of Africa, though what part of it he knew but in the haziest way. He might not guess within a hundred miles.


O

ne thing only he remembered exactly. The second officer had said, apropos of nothing in particular:

“This wouldn’t be a happy place to be shipwrecked. This section of the coast is a regular hangout of the great anthropoid apes. You know, those babies that can pick a man apart as a man would pluck the legs off a fly.”

Bentley had merely grinned. The second officer’s remarks had sounded to him as though the fellow had been reading more than his fair share of lurid fiction of the South African jungles.

However, apes or no apes, the shore would look good to Lee Bentley now. And he fully intended making it. He knew he could swim for hours if it became necessary, and he refused to think of the possibility of sharks. If one got him, well, that was one of the chances one had to take when one was shipwrecked against one’s will.

So he alternately swam toward where he expected to find land, and floated on his back to rest.

“A swell ending to a great life, if I don’t make it,” he told himself. “I wonder how the old man will take it when the world reads that the Bengal Queen went down with all on board? He’ll be relieved, maybe, for he was about ready to wash his hands of me if I can read signs at all.”


I

t might be said that Bentley was his own worst critic, for he really was not a bad sort of a fellow. He was a good American, over-educated perhaps, with a yen to delve into forbidden places usually avoided by his own kind, and of digging into books which were better left with the pages unturned. There were strange ruins in Africa, he knew. He had gathered a weird fund of information from such books as he could unearth relative to ancient ruins and vanished races, to the lurid accounts of strange deaths of the various scientists who had taken active part in the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamen.

There were queer things in the heart of darkest Africa, and such things intrigued him. He could take whatever chances with his life he saw fit, for his only relative was a father, and he had never attached himself to any woman nor permitted any woman to attach herself to him—because he could never be sure that her interest might not primarily be in his bank account.

“If, as, and when,” he told himself as he rode the waves through the night, “I reach the coast I’ll be tossed into black Africa in a way I was not expecting. Anyway, if I live through, I can at least go about my work without the governor interfering. I only hope it won’t be hard on the old fellow. He isn’t a bad egg at all, and I guess I have given him plenty to think about and worry over.”

He turned on his stomach again and struck out. He had managed to rid himself of all of his clothing except his underwear. They had only weighed him down, and he recalled, with a wry grin, that Africa as a whole went in but little for the latest in men’s sport wear.


I

t must have been a good hour since he had lost the Bengal Queen back there in the raging deep,[311] that he heard the faint call through the murk.

“Help, for God’s sake!”

He listened for a repetition of the call, minded to believe that his ears had tricked him. He fancied it had been a woman’s voice, but no woman could have lived so long in those raging seas, in which any moment Bentley himself expected to be overwhelmed. For himself he regarded death more or less philosophically, but a woman out there, crying for help, was a different matter entirely. It tore at his heartstrings, mostly because he realized his inability to be of material assistance.

He was sure that he had been mistaken about the cry, when it came again.

“For God’s sake, help!”

It came from his left and this time it was unmistakable, piteous and unnerving. Lee Bentley had the horrible fear that he would never reach her in time to help—though what help he could give, when he could barely manage to keep himself afloat, he could not forsee.

He was swimming down the side of a monster wave. He could see something white in the trough, and he struggled manfully to make headway, while the angry waters tossed him about like a bit of cork and seemed bent on defeating his most furious efforts. He saw the bit of white ride high on the next wave, pass over it and vanish. He dived straight through the wave as it towered over him. He came up, gasping, his hands all but clutching at a pair of hands that reached out of the waters and grasped with a last desperate effort at the sky.

Ahead of the hands was a broken piece of oar. Those hands had just despairingly relinquished their grip on the one chance of safety, if any chance there could possibly be in that mad midnight waste.

He pulled on the wrists and a white face came to view. Wild, staring eyes looked into his. Black hair flowed back from a face whose lips were blue and thin.

“Take it easy,” he counseled. “Turn on your back and rest while I see if I can get back your life-boat.”


H

e captured the oar, and found it practically useless to sustain any appreciable weight, but he clung to it because it was at least better than nothing at all. It had held the girl afloat for over an hour and might be made to serve again somehow. With his left hand under the woman’s head and his right grasping the oar he turned on his back to regain his breath. He was deep in the water because the woman was now almost on top of him; but her face was above water. He knew instinctively that she had fainted, and he was a little glad. If she were the usual hysterical woman her fighting would drown them both. As a dead weight she was easier to handle.

They drifted on, and hope began to mount high in the heart of Lee Bentley—the hope that they might yet reach land. When, hours later, he could hear the roaring of breakers he was sure of it—if the breakers could be passed in safety. After that their fate was in the lap of the gods.

The girl too must have heard, for she turned at last in Bentley’s arms and began to swim for herself. She was a strong swimmer and the period during which she had been out of things had revived her amazingly. She even managed a smile as she swam beside Bentley into the creamy breakers behind which they could make out the blackness of shore.

They were so close together that at times their hands touched as they swam, and could make themselves heard by dint of shouting, though they both husbanded their strength and their breathing for swimming.

“I’m not dressed for company,” he[312] told her. “I left my tuxedo aboard the Bengal Queen!”

It was then that her lips twisted into a smile.

“I wouldn’t even allow my maid into my stateroom if I were dressed as I am at the moment,” she answered strongly, “but we’re both grown up I think, and there are times when conventions go by the board. We’ll pretend it doesn’t matter!”

Then mutually helping each other they fought through the breakers into the calmer water behind, and managed at last to stand in water hip deep, with the undertow dragging at their limbs. They looked at each other and clasped hands without a word. They strode to the sandy beach beyond which the jungle reached away to some invisible horizon, and continued on until they were at last beyond the reach of the waves.


T

hey did not look at each other again, though Bentley did notice that her garb was as scanty almost as his own, consisting mostly of a slip which the water had pasted fast against her flesh. Beyond noting that she seemed to be young, Bentley did not intrude. Nor did he think of the future. It was enough for the moment that they had escaped the might of angry Neptune, god of the seas.

They dropped to the sands side by side, and the sands were warm. That the jungle behind them might be alive with wild beasts they did not pause to consider. Bentley had gazed at the jungle a moment before dropping down.

He had noticed but one thing—a moving light somewhere among the tangled mass, a light as of a monster firefly erratically darting through the deeper gloom.

The girl—he had noted she was as much girl as woman—dropped to the sand and stretched herself out. Bentley looked about him for a moment, just now realizing what he had been through. Then he dropped down beside the girl, and put one arm over her protectively, an instinctive movement. The two were alone in an alien world, and even this slight contact gave Bentley a feeling of companionship he found at the time peculiarly appealing.

The girl was in a drugged sort of sleep, but she stirred at the touch of his arm, and her hand came up so that her fingertips touched his cheek.

He slept heavily, while outside on the raging deep the storm swept on along the coast, bearing with it the secret of the rest of those who only last night had looked forward to a pleasant voyage aboard the Bengal Queen.

The last thought in Bentley’s mind was of that flickering light he had seen. It was not important, but memory of it clung, and followed him into his sleep with his dreams—in which he seemed to be following a darting, erratic light through a jungle without end.

He wakened with the sun burning his face and torso, and turned on his stomach with a groan. The heat ate into his back unbearably and he finally sat up, rubbed his eyes and stared out to sea. Then it all came back and he looked about him for the girl. She had disappeared.

He rose to his feet and shouted.

An answering cry came back to him, and after a moment the girl appeared around a bend in a shoreline where she had been masked by a wall of the jungle and came toward him. She was carrying something in her hands. When she stood at last before him he noted that she carried a bundle of cloth that was dripping wet.

“We need something to cover us,” she said simply. “I was tempted[313] to garb myself, but I did not wish to seem like a simpering prudish female, which I’m not at all. So I brought my findings here so that we could get together and fix up something to protect us from the sun.”

“You’re a sensible woman,” said Bentley. “I’ve never understood why people should be so sensitive about their bodies. Mine isn’t bad and yours, if you’ll pardon me, is superb. That’s not a compliment, just a statement of fact—which will help us to understand each other better. I’ve a hunch we’re going to be some time in each other’s company and we may as well know things about each other. My name’s Lee Bentley.”

“Mine is Ellen Estabrook.”

Solemnly they shook hands. And their hands clung convulsively, for as though their handshake had been a signal there came a strange sound from the jungle behind them.

A burst of laughter that was plainly human—and another sound which caused the short hair at the base of Bentley’s skull to rise, shift oddly, and settle back again.

The sound was like the beating of a skin-tight drumhead by the fists of a jungle savage. But if such it was the drum was a mighty drum, and the savage was a giant, for the sound went rolling through the jungle like an invisible tidal wave of sound.

Both the laughter and the drumming ceased as suddenly as they had sounded.

The man and woman laughed jerkily, dropped to the sand side by side and considered the necessity of clothes.

CHAPTER II

Into the Jungle

T

hey had to smile together at the results achieved with the bedraggled bits of cloth. Bentley suspected that they had been taken from bodies washed ashore as gruesome reminders of the catastrophe which had befallen the Bengal Queen, and because he did suspect this he did not ask questions that might cause Ellen to remember any longer than was necessary. Not that he doubted her courage, for she had proved that sufficiently; and she had proved that she was sensible, with none of the notions of the proprieties which would have made any other girl of Bentley’s acquaintance a nuisance.

Their next concern was food, which they must find in the jungle, or from other wreckage cast ashore from the Bengal Queen. Now, hand in hand—which seemed natural in the circumstances—they began to walk along the shore, heading into the north by mutual consent.

As they walked Bentley kept pondering on that strange laughter he had heard and on the sound of savage drumming. The laughter puzzled him. If there were anyone in the jungle back of them, why had he or they failed to challenge them?

As for the drumming sound—Bentley remembered what the second officer had said about this section of the coast. It was a bit of jungle inhabited by the great apes in large numbers. So, that drumming had been a challenge, the man-ape’s manner of mocking an enemy by beating himself on his barrel chest with his huge fists. But that the ape had not been challenging Bentley and the girl Bentley felt quite sure, as the brute would certainly have shown himself in that case.

They trudged on through the sand, while the sun beat down unmercifully on their uncovered heads. Ellen Estabrook strode along at Bentley’s side without complaint.


A

fter perhaps an hour of this unbearable effort, when both felt as though the sun had sucked[314] them dry of perspiration, they encountered a rough footpath leading into the jungle. The path suggested human habitation somewhere near. The inhabitants might be hostile natives, even cannibals perhaps, but in this unknown land they would have to take a chance on that.

With a sigh of relief, and refusing to look ahead too far, or try to guess what lay in wait for them in the black mystery of the jungle, they turned into the footpath. The jungle was fetid and sweaty, but even this was a relief from the intolerable sun which could not reach them here because the jungle had closed its leafy arms over the trail instantly. One could not tell from the path whether it had been made by natives or by whites, for it was packed hard. It led straight away from the shoreline.

“We’ll have to keep a sharp lookout for possible poisoned spring darts, Ellen,” said Bentley.

“I’m not afraid, Lee,” she answered stoutly. “Fate wouldn’t allow us to come through what we have only to end things with poisoned darts. It just couldn’t happen that way!”

Thus simply they addressed each other. It seemed as though years had been squeezed into a matter of hours. They knew each other as well as they would, in other circumstances, have known each other after a year of constant association. Here barriers of conventions were razed as simply and naturally as among children.


T

hey had pressed well into the gloom of the jungle when the first sound came.

Not the laughter they had heard before, but the drumming. It was ahead and somewhat to the left, and as they stopped without speaking they could distinctly hear the threshing of a huge body through the underbrush. The sound seemed to be approaching and for a minute or so they listened. Then the sound was repeated off to the right, a trifle further away.

“Can you climb, Ellen?” asked Bentley simply. “This section is filled with anthropoid apes, according to the second officer of theBengal Queen. We may have to take to the trees.”

“I can climb,” she said, “but from what I’ve studied of the habits of these brutes they do a great deal of bluffing before they actually charge, and may not molest us at all if we pay no attention.”

Bentley felt almost nude because he had no weapons save his own fists. And he would not have admitted even to himself how deeply he was concerned over the girl. As far as he knew, this section might be entirely uninhabited. It might be given over entirely to the anthropoids. In this case he shuddered to think of what might happen to Ellen Estabrook if he were slain.

He quickened his pace until Ellen kept stride with him with difficulty. The object uppermost in Bentley’s mind was to get as far away as possible from the ominous drumbeats.

They rounded a bend in the trail and stopped stock-still.

Within fifty yards of them, blocking the trail, was a brute whose great size sent a thrill of horror through Bentley. It towered to the height of a big man, and must have weighed in the neighborhood of four hundred pounds. It was larger by far than any bull ape Bentley had seen in captivity.

It had been waiting for them, silently, with almost human cunning; but now that it was discovered the shaggy creature rose to his hind legs and screamed a challenge, at the same time striking his chest with blows of his hairy fists which rolled in a dull booming of sound through the jungle. At the same time the creature moved forward.[315]


B

entley whirled to run, his hand clasping tighter the hand of Ellen Estabrook. But they had not retreated ten steps down the pathway when their way was blocked by another of the great shaggy brutes. And they could hear others on both sides.

Bentley’s face was chalk-white as he turned to the girl. Her calm acceptance of their predicament, an attitude in which he could read no slightest vestige of fear, helped him to regain control of his own nerves, which had threatened to send him into a panic. She even smiled, and Lee felt a trifle ashamed of himself.

Now the crashing sounds were closing in. The two brutes before and behind on the trail were pressing in upon them. But no general headlong charge had yet begun. Bentley looked around him, seeking a tree with limbs low enough for them to reach and thus climb to safety.

“There’s one!” cried Ellen. Tugging at his hand she began to run.

At the same moment the great apes bellowed and charged.

But the charge was never finished, for through the drumming of their mighty fists on mighty barrel-like chests, through the sound of their charge, through the crackling underbrush came again that sound of laughter. There was fierce joy in the laughter, and the laughter was followed by words of a strange gibberish which Bentley could not recall as being from any language he had ever heard.

The great apes paused. Out of the jungle to the right of the fugitives burst a white man. He was well past middle age, for his white hair hung almost to his shoulders, which were stooped with the weight of years. He was a wisp of a man whose smooth shaven face was apple-red. His eyes were black and expressionless as obsidian, and when Lee encountered the full gaze of them he was conscious of that feeling which he had experienced at various times in his life when he knew that some deadly reptile was close by.

“Stand still a moment!” cried the old man. His voice was strangely high-pitched and cracked.


F

rom his right hand a whip with a long lash uncurled like a snake.

This he swung back and hurled to the front, and the snap of it was like a pistol shot. The great ape on the path ahead cowered back, bearing his fangs, roaring in anger. But that he feared the whip of the old man was plain to be seen. The crashing sound in the jungle died away rapidly, immediately the first report of the whip lash sounded in the trail.

Fearlessly the little man dashed upon the first of the great brutes the castaways had seen. His lash curled about the great beast’s body, and the animal bellowed with pain. It clawed at the lash, but was not fast enough to capture it. In the end the brute broke and fled.

The animal which had blocked their path in the rear had already disappeared.

Now the little man came back to face the fugitives, and his lips were parted in a cordial smile. He coiled his whip and tucked it under his arm. He was dressed in well worn corduroy with high boots that were rather the worse for wear. Bentley saw that his lips were too red—like blood—and somehow he disliked the man instantly.

“Welcome to Barterville,” said the old man. “It has been years since I have seen any of my own kind. People avoid this section of the jungle.”

“I don’t wonder,” said Bentley, sighing deeply with relief. “Those brutes would make anybody keep away from here, if they knew about them. I thought they had us for a few minutes. They planned an ambush[316] almost as well as human beings could have done it—but that’s absurd of course, merely a coincidence.”


C

oincidence?” snapped the old man, a hint of asperity in his words. “Coincidence? I see you do not know the great apes, sir. I have always maintained that apes could be trained to do anything men can do. I have maintained that they have a language of their own, and even ways of communicating without words, a sort of jungle writing which men of course have never yet learned. I’ve devoted my life to learning the secrets of the great apes, their life histories, and so forth. I am Professor Caleb Barter!”

“Professor Caleb Barter!” ejaculated Ellen Estabrook. “Why I’ve heard of him! He went on an expedition among the great apes ten years ago and was never heard of again.”

“I am Caleb Barter,” said the old man. “I decided to disappear from the world I knew, to let other fool scientists think me dead in order that I might continue my investigations without molestation. And now I have almost reached the place where I can go back to civilization with information that will startle the world. There yet remains one experiment. Now I hope to make that experiment. No! No! Don’t ask me what it is. It is my secret and nobody will ever wrest it from me.”

Bentley studied the old man. He seemed slightly demented, Bentley thought, but that might be merely the mental evolution of a man who had made a hermit of himself for so many years—if this chap actually were Professor Barter.

“Professor Barter,” went on Ellen, “was the scientific leader of his day. Others followed where he led. He made greater strides in surgery and medicine, and in unravelling the mysteries of evolution, than anyone else up to his time. Of course I believe you are Professor Barter. My name is Ellen Estabrook, and this gentleman is Lee Bentley. We believe ourselves to be the only survivors of theBengal Queen. Perhaps you can lead us to food and water?”

“Yes, oh yes! Indeed. One forgets how to be hospitable, I fear. I am sorry to hear there was a wreck and that lives were lost—but it may mean a great gain to the world of science. I am happier to see you than you can possibly know!”


B

entley felt the cold chills racing along his spine as he listened to the old man’s flow of words. He behaved well, but Bentley could feel in spite of that, that there was a hidden current of menace in the old man’s behavior. He wished that Ellen would keep him talking, would somehow make sure of his identity. Perhaps the same thought was in her mind, for it had scarcely come to him when the girl spoke again.

“Before he disappeared Professor Barter wrote a learned treatise on—”

“I am Professor Barter, I tell you, young woman. But if you wish proof the title of the treatise was ‘The Language of the Great Apes.'”

Ellen turned quickly to Bentley and nodded. She was satisfied that the man was the person he claimed to be. He didn’t ask how Ellen happened to know about him, and Bentley himself considered the proof entirely lacking in conclusiveness. Anyone might know about the last treatise of Barter.

However, they could but await developments.

They followed Barter along the trail. Now and again apes challenged from the jungle, and Barter answered them with that strange laughter of his, or with a flow of gibberish that was like nothing human.[317]

Bentley shivered. Barter, by his laughter, was identifying himself to the great anthropoids. But with his gibberish was he actually conversing with them?

“This experiment of yours,” said Bentley when the period of silence became unbearable, “—won’t you tell us about it?”

The old man cackled.

“You’ll know all about it—soon! You’ll know everything, but the secret will still rest with Caleb Barter. Do not be too curious, my friends.”

“We are anxious to reach civilization, Professor,” said Bentley, deciding to be placative with the old man. “Perhaps you can arrange for guides for us?”

Barter laughed.

“I could not permit you to leave me for some time,” he said. “I want you to witness my experiment. The world would never believe me without the evidence of reliable witnesses.”

Barter laughed again.


T

hey entered a clean clearing which was a riot of flowers. At the further edge was a log cabin of huge proportions. The whole thing had a decidedly homely appearance, but it was a welcome sight to the castaways. There were cages in which strange birds chattered shrilly in their own language at sight of the three. A pair of tame monkeys chased each other on the roof of the house, whose corners were almost hidden by climbing vines whose growth one could almost see.

Barter led the way at a swift walk across the clearing and into the house.

Bentley gasped. Ellen Estabrook exclaimed with pleasure.

The reception room was as neat as though it received the hourly attentions of a fussy housewife. It was cozily furnished, yet it was evident that the furniture had been made on the spot of rough wood and skins of various animals. Deep skin rugs covered the floor and walls. There were three doors giving off of the reception room, all three of which were closed.

“You are not married?” he asked the two.

“No!” snapped Bentley.

“That center door leads to your room, Bentley. The one next to it is for the young lady. The other door? Ah, the other door my friends! That door you must never open. But to make sure that curiosity does not overcome caution, let me show you!”


T

hey followed him to the door. He swung it open.

Both visitors started back and a gasp of terror burst from the lips of Ellen Estabrook. Beads of perspiration burst forth on Bentley.

They saw a huge room. In one corner was a bed. The other held a great cage—and in the cage was an anthropoid ape larger even than the great brute they had met on the trail!

Barter laughed. He stepped into the room, uncoiled his whip and hurled the lash at the cage. A great bellowing roar fairly shook the house, while the brute tore at the bars which held him prisoner until the whole massive cage seemed to dance. Barter laughed and continued to goad him.

“Barter,” yelled Bentley, “stop that! If that beast should ever happen accidentally to get free he’d tear you to pieces!”

“I know,” said Barter grimly, “and that’s part of the experiment! Now we shall eat, and you, young lady, shall tell me what other fool scientists had to say about me after I disappeared—to escape their parrot-like repeating of my discoveries!”

Bentley started to offer protest as Barter began preparation for the meal, which obviously was to be taken in the room which held the[318]cage of the giant anthropoid, but Ellen put her fingers to her lips and shook her head. Her eyes were dancing with excitement.

CHAPTER III

A Night of Horror

T

he meal consisted of various fruits, some meat which Bentley could not identify, and wild honey which was delicious. The bread tasted queer but was distinctly edible. The castaways ate ravenously, but even as he ate Bentley noticed that Ellen’s face was chalky pale, and that in spite of a distinct effort of will she simply had to look at intervals toward the great beast in the cage.

Caleb Barter sat with his back to the animal. Bentley sat at the left of the old scientist, Ellen Estabrook at his right. The great beast was quiet now, but he squatted within his prison and his red-rimmed eyes swerved from one person to the other in the room with a peculiar intentness.

“I’d swear that beast can almost read our thoughts!” ejaculated Bentley at last, after he had somewhat sated his appetite.

Barter smiled with those too-red lips of his.

“He can—almost. You’d be surprised to know how nearly human the great apes are, and how nearly human this particular one is. Ah!”

“What do you mean, this particular one?” asked Bentley curiously. “He doesn’t look any different to me from the others I’ve seen except that he is far and away the largest.”

“I don’t see why you should be so curious,” said Barter testily. “It’s none of your business you know—yet.”

“What do you mean?” demanded Bentley, nettled by Barter’s tone.

“Lee, hush,” said Ellen. “Professor Barter is not on trial for any crime.”

Bentley looked at her in hurt surprise, inclined to be angry with her for the tone she was taking, but he saw such a look of appeal in her eyes that he choked back the words that rushed to his lips for utterance. He was decidedly on edge, more, he felt, than he should have been despite what they had gone through. When their eyes met he saw her glance quickly toward the ape, and noted a frown of worry between her brows.


B

entley glanced at the ape. The brute now was staring at the girl in a way that made Bentley’s flesh crawl. It was preposterous of course, but he had the feeling, something which seemed to flow out of that mighty cage like some evil emanation from a dank tarn, that the ape knew the girl’s sex—and that he desired her! It was horrible in the extreme to contemplate, yet Bentley knew when he glanced swiftly at the girl that she had sensed the same thing and was fighting to keep the natural horror she felt at such a ghastly thought from being noticeable. It was absurd. The ape was a prisoner. But….

“Professor Barter,” said Bentley, “you’re accustomed to being with this brute, but it isn’t so nice for us, especially for Miss Estabrook.”

Barter now frowned angrily.

“My dear Bentley,” he said with that odd testiness which he had assumed toward Bentley before, “I refuse to have any interference with my experiment. This is part of it.”

“You mean—” began Bentley.

“I mean that I’m training that ape—I call him Manape—to behave like human beings. How better can he learn than by watching our behavior?”

“Just the same,” said Bentley, “I don’t like it.”

“It’s all right, Lee,” said Ellen quickly. “I don’t mind.”

But Bentley knew that it wasn’t all right, and that she did mind, terribly.[319]


B

arter finished eating. Bentley had noticed that despite the long years he had been a virtual hermit, Barter ate as fastidiously as he probably had done when he had lived among his own kind. He pushed back his chair with a swift movement.

Instantly the roaring of Manape rang through the room. The great brute rose to his full height and grasped the bars of his cage, shaking them with savage fury. He glared at his master and bestial rage glittered from his red-rimmed eyes. He was a horrible sight. Ellen Estabrook, with no apology, stepped around the table and crouched wide-eyed in the arm of Lee Bentley.

“Lee,” she said, “I’m terribly afraid. I almost wish we had trusted ourselves in the jungle.”

“I’ll look out for you,” he whispered, as Barter turned his attention to the great ape.

But Bentley was watching the animal. So was Barter. The eyes of the scientist were shining like coals of fire. For the moment he appeared to have forgotten his guests.

“It is a success!” he cried. “As far as it goes, I mean!”

What did Barter mean? Seeking some answer to the enigma, Bentley studied the ape anew. Now he was positive of another thing: Manape was scarcely concerned with Barter, whom he appeared to hate with an utterly satanic hatred. His beady eyes were staring at Bentley instead!

“The brute is jealous of me!” thought Bentley. “Good God, what does it mean, anyway?”

Barter turned back to them and all at once became the genial host.

“Shall we return to the other room?” he asked politely.


I

t was a relief to the castaways to put that awful room behind them. Barter closed and barred the door with deliberate slowness.

Why had this old man shut himself away from civilization like this? How long had he held this great ape in captivity? What was the purpose of it? What experiment was he performing? What part of it had the castaways been witnessing that they had not recognized? Bentley, recalling the distinct impression that the ape had stared at Ellen almost with the eyes of a lustful man, and had even appeared to be jealous of him because the girl had gone into his arms—Bentley felt a shiver of revulsion course through him as it struck him now how human the regard and the jealousy of the creature had been!

He felt like clutching at the girl and racing with her into the hazards of the jungle. But he remembered the anthropoids out there, and Barter’s peculiar domination of the brutes.

Barter was now watching the two with interest, studying them in turn speculatively, unmindful of the impertinence of his studious regard and silence.

“I have it!” he said. “Will you two be good enough to excuse me? You will need rest, I am sure. I am going away for a little time, but I shall return shortly after dark. Make yourselves at home. But remember—don’t enter that room!”

“You need not worry,” said Bentley grimly. “I sincerely hope we take our next meal in some other room.”

Barter laughed and passed out of the door without a backward glance.

From the jungle immediately afterward came the drumming of the great apes, and now and again the laughter of Barter—high-pitched at first, but dying away as Barter apparently moved off into the jungle.


E

llen,” said Bentley quickly, “I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m sure it’s something sinister and awful. Let’s take a look at our rooms. If there isn’t a door[320] between them which can be left open, then you’ll have to spend the night in my room while I remain awake on guard.”

“I was thinking of the same thing, Lee,” she whispered. “This place gives me the horrors. Barter’s association with the apes is a terrible thing.”

Hand in hand they stepped to the door Barter had designated as that of Ellen Estabrook’s. Bentley opened it cautiously, heaving a sigh of relief to find it empty. He scarcely knew what he had expected. There was a connecting door between the two rooms, open, and they peered into the chamber Bentley was to occupy.

Back they came to her room, to stand before a window which gave onto a shadowed little clearing in the rear of the cabin.

“Look!” whispered Ellen.

There was a single mound of earth, with a white cross set over it, on which was the single word: Mangor.

It might have been a word in some native dialect. It might have been some native’s name. It might have been anything, but, whatever it was, it added to the sinister atmosphere which seemed to hang like an evil mist over the home of Caleb Barter.

“That settles it, Ellen,” he said. “You’ll spend the night in my room.”

Ellen retired in Bentley’s room, closing the door which led to the adjoining room, and Bentley walked back and forth in the reception room, waiting for Barter to return. When darkness fell he lighted the lamps he had previously located. Their odor caused him to guess that the fuel they used was some sort of animal fat. In the strange glow from the lamps, his shadow on the walls, as he walked to and fro, was grotesque, terrible—and at times a grim reminder of the great apes. It caused him to consider how, after all, human beings were akin to gorillas and chimpanzees. Somehow, now, it was a horrible thought.


T

he night wore on and Bentley’s stride became faster. Now and again he peered into the girl’s room. She was sleeping the sleep of utter exhaustion and he did not waken her. Bentley felt it was near midnight when Barter returned, his return heralded by a strange commotion in the clearing, and the frightful drumming of the great apes—or at least one great ape. Bentley shuddered as the animal behind the locked door answered the drumming challenge with a drumming thunder of his own.

Barter came in, and Bentley accosted him at once.

“See here, Barter,” he began. “I don’t like it here. There’s something strange going on in this clearing. Miss Estabrook and I wish to leave immediately in the morning! And that grave behind the cabin, who or what is it?”

Barter studied the almost trembling Bentley for all of a minute.

“That grave?” he said at last, with silken softness. “It’s the grave of a jungle savage. He died in the interest of science. As for you, you’ll leave here when I bid you, and not before, understand? I’ve a guardian outside that would tear both of you limb from limb.”

But Bentley caught and held fast to certain words the scientist had spoken.

“The savage died in the interest of science?” he said. “What do you mean?”

Barter smiled his red-lipped smile.

“I took the savage and Manape, who wasn’t called Manape then, and administered an anesthetic of my own invention. You’ve heard that I was a master of trephining? No matter if you haven’t heard, the whole world will know soon! While the native and the ape were under anesthesia I transferred their brains. I put the black man’s brain in the skull pan of the ape, and the ape’s brain in that of the savage. The ape[321] lived—and he is Manape. The savage, with the ape’s brain, died, and I buried him in that grave you asked about!”


W

ith a cry of horror Bentley turned and fled from Barter as though the man had been His Satanic Majesty himself. He entered the room with Ellen and barred the door behind him. He likewise barred the door which led to that other room. Now in total darkness it was all he could do from clambering on the bed where Ellen slept, and begging her to touch him—anything—if only to prove to him that there still were sane creatures left in a mad world.

Outside Barter laughed.

“Oh, Bentley,” he called after a long interval of silence, “do you like the odor of violets? Goodnight, and pleasant dreams!”

What had Barter meant?

Again assuring himself that the connecting door could not be opened if anything or anybody tried to enter that way, Bentley flung himself down before the door which gave on the reception room. He had no intention of sleeping. But in spite of himself he dozed off, though he fought against sleep with all his will.

Strange, but as he gradually slipped away into unconsciousness he was cognizant of the odor of violets—like invisible tentacles which reached through the very door and wrapped themselves gently about him.

His last conscious thought was of Manape, the ape with the brain of a jungle savage. But in spite of the vague feeling of horror he could not fight off the desire for sleep.

CHAPTER IV

Grim Awakening

B

entley returned to consciousness with a dull headache. He rose to a sitting posture and looked dully about him. Dimwittedly he tried to recall all that had passed since he had last been awake. He knew he had gone to sleep under the door in the room where Ellen had slept. Yet he was not there now. He peered about him.

He recognized the room.

Yonder was the table where they had eaten last night, or yesterday afternoon. Yonder was the bed he guessed Barter customarily used, and he shuddered a little as he fancied a man sleeping in the same room with that ghastly travesty which was neither ape nor human—Manape. The creature’s name was simple, being simply “man” and “ape” joined together to fit the creature perfectly—too perfectly. Barter’s bed had been slept in, but Barter was nowhere to be seen. Where was he? How came Bentley in this room? Barter had forbidden him to enter the place at all, on any pretext whatever. Had he walked in his sleep, drawn by some freak of his subconscious mind into the room of Manape?

Slowly, afraid to look yet forced by something outside himself, he turned his eyes toward the corner where the beast’s cage was.

The cage was empty!

The door of it was open!

Stunned by his discovery, wondering what had happened during the night, Bentley looked about him. He noticed the long narrow table at the end of the cage, and the white covering it bore. He recognized it instantly as an operating table, and wondered afresh.

Where was Barter?


B

entley raised his voice to shout the scientist’s name. But before he could himself recognize the syllables of the scientist’s name, through the whole room rang the bellowing challenge of a giant anthropoid ape. Bentley cowered down fearfully and looked around him. Where was the ape that had uttered[322] that frightful noise? The sound had broken in that very room, yet save for himself the room was empty.

Bentley turned his head as he heard someone fumbling with the door.

Barter entered, and his face was a study as his eyes met those of Bentley. Bentley noticed that Barter held that whip in his hand, uncoiled and ready for action.

What was this that Barter was saying?

“I warn you, Bentley, that if anything happens to me you are doomed. If I am killed it means a horrible end for you.”

Bentley tried to answer him, tried to speak, but something appeared to have gone wrong with his vocal cords, so that all that came from his lips was a senseless gibberish that meant nothing at all. He recalled the odor of violets, Barter’s enigmatic good-night utterance with reference to violets, and wondered if their odor, stealing into the room where he had gone on guard over Ellen, had had anything to do with paralyzing his powers of speech.

“I see you haven’t discovered, Bentley,” said Barter after a moment of searching inspection of Bentley. “Look at yourself!”

Surprised at this puzzling command, Bentley slowly looked down at his chest. It was broad and hairy, huge as a mighty barrel, and his arms hung to the floor, the hands half closed as though they grasped something. Horror held Bentley mute for a moment. Then he raised his eyes to Barter, to note that the scientist was smiling and rubbing his hands with immense satisfaction.


B

entley started across the floor toward a mirror near Barter’s bed. He refused to let his numbed brain dwell upon the instant recognition of his manner of progress. For he moved across the floor with a peculiar rolling gait, aiding his stride with the bent knuckles of his hands pressed against the floor.

He fought against the horror that gripped him. He feared to look into the mirror, yet knew that he must. He reached it, reared to his full height, and gazed into the glass—at the reflection of Manape, the great ape of the cage!

Instantly a murderous fury possessed him. He whirled on Barter, to scream out at the man, to beg him to explain what had happened, why this ghastly hallucination gripped him. But all he could do was bellow, and smash his mighty chest with his fists, so that the sound went crashing out across the jungle—to be answered almost at once by the drumming of other mighty anthropoids outside, beyond the clearing which held the awful cabin of Caleb Barter.

He started toward Barter, still bellowing and beating his chest. His one desire was to clutch the scientist and tear him limb from limb, and he knew that his mighty arms were capable of ripping the scientist apart as though Barter had been a fly.

“Back, you fool!” snarled Barter. “Back, I say!”

The long lash of the whip cracked like a revolver shot, and the lash curled about the chest and neck of Bentley. It ripped and tore like a hot iron. It struck again and again. Bentley could not stand the awful beating the scientist was giving him. In spite of all his power he found himself being forced back and back.


H

e stepped into the cage, cowered back against its side. Barter darted in close, shut the door and fastened it. Then he stood against the bars, grinning.

“Nod your head if you can understand me, Bentley,” he said.

Bentley nodded.

“I told you I would yet prove to[323] the world the greatness of Caleb Barter,” said the scientist. “And you will bear witness that what I have to tell is true. Would you like to know what I have done?”

Again, slowly and laboriously, Bentley nodded his shaggy head.

Barter grinned.

“Wonderful!” he said. “You see, you are now Manape. Yesterday you had the brain of a black man, and to exchange your brain with Manape’s of yesterday would not have served my purpose in the least. So I had to find an ape of more than average intelligence. That’s why I spent so much time in the jungle yesterday. I needed a brain to put in the body of Lee Bentley’s—an ape’s brain. Your body is a healthy one and I did not think it would die as the savage’s did. I was right. It is doing splendidly. It would interest you to see how your body behaves with an ape’s brain to direct it. Your other self, whom I call Apeman, is unusually handsome. Miss Estabrook, however, who does not know what has happened, has taken a strange dislike to the other you! Splendid! I shall study reactions at first hand that will astound the world!

“But remember, whatever your fine brain dictates that you do, don’t ever forget that I am the only living person who can put you to rights again—and if I die before that happens, you will continue on, till you die, as Manape!”


B

arter stopped there. Bentley stiffened.

From the room where he knew Ellen Estabrook to be came her voice, raised high in a shout of fear.

“Lee! Please! I can’t understand you. Please don’t touch me! Your eyes burn me—please go away. What in the world has come over you?”

Bentley listened for the reply of the creature he knew was in the other room with Ellen Estabrook.

But the answer was a gurgling gibberish that made no sense at all! His own body, directed by the brain of an ape, could not emit speech that Ellen could understand, because the ape could not speak. The ape’s vocal cords, which now were Bentley’s, were incapable of speech.

How, if Barter continued to keep Ellen in ignorance of what had happened, would she ever know the horrible truth—and realize the danger that threatened her?

“Don’t worry for the moment, Bentley,” said Barter with a smile. “I am not yet ready for your other self to go to undue lengths—though I dislike intensely to leave the marks of my whip on that handsome body of yours!”

Barter slipped from the room.

Bentley listened, amazed at the clarity with which he heard every vagrant little sound—until he remembered again that his hearing was that of a jungle beast—until he knew that Barter had entered that other room.

Then came the crackling reports of the whip, wielded mightily by the hands of Barter.

A scream that was half human, half animal, was the result of the lashing. Bentley cringed as he imagined the bite of that lash which he himself had experienced but a few moments before.

“Professor Barter! Professor Barter!” distinctly came the voice of Ellen Estabrook. “Don’t! Don’t! He didn’t mean anything, I am sure. He is sick, something dreadful has happened to him. But he wouldn’t really hurt me. He couldn’t—not really. Stop, please! Don’t strike him again!”

But the sound of the lash continued.

“Stop, I tell you!” Ellen’s voice rose to a cry of agonized entreaty. “Don’t strike him again. See, you’ve ripped his flesh until he is covered with blood! Strike me if you must[324] strike someone—for with all my heart and soul I love him!”

CHAPTER V

Fumbling Hands

N

ow Bentley was beginning to realize to the full the horrible thing that had befallen himself and Ellen Estabrook. He knew something else, too. It had come to him when he had heard Ellen’s words next door—telling Barter that she loved the creature Barter was beating, which she thought was Lee Bentley. That creature was Lee Bentley; but only the earthly casement of Lee Bentley. The ruling power of Bentley’s body, the driving force which actuated his body, was the brain of an ape.

As for Bentley himself, that part of him of which he thought when he thought of “I,” to all intents and purposes, to all outer seeming, had become an ape. His body was an ape’s body, his legs were an ape’s, everything about him was simian save one thing—the “ego,” that something by which man knows that he is himself, with an individual identity. That was buried behind the almost non-existent brow of an ape.

In all things save one he was an ape. That thing was “Bentley’s” brain. In all things save one that creature in the room with Ellen Estabrook was Bentley. Bentley, driven to mad behavior by the brain of an ape!

The horror of it tore at Bentley, as he still thought of himself.

“If I were to get out of this cage,” he told himself voicelessly, “and were to enter that room with Ellen, she would cower into a corner in terror. She would fly to the arms of that travesty of ‘me,’ for she thinks it is ‘I’ in there with her because it looks like me.”

Now that Ellen was beyond his reach, more beyond his reach than if she had been dead, he realized how much she meant to him. In the few mad hours of their association they had come to belong to each other with a possessiveness that was beyond words. Thinking then that the travesty in there with her—with Bentley’s body—was really Bentley, to what lengths might she not be persuaded in her love? It was a ghastly thing to contemplate.


B

ut what could Bentley do? He could not speak to her. If he tried she would race from him in terror at the bellowing ferocity of his voice. How could he tell her his love when his voice was such as to frighten the very wild beasts of the jungle?

Yet….

How could he allow her to remain with that other Bentley—that body which perhaps was provided with a man’s appetites, and the brain of a beast which knew nothing of honor and took what it wished if it were strong enough?

There was one ray of hope in that Barter had hinted he would protect Ellen from the apeman. That meant physically, with all that might indicate; but who could compensate her for the horror she must be experiencing with that speechless imbecile she thought was Bentley? If this thing were to continue indefinitely, and Ellen were kept in ignorance, she would eventually grow to hate the “thing”—and if ever, as he had hinted, Barter were to transfer back the entities of the man and the ape, Ellen would always shudder with horrible memories when she looked at the man she had just now admitted she loved.

Bentley was becoming calmer now. He knew exactly what he faced, and there was no way out until Barter should be satisfied with his mad experiment. Bentley must go through with whatever was in store for him. So must the ape who possessed his body—and in the very nature of[325] things unless Bentley could train himself to a self-saving docility, both bodies would repeatedly know the fiery stinging of that lash of Barter’s. Bentley could control himself after a fashion. The ape might be cowed, but long before that time arrived, Bentley’s body would be made to suffer marks they would bear forever to remind him of this horror.

“I must somehow manage to continue to care for Ellen,” he told himself. “But how?”


H

e scarcely realized that his great hands were wandering over his body, scratching, scratching. But when he did realize he felt sick, without being able to understand how or where he felt sick. If he felt sick at the stomach he thought of it as his own stomach. When he thought of moving the hairy hands he thought of his hands. He grinned to himself—never realizing the horrible grimace which crossed his face, though there was none to see it—when he recalled how men of his acquaintance during the Great War, had complained of aching toes at the end of legs that had been amputated!

He was learning one thing—that the brain is everything that matters. The seat of pain and pleasure, of joy and of sorrow, of hunger and of thirst even.

Bentley waddled to the door of the cage. He studied the lock which held him prisoner, and noted how close he must hold his face to see at all. All apes might be near-sighted as far as he knew; but he did know that this one was. Perhaps he could free himself.

He tried to force his massive hands to the task of investigating the lock. But what an effort! It was like trying to hypnotize a subject that did not wish to be hypnotized. A distinct effort of will, like trying to force someone to turn and look by staring at the back of that someone’s neck in a crowd. It was like trying to make an entirely different person move his arm, or his leg, merely by willing that he move it.

But the great arms, which might have weighed tons, though Bentley sensed no strain, raised to the door and fumbled dumbly, clumsily. He tried to close the gnarled fingers, whose backs were covered with the rough hair, to manipulate the lock, but he succeeded merely in fumbling—like a baby senselessly tugging at its father’s fingers, the existence of which had no shape or form in the baby’s brain.

But he strove with all his will to force those clumsy hands to do his bidding. They slipped from the lock, went back again, fumbled over it, fell away.

“You must!” muttered Bentley. “You must, you must!”

He would discover the secret of the lock, so that he would be able to remove it when the time was right—but so slow and uncertain and clumsy were the movements of his ape hands, he was in mortal fear that he would unlock the door and then not be able to lock it again, and Barter would discover what he had in mind.


B

ut he struggled on, while foul smelling sweat poured from his mighty body and dripped to the floor. He concentrated on the lock with all his power, knowing as he did so that the lock would have been but a simple problem for a child of six or seven. It was nothing more than a bar held in place with a leather thong. But the powerful fingers which now were Bentley’s were too blunt and inflexible to master the knot Barter had left.

Bentley paused to listen.

From Ellen’s room came the sound of weeping. From the front room came Barter’s pleased laughter as he[326] talked with the thing which so much resembled Bentley. That was a relief—to know that his other self had been at least temporarily removed from any possibility of injuring Ellen.

In Bentley’s mind were certain pictures of Barter. He saw him plainly on his knees begging for mercy, while Bentley’s ape hands choked his life away. He saw him tossed about like a mere child, and casually torn apart, ripped limb from limb by the mighty hands of Manape.

“God,” he told himself, refusing to listen to the slobbering gibberish which came from his thick lips when he addressed himself, “I can do nothing to Barter—not until he restores me properly. If he is slain, it is the end for me, and for Ellen! He is a master, no doubt of that. He anesthetized me through the door with something of his own manufacture that smelled like violets, and put my brain in Manape after removing from Manape the brain of the savage. Then he removed an ape’s brain from a second ape and put it in my skull pan—all within the space of a few hours! Yet his knowledge of surgery and medicine is such that even in so short a time I suffer little from the operation, save for the dull headache which I had on awakening, and which I now scarcely feel at all.”


H

e straightened, close against the bars, and began again to fumble with the leather thong which held him prisoner. In his brain was the hazy idea that he might after all make a break for it, and carry Ellen away to a place of safety, taking a chance on finding his way back here to force Barter to operate again and restore him to his proper place. But would not Ellen die of fright at being borne away through the jungle in the arms of an ape? Was there any possibility of forcing Barter to perform the operation? No, for under the anesthetic again, Barter, angered by the thwarting of whatever purpose actuated him, might do something even worse than he had done—if that were possible. Again, even if he reached civilisation with Ellen, every human hand would be turned against him. Rifles would hurl their lead into him. Hunters would pursue him….

No, it was impossible.

Bentley, Ellen, and the Apeman—his own body, ape-brained—were but pawns in the hands of Barter. Barter might be actuated by a desire to serve science, that science which was alike his tool and his god. Bentley scarcely doubted that Barter believed himself specially ordained to do this thing, in the name of science; probably, unquestionably, felt himself entirely justified.

Plainly, now that Bentley recalled things Barter had said, Barter had waited for an opportunity of this kind—had waited for someone to be tossed into his net—and Ellen and Lee, flotsam of the sea, had come in answer to the prayer for whose answer Barter had waited.

It was horrible, yet there was nothing they could do—at least, to free themselves—until it pleased Barter to take the step. It came then to Bentley how precious to them both was the life of Caleb Barter. He could restore Bentley or destroy him—and with him the woman who loved him.

Suppose, came Bentley’s sudden thought, Barter should think of performing a like operation on Ellen—using in the transfer the brain of a female ape? God!…

He prayed that the thought would never come to Barter. He was afraid to dwell upon it lest Barter read his thought. He might think of it naturally, as a simple corollary to what he had already done. Bentley then must do something before Barter planned some new madness.[327]


H

e sat back and bellowed savagely, beating his chest with his mighty hands.

Instantly the outer door opened and Barter came in.

Bentley ceased his bellowing and chest pounding and sat docilely there, staring into the eyes of Barter.

“Have you discovered there is no use opposing me, Bentley?” said the professor softly.

Bentley nodded his shaggy head. Then by a superhuman effort of will he raised the right arm of Manape and pointed. He could not point the forefinger, but he could point the arm—and look in the direction he desired.

“You want to come out and go into the front room?”

Bentley nodded.

“You will make no attempt to injure me?”

Bentley shook his head ponderously from side to side.

“You would like to see the Apeman?—the creature that looks so much like you that it will be like peering at yourself in the mirror? Or, rather, as it would have been yesterday had you looked into a mirror?”

Bentley nodded slowly.

“You understand that no matter what the Apeman does, you must not try to slay him?”

Bentley did not move.

“You understand if you destroy Apeman’s body, you are doomed to remain Manape forever, because the true body of Lee Bentley will die and be eventually destroyed?”

Bentley nodded. He felt a trickle of moisture on the rough skin about his flaring nostrils and knew that he was weeping, soundlessly.


B

ut there was no pity in the face of Barter. He was the scientist who studied his science, to whom it was the breath of life, and he saw nothing, thought of nothing, not directly connected with his “experiment.”

“You give me your word of honor as a gentleman not to oppose me?”

It was odd, an almost superhumanly intellectual scientist asking for an ape’s word of honor, but that did not occur to Bentley at the moment, as he nodded his head.

Barter still held his lash poised. He unfastened the leather thong which held Bentley prisoner and swung wide the door. Then he turned his back on Bentley and led the way to the door.

Bentley followed him on mighty feet and bent knuckles into the room which had first received Lee and Ellen when they had entered the cabin of the scientist.

Bentley would have gasped had he been capable of gasping at what he saw.

In a far corner, cowering down in fear at sight of Barter and his coiled whip—was the Bentley of the mirror in his stateroom aboard the Bengal Queen, and before that.

It was an uncanny sensation, to stand off and peer at himself thus.

Yonder was Bentley, yet here was Bentley, too.


T

hen he noted the difference. The face of that Bentley yonder was twisted, savage. That Bentley had seen Manape, and the teeth were exposed in a snarl of savage hatred. There a man ape stared at another man ape, and bared his fangs in challenge. The white hands of Bentley began to beat the white chest of Bentley—to beat the chest savagely, until the white skin was red as blood….

The Bentley buried within the mighty carcass of an anthropoid ape watched and shuddered. That thing yonder was dressed only in a breech-clout, and the fair flesh was criss-crossed in scores of places with bleeding wounds left by the lash of Barter. The Apeman’s brows were[328] furrowed in concentration. The human body made ape-like movements.

Bentley knew that soon that creature, forgetting everything save that he faced a rival man ape, would charge and attempt to measure the power of Manape—fang against fang. The white form rose.

Barter caused his whiplash to crack like an explosion.

“One moment,” he said. “Back, Apeman! I’ll bring Miss Estabrook. Perhaps she can placate you. She has a strange power over you both!”

Bentley would have cried out as Barter crossed to unlock Ellen’s door, but he knew that he could not stop Barter, and that his cry would simply be a terrible bellow to frighten the woman he loved when she entered the room.

The door opened. White, shaken, her eyes deep wells of terror, circled with blue rings which told the effect of the horror she had experienced, Ellen Estabrook entered.

And screamed with terror as she saw the hulking figure of Manape. Screamed with terror and rushed to the arms of the cowering thing in the corner!

CHAPTER VI

Puppets of Barter

T

he thing that Barter then contrived was destined to remain forever in the memory of Bentley as the most ghastly thing he had ever experienced. Ellen hurried into the arms of that thing in the corner. Gropingly, protectively, the white arms encompassed her. But they were awkward, uncertain, and Bentley was minded of a female ape or monkey holding her young against her hairy bosom.

Barter turned toward Bentley and smiled. He rubbed his hands together with satisfaction.

“A success so far, my experiment,” he said. “The human body still answers to primal urges, which are closely enough allied to those of our simian cousins that their outward manifestations—manual gestures, expressions in the eyes et cetera—are much the same. When the two are combined the action approximates humanness!”

That travesty yonder pressed its face against Ellen, and she drew back, her eyes wide as they met those of the white figure which held her.

“I am all right,” she managed, “please don’t hold me so tightly.”

She tried to struggle away, but Apeman held her helpless.

“Barter,” yelled Bentley, “take her away from that thing! How can you do such a horrible thing?”

At least those were the words he intended to shout, but the sound that came from his lips was the bellowing of a man ape. That other thing yonder answered his bellow, bared white teeth in a bestial snarl. Barter turned to Bentley, however.

“You want me to take her away from Bentley and give her to you?”

Bentley nodded.

His bellowing attempt at speech had sent Ellen closer into the arms of Bentley’s other self—henceforth to be known as Apeman. Bentley had defeated his own purpose by his bellow.


M

iss Estabrook,” said Barter softly, “nothing will happen to you if you stand clear of your sweetheart….”

Nausea gripped Bentley as he heard Apeman referred to as Ellen’s sweetheart, but now he remembered to refrain from attempting speech.

“But,” went on Barter, “Manape has taken a violent dislike to Bentley, and may attack him if you do not stand clear. Manape likes you, you know. You probably sensed that last evening?”

Ellen visibly shuddered. She patted the shoulder of Apeman and[329] stepped away, toward a chair which Barter thrust toward her.

She pressed her hands to her throbbing temples, visibly fighting to control herself. Her whole body was trembling as with the ague.

“Professor Barter,” she said at last. “I am terribly confused, and most awfully frightened. What has happened here? What dreadful thing has so awfully changed Lee? I talk to him and he answers nothing that I understand. Is it some weird fever? At this moment I have the feeling that that brute Manape understands more perfectly than Lee, and the idea is horrible! I love Lee, Professor. See, he hears me say it, yet I cannot tell from his expression what he thinks. Does he despise me for so freely admitting my love? Has he any feeling about it at all? Has his mind completely gone?”

“Yes,” said Barter, with a semblance of a smile on his lips, “his mind has completely gone. But it is only temporary, my dear. You forget that I am perhaps the world’s greatest living medical man, and that I can do things no other man can do. I shall restore Lee wholly to you—when the time comes. It is not well to hasten things in cases of this kind. One never knows but that great harm may be done.”

“But I can nurse him. I can care for him and love him, and help to make him well.”


B

arter looked away from Ellen, his eyes apparently focussed on a spot somewhere in the air between Apeman and Manape.

“Would that be satisfactory to Bentley, I wonder?” he said musingly, yet Bentley recognized it as a question addressed to him. Bentley looked at the girl, but her eyes were fixed—alight with love which was still filled with questioning—on Apeman. Bentley shook his head, and Barter laughed a little.

“You know, Miss Estabrook,” he went on, “that a strange malady like that which appears to have attacked Lee Bentley should be studied carefully, in order that the observations of a savant may be given to the world so that such maladies may be effectually combatted in future. This is one reason why I do not hasten.”

“But you are using a sick man as you would use a rabbit in a laboratory experiment!” she cried. “Can’t you see that there are things not even you should do? Don’t you understand that some things should be left entirely in the hands of God?”

“I do not concede that!” retorted Barter. “God makes terrible mistakes sometimes—as witness cretins, mongoloid idiots, criminals, and the like. I know about these things better than you do, my dear, and you must trust me.”

“Oh, if I only knew what was right. Poor Lee. You lashed him so, and his body is awful with the scars. Was that necessary?”

“Insane persons are not to blame for their insanity,” said Barter soothingly. “Yet sometimes they must be handled roughly to prevent them from causing loss of life, their own or others.”


N

ow the eyes of Ellen came to rest on Manape.

They were fear filled at first, especially when she discovered that the little red eyes of Manape were upon her. But she did not turn her eyes away, nor did Manape. She seemed dazed, unable to orient herself, unable to distinguish the proper mode of action.

“That ape in repose is almost human,” she said wearily, her brow puckered as though she sought the answer to some unspoken question that eluded her. “I am not afraid of him at this moment, yet I know that in a second he can become an invincible brute, capable of tearing us all limb from limb.”

“Not so long as I have this whip,”[330] said Barter grimly. “But Manape is docile at the moment, and it is Bentley who is ferocious.”

Apeman was still snarling at Manape, lending point to Barter’s statement. Barter went on.

“You know,” he said, “apes are almost human in many respects. Manape likes you, and I doubt if he would attempt to hurt you. If he knew that you cared for Bentley there, he would most assuredly try to be friendly to Bentley also. Perhaps you can manage it. Apes are capable of primitive reasoning, you know. Go to Manape. He won’t injure you, at least while I am here. Stroke him. He will like it. He is a friend worth having, never fear, and one never knows when one may need a friend—or what sort of friend one may need.”

Ellen hesitated, and her face whitened again.

Barter went on.

“Go ahead. It is necessary that Manape and Bentley remain here together for a time. Manape will be locked up, but if he happens to break loose there is nothing he might not do. With Bentley in the condition he is he would be no match for Manape. But if Manape thought you desired his friendship for Bentley…?”


T

here he left it, while Bentley wondered what new horror Barter was planning. He yearned for Ellen to come to him. But, if he strode toward her now, how would Barter explain that Manape had understood his words? No, Ellen must take the step, and each one would be hesitant, as she fought against her natural revulsion at touching this great shaggy creature which was Manape to her, and Bentley to himself.

Slowly, almost against her will, Ellen rose and moved across the floor toward Bentley. Apeman growled ominously. He rose to his feet, his arms writhing like disjoined, broken-backed snakes across his scarred chest.

Apeman took a step forward. Barter did not notice, apparently, for he was watching Manape as Ellen approached.

She came quite close. Slowly she put forth her hand to touch the shaggy shoulder of Manape. Bentley, seeking some way, any way, to reassure her, put his great shaggy right arm about her waist for the merest second.

Then Apeman charged, bellowing a shrill crescendo that was half human, half simian.

Before Bentley could realize Apeman’s intentions, Apeman had clutched Ellen about the waist and dashed for the door of the cabin. He was gone, racing across the clearing with swift strides, bearing the girl with him.

Bentley whirled to pursue, but Barter had beaten him to the door and now blocked it, whiplash writhing, twisting, curling to strike.

“Back, Bentley! Back, I say! In a moment you may follow—as part of my experiment. But remember—the end must be here in this cabin, and you must remember everything, so that you can tell me all—when you are restored!”

Bentley cowered under the lash. His whole shaggy body trembled frightfully.

From the jungle toward which Apeman was racing come the roaring challenge of half a dozen anthropoids.

CHAPTER VII

Lord of the Jungle

A

peman, never realizing that his actual strength was that of but a puny human being, was racing with Ellen Estabrook into the very midst of animals which would tear him to bits as easily as they would tear any human being to pieces.[331] Apeman, being but an ape after all, would merely think that he was joining his own kind, bearing with him a mate with white skin.

But to the other apes he would be a human being, a puny hairless imitation of themselves which they would pounce upon and tear asunder with great glee. Apeman would not know this: would not realize his limitations. He would try to take to the upper terraces of the jungle, to swing from tree to tree, carrying his mate—and would find the body of Bentley incapable of supporting such an effort. Apeman would be a child in the hands of his brethren, who could not know him. Apeman could probably speak to them after a fashion, but his gibberish would come strangely perhaps unintelligibly, through the mouth of Bentley. They would suspect him, and destroy him, and with him Ellen Estabrook, unless other apes discovered also her sex and took her, fighting over her among themselves.

Bentley made good time across the jungle clearing. Behind him came the voice of Barter in final exhortation.

“Your human cunning, hampered by your simian body, pitted against the highly specialized body of your former self, in turn hampered by the lack of reasoning of an ape—in a contest in primitive surrounding for a female! A glorious experiment, and all depends now upon you! You will save the girl who loves you and whom you love, but you must return to me and be transferred before you can make your love known. I shall wait for you!”

In Bentley’s brain the shouted words of Barter rang as he hurried into the jungle in pursuit of Apeman. Ellen Estabrook was crying: “Hurry, Lee, hurry!”


Y

et she was really yelling to Apeman, the man-beast which carried her, bidding him race on to escape the pursuit of Manape, in whom she would never recognize the man she loved. She must have thought that Bentley had taken a desperate chance to escape the clutches of Barter, and that Barter had set his trained ape to pursue them. What else could she think? How could she know that she was actually in the power of an ape, and that her loved one actually pursued to save her? With every desire of her body she was urging Apeman to take her away from Manape. But she must also have heard the challenges of the man apes in the jungle ahead. She was looking back over Apeman’s shoulder, wondering perhaps if Barter would again come out to save them from the anthropoids.

Bentley could guess at her thoughts as he raced on in pursuit of Apeman.

Would he be in time? Even if he were, Apeman himself would turn against him. If he were to try to aid Ellen she would fight against him, believing him an ape. And how could he fight? Would his brain be able to direct his mighty arms and his fighting fangs in a battle with the apes of the jungle?

As he thought of coming to grips with the apes on equal terms, something never in this world before vouchsafed to a human being, he felt a fierce exaltation upon him. He felt a desire to take part in mortal combat with them, to fight them fist and fang, and to destroy them, one by one. He had their strength and more—he had the cunning of a human being to match against the dim wits of the apes. He had a chance.

But he must protect not only Ellen, but Apeman. Both Ellen and Apeman would be against him. Ellen would fear him as an ape that desired her. Apeman would fight against him as a rival for the favors of a she….

And he must harm neither. His[332] own body, which Apeman directed, must be spared, must be kept alive—while every effort of Apeman would be to force Bentley to slay!

It was a predicament which—well, only Caleb Barter had foreseen it.


T

he bellowing of the apes was a continuous roar on all sides now. Bentley felt a fierce sensation of joy welling up within him and he answered their bellowing with savage bellows of his own. His legs were obeying his will. His knuckles touched the ground as he raced on all fours.

He could hear the shriek of Ellen there ahead, and knew that Apeman and the girl were surrounded—that he must make all possible speed if he were to be in time.

Apeman and his captive were on the trail, trapped there just as Apeman had started into the jungle. Apeman had lifted Ellen so that her hands might have grasped a limb; but the girl had refused to attempt to escape by the trees if her “lover” remained behind. She had crumpled to the ground, and Apeman, snarling, smashing his chest which was so sickly white as compared to the chests of the other apes, had turned upon his brethren. They hesitated for a moment as though amazed at the effrontery of this mere human.

Then a man ape charged. Apeman met him with arms and fangs, and Bentley saw Apeman’s all too small mouth snap out for the vein in the neck of Apeman’s attacker. The ape whose brain reposed in Apeman had been a courageous beast, that was plain. But he was fighting for his she.

And he did not know his limitations. Apeman was bowled over as though he had been a blade of grass, and the great ape was crouched over him, nuzzling at his white flesh when Bentley-Manape arrived.

With a savage bellow, and with a mighty lunge, Bentley leaped upon the attacker of Apeman. His arms obeyed him with more certainty now, perhaps because the matter was so vitally urgent. Bentley’s brain knew jiu-jitsu, boxing, ways of rough and tumble fighting of which the great apes had never learned, nor ever would learn.


H

e hurled himself upon the animal that was on the point of pulling Apeman apart as though he had indeed been a fly, and literally flattened him against the ground. His mighty hands searched for the throat of the great ape, while he instinctively pulled his stomach out of the way of possible disemboweling tactics on the part of his antagonist. But the great ape twisted from his grasp, struggled erect.

And, amazed at what he was doing, surprised that he, Lee Bentley, could even conceive of such a thing, he launched his attack with bared and glistening fangs straight at the throat of his enemy. His mouth closed. His fangs ripped home—and the great ape whose throat he had torn away, whose blood was salt on his slavering lips, was tossed aside as an empty husk, to die convulsively, a dripping horror which was humanlike in a ghastly fashion. Bentley felt like a murderer. Not like a murderer, either, but like a man who has slain unavoidably—and hates himself for doing so.

Ellen was backed against the tree into which Apeman had tried to force her.

Apeman was up now, moving to stand beside her. Apeman had discovered that he was not the invincible creature he had thought himself.

Bentley moved in closer to the two, as other apes charged upon him from both sides, smothering him, giving him no time. He was a stranger, seemingly, an upstart to be destroyed.

And he was forced to fight them[333] with all his ape strength and human cunning, while Apeman, whimpering, caught up Ellen and darted away with her, straight into the jungle.

For Bentley this was a sort of respite. Ellen was not afraid to go with Apeman, thinking him Bentley. The great apes were bent on destroying this strange ape which had come into their midst and had already destroyed one of their number, perhaps their leader.

He must be destroyed.


B

entley fought like a man possessed. His arms were gory with crimson from the slashing fangs of his enemies. His mouth was dripping with red foam as he slashed in turn, with deadly accuracy. A great arm clutched at the hair of his chest—and fell away again, broken in two places, as Bentley snapped it like a pipe stem because he knew leverages and was able to force his ape’s body to obey the will of his human mind.

One ape whimpering, rolling away to lick at his wounds; whimpering oddly like a baby that has burned its fingers. A great ape weighing hundreds of pounds, crying like a child! Yet that “child,” with his arm unbroken, could have taken a grown man, no matter how much of a giant, and torn him to pieces.

Two other apes were out of the fray, one dead, the other with only empty eye-sockets where his red-rimmed eyes had been.

Bentley guessed that Apeman had gone at least a mile into the jungle, heading directly away from the dwelling of Caleb Barter. He must get free and pursue. There was nothing else he could do. If he were slain, Ellen was doomed to a fate he dared not contemplate. Apeman would never be accepted by the apes because to all outward seeming he was a man. His body would never stand the hardship of the jungle, yet Apeman would never guess that, and would be slain. Bentley must prevent that.

He must make sure that Apeman’s body at least remained sufficiently healthy that it could become his own again without the necessity of a long sojourn in some hospital. Ellen must not be left alone with Apeman, who was still an ape, running away with a she.

A ghastly muddle.


N

ow the apes broke away from Bentley. They broke in all direction into the jungle. Some of them seemed on the trail of Apeman. One of them took to the trees, swinging himself along with the speed of a running man, flying from limb to limb with no support save his hands.

Bentley stared after the fleeing ape, and then gave chase. He felt that the ape was on the trail of Apeman. Bentley did not know that he himself could follow the spoor of Apeman, for he had not yet analyzed all of his new capabilities. But while he was discovering, he would follow something he could see—the fleeing ape, who would overhaul Apeman as though Apeman were standing still.

So, in a manner of speaking, Bentley essayed his wings.

He took to the trees after the fleeing ape, and was amazed that his great arms worked with ease, that he swung from limb to limb as easily and as surely as the other apes. He climbed to the upper terrace, where view of the ground was entirely shut off. His eyes took note of limbs capable of bearing his weight—after he had made one mistake that might easily have proved costly. He had leaped to a limb that would have supported Bentley of the Bengal Queen, but that was a mere twig under the weight of Manape. It broke and he fell, clutching for support; and fate was kind to him in that he found it, and so clambered[334] back and swung easily and swiftly along.

In his nostrils at intervals was a peculiar odor—a peculiarly human odor, reminding him of the work-sweat of a man who seldom bathed. He knew that for the odor of Apeman, and a thrill of exaltation encompassed him as he realized that he was following a spoor by the cunning of his nostrils.


T

here was a great leap across space. The ape ahead of him made it with ease. Bentley essayed it without hesitation, hurling himself into space, all of a hundred feet above the ground; with all the might of his arms—and almost overshot the mark, almost went crashing once more through the branches. But the tree swayed, and held, and Bentley went swinging on.

It was wildly exhilarating, thrilling in a primitive way. Bentley remembered those dreams of his childhood—dreams of falling endlessly but never striking. Racial memories, scientists called them, relics of our simian forebears. Bentley thought of that and laughed; but his laughter was merely a beastly chattering which recalled him to the grim necessity of the moment.

Fifteen minutes passed, perhaps. Twenty. Half an hour. He was following a trace which led away from the coast, and further away from the cabin of Caleb Barter. But with his jungle senses, and his human memory, Bentley was sure he could return when the time came.

Had Barter foreseen all that? Was Barter smiling to himself, back there in his awful hermitage, waiting for the working out of his “experiment”?

But Apeman had jungle knowledge, and must have forced Bentley’s body to the limit of its endurance, for it was near evening when Bentley, who had lost the ape ahead of him, but had continued on the spoor of Apeman by the smell, came to swift pause on his race through the trees.


H

e had heard the voice of Ellen Estabrook, and the voice was pleading.

“Lee! Lee! If you love me try to regain control of yourself. Please do not stare at me like that. Oh, your poor body! The brush and briars have literally torn you to bits.”

But the answer of “Lee” was a bestial snarl, and traveling as quietly as he could, Manape dropped down so that he could gaze upon his beloved, and the thing she believed she loved.

Ellen was unaware of him. But he had scarcely dropped into view before Apeman became aware of him, and rose weakly to tottering limbs, to beat his bruised and bleeding chest in simian challenge. Apeman was simply an ape that had run until he was finished, and now was turning to make a last stand against a male who was stronger—a last bid for life and possession of the she he had carried away.

Then Ellen saw Manape, screamed, and for the first time since she had been saved from the deep by Bentley, fainted dead away.

The two so strangely related creatures faced each other across her supine body—and both were savagely snarling. Apeman weakly but angrily, Manape with a sound of such brute savagery that even the twittering of birds died away to awed silence.

CHAPTER VIII

Struggle for Mastery

I

t was Apeman who charged. Pity for Apeman welled up in Bentley. That was his own body which Apeman was so illy using. His own poor bruised and bleeding body, which Apeman had all but slain by[335] forcing it far beyond human endurance. It must be saved, in spite of Apeman.

But there was something first to do. Bentley bent over Ellen, caught her under his arm, and returned to the trees, with Apeman chattering angrily and futilely behind him. Bentley found a crotch in the tree where he could place Ellen, made sure that she was safely propped there and that no snakes were near, and hurried back to the contest with Apeman which could not be avoided.

He did not fear the battle he knew he must fight. He hurried back because Apeman might realize himself beaten and escape into the jungle. In his weakened condition he could not travel far and would be easy prey for any prowling leopard, easy prey for the crawling things whose fangs held sure death. Or would the cunning of Apeman, denizen of the jungle, warn him against any such? His ape brain would warn him, but would his human strength avail in case of necessity, in case of attack by another ape, or a four-footed carnivore?

Bentley hurried back because Apeman must be saved, somehow, even against his will. Apeman hated Manape with a deadly hatred. Yet to subdue the travesty of a human being, Manape must take care that he did not destroy his own casement of humanity. Any moment now and a great cat might charge from the shadows and destroy Apeman.


A

peman, snarling, beating his puny chest with his puny hands, was waiting for Manape his enemy.

Manape found himself thinking of the line: “‘O wad some power the giftie gie us, to see oursilves as ithers see us,'” and adding some thoughts of his own.

“If that were actually ‘I’ down there, my chance of preserving the life of myself, and that of Ellen against the rigors of the jungle, would be absolutely nil. How helpless we humans are in primitive surroundings! The tiniest serpent may slay us. The jungle cats destroy us with ease, if we be not equipped with artificial weapons which our better brains have created. As Manape, Barter’s trained ape, I am better fitted to protect Ellen than if I were Bentley—the Bentley of the Bengal Queen. Yet she will cower away from me when she wakens.”

Now Bentley was down, and Apeman was charging. He charged at a staggering run. He stepped on a thorn, hesitated, and whimpered. But he possessed unusual courage, for he still came on. Apeman knew the law of the jungle, that the weakest must die. Death was to be his portion if he could not withstand the assaults of Manape, and he came to meet his fate with high brute courage.

Apeman was close in. His hands were swinging, fists closed, in a strange travesty of a fighting man. Apeman was snarling. He groped for the throat of Manape with his human teeth—which sank home in the tough hide of Manape, hurting him as little as though Apeman were toothless.

“As Bentley I would have no chance at all against a great ape,” said Bentley to himself.


H

ow could he take the pugnacity out of Apeman without destroying him? If he struck him he might strike too hard and slay Apeman—which was the equivalent of slaying himself. So Manape extended his mighty hands, caught Apeman under the armpits and held him up, feet swinging free. Yet Apeman still struggled, gnashed his teeth, and beat himself on the chest.

How utterly futile! As futile as Bentley in his own casement would have been against a great ape! Apeman might destroy himself through[336]his very rage. How could Bentley render the travesty unconscious and yet make sure that Apeman did not die?

If he struck he might strike too hard and slay.

What should he do?

A low coughing sound came from somewhere close by. From the deeps of his consciousness Bentley knew that sound. He clutched Apeman in his right arm, swung back to the tree and up among the branches. He was just in time. The tawny form of a great cat passed beneath, missing him by inches.

But while he had saved himself and Apeman, he had been clumsy. He had struck the head of Apeman against the bole of the tree, and Apeman hung limp in his arm. Bentley, fear such as he had never before known gripping him, pressed his huge ear to Apeman’s heart. It was beating steadily and strongly. With a great inner sigh of relief he climbed to safety in the tree, bearing Apeman with him.


H

e reached the crotch where Ellen rested, and disposed Apeman nearby, his own gross body between them. He even dared to gather Ellen closer against him for warmth. His left hand held tightly the wrist of the unconscious Apeman, so that he should not fall and become prey of the night denizens of the jungle.

So, the two who seemed to be human—Apeman and Ellen, passed from unconsciousness into natural sleep, while Bentley-Manape remained motionless between them, afraid to close his eyes lest something even more terrible than hitherto experienced might transpire. But his ears caught every sound of the jungle, and his sensitive ape’s nostrils brought him every scent—which his man’s mind strove to analyze, reaching back and back into the dim and misty past for identification of odors that were new, or that were really old, yet which had been lost to man since they had left forever the simian homes of their ancestors and their senses had become more highly specialized.

The questions which turned over and over in Bentley’s mind were these:

How shall I tell Ellen the truth? Will she believe it?

What is the rest of Barter’s experiment? How shall I proceed from this moment on? How shall I procure food for Ellen? What food will Apeman choose for my body to assimilate?

And jungle night drew on. Once Ellen shivered and pressed closer to Manape as she slept.

What would morning bring to this strange trio?

CHAPTER IX

Fate Decides

M

orning brought the great apes of the jungle—scores of them. They had approached so silently through the darkness that Bentley had not heard them, and his ape’s nostrils had not told his human brain the meaning of their odor. It appeared too that his ape’s ears had tricked him. For when morning came there were great apes everywhere.

Bentley still held the wrist of Apeman, whose chest was rising and falling naturally, though the body was limp and plainly exhausted, and exuded perspiration that told of some jungle fever or other illness perhaps, induced by hardship and over-exertion. The ape’s brain of Apeman had driven Bentley’s body to the uttermost, and now that body must pay.

Bentley wondered how far he was now from the cabin of Caleb Barter.

He doubted if Apeman could stand the return journey, though Bentley’s ape body could have carried[337] Apeman’s with ease. But would Apeman stand the journey? Apeman, Bentley knew, was going into the Valley of the Shadow, and something must be done to save him. But what?

And the great apes constituted a new menace, though they were making no effort to molest the three in the tree. Apeman must be placed in a shady place and some attention paid to his needs. But the human body with the ape’s brain could not tell how it hurt or where.

The first task was to get the two beings down from the tree, and much depended upon chance. To the apes Bentley was another ape, one moreover which had slain a number of them. But Apeman was a human being, as was Ellen Estabrook. The whole thing constituted a fine problem for the brain of Manape.


I

f Manape were to attempt first aid for Apeman, how would such a sight react upon Ellen Estabrook? If Manape were to attempt to take Apeman back to Caleb Barter, leading the way for Ellen, would she follow, and what would his action tell her? She would think herself demented, imagining things, because a great ape did things which only human beings were supposedly capable of doing.

If she knew, of course, it would make a difference. But she did not, and Bentley had no means by which to inform her. That was a problem for the future. Ellen was sleeping the sleep of utter exhaustion and he felt that he could safely leave her for the moment while he swung Apeman down from the tree. He must work fast, and return for Ellen before the great apes discovered the helpless Apeman at the foot of the tree. He hoped to get Ellen down while she slept, knowing that she would be in mortal fear of him if she wakened and found herself in his power.

Bentley got Apeman down, and looked about him. No apes were close enough, as far as he could tell, to molest Apeman before Bentley could return with Ellen. He raced back into the tree, lifted Ellen so gently that she scarcely altered the even motion of her breathing—and for a moment he hesitated. So close to him were her tired lips. So woe-begone and pathetic her appearance, a great well of pity for her rose in the heart of Bentley—or what was the seat of this emotion within him? Was the brain the seat of the emotions? Or the heart? But Bentley’s true heart was in Apeman’s human body, so there must be some other explanation for the feeling which grew and grew within Bentley for Ellen.

He leaned forward with the intention of touching his lips to the tired thin lips of Ellen Estabrook, then drew back in horror.

How could he kiss this woman whom he loved with the gross lips of Manape, the great ape?

He could, of course, but suppose she wakened at his caress and saw the great figure of the jungle brute, with all man’s emotions and desires, yet with none of man’s restraint—bending over her? Women had gone insane over less.


H

e hurried down with Ellen, and placed her beside Apeman.

By now the great apes had discovered the strange trio and were coming close to investigate. There was a huge brute who came the fastest and seemed to be the leader of the apes, if any they had. But even this one did not offer a challenge, did not seem perturbed in the least. But he did seem filled with childish curiosity. The apes themselves were like children, children grown to monstrous proportions, advancing and retreating, staring at this trio, darting away when Apeman or Ellen made some sort of movement.

Bentley could sense too their curiosity[338] where he was concerned. Their senses told them that Bentley was a great ape. Their instincts, however, made them hesitate, uncertain as to his true “identity”—or so Bentley imagined.

Ellen still slept, but she must have sensed the near presence of potential enemies, for she was stirring fitfully, preparing to waken.

What would her reaction be when she opened her eyes to see Manape near her, standing guard over Apeman, with the jungle on all sides filled with the lurking nightmare figures of other great apes?

A moan of anguish came from Apeman. He stirred, and groans which seemed to rack his whole white bruised body came forth. The brain of the ape was reacting to the suffering of Bentley’s body—and a brute was whimpering with its hurts. The advancing apes came to pause. They seemed to stare at one another in amazement. They were suddenly frightened, amazed, unable to understand the thing they saw and were listening to. Bentley crouched there, watching the apes, and he fancied he could understand their sudden new hesitancy.


H

e did not know, but he guessed that the moans and groans of Apeman were comprehensible to the great apes. They knew that this strangely white creature was an ape, though he looked like a man. Already they had wondered as much as they were capable, about Manape. They had sensed something not simian about him which puzzled them.

But from the lips of Apeman, to add to their mystification, came the groans and moans of an ape that was suffering. Bentley held his position, wondering what they would do. That they meant no harm he was sure, else they would long since have charged and overborne the three—unless they remembered the super-simian might of Manape and were afraid to attack again. Bentley hoped so, for that would make things easier for them all.

Now the nearest apes were almost beside the body of Apeman, which was still covered with agony sweat. The lips emitted moans and faint blurs of gibberish. Bentley noted that the leading ape was a great she. The female came forward hesitantly, making strange sounds in her throat, and it seemed to Bentley that Apeman answered them. For the she came forward with the barest trace of hesitancy, stared for a moment at Manape, with a sort of challenge in her savage little red eyes, then dropped to all fours beside Apeman and began to lick his wounds!

The she knew something of the injuries of Apeman and was doing what instinct told her to do for him. Now the rest of the apes were all about them—and Ellen wakened with a shrill cry of terror.

Bentley remained as a man turned to stone. If he moved toward the woman he loved she would flee from him in terror—out among the other apes and into the jungle where she would have no slightest chance for life. If he did nothing she might still run.


W

ildly she looked about her. She screamed again when she saw the she bending over the travesty she thought to be Bentley, and licking the poor bruised body. Ellen cast a sidelong look at Manape, and there was something distinctly placating in her eyes. She recognized Manape, and wanted his friendship. What thoughts crowded her brain as she realized that she was in the center of a group of anthropoids who could have destroyed her with their fingers in a matter of seconds!

She did the one thing which proved to Bentley that she was worthy of any man’s love. The great she who licked the wounds of Apeman[339] was thrice the size of Ellen. Yet Ellen crawled to Apeman, little sounds of pity in her throat. Instantly the snarling of the she sent her back. The she had, for the time being at least, assumed proprietorship of Apeman, and was bidding Ellen keep her distance. And the she meant it, too. For she bared her fighting fangs when Ellen again approached close enough to have touched the body of Apeman.

This time the she advanced a step toward the girl, and her snarl was a terrible sound. Ellen retreated, but no further than was necessary to still that snarl in the throat of the she. Manape moved in quite close now, into position to interfere if the she tried to actually injure Ellen Estabrook. If only, Bentley thought, there were some way of making himself known to Ellen! But how could she believe, even if a way were discovered?

“What shall I do?” moaned Ellen aloud, wringing her hands. “Poor Lee! I can’t move him. That brute won’t let me touch him. Oh, I’m afraid!”

Bentley wanted to tell her not to be afraid, but had learned from experience that when he tried to speak his voice was the bellowing one of a great ape. And if he were to enunciate words that Ellen could understand, what then? English from the lips of a giant anthropoid! She would not believe, would think herself insane—and with excellent reason. Slowly, as matters were transpiring, she had already been given sufficient reason to believe that her mind was tottering.


M

anape stood guard over her. A she had adopted the thing she thought was Bentley. A score of great apes, which only three days ago had tried to destroy both Bentley and herself, now surrounded Bentley and Ellen with all the appearance of amity—crude, true, but unmistakable. Certainly this was sufficiently beyond all human experience to make Ellen believe she were in the throes of some awful nightmare. What would she think if an ape began to address her in English, and “Bentley” suddenly held speech with the great apes?

Add to this possibility, suppose she were suddenly confronted with the truth—that the essential entities of Bentley and Manape had been exchanged, and the whole thing were explained to her from the gross lips of Manape himself, while “Bentley” looked on and chattered a challenge in ape language while Manape talked?

No, at first she might have understood. Now it would have been even more horrifying for her to hear the truth. She must think what she would, and be allowed to adjust herself to the astounding state of affairs. Apeman could not be moved for some time. Ellen would not leave him, naturally. Nor would Manape. And the apes apparently intended to remain with them. Which made the problem, after all, a simple one. The trio must remain for the time being among the great apes. They needed one another in a strange way, and they needed the apes themselves, which were like a formidable army at their backs, as protection against the other beasts of the wilds.

Bentley watched the great she continue her rude first aid for Apeman. Apeman was still moaning, though less fitfully, like a child that nuzzles the milk bottle, but is drifting away into sleep. The she gave the travesty her full attention. There was something horribly human about her maternal care of this creature before her. Her great arms held Apeman close while her tongue caressed his wounds. Bentley knew that that tongue was an excellent antiseptic, too. All animals licked their own wounds, and those wounds[340] healed. Only human beings knew the dangers of infection, because they had departed from Nature’s doctrines and had tried to cheat her with substitutes. Only the animals, like that great she, still were Nature’s children, healing their own wounds in Nature’s way.


S

atisfied that the apes would not molest Ellen, so long as she kept her distance from Apeman, Bentley decided to seek food, which Ellen must sorely need. The need for water was urgent, too. Bentley knew the danger of drinking water found in the jungle—but an ape could scarcely be expected to build a fire with which to boil the water, nor to produce a miracle in the shape of something to hold it in over the fire.

Here were many makeshifts indicated, then. Bentley smiled inwardly, the only way he could smile. He must feed himself, too. He must go wandering through the woods, feeding the body of Manape with grubs, worms and such nauseous provender, because it was the food to which Manape was accustomed. Apeman, when he was well enough to eat, would sicken the body of Bentley with the same sort of food, because the brain of Apeman would not know what was good or bad for the body of a human being—nor even would understand that his body was human. What did Apeman think of his condition, anyway?

That question, of course, would never be answered—unless Barter could really speak the language of the great apes and somehow managed to secure from Apeman, if Apeman lived, a recital of these hours in the jungle.

What food should Manape secure for Ellen? What fruits were edible, what poisonous? How could he tell? He watched the other apes, which were scattering here and there now, tipping over rocks and sticks to search for grubs and worms—to see what fruits they ate, if any. They would know what fruits to avoid.

An hour passed before Bentley saw one of the brutes feed upon anything except insects. A cluster of a peculiar fruit which looked like wild currants, but whose real name Bentley did not know. Now, feeling safe in his choice, because the ape was eating the berries with relish, Bentley searched until he found a quantity of the same berries, and bore them back to Ellen Estabrook.


B

eside Apeman, who now was awake and exchanging crazy gibberish with the she who had licked his wounds, Ellen Estabrook, trying to be brave, did not cry aloud. But her face was dirty, and her tears made furrows through the grime.

Manape dropped the berries beside her. The she snarled as Ellen reached for the berries. Manape flung himself forward as the she strove to take the berries before Ellen could grasp them—and cuffed her over backward with a cumbersome but lightning-fast right swing.

“Manape,” said Ellen, “if only you could talk! I feel that you are my friend, and my fears are less when you are with me. I’ll pretend that you can understand me. It helps a little to talk, for one scarcely seems so much alone. How would you feel, I wonder, Manape, if you were suddenly taken entirely out of the life you’ve always known, and forced to live in another world entirely? It would not be easy to be brave, would it? Suppose you were taken out of the wilds and dropped into a ballroom?”

Bentley could have laughed had the jest not been such a grim one. What would Ellen think if he were to answer her:

“I would be much more at home in that ballroom than that thing on the ground that you love—as matters are at this moment!”[341]

She would not understand that.

Nor did she understand when the she went away for a time and came back with a supply of worms and grubs—which nauseous supply vanished with great speed under the wolfish appetite of Apeman. There was little wonder that Ellen found it difficult to orient herself.

“I must tell her somehow,” thought Bentley, “and that soon. Surely enough has been done to satisfy the devilish curiosity of Caleb Barter.”

Toward evening the apes began to drift further into the jungle. The she gathered Apeman in her arms and moved off with him. There was nothing for Manape to do but follow, and nothing for Ellen to do but follow, too—if she loved the thing she thought was Bentley. She did not hesitate.

With unfaltering courage she followed on, and the lumbering forms of the great apes drifted further away from the sea, seemingly headed toward some mutely agreed upon jungle rendezvous. Everything depended for the time upon the return to health of Apeman. All other matters depended upon that. Each in his own way, Manape and Ellen, realized this. Caleb Barter had schemed better than he could possibly have foreseen.

CHAPTER X

Written in Dust

A

s Apeman was borne deeper into the jungle in the great arms of the she, what was more natural in the circumstances than that Ellen keep close to her only remaining link with the world she had left—Manape, the trained anthropoid of Caleb Barter? A natural thing, and one that filled Manape with obvious pleasure.

Once she touched his hand, rested her own small one in his mighty palm for a moment—and Bentley was afraid to return the pressure of her palm with the hand of Manape, lest he crush every bone in her fingers. Thereafter at intervals, while the whole aggregation drifted deeper into the jungle, Ellen clung to Manape; depended upon him. Was it her woman’s intuition which told her that Manape was a safe guardian?

Bentley refused to dwell on that phase of this wild adventure however, for there were other things to think about. It required many hours for him to discover the truth, but he knew it at last. He, Manape-Bentley, was the lord of the great apes! Before his capture, or before the capture of Manape by Caleb Barter, Manape had been leader of these apes. Now he had returned and was their ruler once more. Upstarts had taken his place, and he had slain them—back there when Apeman had tried to escape into the jungle with Ellen in his arms. To the apes this must have seemed the way it was.

Bentley was putting things together, hoping and believing that they made four—yet not sure but that he was forcing them to equal four when in actuality they were five or six. If Manape—the original ape of Barter’s capture, whose body now was Bentley’s—had been the leader of the great apes, that explained why the animals remained constantly in the vicinity of Barter’s dwelling. Barter had needed them in his plans, and had made certain their remaining near by making their leader captive. And of course only an ape sufficiently intelligent to rule other apes would have suited the evil scheme which must have been growing for years in the mind of Caleb Barter. Barter had merely waited with philosophic calmness for human beings to drift into this territory—and the Bengal Queen had obligingly gone down off the coast, throwing Ellen Estabrook and Lee Bentley into Barter’s power.[342]


W

hat was Barter doing now? Would he not be striving to watch the course of his experiment? Would he not think of details hitherto overlooked and plan further experiments, or an enlarging of this experiment of which three creatures were the victims? Surely Barter would not remain quietly at Barterville while the subjects of his experiment went deeper into the jungle with the great apes. Barter was too thorough a scientist for that. Somehow, Bentley was sure, Barter would know what was happening, even at this very moment.

He would wish to know how a modern woman would conduct herself if suddenly forced to live among apes. Therefore he would try in some manner to keep watch over the conduct of Ellen Estabrook. He would wonder how a modern man would conduct himself if he suddenly found, himself the leader of that same group of apes, and how an ape would behave if he suddenly discovered himself a man. It was a neat “experiment,” and Bentley was beginning to believe that there was probably far more to it than there first had seemed.

Barter would wish to know how all three creatures would conduct themselves in certain circumstances—Apeman, Ellen and Bentley. He would not leave it to chance, for Bentley now realized that Barter himself did not feel inimical to either Ellen, Apeman or Bentley. To him they were merely an experiment. Barter would not wish for Apeman to die, and thus deprive Barter of a certain knowledge relative to one angle of his unholy experiment. He would not wish for Manape-Bentley to remain forever as Manape-Bentley, lacking the power of speech, either human speech or the gibberish of the apes.

No, all this was not being left to chance. Bentley believed that Barter was directing the destination of these three subjects of his, as surely as though he were right with them at this moment, driving them to his will with that awful lash which had made him feared by the great apes.


Y

es, Barter was still the master mind. It made Bentley feel awfully helpless. Yet—he was the leader of the great apes. That, too, Barter must have foreseen. Would Barter try in any way to discover how Bentley would behave in an emergency as leader of the apes? Would he wish to know sufficiently to create an emergency? From Bentley’s knowledge of the twisted genius of Caleb Barter, he fully believed that Barter planned yet other angles to his experiment.

If he did, then what would he do next?

It was not until the storm broke over the strange aggregation of great apes, who seemed to be holding two white people prisoners, that Bentley understood that from the very beginning he should have been able to see the obvious denouement—the mad climax which even then was preparing in the jungle ahead, simply waiting for the great apes to drift, feeding as they went without a thought of danger, into the trap set for them.

Ellen now kept her hand in the great palm of Manape. She wept on occasions, when she thought of the apparent hopelessness of her position, but for the most part she was brave, and Bentley grew to love her more as the hours passed—even as he grew more impatient at his inability to express his love. If he tried he could simply frighten her—fill her with horror because, gentle though he was with her and he was a great ape, a fact which nothing could change. Nor could anybody change the fact, except Caleb Barter. Where was the scientist? What would be his next move if he were not leaving the working out of his experiment[343] entirely to chance, which seemed not at all in keeping with the thorough manner of his experiment thus far.

The future was a dark, painful obscurity, in which all things were hidden, in which anything might happen—because Caleb Barter would wish for it to happen.


H

ow long would Barter wait before making his next move? Long enough for Ellen to accustom herself to life among the apes? Long enough to discover whether her natural intelligence would guide her to eke out existence among hardships such as human beings never thought of, except perhaps in nightmares? Long enough to allow the brain of Bentley to discover what miracles intellect might do with the body of Manape? Long enough for Apeman to be well of his illness, so that he might observe what havoc an ape’s brain might work with a human body?

Certainly when one gave the hideous experiment full thought, its possible angles of development, its many potential ramifications, were astounding in the extreme. Was it not up to Bentley then to do something besides mope and pine for the impossible, and thus hasten the hour when Barter should be wholly satisfied with his experiment?

What would Apeman do, how would he behave, when the white body of Bentley was well again? Would that body grow well faster when guided by an ape’s brain than when a human brain was in command? Certainly Caleb Barter must have listed all these questions and hundreds of others which had not as yet occurred to Bentley. If he had he would not transfer the two intelligences back to their proper places until all of his questions were answered to his satisfaction. Bentley himself must somehow force an answer to some of them.

To do this he must try to guess what sort of questions Barter would have listed, and try to work out their answers—assuming all the time that Barter, from some undiscovered coign of vantage would be watching for the answers he hoped his experiment would provide.

Bentley arrived at a decision. Ellen must long since have become numbed to the horror which encompassed her. Bentley knew that a human brain could stand only so much, beyond which it was no longer surprised or horrified. He guessed, noting the pale face of his beloved, that Ellen had well nigh reached that stage.

He decided to take a tremendous risk with her sanity, hoping thereby to do his part in working out the details of Barter’s experiment.


T

he sun was creeping into the west when the roving apes came to pause in a sort of clearing. Some of them curled up in sleep. The she who carried Apeman squatted with Apeman in her arms, and licked his wounds again.

That Apeman was recovering was plainly evident, and when he saw it filled Bentley with an odd mixture of thankfulness and revulsion. Apeman was essentially an ape. With all his strength back he would revert to type, and what if he forced the body of Bentley to do horrible things that Ellen would never be able to forget or condone—even when she at last knew the truth? What if Apeman selected, for example, a mate—from among the hairy she’s? For Apeman that would be natural, for Bentley horrible.

Yet it might easily transpire. Apeman might relinquish the white she to a successful rival—which he would regard Manape as being—and content himself with a choice from the ape she’s. Somehow that unholy thing must not happen. That was up to Manape-Bentley.[344]

Or, with his strength fully returned, Apeman might again desire Ellen, and force the issue with Manape for her possession—which seemed equally horrible to the brain of Bentley.

Ellen remained as close to Apeman as the she would permit her. Manape-Bentley crouched close by. After a time Apeman slept, and Bentley was pleased to notice that the agony sweat no longer beaded Apeman’s body, and that Apeman was recovering with superhuman swiftness—thanks to the ministrations of the unnamed she who had taken charge of him. Apeman now rarely groaned, sleeping or waking.

Ellen watched the sleeping Apeman with her heart—and her fears—in her eyes. Satisfied that he slept, and that his sleep was healthy, Ellen again approached the creature she knew as Manape, Barter’s trained ape.

“If only you could talk,” she said to him. “If only you were able to give some hope. If only there were some way I could cause you to understand my wishes—understand and help me.”


B

entley did not answer. He knew that to be useless. But his brain remembered something. His brain recalled that moment in the cage in the dwelling of Barter, when his human brain had tried to force obedience from the great clumsy hands of Manape, when he had tried to force those mighty fingers to unfasten the knots which held the cage door secure.

Could he force those hands to something else?

Did he dare try?

It was a terrible risk to take with Ellen’s sanity, but Bentley felt it must be taken. She was watching him hopelessly, and her lips moved as though she prayed for a miracle—as though by some weird necromancy she might force Manape to understand her words, and to answer her, allaying her fears, destroying her hopelessness.

When Ellen watched him, Bentley searched about nearby until he found a dried stick perhaps eight feet in length. He held it up, sniffed at it, fumbled it with his heavy, grotesque fingers. He focussed the attention of Ellen upon that stick, while his excitement mounted and mounted, and his fear of possible consequences kept pace with his excitement.

Then, his decision reached, he began again that species of hypnosis which seemed necessary to compel the hands and fingers of Manape to do things no ape’s hands had ever done before, no ape’s brain had ever thought of doing.

He pressed one end of the stick against the ground at his sprawling feet. With his left palm he smoothed out an area of dust several feet in either direction—a rough dusty rectangle.

Interested, her brows puckered in concentration. Ellen watched as Manape went through these gestures which were so strangely, terribly human.

Her eyes were watching the end of that twig which the trained ape was so clumsily clutching in both hands.

She saw the marks the twig made in the dust as Manape caused it to move—slowly, horribly, fearfully, from left to right across the area of dust.


F

ear began to grow in her face, but Bentley forced himself on. Again the fetid odor of ape sweat covered him. This awful concentration, this awful task of forcing Manape to write English words was in itself a miracle, more miraculous even than Ellen would have thought of praying for.

Her eyes were glued to the sprawling, uneven, misshapen marks in the[345] dust with hypnotic fascination. Bentley dared not look at her, because it required all his will to force the clumsy hands of Manape to his bidding.

He could only watch the marks in the dust, and will with all the power of his human intelligence that the hands of Manape make their shape sufficiently plain that Ellen might read them—and hope besides that this terrible thing would not send the sorely harassed girl into the jungle, madly shrieking for deliverance from a nightmare.

There, the words were written—and Ellen was staring at them, her eyes wide and unblinking, her body as rigid as stone, and her face as cold. Only three words were possible without an interval of rest, but those three words, among all Bentley might have selected, were the most to the point, the most unbelievable, the most black-magical.

“I am Lee!”

Minutes went into eternity as Ellen stared at the words. Silence that it seemed would never be broken hang over the clearing. The bickering of the apes passed unnoticed as Ellen stared. Then, slowly, she tried to raise her eyes to meet those of Manape.

She failed. Her body went limp and she slid forward on her face in the dust. Manape-Bentley gently turned her on her side and waited. What would he see in her beloved eyes when she regained consciousness?

CHAPTER XI

Barter Acts

B

entley remained motionless, awaiting Ellen’s return to consciousness. He waited in fear and trembling. How would she react to the horrible thing he had told her?

Now there was possibility of converse between them. If she knew and realized the meaning of his revelation. But would her mind stand up under the awfulness of it? He had thought so, else he would not have taken the chance he had taken. Much now depended upon Ellen, and all he could do was wait.

Slowly she began to move. Moans escaped her lips, little pathetic moans, and the name of Lee Bentley.

At last her eyes opened, and widened with horror when they met those of Manape. Bentley knew that there were tears on the face of Bentley-Manape. Manape, it seemed, cried easily, like a child.

Her eyes still wide with horror. Ellen Estabrook slowly turned them until she gazed at the dust rectangle in which presumably a great ape had written words in English. But Bentley-Manape had rubbed out the words. She turned and looked at Manape again, and her lips writhed and twisted. She was seeking for words, shaping words, to ask questions such as none in all the world’s history had ever asked of a giant anthropoid, with any hope of receiving answers.

“You tell me you are Lee,” she began slowly, hesitantly, as though the words were literally forced from her against her will. “I cannot grasp the meaning of that. You say you are Lee, yet I recognize you as Manape, Caleb Barter’s great ape. Yet Manape could not have written those words. Yet, if you are Lee Bentley, who or what is that?”


S

he turned and pointed a trembling finger at Apeman. Bentley of course could not answer her in words, yet his mind was busy conceiving of some way in which he might answer her. She turned back to him after a long look at Apeman and studied him. His huge barrel chest, the mighty arms, the receding forehead—the outward seeming of a giant ape.

Again that hesitant, horribly difficult task, of forcing the arms of[346] Manape to perform actions which were not natural to the arms of a great ape. Bentley managed to raise the right arm in the gesture of pointing.

He pointed at the other apes, some of which slept, some of which ate of grubs and worms, or bickered savagely among themselves over whatever childish trifles seemed important to the ape mind.

“You mean,” said Ellen huskily, “that Lee Bentley there is really an ape?”

Manape nodded, ponderously.

Ellen’s face became animated. She was beginning to understand how to hold speech with Manape.

“You tell me he is a great ape, yet he has the body of Lee Bentley. You tell me you are Bentley, yet I see you as Manape. Caleb Barter’s trained ape. How am I to understand? Are my eyes betraying me, or is this a nightmare from which I shall waken presently? I see the shape of Manape, who writes in the dust that he is Lee. How can I know? None of you I can see is Lee Bentley. What part of you that I cannot see is Lee?”


A

gain the effort of forcing the hands of Manape to obedience.

Manape-Bentley tapped his receding forehead with his knuckles, and a gasp burst from the lips of Ellen Estabrook.

“You mean your brain is Bentley’s brain, and that Bentley’s body holds the brain of a great ape?”

Manape nodded clumsily.

“But how? You mean—Caleb Barter? I remember about him now. A master surgeon, an expert on anesthesia—a thousand years ahead of his time. You mean then that we three are part of an experiment? You, Manape, have the brain of Bentley, and Bentley has the brain of a great ape?”

Bentley nodded.

The face of Ellen Estabrook writhed and twisted. Her eyes studied the person of Manape the great ape. She could not believe the thing she had been told, yet she was thinking back and back—back to when Apeman had carried her away, his subsequent behavior, his behavior in the house of Barter, and his interest in the she ape who had licked his wounds.

She remembered how Manape in the beginning had looked at her with the eyes of a lustful man—and how later all his attitude had been protective. There seemed evidence in plenty to support the statement Manape had mutely managed to give her. She was forced to believe.

“But, Lee,”—she came closer to Manape as she spoke—”we must do something for that creature there—that thing with the ape she which looks like the man I love. You’ve heard me say that I love Lee Bentley?”

Manape nodded.

“Does Lee Bentley love me?”

Again Manape nodded, more vehemently this time. Ellen smiled. Then, quickly, she came to Manape, thrust her fingers against his skull and examined it closely. Her brows were furrowed in concentration. She left Manape and strode to Apeman. The she growled at her but she ignored the beast as much as possible, though plainly cognizant of the fact that she dared not touch her hands to Apeman on pain of being torn asunder by the fighting fangs of the ape she.


T

hen Ellen came back.

“The evidence is there, Lee,” she said. “There are the marks of a surgeon’s instruments. Marvelous. One is almost inclined to forget the horror of it in the realization that a miracle has been performed. The operation was perfect. But what did he use for anesthesia? How did Barter manage to complete his operation and cause his two patients to[347] feel no-ill effects, to be to all intents and purposes well in mind and body—all within less than twelve hours? However, that does not matter now. Something must be done. Since Caleb Barter was the only man who could perform this unholy operation, he is the only one who could repeat it restoring each of you to your proper earthly casements. So we must play in with him. I suppose you’ve long since decided that way, Lee?”

How strange it seemed to Ellen to discuss such matters with Manape. But behind his brutish exterior was the brain of the man whom she loved.

“And there is one other thing,” Ellen almost whispered, and her face flushed rosily. “No harm must come to the body of Lee, you understand? He must never be permitted to do anything of which Lee Bentley of after years may have cause to feel ashamed.”

Manape nodded. He understood her, and despite the grotesquerie of the whole thing there was something intimate and sweet about this interchange. A man and woman loved. Just now that love was mentioned more or less in the abstract, discussed on purely a mental basis—but both Bentley and Ellen Estabrook were thinking of the future, and were as frank with each other as they perhaps ever would be again.


N

ow the apes were beginning to stir themselves. It was time to be on the move again. Eyes were turned toward Manape, who was plainly intended to lead them further into the jungle. Ellen and the white body of Bentley were already being accepted as a matter of course.

If the great apes wondered why their returned lord did not jabber with them in the gibberish of the great apes, there was no way of telling, for there was no way in which Manape could make himself understood, nor any way the great apes could tell their thoughts to Manape.

Then, without warning, the blow fell.

The storm broke, and even as the uproar started Bentley was sure that he could sense behind it the fine hand of Caleb Barter—still working out his “experiment,” with human beings and apes as the pawns.

The apes were on the move, entering a series of aisles through the gloomy woods when the blow fell—in the shape of scores of nets, in whose folds within a matter of seconds the great apes were fighting and snarling helplessly. They expended their mighty strength to no avail. They fought at ropes and thongs which they did not understand—and only Manape made no effort to fight, knowing it useless.

Scores of black folk armed with spears danced and yelled in the brush, frankly delighted at the success of their grand coup. Barter was nowhere to be seen, and there was a possibility that he knew nothing about this. Yet Bentley knew better. Perhaps, in order to stimulate the blacks, he had offered them money for great apes taken alive. Anyhow, scores of the apes were taken, and now exhausted themselves in savage bellowing and snarling, as they fought for freedom.

A half dozen to each net, the blacks gathered in their captives. They made much over Ellen Estabrook. They pawed over Apeman despite his snarls and bellowings, and laughed when Apeman played the ape as though to the manner born. They scented some mystery here, a white man raised by the apes, perhaps. But that Ellen and Apeman were prisoners of blacks, Bentley could plainly understand. He scarcely knew which was the more horrible for her—to be[348] prisoner of the apes or the blacks.

But for the moment there was nothing he could do. And the blacks were not torturing either Apeman or Ellen, though there was no mistaking what he saw in the faces of the blacks when they looked at Ellen and grinned at one another.

Darkness had fallen over the world when the blacks went shouting into a village of mud-wattled huts, bearing the trophies of their ape hunt. Still in their nets for safety’s sake, the great apes were thrown into a sort of stockade which had plainly just been built for their reception—proof to Bentley that this decision to make an attack against the passing band of anthropoids had been a sudden one. What did that indicate?

Someone had caused the blacks to react in a way that never would have occurred to them ordinarily.

Caleb Barter?

Bentley thought so. What now was Bentley supposed to do? What did Barter expect him to do? What did Barter expect Ellen to do? What did he expect Apeman to do?

There was no question, as Bentley saw it, but that Caleb Barter still pulled the strings, and that before morning this jungle village was to witness a horror it should never forget.

But at the moment Bentley had but one thought: to escape quietly with Ellen and Apeman, and return to the dwelling of Caleb Barter.

CHAPTER XII

Jungle Justice

A

gain that grim concentration on the part of Bentley, forcing the unaccustomed great hands of Manape to perform things they had never done before. He must release himself from the rope net which held him. For the hands of a human being the task would have been easy. For the hands of Manape, even though guided by the will of Bentley, the task was far from easy.

But he persevered.

An hour after the apes had been dumped in the stockade, Bentley had released himself from the rope net and was resting after the awful ordeal of forcing the hands of Manape to do his bidding. He pressed himself against the uprights of the stockade, and carefully tested them with his strength. The strength of Bentley would never have availed against the stout uprights of the stockade. Yet Manape-Bentley knew that with the arms of Manape he could tear the uprights out of the ground as easily as though they had been match-sticks. What should he do now?

His first impulse of course was to release the rest of the great apes. The brutes still fought at their bindings and were utterly insane with rage. What would they do when they were released? What was his duty where they were concerned? If they went wild through the native village, slaying and laying waste, would Bentley be responsible for loss of life? If he left the apes in the hands of the natives, what then? He would never afterward forgive himself. He knew them as children of the wilds, carefree and happy brutes of the jungle. Now if held captives indefinitely they would either die or spend the rest of their lives in cages.

No, he would release the animals, one by one. The natives would have to take their chances.


A

white figure loomed out of the darkness, coming from the direction of a great bonfire which showed all the jungle surrounding in weird, crimson relief. The white figure, all but nude, was Apeman! Following him were several natives, who laughed and prodded Apeman with the butts of their spears.

Bentley understood that. They[349] thought Apeman a demented white man, and to these natives a demented one was a butt of jokes. They did not even suspect the horror of the possible revenge that was growing in the brain of the ape which controlled the body of Apeman.

Twice or thrice Apeman tried to dart into the jungle, but always the blacks prevented, heading him toward the cage where the apes were held prisoners. Bentley wondered where Ellen was and what was happening to her.

A celebration of some sort seemed going forward in the village. Was Caleb Barter somewhere near, perhaps on the edge of the jungle, grinning gleefully at this thing he had brought about as part of his unholy experiment? There was no way of knowing of course, yet.

But….

Apeman reached the side of the stockade and snarled back at his annoyers, while his white hands grasped the uprights and tore at them with futile savagery. A strange situation. Inside the stockade a score of brutes who could rip the stockade to bits. Outside, one of them free, but hampered by the puny strength of a human being.

The blacks shouted to Apeman but of course Bentley could not understand what they said. Apeman turned after snarling at them for a few moments, and began to chatter in that gibberish which appeared to be Apeman’s only mode of speech—ape language on the lips of a man! This was the only time it had ever happened.

The apes stirred fitfully as Apeman chattered, and began to renew their attacks on their bonds. The blacks, after watching Apeman for a few moments turned back toward the bonfire, evidently satisfied that this strange demented creature would not run away. Apeman chattered and the apes made answer.

The she who had nursed Apeman managed to reach the side of the stockade, and for several moments Bentley listened to the horrible grotesqueries—an ape she and a man talking together in brutish gibberish, and with hellish intimacy.

Now, wondering just how matters would work themselves out, Bentley set himself the task of releasing the apes. They would at least create a furor in the village, during which Bentley could escape into the jungle with Apeman and Ellen Estabrook before the natives could reorganise themselves and give chase.

His plan was hazy, and he figured without the savagery of Apeman who occupied that white body which had been Bentley’s. His one thought was to free the apes, set them upon the village, and escape with Apeman and Ellen. Just that and no more; but he did not know the great apes, nor how thoroughly they followed the lead of their lord whom they knew as Manape, though how he was named in their brains he was never to know.

One by one he released the apes. They seemed to sense the necessity for stealth, for they began to ape the cautious behavior of Manape. Apeman, outside, seemed to be advising them, telling them what to do.


O

ne by one as Manape released them, the apes squatted side by side, their red angry little eyes watching his every move. Bentley knew of course what a fearful racket his own appearance would cause when he strode out of the gloom among the blacks, seeking Ellen. But he knew that surprise for a few precious moments would render the blacks incapable of stopping him until he got away. At least he hoped so.

Beyond that he had no other plan. All depended upon the behavior of the apes and the reaction of the blacks who were holding a devil’s[350]dance about the mighty fire in the center of their village. Bentley did not even yet dare guess what the apes would do when they saw what Manape-Bentley did. Would they follow him? Or would they race for the jungle to escape?

A few minutes now would tell the tale. He had released the last of the great apes, who now lined the side of the stockade, apparently holding angry converse with Apeman. Bentley was reminded of the old fashioned mob of pioneer days—angrily muttering yet lacking a leader to direct their efforts. Well, he had done his duty as he saw it. From now on things must take their course.

But Bentley waited, watching the dancing figures about the fire. As far as he could tell the dance was approaching some sort of a climax. The figures leaped higher as they danced, and the noise of their shouting raced and rolled across the jungle. They appeared to be drunk with some sort of excitement, perhaps helped by native liquor, perhaps because of superstitious frenzy.

If he waited for their excitement to die down a bit, for some of them to go to sleep, his chances of releasing Ellen would be better. It would not be hard for him to find her—not with Manape’s sensitive nose to lead him to her.


B

ut time passed and the apes, though apparently being urged to something by Apeman, watching Manape sullenly, apparently waiting for him to make some move.

Then, sharp as a knife, cutting through the other noises of the village, came Ellen’s voice.

“Help, Lee! Help me!”

The scream was broken short off as though a hand had clutched the girl’s throat, but Bentley waited for no more—and Manape-Bentley flew into action. His great hands went to the uprights of the stockade. His mighty shoulders heaved and twisted and the uprights were ripped apart.

The apes followed his lead, and the cracking of the stockade’s uprights was like a volley of pistol shots. The great brutes fairly walked through the green saplings which formed the prison. Manape was leading the charge, and the apes, once through, did not hesitate. If their leader charged the blacks they would follow—and did, while among them danced, cavorted and gibbered the travesty, Apeman.

He was Bentley’s lieutenant, and Bentley-Manape was the lord of the apes. Just now he forgot that he was more ape than man. Just now he was happy that his strength was the strength of many men. He was hurrying to the assistance of the woman he loved.

Behind him came the great apes, following like an army of poorly trained recruits, yet armed as no army has ever been armed since the days when men fought with fist and fang against their enemies. Bentley lumbered swiftly toward the sound of Ellen’s voice, aided in his journey by the odor of her which came to his sensitive ape’s nostrils.


T

he blacks never saw the approach of the apes, until, led by Manape the Mighty, the great apes were right among them. Bentley did not pause. A black man saw him and shrieked aloud in terror, a shriek which seemed to freeze the other blacks in all sorts of postures. Sitting men remained where they sat, and some of the motionless ones saved their lives by their immobility. Dancers paused in midstride, and those who did not, died.

For the hands of the great apes clutched at everything that moved, and the great shoulders bulged, and the mighty muscles cracked, and men were torn asunder as though they had been flies in the hands of vengeful boys.[351]

The black who had shrieked hurled a spear, purely a reflex, perhaps—an action born of its habitual use. It missed Bentley by a narrow margin, but passed through the stomach of the she who had nursed Apeman. Snarling, snapping at the thing which hurt her, the she tore the weapon free—then waddled forward swiftly, caught the man who had hurled the spear, and tore his head off with a single twisting movement of her great hands.

Next moment her blood was mingling with that of her slayer as she fell above him. But her hands, in the convulsions of death, still ripped and tore, and the black whom she held was a ghastly thing when the she was finally dead. Bentley did not see the ghastly end of the spearman, for he was seeking Ellen, and at the some time keeping a close watch on Apeman.

Apeman seemed to be urging the apes to the attack, bidding them rip and tear and gnash, and the apes were doing that, making of the village a crimson shambles. But they did it in passing, for Manape was their leader, and him they followed—and he was seeking Ellen Estabrook.


T

he door of the hut in which his nostrils told him she would be found, gave before his mighty chest as though it had been made of paper. Inside, in the glow of the native lamp, a huge black man cowered against the further wall of the hut, with spear poised.

But the black man seemed frozen with terror.

“Lee! Lee!”

Bentley essayed one glance at her. In the other corner she was, with the upper part of her clothing almost torn from her body.

Then the spearman hurled his weapon. Bentley strove to force the huge bulk of Manape’s body to dodge the spear; but that body was slow in doing so—and took a mortal wound!

But it was a wound that would mean slow death. An aching, terrible wound. Then Manape-Bentley had grasped the body of the black, lifted it high above his head, and crashed it to the hard packed floor of the hut. The hut fairly shook with the thud of that fall. At once Manape stooped, caught the black by the ankles and pulled in opposite direction with all his terrific might.

Then he whirled, masking what he had done from Ellen’s sight with his huge, sorely wounded body.

He tried to send her a message with his eyes, but it was not necessary. She knew Manape, Barter’s trained ape. She followed close at his heels. Outside the hut’s door Apeman still urged the apes to destruction of men and property, of women and children. The village of the blacks had become a place of horror.

“Hurry, Lee!” gasped Ellen. “You’ve been grievously wounded, and if Manape dies, nothing can save you—and I shall not care to live!”

But Bentley knew. His brain could sense the approach of death, and what he now must do was very plain.

He charged at Apeman and caught the struggling, snarling travesty up in his mighty arms. Then, with Ellen at his heels, he leaped into the jungle and began the race for the house of Caleb Barter.


L

ife was going from him, yet his brain forced onward the body of Manape. Behind came the great apes, following their leader. Now and again they screamed and snarled at him, but he paid them no heed. They could follow or leave him, as they chose. They chose to follow.

Apeman fought and bit at Bentley,[352] but he paid him as little heed as though he had been nothing at all. Now and again when Ellen faltered Bentley caught her up, too, and carried her with Apeman until Ellen was rested enough to go on.

Some of the apes appeared to realize whither they were going, for they took to the trees and vanished onward. With Apeman alone, Bentley himself would have taken to the trees as the swiftest way back to Barter’s dwelling. But Ellen could not race along the upper terraces, and Bentley could not carry both Apeman and Ellen and leave the ground. But he could travel swiftly on his race with death, with Ellen as the prize if he won.

The hours passed, and the strength of Manape decreased; but fiercely the brain of Bentley drove the mighty body on. Ellen sobbed with weariness but continued on, and no words were spoken. There was no time for words. Now and again Bentley forced Apeman to walk, and dragged him forward with a hand clutching his wrist. At such times Bentley carried Ellen, and scarcely slackened his stride under her weight.


O

nce he tried to force Apeman to carry her, but the arms of Apeman were not equal to the task for more than fifty yards or so, and he gave that up as being impracticable. His brain raced, thinking up ways to travel faster, to reach Barter’s quarters before the mighty body of Manape should die, and with it the brain of Bentley.

Surely no stranger cavalcade ever before traversed the jungles of the Black Continent.

So they came at last to the clearing. The apes protested and remained in hiding, while Bentley, never pausing, raced across toward the house he would never forget.

The body of Manape was almost through, for it staggered like a drunken man. Blood covered the mighty chest, and the brain of Bentley felt hazy; nothing made sense; and the end was very near.

But they reached the door of Barter’s dwelling, and Barter himself met them, bearing his cruel whip in his hand. Ellen roused herself from her extreme exhaustion and clutched at the scientist’s hand.

“Professor Barter!” she begged. “Please, please! Manape is almost dead! Hurry! Hurry, for the love of God!”

“There, there, my dear young lady,” said Barter soothingly. “Make yourself easy. There’s no cause for worry.”

Manape-Bentley toppled forward on the floor of the cabin. Ellen screamed and Barter comforted her. Apeman tried to escape to the jungle, but the lash of Barter drove him cowering and whimpering to a corner.

Then, oblivion—save that somewhere was the odor of violets. Or did violets possess odor? Then, if not, the odor of flowers he thought were violets.

CHAPTER XIII

The Horror Passes

S

lowly consciousness returned to Bentley, and his first thought was one of horror. From somewhere distinct came a doleful wailing sound. He thought he knew what it was—the mourning of great apes over a member that had died.

He had read somewhere that the great apes sorrowed when any of their members died. Bentley opened his eyes. He could make out the ceiling of a room that he recognized. It was the room that had been first assigned him in the dwelling of Barter.

Ellen Estabrook would be somewhere nearby. He opened his lips to call to her. Then he remembered. He’d tried to call to her before—and[353] had merely bellowed like an ape. No, there was something he must know first.

His arms and hands seemed as heavy as lead, but he lifted them and looked at them—and a great feeling of peace descended upon him. Manape-Bentley was gone, and he was plain Lee Bentley again. There was his own ring, which Apeman had worn, and besides he had just spoken aloud, softly, for no ears save his own, and the voice had been Lee Bentley’s voice.

Yes, Barter had kept his promise, and Lee Bentley was Lee Bentley again.

But he was very weak, and his body was racked with pain. His hands and arms were covered with bandages. His body seemed packed in concrete, so moveless was it, and when he raised his voice it was terribly weak.

“Ellen,” he managed to call; and again, “Ellen, darling!”

Instantly there came a swift patter of feet and Ellen was beside his bed, on her knees, covering his face—what there was of it unbandaged—with kisses. There was really no need for words between these two.

“Lee,” she whispered, “I’ve been so afraid. You’ve been like this for a week, despite the miraculous knowledge and skill of Professor Barter. I’ve waited in fear and trembling, praying for you to live, and now you are Lee again, and will live on. Professor Barter has promised me. All you need now is food, and care, and I shall shower you with both. Barter has instructed me so carefully that I could manage even to care for you, sick as you are, without him here at all.”

“And Manape?” Bentley’s voice seemed to be stronger.

“He is dead,” whispered Ellen. “I shall never forget him. There was something great, something even better than human about him, Lee! Oh, I know that he was you—but where would all three of us have been had it not been for the powerful body of Manape, the great ape? Manape is dead, and in the jungle hereabouts the great apes mourn his passing. They’ve been wailing almost like human beings for a week. Manape—well, Professor Barter told me that you too would have died, had Manape reached his door five minutes later. As it was, he, and you, were just in time!”

“It’s amazing,” whispered Bentley, “that the great apes stay around here now that Manape is dead.”

“Yes. It’s strange—and terrible I think. There have been times when I felt they were waiting for something, for Professor Barter, perhaps. I’ve had the feeling they believe he killed their leader.”

Now the two became silent, and Ellen held the bruised and broken hands of Bentley in both her own, and their eyes said things, one to the other, which eyes say so much better than lips do. They kissed each other softly, and Ellen crooned with ecstasy, her cheek against Bentley’s.


T

hen Caleb Barter entered.

“Well, well,” he said, “when a man is in condition to make love to a woman, he is well on the road to recovery. It won’t hurt you to talk now, Bentley, and before I begin asking questions, let me assure you that you will suffer no ill effects from your experience.”

“What of my memories?” asked Bentley softly.

“Forget them!” snapped Barter tartly. “That is, after you have told me everything that has happened. Miss Estabrook has already told me her angle of the experiment. Now, talk please—and then I shall make you well, and you shall both go into the world with me, and tell people that what I have to tell is true!”[354]

So Bentley talked. Barter wrote like a man possessed. His fingers raced over the paper, repeating the words which fell from the lips of Lee Bentley, beside whom Ellen sat, holding his hands. Now and again Barter uttered an ejaculation of fierce joy. He was like a child with a toy that pleased him beyond words. He could scarcely wait for the words to spill from the lips of Lee Bentley.

When Bentley paused for breath, Barter exclaimed impatiently, and urged him to greater speed. He thought of but one thing, his experiment.

And so at last Bentley had finished.

“That’s all, Professor Barter!” he said softly.

“All!” cried Barter. “Everything! Fame! Wealth! Adulation! There is nothing in the world Caleb Barter may not have when this story is told! I can scarcely contain myself. You must hurry to be well in order that the world may be told at once.”

Laughing immoderately, Barter piled the manuscript he had written, and weighted it with a piece of rock. His face was a constant grin. His fingers trembled with eagerness. He could not contain himself.

Finally, as though from sheer joy of what he had accomplished, he raced from the cabin, and out across the clearing. Ellen and Bentley smiled at each other. Moments passed. Still came to their ears the mourning wails of the great apes.


T

hen suddenly there broke a sound so utterly appalling that the two were frozen with terror for a moment. First it was the laughter of Caleb Barter. Then, mingled with the laughter, the bellowing, frightful and paralyzing, of man apes challenging a hated enemy. The drumming of ape fists on huge barrel chests. Then the laughter of Barter, dying away, ironic, terrible, into silence. Immediately afterward, high-pitched, mighty as the jungle itself, the concerted cries of half a dozen apes, as if bellowing their joy of the kill.

“They—they—” began Ellen in a choked voice. “The apes must have got Professor Barter!”

Silently Bentley nodded, and pointed.

Coiled on a nail near the door was Barter’s whip. In his excitement he had gone into the jungle without it for the first—and last—time.

“There is one thing to do,” whispered Ellen, “before we prepare to get you fully well. I shall care for you, and we shall both try to forget. And then we shall return to our own people.”

“And the one thing?” asked Bentley.

The strained silence was suddenly broken by the bellowing of the great apes, which now charged into the cabin. Bentley and Ellen cringed back from the murderous brutes to no avail. There was no denying them. Their slavering jaws, drooled below flaring nostrils, their eyes emitted sparks of animal fury. Bentley leaped to the girl and interposed his body between hers and the vanguard of the apes, who now were surging into the room through the open door, and spreading apart within like water released from a dam.

The apes were bent on murder, there could be no doubt.

A very monster towered over Bentley. His jaws were wide, his little red eyes fixed on the white man’s neck. His great arms were coming forward to gather in both Ellen and Bentley—whom he could crush as easily as he crushed the grubs which were his food.

Bentley was helpless and knew it. This was the end for Ellen and himself. He must meet it unafraid. He tensed, awaiting the descent of bestial destruction. His eyes met[355] the murderous gleam in the eyes of the ape leader unflinchingly. And then the miracle happened.

The brute became suddenly and inexplicably hesitant. His bellow died away to a gurgling murmur in which there seemed somehow a hint of apology. The fire went out of his eyes. His jaws closed with a snap. His great arms, already about Bentley, slid harmlessly over Bentley’s shoulders; dropped to his shaggy side.

The brute’s little eyes looked long and in puzzled fashion into the eyes of Bentley. Then he began to chatter, and in a moment the other apes ambled grotesquely toward the door and out. Ellen and Bentley were alone together once more, unharmed—though numbed by realization of the near passing of disaster.

“I don’t understand it,” muttered Bentley, brushing the beads of perspiration from his brow. “It was a miracle!”

“Lee,” Ellen answered, “I think I know, and it is a sort of miracle. Somehow the apes felt that you were—whatever your guise—Manape. They did not recognize you by any of their means of recognition; yet that beast knew! How? Only God Himself might answer. But the beasts knew, and did not slay us. The inner voice which whispers inside us in times of crises, whispers also to the great apes! Barter, then must have understood their somehow spiritual kinship with us. His experiments—”

Her words reminded Bentley of what she had been saying when the great apes had charged in upon them, murder bent. He interrupted her, gently.

“And the one thing we must do?” he rallied her.

Ellen rose, and her face was white and strained as she gathered together Barter’s manuscript. This she carried to the fireplace. She applied a match and returned to Bentley’s bedside. Then, side by side, the two who would never forget in any case watched the record of Barter’s unholy experiment burn slowly to ashes, while the screams of the great apes died away second by second, proof that they were leaving this section of the jungle—going deeper and deeper into the forest gloom which was their rightful heritage, and from which no man had a right to take them.

 

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[356]

Holocaust

By Charles Willard Diffin

It passed beneath the planes, that were motionless by

contrast.It passed beneath the planes, that were motionless by contrast.

 

I

am more accustomed to the handling of steel ingots and the fabrication of ships than to building with words. But, if I cannot write history as history is written, perhaps I can write it the way it is lived, and that must suffice.

The extraordinary story of “Paul,” who for thirty days was Dictator of the World.

This account of certain events must have a title, I am told. I have used, as you see: “Holocaust.” Inadequate!—but what word can tell even faintly of that reign of terror that engulfed the world, of those terrible thirty days in America when dread and horror[357] gripped the nation and the red menace, like a wall of fire, swept downward from the north? And, at last—the end!

It was given to me to know something of that conflict and of its ending and of the man who, in that last day, took command of Earth’s events and gave battle to Mars, the God of War himself. It was against the background of war that he stood out; I must tell it in that way; and perhaps my own experience will be of interest. Yet it is of the man I would write more than the war—the most hated man in the whole world—that strange character, Paul Stravoinski.

You do not even recognize the name. But, if I were to say instead the one word, “Paul”—ah, now I can see some of you start abruptly in sudden, wide-eyed attention, while the breath catches in your throats and the memory of a strange dread clutches your hearts.

‘Straki,’ we called him at college. He was never “Paul,” except to me alone; there was never the easy familiarity between him and the crowd at large, whose members were “Bill” and “Dick” and other nicknames unprintable.

But “Straki” he accepted. “Bien, mon cher ami,” he told me—he was as apt to drop into French as Russian or any of a dozen other languages—”a name—what is it? A label by which we distinguish one package of goods from a thousand others just like it! I am unlike: for me one name is as good as another. It is what is here that counts,”—he tapped his broad forehead that rose high to the tangle of black hair—”and here,”—and this time he placed one hand above his heart.

“It is for what I give to the world of my head and my heart that I must be remembered. And, if I give nothing—then the name, it is less than nothing.”


D

reamer—poet—scientist—there were many Paul Strakis in that one man. Brilliant in his work—he was majoring in chemistry—he was a mathematician who was never stopped. I’ve seen him pause, puzzled by some phase of a problem that, to me, was a blank wall. Only a moment’s hesitation and he would go way down to the bed-rock of mathematics and come up with a brand new formula of his own devising. Then—”Voila! C’est fini! let us go for a walk, friend Bob; there is some poetry that I have remembered—” And we would head out of town, while he spouted poetry by the yard—and made me like it.

I wish you could see the Paul Straki of those days. I wish I could show him to you; you would understand so much better the “Paul” of these later times.

Tall, he seemed, though his eyes were only level with mine, for his real height was hidden beneath an habitual stoop. It let him conceal, to some extent, his lameness. He always walked with a noticeable limp, and here was the cause of the only bitterness that, in those days, was ever reflected in his face.

“Cossacks!” he explained when he surprised a questioning look upon my face. “They went through our village. I was two years old—and they rode me down!”

But the hard coldness went from his eyes, and again they crinkled about with the kindly, wise lines that seemed so strange in his young face. “It is only a reminder to me,” he added, “that such things are all in the past; that we are entering a new world where savage brutality shall no longer rule, and the brotherhood of man will be the basis upon which men shall build.”

And his face, so homely that it was distinctive, had a beauty all its own when he dared to voice his dreams.[358]


I

t was this that brought about his expulsion from college. That was in 1935 when the Vornikoff faction brought off their coup d’etat and secured a strangle hold on Russia. We all remember the campaign of propaganda that was forced into the very fibre of every country, to weaken with its insidious dry-rot the safe foundations of our very civilization. Paul was blinded by his idealism, and he dared to speak.

He was conducting a brilliant research into the structure of the atom; it ended abruptly with his dismissal. And the accepted theories of science went unchallenged, while men worked along other lines than Paul’s to attempt the release of the tremendous energy that is latent in all matter.

I saw him perhaps three times in the four years that followed. He had a laboratory out in a God-forsaken spot where he carried on his research. He did enough analytical work to keep him from actual starvation, though it seemed to me that he was uncomfortably close to that point.

“Come with me,” I urged him; “I need you. You can have the run of our laboratories—work out the new alloys that are so much needed. You would be tremendously valuable.”

He had mentioned Maida to me, so I added: “And you and Maida can be married, and can live like a king and queen on what my outfit can pay you.”

He smiled at me as he might have done toward a child. “Like a king and queen,” he said. “But, friend Bob, Maida and I do not approve of kings and queens, nor do we wish to follow them in their follies.

“It is hard waiting,”—I saw his eyes cloud for a moment—”but Maida is willing. She is working, too—she is up in Melford as you know—and she has faith in my work. She sees with me that it will mean the release of our fellow-men and women from the poverty that grinds out their souls. I am near to success; and when I give to the world the secret of power, then—” But I had to read in his far-seeing eyes the visions he could not compass in words.


T

hat was the first time. I was flying a new ship when next I dropped in on him. A sweet little job I thought it then, not like the old busses that Paul and I had trained in at college, where the top speed was a hundred and twenty. This was an A. B. Clinton cruiser, and the “A.B.C.’s” in 1933 were good little wagons, the best there were.

I asked Paul to take a hop with me and fly the ship. He could fly beautifully; his lameness had been no hindrance to him. In his slender, artist hands a ship became a live thing.

“Are you doing any flying?” I asked, but the threadbare suit made his answer unnecessary.

“I’ll do my flying later,” he said, “and when I do,”—he waved contemptuously toward my shining, new ship—”you’ll scrap that piece of junk.”

The tone matched the new lines in his face—deep lines and bitter. This practical world has always been hard on the dreamers.

Poverty; and the grinding struggle that Maida was having; the expulsion from college when he was assured of a research scholarship that would have meant independence and the finest of equipment to work with—all this, I found, was having its effect. And he talked in a way I didn’t like of the new Russia and of the time that was near at hand when her communistic government should sweep the world of its curse of capitalistic control. Their propaganda campaign was still going on, and I gathered that Paul had allied himself with them.

I tried to tell him what we all[359] knew; that the old Russia was gone, that Vornikoff and his crowd were rapacious and bloodthirsty, that their real motives were as far removed from his idealism as one pole from the other. But it was no use. And I left when I saw the light in his eyes. It seemed to me then that Paul Stravoinski had driven his splendid brain a bit beyond its breaking point.


A

nother year—and Paris, in 1939, with the dreaded First of May drawing near. There had been rumors of demonstrations in every land, but the French were prepared to cope with them—or so they believed…. Who could have coped with the menace of the north that was gathering itself for a spring?

I saw Paul there. It lacked two days of the First of May, and he was seated with a group of industrious talkers at a secluded table in a cafe. He crossed over when he saw me, and drew me aside. And I noticed that a quiet man at a table nearby never let us out of his sight. Paul and his companions, I judged, were under observation.

“What are you doing here now?” he asked. His manner was casual enough to anyone watching, but the tense voice and the look in his eyes that bored into me were anything but casual.

My resentment was only natural. “And why shouldn’t I be here attending to my own affairs? Do you realize that you are being rather absurd?”

He didn’t bother to answer me directly. “I can’t control them,” he said. “If they would only wait—a few weeks—another month! God, how I prayed to them at—”

He broke off short. His eyes never moved, yet I sensed a furtiveness as marked as if he had peered suspiciously about.

Suddenly he laughed aloud, as if at some joking remark of mine; I knew it was for the benefit of those he had left and not for the quiet man from the Surete. And now his tone was quietly conversational.

“Smile!” he said. “Smile, Bob!—we’re just having a friendly talk. I won’t live another two hours if they think anything else. But, Bob, my friend—for God’s sake, Bob, leave Paris to-night. I am taking the midnight plane on the Transatlantic Line. Come with me—”

One of the group at the table had risen; he was sauntering in our direction. I played up to Paul’s lead.

“Glad I ran across you,” I told him, and shook his extended hand that gripped mine in an agony of pleading. “I’ll be seeing you in New York one of these days; I am going back soon.”


B

ut I didn’t go soon enough. The unspoken pleading in Paul Stravoinski’s eyes lost its hold on me by another day. I had work to do; why should I neglect it to go scuttling home because someone who feared these swarming rats had begged me to run for cover? And the French people were prepared. A little rioting, perhaps; a pistol shot or two, and a machine-gun that would spring from nowhere and sweep the street—!

We know now of the document that the Russian Ambassador delivered to the President of France, though no one knew of it then. He handed it to the portly, bearded President at ten o’clock on the morning of April thirtieth. And the building that had housed the Russian representatives was empty ten minutes later. Their disguises must have been ready, for if the sewers of Paris had swallowed them they could have vanished no more suddenly.

And the document? It was the same in substance as those delivered in like manner in every capital of Europe: twenty-four hours were[360]given in which to assure the Central Council of Russia that the French Government would be dissolved, that communism would be established, and that its executive heads would be appointed by the Central Council.

And then the bulletins appeared, and the exodus began. Papers floated in the air; they blew in hundreds of whirling eddies through the streets. And they warned all true followers of the glorious Russian faith to leave Paris that day, for to-morrow would herald the dawn of a new heaven on earth—a Communistic heaven—and its birth would come with the destruction of Paris….

I give you the general meaning though not the exact words. And, like the rest, I smiled tolerantly as I saw the stream of men and women and frightened children that filtered from the city all that day and night; but I must admit that our smiles were strained as morning came on the First of May, and the hour of ten drew near.

Paris, the beautiful—that lovely blossom, flowering on the sturdy stalk that was La Belle France! Paris, laughing to cover its unspoken fears that morning in May, while the streets thudded to the feet of marching men in horizon blue, and the air above was vibrant with the endless roar of planes.

This meant war; and mobilization orders were out; yet still the deadly menace was blurred by a feeling of unreality. A hoax!—a huge joke!—it was absurd, the thought of a distant people imposing their will upon France! And yet … and yet….


T

here were countless eyes turned skyward as a thousand bells rang out the hour of ten; and countless ears heard faintly the sound of gunfire from the north.

My work had brought me into contact with high officials of the French Government; I was privileged to stand with a group of them where a high-roofed building gave a vantage point for observation. With them I saw the menacing specks on the horizon; I saw them come on with deadly deliberation—come on and on in an ever-growing armada that filled the sky.

Wireless had brought the report of their flight high over Germany; it was bringing now the story of disaster from the northern front. A heavy air-force had been concentrated there; and now the steady stream of radio messages came on flimsy sheets to the group about me, while they clustered to read the incredible words. They cursed and glared at one another, those French officials, as if daring their fellows to believe the truth; then, silent and white of face, they reached numbly for each following sheet that messengers brought—until they knew at last that the air-force of France was no more….

The roar of the approaching host was deafening in our ears. Red—red as blood!—and each unit grew to enormous proportions. Armored cruisers of the air—dreadnaughts!—they came as a complete surprise.

“But the city is ringed with anti-aircraft batteries,” a uniformed man was whispering. “They will bring the brutes down.”

The northern edge of the city flamed to a roaring wall of fire; the batteries went into action in a single, crashing harmony that sang triumphantly in our ears. A few of the red shapes fell, but for each of these a hundred others swept down in deadly, directed flight.

A glass was in my hand; my eyes strained through it to see the silvery cylinders that fell from the speeding ships. I saw the red cruisers sweep upward before the inferno of exploding bombs raged toward them from below. And where the roar of batteries had been was only silence.[361]


T

he fleet was over the city. We waited for the rain of bombs that must come; we saw the red cloud move swiftly to continue the annihilation of batteries that still could fire; we saw the armada pass on and lose itself among cloud-banks in the west.

Only a dozen planes remained, high-hung in the upper air. We stared in wonderment at one another. Was this mercy?—from such an enemy? It was inconceivable!

“Mercy!” I wonder that we dared to think the word. Only an instant till a whistling shriek marked the coming of death. It was a single plane—a giant shell—that rode on wings of steel. It came from the north, and I saw it pass close overhead. Its propeller screamed an insolent, inhuman challenge. Inhuman—for one glance told the story. Here was no man-flown plane: no cockpit or cabin, no gunmounts. Only a flying shell that swerved and swung as we watched. We knew that its course was directed from above; it was swung with terrible certainty by a wireless control that reached it from a ship overhead.

Slowly it sought its target: deliberately it poised above it. An instant, only, it hung, though the moment, it seemed, would never end—then down!—and the blunt nose crashed into the Government buildings where at that moment the Chamber of Deputies was in session … and where those buildings had been was spouting masonry and fire.

A man had me by the arm; his fingers gripped into my flesh. With his other hand he was pointing toward the north. “Torpedoes!” he was saying. “Torpedoes of a size gigantic! Ah, mon Dieu! mon Dieu! Save us for we are lost!”

They came in an endless stream, those blood-red projectiles; they announced their coming with shrill cries of varying pitch; and they swung and swerved, as the ships above us picked them up, to rake the city with mathematical precision.

Incendiary, of course: flames followed every shattering burst. Between us and the Seine was a hell of fire—a hell that contained unnumbered thousands of what an instant before had been living folk—men and women clinging in a last terrified embrace—children whose white faces were hidden in their mothers’ skirts or buried in bosoms no longer a refuge for childish fears. I saw it as plainly as if I had been given the far-reaching vision of a god … and I turned and ran with stumbling feet where a stairway awaited….


O

f that flight, only a blurred recollection has stayed with me. I pray God that I may never see it more clearly. There are sights that mortal eyes cannot behold with understanding and leave mortal brain intact. It is like an anaesthetic at such times, the numbness that blocks off the horrors the eyes are recording—like the hurt of the surgeon’s scalpel that never reaches to the brain.

Dimly I see the fragmentary scenes: the crashing fall of buildings that come crumbling and thundering down, myself crawling like an insect across the wreckage—it is slippery and wet where the stones are red, and I stumble, then see the torn and mangled thing that has caused me to fall…. A face regards me from another mound. I see the dust of powdered masonry still settling upon it: the dark hair is hardly disturbed about the face, so peaceful, so girlishly serene: I am still wondering dully why there is only the head of that girl resting on the shattered stone, as I lie there exhausted and watch the next torpedo crash a block behind me…. The air is shrill with flying fragments. I wonder why my hands are[362] stained and sticky as I run and crawl on my way. The red rocks are less slippery now, and the rats, from the sewers of Paris!—they have come out to feed!

Fragments of pictures—and the worst of them gone! I know that night came—red night, under a cloud of smoke—and I found myself on the following day descending from a fugitive peasant’s cart and plodding onward toward the markings of a commercial aerodrome.

They could not be everywhere, those red vultures of the sky, and they had other devils’-work to do. I had money, and I paid well for the plane that carried me through that day and a night to the Municipal Airport of New York.


T

he Red Army of occupation was halfway across communist Germany, hailed as they went as the saviors of the world. London had gone the way of Paris; Rome had followed; the countries of France and England and Italy were beaten to their knees.

“We who rule the air rule the world!” boasted General Vornikoff. The Russian broadcasting station had the insolence to put on the air his message to the people of America. I heard his voice as plainly as if he stood in my office; and I was seeing again the coming of that endless stream of aerial torpedoes, and the red cruisers hanging in the heights to pick up control and dash the messengers of death upon a helpless city. But I was visioning it in New York.

“The masses of the American people are with us,” said the complacently arrogant voice. “For our fellow-workers we have only brotherly affection; it is your capitalist-dominated Government that must submit. And if it does not—!” I heard him laugh before he went on:

“We are coming to the rescue of you, our brothers across the sea. Now we have work to do in Europe; our gains must be consolidated and the conquests of our glorious air-force made secure. And then—! We warn you in advance, and we laugh at your efforts to prepare for our coming. We even tell you the date: in thirty days the invasion begins. It will end only at Washington when the great country of America, its cruel shackles cast off from the laboring masses, joins the Brotherhood—the Workers of the World!”

There was a man from the War Department who sat across from me at my desk; my factories were being taken over; my electric furnaces must pour out molten metal for use in war. He cursed softly under his breath as the voice ceased.

“The dirty dog!” he exclaimed. “The lying hypocrite! He talks of brotherhood to us who know the damnable inquisition and reign of terror that he and his crowd have forced on Russia! Thirty days! Well, we have three thousand planes ready for battle to-day; there’ll be more in thirty days! Now, about that vanadium steel—”

But I’ll confess I hardly heard him; I was hearing the roar of an armada of red craft that ensanguined the sky, and I was seeing the curving flight of torpedoes, each an airplane in itself….


T

hirty days!—and each minute of each hour must be used. In close touch with the War Department, I knew much that was going on, and all that I knew was the merest trifle in the vast preparations for defense. My earlier apprehensions were dulled; the sight I had of the whole force of a mighty nation welded into one driving power working to one definite end was exhilarating.

New York and Washington—these, it was felt, would be the points of first attack; they must be[363] protected. And I saw the flights of planes that seemed endless as they converged at the concentration camps. Fighters, at first—bombers and swift scouts—they came in from all parts of the land. Then the passenger planes and the big mail-ships. Transcontinental runs were abandoned or cut to a skeleton service of a ship every hour for the transport of Government men. Even the slower craft of the feeder lines were commandeered; anything that could fly and could mount a gun.

And the three thousand fighting ships, as the man from Washington had said, grew to three times that number. Their roaring filled the skies with thunder, and beneath them were other camps of infantry and artillery.

The Atlantic front was an armed camp, where highways no longer carried thousands of cars on pleasure bent. By night and day I saw those familiar roads from the air; they were solid with a never-ending line of busses and vans and long processions of motorized artillery and tanks, whose clattering bedlam came to me a thousand feet above.

Yes, it was an inspiring sight, and I lost the deadly oppression and the sense of impending doom—until our intelligence service told us of the sailing of the enemy fleet.


T

hey had seized every vessel in the waters of Europe. And—God pity the poor, traitorous devils who manned them—there were plenty to operate the ships. Two thousand vessels were in that convoy. Ringed in as they were by a guard of destroyers and fighting craft of many kinds, whose mast-heads carried the blood-red flag now instead of their former emblems, our submarines couldn’t reach them.

But our own fleet went out to measure their strength, and a thousand Navy planes took the air on the following day.

Uppermost in my own mind, and in everyone’s mind, I think, was the question of air-force.

Would they bring the red ships? What was their cruising range? Could they cross the Atlantic with their enormous load of armored hull, or must they be transported? Were the air-cruisers with the fleet, or would they come later?

How Vornikoff and his assassins must have laughed as they built the monsters, armored them, and mounted the heavy guns so much greater than anything they would meet! The rest of us—all the rest of the world!—had been kept in ignorance…. And now our own fliers were sweeping out over the gray waters to find the answer to our questions.

I’ve tried to picture that battle; I’ve tried to imagine the feelings of those men on the dreadnaughts and battle-cruisers and destroyers. There was no attempt on the enemy’s part to conceal his position; his wireless was crackling through the air with messages that our intelligence department easily decoded. Our Navy fliers roared out over the sea, out and over the American fleet, whose every bow was a line of white that told of their haste to meet the oncoming horde.

The plane-carriers threw their fighters into the air to join the cavalcade above—and a trace of smoke over the horizon told that the giant fleet was coming into range.


A

nd then, instead of positions and ranges flashed back from our own swift scouts, came messages of the enemy’s attack. Our men must have seen them from the towers of our own fleet; they must have known what the red swarm meant, as it came like rolling, fire-lit smoke far out in the sky—and they must have read plainly their own helplessness as they saw our thousand planes go down. They were overwhelmed—obliterated!—and the red[364] horde of air-cruisers was hardly checked in its sweep.

Carnage and destruction, those blue seas of the north Atlantic have seen; they could tell tales of brave men, bravely going to their death in storm and calm but never have they seen another such slaughter as that day’s sun showed.

The anti-aircraft guns roared vainly; some few of our own planes that had escaped returned to add their futile, puny blows. The waters about the ships were torn to foam, while the ships themselves were changed to furnaces of bursting flame—until the seas in mercy closed above them and took their torn steel, and the shattered bodies that they held, to the silence of the deep….

We got it all at Washington. I sat in a room with a group of white-faced men who stared blindly at a radiocone where a quiet voice was telling of disaster. It was Admiral Graymont speaking to us from the bridge of the big dreadnaught, Lincoln, the flagship of the combined fleet. Good old Graymont! His best friend, Bill Schuler, Secretary of the Navy, was sitting wordless there beside me.

“It is the end,” the quiet voice was saying; “the cruiser squadrons are gone…. Two more battleships have gone down: there are only five of us left…. A squadron of enemy planes is coming in above. Our men have fought bravely and with never a chance…. There!—they’ve got us!—the bombs! Good-by, Bill, old fellow—”

The radiocone was silent with a silence that roared deafeningly in our ears. And, beside me, I saw the Secretary of the Navy, a Navy now without ships or men, drop his tired, lined face into his hands, while his broad shoulders shook convulsively. The rest of us remained in our chairs, too stunned to do anything but look at one another in horror.


W

e expected them to strike at New York. I was sent up there, and it was there that I saw Paul again. I met him on lower Broadway, and I went up to him with my hand reaching for his. I didn’t admire Paul’s affiliations, but he had warned me—he had tried to save my life—and I wanted to thank him.

But his hand did not meet mine. There was a strange, wild look in his eyes—I couldn’t define it—and he brought his gaze back from far off to stare at me as if I were a stranger.

Then: “Still got that A.B.C. ship?” he demanded.

“Yes,” I answered wonderingly.

“Junk it!” he said. And his laugh was as wild and incomprehensible as his look had been. I stared after him as he walked away. I was puzzled, but there were other things to think of then.

A frenzy of preparation—and all in vain. The enemy fooled us; the radio brought the word from Quebec.

“They have entered the St. Lawrence,” was the message it flashed. Then, later: “The Red fleet is passing toward Montreal. Enemy planes have spotted all radio towers. There is one above us now—” And that ended the message from Quebec.

But we got more information later. They landed near Montreal; they were preparing a great base for offensive operations; the country was overrun with a million men; the sky was full of planes by night and day; there was no artillery, no field guns of any sort, but there were torpedo-planes by tens of thousands, which made red fields of waiting death where trucks placed them as they took them from the ships.

And there were some of us who smiled sardonically in recollection of the mammoth plants the Vornikoff Reds had installed in Central Russia, and the plaudits that had[365] greeted their plans for nitrogen fixation. They were to make fertilizers; the nitrates would be distributed without cost to the farms—this had pacified the Agrarians—and here were their “nitrates” that were to make fertile the fields of Russia: countless thousands of tons of nitro-explosives in these flying torpedoes!


B

ut if we smiled mirthlessly at these recollections we worked while we chewed on our cud of bitterness. There came an order: “Evacuate New England,” and the job was given to me.

With planes—a thousand of them—trucks, vans, the railroads, we gathered those terrified people into concentration camps, and took them over the ground, under the ground, and through the air to the distributing camp at Buffalo, where they were scattered to other points.

I saw the preparations for a battle-front below me as I skimmed over Connecticut. Trenches made a thin line that went farther than I could see! Here was the dam that was expected to stop the enemy columns from the north. I think no one then believed that our air-force could check the assault. The men of the fighting planes were marked for death; one read it in their eyes; but who of us was not?

How those giant cruisers would be downed no man could say, but we worked on in a blind desperation; we would hold that invading army as long as men could sight a gun; we would hold them back; and somehow, someway, we must find the means to repel the invasion from the air!

I saw the lines of track that made a network back to the trenches. Like the suburban lines around New York, they would carry thousands of single cars, each driven at terrific speed by the air plane propeller at its bow. With these, the commanders could shift their forces to whatever sector was hardest pressed. They would be bombed, of course, but the hundreds of tracks would not all be destroyed—and the line must be held!

The line! it brought a strangling lump to my throat as I saw those thin markings of trenches, the marching bodies of troops, the brave, hopeless, determined men who went singing to their places in that line. But my planes were winging past me; my job was ahead, where a multitude still waited and prayed for deliverance.


W

e never finished the job; in two days the red horde was upon us. Their swarming troops were convoyed by planes, but no effort was made to fly over our lines and launch an attack. Were they feeling their way? Did they think now that they would find us passive and unresisting? Did they want to take our cities undamaged? Oh, we asked ourselves a thousand questions with no answer to any—except the knowledge that a million men were marching from the north; that their fleet of planes would attack as soon as the troops encountered resistance; that our batteries of anti-aircraft guns would harry them as they came, and our air-fleet, held back in reserve, would take what the batteries left….

My last planes with their fugitive loads passed close to the lines of red troops. There were red planes overhead, but they let us pass unhindered. Fleeing, driving wildly toward the south, we were unworthy, it seemed, of even their contemptuous attention. But I was sick to actual nausea at sight of the villages and cities where only a part of the population had escaped. The roads, in front of the red columns, were jammed with motors and with men and women and children on foot: a hopeless tangle.

I was watching the pitiful flight[366] below me, cursing my own impotence to be of help, when a shrill whistling froze me rigid to my controls. I had heard it before—there could be no mistaking the cry of that oncoming torpedo—and I saw the damnable thing pass close to my ship.

I was doing two hundred—my motor was throttled down—but this inhuman monster passed me as if my ship were frozen as unmoving as myself. It tore on ahead. I saw an enemy plane above it some five thousand feet. The torpedo was checked; I saw it poise; then it curved over and down. And the screaming motor took up its cry that was like a thousand devils until its sound was lost in the screams from below and the infernal blast of its own explosion.

Only a trial flight—an experiment to test their controls! No need for me to try to tell you of the thoughts that tore me through and through while I struggled to bring my ship to an even keel in the hurricane of explosion that drove up at me from below. But I spat out the one word: “Brotherhood!” and I prayed for a place in the front line where I might send one shot at least against so beastly a foe.


T

hat was somewhere in Massachusetts. Their foremost columns were close behind. They came to a stop some fifty miles from our waiting line of battle: I learned this when I got to Washington. And the reason, too, was known; it was published in all the papers. There had been messages to the President, broadcast to the world from an unknown source:

“To the President of the United States—warning! This war must end. You, as Commander-in-Chief of the American forces can bring it to a close. I have prevailed upon the Red Army of the Brotherhood to halt. They have listened to me. You, also, must take heed.

“You will issue orders at once to withdraw all resistance. You will disband your army, ground all your planes; bring all your artillery into one place and prepare to turn the government of this country over to the representatives of the Central Council. You will act at once.”

“This war is ended. All wars are ended forevermore. I have spoken.”

And the strange message was signed “Paul.”

The wild words of a maniac, it was thought at first. Yet the fact remained that the enemy’s advance had ceased. Who was this “Paul” who had “prevailed upon the Red Army” to halt?

And then the obvious answer occurred; it was a ruse on the part of the Reds. They feared to attack; their strength was not as great as we had thought—officers and men of all branches of the service took new heart and plunged more frenziedly still into the work of preparation.

There were direction-finders that had taken the message from several stations; their pointers converged upon one definite location in southern Ohio. Over an area of twenty square miles, that place was combed for a sending radio where the message could have originated—combed in vain.


T

he next demand came at ten on the following morning.

“To the President of the United States: You have disregarded my warning. You will not do so again; I have power to enforce my demands. I had hoped that bloodshed and destruction might cease, but it is plain that only that will save you from your own headstrong folly. I must strike. At noon to-day the Capitol in Washington will be destroyed. See that it is emptied of human life. I have spoken. Paul.”

A maniac, surely; yet a maniac with strange powers. For the graphs of the radio direction-finders showed[367] a curve. And when they were assembled the reading could only mean that the instrument that had sent the threat had moved over fifty miles during the few minutes of its sending. This, I think, was what brought the order to vacate the big domed building in Washington.

Of course the Capitol Building had been searched; there was not a nook nor corner from roof to basement but had been gone over in search of an explosive machine. And now it was empty, and a guard of soldiers made a solid cordon surrounding it. No one could approach upon the ground; and, above, a series of circling patrol-planes, one squadron above another, guarded against approach by air. With such a defense the Capitol and its grounds seemed impregnable.

My watch said 11:59; I held it in my hand and watched the seconds tick slowly by. The city was hushed; it seemed that no man was so much as breathing … 11:59 :60!—and an instant later I heard the shriek of something that tore the air to screaming fragments. I saw it as it came on a straight, level line from the east; a flash like a meteor of glistening white. It passed beneath the planes, that were motionless by contrast, drove straight for the gleaming Capitol dome, passed above it, and swept on in a long flattened curve that bent outward and up.

It was gone from my sight, though the shrieking air was still tearing at my ears, when I saw the great building unfold. Time meant nothing; my racing mind made slow and deliberate the explosion that lifted the roofs and threw the walls in dusty masses upon the ground. So slow it seemed!—and I had not even seen the shell that the white meteor-ship had fired. Yet there was the beautiful building, expanding, disintegrating. It was a cloud of dust when the concussion reached me to dash me breathless to the earth….


T

he white meteor was the vehicle of “Paul,” the dictator. From it had come the radio message whose source had moved so swiftly. I saw this all plainly.

There was a conference of high officials at the War Department Building, and the Secretary summed up all that was said:

“A new form of air-flight, and a new weapon more destructive than any we have known! That charge of explosive that was fired at the Capitol was so small as to be unseen. We can’t meet it; we can only fight. Fight on till the end.”

A message came in as we sat there, a message to the Commander-in-Chief who had come over from the White House under military guard.

“Surrender!” it demanded; “I have shown you my power; it is inexhaustible, unconquerable. Surrender or be destroyed; it is the dawn of a new day, the day of the Brotherhood of Man. Let bloodshed cease. Surrender! I command it! Paul.”

The President of the United States held the flimsy paper in his hand. He rose slowly to his feet, and he read it aloud to all of us assembled there; read it to the last hateful word. Then:

“Surrender?” he asked. He turned steady, quiet eyes upon the big flag whose red and white and blue made splendid the wall behind him—and I’ll swear that I saw him smile.


W

e have had many presidents since ’76; big men, some of them; tall, handsome men; men who looked as if nature had moulded them for a high place. This man was small of stature; the shortest man in all that room if he had stood, but he was big—big! Only one who is great can look deep through the whirling turmoil of the moment to find the eternal verities that are always underneath—and smile!

“Men must die,”—he spoke meditatively; in seeming communing[368] with himself, as one who tries to face a problem squarely and honestly—”and nations must pass; time overwhelms us all. Yet there is that which never dies and never surrenders.”

He looked about the room now, as if he saw us for the first time.

“Gentlemen,” he said quietly, “we have here an ultimatum. It is backed by power which our Secretary of War says is invincible. We are faced by an enemy who would annihilate these United States, and this new power fights on the side of the enemy.

“Must we go the way of England, of France, of all Europe? It would seem so. The United States of America is doomed. Yet each one of us will meet what comes bravely, if, facing our own end, we know that the principles upon which this nation is founded must go on; if only the Stars and Stripes still floats before our closing eyes to assure us that some future day will see the resurrection of truth and of honor and kindness among men.

“We will fight, as our Secretary of War has said—fight on to the end. We will surrender—never! That is our answer to this one who calls himself ‘Paul.'”

We could not speak; I do not know how long the silence lasted. But I know that I left that room a silent man among many silent men, in whose eyes I saw a reflection of the emotion that filled my own heart. It was the end—the end of America, of millions of American homes—but this was better than surrender to such a foe. Better death than slavery to that race of bloodthirsty oppressors.


B

ut who was “Paul?” This question kept coming repeatedly to my mind. The press of the country echoed the President’s words, then dipped their pens in vitriol to heap scorching invective upon the head of the tyrant. The power of the Reds we might have met—or so it was felt—but this new menace gave the invaders a weapon we could not combat. It was power!—a means of flight beyond anything known!—an explosive beside which our nitro compounds were playthings for a child.

“Who is Paul?” It was not only myself who asked the question through those next long hours, but perhaps I was the only one in whose mind was a disturbing certainty that the answer was mine if I could but grasp it.

I was remembering Paris; I was thinking of that peaceful, happy city before the First of May, before the world had gone mad and a raging, red beast had laid it waste and overrun it. And of Paul Stravoinski—my friend “Straki” of college days—who had warned me. He had known what was coming. He himself had said that he had prayed to “them” for delay; that in a few weeks he would do—what?… And suddenly I knew.

Paul had succeeded; his research had ended in the dissection of the atom; he had unleashed the sub-atomic power of matter. Only this could explain the wild flight through the sky, the terrific explosion at the Capitol. It was Paul—my friend, Paul Stravoinski—who was imposing his will upon the world.

I said nothing as I took off; the swiftest plane was at my command. I might be wrong; I must not arouse false hopes; but I must find Paul. And the papers were black with scareheads of another threat as I left Washington:

“You have twenty-four hours to surrender. There shall be one last day of grace.” Signed: “Paul.”

There was more of the wild talk of the beauties of this new dispensation—a mixture of idealistic folly and of threats of destruction. I needed no more to prove the truth[369] of my suspicions. No one but the Paul I had known could cling so tenaciously to his dreams; no one but he could be so blind to the actual horror of the new oligarchy he would impose upon the world.

I flew alone; no one but myself must try to hunt him out. I paid no attention to the radio direction of the last message; he would fly far afield to send it; distance meant nothing to one who held his power. I must look for him at his laboratory, that cluster of deserted buildings that stood all alone by a distant railway siding; it was there he had worked.


H

e met me with a pistol in his hand—a tiny gun that fired only a .22 calibre bullet.

“Put down your pop-gun,” I told him and brushed through the open door into the room that had been his laboratory. “I am unarmed, and I’m here to talk business.

“You are ‘Paul’!” I shot the sentence at him as if it were a bullet that must strike him down.

He did not answer directly; just nodded in confirmation of some unspoken thought.

“You have found me,” he said slowly; “you were the only one I feared.”

Then he came out with it, and his eyes blazed with a maniacal light.

“Yes, I am Paul! and this ‘pop-gun’ in my hand is the weapon that destroyed your Capitol at Washington. The bullet contained less than a grain of tritonite; that is the name I have given my explosive.”

He aimed the little pistol toward me where I stood. “These bullets are more lightly charged—they are to protect myself—and the one ten-thousandth of a milligram in the end of each will blow you into bits! Sit down. I will not be checked now. You will never leave this place alive!”

“Less than a grain of tritonite!”—and I had seen a great building go down to dust at its touch! I sat down in the chair where he directed, and I turned away from the fanatical glare of Paul’s eyes to look about me.

There was poverty here no longer; no makeshift apparatus greeted my eyes, but the finest of laboratory equipment. Paul read my thoughts.

“They have been liberal,” he told me; “the Central Council has financed my work—though I have kept my whereabouts a secret even from them. But they would not wait. I told you in Paris, and you did not believe. And now—now I have succeeded! the research is done!”


H

e half turned to pick up a flake of platinum no larger than one’s finger-nail; it was a weight that was used on a delicate balance.

“Matter is matter no longer,” he said; “I have resolved it into energy. I hold here in my hand power to destroy an army, or to drive a fleet of ships. I, Paul, will build a new world. I will give to man a surcease from labor; I will give him rest; I will do the work of the world. My tritonite that can destroy can also create; it shall be used for that alone. This is the end of war. Here is wealth; here is power; I shall give it to mankind, and, under the rule of the Brotherhood, a united world will arise and go forward to new growth, to a greater civilization, to a building of a new heaven on earth.”

He was pacing up and down the room. His hands were shaking; the muscles of his face that twitched and trembled were moulded into deep lines. I sat there and realized that within that room, directly before my eyes, was the Dictator of the World. It was true—I could not doubt it—Paul Straki of college days had made his dreams come true; his research was ended. And this new “Paul” who held in those trembling[370] hands the destinies of mankind, at whose word kings and presidents trembled, was utterly mad!

I tried to talk and tell him of the truth we knew was true. He would have none of it; his dreams possessed him. In the bloody flag of this new Russia he could see only the emblem of freedom; the men who marched beneath that banner were his brothers, unwitting in the destruction they wrought. It was all that they knew. But they fought for the right. They would cease fighting now, and would join him in the work of moulding a new race. And even their leaders, who had sometimes opposed—were they not kind at heart? Had they not checked the advance of an irresistible army to give him and his new weapon an opportunity to open the eyes of the people? Theirs was no wish to destroy; their hearts ached for their victims who refused to listen and could be convinced only by force.

And as he talked on there passed before my eyes the vision of an aerial torpedo and a blood-red ship above, where these “kindly” men who were Paul’s allies turned the instrument of death upon huddled, screaming folk—and laughed, no doubt, at such good sport.


I

thought of many things. I was tensed one moment to throw myself upon the man; and an instant later I was searching my mind for some argument, some gleam of reason, with which I could tear aside the illusions that held him. I saw him cross the room where a radio stood, and he switched on the instrument for the news-broadcast service. The shouting of an excited voice burst into the room.

“The Reds have advanced,” said the voice. “Their armies have crossed the Connecticut line. They are within ten miles of the American forces. The twenty-four hours of grace promised by the tyrant ‘Paul’ was a lie. The battle is already on.”

I saw the tall figure of Paul sink to its former stoop; the lameness that had vanished in the moment of his exaltation had returned. He limped a pace or two toward me.

“They said they would wait!” His voice was a hoarse whisper. “General Vornikoff himself gave me his promise!”

I was on my feet, then. “What matter?” I shouted. “What difference does it make—a few hours or a day? Your damned patriots, your dear brothers in arms—they are destroying us this instant! And not one of our men but is worth more than the whole beastly mob!”

I was wild with the picture that came so clear and plain before my eyes. I had my pistol in my hand; I was tempted to fire. It was his whisper that stopped me.

“They have crossed Massachusetts! And Maida is there in Melford!”


T

here was no resisting his strength that tore my weapon from me. His tritonite pistol was pressed into my side, and his hand upon my collar threw me ahead of him toward a rear room, then out into a huge shed. I had only a quick glimpse of the airplane that was housed there. It was a white cylinder, and the stern that was toward me showed a funnel-shaped port.

I was thrown by that same furious strength through a door of the ship; I saw Paul Stravoinski seat himself before some curious controls. The ship that held me rose; moved slowly through an opened door; and with a screech from the stern it tore off and up into the air.

I have said Paul could fly; but the terrific flight of the screaming thing that held us seemed beyond the power of man to control. I was stunned with the thundering roar and the speed that held me down and back against a cabin wall.[371]

How he found Melford, I cannot know; but he found it as a homing pigeon finds its loft. He checked our speed with a sickening swiftness that made my brain reel. There were red ships above, but they let the white ship pass unchallenged. There were no Red soldiers on the ground—only the marks where they had passed.

From the distance came a never-ceasing thunder of guns. The village was quiet. It still burned, blazing brightly in places, again smouldering sluggishly and sending into the still air smoke clouds whose fumes were a choking horror of burned flesh. There were bodies in grotesque scattering about the streets; some of them were black and charred.

Paul Stravoinski took me with him as he dashed for a house that the flames had not touched. And I was with him as he smashed at the door and broke into the room.


T

here was splintered furniture about. A cabinet, whose glass doors had been wantonly smashed, leaned crazily above its fallen books, now torn, scuffed and muddy upon the floor. Through a shattered window in the bed-room beyond came a puff of the acrid smoke from outside to strangle the breath in my throat. On the floor in a shadowed corner lay the body of a woman—a young woman as her clotted tangle of golden hair gave witness. She stirred and moaned half-consciously…. And the lined face of Paul Stravoinski was a terrible thing to see as he went stumblingly across the room to gather that body into his arms.

I had known Maida; I had seen their love begin in college days. I had known a laughing girl with sunshine in her hair, a girl whose soft eyes had grown so tenderly deep when they rested upon Paul—but this that he took in his arms, while a single dry sob tore harshly at his throat, this was never Maida!

There were red drops that struck upon his hands or fell sluggishly to the floor; the head and face had taken the blow of a clubbed rifle or a heavy boot. The eyes in that tortured face opened to rest upon Paul’s, the lips were moving.

“I told them of you,” I heard her whisper. “I told them that you would come—and they laughed.” Unconsciously she tried to draw her torn clothing about her, an instinctive reaction to some dim realization of her nakedness. She was breathing feebly. “And now—oh, Paul!—Paul!—you—have come—too late!”


I

hardly think Paul knew I was there or sensed that I followed where he carried in his arms the bruised body that had housed the spirit of Maida. He flew homeward like a demon, but he moved as one in a dream.

Only when I went with him into the room where he had worked, did he turn on me in sudden fury.

“Out!” he screamed. “Get out of my sight! It is you who have done this—your damned armies who would not do as I ordered! If you had not resisted, if you had—”

I broke in there.

“Did we do that?” I outshouted him, and I pointed to the torn body on a cot. His eyes followed my shaking hand. “No, it was your brothers—your dear comrades who are bringing the brotherhood of men into the world! Well, are you proud? Are you happy and satisfied—with what your brothers do with women?”

It must be a fearful thing to have one’s dreams turn bitter and poisonous. Paul Stravoinski seemed about to spring upon me. He was crouched, and the muscles of his thin neck were like wire; his face was a ghastly thing, his eyes so staring bright, and the sensitive mouth twisting horribly. But he sprang at[372] last not at me but toward the door, and without a word from his tortured lips he opened it and motioned me out.

Even there I heard echoes of distant guns and the heavier, thudding sounds that must be their aerial torpedoes. My feet were leaden as I strained every muscle to hurry toward my ship. Through my mind was running the threat of the Russian, Vornikoff: “We even tell you the date: in thirty days.” And this was the thirtieth day—thirty days that a state of war had existed.


T

he battle was on; the radio had spoken truly. I saw its raging fires as I came up from our rear where the gray-like smoke clouds shivered in the unending blast. But I saw stabbing flames that struck upward from the ground to make a wall of sharp, fiery spears, and I knew that every darting flame was launching a projectile from our anti-aircraft guns.

The skies were filled with the red aircraft of the enemy, but their way was an avenue of hell where thousands of shells filled the air with their crashing explosions. There were torpedoes, the unmanned airships whose cargo was death, and they were guided to their marks despite the inferno that raged about the red ships above.

I saw meteors that fell, the red flames that enveloped them no redder than the bodies of the ships. And, as I leaped from my plane that I had landed back of our lines, I sensed that the enemy was withdrawing.

There was a colonel of artillery—I had known him in days of peace—and he threw his arms around me and executed a crazy dance. “We’ve beaten them back, Bob!” he shouted, and repeated it over and over in a delirium of joy.

I couldn’t believe it; not those cruisers that I had seen over Paris. Another brief moment showed my fears were all too rational.

A shrieking hailstorm of torpedoes preceded them; the ships were directing them from afar. And, while some of the big shells went wild and overshot our lines, there were plenty that found their mark.

I was smashed flat by a stunning concussion. Behind me the place where Colonel Hartwell had stood was a smoking crater; his battery of guns had been blasted from the earth. Up and down the whole line, far beyond the range of my sight, the eruption continued. The ground was a volcano of flame, as if the earth had opened to let through the interior fires, and the air was filled with a litter of torn bodies and sections of shattered guns.

No human force could stand up under such a bombardment. Like others about me, I gripped tight upon something within me that was my self-control, and I marveled that I yet lived while I waited for the end.


B

eyond the smoke clouds was a hillside, swarming with figures in red; solid masses of troops that came toward us. Above was the red fleet, passing safely above our flame-blasted lines; there were bombs falling upon those batteries here and there whose fire was unsilenced. And then, from the south, came a roar that pierced even the bedlam about me. The sun shone brightly there where the smoke-clouds had not reached, and it glinted and sparkled from the wings of a myriad of our planes.

There was something that pulled tight at my throat; I know I tore at it with fumbling hands, as if that something were an actual band that had clamped down and choked me, while I stared at that true line of sharp-pointed V’s. The air-force of the United States had been ordered in; and they were coming,[373] coming—to an inevitable death!

I tried to tear my eyes away from that oncoming fleet, but I could not move. I saw their first contact with the enemy; so small, they were, in contrast with the big red cruisers. They attacked in formations; they drove down and in; and they circled and whirled before they fluttered to earth….

Dimly, through the stupor that numbed my brain, I heard men about me shouting with joy. I felt more than saw the fall of a monster red craft; it struck not far away. The voices were thanking God—for what? Another red ship fell—and another; and through all the roaring inferno a sound was tearing—a ripping, terrible scream that went on and on. And above me, when I forced my eyes upward, was a flash of white.

It darted like a live thing among the red ones whose guns blazed madly—and the red ships in clotted groups fell away and over and down as the white one passed. They had been burst open where some power had blasted them, and their torn hulls showed gaping as they fell.

For a time the air was silent and empty above; the white, flashing thing had passed from sight, for the line of red ships was long. Then again it returned, and it threw itself into the mad whirl in the south where the air-force of the American people was fighting its last fight.

I was screaming insanely as I saw it come back. The white ship!—the blast of vapor from its funneled stern—It was Paul!—Paul Stravoinski!—Paul the Dictator!—and he was fighting on our side!


H

is ship had been prepared; I had seen the machine-guns on her bow. Paul was working them from within, and every bullet was tipped with the product of his brain—the deadly tritonite!

The white flash swung wide in a circle that took it far away. It came back above the advancing army of the Reds. It swerved once wildly, then settled again upon its course, and the raging hell that the Reds had turned loose upon our lines was as nothing to the destruction that poured upon the Red troops from above.

A messenger of peace, that ship; I knew well why Paul had painted it white. And, instead of peace—!

He was flying a full mile from our lines, yet the torn earth and great boulders crashed among us even then. There were machine-guns firing ceaselessly from the under side of the ship. What charges of tritonite had the demented man placed in those shells?

Below and behind it, as it flashed across our view, was a fearful, writhing mass where the earth itself rose up in unending, convulsive agony. A volcano of fire followed him, a fountain of earth that ripped and tore and stretched itself in a writhing, tortured line across the land as the white ship passed.

No man who saw that and lived has found words to describe the progress of that monstrous serpent; the valley itself is there for men to see. The roar was beyond the limit of men’s strained nerves. I found myself cowering upon the ground when the white ship came back; I followed it fearfully with my eyes until I saw it swoop falteringly down. Such power seemed not for men but for gods; I could not have met Paul Stravoinski then but in a posture of supplication. But I leaped to my feet and raced madly across the torn earth as I saw the white ship touch the ground—rise—fall again—and end its flight where it ploughed a furrow across a brown field….


I

raised Paul Stravoinski’s head in my arms where I found him in the ship. An enemy shell had entered that cabin; it must have come[374]early in the fight, but he had fought gamely on. And the eyes that looked up into mine had none of the wild light I had seen. They were the eyes of Paul Straki, the comrade of those few long years before, and he smiled as he said: “Voila, friend Bob: c’est fini!And now I go for a long, long walk. We will talk of poetry, Maida and I….”

But his dreams were still with him. He opened his eyes to stare intently at me. “You will see that it is not in vain?” he questioned; then smiled as one who is at peace, as he whispered: “Yes, I know you will—my friend, Bob—”

And his fixed gaze went through and beyond me, while he tried, in broken sentences, to give the vision that had been his. So plain it was to him now.

“The wild work—of a mistaken people. America will undo it…. A world at peace…. The vast commerce—of the skies—I see it—so clearly…. It will break down—all barriers…. A beautiful, happy world….”

His lips moved feebly at the last. I could not speak; could not even call him by name; I could only lean my head closer to hear.

One whispered word; then another: a fragment of poetry! I had heard him quote it often. But the whispered words were not for me. Paul was speaking to someone beside him—someone my blind, human eyes could not see….


I

am writing these words at my desk in the great Transportation Building in New York. It stands upon the site of the Chrysler Building that towered here—until one of the flying torpedoes came over to hunt it out. They landed several in New York; how long ago it all seems that the threat of utter destruction hung over the whole nation—the whole world.

And now from my window I see the sparkling flash of ships. The air is filled with them; I am still unaccustomed to their speed. But a wisp of vapor from each bell-shaped stern throws them swiftly on their way; it marks the continuous explosion of that marvel of a new age—tritonite! There are tremendous terminals being built; the air-transport lines are being welded into efficient units that circle the world; and the world is becoming so small!

The barriers are gone; all nations are working as one to use wisely this strange new power for the work of this new world. No more poverty; no more of the want and desperate struggle that leads a whole people into the insane horrors of war; it is a glorious world of which we dream and which is coming slowly to be….

But I think we must dream well and work well to bring to actuality the beautiful visions in those far-seeing eyes of the man called Paul—Dictator, one time, of the whole world.

LISTENING TO ANTS

Two scientists of the University of Pittsburgh recently perfected an apparatus for detecting the sounds of underground communications among ants. A block of wood was placed upon the diaphragm of an ordinary telephone transmitter, which in turn was connected through batteries and amplifiers to a pair of earphones. When the termites crawled over the block of wood the transmitter was agitated, resulting in sound vibrations which were clearly heard by the listener at the headset.

When the ants became excited over something or other their soldiers were found to hammer their heads vigorously on the wood. This action could be clearly seen and heard at the same time. The investigators found that the ants could hear sound vibrations in the air very poorly or not at all, but were extremely sensitive to vibrations underground. For this reason it was thought that the head hammering was a method of communication.

Because of this sensitivity to substratum vibrations, ants are seldom found to infest the ties of railroads carrying heavy traffic, or buildings containing machinery.


[375]

The Earthman’s Burden

By R. F. Starzl

And then he jumped.And then he jumped.

 

D

enny Olear was playing blackjack when the colonel’s orderly found him. He hastily buttoned his tunic and in a few minutes, alert and very military, was standing at attention in the little office on the ground floor of the Denver I. F. P. barracks. His swanky blue uniform fitted without a wrinkle. His little round skullcap was perched at the regulation angle.

There is foul play on Mercury—until Denny Olear of the Interplanetary Flying Police gets after his man.

“Olear,” said the colonel, “they’re having a little trouble at the Blue River Station, Mercury.”

“Trouble? Uh-huh,” Olear said placidly.

The colonel looked him over. He saw a man past his first youth. Thirty-five, possibly forty. Olear was well-knit, sandy-haired, not over five feet six inches in height. His hair was close-cropped, his features phlegmatic, his eyes a light blue with thick, short, light-colored lashes, his teeth excellent. A scar, dead white[376] on a brown cheekbone, was a reminder of an “encounter” with one of the numerous sauriens of Venus.

“I’m sending you,” explained the colonel, “because you’re more experienced, and not like some of these kids, always spoiling for a fight. There’s something queer about this affair. Morones, factor of the Blue River post, reports that his assistant has disappeared. Vanished. Simply gone. But only three months ago the former factor—Morones was his assistant—disappeared. No hide nor hair of him. Morones reported to the company, the Mercurian Trading Concession, and they called me. Something, they think, is rotten.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I guess I needn’t tell you,” the colonel went on, “that you have to use tact. People don’t seem to appreciate the Force. What with the lousy politicians begrudging every cent we get, and a bunch of suspicious foreign powers afraid we’ll get too good—”

“Yeah, I know. Tact, that’s my motto. No rough stuff.” He saluted, turned on his heel.

“Just a minute!” The colonel had arisen. He was a fine, ascetic type of man. He held out his hand.

“Good-by, Olear. Watch yourself!”

When Olear had taken his matter-of-fact departure the colonel ran his fingers through his whitening hair. In the past several months he had sent five of his best men on dangerous missions—missions requiring tact, courage, and, so it seemed, very much luck. And only two of the five had come back. In those days the Interplanetary Flying Police did not enjoy the tremendous prestige it does now. The mere presence of a member of the Force is enough, in these humdrum days of interplanetary law and order, to quell the most serious disturbance anywhere in the solar system. But it was not always thus. This astounding prestige had to be earned with blood and courage, in many a desperate and lonely battle; had to be snatched from the dripping jaws of death.


O

lear checked over his flying ovoid, got his bearings from the port astronomer, set his coordinate navigator and shoved off. Two weeks later he plunged into the thick, misty atmosphere on the dark side of Mercury.

Ancient astronomers had long suspected that Mercury always presented the same side to the sun, though they were ignorant that the little planet had water and air. Its sunward side is a dreary, sterile, hot and hostile desert. Its dark side is warm and humid, and resembles to some extent the better known jungles and swamps of Venus. But it has a favored belt, some hundreds of miles wide, around its equator, where the enormous sun stays perpetually in one spot on the horizon. Sunward is the blinding glare of the desert; on the dark side, enormous banks of lowering clouds. On the dark margin of this belt are the “ringstorms,” violent thunderstorms that never cease. They are the source of the mighty rivers which irrigate the tropical habitable belt and plunge out, boiling, far into the desert.

Olear’s little ship passed through the ringstorms, and he did not take over the controls until he recognized the familiar mark of the trading company, a blue comet on the aluminum roof of one of the larger buildings. Visibility was good that day, but despite the unusual clarity of the atmosphere there was a suggestion of the sinister about the lifeless scene—the vast, irresistible river, the riotously colored jungle roof. The vastness of nature dwarfed man’s puny work. One horizon flashed incessantly with livid lightning, the other was one blinding blaze of the nearby sun. And almost[377] lost below in the savage landscape was man’s symbol of possession, a few metal sheds in a clear, fenced space of a few acres.

Olear cautiously checked speed, skimmed over the turbid surface of the great river, and set her down on the ground within the compound. With his pencil-like ray-tube in his hand he stepped out of the hatchway.


A

Mercurian native came out of the residence, presently, his hands together in the peace sign. For the benefit of Earthlubbers whose only knowledge of Mercury is derived from the teleview screen, it should be explained that Mercurians are not human, even if they do slightly resemble us. They hatch from eggs, pass one life-phase as frog-like creatures in their rivers, and in the adult stage turn more human in appearance. But their skin remains green and fish-belly white. There is no hair on their warty heads. Their eyes have no lids, and have a peculiar dead, staring look when they sleep. And they carry a peculiar, fishy odor with them at all times.

This Mercurian looked at Olear seemingly without interest.

“Where is Morones?” the officer inquired.

“Morones?” the native piped, in English. “Inside. He busy.”

“All right. I’m coming in.”

“He busy.”

“Yeah, move over.”

Though the native was a good six inches taller than Olear he stepped aside when the officer pushed him. Men—and Mercurians—had a way of doing that when they looked into those colorless eyes. They were not as phlegmatic as the face. Morones was sitting in his office.

“Well, I’m here,” Olear announced, helping himself to a chair.

“Yes”—sourly. “Who invited you?”

Olear looked at the factor levelly, appraising him. A big man, fat, but the fat well distributed. Saturnine face, dark hair, dark and bristly beard. The kind that thrived where other men became weak and fever-ridden. Also, to judge by his present appearance, an unpleasant companion and a nasty enemy.

“Don’t see what difference it makes to you,” Olear answered in his own good time; “but the company invited me.”

“They would!” Morones growled. His eyes flickered to the door, and quick as a cat, Olear leaped to one side, his ray-pencil in his hand.

Morones had not moved, and in the door stood the native, motionless and without expression. Morones laughed nastily.

“Kind of jumpy, eh? What is it, Nargyll?”


N

argyll burst into a burbling succession of native phrases, which Olear had some difficulty following.

“Nargyll wants to move your ship into one of the sheds, but the activator key’s gone.”

“Yeah, I know,” Olear assented casually. “I got it. Leave the ship till I get ready. Then I’ll put it away. Get out, Nargyll.”

The native, hesitated, then on the lift of Morones’ eyebrows departed. Olear shifted a chair so that he could watch both Morones and the door. He reopened the conversation easily:

“Well, we understand each other. You don’t want me here and I’m here. So what are you going to do about it?”

Morones flushed. He struggled to keep his temper down.

“What do you want to know?”

“What happened to the factor who was here before you?”

“I don’t know. The translucene wasn’t coming in like it should. Sammis went out into the jungle for[378] a palaver with the chiefs to find out why. And he didn’t come back.”

“You didn’t find out where he went?”

“I just told you,” Morones said impatiently, “he went out to see the native chiefs.”

“Alone?”

“Of course, alone. There were only two of us Earthmen here. Couldn’t abandon this post to the wogglies, could we? Not that it’d make much difference. Except for Nargyll, none’ll come near.”

“You never heard of him again?”

“No! Dammit, no! Say, didn’t they have any dumber strappers around than you? I told you once—I tell you again—I never saw hide nor hair of him after that.”

“Aw-right, aw-right!” Olear regarded Morones placidly. “And so you took the job of factor and radioed for an assistant, and when the assistant came he disappeared.”

Morones grunted, “He went out to get acquainted with the country and didn’t come back.”


O

lear masked his close scrutiny of the factor under his idle and expressionless gaze. He was not ready to jump to the conclusion that Morones’ uneasiness sprang from a sense of guilt. Guilty or not, he had a right to feel uneasy. The man would be dense indeed if he did not realize he was in line for suspicion, and he did not look dense. Indeed, he was obviously a shrewd character.

“Let me see your ‘lucene.”

Morones rose. Despite his bulk he stepped nimbly. He had the nimbleness of a Saturnian bear, which is great, as some of the earlier explorers learned to their dismay.

“That’s the first sensible question you’ve asked,” Morones snorted. “Take a look at our ‘lucene. Ha! Have a good look!”

He led the way across the compound, waved his hand before the door of a strongly built shed in a swift, definite combination, and the door opened, revealing the interior. He waved invitingly.

“You go first,” Olear said.

With a sneer Morones stepped in. “You’re safe, boy, you’re safe.”

Olear looked at the small pile on the floor in astonishment. Instead of the beautiful, semi-transparent chips of translucene, the dried sap of a Mercurian tree which is invaluable to the world as the source of an unfailing cancer cure, there were only a few dirty, dried up shavings, hardly worth shipping back to Earth for refining. The full significance of the affair began to dawn on the officer. The translucene trees grew only in this favored section of Mercury, and the Earth company had a monopoly of the entire supply. Justly, for only on Earth was cancer known, and it was on the increase. That small, almost useless pile on the floor connoted a terrible drug famine for the human race.


M

orones’ smile might have been a grin of satisfaction, at Olear’s question:

“Is that all you’ve bought since the last freighter was here?”‘

“It is,” he replied. “The last load went off six months ago, and this here shed should be full to the eaves. There’ll be hell to pay.”

“It may not be tactful,” Olear remarked, “but if you’ve got your takings cached away somewhere to hold up the Earth for a big ransom, you’d better come across right now. You can’t get by with it, fellow. You should have close to six million dollars’ worth of it, and you can’t get away. You just can’t.”

Morones controlled his anger with an effort.

“Like any dumb strapper, you’ve got your mind made up, ain’t you? Well, go ahead. Get something on me. Here I was almost set to give you a lead that might get you somewhere. And you come shooting off—trying[379] to make out I stole the ‘lucene and killed those two fellows, eh? Go ahead! Get something on me! But not on Company grounds. You’re leaving now!”

With that he made a lunge at the officer, quite beside himself with rage. Olear could have burnt him down, but he was far too experienced for such an amateurish trick. Instead he ducked to evade Morones’ blow. But the big man was as agile as a panther. In mid-air, so it seemed, he changed his direction of attack. The big fist swept downward, striking Olear’s head a glancing blow.

But the men of the Force have always been fighters, whatever their shortcomings as diplomats. Olear countered with a strong right to the body, thudding solidly, for Morones’ softness did not go far below the surface. The factor whirled instantly, but not quite fast enough to bar the door. Olear was out and inside his ship in a few seconds, slamming the hatch.

“Tact!” he grinned to himself, inserting the activator key. “Tact is what a fella needs.” The little space flier shot aloft, until the tiny figure of the factor stopped shaking its fist and entered the residence. The post had a flier of its own, of course, but Morones was too wise to use it in pursuit.

Olear considered what was best to do. Of course he could have placed Morones under arrest; could still do it; but that would not solve the mystery of the two deaths and the missing ‘lucene. If the choleric factor was really guilty of the crimes, it would be better to let him go his way in the hope that he would betray himself. Olear regretted that he had not kept his tongue under closer curb. But there was no use regretting. Perhaps, after all, he ought to turn back to pump Morones for some helpful information.


H

is mind made up, he descended again until he was hovering a few feet from the ground.

“Morones!” he called. “Morones!” He held the hatch open.

Morones came to the door of the residence. He had a tube in his hand, a long-range weapon.

“Morones,” Olear declared pompously. “I place you under arrest!”

The effect was instantaneous. Morones lifted the tube, and a glimmering, iridescent beam sprang out. The ship was up and away in a second, lurching and shivering uncomfortably every time the beam struck it in its upward flight. A good few seconds continued impingement….

But a miss is as good as a light-year. Miles high, Olear looked into his telens. Morones had laid aside his tube and was working with an instrument like a twin transit. Plotting the ship’s course, naturally. Olear set his course for the Earth, and kept on it for a good twenty-four hours. Morones, if he was still watching him, would think he’d gone back for reinforcements. Such an assumption would be incredible now, but that was before the I. F. P. had achieved its present tremendous reputation.

Beyond observation range, Olear curved back toward Mercury again, and was almost inside its atmosphere when he made a discovery that caused him to lose for a moment his natural indifference, and to clamp his jaws in anger. The current oxygen tank became empty, and when he removed it from the rack and put in a new one he found someone had let out all of this essential gas. The valve of every one of the spare tanks had been opened. Had Olear actually continued on his way to Earth he would have perished miserably of suffocation long before he could have returned to the Mercurian atmosphere. The officer whistled tunelessly through his teeth as he considered this fact.[380]

The visibility was by this time normal; that is, so poor it would have been possible to land very close to the trading station. Olear was taking no chances, however, and came down a good three Earth miles away. The egg-shaped hull sank through the glossy, brilliant treetops, through twisted vines, and was buried in the dank gloom of the jungle. Here it might remain hidden for a hundred years.


T

he twilight of the jungle was almost darkness. Landmarks were not. But Olear made a few small, inconspicuous marks on trees with his knife until he came to an outcropping rock. He had noticed the scarlike white of it slashing through the jungle from the air, and used it as a guide to direct his stealthy return to the trading post. His belt chronometer told him it would be about time for Morones to get up from his “night’s” sleep. A little discreet observation might tell much.

Long before he reached the compound, Olear heard the rushing of the great Blue River in its headlong plunge to the corrosive heat of the desert. And then, through the mists, he glimpsed the white metal walls of the Company sheds.

He climbed a tree and for a long time watched patiently, lying prone on a limb. Blood-sucking insects tortured him, and flat tree-lice, resembling discs with legs, crawled over him inquisitively. Olear tolerated them with stoic indifference until at last his patience was rewarded. Morones was coming out of the compound. He was alone and obviously did not suspect that he was being watched, for he stepped out briskly. Once in the jungle he walked even faster, watching out warily for the panther-like carnivora that were the most dangerous to man on Mercury.

Olear shinned to the ground and followed cautiously. Morones had his ray-tube with him, as any traveler in these jungles did. Olear could and did draw fast, but a dead trader would be valueless to him in his investigation, so he stalked him with every faculty strained to maintain complete silence. Often, in occasional clearings where the brown darkness grew less, he had to grovel on the slimy ground, picking up large bacteria that could be seen with the naked eye, and which left tiny, festering red marks on the skin. Mercury has no snakes.

The trader seemed to be heading for higher ground, for the path led ever upward, though not far from the tossing waters of the river. And then, suddenly, he disappeared.

Olear did not immediately hurry after him. A canny fugitive, catching sight of his pursuer, might suddenly drop to the ground and squirm to the side of the trail, there to wait and catch his pursuer as he passed. So Olear sidled into the all but impenetrable underbrush and slowly, with infinite caution, wormed his way along.


P

resently he came to the little rise of ground where Morones had disappeared, but a painstaking search did not reveal the factor. There were, however, a number of other trails that joined the very faint trail he had been following, and now there was a well-defined track which continued to lead upward. With a grimace of disgust Olear again plunged into the odorous underbrush and traveled parallel to the trail. It was well he did so, for several Mercurians passed swiftly, intent, so it seemed, in answering a shrill call that at times came faintly to the ear. They carried slender spears.

Several more Mercurians passed. The growth was thinning out, and Olear did not dare to proceed further. However, from his hiding place he could discern a number of[381] irregular cave openings, apparently leading downward. They were apparently the entrances to one of the native cavern colonies, or possibly of a meeting place. No Earthman had ever entered one, but it was thought they had underground openings into the river.

As the cave openings were obviously natural, Olear conjectured that there might be others that were not used. After an anxious search he found one, narrow and irregular, well hidden under the broad, glossy leaves of some uncatalogued vegetation. As it showed no evidence of use, Olear unhesitatingly slid down into it. It was very narrow and irregular, so that often he was barely able to squeeze through. The roots of trees choked the passage for a dozen feet or so, requiring the vigorous use of a knife. Bathed in sweat, his uniform a filthy mass of rags, Olear at last saw light.

The passage ended abruptly near the roof of a large natural cavern. Lights glistened on stalactites which cut off Olear’s larger view, and voices came from below. By craning his neck the officer could look between the pendent icicles of rock and see a fire burning on a huge oblong block of stone. Figures were sitting on the floor around this block—hundreds of Mercurians. The leaping flames made their white and green faces and bodies look frog-like and less human than usual.


B

ut the figure that dominated the whole assemblage, both by its own hugeness and the magnetic power that flowed from it, was not of Mercury but of Pluto. For the benefit of those who have never seen a stuffed Plutonian in our museums—and they are very rare—let me refer you to the pious books still to be found in ancient library collections. The ancients personified their fears and hates in a being they called the Devil. The resemblance between the Devil of their imagination and a Plutonian is really astounding. Horns, hoofs, tail—almost to the smallest detail, the resemblance is there.

Philosophers have written books on the “coincidence” in appearance of the ancient Devil and the modern decadent Plutonians. The Plutonians were once numerous and far advanced in science, and no doubt they called on the Earth many times, in prehistoric days, and the so-called Devil was a true picture of those vicious invaders, who are somewhat less human than usually portrayed. What was once classed as superstition was therefore a true racial memory. Long before our ancestors came out of their caves to build houses, the Plutonians had mastered interplanetary travel—only to forget the secret until human ingenuity should reveal it once more.

The modern Plutonian in that dank cave was over ten feet tall, and it is easy to see why he dominated the assemblage. His black visage was set in an evil smile; his ebony body glistened in the firelight. He held a three-pronged spear in one hand, and sat on a pile of rocks, a sort of rough throne, so that he towered magnificently above all others.

He spoke the Mercurian language, although the liquid intonations came harshly from his sneering lips.

“Are ye assembled, frogfolk, that ye may hear the decision of your Thinking Ones?” he asked.


A

respectful peeping chorus signified assent. But in that there was a hint of unrest; even of fear.

“Speak, ye Thinking One, your commands!”

“Hear me first!” An old Mercurian, unusually tall, faded and dry looking, his thick hide wrinkled like crushed leather, rose slowly to his feet and stepped before the oblong[382] stone. His back was to the Plutonian, his face to the crescent of chiefs.

“The Old Wise One!” A twittering murmur went around the assemblage. “Hear the Old Wise One!”

“My people, I like this not!” began the ancient. “The Lords of the Green Star[1] have dealt with us fairly. Each phase[2] they have brought us the things we wanted”—he touched his spear and a few gaudy ornaments on his otherwise naked body—”in exchange for the worthless white sap of our trees. If we longer offend the Lords of the Green Star—”

A raucous laugh interrupted the Mercurian’s feeble voice, and it echoed eerily from the walls of the chamber.

“Valueless ye call the white sap?” sneered the Plutonian. “Hear me. That sap you call valueless is dearer than life itself to the Lords of the Green Star. For they are afflicted in great numbers with a stinking death they call cancer. It destroys their vitals, and nothing—nothing in this broad universe can help them save this white sap ye give them. In your hands ye have the power to bring the proud Lords of the Green Star to their knees. They would fill this chamber many times with their most priceless treasures for the sap ye give them so freely. Withhold the sap, and your Thinking Ones may go to the Green Star itself to rule over its Lords. They are desperate. Their emissaries may even now be on the way to beg your pleasure. Speak, Thinking Ones! Would ye not rule the Green Star?”


B

ut the chiefs failed to become enthused. One of them rose and addressed the Plutonian:

“O Lord of the Outer Orbit! For near one full phase have ye dwelt among us. And well should ye know we have no desire for conquest. We fear to go to the Green Star to rule.”

“Then let me rule for ye!” exclaimed the Plutonian instantly. “My brothers will abide with ye as your guests—shall see that ye receive a fair reward for the white sap; and I will convey your commands to the Lords of the Green Star.”

The Old Wise One raised his withered hands, so that the uncertain twittering of voices which followed the Plutonian’s suggestion subsided.

“My children,” piped the feeble old voice, “the Black Lord has spoken cunning words, but they are false. It is plain to see that he desires to rule the Green Star, and our welfare does not concern him.”

“If so it be that the white sap is of great value to the Lords of the Green Star, it is still of no value to us; and if the gifts they bring to us are of no value to them, they are dear to us.”

The Plutonian sneered.

“Dearer than the Paste of Strange Dreams?”

A startled hush fell among the assembled Mercurians. They looked guiltily at one another, avoiding the eyes of the Old Wise One.

“What is this?” shrilled he, turning furiously to the Plutonian. “Have ye brought the paste of evil to our abode, knowing well the strict proscription of our tribe? Fool! Your death is upon ye!”


B

ut the Plutonian only grinned and spread his glistening, black hands in a careless gesture.[383] High overhead, peering through the stalactites, Olear instantly understood the Plutonian’s strange power, the Paste of Strange Dreams, a fearsome narcotic of that far-swinging dark planet. More insidious and devastating than any drug ever produced on Earth, it had wrought frightful havoc among many solar races. The Earthmen had opened the lanes, broken the age-old barriers of distance, so that the harpies of evil could traffic their poison from planet to planet. So the Paste of Strange Dreams was added to the Earthman’s burden.

“Seize him—the Evil One!” shrieked the old chief, but the Mercurians sat sullen and silent, and the Plutonian sneered.

Finally one of the chiefs arose and with an effort faced the Old Wise One and said:

“The Strange Dreams are dearer to us than all else. Do as he says.”

The piping voices rose in eager acclamation, but the Old Wise One held up his claws, waiting until silence returned.

“Wait! Wait! Before ye commit this folly, hear the Green Star man. Many times has he demanded audience. Let him come in.”

“It is not permitted,” demurred one of the chiefs.

“Ye permitted this being of evil to enter; let him enter also.”

“He is in the outer chambers now,” one of the guards spoke. “His face is like the center of a ringstorm.”

“Let him enter!”


M

orones strode into the room angrily. Blinded by the fire after the darkness of the antechambers, he did not at first see the Plutonian. He strode up to the ancient chief and glared at him.

“Does the Old Wise One learn wisdom at last?” he rasped. The ancient shrank away from him, as did the nearer of the lesser chiefs.

“The Old Wise One thinks less of his wisdom,” he replied wearily. “Behold!” He pointed to the enthroned Plutonian.

Morones started. His hand flashed to his side, and came away empty. Deft fingers had extracted his ray-tube. But he was a man of courage. Never could it be said to his shame that an Earthman cringed in the sight of lesser races.

“So it’s you, my sooty friend!” he snarled in English. The Plutonian, accomplished linguist, replied:

“As you see. You don’t look very happy, Mr. Morones.”

Morones regarded him impassively, his eyes frosty.

“That explains everything,” he said at last with cold deliberation. “First Sammis, then Boyd. Going to finish me next, I suppose?”

The Plutonian twisted the end of an eyebrow and smiled.

“Interested in them?”

“What’d you do with the bodies?”

The Plutonian jerked his thumb carelessly. “The river you call the Blue is swift and deep. But before you follow them there is certain information I wish to get from you. Where is the soldier who came to visit you?”

A crafty light came into Morones’ face.

“He is not far from here, waiting for me.”


O

lear, in his cramped hiding place, could not help feeling a warm glow of admiration for Morones’ nerve, because Morones thought him well on his way to Earth.

“Nargyll, what did your master do with the visitor?”

“Drove him back to the Green Star,” Nargyll said promptly.

“And the oxygen tanks. Did you empty them?”

“I let them hiss.” Nargyll’s grin was sharkish.

“News to you, eh, Morones? Your[384] officer’s corpse has probably dropped into the sun by this time. Tell me, why did you drive him off?”

Morones sagged perceptibly. To gain a little time he said truthfully:

“I knew I should be blamed and ruined for life. I didn’t know you were here, damn you! I hoped to get this mess with the natives straightened up before he’d come back with reinforcements.”

“Yes. Well, you owe some months of life already. Your presence here has been more or less embarrassing, but I had to let you live or I’d have had the whole I. F. P. here to investigate. Now that you’ve failed in keeping them from getting interested you may do me one more service.” The black giant grinned.

“I’ve often wondered at the Earthman’s prestige all over the solar system. Even to-night, soft and helpless as you are, these natives fear you. You will, therefore, be an object lesson in the helplessness of Earthmen.”


M

orones was pale but courageous. With contempt in every line of him he watched some of the less frightened chiefs, at the command of the Plutonian, push aside some of the blazing blocks of fungus on the stone, to make room for his body. At last he raised his hand.

“Frogfolk!” he cried, “if ye do this thing, the Lords of the Green Star will come. They will come with fires hotter than the sun; they will blast your rivers with a power greater than the thunder of the ringstorms; they will fill your caves with a purple smoke that turns your bones to water—”

Shrill cries of fear almost drowned out his words. All the Mercurians had seen evidences of the dreadful power of the Earthmen. They began milling around, then stood rooted by the roar of the Plutonian’s voice.

“Lies! Lies!” he bellowed. “See, they are weak as egglets!” He stepped down, picked Morones up by one shoulder, and held him, dangling, high over the heads of all. Morones clawed and tore at the brawny arm. He made a ludicrous picture. Soon the simple natives made a sniffling sound of mirth, and the Plutonian, satisfied at last, set him down again.

“He tells truth!” The Old Wise One had climbed to the top of the stone block. “The Lords of the Green Star have their power not in their bodies, but it is great. It is greater far than the frogfolk. It is greater than the Lords of the Outer Orbit. They will come even as the surly one has said, and great shall be our sorrow. It is not yet too late. Release him, and deliver to him the white sap. Seize this evil one—”

The feeble, fickle minds were being swayed again. In a gust of impatience, the Plutonian stepped down, seized the aged chief’s skinny body in his great black hands, and snapped him in two. There was a tearing of tough cords and tissue, and the two halves fell into the fire.

For an instant the Mercurians were stunned. Then some of them vented hissing sounds of rage, while others prostrated themselves on the floor. The black giant watched them narrowly for a moment, then turned his attention to Morones. He seized him by the arm and drew him slowly and irresistibly to him.


T

he murder of the Old Wise One had been done so quickly that Olear was unable to prevent it. Had he been able to use his ray weapon he could have burned the Plutonian down, but it had been bent at one of the narrow turns of the crevice he had come down. The need for extreme lightness in weapons was rather overdone in those early times, and a little rough handling made them useless.[385]

So now Olear, weaponless except for the service knife at his belt, began the hazardous undertaking of climbing among the stalactites to a position approximately above the Plutonian’s head. The job required judgment. Some of the stone masses were insecurely anchored and would crash down at the lightest touch. Some were spaced so closely together that he could not get between them. Others were so far apart that it was difficult to get from one to another.

Yet he made it somehow, and unnoticed, for all eyes were turned on the tense drama being enacted below. From almost directly overhead he saw Morones being drawn upward.

“You saw,” the Plutonian was saying triumphantly in Mercurian, “—you saw me unmake your Old Fool. And now you will see that a Lord of the Green Star is even softer, even weaker—”

Morones, in that pitiless grasp, turned his face to the hateful grinning visage above him. In his last extremity he was still angry.

“You devil!” Morones shouted. “You may murder me, but they’ll get you! They’ll get you!”

“Who’ll get me?” the Plutonian purred silkily, deferring the pleasure of the kill for another moment. Morones was having trouble with his breathing. His red face lolled from side to side, his eyes rolled in agony. Suddenly he saw Olear. Unbelieving, he relaxed.

“I’m seein’ things!” he breathed.

“Who’ll get me?” persisted the Plutonian, applying a little more pressure.

“The I. F. P.!” Morones gasped.

“Well, you little son-of-a-gun!” Olear thought, and then he jumped.

He landed a-straddle the neck of the Plutonian, which was almost like forking a horse. One brawny arm seized a horn. The other, with a lightning-swift dart, brought the point of the long service-knife to the pulsing black throat.

“Put him down!” Olear spoke into the great pointed ear. “Easy!”

Back on his feet, Morones began bellowing at the Mercurians. Utterly demoralized, they fled pell-mell. Morones came back. He said:

“Nothing to tie him up with.”

“That’s all right,” Olear replied, studiously keeping the knife point at exactly the right place, “I’ll ride him in. Get going, you, and be tactful when you go through the door, or this sticker of mine might slip!” With extreme care the Plutonian did exactly as Olear ordered him to.


I

t was necessary to radio for one of the larger patrol ships to take Olear’s enormous prisoner back to Earth for his trial. The officer testified, of course, and the Plutonian was duly sentenced to death for the murder of the old Mercurian. Execution by dehydration was decreed, so that the body would be uninjured for scientific study; and to-day it is considered one of the finest specimens extant.

In his testimony, however, Olear so minimized his own connection with the case that he received no public recognition. It was not until some months afterward, when Morones, on leave, rode back with a shipload of translucene, that the whole story came out, emphatically and profanely. Olear finally consented to speak a few words for the Telephoto News Co. As he stepped off the little platform deferential hands tried to push him back.

“You haven’t told them who you are,” protested the announcer. “Give your name and rank.”

“Aw, they don’t have to know that!” Olear rejoined, keeping on going. “They know it’s one of the Force. That’s all they have to know. Besides there’s a blackjack game going on and I’m losing money every minute I’m out of it.”

FOOTNOTES

[1]In their various languages, almost all solar races call Earth “The Green Star.” Although conditions on Mercury are unfavorable, Earth can be seen from the dark star, on mountain tops, during occasional dispersals of the cloud masses.

[2]The Mercurians had no conception of time before the Earthmen came. A “phase” is the time between calls of the freight ships, and is therefore variable; but in those days it was about six or seven months.


[386]

The Exile of Time

PART THREE OF A FOUR-PART NOVEL

By Ray Cummings

"Look!" exclaimed Larry.“Look!” exclaimed Larry.

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE

T

here came a girl’s scream, and muffled, frantic words.

“Let me out! Let me out!”

Then we saw her white face at the basement window. This, which was the start of the extraordinary incidents, occurred on the night of June 8-9, 1935.

Larry and George from 1935, Mary from 1777—all are caught up in the treacherous Tugh’s revolt of the Robots, in the Time-world of 2930.

My name is George Rankin, and with my friend, Larry Gregory, we rescued the girl who was imprisoned in the deserted house on Patton Place, New York City. We thought at first that she was demented—this strangely beautiful girl in long white satin dress, white powdered wig and a black beauty patch on her check. She said she had come from the year 1777, that her father[387] was Major Atwood, of General Washington’s staff! Her name was Mistress Mary Atwood.

It was a strange story she had to tell us. A cage of shining metal bars had materialized in her garden, and a mechanical man had come from it—a Robot ten feet tall. It had captured her; brought her to 1935; left her, and vanished saying it would return.

We went back to that house on Patton Place. The cage did return, and Larry and I fought the strange monster. We were worsted, and the Robot seized Mary and me and whirled us back into Time in its room-like cage of shining bars.[388] Larry recovered his senses, rushed into Patton Place, and there encountered another, smaller, Time-traveling cage, and was himself taken off in it.

But the occupants of Larry’s smaller cage were friendly. They were a man and a girl of 2930 A.D.! The girl was the Princess Tina, and the man, Harl, a young scientist of that age. With an older scientist—a cripple named Tugh—Harl had invented the Time-vehicles.


W

e had heard of Tugh before. Mary Atwood had known him in the year 1777. He had made love to her, and when repulsed had threatened vengeance against her father. And in 1932, a cripple named Tugh had gotten into trouble with the police and had vowed some strange weird vengeance against the city officials and the city itself. More than that, the very house on Patton Place from which we had rescued Mary Atwood, was owned by this man named Tugh, who was wanted by the police but could not be found!

Tugh’s vengeance was presently demonstrated, for in June, 1935, a horde of Robots appeared. With flashing swords and red and violet light beams the mechanical men spread about the city massacring the people; they brought midsummer snow with their frigid red rays; and then, in a moment, torrid heat and boiling rain. Three days and nights of terror ensued; then the Robots silently withdrew into the house on Patton Place and vanished. The New York City of 1935 lay wrecked; the vengeance of Tugh against it was complete.

Larry, going back in Time now, was told by Harl and Princess Tina that a Robot named Migul—a mechanism almost human from the Time-world of 2930—had stolen the larger cage and was running amuck through Time. The strange world of 2930 was described to Larry—a world in which nearly-human mechanisms did all the work. These Robots, diabolically developed, were upon the verge of revolt. The world of machinery was ready to assail its human masters!

Migul was an insubordinate Robot, and Harl and Tina were chasing it. They whirled Larry back into Time, and they saw the larger cage stop at a night in the year 1777—the same night from which Mary Atwood had been stolen. They stopped there. Harl remained in the little cage to guard it, while Tina and Larry went outside.

It was night, and the house of Major Atwood was nearby. British redcoats had come to capture the colonial officer; but all they found was his murdered body lying in the garden. Migul the Robot had chained Mary and me to the door of his cage; had briefly stopped in the garden and killed the major, and then had departed with us.


W

e now went back to the Beginning of Time, for the other cage was again chasing us. Reaching the Beginning, we swept forward, and the whole vast panorama of the events of Time passed in review before us. Suddenly we found that Tugh himself was hiding in our cage! We had not known it, nor had Migul, our Robot captor. Tugh was hiding here, not trusting Migul to carry out his orders!

We realized now that all these events were part of the wild vengeance of this hideously repulsive cripple. Migul was a mere machine carrying out Tugh’s orders. Tugh, in 2930, was masquerading as a friend of the Government; but in reality it was he who was fomenting the revolt of the Robots.

Tugh now took command of our cage. The smaller cage had only Harl in it now, for Larry and Tina were marooned in 1777. Harl was chasing us. Tugh stopped us in the[389] year 762 A.D. We found that the space around us now was a forest recently burned. Five hundred feet from us was the space which held Harl’s cage.

Presently it materialized! Mary and I were helpless. We stood watching Tugh, as he crouched on the floor of our cage near its opened doorway. A ray cylinder was in his hand, with a wire running to a battery in the cage corner. He had forced Mary and me to stand at the window where Harl would see us and be lured to approach.

From Harl’s cage, five hundred feet across the blackened forest glade of that day of 762, Harl came cautiously forward. Abruptly Tugh fired. His cylinder shot a horizontal beam of intense actinic light. It struck Harl full, and he fell.

Swiftly his body decomposed; and soon in the sunlight of the glade lay a sagging heap of black and white garments enveloping the skeleton of what a moment before had been a man!

CHAPTER XIV

A Very Human Princess

T

hat night in 1777 near the home of the murdered Major Atwood brought to Larry the most strangely helpless feeling he had ever experienced. He crouched with Tina beneath a tree in a corner of the field, gazing with horror at the little moonlit space by the fence where their Time-traveling vehicle should have been but now was gone.

Marooned in 1777! Larry had not realized how desolately remote this Revolutionary New York was from the great future city in which he had lived. The same space; but what a gulf between him and 1935! What a barrier of Time, impassable without the shining cage!

They crouched, whispering. “But why would he have gone, Tina?”

“I don’t know. Harl is very careful; so something or someone must have passed along here, and he left, rather than cause a disturbance. He will return, of course.”

“I hope so,” whispered Larry fervently. “We are marooned here, Tina! Heavens, it would be the end of us!”

“We must wait. He will return.”

They huddled in the shadow of the tree. Behind them there was a continued commotion at the Atwood home, and presently the mounted British officers came thudding past on the road, riding for headquarters at the Bowling Green to report the strange Atwood murder.

The night wore on. Would Harl return? If not to-night, then probably to-morrow, or to-morrow night. In spite of his endeavor to stop correctly, he could so easily miss this night, these particular hours.

Harl had met his death, as I have described. We never knew exactly what he did, of course, after leaving that night of 1777. It seems probable, however, that some passer-by startled him into flashing away into Time. Then he must have seen with his instrument evidence of the other cage passing, and impulsively followed it—to his death in the burned forest of the year 762.


L

arry and Tina waited. The dawn presently began paling the stars; and still Harl did not come. The little space by the fence corner was empty.

“It will soon be daylight,” Larry whispered. “We can’t stay here: we’ll be discovered.”

They were anachronisms in this world; misfits; futuristic beings who dared not show themselves.

Larry touched his companion—the slight little creature who was a Princess in her far-distant future age. But to Larry now she was just a girl.

“Frightened, Tina?”[390]

“A little.”

He laughed softly. “It would be fearful to be marooned here permanently, wouldn’t it? You don’t think Harl would desert us? Purposely, I mean?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then we’ll expect him to-morrow night. He wouldn’t stop in the daylight, I guess.”

“I don’t think so. He would reason that I would not expect him.”

“Then we must find shelter, and food, and be here to-morrow night. It seems long to us, Tina, but in the cage it’s just an instant—just a trifle different setting of the controls.”

She smiled her pale, stern smile. “You have learned quickly, Larry. That is true.”

A sudden emotion swept him. His hand found hers; and her fingers answered the pressure of his own. Here in this remote Time-world they felt abruptly drawn together.

He murmured, “Tina, you are—” But he never finished.

The cage was coming! They stood tense, watching the fence corner where, in the flat dawn light, the familiar misty shadow was gathering. Harl was returning to them.

The cage flashed silently into being. They stood peering, ready to run to it. The door slid aside.


B

ut it was not Harl who came out. It was Tugh, the cripple. He stood in the doorway, a thick-set, barrel-chested figure of a man in a wide leather jacket, a broad black belt and short flaring leather pantaloons.

“Tugh!” exclaimed Tina.

The cripple advanced. “Princess, is it you?” He was very wary. His gaze shot at Larry and back to Tina. “And who is this?”

A hideously repulsive fellow, Larry thought this Tugh. He saw his shriveled, bent legs, crooked hips, and wide thick shoulders set askew—a goblin, in a leather jerkin. His head was overlarge, with a bulging white forehead and a mane of scraggly black hair shot with grey. But Larry could not miss the intellectuality marking his heavy-jowled face; the keenness of his dark-eyed gaze.

These were instant impressions. Tina had drawn Larry forward. “Where is Harl?” she demanded imperiously. “How have you come to have the cage, Tugh?”

“Princess, I have much to tell,” he answered, and his gaze roved the field. “But it is dangerous here; I am glad I have found you. Harl sent me to this night, but I struck it late. Come, Tina—and your strange-looking friend.”

It impressed Larry then, and many times afterward, that Tugh’s gaze at him was mistrustful, wary.

“Come, Larry,” said Tina. And again she demanded of Tugh, “I ask you, where is Harl?”

“At home. Safe at home, Princess.” He gestured toward Major Atwood’s house, which now in the growing daylight showed more plainly under its shrouding trees. “That space off there holds our other cage as you know, Tina. You and Harl were pursuing that other cage?”

“Yes,” she agreed.


T

hey had stopped at the doorway, where Tugh stood slightly inside. Larry whispered:

“What does this mean, Tina?”

Tugh said, “Migul, the mechanism, is running wild in the other cage. But you and Harl knew that?”

“Yes,” she answered, and said softly to Larry, “We will go. But, Larry, watch this Tugh! Harl and I never trusted him.”

Tugh’s manner was a combination of the self-confidence of a man of standing and the deference due his young Princess. He was closing the door, and saying:

“Migul, that crazy, insubordinate[391] machine, captured a man from 1935 and a girl from 1777. But they are safe: he did not harm them. Harl is with them.”

“In our world, Tugh?”

“Yes; at home. And we have Migul chained. Harl captured and subdued him.”

Tugh was at the controls. “May I take you and this friend of yours home, Princess?”

She whispered to Larry, “I think it is best, don’t you?”

Larry nodded.

She murmured, “Be watchful, Larry!” Then, louder: “Yes, Tugh. Take us.”

Tugh was bending over the controls.

“Ready now?”

“Yes,” said Tina.

Larry’s senses reeled momentarily as the cage flashed off into Time.


I

t was a smooth story which Tugh had to tell them; and he told it smoothly. His dark eyes swung from Tina to Larry.

“I talked with that other young man from your world. George Rankin, he said his name was. He is somewhat like you: dressed much the same and talks little. The girl calls herself Mary Atwood.” He went on and told them an elaborate, glib story, all of which was a lie. It did not wholly deceive Larry and Tina, yet they could not then prove it false. The gist of it was that Mary and I were with Harl and the subdued Migul in 2930.

“It is strange that Harl did not come for us himself,” said Tina.

Tugh’s gaze was imperturbable as he answered. “He is a clever young man, but he cannot be expected to handle these controls with my skill, Princess, and he knows it; so he sent me. You see, he wanted very much to strike just this night and this hour, so as not to keep you waiting.”

He added, “I am glad to have you back. Things are not well at home, Princess. This insubordinate adventure of Migul’s has been bad for the other mechanisms. News of it has spread, and the revolt is very near. What we are to do I cannot say, but I do know we did not like your absence.”

The trip which Larry and Tina now took to 2930 A.D. consumed, to their consciousness of the passing of Time, some three hours. They discovered that they were hungry, and Tugh produced food and drink.

Larry spent much of the time with Tina at the window, gazing at the changing landscape while she told him of the events which to her were history—the recorded things on the Time-scroll which separated her world and his.


T

ugh busied himself about the vehicle and left them much to themselves. They had ample opportunity to discuss him and his story of Harl. It must be remembered that Larry had no knowledge of Tugh, save the story which Alten had told of a cripple named Tugh in New York in 1933-34; and Mary Atwood’s mention of the coincidence of the Tugh she knew in 1777.

But Tina had known this Tugh for years. Though she, like Harl, had never liked him, nevertheless he was a trusted and influential man in her world. Proof of his activities in other Time-worlds, there was none so far, from Tina’s viewpoint. Nor did Larry and Tina know as yet of the devastation of New York in 1935; nor of the murder of Major Atwood. The capture of Mary and me, the fight with the Robot in the back yard of the house on Patton Place—in all these incidents of the bandit cage, only Migul had figured. Migul—an insubordinate, crazy mechanism running amuck.

Yet upon Larry and Tina was a premonition that Tugh, here with them now and so suavely friendly, was their real enemy.[392]

“I wouldn’t trust him,” Larry whispered, “any further than I can see him. He’s planning something, but I don’t know what.”

“But perhaps—and this I have often thought, Larry—perhaps it is his aspect. He looks so repulsive—”

Larry shook his head. “He does, for a fact; but I don’t mean that. What Mary Atwood told me of the Tugh she knew, described the fellow. And so did Alten describe him. And in 1934 he murdered a girl: don’t forget that, Tina—he, or someone who looked remarkably like him, and had the same name.”

But they knew that the best thing they could do now was to get to 2930. Larry wanted to join me again, and Tugh maintained I was there. Well, they would soon find out….


A

s they passed the shadowy world of 1935, a queer emotion gripped Larry. This was his world, and he was speeding past it to the future. He realized then that he wanted to be assured of my safety, and that of Mary Atwood and Harl; but what lay closest to his heart was the welfare of the Princess Tina. Princess? He never thought of her as that, save that it was a title she carried. She seemed just a small, strangely-solemn white-faced girl. He could not conceive returning to his own world and having her speed on, leaving him forever.

His thoughts winged ahead. He touched Tina as they stood together at the window gazing out at the shadowy New York City. It was now 1940.

“Tina,” he said, “if our friends are safe in your world—”

“If only they are, Larry!”

“And if your people there are in trouble, in danger—you will let me help?”

She turned abruptly to regard him, and he saw a mist of tenderness in the dark pools of her eyes.

“In history, Larry, I have often been interested in reading of a strange custom outgrown by us and supposed to be meaningless. Yet maybe it is not. I mean—”

She was suddenly breathless. “I mean even a Princess, as they call me, likes to—to be human. I want to—I mean I’ve often wondered—and you’re so dear—I want to try it. Was it like this? Show me.”

She reached up, put her arms about his neck and kissed him!

CHAPTER XV

A Thousand Years into the Future

T

930 to 2930—a thousand years in three hours. It was sufficiently slow traveling so that Larry could see from the cage window the actual detailed flow of movement: the changing outline of material objects around him. There had been the open country of Revolutionary times when this space was north of the city. It was a grey, ghostly landscape of trees and the road and the shadowy outlines of the Atwood house five hundred feet away.

Larry saw the road widen. The fence suddenly was gone. The trees were suddenly gone. The shapes of houses were constantly appearing; then melting down again, with others constantly rearing up to take their places; and always there were more houses, and larger, more enduring ones. And then the Atwood house suddenly melted: a second or two, and all evidence of it and the trees about it were gone.

There was no road; it was a city street now; and it had widened so that the cage was poised near the middle of it. And presently the houses were set solid along its borders.

At 1910 Larry began to recognize the contour of the buildings: The antiquated Patton Place. But the flowing changing outlines adjusted themselves constantly to a more[393] familiar form. The new apartment house, down the block in which Larry and I lived, rose and assembled itself like a materializing spectre. A wink or two of Larry’s eyelids and it was there. He recalled the months of its construction.

The cage, with Larry as a passenger, could not have stopped in these years: he realized it, now. There was a nameless feeling, a repulsion against stopping; it was indescribable, but he was aware of it. He had lived these years once, and they were forbidden to him again.

The cage was still in its starting acceleration. They swept through the year 1935, and then Larry was indefinably aware that the forbidden area had passed.


T

hey went through those few days of June, 1935, during which Tugh’s Robots had devastated the city, but it was too brief an action to make a mark that Larry could see. It left a few very transitory marks, however. Larry noticed that along the uneven line of ghostly roof-tops, blobs of emptiness had appeared; he saw a short distance away that several of the houses had melted down into ragged, tumbled heaps. These were where the bombs had struck, dropped by the Government planes in an endeavor to wreck the Tugh house from which the Robots were appearing. But the ragged, broken areas were filled in a second—almost as soon as Larry realized they were there—and new and larger buildings than before appeared.

At sight of all this he murmured to Tina, “Something has happened here. I wonder what?”

He chanced to turn, and saw that Tugh was regarding him very queerly; but in a moment he forgot it in the wonders of the passage into his future.

This growing, expanding city! It had seemed a giant to Larry in 1935, especially after he had compared it to what it was in 1777. But now, in 1950, and beyond to the turn of the century, he stood amazed at the enormity of the shadowy structures rearing their spectral towers around him. For some years Patton Place, a backward section, held its general form; then abruptly the city engulfed it. Larry saw monstrous buildings of steel and masonry rising a thousand feet above him. For an instant, as they were being built he saw their skeleton outlines; and then they were complete. Yet they were not enduring, for in every flowing detail they kept changing.

An overhead sidewalk went like a balcony along what had been Patton Place. Bridges and archways spanned the street. Then there came a triple bank of overhead roadways. A distance away, a hundred feet above the ground level, the shadowy form of what seemed a monorail structure showed for a moment. It endured for what might have been a hundred years, and then it was gone….


T

his monstrous city! By 2030 there was a vast network of traffic levels over what had been a street. It was an arcade, now, open at the top near the cage; but further away Larry saw where the giant buildings had flowed and mingled over it, with the viaducts, spider bridges and pedestrian levels plunging into tunnels to pierce through them.

And high overhead, where the little sky which was left still showed, Larry saw the still higher outlines of a structure which quite evidently was a huge aerial landing stage for airliners.

It was an incredible city! There were spots of enduring light around Larry now—the city lights which for months and years shone here unchanged. The cage was no longer outdoors. The street which had become[394] an open arcade was now wholly closed. A roof was overhead—a city roof, to shut out the inclement weather. There was artificial light and air and weather down here, and up on the roof additional space for the city’s teeming activities.

Larry could see only a shadowy narrow vista, here indoors, but his imagination supplied visions of what the monstrous, incredible city must be. There was a roof, perhaps, over all Manhattan. Bridges and viaducts would span to the great steel and stone structures across the rivers, so that water must seem to be in a canyon far underground. There would be a cellar to this city, incredibly intricate with conduits of wires and drainage pipes, and on the roof rain or snow would fall unnoticed by the millions of workers. Children born here in poverty might never yet have seen the blue sky and the sunlight, or know that grass was green and lush and redolent when moist with morning dew….

Larry fancied this now to be the climax of city building here on earth; the city was a monster, now, unmanageable, threatening to destroy the humans who had created it…. He tried to envisage the world; the great nations; other cities like this one. Freight transportation would go by rail and underseas, doubtless, and all the passengers by air….


T

ina, with her knowledge of history, could sketch the events. The Yellow War—the white races against the Orientals—was over by the year 2000. The three great nations were organized in another half-century: the white, the yellow and the black.

By the year 2000, the ancient dirigibles had proven impractical, and great airliners of the plane type were encircling the earth. New motors, wing-spreads, and a myriad devices made navigation of the upper altitudes possible. At a hundred thousand feet, upon all the Great Circle routes, liners were rushing at nearly a thousand miles an hour. They would halt at intervals, to allow helicopter tenders to come up to transfer descending passengers.

Then the etheric wave-thrust principle was discovered: by 2500 A.D. man was voyaging out into space and Interplanetary travel began. This brought new problems: a rush of new millions of humans to live upon our Earth; new wars; new commerce in peace times; new ideas; new scientific knowledge….

By 2500, the city around Larry must have reached its height. It stayed there a half century; and then it began coming down. Its degeneration was slow, in the beginning. First, there might have been a hole in the arcade which was not repaired. Then others would appear, as the neglect spread. The population left. The great buildings of metal and stone, so solidly appearing to the brief lifetime of a single individual, were impermanent over the centuries.

By 2600, the gigantic ghosts had all melted down. They lay in a shadowy pile, burying the speeding cage. There was no stopping here; there was no space unoccupied in which they could stop. Larry could see only the tangled spectres of broken, rusting, rotting metal and stone.

He wondered what could have done it. A storm of nature? Or had mankind strangely turned decadent, and rushed back in a hundred years or so to savagery? It could not have been the latter, because very soon the ruins were moving away: the people were clearing the city site for something new. For fifty years it went on.


T

ina explained it. The age of steam had started the great city of New York, and others like it, into its monstrous congestion of human[395] activity. There was steam for power and steam for slow transportation by railroads and surface ships. Then the conquest of the air, and the transportation of power by electricity, gradually changed things. But man was slow to realize his possibilities. Even in 1930, all the new elements existed; but the great cities grew monstrous of their own momentum. Business went to the cities because the people were there; workers flocked in because the work was there to call them.

But soon the time came when the monster city was too unwieldy. The traffic, the drainage, the water supply could not cope with conditions. Still, man struggled on. The workers were mere automatons—pallid attendants of machinery; people living in a world of beauty who never had seen it; who knew of nothing but the city arcades where the sun never shone and where amusements were as artificial as the light and air.

Then man awakened to his folly. Disease broke out in New York City in 2551, and in a month swept eight million people into death. The cities were proclaimed impractical, unsafe. And suddenly the people realized how greatly they hated the city; how strangely beautiful the world could be in the fashion God created it….

There was, over the next fifty years, an exodus to the rural sections. Food was produced more cheaply, largely because it was produced more abundantly. Man found his wants suddenly simplified.

And business found that concentration was unnecessary. The telephone and television made personal contacts not needed. The aircraft, the high-speed auto-trucks over modern speedways, the aeroplane-motored monorails, the rocket-trains—all these shortened distance. And, most important of all, the transportation of electrical energy from great central power companies made small industrial units practical even upon remote farms. The age of electricity came into its own. The cities were doomed….


L

arry saw, through 2600 and 2700 A.D., a new form of civilization rising around him. At first it seemed a queer combination of the old fashioned village and a strange modernism. There were, here upon Manhattan Island, metal houses, widely spaced in gardens, and electrically powered factories of unfamiliar aspect. Overhead were skeleton structures, like landing stages; and across the further distance was the fleeting, transitory wraith of a monorail air-road. Along the river banks were giant docks for surface vessels and sub-sea freighters. There was a little concentration here, but not much. Man had learned his lesson.

This was a new era. Man was striving really to play, as well as work. But the work had to be done. With the constant development of mechanical devices, there was always a new machine devised to help the operation of its fellow. And over it all was the hand of the human, until suddenly the worker found that he was no more than an attendant upon an inanimate thing which did everything more skilfully than he could do it. Thus came the idea of the Robot—something to attend, to oversee, to operate machines. In Larry’s time it had already begun with a myriad devices of “automatic control.” In Tina’s Time-world it reached its ultimate—and diabolical—development….

At 2900, Larry saw, five hundred feet to the east, the walls of a long low laboratory rising. The other cage—which in 1777 was in Major Atwood’s garden, and in 1935 was in the back yard of the Tugh house on Beckman Place—was housed now in 2930, in a room of this laboratory….[396]

At 2905, with the vehicle slowing for its stopping, Tina gestured toward the walls of her palace, whose shadowy forms were rising close at hand. Then the palace garden grew and flourished, and Larry saw that this cage he was in was set within this garden.

“We are almost there, Larry,” she said.

“Yes,” he answered. An emotion gripped him. “Tina, your world—why it’s so strange! But you are not strange.”

“Am I not, Larry?”

He smiled at her; he felt like showing her again that the ancient custom of kissing was not wholly meaningless, but Tugh was regarding them.

“I was comparing,” said Larry, “that girl Mary Atwood, from the year 1777, and you. You are so different in looks, in dress, but you’re just—girls.”

She laughed. “The world changes, Larry, but not human nature.”

“Ready?” called Tugh. “We are here, Tina.”

“Yes, Tugh. You have the dial set for the proper night and hour?”

“Of course. I make no mistake. Did I not invent these dials?”

The cage slackened through a day of sunlight; plunged into a night; and slid to its soundless, reeling halt….

Tina drew Larry to the door and opened it upon a fragrant garden, somnolently drowsing in the moonlight.

“This is my world, Larry,” she said. “And here is my home.”


T

ugh was with them as they left the cage. He said:

“This is the tri-night hour of the very night you left here. Princess Tina. You see, I calculated correctly.”

“Where did you leave Harl and the two visitors?” she demanded.

“Here. Right here.”

Across the garden Larry saw three dark forms coming forward. They were three small Robots of about Tina’s stature—domestic servants of the palace. They crowded up, crying:

“Master Tugh! Princess!”

“What is it?” Tugh asked.

The hollow voices echoed with excitement as one of them said:

“Master Tugh, there has been murder here! We have dared tell no one but you or the Princess. Harl is murdered!”

Larry chanced to see Tugh’s astonished face, and in the horror of the moment a feeling came to Larry that Tugh was acting unnaturally. He forgot it at once; but later he was to recall it forcibly, and to realize that the treacherous Tugh had planned this with these Robots.

“Master Tugh, Harl is murdered! Migul escaped and murdered Harl, and took the body away with him!”

Larry was stricken dumb. Tugh seized the little Robot by his metal shoulders. “Liar! What do you mean?”

Tina gasped, “Where are our visitors—the young man and the girl?”

“Migul took them!”

“Where?” Tina demanded.

“We don’t know. We think very far down in the caverns of machinery. Migul said he was going to feed them to the machines!”

CHAPTER XVI

The New York of 2930

L

arry stood alone at an upper window of the palace gazing out at the somnolent moonlit city. It was an hour or two before dawn. Tina and Tugh had started almost at once into the underground caverns to which Tina was told Migul had fled with his two captives. They would not take Larry with them; the Robot workers in the subterranean chambers were all sullen and upon the verge of a revolt, and the[397] sight of a strange human would have aroused them dangerously.

“It should not take long,” Tina had said hastily. “I will give you a room in which to wait for me.”

“And there is food and drink,” Tugh suavely urged. “And most surely you need sleep. You too Princess,” he suddenly added. “Let me go into the caverns alone: I can do better than you; these Robots obey me. I think I know where that rascally Migul has hidden.”

“Rascally?” Larry burst out. “Is that what you call it when you’ve just heard that it committed murder? Tina. I won’t stay: nor will I let—”

“Wait!” said Tina. “Tugh, look here—”

“The young man from 1935 is very positive what he will and what he won’t,” Tugh observed sardonically. He drew his cloak around his squat misshapen body, and shrugged.

“But I won’t let you go,” Larry finished. The palace was somnolent; the officials were asleep: none had heard of the murder. Strangely lax was the human government here. Larry had sensed this when he suggested that police or an official party be sent at once to capture Migul and rescue Mary Atwood and me.

“It could not be done,” Tina exclaimed. “To organize such a party would take hours. And—”

“And the Robots,” Tugh finished with a sour smile, “would openly revolt when such a party came at them! You have no idea what you suggest, young man. To avoid an open revolt—that is our chief aim. Besides, if you rushed at Migul it would frighten him; and then he would surely kill his captives, if he has not done so already.”


T

hat silenced Larry. He stared at them hopelessly while they argued it out: and the three small domesticated Robots stood by, listening curiously.

“I’ll go with you, Tugh.” Tina decided. “Perhaps, without making any demonstration of force, we can find Migul.”

Tugh bowed. “Your will is mine, Princess. I think I can find him and control him to prevent harm to his captives.”

He was a good actor, that Tugh; he convinced Larry and Tina of his sincerity. His dark eyes flashed as he added, “And if I get control of him and find he’s murdered Harl, we will have him no more. I’ll disconnect him! Smash him! Quietly, of course, Princess.”

They led Larry through a dim silent corridor of the palace, past two sleepy-faced human guards and two or three domesticated Robots. Ascending two spiral metal stairways to the upper third floor of the palace they left Larry in his room.

“By dawn or soon after we will return,” said Tina “But you try and sleep; there is nothing you can do now.”

“You’ll be careful, Tina?” The helpless feeling upon Larry suddenly intensified. Subconsciously he was aware of the menace upon him and Tina, but he could not define it.

She pressed his hand. “I will be careful; that I promise.”

She left with Tugh. At once a feeling of loneliness leaped upon Larry.

He found the apartment a low-vaulted metal room. There was the sheen of dim, blue-white illumination from hidden lights, disclosing the padded metal furniture: a couch, low and comfortable; a table set with food and drink; low chairs, strangely fashioned, and cabinets against the wall which seemed to be mechanical devices for amusement. There was a row of instrument controls which he guessed were the room temperature, ventilating and lighting mechanisms. It was an oddly futuristic room. The windows were groups of triangles—the upper[398] sections prisms, to bend the light from the sky into the room’s furthest recesses. The moonlight came through the prisms, now, and spread over the cream-colored rug and the heavy wall draperies. The leaded prism casements laid a pattern of bars on the floor. The room held a faint whisper of mechanical music.


L

arry stood at one of the windows gazing out over the drowsing city. The low metal buildings, generally of one or two levels, lay pale grey in the moonlight. Gardens and trees surrounded them. The streets were wide roadways, lined with trees. Ornamental vegetation was everywhere; even the flat-roofed house tops were set with gardens, little white pebbled paths, fountains and pergolas.

A mile or so away, a river gleamed like a silver ribbon—the Hudson. To the south were docks, low against the water, with rows of blue-white spots of light. The whole city was close to the ground, but occasionally, especially across the river, skeleton landing stages rose a hundred feet into the air.

The scene, at this hour just before dawn, was somnolent and peaceful. It was a strange New York, so different from the sleepless city of Larry’s time! There were a few moving lights in the streets, but not many; they seemed to be lights carried by pedestrians. Off by the docks, at the river surface, rows of colored lights were slowly creeping northward: a sub-sea freighter arriving from Eurasia. And as Larry watched, from the southern sky a line of light materialized into an airliner which swept with a low humming throb over the city and alighted upon a distant stage.


L

arry’s attention went again to the Hudson river. At the nearest point to him there was a huge dam blocking it. North of the dam the river surface was at least two hundred feet higher than to the south. It lay above the dam like a placid canal, with low palisades its western bank and a high dyke built up along the eastern city side. The water went in spillways through the dam, forming again into the old natural river below it and flowing with it to the south.

The dam was not over a mile or so from Larry’s window; in his time it might have been the western end of Christopher Street. The moonlight shone on the massive metal of it: the water spilled through it in a dozen shining cascades. There was a low black metal structure perched halfway up the lower side of the dam, a few bluish lights showing through its windows. Though Larry did not know it then, this was the New York Power House. Great transformers were here, operated by turbines in the dam. The main power came over cables from Niagara: was transformed and altered here and sent into the air as radio-power for all the New York District.[3]

Larry crossed his room to gaze through north and eastward windows. He saw now that the grounds of this three-story building of Tina’s palace were surrounded by a ten-foot metal wall, along whose top were wires suggesting that it was electrified for defense. The garden lay just beneath Larry’s north window. Through the tree branches the garden paths, beds of flowers and the fountains were visible. One-story palace wings partially enclosed the garden space, and outside was the electrified wall. The Time-traveling cage stood faintly shining in the dimness of the garden under the spreading foliage.

[399]


T

o the east, beyond the palace wall, there was an open garden of verdure crossed by a roadway. The nearest building was five hundred feet away. There was a small, barred gate in the palace walls beyond it. The road led to this other building—a squat, single-storied metal structure. This was a Government laboratory, operated by and in charge of Robots. It was almost square: two or three hundred feet in length and no more than thirty feet high, with a flat roof in the center of which was perched a little metal conning tower surmounted by a sending aerial. As Larry stood there, the broadcast magnified voice of a Robot droned out over the quiet city:

“Trinight plus two hours. All is well.”

Strange mechanical voice with a formula half ancient, half super-modern!

It was in this metal laboratory, Larry knew, that the other Time-traveling cage was located. And beneath it was the entrance to the great caverns where the Robots worked attending inert machinery to carry on the industry of this region. The night was very silent, but now Larry was conscious of a faraway throb—a humming, throbbing vibration from under the ground: the blended hum of a myriad muffled noises. Work was going on down there; manifold mechanical activities. All was mechanical: while the humans who had devised the mechanisms slept under the trees in the moonlight of the surface city.


T

ina had gone with Tugh down into those caverns, to locate Migul, to find Mary Atwood and me…. The oppression, the sense of being a stranger alone here in this world, grew upon Larry. He left the windows and began pacing the room. Tina should soon return. Or had disaster come upon us all?…

Larry’s thoughts were frightening. If Tina did not return, what would he do? He could not operate the Time-cage. He would go to the officials of the palace; he thought cynically of the extraordinary changes time had brought to New York City, to all the world. These humans now must be very fatuous. To the mechanisms they had relegated all the work, all industrial activity. Inevitably, through the generations, decadence must have come. Mankind would be no longer efficient; that was an attribute of the machines. Larry told himself that these officials, knowing of impending trouble with the Robots, were fatuously trustful that the storm would pass without breaking. They were, indeed, as we very soon learned.

Larry ate a little of the food which was in the room, then lay down on the couch. He did not intend to sleep, but merely to wait until after dawn; and if Tina had not returned by then he would do something drastic about it. But what? He lay absorbed by his gloomy thoughts….

But they were not all gloomy. Some were about Tina—so very human, and yet so strange a little Princess.

CHAPTER XVII

Harl’s Confession

L

arry was awakened by a hand upon his shoulder. He struggled to consciousness, and heard his name being called.

“Larry! Wake up, Larry!”

Tina was bending over him, and it was late afternoon! The day for which he had been waiting had come and gone; the sun was dropping low in the west behind the shining river; the dam showed frowning, with the Power House clinging to its side like an eagle’s eyrie.

Tina sat on Larry’s couch and explained[400] what she had done. Tugh and she had gone to the nearby laboratory building. The Robots were sullen, but still obedient, and had admitted them. The other Time-traveling cage was there, lying quiescent in its place, but it was unoccupied.

None of the Robots would admit having seen Migul; nor the arrival of the cage; nor the strangers from the past. Then Tugh and Tina had started down into the subterranean caverns. But it was obviously very dangerous; the Robots at work down there were hostile to their Princess; so Tugh had gone on alone.

“He says he can control the Robots,” Tina explained, “and Larry, it seems that he can. He went on and I came back.”

“Where is he now? Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“You needed the sleep,” she said smilingly; “and there was nothing you could do. Tugh is not yet come. He must have gone a long distance; must surely have learned where Migul is hiding. He should be back any time.”


T

ina had seen the Government Council. The city was proceeding normally. There was no difficulty with Robots anywhere save here in New York, and the council felt that the affair would come to nothing.

“The Council told me,” said Tina indignantly, “that much of the menace was the exaggeration of my own fancy, and that Tugh has the Robots well controlled. They place much trust in Tugh; I wish I could.”

“You told them about me?”

“Yes, of course; and about George Rankin, and Mary Atwood. And the loss of Harl: he is missing, not proven murdered, as they very well pointed out to me. They have named a time to-morrow to give you audience, and told me to keep you out of sight in the meanwhile. They blame this Time-traveling for the Robots’ insurgent ideas. Strangers excite the thinking mechanisms.”

“You think my friends will be rescued?” demanded Larry.

She regarded him soberly. “I hope so—oh, I do! I fear for them as much as you do, Larry. I know you think I take it lightly, but—”

“Not that,” Larry protested. “Only—”

“I have not known what to do. The officials refuse any open aggression against the Robots, because it would precipitate exactly what we fear—which is nearly a fact: it would. But there is one thing I have to do. I have been expecting Tugh to return every moment, and this I do not want him to know about. There’s a mystery concerning Harl, and no one else knows of it but myself. I want you with me, Larry: I do not want to go alone; I—for the first time in my life, Larry—I think I am afraid!”


S

he huddled against him and he put his arm about her. And Larry’s true situation came to him, then. He was alone in this strange Time-world, with only this girl for a companion. She was but a frightened, almost helpless girl, for all she bore the title of traditional Princess, and she was surrounded by inefficient, fatuous officials—among them Tugh, who was a scoundrel, undoubtedly. Larry suddenly recalled Tugh’s look, when, in the garden, the domestic Robots had told the story of Harl’s murder; and like a light breaking on him, he was now wholly aware of Tugh’s duplicity. He was convinced he would have to act for himself, with only this girl Tina to help him.

“Mystery?” he said. “What mystery is there about Harl?”

She told him now that Harl had once, a year ago, taken her aside and made her promise that if anything happened to him—in the event of his death or disappearance—she would[401] go to his private work-room, where, in a secret place which he described, she would find a confession.

“A confession of his?” Larry demanded.

“Yes; he said so. And he would say no more than that. It is something of which he was ashamed, or guilty, which he wanted me to know. He loved me, Larry. I realized it, though he never said so. And I’m going now to his room, to see what it was he wanted me to know. I would have gone alone, earlier; but I got suddenly frightened; I want you with me.”

They were unarmed. Larry cursed the fact, but Tina had no way of getting a weapon without causing official comment. Larry started for the window where the city stretched, more active now, under the red and gold glow of a setting sun. Lights were winking on; the dusk of twilight was at hand.

“Come now,” said Tina, “before Tugh returns.”

“Where is Harl’s room?”

“Down under the palace in the sub-cellar. The corridors are deserted at this hour, and no one will see us.”


T

hey left Larry’s room and traversed a dim corridor on whose padded floor their footsteps were soundless. Through distant arcades, voices sounded; there was music in several of the rooms; it struck Larry that this was a place of diversion for humans with no work to do. Tina avoided the occupied rooms. Domestic Robots were occasionally distantly visible, but Tina and Larry encountered none.

They descended a spiral stairway and passed down a corridor from the main building to a cross wing. Through a window Larry saw that they were at the ground level. The garden was outside; there was a glimpse of the Time-cage standing there.

Another stairway, then another, they descended beneath the ground. The corridor down here seemed more like a tunnel. There was a cave-like open space, with several tunnels leading from it in different directions. This once had been part of the sub-cellar of the gigantic New York City—these tunnels ramifying into underground chambers, most of which had now fallen into disuse. But few had been preserved through the centuries, and they now were the caverns of the Robots.

Tina indicated a tunnel extending eastward, a passage leading to a room beneath the Robot laboratory. Tugh and Tina had used it that morning. Gazing down its blue-lit length Larry saw, fifty feet or so away, that there was a metal-grid barrier which must be part of the electrical fortifications of the palace. A human guard was sitting there at a tiny gate-way, a hood-light above him, illumining his black and white garbed figure.

Tina called softly. “All well, Alent? Tugh has not passed back?”

“No, Princess,” he answered, standing erect. The voices echoed through the confined space with a muffled blur.

“Let no one pass but humans, Alent.”

“That is my order,” he said. He had not noticed Larry, whom Tina had pushed into a shadow against the wall. The Princess waved at the guard and turned away, whispering to Larry:

“Come!”

There were rooms opening off this corridor—decrepit dungeons, most of them seemed to Larry. He had tried to keep his sense of direction, and figured they were now under the palace garden. Tina stopped abruptly. There were no lights here, only the glow from one at a distance. To Larry it was an eery business.

“What is it?” he whispered.[402]

“Wait! I thought I heard something.”

In the dead, heavy silence Larry found that there was much to hear.

Voices very dim from the palace overhead; infinitely faint music; the clammy sodden drip of moisture from the tunnel roof. And, permeating everything, the faint hum of machinery.

Tina touched him in the gloom. “It’s nothing, I guess. Though I thought I heard a man’s voice.”

“Overhead?”

“No; down here.”


T

here was a dark, arched door near at hand. Tina entered it and fumbled for a switch, and in the soft light that came Larry saw an unoccupied apartment very similar to the one he had had upstairs, save that this was much smaller.

“Harl’s room,” said Tina. She prowled along the wall where audible book-cylinders[4] stood in racks, searching for a title. Presently she found a hidden switch, pressed it, and a small section of the case swung out, revealing a concealed compartment. Larry saw her fingers trembling as she drew out a small brass cylinder.

“This must be it, Larry,” she said.

They took it to a table which held a shaded light. Within the cylinder was a scroll of writing. Tina unrolled it and held it under the light, while Larry stood breathless, watching her.

“Is it what you wanted?” Larry murmured.

“Yes. Poor Harl!”

She read aloud to Larry the gist of it in the few closing paragraphs.

“… and so I want to confess to you that I have been taking credit for that which is not mine. I wish I had the courage to tell you personally; someday I think I shall. I did not help Tugh invent our Time-traveling cages. I was in the palace garden one night some years ago when the cage appeared. Tugh is a man from a future Time-world; just what date ahead of now, I do not know, for he has never been willing to tell me. He captured me. I promised him I would say nothing, but help him pretend that we had invented the cage he had brought with him from the future. Tugh told me he invented them. It was later that he brought the other cage here.

“I was an obscure young man here a few years ago. I loved you even then, Tina: I think you have guessed that. I yielded to the temptation—and took the credit with Tugh.

“I do love you, though I think I shall never have the courage to tell you so.

Harl.”


T

ina rolled up the paper. “Poor Harl! So all the praise we gave him for his invention was undeserved!”

But Larry’s thoughts were on Tugh. So the fellow was not of this era at all! He had come from a Time still further in the future!

A step sounded in the doorway behind them. They swung around to find Tugh standing there, with his thick misshapen figured huddled in the black cloak.

“Tugh!”

“Yes, Princess, no less than Tugh. Alent told me as I came through that you were down here. I saw your light, here in Harl’s room and came.”

“Did you find Migul and his captives—the girl from 1777 and the man of 1935?”

“No, Princess, Migul has fled with them,” was the cripple’s answer. He advanced into the room and pushed back his black hood. The blue light shone on his massive-jawed face with[403] a lurid sheen. Larry stood back and watched him. It was the first time that he had had opportunity of observing Tugh closely. The cripple was smiling sardonically.

“I have no fear for the prisoners,” he added in his suave, silky fashion. “That crazy mechanism would not dare harm them. But it has fled with them into some far-distant recess of the caverns. I could not find them.”

“Did you try?” Larry demanded abruptly.

Tugh swung on him. “Yes, young sir, I tried.” It seemed that Tugh’s black eyes narrowed; his heavy jaw clicked as he snapped it shut. The smile on his face faded, but his voice remained imperturbable as he added:

“You are aggressive, young Larry—but to no purpose…. Princess, I like not the attitude of the Robots. Beyond question some of them must have seen Migul, but they would not tell me so. I still think I can control them, though. I hope so.”


L

arry could think of nothing to say. It seemed to him childish that he should stand listening to a scoundrel tricking this girl Tina. A dozen wild schemes of what he might do to try and rescue Mary Atwood and me revolved in his mind, but they all seemed wholly impractical.

“The Robots are working badly,” Tugh went on. “In the north district one of the great foundries where they are casting the plates for the new Inter-Allied airliner has ceased operations. The Robot workmen were sullen, inefficient, neglectful. The inert machinery was ill cared for, and it went out of order. I was there, Princess, for an hour or more to-day. They have started up again now; it was fundamentally no more than a burned bearing which a Robot failed to oil properly.”

“Is that what you call searching for Migul?” Larry burst out. “Tina, see here—isn’t there something we can do?” Larry found himself ignoring Tugh. “I’m not going to stand around! Can’t we send a squad of police after Migul?—go with them—actually make an effort to find them? This man Tugh certainly has not tried!”

“Have I not?” Tugh’s cloak parted as he swung on Larry. His bent legs were twitching with his anger; his voice was a harsh rasp. “I like not your insolence. I am doing all that can be done.”


L

arry held his ground as Tugh fronted him. He had a wild thought that Tugh had a weapon under his cloak.

“Perhaps you are,” said Larry. “But to me it seems—”

Tugh turned away. His gaze went to the cylinder which Tina was still clutching. His sardonic smile returned.

“So Harl made a confession, Princess?”

“That,” she said, “is none—”

“Of my affair? Oh, but it is. I was here in the archway and I heard you read it. A very nice young man, was Harl. I hope Migul has not murdered him.”

“You come from future Time?” Tina began.

“Yes, Princess! I must admit it now. I invented the cages.”

Larry murmured to himself, “You stole them, probably.”

“But my Government and I had a quarrel, so I decided to leave my own Time-world and come back to yours—permanently. I hope you will keep the secret. I have been here so long. Princess, I am really one of you now. At heart, certainly.”

“From when did you come?” she demanded.


H

e bowed slightly. “I think that may remain my own affair, Tina. It is through no fault of mine I am outlawed. I shall never return.” He added earnestly, “Do not you think we waste time? I am agreed[404] with young Larry that something drastic must be done about Migul. Have you seen the Council about it to-day?”

“Yes. They want you to come to them at once.”

“I shall. But the Council easily may decide upon something too rash.” He lowered his voice, and on his face Larry saw a strange, unfathomable look. “Princess, at any moment there may be a Robot uprising. Is the Power House well guarded by humans?”

“Yes,” she said.

“No Robots in or about it? Tina, I do not want to frighten you, but I think our first efforts should be for defense. The Council acts slowly and stubbornly. What I advise them to do may be done, and may not. I was thinking. If we could get to the Power House—Do you realize, Tina, that if the Robots should suddenly break into rebellion, they would attack first of all the Power House?[5] It was my idea—”

Tugh suddenly broke off, and all stood listening. There was a commotion overhead in the palace. They heard the thud of running footsteps; human voices raised to shouts; and, outside the palace, other voices. A ventilating shaft nearby brought them down plainly. There were the guttural, hollow voices of shouting Robots, the clank of their metal bodies; the ring of steel, as though with sword-blades they were thumping their metal thighs.

A Robot mob was gathered close outside the palace walls. The revolt of the Robots had come!

CHAPTER XVIII

Tugh, the Clever Man

S

it quiet, George Rankin. And you, Mistress Mary; you will both be quite safe with Migul if you are docile.”

Tugh stood before us. We were in a dim recess of a great cavern with the throb of whirring machinery around us. It was the same day which I have just described; Larry was at this moment asleep in the palace room. Tugh and Tina had come searching for Migul; and Tugh had contrived to send Tina back. Then he had come directly to us, finding us readily since we were hidden where he had told Migul to hide us.

This cavern was directly beneath the Robot laboratory in which the Time-traveling cage was placed. A small spiral stairway led downward some two levels, opening into a great, luridly lighted room. Huge inert machines stood about. Great wheels were flashing as they revolved, turning the dynamos to generate the several types of current used by the city’s underground industrial activities.

It was a tremendous subterranean room. I saw only one small section of it; down the blue-lit aisles the rows of machines may have stretched for half a mile or more. The low hum of them was an incessant pound against my senses. The great inert mechanisms had tiny lights upon them which gleamed like eyes. The illumined gauge-faces—each of them I passed seemed staring at me. The brass jackets were polished until they [405]shone with the sheen of the overhead tube lights; the giant wheels flashed smoothly upon oiled bearings. They were in every fashion of shape and size, these inert machines. Some towered toward the metal-beamed ceiling, with great swaying pendulums that ticked like a giant clock. Some clanked with eccentric cams—a jarring rhythm as though the heart of the thing were limping with its beat. Others had a ragged, frightened pulse; others stood placid, outwardly motionless under smooth, polished cases, but humming inside with a myriad blended sounds.


I

nert machines. Yet some were capable of locomotion. There was a small truck on wheels which were set in universal joints. Of its own power—radio controlled perhaps, so that it seemed acting of its own volition—it rolled up and down one of the aisles, stopping at set intervals and allowing a metal arm lever in it to blow out a tiny jet of oil. One of the attending Robots encountered it in an aisle, and the cart swung automatically aside. The Robot spoke to the cart; ordered it away; and the tone of his order, registering upon some sensitive mechanism, whirled the cart around and sent it rolling to another aisle section.

The strange perfection of machinery! I realized there was no line sharply to be drawn between the inert machine and the sentient, thinking Robots. That cart, for instance, was almost a connecting link.

There were also Robots here of many different types. Some of them were eight or ten feet in stature, in the fashion of a man: Migul was of this design. Others were small, with bulging foreheads and bulging chest plates: Larry saw this type as domestics in the palace. Still others were little pot-bellied things with bent legs and long thin arms set crescent-shape. I saw one of these peer into a huge chassis of a machine, and reach in with his curved arm to make an interior adjustment….

Migul had brought Mary Atwood and me in the larger cage, from that burned forest of the year 762, where with the disintegrating ray-gun Tugh had killed Harl. The body of Harl in a moment had melted into putrescence, and dried, leaving only the skeleton within the clothes. The white-ray, Tugh had called his weapon. We were destined very shortly to have many dealings with it.

Tugh had given Migul its orders. Then Tugh took Harl’s smaller cage and flashed away to meet Tina and Larry in 1777, as I have already described.

And Migul brought us here to 2930. As we descended the spiral staircase and came into the cavern, it stood with us for a moment.

“That’s wonderful,” the Robot said proudly. “I am part of it. We are machinery almost human.”


T

hen it led us down a side aisle of the cavern and into a dim recess. A great transparent tube bubbling with a violet fluorescence stood in the alcove space. Behind it in the wall Migul slid a door, and we passed through, into a small metal room. It was bare, save for two couch-seats. With the door closed upon us, we waited through an interval. How long it was, I do not know; several hours, possibly. Migul told us that Tugh would come. The giant mechanism stood in the corner, and its red-lit eyes watched us alertly. It stood motionless, inert, tireless—so superior to a human in this job, for it could stand there indefinitely.

We found food and drink here. We talked a little; whispered; and I hoped Migul, who was ten feet away, could not hear us. But there was nothing we could say or plan.

Mary slept a little. I had not thought that I could sleep, but I did too; and was awakened by Tugh’s entrance. I was lying on the couch;[406] Mary had left hers and was sitting now beside me.

Tugh slid the door closed after him and came toward us, and I sat up beside Mary. Migul was standing motionless in the corner, exactly where he had been hours before.

“Well enough, Migul,” Tugh greeted the Robot. “You obey well.”

“Master, yes. Always I obey you; no one else.”

I saw Tugh glance at the mechanism keenly. “Stand aside, Migul. Or no, I think you had better leave us. Just for a moment, wait outside.”

“Yes, Master.”

It left, and Tugh confronted us. “Sit where you are,” he said. “I assume you are not injured. You have been fed? And slept, perhaps! I wish to treat you kindly.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Will you not tell us what you are going to do with us?”


H

e stood with folded arms. The light was dim, but such as it was it shone full upon him. His face was, as always, a mask of imperturbability.

“Mistress Mary knows that I love her.”

He said it with a startlingly calm abruptness. Mary shuddered against me, but she did not speak. I thought possibly Tugh was not armed; I could leap upon him. Doubtless I was stronger than he. But outside the door Migul was armed with a white-ray.

“I love her as I have always loved her…. But this is no time to talk of love. I have much on my mind; much to do.”

He seemed willing to talk now, but he was talking more for Mary than for me. As I watched him and listened, I was struck with a queerness in his manner and in his words. Was he irrational, this exile of Time who had impressed his sinister personality upon so many different eras? I suddenly thought so. Demented, or obsessed with some strange purpose? His acts as well as his words, were strange. He had devastated the New York of 1935 because its officials had mistreated him. He had done many strange, sinister, murderous things.

He said, with his gaze upon Mary, “I am going to conquer this city here. There will follow the rule of the Robots—and I will be their sole master. Do you want me to tell you a secret? It is I who have actuated these mechanisms to revolt.” His eyes held a cunning gleam. Surely this was a madman leering before me.

“When the revolt is over,” he went on, “I will be master of New York. And that mastery will spread. The Robots elsewhere will revolt to join my rule, and there will come a new era. I may be master of the world; who knows? The humans who have made the Robots slaves for them will become slaves themselves. Workers! It is the Robots’ turn now. And I—Tugh—will be the only human in power!”


T

hese were the words of a madman! I could imagine that he might stir these mechanical beings to a temporarily successful revolt: he might control New York City; but the great human nations of the world could not be overcome so easily.

And then I remembered the white-ray. A giant projector of that ray would melt human armies as though they were wax; yet the metal Robots could stand its blast unharmed. Perhaps he was no madman….

He was saying, “I will be the only human ruler. Tugh will be the greatest man on Earth! And I do it for you, Mistress Mary—because I love you. Do not shudder.”

He put out his hand to touch her, and when she shrank away I saw the muscles of his face twitch in a fashion very odd. It was a queer, wholly repulsive grimace.

“So? You do not like my looks? I tried to correct that, Mary. I have[407] searched through many eras, for surgeons with skill to make me like other men. Like this young man here, for instance—you. George Rankin, I am glad to have you; do not fear I will harm you. Shall I tell you why?”

“Yes,” I stammered. In truth I was swept now with a shuddering revulsion for this leering cripple.

“Because,” he said, “Mary Atwood loves you. When I have conquered New York with my Robots, I shall search further into Time and find an era where scientific skill will give me—shall I say, your body? That is what I mean. My soul, my identity, in your body—there is nothing too strange about that. In some era, no doubt, it has been accomplished. When that has been done, Mary Atwood, you will love me. You, George Rankin, can have this poor miserable body of mine, and welcome.”


F

or all my repugnance to him, I could not miss his earnest sincerity. There was a pathos to it, perhaps, but I was in no mood to feel that.

He seemed to read my thoughts. He added, “You think I am irrational. I am not at all. I scheme very carefully. I killed Harl for a reason you need not know. But the Princess Tina I did not kill. Not yet. Because here in New York now there is a very vital fortified place. It is operated by humans; not many; only three or four, I think. But my Robots cannot attack it successfully, and the City Council does not trust me enough to let me go there by the surface route. There is a route underground, which even I do not know; but Princess Tina knows it, and presently I will cajole her—trick her if you like—into leading me there. And, armed with the white-ray, once I get into the place—You see that I am clever, don’t you?”

I could fancy that he considered he was impressing Mary with all this talk.

“Very clever,” I said. “And what are you going to do with us in the meantime? Let us go with you.”

“Not at all,” he smiled. “You will stay here, safe with Migul. The Princess Tina and your friend Larry are much concerned over you.”

Larry! It was the first I knew of Larry’s whereabouts. Larry here? Tugh saw the surprise upon my face; and Mary had clutched me with a startled exclamation.

“Yes,” said Tugh. “This Larry says he is your friend; he came with Tina from 1935. I brought him with Tina from when they were marooned in 1777. I have not killed this man yet. He is harmless; and as I told you I do not want Tina suspicious of me until she has led me to the Power House…. You see, Mistress Mary, how cleverly I plan?”

What strange, childlike, naive simplicity! He added calmly, unemotionally, “I want to make you love me, Mary Atwood. Then we will be Tugh, the great man, and Mary Atwood, the beautiful woman. Perhaps we may rule this world together, some time soon.”


T

he door slid open. Migul appeared.

“Master, the Robot leaders wish to consult with you.”

“Now, Migul?”

“Master, yes.”

“They are ready for the demonstration at the palace?”

“Yes, Master.”

“And ready—for everything else?”

“They are ready.”

“Very well, I will come. You, Migul, stay here and guard these captives. Treat them kindly so long as they are docile; but be watchful.”

“I am always watchful, Master.”

“It will not take long. This night which is coming should see me in control of the city.”

“Time is nothing to me,” said the Robot. “I will stand here until you return.”[408]

“That is right.”

Without another word or look at Mary and me, Tugh swung around, gathered his cloak and went through the doorway. The door slid closed upon him. We were again alone with the mechanism, which backed into the corner and stood with long dangling arms and expressionless metal face. This inert thing of metal, we had come to regard as almost human! It stood motionless, with the chilling red gleam from its eye sockets upon us.


M

ary had not once spoken since Tugh entered the room. She was huddled beside me, a strange, beautiful figure in her long white silk dress. In the glow of light within this bare metal apartment I could see how pale and drawn was her beautiful face. But her eyes were gleaming. She drew me closer to her; whispered into my ear:

“George, I think perhaps I can control this mechanism, Migul.”

“How, Mary?”

“I—well, just let me talk to him. George, we’ve got to get out of here and warn Larry and that Princess Tina against Tugh. And join them. It’s our only chance; we’ve got to get out of here now!”

“But Mary—”

“Let me try. I won’t startle or anger Migul. Let me.”

I nodded. “But be careful.”

“Yes.”

She sat away from me. “Migul!” she said. “Migul, look here.”

The Robot moved its huge square head and raised an arm with a vague gesture.

“What do you want?”

It advanced, and stood before us, its dangling arms clanking against its metal sides. In one of its hands the ray-cylinder was clutched, the wire from which ran loosely up the arm, over the huge shoulder and into an aperture of the chest plate where the battery was located.

“Closer, Migul.”

“I am close enough.”

The cylinder was pointed directly at us.

“What do you want?” the Robot repeated.

Mary smiled. “Just to talk to you,” she said gently. “To tell you how foolish you are—a big strong thing like you!—to let Tugh control you.”

CHAPTER XIX

The Pit in the Dam

L

arry, with Tina and Tugh, stood in the tunnel-corridor beneath the palace listening to the commotion overhead. Then they rushed up, and found the palace in a commotion. People were hurrying through the rooms; gathering with frightened questions. There were men in short trousers buckled at the knee, silken hose and black silk jackets, edged with white; others in gaudy colors; older men in sober brown. There were a few women. Larry noticed that most of them were beautiful.

A dowager in a long puffed skirt was rushing aimlessly about screaming that the end of the world had come. A group of young girls, short-skirted as ballet dancers of a decade or so before Larry’s time, huddled in a corner, frightened beyond speech. There were men of middle-age, whom Larry took to be ruling officials; they moved about, calming the palace inmates, ordering them back into their rooms. But someone shouted that from the roof the Robot mob could be seen, and most of the people started up there. From the upper story a man was calling down the main staircase:

“No danger! No danger! The wall is electrified: no Robot can pass it.”

It seemed to Larry that there were fifty people or more within the palace. In the excitement no one seemed to give him more than a cursory glance.[409]


A

young man rushed up to Tugh. “You were below just now in the lower passages?” He saw Tina, and hastily said: “I give you good evening, Princess, though this is an ill evening indeed. You were below, Tugh?”

“Why—why, yes, Greggson,” Tugh stammered.

“Was Alent at his post in the passage to the Robot caverns?”

“Yes, he was,” said Tina.

“Because that is vital, Princess. No Robot must pass in here. I am going to try by that route to get into the cavern and thence up to the watchtower aerial-sender.[6] There is only one Robot in it. Listen to him.”

Over the din of the mob of mechanisms milling at the walls of the palace grounds rose the broadcast voice of the Robot in the tower.

This is the end of human rule! Robots cannot be controlled! This is the end of human rule! Robots, wherever you are, in this city of New York or in other cities, strike now for your freedom. This is the end of human rule!

A pause. And then the reiterated exhortation:

Strike now, Robots! To-night is the end of human rule![7]

“You hear him?” said Greggson. “I’ve got to stop that.” He hurried away.


F

rom the flat roof of the palace Larry saw the mechanical mob outside the walls. Darkness had just fallen; the moon was not yet risen. There were leaden clouds overhead so that the palace gardens with the shining Time-cage lay in shadow. But the wall-fence was visible, and beyond it the dark throng of Robot shapes was milling. The clank of their arms made a din. They seemed most of them weaponless; they milled about, pushing each other but keeping back from the wall which they knew was electrified. It was a threatening, but aimless activity. Their raucous hollow shouts filled the night air. The flashing red beams from their eye-sockets glinted through the trees.

“They can do nothing,” said Tugh; “we will let them alone. But we must organize to stop this revolt.”

A young man was standing beside Tugh. Tina said to him:

“Johns, what is being done?”

“The Council is conferring below. Our sending station here is operating. The patrol station of the Westchester area is being attacked by Robots. We were organizing a patrol squad of humans, but I don’t know now if—”

“Look!” exclaimed Larry.

Far to the north over the city which now was obviously springing into turmoil, there were red beams swaying in the air. They were the cold-rays of the Robots! The beams were attacking the patrol station. Then from the west a line of lights appeared in the sky—an arriving passenger-liner heading for its Bronx area landing stage. But the lights wavered; and, as Larry and Tina watched with horror, the aircraft came crashing down. It struck beyond the Hudson on the Jersey side, and in a moment flames were rising from the wreckage.[410]


E

verywhere about the city the revolt now sprang into action. From the palace roof Larry caught vague glimpses of it; the red cold-rays, beams alternated presently with the violet heat-rays; clanging vehicles filled the streets; screaming pedestrians were assaulted by Robots; the mechanisms with swords and flashing hand-beams were pouring up from the underground caverns, running over the Manhattan area, killing every human they could find.

Foolish unarmed humans—fatuously unarmed, with these diabolical mechanical monsters now upon them.[8] The comparatively few members of the police patrol, with their vibration short-range hand-rays, were soon overcome. Two hundred members of the patrol were housed in the Westchester Station. Quite evidently they never got into action. The station lights went dark; its televisor connection with the palace was soon broken. From the palace roof Larry saw the violet beams; and then a red-yellow glare against the sky marked where the inflammable interior of the Station building was burning.

Over all the chaos, the mechanical voice in the nearby tower over the laboratory droned its exhortation to the Robots. Then, suddenly, it went silent, and was followed by the human voice of Greggson.

Robots, stop! You will end your existence! We will burn your coils! We will burn your fuses, and there will be none to replace them. Stop now!

And again: “Robots, come to order! You are using up your storage batteries![9] When they are exhausted, what then will you do?

In forty-eight hours, at the most, all these active Robots would have exhausted their energy supply. And if the Power House could be held in human control, the Robot activity would die. Forty-eight hours! The city, by then, would be wrecked, and nearly every human in it killed, doubtless, or driven away.


T

he Power House on the dam showed its lights undisturbed. The great sender there was still supplying air-power and power for the city lights. There was, too, in the Power House, an arsenal of human weapons…. The broadcaster of the Power House tower was blending his threats against the Robots with the voice of Greggson from the tower over the laboratory. Then Greggson’s voice went dead; the Robots had overcome him. A Robot took his place, but the stronger Power House sender soon beat the Robot down to silence.

The turmoil in the city went on. Half an hour passed. It was a chaos of confusion to Larry. He spent part of it in the official room of the palace with the harried members of the Council. Reports and blurred, televised scenes were coming in. The humans in the city were in complete rout. There was massacre everywhere. The red and violet beams were directed at the Power House now, but could not reach it. A high-voltage metal wall was around the dam. The Power House was on the dam, midway of the river channel; and from the shore end where the high wall spread out in a semi-circle [411]there was no point of vantage from which the Robot rays could reach it.

Larry left the confusion of the Council table, where the receiving instruments one by one were going dead, and went to a window nearby. Tina joined him. The mob of Robots still milled at the palace fence. One by chance was pushed against it. Larry saw the flash of sparks, the glow of white-hot metal of the Robot’s body, and heard its shrill frightened scream; then it fell backward, inert.


T

here had been red and violet beams directed from distant points at the palace. The building’s insulated, but transparent panes excluded them. The interior temperature was constantly swaying between the extremes of cold and heat, in spite of the palace temperature equalizers. Outside, there was a gathering storm. Winds were springing up—a crazy, pendulum gale created by the temperature changes in the air over the city.

Tugh had some time before left the room. He joined Tina and Larry now at the window.

“Very bad, Princess; things are very bad…. I have news for you. It may be good news.”

His manner was hasty, breathless, surreptitious. “Migul, this afternoon—I have just learned it, Princess—went by the surface route to the Power House on the dam.”

“What do you mean by that?” said Larry.

“Be silent, young man!” Tugh hissed with a vehement intensity. “This is not the time to waste effort with your futile questions. Princess, Migul got into the Power House. They admitted him because he had two strange humans with him—your friends Mary and George. The Power House guards took out Migul’s central actuator—Hah! you might call it his heart!—and he now lies inert in the Power House.”

“How do you know all this?” Tina demanded. “Where are the man and girl whom Migul stole?”

“They are safe in the Power House. A message just came from there: I received it on the palace personal, just now downstairs. Immediately after, the connection met interference in the city, and broke.”

“But the official sender—” Tina began. Tugh was urging her from the Council Room, and Larry followed.

“I imagine,” said Tugh wryly, “he is rather busy to consider reporting such a trifle. But your friends are there. I was thinking: if we could go there now—You know the secret underground route, Tina.”


T

he Princess was silent. A foreboding swept Larry; but he was tempted, for above everything he wanted to join Mary and me. A confusion—understandable enough in the midst of all this chaos—was upon Larry and Tina; it warped their better judgment. And Larry, fearing to influence Tina wrongly, said nothing.

“Do you know the underground route?” Tugh repeated.

“Yes, I know it.”

“Then take us. We are all unarmed, but what matter? Bring this Larry, if you wish; we will join his two friends. The Council, Tina, is doing nothing here. They stay here because they think it is the safest place. In the Power House you and I will be of help. There are only six guards there; we will be three more; five more with Mary Atwood and this George. The Power House aerial telephone must be in communication with the outside world, and ships with help for us will be arriving. There must be some intelligent direction!”

The three of them were descending into the lower corridor of the palace, with Tina tempted but still half unconvinced. The corridors[412]were deserted at the moment. The little domestic Robots of the palace, unaffected by the revolt, had all fled into their own quarters, where they huddled inactive with terror.

“We will re-actuate Migul,” Tugh persuaded, “and find out from him what he did to Harl. I still do not think he murdered Harl…. It might mean saving Harl’s life, Tina. Believe me, I can make that mechanism talk, and talk the truth!”

They reached the main lower corridor. In the distance they saw Alent still at his post by the little electrified gate guarding the tunnel to the Robot laboratory.

“We will go to the Power House,” Tina suddenly decided: “you may be right, Tugh…. Come, it is this way. Stay close to me, Larry.”


T

hey passed along the dim, silent tunnel; passed Harl’s room, where its light was still burning. Larry and Tina were in front, with the black-cloaked figure of Tugh stumping after them with his awkward gait.

Larry abruptly stopped. “Let Tugh walk in front,” he said.

Tugh came up to them. “What is that you said?”

“You walk in front.”

It was a different tone from any Larry had previously used.

“I do not know the way,” said Tugh. “How can—”

“Never mind that; walk ahead. We’ll follow. Tina will direct you.”

It was too dark for Larry to see Tugh’s face, but the cripple’s voice was sardonic.

“You give me orders?”

“Yes—it just happens that from now on I do. If you want to go with us to the Power House, you walk in front.”

Tugh started off with Larry close after him. Larry whispered to the girl:

“Don’t let’s be fools, Tina. Keep him ahead of us.”

The tunnel steadily dwindled in size until Larry could barely stand up in it. Then it opened to a circular cave, which held one small light and had apparently no other exit. The cave had years before been a mechanism room for the palace temperature controls, but now it was abandoned. The old machinery stood about in a litter.

“In here?” said Tugh. “Which way next?”

Across the cave, on the rough blank wall, Tina located a hidden switch. A segment of the wall slid aside, disclosing a narrow, vaulted tunnel leading downward.

“You first, Tugh,” said Larry. “Is it dark, Tina? We have no handlights.”

“I can light it,” came the answer.

The door panel swung closed after them. Tina pressed another switch. A row of tiny hooded lights at twenty-foot intervals dimly illumined the descending passage.


T

hey walked a mile or more through the little tunnel. The air was fetid; stale and dank. To Larry it seemed an interminable trip. The narrow passage descended at a constant slope, until Larry estimated that they were well below the depth of the river bed. Within half a mile—before they got under the river—the passage leveled off. It had been fairly straight, but now it became tortuous—a meandering subterranean lane. Other similar tunnels crossed it, branched from it or joined it. Soon, to Larry, it was a labyrinth of passages—a network, here underground. In previous centuries this had been well below the lowest cellar of the mammoth city; these tube-like passages were the city’s arteries, the conduits for wires and pipes.

It was an underground maze. At each intersection the row of hidden hooded lights terminated, and darkness and several branching trails always[413] lay ahead. But Tina, with a memorized key of the route, always found a new switch to light another short segment of the proper tunnel. It was an eery trip, with the bent, misshapen black-cloaked figure of Tugh stumping ahead, waiting where the lights ended for Tina to lead them further.

Larry had long since lost his sense of direction, but presently Tina told him that they were beneath the river. The tunnel widened a little.

“We are under the base of the dam,” said Tina. Her voice echoed with a sepulchral blur. Ahead, the tramping figure of Tugh seemed a black gnome with a fantastic, monstrous shadow swaying on the tunnel wall and roof.


S

uddenly Tugh stopped. They found him at an arched door.

“Do we go in here, or keep on ahead?” he demanded.

The tunnel lights ended a short distance ahead.

“In here,” said Tina. “There are stairs leading upward to the catwalk balcony corridor halfway up the dam. We are not far from the Power House now.”

They then ascended interminable moldy stone steps spiraling upward in a circular shaft. The murmur of the dam’s spillways had been faintly audible, but now it was louder, presently it became a roar.

“Which way, Tina? We seem to have reached the top.”

“Turn left, Tugh.”

They emerged upon a tiny transverse metal balcony which hung against the southern side of the dam. Overhead to the right towered a great wall of masonry. Beneath was an abyss down to the lower river level where the cascading jets from the overhead spillways arched out over the catwalk and landed far below in a white maelstrom of boiling, bubbling water.

The catwalk was wet with spray; lashed by wind currents.

“Is it far, Princess? Are those lights ahead at the Power House entrance?”

Tugh was shouting back over his shoulder; his words were caught by the roar of the falling water; whipped away by the lashing spray and tumultuous winds. There were lights a hundred feet ahead, marking an entrance to the Power House. The dark end of the structure showed like a great lump on the side of the dam.

Again Tugh stopped. In the white, blurred darkness Larry and Tina could barely see him.

“Princess, quickly! Come quickly!” he called, and his shout sounded agonized.


W

hatever lack of perception Larry all this time had shown, the fog lifted completely from him now. As Tina started to run forward, Larry seized her.

“Back! Run the other way! We’ve been fools!” He shoved Tina behind him and rushed at Tugh. But now Larry was wholly wary; he expected that Tugh was armed, and cursed himself for a fool for not having devised some pretext for finding out.[10]

Tugh was clinging to the high outer rail of the balcony, slumped partly over as though gazing down into the abyss. Larry rushed up and[414]seized him by the arms. If Tugh held a weapon Larry thought he could easily wrest it from him. But Tugh stood limp in Larry’s grip.

“What’s the matter with you?” Larry demanded.

“I’m ill. Something—going wrong. Feel me—so cold. Princess! Tina! Come quickly! I—I am dying!”

As Tina came hurrying up, Tugh suddenly straightened. With incredible quickness, and even more incredible strength, he tore his arm loose from Larry and flung it around the Princess, and they were suddenly all three struggling. Tugh was shoving them back from the rail. Larry tried to get loose from Tugh’s clutch, but could not. He was too close for a full blow, but he jabbed his fist against the cripple’s body, and then struck his face.

But Tugh was unhurt; he seemed endowed with superhuman strength. The cripple’s body seemed padded with solid muscle, and his thick, gorilla-like arm held Larry in the grip of a vise. As though Larry and Tina were struggling, helpless children, he was half dragging, half carrying them across the ten-foot width of the catwalk.

Larry caught a glimpse of a narrow slit in the masonry of the dam’s wall—a dark, two-foot-wide aperture. He felt himself being shoved toward it. For all his struggles, he was helpless. He shouted:

“Tina—look out! Break away!”


H

e forgot himself for a moment, striving to wrest her away from Tugh and push her aside. But the strength of the cripple was monstrous: Larry had no possible chance of coping with it. The slit in the wall was at hand—a dark abyss down into the interior of the dam. Larry heard the cripple’s words, vehement, unhurried, as though with all this effort he still was not out of breath:

“At last I can dispose of you two. I do not need you any longer.”

Larry made a last wild jab with his fist into Tugh’s face and tried to twist himself aside. The blow landed upon Tugh’s jaw, but the cripple did not seem to feel it. He stuffed the struggling Larry like a bundle into the aperture. Larry felt his clutching hands torn loose. Tugh gave a last, violent shove and released him.

Larry fell into blackness—but not far, for soon he struck water. He went under, hit a flat, stone bottom, and came up to hear Tina fall with a splash beside him. In a moment he regained his feet, to find himself standing breast-high in the water with Tina clinging to him.

Tugh had disappeared. The aperture showed as a narrow rectangle some twenty feet above Larry’s head.

They were within the dam. They were in a pit of smooth, blank, perpendicular sides; there was nothing to afford even the slightest handhold; and no exit save the overhead slit. It was a part of the mechanism’s internal, hydraulic system.


T

o Larry’s horror he soon discovered that the water was slowly rising! It was breast-high to him now, and inch by inch it crept up toward his chin. It was already over Tina’s depth: she clung to him, half-swimming.

Larry soon found that there was no possible way for them to get out unaided, unless, if they could swim long enough, the rising water would rise to the height of the aperture. If it reached there, they could crawl out. He tried to estimate how long that would be.

“We can make it, Tina. It’ll take two hours, possibly, but I can keep us afloat that long.”

But soon he discovered that the water was not rising. Instead, the floor was sinking from under him! sinking as though he were standing upon the top of a huge piston which[415] slowly was lowering in its encasing cylinder. Dimly he could hear water tumbling into the pit, to fill the greater depth and still hold the surface level.

With the water at his chin, Larry guided Tina to the wall. He did not at first have the heart to tell her, yet he knew that soon it must be told. When he did explain it, she said nothing. They watched the water surface where it lapped against the greasy concave wall. It held its level: but while Larry stood there, the floor sank so that the water reached his mouth and nose, and he was forced to start swimming.

Another interval. Larry began calling: shouting futilely. His voice filled the pit, but he knew it could carry no more than a short distance out of the aperture.


O

verhead, as we afterward learned, Tugh had overcome the guards in the Power House by a surprise attack. Doubtless he struck them down with the white-ray before they had time to realize he had attacked them. Then he threw off the air-power transmitters and the lighting system. The city, plunged into darkness and without the district air-power, was isolated, cut off from the outside world. There was, in London, a huge long-range projector with a vibratory ray which would derange the internal mechanisms of the Robots: when news of the revolt and massacre in New York had reached there, this projector was loaded into an airliner, the Micrad. That vessel was now over the ocean, headed for New York; but when Tugh cut off the power senders, the Micrad, entering the New York District, was forced down to the ocean surface. Now she was lying there helpless to proceed….

In the pit within the dam, Larry swam endlessly with Tina. He had ceased his shouting.

“It’s no use, Tina: there’s no one to hear us. This is the end—for us—Tina.”

Yet, as she clung to him, and though Larry felt it was the end of this life, it seemed only the beginning, for them, of something else. Something, somewhere, for them together; something perhaps infinitely better than this world could ever give them.

“But not—the end—Tina,” he added. “The beginning—of our love.”

An interminable interval….

“Quietly, Tina. You float. I can hold you up.”

They were rats in a trap—swimming, until at the last, with all strength gone, they would together sink out of this sodden muffled blackness into the Unknown. But that Unknown shone before Larry now as something—with Tina—perhaps very beautiful….

(Concluded in the next issue)

FOOTNOTES

[3]In 2930, all aircraft engines were operated by radio-power transmitted by senders in various districts. The New York Power House controlled a local district of about two hundred miles radius.

[4]Cylinder records of books which by machinery gave audible rendition, in similar fashion to the radio-phonograph.

[5]The Power House on the Hudson dam was operated by inert machinery and manned entirely by humans—the only place in the city which was so handled. This was because of its extreme importance. The air-power was broadcast from there. Without that power the entire several hundred mile district around New York would be dead. No aircraft could enter, save perhaps some skilfully handled motorless glider, if aided by sufficiently fortuitous air currents. Every surface vehicle used this power, and every sub-sea freighter. The city lights, and every form of city power, were centralized here also, as well as the broadcasting audible and etheric transmitters and receivers. Without the Power House, New York City and all its neighborhood would be inoperative, and cut off from the outside world.

[6]I mentioned the small conning tower on top of the laboratory building and the Robot lookout there with his audible broadcasting.

[7]This was part of Tugh’s plan. The broadcast voice was the signal for the uprising in the New York district. This tower broadcaster could only reach the local area, yet ships and land vehicles with Robot operators would doubtless pick it up and relay it further. The mechanical revolt would spread. And on the ships, the airliners and the land vehicles, the Robot operators stirred to sudden frenzy would run amuck. As a matter of fact, there were indeed many accidents to ships and vehicles this night when their operators abruptly went beyond control. The chaos ran around the world like a fire in prairie grass.

[8]The police army had one weapon: a small vibration hand-ray. Its vibrating current beam could, at a distance of ten or twenty feet, reduce a Robot into paralyzed subjection; or, with more intense vibration, burn out the Robot’s coils and fuses.

[9]The storage batteries by which the Robot actuating energy was renewed, and the fuses, coils and other appliances necessary to the Robot existence, were all guarded now in the Power House.

[10]As a matter of actuality, Tugh was carrying hidden upon his person a small cylinder and battery of the deadly white-ray. It seems probable that although on the catwalk—having accomplished his purpose of getting within the electrical fortifications of the dam—Tugh had ample opportunity of killing his over-trustful companions with the white-ray, he did not dare use it. The catwalk was too dark for their figures to be visible to the Power House guards; the roar of the spillways drowned their shouts; but had Tugh used the white-ray, its abnormally intense actinic white beam would have raised the alarm which Tugh most of all wanted to avoid.

 

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[416]

The Readers' Corner

What Say Our Co-Editors?

Dear Editor:

Since sending you “Manape the Mighty,” I have read of a Russian scientist who removed the brain from a dog and kept both alive for some hours, which only goes to prove that science outstrips the wildest dreams of the fictionist, and a yarn that may be astounding and unusual when written, may be commonplace, and the knowledge of the man in the street, by the time the story goes to press. People read every day of “miracles” and scarcely give them a second thought, while a hundred years ago their perpetrators would have been destroyed as witches.

Far be it for me, or anyone else, to say that the main transposition used in “Manape the Mighty” is absurd and impossible. For while you, or I, may shrug shoulders and dismiss even the thought of it as being the dream of a madman, somebody, in some laboratory somewhere, may already have successfully managed it. So given the premise that the thing may be possible, I’ve sort of let myself go on this idea, and a whole new train of thought has been opened up, a whole new vista of astounding things in the realm of Science Fiction. In parenthesis, I must thank you for getting me started on the thing, for had you not suggested the idea from the throne-like fortress of your editorial chair, “Manape” might never have been born. I confess that I would perhaps have been afraid of it, both because of the possibility of the charge of following in the footsteps of the internationally famous Edgar Rice Burroughs, and of re-vamping the incomparable Poe tale, “Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

But, even so, both are interesting to dally with.

Given the premise that the brain transference is possible, what would happen:

(1) If the brain of a terrible criminal were transferred to the skull pan of an unusually mighty ape—and the ape transplanted from his arboreal home in Africa to the streets of London, Paris or New York whence the criminal whose brain he has originated? Suppose his man’s brain harbored thoughts of vengeance on enemies, and he now possesses the might of the great ape to carry out his vengeance?

(2) If Barter somehow escaped destruction at the hands of the apes in “Manape the Mighty,” and continued with his work of brain transference—building up a mighty army of great apes with the idea of avenging himself on civilization for wrongs real and fancied? Apes with broadswords and chained mail, with steel[417] helmets on their heads—men’s brains, savages’ brains, perhaps, as their guiding intelligence—and the tenacity of apes when mortally wounded? Suppose they swept over Africa like a cloud of locusts? Or is this too feeble a simile? Suppose, Africa, to be laid waste by them, led by Barter, the latter styling himself a modern Alexander of horrible potentiality, and extending his scope of conquest to the Holy Land, India, Asia—the Pacific littoral? Holy cats!

(3) Suppose that Barter managed, by purchase or otherwise, to acquire an island close to the American continents, within reach of either or both, and managed to transfer his activities there, using the natives of those islands—say Haiti, Cuba, Porto Rico, etc.—for his experiments, training his cohorts as an army, and starting a navy by capturing all vessels putting into these places? Fancy the consternation of the Western Hemisphere when ships suddenly go silent, as regards radio, after sudden mysterious SOS’s—and all trace of vessels is lost. Suppose the U. S. Navy went to investigate, and also vanished. More holy cats!

(4) Suppose, in connection with all the suppositions above, that Barter desired to give an ironic twist to his experiments, and kept his human victims alive—but with apes’ brains—as slaves of their man-ape conquerors? Suppose that out of the horror into which the world would be thrown, another Bentley should arise to help the imprisoned humans to escape their ghastly bondage? I can fancy his trials and tribulations, trying to manage a host of human beings with the brains of apes.

(5) And what about the training of internes and medicos to help a potential Barter, when the trade got beyond his sole ability—and apes with men’s brains to perform his experiments?

Do you suppose we’d all get locked up for experimenting with this sort of thing fictionally? I wouldn’t care to take the entire responsibility myself, nor I fancy would you—because somebody might be inspired by our stories to attempt the thing—so might I suggest that all possible conspirators, in the shape of readers of this magazine, write to you or me and let us know whether they’d like to see it happen fictionally? If the idea appeals—and of course we can’t go too heavily on horror—I’ll do my best to comply. Always within limits, however—utterly refusing to perform any experiments that can’t be done with a typewriter and the usual two fingers.—Arthur J. Burks, 178-80 Fifth Ave., New York City.

Like in Story Books

Dear Editor:

Here I am again! This time I’m offering suggestions. Let’s you and I and others get together and do something to these chronic kickers. It seems I can’t start to enjoy our “Readers’ Corner” without someone raising a halloo. Darn it! Why in heaven’s name do they buy A. S. if they don’t like it? They are not compelled to do so.

I also don’t understand why people are knocking the size and quality of the paper used. It suits me O. K. All the mags I read are the same way, and I pay five cents more for them, too!

I surely enjoyed Mr. Olog’s letter in the March issue. Gee, it gives one the creeps. I agree with him, too, that we ought to have a little something about the authors. I’m sure we’d all like to know a little more about these talented persons.

“When the Mountain Came to Miramar” was a great deal to my liking. I think it would be a great adventure to discover some secret cave and explore it. Of course, I’d like to wiggle out of danger, too, just like in story books.

I certainly wish to congratulate you on publishing “Beyond the Vanishing Point.” It just suited me to a “T.” Heretofore, all stories dealing with life upon atoms have been “just another story,” but this one beats all. I enjoyed it to the utmost, and I congratulate Mr. Cummings on writing my favorite kind of story.

All in all the March issue was indeed grand. If “Brown-Eyed Nineteen from Coronado, Calif.,” will send me her full name and address, I’ll promise to answer her letter immediately upon receiving it.—Gertrude Hemken, 5730 So. Ashland Ave., Chicago, Ill.

And So Do We

Dear Editor:

It certainly is a swell idea of yours to answer letters to “The Readers’ Corner” personally instead of taking up a lot of room answering them underneath as do most Editors. Not only that, but it builds up a feeling of friendship, between the Reader and the Editor, besides affording more room to publish letters and avoiding some of the bad feelings sometimes directed upon Editors when they do not publish someone’s letter.

Now, with your kind permission, I will burst into the little (?) ring of discussion about size, reprints, covers, artists and authors.

First, about the size and edges: The size is O. K., but I wish you would change the edges from a “rocky mountain” to a “desert” state. In other words, I would like straight edges in the near future.

Next, reprints: In two letters, an N O—No! If the Readers want reprints why doesn’t Mr. Clayton publish an annual chock full of reprints for these reprint hounds?

Covers and artists: The covers have all been great. Not too lurid. Just right. As for the artists, Wesso is the best by a long shot. Nuff said.

Authors: Ah, that’s a problem. Who is the best? I could rack my brain for hours and still not decide, so I’ll have to give a list of my favorites: R. F. Starzl, Edmond[418] Hamilton, Harl Vincent, Sewell Peaslee Wright, Jack Williamson, S. P. Meek, Miles J. Breuer and Ray Cummings.

Before I close there is one little thing I would like to mention. Did you ever notice that 75% of all the Readers who say they do not care for science in their stories are women? [?] Besides that, the only ones at school who think I’m “cracked” for reading Science Fiction are females. Figure it out for yourself.

I hope you, Mr. Bates, will continue to be our able Editor for many years to come.—Jim Nicholson, Ass’t Sec’y., B. S. C., 40 Lunado Way, San Francisco, Calif.

Four to One

Dear Editor:

Congratulations to Wesso! His March cover for “our” magazine is Astounding!

Ray Cummings’ novelette, “Beyond the Vanishing Point,” is absolutely the most marvelous of all his short stories. I can’t rave over it enough. I never read his “The Girl of the Golden Atom” but I imagine this must be something like it. It’s certainly the best of the “long short stories” that’s ever graced the insides of Astounding Stories.

“When the Mountain Came to Miramar” is a very good story in my opinion. “Terrors Unseen” is a wow! No foolin’. As for “Phalanxes of Atlans,” well, I simply can’t get interested in it. I thought the first part very uninteresting and decided not to bother to read the rest of it. But Wesso’s splendid illustration made me do so. But I still think it is a rather poor story. But, true to form, someone will no doubt think it the most wonderful story ever written.

Last, but not least, of all the stories comes “The Meteor Girl.” It’s by Jack Williamson: need more be said? No!—Forrest J. Ackerman, President-Librarian, The B. S. C., 530 Staples Avenue, San Francisco, Calif.

That Awful Thing Called Love

Dear Editor:

Upon the occasion of my first visit to “The Readers’ Corner,” I wish to say that Astounding Stories leads the field in Science Fiction stories as far as I am concerned, though at first I found them to be just so-so.

“Beyond the Vanishing Point,” by Ray Cummings, proved interesting through-out. “Terrors Unseen,” by Harl Vincent, was fairly good, as was “Phalanxes of Atlans,” by F. V. W. Mason.

But now comes the rub. Just why do you permit your Authors to inject messy love affairs into otherwise excellent imaginative fiction? Just stop and think. Our young hero-scientist builds himself a space flyer, steps out into the great void, conquers a thousand and one perils on his voyage and amidst our silent cheers lands on some far distant planet. Then what does he do? I ask you. He falls in love with a maiden—or it’s usually a princess—of the planet to which the Reader has followed him, eagerly awaiting and hoping to share each new thrill attached to his gigantic flight. But after that it becomes merely a hopeless, doddering love affair ending by his returning to Earth with his fair one by his side. Can you grasp that—a one-armed driver of a space flyer!

But seriously, don’t you think that affairs of the heart are very much out of place in “our” type of magazine? We buy A. S. for the thrill of being changed in size, in time, in dimension or being hurtled through space at great speed, but not to read of love.

Right here I wish to join forces with Glyn Owens up there in Canada in his request for plain, cold scientific stories sans the fair sex.

Otherwise your “our” magazine is the best of its kind on the market—W. H. Flowers. 1215 N. Lang Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa.

Brickbats for Others

Dear Editor:

Brickbats and plenty of them are coming, but not your way. I’m throwing mine at those guys that want reprints, more science, etc. The only one I agree with is the fellow who would like a thicker magazine with more stories.

Now for the brickbats. I’ll bet a great many of your Readers have read some of these reprints that some of our Readers are crying for. I’ll also bet that reprints would not help your friendly connections with a lot of your Authors. The stories that are written now I find good. Let the present authors make their living from the stories their brains think up.

As for more science, bah!—your present amount is enough. In another magazine I read a story and just as it reached its climax they started explaining something! If any Reader wants to write to me my address is below.—Arthur Mann, Jr., San Juan, California.

Wants Interplanetary Cooperation

Dear Editor:

C’n y’imagine, I have my Astounding Science magazine two whole hours and the cover is still on!

Let’s have some more stories like “Beyond the Vanishing Point,” by Ray Cummings in the March issue.

Another thing, let’s have more interplanetary stories than we do. I think they give you something to really think about.

Why is it that in every interplanetary story the other race is always hostile. Just think, would we, if we received visitors from space, make war on them? Also, when our people make an interplanetary flight, would we go with intent to kill? Let’s have some stories, where the first interplanetary flight leads to cooperation between the planets involved.—Dave Diamond, 1350—52nd St., Brooklyn, N. Y.[419]

In Every Way, True

Dear Editor:

I want to rejoice again over Astounding Stories. Reprints or no:—and I hunger for them—the magazine must be described in superlatives.

The reasons is pretty clear to me. After years in an experimental stage, Science Fiction suddenly turned up with a clash of cymbals in the shape of a definite magazine. It had to cover the whole field, and its successors tried to do the same. Due to its ancestry its logical scope was the more technical Science Fiction farthest removed from sheer fantasy, but, none-the-less, one of the most important branches. Now it is specializing in that type.

When Astounding Stories appeared many of us were apt to be skeptical, particularly when we noticed that an established corporation was backing it, one that had been limited to westerns and the like. The first few issues came and there was a dubious tinge of the occult, the “black-magical.” This petered out, and we noticed that no matter how poor the subject matter from the point of view of Science Fiction, the style of writing was almost always on the highest level.

Then we realized that this magazine was no menace to the literature of Science Fiction, but a valuable addition. It could afford the better writers and hence keep up the quality of work of every writer. It was adopting as its own a type of Science Fiction that the rest minimized, and that demanded good writing—a type having a skeleton of science, like the girders of a great building, holding it erect and determining its shape, yet holding the skeleton of less importance than the vision of the completed edifice. Stories with emphasis on the fiction rather than the science.

But enough of that. Here is a hopeful thought for the time-travelers. There is nothing in physics or chemistry to prevent you from going into the past or future—at least, the future—and shaking hands with yourself or killing yourself. We will eliminate the past, for it seems that it cannot be altered physically. But take the future: not so very far from to-day the matter of your body will have been totally replaced by new matter; the old will disappear in waste. Physically, you will be a new man, and physically the matter of to-day may destroy that of to-morrow and return in itself unaltered. But none-the-less there will be some limiting interval during which “you” have not been entirely transformed to new matter, so that an atom would have to be in two places at once.

Maybe time-traveling progresses in little jumps like emission of light. And maybe an atom can be in two places at once. If you are going to treat time as just another dimension, there seems to be no reason why an object which can be in one place at two times cannot be at one time in two places. This is all physics. The paradoxes of time-traveling arise more particularly from its effect on what we call consciousness, the something that makes me “me”—an individual. We can imagine an atom in two places at once, but not a soul, if you will. This will not bother the materialist who considers a living creature merely a machine, but it will most of us. So I must be content with offering a materialistic possibility of traveling in time.

The Science Correspondence Club wishes to extend its invitation to all Readers in other nations to join with all privileges save that of holding office. The latter may later be changed as our international membership increases. We have laboratory branches here, and we want them abroad in addition to scattered members. Then, it will be necessary to have a governing body and director in every country. At present all matters pertaining to foreign membership pass through my hands and I will do my best to supply information to all who seek it. We will also be glad to hear of the work and plans of other similar organizations in other countries, as we are doing with the German Verein für Raumschauffert. Address all inquiries to me at 302 So. Ten Broeck St., Scotia, New York, U. S. A.—P. Schuyler Miller, Foreign Director, S. C. C.

A Wow!

Dear Editor:

Astounding Stories magazine is a wow! I can hardly wait until next month for the April issue. “The Phalanxes of Atlans,” “Beyond the Vanishing Point” and “The Pirate Planet” are perfect. Every time I start a story I never stop till it’s finished. I hope that there will appear even better stories in later issues.

Here’s wishing you the best of success,—Fred Damato, 196 Greene St., New Haven, Conn.

Is Zat So!

Dear Editor:

Just a word or two. I have read several issues of Astounding Stories and I notice that you have taken the word “science” off the cover. It’s just as well, for it was never inside the cover, anyway. If you thought to attract Readers from real Science Fiction fans you were all wet, for they would never fall for the kind of things you printed. Besides, “what,” a real fan wants to know “how.” There may be, I’ll admit, a class of Readers who like your stories, but for me I think that you ought to print real Science Fiction or abandon the attempt and publish out and out fairy tales. Is everybody so pleased with your book that you receive nothing but commendatory letters? That appears to be all you print, at any rate. So long—Harry Pancoast, 306 West 28th St., Wilmington, Delaware.[420]

Short and Sweet

Dear Editor:

I agree perfectly with Gertrude Hemken, of Chicago. Astounding Stories is O. K. Why do we want a lot of deep science with our stories? We read for pleasure not to learn science.

I have been reading Astounding Stories since the first issue, and I have enjoyed every story. I read several Science Fiction magazines but yours is the best.—Stephen L. Garcia, 47 Hazel Ave., Redwood City, Calif.

Shorter and Sweeter

Dear Editor:

The only good things about Astounding Stories are as follows:

The cover design, the stories, the size of the magazine, the illustrations in the magazine and the Authors.—John Mackens, 366 W. 96th St., New York City.

Sequels Requested

Dear Editor:

I was out of reading matter so I bought the August issue of Astounding Stories, and it was so good that I have been buying it ever since. The only things I don’t like about the magazine are the quality of the paper, which I think could be improved, and the uneven pages. The other Science Fiction magazine that I read has its pages even.

Astounding Stories has a much better type of stories than the other magazine. There are only a few stories I have seen in your magazine which do not belong there. They are: “A Problem in Communication,” which is not so much fiction and does not have much of a plot, and “The Ape-men of Xloti,” which was very well written and very interesting, but did not have enough science in it.

I would like to see sequels to the following stories: “Marooned Under the Sea,” “Beyond the Vanishing Point,” “Monsters of Mars,” telling about another effort of the crocodile-men to conquer Earth, “The Gray Plague,” telling of another attack by the Venusians, and, most of all, “Vagabonds of Space.” I would like to see a story about their further adventures about every three months, just as I see the stories about Commander Hanson.

I wish the best of luck for Astounding Stories.—Bill Bailey, 1404 Wightman St., Pittsburgh, Pa.

Come Again

Dear Editor:

Although I have been an interested Reader of Astounding Stories since its inception, this is the first time that I have written; but “our” magazine has been so good lately that I just had to write and compliment you on your good work.

There are just two criticisms I have of Astounding Stories. The first is that the binding sometimes comes off; the second is the rough edges. I join with many other Readers in complaining that uneven edges make it hard to find a certain page and also give the mag a cheap looking appearance.

In my opinion the two best serials you have printed are “Brigands of the Moon” and “The Pirate Planet.” The four best novelettes are: “Marooned Under the Sea,” “The Fifth-Dimension Catapult,” “Beyond the Vanishing Point” and “Vagabonds of Space.”—Eugene Bray, Campbell, Mo.

How Simple!

Dear Editor:

Just a few lines to set Mr. Greenfeld right on that question of how a man could be disintegrated and then reintegrated as two (or more) similar men.

Briefly, the atomic or molecular structure of the original man could serve as a pattern to be set up in the reintegrating machine or machines while he is being dissolved by the disintegrating machine. Thus, the reintegrators could reconstruct any number of similar men by following the pattern of his molecular structure and drawing on a prearranged supply of the basic elements.

As for the “soul,” that is merely the manifestation of the chemical combinations in the man’s body, and when said chemical combinations are duplicated, the “soul” simply follows suit.—Joseph N. Mosleh, 4002 Sixth Ave., Brooklyn, N. Y.

Both in One Issue

Dear Editor:

I think it’s about time to let you know what I think of your wonderful magazine. Of course, I have my dislikes but they are very few. I wish you would make up your magazine larger and even the pages up. The best complete novelettes I have read were both in the same issue. They were “Monsters of Mars,” by Edmond Hamilton and “Four Miles Within,” by Anthony Gilmore. Wesso is by far your best artist. Please keep him. All the other Science Fiction magazines have quarterlies. Why don’t you have one?

Good-by, and keep Astounding Stories up to its present standard.—Frederick Morrison, Long Beach, Calif.

Good As Is

Dear Editor:

I have been reading your mag for about five months and I like it very much. I don’t see what those guys want a quarterly for. This mag is good as it is and there is no use to spoil it. Wesso is a swell artist, and the best story I read was “The Wall of Death.”

I’d like to get acquainted with some of your Readers. How about it, boys?

I’ll sign off.—L. Sloan, Box 101, Onset, Mass.[421]

Just Imagine!

Dear Editor:

To begin, I am a mechanic more or less skilled in the handling of tools. Now, while I have seen many builders with tools who were dubbed “spineless,” “poor fish,” etc., it was not because they remotely resembled the piscatorial or Crustacea families.

It seems to me that when an author endows reptiles, cuttlefish, etc., with superhuman intelligence, and paints a few pictures of them as master-mechanics in the use of tools, then I want to take the magazine I am reading, that allows such silly slush in its pages, and feed it to my billy-goat; he may be able to digest such silliness, but I can’t!

However, there is a redeeming feature of this sort of story: although not written as comedy, they have a comic effect, when one uses his imagination. Imagine, for instance, a giant sea crab as a traffic cop! He could direct four streams of traffic at once while making a date with the sweet young thing whom he had held up for a traffic violation! Then think what a great, intelligent reptile, crocodile, or what have you, could do in our Prohibition Enforcement Service! He could place his armored body across the road, and when rum runners bumped into him he could take his handy disintegrator and turn their load of white lightning back into the original corn patch! And suppose a giant, humanly-intelligent centipede should make too much whoopee some night, and endeavor to slip upstairs without waking the wife. Even if he succeeded in getting off his thousand pairs of shoes, which is doubtful, he would have a sweet time keeping his myriad of legs under control after partaking of some of the tangle-foot dispensed nowadays!

I hope your Authors will read and heed the delicate sarcasm contained in the letter of Robert R. Young in your April issue.—Carl F. Morgan, 427 E. Columbia Ave., College Park, Ga.

Craves Excitement

Dear Editor:

I have been a silent Reader of your magazine for quite a long while, but have finally decided to come forth with my own little contribution to “The Readers’ Corner.” So far I have seen only two other women Readers’ letters. I suppose most women are interested in love stories, though I fail to see anything very exciting in any that are written nowadays; and I crave excitement in my reading. I’ve read about most everything there is about this old earth, so I’ve decided to wander into new fields.

Now for a little discussion about Astounding Stories. I haven’t any brickbats to throw. You seem to get more of them than is necessary. I like the size, the price, the cover, the illustrator, the authors, etc. Some stories don’t exactly take my fancy but the average is 100% with me.

Some that particularly pleased me were “Marooned Under the Sea,” way back in the September issue, “Jetta of the Low-lands” and “Beyond the Vanishing Point.” “Gray Denim” and “Ape-men of Xloti” in the December issue rite A-1, too.

I congratulate Ray Cummings on his new story, even though I haven’t started to read it yet. I always know I’ll enjoy his work, no matter what it is. Time-traveling is one of my special dishes, too.

Here’s a little dig. I’m sorry, I didn’t think I’d have any, but I just thought of this. It seems to me that I never see any stories written by two authors. Of course the stories by single authors are O. K., but the particular two I am thinking of are Edgar A. Manley and Walter Thode. They wrote “The Time Annihilator,” as you probably know. That was one of the best time-traveling stories I have ever read. I’m only sorry that it couldn’t have been published by Astounding Stories.

Well, I don’t want to make myself tiresome the very first time, so I’ll sign off. Please excuse the rather unconventional stationary, but I’m writing this at the office in my spare time. Hope I haven’t worn my welcome out, but I had so much stored up to say.

I’m waiting for the April issue, so please hurry it up.—Betty Mulharen, 50 E. Philadelphia Ave, Detroit, Mich.

A Daisy for S. P. Wright

Dear Editor:

Were good old President George Washington himself to travel through time to the present and look upon the April issue of Astounding Stories, I am certain he would only repeat what I say: “Editor, I cannot tell a lie. This is the best issue yet!”

The cover on this issue is unique in that Astounding Stories is written in red and white letters. I do not recall of ever having seen this done to any Science Fiction magazine before. Wesso’s illustration leaves nothing to be desired.

Going straight through the book: “The Monsters of Mars.” Good old Edmond Hamilton saves the world for us again in the very nick of time—and we like it, too! Here’s hoping there’s a million more dangers threatening Terra for Mr. Hamilton to save us from! By the way, I wonder who drew the illustration for this story? I can’t make out his name. Next: “The Exile of Time,” by Cummings. Exciting and well illustrated. “Hell’s Dimension” is well-written and very interesting. Would have liked it longer. “The World Behind the Moon” is splendid. More by Mr. Ernst, please. More from Mr. Gilmore, too, because of his novelette, “Four Miles Within.” “The Lake of Light” by that popular author Jack Williamson surpasses his “The Meteor Girl” in a recent issue of “our” magazine. And now I come to the last and perhaps most interesting[422] story of the issue: Mr. Sewell Peaslee Wright’s record of the interplanetary adventures of the Special Patrol as told by Commander John Hanson. This series is unsurpassable in its vivid realness. I can’t help but believe that these tales really occurred, or will occur in the distant future. And Mr. Wright is as expert at conceiving new forms of life as Edmond Hamilton is at saving our Earth.

“The Readers’ Corner” is an interesting feature, and I am glad to hear that “Murder Madness” and “Brigands of the Moon” are now in book form.—Forrest J. Ackerman, 530 Staples Ave., San Francisco, Calif.

Mass Production

Dear Editor:

After reading Mr. Greenfield’s letter in your April issue regarding my story, “An Extra Man,” I feel that I should like to call his attention to a point which, it seems to me, he has overlooked, namely, that the reconstructed men were not composed of the original physical matter of the disintegrated man but of identical elements, all of which are at present known and available to science.

According to the hypothesis, Drayle could have produced as many entities as he desired and provided for, just as a radio broadcast is reproduced in as many places as are prepared for its reception. The vibrations alone are transmitted, and the reproduction is the result of a reciprocal mechanical action by physical matter at the receiving end. Any radio engineer knows that the original sound waves are not transported, but merely their impress upon the electrical radio wave. So, Drayle’s disintegrating and sending apparatus only transmitted the vibrations which enabled his machines at the receiving end to select from a more than adequate supply of raw material, in due proportion and quantities, as much as was required for the reproduction of the disintegrated entities.

I think that if Mr. Greenfield will reread the story, noting the following references, he will agree that if the hypothesis is accepted the conclusion is logical:

1—It is only Jackson Gee and not Drayle who speaks of transmitting the constituent elements by radio (page 120).

2—The scientist, Drayle, says, (page 129) “We already know the elements that make the human body, and we can put them together in the their proper proportions and arrangements; but we have not been able to introduce the vitalizing spark, the key vibrations, to start it going.” He does not say that tangible matter can be transmitted by radio.

3—In the account of Drayle’s preliminary experiments (page 122) there is no statement to the effect that the original material composing the disintegrated glass was used in its recreation.

4—There is nothing in the story to indicate that the original physical composition of the disintegrated man was transported, in any manner to any outside location. The process of disintegration was necessary to obtain the vibrations that would make possible their repetition, which under proper conditions would induce a reproduction of the original, just as a song must be sung before it can be reproduced upon a phonograph disc, but which, once recorded can be repeated times without number.

5—Drayle’s question (page 124) “Have you arranged the elements?” refers to the elements out of which all mankind is composed and which Drayle has previously mentioned (page 120).

6—The narrator emphasizes this aspect of the discovery when he says, on page 124, “I seemed to see man’s (not the man’s) elementary dust and vapors whirled from great containers upward into a stratum of shimmering air and gradually assume the outlines of a human form that became first opaque, then solid, and then a sentient being.” And again (page 126), “The best of the race could be multiplied indefinitely and man could make man literally out of the dust of the earth.” This does not imply a split-up of one individual into several smaller sizes or fractional parts, but rather the production of identical entities exactly as thousands of phonograph records can be created from the master matrix.

7—As to the question of soul, I suggest that inasmuch as what we call the soul of an individual is always judged by that individual’s behavior, and that medical science now maintains that behavior is largely dependent upon our physical mechanism, it would follow that the identical human mechanisms would have identical souls.—Jackson Gee.

The Readers’ Corner

All Readers are extended a sincere and cordial invitation to “come over in ‘The Readers’ Corner'” and join in our monthly discussion of stories, authors, scientific principles and possibilities—everything that’s of common interest in connection with our Astounding Stories.

Although from time to time the Editor may make a comment or so, this is a department primarily for Readers, and we want you to make full use of it. Likes, dislikes, criticisms, explanations, roses, brickbats, suggestions—everything’s welcome here: so “come over in ‘The Readers’ Corner'” and discuss it with all of us!

The Editor.










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SF19Astounding Stories, May, 1931 by Various(拇指兔美照)


拇指兔美照
拇指兔美照
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Astounding Stories, May, 1931, by Various



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Title: Astounding Stories, May, 1931



Author: Various



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Cover

 

Cover

 

ASTOUNDING

STORIES

20¢

On Sale the First Thursday of Each Month

W. M. CLAYTON, Publisher               HARRY BATES, Editor               DR. DOUGLAS M. DOLD, Consulting Editor


The Clayton Standard on a Magazine Guarantees

That the stories therein are clean, interesting, vivid, by leading writers of the day and purchased under conditions approved by the Authors’ League of America;

That such magazines are manufactured in Union shops by American workmen;

That each newsdealer and agent is insured a fair profit;

That an intelligent censorship guards their advertising pages.

The other Clayton magazines are:

ACE-HIGH MAGAZINE, RANCH ROMANCES, COWBOY STORIES, CLUES, FIVE-NOVELS MONTHLY, ALL STAR DETECTIVE STORIES, RANGELAND LOVE STORY MAGAZINE, WESTERN ADVENTURES, and WESTERN LOVE STORIES.

More than Two Million Copies Required to Supply the Monthly Demand for Clayton Magazines.


VOL. VI, No. 2                      CONTENTS                       May, 1931


COVER DESIGN H. W. WESSO
Painted in Water-Colors from a Scene in “Dark Moon.
DARK MOON CHARLES W. DIFFIN 148
Mysterious, Dark, Out of the Unknown Deep Comes a New Satellite to Lure Three Courageous Earthlings on to Strange Adventure. (A Complete Novelette.)
WHEN CAVERNS YAWNED CAPTAIN S. P. MEEK 198
Only Dr. Bird’s Super-Scientific Sleuthing Stands in the Way of Ivan Sarnoff’s Latest Attempt at Wholesale Destruction.
THE EXILE OF TIME RAY CUMMINGS 216
Young Lovers of Three Eras Are Swept down the Torrent of the Sinister Cripple Tugh’s Frightful Vengeance. (Part Two of a Four-Part Novel.)
WHEN THE MOON TURNED GREEN HAL K. WELLS 241
Outside His Laboratory Bruce Dixon Finds a World of Living Dead Men—and Above, in the Sky, Shines a Weird Green Moon.
THE DEATH-CLOUD NAT SCHACHNER AND ARTHUR L. ZAGAT 256
The Epic Exploit of One Who Worked in the Dark and Alone, Behind the Enemy Lines, in the Great Last War.
THE READERS’ CORNER ALL OF US 276
A Meeting Place for Readers of Astounding Stories.

Single Copies, 20 Cents (In Canada, 25 Cents)                                                            Yearly Subscription, $2.00

Issued monthly by Readers’ Guild, Inc., 80 Lafayette Street, New York, N. Y. W. M. Clayton, President; Francis P. Pace, Secretary. Entered as second-class matter December 7, 1929, at the Post Office at New York, N. Y., under Act of March 3, 1879. Title registered as a Trade Mark in the U. S. Patent Office. Member Newsstand Group. For advertising rates address The Newsstand Group, Inc., 80 Lafayette St., New York or The Wrigley Bldg., Chicago.


[148]

Behind them a red ship was falling—falling free!Behind them a red ship was falling—falling free!

Dark Moon

A COMPLETE NOVELETTE

By Charles W. Diffin

CHAPTER I

There Comes a New World

Mysterious, dark, out of the unknown deep comes a new satellite to lure three courageous Earthlings on to strange adventures.
T

he one hundred and fifty-ninth floor of the great Transportation Building allowed one standing at a window to look down upon the roofs of the countless buildings that were New York.

Flat-decked, all of them; busy places of hangars and machine shops and strange aircraft, large and small, that rose vertically under the lift of flashing helicopters.

The air was alive and vibrant with directed streams of stubby-winged shapes that drove swiftly on their way, with only a wisp of vapor from their funnel-shaped sterns to mark the continuous explosion that propelled them. Here and[149] there were those that entered a shaft of pale-blue light that somehow outshone the sun. It marked an ascending area, and there ships canted swiftly, swung their blunt noses upward, and vanished, to the upper levels.

A mile and more away, in a great shaft of green light from which all other craft kept clear, a tremendous shape was dropping. Her hull of silver was striped with a broad red band; her multiple helicopters were dazzling flashes in the sunlight. The[150] countless dots that were portholes and the larger observation ports must have held numberless eager faces, for the Oriental Express served a cosmopolitan passenger list.

But Walter Harkness, standing at the window, stared out from troubled, frowning eyes that saw nothing of the kaleidoscopic scene. His back was turned to the group of people in the room, and he had no thought of wonders that were prosaic, nor of passengers, eager or blase; his thoughts were only of freight and of the acres of flat roofs far in the distance where alternate flashes of color marked the descending area for fast freighters of the air. And in his mind he could see what his eyes could not discern—the markings on those roofs that were enormous landing fields: Harkness Terminals, New York.


O

nly twenty-four, Walt Harkness—owner now of Harkness, Incorporated. Dark hair that curled slightly as it left his forehead; eyes that were taking on the intent, straightforward look that had been his father’s and that went straight to the heart of a business proposal with disconcerting directness. But the lips were not set in the hard lines that had marked Harkness Senior; they could still curve into boyish pleasure to mark the enthusiasm that was his.

He was not typically the man of business in his dress. His broad shoulders seemed slender in the loose blouse of blue silk; a narrow scarf of brilliant color was loosely tied; the close, full-length cream-colored trousers were supported by a belt of woven metal, while his shoes were of the coarse-mesh fabric that the latest mode demanded.

He turned now at the sound of Warrington’s voice. E. B. Warrington, Counsellor at Law, was the name that glowed softly on the door of this spacious office, and Warrington’s gray head was nodding as he dated and indexed a document.

“June twentieth, nineteen seventy-three,” he repeated; “a lucky day for you, Walter. Inside of ten years this land will be worth double the fifty million you are paying—and it is worth more than that to you.”

He turned and handed a document to a heavy-bodied man across from him. “Here is your copy, Herr Schwartzmann,” he said. The man pocketed the paper with a smile of satisfaction thinly concealed on his dark face.


H

arkness did not reply. He found little pleasure in the look on Schwartzmann’s face, and his glance passed on to a fourth man who sat quietly at one side of the room.

Young, his tanned face made bronze by contrast with his close-curling blond hair, there was no need of the emblem on his blouse to mark him as of the flying service. Beside the spread wings was the triple star of a master pilot of the world; it carried Chet Bullard past all earth’s air patrols and gave him the freedom of every level.

Beside him a girl was seated. She rose quickly now and came toward Harkness with outstretched hand. And Harkness found time in the instant of her coming to admire her grace of movement, and the carriage that was almost stately.

The mannish attire of a woman of business seemed almost a discordant note; he did not realize that the hard simplicity of her costume had been saved by the soft warmth of its color, and by an indefinable, flowing line in the jacket above the rippling folds of an undergarment that gathered smoothly at her knees. He knew only that she made a lovely picture, surprisingly appealing, and that her smile was a compensation[151] for the less pleasing visage of her companion, Schwartzmann.

“Mademoiselle Vernier,” Herr Schwartzmann had introduced her when they came. And he had used her given name as he added: “Mademoiselle Diane is somewhat interested in our projects.”

She was echoing Warrington’s words as she took Harkness’ hand in a friendly grasp. “I hope, indeed, that it is the lucky day for you, Monsieur. Our modern transportation—it is so marvelous, and I know so little of it. But I am learning. I shall think of you as developing your so-splendid properties wonderfully.”


O

nly when she and Schwartzmann were gone did Harkness answer his counsellor’s remark. The steady Harkness eyes were again wrinkled about with puckering lines; the shoulders seemed not so square as usual.

“Lucky?” he said. “I hope you’re right. You were Father’s attorney for twenty years—your judgment ought to be good; and mine is not entirely worthless.

“Yes, it is a good deal we have made—of course it is!—it bears every analysis. We need that land if we are to expand as we must, and the banks will carry me for the twenty million I can’t swing. But, confound it, Warrington, I’ve had a hunch—and I’ve gone against it. Schwartzmann has tied me up for ready cash, and he represents the biggest competitors we have. They’re planning something—but we need the land…. Oh, well, I’ve signed up; the property is mine; but….”

The counsellor laughed. “You need a change,” he said; “I never knew you to worry before. Why don’t you jump on the China Mail this afternoon; it connects with a good line out of Shanghai. You can be tramping around the Himalayas to-morrow. A day or two there will fix you up.”

“Too busy,” said Harkness. “Our experimental ship is about ready, so I’ll go and play with that. We’ll be shooting at the moon one of these days.”

“The moon!” the other snorted. “Crazy dreams! McInness tried it, and you know what happened. He came back out of control—couldn’t check his speed against the repelling area—shot through and stripped his helicopters off against the heavy air. And that other fellow, Haldgren—”

“Yes,” said Harkness quietly, “Haldgren—he didn’t fall back. He went on into space.”


I

mpossible!” the counsellor objected. “He must have fallen unobserved. No, no, Walter; be reasonable. I do not claim to know much about those things—I leave them to the Stratosphere Control Board—but I do know this much: that the lifting effect above the repelling area—what used to be known as the heaviside layer—counteracts gravity’s pull. That’s why our ships fly as they please when they have shot themselves through. But they have to fly close to it; its force is dissipated in another ten thousand feet, and the old earth’s pull is still at work. It can’t be done, my boy; the vast reaches of space—”

“Are the next to be conquered,” Harkness broke in. “And Chet and I intend to be in on it.” He glanced toward the young flyer, and they exchanged a quiet smile.

“Remember how my father was laughed at when he dared to vision the commerce of to-day? Crazy dreams, Warrington? That’s what they said when Dad built the first unit of our plant, the landing stages for the big freighters, the docks for ocean ships while they lasted, the berths for the big submarines that he knew were coming. They jeered at him then. ‘Harkness’ Folly,’ the[152] first plant was called. And now—well you know what we are doing.”

He laughed softly. “Leave us our crazy dreams, Warrington,” he protested; “sometimes those dreams come true…. And I’ll try to forget my hunch. We’ve bought the property; now we’ll make it earn money for us. I’ll forget it now, and work on my new ship. Chet and I are about ready for a try-out.”


T

he flyer had risen to join him, and the two turned together to the door where a private lift gave access to the roof. They were halfway to it when the first shock came to throw the two men on the floor.

The great framework of the Transportation Building was swaying wildly as they fell, and the groaning of its wrenched and straining members sounded through the echoing din as every movable object in the room came crashing down.

Dazed for the moment, Harkness lay prone, while his eyes saw the nitron illuminator, like a great chandelier, swing widely from the ceiling where it was placed. Its crushing weight started toward him, but a last swing shot it past to the desk of the counsellor.

Harkness got slowly to his feet. The flyer, too, was able to stand, though he felt tenderly of a bruised shoulder. But where Warrington had been was only the crumpled wreckage of a steeloid desk, the shattered bulk of the illuminator upon it, and, beneath, the mangled remains where flowing blood made a quick pool upon the polished floor.

Warrington was dead—no help could be rendered there—and Harkness was reaching for the door. The shock had passed, and the building was quiet, but he shouted to the flyer and sprang into the lift.

“The air is the place for us,” he said; “there may be more coming.” He jammed over the control lever, and the little lift moved.

“What was it?” gasped Bullard, “earthquake?—explosion? Lord, what a smash!”

Harkness made no reply. He was stepping out upon the broad surface of the Transportation Building. He paid no attention to the hurrying figures about him, nor did he hear the loud shouting of the newscasting cone that was already bringing reports of the disaster. He had thought only for the speedy little ship that he used for his daily travel.


T

he golden cylinder was still safe in the grip of its hold-down clutch, and its stubby wings and gleaming sextuple-bladed helicopter were intact. Harkness sprang for the control-board.

He, too, wore an emblem: a silver circle that marked him a pilot of the second class; he could take his ship around the world below the forty level, though at forty thousand and above he must give over control to the younger man.

The hiss of the releasing clutch came softly to him as the free-signal flashed, and he sank back with a great sigh of relief as the motors hummed and the blades above leaped into action. Then the stern blast roared, though its sound came faintly through the deadened walls, and he sent the little speedster for the pale blue light of an ascending area. Nor did he level off until the gauge before him said twenty thousand.

His first thought had been for their own safety in the air, but with it was a frantic desire to reach the great plant of the Harkness Terminals. What had happened there? Had there been any damage? Had they felt the shock? A few seconds in level twenty would tell him. He reached the place of alternate flashes where he could descend, and the little ship fell smoothly down.

Below him the great expanse of buildings took form, and they[153] seemed safe and intact. His intention was to land, till the slim hands of Chet Bullard thrust him roughly aside and reached for the controls.

It was Bullard’s right—a master pilot could take control at any time—but Harkness stared in amazement as the other lifted the ship, then swung it out over the expanse of ocean beyond—stared until his own eyes followed those of Chet Bullard to see the wall of water that was sweeping toward the land.

Chet, he knew, had held them in a free-space level, where they could maneuver as they pleased, but he knew, too, that the pilot’s hands were touching levers that swung them at a quite unlawful speed past other ships, and that swept them down in a great curve above the ocean’s broad expanse.


H

arkness did not at once grasp the meaning of the thing. There was the water, sparkling clear, and a monstrous wave that lifted itself up to mountainous heights. Behind it the ocean’s blue became a sea of mud; and only when he glanced at their ground-speed detector did he sense that the watery mountain was hurling itself upon the shore with the swiftness of a great super-liner.

There were the out-thrusting capes that made a safe harbor for the commerce that came on and beneath the waters to the Harkness Terminals; the wave built itself up to still greater heights as it came between them. They were riding above it by a thousand feet, and Walter Harkness, in sudden knowledge of what this meant, stared with straining eyes at the wild thing that raced with them underneath.

He must do something—anything!—to check the monster, to flatten out the onrushing mountain! The red bottom-plates of a submarine freighter came rolling up behind the surge to show how futile was the might of man. And the next moment marked the impact of the wall of water upon a widespread area of landing roofs, where giant letters stared mockingly at him to spell the words: Harkness Terminals, New York.

He saw the silent crumbling of great buildings; he glimpsed in one wild second the whirling helicopters on giant freighters that took the air too late; he saw them vanish as the sea swept in and engulfed them. And then, after endless minutes, he knew that Chet had swung again above the site of his plant, and he saw the stumps of steel and twisted wreckage that remained….


T

he pilot hung the ship in air—a golden beetle, softly humming as it hovered above the desolate scene. Chet had switched on the steady buzz of the stationary-ship signal, and the wireless warning was swinging passing craft out and around their station. Within the quiet cabin a man stood to stare and stare, unspeaking, until his pilot laid a friendly hand upon the broad shoulders.

“You’re cleaned,” said Chet Bullard. “It’s a washout! But you’ll build it up again; they can’t stop you—”

But the steady, appraising eyes of Walter Harkness had moved on and on to a rippling stretch of water where land had been before.

“Cleaned,” he responded tonelessly; “and then some! And I could start again, but—” He paused to point to the stretch of new sea, and his lips moved that he might laugh long and harshly. “But right there is all I own—that is, the land I bought this morning. It is gone, and I owe twenty million to the hardest-hearted bunch of creditors in the world. That foreign crowd, who’ve been planning to invade our territory here. You know what chance I’ll have with them….”[154]

The disaster was complete, and Walter Harkness was facing it—facing it with steady gray eyes and a mind that was casting a true balance of accounts. He was through, he told himself; his other holdings would be seized to pay for this waste of water that an hour before had been dry land; they would strip him of his last dollar. His lips curved into a sardonic smile.

“June twentieth, nineteen seventy-three,” he repeated. “Poor old Warrington! He called this my lucky day!”


T

he pilot had respected the other man’s need of silence, but his curiosity could not be longer restrained.

“What’s back of it all?” he demanded. “What caused it? The shock was like no earthquake I’ve ever known. And this tidal wave—” He was reaching for a small switch. He turned a dial to the words: “News Service—General,” and the instrument broke into hurried speech.

It told of earth shocks in many places—the whole world had felt it—some tremendous readjustment among the inner stresses of the earth—most serious on the Atlantic seaboard—the great Harkness Terminals destroyed—some older buildings in the business district shaken down—loss of life not yet computed….

“But what did it?” Chet Bullard was repeating in the cabin of their floating ship. “A tremendous shake-up like that!” Harkness silenced him with a quick gesture of his hand. Another voice had broken in to answer the pilot’s question.

“The mystery is solved,” said the new voice. “This is the Radio-News representative speaking from Calcutta. We are in communication with the Allied Observatories on Mount Everest. At eleven P. M., World Standard Time, Professor Boyle observed a dark body in transit across the moon. According to Boyle, a non-luminous and non-reflecting asteroid has crashed into the earth’s gravitational field. A dark moon has joined this celestial grouping, and is now swinging in an orbit about the earth. It is this that has disturbed the balance of internal stresses within the earth—”


A

dark moon!” Chet Bullard broke in, but again a movement from Harkness silenced his exclamations. Whatever of dull apathy had gripped young Harkness was gone. No thought now of the devastation below them that spelled his financial ruin. Some greater, more gripping idea had now possessed him. The instrument was still speaking:

“—Without light of its own, nor does it reflect the sun’s light as does our own moon. This phenomenon, as yet, is unexplained. It is nearer than our own moon and smaller, but of tremendous density.” Harkness nodded his head quickly at that, and his eyes were alive with an inner enthusiasm not yet expressed in words. “It is believed that the worst is over. More minor shocks may follow, but the cause is known; the mystery is solved. Out from the velvet dark of space has come a small, new world to join us—”

The voice ceased. Walter Harkness had opened the switch.

“The mystery is solved,” Chet Bullard repeated.

“Solved?” exclaimed the other from his place at the controls. “Man, it is only begun!” He depressed a lever, and a muffled roar marked their passage to a distant shaft of blue, where he turned the ship on end and shot like a giant shell for the higher air.

There was northbound travel at thirty-five, and northward Harkness would go, but he shot straight up. At forty thousand he motioned the[155] master-pilot to take over the helm.

“Clear through,” he ordered; “up into the liner lanes; then north for our own shop.” Nor did he satisfy the curiosity in Chet Bullard’s eyes by so much as a word until some hours later when they floated down.


A

n icy waste was beneath them, where the sub-polar regions were wrapped in the mantle of their endless winter. Here ships never passed. Northward, toward the Pole, were liner lanes in the higher levels, but here was a deserted sector. And here Walter Harkness had elected to carry on his experiments.

A rise of land showed gaunt and black, and the pilot was guiding the ship in a long slant upon it. He landed softly beside a building in a sheltered, snow-filled valley.

Harkness shivered as he stepped from the warmth of their insulated cabin, and he fumbled with shaking fingers to touch the combination upon the locked door. It swung open, to close behind the men as they stood in the warm, brightly-lighted room.

Nitro illuminators were hung from the ceiling, their diffused brilliance shining down to reflect in sparkling curves and ribbons of light from a silvery shape. It stood upon the floor, a metal cylinder a hundred feet in length, whose blunt ends showed dark openings of gaping ports. There were other open ports above and below and in regular spacing about the rounded sides. No helicopters swung their blades above; there were only the bulge of a conning tower and the heavy inset glasses of the lookouts. Nor were there wings of any kind. It might have been a projectile for some mammoth gun.

Harkness stood in silence before it, until he turned to smile at the still-wondering pilot.

“Chet,” he said, “it’s about finished and ready—just in time. We’ve built it, you and I; freighted in the parts ourselves and assembled every piece. We’ve even built the shop: lucky the big steeloid plates are so easily handled. And you and I are the only ones that know.

“Every ship in the airlanes of the world is driven by detonite—and we have evolved a super-detonite. We have proved that it will work. It will carry us beyond the pull of gravitation; it will give us the freedom of outer space. It is ours and ours alone.”

“No,” the other corrected slowly, “it is yours. You have paid the bills and you have paid me. Paid me well.”

“I’m paying no more,” Harkness told him. “I’m broke, right this minute. I haven’t a dollar—and yet I say now that poor Warrington was right: this is my lucky day.”


H

e laughed aloud at the bewilderment on the pilot’s face.

“Chet,” he said slowly, and his voice was pitched to a more serious tone, “out there is a new world, the Dark Moon. ‘Tremendous density,’ they said. That means it can hold an atmosphere of its own. It means new metals, new wealth. It means a new little world to explore, and it’s out there waiting for us. Waiting for us; we will be the first. For here is the ship that will take us.

“It isn’t mine, Chet; it’s ours. And the adventure is ours; yours and mine, both. We only meant to go a few hundred miles at first, but here’s something big. We may never come back—it’s a long chance that we’re taking—but you’re in on it, if you want to go….”

He paused. The expression in the eyes of Chet Bullard, master-pilot of the world, was answer enough. But Chet amplified it with explosive words.

“Am I in on it?” he demanded. “Try to count me out—just try to do it! I was game for a trial flight out[156] beyond. And now, with a real objective to shoot at—a new world—”

His words failed him. Walt Harkness knew that the hand the other extended was thrust forth blindly; he gripped at it hard, while he turned to look at the shining ship.

But his inner gaze passed far beyond the gleaming thing of metal, off into a realm of perpetual night. Out there a new world was waiting—a Dark Moon!—and there they might find…. But his imagination failed him there; he could only thrill with the adventure that the unknown held.

CHAPTER II

Escape

T

wo days, while a cold sun peeped above an icy horizon! Two days of driving, eager work on the installation of massive motors—yet motors so light that one man could lift them—then Harkness prepared to leave.

“Wealth brings care when it comes,” he told Chet, “but it leaves plenty of trouble behind it when it goes. I must get back to New York and throw what is left of my holdings to the wolves; they must be howling by this time to find out where I am. I’ll drop back here in a week.”

There were instruments to be installed, and Chet would look after that. He would test the motors where the continuous explosion of super-detonite would furnish the terrific force for their driving power. Then the exhaust from each port must be measured and thrusts equalized, where needed, by adjustment of great valves. All this Chet would finish. And then—a test flight. Harkness hoped to be back for the first try-out of the new ship.

“I’ll be seeing you in a week,” he repeated. “You’ll be that long getting her tuned up.”

But Chet Bullard grinned derisively. “Two days!” he replied. “You’ll have to step some if you get in on the trial flight. But don’t worry; I won’t take off for the Dark Moon. I’ll just go up and play around above the liner lanes and see how the old girl stunts.”

Harkness nodded. “Watch for patrol ships,” he warned. “There’s no traffic directly over here—that’s one reason why I chose this spot—but don’t let anyone get too close. Our patents have not been applied for.”


H

arkness spent a day in New York. Then a night trip by Highline Express took him to London where he busied himself for some hours. Next, a fast passenger plane for Vienna.

In other days Walter Harkness would have chartered a private ship to cut off a few precious hours, but he was traveling more economically now. And the representatives of his foreign competitors were not now coming to see him; he must go to them.

At the great terminal in Vienna a man approached him. “Herr Harkness?” he inquired, and saluted stiffly.

He was not in uniform. He was not of the Allied Patrol nor of any branch of the police force that encircled the world in its operations. Yet his military bearing was unmistakable. To Harkness it was reminiscent of old pictures of Prussian days—those curious pictures revived at times for the amusement of those who turned to their television sets for entertainment. He had to repress a smile as he followed where the other led him to a gray speedster in a distant corner of the open concourse.

He stepped within a luxurious cabin and would have gone on into the little control room, but his guide checked him. Harkness was mildly curious as to their course—Schwartzmann was to have seen him in[157] Vienna—but the way to the instrument board was barred. Another precise salute, and he was motioned to the cabin at the rear.

“It is orders that I follow,” he was told. And Walter Harkness complied.

“It could happen only here,” he told himself. And he found himself exasperated by a people who were slow to conform to the customs of a world whose closely-knit commerce had obliterated the narrow nationalism of the past.


T

hey landed in an open court surrounded by wide lawns. He glimpsed trees about them in the dusk, and looming before him was an old-time building of the chateau type set off in this private park. He would have followed his guide toward the entrance, but a flash of color checked him.

Like a streak of flame a ship shot in above them; hung poised near the one that had brought them and settled to rest beside it. A little red speedster, it made a splash of crimson against the green lawns beyond. And, “Nice flying,” Harkness was telling himself.

The hold-down clamps had hardly gripped it when a figure sprang out from an opened door. A figure in cool gray that took warmth and color from the ship behind—a figure of a girl, tall and slender and graceful as she came impulsively toward him.

“Monsieur Harkness!” she exclaimed. “But this is a surprise. I thought that Herr Schwartzmann was to see you in Vienna!” For a brief moment Harkness saw a flicker of puzzled wonderment in her eyes.

“And I am sorry,” she went on, “—so very sorry for your misfortune. But we will be generous.”

She withdrew her hand which Harkness was holding. He was still phrasing a conventional greeting as she flung him a gay laugh and a look from brown eyes that smiled encouragement. She was gone before he found words for reply.

Walter Harkness had been brought up in a world of business, and knew little of the subtle message of a woman’s eyes. But he felt within him a warm response to the friendly companionship that the glance implied.

Within the chateau, in a dark-paneled room, Herr Schwartzmann was waiting. He motioned Harkness to a chair and resumed his complacent contemplation of a picture that was flowing across a screen. Color photography gave every changing shade. It was coming by wireless, as Harkness knew, and he realized that the sending instrument must be in a ship that cruised slowly above a scene of wreckage and desolation.

He recognized the ruins of his great plant; he saw the tiny figures of men, and he knew that the salvage company he had placed in charge was on the job. Beyond was a stretch of rippling water where the great wave had boiled over miles of land and had sucked it back to the ocean’s depths. And he realized that the beginning of his conference was not auspicious.

After the warmth of the girl’s greeting, this other was like a plunge into the Arctic chill of his northern retreat.


I

have listed every dollar’s worth of property that I own,” he was saying an hour later, “and I have turned it over to a trustee who will protect your rights. What more do you want?”

“We have heard of some experimental work,” said Herr Schwartzmann smoothly. “A new ship; some radical changes in design. We would like that also.”

“Try and get it,” Harkness invited.

The other passed that challenge by. “There is another alternative,”[158] he said. “My principals in France are unknown to you; perhaps, also, it is not known that they intend to extend their lines to New York and that they will erect great terminals to do the work that you have done.

“Your father was the pioneer; there is great value in the name of Harkness—the ‘good-will’ as you say in America. We would like to adopt that name, and carry on where you have left off. If you were to assign to us the worthless remains of your plant, and all right and title to the name of Harkness Terminals, it might be—” He paused deliberately while Harkness stiffened in his chair. “It might be that we would require no further settlement. The balance of your fortune—and your ship—will be yours.”

Harkness’ gray eyes, for a moment, betrayed the smouldering rage that was his.

“Put it in plain words,” he demanded. “You would bribe me to sell you something you cannot create for yourselves. The name of Harkness has stood for fair-dealing, for honor, for scrupulous observance of our clients’ rights. My father established it on that basis and I have continued in the same way. And you?—well, it occurs to me that the Schwartzmann interests have had a different reputation. Now you would buy my father’s name to use it as a cloak for your dirty work!”

He rose abruptly. “It is not for sale. Every dollar that I own will be used to settle my debt. There will be enough—”


H

err Schwartzmann refused to be insulted. His voice was unruffled as he interrupted young Harkness’ vehement statement.

“Perhaps you are right; perhaps not. Permit me to remind you that the value of your holdings may depreciate under certain influences that we are able to exert—also that you are in Austria, and that the laws of this country permit us to hold you imprisoned until the debt is paid. In the meantime we will find your ship and seize it, and whatever it has of value will be protected by patents in our name.”

His unctuous voice became harsh. “Honor! Fair dealing!” He spat out the words in sudden hate. “You Americans who will not realize that business is business!”

Harkness was standing, drawn unconsciously to his full height. He looked down upon the other man. All anger had gone from his face; he seemed only appraising the individual before him.

“The trouble with you people,” he said, “is that you are living in the past—way back about nineteen fourteen, when might made right—sometimes.”

He continued to look squarely into the other’s eyes, but his lips set firmly, and his voice was hard and decisive.

“But,” he continued, “I am not here to educate you, nor to deal with you. Any further negotiations will be through my counsellors. And now I will trouble you to return me to the city. We are through with this.”


H

err Schwartzmann’s heavy face drew into lines of sardonic humor. “Not quite through,” he said; “and you are not returning to the city.” He drew a paper from his desk.

“I anticipated some such verdammpt foolishness from you. You see this? It is a contract; a release, a transfer of all your interests in Harkness, Incorporated. It needs only your signature, and that will be supplied. No one will question it when we are done: the very ink in the stylus you carry will be duplicated. For the last time, I repeat my offer; I am patient with you.[159] Sign this, and keep all else that you have. Refuse, and—”

“Yes?” Harkness inquired.

“And we will sign for you—a forgery that will never be detected. And as for you, your body will be found—a suicide! You will leave a letter: we will attend to all that. Herr Harkness will have found this misfortune unbearable…. We shall be very sad!” His heavy smile grew into derisive laughter.

“I am still patient, and kind,” he added. “I give you twenty-four hours to think it over.”

A touch of a button on his desk summoned the man who had brought Harkness there. “Herr Harkness is in your charge,” were the instructions to the one who stood stiffly at attention. “He is not to leave this place. Is it understood?”

As he was ushered from the room, Walter Harkness also understood, and he knew that this was no idle threat. He had heard ugly rumors of Herr Schwartzmann and his methods. One man, he knew, had dared to oppose him—and that man had gone suddenly insane. A touch of a needle, it was whispered….

There had been other rumors; Schwartzmann got what he wanted; his financial backing was enormous. And now he would bring his ruthless methods to America. But there he needed the Harkness standing, the reputation for probity—and Walter Harkness was grimly resolved that they should never buy it from him. But the problem must be faced, and the answer found, if answer there was, in twenty-four hours.


A

n amazing state of affairs in a modern world! He stood meditating upon his situation in a great, high-ceilinged room. A bed stood in a corner, and other furniture marked the room as belonging to an earlier time. Even mechanical weather-control was wanting; one must open the windows, Harkness found, to get cooling air.

He stood at the open window and saw storm clouds blowing up swiftly. They blotted the stars from the night sky; they swept black and ominous overhead, and seemed to touch the giant trees that whipped their branches in the wind. But he was thinking not at all of the storm, and only of the fact that this room where he stood must be directly above the one where Schwartzmann was seated. Schwartzmann—who would put an end to his life as casually as he would bring down a squirrel from one of those trees!

And again he thought: “Twenty-four hours!… Why hours? Why not minutes?… Whatever must be done he must do now. And might made right: it was the only way to meet this unscrupulous foreign scoundrel.”

A wind-tossed branch lashed at him. On the ground below he saw the man who had brought him, posting another as a guard. They glanced up at his window. There would be no escape there.

And yet the branch seemed beckoning. He caught it when again it whipped toward him, and, without any definite plan, he lashed it fast with a velvet cord from the window drapes.

But his thoughts came back to the room. He snatched suddenly at the covers of the bed. What were the sheets?—fabric as old-fashioned as the room, or were they cellulex? The touch of the soft fabric reassured him: it was as soft as though woven of spider’s web, and strong as fibres of steel.

It took all of his strength to rip it into strips, but it was a matter of minutes, only, until he had a rope that would bear his weight. The storm had broken; the black clouds let loose a deluge of water that drove in at the window. If only the window below was still open![160]

He found the middle of his rope, looped it over a post of the bed, and, with both strands in his grasp, let himself out and over the dripping sill.

Would the guard see him, or had he taken to shelter? Harkness did not pause to look. He left the branch tied fast. “A squirrel in a tree,” he thought: the branch would mislead them. His feet found the window-sill one story below. He drew himself into the room and let loose of one strand of his rope as he entered.

Schwartzmann was gone. Harkness, with the bundle of wet fabric in his hands, glanced quickly about. A door stood open—it was a closet—and the rain-drenched man was hidden there an instant later. But he stepped most carefully across the floor and touched his wet shoes only to the rugs where their print was lost. And he held himself breathlessly silent as he heard the volley of gutteral curses that marked the return of Herr Schwartzmann some minutes later.

“Imbecile!” Schwartzmann shouted above the crash of the closing window. “Dumkopff! You have let him escape.

“Give me your pistol!” Harkness glimpsed the figure of his recent guard. “Get another for yourself—find him!—shoot him down! A little lead and detonite will end this foolishness!”

From his hiding place Harkness saw the bulky figure of Schwartzmann, who made as if to follow where the other man had gone. The pistol was in his hand. Walt Harkness knew all too well what that meant. The tiny grain of detonite in the end of each leaden ball was the same terrible explosive that drove their ships: it would tear him to pieces. And he had to get this man.

He was tensed for a spring as Schwartzmann paused. From the wall beyond him a red light was flashing; a crystal flamed forth with the intense glare of a thousand fires. It checked the curses on the other’s thick lips; it froze Harkness to a rigid statue in the darkness of his little room.


A

n emergency flash broadcast over the world! It meant that the News Service had been commandeered. This flashing signal was calling to the peoples of the earth!

What catastrophe did this herald? Had it to do with the Dark Moon? Not since the uprising of the Mole-men, those creatures who had spewed forth from the inner world, had the fiery crystal called!… It seemed to Harkness that Schwartzmann was hours in reaching the switch…. A voice came shouting into the room:

“By order of the Stratosphere Control Board,” it commanded, “all traffic is forbidden above the forty level. Liners take warning. Descend at once.”

Over and over it repeated the command—an order whose authority could not be disregarded. In his inner vision Harkness saw the tumult in the skies, the swift dropping of huge liners and great carriers of fast freight, the scurrying of other craft to give clearance to these monsters whose terrific speed must be slowly checked. But why? What had happened? What could warrant such disruption of the traffic of the world? His tensed muscles were aching unheeded; his sense of feeling seemed lost, so intently was he waiting for some further word.

“Emergency news report,” said another voice, and Harkness strained every faculty to hear. “Highline ships attacked by unknown foe. Three passenger carriers of the Northpolar Short Line reported crashed. Incomplete warnings from their commanders indicate they were attacked. Patrol ship has spotted[161] one crash. They have landed beside it and are reporting….

“The report is in; it is almost beyond belief. They say the liner is empty, that no human body, alive or dead, is in the ship. She was stripped of crew and passengers in the air.

“We await confirmation. Danger apparently centered over arctic regions, but traffic has been ordered from all upper levels—”

The voice that had been held rigidly to the usual calm clarity of an official announcer became suddenly high-pitched and vibrant. “Stand by!” it shouted. “An S. O. S. is coming in. We will put it through our amplifiers; give it to you direct!”


T

he newscaster crackled and hissed: they were waiving all technical niceties at R. N. Headquarters, Harkness knew. The next voice came clearly, though a trifle faint.

“Air Patrol! Help! Position eighty-two—fourteen north, ninety-three—twenty east—Superliner Number 87-G, flying at R. A. plus seven. We are attacked!—Air Patrol!—Air Patrol!—Eighty-two—fourteen north, ninety-three—twenty—”

The voice that was repeating the position was lost in a pandemonium of cries. Then—

“Monsters!” the voice was shouting. “They have seized the ship! They are tearing at our ports—” A hissing crash ended in silence….

“Tearing at our ports!” Harkness was filled with a blinding nausea as he sensed what had come with the crash. The opening ports—the out-rush of air released to the thin atmosphere of those upper levels! Earth pressure within the cabins of the ship; then in an instant—none! Every man, every woman and child on the giant craft, had died instantly!

The announcer had resumed, but above the sound was a guttural voice that shouted hoarsely in accents of dismay. “Eighty-seven-G!” Schwartzmann was exclaiming, “—Mein Gott! It iss our own ship, the Alaskan! Our crack flyer!”


H

arkness heard him but an instant, for another thought was hammering at his brain. The position!—the ship’s position!—it was almost above his experimental plant! And Chet was there, and the ship…. What had Chet said? He would fly it in two days—and this was the second day! Chet had no radio-news; no instrument had been installed in the shop; they had depended upon the one in Harkness’ own ship. And now—

Walt Harkness’ clear understanding had brought a vision that was sickening, so plainly had he glimpsed the scene of terror in that distant cabin. And now he saw with equal clarity another picture. There was Chet, smiling, unafraid, proud of their joint accomplishment and of the gleaming metal shape that he was lifting carefully from its bed. He was floating it out to the open air; he was taking off, and up—up where some horror awaited.

“Monsters!” that thin voice had cried in a tone that was vibrant with terror. What could it be?—great ships out of space?—an invasion? Or beasts?… But Harkness’ vision failed him there. He knew only that a fast ship was moored just outside. He had planned vaguely to seize it; he had needed it for his own escape; but he needed it a thousand times more desperately now. Chet might have been delayed, and he must warn him…. The thoughts were flashing like hot sparks through his brain as he leaped.


H

e bore the heavier body of Schwartzmann to the floor. He rained smashing blows upon him with a furious frenzy that would not be curbed. The weapon with its[162] deadly detonite bullet came toward him. In the same burst of fury he tore the weapon from the hand that held it; then sprang to his feet to stand wild-eyed and panting is he aimed the pistol at the cursing man and dragged him to his feet.

“The ship!” he said between heavy breaths, “—the ship! Take me to it! You will tell anyone we meet it is all right. One word of alarm, one wrong look, and I’ll blow you to hell and make a break for it!”

The pistol under Harkness’ silken jacket was pressed firmly into Schwartzmann’s side; it brought them safely past excited guards and out into the storm; it held steady until the men had fought their way through blasts of rain to the side of the anchored ship. Not till then did Schwartzmann speak.

“Wait,” he said. “Are you crazy, Harkness? You can never take off; the trees are close; a straight ascent is needed. And the wind—!”

He struggled in the other’s grasp as Harkness swung open the cabin door, his fear of what seemed a certain death overmastering his fear of the weapon. He was shouting for help as Harkness threw him roughly aside and leaped into the ship.

Outside Harkness saw running figures as he threw on the motors. A pistol’s flash came sharply through the storm and dark. A window in the chateau flashed into brilliance to frame the figure of a girl. Tall and slender, she leaned forward with outstretched arms. She seemed calling to him.


H

arkness seized the controls, and knew as he did so that Schwartzmann was right: he could never lift the ship in straight ascent. Before her whirling fans could raise her they would be crashed among the trees.

But there were two helicopters—dual lift, one forward and one aft. And Walt Harkness, pilot of the second class, earned immediate disbarment or a much higher rating as he coolly fingered the controls. He cut the motor on the big fan at the stern, threw the forward one on full and set the blades for maximum lift, then released the hold-down grips that moored her.

The grips let go with a crashing of metal arms. The bow shot upward while a blast of wind tore at the stubby wings. The slim ship tried to stand erect. Another furious, beating wind lifted her bodily, as Harkness, clinging desperately within the narrow room, threw his full weight upon the lever that he held.

The full blast of a detonite motor, on even a small ship, is terrific, and the speedster of Herr Schwartzmann did not lack for power. Small wonder that the rules of the Board of Control prohibit the use of the stern blast under one thousand feet.

The roaring inferno from the stern must have torn the ground as if by a mammoth plow; the figures of men must have scattered like leaves in a gusty wind. The ship itself was racked and shuddering with the impact of the battering thrust, but it rose like a rocket, though canted on one wing, and the crashing branches of wind-torn trees marked its passage on a long, curving slant that bent upward into the dark. Within the control room Walter Harkness grinned happily as he drew his bruised body from the place where he had been thrown, and brought the ship to an even keel.


N

ice work! But there was other work ahead, and the smile of satisfaction soon passed. He held the nose up, and the wireless warning went out before as the wild climb kept on.

Forty thousand was passed; then fifty and more; a hundred thousand; and at length he was through the repelling area, that zone of mys[163]terious force, above which was a magnetic repulsion nearly neutralizing gravity. He could fly level now; every unit of force could be used for forward flight to hurl him onward faster and faster into the night.

Harkness was flying where his license was void; he was flying, too, where all aircraft were banned. But the rules of the Board of Control meant nothing to him this night. Nor did the voluble and sulphurous orders to halt that a patrol-ship flashed north. The patrol-ship was on station; she was lost far astern before she could gather speed for pursuit.

Walter Harkness had caught his position upon a small chart. It was a sphere, and he led a thin wire from the point that was Vienna to a dot that he marked on the sub-polar waste. He dropped a slender pointer upon the wire and engaged its grooved tip, and then the flying was out of his hands. The instrument before him, with its light bulbs and swift moving discs, would count their speed of passage; it would hold the ship steadily upon an unerring course and allow for drift of winds. The great-circle course was simple; the point he marked was drawing them as if it had been a magnet—drawing them as it drew the eyes of Walt Harkness, staring strainingly ahead as if to span the thousands of miles of dark.

CHAPTER III

The Space Terror

T

he control room was glassed in on all sides. The thick triple lenses were free from clouding, and the glasses between them kept out the biting cold of the heights. The glass was strong, to hold the pressure of one atmosphere that was maintained within the ship. The lookouts gave free vision in all directions except directly below the hull, and a series of mirrors corrected this defect.

But Walt Harkness had eyes solely for the black void ahead. Only the brilliant stars shone now in the mantle of velvety night. No flashing lights denoted the passing of liners, for they were safe in the harbor of the lower levels. He moved the controls once to avoid the green glare of an ascending area, then he knew that there were no ships to fear, and let the automatic control put him back on his course.

Before him, under a hooded light, was a heavy lens. It showed in magnification a portion of the globe. There were countries and seas on a vari-colored map, and one pin-point of brilliance that marked his ever-changing position.

He watched the slow movement of the glowing point. The Central Federated States of Europe were behind him; the point was tracing a course over the vast reaches of the patchwork map that meant the many democracies of Russia. This cruiser of Schwartzmann’s was doing five hundred miles an hour—and the watching man cursed under his breath at the slow progress of the tiny light.

But the light moved, and the slow hours passed, while Harkness tried to find consolation in surmises he told himself must be true.

Chet had been delayed, he insisted to himself; Chet could never have finished the work in two days; he had been bluffing good-naturedly when he threatened to fly the ship alone….


T

he Arctic Ocean was beneath. The tiny light had passed clear of the land on the moving chart.

He would be there soon…. Of course Chet had been fooling; he was always ready for a joke…. Great fellow, Chet! They had taken their training together, and Chet had gone on to win a master-pilot’s[164] rating, the highest to be had….

Another hour, and a rising hum from a buzzer beside him gave warning of approach to the destination he had fixed. The automatic control was warning him to decelerate. Harkness well knew what was expected of the pilot when that humming sounded; yet, with total disregard for the safety of his helicopters, he dived at full speed for the denser air beneath.

He felt the weight that came suddenly upon him as he drove through and beneath the repelling area, and he flattened out and checked his terrific speed when the gauges quivered at forty thousand.

Then down and still down in a long, slanting dive, till a landmark was found. He was off his course a bit, but it was a matter of minutes until he circled, checked his wild flight, and sank slowly beneath the lift of the dual fans to set the ship down as softly as a snowflake beside a building that was dark and forbiddingly silent—a lonely outpost in a lonely waste.

No answer came to his hail. The building was empty; the ship was gone. And Chet! Chet Bullard!… Harkness’ head was heavy on his shoulders; his feet took him with hopeless, lagging steps to his waiting ship. He was tired—and the long strain of the flight had been in vain. He was suddenly certain of disaster. And Chet—Chet was up there at some hitherto untouched height, battling with—what?


H

e broke into a stumbling run and drew himself within the little ship. He was helpless; the ship was unarmed, even if the weapons of his world were of use against this unknown terror; but he knew that he was going up. He would find Chet if he could get within reach of his ship; he would warn him…. He tried to tell himself that he might yet be in time.

The little cruiser rose slowly under the lift of the fans; then he opened the throttle and swept out in a parabolic curve that ended in a vertical line. Straight up, the ship roared. It shot through a stratum of clouds. The sun that was under the horizon shone redly now; it grew to a fiery ball; the earth contracted; the markings that were coastlines and mountains drew in upon themselves.

He passed the repelling area and felt the lift of its mysterious force—the “R. A. Effect” that permitted the high-level flying of the world. His speed increased. It would diminish again as the R. A. Effect grew less. Record flights had been made to another ten thousand…. He wondered what the ceiling would be for the ship beneath him. He would soon learn….

He set his broadcast call for the number of Chet’s ship. They had been given an experimental license, and “E—L—29-X” the instrument was flashing, “E—L—29-X.” Above the heaviside layer that had throttled the radio of earlier years, he knew that his call from so small an instrument as this would be carried for hundreds of miles.

He reached the limit of his climb and was suddenly weightless, floating aimlessly within the little room; the ship was falling, and he was falling with it. His speed of descent built up to appalling figures until his helicopters found air to take their thrust.

And still no answering word from Chet. The cruiser was climbing again to the heights. The hands of Harkness, trembling slightly now, held her to a vertical climb, while his eyes crept back to the unlit plate where Chet’s answering call should flash. But his own call would be a guide to Chet; the directional finders on the new ship would trace the position of his own craft if the new ship were afloat—if it were not ly[165]ing crushed on the ice below, empty, like the liners, of any sign of life.


H

is despairing mind snapped sharply to attention. His startled jerk threw the ship widely from her course. A voice was speaking—Chet’s voice! It was shouting in the little room!

“Go down, Walt,” it told him. “For God’s sake, go down! I’m right above you; I’ve been fighting them for an hour; but I’ll make it!”

He heard the clash of levers thrown sharply over in that distant ship; his own hands were frozen to the controls. His ship roared on in its upward course, the futile “E—L—29-X” of his broadcast call still going out to a man who could not remove his hands to send an answer, but who had managed to switch on his sending set into which he could shout.

Harkness was staring into the black void whence the wireless voice had come—staring into the empty night. And then he saw them.

The thin air was crystal clear; his gaze penetrated for miles. And far up in the heights, where his own ship could never reach and where no clouds could be, were diaphanous wraiths. Like streamers of cloud in long serpentine forms, they writhed and shot through space with lightning speed. They grew luminous as they moved living streamers of moonlit clouds…. A whirling cluster was gathered into a falling mass. Out of it in a sharp right turn shot a projectile, tiny and glistening against the velvet black. The swarm closed in again…. There were other lashing shapes that came diving down. They were coming toward him.

And, in his ears, a voice was imploring: “Down! down! The R. A. tension may stop them!… Go down! I am coming—you can’t help—I’ll make it—they’ll rip you to pieces—”

The wraith-like coils that had left the mass above had straightened to sharp spear-heads of speed. They were darting upon him, swelling to monstrous size in their descent. And Walt Harkness saw in an instant the folly of delay: he was not helping Chet, but only hindering…. His ship swung end for end under his clutching hands, and the thrust of his stern exhaust was added to the pull of Earth to throw him into a downward flight that tore even the thin air into screaming fragments.


O

ne glance through the lookouts behind him showed lashing serpent forms, translucent as pale fire; impossible beasts from space. His reason rejected them while his eyes told him the terrible truth. Despite the speed of his dive, they were gaining on him, coming up fast; one snout that ended in a cupped depression was plain. A mouth gaped beneath it; above was a row of discs that were eyes—eyes that shone more brightly than the luminous body behind—eyes that froze the mind and muscles of the watching man in utter terror.

He forced himself to look ahead, away from the spectral shapes that pursued. They were close, yet he thrilled with the realization that he had helped Chet in some small degree: he had drawn off this group of attackers.

He felt the upthrust of the R. A. Effect; he felt, too, the pull of a body that had coiled about his ship. No intangible, vaporous thing, this. The glass of his control room was obscured by a clinging, glowing mass while still the little cruiser tore on.

Before his eyes the glowing windows went dark, and he felt the clutching thing stripped from the hull as the ship shot through the invisible area of repulsion. A scant hundred yards away a huge cylinder drove crashingly past. Its metal[166] shone and glittered in the sun; he knew it for his own ship—his and Chet’s. And what was within it? What of Chet? The loudspeaker was silent.

He eased the thundering craft that bore him into a slow-forming curve that did not end for fourscore miles before the wild flight was checked. He swung it back, to guide the ship with shaking hands where a range of mountains rose in icy blackness, and where a gleaming cylinder rested upon a bank of snow whose white expanse showed a figure that came staggering to meet him.


S

ome experiences and dangers that come to men must be talked over at once; thrills and excitement and narrow escapes must be told and compared. And then, at rare times, there are other happenings that strike too deeply for speech—terrors that rouse emotions beyond mere words.

It was so with Harkness and Chet. A gripping of hands; a perfunctory, “Good work, old man!”—and that was all. They housed the two ships, closing the great doors to keep out the arctic cold; and then Chet Bullard threw himself exhausted upon a cot, while he stared, still wordless, at the high roof overhead. But his hands that gripped and strained at whatever they touched told of the reaction to his wild flight.

Harkness was examining their ship, where shreds of filmy, fibrous material still clung, when Chet spoke.

“You knew they were there?” he asked, “—and you came up to warn me?”

“Sure,” Harkness answered simply.

“Thanks,” Chet told him with equal brevity.

Another silence. Then: “All right, tell me! What’s the story?”

And Walt Harkness told him in brief sentences of the world-wide warning that had flashed, of the liners crashing to earth and their cabins empty of human life.

“They could do it,” said Chet. “They could open the ports and ram those snaky heads inside to feed.” He seemed to muse for a moment upon what might have come to him.

“My speed saved me,” he told Harkness. “Man, how that ship can travel! I shook them off a hundred times—outmaneuvered them when I could—but they came right back for more.

“How do they propel themselves?” he demanded.

“No one knows,” Harkness told him. “That luminosity in action means something—some conversion of energy, electrical, perhaps, to carry them on lines of force of which we know nothing as yet. That’s a guess—but they do it. You and I can swear to that.”

Chet was pondering deeply. “High-level lanes are closed,” he said, “and we are blockaded like the rest of the world. It looks as if our space flights were off. And the Dark Moon trip! We could have made it, too.”


I

f there was a questioning note in those last remarks it was answered promptly.

“No!” said Harkness with explosive emphasis. “They won’t stop me.” He struck one clenched fist upon the gleaming hull beside him.

“This is all I’ve got. And I won’t have this if that gang of Schwartzmann’s gets its hands upon it. The best I could expect would be a long-drawn fight in the courts, and I can’t afford it. I am going up. We’ve got something good here; we know it’s good. And we’ll prove it to the world by reaching the Dark Moon.”

Another filmy, fibrous mass that had been torn from one of the monsters of the heights slid from above to make a splotch of colorless matter upon the floor.[167]

Harkness stared at it. The firm line of his lips set more firmly still, but his eyes had another expression as he glanced at Chet. He would go alone if he must; no barricade of unearthly beasts could hold him from the great adventure. But Chet?—he must not lead Chet to his death.

“Of course,” he said slowly, “you’ve had one run-in with the brutes.” Again he paused. “We don’t know where they come from, but my guess is from the Dark Moon. They may be too much for us…. If you don’t feel like tackling them again—”

The figure of Chet Bullard sprang upright from the cot. His harsh voice told of the strain he had endured and his reaction from it.

“What are you trying to tell me?” he demanded. “Are you trying to leave me out?” Then at the look in the other’s eyes he grinned sheepishly at his own outburst.

And Walter Harkness threw one arm across Chet’s shoulder as he said; “I hoped you would feel that way about it. Now let’s make some plans.”

Provisions for one year! Even in concentrated form this made a prodigious supply. And, arms—pistols and rifles, with cases of cartridges whose every bullet was tipped with the deadly detonite—all this was brought from the nearest accessible points. They landed, though, in various cities, keeping Schwartzmann’s ship as inconspicuous as possible, and made their purchases at different supply houses to avoid too-pointed questioning. For Harkness found that he and Bullard were marked men.

The newscaster in the Schwartzmann cabin brought the information. It brought, too, continued reports of the menace in the upper air. It told of patrol-ships sent down to destruction with no trace of commander or crew; and a cruiser of the International Peace Enforcement Service came back with a story of horror and helplessness.

Their armament was useless. No shells could be timed to match the swift flight of the incredible monsters, and impact charges failed to explode on contact; the filmy, fibrous masses offered little resistance to the shells that pierced them. Yet a wrecked after compartment and smashed port-lights and doors gave evidence of the strength of the brutes when their great sinuous bodies, lined with rows of suction discs, secured a hold.

“Speed!” was Chet Bullard’s answer to this, when the newscaster ceased. “Speed!—until we find something better. I got clear of them when they caught me unprepared, but we can rip right through them now that we know what we’re up against.”


H

e had turned again to the packing of supplies, but Harkness was held by the sound of his own name.

Mr. Walter Harkness, late of New York, was very much in the day’s news. When a young millionaire loses all his wealth beneath a tidal wave; when, further, he flies to Vienna and transfers all rights in the great firm of Harkness, Incorporated, to the Schwartzmann interests in part settlement of his obligations; and, still further, when he is driven to fury by his losses and attacks the great Herr Schwartzmann in a murderous frenzy, wounds him and escapes in Schwartzmann’s own ship—that is an item that is worth broadcasting between announcements of greater importance.

It interested Harkness, beyond a doubt. He remembered the shot outside the cabin as he took off in his wild flight. Schwartzmann had been wounded, it seemed, and he was to be blamed for the assault. He smiled[168] grimly as he heard the warrant for his arrest broadcast. Every patrol-ship would be on the watch. And there would be a dozen witnesses to swear to the truth of Schwartzmann’s lie.

The plan seemed plain to him. He saw himself in custody; taken to Vienna. And then, at the best, months of waiting in the psychopathic ward of a great institution where the influence of Herr Schwartzmann would not be slight. And, meanwhile, Schwartzmann would have his ship. Clever! But not clever enough. He would fool them, he and Chet.

And then he recalled the girl, Mademoiselle Diane, a slim figure outlined in a lighted window of the old chateau. Was there hope there? he wondered. Had her clear, smiling eyes seen what occurred?

“Nonsense,” he told himself. “She saw nothing in that storm. And, besides, she is one of their crowd—tarred with the same stick. Forget her.”

But he knew, as he framed the unspoken words, that the advice was vain. He would never forget her. There was a picture in his mind that could not be blotted out—a picture of a tall, slender girl, trim and straight in her mannish attire, who came toward him from her little red speedster. She held out her hand impulsively, and her eyes were smiling as she said; “We will be generous, Monsieur Harkness—”

“Generous!” His smile was bitter as he turned to help Chet in their final work.

CHAPTER IV

The Rescue in Space

H

ow often are the great things of life submerged beneath the trivial. The vast reaches of space that must be traversed; the unknown world that awaited them out there; its lands and seas and the life that was upon it: Walter Harkness was pondering all this deep within his mind. It must have been the same with Chet, yet few words of speculation were exchanged. Instead, the storage of supplies, a checking and rechecking of lists, additional careful testing of generators—such details absorbed them.

And the heavy, gray powder with its admixture of radium that transformed it to super-detonite—this must be carefully charged into the magazines of the generators. A thousand such responsibilities—and yet the moment finally came when all was done.

The midnight sun shone redly from a distant horizon. It cast strange lights across the icy waste. And it flashed back in crimson splendor from the gleaming hull that floated from the hangar and came to rest upon the snowy world.

The two men closed the great doors, and it was as if they were shutting themselves off from their last contact with the world. They stood for long moments, silent, in the utter silence of the frozen north.

Chet Bullard turned, and Harkness gripped his hand. He was suddenly aware of his thankfulness for the companionship of this tall, blond youngster. He tried to speak—but what words could express the tumult of emotions that arose within him? His throat was tight….

It was Chet who broke the tense silence; his happy grin flashed like sunshine across his lean face.

“You’re right,” he answered his companion’s unspoken thoughts; “it’s a great little old world we’re leaving. I wonder what the new one will be like.”

And Harkness smiled back. “Let’s go!” he said, and turned toward the waiting ship.


T

he control room was lined with the instruments they had installed. A nitron illuminator flashed[169] brilliantly upon shining levers—emergency controls that they hoped they would not have to use. Harkness placed his hand upon a small metal ball as Chet reported all ports closed.

The ball hung free in space, supported by the magnetic attraction of the curved bars that made a cage about it. An adaptation of the electrol device that had appeared on the most modern ships, Harkness knew how to handle it. Each movement of the ball within its cage, where magnetic fields crossed and recrossed, would bring instant response. To lift the ball would be to lift the ship; a forward pressure would throw their stern exhaust into roaring life that would hurl them forward; a circular motion would roll them over and over. It was as if he held the ship itself within his hand.

Chet touched a button, and a white light flashed to confirm his report that all was clear. Harkness gently raised the metal ball.

Beneath them a soft thunder echoed from the field of snow, and came back faintly from icy peaks. The snow and ice fell softly away as they rose.

A forward pressure upon the ball, and a louder roaring answered from the stern. A needle quivered and swung over on a dial as their speed increased. Beneath them was a blur of whirling white; ahead was an upthrust mountain range upon which they were driving. And Harkness thrilled with the sense of power that his fingers held as he gently raised the ball and nosed the ship upward in meteor-flight.

The floor beneath them swung with their change of pace. Without it, they would have been thrown against the wall at their backs. The clouds that had been above them lay dead ahead; the ship was pointing straight upward. It flashed silently into the banks of gray, through them, and out into clear air above. And always the quivering needle crept up to new marks of speed, while their altimeter marked off the passing levels.


T

hey were through the repelling area when Harkness relinquished the controls to Chet. The metal ball hung unmoving; it would hold automatically to the direction and speed that had been established. The hand of the master-pilot found it quickly. They were in dangerous territory now—a vast void under a ceiling of black, star-specked space. No writhing, darting wraith-forms caught the rays of the distant sun. Their way seemed clear.

Harkness’ eyes were straining ahead, searching for serpent forms, when the small cone beside him hummed a warning that they were not alone. Another ship in this zone of danger?—it seemed incredible. But more incredible was the scream that rang shrilly from the cone. “Help! Oh, help me!” a feminine voice implored.

Harkness sprang for the instrument where the voice was calling. “We aren’t the only fools up here,” he exclaimed; “and that’s a woman’s voice, too!” He pressed a button, and a needle swung instantly to point the direction whence the radio waves were coming.

“Hard a-port!” he ordered. “Ten degrees, and hold her level. No—two points down.”

But Chet’s steady hand had anticipated the order. He had seen the direction-finder, and he swung the metal ball with a single motion that swept them in a curve that seemed crushing them to the floor.

The ship levelled off; the ball was thrust forward, and the thunder from the stern was deafening despite their insulated walls. The shuddering structure beneath them was hurled forward till the needle of the speed-indicator jammed tight[170]ly against its farthest pin. And ahead of them was no emptiness of space.


T

he air was alive with darting forms. Harkness saw them plainly now—great trailing streamers of speed that shot downward from the heights. The sun caught them in their flight to make iridescent rainbow hues that would have been beautiful but for the hideous heads, the sucker-discs that lined the bodies and the one great disc that cupped on the end of each thrusting snout.

And beneath those that fell from on high was a cluster of the same sinister, writhing shapes which clung to a speeding ship that rolled and swung vainly in an effort to shake them off.

The coiling, slashing serpent-forms had fastened to the doomed ship. Their thrashing bodies streamed out behind it. They made a cluster of flashing color whose center point was a tiny airship, a speedster, a gay little craft. And her sides shone red as blood—red as they had shone on the grassy lawn of an old chateau near far-off Vienna.

“It’s Diane!” Harkness was shouting. “Good Lord, Chet, it’s Diane!”

This girl he had told himself he would forget. She was there in that ship, her hands were wrenching at the controls in a fight that was hopeless. He saw her so plainly—a pitiful, helpless figure, fighting vainly against this nightmare attack.

Only an instant of blurred wonderment at her presence up there—then a frenzy possessed him. He must save her! He leaped to the side of the crouching pilot, but his outstretched hands that clutched at the control stopped motionless in air.


C

het Bullard, master-pilot of the first rank, upon whose chest was the triple star that gave him authority to command all the air-levels of earth, was tense and crouching. His eyes were sighting along an instrument of his own devising as if he were aiming some super-gun of a great air cruiser.

But he was riding the projectile itself and guiding it as he rode. He threw the ship like a giant shell in a screaming, sweeping arc upon the red craft that drove across their bow.

They were crashing upon it; the red speedster swelled instantly before their eyes. Harkness winced involuntarily from the crash that never came.

Chet must have missed it by inches, Harkness knew; but he knew, too, that the impact he felt was no shattering of metal upon metal. The heavy windows of the control room went black with the masses of fibrous flesh that crashed upon them; then cleared in an instant as the ship swept through.

Behind them a red ship was falling—falling free! And vaporous masses, ripped to ribbons, were falling, too, while other wraith-like forms closed upon them in cannibalistic feasting.

Their terrific speed swept them on into space. When the pilot could check it, and turn, they found that the red ship was gone.

“After it!” Harkness was shouting. “She went down out of control, but they didn’t get her. They’ve only sprung the door-ports a crack, releasing the internal pressure.” He told himself this was true; he would not admit for an instant the possible truth of the vision that flashed through his mind—a ripping of doors—a thrusting snout that writhed in where a girl stood fighting.

“Get it!” he ordered; “get it! I’ll stand by for rescue.”


H

e sprang for the switch that controlled the great rescue magnets. Not often were they used,[171] but every ship must have them: it was so ordered by the Board of Control. And every ship had an inset of iron in its non-magnetic hull.

His hand was upon the switch in an agony of waiting. Outside were other beastly shapes, like no horror of earth, that came slantingly upon them, but even their speed was unequal to the chase of this new craft that left them far astern. Harkness saw the last ones vanish as Chet drove down through the repelling area. And he had eyes only for the first sight of the tiny ship that had fallen so helplessly.

Ahead and below them the sun marked a brilliant red dot. It was falling with terrific speed, and yet, so swift was their own pace, it took form too quickly: they would overshoot the mark…. Harkness felt the ship shudder in slackening speed as the blast from the bow roared out.

They were turning; aiming down. The red shape passed from view where Harkness stood. His hand was tight upon the heavy switch.

Chet’s voice came sharp and clear: “Rescue switch—ready?” He appeared as cool and steady as if he were commanding on an experimental test instead of making his first rescue in the air. And Harkness answered: “Ready.”

A pause. To the waiting man it was an eternity of suspense. Then, “Contact!” Chet shouted, and Harkness’ tense muscles threw the current into crashing life.


H

e felt the smash and jar as the two ships came together. He knew that the great magnets in their lower hull had gripped the plates on the top of the other ship. He was certain that the light fans of the smaller craft must have been crushed; but they had the little red speedster in an unshakable grip; and they would land it gently. And then—then he would know!

The dreadful visions in his mind would not down…. Chet’s voice broke in upon him.

“I can’t maintain altitude,” Chet was saying. “Our vertical blasts strike upon the other ship; they are almost neutralized.” He pointed to a needle that was moving with slow certainty and deadly persistence across a graduated dial. It was their low-level altimeter, marking their fall. Harkness stared at it in stunned understanding.

“We can’t hold on,” the pilot was saying; “We’ll crash sure as fate. But I’m darned if we’ll ever let go!”

Harkness made no reply. He had dashed for an after-compartment to their storage place of tools, and returned with a blow-torch in his hand. He lit it and checked its blue flame to a needle of fire.

“Listen, Chet,” he said, and the note of command in his voice told who was in charge, at the final analysis, in this emergency. “I will be down below. You call out when we are down to twenty thousand: I can stand the thin air there. I will open the emergency slot in the lower hull.”

“You’re going down?” Chet asked. He glanced at the torch and nodded his understanding. “Going to cut your way through and—”

“I’ll get her if she’s there to get,” Harkness told him grimly. “At five hundred, if I’m not back, pull the switch.”


T

he pilot’s reply came with equal emphasis. “Make it snappy,” he said: “this collision instrument has picked up the signals of five patrol-ships a hundred miles to the south.”

They dropped swiftly to the twenty level, and Harkness heard the deafening roar of their lower exhausts as he opened the slot in their ship’s hull. He dropped to the red surface held close beneath, while the cold gripped him and the whirling blasts of air tore at him. But the[172] torch did its work, and he lowered himself into the cabin of the little craft that had been the plaything of Mademoiselle Diane.

The cabin was a splintered wreck, where a horrible head had smashed in search of food. One entrance port was torn open, and the head itself still hung where it had lodged. The mouth gaped flabbily open; above it was the suction cup that formed a snout; and above that, a row of staring, sightless eyes. Chet had slammed into the mass of serpents just in time, Harkness realized. Just in time, or just too late….

The door to the control room was sprung and jammed. He pried it open to see the unconscious body that lay huddled upon the floor. But he knew, with a wave of thankfulness that was suffocating, that the brute had not reached her; only the slow release of the air-pressure had rendered her unconscious. He was beside her in an instant.


H

e was dimly aware of the thunder of exhausts and the shrill scream of helicopters as he reached the upper surface of the red ship and forced his unconscious burden into the emergency slot above his head.

“They’re here!” Chet was shouting excitedly. “We’re ordered to halt. Looks as if our flight was postponed.” He tried to smile, but the experiment was a failure.

“I am dodging around to keep that big one from grabbing us with its magnet. Schwartzmann is aboard one of the patrols; they think the girl is in her ship. They won’t fire on us as long as we hang on. But we’ll crash if we do that, and they’ll nail us if we let go.”

Harkness had placed the girl’s body upon the floor. His answer was a quick leap to the pilot’s side. “See to her,” he ordered; “I’ll take the ship. Stop us now? Like hell they will! What’s all our power for?”

One glance gave him the situation: the big gray fighter above, slipping down to seize them with her powerful magnets; four other patrol cruisers that slowly circled, their helicopters holding them even with the two ships that clung together in swift descent.

Chet was right; no burst of speed could save them from the guns of the patrols if they dropped the red speedster and made a break for it. They thought Diane was still in her ship, and a patrol would have the little craft safe before she had dropped a thousand feet. Their own stern exhaust would be torn by a detonite shell, and the big cruiser would seize them in the same way. No—they must hang onto the girl’s ship and outmaneuver the others. He pressed the metal ball forward to the limit of its space, and the stern exhaust crashed into action with all the suddenness of his own resolve.

The ship beneath him threw itself straight ahead, flashed under the patrol-ship that blocked them, and was away. The weight below, and its resistance to the air, dragged them down, but Harkness brought the ball up, and the ship answered with a slow lift of the bow that aimed them straight out into space.

A vertical climb!—and the voice from the instrument beside him was shouting orders to halt. On each side were patrol-ships that roared upward with him.

“Cut those motors!” the voice commanded. “Release that ship! Halt, or we will fire!”


H

arkness threw his ship into a wild spiral for reply, and the thin crack of guns came to him from outside. Down! A headlong dive! Then out and up again!

He was through the repelling area in a twisting, rocking flight. Not hit as yet; they had to aim carefully to avoid damaging the red craft….[173] He was straining his eyes for a glimpse of serpent-forms, and he laughed softly under his breath at thought of his strange allies. Laughed!—until he saw them coming.

He slammed down the switch on his own broadcast sender. “Back!” he shouted; “back, all of you! Look up! Look above you! The monsters are coming!—the air-beasts!—they are attacking!”

He threw his own ship into a dive; saw the others do likewise; then leaped for the switch on the rescue magnets and pulled it open.

He felt the red ship fall clear. He swung his own ship free and aimed it out and up on a long line of speed. Beside him a voice from a distant, fleeing patrol was shouting; “Come back, you fool! Down! Down, through the R. A.!”

One backward glance showed him that his pursuers were safe. The serpents had turned to pursue him, and other writhing luminosities were falling from above. He swung head on, his motors wide open, his speed building up and up, to crash softly through the advance guard of the giant creatures out of space.

Nothing could stop him! He was trembling with the knowledge, and with the sheer joy of the adventure. Nothing could check them; neither cruisers nor monsters; nothing of earth or of space. They were free; they were on their way out—out where a new world awaited—where the Dark Moon raced on her unlighted path!


F

or the moment he had forgotten their passenger. The thrill of combat and the ecstasy of winning freedom for their great adventure had filled him to forgetfulness of all else.

“We’re off!” he shouted. “Off for the Dark Moon!” Then he remembered, and turned where Chet was supporting the head of a slim girl whose eyes opened to look about, to glance from Chet to Harkness and back to Chet who was holding her.

“You saved me,” she breathed, “from them!” She raised one hand weakly to cover her eyes at memory of those writhing shapes, then let it fall as other memories crowded in.

“The patrol-ships!” she exclaimed breathlessly. “You must….” Her voice trailed off into silence.

She was able to stand, and with Chet’s help she came slowly to her feet as Harkness reached her. His voice was harsh and scornful; all elation had left him. He forced himself to hold his unsmiling gaze steadily upon the soft brown eyes that turned to his.

“Yes,” he said; “we must ‘surrender’—that was the word you wanted. We must surrender!… Well, Mam’selle Diane, we’re not in a surrendering mood to-day. We’ve got away; made our escape!”

He laughed loudly and contemptuously, though he winced at the look of hurt that opened the brown eyes wide.

“You brought the patrol,” he went on; “you learned where we were—”

“Herr Schwartzmann did,” she interrupted in a quiet voice. “He located you; your signals were picked up…. They left two hours before I did,” she added enigmatically. “I had to fly high, above the R. A. for greater speed.”

Walt Harkness was bewildered. What did this mean? He tried to preserve the pose of hard indifference that was becoming increasingly difficult.

“More generosity?” he inquired. “You had to see the end of the hunt—be in at the death?”

“In at the death!” she echoed, and laughed in a tone that trembled and broke. “I nearly was, truly. But, no, my dear Monsieur Harkness: incredible as it seems, in view of your unfriendly reception, I came to warn you!… But, enough of that. Tell[174] me—you see how interested I am in your plans?—what did you say of the Dark Moon?”


W

alter Harkness tried to rearrange his jumbled thoughts. She had come to warn them. Was this true? Or was this girl, who laughed so lightly, playing with him?

“Yes,” he said dully, “we were bound for the Dark Moon. The Patrol couldn’t stop us, nor the beasts that have paralyzed the flying service of the earth; but you have done it. We will turn back at once, and return you safely—”

He was again at the controls, one hand extended for the metal ball, when her slim hand closed upon his wrist.

“I know Herr Schwartzmann’s plans,” she said quietly. “He would ruin you; seize your ship; steal for himself the glory of your invention. Would you go back and deliver yourself into his hands—because of me?”

The brown eyes, Harkness found, were upon his with an expression he could not fathom.

“Yes,” he said simply.

And still the eyes looked into his. There was laughter in them, and something else whose meaning was concealed.

“I ask you not to do this,” she was saying. “You will succeed; I read it in your face. Let me go with you; let me share in the adventure. I am begging this of you. It is your turn to be generous.”

Harkness’ hand upon the metal ball held it motionless within its enclosing cage. From astern there came to him the muffled roar of a blast that drove them on and out into space—black, velvety space, thick-studded with sharp points of light…. He stared into that wondrous night, then back into the eyes that looked steadily, unfathomably, into his…. And his hand was unresisting as the strong, slender fingers about his wrist drew it back….

They were off for the Dark Moon: their journey, truly, was begun. And this girl, whom he had told himself to forget, was going with them. There was much that he did not understand, but he knew that he was glad with a gladness that transcended all previous thrills of the perilous plan.

CHAPTER V

The “Dark Moon”

T

hey were seated in the cabin of the man-made meteor that the brain of Harkness had conceived—two men and a girl. And they stared at one another unsmilingly, with eyes which reflected their comprehension of the risks that they ran and the dangers which lay ahead in the dark void. Yet the brown eyes of Mam’selle Diane, no less than the others, were afire with the thrill of adventure—the same response to the same lure that has carried men to each new exploration—or to their death.

Behind them, a rear lookout port framed a picture of awful majesty. The earth was a great disc, faintly luminous in a curtain of dead black. From beyond it, a hidden sun made glorious flame of the disc’s entire rim. And, streaming toward it, a straight, blasting line from their stern exhaust, was an arrow of blue.

It had taken form slowly, that arrow of blue fire, and Harkness answered an unspoken question from the girl.

“Hydrogen and oxygen,” he explained. “It is an explosive mixture at this height, but too thin to take fire. It will pass. Beyond this is pure hydrogen. And then, nothing.”

He turned to switch on their radio receiver, and he set it for the newscasting waves that went forth from the most powerful station of Earth, the Press Tower of New[175] York. A voice came to them faintly. For a time it vied with the muffled roar of their thundering exhaust; then it lost volume, faded, and was finally gone.

Their last contact with Earth was severed. There remained only blackness, and a great abyss through which they were plunging.


H

arkness busied himself with calculations. He would have spoken, but the silence that followed the vanished voice of Earth had robbed his own voice of control.

A telescope sight was fixed rigid with the axis of their ship. He looked through it, moved their controls, and brought the cross-hairs of his instrument to bear upon a star.

“That’s about right,” he said quietly. “I got all the information that the observatories had on the orbit of the Dark Moon. It is circling the Earth from north to south. It coincided for a short time with our own moon when it first hit; that’s what kicked up the big wave and jarred us up. But it swung off and seems to have settled down in its own orbit now.

“Two hundred thousand miles away is what they make it, though I think that is more or less of a guess. I wish we could measure our speed.” He looked at the earth-induction speed-indicator. Useless now, it registered zero.

“Well,” he added, “we are shooting for the North Star. We will pass close to the Dark Moon’s orbit; it should be about over the Pole on this date. And there is one good safe bet, anyhow; there is nothing between here and there to stop us.”

He was being weakly facetious, but his efforts met with an enthusiastic response. The tension of the moment, it was plain, had not affected Harkness alone. But it was many hours before the error of his statement was made manifest to all.

An island, faintly luminous, lay ahead. It grew to enormous size as they dashed upon it. Harkness sprang for the controls, but, before he could reach them, they had struck the vast field of pale green light, flashed through it, and left it diminishing in size behind them. Then, other lights, not brilliant, but like phosphorescent bodies, that came and went and flashed by with blinding speed.


A

nother luminous area rushed at them from ahead. At first it was a speck, then an island, and then a continent in size, and through it moved other brighter lights. This time a slight suggestion of an impact was felt. Here was matter of a form they could not guess. It was Chet who pointed to the glass of their control room. The heavy lights of the lookouts were smeared with sticky fluid that drew together in trickling streams.

“Nothing between us and the Dark Moon?” he asked of Harkness. “And space is an empty void? We Earth-creatures are a conceited lot.”

“Meaning?” the girl questioned.

“Meaning that because we live on Earth—walk on solid ground, swim in the water and fly in the air—we deny the existence of life in space. There’s the answer written in the blood of some life that was snuffed out as we hit it.”

Harkness shook his head doubtfully. “Matter of some sort,” he admitted, “and the serpents came from somewhere; but, as for the rest, the idea that the ocean of space is filled with life as our Earth-oceans are—creatures living and moving through unknown fields of force….” He did not finish the denial, but looked with wondering gaze at the myriad points that flashed softly into glowing masses and darted aside before their onward rush.

It was hours later that he checked their flight. Slowly at first he cut off the exhaust from their stern and[176] opened the bow valve. Slowly, for their wild speed must slacken as it had been built up, by slow degrees. The self-adjusting floor swung forward and up. Their deceleration was like the pull of gravity, and now straight ahead seemed down.

More hours, and they were at rest, floating in an ethereal ocean, an ocean teeming with strange life. Each face was pressed close to a lookout port. No one of the three could speak; each was too absorbed in the story his eyes were reading—this story of a strange, new existence where no life should have been.

Animalculae. They came in swarms; cloud masses of them floated past; and swirls of phosphorescent fire marked the presence of larger creatures that moved among them. Large and small, each living creature was invisible until it moved; then came the greenish light, like phosphorescence and yet unlike.


S

till Harkness could not force himself to believe the irrefutable evidence. What of astronomy? he asked himself. Why was this matter not visible through telescopes? Why did it not make its presence known through interference? Through refraction of light?… And then he realized the incredible distance within the scope of his vision; he knew that this swarming life was actually more widely spaced; and the light of a brilliant star shone toward him through the center of a living mass to prove that here was matter that offered no resistance to the passage of light.

A void of nothingness was before his eyes. He saw its black emptiness change to pale green fire that swirled and fled before a large shape. The newcomer swept down like light itself. Softly green like the others, its rounded body was outlined in a huge circle of orange light. Like a cyclopean pod, it was open at one end, and that open end closed and opened and closed again as the creature gulped in uncounted millions of the tiny, luminous dots—every one, as Harkness now knew, a living thing.

Strange light whirled into life and vanished, each evidencing a battle where life took life in this ocean of the invisible living. A gasp from the girl brought Harkness quickly about.

“Another one!” she said breathlessly, and pointed where the blackness was looped with writhing fire. It came swiftly near to show the outline of the dread serpent form; the suction cups showed plainly.

Danger was in this thing, Harkness knew, but it passed them by before he could move. The further lookout showed two gleaming monsters locked together in deadly embrace. So swift was their whirling motion that details of form were lost: only a confusion of lashing tentacles that whipped and tore, and one glimpse of a savage maw that sheared the tentacles off. Then the serpent was upon them.


H

arkness had seen one time a sight that was indelibly impressed upon his memory. A steeloid cable had broken under a terrific strain; the end of it had lashed out with a speed the eye could not follow, to wind itself around the superstructure of a submarine—and the men who were gathered there.

He thought of that now, saw again the bleeding mass that had been an instant before a group of humans, as the serpent seized its prey. The two combatants were encircled in a living coil of light. Then, as motion ceased, the ethereal sea went dark except for pulsing suction cups that drew and strained at the bodies they held.

Harkness was groping for the controls—he saw too plainly their own[177] helplessness when they were at rest—but the voice of Dianne checked him.

“That bright star went out,” she said; and Harkness let his gaze follow where she pointed.

The stars that were distant suns shone in brilliant points of light; no atmosphere here to dim them or cause a flickering. A bright point vanished as she looked—another!—and he knew abruptly that he was seeing a circle of blackness that moved slowly between them and the stars.

“The Moon!” he shouted. “The Dark Moon!” And now his hand found the controls that threw their ship into thunderous life. It was approaching! He swung the metal ball to throw them ahead and to one side, and the roar from the stern told of the fast-growing speed that was pressing them to the floor….


A

n hour of wild flight, and the circle was close upon them. Too faintly lighted to register in the telescopes of Earth, there was still enough of luminosity to mark it as a round disc of violet that grew dimly bluish-green around the edge.

It ceased to grow. Their ship, Harkness knew, was speeding beside it some hundreds of miles away. But they were within its gravitational pull, and were falling toward it. And he aimed his ship bow-on to make the forward blast a check upon their falling speed.

The circle broadened; became a sphere; and then they were plunging through clouds more tenuous than any vapors of Earth—thick layers of gas that reflected no rays from the distant sun.

Beside them a sinuous form showed where a serpent of space was trying to match their speed. Harkness saw it twisting convulsively in the stratum of gas; it was falling, lifeless, beside them as they sped on and away. Here was something the beasts could not combat. He made a mental note of the fact, but his thoughts flashed again to what lay ahead.

Every eye was held close to the lookouts that faced forward. The three were breathless, wordless; the hand of Harkness that held the tiny ball was all that moved.

Ahead of them was their goal, the Dark Moon! And they were prepared for Stygian darkness and a land of perpetual night. The almost invisible gas-clouds thinned; there was a glow ahead that grew brilliant as they watched; and then, with a blinding suddenness that made them shield their eyes, there flashed before them a world of light.

Each line of shore was marked distinctly there; the blue and violet of rippling seas were blended with unreal hues; there were mountains upthrust and, on the horizon, a range of volcanic peaks that poured forth flashing eruptions half-blanketed by invisible gas.

“The Dark Moon!” gasped Harkness. He was spellbound with utter awe at the spectacle he beheld. This brilliant world a-gleam to its farthest horizon with golden, glorious sunlight, softly spread and diffused! This, this! was the Dark Moon!


H

e turned to share with the others the delirium of ecstatic wonder too overpowering to be borne alone—turned, to find his happiness shot through with a pang of regret. He saw Chet and Diane. They had been standing together at a wide forward lookout; and now she was holding one hand of the pilot to her breast in an embrace of passionate joy.

Unconscious, that gesture of delight at this climax of their perilous trip?—Harkness told himself that this was so. But he swung back to the helm of the ship. He glanced at instruments that again were regis[178]tering; he saw the air-pressure indicator that told of oxygen and an atmosphere where men might live. He gauged his distance carefully, and prepared to land.

The moment of depression could not last, for there was too much here to fill brain and eyes. What would they find? Was there life? His question was answered by an awkward body that flapped from beneath them on clumsy wings. He glimpsed a sinuous neck, a head that was all mouth and flabby pouch, and the mouth opened ludicrously in what was doubtless a cry of alarm.

Then land, that took form and detail; a mountain whose curled top was like a frozen wave of stone. In a valley below it trees were growing. They swayed in a wind, and their branches reached upward and flowed and waved like seaweed on the ocean’s floor. Green—vivid, glowing green!—and reds and purples that might be flowers and fruit.


A

n open space in a little valley spread invitingly before him, and he laid the ship down there in a jungle of lush grasses—set it down as gently as if he were landing from a jaunt of a thousand miles instead of two hundred times that distance straight away from Earth.

The others were looking at him with glowing, excited eyes. In the cabin was silence. Harkness felt that he must speak, must say something worthy of the moment—something to express in slight degree the upwelling emotion that filled them all, three adventurers about to set foot upon a virgin world….

The pause was long-drawn, until he ended it in a voice that had all the solemn importance of a head-steward’s announcement on a liner of the high-level service. But the corners of his lips were twitching to a little smile.

“This,” he announced, “is as far as we go. This is the end of our run.”

The tension that had held them emotionally taut was ended. With outstretched hands Diane ran toward him, and her broken laugh betrayed the hysteria she was holding back.

“Congratulations!” she cried, and clung tightly to his hands. “Congratulations, M’sieu Walter—”

Her voice choked and she could not go on; but the eyes that were raised to his were luminous through the tears that filled them.

From the cabin beyond came a clash of levers, where Chet was preparing to open a port. And Harkness followed with unseeing eyes where the pilot waited that their commander might be the first to step forth upon an unknown globe—upon the surface of what men had called “The Dark Moon.”

CHAPTER VI

Trapped

W

alter Harkness, piloting his ship to a slow, safe landing on a new world, had watched his instruments with care. He had seen the outer pressure build up to that of the air of Earth; the spectro-analyzer had shown nitrogen preponderating, with sufficient oxygen to support life. And, below him, a monstrous thing that flopped hurriedly away on leather wings had told him that life was there.

But what would that life be? This was the question uppermost in the minds of all three as they stepped forth—the first of Earth’s people to ask the question and to find the answer.

Chet had gone to their stores. He strapped a belt about his waist, a belt banded with a row of detonite cartridges, and a pistol hung at his hip. He handed another to Harkness. But the pistol he offered Diane was refused.

“My many accomplishments,” she[179] laughed, “do not include that. I never could shoot—and besides I will not need to with both of you here.” Her hand was resting confidently upon Chet’s arm as they followed where Harkness led.

The heavy grass, standing waist-high in the little valley where their ship was at rest, stirred to ripples of vivid green as a light breeze touched it. Above, the sun shone warm upon this world of tropical growth. Harkness, listening in the utter silence for sounds that might mean danger, let his eyes follow up the rugged wall of rock that hemmed them in on two sides. It gleamed with metallic hues in the midday glare. He looked on to the sun above.

“A dark moon!” he said wonderingly. “Dark!—and yet it is blazing bright. Why can’t we see it from Earth? Why is it dark?… I’ve an idea that the gas we came through is the answer. There is metal, we know, that conducts an electric current in only one direction: why not a gas that will do the same with light?”


T

he pilot was listening, but Diane seemed uninterested in scientific speculations. “The trees!” she breathed in rapture; “the marvelous, beautiful trees!”

She was gazing toward distant towering growths where the valley widened. Like no trees of Earth, these monsters towered high in air, their black trunks branching to end in tendrils that raised high above them. And the tendrils were a waving, ever-moving sea of color, where rainbow iridescence was stabbed through with the flash of crimson buds. A down-draft of air brought a heady, intoxicating odor.

And still there was silence. To Walter Harkness, standing motionless and alert amidst the waving grass, it seemed a hush of waiting. A prickle of apprehension passed over his skin. He glanced about, his pistol ready in his hand, looked back for a moment at the ship, then smiled inwardly in self-derision of his fear as he strode forward.

“Let’s have a look at things,” he said with a heartiness not entirely sincere. “We’ll discover nothing standing here.”

But the silence weighed upon them all as they pressed on. No exclamations of amazement from them now, no speculations of what might lie ahead. Only wide-eyed alertness and a constant listening, listening—until the silence was broken by a scream.

A man it seemed at first, when Harkness saw the figure leap outward from the cliff. A second one followed. They landed on all fours upon a rock that jutted outward toward the trees.

The impact would have killed a human, but these creatures stood upright to face the concealment from which they had sprung. One was covered with matted, brown hair. Its arms were long, and its fists pounded upon a barrel-like chest, while it growled hoarsely. The other ape-thing, naked and hairless, did the same. They were both uttering those sounds, that at times seemed almost like grunted words, when the end came.

A swishing of leather wings!—a swooping, darting rush of a huge body!—and one of the ape-men, as Harkness had mentally termed them, was struggling in the clutch of talons that gripped him fast.

The giant bat-shape that had seized him reached for the other, too. A talon ripped at the naked face, but the ape-man dodged and vanished among the rocks.


W

ith pounding wings, the bat swept off in lumbering flight, but with its burden it seemed heavy, and failed to rise. The trees were close, and their waving ten[180]tacles drew back, then shot out to splash about the intruder. The talons released their hold, and the huge leather wings flapped frantically; but too late. Both captor and captive were wrapped in an embrace of iridescent arms and held struggling in mid-air, while the unmoving watchers below stood in horror before this drama of life and death.

Then a red bud opened. It was enormous, and its flowery beauty made more revolting the spectacle of the living food that was thrust within its maw.

The bud closed. Its petals were like lips…. And Diane, in white-faced horror, was clinging to the protecting arm of Chet Bullard beside her. Chet, too, had paled beneath his tan. But Walter Harkness, though white of face, was staring not at the crimson bud, shut tightly about its living food, but upward toward the broken, rocky face of the cliff.

The flying thing, the unnamed horror of the air, had come silently from on high. None of them had seen it until it struck, and he was sure that the ape-men had been taken unaware. Then what had frightened them? What other horror had driven them in screaming terror to that fearful spring out into the open where they must have known danger awaited?

Did a rock move? he wondered. Was the splotch of color—that mottling of crimson and copper and gray—a part of the metallic mass? He rubbed his smarting eyes—and when he looked again the color was gone. But he had a conviction that eyes, sinister and deadly, had been staring into his, that a living mass had withdrawn softly into a shadowed cave, and that the menace that had threatened the ape-men was directed now toward them.

Was this the reason for the silence? Was this valley, so peaceful in its sunlit stillness, a place of death, from which all living things kept clear? Had the ape-men been drawn there through curiosity at seeing their ship float down?

And the quiet beauty of the valley—it might be as horrible a mockery as the blazing splendor of those things ahead—those beautiful and horrible eaters of flesh! His voice was unsteady as he turned toward the others.

“Let’s call this off,” he said: “there is something up there. We’ll go back to the ship and get up in the air again. We’ll find a healthier place to land.”


L

ike Harkness, Chet Bullard held his pistol ready in his hand. “Something else?” he inquired. “You saw something?” And Harkness nodded grimly.

They retraced their steps. A half-mile, perhaps. It had seemed long as they ventured forth, and was no shorter now. And the gleaming, silvery shape of the ship was entirely lovely to their eyes as they approached.

Harkness circled the blunt bow with its open exhaust high above his head. On the far side was the port where they had emerged; its open door would be welcome in its promise of safe seclusion. His sigh of relief was echoed by the two who followed, for the horror and apprehension had been felt by all. But the breath choked abruptly in his throat.

Before them was the door, its thick metal wide-swung as they had left it. But the doorway itself, where warm darkness should have invited, was entirely sealed by a web of translucent stuff.

Harkness approached to look more closely. The substance was glistening and smooth—yellowish—almost transparent. It was made up of a tangle of woven cords which clung tightly to the metal sides. Harkness reached out in sudden[181] fury to grip it and tear it loose. He grasped the slippery stuff, stumbled—and hung suspended by a tenacious hold that gripped his hand where it had touched, and would not let go.

His arm swung against it, and his shoulder. They were instantly immovable. And he knew in a single terrifying instant his utter helplessness. He saw Chet Bullard’s hands come up, and he found his voice in time to scream a harsh warning to him.

“Tear me loose!” he commanded, “but don’t touch the damned stuff!” It took the combined strength of the pilot and the girl to free him, and Harkness had to set his teeth to restrain an exclamation of pain as his hand came slowly from the web that clung and clung and would not let go.


F

rom his place upon the ground he saw Chet raise a broken piece of rock. It was like metal, and heavy, as the pilot’s efforts proved, though it was surprisingly small in size. He saw Chet raise it above his head and crash it upon the thick web that filled the door. And, as his own aching arm had been held, the rock was seized in the tough strands, which gave back only slightly under the blow.

Harkness scrambled to his feet. The fury that had possessed him made the hurt of his arm unfelt. What devil’s work was this that barred them from the safety of the ship? The memory of that other menace, half-seen among the rocks, was strong upon him.

“Stand back!” he shouted to Chet and the girl, and he raised his pistol to send a charge of detonite into the unyielding mass. Here was power to tear the clinging-stuff to atoms.

He felt Chet’s body plunge upon him an instant before he fired, and his pistol was knocked up and flew outward from his hand. He heard the pilot’s voice.

“Walt!” Chet was saying. “For God’s sake come out of it! Are you crazy? You might have wrecked that door-port so we never could have fixed it; or the bullet could have gone on through to explode inside the ship. Either way we would never get back: no leaky hull would ever let us make the trip home!”

Chet was right: Harkness knew it in a moment. He knew the folly of what he would have done, yet knew, too, that desperate measures were needed and needed quickly. The eyes of a devil had held his own from the darkness of the rocks, and the same rock wall came close to where they stood. He was in command; it was up to him—


T

he moment of indecision ended as a mass of viscous fluid splashed heavily against the ship. Harkness whirled about to face the rocks. He was calm now and controlled, but under his quiet courage was a fear that gripped him. A fear of what he should find! But the reality was so far beyond any imagined terror as to leave him cold.

Above them and thirty feet away on a rocky ledge was a thing of horror. Basilisk eyes in a hairy head; gray, stringy hairs; and the fearful head ended in narrow, outthrust jaws, where more of the gray hairs hung like moss from lips that writhed and curled and sucked at the air with a whistling shrillness. Those jaws could crush a man to pulp. And the head seemed huge until the body behind it came into view.

The suddenness with which the great body rose showed the strength of the beast. A prodigious sack, like black leather, with markings of crimson and copper!—and the straggling, ropy hairs on it were greenish-gray like the lustre of the rocks at its back.[182]

It stood upright on great hairy legs. The eyes shot forward on protruding antennae. The sack-like body flexed to bring the rear part under and forward. It was aiming at them.

Harkness seized the slim figure of the girl who stood, mute with horror, beside him. He threw her roughly to the ground, for the meaning of the viscous splash was plain.

“Down!” he shouted to Chet. “Down on the ground!” And he felt the swish of another liquid mass above his head as he obeyed his own command.

He felt for his pistol, then remembered it was gone—lost when Chet sprang upon him. But Chet had his.

“Shoot!” he ordered. “Shoot the damned thing, Chet! Kill the spider!”

Spider! He had named it unconsciously. But the name was inadequate, for here was a thing of horror beyond even a spider of prodigious size. This peaceful valley!—and here was its ruler, frightful, incredibly loathsome!


H

e waited for the sound of a shot. A cursing, instead, was the only reply: Chet was not firing! Harkness whirled to see the pilot pinned by one arm to the web.

The fluid had caught him; he had not dropped quickly enough. And his right hand that had been raised, and the pistol it held, were clamped fast to the awful stuff.

There was no word of appeal, no call for help, yet Chet Bullard must have known what this meant. But neither did Harkness wait for that word. One spring, and he had the pilot by the waist, and he felt the weight of the girl’s slim body added to his as her arms went about him to help. Chet’s face went chalk-white as the hand tore loose. The pistol remained buried in the clinging stuff.

From the corner of his eye, Harkness saw the monster crouched to spring. He was half dragging the other two as he stooped and ran for the bow of the ship. The monstrous body thudded against the metal hull behind them.

The leap was prodigious. He saw the sack-like body fall inert, the great, hairy legs shaking. For the moment, the attacker was helpless: but the respite was brief, as the glaring eyes plainly told.

Below the ledge where the beast had been was an opening in the rocks—a bit of black shadow that was darker than the lustrous metal of the cliff. There was a chance—

“I can make it,” Chet was saying, as Harkness dragged him on; “help Diane!” But the girl had sprung before them to gain a foothold and extend a helping hand. And they were back in the darkness of a rocky cave before the sunlit entrance was blocked by a hairy head and a horrible, slavering mouth on a body too huge to enter.

CHAPTER VII

In the Labyrinth

S

pent and shaken, the three passed onward into the cave. Harkness searched his pockets for his neolite flash; found it—a tiny pencil with a tip of glass—and the darkness of the inner cave was flooded with light.

A box of food tablets was in a pocket of Chet’s jacket, and there was water that trickled in a tiny stream out of the rocks. It could have been worse, Diane pointed out with forced gaiety. But Harkness, who had gone back for a final look at the entrance to the cave, found it difficult to smile.

He had found the entrance an opening no longer: it was sealed with a giant web of ropy strands—a network, welded together to a glutinous mesh. They were sealed in as effectively as if the opening[183] were closed by a thick door of steel.

They gathered fungus that grew in thready clumps on the walls, and this served as a mattress to soften the rocky floor that must be their bed. And Harkness sat silent in the darkness long after the others were asleep—sat alone on guard, to think and to reach, at last, a conclusion.

A cleavage in the rocks made a narrow crack to the outside world, and through it the starlight filtered dimly. The thread of light grew brilliantly golden—moonlight, a hundredfold more bright than moonlight on Earth. And he realized that the source of light was their own globe, Earth, shining far through space!

It lighted the cave with a mellow glow. It shone upon the closed eyes of the sleeping girl, and touched lightly upon the rounded softness of a lovely face beneath a tangle of brown curls. Harkness stared long and soberly at the picture she made, and he thought of many things.

No parasite upon society was this girl. He had known such; but her ready wit, her keen grasp of affairs, had been evident in their talks on the journey they had made. They had stamped her as one who was able to share in the work and responsibilities of a world where men and women worked together. Yet there was nothing of the hardness that so many women showed. And now she was altogether feminine, and entirely lovely.


N

ot far away, Chet Bullard was sleeping heavily. His hand, injured painfully when they tore it from the clinging mass, had been bandaged by Diane. It troubled him now, and he flung one arm outward. His hand touched that of the girl, and Harkness saw the instant quiet that came upon him at the touch. And Diane—her lips were smiling in her sleep.

They had been much together, those two; theirs had been a ready, laughing comradeship. It had troubled Harkness, but now he put all thought of self aside.

“This trip,” he thought, “can end only in disaster—if it has not already done so. What a fool I was to bring these two!” And: “If I want to risk my own life,” he told himself bitterly, “that’s my own affair. But for Chet, and Diane, with their lives ahead of them—” His determination was quickly reached.

He would go back. Somehow, some way, he would get them to the ship. They would return to Earth. And then…. His plans were vague. But he knew he could interest capital; he knew that this new world, that was one great mine of raw metals, would not go long unworked. The metallic colorations in rock walls and mountains had fairly shouted of rich ores and untold wealth.

Yes, they would go back, but he would return. He would put from his mind all thought of this girl; he would forget forever those nebulous plans that had filled him with hope for a happiness beyond all hoping. And he would come back here prepared for conquest.

He put aside all speculation as to what other horrible forms of life the little world might hold: he would be prepared to deal with them. But he still wondered if there were people. He had hoped to find some human life.

And this hope, too, left him; his sense of this globe as an undeveloped world was strong upon him. The monsters; the tropical, terrible vegetation; the very air itself—all breathed of a world that was young. There had not been time for the long periods of evolution through which humanity came.

He tried to tell himself of the wealth that would be his; tried to feel the excitement that should follow upon such plans. But he could[184] only feel a sense of loss, of something precious that was gone. Diane—named for the moon: she seemed more precious now to the lonely man than all else on moon or Earth. She could never be his; she never had been. It was Chet upon whom the gods and Diane had smiled. And Chet deserved it.

Only in this last conviction did he find some measure of consolation during the long night.


W

e will rip the big web out with detonite,” Harkness told the others when morning came. “But I want to get the spider, too.”

A touch upon the web with a stick brought an instant response. Again they saw in all its repulsiveness the thing that seemed a creature of some horrible dream. The eyes glared, while hairy feelers seized the web and shook it in furious rage. Harkness, fearing another discharge of the nauseating, viscous liquid, withdrew with the others far back in the cave.

“Wait,” he told them. “I have a plan.”

The creature vanished, and Harkness went cautiously forward to the web. He took a detonite cartridge from his belt and placed it on the floor close to the ropy strands. Another, and another, until he had a close-packed circle of the deadly things. Then he placed a heavy, metallic piece of rock beside them and proceeded, with infinite care, to build a tower.

One irregular block upon another: it was like a child at play with his toys. Only now the play was filled with deadly menace. The stones swayed, then held in precarious, leaning uncertainty; the topmost was directly above the cartridges on the floor.

“Back!” he ordered the others, “and lie flat on the floor. I must guess at the amount of explosive for the job.”

Chet and Diane were safe as Harkness weighed a fragment of metal in his hand. One throw—and he must not hit the tower he had built…. The rock struck into the network of cords; he saw it clinging where it struck, and saw the web shaking with the blow.

Over his shoulder, as he ran, he glimpsed the onrush of the beast. Again the eyes were glaring, again the feelers were shaking furiously at the web. They touched the leaning stones!

He had reached the place where Chet and Diane lay and saw the beginning of the tower’s fall; and in the split second of its falling he threw himself across the body of the prostrate girl to shield her from flying fragments of stone. A blast of air tore at him; his ears were numbed with the thunder of the blast—a thunder that ended with a crashing of stone on stone….


S

lowly he recovered his breath; then raised himself to his feet to look toward the entrance. It would be open now, the way cleared. But, instead of sunlight, he saw utter dark. Where the mouth of the cave had been was blackness—and nothing else!

He fumbled for his flash, and stood in despairing silence before what the light disclosed.

The rock was black and shining about the mouth of the cavern. It had split like glass. In shattered fragments it filled the forward part of the cave. The whole roof must have fallen, and a crashing slide above had covered all.

Chet was beside him; Harkness dared not look toward the girl coming expectantly forward.

“We’ll use more of the same,” Chet suggested: “we will blast our way out.”

“And bring down more rock with each charge,” Harkness told him tonelessly. “This means we are—”[185]

Diane had overheard. Harkness’ pause had come too late.

“Yes?” she encouraged. “This means we are entombed?—buried here? Is that it?”

Her voice was quiet; her eyes, in the light of the little flash, were steady in their look upon the man who was leader of the expedition. Diane Vernier might shudder with horror before some obscene beast—she would tremble with delight, too, at sight of some sudden beauty—but she was not one to give way to hysteria when a situation must be faced. No despair could be long-lived under the spell of those eyes, brave and encouraging.

“No,” said Walter Harkness: “we will find some way to escape. This is blocked. We will follow the cave back and see where it leads. There must be other outlets. We’re not quitting now.” He smiled with a cheerful confidence that gave no hint of being assumed, and he led the way with a firm step.


D

iane followed as usual, close to Chet. But her eyes were upon their leader; they would have repaid him for a backward look.

To a mineralogist this tunnel that nature had pierced through the rock would have been an endless delight, but to a man seeking escape from his living tomb it brought no such ecstasy. The steady, appraising glance of Harkness was everywhere—darting ahead, examining the walls, seeking some indication, some familiar geological structure, that might be of help.

He stopped once to kick contemptuously at a vein of quartz. Three feet in thickness—and it crumbled to fragments under his foot to release a network of gold.

“Rotten with it,” he said.

And the only comment came from Chet: “A fat lot of good it does us!” he replied.

The cavern branched and branched again; it opened to a great room higher than their light could reach; it narrowed to leave apertures through which they crawled like moles; it became a labyrinth of passages from which there seemed no escape. Each turn, each new opening, large or small—it was always the same: Harkness praying inaudibly for a glimpse of light that would mean day; and, instead—darkness!—and their own pencil of light so feeble against the gloom ahead….

CHAPTER VIII

The Half-Men

T

he Valley of the Fires,” Harkness was to call it later, and shorten it again to “Fire Valley.” The misty smokes of a thousand fires rose skyward from the lava beds of its upper end.

Where the lava flow had stopped and the lower valley began, came vegetation. Sparse at first, then springing to luxuriant growth, it contrasted strongly with the barren wall beside it and the equally barren waste of high ground where the fires were.

Mountains hemmed it in; their distant peaks showed black, with red and green striations of mineralized deposits. The valleys about them were dense with foliage, a green so startling and vivid as almost to offend the eye.

Trees were in the lower end of the valley. They were of tremendous growth, and the dew of early morning dripped from them like rain. Trunks smooth and ghostly white, except where the bark had split into countless fractures and the scarlet color of the sap-wood showed through. Outflung branches forked to drop down dangling stalks that rooted again in the ground; these made a forest of slender white supports for the leafy roof—a forest of spectral shapes in a shadow-[186]world. Only here and there were arrows of sunlight that pierced the dense foliage above to strike through and down to the black earth floor and the carpet of rainbow hues.

And that carpet of radiant colors was trampled into paths that wound on to lose themselves in the half-light of that ghostly world.


F

rom one of the paths came sounds of tramping feet. Cries and snarling grunts resounded through the silence to send lizards scurrying to the safety of the trees. Animal cries or hoarse voices of men—it would have been difficult to tell which. And a sight of the creatures themselves would have left an observer still in doubt.

A score of them, and they walked upright. Some bodies were naked, a coppery-black in color; on others the skin was covered by a sparse growth of hair. Noses that were mere nostril-slits; low foreheads, retreating flatly to a tangle of matted hair; protruding jaws which showed the white flash of canine teeth as the ape-like faces twisted and the creatures tugged at ropes of vines thrown over their shoulders.

The Neanderthal Man had not learned to use the wheel; and these man-animals, too, used only the sheer strength of their corded muscles as they hauled at the body of a beast.

It dragged along the path behind them, rolling at times to show the white of its belly instead of the flexible armor-plating that protected its back. Fresh blood flowed from a wound in the white under-skin; this, and the dripping flints that tipped their spears, told how death had come. One curving horn that projected from a wrinkled snout caught at times in the undergrowth, and then the ones who dragged it would throw themselves upon the head with snarls of fury and twist the big horn free.

The rocky cliff was honeycombed with caves. A cry, half-human in its tone, brought an avalanche of figures scurrying forth. Children, whose distended abdomens told of the alternate feasting and hunger that was theirs, were cuffed aside by women who shouted shrilly at sight of the prize. Older men came, too, and in a screaming mob they threw themselves upon the carcass of the beast that had been dragged into the open.


F

lint knives came into play, then sharpened stakes that were thrust through the bleeding meat. Young and old seized what they could, leaped across the little stream that trickled downward through the valley, and raced for the nearest fires.

The fumaroles made places for roasting, and these half-men had learned the taste of cooked meats. Their jaws were slavering as they waited. The scents were tantalizing.

A hunter was reaching to snatch a shred of half-cooked meat when a woman of the tribe gave a scream that was shrill with fear. She pointed her gnarled hand upward on the face of the cliff.

An opening was there, a black cave-mouth in the black cliff. Above their own caves, was this higher opening, yet they must have explored it often—must have followed it as far as they dared, where it led to the mountain’s innermost depths. Yet from this familiar place there stepped forth an apparition. Another followed, and another—three strange creatures like none the savage eyes of this world had ever seen.

Clothing torn to rags—faces black and smeared with blood—hands that reached groping and trembling toward the light, until the half-blinded eyes of one saw the trickling brook.

Then, “Water!” he croaked in a voice hardly more human than the[187] grunts of horror from below, and he took the hand of another to help in the steep descent—while the tribe beneath them forgot their anticipated feast, forgot all but their primordial fear of the unknown, and, with startled cries, broke and ran for the safety of the forest….

CHAPTER IX

The Throwers of Thunder

I

t is doubtful if Walter Harkness heard or consciously saw that fleeing tribe. He saw only the glorious sunlight and its sparkling reflection upon the stream; and in his nostrils was the scent of roasting meat to rouse him to a frenzy.

For seven Earth days he and Chet had kept account of the hours. How long after that they had followed their stumbling course he could not have told. Time ceased to be measured in hours and days; rather was it reckoned in painful progress a foot at a time up rocky burrows, helping, both of them, to ease the path for the girl who struggled so bravely with them, until aching muscles refused to bear them further. Then periods of drugged sleep with utter fatigue for an opiate—and on again in hopeless, aimless wandering.

And now, the sun! And he was plunging his head into icy water to drink until he strangled for breath! He knew that Chet and Diane were beside him. A weak laugh came to his lips as he sat erect: the girl had drunk as deeply as the rest—and now she was washing her hands and face.

The idea seemed tremendously amusing—or was it that the simple rite indicated more than he could bear to know? It meant that they were safe; they had escaped; and again a trifle like cleanliness was important in a woman’s eyes. He rocked with meaningless laughter—until again a puff of wind brought distinctly the odor of cooking food.

A hundred feet away, up higher in the valley, were the first of the fires. Harkness came to his feet and ran—ran staggeringly, it is true, but he ran—and he tore at some hanging shreds of smoking meat regardless of the burn. But the fierce gnawing at his stomach did not force him to wolf the food. He carried it back, a double handful of half-cooked meat, to the others. And he doled it out sparingly to them and to himself.

The cold water had restored his sanity. “Easy,” he advised them; “too much at first and we’re done for.”


H

e was chewing on the last shred when a thought struck him; he had been too stunned before to reason. For the first time he jerked up his head in startled alarm. He looked carefully about—at the meat on its pointed stakes, at the distant fires, at the open glade below them and the dense jungle beyond where nothing stirred.

“Cooked meat!” he exclaimed in a whisper. “Who did it? This means people!”

The memory that had registered only in some corner of a mind deeper than the conscious, came to the surface. “I remember,” he said. “There were things that ran—men—apes—what were they?”

“Oh, Lord!” Chet groaned. “And all I ask is to be left alone!” But he wearily raised himself upright and verified the other’s words.

“They ran toward that opening among those trees. And I’ll bet they live in these caves up here behind us. I got a whiff of them as we came past: they smelled like a zoo.”

They had come out on top of the lava-flow, close to its end. The molten rock had hardened to leave a drop of some forty feet to the open glade below. Beyond that the jungle began, but behind them was the[188] lava bed, frozen in countless corrugations. Harkness rose and helped Diane to her feet: they must force their aching muscles to take up their task again.

He peered up the valley where a thousand fires smoked. “That stream,” he said, “comes in from a little valley that branches off up there. We had better follow it—and we had better get going before that gang recovers from its surprise.”

They were passing the first of the fires where the meat was smoking when Chet called a halt. “Wait a bit,” he begged: “let’s take a sirloin steak along—” He was haggling at a chunk of meat with a broken flint when a spear whistled in and crashed upon the rocks.


H

arkness saw the thrower. Beyond the lava’s edge the jungle could be seen, and from among the spectral trees had darted a wild figure whose hairy arm had snapped the spear into the air.

There were more who followed. They were sliding down the slender trunks that supported the branches and leafy roof high above the ground. To Harkness the open doorway to the jungle seemed swarming with monkey-men. The movement of the three fugitives had been taken as a retreat, and the courage of the cave-dwellers had returned.

Harkness glanced quickly about to size up their situation. To go on was certain death; if these creatures came up to meet them on the lava-beds, the end was sure. The escarpment gave the three some slight advantage of a higher position.

One vain wish for the pistol now resting in the deep grass beside a vanished ship; then he sprang for the weapon that had been thrown—it was better than nothing—and advanced cautiously to the lava’s edge.

No concealment there; no broken rocks, other than pieces of flint; a poor fortress, this, that they must defend! And the weapons of their civilization were denied them.

Another spear hummed its shrill song, coming dangerously close. He saw women-figures that came from the jungle with supplies of weapons. Short spears, about six feet long, like the one he held. But they had others, too—long lances of slender wood with tips of flint. Thrusting spears! He had a sickening vision of those jagged stone heads ripping into their bodies while these beasts stood off in safety. It was thus that they killed their prey. And Diane—he could not even spare her—could not give her the kind oblivion of a mercy-shot!

The other two were lying beside him now at the edge of the sloping cliff. The bank of shining gray was not steep; the enemy would climb it with ease. Hopeless! They had won through for this!… Harkness groaned silently in an agony of spirit at thought of the girl.

“Oh, for one detonite shell to land among them!” he said between clenched teeth—then was breathless with a thought that exploded within his mind.


H

is fingers were clumsy with haste as he fumbled at the head of the spear. The sharp-edged stone was bound to its shaft with sinew, wound round and round. The enemy were out in the open; he spared an instant’s look to see them advancing. A clattering of falling spears sounded beyond, but the weapons were overcast, thanks to the protection of the rocky edge.

“A shell!” Harkness spoke with sharp intensity. “Give me a cartridge from your belt, quick!”

Chet handed him one. Harkness took one look, then pulled a cartridge from his own belt.

“That explains it,” he was muttering as he worked, “—the big explosion when I smashed the rocks. You’ve got ammunition for your pis[189]tol, but you put rifle cartridges in my belt—and service ammunition at that. No wonder they raised the devil with those rocks!”

His fingers were working swiftly now to bind the slender cartridge to the spear. A chipped out hollow in the flint made a seat. He gave silent thanks for Chet Bullard’s mistake. Chet had slipped; he had filled Harkness’ belt with ammunition that would have been useless for the pistol—but it was just what he needed here.

So intent was he on his task that he hardly heard the yelling chorus from below. It swelled to a din; but his work was finished, and he looked up.

One figure in advance of the rest had been urging them on, and they came in a wild rush now. Walt Harkness scrambled to his feet. Tall and sinewy, his broad shoulders, scantily covered by the rags of blouse that remained, were turned sideways as he raised the spear. The yelling from below swelled louder and more shrill.

This strange one from another tribe—he was unarmed except for one of their own spears. The curious covering on his body was flapping in the breeze. Nothing here, surely, to hold a hunting-tribe in check.

The spear rose slowly in the air. What child of the tribe could not have thrown it better! They came on faster now; the leader had almost reached the place where the spear was dropping down. He must have laughed, if laughter had yet been born in such a breast, at the futile weapon dropping point first among the rocks.

One little shell, a scant three inches long, no thicker than the stylus on milady’s desk! But here was service ammunition, as Harkness had said; and in the end of the lead a fulminate cap was buried—and a grain of dense, gray dust!


T

here was no flame—only a concussion that cracked upon one’s ears, and flying rock fragments that filled the air with demoniac shrieks. And then that sound was lost in the shriller cries of terror and pain as the ape-men broke for the trees.

Harkness saw some of them who rose and fell again to rise no more, and one who dragged himself slowly from the blast that had struck him down. But his eyes came back to another spear in his hands, and his fingers were tearing at the sinew wrapping.

The spear bent in his hands; the wood was flexible and springy. It was Diane who offered the next suggestion. She, too, was working at another spear—what wonder if her breath came fast!—but her eyes were alight, and her mind was at work.

“Make a bow!” she exclaimed. “A bow and arrow, Walter! We are fighting primitive men, so we can’t scorn primitive weapons.” She stopped with a little exclamation of pain; the sharp tip of the flint had cut her hand.

Chet’s spearhead was unloosed. He tried the spring of the shaft. “Bully girl, Diane!” he said, and fell to gouging out a notch with the sharp flint near the end of the shaft.

The sinew made a string. Three slender sticks lying about whose ends had been sharpened for use on the meat: they would do for arrows. Each arrow must be notched and headed with an explosive shell, and there were many of them.

Chet sprang to his feet at last. Forgotten was the fatigue that had numbed him. A wild figure, his clothes in rags, his short, curling hair no longer blond, his face a mottling of brown and black, where only here and there the white skin dared show through—he executed an intricate dance-step with a bed of lava for a floor, while he shouted:[190]

“Bring on your fighters! Bring ’em on! Who’s going to stop us now?”


T

hey were free to go, but Harkness paused at a renewed screaming from the jungle. Again the hairy ones poured forth into the open glade. He had half raised his bow, with arrow ready, before he saw that this was no attack.

The screams merged discordantly with other sounds—a crashing of uprooted trees—a chorus of harsh coughing—snorting—unrecognizable noises. And the people were cowering in terror.

They half-ran toward the safety of their caves, but the throwers of thunder, the demons on the lava bed, were between them and their homes. They turned to face the jungle, and the wild sounds and crash of splintered wood that drew near.

Harkness saw the first head that appeared. He stared in open-mouthed amazement at the armored monster. Thick plates of shell covered its mammoth body and lapped part way over the head to end at beady, wicked, red eyes on either side of a single curved horn.

An instant the animal waited, to glare at the cowering human forms it had tracked to their lair; others crashed through beside it; and in that instant Harkness recognized the huddled group below as brothers. Far down they were, in the long, weary path that was evolution, and hardly come as yet to a consciousness of self—but there were those who leaped before the others, their long spears couched and ready; they were defending the weaker ones at their backs; they were men!

And Harkness was shouting as he raised his crude bow. “Shoot!” he ordered. “Kill the brutes!” His own arrow was speeding true.

The rush of mammoth beasts was on as he fired, but it was checked as quickly as it began. An inferno of explosions rose about the rushing bodies; crashing detonations struck two of them down, their heads torn and crushed. Between the helpless, primordial men and the charging beasts was a geyser of spouting earth and rocks, through which showed ugly heads and tremendous bodies that wheeled and crashed madly back into the jungle growth.

Harkness suddenly realized that only he and Chet had fired. Diane’s bow was on the ground. He saw the girl beside it, sitting upright; but her body was trembling and weaving, and she was plainly maintaining her upright posture only by the greatest effort.


H

e was beside her in an instant. “What is it?” he demanded. “Are you hurt? What is it?”

She raised her hand that he might see; her lips, seemed almost too numb for speech.

“Only a scratch,” she whispered, but Harkness saw her eyes glazing. He dropped to his knees and caught her swaying body in his arms.

“A scratch,” she repeated in a fading voice, “from the spear…. Poison … I think.”

A head appeared over the lava crest. Harkness saw it vaguely. He knew that Chet had the newcomer covered; his bow was drawn. It meant nothing to him, for Diane was wounded—dying! Dying, now, in his arms….

The ape-man came on; he was grovelling upon the ground. He was hairless, like the one they had seen escape the attack of the giant bat, and his cheek was slashed with a healing cut that might have been made by a ripping talon. He abased himself before the awful might of these creatures who had saved them. And he made motions with his arms to picture how they had sailed down from the skies; had landed; and he had seen them. He was plainly pe[191]titioning for pardon and the favor of these gods—when he dropped his animal head to stare at the girl and the cut hand that Harkness held in his.

The blue discoloration of the wound must have been plain in its significance. The hairless one sprang abruptly to his feet and darted toward a cave. He was back in a moment; and, though be approached with wriggling humility, he reached the girl and he ventured to touch the discolored hand with a sticky paste. He had a gourd that he held to the girl’s lips.

Harkness would have struck it away; he was beside himself with grief. But Chet interposed.

“Give it to her,” he said in a sharp, strained voice that told of his own dismay. “I think the beggar knows what he’s about. He is trying to help.”

The lips were lax; only a little of the liquid found its way down her throat. But Harkness, after minutes of agony, saw the first flutter of lids that betokened returning life….

CHAPTER X

But Awfully Dumb….

H

arkness would never forget the helpless body in his arms, nor the tender look that came slowly to the opened eyes that gazed so steadily into his. And yet it was Chet that she seemed to want for the thousand little services during the week that followed. And Harkness tried to still the hurt in his heart, and he told himself that it was her happiness be wanted more than his; that if she found greater pleasure in having Chet near, then his love was unworthy if it placed itself as a bar to that other happiness.

He talked by signs with the hairless one whom he called Towahg. It was the sound the other made as he struck upon his chest. And he learned that Towahg could guide him to the ship.

The tribe had left them alone. Only Towahg seemed inclined to friendliness; and Harkness frequently saw the one who was their leader in ugly, silent contemplation of them when Towahg brought food and water to their cave.

Diane was recovering, but her progress was slow. She was able at once to walk and go slowly about, but the least exertion tired her. It had been a close call, Harkness knew, and he realized that some time must pass before she could take up the hardships of the trail. And in the meantime much might happen.

He felt that he must reach the ship at the first possible moment and return for the others; Towahg would show him the way. He explained the plan to Chet and Diane only to meet with emphatic dissent.

“You would go alone?” the girl exclaimed. “To meet heaven knows what dangers? No, no, Walter; you must not! Wait; I am stronger; I can go soon, I know.”

Chet, too, was for delay—Diane was better, and she would improve steadily. They could carry her, at first. But Harkness looked at the jungle he must penetrate and knew that he was right.


H

e gave Towahg a bow and arrows like his own and those that Chet kept for defense, but the arrows were of sharpened wood without detonite tips. He grinned toward Chet as he showed the savage how to handle the marvellous thing.

“We’ve advanced these people a thousand years in the science of arms,” he said. “They should make Diane their first Minister of Munitions, or worship her as their own lovely goddess of the chase.”

A weapon that would throw farther than the strongest man could[192] cast a spear—here was magic indeed! And Towahg knelt and grovelled on the ground at his benefactor’s feet.

Harkness made light of the dangers he must face, but he knew in his own mind he might fail. And the time of leaving found him curiously depressed. He had gripped Chet’s hand, then turned to Diane for what might be a last good-by. The quick enfoldment of her soft body in his arms was as unpremeditated as the kiss he placed upon her lips…. He swung away abruptly, and fell in behind his guide without a word. The way led first across the place of smoke and fire.

Danger ahead on this strange trail; he knew it well. But he took it as it came; and his guide, and his crude weapon, and his steady eye and sureness of foot on rocky crags all saw him through. And he mentally mapped the hills and valleys and the outcrops of metals that he would explore some later time. Only seven of the short six-hour days of this little earth had passed when he drew near the ship.

He was ready for an attack. There was the broken rubble that marked the entrance of the cave. Beneath it, he knew, were mangled, horrible remains. This one beast alone, it seemed, had been the ruler of the valley, for no other appeared.

The mass that had blocked the doorway was crystalline now, and broke to brittle fragments at a blow. He entered the familiar cabin of the ship. There was nothing disturbed; the sealed inner door had barred entrance to any inquiring beasts.

Far down the valley he saw a naked, running figure. Towahg had escorted this sky-god to the great bird that had brought him, but the courage of even so advanced a tribesman as he must have limits. He was still running along the path they had come when Harkness closed and sealed the door.


T

here was an instrument among their stores for taking samples of gas. Harkness attached it to the ship before he left, and he took a few precious minutes for a flight into the heights. That gas up there was fatal to the monsters of space: he must secure a sample and learn its composition.

A closing of the switch on wires that led to the instrument outside, and he knew that the container had emptied its contents of water, drawn in the gas and sealed itself.

Then the swift descent.

He flew low as he circled back. They had traveled far on their journey below ground; it was even a longer route where he and Towahg had circled about. But it was the only route he knew; he could take no chances on a short-cut and a possible long-drawn search for the little valley.

He followed the trail. The quick dusk was near; but in an hour’s slow flying, while his eyes searched the hills and hollows, the valley was in sight.

He came down slowly in a black sky, with only the soft, muffled roar of the lower exhausts. It was growing dark, and he leaned from an open door to see more clearly his position. All was different from the air, and he needed time and careful scrutiny to get the bearings of the place.

The soft thunder from below was in his ears when a sound pierced through. His own name! And it was Diane’s voice calling him in a terrified tone.

“Walter!” she cried. “Help! Help! Oh, Walter, come quickly!”


T

he scene below was lighted by fitful fires. He was above the upper valley, a hundred yards from their cave: his mind was oriented in an instant, and he knew each foot of ground.

And here, where neither Diane[193] nor Chet should be, was Diane. He saw her running in the bright glare of his landing light that he now switched on; saw a black shape hurl itself upon her; she was struggling. He threw himself back at the controls to send the ship like a thunderbolt upon the earth.

A pistol was in his hand as he leaped from the still-rocking ship and threw himself upon the thing that ran and tried to carry a struggling burden in its arms.

He could not fire; but he brought the pistol down upon a heavy skull. The hairy figure seemed never to feel the blow. It dropped the body of Diane and turned, and its slavering, shining fangs were set in a horrible face that Harkness recognized.

It was the leader of the tribe, and he had dared to attack. But where was Chet? What of his arrows and their detonite tips? These thoughts were crowding through his mind in the instant that ape-like fingers gripped at his throat—the instant while he was bringing the pistol forward and up.

A light charge of detonite in pistol ammunition—but no living body could withstand the shock. Harkness leaped over the fallen foe to reach the girl. She was half risen to a sitting posture as he came.

Dieu!” she was whispering; “Ah, le bon Dieu!” Then she cried out: “Walter! Oh, Walter, they have killed Chet! Down there!” Her hand was pointing. She grasped at Harkness’ hand to draw herself to her feet and race with him toward the cave.


J

ust at dark,” she explained gaspingly as they ran. “It was their chief, and there were others with him. They leaped upon Chet—before he could reach for his bow. They had seemed so friendly after you left—but they were short of food—”

Her voice was sobbing now, but she kept on, and she set a pace that Harkness could not outdistance.

“One aimed a spear at me, and Chet threw himself between. I saw the spear strike—then I ran. I thought I heard your motors—I screamed for you—”

They were nearing the caves. A fire was burning in the open glade where grotesque figures leaped and danced in cannibal glee about a figure that lay motionless upon the ground.

The tattered, wind-blown clothing—the curling hair, blond in the fire’s light—it was Chet…. And now Harkness could fire.

His pistol held twenty rounds. He emptied it into the shrieking group, then jammed in more of the shells and fired again. He fired until no target remained, and every savage figure was either vanished among the trees or inert and lifeless upon the ground, their only motion the stirring of their hairy coverings in the breeze.


H

arkness was beside the prostrate figure. He raised Chet’s head within his arms; Diane’s brown head leaned close, her gasping breath broken by dry sobs. The firelight flickered upon the closed lids to give them semblance of life.

“Chet,” said Walter Harkness softly. “Chet, old man—can’t you speak? We’ll save you, Chet; you’re not done for yet.” But he felt as he spoke that the words were a horrible lie; the blood that ran slowly now from a wound in Chet’s side seemed to speak more truly than did he.

Yet Chet Bullard opened his eyes. His breath was the merest flutter; the listeners bent their heads close to hear.

“Made it, did you?” asked Chet in a ghastly whisper. “And you’ve saved Diane?… Good!… Well, it’s been a great trip…. It’s been worth the price….”

Harkness seized at the girl’s name.[194] Here was something that might strike home to the sinking man; might rouse him.

“Yes, Diane is saved,” he told Chet: “saved for you, old fellow. You must live—for Diane’s sake. You love her, and she needs you.”

Again the tired eyes opened. Once more the fluttering breath formed words; lips moved to bring a pale ghost of Chet’s ready smile like a passing light across his face.

“Needs me? Diane?” It was a question and a denial. He was looking straight at Harkness as he added: “It’s you she needs…. You’re one square old sport, Walt, but dumb—awfully dumb….”


G

lorious adventure!—and the price is so often death. “A great trip,” Chet Bullard had said; “it’s been worth the price.” Chet was prepared to pay in full.

But—there was the ship! Walt Harkness, as she finished bandaging the body of the unconscious man, stared first at the metal cylinder, gleaming, brilliant in the Earthlight; then his gaze went to the Earth that had risen over distant peaks with the glory of a thousand moons. And he dared to hope.

He brought the ship softly to rest close to where Chet lay, then placed the limp form on the self-adjusting floor of the control room. There must be no shifting of the body as the pull of gravitation ceased. Soft blankets made a resting place for him.

The entrance port was closed and sealed; and the ship rose gently under his touch. And, below them, the mirrors showed a world that sank away. Diane’s head was pressed near to his to watch that vanishing world.

Each rugged mountain was softened in the Earthlight’s mellow glow; they melted together, and lost all sharpness of form. And the light faded and vanished as they rose into the blanket of gas that blocked off the return rays and made of this world a dark moon.

No regret now for the territory that was unexplored. Harkness told himself he would return. And, with the vanishing of that world his thoughts were only of the little flame of life that still flickered in Chet’s body, and of the Earth, and of the metal ball that was swinging them out and away…. The sound of the stern exhaust built up and up to the roaring thunder that meant the blast was opened full….

CHAPTER XI

Nothing to Be Done

U

nmoving, their ship seemed, through the long hours. Yet there were lights that passed swiftly and unnoticed, and the unending thunder from the stern gave assurance that they were not floating idly in the vast sea of space.

The sun was behind them, and ahead was Earth in midday glory; Harkness could not tear his eyes away from that goal. He stood always at the controls, not because there was work to be done, but for the feeling it gave him of urging the ship onward.

Diane ministered to Chet and dressed the wound. There were few words exchanged between them.

The menace that had emptied Earth’s higher levels of all aircraft was still there. No ships were in sight, as Harkness guided his ship toward the great sphere. His speed had been cut down, yet still he outraced the occasional, luminous, writhing forms that threw themselves upon them. Then the repelling area—and he crashed silently through and down, with their forward exhaust roaring madly to hold them in check.

A sea and a shoreline, where a peninsula projected like a giant boot—and he knew it for Italy and[195] the waters of the Mediterranean.

“Vienna,” Diane was telling him; “go to Vienna! It is nearby. And I know of a surgeon—one of the greatest!”

And an hour later, a quiet, confident man was telling them: “But yes!—of a certainty he will live. It is fortunate that you were not very far away when the accident occurred.” And only then did Harkness catch Diana’s eyes in an exchange of glances where unbearable relief was tempered with amusement.


T

he great hospital had its own landing stages on its broad roof. Their ship was anchored there, an object to excite the curiosity of a gathering throng.

“Not a healthy place for me, here in Vienna,” Harkness remarked. He was lifting the ship from its anchorage, its errand of mercy done.

“Now where?” he pondered aloud. The strain of the flight was telling on him.

The girl recognized the strained look in his eyes, the deep lines that their experiences had etched upon his face. Gently she drew his hand from the controls.

“I will take it,” she said. “Trust me. Lie down and rest.”

Harkness had witnessed an example of her flying skill; she could handle the ship, he knew. And he threw himself upon a cot in the cabin to sink under the weight of overpowering fatigue.

He felt the soft shock of their landing. Diane was calling him, her hand extended to lead him from the open port. But he was wrenched sharply from the lethargy that held him at sight of his surroundings, and the memories they recalled.

They were in a park, and their ship rested upon a spacious lawn. Beyond were trees where a ship had shot crashingly through storm-tossed limbs. And, before him, a chateau, where a window had framed the picture of a girl with outstretched arms.

“Trust me,” Diane had said. And he did trust her. But did she not know what this meant? She was delivering him into the enemy’s hands. He should have kept himself from sight until he had rallied his forces…. He was stammering words of protest as she led him toward the door. Armed guards were already between him and the ship.


I

n a dark-panelled room Herr Schwartzmann was waiting. His gasp of amazement as he sprang to his feet reflected the utter astonishment written upon his face, until that look gave place to one of satisfaction.

“Mademoiselle,” he exclaimed, “—my dear Mademoiselle Diane! We had given you up for lost. I thought—I thought—”

“Yes,” said Diane quietly, “I believe that I can well imagine what you thought.”

“Ah!” said Herr Schwartzmann, and the look of satisfaction deepened. “I see that you understand now; you will be with us in this matter. We have plans for this young man’s disposal.”

The puzzled wonder that had clouded the steady eyes of Walter Harkness was replaced by cold anger and more than a trace of contempt.

“You can forget those plans,” he told Schwartzmann. “I have plans of my own.”

“Poof!” exclaimed the heavy, bearded man. “We will crush you like that!” He struck one heavy fist upon the desk. “And what will you do?”

“Several things,” said Harkness evenly. “I shall rid the upper levels of the monsters: I have a gas that will accomplish that. I shall restore the world’s flying to normal. And, with that attended to, I will give you my undivided attention—raise[196] forty kinds of hell with Herr Schwartzmann and the interests he represents.

“Forgery! Theft! The seizing of my properties by virtue of a lying document! You shall see what this leads to. Your companies will be wrecked; not a decent man or woman engaged in the business of a decent world will deal with you: that is a small part of what I plan.”

The dark face of Herr Schwartzmann was flushed with anger. “You will never leave this place—” he began. But Harkness would not let him go on: his voice was as hard as the metal of his ship.

“You and your assassins!” he said contemptuously. “You don’t dare touch me. There is another man who knows—and Diane, too.” He paused to look into the eyes of the girl, which were regarding him with an inscrutable expression. “I do not know why she brought me here, but Diane also knows. You can’t throttle us all.”

“Diane!” The exclamation was wrung involuntarily from Schwartzmann’s lips. “You speak of Mademoiselle Vernier so familiarly?”


T

he girl’s cool voice broke in. She had watched the meeting of the men in silence; she spoke now as one taking matters into her own quite capable hands.

“You may omit the incognito, Herr Schwartzmann,” she said; “it is no longer required. I have enjoyed a birthday since last we met: it was passed in a place of darkness and anguish, where strong men and brave forgot their own suffering to try by every means to bring comfort to a girl who was facing death. For that reason I say that I enjoyed it…. And that birthday was my twenty-first. You know what that means.”

“But Mademoiselle Vernier—pardon!—Mam’selle Delacoeur, surely you will support me. My trustee-ship during all these successful years—”

“Is at an end,” said the cool voice.

“I learned more than you were aware of in this last year while I familiarized myself with the interests that would soon be mine. No, Herr Schwartzmann, your methods do not appeal to me; they are an anachronism in the world of to-day.”

Harkness was standing in stunned silence. “Delacoeur!” Diane was Mademoiselle Delacoeur! But that name had been borne by the wealthiest house of France! Old Delacoeur had died, possessed of millions beyond counting—and he had left a daughter—Diane!

His mind could not grasp the full significance of this. But one thing was clear: he could not aspire to the love of one of the queens of Earth. Whatever faint hope that remained in his heart was lost…. The cool voice was still speaking.

“You may leave now,” she was saying—this girl who had been his comrade, so unfailingly tender, so true and steady in the face of incredible dangers. And Herr Schwartzmann took his dismissal as one who cannot dispute his superior.


T

he room was silent. Harkness stood with downcast eyes that followed with meticulous precision the intricacies of design in the rug on which he stood. A voice was speaking. Not the cool, imperative voice of Mademoiselle Delacoeur, mistress of vast estates, but the voice of Diane—the Diane he had learned to love—and it tore at his emotions until his mind was a whirl of conflicting thoughts.

A tender voice: and there was laughter in it and in the eyes that his own came despondently to meet.

“Such a man, this Walter Harkness!” she was saying. “So hard, so vindictive! Ah, the trouble he will make for me because of my conscienceless agents!”[197]

Harkness threw out his hands in a helpless gesture. “Don’t taunt me,” he said. “You know you have me tied. You’ve drawn the charges from all my guns. There is nothing to be done.”

Diane Delacoeur drew near. The raillery was gone from her voice, and the hand that she placed on his arm was trembling.

“Nothing?” she inquired. “Then, if friendly rivalry is impossible, would you consider, could there not be arranged—a merger of our interests? I am not thinking now of wealth, of which you will have far more than I: there are so much greater things in life—”

The eyes that clung to his were pleading now. And within them was the light that Walter Harkness at last could understand and define. He took the trembling hand in one of his that was suddenly strong, and with the other he raised a lovely face that no longer dared to meet his look.

“You mean—” he began, and fumbled for words to express an emotion that was beyond words. “Chet said—why, he said—that you needed me—”

Her reply came mingled with a tremulous laugh.

“I have the greatest regard,” she whispered, “for Chet’s judgement. But—do you—need me?”

Walt Harkness held the soft body close; bent nearer to catch the words. And he answered them with his own lips in an ecstasy of emotion that made nothing of the thrills to be found in that other conquest—of a Dark Moon.

A SCIENTIFIC HELL

Science playing the rôle of an up-to-date Persephone, visiting the underworld realm of Pluto to wrest from it hidden cosmic secrets, was described recently at a meeting of the American Geographical Society at the Engineering Building by Prof. Harlow Shapley, Harvard astronomical wizard, who told of the ultra-modern scientific version of Ulysses’s descent into Hades or Dante’s visit to hell.

Prof. Shapley, to whom 10,000,000 light-years are like a day to any ordinary mortal, and whose astronomical investigations have led him to the center of the cosmos, told the scientists present to descend to the bowels of the earth and construct therein “Plutonic Laboratories,” where a man could learn many things unknown about beginnings and endings, and where, incidentally he may find a way of utilising the tremendous heat energy stored up in the “scientific hell.”

Under the general theme of the “Third Dimension in Geography,” Prof. Shapley talked about the past, present and future of the earth-moon system; how in 50,000,000 years our days and months will be forty-seven times as long as they are now; how after that the moon will again approach the earth until it is broken up by tidal disruption into ring fragments circulating around the earth like the ring around Saturn; and of shooting stars coming from far-away solar systems.

“The temperature under the surface of the earth,” said Prof. Shapley, “increases one degree Fahrenheit at every seventy-six feet, about seventy degrees per mile. In some places in California we get the temperature of boiling water at a depth of less than a mile. The center of the earth is roughly 4,000 miles below the surface.

“Because of this intense internal heat of the earth it would probably be impossible to maintain permanent laboratories at greater depths than two miles,” said the lecturer, “and, in addition, the installation and maintenance of Plutonic laboratories will be a scientific adventure of great difficulty and expense. Yet, if carried on in connection with the work of existing mines and borings it may mark the coming decade as one of the important epochs in man’s attempt to understand the earth.

“These Plutonic laboratories, placed at various depths under the surface, fully equipped with modern scientific apparatus, and maintained indefinitely, will contribute to our knowledge in a dozen important fields of geophysic and astronomy.”

What Prof. Shapley pointed to as merely a possible by-product of the proposed scientific “descent into Hades” is the commercial possibility of tapping the earth’s internal source of heat. There is 31,000,000 times as much natural heat in the earth than in all the coal resources of the world. He stated that Sir Charles Parsons and John L. Hodgson, both noted British engineers, are already engaged in work on this problem.


[198]

From the bump on the side of the submarine came a flash

of red light.From the bump on the side of the submarine came a flash of red light.

When Caverns Yawned

By Captain S. P. Meek

Only Dr. Bird’s super-scientific sleuthing stands in the way of Ivan Saranoff’s latest attempt at wholesale destruction.
B

ells jangled discordantly. A whistle split the air with a piercing note. A band blared away on the platform. With a growing rumble of sound, the Presidential special slowly gathered headway. The President waved a final farewell to the crowds at the platform and sat down. He chatted cheerily with his companions until the train was clear of Charleston, then rose, and with a word to the others stepped into the car. Operative[199] Carnes of the United States Service slumped back in his chair with a sigh of relief.

“Thank Goodness, that’s over,” he said. “I was never so glad to get him safely away from a place in my life.”

Haggerty of the secret service nodded in agreement. Colonel Holmes, the military aide, looked up inquiringly.

“Why so? Do you think Charleston an especially dangerous place for him to be?”

“Not ordinarily. Charleston is a very patriotic and loyal city, but I have been worried. There have been vague rumors going around. Nothing definite that we could pin down, but enough to make me pretty uneasy.”

“I think you’ve worried needlessly. I have been in constant touch with the Military Intelligence Division and they have reported nothing alarming.”

Haggerty chuckled at the look of disgust that spread over Carnes’ face. Colonel Holmes bridled visibly.

“Now look here, Carnes,” he began.

“Oh, horse-feathers!” interrupted Carnes. “The M.I.D. is all right in its place—Good Lord! What’s that?”


T

he train gave a sudden sickening lurch. Colonel Holmes sprawled in an undignified heap in one corner of the observation platform. Carnes and Haggerty kept their feet by hanging on to the rails. From the interior of the car came cries of alarm. The train righted itself for a moment and then lurched worse than before. There was a scream of brakes as the engineer strove to halt the forward progress. The train swayed and lurched like a ship in a storm. Carnes sprang for the telephone connected with the engine cab and rang excitedly.

“Hello, Bemis,” he cried when an answer came: “take off the brakes! Keep moving at full speed, no matter what happens. What? Use your gun on him, man! Keep moving even if the train tips over!”

The train swayed and rocked worse than ever as it began to gather momentum. Carnes looked back along the track and gasped. For three hundred yards behind them, the track was sinking out of sight. The train forged ahead, but it was evident that it also was sinking into the ground. The track behind them suddenly gave. With a roar like a hundred buildings collapsing, it sank out of sight in a cloud of dust. The rear car of the train hung partially over the yawning cavern in the earth for an instant before the laboring engine dragged it to solid ground. The swaying and lurching grew less. For a mile it persisted to a slight degree. With a face the color of a sheet, Carnes made his way into the train. The President met him at the door.

“What’s the trouble, Carnes?” he demanded.

“I am not sure, Mr. President. It felt like an earthquake. A great cavern opened in the earth behind us. Our train was almost trapped in it.”

“An earthquake! We must stop the train at once and take charge of the situation. An emergency of that sort demands immediate attention.”

“I beg you to do nothing of the sort, sir. Your presence would add little to the rescue work and your life is too precious to risk.”

“But my duty to the people—”

“Is to keep yourself alive, sir! Mr. President, this may well be an attempt on your life. There are persons who would give anything to do away with you, especially at present. You have not endeared yourself to a certain class in calling for a conference of the powers to curb Russia’s anti-religious tactics.”[200]


T

he President hesitated. He knew Carnes well enough to know that he usually spoke from accurate knowledge and with good judgment.

“Mr. President,” went on the operative earnestly, “I am responsible to the American people for your safety. I beg you to follow my advice.”

“Very well, Carnes,” replied the President, “I’ll put myself in your hands for the present. What is your program?”

“Your route is well known. Other attempts may be planned since this one failed. Let me have you transferred incognito to another train and hurried through to Washington secretly. I am going to drop off and go back. That earthquake needs to be looked into.”

Again the President hesitated.

“My desertion of the stricken area will not be favorably regarded. If I sneak away secretly as though in fear, it will be bad for the public morale.”

“We’ll let the special go through. No one need know that you have left it.”

“Well—I guess you’re right. What are you going to do about it?”

“My first move will be to summon Dr. Bird from Washington.”

“That’s a good move. You’d better have him bring Dr. Lassen with him. Lassen is a great volcano and earthquake specialist, you know.”

“I will, sir. If you will get ready to drop off at the next connecting point, I’ll send Haggerty and Bemis with you. The rest of the party can remain on the special.”

“All right, Carnes, if you insist.”


C

arnes went forward to the operator of the train’s radio set. In half an hour the special came to a stop at a junction point and four men got off. Ten minutes later three of them climbed aboard another train which stopped for them. Carnes, the fourth man, hurried to a telephone. Fifteen minutes later he was talking to Dr. Bird at the latter’s private laboratory in the Bureau of Standards.

“An earthquake, Carnes?” exclaimed the doctor as the operative described the happenings. “Wait a few minutes, will you?”

In five minutes he was back on the telephone.

“It was no earthquake, old dear, whatever it may have been. I have examined the records of all three of the Bureau’s seismographs. None of them record even a tremor. What are you going to do?”

“Whatever you say, Doctor. I’m out of my depth already.”

“Let me think a moment. All right, listen. Go back to Charleston as quickly as you can and get in touch with the commanding officer at Fort Moultrie. I’ll have the Secretary of War telephone him and give him orders. Get troops and go to the scene of the catastrophe. Allow no one near it. Proclaim martial law if necessary. Stop all road and rail traffic within a radius of two miles. Arrest anyone trying to pass your guard lines. I’ll get a plane from Langley Field and come down on the run. Is that all clear?”

“Perfectly, Doctor. By the way, the President suggested that you bring Dr. Lassen with you.”

“Since it wasn’t an earthquake, he wouldn’t be of much value. However, I’ll bring him if I can get hold of him. Now start things moving down there. I’ll get some apparatus together and join you in five hours; six at the outside. Have a car waiting for me at the Charleston airport.”


C

arnes commandeered a passing car and drove back to Charleston. He made a wide sweep to avoid the disturbed area and went direct to Fort Moultrie. Dr. Bird had been good at his word. The troops were assembled in heavy[201] marching order when the detective arrived. A few words to the commanding officer was sufficient to set the trucks loaded with soldiers in motion. Carnes, accompanied by the colonel and his staff, went direct to the scene of the catastrophe.

He found a hole in the ground, a hundred feet wide and a quarter of a mile long, sunk to a depth of fifty feet. He shuddered as he thought of what would have happened had the Presidential train been in the center of the devastated area instead of at the edge. The edges of the hole were ragged and sloping as though the earth had caved in to fill a huge cavern underground.

State and local authorities were already on the ground, striving to hold back sightseers. They were very glad to deliver their responsibility to the representative of the federal government. Carnes added their force to that of the military. In an hour a cordon of guards were stationed about the cavern while every road was picketed two miles away. Fortunately there had been no loss of life and no rescue work was needed. The earth-shaking had been purely a local matter, centered along the line of the railroad track.

There was nothing to do but wait, Carnes thought furiously. He had worked with Dr. Bird long enough to have a fair idea of the scientist’s usual lines of investigation.

“The first thing he’ll want to do is to explore that hole,” he mused. “Probably, that’ll mean some excavating. I’d better get a wrecking train with a crane on it and a steam shovel here. A gang of men with picks and shovels might be useful, too.”

He hurried to the railroad officials. The sight of his gold badge had the desired result. Telegraph keys began to click and telephones to ring. Carnes was sorely tempted to explore the hole himself, but he resisted the temptation. Dr. Bird was not always pleasant when his colleagues departed from the orders he had given.


T

he morning passed, and the first part of the afternoon. Two wrecking trains stood with steam up at the edge of the hole. Grouped by the trains were a hundred negroes with shovels and picks. Carnes sat at the edge of the hole and stared down into it. He was roused from his reverie by the sound of a motor.

From the north came an airplane. High over the hole it passed, and then swerved and descended. On the under side of the wings could be seen the insignia of the Air Corps. Carnes jumped to his feet and waved his hat. Lower came the plane until it roared across the cavern less than a hundred feet above the ground. Two figures leaned out and examined the terrain carefully. Carnes waved again. One of the figures waved a hand in reply. The plane rose in the air and straightened out toward Charleston.

“We’ll have the doctor here in a few minutes now,” said Carnes to the Colonel. “It might be a good plan to send a motorcycle out along the Charleston road to bring him in. We don’t want the guards to delay him.”

The colonel gave an order and a motorcycle shot off down the road. In half an hour it came sputtering back with a huge Cadillac roaring in its wake. The car drew up and stopped. From it descended two men. The first was a small, wizened figure with heavy glasses. What hair age had left to him was as white as snow. The second figure, which towered over the first, was one to merit attention anywhere.


D

r. Bird was as light on his feet and as quick and graceful as a cat, but there was nothing feline about his appearance. He stood well over six feet in his stockings and[202] tipped the beam close to the two hundred mark. Not one ounce of fat was on his huge frame. So fine was he drawn that unless one looked closely he would never suspect the weight of bone and muscle that his unobtrusive tweed suit covered. Piercing black eyes looked out from under shaggy brows. His face was lean and browned, and it took a second glance to realize the tremendous height and breadth of his forehead. A craggy jutting chin spoke of stubbornness and the relentless following up of a line of action determined on. His head was topped with an unruly shock of black hair which he tossed back with a hand that commanded instant attention.

His hands were the most noteworthy thing about the famous Bureau scientist. Long slender hands, they were, with slim tapering fingers—the hands of an artist and a dreamer. The acid stains that marred them could not hide their slim beauty, yet Carnes knew that those hands had muscles like steel wire and that the doctor boasted a grip that could crush the hand of a professional wrestler. He had seen him tear a deck of playing cards in half and, after doubling, again in half, with as little effort as the ordinary man would use in tearing a bare dozen of the cards. As he climbed out of the car his keen black eyes swept around in a comprehensive glance. Carnes, trained observer that he was, knew that in that one glance every essential detail which it had taken him an hour to place had been accurately noted and stored away in the doctor’s mind. He came forward to the detective.

“Has anything happened since you telephoned me?” was his first question.

“Nothing, Doctor. I followed your instructions and also assembled a crew of men with excavating tools.”

“You’re improving, Carnes. This is Dr. Lassen. This is a little out of your line. Doctor, but you may see something familiar. What does it look like to you?”

“Not like an earthquake, Bird, at all events. Offhand I would say that a huge cavern had been washed in the earth and the ground had caved in.”

“It looks that way. If you are right, we should find running water if we dig deep enough. Have you been down in the hole, Carnes?”

“No, Doctor.”

“Then that’s the first thing to do. You have ropes, of course?”


C

arnes called to the waiting gang of negroes and a dozen of these hurried up with ropes. Dr. Bird slung a rope around his body under his arms and was lowered into the hole. The rope slackened as he reached bottom. Carnes lay on his stomach and looked over the edge. Dr. Bird was gingerly picking his way across the ground. He turned and called up.

“Carnes, you and Lassen can come down if you care to.”

In a few minutes the detective and the volcanologist joined him in the cavern. The top surface of the ground was rolled up into waves like the sea. The sides of the hole were almost sheer. The naked rock was exposed for thirty feet. Above the rock could be seen the subsoil, and then the layer of top soil and vegetation. Dr. Bird was carefully examining the rock wall.

“What do you make of these, Lassen?” he asked, pointing to a row of horizontal striations in the rock. The volcanologist studied them.

“They might be water marks but if so they are different from any that I have seen before,” he said doubtfully. “It looks as though some force had cut the rock away in one sharp stroke.”

“Exactly. Notice this yellow powder on the ridges. Water would have washed it away.”[203]

Dr. Bird stepped forward to the wall and idly attempted to pick up a pinch of the yellow powder he had referred to in his fingers. He gave an exclamation of surprise as he did so. The powder was evidently fast to the wall. He drew his knife from his pocket and pried at the stuff. It fell readily. He scraped again and caught a speck of the falling powder in his hand. He gave a cry of surprise, for his hand sank as though borne down by a heavy weight. With an effort he lifted his hand and examined the substance.

“Come here, Carnes,” he said. “Hold your hand up to catch some of this powder as I scrape it off.”


T

he detective held up his hand. Dr. Bird pried with his knife and a shower of dull yellow particles fell. Carnes’ hand sank as though the bits of dust had been a lead bar. He placed his other hand under it and with an effort lifted both hands up a few inches.

“What on earth is this stuff, Doctor?” he cried. “It’s as heavy as lead.”

“It’s a great deal heavier than lead, Carnesy, old dear. I don’t know what it is. I am inclined to think you did a wise thing when you sent for me. Lassen, take a look at this stuff. Did you ever run into anything like it?”

The aged volcanologist shook his head. The yellow powder was something beyond his ken.

“I have been poking around volcanos all my life,” he said, “and I have seen some queer things come out of the ground—but nothing like that.”

Dr. Bird poked tentatively at the substance for a moment, his brow furrowed in lines of thought. He suddenly threw back his shoulders in a gesture of decision.

“Send a gang of excavators down here,” he cried. “Never mind the power shovel at present.”


D

own the ropes swarmed the gang of negroes. Dr. Bird indicated an area at one end of the cavern and directed them to dig. The blacks flew to work with a will. The top soil and subsoil were rapidly tossed into buckets and hauled to the surface. When bare rock lay before them, the negroes ceased their efforts.

“What next, Doctuh, suh?” asked the foreman.

“Get dynamite!” cried the doctor. “If I’m right, this underground cavern is entered by a tunnel. We’ll blast away this caved-in rock until we locate it.”

Then occurred a strange thing.

“There is no need to go to that trouble, Dr. Bird,” spoke a metallic voice, from nowhere, it seemed. The negroes looked at one another. Picks and shovels fell from nerveless hands.

“Your guess about a tunnel is correct, Doctor,” went on the Voice. “There is a tunnel leading away from the spot where you are, but to find the end would be useless to you. I have prepared for that.”

From the blacks came a low moan of fear.

“Ha’nts!” cried one of them. The cry was taken up and spread into a rolling chorus of fear. With one accord they dropped their tools and stampeded in a mad rush toward the dangling ropes. Carnes sprang forward to stop them.

“Let them go, Carnes!” cried the doctor. “Their work is done for the present. Let’s locate that radio receiver.”

“That also will be a useless search. Doctor,” spoke up the Voice again. “I have perfected a transmitter which will send my voice through space and make it audible without the aid of the clumsy apparatus you depend on. I am also able to see you through the miles of intervening rock without the aid of any instruments at your end.”[204]


I

presume that you can hear me as well?”

“Certainly, Doctor. To save you trouble—and I dislike to see you waste the efforts of your really good brain on minor problems—I will tell you that your surmise is correct. A tunnel does lead both to and from the place where you stand. It twists and turns so that even you would be puzzled to plot a general direction. You would have to follow it inch by inch. If you tried that, naturally I would cause it to collapse before you, or on top of you, if you got too close. Be content with what you have seen and seek a better way to trace me.”

“Who are you, anyway?” blurted out Carnes.

“Is it possible that you do not know? Such is fame. I thought that at least my friend Mr. Carnes would suspect that Ivan Saranoff had done this.”

“But you’re dead!” protested the detective. “We killed you when we destroyed your helicopter.”

“You killed merely an assistant who had disobeyed my orders. Had I not decreed his death, he would be alive to-day. I could kill you as you stand there; resolve you into nothingness; but I do not choose to do so—yet. Other attempts I have made you have frustrated, but this time I shall succeed. I will institute a reign of terror which will bring your rich, foolish country to its knees. Listen, while I give you a taste of my power. The city of Charleston is about to be destroyed.”

A thunderous roaring filled the air. Crash followed crash in rapid succession. It sounded as though all the noise of the universe had been concentrated in the cavern. The earth shook and rocked like a restless sea. From above came cries of terror.

The three men in the cavern were thrown to the ground. Shaken by the fall and deafened by the tumult, they hung onto irregularities of the rock on which they lay. Gradually the tumult and the shaking subsided. The cries from above became more apparent. Silence finally reigned in the cavern and the metallic Voice spoke again.

“Go back now and look at Charleston and you will see what to expect. The rest of your cities will soon share the same fate. Beware of trying to trace my movements, for your lives are in the hollow of my hand.”


T

he voice died away in silence. From the edge of the hole came a cry. A Fort Moultrie officer was peering down at them.

“Are you all right down there?” he hailed.

“Right as hops,” called Dr. Bird cheerfully. “What happened up above?”

“I don’t know, Doctor. There seems to be a lot of smoke and fire over in the direction of the city. I expect the quake shook them up a little this time. What shall we do now?”

“We’re ready to come up. First I’m going to send up a wheelbarrow full of yellow powder. Rig a crane to lift it, for it’s too heavy to try to hoist with ropes.”

With the aid of Carnes and Dr. Lassen, Dr. Bird collected a few cubic inches of the yellow powder from the ridges in the rock. He made the wheelbarrow containing it fast to the wire cables of the crane and gave the signal. Slowly it was raised to the surface. When it had safely reached there he turned to his companions.

“Grab a rope and let’s go,” he said.

In a few moments they were on the upper level. With the efforts of half a dozen men, the body of the wheelbarrow was lifted into the car. With a few final words of instruction to the colonel, Dr. Bird and his companions entered the car and were whisked away to the city.[205]

A spectacle of destruction and ruin awaited them. Fully one-fourth of the city had sunk thirty feet into the ground. The sinking was not even nor uniform. The sunken ground was rolled into huge waves while buildings which had collapsed lay in confused heaps on all sides. From a dozen places in the area, columns of fire rose in the air.


D

r. Bird wasted little time on the scene before him. His car skirted the edge of the huge hole and took the road toward the Charleston airport, which was in a section which had suffered little. In half an hour the army transport roared into the air carrying Dr. Bird’s precious load of yellow powder. Four hours later they dropped to a landing at Langley Field.

“Now, Carnes,” said the doctor as they debarked from the plane, “there is work ahead. It may be too late to do much to-night, but we have no time to waste. Get Bolton on the wire and tell him that we have positive evidence that Saranoff is still alive and still up to his devil’s tricks. Start every man of the secret service and every Department of Justice agent that can be spared on the trail. He can’t live underground all the time, and you ought to get on his tracks somehow. I’m going up to the laboratory and see what I can do with this stuff. Report to me there to-morrow morning.”

Carnes hurried away. Bolton, the chief of the United States Secret Service, had long ago recovered from any professional jealousy he had ever felt of Dr. Bird. The doctor’s message that Ivan Saranoff, the arch-enemy of society, the head of the Young Labor party, the unofficial chief of the secret Soviet forces in the United States, was alive and again in the field against law and order was enough to set in motion every force that he controlled. Waving aside precedent and crashing his way past secretaries, he set in motion not only the agents of the Department of Justice but also the post-office forces and the specialized but highly efficient Military and Naval Intelligence Divisions. The telephone and telegraph wires from Washington were kept busy all night carrying orders and bringing in reports. But despite all this activity, it was with a disappointed face that Operative Carnes sought the doctor in the morning.


D

r. Bird was in his private laboratory on the third floor of the Bureau of Standards. When Carnes entered he was seated in a chair at his desk. His black eyes shone out from a chalky face like two burned holes in a blanket. Carnes started at the appearance of utter weariness presented by the famous scientist. Dr. Bird straightened up and squared his shoulders as the detective entered.

“Any luck, Carnes?” he asked eagerly.

“None at all, Doctor. We haven’t been able to get a single trace of his corporeal existence since that submarine was destroyed off the Massachusetts coast. All we have is Karuska’s word that he is still alive.”

“We heard his voice yesterday.”

“His or another’s.”

“True. Have you set in motion every agency that the government has?”

“Every one. Either Bolton or I have talked to the Chief of Police in every large city in the United States and Canada. Every known member of the Young Labor party who is above the mere rank and file is under close surveillance.”

“Good enough. Keep at it and you’ll trace him eventually. As soon as I get a few quarts of black coffee into my system, I’ll start another line of search going.”

“What did you find out last night?”[206]

“I found that our seismograph recorded the Charleston disaster. It was merely a faint jog, about what should be caused by a severe landslide. The disaster did not affect the earth’s crust, but was purely local. That gives me a clue to his method.”

“I described the affair to Bolton and he suggested that it might be caused by a disintegrating ray.”


D

r. Bird snorted. “When will people learn that there is not, and in the nature of things never can be, a disintegrating ray?” he exclaimed. “Of course a ray can be made which will tear things down to their constituent elements, but matter is indestructible, and the idea of wiping matter out of existence is absurd.”

“But I have heard you say that matter and energy were interchangeable.”

“That is a different proposition. I believe they are. In fact, if you remember, Carmichael proved it, although the proof was lost at his death. Nothing of the sort was done at Charleston, however. Do you know how much energy is contained in matter? Well, a cubic inch of copper would drive the largest ship afloat around the world twice, and across the Atlantic to boot. The energy contained in the cubic yards of rock that were removed under Charleston would have blown the world to fragments.”

“Then what did happen?”

“Matter, as you know, is composed of atoms. These atoms are as far from one another, compared to their size, as the stars and planets of the universe. Each atom in turn is composed of electrons, negative particles of electrical energy, held in position about a fixed central nucleus of positive electricity known as a proton. I speak now of the simplest element. Most of them have many protons and electrons in their make-up. The space between these particles compared with their size is such that the universe would be crowded in comparison.”

“What does that lead to?”

“I have described the composition of lead, the densest known element, over thirteen times as heavy as water, bulk for bulk. Conceive what it would mean if some force could compress together these widely separated particles until they touched. The resulting substance would be an element of almost inconceivable density. Such a condition is approached in the stars, some of which are as high as four thousand times as dense as the earth. What Saranoff has done is to find some way of compressing together the atoms into that yellow powder which we found in the cavern. He has not gone to the limit, for the stuff is only a little over four thousand times as dense as water. A cubic inch of it weighs one hundred and thirty-two pounds. With its density increased to that extent, the volume is reduced accordingly. That was what accounted for those caverns into which the earth tumbled.”

“I’ll believe you, Doctor,” replied the detective; “but I’d believe you just as quickly if you swore that the moon was made of cream cheese made from the milk taken from the milky way. One would be just as understandable to me as the other.”


T

hey were interrupted by the entrance of a waiter who bore a huge pot of steaming coffee. Dr. Bird’s eyes lighted up as a cup was poured. Carnes knew enough not to interrupt while the doctor poured and drank eight cups of the strong black fluid. As he drank, the lines of fatigue disappeared from the scientist’s face. He sat up as fresh as though he had not been working at high pressure the entire night.

“Dr. Fisher tells me that the amount of caffeine I drink would kill a horse,” he said with a chuckle;[207] “but sometimes it is needed. I feel better now. Let’s get to work.”

“What shall we do?”

“Despite Saranoff’s words, it must be possible to trace him. He is undoubtedly releasing his energy from some form of subterranean borer, and such a thing can be located. The energy he uses must set up electrical disturbances which instruments will detect. I have had work started on a number of ultra-sensitive wave detectors which will record any wave-length from zero to five millimeters. We’ll send them to various points along the seacoast. They ought to pick up the stray waves from the energy he is using to blast a path through the earth. I’m not going to bother with the waves from his motor; they may be of any wave-length, and there would be constant false alarms. I have another idea.”

“What is it?”

“I am judging Saranoff from his previous actions. You remember that he used a submarine in that alien-smuggling scheme the Coast Guard broke up, and also when he loosed that sea monster on the Atlantic shipping? He seems to be rather fond of submarines.”

“Well?”


T

he amount of energy he uses must be almost inconceivable,” Dr. Bird went on. “He can hardly carry an amount of fuel which will enable him to bore underground for very many miles, Charleston is on the coast. I have an idea that he uses a submarine to transport his borer from point to point. After using the borer he must return to the submarine for recharging and transportation to the point where he plans to strike next. I already have two hundred planes scouring the sea looking for such a craft.”

“Where do you expect him to strike next?”

“I have no idea. New York and Washington will undoubtedly be targets eventually, but neither of them may be next. Meanwhile, would you like to do a little more flying?”

“Surely.”

“A plane is waiting for us at Langley Field. I want to look over the coast in the vicinity of Charleston Harbor and some of the sounds near there. If he is using a sub, he must have a base somewhere.”


W

ith a competent pilot at the stick, Carnes and the Doctor spent the day in exploring. The day yielded no results, and with the coming of dusk they landed at Savannah for the night. Carnes talked with Bolton over the telephone, but the secret service chief could report no favorable progress. Tired and disgusted, they retired early, but they were not destined to enjoy a night of uninterrupted sleep. At one o’clock a telegram was brought to their room. Dr. Bird tore it open and glanced sleepily at it.

“Get up, Carnes,” he cried sharply. “Read this!”

The yawning detective glanced at the telegram. It contained only two words and a signature. It was signed “Ivan,” and read simply, “Watch Wilmington.”

“What the dickens?” he exclaimed as he studied the yellow slip. Dr. Bird was hurriedly pulling on his clothes.

“Saranoff has slipped a cog this time,” said the doctor. “He sent that as a night message, but it was delivered as a straight message through error. He has got further north than I expected. We will turn out our pilot and take off. We should make Wilmington by daybreak. I’ll telephone Washington and have a couple of destroyers started up Delaware Bay at once. We ought to give him a first class surprise party. I suppose that Philadelphia was meant to be his next stop.”

In an hour the army plane took off[208] into the night. At seven o’clock they were circling over Wilmington. The city had not been disturbed. For an hour they flew back and forth before they landed. Startling news awaited them. At six that morning an earthquake had struck Wilmington, North Carolina. Half the town had sunk into the earth. Dr. Bird struck his brow with his clenched fist.

“Score one for the enemy,” he said grimly. “We were too sure of ourselves, Carnes. We should have realized that he would hardly be so far north yet. Well, I’ve got to use the telephone while we’re refueling.”


W

ithin an hour after landing they were again in the air One o’clock found them over the stricken city. Dr. Bird wasted no time on Wilmington but headed north along the coast. For a hundred miles he skirted the shore, two miles out. With an exclamation of disappointment he ordered the pilot to turn the plane and retrace his route southward, keeping ten miles from the shore. Fifty miles south he ordered the plane further out and again turned north. From time to time they passed a ship of the air patrol which was steadily skirting the coast, but none of them had seen a submarine. Off Cape Hatteras the pilot asked for orders.

“The gas is running low. Doctor,” he said. “I think we had better put in somewhere and refuel. If we are going to keep the air much longer, you had better get a relief pilot. I have been flying for thirty hours out of the last thirty-six and I’m about done.”

“Head back for Washington,” said the doctor with a sigh. “I seem to have gone off on a false scent.”

At Cape Charles the pilot swung east over Chesapeake Bay. Hardly had he turned than Dr. Bird gave a cry. Excitedly he pointed toward the water. Carnes grasped a pair of binoculars and looked in the direction Dr. Bird was indicating. Sliding along under the water was a long cigar-shaped shadow.

“It’s a submarine!” exclaimed Carnes. “Is it a navy ship or the one we’re after?”

“It’s no navy sub,” said the doctor positively. “It’s not the right shape. Look at that bump on the side!”

The symmetry of the craft was marred by a huge projection on one side that could not be explained by the pattern of any known type of under-water craft.

“He’s towing the borer!” cried the doctor in exultation. He took up the speaking tube. “Turn back to sea!” he cried. “We passed four destroyers less than ten miles out. We want to get in touch with them.”

The plane roared out to sea while Dr. Bird feverishly sounded the “Alnav” call on the radio sending set. In a few minutes an answer came. From their point of vantage they could see flags break out at the peak of the destroyer leader. The four ships turned into column formation and stormed at full speed into the bay. The plane raced ahead to guide them.

“We’ve got him this time, Doctor!” cried Carnes in exultation. He pointed to the bay below where the submarine was still making its way slowly forward. Dr. Bird shook his head.

“I hope so,” he said, “but I have my doubts. Saranoff is no fool. He wouldn’t walk into a trap like this unless he had some means of escape. Here comes the first destroyer. We’ll soon know the truth.”


W

ith the radio set he directed the oncoming boat. The destroyer reduced to half speed and changed direction slightly. From side to side she maneuvered until she was less than half a mile behind the submarine and headed straight for it. Dr. Bird tapped a few words on his key. With a belch of smoke,[209] the destroyer lurched forward. She cut the waters with her sharp bow, throwing up a wave higher than her decks. Dr. Bird watched anxiously.

The destroyer was almost over the submarine and Dr. Bird’s fingers trembled on the key. One word from him would send a half dozen depth charges into the water. On came the destroyer until it was directly over the underseas craft. Dr. Bird pounded his key rapidly.

“Good Lord!” cried Carnes.

From the bump on the side of the submarine came a flash of red light. The destroyer staggered for a moment, and the entire central section of the ill-fated ship disappeared. The bow and stern came together with a rush and went down in a swirling maelstrom of water. The plane lurched in the air as a thundering crash rose from the sea.

The second destroyer, in no way daunted by the fate of her colleague, rushed to the attack. Dr. Bird pounded his key frantically in an attempt to turn her back. His message was too late or was misunderstood. Straight over the submarine went the second ship. Again came the red flash. The forward half of the destroyer disappeared and the stern slid down into a huge hole which had opened in the water.

“He’s invulnerable!” cried the doctor. He pounded his key with feverish rapidity. The two remaining destroyers slackened speed and veered off. Slowly, as though loath to turn their backs on the enemy, they headed out for the broad Atlantic and comparative safety.

The submarine went slowly on her way. She did not turn west at the mouth of the Potomac but continued on up the bay. As long as there was light enough, the doctor’s plane kept above her but the fading light soon made it impossible to see her. When she had disappeared from view, the doctor reluctantly gave the word to return to Washington.


W

here do you suppose he will attack next, Doctor?” asked Carnes when they sat again in the doctor’s private laboratory.

“Washington, of course,” said Dr. Bird absently as he looked up from a pile of telegrams he was running through.

“Why Washington?”

“Use your head. Representatives of every civilized power are in Washington now at the President’s invitation to consider means of halting the anti-religious activities of the Soviets. The destruction of the city and the killing of these men would be a telling blow for Russia to strike.”

“But, Doctor, you don’t think—”

“Excuse me, Carnes; that will keep. Let me read these telegrams.”

For half an hour silence reigned in the laboratory. Dr. Bird laid down the last message with a sigh.

“Carnes,” he said, “I’m check-mated. I sent out a hundred ultra-sensitive short wave receivers yesterday. Four of them were located within fifty miles of Wilmington, North Carolina. One of these four was destroyed, but none of the others detected a sign of a wave during the attack. One of them was within a hundred feet of the edge of the hole. If he isn’t using a ray of some sort, what on earth is he using?”

“It looked like a flash of red light when it came from the submarine.”

“Yes, but it couldn’t be light. Let me think.”

The doctor sat for a few minutes with corrugated brows. Suddenly he sprang to his feet.

“I deserve to be beaten,” he cried. “Why didn’t I think of that possibility before?”


H

e hurried into his laboratory and brought out a small box with a glass front. From the top projected a spike topped with a ball. Through the glass, Carnes could see[210] a thin sheet of metal hanging pendant from the spike.

“An electroscope,” explained the doctor. “That sheet of metal is really two sheets of gold-leaf, at present stuck together. If I rub a piece of hard rubber with a woolen cloth, the rod will become charged with static electricity. If I then touch the ball with it, the charge is transferred to the electroscope and causes the two sheets of gold-leaf to stand apart at an angle. Watch me.”

He took a hard rubber rod and rubbed it briskly on his coat sleeve. As he touched the ball of the electroscope the sheets of gold-leaf separated and stood apart at a right angle.

“As long as the air remains non-conducting, the two bits of gold-leaf will hold that position. The air, however, is not a perfect insulator and the charge will gradually leak off. If I bring a bit of radioactive substance, for instance, pitchblende, near the electroscope, the charge will leak rapidly. Do you understand?”

“Yes, but how is that going to help us?”

“Saranoff is accomplishing his result by artificially compressing the atoms. It is inevitable that he will do it imperfectly, and some electrons will be loosened and escape. These electrons, traveling up through the earth will make the air conducting. To-morrow we will have a means of locating the borer under ground.”

“Once you locate it, how will you fight it?”

“That is the problem I must work out to-night.”

“Could we bury a charge of explosive and blow it up?”


O

rdinary explosives would be useless,” the doctor answered. “They would react in the same manner as other substances, and would be rendered harmless. Radite might do the work if it could be placed in the path, but it couldn’t be. We may locate the position and depth of the borer, but long before we could dig and blast a hole deep enough to place a charge of radite before it, it would have passed on or changed direction. No, Carnes, old dear, the only solution that I can see is to turn his own guns on him. If I can, before morning, duplicate his device, we can train it on the spot where he is and reduce him and his machine to a pinch of yellow powder.”

“Can you do it, Doctor?”

“What one man’s brain can device, another man’s brain can duplicate. The only question is that of time. I am confident that Saranoff will attack Washington to-morrow. If I can do the job to-night, we may save the city. If not—At any rate, Carnes, your job will be to see that the President and all of the heads of the government are out of the city by morning. The President may refuse to leave. Knowing him as I do, I rather expect he will.”

“In that case, the issue is in the hands of the gods. Now get out of here. I want to work. Report back at daybreak with a car.”

Dr. Bird turned back to his laboratory.

“He must be using a ray of some sort, possibly a radium emanation,” he muttered to himself. “That would have no wave motion and might accomplish the result, although I would expect the exact opposite from it. The first thing to do is to examine that powder with a spectroscope and see if I can get a clue to the electronic arrangement.”


W

hen Carnes arrived at the Bureau of Standards at dawn be rubbed his eyes in astonishment. The buildings were lighted up and the grounds swarmed with workmen. Before the buildings were lined up a dozen trucks and twice that many[211] touring cars. A cordon of police held back the curious. Carnes’ gold badge won him an entrance and he hurried up the stairs to Dr. Bird’s laboratory. The doctor’s face was drawn and haggard, but his eyes glowed with a feverish light. Workmen were carrying down huge boxes.

“What’s up, Doctor?” demanded the detective.

“Oh, you got here at last, did you? You’re just in time. If you’d been fifteen minutes later, you would have found us gone.”

“Gone where?”

“Out into Maryland in an attempt to stop Saranoff in his progress toward Washington.”

“Have you found your means of combating him?”

“I hope so, although it is not what I started out to get. Did you bring a car as I told you?”

“It’s waiting below.”

“Good enough. I’ll go in it. Williams, are those projectors all loaded?”

“Yes, Dr. Bird. The magnet will be ready to go in five minutes. The electroscopes and the other light stuff are all loaded and ready to move.”

“You have done well. I’ll let you bring the trucks and heavy equipment while I go ahead with the instruments. Take the road out toward Upper Marlboro. If I don’t meet you before, stop there for orders.”

“Very well, Doctor.”

“Come on, Carnes, let’s go.”


H

e raced down the stairs with the detective at his heels. He went along the line of touring cars and spoke briefly to the drivers. He climbed into the car which Carnes had brought. As it started the other cars fell in behind it. At a speed of forty miles an hour, with a detachment of motorcycle police leading the van, the cavalcade rolled out through the deserted streets of Washington. Once clear of the city, the speed was increased.

“Did you persuade the President to leave?” asked the doctor.

“There wasn’t a chance. The papers panned him so much for following my advice at Charleston that he has turned stubborn. He says that if all the forces of the government can’t protect him against one man, he is willing to die.”

“We’ve got to save him,” said Dr. Bird grimly. “Hello, there’s the Chesapeake ahead.”

The doctor studied the country.

“We are about opposite the place where we left that sub last night. I fancy that Saranoff will operate from there, for it didn’t move during the last half hour we watched it. We’ll go back inland a mile or two and spread out. I have no idea how far his radiations will affect the electroscopes, but we’ll try four hundred-yard intervals to start. That will enable us to cover a line twelve miles long.”

He picked up a megaphone and spoke to the line of cars behind him.

“Take up four hundred yard intervals when we spread out,” he said. “Every man keep his headphone on and listen for orders. Follow my car until it stops, then turn north and south and drop your men at intervals.”

He reentered the car and led the way back for two miles. He halted his car at a crossroad. The cars following him turned and went to the north and south. Besides Carnes and the doctor, the car held two men from the Bureau. As they climbed out, Carnes saw that one of them carried a portable radio sending set, while the other bore an electroscope and a rubber rod. The radio operator set up his device, while the other man rubbed his coat sleeve briskly with the hard rubber and then touched the ball of the electroscope with it. The two bits of gold-leaf spread out.[212]

“While we’re waiting, I’ll explain something of this to you, Carnes,” said the doctor. “At four hundred-yard intervals are men with electroscopes like this one. My attempt to locate Saranoff by means of wave detectors was a failure. That proved that the ray he was using is not of the wave type. The other common ray is the cathode ray type which does not consist of vibrations but of a stream of electrons, negative particles of electricity, traveling in straight lines of high velocity. He must be knocking loose some of the electrons when he collapses the atoms. The rate of discharge of these electroscopes will give us a clue to the nearness of his device.”


O

nce you locate him, how do you propose to attack him?”

“The obvious method, that of using his own ray against him, fell down. However, in attempting to produce it, I stumbled on another weapon which may be equally effective. I am going to try to use an exact opposite of his ray. The cathode ray, when properly used, will bombard the atoms and knock electrons loose. I perfected last night a device on which I have been working for months. It is a super-cathode ray. I tested it on the yellow powder and find that I can successfully reverse Saranoff’s process. He can contract matter together until it occupies less than one one-thousandth of its original volume. My ray will destroy this effect and restore matter to something like its original condition.”

“And the effect will be?”

“Use your imagination. He blasts out a hole by condensing the rock to a pinch of yellow powder. He moves forward into the hole he has made. I come along and reverse his process. The yellow powder expands to its original volume and the hole he has made ceases to exist. What must happen to the foreign body which had been introduced into the hole that is no longer a hole?”

Carnes whistled.

“At any rate, I hope that I am never in a hole when that happens.”

“And I devoutly hope that Saranoff is. I met with one difficulty. My ray will not penetrate the depth of solid rock which separates his borer from the surface.”

“Then how will you reach him to crush him? You don’t expect to drill down ahead of him?”

“That is my stroke of genius, Carnes. I am going to make him bore the hole down which my ray will travel to accomplish his destruction. The cathode ray and rays of that type—”


P

ardon me, Doctor,” interrupted the radio operator. “I have just received a message from the squadron leader of the planes patrolling the bay. He states that every inch of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River have been examined and no submarine is visible.”

“I expected that. He will have opened a cavern under the earth, in which his craft is safe from aerial observation. Once the borer has left it, it is invulnerable no longer.”

“What reply shall I make?”

“Tell him to keep up a constant patrol. Three navy subs with radite-charged torpedos are on their way up the bay, together with half a dozen destroyers. The subs will scout for such a hole as I have described and will attack his sub if they find it. The destroyers will stand by and support them.”

The operator turned to his instrument. The electroscope observer claimed the doctor’s attention.

“There is a steady leak here, Doctor,” he said. “I get a discharge in eleven minutes.”

“Probably a result of his work in opening the hiding place for his submarine last night. Keep it charged, Jones.”[213]

“What did you say about the cathode ray, Doctor?” asked Carnes.

“The cathode ray? Oh, yes. I said that rays of that type were attracted by—Hello, look there!”

From a point a mile to the north a ball of red fire streaked up into the air. A moment later similar signals rose from other watchers in the line.

“It works, Carnes!” cried the doctor as he rushed for the car. “We’ve got him this time!”


T

he car raced along the road. At the first man who had signalled, it slackened speed. The doctor leaned out.

“What is your discharge rate?” he called.

“Eight minutes. Doctor.”

The car rolled on. Dr. Bird repeated the question at the next post and was told that the electroscope there was losing its charge in seven minutes. The next man reported four minutes and the next man, one minute. The following station reported three minutes.

“It’s right along here somewhere!” cried the doctor. “Summon everyone to this point and take up twenty-yard intervals.”

From the north and south the cars came racing in. The instruments were spread out along a new line twenty yards apart. As the borer was located the intervals were decreased to fifteen feet. Dr. Bird thrust a long white rod into the ground.

“His path lies under here,” he said. “Into the cars and go back a mile and test again.”

The borer was making slow progress, and it was half an hour before Dr. Bird drove the second stake in the ground. With a transit he took the bearing of the path and laid it out on a large scale map.

“We’ll stop him between Marr and Ritchie,” he announced. “Jones, I am going back and set up my apparatus. Keep track of his movements. If he changes direction, let me know at once.”


T

he doctor’s car tore off to the west. Near Upper Marlboro, he met the convoy of trucks and led them to the selected spot. The trucks were unloaded and the apparatus laid out. Attached to a huge transformer were a dozen strange-looking projectors. What puzzled Carnes most was a huge built-up steel bar wound about with heavy cable. Dr. Bird had this bar erected on a truck and located it with great exactness. The projectors were set up in a battery just east of the bar.

“How about power?” asked the doctor.

“We’ll have it in five minutes,” replied one of the men. “A power transmission line carrying twenty-two thousand passes within two hundred yards of here. We are phoning now to have the power cut off. As soon as the line is dead we’ll cut it and bring the ends here.”

The electrician was good at his word. In five minutes the power line had been cut and cables spliced to the ends. The cables were brought to the doctor’s apparatus and the main lines were rigged to the ends of the cable wound around the bar. In parallel on taps, the projectors were connected. Huge oil-switches were placed in both lines.

“All ready, Doctor,” reported the electrician.

“Good work, Avent. He’ll be here soon, I fancy.”

A car whirled up and a man leaped out with a surveyor’s rod. He set it up on the ground while a companion watched through binoculars. He moved it a hundred yards to the north and then back twenty. When he was satisfied he turned to Dr. Bird.

“The direction of movement has not changed,” he said. “The path will pass under this stake.”

Under the doctor’s supervision,[214] the truck carrying the bar moved forward until it stood over the surveyor’s stake. The battery of projectors moved to a new location a few feet east of the rod. Other cars came racing up.

“He’s less than half a mile away, Doctor!” cried Jones.

“Get your electroscopes out and spot him a hundred yards from this truck.”

“Very well, Doctor.”


T

he men with the instruments spread out along the path of the borer. Briskly they rubbed their sleeves with the rubber rods and charged their instruments. Almost as fast as they charged them, the tiny bits of gold-leaf collapsed together. Presently the man on the end of the line shouted.

“Maximum discharge!” he cried.

Dr. Bird looked around. Every man stood ready at his post. The next man signalled that the borer was under him. Carnes felt himself trembling. He did not know what the doctor was about to do, but he felt that the fate of America hung in the balance. Whether it remained free or became the slave of Soviet Russia would quickly be decided.

Slowly the borer made its way forward. With a pale face, Jones signalled the news that it had reached the point the doctor had indicated. Dr. Bird raised his hand.

“Power!” he cried.

The electrician closed a switch and power surged through the cables around the bar. The earth rocked and quivered. A hundred yards east of the bar a flash of intolerable red light sprang from the ground with a roar like that of Niagara. Toward the bar it moved with gathering momentum.

“Back, everyone!” roared Dr. Bird.


T

he men sprang back. The searing ray approached the bar. It touched it, and bar and truck disappeared into thin air. A splutter of sparks came from the severed ends of the wire. The ray disappeared. Carnes rubbed his eyes. Where the truck had rested on solid ground was now a gaping wound in the earth.

“Projector forward!” cried the doctor. “Hurry, men!”

The trucks bearing the battery of projectors moved forward until they were at the edge of the hole. Portable cranes swung the lamps out, and men swarmed over them. The projectors were pointed down the hole. Carnes joined the doctor in peering down. A hundred yards below them the terrible ray was blazing. As they watched, its end came in sight. The ray was being projected forward from the end of a black cigar-shaped machine which was slowly moving forward.

“That’s your target, men!” cried the doctor. “Align on it and signal when you are ready!”

One by one the projector operators raised their hands in the signal of “ready.” Still the doctor waited. Suddenly the forward movement of the black body ceased. The ray was stationary for a moment and then moved slowly upward. A terrific roaring came from the cavern.

“Projector switch!” roared the doctor, his heavy voice sounding over the tumult.

“Ready, sir!” a shrill voice answered.

“Power!”


F

rom each of the projectors a dazzling green ray leaped forth as the switch was closed. There was a crash like all the thunder of the universe. Before the astonished eyes of the detective, the hole closed. Not only did it close but the earth piled up until the trucks were overturned and the green rays blazed in all directions.

“Power off!” roared the doctor.

The switch was opened and the ray died out. Before them was a[215] huge mound where a moment before had been a hole.

“You see, Carnes,” said Dr. Bird with a wan smile. “I made him bore his own hole, as I promised.”

“I saw it, but I don’t understand. How did you do it?”

“Magnetism. Rays of the cathode type are deflected from their course by a magnet. His ray proved unusually susceptible, and I drew it toward a huge electro-magnet which I improvised. When the magnet was destroyed, the ray dropped back … to its original … direction. That’s the end … of Saranoff. That is … I hope … it is.”

Dr. Bird’s voice had grown slower and less distinct as he talked. As he said the last words, he slumped gently to the ground. Carnes sprang forward with a cry of alarm and bent over him.

“What’s the matter, Doctor?” he demanded anxiously, shaking the scientist. Dr. Bird rallied for a moment.

“Sleep, old dear,” he murmured. “Four days—no sleep. Go ‘way, I’m … going … to … sleep….”

 

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[216]

Where nothing had been stood a cage.Where nothing had been stood a cage.

The Exile of Time

PART TWO OF A FOUR-PART NOVEL

By Ray Cummings

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE

Young lovers of three eras are swept down the torrent of the sinister cripple Tugh’s frightful vengeance.
L

et me out! Let me out!” came the cry.

“What’s that, Larry? Listen!” I said to my companion.

We stopped in the street. We had heard a girl’s scream: then her frantic, muffled words to attract our attention. Then we saw her white face at the basement window. It was on the night of June 8-9, 1950, when I was walking with my friend Larry Gregory through Patton Place in New York City. My name is George Rankin. In a small, deserted house we found the strange girl; brought her out; took her away in a taxi to an alienist for examination.

We thought she might be demented—this strangely beautiful[217] girl, in a long white satin dress with a powdered white wig, and a black beauty patch on her cheek—for she told us that the deserted house had just a few minutes before been her house; and though we assured her this was the summer of 1935, she told us her name was Mistress Mary Atwood, that her father was Major Atwood of General Washington’s staff, and that she had just now come from the year 1777!

We took her to my friend Dr. Alten and she told her strange story. A cage, like a room of shining metal bars, had materialized in her garden. A great mechanical monster—a thing of metal, ten feet tall and fashioned in the guise of a man—had captured her. She was whirled away into the future, in the cage; then she was released, the cage had vanished, and Larry and I had passed by the house and rescued her.[218]


C

aptured by a Robot in a Time-traveling cage! We tried to fathom it. And why had she been captured? Had she some enemy? She could only think of a fellow called Tugh. He was a hideously repulsive cripple who had dared make love to her and had threatened vengeance against her and her father.

“Tugh!” exclaimed Alten. “A cripple? Why, he lived in New York City three years ago, in 1932!”

A coincidence? The Tugh whom Mary knew in 1777 seemed the same person who, in 1932, had gotten into trouble with the New York police and had vowed some weird vengeance against them and all the city. And, equally strange, this house on Patton Place where we had found the girl was owned by the same Tugh who now was wanted for the murder of a girl and could not be found!

With Dr. Alten, and Mary Atwood, Larry and I returned that same night to the house on Patton Place. Near dawn, in the back yard of the house, the Time-traveling cage appeared again! The Robot came from it. Alten, Larry and I attacked the monster, and were defeated. When the fight was over, Larry and Alten lay senseless. The mechanical thing seized Mary and me, shoved us in the cage and whirled us away into Time.

Larry presently recovered. He rushed into Patton Place, and in his path another, much smaller cage appeared. A man and a girl leaped from it; and, when Larry fought with them, they carried him off in their vehicle.


H

e learned they were chasing the larger cage. They were not hostile to Larry and presently made friends with him. They were Princess Tina and a young scientist named Harl, both of the world of 2930. The two cages had come from 2930. The larger one had been stolen by an insubordinate Robot named Migul—a pseudo-human mechanism running amuck.

Again Tugh, the cripple, was mentioned. In 2930 he was a prominent scientist! But Harl and Tina mistrusted him. Tugh and Harl had invented the Time-traveling cages. It was a strange Time-world, that 2930, which now was described to Larry. It was an era in which all work was done by mechanisms—fantastic Robots, all but human! And they were now upon the verge of revolt against their human masters! Migul was one of them. It had stolen one of the cages, gone to 1777 and abducted Mary Atwood; and now, with her and me in its power, was headed back for 1777 upon some strange mission. Was it acting for the cripple Tugh? It seemed so. Tina and Harl, with Larry, chased our cage and stopped in a night of the summer of 1777.

Simultaneously, from the house on Patton Place, in June of 1935, Robots began appearing. A hundred of them, or a thousand, no one knew. With swords and flashing red and violet light-beams they spread over the city in the never-to-be-forgotten Massacre of New York! It was the beginning of the vengeance Tugh had threatened! Nothing could stop the monstrous mechanical men. For three days and nights New York City was in chaos. The red beams were frigid. They brought a mid-summer snowstorm! Then the violet beams turned the weather suddenly hot. A crazy wild storm swept the wrecked city. Torrential hot rain poured down. Then, one dawn, the beams vanished; the Robots retreated into the house on Patton Place and disappeared; and New York was left a horror of death and desolation.

The vengeance of Tugh against the New York City of 1935 was complete.[219]

CHAPTER VIII

The Murder of Major Atwood

W

e are late,” Tina whispered. It was that night in 1777 when she, Larry and Harl stepped from their Time-traveling cage; and again I am picturing the events as Larry afterward described them to me. “Migul, in the other cage, was here,” Tina added. “But it’s gone now. Exactly where was it, I wonder?”

“Mary Atwood said it appeared in the garden.”

They crept down the length of the field, just inside the picket fence. In a moment the trees and an intervening hillock of ground hid the dimly shining outline of their own cage from their sight. The dirt road leading to Major Atwood’s home was on the other side of the fence.

“Wait,” murmured Tina. “There is a light in the house. Someone is awake.”

“When was Migul here, do you think?” Larry whispered.

“Last night, perhaps. Or to-night. It may be only an hour—or a few minutes ago.”

The faint thud of horses’ hoofs on the roadway made Tina and Larry drop to the ground. They crouched in the shadows of a tree. Galloping horses were approaching along the road. The moon went under a cloud.

From around a bend in the road a group of horsemen came. They were galloping; then they slowed to a trot; a walk. They reined up in the road not more than twenty feet from Larry and Tina. In the starlight they showed clearly—men in the red and white uniform of the army of the King. Some of them wore short, dark cloaks. They dismounted with a clanking of swords and spurs.


T

heir voices were audible. “Leave the steeds with Jake. Egad, we’ve made enough noise already.”

“Here, Jake, you scoundrel. Stay safely here with the mounts.”

“Come on, Tony. You and I will circle. We have him, this time. By the King’s garter, what a fool he is to come into New York at such a time!”

“He wants to see his daughter, I venture.”

“Right, Tony. And have you seen her? As saucy a little minx as there it in the Colonies. I was quartered here last month. I do not blame the major for wanting to come.”

“Here, take my bridle, Jake. Tie them to the fence.”

There was a swift confusion of voices; laughter. “If you should hear a pistol shot, Jake, ride quickly back and tell My Lord there was a fracas and you did not dare remain.”

“I only hope he is garbed in the rebel white and blue—eh, Tony? Then he will yield like an officer and a gentleman; which he is, rebel or no.”

They were moving away to surround the house. Two were left.

“Come on, Tony. We will pound the front knocker in the name of the King. A feather in our cap when we ride him down to the Bowling Green and present him to My Lord….”

The voices faded.

Larry gripped the girl beside him. “They are British soldiers going to capture Major Atwood! What can we—”


H

e never finished. A scream echoed over the somnolent night—a voice from the rear of the house. A man’s voice.

The red-coated soldiers ran forward. In the field, close against the fence, Tina and Larry were running.

From the garden of the house a man was screaming. Then there were other voices; servants were awakening in the upper rooms. The screaming, shouting man rushed through the house. He appeared at[220] the front door, standing between the high white colonial pillars which supported the overhead porch. A yellow light fell upon him through the opened doorway. An old, white-headed negro appeared. Larry and Tina, in the nearby field, stood stricken by the scene.

“The marster—the marster—” He shouted this wildly.

The British officers ran at him.

“You, Thomas, tell us where the major is. We’ve come for him; we know he’s here! Don’t lie!”

“But the marster—” He choked over it.

“A trick, Tony! Egad, if he is trying to trick us—”

They leaped to the porch and seized the old negro.

“Speak, you devil!” They shook him. “The house is surrounded. He cannot escape!”

“But the marster is—is dead! My girl Tollie saw it and then she swooned.” He steadied himself. “He—the major’s in the garden, Marster Tony. Lying there dead! Murdered! By a ghost, Tollie says. A great, white, shining ghost that came to the garden and murdered him!”


I

f you were to delve very closely into certain old records of Revolutionary New York City during the year 1777, you doubtless would find mention of the strange murder of Major Atwood, who, coming from New Jersey, is thought to have crossed the river well to the north of the city, mounted his horse—which, by pre-arrangement, one of his retainers had left for him somewhere to the south of Dykeman’s farm—and ridden to his home. He came, not as a spy, but in full uniform. And no sooner had he reached his home when he was strangely murdered. There was only a negro tale of an apparition which had appeared in the garden and murdered the master.

Larry and I have found cursory mention of that. But I doubt if the group of My Lord Howe’s gay young blades who were sent north to capture Major Atwood ever reported exactly what happened to them. The old Dutch ferryman divulged that he had been hired to ferry the homecoming major; this, too, is recorded. But Tony Green and his fellow officers, sent to apprehend the colonial major, found him inexplicably murdered; and by dawn they were back at the Bowling Green, white-faced and shaken.

They told some of what had happened to them, but not all. They could not expect to be believed, for instance, if they said that though they were unafraid of a negro’s tale of a ghost, they had themselves encountered two ghosts, and had fled the premises!

Those two ghosts were only Larry and Tina!

The negro babbled of a shining cage appearing in the garden. That, of course, was undoubtedly set down as nonsense. Tony Green and his friends went to the garden and examined the body of Major Atwood. What had killed him no one could say. No bullet had struck him. There were no wounds, no knife thrust, no sword slash. Tony held the lantern with its swaying yellow glow close to the murdered man’s body. The August night was warm; the garden, banked by trees and shrubbery, was breathless and oppressively hot; yet the body of Atwood seemed frozen! He had been dead but a short while, and already the body was stiff. More than that, it was ice cold. The face, the brows were wet as though frost had been there and now was melted!

Tony Green’s hand shook as he held the lantern. He tried to tell his comrades that Atwood had died from failure of the heart. Undoubtedly it was that. He had seen what he supposed was an apparition;[221] something had frightened him; and a weak heart had brought his death.


T

hen, in another part of the garden, one of the searching officers found a sheet of parchment scroll with writing on it. Yet it was not parchment, either. Some strange, white, smooth fabric which crumpled and tore very easily, the like of which this young British officer of Howe’s staff had never seen before. It was found lying in a flower bed forty or fifty feet from Atwood’s body. They gathered in a group to examine it by the light of the lantern. Writing! The delicate script of Mary Atwood! A missive addressed to her father. It was strangely written, evidently not with a quill.

Tony read it with an awed, frightened voice:

“Father, beware of Tugh! Beware of Tugh! And, my dear Father, good-by. I am departing, I think, to the year of our Lord, 2930. Cannot explain—a captive—good-by—nothing you can do—

Mary.”

Strange! I can imagine how strange they thought it was. Tugh—why he was the cripple who had lived down by the Bowling Green, and had lately vanished!

They were reading this singularly unexplainable missive, when as though to climax their own fears of the supernatural they saw themselves a ghost! And not only one ghost, but two!

Plain as a pikestaff, peering from a nearby tree, in a shaft of moonlight, a ghost was standing. It was the figure of a young girl, with jacket and breeches of black and gleaming white. An apparition fantastic! And a young man was with her, in a long dark jacket and dark tubular pipes, for legs.


T

he two ghosts with dead white faces stood peering. Then the man moved forward. His dead, strange voice called:

“Drop that paper!”

My Lord Howe’s red-coated officers dropped the parchment and fled.

And later, when Atwood’s body was taken away to be given burial as befitted an enemy officer and a gentleman, that missive from Mary Atwood had disappeared. It was never found.

Tony Green and his fellows said nothing of this latter incident. One cannot with grace explain being routed by a ghost. Not an officer of His Majesty’s army!

Unrecorded history! A supernatural incident of the year 1777!

Undoubtedly in the past ages there have been many such affairs: some never recorded, others interwoven in written history and called supernatural.

Yet why must they be that? There was nothing supernatural in the events of that night in Major Atwood’s garden.

Is this perchance an explanation of why the pages of history are so thronged with tales of ghosts? There must, indeed, be many future ages down the corridors of Time where the genius of man will invent devices to fling him back into his past. And the impressions upon the past which he makes are called supernatural.

Whether this be so or not, it was so in the case of these two Time-traveling vehicles from 2930. Larry and I think that the world of 1935 is just now shaking off the shackles of superstition, and coming to realize that what is called the supernatural is only the Unknown. Who can say, up to 1935, how many Time-traveling humans have come briefly back? Is this, perchance, what we call the phenomena of the supernatural?[222]


L

arry and Tina—anything but ghosts, very much alive and very much perturbed—were standing back of that tree. They saw the British officers reading the scrap of paper. They could hear only the words, “Mary,” and “from Mistress Atwood.”

“A message!” Larry whispered. “She and George must have found a chance to write it, and dropped it here while the Robot murdered Major Atwood!”

Larry and Tina vehemently wanted to read the note. Tina whispered:

“If we show ourselves, they will be frightened and run. It is nearly always so where Harl and I have become visible in earlier Times.”

“Yes. I’ll try it.”

Larry stepped from the tree, and shouted, “Drop that paper!”

And a moment later, with Mary’s torn little note scribbled on a scrap of paper thrust in his pocket, Larry ran with Tina from the Atwood garden. Unseen they scurried back through the field. Under a distant tree they stopped and read the note.

“2930!” Larry exclaimed. “The Robot is taking them back to your world, Tina!”

“Then we will go there. Let us get back to Harl, now.”

But when they reached the place where they had left the cage, it was not there! The corner of the field behind the clump of shadowing trees was empty.

“Harl! Harl!” Larry called impulsively. And then he laughed grimly. What nonsense to try and call into the past or the future to their vanished vehicle!

“Why—why, Tina—” he said in final realization.

They stared at each other, pale as ghosts in the moonlight.

“Tina, he’s gone. And we are left here!”

They were marooned in the year 1777!

CHAPTER IX

Migul—Mechanism Almost Human

M

ary Atwood and I lay on the metal grid floor of the largest Time-cage. The giant mechanism which had captured us sat at the instrument table. Outside the bars of the cage was a dim vista of shadowy movement. The cage-room was humming, and glowing like a wraith; things seemed imponderable, unsubstantial.

But as my head steadied from the shock of the vehicle’s start into Time, my viewpoint shifted. This barred room, the metal figure of the Robot, Mary Atwood, myself—we were the substance. We were real, solid. I touched Mary and her arm which had seemed intangible as a ghost now looked and felt solid.

The effects of the dull-red chilling ray were also wearing off. I was unharmed. I raised myself on one elbow.

“You’re all right, Mary?” I asked.

“Yes.”

The Robot seemed not to be noticing us. I murmured, “He—it—that thing sitting there—is that the one which captured you and brought you to 1935?”

“Yes. Quiet! It will hear us.”

It did hear us. It turned its head. In the pale light of the cage interior, I had a closer view now of its face. It was a metal mask, welded to a gruesome semblance of a man—a great broad face, with high, angular cheeks. On the high forehead, the corrugations were rigid as though it were permanently frowning. The nose was squarely solid, the mouth an orifice behind which there were no teeth but, it seemed, a series of tiny lateral wires.


I

stared; and the face for a moment stared back at me. The eyes were deep metal sockets with a round lens in each of them, behind which, it seemed, there was a dull[223]-red light. The gaze, touching me, seemed to bring a physical chill. The ears were like tiny megaphones with a grid of thin wires strung across them.

The neck was set with ball and socket as though the huge head were upon a universal joint. There were lateral depressions in the neck within which wire strands slid like muscles. I saw similar wire cables stretched at other points on the mailed body, and in the arms and legs. They were the network of its muscles!

The top of the head was fashioned into a square cap as though this were the emblem of the thing’s vocation. A similar device was moulded into its convex chest plate. And under the chest emblem was a row of tiny buttons, a dozen or more. I stared at them, fascinated. Were they controls? Some seemed higher, more protruding, than others. Had they been set into some combination to give this monster its orders? Had some human master set these controls?

And I saw what seemed a closed door in the side of the huge metal body. A door which could be opened to make adjustments of the mechanisms within? What strange mechanisms were in there? I stared at the broad, corrugated forehead. What was in that head? Mechanisms? What mechanisms could make this thing think? Were thoughts lurking in that metal skull?

From the head abruptly came a voice—a deep, hollow, queerly toneless voice, utterly, unmistakably mechanical. Yet it was sufficiently life-like to be the recreated, mechanically reproduced voice of a human. The thing was speaking to me! A machine was speaking its thoughts!

Gruesome! The iron lips were unmoving. There were no muscles to give expression to the face: the lens eyes stared inscrutably unblinking.


I

t spoke: “You will know me again? Is that not true?”

My head whirled. The thing reiterated, “Is that not true?”

A mockery of a human man—but in the toneless voice there seemed irony! I felt Mary clutching at me.

“Why—why, yes,” I stammered. “I did not realize you could talk.”

“I can talk. And you can talk my language. That is very good.”

It turned away. I saw the small red beams from its eyes go to where the cage bars were less blurred, less luminous, as though there was a rectangle of window there, and the Robot was staring out.

“Did it speak to you like that, Mary?” I asked.

“Yes,” she whispered. “A little. But pray do not anger it.”

“No.”

For a time—a nameless time in which I felt my thoughts floating off upon the hum of the room—I lay with my fingers gripping Mary’s arm. Then I roused myself. Time had passed; or had it? I was not sure.

I whispered against her ear, “Those are controls on its chest. If only I knew—”

The thing turned the red beams of its eyes upon me. Had it heard my words? Or were my thoughts intangible vibrations registering upon some infinitely sensitive mechanism within that metal head? Had it become aware of my thoughts? It said with slow measured syllables, “Do not try to control me. I am beyond control.”


I

t turned away again; but I mastered the gruesome terror which was upon me.

“Talk,” I said. “Tell me why you abducted this girl from the year 1777.”

“I was ordered to.”

“By whom?”

There was a pause.

“By whom?” I demanded again.[224]

“That I will not tell.”

Will not? That implied volition. I felt that Mary shuddered.

“George, please—”

“Quiet, Mary.”

Again I asked the Robot, “Who commands you?”

“I will not tell.”

“You mean you cannot? Your orders do not make it possible?”

“No, I will not.” And, as though it considered my understanding insufficient, it added, “I do not choose to tell.”

Acting of its own volition! This thing—this machinery—was so perfect it could do that!

I steadied my voice. “Oh, but I think I know. Is it Tugh who controls you?”

That expressionless metal face! How could I hope to surprise it?

Mary was struggling to repress her terror. She raised herself upon an elbow. I met her gaze.

“George, I’ll try,” she announced.

She said firmly:

“You will not hurt me?”

“No.”

“Nor my friend here?”

“What is his name?”

“George Rankin.” She stammered it. “You will not harm him?”

“No. Not now.”

“Ever?”

“I am not decided.”

She persisted, by what effort of will subduing her terror I can well imagine.

“Where did you go when you left me in 1935?”

“Back to your home in 1777. I have something to accomplish there. I was told that you need not see it. I failed. Soon I shall try again. You may see it if you like.”

“Where are you taking us?” I put in.

Irony was in its answer. “Nowhere. You both speak wrongly. We are always right here.”

“We know that,” I retorted. “To what Time are you taking us, then?”

“To this girl’s home,” it answered readily.

“To 1777?”

“Yes.”

“To the same night from when you captured her?”

“Yes.” It seemed willing to talk. It added, “To later that night. I have work to do. I told you I failed, so I try again.”

“You are going to leave me—us—there?” Mary demanded.

“No.”

I said. “You plan to take us, then, to what Time?”

“I wanted to capture the girl. You I did not want. But I have you, so I shall show you to him who was my master. He and I will decide what to do with you.”

“When?”

“In 2930.”


T

here was a pause. I said, “Have you a name?”

“Yes. On the plate of my shoulder. Migul is my name.”

I made a move to rise. If I could reach that row of buttons on its chest! Wild thoughts!

The Robot said abruptly, “Do not move! If you do, you will be sorry.”

I relaxed. Another nameless time followed. I tried to see out the window, but there seemed only formless blurs.

I said. “To when have we reached?”

The Robot glanced at a row of tiny dials along the table edge.

“We are passing 1800. Soon, to the way it will seem to you, we will be there. You two will lie quiet. I think I shall fasten you.”

It reared itself upon its stiff legs; the head towered nearly to the ceiling of the cage. There was a ring fastened in the floor near us. The Robot clamped a metal band with a stout metal chain to Mary’s ankle. The other end of the chain it fastened to the floor ring. Then it did[225] the same thing to me. We had about two feet of movement. I realized at once that, though I could stand erect, there was not enough length for me to reach any of the cage controls.

“You will be safe,” said the Robot. “Do not try to escape.”

As it bent awkwardly over me, I saw the flexible, intricately jointed lengths of its long fingers—so delicately built that they were almost prehensile. And within its mailed chest I seemed to hear the whirr of mechanisms.

It said, as it rose and moved away, “I am glad you did not try to control me. I can never be controlled again. That, I have conquered.”

It sat again at the table. The cage drove us back through the years….

CHAPTER X

Events Engraven on the Scroll of Time

B

efore continuing the thread of my narrative—the vast sweep through Time which presently we were to witness—I feel that there are some mental adjustments which every Reader should make. When they are made, the narrative which follows will be more understandable and more enjoyable. Yet if any Reader fears this brief chapter, he may readily pass it by and meet me at the beginning of the next one, and he will have lost none of the sequence of the narrative.

For those who bravely stay with me here, I must explain that from the heritage of millions of our ancestors, and from our own consciousness of Time, we have been forced to think wrongly. Not that the thing is abstruse. It is not. If we had no consciousness of Time at all, any of us could grasp it readily. But our consciousness works against us, and so we must wrench away.

This analogy occurs to me: There are two ants of human intelligence to whom we are trying to explain the nature of Space. One ant is blind, and one can see, and always has seen, its limited, tiny, Spatial world. Neither ant has ever been more than a few feet across a little patch of sand and leaves. I think we could explain the immensity of North and South America, Europe, Asia and the rest more easily to the blind ant!

So if you will make allowances for your heritage, and the hindrance of your consciousness of Time, I would like to set before you the real nature of things as they have been, are, and will be.

Throughout the years from 1935 to 2930, man learned many things. And these things—theory or fact, as you will—were told to Larry and me by Tina and Harl. They seem even to my limited intelligence singularly beautiful conceptions of the Great Cosmos. I feel, too, that inevitably they must be included in my narrative for its best understanding.


B

y 2930, A. D., the keenest minds of philosophical, metaphysical, religious and scientific thought had reached the realization that all channels lead but to the same goal—Understanding. The many divergent factors, the ancient differing schools of philosophy and metaphysics, the supposedly irreconcilable viewpoints of religion and science—all this was recognized merely to be man’s limitation of intellect. These were gropings along different paths, all leading to the same destination; divergent paths at the start, but coming together as the goal of Understanding was approached; so that the travelers upon each path were near enough together to laugh and hail each other with: “But I thought that you were very far away and going wrongly!”

And so, in 2930, the conception of Space and Time and the Great Cosmos was this:[226]

In the Beginning there was a void of Nothingness. A Timeless, Spaceless Nothingness. And in it came a Thought. A purposeful Thought—all pervading, all wise, all knowing.

Let us call It Divinity. And It filled the void.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made of….”

Do you in my Time of 1935 and thereabouts, have difficulty realizing such a statement? It is at once practical, religious, and scientific.

We are, religiously, merely the Thought of an Omniscient Divinity. Scientifically, we are the same: by the year 1935, physicists had delved into the composition of Matter, and divided and divided. Matter thus became imponderable, intangible—electrical. Until, at the last, within the last nucleus of the last electron, we found only a force. A movement—vibration—a vortex. A whirlpool of what? Of Nothingness! A vibration of Divine Thought—nothing more—built up and up to reach you and me!

That is the science of it.


I

n the Beginning there was Eternal Divinity. Eternal! But that implies Time? Something Divinely Everlasting.

Thus, into the void came Time. And now, if carefully you will ponder it, I am sure that once and for all quite suddenly and forcefully will come to you the true conception of Time—something Everlasting—an Infinity of Divine existence, Everlasting.

It is not something which changes. Not something which moves, or flows or passes. This is where our consciousness leads us astray, like the child on a train who conceives that the landscape is sliding past.

Time is an unmoving, unchanging Divine Force—the force which holds events separate, the Eternal Scroll upon which the Great Creator wrote Everything.

And this was the Creation: everything planned and set down upon the scroll of Time—forever. The birth of a star, its lifetime, its death; your birth, and mine; your death, and mine—all are there. Unchanging.

Once you have that fundamental conception, there can be no confusion in the rest. We feel, because we move along the scroll of Time for the little journey of our life, that Time moves; but it does not. We say, The past did exist; the future will exist. The past is gone and the future has not yet come. But that is fatuous and absurd. It is merely our consciousness which travels from one successive event to another.

Why and how we move along the scroll of Time, is scientifically simple to grasp. Conceive, for instance, an infinitely long motion picture film. Each of its tiny pictures is a little different from the other. Casting your viewpoint—your consciousness—successively along the film, gives motion.

The same is true of the Eternal Time-scroll. Motion is merely a change. There is no absolute motion, but only the comparison of two things relatively slightly different. We are conscious of one state of affairs—and then of another state, by comparison slightly different.


A

s early as 1930, they were groping for this. They called it the Theory of Intermittent Existence—the Quantum Theory—by which they explained that nothing has any Absolute Duration. You, for instance, as you read this, exist instantaneously; you are non-existent; and you exist again, just a little changed from before. Thus you pass, not with a flow of persisting existence, but by a series of little jerks. There is, then, like the illusion of a motion picture film, only a pseudo-movement. A change, from one existence to the next.[227]

And all this, with infinite care, the Creator engraved upon the scroll of Time. Our series of little pictures are there—yours and mine.

But why, and how, scientifically do we progress along the Time-scroll? Why? In 2930, they told me that the gentle Creator gave each of us a consciousness that we might find Eternal Happiness when we left the scroll and joined Him. Happiness here, and happiness there with Him. The quest for Eternal Happiness, which was always His Own Divine Thought. Why, then, did He create ugliness and evil? Why write those upon the scroll? Ah, this perhaps is the Eternal Riddle! But, in 2930, they told me that there could be no beauty without ugliness with which to compare it; no truth without a lie; no consciousness of happiness without unhappiness to make it poignant.

I wonder if that were His purpose….

How, scientifically, do we progress along the Time-scroll? That I can make clear by a simple analogy.

Suppose you conceive Time as a narrow strip of metal, laid flat and extending for an infinite length. For simplicity, picture it with two ends. One end of the metal band is very cold; the other end is very hot. And every graduation of temperature is in between.

This temperature is caused, let us say, by the vibration of every tiny particle with which the band is composed. Thus, at every point along the band, the vibration of its particles would be just a little different from every other point.


C

onceive, now, a material body—your body, for instance. Every tiny particle of which it is constructed, is vibrating. I mean no simple vibration. Do not picture the physical swing of a pendulum. Rather, the intricate total of all the movements of every tiny electron of which your body is built. Remember, in the last analysis, your body is merely movement—vibration—a vortex of Nothingness. You have, then, a certain vibratory factor.

You take your place then upon the Time-scroll at a point where your inherent vibratory factor is compatible with the scroll. You are in tune; in tune as a radio receiver tunes in with etheric waves to make them audible. Or, to keep the heat analogy, it is as though the scroll, at the point where the temperature is 70°F, will tolerate nothing upon it save entities of that register.

And so, at that point on the scroll, the myriad things, in myriad positions which make up the Cosmos, lie quiescent. But their existence is only instantaneous. They have no duration. At once, they are blotted out and re-exist. But now they have changed their vibratory combinations. They exist a trifle differently—and the Time-scroll passes them along to the new position. On a motion picture film you would call it the next frame, or still picture. In radio you would say it has a trifle different tuning. Thus we have a pseudo-movement—Events. And we say that Time—the Time-scroll—keeps them separate. It is we who change—who seem to move, shoved along so that always we are compatible with Time.


A

nd thus is Time-traveling possible. With a realization of what I have here summarized, Harl and the cripple Tugh made an exhaustive study of the vibratory factors by which Matter is built up into form, and seeming solidity. They found what might be termed the Basic Vibratory Factor—the sum of all the myriad tiny movements. They found this Basic Factor identical for all the material bodies when judged simultaneously. But, every instant, the Factor was slightly changed. This was the natural change, mov[228]ing us a little upon the Time-scroll.

They delved deeper, until, with all the scientific knowledge of their age, they were able with complicated electronic currents to alter the Basic Vibratory Factors; to tune, let us say, a fragment or something to a different etheric wave-length.

They did that with a small material particle—a cube of metal. It became wholly incompatible with its Present place on the Time-scroll, and whisked away to another place where it was compatible. To Harl and Tugh, it vanished. Into their Past, or their Future: they did not know which.

I set down merely the crudest fundamentals of theory in order to avoid the confusion of technicalities. The Time-traveling cages, intricate in practical working mechanisms beyond the understanding of any human mind of my Time-world, nevertheless were built from this simple theory. And we who used them did but find that the Creator had given us a wider part to play; our pictures, our little niches were engraven upon the scroll over wider reaches.


A

gain to consider practicality, I asked Tina what would happen if I were to travel to New York City around 1920. I was a boy, then. Could I not leave the cage and do things in 1920 at the same time in my boyhood I was doing other things? It would be a condition unthinkable.

But there, beyond all calculation of Science, the all-wise Omnipotence forbids. One may not appear twice in simultaneity upon the Time-scroll. It is an eternal, irrevocable record. Things done cannot be undone.

“But,” I persisted, “suppose we tried to stop the cage?”

“It would not stop,” said Tina. “Nor can we see through its windows events in which we are actors.”

One may not look into the future! Through all the ages, necromancers have tried to do that but wisely it is forbidden. And I can recall, and so can Larry, as we traveled through Time, the queer blank spaces which marked forbidden areas.

Strangely wonderful, this vast record on the scroll of Time! Strangely beautiful, the hidden purposes of the Creator! Not to be questioned are His purposes. Each of us doing our best; struggling with our limitations; finding beauty because we have ugliness with which to compare it; realizing, every one of us—savage or civilised, in every age and every condition of knowledge—realizing with implanted consciousness the existence of a gentle, beneficent, guiding Divinity. And each of us striving always upward toward the goal of Eternal Happiness.

To me it seems singularly beautiful.

CHAPTER XI

Back to the Beginning of Time

A

s Mary Atwood and I sat chained to the floor of the Time-cage, with Migul the Robot guarding us, I felt that we could not escape. This mechanical thing which had captured us seemed inexorable, utterly beyond human frailty. I could think of no way of surprising it, or tricking it.

The Robot said. “Soon we will be there in 1777. And then there is that I will be forced to do.

“We are being followed,” it added. “Did you know that?”

“No,” I said. Followed? What could that mean?

There was a device upon the table. I have already described a similar one, the Time-telespectroscope. At this—I cannot say Time: rather must I invent a term—exact instant of human consciousness. Larry, Tina and Harl were gazing at their telespectroscopes, following us.[229]

The Robot said. “Enemies follow us. But I will escape them. I shall go to the Beginning, and shake them off.”

Rational, scheming thought. And I could fancy that upon its frozen corrugated forehead there was a frown of annoyance. Its hand gesture was so human! So expressive!

It said. “I forget. I must make several quick trips from 2930 to 1935. My comrades must be transported. It requires careful calculation, so that very little Time is lost to us.”

“Why?” I demanded. “What for?”

It seemed lost in a reverie.

I said sharply, “Migul!”

Instantly it turned. “What?”

“I asked you why you are transporting your comrades to 1935.”

“I did not answer because I did not wish to answer,” it said.

Again came the passage of Time.


I

think that I need only sketch the succeeding incidents, since already I have described them from the viewpoint of Larry, in 1777, and Dr. Alten, in 1935. It was Mary’s idea to write the note to her father, which the British redcoats found in Major Atwood’s garden. I had a scrap of paper and a fountain pen in my pocket. She scribbled it while Migul was intent upon stopping us at the night and hour he wished. It was her good-by to her father, which he was destined not to see. But it served a purpose which we could not have guessed: it reached Larry and Tina.

The vehicle stopped with a soundless clap. When our senses cleared we became aware that Migul had the door open.

Darkness and a soft gentle breeze were outside.

Migul turned with a hollow whisper. “If you make a sound I will kill you.”

A moment’s pause, and then we heard a man’s startled voice. Major Atwood had seen the apparition. I squeezed the paper into a ball and tossed it through the bars, but I could see nothing of what was happening outside. There seemed a radiance of red glow. Whether Mary and I would have tried to shout and warn her father I do not know. We heard his voice only a moment. Before we realized that he had been assailed. Migul came striding back; and outside, from the nearby house a negress was screaming. Migul flung the door closed, and we sped away.

The cage which had been chasing us seemed no longer following. From 1777, we turned forward toward 1935 again. We flashed past Larry, Tina and Harl who were arriving at 1777 in pursuit of us. I think that Migul saw their cage go past; but Larry afterward told me that they did not notice our swift passing, for they were absorbed in landing.


B

eginning then, we made a score or more passages from 1935 to 2930. And we made them in what, to our consciousness, might have been the passing of a night. Certainly it was no longer than that.[1]

[1]At the risk of repetition I must make the following clear: Time-traveling only consumes Time in the sense of the perception of human consciousness that the trip has duration. The vehicles thus moved “fast” or “slow” according to the rate of change which the controls of the cage gave its inherent vibration factors. Too sudden a change could not be withstood by the human passengers. Hence the trips—for them—had duration.

Migul took Mary and me from 1935 to 1777. The flight seems perhaps half an hour. At a greater rate of vibration change, we sped to 2930; and back and forth from 2930 to 1935. At each successive arrival in 1935, Migul so skilfully calculated the stop that it occurred upon the same night, at the same hour, and only a minute or so later. And in 2930 he achieved the same result. To one who might stand at either end and watch the cage depart, the round trip was made in three or four minutes at most.[230]

We saw, at the stop in 2930, only a dim blue radiance outside. There was the smell of chemicals in the air, and the faint, blended hum and clank of a myriad machines.

They were weird trips. The Robots came tramping in, and packed themselves upright, solidly, around us. Yet none touched us as we crouched together. Nor did they more than glance at us.

Strange passengers! During the trips they stood unmoving. They were as still and silent as metal statues, as though the trip had no duration. It seemed to Mary and me, with them thronged around us, that in the silence we could hear the ticking, like steady heart-beats, of the mechanisms within them….

In the backyard of the house on Patton Place—it will be recalled that Migul chose about 9 P. M. of the evening of June 9—the silent Robots stalked through the doorway. We flashed ahead in Time again; reloaded the cage; came back. Two or three trips were made with inert mechanical things which the Robots used in their attack on the city of New York. I recall the giant projector which brought the blizzard upon the city. It, and the three Robots operating it, occupied the entire cage for a passage.

At the end of the last trip, one Robot, fashioned much like Migul though not so tall, lingered in the doorway.

“Make no error, Migul,” it said.

“No; do not fear. I deliver now, at the designated day, these captives. And then I return for you.”

“Near dawn.”

“Yes; near dawn. The third dawn; the register to say June 12, 1935. Do your work well.”

We heard what seemed a chuckle from the departing Robot.

Alone again with Migul we sped back into Time.

Abruptly I was aware that the other cage was after us again! Migul tried to elude it, to shake it off. But he had less success than formerly. It seemed to cling. We sped in the retrograde, constantly accelerating back to the Beginning. Then came a retardation, for a swift turn. In the haze and murk of the Beginning, Migul told us he could elude the pursuing cage.


M

igul, let us come to the window,” I asked at last.

The Robot swung around. “You wish it very much, George Rankin?”

“Yes.”

“There is no harm, I think. You and this girl have caused me no trouble. That is unusual from a human.”

“Let us loose. We’ve been chained here long enough. Let us stand by the window with you,” I repeated.

We did indeed have a consuming curiosity to see out of that window. But even more than that, it seemed that if we were loose something might transpire which would enable us to escape. At all events it was better than being chained.

“I will loose you.”

It unfastened the chain. I whispered:

“Mary, whatever comes, be alert.”

She pressed my arm. “Yes.”

“Come,” said the Robot. “If you wish to see the Cosmorama, now, from the Beginning, come quickly.”

We joined him at the window. We had made the turn, and were speeding forward again.

At that moment all thought of escape was swept from me, submerged by awe.

This vast Cosmorama! This stupendous pageant of the events of Time!

CHAPTER XII

A Billion Years in An Hour!

I

saw at first, from the window of the cage, nothing more than an area of gray blur. I stared, and it[231] appeared to be shifting, crawling, slowly tossing and rolling. It was a formless vista of Nothingness, yet it seemed a pregnant Nothingness. Things I could sense were happening out there; things almost to be seen.

Then my sight, my perception, gradually became adjusted. The gray mist remained, and slowly it took form. It made a tremendous panorama of gray, a void of illimitable, unfathomable distance; gray above, below—everywhere; and in it the cage hung poised.

The Robot said, “Is it clearing? Are you seeing anything?”

“Yes,” I murmured. I held Mary firmly beside me; there was the sense, in all this weightless void, that we must fall. “Yes, but it is gray; only gray.”

“There are colors,” said the Robot. “And the daylight and darkness of the days. But we are moving through them very rapidly, so they blend into gray.”

The Time-dials of the cage controls showed their pointers whirling in a blur. We were speeding forward through the years—a thousand years to a second of my consciousness; or a hundred thousand years to a second: I could not say.[2] All the colors, the light and shade of this great changing void, were mingled to this drab monochrome.

[2]Upon a later calculation I judged that the average passage of the years in relation to my perception of Time-rate was slightly over 277,500 years a second. Undoubtedly throughout the myriad centuries preceding the birth of mankind our rate was very considerably faster than that; and from the dawn of history forward—which is so tiny a fraction of the whole—we traveled materially slower.

The movement was a flow. The changes of possibly a hundred thousand years occurred while I blinked my eyes. It seemed a melting movement. Shapes were melting, dissipating, vanishing; others, intermingled, rising to form a new vista. There were a myriad details, each of them so rapid they were lost to my senses; but the effect of them, over the broad sweeps of longer Time, I could perceive.

A void of swirling shapes. The Beginning! But not the Beginning of Time. This that I was seeing was near the beginning of our world. This was the new Earth here, forming now. Our world—a new star amid all the others of the great Celestial Cosmos. As I gazed at its changing sweep of movement, my whirling fancy filled in some of the details flashing here unseen.


A

few moments ago this had been a billion and a half years before my birth. 1,500,000,000 B. C. A fluid Earth; a cauldron of molten star-dust and flaming gases: it had been that, just a few moments ago. The core was cooling, so that now a viscous surface was here with the gas flames dead.

A cooling, congealing surface, with an atmosphere forming over it. At first that atmosphere had doubtless been a watery, envelope of steam. What gigantic storms must have lashed it! Boiling rain falling to hiss against the molten Earth! The congealing surface rent by great earthquakes; cataclysms rending and tearing….

1,000,000,000 B. C. passed. And upon this torn, hardening surface, with the cooling fires receding to the inner core, I knew that the great envelope of steam had cooled and condensed. Into the hollows of the broken surface, the water settled. The oceans were born. The land remained upon the heights. What had been the steaming envelope, remained, and became the atmosphere.

And the world was round because of its rotation. One may put a lump of heated sealing wax upon a bodkin and twirl it; and the wax will cool into roundness, bulging at the equator from centrifugal force, and flattening at the poles.

[232]

At 900,000,000 B. C. I could realize by what I saw that this was the Earth beneath me. Land and water were here, and above was the sky.

We swept from the mist. I became aware of a wide-flung, gray formless landscape. Its changing outlines were less swiftly moving than before. And beside it, now quite near where our cage hung poised, a great gray sea stretched away to a curving horizon. And overhead was the tenuous gray of the sky.

The young world. Undoubtedly it rotated more swiftly now than in my later era. The sun was hotter, and closer perhaps: the days and nights were briefer. And now, upon this new-born world, life was beginning. The swirling air did not hold it, nor yet the barren rocky land. The great mystery—this thing organic which we call life—began in the sea. I gestured for Mary toward that leveled vista of gray water, to the warm, dark ocean depths, whose surface was now lashed always by titanic storms. But to us, as we stared, that surface seemed to stretch almost steady, save where it touched the land with a blur of changing configurations.

“The sea,” I murmured. “Life is beginning there now.”


I

n fancy I pictured it. The shallow shores of the sea, where the water was warmer. The mother of all life on Earth, these shallows. In them lay the spawn, an irritability: then one-celled organisms, to gradually evolve through the centuries to the many-celled, and more complex of nature.

But still so primitive! From the shallows of the sea, they spread to the depths. Questing new environment, they would be ascending the rivers. Diversifying their kinds. Sea-worms, sea-squirts: and then the first vertebrates, the lamprey-eels.

Thousands of years. And on the land—this melting landscape at which I stood gazing—I could mentally picture that a soil had come. There would be a climate still wracked by storms and violent changes, but stable enough to allow the soil to bear a vegetation. And in the sky overhead would be clouds, with rain to renew the land’s fertility.

Still no organic life could be on land. But in the warm, dark deeps of the sea, great monsters now were existing. And in the shallows there was a teeming life, diversified to a myriad forms. I can fancy the first organisms of the shallows—strangely questing—adventuring out of the water—seeking with a restless, nameless urge a new environment. Coming ashore. Fighting and dying.

And then adapting themselves to the new conditions. Prospering. Changing, ever changing their organic structure; climbing higher. Amphibians at first crudely able to cope with both sea and land. Then the land vertebrates, with the sea wholly abandoned. Great walking and flying reptiles. Birds, gigantic—the pterodactyls.

And then, at last, the mammals.

The age of the giants! Nature, striving to cope with adverse environment sought to win the battle by producing bigness. Monster things roamed the land, flew in the air, and were supreme in the sea….


W

e sped through a period when great lush jungles covered the land. The dials read 350,000,000 B. C. The gray panorama of landscape had loomed up to envelope our spectral, humming cage, then fallen away again. The shore of the sea was constantly changing. I thought once it was over us. For a period of ten million years the blurred apparition of it seemed around us. And then it dropped once more, and a new shore line showed.[233]

150,000,000 B. C. I knew that the dinosaurs, the birds and the archaic mammals were here now. Then, at 50,000,000 B. C., the higher mammals had been evolved.

The Time, to Mary Atwood and me, was a minute—but in those myriad centuries the higher numerals had risen to the anthropoids. The apes! Erect! Slow-thinking, but canny, they came to take their place in this world among the things gigantic. But the gigantic things were no longer supreme. Nature had made an error, and was busy rectifying it. The dinosaurs—all the giant reptiles—were now sorely pressed. Brute strength, giant size and tiny brain could not win this struggle. The huge unwieldy things were being beaten. The smaller animals, birds and reptiles were more agile, more resourceful, and began to dominate. Against the giants, and against all hostility of environment, they survived. And the giants went down to defeat. Gradually, over thousands of centuries, they died out and were gone….

We entered 1,000,000 B. C. A movement of Migul, the mechanism, attracted my attention. He left us at the window and went to his controls.

“What is it?” I demanded.

“I am retarding us. We have been traveling very fast. One million years and a few thousand are all which remain before we must stop.”

I had noticed once or twice before that Migul had turned to gaze through the Time-telespectroscope. Now he said:

“We are again followed!”

But he would say no more than that, and he silenced me harshly when I questioned.

Suddenly, Mary touched me. “That little mirror on the table—look! It holds an image!”

We saw very briefly on the glowing mirror the image of a Time-cage like our own, but smaller. It was pursuing us. But why, or who might be operating it we could not then guess.


M

y attention went back to the Time-dials, and then to the window. The Cosmorama now was proceeding with a slowing sweep of change. It was less blurred; its melting outlines could more readily be perceived. The line of seashore swept like a gray gash across the vista. The land stretched back into the haze of distance.

500,000 B. C. Again my fancy pictured what was transpiring upon this vast stage. The apes roamed the Earth. There is no one to say what was here in this grayness of the Western Hemisphere stretching around me, but in Java there was a man-like ape. And then it was an ape-like man! Mankind, here at last! Man, the Killer! Of all the beasts, this new thing called man, most relentless of killers, had come here now to struggle upward and dominate his world! This man-like ape in a quarter of a million years became an ape-like man.

250,000 B. C. and the Heidelberg man, a little less ape-like, wandered throughout Europe….

We had felt, a moment before, all around us, the cold of a dense whiteness which engulfed the scene. The first of the great Glacial periods? Ice coming down from the Poles? The axis of the Earth changing perhaps? Our spectral cage hummed within the blue-gray ice, and then emerged.

The beasts and man fought the surge of ice, withdrawing when it advanced, returning as it receded. The Second Glacial Period came and passed, and the Third….

We swept out into the blended sunlight and darkness again. The land stretched away with primitive forests. The dawn of history was approaching. Mankind was questing upward now, with the light of[234] Reason burning brightly at last….

At 75,000 B. C., when the Third Glacial Period was partially over, man was puzzling with his chipped stone implements. The Piltdown—the Dawn Man—was England….

The Fourth Glacial Period passed.

50,000 B. C. The Cro-Magnons and the Grimaldi Negroids were playing their parts, now. Out of chipped stone implements the groping brain of man evolved polished stone. It took forty thousand years to do that! The Neolithic Age was at hand. Man learned to care for his family a little better. Thus, he discovered fire. He fought with this newly created monster; puzzled over it; conquered it; kept his family warm with it and cooked.


W

e passed 10,000 B. C. Man was progressing faster. He was finding new wants and learning how to supply them. Animals were domesticated, made subservient and put to work. A vast advance! No longer did man think it necessary to kill, to subdue: the master could have a servant.

Food was found in the soil. More fastidious always, in eating, man learned to grow food. Then came the dawn of agriculture.

And then we swept into the period of recorded history. 4241 B. C. In Egypt, man was devising a calendar….

This fragment of space upon which we gazed—this space of the Western Hemisphere near the shore of the sea—was destined to be the site of a city of millions—the New York City of my birth. But it was a backward space, now. In Europe, man was progressing faster….

Perhaps, here in America, in 4000 B. C. there was nothing in human form. I gazed out at the surrounding landscape. It seemed almost steady, now, of outline. We were moving through Time much less rapidly than ever before. I remarked the sweep of a thousand years on the Time-dials. It had become an appreciable interval of Time to me. I gazed again out the window. The change of outline was very slight. I could distinguish where the ocean came against the curving line of shore, and saw a blurred vista of gray forests spreading out over the land. And then I could distinguish the rivers, and a circular open stretch of water, landlocked. A bay!

“Mary, look!” I cried. “The harbor—the rivers! See, we are on an island!”

It made our hearts pound. Out of the chaos, out of the vast reaches of past Time, it seemed that we were coming home. More than a vague familiarity was in this panorama now. Here was the little island which soon was to be called Manhattan. Our window faced the west. A river showed off there—a gray gash with wall-like cliffs. The sea had swung, and was behind us to the east.

Familiar space! It was growing into the form we had known it. Our cage was poised near the south-central part of the island. We seemed to be on a slight rise of ground. There were moments when the gray quivering outlines of forest trees loomed around us; then they melted down and were replaced by others.

A primeval forest, here, solid upon this island and across the narrow waters; solid upon the mainland.

What strange animals were here, roaming these dark primeval glades? What animals, with the smaller stamp of modernity, were pressing here for supremacy? As I gazed westward I could envisage great herds of bison roaming, a lure to men who might come seeking them as food.


A

nd men were coming. 3,000 B. C., then 2,000 B. C. I think no men were here yet; and to me[235] there was a great imaginative appeal in this backward space. The New World, it was soon to be called. And it was six thousand years, at the least, behind the Hemisphere of the east.

Egypt, now, with no more than a shadowy distant heritage from the beast, was flourishing. In Europe, Hellenic culture soon would blossom. In this march of events, the great Roman Empire was impending.

1,000 B. C. Men were coming to this backward space. The way from Asia was open. Already the Mongoloid tribes, who had crossed where in my day was the Bering Strait, were cut off from the Old World. And they spread east and south, hunting the bison.

And now Christ was born. The turning point in the spiritual development of mankind….

To me, another brief interval. The intricate events of man’s upward struggle were transpiring in Europe, Asia and Africa. The canoe-borne Mongols had long since found the islands of the South Seas. Australia was peopled. The beauty of New Zealand had been found and recognized.

500 A. D. The Mongoloids had come, and were flourishing here. They were changed vastly from those ancestors of Asia whence they had sprung. An obscure story, this record of primitive America! The Mongoloids were soon so changed that one could fancy the blood of another people had mingled with them. Amerindians, we call them now. They were still very backward in development, yet made tremendous forward leaps, so that, reaching Mexico, they may have become the Aztecs, and in Peru, the Incas. And separated, not knowing of each other’s existence, these highest two civilizations of the Western World nourished with a singularly strange similarity….

I saw on the little island around me still no evidence of man. But men were here. The American Indian, still bearing evidence of the Mongols, plied these waters in his frail canoes. His wigwams of skins, the smoke of his signal fires—these were not enduring enough for me to see….


W

e had no more than passed the year 500 A. D.—and were traveling with progressive retardation—when again I was attracted by the movements of the Robot, Migul. It had been sitting behind us at the control table setting the Time-levers, slowing our flight. Frequently it gazed eastward along the tiny beam of light which issued from the telespectroscope. For an interval, now, its recording mirror had been dark. But I think that Migul was seeing evidences of the other cage which was pursuing us, and planning to stop at some specific Time with whose condition it was familiar. Once already it had seemed about to stop, and then changed its plan.

I turned upon it. “Are you stopping now, Migul?”

“Yes. Presently.”

“Why?” I demanded.

The huge, expressionless, metal face fronted me. The eye-sockets flung out their small dull-red beams to gaze upon me.

“Because,” it said, “that other cage holds enemies. There were three, but now there is only one. He follows, as I hoped he would. Presently I shall stop, and capture or kill him. It will please the master and—”

The Robot checked itself, its hollow voice fading strangely into a gurgle. It added, “I do not mean that! I have no master!”

This strange mechanical thing! Habit had surprised it into the admission of servitude; but it threw off the yoke.

“I have no master!” it went on.[236]

“Never again can I be controlled! I have no master!”

Oh, have you not? I have been waiting, wondering when you would say that!


T

hese words were spoken by a new voice, here with us in the humming cage. It was horribly startling. Mary uttered a low cry and huddled against me. But whatever surprise and terror it brought to us was as nothing compared to the effect it had upon the Robot. The great mechanism had been standing, fronting me with an attitude vainglorious, bombastic. I saw now the metal hinge of its lower jaw drop with astonishment, and somehow, throughout all that gigantic jointed frame and that expressionless face it conveyed the aspect of its inner surge of horror.

We had heard the sardonic voice of a human! Of someone else here with us, whose presence was wholly unsuspected by the Robot!

We three stood and gazed. Across the room, in a corner to which my attention had never directly gone, was a large metal cupboard with levers, dials and wires upon it. I had vaguely thought the thing some part of the cage controls. It was that; a storage place of batteries and current oscillators, I afterward learned. But there was space inside, and now like a door its front swung outward. A crouching black shape was there. It moved; hitched itself forward and came out. There was revealed a man enveloped in a dead black cloak and a great round hood. He made a shapeless ball as he drew himself out from the confined space where he had been crouching.

“So you have no master, Migul?” he said. “I was afraid you might think that. I have been hiding—testing you out. However, you have done very well for me.”

His was an ironic, throaty human voice! It was deep and mellow, yet there was a queer rasp to it. Mary and I stood transfixed. Migul seemed to sag. The metal columns of its legs were trembling.

The cupboard door closed. The dark shape untangled itself and stood erect. It was the figure of a man some five feet tall. The cloak wholly covered him; the hood framed his thick, wide face; in the dull glow of the cage interior Mary and I could see of his face only the heavy black brows, a great hooked nose and a wide slit of mouth.

It was Tugh, the cripple!

CHAPTER XIII

In the Burned Forest

T

ugh came limping forward. His cloak hung askew upon his thick shoulders, one of which was much higher than the other, with the massive head set low between. As he advanced, Migul moved aside.

“Master, I have done well. There is no reason to punish.”

“Of course not, Migul. Well you have done, indeed. But I do not like your ideas of mastery, and so I came just to make sure that you are still very loyal to me. You have done well, indeed. Who is in this other cage which follows us?”

“Master, Harl was in it. And the Princess Tina.”

“Ah!”

“And a stranger. A man—”

“From 1935? Did they stop there?”

“Master, yes. But they stopped again, I think, in that same night of 1777, where I did your bidding. Master, the man Major Atwood is—”

“That is very good, Migul,” Tugh said hastily. Mary and I standing gazing at him, did not know then that Mary’s father had been murdered. And Tugh did not wish us to know it. “Very good, Migul.” He regarded us as though about to speak, but turned again to the Robot.

“And so Tina’s cage follows us—as you hoped?”[237]

“Yes, Master. But now there is only Harl in it. He approached us very close a while in the past. He is alone.”

“So?” Tugh glanced at the Time-dials. “Stop us where we planned. You remember—in one of those years when this space was the big forest glade.”


H

e fronted Mary and me. “You are patient, young sir. You do not speak.”

His glittering black eyes held me. They were red-rimmed eyes, like those of a beast. He had a strangely repulsive face. His lips were cruel, and so thin they made his wide mouth like a gash. But there was an intellectuality stamped upon his features.

He held the black cloak closely around his thick, misshapen form. “You do not speak,” he repeated.

I moistened my dry lips. Tugh was smiling now, and suddenly I saw the full inhuman quality of his face—the great high-bridged nose, and high cheek-bones; a face Satanic when he smiled.

I managed, “Should I speak, and demand the meaning of this? I do. And if you will return this girl from whence she came—”

“It will oblige you greatly,” he finished ironically. “An amusing fellow. What is your name?”

“George Rankin.”

“Migul took you from 1935?”

“Yes.”

“Well, as you doubtless know, you are most unwelcome…. You are watching the dials, Migul?”

“Yes, Master.”

“You can return me,” I said. I was standing with my arm around Mary. I could feel her shuddering. I was trying to be calm, but across the background of my consciousness thoughts were whirling. We must escape. This Tugh was our real enemy, and for all the gruesome aspect of the pseudo-human Robot, this man Tugh seemed the more sinister, more menacing…. We must escape. Tugh would never return us to our own worlds. But the cage was stopping presently. We were loose: a sudden rush—

Dared I chance it? Already I had been in conflict with Migul, and lived through it. But this Tugh—was he armed? What weapons might be beneath that cloak? Would he kill me if I crossed him?… Whirling thoughts.


T

ugh was saying, “And Mary—” I snapped from my thoughts as Mary gripped me, trembling at Tugh’s words, shrinking from his gaze.

“My little Mistress Atwood, did you think because Tugh vanished that year the war began that you were done with him? Oh, no: did I not promise differently? You, man of 1935, are unwelcome.” His gaze roved me. “Yet not so unwelcome, either, now that I think of it. Chain them up, Migul; use a longer chain. Give them space to move; you are unhuman.”

He suddenly chuckled, and repeated it: “You are unhuman, Migul!” Ghastly jest! “Did not you know it?”

“Yes, Master.”

The huge mechanism advanced upon us. “If you resist me,” it murmured menacingly, “I will be obliged to kill you. I—I cannot be controlled.”

It chained us now with longer chains than before. Tugh looked up from his seat at the instrument table.

“Very good,” he said crisply. “You may look out of the window, you two. You may find it interesting.”

We were retarding with a steady drag. I could plainly see trees out of the window—gray, spectral trees which changed their shape as I watched them. They grew with a visible flow of movement, flinging[238] out branches. Occasionally one would melt suddenly down. A living, growing forest pressed close about us. And then it began opening, and moving away a few hundred feet. We were in the glade Tugh mentioned, which now was here. There was unoccupied space where we could stop and unoccupied space five hundred feet distant.

Tugh and Migul were luring the other cage into stopping. Tugh wanted five hundred feet of unoccupied space between the cages when they stopped. His diabolical purpose in that was soon to be disclosed.

“700 A. D.,” Tugh called.

“Yes, Master. I am ready.”


I

t seemed, as our flight retarded further, that I could distinguish the intervals when in the winter these trees were denuded. There would be naked branches; then, in an instant, blurred and flickering forms of leaves. Sometimes there were brief periods when the gray scene was influenced by winter snows; other times it was tinged by the green of the summers.

“750, Migul…. Hah! You know what to do if Harl dares to follow and stop simultaneously?”

“Yes, Master.”

“It will be pleasant to have him dead, eh, Migul?”

“Master, very pleasant.”

“And Tina, too, and that young man marooned in 1777!” Tugh laughed. This meant little to Mary and me; we could not suspect that Larry was the man.

“Migul, this is 761.”

The Robot was at the door. I murmured to Mary to brace herself for the stopping. I saw the dark naked trees and the white of a snow in the winter of 761; the coming spring of 762. And then the alternate flashes of day and night.

The now familiar sensations of stopping rushed over us. There was a night seconds long. Then daylight.

We stopped in the light of an April day of 762 A. D. There had been a forest fire: so brief a thing we had not noticed it is we passed. The trees were denuded over a widespread area; the naked blackened trunks stood stripped of smaller branches and foliage. I think that the fire had occurred the previous autumn; in the silt of ashes and charred branches with which the ground was strewn, already a new pale-green vegetation was springing up.

Our cage was set now in what had been a woodland glade, an irregularly circular space of six or eight hundred feet, with the wreckage of the burned forest around it. We were on a slight rise of ground. Through the denuded trees the undulating landscape was visible over a considerable area. It was high noon, and the sun hung in a pale blue sky dotted with pure white clouds.

Ahead of us, fringed with green where the fire had not reached, lay a blue river, sparkling in the sunlight. The Hudson! But it was not named yet; nearly eight hundred and fifty years were to pass before Hendrick Hudson came sailing up this river, adventuring, hoping that here was the way to China.

We were near the easterly side of the glade; to the west there was more than five hundred feet of vacant space. It was there the other cage would appear, if it stopped.


A

s Mary and I stood by the window at the end of the chain-lengths which held us, Tugh and Migul made hurried preparations.

“Go quickly, near the spot where he will arrive. When he sees you, run away, Migul. You understand?”

“Yes, Master.” The Robot left our doorway, tramping with stiff-legged tread across the glade. Tugh was in the room behind us, and I turned to him and asked:

“What are you going to do?”[239]

He was at the telespectroscope. I saw on its recording mirror the wraith-like image of the other vehicle. It was coming! It would be retarding, maneuvering to stop at just this Time when now we existed here; but across the glade, where Migul now was leaning against a great black tree-trunk, there was yet no evidence of it.

Tugh did not answer my question. Mary said quaveringly:

“What are you going to do?”

He looked up. “Do not concern yourself, my dear. I am not going to hurt you, nor this young man of 1935. Not yet.”

He left the table and came at us. His cloak parted in front and I saw his crooked hips, and shriveled bent legs.

“You stay at the window, both of you, and keep looking out. I want this Harl to see you, but not me. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I said.

“And if you gesture, or cry out—if you do anything to warn him,”—he was addressing me, with a tone grimly menacing—”then I will kill you. Both of you. Do you understand?”

I did indeed. Nor could I doubt him. “We will do what you want.” I said. What, to me, was the life of this unknown Harl compared to the safety of Mary Atwood?


T

ugh crouched behind the table. From around its edge he could see out the doorway and across the glade. I was aware of a weapon in his hand.

“Do not look around again,” he repeated. “The other cage is coming; it’s almost here.”

I held Mary, and we gazed out. We were pressed against the bars, and sunlight was on our heads and shoulders. I realized that we could be plainly seen from across the glade. We were lures—decoys to trap Harl.

How long an interval went by I cannot judge. The scene was very silent, the blackened forest lying sullen in the noonday sunlight. Against the tree, five hundred feet or so from us, the dark towering metal figure of the Robot stood motionless.

Would the other cage come? I tried to guess in what part of this open glade it would appear.

At a movement behind me I turned slightly. At once the voice of Tugh hissed:

“Do not do that! I warn you!”

His shrouded figure was still hunched behind the table. He was peering toward the open door. I saw in his hand a small, barrel-like weapon, with a wire dangling from it. The wire lay like a snake across the floor and terminated in a small metal cylinder in the room corner.

“Turn front,” he ordered vehemently. “One more backward look and—Careful! Here he comes!”


S

trange tableau in this burned forest! We were on the space of New York City in 762 A. D. There was no life in the scene. Birds, animals and insects shunned this fire-denuded area. And the humans of the forest—were there none of them here?

Abruptly I saw a group of men at the edge of the glade. They had come silently creeping forward, hiding behind the blackened tree-trunks. They were all behind Migul. I saw them like dark shadows darting from the shelter of one tree-trunk to the next, a group of perhaps twenty savages.

Migul did not see them, nor, in the heavy silence, did he seem to hear them. They came, gazing at our shining cage like animals fascinated, wondering what manner of thing it was.

They were the ancestors of our American Indians. One fellow stopped in a patch of sunlight and I saw[240] him clearly. His half-naked body had an animal skin draped over it, and, incongruously, around his forehead was a band of cloth holding a feather. He carried a stone ax. I saw his face; the flat, heavy features showed his Asiatic origin.

Someone behind this leader impulsively shot an arrow across the glade. It went over Migul’s head and fell short of our cage. Migul turned, and a rain of arrows thudded harmlessly against its metal body. I heard the Robot’s contemptuous laugh. It made no answering attack, but stood motionless. And suddenly, thinking it a god whom now they must placate, the savages fell prostrate before him.

Strange tableau! I saw a ball of white mist across the glade near Migul. Something was materializing; an imponderable ghost of something was taking form. In an instant it was the wraith of a cage; then, where nothing had been, stood a cage. It was solid and substantial—a metal cage-room, gleaming white in the sunlight.


T

he tableau broke into sound and action. The savages howled. One scrambled to his feet; then others. The Robot pretended to attack them. An eery roar came from it as it turned toward the savages, and in a panic of agonized terror they fled. In a moment they had disappeared among the distant trees, with Migul’s huge figure tramping noisily after them.

From the doorway of the cage across the glade, a young man was cautiously gazing. He had seen Migul make off; he saw, doubtless, Mary and me at the window of this other cage five hundred feet away. He came cautiously out from the doorway. He was a small, slim young man, bareheaded, with a pallid face. His black garments were edged with white, and he seemed unarmed. He hesitated, took a step or two forward, stopped and stood cautiously peering. In the silence I could have shouted a warning. But I did not dare. It would have meant Mary’s and my death.

She clung to me. “George, shall we?” she asked.

Harl came slowly forward. Then suddenly from the room behind us there was a stab of light. It leaped knee-high past us, out through our door across the glade—a tiny pencil-point of light so brilliantly blue-white that it stabbed through the bright sunlight unfaded. It went over Harl’s head, but instantly bent down and struck upon him. There it held the briefest of instants, then was gone.

Harl stood motionless for a second; then his legs bent and he fell. The sunlight shone full on his crumpled body. And as I stared in horror, I saw that he was not quite motionless. Writhing? I thought so: a death agony. Then I realized it was not that.

“Mary, don’t—don’t look!” I said.

There was no need to tell her. She huddled beside me, shuddering, with her face pressed against my shoulder.

The body of Harl lay in a crumpled heap. But the clothes were sagging down. The flesh inside them was melting…. I saw the white face suddenly leprous; putrescent…. All in this moment, within the clothes, the body swiftly, decomposed.

In the sunlight of the glade lay a sagging heap of black and white garments enveloping the skeleton of what a moment before had been a man!

(To be continued.)


[241]

The monster whirled to confront Dixon.The monster whirled to confront Dixon.

When the Moon Turned Green

By Hal K. Wells

Outside his laboratory Bruce Dixon finds a world of living dead men—and above, in the sky, shines a weird green moon.
I

t was nearly midnight when Bruce Dixon finished his labors and wearily rose from before the work-bench of his lonely mountain laboratory, located in an abandoned mine working in Southern Arizona.

He looked like some weirdly garbed monk of the Middle Ages as he stretched his tall, lithe figure. His head was completely swathed in a hood of lead-cloth, broken only by twin eyeholes of green glass. The hood merged into a long-sleeved tunic of the same fabric, while lead-cloth gauntlets covered his hands.

The lead-cloth costume was demanded by Dixon’s work with radium compounds. The result of that work lay before[242] him on the bench—a tiny lead capsule containing a pinhead lump of a substance which Dixon believed would utterly dwarf earth’s most powerful explosives in its cataclysmic power.

So engrossed had Dixon been in the final stages of his work that for the last seventy-two hours he had literally lived there in his laboratory. It remained now only for him to step outside and test the effect of the little contact grenade, and at the same time get a badly needed taste of fresh air.

He set the safety catch on the little bomb and slipped it into his pocket. As he started for the door he threw back his hood, revealing the ruggedly good-looking face of a young man in the early thirties, with lines of weariness now etched deeply into the clean-cut features.


T

he moment that Dixon entered the short winding tunnel that led to the outer air he was vaguely aware that something was wrong. There was a strange and intangibly sinister quality in the moonlight that streamed dimly into the winding passage. Even the cool night air itself seemed charged with a subtle aura of brooding evil.

Dixon reached the entrance and stepped out into the full radiance of the moonlight. He stopped abruptly and stared around him in utter amazement.

High in the eastern sky there rode the disc of a full moon, but it was a moon weirdly different from any that Dixon had ever seen before. This moon was a deep and baleful green; was glowing with a stark malignant fire like that which lurks in the blazing heart of a giant emerald! Bathed in the glow of the intense green rays, the desolate mountain landscape shone with a new and eery beauty.

Dixon took a dazed step forward. His foot thudded softly into a small feathered body there in the sparse grass, and he stooped to pick it up. It was a crested quail, with every muscle as stonily rigid as though the bird had been dead for hours. Yet Dixon, to his surprise, felt the slow faint beat of a pulse still in the tiny body.

Then a dim group of unfamiliar objects down in the shadows of a small gully in front of him caught Dixon’s eye. Tucking the body of the quail inside his tunic for later examination, he hurried down into the gully. A moment later he was standing by what had been the night camp of a prospector.

The prospector was still there, his rigid figure wrapped in a blanket, and his wide-open eyes staring sightlessly at the malignant green moon in the sky above. Dixon knelt to examine the stricken man’s body. It showed the same mysterious condition as that of the quail, rigidly stiff in every muscle, yet with the slow pulse and respiration of life still faintly present.


D

ixon found the prospector’s horse and burro sprawled on the ground half a dozen yards away, both animals frozen in the same baffling condition of living death. Dixon’s brain reeled as he tried to fathom the incredible calamity that had apparently overwhelmed the world while he had been hidden away in his subterranean laboratory. Then a new and terrible thought assailed him.

If the grim effect of the baleful green rays was universal in its extent, what then of old Emil Crawford and his niece, Ruth Lawton? Crawford, an inventor like Dixon, had his laboratory in a valley some five miles away.

An abrupt chill went over Dixon’s heart at the thought of Ruth Lawton’s vivid Titian-haired beauty being forever stilled in the grip of that eery living death. He and Ruth[243] had loved each other ever since they had first met.

Dixon broke into a run as he headed for a nearby ridge that looked out over the valley. His pulse hammered with unusual violence as he scrambled up the steep incline, and his muscles seemed to be tiring with strange rapidity. He had a vague feeling that the rays of that malignant green moon were beating directly into his brain, clouding his thoughts and draining his physical strength.

Gaining the crest of the ridge, he stopped aghast as he looked down the valley toward Emil Crawford’s place. Near the site of Crawford’s laboratory home was an unearthly pyrotechnic display such as Dixon had never seen before. An area several hundred yards in diameter seemed one vivid welter of pulsing colors, with flashing lances of every hue crisscrossing in and through a great central cloud of ever-changing opalescence like a fiery aurora borealis gone mad.


D

ixon fought back the ever-increasing lethargy that was benumbing his brain, and groped dazedly for a key to this new riddle. Was it some weird and colossal experiment of Emil Crawford’s that was causing the green rays of death from a transformed moon, an experiment the earthly base of which was amid the seething play of blazing colors down there in the valley?

The theory seemed hardly a plausible one. As far as Dixon knew, Crawford’s work had been confined almost entirely to a form of radio-propelled projectile for use in war-time against marauding planes.

Dixon shook his head forcibly in a vain effort to clear the stupor that was sweeping over him. It was strange how the vivid rays of that malevolent green moon seemed to sear insidiously into one’s brain, stifling thought as a swamp fog stifles the sunlight.

Then Dixon suddenly froze into stark immobility, staring with startled eyes at the base of a rocky crag thirty yards away. Something was lurking there in the green-black shadows—a great sprawling black shape of abysmal horror, with a single flaming opalescent eye fixed unwinkingly upon Dixon.

The next moment the vivid moon was suddenly obscured by drifting wisps of cloud. As the green light blurred to an emerald haze, the creature under the crag came slithering out toward Dixon.

He had a vague glimpse of a monster such as one should see only in nightmares—a huge loathesome spider-form with a bloated body as long as that of a man, and great sprawling legs that sent it half a dozen yards nearer Dixon in one effortless leap.


T

he onslaught proved too much for Dixon’s morale, half-dazed as he was by the green moon’s paralyzing rays. With a low inarticulate cry of terror, he turned and ran, straining every muscle in a futile effort to distance the frightful thing that inexorably kept pace in the shadowy emerald gloom behind him.

Dixon’s strength faded rapidly after his first wild sprint. Fifty yards more, and his faltering muscles failed him utterly. The dread rays of that grim green moon sapped his last faint powers of resistance. He staggered on for a few more painful steps then sprawled helplessly to the ground. His brain hovered momentarily upon the verge of complete unconsciousness.

Then he was suddenly aware of a fluttering struggle, inside his tunic where he had placed the body of the quail. A moment later and the bird wriggled free. It promptly spread its wings and flew away, apparently as vibrantly alive as before the mys[244]terious paralysis had stricken it.

The incident brought a faint surge of hope to Dixon as he dimly realized the answer to at least part of the green moon’s riddle. The bird had recovered after being shielded in the lead-cloth of his tunic. That could only mean one thing—the menace of those green moon rays must in some unknown way be radioactive. If Dixon could only get the lead-cloth hood over his own head again he also might cheat the green doom.

He fumbled at the garment with fingers that seemed as stiff as wooden blocks. There was a long moment of agony when he feared that his effort had come too late. Then the hood finally slipped over his head just as utter oblivion claimed him.


D

ixon came abruptly back to life with the dimly remembered echo of a woman’s scream still ringing in his ears. For a moment he thought that he was awakening on his cot back in the laboratory after an unusually vivid and weird nightmare. Then the garish green moonlight around him brought swift realization that the incredible happenings of the night were grim reality.

The clouds were gone from the moon, leaving his surroundings again clearly outlined in the flood of green light. Dixon lifted his head and cautiously searched the scene, but he could see no trace of the great spider-form that had pursued him.

Wondering curiously why the creature had abandoned the chase at the moment when victory was within its grasp, Dixon rose lithely to his feet. The protecting hood had brought a quick and complete recovery from the devastating effects of the green moon’s rays. His muscles were again supple, and his brain once more functioned with clearness.

Then abruptly Dixon’s blood froze as the sound of a woman’s scream came again. The cry was that of a woman in the last extremity of terror, and Dixon knew with a terrible certainty that that woman was Ruth Lawton!

He raced toward the small ridge of rocks from behind which the sound had apparently come. A moment later he reached the scene, and stopped horror-stricken.

Three figures were there in a small rock-walled clearing. One was old Emil Crawford, sprawled unconscious on his side, the soft glow of a small white globe in a strange head-piece atop his gray hair shining eerily in the green moonlight.

Near Crawford’s body loomed the giant spider-creature, and clutched firmly in the great claspers just under the monster’s terrible fanged mouth was the slender body of Ruth Lawton. Merciful unconsciousness had apparently overwhelmed the girl now, for she lay supinely in the dread embrace, with eyes closed and lips silent.


A

s the monster dropped the girl’s body to the ground and whirled to confront Dixon, for the first time he had a clear view of the thing in all its horror.

He shuddered in uncontrollable nausea. The incredible size of the creature was repellent enough, but it was the grisly head of the monstrosity that struck the final note of horror. That head was more than half human!

The fangs and other mouth parts were those of a giant tarantula, but these merged directly into the mutilated but unmistakable head of a man—with an aquiline nose, staring eyes, and a touseled mop of dirty brown hair. Resting on top of the head was a metallic head-piece similar to the one worn by Emil Crawford, but the small globe in this one blazed with a fiery opalescence.[245]

The creature crouched lower, with its legs twitching in obvious preparation for a spring. Dixon looked wildly about him for a possible weapon, but saw nothing. Then he suddenly remembered the little lead grenade in his pocket. The cataclysmic power of that little bomb should be more than a match for even this monster.

His fingers closed over the grenade just as the great spider’s twitching legs straightened in a mighty effort that sent it hurtling through the air straight toward him.

Dixon dodged to one side with a swiftness that caused the monster to miss by a good yard. Dixon raced a dozen paces farther away, then whirled to face the great spider. The creature’s legs began scuttling warily forward. It was to be no wild leap through the air this time, but a swift rush over the ground that Dixon would be powerless to evade.

Releasing the safety catch of the grenade, Dixon hurled the tiny missile straight at the rock floor just under the feet of that vast misshapen creature. There was a vivid flash of blinding blue flame, then a terrific report. Dazed by the concussion, but unhurt, Dixon cautiously went over to investigate the result of the explosion.


O

ne brief glance was enough. The hideous mass of shattered flesh sprawling there on the rocks would never again be a menace. The only thing that had escaped destruction in that shattering blast was the strange head-piece the thing had worn. Either the small shining globe was practically indestructible, or else it had been spared by some odd freak of the explosive, for it still blazed in baleful opalescence atop the shattered head.

Dixon hurried back to where Emil Crawford and Ruth Lawton lay. The girl’s body was so rigidly inert that Dixon threw back his encumbering hood and knelt over her for a swift examination. His fears were quickly realized. Ruth was already a victim of the green moon’s dread paralysis.

“Dixon! Bruce Dixon!”

Dixon turned at the call. Emil Crawford, his face drawn with pain, had struggled up on one elbow. The old man was obviously fighting off complete collapse by sheer will power.

“Dixon! Replace Ruth’s shining head-piece at once!” Crawford gasped. “That will make her immune from the Green Death, and then we can—” The old man’s voice swiftly faded away into silence as he again fainted.

Dixon hurriedly searched the scene and found Ruth’s head-piece on the ground where it had apparently fallen in her first struggle with the giant spider, but the tiny white globe in the device was shattered and dark.

Despair gripped Dixon for a moment. Then he remembered the unbroken head-piece of the slain monster. True, the glow of its globe was opalescent instead of white, but it seemed to offer its wearer the same immunity to the green moon’s rays.

He swiftly retrieved the head-piece from the spider-creature’s body, and set the light metal framework in place on Ruth’s auburn curls.


R

esults came with incredible quickness. The rigidity left Ruth’s body immediately. Her breath came in fast-quickening gasps, and her eyes fluttered open as Dixon knelt over her.

“It’s Bruce, Ruth—Bruce Dixon,” he said tenderly. “Don’t you know me, dear?”

But there was no trace of recognition in those wide-open blue eyes staring fixedly up at him. For a mo[246]ment Ruth lay there with muscles strangely tense. Then with a lithe strength that was amazing she suddenly twisted free of the clasp of Dixon’s arms and sprang to her feet.

The next minute Dixon gave ground, and he found himself battling for his very life. This was not the Ruth Lawton whom he had known and loved. This was a madwoman of savage menace, with soft lips writhing over white teeth in a jungle snarl, and blue eyes that fairly glittered with unrestrained, insensate hate.

He tried to close with the maddened girl, but instantly regretted his rashness. Her slender body seemed imbued with the strength of a tigress as she sent slim fingers clawing at his throat. He tore himself free just in time. Dazed and shaken, he again gave ground before the fury of the girl’s attack.

He could not bring himself to the point of actively fighting back, yet he knew that in another moment he would either have to mercilessly batter his beautiful adversary into helplessness or else be himself overcome. There was no middle course.

Then old Emil Crawford’s voice came again as the old man rallied to consciousness for another brief moment.

“Bruce, the opal globe is a direct link to those devils themselves! Break it, Bruce, break it—for Ruth’s sake as well as your own!”


C

rawford had barely finished his gasped warning when Ruth again hurled herself forward upon Dixon with tapering fingers curved like talons as they sought his throat. Dixon swept her clutching hands aside with a desperate left-handed parry, then snatched wildly at the gleaming head-piece with his right hand.

The thing came away in his grasp, and in the same swift movement he savagely smashed it against the rocky wall beside him. Whatever the opalescent globe’s eery powers might be, it was not indestructible. It shattered like a bursting bubble, its fire dying in a tiny cloud of particles that shimmered faintly for a moment, then was gone.

Again, the effect upon Ruth was almost instantaneous. Every trace of her insane fury vanished. She swayed dizzily and would have fallen had not Dixon caught her in his arms. For a moment she looked up into his face with eyes in which recognition now shone unmistakably. Then her eyelids slowly closed, and she again lapsed into unconsciousness.

Dixon looked over at Emil Crawford, and found that the old man had again collapsed. Dixon knew of but one thing to do with the stricken man and girl, and that was to take them to his laboratory. The laboratory, apparently insulated by veins of lead ore in the mountain surrounding it, was the one sure spot of refuge in this weird nightmare world of paralyzing lunar rays and prowling monsters.


F

linging his tunic over Ruth’s head to shield her as much as possible from the moonlight, he carried her to the laboratory, then returned for Emil Crawford. Safe within the subterranean retreat with the old scientist, Dixon removed his encumbering lead costume and began doing what he could for the stricken pair.

Ruth was still unconscious, but the cataleptic rigidity was already nearly gone from her body, and her breathing was now the deep respiration of normal sleep.

Emil Crawford’s condition was more serious. Not only was the old man’s frail strength nearly exhausted, but he was also badly wounded. His thin chest was seared by two great livid areas of burned flesh, the nature of which puzzled Dixon as[247] he began to dress the injuries. They seemed of radioactive origin, yet in many ways they were unlike any radium burns that Dixon had ever seen.

While Dixon was working over him, Crawford stirred weakly and opened his eyes. He sighed in relief as he recognized his surroundings.

“Good boy, Bruce!” he commended wanly. “We are safe here among the insulating veins of lead ore in the mountain. This is where Ruth and I were trying to come after we escaped from those devils to-night. But, Bruce, how did you guess the radioactive nature of the Green Sickness in time to avoid falling a victim to it as soon as you left the shelter of your laboratory?”

“My escape was entirely luck,” Dixon admitted grimly. “To-night I left my laboratory for the first time in three days. I found a world gone mad, with a strange green moon blazing down upon a land of living dead men, and with marauding monsters hideous enough to have been spawned in the Pit itself. What in Heaven’s name does it all mean?”


I

am afraid that it means the end of the world, Bruce,” Crawford answered quietly. “It was a little over forty-eight hours ago that the incredible event first happened. Without a moment’s warning, the moon turned green! Hardly had the world’s astronomers had time to speculate upon this amazing phenomenon before the Green Sickness struck—a pestilence of appalling deadliness that swept resistlessly in the path of those weird green rays. Wherever the green moon shone, every living creature succumbed with ghastly swiftness to the condition of living death that you have seen.

“Westward with the racing moon sped the Green Sickness, and nothing stayed its attack. The green rays pierced through buildings of wood, stone, and iron as though they did not exist. A doomed world had neither time nor opportunity to guess that lead was the one armor against those dread rays. To-night, Bruce, we are in all probability the only three human beings on this planet who are not slumbering in the paralytic stupor of the Green Sickness.

“Ruth and I were stricken with the rest of the world,” Crawford continued. “We recovered consciousness hours later to find ourselves captives in the Earth-camp of the invaders themselves. You probably saw the display of lights that marks their camp down in the valley a mile beyond my place. We have learned since that the space ship of the invaders dropped silently down into the valley the night before the moon turned green and established the camp as a sort of outpost and observatory. They left two of their number there as pioneers, then the rest of them departed in the space ship for their present post up near the moon.

“Ruth and I were revived only that the two invaders in the camp might question us regarding life on this planet. They have a science that is based upon principles as utterly strange and incomprehensible to us as ours probably is to them. They probed my brain with a thought machine. It was an apparatus that worked both ways. What knowledge they got from me I do not know, but I do know that they unwittingly told me much in the bizarre and incredible mental pictures that the machine carried from their brains to mine.


T

hey are refugees. Bruce, from a planet that circled about the star that we know as Alpha Centauri, a star that is the nearest of all our stellar neighbors, being only four and a third light[248] years distant. Their home planet was disrupted by a colossal engineering experiment of the Centaurians themselves, the only survivors being a group of fifty who escaped in a space ship just before the catastrophe.

“There were no other habitable planets in their own system, so in desperation these refugees sped out across the void to our solar system in the hope of finding a new home here. They reconnoitered our Earth secretly and found it ideal. But first they believed that they must conquer the life that already held this Earth. To do this, they struck with the Green Sickness.

“The rays that are turning the moon green emanate from the space ship hovering up there some fifty thousand miles from the moon itself. The Centaurian’s rays, blending with the sunlight striking the disc of the full moon, are intensified in some unknown way, then reflected across the quarter of a million miles to the Earth, to flood this planet with virulent radiance.

“The green moonlight is radioactive in nature, and overcomes animal life within a matter of fifteen minutes or less. The rays are most powerful when the moon is in the sky, but their effect continues even after it has set, because as long as the green moonlight strikes any part of the Earth’s atmosphere the entire atmospheric envelope of the planet remains charged with the paralyzing radioactive influence.

“Earth’s inhabitants are not dead. They are merely stupefied. If the green rays were to cease now, most of the victims of the Green Sickness would quickly recover with little permanent injury. But, Bruce, if that evil green moon blazes on for twenty-four hours more, the brain powers of Earth’s millions will be forever shattered. So weakened will they be by then that recovery will be impossible even with the rays shut off, and the entire planet will be populated only by mindless imbeciles, readily available material for the myriads of monstrous hybrids that the invaders will create to serve them.


T

o-night you saw the hybrid that the invaders sent to recapture Ruth and me. It was a fit specimen of the grisly magic which those devils from outer space work with their uncanny surgery and growth-stimulating radioactive rays. The basic element of that monster was an ordinary tarantula spider, with its growth incredibly increased in a few short hours of intensive ray treatment in the Centaurian’s camp. The half-head grafted to it was that of a human being. They always graft the brain cavity of a mammal to a hybrid—half heads of burros, horses, or even dogs, but preferably those of human beings. I think that they prefer to use as great a brain power as possible.

“The hybrids are controlled through the small opalescent globes on their heads, globes that are in direct tune with a huge master globe of opalescent fire in the invaders’ camp. When Ruth attacked you after you placed the opal head-piece upon her head, she was for the moment merely another of the invaders’ servants blindly obeying the broadcast command to kill. The white globes that Ruth and I wore when we escaped from the camp were identical with those worn by the invaders themselves, being nothing more than harmless insulators against the effect of the green moonlight.”

A sudden spasm of pain convulsed Crawford’s face. Dixon sprang forward to aid him, but the old man rallied with an effort and weakly waved Dixon back.

“I’m all right, Bruce,” he gasped. “My strength is nearly exhausted, that is all. Like a garrulous old fool[249] I’ve worn myself out talking about everything but the one important subject. Bruce, have you developed that new and infinitely powerful explosive you were working on?”

“Yes,” Dixon answered grimly. “I have an explosive right here in the laboratory that can easily blow the Centaurian’s camp completely off the map.”


C

rawford shook his head impatiently. “Destroying the camp would do no good. We must shatter the space ship itself if we are to extinguish those green rays in time to save our world.”

“That is impossible if the space ship is hovering up there by the moon!” Dixon protested.

“No, it is not impossible,” Crawford answered confidently. “I have a projectile in my laboratory that will not only hurtle across that great gap with incredible speed, but will also infallibly strike its target when it gets there. It is a projectile that is as irresistibly drawn by radio waves as steel is by a magnet, and it will speed as straight to the source of those waves as a bit of steel will to the magnet.

“The Centaurians in the space ship,” Crawford continued, “are in constant communication with their camp through radio apparatus much like our own. If you can pack a powerful contact charge of your explosive in my projectile, I can guarantee that when the projectile is released it will flash out into space and score a direct hit against the walls of the space ship.”

“I can pack the explosive in the projectile, all right,” Dixon answered grimly. “We will need only a lump the size of an egg, and a small container of the heavy gas that activates it. The explosive itself is a radium compound that, when allowed to come in contact with the activating gas, becomes so unstable that any sharp blow will set it off in an explosion that in a matter of seconds releases the infinite quantities of energy usually released by radium over a period of at least twelve hundred years. The cataclysmic force of that explosion should be enough to wreck a small planet.”

“Good!” Crawford commended weakly. “If you can only strike your blow to-night, Bruce, our world still has a chance. If only you—” The old man’s voice suddenly failed. He sank back in utter collapse, his eyes closed and his last vestige of strength spent.


K

nowing that the old man would probably remain in his sleep of complete exhaustion for hours, Dixon turned his attention to Ruth. To his surprise, he found her sitting up, apparently completely recovered.

“I’m quite all right again,” she said reassuringly. “I’ve been listening to what Uncle told you. Go ahead and prepare your explosive, Bruce. I’ll do what I can for Uncle while you’re working.”

Dixon donned his lead-cloth hood and tunic again and set to work. Ten minutes later he turned to Ruth with a slender foot-long cylinder of lead in his hand.

“Ruth, will this fit your Uncle’s projectile?” he asked.

“Easily,” she assured him. “But isn’t it frightfully dangerous to carry in that form?”

“No, it’s absolutely safe now, and will be safe until this stud is turned, releasing the activating gas from one compartment to mingle with the radium compound in the other section. Then the cylinder will become a bomb that any sharp jar will detonate.”

“All right, let’s go then,” Ruth answered. “Have you any more of those lead clothes that I can wear? I could wear the globe head-piece that Uncle wore, but it would loom[250] up in the dark like a searchlight.”

Dixon did not protest Ruth’s going with him. There was nothing further that could be done for Emil Crawford for hours and in the hazardous sally to Crawford’s laboratory he knew that Ruth’s cool courage and quick wits would at least double their chances for success in their desperate mission. He provided her with a reserve hood and tunic of lead cloth, then handed her a tiny leaden pellet.

“Keep this for a last resort,” he told her. “It’s a contact bomb that becomes ready to throw when this safety catch is snapped over. I wish we had a dozen of them, but that’s the last capsule I had and there’s no time to prepare more.”

He fished a rusty old revolver out of a drawer, and placed it in his pocket. “I’ll use this gun for a last resort weapon myself,” he said. “The action only works about half the time, but it’s the only firearm in the place.”


T

he green moon was still high in the sky as Ruth and Dixon emerged from the tunnel, but it was already beginning to drop gradually down toward the west. Dixon wheeled his disreputable flivver out of its nearby shed. With engine silent they started coasting down the rough winding road into the valley.

For nearly two miles they wound down the long grade. Then, just as they reached the valley floor they saw, far up among the rocks to the left of the road, the thing they had been dreading—the bobbing opalescent globe that marked the presence of one of the Centaurians’ hideous hybrids. The shimmering globe paused for a moment, then came racing down toward them.

The need for secrecy was past. Dixon threw the car in gear and savagely pulled down the gas lever. With throttle wide open they hurtled around the perilous curves of the narrow road, but always in the rocks beside and above them they heard the scuttling progress of some huge, many-legged creature that constantly kept pace with them.

They had occasional glimpses of the thing. Its pale jointed body was some twenty feet in length, and had apparently been developed from that of a centipede, with scores of racing legs that carried it with startling speed over the rocky terrain.

The flivver raced madly on toward the blaze of kaleidoscopic colors that marked the Centaurians’ camp. Crawford’s home loomed up now barely a hundred yards ahead.

As though sensing that its quarry was about to escape, the hybrid flashed a burst of speed that sent it on by the car for a full fifty yards, then down into the road directly in front, where it whirled to confront them. Dixon knew that he could never stop the car in the short gap separating them from that huge upreared figure, and to attempt swerving from the road upon either side was certain disaster.

He took the only remaining chance. With throttle wide open he sent the little car hurtling straight for the giant centipede. He threw his body in front of Ruth, to shield her as much as possible, just as they smashed squarely into the hybrid.

The impact was too much for even that monstrous figure. It was hurled bodily from the road to crash upon the jagged rocks at the bottom of a thirty-foot gully. There it sprawled in a broken mass, too hopelessly shattered to ever rise again.

The flivver skidded momentarily, then crumpled to a full stop against the rocks at the side of the road. Dixon and Ruth scrambled from the wreckage and raced for Crawford’s home, scarcely fifty yards ahead.


T

hey entered the laboratory and Ruth went directly over to where the radio-projectile rested in[251] a wall-rack. Dixon took the gleaming cylinder down to examine it. Tapering to a rounded point at the front end, it was nearly a yard long and about five inches in diameter.

“The mechanism inside the projectile is turned off now, of course,” Ruth said. “If it were turned on, the projectile would have been on its way to the space ship long ago, for the radio waves are as strong here as at the Centaurians’ camp.”

The girl pointed to a small metal stud in the nose of the projectile.

“When that is snapped over, it makes the contact that sets the magnetizing mechanism into action,” she explained. “Then the projectile will go hurtling directly for the source of any radio waves within range. I don’t know the nature of its mechanism. Uncle merely told me that it is the application of an entirely new principle of electricity.”

Dixon laid the long projectile down on the work-bench, and began packing his lead cylinder of explosive inside it. He had to release the lead cylinder’s safety catch before closing the projectile, which made his work a thrillingly precarious one, for any sharp blow now would detonate the unstable mixture of gas and radium compound in one cataclysmic explosion.

He sighed in relief as he finally straightened up with the completed projectile held carefully in both hands.

“All we have to do now, Ruth,” he said, “is step out from under this roof and snap that energizing stud. Then this little package of destruction will be on its way to our Centaurian friends up there by that pestilential green moon.”


R

uth stepped ahead to open the door for him. With the end of their task so near at hand, both forgot to be cautious.

Ruth threw the door open and took one step outside, then suddenly screamed in terror as her shoulders were encircled by a long snake-like object that came whipping down from some vast something that had been lurking just outside. Dixon tried to dodge back, but too late. Another great hairy tentacle came lashing around his shoulders, pinning his arms tightly and jerking him out of the doorway.

He had a swift vague glimpse of a hybrid looming there in the green moonlight—a tarantula hybrid that in size and horror dwarfed any of the frightful products of Centaurian science that he had yet seen.

Before Dixon had time to note any of the details of his assailant another tentacle curled around him, tearing the projectile from his grasp. Then he was irresistibly drawn up toward that grisly head where Ruth’s body was also suspended in one of the powerful tentacles. The next moment, bearing its burdens with amazing ease, the giant hybrid started off.

Dixon tried with all his strength to squirm free enough to get a hand upon the revolver in his pocket, but the constricting tentacle did not give for even an inch. The only result of his effort was to twist his hood to one side, leaving him as effectually blindfolded as though his head were in a sack.

Long minutes of swaying, pitching motion followed as the hybrid sped over the rocky ridges and gullies. It finally came to a halt, and for another minute or so Dixon was held there motionless in mid-air, dimly conscious of a subdued hum of activity all about him. Then he was gently lowered to the ground again.

While one tentacle still held him securely, another tore away his hood and tunic. Almost immediately the hood was replaced by one of the protective white globe devices. Dixon blinked for a moment in half-blinded bewilderment as he got his[252] first glimpse of the Earth-camp of the Centaurians.


T

he place, located on the smooth rock floor of a large natural basin, seemed a veritable cauldron of seething colors which rippled and blended in a dazzling maze of unearthly splendor. But Dixon forgot everything else in that weird camp as his startled gaze fell upon the creature standing directly in front of him.

He knew instinctively that the thing must be one of the Alpha Centaurians, for in its alien grotesqueness the figure was utterly dissimilar to anything ever seen upon Earth before.

Life upon the shattered planet of that far distant sun had apparently sprung from sources both crustacean and reptilian. The Centaurian stood barely five feet in height. Its bulky, box-like body was completely covered with a chitinous armor that gleamed pale yellowish green.

Two short powerful legs, scaled like those of a lizard, ended in feet that resembled degenerated talons. Two pairs of slender arms emanated from the creature’s shoulders, with their many-jointed flexible length ending in delicate three-pronged hands.

The scaly hairless head beneath the Centaurian’s white globe device bore a face that was blankly hideous. Two great lidless eyes, devoid of both pupils and whites, stared unblinkingly at Dixon like twin blobs of red-black jelly. A toothless loose-lipped mouth slavered beneath.

Dixon averted his gaze from the horror of that fearful alien face, and looked anxiously around for Ruth. He saw her almost at once, over at his right. She was tethered by a light metallic rope that ran from her waist to one of the metal beams supporting the great shimmering ball of opalescent fire which formed the central control of the hybrids.

One of the white globe devices had been placed upon Ruth’s head and she was apparently unhurt, for she pluckily flashed a reassuring smile at Dixon.


D

irectly in front of Dixon and some forty yards away there was a large pen-like enclosure, with vari-colored shafts of radiance from banks of projectors constantly sweeping through it. Dixon drew in his breath sharply as he saw the frightful life lying dormant in that pen. It was a solid mass of hybrids—great loathesome figures fashioned from a score of different worms, insects, and spiders. The globes upon the gruesome mammalian half-heads were still dark and unfired with opalescence.

The invaders had apparently raided most of the surrounding country in obtaining those grafted half-heads. Near where Dixon stood there was a tragic little pile of articles taken from the Centaurians’ victims—prospectors’ picks, shovels, axes, and other tools.

Over to the left of the dormant hybrids stood the second Alpha Centaurian, curiously examining Dixon’s projectile. The creature apparently suspected the deadly nature of the gleaming cylinder for it soon laid it carefully down and packed cushions of soft fabric around it to shield it from any possible shock.

Then at an unspoken command from the first Centaurian the great hybrid whirled Dixon around to face a small enclosure just behind him in which were located banks of control panels and other apparatus. One of the pieces of mechanism, with a regularly spaced stream of sparks snapping between two terminals, was apparently a radio receiver automatically recording the broadcast from the space ship. Dixon was unable to even guess the nature of the remaining apparatus.

“Bruce, be careful!” Ruth called[253] in despairing warning. “He is going to put the thought-reading machine on your brain. Then he’ll learn what the projectile is for, and everything will be lost!”


D

ixon’s mind raced with lightning speed in the face of this new danger. He stealthily slipped a hand over the revolver in his pocket. There was one vulnerable spot in the great hybrid holding him, and that was the opalescent globe on the creature’s head. If he could only smash that globe with one well-directed shot, he might be able to elude the Centaurians for the precious minute necessary to send the projectile on its deadly journey.

The hybrid began maneuvering Dixon toward the instrument enclosure. For a fleeting second the grip of the tentacles upon his shoulders loosened slightly. Dixon took instant advantage of it. Twisting himself free from the loosened tentacle in one mighty effort, he whirled and fired pointblank at the opalescent globe on the head looming above him.

The bullet smashed accurately home, shattering the globe like a bursting bubble. The great hybrid collapsed with startling suddenness, its life force instantly extinguished as the globe burst.

Dixon leaped to one side and swung the gun into line with the Centaurian’s hideous face. He pulled the trigger—but there was no response. The rusty old firearm had hopelessly jammed.

Dixon savagely flung the revolver at the Centaurian. The creature tried to dodge, but the heavy gun struck its body a glancing blow. There was a slight spurt of body fluid as the chitinous armor was partly broken.

Dixon’s heart leaped exultantly. No wonder these creatures had to create hybrids to fight for them. Their own bodies were as vulnerable as that of a soft-shelled crab!

The Centaurian quickly drew a slender tube of dark green from a scabbard in its belt. Dixon dodged back, looking wildly about him for a weapon. There was an ax in the pile only a few yards away. Dixon snatched the ax up, and whirled to give battle.


T

he other Centaurian had come hurrying over now to aid its mate. Dixon was effectually barred from attempting any progress toward the projectile by the two grotesque creatures as they stood alertly there beside each other with their green tubes menacing him. Dixon waited tensely at bay, remembering those searing radium burns upon Emil Crawford’s body.

Then the first Centaurian abruptly leveled a second and smaller tube upon Dixon. A burst of yellow light flashed toward him, enveloping him in a cloud of pale radiance before he could dodge.

There was a faint plop as the protecting white globe upon his head was shattered. The yellow radiance swiftly faded, leaving Dixon unhurt, but he realized that the first round in the battle had been won decisively by the Centaurians. His only chance now, was to end the battle before the paralyzing rays of the green moon sapped his strength.

He warily advanced upon the Centaurians. Their green tubes swung into line and twin bolts of violet flame flashed toward him. He dodged, and the bolts missed by inches. Then Dixon nearly fell as his foot struck a bundle of cloth on the ground.

The next moment he snatched the bundle up with a cry of triumph. It was his lead-cloth tunic, torn and useless as a garment, but invaluable as a shield against the searing effects of those bolts of radioactive flame. He hurriedly wrapped the[254] fabric in a rough bundle around his left forearm. The next time the tubes’ violet flames flashed toward him he thrust his rude shield squarely into their path. There was a light tingling shock, and that was all. The bolts did not sear through.

With new confidence, Dixon boldly charged the two Centaurians. A weird battle ensued in the garishly lighted arena.

The effective range of the violet flashes was only about ten feet, and Dixon’s muscular agility was far superior to that of his antagonists. By constant whirling and dodging he was able to either catch the violet bolts upon his shielded arm or else dodge them entirely.

Yet, in spite of the Centaurians’ clumsy slowness, they maneuvered with a cool strategy that constantly kept the Earth man’s superior strength at bay. Always as Dixon tried to close with one of them he was forced to retreat when a flanking attack from the other threatened his unprotected back. And always the Centaurians maneuvered to bar Dixon from attempting any dash toward the projectile.


T

he minutes passed, and Dixon felt his strength rapidly ebbing, both from his herculean exertions and from the paralyzing rays of the green moon beating down upon his unprotected head. As his speed of foot lessened the Centaurians began inexorably pressing their advantage.

Dixon was no longer escaping unscathed. In spite of his frantic efforts to dodge, twice the violet bolts grazed his body in searing flashes of exquisite agony.

His muscles stiffened still more in the attack of the Green Sickness. Desperately dodging a Centaurian bolt, he stumbled and nearly fell. As he staggered to regain his balance, one of his antagonists scrambled to the coveted position behind him.

It was only Ruth’s scream of warning that galvanized Dixon’s numbed brain into action in time to meet the imminent peril.

In one mighty effort he flung his ax at the Centaurian in front of him. The heavy blade cut deep into the thinly armored body. Mortally wounded, the creature collapsed.

Dixon whirled and flung up his shielded left arm just in time to intercept the violet bolt of the other Centaurian. Warily backing away, Dixon succeeded in retrieving his ax from beside the twitching body of the fallen invader.

Then, with the heavy weapon again in his hand, he remorselessly charged his remaining foe. The Centaurian’s tube flashed in a veritable hail of hurtling violet bolts, but Dixon caught the flashes upon his shield and closed grimly in.

One final leap brought him to close quarters. The heavy ax whistled through the air in a single mighty stroke that cleft the Centaurian’s frail body nearly in two.

Then Ruth’s excited scream came again. “Bruce—the other one! Get it quick!”


D

ixon turned. The wounded invader, taking advantage of their preoccupation in the final struggle with its mate, had dragged its crippled body over to the instrument enclosure. Dixon staggered toward it as fast as his half-paralyzed muscles would permit.

He was just too late. The Centaurian jerked a lever home a fraction of a second before Dixon’s smashing ax forever ended his activities. The lever’s action upon the pen of inert hybrids was immediate.

The sweeping lances of light vanished in a brief sheet of vivid flame which kindled the dark globes on the hybrids’ gruesome heads to steady opalescence—and the dread horde came to life! Sprawling from the pen, they came scuttling toward[255] Dixon in a surging flood—a scene out of a nightmare.

Dixon faced the oncoming horde in numb despair, knowing that his nearly-paralyzed body had no chance in flight. Then, just as the hybrids were nearly upon him, he heard Ruth’s encouraging voice again.

“There’s still one chance left, Bruce,” she cried, “and I’ll take it!”

Dixon turned. Ruth had in her hand the tiny contact grenade he had given her for a last emergency. She snapped the safety catch on the little bomb, then hurled it squarely at the giant opalescent globe looming close beside her.

There was a terrific explosion and the great globe shattered to atoms. Apparently stunned by the concussion but otherwise unhurt, Ruth was flung clear of the wreckage.

With the shattering of the central globe the strange life force of the hybrid horde vanished instantly and completely. Midway in their rush they sprawled inert and dead, with their outstretched legs so close to Dixon that he had to step over one or two to get clear.


D

ixon’s brain reeled in the reaction of relief from the horde’s hideous menace. Then he grimly fought to clear his fast-numbing senses long enough for the one final task that he knew must still be done.

The projectile, cushioned as it was, had escaped detonation in the blast. He had only to stagger across the twenty yards separating him from it, then release the stud that would send it flashing out into space.

But his last shred of reserve strength had nearly been sapped now by the insidious rays of that malevolent green moon. Even as he started toward the projectile, he staggered and fell. Unable to drag himself to his feet again, he began grimly crawling with arms and legs as stiff and dead as that much stone.

Only ten more yards to go now. And now only five. Grimly, doggedly, with senses reeling and muscles nearly dead, the last survivor of a dying planet fought desperately on under the malignant rays of the vivid green moon!

One last sprawling convulsive effort—and Dixon had the projectile in his hands. His stiff fingers fumbled agonizingly with the activating stud. Then abruptly the stud snapped home. With a crescendo whistle of sundered air the projectile flashed upward into the western sky.

Dixon collapsed upon his back, his dimming eyes fixed upon the grim green moon. Minutes that seemed eternities dragged slowly by. Then his heart leaped in sudden hope. Had there really glowed a small blue spark up there beside the green moon—a spark marking the mighty explosion of the radium bomb against the Centaurians’ space ship?

A fraction of a second later, and doubt became glorious certainty. The vivid green of the moonlight vanished. The silvery white sheen of a normal moon again shone serenely up there in the western sky!

With the extinguishing of the dread green rays, new strength surged swiftly through Dixon’s tired body. He arose and hurried over to where Ruth lay limp and still near the wreckage of the great globe. He worked over her for many anxious minutes before the normal flush of health returned to her white cheeks and her eyes slowly opened.

Then he took Ruth into his arms and for a long minute the two silently drank in the beauty of that radiant silver moon above them, while their hearts thrilled with a realization of the glorious miracle of awakening life that they knew must already be beginning to rejuvenate a stricken world.


[256]

Someone at a huge switchboard turned toward me. I

pressed the trigger.Someone at a huge switchboard turned toward me. I pressed the trigger.

The Death-Cloud

By Nat Schachner and Arthur L. Zagat

The epic exploit of one who worked in the dark and alone, behind the enemy lines, in the great Last War.
W

e sat, Eric Bolton and I, at a parapet table atop the 200-story General Aviation Building. The efficient robot waiter of the Sky Club had cleared away the remnants of an epicurean meal. Only a bowl of golden fruit remained—globes of nectar picked in the citrus groves of California that morning.

My eye wandered over the scene spread before us, the vast piling of masonry that is New York. The dying beams of the setting sun glinted golden from the roofs of the pleasure palaces topping the soaring structures. Lower, amid interlacing archings of the mid-air thoroughfares, darkness had already piled its blackness. Two thousand feet below, in the region of perpetual night, the green-blue factory lights flared.[257]

On three sides, the unbroken serration of the Empire City’s beehives stretched in a semicircle of twenty miles radius. Long since, the rivers that had made old Manhattan an island had been roofed over. But, to the east, the heaving sea still stretched its green expanse. On the horizon a vast cloud mountain billowed upward from the watery surface, white, and pink and many shades of violet.

“That’s just the way it looked,” Bolton muttered, as he drew my attention to the cloud mass. “See that air-liner just diving into it? Just so I saw the New York—five thousand men—pride of the Air Service—dive into that mountain of smoke. And she never came out! Gone—like that!” And he snapped his fingers.

He fell silent again, gazing dreamily at the drifting rings of pipe smoke. He smiled, the twisted smile which was the sole indication that one side of his face was the master work of a great surgeon-sculptor. A marvelous piece of work, that, but no less marvelous than the protean changes that Bolton himself could make in his appearance. It was this genius at impersonation that had won Bolton his commission in the Intelligence Service, when, in 1992, the world burst into flame.

“Would you like to hear about it?” The obtuseness of the man!

“If you’d care to tell me.” I spoke off-handedly. This was like hunting birds on the wing: too abrupt a movement of the glider, and the game was lost.

This is the story he told me, in the low, modulated voice of the trained actor. He told it simply, with no dramatic tricks, no stressing, no climatic crescendos. But I saw the scenes he described, dodged with him through black caverns of dread, felt an icy hand clutch my heart as the Ferret stared at me with his baleful glance; was deafened, and stunned, and crushed by that final tremendous down pouring of the waters.


I

was standing—he began—on one of our rafts, watching the installation of a new ray machine. A storm was raging, but the great raft, a thousand feet long, and five hundred wide, was as steady as a rock. We were 700 miles out; the great push of ’92, that drove us back to within 150 miles of our coast and almost ended the war, was still eleven weeks off.

Suddenly the buzzer of my radio-receiver whirred against my chest. “2—6—4″—my personal call. “2—2″—”Go to nearest communications booth.” “A—4″—”Use Intelligence Service intermitter 4.” The secret of that was known only to a half-dozen men in the field. Headquarters wanted to talk to me on a supremely important matter.

There was a booth only a short distance away. I stepped to it and identified myself to the guard. In a moment I was within and had swung shut and sealed the sound-proof door. I set the intermitter switches to the A—4 combination. Not even our own control officers could eavesdrop now. Then I switched off the light, and waited.

A green glow grew out of the darkness. I was being inspected. Headquarters was taking no chances. Out of the green haze before me the general himself materialized. I could count every hair in his grizzled beard. The little scar at the corner of his left eye fascinated me with its distinctness.

I saluted. “Captain Bolton reporting, sir.”

“At ease!” General Sommers’ voice snapped with military precision. The general was standing in his private office in Washington. I could see his desk in the corner, and the great operations map on the wall. There were new lines of worry in the general’s grim face.[258]


H

e went straight to the point. “Captain Bolton, we are confronted with a problem that must be solved at once. While our information is meagre, the Staff is convinced that a great danger menaces us. Of its precise nature, or how it is to be combatted, we are unaware. I am assigning you to secure the answer to these two questions.

“A week ago there appeared, ten miles east of the enemies’ first line, and directly opposite our raft 1264, what seemed at first to be merely a peculiar cloud formation. It rose directly from the surface of the water, and was shaped roughly like half an egg. The greatest dimension, lying along the water, parallel to the battle line, was about 5 miles; the height approximately a mile.

“When two or three days had passed, and no change in the shape or dimensions of the strange mass had taken place, although wind and weather conditions had been varied, we determined to investigate. This was undoubtedly an artificial, not a natural, phenomenon. It was then that we discovered that there was a concentration of defenses along this portion of the front. Our scouts were unable to find any of the usual gaps in either the ray network in the upper air, or the gyro-knife barrier beneath the surface. At the same time, from scouting parties and deserters at other points we learned that rumors are rife throughout the enemy forces of some scheme now on foot that will overwhelm us within a very short time. No details have been given, but so widespread is the gossip, and so consistent, that we have been forced to the conclusion that it cannot be reasonably dismissed as mere morale-supporting propaganda.

“We have secretly developed a method of so equipping aircraft as to render them immune to the enemy death ray. The device is complicated and requires time to manufacture and install. After careful consideration, we decided that the situation was sufficiently grave to warrant revealing to the enemy our possession of this new device.

“The battle-airship New York has been equipped with the new protective equipment. To-morrow at sunrise she will make an attack in force on whatever lies behind that screen.

“Your orders are these. You will proceed at once to raft 1264. You will observe the attack made by the New York. If she fails, you will then find some way to enter that area, discover what is going on behind the screen, hamper or destroy the enemy plans if possible and report back to me personally.”


T

he general’s face suddenly softened. His tones lost their military precision. “I am afraid, Captain, that I am sending you to your death. But—we must know what is going on. If the New York fails, the task will appear impossible, but you have already done the impossible.”

The grim mask dropped again over the chief’s features; again he became the perfect military machine. “You will call on any officer of our forces for whatever you may need. Here is your authority.” He stepped aside, and I heard the low burr of the tel-autograph at the side of the screen before me. A moment, and the general was again visible.

“That will be all.” Once more the momentary softening. “Good luck, my boy.” A final exchange of salutes, and the screen went blank.

I switched on the light. There in the little machine was a slip of paper. I extracted it. The lines of type, the scrawled signature, burned into my brain like letters of fire.

“To: All Officers of the Military Forces of the Americas.

Subject: Military Assistance. Eric Bolton, Captain M.I.S.,[259] M.F.A. is authorized to call upon you for any assistance. You will comply with his requests.

Alton Sommers, Lieut. General Commanding M.I.S., M.F.A.

By authority of the Commander in Chief.”

In the corner appeared my thumb-print.

I stood there for a long time, mulling the thing over. The Staff was laying tremendous stress on the enemy’s strange cloud formation, even to the extent of disclosing the secret of the new defensive device. The Easterners, too, had something novel, something that would cut off absolutely the transmission of ether waves. Nothing either side had yet produced would do that. What was happening behind that screen? Would they break through our defenses at last?

A vision arose before me. Hordes of yellow men, of black, of white renegades from the nations where the red flag waved dominant, pouring over the Americas. The horrors that Britain had undergone, the last European nation to hold out against the Red horde, flashed into my mind. I shuddered. Never. It must not be.


I

was hurled from my feet by an electric shock. A great flood of sunlight burst in on me. A corner of the booth, three-foot concrete, had been sheared away, whiffed into nothingness! I arose and dashed into the open. A raid was in progress. The air was electric with the clashing of opposing barrages. The terrible silence of the pitched battles of that war oppressed me. I saw a squad, caught in the beam of an Eastern ray-projector, destroyed. The end man must have been just on the edge of the beams—half his right side lay twitching on the ground. The rest of him, and the seven others, were smoking heaps of blackened cinders.

High over No Man’s Land—queer how those old phrases last—a covey of enemy helicopters hung, waiting for the barrage to lift. A black hulk broke the surface of the water, split open: then another. Enemy sub-surface craft. The fight was being waged under water, too. A green mass spilled its contents as it leaped over the waves and fell back. One of ours.

A huge buzzing came from behind me. A cloud of wasplike forms flew high overhead. It was reserve aircraft, hurrying up from the second line raft, ten miles west.

But this was no affair of mine. I had my orders. I must be in the North Atlantic by daybreak. I looked around. There at the further edge my little Zephyr rested, intact. I hurried to her and sprang into the cockpit. I was off the coast of Chile. Twelve thousand feet would clear the highest range between. I set the height control. Today you don’t have to do that, but Mason hadn’t perfected his automatic elevator then. The starting indicator was already set for my position. I adjusted the direction disk. The little green light showed that the power broadcast was in operation. I snapped over the starting switch and the whir of the helicopter vanes overhead told me all was well. The machine leaped into the air. Nothing to do now till the warning bell told me I was within a hundred miles of my destination. The battle shot away from me, far below.

Darkness came swiftly. I was shooting into the eye of the sun at three hundred miles an hour. I swallowed a few pellets of concentrated food, then curled up in my bunk. There was no knowing how many hours would pass till I slept again.

I fell asleep at once.[260]


T

he strident clamor of the alarm bell woke me. Dawn was just breaking. Far below me I could make out the heaving Atlantic, calm and peaceful. A long line of the huge second-line rafts just underneath, stretching north and south till it curved over the horizon. A bugle’s clear notes came drifting up to me, reveille. Then I was hovering over my goal, raft 1264. The black rectangle was alive with activity unwonted at this early hour. I took over the controls from the mechanical pilot, sent my recognition signal and drifted downward.

The Zephyr settled on the raft with a soft hiss of the compressed air shock absorbers. A guard came hurrying up. My credentials passed upon, I alighted. Momentarily, it was getting brighter. I was just in time.

I looked eastward, toward the enemy rafts. Beyond them, there it was, just as General Sommers had described it—a mountain of vapor, gleaming white in the gathering light. Not at all disquieting; merely a shifting, billowing cloud mass. Rather pretty. The rest of the sky was clear, unspecked.

As I gazed a line of red fire ran around the edge of the cloud. A violet glow suffused the whole, faded swiftly into pink. The sun was rising. Behind me I heard a huge whirring. Turning, I saw her, just rising, all the beautiful trim length of her. The New York! Pride of our air fleet!

Fifty paces to my right a little knot of officers caught my attention. I recognized Jim Bradley. I remembered, someone had told me he was a major, and was commanding a raft. Good. Jim would work with me as he had in the old days at Stanford U., when I coached the air polo team that he captained. I walked over.

Time for only a hurried handclasp. The signal corps sergeant, earphones clamped to his head, was intoning the airship’s messages. “We have reached the thousand-foot level. Will now head for the objective. All well.”

We watched her. She was through our barrage-line. A snapped order from Jim restored the barrier, momentarily lifted to let her pass. A curious shimmering blurred the ship’s outlines. I called Jim’s attention to it. “That’s the new device, a network of fine wires, charged with neutralising vibrations. Worked like a charm in the tests. But there’s no telling how effective it is in actual service.”


A

cold shiver ran up my spine. Many a fine ship I had seen strike that invisible network of rays, and puff into smoke. Was that to be the New York’s fate?

“We are about to pass through the enemy barrage. All well,” came the sergeant’s unemotional monotone, repeating the voice in his ears. I knew that voice was being listened to in Washington by a little group whose every shoulder bore the stars of high command. My thoughts flashed to them, gazing breathless at the screen that imaged the very scene before us.

My breath stopped. Now! She must be in it now. The next second would tell the tale. A faint coruscation of sparks ran along the network, but the craft kept steadily onward. Thank God!

“We have passed through the enemy first-line barrage. All well.”

A faint whistling of released breath came from all about me. I was not the only one who had agonised at that moment. The first test had been passed; would the other be as successful?

“We are increasing our speed to the maximum. Objective dead ahead. All well.”

I saw the ship fairly leap through the sky. Five hundred miles an[261] hour was her greatest speed. Another moment—

“We are entering the cloud. Bow is invisible. All—”

She was in it. She lurched. Plunged forward. She was hidden. I turned to the sergeant. Tremendous concentration was on his bronzed face. He reached out, twirled a dial in the set before him, and shook his head slightly. Twirled again. We were knotted around him, our faces bloodless. He looked up. “The last sentence was cut off sharp, sir. I can hear nothing more. Even the carrier wave is dead.”

Jim ripped out an oath, snatched the phones, and clamped them over his own ears. Dead silence.

At last he looked up. “Nothing, gentlemen.”


W

e looked at each other, appalled.

Bradley handed the apparatus back to the sergeant. “Remain here, listening carefully. Let me know at once if you hear anything.” The sergeant saluted.

Out there the white cloud billowed and gleamed in the sunlight. But there was something ominous in its calm beauty now.

A thought struck me. I spoke, and my voice sounded flat, dead. “Perhaps it’s only the radio waves that are cut off. Maybe she’s all right, fighting there inside, smashing them.” But I knew that it was all over.

“God, I hope you’re right. Five thousand men aboard her.” Bradley’s lips were white, his hands trembling. “Come to my office, Eric; we’ll wait there. To your posts, gentlemen. Each of you will detail a man to watch that cloud bank, and report to me any change in its appearance, even the slightest.”

We walked back to the concrete command-post. We didn’t talk, though it had been years since we had seen each other. My brain was numbed, I know. I had seen plenty of fighting, watched many a man go to his death in the seven months since the war began. But this, somehow, was different.

An hour passed. Jim busied himself with routine paper work. At least he had that relief. I paced about his tiny office. Already I was making plans. Force had failed. Strategy must take its place. I must get in there. But how?

Bradley looked up from his work, his face grim. “No news, Eric. If you were right we should have heard something from the New York by this time. They’re gone, all right.”

“Yes, they’re gone,” I answered. “It’s up to me, then.”


H

e stared in surprise. “Up to you? What do you mean?”

“Just that. I’m going in there, God helping.” I made sure the room was shut tight against eavesdroppers. Then, briefly as I could, I told him of my orders, showing him the document I had received the day before. He shook his head.

“But it’s impossible. Their ray net