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Title: Astounding Stories of Super-Science January 1931
Author: Various
Language: English
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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 "Astounding Stories of Super-Science January 1931" ***

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                              ASTOUNDING
                               STORIES

                                 20¢

              _On Sale the First Thursday of Each Month_

    W. M. CLAYTON, Publisher
                         HARRY BATES, Editor
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                  _The other Clayton magazines are:_

      ACE-HIGH MAGAZINE, RANCH ROMANCES, COWBOY STORIES, CLUES,
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======================================================================

  VOL. V, No. 1                CONTENTS                JANUARY, 1931

  COVER DESIGN                   H. W. WESSO
    _Painted in Water-Colors from a Scene in "The Gate to Xoran."_

  THE DARK SIDE OF ANTRI         SEWELL PEASLEE WRIGHT             9
    _Commander John Hanson Relates an Interplanetary Adventure
    Illustrating the Splendid Service Spirit of the Men of the
    Special Patrol._

  THE SUNKEN EMPIRE              H. THOMPSON RICH                 24
    _Concerning the Strange Adventures of Professor Stevens with
    the Antillians on the Floor of the Mysterious Sargasso Sea._

  THE GATE TO XORAN              HAL K. WELLS                     46
    _A Strange Man of Metal Comes to Earth on a Dreadful Mission._

  THE EYE OF ALLAH               C. D. WILLARD                    58
    _On the Fatal Seventh of September a Certain Secret Service
    Man Sat in the President's Chair and--Looked Back into the Eye
    of Allah._

  THE FIFTH-DIMENSION CATAPULT   MURRAY LEINSTER                  72
    _The Story of Tommy Reames' Extraordinary Rescue of Professor
    Denham and his Daughter--Marooned in the Fifth Dimension._
    (A Complete Novelette.)

  THE PIRATE PLANET              CHARLES W. DIFFIN               109
    _Two Fighting Yankees--War-Torn Earth's Sole Representatives
    on Venus--Set Out to Spike the Greatest Gun of All Time._
    (Part Three of a Four-Part Novel.)

  THE READERS' CORNER            ALL OF US                       132
    _A Meeting Place for Readers of_ ASTOUNDING STORIES.

======================================================================

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

Issued monthly by Readers' Guild, Inc., 80 Lafayette Street, New York,
N. Y. W. M. Clayton, President; Francis P. Pace, Secretary. Entered as
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New York; or 225 North Michigan Ave., Chicago.



[Illustration: "_Behold one of those who live in the darkness._"]

The Dark Side of Antri

_By Sewell Peaslee Wright_

    Commander John Hanson relates an interplanetary adventure
    illustrating the splendid Service spirit of the men of the
    Special Patrol.


An officer of the Special Patrol Service dropped in to see me the
other day. He was a young fellow, very sure of himself, and very
kindly towards an old man.

He was doing a monograph, he said, for his own amusement, upon the
early forms of our present offensive and defensive weapons. Could I
tell him about the first Deuber spheres and the earlier disintegrator
rays and the crude atomic bombs we tried back when I first entered the
Service?

I could, of course. And I did. But a man's memory does not improve in
the course of a century of Earth years. Our scientists have not been
able to keep a man's brain as fresh as his body, despite all their
vaunted progress. There is a lot these deep thinkers, in their great
laboratories, don't know. The whole universe gives them the credit for
what's been done, yet the men of action who carried out the ideas--but
I'm getting away from my pert young officer.

He listened to me with interest and toleration. Now and then he helped
me out, when my memory failed me on some little detail. He seemed to
have a very fair theoretical knowledge of the subject.

"It seems impossible," he commented, when we had gone over the ground
he had outlined, "that the Service could have done its work with such
crude and undeveloped weapons, does it not?" He smiled in a superior
sort of way, as though to imply we had probably done the best we
could, under the circumstances.

       *       *       *       *       *

I suppose I should not have permitted his attitude to irritate me, but
I am an old man, and my life has not been an easy one.

"Youngster," I said--like many old people, I prefer spoken
conversation--"back in those days the Service was handicapped in every
way. We lacked weapons, we lacked instruments, we lacked popular
support, and backing. But we had men, in those days, who did their
work with the tools that were at hand. And we did it well."

"Yes, sir!" the youngster said hastily--after all, a retired commander
in the Special Patrol Service does rate a certain amount of respect,
even from these perky youngsters--"I know that, sir. It was the
efforts of men like yourself who gave us the proud traditions we have
to-day."

"Well, that's hardly true," I corrected him. "I'm not quite so old as
that. We had a fine set of traditions when I entered the Service, son.
But we did our share to carry them on, I'll grant you that."

"'Nothing Less than Complete Success,'" quoted the lad almost
reverently, giving the ancient motto of our service. "That is a fine
tradition for a body of men to aspire to, sir."

"True. True." The ring in the boy's voice brought memories flocking.
It was a proud motto; as old as I am, the words bring a thrill even
now, a thrill comparable only with that which comes from seeing old
Earth swell up out of the darkness of space after days of outer
emptiness. Old Earth, with her wispy white clouds and her broad seas--
Oh, I know I'm provincial, but that is another thing that must be
forgiven an old man.

"I imagine, sir," said the young officer, "that you could tell many a
strange story of the Service, and the sacrifices men have made to keep
that motto the proud boast it is to-day."

"Yes," I told him. "I could do that. I have done so. That is my
occupation, now that I have been retired from active service. I--"

"You are a historian?" he broke in eagerly.

       *       *       *       *       *

I forgave him the interruption. I can still remember my own rather
impetuous youth.

"Do I look like a historian?" I think I smiled as I asked him the
question, and held out my hands to him. Big brown hands they are,
hardened with work, stained and drawn from old acid burns, and the
bite of blue electric fire. In my day we worked with crude tools
indeed; tools that left their mark upon the workman.

"No. But--"

I waved the explanation aside.

"Historians deal with facts, with accomplishments, with dates and
places and the names of great men. I write--what little I do write--of
men and high adventures, so that in this time of softness and easy
living some few who may read my scribblings may live with me those
days when the worlds of the universe were strange to each other, and
there were many new things to be found and marveled at."

"And I'll venture, sir, that you find much enjoyment in the work,"
commented the youngster with a degree of perception with which I had
not credited him.

"True. As I write, forgotten faces peer at me through the mists of the
years, and strong, friendly voices call to me from out of the
past...."

"It must be wonderful to live the old adventures through again," said
the young officer hastily. Youth is always afraid of sentiment in old
people. Why this should be, I do not know. But it is so.

The lad--I wish I had made a note of his name; I predict a future for
him in the Service--left me alone, then, with the thoughts he had
stirred up in my mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

Old faces ... old voices. Old scenes, too.

Strange worlds, strange peoples. A hundred, a thousand different
tongues. Men that came only to my knee, and men that towered ten feet
above my head. Creatures--possessed of all the attributes of men
except physical form--that belonged only in the nightmare realms of
sleep.

An old man's most treasured possessions: his memories. A face drew
close out of the flocking recollections; the face of a man I had known
and loved more than a brother so many years--dear God, how many
years--ago.

Anderson Croy. Search all the voluminous records of the bearded
historians, and you will not find his name. No great figure of history
was this friend of mine; just an obscure officer on an obscure ship of
the Special Patrol Service.

And yet there is a people who owe to him their very existence.

I wonder if they have forgotten him? It would not surprise me.

The memory of the universe is not a reliable thing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Anderson Croy was, like most of the officer personnel of the Special
Patrol Service, a native of Earth.

They had tried to make a stoop-shouldered dabbler in formulas out of
him, but he was not the stuff from which good scientists are moulded.
He was young, when I first knew him, and strong; he had mild blue eyes
and a quick smile. And he had a fine, steely courage that a man could
love.

I was in command, then, of the _Ertak_, my second ship. I Inherited
Anderson Croy with the ship, and I liked him from the first time I
laid eyes upon him.

As I recall it, we worked together on the _Ertak_ for nearly two
years, Earth time. We went through some tight places together. I
remember our experience, shortly after I took over the _Ertak_, on the
monstrous planet Callor, whose tiny, gentle people were attacked by
strange, vapid Things that come down upon them from the fastness of
the polar cap, and--

But I wander from the story I wish to tell here. An old man's mind is
a weak and weary thing that totters and weaves from side to side; like
a worn-out ship, it is hard to keep on a straight course.

We were out on one of those long, monotonous patrols, skirting the
outer boundaries of the known universe, that were, at that time,
before the building of all the many stations we have to-day a dreaded
part of the Special Patrol Service routine.

Not once had we landed to stretch our legs. Slowing up to atmospheric
speed took time, and we were on a schedule that allowed for no waste
of even minutes. We approached the various worlds only close enough to
report, and to receive an assurance that all was well. A dog's life,
but part of the game.

       *       *       *       *       *

My log showed nearly a hundred "All's well" reports, as I remember it,
when we slid up to Antri, which was, so far as size is concerned, one
of our smallest ports o' call.

Antri, I might add, for the benefit of those who have forgotten their
maps of the universe, is a satellite of A-411, which, in turn, is one
of the largest bodies of the universe, and both uninhabited and
uninhabitable. Antri is somewhat larger than the moon, Earth's
satellite, and considerably farther from its controlling body.

"Report our presence, Mr. Croy," I ordered wearily. "And please ask
Mr. Correy to keep a sharp watch on the attraction meter." These huge
bodies such as A-411 are not pleasant companions at space speeds. A
few minute's trouble--space ships gave trouble, in those days--and you
melted like a drop of solder when you struck the atmospheric belt.

"Yes, sir!" There never was a crisper young officer than Croy.

I bent over my tables, working out our position and charting our
course for the next period. In a few seconds Croy was back, his blue
eyes gleaming.

"Sir, an emergency is reported on Antri. We are to make all possible
speed, to Oreo, their governing city. I gather that it is very
important."

"Very well, Mr. Croy." I can't say the news was unwelcome. Monotony
kills young men. "Have the disintegrator ray generators inspected and
tested. Turn out the watch below in such time that we may have all
hands on duty when we arrive. If there is an emergency, we shall be
prepared for it. I shall be with Mr. Correy in the navigating room; if
there are any further communications, relay them to me there."

       *       *       *       *       *

I hurried up to the navigating room, and gave Correy his orders.

"Do not reduce speed until it is absolutely necessary," I concluded.
"We have an emergency call from Antri, and minutes may be important.
How long do you make it to Oreo?"

"About an hour to the atmosphere; say an hour more to set down in the
city. I believe that's about right, sir."

I nodded, frowning at the twin charts, with their softly glowing
lights, and turned to the television disc, picking up Antri without
difficulty.

Of course, back in those days we had the huge and cumbersome discs,
their faces shielded by a hood, that would be suitable only for museum
pieces now. But they did their work very well, and I searched Antri
carefully, at varying ranges, for any sign of disturbances. I found
none.

The dark portion, of course, I could not penetrate. Antri has one
portion of its face that is turned forever from its sun, and one half
that is bathed in perpetual light. The long twilight zone was
uninhabited, for the people of Antri are a sun-loving race, and their
cities and villages appeared only in the bright areas of perpetual
sunlight.

Just as we reduced to atmospheric speed, Croy sent up a message

"The Governing Council sends word that we are to set down on the
platform atop the Hall of Government, the large, square white building
in the center of the city. They say we will have no difficulty in
locating it."

I thanked him and ordered him to stand by for further messages, if
any, and picked up the far-flung city of Oreo in my television disc.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no mistaking the building Croy had mentioned. It stood out
from the city around it, cool and white, its mighty columns glistening
like crystal in the sun. I could even make out the landing platform,
slightly elevated above the roof on spidery arches of silvery metal.

We sped straight for the city at just a fraction of space speed, but
the hand of the surface temperature gauge crept slowly toward the red
line that marked the dangerous incandescent point. I saw that Correy,
like the good navigating officer he was, was watching the gauge as
closely as myself, and hence said nothing. We both knew that the
Antrians would not have sent a call for help to a ship of the Special
Patrol Service if there had not been a real emergency.

Correy had made a good guess in saying that it would take about an
hour, after entering the gaseous envelope of Antri, to reach our
destination. It was just a few minutes--Earth time, of course--less
than that when we settled gently onto the landing platform.

A group of six or seven Antrians, dignified old men, wearing the
short, loosely belted white robes that we found were their universal
costume, were waiting for us at the exit of the _Ertak_, whose sleek,
smooth sides were glowing dull red.

"You have hastened, and that is well, sirs," said the spokesman of the
committee. "You find Antri in dire need." He spoke in the universal
language, and spoke it softly and perfectly. "But you will pardon me
for greeting you with that which is, of necessity, uppermost in my
mind, and in the minds of these, my companions.

"Permit me to welcome you to Antri, and to introduce those who extend
those greetings." Rapidly, he ran through a list of names, and each of
the men bowed gravely in acknowledgment of our greetings. I have never
observed a more courteous nor a more courtly people than the Antrians;
their manners are as beautiful as their faces.

Last of all, their spokesman introduced himself. Bori Tulber, he was
called, and he had the honor of being master of the Council--the chief
executive of Antri.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the introductions had been completed, the committee led our
little party to a small, cylindrical elevator which dropped us,
swiftly and silently, on a cushion of air, to the street level of the
great building. Across a wide, gleaming corridor our conductors led
us, and stood aside before a massive portal through which ten men
might have walked abreast.

We found ourselves in a great chamber with a vaulted ceiling of
bright, gleaming metal. At the far end of the room was an elevated
rostrum, flanked on either side by huge, intricate masses of statuary,
of some creamy, translucent stone that glowed as with some inner
light. Semicircular rows of seats, each with its carved desk,
surmounted by numerous electrical controls, occupied all the floor
space. None of the seats was occupied.

"We have excused the Council from our preliminary deliberations,"
explained Bori Tulber, "because such a large body is unwieldy. My
companions and myself represent the executive heads of the various
departments of the Council, and we are empowered to act." He led us
through the great council chamber, and into an anteroom, beautifully
decorated, and furnished with exceedingly comfortable chairs.

"Be seated, sirs," the Master of the Council suggested. We obeyed
silently, and Bori Tulber stood before, gazing thoughtfully into
space.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I do not know just where to begin," he said slowly. "You men in
uniform know, I presume, but little of this world of ours. I presume I
had best begin far back.

"Since you are navigators of space, undoubtedly, you are acquainted
with the fact that Antri is a world divided into two parts; one of
perpetual night, and the other of perpetual day, due to the fact that
Antri revolves but once upon its axis during the course of its circuit
of its sun, thus presenting always the same face to our luminary.

"We have no day and night, such as obtain on other spheres. There are
no set hours for working nor for sleeping nor for pleasure. The
measure of a man's work is the measure of his ambition, or his
strength, or his desire. It is so also with his sleep and with his
pleasures. It is--it has been--a very pleasant arrangement.

"Ours is a fertile country, and our people live very long and very
happily with little effort. We have believed that ours was the nearest
of all the worlds to the ideal; that nothing could disturb the peace
and happiness of our people. We were mistaken.

       *       *       *       *       *

"There is a dark side to Antri. A side upon which the sun never has
shone. A dismal place of gloom, which is like the night upon other
worlds.

"No Antrian has, to our knowledge, ever penetrated this part of Antri,
and lived to tell of his experience. We do not even till the land
close to the twilight zone. Why should we, when we have so much fine
land upon which the sun shines bright and fair always, save for the
two brief seasons of rain?

"We have never given thought to what might be on the dark face of
Antri. Darkness and night are things unknown to us; we know of them
only from the knowledge which has come to us from other worlds. And
now--now we have been brought face to face with a terrible danger
which comes to us from that other side of this sphere.

"A people have grown there. A terrible people that I shall not try to
describe to you. They threaten us with slavery, with extinction. Four
ara ago (the Antrians have their own system of reckoning time, just as
we have on Earth, instead of using the universal system, based upon
the enaro. An ara corresponds to about fifty hours, Earth time.) we
did not know that such a people existed. Now their shadow is upon all
our beautifully sunny country, and unless you can aid us, before other
help can reach us, I am convinced that Antri is doomed!"

       *       *       *       *       *

For a moment not one of us spoke. We sat there, staring at the old man
who had just ceased speaking.

Only a man ripened and seasoned with the passing of years could have
stood there before us and uttered, so quietly and solemnly, words such
as had just come from his lips. Only in his eyes could we catch a
glimpse of the torment which gripped his soul.

"Sir," I said, and have never felt younger than at that moment, when I
tried to frame some assurance to this splendid old man who had turned
to me and my youthful crew for succor, "we shall do what it lies
within our power to do. But tell us more of this danger which
threatens.

"I am no man of science, and yet I cannot see how men could live in a
land never reached by the sun. There would be no heat, no vegetation.
Is that not so?"

"Would that it were!" replied the Master of the Council, bitterly.
"What you say would be indeed the truth, were it not for the great
river and seas of our sunny Antri, which bear their heated waters to
this dark portion of our world, and make it habitable.

"And as for this danger, there is little to be said. At some time, men
of our country, men who fish, or venture upon the water in commerce,
have been borne, all unwillingly, across the shadowy twilight zone and
into the land of darkness. They did not come back, but they were found
there and despoiled of their menores.

"Somehow, these creatures who dwell in darkness determined the use of
the menore, and now that they have resolved that they shall rule all
this sphere, they have been able to make their threat clear to us.
Perhaps"--and Bori Tulber smiled faintly and terribly--"you would like
to have that message direct from its bearer?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Is that possible, sir?" I asked eagerly, glancing around the room.
"How--"

"Come with me," said the Master of the Council gently. "Alone--for too
many near him excites this terrible messenger. You have your menore?"

"No. I had not thought there would be need of it." The menores of
those days, it should be remembered, were heavy, cumbersome circlets
that were worn upon the head like a sort of crown, and one did not go
so equipped unless in real need of the device. To-day, of course, your
menores are but jeweled trinkets that convey thought a score of times
more effectively, and weigh but a tenth as much.

"It is a lack easily remedied." Bori Tulber excused himself with a
little bow and hurried out into the great council chamber, to appear
again in a moment with a menore in either hand.

"Now, if your companions and mine will excuse us for a moment...." He
smiled around the seated group apologetically. There was a murmur of
assent, and the old man opened a door in the other side of the room.

"It is not far," he said. "I will go first, and show you the way."

       *       *       *       *       *

He led me quickly down a long, narrow corridor to a pair of steep
stairs that circled far down into the very foundation of the building.
The walls of the corridor and the stairs were without windows, but
were as bright as noonday from the ethon tubes which were set into
both ceiling and walls.

Silently we circled our way down the spiral stairs, and silently the
Master of the Council paused before a door at the bottom--a door of
dull red metal.

"This is the keeping place of those who come before the Council
charged with wrong doing," explained Bori Tulber. His fingers rested
upon and pressed certain of a ring of small white buttons in the face
of the door, and it opened swiftly and noiselessly. We entered, and
the door closed behind us with a soft thud.

"Behold one of those who live in the darkness," said the Master of the
Council grimly. "Do not put on the menore until you have a grip upon
yourself: I would not have him know how greatly he disturbs us."

I nodded, dumbly, holding the heavy menore dangling in my hand.

I have said that I have beheld strange worlds and strange people in my
life, and it is true that I have. I have seen the headless people of
that red world Iralo, the ant people, the dragon-fly people, the
terrible carnivorous trees of L-472, and the pointed heads of a people
who live upon a world which may not be named. But I have still to see
a more terrible creature than that which lay before me now.

       *       *       *       *       *

He--or it--was reclining upon the floor, for the reason that he could
not have stood. No room save one with a vaulted ceiling such as the
great council chamber, could offer room enough for this creature to
walk erect.

He was, roughly, a shade better than twice my height, yet I believe he
would have weighed but little more. You have seen rank weeds that have
grown up in the darkness to reach the sun; if you can imagine a man
who had done likewise, you can, perhaps, picture that which I saw
before me.

His legs at the thigh were no larger than my arm, and his arms were
but half the size of my wrist, and jointed twice instead of but once.
He wore a careless garment of some dirty yellow, shaggy hide, and his
skin, revealed on feet and arms and face, was a terrible, bloodless
white; the dead white of a fish's belly. Maggot white. The white of
something that had never known the sun.

The head was small and round, with features that were a caricature of
man's. His ears were huge, and had the power of movement, for they
cocked forward as we entered the room. The nose was not prominently
arched, but the nostrils were wide, and very thin, as was his mouth,
which was faintly tinged with dusky blue, instead of healthy red. At
one time his eyes had been nearly round, and, in proportion, very
large. Now they were but shadowy pockets, mercifully covered by
shrunken, wrinkled lids that twitched but did not lift.

       *       *       *       *       *

He moved as we entered, and from a reclining position, propped up on
the double elbows of one spidery arm, he changed to a sitting position
that brought his head nearly to the ceiling. He smiled sickeningly,
and a queer, sibilant whispering came from the bluish lips.

"That is his way of talking," explained Bori Tulber. "His eyes, you
will note, have been gouged out. They cannot stand the light; they
prepared their messenger carefully for his work, you'll see."

He placed his menore upon his head, and motioned me to do likewise.
The creature searched the floor with one white, leathery hand, and
finally located his menore, which he adjusted clumsily.

"You will have to be very attentive," explained my companion. "He
expresses himself in terms of pictures only, of course, and his is not
a highly developed mind. I shall try to get him to go over the entire
story for us again, if I can make him understand. Emanate nothing
yourself; he is easily confused."

I nodded silently, my eyes fixed with a sort of fascination upon the
creature from the darkness, and waited.

       *       *       *       *       *

Back on the _Ertak_ again. I called all my officers together for a
conference.

"Gentlemen," I said, "we are confronted with a problem of such gravity
that I doubt my ability to describe it clearly.

"Briefly, this civilized, beautiful portion of Antri is menaced by a
terrible fate. In the dark portion of this unhappy world there live a
people who have the lust of conquest in their hearts--and the means at
hand with which to wreck this world of perpetual sunlight.

"I have the ultimatum of this people direct from their messenger. They
want a terrible tribute in the form of slaves. These slaves would have
to live in perpetual darkness, and wait upon the whims of the most
monstrous beings these eyes of mine have ever seen. And the number of
slaves demanded would--as nearly as I could gather, mean about a third
of the entire population. Further tribute in the form of sufficient
food to support these slaves is also demanded."

"But, in God's name, sir," burst forth Croy, his eyes blazing, "by
what means do they, propose to inforce their infamous demands?"

"By the power of darkness--and a terrible cataclysm. Their wise
men--and it would seem that some of them are not unversed in
science--have discovered a way to unbalance this world, so that they
can cause darkness to creep over this land that has never known it.
And as darkness advances, these people of the sun will be utterly
helpless before a race that loves darkness, and can see in it like
cats. That, gentlemen, is that fate which confronts this world of
Antri!"

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a ghastly silence for a moment, and then Croy, always
impetuous, spoke up again.

"How do they propose to do this thing sir?", he asked hoarsely.

"With devilish simplicity. They have a great canal dug nearly to the
great polar cap of ice. Should they complete it, the hot waters of
their seas will be liberated upon this vast ice field, and the warm
waters will melt it quickly. If you have not forgotten your lessons,
gentlemen, you will remember, since most of you are of Earth, that our
scientists tell us our own world turned over in much this same
fashion, from natural means, and established for itself new poles. Is
that not true?"

Grave, almost frightened nods travelled around the little semicircle
of white, thoughtful faces.

"And is there nothing, sir, that we can do?" asked Kincaide, my second
officer, in an awed whisper.

"That is the purpose of this conclave: to determine what may be done.
We have our bombs and our rays, it is true, but what is the power of
this one ship against the people of half a world? And such a people!"
I shuddered, despite myself, at the memory of that grinning creature
in the cell far below the floor of the council chamber. "This city,
and its thousands, we might save, it is true--but not the whole half
of this world. And that is the task the Council and its Master have
set before us."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Would it be possible to frighten them?" asked Croy. "I gather that
they are not an advanced race. Perhaps a show of power--the rays--the
atomic pistol--bombs-- Call it strategy, sir, or just plain bluff. It
seems the only chance."

"You have heard the suggestion, gentlemen," I said. "Has anyone a
better?"

"How does Mr. Croy plan to frighten these people of the darkness?"
asked Kincaide, who was always practical.

"By going to their country, in this ship, and then letting events take
their course," replied Croy promptly. "Details will have to be settled
on the spot, as I see it."

"I believe Mr. Croy is right," I decided. "The messenger of these
people must be returned to his own kind; the sooner the better. He has
given me a mental map of his country; I believe that it will be
possible for me to locate the principal city, in which his ruler
lives. We will take him there, and then--may God aid us gentlemen."

"Amen," nodded Croy, and the echo of the word ran from lip to lip like
the prayer it was. "When do we start?"

I hesitated for just an instant.

"Now," I brought forth crisply. "Immediately. We are gambling with the
fate of a world, a fine and happy people. Let us throw the dice
quickly, for the strain of waiting will not help us. Is that as you
would wish it, gentlemen?"

"It is, sir!" came the grave chorus.

"Very well. Mr. Croy, please report with a detail of ten men, to Bori
Tulber, and tell him of our decision. Bring the messenger back with
you. The rest of you, gentlemen, to your stations. Make any
preparations you may think advisable. Be sure that every available
exterior light is in readiness. Let me be notified the moment the
messenger is on board and we are ready to take off. Thank you,
gentlemen!"

       *       *       *       *       *

I hastened to my quarters and brought the _Ertak's_ log down to the
minute, explaining in detail the course of action we had decided upon,
and the reasons for it. I knew, as did all the _Ertak's_ officers who
had saluted so crisply, and so coolly gone about the business of
carrying out my orders, that we would return from our trip to the dark
tide of Antri triumphant or--not at all.

Even in these soft days, men still respect the stern, proud motto of
our service: "Nothing Less Than Complete Success." The Special Patrol
does what it is ordered to do, or no man returns to present excuses.
That is a tradition to bring tears of pride to the eyes of even an old
man, in whose hands there is strength only for the wielding of a pen.
And I was young, in those days.

It was perhaps a quarter of an hour when word came from the navigating
room that the messenger was aboard, and we were ready to depart. I
closed the log, wondering, I remember, if I would ever make another
entry therein, and, if not, whether the words I had just inscribed
would ever see the light of day. The love of life is strong in men so
young. Then I hurried to the navigating room and took charge.

Bori Tulber had furnished me with large scale maps of the daylight
portion of Antri. From the information conveyed to me by the messenger
of the people of darkness--the Chisee they called themselves, as
nearly as I could get the sound--I rapidly sketched in the map of the
other side of Antri, locating their principal city with a small black
circle.

Realising that the location of the city we sought was only
approximate, we did not bother to work out exact bearings. We set the
_Ertak_ on her course at a height of only a few thousand feet, and set
out at low atmospheric speed, anxiously watching for the dim line of
shadow that marked the twilight zone, and the beginning of what
promised to be the last mission of the _Ertak_ and every man she
carried within her smooth, gleaming body.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Twilight zone in view, sir," reported Croy at length.

"Thank you, Mr. Croy. Have all the exterior lights and searchlights
turned on. Speed and course as at present, for the time being."

I picked up the twilight zone without difficulty in the television
disc, and at full power examined the terrain.

The rich crops that fairly burst from the earth of the sunlit portion
of Antri were not to be observed here. The Antrians made no effort to
till this ground, and I doubt that it would have been profitable to do
so, even had they wished to come so close to the darkness they hated.

The ground seemed dank, and great dark slugs moved heavily upon its
greasy surface. Here and there strange pale growths grew in
patches--twisted, spotted growths that seemed somehow unhealthy and
poisonous.

I searched the country ahead, pressing further and further into the
line of darkness that was swiftly approaching. As the light of the sun
faded, our monstrous searchlights cut into the gloom ahead, their
great beams slashing the shadows.

In the dark country I had expected to find little if any vegetable
growth. Instead, I found that it was a veritable jungle through which
even our searchlight rays could not pass.

How tall the growths of this jungle might be, I could not tell, yet I
had the feeling that they were tall indeed. They were not trees, these
pale, weedy arms that reached towards the dark sky. They were soft and
pulpy, and without leaves; just long naked sickly arms that divided
and subdivided and ended in little smooth stumps like amputated limbs.

That there was some kind of activity within the shelter of this weird
jungle, was evident enough, for I could catch glimpses, now and then
of moving things. But what they might be, even the searching eye of
the television disc could not determine.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of our searchlight beams, waving through the darkness like the
curious antenna of some monstrous insect, came to rest upon a spot far
ahead. I followed the beam with the disc, and bent closer, to make
sure my eyes did not deceive me.

I was looking at a vast cleared place in the pulpy jungle--a cleared
space in the center of which there was a city.

A city built of black, sweating stone, each house exactly like every
other house: tall, thin slices of stone, without windows, chimneys or
ornamentation of any kind. The only break in the walls was the
slit-like door of each house. Instead of being arranged along streets
crossing each other at right angles, these houses were built in
concentric circles broken only by four narrow streets then ran from
the open space in the center of the city to the four points of the
compass. Around the entire city was an exceedingly high wall built of
and buttressed with the black, sweating stone of which the houses were
constructed.

That it was a densely populated city there was ample evidence.
People--they were creatures like the messenger; that the Chisee are a
people, despite their terrible shape, is hardly debatable--were
running up and down the four radial streets, and around the curved
connecting streets, in the wildest confusion, their double-elbowed
arms flung across their eyes. But even as I watched, the crowd thinned
and melted swiftly away, until the streets of the queer, circular city
were utterly deserted.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The city ahead is not the one we are seeking, sir?" asked Croy, who
had evidently been observing the scene through one of the smaller
television discs. "I take it that governing city will be farther in
the interior."

"According to my rather sketchy information, yes." I replied.
"However, keep all the searchlight operators busy, going over very bit
of the country within the reach of their beams. You have men on all
the auxiliary television discs?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Any findings of interest should be reported to me instantly.
And--Mr. Croy!"

"Yes, sir?"

"You might order, if you will, that rations be served all men at their
posts." Over such country as this, I felt it would be wise to have
every man ready for an emergency. It was, perhaps, as well that I
issued this order.

It was perhaps half an hour after we had passed the circular city
when, far ahead, I could see the pale, unhealthy forest thinning out.
A half dozen of our searchlight beams played upon the denuded area,
and as I brought the television disc to bear I saw that we were
approaching a vast swamp, in which little pools of black water
reflected the dazzling light of our searching beams.

Nor was this all. Out of the swamp a thousand strange, winged things
were rising: yellowish, bat-like things with forked tails and fierce
hooked beaks. And like some obscene miasma from that swamp, they rose
and came straight for the _Ertak_!

       *       *       *       *       *

Instantly I pressed the attention signal that warned every man on the
ship.

"All disintegrator rays in action at once!" I barked into the
transmitter. "Broad beams, and full energy. Bird-like creatures, dead
ahead; do not cease action until ordered!"

I heard the disintegrator ray generators deepen their notes before I
finished speaking, and I smiled grimly, turning to Correy.

"Slow down as quickly and as much as possible, Mr. Correy," I ordered.
"We have work to do ahead."

He nodded, and gave the order to the operating room; I felt the
forward surge that told me my order was being obeyed, and turned my
attention again to the television disc.

The ray operators were doing their work well. The search lights showed
the air streaked with fine siftings of greasy dust, and these strange
winged creatures were disappearing by the scores as the disintegrator
rays beat and played upon them.

But they came on gamely, fiercely. Where there had been thousands,
there were but hundreds ... scores ... dozens....

There were only five left. Three of them disappeared at once, but the
two remaining came on unhesitatingly, their dirty yellow bat-like
wings flapping heavily, their naked heads outstretched, and hooked
beaks snapping.

One of them disappeared in a little sifting of greasy dust, and the
same ray dissolved one wing of the remaining creature. He turned over
suddenly, the one good wing flapping wildly, and tumbled towards the
waiting swamp that has spawned him. Then, as the ray eagerly followed
him, the last of that hellish brood disappeared.

"Circle slowly, Mr. Correy," I ordered. I wanted to make sure there
were none of these terrible creatures left. I felt that nothing so
terrible should be left alive--even in a world of darkness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Through the television disc I searched the swamp. As I had half
suspected, the filthy ooze held the young of this race of things:
grub-like creatures that flipped their heavy bodies about in the
slime, alarmed by the light which searched them out.

"All disintegrator rays on the swamp," I ordered. "Sweep it from
margin to margin. Let nothing be left alive there."

I had a well trained crew. The disintegrator rays massed themselves
into a marching wall of death, and swept up and down the swamp as a
plough turns its furrows.

It was easy to trace their passage, for behind them the swamp
disappeared, leaving in its stead row after row of broad, dusty paths.
When we had finished there was no swamp: there was only a naked area
upon which nothing lived, and upon which, for many years, nothing
would grow.

"Good work," I commended the disintegrator ray men. "Cease action."
And then, to Correy, "Put her on her course again, please."

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour went by. We passed several more of the strange, damp circular
cities, differing from the first we had seen only in the matter of
size. Another hour passed, and I became anxious. If we were on our
proper course, and I had understood the Chisee messenger correctly, we
should be very close to the governing city. We should--

The waving beam of one of the searchlights came suddenly to rest.
Three or four other beams followed it--and then all the others.

"Large city to port, sir!" called Croy excitedly.

"Thank you. I believe it is our destination. Cut all searchlights
except the forward beam. Mr. Correy!"

"Yes, sir."

"You can take her over visually now, I believe. The forward
searchlight beam will keep our destination in view for you. Set her
down cautiously in the center of the city in any suitable place.
And--remain at the controls ready for any orders, and have the
operating room crew do likewise."

"Yes, sir," said Correy crisply.

With a tenseness I could not control, I bent over the hooded
television disc and studied the mighty governing city of the Chisee.

       *       *       *       *       *

The governing city of the Chisee was not unlike the others we had
seen, save that it was very much larger, and had eight spoke-like
streets radiating from its center, instead of four. The protective
wall was both thicker and higher.

There was another difference. Instead of a great open space in the
center of the city, there was a central, park-like space, in the
middle of which was a massive pile, circular in shape, and built, like
all the rest of the city, of the black, sweating rock which seemed to
be the sole building material of the Chisee.

We set the _Ertak_ down close to the big circular building, which we
guessed--and correctly--to be the seat of government. I ordered the
searchlight ray to be extinguished the moment we landed, and the ethon
tubes that illuminated our ship inside to be turned off, so that we
might accustom our eyes as much as possible to darkness, finding our
way about with small ethon tube flashlights.

With a small guard, I stood at the forward exit of the _Ertak_ and
watched the huge circular door back out on its mighty threads, and
finally swing to one side on its massive gimbals. Croy--the only
officer with me--and I both wore our menores, and carried full
expeditionary equipment, as did the guard.

The Chisee messenger, grimacing and talking excitedly in his sibilant,
whispering voice, crouched on all fours (he could not stand in that
small space) and waited, three men of the guard on either side of him.
I placed his menore on his head and gave him simple, forceful orders,
picturing them for him as best I could:

"Go from this place and find others of your kind. Tell them that we
would speak to them with things such as you have upon your head. Run
swiftly!"

"I will run," he conveyed to me, "to those great ones who sent me." He
pictured them fleetingly. They were creatures like himself, save that
they were elaborately dressed in fine skins of several pale colors,
and wore upon their arms, between their two elbows, broad circlets of
carved metal which I took to be emblems of power or authority, since
the chief of them all wore a very broad band. Their faces were much
more intelligent than their messenger had led me to expect, and their
eyes, very large and round, and not at all human, were the eyes of
thoughtful, reasoning creatures.

       *       *       *       *       *

Doubled on all fours, the Chisee crept through the circular exit, and
straightened up. As he did so, from out of the darkness a score or
more of his fellows rushed up, gathering around him, and blocking the
exit with their reedy legs. We could hear than talking excitedly in
high-pitched, squeaky whispers. Then, suddenly I received an
expression from the Chisee who wore the menore:

"Those who are with me have come from those in power. They say one of
you, and one only, is to come with us to our big men who will learn,
through a thing such as I wear upon my head, that which you wish to
say to them. You are to come quickly; at once."

"I will come," I replied. "Have those with you make way--"

A heavy hand fell upon my shoulder; a voice spoke eagerly in my ear:

"Sir, you must not go!" It was Croy, and his voice shook with feeling.
"You are in command of the _Ertak_; she, and those in her need you.
Let me go! I insist, sir!"

I turned in the darkness, quickly and angrily.

"Mr. Croy," I said swiftly, "do you realize that you are speaking to
your commanding officer?"

       *       *       *       *       *

I felt his grip tighten on my arm as the reproof struck home.

"Yes, sir," he said doggedly. "I do. But I repeat that your duty
commands you to remain here."

"The duty of a commander in this Service leads him to the place of
greatest danger, Mr. Croy," I informed him.

"Then stay with your ship, sir!" he pleaded, craftily. "This may be
some trick to get you away, so that they may attack us. Please! Can't
you see that I am right, sir?"

I thought swiftly. The earnestness of the youngster had touched me.
Beneath the formality and the "sirs" there was a real affection
between us.

In the darkness I reached for his hand; I found it and shook it
solemnly--a gesture of Earth which it is hard to explain. It means
many things.

"Go, then, Andy," I said softly. "But do not stay long. An hour at the
longest. If you are not back in that length of time, we'll come after
you, and whatever else may happen, you can be sure that you will be
well avenged. The _Ertak_ has not lost her stinger."

"Thank you, John," he replied. "Remember that I shall wear my menore.
If I adjust it to full power, and you do likewise, and stand without
the shelter of the _Ertak's_ metal hull, I shall be able to
communicate with you, should there be any danger." He pressed my hand
again, and strode through the exit out into the darkness, which was
lit only by a few distant stars.

The long, slim legs closed in around him; like a pigmy guarded by the
skeletons of giants he was led quickly away.

       *       *       *       *       *

The minutes dragged by. There was a nervous tension on the ship, the
like of which I have experienced not more than a dozen times in all my
years.

No one spoke aloud. Now and again one man would matter uneasily to
another; there would be a swift, muttered response, and silence again.
We were waiting--waiting.

Ten minutes went by. Twenty. Thirty.

Impatiently I paced up and down before the exit, the guards at their
posts, ready to obey any orders instantly.

Forty-five minutes. I walked through the exit; stepped out onto the
cold, hard earth.

I could see, behind me, the shadowy bulk of the _Ertak_. Before me, a
black, shapeless blot against the star-sprinkled sky, was the great
administrative building of the Chisee. And in there, somewhere, was
Anderson Croy. I glanced down at the luminous dial of my watch. Fifty
minutes. In ten minutes more--

"John Hanson!" My name reached me, faintly but clearly, through the
medium of my menore. "This is Croy. Do you understand me?"

"Yes," I replied instantly. "Are you safe?"

"I am safe. All is well. Very well. Will you promise me now to receive
what I am about to send, without interruption?"

"Yes," I replied, thoughtlessly and eagerly. "What is it?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"I have had a long conference with the chief or head of the Chisee,"
explained Croy rapidly. "He is very intelligent, and his people are
much further advanced than we thought.

"Through some form of communication, he has learned of the fight with
the weird birds; it seems that they are--or were--the most dreaded of
all the creatures of this dark world. Apparently we got the whole
brood of them, and this chief, whose name, I gather, is Wieschien, or
something like that, is naturally much impressed.

"I have given him a demonstration or two with my atomic pistol and the
flashlight--these people are fairly stricken by a ray of light
directly in the eyes--and we have reached very favorable terms.

"I am to remain here as chief bodyguard and adviser, of which he has
need, for all is not peaceful, I gather, in this kingdom of darkness.
In return, he is to give up his plans to subjugate the rest of Antri;
he has sworn to do this by what is evidently, to him, a very sacred
oath, witnessed solemnly by the rest of his council.

"Under the circumstances, I believe he will do what he says; in any
case, the great canal will be filled in, and the Antrians will have
plenty of time to erect a great series of disintegrator ray stations
along the entire twilight zone, using the broad fan rays to form a
solid wall against which the Chisee could not advance even did they,
at some future date, carry out their plans. The worst possible result
then would be that the people in the sunlit portion would have to
migrate from certain sections, and perhaps would have day and night,
alternately, as do other worlds.

"This is the agreement we have reached; it is the only one that will
save this world. Do you approve, sir?"

"No! Return immediately, and we will show the Chisee that they cannot
hold an officer of the Special Patrol as a hostage. Make haste!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"It's no go, sir," came the reply instantly. "I threatened them first.
I explained what our disintegrator rays would do, and Wieschien
laughed at me.

"This city is built upon great subterranean passages that lead to many
hidden exits. If we show the least sign of hostility the work will be
resumed on the canal, and, before we can locate the spot, and stop the
work, the damage will be done.

"This is our only chance, sir, to make this expedition a complete
success. Permit me to judge this fact from the evidence I have before
me. Whatever sacrifice there is to make, I make gladly. Wieschien asks
that you depart at once, and in peace, and I know this is the only
course. Good-by, sir; convey my salutations to my other friends upon
the old _Ertak_, and elsewhere. And now, lest my last act as an
officer of the Special Patrol Service be to refuse to obey the
commands of my superior officer, I am removing the menore. Good-by!"

I tried to reach him again, but there was no response.

Gone! He was gone! Swallowed up in darkness and in silence!

       *       *       *       *       *

Dazed, shaken to the very foundation of my being, I stood there
between the shadowy bulk of the _Ertak_ and the towering mass of the
great silent pile that was the seat of government in this strange land
of darkness, and gazed up at the dark sky above me. I am not ashamed,
now, to say that hot tears trickled down my cheeks, nor that as I
turned back to the _Ertak_, my throat was so gripped by emotion that I
could not speak.

I ordered the exit closed with a wave of my hand; in the navigating
room I said but four words: "We depart at once."

At the third meal of the day I gathered my officers about me and told
them, as quickly and as gently as I could, of the sacrifice one of
their number had made.

It was Kincaide who, when I had finished, rose slowly and made reply.

"Sir," he said quietly, "We had a friend. Some day, he might have
died. Now he will live forever in the records of the Service, in the
memory of a world, and in the hearts of those who had the honor to
serve with him. Could he--or we--wish more?"

Amid a strange silence he sat down again, and there was not an eye
among us that was dry.

       *       *       *       *       *

I hope that the snappy young officer who visited me the other day
reads this little account of bygone times.

Perhaps it will make clear to him how we worked, in those nearly
forgotten days, with the tools we had at hand. They were not the
perfect tools of to-day, but what they lacked, we somehow made up.

That fine old motto of the Service, "Nothing Less Than Complete
Success," we passed on unsullied to those who came after us.

I hope these youngsters of to-day may do as well.



                         _IN THE NEXT ISSUE_


                       THE TENTACLES FROM BELOW

      _A Complete Novelette of An American Submarine's Dramatic
         Raid on Marauding "Machine-Fish" of the Ocean Floor_

                          By Anthony Gilmore


                         PHALANXES OF ATLANS

               _Beginning a Thrilling Two-Part Novel of
                    a Strange Hidden Civilisation_

                          By F. V. W. Mason


                            THE BLACK LAMP

               _Another of Dr. Bird's Amazing Exploits_

                        By Captain S. P. Meek


                          THE PIRATE PLANET

            _The Conclusion of the Splendid Current Novel_

                         By Charles W. Diffin


                            _AND OTHERS!_



[Illustration: _They tilted her rudders and dove to the abysm below._]

The Sunken Empire

_By H. Thompson Rich_

    Concerning the strange adventures of Professor Stevens with
    the Antillians on the floors of the mysterious Sargasso Sea.


"Then you really expect to find the lost continent of Atlantis,
Professor?"

Martin Stevens lifted his bearded face sternly to the reporter who was
interviewing him in his study aboard the torpedo-submarine _Nereid_, a
craft of his own invention, as she lay moored at her Brooklyn wharf,
on an afternoon in October.

"My dear young man," he said, "I am not even going to look for it."

The aspiring journalist--Larry Hunter by name--was properly abashed.

"But I thought," he insisted nevertheless, "that you said you were
going to explore the ocean floor under the Sargasso Sea?"

"And so I did." Professor Stevens admitted, a smile moving that gray
beard now and his blue eyes twinkling merrily. "But the Sargasso, an
area almost equal to Europe, covers other land as well--land of far
more recent submergence than Atlantis, which foundered in 9564 B. C.,
according to Plato. What I am going to look for is this newer lost
continent, or island rather--namely, the great island of Antillia, of
which the West Indies remain above water to-day."

"Antillia?" queried Larry Hunter, wonderingly. "I never heard of it."

Again the professor regarded his interviewer sternly.

"There are many things you have never heard of, young man," he told
him. "Antillia may be termed the missing link between Atlantis and
America. It was there that Atlantean culture survived after the
appalling catastrophe that wiped out the Atlantean homeland, with its
seventy million inhabitants, and it was in the colonies the Antillians
established in Mexico and Peru, that their own culture in turn
survived, after Antillia too had sunk."

"My Lord! You don't mean to say the Mayas and Incas originated on that
island of Antillia?"

"No, I mean to say they originated on the continent of Atlantis, and
that Antillia was the stepping stone to the New World, where they
built the strange pyramids we find smothered in the jungle--even as
thousands of years before the Atlanteans established colonies in Egypt
and founded the earliest dynasties of pyramid-building Pharaohs."

       *       *       *       *       *

Larry was pushing his pencil furiously.

"Whew!" he gasped. "Some story, Professor!"

"To the general public, perhaps," was the reply. "But to scholars of
antiquity, these postulates are pretty well known and pretty well
accepted. It remains but to get concrete evidence, in order to prove
them to the world at large--and that is the object of my expedition."

More hurried scribbling, then:

"But, say--why don't you go direct to Atlantis and get the real dope?"

"Because that continent foundered so long ago that it is doubtful if
any evidence would have withstood the ravages of time," Professor
Stevens explained, "whereas Antillia went down no earlier than 200 B.
C., archaeologists agree."

"That answers my question," declared Larry, his admiration for this
doughty graybeard rising momentarily. "And now, Professor, I wonder if
you'd be willing to say a few words about this craft of yours?"

"Cheerfully, if you think it would interest anyone. What would you
care to have me say?"

"Well, in the first place, what does the name _Nereid_ mean?"

"Sea-nymph. The derivation is from the Latin and Greek, meaning
daughter of the sea-god Nereus. Appropriate, don't you think?"

"Swell. And why do you call it a torpedo-submarine? How does it differ
from the common or navy variety?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Professor Stevens smiled. It was like asking what was the difference
between the sun and the moon, when about the only point of resemblance
they had was that they were both round. Nevertheless, he enumerated
some of the major modifications he had developed.

Among them, perhaps the most radical, was its motive power, which was
produced by what he called a vacuo-turbine--a device that sucked in
the water at the snout of the craft and expelled it at the tail, at
the time purifying a certain amount for drinking purposes and
extracting sufficient oxygen to maintain a healthful atmosphere while
running submerged.

Then, the structure of the _Nereid_ was unique, he explained,
permitting it to attain depths where the pressure would crush an
ordinary submarine, while mechanical eyes on the television principle
afforded a view in all directions, and locks enabling them to leave
the craft at will and explore the sea-bottom were provided.

This latter feat they would accomplish in special suits, designed on
the same pneumatic principle as the torpedo itself and capable of
sustaining sufficient inflation to resist whatever pressures might be
encountered, as well as being equipped with vibratory sending and
receiving apparatus, for maintaining communication with those left
aboard.

       *       *       *       *       *

All these things and more Professor Stevens outlined, as Larry's
pencil flew, admitting that he had spent the past ten years and the
best part of his private fortune in developing his plans.

"But you'll get it all back, won't you? Aren't there all sorts of
Spanish galleons and pirate barques laden with gold supposed to be
down there?"

"Undoubtedly," was the calm reply. "But I am not on a treasure hunt,
young man. If I find one single sign of former life, I shall be amply
rewarded."

Whereupon the young reporter regarded the subject of his interview
with fresh admiration, not unmingled with wonder. In his own hectic
world, people had no such scorn of gold. Gee, he'd sure like to go
along! The professor could have his old statues or whatever he was
looking for. As for himself, he'd fill up his pockets with Spanish
doubloons and pieces of eight!

Larry was snapped out of his trance by a light knock on the door,
which opened to admit a radiant girl in creamy knickers and green
cardigan.

"May I come in, daddy?" she inquired, hesitating, as she saw he was
not alone.

"You seem to be in already, my dear," the professor told her, rising
from his desk and stepping forward.

Then, turning to Larry, who had also risen, he said:

"Mr. Hunter, this is my daughter, Diane, who is also my secretary."

"I am pleased to meet you, Miss Stevens," said Larry, taking her hand.

And he meant it--for almost anyone would have been pleased to meet
Diane, with her tawny gold hair, warm olive cheeks and eyes bluer even
than her father's and just as twinkling, just as intelligent.

"She will accompany the expedition and take stenographic notes of
everything we observe," added her father, to Larry's amazement.

"What?" he declared. "You mean to say that--that--"

"Of course he means to say that I'm going, if that's what you mean to
say, Mr. Hunter," Diane assured him. "Can you think of any good reason
why I shouldn't go, when girls are flying around the world and
everything else?"

Even had Larry been able to think of any good reason, he wouldn't have
mentioned it. But as a matter of fact, he had shifted quite abruptly
to an entirely different line of thought. Diane, he was
thinking--Diana, goddess of the chase, the huntress! And himself,
Larry Hunter--the hunter and the huntress!

Gee, but he'd like to go! What an adventure, hunting around together
on the bottom of the ocean!

       *       *       *       *       *

What a wild dream, rather, he concluded when his senses returned. For
after all, he was only a reporter, fated to write about other people's
adventures, not to participate in them. So he put away his pad and
pencil and prepared to leave.

But at the door he paused.

"Oh, yes--one more question. When are you planning to leave,
Professor?"

At that, Martin Stevens and his daughter exchanged a swift glance.
Then, with a smile, Diane said:

"I see no reason why we shouldn't tell him, daddy."

"But we didn't tell the reporters from the other papers, my dear,"
protested her father.

"Then suppose we give Mr. Hunter the exclusive story," she said,
transferring her smile to Larry now. "It will be what you call a--a
scoop. Isn't that it?"

"That's it."

She caught her father's acquiescing nod. "Then here's your scoop, Mr.
Hunter. We leave to-night."

To-night! This was indeed a scoop! If he hurried, he could catch the
late afternoon editions with it.

"I--I certainly thank you, Miss Stevens!" he exclaimed. "That'll make
the front page!"

As he grasped the door-knob, he added, turning to her father:

"And I want to thank you too, Professor--and wish you good luck!"

Then, with a hasty handshake, and a last smile of gratitude for Diane,
he flung open the door and departed, unconscious that two young blue
eyes followed his broad shoulders wistfully till they disappeared from
view.

       *       *       *       *       *

But Larry was unaware that he had made a favorable impression on
Diane. He felt it was the reverse. As he headed toward the subway,
that vivid blond goddess of the chase was uppermost in his thoughts.

Soon she'd be off in the _Nereid_, bound for the mysterious regions
under the Sargasso Sea, while in a few moments he'd be in the subway,
bound under the prosaic East River for New York.

No--damned if he would!

Suddenly, with a wild inspiration, the young reporter altered his
course, dove into the nearest phone booth and got his city editor on
the wire.

Scoop? This was just the first installment. He'd get a scoop that
would fill a book!

And his city editor tacitly O. K.'d the idea.

With the result that when the _Nereid_ drew away from her wharf that
night, on the start of her unparalleled voyage, Larry Hunter was a
stowaway.

       *       *       *       *       *

The place where he had succeeded in secreting himself was a small
storeroom far aft, on one of the lower decks. There he huddled in the
darkness, while the slow hours wore away, hearing only the low hum of
the craft's vacuo-turbine and the flux of water running through her.

From the way she rolled and pitched, he judged she was still
proceeding along on the surface.

Having eaten before he came aboard, he felt no hunger, but the close
air and the dark quarters brought drowsiness. He slept.

When he awoke it was still dark, of course, but a glance at his
luminous wrist-watch told him it was morning now. And the fact that
the rolling and pitching had ceased made him believe they were now
running submerged.

The urge for breakfast asserting itself, Larry drew a bar of chocolate
from his pocket and munched on it. But this was scanty fare for a
healthy young six-footer, accustomed to a liberal portion of ham and
eggs. Furthermore, the lack of coffee made him realize that he was
getting decidedly thirsty. The air, moreover, was getting pretty bad.

"All in all, this hole wasn't exactly intended for a bedroom!" he
reflected with a wry smile.

Taking a chance, he opened the door a crack and sat there impatiently,
while the interminable minutes ticked off.

The _Nereid's_ turbine was humming now with a high, vibrant note that
indicated they must be knocking off the knots at a lively clip. He
wondered how far out they were, and how far down.

Lord, there'd be a riot when he showed up! He wanted to wait till they
were far enough on their way so it would be too much trouble to turn
around and put him ashore.

But by noon his powers of endurance were exhausted. Flinging open the
door, he stepped out into the corridor, followed it to a companionway
and mounted the ladder to the deck above.

There he was assailed by a familiar and welcome odor--food!

Trailing it to its origin, he came to a pair of swinging doors at the
end of a cork-paved passage. Beyond, he saw on peering through, was
the mess-room, and there at the table, among a number of uniformed
officers, sat Professor Stevens and Diane.

A last moment Larry stood there, looking in on them. Then, drawing a
deep breath, he pushed wide the swinging doors and entered with a
cheery:

"Good morning, folks! Hope I'm not too late for lunch!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Varying degrees of surprise greeted this dramatic appearance. The
officers stared, Diane gasped, her father leaped to has feet with a
cry.

"That reporter! Why--why, what are you doing here, young man?"

"Just representing the press."

Larry tried to make it sound nonchalant but he was finding it
difficult to bear up under this barrage of disapproving
eyes--particularly two very young, very blue ones.

"So that is the way you reward us for giving you an exclusive story,
is it?" Professor Stevens' voice was scathing. "A representative of
the press! A stowaway, rather--and as such you will be treated!"

He turned to one of his officers.

"Report to Captain Petersen that we have a stowaway aboard and order
him to put about at once."

He turned to another.

"See that Mr. Hunter is taken below and locked up. When we reach New
York, he will be handed over to the police."

"But daddy!" protested Diane, as they rose to comply, her eyes
softening now. "We shouldn't be too severe with Mr. Hunter. After all,
he is probably doing only what his paper ordered him to."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gratefully Larry turned toward his defender. But he couldn't let that
pass.

"No, I'm acting only on my own initiative," he said. "No one told me
to come."

For he couldn't get his city editor involved, and after all it was his
own idea.

"You see!" declared Professor Stevens. "He admits it is his own doing.
It is clear he has exceeded his authority, therefore, and deserves no
sympathy."

"But can't you let me stay, now that I'm here?" urged Larry. "I know
something about boats. I'll serve as a member of the crew--anything."

"Impossible. We have a full complement. You would be more of a
hindrance than a help. Besides, I do not care to have the possible
results of this expedition blared before the public."

"I'll write nothing you do not approve."

"I have no time to edit your writings, young man. My own, will occupy
me sufficiently. So it is useless. You are only wasting your
breath--and mine."

He motioned for his officers to carry out his orders.

But before they could move to do so, in strode a lean, middle-aged
Norwegian Larry sensed must be Captain Petersen himself, and on his
weathered face was an expression of such gravity that it was obvious
to everyone something serious had happened.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ignoring Larry, after one brief look of inquiry that was answered by
Professor Stevens, he reported swiftly what he had to say.

While cruising full speed at forty fathoms, with kite-aerial out,
their wireless operator had received a radio warning to turn back.
Answering on its call-length, he had demanded to know the sender and
the reason for the message, but the information had been declined, the
warning merely being repeated.

"Was it a land station or a ship at sea?" asked the professor.

"Evidently the latter," was the reply. "By our radio range-finder, we
determined the position at approximately latitude 27, longitude 65."

"But that, Captain, is in the very area we are headed for."

"And that, Professor, makes it all the more singular."

"But--well, well! This is indeed peculiar! And I had been on the point
of turning back with our impetuous young stowaway. What would you
suggest, sir?"

Captain Petersen meditated, while Larry held his breath.

"To turn back," he said at length, in his clear, precise English,
"would in my opinion be to give the laugh to someone whose sense of
humor is already too well developed."

"Exactly!" agreed Professor Stevens, as Larry relaxed in relief.
"Whoever this practical joker is, we will show him he is wasting his
talents--even though it means carrying a supernumerary for the rest of
the voyage."

"Well spoken!" said the captain. "But as far as that is concerned, I
think I can keep Mr. Hunter occupied."

"Then take him, and welcome!"

Whereupon, still elated but now somewhat uneasy, Larry accompanied
Captain Petersen from the mess-room; started to, that is. But at a
glance of sympathy from Diane, he dared call out:

"Say--hold on, folks! I haven't had lunch yet!"

       *       *       *       *       *

When young Larry Hunter reported to the captain of the _Nereid_, after
this necessary meal, he found that the craft had returned to the
surface.

Assigned a pair of powerful binoculars, he was ordered to stand watch
in the conning-tower and survey the horizon in every direction, in an
effort to sight the vessel that had sent out that mysterious radio,
but though he cast his good brown eyes diligently through those strong
lenses, he saw not so much as a smoke tuft upon the broad, gray-blue
surface of the hazy Atlantic.

Gradually, however, as the afternoon wore away, something else came in
view. Masses of brownish seaweed, supported by small, berry-like
bladders, began drifting by. Far apart at first, they began getting
more and more dense, till at last, with a thrill, he realized that
they were drawing into that strange area known as the Sargasso Sea.

Shortly after this realization dawned, he was ordered below, and as
the tropic sun was sinking over that eery floating tombstone, which
according to Professor Stevens marked a nation's grave, the _Nereid_
submerged.

Down she slid, a hundred fathoms or more, on a long, even glide that
took her deep under that veiling brown blanket.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the navigating room now, Larry stood with the captain, the
professor and Diane, studying an illuminated panel on which appeared a
cross of five squares, like a box opened out.

The central square reproduced the scene below, while those to left and
right depicted it from port and starboard, and those to front and rear
revealed the forward and aft aspects of the panorama, thus affording a
clear view in every direction.

This, then, was the television device Professor Stevens had referred
to the previous afternoon, its mechanical eyes enabling then to search
every square inch of those mysterious depths, as they cruised along.

It was the central square that occupied their attention chiefly,
however, as they stood studying the panel. While the others
represented merely an unbroken vista of greenish water, this one
showed the sea floor as clearly as though they had been peering down
into a shallow lagoon through a glass-bottomed boat, though it must
have been a quarter of a mile below their cruising level.

A wonderful and fearsome sight it was to Larry: like something seen in
a nightmare--a fantastic desert waste of rocks and dunes, with here
and there a yawning chasm whose ominous depths their ray failed to
penetrate, and now and then a jutting plateau that would appear on the
forward square and cause Captain Petersen to elevate their bow
sharply.

But more thrilling than this was their first glimpse of a sunken
ship--a Spanish galleon, beyond a doubt!

There she lay, grotesquely on her side, half rotted, half buried in
the sand, but still discernible. And to Larry's wildly racing
imagination, a flood of gold and jewels seemed to pour from her ruined
coffers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Turning to Diane, he saw that her eyes too were flashing with intense
excitement.

"Say!" he exclaimed. "Why don't we stop and look her over? There may
be a fortune down there!"

Professor Stevens promptly vetoed the suggestion, however.

"I must remind you, young man," he said severely, "that this is not a
treasure hunt."

Whereupon Larry subsided; outwardly, at least. But when presently the
central square revealed another and then another sunken ship, it was
all he could do to contain himself.

Now, suddenly, Diane cried out:

"Oh, daddy, look! There's a modern ship! A--a freighter, isn't it?"

"A collier, I would say," was her father's calm reply. "Rather a large
one, too. _Cyclops_, possibly. She disappeared some years ago, en
route from the Barbados to Norfolk. Or possibly it is any one of a
dozen other steel vessels that have vanished from these seas in recent
times. The area of the Sargasso, my dear, is known as 'The Port of
Missing Ships.'"

"But couldn't we drop down and make sure which ship it is?" she
pleaded, voicing the very thought Larry had been struggling to
suppress.

At the professor's reply, however, he was glad he had kept quiet.

"We could, of course," was his gentle though firm rebuke, "but if we
stopped to solve the mystery of every sunken ship we shall probably
see during this cruise, we would have time for nothing else.
Nevertheless, my dear, you may take a short memorandum of the location
and circumstances, in the present instance."

Whereupon he dictated briefly, while Larry devoted his attention once
more to the central square.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly, beyond a dark pit that seemed to reach down into the very
bowels of the earth, rose an abrupt plateau--and on one of its nearer
elevations, almost directly under then, loomed a monumental four-sided
mound.

"Say--hold on!" called Larry. "Look at that, Professor! Isn't that a
building of some kind?"

Martin Stevens looked up, glanced skeptically toward the panel. But
one glimpse at what that central square revealed, and his skepticism
vanished.

"A building?" he cried in triumph. "A building indeed! It is a
pyramid, young man!"

"Good Lord!"

"Oh, daddy! Really?"

"Beyond a doubt! And look--there are two other similar structures,
only smaller!"

Struggling for calm, he turned to Captain Petersen, who had taken his
eyes from the forward square and was peering down as well upon those
singular mounds.

"Stop! Descend!" was his exultant command. "This is my proof! We have
discovered Antillia!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Swiftly the _Nereid_ dropped to that submerged plateau.

In five minutes, her keel was resting evenly on the smooth sand beside
the largest of the three pyramids.

Professor Stevens then announced that he would make a preliminary
investigation of the site at once.

"For, otherwise, I for one would be quite unable to sleep tonight!"
declared the graybeard, with a boyish chuckle.

He added that Diane would accompany him.

At this latter announcement, Larry's heart sank. He had hoped against
hope that he might be invited along with them.

But once again his champion came to his aid.

"We really ought to let Mr. Hunter come with us, daddy, don't you
think?" she urged, noting his disappointment. "After all, it was he
who made the discovery."

"Very true," said her father, "but I had not thought it necessary for
anyone to accompany us. In the event anyone does, Captain Petersen
should have that honor."

But this honor the captain declined.

"If you don't mind, sir, I'd prefer to stay with the ship," he said,
quietly. "I haven't forgotten that radio warning."

"But surely you don't think anyone can molest us down here?" scoffed
the professor.

"No, but I'd prefer to stay with the ship just the same, sir, if you
don't mind."

"Very well"--with a touch of pique. "Then you may come along if you
care to, Mr. Hunter."

If he cared to!

"Thanks, Professor!" he said with a grateful look toward Diane. "I'd
be keen to!"

       *       *       *       *       *

So he accompanied them below, where they donned their
pressure-suits--rubber affairs rather less cumbersome than ordinary
deep-sea diving gear, reinforced with steel wire and provided with
thick glass goggles and powerful searchlights, in addition to their
vibratory communication apparatus and other devices that were
explained to Larry.

When he had mastered their operation, which was rendered simple by
reason of the fact that they were so nearly automatic, the trio
stepped into a lock on the floor of the ship and Professor Stevens
ordered them to couple their suits to air-valve connections on the
wall, at the same time admitting water by opening another valve.

Swiftly the lock flooded, while their suits inflated.

"All right?" came his vibratory query.

"Right!" they both answered.

"Then stand by for the heavy pressure."

Wider now he opened the water-valve, letting the ocean in, while at
the same time their suits continued inflating through their air-valve
connections.

To his surprise, Larry found himself no more inconvenienced by the
pressure than he had been from the moment the submarine dove to its
present depth. Indeed, most of the air that was coming into his suit
was filling the reinforced space between its inner and outer layers,
much as the _Nereid_ held air under pressure between her two thick
shells.

"All right now?" called out the professor's vibrator.

"Right!" they called back again.

"Then uncouple your air-valve connections and make ready."

They did so; and he likewise.

Then, advancing to a massive door like that of a vault, he flung back
its powerful clamps, dragged it open--and there beyond, its pressure
equaled by that within the lock, loomed the black tide of the ocean
bottom.

       *       *       *       *       *

Awed by this solemn sight, tingling with a sense of unparalleled
adventure, Larry stood there a moment, peering out over the threshold
of that untrodden world.

Then he followed Diane and her father into its beckoning mystery....

Their searchlights cutting bright segments into the dark, they
proceeded toward the vast mound that towered ahead, pushing through a
weird realm of phosphorescent fish and other marine creatures.

As they neared it, any possible doubt that it was in fact a pyramid
vanished. Corroded by the action of salt water and covered with the
incrustations of centuries, it nevertheless presented unmistakable
evidence of human construction, rising in steps of massive masonry to
a summit shadowy in the murk above.

As Larry stood gazing upon that mighty proof that this submerged
plateau had once stood forth proudly above the sea, he realized that
he was a party to one of the most profound discoveries of the ages.
What a furore this would make when he reported it back to his New York
paper!

But New York seemed remote indeed, now. Would they ever get back? What
if anything went wrong with their pressure-suits--or if they should
become lost?

He glanced back uneasily, but there gleamed the reassuring lights of
the _Nereid_, not a quarter of a mile away.

Diane and her father were now rounding a corner of the pyramid and he
followed them, his momentary twinge of anxiety gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

For some moments, Professor Stevens prowled about without comment,
examining the huge basal blocks of the structure and glancing up its
sloping sides.

"You see, I was right!" he declared at length. "This is not only a
man-made edifice but a true pyramid, embodying the same architectural
principles as the Mayan and Egyptian forms. We see before us the
visible evidence of a sunken empire--the missing link between Atlantis
and America."

No comments greeted this profound announcement and the professor
continued:

"This structure appears to be similar in dimensions with that of the
pyramid of Xochicalco, in Mexico, which in turn approximates that of
the "Sacred Hill" of Atlantis, mentioned by Plato, and which was the
prototype of both the Egyptian and Mayan forms. It was here the
Antillians, as the Atlanteans had taught them to do, worshipped their
grim gods and performed the human sacrifices they thought necessary to
appease them. And it was here, too, if I am not mistaken, that--"

Suddenly his vibratory discourse was broken into by a sharp signal
from the submarine:

"Pardon interruption! Hurry back! We are attacked!"

At this, the trio stood rigid.

"Captain Petersen! Captain Petersen!" Larry heard the professor call.
"Speak up! Give details! What has happened?"

But an ominous silence greeted the query.

Another moment they stood there, thoroughly dismayed now. Then came
the professor's swift command:

"Follow me--quickly!"

He was already in motion, retracing his steps as fast as his bulky
suit would permit. But as he rounded the corner of the pyramid, they
saw him pause, stand staring. And as they drew up, they in turn
paused; stood staring, too.

With sinking hearts, they saw that the _Nereid_ was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Stunned by this disaster, they stood facing one another--three lone
human beings, on the bottom of the Atlantic ocean, their sole means of
salvation gone.

Professor Stevens was the first to speak.

"This is unbelievable!" he said. "I cannot credit it. We must have
lost our senses."

"Or our bearings!" added Diane, more hopefully. "Suppose we look
around the other side."

As for Larry, a darker suspicion flashed through his mind. Captain
Petersen! Had he seized his opportunity and led the crew to mutiny, in
the hope of converting the expedition into a treasure hunt? Was that
the reason he had been so willing to remain behind?

He kept his suspicion to himself, however, and accompanied Diane and
her father on a complete circuit of the pyramid; but, as he feared,
there was no sign of the _Nereid_ anywhere. The craft had vanished as
completely as though the ocean floor had opened and swallowed her up.

But no, not as completely as that! For presently the professor, who
had proceeded to the site where they left the craft resting on the
sand, called out excitedly:

"Here--come here! There are tracks! Captain Petersen was right! They
were attacked!"

Hurrying to the scene, they saw before them the plain evidences of a
struggle. The ocean bottom was scuffed and stamped, as though by many
feet, and a clear trail showed where the craft had finally been
dragged away.

Obviously there was but one thing to do and they did it. After a brief
conference, they turned and followed the trail.

       *       *       *       *       *

It led off over the plateau a quarter mile or more, in an eastward
direction, terminating at length beside one of the smaller
pyramids--and there lay the _Nereid_, apparently unharmed.

But her lights were out and there came no answer to their repeated
calls, so they judged she must be empty.

What had happened to Captain Petersen and his crew? What strange
sub-sea enemy had overcome them? What was now their fate?

Unanswerable question! But one thing was certain. Larry had misjudged
the captain in suspecting him of mutiny. He was sorry for this and
resolved he would make amends by doing all in his power to rescue him
and his men, if they were still living.

Meanwhile his own plight, and that of Diane and her father, was
critical. What was to be done?

Suddenly, as all three stood there debating that question, Professor
Stevens uttered an exclamation and strode toward the pyramid.
Following him with their eyes, they saw him pass through an aperture
where a huge block of stone had been displaced--and disappear within.

The next moment they had joined him, to find themselves in a small
flooded chamber at whose far end a narrow gallery sloped upward at a
sharp angle.

The floor and walls were tiled, they noted, and showed none of the
corrosion of the exterior surfaces. Indeed, so immaculate was the room
that it might have been occupied but yesterday.

As they stood gazing around in wonder, scarcely daring to draw the
natural inferences of this phenomena, there came a rasping sound, and,
turning toward the entrance, they saw a massive section of masonry
descend snugly into place.

They were trapped!

       *       *       *       *       *

Standing there tense, speechless, they waited, wondering what would be
the next move of this strange enemy who held them now so surely in his
power.

Nor had they long to wait.

Almost immediately, there issued a gurgling sound from the inclined
gallery, and turning their eyes in the direction of this new
phenomena, they saw that the water level was receding, as though under
pressure from above.

"Singular!" muttered Professor Stevens. "A sort of primitive lock. It
seems incredible that human creatures could exist down here, but such
appears to be the case."

Larry had no desire to dispute the assumption, nor had Diane. They
stood there as people might in the imminence of the supernatural,
awaiting they knew not what.

Swiftly the water receded.

Now it was scarcely up to their waists, now plashing about their
ankles, and now the room was empty.

The next moment, there sounded a rush of feet--and down the gallery
came a swarm of the strangest beings any of them had ever seen.

They were short, thin, almost emaciated, with pale, pinched faces and
pasty, half-naked bodies. But they shimmered with ornaments of gold
and jade, like some strange princes from the realm of Neptune--or
rather, like Aztec chieftains of the days of Cortes, thought Larry.

Blinking in the glare of the searchlights, they clamored around their
captives, touching their pressure-suits half in awe and chattering
among themselves.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then one of them, larger and more regally clad than the rest, stepped
up and gestured toward the balcony.

"They obviously desire us to accompany them above," said the
professor, "and quite as obviously we have little choice in the
matter, so I suggest we do so."

"Check!" said Larry.

"And double-check!" added Diane.

So they started up, preceded by a handful of their captors and
followed by the main party.

The gallery seemed to be leading toward the center of the pyramid, but
after a hundred feet or so it turned and continued up at a right
angle, turning twice more before they arrived at length in another
stone chamber, smaller than the one below.

Here their guides paused and waited for the main party.

There followed another conference, whereupon their leader stepped up
again, indicating this time that they were to remove their suits.

At this, Professor Stevens balked.

"It is suicide!" he declared. "The air to which they are accustomed
here is doubtless at many times our own atmospheric pressure."

"But I don't see that there's anything to do about it," said Larry, as
their captors danced about them menacingly. "I for one will take a
chance!"

And before they could stop him, he had pressed the release-valve,
emitting the air from his suit--slowly, at first, then more and more
rapidly, as no ill effects seemed to result.

Finally, flinging off the now deflated suit, he stepped before them in
his ordinary clothes, calling with a smile:

"Come on out, folks--the air's fine!"

       *       *       *       *       *

This statement was somewhat of an exaggeration, as the air smelt dank
and bad. But at least it was breathable, as Diane and her father found
when they emerged from their own suits.

They discovered, furthermore, now that their flashlights were no
longer operating, that a faint illumination lit the room, issuing from
a number of small crystal jars suspended from the walls: some sort of
phosphorescence, evidently.

Once again the leader of the curious throng stepped up to them,
beaming now and addressing Professor Stevens in some barbaric tongue,
and, to their amazement, he replied in words approximating its harsh
syllables.

"Why, daddy!" gasped Diane. "How can you talk to him?"

"Simply enough," was the reply. "They speak a language which seems to
be about one-third Basque, mixed oddly with Greek. It merely proves
another hypothesis of mine, namely, that the Atlantean influence
reached eastward to the Pyrenees mountains and the Hellenic peninsula,
as well as to Egypt."

       *       *       *       *       *

Whereupon he turned and continued his conversation, haltingly it is
true and with many gestures, but understandably nevertheless.

"I have received considerable enlightenment as to the mystery of this
strange sunken empire," he reported, turning back to them at length.
"It is a singular story this creature tells, of how his country sank
slowly beneath the waves, during the course of centuries, and of how
his ancestors adapted themselves by degrees to the present conditions.
I shall report it to you both, in detail, when time affords. But the
main thing now is that a man similar to ourselves has conquered their
country and set himself up as emperor. It is to him we are about to be
taken."

"But it doesn't seem possible!" exclaimed Diane. "Why, how could he
have got down here?"

"In a craft similar to our own, according to this creature. Heaven
knows what it is we are about to face! But whatever it is, we will
face it bravely."

"Check and double-check!" said Larry, with a glance toward Diane that
told her she would not find him wanting.

They were not destined to meet the test just then, however, for just
at that moment a courier in breech-clout and sandals dashed up the
gallery and burst into the room, bearing in his right hand a thin
square of metal.

Bowing, he handed it to the leader of the pigmy throng, with the awed
word:

"_Cabiri!_"

At this, Professor Stevens gave a start.

"A message from their high priests!" he whispered.

Whatever it contained, the effect produced on the reader was profound.
Facing his companions, he addressed them gravely. Then, turning from
the room, he commanded the captives to follow.

       *       *       *       *       *

The way led back down the inclined gallery to a point where another
door now stood open, then on down until finally the passage leveled
out into a long, straight tunnel.

This they traversed for fully a mile, entering at length a large,
square chamber where for a moment they paused.

"I judge we are now at the base of the large pyramid," the professor
voiced in an undertone. "It would naturally be the abode of the high
priests."

"But what do you suppose they want with us?" asked Diane.

"That I am not disposed to conjecture," was her father's reply.

But the note of anxiety in his voice was not lost on Diane, nor on
Larry, who pressed her hand reassuringly.

Now their captors led them from the room through a small door opening
on another inclined gallery, whose turns they followed until all were
out of breath from the climb.

It ended abruptly on a short, level corridor with apertures to left
and right.

Into the latter they were led, finding themselves in a grotesquely
furnished room, lit dimly by phosphorescent lamps.

Swiftly the leader addressed Professor Stevens. Then all withdrew. The
aperture was closed by a sliding block of stone.

       *       *       *       *       *

For a moment they stood there silent, straining their eyes in the
gloom to detect the details of their surroundings, which included
several curious chairs and a number of mattings strewn on the tiled
floor.

"What did he say?" asked Diane at length, in a tremulous voice.

"He said we will remain here for the night," her father replied, "and
will be taken before the high priests at dawn."

"At dawn!" exclaimed Larry. "How the deuce do they know when it is
dawn, down here?"

"By their calendars, which they have kept accurately," was the answer.
"But there are many other questions you must both want to ask, so I
shall anticipate them by telling you now what I have been able to
learn. Suppose we first sit down, however. I for one am weary."

Whereupon they drew up three of those curious chairs of some heavy
wood carved with the hideous figures of this strange people's ancient
gods, and Professor Stevens began.

       *       *       *       *       *

Their sunken empire, as he had surmised, had indeed been the great
island of Antillia and a colony of Atlantis. A series of earthquakes
and tidal waves such as engulfed their homeland ages before had sent
it down, and the estimated archaeological date of the final
submergence--namely, 200 B. C.--was approximately correct.

But long before this ultimate catastrophe, the bulk of the
disheartened population had migrated to Central and South America,
founding the Mayan and Incan dynasties. Many of the faithful had
stayed on, however, among them most of the Cabiri or high priests, who
either were loath to leave their temples or had been ordered by their
gods to remain.

At any rate, they had remained, and as the great island sank lower and
lower, they had fortified themselves against the disaster in their
pyramids, which by then alone remained above the surface.

These, too, had gradually disappeared beneath the angry waters,
however, and with them had disappeared the steadfast priests and their
faithful followers, sealing their living tombs into air-tight
bell-jars that retained the atmosphere.

This they had supplemented at first by drawing it down from above, but
as time went by they found other means of getting air; extracting it
from the sea water under pressure, by utilizing their subterranean
volcanoes, in whose seething cauldrons the gods had placed their
salvation; and it was this process that now provided them with the
atmosphere which had so amazed their captives.

But naturally, lack of sunshine had produced serious degeneration in
their race, and that accounted for their diminutive forms and pale
bodies. Still, they had been able to survive with a degree of
happiness until some ten or a dozen years ago, when a strange enemy
had come down in a great metal fish, like that of these new strangers,
and with a handful of men had conquered their country.

This marauder was after their gold and had looted their temples
ruthlessly, carrying away its treasures, for which they hated him with
a fury that only violation of their most sacred deities could arouse.
Long ago they would have destroyed him, but for the fact that he
possessed terrible weapons which were impossible to combat. But they
were in smouldering rebellion and waited only the support of their
gods, when they would fall on this oppressor and hurl him off.

That, though it left many things unexplained, was all the professor
had been able to gather from his conversation with the leader of their
captors. He ended, admitting regretfully that he was still in
ignorance of what fate had befallen Captain Petersen and the crew of
the _Nereid._

       *       *       *       *       *

"Perhaps this fellow in the other submarine has got them," suggested
Larry.

"But why weren't we taken to him too?" asked Diane. "What do you
suppose they want with us, anyway, daddy?"

"That, my dear, as I told you before," replied her father, "I am not
disposed to conjecture. Time will reveal it. Meanwhile, we can only
wait."

As before, there was a note of anxiety in his voice not lost on either
of them. And as for Larry, though he knew but little of those old
religions, he knew enough to realize that their altars often ran with
the blood of their captives, and he shuddered.

With these grim thoughts between them, the trio fell silent.

A silence that was interrupted presently by the arrival of a native
bearing a tray heaped with strange food.

Bowing, he placed it before them and departed.

Upon examination, the meal proved to consist mainly of some curious
kind of steamed fish, not unpalatable but rather rank and tough. There
were several varieties of fungus, too, more or less resembling
mushrooms and doubtless grown in some sunless garden of the pyramid.

These articles, together with a pitcher of good water that had
obviously been distilled from the sea, comprised their meal, and
though it was far from appetizing, they ate it.

But none of the three slept that night, though Diane dozed off for a
few minutes once or twice, for their apprehension of what the dawn
might hold made it impossible, to say nothing of the closeness of the
air in that windowless subterranean room.

Slowly, wearily, the hours dragged by.

At length the native who had brought their food came again. This time
he spoke.

"He says we are now to be taken before the high priests," Professor
Stevens translated for them.

Almost with relief, though their faces were grave, they stepped out
into the corridor, where an escort waited.

       *       *       *       *       *

Five minutes later, after proceeding along an inclined gallery that
wound ever upward, they were ushered into a vast vaulted chamber lit
with a thousand phosphorescent lamps and gleaming with idols of gold
and silver, jewels flashing from their eyes.

High in the dome hung a great golden disc, representing the sun. At
the far end, above a marble altar, coiled a dragon with tusks of ivory
and scales of jade, its eyes two lustrous pearls.

And all about the room thronged priests in fantastic head-dress and
long white robes, woven through elaborately with threads of yellow and
green.

At the appearance of the captives, a murmur like a chant rose in the
still air. Someone touched a brand to the altar and there was a flash
of flame followed by a thin column of smoke that spiraled slowly
upward.

Now one of the priests stepped out--the supreme one among them, to
judge from the magnificence of his robe--and addressed the trio,
speaking slowly, rhythmically.

As his strange, sonorous discourse continued, Professor Stevens grew
visibly perturbed. His beard twitched and he shifted uneasily on his
feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

Finally the discourse ceased and the professor replied to it, briefly.
Then he turned grave eyes on Larry and Diane.

"What is it?" asked the latter, nervously. "What did the priest say,
daddy?"

Her father considered, before replying.

"Naturally, I did not gather everything," was his slow reply, "but I
gathered sufficient to understand what is afoot. First, however, let
me explain that the dragon you see over there represents their deity
Tlaloc, god of the sea. In more happy circumstances, it would be
interesting to note that the name is identified with the Mayan god of
the same element."

He paused, as though loath to go on, then continued:

"At any rate, the Antillians have worshipped Tlaloc principally, since
their sun god failed them. They believe he dragged down their empire
in his mighty coils, through anger with them, and will raise it up
again if appeased. Therefore they propose today to--"

"Daddy!" cried Diane, shrinking back in horror, while a chill went up
Larry's spine. "You mean--mean that--"

"I mean, my poor child, that we are about to be sacrificed to the
dragon god of the Antillians."

       *       *       *       *       *

The words were no more than uttered, when with a weird chant the
Cabiri closed in on their victims and led them with solemn ceremonial
toward the altar.

In vain did Professor Stevens protest. Their decision had been made
and was irrevocable. Tlaloc must be appeased. Lo, even now he roared
for the offering!

They pointed to the dragon, from whose nostrils suddenly issued
hissing spurts of flame.

Larry fumed in disgust at the cheap hocus-pocus of it--but the next
moment a more violent emotion swept over him as he saw Diane seized
and borne swiftly to that loathsome shrine.

But even as he lunged forward, the professor reached his daughter's
side. Throwing himself in front of her, he begged them to spare her,
to sacrifice him instead.

The answer of the priests was a blow that knocked the graybeard
senseless, and lifting Diane up, half-swooning, they flung her upon
the altar.

"Mr. Hunter! Larry!" came her despairing cry.

She struggled up and for a moment her blue eyes opened, met his
beseechingly.

That was enough--that and that despairing cry, "Larry!"

With the strength of frenzy, he flung off his captors, rushed to her
aid, his hard fists flailing.

The pigmies went down in his path like grain before the scythe.
Reaching the altar, he seized the priest whose knife was already
upraised, and, lifting him bodily, flung him full into the ugly snout
of that snorting dragon.

Then, as a wail of dismay rose from the Cabiri, at this supreme
sacrilege, he seized the now unconscious Diane and retreated with her
toward the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

But there spears barred his escape; and now, recovered from the first
shock of this fearful affront to their god, the priests started toward
him.

Standing at bay, with that limp, tender burden in his arms, Larry
awaited the end.

As the maddened horde drew near, she stirred, lifted her pale face and
smiled, her eyes still shut.

"Oh, Larry!"

"Diane!"

"You saved me. I won't forget."

Then, the smile still lingering, she slipped once more into merciful
oblivion, and as Larry held her close to his heart, a new warmth
kindled there.

But bitterness burned in his heart, too. He had saved her--won her
love, perhaps--only to lose her. It wasn't fair! Was there no way out?

The priests were close now, their pasty faces leering with fierce
anticipation of their revenge, when suddenly, from down the gallery
outside that guarded door, came the sharp crash of an explosion,
followed by shouts and the rush of feet.

At the sound, the priests trembled, fled backward into the room and
fell moaning before their idols, while the quaking guards strove
frantically to close the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

But before they could do so, in burst a half dozen brawny sailors in
foreign uniform, bearing in their hands little black bulbs that looked
suspiciously like grenades. Shouting in a tongue Larry could not
distinguish above the uproar, they advanced upon the retreating guards
and priests.

Then, when all were herded in the far corner of the room, the sailors
backed toward the door. Motioning for Larry and Diane to clear out,
they raised those sinister little missiles, prepared to fling them.

"Wait!" cried Larry, thinking of Professor Stevens.

And releasing Diane, who had revived, he rushed forward, seized the
prostrate savant from amid the unresisting Cabiri, and bore him to
safety.

"Daddy!" sobbed Diane, swaying to meet them.

"Back!" shouted one of the sailors, shoving them through the door.

The last glimpse Larry had of that fateful room was the horde of
priests and guards huddled before their altar, voices lifted in
supplication to that hideous dragon god.

Then issued a series of blinding flashes followed by deafening
explosions, mingled with shrieks of anguish.

Sickened, he stood there, as the reverberations died away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Presently, when it was plain no further menace would come from that
blasted temple, their rescuers led the trio back down those winding
galleries, and through that long, straight tunnel to the smaller
pyramid.

Professor Stevens had recovered consciousness by now and was able to
walk, with Larry's aid, though a matted clot of blood above his left
ear showed the force of the blow he had received.

The way, after reaching the smaller pyramid, led up those other
galleries they had mounted the night before.

This time, undoubtedly, they were to be taken before that mysterious
usurping emperor. And what would be the result of that audience? Would
it but plunge them from the frying pan into the fire, wondered Larry,
or would it mean their salvation?

Anyway, he concluded, no fate could be worse than the hideous one they
had just escaped. But if only Diane could be spared further anguish!

He glanced at her fondly, as they walked along, and she returned him a
warm smile.

Now the way led into a short, level passage ending in a door guarded
by two sailors with rifles. They presented arms, as their comrades
came up, and flung open the door.

As he stepped inside, Larry blinked in amazement, for he was greeted
by electric lights in ornate clusters, richly carpeted floors, walls
hung with modern paintings--and there at the far end, beside a massive
desk, stood an imposing personage in foreign naval uniform of high
rank, strangely familiar, strangely reminiscent of war days.

Even before the man spoke, in his guttural English, the suspicion
those sailors had aroused crystallized itself.

A German! A U-boat commander!

       *       *       *       *       *

"Greetings, gentlemen--and the little lady," boomed their host, with
heavy affability. "I see that my men were in time. These swine of
Antillians are a tricky lot. I must apologize for them--my subjects."

The last word was pronounced with scathing contempt.

"We return greetings!" said Professor Stevens. "To whom, might I ask,
do we owe our lives, and the honor of this interview?"

Larry smiled. The old graybeard was up to his form, all right!

"You are addressing Herr Rolf von Ullrich," the flattered German
replied, adding genially: "commander of one of His Imperial Majesty's
super-submarines during the late war and at present Emperor of
Antillia."

To which the professor replied with dignity that he was greatly
honored to make the acquaintance of so exalted a personage, and
proceeded in turn to introduce himself and party. But Von Ullrich
checked him with a smile.

"The distinguished Professor Stevens and his charming daughter need no
introduction, as they are already familiar to me through the American
press and radio," he said. "While as for Mr. Hunter, your Captain
Petersen has already made me acquainted with his name."

At the mention of the commander of the _Nereid_, all three of them
gave a start.

"Then--then my captain and crew are safe?" asked the professor,
eagerly.

"Quite," Von Ullrich assured him. "You will be taken to them
presently. But first there are one or two little things you would like
explained--yes? Then I shall put to you a proposal, which if
acceptable will guarantee your safe departure from my adopted
country."

Whereupon the German traced briefly the events leading up to the
present.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the last months of the war, he had been placed in command of a
special U-boat known as the "mystery ship"--designed to resist
depth-charges and embodying many other innovations, most of them
growing out of his own experience with earlier submarines.

One day, while cruising off the West Indies, in wait for some luckless
sugar boat, he had been surprised by a destroyer and forced to
submerge so suddenly that his diving gear had jammed and they had gone
to the bottom. But the craft had managed to withstand the pressure and
they had been able to repair the damage, limping home with a bad leak
but otherwise none the worse for the experience.

The leak repaired and the hull further strengthened, he had set out
again. But when in mid-Atlantic the Armistice had come, and rather
than return to a defeated country, subject possibly to Allied revenge,
he had persuaded his crew to remain out and let their craft be
reported missing.

What followed then, though Von Ullrich masked it in polite words, was
a story of piracy, until they found by degrees that there was more
gold on the bottom of the ocean than the top; and from this to the
discovery of the sunken empire where he now held reign was but a step.

They had thought at first they were looting only empty temples--but,
finding people there, had easily conquered them, though ruling them,
he admitted, was another matter. As, for instance, yesterday, when the
priests had interfered with his orders and carried his three chief
captives off to sacrifice.

"Where now, but for me, you would be food for their gods!" he ended.
"And if you do not find my hospitality altogether to your liking,
friends, remember that you came uninvited. In fact, if you will
recall, you came despite my explicit warning!"

       *       *       *       *       *

But since they were here, he told them, they might be willing to repay
his good turn with another.

Whereupon Von Ullrich launched into his proposal, which was that
Professor Stevens place the _Nereid_ at his disposal for visiting the
depths at the foot of the plateau, where lay the capital of the
empire, he said--a magnificent metropolis known as the City of the Sun
and modeled after the great Atlantean capital, the City of the Golden
Gates, and the depository of a treasure, the greedy German believed,
that was the ransom of the world.

The professor frowned, and for a moment Larry thought he was going to
remind their host that this was not a treasure hunt.

"Why," he asked instead, "do you not use your own submarine for the
purpose?"

"Because for one thing, she will not stand the pressure, nor will our
suits," was the reply. "And for another, she is already laden with
treasure, ready for an--er--forced abdication!" with a sardonic laugh.

"Then have you not enough gold already?"

"For myself, yes. But there are my men, you see--and men who have
glimpsed the treasures of the earth are not easily satisfied,
Professor. But have no fear. You shall accompany us, and, by your aid,
shall pay your own ransom."

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Ullrich made no mention of the alternative, in case the aid was
refused, but the ominous light Larry caught in his cold gray eyes
spoke as clearly as words.

So, since there was nothing else to do, Professor Stevens agreed.

Whereupon the audience terminated and they were led from the presence
of this arrogant German to another apartment, where they were to meet
Captain Petersen and the crew of the _Nereid._

As they proceeded toward it, under guard, Larry wondered why Von
Ullrich had even troubled to make the request, when he held it in his
power to take the craft anyway.

But after the first joyful moment of reunion, it was a mystery no
longer, for Captain Petersen reported that immediately upon their
capture, the commander of the U-boat had tried to force him to reveal
the operation of the _Nereid_, but that he had steadfastly refused,
even though threatened with torture.

And to think, it came to Larry with a new twinge of shame, that he had
suspected this gallant man of mutiny!

       *       *       *       *       *

That very morning, while Professor Stevens and his party were still
exchanging experiences with Captain Petersen and the members of the
crew, Von Ullrich sent for them and they gathered with his own men in
the small lock-chamber at the base of the pyramid.

There they were provided with temporary suits by their host, since
their own--which they brought along--could be inflated only from the
_Nereid_.

Beside her, they noted as they emerged in relays, the U-boat was now
moored.

Entering their own craft, they got under way at once and headed
swiftly westward toward the brink of the plateau. Most of Von
Ullrich's crew were with them, though a few had been left behind to
guard against any treachery, on the part of the now sullen and aroused
populace.

Slipping out over the edge of that precipitous tableland, they tilted
her rudders and dove to the abysm below.

Presently the central square of the illuminated panel in the
navigating room showed three great concentric circles, enclosed by a
quadrangle that must have been miles on a side--and within this vast
sunken fortress lay a city of innumerable pyramids and temples and
palaces.

The German's eyes flashed greedily as he peered upon this vision.

"There you are!" he exclaimed, quivering with excitement. "Those
circles, that square: what would you judge they were, Professor?"

"I would judge that originally they were the canals bearing the
municipal water supply," Martin Stevens told him quietly, suppressing
his own excitement, "for such was said to be the construction of the
City of the Golden Gates; but now I judge they are walls raised on
those original foundations by the frantic populace, when the
submergence first began, in a vain effort to hold back the tides that
engulfed them."

"And do you think they are of gold?"

"Frankly, no; though I have no doubt you will find plenty of that
element down there."

Nor was the prediction wrong, for modern eyes had never seen such a
treasure house as they beheld when presently the _Nereid_ came to rest
outside that ancient four-walled city and they forced their way
inside.

       *       *       *       *       *

Though the walls were not of gold, the inner gates were, and the
temples were fairly bursting with the precious metal, as well as rare
jewels, the eyes of a thousand idols gleaming with rubies and
emeralds.

But where was the populace, amid all this prodigious wealth? Was there
no life down here?

Von Ullrich declared through the vibrator of his pressure-suit that he
had heard there was. And as though in substantiation, many of the
temples showed the same bell-jar construction as the pyramids above,
though even stouter, revealing evidences of having been occupied very
recently; but all were flooded and empty. The city was as a city of
the dead.

This ominous sign did not deter the "emperor," however. Ruthlessly he
and his men looted those flooded temples, forcing Professor Stevens
and his party to lend aid in the orgy of pillage.

And all the time, Larry had an uneasy feeling of gathering furtive
hosts about them, waiting--waiting for what?

He confided his fears to no one, though he noted with relief that Von
Ullrich seemed to sense these unseen presences too, for he proceeded
with caution and always kept a strong guard outside.

       *       *       *       *       *

By early afternoon, the _Nereid_ was one great coffer-chest.

But still the rapacious U-boat commander was unsatisfied, though
Professor Stevens began to have doubts if his craft could lift that
massive weight of plunder to the top of the plateau.

"One more load and we go," he soothed. "A few more pretties for the
little lady!"

Larry writhed, and should have suspected then and there--but as it
was, the blow fell unexpected, stunning.

Filing from the lock, they failed to notice that Von Ullrich and his
crew hung back, until there came a sudden, guttural command, whereupon
Diane was seized and the massive door flung shut in their faces.

Appalled by this overwhelming disaster, the party stood for a moment
motionless, speechless. Then, as one, Larry and the professor rushed
forward and beat upon that barred hatch, calling upon Von Ullrich to
open it.

From within the submarine, through their vibrators, they heard him
laugh.

"_Auf Wiedersehen!_" he toasted them. "I now have all the treasure I
want! The rest I leave to you! Help yourselves!"

Even as he spoke, the _Nereid's_ auxiliary propellers started churning
the water. Slowly, sluggishly, like some great gorged fish, the sturdy
craft moved off, lifted her snout, headed upward.

       *       *       *       *       *

Professor Stevens bowed his head, and Larry could well picture the
grief that distorted the graybeard's face, inside that owl-eyed
helmet.

"Cheer up!" he said, though his own face was twisted with anguish.
"Perhaps--"

Then he paused--for how could he say that perhaps the situation wasn't
as bad as it seemed, when it was obviously hopeless?

"My poor Diane!" moaned the professor. "Poor child. Poor child!"

As for Captain Petersen and the crew, they said nothing. Perhaps they
were thinking of Diane, perhaps of themselves. At least, they knew it
was over.

Or so they thought. But to Larry, suddenly, occurred a gleam of hope.
That strange sense of unseen presences! It was bizarre, of course, but
doesn't a drowning person catch at straws? And Lord knows they were
drowning, if ever anyone was!

He turned and confided to Professor Stevens his idea, which was to
retrace their steps within the city gates, seek out the populace and
throw themselves on their mercy.

The stricken savant, too, grasped at the straw.

"It seems fantastic, but after all it is a chance," he admitted.

So they pushed back into that great submerged city, with Captain
Petersen and his skeptical crew. They entered one of the largest of
the temples, wandered forlornly through its flooded halls and
corridors, seeking some sign of these alleged beings Larry had sensed.

Nor was their search unrewarded, for suddenly the captain himself,
most skeptical of all, cried out:

"Listen! Did you hear that?"

There was no need to ask the question, for all had heard. It was a
rasping sound, as of some great door swinging shut, followed almost
immediately by a rushing gurgle--and as they stood there tense, the
water level began rapidly receding.

Even while it was still plashing about their ankles, a secret block of
masonry slid back and a horde of Antillians burst in upon them.

       *       *       *       *       *

What happened then, happened with a rush that left them dazed.

Unable to talk directly with the pigmies, by reason of their
pressure-suits, which they dared not remove, they started gesturing
with them, trying to explain their predicament and make known that
they bore them no ill-will, but the creatures waved for them to cease
and led them swiftly through the now waterless temple.

"Well, I guess it's all up!" said Larry, adding with dismal humor:
"They're probably going to finish that meal they started feeding their
dragon last night!"

No one laughed, nor made any comment, and he relapsed into silence,
realizing that they probably held him responsible for this latest
disaster.

Leaving the temple, their captors led them into a passage that was
level for a time, then inclined sharply. It was laborious going but
they struggled on.

"I believe they know we are not their enemies!" declared Professor
Stevens, at length, to everyone's cheer. "They seem to be leading us
back to the plateau by some underground passage."

"Let's hope so!" said Larry. "Perhaps I had the right hunch after
all."

"But my poor Diane!" came the professor's sorrowing after-thought.
"That fiend Von Ullrich could never get the _Nereid_ up safely."

"I think perhaps he could, with Miss Stevens to help him," put in
Captain Petersen, his usual optimism returning. "She is thoroughly
familiar with the craft's operation."

"That is so," her father admitted, his tone brighter. "But--"

"Of course it's so!" exclaimed Larry, breaking off any less hopeful
reflections. "So cheerio, folks, as the English say. We'll make it
yet!"

But in his heart, he was tormented with doubt for Diane's safety....

       *       *       *       *       *

The trail was growing eery, now, and precipitous. To their right rose
a sheer cliff. To their left, the path fell off abruptly to a gigantic
caldron where red flames leaped and waned.

"Looks like something out of Dante's 'Inferno'!" muttered Larry, with
a shudder.

"The volcano where they distill their atmosphere, evidently,"
commented Professor Stevens. "It would have been interesting, in other
circumstances, to observe the process."

"Not to me, it wouldn't!"

Larry was glad when they had passed that seething hell-pot and were
once more proceeding through a long, dark gallery.

But everywhere, though their guides were but a handful, was a sense of
those unseen presences, of gathering, furtive hosts about them,
waiting--waiting for what?

What was this strange sense of tension, of foreboding, that hung in
the air? Was the professor wrong? Were they being led to their doom,
after all?

He was soon to know, for now the gallery they had been traversing
levelled out into a series of short passages, each barred by a heavy
stone door, and finally they were led into a small, square room,
barely large enough to admit them all.

There, with gestures toward the far end, their guides left them.

The door closed, and almost immediately another on the opposite side
opened, slowly at first, then wider and wider, admitting a rush of
water that promptly filled the room.

Stepping wonderingly out, they found themselves on the upper level,
beside the second of the two smaller pyramids.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Whew!" gasped Larry, as they stood looking around, still a little
dazed. "These people are sure quick-change artists! First they try to
feed you to their gods, then they save you from almost as bad a fate.
Dizzy, I call it!"

"Quite understandable, I should say," declared the professor. "Unable
to cope with Von Ullrich themselves, they think perhaps we may be able
to."

"Well, let's hope they're right!" grimly. "If once I get my hands on
him--"

He broke off suddenly, as Captain Petersen called out:

"The _Nereid_! There she is!"

Following with their eyes the bright segment cut into the murky depths
by his flashlight, they saw the familiar outlines of their craft; and
close beside her lay the U-boat.

A feverish activity seemed to be going on between the two submarines.

"They're changing cargo!" cried Larry. "Quick! We've got them now!"

But the progress they were able to make, hampered by their heavy
suits, was maddeningly slow. Their searchlights, moreover, betrayed
their approach. Before they could reach the scene, most of the sailors
had abandoned their task and piled into the U-boat.

Arms swinging wildly, Von Ullrich stood beside it, trying to rally
then. Refusing to risk combat, however, since they were unable to use
their deadly hand-grenades under water, they continued clambering up
the sides of their submersible and shoving down through its
conning-tower hatch.

Now a figure in a familiar pressure-suit broke away and started toward
the advancing party.

It was Diane!

       *       *       *       *       *

Even as he recognized her, Larry saw Von Ullrich lunge forward, seize
his captive and mount to the conning-tower with her--but before the
German could thrust her into the hatch, he had reached the U-boat's
side and clambered to her rescue.

Dropping Diane, Von Ullrich wheeled to face his assailant. They
grappled, fell to the deck, rolled over and over.

But suddenly, as they were struggling, there came a sound that caused
the German to burst free and leap to his feet.

It was the sound of engines under them!

Ignoring Larry now, Von Ullrich staggered to the conning-tower hatch.
It was battened fast. Frantically he beat on it.

This much Larry saw, as he knelt there getting his breath. Then he
rose, took Diane by the arm and led her down. And he was none too
soon, for with a lunge the U-boat got under way.

But she seemed unable to lift her loot-laden mass from the ocean
floor, and headed off crazily across the plateau, dragging her keel in
the sand.

With fascinated horror, they watched the craft's erratic course, as it
swung loggily westward and headed toward that yawning abysm from which
they had all so lately risen.

The last sight they had of the U-boat was as it reached the brink, its
despairing commander still standing in the conning-tower, hammering
vainly on that fast-bound hatch; then they turned away faint, as the
doomed craft plunged down, stern up, into those crushing depths.

       *       *       *       *       *

Professor Stevens now joined them.

"A lesson in avarice," he said gravely, when he had greeted his
daughter with heartfelt relief. "And a typical fate of fortune
hunters! Let that be a lesson to you, young man."

"Amen!" said Larry.

"But what happened, my dear?" asked the professor of Diane, a moment
later. "Why were they in such a hurry to be off?"

"Because the sensible Antillians seized their opportunity and overcame
their guards, while we were below," was her reply. "When we got back,
we found the pyramids flooded, so there was nothing else for them to
do but go."

So that was the explanation of those gathering, furtive hosts in the
lower level, thought Larry. Now he knew what they had been waiting
for! They had been waiting for that usurping vandal to depart.

And how they must be gloating now, down there!

"But why were they so eager to abandon the _Nereid_?" asked the
savant, still puzzled. "It it a better boat than theirs, even if I do
say so myself."

"Because I put it out of commission, directly we got back up here,"
replied Diane. "But not permanently!" she added, with what Larry knew
was a smile, though he couldn't see her face, of course, through the
helmet of her pressure-suit.

"Little thoroughbred!" he exclaimed, half to himself.

"What did you say, Mr. Hunter?--Larry, I mean," she inquired.

"N--nothing," he replied uneasily.

"Fibber!" said Diane. "I heard you the first time!"

"Just wait till I get out of this darned suit!" said Larry.

"I guess I can wait that long!" she told him.

And if Professor Stevens heard any of this, it went in one ear and out
the other, for he was thinking what a report he would have to make to
his confrères when they got home--particularly with half a boatload
of assorted idols for proof.



[Illustration: He pressed the tiny switch in the flame-tool's handle
just as Arlok came through the door.]

The Gate to Xoran

_By Hal K. Wells_

    A strange man of metal comes to Earth on a dreadful mission.


He sat in a small half-darkened booth well over in the corner--the man
with the strangely glowing blue-green eyes.

The booth was one of a score that circled the walls of the "Maori
Hut," a popular night club in the San Fernando Valley some five miles
over the hills from Hollywood.

It was nearly midnight. Half a dozen couples danced lazily in the
central dancing space. Other couples remained tête-à-tête in the
secluded booths.

In the entire room only two men were dining alone. One was the slender
gray-haired little man with the weirdly glowing eyes. The other was
Blair Gordon, a highly successful young attorney of Los Angeles. Both
men had the unmistakable air of waiting for someone.

Blair Gordon's college days were not so far distant that he had yet
lost any of the splendid physique that had made him an All-American
tackle. In any physical combat with the slight gray-haired stranger,
Gordon knew that he should be able to break the other in two with one
hand.

Yet, as he studied the stranger from behind the potted palms that
screened his own booth. Gordon was amazed to find himself slowly being
overcome by an emotion of dread so intense that it verged upon sheer
fear. There was something indescribably alien and utterly sinister in
that dimly seen figure in the corner booth.

The faint eery light that glowed in the stranger's deep-set eyes was
not the lambent flame seen in the chatoyant orbs of some
night-prowling jungle beast. Rather was it the blue-green glow of
phosphorescent witch-light that flickers and dances in the night mists
above steaming tropical swamps.

The stranger's face was as classically perfect in its rugged outline
as that of a Roman war-god, yet those perfect features seemed utterly
lifeless. In the twenty minutes that he had been intently watching the
stranger, Gordon would have sworn that the other's face had not moved
by so much as the twitch of an eye-lash.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then a new couple entered the Maori Hut, and Gordon promptly forgot
all thought of the puzzlingly alien figure in the corner. The new
arrivals were a vibrantly beautiful blond girl and a plump,
sallow-faced man in the early forties. The girl was Leah Keith,
Hollywood's latest screen sensation. The man was Dave Redding, her
director.

A waiter seated Leah and her escort in a booth directly across the
room from that of Gordon. It was a maneuver for which Gordon had
tipped lavishly when he first came to the Hut.

A week ago Leah Keith's engagement to Blair Gordon had been abruptly
ended by a trivial little quarrel that two volatile temperaments had
fanned into flames which apparently made reconciliation impossible. A
miserably lonely week had finally ended in Gordon's present trip to
the Maori Hut. He knew that Leah often came there, and he had an
overwhelming longing to at least see her again, even though his pride
forced him to remain unseen.

Now, as he stared glumly at Leah through the palms that effectively
screened his own booth, Gordon heartily regretted that he had ever
come. The sight of Leah's clear fresh beauty merely made him realize
what a fool he had been to let that ridiculous little quarrel come
between them.

Then, with a sudden tingling thrill, Gordon realized that he was not
the only one in the room who was interested in Leah and her escort.

Over in the half-darkened corner booth the eery stranger was staring
at the girl with an intentness that made his weird eyes glow like
miniature pools of shimmering blue-green fire. Again Gordon felt that
vague impression of dread, as though he were in the presence of
something utterly alien to all human experience.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gordon turned his gaze back to Leah, then caught his breath sharply in
sudden amaze. The necklace about Leah's throat was beginning to glow
with the same uncanny blue-green light that shone in the stranger's
eyes! Faint, yet unmistakable, the shimmering radiance pulsed from the
necklace in an aura of nameless evil.

And with the coming of that aura of weird light at her throat, a
strange trance was swiftly sweeping over Leah. She sat there now as
rigidly motionless as some exquisite statue of ivory and jet.

Gordon stared at her in stark bewilderment. He knew the history of
Leah's necklace. It was merely an oddity, and nothing more--a freak
piece of costume jewelry made from fragments of an Arizona meteorite.
Leah had worn the necklace a dozen times before, without any trace of
the weird phenomena that were now occurring.

Dancers again thronged the floor to the blaring jazz of the negro
orchestra while Gordon was still trying to force his whirling brain to
a decision. He was certain that Leah was in deadly peril of some kind,
yet the nature of that peril was too bizarre for his mind to imagine.

Then the stranger with the glowing eyes took matters into his own
hands. He left his booth and began threading his way through the
dancers toward Leah. As he watched the progress of that slight
gray-haired figure Gordon refused to believe the evidence of his own
eyes. The thing was too utterly absurd--yet Gordon was positive that
the strong oak floor of the dancing space was visibly swaying and
creaking beneath the stranger's mincing tread!

       *       *       *       *       *

The stranger paused at Leah's booth only long enough to utter a brief
low-voiced command. Then Leah, still in the grip of that strange
trance, rose obediently from her seat to accompany him.

Dave Redding rose angrily to intercept her. The stranger seemed to
barely brush the irate director with his finger tips, yet Redding
reeled back as though struck by a pile-driver. Leah and the stranger
started for the door. Redding scrambled to his feet again and hurried
after them.

It was then that Gordon finally shook off the stupor of utter
bewilderment that had held him. Springing from his booth, he rushed
after the trio.

The dancers in his way delayed Gordon momentarily. Leah and the
stranger were already gone when he reached the door. The narrow little
entrance hallway to the Hut was deserted save for a figure sprawled
there on the floor near the outer door.

It was the body of Dave Redding. Gordon shuddered as he glanced
briefly down at the huddled figure. A single mighty blow from some
unknown weapon had crumpled the director's entire face in, like the
shattered shell of a broken egg.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gordon charged on through the outer door just as a heavy sedan came
careening out of the parking lot. He had a flashing glimpse of Leah
and the stranger in the front seat of the big car.

Gordon raced for his own machine, a powerful low-slung roadster. A
single vicious jab at the starting button, and the big motor leaped
into roaring life. Gordon shot out from the parking lot onto the main
boulevard. A hundred yards away the sedan was fleeing toward
Hollywood.

Gordon tramped hard on the accelerator. His engine snarled with the
unleashed fury of a hundred horsepower. The gap between the two cars
swiftly lessened.

Then the stranger seemed to become aware for the first time that he
was being followed. The next second the big sedan accelerated with the
hurtling speed of a flying bullet. Gordon sent his own foot nearly to
the floor. The roadster jumped to eighty miles an hour, yet the sedan
continued to leave it remorselessly behind.

The two cars started up the northern slope of Cahuenga Pass with the
sedan nearly two hundred yards ahead, and gaining all the time. Gordon
wondered briefly if they were to flash down the other side of the Pass
and on into Hollywood at their present mad speed.

Then at the summit of the Pass the sedan swerved abruptly to the right
and fled west along the Mulholland Highway. Gordon's tires screamed as
he swerved the roadster in hot pursuit.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dark winding mountain highway was nearly deserted at that hour of
the night. Save for an occasional automobile that swerved frantically
to the side of the road to dodge the roaring onslaught of the racing
cars, Gordon and the stranger had the road to themselves.

The stranger seemed no longer to be trying to leave his pursuer
hopelessly behind. He allowed Gordon to come within a hundred yards of
him. But that was as near as Gordon could get, is spite of the
roadster's best efforts.

Half a dozen times Gordon trod savagely upon his accelerator in a
desperate attempt to close the gap, but each time the sedan fled with
the swift grace of a scudding phantom. Finally Gordon had to content
himself with merely keeping his distance behind the glowing red
tail-light of the car ahead.

They passed Laurel Canyon, and still the big sedan bored on to the
west. Then finally, half a dozen miles beyond Laurel Canyon, the
stranger abruptly left the main highway and started up a narrow
private road to the crest of one of the lonely hills. Gordon slowly
gained in the next two miles. When the road ended in a winding
gravelled driveway into the grounds of what was apparently a private
estate, the roadster was scarcely a dozen yards behind.

The stranger's features as he stood there stiffly erect in the vivid
glare of the roadster's headlights were still as devoid of all
expression as ever. The only things that really seemed alive in that
masque of a face were the two eyes, glowing eery blue-green fire like
twin entities of alien evil.

Gordon wasted no time in verbal sparring. He motioned briefly to Leah
Keith's rigid form in the front seat of the sedan.

"Miss Keith is returning to Hollywood with me," he said curtly. "Will
you let her go peaceably, or shall I--?" He left the question
unfinished, but its threat was obvious.

"Or shall you do what?" asked the stranger quietly. There was an oddly
metallic ring in his low even tones. His words were so precisely
clipped that they suggested some origin more mechanical than human.

"Or shall I take Miss Keith with me by force?" Gordon flared angrily.

"You can try to take the lady by force--if you wish." There was an
unmistakable jeering note in the metallic tones.

The taunt was the last thing needed to unleash Gordon's volatile
temper. He stepped forward and swung a hard left hook for that
expressionless masque of a face. But the blow never landed. The
stranger dodged with uncanny swiftness. His answering gesture seemed
merely the gentlest possible push with an outstretched hand, yet
Gordon was sent reeling backward a full dozen steps by the terrific
force of that apparently gentle blow.

       *       *       *       *       *

Recovering himself, Gordon grimly returned to the attack. The stranger
again flung out one hand in the contemptuous gesture with which one
would brush away a troublesome fly, but this time Gordon was more
cautious. He neatly dodged the stranger's blow, then swung a vicious
right squarely for his adversary's unprotected jaw.

The blow smashed solidly home with all of Gordon's weight behind it.
The stranger's jaw buckled and gave beneath that shattering impact.
Then abruptly his entire face crumpled into distorted ruin. Gordon
staggered back a step in sheer horror at the gruesome result of his
blow.

The stranger flung a hand up to his shattered features. When his hand
came away again, his whole face came away with it!

Gordon had one horror-stricken glimpse of a featureless blob of
rubbery bluish-gray flesh in which fiendish eyes of blue-green fire
blazed in malignant fury.

Then the stranger fumbled at his collar, ripping the linen swiftly
away. Something lashed out from beneath his throat--a loathsome
snake-like object, slender and forked at the end. For one ghastly
moment, as the writhing tentacle swung into line with him, Gordon saw
its forked ends glow strange fire--one a vivid blue, the other a
sparkling green.

Then the world was abruptly blotted out for Blair Gordon.

       *       *       *       *       *

Consciousness returned to Gordon as swiftly and painlessly as it had
left him. For a moment he blinked stupidly in a dazed effort to
comprehend the incredible scene before him.

He was seated in a chair over near the wall of a large room that was
flooded with livid red light from a single globe overhead. Beside him
sat Leah Keith, also staring with dazed eyes in an effort to
comprehend her surroundings. Directly in front of them stood a figure
of stark nightmare horror.

The weirdly glowing eyes identified the figure as that of the stranger
at the Maori Hut, but there every point of resemblance ceased. Only
the cleverest of facial masques and body padding could ever have
enabled this monstrosity to pass unnoticed in a world of normal human
beings.

Now that his disguise was completely stripped away, his slight frame
was revealed as a grotesque parody of that of a human being, with arms
and legs like pipe-stems, a bald oval head that merged with neckless
rigidity directly into a heavy-shouldered body that tapered into an
almost wasp-like slenderness at the waist. He was naked save for a
loin cloth of some metallic fabric. His bluish-gray skin had a dull
oily sheen strangely suggestive of fine grained flexible metal.

The creature's face was hideously unlike anything human. Beneath the
glowing eyes was a small circular mouth orifice with a cluster of
gill-like appendages on either side of it. Patches of lighter-colored
skin on either side of the head seemed to serve as ears. From a point
just under the head, where the throat of a human being would have
been, dangled the foot-and-a-half long tentacle whose forked tip had
sent Gordon into oblivion.

Behind the creature Gordon was dimly aware of a maze of complicated
and utterly unfamiliar apparatus ranged along the opposite wall,
giving the room the appearance of being a laboratory of some kind.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gordon's obvious bewilderment seemed to amuse the bluish-gray
monstrosity. "May I introduce myself?" he asked with a mocking note in
his metallic voice. "I am Arlok of Xoran. I am an explorer of Space,
and more particularly an Opener of Gates. My home is upon Xoran, which
is one of the eleven major planets that circle about the giant
blue-white sun that your astronomers call Rigel. I am here to open the
Gate between your world and mine."

Gordon reached a reassuring hand over to Leah. All memory of their
quarrel was obliterated in the face of their present peril. He felt
her slender fingers twine firmly with his. The warm contact gave them
both new courage.

"We of Xoran need your planet and intend to take possession of it,"
Arlok continued, "but the vast distance which separates Rigel from
your solar system makes it impracticable to transport any considerable
number of our people here in space-cars for, though our space-cars
travel with practically the speed of light, it requires over five
hundred and forty years for them to cross that great void. So I was
sent as a lone pioneer to your Earth to do the work necessary here in
order to open the Gate that will enable Xoran to cross the barrier in
less than a minute of your time.

       *       *       *       *       *

"That gate is the one through the fourth dimension, for Xoran and your
planet in a four-dimensional universe are almost touching each other
in spite of the great distance separating them in a three-dimensional
universe. We of Xoran, being three-dimensional creatures like you
Earthlings, can not even exist on a four-dimensional plane. But we
can, by the use of apparatus to open a Gate, pass through a thin
sector of the fourth dimension and emerge in a far distant part of our
three-dimensional universe.

"The situation of our two worlds," Arlok continued, "is somewhat like
that of two dots on opposite ends of a long strip of paper that is
curved almost into a circle. To two-dimensional beings capable only of
realizing and traveling along the two dimensions of the paper itself
those dots might be many feet apart, yet in the third dimension
straight across free space they might be separated by only the
thousandth part of an inch. In order to take that short cut across the
third dimension the two-dimensional creatures of the paper would have
only to transform a small strip of the intervening space into a
two-dimensional surface like their paper.

"They could, do this, of course, by the use of proper
vibration-creating machinery, for all things in a material universe
are merely a matter of vibration. We of Xoran plan to cross the
barrier of the fourth dimension by creating a narrow strip of
vibrations powerful enough to exactly match and nullify those of the
fourth dimension itself. The result will be that this narrow strip
will temporarily become an area of three dimensions only, an area over
which we can safely pass from our world to yours."

       *       *       *       *       *

Arlok indicated one of the pieces of apparatus along the opposite wall
of the room. It was an intricate arrangement of finely wound coils
with wires leading to scores of needle-like points which constantly
shimmered and crackled with tiny blue-white flames. Thick cables ran
to a bank of concave reflectors of some gleaming grayish metal.

"There is the apparatus which will supply the enormous power necessary
to nullify the vibrations of the fourth dimensional barrier," Arlok
explained. "It is a condenser and adapter of the cosmic force that you
call the Millikan rays. In Xoran a similar apparatus is already set up
and finished, but the Gate can only be opened by simultaneous actions
from both sides of the barrier. That is why I was sent on my long
journey through space to do the necessary work here. I am now nearly
finished. A very few hours more will see the final opening of the
Gate. Then the fighting hordes of Xoran can sweep through the barrier
and overwhelm your planet.

"When the Gate from Xoran to a new planet is first opened," Arlok
continued, "our scientists always like to have at least one pair of
specimens of the new world's inhabitants sent through to them for
experimental use. So to-night, while waiting for one of my final
castings to cool, I improved the time by making a brief raid upon the
place that you call the Maori Hut. The lady here seemed an excellent
type of your Earthling women, and the meteoric iron in her necklace
made a perfect focus for electric hypnosis. Her escort was too
inferior a specimen to be of value to me so I killed him when he
attempted to interfere. When you gave chase I lured you on until I
could see whether you might be usable. You proved an excellent
specimen, so I merely stunned you. Very soon now I shall be ready to
send the two of you through the Gate to our scientists in Xoran."

       *       *       *       *       *

A cold wave of sheer horror swept over Gordon. It was impossible to
doubt the stark and deadly menace promised in the plan of this grim
visitor from an alien universe--a menace that loomed not only for
Gordon and Leah but for the teeming millions of a doomed and
defenseless world.

"Let me show you Xoran," Arlok offered. "Then you may be better able
to understand." He turned his back carelessly upon his two captives
and strode over to the apparatus along the opposite wall.

Gordon longed to hurl himself upon the unprotected back of the
retreating Xoranian, but he knew that any attempt of that kind would
be suicidal. Arlok's deadly tentacle would strike him down before he
was halfway across the room.

He searched his surroundings with desperate eyes for anything that
might serve as a weapon. Then his pulse quickened with sudden hope.
There on a small table near Leah was the familiar bulk of a .45
calibre revolver, loaded and ready for use. It was included in a
miscellaneous collection of other small earthly tools and objects that
Arlok had apparently collected for study.

There was an excellent chance that Leah might be able to secure the
gun unobserved. Gordon pressed her fingers in a swift attempt at
signalling, then jerked his head ever so slightly toward the table. A
moment later the quick answering pressure of Leah's fingers told him
that she had understood his message. From the corner of his eye Gordon
saw Leah's other hand begin cautiously groping behind her for the
revolver.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then both Gordon and Leah froze into sudden immobility as Arlok faced
them again from beside an apparatus slightly reminiscent of an earthly
radio set. Arlok threw a switch, and a small bank of tubes glowed pale
green. A yard-square plate of bluish-gray metal on the wall above the
apparatus glowed with milky fluorescence.

"It is easy to penetrate the barrier with light waves," Arlok
explained. "That is a Gate that can readily be opened from either
side. It was through it that we first discovered your Earth."

Arlok threw a rheostat on to more power. The luminous plate cleared
swiftly. "And there, Earthlings, is Xoran!" Arlok said proudly.

Leah and Gordon gasped in sheer amaze as the glowing plate became a
veritable window into another world--a world of utter and alien
terror.

The livid light of a giant red sun blazed mercilessly down upon a
landscape from which every vestige of animal and plant life had
apparently been stripped. Naked rocks and barren soil stretched
illimitably to the far horizon in a vast monotony of utter desolation.

Arlok twirled the knob of the apparatus, and another scene flashed
into view. In this scene great gleaming squares and cones of metal
rose in towering clusters from the starkly barren land. Hordes of
creatures like Arlok swarmed in and around the metal buildings. Giant
machines whirled countless wheels in strange tasks. From a thousand
great needle-like projections on the buildings spurted shimmering
sheets of crackling flame, bathing the entire scene in a whirling mist
of fiery vapors.

Gordon realized dimly that he must be looking into one of the cities
of Xoran, but every detail of the chaotic whirl of activity was too
utterly unfamiliar to carry any real significance to his bewildered
brain. He was as hopelessly overwhelmed as an African savage would be
if transported suddenly into the heart of Times Square.

       *       *       *       *       *

Arlok again twirled the knob. The scene shifted, apparently to another
planet. This world was still alive, with rich verdure and swarming
millions of people strangely like those of Earth. But it was a doomed
world. The dread Gate to Xoran had already been opened here. Legions
of bluish-gray Xoranians were attacking the planet's inhabitants, and
the attack of those metallic hosts was irresistible.

The slight bodies of the Xoranians seemed as impervious to bullets and
missiles as though armor-plated. The frantic defense of the
beleaguered people of the doomed planet caused hardly a casualty in
the Xoranian ranks.

The attack of the Xoranians was hideously effective. Clouds of dense
yellow fog belched from countless projectors in the hands of the
bluish-gray hosts, and beneath that deadly miasma all animal and plant
life on the doomed planet was crumbling, dying, and rotting into a
liquid slime. Then even the slime was swiftly obliterated, and the
Xoranians were left triumphant upon a world starkly desolate.

"That was one of the minor planets in the swarm that make up the solar
system of the sun that your astronomers call Canopus," Arlok
explained. "Our first task in conquering a world is to rid it of the
unclean surface scum of animal and plant life. When this noxious
surface mold is eliminated, the planet is then ready to furnish us
sustenance, for we Xoranians live directly upon the metallic elements
of the planet itself. Our bodies are of a substance of which your
scientists have never even dreamed--deathless, invincible, living
metal!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Arlok again twirled the control of the apparatus and the scene was
shifted back to the planet of Xoran, this time to the interior of what
was apparently a vast laboratory. Here scores of Xoranian scientists
were working upon captives who were pathetically like human beings of
Earth itself, working with lethal gases and deadly liquids as human
scientists might experiment upon noxious pests. The details of the
scene were so utterly revolting, the tortures that were being
inflicted so starkly horrible, that Leah and Gordon sank back in their
chairs sick and shaken.

Arlok snapped off a switch, and the green light in the tubes died.
"That last scene was the laboratory to which I shall send you two
presently," he said callously as he started back across the room
toward them.

Gordon lurched to his feet, his brain a seething whirl of hate in
which all thought of caution was gone as he tensed his muscles to hurl
himself upon that grim monstrosity from the bleak and desolate realm
of Xoran.

Then he felt Leah tugging surreptitiously at his right hand. The next
moment the bulk of something cold and hard met his fingers. It was the
revolver. Leah had secured it while Arlok was busy with his
inter-dimensional televisor.

Arlok was rapidly approaching them. Gordon hoped against hope that the
menace of that deadly tentacle might be diverted for the fraction of a
second necessary for him to get in a crippling shot. Leah seemed to
divine his thought. She suddenly screamed hysterically and flung
herself on the floor almost at Arlok's feet.

       *       *       *       *       *

Arlok stopped in obvious wonder and bent over Leah. Gordon took
instant advantage of the Xoranian's diverted attention. He whipped the
revolver from behind him and fired point-blank at Arlok's unprotected
head.

The bullet struck squarely, but Arlok was not even staggered. A tiny
spot of bluish-gray skin upon his oval skull gleamed faintly for a
moment under the bullet's impact. Then the heavy pellet of lead, as
thoroughly flattened as though it had struck the triple armor of a
battleship, dropped spent and harmless to the floor.

Arlok straightened swiftly. For the moment he seemed to have no
thought of retaliating with his deadly tentacle. He merely stood there
quite still with one thin arm thrown up to guard his glowing eyes.

Gordon sent the remainder of the revolver's bullets crashing home as
fast as his finger could press the trigger. At that murderously short
range the smashing rain of lead should have dropped a charging
gorilla. But for all the effect Gordon's shots had upon the Xoranian,
his ammunition might as well have been pellets of paper. Arlok's
glossy hide merely, glowed momentarily in tiny patches as the bullets
struck and flattened harmlessly--and that was all.

His last cartridge fired, Gordon flung the empty weapon squarely at
the blue monstrosity's hideous face. Arlok made no attempt to dodge.
The heavy revolver struck him high on the forehead, then rebounded
harmlessly to the floor. Arlok paid no more attention to the blow than
a man would to the casual touch of a wind-blown feather.

Gordon desperately flung himself forward upon the Xoranian in one last
mad effort to overwhelm him. Arlok dodged Gordon's wild blows, then
gently swept the Earth man into the embrace of his thin arms. For one
helpless moment Gordon sensed the incredible strength and adamantine
hardness of the Xoranian's slender figure, together with an
overwhelming impression of colossal weight in that deceptively slight
body.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then Arlok contemptuously flung Gordon away from him. As Gordon
staggered backward, Arlok's tentacle lashed upward and levelled upon
him. Its twin tips again glowed brilliant green and livid blue.
Instantly every muscle in Gordon's body was paralyzed. He stood there
as rigid as a statue, his body completely deadened from the neck down.
Beside him stood Leah, also frozen motionless in that same weird
power.

"Earthling, you are beginning to try my patience," Arlok snapped. "Can
you not realize that I am utterly invincible in any combat with you?
The living metal of my body weighs over sixteen hundred pounds, as you
measure weight. The strength inherent in that metal is sufficient to
tear a hundred of your Earth men to shreds. But I do not even have to
touch you to vanquish you. The electric content of my bodily structure
is so infinitely superior to yours that with this tentacle-organ of
mine I can instantly short-circuit the feeble currents of your nerve
impulses and bring either paralysis or death as I choose.

"But enough of this!" Arlok broke off abruptly. "My materials are now
ready, and it is time that I finished my work. I shall put you out of
my way for a few hours until I am ready to send you through the Gate
to the laboratories of Xoran."

The green and blue fire of the tentacle's tips flamed to dazzling
brightness. The paralysis of Gordon's body swept swiftly over his
brain. Black oblivion engulfed him.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Gordon again recovered consciousness he found that he was lying
on the floor of what was apparently a narrow hall, near the foot of a
stairway. His hands were lashed tightly behind him, and his feet and
legs were so firmly pinioned together that he could scarcely move.

Beside him lay Leah, also tightly bound. A short distance down the
hall was the closed door of Arlok's work-room, recognizable by the
thin line of red light gleaming beneath it.

Moonlight through a window at the rear of the hall made objects around
Gordon fairly clear. He looked at Leah and saw tears glistening on her
long lashes.

"Oh, Blair, I was afraid you'd never waken again," the girl sobbed. "I
thought that fiend had killed you!" Her voice broke hysterically.

"Steady, darling," Gordon said soothingly. "We simply can't give up
now, you know. If that monstrosity ever opens that accursed Gate of
his our entire world is doomed. There must be some way to stop him.
We've got to find that way and try it--even if it seems only one
forlorn chance in a million."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gordon shook his head to clear the numbness still lingering from the
effect of Arlok's tentacle. The Xoranian seemed unable to produce a
paralysis of any great duration with his weird natural weapon.
Accordingly, he had been forced to bind his captives like two trussed
fowls while he returned to his labors.

Lying close together as they were, it was a comparatively easy matter
for them to get their bound hands within reach of each other, but
after fifteen minutes of vain work Gordon realized that any attempt at
untying the ropes was useless. Arlok's prodigious strength had drawn
the knots so tight that no human power could ever loosen them.

Then Gordon suddenly thought of the one thing in his pockets that
might help them. It was a tiny cigarette lighter, of the
spring-trigger type. It was in his vest pocket completely out of reach
of his bound hands, but there was a way out of that difficulty.

Gordon and Leah twisted and rolled their bodies like two
contortionists until they succeeded in getting into such a position
that Leah was able to get her teeth in the cloth of the vest pocket's
edge. A moment of desperate tugging, then the fabric gave way. The
lighter dropped from the torn pocket to the floor, where Leah
retrieved it.

Then they twisted their bodies back to back. Leah managed to get the
lighter flaming in her bound hands. Gordon groped in an effort to
guide the ropes on his wrists over the tiny flickering flame.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then there came the faint welcome odor of smoldering rope as the
lighter's tiny flame bit into the bonds. Gordon bit his lips to
suppress a cry of pain as the flame seared into his skin as well. The
flame bit deeper into the rope. A single strand snapped.

Then another strand gave way. To Gordon the process seemed endless as
the flame scorched rope and flesh alike. A long minute of lancing
agony that seemed hours--then Gordon could stand no more. He tensed
his muscles in one mighty agonized effort to end the torture of the
flame.

The weakened rope gave way completely beneath that pain-maddened
lunge. Gordon's hands were free. It was an easy matter now to use the
lighter to finish freeing himself and Leah. They made their way
swiftly back to the window at the rear of the hall. It slid silently
upward. A moment later, and they were out in the brilliant
moonlight--free.

They made their way around to the front of the house. Behind the drawn
shades of one of the front rooms an eery glow of red light marked the
location of Arlok's work-room. They heard the occasional clink of
tools inside the room as the Xoranian diligently worked to complete
his apparatus.

They crept stealthily up to where one of the French windows of Arlok's
work-room swung slightly ajar. Through the narrow crevice they could
see Arlok's grotesque back as he labored over the complex assembly of
apparatus against the wall.

A heavy stone flung through the window would probably wreck that
delicate mechanism completely, yet the two watchers knew that such a
respite would be only a temporary one. As long as Arlok remained alive
on this planet to build other gates to Xoran, Earth's eventual doom
was certain. Complete destruction of Arlok himself was Earth's only
hope of salvation.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Xoranian seemed to be nearing the end of his labors. He left the
apparatus momentarily and walked over to a work-bench where he picked
up a slender rod-like tool. Donning a heavy glove to shield his left
hand, he selected a small plate of bluish-gray metal, then pressed a
switch in the handle of the tool in his right hand.

A blade of blinding white flame, seemingly as solid as a blade of
metal, spurted for the length of a foot from the tool's tip. Arlok
began cutting the plate with the flame, the blade shearing through the
heavy metal as easily as a hot knife shears through butter.

The sight brought a sudden surge of exultant hope to Gordon. He
swiftly drew Leah away from the window, far enough to the side that
their low-voiced conversation could not be heard from inside the
work-room.

"Leah, there is our one chance!" he explained excitedly. "That blue
fiend _is_ vulnerable, and that flame-tool of his is the weapon to
reach his vulnerability. Did you notice how careful he was to shield
his other hand with a glove before he turned the tool on? He can be
hurt by that blade of flame, and probably hurt badly."

Leah nodded in quick understanding. "If I could lure him out of the
room for just a moment, you could slip in through the window and get
that flame-tool, Blair," she suggested eagerly.

"That might work," Gordon agreed reluctantly. "But, Leah, don't run
any more risks than you absolutely have to!" He picked up a small
rock. "Here, take this with you. Open the door into the hall and
attract Arlok's attention by throwing the rock at his precious
apparatus. Then the minute he sees you, try to escape out through the
hall again. He'll leave his work to follow you. When he returns to his
work-room I'll be in there waiting for him. And I'll be waiting with a
weapon that can stab through even that armor-plated hide of his!"

They separated, Leah to enter the house, Gordon to return to the
window.

       *       *       *       *       *

Arlok was back over in front of the apparatus, fitting into place the
piece of metal he had just cut. The flame-tool, its switch now turned
off, was still on the work-bench.

Gordon's heart pounded with excitement as he crouched there with his
eyes fixed upon the closed hall door. The minutes seemed to drag
interminably. Then suddenly Gordon's muscles tensed. The knob of the
hall door had turned ever so slightly. Leah was at her post!

The next moment the door was flung open with a violence that sent it
slamming back against the wall. The slender figure of Leah stood
framed in the opening, her dark eyes blazing as she flung one hand up
to hurl her missile.

Arlok whirled just as Leah threw the rock straight at the intricate
Gate-opening apparatus. With the speed of thought the Xoranian flung
his own body over to shield his fragile instruments. The rock thudded
harmlessly against his metallic chest.

Then Arlok's tentacle flung out like a striking cobra, its forked tip
flaming blue and green fire as it focussed upon the open door. But
Leah was already gone. Gordon heard her flying footsteps as she raced
down the hall. Arlok promptly sped after her in swift pursuit.

As Arlok passed through the door into the hall Gordon flung himself
into the room, and sped straight for the work-bench. He snatched the
flame-tool up, then darted over to the wall by the door. He was not a
second too soon. The heavy tread of Arlok's return was already audible
in the hall just outside.

Gordon prepared to stake everything upon his one slim chance of
disabling that fearful tentacle before Arlok could bring it into
action. He pressed the tiny switch in the flame-tool's handle just as
Arlok came through the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Arlok, startled by the glare of the flame-tool's blazing blade,
whirled toward Gordon--but too late. That thin searing shaft of vivid
flame had already struck squarely at the base of the Xoranian's
tentacle. A seething spray of hissing sparks marked the place where
the flame bit deeply home. Arlok screamed, a ghastly metallic note of
anguish like nothing human.

The Xoranian's powerful hands clutched at Gordon, but he leaped
lithely backward out of their reach. Then Gordon again attacked, the
flame-tool's shining blade licking in and out like a rapier. The
searing flame swept across one of Arlok's arms, and the Xoranian
winced. Then the blade stabbed swiftly at Arlok's waist. Arlok
half-doubled as he flinched back. Gordon shifted his aim with
lightning speed and sent the blade of flame lashing in one accurate
terrible stroke that caught Arlok squarely in the eyes.

Again Arlok screamed in intolerable agony as that tearing flame
darkened forever his glowing eyes. In berserker fury the tortured
Xoranian charged blindly toward Gordon. Gordon warily dodged to one
side. Arlok, sightless, and with his tentacle crippled, still had
enough power in that mighty metallic body of his to tear a hundred
Earth men to pieces.

Gordon stung Arlok's shoulder with the flame, then desperately leaped
to one side just in time to dodge a flailing blow that would have made
pulp of his body had it landed.

Arlok went stark wild in his frenzied efforts to come to grips with
his unseen adversary. Furniture crashed and splintered to kindling
wood beneath his threshing feet. Even the stout walls of the room
shivered and cracked as the incredible weight of Arlok's body caromed
against them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gordon circled lithely around the crippled blue monstrosity like a
timber wolf circling a wounded moose. He began concentrating his
attack upon Arlok's left leg. Half a dozen deep slashes with the
searing flame--then suddenly the thin leg crumpled and broke. Arlok
crashed helplessly to the floor.

Gordon was now able to shift his attack to Arlok's head. Dodging the
blindly flailing arms of the Xoranian, he stabbed again and again at
that oval-shaped skull.

The searing thrusts began to have their effect. Arlok's convulsive
movements became slower and weaker. Gordon sent the flame stabbing in
a long final thrust in an attempt to pierce through to that alien
metal brain.

With startling suddenness the flame burned its way home to some
unknown center of life force in the oval skull. There was a brief but
appalling gush of bright purple flame from Arlok's eye-sockets and
mouth orifice. Then his twitching body stiffened. His bluish-gray hide
darkened with incredible swiftness into a dull black. Arlok was dead.

Gordon, sickened at the grisly ending to the battle, snapped off the
flame-tool and turned to search for Leah. He found her already
standing in the hall door, alive, and unhurt.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I escaped through the window at the end of the hall," she explained.
"Arlok quit following me as soon as he saw that you too were gone from
where he had left us tied." She shuddered as she looked down at the
Xoranian's mangled body. "I saw most of your fight with him, Blair. It
was terrible; awful. But, Blair, we've won!"

"Yes, and now we'll make sure of the fruits of our victory," Gordon
said grimly, starting over toward the Gate-opening apparatus with the
flame-tool in his hand. A very few minutes' work with the shearing
blade of flame reduced the intricate apparatus to a mere tangled pile
of twisted metal.

Arlok, Gate-opener of Xoran, was dead--and the Gate to that grim
planet was now irrevocably closed!

"Blair, do you feel it too, that eery feeling of countless eyes still
watching us from Xoran?" There was frank awe in Leah's half-whispered
question. "You know Arlok said that they had watched us for centuries
from their side of the barrier. I'm sure they're watching us now. Will
they send another Opener of Gates to take up the work where Arlok
failed?"

Gordon took Leah into his arms. "I don't know, dear," he admitted
gravely. "They may send another messenger, but I doubt it. This world
of ours has had its warning, and it will heed it. The watchers on
Xoran must know that in the five hundred and forty years it would take
their next messenger to get here, the Earth will have had more than
enough time to prepare an adequate defense for even Xoran's menace. I
doubt if there will ever again be an attempt made to open the Gate to
Xoran."



[Illustration: _The great ship tore apart._]

The Eye of Allah

_By C. D. Willard_

    On the fatal seventh of September a certain Secret Service man
    sat in the President's chair and--looked back into the Eye of
    Allah.


Blinky Collins' part in this matter was very brief. Blinky lasted just
long enough to make a great discovery, to brag about it as was
Blinky's way, and then pass on to find his reward in whatever
hereafter is set apart for weak-minded crooks whose heads are not hard
enough to withstand the crushing impact of a lead-filled pacifier.

The photograph studio of Blinky Collins was on the third floor of a
disreputable building in an equally unsavory part of Chicago. There
were no tinted pictures of beautiful blondes nor of stern,
square-jawed men of affairs in Blinky's reception room. His clients,
who came furtively there, were strongly opposed to having their
pictures taken--they came for other purposes. For the photographic
work of Mr. Collins was strictly commercial--and peculiar. There were
fingerprints to be photographed and identified for purpose of private
revenge, photographs of people to be merged and repictured in
compromising closeness for reasons of blackmail. And even X-Ray
photography was included in the scope of his work.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great discovery came when a box was brought to the dingy room and
Mr. Collins was asked to show what was inside it without the bother
and inconvenience of disturbing lock and seals. The X-Ray machine
sizzled above it, and a photographic plate below was developed to show
a string of round discs that could easily have been pearls.

The temporary possessor of the box was pleased with the result--but
Blinky was puzzled. For the developer had brought out an odd result.
There were the pearls as expected, but, too, there was a small picture
superimposed--a picture of a bald head and a body beneath seated
beside a desk. The picture had been taken from above looking straight
down, and head and desk were familiar.

Blinky knew them both. The odd part was that he knew also that both of
them were at that instant on the ground floor of the same disreputable
building, directly under and two floors below his workshop.

Like many great discoveries, this of Blinky's came as the result of an
accident. He had monkeyed with the X-Ray generator and had made
certain substitutions. And here was the result--a bald head and a
desk, photographed plainly through two heavy wood floors. Blinky
scratched his own head in deep thought. And then he repeated the
operation.

This time there was a blonde head close to the bald one, and two
people were close to the desk and to each other. Blinky knew then that
there were financial possibilities in this new line of portrait work.

It was some time before the rat eyes of the inventor were able to see
exactly what they wanted through this strange device, but Blinky
learned. And he fitted a telescope back of the ray and found that he
could look along it and see as if through a great funnel what was
transpiring blocks and blocks away; he looked where he would, and
brick walls or stone were like glass when the new ray struck through
them.

Blinky never knew what he had--never dreamed of the tremendous
potentialities in his oscillating ethereal ray that had a range and
penetration beyond anything known. But he knew, in a vague way, that
this ray was a channel for light waves to follow, and he learned that
he could vary the range of the ray and that whatever light was shown
at the end of that range came to him as clear and distinct as if he
were there in the room.

He sat for hours, staring through the telescope. He would train the
device upon a building across the street, then cut down the current
until the unseen vibration penetrated inside the building. If there
was nothing there of interest he would gradually increase the power,
and the ray would extend out and still out into other rooms and beyond
them to still others. Blinky had a lot of fun, but he never forgot the
practical application of the device--practical, that is, from the
distorted viewpoint of a warped mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I've heard about your machine," said a pasty-faced man one day, as he
sat in Blinky's room, "and I think it's a lot of hooey. But I'd give
just one grand to know who is with the district attorney this minute."

"Where is he?" asked Blinky.

"Two blocks down the street, in the station house ... and if Pokey
Barnard is with him, the lousy stool-pigeon--"

Blinky paid no attention to the other's opinion of one Pokey Barnard;
he was busy with a sputtering blue light and a telescope behind a
shield of heavy lead.

"Put your money on the table," he said, finally: "there's the dicks ...
and there's Pokey. Take a look--"

It was some few minutes later that Blinky learned of another valuable
feature in his ray. He was watching the district attorney when the
pasty-faced man brushed against a hanging incandescent light. There
was a bit of bare wire exposed, and as it swung into the ray the fuses
in the Collins studio blew out instantly.

But the squinting eyes at the telescope had seen something first. They
had seen the spare form of the district attorney throw itself from the
chair as if it had been dealt a blow--or had received an electric
shock.

Blinky put in new fuses--heavier ones--and tried it again on another
subject. And again the man at the receiving end got a shot of current
that sent him sprawling.

"Now what the devil--" demanded Blinky. He stood off and looked at the
machine, the wire with its 110 volts, the invisible ray that was
streaming out.

"It's insulated, the machine is," he told his caller, "so the juice
won't shoot back if I keep my hands off; but why," he demanded
profanely, "don't it short on the first thing it touches?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He was picturing vaguely a ray like a big insulated cable, with light
and current both traveling along a core at its center, cut off,
insulated by the ray, so that only the bare end where the ray stopped
could make contact.

"Some more of them damn electrons," he hazarded; then demanded of his
caller: "But am I one hell of a smart guy? Or am I?"

There was no denying this fact. The pasty-faced man told Blinky with
lurid emphasis just how smart. He had seen with his own eyes and this
was too good to keep.

He paid his one grand and departed, first to make certain necessary
arrangements for the untimely end of one Pokey Barnard, squealer,
louse, et cetera, et cetera, and then to spread the glad news through
the underworld of Collins' invention.

That was Blinky's big mistake, as was shown a few days later. Not many
had taken seriously the account of the photographer's experiments, but
there was one who had, as was evident. A bearded man, whose eyes
stared somewhat wildly from beneath a shock of frowzy hair, entered
the Collins work-room and locked the door behind him. His English was
imperfect, but the heavy automatic in his hand could not be
misunderstood. He forced the trembling inventor to give a
demonstration, and the visitor's face showed every evidence of
delight.

"The cur-rent," he demanded with careful words, "the electreek
cur-rent, you shall do also. Yes?"

Again the automatic brought quick assent, and again the visitor showed
his complete satisfaction. Showed it by slugging the inventor quietly
and efficiently and packing the apparatus in the big suitcase he had
brought.

Blinky Collins had been fond of that machine. He had found a form of
television with uncounted possibilities, and it had been for him the
perfect instrument of a blackmailing Peeping Tom; he had learned the
secret of directed wireless transmission of power and had seen it as a
means for annoying his enemies. Yet Blinky Collins--the late Blinky
Collins--offered no least objection, when the bearded man walked off
with the machine. His body, sprawled awkwardly in the corner, was
quite dead....

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, some two months later, in his Washington office, the Chief of
the United States Secret Service pushed a paper across his desk to a
waiting man and leaned back in his chair.

"What would you make of that, Del?" he asked.

Robert Delamater reached leisurely for the paper. He regarded it with
sleepy, half-closed eyes.

There was a crude drawing of an eye at the top. Below was printed--not
written--a message in careful, precise letters: "Take warning. The Eye
of Allah is upon you. You shall instructions receive from time to
time. Follow them. Obey."

Delamater laughed. "Why ask me what I think of a nut letter like that.
You've had plenty of them just as crazy."

"This didn't come to me," said the Chief; "it was addressed to the
President of the United States."

"Well, there will be others, and we will run the poor sap down.
Nothing out of the ordinary I should say."

"That is what I thought--at first. Read this--" The big, heavy-set man
pushed another and similar paper across the desk. "This one was
addressed to the Secretary of State."

Delamater did not read it at once. He held both papers to the light;
his fingers touched the edges only.

"No watermark," he mused; "ordinary white writing stock--sold in all
the five and ten cent stores. Tried these for fingerprints I
suppose?".

"Read it," suggested the Chief.

"Another picture of an eye," said Delamater aloud, and read: "'Warning.
You are dealing with an emissary from a foreign power who is an
unfriend of my country. See him no more. This is the first and last
warning. The Eye of Allah watches.'

"And what is this below--? 'He did not care for your cigars, Mr.
Secretary. Next time--but there must be no next time.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

Delamater read slowly--lazily. He seemed only slightly interested
except when he came to the odd conclusion of the note. But the Chief
knew Delamater and knew how that slow indolence could give place to a
feverish, alert concentration when work was to be done.

"Crazy as a loon," was the man's conclusion as he dropped the papers
upon the desk.

"Crazy," his chief corrected, "like a fox! Read the last line again;
then get this--

"The Secretary of State _is_ meeting with a foreign agent who is here
very much incog. Came in as a servant of a real ambassador. Slipped
quietly into Washington, and not a soul knew he was here. He met the
Secretary in a closed room; no one saw him come or leave--";

"Well, the Secretary tells me that in that room where nobody could see
he offered this man a cigar. His visitor took it, tried to smoke it,
apologized--and lit one of his own vile cigarettes."

"Hm-m!" Delamater sat a little straighter in his chair; his eyebrows
were raised now in questioning astonishment. "Dictaphone? Some
employee of the Department listening in?"

"Impossible."

"Now that begins to be interesting," the other conceded. His eyes had
lost their sleepy look. "Want me to take it on?"

"Later. Right now. I want you to take this visiting gentleman under
your personal charge. Here is the name and the room and hotel where he
is staying. He is to meet with the Secretary to-night--he knows where.
You will get to him unobserved--absolutely unseen; I can leave that to
you. Take him yourself to his appointment, and take him without a
brass band. But have what men you want tail you and watch out for
spies.... Then, when he is through, bring him back and deliver him
safely to his room. Compray?"

"Right--give me Wilkins and Smeed. I rather think I can get this bird
there and back without being seen, but perhaps they may catch Allah
keeping tabs on us at that." He laughed amusedly as he took the paper
with the name and address.

       *       *       *       *       *

A waiter with pencil and order-pad might have been seen some hours
later going as if from the kitchen to the ninth floor of a Washington
hotel. And the same waiter, a few minutes later, was escorting a guest
from a rear service-door to an inconspicuous car parked nearby. The
waiter slipped behind the wheel.

A taxi, whose driver was half asleep, was parked a hundred feet behind
them at the curb. As they drove away and no other sign of life was
seen in the quiet street the driver of the taxi yawned ostentatiously
and decided to seek a new stand. He neglected possible fares until a
man he called Smeed hailed him a block farther on. They followed
slowly after the first car ... and they trailed it again on its return
after some hours.

"Safe as a church," they reported to the driver of the first car.
"We'll swear that nobody was checking up on that trip."

And: "O. K." Delamater reported to his chief the next morning. "Put
one over on this self-appointed Allah that time."

But the Chief did not reply: he was looking at a slip of paper like
those he had shown his operative the day before. He tossed it to
Delamater and took up the phone.

"To the Secretary of State," Delamater read. "You had your warning.
Next time you disobey it shall be you who dies."

The signature was only the image of an eye.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Chief was calling a number; Delamater recognized it as that of the
hotel he had visited. "Manager, please, at once," the big man was
saying.

He identified himself to the distant man. Then: "Please check up on
the man in nine four seven. If he doesn't answer, enter the room and
report at once--I will hold the phone...."

The man at the desk tapped steadily with a pencil; Robert Delamater
sat quietly, tensely waiting. But some sixth sense told him what the
answer would be. He was not surprised when the Chief repeated what the
phone had whispered.

"Dead?... Yes!... Leave everything absolutely undisturbed. We will be
right over."

"Get Doctor Brooks, Del," he said quietly; "the Eye of Allah was
watching after all."

Robert Delamater was silent as they drove to the hotel. Where had he
slipped? He trusted Smeed and Wilkins entirely; if they said his car
had not been followed it had not. And the visitor had been disguised;
he had seen to that. Then, where had this person stood--this being who
called himself the Eye of Allah?

"Chief," he said finally. "I didn't slip--nor Wilkins or Smeed."

"Someone did," replied the big man, "and it wasn't the Eye of Allah,
either."

The manager of the hotel was waiting to take them to the room. He
unlocked the door with his pass key.

"Not a thing touched," he assured the Secret Service men; "there he
is, just the way we found him."

In the doorway between the bedroom and bath a body was huddled. Doctor
Brooks knelt quickly beside it. His hands worked swiftly for a moment,
then he rose to his feet.

"Dead," he announced.

"How long?" asked the Chief.

"Some time. Hours I should say--perhaps eight or ten."

"Cause?" the query was brief.

"It will take an autopsy to determine that. There is no blood or wound
to be seen."

       *       *       *       *       *

The doctor was again examining the partly rigid body. He opened one
hand; it held a cake of soap. There was a grease mark on the hand.

Delamater supplied the explanation. "He touched some grease on the old
car I was using," he said. "Must have gone directly to wash it off.
See--there is water spilled on the floor."

Water had indeed been splashed on the tile floor of the bath room; a
pool of it still remained about the heavy, foreign-looking shoes of
the dead man.

Something in it caught Delamater's eye. He leaned down to pick up
three pellets of metal, like small shot, round and shining.

"I'll keep these," he said, "though the man was never killed with shot
as small as that."

"We shall have to wait for the autopsy report," said the Chief
crisply; "that may give the cause of death. Was there anyone in the
room--did you enter it with him last night, Del?"

"No," said the operative; "he was very much agitated when we got
here--dismissed me rather curtly at the door. He was quite upset about
something--spoke English none too well and said something about a
warning and damned our Secret Service as inefficient."

"A warning!" said the Chief. The dead man's brief case was on the bed.
He crossed to it and undid the straps; the topmost paper told the
reason for the man's disquiet. It showed the familiar, staring eye.
And beneath the eye was a warning: this man was to die if he did not
leave Washington at once.

The Chief turned to the hotel manager. "Was the door locked?"

"Yes."

"But it is a spring lock. Someone could have gone out and closed it
after him."

"Not this time. The dead-bolt was thrown. It takes a key to do that
from the outside or this thumb-turn on the inside." The hotel man
demonstrated the action of the heavy bolt.

"Then, with a duplicate key, a man could have left this room and
locked the door behind him."

"Absolutely not. The floor-clerk was on duty all night. I have
questioned her: this room was under her eyes all the time. She saw
this man return, saw your man, here"--and he pointed to
Delamater--"leave him at the door. There was no person left the room
after that."

"See about the autopsy, Doctor," the Chief ordered.

And to the manager: "Not a thing here must be touched. Admit only Mr.
Delamater and no one else unless he vouches for them.

"Del," he told the operative, "I'm giving you a chance to make up for
last night. Go to it."

And Robert Delamater "went to it" with all the thoroughness at his
command, and with a total lack of result.

       *       *       *       *       *

The autopsy helped not at all. The man was dead; it was apparently a
natural death. "Not a scratch nor a mark on him," was the report. But:
"... next time it will be you," the note with the staring eye had
warned the Secretary of State. The writer of it was taking full credit
for the mysterious death.

Robert Delamater had three small bits of metal, like tiny shot, and he
racked his brain to connect these with the death. There were
fingerprints, too, beautifully developed upon the mysterious
missives--prints that tallied with none in the records. There were
analyses of the paper--of the ink--and not a clue in any of them.

Just three pellets of metal. Robert Delamater had failed utterly, and
he was bitter in the knowledge of his failure.

"He had you spotted, Del," the Chief insisted. "The writer of these
notes may be crazy, but he was clever enough to know that this man
_did_ see the Secretary. And he was waiting for him when he came back;
then he killed him."

"Without a mark?"

"He killed him," the Chief repeated; "then he left--and that's that."

"But," Delamater objected, "the room clerk--"

"--took a nap," broke in the Chief. But Delamater could not be
satisfied with the explanation.

"He got his, all right," he conceded, "--got it in a locked room nine
stories above the street, with no possible means of bringing it upon
himself--and no way for the murderer to escape. I tell you there is
something more to this: just the letter to the Secretary, as if this
Eye of Allah were spying upon him--"

The Chief waved all that aside. "A clever spy," he insisted. "Too
clever for you. And a darn good guesser; he had us all fooled. But
we're dealing with a madman, not a ghost, and he didn't sail in
through a ninth story window nor go out through a locked door; neither
did he spy on the Secretary of State in his private office. Don't try
to make a supernatural mystery out of a failure, Del."

The big man's words were tempered with a laugh, but there was an edge
of sarcasm, ill-concealed.

       *       *       *       *       *

And then came the next note. And the next. The letters were mailed at
various points in and about the city; they came in a flood. And they
were addressed to the President of the United States, to the Secretary
of War--of the Navy--to all the Cabinet members. And all carried the
same threat under the staring eye.

The United States, to this man, represented all that was tyrannical
and oppressive to the downtrodden of the earth. He proposed to end
it--this government first, then others in their turn. It was the
outpouring of a wildly irrational mind that came to the office of the
harassed Chief of the United States Secret Service, who had
instructions to run this man down--this man who signed himself The Eye
of Allah. And do it quickly for the notes were threatening. Official
Washington, it seemed, was getting jumpy and was making caustic
inquiries as to why a Secret Service department was maintained.

The Chief, himself, was directing the investigation--and getting
nowhere.

"Here is the latest," he said one morning. "Mailed at New York."
Delamater and a dozen other operatives were in his office: he showed
them a letter printed like all the others. There was the eye, and
beneath were words that made the readers catch their breath.

"The Eye of Allah sees--it has warned--now it will destroy. The day of
judgment is at hand. The battleship _Maryland_ is at anchor in the
Hudson River at New York. No more shall it be the weapon of a despot
government. It will be destroyed at twelve o'clock on September
fifth."

"Wild talk," said the Chief, "but today is the fourth. The Commander
of the _Maryland_ has been warned--approach by air or water will be
impossible. I want you men to patrol the shore and nail this man if he
shows up. Lord knows what he intends--bluffing probably--but he may
try some fool stunt. If he does--get him!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Eleven-thirty by the watch on Robert Delamater's wrist found him
seated in the bow of a speed-boat the following morning. They
patrolled slowly up and down the shore. There were fellow operatives,
he knew, scores of them, posted at all points of vantage along the
docks.

Eleven forty-five--and the roar of seaplanes came from above where air
patrols were-guarding the skies. Small boats drove back and forth on
set courses; no curious sight-seeing craft could approach the
_Maryland_ that day. On board the battleship, too, there was activity
apparent. A bugle sounded, and the warning of bellowing Klaxons echoed
across the water. Here, in the peace and safety of the big port, the
great man-of-war was sounding general quarters, and a scurry of
running men showed for an instant on her decks. Anti-aircraft guns
swung silently upon imaginary targets--

The watcher smiled at the absurdity of it all--this preparation to
repel the attack of a wild-eyed writer of insane threats. And yet--and
yet-- He knew, too, there was apprehension in his frequent glances at
his watch.

One minute to go! Delamater should have watched the shore. And,
instead, he could not keep his eyes from the big fighting-ship
silhouetted so clearly less than a mile away, motionless and
waiting--waiting--for what? He saw the great turreted guns, useless
against this puny, invisible opponent. Above them the fighting tops
were gleaming. And above them--

Delamater shaded his eyes with a quick, tense hand: the tip of the
mast was sparkling. There was a blue flash that glinted along the
steel. It was gone to reappear on the fighting top itself--then lower.

       *       *       *       *       *

What was it? the watching man was asking himself. What did it bring to
mind? A street-car? A defective trolley? The zipping flash of a
contact made and broken? That last!

Like the touch of a invisible wire, tremendously charged, a wire that
touched and retreated, that made and lost its contact, the flashing
arc was working toward the deck. It felt its way to the body of the
ship; the arc was plain, starting from mid-air to hiss against the
armored side; the arc shortened--went to nothing--vanished.... A puff
of smoke from an open port proved its presence inside. Delamater had
the conviction that a deadly something had gone through the ship's
side--was insulated from it--was searching with its blazing, arcing
end for the ammunition rooms....

The realization of that creeping menace came to Delamater with a
gripping, numbing horror. The seconds were almost endless as he
waited. Slowly, before his terrified eyes, the deck of the great ship
bulged upward ... slowly it rolled and tore apart ... a mammoth turret
with sixteen-inch guns was lifting unhurriedly into the air ... there
were bodies of men rocketing skyward....

The mind of the man was racing at lightning speed, and the havoc
before him seemed more horrible in its slow, leisurely progress. If he
could only move--do something!

The shock of the blasted air struck him sprawling into the bottom of
the boat; the listener was hammered almost to numbness by the
deafening thunder that battered and tore through the still air. At top
speed the helmsman drove for the shelter of a hidden cove. They made
it an instant before the great waves struck high upon the sand spit.
Over the bay hung a ballooning cloud of black and gray--lifting for an
instant to show in stark ghastliness the wreckage, broken and twisted,
that marked where the battleship _Maryland_ rested in the mud in the
harbor of New York.

       *       *       *       *       *

The eyes of the Secret-Service men were filled with the indelible
impress of what they had seen. Again and again, before him, came the
vision of a ship full of men in horrible, slow disintegration; his
mind was numbed and his actions and reactions were largely automatic.
But somehow he found himself in the roar of the subway, and later he
sat in a chair and knew he was in a Pullman of a Washington train.

He rode for hours in preoccupied silence, his gaze fixed unseeingly,
striving to reach out and out to some distant, unknown something which
he was trying to visualize. But he looked at intervals at his hand
that held three metal pellets.

He was groping for the mental sequence which would bring the few known
facts together and indicate their cause. A threat--a seeming spying
within a closed and secret room--the murder on the ninth floor, a
murder without trace of wound or weapon. Weapon! He stared again at
the tangible evidence he held; then shook his head in perplexed
abstraction. No--the man was killed by unknown means.

And now--the _Maryland_! And a visible finger of death--touching,
flashing, feeling its way to the deadly cargo of powder sacks.

Not till he sat alone with his chief did he put into words his
thoughts.

"A time bomb did it," the Chief was saying. "The officials deny it,
but what other answer is there? No one approached that ship--you know
that, Del--no torpedo nor aerial bomb! Nothing as fanciful as that!"

Robert Delamater's lips formed a wry smile. "Nothing at fanciful as
that"--and he was thinking, thinking--of what he hardly dared express.

"We will start with the ship's personnel," the other continued; "find
every man who was not on board when the explosion occurred--"

"No use," the operative interrupted; "this was no inside job, Chief."
He paused to choose his words while the other watched him curiously.

"Someone _did_ reach that ship--reached it from a distance--reached it
in the same way they reached that poor devil I left at room nine
forty-seven. Listen--"

       *       *       *       *       *

He told his superior of his vigil on the speed-boat--of the almost
invisible flash against the ship's mast. "He reached it, Chief," he
concluded; "he felt or saw his way down and through the side of that
ship. And he fired their ammunition from God knows where."

"I wonder," said the big man slowly; "I wonder if you know just what
you are trying to tell me--just how absurd your idea is. Are you
seriously hinting at long-distance vision through solid
armor-plate--through these walls of stone and steel? And wireless
power-transmission through the same wall--!"

"Exactly!" said the operative.

"Why, Del, you must be as crazy as this Eye of Allah individual. It's
impossible."

"That word," said Delamater, quietly, "has been crossed out of
scientific books in the past few years."

"What do you mean?"

"You have studied some physical science, of course?" Delamater asked.
The Chief nodded.

"Then you know what I mean. I mean that up to recent years science had
all the possibilities and impossibilities neatly divided and
catalogued. Ignorance, as always, was the best basis for positive
assurance. Then they got inside the atom. And since then your real
scientist has been a very humble man. He has seen the impossibility of
yesterday become the established fact of to-day."

The Chief of the United States Secret Service was tapping with nervous
irritation on the desk before him.

"Yes, yes!" he agreed, and again he looked oddly at his operative.
"Perhaps there is something to that; you work along that line, Del:
you can have a free hand. Take a few days off, a little vacation if
you wish. Yes--and ask Sprague to step in from the other office; he
has the personnel list."

       *       *       *       *       *

Robert Delamater felt the other's eyes follow him as he left the room.
"And that about lets me out," he told himself; "he thinks I've gone
cuckoo, now."

He stopped in a corridor; his fingers, fumbling in a vest pocket, had
touched the little metal spheres. Again his mind flashed back to the
chain of events he had linked together. He turned toward an inner
office.

"I would like to see Doctor Brooks," he said. And when the physician
appeared: "About that man who was murdered at the hotel, Doctor--"

"Who died," the doctor corrected; "we found no evidence of murder."

"Who was murdered," the operative insisted. "Have you his clothing
where I can examine it?"

"Sure," agreed the physician. He led Delamater to another room and
brought out a box of the dead man's effects.

"But if it's murder you expect to prove you'll find no help in this."

The Secret Service man nodded. "I'll look them over, just the same,"
he said. "Thanks."

Alone in the room, he went over the clothing piece by piece. Again he
examined each garment, each pocket, the lining, as he had done before
when first he took the case. Metal, he thought, he must find metal.

But only when a heavy shoe was in his hands did the anxious frown
relax from about his eyes.

"Of course," he whispered, half aloud. "What a fool I was! I should
have thought of that."

The soles of the shoes were sewed, but, beside the stitches were metal
specks, where cobbler's nails were driven. And in the sole of one shoe
were three tiny holes.

"Melted!" he said exultantly. "Crazy, am I, Chief? This man was
standing on a wet floor; he made a perfect ground. And he got a jolt
that melted these nails when it flashed out of him."

He wrapped the clothing carefully and replaced it in the box. And he
fingered the metal pellets in his pocket as he slipped quietly from
the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

He did not stop to talk with Doctor Brooks; he wanted to think, to
ponder upon the incredible proof of the theory he had hardly dared
believe. The Eye of Allah--the maniac--was real; and his power for
evil! There was work to be done, and the point of beginning was not
plain.

How far did the invisible arm reach? How far could the Eye of Allah
see? Where was the generator--the origin of this wireless power; along
what channel did it flow? A ray of lightless light--an unseen ethereal
vibration.... Delamater could only guess at the answers.

The current to kill a man or to flash a spark into silken powder bags
need not be heavy, he knew. Five hundred--a thousand volts--if the
mysterious conductor carried it without resistance and without loss.
People had been killed by house-lighting currents--a mere 110
volts--when conditions were right. There would be no peculiar or
unusual demand upon the power company to point him toward the hidden
maniac.

He tossed restlessly throughout the night, and morning brought no
answer to his repeated questions. But it brought a hurry call from his
Chief.

"Right away," was the instruction; "don't lose a minute. Come to the
office."

He found the big man at his desk. He was quiet, unhurried, but the
operative knew at a glance the tense repression that was being
exercised--the iron control of nerves that demanded action and found
incompetence and helplessness instead.

"I don't believe your fantastic theories," he told Delamater.
"Impractical--impossible! But--" He handed the waiting man a paper.
"We must not leave a stone unturned."

Delamater said nothing; he looked at the paper in his hand. "To the
President of the United States," he read. "Prepare to meet your God.
Friday. The eighth. Twelve o'clock."

The signature he hardly saw; the staring, open eye was all too
familiar.

"That is to-morrow," said Delamater softly. "The President dies
to-morrow."

       *       *       *       *       *

"No!" exploded the Chief. "Do you realize what that means? The
President murdered--more killings to follow--and the killer unknown!
Why the country will be in a panic: the whole structure of the
Government is threatened!"

He paused, then added as he struck his open hand upon the desk: "I
will have every available man at the White House."

"For witnesses?" asked Delamater coldly.

The big man stared at his operative; the lines of his face were
sagging.

"Do you believe--really--he can strike him down--at his desk--from a
distance?"

"I know it." Delamater's fingers played for a moment with three bits
of metal in his pocket. Unconsciously he voiced his thoughts: "Does
the President have nails in his shoes, I wonder?"

"What--what's that?" the Chief demanded.

But Delamater made no reply. He was picturing the President. He would
be seated at his desk, waiting, waiting ... and the bells would be
ringing and whistles blowing from distant shops when the bolt would
strike.... It would flash from his feet ... through the thick rug ...
through the rug.... It would have to ground.

He paid no heed to his Chief's repeated question. He was seeing, not
the rug in the Presidential office, but below it--underneath it--a
heavy pad of rubber.

"If he can be insulated--" he said aloud, and stared unseeingly at his
eagerly listening superiors--"even the telephone cut--no possible
connection with the ground--"

"For God's sake, Del, if you've got an idea--any hope at all! I'm--I'm
up against it, Del."

The operative brought his distant gaze back to the room and the man
across from him. "Yes," he said slowly, thoughtfully, "I've got the
beginning of an idea; I don't see the end of it yet.

"We can cut him off from the ground--the President, I mean--make an
insulated island where he sits. But this devil will get him the
instant he leaves ... unless ... unless...."

"Yes--yes?" The Chief's voice was high-pitched with anxious
impatience; for the first time he was admitting to himself his
complete helplessness in this emergency.

"Unless," said Delamater, as the idea grew and took shape, "unless
that wireless channel works both ways. If it does ... if it does...."

The big man made a gesture of complete incomprehension.

"Wait!" said Robert Delamater, sharply. If ever his sleepy indolence
had misled his Chief, there was none to do so now in the voice that
rang like cold steel. His eyes were slits under the deep-drawn brows,
and his mouth was one straight line.

       *       *       *       *       *

To the hunter there is no greater game than man. And Robert Delamater,
man-hunter, had his treacherous quarry in sight. He fired staccato
questions at his Chief.

"Is the President at his desk at twelve?"

"Yes."

"Does he know--about this?"

"Yes."

"Does he know it means death?"

The Chief nodded.

"I see a way--a chance," said the operative. "Do I get a free hand?"

"Yes--Good Lord, yes! If there's any chance of--"

Delamater silenced him. "I'll be the one to take the chance," he said
grimly. "Chief, I intend to impersonate the President."

"Now listen-- The President and I are about the same build. I know a
man who can take care of the make-up; he will get me by anything but a
close inspection. This Eye of Allah, up to now, has worked only in the
light. We'll have to gamble on that and work our change in the dark.

"The President must go to bed as usual--impress upon him that he may
be under constant surveillance. Then, in the night, he leaves--

"Oh, I know he won't want to hide himself, but he must. That's up to
you.

"Arrange for me to go to his room before daylight. From that minute on
I am the President. Get me his routine for that morning; I must follow
it so as to arouse no least suspicion."

       *       *       *       *       *

"But I don't see--" began the Chief. "You will impersonate
him--yes--but what then? You will be killed if this maniac makes good.
Is the President of the United States to be a fugitive? Is--"

"Hold on, hold on!" said Delamater. He leaned back in his chair; his
face relaxed to a smile, then a laugh.

"I've got it all now. Perhaps it will work. If not--" A shrug of the
shoulders completed the thought. "And I have been shooting it to you
pretty fast haven't I! Now here is the idea--

"I must be in the President's chair at noon. This Allah person will be
watching in, so I must be acting the part all morning. I will have the
heaviest insulation I can get under the rug, and I'll have something
to take the shot instead of myself. And perhaps, perhaps I will send a
message back to the Eye of Allah that will be a surprise.

"Is it a bet?" he asked. "Remember, I'm taking the chance--unless you
know some better way--"

The Chief's chair came down with a bang. "We'll gamble on it, Del," he
said; "we've got to--there is no other way.... And now what do you
want?"

"A note to the White House electrician," said Robert Delamater, "and
full authority to ask for anything I may need, from the U. S. Treasury
down to a pair of wire-cutters."

His smile had become contagious; the Chief's anxious look relaxed. "If
you pull this off, Del, they may give you the Treasury or the Mint at
that. But remember, republics are notoriously ungenerous."

"We'll have to gamble on that, too," said Robert Delamater.

       *       *       *       *       *

The heart of the Nation is Washington. Some, there are, who would have
us feel that New York rules our lives. Chicago--San Francisco--these
and other great cities sometimes forget that they are mere ganglia on
the financial and commercial nervous system. The heart is Washington,
and, Congress to the contrary notwithstanding, the heart of that heart
is not the domed building at the head of Pennsylvania Avenue, but an
American home. A simple, gracious mansion, standing in quiet dignity
and whiteness above its velvet lawns.

It is the White House that draws most strongly at the interest and
curiosity of the homely, common throng that visits the capital.

But there were no casual visitors at the White House on the seventh of
September. Certain Senators, even, were denied admittance. The
President was seeing only the members of the Cabinet and some few
others.

It is given to a Secret Service operative, in his time, to play many
parts. But even a versatile actor might pause at impersonating a
President. Robert Delamater was acting the role with never a fumble.
He sat, this new Robert Delamater, so startlingly like the Chief
Executive, in the chair by a flat top desk. And he worked diligently
at a mass of correspondence.

Secretaries came and went; files were brought. Occasionally he replied
to a telephone call--or perhaps called someone. It would be hard to
say which happened, for no telephone bells rang.

On the desk was a schedule that Delamater consulted. So much time for
correspondence--so many minutes for a conference with this or that
official, men who were warned to play up to this new Chief Executive
as if the life of their real President were at stake.

       *       *       *       *       *

To any observer the busy routine of the morning must have passed with
never a break. And there was an observer, as Delamater knew. He had
wondered if the mystic ray might carry electrons that would prove its
presence. And now he knew.

The Chief of the U. S. Secret Service had come for a consultation with
the President. And whatever lingering doubts may have stifled his
reluctant imagination were dispelled when the figure at the desk
opened a drawer.

"Notice this," he told the Chief as he appeared to search for a paper
in the desk. "An electroscope; I put it in here last night. It is
discharging. The ray has been on since nine-thirty. No current to
electrocute me--just a penetrating ray."

He returned the paper to the drawer and closed it.

"So that is that," he said, and picked up a document to which he
called the visitor's attention.

"Just acting," he explained. "The audience may be critical; we must
try to give them a good show! And now give me a report. What are you
doing? Has anything else turned up? I am counting on you to stand by
and see that that electrician is on his toes at twelve o'clock."

"Stand by is right," the Chief agreed; "that's about all we can do. I
have twenty men in and about the grounds--there will be as many more
later on. And I know now just how little use we are to you, Del."

"Your expression!" warned Delamater. "Remember you are talking to the
President. Very official and all that."

"Right! But now tell me what is the game, Del. If that devil fails to
knock you out here where you are safe, he will get you when you leave
the room."

"Perhaps," agreed the pseudo-executive, "and again, perhaps not. He
won't get me here; I am sure of that. They have this part of the room
insulated. The phone wire is cut--my conversations there are all
faked.

"There is only one spot in this room where that current can pass. A
heavy cable is grounded outside in wet earth. It comes to a copper
plate on this desk; you can't see it--it is under those papers."

       *       *       *       *       *

"And if the current comes--" began the visitor.

"When it comes," the other corrected, "it will jump to that plate and
go off harmlessly--I hope."

"And then what? How does that let you out?"

"Then we will see," said the presidential figure. "And you've been
here long enough, Chief. Send in the President's secretary as you go
out."

"He arose to place a friendly, patronizing hand on the other's
shoulder.

"Good-by," he said, "and watch that electrician at twelve. He is to
throw the big switch when I call."

"Good luck," said the big man huskily. "We've got to hand it to you,
Del; you're--"

"Good-by!" The figure of the Chief Executive turned abruptly to his
desk.

There was more careful acting--another conference--some dictating. The
clock on the desk gave the time as eleven fifty-five. The man before
the flat topped desk verified it by a surreptitious glance at his
watch. He dismissed the secretary and busied himself with some
personal writing.

Eleven fifty-nine--and he pushed paper and pen aside. The movement
disturbed some other papers, neatly stacked. They were dislodged, and
where they had lain was a disk of dull copper.

"Ready," the man called softly. "Don't stand too near that line." The
first boom of noonday bells came faintly to the room.

The President--to all but the other actors in the morning's
drama--leaned far back in his chair. The room was suddenly deathly
still. The faint ticking of the desk clock was loud and rasping. There
was heavy breathing audible in the room beyond. The last noonday chime
had died away....

The man at the desk was waiting--waiting. And he thought he was
prepared, nerves steeled, for the expected. But he jerked back, to
fall with the overturned chair upon the soft, thick-padded rug, at the
ripping, crackling hiss that tore through the silent room.

       *       *       *       *       *

From a point above the desk a blue arc flamed and wavered. Its unseen
terminal moved erratically in the air, but the other end of the deadly
flame held steady upon a glowing, copper disc.

Delamater, prone on the floor, saw the wavering point that marked the
end of the invisible carrier of the current--saw it drift aside till
the blue arc was broken. It returned, and the arc crashed again into
blinding flame. Then, as abruptly, the blue menace vanished.

The man on the floor waited, waited, and tried to hold fast to some
sense of time.

Then: "Contact!" he shouted. "The switch! Close the switch!"

"Closed!" came the answer from a distant room. There was a shouted
warning to unseen men: "Stand back there--back--there's twenty
thousand volts on that line--"

Again the silence....

"Would it work? Would it?" Delamater's mind was full of delirious,
half-thought hopes. That fiend in some far-off room had cut the
current meant as a death-bolt to the Nation's' head. He would leave
the ray on--look along it to gloat over his easy victory. His
generator must be insulated: would he touch it with his hand, now that
his own current was off?--make of himself a conductor?

In the air overhead formed a terrible arc.

From the floor, Delamater saw it rip crashingly into life as twenty
thousand volts bridged the gap of a foot or less to the invisible ray.
It hissed tremendously in the stillness....

And Delamater suddenly buried his face in his hands. For in his mind
he was seeing a rigid, searing body, and in his nostrils, acrid,
distinct, was the smell of burning flesh.

"Don't be a fool," he told himself fiercely. "Don't be a fool!
Imagination!"

The light was out.

"Switch off!" a voice was calling. There was a rush of swift feet from
the distant doors; friendly hands were under him--lifting him--as the
room, for Robert Delamater, President-in-name of the United States,
turned whirlingly, dizzily black....

       *       *       *       *       *

Robert Delamater, U. S. Secret Service operative, entered the office
of his Chief. Two days of enforced idleness and quiet had been all he
could stand. He laid a folded newspaper before the smiling, welcoming
man.

"That's it, I suppose," he said, and pointed to a short notice.

"X-ray Operator Killed," was the caption. "Found Dead in Office in
Watts Building." He had read the brief item many times.

"That's what we let the reporters have," said the Chief.

"Was he"--the operative hesitated for a moment--"pretty well fried?"

"Quite!"

"And the machine?"

"Broken glass and melted metal. He smashed it as he fell."

"The Eye of Allah," mused Delamater. "Poor devil--poor, crazy devil.
Well, we gambled--and we won. How about the rest of the bet? Do I get
the Mint?"

"Hell, no!" said the Chief. "Do you expect to win all the time? They
want to know why it took us so long to get him.

"Now, there's a little matter out in Ohio, Del, that we'll have to get
after--"



THE "TELELUX"


Sound and light were transformed into mechanical action at the banquet
of the National Tool Exposition recently to illustrate their
possibilities in regulating traffic, aiding the aviator, and
performing other automatic functions.

A beam of light was thrown on the "eyes" of a mechanical contrivance
known as the "telelux," a brother of the "televox," and as the light
was thrown on and off it performed mechanical function such as turning
an electric switch.

The contrivance, which was developed by the Westinghouse Electric and
Manufacturing Company, utilizes two photo-electric cells, sensitive to
the light beam. One of the cells is a selector, which progressively
chooses any one of three operating circuits when light is thrown on
it. The other cell is the operator, which opens or closes the chosen
circuit, thus performing the desired function.

S. M. Kintner, manager of the company's research department, who made
the demonstration, also threw music across the room on a beam of
light, and light was utilized in depicting the shape and direction of
stresses in mechanical materials.



[Illustration _"The globe leaped upward into the huge coil, which
whirled madly."_]

The Fifth-Dimension Catapult

A COMPLETE NOVELETTE

_By Murray Leinster_

    The story of Tommy Reames' extraordinary rescue of Professor
    Denham and his daughter--marooned in the fifth dimension.


FOREWORD

This story has no normal starting-place, because there are too many
places where it might be said to begin. One might commence when
Professor Denham, Ph. D., M. A., etc., isolated a metal that
scientists have been talking about for many years without ever being
able to smelt. Or it might start with his first experimental use of
that metal with entirely impossible results. Or it might very
plausibly begin with an interview between a celebrated leader of
gangsters in the city of Chicago and a spectacled young laboratory
assistant, who had turned over to him a peculiar heavy object of solid
gold and very nervously explained, and finally managed to prove, where
it came from. With also impossible results, because it turned "King"
Jacaro, lord of vice-resorts and rum-runners, into a passionate
enthusiast in non-Euclidean geometry. The whole story might be said to
begin with the moment of that interview.

But that leaves out Smithers, and especially it leaves out Tommy
Reames. So, on the whole, it is best to take up the narrative at the
moment of Tommy's first entrance into the course of events.


CHAPTER I

He came to a stop in a cloud of dust that swirled up to and all about
the big roadster, and surveyed the gate of the private road. The gate
was rather impressive. At its top was a sign. "Keep Out!" Halfway down
was another sign. "Private Property. Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted."
On one gate-post was another notice, "Live Wires Within." and on the
other a defiant placard. "Savage Dogs At Large Within This Fence."

The fence itself was all of seven feet high and made of the heaviest
of woven-wire construction. It was topped with barbed wire, and went
all the way down both sides of a narrow right of way until it vanished
in the distance.

Tommy got out of the car and opened the gate. This fitted the
description of his destination, as given him by a brawny, red-headed
filling-station attendant in the village some two miles back. He drove
the roadster through the gate, got out and closed it piously, got back
in the car and shot it ahead.

He went humming down the narrow private road at forty-five miles an
hour. That was Tommy Reames' way. He looked totally unlike the
conventional description of a scientist of any sort--as much unlike a
scientist as his sport roadster looked unlike a scientist's customary
means of transit--and ordinarily he acted quite unlike one. As a
matter of fact, most of the people Tommy associated with had no
faintest inkling of his taste for science as an avocation. There was
Peter Dalzell, for instance, who would have held up his hands in holy
horror at the idea of Tommy Reames being the author of that article.
"On the Mass and Inertia of the Tesseract," which in the
_Philosophical Journal_ had caused a controversy.

And there was one Mildred Holmes--of no importance in the matter of
the Fifth-Dimension Catapult--who would have lifted beautifully arched
eyebrows in bored unbelief if anybody had suggested that Tommy Reames
was that Thomas Reames whose "Additions to Herglotz's Mechanics of
Continua" produced such diversities of opinion in scientific circles.
She intended to make Tommy propose to her some day, and thought she
knew all about him. And everybody, everywhere, would have been
incredulous of his present errand.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gliding down the narrow, fenced-in road. Tommy was a trifle dubious
about this errand himself. A yellow telegraph-form in his pocket read
rather like a hoax, but was just plausible enough to have brought him
away from a rather important tennis match. The telegram read:

    PROFESSOR DENHAM IN EXTREME DANGER THROUGH EXPERIMENT BASED ON
    YOUR ARTICLE ON DOMINANT COORDINATES YOU ALONE CAN HELP HIM IN
    THE NAME OF HUMANITY COME AT ONCE.

                                                     A. VON HOLTZ.

The fence went on past the car. A mile, a mile and a half of narrow
lane, fenced in and made as nearly intruder-proof as possible.

"Wonder what I'd do," said Tommy Reames, "if another car came along
from the other end?"

He deliberately tried not to think about the telegram any more. He
didn't believe it. He couldn't believe it. But he couldn't ignore it,
either. Nobody could: few scientists, and no human being with a normal
amount of curiosity. Because the article on dominant coordinates had
appeared in the _Journal of Physics_ and had dealt with a state of
things in which the normal coordinates of everyday existence were
assumed to have changed their functions: when the coordinates of time,
the vertical, the horizontal and the lateral changed places and a man
went east to go up and west to go "down" and ran his street-numbers in
a fourth dimension. It was mathematical foolery, from one standpoint,
but it led to some fascinating if abstruse conclusions.

       *       *       *       *       *

But his brain would not remain away from the subject of the telegram,
even though a chicken appeared in the fenced-in lane ahead of him and
went flapping wildly on before the car. It rose in mid-air, the car
overtook it as it rose above the level of the hood, and there was a
rolling, squawking bundle of shedding feathers tumbling over and over
along the hood until it reached the slanting windshield. There it spun
wildly upward, left a cloud of feather's fluttering about Tommy's
head, and fell still squawking into the road behind. By the back-view
mirror, Tommy could see it picking itself up and staggering dizzily
back to the side of the road.

"My point was," said Tommy vexedly to himself, speaking of the article
the telegram referred to, "that a man can only recognize three
dimensions of space and one of time. So that if he got shot out of
this cosmos altogether he wouldn't know the difference. He'd still
seem to be in a three-dimensioned universe. And what is there in that
stuff to get Denham in trouble?"

A house appeared ahead. A low, rambling sort of bungalow with a huge
brick barn behind it. The house of Professor Denham, very certainly,
and that barn was the laboratory in which he made his experiments.

Instinctively, Tommy stepped on the gas. The car leaped ahead. And
then he was braking frantically. A pipe-framed gate with thinner,
unpainted wire mesh filling its surface loomed before him, much too
late for him to stop. There was a minor shock, a crashing and
squeaking, and then a crash and shattering of glass. Tommy bent low as
the top bar of the gate hit his windshield. The double glass cracked
and crumpled and bent, but did not fly to bits. And the car came to a
halt with its wheels intricately entangled in torn-away fence wire.
The gate had been torn from its hinges and was draped rakishly over
the roadster. A tire went flat with a loud hissing noise, and Tommy
Reames swore softly under his breath and got out to inspect the
damage.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was deciding that nothing irreparable was wrong when a man came
bursting out of the brick building behind the house. A tall, lean,
youngish man who waved his arms emphatically and approached shouting:

"You had no right to come in here! You must go away at once! You have
damaged property! I will tell the Professor! You must pay for the
damage! You must--"

"Damn!" said Tommy Reames. He had just seen that his radiator was
punctured. A spout of ruddy, rusty water was pouring out on the grass.

The youngish man came up furiously. A pale young man, Tommy noticed. A
young man with bristling, close-cropped hair and horn-rimmed
spectacles before weak-looking eyes. His mouth was very full and very
red, in marked contrast to the pallor of his cheeks.

"Did you not see the sign upon the gate?" he demanded angrily, in
curiously stilted English. "Did you not see that trespassers are
forbidden? You must go away at once! You will be prosecuted! You will
be imprisoned! You--"

Tommy said irritably:

"Are you Von Holtz? My name is Reames. You telegraphed me."

The waving, lanky arms stopped in the middle of an excited gesture.
The weak-looking eyes behind the lenses widened. A pink tongue licked
the too-full, too-red lips.

"Reames? The Herr Reames?" Von Holtz stammered. Then he said
suspiciously, "But you are not--you cannot be the Herr Reames of the
article on dominant coordinates!"

"I don't know why," said Tommy annoyedly. "I'm also the Herr Reames of
several other articles, such as on the mechanics of continua and the
mass and inertia of the tesseract. And I believe the current
_Philosophical Journal_--"

       *       *       *       *       *

He surveyed the spouting red stream from the radiator and shrugged
ruefully.

"I wish you'd telephone the village to have somebody come out and fix
my car," he said shortly, "and then tell me if this telegram is a joke
or not."

He pulled out a yellow form and offered it. He had taken an
instinctive dislike to the lean figure before him, but suppressed the
feeling.

Von Holtz took the telegram and read it, and smoothed it out, and said
agitatedly:

"But I thought the Herr Reames would be--would be a venerable
gentleman! I thought--"

"You sent that wire," said Tommy. "It puzzled me just enough to make
me rush out here. And I feel like a fool for having done it. What's
the matter? Is it a joke?"

Von Holtz shook his head violently, even as he bit his lips.

"No! No!" he protested. "The Herr Professor Denham is in the most
terrible, most deadly danger! I--I have been very nearly mad, Herr
Reames. The Ragged Men may seize him!... I telegraphed to you. I have
not slept for four nights. I have worked! I have racked my brains! I
have gone nearly insane, trying to rescue the Herr Professor! And I--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy stared.

"Four days?" he said. "The thing, whatever it is, has been going on
for four days?"

"Five," said Von Holtz nervously. "It was only to-day that I thought
of you, Herr Reames. The Herr Professor Denham had praised your
articles highly. He said that you were the only man who would be able
to understand his work. Five days ago--"

Tommy grunted.

"If he's been in danger for five days," he said skeptically, "he's not
in such a bad fix or it'd have been over. Will you phone for a
repairman? Then we'll see what it's all about."

The lean arms began to wave again as Von Holtz said desperately:

"But Herr Reames, it is urgent! The Herr Professor is in deadly
danger!"

"What's the matter with him?"

"He is marooned," said Von Holtz. Again he licked his lips. "He is
marooned, Herr Reames, and you alone--"

"Marooned?" said Tommy more skeptically still. "In the middle of New
York State? And I alone can help him? You sound more and more as if
you were playing a rather elaborate and not very funny practical joke.
I've driven sixty miles to get here. What is the joke, anyhow?"

Von Holtz said despairingly:

"But it is true, Herr Reames! He is marooned. He has changed his
coordinates. It was an experiment. He is marooned in the fifth
dimension!"

       *       *       *       *       *

There was dead silence. Tommy Reames stared blankly. Then his gorge
rose. He had taken an instinctive dislike to this lean young man,
anyhow. So he stared at him, and grew very angry, and would
undoubtedly have gotten into his car and turned it about and driven it
away again if it had been in any shape to run. But it wasn't. One tire
was flat, and the last ruddy drops from the radiator were dripping
slowly on the grass. So he pulled out a cigarette case and lighted a
cigarette and said sardonically:

"The fifth dimension? That seems rather extreme. Most of us get along
very well with three dimensions. Four seems luxurious. Why pick on the
fifth?"

Von Holtz grew pale with anger in his turn. He waved his arms,
stopped, and said with stiff formality:

"If the Herr Reames will follow me into the laboratory I will show him
Professor Denham and convince him of the Herr Professor's extreme
danger."

Tommy had a sudden startling conviction that Von Holtz was in earnest.
He might be mad, but he was in earnest. And there was undoubtedly a
Professor Denham, and this was undoubtedly his home and laboratory.

"I'll look, anyway," said Tommy less skeptically. "But it is rather
incredible, you know!"

"It is impossible," said Von Holtz stiffly. "You are right, Herr
Reames. It is quite impossible. But it is a fact."

He turned and stalked toward the big brick barn behind the house.
Tommy went with him, wholly unbelieving and yet beginning to wonder
if, just possibly, there was actually an emergency of a more normal
and ghastly nature in being. Von Holtz might be a madman. He might....

Gruesome, grisly thoughts ran through Tommy's head. A madman dabbling
in science might do incredible things, horrible things, and then
demand assistance to undo an unimaginable murder....

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy was tense and alert as Von Holtz opened the door of the barnlike
laboratory. He waved the lean young man on ahead.

"After you," he said curtly.

He felt almost a shiver as he entered. But the interior of the
laboratory displayed no gruesome scene. It was a huge, high-ceilinged
room with a concrete floor. A monster dynamo was over in one corner,
coupled to a matter-of-fact four-cylinder crude-oil engine, to which
was also coupled by a clutch an inexplicable windlass-drum with
several hundred feet of chain wrapped around it. There were ammeters
and voltmeters on a control panel, and one of the most delicate of
dynamometers on its own stand, and there were work benches and a
motor-driven lathe and a very complete equipment for the working of
metals. And there was an electric furnace, with splashes of solidified
metal on the floor beside it, and there was a miniature casting-floor,
and at the farther end of the monster room there was a gigantic
solenoid which evidently had once swung upon gymbals and as evidently
now was broken, because it lay toppled askew upon its supports.

The only totally unidentifiable piece of apparatus in the place was
one queer contrivance at one side. It looked partly like a
machine-gun, because of a long brass barrel projecting from it. But
the brass tube came out of a bulging casing of cast aluminum and there
was no opening through which shells could be fed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Holz moved to that contrivance, removed a cap from the end of the
brass tube, looked carefully into the opening, and waved stiffly for
Tommy to look in.

Again Tommy was suspicious; watched until Von Holtz was some distance
away. But the instant he put his eye to the end of the brass tube he
forgot all caution, all suspicion, all his doubts. He forgot
everything in his amazement.

There was a lens in the end of the brass tube. It was, in fact,
nothing more or less than a telescope, apparently looking at something
in a closed box. But Tommy was not able to believe that he looked at
an illuminated miniature for even the fraction of a second. He looked
into the telescope, and he was seeing out-of-doors. Through the
aluminum casting that enclosed the end of the tube. Through the thick
brick walls of the laboratory. He was gazing upon a landscape such as
should not--such as could not--exist upon the earth.

There were monstrous, feathery tree-ferns waving languid fronds in a
breeze that came from beyond them. The telescope seemed to be pointing
at a gentle slope, and those tree-ferns cut off a farther view, but
there was an impenetrable tangle of breast-high foliage between the
instrument and that slope, and halfway up the incline there rested a
huge steel globe.

Tommy's eyes fixed themselves upon the globe. It was man-made, of
course. He could see where it had been bolted together. There were
glassed-in windows in its sides, and there was a door.

       *       *       *       *       *

As Tommy looked, that door opened partway, stopped as if someone
within had hesitated, and then opened fully. A man came out. And Tommy
said dazedly:

"My God!"

Because the man was a perfectly commonplace sort of individual,
dressed in a perfectly commonplace fashion, and he carried a perfectly
commonplace briar pipe in his hand. Moreover, Tommy recognized him. He
had seen pictures of him often enough, and he was Professor Edward
Denham, entitled to put practically all the letters of the alphabet
after his name, the author of "Polymerization of the Pseudo-Metallic
Nitrides" and the proper owner of this building and its contents. But
Tommy saw him against a background of tree-ferns such as should have
been extinct upon this earth since the Carboniferous Period, some
millions of years ago.

He was looking hungrily at his briar pipe. Presently he began to hunt
carefully about on the ground. He picked together half a handful of
brownish things which had to be dried leaves. He stuffed them into the
pipe, struck a match, and lighted it. He puffed away gloomily,
surrounded by wholly monstrous vegetation. A butterfly fluttered over
the top of the steel globe. Its wings were fully a yard across. It
flittered lightly to a plant and seemed to wait, and abruptly a vivid
carmine blossom opened wide; wide enough to admit it.

Denham watched curiously enough, smoking the rank and plainly
unsatisfying dried leaves. He turned his head and spoke over his
shoulder. The door opened again. Again Tommy Reames was dazed. Because
a girl came out of the huge steel sphere--and she was a girl of the
most modern and most normal sort. A trim sport frock, slim silken
legs, bobbed hair....

Tommy did not see her face until she turned, smiling, to make some
comment to Denham. Then he saw that she was breath-takingly pretty. He
swore softly under his breath.

       *       *       *       *       *

The butterfly backed clumsily out of the gigantic flower. It flew
lightly away, its many-colored wings brilliant in the sunshine. And
the huge crimson blossom closed slowly.

Denham watched the butterfly go away. His eyes returned to the girl
who was smiling at the flying thing, now out of the field of vision of
the telescope. And there was utter discouragement visible in every
line of Denham's figure. Tommy saw the girl suddenly reach out her
hand and put it on Denham's shoulder. She patted it, speaking in an
evident attempt to encourage him. She smiled, and talked coaxingly,
and presently Denham made a queer, arrested gesture and went heavily
back into the steel globe. She followed him, though she looked wearily
all about before the door closed behind her, and when Denham could not
see her face, her expression was tired and anxious indeed.

Tommy had forgotten Von Holtz, had forgotten the laboratory, had
forgotten absolutely everything. If his original suspicions of Von
Holtz had been justified, he could have been killed half a dozen times
over. He was oblivious to everything but the sight before his eyes.

Now he felt a touch on his shoulder and drew his head away with a
jerk. Von Holtz was looking down at him, very pale, with his
weak-looking eyes anxious.

"They are still all right?" he demanded.

"Yes," said Tommy dazedly. "Surely. Who is that girl?"

"That is the Herr Professor's daughter Evelyn," said Von Holtz
uneasily. "I suggest, Herr Reames, that you swing the dimensoscope
about."

"The--what?" asked Tommy, still dazed by what he had seen.

"The dimensoscope. This." Von Holtz shifted the brass tube. The whole
thing was mounted so that it could be swung in any direction. The
mounting was exactly like that of a normal telescope. Tommy instantly
put his eye to the eyepiece again.

       *       *       *       *       *

He saw more tree-ferns, practically the duplicates of the background
beyond the globe. Nothing moved save small, fugitive creatures among
their fronds. He swung the telescope still farther. The landscape
swept by before his eyes. The tree-fern forest drew back. He saw the
beginning of a vast and noisome morass, over which lay a thick haze as
of a stream raised by the sun. He saw something move in that morass;
something huge and horrible with a long and snake-like neck and the
tiniest of heads at the end of it. But he could not see the thing
clearly.

He swung the telescope yet again. And he looked over miles and miles
of level, haze-blanketed marsh. Here and there were clumps of taller
vegetation. Here and there were steaming, desolate pools. And three or
four times he saw monstrous objects moving about clumsily in the
marsh-land.

But then a glitter at the skyline caught his eye. He tilted the
telescope to see more clearly, and suddenly he caught his breath.
There, far away at the very horizon, was a city. It was tall and
gleaming and very strange. No earthly city ever flung its towers so
splendidly high and soaring. No city ever built by man gave off the
fiery gleam of gold from all its walls and pinnacles. It looked like
an artist's dream, hammered out in precious metal, with its outlines
softened by the haze of distance.

And something was moving in the air near the city. Staring, tense,
again incredulous, Tommy Reames strained his eyes and saw that it was
a machine. An air-craft; a flying-machine of a type wholly unlike
anything ever built upon the planet Earth. It swept steadily and
swiftly toward the city, dwindling as it went. It swooped downward
toward one of the mighty spires of the city of golden gleams, and
vanished.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was with a sense of shock, of almost physical shock, that Tommy
came back to realization of his surroundings to feel Von Holtz's hand
upon his shoulder and to hear the lean young man saying harshly:

"Well, Herr Reames? Are you convinced that I did not lie to you? Are
you convinced that the Herr Professor Denham is in need of help?"

Tommy blinked dazedly as he looked around the laboratory again. Brick
walls, an oil-spattered crude-oil engine in one corner, a concrete
floor and an electric furnace and a casting-box....

"Why--yes...." said Tommy dazedly. "Yes. Of course!" Clarity came to
his brain with a jerk. He did not understand at all, but he believed
what he had seen. Denham and his daughter were somewhere in some other
dimension, yet within range of the extraordinary device he had looked
through. And they were in trouble. So much was evident from their
poses and their manner. "Of course," he repeated. "They're--there,
wherever it is, and they can't get back. They don't seem to be in any
imminent danger...."

Von Holtz licked his lips.

"The Ragged Men have not found them yet," he said in a hushed, harsh
voice. "Before they went in the globe we saw the Ragged Men. We
watched them. If they do find the Herr Professor and his daughter,
they will kill them very slowly, so that they will take days of
screaming agony to die. It is that that I am afraid of, Herr Reames.
The Ragged Men roam the tree-fern forests. If they find the Herr
Professor they will trace each nerve to its root of agony until he
dies. And we will be able only to watch...."


CHAPTER II

"The thing is," said Tommy feverishly, "that we've got to find a way
to get them back. Whether it duplicates Denham's results or not. How
far away are they?"

"A few hundred yards, perhaps," said Von Holtz wearily, "or ten
million miles. It is the same thing. They are in a place where the
fifth dimension is the dominant coordinate."

Tommy was pacing up and down the laboratory. He stopped and looked
through the eyepiece of the extraordinary vision apparatus. He tore
himself away from it again.

"How does this thing work?" he demanded.

Von Holtz began to unscrew two wing-nuts which kept the top of the
aluminum casting in place.

"It is the first piece of apparatus which Professor Denham made," he
said precisely. "I know the theory, but I cannot duplicate it. Every
dimension is at right angles to all other dimensions, of course. The
Herr Professor has a note, here--"

He stopped his unscrewing to run over a heap of papers on the
work-bench--papers over which he seemed to have been poring
desperately at the time of Tommy's arrival. He handed a sheet to
Tommy, who read:

"If a creature who was aware of only two dimensions made two
right-angled objects and so placed them that all the angles formed by
the combination were right angles, he would contrive a figure
represented by the corner of a box; he would discover a third
dimension. Similarly, if a three-dimensioned man took three right
angles and placed them so that all the angles formed were right
angles, he would discover a fourth dimension. This, however, would
probably be the time dimension, and to travel in time would instantly
be fatal. But with four right angles he could discover a fifth
dimension, and with five right angles he could discover a sixth...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy Reames put down the paper impatiently.

"Of course" he said brusquely. "I know all that stuff. But up to the
present time nobody has been able to put together even three right
angles, in practise."

Von Holtz had returned to the unscrewing of the wing-nuts. He lifted
off the cover of the dimensoscope.

"It is the thing the Herr Professor did not confide to me," he said
bitterly. "The secret. The one secret! Look in here."

Tommy looked. The objective-glass at the end of the telescope faced a
mirror, which was inclined to its face at an angle of forty-five
degrees. A beam of light from the objective would be reflected to a
second mirror, twisted in a fashion curiously askew. Then the light
would go to a third mirror....

Tommy looked at that third mirror, and instantly his eyes ached. He
closed them and opened them again. Again they stung horribly. It was
exactly the sort of eye-strain which comes of looking through a lens
which does not focus exactly, or through a strange pair of eyeglasses.
He could see the third mirror, but his eyes hurt the instant they
looked upon it, as if that third mirror were distorted in an
impossible fashion. He was forced to draw them away. He could see,
though, that somehow that third mirror would reflect his imaginary
beam of light into a fourth mirror of which he could see only the
edge. He moved his head--and still saw only the edge of a mirror. He
was sure of what he saw, because he could look into the wavy, bluish
translucency all glass shows upon its edge. He could even see the thin
layer of silver backing. But he could not put himself into a position
in which more than the edge of that mirror was visible.

"Good Lord!" said Tommy Reames feverishly. "That mirror--"

"A mirror at forty-five degrees," said Von Holtz precisely, "reflects
light at a right angle. There are four mirrors, and each bends a ray
of light through a right angle which is also a right angle to all the
others. The result is that the dimensoscope looks into what is a fifth
dimension, into which no man ever looked before. But I cannot move
other mirrors into the positions they have in this instrument. I do
not know how."

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy shook his head impatiently, staring at the so-simple, yet
incredible device whose theory had been mathematically proven
numberless times, but never put into practice before.

"Having made this device," said Von Holtz, "the Herr Professor
constructed what he termed a catapult. It was a coil of wire, like the
large machine there. It jerked a steel ball first vertically, then
horizontally, then laterally, then in a fourth-dimensional direction,
and finally projected it violently off in a fifth-dimensional path. He
made small hollow steel balls and sent a butterfly, a small sparrow,
and finally a cat into that other world. The steel balls opened of
themselves and freed those creatures. They seemed to suffer no
distress. Therefore he concluded that it would be safe for him to go,
himself. His daughter refused to permit him to go alone, and he was so
sure of his safety that he allowed her to enter the globe with him.
She did. I worked the catapult which flung the globe in the fifth
dimension, and his device for returning failed to operate. Hence he is
marooned."

"But the big catapult--"

"Can you not see that the big catapult is broken?" demanded Von Holtz
bitterly. "A special metal is required for the missing parts. That, I
know how to make. Yes. I can supply that. But I cannot shape it! I
cannot design the gears which will move it as it should be moved! I
cannot make another dimensoscope. I cannot, Herr Reames, calculate any
method of causing four right angles to be all at right angles to each
other. It is my impossibility! It is for that that I have appealed to
you. You see it has been done. I see that it is done. I can make the
metal which alone can be moved in the necessary direction. But I
cannot calculate any method of moving it in that direction! If you can
do so, Herr Reames, we can perhaps save the Herr Professor Denham. If
you cannot--Gott! The death he will die is horrible to think of!"

"And his daughter," said Tommy grimly. "His daughter, also."

       *       *       *       *       *

He paced up and down the laboratory again. Von Holtz moved to the
work-bench from which he had taken Denham's note. There was a pile of
such memoranda, thumbed over and over. And there were papers in the
angular, precise handwriting which was Von Holtz's own, and
calculations and speculations and the remains of frantic efforts to
work out, somehow, the secret which as one manifestation had placed
one mirror so that it hurt the eyes to look at it, and one other
mirror so that from every angle of a normal existence, one could see
only the edge.

"I have worked, Herr Reames," said Von Holtz drearily. "Gott! How I
have worked! But the Herr Professor kept some things secret, and that
so-essential thing is one of them."

Presently he said tiredly:

"The dimension-traveling globe was built in this laboratory. It rested
here." He pointed. "The Herr Professor was laughing and excited at the
moment of departure. His daughter smiled at me through the window of
the globe. There was an under-carriage with wheels upon it. You cannot
see those wheels through the dimensoscope. They got into the globe and
closed the door. The Herr Professor nodded to me through the glass
window. The dynamo was running at its fullest speed. The laboratory
smelled of hot oil, and of ozone from the sparks. I lifted my hand,
and the Herr Professor nodded again, and I threw the switch. This
switch, Herr Reames! It sparked as I closed it, and the flash partly
blinded me. But I saw the globe rush toward the giant catapult yonder.
It leaped upward into the huge coil, which whirled madly. Dazed, I saw
the globe hanging suspended in mid-air, two feet from the floor. It
shook! Once! Twice! With violence! Suddenly its outline became hazy
and distorted. My eyes ached with looking at it. And then it was
gone!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Holtz's arms waved melodramatically.

"I rushed to the dimensoscope and gazed through it into the fifth
dimension. I saw the globe floating onward through the air, toward
that bank of glossy ferns. I saw it settle and turn over, and then
slowly right itself as it came to rest. The Herr Professor got out of
it. I saw him through the instrument which could look into the
dimension into which he had gone. He waved his hand to me. His
daughter joined him, surveying the strange cosmos in which they were.
The Herr Professor plucked some of the glossy ferns, took photographs,
then got back into the globe.

"I awaited its return to our own world. I saw it rock slightly as he
worked upon the apparatus within. I knew that when it vanished from
the dimensoscope it would have returned to our own universe. But it
remained as before. It did not move. After three hours of anguished
waiting, the Herr Professor came out and made signals to me of
despair. By gestures, because no sound could come through the
dimensoscope itself, he begged me to assist him. And I was helpless!
Made helpless by the Herr Professor's own secrecy! For four days and
nights I have toiled, hoping desperately to discover what the Herr
Professor had hidden from me. At last I thought of you. I telegraphed
to you. If you can assist me...."

"I'm going to try it, of course," said Tommy shortly.

He paced back and forth. He stopped and looked through the brass-tubed
telescope. Giant tree-ferns, unbelievable but real. The steel globe
resting partly overturned upon a bank of glossy ferns. Breast-high,
incredible foliage between the point of vision and that extraordinary
vehicle.

       *       *       *       *       *

While Tommy had been talking and listening, while he had been away
from the eyepiece, one or other of the occupants of the globe had
emerged from it. The door was open. But now the girl came bounding
suddenly through the ferns. She called, though it seemed to Tommy that
there was a curious air of caution even in her calling. She was
excited, hopefully excited.

Denham came out of the globe with a clumsy club in his hand. But
Evelyn caught his arm and pointed up into the sky. Denham stared, and
then began to make wild and desperate gestures as if trying to attract
attention to himself.

Tommy watched for minutes, and then swung the dimensoscope around. It
was extraordinary, to be sitting in the perfectly normal brick-walled
laboratory, looking into a slender brass tube, and seeing another
universe entirely, another wild and unbelievable landscape.

The tree-fern forest drew back and the vast and steaming morass was
again in view. There were distant bright golden gleams from the city.
But Tommy was searching the sky, looking in the sky of a world in the
fifth dimension for a thing which would make a man gesticulate
hopefully.

He found it. It was an aircraft, startlingly close through the
telescope. A single figure was seated at its controls, motionless as
if bored, with exactly the air of a weary truck driver piloting a
vehicle along a roadway he does not really see. And Tommy, being near
enough to see the pilot's pose, could see the aircraft clearly. It was
totally unlike a terrestrial airplane. A single huge and thick wing
supported it. But the wing was angular and clumsy-seeming, and its
form was devoid of the grace of an earthly aircraft wing, and there
was no tail whatever to give it the appearance of a living thing.
There was merely a long, rectangular wing with a framework beneath it,
and a shimmering thing which was certainly not a screw propeller, but
which seemed to draw it.

       *       *       *       *       *

It moved on steadily and swiftly, dwindling in the distance, with its
motionless pilot seated before a mass of corded bundles. It looked as
if this were a freight plane of some sort, and therefore made in a
strictly utilitarian fashion.

It vanished in the haze above the monster swamp, going in a straight
line for the golden city at the world's edge.

Tommy stared at it, long after it had ceased to be visible. Then he
saw a queer movement on the earth near the edge of the morass. Figures
were moving. Human figures. He saw four of them, shaking clenched
fists and capering insanely, seeming to bellow insults after the
oblivious and now invisible flying thing. He could see that they were
nearly naked, and that one of them carried a spear. But the
indubitable glint of metal was reflected from one of them for an
instant, when some metal accoutrement about him glittered in the
sunlight.

They moved from sight behind thick, feathery foliage, and Tommy swung
back the brass tube to see the globe again. Denham and his daughter
were staring in the direction in which Tommy had seen those human
figures. Denham clutched his clumsy club grimly. His face was drawn
and his figure tensed. And suddenly Evelyn spoke quietly, and the two
of then dived into the fern forest and disappeared. Minutes later they
returned, dragging masses of tree-fern fronds with which they masked
the globe from view. They worked hastily, desperately, concealing the
steel vehicle from sight. And then Denham stared tensely all about,
shading his eyes with his hand. He and the girl withdrew cautiously
into the forest.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was minutes later that Tommy was roused by Von Holtz's hand on his
shoulder.

"What has happened, Herr Reames?" he asked uneasily. "The--Ragged
Men?"

"I saw men," said Tommy briefly, "shaking clenched fists at an
aircraft flying overhead. And Denham and his daughter have hidden the
globe behind a screen of foliage."

Von Holtz licked his lips fascinatedly.

"The Ragged Men," he said in a hushed voice. "The Herr Professor
called them that, because they cannot be of the people who live in the
Golden City. They hate the people of the Golden City. I think that
they are bandits; renegades, perhaps. They live in the tree-fern
forests and scream curses at the airships which fly overhead. And they
are afraid of those airships."

"How long did Denham use this thing to look through, before he built
his globe?"

Von Holtz considered.

"Immediately it worked," he said at last, "he began work on a small
catapult. It took him one week to devise exactly how to make that. He
experimented with it for some days and began to make the large globe.
That took nearly two months--the globe and the large catapult
together. And also the dimensoscope was at hand. His daughter looked
through it more than he did, or myself."

"He should have known what he was up against," said Tommy, frowning.
"He ought to have taken guns, at least. Is he armed?"

Von Holtz shook his head.

"He expected to return at once," he said desperately. "Do you see,
Herr Reames, the position it puts me in? I may be suspected of murder!
I am the Herr Professor's assistant. He disappears. Will I not be
accused of having put him out of the way?"

"No," said Tommy thoughtfully. "You won't." He glanced through the
brass tube and paced up and down the room. "You telephone for someone
to repair my car," he said suddenly and abruptly. "I am going to stay
here and work this thing out. I've got just the glimmering of an idea.
But I'll need my car in running order, in case we have to go out and
get materials in a hurry."

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Holtz bowed stiffly and went out of the laboratory. Tommy looked
after him. Even moved to make sure he was gone. And then Tommy Reames
went quickly to the work bench on which were the littered notes and
calculations Von Holtz had been using and which were now at his
disposal. But Tommy did not leaf through them. He reached under the
blotter beneath the whole pile. He had seen Von Holtz furtively push
something out of sight, and he had disliked and distrusted Von Holtz
from the beginning. Moreover, it was pretty thoroughly clear that
Denham had not trusted him too much. A trusted assistant should be
able to understand, at least, any experiment performed in a
laboratory.

A folded sheet of paper came out. Tommy glanced at it.

    "You messed things up right! Denham marooned and you got
    nothing. No plans or figures either. When you get them, you
    get your money. If you don't you are out of luck. If this
    Reames guy can't fix up what you want it'll be just too bad
    for you."

There was no salutation nor any signature beyond a scrawled and
sprawling "J."

Tommy Reames' jaw set grimly. He folded the scrap of paper and thrust
it back out of sight again.

"Pretty!" he said harshly. "So a gentleman named 'J' is going to pay
Von Holtz for plans or calculations it is hoped I'll provide! Which
suggests--many things! But at least I'll have Von Holtz's help until
he thinks my plans or calculations are complete. So that's all
right...."

Tommy could not be expected, of course, to guess that the note he had
read was quite astounding proof of the interest taken in non-Euclidean
geometry by a vice king of Chicago, or that the ranking beer baron of
that metropolis was the man who was so absorbed in abstruse theoretic
physics.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy moved toward the great solenoid which lay askew upon its wrecked
support. It had drawn the steel globe toward it, had made that globe
vibrate madly, twice, and then go hazy and vanish. It had jerked the
globe in each of five directions, each at right angles to all the
others, and had released it when started in the fifth dimension. The
huge coil was quite nine feet across and would take the steel globe
easily. It was pivoted in concentric rings which made up a set of
gymbals far more elaborate than were ever used to suspend a mariner's
compass aboard ship.

There were three rings, one inside the other. And two rings will take
care of any motion in three dimensions. These rings were pivoted, too,
so that an unbelievably intricate series of motions could be given to
the solenoid within them all. But the device was broken, now. A pivot
had given away, and shaft and socket alike had vanished. Tommy became
absorbed. Some oddity bothered him....

He pieced the thing together mentally. And he exclaimed suddenly.
There had been four rings of metal! One was gone! He comprehended,
very suddenly. The third mirror in the dimensoscope was the one so
strangely distorted by its position, which was at half of a right
angle to all the dimensions of human experience. It was the third ring
in the solenoid's supports which had vanished. And Tommy, staring at
the gigantic apparatus and summoning all his theoretic knowledge and
all his brain to work, saw the connection between the two things.

"The time dimension and the world-line," he said sharply, excited in
spite of himself. "Revolving in the time dimension means telescoping
in the world-line.... It would be a strain no matter could endure...."

       *       *       *       *       *

The mirror in the dimensoscope was not pointing in a fourth dimension.
It did not need to. It was reflecting light at a right angle, and
hence needed to be only at half of a right angle to the two courses of
the beam it reflected. But to whirl the steel globe into a fifth
dimension, the solenoid's support had for one instant to revolve in
time! For the fraction of a second it would have literally to pass
through its own substance. It would be required to undergo precisely
the sort of strain involved in turning a hollow seamless metal globe,
inside out! No metal could stand such a strain. No form of matter
known to man could endure it.

"It would explode!" said Tommy excitedly to himself, alone in the
great bare laboratory. "Steel itself would vaporize! It would wreck
the place!"

And then he looked blank. Because the place had very obviously not
been wrecked. And yet a metal ring had vanished, leaving no trace....

Von Holtz came back. He looked frightened.

"A--a repairman, Herr Reames," he said, stammering, "is on the way.
And--Herr Reames...."

Tommy barely heard him. For a moment, Tommy was all scientist,
confronted with the inexplicable, yet groping with a blind certainty
toward a conclusion he very vaguely foresaw. He waved his hand
impatiently....

"The Herr Jacaro is on the way here," stammered Von Holtz.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy blinked, remembering that Von Holtz had told him he could make a
certain metal, the only metal which could be moved in the fourth
dimension.

"Jacaro?" he said blankly.

"The--friend of the Herr Professor Denham. He advanced the money for
the Herr Professor's experiments."

Tommy heard him with only half his brain, though that half instantly
decided that Von Holtz was lying. The only Jacaro Tommy knew of was a
prominent gangster from Chicago, who had recently cemented his
position in Chicago's underworld by engineering the amalgamation of
two once-rival gangs. Tommy knew, in a vague fashion, that Von Holtz
was frightened. That he was terrified in some way. And that he was
inordinately suspicious of someone, and filled with a queer
desperation.

"Well?" said Tommy abstractedly. The thought he needed was coming. A
metal which would have full tensile strength up to a certain instant,
and then disrupt itself without violence into a gas, a vapor.... It
would be an alloy, perhaps. It would be....

He struck at his own head with his clenched fist, angrily demanding
that his brain bring forth the thought that was forming slowly. The
metal that could be revolved in time without producing a disastrous
explosion and without requiring an impossible amount of power....

       *       *       *       *       *

He did not see Von Holtz looking in the eyepiece of the dimensoscope.
He stared at nothing, thinking concentratedly, putting every bit of
energy into sheer thought. And suddenly, like the explosion he sought
a way to avoid, the answer came, blindingly clear.

He surveyed that answer warily. A tremendous excitement filled him.

"I've got it!" he said softly to himself. "By God, I know how he did
the thing!"

And as if through a mist the figure of Von Holtz became clear before
his eyes. Von Holtz was looking into the dimensoscope tube. He was
staring into that other, extraordinary world in which Denham and his
daughter were marooned. And Von Holtz's face was utterly, deathly
white, and he was making frantic, repressed gestures, and whispering
little whimpering phrases to himself. They were unintelligible, but
the deathly pallor of his cheeks, and the fascinated, dribbling
fullness of his lips brought Tommy Reames suddenly down to earth.

"What's happening?" demanded Tommy sharply.

Von Holtz did not answer. He made disjointed, moaning little
exclamations to himself. He was twitching horribly as he looked
through the telescope into that other world....

Tommy flung him aside and clapped his own eye to the eyepiece. And
then he groaned.

       *       *       *       *       *

The telescope was pointed at the steel globe upon that ferny bank, no
more than a few hundred yards away but two dimensions removed from
Earth. The screening mass of tree-fronds had been torn away. A swarm
of ragged, half-naked men was gathered about the globe. They were
armed with spears and clubs, in the main, but there were other weapons
of intricate design whose uses Tommy could not even guess at. He did
not try. He was watching the men as they swarmed about and over the
steel sphere. Their faces were brutal and savage, and now they were
distorted with an insane hate. It was the same awful, gibbering hatred
he had sensed in the caperings of the four he had seen bellowing
vituperation at an airplane.

They were not savages. Somehow he could not envision them as
primitive. Their features were hard-bitten, seamed with hatred and
with vice unspeakable. And they were white. The instant impression any
man would have received was that here were broken men; fugitives,
bandits, assassins. Here were renegades or worse from some higher,
civilized race.

They battered hysterically upon the steel globe. It was not the attack
of savages upon a strange thing. It was the assault of desperate,
broken men upon a thing they hated. A glass pane splintered and
crashed. Spears were thrust into the opening, while mouths opened as
if in screams of insane fury. And then, suddenly, the door of the
globe flew wide.

The Ragged Men did not wait for anyone to come out. They fought each
other to get into the opening, their eyes glaring madly, filled with
the lust to kill.


CHAPTER III

A battered and antiquated flivver came chugging down the wire-fenced
lane to the laboratory, an hour later. It made a prodigious din, and
Tommy Reames went out to meet it. He was still a little pale. He had
watched the steel globe turned practically inside out by the Ragged
Men. He had seen them bringing out cameras, cushions, and even the
padding of the walls, to be torn to bits in a truly maniacal fury. But
he had not seen one sign of a human being killed. Denham and his
daughter had not been in the globe when it was found and ransacked. So
far, then, they were probably safe. Tommy had seen them vanish into
the tree-fern forest. They had been afraid, and with good reason. What
dangers they might encounter in the fern forest he could not guess.
How long they would escape the search of the Ragged Men, he could not
know. How he could ever hope to find them if he succeeded in
duplicating Denham's dimension-traveling apparatus he could not even
think of, just now. But the Ragged Men were not searching the fern
forest. So much was sure. They were encamped by the steel sphere, and
a scurvy-looking lot they were.

Coming out of the brick laboratory, Tommy saw a brawny figure getting
out of the antiquated flivver whose arrival had been so thunderous.
That brawny figure nodded to him and grinned. Tommy recognized him.
The red-headed, broad-shouldered filling station attendant in the last
village, who had given him specific directions for reaching this
place.

"You hit that gate a lick, didn't you?" asked the erstwhile filling
station attendant amiably. "Mr. Von Holtz said you had a flat and a
busted radiator. That right?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy nodded. The red-headed man walked around the car, scratched his
chin, and drew out certain assorted tools. He put them on the grass
with great precision, pumped a gasoline blow-torch to pressure and
touched a match to its priming-basin, and while the gasoline flamed
smokily he made a half dozen casual movements with a file, and the
broken radiator tube was exposed for repair.

He went back to the torch and observed placidly:

"The Professor ain't around, is he?"

Tommy shook his head.

"Thought not," said the red-headed one. "He gen'rally comes out and
talks a while. I helped him build some of them dinkuses in the barn
yonder."

Tommy said eagerly:

"Say, which of those things did you help him build? That big thing
with the solenoid--the coil?"

"Yeah. How'd it work?" The red-headed one set a soldering iron in
place and began to jack up the rear wheel to get at the tire. "Crazy
idea, if you ask me. I told Miss Evelyn so. She laughed and said she'd
be in the ball when it was tried. Did it work?"

"Too damn well," said Tommy briefly. "I've got to repair that
solenoid. How about a job helping?"

The red-headed man unfastened the lugs of the rim, kicked the tire
speculatively, and said, "Gone to hell." He put on the spare tire with
ease and dispatch.

"Um," he said. "How about that Mr. Von Holtz? Is he goin' to boss the
job?"

"He is not," said Tommy, with a shade of grimness in his tone.

       *       *       *       *       *

The red-headed man nodded and took the soldering iron in hand. He
unwound a strip of wire solder, mended the radiator tube with placid
ease, and seemed to bang the cooling-flanges with a total lack of
care. They went magically back into place, and it took close
inspection to see that the radiator had been damaged.

"She's all right," he observed. He regarded Tommy impersonally.
"Suppose you tell me how come you horn in on this," he suggested, "an'
maybe I'll play. That guy Von Holtz is a crook, if you ask me about
him."

Tommy ran his hand across his forehead, and told him.

"Um," said the red-headed man calmly. "I think I'll go break Mr. Von
Holtz's neck. I got me a hunch."

He took two deliberate steps forward. But Tommy said:

"I saw Denham not an hour ago. So far, he's all right. How long he'll
be all right is a question. But I'm going after him."

The red-headed man scrutinized him exhaustively.

"Um. I might try that myself. I kinda like the Professor. An' Miss
Evelyn. My name's Smithers. Let's go look through the dinkus the
Professor made."

They went together into the laboratory. Von Holtz was looking through
the dimensoscope. He started back as they entered, and looked acutely
uneasy when he saw the red-headed man.

"How do you do," he said nervously. "They--the Ragged Men--have just
brought in a dead man. But it is not the Herr Professor."

Without a word, Tommy took the brass tube in his hand. Von Holtz moved
away, biting his lips. Tommy stared into that strange other world.

       *       *       *       *       *

The steel sphere lay as before, slightly askew upon a bank of glossy
ferns. But its glass windows were shattered, and fragments of
everything it had contained were scattered about. The Ragged Men had
made a camp and built a fire. Some of them were roasting meat--the
huge limb of a monstrous animal with a scaly, reptilian hide. Others
were engaged in vehement argument over the body of one of their
number, lying sprawled out upon the ground.

Tommy spoke without moving his eyes from the eyepiece.

"I saw Denham with a club just now. This man was killed by a club."

The Ragged Men in the other world debated acrimoniously. One of them
pointed to the dead man's belt, and spread out his hands. Something
was missing from the body. Tommy saw, now, three or four other men
with objects that looked rather like policemen's truncheons, save that
they were made of glittering metal. They were plainly weapons. Denham,
then, was armed--if he could understand how the weapon was used.

The Ragged Men debated, and presently their dispute attracted the
attention of a man with a huge black beard. He rose from where he sat
gnawing at a piece of meat and moved grandly toward the disputatious
group. They parted at his approach, but a single member continued the
debate against even the bearded giant. The bearded one plucked the
glittering truncheon from his belt. The disputatious one gasped in
fear and flung himself desperately forward. But the bearded man kept
the truncheon pointed steadily.... The man who assailed him staggered,
reached close enough to strike a single blow, and collapsed. The
bearded man pointed the metal truncheon at him as he lay upon the
ground. He heaved convulsively, and was still.

The bearded man went back to his seat and picked up the gnawed bit of
meat again. The dispute had ceased. The chattering group of men
dispersed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy was about to leave the eyepiece of the instrument when a
movement nearby caught his eye. A head peered cautiously toward the
encampment. A second rose beside it. Denham and his daughter Evelyn.
They were apparently no more than thirty feet from the dimensoscope.
Tommy could see them talking cautiously, saw Denham lift and examine a
metal truncheon like the bearded man's, and force his daughter to
accept it. He clutched a club, himself, with a grim satisfaction.

Moments later they vanished quietly in the thick fern foliage, and
though Tommy swung the dimensoscope around in every direction, he
could see nothing of their retreat.

He rose from that instrument with something approaching hopefulness.
He'd seen Evelyn very near and very closely. She did not look happy,
but she did look alert rather than worn. And Denham was displaying a
form of competence in the face of danger which was really more than
would have been expected in a Ph.D., a M.A., and other academic
distinctions running to most of the letters of the alphabet.

"I've just seen Denham and Evelyn again," said Tommy crisply. "They're
safe so far. And I've seen one of the weapons of the Ragged Men in
use. If we can get a couple of automatics and some cartridges to
Denham, he'll be safe until we can repair the big solenoid."

"There was the small catapult," said Von Holtz bitterly, "but it was
dismantled. The Herr Professor saw me examining it, and he dismantled
it. So that I did not learn how to calculate the way of changing the
position--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy's eyes rested queerly on Von Holtz for a moment.

"You know how to make the metal required," he said suddenly. "You'd
better get busy making it. Plenty of it. We'll need it."

Von Holtz stared at him, his weak eyes almost frightened.

"You _know_? You know how to combine the right angles?"

"I think so," said Tommy. "I've got to find out if I'm right. Will you
make the metal?"

Von Holtz bit at his too-red lips.

"But Herr Reames!" he said stridently, "I wish to know the equation!
Tell me the method of pointing a body in a fourth or a fifth
direction. It is only fair--"

"Denham didn't tell you," said Tommy.

Von Holtz's arms jerked wildly.

"But I will not make the metal! I insist upon being told the equation!
I insist upon it! I will not make the metal if you do not tell me!"

Smithers was in the laboratory, of course. He had been surveying the
big solenoid-catapult and scratching his chin reflectively. Now he
turned.

       *       *       *       *       *

But Tommy took Von Holtz by the shoulders. And Tommy's hands were the
firm and sinewy hands of a sportsman, if his brain did happen to be
the brain of a scientist. Von Holtz writhed in his grip.

"There is only one substance which could be the metal I need, Von Holtz,"
he said gently. "Only one substance is nearly three-dimensional.
Metallic ammonium! It's known to exist, because it makes a mercury
amalgam, but nobody has been able to isolate it because nobody has
been able to give it a fourth dimension--duration in time. Denham did
it. You can do it. And I need it, and you'd better set to work at the
job. You'll be very sorry if you don't, Von Holtz!"

Smithers said with a vast calmness.

"I got me a hunch. So if y'want his neck broke...."

Tommy released Von Holtz and the lean young man gasped and sputtered
and gesticulated wildly in a frenzy of rage.

"He'll make it," said Tommy coldly. "Because he doesn't dare not to!"

Von Holtz went out of the laboratory, his weak-looking eyes staring
and wild, and his mouth working.

"He'll be back," said Tommy briefly. "You've got to make a small model
of that big catapult, Smithers. Can you do it?"

"Sure," said Smithers. "The ring'll be copper tubing, with
pin-bearings. Wind a coil on the lathe. It'll be kinda rough, but
it'll do. But gears, now...."

"I'll attend to them. You know how to work that metallic ammonium?"

"If that's what it was," agreed Smithers. "I worked it for the
Professor."

Tommy leaned close and whispered:

"You never made any gears of that. But did you make some springs?"

"Uh-huh!"

Tommy grinned joyously.

"Then we're set and I'm right! Von Holtz wants a mathematical formula,
and no one on earth could write one, but we don't need it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Smithers rummaged around the laboratory with a casual air, acquired
this and that and the other thing, and set to work with an astounding
absence of waste motions. From time to time he inspected the great
catapult thoughtfully, verified some impression, and went about the
construction of another part.

And when Von Holtz did not return, Tommy hunted for him. He suddenly
remembered hearing his car motor start. He found his car missing. He
swore, then, and grimly began to hunt for a telephone in the house.
But before he had raised central he heard the deep-toned purring of
the motor again. His car was coming swiftly back to the house. And he
saw, through a window, that Von Holtz was driving it.

The lean young man got out of it, his face white with passion. He
started for the laboratory. Tommy intercepted him.

"I--went to get materials for making the metal," said Von Holtz
hoarsely, repressing his rage with a great effort. "I shall begin at
once, Herr Reames."

Tommy said nothing whatever. Von Holtz was lying. Of course. He
carried nothing in the way of materials. But he had gone away from the
house, and Tommy knew as definitely as if Von Holtz had told him, that
Von Holtz had gone off to communicate in safety with someone who
signed his correspondence with a J.

Von Holtz went into the laboratory. The four-cylinder motor began to
throb at once. The whine of the dynamo arose almost immediately after.
Von Holtz came out of the laboratory and dived into a shed that
adjoined the brick building. He remained in there.

Tommy looked at the trip register on his speedometer. Like most people
with methodical minds, he had noted the reading on arriving at a new
destination. Now he knew how far Von Holtz had gone. He had been to
the village and back.

"Meaning," said Tommy grimly to himself, "that the J who wants plans
and calculations is either in the village or at the end of a
long-distance wire. And Von Holtz said he was on the way. He'll
probably turn up and try to bribe me."

       *       *       *       *       *

He went back into the laboratory and put his eye to the eyepiece of
the dimensoscope. Smithers had his blow-torch going and was busily
accumulating an apparently unrelated series of discordant bits of
queerly-shaped metal. Tommy looked through at the strange mad world he
could see through the eyepiece.

The tree-fern forest was still. The encampment of the Ragged Men was
nearly quiet. Sunset seemed to be approaching in this other world,
though it was still bright outside the laboratory. The hours of day
and night were obviously not the same in the two worlds, so close
together that a man could be flung from one to the other by a
mechanical contrivance.

The sun seemed larger, too, than the orb which lights our normal
earth. When Tommy swung the vision instrument about to search for it,
he found a great red ball quite four times the diameter of our own
sun, neatly bisected by the horizon. Tommy watched, waiting for it to
sink. But it did not sink straight downward as the sun seems to do in
all temperate latitudes. It descended, yes, but it moved along the
horizon as it sank. Instead of a direct and forthright dip downward,
the sun seemed to progress along the horizon, dipping more deeply as
it swam. And Tommy watched it blankly.

"It's not our sun.... But it's not our world. Yet it revolves, and
there are men on it. And a sun that size would bake the earth.... And
it's sinking at an angle that would only come at a latitude of--"

That was the clue. He understood at once. The instrument through which
he regarded the strange world looked out upon the polar regions of
that world. Here, where the sun descended slantwise, were the high
latitudes, the coldest spaces upon all the whole planet. And if here
there were the gigantic growths of a carboniferous era, the tropic
regions of this planet must be literal infernos.

And then he saw in its gradual descent the monster sun was going along
behind the golden city, and the outlines of its buildings, the
magnificence of its spires, were limned clearly for him against the
dully glowing disk.

Nowhere upon earth had such a city ever been dreamed of. No man had
ever envisioned such a place, where far-flung arches interconnected
soaring, towering columns, where curves of perfect grace were united
in forms of utterly perfect proportion....

       *       *       *       *       *

The sunlight died, and dusk began and deepened, and vividly brilliant
stars began to come out overhead, and Tommy suddenly searched the
heavens eagerly for familiar constellations. And found not one. All
the stars were strange. These stars seemed larger and much more near
than the tiny pinpoints that blink down upon our earth.

And then he swung the instrument again and saw great fires roaring and
the Ragged Men crouched about them. Within them, rather, because they
had built fires about themselves as if to make a wall of flame. And
once Tommy saw twin, monstrous eyes, gazing from the blackness of the
tree-fern forest. They were huge eyes, and they were far apart, so
that the head of the creature who used them must have been enormous.
And they were all of fifteen feet above the ground when they
speculatively looked over the ring of fires and the ragged, degraded
men within them. Then that creature, whatever it was, turned away and
vanished.

But Tommy felt a curious shivering horror of the thing. It had moved
soundlessly, without a doubt, because not one of the Ragged Men had
noted its presence. It had been kept away by the fires. But Denham and
Evelyn were somewhere in the tree-fern forest, and they would not dare
to make fires....

Tommy drew away from the dimensoscope, shivering. He had been looking
only, but the place into which he looked was real, and the dangers
that lay hidden there were very genuine, and there was a man and a
girl of his own race and time struggling desperately, without arms or
hope, to survive.

       *       *       *       *       *

Smithers was casually fitting together an intricate array of little
rings made of copper tubing. There were three of them, and each was
fitted into the next largest by pins which enabled them to spin
noiselessly and swiftly at the touch of Smithers' finger. He had them
spinning now, each in a separate direction, and the effect was
bewildering.

As Tommy watched, Smithers stopped them, oiled the pins carefully, and
painstakingly inserted a fourth ring. Only this ring was of a white
metal that looked somehow more pallid than silver. It had a whiteness
like that of ivory beneath its metallic gleam.

Tommy blinked.

"Did Von Holtz give you that metal?" he asked suddenly.

Smithers looked up and puffed at a short brown pipe.

"Nope. There was some splashes of it by the castin' box. I melted 'em
together an' run a ring. Pressed it to shape; y' can't hammer this
stuff. It goes to water and dries up quicker'n lightning--an' you hold
y'nose an' run. I used it before for the Professor."

Tommy went over to him excitedly. He picked up the little contrivance
of many concentric rings. The big motor was throbbing rhythmically,
and the generator was humming at the back of the laboratory. Von Holtz
was out of sight.

       *       *       *       *       *

With painstaking care Tommy went over the little device. He looked up.

"A coil?"

"I wound one," said Smithers calmly. "On the lathe. Not so hot, but
it'll do, I guess. But I can't fix these rings like the Professor
did."

"I think I can," said Tommy crisply. "Did you make some wire for
springs?"

"Yeah!"

Tommy fingered the wire. Stout, stiff, and surprisingly springy wire
of the same peculiar metal. It was that metallic ammonium which
chemists have deduced must exist because of the chemical behavior of
the compound NH3, but which Denham alone had managed to procure.
Tommy deduced that it was an allotropic modification of the substance
which forms an amalgam with mercury, as metallic tin is an allotrope
of the amorphous gray powder which is tin in its normal, stable state.

He set to work with feverish excitement. For one hour, for two he
worked. At the end of that time he was explaining the matter curtly to
Smithers, so intent on his work that he wholly failed to hear a motor
car outside or to realize that it had also grown dark in this world of
ours.

"You see, Smithers, if a two-dimensioned creature wanted to adjust two
right angles at right angles to each other, he'd have them laid flat,
of course. And if he put a spring at the far ends of those right
angles--they'd look like a T, put together--so that the cross-bar of
that T was under tension, he'd have the equivalent of what I'm doing.
To make a three-dimensioned figure, that imaginary man would have to
bend one side of the cross-bar up. As if the two ends of it were under
tension by a spring, and the spring would only be relieved of tension
when that cross-bar was bent. But the vertical would be his time
dimension, so he'd have to have something thin, or it couldn't be
bent. He'd need something 'thin in time.'

"We have the same problem. But metallic ammonium is 'thin in time.'
It's so fugitive a substance that Denham is the only man ever to
secure it. So we use these rings and adjust these springs to them so
they're under tension which will only be released when they're all at
right angles to each other. In our three dimensions that's impossible,
but we have a metal that can revolve in a fourth, and we reinforce
their tendency to adjust themselves by starting them off with a jerk.
We've got 'em flat. They'll make a good stiff jerk when they try to
adjust themselves. And the solenoid's a bit eccentric--"

"Shut up!" snapped Smithers suddenly.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was facing the door, bristling. Von Holtz was in the act of coming
in, with a beefy, broad-shouldered man with blue jowls. Tommy
straightened up, thought swiftly, and then smiled grimly.

"Hullo, Von Holtz," he said pleasantly. "We've just completed a model
catapult. We're all set to try it out. Watch!"

He set a little tin can beneath the peculiar device of copper-tubing
rings. The can was wholly ordinary, made of thin sheet-iron plated
with tin as are all the tin cans of commerce.

"You have the catapult remade?" gasped Von Holtz. "Wait! Wait! Let me
look at it!"

For one instant, and one instant only, Tommy let him see. The massed
set of concentric rings, each one of them parallel to all the others.
It looked rather like a flat coil of tubing; certainly like no
particularly obscure form of projector. But as Von Holtz's weak eyes
fastened avidly upon it, Tommy pressed the improvised electric switch.
At once that would energize the solenoid and release all the tensed
springs from their greater tension, for an attempt to reach a
permanent equilibrium.

As Von Holtz and the blue-jowled man stared, the little tin can leaped
upward into the tiny coil. The small copper rings twinkled one within
the other as the springs operated. The tin can was wrenched this way
and that, then for the fraction of a second hurt the eyes that gazed
upon it--and it was gone! And then the little coil came spinning down
to the work bench top from its broken bearings and the remaining
copper rings spun aimlessly for a moment. But the third ring of
whitish metal had vanished utterly, and so had the coiled-wire springs
which Von Holtz had been unable to distinguish. And there was an
overpowering smell of ammonia in the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Holtz flung himself upon the still-moving little instrument. He
inspected it savagely, desperately. His full red lips drew back in a
snarl.

"How did you do it?" he cried shrilly. "You must tell me! I--I--I will
kill you if you do not tell me!"

The blue-jowled man was watching Von Holtz. Now his lips twisted
disgustedly. He turned to Tommy and narrowed his eyes.

"Look here," he rumbled. "This fool's no good! I want the secret of
that trick you did. What's your price?"

"I'm not for sale," said Tommy, smiling faintly.

The blue-jowled man regarded him with level eyes.

"My name's Jacaro," he said after an instant. "Maybe you've heard of
me. I'm from Chicago."

Tommy smiled more widely.

"To be sure," he admitted. "You were the man who introduced
machine-guns into gang warfare, weren't you? Your gunmen lined up half
a dozen of the Buddy Haines gang against a wall and wiped them out, I
believe. What do you want this secret for?"

The level eyes narrowed. They looked suddenly deadly.

"That's my business," said Jacaro briefly. "You know who I am. And I
want that trick y'did. I got my own reasons. I'll pay for it. Plenty.
You know I got plenty to pay, too. Or else--"

"What?"

"Something'll happen to you," said Jacaro briefly. "I ain't sayin''
what. But it's damn likely you'll tell what I want to know before it's
finished. Name your price and be damn quick!"

Tommy took his hand out of his pocket. He had a gun in it.

"The only possible answer to that," he said suavely, "is to tell you
to go to hell. Get out! But Von Holtz stays here. He'd better!"


CHAPTER IV

Within half an hour after Jacaro's leaving, Smithers was in the
village, laying in a stock of supplies and sending telegrams that
Tommy had written out for transmission. Tommy sat facing an ashen Von
Holtz and told him pleasantly what would be done to him if he failed
to make the metallic ammonium needed to repair the big solenoid. In an
hour, Smithers was back, reporting that Jacaro was also sending
telegrams but that he, Smithers, had stood over the telegraph operator
until his own messages were transmitted. He brought back weapons,
too--highly illegal things to have in New York State, where a citizen
is only law-abiding when defenseless. And then four days of hectic,
sleepless labor began.

On the first day one of Tommy's friends drove in in answer to a
telegram. It was Peter Dalzell, with men in uniform apparently
festooned about his car. He announced that a placard warning passersby
of smallpox within, had been added to the decorative signs upon the
gate, and stared incredulously at the interior of the big brick barn.
Tommy grinned at him and gave him plans and specifications of a light
steel globe in which two men might be transported into the fifth
dimension by a suitably operating device. Tommy had sat up all night
drawing those plans. He told Dalzell just enough of what he was up
against to enlist Dalzell's enthusiastic cooperation without
permitting him to doubt Tommy's sanity. Dalzell had known Tommy as an
amateur tennis player, but not as a scientist.

He marveled, refused to believe his eyes when he looked through the
dimensoscope, and agreed that the whole thing had to be kept secret or
the rescue expedition would be prevented from starting by the
incarceration of both Tommy and Smithers in comfortable insane
asylums. He feigned to admire Von Holtz, deathly white and nearly
frantic with a corroding rage, and complimented Tommy on his taste for
illegality. He even asked Von Holtz if he wanted to leave, and Von
Holtz snarled insults at him. Von Holtz was beginning to work at the
manufacture of metallic ammonium.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was an electrolytic process, of course. Ordinarily,
when--say--ammonium chloride is broken down by an electric current,
ammonium is deposited at the cathode and instantly becomes a gas which
dissolves in the water or bubbles up to the surface. With a mercury
cathode, it is dissolved and becomes a metallic amalgam, which also
breaks down into gas with much bubbling of the mercury. But Denham had
worked out a way of delaying the breaking-down, which left him with a
curiously white, spongy mass of metal which could be carefully melted
down and cast, but not under any circumstances violently struck or
strained.

Von Holtz was working at that. On the second day he delivered,
snarling, a small ingot of the white metal. He was imprisoned in the
lean-to-shed in which the electrolysis went on. But Tommy had more
than a suspicion that he was in communication with Jacaro.

"Of course," he said drily to Smithers, who had expressed his doubts.
"Jacaro had somebody sneak up and talk to him through the walls, or
maybe through a bored hole. While there's a hope of finding out what
he wants to know through Von Holtz, Jacaro won't try anything. Not
anything rough, anyhow. We mustn't be bumped off while what we are
doing is in our heads alone. We're safe enough--for a while."

Smithers grumbled.

"We need that ammonium," said Tommy, "and I don't know how to make it.
I bluffed that I could, and in time I might, but it would need time
and meanwhile Denham needs us. Dalzell is going to send a plane over
today, with word of when we can expect our own globe. We'll try to
have the big catapult ready when it comes. And the plane will drop
some extra supplies. I've ordered a sub-machine gun. Handy when we get
over there in the tree-fern forests. Right now, though, we need to be
watching...."

Because they were taking turns looking through the dimensoscope. For
signs of Denham and Evelyn. And Tommy was finding himself thinking
wholly unscientific thoughts about Evelyn, since a pretty girl in
difficulties is of all possible things the one most likely to make a
man romantic.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the four days of their hardest working, he saw her three times. The
globe was wrecked and ruined. Its glass was broken out and its
interior ripped apart. It had been pillaged so exhaustively that there
was no hope that whatever device had been included in its design, for
its return, remained even repairably intact. That device had not
worked, to be sure, but Tommy puzzled sometimes over the fact that he
had seen no mechanical device of any sort in the plunder that had been
brought out to be demolished. But he did not think of those things
when he saw Evelyn.

The Ragged Men's encampment was gone, but she and her father lingered
furtively, still near the pillaged globe. The first day Tommy saw her,
she was still blooming and alert. The second day she was paler. Her
clothing was ripped and torn, as if by thorns. Denham had a great raw
wound upon his forehead, and his coat was gone and half his shirt was
in ribbons. Before Tommy's eyes they killed a nameless small animal
with the trunchionlike weapon Evelyn carried. And Denham carted it
triumphantly off into the shelter of the tree-fern forest. But to
Tommy that shelter began to appear extremely dubious.

That same afternoon some of the Ragged Men came suspiciously to the
globe and inspected it, and then vented a gibbering rage upon it with
blows and curses. They seemed half-mad, these men. But then, all the
Ragged Men seemed a shade less than sane. Their hatred for the Golden
City seemed the dominant emotion of their existence.

And when they had gone, Tommy saw Denham peering cautiously from
behind a screening mass of fern. And Denham looked sick at heart. His
eyes lifted suddenly to the heavens, and he stared off into the
distance again, and then he regarded the heavens again with an
expression that was at once of the utmost wistfulness and the
uttermost of despair.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy swung the dimensoscope about and searched the skies of that
other world. He saw the flying machine, and it was a swallow-winged
device that moved swiftly, and now soared and swooped in abrupt short
circles almost overhead. Tommy could see its pilot, leaning out to
gaze downward. He was no more than a hundred feet up, almost at the
height of the tree-fern tops. And the pilot was moving too swiftly for
Tommy to be able to focus accurately upon his face, but he could see
him as a man, an indubitable man in no fashion distinguishable from
the other men of this earth. He was scrutinizing the globe as well as
he could without alighting.

He soared upward, suddenly, and his plane dwindled as it went toward
the Golden City.

And then, inevitably, Tommy searched for the four Ragged Men who had
inspected the globe a little while since. He saw them, capering
horribly behind a screening of verdure. They did not shake their
clenched fists at the flying machine. Instead, they seemed filled with
a ghastly mirth. And suddenly they began to run frantically for the
far distance, as if bearing news of infinite importance.

And when he looked back at Denham, it seemed to Tommy that he wrung
his hands before he disappeared.

       *       *       *       *       *

But that was the second day of the work upon our own world, and just
before sunset there was a droning in the earthly sky above the
laboratory, and Tommy ran out, and somebody shot at him from a patch
of woodland a quarter of a mile away from the brick building. Isolated
as Denham's place was, the shot would go unnoticed. The bullet passed
within a few feet of Tommy, but he paid no attention. It was one of
Jacaro's watchers, no doubt, but Jacaro did not want Tommy killed. So
Tommy waited until the plane swooped low--almost to the level of the
laboratory roof--and a thickly padded package thudded to the ground.
He picked it up and darted back into the laboratory as other bullets
came from the patch of woodland.

"Funny," he said dryly to Smithers, inside the laboratory again; "they
don't dare kill me--yet--and Von Holtz doesn't dare leave or refuse to
do what I tell him to do; and yet they expect to lick us."

Smithers growled. Tommy was unpacking the wrapped package. A grim,
blued-steel thing came out of much padding. Boxes tumbled after it.

"Sub-machine gun," said Tommy, "and ammunition. Jacaro and his little
pals will try to get in here when they think we've got the big
solenoid ready for use. They'll try to get it before we can use it.
This will attend to them."

"An' get us in jail," said Smithers calmly, "for forty-'leven years."

"No," said Tommy, and grinned. "We'll be in the fifth dimension. Our
job is to fling through the catapult all the stuff we'll need to make
another catapult to fling us back again."

"It can't be done," said Smithers flatly.

"Maybe not," agreed Tommy, "especially since we ruin all our springs
and one gymbal ring every time we use the thing. But I've got an idea.
I'll want five coils with hollow iron cores, and the whole works
shaped like this, with two holes bored so...."

       *       *       *       *       *

He sketched. He had been working on the idea for several days, and the
sketch was ready in his mind to be transferred to paper.

"What you goin' to do?"

"Something crazy," said Tommy. "A mirror isn't the only thing that
changes angles to right ones."

"You're the doctor," said the imperturbable Smithers.

He set to work. He puzzled Tommy sometimes, Smithers did. So far he
hadn't asked how much his pay was going to be. He'd worked
unintermittantly. He had displayed a colossal, a tremendous calmness.
But no man could work as hard as Smithers did without some powerful
driving-force. It was on the fourth day that Tommy learned what it
was.

The five coils had been made, and Tommy was assembling them with an
extraordinary painstaking care behind a screen, to hide what he was
doing. He'd discovered a peep-hole bored through the brick wall from
the lean-to where Von Holtz worked. He was no longer locked in there.
Tommy abandoned the pretense of imprisonment after finding an
automatic pistol and a duplicate key to the lock in Von Holtz's
possession. He'd had neither when he was theoretically locked up, and
Tommy laughed.

"It's a farce, Von Holtz," he said dryly, "this pretending you'll run
away. You're here spying now, for Jacaro. Of course. And you don't
dare harm either of us until you find out from me what you can't work
out for yourself, and know I have done. How much is Jacaro going to
pay you for the secret of the catapult, Von Holtz?"

Von Holtz snarled. Smithers moved toward him, his hands closing and
unclosing. Von Holtz went gray with terror.

"Talk!" said Smithers.

"A--a million dollars," said Von Holtz, cringing away from the brawny
red-headed man.

"It would be interesting to know what use it would be to him," said
Tommy dryly. "But to earn that million you have to learn what we know.
And to learn that, you have to help us do it again, on the scale we
want. You won't run away. So I shan't bother to lock you up hereafter.
Jacaro's men come and talk to you at night, don't they?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Holtz cringed again. It was an admission.

"I don't want to have to kill any of them," said Tommy pleasantly,
"and we'll all be classed as mad if this thing gets out. So you go and
talk to them in the lane when you want to, Von Holtz. But if any of
them come near the laboratory, Smithers and I will kill them, and if
Smithers is hurt I'll kill you; and I don't imagine Jacaro wants that,
because he expects you to build another catapult for him. But I warn
you, if I find another gun on you I'll thrash you."

Von Holtz's pallor changed subtly from the pallor of fear to the awful
lividness of rage.

"You--Gott! You dare threaten--" He choked upon his own fury.

"I do," said Tommy. "And I'll carry out the threat."

Smithers moved forward once more.

"Mr. Von Holtz," he said in a very terrible steadiness, "I aim to kill
you some time. I ain't done it yet because Mr. Reames says he needs
you a while. But I know you got Miss Evelyn marooned off in them
fern-woods on purpose! And--God knows she wouldn't ever look at me,
but--I aim to kill you some time!"

His eyes were flames. His hands closed and unclosed horribly. Von
Holtz gaped at him, shocked out of his fury into fear again. He went
unsteadily back to his lean-to. And Smithers went back to the
dimensoscope. It was his turn to watch that other world for signs of
Denham and Evelyn, and for any sign of danger to them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy adjusted the screen before the bench on which he was working, so
Von Holtz could not see his task, and went back to work. It was a
rather intricate task he had undertaken, and before the events of the
past few days he would have said it was insane. But now he was taking
it quite casually.

Presently he said:

"Smithers."

Smithers did not look away from the brass tube.

"Yeah?"

"You're thinking more about Miss Denham than her father."

Smithers did not reply for a moment. Then he said:

"Well? What if I am?"

"I am, too," said Tommy quietly. "I've never spoken to her, and I
daresay she's never even heard of me, and she certainly has never seen
me, but--"

Smithers said with a vast calmness:

"She'll never look at me, Mr. Reames. I know it. She talks to me, an'
laughs with me, but she's never sure-'nough looked at me. An' she
never will. But I got the right to love her."

Tommy nodded very gravely.

"Yes. You have. So have I. And so, when that globe comes, we both get
into it with what arms and ammunition we can pack in, and go where she
is, to help her. I intended to have you work the switch and send me
off. But you can come, too."

Smithers was silent. But he took his eyes from the dimensoscope
eye-piece and regarded Tommy soberly. Then he nodded and turned back.
And it was a compact between the two men that they should serve
Evelyn, without any rivalry at all.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy went on with his work. The essential defect in the catapult
Denham had designed was the fact that it practically had to be rebuilt
after each use. And, moreover, the metallic ammonium was so fugitive a
substance that it was hard to keep. Once it had been strained by
working, it gradually adverted to a gaseous state and was lost. And
while he still tried to keep the little catapult in a condition for
use, he was at no time sure that he could send a pair of automatics
and ammunition through in a steel box at any moment that Denham came
close enough to notice a burning smoke-fuse attached.

But he was working on another form of catapult entirely, now. In this
case he was using hollow magnets placed at known angles to each other.
And they were so designed that each one tended to adjust its own
hollow bore at right angles to the preceding one, and each one would
take any moving, magnetic object and swing it through four successive
right angles into the fifth dimension.

He fitted the first magnet on twin rods of malleable copper, which
also would carry the current which energized the coil. He threaded the
second upon the same twin supports. When the current was passed
through the two of them, the magnetic field itself twisted the
magnets, bending the copper supports and placing the magnets in their
proper relative positions. A third magnet on the same pair of rods,
and a repetition of the experiment, proved the accuracy of the idea.
And since this device, like the dimensoscope, required only a
forty-five degree angle to our known dimensions, instead of a right
angle as the other catapult did, Tommy was able to work with ordinary
and durable materials. He fitted on the last two coils and turned on
the current for his final experiment. And as he watched, the twin
three-eighths-inch rods twisted and writhed in the grip of the
intangible magnetic force. They bent, and quivered, and twisted....
And suddenly there seemed to be a sort of inaudible _snap_, and one of
the magnets hurt the eyes that looked at it, and only the edge of the
last of the series was visible.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy drew in his breath sharply. "Now we try it," he said tensely. "I
was trying to work this as the mirrors of the dimensoscope were
fitted. Let's see."

He took a long piece of soft-iron wire and fed it into the hollow of
the first magnet. He saw it come out and bend stiffly to enter the
hollow of the second. It required force to thrust it through. It went
still more stiffly into the third magnet. It required nearly all his
strength to thrust it on, and on.... The end of it vanished. He pushed
two feet or more of it beyond the last place where it was visible. It
went into the magnet that hurt one's eyes. After that it could not be
seen.

Tommy's voice was strained.

"Swing the dimensoscope, Smithers," he ordered. "See if you can see
the wire. The end of it should be in the other world."

It seemed an age, an aeon, that Smithers searched. Then:

"Move it," he said.

Tommy obeyed.

"It's there," said Smithers evenly. "Two or three feet of it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy drew a deep, swift breath of relief.

"All right!" he said crisply. "Now we can fling anything we need
through there, when our globe arrives. We can built up a dump of
supplies, all sent through just before we slide through in the globe."

"Yeah," said Smithers. "Uh--Mr. Reames. There's a bunch of Ragged Men
in sight, hauling something heavy behind them. I don't know what it's
all about."

Tommy went to the brass tube and stared through it. The tree-fern
forest, drawing away in the distance. The vast and steaming morass.
The glittering city, far, far in the distance.

And then a mob of the Ragged Men, hauling at some heavy thing. They
were a long way off. Some of them came capering on ahead, and Tommy
swung the dimensoscope about to see Denham and Evelyn dart for cover
and vanish amid the tree-ferns. Denham was as ragged as the Ragged
Men, by now, and Evelyn's case was little better.

Frightened for them, Tommy swung the instrument about again. But they
had not been seen. The leaders who ran gleefully on ahead were merely
in haste. And they were followed more slowly by burly men and lean
ones, whole men and limping men, who hauled frantically on long ropes
of hide, dragging some heavy thing behind them. Tommy saw it only
indistinctly as the filthy, nearly naked bodies moved. But it was an
intricate device of a golden-colored metal, and it rested upon the
crudest of possible carts. The wheels were sections of tree trunks,
pierced for wooden axles. The cart itself was made of the most
roughly-hewed of timbers. And there were fifty or more of the Ragged
Men who dragged it.

The men in advance now attacked the underbrush at the edge of the
forest. They worked with a maniacal energy, clearing away the long
fern-fronds while they capered and danced and babbled excitedly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Irrelevantly, Tommy thought of escaped galley slaves. Just such
hard-bitten, vice-ridden men as these, and filled with just such a
mad, gibbering hatred of the free men they had escaped from. Certainly
these men had been civilized once. As the golden-metal device came
nearer, its intricacy was the more apparent. No savages could utilize
a device like this one. And there was a queer deadliness in the very
grace of its outlines. It was a weapon of some sort, but whose nature
Tommy could not even guess.

And then he caught the gleam of metal also in the fern-forest. On the
ground. In glimpses and in fragments of glimpses between the swarming
naked bodies of the Ragged Men, he pieced together a wholly incredible
impression. There was a roadway skirting the edge of the forest. It
was not wide; not more than fifteen feet at most. But it was a solid
road-bed of metal! The dull silver-white of aluminum gleamed from the
ground. Two or more inches thick and fifteen feet wide, there was a
seamless ribbon of aluminum that vanished behind the tree-ferns on
either side.

The intricate device of golden metal was set up, now, and a shaggy,
savage-seeming man mounted beside it grinning. He manipulated its
levers and wheels with an expert's assurance. And Tommy saw repairs
upon it. Crude repairs, with crude materials, but expertly done. Done
by the Ragged Men, past doubt, and so demolishing any idea that they
came of a savage race.

"Watch here, Smithers," said Tommy grimly.

       *       *       *       *       *

He sat to work upon the little catapult after Denham's design. His own
had seemed to work, but the other was more sure. This would be an
ambush the Ragged Men were preparing, and of course they would be
preparing it for men of the Golden City. The plane had sighted
Denham's steel globe. It had hovered overhead, and carried news of
what it had seen to the Golden City. And here was a roadway that must
have been made by the folk of the Golden City at some time or another.
Its existence explained why Denham remained nearby. He had been hoping
that some vehicle would travel along its length, containing civilized
people to whom he could signal and ultimately explain his plight. And,
being near the steel globe, his narrative would have its proofs at
hand.

And now it was clear that the Ragged Men expected some ground-vehicle,
too. They were preparing for it. They were setting a splendid ambush,
with a highly-treasured weapon they ordinarily kept hidden. Their
triumphant hatred could apply to nothing else than an expectation of
inflicting injury on men of the Golden City.

So Tommy worked swiftly upon the catapult. A new little ring of
metallic ammonium was ready, and so were the necessary springs. The
Ragged Men would lay their ambush. The men of the Golden City might
enter it. They might. But the aviator who had spotted the globe would
have seen the shredded contents of the sphere about. He would have
known the Ragged Men had found it. And the men who came in a
ground-vehicle from the Golden City should be expecting just such an
ambush as was being laid.

There would be a fight, and Tommy, somehow, had no doubt that the men
of the Golden City would win. And when they had cleared the field he
would fling a smoking missile through the catapult. The victors should
see it and should examine it. And though writing would serve little
purpose, they should at least recognize it as written communication in
a language other than their own. And mathematical diagrams would
certainly be lucid, and proof of a civilized man sending the missile,
and photographs....

       *       *       *       *       *

The catapult was ready, and Tommy prepared his message-carrying
projectile. He found snapshots and included them. He tore out a
photograph of Evelyn and her father, which had been framed above a
work bench in the laboratory. He labored, racking his brain for a
means of conveying the information that the globe was of any other
world.... And suddenly he had an idea. A cord attached to his missile
would lead to nothingness from either world, yet one end would be in
that other world, and the other end in this. A wire would be better.
Tugs upon it would convey the idea of living beings nearby but
invisible. The photograph would identify Denham and his daughter as
associated with the phenomenon and competent to explain it....

Tommy worked frantically to get the thing ready. He almost prayed that
the men of the Golden City would be victors, would find his little
missile when the fray was over, and would try to comprehend it....

All he could do was try.

Then Smithers said, from the dimensoscope:

"They're all set, Mr. Reames. Y'better look."

Tommy stared through the eye-piece. Strangely, the golden weapon had
vanished. All seemed to be exactly as before. The cleared-away
underbrush was replaced. Nothing was in any way changed from the
normal in that space upon a mad world. But there was a tiny movement
and Tommy saw a Ragged Man. He was lying prone upon the earth. He
seemed either to hear or see something, because his lips moved as he
spoke to another invisible man beside him, and his expression of
malevolent joy was horrible.

Tommy swung the tube about. Nothing.... But suddenly he saw
swiftly-moving winkings of sunlight from the edge of the tree-fern
forest. Something was moving in there, moving with lightning swiftness
along the fifteen-foot roadway of solid aluminum. It drew nearer, and
more near....

       *       *       *       *       *

The carefully camouflaged ambuscade was fully focussed and Tommy was
watching tensely when the thing happened.

He saw glitterings through the tree-fronds come to a smoothly
decelerated stop. There was a pause; and suddenly the underbrush fell
flat. As if a single hand had smitten it, it wavered, drooped, and lay
prone. The golden weapon was exposed, with its brawny and horribly
grinning attendant. For one-half a split second Tommy saw the wheeled
thing in which half a dozen men of the Golden City were riding. It was
graceful and stream-lined and glittering. There was a platform on
which the steel sphere would have been mounted for carrying away.

But then there was a sudden intolerable light as the men of the Golden
City reached swiftly for peculiar weapons beside them. The light came
from the crudely mounted weapon of the Ragged Men, and it was an
unbearable actinic glare. For half a second, perhaps, it persisted,
and died away to a red flame which leaped upward and was not.

Then the vehicle from the Golden City was a smoking, twisted ruin.
Four of the six men in it were blasted, blackened crisps. Another
staggered to his feet, struggled to reach a weapon and could not lift
it, and twitched a dagger from his belt and fell forward; and Tommy
could see that his suicide was deliberate.

The last man, alone, was comparatively unharmed by the blast of light.
He swept a pistol-like contrivance into sight. It bore swiftly upon
the now surging, yelling horde of Ragged Men. And one--two--three of
them seemed to scream convulsively before they were trampled under by
the rest.

But suddenly there were a myriad little specks of red all over the
body of the man at bay. The pistol-like thing dropped from his grasp
as his whole hand became encrimsoned. And then he was buried beneath
the hating, blood-lusting mob of the forest men.


CHAPTER V

An hour later, Tommy took his eyes away from the dimensoscope
eye-piece. He could not bear to look any longer.

"Why don't they kill him?" he demanded sickly, filled with a horrible,
a monstrous rage. "Oh, why don't they kill him?"

He felt maddeningly impotent. In another world entirely, a mob of
half-naked renegades had made a prisoner. He was not dead, that solely
surviving man from the Golden City. He was bound, and the Ragged Men
guarded him closely, and his guards were diverting themselves
unspeakably by small tortures, minor tortures, horribly painful but
not weakening. And they capered and howled with glee when the bound
man writhed.

The prisoner was a brave man, though. Helpless as he was, he presently
flung back his head and set his teeth. Sweat stood out in great
droplets upon his body and upon his forehead. And he stilled his
writhings, and looked at his captors with a grim and desperate
defiance.

The guards made gestures which were all too clear, all too luridly
descriptive of the manner of death which awaited him. And the man of
the Golden City was ashen and hopeless and utterly despairing--and yet
defiant.

Smithers took Tommy's place at the eye-piece of the instrument. His
nostrils quivered at what he saw. The vehicle from the Golden City was
being plundered, of course. Weapons from the dead men were being
squabbled over, even fought over. And the Ragged Men fought as madly
among themselves as if in combat with their enemies. The big golden
weapon on its cart was already being dragged away to its former
hiding-place. And somehow, it was clear that those who dragged it away
expected and demanded that the solitary prisoner not be killed until
their return.

It was that prisoner, in the agony which was only the beginning of his
death, who made Smithers' teeth set tightly.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I don't see the Professor or Miss Evelyn," said Smithers in a vast
calmness. "I hope to Gawd they--don't see this."

Tommy swung on his heel, staring and ashen.

"They were near," he said stridently. "I saw them! They saw what
happened in the ambush! They'll--they'll see that man tortured!"

Smithers' hand closed and unclosed.

"Maybe the Professor'll have sense enough to take Miss
Evelyn--uh--where she--can't hear," he said slowly, his voice level.
"I hope so."

Tommy flung out his hands desperately.

"I want to help that man!" he cried savagely. "I want to do something!
I saw what they promised to do to him. I want to--to kill him, even!
It would be mercy!"

Smithers said, with a queer, stilly shock in his voice:

"I see the Professor now. He's got that gun-thing in his hand.... Miss
Evelyn's urging him to try to do something.... He's looking at the
sky.... It'll be a long time before it's dark.... He's gone back out
of sight...."

"If we had some dynamite!" said Tommy desperately, "we could take a
chance on blowing ourselves to bits and try to fling it through and
into the middle of those devils...."

       *       *       *       *       *

He was pacing up and down the laboratory, harrowed by the fate of that
gray-faced man who awaited death by torture; filled with a wild terror
that Evelyn and her father would try to rescue him and be caught to
share his fate; racked by his utter impotence to do more than
watch....

Then Smithers said thickly:

"God!"

He stumbled away from the eye-piece. Tommy took his place,
dry-throated with terror. He saw the Ragged Men laughing uproariously.
The bearded man who was their leader was breaking the arms and legs of
the prisoner so that he would be helpless when released from the stake
to which he was bound. And if ever human beings looked like devils out
of hell, it was at that moment. The method of breaking the bones was
excruciating. The prisoner screamed. The Ragged Men rolled upon the
ground in their maniacal mirth.

And then a man dropped, heaving convulsively, and then another, and
still another.... The grim, gaunt figure of Denham came out of the
tree-fern forest, the queer small golden-metal trunchion in his hand.
A fourth man dropped before the Ragged Men quite realized what had
happened. The fourth man himself was armed--and a flashing slender
body came plunging from the forest and Evelyn flung herself upon the
still-heaving body and plucked away that weapon.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy groaned, in the laboratory in another world. He could not look
away, and yet it seemed that the heart would be torn from his body by
that sight. Because the Ragged Men had turned upon Denham with a
concentrated ferocity, somehow knowing instantly that he was more
nearly akin to the men of the Golden City than to them. But at sight
of Evelyn, her garments rent by the thorns of the forest, her white
body gleaming through the largest tears, they seemed to go mad. And
Tommy's eyes, glazing, saw the look on Denham's face as he realized
that Evelyn had not fled, but had followed him in his desperate and
wholly hopeless effort.

Then the swarming mass of Ragged Men surged over the two of them.
Buried them under reaching, hating, lusting fiends who fought even
among themselves to be first to seize them.

Then there was only madness, and Denham was bound beside the man of
the Golden City, and Evelyn was the center of a fighting group which
was suddenly flung aside by the bearded giant, and the encampment of
the Ragged Men was bedlam. And somehow Tommy knew with a terrible
clarity that a man of the Golden City to torture was bliss
unimaginable to these half-mad enemies of that city. But a woman--

He turned from the instrument, three-quarters out of his head. He
literally did not see Von Holtz gazing furtively in the doorway. His
eyes were fixed and staring. It seemed that his brain would burst.

Then he heard his own voice saying with an altogether unbelievable
steadiness:

"Smithers! They've got Evelyn. Get the sub-machine gun."

       *       *       *       *       *

Smithers cried out hoarsely. His face was not quite human, for an
instant. But Tommy was bringing the work bench on which he had
installed his magnetic catapult, close over by the dimensoscope.

"This cannot work," he said in the same incredible calmness. "Not
possibly. It should not work. It will not work. But it has to work!"

He was clamping the catapult to a piece of heavy timber.

"Put the gun so it shoots into the first magnet," he said steadily.
"The magnet-windings shouldn't stand the current we've got to put into
them. They've got to."

Smithers' fingers were trembling and unsteady. Tommy helped him, not
looking through the dimensoscope at all.

"Start the dynamo," he said evenly--and marveled foolishly at the
voice that did not seem to belong to him at all, talking so steadily
and so quietly. "Give me all the juice you've got. We'll cut out this
rheostat."

He was tightening a vise which would hold the deadly little weapon in
place while Smithers got the crude-oil engine going and accelerated it
recklessly to its highest speed. Tommy flung the switch. Rubber
insulation steamed and stank. He pulled the trigger of the little gun
for a single shot. The bullet flew into the first hollow magnet, just
as he had beforehand thrust an iron wire. It vanished. The series of
magnets seemed unharmed.

       *       *       *       *       *

With a peculiar, dreamlike steadiness, Tommy put his hand where an
undeflected bullet would go through it. He pressed the trigger again.
He felt a tiny breeze upon his hand. But the bullet had been unable to
elude the compound-wound magnets, each of which now had quite four
times the designed voltage impressed upon its coils.

Tommy flung off the switch.

"Work the gun," he ordered harshly. "When I say fire, send a burst of
shots through it. Keep the switch off except when you're actually
firing, so--God willing--the coils don't burn out. Fire!"

He was gazing through the dimensoscope. Evelyn was struggling
helplessly while two Ragged Men held her arms, grinning as only devils
could have grinned, and others squabbled and watched with a fascinated
attention some cryptic process which could only be the drawing of
lots....

Tommy saw, and paid no attention. The machine-gun beside him rasped
suddenly. He saw a tree-fern frond shudder. He saw a gaping, irregular
hole where a fresh frond was uncurling. Tommy put out his hand to the
gun.

"Let me move it, bench and all," he said steadily. "Now try it again.
Just a burst."

       *       *       *       *       *

Again the gun rasped. And the earth was kicked up suddenly where the
bullets struck in that other world. The little steel-jacketed missiles
were deflected by the terribly overstrained magnets of the catapult,
but their energy was not destroyed. It was merely altered in
direction. Fired within the laboratory upon our own and normal world,
the bullets came out into the world of tree-ferns and monstrous
things. They came out, as it happened, sideways instead of point
first, which was due to some queer effect of dimension change upon an
object moving at high velocity. Because of that, they ricocheted much
more readily, and where they struck they made a much more ghastly
wound. But the first two bursts caused no effect at all. They were not
even noticed by the Ragged Men. The noise of the little gun was
thunderous and snarling in the laboratory, but in the world of the
fifth dimension there was no sound at all.

"Like this," said Tommy steadily. "Just like this.... Now fire!"

He had tilted the muzzle upward. And then with a horrible grim
intensity he traversed the gun as it roared.

And it was butchery. Three Ragged Men were cut literally to bits
before the storm of bullets began to do real damage. The squabbling
group, casting lots for Evelyn, had a swathe of dead men in its midst
before snarls begun had been completed.

"Again," said Tommy coldly. "Again, Smithers, again!"

       *       *       *       *       *

And again the little gun roared. The burly bearded man clutched at his
throat--and it was a gory horror. A Thing began to run insanely. It
did not even look human any longer. It stumbled over the leader of the
Ragged Men and died as he had done. The bullets came tumbling over
themselves erratically. They swooped and curved and dispersed
themselves crazily. Spinning as they were, at right angles to their
line of flight, their trajectories were incalculable and their impacts
were grisly.

The little gun fired ten several bursts, aimed in a desperate
cold-bloodedness, before the smell of burnt rubber became suddenly
overpowering and the rasping sound of an electric arc broke through
the rumbling of the crude-oil engine in the back.

Smithers sobbed.

"Burnt out!"

But Tommy waved his hand.

"I think," he said savagely, "that maybe a dozen of them got away.
Evelyn's staggering toward her father. She'll turn him loose. That
prisoner's dead, though. Didn't mean to shoot him, but those bullets
flew wild."

He gave Smithers the eye-piece. Sweat was rolling down his forehead in
great drops. His hands were trembling uncontrollably.

He paced shakenly up and down the laboratory, trying to shut out of
his own sight the things he had seen when the bullets of his own
aiming literally splashed into the living flesh of men. He had seen
Ragged Men disemboweled by those spinning, knifelike projectiles. He
had turned a part of the mad world of that other dimension into a
shambles, and he did not regret it because he had saved Evelyn, but he
wanted to shut out the horror of seeing what he had done.

"But now," he said uncertainly to himself, "they're no better off,
except they've got weapons.... If that man from the Golden City hadn't
been killed...."

       *       *       *       *       *

He was looking at the magnetic catapult, burned out and useless. His
eyes swung suddenly to the other one. Just a little while since he had
made ready a missile to be thrown through into the other world by
that. It contained snapshots, and diagrams, and it was an attempt to
communicate with the men of the Golden City without any knowledge of
their language.

"But--I can communicate with Denham!"

He began to write feverishly. If he had looked out of the laboratory
window, he would have seen Von Holtz running like a deer, waving his
arms jerkily, and--when out of earshot of the laboratory--shouting
loudly. And Von Holtz was carrying a small black box which Tommy would
have identified instantly as a motion picture camera, built for
amateurs but capable of taking pictures indoors and with a
surprisingly small amount of light. And if Tommy had listened, he
might possibly have heard the beginnings of those shoutings to men
hidden in a patch of woodland about a quarter of a mile away. The men,
of course, were Jacaro's, waiting until either Von Holtz had secured
the information that was wanted, or until an assault in force upon the
laboratory would net them a catapult ready for use--to be examined,
photographed, and duplicated at leisure.

But Tommy neither looked nor listened. He wrote feverishly, saying to
Smithers at the dimensoscope:

"Denham'll be looking around to see what killed those men. When he
does, we want to be ready to shoot a smoke-bomb through to him, with a
message attached."

Smithers made a gesture of no especial meaning save that he had heard.
And Tommy went on writing swiftly, saying who he was and what he had
done, and that another globe was being built so that he and Smithers
could come with supplies and arms to help....

"He's lookin'' around now, Mr. Reames," said Smithers quietly. "He's
picked up a ricocheted bullet an' is staring at it."

       *       *       *       *       *

The crude-oil engine was running at a thunderous rate. Tommy fastened
his note in the little missile he had made ready. He placed it under
the solenoid of the catapult after Denham's design, with the springs
and rings of metallic ammonium. He turned to Smithers.

"I'll watch for him," said Tommy unsteadily. "You know, watch for the
right moment to fling it through. Slow up the generator a little.
It'll rack itself to pieces."

He put his eye to the eye-piece. He winced as he saw again what the
bullets of his aiming had done. But he saw Denham almost at once. And
Denham was scratched and bruised and looked very far indeed from the
ideal of a professor of theoretic physics, with hardly more than a few
shreds of clothing left upon him, and a ten-day's beard upon his face.
He limped as he walked. But he had stopped in the task of gathering up
weapons to show Evelyn excitedly what it was that he had found. A
spent and battered bullet, but indubitably a bullet from the world of
his own ken. He began to stare about him, hopeful yet incredulous.

Tommy took his eye from the dimensoscope just long enough to light the
fuse of the smoke-bomb.

"Here it goes, Smithers!"

He flung the switch. The missile with its thickly smoking fuse leaped
upward as the concentric rings flickered and whirled bewilderingly.
The missile hurt the eyes that watched it. It vanished. The solenoid
dropped to the floor from the broken small contrivance.

Then Tommy's heart stood still as he gazed through the eye-piece
again. He could see nothing but an opaque milkiness. But it drifted
away, and he realised that it was smoke. More, Denham was staring at
it. More yet, he was moving cautiously towards its source, one of the
strange golden weapons held ready....

Denham was investigating.

       *       *       *       *       *

The generator at the back of the laboratory slowed down. Smithers was
obeying orders. Tommy hung close by the vision instrument, his hands
moving vaguely and helplessly, as one makes gestures without volition
when anxious for someone else to duplicate the movements for which he
sets the example.

He saw Denham, very near, inspecting the smoking thing on the ground
suspiciously. The smoke-fuse ceased to burn. Denham stared. After an
age-long delay, he picked up the missile Tommy had prepared. And Tommy
saw that there was a cord attached to it. He had fastened that cord
when planning to try to communicate with the men of the Golden City,
when he had expected them to be victorious.

But he saw Denham's face light up with pathetic hope. He called to
Evelyn. He hobbled excitedly to her, babbling....

Tommy watched, and his heart pounded suddenly as Evelyn turned and
smiled in the direction in which she knew the dimensoscope must be. A
huge butterfly, its wings a full yard across, fluttered past her head.
Denham talked excitedly to her. A clumsy batlike thing swooped by
overhead. Its shadow blanketed her face for an instant. A running
animal, small and long, ran swiftly in full view from one side of the
dimensoscope's field of vision to the other. Then a snake, curiously
horned, went writhing past....

Denham talked excitedly. He turned and made gestures as of writing,
toward the spot where he had picked up Tommy's message. He began to
search for a charred stick where the Ragged Men had built a fire some
days now past. A fleeing furry thing sped across his feet, running....

       *       *       *       *       *

Denham looked up. And Evelyn was staring now. She was staring in the
direction of the Golden City. And now what was almost a wave of
animals, all wild and all fleeing, swept across the field of vision of
the dimensoscope. There were gazelles, it seemed--slender-limbed,
graceful animals, at any rate--and there were tiny hoofed things which
might have been eohippi, and then a monstrous armadillo clanked and
rattled past....

Tommy swung the dimensoscope. He gasped. All the animal world was in
flight. The insects had taken to wing. Flying creatures were soaring
upward and streaking through the clear blue sky, and all in the one
direction. And then out of the morass came monstrous shapes;
misshapen, unbelievable reptilian shapes, which fled bellowing
thunderously for the tree-fern forest. They were gigantic, those
things from the morass. They were hideous. They were things out of
nightmares, made into flabby flesh. There were lizards and what might
have been gigantic frogs, save that frogs possess no tails. And there
were long and snaky necks terminating in infinitesimal heads, and vast
palpitating bodies following those impossible small brain-cases, and
long tapering tails that thrashed mightily as the ghastly things fled
bellowing....

And the cause of the mad panic was a slowly moving white curtain of
mist. It was flowing over the marsh, moving with apparent
deliberation, but, as Tommy saw, actually very swiftly. It shimmered
and quivered and moved onward steadily. Its upper surface gleamed with
elusive prismatic colors. It had blotted out the horizon and the
Golden City, and it came onward....

       *       *       *       *       *

Denham made frantic, despairing gestures toward the dimensoscope. The
thing was coming too fast. There was no time to write. Denham held
high the cord that trailed from the message-bearing missile. He
gesticulated frantically, and raced to the gutted steel globe and
heaved mightily upon it and swung it about so that Tommy saw a great
steel ring set in its side, which had been hidden before. He made more
gestures, urgently, and motioned Evelyn inside.

Tommy struck at his forehead.

"It's poison gas," he muttered. "Revenge for the smashed-up
vehicle.... They knew it by an automatic radio signal, maybe. This is
their way of wiping out the Ragged Men.... Poison gas.... It'll kill
Denham and Evelyn.... He wants me to do something...."

He drew back, staring, straining every nerve to think.... And somehow
his eyes were drawn to the back of the laboratory and he saw Smithers
teetering on his feet, with his hands clasped queerly to his body, and
a strange man standing in the door of the laboratory with an automatic
pistol in his hand. The automatic had a silencer on it, and its
clicking had been drowned out, anyhow, by the roaring of the crude-oil
engine.

The man was small and dark and natty. His lips were drawn back in a
peculiar mirthless grin as Smithers teetered stupidly back and forth
and then fell....

The explosion of Tommy's own revolver astounded him as much as it did
Jacaro's gunman. He did not ever remember drawing it or aiming. The
natty little gunman was blotted out by a spouting mass of white
smoke--and suddenly Tommy knew what it was that Denham wanted him to
do.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was rope in a loose and untidy coil beneath a work bench. Tommy
sprang to it in a queer, nightmarish activity. He knew what was
happening, of course. Von Holtz had seen the magnetic catapult at
work. That couldn't be destroyed or its workings hidden like the ring
catapult of Denham's design. He'd gone out to call in Jacaro's men.
And they'd shot down Smithers as a cold-blooded preliminary to the
seizure of the instrument Jacaro wanted.

It was necessary to defend the laboratory. But Tommy could not spare
the time. That white mist was moving upon Evelyn and her father, in
that other world. It was death, as the terror of the wild things
demonstrated. They had to be helped....

He knotted the rope to the end of the cord that vanished curiously
somewhere among the useless mass of rings. He tugged at the cord--and
it was tugged in return. Denham, in another world, had felt his signal
and had replied to it....

A window smashed suddenly and a bullet missed Tommy's neck by inches.
He fired at that window, and absorbedly guided the knot of the rope
past its vanishing point. The knot ceased to exist and the rope crept
onward--and suddenly moved more and more swiftly to a place where
abruptly it was not. For the length of half an inch, the rope hurt the
eyes that looked at it. Beyond that it was not possible to see it at
all.

Tommy leaped up. He plunged ahead of two separate spurts of shots from
two separate windows. The shots pierced the place where he had been.
He was racing for the crude-oil engine. There was a chain wound upon a
drum, there, and a clutch attached the drum to the engine.

He stopped and seized the repeating shotgun Smithers had brought as
his own weapon against Jacaro's gangsters. He sent four loads of
buckshot at the windows of the laboratory. A man yelled.

And Tommy had dropped the gun to knot the rope to the chain,
desperately, fiercely, in a terrible haste.

       *       *       *       *       *

The chain began to pay out to that peculiar vanishing point which was
here an entry-way to another world--perhaps another universe.

A bullet nicked his ribs. He picked up the gun and fired it nearly at
random. He saw Smithers moving feebly, and Tommy had a vast compassion
for Smithers, but-- He shuddered suddenly. Something had struck him a
heavy blow in the shoulder. And something else battered at his leg.
There was no sound that could be heard above the thunder of the
crude-oil motor, but Tommy, was queerly aware of buzzing things flying
about him, and of something very warm flowing down his body and down
his leg. And he felt very dizzy and weak and extremely tired.... He
could not see clearly, either.

But he had to wait until Denham had the chain fast to the globe. That
was the way he had intended to come back, of course. The ring was in
the globe, and this chain was in the laboratory to haul the globe back
from wherever it had been sent. And Von Holtz had disconnected it
before sending away the globe with Denham in it. If the chain remained
unbroken, of course it could be hauled in, as it would turn all
necessary angles and force the globe to follow those angles, whatever
they might be....

Tommy was on his hands and knees, and men were saying savagely:

"Where's that thing, hey? Where's th' thing Jacaro wants?"

He wanted to tell them that they should say if the chain had stopped
moving to a place where it ceased to exist, so that he could throw a
clutch and bring Denham and his daughter back from the place where Von
Holtz had marooned them when he wanted to steal Denham's secret. Tommy
wanted to explain that. But the floor struck him in the face, and
something said to him:

"They've shot you."

       *       *       *       *       *

But it did not seem to matter, somehow, and he lay very still until he
felt himself strangling, and he was breathing in strong ammonia which
made his eyes smart and his tired lungs gasp.

Then he saw flames, and heard a motor car roaring away from close by
the laboratory.

"They've stolen the catapult and set fire to the place," he remembered
dizzily, "and now they're skipping out...."

Even that did not seem to matter. But then he heard the chain clank,
next to him on the floor. The white mist! Denham and Evelyn waiting
for the white mist to reach them, and Denham jerking desperately on
the chain to signal that he was ready....

The flames had released ammonia from the metal Von Holtz had made.
That had roused Tommy. But it did not give him strength. It is
impossible to say where Tommy's strength came from, when somehow he
crawled to the clutch lever, with the engine roaring steadily above
him, and got one hand on the lever, and edged himself up, and up, and
up, until he could swing his whole weight on that lever. That instant
of dangling hurt excruciatingly, too, and Tommy saw only that the drum
began to revolve swiftly, winding the chain upon it, before his grip
gave way.

And the chain came winding in and in from nowhere, and the tall
laboratory filled more and more thickly with smoke, and lurid flames
appeared somewhere, and a rushing sound began to be audible as the
fire roared upward to the inflammable roof, and the engine ran
thunderously....

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, suddenly, there was a shape in the middle of the laboratory
floor. A huge globular shape which it hurt the eyes to look upon. It
became visible out of nowhere as if evoked by magic amid the flames of
hell. But it came, and was solid and substantial, and it slid along
the floor upon small wheels until it wound up with a crash against the
winding drum, and the chain shrieked as it tightened unbearably--and
the engine choked and died.

Then a door opened in the monstrous globe. Two figures leaped out,
aghast. Two ragged, tattered, strangely-armed figures, who cried out
to each other and started for the door. But the girl stumbled over
Tommy and called, choking, to her father. Groping toward her, he found
Smithers. And then Tommy smiled drowsily to himself as soft arms
tugged bravely at him, and a slender, glorious figure staggered with
him to fresh air.

"It's Von Holtz," snapped Denham, and coughed as he fought his way to
the open. "I'll blast him to hell with these things we brought
back...."

       *       *       *       *       *

That was the last thing Tommy knew until he woke up in bed with a
feeling of many bandages and an impression that his lungs hurt.

Denham seemed to have heard him move. He looked in the door.

"Hullo, Reames. You're all right now."

Tommy regarded him curiously until he realized. Denham was shaved and
fully clothed. That was the strangeness about him. Tommy had been
watching him for many days as his clothing swiftly deteriorated and
his beard grew.

"You are, too, I see," he said weakly. "I'm damned glad." Then he felt
foolish, and querulous, and as if he should make some apology, and
instead said, "But five dimensions does seem extreme. Three is enough
for ordinary use, and four is luxurious. Five seems to be going a bit
too far."

Denham blinked, and then grinned suddenly. Tommy had admired the man
who could face so extraordinary a situation with such dogged courage,
and now he found, suddenly, that he liked Denham.

"Not too far," said Denham grimly. "Look!" He held up one of the
weapons Tommy had seen in that other world, one of the golden-colored
truncheons. "I brought this back. The same metal they built that wagon
of theirs with. All their weapons. Most of their tools--as I know.
It's gold, man! They use gold in that world as we use steel here.
That's why Jacaro was ready to kill to get the secret of getting
there. Von Holtz enlisted him."

"How did you know--" began Tommy weakly.

"Smithers," said Denham. "We dragged both of you out before the lab
went-up in smoke. He's going to be all right, too. Evelyn's nursing
both of you. She wants to talk to you, but I want to say this first:
You did a damned fine thing, Reames! The only man who could have saved
us, and you just about killed yourself doing it. Smithers saw you
swing that clutch lever with three bullets in your body. And you're a
scientist, too. You're my partner, Reames, in what we do in the fifth
dimension."

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy blinked. "But five dimensions does seem extreme...."

"We are the Interdimensional Trading Company," said Denham, smiling.
"Somehow, I think we'll find something in this world we can trade for
the gold in that. And we've got to get there, Reames, because Jacaro
will surely try to make use of that catapult principle you worked out.
He'll raise the devil; and I think the people of that Golden City
would be worth knowing. No, we're partners. Sooner or later, you'll
know how I feel about what you've done. I'm going to bring Evelyn in
here now."

He vanished. An instant later Tommy heard a voice--a girl's voice. His
heart began to pound. Denham came back into the room and with him was
Evelyn. She smiled warmly upon Tommy, though as his eyes fell blankly
upon the smart sport clothes she was again wearing, she flushed.

"My daughter Evelyn," said Denham. "She wants to thank you."

And Tommy felt a warm soft hand pressing his, and he looked deep into
the eyes of the girl he had never before spoken to, but for whom he
had risked his life, and whom he knew he would love forever. There
were a thousand things crowding to his lips for utterance. He had
watched Evelyn, and he loved her--

"H-how do you do?" said Tommy, lamely. "I'm--awfully glad to meet
you."

But before he was well he learned to talk more sensibly.



[Illustration: _--And the ships, at that touch, fell helplessly down
from the heights._]

The Pirate Planet

PART THREE OF A FOUR-PART NOVEL

_By Charles W. Diffin_

    Two fighting Yankees--war-torn Earth's sole representatives on
    Venus--set out to spike the greatest gun of all time.


WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE

The attack comes without warning; its reason is unknown. But Venus is
approaching the earth, and flashes from the planet are followed by
terrific explosions that wreak havoc throughout the world. Lieutenant
McGuire and Captain Blake of the U. S. Army Air Service see a great
ship fly in from space. Blake attacks it with the 91st Squadron in
support, and Blake alone survives. McGuire and Professor Sykes, an
astronomer of Mount Lawson, are captured.

The bombardment ceases as Venus passes on, and the people of Earth
sink into hopeless despondency. Less than a year and a half and the
planet will return, and then--the end! The armament of Earth is futile
against an enemy who has conquered space. Blake hopes that science
might provide a means; might show our fighters how to go out into
space and throttle the attack at its source. But the hope is blasted,
until a radio from McGuire supplies a lead.

McGuire is on Venus. He and Sykes land on that distant planet,
captives of a barbarous people. They are taken before Torg, the
emperor, and his council, and they learn that these red, man-shaped
beasts intend to conquer the earth. Spawning in millions, they are
crowded, and Earth is to be their colony.

Imprisoned on a distant island, the two captives are drugged and
hypnotized before a machine which throws their thoughts upon a screen.
Involuntary traitors, they disclose the secrets of Earth and its
helplessness; then attempt to escape and end their lives rather than
be forced to further betrayal of their own people.

McGuire finds a radio station and sends a message back to Earth. He
implores Blake to find a man named Winslow, for Winslow has invented a
space ship and claims to have reached the moon.

No time for further sending--McGuire does not even know if his message
has been received--but they reach the ocean where death offers them
release. A force of their captors attacking on land, they throw
themselves from a cliff, then swim out to drown beyond reach in the
ocean. An enemy ship sweeps above them: its gas cloud threatens not
the death they desire but unconsciousness and capture. "God help us,"
says Sykes; "we can't even die!"

They sink, only to be buoyed up by a huge metal shape. A metal
projector raises from the ocean, bears upon the enemy ship and sends
it, a mass of flame and molten metal, into the sea. And friendly
voices are in McGuire's ears as careful hands lift the two men and
carry them within the craft that has saved them.


CHAPTER XIII

Lieutenant McGuire had tried to die. He and Professor Sykes had
welcomed death with open arms, and death had been thwarted by their
enemies who wanted them alive--wanted to draw their knowledge from
them as a vampire bat might seek to feast. And, when even death was
denied them, help had come.

The enemy ship had gone crashing to destruction where its melting
metal made hissing clouds of steam as it buried itself in the ocean.
And this craft that had saved them--Lieutenant McGuire had never been
on a submarine, but he knew it could be only that that held him now
and carried him somewhere at tremendous speed.

This was miracle enough! But to see, with eyes which could not be
deceiving him, a vision of men, human, white of face--men like
himself--bending and working over Sykes' unconscious body--that could
not be immediately grasped.

Their faces, unlike the bleached-blood horrors he had seen, were aglow
with the flush of health. They were tall, slenderly built, graceful in
their quick motions as they worked to revive the unconscious man. One
stopped, as he passed, to lay a cool hand on McGuire's forehead, and
the eyes that looked down seemed filled with the blessed quality of
kindness.

They were human--his own kind!--and McGuire was unable to take in at
first the full wonder of it.

Did the tall man speak? His lips did not move, yet McGuire heard the
words as in some inner ear.

"We were awaiting you, friend Mack Guire." The voice was musical,
thrilling, and yet the listening man could not have sworn that he
heard a voice at all. It was as if a thought were placed within his
mind by the one beside him.

The one who had paused hurried on to aid the others, and McGuire let
his gaze wander.

       *       *       *       *       *

The porthole beside him showed dimly a pale green light; they were
submerged, and the hissing rush of water told him that they were
travelling fast. There was a door in the farther wall; beyond was a
room of gleaming lights that reflected from myriads of shining levers
and dials. A control room. A figure moved as McGuire watched, to press
on a lever where a red light was steadily increasing in brightness. He
consulted strange instruments before him, touched a metal button here
and there, then opened a switch, and the rippling hiss of waters
outside their craft softened to a gentler note.

The tall one was beside him again.

"Your friend will live," he told him in that wordless tongue, "and we
are almost arrived. The invisible arms of our anchorage have us now
and will draw us safely to rest."

The kindly tone was music in McGuire's ears, and he smiled in reply.
"Friends!" he thought. "We are among friends."

"You are most welcome," the other assured him, "and, yes, you are
truly among friends." But the lieutenant glanced upward in wonder, for
he knew that he had uttered no spoken word.

Their ship turned and changed its course beneath them, then came
finally to rest with a slight rocking motion as if cushioned on
powerful springs. Sykes was being assisted to his feet as the tall man
reached for McGuire's hand and helped him to rise.

The two men of Earth stood for a long minute while they stared
unbelievingly into each other's eyes. Their wonder and amazement found
no words for expression but must have been apparent to the one beside
them.

"You will understand," he told them. "Do not question this reality
even to yourselves. You are safe!... Come." And he led the way through
an opening doorway to a wet deck outside. Beyond this was a wharf of
carved stone, and the men followed where steps were inset to allow
them to ascend.

Again McGuire could not know if he heard a tumult of sound or sensed
it in some deeper way. The air about them was aglow with soft light,
and it echoed in his ears with music unmistakably real--beautiful
music!--exhilarating! But the clamor of welcoming voices, like the
words from their tall companion, came soundlessly to him.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were people, throngs of them, waiting. Tall like the others,
garbed, like those horrible beings of a past that seemed distant and
remote, in loose garments of radiant colors. And everywhere were
welcoming smiles and warm and friendly glances.

McGuire let his dazed eyes roam around to find the sculptured walls of
a huge room like a tremendous cave. The soft glow of light was
everywhere, and it brought out the beauty of flowing lines and
delicate colors in statuary and bas-relief that adorned the walls.
Behind him the water made a dark pool, and from it projected the upper
works of their strange craft.

His eyes were hungry for these new sights, but he turned with Sykes to
follow their guide through the colorful crowd that parted to let them
through. They passed under a carved archway and found themselves in
another and greater room.

But was it a room? McGuire marveled at its tremendous size. His eyes
took in the smooth green of a grassy lawn, the flowers and plants, and
then they followed where the hand of Sykes was pointing. The
astronomer gripped McGuire's arm in a numbing clutch; his other hand
was raised above.

"The stars," he said. "The clouds are gone; it is night!"

And where he pointed was a vault of black velvet. Deep hues of blue
seemed blended with it, and far in its depths were the old familiar
star-groups of the skies. "Ah!" the scientist breathed, "the
beautiful, friendly stars!"

Their guide waited; then, "Come," he urged gently, and led them toward
a lake whose unruffled glassy surface mirrored the stars above. Beside
it a man was waiting to receive them.

McGuire had to force his eyes away from the unreal beauty of opal
walls like the fairy structures they had seen. There was color
everywhere that blended and fused to make glorious harmony that was
pure joy to the eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

The man who waited was young. He stood erect, his face like that of a
Grecian statue, and his robe was blazing with the flash of jewels.
Beside him was a girl, tall and slender, and sweetly serious of face.
Like the man, her garments were lovely with jeweled iridescence, and
now McGuire saw that the throng within the vast space was similarly
apparelled.

The tall man raised his hand.

"Welcome!" he said, and McGuire realized with a start that the words
were spoken aloud. "You are most welcome, my friends, among the people
of that world you call Venus."

Professor Sykes was still weak from his ordeal; he wavered perceptibly
where he stood, and the man before them them turned to give an order.
There were chairs that came like magic; bright robes covered them; and
the men were seated while the man and girl also took seats beside them
as those who prepare for an intimate talk with friends.

Lieutenant McGuire found his voice at last. "Who are you?" he asked in
wondering tones. "What does it mean? We were lost--and you saved us.
But you--you are not like the others." And he repeated, "What does it
mean?"

"No," said the other with a slight smile, "we truly are not like those
others. They are not men such as you and I. They are something less
than human: animals--vermin!--from whom God, in His wisdom, has seen
fit to withhold the virtues that raise men higher than the beasts."

His face hardened as he spoke and for a moment the eyes were stern,
but he smiled again as he continued.

"And we," he said, "you ask who we are. We are the people of Venus. I
am Djorn, ruler, in name, of all. 'In name' I say, for we rule here by
common reason; I am only selected to serve. And this is my sister,
Althora. The name, with us, means 'radiant light.'" He turned to
exchange smiles with the girl at his side. "We think her well named,"
he said.

"The others,"--he waved toward the throng that clustered about--"you
will learn to know in time."

       *       *       *       *       *

Professor Sykes felt the need of introductions.

"This is Lieutenant--" he began, but the other interrupted with an
upraised hand.

"Mack Guire," he supplied; "and you are Professor Sykes.... Oh, we
know you!" he laughed; "we have been watching you since your arrival;
we have been waiting to help you."

The professor was open-mouthed.

"Your thoughts," explained the other, "are as a printed page. We have
been with you by mental contact at all times. We could hear, but, at
that distance, and--pardon me!--with your limited receptivity, we
could not communicate.

"Do not resent our intrusion," he added; "we listened only for our own
good, and we shall show you how to insulate your thoughts. We do not
pry."

Lieutenant McGuire waved all that aside. "You saved us from them," he
said; "that's the answer. But--what does it mean? Those others are in
control; they are attacking our Earth, the world where we lived. Why
do you permit--?"

Again the other's face was set in sterner lines.

"Yes," he said, and his voice was full of unspoken regret, "they do
rule this world; they _have_ attacked your Earth; they intend much
more, and I fear they must be successful. Listen. Your wonderment is
natural, and I shall explain.

"We are the people of Venus. Some centuries ago we ruled this world.
Now you find us a handful only, living like moles in this underworld."

"Underworld?" protested Professor Sykes. He pointed above to the
familiar constellations. "Where are the clouds?" he asked.

The girl, Althora, leaned forward now. "It will please my brother,"
she said in a soft voice, "that you thought it real. He has had
pleasure in creating that--a replica of the skies we used to know
before the coming of the clouds."

       *       *       *       *       *

Professor Sykes was bewildered. "That sky--the stars--they are not
real?" he asked incredulously. "But the grass--the flowers--"

Her laugh rippled like music. "Oh, they are real," she told him, and
her brother gave added explanation.

"The lights," he said: "we supply the actinic rays that the clouds cut
off above. We have sunlight here, made by our own hands; that is why
we are as we are and not like the red ones with their bleached skins.
We had our lights everywhere through the world when we lived above,
but those red beasts are ignorant; they do not know how to operate
them; they do not know that they live in darkness even in the light."

"Then we are below ground?" asked the flyer. "You live here?"

"It is all we have now. At that time of which I tell, it was the red
ones who lived out of sight; they were a race of rodents in human
form. They lived in the subterranean caves with which this planet is
pierced. We could have exterminated them at any time, but, in our
ignorance, we permitted them to live, for we, of Venus--I use your
name for the planet--do not willingly take life."

"They have no such compunctions!" Professor Sykes' voice was harsh; he
was remembering the sacrifice to the hungry plants.

A flash as of pain crossed the sensitive features of the girl, and the
man beside her seemed speaking to her in soundless words.

"Your mind-picture was not pleasant," he told the scientist; then
continued:

"Remember, we were upon the world, and these others were within it.
There came a comet. Oh, our astronomers plotted its course; they told
us we were safe. But at the last some unknown influence diverted it;
its gaseous projection swept our world with flame. Only an instant;
but when it had passed there was left only death...."

       *       *       *       *       *

He was lost in recollection for a time; the girl beside him reached
over to touch his hand.

"Those within--the red ones--escaped," he went on. "They poured forth
when they found that catastrophe had overwhelmed us. And we, the
handful that were left, were forced to take shelter here. We have
lived here since, waiting for the day when the Master of Destinies
shall give us freedom and a world in which to live."

"You speak," suggested the scientist, "as if this had happened to you.
Surely you refer to your ancestors; you are the descendants of those
who were saved."

"We are the people," said the other. "We lived then; we live now; we
shall live for a future of endless years.

"Have you not searched for the means to control the life
principle--you people of Earth?" he asked. "We have it here. You
see"--and he waved a hand toward the standing throng--"we are young to
your eyes and the others who greeted you were the same."

McGuire and the scientist exchanged glances of corroboration.

"But your age," asked Sykes, "measured in years?"

"We hardly measure life in years."

Professor Sykes nodded slowly; his mind found difficulty in accepting
so astounding a fact. "But our language?" he queried. "How is it that
you can speak our tongue?"

The tall man smiled and leaned forward to place a hand on a knee of
each of the men beside him. "Why not," he asked, "when there doubtless
is relationship between us.

"You called the continent Atlantis. Perhaps its very existence is but
a fable now: it has been many centuries since we have had instruments
to record thought force from Earth, and we have lost touch. But, my
friends, even then we of Venus had conquered space, and it was we who
visited Atlantis to find a race more nearly like ourselves than were
the barbarians who held the other parts of Earth.

"I was there, but I returned. There were some who stayed and they were
lost with the others in the terrible cataclysm that sank a whole
continent beneath the waters. But some, we have believed, escaped."

"Why have you not been back?" the flyer asked. "You could have helped
us so much."

"It was then that our own destruction came upon us. The same comet,
perhaps, may have caused a change of stresses in your Earth and sunk
the lost Atlantis. Ah! That was a beautiful land, but we have never
seen it since. We have been--here.

"But you will understand, now," he added, "that, with our insight into
your minds, we have little difficulty in mastering your language."

This talk of science and incredible history left Lieutenant McGuire
cold. His mind could not wander long from its greatest concern.

"But the earth!" he exclaimed. "What about the earth? This attack!
Those devils mean real mischief!"

"More than you know; more than you can realize, friend Mack Guire!"

"Why?" demanded the flyer. "Why?"

"Have your countries not reached out for other countries when land was
needed?" asked the man, Djorn. "Land--land! Space in which to
breed--that is the reason for the invasion.

"This world has no such continents as yours. Here the globe is covered
by the oceans; we have perhaps one hundredth of the land areas of your
Earth And the red ones breed like flies. Life means nothing to them;
they die like flies, too. But they need more room; they intend to find
it on your world."

       *       *       *       *       *

"A strange race," mused Professor Sykes. "They puzzled me. But--'less
than human,' I think you said. Then how about their ships? How could
they invent them?"

"Ours--all ours! They found a world ready and waiting for them.
Through the centuries they have learned to master some few of our
inventions. The ships!--the ethereal vibrations! Oh, they have been
cleverer than we dreamed possible."

"Well, how can we stop them?" demanded McGuire. "We must. You have the
submarines--"

"One only," the other interrupted. "We saved that, and we brought some
machinery. We have made this place habitable; we have not been idle.
But there are limitations."

"But your ray that you projected--it brought down their ship!"

"We were protecting you, and we protect ourselves; that is enough.
There is One will deliver us in His own good time; we may not go forth
and slaughter."

There was a note of resignation and patience in the voice that filled
McGuire with hopeless forebodings. Plainly this was not an aggressive
race. They had evolved beyond the stage of wanton slaughter, and, even
now, they waited patiently for the day when some greater force should
come to their aid.

The man beside them spoke quickly. "One moment--you will pardon
me--someone is calling--" He listened intently to some soundless call,
and he sent a silent message in reply.

"I have instructed them," he said. "Come and you shall see how
impregnable is our position. The red ones have resented our
destruction of their ship."

The face of the girl, Althora, was perturbed. "More killings?" she
asked.

"Only as they force themselves to their own death," her brother told
her. "Be not disturbed."

       *       *       *       *       *

The throng in the vast space drew apart as the figure of their leader
strode quickly through with the two men following close. There were
many rooms and passages; the men had glimpses of living quarters, of
places where machinery made soft whirring sounds; more sights than
their eyes could see or their minds comprehend. They came at last to
an open chamber.

The men looked up to see above them a tremendous inverted-cone, and
there was the gold of cloudland glowing through an opening at the top.
It was the inside of a volcano where they stood, and McGuire
remembered the island and its volcanic peak where the ship had swerved
aside. He felt that he knew now where they were.

Above them, a flash of light marked the passage of a ship over the
crater's mouth, and he realized that the ships of the reds were not
avoiding the island now. Did it mean an attack? And how could these
new friends meet it?

Before them on the level volcanic floor were great machines that came
suddenly to life, and their roar rose to a thunder of violence, while,
in the center, a cluster of electric sparks like whirling stars formed
a cloud of blue fire. It grew, and its hissing, crackling length
reached upward to a fine-drawn point that touched the opening above.

"Follow!" commanded their leader and went rapidly before them where a
passage wound and twisted to bring them at last to the light of day.

The flame of the golden clouds was above them in the midday sky, and
beneath it were scores of ships that swept in formations through the
air.

"Attacking?" asked the lieutenant with ill-concealed excitement.

"I fear so. They tried to gas us some centuries ago; it may be they
have forgotten what we taught them then."

       *       *       *       *       *

One squadron came downward and swept with inconceivable speed over a
portion of the island that stretched below. The men were a short
distance up on the mountain's side, and the scene that lay before them
was crystal clear. There were billowing clouds of gas that spread over
the land where the ships had passed. Other ships followed; they would
blanket the island in gas.

The man beside them gave a sigh of regret. "They have struck the first
blow," he said. He stood silent with half-closed eyes; then: "I have
ordered resistance." And there was genuine sorrow and regret in his
eyes as he looked toward the mountain top.

McGuire's eyes followed the other's gaze to find nothing at first save
the volcanic peak in hard outline upon the background of gold; then
only a shimmer as of heat about the lofty cone. The air above him
quivered, formed to ripples that spread in great circles where the
enemy ships were flashing away.

Swifter than swift aircraft, with a speed that shattered space, they
reached out and touched--and the ships, at that touch, fell helplessly
down from the heights. They turned awkwardly as they fell or dropped
like huge pointed projectiles. And the waters below took them silently
and buried in their depths all trace of what an instant sooner had
been an argosy of the air.

The ripples ceased, again the air was clear and untroubled, but
beneath the golden clouds was no single sign of life.

       *       *       *       *       *

The flyer's breathless suspense ended in an explosive gasp. "What a
washout!" he exclaimed, and again he thought only of this as a weapon
to be used for his own ends. "Can we use that on their fleets?" he
asked. "Why, man--they will never conquer the earth; they will never
even make a start."

The tall figure of Djorn turned and looked at him. "The lust to kill!"
he said sadly. "You still have it--though you are fighting for your
own, which is some excuse.

"No, this will not destroy their fleets, for their fleets will not
come here to be destroyed. It will be many centuries before ever again
the aircraft of the reds dare venture near."

"We will build another one and take it where they are--" The voice of
the fighting man was vibrant with sudden hope.

"We were two hundred years building and perfecting this," the other
told him. "Can you wait that long?"

And Lieutenant McGuire, as he followed dejectedly behind the leader,
heard nothing of Professor Sykes' eager questions as to how this
miracle was done.

"Can you wait that long?" this man, Djorn, had asked. And the flyer
saw plainly the answer that spelled death and destruction to the
world.


CHAPTER XIV

The mountains of Nevada are not noted for their safe and easy landing
places. But the motor of the plane that Captain Blake was piloting
roared smoothly in the cool air while the man's eyes went searching,
searching, for something, and he hardly knew what that something might
be.

He went over again, as he had done a score of times, the remarks of
Lieutenant McGuire. Mac had laughed that day when he told Blake of his
experience.

"I was flying that transport," he had said, "and, boy! when one motor
began to throw oil I knew I was out of luck. Nothing but rocky peaks
and valleys full of trees as thick and as pointed as a porcupine's
quills. Flying pretty high to maintain altitude with one motor out, so
I just naturally _had_ to find a place to set her down. I found it,
too, though it seemed too good to be true off in that wilderness.

"A fine level spot, all smooth rock, except for a few clumps of grass,
and just bumpy enough to make the landing interesting. But, say,
Captain! I almost cracked up at that, I was so darn busy staring at
something else.

"Off in some trees was a dirigible--Sure; go ahead and laugh; I didn't
believe it either, and I was looking at it. But there had been a whale
of a storm through there the day before, and it had knocked over some
trees that had been screening the thing, and there it was!

"Well, I came to in time to pull up her nose and miss a rock or two,
and then I started pronto for that valley of trees and the thing that
was buried among them."

       *       *       *       *       *

Captain Blake recalled the conversation word for word, though he had
treated it jokingly at the time. McGuire had found the ship and a
man--a half-crazed nut, so it seemed--living there all alone. And he
wasn't a bit keen about Mac's learning of the ship. But leave it to
Mac to get the facts--or what the old bird claimed were facts.

There was the body of a youngster there, a man of about Mac's age. He
had fallen and been killed the day before, and the old man was half
crazy with grief. Mac had dug a grave and helped bury the body, and
after that the old fellow's story had come out.

He had been to the moon, he said. And this was a space ship. Wouldn't
tell how it operated, and shut up like a clam when Mac asked if he had
gone alone. The young chap had gone with him, it seemed, and the man
wouldn't talk--just sat and stared out at the yellow mound where the
youngster was buried.

Mac had told Blake how he argued with the man to prove up on his
claims and make a fortune for himself. But no--fortunes didn't
interest him. And there were some this-and-that and be-damned-to-'em
people who would never get _this_ invention--the dirty, thieving rats!

And Mac, while he laughed, had seemed half to believe it. Said the old
cuss was so sincere, and he had nothing to sell. And--there was the
ship! It never got there without being flown in, that was a cinch. And
there wasn't a propellor on it nor a place for one--just open ports
where a blast came out, or so the inventor said.

Captain Blake swung his ship on another slanting line and continued to
comb the country for such marks as McGuire had seen. And one moment he
told himself he was a fool to be on any such hunt, while the next
thought would remind him that Mac had believed. And Mac had a level
head, and he had radioed from Venus!

There was the thing that made anything seem possible. Mac had got a
message through, across that space, and the enemy had ships that could
do it. Why not this one?

And always his eyes were searching, searching, for a level rocky
expanse and a tree-filled valley beyond, with something, it might be,
shining there, unless the inventor had camouflaged it more carefully
now.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was later on the same day when Captain Blake's blocky figure
climbed over the side of the cockpit. Tired? Yes! But who could think
of cramped limbs and weary muscles when his plane was resting on a
broad, level expanse of rock in the high Sierras and a sharp-cut
valley showed thick with pines beyond. He could see the corner only of
a rough log shack that protruded.

Blake scrambled over a natural rampart of broken stone and went
swiftly toward the cabin. But he stopped abruptly at the sound of a
harsh voice.

"Stop where you are," the voice ordered, "and stick up your hands!
Then turn around and get back as fast as you can to that plane of
yours." There was a glint of sunlight on a rifle barrel in the window
of the cabin.

Captain Blake stopped, but he did not turn. "Are you Mr. Winslow?" he
asked.

"That's nothing to you! Get out! Quick!"

Blake was thinking fast. Here was the man, without doubt--and he was
hostile as an Apache; the man behind that harsh voice meant business.
How could he reach him? The inspiration came at once. McGuire was the
key.

"If you're Winslow," he called in a steady voice, "you don't want me
to go away; you want to talk with me. There's a young friend of yours
in a bad jam. You are the only one who can help."

"I haven't any friends," said the rasping voice: "I don't want any!
Get out!"

"You had one," said the captain, "whether you wanted him or not. He
believed in you--like the other young chap who went with you to the
moon."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was an audible gasp of dismay from the window beyond, and the
barrel of the rifle made trembling flickerings in the sun.

"You mean the flyer?" asked the voice, and it seemed to have lost its
harsher note. "The pleasant young fellow?"

"I mean McGuire, who helped give decent burial to your friend. And now
he has been carried off--out into space--and you can help him. If
you've a spark of decency in you, you will hear what I have to say."

The rifle vanished within the cabin; a door opened to frame a picture
of a tall man. He was stooped; the years, or solitude, perhaps, had
borne heavily upon him; his face was a mat of gray beard that was a
continuation of the unkempt hair above. The rifle was still in his
hand.

But he motioned to the waiting man, and "Come in!" he commanded. "I'll
soon know if you're telling the truth. God help you if you're not....
Come in."

An hour was needed while the bearded man learned the truth. And Blake,
too, picked up some facts. He learned to his great surprise that he
was talking with an educated man, one who had spent a lifetime in
scientific pursuits. And now, as the figure before him seemed more the
scientist and less the crazed fabricator of wild fancies, the truth of
his claims seemed not so remote.

Half demented now, beyond a doubt! A lifetime of disappointments and
one invention after another stolen from him by those who knew more of
law than of science. And now he held fortune in the secret of his
ship--a secret which he swore should never be given to the world.

"Damn the world!" he snarled. "Did the world ever give anything to me?
And what would they do with this? They would prostitute it to their
own selfish ends; it would be just one more means to conquer and kill;
and the capitalists would have it in their own dirty hands so that new
lines of transportation beyond anything they dared dream would be
theirs to exploit."

       *       *       *       *       *

Blake, remembering the history of a commercial age, found no ready
reply to that. But he told the man of McGuire and the things that had
made him captive; he related what he, himself, had seen in the dark
night on Mount Lawson, and he told of the fragmentary message that
showed McGuire was still alive.

"There's only one way to save him," he urged. "If your ship is what
you claim it is--and I believe you one hundred per cent--it is all
that can save him from what will undoubtedly be a horrible death.
Those things were monsters--inhuman!--and they have bombarded the
earth. They will come back in less than a year and a half to destroy
us."

Captain Blake would have said he was no debater, but the argument and
persuasion that he used that night would have done credit to a
Socrates. His opponent was difficult to convince, and not till the
next day did the inventor show Blake his ship.

"Small," he said as he led the flyer toward it. "Designed just for the
moon trip, and I had meant to go alone. But it served; it took us
there and back again."

He threw open a door in the side of the metal cylinder. Blake stood
back for only a moment to size up the machine, to observe its smooth
duralumin shell and the rounded ends where portholes opened for the
expelling of its driving blast. The door opening showed a thick wall
that gave insulation. Blake followed the inventor to the interior of
the ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

The man had seen Winslow examining the thick walls. "It's cold out
there, you know," he said, and smiled in recollection, "but the
generator kept us warm." He pointed to a simple cylindrical casting
aft of the ship's center part. It was massive, and braced to the
framework of the ship to distribute a thrust that Blake knew must be
tremendous. Heavy conduits took the blast that it produced and poured
it from ports at bow and stern. There were other outlets, too, above
and below and on the sides, and electric controls that were
manipulated from a central board.

"You've got a ship," Blake admitted, "and it's a beauty. I know
construction, and you've got it here. But what is the power? How do
you drive it? What throws it out through space?"

"Aside from one other, you will be the only man ever to know." The
bearded man was quiet now and earnest. The wild light had faded from
his eyes, and he pondered gravely in making the last and final
decision.

"Yes, you shall have it. It may be I have been mistaken. I have known
people--some few--who were kindly and decent; I have let the others
prejudice me. But there was one who was my companion--and there was
McGuire, who was kind and who believed. And now you, who will give
your life for a friend and to save humanity!... You shall have it. You
shall have the ship! But I will not go with you. I want nothing of
glory or fame, and I am too old to fight. My remaining years I choose
to spend out here." He pointed where a window of heavy glass showed
the outer world and a grave on a sloping hill.

       *       *       *       *       *

"But you shall have full instructions. And, for the present, you may
know that it is a continuous explosion that drives the ship. I have
learned to decompose water into its components and split them into
subatomic form. They reunite to give something other than matter. It
is a liquid--liquid energy, though the term is inaccurate--that
separates out in two forms, and a fluid ounce of each is the product
of thousands of tons of water. The potential energy is all there. A
current releases it; the energy components reunite to give matter
again--hydrogen and oxygen gas. Combustion adds to their volume
through heat.

"It is like firing a cannon in there,"--he pointed now to the massive
generator--"a super-cannon of tremendous force and a cannon that fires
continuously. The endless pressure of expansion gives the thrust that
means a constant acceleration of motion out there where gravity is
lost.

"You will note," he added, "that I said 'constant acceleration.' It
means building up to speeds that are enormous."

Blake nodded in half-understanding.

"We will want bigger ships," he mused. "They must mount guns and be
heavy enough to take the recoil. This is only a sample; we must
design, experiment, build them! Can it be done? ... It _must_ be
done!" he concluded and turned to the inventor.

"We don't know much about those devils of the stars, and they may have
means of attack beyond anything we can conceive, but there is just one
way to learn: go up there and find out, and take a licking if we have
to. Now, how about taking me up a mile or so in the air?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The other smiled in self-deprecation. "I like a good fighter," he
said; "I was never one myself. If I had been I would have accomplished
more. Yes, you shall go up a mile or so in the air--and a thousand
miles beyond." He turned to close the door and seal it fast.

Beside the instrument board he seated himself, and at his touch the
generator of the ship came startlingly to life. It grumbled softly at
first, then the hoarse sound swelled to a thunderous roar, while the
metal grating surged up irresistibly beneath the captain's feet. His
weight was intolerable. He sank helplessly to the floor....

Blake was white and shaken when he alighted from the ship an hour
later, but his eyes were ablaze with excitement. He stopped to seize
the tall man by the shoulders.

"I am only a poor devil of a flying man," he said, "but I am speaking
for the whole world right now. You have saved us; you've furnished the
means. It is up to us now. You've given us the right to hope that
humanity can save itself, if humanity will do it. That's my next
job--to convince them. We have less than a year and a half...."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was one precious week wasted while Captain Blake chafed and
waited for a conference to be arranged at Washington. A spirit of
hopelessness had swept over the world--hopelessness and a mental sloth
that killed every hope with the unanswerable argument: "What is the
use? It is the end." But a meeting was arranged at Colonel Boynton's
insistence, though his superiors scoffed at what he dared suggest.

Blake appeared before the meeting, and he told them what he knew--told
it to the last detail, while he saw the looks of amusement or
commiseration that passed from man to man.

There were scientists there who asked him coldly a question or two and
shrugged a supercilious shoulder; ranking officers of both army and
navy who openly excoriated Colonel Boynton for bringing them to hear
the wild tale of a half-demented man. It was this that drove Blake to
a cold frenzy.

The weeks of hopeless despair had worn his nerves to the breaking
point, and now, with so much to be done, and so little time in which
to do it, all requirements of official etiquette were swept aside as
he leaped to his feet to face the unbelieving men.

"Damn it!" he shouted, "will you sit here now and quibble over what
you think in your wisdom is possible or not. Get outside those
doors--there's an open park beyond--and I'll knock your technicalities
all to hell!"

The door slammed behind him before the words could be spoken to place
him under arrest, and he tore across a velvet lawn to leap into a
taxi.

There was a rising storm of indignant protest within the room that he
had left. There were admirals, purple of face, who made heated remarks
about the lack of discipline in the army, and generals who turned
accusingly where the big figure of Colonel Boynton was still seated.

It was the Secretary of War who stilled the tumult and claimed the
privilege of administering the rebuke which was so plainly needed.
"Colonel Boynton," he said, and there was no effort to soften the
cutting edge of sarcasm in his voice, "it was at your request and
suggestion that this outrageous meeting was held. Have you any more
requests or suggestions?"

The colonel rose slowly to his feet.

"Yes, Mr. Secretary," he said coldly, "I have. I know Captain Blake.
He seldom makes promises; when he does he makes good. My suggestion is
that you do what the gentleman said--step outside and see your
technicalities knocked to hell." He moved unhurriedly toward the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a half-hour's wait, and one or two of the more openly skeptical
had left when the first roar came faintly from above. Colonel Boynton
led the others to the open ground before the building. "I have always
found Blake a man of his word," he said quietly, and pointed upward
where a tiny speck was falling from a cloud-flecked sky.

Captain Blake had had little training in the operation of the ship,
but he had flown it across the land and had concealed it where fellow
officers were sworn to secrecy. And he felt that he knew how to handle
the controls.

But the drop from those terrible heights was a fearful thing, and it
ended only a hundred feet above the heads of the cowering, shouting
humans who crouched under the thunderous blast, where a great shell
checked its vertical flight and rebounded to the skies.

Again and again the gleaming cylinder drove at them like a projectile
from the mortars of the gods, and it roared and thundered through the
air or turned to vanish with incredible speed straight up into the
heights, to return and fall again ... until finally it hung motionless
a foot above the grass from which the uniformed figures had fled. Only
Colonel Boynton was there to greet the flyer as he laid his strange
craft gently down.

"Nice little show, Captain," he said, while his broad face broke into
the widest of grins. "A damn nice little show! But take that look off
of your face. They'll listen to you now; they'll eat right out of your
hand."


CHAPTER XV

If Lieutenant McGuire could have erased from his mind the thought of
the threat that hung over the earth he would have found nothing but
intensest pleasure in the experiences that were his.

But night after night they had heard the reverberating echoes of the
giant gun speeding its messenger of death toward the earth, and he saw
as plainly as if he were there the terrible destruction that must come
where the missiles struck. Gas, of course; that seemed the chief and
only weapon of these monsters, and Djorn, the elected leader of the
Venus folk, confirmed him in this surmise.

"We had many gases," he told McGuire, "but we used them for good ends.
You people of Earth--or these invaders, if they conquer Earth--must
some day engage in a war more terrible than wars between men. The
insects are your greatest foe. With a developing civilization goes the
multiplication of insect and bacterial life. We used the gases for
that war, and we made this world a heaven." He sighed regretfully for
his lost world.

"These red ones found them, and our factories for making them. But
they have no gift for working out or mastering the other means we had
for our defense--the electronic projectors, the creation of tremendous
magnetic fields: you saw one when we destroyed the attacking ships.
Our scientists had gone far--"

"I wish to Heaven you had some of them to use now," said the
lieutenant savagely, and the girl, Althora, standing near, smiled in
sympathy for the flyer's distress. But her brother, Djorn, only
murmured: "The lust to kill: that is something to be overcome."

The fatalistic resignation of these folk was disturbing to a man of
action like McGuire. His eyes narrowed, and his lips were set for an
abrupt retort when Althora intervened.

"Come," she said, and took the flyer's hand. "It is time for food."

       *       *       *       *       *

She took him to the living quarters occupied by her brother and
herself, where opal walls and jewelled inlays were made lovely by the
soft light that flooded the rooms.

"Just one tablet," she said, and brought him a thin white disc, "then
plenty of water. You must take this compressed food often and in small
quantities till your system is accustomed."

"You make this?" he asked.

"But certainly. Our chemists are learned men. We should lack for food,
otherwise, here in our underground home."

He let the tablet dissolve in his mouth. Althora leaned forward to
touch his hand gently.

"I am sorry," she said, "that you and Djorn fail to understand one
another. He is good--so good! But you--you, too, are good, and you
fear for the safety of your own people."

"They will be killed to the last woman and child," he replied, "or
they will be captured, which will be worse."

"I understand," she told him, and pressed his hand; "and if I can
help, Lieutenant Mack Guire, I shall be so glad."

He smiled at her stilted pronunciation of his name. He had had the
girl for an almost constant companion since his arrival; the sexes, he
found, were on a level of mutual freedom, and the girl's companionship
was offered and her friendship expressed as openly as might have been
that of a youth. Of Sykes he saw little; Professor Sykes was deep in
astronomical discussions with the scientists of this world.

But she was charming, this girl of a strange race so like his own. A
skin from the velvet heart of a rose and eyes that looked deep into
his and into his mind when he permitted; eyes, too, that could crinkle
to ready laughter or grow misty when she sang those weird melodies of
such thrilling sweetness.

Only for the remembrance of Earth and the horrible feeling of impotent
fury, Lieutenant McGuire would have found much to occupy his thoughts
in this loveliest of companions.

       *       *       *       *       *

He laughed now at the sounding of his name, and the girl laughed with
him.

"But it _is_ your name, is it not?" she asked.

"Lieutenant Thomas McGuire," he repeated, "and those who like me call
me 'Mac.'"

"Mac," she repeated. "But that is so short and hard sounding. And what
do those who love you say?"

The flyer grinned cheerfully. "There aren't many who could qualify in
that respect, but if there were they would call me Tommy."

"That is better," said Althora with engaging directness; "that is much
better--Tommy." Then she sprang to her feet and hurried him out where
some further wonders must be seen and exclaimed over without delay.
But Lieutenant McGuire saw the pink flush that crept into her face,
and his own heart responded to the telltale betrayal of her feeling
for him. For never in his young and eventful life had the man found
anyone who seemed so entirely one with himself as did this lovely girl
from a distant star.

He followed where she went dancing on her way, but not for long could
his mind be led away from the menace he could not forget. And on this
day, as on many days to come, he struggled and racked his brain to
find some way in which he could thwart the enemy and avert or delay
their stroke.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was another day, and they were some months on their long journey
away from the earth when an inspiration came. Althora had offered to
help, and he knew well how gladly she would aid him; the feeling
between them had flowered into open, if unspoken love. Not that he
would subject her to any danger--he himself would take all of that
when it came--but meanwhile--

"Althora," he asked her, "can you project your mind into that of one
of the reds?"

"I could, easily," she replied, "but it would not be pleasant. Their
minds are horrible; they reek of evil things." She shuddered at the
thought, but the man persisted.

"But if you could help, would you be willing? I can do so little; I
can never stop them; but I may save my people from some suffering at
least. Here is my idea:

"Djorn tells me that I had it figured right: they plan an invasion of
the earth when next the two planets approach. He has told me of their
armies and their fleets of ships that will set off into space. I can't
prevent it; I am helpless! But if I knew what their leader was
thinking--"

"Torg!" she exclaimed. "You want to know the mind of that beast of
beasts!"

"Yes," said the man. "It might be of value. Particularly if I could
know something of their great gun--where it is and what it is--well, I
might do something about that."

The girl averted her eyes from the savage determination on his face.
"No--no!" she exclaimed; "I could not. Not Torg!"

McGuire's own face fell at the realization of the enormity of this
favor he had demanded. "That's all right," he said and held her soft
hand in his; "just forget it. I shouldn't have asked."

But she whispered as she turned to walk away: "I must think, I must
think. You ask much of me, Tommy; but oh, Tommy, I would do much for
you!" She was sobbing softly as she ran swiftly away.

And the man in khaki--this flyer of a distant air-service--strode
blindly off to rage and fume at his helplessness and his inability to
strike one blow at those beings who lived in that world above.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were countless rooms and passages where the work of the world
below went on. There were men and women whose artistic ability found
outlet in carvings and sculpture, chemists and others whose work was
the making of foods and endless experimentation, some thousand of men
and women in the strength of their endless youth, who worked for the
love of the doing and lived contentedly and happily while they waited
for the day of their liberation. But of fighters there were none, and
for this Lieutenant McGuire grieved wholeheartedly.

He was striding swiftly along where a corridor ended in blackness
ahead. There was a gleaming machine on the floor beside him when a
hand clutched at his arm and a warning voice exclaimed: "No further,
Lieutenant McGuire; you must not go!"

"Why?" questioned the lieutenant. "I've got to walk--do something to
keep from this damnable futile thinking."

"But not there," said the other; "it is a place of death. Ten paces
more and you would have vanished in a flicker of flame. The
projector"--he touched the mechanism beside them--"is always on. Our
caves extend in an endless succession; they join with the labyrinth
where the red ones used to live. They could attack us but for this.
Nothing can live in its invisible ray; they are placed at all such
entrances."

"Yet Djorn," McGuire told himself slowly, "said they had no weapons.
He knows nothing of war. But, great heavens! what wouldn't I give for
a regiment of scrappers--good husky boys with their faces tanned and a
spark in their eyes and their gas masks on their chests. With a
regiment, and equipment like this--"

And again he realized the futility of armament with none to serve and
direct it.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a month or more before Althora consented to the tests. Djorn
advised against it and made his protest emphatic, but here, as in all
things, Althora was a free agent. It was her right to do as she saw
fit, and there was none to prevent in this small world where
individual liberty was unquestioned.

And it was still longer before she could get anything of importance.
The experiments were racking to her nerves, and McGuire, seeing the
terrible strain upon her, begged her to stop. But Althora had gained
the vision that was always before her loved one's eyes--a world of
death and disaster--and he, here where the bolt would be launched, and
powerless to prevent. She could not be dissuaded now.

It was a proud day for Althora when she sent for McGuire, and he found
her lying at rest, eyes closed in her young face that was lined and
tortured with the mental horror she was contacting. She silenced his
protests with a word.

"The gun," she whispered; "they are talking about the gun ... and the
bombardment ... planning...."

More silent concentration. Then:

"The inland of Bergo," she said, "--remember that! The gun is there ...
a great bore in the earth ... solid rock ... but the casing of
titanite must be reinforced ... and bands shrunk about the muzzle that
projects ... heavy bands ... it shows signs of distortion--the
heat!..."

She was listening to the thoughts, and selecting those that bore upon
gun.

"... Only fifty days ... the bombardment must begin ... Tahnor has
provided a hundred shells; two thousand tals of the green gas-powder
in each one ... the explosive charges ready ... yes--yes!..."

"Oh!" she exclaimed and opened her troubled eyes. "The beast is so
complacent, so sure! And the bombardment will begin in fifty days!
Will it really cause them anguish on your Earth, Tommy?"

"Just plain hell; that's all!"

McGuire's voice was low; his mind was reaching out to find and reject
one plan after another. The gun!... He must disable it; he could do
that much at least. For himself--well, what of it?--he would die, of
course.

The guard he had been taught to place about his own thoughts must have
relaxed, for Althora cried out in distress.

"No--no!" she protested; "you shall not! I have tried to help you,
Tommy dear--say that I have helped you!--but, oh, my beloved, do not
go. Do not risk your life to silence this one weapon. They would still
have their ships. Remember what Djorn has told of their mighty fleets,
their thousands of fighting men. You cannot stop them; you can hardly
hinder them. And you would throw away your life! Oh, please do not
go!"

McGuire was seated beside her. His face was hidden in one hand while
the other was held tight between the white palms of Althora's tense
hands. He said nothing, and he shielded his eyes and locked his mind
against her thought force.

"Tommy," said Althora, and now her voice was all love and softness,
"Tommy, my dear one! You will not go, for what can you do? And if you
stay--oh, my dear!--you can have what you will--the secret of life
shall be yours--to live forever in perpetual youth. You may have that.
And me, Tommy.... Would you throw your life away in a hopeless
attempt, when life might hold so much? Am I offering so little,
Tommy?"

And still the silence and the hand that kept the eyes from meeting
hers; then a long-drawn breath and a slim figure in khaki that stood
unconsciously erect to look, not at the girl, but out beyond the solid
walls, through millions of miles of space, to the helpless speck
called Earth.

"You offer me heaven, my dear," he spoke softly. "But sometimes"--and
his lips twisted into a ghost of a smile--"sometimes, to earn our
heaven, we have to fight like hell. And, if we fail to make the fight,
what heaven worth having is left?

"And the people," he said softly; "the homes in the cities and towns
and villages. My dear, that's part of loving a soldier: you can never
own him altogether; his allegiance is divided. And if I failed my own
folk what right would I have to you?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He dared to look at the girl who lay before him. That other vision was
gone but he had seen a clear course charted, and now, with his mind at
rest, he could smile happily at the girl who was looking up at him
through her tears.

She rose slowly to her feet and stood before him to lay firm hands
upon his shoulders. She was almost as tall as he, and her eyes, that
had shaken off their tears but for a dewy fringe, looked deep and
straight into his.

"We have thought," she said slowly, "we people of this world, that we
were superior to you and yours; we have accepted you as someone a
shade below our plane of advancement. Yes, we have dared to believe
that. But I know better. We have gone far, Tommy, we people of this
star; we have lived long. Yet I am wondering if we have lost some
virtues that are the heritage of a sterner race.

"But I am learning, Tommy; I am so thankful that I can learn and that
I have had you to teach me. We will go together, you and I. We will
fight our fight, and, the Great One willing, we will earn our heaven
or find it elsewhere--together."

She leaned forward to kiss the tall man squarely upon the lips with
her own soft rose-petal lips that clung and clung ... and the reply of
Lieutenant McGuire, while it was entirely wordless, seemed eminently
satisfactory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Althora, the beautiful daughter of Venus, had the charm and allure of
her planet's fabled namesake. But she thought like a man and she
planned like a man. And there was no dissuading her from her course.
She was to fight beside McGuire--that was her intention--and beyond
that there was no value in argument. McGuire was forced to accept the
insistent aid, and he needed help.

Sykes dropped his delving into astronomical lore and answered to the
call, but there was no other assistance. Only the three, McGuire,
Althora and Sykes. There were some who would agree to pilot the
submarine that was being outfitted, but they would have no part in the
venture beyond transporting the participants.

More than once McGuire paused to curse silently at the complaisance of
this people. What could he not do if they would help. Ten companies of
trained men, armed with their deadly electronic projectors that
disintegrated any living thing they reached--and he would clutch at
his tousled hair and realize that they were only three, and go grimly
back to work.

"I don't know what we can do till we get there," he told Sykes. "Here
we are, and there is the gun: that is all we know, except that the
thing must be tremendous and our only hope is that there is some
firing mechanism that we can destroy. The gun itself is a great
drilling in the solid rock, lined with one of their steel alloys, and
with a big barrel extending up into the air: Althora has learned that.

"They went deep into the rock and set the firing chamber there; it's
heavy enough to stand the stress. They use a gas-powder, as Althora
calls it, for the charge, and the same stuff but deadlier is in the
shell. But they must have underground workings for loading and firing.
Is there a chance for us to get in there, I wonder! There's the big
barrel that projects. We might ... but no!--that's too big for us to
tackle, I'm afraid."

"How about that electronic projector on the submarine?" Sykes
suggested. "Remember how it melted out the heart of that big ship? We
could do a lot with that."

"Not a chance! Djorn and the others have strictly forbidden the men to
turn it on the enemy since they have given no offense.

"No offense!" he repeated, and added a few explosive remarks.

"No, it looks like a case of get there and do what dirty work we can
to their mechanism before they pot us--and that's that!"

       *       *       *       *       *

But Sykes was directing his thoughts along another path.

"I wonder ..." he mused; "it might be done: they have laboratories."

"What are you talking about? For the love of heaven, man, if you're
got an idea, let's have it. I'm desperate."

"Nitrators!" said the scientist. "I have been getting on pretty good
terms with the scientific crowd here, and I've seen some mighty pretty
manufacturing laboratories. And they have equipment that was never
meant for the manufacture of nitro-explosives, but, with a few
modifications--yes, I think it could be done."

"You mean nitro-glycerine? TNT?"

"Something like that. Depends upon what materials we can get to start
with."

The lieutenant was pounding his companion upon the back and shouting
his joy at this faintest echo of encouragement.

"We'll plant it alongside the gun--No, we'll get into their working
underground. We'll blow their equipment into scrap-iron, and perhaps
we can even damage the gun itself!" He was almost beside himself with
excitement at thought of a weapon being placed in his straining
helpless hands.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the earth-shaking thunder of the big gun that hastened their
final preparations and made McGuire tremble with suppressed excitement
where he helped Sykes to draw off a syrupy liquid into heavy crystal
flasks.

There were many of these, and the two men would allow no others to
touch them, but stored them themselves and nested each one in a soft
bed within the submarine. Then one last repetition of their
half-formed plans to Djorn and his followers and a rush toward the
wharf where the submarine was waiting.

Althora was waiting, too, and McGuire wasted minutes in a petition
that he knew was futile.

"Wait here, Althora," he begged. "I will come back; this is no venture
for you to undertake. I can take my chances with them, but you--! It
is no place for you," he concluded lamely.

"There is no other place for me," she said; "only where you are." And
she led the way while the others followed into the lighted control
room of the big under-water craft.

McGuire's eyes were misty with a blurring of tears that were partly
from excitement, but more from a feeling of helpless remonstrance that
was mingled with pure pride. And his lips were set in a straight line.

The magnetic pull that held them to their anchorage was reversed; the
ship beneath them was slipping smoothly beneath the surface and out to
sea, guided through its tortuous windings of water-worn caves and
rocky chambers under the sea by the invisible electric cords that drew
it where they would.

And ahead on some mysterious island was a gun, a thing of size and
power beyond anything of Earth. He was going to spike that gun if it
was the last act of his life; and Althora was going with him. He drew
her slim body to him, while his eyes stared blindly, hopefully, toward
what the future held.


CHAPTER XVI

Throughout the night they drove hour after hour at terrific speed. The
ship was running submerged, for McGuire was taking no slightest chance
of their being observed from the air. He and the others slept at
times, for the crew that handled the craft very evidently knew the
exact course, and there were mechanical devices that insured their
safety. A ray was projected continuously ahead of them; it would
reflect back and give on an indicator instant warning of any derelict
or obstruction. Another row of quivering needles gave by the same
method the soundings from far ahead.

But the uncertainty of what their tomorrow might hold and the worry
and dread lest he find himself unable to damage the big gun made real
rest impossible for McGuire.

But he was happy and buoyant with hope when, at last, the green light
from the ports showed that the sun was shining up above, and the
slackening drive of the submarine's powerful motors told that their
objective was in sight.

They lay quietly at last while a periscope of super-sensitiveness was
thrust cautiously above the water. It brought in a panoramic view of
the shoreline ahead, amplified it and projected the picture in
clear-cut detail upon a screen. If Lieutenant McGuire had stood on the
wet deck above and looked directly at the island the sight could have
been no clearer. The colors of torn and blasted tree-growths showed in
all their pale shades, and there was stereoscopic depth to the picture
that gave no misleading illusions as to distance.

The shore was there with the white spray of breakers on a rocky shoal,
and a beach beyond. And beyond that, in hard outline against a golden
sky, was a gigantic tube that stood vertically in air to reach beyond
the upper limits of the periscope's vision.

       *       *       *       *       *

McGuire tingled at the sight. To be within reach of this weapon that
had sent those blasting, devastating missiles upon the earth! He paced
back and forth in the small room to stop and stare again, and resume
his pacing that helped to while away the hours they must wait. For
there were man-shapes swarming over the land, and the dull, blood-red
of their loose uniforms marked them as members of the fighting force
spawned by this prolific breed.

"Not a chance until they're out of the picture," said the impatient
man; "they would snow us under. It's just as I thought: we must wait
until the gun is ready to fire; then they will beat it. They won't
want to be around when that big boy cuts loose."

"And then?" asked Althora.

"Then Sykes and I will take our collection of gallon flasks ashore,
and I sure hope we don't stumble." He grinned cheerfully at the girl.

"That reinforced concrete dome seems to be where they get down into
the ground; it is close to the base of the gun. We will go there--blow
it open if we have to--but manage in some way to get down below. Then
a time-fuse on the charge, and the boat will take me off, and we will
leave as fast as these motors can drive us."

He omitted to mention any possible danger to Sykes and himself in the
handling of their own explosive, and he added casually, "You will stay
here and see that there is no slip-up on the getaway."

He had to translate the last remark into language the girl could
understand. But Althora shook her head.

"You do try so hard to get rid of me, Tommy," the laughed, "but it is
no use. I am going with you--do not argue--and I will help you with
the attack. Three will work faster than two--and I am going."

McGuire was silent, then nodded his assent. He was learning, this
Earth-man, what individual freedom really meant.

       *       *       *       *       *

Only the western sky showed golden masses on the shining screen when
McGuire spoke softly to the captain:

"Your men will put us ashore; you may ask them to stand by now." And
to Professor Sykes, "Better get that 'soup' of yours ready to load."

The red-clad figures were growing dim on the screen, and the blotches
of colors that showed where they were grouped were few. Some there
were who left such groups to flee precipitately toward a waiting
airship.

This was something the lieutenant had not foreseen. He had expected
that the force that served the gun would have some shock-proof
shelter; he had not anticipated a fighting ship to take them away.

"That's good," he exulted; "that is a lucky break. If they just get
out of sight we will have the place to ourselves."

There were no red patches on the screen now, and the picture thrown
before them showed the big ship, its markings of red and white
distinct even in the shadow-light of late afternoon, rising slowly
into the air. It gathered speed marvelously and vanished to a speck
beyond the land.

"We're getting the breaks," said McGuire crisply. "All right--let's
go!"

The submarine rose smoothly, and the sealed doors in the
superstructure were opened while yet there was water to come trickling
in. Men came with a roll of cloth that spread open to the shape of a
small boat, while a metal frame expanded within it to hold it taut.

McGuire gasped with dismay as a seaman launched it and leaped heavily
into the frail shell to attach a motor to one end.

"Metal!" the captain reassured him; "woven metal, and water-tight! You
could not pierce it with anything less than a projector."

       *       *       *       *       *

Sykes was ready with one of the crystal flasks as the boat was brought
alongside, and McGuire followed with another. They took ten of the
harmless-looking containers, and both men held their breaths as the
boat grounded roughly on the boulder-strewn shore.

They lifted them out and bedded them in the sand, then returned to the
submarine. This time Althora, too, stepped into the boat. They loaded
in the balance of the containers; the motor purred. Another landing,
and they stood at last on the island, where a mammoth tube towered
into the sky and the means for its destruction was at their feet.

But there was little time; already the light was dimming, and the time
for the firing of the big weapon was drawing near. The men worked like
mad to carry the flasks to the base of the gun, where a dome of
concrete marked the entrance to the rooms below.

Each man held a flask of the deadly fluid when Althora led the way
where stairs went deep down into the earth under the domed roof. This
part of the work had been foreseen, and the girl held a slender
cylinder that threw a beam of light, intensely bright.

They found a surprising simplicity in the arrangements underground.
Two rooms only had been carved from the solid rock, and one of these
ended in a wall of gray metal that could be only the great base of the
gun. But nowhere was a complication of mechanism that might be damaged
or destroyed, nor any wiring or firing device.

A round door showed sharp edges in the gray metal, but only the
strength of many men could have removed its huge bolts, and these two
knew there must be other doors to seal in the mighty charge.

"Not a wire!" the scientist exclaimed. "How do they fire it?" The
answer came to him with the question.

"Radio, of course; and the receiving set is in the charge itself; the
barrel of the gun is its own antenna. They must fire it from a
distance--back on the island where we were, perhaps. It would need to
be accurately timed."

"Come on!" shouted McGuire, and raised the flask of explosive to his
shoulder.

       *       *       *       *       *

Each one knew the need for haste; each waited every moment for the
terrible blast of gun-fire that would jar their bodies to a lifeless
pulp or, by detonating their own explosive, destroy them utterly. But
they carried the flasks again to the top, and the three of them worked
breathlessly to place their whole supply where McGuire directed.

The massive barrel of the gun was beside them; it was held in
tremendous castings of metal that bolted to anchorage in the ground.
One great brace had an overhanging flange; the explosive was placed
beneath it.

Professor Sykes had come prepared. He attached a detonator to one of
the flasks, and while the other two were placing the explosive in
position he fastened two wires to the apparatus with steady but
hurrying fingers; then at full speed he ran with the spool from which
the wires unwound.

McGuire and Althora were behind him, running for the questionable
safety of the sand-hills. Sykes stopped in the shelter of a tiny
valley where winds had heaped the sand.

"Down!" he shouted. "Get down--behind that sand dune, there!"

He dropped beside them, the bared ends of the wires in his hands.
There was a battery, too, a case no larger than his hands. Professor
Sykes, it appeared, had gained some few concessions from his friends,
who had learned to respect him in the field of science.

One breathless moment he waited; then--

"Now!" he whispered, and touched the battery's terminals with the bare
wires.

       *       *       *       *       *

To McGuire it seemed, in that instant of shattering chaos, that the
great gun itself must have fired. He had known the jar of heavy
artillery at close range; he had had experience with explosives. He
had even been near when a government arsenal had thrown the
countryside into a hell of jarring, ear-splitting pandemonium. But the
concussion that shook the earth under him now was like nothing he had
known.

The hill of sand that sheltered them vanished to sweep in a sheet
above their heads. And the air struck down with terrific weight, then
left them in an airless void that seemed to make their bodies swell
and explode. It rushed back in a whirling gale to sweep showers of
sand and pebbles over the helpless forms of the three who lay battered
and stunned.

An instant that was like an age; then the scientist pointed with a
weak and trembling hand where a towering spire of metallic gray leaned
slowly in the air. So slowly it moved, to the eyes of the watchers--a
great arc of gathering force and speed that shattered the ground where
it struck.

"The gun!" was all that the still-dazed lieutenant could say.
"The--the gun!" And he fell to shivering uncontrollably, while tears
of pure happiness streamed down his face.

The mammoth siege gun--the only weapon for bombardment of the helpless
Earth--was a mass of useless metal, a futile thing that lay twisted
and battered on the sands of the sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

The submarine now showed at a distance; it had withdrawn, by
prearrangement, to the shelter of the deeper water. McGuire looked
carefully at the watch on his wrist, and listened to make certain that
the explosion had not stopped it. Sykes had told him the length of the
Venusian day--twenty hours and nineteen minutes of Earth time, and he
had made his calculations from the day of the Venusians. And, morning
and night, McGuire had set his watch back and had learned to make a
rough approximation of the time of that world.

The watch now said five-thirteen, and the sun was almost gone; a line
of gold in the western sky; and McGuire knew that it was a matter only
of minutes till the blast of the big gun would rock the island. One
heavy section of the great barrel was resting upon the shattered base,
and McGuire realized that this blocking of the monster's throat must
mean it would tear itself and the island around it to fragments when
it fired. He ran toward the beach and waved his arms wildly in air to
urge on the speeding craft that showed dim and vague across the
heaving sea.

It drove swiftly toward them and stopped for the launching of the
little boat. There was a delay, and McGuire stood quivering with
impatience where the others, too, watched the huddle of figures on the
submarine's deck.

It was Althora who first sensed their danger. Her voice was shrill
with terror as she seized McGuire's arm and pointed landward.

"Tommy--Tommy!" she said. "They are coming! I saw them!"

       *       *       *       *       *

A swarming of red figures over the nearby dunes gave quick
confirmation of her words. McGuire looked about him for a
weapon--anything to add efficiency to his bare hands--and the swarm
was upon them as he looked.

He leaped quickly between Althora and the nearest figures that
stretched out grasping hands, and a red face went white under the
smashing impact of the flyer's fist.

They poured over the sand-hills now---scores of leaping
man-shapes--and McGuire knew in an instant of self-accusation that
there had been a shelter after all, where a portion of the enemy force
had stayed. The explosion had brought them, and now--

He struck in a raging frenzy at the grotesque things that came racing
upon them. He knew Sykes was fighting too. He tore wildly at the lean
arms that bound him and kept him from those a step or two away who
were throwing the figure of a girl across the shoulders of one of
their men, while her eyes turned hopelessly toward McGuire.

They threw the two men upon the sand and crowded to kneel on the
prostrate bodies and strike and tear with their long hands, then tied
them at ankles and wrists with metal cords, and raised them helpless
and bound in the air.

One of the red creatures pointed a long arm toward the demolished gun
and shrieked something in a terror-filled tone. The others, at the
sound, raced off through the sand, while those with the burden of the
three captives followed as best they could.

"The gun!" said Professor Sykes in a thick voice: the words were
jolted out of him as the two who carried him staggered and ran. "They
know--that it--hasn't--gone off--"

       *       *       *       *       *

The straggling troop that strung out across the dim-lit dunes was
approaching another domed shelter of heavy concrete. They crowded
inside, and the bodies of the three were thrown roughly to the floor,
while the red creatures made desperate haste to close the heavy door.
Then down they went into the deeper safety of a subterranean room,
where the massive walls about them quivered to a nerve-deadening jar.
It shook those standing to the floor, and the silence that followed
was changed to a bedlam by the inhuman shrieking of the creatures who
were gloating over their safety and the capture they had achieved.
They leaped and capered in a maniacal outburst and ceased only at the
shrill order of one who was in command.

At his direction the three were carried out of doors and thrown upon
the ground. McGuire turned his head to see the face of Althora. There
was blood trickling from a cut on her temple, and her eyes were dazed
and blurred, but she managed a trembling smile for the anxious eyes of
the man who could only struggle hopelessly against the thin wires that
held him.

Althora hurt! Bound with those cutting metal cords! Althora--in such
beastly hands! He groaned aloud at the thought.

"You should never have come; I should never have let you. I have got
you into this!" He groaned again in an agony of self-reproach, then
lay silent and waited for what must come. And the answer to his
speculations came from the night above, where the lights of a ship
marked the approach of an enemy craft.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ships of the red race could travel fast, as McGuire knew, but the
air monster whose shining, pointed beak hung above them where they lay
helpless in the torturing bonds of fine wire, was to give him a new
conception of speed.

It shot to the five thousand-foot level, when the captives were safe
aboard, and the dark air shrieked like a tortured animal where the
steel shell tore it to tatters. And the radio, in an adjoining room,
never ceased in its sputtering, changing song.

The destruction of the Earth-bombarding gun! The capture of the two
Earth-men who had dared to fight back! And a captive woman of the
dreaded race of true Venusians! There was excitement and news enough
for one world. And the discordant singing of the radio was sounding in
the ears of the leaders of that world.

They were waiting on the platform in the great hall where Sykes and
McGuire had stood, and their basilisk eyes glared unwinkingly down at
the three who were thrown at their feet.

The leader of them all, Torg himself, arose from his ornate throne and
strode forward for a closer view of the trophies his huntsmen had
brought in. A whistled word from him and the wires that had bound
Althora's slim ankles were cut, while a red-robed warrior dragged her
roughly to her feet to stand trembling and swaying as the blood shot
cruelly through her cramped limbs.

Torg's eyes to McGuire were those of a devil feasting on human flesh,
as he stared appraisingly and gloatingly at the girl who tried vainly
to return the look without flinching. He spoke for a moment in a harsh
tone, and the seated councilors echoed his weird notes approvingly.

"What does he say?" McGuire implored, though he knew there could be
nothing of good in that abominable voice. "What does he say, Althora?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The face that turned slowly to him was drained of the last vestige of
color. "I--do not--know," she said in a whisper scarcely audible; "but
he thinks--terrible things!"

She seemed speaking of some nightmare vision as she added haltingly,
"There is a fleet of many ships, and Torg is in command. He has
thousands of men, and he goes forth to conquer your Earth. He goes
there to rule." She had to struggle to bring the words to her lips
now. "And--he takes me--with--him!"

"No--no!" the flyer protested, and he struggled insanely to free his
hands from the wires that cut the deeper into his flesh. The voice of
Althora, clear and strong now, brought him back.

"I shall never go, Tommy; never! The gift of eternal life is mine, but
it is mine to keep only if I will. But, for you and your friend--" She
tried to raise her hands to her trembling lips.

"Yes," said Lieutenant McGuire quietly, "for us--?"

But there were some things the soft lips of Althora refused to say.
Again she tried vainly to raise her hands, then turned her white,
stricken face that a loved one might not see the tears that were
mingling with the blood-stains on her cheeks, nor read in her eyes the
horror they beheld.

But she found one crumb of comfort for the two doomed men.

"You will live till the sailing of the ships, Tommy," she choked, "and
then--we will go together, Tommy--you and I."

Her head was bowed and her shoulders shaking, but she raised her head
proudly erect as she was seized by a guard whose blood-red hands
forced her from the room.

And the dry, straining eyes of Lieutenant McGuire, that watched her
going, saw the passing to an unknown fate of all he held dear, and the
end of his unspoken dreams.

He scarcely felt the grip of the hands that seized him, nor knew when
he and Sykes were carried from the room where Torg, the Emperor, held
his savage court. The stone walls of the room where they were thrown
could not hold his eyes; they looked through and beyond to see only
the white and piteous face of a girl whose lips were whispering: "We
will go together, Tommy--you and I."

(_Concluded in the next issue_)



MYSTERIOUS CARLSBAD CAVERN


The largest cavern ever discovered, at Carlsbad Cavern, N. M., is soon
going to be explored.

Carlsbad Cavern is so large that that three sky-scrapers a half-mile
apart could be built in the largest of its innumerable "rooms,"
according to Mr. Nicholson, who was there once before, about a year
ago. Only 22 miles of the cavern's apparently limitless tunnels have
been explored, revealing such natural beauties that President Coolidge
established it as a national monument.

The stalagmites in the cavern tower 100 feet high. The age of the
cavern was put at 60,000,000 years by Dr. Willis T. Lee of the
National Geographic Society, after his survey three years ago.

The caverns were discovered fifteen years ago by a New Mexican cowboy
named Jim White, according to Mr. Nicholson. White was riding across a
desert waste one day when he saw what appeared to be smoke from a
volcano. After riding three hours in the direction of the smoke he
discovered that it was an enormous cloud of bats issuing from the
mouth of a gigantic cavern. He decided the cavern deserved
exploration, and a few years later he and a Mexican boy were lowered
in a barrel over the 750-foot cliff which overhangs the cavern.

The stalagmites of the cavern, according to Mr. Nicholson, are very
vibrant and resonant. One can play a "xylophone solo" on them with
practice, he said, but it is dangerous, since a certain pitch would
crack them.

The temperature of the cavern is 56 degrees Fahrenheit, never varies,
day and night, winter and summer. The air is purified every
twenty-four hours in some mysterious fashion, though there are no air
currents. This is explained by the theory that there exists a great
subterranean stream at a lower level, probably 1,200 feet down.

Specimens of stalagmites will be collected and reconstructed for the
American Museum of Natural History. The explorers expect to find also
flying fish, flying salamanders, rare insects and thousands of bats. A
Government representative will go along, and drawings and motion
pictures will be made.



_The Readers' Corner_

_A Meeting Place for Readers of ASTOUNDING STORIES_


_A Letter and Comment_

Three or four times in the year we have been issuing Astounding
Stories the Editor has received letters calling attention to fancied
scientific errors in our stories. All these letters were published,
but until now we have not cut in on the space of "The Readers' Corner"
to answer such objections because they were very obviously the result
of hasty or inaccurate readings.

The other week one more such letter reached us--from Mr. Philip Waite,
this time--claiming that there was "an atrocious flaw" in two stories
of Captain S. P. Meek's. This we could not let go unanswered, first
because of the strong terms used, and second because the objection
would sound to many like a true criticism; so we turned the letter
over to Captain Meek, and his answer follows Mr. Waite's letter below.

We welcome criticism of stories in our "The Readers' Corner." Never
yet have we withheld from it any criticism or brickbats of
importance--and we never intend to. But space is limited; there's not
room now for all the good letters that come in; and we do not want to
intrude too much with editorial comment. Therefore when we do not stop
and answer all criticisms we are not necessarily admitting they are
valid. In most cases everyone will quickly see their lack of logic or
accuracy, and in the rest we will ask you to remember that our Staff
is meticulously careful about the scientific facts and laws and
possibilities that enter our stories, so it's extremely unlikely that
anything very "atrocious" will get by.

Well, we'd better cut short now, before we take up too much "Corner"
room. But first, thanks to Captain Meek for going to the trouble of
defending two stories that needed no defense. And thanks, too, to Mr.
Waite, for his kindness in writing in to inform us of what he
thought--unquestionably because of hasty reading--were errors.--_The
Editor._

P. S. (Now we'll have to be _super_ careful of our science, for if Mr.
Waite ever gets anything on us--!!)

Dear Editor:

Just a note to tell you to keep up the good work. There was an
atrocious flaw, however, in the two stories by Capt. S. P. Meek about
the Heaviside Layer. How, may I ask, do meteors penetrate through that
imaginary substance which is too much for a powerful space flyer?
Also, how about refraction? A substance denser than air would produce
refraction that would have been noticed long ago. I don't mind minor
errors, but an author has no right to ignore the facts so
outrageously. Fiction goes too far when an author can invent such
false conditions.

In the latest issue "Stolen Brains" was fine, up to the Dr. Bird
standard. "The Invisible Death" was good enough, but too much like the
general run to be noteworthy. "Prisoners on the Electron"--couldn't
stomach it. Too hackneyed. "Jetta of the Lowlands," by Ray Cummings;
nuff said. "An Extra Man"--original idea and perfectly written. One of
the reasons I hang on to Science Fiction. A perfect gem.--Philip
Waite, 3400 Wayne Ave., New York, N. Y.

Dear Editor:

May I use enough space in your discussion columns to reply briefly to
the objections raised to the science in my two stories, "Beyond the
Heaviside Layer" and "The Attack from Space"? Understand that I am not
arguing that there actually is a thick wall of semi-plastic material
surrounding the earth through which a space flyer could not pass. If I
did, I would automatically bar myself from writing interplanetary
stories, a thing that is far from my desires. I do wish to point out,
however, that such a layer might exist, so far as we at present know.
The objections to which I wish to reply are two: first, "How do
meteors pass through that imaginary substance which is too much for a
powerful space flyer?" and second, "How about refraction?"

To reply to the first we must consider two things, kinetic energy and
resistance to the passage of a body. The kinetic energy of a moving
body is represented by the formula 1/2 mv^2 where m is the mass of the
body and v the velocity. The resistance of a substance to penetration
of a body is expressed by the formula A f_c where A is the area of the
body in contact with the resisting medium and f_c is the coefficient
of sliding friction between the penetrating body and the resisting
medium. Consider first the space flyer. To hold personnel the flyer
must be hollow. In other words, m must be small as compared to A. A
meteor, on the other hand, is solid and dense with a relatively large
m and small A. Given a meteor and a space flyer of the same weight,
the volume of the meteor would be much smaller, and as the area in
contact with the resisting medium is a function of volume, the total
resistance to be overcome by the space flyer would be much greater
than that to be overcome by the meteor. Again, consider the relative
velocities of a meteor and a space flyer coming from the earth toward
the heaviside layer. The meteor from space would have an enormous
velocity, so great that if it got into even very rare air, it would
become incandescent. As it must go through dense air, the space flyer
could attain only a relatively low velocity before it reached the
layer. Remember that the velocity is squared. A one thousand pound
meteor flying with a velocity 100 times that of the space ship would
have 100^2 or 10,000 times the kinetic energy of the space ship while
it would also have less friction to overcome due to its smaller size.

If my critic wishes to test this out for himself, I can suggest a very
simple experiment. Take a plank of sound pine wood, two inches thick
by twelve inches wide and four feet long. Support it on both ends and
then pile lead slabs onto it, covering the whole area of the board. If
the wood be sound the board will support a thousand pounds readily.
Now remove the lead slabs and fire a 200 grain lead bullet at the
board with a muzzle or initial velocity of 1,600 feet per second. The
bullet will penetrate the board very readily. Consider the heaviside
layer as the board, the space ship as the lead slabs and the bullet as
the meteor and you have the answer.

Consider one more thing. According to the stories, the layer grew
thicker and harder to penetrate as the flyer reached the outer
surface. The meteor would strike the most viscous part of the layer
with its maximum energy. As its velocity dropped and its kinetic
energy grew less, it would meet material easier to penetrate. On the
other hand the flyer, coming from the earth, would meet material easy
to penetrate and gradually lose its velocity and consequently its
kinetic energy. When it reached the very viscous portion of the layer,
it would have almost no energy left with which to force its way
through. Remember, the Mercurians made no attempt to penetrate the
layer until a portion of it had been destroyed by Carpenter's genius.

As for the matter of refraction. If you will place a glass cube or
other form in the air, you will have no difficulty in measuring the
refraction of the light passing through it. If, however, the observer
would place himself inside a hollow sphere of glass so perfectly
transparent as to be invisible, would not the refraction he would
observe be taken by him to be the refraction of air when in reality it
would be the combined refraction of the glass sphere and the air
around him?

I have taken glass as the medium to illustrate this because my critic
made the statement that "a substance denser than air would produce
refraction that would have been noticed long ago." However nowhere in
either story is the statement made that the material of the heaviside
layer was denser than air. The statement was that it was more viscous.
Viscosity is not necessarily a function of density. A heavy oil such
as you use in the winter to lubricate your automobile has a much
higher viscosity than water, yet it will float on water, i. e. it is
less dense. There is nothing in the story that would prevent the
heaviside layer from having a coefficient of refraction identical with
that of air.

To close, let me repeat that I am not arguing that such a layer
exists. I do not believe that it does and I do believe that my
generation will probably see the first interplanetary expedition start
and possibly see the first interplanetary trip succeed. I do, however,
contend that the science in my stories is accurate until it transcends
the boundaries of present day knowledge and ceases to be science and
becomes "super-science," and that my super-science is developed in a
logical manner from science and that nothing in present knowledge
makes the existence of such a layer impossible--S. P. Meek. Capt. Ord.
Dept., U. S. A.


_Likes Long Novelettes_

Dear Editor:

I have just finished reading the August issue of your magazine. I am
going to rate the different stories in per cents. 100% means
excellent; 75% fairly good; 50% passable; 25% just an ordinary story.

I give "Marooned Under The Sea," by Paul Ernst, 100%; 75% for "The
Attack From Space," by Captain S. P. Meek. "The Problem in
Communication," by Miles J. Breuer, M. D. and "Jetta of the Lowlands,"
by Ray Cummings; 50% for "The Murder Machine," by Hugh B. Cave and
"Earth, The Marauder," by Arthur J. Burks; 25% for "The Terrible
Tentacles of L-472," by Sewell Peaslee Wright.

I am happy to say that since I have been reading your magazine, I have
induced at least ten of my friends to be constant readers of this
magazine.

I like the long novelettes much better than continued novels, and hope
that in the future we will get bigger and better novelettes.--Leonard
Estrin, 1145 Morrison Ave., Bronx, N. Y.


_Hasn't Decided_

Dear Editor:

Move over, you old-timers, and let a newcomer say something.

A few months ago I didn't read any Science Fiction. Now I read it all.
I haven't decided yet which magazine I like best.

I was a little disappointed when you didn't have another story in the
September copy by R. P. Starzl, who wrote "Planet of Dread." I thought
you would hold on to a good author when you find one.

I would also like another story by the fellow who wrote the serial
"Murder Madness."

I like short stories best.

That idea of a mechanical nirvana in Miles J. Breuer's story was good.

"Jetta of the Lowlands?" Opinion reserved. I like the action of the
story, but I hate a hero who is always bragging about himself.

Don't think I'm complaining, but nothing is perfect.

Why not try to get a story of A. Merritt's, or Ralph Milne
Farley's?--A. Dougherty, 327 North Prairie Ave., Sioux Falls, So. Dak.


_Announcement_

Dear Editor:

May I enter "The Readers' Corner" to announce that a branch of The
Scienceers has recently been formed in Clearwater, Florida, by a group
of Science Fiction enthusiasts?

We have a library of 175 Science Fiction magazines, including a
complete file of Astounding Stories to date. We hold weekly meetings
at which scientific topics are discussed, and current Science Fiction
stories commented upon.

As the first branch of The Scienceers, we are striving to achieve a
success that will be a mark for other branches to aim at.--Carlton
Abernathy, P. O. Box 584, Clearwater, Fla.


_From Merrie England_

Dear Editor:

I came across your May publication of Astounding Stories the other
day, and I cannot resist writing to you to congratulate you on the
most interesting magazine I have ever read. I am now determined to
take it every month. Re "The Atom Smasher," it is A-1. I have read
several interplanetary stories over here but none to touch those of
your magazine.

Best wishes for the success of your book and its authors.--J. C.
Atkinson, 17 Balaclava Rd., Sheffield, England.


_Starting Young_

Dear Editor:

You'll excuse my writing, for it is the end of vacation.

I like your book very much, which many other readers approve of. Some
dislikes, of course, everyone has, and I have three which many readers
have, too. First, I wish the magazine were bigger and the paper
better. Second, have more stories and raise the price to 25c. Third,
have stories of the future such as "Earth, the Marauder," and stories
of lost Atlantis, the fourth dimension, other planets, atoms and
electrons.--Jack Farber, Payette, Idaho.

P. S. I am 11 years old and interested in science.


_Doesn't Like Serials_

Dear Editor:

I am a recent reader of the Astounding Stories magazine. I am going to
keep getting the magazine, as I like it very much.

I did not like "Murder Madness," or Burks' "Earth, the Marauder" very
much. I do not think "Murder Madness" is the type of story that
belongs in this magazine. I do not like continued stories very much as
I hate to break off at an interesting point and wait a whole month
before I can read the next installment or conclusion of the story. The
front piece of the magazine is very good, and except for the
criticisms mentioned above the magazine is excellent.--Kempt Mitchell.


_A Staunch Defender_

Dear Editor:

At one time a friend introduced your excellent little publication to
me. I read it and enjoyed every paragraph of it. This issue starred
"The Monsters of Moyen," which I consider a real super-science story.
I have followed "The Readers' Corner" quite a time.

In the September issue I saw where someone made a commentary on the
magazine. One of the things they said was that the paper should be of
a better grade. It is true that this would help, but "our" magazine is
not half full of advertisements to pay for this expense. Dear friends,
this is no Saturday Evening Post. Don't ask too much. Then, you may
take in consideration that other magazines of Science Fiction have no
better grade of paper than this, for I have purchased several.

I have but one thing to say as an improvement for it. That is, why
shouldn't there be a Quarterly? Other Science Fiction magazines have
them. They have complete stories and are double in size and price.
Dear Editor, please, for the public's sake, put out a Quarterly. I'm
sure others would like one.--H. C. Kaufman, Jr., 1730 N. Monroe St.,
Baltimore, Maryland.


_Announcement_

Dear Editor:

We would appreciate it very much if you would print this in your
"Readers' Corner" department.

We wish to inform the readers of Astounding Stories of an organization
lately formed, called The Boys' Scientifiction Club. Its purpose is to
promote scientific interest among boys between the ages of 10 and 15,
to encourage the reading of Science Fiction and scientific works, and
to create a bond of friendship among them.

A circulating library, composed of Science Fiction books, magazines,
articles, etc., is being constructed to circulate among members who
desire to read any of the contents.

Officers are: President-Librarian, Forrest J. Ackerman, 530 Staples
Ave., San Francisco, Cal.; Secretary-Treasurer, Frank Sipos, 174
Staples Ave., San Francisco, California.

Address all letters concerning membership to the President. He will be
glad to answer all letters and explain particulars of the club. Thank
you for your kindness.--Linus Hogenmiller, Vice-President B. S. C.,
502 N. Washington St., Farmington, Missouri.


_But--Ray Cummings Writes Us Only Brand New Stories!_

Dear Editor:

I want to commend Astounding Stories on carrying out an idea which I
have had in mind for some time; that is, some scientific articles. "A
Star That Breathes," in the July number, was very interesting, as were
the two articles in the August copy. However, I hope that this is only
the start of a valuable new addition to Astounding Stories. There
should be at least five or six in each magazine, and I think most of
the readers would prefer them at the end of the stories instead of in
the back of the magazine. Another thing that is absolutely essential
if Astounding Stories would hold its own as a high-class Science
Fiction magazine is a scientific editorial in the front of the book.
The way it starts off abruptly onto a story gives the impression of a
cheap publication.

A lot of your readers have been setting up a clamor for stories by Ray
Cummings. While it is true that he has written a few good stories, you
will find that his antiquated stuff is not being printed in any of the
other Science Fiction magazine, but only in ones devoted to
adventure-stories. For the sake of your many readers who would like to
see "our magazine" keep abreast of the times, Cummings should be
dropped and some of the peerless authors of to-day employed. As an
advance along this line you already have Capt. S. P. Meek, Harl
Vincent, Lilith Lorraine, Edmond Hamilton, and, in the latest copy, R.
F. Starzl. "The Planet of Dread," by R. F. Starzl was the best story
in the August issue. A wealth of ideas was contained in that treatise
of life on a young, warm planet, and the idea of fooling the liquid
intelligence by thought-suggestion is quite novel but entirely
reasonable. Mr. Starzl is an author of the highest type and ability,
and you will do well to secure more stories from his typewriter.

I was glad to see that the cover has finally been changed from the
conventional blue background, and I hope we will have a little
variation from now on. Concerning illustrations, Wesso is a great
artist, and aside from a few scientific errors his covers are
excellent. The inside drawings could be improved, however.

I hope for your continued success--Wayne D. Bray, Campbell, Mo.


_Are We All "Morons?"_

Dear Editor:

Having perused three issues of your magazine, I must agree that its
title is well chosen. The stories are nearly all "astounding";
astounding in that they utterly ignore every scientific fact and
discovery of the past ten centuries.

The cold of inter-stellar space; its lack of oxygen; the
interplanetary effects of gravitation--all are passed over as if
non-existent.

An "anti-gravity ovoid"--of which no description is given--if worn in
a man's hat, makes his whole body weightless.

Men, buildings and cities float through the air or become invisible,
yet not the least semi-scientific explanation is made as to the how of
it all.

In other words, the pattern of your stories appears to have been taken
from the Arabian Nights and from Grimm's Fairy Tales--but with not a
millionth part of the interest.

How anyone, save a young child or a moron, can read and enjoy such
futile nonsense is incredible.

If your writers would (like Jules Verne) only invent some
pseudo-scientific explanation for their marvels, your publication
might then be read with pleasure--but why do so when trash is
acceptable without thought behind it!--M. Clifford Johnston, 451
Central Avenue, Newark, N. J.


_A Wesso Fan_

Dear Editor:

Let me congratulate you on the September issue of Astounding Stories.
It is the best issue you have published yet. I noticed in this issue
that you had four illustrations by Wesso. Though that is the most you
have ever had, I think it would be much better if all the
illustrations were by him.

However, getting down to brass tacks, the reason I'm typing this
letter is to ask you to publish an Astounding Stories Quarterly. You
could have it contain twice as much reading material as in the monthly
and charge forty cents a copy for it. It would be much better than a
semi-monthly and I am quite sure it would "go over" big.--Thomas L.
Kratzer, 3593 Tullamore Rd., University Heights, Ohio.


_Bang--Bang--Bang_

Dear Editor:

I have read the August Astounding Stories and greatly enjoyed the
fiction, but "The Readers' Corner" gave me a good deal of amusement.
Some of your readers take their fiction so seriously!

Take the "Brick or Two" from George L. Williams and Harry Heillisan,
for instance. They want Astounding Stories filled with material from
authors that appear in other magazines--because your readers "are used
to the standards set by those publications," etc. And again, "you
should have some one who is well qualified to pass upon the science in
the stories." For the love of Pete, if people want scientific
treatises, why don't they buy books and magazines dealing with the
subject? There are many on the market--serious and dull enough for
anyone. But for our fiction magazines, let's have it pure and
unadulterated, the more improbably the better.

What possible difference does it make if, in a story, the moon has a
crater every ten feet, or the black sky of outer space were blazing
with moons and aurora borealises, or the sun were in a double eclipse!

We read stories to be amused, not for technical information, so we
certainly don't want "a scientific editorial in each issue by some
'eminent scientist.'"

As for a department in which readers could write their opinions of the
stories and suggest improvements in the conduct of the magazine, what
else is "The Readers' Corner?"

Why not adopt a tolerant attitude, and instead of howling about petty
faults and mistakes get a good laugh over them? As for telling writers
and editors "how to do it," we would only expose our ignorance and
inability and make ourselves ridiculous.

If we think we could do so much better, let's try it. Write a story
ourselves or start running a magazine!

Astounding Stories is all right as is. We like it "different." We want
different authors from those of other magazines. What is the use of
having various publications if they must all be conducted along
identical lines?

Now for your writers: Mr. R.F. Starzl is easily the best. His story,
"The Planet of Dread," is full of thrills and imagination and clever
situations that are well developed and surmounted. One thing that is
rather remarkable in this class of story, the hero gets himself and
his companion out of every difficulty by his own ingenuity. The story
moves along with interest and thrills in every paragraph, and is
really my ideal of a "super-scientific" yarn; i.e., not stuffed with
tiresome technical data. Let's have more from this interesting
author.--C.E. Bush, Decatur, Ark.


_Assorted Bouquets_

Dear Editor:

Before commenting upon the September issue of your wonderful magazine,
I would like to personally thank Mr. Bates for the kind reply to my
former letter. It shows that at least one editor glanced over my
literary ramblings.

Now for comments on the September issue. I placed the stories in the
following order, which is based upon their merit:

"Marooned Under the Sea"; "Terrible Tentacles of L-472"; "Jetta of the
Lowlands"; "The Attack from Space"; "A Problem in Communication";
"Earth the Marauder," and "The Murder Machine."

Your serials are the best I have ever read in any magazine; your
latest one, "Jetta of the Lowlands," promises to be an A-1
top-notcher.

Your artists, H.W. Wessolowski and J. Fleming Gould, draw the finest
illustrations I have ever seen anywhere.

"The Readers' Corner" is a fine corner which can only be improved by
making it larger.

The stories scheduled for the October issue look good to me. Am glad
to see that Dr. Bird is returning. Will sign off now wishing
Astounding Stories all the luck it deserves.--Edwin Anderson, 1765
Southern Boulevard, Bronx, N.Y.C., N.Y.


_A Request_

Dear Editor:

I thought I would drop you just a line to comment on the authors now
writing for "our" magazine.

Among the best are: R. F. Starzl, Edmond Hamilton, Harl Vincent, Ray
Cummings and Captain S. P. Meek. However, there is one brilliant
author whose fascinating stories have, to date, failed to appear in
our magazine. The man I am referring to is Ed Earl Repp. Please have a
story by him in our magazine as soon as possible.

I am sure other readers will agree with me when I say that Mr. Repp
writes exceedingly thrilling and exciting Science Fiction tales. Let's
see many stories by him in the forthcoming issues of Astounding
Stories.--Forrest J. Ackerman, 530 Staples Avenue, San Francisco,
California.


_Thank You, Mr. Lorenzo_

Dear Editor:

Several Science Fiction magazines will have to struggle along without
my patronage. Why? Because they flew (literally speaking) over my head
with all kinds of science. I want some science, but mostly fiction. I
couldn't understand what they were writing about, so I lost interest.
I can read a single copy of a good magazine from cover to cover in one
day, but let me lose interest in it by having too much dry matter and
I just don't buy that book again.

Your magazine is the best of all Science Fiction magazines, which
means that I can read and understand the tales in Astounding Stories.
So you get my trade. You're trying your best to supply me with
interesting stories so if there is an occasional dry story (to me), I
just remember one thing: you, as Editor, are a human being like
myself; so, neither one of us being perfect, I just forgive and go on
buying.--Jas Lorenzo, 644 Hanover St., San Francisco, Cal.


_Suggestions_

Dear Editor:

"Earth, the Marauder," by Arthur J. Burks, gets four stars. It is one
of the most astounding stories I have ever read. I hope you have more
stories by Arthur J. Burks on schedule for early issues. "Jetta of the
Lowlands," by Ray Cummings, "Marooned Under the Sea," by Paul Ernst (a
sequel soon, I hope). "The Terrible Tentacles of L-472," by S.P.
Wright and "The Attack from Space," by S.P. Meek (let's have another
sequel), all get three stars. I hope that S.P. Wright will write more
stories of strange planets.

I think that your serials should all be book-length novels with the
installments from thirty-five to fifty pages in length. Don't publish
novelettes (thirty to sixty-five pages) as serials.

In your August issue you mention that you may some day publish
Astounding Stories twice a month. I would rather have you increase the
price to twenty-five cents, give us as much material as Five Novels
Monthly, and smooth cut edges.

Wesso's cover illustrations are improving each month. I am glad to see
more of his illustrations inside.

Since so many readers ask for reprints, why not give us an occasional
one?--Jack Darrow, 4225 N. Spaulding Ave., Chicago, Illinois.


"_A Flop_"

Dear Editor:

I have read Astounding Stories since its first issue, and I am
convinced that it is without a peer in the field of Science Fiction.
This preeminence is due to the fact that the magazine regularly
contains the work of the best contemporary writers of scientific
fantasy, such as Cummings, Rousseau, Leinster, Burks and Hamilton.

Certain readers, unaccustomed to such rich fare, ask for stories by
lesser lights. For a time these requests went unheeded; but of late it
seems they are getting results--more's the pity.

Your September issue contained a story called "A Problem in
Communication" by Miles J. Breuer, M.D. Now, the good doctor may be a
"wow" in other magazines, but his stuff is not up to the standard of
Astounding Stories. His initial effort in this magazine was dull and
uninspired. It lacked the sustained interest and gripping action of
your other stories. It was, to put it bluntly, a flop.

In spite of this sad example, several readers are still clamoring for
more stuff from the small-timers. If they get their way--which Allah
forbid!--it will mean the downfall of Astounding Stories. Why ruin a
truly great magazine by catering to a misguided minority?--George K.
Addison, 94 Brandt Place, Bronx, New York.


"_No Favorites_"

Dear Editor:

I found your magazine on the newsstand while looking for another kind.
The cover picture looked interesting so I bought Astounding Stories
instead of the other. Since that moment I have been a steady reader.

I can see no way to improve your magazine unless it is to enlarge it
or to publish it oftener. I am satisfied with it as it is. It is the
best magazine on the newsstands now.

I have no favorites among your stories as I like them all equally
well.--Robert L. King, Melbourne, Florida.


_Pride of the Regiment_

Dear Editor:

I have just finished reading the September issue of Astounding Stories
and want to congratulate you on your staff of writers. Although this
is the first copy I have read, I can assure you that it will not be
the last, by any means.

I think the story called "Marooned Under the Sea," by Paul Ernst, a
story that no one could have passed without reading it. The way the
author explains the story to have come to life has really got me
guessing.

The only thing that I regretted was that I didn't get the copies
previous to the story called, "Earth, the Marauder," by Arthur J.
Burks. Please give us more stories by Paul Ernst. (I say us because I
am a soldier, and where you find one soldier you find plenty
soldiers.)

So keep the good work up, as we are looking forward to a good time
when the next issues come around.--Co. "I," 26th Inf. Plattsburgh
Barracks, Plattsburgh, New York.


_Covers Not Too Vivid_

Dear Editor:

I can't help joining the great number of admirers of your wonderful
magazine.

A great many readers ask for interplanetary stories. As for me, I like
any kind, stories of other worlds, under the earth, under the sea, on
other planets, dimensional stories, anything. So far I have not had
the slightest excuse to complain.

When I finish reading a story I write after the title, "good," "very
good," "fair," etc. Then I read the best ones over again while waiting
for the next issue. The following two and the only stories I didn't
like so far are: "The Stolen Mind" and "Creatures of the Light."

One critic stated that he considered the illustrations of Astounding
Stories too vivid. Illustrations for stories such as are contained in
this magazine cannot be too vivid. Readers have plenty of opportunity
to use their imaginations. Many scenes which the authors try to
portray are hard to visualize, and I think that a number of good
illustrations would help the readers enjoy the stories more.

As long as you keep your magazine up to the standard you have set thus
far, I will remain an eager reader.--Sam Castellina, 104 E. Railroad
St. Pittston, Penn.


_Quite True_

Dear Editor:

I have enjoyed every one of your Astounding Stories magazines from the
first.

However, in the story, "The Murder Machine," by Hugh B. Cave, a man,
Sir John Harman, was made to kill a man by meccano-telepathically
projected hypnotic suggestions. Some people think it is entirely
possible to make a man do such a thing by hypnotism, but it is not
possible because no person under hypnotic influence will do anything
that his subconscious mind knows is immoral. Neither a thief nor a
murderer can be made to confess their crime while under hypnotic
influence.

I am merely writing this so that the others who have read the story
will not get the wrong idea of hypnotism. A man under hypnotic
influence can be made to think he is murdering or robbing, but he will
not do it really, no matter how hard the hypnotist tries to make
him.--Henry Booth, 916 Federal St., N. S. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


"_Paper Correct Kind_"

Dear Editor:

I am a reader of four other Science Fiction magazines but like
Astounding Stories the best for two main reasons. First, the size is
just right, second, the paper is the correct kind. It does not glare
at you when you read.

I have every issue of Astounding Stories since it came out. The
stories are all good and are becoming better each month. I prefer
stories of space traveling and of the fourth dimension.

About reprints, I think that if you want to give reprints, why not
publish them in booklet form. I'm sure many of the readers will prefer
to have reprints that way.--Frank Wogavoda, Water Mill, New York.


_Bouquets_

Dear Editor:

"The Planet of Dread" was a classic in the full meaning of the word.
Not only was the story a masterpiece of fantastic adventure but also
of short story craft. By all means secure more of Mr. Starzl's fine
tales.

Your stories by Ray Cummings are great. It would be a good policy upon
your part to continue to present stories of his at the most not more
than two issues apart.

Continue up to your present standard and you'll continue to stand
above all other Science Fiction magazines where stories of
super-science are concerned, now and forever.--Jerome Siegel, 10622
Kimberley Ave., Cleveland, Ohio.


"_The Readers' Corner_"

All Readers are extended a sincere and cordial invitation to "come
over in 'The Readers' Corner'" and join in our monthly discussion of
stories, authors, scientific principles and possibilities--everything
that's of common interest in connection with our Astounding Stories.

Although from time to time the Editor may make a comment or so, this
is a department primarily for _Readers_, and we want you to make full
use of it. Likes, dislikes, criticisms, explanations, roses,
brickbats, suggestions--everything's welcome here; so "come over in
'The Readers' Corner'" and discuss it will all of us!

                                                   --_The Editor._



                          ASTOUNDING STORIES
                       _Appears on Newsstands_
                   THE FIRST THURSDAY IN EACH MONTH





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