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Title: Astounding Stories of Super-Science, August 1930
Author: Various
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                              ASTOUNDING

                               STORIES

                           OF SUPER-SCIENCE

                                 20¢



              _On Sale the First Thursday of Each Month_


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


The Clayton Standard on a Magazine Guarantees

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

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

     _That_ each newsdealer and agent is insured a fair profit;

     _That_ an intelligent censorship guards their advertising
     pages.

_The other Clayton magazines are_:

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *



VOL. III, No. 2 CONTENTS AUGUST, 1930


COVER DESIGN      H. W. WESSOLOWSKI
    _Painted in Water-colors from a Scene in "The Planet of Dread."_

THE PLANET OF DREAD      R. F. STARZL           147
    _A Stupid Blunder--and Mark Forepaugh Faces a Lifetime of Castaway
     Loneliness in the Savage Welter of the Planet Inra's Monster-ridden
     Jungles._

THE LORD OF SPACE        VICTOR ROUSSEAU        158
    _A Black Caesar Had Arisen on Eros--and All Earth Trembled at His
     Distant Menace._

THE SECOND SATELLITE     EDMOND HAMILTON        175
    _Earth-men War on Frog-vampires for the Emancipation of the Human Cows
     of Earth's Second Satellite._ (A Novelet.)

SILVER DOME              HARL VINCENT           192
    _In Her Deep-buried Kingdom of Theros, Phaestra Reveals the Amazing
     Secret of the Silver Dome._

EARTH, THE MARAUDER      ARTHUR J. BURKS        210
    _Deep in the Gnome-infested Tunnels of the Moon, Sarka and Jaska Are
     Brought to Luar the Radiant Goddess Against Whose Minions the
     Marauding Earth Had Struck in Vain._  (Part Two of a Three-Part
     Novel.)

MURDER MADNESS           MURRAY LEINSTER        237
    _Bell Has Fought through Tremendous Obstacles to Find and Kill The
     Master, Whose Diabolical Poison Makes Murder-mad Snakes of the Hands;
     and, as He Faces the Monster at Last--His Own Hands Start to Writhe!_
     (Conclusion.)

THE FLYING CITY          H. THOMPSON RICH       260
    _From Space Came Cor's Disc-city of Vada--Its Mighty, Age-old Engines
     Weakening--Its Horde of Dwarfs Hungry for the Earth!_

THE READERS' CORNER      ALL OF US              279
    _A Meeting Place for Readers of Astounding Stories._

       *       *       *       *       *

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

Issued monthly by Publishers' Fiscal Corporation, 80 Lafayette St.,
New York, N. Y. W. M. Clayton, President; Nathan Goldmann, Secretary.
Entered as second-class matter December 7, 1929, at the Post Office at
New York, N. Y., under Act of March 3, 1879. Title registered as a
Trade Mark in the U. S. Patent Office. Member Newsstand Group--Men's
List. For advertising rates address E. R. Crowe & Co., Inc., 25
Vanderbilt Ave., New York; or 225 North Michigan Ave., Chicago.

       *       *       *       *       *



The Planet of Dread

_By R. F. Starzl_

[Illustration: _This time Forepaugh was ready for it._]

[Sidenote: A stupid blunder--and Mark Forepaugh faces a life of
castaway loneliness in the savage welter of the planet Inra's
monster-ridden jungles.]


There was no use hiding from the truth. Somebody had blundered--a
fatal blunder--and they were going to pay for it! Mark Forepaugh
kicked the pile of hydrogen cylinders. Only a moment ago he had broken
the seals--the mendacious seals that certified to the world that the
flasks were fully charged. And the flasks were empty! The supply of
this precious power gas, which in an emergency should have been
sufficient for six years, simply did not exist.

He walked over to the integrating machine, which as early as the year
2031 had begun to replace the older atomic processes, due to the
shortage of the radium series metals. It was bulky and heavy compared
to the atomic disintegrators, but it was much more economical and very
dependable. Dependable--provided some thick-headed stock clerk at a
terrestrial supply station did not check in empty hydrogen cylinders
instead of full ones. Forepaugh's unwonted curses brought a smile to
the stupid, good-natured face of his servant, Gunga--he who had been
banished for life from his native Mars for his impiety in closing his
single round eye during the sacred Ceremony of the Wells.

The Earth man was at this steaming hot, unhealthful trading station
under the very shadow of the South Pole of the minor planet Inra for
an entirely different reason. One of the most popular of his set on
the Earth, an athletic hero, he had fallen in love, and the devoutly
wished-for marriage was only prevented by lack of funds. The
opportunity to take charge of this richly paid, though dangerous,
outpost of civilization had been no sooner offered than taken. In
another week or two the relief ship was due to take him and his
valuable collection of exotic Inranian orchids back to the Earth, back
to a fat bonus, Constance, and an assured future.

It was a different young man who now stood tragically before the
useless power plant. His slim body was bowed, and his clean features
were drawn. Grimly he raked the cooling dust that had been forced in
the integrating chamber by the electronic rearrangement of the
original hydrogen atoms--finely powdered iron and silicon--the "ashes"
of the last tank of hydrogen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gunga chuckled.

"What's the matter?" Forepaugh barked. "Going crazy already?"

"Me, haw! Me, haw! Me thinkin'," Gunga rumbled. "Haw! We got, haw!
plenty hydr'gen." He pointed to the low metal roof of the trading
station. Though it was well insulated against sound, the place
continually vibrated to the low murmur of the Inranian rains that fell
interminably through the perpetual polar day. It was a rain such as is
never seen on Earth, even in the tropics. It came in drops as large as
a man's fist. It came in streams. It came in large, shattering masses
that broke before they fell and filled the air with spray. There was
little wind, but the steady green downpour of water and the brilliant
continuous flashing of lightning shamed the dull soggy twilight
produced by the large, hot, but hidden sun.

"_Your_ idea of a joke!" Forepaugh growled in disgust. He understood
what Gunga's grim pleasantry referred to. There was indeed an
incalculable quantity of hydrogen at hand. If some means could be
found to separate the hydrogen atoms from the oxygen in the world of
water around them they would not lack for fuel. He thought of
electrolysis, and relaxed with a sigh. There was no power. The
generators were dead, the air drier and cooler had ceased its rhythmic
pulsing nearly an hour ago. Their lights were gone, and the automatic
radio utterly useless.

"This is what comes of putting all your eggs in one basket," he
thought, and let his mind dwell vindictively on the engineers who had
designed the equipment on which his life depended.

An exclamation from Gunga startled him. The Martian was pointing to
the ventilator opening, the only part of this strange building that
was not hermetically sealed against the hostile life of Inra. A dark
rim had appeared at its margin, a loathsome, black-green rim that was
moving, spreading out. It crept over the metal walls like the
low-lying smoke of a fire, yet it was a solid. From it emanated a
strong, miasmatic odor.

"The giant mold!" Forepaugh cried. He rushed to his desk and took out
his flash pistol, quickly set the localizer so as to cover a large
area. When he turned he saw, to his horror, Gunga about to smash into
the mold with his ax. He sent the man spinning with a blow to the ear.

"Want to scatter it and start it growing in a half-dozen places?" he
snapped. "Here!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He pulled the trigger. There was a light, spiteful "ping" and for an
instant a cone of white light stood out in the dim room like a solid
thing. Then it was gone, and with it was gone the black mold, leaving
a circular area of blistered paint on the wall and an acrid odor in
the air. Forepaugh leaped to the ventilating louver and closed it
tightly.

"It's going to be like this from now on," he remarked to the shaken
Gunga. "All these things wouldn't bother us as long as the machinery
kept the building dry and cool. They couldn't live in here. But it's
getting damp and hot. Look at the moisture condensing on the ceiling!"

Gunga gave a guttural cry of despair. "It knows, Boss; look!"

Through one of the round, heavily framed ports it could be seen, the
lower part of its large, shapeless body half-floating in the lashing
water that covered their rocky shelf to a depth of several feet, the
upper part spectral and gray. It was a giant amoeba, fully six feet in
diameter in its present spheroid form, but capable of assuming any
shape that would be useful. It had an envelope of tough, transparent
matter, and was filled with a fluid that was now cloudy and then
clear. Near the center there was a mass of darker matter, and this was
undoubtedly the seat of its intelligence.

The Earth man recoiled in horror! A single cell with a brain! It was
unthinkable. It was a biological nightmare. Never before had he seen
one--had, in fact, dismissed the stories of the Inranian natives as a
bit of primitive superstition, had laughed at these gentle, stupid
amphibians with whom he traded when they, in their imperfect language,
tried to tell him of it.

They had called it the Ul-lul. Well, let it be so. It was an amoeba,
and it was watching him. It floated in the downpour and watched him.
With what? It had no eyes. No matter, it was watching him. And then it
suddenly flowed outward until it became a disc rocking on the waves.
Again its fluid form changed, and by a series of elongations and
contractions it flowed through the water at an incredible speed. It
came straight for the window, struck the thick, unbreakable glass with
a shock that could be felt by the men inside. It flowed over the glass
and over the building. It was trying to eat them, building and all!
The part of its body over the port became so thin that it was almost
invisible. At last, its absolute limit reached, it dropped away,
baffled, vanishing amid the glare of the lightning and the frothing
waters like the shadows of a nightmare.

       *       *       *       *       *

The heat was intolerable and the air was bad.

"Haw, we have to open vent'lator, Boss!" gasped the Martian.

Forepaugh nodded grimly. It wouldn't do to smother either. Though to
open the ventilator would be to invite another invasion by the black
mold, not to mention the amoebae and other fabulous monsters that had
up to now been kept at a safe distance by the repeller zone, a simple
adaptation of a very old discovery. A zone of mechanical vibrations,
of a frequency of 500,000 cycles per second, was created by a large
quartz crystal in the water, which was electrically operated. Without
power, the protective zone had vanished.

"We watch?" asked Gunga.

"You bet we watch. Every minute of the 'day' and 'night.'"

He examined the two chronometers, assuring himself that they were well
wound, and congratulated himself that they were not dependent on the
defunct power plant for energy. They were his only means of measuring
the passage of time. The sun, which theoretically would seem to travel
round and round the horizon, rarely succeeded in making its exact
location known, but appeared to shift strangely from side to side at
the whim of the fog and water.

"Th' fellas," Gunga remarked, coming out of a study. "Why not come?"
He referred to the Inranians.

"Probably know something's wrong. They can tell the quartz oscillator
is stopped. Afraid of the Ul-lul, I suppose."

"'Squeer," demurred the Martian. "Ul-lul not bother fellas."

"You mean it doesn't follow them into the underbrush. But it would
find tough going there. Not enough water; trees there, four hundred
feet high with thorny roots and rough bark--they wouldn't like that.
Oh no, these natives ought to be pretty snug in their dens. Why,
they're as hard to catch as a muskrat! Don't know what a muskrat is,
huh? Well, it's the same as the Inranians, only different, and not so
ugly."

       *       *       *       *       *

For the next six days they existed in their straitened quarters, one
guarding while the other slept, but such alarms as they experienced
were of a minor nature, easily disposed of by their flash pistol. It
had not been intended for continuous service, and under the frequent
drains it showed an alarming loss of power. Forepaugh repeatedly
warned Gunga to be more sparing in its use, but that worthy persisted
in his practice of using it against every trifling invasion of the
poisonous Inranian cave moss that threatened them, or the warm, soggy
water-spiders that hopefully explored the ventilator shaft in search
of living food.

"Bash 'em with a broom, or something! Never mind if it isn't nice.
Save our flash gun for something bigger."

Gunga only looked distressed.

On the seventh day their position became untenable. Some kind of sea
creature, hidden under the ever-replenished storm waters, had found
the concrete emplacements of their trading post to its liking. Just
how it was done was never learned. It is doubtful that the creatures
could gnaw away the solid stone--more likely the process was chemical,
but none the less it was effective. The foundations crumbled; the
metal shell subsided, rolled half over so that silty water leaked in
through the straining seams, and threatened at any moment to be
buffeted and urged away on the surface of the flood toward that
distant vast sea which covers nine-tenths of the area of Inra.

"Time to mush for the mountains," Forepaugh decided.

Gunga grinned. The Mountains of Perdition were, to his point of view,
the only part of Inra even remotely inhabitable. They were sometimes
fairly cool, and though perpetually pelted with rain, blazing with
lightning and reverberating with thunder, they had caves that were
fairly dry and too cool for the black mold. Sometimes, under favorable
circumstances on their rugged peaks, one could get the full benefit of
the enormous hot sun for whose actinic rays the Martian's starved
system yearned.

"Better pack a few cans of the food tablets," the white man ordered.
"Take a couple of waterproof sleeping bags for us, and a few hundred
fire pellets. You can have the flash pistol; it may have a few more
charges in it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Forepaugh broke the glass case marked "Emergency Only" and removed two
more flash pistols. Well he knew that he would need them after passing
beyond the trading area--perhaps sooner. His eyes fell on his personal
chest, and he opened it for a brief examination. None of the contents
seemed of any value, and he was about to pass when he dragged out a
long, heavy, .45 caliber six-shooter in a holster, and a cartridge
belt filled with shells. The Martian stared.

"Know what it is?" his master asked, handing him the weapon.

"Gunga not know." He took it and examined it curiously. It was a fine
museum piece in an excellent state of preservation, the metal overlaid
with the patina of age, but free from rust and corrosion.

"It's a weapon of the Ancients," Forepaugh explained. "It was a sort
of family heirloom and is over 300 years old. One of my grandfathers
used it in the famous Northwest Mounted Police. Wonder if it'll still
shoot."

He leveled the weapon at a fat, sightless wriggler that came squirming
through a seam, squinting unaccustomed eyes along the barrel. There
was a violent explosion, and the wriggler disappeared in a smear of
dirty green. Gunga nearly fell over backward in fright, and even
Forepaugh was shaken. He was surprised that the ancient cartridge had
exploded at all, though he knew powder making had reached a high level
of perfection before explosive chemical weapons had yielded to the
newer, lighter, and infinitely more powerful ray weapons. The gun
would impede their progress. It would be of very little use against
the giant Carnivora of Inra. Yet something--perhaps a sentimental
attachment, perhaps what his ancestors would have called a
"hunch"--compelled him to strap it around his waist. He carefully
packed a few essentials in his knapsack, together with one chronometer
and a tiny gyroscopic compass. So equipped, they could travel with a
fair degree of precision toward the mountains some hundred miles on
the other side of a steaming forest, a-crawl with feral life, and hot
with blood-lust.

       *       *       *       *       *

Man and master descended into the warm waters and, without a backward
glance, left the trading post to its fate. There was not even any use
in leaving a note. Their relief ship, soon due, would never find the
station without radio direction.

The current was strong, but the water gradually became shallower as
they ascended the sloping rock. After half an hour they saw ahead of
them the loom of the forest, and with some trepidation they entered
the gloom cast by the towering, fernlike trees, whose tops disappeared
in murky fog. Tangled vines impeded their progress. Quagmires lay in
wait for them, and tough weeds tripped them, sometimes throwing one or
another into the mud among squirming small reptiles that lashed at
them with spiked, poisonous feet and then fell to pieces, each piece
to lie in the bubbling ooze until it grew again into a whole animal.

Several times they almost walked under the bodies of great,
spheroidal creatures with massive short legs, whose tremendously long,
sinuous necks disappeared in the leafy murk above, swaying gently like
long-stalked lilies in a terrestial pond. These were azornacks,
mild-tempered vegetarians whose only defense lay in their thick,
blubbery hides. Filled with parasites, stinking and rancid, their
decaying covering of fat effectively concealed the tender flesh
underneath, protecting them from fangs and rending claws.

Deeper in the forest the battering of the rain was mitigated. Giant
neo-palm leaves formed a roof that shut out not only most of the weak
daylight, but also the fury of the downpour. The water collected in
cataracts, ran down the boles of the trees, and roared through the
semi-circular canals of the snake trees, so named by early explorers
for their waving, rubbery tentacles, multiplied a millionfold, that
performed the duties of leaves. Water gurgled and chuckled everywhere,
spread in vast dim ponds and lakes writhing with tormented roots,
up-heaved by unseen, uncatalogued leviathans, rippled by translucent
discs of loathsome, luminescent jelly that quivered from place to
place in pursuit of microscopic prey.

Yet the impression was one of calm and quiet, and the waifs from other
worlds felt a surcease of nervous tension. Unconsciously they relaxed.
Taking their bearings, they changed their course slightly for the
nesting place of the nearest tribe of Inranians where they hoped to
get food and at least partial shelter; for their food tablets had
mysteriously turned to an unpleasant viscous liquid, and their
sleeping bags were alive with giant bacteria easily visible to the
eye.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were doomed to disappointment. After nearly twelve hours of
desperate struggling through the morass, through gloomy aisles, and
countless narrow escapes from prowling beasts of prey in which only
the speed and tremendous power of their flash pistols saved them from
instant death, they reached a rocky outcropping which led to the
comparatively dry rise of land on which a tribe of Inranians made its
home. Their faces were covered with welts made by the hanging
filaments of blood-sucking trees as fine as spider webs, and their
senses reeled with the oppressive stench of the abysmal jungle. If the
pampered ladies of the Inner Planets only knew where their
thousand-dollar orchids sprang from!

Converging runways showed the opening of one of the underground dens,
almost hidden from view by a bewildering maze of roots, rendered more
formidable by long, sharp stakes made from the iron-hard thigh-bones
of the flying kabo.

Forepaugh cupped his hands over his mouth and gave the call.

"Ouf! Ouf! Ouf! Ouf! Ouf!"

He repeated it over and over, the jungle giving back his voice in a
muffled echo, while Gunga held a spare flash pistol and kept a sharp
lookout for a carnivore intent on getting an unwary Inranian.

There was no answer. These timid creatures, who are often rated the
most intelligent life native to primitive Inra, had sensed disaster
and had fled.

Forepaugh and Gunga slept in one of the foul, poorly ventilated dens,
ate of the hard, woody tubers that had not been worth taking along,
and wished they had a certain stock clerk at that place at that time.
They were awakened out of deep slumber by the threshing of an evil
looking creature which had become entangled among the sharpened
spikes. Its tremendous maw, splitting it almost in half, was opened in
roars of pain that showed great yellow fangs eight inches in length.
Its heavy flippers battered the stout roots and lacerated themselves
in the beast's insensate rage. It was quickly dispatched with a flash
pistol and Gunga cooked himself some of the meat, using a fire pellet;
but despite his hunger Forepaugh did not dare eat any of it, knowing
that this species, strange to him, might easily be one of the many on
Inra that are poisonous to terrestials.

       *       *       *       *       *

They resumed their march toward the distant invisible mountains, and
were fortunate in finding somewhat better footing than they had on
their previous march. They covered about 25 miles on that "day,"
without untoward incident. Their ray pistols gave them an insuperable
advantage over the largest and most ferocious beasts they could expect
to meet, so that they became more and more confident, despite the
knowledge that they were rapidly using up the energy stored in their
weapons. The first one had long ago been discarded, and the charge
indicators of the other two were approaching zero at a disquieting
rate. Forepaugh took them both, and from that time on he was careful
never to waste a discharge except in case of a direct and unavoidable
attack. This often entailed long waits or stealthy detours through
sucking mud, and came near to ending both their lives.

The Earth man was in the lead when it happened. Seeking an uncertain
footing through a tangle of low-growing, thick, ghastly white
vegetation, he placed a foot on what seemed to be a broad, flat rock
projecting slightly above the ooze. Instantly there was a violent
upheaval of mud; the seeming rock flew up like a trap-door, disclosing
a cavernous mouth some seven feet across, and a thick, triangular
tentacle flew up from its concealment in the mud in a vicious arc.
Forepaugh leaped back barely in time to escape being swept in and
engulfed. The end of the tentacle struck him a heavy blow on the
chest, throwing him back with such force as to bowl Gunga over, and
whirling the pistols out of his hands into a slimy, bulbous growth
nearby, where they stuck in the phosphorescent cavities the force of
their impact had made.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no time to recover the weapons. With a bellow of rage the
beast was out of its bed and rushing at them. Nothing stayed its
progress. Tough, heavily scaled trees thicker than a man's body
shuddered and fell as its bulk brushed by them. But it was momentarily
confused, and its first rush carried it past its dodging quarry. This
momentary respite saved their lives.

Rearing its plumed head to awesome heights, its knobby bark running
with brown rivulets of water, a giant tree, even for that world of
giants, offered refuge. The men scrambled up the rough trunk easily,
finding plenty of hand and footholds. They came to rest on one of the
shelflike circumvoluting rings, some twenty-five feet above the
ground. Soon the blunt brown tentacles slithered in search of them,
but failed to reach their refuge by inches.

And now began the most terrible siege that interlopers in that
primitive world can endure. From that cavernous, distended throat came
a tremendous, world-shaking noise.

"HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM!"

Forepaugh put his hand to his head. It made him dizzy. He had not
believed that such noise could be. He knew that no creature could long
live amidst it. He tore strips from his shredded clothing and stuffed
his ears, but felt no relief.

"HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM!"

It throbbed in his brain.

Gunga lay a-sprawl, staring with fascinated eye into the pulsating
scarlet gullet that was blasting the world with sound. Slowly, slowly
he was slipping. His master hauled him back. The Martian grinned at
him stupidly, slid again to the edge.

Once more Forepaugh pulled him back. The Martian seemed to acquiesce.
His single eye closed to a mere slit. He moved to a position between
Forepaugh and the tree trunk, braced his feet.

"No you don't!" The Earth man laughed uproariously. The din was making
him light-headed. It was so funny! Just in time he had caught that
cunning expression and prepared for the outlashing of feet designed to
plunge him into the red cavern below and to stop that hellish racket.

"And now--"

He swung his fist heavily, slamming the Martian against the tree. The
red eye closed wearily. He was unconscious, and lucky.

Hungrily the Earth man stared at his distant flash pistols, plainly
visible in the luminescence of their fungus bedding. He began a slow,
cautious creep along the top of a vine some eight inches thick. If he
could reach them....

       *       *       *       *       *

Crash! He was almost knocked to the ground by the thud of a frantic
tentacle against the vine. His movement had been seen. Again the
tentacle struck with crushing force. The great vine swayed. He managed
to reach the shelf again in the very nick of time.

"HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM!"

A bolt of lightning struck a giant fern some distance away. The crash
of thunder was hardly noticeable. Forepaugh wondered if his tree would
be struck. Perhaps it might even start a fire, giving him a flaming
brand with which to torment his tormentor. Vain hope! The wood was
saturated with moisture. Even the fire pellets could not make it burn.

"HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM!"

The six-shooter! He had forgotten it. He jerked it from its holster
and pointed it at the red throat, emptied all the chambers. He saw the
flash of yellow flame, felt the recoil, but the sound of the
discharges was drowned in the Brobdignagian tumult. He drew back his
arm to throw the useless toy from him. But again that unexplainable,
senseless "hunch" restrained him. He reloaded the gun and returned it
to its holster.

"HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM! HOOM!"

A thought had been struggling to reach his consciousness against the
pressure of the unbearable noise. The fire pellets! Couldn't they be
used in some way? These small chemical spheres, no larger than the end
of his little finger, had long ago supplanted actual fire along the
frontiers, where electricity was not available for cooking. In contact
with moisture they emitted terrific heat, a radiant heat which
penetrated meat, bone, and even metal. One such pellet would cook a
meal in ten minutes, with no sign of scorching or burning. And they
had several hundred in one of the standard moisture-proof containers.

       *       *       *       *       *

As fast as his fingers could work the trigger of the dispenser
Forepaugh dropped the potent little pellets down the bellowing throat.
He managed to release about thirty before the bellowing stopped. A
veritable tornado of energy broke loose at the foot of the tree. The
giant maw was closed, and the shocking silence was broken only by the
thrashing of a giant body in its death agonies. The radiant heat,
penetrating through and through the beast's body, withered nearby
vegetation and could be easily felt on the perch up the tree.

Gunga was slowly recovering. His iron constitution helped him to rally
from the powerful blow he had received, and by the time the jungle was
still he was sitting up mumbling apologies.

"Never mind," said his master. "Shin down there and cut us off a good
helping of roast tongue, if it has a tongue, before something else
comes along and beats us out of a feast."

"Him poison, maybe," Gunga demurred. They had killed a specimen new to
zoologists.

"Might as well die of poison as starvation," Forepaugh countered.

Without more ado the Martian descended, cut out some large, juicy
chunks as his fancy dictated, and brought his loot back up the tree.
The meat was delicious and apparently wholesome. They gorged
themselves and threw away what they could not eat, for food spoils
very quickly in the Inranian jungles and uneaten meat would only serve
to attract hordes of the gauzy-winged, glutinous Inranian swamp flies.
As they sank into slumber they could hear the beginning of a bedlam of
snarling and fighting as the lesser Carnivora fed on the body of the
fallen giant.

When they awoke the chronometer recorded the passing of twelve hours,
and they had to tear a network of strong fibers with which the tree
had invested them preparatory to absorbing their bodies as food. For
so keen is the competition for life on Inra that practically all
vegetation is capable of absorbing animal food directly. Many an
Inranian explorer can tell tales of narrow escapes from some of the
more specialized flesh-eating plants; but they are now so well known
that they are easily avoided.

       *       *       *       *       *

A clean-picked framework of crushed and broken giant bones was all
that was left of the late bellowing monster. Six-legged water dogs
were polishing them hopefully, or delving into them with their long,
sinuous snouts for the marrow. The Earth man fired a few shots with
his six-shooter, and they scattered, dragging the bodies of their
fallen companions to a safe distance to be eaten.

Only one of the flash pistols was in working order. The other had been
trampled by heavy hoofs and was useless. A heavy handicap under which
to traverse fifty miles of abysmal jungle. They started with nothing
for breakfast except water, of which they had plenty.

Fortunately the outcroppings of rocks and gravel washes were becoming
more and more frequent, and they were able to travel at much better
speed. As they left the low-lying jungle land they entered a zone
which was faintly reminiscent of a terrestial jungle. It was still
hot, soggy, and fetid, but gradually the most primitive aspects of the
scene were modified. The over-arching trees were less closely packed,
and they came across occasional rock clearings which were bare of
vegetation except for a dense carpet of brown, lichenlike vegetation
that secreted an astonishing amount of juice. They slipped and sloshed
through this, rousing swarms of odd, toothed birds, which darted
angrily around their heads and slashed at them with the razor-sharp
saw edges on the back of their legs. Annoying as they were, they could
be kept away with branches torn from trees, and their presence
connoted an absence of the deadly jungle flesh-eaters, permitting a
temporary relaxation of vigilance and saving the resources of the last
flash gun.

They camped that "night" on the edge of one of these rock clearings.
For the first time in weeks it had stopped raining, although the sun
was still obscured. Dimly on the horizon could be seen the first of
the foothills. Here they gathered some of the giant, oblong fungus
that early explorers had taken for blocks of porous stone because of
their size and weight, and, by dint of the plentiful application of
fire pellets, managed to set it ablaze. The heat added nothing to
their comfort, but it dried them out and allowed them to sleep
unmolested.

       *       *       *       *       *

An unwary winged eel served as their breakfast, and soon they were on
their way to those beckoning hills. It had started to rain again, but
the worst part of their journey was over. If they could reach the top
of one of the mountains there was a good chance that they would be
seen and rescued by their relief ship, provided they did not starve
first. The flyer would use the mountains as a base from which to
search for the trading station, and it was conceivable that the
skipper might actually have anticipated their desperate adventure and
would look for them in the Mountains of Perdition.

They had crossed several ranges of the foothills and were beginning to
congratulate themselves when the diffused light from above was
suddenly blotted out. It was raining again, and above the
echo-augmented thunder they heard a shrill screeching.

"A web serpent!" Gunga cried, throwing himself flat on the ground.

Forepaugh eased into a rock cleft at his side. Just in time. A great
grotesque head bore down upon him, many-fanged as a medieval dragon.
Between obsidian eyes was a fissure whence emanated a wailing and a
foul odor. Hundreds of short, clawed legs slithered on the rocks under
a long sinuous body. Then it seemed to leap into the air again. Webs
grew taut between the legs, strumming as they caught a strong uphill
wind. Again it turned to the attack, and missed them. This time
Forepaugh was ready for it. He shot at it with his flash pistol.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nothing happened. The fog made accurate shooting impossible, and the
gun lacked its former power. The web serpent continued to course back
and forth over their heads.

"Guess we'd better run for it," Forepaugh murmured.

"Go 'head!"

They cautiously left their places of concealment. Instantly the
serpent was down again, persistent if inaccurate. It struck the place
of their first concealment and missed them.

"Run!"

They extended their weary muscles to the utmost, but it was soon
apparent that they could not escape long. A rock wall in their path
saved them.

"Hole!" the Martian gasped.

Forepaugh followed him into the rocky cleft. There was a strong draft
of dry air, and it would have been next to impossible to hold the
Martian back, so Forepaugh allowed him to lead on toward the source of
the draft. As long as it led into the mountains he didn't care.

The natural passageway was untenanted. Evidently its coolness and
dryness made it untenable for most of Inra's humidity and heat loving
life. Yet the floor was so smooth that it must have been artificially
leveled. Faint illumination was provided by the rocks themselves. They
appeared to be covered by some microscopic phosphorescent vegetation.

After hundreds of twists and turns and interminable straight galleries
the cleft turned more sharply upward, and they had a period of stiff
climbing. They must have gone several miles and climbed at least
20,000 feet. The air became noticeably thin, which only exhilarated
Gunga, but slowed the Earth man down. But at last they came to the end
of the cleft. They could go no further, but above them, at least 500
feet higher, they saw a round patch of sky, miraculously bright blue
sky!

"A pipe!" Forepaugh cried.

He had often heard of these mysterious, almost fabulous structures
sometimes reported by passing travelers. Straight and true, smooth as
glass and apparently immune to the elements, they had been
occasionally seen standing on the very tops of the highest
mountains--seen for a few moments only before they were hidden again
by the clouds. Were they observatories of some ancient race, placed
thus to pierce the mysteries of outer space? They would find out.

       *       *       *       *       *

The inside of the pipe had zigzagging rings of metal, conveniently
spaced for easy climbing. With Gunga leading, they soon reached the
top. But not quite.

"Eh?" said Forepaugh.

"Uh?" said Gunga.

There had not been a sound, but a distinct, definite command had
registered on their minds.

"Stop!"

They tried to climb higher, but could not unclasp their hands. They
tried to descend, but could not lower their feet.

The light was by now relatively bright, and as by command their eyes
sought the opposite wall. What they saw gave their jaded nerves an
unpleasant thrill--a mass of doughy matter of a blue-green color about
three feet in diameter, with something that resembled a cyst filled
with transparent liquid near its center.

And this thing began to flow along the rods, much as tar flows. From
the mass extended a pseudopod; touched Gunga on the arm. Instantly the
arm was raw and bleeding. Terrified, immovable, he writhed in agony.
The pseudopod returned to the main mass, disappearing into its
interior with the strip of bloody skin.

Its attention was centered so much on the luckless Martian that its
control slipped from Forepaugh. Seizing his flash pistol, he set the
localized for a small area and aimed it at the thing, intent on
burning it into nothingness. But again his hand was stayed. Against
the utmost of his will-power his fingers opened, letting the pistol
drop. The liquid in the cyst danced and bubbled. Was it laughing at
him? It had read his mind--thwarted his will again.

Again a pseudopod stretched out and a strip of raw, red flesh adhered
to it and was consumed. Mad rage convulsed the Earth man. Should he
throw himself tooth and nail on the monster? And be engulfed?

He thought of the six-shooter. It thrilled him.

But wouldn't it make him drop that too?

       *       *       *       *       *

A flash of atavistic cunning came to him.

He began to reiterate in his mind a certain thought.

"This thing is so I can see you better--this thing is so I can see you
better."

He said it over and over, with all the passion and devotion of a
celibate's prayer over a uranium fountain.

"This thing is harmless--but it will make me see you better!"

Slowly he drew the six-shooter. In some occult way he knew it was
watching him.

"Oh, this is harmless! This is an instrument to aid my weak eyes! It
will help me realize your mastery! This will enable me to know your
true greatness. This will enable me to know you as a god."

Was it complacence or suspicion that stirred the liquid in the cyst so
smoothly? Was it susceptible to flattery? He sighted along the barrel.

"In another moment your great intelligence will overwhelm me,"
proclaimed his surface mind desperately, while the subconscious tensed
the trigger. And at that the clear liquid burst into a turmoil of
alarm. Too late. Forepaugh went limp, but not before he had loosed a
steel-jacketed bullet that shattered the mind cyst of the pipe
denizen. A horrible pain coursed through his every fibre and nerve. He
was safe in the arms of Gunga, being carried to the top of the pipe to
the clean dry air, and the blessed, blistering sun.

The pipe denizen was dying. A viscous, inert mass, it dropped lower
and lower, lost contact at last, shattered into slime at the bottom.

       *       *       *       *       *

Miraculous sun! For a luxurious fifteen minutes they roasted there on
the top of the pipe, the only solid thing in a sea of clouds as far as
the eye could reach. But no! That was a circular spot against the
brilliant white of the clouds, and it was rapidly coming closer. In a
few minutes it resolved itself into the _Comet_, fast relief ship of
the Terrestial, Inranian, Genidian, and Zydian Lines, Inc. With a low
buzz of her repulsion motors she drew alongside. Hooks were attached
and ports opened. A petty officer and a crew of roustabouts made her
fast.

"What the hell's going on here?" asked the cocky little terrestial who
was skipper, stepping out and surveying the castaways. "We've been
looking for you ever since your directional wave failed. But come on
in--come on in!"

He led the way to his stateroom, while the ship's surgeon took Gunga
in charge. Closing the door carefully, he delved into the bottom of
his locker and brought out a flask.

"Can't be too careful," he remarked, filling a small tumbler for
himself and another for his guest. "Always apt to be some snooper to
report me. But say--you're wanted in the radio room."

"Radio room nothing! When do we eat?"

"Right away, but you'd better see him. Fellow from the Interplanetary
News Agency wants you to broadcast a copyrighted story. Good for about
three years' salary, old boy."

"All right. I'll see him"--with a happy sigh--"just as soon as I put
through a personal message."

[Advertisement: Everyone Is Invited
_To "Come Over in_
'THE READERS' CORNER'!"]



The Lord of Space

_By Victor Rousseau_

[Illustration]

[Sidenote: A Black Caesar had arisen on Eros--and all Earth trembled
at his distant menace.]


"On the day of the next full moon every living thing on earth will be
wiped out of existence--unless you succeed in your mission, Lee."

Nathaniel Lee looked into the face of Silas Stark, President of the
United States of the World, and nodded grimly. "I'll do my best, Sir,"
he answered.

"You have the facts. We know who this self-styled Black Caesar is, who
has declared war upon humanity. He is a Dane named Axelson, whose
father, condemned to life imprisonment for resisting the new
world-order, succeeded in obtaining possession of an interplanetary
liner.

"He filled it with the gang of desperate men who had been associated
with him in his successful escape from the penitentiary. Together they
sailed into Space. They disappeared. It was supposed that they had
somehow met their death in the ether, beyond the range of human ken.

"Thirty years passed, and then this son of Axelson, born, according to
his own story, of a woman whom the father had persuaded to accompany
him into Space, began to radio us. We thought at first it was some
practical joker who was cutting in.

[Illustration: _It was like struggling with some vampire creatures in
a hideous dream._]

"When our electricians demonstrated beyond doubt that the voice came
from outer space, it was supposed that some one in our Moon Colony had
acquired a transmitting machine. Then the ships we sent to the Moon
Colony for gold failed to return. As you know, for seven weeks there
has been no communication with the Moon. And at the last full moon
the--blow--fell.

"The world depends upon you, Lee. The invisible rays that destroyed
every living thing from China to Australia--one-fifth of the human
race--will fall upon the eastern seaboard of America when the moon is
full again. That has been the gist of Axelson's repeated
communications.

"We shall look to you to return, either with the arch-enemy of the
human race as your prisoner, or with the good news that mankind has
been set free from the menace that overhangs it.

"God bless you, my boy!" The President of the United States of the
World gripped Nat's hand and stepped down the ladder that led from the
landing-stage of the great interplanetary space-ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

The immense landing-field reserved for the ships of the Interplanetary
Line was situated a thousand feet above the heart of New York City, in
Westchester County. It was a flat space set on the top of five great
towers, strewn with electrified sand, whose glow had the property of
dispersing the sea fogs. There, at rest upon what resembled nothing so
much as iron claws, the long gray shape of the vacuum flyer bulked.

Nat sneezed as he watched the operations of his men, for the common
cold, or coryza, seemed likely to be the last of the germ diseases
that would yield to medical science, and he had caught a bad one in
the Capitol, while listening to the debate in the Senate upon the
threat to humanity. And it was cold on the landing-stage, in contrast
to the perpetual summer of the glass-roofed city below.

But Nat forgot the cold as he watched the preparations for the ship's
departure. Neon and nitrogen gas were being pumped under pressure into
the outer shell, where a minute charge of leucon, the newly discovered
element that helped to counteract gravitation, combined with them to
provide the power that would lift the vessel above the regions of the
stratosphere.

In the low roof-buildings that surrounded the stage was a scene of
tremendous activity. The selenium discs were flashing signals, and the
radio receivers were shouting the late news; on the great power boards
dials and light signals stood out in the glow of the amylite tubes. On
a rotary stage a thousand feet above the ship a giant searchlight,
visible for a thousand miles, moved its shaft of dazzling luminosity
across the heavens.

Now the spar-aluminite outer skin of the ship grew bright with the red
neon glare. Another ship, from China, dropped slowly to its stage near
by, and the unloaders swarmed about the pneumatic tubes to receive the
mail. The teleradio was shouting news of a failure of the Manchurian
wheat crop. Nat's chief officer, a short cockney named Brent, came up
to him.

"Ready to start, Sir," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nat turned to him. "Your orders are clear?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Send Benson here."

"I'm here, Sir." Benson, the ray-gunner in charge of the battery that
comprised the vessel's armament, a lean Yankee from Connecticut,
stepped forward.

"You know your orders, Benson? Axelson has seized the Moon and the
gold-mines there. He's planning to obliterate the Earth. We've got to
go in like mad dogs and shoot to kill. No matter if we kill every
living thing there, even our own people who are inmates of the Moon's
penal settlement, we've got to account for Axelson."

"Yes, Sir."

"We can't guess how he got those gold-ships that returned with neon
and argon for the Moon colonists. But he mustn't get us. Let the men
understand that. That's all."

"Very good, Sir."

The teleradio suddenly began to splutter: A-A-A, it called. And
instantly every sound ceased about the landing-stage. For that was the
call of Axelson, somewhere upon the Moon.

"Axelson speaking. At the next full moon all the American Province of
the World Federation will be annihilated, as the Chinese Province was
at the last. There's no hope for you, good people. Send out your
vacuum liners. I can use a few more of them. Within six months your
world will be depopulated, unless you flash me the signal of
surrender."

Would the proud old Earth have to come to that? Daily those ominous
threats had been repeated, until popular fears had become frenzy. And
Nat was being sent out as a last hope. If he failed, there would be
nothing but surrender to this man, armed with a super-force that
enabled him to lay waste the Earth from the Moon.

Within one hour, those invisible, death-dealing rays had destroyed
everything that inhaled oxygen and exhaled carbon. The ray with which
the liner was equipped was a mere toy in comparison. It would kill at
no more than 500 miles, and its action was quite different.

As a prelude to Earth's surrender, Axelson demanded that World
President Stark and a score of other dignitaries should depart for
the Moon as hostages. Every ray fortress in the world was to be
dismantled, every treasury was to send its gold to be piled up in a
great pyramid on the New York landing-stage. The Earth was to
acknowledge Axelson as its supreme master.

       *       *       *       *       *

The iron claws were turning with a screwlike motion, extending
themselves, and slowly raising the interplanetary vessel until she
looked like a great metal fish with metal legs ending with suckerlike
disks. But already she was floating free as the softly purring engines
held her in equipoise. Nat climbed the short ladder that led to her
deck. Brent came up to him again.

"That teleradio message from Axelson--" he began.

"Yes?" Nat snapped out.

"I don't believe it came from the Moon at all."

"You don't? You think it's somebody playing a hoax on Earth? You think
that wiping out of China was just an Earth-joke?"

"No, Sir." Brent stood steady under his superior's sarcasm. "But I was
chief teleradio operator at Greenwich before being promoted to the
Province of America. And what they don't know at Greenwich they don't
know anywhere."

Brent spoke with that self-assurance of the born cockney that even the
centuries had failed to remove, though they had removed the cockney
accent.

"Well, Brent?"

"I was with the chief electrician in the receiving station when
Axelson was radioing last week. And I noticed that the waves of sound
were under a slight Doppler effect. With the immense magnification
necessary for transmitting from the Moon, such deflection might be
construed as a mere fan-like extension. But there was ten times the
magnification one would expect from the Moon; and I calculated that
those sound-waves were shifted somewhere."

"Then what's your theory, Brent?"

"Those sounds come from another planet. Somewhere on the Moon there's
an intercepting and re-transmitting plant. Axelson is deflecting his
rays to give the impression that he's on the Moon, and to lure our
ships there."

"What do you advise?" asked Nat.

"I don't know, Sir."

"Neither do I. Set your course Moonward, and tell Mr. Benson to keep
his eyes peeled."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Moon Colony, discovered in 1976, when Kramer, of Baltimore, first
proved the practicability of mixing neon with the inert new gas,
leucon, and so conquering gravitation, had proved to be just what it
had been suspected of being--a desiccated, airless desolation.
Nevertheless, within the depths of the craters a certain amount of the
Moon's ancient atmosphere still lingered, sufficient to sustain life
for the queer troglodytes, with enormous lung-boxes, who survived
there, browsing like beasts upon the stunted, aloe-like vegetation.

Half man, half ape, and very much unlike either, these vestiges of a
species on a ruined globe had proved tractable and amenable to
discipline. They had become the laborers of the convict settlement
that had sprung up on the Moon.

Thither all those who had opposed the establishment of the World
Federation, together with all persons convicted for the fourth time of
a felony, had been transported, to superintend the efforts of these
dumb, unhuman Moon dwellers. For it had been discovered that the Moon
craters were extraordinarily rich in gold, and gold was still the
medium of exchange on Earth.

To supplement the vestigial atmosphere, huge stations had been set up,
which extracted the oxygen from the subterranean waters five miles
below the Moon's crust, and recombined it with the nitrogen with
which the surface layer was impregnated, thus creating an atmosphere
which was pumped to the workers.

Then a curious discovery had been made. It was impossible for human
beings to exist without the addition of those elements existing in the
air in minute quantities--neon, krypton, and argon. And the ships that
brought the gold bars back from the Moon had conveyed these gaseous
elements there.

       *       *       *       *       *

The droning of the sixteen atomic motors grew louder, and mingled with
the hum of gyroscopes. The ladder was drawn up and the port hole
sealed. On the enclosed bridge Nat threw the switch of durobronze that
released the non-conducting shutter which gave play to the sixteen
great magnets. Swiftly the great ship shot forward into the air. The
droning of the motors became a shrill whine, and then, growing too
shrill for human ears to follow it, gave place to silence.

Nat set the speed lever to five hundred miles an hour, the utmost that
had been found possible in passing through the earth's atmosphere,
owing to the resistance, which tended to heat the vessel and damage
the delicate atomic engines. As soon as the ether was reached, the
speed would be increased to ten or twelve thousand. That meant a
twenty-two hour run to the Moon Colony--about the time usually taken.

He pressed a lever, which set bells ringing in all parts of the ship.
By means of a complicated mechanism, the air was exhausted from each
compartment in turn, and then replaced, and as the bells rang, the men
at work trooped out of these compartments consecutively. This had been
originated for the purpose of destroying any life dangerous to man
that might unwittingly have been imported from the Moon, but on one
occasion it had resulted in the discovery of a stowaway.

Then Nat descended the bridge to the upper deck. Here, on a platform,
were the two batteries of three ray-guns apiece, mounted on swivels,
and firing in any direction on the port and starboard sides
respectively. The guns were enclosed in a thin sheath of osmium,
through which the lethal rays penetrated unchanged; about them, thick
shields of lead protected the gunners.

He talked with Benson for a while. "Don't let Axelson get the jump on
you," he said. "Be on the alert every moment." The gunners,
keen-looking men, graduates from the Annapolis gunnery school, grinned
and nodded. They were proud of their trade and its traditions; Nat
felt that the vessel was safe in their hands.

The chief mate appeared at the head of the companion, accompanied by a
girl. "Stowaway, Sir," he reported laconically. "She tumbled out of
the repair shop annex when we let out the air!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Nat stared at her in consternation, and the girl stared back at him.
She was a very pretty girl, hardly more than twenty-two or three,
attired in a businesslike costume consisting of a leather jacket,
knickers, and the black spiral puttees that had come into style in the
past decade. She came forward unabashed.

"Well, who are you?" snapped Nat.

"Madge Dawes, of the Universal News Syndicate," she answered,
laughing.

"The devil!" muttered Nat. "You people think you run the World
Federation since you got President Stark elected."

"We certainly do," replied the girl, still laughing.

"Well, you don't run this ship," said Nat. "How would you like a long
parachute drop back to Earth?"

"Don't be foolish, my dear man," said Madge. "Don't you know you'll
get wrinkles if you scowl like that? Smile! Ah, that's better. Now,
honestly, Cap we just had to get the jump on everybody else in
interviewing Axelson. It means such a lot to me."

Pouts succeeded smiles. "You're not going to be cross about it, are
you?" she pleaded.

"Do you realize the risk you're running, young woman?" Nat demanded.
"Are you aware that our chances of ever getting back to Earth are
smaller than you ought to have dreamed of taking?"

"Oh, that's all right," the girl responded. "And now that we're
friends again, would you mind asking the steward to get me something
to eat? I've been cooped up in that room downstairs for fifteen hours,
and I'm simply starving."

Nat shrugged his shoulders hopelessly. He turned to the chief mate.
"Take Miss Dawes down to the saloon and see that Wang Ling supplies
her with a good meal," he ordered. "And put her in the Admiral's
cabin. That good enough for you?" he asked satirically.

"Oh that'll be fine," answered the girl enthusiastically. "And I shall
rely on you to keep me posted about everything that's going on. And a
little later I'm going to take X-ray photographs of you and all these
men." She smiled at the grinning gunners. "That's the new fad, you
know, and we're going to offer prizes for the best developed skeletons
in the American Province, and pick a King and Queen of Beauty!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"A radio, Sir!"

Nat, who had snatched a brief interval of sleep, started up as the man
on duty handed him the message. The vessel had been constantly in
communication with Earth during her voyage, now nearing completion,
but the dreaded A-A-A that prefaced this message told Nat that it came
from Axelson.

"Congratulations on your attempt," the message ran, "I have watched
your career with the greatest interest, Lee, through the medium of
such scraps of information as I have been able to pick up on the
Moon. When you are my guest to-morrow I shall hope to be able to offer
you a high post in the new World Government that I am planning to
establish. I need good men. Fraternally, the Black Caesar."

Nat whirled about. Madge Dawes was standing behind him, trying to read
the message over his shoulder.

"Spying, eh?" said Nat bitterly.

"My dear man, isn't that my business?"

"Well, read this, then," said Nat, handing her the message. "You're
likely to repent this crazy trick of yours before we get much
farther."

And he pointed to the cosmic-ray skiagraph of the Moon on the curved
glass dome overhead. They were approaching the satellite rapidly. It
filled the whole dome, the craters great black hollows, the mountains
standing out clearly. Beneath the dome were the radium apparatus that
emitted the rays by which the satellite was photographed
cinematographically, and the gyroscope steering apparatus by which the
ship's course was directed.

Suddenly a buzzer sounded a warning. Nat sprang to the tube.

"Gravitational interference X40, gyroscopic aberrancy one minute 29,"
he called. "Discharge static electricity from hull. Mr. Benson, stand
by."

"What does that mean?" asked Madge.

"It means I shall be obliged if you'll abstain from speaking to the
man at the controls," snapped Nat.

"And what's that?" cried Madge in a shriller voice, pointing upward.

       *       *       *       *       *

Across the patterned surface of the Moon, shown on the skiagraph, a
black, cigar-shaped form was passing. It looked like one of the
old-fashioned dirigibles, and the speed with which it moved was
evident from the fact that it was perceptibly traversing the Moon's
surface. Perhaps it was travelling at the rate of fifty thousand miles
an hour.

Brent, the chief officer, burst up the companion. His face was livid.

"Black ship approaching us from the Moon, Sir," he stammered.
"Benson's training his guns, but it must be twenty thousands miles
away."

"Yes, even our ray-guns won't shoot that distance," answered Nat.
"Tell Benson to keep his guns trained as well as he can, and open fire
at five hundred."

Brent disappeared. Madge and Nat were alone on the bridge. Nat was
shouting incomprehensible orders down the tube. He stopped and looked
up. The shadow of the approaching ship had crossed the Moon's disk and
disappeared.

"Well, young lady, I think your goose is cooked," said Nat. "If I'm
not mistaken, that ship is Axelson's, and he's on his way to knock us
galley-west. And now oblige me by leaving the bridge."

"I think he's a perfectly delightful character, to judge from that
message he sent you," answered Madge, "and--"

Brent appeared again. "Triangulation shows ten thousand miles, Sir,"
he informed Nat.

"Take control," said Nat. "Keep on the gyroscopic course, allowing for
aberrancy, and make for the Crater of Pytho. I'll take command of the
guns." He hurried down the companion, with Madge at his heels.

       *       *       *       *       *

The gunners stood by the ray-guns, three at each. Benson perched on a
revolving stool above the batteries. He was watching a periscopic
instrument that connected with the bridge dome by means of a tube, a
flat mirror in front of him showing all points of the compass. At one
edge the shadow of the black ship was creeping slowly forward.

"Eight thousand miles, Sir," he told Nat. "One thousand is our extreme
range. And it looks as if she's making for our blind spot overhead."

Nat stepped to the speaking-tube. "Try to ram her," he called up to
Brent. "We'll open with all guns, pointing forward."

"Very good, Sir," the Cockney called back.

The black shadow was now nearly in the centre of the mirror. It moved
upward, vanished. Suddenly the atomic motors began wheezing again. The
wheeze became a whine, a drone.

"We've dropped to two thousand miles an hour, Sir," called Brent.

Nat leaped for the companion. As he reached the top he could hear the
teleradio apparatus in the wireless room overhead begin to chatter:

"A-A-A. Don't try to interfere. Am taking you to the Crater of Pytho.
Shall renew my offer there. Any resistance will be fatal. Axelson."

And suddenly the droning of the motors became a whine again, then
silence. Nat stared at the instrument-board and uttered a cry.

"What's the matter?" demanded Madge.

Nat swung upon her. "The matter?" he bawled. "He's neutralized our
engines by some infernal means of his own, and he's towing us to the
Moon!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The huge sphere of the Moon had long since covered the entire dome.
The huge Crater of Pytho now filled it, a black hollow fifty miles
across, into which they were gradually settling. And, as they settled,
the pale Earth light, white as that of the Moon on Earth, showed the
gaunt masses of bare rock, on which nothing grew, and the long
stalactites of glassy lava that hung from them.

Then out of the depths beneath emerged the shadowy shape of the
landing-stage.

"You are about to land," chattered the radio. "Don't try any tricks;
they will be useless. Above all, don't try to use your puny ray. You
are helpless."

The ship was almost stationary. Little figures could be seen swarming
upon the landing-stage, ready to adjust the iron claws to clamp the
hull. With a gesture of helplessness, Nat left the bridge and went
down to the main deck where, in obedience to his orders, the crew had
all assembled.

"Men, I'm putting it up to you," he said. "Axelson, the Black Caesar,
advises us not to attempt to use the Ray-guns. I won't order you to.
I'll leave the decision with you."

"We tried it fifteen minutes ago, Sir," answered Benson. "I told
Larrigan to fire off the stern starboard gun to see if it was in
working order, and it wasn't!"

At that moment the vessel settled with a slight jar into the clamps.
Once more the teleradio began to scream:

"Open the port hold and file out slowly. Resistance is useless. I
should turn my ray upon you and obliterate you immediately. Assemble
on the landing-stage and wait for me!"

"You'd best obey," Nat told his men. "We've got a passenger to
consider." He glared at Madge as he spoke, and Madge's smile was a
little more tremulous than it had been before.

"This is the most thrilling experience of my life, Captain Lee," she
said. "And I'll never rest until I've got an X-Ray photograph of Mr.
Axelson's skeleton for the Universal News Syndicate."

       *       *       *       *       *

One by one, Nat last, the crew filed down the ladder onto the
landing-stage, gasping and choking in the rarefied air that lay like a
blanket at the bottom of the crater. And the reason for this was only
too apparent to Nat as soon as he was on the level stage.

Overhead, at an altitude of about a mile, the black ship hung, and
from its bow a stupendous searchlight played to and fro over the
bottom of the crater, making it as light as day. And where had been
the mining machinery, the great buildings that had housed convicts and
Moon people, and the huge edifice that contained the pumping station,
there was--nothing.

The devilish ray of Axelson had not merely destroyed them, it had
obliterated all traces of them, and the crew of the liner were
breathing the remnants of the atmosphere that still lay at the bottom
of the Crater of Pytho.

But beside the twin landing-stages, constructed by the World
Federation, another building arose, with an open front. And that front
was a huge mirror, now scintillating under the searchlight from the
black ship.

"That's it, Sir!" shouted Brent.

"That's what?" snapped Nat.

"The deflecting mirror I was speaking of. That's what deflected the
ray that wiped out China. The ray didn't come from the Moon. And
that's the mirror that deflects the teleradio waves, the
super-Hertzian rays that carry the sound."

Nat did not answer. Sick at heart at the failure of his mission, he
was watching the swarm of Moon men who were at work upon the
landing-stage, turning the steel clamps and regulating the mechanism
that controlled the apparatus. Dwarfed, apish creature, with tiny
limbs, and chests that stood out like barrels, they bustled about,
chattering in shrill voices that seemed like the piping of birds.

It was evident that Axelson, though he had wiped out the Moon convicts
and the Moon people in the crater, had reserved a number of the latter
for personal use.

       *       *       *       *       *

The black ship was dropping into its position at the second
landing-stage, connected with the first by a short bridge. The
starboard hold swung open, and a file of shrouded and hooded forms
appeared, masked men, breathing in condensed air from receptacles upon
their chests, and staring with goggle eyes at their captives. Each one
held in his hand a lethal tube containing the ray, and, as if by
command, they took up their stations about their prisoners.

Then, at a signal from their leader, they suddenly doffed their masks.

Nat looked at them in astonishment. He had not known whether these
would be Earth denizens or inhabitants of some other planet. But they
were Earth men. And they were old.

Men of sixty or seventy, years, with long, gray beards and wrinkled
faces, and eyes that stared out from beneath penthouses of shaggy
eyebrows. Faces on which were imprinted despair and hopelessness.

Then the first man took off his mask and Nat saw a man of different
character.

A man in the prime of life, with a mass of jet black hair and a black
beard that swept to his waist, a nose like a hawk's, and a pair of
dark blue eyes that fixed themselves on Nat's with a look of
Luciferian pride.

"Welcome, Nathaniel Lee," said the man, in deep tones that had a
curious accent which Nat could not place. "I ought to know your name,
since your teleradios on Earth have been shouting it for three days
past as that of the man who is to save Earth from the threat of
destruction. And you know me!"

"Axelson--the Black Caesar," Nat muttered. For the moment he was taken
aback. He had anticipated any sort of person except this man, who
stood, looked, and spoke like a Viking, this incarnation of pride and
strength.

Axelson smiled--and then his eyes lit upon Madge Dawes. And for a
moment he stood as if petrified into a block of massive granite.

"What--who is this?" he growled.

"Why, I'm Madge Dawes, of the Universal News Syndicate," answered the
girl, smiling at Axelson in her irrepressible manner. "And I'm sure
you're not nearly such a bold, bad pirate as people think, and you're
going to let us all go free."

       *       *       *       *       *

Instantly Axelson seemed to become transformed into a maniac. He
turned to the old men and shouted in some incomprehensible language.
Nat and Madge, Brent and Benson, and two others who wore the uniforms
of officers were seized and dragged across the bridge to the
landing-stage where the black ship was moored. The rest of the crew
were ordered into a double line.

And then the slaughter began.

Before Nat could even struggle to break away from the gibbering Moon
men to whom he and the other prisoners had been consigned, the aged
crew of the Black Caesar had begun their work of almost instantaneous
destruction.

Streams of red and purple light shot from the ray-pistols that they
carried, and before them the crew of the ether-liner simply withered
up and vanished. They became mere masses of human débris piled on the
landing-stage, and upon these masses, too, the old men turned their
implements, until only a few heaps of charred carbon remained on the
landing-stage, impalpable as burned paper, and slowly rising in the
low atmospheric pressure until they drifted over the crater.

Nat had cried out in horror at the sight, and tried to tear himself
free from the grasp of the Moon dwarfs who held him. So had the rest.
Never was struggle so futile. Despite their short arms and legs, the
Moon dwarfs held them in an unshakable grip, chattering and squealing
as they compressed them against their barrel-like chests until the
breath was all but crushed out of their bodies.

"Devil!" cried Nat furiously, as Axelson came up to him. "Why don't
you kill us, too?" And he hurled furious taunts and abuse at him, in
the hope of goading him into making the same comparatively merciless
end of his prisoners.

Axelson looked at him calmly, but made no reply. He looked at Madge
again, and his features were convulsed with some emotion that gave him
the aspect of a fiend. And then only did Nat realize that it was Madge
who was responsible for the Black Caesar's madness.

Axelson spoke again, and the prisoners were hustled up the ladder and
on board the black vessel.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The Kommandant-Kommissar will see you!" The door of their prison had
opened, letting in a shaft of light, and disclosing one of the
graybeards, who stood there, pointing at Nat.

"The--who?" Nat demanded.

"The Kommandant-Kommissar, Comrade Axelson," snarled the graybeard.

Nat knew what that strange jargon meant. He had read books about the
political sect known as Socialists who flourished in the Nineteenth
and Twentieth Centuries, and, indeed, were even yet not everywhere
extinct. And with that a flash of intuition explained the presence of
these old men on board.

These were the men who had been imprisoned in their youth, with
Axelson's father, and had escaped and made their way into space, and
had been supposed dead long since. Somewhere they must have survived.

And here they were, speaking a jargon of past generations, and
ignorant that the world had changed, relics of the past, dead as the
dead Moon from which the black ship was winging away through the
ether.

"Don't go, Captain," pleaded Madge. "Tell him we'll all go together."

Nat shook his head. "Maybe I'll be able to make terms with him," he
answered, and stepped out upon the vessel's deck.

The graybeard slammed the door and laughed savagely. "You'll make no
terms with the Black Caesar," he said. "This is the reign of the
proletariat. The bourgeois must die! So Lenin decreed!"

But he stopped suddenly and passed his hand over his forehead like a
man awakening from a dream.

"Surely the proletariat has already triumphed on earth?" he asked. "A
long time has passed, and daily we expect the summons to return and
establish the new world-order. What year is this? Is it not 2017? It
is so hard to reckon on Eros."

"On Eros?" thought Nat. "This is the year 2044," he answered. "You've
been dreaming, my friend. We've had our new world-order, and it's not
in the least like the one you and your friends anticipated."

"Gott!" screamed the old man. "Gott, you're lying to me, bourgeois!
You're lying, I tell you!"

       *       *       *       *       *

So Eros was their destination! Eros, one of the asteroids, those tiny
fragments of a broken planet, lying outside the orbit of Mars. Some of
these little worlds, of which more than a thousand are known to exist,
are no larger than a gentleman's country estate; some are mere rocks
in space. Eros, Nat knew, was distinguished among them from the fact
that it had an eccentric orbit, which brought it at times nearer Earth
than any other heavenly body except the Moon.

Also that it had only been known for thirty years, and that it was
supposed to be a double planet, having a dark companion.

That was in Nat's mind as he ascended the bridge to where Axelson was
standing at the controls, with one of the graybeards beside him. The
door of his stateroom was open, and suddenly there scuttled out of it
one of the most bestial objects Nat had ever seen.

It was a Moon woman, a dwarfish figure, clothed in a shapeless garment
of spun cellulose, and in her arms she held a heavy-headed Moon baby,
whose huge chest stood up like a pyramid, while the tiny arms and legs
hung dangling down.

"Here is the bourgeois, Kommandant," said Nat's captor.

Axelson looked at Nat, eye meeting eye in a slow stare. Then he
relinquished the controls to the graybeard beside him, and motioned
Nat to precede him into the stateroom.

Nat entered. It was an ordinary room, much like that of the captain of
the ether-liner now stranded on the Moon. There were a bunk, chairs, a
desk and a radio receiver.

Axelson shut the door. He tried to speak and failed to master his
emotion. At last he said:

"I am prepared to offer you terms, Nathaniel Lee, in accordance with
my promise."

"I'll make no terms with murderers," replied Nat bitterly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Axelson stood looking at him. His great chest rose and fell. Suddenly
he put out one great hand and clapped Nat on the shoulder.

"Wise men," he said, "recognize facts. Within three weeks I shall be
the undisputed ruler of Earth. Whether of a desert or of a cowed and
submissive subject-population, rests with the Earth men. I have never
been on Earth, for I was born on Eros. My mother died at my birth. I
have never seen another human woman until to-day."

Nat looked at him, trying to follow what was in Axelson's mind.

"My father fled to Eros, a little planet seventeen miles in diameter,
as we have found. He called it a heavenly paradise. It was his
intention to found there a colony of those who were in rebellion
against the tyrants of Earth.

"His followers journeyed to the Moon and brought back Moon women for
wives. But there were no children of these unions. Later there were
dissensions and civil war. Three-fourths of the colony died in battle
with one another.

"I was a young man. I seized the reins of power. The survivors--these
old men--were disillusioned and docile. I made myself absolute. I
brought Moon men and women to Eros to serve us as slaves. But in a few
years the last of my father's old compatriots will have died, and thus
it was I conceived of conquering Earth and having men to obey me. For
fifteen years I have been experimenting and constructing apparatus,
with which I now have Earth at my mercy.

"But I shall need assistance, intelligent men who will obey me and aid
me in my plans. That is why I saved you and the other officers of
your ether-lines. If you will join me, you shall have the highest post
on Earth under me, Nathaniel Lee, and those others shall be under
you."

       *       *       *       *       *

Axelson paused, and, loathing the man though he did, Nat was conscious
of a feeling of pity for him that he could not control. He saw his
lonely life on Eros, surrounded by those phantom humans of the past,
and he understood his longing for Earth rule--he the planetary exile,
the sole human being of all the planetary system outside Earth,
perhaps, except for his dwindling company of aged men.

"To-day, Nathaniel Lee," Axelson went on, my life was recast in a new
mould when I saw the woman you have brought with you. I did not know
before that women were beautiful to look on. I did not dream that
creatures such as she existed. She must be mine, Nathaniel Lee.

"But that is immaterial. What is your answer to my offer?"

Nat was trying to think, though passion distorted the mental images as
they arose in his brain. To Axelson it was evidently incomprehensible
that there would be any objection to his taking Madge. Nat saw that he
must temporize for Madge's sake.

"I'll have to consult my companions," he answered.

"Of course," answered Axelson. "That is reasonable. Tell them that
unless they agree to join me it will be necessary for them to die. Do
Earth men mind death? We hate it on Eros, and the Moon men hate it,
too, though they have a queer legend that something in the shape of an
invisible man raises from their ashes. My father told me that that
superstition existed on Earth in his time, too. Go and talk to your
companions, Nathaniel Lee."

The Black Caesar's voice was almost friendly. He clapped Nat on the
shoulder again, and called the graybeard to conduct him back to his
prison.

"Oh, Captain Lee, I'm so glad you're back!" exclaimed Madge. "We've
been afraid for you. Is he such a terrible man, this Black Caesar?"

Nat sneered, then grinned malevolently. "Well, he's not exactly the
old-fashioned idea of a Sunday-school teacher," he answered. Of course
he could not tell the girl about Axelson's proposal.

       *       *       *       *       *

The little group of prisoners stood on the upper deck of the black
ship and watched the Moon men scurrying about the landing-stage as she
hovered to her position.

Axelson's father had not erred when he had called the tiny planet,
Eros, a heavenly paradise, for no other term could have described it.

They were in an atmosphere so similar to that of Earth that they could
breathe with complete freedom, but there seemed to be a lightness and
a vigor in their limbs that indicated that the air was supercharged
with oxygen or ozone. The presence of this in large amounts was
indicated by the intense blueness of the sky, across which fleecy
clouds were drifting.

And in that sky what looked like threescore moons were circling with
extraordinary swiftness. From thirty to forty full moons, of all
sizes, from that of a sun to that of a brilliant planet, and riding
black against the blue.

The sun, hardly smaller than when seen from Earth, shone in the
zenith, and Earth and Mars hung in the east and north respectively,
each like a blood-red sun.

The moons were some of the thousand other asteroids, weaving their
lacy patterns in and out among each other. But, stupendous as the
sight was, it was toward the terrestrial scene that the party turned
their eyes as the black ship settled.

A sea of sapphire blue lapped sands of silver and broke into soft
lines of foam. To the water's edge extended a lawn of brightest green,
and behind this an arm of the sea extended into what looked like a
tropical forest. Most of the trees were palmlike, but towered to
immense heights, their foliage swaying in a gentle breeze. There were
apparently no elevations, and yet, so small was the little sphere that
the ascending curve gave the illusion of distant heights, while the
horizon, instead of seeming to rise, lay apparently perfectly flat,
producing an extraordinary feeling of insecurity.

Near the water's edge a palatial mansion, built of hewn logs and of a
single story, stood in a garden of brilliant flowers. Nearer, beyond
the high landing-stage, were the great shipbuilding works, and near
them an immense and slightly concave mirror flashed back the light of
the sun.

"The death ray!" whispered Brent to Nat.

Axelson came up to the party as the ship settled down. "Welcome to
Eros," he said cordially. "My father told me that in some Earth tongue
that name meant 'love'."

       *       *       *       *       *

Never, perhaps, was so strange a feast held as that with which Axelson
entertained his guests that day. Dwarfish Moon men passed viands and a
sort of palm wine in the great banquet-room, which singularly
resembled one of those early twentieth century interiors shown in
museums. Only the presence of a dozen of the aged guards, armed with
ray-rods, lent a grimness to the scene.

Madge sat on Axelson's right, and Nat on his left. The girl's
lightheartedness had left her; her face grew strained as Axelson's
motives--which Nat had not dared disclose to her--disclosed themselves
in his manner.

Once, when he laid his finger for a moment against her white throat,
she started, and for a moment it seemed as if the gathering storm must
break.

For Nat had talked with his men, and all had agreed that they would
not turn traitor, though they intended to temporize as long as
possible, in the hope of catching the Black Caesar unawares.

Then slowly a somber twilight began to fall, and Axelson rose.

"Let us walk in the gardens during the reign of Erebos," he said.

"Erebos?" asked Nat.

"The black world that overshadows us each sleeping period," answered
Axelson.

Nat knew what he meant. The dark companion of Eros revolves around it
every six hours; the day of Eros would therefore never be longer than
six hours, this without reckoning the revolution of Eros around the
sun. But owing to its small size, it was probable that it was bathed
in almost perpetual sunshine.

The sweet scent of the flowers, much stronger than of any flowers on
earth, filled the air. They walked across the green lawn and entered a
jungle path, with bamboos and creeping plants on either side, and huge
palmlike trees. Behind them stalked the guards with their ray-rods.

A lake of deepest black disclosed itself. Suddenly Madge uttered a
scream and clung to Nat. "Look, look!" she cried. "It's horrible!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly Nat realized that the lake swarmed with monsters. They were
of crocodilian form, but twice the size of the largest crocodile, and
sprawled over one another in the shallows beside the margin. As the
party drew near, an enormous monster began waddling on its clawed feet
toward them.

A mouth half the length of the creature opened, disclosing a purplish
tongue and hideous fangs. Madge screamed again.

"Ah, so fear exists on Earth, too?" asked Axelson blandly. "That makes
my conquest sure. I suspected it, and yet I was not sure that science
had not conquered it. But there is no cause for fear. A magnetic field
protects us. See!"

For the waddling monster suddenly stopped short as if brought up
sharply by the bars of a cage, and drew back.

Axelson turned and wheezed in the Moon language--if the gibbering of
the dwarfs could be called speech--and one of the guards answered him.

"These primitive dwellers on Eros I have preserved," said Axelson, "as
a means of discipline. The Moon animals are afraid of them. I keep a
supply of those who have transgressed my laws to feed them. See!"

He turned and pointed. Two guards were bringing a gibbering,
screeching, struggling Moon man with them. Despite his strength, he
seemed incapable of making any resistance, but his whole body
quivered, and his hideous face was contorted with agony of terror.

At a distance of some fifty feet they turned aside into a little
bypath through the jungle, reappearing close beside the Lake upon a
raised platform. And what happened next happened so swiftly that Nat
was unable to do anything to prevent it.

The guards disappeared; the Moon man, as if propelled by some
invisible force, moved forward jerkily to the lake's edge. Instantly
one of the saurians had seized him in its jaws, and another had
wrenched half the body away, and the whole fighting, squirming mass
vanished in the depths.

And from far away came the screeching chant of the Moon men, as if in
invocation to some hideous deity.

And, moving perceptibly, the huge black orb of Eros's dark satellite
crept over the sky, completely covering it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Axelson stepped forward to where Nat stood, supporting Madge in his
arms. The girl had fainted with horror at the scene.

"Your answer Nathaniel Lee," he said softly. "I know you have been
postponing the decision. Now I will take the girl, and you shall give
me your answer. Will you and these men join me, or will you die as the
Moon man died?" He spoke wheezily, as if he, like Nat, had a cold.

And he put his arm around Madge.

Next moment something happened to him that had never happened in his
life before. The Black Caesar went down under a well-directed blow to
the jaw.

He leaped to his feet trembling with fury and barked a command.
Instantly the old guards had hurled themselves forward. And behind
them a horde of Moon men came, ambling.

While the guards covered their prisoners with their ray-rods, two Moon
men seized each of them, imprisoning him in their unbreakable grasp.

Axelson pointed upward. "When the reign of Erebos is past," he said,
"you become food for the denizens of the lake, unless you have agreed
to serve me."

And he raised Madge in his arms, laughing as the girl fought and
struggled to resist him.

"Madge!" cried Nat, trying to run toward her.

So furious were his struggles that for a moment he succeeded in
throwing off the Moon men's grasp. Then he was caught again, and,
fighting desperately, was borne off by the dwarfs through the shadows.

They traversed the border of the lake until a small stone building
disclosed itself. Nat and the others were thrust inside into pitch
darkness. The door clanged; in vain they hurled themselves against it.
It was of wood, but it was as solid as the stone itself, and it did
not give an inch for all their struggles.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Where is your Kommandant?" The whisper seemed in the stone hut
itself. "Your Nathaniel Lee. I must speak to him. I am the guard who
brought him to the Black Caesar on board the ship."

"I'm here," said Nat. "Where are you?"

"I am in the house of the ray. I am on guard there. I am speaking into
the telephone which runs only to where you are. You can speak anywhere
in the hut, and I shall hear you."

"Well, what do you want?" asked Nat.

"You love the Earth woman. I remember, when I was a boy, we used to
love. I had forgotten. There was a girl in Stamford.... Tell me, is it
true that this is the year 2044 and that the proletariat has not yet
triumphed?"

"It's true," said Nat. "Those dreams are finished, We're proud of the
World Federation. Tell me about Madge Dawes--the Earth woman. Is she
safe?"

"He has taken her to his house. I do not think she is harmed. He is
ill. He is closely guarded. There are rumors afoot. I do not know."

"What do you want, then?"

"If the Black Caesar dies will you take me back to Earth again? I long
so for the old Earth life. I will be your slave, if only I can set
foot on Earth before I die."

"Can you rescue us?" Nat held his breath.

"The Moon men are on guard."

"They have no ray-guns and you have."

"The penalty would be terrible. I should be thrown to the monsters."

"Can you get us each a ray-gun? Will you risk it, to get back to
Earth?" asked Nat.

A pause. Then, "My friend, I am coming."

Nat heard Benson hissing in his ear, "If we can surprise them, we can
get possession of the black ship and return."

"We must get Madge Dawes."

"And smash the mirror," put in Brent.

After that there was nothing to do but wait.

       *       *       *       *       *

The door clicked open. An indistinct form stood in the entrance. It
was already growing light; the dark satellite that eclipsed Eros was
passing.

"Hush! I have brought you ray-rods!" It was the old man with whom Nat
had spoken on the boat. Under his arm he held five metallic rods,
tipped with luminous glass. He handed one to each of the prisoners.
"Do you know how to use them?" he asked.

Nat examined his. "It's an old-style rod that was used on earth fifty
years ago," he told his men. "I've seen them in museums. It came into
use in the Second World War of 1950 or thereabouts. You slip back the
safety catch and press this button, taking aim as one did with the
pistol. You fellows have seen pistols?"

"My father had an old one," said the chief mate, Barnes.

"How many times can they be fired without reloading?" Nat asked the
old guard.

"Ten times; sometimes more; and they were all freshly loaded
yesterday."

"Take us to where Axelson is."

"First you must destroy the guards. I sent the one on duty here away
on some pretext. But the others may be here at any moment. Talk lower.
Are you going to kill them?"

"We must," said Nat.

The old fellow began to sob. "We were companions together. They seized
us and imprisoned us together, the capitalists, years ago. I thought
the proletariat would have won, and you say it is all different. I am
an old man, and life is sad and strange."

"Listen. Is Axelson in the house?" demanded Nat.

"He is in his secret room. I do not know the way. None of us has ever
entered it."

"And Madge?"

"She was with him. I do not know anything more." He sank down,
groaning, broken.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nat pushed his way past him. It was fast growing light now. A ray of
sunshine shot from beneath the edge of the dark sphere overhead, which
still filled almost all the heavens. At that moment the hideous face
and squat body of one of the Moon men came into view at the end of
the path. The creature stopped, gibbering with surprise, and then
rushed forward, mewing like a cat.

Nat aimed his ray-rod and pressed the button. The streak of light, not
quite aimed, in Nat's excitement, sheared off one side of the Moon
man's face.

The creature rocked where it stood, raised its voice in a screech, and
rushed forward again, arms flailing. And this time Nat got home. The
streak passed right through the body of the monster, which collapsed
into a heap of calcined carbon.

But its screech had brought the other dwarfs running to the scene. In
a moment the path was blocked by a score of the hideous monsters,
which, taking in what was happening, came forward in a yelling bunch.

The ray-rods streaked their message of death into the thick of them.
Yet so fierce was the rush that some parts got home. Arms, legs, and
barrel chests, halves of men, covering the five with that impalpable
black powder into which their bodies were dissolving. Nat remembered
afterward the horror of a grinning face, apparently loose in the air,
and a flailing arm that lashed his chest.

For fifteen seconds, perhaps, it was like struggling with some vampire
creatures in a hideous dream. And then, just when it seemed to Nat
that he was going mad, he found the path free, and the huddled
remnants of the Moon men piled up about him on every side.

He emptied two more ray-shots into the writhing mass, and saw it cease
to quiver and then dissolve into the black powder. He turned and
looked at his companions. They, too, showed the horror of the strain
they had undergone.

"We must kill the guards now," Nat panted. "And then find Madge and
save her."

"We're with you," answered Brent, and together the five rushed into
the sunlight and the open.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were no guards on duty at the entrance of the house, and the
door stood wide open. Nat rushed through the door at the head of his
men. A single guard was in the hall, but he only looked up as they
came in. And it was evident that he was in no condition to resist, for
he was in the grip of some terrible disease.

His features were swollen so that they were hardly recognizable, and
hoarse, panting breaths came from his lungs. He was so far gone that
he hardly registered surprise at the advent of the five.

"Where's Axelson?" demanded Nat.

The guard pointed toward the end of the corridor, then let his arm
fall. Nat led his men along the half-dark passage.

At the end of the corridor two more guards were on duty, but one was
collapsed upon the floor, apparently unconscious, and the other,
making a feeble attempt to draw his ray-rod, crumbled into ashes as
Brent fired. The five burst through the door.

They found themselves in the banquet-hall. The remnants of the meal
were still upon the table, and three Moon men, looking as if they had
been poisoned, were writhing on the floor. At the farther end of the
hall was another door.

This gave upon a central hall, with a door in each of its four sides,
and a blaze of sunlight coming through the crystal roof. The five
stopped, baffled. Then of a sudden Axelson's voice broke the
silence--his voice, yet changed almost beyond recognition, hoarse,
broken, and gasping:

"Try the doors, Nathaniel Lee. Try each door in turn, and then go
back. And know that in an instant I can blast you to nothingness where
you stand!"

And suddenly there came Madge's voice, "He can't! He can't, Nat. He's
dying, and he knows it. I won't let him, and he hasn't got the
strength to move."

"Which door?" cried Nat in desperation.

"None of the doors. They're a trick," came Madge's voice. "Go forward
and press the grooved panel upon the wall in front of you."

       *       *       *       *       *

Nat stepped forward, found the panel, and pressed it. The wall swung
open, like two folded doors, revealing another room within, perfectly
circular.

It contained a quantity of pieces of apparatus, some glowing with
light, some dark, and a radio transmitting set; it was evidently the
secret lair of the Black Caesar. And there he was, trapped at last by
the mortal illness that had overtaken him!

He was lying upon the couch, his great form stretched out, his
features hideously swollen by the same disease that had attacked the
guards.

Nat raised his ray-rod, but Axelson feebly put up his hand, and Nat
lowered the weapon. And, as the five gathered about the dying man,
again Nat felt that strange sense of pathos and pity for him.

He had never known Earth life, and he was not to be measured by the
common standards applicable on Earth.

"Don't fire, Nat," said Madge in a shaky voice. She was seated beside
Axelson, and--the wonder of it--she was sponging the foam from his
lips and moistening his forehead. She raised a crystal that contained
some fluid to his lips, and he drained it greedily.

"So--Earth wins, Nathaniel Lee," whispered Axelson hoarsely. "I am
dying. I know it. It is the same dreaded disease that came to the Moon
at the time of my father's landing there. Three-fourths of the Moon
animals died. It is mortal. The lungs burn away.

"My father told me that on Earth it is not mortal. He called it
'cold'--but I am burning hot."

Then only did Nat understand, and the irony of it made him catch his
breath and grit his teeth to check his hysterical laughter. The Black
Caesar, the terror of Earth, was dying of a common cold which he
himself had given him.

The coryza germ, almost harmless on Earth, among a population
habituated to it for countless generations, had assumed the potency of
a plague here, where no colds had ever been known--among the Moon men,
and even among the guards, after their lifetime in the germless
climate of Eros.

"I've failed, Nathaniel Lee," came the Black Caesar's voice. "And yet
that hardly troubles me. There is something more that I do not
understand. She is a creature like ourselves--with will and reason.
She is not like the Moon women. She told me that she did not wish to
be queen of the Earth because she did not love me. I do not
understand. And so--I am glad to go."

       *       *       *       *       *

A gasp came from Axelson's throat as he raised his head and tried to
speak, but the death-rattle was already in his throat. A slight
struggle, and the massive form upon the couch was nothing but
inanimate clay.

Madge rose from beside him, and the tears were streaming down her
face.

"He wasn't a bad man, Nat," she said. "He was--gentle with me. He
didn't understand; that was all. When I refused to be his queen, he
was overcome with bewilderment. Oh, Nat, I can never, never write this
story for the Universal News Syndicate."

Nat led her, sobbing, from the room.

Soon he succeeded in getting into teleradio communication with Earth.
He broadcast the news that the Black Caesar was dead, and that his
power for evil was at an end forever.

Then, in the few hours of daylight that remained, he set his men to
work to smash the ray outfit that had destroyed China. There was some
principle involved which he did not altogether understand, though
Brent professed to have a clue to it, but it was evident that, except
for the ray, Axelson had possessed no knowledge superior to that of
the Earth scientists.

Of the guards, a few were already recovering, principally those of
comparatively younger age. Not a Moon man, on the other hand, had
survived the epidemic. As soon as Nat had got the guards out of the
house, he reduced it to ashes by the aid of an old-fashioned box of
phosphoric matches.

As the dark satellite was again creeping over Eros, the black ship set
sail.

       *       *       *       *       *

But of the return journey to the Moon, where they transferred to their
own ship, of their landing at New York, and of the triumphal reception
that was accorded them, this is no place to speak. Nat's journey with
Madge from the center of the city, in what was the old Borough of
Westchester, to his home in the suburb of Hartford, was a continual
ovation.

Crowds lined the air-route, and every few miles, so thick was the
air-traffic, he was forced to hover and address the cheering
multitudes. Hartford itself was _en fete_, and across the main road
the City Bosses had hung an old-fashioned banner, strung from house to
house on either side, bearing the legend: For World President:
NATHANIEL LEE!

Nat turned to Madge, who was seated beside him silently. "Ever hear of
'getting married?'" he asked.

"Of course I've heard of it," replied the girl indignantly. "Do you
think I'm as dumb as that, Nat Lee? Why, those old-fashioned novels
are part of the public schools' curriculum."

"Pity those days can't come back. You ought to be a World
Presidentess, you know," said Nat. "I was thinking, if we registered
as companionates, I could take you into the White House, and you'd
have a swell time there taking X-rays on visiting days."

"Well," answered Madge slowly. "I never thought of that. It might be
worth trying out."



The Second Satellite

_By Edmond Hamilton_

[Illustration: _The city of the frog-men!_]

[Sidenote: Earth-men war on frog-vampires for the emancipation of the
human cows of Earth's second satellite.]


Norman and Hackett, bulky in their thick flying suits, seemed to fill
the little office. Across the room Harding, the field superintendent,
contemplated them. Two planes were curving up into the dawn together
from the field outside, their motors thunderous as they roared over
the building. When their clamor had receded, Harding spoke:

"I don't know which of you two is crazier," he said. "You, Norman, to
propose a fool trip like this, or you, Hackett, to go with him."

Hackett grinned, but the long, lean face of Norman was earnest. "No
doubt it all sounds a little insane," he said, "but I'm convinced I'm
right."

The field superintendent shook his head. "Norman, you ought to be
writing fiction instead of flying. A second satellite--and Fellows and
the others on it--what the devil!"

"What other theory can account for their disappearance?" asked Norman
calmly. "You know that since the new X-type planes were introduced,
hundreds of fliers all over Earth have been trying for altitude
records in them. Twenty-five miles--thirty--thirty-five--the records
have been broken every day. But out of the hundreds of fliers who
have gone up to those immense heights, four have never come down nor
been seen again!

"One vanished over northern Sweden, one over Australia, one over Lower
California, and one, Fellows, himself, right here over Long Island.
You saw the globe on which I marked those four spots, and you saw that
when connected they formed a perfect circle around the Earth. The only
explanation is that the four fliers when they reached a forty-mile
height were caught up by some body moving round Earth in that circular
orbit, some unknown moon circling Earth inside its atmosphere, a
second satellite of Earth's whose existence has until now never been
suspected!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Harding shook his head again. "Norman, your theory would be all right
if it were not for the cold fact that no such satellite has ever been
glimpsed."

"Can you glimpse a bullet passing you?" Norman retorted. "The two
fliers at Sweden and Lower California vanished within three hours of
each other, on opposite sides of the Earth. That means that this
second satellite, as I've computed, circles Earth once every six
hours, and travelling at that terrific speed it is no more visible to
us of Earth than a rifle bullet would be."

"Moving through Earth's atmosphere at such speed, indeed, one would
expect it to burn up by its own friction with the air. But it does
not, because its own gravitational power would draw to itself enough
air to make a dense little atmosphere for itself that would cling to
it and shield it as it speeds through Earth's upper air. No, I'm
certain that this second satellite exists, Harding, and I'm as certain
that it's responsible for the vanishing of those four fliers."

"And now you and Hackett have figured when it will be passing over
here and are going up in an X-type yourselves to look for it,"
Harding said musingly.

"Look for it?" echoed Hackett. "We're not going to climb forty miles
just to get a look at the damn thing--we're going to try landing on
it!"

"You're crazy sure!" the field superintendent exploded. "If Fellows
and those others got caught by the thing and never came down again,
why in the name of all that's holy would you two want--" He stopped
suddenly. "Oh, I think I see," he said, awkwardly. "Fellows was rather
a buddy of you two, wasn't he?"

"The best that ever flew a crippled Nieuport against three Fokkers to
pull us out of a hole," said Norman softly. "Weeks he's been gone, and
if it had been Hackett and I he'd be all over the sky looking for
us--the damned lunatic. Well, we're not going to let him down."

"I see," Harding repeated. Then--"Well, here comes your mechanic,
Norman, so your ship must be ready. I'll go with you. It's an event to
see two Columbuses starting for another world."

       *       *       *       *       *

The gray dawn-light over the flying field was flushing to faint rose
as the three strode out to where the long X-type stood, its strangely
curved wings, enclosed cabin and flat, fan-like tail gleaming dully.
Its motor was already roaring with power and the plane's stubby wheels
strained against the chocks. In their great suits Norman and Hackett
were like two immense ape-figures in the uncertain light, to the eyes
of those about them.

"Well, all the luck," Harding told them. "You know I'm pulling for
you, but--I suppose it's useless to say anything about being careful."

"I seem to have heard the words," Hackett grinned, as he and Norman
shook the field superintendent's hand.

"It's all the craziest chance," Norman told the other. "And if we
don't come down in a reasonable time--well, you'll know that our
theory was right, and you can broadcast it or not as you please."

"I hope for your sake that you're dead wrong," smiled the official.
"I've told you two to get off the Earth a lot of times, but I never
meant it seriously."

Harding stepped back as the two clambered laboriously into the cramped
cabin. Norman took the controls, the door slammed, and as the chocks
were jerked back and the motor roared louder the long plane curved up
at a dizzy angle from the field into the dawn. Hackett waved a thick
arm down toward the diminishing figures on the field below; then
turned from the window to peer ahead with his companion.

The plane flew in a narrow ascending spiral upward, at an angle that
would have been impossible to any ship save an X-type. Norman's eyes
roved steadily over the instrument as they rose, his ears
unconsciously alert for each explosion of the motor. Earth receded
swiftly into a great gray concave surface as they climbed higher and
higher.

By the time the five-mile height was reached Earth's surface had
changed definitely from concave to convex. The plane was ascending by
then in a somewhat wider spiral, but its climb was as steady and sure
as ever. Frost begin to form quickly on the cabin's windows, creeping
out from the edges. Norman spoke a word over the motor's muffled
thunder, and Hackett snicked on the electrical radiators. The frost
crept back as their warm, clean heat flooded the cabin.

Ten miles--fifteen--they had reached already altitudes impossible but
a few years before, though it was nothing to the X-types. As they
passed the ten-mile mark, Hackett set the compact oxygen-generator
going. A clean, tangy odor filled the cabin as it began functioning.
Twenty miles--twenty-two--

       *       *       *       *       *

After a time Norman pointed mutely to the clock on the instrument
board, and Hackett nodded. They were well within their time schedule,
having calculated to reach the forty-mile height at ten, the hour
when, by its computed orbit, the second satellite should be passing
overhead. "--26--27--28--" Hackett muttered the altimeter figures to
himself as the needle crept over them.

Glancing obliquely down through the window he saw that Earth was now a
huge gray ball beneath them, white cloud-oceans obscuring the drab
details of its surface here and there. "--31--32--" The plane was
climbing more slowly, and at a lesser angle. Even the X-type had to
struggle to rise in the attenuated air now about them. Only the
super-light, super-powered plane could ever have reached the terrific
height.

It was at the thirty-four mile level that the real battle for altitude
began. Norman kept the plane curving steadily upward, handling it with
surpassing skill in the rarefied air. Frost was on its windows now
despite the heating mechanism. Slowly the altimeter needle crept to
the forty mark. Norman kept the ship circling, its wings tilted
slightly, but not climbing, Earth a great gray misty ball beneath.

"Can't keep this height long," he jerked. "If our second satellite
doesn't show up in minutes we've had a trip for nothing."

"All seems mighty different up here," was Hackett's shouted comment.
"Easy enough to talk down there about hopping onto the thing, but up
here--hell, there's nothing but air and mighty little of that!"

Norman grinned. "There'll be more. If I'm right about this thing we
won't need to hop it--its own atmosphere will pick us up."

Both looked anxious as the motor sputtered briefly. But in a moment it
was again roaring steadily. Norman shook his head.

"Maybe a fool's errand after all. No--I'm still sure we're right! But
it seems that we don't prove it this time."

"Going down?" asked Hackett.

"We'll have to, in minutes. Even with its own air-feed the motor can't
stand this height for--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Norman never finished the words. There was a sound, a keen rising,
rushing sound of immense power that reached their ears over the
motor's roar. Then in an instant the universe seemed to go mad about
them: they saw the gray ball of Earth and the sun above skyrocketing
around them as the plane whirled madly.

The rushing sound was in that moment thunderous, terrible, and as
winds smashed and rocked the plane like giant hands, Hackett glimpsed
another sphere that was not the sphere of Earth, a greenish globe that
expanded with lightning speed in the firmament beside their spinning
plane! The winds stilled; the green globe changed abruptly to a
landscape of green land and sea toward which the plane was falling!
Norman was fighting the controls--land and sea were gyrating up to
them with dizzy speed--crash!

With that cracking crash the plane was motionless. Sunlight poured
through its windows, and great green growths were all around it.
Hackett, despite Norman's warning cry, forced the door open and was
bursting outside, Norman after him. They staggered and fell, with
curious lightness and slowness, on the ground outside, then clutched
the plane for support and gazed stupefiedly around them.

The plane had crashed down into a thicket of giant green reeds that
rose a yard over their heads, its pancake landing having apparently
not damaged it. The ground beneath their feet was soft and soggy, the
air warm and balmy, and the giant reeds hid all the surrounding
landscape from view.

In the sky the sun burned near one horizon with unusual brilliance.
But it was dwarfed, in size, by the huge gray circle that filled half
the heavens overhead. A giant gray sphere it was, screened here and
there by floating white mists and clouds, that had yet plain on it
the outlines of dark continents and gleaming seas. A quaking
realization held the two as they stared up at it.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Earth!" Norman was babbling. "It's Earth, Hackett--above us; my God,
I can't believe even yet that we've done it!"

"Then we're on--the satellite--the second satellite!--" Hackett fought
for reality. "Those winds that caught us--"

"They were the atmosphere of this world, of the second satellite! They
caught us and carried us on inside this smaller world's atmosphere,
Hackett. We're moving with it around Earth at terrific speed now!"

"The second satellite, and we on it!" Hackett whispered,
incredulously. "But these reeds--it can't all be like this--"

They stepped together away from the plane. The effort sent each of
them sailing upward in a great, slow leap, to float down more than a
score of feet from the plane. But unheeding in their eagerness this
strange effect of the satellite's lesser gravitational power, they
moved on, each step a giant, clumsy leap. Four such steps took them
out of the towering reeds onto clear ground.

It was a gentle, grassy slope they were on, stretching away along a
gray-green sea that extended out to the astoundingly near horizon on
their right. To the left it rose into low hills covered with dense
masses of green junglelike vegetation. Hackett and Norman, though,
gazed neither at sea or hills for the moment, but at the half-score
grotesque figures who had turned toward them as they emerged from the
reeds. A sick sense of the unreal held them as they gazed, frozen with
horror. For the great figures returning their gaze a few yards from
them were--frog-men!

       *       *       *       *       *

Frog-men! Great mottled green shapes seven to eight feet in height,
with bowed, powerful legs and arms that ended in webbed paws. The
heads were bulbous ones in which wide, unwinking frog-eyes were set at
the sides, the mouths white-lipped and white-lined. Three of the
creatures held each a black metal tube-and-handle oddly like a
target-pistol.

"Norman!" Hackett's voice was a crescendo of horror. "_Norman!_"

"Back to the plane!" Norman cried thickly. "The plane--"

The two staggered back, but the frog-men, recovering from their own
first surprise, were running forward with great hopping steps! The two
fliers flung themselves back in a floating leap toward the reeds, but
the green monsters were quick after them. A croaking cry came from one
and as another raised his tube-and-handle, something flicked from it
that burst close beside Norman. There was no sound or light as it
burst, but the reeds for a few feet around it vanished!

       *       *       *       *       *

A hoarse cry from Hackett--the creatures had reached him, grasped him
at the edge of the reeds! Norman swerved in his floating leap to
strike the struggling flier and frog-men. The scene whirled around him
as he fought them, great paws reaching for him. With a sick, frantic
rage he felt his clenched fist drive against cold, green, billowy
bodies. Croaking cries sounded in his ears; then, Hackett and he were
jerked to their feet, held tightly by four of the creatures.

"My God, Norman," panted Hackett, helpless. "What are
they--frog-things?--"

"Steady, Hackett. They're the people of the second satellite, it
seems; wait!"

One of the armed frog-men approached and inspected them, and then
croaked an order in a deep voice. Then, still holding the two tightly,
the party of monsters began to move along the slope, skirting the
sea's edge. In a few minutes they reached two curious objects resting
on the slope. They seemed long black metal boats, slender and with
sharp prow and stern. A compact mechanism and control-board filled
the prow, while at the stern and sides were long tubes mounted on
swivels like machine-guns.

The frog-men motioned Norman and Hackett into one, fastening the two
prisoners and themselves into their seats with metal straps provided
for the purpose. Four had entered the one boat, the others that of the
captives. One at the prow moved his paws over the control-board and
with a purring of power the boat, followed by the other, rose smoothly
into the air. It headed out over the gray-green sea, land dropping
quickly from sight behind, the horizons water-bounded on all sides.
From their nearness Norman guessed that this second satellite of
Earth's was small indeed beside its mother planet. He had to look up
to earth's great gray sphere overhead to attain a sense of reality.

Hackett was whispering beside him, the frog-men watchful. "Norman, it's
not real--it can't be real! These things--these boats--intelligent like
men--"

The other sought to steady him. "It's a different world, Hackett.
Gravitation different, light different, everything different, and
evolution here has had a different course. On Earth men evolved to be
the most intelligent life-forms, but here the frog-races, it seems."

"But where are they taking us? Could we ever find the plane again?"

"God knows. If we ever get away from these things we might. And we've
got to find Fellows, too; I wonder where he is on this world."

       *       *       *       *       *

For many minutes the two boats raced on at great speed over the
endless waters before the watery skyline was broken far ahead by
something dark and unmoving. Hackett and Norman peered with intense
interest toward it. It seemed at first a giant squat mountain rising
from the sea, but as they shot nearer they saw that its outline was
too regular, and that colossal as it was in size it was the work of
intelligence. They gasped as they came nearer and got a better view of
it.

For it was a gigantic dome of black metal rising sheer from the lonely
sea, ten miles if anything in diameter, a third that in greatest
height. There was no gate or window or opening of any kind in it. Just
the colossal, smooth black dome rearing from the watery plain. Yet the
two boats were flashing lower toward it.

"They can't be going inside!" Hackett conjectured. "There's no way in
and what could be in there? The whole thing's mad--"

"There's some way," Norman said. "They're slowing--"

The flying-boats were indeed slowing as they dipped lower. They were
very near the dome now, its curving wall a looming, sky-high barrier
before them. Suddenly the boats dipped sharply downward toward the
green sea. Before the two fliers could comprehend their purpose, could
do aught more than draw instinctive great breaths in preparation, the
two craft had shot down into the waters and were arrowing down through
the green depths.

Blinded, flung against his metal strap by the resistance of the waters
they ripped through, Norman yet retained enough of consciousness to
glimpse beams of light that stabbed ahead from the prows of their
rushing boats, to see vaguely strange creatures of the deep blundering
in and out of those beams as the boats hurtled forward. The water that
forced its way between his lips was fresh, he was vaguely aware, and
even as he fought to hold his breath was aware too that the frog-men
seemed in no way incommoded by the sudden transition into the water,
their amphibian nature allowing them to stay under it far longer than
any human could do.

The boats ripped through the waters at terrific speed and in a few
seconds there loomed before them the giant metal wall of the great
dome, going down into the depths here. Norman glimpsed vaguely that
the whole colossal dome rested on a vast pedestal-like mountain of
rock that rose from the sea's floor almost to the surface. Then a
great round opening in the wall; the boats flashed into it and were
hurtling along a water-filled tunnel. Norman felt his lungs near
bursting--when the tunnel turned sharply upward and the boats whizzed
up and abruptly out of the water-tunnel into air!

       *       *       *       *       *

But it was not the open air again. They were beneath the gigantic
dome! For as Norman and Hackett breathed deep, awe fell on their faces
as they took in the scene. Far overhead stretched the dome's
colossally curving roof, and far out on all sides. It was lit beneath
that roof by a clear light that the two would have sworn was sunlight.
The dome was in effect the roof of a gigantic, illuminated building,
and upon its floor there stretched a mighty city.

The city of the frog-men! Their boats were rising up over it and
Norman and Hackett saw it clear. Square mile upon square mile of
structures stretched beneath the dome, black buildings often of
immense size, varying in shape, but all of square, rectangular
proportions. Between them moved countless frog-hordes, swirling
throngs in streets and squares, and over the roofs darted thick swarms
of flying-boats. And at the city's center, in a great, circular, clear
space, lay a wide, round, green pool--the opening of the water-tunnel
up through which they had come.

Norman pointed down toward it. "That's your answer!" he cried. "The
only entrance to this frog-city is from the sea, up through that
water-tunnel!"

"Good God, an amphibian city!" Hackett was shaken, white-faced.

The two boats were driving quickly over the city, through the swarming
craft. Norman glimpsed towering buildings that might have been
palaces, temples, laboratories. They slowed and dipped toward one
block-like building not far from the water-tunnel's opening. Armed
frog-guards were on its roof, and other boats rested there. The two
came to rest and the two captives were jerked out, the guards seizing
them.

Half-dragged and half-floating they were led toward an opening in the
roof from which a stair led downward. They passed down thus into the
building's interior, lit by many windows. Norman glimpsed long halls
ending in barred doors, guards here and there. Tube-lines ran along
the walls and somewhere machines were throbbing dully. They came at
last to a barred door whose guard opened it at the croaking order of
the frog-men who held the two, and they were thrust inside, as the
door clanged. They turned, and exclaimed in amazement. The room held
fully a half-hundred men!

They were men such as the two fliers had never seen before, like
humans except that their skins were a light green instead of the
normal white and pink. They were dressed in dark short tunics, and
kept talking to each other in a tongue quite unintelligible to Norman
and Hackett. They came closer, flocking curiously around the two men,
with a babel of voices quite meaningless to the two. Then one of the
men uttered an exclamation, and all turned.

       *       *       *       *       *

The barred door had swung open and a half-dozen frog-guards entered,
followed by two frog-men carrying a square little mechanism from which
tubing led back out through the door.

"Norman--these men--" Hackett was whispering rapidly. "If there are
men in this world too, it may be that--"

"Quiet, Hackett--look at what they're doing."

The two frog-men had set their mechanism in place and then croaked out
a brief word or order. Slowly, reluctantly, one of the green men moved
toward them. Quickly they removed a metal disk fastened to his arm,
exposing a small orifice like an unhealed wound. Onto this they
fastened a suckerlike object from which a transparent tube led back
through the mechanism. The machine hummed and at once a red stream
pulsed through the tube and back through the mechanism. The man to
whom it was attached was growing rapidly pale!

Norman, sick with horror, clutched his companion. "Hackett--these
frog-men are sucking his blood from him!"

"Good God! And look--they're doing it with another!"

"All of these men--kept prisoners to furnish them with blood. It must
be the damned creatures' food! And we here with the others--"

A common horror shook the two. It did not seem to affect the green men
in the room, though, who advanced to the mechanism one by one with a
reluctant air as of cows unwilling to be milked. Each was attached to
the mechanism by the sucking disk on his arm, and out of each the
blood poured through the tube. The metal disk was replaced on his arm
then and he went back to the others. Norman saw that the frog-men took
only from each an amount of blood that they could lose and yet live,
since, though each came back pale and weak from the mechanism, they
were able to walk.

"It must be their food--human blood!" Norman repeated. "They may have
thousands on thousands of humans penned up like this, like so many
herds of cows, and perhaps they live entirely on the life-blood they
milk from them. Human cows--God!"

"Norman--look--they're calling to us!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The two stiffened. All the others in the room had taken their turn at
the blood-sucking mechanism and now the frog-men croaked their order
to the two fliers. They had forgotten their own predicament in the
horror of the scene, but now it became real to them. They backed
against the room's wall, quivering, dangerous.

The frog-guards came forward to drag them to the machine. A webbed paw
was outstretched but Hackett with a wild blow drove the frog-man back
and downward. The frog-guards leaped, and Norman and Hackett struck
them back with all the greater strength the lesser gravitation gave
them. The room was in an uproar, the green men shouting hoarsely and
seeming on the point of rushing to their aid.

But the menacing force-pistols of the other frog-guards held back the
shouting men and in moments the two fliers were overpowered by sheer
weight of frog-bodies. Norman felt himself dragged to the machine.

Pain needled his upper arm as an incision was made. He felt the
sucking-disk attached; then the machine hummed, and a sickening nausea
swept him as the blood drained from his body. Held tightly by the
guards he went dizzy, weak, but at last felt the sucker removed and a
metal disk fastened over the incision. He was jerked aside and
Hackett, his face deathly white, was dragged into his place. In a
moment some of the latter's blood had been pumped from him also.

The machine was withdrawn, Norman and Hackett were released, and the
frog-men, with their black force-pistols watchfully raised, withdrew,
the door clanging. The room settled back to quietness, the green men
stretching in lassitude on the metal bunks around it. The two fliers
crouched down near the door, shuddering nausea and weakness still
holding them.

Norman found that Hackett was laughing weakly. "To think that
twenty-four hours ago I was in New York," he half-laughed,
half-sobbed. "On Earth--Earth--"

The other gripped his arm. "It's horrible, Hackett, I know. But it
isn't instant death, and we've still a chance to escape. Hell, can
damn frog-men keep us here? Where's your nerve, man?"

A voice beside them made them turn in amazement. "You are men from
Earth?" it asked, in queerly accented English. "From Earth?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Astonishment held them as they saw who spoke. It was one of the green
men in the room, who had settled down by their side. A tall figure
with superb muscles and frank, clean countenance, his dark eyes afire
with eagerness.

"English?" Norman exclaimed. "You know English--you understand me?"

The other showed his teeth in a smile. "I know, yes. I'm Sarja, and I
learned to speak it from Fallas, in my city, before the Ralas caught
me."

"Fallas--" Norman repeated, puzzled; then suddenly he flamed. "By God,
he means Fellows!"

"Fallas, yes," said the other. "From the sky he fell into our city in
a strange flying-boat that was smashed. He was hurt but we cared for
him, and he taught me his speech, which I heard you talking now."

"Then Fellows is in your city now?" asked Hackett eagerly. "Where is
that?"

"Across this sea--back in the hills," the other waved. "It is far from
the sea but I was rash one day and came too near the water in my
flying-boat. The Ralas were out raiding and they saw me, caught me,
and brought me here. No escape now, until I die."

"The Ralas--you mean these frog-men?" Norman asked.

Sarja nodded. "Of course. They are the tyrants and oppressors of this
world. Our little world is but a tenth or less the size of your great
Earth which it circles, but it has its lands and rivers, and this one
great fresh-water sea into which the latter empty. In this sea long
ago developed the Ralas, the great frog-men who acquired such
intelligence and arts that they became lords of this world.

"Through the centuries, while on the land our races of green men have
been struggling upward, the Ralas have oppressed them. Long ago the
Ralas left all their other cities to build this one great amphibian
city at the sea's center. Entrance to it is only by the water-tunnel
from without, and being frog-people entrance thus is easy for them
since they can move for many minutes under water, though they drown
like any other breathing animal if kept under too long. Humans dare
not try to enter it thus by the water-tunnel, since, before they could
find it and make their way up through it, they would have drowned.

       *       *       *       *       *

"So the Ralas have ruled from this impregnable amphibian city. Its
colossal metal dome is invulnerable to ordinary attack, and though
solid and without openings it is always as light beneath the dome here
as outside, since the Ralas' scientists contrived light-condensers and
conductors that catch light outside and bring it in to release inside.
So when it is day outside the sunlight is as bright here, and when
night comes the Earth-light shines here the same as without.

"From this city their raiding parties have gone out endlessly to swoop
down on the cities of us green men. Since we learned to make
flying-boats like theirs, with molecular-motors, and to make the guns
like theirs that fire shells filled with annihilating force, we have
resisted them stoutly but their raids have not ceased. And always they
have brought their prisoners back in to this, their city.

"Tens of thousands of green men they have prisoned here like us, for
the sole purpose of supplying them with blood. For the Ralas live on
this blood alone, changing it chemically to fit their own bodies and
then taking it into their bodies. It eliminates all necessity for food
here for them. Every few days they drain blood from us, and since we
are well fed and cared for to keep us good blood-producers, we will be
here for a long time before we die."

"But haven't you made any attempt to get out of here--to escape?"
Norman asked.

Sarja smiled. "Who could escape the city of the Ralas? In all recorded
history it has never been done, for even if by some miracle you got a
flying-boat, the opening of the water-tunnel that leads outward is
guarded always."

"Guards or no guards, we're going to try it and not sit here to
furnish blood for the Ralas," Norman declared. "Are you willing to
help, to try to get to Fellows and your city?"

The green man considered. "It is hopeless," he said, "but as well to
die beneath the force-shells of the Ralas as live out a lifetime here.
Yes, I will help, though I cannot see how you expect to escape even
from this room."

"I think we can manage that," Norman told him. "But first--not a word
to these others. We can't hope to escape with them all, and there is
no knowing what one might not betray us to the frog-men."

He went on then to outline to the other two the idea that had come to
him. Both exclaimed at the simpleness of the idea, though Sarja
remained somewhat doubtful. While Hackett slept, weak still from his
loss of blood, Norman had the green man scratch on the metal floor as
well as possible a crude map of the satellite's surface, and found
that the city, where Fellows was, seemed some hundreds of miles back
from the sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

While they talked, the sunlight, apparently sourceless, that came
through the heavily barred windows of the room faded rapidly, and dusk
settled over the great amphibian city beneath the giant dome, kept
from total darkness by a silvery pervading light that Norman reflected
must be the light from Earth's great sphere. With the dusk's coming
the activities in the frog-city lessened greatly.

With dusk, too, frog-guards entered the room bearing long metal
troughs filled with a red jellylike substance, that they placed on
racks along the wall. As the guards withdrew the men in the room
rushed toward the troughs, elbowing each other aside and striking
each other to scoop up and eat as much of the red jelly as possible.
It was for all the world like the feeding of farm-animals, and Hackett
and Norman so sickened at the sight that they had no heart to try the
food. Sarja, though, had no such scruples and seemed to make a hearty
meal at one of the troughs.

After the meal the green men sought the bunks and soon were stretched
in sonorous slumber. It was, Norman reflected, exactly the existence
of domesticated animals--to eat and sleep and give food to their
masters. A deeper horror of the frog-men shook him, and a deeper
determination to escape them. He waited until all in the room were
sleeping before beckoning to Sarja and Hackett.

"Quiet now," he whispered to them. "If these others wake they'll make
such a clamor we won't have a chance in the world. Ready, Sarja?"

The green man nodded. "Yes, though I still think such a thing's
impossible."

"Probably is," Norman admitted. "But it's the one chance we've got,
the immensely greater strength of our Earth-muscle that the frog-men
must have forgotten when they put us in here."

They moved silently to the room's great barred door, outside which a
frog-guard paced. They waited until he had passed the door and on down
the hall, then Norman and Hackett and Sarja grasped together one of
the door's vertical bars. It was an inch and a half in thickness, of
solid metal, and it seemed ridiculous that any men could bend it by
the sheer strength of their muscles.

Norman, though, was relying on the fact that on the second satellite,
with its far lesser gravitational influence, their Earth-muscles gave
them enormous strength. He grasped the bar, Hackett and Sarja gripping
it below him, and then at a whispered word they pulled with all their
force. The bar resisted and again, with sweat starting on their
foreheads, they pulled. It gave a little.

       *       *       *       *       *

They shrank back from it as the guard returned, moving past. Then
grasping the bar again they bent all their force once more upon it.
Each effort saw it bending more, the opening in the door's bars
widening. They gave a final great wrench and the bent bar squealed a
little. They shrank back, appalled, but the guard had not heard or
noticed. He moved past it on his return along the hall, and no sooner
was past it than Norman squeezed through the opening and leaped
silently for the great frog-man's back.

It went down with a wild flurry of waving webbed paws and croaking
cries, stilled almost instantly by Norman's terrific blows. There was
silence then as Hackett and Sarja squeezed out after him, the
momentary clamor of the battle having aroused no one.

The three leaped together toward the stairs. In two great floating
leaps they were on the floor above, Hackett and Norman dragging Sarja
between them. They were not seen, were sailing in giant steps up
another stair, hopes rising high. The last stair--the roof-opening
above; and then from beneath a great croaking cry swelled instantly
into chorus of a alarmed shouts.

"They've found the door--the guard!" panted Hackett.

They were bursting out onto the roof. Frog-guards were on it who came
in a hopping rush toward them, force-pistols raised. But a giant leap
took Hackett among them, to amaze them for a moment with great
flailing blows. Sarja had leaped for the nearest flying-boat resting
on the roof, and was calling in a frantic voice to Norman and Hackett.
Norman was turning toward Hackett, the center of a wild combat, but
the latter emerged from it for a brief second to motion him
frantically back.

"No use, Norman--get away--get away!" he cried hoarsely, frenziedly.

"Hackett--for God's sake--!" Norman half-leaped to the other, but an
arm caught him, pulled him desperately onto the boat's surface. It was
Sarja, the long craft flying over the roof beneath his control.

"They come!" he panted. "Too late now--" Frog-men were pouring up onto
the roof from below. Sarja sent the craft rocketing upward, as Hackett
gestured them away for a last frantic time before going down beneath
the frog-men's onslaught.

       *       *       *       *       *

The roof and the combat on it dropped back and beneath them like a
stone as their craft ripped across the silvery dusk over the mighty
frog-city. They were shooting toward the city's center, toward the
green pool that was the entrance to the water-tunnel, while behind and
beneath an increasing clamor of alarm spread swiftly. Norman raged
futilely.

"Hackett--Hackett! We can't leave him--"

"Too late!" Sarja cried. "We cannot help him but only be captured
again. We escape now and come back--come back--"

The truth of it pierced Norman's brain even in the wild moment.
Hackett had fought and held back the frog-guards only that they might
escape. He shouted suddenly.

"Sarja--the water-tunnel!" A half-dozen boats with frog-guards on them
were rising round it in answer to the alarm!

"The force-gun!" cried the green man. "Beside you--!"

Norman whirled, glimpsed the long tube on its swivel beside him,
trained it on the boats rising ahead as they rocketed nearer. He
fumbled frantically at a catch at the gun's rear, then felt a stream
of shells flicking out of it. Two of the boats ahead vanished as the
shells released their annihilating force, another sagged and fell.
From the remaining three invisible force-shells flicked around them,
but in an instant Sarja had whirled the boat through them and down
into the water-tunnel!

Norman clung desperately to his seat as the boat flashed down through
the waters, and then, as Sarja sent it flying out through the great
tunnel's waters, glimpsed, close behind, the beams of the three Rala
boats as they pursued them through the tunnel, overtaking them. Could
the force-shells be fired under water? Norman did not know, but
desperately he swung the force-gun back as they rushed through the
waters, and pressed the catch. An instant later beams and boats behind
them in the tunnel vanished.

His lungs were afire; it seemed that he must open them to the
strangling water. The boat was ripping the waters at such tremendous
speed that he felt himself being torn from his hold on it. Pain seemed
poured like molten metal through his chest--he could hold out no
longer; and then the boat stabbed up from the waters into clear air!

       *       *       *       *       *

Norman panted, sobbed. Behind them rose the colossal metal dome of the
frog-city, gleaming dully in the silvery light that flooded the
far-stretching seas. That light poured down from a stupendous silver
crescent in the night skies. Norman saw dully the dark outlines on it
before he remembered. Earth! He laughed a little hysterically. Sarja
was driving the flying-boat out over the sea and away from the
frog-city at enormous speed. At last he glanced back. Far behind them
lay the great dome and up around it gleaming lights were pouring,
lights of pursuing Rala boats.

"We escape," Sarja cried, "the city of the Ralas, from which none ever
before escaped!"

Remembrance smote Norman. "Hackett! Held off those frog-men so we
could get away--we'll come back for him, by God!"

"We come back!" said Sarja. "We come back with all the green men of
this world to the Ralas' city, yes! I know what Fallas has planned."

"Can you find your way to him--to your city?" Norman asked.

Sarja nodded, looking upward. "Before the next sun has come and gone
we can reach it."

The boat flew onward, and the great dome and the searching lights
around it dropped beneath the horizon. Norman felt the warm wind
drying his drenched garments as they rushed onward. Crouched on the
boat he gazed up toward the silver crescent of Earth sinking toward
the horizon ahead. That meant, he told himself, that the satellite
turned slowly on its axis as it whirled around Earth. It came to him
that its night and day periods must be highly irregular.

When the sun climbed from the waters behind them they were flying
still over a boundless waste of waters, but soon they sighted on the
horizon ahead the thin green line of land. Sarja slowed as they
reached it, took his bearings, and sent the craft flying onward.

They passed over a green coastal plain and then over low hills joined
in long chains and mantled by dense and mighty jungles, towering green
growths of unfamiliar appearance to Norman. He thought he glimpsed,
more than once, huge beastlike forms moving in them. He did see twice
in the jungles great clearings where were fair-sized cities of
bright-green buildings, a metal tower rising from each. But when he
pointed to them Sarja shook his head.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last, as they passed over another range of hills and came into
sight of a third green city with its looming tower, the other pointed,
his face alight.

"My city," he said. "Fallas there."

Fellows! Norman's heart beat faster.

They shot closer and lower and he saw that the buildings were
obviously green to lend them a certain protective coloration similar
to that of the green jungles around them. The tower with its
surmounting cage puzzled him though, but before he could ask Sarja
concerning it his answer came in a different way. A long metal tube
poked slowly out of the cage on the tower's top and sent a hail of
force-shells flicking around them.

"They're firing on us!" Norman cried. "This can't be your city!"

"They see our black boat!" Sarja exclaimed. "They think we're Rala
raiders and unless we let them know they'll shoot us out of the air!
Stand up--wave to them--!"

Both Norman and Sarja sprang to their feet and waved wildly to those
in the tower-cage, their flying-boat drifting slowly forward.
Instantly the force-shells ceased to hail toward them, and as they
moved nearer a sirenlike signal broke from the cage. At once scores of
flying-boats like their own, but glittering metal instead of black,
shot up from the city where they had lain until now, and surrounded
them.

As Sarja called in his own tongue to them the green men on the
surrounding boats broke into resounding cries. They shot down toward
the city, Norman gazing tensely. Great crowds of green men in their
dark tunics had swarmed out into its streets with the passing of the
alarm, and their craft and the others came to rest in an open square
that was the juncture of several streets.

The green men that crowded excitedly about Norman and Sarja gave way
to a half-dozen hurrying into the square from the greatest of the
buildings facing on it. All but one were green men like the others.
But that one--the laughing-eyed tanned face--the worn brown clothing,
the curious huge steps with which he came--Norman's heart leapt.

"Fellows!"

"Great God--Norman!" The other's face was thunderstruck. "Norman--how
by all that's holy did you get here?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Norman, mind and body strained to the breaking point, was incoherent.
"We guessed how you'd gone--the second satellite, Fellows--Hackett
and I came after you--taken to that frog-city--"

As Norman choked the tale, Fellows' face was a study. And when it was
finished he swallowed, and gripped Norman's hand viselike.

"And you and Hackett figured it out and came after me--took that risk?
Crazy, both of you. Crazy--"

"Fellows, Hackett's still there, if he's alive! In the Rala city!"

Fellows' voice was grim, quick. "We'll have him out. Norman, if he
still lives. And living or dead, the Ralas will pay soon for this and
for all they've done upon this world in ages. Their time nears--yes."

He led Norman, excited throngs of the green men about them, into the
great building from which he had emerged. There were big rooms inside,
workshops and laboratories that Norman but vaguely glimpsed in
passing. The room to which the other led him was one with a long metal
couch. Norman stretched protestingly upon it at the other's bidding,
drifted off almost at once into sleep.

He woke to find the sunlight that had filled the room gone and
replaced by the silvery Earth-light. From the window he saw that the
silver-lit city outside now held tremendous activity, immense hordes
of green men surging through it with masses of weapons and equipment,
flying-boats pouring down out of the night from all directions. He
turned as the door of the room clicked open behind him. It was his old
friend Fellows.

"I thought you'd be awake by now, Norman. Feeling fit?"

"As though I'd slept a week," Norman said, and the other laughed his
old care-free laugh.

"You almost have, at that. Two days and nights you've slept, but it
all adds up to hardly more than a dozen hours."

"This world!" Norman's voice held all his incredulity. "To think that
we should be on it--a second satellite of Earth's--it seems almost
beyond belief."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Sometimes it seems so to me, too," Fellows said thoughtfully. "But
it's not a bad world--not the human part of it, at least. When this
satellite's atmosphere caught me and pitchforked me down among these
green men, smashing the plane and almost myself, they took care of me.
You say three others vanished as I did? I never heard of them here;
they must have crashed into the sea or jungles. Of course, I'd have
got back to Earth on one of these flying-boats if I'd been able, but
their molecular power won't take them far from this world's surface,
so I couldn't.

"As it was, the green men cared for me, and when I found how those
frog-men have dominated this world for ages, how that city of the
Ralas has spread endless terror among the humans here, I resolved to
smash those monsters whatever I did. I taught some of the green men
like Sarja my own speech, later learning theirs, and in the weeks I've
been here I've been working out a way to smash the Ralas.

"You know that amphibian city is almost impregnable because humans can
hardly live long enough under the water to get into it, let alone
fight under water as the frog-men can. To meet them on even terms the
green men needed diving-helmets with an oxygen supply. They'd never
heard of such an idea, too afraid of the sea ever to experiment in it,
but I convinced them and they've made enough helmets for all their
forces. In them they can meet the Ralas under water on equal terms.

"And there's a chance we can destroy that whole Rala city with their
help. It's built on a giant pedestal of rock rising from the sea's
floor, as you saw, and I've had some of the green men make huge
force-shells or force-bombs that ought to be powerful enough to split
that pedestal beneath the city. If we can get a chance to place those
bombs it may smash the frog-men forever on this world. But one thing
is sure: we're going to get Hackett out if he still lives!"

"Then you're, going to attack the Rala city now?" Norman cried.

Fellows nodded grimly. "While you have slept all the forces of the
green men on this world have been gathering. Your coming has only
precipitated our plans, Norman--the whole soul of the green races has
been set upon this attack for weeks!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Norman, half bewildered at the swiftness with which events rushed upon
him, found himself striding with Fellows in great steps out through
the building into the great square. It was shadowed now by mass on
mass of flying-boats, crowded with green men, that hung over it and
over the streets. One boat, Sarja at its controls, waited on the
ground and as they entered and buckled themselves into the seats the
craft drove up to hang with the others.

A shattering cheer greeted them. Norman saw that in the silvery light
of Earth's great crescent there stretched over the city and
surrounding jungle now a veritable plain of flying-boats. On each were
green men and each bristled with force-guns, and had as many great
goggled helmets fastened to it as it had occupants. He glimpsed larger
boats loaded with huge metal cylinders--the force-bombs Fellows had
mentioned.

Fellows rose and spoke briefly in a clear voice to the assembled green
men on their craft, and another great shout roared from them, and from
these who watched in the city below. Then as he spoke a word, Sarja
sent their craft flying out over the city, and the great mass of
boats, fully a thousand in number, were hurtling in a compact column
after them.

Fellows leaned to Norman as the great column of purring craft shot on
over the silver-lit jungles. "We'll make straight for the Rala city
and try setting into it before they understand what's happening."

"Won't they have guards out?"

"Probably, but we can beat them back into the city before their whole
forces can come out on us. That's the only way in which we can get
inside and reach Hackett. And while we're attacking the force-bombs
can be placed, though I don't rely too much on them."

"If the attack only succeeds in getting us inside," Norman said,
grim-lipped, "we'll have a chance--"

"It's on the knees of the gods. These green men are doing an
unprecedented thing in attacking the Ralas, the masters of this world,
remember. But they've got ages of oppression to avenge; they'll
fight."

The fleet flew on, hills and rivers a silver-lit panorama unreeling
beneath them. Earth's crescent sank behind them, and by the time they
flashed out over the great fresh-water sea, the sun was rising like a
flaming eye from behind it. Land sank from sight behind and the green
men were silent, tense, as they saw stretching beneath only the gray
waters that for ages had been the base of the dread frog-men. But
still the fleet's column raced on.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last the column slowed. Far ahead the merest bulge broke the level
line where sky and waters met. The amphibian city of the Ralas! At
Fellows' order-the flying-boats sank downward until they moved just
above the waters. Another order made the green hosts don the grotesque
helmets. Norman found that while cumbersome their oxygen supply was
unfailing. They shot on again at highest speed, but as the gigantic
black dome of the frog-city grew in their vision there darted up from
around it suddenly a far-flung swarm of black spots.

"Rala boats!"

The muffled exclamation was Fellows'. There needed now no order on his
part, though. Like hawks, leaping for prey, the fleet of the green men
sprang through the air. Norman, clutching the force-gun between his
knees, had time only to see that the Rala craft were a few hundred in
number and that, contemptuous of the greater odds that favored these
humans they had so long oppressed, they were flying straight to meet
them. Then the two fleets met--and were spinning side by side above
the waters.

Norman saw the thing only as a wild whirl of Rala boats toward and
beside them, great green frog-men crowding the craft, their force-guns
hailing shells. Automatically, with the old air-fighting instinct, his
fingers had pressed the catch of the gun between his knees and as its
shells flicked toward the rushing boats he saw areas of nothingness
opening suddenly in their mass, shells striking and exploding in
annihilating invisibility there and in their own fleet.

The two fleets mingled and merged momentarily, the battle becoming a
thing of madness, a huge whirl of black and glittering flying-boats
together, striking shells exploding nothingness about them. The Ralas
were fighting like demons.

The merged, terrific combat lasted but moments; could last but
moments. Norman, his gun's magazine empty, seemed to see the mass of
struggling ships splittering, diverging; then saw that the black craft
were dropping, plummeting downward toward the waves! The Ralas,
stunned by that minute of terrific combat, were fleeing. Muffled cries
and cheers came from about him as the glittering flying-boats of the
green men shot after them. They crashed down into the waters and
curved deeply into their green-depths, toward the gigantic dome.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ahead the Rala boats were in flight toward their city, and now their
pursuers were like sharks striking after them. There in the depths the
force-guns of black and glittering boats alike were spitting, and
giant waves and underwater convulsions rocked pursued and pursuers as
the exploding shells annihilated boats and water about them. The
tunnel! Its round opening yawned in the looming wall ahead, and Norman
saw the Rala craft, reduced to scores in number, hurtling into it, to
rouse all the forces of the great amphibian city. Their own boats were
flashing into the opening after them. He glimpsed as he glanced back
for a moment the larger craft with the great force-bombs veering aside
behind them.

It was nightmare in the water-tunnel. Flashing beams of the craft
ahead and waters that rocked and smashed around them as in flight the
Ralas still rained back force-shells toward them in a chaos of action.
Once the frog-men turned to hold them back in the tunnel, but by sheer
weight the rushing ships of the green men crashed them onward. Boats
were going into nothingness all around them. A part of Norman's brain
wondered calmly why they survived even while another part kept his gun
again working, with refilled magazine. Fellows and Sarja were
grotesque shapes beside him. Abruptly the tunnel curved upward and as
they flashed up after the remaining Rala craft their boats ripped up
into clear air! They were beneath the giant dome!

The frog-men chased inward spread out in all directions over their
mighty, swarming city and across it a terrific clamor of alarm ran
instantly as the green men emerged after them! Norman saw flying-boats
beginning to rise across all the city and realized that moments would
see all the immense force of the Ralas, the thousands of craft they
could muster, pouring upon them. He pointed out over the city to a
block-like building, and shouted madly through his helmet to Fellows
and Sarja:

"Hackett!"

But already Sarja had sent their craft whirling across the city toward
the structure, half their fleet behind it, with part still emerging
from the water-tunnel. Rala boats rose before them, but nothing could
stop them now, their force-shells raining ahead to clear a path for
their meteor-flight. They shot down toward the block-structure, and
Norman, half-crazed by now, saw that to descend and enter was suicide
in the face of the frog-forces rising now over all the city. He cried
to Fellows, and with two of the guns as they swooped lower they
sprayed force-shells along the building's side.

       *       *       *       *       *

The shells struck and whiffed away the whole side, exposing the level
on the building's interior. Out from it rushed swarms of crazed green
men, sweeping aside the frog-men guards, while far over the city the
invading craft were loosing shells on the block-like buildings that
held the prisoners, tens of thousands of them swarming forth. In the
throng below as they raced madly forth Norman saw one, and shouted
wildly. The one brown garbed figure looked up, saw their boat swooping
lower, and leaped for it in a tremendous forty-foot spring that
brought his fingers to its edge. Norman pulled him frenziedly up.

"Norman!" he babbled. "In God's name--Fellows--!"

"That helmet, Hackett!" Fellows flung at him. "My God, look at those
prisoners--Norman!"

The countless thousands of green men released from the buildings whose
walls had vanished under the shells of the invaders had poured forth
to make the amphibian city a chaos of madness. Oblivious to all else
they were throwing themselves upon the city's crowding frog-men in a
battle whose ferocity was beyond belief, disregarding all else in this
supreme chance to wreak vengeance on the monstrous beings who had fed
upon their blood. In the incredible insanity of that raging fury the
craft of the green men hanging over the city were all but forgotten.

Suddenly the city and the mighty dome over it quivered violently, and
then again. There came from beneath a dull, vast, grinding roar.

"The great force-bombs!" Fellows screamed. "They've set them off--the
city's sinking--out of here, for the love of God!"

The boat whirled beneath Sarja's hands toward the pool of the
water-tunnel, all their fleet rushing with them. The grinding roar was
louder, terrible; dome and city were shaking violently now; but in the
insensate fury of their struggle the frog-men and their released
prisoners were hardly aware of it. The whole great dome seemed sinking
upon them and the city falling beneath it as Sarja's craft ripped down
into the tunnel's waters, and then out, at awful speed, as the great
tunnel's walls swayed and sank around them! They shot out into the
green depths from it to hear a dull, colossal crashing through the
waters from behind as the great pedestal of rock on which the city had
stood, shattered by the huge force-bombs, collapsed. And as their
boats flashed up into the open air they saw that the huge dome of the
city of the Ralas was gone.

Beneath them was only a titanic whirlpool of foaming waters in which
only the curved top of the settling dome was visible for a moment as
it sank slowly and ponderously downward, with a roar as of the roar of
falling worlds. Buckling, collapsing, sinking, it vanished in the
foam-wild sea with all the frog-men who for ages had ruled the second
satellite, and with all those prisoners who had at the last dragged
them down with them to death! Ripping off their helmets, with all the
green men shouting crazily about them, Norman and Fellows and Hackett
stared down at the colossal maelstrom in the waters that was the tomb
of the masters of a world.

Then the depression's sides collapsed, the waters rushing together ...
and beneath them was but troubled, tossing sea....

       *       *       *       *       *

Earth's great gray ball was overhead again and the sun was sinking
again to the horizon when the three soared upward in the long,
gleaming plane, its motor roaring. Norman, with Hackett and Fellows
crowding the narrow cabin beside him, waved with them through its
windows. For all around them were rising the flying-boats of the green
men.

They were waving wildly, shouting their farewells, Sarja's tall figure
erect at the prow of one. Insistent they had been that the three
should stay, the three through whom the monstrous age-old tyranny of
the frog-men had been lifted, but Earth-sickness was on them, and they
had flown to where the plane lay still unharmed among the reeds, a
hundred willing hands dragging it forth for the take-off.

The plane soared higher, motor thundering, and they saw the
flying-boats sinking back from around them. They caught the wave of
Sarja's hand still from the highest, and then that, too, was gone.

Upward they flew toward the great gray sphere, their eyes on the dark
outlines of its continents and on one continent. Higher--higher--green
land and gray tea receding beneath them; Hackett and Fellows intent
and eager as Norman kept the plane rising. The satellite lay, a
greenish globe, under them. And as they went higher still a rushing
sound came louder to their ears.

"The edge of the satellite's atmosphere?" Fellows asked, as Norman
nodded.

"We're almost to it--here we go!"

As he shot the plane higher, great forces smote it, gray Earth and
green satellite and yellow sun gyrating round it as it reeled and
plunged. Then suddenly it was falling steadily, gray Earth and its
dark continent now beneath, while with a dwindling rushing roar its
second satellite whirled away above them, passing and vanishing.
Passing as though, to Norman it seemed, all their strange sojourn on
it were passing; the frog-men and their mighty city, Sarja and their
mad flight, the green men and the last terrific battle; all whirling
away--whirling away.


HISTORIC EXPERIMENT PROVES EARTH'S ROTATION

The famous experiment which proves that the "earth do move" by letting
the observer actually see it twisting underneath his feet, an
experiment invented by the French mathematician Jean B. L. Foucault
nearly a century ago was repeated recently under unusually impressive
circumstances before an international scientific congress at Florence,
Italy, the same city where Galileo once was persecuted for holding the
same opinion.

From the center of the dome of the Church of Santa Maria di Fiore,
Father Guido Alfani, director of the Astronomical Observatory,
suspended a 200-pound weight on a wire 150 feet long. On the bottom of
this weight was a tiny projecting point which traced a line on a
table-top sprinkled with sand, as the great pendulum swung slowly back
and forth. At a given signal Father Alfani set the pendulum to
swinging. While the assembled scientists watched it, slowly the line
traced across the sand table-top changed direction.

As Foucault proved long ago and as the watching scientists well knew,
the table was being twisted underneath the pendulum by the rotation of
the earth.


A REVOLUTIONARY AIRPLANE

A new airplane propeller has recently been patented by J. Kalmanson of
Brooklyn, N. Y. Greater speed and marked saving in fuel is claimed for
the invention, which may be attached to any type of airplane.

The device is in two parts, which may be used separately as front and
rear propellers or combined into a single blade. The principle is that
the front one acts to bring air to the other, giving the propeller
more of a hold, so to speak, and greater power. This is accomplished
by four air-spoons, one on each side of each blade of the propeller.

It is said that the device can double the speed of an airplane and
raise it from the ground in ninety feet instead of the 200 feet most
airplanes now require. It is also claimed that the new propeller will
prevent the plane from making a nose drive unless the pilot forces it
to do so, and enable it to make a safe landing within a short
distance. Because of the increase in power and speed, the device would
save a large amount of gasoline and oil, as well as guarding the motor
from part of the strain on it.

The device is said to be also applicable to ships, the same principle
operating in water as well as air.



Silver Dome

_By Harl Vincent_

[Illustration: _Orris led the way to a great underground city._]

[Sidenote: In her deep-buried kingdom of Theros, Phaestra reveals the
amazing secret of the Silver Dome.]


In a secluded spot among the hills of northern New Jersey stood the
old DeBost mansion, a rambling frame structure of many wings and
gables that was well-nigh hidden from the road by the half-mile or
more of second-growth timber which intervened. High on the hill it
stood, and it was only by virtue of its altitude that an occasional
glimpse might be obtained of weatherbeaten gable or partly
tumbled-down chimney. The place was reputed to be haunted since the
death of old DeBost, some seven years previously, and the path which
had once been a winding driveway was now seldom trod by human foot.

It was now two years since Edwin Leland bought the estate for a song
and took up his residence in the gloomy old house. And it had then
been vacant for five years since DeBost shot himself in the northeast
bedroom. Leland's associates were sure he would repent of his bargain
in a very short time, but he stayed on and on in the place, with no
company save that of his man-servant, an aged hunch-back who was
known to outsiders only as Thomas.

Leland was a scientist of note before he buried himself in the DeBost
place, and had been employed in the New York research laboratory of
one of the large electrical manufacturers, where he was much admired
and not a little envied by his fellow workers. These knew almost
nothing of his habits or of his personal affairs, and were much
surprised when he announced one day that he had come into a sizable
fortune and was leaving the organization to go in for private research
and study. Attempts to dissuade him were of no avail, and the purchase
of the DeBost property followed, after which Leland dropped from sight
for nearly two years.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, on a blustery winter day, a strange telephone call was received
at the laboratory where he had previously worked. It was from old
Thomas, out there in the DeBost mansion, and his quavering voice asked
for Frank Rowley, the genial young engineer whose work had been most
closely associated with Leland's.

"Oh, Mr. Rowley," wailed the old man, when Frank responded to the
call, "I wish you would come out here right away. The master has been
acting very queerly of late, and to-day he has locked himself in his
laboratory and will not answer my knocks."

"Why don't you break in the door?" asked Frank, looking through the
window at the snow storm that still raged.

"I thought of that, Mr. Rowley, but it is of oak and very thick.
Besides, it is bound with steel or iron straps and is beyond my
powers."

"Why not call the police?" growled Frank. He did not relish the idea
of a sixty or seventy mile drive in the blizzard.

"Oh--no--no--no!" Old Thomas was panicky at the suggestion. "The
master told me he'd kill me if I ever did that."

Before Frank could formulate a reply, there came a sharp gasp from the
other end of the line, a wailing cry and a thud as of a falling body;
then silence. All efforts to raise Leland's number merely resulted in
"busy" or "line out of order" reports.

Frank Rowley was genuinely concerned. Though he had never been a close
friend of Leland's, the two had worked on many a knotty problem
together and were in daily contact during the nearly ten years that
the other man had worked in the same laboratory.

"Say, Tommy," said Frank, replacing the receiver and turning to his
friend, Arnold Thompson, who sat at an adjoining desk, "something has
happened out at Leland's place in Sussex County. Want to take a drive
out there with me?"

"What? On a day like this? Why not take the train?"

"Don't be foolish, Tommy," said Frank. "The place is eight miles from
the nearest station, which is a flag stop out in the wilds. And, even
if you could find a cab there--which you couldn't--there isn't a taxi
driver in Jersey who'd take you up into those mountains on a day like
this. No, we'll have to drive. It'll be okay. I've got chains on the
rear and a heater in the old coupe, so it shouldn't be so bad. What do
you say?"

So Tommy, who usually followed wherever Frank led, was prevailed upon
to make the trip. He had no particular feeling for Leland, but he
sensed an adventure, and, in Frank's company, he could ask for no
more.

       *       *       *       *       *

Frank was a careful driver, and three hours were required to make the
sixty-mile journey. Consequently, it was late in the afternoon when
they arrived at the old DeBost estate. It had stopped snowing, but the
drifts were deep in spots, and Frank soon found that the car could not
be driven through the winding path from the road to the house. So
they left it half buried in a drift and proceeded on foot.

It was a laborious task they had undertaken, and, by the time they set
foot on the dilapidated porch, even Frank, husky and athletic as was
his build, was puffing and snorting from his exertions. Little Tommy,
who tipped the scales at less than a hundred and twenty, could hardly
speak. They both were wet to the waist and in none too good humor.

"Holy smoke!" gasped Tommy, stamping the clinging snow from his sodden
trouser legs and shoes, "if it snows any more, how in Sam Hill are we
going to get out of this place?"

"Rotten trip I let you in for Tommy," growled Frank, "and I hope
Leland's worth it. But, darn it all, I just had to come."

"It's all right with me, Frank. And maybe it'll be worth it yet.
Look--the front door's open."

       *       *       *       *       *

He pointed to the huge oaken door and Frank saw that it was ajar. The
snow on the porch was not deep and they saw that footprints led from
the open door to a corner of the porch. At that point the snow on the
railing was disturbed, as if a hurrying man had clung to it a moment
before jumping over and into the drifts below. But the tracks led no
further, for the drifting snow had covered all excepting a hollow
where some body had landed.

"Thomas!" exclaimed Frank. "And he was in a hustle, by the looks of
the tracks. Bet he was frightened while at the telephone and beat it."

They entered the house and closed the door behind them. It was growing
quite dark and Frank searched for the light switch. This was near the
door, and, at pressure on the upper button, the spacious old hall with
its open staircase was revealed dimly by the single remaining bulb in
a cluster set in the center of the high ceiling. The hall was
unfurnished, excepting for a telephone table and chair, the chair
having fallen to the floor and the receiver of the telephone dangling
from the edge of the table by its cord.

"You must have heard the chair fall," commented Tommy, "and it sure
does look as if Thomas left in a hurry. Wonder what it was that
frightened him?"

The house was eerily silent and the words echoed awesomely through the
adjoining rooms which connected with the hall through large open
doorways.

"Spooky place, isn't it?" returned Frank.

       *       *       *       *       *

And then they were both startled into immobility by a rumble that
seemed to shake the foundations of the house. Heavier and heavier
became this vibration, as if some large machine was coming up to
speed. Louder and louder grew the rumble until it seemed that the
rickety old house must be shaken down about their ears. Then there
came a whistling scream from the depths of the earth--from far
underground it seemed to be--and this mounted in pitch until their
eardrums tingled. Then abruptly the sounds ceased, the vibration
stopped, and once more there was the eery silence.

Rather white-faced, Tommy gazed at Frank.

"No wonder old Thomas beat it!" he said. "What on earth do you suppose
that is?"

"Search me," replied Frank. "But whatever it is, I'll bet it has
something to do with Leland's strange actions. And we're going to find
out."

He had with him the large flashlamp from the car, and, by its light,
the two made their way from room to room searching for the iron-bound
door mentioned by Thomas.

They found all rooms on the first and second floors dusty and unused
with the exception of two bedrooms, the kitchen and pantry, and the
library. It was a gloomy and spooky old house. Floor boards creaked
startlingly and unexpectedly and the sound of their footsteps echoed
dismally.

"Where in time is that laboratory of Leland's?" exclaimed Frank, his
ruddy features showing impatient annoyance, exaggerated to an
appearance of ferocity by the light of the flashlamp.

"How about the cellar?" suggested Tommy.

"Probably where it is," agreed Frank, "but I don't relish this job so
much. I'd hate to find Leland stiff down there, if that's where he
is."

"Me, too," said Tommy. "But we're here now, so let's finish the job
and get back home. It's cold here, too."

"You said it. No steam in the pipes at all. He must have let the fire
go out in his furnace, and that's probably in the cellar too--usually
is."

       *       *       *       *       *

While talking, Frank had opened each of the four doors that opened
from the kitchen, and the fourth revealed a stairway that led into the
blackness beneath. With the beam of his torch directed at the steps,
he proceeded to descend, and Tommy followed carefully. There was no
light button at the head of the stairs, where it would have been
placed in a more modern house, and it was not until they had reached
the furnace room that they located a light fixture with a pull cord.
An ordinary cellar, with furnace, coal bin, and a conglomeration of
dust-covered trunks and discarded furniture, was revealed. And, at its
far end, was the iron-bound door.

The door was locked and could not be shaken by the combined efforts of
the two men.

"Have to have a battering ram," grunted Frank, casting about for a
suitable implement.

"Here you are," called Tommy, after a moment's search. "Just the thing
we are looking for."

       *       *       *       *       *

He had come upon a pile of logs, and one of these, evidently a section
of an old telephone pole, was of some ten or twelve inches diameter
and about fifteen feet long. Frank pounced upon it eagerly, and,
supporting most of the weight himself, led the attack on the heavy
oak door with the iron bands.

No sound from within greeted the thunderous poundings. Clearly, if
Leland was behind that door, he was either dead or unconscious.

Finally the double lock gave way and Tommy and Frank were precipitated
headlong into the brightly lighted room beyond. Recovering their
balance, they took stock of their surroundings and were amazed at what
they saw--a huge laboratory, fitted out with every modern appliance
that money could buy. A completely equipped machine shop there was;
bench after bench covered with the familiar paraphernalia of the
chemical and physical laboratory; huge retorts and stills; complicated
electrical equipments; dozens of cabinets holding crucibles, flasks,
bottles, glass tubing, and what not.

"Good Lord!" gasped Tommy. "Here's a laboratory to more than match our
own. Why, Leland's got a fortune invested here!"

"I should say so. And a lot of stuff that our company does not even
have. Some of it I don't know even the use of. But where is Leland?"

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no sign of the man they had come to help. He was not in the
laboratory, though the door had been locked from within and the lights
left burning throughout.

With painstaking care they searched every nook and cranny of the large
single room and were about to give up in despair when Tommy happened
to observe an ivory button set into the wall at the only point in the
room where there were no machines or benches at hand. Experimentally
he pressed the button, and, at the answering rumble from under his
feet, jumped back in alarm. Slowly there opened in the paneled oak
wall a rectangular door, a door of large enough size to admit a man.
From the recess beyond there came a breath of air, foul with the
musty odor of decayed vegetation, dank as the air of a tomb.

"Ah-h-h!" breathed Frank. "So that is where Ed Leland is hiding! The
secret retreat of the gloomy scientist!"

He spoke half jestingly, yet when he squeezed his stalwart bulk
through the opening and flashed the beam of his light into the
darkness of a narrow passage ahead he was assailed with vague
forebodings. Tommy followed close behind and spoke not a word.

       *       *       *       *       *

The passage floor was thick with dust, but the marks of many footsteps
going and returning gave mute evidence of the frequency of Leland's
visits. The air was heavy and oppressive and the temperature and
humidity increased as they progressed along the winding length of the
rock-walled passageway. The floor sloped, ever downward and, in spots,
was slippery with slimy seepage. It seemed that they turned back on
their course on several occasions but were descending deeper and
deeper into the heart of the mountain. Then, abruptly, the passage
ended at the mouth of a shaft, which dropped vertically from almost
beneath their feet.

"Whew!" exclaimed Frank. "Another step and I'd have dropped into it.
That's probably what happened to Leland."

He knelt at the rim of the circular opening and looked into the depths
of the pit, Tommy following suit. The feeble ray of the flashlight was
lost in the blackness below.

"Say, Frank," whispered Tommy, "turn off the flash. I think I saw a
light down there."

And, with the snapping of the catch, there came darkness. But, miles
below them, it seemed, there was a tiny pin-point of brilliance--an
eery green light that was like a wavering phosphorescence of
will-o'-the-wisp. For a moment it shone and was gone. Then came the
dreadful vibration they had experienced in the hall of the house--the
whistling scream that grew louder and louder until it seemed they
must be deafened. The penetrating wail rose from the depths of the
pit, and the vibration was all around them, in the damp rock floor on
which they knelt, and in the very air of the cavern. Hastily Frank
snapped on the light of his flash.

"Oh boy!" he whispered. "Leland is certainly up to something down
there and no mistake! How're we going to get down?"

"Get down?" asked Tommy. "You don't want to go down there, do you?"

"Sure thing. We're this far now and, by George, we're going to find
out all there is to learn."

"How deep do you suppose it is?"

"Pretty deep, Tommy. But we can get an idea by dropping a stone and
counting the seconds until it strikes."

       *       *       *       *       *

He played the light of the flash over the floor and soon located a
smooth round stone of the size of a baseball. This he tossed over the
rim of the pit and awaited results.

"Good grief!" exclaimed Tommy. "It's not falling!"

What he said was true, for the stone poised lightly over the opening
and drifted like a feather. Then slowly it moved, settling gradually
into oblivion. Frank turned the flash downward and they watched in
astonishment as the two-pound pebble floated deliberately down the
center of the shaft at the rate of not more than one foot in each
second.

"Well, I'll be doggoned," breathed Frank admiringly. "Leland has done
it. He has conquered gravity. For, in that pit at least, there is no
gravity, or at any rate not enough to mention. It has been almost
completely counteracted by some force he has discovered and now we
know how to follow him down there. Come on Tommy, let's go!"

And, suiting action to his words, Frank jumped into the mouth of the
pit where he bobbed about for a moment as if he had jumped into a
pool of water. Then slowly he sank from view, and Tommy followed him.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a most unique experience, that drop into the heart of the
mountain. Practically weightless, the two young men found it quite
difficult to negotiate the passage. For the first hundred or more feet
they continued to bump about in the narrow shaft and each sustained
painful bruises before he learned that the best and simplest method of
accommodating himself to the strange condition was to remain
absolutely motionless and allow the greatly weakened gravity to take
its course. Each movement of an arm or leg was accompanied by a change
in direction of movement, and contact with the hard stone walls
followed. If they endeavored to push themselves from the contact the
result was likely to be an even more serious bump on the opposite side
of the shaft. So they continued the leisurely drop into the unknown
depth of the pit.

Frank had turned off the flashlamp, for its battery was giving out and
he wished to conserve its remaining energy for eventualities. Thus
they were in Stygian darkness for nearly a half-hour, though the green
luminosity far beneath them grew stronger with each passing minute. It
now revealed itself as a clearly defined disc of light that flickered
and sputtered continually, frequently lighting the lower end of the
shaft with an unusual burst of brilliance. Remotely distant it seemed
though, and unconscionably slow in drawing nearer.

"How far do you think we must drop?" called Tommy to Frank, who was
probably fifty feet below him in the shaft.

"Well, I figure we have fallen about a thousand feet so far," came the
reply, "and my guess is that we are about one third of the way down."

"Then this shaft is over a half-mile deep, you think?"

"Yes, at least a thousand yards, I should say. And I hope his gravity
neutralizing machinery doesn't quit all of a sudden and let us down."

"Me, too," called Tommy, who had not thought of that possibility.

       *       *       *       *       *

This was no joke, this falling into an unknown region so far beneath
the surface of good old mother earth, thought Tommy. And how they
would ever return was another thing that was not so funny. Frank was
always rushing into things like this without counting the possible
cost and--well--this might be the last time.

Gradually the mysterious light became stronger and soon they could
make out the conformation of the rock walls they were passing at such
a snail's pace. Layers of vari-colored rock showed here and there,
and, at one point there was a stratum of gold-bearing or mica-filled
rock that glistened with a million reflections and re-reflections. The
air grew warmer and more humid as they neared the mysterious light
source. They moved steadily, without acceleration, and Frank estimated
the rate at about forty feet a minute. Then, with blinding suddenness,
the light was immediately below and they drifted into a tremendous
cavern that was illuminated by its glow.

Directly beneath the lower end of the shaft through which they had
passed, there was a glowing disc of metal about fifteen feet in
diameter. They drifted to its surface and sprawled awkwardly where
they fell. Scrambling to gain a footing, they bounced and floated
about like toy balloons before realizing that it would be necessary to
creep slowly from the influence of that repelling force which had made
the long drop possible without injury. Gravity met them at the disc's
edge with what seemed to be unusual violence.

       *       *       *       *       *

At first it seemed that their bodies weighed twice the normal amount,
but this feeling soon passed and they looked about them with
incredulous amazement. The metal disc was quite evidently the medium
through which the repelling force was set up in the shaft, and to this
disc was connected a series of heavy cables that led to a pedestal
nearby. On the pedestal was a controlling lever and this moved over a
quadrant that was graduated in degrees, one end of the quadrant being
labeled "Up" and the other "Down." The lever now stood at a point but
a very few degrees from the center or "Zero" mark and on the down
side. Frank pulled this lever over to the full "Down" position and
they found that they could walk over the disc with normal gravity.

"I suppose," said Frank, "that if the lever is at the other end of the
scale one would fall upward with full gravity acceleration--reversed.
At zero, gravity is exactly neutralized, and the intermediate
positions are useful in conveying materials or human beings up and
down the shaft as desired. Very clever; but what is the reason for it
all?"

In the precise center of the great cavern there was a dome or
hemisphere of polished metal, and it was from this dome that the eery
light emanated. At times, when the light died down, this dome gleamed
with dull flickerings that threatened to vanish entirely. Then
suddenly it would resume full brilliance, and the sight was marvelous
beyond description. A slight hissing sound came from the direction of
the dome, and this varied in intensity as did the light.

"Gosh!" said Tommy. "That looks like silver to me. And, if it is, what
a wealthy man our friend Leland has become. He has spent his fortune
well, even if he used it all to get to this."

"Yes, but where is he?" commented Frank. Then: "Leland! Leland!" he
called.

       *       *       *       *       *

His voice echoed through the huge vault and re-echoed hollowly. But
there was no reply save renewed flickerings from the dome.

Leaving the vicinity of the gravity disc, the two men advanced in the
direction of the shining dome, which was about a quarter-mile from
where they stood. Both perspired freely, for the air was very close
and the temperature high. But the light of the dome was as cold as the
light of a firefly and they had no hesitancy in drawing near. It was a
beautiful sight, this dome of silver with its flickering lights and
perfect contour.

"By George, I believe it _is_ silver," exclaimed Frank, when they were
within a few feet of the dome. "No other metal has that precise color.
And look! There is a wheelbarrow and some mining tools. Leland has
been cutting away some of the material."

Sure enough, there was indisputable evidence of the truth of his
statement. And the material was undoubtedly silver!

"Silver Dome," breathed Tommy, holding a lump of the metal in his
hand. "A solid dome of pure silver--fifty feet high and a hundred in
diameter. How much does that figure in dollars and cents, Frank?"

"Maybe it isn't solid," said Frank dryly, "though it's worth a
sizeable fortune even if it is hollow. And we haven't found Leland."

       *       *       *       *       *

They circled the dome twice and looked into every corner of the great
cavern, but there was no sign of the man for whom they searched. The
wheelbarrow was half filled with lumps of the heavy metal, and maul
and drill lay where they had been dropped by the lone miner. A cavity
three feet across, and as many deep, appeared in the side of the dome
to show that considerably more than one wheelbarrow load had been
removed.

"Funny," grunted Tommy. "Seems almost like the old dome had swallowed
him up."

At his words there came the terrific vibration. The light of the dome
died out, leaving them in utter darkness, and from its interior there
rose the mounting scream that had frightened old Thomas away. From so
close by it was hideous, devastating; and the two men clung to each
other in fright, expecting momentarily that the earth would give way
beneath their feet and precipitate them into some terrible depth from
which there could be no return.

Then the sound abruptly ceased and a gleam of light came from under
the dome of silver. A crack appeared between its lower edge and the
rocky floor of the cavern, and through this crack there shone a light
of dazzling brilliancy--a warm light of rosy hue. Wider grew the
opening until there was a full three feet between the floor and the
bottom of the dome. Impelled by some irresistible force from within,
the two men stumbled blindly to the opening, fell to the floor and
rolled inside.

There was a heavy thud and the dome had returned to its normal
position, with Frank and Tommy prisoners within its spacious hollow.
The warm light bathed them with fearful intensity for a moment, then
faded to a rosy glow that dulled their senses and quieted their
nerves. Morpheus claimed them.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Frank awoke he found himself between silken covers, and for a
moment he gazed thoughtfully at a high arched ceiling that was
entirely unfamiliar. Then, remembering, he sprang from the downy bed
to his feet. The room, the furnishings, his silken robe, everything
was strange. His bed, he saw, was a high one, and the frame was of the
same gleaming silver as the dome under which they had been trapped.
The arched ceiling glowed softly with the same rosy hue as had the
inner surface of the dome. A large pool of water invited him, the
surface of the pool being no more than a foot below the point where it
was built into the tile floor of the room. A large open doorway
connected with a similar adjoining room, where he suspected Tommy had
been taken. On his bare toes, he moved silently to the other room and
saw that his guess had been correct. Tommy lay sleeping quietly
beneath covers as soft as his own and amidst equal luxury of
surroundings.

"Well," he whispered, "this doesn't look as though we would come to
any harm. And I might as well take a dive in that pool."

Returning to his own room, he removed the silken garment with which he
had been provided and was quietly immersed in the cool, invigorating
water of the bath. His head cleared instantly.

"Hi there!" called Tommy from the doorway. "Why didn't you wake me up?
Where are we, anyway?"

With dripping head and shoulders above the water, Frank was compelled
to laugh at the sleepy-eyed, wondering expression on the blue-jowled
face of his friend. "Thought you were dead to the world," he returned,
"you old sleepy-head. And I don't know where we are, excepting that it
is somewhere under the silver dome. What's more, I don't much care.
You should get into this water. It's great!"

       *       *       *       *       *

So saying, he dived to the bottom of the pool and stood on his hands,
his feet waving ludicrously above the surface. Tommy sniffed once and
then made a quick dash for the pool in his own room. He was not to be
outdone by his more energetic partner.

A half-hour later, shaved and attired in their own garments, which had
been cleaned and pressed and hung neatly in the closets, they settled
themselves for a discussion of the situation. Having tried the doors
of both rooms and found them locked from the outside, there was no
other course open to them. They must await developments.

"Looks like Leland has quite an establishment down here inside the
mountain," ventured Tommy.

"Hm!" snorted Frank, "this place it none of Leland's work. He is
probably a prisoner here, as are we. He just stumbled on to the
silver dome and was captured by whatever race is living down here
beneath it, the same as we were. Who the real inhabitants are, and
what the purpose of all this is, remains to be seen."

"You think we are in friendly hands?"

"These quarters do not look much like prison cells, Tommy, but I must
admit that we are locked in. Anyhow, I'm not worrying, and we will
soon learn our fate and have to be ready to meet it. The people who
own this place must have everything they want, and they sure have some
scientific knowledge that is not known to us on the surface."

"Wonder if they are humans?"

"Certainly they are. You never heard of wild beasts sleeping in beds
like these, did you?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy laughed at he examined the exquisite hand-wrought figures on the
silver bedstead. "No, I didn't," he admitted; "but where on earth did
they come from, and what are they doing here?"

"You ask too many questions," replied Frank, shrugging his broad
shoulders. "We must simply wait for the answers to reveal themselves."

There was a soft rap at the door of Frank's room, where the two men
were talking.

"Come in," called Frank, chuckling at the idea of such consideration
from their captors.

A key rattled in the lock and the door swung open to admit the
handsomest man they had ever set eyes on. He was taller than Frank by
several inches, standing no less than six feet five in his thin-soled
sandals, and he carried himself with the air for an emperor. His
marble-white body was uncovered with the exception of a loin cloth of
silver hue, and lithe muscles rippled beneath his smooth skin as he
advanced to meet the prisoners. His head, surmounted by curly hair of
ebon darkness, was large, and his forehead high. The features were
classic and perfectly regular. The corners of his mouth drew upward in
a benign smile.

"Greetings," he said, in perfect English and in a soft voice, "to the
domain of Theros. You need fear no harm from our people and will be
returned to the upper world when the time comes. We hope to make your
stay with us enjoyable and instructive, and that you will carry back
kind memories of us. The morning meal awaits you now."

       *       *       *       *       *

So taken aback were the two young Americans that they stared foolishly
agape for a space. Then a tinkling laugh from the tall stranger set
them once more at ease.

"You will pardon us, I hope," apologized Frank, "but this is all so
unexpected and so unbelievable that your words struck me speechless.
And I know that my friend was similarly affected--We place ourselves
in your hands."

The handsome giant nodded understanding. "No offense was taken," he
murmured, "since none was intended. And your feelings are not to be
wondered at. You may call me Orrin."

He turned toward the open door and signified that they were to follow
him. They fell in at his side with alacrity, both suddenly realizing
that they were very hungry.

They followed in silent wonderment as Orrin led the way to a broad
balcony that overlooked a great underground city--a city lighted by the
soft glow from some vast lighting system incorporated in its vaulted
ceiling high overhead. The balcony was many levels above the streets,
which were alive with active beings of similar appearance to Orrin,
these speeding hither and yon by means of the many lanes of traveling
ways of which the streets were composed. The buildings--endless rows of
them lining the orderly streets--were octagonal in shape and rose to
the height of about twenty stories, as nearly as could be judged by
earthly standards. There were no windows, but at about every fifth floor
there was an outer silver-railed balcony similar to the one on which
they walked. The air was filled with bowl-shaped flying ships that sped
over the roof tops in endless procession and without visible means of
support or propulsion. Yet the general effect of the busy scene was one
of precise orderliness, unmarred by confusion or distracting noises.

       *       *       *       *       *

Orrin vouchsafed no explanations and they soon reentered the large
building of which the balcony was a part. Here they were conducted to
a sumptuously furnished dining room where their breakfast awaited
them.

During the meal, which consisted of several courses of fruits and
cereals entirely strange to Frank and Tommy, they were tended by Orrin
with the utmost deference and most painstaking attention. He
anticipated their every want and their thoughts as well. For, when
Frank endeavored to ask one of the many questions with which his mind
was filled, he was interrupted by a wave of the hand and a smile from
their placid host.

"It is quite clear to me that you have many questions to propound,"
said Orrin, "and this is not a matter of wonder. But it is not
permitted that I enlighten you on the points you have in mind. You
must first finish your meal. Then it is to be my privilege to conduct
you to the presence of Phaestra, Empress of Theros, who will reveal
all. May I ask that you be patient until then?"

So friendly was his smile and so polished his manner that they
restrained their impatience and finished the excellent breakfast in
polite silence.

And Orrin was as good as his word, for, no sooner had they finished
when he led them from the room and showed the way to the elevator
which conveyed them to the upper floor of the building.

From the silver-grilled cage of the lift they stepped into a room of
such beauty and magnificence of decoration that they gazed about them
in wondering admiration. The paneling and mouldings were of hammered
silver that gleamed with polished splendor in the soft rose glow of
the hidden lights. The hangings were of heavy plush of deep green hue
and bore intricate designs of silver thread woven into the material.
At the opposite side of the room there was a pair of huge double doors
of chased silver and on either side of this pretentious portal there
stood an attendant attired as was Orrin, but bearing a silver scepter
to denote his official capacity.

"Phaestra awaits the visitors from above," intoned one of the
attendants. Both bowed stiffly from the waist when Orrin led the two
young scientists through the great doors which had opened silently and
majestically at their approach.

       *       *       *       *       *

If the outer room was astonishing in its sumptuousness of decoration
and furnishing, the one they now entered was positively breath-taking.
On every side there were the exquisite green and silver hangings.
Tables, divans, and rugs of priceless design and workmanship. But the
beauty of the surroundings faded into insignificance when they saw the
empress.

A canopied dais in the center of the room drew their attention and
they saw that Phaestra had risen from her seat in a deeply cushioned
divan and now stood at its side in an attitude of welcome. Nearly as
tall as Frank, she was a figure of commanding and imperious beauty.
The whiteness of her body was accentuated by the silver embroidered
and tightly fitted black vestments that covered yet did not conceal
its charms. A halo of glorious golden hair surmounted a head that was
poised expectantly alert above the perfectly rounded shoulders. The
exquisite oval of her face was chiseled in features of transcendent
loveliness. She spoke, and, at sound of her musical voice, Frank and
Tommy were enslaved.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Gentlemen of the upper world," she said gently, "you are welcome to
Theros. Your innermost thoughts have been recorded by our scientists
and found good. With a definite purpose in mind, you learned of the
existence of the silver dome of Theros, yet you came without greed or
malice and we have taken you in to enlighten you on the many questions
that are in your minds and to return you to mankind with a knowledge
of Theros--which you must keep secret. You are about to delve into a
mystery of the ages; to see and learn many things that are beyond the
ken of your kind. It is a privilege never before accorded to beings
from above."

"We thank you, oh, Queen," spoke Frank humbly, his eyes rivetted to
the gaze of those violet orbs that seemed to see into his very soul.
Tommy mumbled some commonplace.

"Orrin--the sphere!" Phaestra, slightly embarrassed by Frank's stare,
clapped her hands.

At her command, Orrin, who had stood quietly by, stepped to the wall
and manipulated some mechanism that was hidden by the hangings. There
was a musical purr from beneath the floor, and, through a circular
opening which appeared as if by magic, there rose a crystal sphere of
some four feet in diameter. Slowly it rose until it reached the level
of their eyes and there it came to rest. The empress raised her hands
as if in invocation and the soft glow of the lights died down, leaving
them in momentary darkness. There came a slight murmur from the
sphere, and it lighted with the eery green flickerings they had
observed in the dome of silver.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fascinated by the weaving lights within, they gazed into the depths of
the crystal with awed expectancy. Phaestra spoke.

"Men from the surface," she said, "you, Frank Rowley, and you, Arnold
Thompson, are about to witness the powers of that hemisphere of metal
you were pleased to term 'Silver Dome.' As you rightly surmised, the
dome is of silver--mostly. There are small percentages of platinum,
iridium, and other elements, but it is more than nine-tenths pure
silver. To you of the surface the alloy is highly valuable for its
intrinsic worth by your own standards, but to us the value of the dome
lies in its function in revealing to us the past and present events of
our universe. The dome is the 'eye' of a complicated apparatus which
enables us to see and hear any desired happening on the surface of the
earth, beneath its surface, or on the many inhabited planets of the
heavens. This is accomplished by means of extremely complex vibrations
radiated from the hemisphere, these vibrations penetrating earth,
metals, buildings, space itself, and returning to our viewing and
sound reproducing spheres to reveal the desired past or present
occurrences at the point at which the rays of vibrations are directed.

       *       *       *       *       *

"In order to view the past on our own planet, the rays, which travel
at the speed of light, are sent out in a huge circle through space,
returning to earth after having spent the requisite number of years in
transit. Instantaneous effect is secured by a connecting beam that
ties together the ends of the enormous arc. This, of course, is beyond
your comprehension, since the Ninth Dimension is involved. When it is
desired that events of the present be observed, the rays are projected
direct. The future can not be viewed, since, in order to accomplish
this, it would be necessary that the rays travel at a speed greater
than that of light, which is manifestly impossible."

"Great guns!" gasped Frank. "This crystal sphere then, is capable of
bringing to our eyes and ears the happenings of centuries past?"

"It is, my dear Frank," said Phaestra, "and I would that I were able
to describe the process more clearly." She smiled, and in the
unearthly light of the sphere she appeared more beautiful than before,
if such a thing were possible.

On the pedestal which supported the sphere there was a glittering
array of dials and levers. Several of these controls were now adjusted
by Phaestra, the delicate motions of her tapered fingers being watched
by the visitors with intense admiration. There came a change in the
note of the sphere, a steadying of the flickerings within.

"Behold!" exclaimed Phaestra.

       *       *       *       *       *

They gazed into the depths of the sphere and lost all sense of
detachment from the scene depicted therein. It seemed they were at a
point several thousand miles from the surface of a planet. A great
continent spread beneath them, its irregular shore line being clearly
outlined against a large body of water. Here and there the surface was
obscured by great white patches of clouds that cast their shadows
below.

"Atlantis!" breathed Phaestra reverently.

The lost continent of mythology! The fabled body of land that was
engulfed by the Atlantic thousands of years ago--a fact!

Tommy glanced at Frank, noting that he had withdrawn his gaze from the
sphere and was devouring Phaestra with his eyes. As if drawn by the
ardor of his observation, she raised her own eyes from the sphere to
meet those of the handsome visitor. Obviously confused, she dropped
her long lashes and turned nervously to the controls. Tommy
experienced a sudden feeling of dread. Surely his pal was not falling
in love with this Theronian empress!

Then there came another change in the note of the sphere and once more
they lost themselves in contemplation of the scene within. The surface
of the lost continent was rushing madly to meet them. With terrific
velocity they seemed to be falling. An involuntary gasp was forced
from Tommy's lips. Mountains, valleys, rivers could now be discerned.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then the scene shifted slightly and they were stationary, directly
above a large seacoast city. A city of great beauty it was, and its
buildings were of the same octagonal shape as were those of Theros!
There could be but one inference--the Theronians were direct
descendants of those inhabitants of ancient Atlantis.

"Yes," sighed Phaestra, in answer to the thought she had read, "our
ancestors were those you now see in the streets of this city of
Atlantis. A marvelous race they were, too. When the rest of the world
was still savage and unenlightened, they knew more of the arts and
sciences than is known on the surface to-day. The mysteries of the
Fourth Dimension they had already solved. Their telescopes were of
such power that they knew of the existence of intelligent beings on
Mars and Venus. They had conquered the air. They knew of the relation
between gravity and magnetism but recently propounded by your
Einstein. They were prosperous, happy. Then--but watch!"

Faint sounds of the life of the city came to their ears. A swarm of
monoplanes roared past just beneath them. The streets were crowded
with rapidly moving vehicles, the roof-tops with air-craft. Then
suddenly the scene darkened; a deep rumbling came from the sea. As
they watched in fascinated wonder, a great chasm opened up through the
heart of the city. Tall buildings swayed and crumbled, falling into
heaps of twisted metal and crushed masonry and burying hundreds of the
populace in their fall. The confusion was indescribable, the uproar
terrific, and within the space of a very few minutes the entire city
was a mass of ruins, fully half of the wrecked area having been
swallowed up by the heaving waters of the ocean.

       *       *       *       *       *

Phaestra stifled a sob. "Thus it began," she stated. "Trovus was
first--the city you just saw--then came three more of the cities of
the western coast in rapid succession. Computations of the scientists
showed that the upheaval was widespread and that the entire continent
was to be engulfed in a very short time. The exodus began, but it was
too late, and only a few hundred people were able to escape the
continent before it was finally destroyed. The ocean became the tomb
of two hundred millions. The handful of survivors reached the coast of
what is now North America. But the rigors of the climate proved severe
and more than three-quarters of them perished within a few days after
their planes landed. Then the rest took to the caves along the shore,
and for a while were safe."

She manipulated the controls once more and there was a quick shift to
another coast, a rugged, wave-beaten shore. Closer they drew until
they observed a lofty palisade that extended for miles along the
barren waterfront. They saw a fire atop this elevation and active men
and women at various tasks within the narrow circle of its warmth. A
cave mouth opened at the brink of the precipice near the spot they
occupied.

Then came a repetition of the upheaval at Trovus. The ocean rushed in
and beat against the cliff with such ferocity that its spray was
tossed hundreds of feet in the air. The earth shook and the group of
people around the fire made a hasty retreat to the mouth of the cave.
The sky darkened and the winds howled with demoniac fury. Quake after
quake rent the rugged cliffs: huge sections toppled into the angry
waters. Then a great tidal wave swept in and covered everything,
cliffs, cave mouths and all. Nought remained where they had been but
the seething waters.

       *       *       *       *       *

"But some escaped!" exulted Phaestra, "and these discovered Theros.
Though many miles of the eastern seaboard of your United States were
submerged and the coastline entirely altered, these few were saved.
Their cave connected with a long passage, a tunnel that led into the
bowels of the earth. With the outer entrance blocked by the upheaval
they had no alternative save to continue downward."

"They traveled for days and days. Some were overcome by hunger and
fell by the wayside. The most hardy survived to reach Theros, a series
of enormous caverns that extends for hundreds of miles under the
surface of your country. Here they found subterranean lakes of pure
water; forests, game. They had a few tools and weapons and they
established themselves in this underground world. From that small
beginning came this!"

Phaestra's slim fingers worked rapidly at the controls. The scenes
shifted in quick succession. They were once more in the present, and
seemed to be traveling speedily through the underground reaches of
Theros. Now they were racing through a long lighted passage; now over
a great city similar to the one in which they had arrived. Here they
visited a huge workshop or laboratory; there a mine where radium or
cobalt or platinum was being wrested from the vitals of the unwilling
earth. Then they visited a typical Theronian household, saw the
perfect peace and happiness in which the family lived. Again they were
in a large power plant where direct application of the internal heat
of the earth as obtained through deep shafts bored into the interior
was utilized in generating electricity.

They saw vast quantities of supplies, fifty-ton masses of machinery,
moved from place to place as lightly as feathers by use of the gravity
discs, those heavily charged plates whose emanations counteracted the
earth's attraction. In one busy laboratory they saw an immense
television apparatus and heard scientists discussing moot questions
with inhabitants of Venus, whose images were depicted on the screen.
They witnessed a severe electrical storm in the huge cavern arch over
one of the cities, a storm that condensed moisture from the
artificially oxygenated and humidified atmosphere in such blinding
sheets as to easily explain the necessity for well-roofed buildings in
the underground realm. And, in all the speech and activities of the
Theronians, there was evident that all-pervading feeling of absolute
contentment and freedom from care.

"What I can not understand," said Frank, during a quiet interval, "is
why the Theronians have never migrated to the surface. Surely, with
all your command of science and mechanics, that would be easy."

"Why? Why?" Phaestra's voice spoke volumes. "Here--I'll show you the
reason."

       *       *       *       *       *

And again the scene in the sphere changed. They were on the surface
and a few years in the past--at Chateau Thierry. They saw their fellow
men mangled and broken; saw human beings shot down by hundreds in
withering bursts of machine-gun fire; saw them in hand-to-hand bayonet
fights; gassed and in delirium from the horror of it all.

They traveled over the ocean; saw a big passenger liner the victim of
torpedo fire; saw babies tossed into the water by distracted mothers
who jumped in after them to join them in death.

A few years were passed by and they saw gang wars in Chicago and New
York; saw militia and picketing strikers in mortal combat; saw wealthy
brokers and bank presidents turn pistols on themselves following a
crash in the stock market; government officials serving penitentiary
terms for betrayal of the people's trust; opium dens, speakeasies, sex
crimes. It was a fearful indictment.

"Ah, no," said Phaestra kindly, "the surface world has not yet emerged
from savagery. We should be unwelcome were we to venture outside. And
now we come to the reason for your visit. You come in search of one
Edwin Leland, a fellow worker at one time. Your motives are above
reproach. But Leland came as a greedy searcher of riches. We brought
him within to teach him the error of his ways and to beg him to desist
from his efforts at destroying the dome of silver. He alone knew the
secret."

"Then you followed him and we took you in for similar reasons, though
our scientists found very quickly that your mental reactions were of
entirely different type from Leland's and that the secret would be
safe in your keeping. Leland remains obdurate. He threatens us with
physical violence, and his reactions to the thought-reading machines
are of the most treacherous sort. We must keep him with us. He shall
remain unharmed, but he must not be allowed to return. That is the
story. You two are free to leave when you choose. I ask not that you
give your word to keep the secret of 'Silver Dome.' I know it is not
necessary."

       *       *       *       *       *

The lights had resumed their normal glow, and the marvelous sphere
returned to its receptacle beneath the floor. Phaestra resumed her
seat on the canopied divan. Frank dropped to a seat on the edge of the
dais. Tommy and Orrin remained standing, Tommy lost in thought and
Orrin stolidly mute. The empress avoided Frank's gaze studiously. Her
cheeks were flushed; her eyes bright with emotion.

Frank was first to break the silence. "Leland is in solitary
confinement?" he asked.

"For the present he is under guard," replied Phaestra. "He was quite
violent and it was necessary to disarm him after he had killed one of
my attendants with a shot from his automatic pistol. When he agrees to
submit peacefully, he shall be given the freedom of Theros for the
remainder of his life."

"Perhaps," suggested Frank, "if I spoke to him...."

"The very thing." Phaestra thanked him with her wondrous eyes.

A high pitched note rang out from behind the hangings, and, in rapid
syllables of the language of Theros, a voice broke forth from the
concealed amplifiers. Orrin, startled from his stoicism, sprang to the
side of his empress. She rose from her seat as the voice completed its
excited message.

"It is Leland," she said calmly. "He has escaped and recovered his
pistol. I have been told that he is now at large in the palace,
terrorizing the household. We have no weapons here, you see."

"Good God!" shouted Frank. "Suppose he should come here?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He jumped to his feet just as a shot rang out in the antechamber.
Orrin dashed to the portal when a second shot spat forth from the
automatic which must certainly be in the hands of a madman. The doors
swung wide and Leland, hair disarranged and bloodshot eyes staring,
burst into the room. Orrin went down at the next shot and the hardly
recognizable scientist advanced toward the dais.

When he saw Frank and Tommy he stopped in his tracks. "So you two have
been following me!" he snarled. "Well, you won't keep me from my
purpose. I'm here to kill this queen of hell!"

Once more he raised his automatic, but Frank had been watching closely
and he literally dove from the steps of the dais to the knees of the
deranged Leland. As beautiful a tackle as he had ever made in his
college football days laid the maniac low with a crashing thud that
told of a fractured skull. The bullet intended for Phaestra went wide,
striking Tommy in the shoulder.

Spun half way around by the impact of the heavy bullet, Tommy fought
to retain his balance. But his knees went suddenly awry and gave way
beneath him. He crumpled helplessly to the floor, staring foolishly at
the prostrate figure of Leland and at Frank, who had risen to his feet
and now faced the beautiful empress of Theros. Strange lights danced
before Tommy's eyes, and he found it difficult to keep the pair in
focus. But he was sure of one thing--his pal was unharmed. Then the
two figures seemed to merge into one and he blinked his eyes rapidly
to clear his failing vision. By George, they were in each other's
arms! Funny world--above or below--it didn't seem to make any
difference. But it was a tough break for Frank--morganatic marriage
and all that. No chance--well--

Tommy succumbed to his overpowering drowsiness.

       *       *       *       *       *

The awakening was slow, but not painful. Rather there was a feeling of
utter contentment, of joy at being alive. A delicious languor pervaded
Tommy's being as he turned his head on a snow white silken pillow and
stared at the figure of the white-capped nurse who was fussing with
the bottles and instruments that lay on an enameled table beside the
bed. Memory came to him immediately. He felt remarkably well and
refreshed. Experimentally he moved his left shoulder. There was
absolutely no pain and it felt perfectly normal. He sat erect in his
surprise and felt the shoulder with his right hand. There was no
bandage, no wound. Had he dreamed of the hammer blow of that
forty-five caliber bullet?

His nurse, observing that her patient had recovered consciousness,
broke forth in a torrent of unintelligible Theronian, then rushed from
the room.

He was still examining his unscarred shoulder in wonder, when the
nurse returned, with Frank Rowley at her heels. Frank laughed at the
expression of his friend's face.

"What's wrong, old-timer?" he asked.

"Why--I--thought that fool of a Leland had shot me in the shoulder,"
stammered Tommy, "but I guess I dreamed it. Where are we? Still in
Theros?"

"We are." Frank sobered instantly, and Tommy noted with alarm that his
usually cheerful features were haggard and drawn and his eyes hollow
from loss of sleep. "And you didn't dream that Leland shot you. That
shoulder of yours was mangled and torn beyond belief. He was using
soft nosed bullets, the hell-hound!"

"Then how--?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Tommy, these Theronians are marvelous. We rushed you to this hospital
and a half-dozen doctors started working on you at once. They repaired
the shattered bones by an instantaneous grafting process, tied the
severed veins and arteries and closed the gaping wound by filling it
with a plastic compound and drawing the edges together with clamps.
You were anaesthetized and some ray machine was used to heal the
shoulder. This required but ten hours and they now say that your arm
is as good as ever. How does it feel?"

"Perfectly natural. In fact I feel better than I have in a month."
Tommy observed that the nurse had left the room and he jumped from his
bed and capered like a school boy.

This drew no sign of merriment from Frank, and Tommy scrutinized him
once more in consternation. "And you," he said, "what is wrong with
you?"

"Don't worry about me," replied Frank impatiently. Then, irrelevantly,
he said "Leland's dead."

"Should be. I knew we shouldn't have started out to help him. But,
Frank, I'm concerned about you. You look badly." Tommy was getting
into his clothes as he spoke.

"Forget it, Tommy. You've been sleeping for two days, you know--part
of the cure--and I haven't had much rest during that time. That is
all."

"It's that Phaestra woman," Tommy accused him.

"Well, perhaps. But I'll get over it, I suppose. Tommy, I love her.
But there's no chance for me. Haven't seen her since the row in the
palace. Her council surrounds her continually and I have been advised
to-day that we are to be returned as quickly as you are up and around.
That means immediately now."

"Good. The sooner the better. And you just forget about this queen as
soon as you are able. She's a peach, of course, but not for you.
There's lots more back in little old New York." But Frank had no reply
to this sally.

       *       *       *       *       *

There came a knock at the door and Tommy called, "Come in."

"I see you have fully recovered," said the smiling Theronian who
entered at the bidding, "and we are overjoyed to know this. You have
the gratitude of the entire realm for your part in the saving of our
empress from the bullets of the madman."

"I?"

"Yes. You and your friend. And now, may I ask, are you ready to return
to your own land?"

Tommy stared. "Sure thing," he said, "or rather, I will be in a few
minutes."

"Thank you. We shall await you in the transmitting room." The
Theronian bowed and was gone.

"Well, I like that," said Tommy. "He hands me an undeserved compliment
and then asks how soon we can beat it. A 'here's your hat, what's your
hurry' sort of thing."

"It's me they're anxious to be rid of," remarked Frank, shrugging his
broad shoulders, "and perhaps it is just as well."

"You bet it is!" agreed Tommy enthusiastically, "and I'm in favor of
making it good and snappy." He completed his toilet as rapidly as
possible and then turned to face the down-hearted Frank.

"How do we go? The way we came?" he asked.

       *       *       *       *       *

"No, Tommy. They have closed off the shaft that led from the cavern of
the silver dome. They are taking no more chances. It seems that the
shaft down which we floated was constructed by the Theronians; not by
Leland. They had used it and the gravity disc to transport casual
visitors to the surface, who occasionally mixed with our people in
order to learn the languages of the upper world and to actually touch
and handle the things they were otherwise able to see only through the
medium of Silver Dome and the crystal spheres. Further visits to the
surface are now forbidden, and we are to be returned by a remarkable
process of beam transmission of our disintegrated bodies."

"Disintegrated?"

"Yes. It seems they have learned to dissociate the atoms of which the
human body is composed and to transmit them to any desired point over
a beam of etheric vibrations, then to reassemble them in the original
living condition."

"What? You mean to say we are to be shot to the surface through the
intervening rock and earth? Disintegrated and reintegrated? And we'll
not even be bent, let alone busted?"

       *       *       *       *       *

This time he was rewarded by a laugh. "That's right. And I have gone
through the calculations with one of the Theronian engineers and can
find no flaw in the scheme. We're safe in their hands."

"If you say so, Frank, it's okay with me. Let's go!"

Reluctantly his friend lifted his athletic bulk from the chair. In
silence he led the way to the transmitting room of the Theronian
scientists.

Here they were greeted by two savants with whom Frank was already
acquainted, Clarux and Rhonus by name. A bewildering array of complex
mechanisms was crowded into the high-ceilinged chamber and, prominent
among them, was one of the crystal spheres, this one of somewhat
smaller size than the one in the palace of Phaestra.

"Where do you wish to arrive?" asked Clarux.

"As near to my automobile as possible," replied Frank, taking sudden
interest in the proceedings. "It is parked in the lane between
Leland's house and the road."

Tommy looked quickly in his direction, encouraged by the apparent
change in his attitude. The scientists proceeded to energize the
crystal sphere. They were bent upon speeding the parting guests. Their
beloved empress was to be saved from her own emotions.

Quick adjustments of the controls resulted in the locating of Frank's
car, which was still buried to its axles in snow. The scene included
Leland's house, or rather its site, for it appeared to have been
utterly demolished by some explosion within.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tommy raised questioning eyebrows.

"It was necessary," explained Rhonus, "to destroy the house in
obliterating all traces of our former means of egress. It has been
commanded that you two be returned safely, and we are authorized to
trust implicitly in your future silence regarding the existence of
Theros. This is satisfactory, I presume?"

Both Tommy and Frank nodded agreement.

"Are you ready, gentlemen?" asked Clarux, who was adjusting a
mechanism that resembled a huge radio transmitter. Its twelve giant
vacuum tubes glowed into life as he spoke.

"We are," chimed the two visitors.

They were requested to step to a small circular platform that was
raised about a foot from the floor by means of insulating legs. Above
the table there was an inverted bowl of silver in the shape of a large
parabolic reflector.

"There will be no alarming sensations," averred Clarux. "When I close
the switch the disintegrating energy from the reflector above will
bathe your bodies for a moment in visible rays of a deep purple hue.
You may possibly experience a slight momentary feeling of nausea.
Then--presto!--you have arrived."

"Shoot!" growled Frank from his position on the stand.

Clarux pulled the switch and there was a murmur as of distant thunder.
Tommy blinked involuntarily in the brilliant purple glow that
surrounded him. Then all was confusion in the transmitting room.
Somebody had rushed through the open door shouting, "Frank! Frank!" It
was the empress Phaestra.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a growing daze Tommy saw her dash to the platform, seize Frank in a
clutch of desperation. There was a violent wrench as if some monster
were twisting at his vitals. He closed his eyes against the blinding
light, then realized that utter silence had followed the erstwhile
confusion. He sat in Frank's car--alone.

The journey was over, and Frank was left behind. With awful finality
it came to him that there was nothing he could do. It was clear that
Phaestra had wanted his pal, needed him--come for him. From the fact
that Frank remained behind it was evident that she had succeeded in
retaining him. A sickening fear came to Tommy that she had been too
late; that Frank's body was already partly disintegrated and that he
might have paid the price of her love with his life. But a little
reflection convinced him that if this were the case a portion of his
friend's body would have reached the intended destination. Then,
unexplainably, he received a mental message that all was well.

       *       *       *       *       *

Considerably heartened, he pressed the starter button and the cold
motor of Frank's coupe turned over slowly, protestingly. Finally it
coughed a few times, and, after considerable coaxing by use of the
choke, ran smoothly. He proceeded to back carefully through the drifts
toward the road, casting an occasional regretful glance in the
direction of the demolished mansion.

He would have some explaining to do when he returned to New York.
Perhaps--yes, almost certainly, he would be questioned by the police
regarding Frank's disappearance. But he would never betray the trust
of Phaestra. Who indeed would believe him if he told the story?
Instead, he would concoct a weird fabrication regarding an explosion
in Leland's laboratory, of his own miraculous escape. They could not
hold him, could not accuse him of murder without producing a body--the
_corpus delicti_, or whatever they called it.

Anyway, Frank was content. So was Phaestra.

Tommy swung the heavy car into the road and turned toward New York,
alone and lonely--but somehow happy; happy for his friend.

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_Appears on Newsstands_

THE FIRST THURSDAY IN EACH MONTH]



Earth, the Marauder

PART TWO OF A THREE-PART NOVEL

_By Arthur J. Burks_

[Illustration: Closer and closer they came.]

[Sidenote: Deep in the gnome-infested tunnels of the Moon, Sarka and
Jaska are brought to Luar, the radiant goddess against whose minions
the marauding Earth had struck in vain.]


WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE

The Earth was dying. Ever since Sarka the First, king of scientists,
had given mankind the Secret of Life, which prolonged life
indefinitely, the Earthlings had multiplied beyond all count, and been
forced to burrow deep into the ground and high into the air in the
desperate search for the mere room in which to live. There was much
civil war. The plight of the children of men was desperate. Something
had to be done.

[Illustration]

Then Sarka the Third called the Spokesmen of the Gens of Earth around
him, and proposed to them a new scheme which had come to him in his
laboratory atop the Himalayas. He would swing the Earth from its
orbit!--send it careening through space toward the Moon!--there to
destroy its inhabitants and supplant them with a colony of Earthlings!
And then they would surge on to Mars!

One by one the twelve Spokesmen, each the head and representative of
the teeming trillions comprising his Gens, acceded. Even Dalis, the
jealous rival of Sarka, finally gave his sulky consent.

So, under Sarka's commands, the Earth's hordes were mobilized; and in
tune with the Master Beryl in Sarka's laboratory all the Beryls of the
Earth vibrated, freeing the Earth from her age-old orbit and swinging
her out towards the Moon.

The Gens of Dalis--the trillions of people who swore allegiance to
him--would lead the attack on the Moon. When within fifty thousand
miles, they darted out, clad only in their tight green clothing and
the helmets that held the anti-gravitational ovoids, which
neutralized gravity for them and enabled them to instantly fly where
they willed. Their only weapons were hand atom-disintegrators. And out
from the Moon came mysterious aircars, with long clutching
tentacles--the weapons of the Moon's minions! The war of the worlds
was begun!

Yet Dalis, leader of the Gens that now engaged the Moon's aircars, was
still in the laboratory with Sarka. For Dalis' treacherous mind
coveted control of the Earth, and though the urge to lead his Gens
into battle was tremendous, still he stayed, watching Sarka closely,
waiting for the moment when he could trick Sarka and assume control.

And at the head of the Gens of Dalis was a woman, Jaska, whom Sarka
loved. The Moon's aircars swept away the Gens of Dalis, and out from
Earth poured the Gens of Cleric, who was Jaska's father. The newcomers
fought desperately to save Jaska from the deadly clutches of the
aircars.

Dalis could stand it no longer. He sped forth from the laboratory, to
reorganize his beaten Gens. Jaska flew for home; but behind her a
single aircar, splashed with crimson, reached forth its tentacles to
clutch her--and Sarka groaned with the agony of his impotence to help
the woman he loved.


CHAPTER XI

_Escape--and Dalis' Laughter_

But Sarka was not to be so easily beaten. There still remained an
infinite number of possible changes of speed by manipulation of ovidum
by vibration set up by the Beryls, without which this flight from the
beginning would have been impossible. But for two hours, while the
white robed men of Cleric fought against the car of the crimson
splashes to prevent the capture of the daughter of their
Spokesman--and died by hundreds in the grip of those grim
tentacles--Sarka was forced to labor with the Beryls until
perspiration bathed his whole body and his heart was heavy as he
foresaw failure. And failure meant death or worse for Jaska.

But at the end of two hours, while the men of Cleric fought like men
inspired against the aircar of the crimson slashes, a cessation in the
outward speed of the earth could be noted. At the end of three hours
the body of Jaska, all this time fighting manfully to attain to
landing place on the Earth, was at last bulking larger; but the
tentacles of the aircar were groping after her, reaching for her,
striving to catch and clasp her to her death.

The two Sarkas watched and prayed while the might of the Beryls,
traveling at top speed, fought against the force of whatever was used
by the Moon-men to compel the Moon to withdraw. Still the men of
Cleric fought that single car, and died by hundreds in the fighting.
White robed figures which became shriveled and black in the grip of
those tentacles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Countless of the men of Cleric deliberately cast themselves against
those tentacles, throwing their lives away to give Jaska more leeway
in her race for life.

"Will she make it, father?" queried Sarka in a whisper.

"If the courage and loyalty of her people stand for anything, she will
make it," he replied.

On she came at top speed, and now through the micro-telescopes the
Sarkas could see the agony of effort on her face, even through the
smooth mask used by the people of Earth for flight in space where
there was no atmosphere. Courage was there, and the will of
never-say-die; and Jaska, moreover, was coming back to the man she
loved. In a nebulous sort of way Sarka realized this, for though these
two had not mated there was a resonant inner sympathy between them
which had rounded into an emotion of overpowering force since Jaska
had proved to Sarka that she was to be trusted--that he had been
something less than a faithful lover when he had mistrusted her, ever
so little.

Closer now and closer, and at last the aircar of the crimson splashes
was drawing away, losing in the race for life. It was falling back, as
though minded to turn about and race back for the Moon, now a ball in
the sky, far away, the outlines of its craters growing dim and misty
with distance. Now the men of Cleric, those who remained, were
breaking contact with the aircar, and forming a valiant rear-guard for
the retreat of Jaska.

       *       *       *       *       *

Throughout the Earth, as the Beryls fought with ever increasing speed
to lower the rate of the earth's outward race from the Moon, was such
a trembling, such a vibration induced by conflicting, alien forces as
there had not been even in that moment when back there in its orbit,
the Earth could have either been kept within its orbit, or hurled
outward into space at the touch of a finger.

Now Jaska, surrounded by her father's men, was almost close enough to
touch the Earth.

She made it, weak and weary, and rested for a moment while her
father's men steadied her. Then, thrusting them aside, with gestures
bidding them return to their Gens, she lifted into the air again, and
fled straight for the laboratory of Sarka.

She entered tiredly through the exit dome, and all but collapsed into the
arms of Sarka. Gently he removed her helmet of the anti-gravitational
ovoid, noting as she leaned against him the tumultuous beating of her
heart. Then her gentle eyes opened and she whispered to Sarka.

"You trust me now?"

For answer he bent and kissed her softly on the lips--for the kiss,
from the far distant time when the first baby was kissed by the first
mother, had been the favored caress of mankind. Her face was
transfigured as she read his answer in his eyes, and the touch of his
lips. Then, remembering, fear flashed across her face. She
straightened, and grasping Sarka by the hand, hurried with him into
the observatory.

       *       *       *       *       *

She took the seat in which Dalis had sat before he had gone out to the
command of his Gens, studied for many minutes the battle in space
between the two alien worlds.

"Dalis is winning," said the Elder Sarka quietly, "apparently!"

"The qualification is a just one," said Jaska softly. "'Apparently,'
indeed! You will note now that, though men of the Gens of Dalis swarm
all about the aircars, and even clamber atop them, no more are dying
in the grasp of those tentacles? Is Dalis arranging a treacherous
truce with the Moon-men?"

"I have been wondering about that," said Sarka softly, "for it is my
belief that nothing not conducive to his own selfish interests would
have forced Dalis to leave this place and take command of his Gens, as
I had first ordered, unless he had schemes planned of which father and
I could know nothing. Now that I think of it, Jaska, how did Dalis
know our secret code of fingers?"

Jaska started, and turned a blanched face to Sarka.

"_Did_ he know?" she cried. "Did he? If he did that proves a suspicion
that I have entertained since the first moment when Dalis swept into
the fight, and I sensed that alien signals were being flashed back and
forth!"

"Flashed back and forth!" ejaculated Sarka. "How do you mean? That
Dalis was somehow able to communicate with the Moon-men in their own
language, or through their own signals?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Why not? He knew our secret code, did he not? I never gave it to him,
and I know that you did not. No, Dalis has some means, never
discovered or suspected by you Sarkas, whereby he is able to
understand alien tongues and alien sign manuals!"

"That means," said Sarka the Elder in a dead voice, "that by forcing
Dalis to go out at the head of his Gens...."

"We have," interrupted Sarka the Younger, "placed a new weapon of
treason in his hands! Dalis, at the very moment of contact with the
aircars, loaded with Moon-men, broke in on their signals--they must
have had some means of signalling one another--and communicated with
them in their own way! Do you think it possible that, with all his
Gens, he may go over to the Moon-men, form an alliance with them?"

For many moments no one dared to answer the question; yet, from what
the Sarkas knew of him, it was not impossible at all. For Dalis was
the master egotist always, and never overlooked opportunity to gain
something for himself.

It was Jaska who broke the silence.

"Did you note carefully," she said, "those aircars which were
partially destroyed by our ray directors and atom-disintegrators?"

The Sarkas nodded.

"Did you note that no men, formed like our own, no creatures of any
sort whatever, fell from the cars?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Again the awesome silence, and the keen brains of the Sarkas wrestled
with this vague hint of the uncanny.

"You mean, Jaska ... you mean...."

"That the occupants of aircars are part of the cars, but--Beings of
the Moon! That they are either metal monsters endowed with brains or
tiny creatures irrevocably attached to the cars themselves!"

"But how," said Sarka at last, "are we to be sure? I can understand
what Dalis might do if the Moon-men granted his wish for an alliance
with them. It is easy to understand why his Gens would follow his
lead, for with the Moon forced outward from the Earth faster than his
Gens could retreat, there is but one direction for his Gens to
go--toward the Moon! They would go to the Moon as captives and trust
the keen brain of Dalis to gain the mastery, sooner or later, over the
Moon-men. And then...."

"And then--?" repeated Sarka the Elder.

"Then, Dalis has already been inspired by the speed with which those
aircars travel! You will remember that he did not take kindly to
leaving the Earth and making his abode on some other planet! But why
could he not do so, combine forces and knowledge with the people of
that planet--and then return to Earth in alliance with them?--after we
have depleted our forces by placing a large portion of our people on
Mars and Venus and Saturn?"

"Sarka, my son," said Sarka's father, "before we continue with our
flight to Mars, we must know the truth! We must somehow learn exactly
what is going on on the Moon! If you could reach the Moon, alone,
undetected, and bring back a report...."

       *       *       *       *       *

For a moment he left it there, and the faces of all three were gray
with worry and abysmal fear.

"I can't go bodily, father," said Sarka at last, "but you remember my
secret exit dome, to the right of the observatory, from which I have
never yet dared exit from this place for fear that it might cost me my
life?"

Sarka the Elder nodded, while Jaska looked puzzled. Another evidence
of the fact that Sarka had not always trusted her, for she knew
nothing of a secret exit dome. Sarka's eyes, as he looked at Jaska,
mutely asked her forgiveness, which she gave him with her smile.

"I remember, son, and now?..."

"Surely it is worth risking one's life to know what new menace looms
over the children of men!"

"What is the use of this secret dome?" asked Jaska softly.

"It is merely an elaboration of the regular exit dome, combined with
certain phases of our atom-distintegrators, and the principle involved
in the anti-gravitational ovoids. I step into the secret exit dome,
garbed for flight Outside, and will myself to appear bodily in a
certain place. It is instantaneous. I step into the dome, for
example, and will myself to appear whole upon the Moon, and there I
will appear!"

"You mean that during the period of transposition you are invisible?"

"Yes, invisible because non-existent, except for the essential
elements of me, broken down by the secret exit dome, reassembled at
the place willed in their entirety! I can't fly there, for a million
eyes would see me approach! I must go in secret, as a spy, and wearing
the clothing and insignia of a member of the Gens of Dalis!"

Silence in the observatory for a brief breathing space, and then Jaska
spoke that speech out of the books of antiquity, which remains the
classic expression of loyalty.

"Whithersoever thou goest, there will I go also!"

From the laboratory came a sudden burst of laughter, the laughter
which all three recognized as the laughter of Dalis; but when they
entered the place of the Revolving Beryl, there was no one there--and
a feeling of dread, all encompassing, held them thralled for the space
of several heart-beats. Dalis, they knew, was thousands of miles away,
upon the Moon; yet here in the place of the Master Beryl they all
three had just heard his sardonic laughter!


CHAPTER XII

_Ashes of the Moon_

Through the micro-telescopes it was possible to see what had happened
after Dalis had assumed command of the Gens of Dalis. For even though
the Moon, in spite of the speed of the Beryls, was being forced
further and further from the Earth, the eyes of the micro-telescopes
picked out and enlarged details to such an extent that the battle
seemed to be transpiring under the eyes of the beholders.

A terrific jumble, in which Earthlings and aircars were all tumbled
together in mad chaos, a great mass of writhing, green-garbed figures.
Infinite in number--in the midst of which were the gigantic aircars,
like monster beetles being beset by armies upon armies of ants.

Then, by the time Jaska had seated herself in the observatory atop the
Himalayas, to watch what developed, the battle seemed to be over, and
the Moon-men had won. For the huge cars swung around between the
myriads of the Gens of Dalis, and seemed to be herding them toward the
Moon, as though they were prisoners.

Telepathically, Sarka and his father had been able to catch some hint
of the thoughts of the Earthlings in the battle, and these thoughts
had been tinged with doubt, fear and horror, so that even thus to
receive them, by mental telepathy, was to feel the searing heat of
their fear.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, in the instant when the battle in Space seemed to be over and the
Gens of Dalis were prisoners, the thought waves were no more, and a
brooding silence took their place. Dalis, the Sarkas knew, possessed
the power to mask his thoughts, for it was a power possessed in common
by all the scientists of Earth. But the common people of his Gens did
not posses that power. However, for the moment Sarka had forgotten an
all important something: that, when people were outside the roof of
the world, they were subservient to the will of a common commander to
whom they had sworn allegiance.

If, therefore, Dalis could mask his own thoughts from the brains of
men, he could also mask the thoughts of the people of his Gens, merely
by willing it! So Sarka and his father and Jaska could not know
whether the Gens of Dalis had gone over in a body with him, in a truce
with the people of the Moon, or whether they were dual prisoners--of
Dalis and of the Moon-men!

More than ever was it necessary for someone to somehow reach the Moon
and make a thorough investigation, discover just what Dalis was doing,
what mischief he was hatching.

The secret exit dome seemed to be the answer.

"You can manage without me, father?" asked Sarka.

       *       *       *       *       *

The elder Sarka nodded.

"Of the other Spokesmen of Earth," went on Sarka, "I trust Gerd the
most. Might I suggest that you bring him here, trust him in all
details, and let him take my place wherever possible? Or, better
still, keep Jaska here with you! I ... I may not be able to return!
I'll try to find a way, but--we can always communicate telepathically.
Jaska...."

"Jaska," said that young lady grimly, "goes with Sarka wherever Sarka
goes!"

"But it may mean death! We can only guess at the cunning of the Moon
dwellers! They may have been in secret communication with Dalis for
centuries! Dalis, who somehow discovered our secret finger code, may
also know of the secret exit dome, and the principle upon which it
operates! If he does, he may know how to combat it! Perhaps that
explains his laughter! Perhaps he heard and understood every word we
spoke, hears and understands every word we speak now! Who knows? He
may wait until I have passed through the secret exit dome, and then
make it impossible for me to be reincarnated on the Moon--or
elsewhere!"

"No matter," said Jaska softly, "wherever Sarka goes, there goes
Jaska! It is useless to attempt to dissuade me, and it is time you
learned that!"

In spite of himself Sarka smiled, and his father met his smile with a
quizzical one of his own. Both men had the same thought.

"The eternal woman!" said Sarka the Elder. "No man has ever understood
her--no man ever will! And all men are ruled by her!"

Sarka shrugged, and Jaska spoke again.

"Don't you think it is time we tried this new experiment?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Sarka nodded, and his face was suddenly alight with the excitement
which burned within him.

"First," he said, "we need accoutrements of the Gens of Dalis for two
people!"

Jaska smiled.

"Forseeing that we might have need of such equipment, I had several
complete outfits sent here when I took charge of the Gens of Dalis as
its Spokesman!"

Two minutes later, arrayed in the green clothing of the House of
Dalis, swathed in it from neck to toe, wearing their belts and the
masks which were necessary to life in space where there was no
atmosphere, the whole topped by the gleaming helmets whose skull-pans
held the infinitesimally small anti-gravitational ovoids, Jaska and
Sarka entered the secret exit dome, side by-side.

On the breast and back of each showed the yellow stars of the Gens of
Dalis. There was no hiding their identity otherwise, and if any of the
Gens saw them, both would be immediately recognized--for Jaska had
commanded the Gens, and Sarka was the world's greatest scientist known
to every human being. But they planned on carrying out their
investigations by stealth.

"Father," said Sarka, "when the inner door is closed upon us, you have
but to press the button to the right of the door. Press it when the
light beside it glows red, which will indicate that we have willed
ourselves to go to a certain destination!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The inner door closed upon Sarka and Jaska, and, hand in hand, side by
side, their bodies glowing with knowledge of warm, sympathetic
contact, they waited for a miracle which had never before been
attempted.

"Are you afraid, beloved?" queried Sarka.

"When I am with you," she said softly, "I have no fear."

"Then face the outer door, and will to go wherever I will to take
you!"

Side by side, hand-in-hand still, they faced the outer door, and Sarka
willed:

"Let us appear together in a deserted spot, within sight but unseen,
of the Moon crater from which those aircars were sent against us!"

A sudden blur, a cessation of all knowledge, and then....

Sarka and Jaska stood side by side in a desolate expanse surrounded by
bleak and appalling mountains of grotesque shape, in a light that was
weirdly, awesomely blue. Their feet were invisible, deeply rooted in
some soft, fine material which looked like snow.

After a swift glance around to see if anything lived or moved in this
awful desolation, Sarka stooped and dipped up some of the fine stuff
with his fingers, touched it to his lips.

       *       *       *       *       *

The material seemed to be fine blue ashes and on his tongue it had a
soapy savor. He peered at Jaska, whose eyes were glowing with
excitement, whose lips were parted with anticipation, and instantly he
opened a mental conversation with her.

"We must speak with each other telepathically, but do not speak with
me until I have explained to you how to mask your thoughts from all
persons save the one with whom you hold converse! First, I love you!
Second, let us see if, searching the sky, we can find the Earth!"

In a few brief, highly technical words, Sarka told his beloved how to
talk with him in the manner which he had never before explained to
her. They had used telepathy before, countless times, but they had not
cared who heard--while now secrecy in all things was the prime
essential for success, even for life.

When he had told her, and she replied, "I understand perfectly, and it
seems quite easy," they turned and surveyed the heavens, out of which,
by this new miracle of the secret exit dome, they had dropped to the
face of the Moon.

Away across the space between worlds, its transfiguration plainly
visible to the two, they could make out and identify the world from
which they had come. Save that they knew themselves standing on the
Moon, they would have thought as far as appearances went, that the
place where they had come was the Moon, many times enlarged. It seemed
incredible that they had come so far in the twinkling of an eye; but
that they had was proved by the fact of their physical presence.

"Look, Jaska!" said Sarka suddenly. "See how our Earth glows, as
though it were afire inside!"

       *       *       *       *       *

They stared at the great circular yellowish flame that he pointed out,
and Sarka, always the scientist whose science was one of exactness,
tried to estimate just where, on the Earth's surface, the glow was.

"Jaska," he said again, "that glow comes out of the heart of the Gens area
which Dalis ruled! And no one lives there, since Dalis' Gens flew out to do
battle! That's why we did not know of it before we left! That glow,
somehow, beloved, is the cause of the outward-from-the-Earth journey of the
Moon! First we must locate the Moon-source of the glow, and render it
incapable of further forcing itself away! For do you realize that, unless
we do so, we will never again see home?"

Jaska said nothing, but her eyes were troubled for a moment. Then she
smiled again.

"What care I if I become a prisoner on the Moon, if you are with me?"

Sarka was just now realizing the wonder of this raven-haired woman
whom, knowing her for half a century as he had, he had just known so
little after all.

"If we seem in danger of discovery, Jaska," he said to her, "drop down
instantly into the ashes, for if we are discovered by Dalis...."

He left it there and, with a deep intake of breath, started away for
the nearest and highest hill. They desired to walk, yet found walking
almost impossible, as they could not keep their feet on the ground
save by the exercise of a really incredible effort of will. So,
despairing of keeping their feet in contact with the ashes, they flew
just above them, heading for the nearest weird-looking ridge.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the strange light, which was oddly like moonlight in some painted
desert of Earth, shapes were distorted and somehow menacing, colors
were raw, almost bleeding--and distances that seemed but a step
required hours to traverse.

Ever and anon, as they traveled they looked back up at the Earth which
was their home. It still was visible, though plainly smaller with
distance, and for a time Sarka's heart misgave him; but he only
clasped tighter the hand of Jaska and moved on.

They were just at the base of the first hill, which had now become a
mountain of gloomy, forbidding aspect, when the first sound they had
heard on the moon came to them. A sound that was a commingling of the
laughter of Dalis, the barking of jackals of the olden times, the
humming of a million Beryls revolving at top speed, and a strident
buzzing such as neither had ever heard.

Had they been discovered? Was the sound a warning? They could not
know; but as they stared at the crest of the hill, two long, snaky,
waving things appeared above the crest, undulating, waving to and
fro, as though questing for something. They crouched low in the white
ashes at the base of the mountain, and waited, scarcely breathing.


CHAPTER XIII

_The Lunar Cubes_

For a long time Sarka and Jaska remained still, like sentinels,
listening to the strange discord which seemed to emanate from behind
the hill at whose base they crouched.

"Look!" said Sarka at last. "There against the sky, beyond and between
those two waving tentacles! Note that column of light, scarcely
lighter than the light which surrounds it everywhere? It looks like a
massive column just lighter than everything around it, yet so little
lighter that you have to watch closely to see it at all?"

Jaska stared for all of a minute, before she thought back her answer.

"I see it," she said.

"Note now whether it goes, as it reaches outward into Space!"

Jaska followed the mighty height of the thing, outward and outward,
and then gasped.

"Sarka," she said, "its end touches the Earth in the very heart of
that strange glow we spoke about!"

"Exactly! And people of Earth know nothing about it, because it is
invisible to them! It is only from Outside that the glow it makes
against the Earth is visible! If we can divert its direction, or
render it useless in any way, the Moon will no longer be thrust away
by its force!"

A pause of indecision, then Sarka thought again:

"Let us go, Jaska! Keep behind me, right on my heels!"

Slowly, fighting against something that seemed determined to pull, or
hurl, them outward from the surface of the Moon with each forward
movement they made, they essayed the side of the hill, pausing at the
end of what seemed like hours in a sort of hollow just large enough
to mask their bodies and stared over its edge into one of the craters
of the Moon. Out of the depths of that crater came the discordant
sounds, which now were almost deafening, and out of that crater too
came the almost invisibly bluish column whose outer tip touched the
Earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Right before them, so close that they all but rested in its shadow,
was one of those monster aircars, its tentacles moving to and fro as
though wafted into motion by some vagrant breeze. But since neither
Sarka nor Jaska could feel the breeze, Sarka knew that it was life
which caused the waving motion of those tentacles of terror.

"Note," he said to Jaska, "that there is a tiny trap-door in the
bottom of the aircar, and that the thing rests on a half-dozen of
those tentacles!"

"I see," came Jaska's reply.

Jaska went on:

"Note the gleaming thing on the ground, right below the aircar? I
wonder what it is?"

They studied the thing there, which seemed to be a huge jewel of some
sort that glittered balefully in the eery light of the Moon. It was,
perhaps, twice the size of an average man's torso, and was almost
exactly cubical in shape. As Sarka studied the thing, he sensed that
feeling flowed out of it--that the cube, whatever it was, was alive!

He tore his glance away from it, and realized that he accomplished the
feat with a distinct effort of will--as though the cube had willed to
hold his gaze, knew he was there. His eyes, peering around the inner
slope of the crater--which dipped over, some hundreds of feet down,
and plunged downward to some unknown depth--noted a broad, flat stone,
off to his right; and around the rim of the crater he counted a full
hundred of the aircars, all with their tentacles waving as if they
belonged to sentient creatures.

       *       *       *       *       *

Below each one, as he studied them and strained his eyes to make out
details, he caught the baleful gleam of other cubes like the first he
had seen. The aircars, it seemed, were either sentinels, at the lip of
the crater, or were the dwelling places of sentinels--and the cubes
were those sentinels!

It seemed absurd, but it came to Sarka in a flash that that was the
answer, and his eyes came back to the first cube, because it was
nearer and more easy to study.

"I will not be swayed by the will of the thing," Sarka told himself.
"Nor will I allow it to analyze me! Jaska, do you do likewise!"

Beside him, Jaska shivered. He turned to look at her. Her face was
coldly white, and her eyes were big with terror and fascination as she
stared at that first cube, resting so balefully there under the first
aircar.

He shook her, and she seemed to bring her eyes to his with a terrific,
will-straining effort.

"Look at me!" he told her, telepathically. "Keep your eyes on me, for
to look at the cube spells danger!"

But his own eyes went back to the thing, and he studied it closely. A
cold chill raced through his body as he noted that its gleam was
becoming dull, fading slowly out. It had gleamed brightly at first,
and now was losing its sheen, fading away to invisibility. He thought
he should be able, regardless of gleam or color, to see its outline;
but its outline, too, seemed to be becoming faint, indistinct.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, in a trice, it was gone, and a feeling of uneasiness, more
compelling than he had ever known before, coursed through the soul of
Sarka. Where had the cube gone? What was it? What was its purpose? He
tore his eyes away from the spot where he had last seen it, and stared
away to the shadow beneath the second nearest aircar, where he had
glimpsed another of the cubes.

The cube there, too, was fading out.

"Sarka! Sarka! Look!" came to his brain the thoughts of Jaska.

Sarka turned and stared at her, and a feeling of fear for which he
could not account at all took fast hold of him. The eyes of Jaska,
wide and staring as they had been when he commanded her to look away
from the cube under the aircar, were staring at that flat, table-like
rock, off to his right.

There, almost in the center of the rock, a gleaming something was
taking shape! Just a dull spot, in the center of the yellow glow; then
the beginning of the outline of a cube. Then, all at once, the cube
itself, gleaming and baleful!

Sarka gasped in terror. He had seen the cube vanish, its glow
disappear, and now here it was, almost close enough to touch, on a
rock beside him, gleaming and baleful as before! That it was the same
cube he had seen under the first aircar, he somehow knew without being
told. That it was a sentient _thing_ he also knew, for now there was
no mistaking the fact that, but for the presence in the little hollow
of Jaska and Sarka, the cube would not have moved.

       *       *       *       *       *

Swift as light, Sarka's right hand darted to his belt, where his ray
director should be nestled against his need of it. And with his first
movement, the cube's brilliance vanished instantly, the cube
disappeared, and appeared again right before the face of Sarka, so
close he could touch it! Yet he did not turn the ray director against
it, nor did he extend his hand to touch the thing--because he was
afraid to do so!

Even as the cube appeared before his eyes, thrice baleful and menacing
in its close proximity, his eyes darted back to that broad flat rock,
where the second gleaming cube now appeared!

"Great God, Jaska!" he sent mentally, "what does it mean?"

"These," she answered bravely back, "are Moon-soldiers! And, unless
we manage not to appear furtive, we are undone!"

Still Sarka made no move, while other gleaming cubes appeared on the
flat rock. Five other cubes appeared beside the first, at the rim of
the hollow which held the forms of Jaska and Sarka. The cubes were
closing on them, oddly like a squad of Earthlings in the olden times,
advancing by rushes against an entrenched enemy!

The buzzing sound which they had first heard now seemed accentuated,
but, instead of being outside of the listeners, seemed inside them,
hammering against their very brains! Messages were being sent to them,
or passed back and forth between and among the cube-men about
them--and they hadn't the slightest idea how to make answer, know
whether an answer was expected of them, or what the cube-men thought
about them!

Since there was nothing else to do, they lay there, hands clasped, as
children in the dark clasp hands, and waited for what might transpire.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly the discord from the inside of the crater ceased, and all was
still, while it came to Sarka that the cube-men who stood before him
were in grim communication with something invisible to Sarka and
Jaska, somebody, perhaps, deep in the bowels of the Moon, over inside
the crater.

They knew, those two, that the cube-soldiers were reporting their
presence, and asking instructions; that the Moon had gone silent to
listen, and that within a few moments their fate would be decided.
What should they do?

In his hand Sarka held his ray director, with which he knew he could
blast one or all of the cubes into nothingness. But still he held his
hand, made no move.

Something, however, had to be done, for the discord was starting
again, growing in volume. It made Sarka think, oddly enough, of a deaf
mute fighting for speech! Then came the first intelligible sound....

A burst, from the depths of the crater, of sardonic laughter!

"Dalis!" said Sarka, and moved. While Sarka moved, Jaska held fast to
his arm. Casting her fear to the winds, furious because of the
laughter of Dalis, Sarka thrust his ray director back into his belt
and stood upright.

Bending over he seized the first of the gleaming cubes and hurled it
over the edge of the crater, saw it start plummeting down. But even
before it fell out of sight within the crater its gleam had dulled
until it was almost impossible to see the thing. Racing as though
racing against time, Sarka caught up cube after cube and hurled them
all after the first.

       *       *       *       *       *

Out of the crater there came no sound of heavy objects striking,
though Sarka felt there should have, for the cubes were almost as
heavy as a man.

Then his hair almost stood on end under his helmet, for under that
first aircar, where he had first seen it, the initial cube was again
gleaming into life!

The thing had dissolved while being hurled over the rim, and reformed
in its proper place, its station as silent sentinel under the aircar!

These cubes then, were indeed sentinels--sentinels impossible to
injure. Though no force had been used against Sarka and Jaska, Sarka
had the feeling that they were powerless, and that here on the edge of
a crater of the Moon awful forces were being mustered against them.
Mustered slowly, sluggishly, yet surely, as though the mentality which
mustered them knew them helpless, and that there was no need to hurry!

As for Jaska, she merely clung to Sarka and waited--trusting him no
matter what might transpire.

On a blind chance, Sarka brought out his ray director again, turned
its muzzle toward that invisibly-blue column, pressed with his
fingers, moving the director back and forth.

Instantly the blue column seemed to break short off, while the broken
upper portion started racing outward toward the Earth. Sarka watched
it, and noted that the yellowish glow on the Earth, even as he
watched, was fading out--disappearing!

"If the ray will smash the blue column, Jaska," he said, "it will also
destroy its source! Come! We will go look for it!"

And, holding her hand tightly, he rose to his feet and strode boldly
down the inner slope of the vast crater.


CHAPTER XIV

_The Crater Gnomes_

It seemed to Sarka, as he moved down the inner slope of the crater,
that the cubes were somehow making sport of him, laughing at him,
though no hint of laughter or anything resembling laughter emanated
from them.

But, shutting his lips grimly, holding fast to Jaska's hand, he
proceeded on, reached the lower portion of the inner slope, where it
dropped off into a seeming black abyss, and dropped, keeping to a safe
speed because of the fact that both he and Jaska were attired for
movement in the air--though their manner of aerial transportation
could scarcely be called flying.

The anti-gravitational ovoids simply rendered ineffectual the law of
gravity.

Down they dropped, endlessly it seemed, while all about them, growing
gradually, a bluish glow began to make itself manifest. Sarka turned
and looked at the face of Jaska and noted that it--all her being--was
glowing with this strange radiance.

He smiled at her, and she smiled back.

Looking down now, to what seemed still a vast depth, they could see
figures moving, tiny, almost infinitesimal, about a great circular
cone, out of the depths of which came that strange bluish column whose
outer tip touched the Earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some inner sense warned Sarka not to touch that column, or to permit
Jaska to do so. They dropped down beside it, while Sarka, for no
reason that he could assign, once more took his ray director in his
free hand and held it in readiness. It seemed so tiny and futile--so
foolish for two people, one of them a woman--to go into the very heart
of an alien world, against an unknown enemy, armed with such a tiny
weapon. Two people against unguessed myriads, whose very nature was an
enigma, even to Sarka.

Closer now appeared the bottom of the crater, whose floor seemed to be
covered with something that looked like blue sand, or rock. From this
bluish substance the glow which bathed the two Earthlings seemed to
emanate.

The funnel of the crater had now given away to the immensities of
space, in all directions, and the cold of outside was being replaced
by a warmth which promised soon to be even uncomfortable.

Then, without a jar, the two landed at the bottom of the crater, side
by side, close enough almost to that great cone to touch it. Out of
the cone came that bluish column, to shoot up through the funnel down
which the two had lightly dropped ... and the motion of the--whatever
it was--was accompanied by a muted moaning sound, like that of a
distant waterfall.

They paused there, in amazement, taking stock of their surroundings.
Huge tunnels, whose roofs were lost to invisibility in the bluish
haze, whose extremities could only be guessed at, reached off in all
directions. As far as the two could tell they were the only living
souls within the crater, though both knew better.

Sarka had the feeling, and he knew Jaska shared it with him, that
innumerable eyes were studying them, innumerable intellects were
cataloguing them. And somehow he sensed the presence, somewhere near,
of the traitor Dalis!

       *       *       *       *       *

Then that discordant sound again, breaking so swiftly that it fell
upon the eardrums of Sarka and Jaska like the crack of doom. Out of
the many tunnels, from all directions, came hordes of beings which
would have made the nightmares of Paracelsus--first of the scientists
of Earth--pale to insignificance.

Paracelsus had written and illustrated his nightmares. Had hinted of
strange acts of flesh-grafting--as the grafting of legs on the head of
man. He had spoken, and written about, ghastly operations, from which
men came forth as part men, part spiders; part men, part scorpions,
dogs, cats, crocodiles....

Sarka thought, as his mind went back to those ancient books of his
people in which still remained vestiges of the theories of Paracelsus,
that somehow, in his dreams, Paracelsus must have visited the craters
of the Moon.

These people ... if they could be called people....

They had heads like the heads of Earthlings, broad-domed of brow,
lacking eyelashes or lids, so that their eyes were perpetually
staring. They possessed no bodies at all, and their legs, thin and
attenuated to the size of the wrists of average men, seemed to support
the massive heads with difficulty!

From all directions they came, looking like spiders such as Sarka the
First had described to Sarka, when Sarka had been a mere boy. They
came on the floor, out of the tunnels; they dropped from the walls of
the tunnels, and down from the invisible roofs, landing on the floor
as lightly as feathers--and all converged on Jaska and Sarka.

They seemed to have no fear at all, but only a vast curiosity.

Closer and closer they came.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jaska's grip tightened on the hand of Sarka, for one of the creatures,
with a spiderish leap, had jumped upon her, fastening its legs in her
tight-fitting costume, where he hung, his face within an inch or two
of hers. His lidless eyes, unblinking, stared deeply into hers.

Others jumped up beside the first, and still others clambered over
Sarka, until both Sarka and Jaska were covered by them like beetles
attacked by ants. But these strange gnomelike creatures, who did not
fear these strangers, apparently meant them no harm.

Then, after a thorough scrutiny, began the strangest talking Sarka had
ever heard. The crater-Gnomes seemed to communicate by making strange
clucking sounds with their tongues, sounds which were unmusical and
discordant, and which, as the Gnomes who stood back from them, because
already the two were covered until no more could cling to Jaska or
Sarka, joined in the speech--mounted in the cavern to a vast crescendo
of sound.

Sarka knew then that this was the sound which had come out to them
while they crouched at the crater rim. These were people of the Moon:
but if these were Moon-men, what, or who, were those gleaming cubes?

"Stand perfectly still," Sarka mentally admonished Jaska, "they
apparently mean us no harm!"

He had not spoken aloud, had not allowed his thought to reach any but
Jaska; yet instantly the discordant clucking ceased, and the Gnomes
were quiet, as though they politely listened to someone who had
interrupted them, yet whose interruption they resented, or were
curious about.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wondering how the creature would regard his action, Sarka reached
forth and plucked away the first Gnome which had jumped upon Jaska,
and placed him gently on the ground. The thing merely stared at Sarka
with his lidless eyes, as though wondering at Sarka's meaning. Then
his lips, which were triangular, rather than straight as those of
Earthlings, began again that strange clucking.

Immediately the Gnomes which clung to Jaska and Sarka dropped away,
and scuttled into the midst of the myriads that stood and watched.
They did not understand the speech of these Earthlings, but they were
unusually clever in comprehending the meaning of gestures.

"Hold fast to me, Jaska," thought Sarka toward her--and wondered anew
as the Gnomes instantly ceased their clucking sounds--"for I am going
to try an experiment."

Holding her hand still, he turned and strode straight toward the huge
cone out of which rose the bluish column.

Instantly the Gnomes broke into a frightful clucking of tongues, a
sound that mounted to ear-drum-breaking intensity, and in a trice,
climbing over one another to get into position, they moved in between
Sarka and the cone. So eager were they to bar his further progress
that they stood atop one another, until the depth of them was as tall
as Sarka standing upright.

Yet, though they plainly said to Sarka: "You must not approach the
cone," they did not seem to be angry with their visitors, but only
curious. Sarka looked at Jaska, noted how wanly she smiled.

Then he turned, and headed for the nearest of the monster tunnels.

       *       *       *       *       *

Instantly he detected a surprising eagerness in the renewed clucking
of tongues, while the Gnomes raced ahead, behind, all about the two,
capering like pet animals, showing these strangers the way into the
tunnel.

As they entered it, Sarka tried to discover whence came the bluish
glow. The floor seemed to be of bluish sandstone, though its color,
too, might have been caused by the glow. It was warm, too, so warm
that perspiration was breaking out on the cheeks of Sarka.

Whence came the glow? Apparently from the very walls of the tunnel, or
its roof; but surely from somewhere, surely from some secret place,
whence it was diffused all over.

"And Jaska," said Sarka, "the Moon, according to my father's
researches, is literally honeycombed with craters like this one!"

Again, as he thought, that strange, sudden cessation of the clucking
of the Gnomes. Whither were they leading them? It was plain to be seen
that the Gnomes were heading for some destination, almost herding
Sarka and Jaska toward it. Capering creatures, who behaved witlessly,
yet were far from witless. If Sarka were not sadly mistaken, these
were Moon-men--and women, too, perhaps, since he could not tell the
sex of them--and those gleaming cubes were their outer guards, perhaps
slaves.

If the cubes were really of metal--they had felt warm to Sarka's
touch--then these Moon-men had gone further in science than
Earthlings, as they had imbued at least some metals, or stones, with
intelligence sufficiently advanced for them to perform actions
independently of their masters' wills.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sarka, too, was remembering another thing: that he had touched one of
these Gnomes, to remove it from Jaska--and had felt a distinct shock
that was patently electrical!

The bluish glow was increasing, becoming more soft and mellow, shading
gradually into golden, as they advanced--shading still as they
preceded until it was almost white, almost blinding, in its radiance.

Then, of a sudden, the clucking of the Gnomes ended, and the creatures
ceased their capering, fell into something that might have been an
ordered military formation, and with Jaska and Sarka in the midst of
them, moved straight toward a broad expanse of the tunnel wall, in the
face of which appeared three long lines, deeply cut in the shape of a
triangle.

The Gnome who had first leaped upon Jaska advanced to the wall, paused
with his face almost against the lower line of the triangle, and
remained there, intently staring, while the other Gnomes remained
mute and unmoving.

Stronger and stronger appeared the blinding light. Slowly the inner
portion of the triangle began to give inward, like a door. And out of
the opening came that blinding radiance.

As the triangular door stood entirely open, Sarka and Jaska stood in
thunderstruck silence, staring like people bereft of their senses. For
there, standing in the opening, the now white radiance itself a mantle
to cover her, was a woman, unclothed save for the radiance, who might
have been of the Earth, save that she was more beautiful than any
woman of Earth.

Beside her the radiant beauty of Jaska paled, became wan and sickly.

But Sarka noted immediately her eyes, whose depths bewildered, amazed
him. For in them he could see no expression, no feeling, but only
abysmal cruelty. That she was Sarka's master, and Jaska's master, and
master of all these Gnomes, became instantly apparent for
telepathically she addressed Sarka.

"I am busy now. The Moon-people will hold you prisoners in the Place
of the Blue light, until I am ready to give you to the Cone!"


CHAPTER XV

_The Place of the Blue Light_

So the Gnomes were Moon-people, masters of the Moon cubes! And people
and cubes were ruled by a woman who resembled a woman of Earth!

The Gnomes took them back the way they had come.

Where, Sarka wondered, were the people of the Gens of Dalis? And where
was Dalis himself! Sarka was sure that, in those first discords which
had come out of the crater, he had heard at least a hint of the
laughter of Dalis.

And this woman clothed in radiance--who was she? And what? That she
was a creature of the Moon, and yet resembled in all ways a woman of
Earth, save that she was more beautiful than any woman Sarka had ever
seen, seemed almost impossible to believe. Yet he had seen her. So had
Jaska, and as Sarka and Jaska, with the capering Gnomes still about
them, were led away to a fate at which they could only guess, Sarka
wondered at Jaska's silence and at the strange lack of expression on
her face.

He pressed her hand, but somehow she failed to return the pressure,
mystifying more than ever. This sudden coldness was not like Jaska.

Back they went through the vast cavern where the cone of the bluish
column still moaned and murmured. Sarka moved as close to the cone as
the Gnomes would permit, and peered up along the mighty length of the
column. At its tip was still the Earth, like a star viewed from the
bottom of a deep well.

Smaller, too, it seemed, which proved that Sarka's breaking of the
blue column had been but momentary, that the column had almost
instantly regained its contact with the Earth. What was its source,
what the composition of the column?

       *       *       *       *       *

At the moment there could be no answer to the question. Now the Gnomes
were escorting them into another tunnel, whose glow was even bluer
than that which the two had experienced in the other tunnels. And the
deeper they penetrated, the more distant from the cavern of the Cone,
the deeper in color became that light.

Finally the Gnome who had mentally asked permission of the Radiant
Woman to show her Jaska and Sarka passed before another expanse of
wall, identical in appearance with that of the wall of the triangle
from which the Radiant Woman had appeared.

This time the Gnome managed ingress by a strange clucking sound, with
his triangular lips held close to the base-line of the triangle.

Now the door swung open; but the radiance which now came out was not
clear white, as in the case of the outer door, but deeply, coldly
blue. For the first time the Gnomes used force with their prisoners,
thus proving to them that they were indeed prisoners. Their tiny feet
caught at Sarka and at Jaska, and forced them through the door, which
swung shut behind them.

Sarka looked at Jaska who, in this strange new light, had taken on the
color of indigo, and smiled at her. She did not return his smile, but
her eyes looked deeply, somewhat sorrowfully, into his. As though she
asked him a question he could not understand, to which he could
therefore give no answer.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sarka was now conscious of the fact that the heat of their
prison-house--whose character they did not as yet know--was becoming
almost unbearable. They were alone, too, for the Gnomes had not
entered the door of triangle. Sarka partially removed his life mask,
and testing the atmosphere of the place, found it capable of being
breathed without the mask. He signalled mentally to Jaska to remove
her mask, and when the girl had done so he took her in his arms and
kissed her on the lips.

She accepted his caress, but did not return it, and her eyes still
peered deeply into his.

"Well, beloved," he said. "I am terribly sorry. But I did not want you
to come because I was afraid that something of this sort would
happen."

She did not answer.

"What is it, Jaska?" he said at last.

"What did you think of that woman?" she asked softly.

"Beautiful!" he said enthusiastically. "Fearfully beautiful! But did
you see her eyes? She had no more mercy in her heart than if she were
made of stone! And she hated us both the moment she saw us!"

"And you, Sarka--did you hate her, too?"

Sarka stared at her, not comprehending.

"I feel," he said, "that if we are ever to escape her, we must kill
her, or render her incapable of retaining us!"

Then, of her own accord, Jaska placed her arms around Sarka, and gave
him her lips. Her new behavior was as incomprehensible to Sarka as her
former enigmatic expression had been. Wise in the ways of science was
Sarka, but he knew nothing of women!

       *       *       *       *       *

Now hand in hand again, they began a survey of their prison house. The
bluish glow was unbearable to the eyes, and tears came unbidden and
ran down the cheeks of the prisoners. In a minute or two, perspiration
was literally bathing the bodies of the two. After a questioning
exchange of glances, Sarka swiftly divested himself of his costume,
stripping down to the gray toga of Earth's manhood. With a shrug,
Jaska removed her clothing to her own toga, and the two suits Sarka
carried under his arm.

They started ahead, exploring, then sprang back with a cry of fright.
Sarka did not know whether it was Jaska or himself who had cried out;
for just as they moved forward, a rent opened in the floor at their
feet, and their eyes for a moment--they could stand no longer--peered
into a bluely flaming abyss which, save for the color, reminded Sarka
of the word pictures of Hell he had read in Earth's books of
antiquity!

As the two stepped back, the rent in the floor closed instantly. Sarka
had noted where the end of it had been, and started to detour, his
eyes on the floor.

Over to his left the bluely glowing wall reached up to invisible
immensity. But as he would have passed along the wall, the rent opened
again, effectually barring his way.

Beyond the rent he could see a vast continuation of the cavern, and he
felt that, could they only pass the rent, they might reach a place
where the heat was not so unbearable, and they could stay and talk in
comfort.

       *       *       *       *       *

Releasing Jaska, he stepped back and prepared to leap the spot where
the rent had been. High he jumped, and far, surprised at the length of
his own leap. He landed lightly, far beyond the area where the rent
had been, and even as he landed, a rent opened again at his feet, thus
effectually barring further progress!

"It could just as easily," he told himself, "have opened under my
feet, and dropped me into the abyss!"

From behind him came the sudden sound of screaming. He whirled to look
back, to see Jaska standing there, arms outstretched toward him, her
eyes wide with fear and horror, and as he stood watching, she raced to
him, unmindful of abysses that might open under her feet, and flung
herself into his arms.

"Come back!" she moaned. "Come back! Don't you see? _They_ don't wish
you to explore further! We are in their power, and must simply await
their pleasure, whoever or whatever they are! They see all we do!"

So they turned back, and stood against the door which held them
prisoners; and the heat of the place seemed to enter into them, to
gnaw at their very vitals. After a time Sarka found himself almost
tearing at his throat, fighting for breath.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gasping, the tears bathing their cheeks until even their tears and
their perspiration would flow no more, they huddled now just inside
the massive stone door, arms about each other, and almost prayed for
death. Sarka at least prayed for death for both of them; but Jaska
prayed for a way of deliverance, prayed that herself and Sarka might
somehow win free, and be together again.

Sarka, who knew little of women, marveled at the grandeur of her
courage, and wondered that he really knew this radiant woman so
little. He compared her in his mind with the unclothed woman who had
ordered them here as prisoners, and it came to him that Jaska was all
perfection, all tender womanhood, while the Radiant Woman was a
monster, without soul or compassion--a creature of horror who mocked
God with her outward seeming of perfection.

Jaska read his thoughts, and smiled wanly to herself, and Sarka
wondered how, suffering as he knew she must be suffering, she could
find the courage to smile.

Then, for a time, the two became comatose, mastered by the blue heat,
and in dreamlike imaginings wandered in strange fields which could
only, to these two, have been racial memories, since neither had ever
seen such fields. There were cool streams, all a-murmur, and breezes
which cooled their sun-tanned cheeks. Water touched their tongues, and
cooled their whole bodies as they gratefully imbibed it.

       *       *       *       *       *

In their wanderings, in which Sarka was a faun and Jaska a nymph, they
talked together in a language which only these two comprehended--a
language which dealt in figures of speech, a language which depended
upon handclasps for periods, glances of the eyes for commas, and the
singing of their hearts for complete understanding.

Then a cool breeze, cool by comparison, caressed their pain-distorted
cheeks, and the Gnomes came in, found them lying there, and clucked
endlessly as though wondering what to do with them.

From hand to tiny hand, their feet serving as hands, the Gnomes passed
garments--garments of the Gens of Dalis, and clothed again the two
whom the Place of the Blue Light had all but slain. Of that ghastly
experiment Sarka retained but one real memory....

That bluish light, in the midst of the abyss, shifting and swaying
like blue serpents swimming in Hades ... that bluish light of the
Cone, which he had broken up for a brief moment by the use of his ray
director. Was this bluish light in the abyss the source of the light
in the Cone? If one were to destroy it at its source....

The two regained consciousness completely as the triangular door
closed behind Sarka and Jaska and the Gnomes, and they were taken into
the refreshing coolness of the tunnel, led back again in the direction
of the room where they had seen the Radiant Woman. Both Jaska and
Sarka noticed that they were clothed in new clothing, and a shy blush
tinged the cheeks of Jaska as her eyes met those of Sarka.

       *       *       *       *       *

This time they entered the vast chamber of radiance behind the first
triangular door, and were forced to their knees to do obeisance to the
Radiant Woman, who sat on a gleaming yellow stone for dais! The guards
who forced Sarka and Jaska to their knees, were clothed in the green
of the Gens of Dalis, and Dalis himself, his face stern, but bearing
no sign of recognition of these two, stood at the right hand of the
Radiant Woman!

"You come to us as spies," the thought of the Radiant Woman impinged
upon the brains of Sarka and of Jaska, "and as spies you should be
given to the Cone. But if you swear eternal allegiance to me, to obey
me in all things, to forego your allegiance to Earth, your lives will
be spared! What say you?"

Boldly Sarka stared into the almost opaque eyes of the woman. Then his
glance went to the face of Dalis.

"What," he asked boldly, in the language of Earth, "does the traitor
Dalis say?"

"I have sworn allegiance to Luar, who addresses you, and am her ally
in all things! I have but one addition to make to what she says: Jaska
belongs to me!"

The sudden leering grin of Dalis was hideous.

Sarka peered at Jaska, framing his answer. But Jaska spoke first.

"For myself, O Dalis," she said swiftly, "I can answer in but one way.
Return me to the Place of the Blue Light, and forget me there!"

Sarka smiled, while his heart leaped with joy.

"And I, O Luar," he said mentally to the Radiant Woman, "prefer death
with Jaska, at the Place of the Blue Light, than life as a traitor to
the world of my nativity!"

Instantly Luar began the clucking sound which was the language of the
Gnomes, at the same time allowing her thoughts as she spoke to impress
themselves upon the brains of the prisoners.

"Take them away! Take them to the Cavern of the Cone, and when they
have suffered as much as such inferior beings are capable of
suffering, thrust them into the base of the Cone!"


CHAPTER XVI

_Cavern of the Cone_

The Gnomes had been bidden to take the prisoners to the Cavern of the
Cone, but to the surprise of Sarka and Jaska, they were taken back to
the Place of the Blue Light! This time the Gnomes entered the place
with them, closing and securing the door behind them.

But the Place of the Blue Light had changed!

Now it had no floor of blue, as it had had before, but only a corridor
perhaps wide enough to allow the passage of four grown men, walking
side by side, while the abyss of which the two had got but the merest
hint through the opening and closing rents filled all the center of
the place!

The Gnomes seemed impervious to the unendurable heat, and these,
moving together, one behind the other, one beside the other, one atop
the other, formed a living wall between Sarka and Jaska and the rim of
the flaming blue abyss, to protect them from the heat.

Yet through the bodies of this living wall of Gnomes, a wall which was
higher than the heads of Sarka and Jaska, the heat forced its way to
the prisoners, and burned them anew with its agony.

To what dread rendezvous were they going? Where, save for the few
guards at the house of Luar, were the people of the Gens of Dalis?
Sarka felt, somehow, that the answers to all these questions would
soon be made manifest, and a feeling of exaltation he could not
explain was possessing him as he advanced. Around the corridor, whose
one side was the wall reaching up to invisibility, whose other side
dropped off into the abyss, the Gnomes herded the prisoners.

       *       *       *       *       *

The leader of the Gnomes was again the Gnome who had first leaped upon
Jaska to examine her curiously. Now, watching the lidless eyes of this
being, Sarka fancied he could detect a hint of some expression. The
Gnome was excited at some prospect, some climax which they were
approaching. What? On and on they moved. The blue flames from the
abyss, roaring in a way that neither of the prisoners had ever
experienced, reached upward in searing tongues toward the invisible
roof of this place.

Then, when they had progressed far from the door of entry, Sarka
gasped at a new manifestation. Out of the abyss, some distance ahead,
came a gleaming thing, something that had apparently evolved itself
out of the flames of the abyss. Blue of color it was, because of the
flames from the pit; but Sarka recognized it with a start which he
could not suppress nor understand.

It was one of those cubes, such as he and Jaska had seen at the lip of
the Moon-crater! As they approached, guided by the Gnomes, other cubes
appeared out of the abyss, others in numbers swiftly augmented, until
a veritable battalion of them had marshalled itself, there at the lip
of the abyss.

       *       *       *       *       *

Straight toward these cubes the Gnomes led Sarka and Jaska, and when
they had reached the center of the group, they halted, forming a
circle, still a wall to mask the prisoners from the heat of the abyss.
The leader of the Gnomes stopped with his face, his lidless eyes,
close to one of the cubes.

For a moment he paused thus, and Sarka felt sure that somehow the
Gnome was holding thought converse with the cube; but, try as he
might, he could find no meaning in the weird conversation for himself.
It was oddly like listening to a conversation in a code beyond his
knowledge.

Then the Gnome turned back to Sarka and Jaska. By a pressure of tiny
feet, he tried to indicate that Sarka and Jaska should unclasp their
hands. But they only clung the tighter, and now threw their arms about
each other.

The Gnome desisted, much to the joy of the lovers, while Sarka studied
the cubes, wondering what their mission was with Jaska and himself.

Slowly, together, the cubes began to lose their bluish glow, their
cube shape--to vanish utterly.

In a trice, still locked in each other's arms, Sarka and Jaska saw the
Gnomes through what appeared to be an even bluer haze. Besides, the
heat of the abyss no longer tortured them, and their bodies were
cooling in a way that was unbelievably refreshing.

"What is it, beloved?" whispered Jaska. "What is it?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Sarka stared at the Gnomes, now in retreat, capering as they had first
capered when the two had fallen into their hands, toward the door by
which all had entered. Mystified, Sarka put forth his hand. It came in
contact with something solid, and oddly warm, which stirred an
instantly responsive chord in the brain of Sarka.

This feeling was the same as he experienced when he had lifted those
cubes and hurled them into the crater--where they had dissolved in
falling, and instantly reappeared, each under its own aircar!

"Jaska!" he explained. "Jaska! The cubes have dissolved themselves,
and have reformed in the shape of a globe, as a protective covering
about us, to protect us from the heat of the abyss! Apparently we are
not to be killed at once! These cubes are slaves of the Gnomes, of
whom Luar is ruler!"

They were indeed locked inside a globe, a globe whose integral parts
were the cubes of their acquaintance; and the atmosphere of the
interior was not uncomfortable, but otherwise. Sarka and Jaska were
feeling normal for the first time since they had landed on the Moon.
But what was the meaning of this strange imprisonment?

They were soon to know!

For the globe which enclosed them, moved to the edge of the flaming
abyss, and dropped into the bluish glow! It did not drop heavily, like
a falling object on Earth, but rather floated downward, right into the
heart of the flames. At this new manifestation of the strangeness of
science on the Moon, Sarka was at once all scientist himself, striving
to find adequate answers for things which, from cause to effect, were
entirely new to him. With Jaska still clasped close against him, he
seated himself in the base of the globe and studied the area through
which they were passing.

Blue flames which seemed to be born somewhere, an infinite distance
below them; blue flames which he knew to be the element that, shot
outward from the great cone, had forced the Moon away from the Earth.

No sound of the roaring flames came through the globe, but every
movement of them was visible.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sarka turned and peered through the bottom of the globe; but all he
could see below were the flames, a molten indigo lake of them. Now, as
they floated downward, the glow was giving away to lighter blue, to
white, almost pure white, like the radiance which covered Luar like a
mantle.

Sarka felt himself on the eve of vast important discoveries, and the
scientist in him made him, for the moment, almost forget the woman at
his side. Jaska, unbothered about anything, now that Sarka was at her
side, regarded his expression of deep concentration with a tolerant
smile.

Whiter now was the light, and faster fell the globe which held the
two.

The color of the globe, now fallen below the area of blue, had taken
on, chameleonlike, the color of the white flames that bathed it.

Then, apparently right in the center of a lake of white flames, though
Sarka could see no solid place on which the globe had landed, the
globe came to rest.

Now everything was plain to see, and Sarka studied his surroundings
with new interest. He felt a mounting sensation of scalp-prickling
horror.

For, scattered throughout the lake of white flames, in all directions,
as far as the eye could reach--standing alone, suffering untold
agonies, from the expressions on their faces--were people of the Gens
of Dalis!

       *       *       *       *       *

No longer were they clothed in green and wearing on breast and back
the yellow stars of their Gens. Now they were nude as they had come
into the world and standing there, each was holding out hands in
horror, to hold back myriads of the Gnomes, who would have forced them
to submerge themselves in the white flames of the lake!

Was the Gens of Dalis being burned alive? What was the meaning of
this?

For a moment, filled with horror, Sarka looked away from the
spectacle. Off to his right, as he sat, he noted that the flames,
which here seemed lighter than they had in high levels, were
converging on a single spot toward the side of the lake of white
flames--as smoke converges on the base of a chimney leading outward to
the air!

He knew as he stared that he was gazing at the spot where the bluish
column of the cone was born!

Shaking his head, he turned back to the mighty spectacle of this
horrible thing that was being done to the people of the Gens of Dalis.

In his brain there suddenly crashed a thought whose source he could
only guess at, whose meaning mystified him more than anything yet
experienced. The thought might have emanated from Luar, or from Dalis.
But the more he thought of the matter, the more he thought how the
phrasing of the thought was like the telepathy of Sarka the Second,
now thousands of miles away, upon the Earth. And this was the thought:

"If they fight the flames, the flames will destroy them! If they go
into them freely, voluntarily, they will be rendered immune to heat
and to cold, to life and to death. But it is better that they die, for
Earth's sake!"

What did it mean?

       *       *       *       *       *

Sarka thought of the radiant white light which perpetually bathed the
person of Luar, and thought that he had somehow been given a hint of
its source. If the Gens of Dalis were voluntarily bathed in the lake
of white flames, would they become as Luar?

Somehow, though he knew that such bathing would save their lives, the
idea filled him anew with horror. He found himself torn between two
duties. If he sent his thought out there to the Gens of Dalis, people
of Earth, his people, they would be saved, but might forever become
allies of the people of the Moon. If Sarka did not tell them, they
would die--and there were millions of them.

But his science had always been a science of Life, and it still was.

"Enter the flames!" he telepathically bade his people. "Enter the
flames!"

But they did not heed him, and for the first time the atmosphere of
the interior of the globe seemed filled with savage, abysmal menace!
Plain to Sarka was the meaning of that menace: The cubes which
composed this globe were loyal to their masters, the masters to a
mistress, Luar, and would countenance no meddling.

Likewise it was impossible, if the Gnomes willed it to the cubes, for
Sarka to transmit his thoughts to the Gens of Dalis through the
transparent walls of the globe!

They were prisoners, indeed, of Dalis and of Luar!

       *       *       *       *       *

But could Sarka and Jaska turn their new-found knowledge to their own
use? Sarka was thinking back, back to one of the ancient tomes of his
people. It spoke, someplace, of a man who had got trapped in the heart
of a seething volcano, where the heat of it had cured him of his
illnesses, made him whole again, given him new youth and freshness.

But since the cubes could forestall his transmission of thought, and
perhaps could read and understand thoughts, how was he to tell Jaska?
How show her that a way of deliverance had been given into their
hands, if they only possessed the courage to use it!

Again came that thought, which Sarka recognized as the telepathy of
his father:

"Courage! You will win, and Jaska with you!"

Thoughts could come in to them then, but could not go out. Or did it
mean that the cubes, or the masters of the cubes, did not care if the
prisoners received messages from outside, because they knew themselves
capable of frustrating anything the prisoners planned? Perhaps. More
than likely that was it.

But, looking through the bottom of the globe, into the sea of white
flames below, Sarka gripped more tightly his ray director, and tried
to marshal the forces of his courage. There was surely some way of
escape. Some way out of their strange predicament.


CHAPTER XVII

_Casting the Die_

Somehow Sarka believed that this white radiance of the abyss held the
secret of the omnipotence of Luar, if omnipotence she possessed. That
she did seemed sure, else Dalis would not have been with her. Besides,
she had asked Sarka and Jaska to swear allegiance to her. Yes the
secret was here, in the heart of the lake of white flames.

It might have been the Moon Fountain of Youth, or of omnipotence.
There was no telling, unless Sarka tried an experiment.

His fury at Dalis now knew no bounds, and he was conscious of a
desire, too poignant almost to be borne, in some way to circumvent the
arch-traitor. For here in the craters of the Moon Dalis was working
out a strange amplification of the scheme which he had, centuries
before, proposed to Sarka the First. He was subjecting the people of
his Gens to the white flames.

If they immersed themselves voluntarily, they became as Luar was, but
still subservient to the will of Dalis--and, in his hands, invincible
instruments of war! Dalis had doubtless already been bathed in the
flames. Sarka was not sure, for in the home of Luar the white light
was so blinding it would have been impossible to make sure that the
white radiance clothed the others with Luar.

"That's it!" said Sarka to himself. "That's it! Dalis and those guards
at the dais of Luar have already been subjected to the white flames!
The rest who immerse themselves, voluntarily, come forth as Luar and
Dalis! Who do not, die. Dalis' manner of forcing the survival of the
fittest! His idea of the flood in grandfather's time, only now he
causes his selection by flames instead of flood! He believes that only
those worthy to survive, and to stand at his back in whatever he
conceives to be his need, will guess the secret of the immersion. The
others will die!"

       *       *       *       *       *

What a terrible alternative, when Dalis could as easily have given the
secret to all his people! Could have told them how to save themselves!
But it was not Dalis' way. Here, in the beginning of what was to
become a dual sovereignty of the Moon, Dalis had already taken thought
on the matter of over-population, and was destroying the many that the
few--the strongest, most ruthless--might survive! Hundreds of
thousands, millions of the Gens of Dalis, stood at the door of life,
and did not know how to enter, merely because Dalis withheld the key!
And, pausing in terror before the flames, they died, when a step and a
plunge would have saved them all!

"If he lives to be a million, if he lives through everlasting life,"
said Sarka to himself, "and does penance through a thousand
reincarnations, Dalis can never atone for this wholesale destruction
of humanity! But I ... I wonder!"

Sarka realized the nicety of the revenge of Dalis upon Jaska and
himself. Dalis had not given the secret to the prisoners, but by his
use of the cubes, he had plunged them into the very heart of the
horror, where they could see the suffering of the people of the Gens.
Then, when they had seen and appreciated the horror of it all, they
would follow the people of the Gens to death!

But Luar had spoken of thrusting them into the base of the Cone!

       *       *       *       *       *

Then they were not for the flames after all! How could it be done? The
globe composed of the cubes had but to transport the prisoners to the
base of the Cone, press against that base, and open to let the
prisoners free--and in the heart of the white-blue column they would
be hurled outward from the Moon, into space. The mere prospect of such
horror caused the perspiration to break forth anew on the body of
Sarka.

But there might be a way.

"I wonder," he asked himself, "if the Earth people in _this_ crater
could read my thoughts in spite of their agonies, if I could get my
thought to them through the globe? I wonder if, reading my thoughts,
they would obey?"

Bit by bit, as parts of a puzzle fall into place, he made his plan,
and his heart beat high with excitement. Jaska bent before him to look
into his eyes, and he knew that she was trying to read his face. She
knew, wise Jaska, that this brilliant lover of hers was making a plan,
and she believed in the sure success of it because it would be _his_!

She smiled at him, her courage high, and waited!

Holding the ray director between his body and that of Jaska, he took a
terrible, ghastly chance. Dalis had known the secret sign manual of
these two; but would the intelligence of the cubes comprehend it? He
must take the chance, slender as it seemed. His free hand began to
spell out, with all speed, the mad plan he had conceived.

"The white flames are harmless if one plunges into them voluntarily.
Are you afraid to attempt it? No? Then unfasten your clothing, and
have it so arranged that you can drop entirely out of it when I give
you the signal, which will be a mere widening of the eyes, like this!
You understand? We must go nude into the flames, so that they will
bathe our whole bodies! But, when you slip out of your clothing, tear
your anti-gravitational ovoid from the skull-pan of your helmet, and
hold it in your mouth! Then depend upon me, and have no fear!"

"I have no fear," replied the fingers of Jaska. "I go to death with
you if you wish--or to Life!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Feeling the menace of the cubes almost gripping at his throat as he
got into action, Sarka unfastened his own clothing, ripped the ovoid
from his helmet, placed it in his mouth. Then, looking at Jaska, he
gave her the signal.

Instantly, at her nod, he brought forth the ray director, pressed it
with his fingers, directing its muzzle toward the curve of the globe,
swinging it around in a circle, cutting out the bottom of the globe of
cubes.

The action must have been one of untold surprise to the cubes which
made up the globe, for before anything could be done to stay the hand
of Sarka, his ray director had cut out the bottom of the globe, and
Jaska and himself, divested now of all clothing, had fallen from the
globe.

Unbearable heat slashed and tore at them. They still held hands, and
when their feet touched upon something solid, they were gasping with
the unbelievable heat; and it was ripping at their lungs like talons
of white hot steel. But, pausing not at all, Sarka raced ahead with
Jaska, and dived straight into the lake of white flames.

As he dived he directed his thoughts toward the people of the Gens who
stood, undecided, dying by slow inches, on their little oases in the
lake. And this was the thought, which was a command.

"Plunge into the flames! They will not hurt you! Plunge in, and obey
my commands, O people of the Gens of Dalis! I, Sarka, command that you
obey me! Jaska, who commanded you at the will of Dalis, also commands.
Gather with Jaska and me at the base of the Cone! You have but to
follow the converging of the flames!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Together the two plunged in, and it seemed all at once as though the
fire had gone out of the white flames, for they were cool and soothing
to the touch. Sarka could feel new life being borne in him, could feel
himself revitalized, exalted, lifted to the heights. He suddenly
experienced the desire to run, and shout his joy for all to hear. But
reason held him. Not thus easily would Luar and Dalis, the traitor,
give over their designs against these two.

But in the heart of the flames, they dropped down, while they turned
their faces toward the base of the Cone, or where they thought the
base to be, even as Sarka gave another command to the now invisible
people of the Gens of Dalis.

"Hold your ovoids in your mouths and follow! Obey my will!"

They dropped now to what seemed to be cool flagstones, while above
them showed an orifice in a wall, into which those tongues of flame
were darting. They paused there, side by side, their faces radiant,
and looked back the way they had come.

Coming out of the white flames, like battalions on parade, were the
people of the Gens of Dalis--scores and hundreds of them, who had
sensed and heeded the mental commands of Sarka. Like genii appearing
out of the flames they came, to muster about Sarka and Jaska.

Then, when it seemed that no more were coming, Sarka turned to the
base of the Cone, his face high shining with courage and confidence,
and stepped straight into the flames that led into the Cone. Beside
him came Jaska, while behind him came the people of the Gens of Dalis
who dared to do as he had commanded.

They were sucked into the Cone like chips sucked into a whirlpool, and
Sarka willed a last command as they entered:

"Quit the column at the lip of the crater, and muster about the
aircars!"


CHAPTER XVIII

_The People of Radiance_

The exaltation of Sarka knew no bounds, and looking into the eyes of
Jaska, he knew she felt it, too. For her face was shining, and all of
her, the wondrous shining brilliance of her, was bathed in the white
radiance that mantled Luar. And now, since Jaska too knew that
radiance, her beauty was greater even than that of Luar. Sarka
thrilled anew at the glory of her.

But even as he stepped into the base of the Cone, he stepped out of
the blue column at the lip of the Moon-crater. Swift as light, and
swifter, had been the flight upward from the Cavern of the Cone; yet,
so keen were his perceptions, he knew when he had passed through the
chamber of the bluish glow, into which he and Jaska had first dropped
upon arrival.

Now they were on the lip of the crater, and the people of the Gens who
had followed him, were slipping out of the blue column, like insects
out of a flame, and converging on the aircars whose tentacles still
waved as they had when Sarka had last seen them.

Sarka looked at these people in amazement. To him there was a divinity
now about their nudeness which nudity never before had suggested to
him. For the people shone, and there was something glorious in those
divinely white bodies. They reminded Sarka of his people's books of
antiquity, and his childhood's pictures of angels....

But the effect of those white flames!...

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no explaining it. But Sarka felt that whatever he willed to
do he could do; that whatever he wished for was his, whether it was
his by right or no. He felt that he could move mountains, with only
the aid of his hands. Looking at Jaska he conceived all sorts of new
beauty in her, for she was the brightest, to him, of all the people
who had passed through the lake of white flames, and been cleansed in
their heat.

"No wonder Luar has mastered the Moon!" he cried to Jaska. "For when
she was bathed in the white flames, her will is paramount!"

"But how, if she passes the people of the Gens of Dalis through the
flames, will she retain her sovereignty?"

"Because Dalis, too, has passed through, and his will is the will of
the Gens! They will obey him, and he has sworn allegiance to Luar, or
given some sort of oath of fealty!"

"How strange that but one person on the Moon has been bathed in the
white flames!"

"How do we know," Sarka almost whispered it, "that she is, originally,
of the Moon? Does she not look too much like our people, to be from
another world entirely?"

"I do not know, but ... you mean ... you mean...?"

"I scarcely know; but Dalis would swear allegiance to no man, much
less to a woman, unless he knew that man, or woman, far better than he
has had opportunity, in a matter of hours only, to know Luar!"

He left it there then, as he strode boldly, with Jaska by his side, to
the nearest of the aircars.

       *       *       *       *       *

As he approached the car, the gleam cube beneath it seemed to gleam
brighter and brighter, as though it echoed the radiance of Sarka.
Sarka knew, studying this phenomenon, that he possessed at least a
hint of the secret of Luar's omnipotence. There had been a hint
before, but by now its meaning was clearer. The white flames, out of
the heart of the dying Moon, gave new life, exaltation, not only to
the bodies but to the brains of those who passed through it, and with
their brains quickened, they possessed such knowledge as men of Earth,
for ages, had wished to possess.

Transmutation of metals ... the ability, at will, to endow the higher,
more selective metals with intelligence ... and the ability to retain
command of the intelligences thus endowed. This explained the power of
Luar over the Gnomes, and the power of the Gnomes over the cubes--if
they possessed that power.

But the Gnomes, what of them? What were they?

But for a space Sarka must await the answer to that question, for
there was little time. Already he knew that the tale of his escape,
and his taking over of a portion of the Gens of Dalis, must have gone
like wildfire through all the crater, and from this crater, perhaps,
had been transmitted to all the craters of the Moon. All the
craters....

       *       *       *       *       *

That explained to him the absence from the lake of white flames, where
he had seen so few, comparatively, of the people of Dalis' Gens. The
Moon was honeycombed by such craters, and perhaps the white flame
connected them all, made them all one. And Luar commanded all from her
dais in this crater Sarka and his people were escaping. The millions
of the Gens had been swallowed by the craters of the Moon, at command
of Luar, acceded to by Dalis--and all over the Moon the very things
which Sarka and Jaska had witnessed were taking place.

Even now, as Sarka raced for the aircar, and Jaska with him, he could
feel a backward pulling that was well-nigh invincible. Someone was
willing him to return, willing the Gnomes to pursue him, willing the
cubes to refuse obedience to him; but he laughed and stepped to the
aircar, passing by the nearest writhing tentacle as though he knew it
possessed no power to harm him. The tentacle swept aside, and did not
try to bar him, while he sent his will crashing against that brightly
gleaming cube. "Into the aircar! We enter with you!"

The cube vanished instantly, and it seemed to Sarka that invisible
hands caught at his feet, lifting him up through the trap-door in the
belly of the aircar, up and inside. The door swung shut, and in the
forward end of the vast aircar gleamed the cube which had obeyed his
command!

       *       *       *       *       *

Sarka sent one thought careening outward from the aircar, a command to
the cubes which stood watch beneath the other aircars.

"Obey the Radiant People, and through them, _me_!"

The light of the cube made the interior of the aircar as light as day,
and Sarka was struck at once with another phenomenon. He could see
through the sides of the car in any direction.

And what he saw filled him with a sudden fear!

Out of the crater poured myriads of the Gnomes, and up the sides of it
came myriads of the gleaming cubes, all racing toward the cars.

"Get back! Get back!" he commanded the Gnomes and the cubes.

At the same time he issued his commands to the cube within his own
car, and to the cubes which by now were inside the other aircars,
realizing that the cubes themselves were the motive power of the
aircars--and that his will was the will of these individual cubes.

"Fly at once! Fly outward at top speed toward the Earth!"

Instantly, as though a single signal had started all the cars, a dozen
aircars rose majestically from the crater, while Sarka studied the
Gnomes and the cubes in turmoil on the rim. He noted then, a strange
circumstance: that when he commanded the Gnomes and the pursuing cubes
to keep back, they hesitated, dazedly, as though they did not know
whether to advance or to retreat; that when he merely watched them,
they came on.

He laughed aloud at this measuring of mental swords with Luar, and
with Dalis. For he could sense the conflict very plainly. She
commanded the Gnomes and the cubes to attack, he commanded them to
retreat, and they remained undecided, like people drawn between two
extremities, and uncertain which direction to take.

Upward, side by side now, floated the aircars of the Moon, and in the
forepeak of each, one of the gleaming cubes, like--like
anti-gravitational ovoids of the Moon! At the fast falling rim of the
crater boiled the Gnomes and the cubes, stirring and tumbling,
hampered by their very numbers, as they tried to attack at will of
Luar and retreated in confusion at the will of Sarka.

Then there was Jaska beside Sarka, her face fearful, as he pointed off
across the gloomy expanse of the Moon.

From all sides, from all directions, from other craters which these
two had not even seen, came scores and hundreds of the monster cars!

They had beaten Luar and Dalis but for a moment, then! Now, at her
command, the countless other aircars were coming in to head them off,
to fight them back to the surface of the Moon. It would be a race
against time, and against death. But of at least a dozen of the
aircars, Sarka was master, and he did not fear the issue. That strange
exaltation which the white flames had given him filled him with a
confidence that nothing could shake.

He shot a thought at the gleaming cube in the forepeak.

"Faster! Faster! There is no limit to your speed! Faster! Faster! Even
faster!"

Instantly the Moon seemed literally to drop away beneath the dozen
aircars which carried the Radiant People, while the aircars of Luar
and of Dalis fell hopelessly behind.

Sure that they would win in this race now, since he was just beginning
to realize the vastness of his power--the all-encompassing,
all-mastering power of the human mind and will, which the white flames
of the Moon had made almost god-like--Sarka turned his eyes toward a
coldly gleaming sphere in the star-spangled heavens ahead.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the Earth, and it seemed ringed in flames! From its edges there
seemed to shoot long streamers of yellow or golden flames, which broke
into sunlike pinwheels of radiance at their tips. Something, there on
the precious Earth, was decidedly wrong!

Instantly, telepathically, he sought to gain mental contact with his
father.

"Father, we are coming!" he said, across those countless miles. "What
is happening?"

For a full minute there was no answer. Then it came, feeble, broken,
weighted with fear; but it was a thought-message, unmistakably, of
Sarka the Second.

"Hurry, son! Hurry! For Dalis has indeed betrayed us! I could not
maintain control of the Earth with the Beryls, for some strange
catastrophe has destroyed all the Beryls in the area Dalis ruled! The
shifting of positions of the Earth and the Moon has so altered the
relative effects of the pull of gravity exerted by the planets that
Mars has been brought into dangerous proximity to us and is already so
close that her ether-lights are playing over us! Surely you must be
able to see them! We have received messages, but as yet I have only
been partially able to decode them! What I have decoded, however,
presages catastrophe--for I am sure that Mars and the Moon are in
confederation, and that the Moon-people have deliberately forced us
into contact with her ally!"

Cold fear clutched at the throat of Sarka as he caught the message. He
decided not to tell Jaska for the moment. He looked to right and left,
at the aircars on either side of him, then issued his commands.

"Faster! Faster! Be prepared to land in the area of the Gens of
Cleric, as close as possible to my laboratory!"

A strange, awesome sight, that flight of the rebels of Dalis' Gens
from the Moon to the Earth--like gleaming stars across the void. Far
out in Space they fled at terrific speed through almost utter
darkness, but their light was still blinding, lighting the way.

(_Concluded in the next issue_)



Murder Madness

CONCLUSION OF A FOUR-PART NOVEL

_By Murray Leinster_

[Illustration: _The deck was covered with panic-stricken folk who had
come in awful terror to watch. And all were slaves to The Master._]

[Sidenote: Bell has fought through tremendous obstacles to find and
kill The Master, whose diabolical poison makes murder-mad snakes of
the hands; and, as he faces the monster at last--his own hands start
to writhe!]


CHAPTER XV

The door of the car swung wide, and Ortiz's pale grim face peered in
behind the blue steel barrel of his automatic. He smiled queerly as
Jamison, with a grunt of relief, tapped Bell's wrist in sign to put
away his weapon.

"Ah, very well," said Ortiz, with the same queer smile upon his face.
"One moment."

He disappeared. On the instant there was the thunderous crashing of a
weapon. Bell started up, but Jamison thrust him back. Then Ortiz
appeared again with smoke still trickling from the barrel of his
pistol.

"I have just done something that I have long wished to do," he
observed coolly. "I have killed the chauffeur and his companion. You
may alight, now. I believe we will have half an hour or more. It will
do excellently."

He offered his hand to Paula as she stepped out. She seemed to shudder
a little as she took it.

"I do not blame you for shuddering, Senorita," he said politely, "but
men who are about to die may indulge in petty spites. And the
chauffeur was a favorite with the deputy for whom I am substituting.
Like all favorites of despots, he had power to abuse, and abused it. I
could tell you tales, but refrain."

       *       *       *       *       *

The car had come to a stop in what seemed to be a huge warehouse, and
by the sound of water round about, it was either near or entirely
built out over the harbor. A large section near the outer end was
walled off. Boxes, bales, parcels and packages of every sort were
heaped all about. Bell saw crated air engines lying in a row against
one wall. There were a dozen or more of them. Machinery, huge cases of
foodstuffs....

"The Buenos Aires depot," said Ortiz almost gaily. "This was the point
of receipt for all the manufactured goods which went to the _fazenda_
of Cuyaba, Senor Bell. Since you destroyed that place, it has not been
so much used. However, it will serve excellently as a tomb. There are
cases of hand grenades yonder. I advise you to carry a certain number
with you. The machine guns for the air-craft, with their ammunition,
are here...."

He was hurrying them toward the great walled-off space as he talked,
his automatic serving as a pointer when he indicated the various
objects.

"Now, here," he added as he unlocked the door, "is your vessel. The
Master bought only amphibian planes of late. Those for Cuyaba were
assembled in this little dock and took off from the water. Your
destruction up there, Senor Bell, left one quite complete but
undelivered. I think another, crated, is still in the warehouse. I
have been very busy, but if you can fuel and load it before we are
attacked...."

They were in a roofed and walled but floorless shed, built into the
warehouse itself. Water surged about below them, and on it floated a
five passenger plane, fully assembled and apparently ready to fly,
but brand new and so far unused.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I'll look it over," said Bell, briefly. He swung down the catwalk
painted on the wings. He began a swift and hasty survey. Soot on the
exhaust stacks proved that the motors had been tried, at least.
Everything seemed trim and new and glistening in the cabin. The fuel
tanks showed the barest trace of fuel. The oil tanks were full to
their filling-plugs.

He swung back up.

"Taking a chance, of course," he said curtly. "If the motors were all
right when they were tried, they probably are all right now. They may
have been tuned up, and may not. I tried the controls, and they seem
to work. For a new ship, of course, a man would like to go over it
carefully, but if we've got to hurry...."

"I think," said Ortiz, and laughed, "that haste would be desirable.
Herr Wiedkind--No! _Amigo mio_, it was that damned Antonio Calles who
listened to us last night. I found pencil marks beside the listening
instrument. He must have sat there and eavesdropped upon me many weary
hours, and scribbled as men do to pass the time. He had a pretty taste
in monograms.... I gave all the orders that were needful for you to
take off from the flying field. I even went there myself and gave
additional orders. And Calles was there. Also others of The Master's
subjects. My treason would provoke a terrible revenge from The Master,
so they thought to prove their loyalty by permitting me to disclose my
plan and foil it at its beginning.

"I would have made the journey with you to The Master, but as a
prisoner with the tale of my treason written out. So I returned and
changed the orders to the chauffeur, when all the Master's loyal
subjects were waiting at the flying field. But soon it will occur to
them what I have done. They will come here. Therefore, hasten!"

"We want food," said Bell evenly, "and arms, but mostly we want fuel.
We'll get busy."

       *       *       *       *       *

He shed his coat and picked up a hand-truck. He rammed it under a drum
of gasoline and ran it to the walkway nearest to the floating plane.
Coiled against the wall there was a long hose with a funnel at its
upper end. In seconds he had the hose end in one of the wing
fuel-tanks. In seconds more he had propped the funnel into place and
was watching the gasoline gurgling down the hose.

"Paula," he said curtly, "watch this. When it's empty roll the drum
away so I can put another in its place."

She moved quickly beside it, throwing him a little smile. She set
absorbedly about her task.

Jamison arrived with another drum of gas before the first was emptied,
and Bell was there with a third while the second still gurgled. They
heaped the full drums in place, and Jamison suddenly abandoned his
truck to swear wrathfully and tear off his spectacles and fling them
against the wall. The bushy eyebrows and beard peeled off. His coat
went down. He began to rush loads of foodstuffs, arms, and other
objects to a point from which they could be loaded on the plane. Ortiz
pointed out the things he pantingly demanded.

In minutes, it seemed, he was demanding: "How much can we take? Any
more than that?"

"No more," said Bell. "All the weight we can spare goes for fuel. See
if you can find another hose and funnel and get to work on the other
tank. I'm going to rustle oil."

He came staggering back with heavy drums of it. A thought struck him.

"How do we get out? What works the harbor door?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Ortiz pointed, smiling.

"A button, Senor, and a motor does the rest." He looked at his watch.
"I had better see if my fellow subjects have come."

He vanished, smiling his same queer smile. Bell worked frantically. He
saw Ortiz coming back, pausing to light a cigarette, and taking up a
hatchet, with which he attacked a packing case.

"They are outside, Senor," he called. "They have found the signs of
the car entering, and now are discussing."

He plucked something carefully from the packing box and went leisurely
back toward the door. Bell began to load the food and stores into the
cabin, with sweat streaming down his face.

There was the sound of a terrific explosion, and Bell jumped savagely
to solid ground.

"Keep loading! I'll hold them back!" he snapped to Jamison.

But when he went pounding to the back of the warehouse he found Ortiz
laughing.

"A hand grenade, Senor," he said in wholly unnatural levity. "Among
the subjects of The Master. I believe that I am going mad, to take
such pleasure in destruction. But since I am to die so shortly, why
not go mad, if it gives me pleasure?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He peered out a tiny hole and aimed his automatic carefully. It
spurted out all the seven shots that were left.

"The man who poisoned me," he said pleasantly. "I think he is dead. Go
back and make ready to leave, Senor Bell, because they will probably
try to storm this place soon, and then the police will come, and
then.... It is amusing that I am the one man to whom those enslaved
among the city authorities would look for The Master's orders."

Bell stared out. He saw a small horde of people, frantically agitated,
milling in the cramped and unattractive little street of Buenos Aires'
waterfront. Sheer desperation seemed to impel them, desperation and a
frantic fear. They surged forward--and Ortiz flung a hand grenade. Its
explosion was terrific, but he had perhaps purposely flung it short.
Bell suddenly saw police uniforms, fighting a way through to the front
of the crowd and the source of all this disturbance.

"Go back," said Ortiz seriously. "I shall die, Senor Bell. There is
nothing else for me to do. But I wish to die with Latin melodrama." He
managed a smile. "I will give you ten minutes more. I can hold off the
police themselves for so long. But you must hasten, because there are
police launches."

       *       *       *       *       *

He held out his hand. Bell took it.

"Good luck," said Ortiz.

"You can come--" began Bell, wrenched by the gaiety on Ortiz's face.

"Absurd," said Ortiz, smiling. "I should be murder mad within three
days. This is a preferable death, I assure you. Ten minutes, no more!"

And Bell went racing back and found Jamison rolling away the last of
the fuel drums and Paula looking anxiously for him.

"Tanks full," said Jamison curtly. "Everything set. What next?"

"Engines," said Bell.

He swung down and jerked a prop over. Again, and again.... The motor
caught. He went plunging to the other. Minutes.... They caught. He
throttled them down to the proper warming up roaring, while the air in
the enclosed space grew foul.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once more to the warehouse. Ortiz shouted and waved his hand. He was
filling his pockets with hand grenades. Bell made a gesture of
farewell and Ortiz seemed to smile as he went back to hold the
entrance for a little longer.

"We're going," said Bell grimly. "Get your guns ready, Jamison, for
when the door goes up."

He pressed on the button Ortiz had pointed out. There were more
explosions and the rattle of firearms from the front of the warehouse.
There was a sudden rumble of machinery and the blank front of the
little covered dock rose suddenly. The sunlit waters of Buenos Aires
harbor spread out before them. To Bell, who had not looked on sunlight
that day, the effect was dazzling. He blinked, and then saw a fast
little launch approaching. There were uniformed figures crowded about
its bows.

"All set!" he snapped. "I'm going to give her the gun."

"Go to it," said Jamison. "We're--"

The motors bellowed and drowned out the rest. The plane shuddered and
began to move. The sound of explosions from the back of the warehouse
was loud and continuous, now. Out into the bright sunlight the plane
moved, at first heavily, then swiftly....

Bell saw arms waving wildly in the launch with the uniformed men.
Sunlight glittered suddenly on rifle barrels. Puffs of vapor shot out.
Something spat through the wall beside Bell. But the roaring of the
motors kept up, and the pounding of the waves against the curved bow
of the boat-body grew more and more violent.... Sweat came out on
Bell's face. The ship was not lifting....

       *       *       *       *       *

But it did lift. Slowly, very slowly, carrying every pound with which
it could have risen from the water. It swept past the police launch at
ninety miles an hour, but no more than five feet above the waves. A
big, clumsy tramp flying the Norwegian flag splashed up river with its
propeller half out of water. Bell dared to rise a little so he could
bank and dodge it. He could not rise above it.

He had one glimpse of blonde, astonished beards staring over the stern
of the tramp as he swept by it, his wing tips level with its rail and
barely twenty feet away. And then he went on and on, out to sea.

He began to spiral for height fully four miles offshore, and looked
back at the sprawling city. Down by the waterfront a thick, curling
mass of smoke was rising from one spot abutting on the water. It
swayed aside and Bell saw the rectangular opening out of which the
plane had come.

"Ortiz's in there," he said, sick at heart. "Dying as he planned."

But there was a sudden upheaval of timbers and roof. A colossal burst
of smoke. A long time later the concussion of a vast explosion. There
was nothing left where the warehouse had been.

Bell looked, and swore softly to himself, and felt a fresh surge of
the hatred he bore to The Master and all his works. And then filmy
clouds loomed up but a little above the rising plane, and Bell shot
into them and straightened out for the south.

       *       *       *       *       *

For many long hours the plane floated on to southward, high above a
gray ocean which seemed deceptively placid beneath a canopy of thin
clouds. The motors roared steadily in the main, though once Bell
instructed Jamison briefly in the maintenance of a proper course and
height, and swung out into the terrific blast of air that swept past
the wings. He clung to struts and handholds and made his way out on
the catwalk to make some fine adjustment in one motor, with six
thousand feet of empty space below the swaying wing.

"Carburetter wrong," he explained when he had closed the cabin window
behind him again and the motors' roar was once more dulled. "It was
likely to make a lot of carbon in the cylinders. O.K., now."

Paula's hand touched his shyly. He smiled abstractedly at her and went
back to the controls.

And then the plane kept on steadily. Time and space have become purely
relative in these days, in startling verification of Mr. Einstein, and
the distance between Buenos Aires and Magellan Strait is great or
small, a perilous journey or a mere day's travel, according to the
mind and the transportation facilities of the voyager. Before four
o'clock in the afternoon the coast was low and sandy to the westward,
and it continued sterile and bare for long hours while the plane hung
high against the sky with a following wind driving it on vastly more
swiftly than its own engines could have contrived.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was little before sunset when the character of the shore changed
yet again, and the sun was low behind a bank of angry clouds when the
stubby forefinger of rock that Magellan optimistically named the Cape
of the Eleven Thousand Virgins reached upward from the seemingly
placid water. Bell swept lower, then, much lower, looking for a
landing place. He found it eight or nine miles farther on, on a wide
sandy beach some three miles from a lighthouse. The little plane
splashed down into tumbling sea and, half supported by the waves and
half by the lift remaining to its wings, ran for yards up upon the
hard packed sand.

The landing had been made at late twilight, and Bell moved stiffly
when he rose from the pilot's seat.

"I'm going over to that lighthouse," he said curtly. "There won't be
enough men there to be dangerous and they probably haven't frequent
communication with the town. I'll learn something, anyway. You two
stay with the plane."

Jamison lifted his eyebrows and was about to speak, but looked at
Bell's expression and stopped. Leadership is everywhere a matter of
emotion and brains together, and though Jamison had his share of
brains, he had not Bell's corroding, withering passion of hatred
against The Master and all who served him gladly. All the way down the
coast Bell had been remembering things he had seen of The Master's
doing. His power was solely that of fear, and the deputies of his
selection had necessarily been men who would spread that terror with
an unholy zest. The nature of his hold upon his subjects was such that
no honorable man would ever serve him willingly, and for deputies he
had need of men even of enthusiasm. His deputies, then, were men who
found in the assigned authority of The Master full scope for the
satisfaction of their own passions. And Bell had seen what those
passions brought about, and there was a dull flame of hatred burning
in his eyes that would never quite leave them until those men were
powerless and The Master dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You'll look after the ship and Paula," said Bell impatiently. "All
right?"

Jamison nodded. Paula looked appealingly at Bell, but he had become a
man with an obsession. Perhaps the death of Ortiz had cemented it, but
certainly he was unable to think of anything, now, but the necessity
of smashing the ghastly hold of The Master upon all the folk he had
entrapped. Subconsciously, perhaps, Bell saw in the triumph of The
Master a blow to all civilization. Less vaguely, he foresaw an attempt
at the extension of The Master's rule to his own nation. But when Bell
thought of The Master, mainly he remembered certain disconnected
incidents. The girl at Ribiera's luxurious _fazenda_ outside of Rio,
who had been ordered to persuade him to be her lover, on penalty of a
horrible madness for her infant son if she failed. Of a pale and
stricken _fazendiero_ on the Rio Laurenço who thought him a deputy and
humbly implored the grace of The Master for a moody twelve year old
girl. Of a young man who kept his father, murder mad, in a barred room
in his house and waited despairingly for that madness to be meted out
upon himself and on his wife and children. Of a white man who had been
kept in a cage in Cuyaba, with other men....

       *       *       *       *       *

Bell trudged on through the deepening night with his soul a burning
flame of hatred. He clambered amid boulders, guided by the tall
lighthouse of Cape Possession with the little white dwelling he had
seen at its base before nightfall. He fell, and rose, and forced his
way on and upward, and at last was knocking heavily at a trim and
neatly painted door.

He was so absorbed in his rage that his talk with the lighthouse
keeper seemed vague in his memory, afterward. The keeper was a wizened
little Welshman from the Chibut who spoke English with an
extraordinary mixture of a Spanish intonation and a Cimbrian accent.
Bell listened heavily and spoke more heavily still. At the end he went
back to the plane with a spindle-shanked boy with a lantern
accompanying him.

"All settled," he said grimly, when Jamison came out into the darkness
with a ready revolver to investigate the approaching light. "We get a
boat from the lighthouse keeper to go to Punta Arenas in. He's a
devout member of some peculiar sect, and he's seen enough of the hell
Punta Arenas amounts to, to believe what I told him of its cause. His
wife will look after Paula, and this boy will hitch a team to the
plane and haul it out of sight early in the morning. With the help of
God, we'll kill Ribiera and The Master before sunset to-morrow."


CHAPTER XVI

But they did not kill The Master before nightfall. It was not quite
practicable. Bell and Jamison started out well before dawn with a
favorable wind and tide, in the small launch the wizened Welshman
placed at their disposal. His air was one of dour piety, but he
accepted Bell's offer of money with an obvious relief, and criticized
his Paraguayan currency with an acid frankness until Jamison produced
Argentine pesos sufficient to pay for the boat three times over.

"I think," said Jamison dryly, "that Pau--that Miss Canalejas is safe
enough until we come back. The keeper is a godly man and knows we
have money. She'll be in no danger, except of her soul. They may try
to save that."

Bell did not answer. He could think of nothing but the mission he had
set himself. He tinkered with the engine to make it speed up, and set
the sails with infinite care to take every possible advantage of the
stiff breeze that blew. During the day, those sails proved almost as
much of a nuisance as a help. The fiendish, sullen williwaws that blow
furiously and without warning about the Strait required watching, and
more than once it was necessary to reef everything and depend on the
motor alone.

Bell watched the horizon ahead with smouldering eyes. Jamison watched
him almost worriedly.

"Look here, Bell," he said at last, "you'll get nowhere feeling like
you do. I know you've done The Master more damage than I have, but
you'll just run your head into a trap unless you use your brains. For
instance, you didn't ask about communications. There's a direct
telegraph wire from Cape Virgins to Buenos Aires, and there's
telephonic communication between the Cape and Punta Arenas. Do you
imagine that the plane wasn't seen when it came in the Cape? And do
you imagine The Master doesn't know we're here?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Bell turned, then, and frowned blackly.

"I hadn't thought of it," he said grimly, "but I put some hand
grenades in the locker, there."

"You damned fool!" said Jamison angrily. "Stop being bloodthirsty and
use your head! You haven't even asked what I've done! I've done
something, anyhow. That bundle I chucked in the bow has a couple of
sheepmen's outfits in it. Lots of sheep raised around here. We'll put
'em on before we land. And like a good general, I arranged a method of
retreat before we left B. A. There'll be a naval vessel here in two or
three days. She's carrying a party of Government scientists. She'll
anchor in Punta Arenas harbor and announce a case of some infectious
disease on board. No shore leave, you see, and nobody from shore
permitted on board her. And she has one or two damned good analytical
chemists with a damned good laboratory on board her, too. It's a long
gamble, but if we can get hold of some of The Master's poison.... Do
you see?"

"Yes," said Bell heavily. "I see. But you haven't been through what
I've been through. What I've done, fighting that devil, has caused men
to be deserted after being enslaved. There's one place, Cuyaba...."

His face twitched. That place was in his dreams, now. That place and
others where human beings had watched their bodies go mad, and had
been carried about screaming with horror at the crimes those bodies
committed....

"I'm going to kill The Master," he rasped. "That's all."

He settled down to his grim watch for the city. All during the cloudy,
overcast day he strained his eyes ahead. Jamison could make nothing of
him. In the end he had to leave Bell to his moody waiting.

       *       *       *       *       *

The morning passed, and midday, and a long afternoon. Three times Bell
came restlessly back to the engine and tried to coax more speed out of
it. But when darkness fell the town was still not in sight. They kept
on, then, steering by the stars with the motor putt-putt-putting
sturdily away in the stern. The water splashed and washed all about
them. The little boat rose, and fell, and rose and fell again.

"That's the town," said Bell grimly.

It was eleven at night, or later. Lights began to appear, very far
away, dancing miragelike on the edge of the water. They grew nearer
with almost infinite slowness. Two wide bands of many lights, with a
darker space in which a few much brighter lights showed clearly.
Presently a single red light appeared, the Punta Arenas harbor light,
twenty-five feet up on an iron pole. They passed it.

"Bell," said Jamison curtly, "it's time you showed some sense, now.
We're going to find out some things before we get reckless. This town
isn't a big one, but it always was a hell on earth. No extradition
from here. It's full of wanted men. It's dying, now, from the old days
when all ships passed the Straits before the Panama Canal opened up,
but it ought to be still a hell on earth. And we're going to put on
these sheepmen outfits, and put up at some low caste sailors' and
sheepmen's hotel on shore, and find out what is what. In the morning,
if you like--"

"In the morning," said Bell coldly, "I'm going to settle with The
Master."

       *       *       *       *       *

They found a small and filthy hotel, in a still filthier street where
the houses were alternately black and silent and empty, and filled
with the squalid hilarity most seaport towns can somehow manage to
support. The street lamps were white and cold. The dirt and squalor
showed the more plainly by their light. There were sailors from the
few ships in harbor, and women so haggard and bedraggled that shrill
laughter and lavish endearments remained their only allure. And Bell
and Jamison plodded to the reeking place in which a half-drunk
sheepman pointed, and there Bell sat grimly in the vermin infested
room while Jamison, swearing wryly, went out.

He came back later, much later. His breath was strong of bad whiskey
and he looked like a man who feels that a bath would be very
desirable. He looked like a man who feels unclean.

"Give me a cigarette," he said shortly. "I found out most of what we
want to know."

       *       *       *       *       *

Bell gave him a cigarette and waited.

"Good thing you stayed behind," said Jamison. "I want to vomit. Why
people go in hell holes for fun.... But I was very drunk and very
amorous. Picked up a woman and fed her liquor. Young, too. Damnation!
She got crying drunk and told me everything she knew. I gave her money
and left. Punta Arenas is The Master's, body and soul."

"One could have guessed it," said Bell grimly.

"Nothing like it is," said Jamison. "Every living creature, man,
woman, and child, has been fed that devilish poison of his. The
keepers of the dives go fawning to the local officials for the
antidote. The _jefe politico_ is driven in his carriage to be cured
when red spots form before his eyes. The damned place is full of
suicides, and women, and--oh, my God! It's horrible!"

A humming, buzzing noise set up off in the night somewhere. It kept up
for a long time, throttled down. Suddenly it seemed to grow louder,
changed in pitch, and dwindled as if into the far, far distance.

"That's one of The Master's planes now, no doubt," said Jamison
savagely, "going off on some errand for him. He uses this place
practically as an experiment station. The human beings here are his
guinea pigs. The deputies get a standardized form of the stuff, but
he's got it worked out in different doses so he can make a man go mad
in hours, if he chooses, instead of after a delay. I don't know how.
And The Master--"

       *       *       *       *       *

He checked himself sharply. There were shuffling footsteps in the hall
outside. A timid tap on the door. Jamison opened it, while Bell
dropped one hand inconspicuously to a weapon inside his shapeless
clothing.

The toothless and filthy old man who kept the hotel beamed in at them.

"_Senores_," he cackled. "_Vdes son de Porvenir, no es verdad?_"

Jamison hiccoughed, as one who has been out and been drunken ought to
do.

"_No, viejo_," he rumbled tipsily, "_somos de la estancia del Señor
Rubio. Vaya._"

The old man seemed to mourn that they did not come from the sheep
ranches about Porvenir Bay. But he produced a bottle with a shaking
hand, still beaming.

"_Tengo muchos amigos en Porvenir_," he chirped amiably. "_Y questa
botella--_"

"_Démela_," rumbled Jamison. He reached out his hand.

"_No mas que poquito!_" said the old man, beaming but anxious as
Jamison tilted it to his lips. "_Es visky de gentes...._"

He beamed upon Bell, and Bell swallowed a spoonful and seemed to
swallow vastly more. He lay back lazily while Jamison in the part of a
tipsy sheepherder bullied the old man amiably and eventually chased
him out.

"You're amused?" asked Jamison sardonically, when there were no more
sounds outside. "Because I said you didn't want to meet the young
senorita who loved you when she saw you downstairs? Well, Bell, if you
used your brain you didn't swallow any of that stuff."

Bell started up. Jamison caught him by the shoulder.

"I'm not sure," he said sharply. "Of course not. But it's damned funny
for a Spanish hotel keeper to give something for nothing, even when he
seemed just to want to gossip about his friends. Here. Drink this
water. It looks vile enough to take the place of mustard...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning the hotel keeper beamed upon them both as they went out
of the place. A slatternly, dark haired girl who leaned on his
shoulder smiled invitingly at Bell. And Bell, in his character of a
loutish sheepman from one of the ranches that dot the shores of the
Strait, grinned awkwardly back. But he went on with Jamison.

"We separate," said Jamison under his breath. "We want to find where
The Master lives, mostly, and then we want to find the laboratory
where his stuff is mixed. We don't want to do any killing until that's
settled. After all, the Trade has something to say!"

Bell codded indifferently and began to wander idly about the streets,
turning here and there as if moved by nothing more than the vaguest
curiosity. But gradually he was working through the sections in which
the larger buildings stood. Concrete structures, astonishingly modern,
dotted the business section. But none of them had the air that would
surround a place where a man with power of life or death would be. In
a town the size of Punta Arenas there would be unmistakable evidences
about The Master's residence, even if it were only that those who
passed it did so hurriedly and with a twinge of fear.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were prosperous men in plenty on the streets, mingled with
deserting sailors, stockmen and farmers from the villages along the
Strait, and even a few grimy men who looked like miners. But there is
a lignite mine not far from the city, and a narrow gauge railroad
running to it. Of the prosperous-seeming men, however, Bell picked out
one here and there toward whom all passersby adopted a manner of
cringing respect. Bell lounged against a pole and studied them
thoughtfully. Men with an air of amused and careless scorn which only
men with unlimited power may adopt. He saw one grossly fat man with
hard and cruel eyes. The uniformed policemen drove all traffic
abjectly out of the way of his carriage, and stood with lifted hat
until he had passed. The fat man gave no faintest sign of
acknowledgment.

"I wonder," said Bell slowly, and very grimly, "if that's The Master?"

And then a passerby dodged quickly past his shoulder, brushing against
him, and waited humbly in the street. Bell turned. A party of men were
taking up nearly all the sidewalk. There were half a dozen of them in
all. And nearly in the middle was the bulky, immaculate, pigmented
Ribiera.

Bell stiffened. But to move, beyond clearing the way, would be to
attract attention. He backed clumsily off the curbing as if making
way....

And Ribiera looked at his face.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bell's hand drifted near his hidden weapon. But Ribiera looked neither
surprised nor alarmed. He halted and chuckled.

"Ah, the Senhor Bell!"

Bell said nothing, looking as stupid as possible, merely because there
was nothing else to do.

"Ah, do not deny my acquaintance!" said Ribiera. He laughed. "I advise
you to go and look at the view, over the harbor. Good day, Senhor
Bell."

Laughing, he went off along the street. And Bell felt a cold horror
creeping over him as he realized what Ribiera might mean. Ribiera had
entirely too much against him to greet him only, in a town where even
the dogs dared not bark without The Master's express command. He had
guards with him, men who would have shot Bell down at a nod from
Ribiera.

Bell burst into a mad run for the waterfront. When the bay spread out
before his eyes he saw what Ribiera meant, and something seemed to
snap in his brain.

The plane in which he and Jamison and Paula had escaped in was
floating out in the harbor. It was unmistakable. A larger, bulkier
seaplane floated beside it. The buzzing in the air the night
before.... The arrival of the plane had been telephoned from Cape
Virgins. Through a glass, perhaps, even its alighting had been
watched. And a big seaplane had gone out to bring it back. Footprints
in the sand would lead toward the lighthouse. There would be plenty of
men to storm that, if necessary, to take the three fugitives. But they
would have found only Paula. It was quite possible that the plane had
only been sent for after Bell and Jamison had been seen to land in
Punta Arenas. And Paula in The Master's hands would explain Ribiera's
amusement perfectly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bell found Jamison looking unhurriedly for him. And Jamison glanced at
his utterly white face and said softly:

"We want to get where we can't be seen, to talk. There's the devil to
pay."

"No use hiding," said Bell. His lips seemed stiff. "Paula--"

"Hide anyway," snapped Jamison. He fairly thrust Bell into an alleyway
between two houses and thrust two rounded objects beneath his loose
fitting coat. "Two grenades. I have two more. The boat we came in is
taken--"

"So is the plane," said Bell emotionlessly.

"And there is a sign, in English, posted where we tied it up. The sign
says, '_The Senores Bell and Jamison may recover their boat on
application to The Master, and may also receive news of a late
traveling companion from him._"

"We're known," Bell told him--and amazingly found it possible to smile
faintly--"Ribiera met me on the street and spoke to me and laughed and
went on."

Jamison stared. Bell's manner was almost entirely normal again. Then
Jamison shrugged.

"The sense of what you're saying," he observed wryly, "is that we're
licked. Let us, then, go to see The Master. I confess I feel some
curiosity to know just what he's like."

       *       *       *       *       *

Bell was smiling. Being in an entirely abnormal state, he had a
curious certitude of the proper course to adopt. He went up to a
policeman and said politely, in Spanish:

"I am desired to report to The Master, himself. Will you direct me?"

The policeman abased himself instantly and trotted with them as a
guide. And Bell walked naturally, now, with his head up and his
shoulders back, and smoked leisurely as he went, and the policeman's
abasement became abject. All who walked with that air of amused
superiority in Punta Arenas were high in the service of The Master.
Obviously, the two men in these dejected clothes must also be high in
the service of The Master, and had adopted their disguise for purposes
into which a mere policeman and a slave of The Master should not dare
enquire.

Jamison was rather grim and still. Jamison thought he was walking to
his death. But Bell smiled peculiarly and talked almost gaily and--as
Jamison thought--almost irrationally.

       *       *       *       *       *

They came to a house set in a fairly spacious lawn behind a rather
high wall. There were greenhouses behind it, and there were flowers
growing as well as any flowers can be expected to grow in such high
altitudes. It was an extraordinarily cheerful dwelling to be found in
Punta Arenas, but the shuddering fear with which the little policeman
removed his hat as he entered the gateway was instructive.

They were confronted by four other policemen, on guard inside the
gate.

"_Estos Señores_--" began the abject one.

"Take us to The Master," commanded Bell in a species of amused and
superior scorn.

"It is required, Senor," said the leader of the four on guard, very
respectfully, "it is required that none enter without being searched
for weapons."

Bell laughed.

"Does The Master manage things so?" he asked scornfully. "Now, where I
am deputy no man would dare to think of a weapon to be used against
me! If it is The Master's rule, though...."

The policeman cringed. Bell scornfully thrust an automatic out.

"Take it," he snapped. "And go and tell The Master that the Senores
Bell and Jamison await his pleasure, and that they have given up
their weapons."

The policeman scuttled toward the house. Bell smiled at his cigarette.

"Do you know, Bell," said Jamison dryly, in English, "I'd hate to play
poker with you."

"I'm not bluffing," said Bell. "Not altogether. I've a four card
flush, with the draw to come."

       *       *       *       *       *

Almost instantly the policeman returned, more abject still. He had
stammered out Bell's message, just as it was given him. And the slaves
of The Master did not usually disobey orders, especially orders
designed to prevent any danger of a doomed man or woman trying to
assassinate The Master before madness was complete. Bell and Jamison
were received by liveried servants in utter silence and conducted
through a long passageway, too long to have been contained entirely in
the house as seen from the front. Indeed, they came out into a great
open greenhouse, in which the smell of flowers was heavy. There were
flowers everywhere, and a benign, small old man with a snowy beard and
hair, sat at a desk as if chatting of amiable trivialities with the
frock-coated men who stood about him. The white haired old man lifted
a blossom delicately to his nostrils and inhaled its perfume with a
sensitive delight. He looked up and smiled benignly upon the two.

It was then that Jamison got a shock surpassing all the rest. Bell's
hands were writhing at the ends of his wrists, writhing as if they
were utterly beyond his control and as if they were longing to rend
and tear....

And Bell suddenly looked down at them, and his expression was that of
a man who sees cobras at the ends of his arms.


CHAPTER XVII

There was a long pause. Bell was very calm. He seemed to tear his eyes
from the writhing hands that were peculiarly sensate, as if under the
control of in intelligence alien to his own.

"I believe," said Bell steadily, "that The Master wishes to speak to
me."

With an apparent tremendous effort of will, he thrust his hands into
his pockets. Jamison cursed softly. Bell had taken the direction of
things entirely out of his hands. It only remained to play up.

"To be sure," said a mild, benevolent voice. The man with the snowy
beard regarded Bell exactly in the fashion of an elderly
philanthropist. "I am The Master, Senor Bell. You have interested me
greatly. I have grown to have a great admiration for you. Will you be
seated? Your companion also pleases me. I would like"--and the mild
brown eyes beamed at him--"I would like to have your friendship, Senor
Bell."

"Pull out a chair for me, Jamison," said Bell in a strained voice.
"And--I'd like to have a cigarette."

Jamison, cursing under his breath, put a chair behind Bell and stuck a
cigarette between his lips. He held a match, though his hands shook.

"You might sit down, too," said Bell steadily. "From the manner of The
Master, I imagine that the conversation will take some time."

       *       *       *       *       *

He inhaled deeply of his cigarette, and faced the little man again.
And The Master looked so benevolent that he seemed absolutely
cherubic, and there was absolutely no sign of anything but the utmost
saintliness about him. His eyes were clear and mild. His complexion
was fresh and translucent. The wrinkles that showed upon his face were
those of an amiable and a serene soul filled with benevolence and
charity. He looked like one of those irritatingly optimistic old
gentlemen who habitually carry small coins and stray bits of candy in
their pockets for such small children as they may converse with under
the smiling eyes of nurses.

"Ah, Senor Bell," he said gently. "You do cause me to admire you. May
I see your hands again?"

Bell held them out. He seemed to have conquered their writhing to some
extent. But he could not hold them quite still. Sweat stood out on his
forehead. He thrust them abruptly out of sight again.

"Sad," said The Master gently. "Very sad." He sighed faintly and laid
down the rose he had been toying with. His fingers caressed the soft
petals delicately. "Fortunately," he said benevolently, "it is not yet
too late for me to relieve the strain under which you labor, Senor.
May I send for a certain medicine which will dispose of those symptoms
in a very short time?"

"We'll talk first," said Bell harshly. "I want to hear what you have
to say."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Master nodded, his fingers touching the rose petals as if in a
sensitive pleasure in their texture.

"Always courageous," he said benignly. "I admire it while I combat it.
But the Senor Jamison...."

Jamison had been looking fascinatedly at his own hands, opening and
closing the fingers with a savage abruptness. They obeyed him, though
they trembled.

"I didn't drink the damned stuff that hotel keeper brought us last
night," he growled. "Bell did. And I--"

"Wait a minute, Jamison," said Bell evenly. "Let's talk to The Master
for a while. I swore, sir," he said grimly, "that I'd kill you. I've
seen what your devilish poison does, in the hands of the men you've
chosen to distribute it. I've seen"--he swallowed and said
harshly--"I've seen enough to make me desire nothing so much as to see
you roast in hell! But you wanted to talk to me. Go ahead!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The Master beamed at him, and then glanced about at the frock-coated
men who had been attending him. Bell glanced at them. Ribiera was
there, chuckling.

"I told you, _tio mio_," he said familiarly, "that he would not be
polite. You can do nothing with him. Better have him shot."

Francia, of Paraguay, nodded amusedly to Bell as their eyes met. But
The Master shook his really rather beautiful head. An old man can be
good to look at, and with a saintly aureole of snow-white hair and the
patriarchal white beard, The Master was the picture of benign and
beautiful old age.

"Ah, you do not understand," he protested mildly. "The more the Senor
Bell shows his courage, _hijo mio_, the more we must persuade him." He
turned to Bell. "I realise," he said gently, "that there are hardships
connected with the administration of my power, Senor. It is
inevitable. But the Latin races of the continent which is now nearly
mine require strong handling. They require a strong man to lead them.
They are comfortable only under despotism. The task I have chosen for
you is different, entirely. _Los Americanos del Norte_ will not
respond to the treatment which is necessary for those _del Sud_. Their
governments, their traditions, are entirely unlike. If you become my
deputy and viceroy for all your nation, you shall rule as you will. A
benevolent, yet strong, rule is needed for your people. It may even
be--I will permit it--that the democratic institutions of your nation
may continue if you so desire. I am offering you, Senor, the position
of the absolute ruler of your nation. You may interfere with the
present government not at all, if you choose, provided only that my
own commands are obeyed when relayed through you. I choose you because
you have courage, and resource, and because you have the _Yanqui_
cleverness which will understand your nation and cope with it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Bell inhaled deeply.

"In other words," he said bitterly, "you're saying indirectly that you
offer me a chance to be the sort of ruler Americans will submit to
without too much fuss, because you think one of Ribiera's stamp would
drive them to rebellion."

The fine dark eyes twinkled.

"You have much virtue, Senor. My nephew--though he is to be my
successor--has a weakness for a pretty face. Would you prefer that I
give him the task of subduing your nation?"

"You might try it," said Bell. His eyes gleamed. "He'd be dead within
a week."

The Master laughed softly.

"I like you, Senor. I do like you indeed. I have not been so defied
since another _Americano del Norte_ defied me in this same room. But
he had not your resource. He had been enslaved with much less
difficulty than yourself. I do not remember what happened to him...."

"He was taken, Master," said a fat man with hard eyes, obsequiously,
"he was taken in Bolivia." It was the man whom Bell had seen earlier
that morning in a carriage. "You gave him to me. He had insulted me
when I ordered him sent to you. I had him killed, but he was very
obstinate."

"Ah, yes," said The Master meditatively. "You told me the details." He
seemed to recall small facts in benevolent retrospection. "But you,
Senor Bell, I have need of you. In fact, I shall insist upon your
friendship. And therefore--"

He beamed upon Bell.

"I give you back the Senorita Canalejas."

       *       *       *       *       *

He shook his head reproachfully at the utterly grim look in Bell's
eyes.

"I shall give you one single portion of the antidote to the medicine
which makes your hands behave so badly. You may take it when you
please. The Senor Jamison I shall keep and enslave. I do not think he
will be as obstinate as you are, but he has excellent qualities. If
you prove obdurate, I may yet persuade him to undertake certain tasks
for me. But you and the Senorita Canalejas are free. Your boat has
been reprovisioned and provided with fuel. You may go from here where
you will."

Ribiera snarled.

"_Tio mio_," he protested angrily, "you promised me--"

"Your will in many things," said The Master gently, "but not in all.
Remember that you have much to learn, _hijo mio_. I have taught you to
prepare my little medicine, it is true. That is so you can take my
place if age infirmity shall carry me away." The Master folded his
hands with an air of pious resignation. "But you must learn policy.
The Senorita Canalejas belongs to the Senor Bell."

Jamison was staring, now, but Bell's eyes had narrowed to mere slits.

"You see," said The Master gently, to him, "I desire your friendship.
You may go where you will. You may take the Senorita Canalejas with
you. You will have enough of the antidote to my little medicine to
keep you sane for perhaps a week. In one week you may go far, with
her. You may do many things. But you cannot find a place of safety for
her. I still have a little power, Senor. If you take her with you,
your hands will writhe again. Your body will become uncontrollable.
Your eyes, staring and horror-struck, will observe your own hands
rending her. While your brain is yet sane you will see this body of
yours which now desires her so ardently, tearing at and crushing that
delicate figure, gouging out her eyes, battering her tender flesh,
destroying her.... Have you ever seen what a man who has taken my
little medicine does to a human being at his mercy?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The figures about The Master were peculiarly tense. The fat man with
the hard eyes laughed suddenly. It was a horrible laugh. Francia of
Paraguay took out his handkerchief and delicately wiped his lips. He
was smiling. Ribiera looked at Bell's face and chuckled. His whole
gross figure shook with his amusement.

"And of course," said The Master benignly, "if you prefer to commit
suicide, if you prefer to leave her here--well, my nephew knows little
expedients to reduce her will to compliance. You recall _Yagué_, among
others."

Bell's face was a white mask of horror and fury. He tried to speak,
and failed. He raised his hand to his throat--and it tore at the
flesh, insanely.

"Let--let me see her," croaked Bell, as if strangling.

Jamison stiffened. Bell seemed to be trying to get his hands into his
pockets. They were apparently uncontrollable. He thrust them under his
coat as there was a stirring at the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

And Paula was brought in, as if she had been waiting. She was entirely
colorless, but she smiled at Bell. She came quickly to his side.

"I heard," she said in a clear and even little voice. "We will go
together, Charles. If there is a week in which we can be together, it
will be so much of happiness. And when you are--The Master's victim,
we will let the little boat sink, and sink with it. I do not wish to
live without you, Charles, and you do not wish to live as his slave."

Bell gave utterance to a sudden laugh that was like a bark. His hands
came out from under his coat. Dangling from each one was a small,
pear-shaped globule of metal. A staff projected upward from each one,
and he held those staffs in his writhing hands. About each wrist was a
tiny loop of cord that went down to a pin at the base of the staffs.

"Close to me, Paula," he said coldly. She clung to his arm. He moved
forward, with half-a-dozen revolver muzzles pointed at his breast.

"If one of you damned fools fires," he said harshly, "I'll let go.
When I let go--these are Mills grenades, and they go off in three
seconds after they leave the hand. Stand still!"

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a terrible, frozen silence. Then a movement from behind
Bell. Jamison was rising with a grunt.

"Some day, Bell," he observed coolly, "I'll be on to all of your
curves. This is the best one yet. But you're likely to let go at any
second, aren't you?"

"Like hell!" raged Bell. "I drank some of your poison," he snarled at
The Master. "Yes! I was fool enough to do it! But I took what measures
any man will take who finds he's swallowed poison. I got it out of my
stomach at once. And if you or one of these deputies tries to
move...."

Ribiera had blanched to a pasty gray. The Master was frozen. But Bell
saw Ribiera's eyes move in swift calculation. There was a solid wall
behind The Master. It seemed as if the greenhouse were a sort of
passageway between two larger structures. And there was a door almost
immediately behind Ribiera. Ribiera glanced right--left--

He flung himself through that door. He knew the secret of The Master's
power. He was The Master's appointed successor. If The Master and all
his deputies died, Ribiera....

But Bell snapped into action like a bent spring released. His arm shot
forward. A grenade went hurtling through the door through which
Ribiera had fled. There was an instantaneous, terrific explosion. The
solid wall shook and shivered and, with a vast deliberation,
collapsed. The greenhouse was full of crushed plaster dust. Panes of
glass shivered....

But Bell was upon The Master. He had struck the little man down and
stood over him, his remaining automatic replacing the grenade he had
thrown.

"Ribiera's dead," he snapped, "and if I'm shot The Master dies too and
you all go mad! Stand back!"

The deputies stood frozen.

"I think," said Jamison composedly, "I take a hand now. I'll pick him
up, Bell.... Right. I've got him. With a grenade hanging down his
back. If he jerks away from me, or I from him, it will blow his spine
to bits."

"Hold him so," said Bell coldly.

       *       *       *       *       *

He went coolly to where he could look over the heap of the collapsed
wall. He saw a bundle of torn clothing that had been a man. It was
flung against a cracked and tottering chimney.

"Right," he said evenly. "Ribiera's dead, all right."

He turned to the deputies, whose revolvers were still in their hands.

"The Master's carriage, please," he said politely. "To the door. You
may accompany us if you please, but in other carriages. I am working
for the release of all the Master's slaves, and you among them if you
choose. But you can see very easily that there is no hope of the
release of The Master without the meeting of my terms."

The Master spoke, softly and mildly and without fear.

"It is my order that the Senor Bell is to be obeyed. I shall return.
You need have no fear of my death. My carriage."

A man went stiffly, half-paralyzed with terror, to where chattering
scared servants were grouped in the awful fear that came upon the
slaves of The Master at any threat to his rule.

But Bell and Paula and Jamison went slowly and cautiously--though they
held the whip hand--to the entrance door of the house, and out to the
entrance gate. A carriage was already before the door when they
reached it, and others were drawing up in a line behind it.

"Get in," said Bell briefly. "Down to the waterfront."

He turned to the group of frock-coated, stricken men who had followed.

"Some of you men," he said coldly, "had better go on ahead and warn
the police and the public generally about the certainty of The
Master's death if any attempt is made to rescue him."

Francia, of Paraguay, summoned a swagger and raised his hand to the
second carriage. It drew in to the curb.

"I will attend to it, Senor Bell," he said politely. "Ah, when I think
that I once raised my revolver to shoot you and refrained!"

He drove off swiftly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bell's eyes were glowing. He got into the carriage, and such a
procession drove through the streets of Punta Arenas as has rarely
moved through the streets of any city in the world. The long line of
carriages moved at a funereal pace amid a surging, terrified mob. The
Master beamed placidly as he looked out over white, starkly agonized
faces. Some of the people groaned audibly. A few cursed The Master in
their despair. More cursed Bell, not daring to strike or fire on him.
But he would have been torn to bits if he had stepped from the
carriage for an instant.

"Bell," said Jamison dryly, "considering that I'm prepared to be blown
apart on three seconds notice, it is peculiar that this mob frightens
me."

The Master's eyes twinkled benignly. He seemed totally insensible to
fear.

"You need not be afraid," he said gently. "They will not touch you
unless I order them."

Jamison stared down at the little man whose collar he held firmly,
with a Mills grenade dangling down at the base of his neck.

"I wouldn't order them to attack, if I were you," he said coldly. "I
haven't Bell's brains, but I have just as much dislike for you as he
has."

       *       *       *       *       *

They came to the harbor. Bell spoke again.

"The carriage is to drive out to the end of one of the docks, and no
one else is to go out on that dock."

The Master relayed the order in his mild voice, but as the coachman
obeyed him he clucked his tongue commiseratingly.

"Senor Bell," he protested gently. "You do not expect to escape! Not
after killing me! Why that is absurd!"

Bell said nothing. He alighted from the carriage, his face set grimly,
and stared ashore at the long, long row of terrified faces staring out
at him. The whole waterfront seemed to be lined with staring faces.
Wails came from that mass of enslaved human beings.

"Hold him here, Jamison," he said drearily. "I'm going out to look at
that big plane. There's a rowboat tied to the dock, here."

He swung down the side into the dock and rowed off into the harbor,
while the horses attached to The Master's carriage pawed impatiently
at the wooden flooring of the dock. Bell reached the two planes
anchored on the still harbor water. The smaller one had brought them
down from Buenos Aires. The larger one had gone after the beached
amphibian and brought it and Paula on to the city. Bell, from the
shore, was seen to be investigating the larger one. He came rowing
back.

His head appeared above the dock edge.

"All right," he said tiredly. "The Master has a rule requiring all his
ships ready for instant flight. Very useful. The big plane is fueled
and full of oil. We'll go out to it and take off."

       *       *       *       *       *

Jamison lifted The Master to his feet and with a surge of muscles
swept him down to the flooring of the dock.

"Paula first," said Bell, "and then The Master, and then you,
Jamison."

"One moment," said The Master reproachfully. "It would be cruel not to
let me reassure my subjects. I will give an order."

Bell and Jamison listened suspiciously. But he spoke gently to the
coachman.

"You will tell the deputies," said The Master in Spanish, "that a
month's supply of medicine for all my subjects will be found in my
laboratory. And you may tell them that I shall return before the end
of that time."

The coachman's eyes filled with a passionate relief.

"Now," said The Master placidly, "I am ready for our little jaunt."

Paula descended the ladder and seated herself in the bow of the boat.
Bell covered The Master grimly with his automatic as he descended,
with surprising agility. Jamison came down last, and resumed his
former grip on The Master's collar. Bell rowed out to the big plane.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jamison kept close watch while Bell started the four huge motors and
throttled them down to warming up speed, and while he hauled up the
anchor with which the huge seaplane was anchored.

The dock was covered with a swarm of panic stricken folk. Everywhere,
all the inhabitants of the city who were slaves to The Master had come
in awful terror to watch. And all the inhabitants of the city were
slaves to The Master. Some of them fell to their knees and held out
imploring arms to Bell, begging him for mercy and the return of The
Master. Some cursed wildly.

But, with his jaws set grimly, Bell gave the motors the gun.

The big plane moved heavily, then more swiftly through the water. It
lifted slowly, and rose, and rose, and dwindled to a speck high in the
air.

And all through the streets and ways of Punta Arenas, fear stalked
almost as a tangible thing. Panic hovered over the housetops, always
ready to descend. Terror was in the air that every man breathed, and
every human being looked at every other human being with staring,
haunted eyes. Punta Arenas was waiting for its murder madness to
begin.


CHAPTER XVIII

There were four motors to pull the big plane through the air, and
their roaring was a vast thundering noise which the earth re-echoed.
But inside the cabin that tumult was reduced to a not intolerable
bumming sound.

"What'll I do with this devil, Bell?" asked Jamison. "Now that we're
aloft, I confess this grenade makes me nervous. I'm holding it so
tightly my fingers are getting cramped."

"Tie him up," said Bell, without looking. "He'll talk presently."

Movements. The plane flew on, swaying slightly in the way of big
sea-planes everywhere. A williwaw began in the hills ahead and swept
out and set the ship to reeling crazily in its erratic currents. The
Strait vanished and there were tumbled hills below them. Minutes
passed.

"Got him fixed up," said Jamison coolly, "I'll guarantee he won't
break loose. Got any plans, Bell?"

"No time," said Bell. "I haven't had time to make any. The first thing
is to get where his folk will never find us. Then we'll see what we
can do with him."

Paula looked at the now bound figure of The Master. And the little old
man beamed at her.

"He--he's smiling!" said Paula, in a voice that was full of a peculiar
horrified shock.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bell shrugged. Punta Arenas was all of twenty-five miles behind, and
the earth over which they _flew_ began to take on the shape of an
island. Water appeared beyond it, and innumerable small islands. Bell
began to rack his brain for the infinitesimal scraps of knowledge he
had about this section of the world. It was pitifully scanty. Punta
Arenas was the southernmost point of the continental mass. All about
it was an archipelago and a maze of waterways, thinly inhabited
everywhere and largely without any inhabitants at all. The only solid
ground between Cape Horn and the Antarctic ice pack was Diego Ramirez
and the South Shetlands....

Nothing to go on. But any sufficiently isolated and desolate spot
would do. Almost anywhere along the southern edge of the continental
islands should serve.

The plane roared on monotonously, while Bell began to wrestle with
another and more serious problem. In three days--two, now--an American
naval vessel would turn up, with scientists and chemists on board. It
was to be doubted whether anything like an overt act would be risked
by that vessel. If all the governments of South America were under The
Master's thumb, then cabled orders from his deputies would race three
navies to the spot. And the government of the United States does not
like to start war, anywhere. Certainly it would not willingly enter
into a conflict with the whole southern continent for the solution of
a problem that so far affected that continent alone. The Master's
kidnapping had solved nothing, so far.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jamison tapped his shoulder.

"No pursuit, so far," he observed coolly. "I've looked." Bell nodded.

"They don't dare. Not yet, anyhow. They're depending on The Master.
How is he?"

"Smiling peacefully to himself, damn him!" snarled Jamison. "Do you
know what we're up against?"

"Ourselves," said Bell coldly. "But I'm nearly licked. He's got to
talk!"

Jamison moved away again. The earth below looked as if it had been
torn to shreds in some titanic convulsion of ages past. The sea was
everywhere, and so was land! There were little threads of silver
interlacing and crossing and wavering erratically in every conceivable
direction. And there were specks of islands--rocks only yards in
extent--and islands of every imaginable size and shape, with their
surfaces in every possible state of upheaval and distortion. A broader
mass of land appeared ahead and to the left.

"Tierra del Fuego again," muttered Bell. "If we cross it...."

For fifteen minutes the plane thundered across desolate, rocky hills.
Then the maze of islets again. Bell scanned them keenly, and saw a
tiny steamer traveling smokily, for no conceivable reason, among the
scattered bits of stone. The sea appeared, stretching out toward
infinity.

Bell rose, to survey a wider space. He swung to the left, so that he
was heading nearly southeast, and went on down toward that desolation
of desolations, the stormy cape which faces the eternal ice of the
antarctic. He was five thousand feet up, then, and scanning sea and
earth and sky....

And suddenly he swung sharply to the right and headed out toward the
open sea. He felt a small figure pressing against his shoulder.
Presently fingers closed tightly upon his sleeve. He glanced down at
Paula and managed to smile.

"There are some rocks out there," he told her quietly. "Islands, I
think, and Diego Ramirez, at a guess."

       *       *       *       *       *

They were specks, no more, but they were vastly more distinct from the
plane than from Mount Beaufoy. That is on Henderson Island in New Year
Sound, and its seventeen-hundred-foot peak was almost below Bell when
he sighted the islands. But the islands have been seen full fifty
miles from there.

It took the plane nearly forty minutes to cover the space, but long
before that the islands had become distinct. Two tiny groups of
scattered rocks, the whole group hardly five miles in length and by
far the greater number no more than boulders surrounded by sheets of
foam from breakers. Two of them merited the name of islands. The
nearer was high and bare and precipitous. No trace of vegetation
showed upon it. The farther was smaller, and at its northern corner a
little cove showed, nearly land-locked.

Bell descended steeply. The big plane plunged wildly in the air eddies
about the taller island at five hundred feet, but steadied and went
winging on down lower, and lower.... The waves between the two
islands were not high, but the seaplane alighted with a mighty, a
tremendous splashing, and Bell navigated it grimly though clumsily
into the mouth of the cove. There a small beach showed. He went very
slowly toward it. Presently he swung abruptly about. A wing tip float
grounded close to the shore.

The motors cut off and left a thunderous silence. Bell climbed atop
the cabin and let go the anchor.

"We're here," he said shortly. "Bring The Master and we'll go ashore."

       *       *       *       *       *

The catwalk painted on the lower wing guided them. Bell jumped to the
rocks first, and stumbled, and then rose to lift Paula down and take
The Master's small, frail body from Jamison's arms.

"You looked for a gun?" asked Bell

"He'd nothing to fight with," said Jamison heavily. He had been facing
the same problem Bell had worked on desperately, and had found no
answer. But he shuddered a little as he looked about the island.

There was nothing in sight but rock. No moss. No lichens. Not even
stringy grass or the tufty scrub bushes that seemed able to grow
anywhere.

Bell untied The Master, carefully but without solicitude. The little
man sat up, and brushed himself off carefully, and arranged himself in
a comfortable position.

"I am an old man," said The Master in mild reproach. "You might at
least have given me a cushion to sit upon."

Bell sat down and lighted a cigarette with fingers that did not
tremble in the least.

"Suppose," he said hardly, "you talk. First, of what your poison is
made. Second, of what the antidote is made. Third, how we may be sure
you tell the truth."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Master looked at him with bright, shrewd, and apparently kindly
old eyes.

"_Hijo mio_," he said mildly, "I am an old man. But I am obstinate. I
will tell you nothing."

Bell's eyes glowed coldly.

"Does it occur to you," he asked grimly, "that it's too important a
matter for us to have any scruples about? That we can--and will--make
you talk?"

"You may kill me," said The Master benignly, "but that is all."

"And," said Bell, still more grimly, "we have only to get back in the
plane yonder, and go away...."

The Master beamed at him. Presently he began to laugh softly.

"_Hijo mio_," he said gently, "let us stop this little byplay. You
will take me back in my airplane, and you will land me at Punta
Arenas. And then you will fly away. I concede you freedom, but that is
all. You cannot leave me here."

"Paula," said Bell coldly, "get in the plane again. Jamison--"

Paula rose doubtfully. Jamison stood up. The Master continued to
chuckle amiably.

"You see," he said cherubically, "you happen to be a gentleman, Senor
Bell. Every man has some weakness. That is yours. And you will not
leave me here to die, because you have killed my nephew, who was the
only other man who knew how to prepare my little medicine. And you
know, Senor, that all my subjects will wish to die. Those who do, in
fact," he added mildly, "will be fortunate. The effect of my little
medicine does not make for happiness without its antidote."

       *       *       *       *       *

Bell's hands clenched.

"You know," said The Master comfortably, "that there are many
thousands of people whose hands will writhe, very soon. The city of
Punta Arenas will be turned into a snarling place of maniacs within a
very little while--if I do not return. Would you like, Senor, to think
in after days of that pleasant city filled with men and women tearing
each other like beasts? Of little children, even, crouching, and
crushing and rending the tender flesh of other little children? Of
lisping little ones gone--"

"Stop!" snarled Bell, in a frenzy. "Damn your soul! You're right! I
can't! You win--so far!"

"Always," said The Master benevolently. "I win always. And you forget,
Senor. You have seen the worst side of my rule. The revolutions, the
rebellions that have made men free, were they pretty things to watch?
Always, _amigo_, the worst comes. But when my rule is secure, then you
shall see."

       *       *       *       *       *

He waved a soft, beautifully formed hand. From every possible aspect
the situation was a contradiction of all reason. The bare, black, salt
encrusted rocks with no trace of vegetation showing. The gray water
rumbling and surging among the uneven rocks at the base of the shore,
while gulls screamed hoarsely overhead. The white haired little man
with his benevolent face, smiling confidently at the two grim men.

"The time will come," said The Master gently, and in the tone of utter
confidence with which one states an inescapable fact, "the time will
come when all the earth will know my rule. The taking of my little
medicine will be as commonplace a thing as the smoking of tobacco,
which I abhor, Senores. You are mistaken about there being an antidote
and a poison. It is one medicine only. One little compound. A
vegetable substance, Senor Bell, combined with a product of modern
chemistry. It is a synthetic drug. Modern chemistry is a magnificent
science, and my little medicine is its triumph. Even my deputies have
not heard me speak so, Senores."

Bell snarled wordlessly, but if one had noticed his eyes they would
have been seen to be curiously cool and alert and waiting. The Master
leaned forward, and for once spoke seriously, almost reverently.

"There shall be a forward step, Senores, in the race of men. Do you
know the difference between the brain of a man and that of an
anthropoid ape? It consists only of a filmy layer of cortex, a film of
gray nerve cells which the ape has not. And that little layer creates
the difference between ape and man. And I have discovered more. My
little medicine acts upon that film. Administered in the tiny
quantities I have given to my slaves, it has no perceptible effect. It
is merely a compound of a vegetable substance and a synthetic organic
base. It is not excreted from the body. Like lead, it remains always
in solution in the blood. But in or out of the blood it changes,
always, to the substance which causes murder madness. Fresh or
changed, my little medicine acts upon the brain."

       *       *       *       *       *

He smiled brightly upon them.

"But though in tiny quantities it has but little effect, in larger
quantities--when fresh it makes the functioning of the gray cells of
the human brain as far superior to the unmedicated gray cells, as
those human gray cells are to the white cells of the ape! That is what
I have to offer to the human race! Intelligence for every man, which
shall be as the genius of the past!"

He laughed softly.

"Think, Senores! Compare the estate of men with the estate of apes!
Compare the civilization which will arise upon the earth when men's
brains are as far above their present level as the present level is
above the anthropoid! The upward steps of the human race under my rule
will parallel, will surpass the advance from the brutish caveman to
intellectual genius. But I have seen, Senores, the one danger in my
offering."

There was silence. Jamison shook his head despairingly. The Master
could not see him. He formed the word with his lips.

"Crazy!"

       *       *       *       *       *

But Bell said coldly:

"Go on."

"I must rule," said The Master soberly. "It is essential. If my little
secret were known, intelligences would be magnified, but under many
flags and with many aims. Scientists, with genius beside which
Newton's pales, would seek out deadly weapons for war. The world would
destroy itself of its own genius. But under my rule--"

"Men go mad," said Bell coldly.

The Master smiled reproachfully.

"Ah, you are trying to make me angry, so that I will betray something!
You are clever, Senor Bell. With my little medicine, in such
quantities as I would administer it to you...."

"You describe it," said Bell harshly and dogmatically, "as a brain
stimulant. But it drives men mad."

"To be sure," said The Master mildly. "It does. It is not excreted
from the body save very, very slowly. But it changes in the blood
stream. As--let us say--sugar changes into alcohol in digestion. The
end-product of my little medicine is a poison which attacks the brain.
But the slightest bit of unchanged medicine is an antidote. It is"--he
smiled amiably--"it is as if sugar in the body changed to alcohol, and
alcohol was a poison, but sugar--unchanged--was an antidote. That is
it exactly. You see that I have taken my little medicine for years,
and it has not harmed me."

"Which," said Bell--and somehow his manner made utter silence fall so
that each word fell separately into a vast stillness--"which, thank
God, is the one thing that wins finally, for me!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He stood up and laughed. Quite a genuine laugh.

"Paula," he said comfortably, "get on the plane. In the cabin. Jamison
and I are going to strip The Master."

Paula stared. The Master looked at him blankly. Jamison frowned
bewilderedly, but stood up grimly to obey.

"But Senor," said The Master in gentle dignity, "merely to humiliate
me--"

"Not for that," said Bell. He laughed again. "But all the time I've
been hearing about the stuff, I've noticed that nobody thought of it
as a drug. It was a poison. People were poisoned. They did not become
addicts. But you--you are the only addict to your drug."

He turned to Jamison, his eyes gleaming.

"Jamison," he said softly, "did you ever know of a drug addict who
could bear to think of ever being without a supply of his drug--_right
on his person_?"

Jamison literally jumped.

"By God! No!"

The Master was quick. He was swarming up the plane-wing tip before
Jamison reached him, and he kicked frenziedly when Jamison plucked him
off. But then it was wholly, entirely, utterly horrible that the
little white haired man, whose face and manner had seemed so cherubic
and so bland, should shriek in so complete a blind panic as they
forced his fingers open and took a fountain pen away from him.

"This is it," said Bell in a deep satisfaction. "This is his point of
weakness."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Master was ghastly to look at, now. Jamison held him gently
enough, considering everything, but The Master looked at that fountain
pen as one might look at Paradise.

"I--I swear," he gasped. "I--swear I will give you the formula!"

"You might lie," said Jamison grimly.

"I swear it!" panted The Master in agony. "It--If the formula is known
it--can be duplicated! It--the excretion can be hastened! It can all
be forced from the body! Simply! So simply! If only you know! I will
tell you how it is done! The medicine is the cacodylate of--"

Bell was leaning forward, now, like a runner breasting the tape at the
end of a long and exhausting race.

"I'll trade," he said softly. "Half the contents of the pen for the
formula. The other half we'll need for analysis. Half the stuff in the
pen for the formula for freeing your slaves!"

The Master sobbed.

"A--a pencil!" he gasped. "I swear--"

Jamison gave him a pencil and a notebook. He wrote, his hinds shaking.
Jamison read inscrutably.

"It doesn't mean anything to me," he said soberly, "but you can read
it. It's legible."

Bell smiled faintly. With steady finger he took his own fountain pen
from his pocket. He emptied it of ink, and put a scrupulous half of a
milky liquid from The Master's pen into it. He passed it over.

"Your medicine," said Bell quietly, "may taste somewhat of ink, but it
will not be poisonous. Now, what do we do with you? I give you your
choice. If we take you with us, you will be held very secretly as a
prisoner until the truth of the information you have given us can be
proven. And if your slaves have all been freed, then I suppose you
will be tried...."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Master was drawn and haggard. He looked very, very old and beaten.

"I--I would prefer," he said dully, "that you did not tell where I am,
and that you go away and leave me here. I--I may have some subjects
who will search for me, and--they may discover me here.... But I am
beaten, Senor. You know that you have won."

Bell swung up on the wing of the plane. He explored about in the
cabin. He came back.

"There are emergency supplies," he said coldly. "We will leave them
with you, with such things as may be useful to allow you to hope as
long as possible. I do not think you will ever be found here."

"I--prefer it, Senor," said The Master dully. "I--I will catch
fish...."

Jamison helped put the packages ashore. The Master shivered. Bell
stripped off his coat and put it on top of the heap of packages. The
Master did not stir. Bell laid a revolver on top of his coat. He went
out to the plane and started the motors. The Master watched
apathetically as the big seaplane pulled clumsily out of the little
cove. The rumble of the engines became a mighty roar. It started
forward with a rush, skimmed the water for two hundred yards or so,
and suddenly lifted clear to go floating away through the air toward
the north.

       *       *       *       *       *

Paula was the only one who looked back.

"He's crying," she said uncomfortably.

"It isn't fear," said Bell quietly. "It's grief at the loss of his
ambition. It may not seem so to you two, but I believe he meant all
that stuff he told me. He was probably really aiming, in his own way,
for an improved world for men to live in."

The plane roared on. Presently Bell said shortly:

"That stuff he has won't last indefinitely. I'm glad I left him that
revolver."

Jamison stirred suddenly. He dug down in his pocket and fished out a
cigar.

"Since I feel that I may live long enough to finish smoking this," he
observed dryly, "I think I'll light it. I haven't felt that I had
twenty minutes of life ahead of me for a long time, now. A sense of
economy made me smoke cigarettes. It wouldn't be so much waste if you
left half a cigarette behind you when you were killed."

       *       *       *       *       *

The tight little cabin began to reek of the tobacco. Paula pressed
close to Bell.

"But--Charles," she asked hopefully, "is--is it really all right,
now?"

"I think so," said Bell, frowning. "Our job's over, anyhow. We go up
the Chilean coast and find that navy boat. We turn our stuff over to
them. They'll take over the task of seeing that every doctor,
everywhere in South America, knows how to get The Master's poison out
of the system of anybody who's affected. Some of them won't be
reached, but most of them will. I looked at his formula. Standard
drugs, all of them. There won't be any trouble getting the news
spread. The Master's slaves will nearly go crazy with joy. And," he
added grimly, "I'm going to see to it that the Rio police take back
what they said about us. I think we'll have enough pull to demand that
much!"

He was silent for a moment or so, thinking.

"I do think, Jamison," he said presently, "we did a pretty good job."

Jamison grunted.

"If--if it's really over," said Paula hopefully, "Charles--"

"What?"

"You--will be able to think about me sometimes," asked Paula
wistfully, "instead of about The Master always?"

Bell stared down at her.

"Good Lord!" he groaned. "I have been a brute, Paula! But I've been
loving you--" He stopped, and then said with the elaborate politeness
and something of the customary idiotic air of a man making such an
announcement. "I say, Jamison, did you know Paula and I were to be
married?"

Jamison snorted. Then he said placidly:

"No. Of course not. I never dreamed of such a thing. When did this
remarkably original idea occur to you?"

He puffed a huge cloud of smoke from his cigar. It was an unusually
vile cigar. Bell scowled at him helplessly for a moment and then said
wrathfully:

"Oh, go to hell!"

And he bent over and kissed Paula.

(_The End._)

[Advertisement: IN THE NEXT ISSUE

JETTA OF THE LOWLANDS
_Beginning an Exciting Three-Part Novel of the Nares Deep_
By Ray Cummings

AN ATTACK FROM SPACE
_A Sequel to "Beyond the Heaviside Layer"_
By Captain S. P. Meek

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_A Thrilling Novelet of the Ocean Floor_
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EARTH, THE MARAUDER
_The Conclusion of the Tremendous Novel_
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The Flying City

_By H. Thompson Rich_

[Illustration: The ray shot down--and squadrons of planes frizzled
like moths in the air.]

[Sidenote: From Space came Cor's disc-city of Vada--its mighty,
age-old engines weakening--its horde of dwarfs hungry for the Earth!]


In the burning solitude of the great Arizona desert, some two miles
south of Ajo, a young scientist was about to perform an experiment
that might have far-reaching results for humanity.

The scientist was Gordon Kendrick--a tall, tanned, robust chap who
looked more like a prospector in search of gold than a professor of
physics from the State University of Tucson.

Indeed, he was in a way, a prospector, since it was gold he
sought--some practical method of tapping the vast radio-energetic
treasure of the sun--and it was an apparatus designed to accomplish
just this that he was about to test.

The primary unit of the mechanism comprised a spheroidal vacuum-tube
measuring a little over a foot across its long axis, mounted in a
steel bracket that held it horizontal with the ground. Down through
its short axis ran a shaft on which was centered a light cross of
aluminum wire, carrying four vanes of mica, one face of each coated
with lampblack. A flexible cable led from the bottom of this shaft to
the base of the bracket, where it was geared to a small electric motor
driven by two dry cells. A rheostat-switch for delivering and
controlling the current was mounted nearby.

[Illustration]

At the wide arc of the egg-shaped tube was a concave platinum cathode,
at the narrow arc a nib of some sort, ending in a socket. From this
socket, two heavy insulated wires extended sixty feet or so across the
sand to the secondary unit of the mechanism, which was roughly a
series of resistance coils, resembling those in an ordinary electric
heater.

       *       *       *       *       *

As Kendrick prepared to test this delicate apparatus that represented
so much of his time and thought, held so much of his hope locked up in
it, a turmoil was in his heart, though his brown face was calm.

If his theories were right, that revolving cross would tap and draw
into its vanes radio-energetic waves of force, much as the whirling
armature of a dynamo draws into its coils electro-magnetic waves of
force. For the blackened sides of the vanes, absorbing more radiation
than the bright sides, would cause the molecules to rebound from the
warmer surfaces with greater velocity, setting up an alternate
pressure and bringing the rays to a focus on the cathode, where they
would be reflected to the nib as waves of _heatricity_, to use the
word he had coined.

Those were Kendrick's theories, and now he moved to put them to the
supreme test. Switching on the current, he set the motor going. In
response, the cross began to revolve, slowly at first--then faster,
faster, as he opened the rheostat wider.

Eyes fixed on his resistance coils, he gave a sudden cry of triumph.
Yes, there was no doubt about it! They were growing red, glowing
brightly, whitely, above the intense desert sunlight.

Here was a means of convening solar radiation into heat, then, that
offered tremendous commercial possibilities!

But even as he exulted, there came a blinding flash--and the overtaxed
coils burst into flame.

       *       *       *       *       *

Shielding his eyes from the glare, he reached for the rheostat, shut
off the current, rushed to his secondary unit--where he beheld an
amazing sight. Not only had this part of the apparatus completely
disintegrated, but the sand of the desert floor under it as well. On
the spot quivered a miniature lake of molten glass!

As Kendrick stood ruefully beside that fiery pool, meditating on the
spectacular but not altogether gratifying results of his experiment, a
peculiar low humming sound reached his ears. Rushing back to his
primary unit, with the thought that perhaps by some chance he had not
fully closed the rheostat, he looked at the cross. But no, the vanes
were still.

The humming increased, however--grew into a vibration that made his
eardrums ache.

Puzzled, he looked around. What on earth could it be? Had his unruly
experiment called into play some tremendous, unsuspected force of the
universe. Was he to bring the world to ruin, as a result of his blind
groping after this new giant of power?

Such predictions had often been made by the ignorant, to be dismissed
by scientists as the veriest nonsense. But was there some truth in the
universal fear, after all? Was he to be the Prometheus who stole fire
from Olympus, the Samson who toppled down the temple?

Chilled, dizzied with the pain of the ever-increasing vibration, he
gritted his teeth, awaiting he knew not what.

Then it came--a spectacle so staggering that he went rigid with awe as
he regarded it, all power of motion utterly numbed for the moment. The
vibration ceased. The thing appeared.

It was a city--a city in the air--a flying city!

       *       *       *       *       *

As Kendrick stood staring at this phenomenon, he could scarcely credit
his senses.

Had the magic carpet of Bagdad suddenly materialized before him, he
would not have been more astounded. And indeed, it was in a way a
magic carpet--a great disclike affair, several miles in diameter, its
myriad towers and spires glinting like gold under the noonday sun,
while its vast shadow fell athwart the desert like the pall of an
eclipse.

The lower portion, he noted, was in the main flat, though a number of
wartish protuberances jutted down from it, ejecting a pale violet
emanation. Whatever this was it seemed to have the effect of holding
the thing motionless in the air, for it hovered there quite easily, a
hundred yards or so above the ground.

But what was it? Where was it from? What had brought it?

Those were the questions he wanted answered; and they were to be,
sooner than he knew.

As he stood there speculating, a device like a trap-door opened in the
base of the disc, and creatures resembling human beings began
descending. Began floating down, rather.

Whereupon Kendrick did what any sensible man would have done, under
similar circumstances. He reacted into motion. In short, he ran.

       *       *       *       *       *

Glancing back over his shoulder after a minute or two, however, he
drew up sheepishly. Of that strange apparition and those who had
descended from it there was not a trace, not a shadow!

But the peculiar humming had recommenced, he realized in the next
breath--and at the same instant he felt himself seized by invisible
hands.

There was a struggle, but it was brief and futile. When it was over
his captors became visible once more. They were singular little beings
about four feet tall, with strange, wise, leathery faces, their heads
grotesquely bald.

The humming had ceased again. The disc, too, was once more visible.

What happened next was something even more astounding, if there could
be any further degrees of wonder possible for the utterly baffled
young scientist. He felt himself lifted up, leaving the desert floor,
whirling away toward that incredible phenomenon hovering there.

Another moment or two and he had been borne up through its trap-door
opening, was standing in a dark space bounded by solid metal walls.
Then he was thrust into a cylinder with several of his tiny guards,
shot swiftly upward.

       *       *       *       *       *

A door opened as they came to rest, and he was led out into a vast
court of gleaming amber crystal. Something like a taxi slid up, with
irridescent planes, and he was bundled into it, whirled away again.

Down broad, gleaming avenues they passed, where similar traffic flowed
densely, but under marvelous control. Towering skyscrapers loomed to
right and left. Tier on tier of upper and lower boulevards revealed
themselves, all crowded with automotive and pedestrian activity.

At length a stupendous concourse was reached. Thousands of these taxis
and similar vehicles were parked along its broad flanks, while literal
swarms of diminutive individuals circulated to and fro.

Assisted from the vehicle that had brought him to this obvious center
of the disc's activities. Kendrick was led into a monumental structure
of jade-green stone that towered a full hundred, stories above the
street level. There he was escorted into another of those
projectilelike elevators, shot up, up--till at length it came to rest.
The door opened and he was led out into a small lobby of the same
amber crystal he had observed before.

By now his guards had diminished to two, but he no longer made any
effort to escape. Wherever this amazing adventure might lead, he was
resolved to follow it through.

One of the guards had advanced to a jewelled door and was pressing a
button. In response, the door opened. A golden-robed, regal creature
stood there.

       *       *       *       *       *

Though dwarfed to four feet, like his fellow, he was obviously their
mental superior to a prodigious degree. Not only was his symmetrical
bald head of large brain content, but the finely-cut features of his
parchment face bore the unmistakable stamp of a powerful intellect.

"_Ao-chaa!_" commanded this evident monarch of the disc, addressing
the guards.

They bowed and departed, abruptly.

"My dear Kendrick!" the regal personage now said, in thin, precise
English. "It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you to my humble
quarters. Pray enter and make yourself comfortable."

Whereupon he ushered him into a dazzling apartment that was one vast
mosaic of precious gems, indicated a richly carved chair, into which
the young scientist dropped wonderingly.

"Now then, Professor," continued the mighty little dwarf, when he was
seated in a chair even more sumptuous, "suppose we have a friendly
little discussion. I have been much interested in your experiments on
heat radiation. What you demonstrated this morning, in particular, was
most absorbing. You have hit upon a rather profound scientific
principle, yes?"

"Possibly," Kendrick admitted, quite conscious that he was being
patronized.

"Oh, don't be modest, my dear fellow!" smiled the dwarf. "I am the
last one to belittle your achievement. Indeed, it is because of it
that I have invited you here to-day. Permit me to introduce myself,
and to make clear one or two possibly perplexing matters. Then I am
sure we shall have a most agreeable chat."

       *       *       *       *       *

His name was Cor, he said, and he was in truth the monarch of this
strange realm. His people had come from the one-time planet of Vada,
far distant in the universe. A thousand years ago, this planet had
been doomed by the approach of an alien star. Their great scientist,
Ravv, had met the emergency by inventing the disc, into whose
construction they had poured all their resources. The pick of their
populace had been salvaged on this giant life-raft. The rest had
perished when that destroying star had crashed down on the doomed
Vada.

Since then these survivors and their descendants had been voyaging
through space on their marvelous disc. For hundreds of years they had
given no thought to the future, content to drift on and on in the
interstellar void, breathing an atmosphere produced artificially. But
at length the inevitable had happened. This superb piece of mechanism
devised by their super-genius, Ravv, was beginning to show signs of
wear. Some of its mighty engines were nearing the exhaustion point.
Either they must soon find a planet comparable with the one they had
once known, where they could pause and rehabilitate their machinery,
or they must disintegrate and pass into oblivion.

Faced with that crisis, Cor had long been seeking such a planet. He
had found it, at last, in the earth--and had resolved that this was
where they were going to alight and transplant the civilization of
ancient Vada, pending such time as they could take to space again.

       *       *       *       *       *

For some months now they had been hovering over various portions of
the earth, studying its geography and its peoples, with the result
that they had concluded the United States offered the most logical
point for launching the attack. Once this country was subdued, they
were in possession of the richest and most advanced section of the
planet. The conquest of the rest of it could await their leisure.

With such an invasion in view, their scientists had mastered the
language of the country. This had been accomplished very easily, since
in addition to their power of mingling with the populace in an
invisible form, they had the principles of radio developed to a high
degree and were able to tune in on any station they wanted.

Kendrick sat there, stunned, as Cor followed his astounding revelation
of their origin with this calm plan for the conquest of America, of
the world. Why, of all people on earth, had he alone been singled out
for this disclosure?

He asked the question now.

"My dear Professor, can't you really guess?" replied Cor, with that
leathery smile. "Hasn't it dawned that you were a little too near our
own field with that machine of yours? A trifle more research, a
slightly different application--and you would have become a dangerous
enemy."

"You--you mean--?"

"I mean there isn't a great deal of difference between the experiments
you have been making and those our great Ravv once made. For instance,
had you broadcast your heatricity, as you call it, instead of trying
to transmit it on wires--well, picture a receiving apparatus in each
home of the land, like your commercial radio sets. You would have
become a billionaire, don't you see?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Kendrick saw indeed. It was simple, so simple! Fool--why hadn't he
thought of it?

"But your invention will never make you wealthy now, my dear fellow,"
Cor went on, tauntingly. "You will be our guest, here, until we have
taken over your interesting country. After that, if there is any need
for the broadcasting of heat, we will furnish it ourselves. We have
those facilities, among others, fully developed. Would you care to see
our plant?"

Kendrick naturally admitted that he would, so the dwarf led him
through a rear door and up a winding flight of stairs. They emerged
presently into a great laboratory housed in the glass-roofed pinnacle
of the tower.

There he beheld a sight that left him breathless. Never before had he
seen such an assemblage of scientific apparatus. Its vastness and
strangeness were fairly overpowering, even to a man as well versed in
physio-chemical paraphernalia as he was.

Before his eyes could take in a tenth part of the spectacle, Cor had
led him to the left wall.

"There," he said, "you will observe a development of your heat
generator."

Kendrick looked--to see a long bank of large vacuum-tubes, each about
three feet high and a foot wide, connected by a central shaft that
caused series of little vanes in each of them to revolve at lightning
speed.

Around the apparatus moved numerous small attendants, oiling, wiping,
adjusting its many delicate parts.

"Well, what do you think now?" asked Cor.

Kendrick made no reply, though he was thinking plenty.

"You see, it is your invention, my dear Professor," the dwarf went on
in his taunting voice, "only anteceded by a thousand years--and rather
more perfected, you must admit."

       *       *       *       *       *

He walked now to the center of the laboratory, where stood a huge dial
of white crystal, ranked with many levers and switches, all capped
with the same material.

"Behold!" he said, throwing over one.

Instantly there came again that peculiar low humming that had so
puzzled him a few minutes before--and the entire room, its engines,
its attendants, Cor himself, leapt into invisibility. Only Kendrick
remained, facing the faintly visible crystal dial.

Then he saw a switch move, as though automatically. But no, for the
dwarf's hand was on it now. Visibility had returned. The vibration
ceased.

"That is the central control," said Cor. "Our city and all its
inhabitants become invisible when that switch is thrown. Only the dial
remains, for the guidance of the operator, and even that cannot be
seen at a distance of more than fifty feet. But now behold!"

He raised his hand, touched a watch-like device strapped to his
wrist--and was instantly invisible. But the laboratory and every
machine and person in it remained in plain view. Nor was there any
vibration now.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next moment, having touched that curious little device again, Cor
reappeared.

"That is the local control," he said. "Every one of our inhabitants,
except those under discipline, has one of these little mechanisms. It
enables us to make ourselves invisible at will. A convenience at
times, you must admit."

"Decidedly," Kendrick agreed. "And the principle?"

"Quite simple. One of those, in fact, that lies behind your
researches. Doubtless you would have hit upon it yourself in time.
Your own scientist, Faraday, you may recall, held the opinion that the
various forms under which the forces of matter manifest themselves
have a common origin. We of the disc, thanks to our great Ravv, have
found that common origin."

It was the origin of matter itself, Cor said, which lay in the ether
of interstellar space--energy, raw, cosmic--vibrations, rays.

By harnessing and controlling these various rays, his people had been
able to accomplish their seeming miracles--miracles that the people of
earth, too, were beginning to achieve--as in electricity, for
instance, and its further application, radio.

But the people of Vada had long since mastered such simple rays, and
now, in possession of vastly more powerful ones, had the elemental
forces of the universe at their disposal.

       *       *       *       *       *

The disc was propelled through space by short rays of tremendously
high frequency, up above the ultra-violet. The same rays, directed
downward instead of outward, enabled them to overcome the pull of
gravity when in a planet's influence, as at present. And the escalator
rays, by which they could proceed to and from the disc, were also of
high frequency, as were their invisibility rays.

"But you, Professor, are more interested in low frequency rays, the
long ones down below infra-red," continued Cor. "You have seen our
development of the heat-dynamo principle. It utilizes, I might add,
not only solar radiation but that of the stars as well. There being a
billion and a half of these in the universe, many of them a thousand
times or more as large as your own sun, we naturally have quite an
efficient little heating plant here. It provides us with our weapon of
warfare, as well as keeping us warm. Permit me to demonstrate."

He led the way to a gleaming circle of glass like an inverted
telescope, about a yard in diameter, mounted in the floor.

"Look!" said the dwarf.

Kendrick did so--and there, spread below him, lay the floor of the
desert. His camp, his apparatus, were just as he had left them.

Cor now moved toward the dial.

"Behold!" he said, pulling a lever.

Instantly the scene below was an inferno. Stricken by a blast of
stupendous heat, the whole area went molten, lay quivering like a lake
of lava in the crater of an active volcano.

"Suppose, my dear Professor," smiled the dwarf, strolling back from
the dial, "just suppose, for instance, that instead of the lonely
camp of an obscure scientist, your proud city of New York had been
below there!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Kendrick shuddered.

Well he knew now the terrible power, the appalling menace of this
strange invader.

"I would prefer not to make such a supposition," he said, quietly,
with a last thoughtful glance at that witches' caldron below.

"Then let us think of pleasanter things. You are my guest of honor,
sir--America's foremost scientist, though she may never realize it,"
with a piping chuckle. "To-night there will be a great banquet in your
honor. Meanwhile, suppose I show you to your quarters."

Nettled, fuming, though outwardly calm, Kendrick permitted himself to
be escorted from the laboratory to an ornate apartment on one of the
lower floors.

There Cor left him, with the polite hint that he would find plenty of
attendants handy should he require anything.

Alone now, in the midst of this vast, nightmarish metropolis, he paced
back and forth, back and forth--knowing the hideous fate that
threatened the world but powerless to issue one word of warning, much
less avert it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kendrick was still thinking and brooding along these lines when he saw
the door of the apartment swiftly open and close again.

Someone had entered, invisible!

Backing away, he waited, tense. Then, suddenly, his visitor
materialized. With a gasp, he saw standing before him a beautiful
girl.

She was a young woman, rather, in her early twenties. Not one of these
pigmies of the disc either, but a tall, slender creature of his own
world.

Her hair was dark, modishly bobbed. Her eyes were a deep, clear brown,
her skin a warm olive. And she was dressed as though she had just
stepped off Fifth Avenue--which indeed she had, not so long ago, as
he was soon to learn.

"I hope I haven't startled you too much, Mr. Kendrick," she said, in a
rich, husky murmur, "but--well, there wasn't any other way."

"Oh, I guess I'll get over it," he replied with a smile. "But you have
the advantage of me, since you know my name."

Hers was Marjorie Blake, she told him then.

"Not the daughter of Henderson Blake?" he gasped.

"Yes," with a tremor, "his only daughter."

Whereupon Kendrick knew the solution of a mystery that had baffled the
police for weeks. The newspapers had been full of it at the time. This
beautiful girl, whose father was one of America's richest men and
president of its largest bank, had disappeared as though the earth had
swallowed her. She had left their summer estate at Great Neck, Long
Island, on a bright June morning, bound for New York on a shopping
tour--and had simply vanished.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suicide had been hinted by some of the papers, but had not been taken
seriously, since she had no apparent motive for ending her life.
Abduction seemed to be the more logical explanation, and huge rewards
had been offered by her frantic parents--all to no avail.

What had happened was, she now explained, that after visiting several
shops and making a number of purchases, she had stepped into Central
Park at the Plaza for a breath of fresh air before lunching at the
Sherry-Netherlands, where she planned to meet some friends.

But before advancing a hundred yards along the secluded path, she had
been seized by invisible hands--had felt something strapped to her
wrist, before anyone came in sight--and then, invisible too, had been
lifted up, whirled away into a vast, humming vibration that sounded
through the air.

Once on the disc, it had swept off into space at incredible speed,
pausing only when some hundreds of miles above the earth and invisible
from below without mechanical aid. When its vibration finally ceased
that amazing city had leapt before her eyes.

Then, her own visibility restored, she had been led into the presence
of that mighty little monarch, Cor, who explained that she had been
seized as a hostage and would be held as an ace in the hole, pending
conquest of her country. Since when she had been a prisoner aboard the
disc.

       *       *       *       *       *

Learning of Kendrick's capture, from gossip among the women, she had
taken the first opportunity of coming to him, in the hope that between
them they might devise some means of escape.

Indeed, that was his own fondest hope--their imperative need, if the
people of America and of the earth were to be saved from this
appalling menace. But what basis was there for such a fantastic hope?
Just one, that he could see.

"That thing on your wrist," he said, voicing it. "I'm surprised they
let you wear one of those."

"They don't," she smiled. "I stole it!--from one of the maids in my
apartment. It was the only way I could get here without being seen. I
felt I must see you at once. We've got to do something, soon, or it'll
be too late. I felt that, as a scientist, you might have some idea how
we could get off."

"How do the people themselves get off?" he asked. "That escalator
ray--do you know how they use it?"

"No, I've never been able to find out. They don't let me go near that
part of the city."

Kendrick reflected a moment.

"Let's have a look at that invisibility affair," he said.

She removed it from her wrist, handed it to him. Somewhat in awe, he
examined it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The mechanism portion, which was linked in a strap of elastic metal,
resembled only superficially a watch, he now saw. Rather it had the
appearance of some delicate electric switch. Rectangular in shape, it
was divided into two halves by a band of white crystal. In each of
these halves were two little buttons of the same material, those on
one side round, on the other square.

"Which buttons control the invisibility?" he asked.

"The square ones," she replied. "One's pushed in now, you see. If you
should push the other, the first would come out--and you'd pass out of
the picture, so to speak."

Kendrick was half tempted to try the thing then and there, but
deferred the impulse.

"What are the round buttons for?" he inquired instead.

Marjorie didn't know, but thought they were probably an emergency
pair, in case something went wrong with the square ones. In any event,
nothing happened when you pushed them.

Kendrick pushed one, just to see. It was true. Nothing happened--but
he seemed to sense a faint, peculiar vibration and a wave of giddiness
swept over him. On pushing the other, which released the first, it
stopped.

       *       *       *       *       *

He handed the device back to Marjorie.

"There's your bracelet. Now, if I can just get one like it, I think
we'll get down to earth all right."

"Oh, Mr. Kendrick!" Her eyes lit up eagerly. "Then you've thought of a
way?"

"Not exactly. I think I've discovered their own way. I can't be
certain, but I'm willing to gamble on it, if you are."

"Then you--you think those round buttons are connected with the
escalator rays?"

"Exactly! I think they control individual descent and ascent, just as
the square ones control individual visibility and invisibility. At
any rate, it's the hunch I'm going to act on right now, if you're with
me."

"Oh, I'm with, you!" she breathed. "Anything, death almost, would be
preferable to this."

"Then stand by, invisible. I'm going to get one of my jailors in here
and relieve him of his wrist-watch."

Marjorie touched that little square button on her own. She instantly
became invisible.

Kendrick touched a button too, a button he had noticed beside the
door. As he had supposed, it brought one of the Vadans.

Shutting the door quietly, he seized the fellow before he could move
his hand to his wrist. Thwarted in his attempt to vanish from sight,
the diminutive guard attempted an outcry. But Kendrick promptly
throttled him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marjorie had reappeared by now and together they bound him to a chair
with a gilded cord torn from the drapery.

Removing the precious mechanism from his wrist, Kendrick slipped it on
his own.

"Now let's go!" he said, pressing the protruding square button of the
device. "We haven't a minute to--my golly, what a peculiar sensation!"

"It is rather odd, isn't it?" she laughed, pressing her own and
joining him in that invisible realm.

"Feels like a combination electric massage and cold shower! Where are
you, anyway? I can't see you."

"Of course you can't!" came an unseen tinkle. "Here!"

He felt her brush him.

"Better hold hands," he suggested, then gave an invisible flush he was
glad she couldn't see.

"All right. A good idea."

Her delicate hand came into his, soft, warm. Heart vibrating even
faster than his body, his whole being a-quiver with a strange
exaltation, Kendrick opened the door, and they left the apartment.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next half-hour was the tensest either of then had ever
experienced. Every foot of the way was fraught with peril.

Not only did they have to carefully avoid the visible swarms of little
people who hurried everywhere, but had to be on their guard as well
against any who might be moving about like themselves under cover of
invisibility.

Nor could they use any elevator or public conveyances, but were
obliged to make their way down to the concourse by heaven knew how
many flights of stairs, and cross heaven knew how many teeming streets
on foot, before they reached the amber court, below which the
trap-door and their hope of freedom.

They got there at last, however, descended, and peered down from that
yawning brink upon the desert floor--to draw back with gasps of
dismay. For the area still gleamed semi-molten from the stupendous
blast that had wiped out Kendrick's camp.

"W-what is it?" she gasped.

Swiftly he told her.

"But isn't there any way around it? Look, over there to the left. One
edge of the crater seems to end almost underneath us."

It was true that the center of the caldron was far to the right of
where they stood, and that its left rim was only a little within their
direct line of descent. But to land even one foot inside that inferno
would be as fatal as to alight in its very midst.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kendrick was thinking fast.

"There's just a chance," he said. "It all depends upon how wide the
zone of these escalator rays is, and whether we can tune in on them.
At least, I can probably answer the latter question."

Pushing the protrudent round button on his mysterious bracelet as he
spoke, he leaned over the edge of the trap-door and awaited results.

They were not long in coming. The vibration he was already under from
the invisibility rays seemed to double. Alternate waves of giddiness
and depression, of push and pull, swept over him.

A minute of it was enough. He pressed the round button that now
protruded, ending this influence, and faced Marjorie, stating:

"I'm positive now that these things control descent and ascent. As
nearly as I can figure, the rays work on the principle of an endless
belt. If you're up here, you get carried down, and vice versa. As to
how wide the belt is, and whether you can move sideways on it, remains
to be seen. Anyway, I'm going to take a chance. I'll go first. If my
guess is wrong, you--well, needn't follow."

"No, I'm going with you!" she declared resolutely. "We've come this
far together. I shan't be left alone now. Let's go!"

And again her soft, warm hand was in his.

Lord, what a girl! How many would be brave enough to take a gamble
like that, on a fellow's mere supposition?

"All right--go it is!" he said. "Push your round button, like this."
He showed her the way he thought was right, pushed his own. "Ready?"

"Ready!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Their voices were grave. It was a grim prospect, stepping off into
space like that, with only a guess between them and death.

"Then jump!"

They jumped, gripping each other's hands tightly--and instead of
dropping like plummets were caught in a powerful field of force and
whirled gently downward.

"Oh, you were right!" gasped Marjorie, awed. "See, we--"

Then she paused, horror-stricken, for it was obvious that they were to
descend within that lake of molten glass, unless they could change
their course at once.

"Quick!" he called. "Hold fast! Now--run!"

Breathless, they raced to the left, across that invisible descending
belt.

Too far, Kendrick knew, and they would plunge outside its zone, fall
crushed and mangled. Not far enough, and they would meet cremation. It
was a fearful hazard, either way, but it had to be taken.

They were almost down, now, and still not quite far enough to the
left. The heat of that yawning crater rose toward them.

"Faster--_faster_!" he cried, fairly dragging her along with him.

A last dash--a breathless instant--and they stood there on the ground,
not three feet from the edge of doom.

Swooning with the heat, Marjorie swayed against him, murmured an
incoherent prayer.

"Take heart!" he whispered, lifting her bodily and bearing her some
yards away. "We're down--safe!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Their safety was but relative, however, Kendrick well knew. Until they
could put miles between them and this monstrous disc, they were not
really safe. No telling how soon their escape might be discovered. No
telling what terrible means Cor might take of curbing their flight.

So as soon as Marjorie had recovered sufficiently to proceed, they
headed off across the desert at a fast walk toward Ajo, where he hoped
to catch the afternoon train for Gila Bend. From there, they could
board the limited for Tucson and points east, when it came through
from Yuma that night.

They had tuned out on the escalator rays, but continued on still
invisible--for the disc hung above them in plain view and it would
have been suicide to let themselves be seen.

Even so, Kendrick soon began to have an uneasy feeling of being
followed. He looked around from time to time, but could see nothing.
Were some of those invisible little creatures on their trail?

He said nothing to Marjorie of his anxiety, but presently she too
began glancing backward uneasily, every few steps.

"They are near us!" she said at length, in a whisper. "I can sense
them."

It was more than sense, they soon discovered. Little paddings became
quite audible, and once or twice they saw the sand scuffed up, not
twenty feet away, as though by a foot passing over it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile they were climbing a rise of ground, broken by many small
hummocks and dotted with thorny shrubs. On the other side, at the foot
of a long down-slope, lay Ajo.

Once they reached the summit, Kendrick felt sure they could
outdistance their pursuers on the descent. Already, if his watch was
right, the train was preparing to pull out. It would be a breathless
dash, but he was confident they could make it.

So he reassured Marjorie as best he could, and helped her on up the
slope.

They were practically on the summit and already in view of the little
railroad station and huddle of shacks below--when suddenly he felt
himself tripped and flung violently to the ground. At the same
instant, his companion emitted a scream, as she felt herself seized by
invisible hands.

Leaping to his feet, Kendrick flailed out with solid fists at their
attackers. Groans answered the impacts and he knew his blows were
taking effect.

       *       *       *       *       *

Free for a moment he dashed to Marjorie, felt for the midgets who
swarmed around her. Seizing one of the invisible forms, he lifted it
and flung it crashing to the ground. Another, likewise, and another.

Then he threshed his legs, where two of the creatures clung, trying to
drag him down again. They flew through the air, with cries of fright.

"Well, so far, so good!" he exclaimed. "We won't wait to see if there
are any more. Come on--let's go!"

"Right!"

Reaching for each other's hands, they raced down the slope.

Halfway there they saw a warning blast of steam rise from the engine,
followed by a whistle.

"They'll be pulling out in a minute now!" he gasped, increasing speed.
"We've got to make it!--our only chance!"

"We _will_ make it!" she sobbed through clenched teeth, meeting his
pace.

Glancing over his shoulder, after another fifteen seconds, Kendrick
saw that the disc was no longer visible. Since there was no vibration
he realized with relief that it was now hidden behind the slope they
were descending.

"Quick--push your button!" he said, pushing his own.

They came out of the influence of the invisibility rays, raced
breathless on down the slope--gained the station platform just as the
train was getting under way.

Helping the exhausted girl aboard, he mounted the steps himself, led
her through the vestibule into its single passenger coach.

Dropping into a seat, they sat there panting as the train gathered
speed.

       *       *       *       *       *

By the time the decrepit but life-saving little local drew into Gila
Bend they had somewhat recovered from their harrowing experience.

Marjorie was still pale, however, as Kendrick helped her from the
train.

"I may recover," she said with a wan smile, "but I'll never look the
same! An old saying, but I know what it means now."

He thought better of a sudden impulse to tell her she looked quite all
right to him. Instead, he said grimly:

"I know now what a lot of things mean!"

The Tucson limited would not be through for over an hour, they
learned. That would give them time to hunt up the authorities and
sound a warning of the ominous invader that was in the vicinity.
Perhaps, by prompt military action, it might be destroyed, or at least
crippled.

But first they went to the telegraph office, where Marjorie got off a
message that would bring joy to her grieved family.

While standing there outside the barred window, odors of food wafting
to them from a nearby lunch-room.

"Um-m!" she sniffed. "That smells good to me! I haven't tasted any
earthly cooking for ages. Everything on that horrible disc was
synthetic."

"Then I suggest we have ham and eggs, at once," he said. "Or would you
prefer a steak?"

"I think I'll have both!"

       *       *       *       *       *

As they walked into the lunch-room, Kendrick told her of the banquet
in his honor Cor had promised for that night.

"I guess I didn't miss much," he ended.

"You certainly didn't!" she assured him, with a smile. "It would have
opened with a purée of split-molecule soup, continued with an entrée
of breaded electrons, and closed with an ionic café."

He laughed.

"I'm just as well satisfied. I was unable to attend! Humble as it is,
I think this will prove to be much more wholesome food."

Night had fallen by the time they left the lunch-room. Glancing at his
watch, Kendrick saw that they still had better than a half-hour before
the limited was due, so they betook themselves to the police station.

It was only a block away and in consequence they weren't long reaching
it.

The chief had gone home, the officer at the desk informed them, but if
there was anything they cared to report, he would be glad to make note
of it.

A big raw-boned westerner, he shifted his quid as he spoke and spat
resoundingly in a cuspidor at his feet.

"All right, then--get your pencil ready!" said Kendrick with a smile.
"This is Miss Marjorie Blake, daughter of Henderson Blake, of New
York. Perhaps you read of her disappearance, a few weeks ago. And
I...."

As he introduced himself and told briefly of their astounding
experience, the officer's eyes bulged with amazement.

"Say, what yuh-all tryin' to hand me?" he snorted finally. "D'yuh
think I was born simple?"

"Press your button!" whispered Marjorie. "Show him how the
invisibility ray works. It'll save a lot of argument."

"Right!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He held up his wrist.

"See this? Now watch!"

Whereupon he pressed the button. But to their dismay, nothing
happened.

"Wa-al. I'm still watchin'!" drawled the officer. "Who's loony now?"

Kendrick examined the mechanism in impatience, pressed that little
button repeatedly: but still nothing happened.

"Try yours!" he told Marjorie finally.

She did so, with similar results--or lack of them, rather.

"Something's wrong," he said at length. "The ray isn't working."

"Wrong is right!" declared the officer with a contemptuous flood of
tobacco juice. "Yuh folks better go catch yuhr train 'fore yuh ferget
where it is."

Chagrined, embarrassed, they took their leave, headed back toward the
railroad station.

"Of all the utterly silly things!" declared Marjorie, as they walked
along. "Why do you suppose it didn't work?"

Kendrick didn't reply at once. When he did, his voice was grave.

"Because the disc has gone!" he said. "We are outside its zone of
influence. That's my hunch, at least, and I think we'd better act on
it."

"You mean...?"

"I mean our escape has probably caused them to hurry their plans.
They're probably over New York right now. I think we'd better get
there the quickest possible way."

       *       *       *       *       *

The result was that when the train came, they remained on it only to
Tucson. There they chartered a fast plane and started east at once.

At sunset the following day the plane swooped out of the sky and slid
to rest on the broad grounds of the Blake estate at Great Neck.

As Kendrick stepped from the cabin and helped Marjorie down, a tall,
distinguished-looking man with graying hair and close-cropped mustache
came hurrying toward them.

"Daddy!" she cried, rushing into his arms. "Oh, Daddy--Daddy!"

Even without this demonstration. Kendrick would have recognized
Henderson Blake from pictures he had seen recently in the papers.

Now he was introduced, and Blake was gripping his hand warmly.

"I don't quite know what this is all about, Professor," he heard the
great financier say. "Marjorie's telegram last night was as cryptic as
it was over-joying. But I do know that I owe you a deep debt of
gratitude."

"Yes, and you owe our pilot about a thousand dollars, too!" put in the
daughter of the house, clinging to her father's arm. "Please give him
a check--then we'll go inside and I'll explain all about it."

"A matter very much easier dispatched than my debt to Professor
Kendrick," said Blake, complying.

The check was for two thousand, not one, the pilot saw when he
received it.

"Thank you very much, sir!" he said, saluting.

"Don't mention it. Good night--and good luck to you!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The pilot returned to his plane, it lifted from the lawn, droned off
into the twilight.

Then they approached the cool white villa that stood invitingly a
hundred yards or so away beyond sunken gardens.

As they neared it, a handsome, well-preserved woman whose face
reflected Marjorie's own beauty came toward them. Lines of suffering
were still evident around her sensitive mouth, but her dark eyes were
radiant.

"Mother!"

"My poor darling!"

They rushed into each other's arms, clung, sobbing and laughing.

Kendrick was glad when these intimate greetings were over and he had
met Mrs. Blake.

They were in the drawing-room now, listening to a somewhat more lucid
account of their daughter's experiences and those of her rescuer.
Marjorie was doing most of the talking, but every now and again she
would turn to Kendrick for verification.

"Heavens!" gasped Mrs. Blake, finally. "Can such things be possible?"

"Almost anything seems possible nowadays, my dear," her husband told
her. "And you say, Professor, that you have brought back samples of
this invisibility device?"

"Yes, we have, but I can't promise they'll work. I'll try, however."

Whereupon, sceptically, he pressed that little square button--and
instantly faded out of sight.

"Good Lord!" cried Blake, leaping to his feet. "That proves it! Why,
this is positively--"

       *       *       *       *       *

His remarks were cut short by a scream of terror from his wife.

"Marjorie--Marjorie!" she shrieked.

Wheeling, he faced the chair where his daughter had sat. It was empty,
so far as human eyes could see.

"Don't worry Mother--Daddy!" came a calm voice from it. "I'm quite all
right--coming back--steady."

And back she came, as did Kendrick, from the empty chair beside her.

His face was grave. The success of the demonstration, which had proved
their story to practical-minded Henderson Blake, had proved to him
something altogether more significant. The disc, as he had surmised,
had rushed eastward immediately on learning of their escape, and was
now probably hovering right over New York.

"Marvelous--marvelous!" declared Blake. "But that heat ray, Professor.
That sounds bad. You are convinced it is as powerful as they make
out!"

"Positively! That blast they let go in the desert would have utterly
destroyed New York."

"Hm! Yes, no doubt you're right. I fully realize how the fearful
menace of this thing. Do you think the military authorities will be
able to cope with it?"

"I don't know. Perhaps, if they are prompt enough."

"And is there no other way--no scientific way?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Kendrick grew thoughtful.

"I wonder," he said at last. "There's just a possibility--something
running through my mind--an experiment I'd like to make, if I had the
facilities of some large electrical laboratory."

"You shall have them to-morrow!" Blake promised. "I'm one of the
directors of Consolidated Electric. Their experimental laboratory in
Brooklyn is the finest of its kind in America. I'll see that you have
the run of it."

"That will be very kind," said Kendrick. "But don't expect anything to
come from it, necessarily. It's just a theory I want to work out."

A butler entered at this moment and announced dinner.

"Well, theories are mighty these days!" beamed Blake, as they rose,
clapping the younger man on the shoulder. "You go ahead with your
theories--and I'll bring a few facts to bear. To-morrow noon I'll
escore some military men and others of my friends over to the
laboratory to hear and see something of this menace direct. Meanwhile,
and during this crisis, it will honor me to have you as my guest."

"Our guest!" amended Marjorie, with a warm smile.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning Blake motored Kendrick out to the Brooklyn Laboratory of
the Consolidated Electric Utilities Corporation and installed him
there.

Then he left--to return at noon with the promised delegation of
generals, admirals, statesmen and financiers.

They were all frankly sceptical, though realizing that Henderson Blake
was not a man given to exaggeration. Nor did their scepticism
altogether vanish when Kendrick had ended his bizarre story with a
demonstration of the invisibility device.

Murmurs of amazement ran around the laboratory, it is true, but the
more hard-headed of his spectators charged him with having invented
the apparatus himself. Though they didn't come right out and say so,
they seemed to imply that he was seeking publicity.

Annoyedly, Kendrick tried to refute their charges. But even as he was
summoning words, refutation utter and complete came from the air.

A low, humming vibration sounded, grew in volume till it filled the
room--and as suddenly ceased: The light of midday faded to twilight.

"_The disc!_" gasped Kendrick, rushing to the west windows.

They followed, tense with awe. And there, between earth and sun, its
myriad towers and spires refracting a weird radiance, hovered that
vast flying city.

"My God!" muttered a famous general, staring as though he had seen a
ghost.

A great statesman opened his lips, but no words came.

"Appalling! Incredible!" burst from others of that stunned assemblage.

       *       *       *       *       *

Their comments were cut short by a broadcast voice, thin and clear,
tremendously amplified, a voice Kendrick recognized at once as that of
Cor.

"People of America!" it said. "We of the planet Vada have come to
conquer your country. You will be given forty-eight hours to lay down
your arms. If complete surrender has not been made by high noon, two
days from now, New York will be destroyed."

The voice ceased. The humming recommenced--waned in volume till it
died away. Twilight turned once more to midday.

Peering fixedly through the west windows of the laboratory, the little
assemblage saw the disc swallowed up in the clear blue sky.

Then they turned, faced one another gravely.

Outside, on the streets, confusion reigned. In newspaper plants,
presses were whirling. In telegraph and cable offices, keys were
ticking. From radio towers, waves were speeding.

Within an hour, the nation and the world knew of this planetary
invader and its staggering ultimatum.

Naturally, the government at Washington refused to meet these shameful
terms. Military and naval forces were rushed to the threatened
metropolis. The Atlantic Fleet steamed up from Hampton Roads under
forced draught and assembled in the outer harbor. Thousands of planes
gathered at Mitchell Field and other nearby aerodromes.

       *       *       *       *       *

But where was the enemy? He must be miles up in space, Kendrick knew,
as he toiled feverishly in the laboratory over his experiment after a
sleepless night. For had that flying city been nearer earth, it could
not have maintained invisibility without that peculiar humming
vibration.

Scout planes urged on by impatient squadron commanders, climbed till
they reached their ceilings, searching in vain. They could encounter
nothing, see nothing of the invader.

Thus passed a morning of growing tension.

But by noon of that day, with a bare twenty-four hours left before
the expiration of the ultimatum, the disc came down, showed itself
boldly.

There followed stunning disasters.

One salvo, and the ray shot down--the Atlantic Fleet, the pride of
America, burst and melted in flaming hell. Squadrons of planes,
carrying tons of bombs, frizzled like moths in the air. Mighty
projectiles hurled by land batteries were deflected off on wild
trajectories.

Appalled, the nation and the world followed in lurid extras these
crushing defeats.

By nightfall of that day, all seemed lost. All opposition had been
obliterated. America must capitulate or perish. It had until the next
noon to decide which.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, in that great Brooklyn laboratory, Kendrick was working
against time, besieged by frantic delegations of the nation's leaders.
They knew now that their one hope lay in him. Was he succeeding? Was
there even any hope?

Face haggard, eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep, he waved them away,
went on with his work.

"I will tell you--as soon as I know."

That was all he would say.

Followed a night that was the blackest in all history, though the
myriad stars of heaven shone tauntingly brilliant in the summer sky.

At length, as dawn was breaking. Kendrick paused in his labors.

"There!" he said, grimly, surveying an apparatus that seemed to
involve the entire facilities of the laboratory. "It is done! Now
then--will it work?"

The delegation were called to witness the test.

Henderson Blake was among them, as was Marjorie. She stepped forward,
as he prepared to make the demonstration.

"I _know_, somehow, you're going to be successful!" she murmured,
pressing his hand, meeting his eyes with a smile of confidence.

"I hope you're right--Marjorie!" he replied, letting slip the last
word almost unconsciously.

Her face colored warmly as the stepped back and rejoined her father.

Kendrick's heart was beating fast as he turned to his instruments. How
could he fail, with faith like that behind him?--love, even, perhaps!
He mustn't fail--nor would he, if his theories were sound.

       *       *       *       *       *

Addressing the assemblage, he explained briefly the complicated
apparatus.

"These towers," he said, pointing to four steel structures about ten
feet high, arranged at the corners of a square roughly twenty feet
across, "are miniature radio masts. The area enclosed by them, we will
assume, is the city of New York. That metal disc suspended above the
area represents the invader. It contains a miniature heat-generator
such as I was experimenting with recently in the Arizona desert."

He paused, threw a switch. Somewhere in the laboratory a dynamo began
to whir.

"I am now sending electro-magnetic waves from the four towers," he
resumed. "But instead of broadcasting them in every direction. I am
bending them in concave cathode of force over the city. You may
picture this cathode as an invisible shield, if you choose, but it is
more than that. It it a reflector. If my theories are right, the
radio-energetic ray I am about to project upon it from my miniature
disc will be flung back to its source as though it had been a ray of
light falling on a mirror. The success of the experiment depends upon
what the result will be."

       *       *       *       *       *

Kendrick ceased, moved toward a rheostat.

As he made ready to touch it, a breathless tension settled upon the
assemblage. Upon the outcome of what was now to happen rested the fate
of America--and the world.

Calmly, though every fiber of his being was at breaking stress, the
young scientist opened the rheostat.

For an instant, the ray seared down--then, as it boomeranged back, the
disc burst into flame, dissolved, disintegrated. A thin dust, like
carbon, slowly settled to the laboratory floor.

Cutting off the current from the radio towers, Kendrick faced them, a
light of triumph in his tired eyes.

"You see--it works," he said.

They saw. Beyond a doubt, it worked!

And what Kendrick saw, as his eyes met Marjorie's, made him forget his
fatigue.

       *       *       *       *       *

The rest was a mad scramble of preparation. Only a few brief hours
remained, and much was to be done.

The application of the principle that had just been demonstrated
involved a hook-up from the Consolidated Electric laboratory with
every broadcasting station in the metropolitan area, power being
supplied by commandeering every generating plant within a radius of
fifty miles.

The city, moreover, had to be evacuated of all but the few brave
hundreds who volunteered to stand by their posts at radio stations and
generating plants.

As for Kendrick, it was the busiest, most hectic morning he had ever
experienced. Only the realization of a girl's love and a nation's
trust enabled him to overcome the exhaustion of two sleepless nights.

At length, a little before eleven, all was in readiness. Just two
questions troubled the young scientist's mind. Had the people of the
disc learned of their preparations to counter the attack? And would
the improvised broadcasting apparatus of the area stand the stupendous
strain that would be placed upon it if the ray came down?

The first of these questions was answered, staggeringly, at a quarter
after eleven.

"Kendrick--oh, my God!" cried Blake, bursting into the laboratory.
"Marjorie--they've got her again! Look! Read this!"

He thrust out a piece of paper. Kendrick took it, read:

     Your daughter will be my queen, after this noon.

"Where'd you get it?" he gasped.

"One of the invisible devils thrust it into my hand right out in the
street, not five minutes ago," Blake explained, trembling with
anguish. "Do you realize what this means, Kendrick? She's on the disc
now--and in a scant three-quarters of an hour...."

"Yes, I realize!" his voice came grimly. "And I realize, too, that
they don't know their fate. They'll stay. There's forty-five minutes
yet. We can't abandon our defense against the ray, not even for
Marjorie. But I'll go, I'll rescue her--or die with her!"

And even as Blake mutely reached out his hand to grip that of the
determined young man who stood before him. Kendrick touched his wrist
mechanism and went invisible.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once on the street, he pressed the escalator button as well--and by
the strength of the vibrations that followed, he knew he must be very
close within that mysterious lifting zone.

Running west a block, he found it growing stronger.

Fairly racing now, he continued on toward the river, progress
unhampered in the deserted streets. Suddenly, with a thrill of
exultation, he felt himself swept up, whirled away toward that great
shimmering hulk against the sun.

"What hope?" he was thinking. "What possible hope?" And the answer
came: Cor!

Reaching the disc, he switched out the escalator influence and
hastened across the city to that monumental structure of jade-green
stone.

The mighty little dwarf would be up there in his glittering mosaic
apartment, or in his pinnacle laboratory, perhaps, ready to pull the
lever that would release that stupendous blast of heat.

Gaining the jewelled door of the monarch's quarters at last, after
escaping detection by a hair's breadth more than once, he pressed the
button outside, just as the guard had done that first time.

In response, the door opened--and there stood Cor.

       *       *       *       *       *

He stood there an instant, that is, while the expression on his
leathery face went from inquiry to alarm. Then, as Kendrick burst into
the room and shut the door, he went invisible.

In that same instant, the young scientist's eyes beheld a sight that
caused his heart to leap. There sat Marjorie, bound in a chair, an
expression half of hope, half of dejection, on her face.

"It's I--Gordon!" he called. "Take courage!"

"Oh, I prayed so you'd come--and you came!" she murmured as her face
lighted. Then, tensely, she added, "The door--look out!"

Kendrick wheeled, and just in time. The door was opening.

"Not so fast!" he called, lunging.

His hands gripped the dwarf, yanked him back, throttled him before he
could emit a cry, pushed the door shut.

Cor struggled like a madman, but it was futile. Kendrick's hands cut
into his throat like a vice. After a moment or two, he gasped,
relaxed.

Releasing his grip then, Kendrick felt for his wrist, stripped off his
bracelet--whereupon the dwarf became visible. His face was
putty-white. He was either dead or unconscious.

Restoring his own visibility then, he advanced to Marjorie, swiftly
freed her.

"Take this!" he said, handing her Cor's bracelet.

She slipped it on.

"Now let's tie him and get out of here. He may be dead, but we can't
take any chances."

       *       *       *       *       *

The dwarf wasn't dead, however, for he groaned and opened his eyes as
they lifted him into the chair.

"You win, Professor--but it avails you nothing!" He smiled
maliciously. "My capture, my death even, will not prevent the ray. The
orders have been given. It will be projected sharp at twelve. You but
go to your doom!"

"That," said Kendrick, "is a matter of opinion."

Swiftly they bound him, gagged him.

"And now," he added, "we wish you good day--and such fate as you
deserve!"

Then, turning to Marjorie:

"Your hand again!"

There was a new tenderness in its soft warmth that thrilled him.

They touched their buttons, went invisible.

Silently, then, they stole from the apartment. Swiftly they made their
way down to the concourse, raced across the city to the amber court,
descended to the trap-door.

It must be nearly twelve, Kendrick knew. He couldn't look at his
watch, for it as well as himself was invisible. Indeed, even as they
stood there, poised for the plunge, a faint whistle rose from below.

Marjorie trembled.

"Steady!" he spoke. "Some of them always blow a minute or two before.
Are you ready?"

"Yes!"

"Then press your button--jump!"

Even as they leapt, the sickening thought came that perhaps the
escalator ray was no longer running. But the fear was unwarranted.
They were caught up, whirled gently downward.

Moving along laterally, as they descended, they were able to land
without difficulty in the middle of a deserted street near the
Consolidated Electric laboratory.

"Thank heaven!" she sighed, as their feet touched solid ground. They
pressed off both buttons, becoming visible once more.

"Echo!" he agreed. "So let's--"

       *       *       *       *       *

But Kendrick never completed that sentence--for now whistles all over
the metropolitan area, rising from the generating plants, announced
the ominous hour.

It was high noon. The ultimatum had expired.

Lifting tense faces to the disc, they waited. Would that stupendous
ray be hurled back upon itself? Or would it sear through their
makeshift defense, plunging them and the whole great metropolis into
oblivion?

Suddenly, cataclysmically, the answer came.

There burst a withering whirlwind from the disc. It struck that mighty
concave cathode of interlaced waves above the city. There followed an
instant's clash of titanic forces. Then the cathode triumphed, hurled
it back.

Rocked by a concussion as of two worlds in impact, blinded by a glare
that made the sunlight seem feeble in comparison. Marjorie and
Kendrick clung together, while the disc grew into a satellite of
calcium fire in the sky.

Presently, as the conflagration waned, they opened their eyes.
Gravely, but with deep thanksgiving, they searched each other's faces.
In them they read deep understanding, too, and a new hope.

"I think we'd better go and find father," she said at length, quietly.

"I think so too!" he agreed.

As they headed toward the laboratory, a fine, powdery dust, like
volcanic ash was falling.

It continued to fall until the city streets were covered to a depth of
an inch or more.

Thus passed the menace of Vada.

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_To the Rescue_

     Dear Editor:

     I hope you can see fit to print this letter in the July
     issue of Astounding Stories. This letter is written in
     defence of Ray Cummings and in reply to the letter of C.
     Harry Jaeger, 2900 Jordan Road, Oakland, California.

     Following is an extract of Mr. Jaeger's letter: "Also I like
     my authors to make an original contribution to whatever
     theory of science they develop fictionally. This, Ray
     Cummings does not do in his very interesting story,
     "Phantoms of Reality." His beginning is palpably borrowed
     from Francis Flagg's story, "The Blue Dimension," which
     appeared in a Science Fiction magazine in 1927." Another
     paragraph is devoted to explaining his claim. He claims that
     Cummings' method of transporting his characters from one
     dimension or planet to another is practically copied from
     Flagg's story. The method, that is, not the narration. I
     hope to prove that if any borrowing was done, it was done by
     Flagg. Incidentally, Flagg's story "The Blue Dimension" was
     printed in 1928, not 1927, as Mr. Jaeger says.

     I have in my possession a story by Ray Cummings named "Into
     the Fourth Dimension" and published in another magazine
     during the last month of 1926 and first ones of 1927. And in
     this story--printed two years before Flagg's story--Cummings
     uses almost the same apparatus of passing from one dimension
     to another as is used in "Phantoms of Reality." I will not
     discuss whether this procedure is to be approved or not.

     This letter is not to be construed as an attack on Mr.
     Jaeger, or Mr. Flagg, or on either of the two stories under
     discussion.

     If Mr. Jaeger will let me know I will send him Ray Cumming's
     story "Into the Fourth Dimension," as clipped from the
     magazines.

     I write this letter to the magazine, instead of Mr. Jaeger,
     so that if any one was misled by Mr. Jaeger's well meant but
     mistaken criticism they will be straightened out.--Donald
     Coneyon, Petoskey, Michigan.


_A Wish for Success_

     Dear Editor:

     I have read both of your first issues. I am writing to say
     that I wish you success with your new magazine, which I know
     will succeed.

     Also to say I wish you would get more of the "Carnes and Dr.
     Bird Stories" by Captain S. P. Meek, for I think everybody,
     including myself, likes them. I also enjoyed "Creatures of
     the Light."--Thomas D. Taylor, 415 So. 7th St., Boise,
     Idaho.


_No Kick Any More_

     Dear Editor:

     I have been a reader of Astounding Stories ever since you
     started it, and I guess I'm getting too particular as I
     don't get the kick out of it any more that I did out of the
     first issues. That is, I don't get the kick out of ALL of
     the stories as I did at first. However, "Murder Madness"
     sure is a hot one. Why not print a story by Sax Rohmer, H.
     G. Wells, or some of them?--H. Elsworth Jones, Box 340, R.
     R. 6, Battle Creek, Mich.


_Via Postcard_

     Dear Editor:

     Astounding Stories is an astounding magazine. It has really
     astounding stories. It couldn't be better. There's hardly
     room for improvement. May Astounding Stories be more
     astounding yet. I like it!--Monroe Hood Stinson, 1742, 12th
     Ave., Oakland, California.


_Only Fiction!_

     Dear Editor:

     I have just finished a story in the February, 1930, issue of
     Astounding Stories entitled "Into Space," by Sterner St.
     Paul.

     I would like to know if it is a true story, if the actions
     described in it really happened, or is it merely a story of
     fiction.--Dan S. Scherrer, Shawneetown, Ill.


_Perhaps--Soon_

     Dear Editor:

     I have just finished reading your new magazine, Astounding
     Stories. It is the best magazine I have ever read. Keep up
     the good work and you will find me a constant reader. I have
     only one suggestion to make: Let Astounding Stories come out
     every other Thursday.--Harold Kulko, 433 Palmer E., Detroit,
     Michigan.


_More Preferences_

     Dear Editor:

     I have read with great interest the second issue of
     Astounding Stories and note your invitation for readers to
     express themselves.

     I enjoyed the whole magazine, finding the literary quality
     surprisingly high. Especially good were "Spawn of the
     Stars," and "Creatures of the Light." Harl Vincent's tale
     was the best of his I have read; and Captain Meek's are
     always good. "The Corpse on the Grating," however, was
     merely Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher" done over, and not
     half so well.

     As for the sort of tales I like, here they are in order of
     preference:

     1. Tales of weird mystery--Merritt's "Moon Pool" and his
     others; Taine's "White Lily."

     2. Interplanetary Adventure--"A Columbus of Space," by
     Serviss; "The Skylark of Space," by Smith.

     3. "Different stories," that defy classification, based on
     new ideas of science--most of Wells' short stories are
     examples. 4. Detective, Fourth Dimension, and air
     adventure--only well done.--Jack Williamson, Box 661 Canyon,
     Texas.


_A Brick or Two_

     Dear Editor:

     For the last three years we have been reading any and all of
     the various Science Fiction magazines which have appeared
     upon the market. We therefore feel that we are as well
     qualified as anyone to offer the criticism and advice that
     follows.

     First, the stories. We feel that it would be a good idea to
     get your stories from the same authors whose work has been
     and is being accepted by the other magazines in this field.
     In one case you have already done this, and I consider his
     stories to be the best in each issue. I believe that you
     will be forced to do this eventually, anyhow, because the
     people who read this magazine will naturally be readers of
     the others also, and will therefore, be used to the
     standards set by those publications. Then, you should have
     someone who is well qualified to pass upon the science in
     the stories.

     Second, the cover design and the pictures at the beginning
     of each story. Up to this time the cover and inside pictures
     have contained many mistakes. The cover of the March issue
     was especially atrocious. In the first place a voyager in
     outer space would find it jet black and studded with stars,
     instead of blue and apparently empty, except for a few
     tremendously oversize planets, a moon with entirely too many
     craters, and a total eclipse of the sun with a very much
     distorted corona visible beside the earth. Illustrations by
     your cover artist also appear in another publication, but
     these are much superior to the ones in Astounding Stories.
     Here also a scientific advisor would be welcome.

     Third, I think it would be a good idea to have a department
     in which readers could write their opinions of the stories
     and suggest improvements in the conduct of the magazine.

     Fourth, I think there should be a scientific editorial in
     each issue by some eminent scientist. This is also a feature
     in the other magazines.

     We hope that you take these criticisms and suggestions, as
     they were offered, in good faith. We also hope that the
     circulation will increase as the magazine becomes
     better.--George L. Williams and Harry Heillisan, 5714 Howe
     St., Pittsburgh, Pa.


"_Wonderful_"

     Dear Editor:

     I received your magazine last week, Astounding Stories, and
     I think it is wonderful. I am very glad that I subscribed
     for it. I can hardly wait to get the latest one which I
     hoped to receive to-day and was very much disappointed when
     it did not arrive. I hope you will consider a quarterly or
     at least an annual in the near future.

     I wish you success with this magazine, and hope you will
     forgive my writing you so often in reference to your
     magazine--Louis Wentzler, 1935, Woodbine St., Brooklyn, New
     York.


--_But We Made Our Bow Only Last January!_

     Dear Editor:

     Last month my boy brought one copy of this magazine home,
     and I want to ask you if you would send me the copies from
     last January, 1929, up to December, 1929. If you charge no
     more than $3.00 would you send them C. O. D.? Do you have
     the issues for 1928, too?

     I never knew there was a magazine like that on the market. I
     never bought one because most of them are no good, and when
     one has children one has to be doubly careful.

     But this magazine is just right. No silly love stories and
     mushy stuff in them. It sure keeps your mind from unpleasant
     things. We can get them from the newsstand but I would like
     to subscribe for them.

     Keep up the good work and please send me the last year's
     copies and let me know if I could get 1928, too.--Mrs. M.
     Ristan, 4684, No. Broadway, Denver, Colorado.


"_Best One Yet_"

     Dear Editor:

     The April issue is the best one you have put out yet. Arthur
     J. Burks is GOOD. I hope to see much of him in the future.
     "Brigands of the Moon," by Ray Cummings, is getting better
     with each instalment. The stories of Dr. Bird are always
     interesting. I would like to see one in each issue, if you
     could arrange for it.

     As long as the other readers like the size of Astounding
     stories, I will, too, but please cut all edges smooth like
     the latest issue of Five Novels Monthly. I would like to see
     a full-page illustration with each story, and if possible by
     Wesso.

     I am glad that you are starting another serial in the May
     issue of Astounding Stories. I like serials and I hope that
     you will always have two in each issue.

     Your schedule for the May issue looks good, and I'm sure it
     will be, with such authors as Murray Leinster, Victor
     Rousseau, Ray Cummings, Harl Vincent and Sewell P. Wright.

     I am still waiting for a different colored cover.--Jack
     Darrow, 4225, N. Spaulding Ave., Chicago, Illinois.


_An Enthusiastic Reader_

     Dear Editor:

     As a reader of long standing of Science Fiction I feel I am
     qualified to make some remarks and give my opinion of the
     wonderful Astounding Stories magazine lately put out.
     Although I read three other Science Fiction magazines none
     of them have aroused in me such a wonderful enthusiasm as
     Astounding Stories. Before I forget it I want to mention
     that I read two quarterlies also.

     The reason, or rather reasons, for my enthusiasm I will now
     enumerate. (1) The stories are wonderful. (2) The binding is
     very strong and efficient. (3) The print is just right, and
     soothing to the eyes of one who reads much. The paper is
     good, and the size and price of the magazine is just right.
     The covers are excellent, and with the addition of "The
     Readers' Corner" the magazine becomes absolutely perfect.
     Truly a wonderful start. See that it is kept up. The only
     thing that can still spoil the magazine is poor stories.
     Science Fiction stories that contain no science.

     In "Vampires of Venus" the plot was rather weak. Even if the
     Venerians knew nothing of entomology, they should have
     brains enough to get rid of the vampires the way Leslie
     Larner did without having to call an Earthman to help them.
     Another thing: the Venerians kept only insects that were not
     harmful to the crops. On Earth there are such insects who
     help the farmer by eating harmful insects. If the harmful
     insects were exterminated--an almost impossible and gigantic
     task--the harmless insects would change their diet and
     become harmful too. And it seems funny, too, that such a
     highly civilized planet as Venus should still depend on
     domesticated animals for food, drink and clothing instead of
     manufacturing what they need synthetically.

     The April cover on your magazine was wonderful.

     Before I close I wish to say a word about the Science
     Correspondence Club of which I am a proud member. There is
     little to say, however, after reading Conrad Ruppert's
     letter in the April issue. The membership has increased to
     over 300 now, numbering among them quite a number of famous
     scientists and authors. All I can say is that I hope every
     scientifically inclined person of whatever nationality,
     creed, color or sex they may be, will join this wonderful
     and rapidly progressing club. I will now close thanking the
     publishers of Astounding Stories for issuing such a
     wonderful magazine--Stan Osowski, E2, Railroad St., Central
     Falls, R. I.


_But--Conniston Was An Impostor!_

     Dear Editor:

     I read with interest Mr. Ray Cummings' story, "Brigands of
     the Moon," in the March number of Astounding Stories. The
     tale was a worthy one from the pen of so clever a writer. I
     do think, however, that the author might have left out the
     point about Sir Arthur Conniston, an English gentleman,
     turning traitor. This sort of thing is hardly calculated to
     bring about a friendly feeling between England and America,
     the two greatest countries in the world. I have the greatest
     admiration for the United States, and though we may have a
     little fun at each other's expense, there is no ill feeling
     meant, but I really hope you will not publish any other
     story like that one.--An Englishman, Montreal, Canada.


_Likes the Romance_

     Dear Editor:

     I have just finished my second copy of Astounding Stories
     and I wish to say I have enjoyed every story.

     For some time I have been a reader of Science Fiction, but
     none will compare to Astounding Stories. These stories seem
     to have the proper amount of romance in them to make them
     really interesting, and it adds the proper touch.

     I have no criticism to make. May I wish you a great success
     with this magazine--Frank I. Sontag, 825 Prescott Ave.,
     Scranton, Pa.


_High Praise_

     Dear Editor:

     Allow me to congratulate you upon the establishment of "The
     Readers' Corner." I do not know which was the first issue of
     your delightful magazine, but I have been buying it
     regularly for quite a few months.

     I may not be an experienced critic, but it can be easily
     seen by anyone that this magazine is one of the best on
     sale. I, for one, enjoy your stories more than any other
     stories I have ever read.

     I have just finished the second part of the four-part serial
     entitled "Brigands of the Moon." I thing Ray Cummings is the
     best author I have ever met up with in stories. The drawings
     are fine, the print is excellent, but I think the paper
     could be improved. But by no means change the size of your
     little magazine. The size is just right.

     In your April issue I read in "The Readers' Corner" about a
     Science Correspondence Club. Believe me when I say I'm
     sending immediately for an application blank. I think the
     idea of this club is excellent.

     Truly you have contributed a great gift to Science Fiction
     readers in offering this magazine to the receptive
     public.--Theodore L. Page, 2361 Los Angeles Ave.,
     Pittsburgh, Pa.


"_Don't Do It!_"

     Dear Editor:

     This afternoon I saw Astounding Stories for the first time
     and immediately grabbed a copy, as I have read others of the
     Clayton group, and moreover am a Science Fiction fan.

     The newsstand has no back numbers, and I simply must have
     the March 1930 issue, as I wish to read "Brigands of the
     Moon," so here is 25¢, in stamps to cover purchase price and
     cost of mailing me a copy of that issue.

     Have you a complete file since Vol. 1, No. 1? If so, what is
     the cost including charges? I'm sorry that I missed this
     magazine before, but you can rest assured that I'll miss no
     more.

     In the "Readers' Corner" I notice a call from Stephen Takacs
     for a change in size. DON'T DO IT! The size and shape are O.
     K., and to make it the awkward size of most magazines
     (including two of the Science Fiction magazines that I am
     now a confirmed reader of), would not improve it a bit.

     You have two of my favorite authors in the April number; no,
     I see it is three--Burks, Cummings and Meek. They are O. K.,
     but don't forget a few others, such as Burroughs, Verrill,
     Hamilton, Coblentz, Keller, Quinn, Williamson, Leinster,
     Repp, Vincent, Flagg--oh, why continue; you certainly know
     all the good authors of OUR kind of fiction; try them all.
     Of course, the other Science Fiction magazines that I take
     are full of stories by my favorites, but you can get stories
     by them too.

     From this one issue that I have read I can see only praise
     for your publication. Here's to a long life and a happy one.

     Don't forget to send me the March issue as fast as the mail
     can get it here--Robert J. Hyatt, 1353 Kenyon St., N. W.,
     Washington D. C.


"_Worst Ever Read_"

     Dear Editor:

     Since you invite criticism as well as praise, I am impelled
     to state that by far the worst story I ever read in any
     Science Fiction magazine was "Vampires of Venus," by Anthony
     Pelcher, which appeared in your April issue. It was so
     idiotic, so flat and inane, that it might have passed for a
     burlesque rather than a straight story, were it not
     painfully evident that the author was serious. The yarn was
     unworthy of Astounding Stories and did not belong in this
     magazine.

     The other stories, except for an amateurish attempt called
     "The Man Who Was Dead," were deeply engrossing and of
     unusual merit.--Sears Langell, 1214 Boston Road, New York.


"_The Readers' Corner_"

All Readers are extended a sincere and cordial invitation to "come
over in 'The Readers' Corner'" and join in our monthly discussion of
stories, authors, scientific principles and possibilities--everything
that's of common interest in connection with our Astounding Stories.

Although from time to time the Editor may make a comment or so, this
is a department primarily for _Readers_, and we want you to make full
use of it. Likes, dislikes, criticisms, explanations, roses,
brickbats, suggestions--everything's welcome here; so "come over in
'The Readers' Corner'" and discuss it with all of us!

--_The Editor._

       *       *       *       *       *





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