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´╗┐Title: Giants on the Earth
Author: Meek, Sterner St. Paul
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Giants on the Earth" ***

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                             [Illustration]

                          Giants on the Earth

                          By Capt. S. P. Meek


                     The yoke of Jovian oppression
                    rests heavily on the dwellers of
                   Earth--until Damis, the Nepthalim,
                     comes forward to lead them in
                            spirited revolt.



CHAPTER I

_The Jovian Tyrant_


Glavour, Jovian Viceroy of the Earth, looked arrogantly about as he lay
at ease on the cushions of the ornate chariot which bore him through the
streets of his capital city. Like all the Jovians, he was cast in a
heroic mold compared to his Earth-born subjects. Even for a Jovian,
Glavour was large. He measured a good eight feet from the soles of his
huge splayed feet to the crown of his enormous head, crested with stiff
black hair which even the best efforts of Tonsome, the court barber,
failed to make lie in order. His keen black eyes glittered as they swept
over the scene before him. Where only a few years before had been only
tangled tropical jungle on the narrow neck of land separating the two
great oceans, now rose row after row of stately buildings. Suddenly
Glavour's attention was attracted by a girlish form in a passing
chariot.

"Stop!" he cried.

[Illustration: _Before them were figures out of a nightmare._]

Obedient to the driver's touch on a lever, the tiny radium motor of the
chariot ceased to revolve and the equipage stopped its forward motion.
Glavour turned to an equerry at his side.

"Havenner," he exclaimed, "did you note that maiden who passed us?"

"I did, Your Excellency."

"Bring her before me."

The equerry sprang lightly to the ground and called out in a stentorian
voice. At the sound every vehicle on the street ceased its movement
until the will of the Viceroy, the ruler of the Sons of God, should be
made known. In a few steps, his powerful Jovian muscles carrying his
huge body forward at a rate impossible to persons born of Earthly
parentage who had not inherited the power needed to overcome the
enormous gravity of Jupiter, Havenner reached the equipage containing
the girl. He gave a curt order and the girl's driver turned his vehicle
and brought it alongside the Viceroy's.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Glavour's eyes rested on the slim lithesome figure of the Earth-girl.
She was just emerging from the grace of girlhood into the full dignity
of young womanhood and the soft clinging garb she wore accentuated
rather than concealed the curves of her body. As Glavour's gaze fell on
her, she cast down her eyes and a flush crept slowly over her pretty
face to the mass of coppery gold hair which crowned her head. An
expression of brutal lust came into the Viceroy's eyes.

"Daughter of Man," he said slowly, "how are you named and what is your
family?"

"My name is Lura, Your Excellency," she faltered, "and I am the daughter
of Turgan, the Kildare of this province."

"You please me, girl," said the Viceroy. "Dismiss your chariot and join
me in mine. There is room in my seraglio for you."

Lura stared with horror at the huge Jovian and shrank back from his
sensual gaze. Glavour gazed at her in astonishment and a deep scowl
spread over his face.

"The prospect does not seem to please you, Daughter of Man," he said
slowly. "Perhaps the company of the Viceroy of Tubain, Ruler of the
Universe, is too lowly to please you and you desire more exalted
company. Be careful that I do not have you stripped and given to the
palace guards for their sport. Join me in my chariot."

He half rose and leaned forward to clasp her. Lura gave a cry of horror
and sprang from her chariot to the ground on the side farthest from the
vehicle of the Viceroy. Glavour leaped to his feet with a roar of rage
and lunged after her. Before he had left his chariot, the hand of his
equerry fell restrainingly on his shoulder. The Viceroy turned a
rage-maddened face toward his minion.

"Seize that maiden, Havenner!" he cried. "As I live, she shall be
sacrificed at the next games."

                   *       *       *       *       *

The equerry made no move to obey his superior's orders and Glavour's
face grew purple with rage.

"Obey my orders or you shall join her as a sacrifice!" he roared.

The equerry's face paled slightly and grew grim at the Viceroy's words
but no trace of fear appeared on his heavy countenance.

"Save your breath, Glavour," he said shortly, but in so quiet a voice
that no one but the Viceroy heard him. "You may be head of the Sons of
God on this planet but your power does not extend to life and death over
me, who am of the same blood that you are. I have the right to appeal to
Tubain from such a sentence. Before you strive to haul that girl away to
your already crowded seraglio against her will, listen to me. Do you
realize who she is?"

The Viceroy's face was a study. For a moment rage predominated and he
raised a mighty fist to strike Havenner down, but the equerry looked him
fearlessly in the eye. Slowly the hot rage faded and a deadly ferocity
took its place.

"You try me far, Havenner," he said in a quiet voice, yet with a hint of
steel in his tones, "yet your loyalty is above suspicion. Heard you not
the girl say she was the daughter of the Kildare of this province?"

"I heard, Your Excellency," replied the equerry, "but beyond that, she
is someone else. She is the affianced bride of Damis, the son of Hortan,
who was Viceroy before you."

"A Nepthalim!" exclaimed the Viceroy scornfully. "What matters that? Are
the desires of a half-breed bastard to stand above the wishes of the
ruler of the planet?"

"It is true that the mother of Damis was a Daughter of Man," said the
equerry quietly, "yet Hortan married her in honor. Damis is a man of
great influence and it would be well to reflect before you rob him of
his chosen bride. There is wide discontent with our rule which needs
only a leader to flare up. Remember that we are few and Jupiter is far
away."

"Havenner, you talk like a frightened woman," sneered the Viceroy. "Let
him join the ranks of the malcontents. For my part, I hope they revolt.
They need to be taught a lesson. Stand aside while I seize the maiden."

                   *       *       *       *       *

The equerry stood aside with a shrug of his shoulders and the Viceroy
sprang to the ground. The girl had run as rapidly as her clinging robes
would allow toward one of the beautiful buildings which lined the
thoroughfare. She had almost reached the doorway before Glavour reached
the ground and raced after her. His Jovian muscles carried his body
forward at a pace which no Terrestrial could equal. It was evident to
the watchers that he would seize Lura before she could reach the
sanctuary she sought.

A mingled chorus of cries of rage and hisses came from the Earthmen who
witnessed the scene. The Jovian guards strove to suppress the outcries
until a word from Havenner made them cease their efforts and close in
around the Viceregal chariot. The cries rose to a tumult but as yet none
of the Earthmen dared to raise a hand against the person of the
representative of Tubain, the far-off Jovian whom they had been forced
to acknowledge as God, and whom many of the ignorant believed _was_ God.

The Viceroy rapidly overtook his victim and his hand was outstretched to
grasp her when there came an interruption. From the doorway which the
girl had been striving to reach, a man burst forth and leaped between
her and her pursuer. Glavour stopped and glowered at the new obstacle in
the path of his sensuality.

The newcomer stood five inches over six feet in his flat sandals but it
was only in his unusual height and his enormous strength that he showed
the blood of his Jovian father. His feet were small and shapely with a
high-arched instep and his whole form was graceful and symmetrical.
Crisply curling yellow hair surmounted a head which Praxiteles would
have reveled in as a model for his youthful Hermes. As he faced the
Viceroy, his usual pleasant smile was gone and his face was set in grim
lines, his clear blue eyes as cold as the ice brought from the polar
regions to cool the Viceroy's drink.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The two stood and stared at one another, the black eyes of the Jovian
burning like fire in strange contrast to the cold glare of the blue
ones. Then tension in the street grew taut. The Earthmen gradually
closed in about them. At a word from Havenner, the Jovian guards closed
up and drew from their garments long black tubes. Presently Glavour
broke the silence.

"Make way, son of Hortan, for the Viceroy of God," he rumbled in his
deep-toned voice.

Damis made no reply, nor did he move a muscle. The rage deepened on the
Viceroy's face and he strode forward, his hand raised to strike down
this puny assailant who had interposed his slight form between the
massive limbs of the Jovian and the object of his desires. With a cry of
rage he brought down his huge hand and then Damis moved. So swiftly
that the eye could hardly follow his movements, he leaped to one side
and his own hand shot up. Fingers of steel circled the hairy wrist of
the Viceroy and stopped his hand in mid-air. For a moment Glavour was
too astonished at the idea of physical resistance to move. Damis, with
an almost contemptuous air, tossed aside the hand he held and made as if
to turn his back. With an inarticulate roar of rage, the Jovian charged.

Again Damis sprang to one side and his hand moved. In a long arc his
clenched fist shot up and caught Glavour on the chin and rocked the four
hundred pounds of bone and muscle that made up the Viceroy. For a moment
Glavour staggered and then his hand fell on Damis' shoulder. Exerting
all of his huge strength, he pulled his opponent toward him and threw
his massive arms about him. Damis made no attempt to wriggle out of the
bone-crushing grip, but, instead, threw his arms about the Jovian and
matched muscle against muscle. The Jovian guards, who had witnessed the
feats of strength which were the Viceroy's boast, expected only one
outcome, but to Havenner, who recalled that Hortan, the father of Damis,
had been one of the mightiest men of Jupiter, the issue was not a
foregone conclusion. Stealthily as a cat he crept forward, a long black
tube clenched in his hand.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Mightily the two strove. The face of the Jovian grew dark red and then
almost purple as he put forth his last ounce of strength to crush the
opponent whom he topped a good eighteen inches. For all of his effort,
not an inch did Damis yield. His face grew as pale as the Jovian's grew
red and his breath came whistling through his lips, but the strength he
had inherited from his mighty sire stood him in good stead. Inch by inch
he bent the huge form of his opponent backward. With a sudden effort,
the Jovian raised one of his huge misshapen feet and strove to bring his
mighty thighs to aid him in thrusting away his enemy. Damis' knee came
up and the Jovian dropped his foot with a howl of pain. His breath came
in gasps and he stared into the implacable blue eyes before him with a
sudden spasm of fear. At last Glavour had met his match.

He opened his lips to call to his guards for help but shame held back
the cry. Once he admitted defeat, the fear in which the Earthmen held
him would be shaken. With an effort he bent forward his head and buried
his huge fangs in Damis' shoulder. There was a cry from the watching
Earthmen as they surged forward. The Jovian guards ran to their ruler's
assistance but they were too far away. Havenner was close and he sprang
forward, thrusting the black tube which he carried, toward Damis.

A cry advised Damis of his danger. With a herculean effort he lifted the
huge Jovian from his feet and swung him around until the massive body
was between him and the threatening weapon of the equerry. As swiftly as
striking snakes his arms uncoiled from around Glavour's body and grasped
him by the shoulders. With one mighty heave he tore the Jovian's mouth
from his shoulder although the flesh was torn and lacerated by the
action. One arm went under Glavour's arm and back around until the hand
rested on the back of his neck. The other arm caught the Viceroy's arm
and twisted it behind his back. Glavour gave a cry of pain as the
punishing hold was applied. Holding his captive before him, Damis
turned to the equerry.

"Put up your tube," he said. "One hostile move and your ruler dies."

"Disintegrate him, Havenner!" gasped the Viceroy.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The equerry hesitated a moment but aid was at hand. The Jovian guards
had come up to the scene of the struggle and surrounded the pair, black
tubes in their hands. The sight of reinforcements roused the Viceroy's
lagging courage.

"Capture him alive!" he gasped. "He will be sacrificed at the next
games!"

With a roar the guards closed in on the struggling pair. As hairy hands
grasped his shoulders, Damis lunged back with all his strength. There
was the crack of a breaking bone and the Viceroy's arm hung dangling and
useless. Damis whirled on the guards, shaking himself loose for a moment
from their grasp, and his fists flew out. Two of the giants went down
before well-aimed blows but no one man, no matter what his might, could
fight against a score of the huge Jovians and Damis was borne to the
ground. Even as he fell, a roar went up from the watching Terrestrials
and with one accord they closed in to attack.

The Jovian guards who were nearest whirled about and raised the black
tubes threateningly. For a moment the Earthmen hesitated and then came
on with a rush. From the tubes came rays of intensely violet light. As
they fell on the front ranks of the charging Terrestrials, the form, on
which the rays impinged grew suddenly tenuous. The sunlight penetrated
through the bodies for a moment and then there was nothing but a group
of dancing motes of light to mark where they had stood.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Undaunted by the fate of their leaders, the balance of the mob surged
forward uttering cries of hate and rage. From all the doorways, fresh
hordes of Earthmen came rushing to join the fray. Again and again the
terrible rays of the Jovian guards blasted scores of their assailants
into nothingness but more came. Presently the tubes of the Jovians began
to lose their power and the violet light became lighter in shade. With a
roar the Earthmen swept forward and the huge guards went down under the
onrushing waves of humanity. Half a dozen of them were dragged down and
hurled back into the milling crowd where they were torn limb from limb.
The balance of the guards, guided by Havenner's stentorian shouts,
closed in around Glavour and the prisoner and battered their way by
sheer brute force toward the Viceregal chariot. They had reached in and
climbed in when a feminine shout pierced the din of conflict.

"Damis! They have Damis prisoner! Rescue him!"

With a roar, the mob charged again. Mightily the Jovians strove but they
were outnumbered by hundreds to one. One after another was torn from the
chariot until Damis freed himself by a mighty effort and leaped to the
ground. As he did so, the driver's hand found the controlling lever and
the chariot shot forward, crushing under its wheels several luckless
Earthmen who stood in its path. A roar of triumph rose from the crowd
and Damis was hastily lifted to their shoulders. He looked down on his
rescuers with an anguished face.

"Lura!" he gasped. "Is she safe?"

One of the Terrestrials shouted something unintelligible and pointed up.
Damis' gaze followed the direction in which he pointed. From an upper
window of the building into which she had fled, Lura's face, wreathed
with smiles, looked down on him. He smiled and waved in triumph to her.
There was a stir on the outskirts of the crowd and an elderly man, tall
for an Earthman and with dignity and authority written large on his
countenance, made his way through the crowd. At a word from him, Damis
was lowered to his feet to face the newcomer.

"Damis," said the elderly man, "I never thought to grasp the hand of a
Nepthalim or of anyone with Jovian blood in his veins in friendship, yet
I can do no less than offer my hand. It is the thanks of a father to the
saviour of his daughter."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Damis met the outstretched hand with a grip that made the elderly man
wince.

"It is an honor and a pleasure to grasp in friendship the hand of
Turgan, the Kildare of this province," he said, "the hand of one who was
born to be ruler in fact, instead of an underling under a Jovian
master."

"It is true that my father was king of this country before the Jovians
came, forty years ago," said Turgan gravely, "yet now there is no honor
or merit in it. Even the rank of Kildare, which is but that of a slave
ruling other more unfortunate slaves, could not have prevented my only
daughter from being dragged away to the seraglio of that monster. To
such a pass has one been brought whose birth made him the peer of any.
But now we must plan and plan swiftly, else are we undone. Glavour will
return with his minions. Safety will be found only in flight, for mere
numbers cannot oppose the weapons they will turn against us. Damis, so
far you have been one with our Jovian masters, as have all of the
Nepthalim. Now it is war to the death between them and us. On which side
do you stand?"

Damis hesitated as the Kildare's keen gray eyes bored into his own.

"My father was Viceroy of the Earth in the days gone by," he said
slowly, "and he planned that I should take his place. His dream was a
peaceful union of the strength and science of Jupiter with the beauty
and humanity of the Earth. True to his dream, I have cleaved to his
people and striven to bring it about, but I can see now the folly of his
ambition. In stature and mental power he was a Jovian, in all else he
was a Terrestrial. Since his death I have seen you stripped bit by bit
of what he left you until now you are lower than the slaves on Jupiter,
who can appeal to Tubain against a cruel master. Even I, a Nepthalim,
the son of a Viceroy, am forced to revolt to save the maiden I love.
Henceforth, I give up my father's dream of peace and do what my heart
tells me is right. It is war to the death between the Sons of God and
the Sons of Man, and I, who am descended from a Son of God and a
Daughter of Man, cleave to my mother's people."

                   *       *       *       *       *

A shout of joy came from all who heard his ringing voice announce his
new allegiance. Damis had ever a reputation as a humane man and he was
guilty of none of the brutalities which made the Jovians so detested and
which were bettered by those of the Nepthalim who had the power. It was
only the influence which Damis had wielded with the Earthmen which had
prevented many an outbreak which would have been ruthlessly crushed by
the Jovian overlords. To know that the son of a Viceroy, reputed one of
the most brilliant as well as one of the strongest of Jovian blood, was
one with them, made them hope that they might make some headway against
their oppressors and wring from them some small measure of liberty.
Turgan's face was wreathed with smiles.

"Again I offer you my hand, Damis," he said. "Before it was as a father
thanking you for the rescue of his daughter. Now it is a father
welcoming the son he has always longed for and whom he feared he would
never have. My consent to your union with Lura which was grudgingly
given only to save her from the dishonor of being dragged a slave to
Glavour's seraglio, is withdrawn, and in its place I give you a happy
father's joyous consent to the marriage."

There were tears in the old Kildare's eyes as he grasped the hand of the
young blond giant. For a moment they stood with clasped hands, two
strong men taking the measure of one another and each found the other
good. The Kildare dropped Damis' hand and turned to the crowd.

"To your homes!" he cried sharply. "The Sons of God will return with new
weapons and it is my wish that none be found to oppose them. All within
sound of my voice who are members of the inner council will join me in
the palace. Damis, come with me."

Followed by Damis and a score of Earthmen, the Kildare led the way into
a building. As they entered, Damis cast a swift glance around and looked
questioningly at Turgan.

"Lura--?" he asked hesitantly.

"Will join us in the council room," said Turgan with a smile.



CHAPTER II

_Turgan's Plan_


Content with the Kildare's answer, Damis followed him down a corridor
and into a large room set around with benches. The Kildare did not pause
but moved to the far end of the room and manipulated a hidden switch. A
portion of the paneled wall swung inward and through the doorway thus
opened, Turgan led the way. The corridor in which they found themselves
was dimly lighted by radium bulbs which Damis shrewdly suspected had
been stolen from the palace of the Viceroy by Earthmen employed there.
It sloped steeply downward and Damis estimated that they were fifty feet
below the level of the ground before another door opened to Turgan's
manipulation of hidden catches and admitted them to a large room
equipped with tables and chairs and well lighted by other radium bulbs.
Damis turned to the Kildare.

"For years there have been rumors among the Sons of God of the existence
of this place," he exclaimed, "yet every effort to find it has been
futile. Glavour and his council have at last decided that it is merely a
myth and that the underground council chamber does not exist. You have
kept your secret well, for never has a breath of suspicion reached him
that Turgan was one of the conspirators who plotted to overthrow the
reign of the Sons of God."

"Let that, Damis, be a sample of the earnestness and loyalty of your new
brethren," said the Kildare. "There are hundreds of Earthmen who know
where this place is and what secrets it holds, yet none has ever
betrayed it. Scores have gone to torture and to the sacrifice of the
games without unsealing their lips. Would a Jovian have done likewise?"

"To give them due credit, I think they would have," replied Damis
thoughtfully, "yet their motive would not have been loyalty, but
stubbornness and a refusal to subordinate their will to another's. I
thought you said that Lura would join us here?"

                   *       *       *       *       *

As Damis spoke a door on the far side of the chamber opened and a half
dozen women entered. Lura was among them and with a cry of joy, she ran
lightly forward and threw herself into Damis' outstretched arms. Turgan
smiled paternally at them for a moment and then touched his daughter
lightly on the shoulder.

"I have freely and gladly given my blessing to your union with Damis,"
he said. "He is now one with us. His presence makes victory possible and
enables us to act at once instead of planning for years. Damis, you can
operate a space flyer, can you not?"

"Certainly. That is knowledge which all Nepthalim possess."

A suppressed cheer greeted his words and the Earthmen crowded around
him, vibrant with excitement.

"The time is at hand!" cried a stern-faced man in the crimson robe which
marked him an Akildare, an under-officer of the Earthmen.

"Before I can operate a space flyer, I will have to have one to
operate," objected Damis.

"That will be supplied," cried a dozen voices. Turgan's voice rose above
the hubbub of sound.

"Let us proceed in orderly fashion," he cried.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The noise died down to silence and at a gesture from their ruler, the
Earthmen took seats. Turgan stood beside Damis.

"For the enlightenment of our new-found brother, I will recite what has
happened and what we have done, although most of you know it and many of
you have done your part in bringing it about.

"Forty years ago, the Earth was prosperous, peopled with free men, and
happy. While we knew little of science and lived in mere huts, yet we
worshipped beauty and Him who ruled all and loved his children. It was
to such a world that the Jovians came.

"When the first space flyer with a load of these inhuman monsters
arrived on the earth, we foolishly took them for the angels whom we had
been taught to believe spent eternity in glorifying Him. We welcomed
them with our best and humbly obeyed when they spoke. This illusion was
fostered by the name the Jovians gave themselves, the 'Sons of God.'
Hortan, their leader and the father of our new brother, was a just and
kindly man and he ruled the earth wisely and well. We learned from them
and they learned from us. That was the golden age. And the Sons of God
saw that the Daughters of Man were fair, and they took of them wives,
such as they chose. And sons were born to them, the Nepthalim, the
mighty men of the Earth.

"In time other flyers came from the heavens above and brought more of
the Sons of God to rule over us. Then Hortan, the Viceroy, died, and
Damis, know you how he died? You were a babe at the time and you know
nothing. Your father and your mother, who was my distant kinswoman, died
under the knives of assassins. It was given out that they had gone to
Jupiter, yet there were some who knew the truth. You, the killers
sought, but one of the Earthmen whose heart bled for your dead mother,
spirited you away. When you had grown to boyhood, he announced your name
and lineage, although his life paid for his indiscretion. The same hand
which struck down your father and your mother struck at him and struck
not unavailingly. You, since all knew your name and lineage, he dared
not strike, lest those who love him not, would appeal to Tubain. Know
you the name of the monster, the traitor to his ruler and the murderer
of your parents?"

                   *       *       *       *       *

Damis' face had paled during the recital and when the old Kildare turned
to him, he silently shook his head.

"It was the monster who now rules over us as Viceroy and who profanes
the name of God by conferring it on his master and who would, if he
dared, assume the name for himself. It was Glavour, Viceroy of the
Earth."

The blood surged back into Damis' face and he raised a hand in a
dramatic gesture.

"Now I vow that I will never rest until he lies low in death and this be
the hand that brings him there!"

A murmur of applause greeted Damis' announcement and Turgan went on with
his tale.

"With the kind and just Hortan dead, Glavour assumed the throne of
power, for none dared oppose him. Once secure, he gave way to every
brutal lust and vice. Your mother was Hortan's only wife and he honored
her as such, and meant that the Nepthalim should in time rule the Earth,
but Glavour had no such ideas. To him, the Daughters of Man were
playthings to satisfy his brutal lusts. By dozens and by scores he swept
the fairest of them into his seraglio, heeding not the bonds of
matrimony nor the wishes of his victims. Only the fact that my daughter
has been kept from his sight until to-day has spared her.

"The Earthmen who had been content to live under Hortan's rule, rebelled
against Glavour but the rebellion was crushed in blood. Time and again
they rose, but each time the mighty weapons of the Jovians stamped out
resistance. At last we realized that craft and not force must win the
battle. This chamber had been built when Hortan erected his new capital
and none of the Jovians knew of its location, so it was chosen as our
meeting place. To-day, Damis, I have twenty thousand men sworn to do my
bidding and to rise when I give the word. Many thousands more will rise
when they see others in arms and know that again the Sons of Man stand
in arms against the Sons of God."

                   *       *       *       *       *

"There are less than a thousand Jovians and perhaps twice that number of
Nepthalim on the Earth, yet that handful would stand victorious against
all the Earthmen living," said Damis thoughtfully. "Even I, and I am a
Nepthalim, do not know the secret weapons in the arsenal of Glavour, but
I know that they are more powerful than anything we have ever seen.
Forget not, too, that a radio message to Jupiter will bring down ships
with hundreds, nay, thousands, of her fighting men with weapons to
overwhelm all opposition."

"Such was the case but it is so no longer since we number you among us,"
replied the Kildare. "Earthmen are employed in the communications net
which the Jovians have thrown around the Earth and it is but a step from
those machines to the huge one with which they talk to their mother
planet. My spies have been busy for years and our plans are all laid.
There is one planet which all the forces of Jupiter have never been able
to conquer; from which their ships have ever retreated in defeat."

"Mars!" exclaimed Damis.

"Exactly," replied Turgan. "The Martians are a peaceful and
justice-loving people, yet they know that peace is given only to those
who are ready and able to fight for it. Ages ago they perfected weapons
before which the Jovians fly, if they are not destroyed. I have
communicated with the Grand Mognac of Mars and laid our plight before
him. He has pledged his aid and has promised us enough of his weapons to
not only destroy the Jovians and the Nepthalim on the Earth, but also to
prevent other Jovian ships from ever landing. The only problem has been
how to get them here. The Martians, not desiring conquest and content
with their own planet, have never perfected space flyers. They have
promised us the weapons, but we must go to Mars and bring them here.
Enough can be transported on one of the Jovian ships."

"How will we get a ship?" asked Damis.

"That also has been solved. There are two Jovian ships kept on the
Earth, ready for instant flight to Jupiter. They are loosely guarded for
the Sons of God believe that we have no idea of how to operate them. We
can capture one of them whenever we desire, but so far such action would
have been useless. Little by little we have gathered bits of information
about the flyers, but we had expected to wait for years before our
venture would have a chance of success. We dared not try prematurely,
for one attempt will be all that we will ever get. Now we are ready to
strike. You can fly the ship to Mars and back and with the Martian
weapons, we can sweep the Jovians from the Earth."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Damis' eyes lighted as Turgan spoke.

"Your plans are good," he cried, "and I will fly the ship for you. In
return I ask but one thing: let mine be the hand which strikes Glavour
down."

"If it can be so done, yours shall be the hand, oh Nepthalim!" cried the
Akildare who had first spoken of the ship. Turgan bowed his head and a
murmur of assent came from the assembled council.

"And now for action!" cried Turgan. "There is no need to talk longer.
Years ago our plans were perfected for the capture of the space ship and
each knows the part assigned to him. Toness, the Akildare, will rule
during my absence, for I will command the ship, under Damis. Twelve of
our men who know all that we have been able to learn will make up the
crew. None of them will take any part in the capture of the ship for
many lives may be lost in that venture and we will need the instructed
men to operate the ship after we capture it. Damis, have you any
addition to make to our plans?"

"Only one, Turgan. Glavour will ransack the Earth rather than be cheated
of one he has marked for his prey. Lura will be safe nowhere on Earth.
Her capture by the Sons of God will discourage the timid who will say
that if Turgan cannot protect his own daughter, how can he free the
Earth? She must go with us."

"Your point is well taken, Damis," replied the Kildare. "She shall go.
Now to action! Monaill, are your men ready?"

"They will assemble at my signal, oh, Kildare."

"Give the signal, for nothing will be gained by delay. We will follow
behind while you capture the ship."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Monaill bowed before the Kildare and hastened from the council room. In
a few words Turgan gave to Toness the final orders for the conduct of
the conspiracy during his absence. Followed by Lura, Damis and three of
the council, he made his way to a hidden doorway. Along an underground
passage they made their way for a quarter of a mile. A group of figures
was seen dimly ahead of them and nine men joined the party. Turgan
identified them to Damis as the balance of the crew.

"Has Monaill passed this way?" he asked.

"He passed with his band a few moments ago, oh, Kildare," replied one of
the men. "See, there is the light which summons us to follow."

He pointed to a tiny light which had suddenly flashed into brilliance.
Turgan nodded and led the way forward. At another doorway which opened
to Turgan's touch on a hidden lever, the party paused. An instant later
there came from a few hundred yards ahead of them a hoarse cry of alarm
followed by the roar of a huge whistle.

"The battle has joined!" cried Turgan. The others crouched, tense and
motionless. From ahead came the sound of battle. Violet light showed in
short intense flashes. It was evident that the Jovian guard of the space
ship was fighting valiantly to protect it. Shaking aside Turgan's
restraining hand, Damis crept slowly forward.

Two hundred yards from the spot where he left Turgan he came to a bend
in the passage. The sound of battle came from just ahead. He crept
forward and peered around the corner. The passage emerged from the
ground and gave way to a huge open space which he recognized as part of
the grounds of the Viceregal palace. Standing on a launching platform
was a Jovian space ship around which a battle raged.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Five of the huge Jovians were battling furiously with a score of
Earthmen. Three dead Jovians and a dozen crushed forms of Terrestrials
testified to the bitterness of the fight. The terrible black tubes of
the Jovians were exhausted and the battle was now being waged hand to
hand, Jovian ax against Earthly sword. The Terrestrials were being
gradually pressed back.

A shout came from the distance and Damis could see a dozen Jovian guards
hastening toward the scene of the fight, brandishing in their hands the
terrible black tubes. He turned back and shouted to Turgan.

"Hasten!" he cried. "In a moment, Monaill and his men will be
overthrown!"

With a shout the crouching group of Terrestrials rushed toward him, but
Damis did not wait. The oncoming Jovians were several hundred yards away
when he threw himself into the fray. At his appearance, a cry of dismay
went up from the Earthmen which was changed to one of mingled wonder and
triumph as Damis seized the nearest Jovian and bore the fellow down
despite his struggles. It was a matter of seconds for him to break the
bull neck of the huge guard and he turned to grasp another. The four
remaining Jovians backed away but Damis was not to be denied. He rushed
in and grasped another about the waist, avoiding the swing of the
forty-pound ax, and dragged him back. The swords of the Terrestrials
pierced the struggling guard from the rear and Damis rushed toward the
three survivors.

Heartened by his aid, the remnants of Monaill's band charged with him.
Two of the Jovians fell before the swords of the Earthmen and the third
went down before a blow of Damis' fist. As he turned back to the ship,
Turgan, followed by the crew of the ship, dashed up.

"Into the ship!" cried Damis. A glance showed that the Jovian guards
were less than two hundred yards away and were coming on in huge leaps.
The door of the space ship was open and the band of Terrestrials
clambered in.

"Quick, Damis!" came Lura's voice.

The Nepthalim turned to enter but his gaze fell on the six survivors of
Monaill's band.

"In with you!" he cried sharply.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The Terrestrials hesitated but Damis grasped the nearest of them by the
belt and threw him bodily into the ship. The others hesitated no longer
but clambered in. The Jovians were less than fifty yards away and
already deep violet flashes began to come from the tubes they carried.
Damis stooped and grasped one of the dead Jovians. With an effort
possible to only two men on Earth, himself and Glavour, he raised the
body above his head and hurled it straight at the oncoming Jovians. His
aim was true and three of them were swept from their feet. With a mighty
bound, Damis sprang through the door of the space ship and the airlock
clanged shut behind him.

The crew of the ship were already in place, awaiting orders. There was
no time for instruction and Damis leaped to the control board. He pulled
a lever far down and in an instant the entire crew was flat on the floor
as though an enormous weight had pressed them down. With a superhuman
effort, Damis raised himself enough to cut off the power. The ship shot
on through the rapidly thinning air, its sides glowing a dull red. The
heat inside the ship was almost intolerable.

As the pressure of the enormous acceleration ceased, the bruised
Terrestrials struggled to their feet. Damis turned to another lever and
a breath of icy air swept through the ship.

"This will help for an instant," he gasped, "and the cold of space will
soon cool us down. I had to give the ship a tremendous start or the
tubes of the Sons of God would have reduced us to elemental atoms. Keep
away from the walls and don't exert yourselves. I can handle the ship
alone for the present."

                   *       *       *       *       *

For half an hour the ship charged on through space. Damis presently
pulled the control lever down and placed the ship under power. The walls
changed from dull red to black and the temperature in the ship grew
noticeably lower. Damis made his way to one of the walls and tested it
with a moistened finger.

"It's cool enough to touch," he announced. "Fortunately the insulating
vacuum between the inner and the outer skins was at its maximum,
otherwise we would have been roasted alive. The external wall was almost
at the fusing point. We can move around now."

He posted lookouts at the observing instruments with which the ship was
equipped and instructed them in their duties and the manipulation of the
instruments. He placed one man at the control lever of the stern
rocket-motors. As he turned away from the control board he saw Lura
standing quietly in a corner. He opened his arms and she ran to them
with a cry of joy.

"Oh, Damis, I was so afraid for you," she gasped, "and I wanted to hug
you when you jumped in and Father closed the lock behind you but I knew
that you had to take care of the ship. Were you hurt at all?"

"Not a bit, darling," he assured her, "but it was touch and go for a
moment. I didn't know whether the guards would dare to disintegrate the
ship without orders from Glavour. In any event, the blasts of the stern
motors must have hurled them half a mile. No strength could stand the
blast of gas to which they were subjected. Are you all right?"

"Perfectly," she replied; "I never was in any danger. I was the first
one in the ship and the only chance I had to be hurt was to have you
overcome and the ship recaptured. In that case, I had this."

She displayed a small dagger which she drew from the bosom of her robe.
Damis shuddered and took the weapon from her.

"Poisoned," he exclaimed as he glanced at its tip. "You had better let
me take care of it. You might fall and prick yourself with it."

She surrendered the weapon to him with a smile and Damis placed it in a
cabinet built against the wall of the flyer.

"Now go in and lie down," he told her. "I've got to start plotting a
course to Mars and teaching my crew how to operate the ship."

"Can't I learn, too?" she objected. "If anything should happen, it might
be quite a useful bit of knowledge. Besides, I already understand
celestial geography quite well and I may be able to help in the
navigation."

Damis looked at her in surprise.

"You a celestial geographer?" he asked in astonishment. "Where did you
learn it?"

"From my father. He was a famous heaven-master before the Jovians came
and he taught me."

"That's excellent!" cried Damis. "I didn't realize we had so much
knowledge at our command. Turgan, will you take charge of the navigating
after I plot a course? Lura can assist you. Now, the rest of you attend
to my words and I'll teach you how to operate the rocket motors."

                   *       *       *       *       *

The Jovian ship was built along very simple lines. Batteries of rocket
motors at the bow and stern and on each of the sides furnished both
motive and steering power. The Terrestrials were all chosen men and in
three hours Damis announced himself as satisfied with their ability to
operate the ship under any normal conditions. With Turgan and Lura
watching and checking his calculations, he plotted a course which would
intercept Mars on its orbit.

"Luckily, Mars is approaching us now," he said, "and we won't have a
stern chase, which is always a long one. We will be able to reach Mars,
spend several days on it and return to Earth before ships can reach the
Earth from Jupiter, even if they are already on the way, which is highly
probable. I'll turn the ship a little."

Under his direction, the crew turned the ship in its course until it was
headed for the point in space where Damis planned to intercept the red
planet. With the course set to his satisfaction, he gave orders for the
stern motors to be operated at such a power as to give the highest
acceleration consistent with comfort for the crew. There were no windows
in the ship but two observers seated at instruments kept the entire
heavens under constant observation. Damis motioned one of them to stand
aside and told Lura to take his place. She sat down before a box in
which were set two lenses, eye-distance apart. She looked through the
lenses and gave a cry of astonishment. Before her appeared the heavens
in miniature with the entire galaxy of stars displayed to her gaze. In
the center of the screen was a large disk thickly marked with pocks.

"The moon," explained Damis. "We are headed directly toward it now but
we'll shift and go around it. We'll pass only a few hundred miles from
its surface, but unfortunately it will be between us and the sun and
you'll be able to see nothing. Look in the other observer."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Lura turned to the second instrument. A large part of the hemisphere was
blotted out by the Earth which was still only a few thousand miles away.
The sun showed to one side of the Earth, but a movable disk was arranged
in the instrument by means of which it could be shut off from the gaze
of the observer. Despite the presence of the sun, the stars shone
brilliantly in the intense black of space.

"How fast are we traveling?" asked Lura.

"It is impossible to tell exactly," he replied. "I can approximate our
speed by a study of the power consumed in our stern motors and again I
can approximate it by a series of celestial observations, provided we do
not have to change our course while I am doing so."

"Isn't there some sort of an instrument which will tell you how fast we
are going?" she asked in astonishment.

"Unfortunately not. We are traveling through no medium which is dense
enough to register on an instrument. Our course is not straight, but is
necessarily an erratic one as we are subject to the gravimetric pull of
all of the celestial bodies. Just now the Earth supplies most of the
pull on us but as soon as we approach the moon, we will tend to fall on
it and frequent sideblasts will be needed to keep us away from it. Once
we get up some speed that is comparable with light, we can measure by
direct comparison, but our speed is too low for that now."

"I saw you lay out your course, but how are we steering?"

"The observer who works on the front instrument keeps a cross hair on a
fixed star. When the curving of the ship deviates us more than five
degrees from our course, a side motor is turned on until we straighten
out again. It is quite a simple matter and I'll take the ship myself
when we near Mars. There is no need to be frightened."

"I'm not frightened," said Lura quickly; "I was just curious. Is there
any danger of hitting a wandering body?"

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Not much in this zone and at this speed. When our speed picks up there
will be a slight danger because the higher our rate of speed, the more
crowded space becomes. If we were going to Jupiter we would have to use
much more caution. The asteroid belt lying between Mars and Jupiter is
really crowded with small bodies but comparatively few are in the zone
between Earth and Mars. That is one thing I figured on when I said that
we would have plenty of time to go to Mars and back before ships could
come from Jupiter. Ships from Jupiter would be able to develop a much
higher speed than we will attain were it not for the asteroid belt. They
will have to travel quite slowly through it, in portions, not over a few
thousand miles per minute, while we are not held down that way. Now that
we are really started, it will be best to set regular watches. I will
assign you as navigator for one watch if you wish."

"I certainly do want to do my share."

"All right, we'll let it go that way. Turgan and I will take the other
two watches until we get there."

"How soon will that be?"

"About seventeen days. Mars happens to be only about forty million
miles away just now. Now I'll set the watches and divide the crew."

A short examination showed Damis that his crew were intelligent and that
his instruction had been good. Every member knew his duties. Instead of
the two twelve-hour watches which were usual on space flyers, the
additional members of the crew who had been part of Monaill's band
enabled Damis to set only eight-hour shifts. Each member of the crew was
taught to operate the offensive ray projectors with which the flyer was
equipped.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Things soon settled down to routine. No wandering celestial bodies came
close enough to cause them any real alarm. Once the novelty of hurtling
through space had passed away, the trip became monotonous. The Earth,
which had at first filled the field of one of the observers, dwindled
until it became merely a brilliant green star. The red speck which was
Mars grew constantly more prominent as the hours went by and Damis gave
the word to turn on the bow motors and retard the speed of the flyer.
Several of the crew had worked in the communications net which Glavour
had thrown around the Earth and under orders from Turgan, they began to
call the red planet on the ship's communicator.

"It is well to let them know who we are," he said to Damis when he gave
the order. "We are flying a Jovian ship and since we have come so far
successfully, I have no desire to be blasted out of space by their
powerful weapons of defense."

Damis agreed heartily, and for twelve hours continual attempts were made
to communicate with their destination. At last their signals were
answered. Despite the differences in language, they had no trouble in
understanding the messages. A system of communication based not on words
or sound forms, but on thought forms, had been introduced to the Earth
by the Jovians and both Damis and Turgan were quite familiar with it.
The Martians informed them that the approaching ship had been sighted
and carefully watched for several days. As soon as he learned who the
occupants were, the Grand Mognac of Mars sent a message of welcome and
instructed them on what part of the planet to land. He promised that a
deputation would meet them with transportation to his capital city where
he would welcome them in person and supply them with the weapons they
sought.



CHAPTER III

_The Doom on Mars_


Two days later Damis dropped the ship gently to the ground in a wide and
deep depression which had been designated as their landing place. The
Grand Mognac had assured them that the depression held enough atmosphere
to enable them to breathe with comfort. There was no one in sight when
they landed and after a short consultation, Damis and Turgan entered the
airlock. In a few moments they stood on the surface of Mars.

They had landed in a desert without even a trace of the most rudimentary
vegetation. Barren slate-colored mountains shut off their view at a
distance of a few miles. When they strove to move they found that the
conditions which had confronted the Jovians in their first landing on
the Earth were duplicated. The lesser gravity of the smaller planet made
their strength too great for easy control and the slightest effort sent
them yards into the air. This condition had been anticipated and at a
word from Damis, lead weights, made to clamp on the soles of their
sandals were passed out from the space ship. Although this enabled them
to keep their footing when moving over the dry surface of Mars, the
slightest exertion in the thin air caused them acute distress.

"We had better save our strength until the messengers of the Grand
Mognac arrive," said Damis at length. "We may have quite a trip before
us."

Turgan agreed and they sat down by the side of the ship where its shadow
would shield them from the fierce solar rays which beat down on them.
The sun looked curiously small, yet its rays penetrated the thin air
with a heat and fierceness strange to them. Lura and a half dozen of the
crew were passed through the airlock and joined them.

"I am surprised that the Martians have not arrived," said Damis
presently. "I am interested to see what their appearance is."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Hardly had he spoken than the air before them seemed to thicken in a
curious fashion. Lura gave a cry of alarm and pressed close to Damis.
The sun's rays penetrated with difficulty through a patch of air
directly before them. Gradually the mistiness began to assume a nebulous
uncertain outline and separated itself into four distinct patches. The
thickening air took on a silvery metallic gleam and four metallic
cylinders made their appearance. Two of them were about eight feet in
height and three feet in diameter. The other two were fully thirty feet
in length and about the same diameter. On the top of each one was a
projecting cap shaped like a mushroom and from it long tenuous streamers
of metal ran the full length of each cylinder. From the ether came a
thought wave which registered on the brains of all the Terrestrials.

"The Grand Mognac of Mars sends his greeting and a welcome to the
visitors from Earth," the message ran. "Before his envoys make their
appearance before you, we wish to warn you to be prepared for a severe
shock for their physical appearance is not that of the life with which
you are familiar. I would suggest that you turn your heads while we
emerge from our transporters."

Obediently the Earthmen turned their gaze toward their ship until
another thought wave ordered them to turn. Lura gave a cry of horror and
Damis instinctively raised one of the Jovian ray tubes. Before them were
huge figures which seemed to have stepped out of a nightmare, so
grotesque were their forms.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The Martians had long slug-like bodies, twenty-five feet in length, from
which projected a multiplicity of short legs. The legs on the rear
portions of the bodies terminated in sucker-like disks on which they
stood on the surface of the planet. The upper part of the body was
raised from the ground and the legs terminated in forked appendages like
hands. Stiff, coarse hair, brown in color, protruded from between
brilliant green scales, edged with crimson. The heads were huge and
misshapen and consisted mostly of eyes with a multitude of facets and
huge jaws which worked incessantly as though the slugs were continually
chewing on something. Nothing that the Earth could show resembled those
monstrosities, although it flashed across Damis' mind that a hugely
enlarged caricature of an intelligent caterpillar would bear some
resemblance to the Martians. Another thought wave impinged on the
consciousness of the Terrestrials.

"Mars is much older than your planet and evolution has gone much farther
here than it has on the Earth. At one time there were forms of life
similar to yours which ruled this planet, but as air and water became
scarce, these forms gave way to others which were better suited to
conditions as they existed. I would be pleased to explain further, but
the Grand Mognac anxiously awaits his guests. His orders are that two of
you shall visit him in his city. The two whom he desires to come are
Turgan, the leader of the expedition and Damis, the Nepthalim. Fear
nothing, you are among friends."

Damis hesitated and cast a glance at Lura.

"By all means, Damis, do as the Grand Mognac bids you," she exclaimed.
"I will stay here with the ship until you return. I am not at all
frightened, for the whole crew will be here with me."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Damis kissed her and after a word with Turgan, he announced their
readiness to proceed. He inquired the direction in which they should
travel, but another thought wave interrupted him.

"We have brought transportation for you," it said. "Each of you will
enter one of the smaller transporters which were especially prepared for
your use. When you enter them, seal them tightly and place your feet in
the stirrups you will find in them. Grasp the handles which will be
before you firmly in your hands. In an instant you will be dissolved
into elemental atoms and carried on a beam of force to the receiving
focus where you will again be materialized. There is no danger and no
pain. It is our usual means of transportation."

With a final word of farewell to Lura and the crew, Turgan and Damis
unfastened and entered the two smaller cylinders. Before the astonished
eyes of the Terrestrials the cylinders grew thin and vanished like a
puff of smoke dissipating in a wind. Lura turned to Kastner whom Turgan
had left in command.

"What were my father's orders?" she asked.

"Merely that we wait here until his return," he replied. "Since we are
among friends, there is no need to keep the ray projectors manned and I
am anxious to let all of the crew have the experience of setting foot on
a new planet."

"I am a little tired," said Lura. "I will return to the ship and rest
while you let the crew try their footing on Mars."

She entered the airlock and in a few moments was again inside the ship.
At a word from Kastner the balance of the crew passed through the lock
and began to amuse themselves by trying to keep their footing on the
surface of Mars.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Damis and Turgan, having entered the transporters, slipped their feet in
place as the Martians had directed. They grasped firmly the handles
which projected from the inside of the cylinders. There was a momentary
sensation of slight nausea and then a thought wave reached them.

"You have arrived. Unfasten your cylinders and emerge."

They stepped out of the transporters and rubbed their eyes in
astonishment. Two of the huge slugs had been amazing, but the effect of
half a hundred grouped about them was more than the mind could, for a
moment, grasp. They were in a huge room composed apparently of the same
silvery material of which the transporters were made. It rose above
them in a huge dome with no signs of windows or openings. It was lighted
by a soft glow which seemed to emanate from the material of the dome
itself, for it cast no shadows. On a raised platform before them rested
one of the huge slugs, a broad band of silvery metal set with flashing
coruscating jewels clasped about its body. From the ornament and the
exalted position, they judged that they were before the Grand Mognac of
Mars. With a muttered word to Turgan to follow him, Damis advanced to
the foot of the platform and bowed deeply.

"I thank you for that mark of respect, Nepthalim," came a thought wave
from the Grand Mognac, "but such forms are obsolete on Mars. Here all
living intelligences are equal. Only the accident of superior mental
power is allowed to differentiate between us and this added power brings
only added and more arduous duties. You came here to get weapons which
will free you from the dominance of the Jovians who rule you, did you
not?"

"We did, oh Grand Mognac," replied Damis.

"Your prayers shall be answered if you are found worthy. Relate to me
now all that has passed since the Jovians first landed on your planet.
If you can form thoughts without speaking, you may save the effort of
speech. The air has become so thin on Mars that sound will not carry
over large portions of it. As a result, we have no organs of hearing,
for they have been atrophied from ages of disuse. We use thought as our
only means of communication."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Rapidly, Damis marshaled his thoughts in order. Slowly and carefully he
pictured in his mind the landing of the Jovians as he had heard it
described and then the event leading up to their trip. The Grand Mognac
frequently interrupted him and caused him to amplify in detail some of
the mental pictures and at times turned to Turgan and requested him to
picture the same events. When Damis had finished the Grand Mognac was
motionless for ten minutes.

"Pardon me for sealing my thoughts from you," he said at length, "but my
consultation with my councillors was not a matter for those from another
planet to know, no matter how friendly they may be. My council have
agreed with me that your tale is a true one and has been fairly
pictured. We have no interest in the fate of your planet except that we
desire to help the form best adapted to bring about the day we all await
with anxiety when all of the planets will be united in bonds of love and
justice. We believe that the form which developed on the Earth is better
adapted to this than the form which developed on Jupiter and we will
give you weapons which will enable you to free yourselves and to protect
your planet against future invasions. My scientists are now busy
preparing for you weapons which we will deliver to your ship. Meanwhile,
you are our honored guests. You will be interested in seeing life as it
exists here and Attomanis, one of my council, will be your guide and
will answer your questions."

The Grand Mognac dropped the upper portion of his body to the dais as a
sign that the interview was ended. Damis and Turgan hurriedly tried to
form appropriate expressions of gratitude in their minds but a powerful
thought wave took possession of their minds.

"Follow me," it said.

                   *       *       *       *       *

One of the caterpillars crawled forward and beckoned to them. With a
backward glance at the Grand Mognac who seemed unaware of their
existence, Damis and Turgan followed their guide. He led the way to a
platform upon which he slowly crawled. In answer to a thought command,
Turgan and Damis climbed upon it and in an instant they were skimming at
high speed over the ground. The platform came to a stop near the outer
edge of the huge dome. They followed their guide from the platform to a
box-like contrivance built against the dome. It had lenses similar in
appearance to the observers on the Jovian space ship but built on a
larger scale. Attomanis removed the lenses from the instrument and
substituted two smaller pairs through which he motioned Turgan and Damis
to look.

Before them lay a huge plain across which ran a belt of green foliage.
The vegetation forms were like nothing the earth could show. There were
no true leaves but huge pulpy branches ran up into the air a hundred
feet and divided and subdivided until they became no larger around than
hairs. At places on the plants were huge crimson, mauve and blue
flowers, ten feet across. As they watched a monstrous form flitted into
view. It was that of a butterfly, but such a butterfly as they had never
imagined.

The spread of the huge wings was fully a hundred feet across and its
swollen body was larger by far than the huge slug which stood beside
them. The butterfly waved its thirty-foot tentacles and approached one
of the blue flowers. A long curled sucker, fifty feet in length,
unrolled and was plunged down into the heart of the trumpet-shaped
flower. Gradually the blue color faded to mauve and then to a brilliant
crimson. The butterfly abandoned it when the change of color was
completed and flitted away to another of the blue blooms.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"What manner of thing is that?" demanded Damis.

"That was a member of the council," replied Attomanis. "She was chosen
to be one of those to perpetuate our race. Evolution has gone further
with us than on your planet but it will show you what in time you may
expect.

"Life started with an amoeba on Mars as it did on Earth and the slow
process of evolution followed similar lines. At one time forms like
yours were the ruling and guiding intelligences of Mars. They were,
however, a highly specialized form. As conditions changed, the form
changed. The head and chest grew larger as the air grew thinner until
the enfeebled trunk and limbs could no longer support their weight.
Gradually the form died out and was replaced by others.

"The forms which you call insects on your Earth were more primitive and
hardier forms and more readily adaptable. They increased in size and in
intelligence until they were ready to supplant all other forms. The last
vestiges of the bipeds were carefully nurtured and guarded by our
forefathers until the vanishing atmosphere made their survival
impossible. The insect form became supreme.

"We multiplied with extreme rapidity and would have overcrowded the
planet had we not learned several things. Our present form of life is
immature in many ways. For example, we are totally unable to reproduce
our kind. That is the function of the next phase. In this form, however,
the intelligence reaches its maximum. As a result, all living creatures,
except selected ones, have their growth arrested at the larval stage and
pass their entire life in this form. Certain ones at long intervals of
time as the population diminishes, are allowed to spin cocoons and hatch
out in the form you have witnessed. This form is almost brainless, the
securing of nourishment from flowers and reproducing their kind being
the limits of their intelligence. The eggs are maturing in the body of
the one you saw. Soon she will lay many thousands of them and then, her
life mission accomplished, she will die. We will gather these eggs and
tend them until they hatch. All defective ones will be destroyed and the
balance will be instructed until they are ready to take their place in
the community and carry on the work of the planet."

                   *       *       *       *       *

"That is extremely interesting," exclaimed Damis. "Will our Earth in
time support the same forms of life as does Mars now?"

"I can see no reason why evolution should follow a different path there
than it has here," replied Attomanis, "but millions of years will pass
before you lose your atmosphere to such an extent as we have. All of our
water is gathered at the polar icecaps, from whence we lead it as it
melts through underground pipes hundreds of miles to the spot where we
desire vegetation to grow. There we deliver it directly to the roots of
the plants so there is no waste. Great bands of cultivated areas
crisscross the planet where the soil is of unusual fertility. A certain
number of plants are allowed to flower and to bear fruit for the
sustenance of the reproductive form of life and to replace themselves.
The others we devour while they are young and tender."

"Do you always live in these sealed cities?"

"Always. There are hundreds of them scattered over the planet. As you
have noticed, they are composed of damazonium, the same substance as is
used in making the transporters. The whole city is but a large
transporter. When we desire to feed, the city is disintegrated and
materialized over a patch of vegetation which we eat. When the supply is
for a time exhausted, the city is moved. This is one way in which we
conserve the small supply of atmosphere which is left."

Attomanis suddenly paused and held up one hand for silence. In a moment
the thought waves again beat in on the consciousness of Damis and
Turgan.

"The weapons which were promised you are ready," he said. "We will
return to the throne of the Grand Mognac and you will receive
instructions in their use."

                   *       *       *       *       *

He again mounted the platform and Damis and Turgan took their places
beside him. Rapidly they were borne over the ground until they came to a
stop before the dais on which the Grand Mognac rested. Beside the four
cylinders in which they and the Grand Mognac's messengers had traveled
from the space ship to the city, another of huge proportions stood
before the platform. Beside it were two instruments. From a mass of
coils and tubes a long rod projected up. It was pivoted so that it could
be directed toward any point. The rod on one of the instruments was blue
while the other was a fiery scarlet.

"These are the weapons which will enable you to destroy your oppressors
and prevent more from ever landing," said the Grand Mognac. "I must
caution you, however, regarding their use. They generate a ray of almost
infinite frequency, much higher than the disintegrating ray the Jovians
use. Instead of resolving materials into light and energy, these devices
will absolutely destroy the ether, that imponderable substance which
permeates and fills all space.

"Heat and light travel in waves through the ether. When it is destroyed,
only blackness and entire absence of heat remain. Nothing can bear the
cold of interstellar space and yet it is warm compared to the absolute
cold which the absence of ether produces. When you direct one of these
rays toward a Jovian ship, the ether in the ship is destroyed. No
insulation against the cold of space will interfere for the ether
penetrates and permeates all substance. The cold of absolute nothingness
will destroy all life in the twinkling of an eye and the ship will be
reduced to a puff of powder. At such a temperature, even stellanium has
less strength than the most brittle substance.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"There are two of these devices, set to different powers. The one with
the blue rod is for use against space ships either before or after they
enter the atmosphere envelope. Beware of using it except when it points
in a direction almost normal to the surface of your planet. These
devices tap and use the enormous force of gravity itself and when they
are locked to your planet, they are anchored to the center of gravity of
the planet. Unless it were normal to the planet's surface, its reactive
force is so great that it would disrupt the balance which holds the
planet in place were the beam sent off on a tangential line.

"The other, whose projecting rod is painted red, can be used at any
angle as its force is only a minute fraction of that of the other. It
also must be locked to the center of gravity of the earth before it is
used by means of the switch on the front. This instrument will give you
power to annihilate your oppressors on earth, for while it has not the
terrible force of the other, it will penetrate any protective screen
which the science of Jupiter can erect. Use it only against the Jovians
and when you have finished with it, destroy it that it may not fall into
the hands of those who would misuse it. The other may be left intact to
repel other Jovian attacks but I think you need fear none. Once they
learn you have it, they will be content with their conquests of Venus
and Mercury and give you a wide berth. The Jovians have had a taste of
it already and they leave Mars alone. Each instrument is set in action
by closing the switch on top, after closing the gravity anchor switch.
To stop them, open the top switch."

Under the direction of the Grand Mognac, the Martians placed the
terrible weapons in the transporter prepared for them. Turgan and Damis
strove to thank the Grand Mognac for his gift but he interrupted them
promptly.

"No thanks are due us," he said. "We have done that which we believe is
the best for the orderly development of this galaxy of planets and there
is no reason why we should be thanked. Now enter the transporters and
you will be returned to your space ship. Destroy your oppressors and
work for the day when Mars and Earth will march in peace toward the
final goal of all life."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Accompanied by two Martian envoys, Damis and Turgan entered the
cylinders and fastened them closely. They set their feet in place and
grasped the handles before them. Again came the feeling of nausea and
then a thought ordered them to emerge from the transporters. They
emerged almost at the same instant. Before them lay the space ship with
its airlock wide open. Not a living soul was in sight. Damis leaped
toward the ship, but his foot struck an obstruction which sent him
sprawling. He glanced down and a hoarse cry of alarm broke from his
lips. He had stumbled over the body of Kastner. The body had been
horribly mutilated by some heavy instrument, one arm hanging to the
torso by a mere shred of flesh. Scattered around on the ground lay other
mutilated bodies.

With a shout of anguish, Turgan sped toward the open space ship. Damis,
with a pale face, hastily examined the dead bodies. Eighteen of the
Terrestrials lay stiff in death while the bodies of two huge Jovians in
the uniform of Glavour's personal guard told the cause of their death.
Damis struck by a sudden apprehension, ran from one body to the next,
and in a little while he straightened up with a momentary breath of
relief. Lura's body was not among them. He turned to the space ship in
time to see Turgan appear in the door of the airlock, his face distorted
by grief and his tall body swaying. Damis hurriedly ran to him.

"Is Lura--dead?"

He brought out the last word with an effort. Turgan's face worked for a
moment before he could reply. Through the thin air of Mars came his
choking voice.

"Worse," he muttered: "she is gone!"

[Illustration]

[Illustration: Damis' fist caught him under the ear.]



CHAPTER IV

_Damis' Decision_


Damis stared at Turgan for a moment as though unable to comprehend the
old man's words.

"Gone?" he repeated stupidly. "She has slain herself?"

"No," replied the Kildare, his face still working in grief; "she is gone
from us. She has been captured by Glavour's minions."

"Her dagger--?" asked Damis hesitatingly.

"Is gone with her," replied Turgan.

The Nepthalim started toward the space ship but a thought wave from one
of the Martian envoys stopped him in mid-stride.

"Wait, Man of Earth," came the message. "The heavens are eternally
watched by our people and none can enter or leave the vicinity of Mars
unknown to us. My comrade is now inquiring of each of the observers
whence came the Jovians and where they have gone."

Turgan and Damis waited impatiently. Presently the second Martian sent a
thought wave to their minds.

"The Jovian ship approached Mars using Phobus, one of our moons, as a
screen to its movements. It was close to the planet before it was seen.
When challenged, the ship sent a message saying that it was captained by
Toness, an Akildare of Earth and an enemy of the Jovians. The Grand
Mognac was engaged and the matter was referred to the Mozar of
Chinamonot, the nearest city. Thinking they were your followers, he
directed them to land here. The Grand Mognac is enraged beyond measure
that, after so many ages of failure, the Jovians have made a successful
raid on our planet. The Mozar will pay for his indiscretion with his
life."

A groan burst from Turgan's lips. Damis stood for a moment stricken with
grief, and then sprang in giant leaps toward the space flyer.

"Come, Turgan!" he cried. "We may overtake them yet. At least we can
avenge if we cannot save."

The Kildare followed him more slowly.

"Where, oh, Nepthalim," he asked, "will we find them in the trackless
wastes of space?"

Damis paused at the words.

"Why, between here and Earth," he replied. As he did so a thought
crossed his mind which was revealed by the sudden expression of dismay
which clouded his features. "Earth, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Jupiter--all
are under the rule of the Sons of God," he cried.

"And to any of them, Glavour's ship may have fled," replied the Kildare.
"Before we start in pursuit, it is best to find, if we can, in what
direction the ship went."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Frantically, Damis strove to muster his thoughts and hurl a question at
the two Martians who stood beside the transporter cylinders. Before the
thought had been fully formed, an answer reached him.

"I have been inquiring, Nepthalim, why, when our observers saw that the
ship contained Jovians, they were not destroyed. One of the observers
who watched them tells me that their ship landed between your ship and
the only instruments of destruction which could be brought to bear on
them. The Jovians poured out and attacked your crew who were all out of
the ship. They were so mingled that it would have been impossible to
destroy them without encompassing the destruction of your men as well
and we could not blast their ship into nothingness without also
destroying yours. When they rose again they carried one of your crew a
prisoner and so they were not blasted out of the heavens. They took a
course which carried them behind Phobus where they were shielded. When
next seen, they were headed away from your planet."

"If Glavour came to Mars, Lura is dead by now," said Turgan sorrowfully,
tears coursing down his cheeks. "Glavour is not one to await the
fulfillment of his desires and Lura had her dagger. Her soul is now with
Him whom we are taught to glorify. His will be done!"

"If it be His will," replied Damis. "Don't give up, Turgan, we may save
her yet." He turned to the Martians and formed a thought message in his
mind.

"Has your science any way of telling us who was in command of the Jovian
ship?" he asked.

"Were your men who lie dead familiar with the features of the Jovian
Viceroy?"

"Yes, all of them."

"Then we will search the brains of the dead. The pictures that are in
the living brain fade rapidly when death comes, but the last impression
of these men was a powerful one of fighting and hatred and some traces
may remain. I will search."

                   *       *       *       *       *

The huge slug crawled over the ground to the body of the nearest dead
Terrestrial. In one of his many hands he carried a shiny metal tube from
which crimson rays flickered and played over the head of the dead man.
The skull disintegrated under the influence of the strange instrument
until the brain lay naked and exposed to the fierce glare of the Martian
sun. The Martian delicately connected two wires terminating in metal
plates to the tissue of the brain and attached the other ends of the
wires to a metal circlet which he clamped about his middle. For some
moments he remained motionless and then crawled to the body of the
second dead Earthman. One after another he examined each of the eighteen
dead bodies. When he had completed he crawled over to Damis and Turgan.

"Put these bands about your brows," he commanded in thought language as
he handed to each of them a metallic band similar to the one clasped
about him. The two Earthmen quickly adjusted the bands. "Let your minds
remain a blank and in them will be reproduced the impressions I have
gathered from the brains of your dead followers."

Damis sprang suddenly upward and smote with all of his force at the
air. Out of nothingness had materialized the form of a huge Jovian clad
in the uniform of Glavour's guards. His blow went harmless through the
thin air and the Jovian swung a massive ax. Just before the blow landed
the Jovian disappeared and a thought wave from the Martian impinged on
Damis' brain.

"Spare your energies, Nepthalim," the message said. "What you saw was
not a Jovian but was the last impression stored in the brain of the man
who met his death under a blow of the ax which seemed to be striking at
you. I am merely reproducing in you the emotions and experiences that
man felt. Had I allowed the phantom blow to land, you would now be cold
in death, so great was the strength of the impression. Now make your
mind again a blank and I will reveal to you what was in the mind of
another at the instant that his death came upon him."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Before the Nepthalim's startled gaze, another Jovian appeared.

"Havenner!" he cried as he recognized the principal officer of Glavour.
The equerry came forward slowly, blood dripping from a wound in his leg.
He swung his ax but it went wide of the mark. Again he struck, but two
Terrestrials attacked him from the rear and he whirled. For a moment,
Damis had a chance to watch the conflict which was raging about him.
Nine of the huge Jovians were engaged in deadly combat with a dozen of
the Terrestrials who still remained on their feet. In the door of the
space ship stood Lura, watching the conflict with frightened eyes. One
after another of the Earthmen were stricken down. Suddenly a Jovian
rushed at Damis but the scene went blank before the raised ax could
strike him down.

"Have you seen enough or shall I show you the scenes in the brains of
the others?" asked the Martian.

"I have seen and recognized nine of the Jovians," replied Damis, "yet
among them was not the one I feared. Let me see into the brains of the
others that I may be sure that Glavour was not among them."

Another scene materialized before him. It was merely a variation of
those he had already seen. In the brain of one of the Terrestrials he
saw the landing of the Jovian ship and the sudden outrush of the Sons of
God, armed only with the forty-pound axes they used at close quarters.
In none of the scenes did he see the huge form of Glavour. He removed
the band with a sigh of relief.

"I broke Glavour's arms a few days back," he said to Turgan, "and it is
probable that that prevented him from following us, even if he felt that
he could leave the Earth in the turmoil which Toness had undoubtedly
raised. It means that Lura is safe for the present, for Havenner would
not dare to do other than to bring her to the Viceroy. We must follow
them and endeavor to rescue her. I will ask our friends if they can plot
her course for us."

                   *       *       *       *       *

"I have inquired as to that," replied the Martian to Damis' unspoken
question, "and find we cannot. Soon after the ship left the surface of
Mars, our observers sighted a Jovian fleet of a hundred flyers in the
asteroid belt between here and Jupiter. They are nearly through the belt
now and are headed toward your planet. Their path will bring them within
a few thousand miles of Mars and every instrument on the planet is
trained on them. While the Grand Mognac believes that Earth is their
destination, never before have the Jovians approached us in such force
and it may be that Tubain will try to avenge his former defeats by an
attack in force. We have no instruments to spare to keep track of a lone
flyer unless it changes its course and approaches us. There is one more
source of information. I will examine the brains of the dead Jovians.
Perhaps they know their leader's plans."

From the first Jovian the Martian turned away with an expression of
disappointment.

"There is nothing in his brain but a scene of the fight with your
followers, yet it may cheer you to know that at the last he felt fear,
the emotion the Jovians boast is foreign to them," said the Martian. "I
will examine the other."

With his crimson ray he removed the covering from the brain of the
second Jovian and connected his wires. For a few moments he was
motionless and then he removed the wires and crawled rapidly toward
Damis.

"Nepthalim, here is what you wish," came his thoughts, jumbled in a
chaotic state of excitement. "This man had a wonderful brain and the
impressions of the last month are clear and distinct. Attend carefully
and leave your mind a blank."

                   *       *       *       *       *

On the Martian plain buildings suddenly materialized before the
Nepthalim's gaze. With a cry of astonishment he saw himself facing
Glavour in defiance. Lura, who had been crouching behind him, ran into
one of the buildings. Act by act, Damis saw the fight between himself
and the Jovian Viceroy repeated. The Viceroy, one arm dangling
uselessly, was whisked away in his chariot. The scene faded and another
took its place. The Viceregal palace was beleaguered by thousands and
scores of thousands of shouting Terrestrials. The Jovians sought with
rays and with atomic bombs to disperse them, but where a score were
blasted into nothingness or torn into fragments, a hundred fresh men
took their place. Suddenly the Jovian rays began to fail. The Earthmen
had found the secret source of power which supplied the palace and had
cut it.

Again the scene faded and he was on a space ship with Havenner talking
to him. The words he could not hear for the Martian could not comprehend
a record of a sound. The pictures conjured up by the words were easy of
comprehension and in picture forms the Martian conveyed to him the sense
of the conversation. Havenner was telling him of their destination.
First came a scene which he recognized as a Martian landscape. The
Jovians swarmed from their space ship and struck down the Earthmen
without exertion. Three were made captives: himself, Turgan, and Lura.
The Jovians reentered the ship and sped away into space. Damis wondered
what this last picture signified.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Another scene materialized and they were on another planet. It was not
Mars and it was not Earth. For a moment he was puzzled. The sun, when it
shone, was larger and fiercer than he had ever seen it, but it shone
only for an instant. Blankets of cloud and fog hid it from view. Rain
fell incessantly. Lush, rank vegetation covered the ground and rose in a
tangle far overhead. The Jovians emerged from the space ship, the
prisoners in their midst. A huge lizard, a hundred feet long, rushed at
them but a flash of the disintegrating tubes dissolved it into dancing
motes of light. The Jovians made their way through the steaming jungle
until a huge city, roofed with a crystal dome which covered it and
arched high into the air, appeared before them. Toward this city the
Jovians marched.

"The crystal cities of Venus!" cried Turgan. Damis nodded in assent.

Again the scene changed and the Martian plain was before them. From the
space ship the Jovians emerged, but instead of the easy victory they had
had in the earlier scene, they found the task a difficult one. From all
sides the Terrestrials charged at them and Damis found himself fighting
against his compatriots. A sword flashed before his eyes and the scene
was gone.

"Have you learned that which you sought?" came a Martian thought
inquiry.

Damis hastily formed his thoughts into an affirmative message of thanks
and turned to Turgan.

"We know now where to go," he cried exultingly. "Lura is safe until they
land on Venus and enter the crystal cities, for Havenner would not dare
to do otherwise than carry out the orders of Glavour. The Martian
weapons which we have will insure us an easy victory. Come, let us
hasten."

A thought message from the Martians stopped him.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Those weapons on which you are planning, Nepthalim, were given to you
by our Grand Mognac for the purpose of ridding your planet of your
oppressors and of defending your planet against further Jovian attacks,
not for the purpose of invading another planet with which we have no
quarrel. If you will use them for the purpose for which they were given
you, you may depart with them in peace. If you plan to go to Venus, the
weapons will remain on Mars."

"We will go to the Earth and rid her of her oppressors," replied Damis,
"but first we must go to Venus and rescue Lura."

"Venus lies beyond the sun," was the Martian answer, "while your planet
and Mars are on the same side. It will take you five times as long to go
to Venus as to go to the Earth. Meanwhile the Jovian fleet will have
landed and your efforts will be in vain to dislodge them. Even now you
must fly at your best speed to reach your planet before them."

"But we cannot abandon Lura. She is the only daughter of my comrade and
she is my affianced bride. She means more to us than does the fate of
our planet."

"Then go to Venus after her, Nepthalim, but go without Martian aid. Only
to save you from your oppressors will we help you. Never has Mars
attempted conquest of another celestial body, although not even Jupiter
could stand against our might if we chose to attack it."

"You cannot understand her relationship to us, Martian."

"No, I cannot. We are sexless and sex exists on Mars only for the
purpose for which it was intended, the perpetuation of our species. It
may be that we have been mistaken. If the fate of one member of your
species means more to you than the rescue of your whole race, it is
perhaps well that you be eliminated by the Jovians. In any event, our
decision is final. Make your choice of whether you depart with the
weapons or as you came."

"Then I will go to Venus," cried Damis. "If necessary, I will fight the
Jovians with bare hands, but I will rescue Lura or die in the attempt."

                   *       *       *       *       *

"And what of the Earthmen who trusted you, Nepthalim?" asked Turgan.
"Dozens gave their lives gladly to capture the space ship in which we
came here and thousands have gone cheerfully to annihilation to keep the
Sons of God beleaguered in the Viceregal palace until we return with the
weapons which will bring them victory. Think you that they would choose
the destruction of enslavement of the whole race to the possible chance
of rescuing one person from the grasp of Glavour's minions?"

"Turgan, you are mad!" cried Damis. "Have you forgotten that Lura is
your only child?"

"Since the days of Hortan, Glavour has sought information as to the
secret assembly room. Hundreds of men have gone to torture and death
with their lips sealed when they could have bought life and freedom by
speaking."

"Were it my own life, Turgan, I would not hesitate."

"Think you that never before has an Earthman been faced with the choice
of betraying his countrymen or seeing his wife or daughter violated and
sacrificed in the games? All have been true to the last and yet they
could have done little harm had they spoken. _You_ have the fate of the
Earth in your hand, yet you hesitate. I am Lura's father and I know her
better, it seems, than do you. If you abandon her countrymen, she will
despise you for a coward. It is better that one or that many be lost
than that all be lost."

Damis bowed his head in silence. Raised by the Jovians whose only ideal
of life was their own selfish pleasure, the thought that the fate of
thousands whom he did not know and in whom he felt little interest could
be of more importance than the fate of the one whose safety meant more
than life to him was a novel one. The lifelong training he had received
from the Sons of God struggled, and struggled in vain, against the
ideals he had inherited from his Earthly mother and his loved sire. With
a face drawn with anguish, he raised his head.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"We will take your weapons, Martian, and with them go to Earth. If it be
His will that Lura be safe, safe shall she be although the whole force
of Jupiter threaten her. If not, His will be done. One promise I exact
of you, Turgan. When we have reached Earth and I have taught your
followers to use the Martian weapons, you will give me a crew and let me
depart to Venus to find her."

"Gladly will I promise, and if I be spared, I will go with you, Damis,"
said Turgan. "Do not think that Lura is not dear to me; she is dearer
than all else in the Universe save only the keeping bright the ideal of
loyalty that has been the guiding light of the Terrestrials for untold
ages."

"Your decision is well made, Nepthalim," said the Martian, "and word of
it shall be given to the Grand Mognac that he may know that he made no
mistake when he entrusted you with the weapons of Mars. Now for your
course. When you rise, direct your ship toward Deiphos. The Jovian fleet
is now at an ascension of forty-two degrees and at an angle of one
hundred and sixty degrees from the sun. Deiphos will hide you from their
instruments. Once you reach it, our observers will plot your course and
send you a bearing which will take you as far from the Jovian fleet as
possible. They are now passing Ceres and will soon be out of the
asteroid belt. They are larger and more powerful than the ship you are
flying and they will make better speed. However, if you use your maximum
power, you will easily arrive on your planet before them. Have you fuel
enough for your trip at full speed?"

Damis hastily inspected the fuel supply of the ship and made some rapid
calculations.

"We have enough to carry us at maximum speed to Earth and to retard us
to a safe landing, but very little to spare. Can you give us some?"

"There is no tantalum on Mars except a little scattered through tons of
rock. It would take us days to extract enough to do you any good. It is
well that you did not plan to fly to Venus for you could have made
little speed and the Jovian flyer would have reached there long before
you did. Now go, and may our best wishes aid you in your flight."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Damis turned and instinctively held out his hand. A trace of expression
flickered over the face of the nearest Martian slug and he bent forward
and clasped the proffered hand in one of the many hands with which he
was provided. No further message came to Damis from the Martians and he
entered the airlock with Turgan following him. As the lock clanged shut,
he turned to his companion.

"Open the reserve air tanks and restore the atmosphere gradually to the
pressure of Earth," he directed. "Unless you do that, we will be unable
to function efficiently."

While Turgan opened the valve which allowed the reserve supply of
compressed air to gradually enter the ship, Damis pulled down the
starting lever of the ship. With a terrific lurch the flyer left the
surface of Mars and shot up into the trackless realms of space.
Abandoning his controls for an instant, Damis looked into one of the
observers. The plain below them was empty of Martians, but in the
distance he could dimly see two of the silvery domes which marked their
cities. He made some short calculations and turned on a side motor for a
moment. The ship swerved and headed for the Martian satellite to which
he had been directed.

In an hour he was holding the ship less than a thousand miles from
Deiphos while he received a message from the Grand Mognac as to the
location of the Jovian fleet, their speed and course, and the course
which he should fly to reach the Earth ahead of them. He noted down the
directions and set the cross hairs of his forward observer on Alpha
Centauri. His hand sought the controlling lever and the ship rapidly
gathered momentum for the trip to Earth.



CHAPTER V

_A Desperate Plan_


Flying the space ship with a crew of two men instead of the normal nine
threw a heavy strain on Damis. Turgan proved to be almost tireless, but
while he could act as an observer, Damis devoutly hoped that no
wandering celestial body would approach within the danger zone while he
was alone on duty. Nothing of the sort happened. The days passed with
monotonous slowness, yet daily and, indeed, hourly, the planet Mars
faded to a red star and the green point of light which marked their
destination grew larger. Damis cast many a longing glance at Venus, but
he remained steadfast to the faith which Turgan had engendered in him.
During the long hours Turgan had opportunity to tell the Nepthalim of
some of the sacrifices made by Terrestrials for the cause of liberty.
They filled Damis with amazement and moved him to awe to think of the
loyalty and bravery displayed by those whom he had been taught from
childhood to regard as a race of slaves, created solely to minister to
their overlords.

Damis pushed the ship to the greatest acceleration which he dared to
use, and, as they approached the Earth, he cast many an anxious glance
at the diminishing fuel supply. For thirteen days he drove at high speed
until the Earth seemed almost at hand. Using almost the full power of
his bow motors, he checked its speed. For a time he thought he had
overestimated the power of his motors and that it would be necessary to
avoid the atmosphere belt, run past the Earth and return. At the middle
of the fifteenth day, with the Earth less than a thousand miles away, he
threw in his last notch of power.

The deceleration pressed them so tightly to the nose of the ship that
they could hardly breathe. Damis lay with his hand on a side motor to
throw them out of danger. Gradually the forward motion of the ship
ceased and at last Damis rose with an effort and shut off the bow
motors.

"We are falling under the influence of terrestrial gravity," he
announced. "In another three hours, we will land."

                   *       *       *       *       *

He was as good as his word. Three hours later he dropped the space ship
to a landing at a spot half a dozen miles distant from the beleaguered
capital of the Sons of God. As he landed, the sun was just peeping over
the eastern horizon.

Their approach had been seen and the ship was surrounded by hundreds of
Terrestrial swordsmen. As the airlock opened and Damis and Turgan
appeared there was silence for a moment and then a thunderous shout of
joy rose to the heavens. From the forefront of the crowd, a
crimson-robed man ran toward the ship.

"Turgan, my lord," he cried as fell on his knees and strove to kiss the
Kildare's hand. "You are spared to us who had given you up for lost. Our
spies reported that the Sons of God had followed you to Mars and had
slain you all. Havenner reported to Glavour that you had made such a
resistance that it was impossible to follow his orders and bring you
back alive."

"Havenner!" cried Damis. "Havenner is on Venus with Lura."

"The ship of the Sons of God returned last night," replied the Akildare,
"with a loss of two men of its crew and with the Princess Lura a
prisoner."

Tears of joy sprang into Damis' eyes and ran unrestrained down his face.

"And she is safe?" he cried.

"One of our spies saw her and reports that she is well although in poor
spirits. She is confined in the palace and will not be harmed. A Jovian
fleet of a hundred ships is expected hourly with Tubain himself in
command. A message to Glavour has ordered that Lura be held for Tubain's
arrival, when he will dispose of her."

"What is the situation here, Toness?" interrupted Turgan. "I rejoice
with Damis that my daughter is safe, yet, unless we are victorious, her
present safety will avail her little."

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Things have gone neither well nor ill since your departure, Kildare,"
replied Toness. "I have followed out the great conspiracy as it was
planned many years ago. Although we have lost thousands of our bravest
men, we have the Sons of God besieged in the Viceregal palace and we
have tapped and cut the secret source of power which Timour, the
Akildare, found years ago. They have no weapons save some hand tubes
that are not yet exhausted and their axes. Their most powerful weapons
of offense are crippled, yet we cannot storm the palace in the face of
the defenses they have left. Have you brought us any hope from Mars?"

"We have brought weapons against which all the power and science of the
Sons of God are as helpless as is our feeble strength against their
might," replied Turgan. "Send me men to transport these weapons, and in
two hours not a Jovian will remain on the planet."

A wild cheer of joy from the assembled Terrestrials answered the words
of the Kildare. A score of men ran forward and entered the space ship on
the heels of Turgan. They reappeared in a few minutes carrying with the
greatest of care the two terrible weapons which were the gift of the
Grand Mognac. Damis suddenly looked up from a reverie in which he had
been plunged.

"I have just figured it out," he exclaimed. "Despite his report to
Glavour, Havenner knew that Turgan and I lived. He started away from
Mars toward Venus, a destination which he had already informed his crew
that they would make for. He feared the Martian weapons and he strove
to draw us away toward Venus so that he would be safe. Once the Martian
instruments had ceased to watch him, he altered his course and made for
Earth. With his greater supply of fuel and more powerful ship, he was
able to make a higher speed and, despite the additional million or two
of miles, he was able to land before us. The thing that puzzles me is
why we were not seen by the Jovians as we approached."

"You came from a different direction than Havenner, oh Nepthalim,"
replied Toness. "All of their instruments were either watching Havenner
or the Jovian fleet. But for an accident, your approach would not have
been noted by us. I am confident that the Sons of God have no idea that
you have returned, especially since Havenner reported that he had slain
you. We will take them by surprise. Where shall we take the weapons?"

"Take the one with the blue rod to the top of the mountain which
overlooks the palace and set it so that the rod points in the direction
from which Tubain's fleet is approaching. That hill is less than two
miles from the palace, so you had better take them both there. Point the
red rod toward the palace."

                   *       *       *       *       *

At a word from Toness, the Terrestrials started off with the weapons for
the point indicated by Damis. The Nepthalim and Turgan followed them,
relating their adventure on the red planet as they walked along. The
shutting off of the Jovian source of power had effectually crippled all
of the power-driven chariots which certain of the higher officials among
the Earthmen had been allowed to maintain.

On the top of the hill overlooking the palace grounds the two Martian
weapons were placed on the ground, side by side. Damis carefully aligned
the red rod on the Viceregal palace. When he had it set, with a word of
warning, he closed the gravity anchor switch. The instrument settled a
trifle on the solid rock on which it was bedded and then was motionless.
At a word from Damis, as many of the Terrestrials as could find a
hand-rest pushed against it. It was as though they were pressing against
the mountain itself. Damis sighted along the rod and adjusted it until
it pointed at the center of the building.

"So much for that one," he said. "It is the less powerful of the two,
but it will be enough to destroy the Sons of God and the Nepthalim who
are in the palace. The few who are scattered over the Earth, we can
dispose of at our leisure. If the Jovian fleet approaches the Earth from
directly above us, we will be able to destroy it easily. In any event,
this weapon is to be used only when it is approximately normal to the
surface of the Earth. We must have it almost under the point from which
the Jovians are approaching. That may be on the opposite side of the
Earth."

"I think not, Nepthalim," said Toness. "We know that Glavour and Tubain
have been in constant communication since the Jovian fleet passed Mars
and he expects them to land here. There would be no object in their
taking a circuitous route, so they will probably drop directly down in
the palace grounds."

"Let us hope so, Toness. In any event, we might as well anchor the
weapon here as elsewhere."

                   *       *       *       *       *

He set the weapon with the blue rod on another patch of bare rock and
tested the rod to make sure that it revolved freely and could be made to
cover the entire heavens from horizon to horizon. He closed the gravity
anchor switch and again the efforts of a dozen Terrestrials were futile
to move it.

"Now we are ready for their attack," he said to Turgan. "You are as
familiar with these weapons as I am, but I will instruct a dozen of
your followers in using them. It is possible that we may not be able to
operate the weapons ourselves."

"I can operate one weapon while you manipulate the other, Damis,"
replied the Kildare. "However, no harm will be done in instructing
others."

"I may not be here," said Damis briefly.

Without replying to the questions of Turgan and Toness, he proceeded to
instruct a dozen of the Earthmen in the use of the terrible Martian
weapons. When he was certain that he had a half dozen men capable of
attending to each of the weapons, he turned to Turgan.

"I may not be here when the weapons are used," he said. "When I thought
that Lura had gone to Venus, I gave her up and sacrificed both her and
my heart on the altar of our cause, for it is what she would have
chosen. Now I have accomplished the sacrifice and returned with the
Martian weapons to find that she is a captive in the Viceroy's palace.
We can turn on the rays and reduce the building and all in it to a pinch
of dust in a few seconds, but Lura would be immolated with the Sons of
God. The weapons are here; our men know how to use them, and my
usefulness is at an end. Now I stand here with no more responsibility
for our success than the humblest swordsman. Since I am no longer
needed, I will leave the fate of the Earth to you and follow out my
private designs."

"Where are you going, Nepthalim?" cried Toness. The question was echoed
by all within the sound of his voice. Only Turgan smiled as though he
knew Damis' answer.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"Where could I go, Akildare, but to one place?" replied the Nepthalim.
"I go to Glavour's palace. I have two errands there. One is to rescue
Lura and the other is to mete out to Glavour the death which I swore
that I would accomplish. The rays can be turned on and the palace
demolished at any time, but I ask that you wait until I return with Lura
or until you know that we are dead."

"But if the Jovian fleet arrives before that time, Nepthalim?" demanded
Toness.

"Then give the word for the use of the weapons, Akildare, and Lura's
soul and mine will join the thousands of others whose lives are but a
part of the price the race of Earthmen have had to pay to rid their
planet of the Sons of God."

"It grieves me, Damis, to see you go to certain death," said Turgan
sadly to the blond giant, "yet I will say nothing to stop you. Were it
not that my presence would hinder you in your attempt, I would accompany
you."

"Your place, Kildare, is at the head of your men, whom you were born to
rule. I can hope to succeed only by stealth, else a thousand men would
come with me. Now call from the ranks one who is a barber that he may
change the color of my hair and alter my face that I shall not be
known."

At the Kildare's word, three men stepped forward from the ranks of
swordsmen and announced themselves adepts in the art of disguise. Swift
runners were sent to bring supplies and the three labored over Damis.
When they had finished their ministrations, only a close observer would
have known him under the bushy black beard which covered his face.



CHAPTER VI

_In the Seraglio_


With a parting word to Turgan and his followers, Damis made his way
alone down the hill and into the thick tropical jungle which grew up
almost to the gates of the Viceregal palace. He was well acquainted
with a secret entrance into the building. It was a matter of minutes for
him to locate the outer end and open it.

For half a mile he made his way underground until a huge stone door
barred his way. He felt for the hidden catches and the slab of rock rose
before him. As he turned toward the doorway he found himself looking
into the muzzle of a black ray tube in the hands of a gigantic Jovian in
the uniform of the Viceroy's guards.

"Whence came you, Nepthalim?" demanded the guard, a cold note of
suspicion in his voice.

"From far Torna," replied Damis readily. "I am Durmino, Komar of the
province of Capries. The slaves rose on us and all were slain except me.
I have had to travel by night and hide by day to reach here. I knew not
whether the slaves had conquered or not, but when I found them lying by
thousands about Glavour's palace, I knew that the reign of the Sons of
God was safe. What news from Tubain?"

The face of the Jovian guard cleared as Damis spoke. Durmino, a son of
Glavour by one of his Terrestrial concubines, was Komar of Capries, a
fact well known to Damis. There was nothing in the newcomer's story to
excite suspicion.

"The fleet of the Ruler of the Universe is approaching," the guard
replied. "In two hours it will be hovering above us. We would have
needed no aid had not the dogs of Earthmen found our source of power and
managed to destroy it with stolen ray tubes. We have been cooped up here
like rats waiting for Tubain to arrive. When he comes our vengeance will
be heavy."

"The heavier the better," growled Damis with an oath. "The dogs have
been getting surly for a generation. I hope that Tubain will teach them
a lesson that will not be forgotten for ages to come."

"He will, never fear," laughed the guard. "Already Glavour has made his
plans. I am not a member of the council, yet I have heard enough to
realize why Glavour is our ruler. My brain could not conceive of such a
stupendous plan."

"I will go to my father now," said Damis. "What is the word for passing
the inner gate? I wish to surprise my sire for he doubtless mourns me as
dead."

"He thinks you are dead," replied the guard, "yet I never heard of
Glavour mourning for any loss which did not affect his pleasures. He has
plenty of bastards to take your place. The word is 'Tubain.'"

"I thank you, Son of God," said Damis, "and I will inform my sire of the
great respect and high regard which you have for him. Fear not, your
words shall be truthfully reported to him."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Leaving the Jovian guard hastily reviewing the conversation with the
supposed Durmino, Damis made his way toward the palace. Since he knew
that he would not reach another door until after several of the
underground passages with which the foundations of the palace were
honeycombed had joined, he had little doubt of his ability to make his
way unsuspected into the citadel. He debated for a moment on the
advisability of killing the Jovian guard and taking his weapons, but
caution prevailed, and empty-handed, save for a dagger concealed under
his robes, he strode forward.

His knowledge of the password enabled him to pass the various guards he
met without difficulty. There were many of the Nepthalim who held
subordinate positions in the outlying provinces and who were seldom at
court, and the Jovian guards, who in their hearts regarded the Nepthalim
as little better than the Terrestrials, paid small attention to him. He
passed several guarded points before the path rose steeply and he passed
through the final gate into the palace itself. A Nepthalim passed him
hurriedly and Damis plucked at his robe.

"I am just from outpost," he said. "What news of Tubain?"

"The fleet has entered the atmosphere belt a thousand miles east of
here," replied the Nepthalim. "They are dropping to an altitude of five
miles and will then approach. They should arrive in an hour. It is well
that they hurry."

"What rush is there?" asked Damis in surprise. "We may not be able to
leave here, but, at the same time, all the forces the slaves can muster
would never force an entrance."

                   *       *       *       *       *

"You have not heard then?" exclaimed the other in surprise.
"No--certainly not, if you have been on outpost--for I just learned it
myself. There is a rumor that Havenner lied when he said that he killed
Turgan, the Kildare and Damis, the renegade--the curse of Tubain rest on
him--on Mars. It is said that they not only escaped death but have
returned to Earth armed with the weapons of the red planet. Havenner is
with Glavour now and no one knows what the outcome will be. Since Tubain
is at hand, doubtless nothing will be done until he arrives. That is the
reason why Tubain altered his course and came down so far away instead
of directly overhead. He hopes thus to elude the Martian weapons if the
Earthmen really have them."

"Surely that is a lie!" cried Damis.

"We hope that it is, yet Havenner would have been slain without mercy
had he admitted that he left Mars without slaying or capturing Turgan
and Damis. Many believe that it is true."

"Is Glavour in the council room?" asked Damis. "I have a message."

"It would be better for you to defer the message if it be ill news until
Tubain arrives, brother, for Glavour is enraged beyond measure at all of
us. He threatens to sacrifice us at the next games and he may do so
unless Tubain alters the decree. He has not loved us since Damis broke
his arm a month ago."

"Nevertheless, I will deliver my message," replied Damis. "While it may
not please him, it is essential that he get it before Tubain arrives."

"Good luck go with you, brother," replied the Nepthalim with a shrug of
his shoulders. "The temper of the Viceroy of God is an uncertain quality
at best. He is in his seraglio."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Damis saluted the messenger and made his way toward the inner portion of
the palace where the women whom the lustful Viceroy had dragged into his
harem were kept. He had no plausible excuse for passing the guards into
this forbidden portion of the palace, but that was a matter which caused
him small worry. There were few of the secrets of the palace which were
not well known to Damis, who had at one time been major domo of the
building. There were some well known to him, the existence of which was
not even suspected by the majority of the Sons of God.

As he neared the seraglio, he turned off to his right and passed through
a maze of little-used passages until he halted before what was
apparently a blank wall. Casting a rapid glance around to ensure himself
that there was no one in sight, he touched a hidden catch and a portion
of the wall swung inward, opening a way before him. He entered a passage
built in the thickness of the wall and lighted with radium bulbs. The
door closed softly behind him. He removed his sandals lest even their
quiet tread should betray him and on bare feet crept forward.

The passage bent and twisted as it followed the walls until Damis knew
that he was in one of the walls of the seraglio. Praying that it would
work noiselessly, he slid open a panel of stone and found himself
looking through a semi-transparent hanging into the sacred precincts of
the seraglio itself. Glavour stood facing him, his heavy face drawn up
in a scowl of rage. Damis noted with satisfaction that one of the
Viceroy's arms was supported by a silk scarf and that he made no attempt
to use it. With a pale face, Havenner stood before his ruler.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"The word has been brought to me from a source which I trust as much as
I do your own word, Havenner," Glavour was saying. "I tell you, I do not
believe your story. If Damis and Turgan were dead, the Terrestrials
would not see them alive again on Earth. Neither would they have weapons
of which we know nothing. One of our observers admits that he saw a
space ship land a few hours ago, coming from the direction of Mars. You
failed in your mission, Havenner, and on you I pronounce the doom. I
sentence you to the twilight of the gods."

"I appeal to Tubain from that sentence!" cried the equerry with dry
lips.

"Your appeal shall be noted and laid before him at the proper time,"
replied the Viceroy savagely; "yet, by the time he arrives, it will be
too late. Ho, Guards! Take him away."

Havenner turned as though to resist, but six of the huge Jovians
answered the Viceroy's call. Two of them grasped him by the arms and
started to lead him from the room.

"I appeal!" cried Havenner again. "I brought back the maiden whom I was
sent to fetch, and for that reason I made no failure. To bring her was
the principal item of my orders."

Glavour's face grew purple with rage.

"And who sent the message to Tubain which resulted in the orders which
he sent me?" he demanded savagely. "It was sent by one of your henchmen
and by your orders. You slew the sender before I could question him, but
I know whose orders he obeyed. Take him away!"

The guards started to drag the luckless equerry from the presence of the
Viceroy, but Havenner made a final appeal for his life.

"I will confess, Viceroy of God," he cried. "No message was sent to
Tubain. I dared not send such a message lest such orders would be
returned as I caused to be given to you. I coveted the maiden for myself
and I took this means of getting her. I had a false message delivered to
you which would prevent you from taking her before Tubain arrived. In
reward for my services as spy on you, I planned to ask that she be given
to me. I surrender all claims to her, Glavour. Spare my life and you may
have her."

                   *       *       *       *       *

For a moment Glavour could not speak for rage.

"So you have been the spy who has reported my every doing and my every
secret council to Tubain!" he gasped. "But for you, I would long ago
have conquered Venus and Mercury and declared myself independent of the
Jovian overlord. In time I might have even overthrown him, but every
move was known to him before I made it. Not once, but a dozen times,
would you go through the twilight were Tubain not at hand. Niton, it is
my order that the twilight be as slow as our instruments will allow.
Give him time to learn to suffer and to pray for the blessing of death
at my hand. Take him away!"

The struggling Havenner was removed by the guards despite his efforts at
resistance and his cries for mercy. Glavour stared after him for a
moment and an evil gleam came into his eyes.

"Sonom!" he called sharply.

A guard entered the room and saluted.

"Sonom, bring me the Daughter of Man, Lura!" cried the Viceroy. "When
you have brought her here, post guards at all doors and see that no one
is admitted under any circumstances until Tubain himself arrives and
demands admittance."

The guard hesitated.

"Your Excellency," he faltered, "the orders from Tubain were--"

"False rumors given out by the traitor, Havenner, who has now gone to
the twilight of the gods," interrupted the Viceroy. "By the crown of
Tubain, do I need to repeat my orders? I am Viceroy of the Earth and am
supreme until Tubain revokes my rank. Obey my orders!"

                   *       *       *       *       *

The guard saluted and withdrew. Glavour licked his thick lips in
anticipation and strode restlessly back and forth across the room.
Inside the hangings, Damis' face hardened and he drew his dagger from
under his robe. The door opened and Sonom returned, dragging Lura after
him. The face of the Earth-girl was pale and drawn, yet, when she saw
Glavour, her head rose in an expression of defiance. Sonom saluted the
Viceroy and left the room, the massive door clanging shut behind him.
Glavour stared at the girl with an evil leer on his heavy countenance.

"I have learned, Daughter of Man," he said slowly, "of how you seduced
one of my servants from his duty to me and caused him to forge an order
from the great Tubain in order that he might keep you for his own
pleasure. For a time the stratagem succeeded, but now my eyes are open.
When I first looked upon your face and form I swore to myself that you
should be the solace of my leisure hours. Now the time is come. I was
minded once to honor you as Hortan once honored a Terrestrial and let
you amuse yourself by sitting on a throne, but your treachery has
changed my intention. Not even as an accepted concubine shall you rank,
but only as a slave to be used as a toy and tossed to one of my guards
when I am tired of you. Come hither!"

Lura made no move to obey the order, and Glavour with an oath stepped
toward her, his one good arm outstretched in a grasping gesture. Lura
did not move until his hand almost closed on her arm and then she sprang
back. Her hand sought the bosom of her robe and the Viceroy recoiled as
a glittering dagger flashed in the air.

"Back, Jovian!" cried Lura in ringing tones. "Think you that the
daughter of a king of men is to be a toy for your base Jovian passions?
The point of this dagger is poisoned so that one touch through your skin
will mean death. One step nearer and I will strike!"

                   *       *       *       *       *

The Viceroy hesitated for a moment and then drew from his robe a short
thick tube. Lura correctly interpreted the gesture.

"Raise that tube and I will bury the blade in my own body!" she cried.
"I know that you have the power to clasp me in your arms, but it will be
a corpse which you clasp."

She lowered the knife until the point rested against the skin of her
throat. The slightest pressure would cause it to penetrate her skin and
bring about her almost instant death. Glavour watched her like a cat,
the tube ready in his hand. With a grim laugh he threw the tube from him
and walked a few steps away. Lura lowered the knife. As she did so,
Glavour turned with a movement so swift that the eye could hardly follow
it. His eyes caught Lura's and she straightened back her head, powerless
against his will, caught as she was, momentarily off her guard.

"Throw down your knife," said Glavour's voice slowly. Lura struggled to
raise the weapon against herself, but she could not. Slowly her fingers
relaxed and the weapon clattered on the floor. Still holding her eyes
with his own, Glavour stepped forward until his huge splayed foot rested
on the weapon. He averted his gaze and swiftly picked it up. Lura gave a
scream of horror and strove to fly, but the heavy door was barred
against her. Glavour placed the weapon in a cabinet on the wall which he
locked and then turned to her, an expression of triumph on his face.

"It is useless, Daughter of Man, to struggle against the will of the
Sons of God," he said mockingly. "What we desire is ours. Come to me."

Lura's face showed an expression of loathing as she looked at the huge
misshapen monstrosity before her. The Viceroy forgot the momentary
satisfaction of his triumph in his rage at her attitude. With a growl of
anger he grasped at her. Lura avoided his rush and ran along the side of
the room, Glavour in pursuit. He cornered her at last and she stopped
with her back to the tapestry with which the room was hung. Glowering in
his triumph, Glavour approached and reached out his hand to seize her.
His huge paw descended, but before it touched her shoulder a hand with
fingers of steel reached through the hangings and grasped his wrist.

                   *       *       *       *       *

When Sonom had dragged Lura into the room, Damis inserted the point of
his dagger into the tapestry and started to cut a slit through which he
could enter the room. The keen-edged knife cut for a few inches readily
enough and then stopped. Damis withdrew the blade and examined the stuff
before him. An expression of dismay crossed his face, for the material
was crisscrossed with stellanium wires, set six inches apart. Each
juncture was braised together and the whole made a web through which he
could not force his way. Cautiously he exerted his strength. The keen
blade hewed through the first of the stellanium strands, but Damis held
his breath as the wire parted. It seemed impossible that the ting of
parting metal which sounded like a thunderclap in his ears would not be
heard by the Viceroy. He knew that there must be an entrance into the
room through the hangings and he made his way cautiously forward,
testing the draperies from time to time with his knife.

When Lura laid her dagger against her breast and threatened to end her
life, it took all of Damis' self-control to keep from crying out and
striving to force his way into the room by sheer strength. He knew the
toughness of stellanium well enough to realize the impossibility of even
his enormous strength tearing apart a webbing of it. The certainty that
Glavour would not push matters far enough to rob himself of his prey
aided him to restrain his ardor and to pursue his systematic search.

He came at last to a corner where his knife met with no resistance as it
made its way through the silken stuff on the walls. Swiftly he cut a
slit through which he could rush. As he parted the material, Lura rushed
past him and stood with her back to the wall to await the oncoming
Viceroy. Damis raised his hand and stood ready. As Glavour's huge paw
descended on Lura's shoulder Damis' hand shot out. Still holding the
wrist of the Viceroy in a grip of steel, he emerged from his hiding
place, tearing off the black wig and beard which disguised him.

"Damis!" cried Lura in wonder and delight as she saw him.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Glavour stared with unbelieving eyes for a moment and then a hoarse cry
of alarm burst from his lips. Desperately he strove to release his
wrist from the Nepthalim's grip, but to no avail. He disengaged his
crippled arm from the scarf which supported it and groped under his robe
for a weapon. Lura cried out in warning, but Damis had anticipated such
a move. With a quick effort he whirled about and drew the Viceroy's arm
over his shoulder. He bent forward and exerted his full strength. The
huge bulk of Glavour rose in the air and pitched forward over Damis'
shoulder. There was a crash as he landed on the marble floor. Quick as a
cat, Damis sprang on him and pinioned down his arms.

"Take his weapons, Lura!" he cried.

Lura bent over the prostrate form of the Jovian to take from his belt
the tubes which he habitually carried there. As she stooped, Glavour
raised one of his huge feet and struck her with all the force of his
mighty thighs behind the blow. With a cry of pain, Lura flew halfway
across the room. Damis leaped to her assistance, forgetting for a moment
the potentialities for destruction which the Viceroy bore on his person.
A sudden sound made him whirl about. He bent over Lura and picked her
from the floor. With her in his arms he leaped to one side just as a
flash of violet light stabbed through the air. It missed them by inches.
He dropped Lura on a rug and turned to face Glavour.

On the Jovian's face was an expression of fiendish triumph. In his hand
was a short black tube which he aimed with deliberate slowness at the
crouching Nepthalim. Damis shifted his gaze from the Viceroy's eyes and
concentrated it on the muscles of his wrist. Glavour's grip tightened
and Damis leaped to one side as the violet light again stabbed the air.
With an oath, Glavour swung the deadly ray in an arc trying to reach the
Nepthalim, but Damis moved like a cat. Once, as the ray almost touched
him, he sprang high in the air and let it sweep by under him. With each
movement he came nearer to the Viceroy. Slowly the violet began to lose
its intensity of color. Glavour dropped it and reached for a second
tube. Before he could draw one, Damis was on him.



CHAPTER VII

_The Deluge_


Few of the Sons of God and none of the Nepthalim, save Damis, could
match the brute strength of the Viceroy. As Damis rushed, Glavour
sidestepped and caught the Nepthalim's arm in a bone-crushing grasp.
Damis made no effort to break the grip, but with his free hand he
gripped the wrist of Glavour's crippled arm. With a quick effort he
twisted it and the Viceroy gave a shriek of pain as the newly knit bone
gave way and his arm fell, dangling and useless. Damis caught his sound
arm in a powerful grip and twisted slowly on his wrist. Gradually
Glavour's fingers relaxed and Damis' arm was free. His hands shot up and
gripped Glavour about the throat just in time to shut off the cry for
help which was forming on his thick lips. The two giants strove silently
for mastery in the struggle which meant life for the victor and death
for the vanquished. The expression in Damis' eyes was one of confident
mastery, but the face of the Jovian showed something that was strangely
akin to fear. Even when he was whole, Glavour had found that his
strength was no match for the power that lay in Damis' graceful limbs.
With one of the Viceroy's arms useless, the issue was a foregone
conclusion.

Glavour's face gradually grew purple and his eyes started out of their
sockets. His tongue protruded horribly from his opened jaws. He grew
weaker until it was only Damis' grip which kept him from falling to the
ground. Then Damis broke his silence and spoke slowly and distinctly
into the dying Viceroy's ears.

                   *       *       *       *       *

"I was loyal to you, Glavour," he said, "despite your brutality and
sensuality which sickened me, until you strove to add to your already
crowded seraglio the maiden whom I had chosen. As a Nepthalim, you
thought I had no right which you need respect and I would tamely submit
to whatever you chose to do. You forgot that in my veins run the best
blood of Earth and the proudest blood of Jupiter. Hortan was a Mildash
of Jupiter, a rank to which you could never aspire. I restricted your
efforts and proved to you a thing which I long have known, that, man to
man, I am your superior.

"Even then you might have won back my loyalty had I not learned how my
father and my mother came to their death. It has always been given out
that they went to Jupiter on a summons from Tubain, but I know the
truth. They died under the knife of a cowardly assassin, under your
knife, Glavour. Then it was that I swore that it would be my hand that
would strike you down. When you raised your hand against me, you were
Viceroy of the Earth and your power was secure, for the conspiracy
against you had no hope of success. What is the situation now? You are
beleaguered in your palace, holding only the ground your few feeble
weapons cover. Even this ground you hold only on the sufferance of the
Earthmen. Listen to what I say, for I wish your last moments to be
bitter ones. On the hill east of the city sit two weapons of a type and
a power unknown to both Earth and Jupiter. They are the deadly black ray
weapons of Mars. Ah, you tremble! You have good cause. One of them is
trained on this palace while the other searches the heavens, ready to
blast into powder the fleet of Tubain when it appears. And who, think
you, brought this about, Glavour? It was I, Damis, the Nepthalim, the
'half-breed bastard' whom you despised. My only regret is that I cannot
send you to the twilight of the gods as you sent that other
arch-traitor, Havenner. Are your last moments pleasant, Glavour? I am
increasing the pressure slowly so that you will have time to think, to
think of the Earthmen you have given to sacrifice and torture, to think
of your ruler, Hortan, dying under your knife, to think of the doom
which is about to overcome your race. Think, Glavour, for your time for
thought is short."

                   *       *       *       *       *

As he finished, Damis thrust back on the Viceroy's chin with a sudden
effort. There was a dull crack as Glavour's neck broke and Damis gently
lowered the inert bulk to the floor. He felt a touch on his arm as he
straightened up. He whirled like a cat and Lura shrank back with a
frightened gesture. Damis opened his arms and in an instant the
Earth-girl was folded in them.

"Is my father safe?" was her first question.

"Safer by far than we are," exclaimed Damis with a sudden pang of
anxiety. He glanced at the time-recording device on the wall.
Three-quarters of an hour had passed since he had first entered the
Viceregal palace. If the estimates of Tubain's arrival which he had
heard were correct, the Jovian fleet should be almost most overhead.
"Come," he cried to Lura, "we have no time to lose if we escape before
the palace and all in it are destroyed. Where did Havenner land his
ship?"

"In the yard west of the palace," she replied.

"Pray that it is still there," said Damis. "We can reach it through the
path by which I entered this room. Come quickly."

With Lura at his heels, he passed through the rent in the tapestry and
entered the secret passage through the walls. The way twisted and turned
interminably, but finally he paused before a door. Before opening it he
slid back a panel which opened a peep-hole and looked out.

"The ship is there," he whispered in a voice of relief. "There is only
one guard over it that I can see. Why didn't I think to bring Glavour's
weapons? I'll have to try to catch him by surprise. When I open the
door, run straight for the space ship as though you were trying to
escape from me. Don't try to dodge the guard, keep right on for the
ship. As soon as I overpower the guard, get in the ship and hold your
hand on the starting lever. When I get on board, throw in the power at a
low rate. We don't want to rise rapidly enough to get out of easy
control. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Damis," she whispered.

                   *       *       *       *       *

He watched until a sudden shout drew the attention of the sentry
momentarily away from the ship he was guarding. A confused sound of
cheering came from the palace and the sentry looked toward the western
heavens. A moment of gazing and he raised his voice in a raucous shout
of joy. Instantly Damis swung open the door.

Lura sped out like a frightened deer with Damis in close pursuit. The
attention of the sentry was fixed on some distant object in the sky and
he did not see the oncoming pair until Lura was only a few yards from
him. The sound of her footsteps attracted his attention and he glanced
down at her. An expression of surprise came over his heavy features and
he reached for a weapon. His gesture was never finished, for Damis' fist
caught him under the ear and he dropped in his tracks. Damis looked in
the direction in which the sentry had been staring and a cry broke from
his lips.

"The fleet of Tubain!" he cried.

A thousand yards in the air and a scant five miles to the west was a
clump of half a dozen Jovian space flyers. Massed behind them were a
hundred more. They were approaching with tremendous velocity.

Damis gave a mighty bound and leaped through the airlock of the ship.
Hardly had he cleared the door than Lura pulled down the starting lever.
The ship flew up from the ground. Hardly had it left its ways than a
momentary flash came from the hill east of the palace. The air grew
black around them and a cold as of interstellar space penetrated their
very bones. In an instant the ship had flashed up into the sun above the
zone of influence of the Martian weapon. The shouting from the palace
was suddenly stilled. Damis looked down, but nothing could be seen save
a pall of intense blackness over the ground where the building stood.

"The port motor, Lura!" cried Damis. The Jovian fleet was approaching so
rapidly that a collision with the nearest flyer seemed inevitable. There
was a roar from the air as Lura threw in the port blast with its maximum
power. Damis was hurled against the side of the ship.

                   *       *       *       *       *

From the hill where the Martian weapons had been placed came a second
flash of light and a beam of jetty blackness shot through the air. An
edge of it brushed the ship for an instant and Lura stiffened. A
terrible cold bit through the flyer and the side where the Martian ray
had touched crumpled into powder. The ship sped on, and the friction of
the air and the bright rays of the sun dissipated the extreme cold.
Through the terrific storm which was raging, the black ray stabbed again
and again. Back and forth it played and ship after ship of the Jovians
was momentarily caught in the beam. When the beam passed on there was
nothing left of the ship save a cloud of dust which the terrific wind
dissipated in all directions.

Damis glanced at the Earth below him. It seemed to be flying past the
ship at a velocity which he could hardly comprehend. He made his way
against the pressure of the movement to the control levers and strove to
check the speed. As the Earth ceased to revolve beneath them, the wind
rose to a terrible force.

"What has happened, Damis?" shrieked Lura in his ear.

"I don't know," he shouted in reply. "I am trying to keep away from the
neighborhood of the palace for a while until the Jovian fleet is
destroyed. Toness and your father might not be able to tell us from one
of Tubain's ships and they might turn the ray on us."

                   *       *       *       *       *

He bent over the control levers of the ship, but they refused to obey
his touch. The stern motor still roared with enough force to keep them
three thousand feet above the ground, but none of the side motors
responded to the controls. The ship was helpless and was tossed about, a
plaything of the terrific wind which howled through the heavens. Damis
watched the ground below them.

"Look, Lura!" he cried.

They swept over the site of the palace. The black ray was no longer
playing on it, but the whole palace glistened like crystal.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Frost!" he shouted. "The Martian weapon did its work well. Everything
in that palace is frozen. In the name of Tubain!"

The Jovian ejaculation had burst from his lips, unbidden, at the sight
which met his gaze. Racing over the land was a solid wall of water,
hundreds of feet high and moving with enormous speed. On toward the
palace it swept. Below they could see the Earthmen on the hill striving
to fly, but there was no place of safety. The oncoming wall of water was
higher by a hundred feet than the top of the hill and it was the highest
bit of land for many miles.

Nearer and nearer came the water until with a roar and a crash which
they could plainly hear in the crippled space ship, it swept over the
hill and the palace, burying them under a hundred feet of brine.

"Father!" cried Lura in anguish.

Damis made his way across the ship and folded her in his arms.

"He was chosen as one of the lives needed to buy the freedom of the
Earth," he murmured to her. "It is hard, for I loved him as a father;
but it was the end which he would have chosen. He died at the head of
his followers battling for freedom."

                   *       *       *       *       *

"What happened, Damis?" asked Lura an hour later as she looked down on
the seething tumult of water under them.

"As nearly as I can figure out, the Jovian fleet approached the palace
from the west at a low elevation. In order to destroy them, we could not
use the Martian weapon normal to the Earth's surface as they commanded
us, but were forced to use it tangentially. The enormous counter
reaction to the stream of force of almost incredible intensity which was
shot at Tubain's flyers, had to be absorbed in some way. The weapon
could not take it up as it was anchored to the center of gravity of the
earth. As a result, the force was translated into one of increased
rotation. The Earth must be spinning on its axis at fully twice its
former rate. Both the air and the water had too much inertia to follow
the accelerated motion of the land, so the wind blew a gale and the
oceans left their beds and swept over the land. Everything must have
been swept to destruction before this flood."

"And all our labor and sacrifice has been useless," cried Lura. "We
have freed a world at the cost of the lives of its inhabitants."

"The world is not lost, sweetheart," he cried as he clasped her to him.
"The floods will not have overwhelmed the mountains and some men and
animals will have escaped. The waters will subside in a few weeks as
they take up the new rotation of the Earth. By His will, we are spared
for the labor of building a new world. As soon as the land again appears
above the waters, we will land and assemble those who have been spared.
The fleet of Jupiter has been destroyed and we need fear no fresh attack
for ages, perhaps never. Unhampered, we will build a new world and try
to avoid the mistakes of the old one.

"Look, Damis!" exclaimed Lura in a hushed tone.

From the spray and mist below them leaped a living bridge of colored
light. Above the sun it arced its way into the heavens in the direction
in which they knew Mars lay.

"It is His promise," whispered Damis reverently, "that henceforth the
planets will live in peace and amity and that nevermore will the Jovians
be allowed to invade us."


                               (The End.)


Transcriber's Note:

This e-text was produced from Astounding Stories December 1931 and
January 1932 issues. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.





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