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Title: Astounding Stories, March, 1931
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

                                 20¢


              _On Sale the First Thursday of Each Month_


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


The Clayton Standard on a Magazine Guarantees

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

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

    _That_ each newsdealer and agent is insured a fair profit;

    _That_ an intelligent censorship guards their advertising pages.


_The other Clayton magazines are:_

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *



VOL. V, No. 3            CONTENTS            MARCH, 1931


COVER DESIGN                            H. W. WESSO

    _Painted in Water-Colors from a Scene in "Beyond the Vanishing
     Point."_

WHEN THE MOUNTAIN CAME TO MIRAMAR       CHARLES W. DIFFIN       297

    _It is Magic against Magic As Garry Connell Bluffs for His Life with
     a Prehistoric Savage in the Heart of Sentinel Mountain._

BEYOND THE VANISHING POINT              RAY CUMMINGS            314

    _The Tale of a Golden Atom--an Astounding Adventure in Size._
     (A Complete Novelette.)

TERRORS UNSEEN                          HARL VINCENT            360

    _One after Another the Invisible Robots Escape Shelton's Control--and
     Their Trail Leads Straight to the Gangster Chief Cadorna._

PHALANXES OF ATLANS                     F. V. W. MASON          376

    _Never Did an Aviator Ride a More Amazing Sky-Steed Than Alden on His
     Desperate Dash to the Great Jarmuthian Ziggurat._ (Conclusion of
     a Two-Part Novel.)

THE METEOR GIRL                         JACK WILLIAMSON         404

    _Through the Complicated Space-Time of the Fourth Dimension Goes
     Charlie King in an Attempt to Rescue the Meteor Girl._

THE READERS' CORNER                     ALL OF US               417

    _A Meeting Place for Readers of Astounding Stories._


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

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

       *       *       *       *       *



When the Mountain Came To Miramar

_By Charles W. Diffin_

[Illustration: "_That'll be all from you," he told the black one._]

[Sidenote: It is magic against magic as Garry Connell bluffs for his
life with a prehistoric savage in the heart of Sentinel Mountain.]


The first tremor that set the timbers of the house to creaking brought
Garry Connell out of his bunk and into the middle of the floor. Then
the floor heaved and 'dobe walls swayed while the man fought to keep
his footing and pull himself through the doorway to the safety of the
dark night. The earthquake that came with the spring of 1932 was on.

He was nauseated with that deathly sickness that only an earthquake
gives, and he dropped breathlessly in the shelter of a date palm while
the earth beneath him rolled and groaned in agony. A deeper roar was
rising above all other sounds, and Connell looked up at the nearby top
of Sentinel Mountain.

The stars of the desert land showed clear; the grim blackness of
Sentinel's lone peak rose abruptly from the sand of the desert floor
in darker silhouette against the velvet of a midnight sky. And the
mountain was roaring.

Softened by the distance, the deep, grumbling bass sang thunderingly
through and above the other noises of the night, as if old Sentinel
itself were voicing its remonstrance against this disturbance of its
age-long rest.

The grumbling died to a clatter of falling boulders a hundred yards
away at the mountain's base, and Connell's eyes discerned a puff of
vaporous gray, a cloud of wind-blown dust, high up on the mountain's
flank.

"Holy cats!" said Garry explosively, "what a slide! That must have
ripped the old boy wide open."

His eyes followed the white scar far up on the mountainside, followed
it down to the last loosened stones that had crashed among the date
palms of Miramar ranch. "I don't just like the idea of the whole
mountain moving in on me," he told himself; "I'll have to go up and
look at that to-morrow."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was afternoon of the following day when Garry rolled blankets and
food into a snug pack and prepared for the ascent. "Guess likely I'll
sleep out to-night," he mused and looked at the pistol he held in his
hand.

"I don't want that thing slapping against me," he argued; "too darned
hot! And there's nothing to use a gun on up on Sentinel.... Oh, well!"
He threw the holster upon his bunk and dropped the automatic into the
pack he was rolling. "I'll take it along. Might meet up with a
rattler."

He brushed the sandy hair from his wet forehead and straightened to
his full six feet of slender height before he slipped the straps of
his pack about his shoulders. And a broad grin made pleasant lines
about his gray eyes as he realized the boyish curiosity that was
driving him to a stiff climb in the heat of the day.

There was no real trail up the thousand-foot slope of Sentinel
Mountain. Prospectors had been over it, doubtless, in earlier days,
but in all of Garry's twenty-one years no one besides himself had ever
made the ascent.

There was nothing in all that solitary, desolate peak to call them;
nothing, for that matter, to beckon Garry, except the hot desert days,
the cool breath of evening and the glory of nights when the stars hung
low over all the miles of sand and sagebrush that reached far out to
the rippling sand-dunes shimmering in the distance. Nothing, that is,
but the "feel" of the desert--and young Garry Connell was desert-born
and bred.

He stopped once and dropped his pack while he mopped his wet face.
From this point he could see his own ranch spread below him. Miramar,
he had named it--"Beautiful Sea." The name was half an affectionate
mockery of this land where the nearest water was fifty miles away, and
half because of the sea of blue that he looked at now. Garry had never
ceased to wonder at the mirage.

It was always the same in the summer heat--a phantom ocean of water.
Garry's eyes loved to follow the quivering blue expanse that seemed so
cool and deep. It rippled softly away to end in a line of white, like
distant breakers on the horizon's rolling dunes.

This had been the bed of an ocean in some distant past, and that
ancient ocean could never have seemed more real than this; yet Garry
knew that this sea would vanish with the setting sun. He had watched
it often.

       *       *       *       *       *

A hundred yards farther and he stopped again. It was no well-trodden
path that Garry followed, but he knew his landmarks. There was the big
split rock a half mile ahead, and the three-branched cactus beside it.
But between these and the place where Garry stood was a fan-shaped
sweep of boulders--and this where smooth going had been before.

He forgot for the moment all discomfort. He stood staring under the
hot sun that cast purple shadows beside the weathered rocks, and his
eyes followed up the scarred mountainside.

"That whole ledge that stood out up there--that's gone!" he told
himself. "The whole side of the mountain just shook itself loose...."

Far above, his eyes found another towering mass that reared itself
menacingly. "That will come down next time," he said with conviction,
"and I don't want to be under it when it breaks loose." Then his
searching eyes found the lower ledge and its shattered remains.

It had held a welter of rocks above it as a dam holds the pressure of
water--and the dam had burst. The torrent of stone from above had
swept into motion and carried with it the accumulation of loose rubble
below. Where the ledge had been was now a cliff--a sheer wall of rock.
It had been covered before by the talus that was swept away.

Garry's eyes narrowed to see more plainly under the sun's glare. He
was staring not alone at the cliff but at a shadow within it--a black
shadow in the white face of the cliff itself.

"That was all covered up before," Garry stated; "buried for thousands
of years, I suppose. But it can't be a cave; not a natural one, at
least. There are no caves in this rock."

He stopped at times for breath, and his wonder grew as he climbed and
the black mark took clearer form. At last he stood panting before it,
to stare deep into the utter blackness of a passageway beyond an
entrance of carved stone.

It was carved; there was no mistaking it! Here was a passage that
nature had never formed. He took a quick stride forward to see the
tool marks that showed on hard walls where symbols and figures of
strange design were carved. An intrusion of harder rock had formed a
roof, and they had cut in below--

"They!" He spoke the word aloud. Who were "they?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He remembered the scientist who had stopped at the ranch some time
before, and he recalled enough of the talk of Aztec and Toltec and
Mayas to know that none of these old civilizations could explain the
things he saw.

"This goes way back beyond them--it must," he reasoned. And there were
pictures, long forgotten, that came to his mind to show him a vision
from the past--figures whose coppery faces shone dark above their
brilliant, colored robes--slaves, toiling and sweating to drive this
tunnel into solid rock. He was suddenly a-quiver with a feeling of the
presence of living things. His breath seemed stifled within him as he
stepped into the dark where a pencil of light from his pocket-flash
made the blackness more intense.

He tried to shake off the feeling, but an indefinable oppression was
heavy upon him; the weight of the uncounted centuries these walls had
seen filled him with strange forebodings.

His feet stumbled and scuffed over chips of stone; he steadied himself
against the wall at times as he followed the corridor that went down
and still down before him. It turned and twisted, then leveled off at
last, and Garry Connell drew himself up sharply with a quick-drawn
breath.

His flash was making a circle of light a dozen steps ahead, and showed
a litter of sharp stone fragments. And, scattered over them, a tangle
of bones shone white; one skull stood upright to stare mockingly from
hollow sockets. The sudden white of them was startling in the black
pit.

"Bones!" he said, and forced himself to disregard the echoes that
tried to shout him down; "just bones! And the old-timers that wore
them haven't been using them for thousands of years." He moved forward
with determined steps to the end of the passage that finished in solid
stone. He stopped abruptly. At closer range was something that froze
him to a tense, waiting crouch.

This wall of solid stone--it was not solid as it had seemed. There was
a doorway; the stone was swung inward; and at one side in a
straight-marked crack, he saw a thread of light.

He snapped off his own flash. Someone was there! Someone had beaten
him to it! He held himself crouched and rigid at the thought. But who
could it be? The utter silence and the steady, unchanging, pale-green
light showed him the folly of the thought. There was no one there;
there couldn't be anyone.

       *       *       *       *       *

His hand, that trembled with excitement, reached across and over the
skeleton remains posted like a ghostly guard before the door. He threw
his weight upon the stone.

Its bearings groaned, but it moved at his touch. The stone swung
slowly and ponderously into a silent room, and Garry Connell stared
wide-eyed and wondering where rock walls, in carved and colored
brilliance reflected the softest of diffused light.

A great room, hewn from the solid rock!--and Garry tried to see it and
all that it held at one glance. He grasped the extent of the stone
vault, a hundred feet across; the distant walls were plain in the soft
light.

One high point of flashing color caught his eye and held it in
marveling amazement. A thing of beauty and grace. It was a shining,
silvery shape like a mushroom growth; it towered high in air, almost
to the ceiling, a slender rod that swelled and opened to a curved and
gleaming head. Graceful as a fairy parasol, huge enough to shelter a
giant, it was like nothing he had ever seen.

But there was no time now for conjectures. He made no effort to
understand; he wanted only to see what might be here; and his eyes
flashed quickly over sculptured walls and a stone floor where metal
boxes were arranged in orderly rows.

Hundreds of them, he estimated; huge cases, some eight or ten feet
long. Two nearby were raised above the floor on bases of carved stone.
Lusterless gray in color--metal, unmistakably--and in them....

"No use getting all hopped up over treasure hunting," Garry had told
himself. But under all his incredulous amazement had been flickering
thoughts of what he might find.

He stared hungrily at those two boxes near him. Each of the hundreds
was big enough to hold a fortune. He reached for a metal bar beside
the scattered bones, and, like a man in a sleep-walking dream, he
stepped across those relics of earlier men and entered the room that
they had guarded.

The light stopped him for a moment. He puzzled over it; stared
wonderingly at a circle of glowing radiance in the roof of stone. It
reminded him of something ... the watch on his wrist ... yes, that was
the answer--some radio-active substance. His eyes came back to the
nearest chest, and he jammed the point of his corroded bar beneath the
flange of a tight-fitting lid.

       *       *       *       *       *

The hidden room was cool, but Garry Connell wiped the sweat from his
eyes when he ceased his frantic efforts. The metal bar clanged loudly
upon the floor beside him. He stood, breathing heavily, his eyes on
the metal cover that refused to move. And in the silence there came to
him again that strange, prickling apprehension. He caught himself
looking quickly behind him as if to find another person there.

His eyes were accustomed now to the pale light, and the sculptured
figures on the walls stood out with startling distinctness. Garry
turned to look at the nearer wall and the figure that was repeated
over and over again.

It was a man, tall and lean, his robes, undimmed by the years, blazed
in crimson and gold. But the face above! Garry shivered in spite of
himself at the devilish ugliness the artist had copied. It was dead
black in color, with slitted eyes that had been touched up artfully
to bring out their venomous stare. The head itself rose up to a
rounded point that added to the inhuman brutality of the face.

He was seated on a throne, Garry saw, and other figures, less
skilfully carved, were kneeling before him. Again, he was standing
above a prostrate enemy, a triple-pointed spear raised to deliver the
final blow.

Silently, Garry let his eyes follow around the room with its
repetition of the horrible being who was evidently a king. Then he
whistled softly. "Nice kind of hombre, he must have been," he said.
And, "Boy," he told the carved image familiarly, "whoever you were,
you've been dead a long time, and I don't mind telling you I'm glad of
it."

He was slowly circling the first casket. Beyond it was the slender rod
with its mushroom head that seemed more like a bell as he looked from
below. The head's inner surface was emblazoned, like the figures on
the wall, with crimson and gold in strange designs. He saw now that
the base of it was connected with a smaller box, placed like the two
beside it on a stone pedestal.

He came slowly beside it to study the box with narrowed eyes. He
expected the metal cover would be as immovable as the others, and he
started back and caught his breath sharply as the metal raised at his
touch and the green radiance from above flashed back from within the
box in a thousand scintillant lights. Then he stooped to see the
brilliant, silvery sheen of metal wheels that moved on jeweled
bearings.

       *       *       *       *       *

A mechanism of some sort--but what? he wondered. He had some knowledge
of the stream of electrons that discharged continuously from the light
above, and he knew how they could charge an electroscope that would
automatically discharge to produce motion. He nodded in
half-understanding as the fluttering gold-leaf fell and allowed a
tiny wheel to move one notch in its escapement.

"Clockworks!" he told himself--it was as near as he could come to a
name for the machine--"and it's been running here all this time....
What for, I wonder? What was it supposed to do?"

He stared again at the bell-shape towering above him, but its purpose
was beyond guessing: it was a part of the machine. His eyes came back
to the mechanism itself. There was a splinter of stone.... Garry
reached for it unthinkingly, but his hand was checked in mid-air.

The fragment was wedged beneath a tiny lever, holding it erect.
"That's the answer," Garry whispered. "The machine was left open,"--he
felt of the cover that had been dented by some heavy blow, and saw
sharp splinters of rock beneath his feet--"a rock fell from the roof,
flaked off and dropped onto the machine, and a splinter jammed this
little lever. But the machine has been ticking along...."

His fingers reached for the stone.

"Let's go!" he said, and grinned broadly at the thoughts that were in
his mind. "Let's see what the machine would have done!"

The fragment came away within his hand, and he saw the lever fall
slowly. There was motion within the case--wheels and shining spheres
that touched one upon another were spinning in gleaming circles of
silvery green--and from above he heard the first faint whisper of a
sound.

It came from the bell, and Garry drew back to stare upward. The first
soft humming of the clear bell-note was incredibly sweet. It rose in
pitch while the volume increased, till the musical note was lost in
the rising roar that resounded from walls and roof. Higher it rose; it
was a scream that was human in its agony, prodigious in its volume!

       *       *       *       *       *

Garry Connell stood trembling with unnamed fear. This sound was
unbearable; it beat upon his ears; it battered his whole body; it
searched out every quivering nerve and tore at it with fingers of
fire. Still higher!--and the scream was piercing and torturing his
brain. He felt the jerk of uncontrollable muscles.

The whirling machine was a blur of light, and he longed with every
fibre of his tortured mind to throw himself upon it--into
it!--anything to end the unbearable impact from on high. His body,
assailed by a clamor that was physical torment, could not move; the
vibrations beat him down with crushing force, while the shrieking
voice rose higher, then grew faint, and, with a final whisper, died to
nothingness.

And still Garry felt himself sinking; the room was blurred; the
excruciating agony of tortured nerves melted into a lethargy that
swept through him. Dimly he sensed that the monstrous, quivering,
bell-topped thing was still launching its devastating rain of
vibrations; they were above the range of hearing; but he felt his body
quivering in response to the unheard note. Then even these vague
fragments of understanding left him. The towering, soundless thing was
indistinct ... it vanished in the darkness that closed about....

He was upon the floor in a crouching heap when the tremors that shook
him ceased. His mind, in the same instant, was cleared, and he knew
that the soundless vibrations from the bell had ended. A wave of
thankfulness flooded through him, and he luxuriated in the utter
silence of the room--until that silence was broken by another sound.

It was hard and metallic, like the click of a withdrawn bolt, and came
first from the case at his side. A second sharp rap replied from the
other raised casket, then an echoing tattoo of metallic impacts
rattled and clattered in the resounding room. Each of the hundreds of
caskets was adding its voice to the clacking chorus.

       *       *       *       *       *

The paralysis that had held Garry's muscles was gone, and he came
slowly to his feet to see the edge of the cover he had tried vainly
to move, rising smoothly in the air. His eyes darted about; the second
casket was opening; beyond were countless others; the room was alive
with silent motion where metal lids lifted like petals of flowers
unfolding to the sun.

The machine had done it! The conviction came to him abruptly. Those
vibrations that had beaten him down had done this: some unlocking
mechanism within each case had been actuated when the vibrations
reached the proper pitch. Then the thoughts were driven from his mind
by a more thrilling conviction: The caskets were open! The treasure!
Who could know what some of them might contain? He took one quick step
toward the nearer of the two.

One step!--and his reaching hands stopped motionless above the open
case. The contents of the box were plain before him--and he stared in
horror at the black, half-naked figure of a man as silent and unmoving
as its counterpart upon the wall.

Black as a carving in ebony, it was the face that held Garry's eyes.
He saw the pointed head, the thin lips half-drawn from snarling teeth,
the expression of brutal savagery that even this frozen stillness
could not conceal.

The eyes were closed; Garry saw their slitted lids. He was looking at
them when they quivered and twitched. The lids opened slowly, drew
back from staring eyes that were cold and dead--eyes that came
suddenly to life, that turned and stared unwinkingly, horribly, into
his.

       *       *       *       *       *

Garry's lips were moving as he drew back in slow retreat, but he heard
no sound of his own voice, only a husky whisper that said over and
over again: "Mummies! Caskets of mummies! And they're coming back to
life!"

Suspended animation. He had heard of such things. Dim, fleeting
remembrance of what he had read came flashingly to him--toads that had
lived a thousand years sealed up in rock--but this, a human thing, a
man!--no, no!--it couldn't come to life; not after all this time!

The pointed head, the ugly, menacing face and the body of dead black
that rose slowly within the casket gave his argument the lie. In
dreadful, living reality he saw the thing before him as it stretched
its corded neck, extended and flexed its long, black arms and breathed
deeply through lips drawn thin. Then, with a bound of returning
energy, it leaped out and down to stand half-naked and black, towering
threateningly above his head.

And Garry, too stunned to feel a sense of fear, looked first at the
living face before him and then at the carvings done in stone. There
was too much here for instant comprehension; his reason could not
follow fast enough where facts were leading, and his mind seemed
groping for some certain, proven thing.

"It's the same one that's on the wall," he explained painstakingly to
himself. "It's the king, the old boy himself! I said he would be a bad
hombre; I said he was a bad one--"

He saw the other raise his hands threateningly, and he crouched to
meet the attack. But the black hands dropped, and the scowling face
turned, while Garry's eyes followed toward a sound of movement in the
second casket.

The green light flooded down, and Garry Connell glanced quickly at the
doorway. Too many of these blacks and this would be no safe place for
him. He was expecting another apparition like the first; he would have
thought himself prepared against any further surprise, but his gray
eyes opened wide at what the light disclosed.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was the casket, gray and lusterless on its low, stone base. Its
cover, like the others, stood erect, and above the nearer edge an arm
was raising. But it was a white arm, and it ended in a slim, white
hand!--its rounded softness held in clear outline against the back
ground of gray, until the arm fell that the hand might grip the metal
edge.

Garry's eyes held in wondering fascination upon those slender white
fingers. The hand of a woman--a girl!--what marvel of miracles was
this? He held his silent pose while he stared at the face that
appeared before him.

It was milk-white against the dull gray metal beyond, the white of
death itself, until returning circulation brought a flush of pink that
crept slowly to the rounded cheeks. Dark hair cascaded about the
shoulders to mingle with a lacy veil of golden threads. A film of
golden lace wrapped about her--her robes had gone to dust, vanished
with the vanished years--and only the threads of gold with which the
robe was shot remained, a futile concealment for the slim white of her
shoulders, the soft curves of rounded breasts. But Garry's eyes were
held by the eyes that looked and locked with his.

Dark eyes, deep and steady, yet glowing softly with the wonder of this
awakening. Windows, crystal clear, through which shone softly a light
that filled him through and through!

Alluring as was the rounded whiteness of the form so thinly veiled, it
was not this nor the childlike beauty of the face that held him
spellbound. Garry Connell's only love had been the desert, and now he
was filled and shaken by the glamour from within these thrilling eyes.

A rasping word made echoes in the silence, and Garry saw the girl's
eyes widen as she turned them upon the black one, who had spoken. He
saw her face lose its color and go dead white, and plainly her wide
eyes showed the fears that swept in upon her with returning
remembrance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Garry followed her gaze to the wild figure whose slitted eyes
glittered in savage triumph and possessiveness at the white beauty of
the trembling girl. The lean figure spoke again in that rasping,
unintelligible voice--he addressed the girl now--and the tone sent a
strange prickling of animosity through every fibre of the watching
man.

The black one took one stride forward; the girl, in a flash of white
and gold, sprang from her resting place to take shelter behind the
high casket. Her eyes came back to Garry's, and the call for help
though voiceless was none the less real.

Then her pale lips moved, and she called to him with a clear voice
that uttered unknown words.

Garry came from the spell that bound him, and with a quick rush made
between her and the advancing man. He landed tense and crouching, and
his voice was hoarse with excitement when he spoke.

"That'll be all from you," he told the black one.

His words could mean nothing to this savage, but the tone that rang
through them, and his crouching, ready pose, must have been plain. The
inky face beneath the high-pointed dome of head was twisted with rage;
the eyes glared at this being who dared to oppose him. But the black
one paused, then stepped backward to the casket where he had been.

Garry retreated a few slow steps to the end of the metal box that
sheltered the girl. "Can't you understand me?" he asked. "Am I
dreaming? What has happened? Who are you, and who is this black beast?
What does it all mean?"

Again he was sure that mere speech useless, but he felt that he had to
speak, to say something, anything, to prove the reality of his own
waking self and of the wild, nightmare experience.

He saw the crouching girl rise to her full height; he saw the movement
of her hand as she swept the dark hair away from her face, and the
film of gold lace clung closely about her as she came to his side.
One hand was outstretched to rest, light and cool, upon his forehead.

       *       *       *       *       *

He heard her voice, so soft and liquid yet so charged with terror. She
spoke meaningless words and phrases, but at the touch of her hand upon
his face he started abruptly.

Did the words themselves take on meaning and coherence, or was it
something within himself?--Garry could not have told. But, with the
startling clarity of a radio switched full on, he got the impress of
her thoughts, and his own brain took them and put them into words that
he knew.

"You will help me, you will save me," the words were saying. "You are
one of us, I know. You are a stranger, but your skin is white; you are
not of the tribe of Horab."

Garry was motionless and listening. He knew he was sensing her
thoughts--she was communicating with him by some telepathic magic--and
he knew, as he caught the words, that Horab was the black one there
before him, reaching and feeling within the casket where he had slept.
Horab--a savage king of a savage land--

"He captured me," the words continued in breathless haste. "I am from
Zahn: do you know the good land of Zahn? I am Luhra. Horab captured
me; carried me here to this island; it was yesterday he brought me
here. He put me to sleep, and he put his men to sleep, hundreds of his
chosen warriors. He worked his magic, and he said we would sleep for
one hundred summers. But it was yesterday. And now you will save me;
my father is a great man; he will reward you--"

The sentences flashed almost incoherently into his mind, but ceased at
a sound and stirring from the room at their backs.

Garry needed a moment for the substance of the message to register. He
had heard it as truly as if she had spoken: Horab had captured
her--yesterday!... And his own lips that had been loose with
astonishment closed to a grim smile.

"Yesterday!" She thought it was yesterday that her long night had
begun. Did Horab know the truth? Garry was suddenly certain that he
did. Horab's plans had miscarried; he could not know how far in a
distant past was that day when he had placed himself and this girl in
their caskets, safe in their mountain tomb.

       *       *       *       *       *

Only an instant for these thoughts to form--then his eyes were steady
upon the tall savage who had found what he sought in the big metal
case. Horab, king of a vanished race, turned now with a heavy scepter
in his hand; and its jeweled head flashed brilliantly as he raised it
high in air and shouted an echoing command into the room. A white hand
was tugging at Garry's shoulder, a soft body clinging close, to turn
him where new danger threatened.

The other caskets! He had forgotten them, and he saw the nearer ones
alive with struggling forms. A black man-shape, with sullen, animal
face and pointed head, came slowly erect and staggered upon the floor.
Another--and another! There were scores of the black, naked men who
scrambled from the nearer caskets and swayed drunkenly upon their
feet.

Garry stood tense, his mind a chaos of half-formed plans. This one
brute he might handle, but the whole tribe--that was too large an
order. Yet he knew with an unshakable conviction that he would carry
this girl from their evil clutches or die in the trying.

Feminine charms had failed to interest Garry in that world outside,
but now the message of these soft eyes, the appealing beauty of this
lovely face, proud and unafraid despite her fears, the hand so soft
and trusting upon his face!--there had something entered into Garry
Connell's lonely life that struck deep within him and found a ready
response.

He swept one arm about the soft, yielding body beneath its wisp of
garment, and he swung her behind him as he set himself to meet the
attack. And he flashed her a look that must have carried a message,
for the trembling lips were framing a ghost of a smile as her eyes met
his.

Garry's thoughts darted to the gun, but his tightly-wrapped pack was
in the passage outside. He prayed for a moment's time that he might
meet this mob pistol in hand, and he half turned; but no time was
given. The leader was shouting orders, his harsh voice resounded in
shattering echoes throughout the stone vault, and the horde of blacks
surged forward at his command.

       *       *       *       *       *

A mass of lean bodies, with faces ugly and brutal where sleep-filled
eyes opened wide and glaring! They crowded upon him, and Garry met the
rush with a rain of straight rights and lefts into the nearest faces.
He was carried backward to the wall by the weight of their numbers,
but he saw some go down for the count.

The room seemed filled with leaping, shouting men. Their shrill cries
echoed in a tumult of discord, and above all Garry heard the hoarse
screams of their leader.

There were fists and arms clubbing at his head. He warded them off,
then sprang from the wall, leaping outward and sideways, where there
was room for free swings of his pounding fists. Another black face
went blank under the impact of his blow--a second--and a third!

He was giving ground slowly as the others came on. Then beyond the
crowding figures he saw one who held a trident spear high in air. The
weapon was poised; the metal points shone in the green light--points
that would tear his body to shreds at a single blow.

Garry paused but an instant, then opened his clenched fists to clutch
the lean neck of an enemy before him. He whirled the man's body and
held it as a shield while he reached vainly to grip at the thrusting
spear. Dimly he saw the flash of white and gold where the girl,
Luhra, threw her own body upon the armed figure and clung in
desperation to the shaft of the deadly weapon.

       *       *       *       *       *

Garry hung fast to the struggling body, that was his shield; there
were other spears now that flashed in the air. He loosed one hand and
landed a short jab in the face of a savage whose hands were at his
throat. The blow was light, and he was amazed to see the man stagger
and fall. There were others who swayed helplessly and stumbled to
their knees. Spears rang sharply, clattering upon the stone.... They
were falling. The body he held went suddenly limp within his arms and
sagged heavily to the floor....

Garry saw the one who had threatened him drop; he took the girl with
him as he fell, and his spear flew wildly from his open hand. Garry
was alone!--and the enemy was only a tangle of sprawling bodies where
the twitching of an outflung arm marked the last sign of life.

He was breathing hard, for some of the enemies' blows had landed, and
he staggered as he wiped a trickle of blood from his eyes. No time to
figure what this meant, but the blacks were certainly out of it.
Beyond the huddled bodies the tall figure of Horab leaped wildly in
air as he sprang forward, and in the same instant Garry threw himself
between the black menace and the prostrate girl.

He staggered again as he landed from his wild leap, and he called for
his last reserve of strength to put power behind the blow that he
launched for the snarling face above.

The heavy scepter swung high, and was falling as Garry struck. He saw
the blow start; saw the fiery arc the jeweled head made in descending
like a mace above his head. Then the face of Horab vanished, and the
room was a whirling place of flashing red and yellow before blackness
blotted it out....

       *       *       *       *       *

Garry awoke to blink stupidly at a green light above him. His head was
a blinding, throbbing pain that blurred his thoughts.

It cleared slowly. The gleaming figure of a girl was rising from the
floor. His aching eyes saw the white of her young body through the
dull glow of golden lace. Her eyes came to his, and sharply he
realized that this was no dream--this cave whose walls seemed swaying,
the face that was staring pitifully at him, and, beyond, in a ghastly
green light, the dark silhouette of a lean man who bent his pointed
head above a chest.

Connell's mind was a whirl of snarled thoughts and emotions, of
puzzled wonder and fighting rage; yet strangely through and above them
all was a feeling of pure joy in the message of the eyes in a face
that was utterly lovely.

The black figure had opened the chest. Garry saw the luminous green
about it shot through with the reflected radiance of many gems. Jewels
cascaded brilliantly from the lean black hands as they withdrew a
golden cord. Part of some gem-incrusted fabric, it was, that he tore
roughly from its rotted fastenings before coming swiftly to the still
helpless body of Connell.

Garry's struggles were futile; his hands were tied before him. The
shooting pain of a prodding spear brought him from the paralyzing
numbness that held him, and he came dizzily to his feet. Again the
walls whirled, and he would have fallen headlong but for a lithe, soft
body that sprang close to throw white arms about him.

Through blood-shot eyes he saw Luhra, of the land of Zahn, with head
held high and flashing eyes as she turned squarely to face the savage
black. And he heard the stream of strange sentences that she poured
protestingly upon him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Her message broke off abruptly. Garry's eyes followed hers to watch a
savage king, naked but for the tattered remnants of robes that time
had eaten. He was reaching, into a casket that had once held kingly
raiment--reaching with a lean black hand that brought forth only
fragments of purple and crimson cloth that went quickly to dust within
his hands.

Garry saw the slitted eyes stare in puzzled wonder at the rotted
cloth, then glance sharply and inquiringly about. He saw the black one
place a jeweled head-dress of barbaric splendor upon his ugly, pointed
head, then rise and cross slowly to the heap of bodies. Spear in hand,
he passed on to the serried rows of caskets.

Those nearest were empty, as Garry knew; he had seen the eruption of
life from within them. Horab, with a growled word, moved on to the
other caskets that stretched out across the room. The ugly head
stooped; again the hands reached down, to come back this time with an
empty, gleaming skull.

Garry thought once of his pistol, but knew in the same thought that he
could never reach it; the spear of Horab would crash through him at
the first movement. He dismissed the thought--forgot it--and forgot
all else in the fascination of beholding the sagging lips and the
scowling stupefaction on the black face of Horab. And slowly there
came to his throbbing brain an explanation.

One hundred summers, Luhra had said--Horab had meant to sleep for a
hundred years--and the machine that was to waken him had failed to
function. Ages beyond computing had passed, and these two only, the
black king and the girl, had survived. They had been directly beneath
the light; its flooding energy had brought them safely through the
dreamless years. But, for the others, it had been different.

Those nearest the light had responded to the vibrating call, but their
vitality was gone; their moment of life was short. As for the hundreds
who had felt the light but faintly--the skull told the story. They
had died as they slept, died thousands of years ago, and their
skeletons were all that remained to mock at their king and the
frustration of his plans.

       *       *       *       *       *

But what was the purpose of the long sleep? Luhra's touch and her
soundless words supplied the answer.

"Why did he wish this?" her mind said, repeating his question.
"Horab's own country was lost; the yellow-ones from across the great
water had conquered and overrun it. But Horab had planted the seeds of
disease, and the yellow ones must all die in time. Horab is a king and
a worker of magic; he is in league with a devil; he learns his magic
of him. We of Zahn, all feared the magic of Horab--" She stopped at
the quiver of rock beneath their feet.

Garry's mind had cleared, but it was an instant before he knew that
the movement was not in his own throbbing head. Then the earth tremor
came unmistakably, and his thoughts flashed back to the mass of rock
above the mouth of the cave. If more quakes were coming they must get
out, and do it at once--

The black hand of King Horab cast the skull vindictively against the
wall, and the clatter of its falling fragments mingled with strange
oaths from the savage lips. Then he came toward the two and Garry
searched his mind desperately for some means of escape.

The trident spear was aimed, and Garry waited for the throw. He felt,
more than saw, the flash of light that was Luhra as she sprang for a
spear beside the fallen men. An instant and she was before him, tense
and poised, a golden Amazon, whose upraised arm and steady eyes
checked even Horab in his advance.

She spoke to the savage in sharp, staccato phrases, but Garry got no
meaning from the words. There was a quick interchange between them;
vehement protest and shaking of his poised spear on the part of
Horab. Luhra added a word or two, and she lowered her weapon as Horab
did the same.

Her head was bowed as she reached to touch Garry's forehead. He sensed
a hopeless sorrow that was so plainly hers, but with it he felt a
mingling of another emotion that stirred him to the depths of his
being. The slim, white figure straightened, and the dark eyes squarely
upon his when she spoke.

"Listen carefully," she said; "it is the last time--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Garry found himself trembling; he was suddenly breathless with
emotion. The racking pain in his head had settled to a dull ache, but
his brain was clear, and through it were flashing strange thoughts.

The threat, the wild adventure itself!--they were nothing before the
truth that was so plain to him now. He loved this girl! he loved
her!--and his whole self responded with an inflow of fresh energy at
the thought. A stranger from a strange, lost world!--but what of
it?--he loved her!... The message from the lips and fingers of the
girl broke in upon the thoughts that were crying for expression.

"You think of me." She smiled with her lips and eyes. "I am glad that
you do, my dear one, but it is hopeless.

"Listen: I have promised; Luhra has spoken: I will go with Horab to do
as he wills. I will go freely, and he will leave you here unharmed. He
promises me this.

"I will go with Horab far across the blue water that surrounds us
here. It is an island, as you know, for have you not come here from
afar?" Garry broke in with a startled exclamation. An island! Water!
He closed his lips upon the denial of her words.

"And you," Luhra continued unheeding, "when we have gone, will return
to your own land.

"But, oh, my dear one, remember always I love you. I have read your
thoughts, oh bravest and tenderest of men; I loved you from the
moment when my eyes opened and found you waiting there. I am telling
you now, for I will never see you again." She broke in upon the wild
urge of protest that filled his mind.

With an imperious gesture she motioned Horab to discard his spear, and
she placed hers beside it on the rocky floor. But she flinched and
retreated from the outstretched arms and grasping hands, while Garry
Connell struggled in insane frenzy at the cords that bound his wrists.

He felt the lean hands of Horab upon him, and the long arms held him
in a crushing grip. And he saw the black face laugh evilly at the
watching girl as Horab kicked the spears over beside the casket where
she had been.

Garry felt himself raised in air, and he was as helpless as a child in
that grasp. An instant later he was thrown heavily, to lie bruised and
breathless in the metal box where first he had seen Luhra's face in
wide-eyed awakening.

       *       *       *       *       *

The rasping voice of Horab rose high and shrill. He was shouting
triumphantly at the girl, while his hands worked to bind Garry's feet.
Luhra's head and shoulders showed above the casket edge as she circled
swiftly to approach from the opposite side and reach a trembling hand
that would make the contact necessary for thought transference. Her
cool touch was upon him; Garry ceased his futile struggle while her
words came, brokenly to his mind.

"Horab has tricked us," she cried; "he is leaving you here. He will
paralyze you with the devil song of the bell, but not to sleep as I
did: it will stop on another note. He says you will be always awake,
but helpless--thinking--thinking--always!"

She buried her face in her hands to hide from his gaze the horror that
was in her eyes. Garry Connell's straining hands went limp. The terror
in the girl's voice struck through his own wild medley of thoughts to
make him shudder with realization of the truth.

The threat was real! If Horab left the cave and took Luhra with him,
the two would die in the desert. The black savage would never dare to
face the strange, new world. And he, Garry, would be here in this
cave, in this very coffin, held in a waking death. No one knew he was
here; only by chance would the cave be investigated. And when someone
finally came!

Garry stared in fascination at the green light. He knew with terrible
certainty that whatever help might come would come too late. To lie
there hour after hour, for days and then for years--waiting!--always
waiting!... And he could never still his thoughts.... He had a
sickening realization of the thing they would find. A body!--his
body!--and the mind within it utterly insane....

The sound of the shrieking bell was in his ears, and his nerves were
trembling in response. He saw long arms above the casket, tearing away
the figure of a struggling girl.... And then he knew he was alone....

       *       *       *       *       *

The sound of the bell rose to the piercing, nerve-shredding scream he had
heard before. He must think fast--and act!--but the numbness of brain and
muscle was creeping upon him. He tried to call out, but his throat was
tight, and would not respond. The echoes died into silence; the
vibrations, as before, passed beyond audible range. He was sinking ...
sinking....

Dimly he felt the casket shaking beneath him. In some distant corner
of his mind he knew that the earthquake shocks had turned. Then he
heard with ear-splitting plainness the shrieking discord as the tremor
shook the vibrating machine to silence.

The room was quiet; the paralysis left him; and in the instant of his
release the clear brain of Garry Connell flashed from chaos to lay
before him a full-formed plan.

"Luhra!" he called in the silent room. "Luhra!" But it seemed an age
before he heard Horab and his captive returning from the passage. Then
the touch of her hand gave him courage to continue.

"Yes?" she whispered; "yes, my dear one?"

He saw the shoulders of the black as he half-raised a spear
threateningly toward the girl, then turned to adjust the whirring
machine.

"Tell him," shouted Garry, "--tell Horab to shut off that damnable
machine!" The shriek of it was rising again to drown his voice. "Tell
him his life depends upon it. Tell him to listen to what I say or he
will die."

He heard the girl's voice raised in a high-pitched call, and he heard
the rasping snarl of Horab in reply. The girl repeated her cry above
the echoing clamor of the bell--and the intolerable, rising scream,
after a time, was stilled.

Garry experienced one raging moment when he would have given his hope
of life for the ability to talk to Horab face to face and in words
that could penetrate the black one's brain. But he could not. He must
use this girl as an interpreter, and he must give her words to say
that would make this ugly beast pause. He must speak as she would
speak; put words and sentences into her mouth that would reach the
savage superstitions of the other.

He spoke slowly, and stared impressively into the dark, fear-filled
eyes in the white face that bent above him. He must make the girl
believe.

"Horab works magic," he told her. "Tell Horab that I, too, am a
magician--a great magician--a greater one than Horab."

       *       *       *       *       *

He waited an instant to hear the girl's words and the disdainful
laughter from lips in a savage face thrust close to where he lay.

"Horab is truly a magician," said Luhra doubtfully; "he laughs at your
magic. Horab's _Tao_ is a strong _Tao_, wicked and powerful."

"His _Tao_?" said Garry, and looked at the girl questioningly. He got
the thought in her mind. "Oh, yes--his god, or devil."

He turned his head to sure straight into the grinning face whose wide,
thin lips were twisted into a leering snarl. Garry had to summon all
his power of will to hold the look that he gave his enemy and to
laugh, in his turn, long and contemptuously. Another tremor shook the
casket where he lay.

"Tell Horab," he ordered, while his eyes stared steadily into those of
the savage king, "--tell Horab my _Tao_ is stronger than his. My _Tao_
is angry because I have been harmed; he is shaking the mountain. He
will shake it down on Horab and crush out his life."

He continued to stare while he heard Luhra's voice, high with hope,
and he saw a change of expression flicker across the black face,
though Horab shouted a vehement reply.

Luhra was speaking to him. "Horab says the earth has shaken before;
that it is not your _Tao_ who shakes it. He asks for another sign."

Garry was not surprised. He had fired this shot at random; the tremor
itself had suggested it. And now--

"Another sign!" Garry had to fight hard for self-control to keep from
shouting the truth to this evil thing--to keep from telling him of the
time that had passed, and of the world that was waiting for him. But
that would never do: he must play upon this black one's superstitions.
Let Horab once leave this cave with that devilish, soundless scream
ringing in his ears and he, Garry Connell, was lost. And Luhra!--what
hope for her out there?... The black hands were moving impatiently
toward the machine....

Garry found himself speaking slowly--short sentences that Luhra
quickly repeated. And something within him rose to frame words such as
Garry Connell, man of the desert, would never have thought to
speak--phrases that best might reach a savage, vicious mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

He glanced once at the watch on his wrist. He did not feel the torture
of the tight gold cord. He was thinking in terms of daylight, and of
how much time had passed since he had seen the sun....

"Horab shall have a sign--a terrible sign," he said. "Death waits for
Horab in the world outside, my _Tao_ tells me. Horab shall die
horribly. I see him choking in the hot sand. His tongue fills his
mouth. The hot sun burns, and he is filled with fire. He tries to
scream--to call upon his _Tao_--but he makes no sound.... And so shall
Horab die."

The girl translated swiftly; the answer was a wild cry of rage from
the black. He sprang beside the helpless man and his spear was raised
high.

Garry felt the weight of Luhra's body thrown protectingly across him,
and looked up to see murder in the savage, slitted eyes. "Tell Horab,"
he directed sharply, "that if be harms you or me the burning death is
his! But--" He waited deliberately after Luhra had spoken, and he saw
plainly the flicker of fear in the ugly face. Now was the time.

"Unbind my feet!" he ordered, and he put into his voice all the force
and menace he could muster. "Take me to the outer world. Take your
spear. If I do not speak truth, kill me there. My _Tao_ will show you
a sign; he will fill your heart with fear as it now is filled with
evil. But, it may be I can save you. Unbind my feet! Be quick!"

Again he waited while Luhra spoke, and he cursed silently with the
agony of waiting. To be playing a part, speaking these absurdly
childish things, when what he wanted was his hand upon a gun or in a
grip of death about that black throat! Yet he lay as still as if the
vibrations of the bell were upon him, and his eyes held unwaveringly
upon the savage face, until he felt the fumbling of hands about his
feet....

       *       *       *       *       *

A square-cut portal!--and beyond it a golden sun that shone through
mists of purple and rose! Was he too late? Garry pressed forward in
what would have been a clumsy run, but for the spear that had prodded
him through all the long passage, and that warned now against
attempted escape.

The brilliance and heat that struck him when he stepped, out into the
open brought Garry in a flash from the world of horror and
make-believe into the world he knew. He wanted to shout for sheer joy;
but more than all else he wanted to leap at the ugly thing who stood
blinking his eyes in the mouth of the cave.

The thought of escape was strong upon him, but the touch of a timid
hand showed the folly of that. Luhra was beside him, her filmy
lacework shining softly in the sun, to make more lovely the delicate
flush beneath. Her eyes, shielded from the sun, were upon him with a
look half hopeful, half despairing. No, he must see it through--go on
with his play-acting--meet magic with magic. Horab had come out from
the cave, and spear in hand he stood commandingly above them on a huge
boulder. Yes, the magic must go on.

The harsh voice of the savage ripped out unintelligible words. Luhra
translated. "It is changed," she said, "and Horab fears. But the water
is there, and there is no burning death.... He says your _Tao_ is
weak."

Garry stared with thankful eyes across the blue expanse where a line
of white marked ghostly breakers on a distant shore; where hills were
reflected in the shimmering blue. But the sun was still above their
tops, so he must spar for time--

"My _Tao_ is strong," he said, and went on with whatever fantastic
thoughts came into his mind. He was talking against time. He told of
the new world his _Tao_ had built, of men harnessing the lightning and
flying through the air; of cannon that roared like the thunder and
threw death and destruction upon those that the _Tao_ would
destroy.... And his eyes watched the slow descent of the dropping sun,
while the figure above stirred impatiently and raised his spear.

"A sign!" Luhra was imploring. "He does not believe!"

The golden ball was touching now on a distant, purple peak. The
amazing magic of the desert!--its moment had come! Garry indicated as
best he could the phantom sea, so real, below.

"My _Tao_ has spoken," he shouted: "watch! The waters shall be dried
up; the seas shall become a desert of hot sand; the lands and waters
that Horab knows shall be no more! There shall be no food for his
stomach nor water for his lips where Horab wanders in torment....
Unless I save him."

       *       *       *       *       *

He turned to stare at the vast mirage. He knew that the eyes of the
others had followed his, and he knew that they saw the first change
that crept over the land.

The blue that was so unmistakably a sea was dissolving; it seemed
sucked into the sand. And, while yet the hot rays cast their lingering
gold over mountain and plain, the seas faded and were gone ... and
where they had been in unquestioned reality was only yellow sand that
whirled hotly and drifted in the first breath of the coming night....

The towering figure above them stood rigid. Garry had found a sharp
edge of rock, and sawed frantically upon it to cut the soft gold of
the cords at his wrists. The one above them paid no heed; his eyes
were held in horror of this silent death that swept across the world.

The hand that Garry extended was steady and cautious; his arm crept
about the body of white and gold to draw the amazed and wondering girl
silently into the open cave.

"Follow!" he ordered, and dashed headlong down the darkened way where
an automatic was waiting for his eager fingers.

The pack was there, and he tore at it with frenzied hands to grip at
the pistol within. And there was also an open chest whose contents
glittered in the green light, and whose weight was not too great for
him to carry....

He had both chest and gun when he returned. The stumbling falls in his
mad rush had not served to allay the hurts of his tortured body, nor
still his raging fury. He called to Luhra as he ran--and realized that
Luhra was gone. The chest fell forgotten at his feet as he rushed out;
he shouted her name and cursed himself for leaving her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Had the fascination of the outer world drawn her back? Had she trusted
too greatly in the power of his Tao to shield her from harm? Connell
could not know. He knew only that he saw her struggling in the grip of
the long arms where the black one held her on an outthrust rock.

They were a hundred feet away, yet the black face beneath its pointed
skull showed plainly its bestial fury as Garry sprang forward. With
one motion the tall figure dashed the girl to the stone at his feet
and raised his spear. He paused to laugh harshly at the man who rushed
toward him--who could never reach him to stop the fatal thrust.

A threat, it might have been, to hold the attacker off, or a murderous
intent to end now and forever this one captive's life: Garry did not
wait to learn. And the hundred-foot distance that meant a hundred feet
of safety to the savage was spanned by a stream of lead from a gun
whose stabbing flashes cracked sharply upon the still air. The ringing
clatter of a spear that fell among granite stones came thinly to Garry
as he saw the black form of Horab, king of another day, spin dizzily
from the rock on which he stood.

He had hit him--wounded him at least--and the firing of that wild
fusillade might have emptied the magazine! Gary waited for nothing
more, but gathered the limp body of the girl within his outstretched
arms and carried her stumblingly across the welter of rocks on the
boulder-strewn slope. Nor did he stop until he had gained the safety
of open ground beyond the marks of the great slide.

       *       *       *       *       *

The earth was shivering and weaving as he laid her down; a rock
crashed sharply in the distance. Garry turned to retrace his steps and
leap wildly from rock to rock toward the mouth of the cave in a
granite cliff. And the metal chest was in his arms when he returned
where Luhra waited.

The ground was alive with sickening motion, he was nauseated with
earthquake sickness, but he gave thought only to his gun and the one
cartridge that he found in the chamber. He steadied his arm upon a
rock to take aim at a figure on a distant slope.

Horab had climbed back upon the rock. A lean figure and black, he was
sharply outlined in the last rays of the setting sun; the target was
clear beyond the pistol's sights. But the fingers of the grim-faced
man refused to tighten upon the trigger.

Savage and cruel--a relic of a bygone age! He stood there, ludicrous
and unreal in his stark black nakedness, his frayed robes of crimson
whipping to tatters in the breeze. Yet he had forgotten his
wounds--Horab was standing upright--and Garry's hand that held the
pistol fell loosely at his side. The hate melted from his heart as he
watched where Horab drew himself painfully erect.

A barbarous figure was Horab, and evil beyond redemption, yet there
were not lacking the attributes of a king in the grotesque form whose
head was still held high. The sun made flashing brilliance of the
jewels on that distorted head, while he stared with hopeless, savage
eyes across the changed world where he could have no part. His _Tao_
had failed him; his enemy had struck him down; and now--

The rock that bad been a rest for Garry's arm was swaying, and to his
ears came a rumble and groan. Sentinel Mountain, that had watched the
ages pass, that had seen the oceans truly change to sand, protested
again at this disturbance of its own long sleep.

Garry heard the coming of the masses from above; the crashing din was
deadening to his ears. They were safe--and his eyes were upon a savage
figure, black and tall, that stared and stared, silently, across a sea
of yellow sand. He watched it, clear-cut, motionless--until it
vanished beneath the roaring flood of rocks.

       *       *       *       *       *

And close in his arms there pressed the soft body of a trembling girl
who touched his face and whispered: "Your _Tao_, my brave one, is
strong. Hold me closely that he may count me as your friend."

His own whispered words, though differing somewhat, were a fervent
echo of hers. He saw the rocky masses piled high where the mouth of a
cave had been; and "Thank God!" Garry Connell said, "we got out of
there in time!"

The casket of jewels lay neglected among the rocks: to-morrow would be
time enough to salvage the wealth for which he had risked his life. He
swept the girl into his arms, and the sun's last rays made golden
splendor of his burden as he carried her across the broken stones.

His ranch showed far below him when he stopped, but the green of date
palms had vanished under the last great sweep of rocks. Some few that
remained made dark splotches among the shadows that were engulfing the
world.

What did it matter? Miramar--"Beautiful Sea!" He laughed grimly at
thought of how that sea had served him, but his eyes were tender in
his tanned and blood-stained face.

Miramar could be restored. And it would be less lonely now....


ROBOT CHEMIST

A robot chemist with an electric eye, radio brain and magnet hands
functioned without human supervision in an improvised laboratory
recently before members of the New York Electrical Society.

The automatic chemist performed several experiments. Its work was
explained by William C. MacTavish, professor of chemistry at New York
University, and was part of a program in which cold light was
reproduced, a sample weighing a millionth of a gram analyzed, a
photo-electric cell used to control analysis and new scientific
apparatus demonstrated.

In his talk on "The Magic of Modern Chemistry," Professor MacTavish
demonstrated the separation of para-hydrogen and ortho-hydrogen. In
the micro-analysis of a millionth of a gram, Professor MacTavish
exhibited in the micro-projector a ball of gold weighing one
thousandth of a milligram (one twenty-eight millionth of an ounce),
having a value of less than one ten-thousandth of a cent.

The robot chemist was the joint creation of Dr. H. M. Partridge and
Professor Ralph H. Muller of the department of chemistry at New York
University. In explaining what the automatic chemist can do, Professor
MacTavish said:

"The ability of the automatic chemist to control chemical operations
is due to its sensitivity to slight variations in color and light
intensity. Its working parts are very simple. They consist of a
standard light source, in this case an electric light, a
photo-electric cell which detects differences in the amount of light
impinging on it, a radio tube which amplifies the signal received from
the photo-electric cell and which operates the relays controlling the
automatic valves.

"Between the electric light and the photo-electric cell is placed a
glass vessel holding an alkali that is to be neutralized. Above is a
tube from which an acid passes, drop by drop, through an automatic
valve, into the alkali. A small amount of chemical indicator added to
the alkali maintains a red color in it until it is neutralized. When a
sufficient amount of the acid has dropped into the alkali, the red
color disappears, indicating complete neutralization.

"When the solution is colored red, an insufficient amount of lights
gets through to the photo-electric cell. As the red color gradually
diminishes, the amount of light passing through increases, and when
the solution is entirely clear the light reaches a critical value
which causes the photo-electric cell to pass a signal to the radio
tube. This tube operates the relay which closes a valve and shuts off
the supply of acid.

"Using a device of this sort to perform such operations around a
laboratory will save a great deal of a chemist's time. Its electric
eye is about 165 times as sensitive to differences in color as any
human eye."



Beyond the Vanishing Point

A COMPLETE NOVELETTE

_By Ray Cummings_

CHAPTER I

_The Fragment of Quartz_

[Sidenote: The tale of a golden atom--an astounding adventure in
size.]

[Illustration: The fly landed with a thud on the center table.]


It was shortly after noon of December 31, 1960, when the series of
weird and startling events began which took me into the tiny world of
an atom of gold, beyond the vanishing point, beyond the range of even
the highest-powered electric-microscope. My name is George Randolph. I
was, that momentous afternoon, assistant chemist for the Ajax
International Dye Company, with main offices in New York City.

It was twelve-twenty when the local exchange call-sorter announced
Alan's connection from Quebec.

"You, George? Look here, we've got to have you up here at once.
Chateau Frontenac, Quebec. Will you come?"

I could see his face imaged in the little mirror on my desk; the
anxiety, tenseness in his voice, was duplicated in his expression.

"Well--" I began.

"You must, George. Babs and I need you. See here--"

He tried at first to make it sound like an invitation for a New Year's
Eve holiday. But I knew it was not that. Alan and Barbara Kent were my
best friends. They were twins, eighteen years old. I felt that Alan
would always be my best friend; but for Babs my hopes, longings, went
far deeper, though as yet I had never brought myself to the point of
telling her so.

"I'd like to come, Alan. But--"

"You must! George, I can't tell you over the public air. It's--I've
seen _him_! He's diabolical! I know it now!"

_Him!_ It could only mean, of all the world, one person!

"He's here!" he went on. "Near here. We've seen him to-day! I didn't
want to tell you, but that's why we came. It seemed a long chance, but
it's he, I'm positive!"

I was staring at the image of Alan's eyes; it seemed that there was
horror in them. And in his voice. "God, George, it's weird! Weird, I
tell you. His looks--he--oh I can't tell you now! Only, come!"

       *       *       *       *       *

I was busy at the office in spite of the holiday season, but I dropped
everything and went. By one o'clock that afternoon I was wheeling my
little sport midge from its cage on the roof of the Metropole
building, and went into the air.

It was a cold gray afternoon with the feel of coming snow. I made a
good two hundred and fifty miles at first, taking the northbound
through-traffic lane which to-day the meteorological conditions had
placed at 6,200 feet altitude.

Flying is largely automatic. There was not enough traffic to bother
me. The details of leaving the office so hastily had been too
engrossing for thought of Alan and Babs. But now, in my little pit at
the controls, my mind flung ahead. They had located him. That meant
Franz Polter, for whom we had been searching nearly four years. And my
memory went back into the past with vivid vision....

The Kents, four years ago, were living on Long Island. Alan and Babs
were fourteen years old, and I was seventeen. Even then Babs
represented to me all that was desirable in girlhood. I lived in a
neighboring house that summer and saw them every day.

To my adolescent mind a thrilling mystery hung upon the Kent family.
The mother was dead. Dr. Kent, father of Alan and Babs, maintained a
luxurious home, with only a housekeeper and and no other servant. Dr.
Kent was a retired chemist. He had, in his home, a chemical laboratory
in which he was working upon some mysterious problem. His children did
not know what it was, nor, of course, did I. And none of us had ever
been in the laboratory, except that when occasion offered we stole
surreptitious peeps.

I recall Dr. Kent as a kindly, iron-gray haired gentleman. He was
stern with the discipline of his children; but he loved them, and was
indulgent in a thousand ways. They loved him; and I, an orphan, began
looking upon him almost as a father. I was interested in chemistry. He
knew it, and did his best to help and encourage me in my studies.

       *       *       *       *       *

There came an afternoon in the summer of 1956, when arriving at the
Kent house, I ran upon a startling scene. The only other member of the
household was a young fellow of twenty-five, named Franz Polter. He
was a foreigner, born, I understood, in one of the Balkan
Protectorates; and he was here, employed by Dr. Kent as laboratory
assistant. He had been with the Kents, at this time, two years. Alan
and Babs did not like him, nor did I. He must have been a clever,
skilful chemist. No doubt he was. But in aspect he was, to us,
repulsive. A hunchback, with a short thick body; dangling arms that
suggested a gorilla; barrel chest; a lump set askew on his left
shoulder, and his massive head planted down with almost no neck. His
face was rugged in feature; a wide mouth, a high-bridged heavy nose;
and above the face a great shock of wavy black hair. It was an
intelligent face; in itself, not repulsive.

But I think we all three feared Franz Polter. There was always
something sinister about him, quite apart from his deformity.

I came, that afternoon, upon Babs and Polter under a tree on the Kent
lawn. Babs, at fourteen with her long black braids down her back,
bare-legged and short-skirted in a summer sport costume, was standing
against the tree with Polter facing her. They were about of a height.
To my youthful imaginative mind rose the fleeting picture of a young
girl in a forest menaced by a gorilla.

I came upon them suddenly. I heard Polter say:

"But I lof you, And you are almos' a woman. Some day you lof me."

He put out his thick hand and gripped her shoulder. She tried to twist
away. She was frightened, but she laughed.

"You--you're crazy!"

He was suddenly holding her in his arms, and she was fighting him. I
dashed forward. Babs was always a spunky sort of girl. In spite of her
fear now, she kept on laughing, and she shouted:

"You--let me go, you--hunchback!"

He did let her go; but in a frenzy of rage he hauled back his hand and
struck her in the face. I was upon him the next second. I had him down
on the lawn, punching him; but though at seventeen I was a reasonably
husky lad, the hunchback with his thick, hairy gorilla arms proved
much stronger. He heaved me off. And then the commotion brought Alan.
Without waiting to find out what the trouble was, he jumped on Polter.
Between us, I think we would have beaten him pretty badly. But the
housekeeper summoned Dr. Kent and the fight was over.

       *       *       *       *       *

Polter left for good within an hour. He did not speak to any of us.
But I saw him as he put his luggage into the taxi which Dr. Kent had
summoned. I was standing silently nearby with Babs and Alan. The look
he flung us as he drove away carried an unmistakable menace--the
promise of vengeance. And I think now that in his warped and twisted
mind he was telling himself that he would some day make Babs regret
that she had laughed at his love.

What happened that night none of us ever knew. Dr. Kent worked late in
his laboratory; he was there when Alan and Babs and the housekeeper
went to bed. He had written a note to Alan; it was found on his desk
in a corner of the laboratory next morning, addressed in care of the
family lawyer to be given Alan in the event his father died. It said
very little. Described a tiny fragment of gold quartz rock the size
of a walnut which would be found under the giant microscope in the
laboratory; and told Alan to give it to the American Scientific
Society to be guarded and watched very carefully.

This note was found, but Dr. Kent had vanished! There had been a
midnight marauder. The laboratory was on the lower floor of the house.
Through one of its open windows, so the police said, an intruder had
entered. There was evidence of a struggle, but it must have been
short, and neither Babs, Alan, the housekeeper nor any of the
neighbors heard anything amiss. And the fragment of golden quartz was
gone!

The police investigation came to nothing. Polter was found in New
York. He withstood the police questions. There was nothing except
suspicion upon which he could be held, and he was finally released.
Immediately, he disappeared.

Neither Alan, Babs nor I saw Polter again. Dr. Kent had never been
heard from to this day, four years later when I flew to join the twins
in Quebec. And now Alan had told me that Polter was up there! We had
never ceased to believe that Dr. Kent was alive, and that Polter was
the midnight marauder. And as we grew older, we began to search for
Polter. It seemed to us that now we were older, if we could once get
our hands on him, we could drag from him the truth in which the police
had failed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The call of a traffic director in mid-Vermont brought me back from
these vivid thoughts. My buzzer was clanging; a peremptory
halting-signal day-beam came darting up at me from below. It caught me
and clung: I shouted down at it.

"What's the matter?" I gave my name and number and all the details in
a breath. Above everything I had no wish to be halted now. "What's the
matter? I haven't done anything wrong."

"The hell you haven't," the director roared. "Come down to three
thousand. That lane's barred."

I dove obediently and his beam followed me. "Once more like that,
young fellow--" But he went busy with somebody else and I didn't hear
the end of his threat.

I crossed into Maine in mid-afternoon. Twilight was upon me. The sky
was solid lead. The landscape all up through here was gray-white with
snow in the gathering darkness. I passed the city of Jackman, crossing
full over it to take no chances of annoying the border officials; and
a few miles further, I dropped to the glaring lights of the
International Inspection Field. The formalities were soon finished. I
was ready to take-away when Alan rushed at me.

"George! I thought I could connect here." He gripped me. He was
wild-eyed, incoherent. He waved his taxiplane away. "I'm going back
with my friend. George. I can't--I don't know what's happened to her.
_She's_ gone, now!"

"Who's gone? Babs?"

"Yes." He pushed me into my plane and climbed in after me. "Don't
talk. Get us up! I'll tell you then. I shouldn't have left."

When we were up in the air, I swung on him. "What are you talking
about? Babs gone?"

I could feel myself shuddering with a nameless horror.

"I don't know what I'm talking about, George. I'm about crazy. The
Quebec police think I am, anyway. I been raising hell with them for an
hour. Babs is gone. I can't find her. I don't know where she is."

       *       *       *       *       *

He finally calmed down enough to tell me. Shortly after his radiophone
to me in New York, he had missed Babs. They had had lunch in the huge
hotel and then walked on the Dufferin Terrace--the famous promenade
outside looking down over the lower city, the great sweep of the St.
Lawrence River and the gray-white distant Laurentian mountains.

"I was to meet her inside. I went in ahead of her. But she didn't
come. I went back to the terrace and she was gone. Wasn't in our
rooms. Nor the lobby--nor anywhere."

But it was early afternoon, in the public place of a civilized city.
In the daylight of the Dufferin Terrace, beside the long ice toboggan
slide, under the gaze of skaters on the ice-rink and several hundred
holiday merrymakers, a young girl could hardly be murdered, or
forcibly abducted, without attracting some attention! The Quebec
police thought the young American unduly excited over his sister, who
was missing only an hour. They would do what they could, if by dark
she had not rejoined him. They suggested that doubtless the young lady
had gone shopping.

"Maybe she did," I agreed. But in my heart, I felt differently.
"She'll be waiting for us in the hotel when we get there, Alan."

"But I'm telling you we saw Polter this morning. He lives here--not
thirty miles from Quebec. We saw him on the terrace after breakfast.
Recognized him at once."

"Did he see you?"

"I don't know. He was lost in the crowd in a minute. But I asked a
young French fellow who it was. He knew him. Told me, Frank Raskor.
That's the name he wears now. He's a famous man up here--well known,
immensely rich. I don't know if he saw us or not. What a fool I was to
leave Babs alone, even for a minute!"

We were speeding over a white-clad valley with a little frozen river
winding down its middle. Almost full night had come. The leaden sky
was low above us. It began snowing. The lights of the small villages
along the river were barely visible.

"Can you land us, Alan?"

"Yes, surely. Municipal field just beyond the Citadel. We can get to
the hotel in five minutes. Good landing lights."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a flight of only half an hour. During it, Alan told me about
Polter. The hunchback, known now as Frank Rascor, owned a mine in the
Laurentides, some thirty miles from Quebec City--a fabulously
productive mine of gold. It was an anomaly that gold should be
produced in this region. No vein o£ gold-bearing rock had been found,
except the one on Polter's property. Alan had seen a newspaper account
of the strangeness of it; and just upon the chance had come to Quebec,
seen Frank Rascor on the Dufferin Terrace, and recognized him as
Polter.

Again my thoughts went back into the past. Had Polter stolen that
missing fragment of golden quartz the size of a walnut which had been
beneath Dr. Kent's microscope? We always thought so. Dr. Kent had some
secret, some great problem upon which he was working. Polter, his
assistant, had evidently known, or partially known, its details. And
now, four years later, Polter was immensely rich, with a "gold mine"
in mountains where there was no other such evidence of gold!

I seemed to see some connection. Alan, I knew, was groping with a dim
idea, so strange he hardly dared voice it.

"I tell you, it's weird, George. The sight of him. Polter--heavens,
one couldn't mistake that hunchback--and his face, his features, just
the same as when we knew him."

"Then what's weird?? I demanded.

"His age." There was a queer solemn hush in Alan's voice. "George,
when we knew Polter, he was about twenty-five, wasn't he? Well, that
was four years ago. But he isn't twenty-nine now! I swear it's the
same man--but he isn't around thirty. Don't ask me what I'm talking
about. I don't know. But he isn't thirty. He's nearer fifty!
Unnatural! Weird! I felt it, and so did Babs, just that brief look we
had at him."

I did not answer. My attention was on managing the plane. The lights
of Sevis were under us. Beyond the city cliffs the St. Lawrence lay
in its deep valley; and the Quebec lights, the light-dotted ramparts
with the terrace and the great fortress-like hotel showed across the
river.

"Better take the stick, Alan. I don't know where the field is. And
don't you worry about Babs. She'll be back by now."

       *       *       *       *       *

But she was not. We went to the two connecting rooms in the tower of
the hotel which Alan and Babs had engaged. We inquired with half a
dozen phone-calls. No one had seen or heard from her. The Quebec
police were sending a man up to talk to Alan.

"Well, we won't be here," Alan called to me. He was standing by the
window in Bab's room; he was trembling too much to use the phone. I
hung up the receiver and went through the connecting door to join him.

Bab's room! It sent a pang through me. A few of her garments were
lying around. A negligee was laid out on the dainty little bed. A
velvet boudoir doll--she had always loved them--stood on the dresser.
Upon this hotel room, in a day, she had impressed her personality. Her
perfume was in the air. And now she was gone.

"We won't be here," Alan was repeating. He gripped me at the window.
"Look!" In his hand was an ugly-looking, smokeless, soundless
automatic of the Essen type. "And I've got another, for you. Brought
them up with me."

His face was white and drawn, but his hands abruptly were steady. The
tremble was gone out of his voice.

"I'm going after him. George! Now! Understand that? Now! His place is
only thirty miles from here, out there in the mountains. You can see
it in the daylight--a wall around his property and a stone castle
which he built in the middle of it. A gold mine? Hell!"

There was nothing to be seen now out of the window but the
snow-filled darkness, the blurred lights of lower Quebec and the line
of dock-lights five hundred feet under us.

"Will you fly me, George?"

"Of course."

I was the one trembling now; the cool feel of the automatic which Alan
thrust into my hand seemed suddenly to crystallize Bab's danger. I was
here in her room, with the scent of her perfume around it, and this
deadly weapon was needed! But the trembling was gone in a moment.

"Yes. Of course, Alan. No use talking to the police. You can't get a
search warrant to ransack the castle of a rich man just because you
can't find your sister. Come on. You can tell me what his place is
like as we go."

       *       *       *       *       *

Bundled in our flying suits we hurried from the hotel, climbed the
Citadel slope of the landing field, and in ten minutes were again in
the air. The wind sucked at us. The snow now was falling with thick
huge flakes. Directed by Alan, I headed out over the ice-filled St.
Lawrence, past the frozen Isle d'Orleans, toward Polter's mysterious
mountain castle.

Suddenly Alan burst out, "I know what father's secret was, George! I
can piece it together now, from little things that were meaningless
when I was a kid. He invented the electro-microscope. You know that.
The infinitely small fascinated him. I remember he once said that if
we could see far enough down into smallness, we would come upon human
life!"

Alan's low tense voice was more vehement than I had ever heard it
before. "It's clear to me now, George. That little fragment of golden
quartz which he wanted me to be so careful of contained a world with
human inhabitants! Father knew it, or suspected it. And I think the
chemical problem on which he was working aimed for some drug. I know
it was a drug they were compounding. Polter said so once, a
radio-active drug; I remember listening at the door. A drug, George,
capable of making a human being infinitely small!"

I did not answer when momentarily Alan paused. So strange a thing! My
mind whirled with it; struggled to encompass it. And like the
meaningless pieces of a puzzle, dropping so easily into place when the
key-piece is fitted. I saw Polter stealing that fragment of gold;
abducting Dr. Kent--perhaps because Polter himself was not fully
acquainted with the secret. And now, Polter, up here with a fabulously
rich "gold mine." And Babs, abducted by him, to be taken--where?

It set me shuddering.

"Alan!"

"That's what it was!" Alan reiterated. "And Polter, here now with what
he calls a 'mine.' It isn't a mine, it's a laboratory! He's got
father, too, hidden God knows where! And now Babs. We've got to get
them. George! The police can't help us! It's just you and me, to fight
this thing. And it's diabolical!"


CHAPTER II

_The Girl an Inch Tall_

We soared over the divided channel of the St. Lawrence, between
Orleans and the mainland. Montmorency Falls in a moment showed dimly
white through the murk to our left, a great hanging veil of ice higher
than Niagara. Further ahead, the lights of the little village of St.
Anne de Beaupré were visible with the gray-black, towering hills
behind them. Historic region! But Alan and I had no thoughts for it.

"Swing left, George. Over the mainland. That's St. Anne; we pass this
side of it. Put the mufflers on. This damn thing roars like a tower
siren."

I cut in the mufflers, and switched off our wing-lights. It was
illegal, but we were past all thought of that. We were both desperate;
the slow prudent process of acting within the law had nothing to do
with this affair. We both knew it.

Our little plane was dark, and amid the sounds of this night blizzard
our muffled engine could not be heard.

Alan touched me. "There are his lights; see them?"

We had passed St. Anne. The hills lay ahead--wild mountainous country
stretching northward to the foot of Hudson Bay. The blizzard was
roaring out of the north and we were heading into it. I saw, on what
seemed a dome-like hill perhaps a thousand feet above the river level,
a small cluster of lights which marked Polter's property.

"Fly over it once, George. Low--we can chance it. And find a place to
land outside the walls."

We presently had it under us. I held us at five hundred feet, and cut
our speed to the minimum of twenty miles an hour facing the gale,
though it was sixty or seventy when we turned. There were a score or
two of hooded ground lights. But there was little reflection aloft,
and in the murk of the snowfall I felt we would escape notice.

We crossed, turned and went back in an arc following Polter's outer
curved wall. We had a good view of it. A weird enough looking place,
here on its lonely hilltop. No wonder the wealthy "Frank Rascor" had
attained local prominence!

       *       *       *       *       *

The whole property was irregularly circular, perhaps a mile in
diameter covering the almost flat dome of the hilltop. Around it,
completely enclosing it, Polter had built a stone and brick wall. A
miniature wall of China! We could see that it was fully thirty feet
high with what evidently were naked high-voltage wires protecting its
top. There were half a dozen little gates, securely barred, with
doubtless a guard at each of them.

Within the wall there were several buildings: a few small stone houses
suggesting workmen's dwellings; an oblong stone structure with smoke
funnels which seemed perhaps a smelter; a huge, dome-like spread of
translucent glass over what might have been the top of a mine-shaft.
It looked more like the dome of an observatory--an inverted bowl fully
a hundred feet wide and equally as high, set upon the ground. What did
it cover?

And, there was Polter's residence--a castle-like brick and stone
building with a central tower not unlike a miniature of the Chateau
Frontenac. We saw a stone corridor on the ground connecting the lower
floor of the castle with the dome, which lay about a hundred feet to
one side.

Could we chance landing inside the wall? There was a dark, level
expanse of snow where we could have done it, but our descending plane
would doubtless have been discovered. But the mile-wide inner area was
dark in many places. Spots of light were at the little wall-gates.
There was a glow all along the top of the wall. Lights were in
Polter's house; they slanted out in yellow shafts to the nearby white
ground. But for the rest, the whole place was dark, save a dim glow
from under the dome.

I shook my head at Alan's suggestion. "We couldn't land inside." We
had circled back and were a mile or so off toward the river. "You saw
guards down there. But that low stretch outside the gate on this
side--"

A plan was coming to me. Heaven knows it was desperate enough, but we
had no alternative. We would land and accost one of the gate guards.
Force our way in. Once inside the wall, on foot in the darkness of
this blizzard, we could hide; creep up to that dome. Beyond that my
imagination could not go.

       *       *       *       *       *

We landed in the snow a quarter of a mile from one of the gates. We
left the plane and plunged into the darkness. It was a steady upward
slope. A packed snowfield was under foot, firm enough to hold our
shoes, with a foot or so of loose soft snow on its top. The falling
flakes whirled around us. The darkness was solid, Our helmeted
leather-furred flying suits were soon shapeless with a gathering white
shroud. We carried our Essens in our gloved hands. The night was cold,
around zero I imagine, though with that biting wind it felt far
colder.

From the gloom a tiny spot of light loomed up.

"There it is, Alan. Easy now! Let me go first." The wind tore away my
words. We could see the narrow rectangle of bars at the gate, with a
glow of light behind them.

"Hide your gun, Alan." I gripped him. "Hear me?"

"Yes."

"Let me go first. I'll do the talking. When he opens the gate, let me
handle him. You--if there are two of them--you take the other."

We emerged from the darkness, into the glow of light by the gate. I
had the horrible feeling that a shot would greet us. A challenge came,
at first in French, then in English.

"Stop! What do you want?"

"To see Mr. Rascor."

We were up to the bars now, shapeless hooded bundles of snow and
frost. A man stood in the doorway of a lighted little cubby behind the
bars. A black muzzle in his hand was leveled at us.

"He sees no one. Who are you?"

Alan was pressing at me from behind. I shoved back, and took a step
forward. I touched the bars.

"My name is Fred Davis. Newspaper man from Montreal. I must see Mr.
Rascor."

"You cannot. You may send in your call. The mouthpiece is there--out
there to the left. Bare your face; he talks to no one without the face
image."

       *       *       *       *       *

The guard had drawn back into his cubby; there was only this extended
hand and the muzzle of his weapon left visible.

I took a step forward. "I don't want to talk by phone. Won't you open
the gate? It's cold out here. We have important business. We'll wait
with you."

Abruptly the gate lattice slid aside. Beyond the cubby doorway was the
open darkness within the wall. A scuffed path leading inward from the
gate showed for a few feet.

I walked over the threshold, with Alan crowding me. The Essen in my
coat pocket was leveled. But from the cubby doorway, I saw that the
guard was gone! Then I saw him crouching back of a metal shield. His
voice rang out.

"Stand!"

A light struck my face--a little beam from a television sender beside
me. It all happened in an instant, so quickly Alan and I had barely
time to make a move. I realized my image was now doubtless being
presented to Polter. He would recognize me!

I ducked my head, yelling: "Don't do that! You frighten me!"

It was too late! The guard had received a signal. I was aware of its
buzz.

From the shield a tiny jet of fluid leaped at me. It struck my hood.
There was a heavy, sickening-sweet smell. It seemed like chloroform. I
felt my senses going. The cubby room was turning dark; was roaring.

I think I fired at the shield. And Alan leapt aside. I heard the faint
hiss of his Essen. And his choked, horrified voice:

"George--come back! Run! Don't fall! Don't!"

I crumpled; slid into blackness. And it seemed, as I went down, that
Alan's inert body was falling on top of me....

       *       *       *       *       *

I recovered consciousness after a nameless interval, a phantasmagoria
of wild, drugged dreams. My senses came slowly. At first, there were
dim muffled voices and the tread of footsteps. Then I knew that I was
lying on the ground, and that I was indoors. It was warm. My overcoat
was off. Then I realized that I was bound and gagged.

I opened my eyes. Alan was lying inert beside me, roped and with a
black gag around his face and in his mouth. We were in a huge dim open
space. Presently, as my vision cleared, I saw that the dome was
overhead. This was a circular, hundred-foot-wide room. It was dimly
lighted. The figures of men were moving about, their great misshapen
shadows shifting with them. Twenty feet from me there was a pile of
golden rock--chunks of gold the size of a man's fist, or his head, and
larger, heaped loosely into a mound ten feet high.

Beyond this pile of ore, near the center of the room, twenty feet
above the concrete floor, there was a large hanging electrolier. It
cast a circular glow downward. Under it I saw a low platform raised a
foot or two above the ground. A giant electro-microscope was hung with
its twenty-foot cylinder above the platform. Its intensification tubes
were glowing in a dim phosphorescent row on a nearby bracket. A man
sat in a chair on the platform at the microscope's eyepiece.

I saw all this with a brief glance, then my attention went to a white
stone slab under the giant lense. It rested on the platform floor, a
two-foot-square surface of smooth white stone like marble. A little
roped railing a few inches high fenced it. And in its center lay a
fragment of golden quartz the size of a walnut!

There was a movement across my line of vision. Two figures advanced. I
recognized both of them. And I strained at my bonds; mouthed the gag
with futile, horrified effort. I could no more than writhe; and I
could not make a sound. I lay, after a moment exhausted, and stared
with horror.

The familiar hunched figure of Polter advanced toward the microscope.
And with him, his huge hand holding her wrists, was Babs. They were
nearly fifty feet from me, but with the light over them I could see
them clearly. Bab's slim figure was clad in a long skirted dress--pale
blue, now, with the light on it. Her long black hair had fallen
disheveled to her shoulders. I could not see her face. She did not cry
out. Polter was half dragging her as she resisted him; and then
abruptly she ceased struggling.

I heard his gutteral voice. "That iss better."

       *       *       *       *       *

They mounted to the platform. It seemed to me that they must have been
far away; they were very small. Abnormally small. I blinked. Horror
surged over me. Their figures were dwindling as they stood there!
Polter was saying something to the man at the microscope. Other men
were nearby, watching. All normal, save Polter and Babs. A moment
passed. Polter was standing by the chair in which the man at the
microscope was sitting. And Polter's head barely reached its seat!
Babs was clinging to him, now. Another moment. They were both little
figures down by the chair-leg. Then they began walking with swaying
steps toward the tiny railing of the white slab. The white reflection
from the slab plainly illumined then. Polter's arm was around Babs. I
had not realized how small they were until I saw Polter lift the rope
of the four-inch little fence, and he and Babs stooped and walked
under it. The fragment of quartz lay a foot from them in the center of
the white surface. They walked unsteadily toward it. But soon they
were running.

My horrified senses whirled. Then abruptly I felt something touch my
face! Alan and I were lying in shadow. No one had noticed my writhing
movements, and Alan was still in drugged unconsciousness. Something
tiny and light and soundless as a butterfly wing brushed my face! I
jerked my head aside. On the floor, within six inches of my eyes, I
saw the tiny figure of a girl an inch high! She stood, with a warning
gesture to her lips--a human girl in a filmy flowing drapery. Long
pale golden tresses lay on her white shoulders; her face, small as my
little fingernail, colorful as a miniature painted upon ivory, was so
close to my eyes that I could see her expression--warning me not to
move.

There was a faint glow of light on the floor where she stood, but in a
moment she moved out of it. Then I felt her brush against the back of
my head. My ear was near the ground. A tiny warm hand touched my
ear-lobe; clung to it. A tiny voice sounded in my ear.

"Please do not move your head! You might kill me!"

There was a pause. I held myself rigid. Then the tiny voice came
again.

"I am Glora, a friend. I have the drug! I will help you!"


CHAPTER III

_The Fight in the Shrinking Dome Room_

It seemed that Alan was stirring. I felt the tiny hand leave my ear. I
thought that I could hear faint little footfalls as the girl scampered
away, fearful that a sudden movement from Alan would crush her. I
turned cautiously after a moment and saw Alan's eyes upon me. He too
had seen, with a blurred returning consciousness, the dwindling
figures of Babs and Polter. I followed his gaze. The white slab with
the golden quartz under the microscope seemed empty of human movement.
The several men in this huge circular dome-room were dispersing to
their affairs: three of them sat whispering by what I now saw was a
pile of gold ingots stacked crosswise. But the fellow at the
microscope held his place, his eye glued to its aperture as he watched
the vanishing figures of Polter and Babs on the rock-fragment.

Alan seemed trying to convey something to me, He could only gaze and
jerk his head. I saw behind his head the figure of the tiny girl on
the floor behind him. She wanted evidently to approach his head but
did not dare. When for an instant he was quiet, she ran forward, but
at once scampered back.

From the group by the ingots, one of the men rose and came toward us.
Alan held still, watching. And the girl, Glora, seized the opportunity
to come nearer. We both heard her tiny voice:

"Do not move! Close your eyes! Make him think you are still
unconscious."

Then she was gone, like a mouse hiding in the shadows near us.

Amazement swept Alan's face; he twisted, mouthed at his gag. But he
saw my eager nod and took his cue from me.

       *       *       *       *       *

I closed my eyes and lay stiff, breathing slowly. Footsteps
approached. A man bent over Alan and me.

"Are you no conscious yet?" It was the voice of a foreigner, with a
queer, indescribable intonation. A foot prodded us. "Wake up!"

Then the footsteps retreated, and when I dared to look the man was
rejoining his fellows. It was a strange-looking trio. They were
heavy-set men in leather Jackets and short, wide knee-length trousers.
One wore tight, high boots, and the others a sort of white buskin,
with ankle straps. All were bareheaded--round, bullet heads of
close-dipped black hair.

I suddenly had another startling realization. These men were not of
normal size as I had assumed! They were eight or ten feet tall at the
very least! And they and the pile of ingots, instead of being close to
me, were more distant than I had thought.

Alan was trying to signal me. The tiny girl was again at his ear,
whispering to him. And then she came to me.

"I have a knife. See?" She backed away. I caught the pin-point gleam
of what might have been a knife in her hand. "I will get a little
larger. I am too small to cut your ropes. You lie still, even after I
have cut them."

I nodded. The movement frightened her so that she leaped backward; but
she came again, smiling. The three men were talking earnestly by the
ingots. No one else was near us.

Glora's tiny voice was louder, so that we both could hear it at once.

"When I free you, do not move or they may see that you are loose. I
get larger now--a little larger--and return."

       *       *       *       *       *

She darted away and vanished. Alan and I lay listening to the voices
of the three men. Two were talking in a strange tongue. One called to
the man at the microscope, and he responded. The third man said
suddenly:

"Say, talk English. You know damn well I can't understand that lingo."

"We say, McGuire, the two prisoners soon wake up."

"What we oughta do is kill 'em. Polter's a fool."

"The doctor say, wait for him return. Not long--what you call three,
four hours."

"And have the Quebec police up here lookin' fer 'em? An' that damn
girl he stole off the terrace--What did he call her, Barbara Kent?"

"These two who are drugged, their bodies can be thrown in a gully down
behind St. Anne. That what the doctor plan to do, I think. Then the
police find them--days maybe from now--and their smashed airship with
them."

Gruesome suggestion!

The man at the microscope called, "They are gone. Almost. I can hardly
see them more." He left the platform and joined the others. And I saw
that he was much smaller than they--about my own size possibly.

There seemed six men here altogether. Four now, by the ingots, and two
others far across the room where I saw the dark entrance of the
corridor-tunnel which led to Polter's castle.

Again I felt a warning hand touch my face, and saw the figure of Glora
standing by my head. She was larger now--about a foot tall. She moved
past my eyes; stood by my mouth; bent down over my gag. I felt the
cautious side of a tiny knife-blade inserted under the fabric of the
gag. She hacked, tugged at it, and in a moment ripped it through.

She stood panting from the effort. My heart was pounding with fear
that she would be seen; but the man had turned the central light off
when he left the microscope, and it was far darker here now than
before.

       *       *       *       *       *

I moistened my dry mouth. My tongue was thick, but I could talk.

"Thank you, Glora."

"Quiet!"

I felt her hacking at the ropes around my wrists. And then at my
ankles. It took her a long time, but at last I was free! I rubbed my
arms and legs; felt the returning strength in them.

And presently Alan was free. "George, what--" he began.

"Wait!" I whispered. "Easy! Let her tell us what to do."

We were unarmed. Two, against these six, three of whom were giants.

Glora whispered, "Do not move! I have the drugs. But I can no give
them to you when I am still so small. I have not enough. I will
hide--there." Her little arm gestured to where, near us, half a dozen
boxes were piled. "When I am large as you, I come back. Be ready,
quickly to act. I may be seen. I give you then the drug."

"But wait," Alan whispered. "We must know--"

"The drug to make you large. In a moment then you can fight these men.
I had planned it for myself, to do that, and then I saw you held
captive. That girl of your world the doctor just now steal, she is
friend of yours?

"Yes! Yes, Glora. But--" A thousand questions were springing in my
mind, but this was no time to ask them. I amended, "Go! Hurry! Give us
the drug when you can."

The little figure moved away from us and disappeared. Alan and I lay
as we had before. But now we could whisper. We tried to anticipate
what would happen; tried to plan, but that was futile. The thing was
too strange, too astoundingly fantastic.

       *       *       *       *       *

HOW long Glora was gone I do not know. I think, not over three or four
minutes. She came from her hiding place, crouching this time, and
joined us. She was, probably, of normal Earth size--a small,
frail-looking girl something over five feet tall. We saw now that she
was about sixteen years old. We lay staring at her, amazed at her
beauty. Her small oval face was pale, with the flush of pink upon her
cheeks--a face queerly, transcendently beautiful. It was wholly human,
yet somehow unearthly, as though unmarked by even the heritage of our
Earthly strifes.

"Now! I am ready." She was fumbling at her robe. "I will give you each
the same."

Her gestures were rapid. She flung a quick glance at the distant men.
Alan and I were tense. We could easily be discovered now, but we had
to chance it. We were sitting erect. He murmured:

"But what do we do? What happens? What--"

On the palm of her hand were two small pink-white pellets. "Take
these--one for each of you. Quickly!"

Involuntarily we drew back. The thing abruptly was gruesome,
frightening. Horribly frightening.

"Quickly," she urged. "The drug is what you call highly radio-active.
And volatile. Exposed to the air it is gone very soon. You are afraid?
No! No, it will not harm you."

With a muttered curse at his own reluctance, Alan seized the pellet. I
stopped him.

"Wait!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The men momentarily were engaged in a low-voiced, earnest discussion.
I dared to hesitate a moment longer.

"Glora, where will you be?"

"Here. Right here. I will hide."

"We want to go after Mr. Polter." I gestured. "Into that little piece
of golden rock. Is that where he went? Is that where he took the Earth
girl?"

"Yes. My world is there--within an atom there in that rock."

"Will you take us?"

"Yes! Yes!"

Alan whispered suddenly, "Then let us go now. Get smaller, now."

But she shook her head vehemently. "That is not possible. We would be
seen as we climbed the platform and crossed the white slab."

"No." I protested. "Not if we get very small, hiding here first."

She was smiling, but urgently fearful of this delay. "Should we get
that small, then it would be, from here"--she gestured toward the
microscope--"to there, a journey of very many miles. Don't you
understand?"

This thing so strange!

Alan was plucking at me. "Ready, George?"

"Yes."

I put the pellet on my tongue. It tasted slightly sweet, but seemed
quickly melted and I swallowed it hastily. My head swam. My heart was
pounding, but that was apprehension, not the drug. A thrill of heat
ran through my veins as though my blood were on fire.

Alan was clinging to me as we sat together. Glora again had vanished.
In the background of my whirling consciousness the sudden thought
hovered that she had tricked us; done to us something diabolical. But
the thought was swept away in the confusion of the flood of
impressions upon me.

I turned dizzily. "All right, Alan?"

"Yes, I--I guess so."

My ears were roaring, the room seemed whirling, but in a moment that
passed. I felt a sudden, growing sense of lightness. A humming was
within me--a soundless tingle. To every tiny microscopic cell in my
body the drug had gone. The myriad pores of my skin seemed thrilling
with activity. I know now it was the exuding volatile gas of this
disintegrating drug. Like an aura it enveloped me, acted upon my
garments.

       *       *       *       *       *

I learned later much of the principles of this and its companion drug.
I had no thought for such things now. The huge dimly illumined room
under the dome was swaying. Then abruptly it steadied. The strange
sensations within me were lessening, or I forgot them. And I became
aware of externals.

The room was shrinking! As I stared, not with horror now, but with
amazement and a coming triumph, I saw everywhere a slow, steady,
crawling movement. The whole place was dwindling. The platform, the
microscope, were nearer than before, and smaller. The pile of ingots,
with the men off there, was shifting toward me.

"George! My God--weird!"

I saw Alan's white face as I turned to him. He was growing at the same
rate as myself evidently, for of all the scene he only was unchanged.

We could feel the movement. The floor under us was shifting, crawling
slowly. From all directions it came, contracting as though it were
being squeezed beneath us. In reality our expanding bodies were
pushing outward.

The pile of boxes which had been a few feet away, were thrusting
themselves at me I moved incautiously and knocked them over. They
seemed small now, perhaps half their former size. Glora was standing
behind them. I was sitting and she was standing, but across the
litter, our faces were level.

"Stand up!" she murmured. "You all right now. I hide!"

I struggled to my feet, drawing Alan up with me. Now! The time for
action was upon us! We had already been discovered. The men were
shouting, clambering to their feet. Alan and I stood swaying. The
dome-room had contracted to half its former size. Near us was a little
platform, chair and microscope. Small figures of men were rushing at
us.

I shouted, "Alan! Watch yourself!"

       *       *       *       *       *

We were unarmed. These men might have automatics. But evidently they
did not. Knives were in their hands. The whole place was ringing with
shouts. And then a shrill siren alarm from outside was clanging.

The first of the men--a few moments before he had seemed a
giant--flung himself upon me. His head was lower than my shoulders. I
met him with a blow of my fist in his face. He toppled backward; but
from one side, another figure came at me. A knife-blade bit into the
flesh of my thigh.

The pain seemed to fire my brain. A madness descended upon me. It was
the madness of abnormality. I saw Alan with two dwarfed figures
clinging to him. But he threw them off, and they turned and ran.

The man at my thigh stabbed again, but I caught his wrist and, as
though he were a child, whirled him around me and flung him away. He
landed with a crash against the shrunken pile of gold nuggets and lay
still.

The place was in a turmoil. Other men were appearing from outside. But
they stood now well away from us. Alan backed against me. His laugh
rang out, half hysterical with the madness upon him as it was upon me.

"God! George, look at them! So small!"

They were now hardly the height of our knees. This was now a small,
circular room, under a lowering concave dome. A shot came from the
group of pigmy figures. I saw the small stab of flame, heard the sing
of the bullet.

We rushed, with the full frenzy of madness upon us, enraged giants.
What actually happened I can not recount. I recall scattering the
little figures; seizing them; flinging them headlong. A bullet, tiny
now, stung the calf of my leg. Little chairs and tables under my feet
were crashing. Alan was lunging back and forth; stamping; flinging his
tiny adversaries away. There were twenty or thirty of the figures
here now. Then I saw some of them escaping.

The room was littered with wreckage. I saw that by some miracle of
chance the microscope was still standing, and I had a moment of
sanity.

"Alan, watch out! The microscope! The platform--don't smash it! And
Glora! Look out for her!"

       *       *       *       *       *

I suddenly became aware that my head and a shoulder had struck the
dome roof. Why, this was a tiny room! Alan and I found ourselves
backed together, panting in the small confines of a circular cubby
with an arching dome close over us. At our feet the platform with the
microscope over it hardly reached our boot-tops. There was a sudden
silence, broken only by our heavy breathing. The tiny forms of humans
strewn around us were all motionless. The others had fled.

Then we heard a small voice. "Here! Take this! Quickly! You are too
large! Quickly!"

Alan took a step. And then a sudden panic was on us both. Glora was
here at our feet. We did not dare turn; hardly dared move. To stoop
might have crushed her. My leg hit the top of the microscope cylinder.
It rocked but did not fall.

Where was Glora? In the gloom we could not see her. We were in a
panic.

Alan began, "George, I say--"

The contracting inner curve of the dome bumped gently against my head.
The panic of confusion which was upon us turned to fear. The room was
closing in to crush us.

I muttered. "Alan! I'm going out!" I braced myself and heaved against
the side and top curve of the dome. Its metal ribs and heavy
translucent, reinforced glass plates resisted me. There was an instant
when Alan and I were desperately frightened. We were trapped, to be
crushed in here by our own horrible growth. Then the dome yielded
under our smashing blows. The ribs bent; the plates cracked.

We straightened, pushed upward and emerged through the broken dome,
with head and shoulders towering into the outside darkness and the
wind and snow of the blizzard howling around us!


CHAPTER IV

_The Journey Into Smallness_

"Glora, that--that was horrible."

We stood, again in normal size, with the wrecked dome-laboratory
around us. The dome had a great jagged hole halfway up one of its
sides, through which the snow was falling. The broken bodies strewn
around were gruesome.

Alan repeated, "Horrible, Glora. This drug, the power of it, is
diabolical."

Glora had grown large after us; had given us the companion drug. I
need not detail the strange sensations of our dwindling. We were so
soon to experience them again!

We had searched, when still large, all of Polter's grounds. Some of
his men undoubtedly escaped, made off into the blizzard. How many, we
never knew. None of them ever made themselves known again.

We were ready to start into the atom. The fragment of golden quartz
still lay under the microscope on the white square of stone slab. We
had hurried with our last preparations. The room was chilling. We were
all inadequately dressed for such cold.

I left a note scribbled on a square of paper by the microscope. With
daylight, Polter's wrecked place would be discovered. The police would
come.

"Guard this piece of golden quartz. Take it at once, very carefully,
to the Royal Canadian Scientific Society. Have it watched day and
night. We will return."

I signed it George Randolph. And as I did so, the extraordinary aspect
of these events swept me anew. Here in Polter's weird place I had
seemed living in some strange fantastic realm. But this was the
Province of Quebec, in civilized Canada. These were the Quebec
authorities I was addressing.

I flung the thoughts away. "Ready, Glora?"

"Yes."

       *       *       *       *       *

Then doubts assailed me. None of Polter's men had gotten large to
fight us. Evidently he did not trust them with the drug. We could well
believe that, for the thing, misused, was diabolical beyond human
conception. A single giant, a criminal, a madman, by the power of
giant size alone, could devastate the earth! The drug, lost, or
carelessly handled, could get loose. Animals, insects, eating it,
could roam the earth, gigantic monsters! Vegetation, nourished with
it, might in a day overrun a great city, burying it with a jungle
growth!

How terrible a thing, if the realm of smallness were suddenly to
emerge! Monsters of the sea, marine organisms, could expand until even
the ocean was too small for them. Microbes of disease, feeding upon
this drug--

Alan was gripping me. "We're ready, George."

"Yes. Yes, I'm ready."

This was not largeness we were facing now, but smallness. I thought of
Babs, down there with Polter, beyond the vanishing point in the realm
of the infinitely small. They had been gone an hour at least. Every
moment lost now was adding to Bab's danger.

"Yes. I'm ready, Alan."

Glora sat with us on the platform. Strange little creature! She was
wholly calm now; methodical with her last directions. There had been
no time for her to tell us anything about herself. Alan had asked her
why she had come here and how she had gotten the drugs. She waved him
away:

"On the journey down. Plenty of time, then."

"How long?" Alan demanded.

"Not too long. If we are careful with managing the trip, what you
might call ten hours."

       *       *       *       *       *

And now as we were ready to start, she told us calmly:

"I will give you each your share of the drugs, but them you take only
as I tell you."

She produced from her robe several small vials a few inches long. They
were tightly stoppered. The feel of them was cool and sleek; they
seemed of some strange, polished metal. Some of them were tinted black
while the others glowed opalescent. She gave each of us one vial of
each kind.

"The light ones are for diminishing," she said. "We take them very
carefully, one small pellet only at first."

Alan was opening one of his, but she checked him.

"Wait! The drug evaporates very quickly. I have more to say, first. We
sit here together. Then you follow me to the white slab. We climb upon
the little rock."

She laid her hands on our arms. Her blue eyes regarded us earnestly.
Her manner was naive; childlike. But I could not mistake her
intelligence; the force of character stamped on her face for all its
dainty, ethereal beauty.

"Alan--" She smiled at him, and tossed back a straying lock of her
hair which was annoying her. "You pay attention, Alan. You are very
young, reckless. You listen. We must not be separated. You understand
that, both of you? We will be always in that little piece of rock. But
there will be miles of distance. And to be lost in size--"

Strange journey upon which now we were starting! Lost in size?

"You understand me? Lost in size. If that happens, we might never find
each other. And if we come upon the Doctor Polter and the girl he
holds captive--if we can overtake them--"

"We must!" I exclaimed. "And we must start, Glora!"

"Yes. Now!"

       *       *       *       *       *

She showed us which pellet to select. They were of several sizes, I
found. And as she afterward told us, the larger ones were not only
larger but of an intensified strength. We took the smallest. It was
barely a thousandth part of the strength of the largest. In unison we
placed the pellets on our tongues, and hastily swallowed.

The first sensations were as before. And, familiar now, they caused no
more than a fleeting discomfort. But I think I could never get used to
the outward strangeness!

The room in a moment was expanding. I could feel the platform floor
crawling outward beneath me, so that I had to hitch and change my
position as it pulled. We were seated together, Alan and I on each
side of Glora. My fingers were on her arm. It did not change size, but
it slowly drew away with a space opening between us. Overhead, the
dome-roof, the great jagged hole there, was receding, lifting, moving
upward and away.

Glora pulled us to our feet. "We had better start now. The distance is
so far, so quickly."

We had been sitting within five feet of the stone slab with its little
four-inch-high railing around it. A chair was by the microscope
eyepiece. As we stood swaying I saw that the chair was huge, and its
seat level with my head. The great barrel-cylinder of the microscope
slanted sixty feet upward. The dome-roof was a distant spread three
hundred feet up in the dimness. This gigantic room! It was a vast
arena now.

Alan and I must have hesitated, confused by the expanding scene--a
slow steady movement everywhere. Everything was drawing away from us.
Even as we stood together, the creeping platform floor was separating
us.

A moment passed. Glora was urging vehemently:

"Come! You must not stand!"

We started walking. The railing around the slab was knee-high. The
slab itself was a broad square surface. The fragment of golden quartz
lay in its center. It was now a jagged lump nearly a foot in
diameter!

       *       *       *       *       *

The platform seemed shifting as we walked; the railing hardly came
closer as we advanced toward it. Then suddenly I realized it was
receding. Thirty feet away? No, now it was more than that--a great,
thick rope, waist-high, with a huge spread of white surface behind it.

"Faster!" urged Glora. We ran, and reached the railing. It was higher
than our heads. We ran under it, and out upon the white slab--a level
surface, larger now than the whole dome-room had been.

Glora, like a fawn ran in advance of us, her draperies flying in the
wind. She turned to look back.

"Faster! Faster--or it will be too hard a climb!"

Ahead lay a golden mound of rock. It was widening; raising its top
steadily higher. Beyond it and over it was a vast dim distance. We
reached the rock, breathless, winded. It was a jagged mound like a
great fifty-foot butte. We plunged upon it, began climbing.

The ascent was steep; precipitous in places. There were little
gullies, which expanded as we climbed up them. It seemed that we
should never reach the top, but at last we were there. I was aware
that the drug had ceased its action. The yellow rocky ground was no
longer expanding.

We came to the summit and stood to get back our breath. And Alan and I
gazed with awe upon the top of a rocky hill. Little buttes and strewn
boulders lay everywhere. It was all naked rock, ridged and pitted, and
everywhere yellow-tinged.

Overhead was distance. I could not call it a sky. A blur was
there--something almost but not quite distinguishable. Then I thought
that I could make out a more solid blur which might be the lower lens
of the microscope above us. And there were blurred, very distant spots
of light, like huge suns masked by a haze, and I knew that they were
the hooded lights of the laboratory room.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before us, over the brink of a five hundred-foot cliff, a great
glistening white plain stretched into the distance. I seemed to see
where it ended in a murky blur. And far higher than our own hilltop
level a horizontal streak marked the rope railing of the slab.

"Well," said Alan, "we're here." He gazed behind us, back across the
rocky summit which seemed several hundred feet across to its opposite
brink. He was smiling, but the smile faded. "Now what, Glora? Another
pellet?"

"No. Not yet. There is a place where we go down. It is marked in my
mind."

I had a sudden ominous sense that we three were not alone up here.
Glora led us back from the cliff. As we picked our way among the naked
crags, it seemed behind each of them an enemy might be lurking.

"Glora, do you know if any of Dr. Polter's men have the drug? I mean,
do they come in and out here?"

She shook her head. "I think not. He lets no one have the drug. He
trusts not any one. I stole it; I will tell you later. Much I have to
tell you before we arrive."

Alan made a sudden sidewise leap, and dashed around a rock. He came
back to us, smiling ruefully.

"Gets on your nerves, all this. I had the same idea you did, George.
Might be someone around here. But I guess not." He took Glora's hand
and they walked in advance of me. "We haven't thanked you yet, Glora."

"Not needed. I came for help from your world. I could not get back to
my own, and I followed the Doctor Polter when he came outward. He has
made my world, my people, his slaves. I came for help. And because I
have helped you needs no thanks."

"But we do thank you, Glora." Alan turned his flushed, earnest face
back to me. I thought I had never seen him so handsome, with his
boyish, rugged features, and shock of tousled brown hair. The grimness
of adventure was upon him, but in his eyes there was something else.
It was not for me to see it. That was for Glora; and I think that even
then its presence and its meaning did not escape her.

"Stay close, George."

"Yes."

       *       *       *       *       *

We reached a little gully near the center of the hilltop. It was some
twenty feet deep. Glora paused.

"We descend here."

The gully was an unmistakable landmark--open at one end, forty feet
long, with the other end terminating in a blind wall, smoothly
precipitous. We retraced our steps, entered the gully at its open end,
and walked its length. Glora paused by the wall which now loomed above
us.

"A pit is here--a hole. I cannot tell just how large it will look when
we are in this size."

We found and stood over it--a foot-wide circular hole extending
downward. Alan abruptly knelt and shoved his hand and arm into it, but
Glora sprang at him.

"Don't do that!"

"Why not? Is this it? How deep is it?"

She retorted sharply, "The Doctor Polter is ahead of us. How far away
in size, who knows? Do you want to crush him, and crush that young
girl with him?"

Alan's jaw dropped. "Good Lord!"

We stood with the little pit before us, and another of the pellets
ready.

"Now!" said Glora.

Again we took the drug, a somewhat larger pellet this time. The
familiar sensations began. Everywhere the rocks were creeping with a
slow inexorable movement, the landscape expanding around us. The gully
walls drew back and upward. In a moment they were precipice
cliff-walls and we were in a broad valley.

We had been standing close together. We had not moved except to shift
our feet as the expanding ground drew them apart. I became aware that
Alan and Glora were a distance from me. Glora called:

"Come, George! We go down, quickly now."

       *       *       *       *       *

We ran to the pit. It had expanded to a great round hole some six feet
wide and equally as deep. Glora let herself down, peered anxiously
beneath her, and dropped. Alan and I followed. We jammed the pit; but
as we stood there, the walls were receding and lifting.

I had remarked Glora's downward glance, and shuddered. Suppose, in
some slightly smaller size, Babs had been here among these rocks!

The pit widened steadily. The movement was far swifter now. We stood
presently in a great circular valley. It seemed fully a mile in
diameter, with huge encircling walls like a crater rim towering
thousands of feet into the air. We ran along the base of one expanding
wall, following Glora.

I noticed now that overhead the turgid murk had turned into the blue
of distance. A sky. It was faintly sky-blue, and there seemed a haze
in it, almost as though clouds were forming. It had been cold when we
started. The exertion had kept us fairly comfortable; but now I
realized that the air was far warmer. It was a different air, more
humid, and I thought the smell of moist earth was in it. Rocks and
boulders were strewn here on the floor of this giant valley, and I saw
occasional pools of water. There had been rain recently!

The realization came with a shock of surprise. This was a new world! A
faint, luminous twilight was around us. And then I noticed that the
light was not altogether coming from overhead. It seemed inherent to
the rocks themselves. They glowed very faintly luminous, as though
phosphorescent.

We were now well embarked upon this strange journey. We spoke seldom.
Glora was intent upon guiding us. She was trying to make the best
possible speed. I realized that it was a case of judgment, as well as
physical haste. We had dropped into that six-foot pit. Had we waited a
few moments longer, the depth would have been a hundred feet, two
hundred, a thousand! It would have involved hours of arduous
descent--if we had lingered until we were a trifle smaller!

       *       *       *       *       *

We took other pellets. We traveled perhaps an hour more. There were
many instances of Glora's skill. We squeezed into a gully and waited
until it widened; we leaped little expanding caverns; we slid down a
smooth yellowish slide of rock like a child's toboggan, and saw it
behind and over us, rising to become a great spreading ramp extending
upward into the blue of the sky. Now, up there, little sailing white
clouds were visible. And down where we stood it was deep twilight,
queerly silvery with the phosphorescence from the luminous rocks as
though some hidden moon were shining.

Strange, new world! I suddenly envisaged the full strangeness of it.
Around me were spreading miles of barren, naked landscape. I gazed off
to where, across the rugged plateau we were traversing, there was a
range of hills. Behind and above them were mountains; serrated tiers,
higher and more distant. An infinite spread of landscape! And, as we
dwindled, still other vast reaches opened before us. I gazed overhead.
Was it--compared to my stature now--a thousand miles, perhaps even a
million miles up to where we had been two or three hours ago? I think
so.

Then suddenly I caught the other viewpoint. This was all only an inch
of golden quartz--if one were large enough to see it that way!

Alan had been trying to memorize the main topographical features of
our route. It was not as difficult as it seemed at first. We were
always far larger than normal to our environment. The main
distinguishing characteristics of the landscape were obvious--the
blind gully, with the round pit, for instance, or the ramp-slide.

We had been traveling some three or four hours when Glora suggested a
rest. We were at the side-wall of a broad canyon. The wall towered
several hundred feet above us; but a few moments before we had jumped
down it with a single leap!

       *       *       *       *       *

The drug we had last taken had ceased its action. We sat down to rest.
It was a wild, mountainous scene around us, deep with luminous gloom.
We could barely see across the canyon to its distant cliff-wall. The
wall beside us had been smooth, but now it was broken and ridged.
There were ravines in it, and dark holes like cave-mouths. One was
near us. Alan gazed at it apprehensively.

"I say, Glora. I don't like sitting here."

I had been telling her all we knew of Polter. She listened quietly,
seldom interrupting me. Then she said:

"I understand. I tell you now about Polter as I have seen him."

She talked for five or ten minutes. I listened amazed, awed by what
she told.

But Alan suddenly interrupted her. "I say, let's move away from here.
That tunnel-mouth, or cave, whatever it is--"

"But we go in there," she protested. "A little tunnel. That is our way
to travel. We are not far from my city now."

Perhaps Alan felt what a generation ago they called a hunch, a
premonition, the presage of evil which I think comes strangely to us
more often than we realize. Whatever it was, we had no time to act
upon it. The tunnel-mouth which had caused Alan's apprehension was
about a hundred feet away. It was a ten-foot, black yawning hole in
the cliff. Perhaps Alan sensed a movement off there. As I turned to
gaze, from the opening came a great hairy human arm! Then a shoulder!
A head!

The giant figure of a man came squeezing through the hole on his
hands and knees! He gathered himself, and as he stood erect, I saw
that he was growing in size! Already he was twenty feet tall compared
to us--a thick-set fellow, dressed in leather garments, his legs and
bare arms heavily matted with black hair. He stood swaying, gazing
around him. I stared up at his round bullet head, his villainous face.

He saw us! Stupid amazement struck him, then comprehension.

He let out a roar and came at us!


CHAPTER V

_The Message from Polter_

Glora shouted, "Into the tunnel! This way!" She held her wits and
darted to one side, with Alan and me after her. We ran through a
narrow passage between two fifty-foot boulders which lay close
together. Momentarily the giant was out of sight, but we could hear
his heavy tread and his panting breath. We emerged; had passed him. He
was taller now. He seemed confused at our sudden scampering activity.
He checked his forward rush, and ran around the twin boulders. But we
had squeezed into a narrow ravine. He could not follow. He threw a
rock: to us it was a boulder. It crashed behind us. To him, we were
like scampering insects; he could not tell which way we were about to
dart.

Alan panted, "Glora, this--does this lead out?"

The little ravine seemed to open fifty feet ahead of us. Alan stopped,
seized a chunk of rock, flung it up. I saw the giant's face above us.
He was kneeling, trying to reach in. The rock hit him in the
forehead--a pebble, but it stung him. His face rose away.

Again we emerged. The tunnel-mouth was near us. We reached it and
flung ourselves into its ten-foot width just as the giant came lunging
up. He was far larger than before. Looking back, I could see only the
lower part of his legs blocked against the outer light.

"Glora! Alan, where are you?"

For a moment I did not see them. It was darker in this tunnel; broken
rocky walls, a jagged arching roof ten feet high. Then I heard Alan's
voice.

"George! Here!"

They came running to me. For a moment we stood, undecided what to do.
My eyes were growing accustomed to the darkness; it was illumined by a
dim phosphorescence from the rocks. I saw Alan fumbling for his vials,
but Glora stopped him.

"No! We are the right size."

       *       *       *       *       *

We were a hundred feet back from the opening. The giant's legs
disappeared. But in a moment the round light hole of the exit was
obscured again. His head and shoulders! He was lying prone. His great
arms came in. He hitched forward. The width of his expanding shoulders
wedged.

I think that he expected to reach us with a single snatch of his
tremendous arms. Or perhaps he was confused, and forgot his growth. He
did not reach us. His shoulders stuck. Then suddenly he was trying to
back out, but could not!

It was only a moment. We stood in the radiant gloom of the tunnel,
clinging to each other, ourselves stricken by confusion. The giant's
voice roared, reverberating around us. Anger. A note of fear. Finally
stark terror. He heaved, but the rocks of the opening held solid. Then
there was a crack, a gruesome rattling, splintering--his shoulder
bones breaking. His whole gigantic body gave a last convulsive lunge,
and he emitted a deafening shrill scream of agony.

I was aware of the tunnel-mouth breaking upward. Falling rocks--an
avalanche, a cataclysm around us. Then light overhead.

The giant's crushed body lay motionless. A pile of boulders, rocks and
loose metallic earth was strewn upon his head and torso, illumined by
the outer light through a jagged rent where the cliff-face had fallen
down.

We were unhurt, crouching back from the avalanche. The giant's mangled
body was still expanding; shoving at the litter of loose rocks. In a
moment it would again be too large for the broken cliff opening.

I found my wits. "Alan! Out of here--God! Don't you see--"

       *       *       *       *       *

But Glora held us. The drug the giant had taken was about at its end,
and Glora recognized it. The growth presently stopped. That huge,
noisome mass of pulp which once had been human shoulders--

I shoved Glora away. "Don't look!" I was shaking; my head was reeling.
Alan's face, painted by the phosphorescence, was ghastly.

Glora pulled at us. "This way! The tunnel is not too long. We go."

But the giant had drugs. And perhaps weapons. "Wait!" I urged. "You
two wait here. I'll climb over him."

I told them why, and ran. I can only leave to the imagination that
brief exploratory climb. The broken body seemed at least a hundred
feet long; the mangled shoulders and chest filled the great torn hole
in the cliff. I climbed over the litter. Indescribable, horrible
scene! A river of warm blood was flowing down the declivity
outside....

I came back to Glora and Alan. Under my arm was a huge cylinder vial.
It was black--the enlarging drug. I set it down. They stared at me in
my blood-stained garments.

"George! You're--"

"His blood, not mine, Alan." I tried to smile. "There's the drug he
carried. Evidently Polter was only sending him out. Just the one
drug."

"What'll we do with it?" Alan demanded. "Look at the size of it!"

"Destroy it," said Glora. "See, that is not difficult." She tugged at
the huge stopper, and exposed a few of the pellets--to us as large as
apples. "The air will soon spoil it."

We left it in the tunnel. I had brought a great roll of paper; had
found it folded in the giant's belt, with the drug cylinder. We
unrolled it, and hauled its folds to a spread some ten feet long. It
was covered with a scrawled handwriting in pencil, but its giant
characters seemed thick blurred strokes of charcoal. We could not read
it; we were too close. Alan and Glora held it up against the tunnel
wall. From a distance I could make it out. It was a note written in
English, signed "Polter," evidently to one of his men.

I read it:

"The two men prisoners, kill them at once. That is better. It will be
too dangerous to wait for my return. Put their bodies with their
airplane. Crash it a mile or more from our gate."

Full directions for our death followed. And Polter said he would
return by dawn or soon after.

       *       *       *       *       *

It gave me a start. By dawn! We had been traveling four or five hours.
The dawn was up there now!

"No," said Glora. She and Alan cast away the paper. "No, the time in
here is different. A different time-rate. I do not know how much
difference. My world speeds faster; yours is very slow. It is not the
dawn up there quite yet."

Again my mind strove to encompass these things so strange. A faster
time-rate prevailed in here? Then our lives were passing more quickly.
We were living, experiencing things, compressed into a shorter
interval. It was not apparent; there was nothing to which comparison
could be made. I recalled Alan's description of Polter--not thirty
years old as he should have been, but nearer fifty. I could understand
that, now. A day in here--while our gigantic world outside might only
have progressed a few hours.

We walked the length of the tunnel. I suppose it was a quarter of a
mile, to us in this size. It wound through the cliff with a steady
downward slope. And suddenly I realized that we had turned downward
nearly half the diameter of a circle! We had turned over--or at least
it seemed so. But the gravity was the same. I had noticed from the
beginning very little change.

The realization of this turning brought a mental confusion. I lost all
sense of direction. The outer world of Earth was under my feet,
instead of overhead. Then we went level. I forgot the confusion; this
was normality here. We turned upward a little. Cross tunnels
intersected ours at intervals. I saw caverns, open, widened tunnels,
as though this mountain were honeycombed.

"Look!" said Glora. "There is the way out. All these passages lead the
same way."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a glow of light ahead. I recall that I was at that moment
fumbling at my belt in two small compartments of which I was carrying
the two vials of the drugs which Glora had given me. Alan wore the
same sort of belt. We had found them in the wrecked dome-room. I heard
a click on the ground at my feet. I was about to stoop to see what I
had kicked--only a loose stone, perhaps--but Glora's words distracted
me. I did not stoop. If only I had, how different events might have
been!

The glow of light ahead of us widened as we approached, and presently
we stood at the end of the tunnel. A spread of open distance was
outside. We were on a ledge of a rocky, precipitous wall some fifty
feet above a wide level landscape. Vegetation! I saw trees--a forest
off to the left. A range of naked hills lay behind it. A mile away, in
front and to the right, a little town nestled on the shore of shining
water. There was starlight on the water! And over it a vast
blue-purple sky was studded with stars!

I gazed, with that first sudden shock of emotion, into illimitable
depths of interplanetary space! Light years of distance. Gigantic
worlds, blazing suns off there shrunken by distance now to little
points of light. A universe was here!

But this was an inch of golden quartz!

Above my head were stars which, compared to my bodily size now, were
vast worlds ten thousand light-years away! Yet, from the other
viewpoint, I had only descended perhaps an eighth or a quarter of an
inch beneath the broken pitted surface of a little fragment of golden
quartz the size of a walnut--into just one of its myriads of golden
atoms!


CHAPTER VI

_The Girl in the Golden Cage_

"My world," Glora was saying. "You like it? See the starlight on the
lake? I have heard that your world looks like this at night, in
summer. Ours is always like this. No day, no night. Just like
this--starlight." Her hand went to Alan's shoulder. "You like it? My
world?"

"Yes. Yes, Glora, It's beautiful."

There seemed a sheen on everything, a soft, glowing sheen of
phosphorescence from the rocks rising to meet the pale wan starlight.
The night air was soft, with a gentle breeze that rippled the distant
lake into a great spread of gold and silver light.

The city was called Orena. I saw at once that we were about normal
size to its houses and people. There were fields beneath our ledge,
with farm implements lying in them; no workers, for this was the time
for sleep. Ribbons of roads wound over the country, pale streamers in
the starlight.

Glora gestured. "The giants are on their island. Everyone sleeps now.
You see the island off there?"

Beyond the city, over the low stone roofs of its flat-topped
dwellings, the silver spread of lake showed a green-clad island some
three miles off shore. The distance made its white stone houses seem
small. But as I gazed, I realized that they were large to their
environment, all far larger than those of the little town. The island
was perhaps a mile in length. Between it and the mainland a boat was
coming toward us. It was a dark blob of hull on the shining water, and
above it a queerly shaped circular sail was puffed out like a
balloon-parachute by the wind.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The giants live, there?" said Alan.

"You mean Polter's men?"

"And women. Yes."

"Are there many giants?"

"No."

"How many?" I put in. "How large are they? In relation to us now, I
mean. And to your normal size?"

I turned to Alan. "Polter and Babs must be down there now! They must
have arrived only recently. But we must determine what size to be
before we go any further. We can't be gigantic If he sees us--if we
assailed him--well, he'd kill Babs. We're got to plan. Glora tell
us--"

"You ask so many questions so fast, George. There are two hundred or
more of the giants. And there are more than that many thousands of our
people here. Slaves, because the giants are four times as large. This
little city, these fields, these hills of stone and metal, all this
was ours to have in peace and happiness--until your Polter came. And
that starlight on the water--"

She gestured. "Everywhere is a great reach of desert and forests.
Insects, but there are no wild beasts--nothing to harm us. Nature is
kind here. The weather is always like this. We were happy--until
Polter came."

"And only a few thousand people," Alan said. "No other cities?"

"What lies off in the great distance we do not know. Our nation is ten
times what is here. A few other cities, though some of our people live
in the forests--"

She broke off. "That boat is coming for Polter. He is in the city, no
doubt of that. The boat will take him and that girl you call Babs to
the giant's island. His castle is there."

       *       *       *       *       *

If we could get on that boat and go with him to the island--! But in
what size? Very small? But then, if we were very small it would take
us hours to get from here to the boat. Glora pointed out where it
would land--just beyond the village where the houses were set in a
sparse fringe. It would be there, apparently, in ten or fifteen
minutes. Polter was probably there now with Babs, waiting for it.

In our present size we could not get there in time. It was two or
three miles at least. But a trifle larger--the size of one of Polter's
giants--would enable us to make it. We would be seen, but in the pale
starlight, keeping away from the city as much as possible, we might
only be mistaken for Polter's people. And when we got closer we would
diminish our size, creep into the boat, get near Babs and Polter and
then plan what to do.

Futile plans! All of life is so futile, so wind-swept upon the tossing
sea of chance!

We climbed down from the ledge and stood at the base of the towering
cliff which reared its jagged wall against the stars. A field and a
road were near us. The road seemed of normal size. A man was across
the field. He did not seem to notice us. He was apparently about my
height. He presently discarded his work, went away from us and
vanished.

"Hurry, Glora." Alan and I stood beside her while she took pellets
from her vials. It needed a careful adjustment. We wanted our stature
now to be four times what it was. Glora gave us pellets of both drugs,
one of which was slightly more intense than the other.

"Polter made them this way," she said. "The two at once gives just the
growth to take us from this normal size to the stature of the giants."

Alan and I did not touch our own vials. We had used none of our
enlarging drug upon the journey; the supply she had given us of the
other was nearly gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

As I took these pellets which Glora now gave us, standing there by the
side of that road, I recall that I was struck with the realization
that never once upon this journey had I conceived myself to be other
than normal stature. I am normally about six feet tall. I still
felt--there in that golden atom--the same height. This landscape
seemed of normal size. There were trees nearby--spreading, fantastic
looking growths with great strings of pods hanging from them. But
still, as I looked up to see one arching over me with its blue-brown
leaves and an air-vine carrying vivid yellow blossoms--whatever the
size of the tree, my consciousness could only conceive myself as of a
normal six-foot stature standing beneath it. The human ego always is
supreme! Around each man's consciousness of himself the entire
universe revolves!

We crouched on the ground when this growth now began; it would not do
to be observed changing size. Polter's giants never did that. Years
before, he had made them large--his few hundred men and women. They
were, Glora said, people both of this realm and from our great world
above--dissolute, criminal characters who now had set themselves up
here as the nucleus of a ruling race.

In a moment now, we were the size of these giants. Twenty to
twenty-five feet tall, in relation to this environment. But I did not
feel so. As I stood up--still myself in normal stature--I saw around
me a shrunken little landscape. The trees, as though in a Japanese
garden, were about my own height; the road was a smooth level path:
the little field near us a toy fence around it. In another road across
it, the man was walking. In height he would barely have reached my
knees. He saw us rise beside the trees. He darted off his road in
alarm, and disappeared.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have taken longer to tell all this than the actual time which
passed. We could see the boat coming from the island, and it was still
a fair distance off shore. We ran along the road, skirting the edge of
the little town. Its houses were none of them taller than ourselves.
The windows and doorways were ovals into which we could only have
inserted a head or an arm. They were most of them dark. Little people
occasionally stared out, saw us run past, and ducked back, thankful
that we did not stop to harass them.

"This way," said Glora. She ran like a fawn, hardly winded, with Alan
and me heavily panting behind her. "There are trees--thick
trees--quite near where the boat lands. We can get in them and hide
and change our size to smallness. But hurry, for we will need so much
time when we are small!"

The little spread of town and the shining lake remained always to our
right. In five minutes we were past most of the houses. A patch of
woods, with thick interlacing treetops about our own height, lay
ahead. It extended a few hundred feet over to the lake shore. The
sailboat was heading in close. There was a broad, starlit roadway at
the edge of the lake, and a dock there at which the boat was preparing
to land.

Would we be in time? I suddenly feared not. To get small now, with
distance lengthening between us and the boat, would be disastrous. And
where was Polter?

Abruptly we saw him. There had been only little people visible to us;
none of our own height. The lake roadway by the dock was brightly
starlit. As we approached the intervening patch of woods it seemed
that a crowd of little people were near the dock. Polter must have
been sitting. But now he rose up. We could not mistake his hunched
thick figure, the lump on his shoulders clear in the starlight with
the gleaming lake as a background. The crowd of little figures were
milling around his knees. In the silence of the night the murmur of
their voices floated over to us.

"There he is!" Alan gasped. We all three checked our running; we were
at the edge of the patch of woods. "By God, there he is! Let's get
larger! Rush him! Why that's only a few hundred feet over there!"

But Babs? Where was Babs?

"Alan! Down!" I crouched, pulling Alan and Glora with me. "Don't let
him see us! He'd know at once--and where is Babs? Can't rush him,
Alan. He'd see us coming--kill her--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Of all the strange events which had been flung at us, I think this
sudden crisis now most confused Alan and me. To get larger, or
smaller? Which? Yet something must be done at once.

Glora said, "We can get through the woods best in this size. And not
be seen--get closer to the landing."

We crouched so that the little treetops were always well over us. The
patch of woods was dark. A soil of black loam was under us, a thick
soft underbrush reached our knees, and lacy, flexible leaves and
branches were at our shoulder height. We pushed them aside, forcing
our way softly forward. It was not far. The little murmuring voices of
the crowd grew louder.

Presently we were crouching at the other edge of the woods. I softly
shoved the tree branches aside until we could all three get a clear
view of the strange scene now directly before us.

And I saw a toy dock, at which a twenty-foot, barge-like open sailboat
was landing; a narrow starlit roadway, crowded with a milling throng
of people all no more than a foot and a half in height. The crowd
milled almost to where we were crouching, unseen in the shrubbery.

Across the road by the dock. Polter stood with the crowd down around
his knees. In height he seemed the old familiar Polter. Bareheaded,
with his shaggy black hair shot with white. He was dressed in Earth
fashion: narrow black evening trousers and a white shirt and collar
with flowing black tie. I saw at once what Alan had noticed--the
change in him. An abnormality of age. I would have called him now
forty, or older. Beyond even that there was an abnormality. A man old
before his time; or younger than he should have been for the years he
had lived. An indescribable mingling of something. The mingling, of
the two worlds, perhaps. It marked him with a look at once unnatural
and sinister.

These were instant impressions. Glora was plucking at me. "On the
white chest of his shirt, something is there."

       *       *       *       *       *

Polter was coatless, with snowy white shirt and cuffs to his thick
wrists. He was no more than fifty feet from us. On his shirt bosom
something golden in color was hanging like a large bauble, an
ornament, an insignia. It was strapped tightly there with a band about
his chest, a cord like a necklace chain up to his thick hunched neck,
and other chains down to his belt.

I stared at it. An ornament, like a cube held flat against his
shirt-front--a little golden cube, ornate with tiny bars.

I heard Alan murmuring, "A cage! Why George, it's--"

And then, simultaneously, realization struck me. It was a golden cage
strapped there. And I seemed to see that there was something in it. A
tiny figure? Babs!

"I think he has her there," Glora murmured. "You see the little box
with bars? The girl Babs, a prisoner in there." She spoke swiftly,
vehemently. "He will take the boat to the island."

She suddenly gripped us. "You think really it best to go? I do what
you say. I had the wish to get to my father with these drugs."

"No!" exclaimed Alan. "We must keep close to Polter!"

We were ready with our pellets. But a sudden activity in the road made
us pause. The crowd of little people were hostile to Polter. A sullen
hostility. They milled about him as he stood there, gazing down at
then sardonically.

And abruptly he shouted at them in English. "You speak my language,
some of you. Then listen."

The crowd fell silent.

"Listen. This iss your future Queen. Can you see her? She iss small
now. But she has the magic power. Soon, she will be large. Like me."

The crowd was shouting again. It surged forward, but it lacked a
leader, and those in advance shoved backward in fear.

Polter spoke again. "This girl from my world, you will like her. She
iss kind and very beautiful. When she iss large, you will see how
beautiful."

A little stone suddenly came up from the throng of little people and
struck Polter on the shoulder. Then another. The crowd, emboldened,
made a rush; surged against his legs.

He shouted, "You do that? Why how dare you? I show to you what giants
do when you make dem angry!"

From down by his knees he plucked the small figure of a man. The crowd
scattered with shouts of terror. Polter had the struggling
eighteen-inch figure by the wrist. He whirled it around his head like
a nine-pin and flung it over the canopy of the dock far out into the
shimmering lake!


CHAPTER VII

_Within the Golden Cage_

The trees around us expanded to towering forest giants. The underbrush
rose up over our heads. We had taken only a taste of the diminishing
drug; Glora showed us how to touch it to our tongue several times, to
adjust our size as we became smaller. It was no more than a minute of
diminishing. We could hear the roar of the crowd, and Polter's voice
shouting. We ran forward through the great forest. It was a fair
distance out to the starlit road. We saw it as a wide shining
esplanade. The people now were giants twice our height! Polter,
himself towering with a seeming fifty foot stature, was standing by
the gigantic canopy of the dock. He had dispersed the crowd. There was
an open space on the esplanade--a run for us of about a hundred feet.

"We've got to chance it!" I murmured. "Make a run of it--now."

We darted across. In the confusion, with all eyes centered on Polter,
we escaped discovery. It was dim under the dock canopy. Polter had
backed from the road and was walking to the barge. It lay like the
length of an ocean liner, its sail looming an enormous spread above
it. The gunwale was level with the dock-floor. A dozen or more
fifty-foot men were greeting Polter. They were amidships.

I realize now that in those moments as we scurried aboard like wharf
rats, we took wild chances. We made for the stern which momentarily
was unoccupied. To Polter and his men we were eight or nine inches
tall. We dropped over the gunwale, slid down the convex thirty or
forty-foot incline of the interior and landed on the bottom of the
boat.

There were many places where we could safely hide. A litter of
gigantic rope-strands was around us. We could see the bottom of a
cross-bench looming overhead, and the great curving sides of the
vessel with the gunwales outlined against the starlight.

       *       *       *       *       *

The boat left the dock in a moment; the sail bellied out enormous over
us. Ten feet forward from us the towering figure of a man sat on a
bench with the steering mechanism before him. Further on, the other
men were dispersed, with one or two in the distant bow. Polter
reclined on a cushioned couch amidships. Looking along the dark widely
level bottom of the boat there were only the feet and legs of the men
visible.

Alan whispered, "Let's get closer."

We were insects soundlessly scuttling unnoticed in the dimness. And it
was noisy down here--the clank of the steering mechanism; the swish,
and surge of the water against the hull; the voices of the men.

We passed the boots of the seated helmsmen, and found another hiding
place nearer Polter. We could see his giant length plainly. None of
the other men were near him. He was reclining on an elbow, stretched
at ease on the cushion. And at the moment, he was fumbling with the
chains that fastened the little golden cage to his chest. The cage was
double its former size to us now. A shaft of pale light came down,
reflected from the great sail surface overhead. It struck the bars of
the cage. We could see a small figure in there.

Babs!

Then we heard Polter's voice. "I will let you out, Babs. You come out,
sit on my hand and talk with me. That will be nice? We haf a little
time."

He unfastened the cage and put it on the cushion beside him. He was
still propped up on one elbow.

"I let you out, now. Be careful, Babs."

My heart was almost smothering me. "Alan! We've got to get still
closer! Try something! Get large, shall we?"

Alan whispered tensely, "I don't know! Oh, I don't know what to do!
This thing--"

This thing so strange.

"We can get closer," Glora whispered. "But never larger--not here.
They would discover us too soon."

       *       *       *       *       *

We crept forward. We reached the edge of the cushion. Its top surface
was a trifle lower than our heads--a billowing, wrinkled mass of
fabric. But I saw that the folds of it were rough enough to afford a
foothold. I thought that I could climb it. We stood erect. There was a
deep shadow along here, but it was brighter on the cushion top. We
could see over its edge; an undulating spread of surface with the
giant length of Polter stretched there. The cage was nearer to us.
Polter's great fingers fumbled with it; a door in the lattice bars
flipped open.

"Careful, my Babs!" His voice was a throaty, rumbling roar from above
us. "Careful! I do not want you to be hurt."

From the little doorway came the figure of Babs! The starlight glowed
on her long blue dress; her black hair was tumbling over her
shoulders; her face was pale, but she was unhurt.

Babs! I think that I had never loved her so much as at that moment.
Nor ever seen her so beautiful as in that miniature, standing at the
door of her golden cage, bravely facing the monstrous misshapen figure
of her captor.

We heard her small voice.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Stand quiet. Now I put my hand for you."

His monstrous hand bristled with a thatch of heavy black hair. He
brought it carefully sliding along the cushion. Babs was barely the
length of one of its finger joints. She climbed upon its palm.

"That iss right, Babs. Now I bring you--hold tight to my finger. Here,
I crook the little one. Fling your arms around it."

With a swoop his hand took her aloft and away. Then we saw her, twenty
feet or so in the air, still on his hand as he held it near his face.

"Now we haf a little talk, Babs. When we get to the island, I put you
back in your cage."

       *       *       *       *       *

I had a sudden flash of realization. Something I could do. I did not
plan it. I know now my judgment was bad. I recall it struck me that
Alan would want to do it also. And, perhaps, even Glora. That would
not work. My chances, however desperate, were better alone. And Glora
and Alan--in our present size-could doubtless disembark safely. Glora
knew the lay-out of the island. She could follow Polter.

Alan and Glora were standing beside me, peering over that billowing
cushion spread toward the distant giant palm with Babs standing upon
it. I gripped Alan's shoulder.

"See here, Alan," I whispered vehemently, "whatever happens, we must
follow Polter. Glora knows the way. Some chance will come. What we
want is an opportunity to get large without discovery. Then rush
Polter!"

Alan's white face turned to me. "Yes, that's what we're planning. But
George, here on this boat--"

"Of course. Can't do it here. Tell Glora, be sure and follow Polter.
Whatever happens, you think of nothing else: you won't, will you?"

"George, what--"

"We've got to make some opportunity." I was trembling inside, fearful
that Alan would be suspicious of me. Yet I had to make sure that he
and Glora would stay as close to Polter as possible.

"Yes," Alan agreed. "Listen to them."

Polter was talking to Babs. But I did not hear the words. I moved a
trifle away. Rash decision! I hardly decided anything. There was only
the vision of Babs before me; my love for her. And my desperate need
of doing something; getting to her; seeing her, being with her; having
her near my own size again as though the blessed normality of that
would rationalize and lessen her danger. If only I had been less rash!
If only back there in that tunnel I had stopped to see what it was my
foot kicked against!

       *       *       *       *       *

I slid away. Alan and Glora did not notice it; they were whispering
together and gazing over the cushion at Babs. In the floor shadow I
moved some ten feet. On the undulating top of the cushion the little
golden cage stood with its lattice door open! It was only a few feet
from my face.

I fumbled at my belt for the diminishing vial. I found one pellet
left. Well, that would be enough. I was hurried. Alan might discover
me. Polter might move; put Babs back in the cage and close its door.
We might be near the island already, and the confusion, the activity
of disembarking would defeat me. A thousand things might happen.

I touched the pellet to my tongue. In a few seconds the drug action
had come and passed. The cushion top loomed well over my head. The
side was a ridged, indescribably unnatural vista of cliff-wall. The
fabric was coarse with hairy strands, dented into little ravines and
crevices. I climbed. I came panting to the pillow surface. The golden
cage was six or eight feet away and was now two feet high.

Again I touched the drug to my tongue; held it an instant. The cage
drew away; grew to a normal six-foot height; then larger, until in a
moment it stopped. I stood peering at it, trying to gauge its size in
relation to me. I wanted so intensely now to be normal to Babs. The
cage seemed about ten feet high. A little less, possibly. I barely
tasted the pellet, and replaced it carefully in the vial. I could only
hope its efficacy would be preserved.

I had to chance that I would not be seen now crossing this billowy
expanse. I ran. The rope strands of the fabric now had spaces between
their curving surfaces. The cage was a shining golden house, set on
this wide rolling area. Far in the distance there was a blur--Polter's
reclining body.

I reached the cage. It was a room about ten feet square and equally as
high. Walled solid, top and bottom, and on three sides. The front was
a lattice of bars, with a narrow six-foot-high doorway, standing open
now.

I dashed in. The interior was not wholly bare. There was a
metal-wrought couch fastened to the wall, with a railing around it and
handles. It suggested a ship's bunk. There was a railing at convenient
height all around the wall.

I sought a hiding place. I saw just one--under the couch. It was
secluded enough. There was a grille-like lattice extending down from
the seat to the floor. I squeezed under one end, and lay wedged behind
the grille.

       *       *       *       *       *

How much time passed I do not know. My thoughts were racing. Babs
would be coming.

I heard the distant approaching rumble of Polter's voice. Through the
grille I could see across the floor of the ten-foot cage to the front
lattice bars. Outside, there appeared a huge, pink-white, mottled
blob--Polter's hand, a ridged and pitted surface with great bristling
black stalks of hair.

The figure of Babs came through the cage doorway. Blessed normality!
The same slim little Babs who always stood, since we were both
matured, with her head about level with my shoulders.

The latticed door swung shut with a reverberating metallic clank. Babs
stood tense, clinging to the wall railing. I heard the blurred rumble
of Polter's voice.

"Hold tightly, my little Babs!"

The room lurched; went upward and sidewise with a wild dizzying swoop.
Babs clung; and I was wedged prone under the couch. Then the movement
stopped; there was a jolting, rocking, and outside I heard the clank
of metal. Polter was fastening the chains of the cage to his chest.

A white reflected glow now came through the bars. It was starlight
reflected from Polter's shirt bosom. An abyss of distance was outside.
I could see nothing but the white glow.

Momentarily there was very little movement to the room. Only the
rhythmic sway of Polter's breathing and an occasional jolt as he
shifted his position. The floor was tilted at a sharp angle. Babs came
toward the couch, pulling herself along the wall railing.

I called softly, "Babs! Babs, dear!"

She stopped. I called again, "Babs! Don't cry out! It's George!
Here--stand still!"

She gave a little cry. "George--where are you? I don't--"

I slid out from my concealment and stood up, holding to the railing.

"Babs, dear."

Blessed normality of size! She cried again, "George! You! George,
dear--"

She edged along the railing, a step or two down the tilting floor,
then released her hold and flung herself into my waiting arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I think we are landing. Hold the railing, George. When the room moves
it goes with a rush."

Babs laughed softly. It must have seemed to her, after being alone in
here, that now our plight was far less desperate. She had told me how
she was captured. A man accosted her on the terrace, saying he wanted
to speak to her about Alan. Then a weapon threatened her. Amid all
those people she was held up in old fashioned style, hurried to a
taxicar and whirled away.

She was saying now, "When Polter moves, it is dizzying. You'll see."

"I have already, Babs. Heavens, that swoop!"

The room was more level now. We carefully drew ourselves to the front
lattice. Polter was standing, and we had the white sheen from his
shirt-front. A sheer drop was outside the bars, but looking down I
could see the outlines of his body with the huge spread of the boat
interior underneath us.

A confusion of rumbling voices sounded. Blurred giant shapes were
outside. The room jolted and swayed as the boat landed and Polter
disembarked.

Babs stood clinging to me. Blessed normality of size! We, at least,
were normal--this metal barred room, Babs and I. But outside was the
abnormality of largeness. I think that in relation to us, the men were
of over two hundred foot stature, and the hunched Polter a trifle
less. It seemed as he walked that we were lurching at least a hundred
and fifty feet above the ground.

"You had better hide," Babs urged. "He might stop and speak to
someone. If anyone peered in here you would be seen: no chance then,
even to get across the room."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was true. But for a few moments I lingered, though I could
distinguish vegetation on their flat roof-tops, as though
flower-gardens were laid there.

We passed a house with its hundred-foot oval windows all aglow with
light. Music floated out--a distant blare of musical sounds, and the
ribald laughter of giant voices. I had seen no women among these
giants of the islands. But now a huge face was at one of the ovals. A
dissolute, painted woman of Earth, staring out at Polter as he passed.
It was like the enormous close-up image on a large motion picture
screen. She shouted a ribald jest as he went by.

"George, please go back. Suppose she had seen you?"

We were ascending a hill. A distance ahead a great oblong building
loomed like a giant's palace, which indeed it was. We headed for it,
passed through a vast arching doorway into the greater dimness of an
echoing interior. I scurried back across the lurching room and again
wedged myself under the couch. Babs stood at the lattice ten feet
away. We dared to talk in low tones; the rumbling voices and footsteps
outside would make our tiny voices inaudible to Polter.

I was tense with my plans. I had told them to Babs. With the one
partially used remaining pellet of the diminishing drug we could make
ourselves small enough to walk out through the bars. Then my black
vial of the enlarging chemicals, as yet unused, would take us up, out
to our own world. We could not use the drugs now. But the chance might
come when Polter would set the cage on the ground, or somewhere so
that we might climb down from it, with a chance to hide and get large
before we were discovered. I would fight our way upward; all I needed
was a fair start in size.

       *       *       *       *       *

But I lay now with doubts assailing me. This was the first moment I
had had for calm thoughts, though in truth they were far from calm!
Where were Alan and Glora? Following us now? I could only hope so.
Once out of this, Babs and I would have to rejoin them. But how? A
panic swept me. I should not have left them. Or at least I should have
told them what I was trying, and given Alan a chance to plan.

The panic grew upon me, the premonition of disaster. From my belt I
took the opalescent vial with its one partly used pellet. I dumped the
pellet out. It was spoiling! The former exposure of the air, the
moisture of my tongue, had ruined it! I had no need to guess at the
catastrophe; as I held its crumbling, deliquescing fragments on my
palm it melted into vapor and was gone!

We could not make ourselves smaller! We would have to wait now until
Polter opened the cage. But once outside, the enlarging drug would
give us our chance to fight our way upward. My trembling fingers
sought the black vial in my belt. It was not there! My mind flung
back: in that tunnel, something had dropped and I had kicked it!
Accursed chance! My accursed, heedless stupidity!

I had lost the black vial! We were helpless! Caged! Marooned here in a
size microscopic!


CHAPTER VIII

_From a Drop of Water_

I lay concealed, and Babs stood at the lattice of our cage room. I was
aware that Polter had entered some vast apartment of this giant
palace. A brighter light was outside; I heard voices--Polter's and
another man's. I could see the distant monster shape of one. He was at
first so far away that all his outline was visible. A seated man, in a
huge white room. I thought there were great shelves with enormous
bottles. The spread of table tops passed under our cage as Polter
walked by them. They held a litter of apparatus, and there was the
smell of chemicals in the air. It seemed that this was a laboratory.

The man stood up to greet Polter. I had a glimpse of his head and
shoulders level with us. He wore a white linen coat, open, soft collar
and black tie. He seemed an old man, queerly old, with snow-white
hair....

I had an instant of whirling, confused impressions. Something was
familiar about his face. It was seamed and wrinkled with lines of age
and care. There were gentle blue eyes.

Then all I could see was the vast spread of his white shirt and coat,
a black splotch of his tie outside our bars as Polter faced him.

Babs gave a low cry. "Why--why--dear God--"

And then I knew! And Polter's words were not needed, though I heard
their rumble.

"I am back again, Kent. Are you still rebellious? You haf still
determined to compound no more of our drugs? You would rather I killed
you? Then see what I haf here. This little cage, someone--"

It was Dr. Kent, a prisoner here all these years!

Babs turned her white face toward me. "George, it's father! He's
alive! Here!"

"Quiet, Babs! Don't let them know I'm here. Remember!"

The old man recognized her. "Babs!" It was an agonized cry. The blur
of him was gone as he sank down into his chair.

Polter continued standing. I could envisage his sardonic grin. Babs
was calling:

"Father, dear! Father!"

From over us came Polter's rumble. "She iss glad to see you, Kent. I
haf her here, safe. You always knew I would nefer be satisfied until I
had my little Babs? Well, now I haf her. Can you hear me?"

A sudden desperate calmness fell on Babs. She called evenly, "Yes, I
hear you. Father, do not anger him. Do not rebel; do what he commands.
Dr. Polter, will you let me be with my father? After all these years,
let me be with him, just for a little while. In his size--normal."

"Hah! My Babs iss scheming."

"No! I want to talk to him, after so long. These years when I thought
he was dead."

"Scheming. You think, my little Babs, that he has the drugs? I am not
so much a fool. He makes them. He can do that, and the last secret
reactions only he can perform. He iss stubborn. Never would he tell me
that one reaction. But he makes no drugs complete, only when I am
here."

"No, Dr. Polter! I want only to be with him."

The old man's broken voice floated up to us. "You will not harm her,
Polter?"

"No. Fear nothing. But you no longer rebel?"

"I will do what you tell me." The tones carried hopeless resignation,
years of being beaten down, rebelling--but now this last blow
vanquished him. Then he spoke again, with a sudden strange fire.

"Even for the life of my daughter, I will not make your drugs, Polter,
if you mean to harm our Earth."

The golden cage room swooped as Polter sat down. "Hah! Now we bargain.
What do you care what I do to your world? You never will see it again.
I can lie to you. My plans--"

"I do care."

"Well, I will tell you, Kent. I am good natured now. Why should I not
be, with my dear little Babs? I tell you. I am done with the Earth
world. It iss so much nicer here. My friends, they haf a good time
always. We like this little atom realm. I am going out once more. I
must hide the little piece of golden quartz so no harm will come to
it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Polter was evidently in a high good humor. His voice fell to an
intimate tone of comradeship; but still I could not mistake the irony
of it.

"You listen to me, Kent. There was a time, years ago, when we were
good friends. You liked your young assistant, the hunchback Polter.
Iss it not so? Then why should we quarrel now? I am gifing up the
Earth world. I wanted of it only the little Babs.... You look at me so
strange! You do not speak."

"There is nothing to say," retorted Dr. Kent wearily.

"Then you listen. I haf much gold above, in Quebec. You know that. So
very simple to take it out of our atom, grow large with it, to what we
call up there the size of a hundred feet. I haf a place, a room,
secluded from prying eyes under a dome-roof. I become very tall,
holding a piece of gold. It is large when I am a hundred feet tall. So
I haf collected much gold. They think I own a mine. I haf a smelter
and my gold quartz I make into ingots, refined to the standard purity.
So simple, and I am a rich man.

"But gold does not bring happiness, my friend Kent." He chuckled
ironically at his use of the platitude. "There is more in life than
the ownership of gold. You ask my plans. I haf Babs, now. I am gifing
up our Earth world. The mysterious man they know as Frank Rascor will
vanish. I will hide our little fragment of quartz. No one up there
will even try to find it. Then I come down here, with Babs, and we
will haf so nice a little government and rule this world. No more of
the drugs then will be needed, Kent. When you die, let the secret die
with you."

Again Polter's voice turned ingratiating, even more so than before.
"We will be friends, Kent. Our little Babs will lof me; why should
she not? You will tell her--advise her--and we will all three be very
happy."

Dr. Kent said abruptly, "Then leave her with me now. That was her
request, a moment ago. If you expect to treat her kindly, then why
not--"

"I do! I do! But not now. I cannot spare her now. I am very busy, but
I must take her with me."

       *       *       *       *       *

Babs had been silent, clinging to the bars of our cage. She called:

"Why? I ask you to put this cage down."

"Not now, little bird."

"And let me be with my father."

It struck a pang through me. Babs was scheming, but not the way Polter
thought. She wanted the cage put on the floor, herself out, and a
chance for me to escape. I had not yet told her of my miserable
stupidity in losing the vial.

Polter was repeating. "No, little bird. Presently; not now. I may take
you out with me, my last trip out. I want to talk with you in a normal
size when I haf time."

Our room swooped as he stood up. "You think over what I haf said,
Kent. You get ready now to make the fresh drugs I will need to bring
down all my men from the outer world. They will all be glad to come,
or, if not--well, we can easily kill those who refuse. You make the
drugs. I need plenty. Will you?"

"Yes."

"That iss good. I come back soon and gif you the catalyst for that
last reaction. Will you be ready?"

"Yes."

The blur outside our bars swung with a dizzying whirl as Polter turned
and left the room, locking its door after him with a reverberating
clank.

       *       *       *       *       *

Left alone in his laboratory, Dr. Kent began his preparations for
making a fresh supply of the drugs. This room, with two smaller ones
adjoining, was at once his workshop and his prison. He stood at his
shelves, selecting the basic chemicals. He could not complete the
final compounds. The catalyst which was necessary to the final
reaction would be brought to him by Polter.

How long he worked there with his thoughts in a whirl at seeing Babs,
he did not know. His movements were automatic; he had done all this so
many times before. His mind was confused, and he was trembling from
head to foot, an old, queerly, unnaturally old man now--unnerved. His
shaking fingers could hardly hold the test tubes.

His thoughts were flying. Babs was here, come down from the world
above. It was disaster--the thing he had feared all these years.

He suddenly heard a voice.

"Father!"

And again: "Father!" A tiny voice, down by his shoe-tops. Two small
figures were there on the floor beside him. They were both panting,
winded by running. They were enlarging; they had come from a smaller
size.

It was Alan and Glora, who had followed Polter from the boat,
diminished again, and come running through the tiny crack under the
metal door of the laboratory.

They grew to a foot in size, down by Dr. Kent's legs. He was too
unnerved; he sat in a chair while Alan swiftly told him what had
happened. Babs was in the golden cage. Dr. Kent knew that; but none of
them knew what had happened to me.

"We must make you small, Father. We have the drugs, here with us."

"Yes! Yes, Alan. How much have you? Show me. Oh, my boy, that you are
here--and Babs--"

"Don't you worry, we'll get away from him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Glora and Alan had almost reached Dr. Kent's size before their excited
fingers could get out the vials. They took some of the diminishing
drug to check their growth. Alan handed his father a black vial.

"Yes, lad--"

"No! Wait, Father! That's the wrong drug. This other--"

Dr. Kent had opened the vial. His trembling hand spilled some of the
pellets, but none of them noticed it.

"Father, dear, this one." Alan held an opalescent vial. "This one."

Glora said abruptly, "Listen! Is that someone coming?"

They thought they heard approaching footsteps. A moment passed, but no
one came into the room.

"Hurry," urged Glora. "It is nothing. We wait too long."

"My boy--Alan, dear, after all these years--"

They were about to take the diminishing drug. From across the room
there came a very queer sound. A scuttling, scratching, and the drone
of wings.

"Father, good God--look!"

Over by the wall, a giant fly was running across the floor. It was
growing larger!

At Dr. Kent's feet the pellets he had dropped were crushed by his
footsteps and strewn on the floor. A fly had eaten of the sweetish
powder.

The enlarging drug was loose!

A few drops of water lay mingled with the drug on the floor. And from
the water nameless hideous things were rising!


CHAPTER IX

_The Doomed Realm_

To Alan the first few moments that followed the escape of the drug
were the most horrible of his life. The discovery struck old Dr. Kent,
Glora and Alan into a numb, blank confusion. They stood transfixed,
staring with cold terror. The fly was scurrying along the floor close
against the wall Already it was as large as Alan's hand. It ran into
the corner, hit the wall in its confused alarm, and turned back. Its
wings were droning with an audible hum. It reared itself on its hairy
legs, lifted and sailed across the room.

As though drawn by a magnet Alan turned to watch it. It landed on the
wall. Alan was aware of Dr. Kent rushing with trembling steps to a
shelf where bottles stood. Glora was stricken into immobility, the
blood draining from her face.

The fly flew again. It passed directly over Alan. Its body, with a
membrane sac of eggs, was now as large as his head; its wide-spread
transparent wings were beating with a reverberating drone.

Alan flung a bottle which was on the table beside him. It missed,
crashed against the ceiling, came down with splintering glass and
spilling liquid. Fumes spread chokingly over the room.

The fly landed again on the floor. Larger now! Expanding with a
horribly rapid growth. Glora flung something--a little wooden rack
with a few empty test-tubes in it. The rack struck the monstrous fly,
but did not hurt it. The fly stood with hairy legs braced under its
bulging body. Its multiple-lensed eyes were staring at the humans. And
with its size must have come a sense of power, for it seemed to Alan
that the monstrous insect had an abnormal alertness as it stood
measuring its adversaries, gathering itself to attack them.

Only a few seconds had passed. Confused thoughts swept Alan. This fly
with its growth would soon fill this room. Burst it; burst upward
through a wrecked palace; soar out, and by the power of its size
alone, devastate this world.

He heard himself shouting. "Father, get back! It's too large! I've got
to kill it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Launch himself upon it? Wrestle with it in a hand to hand combat? Alan
edged around the center table. He was bathed in cold sweat. This thing
so horrible! It was too large! Half the length of his own body, now.
In a moment it might be twice that! He was aware of Glora pulling at
him; and his father rushing past him with a bottle of liquid, and
shouting:

"Alan! Run! You and this girl, get out of here! The other room--"

Then Alan saw the things upon the floor! His foot crushed one with a
slippery squash! Nameless, hideous, noisome things grown monstrous,
risen from their lurking invisibility in the drops of water! Sodden,
gray-black and green-slimed monsters of the deep; palpitating masses
of pulp! One lay rocking, already as large as a football with
streamers of ooze hanging upon it, and a black-ink fluid squirting;
others were rods of red jelly-pulp, already as large as lead pencils,
quivering, twitching. Germs of disease, these ghastly things,
enlarging from the invisibility of a drop of water!

The fly landed with a thud on the center table. The fumes of the
shattered bottle of chemicals were choking Alan. He flung himself
toward the monster fly, but Glora held him.

"No! Escape! The other room!"

Dr. Kent was stamping the things upon the floor; pouring acids upon
them. Some eluded him. The air in the room was unbreathable....

They reached the bedroom. The laboratory was a hideous chaos. They
were aware of its outer door opening, disclosing the figure of Polter
who, undoubtedly, had been attracted by the noise. He shouted a
startled oath. Alan heard it above the beating wings of the monster
fly. Things lurched at the opened door; Polter banged it upon them and
rushed away, shouting the alarm through the palace.

Dr. Kent was stammering, "Not the enlarging drug! Glora, child, the
other! Hurry!"

Alan helped Glora with the opalescent vial. Things were lurching
toward this room from the laboratory. Alan with averted face, choked
by the incoming fumes, slammed the door upon the gruesome turmoil.

They took the diminishing drug. The bedroom expanded. The hideous
sounds from the laboratory, and the whole palace now ringing with a
wild alarm, then faded into the blessed remoteness of distance above
them....

       *       *       *       *       *

"I think it is this way, Alan. Off there--a doorway from my bedroom.
Polter always kept it locked, but it leads into a corridor. We must
get out of here. A crack under the door--is that it, off there?" Dr.
Kent pointed into the gloomy blur of distance. "We are horribly
small--it's so far to run--and I've lost my sense of direction."

The drug had ceased its action. The wooden floor of the room had
expanded to a spread of cellular surface, ridged with broken,
tube-like tunnels; pits and jagged cave-mouths. A knot-hole yawned
like a crater a hundred feet away.

"We are too small," Gloria protested hurriedly. "The door is where you
say, Dr. Kent, but miles away."

With the other drug, the room contracted. The floor-surface shrank and
smoothed a little. The door was distinguishable--a square panel
several hundred feet in width and towering into the upper haze. The
black line of the crack was visible along its bottom.

They ran to it. The top of the crack was ten feet above their heads.
They ran under, across the wide intervening darkness toward a glow of
light. Then they came from under the door into a corridor--and shrank
against a cliff-wall as with a rush of wind and pounding tread the
blurred shapes of a man's huge feet and legs rushed passed. The upper
air was filled with rumbling shouts.

"We must chance it!" exclaimed Dr. Kent. "Too dangerous, so small!
Larger--and if they see us, fight our way out!"

In the turmoil of the doomed palace no one noticed them. They cast
aside all restraint. It was too dangerous to wait. The excessive dose
they took of the drug made the corridor shrink with dizzying speed.
They rushed along its length. Alan hurled a little man aside who was
in their path. Already they were larger than the Polter people.

       *       *       *       *       *

They squeezed out of a shrinking doorway. The dwindling island was a
turmoil. Little figures were plunging from the palace. At the edge of
the water, Alan, Glora and Dr. Kent stood for an instant looking
behind them. The palace was rocking! Its roof heaved upward then
smashed and fell aside with the clatter of tumbling masonry. The
monstrous fly, its hideous face mashed and oozing, reared itself up
and, with broken, torn wings tried to soar away. But it could not. It
slipped back. The drone and buzz of its fright sounded over the chaos
of noise. Other things came lurching and twitching upward; slithering
out....

The expanding body of the fly was pushing the palace walls outward. In
a moment they collapsed and it emerged....

To Alan and his companions the scene was all shrinking into a
miniature chaos of horror at their shoe-tops. A diminuendo of screams
mingled down there. Overhead were the stars, shining peacefully
remote. Nearby lay a rapidly narrowing channel of shining water. A
tiny city was across it. Lights were moving. The panic had spread from
the island to Orena. Beyond the tiny city, a range of mountains
showed; a cliff, gleaming in the starlight; tunnel mouths.

Suddenly against the stars off there, Alan saw the enlarging figure of
Polter, his hunched shape unmistakable. He was facing the other way.
He lunged and scrambled into a yawning black hole in the mountains.
Polter was escaping! None of these people except himself had the
drugs. He was escaping with the golden cage, out of this doomed atomic
world to our Earth above.

Glora murmured, "There is our way out. Your way. And that is Polter
going. I think he did not see us. So much is growing gigantic here."
She clung to Alan. "Dear one--"

Dr. Kent muttered, "We will wait a moment--wade across--or leap over,
and follow him out. Babs with him--dear God I hope so! This doomed
realm!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Alan held Glora close. And suddenly he was laughing--a madness, half
hysteria. "Why, this, all this--why look, Glora, it's funny! This
little world all excited, an ant-hill, outraged! Look! There's our
giant sailboat!"

Down near their feet the inch-long sailboat stood at its dock. Tiny
human figures were rushing for it; others, floundering in the water,
were trying to climb upon it. Dr. Kent had stepped from the shore a
foot or two, and tiny, lashing white rollers rocked the boat, almost
engulfing it.

Alan's laugh rang out, "God! It's funny, isn't it? All those little
creatures, so excited!"

"Steady, lad!" Dr. Kent touched him. "Don't let yourself laugh! A
moment now, then we'll wade across. Polter won't have much start on
us. We mustn't get too close to him in size, but try and attack him
unawares. We have got to get Babs away from him."

The narrowing passage rose hardly to their knees. They stepped ashore,
well to one side of the toy city. Their growth had almost stopped. But
suddenly Alan realized that Glora was diminishing! She had taken the
other drug.

"Glora!"

"I must go back, Alan. This is my world, doomed perhaps, but I cannot
forsake it now. I must give the enlarging drug to my father. And
others who can rise and fight these monsters."

"Glora!"

Dr. Kent said hurriedly, "She's right, Alan. There is a chance they
can save their city. For her to leave them would be dastardly."

She cried, "You go on up, Alan. You have enough of the drugs. Leave
me, dear one--I am going back!"

"No!" he protested. "You must not! Or if you do, I'll come with you!"

She clung to him. He felt her body diminishing within his encircling
arms. His love for her swept him--this girl who had cajoled Polter, or
tricked him, stolen several of the little vials from him heaven knows
how, and followed him up to the other world. This girl whom Alan now
knew he loved, was leaving him. Forever?

       *       *       *       *       *

As he stood there, with the miniature landscape at his feet in the wan
starlight, the panic-stricken tiny city, the island with its monsters
rising to overwhelm this microscopic world--it seemed to Alan then
that if he let her go it was the end for him of all life's promised
happiness.

"Alan, lad, come." His father was pulling at him. So horrible a
choice! Alan thought that I was back on that island. But Babs, a
prisoner in the golden cage, was with Polter, plunging upward in size.
And his father was beside him, pleading.

"Alan--come--I can't get out alone. Nor save Babs. And the maddened
Polter, with the power of this drug, can conquer and enslave our Earth
as he has enslaved Orena--just one little city of one tiny golden
atom! Believe me, lad, your duty lies above."

Glora's head was now down at Alan's waist. He stooped and kissed her
white forehead; his fingers, just for an instant, smoothed her glossy
hair.

"Good-by, Glora."

"Dear one, good-by."

She plunged away, and her tread as she dwindled mashed the forest
behind the city. Alan and his father ran for the cliff. They were too
large to squeeze into the little hole. But in a moment they made
themselves smaller. They climbed as they dwindled; checked the drug
action and rushed into the tunnel-mouth.

Alan stopped just for an instant to gaze out over the starlit scene.
It was almost the same viewpoint from which he had his first sight of
Glora's world only an hour or two before. The distant island beyond
the city showed plainly with the shining water around it. The
vegetation there was growing! And there were dark, horribly formless
blobs lurching outward and rising with monstrous bulk against the
background of the stars!

"Alan! Come, lad!"

With a prayer for Glora trembling on his lips, Alan plunged into the
dim phosphorescent gloom of the tunnel.


CHAPTER X

_The Escape_

To Babs and me the ride in the golden cage strapped to Polter's chest
as he made his escape outward into largeness was an experience awesome
and frightening almost beyond conception. We heard the alarm in the
palace on the island. Polter rushed to Dr. Kent's laboratory door,
looked in, and in a moment banged it shut. Babs and I saw very little.
We knew only that something horrible had happened; we could see only a
blur with formless things in the void beneath our bars; and there were
the choking fumes of chemicals surging at us.

Polter rushed through the castle corridor. We heard rumbling distant
shouts.

"The drug is loose! The drug is loose! Monsters! Death for everyone!"

The room swayed with horrible dizzying lurches as Polter ran. We clung
to the lattice bars, our legs and arms entwined. There were moments
when Polter leaped, or suddenly stooped, and our reeling senses all
but faded.

"Babs! Babs, darling, don't let go! Don't lose consciousness!"

If she should be limp, here in this lurching room, her body to be
flung back and forth across its confines--that would be death in a
moment. I feared I could not hold her. I managed to get an arm about
her waist.

"Babs!"

"I'm--all right, George. I can stand it. We're--he is enlarging."

"Yes."

I saw water far beneath us, lashed into a turmoil of foam with
Polter's wading steps. There was a brief swaying vista of a toy city;
starlight overhead; a lurching swaying miniature of landscape as
Polter ran for the towering cliffs. Then he climbed and scrambled into
the tunnel-mouth. Had he turned at that instant doubtless he would
have seen the rising distant figures of Glora, Alan and Dr. Kent. But
he did not see them, evidently. Nor did we.

Polter spoke only very occasionally to Babs. "Hold tightly!" It was a
rumbling voice from above us. He made no move to touch the cage,
except that a few times the great blur of his hand came up to adjust
its angle.

       *       *       *       *       *

The lurching and jolting was less violent in the tunnel. Polter's
frenzy to escape was subsiding into calmness. He traversed the tunnel
with a methodical swinging stride. We were aware of him climbing over
the noisome litter of the dead giant's body which blocked the tunnel's
further end. We heard his astonished exclamations. But evidently he
did not suspect what had happened, thinking only that the stupid
messenger had miscalculated his growth and been crushed.

We emerged into a less dim area. Polter did not stop at the fallen
giant. Nothing mattered now to him, quite evidently, save his own
rapid exit with Babs from this atomic realm. His movements seemed
calm, yet hurried.

We realized now how different was an outward journey from the trip
coming in. This was all only an inch of golden quartz! The stages
upward were frequently only a matter of growth in size; the distances
in this vast desert realm of golden rock always were shrinking. Polter
many times stood almost motionless until the closing dwindling walls
made him scramble upward into the greater space above.

It may have been an hour, or less. Babs and I, from our smaller
viewpoint, with the landscape so frequently blurred by distance and
Polter's movements, seldom recognized where we were. But I realized
that going out was far easier in every way than coming in. Easier to
determine the route, since usually the diminishing caverns and gullies
made the upward step obvious.... We knew when Polter scrambled up the
incline ramp.

It seemed impossible for us to plan anything. Would Polter make the
entire trip without a stop? It seemed so. We had no drugs. Our cage
was barred beyond possibility of our getting out. But even if we had
had the drugs, or had our door been open, there was no escape. An
abyss of distance was always yawning beyond our lattice--the sheer
precipice of Polter's body from his chest to the ground.

"Babs, we must make him stop. If he sits down to rest, you might get
him to take you out. I must reach his drugs."

"Yes. I'll try it, George."

       *       *       *       *       *

Polter was momentarily standing motionless as though gazing around
him, judging what to do next. His size seemed stationary. Beyond our
bars we could see the distant circular walls as though this were some
giant crater-pit in which Polter was standing. Then I thought I
recognized it--the round, nearly vertical pit into which Alan had
plunged his hand and arm. Above us then was a gully, blind at one end.
And above that, the outer surface, the summit of the fragment of
golden quartz.

"Babs! I know where we are! If he takes you out, keep his attention.
I'll try and get one of his black vials. Make him hold you near the
ground. If I see you there, in position where you can jump, I'll
startle him. Oh, Babs, dear, it's desperately dangerous but I can't
think of anything else. Jump! Get away from here. I'll keep his
attention on me. Then I'll join you if I can--with the drug."

Polter was moving. We had no time to say more.

"Yes! Yes, I'll try it, George." For just an instant she clung to me
with her soft arms about my neck. Our love was sweeping us in this
desperate moment, and it seemed that above us was a remote Earth world
holding the promise of all our dreams. Or were we star-crossed, doomed
like the realm of the atom? Was this swift embrace now marking the end
of everything for us?

Babs called, "Dr. Polter?"

We could feel his movements stopping.

"Yes? You are all right, Babs?"

She laughed--a ripple of silvery laughter--but there was tragic fear
in her eyes as she held her gaze on me. "Yes, Dr. Polter, but
breathless. Almost dead, but not quite. What happened? I want to come
out and talk to you."

"Not now, little bird."

"But I want to." To me it was a miracle that she could call so lightly
and hold that note of lugubrious laughter in her voice. "I am hungry.
Don't you think of that? And frightened. Take me out."

       *       *       *       *       *

He was sitting down! "You remind me that I am tired, Babs. And hungry,
also. I haf a little food. You shall come out for just a short time."

"Thank you. Take me carefully."

Our tilted cage was near the ground as he seated himself. But still it
was too far for me to jump.

I murmured, "Babs--"

"Wait, George! I'll fix that. You hide! If he looks in he'll see you,
where you are now!"

I scrambled back to my hiding place. Polter's huge fingers were
fumbling at our bars. The little door sprang open.

"Come, Babs."

He held the cupped bowl of his palm to the doorway. "Come out."

"No!" she called. "It is too far down!"

"Come. That iss foolish."

"No! I'm afraid. Put the cage on the ground."

"Babs!" His finger and thumb came reaching in to seize her, but she
avoided them.

"Dr. Polter! Don't! You'll crush me!"

"Then come out on my hand."

He seemed annoyed. I had scrambled back to the doorway; I knew he
could not see me so long as the cage remained strapped to his shirt
front.

I whispered, "I can make it, Babs!"

Polter was apparently on one elbow, half turned on his side. From our
cage, the sloping gleaming white surface of his stiff glossy
shirt-bosom went down a steep incline. His belt was down there, and
the outward bulging curve of his lap--a spreading surface where I
could land like a scuttling insect, unobserved, if only Babs could
hold his attention.

I whispered vehemently. "Try it! Go out! Leave me! Keep talking to
him!"

She called instantly, "Very well, then. Bring your hand! Closer!
Carefully! It seems so high up here!"

       *       *       *       *       *

She swung herself to his palm, and flung her arms about the great
pillar of his upcrooked finger. The bowl of his hand moved slowly
away. I heard her calling voice, and his overhead rumble.

I chanced it! I could not determine the exact position, or which way
he was looking.

Again I heard Bab's voice. "Careful, Dr. Polter. Don't let me fall!"

"Yes, little bird."

I let myself down from the tilted doorway, hung by my hands and
dropped. I struck the ramp-like yielding surface of his shirt-bosom. I
slid, tumbling, scrambling, and landed softly in the huge folds of his
trouser fabric. I was unhurt. The width of his belt, high as my body,
was near me. I shrank against it; I found I could cling to its upper
edge.

My hold came just in time. He shifted, and sat up. I was lifted with a
swoop of movement. When it steadied I saw above me the top of his
knee. His left leg was crooked, the foot drawn close to him. Babs was
perched up there on the knee summit. His right leg was outstretched. I
was at the right side of his belt. I could dart off along that curving
expanse of his leg and leap to the ground. If he would hold this
position! One of the pouches of his belt was near me. The vial in it
was black. The enlarging drug! I moved toward it.

But Babs was too high to jump from that summit of his crooked knee! I
think she saw me at his belt. I heard her voice.

"I cannot eat up here. It is too high. Oh, please be careful how you
move! I am so dizzy, so frightened! You move with such great jerks!"

He had what seemed a huge surface of bread and meat. He was breaking
o£f crumbs to put before her. I reached the pouch of his belt. The
vial was as long as my body. I tugged to try and lift it out.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the giant contours of Polter's body shifted as he cautiously
moved. I clung. I saw that Babs was being held gently between his
thumb and forefinger. He lowered her to the ground, and she stood
beside the bread and meat he had placed there.

And she had the courage to laugh! "Why this--this is an enormous
sandwich! You will have to break it."

He was leaning over her, half turned on his left side. The vial came
free. I shoved it; but I could not control its weight. I pushed
desperately. It slid over the round brink of his right hip, and fell
behind him. I heard the tinkling thud of it down on the rocks.

There was no alarm. I could not chance leaping from his hip. I
scurried along the convex top of his outstretched leg, and beyond his
knee I jumped.

I landed safely. I could see the black vial back across the broken
rock surface, with the bulge of Polter's hip above it. I ran back and
reached the vial; tugged at its huge stopper. The cork began to yield
under my panting, desperate efforts. In a moment I would have a pellet
of the enlarging drug; make away with it; startle Polter so that Babs
might dart off and escape.

The huge stopper of the vial was larger than my head. It came suddenly
out. I flung it away, plunged in my hand, and seized an enormous round
pellet.

Then abruptly the alarm came, and I had not caused it! Polter ripped
out a startled, rumbling curse and sat upright. Under the curve of his
leg, I saw that Babs had been momentarily neglected. She was running.

Across the boulder-strewn plain, two tiny men had appeared. Polter had
seen them.

They were the enlarging figures of Dr. Kent and Alan!


CHAPTER XI

_The Combat of Size_

The astounded Polter was taken wholly by surprise. He could have had
no idea that anyone was following him. He thought he was alone with
the tiny Babs in this rock-strewn metal desert. What he saw as he
scrambled to his feet were four insect-size humans, two of them at a
distance, and two within reach of him, and all of them scampering in
different directions. The ground was littered with crags and boulders;
was ridged and pitted, pock-marked, with tiny crater-holes and caves.
The four scuttling figures almost instantly had disappeared from his
sight.

I did not see where Babs went. I turned from the black vial of
Polter's enlarging drug, and with the huge pellet under my arm I ran
leaping over the rough ground and flung myself into a gully. I lay
prone, flattened against a rock. In the murky distance of a pseudo-sky
overhead, the monstrous head and shoulders of Polter were visible. I
could see down to just below his waist. The empty cage with its door
flapping open hung against his shirt-front. He had stooped to try and
recover Babs. And instinctively his hands went to his belt to seize
his enlarging drug.

They were fumbling there now. He hauled out an opalescent vial of the
diminishing element. But his black vial was gone. His frown spread
into fear as he searched for it in the other compartments of his belt.
I had thought that he had more than one black vial, but now it seemed
not. His huge face was swept with the panic of terror. He flung a wild
glance around him.

Through the open end of my gully I saw in the distance, miles away,
the enlarging figure of Alan rising up. Then it ducked back of a
distant rocky peak. Polter undoubtedly saw it. He was fumbling with
his opalescent vial, and with confused panic upon him he made the
mistake of taking the diminishing drug. And instantly seemed to regret
it. His curse rumbled above me. His glance went down to the rocks at
his feet, and there he saw lying his black vial with its stopper out.
His body already was beginning to dwindle. He stooped, seized the
vial, and took the enlarging drug. The shock of it made him stagger;
momentarily he disappeared from my line of vision but I could hear his
panting breath and the unsteady pound of his footsteps.

       *       *       *       *       *

I still held that huge round ball of the drug. I seized a loose stone
and frantically knocked off a chunk--heaven knows how much, I do not.
I shoved it into my mouth, chewed and hastily swallowed it. And with
the lurching, swaying, shrinking gully closing in upon me, I ran to
get out of its distant open end.

I was heading toward where Alan and his father were lurking. I came
from the gully into the open, just as the walls closed behind me. The
whole scene was a dizzying blurred sway of contracting movement. I saw
that I was in a circular valley now some five miles in diameter, with
its jagged enclosing walls rising sheerly perpendicular out of sight
in the haze overhead.

Polter had staggered backward. I saw him a mile or so away. His back
at that instant was turned to me. He was now no more than three or
four times my own height. He scrambled against the valley cliff-wall
as though trying to find a foothold to climb up it. He went a little
way, but fell back.

Near me, Alan and old Dr. Kent suddenly appeared. I was larger. They
flung themselves at my knees. Alan gasped:

"You, George! You got Babs?"

"Yes--Babs is around somewhere! Stay down here! Don't lose her in
size! Stay small! Search and--"

"But George--"

"I'll tackle Polter. I've taken--God, I don't know how much I've taken
of the drug!"

They were shrinking down by my boot-tops. Alan shouted suddenly,
"There's Babs! Thank God, there's Babs!"

She was too small; I could not see her, nor even hear her, though she
must have been calling to them. Alan again screamed up at me with his
little voice:

"She's here, George! You--go on and get Polter! I can't overtake you
you--haven't enough of the drug!" His tiny voice was fading away. "Go
on and get him, George! This time--get him--"

       *       *       *       *       *

I swung with a staggering step around to face the open valley. It was
shrunken now to barely half a mile of width. Its smooth walls rose
some two or three thousand feet to an upper circular horizon with
murky distance overhead. Polter stood across from me. He had tried to
climb out but could not. He saw me and came lurching. We were a
quarter of a mile from each other. I ran forward through a shifting
scene of shrinking rock walls and crawling, contracting ground.
Quarter of a mile? It seemed hardly more than a score of running
strides before Polter loomed close ahead of me. He was still nearly
twice my size. I stooped, seized a loose boulder, and flung it. I
missed his face, but, as his hand went up carrying a bared
knife-blade, by fortunate chance the stone struck his wrist. The knife
dropped to the rocks. He stooped to recover it, but I was upon him. As
I felt his huge arms go around me, half lifting me, my foot struck the
knife. But in an instant it was swept down into smallness beneath us
as we expanded above it.

Both of us were unarmed in this combat of size. I was a half-grown
youth in Polter's first grip upon me. I heard his panting words,
grimly triumphant:

"This--George Randolph, I haf been--waiting for so many many years!
The hunchback--takes his revenge--now--"

He lifted me. His great arms were horribly powerful, but I could feel
them dwindling. I was enlarging faster. Just a few moments--if I could
last a few moments!... My feet were off the ground, my chest close
pressed against the little golden cage between us. He had a hand
shoving back my head; his fingers sought my throat. I wound my legs
around him, and then he tried to throw me down and fall upon me. But
we had twisted and my back was to the cliff. The rocks were shoving at
us, insistently pushing with almost a living movement. Polter
staggered with me. His grip on my throat tightened, shutting off my
breath. My senses whirled. His grim sardonic face over me was blurred
to my sight. I tore futilely at my throat to break his choking grip.
All the world was a roaring chaos to my fading senses. Then in the
blur I saw horror sweep his expression. His fingers involuntarily
loosened. I got a breath of blessed air, gasping, and my sight
cleared.

Walls were closing around us! We were in a pit barely ten feet wide,
with the top a few feet above Polter's head. The nearer wall shoved us
again. Our bodies almost filled the shrinking pit! Polter lurched and
cast me off. I half fell, striking my shoulder against the opposite
wall, and I saw Polter leap at the dwindling brink and scramble out.

I was nearly wedged. As I rose, the top of the pit only reached my
waist. Polter had fallen on the upper ground, and was on hands and
knees. Instead of standing up, he lurched at me; tried to shove me
back. But I was out. I clutched at him. We were almost of a size now.
We rolled on the ground, locked together; rolled to the brink of the
pit and over it, as it shrank to a little round hole unnoticed beneath
our threshing bodies!

       *       *       *       *       *

At the side of the circular valley Alan and Dr. Kent crouched with the
smaller figure of Babs between them. They saw Polter and me as two
swaying gigantic forms locked in a death struggle, towering against
the sky. Tremendous expanded bodies! They saw us come to grips; saw
the great hunched Polter bend me backward, choking me.

Our bodies lurched. Our huge legs with a single step brought us to the
center of the valley. It was a shrinking valley to Alan, Babs and Dr.
Kent, for they too, were enlarging. But the fighting giant figures
were growing faster. In only a moment their shoulders were up there in
the sky, pressing against the narrowing cliff-walls.

Alan gasped. "But George will be crushed! Look at him!"

Horror swept them as they crouched watching. The enormous pillars of
Polter's legs towered straight up from near at hand. Alan was aware of
himself screaming:

"George--out! You're too large! Too large for in here!"

As though his microscopic voice could reach me--my head hundred of
feet above him. But he screamed it again. This was all in a few
horrible moments, though it seemed to the three watchers an eternity.
Alan was helpless to aid me; they had taken all of the enlarging drug
they had.

Then they saw Polter cast me off. I lurched and struck, with my
shoulders wedged against the cliff directly over where they crouched.
The overhead sky was darkened as Polter scrambled upward.

Alan was still screaming futilely, "George--up! Get out!"

Babs huddled with white, horrified face, staring. Then I went out
after Polter. My disappearing legs were great dark blurs in the sky.
Alan saw the valley now contracted to a thousand feet of width, with
its cliffs equally as high. Then everything was smaller.... The sky
overhead went dark again; from cliff to cliff a segment of our rolling
bodies momentarily spanned the opening.

       *       *       *       *       *

And presently Alan realized that the valley had narrowed to a pit. He
stood up. "Hurry! Now we can get out after them. Up there!"

The opening above was empty. Polter and I were fighting some distance
away....

Dr. Kent was soon large enough to scramble out of the pit. Alan handed
the little Babs up to him and followed. Alan saw that they were now in
a long gully, blind at one end with a five hundred-foot perpendicular
cliff. Against the wall, the titanic form of Polter stood at bay. And
I was fronting him. The summit of the cliff was lower than our waists.
Triumph swept Alan; he saw that I was the larger! As Polter bored into
me my backward step crossed the full width of the gully. Alan shouted:

"Down! Babs--Father!"

They had barely time to flatten themselves in a narrow crevice between
upstanding rocks before my foot crashed down. For an instant the sole
of my boot formed a flat black ceiling as it trod and spanned the
rocks. Then it lifted; was gone with a blurred swoop. They saw the
white blur of my hand come down and snatch a tremendous boulder,
raising it with a great sweep of movement into the sky. They saw me
crash it against Polter; but it only struck his shoulder. He roared
with anger. The whole sky was roaring and rumbling with our shouts and
our panting breathing, and the ground was clattering, pounding with
our giant tread. Huge loose boulders were tumbled in an avalanche
everywhere.

Again it seemed to Alan that our lurching, heedlessly surging bodies
must be crushed within these contracting walls. Only our locked,
intertwined legs were visible; our bodies were lost in the sky. Then
it seemed to Alan that I had heaved Polter upward. And followed him.
We disappeared. There was a distant overhead rumble, and the murky
sky, with vague patches of far-distant illumination in it, became
empty of movement....

The walls presently were again closing upon Alan and his companions.
They ran out of the open end of the shrinking little gully and came to
a new upward vista....

       *       *       *       *       *

I found myself a full head and shoulders taller than Polter. And he
was tiring, panting heavily. His face was cut and bleeding from the
blows of my fists. The rock I heaved struck his shoulder. He roared,
head down, and bored into me. He was heavier than I. His weight flung
me back. My foot slid on the loose stones of the gully floor. I did
not know that Babs, Alan and their father were huddled under those
stones!

My back struck the opposite wall. Polter's upflung knee caught me in
the stomach, all but knocking the breath from me. He was desperate,
oblivious to the closing walls. And as he flung his arms with a grip
about my neck, hanging, trying to bear me down, I saw in his blazing
dark eyes what seemed the light of suicide. I think that then, with a
sudden frenzied madness he realized that he was beaten. And tried to
pull us to the ground and let the walls crush us.

I summoned all my remaining strength and heaved us forward. I broke
his hold. His body was jammed back against a lowering wall. Its top
seemed almost at our knees. I shoved frantically. He fell backward and
I jumped after him.

We were on a great rocky plateau. But it was shrinking, crawling into
itself. Spots of light were in the murk overhead; there seemed a
distant circular horizon of emptiness around us.

Polter was lying in a heap. But it was trickery, for as I incautiously
bent over him his hand crashed a rock against my head. I reeled, with
all the world turning black, but did not fall. There was a horrible
instant when my senses were going, but I fought to hold them. Blood
from a wound on my forehead was streaming in my eyes. I was
staggering. Then I realized I was grimly tossing my head, shaking the
blood away; and little by little my sight came back.

Polter was on his feet, rushing me. His fist came with an upward swing
at my chin, but I ducked my head aside at the last moment.

And suddenly, fighting up there in the open, my mind envisaged how
gigantic we were! This was a great upland plateau, rounded with miles
of distance and a shadowy, dimly radiant abyss beyond its circular
horizon. And I was a thousand feet or more tall! A titan, looming here
in the sky!...

       *       *       *       *       *

My fist quite unexpectedly caught Polter's jaw. His simultaneous swing
went wild, though I leaped backward from it. He staggered, and his
arms dropped to his sides. I was crouched forward, guarded, watching
him while I gasped for breath. There was the briefest of instants when
an expression of vague surprise swept his face. But I had not knocked
him out.

It was death overtaking him. His heart was yielding, overtaxed from
this strain; and I think there at the last, he realized it. The blood
drained suddenly from his face and lips, leaving them livid. I saw
fear, then a wild horror in his eyes. He stood swaying. Then his knees
gave way and he toppled. He fell from his height in the air where I
stood gazing at him--fell forward on his face, his titanic length
spread all across the top of this rocky landscape!

For a moment I did not move. My head was reeling, my ears roaring.
Blood streamed into my eyes. I wiped it away with a torn sleeve and
stood panting, gazing at the glowing distance around me.

I was a titan, standing there. The body of Polter was shrinking at my
feet. The circular abyss of emptiness came nearer as this rocky
eminence contracted.

Suddenly my attention went to the sky overhead. Vague distant lights
were there. Then a broad flat blur seemed spread over me. Light
everywhere was growing. Beyond the nearby brink of the abyss was a
white reflected radiance from beneath. Abruptly I realized there was a
level, flat white plain running far off there in the distance.

Overhead a radiance contracted into a spot of light. A shape in the
sky moved! I heard a far-away rumble--a human voice!

The body of Polter lay at my feet. It was hardly the length of my
forearm I stood, a titan.

And then, with a shock of realization, I saw how tiny I was! This was
the broken top of that fragment of golden quartz the size of a walnut!
I was standing there, under the lens of the giant microscope in
Polter's dome-room laboratory, with half a dozen astounded Quebec
police officials peering down at me!


CHAPTER XII

_Mysterious Little Golden Rock_

I need not detail the aftermath of our emergence from the atom. Dr.
Kent and Babs followed me out within a few moments. But Alan was not
with them! He had seen Polter fall. His father and Babs were safe. The
sacrifice he had made in leaving Glora was no longer needed.

Down there on the rocky plateau, Dr. Kent suddenly realized that Alan
was dwindling.

"Father, I must! Don't you understand? Glora's world is menaced. I
can't leave her like this. My duty to you and Babs is ended. I did my
best, Dad--you two are safe now."

"Alan! My boy!"

He was already down at Dr. Kent's waist, Bab's size. He held up his
hand. "Dad, good-by." His rugged, youthful face was flushed, his voice
choked. "You--you've been a mighty good father to me. Always."

Babs flung her arms about him. "Alan, don't!"

"But I must." He smiled whimsically as he kissed her. "You wouldn't
want to leave George, would you? Never see him again? I'm not asking
you to do that, am I?"

"But, Alan--"

"You've been a great little pal, Babs. I'll never forget it."

"Alan! You talk as though you were never coming back!"

"Do I? But of course I'm coming back!" He cast her off. "Babs, listen.
Father's upset. That's natural. You tell him not to worry. I'll be
careful, and do what I can to save that little city. I must find Glora
and--"

Babs was suddenly trembling with eagerness for him. "Yes! Of course
you must, Alan!"

"Find her and bring her out here! I'll do it! Don't you worry." He was
dwindling fast. Dr. Kent had collapsed to a rock, staring down with
horror-stricken eyes. Alan called up to Babs:

"Listen! Have George watch the chunk of gold-quartz. Have it guarded
and watched day and night. Handle it carefully, Babs!"

"Yes! Yes! How long will you be gone, Alan?"

"Heavens--how do I know? But I'll come back, don't you worry. Maybe in
only a day or two of your time."

"Right! Good-by, Alan!"

"Good-by," his tiny voice echoed up. "Good-by, Babs--Father!"

Babs could see his miniature face smiling up at her. She smiled back
and waved her arm as he vanished into the pebbles at her feet.

The eyes of youth! They look ahead; they see all things so easily
possible! But old Dr. Kent was sobbing.

       *       *       *       *       *

It has broken Dr. Kent. A month now has passed. He seldom mentions
Alan to Babs and me. But when he does, he tries to smile and say that
Alan soon will return. He has been very ill this last week, though he
is better now. He did not tell us that he was working to compound
another supply of the drugs, but we knew it very well.

And his emotion, the strain of it, made him break. He was in bed a
week. We are living in New York, quite near the Museum of the American
Society for Scientific Research. In a room of the biological
department there, the precious fragment of golden quartz lies guarded.
A microscope is over it, and there is never a moment of the day or
night without an alert, keen-eyed watcher peering down.

But nothing has appeared. Neither friend nor foe--nothing. I cannot
say so to Babs, but often I fear that Dr. Kent will suddenly die, and
the secret of his drugs die with him. I hinted once that I would make
a trip into the atom if he would let me, but it excited him so greatly
I had to laugh it off with the assurance that of course Alan will soon
return safely to us. Dr. Kent is an old man now, unnaturally old,
with, it seems, the full weight of eighty years pressing upon him. He
cannot stand this emotion. I think he is despairingly summoning
strength to work upon his drugs, fearful that he will not be equal to
it. Yet more fearful to disclose the secret and unloose so diabolical
a power.

There are nights when with Dr. Kent asleep, Babs and I slip away and
go to the Museum. We dismiss the guard for a time, and in that private
room we sit hand in hand by the microscope to watch. The fragment of
golden quartz lies on its clean white slab with a brilliant light upon
it.

Mysterious little golden rock! What secrets are there, down beyond the
vanishing point in the realm of the infinitely small! Our human
longings go to Alan and to Glora.

But sometimes we are swept by the greater viewpoint. Awed by the
mysteries of nature, we realize how very small and unimportant we are
in the vast scheme of things. We envisage the infinite reaches of
astronomical space overhead. Realms of largeness unfathomable. And at
our feet, everywhere, are myriad entrances into the infinitely small.
With ourselves in between--with our fatuous human consciousness that
we are of some importance to it all!

Truly there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in
our philosophy!


INVISIBLE EYES

An invisible eye that can see in the dark and detect the light of a
ship two miles away on a black foggy night was introduced to newspaper
men recently by its inventor, John Baird of television fame. He calls
the invention "Noctovisor."

It looks like a large camera and can be mounted on a ship or airplane.
It was announced that it would soon be tried on trans-Atlantic liners.
For the demonstration it was mounted in the garden of Baird's cottage,
overlooking the twinkling lights of Dorking. In the dark beyond those
lights an automobile headlight three miles away pointed toward the
cottage.

At a signal from the inventor a sheet of ebonite, as a substitute for
a supposed fog, two miles thick, was placed in front of the headlight.
Not a glimmer was then visible to the human eye, but it appeared on
the noctovisor screen as a bright red disc. It was supposed to have
particular value in permitting a navigator in a fog to tell the exact
direction of a beacon and to estimate roughly its distance.

The device is a combination of camera lens, television transmitter and
television receiver. The lens throws a distant image on the exploring
disc of the transmitter, through which it acts on a photo-electric
cell sensitive to invisible infra-red rays. The receiver amplifies it
for the observer.


MOON ROCKETS

Seventeen years of experimenting on a rocket designed by Prof. Albert
H. Goddard of Clark University, to shriek its way from the earth to
the moon, came to a glorious climax recently in an isolated and
closely guarded section of Worcester when the rocket tore its flaming
way through the air for a quarter-mile with a roar heard for a
distance of two miles.

Prof. Goddard said the rocket was shot out of its cradle, careened
through the air a mass of flame, and landed about where it was
directed to land, beyond the Auburn town line. Test of a new
propellant was the object of his demonstration, Prof. Goddard said.

Two or three times a week a small rocket goes up into the air a short
distance, not enough to attract great attention. But the latest was a
nine-foot rocket, shot out of a forty-foot tower. Near the tower is a
safety post built of stone, with slits for peepholes. The experimental
party stepped into the safety zone when the rocket was started.

The forty-foot tower is built much like an oil well derrick. Inside it
are two steel rails to fill grooves in the rocket. These guide the
rocket much as rifling in a gun barrel guides a bullet. Prof. Goddard,
when teaching at Princeton in 1912, evolved the idea of shooting a
rocket to the moon by means of successive charges of explosive much as
the new German rocket motor racers are powered. In this most recent
experiment he used a new powder mixture.

Prof. Goddard issued a statement after the demonstration, which said:

"My test was one of a series of experiments with rockets using an
entirely new propellant. There was no attempt to reach the moon or
anything of such a spectacular nature. The rocket is normally noisy,
possibly enough to attract considerable attention. The test was
thoroughly satisfactory, nothing exploded in the air, and there was no
damage except possibly that incidental to landing."



Terrors Unseen

_By Harl Vincent_

[Illustration: _"Eddie!" Lisa screamed suddenly. "Look out!"_]

[Sidenote: One after another the invisible robots escape Shelton's
control--and their trail leads straight to the gangster chief
Cadorna.]


Something about the lonely figure of the girl caused Edward Vail to
bring his car to a sudden stop at the side of the road. When first he
had glimpsed her off there on that narrow strip of rock-bound coast he
was mildly surprised, for it was a desolate spot and seldom frequented
by bathers so late in the season. Now he was aroused to startled
attention by the unnatural posture of the slender body that had just
been erect and outlined sharply against the graying September sky. He
switched off the ignition and sprang to the ground.

Bent backward and twisted into the attitude of a contortionist, the
little figure in the crimson bathing suit was a thing at which to
marvel. No human being could maintain that position without falling,
yet the girl did not fall to the jagged stones that lay beneath her.
She was rigid, straining. Then suddenly her arm waved wildly and she
screamed, a wild gasping cry that died in her throat on a note of
despairing terror. It seemed that she struggled furiously with an
unseen power for one horrible instant. Then the tortured body lurched
violently and collapsed in a pitiful quivering heap among the stones.

Eddie Vail was running now, miraculously picking his way over the
treacherous footing. The girl had fainted, no doubt of that, and
something was seriously wrong with her.

A mysterious mechanical something whizzed past; something that buzzed
like a thousand hornets and slithered over the rocks in a series of
metallic clanks. Then it was gone--or so it seemed in the confusion of
Eddie's mind; but he had seen nothing. Probably a fantasy of his
overworked brain, or only the surf breaking against the sea wall. He
turned his attention to the girl.

       *       *       *       *       *

She was moaning and tossing her head, returning painfully to
consciousness. He straightened her limbs and placed his folded coat
under the restless head, noting with alarm that vicious red welts
marred the whiteness of her arms and shoulders. It was as if she had
been beaten cruelly; those marks could never have resulted from her
fall. Poor kid. Subject to fits of some sort, he presumed. She was a
good looker, too, and no mistake. He smoothed back the rumpled mass of
golden hair and studied her features. They were vaguely familiar.

Then she opened her eyes. Stark terror looked out from their
ultra-marine depths, and her lips quivered as if she were about to
cry. He raised her to a more comfortable position and supported her
with an encircling arm. She did cry a little, like a frightened child.
Then, with startling abruptness, she sprang to her feet.

"Where is it?" she demanded.

"Where's what?" Eddie was on his feet, peering in all directions. He
remembered the queer sounds he had heard or imagined.

"I--I don't know." The girl passed a trembling hand before her eyes as
if to wipe away some horrifying vision. "Perhaps it's my imagination,
but I felt--it was just as real--one of father's iron monsters.
Beating me; bending me. I'd have snapped in a moment. But nothing was
there. I--I'm afraid...."

Eddie caught her as she swayed on her feet. "There now," he said
soothingly, "you're all right, Miss Shelton. It's gone now, whatever
it was." Iron monsters! In a flash it had come to him that this girl
he held in his arms was Lina Shelton, daughter of the robot wizard. No
wonder she was afflicted with hallucinations! But those bruises were
real, as was the forcible twisting of her lithe young body. And he
_had_ heard something.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You know me?" The girl was calmer now and faced him with a surprised
look.

"Yes, Miss Shelton. At least I recognize you from the pictures.
Society page, you know. And I'm Edward Vail--Eddie for short--on
vacation and at your service."

The girl smiled wanly. "You know of father's break with Universal
Electric? Of his private experiments?"

"I heard of the scrap and of how he walked out on the outfit, but
nothing further." Eddie thought grimly of how nearly he had come to
losing his own job when David Shelton broke relations with his
employers. He had been too enthusiastic in support of some of the
older man's claims.

"It's been terrible," the girl whispered. She clung nervously to his
arm as he picked the way back to the road. "The loneliness, and all.
No servants will stay out here now, and father spends all of his time
in the laboratory. Then--this fear of the mechanical men--they haunt
me. I--I guess they've got me a little goofy."

Eddie laughed reassuringly. "Perhaps," he suggested, "you will let me
help you. Your father, I believe, will remember me, and I'll be very
glad to--"

"No, no!" The girl seemed frightened at the thought. "I'm sure he
wouldn't welcome you. He's changed greatly of late and is suspicious
of everyone, even keeping things from me. But it's awfully nice of you
to offer your assistance, and you've been a perfect peach to take care
of me this way. I--I'd better go now."

They had reached the road and Eddie looked uncertainly at his
roadster. He hated to think of leaving the girl in this lonely spot.
She was obviously in a state of extreme nervous tension and, to him,
seemed pathetically helpless, and afraid.

"That the house?" he asked, pointing in the direction of the gloomy
old mansion whose dilapidated gables were barely visible over the tree
tops.

"Yes." The girl shivered and drew closer to him.

The ensuing silence was broken by the slam of a door. His car! Eddie
looked toward it in amazement; he was hearing things again. The
springs sagged on the driver's side as under the weight of a very
heavy occupant, but the seat was empty. Then came the whine of the
starter and the motor purred into life. The gears clashed sickeningly
and the car was jerked into the road with a violence that should have
stripped the differential. He pulled the girl aside just as it roared
past and disappeared around the bend in a cloud of dust. The sound of
the exhaust died away rapidly and left them staring into each other's
eyes in awed silence.

       *       *       *       *       *

David Shelton was prowling around in the shrubbery when they
approached the house--a furtive, unkempt creature whom Eddie would
hardly have recognized. He straightened up and peered at his
daughter's companion with obvious disapproval.

"Lina," he said severely, "I've told you we want no visitors."

"Yes, Dad, I know, but Mr. Vail's car was stolen out in front and
there is no way for him to go on. We must look after him."

"His car--stolen? Who stole it?" David Shelton drew close and glared
suspiciously at his unwelcome visitor.

"One of your monsters, I think," she replied shakily, "though we could
see nothing. And the same thing attacked me and beat me. Look at my
bruises!"

Shelton was examining the marks, and his fingers trembled as he
touched his daughter's shoulder. He looked piteously into her eyes.
"Are you sure, Lina? Sure? Did you see it?"

"No, no. But I felt and heard--the iron arms and the clamps and the
buzzing. Oh, it was horrible!" The girl's voice rose hysterically.

"Oh, Lord! What have I done?" groaned Shelton. "It's true, then. Lina,
listen: I've succeeded in making them invisible, and one got away this
morning. But I thought--I thought--" He looked at Eddie, remembering
his presence suddenly. "But I'm talking too much. It seems to me I
remember having seen you before, young man."

"You have, sir," Eddie stated. "In the research laboratory of
Universal Electric. I work with Borden."

"They've sent you to find me?" Shelton stiffened perceptibly.

"Indeed, not, sir. I'm on vacation and was merely passing by when I
saw your daughter in danger, a danger I still do not understand."

"Yes, and he helped me to the road," Lina interposed, "and then lost
his car at the hands of--"

"Silence!" the father thundered. But his eyes fell before the fire
that instantly flashed in those of the girl.

"Now, you listen to me!" she returned angrily, "I've stayed on here
with you until I'm nearly crazy with your everlasting puttering and
experimenting--hearing your uncanny machines walking around in the
middle of the night--seeing impossible sights--then, this thing I
couldn't see but could feel. And you've gotten into such a state that
you'll go crazy yourself, if you continue. Something's got to be done,
I tell you. I can't stand it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Her voice broke on a choked sob.

"But Lina--"

"Don't but me, Father. I mean it. Mr. Vail discovered your hideout
quite by accident and he's been very nice to me. I tell you he means
no harm and I want him to stay. If you're not decent to him, if you
send him away, I swear I'll go too. I will--I will!"

Shelton's eyes misted and something of the hardness left his
expression. A look of haunting fear took its place and he stared
pleadingly at Eddie.

"Br-r! I'm cold!" Lina exclaimed irrelevantly. "And--and I believe I'm
going to cry." She turned away and raced for the shelter of the gloomy
old house without another word.

Eddie turned inquiring eyes on his unwilling host.

"Just like her mother before her," Shelton muttered softly. Then he
faced the younger man squarely and his shoulders straightened. "Mr.
Vail," he said sheepishly, "I've been a fool and I ask your pardon.
But Lina doesn't know. There's something tremendous behind all this,
something that's gotten beyond me. I'll send her away for her own
safety, but I must stay on. If--if only there was someone I could
trust--"

"You can trust me, sir," Eddie stated simply.

The older man paced the ground nervously, and Eddie could see that he
was under a most severe mental strain. Several times he halted in his
tracks and peered anxiously at his guest. Then he seemed to make a
sudden decision.

"Vail," he said sharply, "I need help badly. I want you to stay, if
you will. You swear you'll not reveal what I am about to show you?"

"I swear it, sir."

"You'll not report to Universal?"

"Never."

       *       *       *       *       *

They surveyed each other appraisingly. Eddie was mystified by the
happenings of the day and was curious to learn more concerning these
mythical invisible creations. It was inconceivable that the scientist
had spoken truly of his accomplishment. Yet, he had done some
marvelous things with Universal and, maybe--well, anyway, there was
the girl.

"Come with me," Shelton was saying: "I believe you're a square
shooter, Vail." He was leading the way along the gravel path at the
side of the house. Before them loomed the squat brick building that
was the laboratory.

The door crashed open before Shelton's hand had reached the knob, and
one of those buzzing, unseen, monstrosities rushed clanking by,
knocking the scientist from his feet in its passage. Ponderous,
speeding footsteps crunched the gravel of the path, and then, with a
wild thrashing of the underbrush alongside, the thing was gone.

Eddie bent over the prostrate man and saw that he was unconscious. A
thin trickle of blood ran from a cut in the side of his head.

"Lina! Lina!" called Eddie frantically. For the first time in his life
he was genuinely frightened.

       *       *       *       *       *

He half carried, half dragged the limp body through the door of the
laboratory and propped it in a chair. It required but a moment for him
to see that Shelton's injury was inconsequential. He had only been
stunned and already showed signs of recovering.

"What is it, Mr. Vail? What's happened?" came the voice of Lina
Shelton breathlessly. She was framed in the doorway, dressed now and
panting from her exertions in responding to his call. "Oh, it's
father," she wailed, dropping to her knees at his side. "He's been
hurt. Badly, too."

"No, not badly, Miss Shelton. He'll be around in a minute. I'm sorry
to have excited you, but when I called I feared it was worse than it
is." He was washing the blood from her father's small wound as he
spoke.

She took the basin from his hand, spilling some of the water in her
eagerness. "Here, let me have that cloth," she demanded.

Eddie admired her as her deft fingers took up the task. She was as
exquisite in a simple sport outfit as she had been in her bathing
suit.

The scientist opened his eyes after a moment. Remembrance came at once
and he sat erect in the chair, staring.

"Lina!" he exclaimed, grasping her hand conclusively. "You're here,
thank God! I dreamed--oh, it was horrible--I dreamed they had you." He
clung to her closely.

"They?" she murmured inquiringly.

"Yes. Two of them are loose now. It's danger for you, my dear. You
must leave at once. No, no--I can't let you out of my sight until they
are captured or destroyed." He rose to his feet in his agitation and
shook his head to clear it. He looked pleadingly at Eddie as if
expecting him to offer a solution of the difficulty.

"Vail!" he exploded, then, pointing a shaking forefinger at an
elaborate short-wave radio transmitter which occupied a corner of the
large room. "I ask you to bear witness. That is the source of energy
for these creations of mine and it's shut down. How on earth can they
keep going? I ask you."

"Perhaps someone else, sir," Eddie suggested doubtfully. "Have you any
enemies who might be able to duplicate the impulses of that
apparatus?"

"Bah! Enemies, yes--with Universal--but none who could duplicate the
complicated frequencies I use. My secrets are my own. I've never even
put them on paper."

       *       *       *       *       *

Eddie was examining the intricate apparatus. "You knew of the first
one's escape, didn't you?" he asked. "How did it happen?"

Shelton again became the enthusiastic scientist. "Here," he said,
"I'll show you and you can judge for yourself." He strode to the
gleaming figure of a seven-foot robot of startlingly human-like
appearance.

Lina let forth an exclamation of repugnance and fear.

"No, Mr. Shelton," Eddie objected. "The same thing will occur again.
Then there will be three."

"We'll fix that, my boy." The scientist was removing cover plates from
the hip joints of the mechanical man. "I'll disconnect the cables that
feed the locomotors. He _can't_ walk then."

Eddie was still doubtful but dared offer no further objection,
especially since Lina Shelton was watching in wide-eyed silence. He
examined the monster and saw that it was quite similar in outside
appearance to those supplied by Universal for heavy manual labor,
excepting that this one was armed as were those used for prison
guards. There were the same articulated limbs and the various clamps
and hooks for lifting and heavy hauling; the tentacles for grasping;
machine guns front and back. Under the helical headpiece that was the
antenna this robot seemed to have two eyes--a new feature--but closer
examination showed these to be the twin lenses of a stereoscopic
motion picture camera. This robot, then, could see. Or at least it
could record what the lenses saw for its masters.

"There," Shelton grunted when he had finished his tinkering, "he's
paralyzed from the waist down. Let this one try and get away from us."

"Guns aren't loaded, are they?" Eddie asked.

"Lord, no! Never have any of them loaded. That _would_ be a fool
stunt." Shelton had pulled the starting handle of a motor-generator
and its rising whine accompanied his words.

       *       *       *       *       *

The vacuum tubes of the transmitter glowed into life and the scientist
manipulated the controls rapidly. Lina was watching the robot with
fascinated awe. Its arms moved in obedience to the controls, tentacles
waved and coiled; the humming of its internal mechanisms filled the
room. The locomotion controls had no effect, as the scientist had
predicted. Eddie drew a sigh of relief.

"Now, Vail, watch," Shelton exulted. "I'll show you what I was doing
with the first one." He closed a switch that lighted another bank of
vacuum tubes behind the control panel.

"You can make this one invisible?" Eddie asked incredulously.

"Certainly--from the waist up. This ought to be good."

"Mind telling me the principle?"

"Not at all--now. I've your promise of secrecy. It's a simple matter,
Vail, really. Just a problem of wave motions--light. Invisible light;
the ultra-violet, you know. My robots are built of specially alloyed
metals which permit great freedom of molecular vibration. The
insulating materials and even the glass of the camera lenses are
possessed of the same property. Get it? I merely set up a wave motion
in the atoms of the material that is in synchronism with the frequency
of ultra-violet light, which is invisible to the human eye. All
visible colors are absorbed, or more accurately, none are reflected
excepting the ultra-violet. Perfect transparency is obtained since
there is neither refraction nor diffraction of the visible colors. And
there you are!"

Eddie stared at the upper half of the robot and saw that it was
changing color as Shelton tuned the transmitted wave. Then suddenly it
was gone. The entire upper portion of the mechanism had vanished; had
just snuffed out like the flame of a candle. He could see down into
the tops of the thing's hollow legs. Shelton laughed at him as he
stretched forth his hand and hesitatingly felt for the invisible
mid-section and upper body. It was there all right, unyielding and
cold, that metal body. But no trace of it was visible to the eye. He
drew back his fingers as if they had touched a hot stove. The thing
was positively uncanny.

"Dad! Turn it off--please," Lina begged. "It's getting on my nerves.
Please!"

Obligingly, Shelton pulled the switch. "Now you'll see," he said to
Eddie, "whether the same thing happens. Watch."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mistily at first, the outlines of the monster's torso and arms came
into view, semi-transparent but clouding rapidly to opacity. Then it
glinted with the barely visible violet, a solid once more, rigid and
motionless. It was a lifeless mechanism, for the source of its energy
had been cut off. Eddie had an almost irresistible impulse to pinch
himself.

Then he gasped audibly, as did Shelton, for the thing snuffed out of
sight again without warning, and the hum of its many motors resumed.
There came a terrific clanking as it waved arms and tentacles and
violently threshed with its upper body. But the visible portion, its
legs, remained rooted to the floor of the laboratory. Lucky it was
that the scientist had disconnected those wires; lucky too that the
machine guns were empty of ammunition.

"There now--see?" Shelton's voice rose excitedly. "It's been no fault
of mine. The power is off but it moves--it moves. What on earth do you
suppose--"

Eddie's shout interrupted him. He had seen something at the window: a
face pressed against the pane and contorted with unutterable malice.
Then it was gone. With the shout of warning still in his throat, Eddie
bounded through the door in pursuit of the intruder. Lina's cry of
recognition followed him into the twilight. "Carlos!" she had called.

He saw a stocky figure slink around the corner of the laboratory and
make for the underbrush beyond. In a flash he was after him. No, he
thought grimly, Shelton hadn't any enemy clever enough to duplicate
his transmitter! The hell he didn't! Who the devil was this fellow
Carlos anyway? He tore savagely at the impeding branches as he plunged
deeper and deeper into the thicket.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a fruitless chase and Eddie soon retraced his steps to the
laboratory. Swell mess he'd gotten himself into! His car was gone:
probably wrapped around a tree by this time. And here was a situation
that spelled real danger, a thing with which Shelton was utterly
unable to cope. As a matter of fact, he was so impractical--such a
visionary cuss, after the fashion of all geniuses--that he'd never be
convinced of the seriousness of the matter until it was too late. What
to do? The girl was a corker, though, and game as they made 'em. Just
the sort a fellow could tie to....

Lina's firm clear voice came to him through the open door of the
laboratory. "Dad," she was saying, "why don't you give it up? Let's go
back to New York where it is safe for you and for me. Let the things
go and forget about them. What do they amount to, after all? We've
plenty of money and you already have earned enough fame to last the
rest of your life. Come on now--please--for me."

"What do they amount to?" Shelton reiterated, his voice rising
querulously. "Lina, it's the most tremendous thing I've ever done.
Think for a moment of what my robots could accomplish in the next war.
And there'll be a next war as sure as you're alive. Think of it! No
sending of our young manhood into the bloody fields of battle; no
manning of our air fleets with the cream of our youth; no bloodshed on
our side whatsoever. Instead, these robots will fight the war. They'll
fight other robots too, no doubt, but the property of invisibility
will be an invincible weapon. It will be a war that will end war once
and for all. You can't--"

"Nonsense, Father," the girl returned sharply. "You've let your
enthusiasm run away with your judgment. See what's happened
already?--someone's figured it out before you've even perfected the
thing. An enemy of our country could do the same in wartime. Maybe
it's a foreign spy who has done what's been done to-day."

       *       *       *       *       *

Eddie walked into the laboratory. "Couldn't find him," he announced
briefly.

"No difference," said Shelton. "He doesn't count in this. We called to
you when you rushed out, but couldn't make you hear."

"Who is he?" Eddie asked shortly. What he had overheard made him more
than ever impatient with the older man. So clever and yet so dense,
Shelton was.

Lina avoided his gaze.

"Only Carlos--Carlos Savarino," said Shelton, carelessly, "a Chilean,
I think. He worked for me for two months during the summer and I fired
him for getting fresh with Lina. Good mechanic, but dumb as an ox. Had
to tell him every little detail when he was doing something in the
shop. I'd have saved time if I'd done it myself."

The girl looked at Eddie squarely now. She was flushing hotly. "And I
horsewhipped him," she added.

"Yes," Shelton laughed; "it was rich. He sneaked away like a whipped
puppy, and this is the first time we've seen him since."

Eddie whistled. "And you think he doesn't count in this?" he asked.

"Of course not. Too dumb, I tell you. Doesn't know the first
principles of science. He thinks the only wave motion is that of the
ocean." Shelton chuckled over his own jest.

"I wouldn't be too sure," Eddie snapped. "And I want to tell you
something, Mr. Shelton. Through no fault of my own, I heard some of
your conversation with Li--with your daughter, before I returned here.
I was puzzled over your reasons for working so absorbedly on this
thing, but now I know them and I think you're wasting your time and
keeping your daughter in needless danger."

"You dare talk to me like this!" Shelton roared.

"I do, sir, and you'll thank me later." Eddie returned the older man's
glare with one equally savage.

Lina's gurgle of laughter broke the tension. "He's right, Dad, and you
know it," she interposed. "Let him finish."

Eddie needed no such encouragement, though it warmed his heart. And
Shelton listened respectfully when he continued, "I'm into this now,
sir, and I intend to see it through to the end. I'll keep your secret,
too, though I doubt if it'll ever be of much value to you. Know what I
think? I think this Carlos is a damn clever fellow instead of the ass
you took him to be. He probably just pretended he was ignorant of
science. Why shouldn't he? That way he got a liberal education from
you in the very things he wanted to find out. Since you tied the can
to him he's had plenty of chances to build a duplicate of your control
apparatus--with the aid of some foreign government, no doubt--and now
they've stolen two of your machines to complete the job. Your secret
already is out and in the very hands you've tried to keep it from."

       *       *       *       *       *

Shelton paled visibly as Eddie talked. "But--but how--" he stammered.

"How should I know how they did it?" the younger man countered.
"Here--let's take a look around. I'll bet they've left their trail
right here in this room."

He walked from one end of the laboratory to the other, peering into
corners and under work benches as he passed. Shelton trailed him like
a shadow, squinting through the square lenses of his spectacles.

They carefully avoided the partially invisible robot, for the humming
of its upper motors continued and clanking sounds occasionally issued
from the unseen upper portion. The enemies of David Shelton were still
at work on their hidden controls.

"Here--what's this?" Eddie exclaimed suddenly, pointing out a glinting
object in a dark corner of the laboratory.

Shelton examined it closely, looking over his shoulder. The object he
had located seemed to be a mounted and hooded lens, a highly polished
glass of about two inches diameter with its mounting attached rigidly
to the wall.

"Never saw that before," Shelton stated with conviction. "And--why--it
looks like an objective such as those used in the latest automatic
television transmitters."

"Just what it is," Eddie grunted. He picked up a pinch bar from a
nearby tool rack and drove its end through the glass as he spoke the
words.

A violent wrench tore the thing loose and broke away a section of the
thin plastered wall. There, in the cleverly concealed cavity behind,
was revealed the mechanism of the radio "eye." Somewhere, someone bad
been watching their every move. And abruptly the thrashings of the
robot ceased and its upper portion again became visible.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well," said David Shelton. "Well! Looks as if you're right, young
man. I'm astonished." His watery eyes looked sheepishly over the rims
of his glasses.

Lina watched their every move. She seemed to sense the seriousness of
the situation far more than did her father.

Then the lights went out. It had darkened to night outside and the
blackness and silence in the laboratory was like that of a tomb.

"They've cut the wires," Eddie whispered hoarsely. "Got any weapons
here, Shelton?"

"Yes. A couple of automatics. I'll get them." The scientist was no
coward, anyway. His whispered words came calmly through the silence.

Eddie heard him shuffle a few steps and fumble with a drawer of the
desk. In a moment the cold hard butt of a pistol was thrust into his
hand. It had a comforting feel.

"Stay here with Lina," he commanded. "I'll go out and see if I can
find them. This looks nasty to me."

"No," came the girl's voice, "I'm going too."

"You are not," Eddie hissed. "You'll stay here or I'll know the
reason. It's dark as a pocket outside and my eyes are as good as
theirs. I'll get 'em if they're around here. You hear me?"

"Yes," she whispered meekly.

Edward Vail, only that morning headed for rest and quiet, was now out
in the night, stalking an unknown and vicious enemy. And--for what? As
he asked himself the question, the smile of Lina seemed to answer him
from the blackness. Cherchez la femme! He was getting dotty as he
neared his thirties. Maybe it was the hard work that had affected his
mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

The black hulk of the old house loomed against the scarcely less dark
sky. There was no moon, and in only one tiny portion of the heavens
were the stars visible. Mighty few of them at that. The swish-swish of
the surf came to his ears faintly. Or was it someone creeping along
the wall of the house? He held his breath and waited.

They wouldn't use the robots at night. Couldn't follow their movements
in the teleview, if such an attachment had been built into their
control transmitter. No, the devils would be here in person.

A muttered Teutonic curse sounded close at hand. That wouldn't be
Carlos. God! Were the heinies mixed up in this thing? Just like 'em to
be swiping a new war machine; but hadn't they gotten enough in 1944?
Without warning he was catapulted from his feet by the impact of a
heavy body. He struck the ground so violently that the pistol was
jarred from his hand. Disarmed before the fight had started!

Then he was rolling over and over, battling desperately with an
assailant who was much larger and heavier than himself. He was dazed
and weakened from his initial dive to the hard ground. All rules of
boxing and wrestling were forgotten. Biting, kicking, gouging, all
were the same to this silent and powerful antagonist. It was
catch-as-catch-can in the darkness, and mostly the other fellow could
and did. He had a grip like the clamp of a robot. Trying to dig out
one of his eyes? Eddie saw stars--and lashed out with all his might,
his flying fists playing a tattoo on the others ribs. Short arm jabs
that brought grunts of agony from his big assailant. Try to blind him,
would he?

Eddie somehow managed to get on top; his clutching fingers found the
other's collar. Then he let loose with terrific rights and lefts that
smacked home to head and face. Those outlanders don't like the good
old American fist, and Eddie had room to bring them in from way back,
now. The fellow had ceased struggling and Eddie's hands were getting
slippery. Blood! Must be, for the stuff was warm and sticky. He rested
for a moment, breathing heavily. The other was quiet beneath
him--knocked cold. He staggered to his feet triumphantly; wondered how
many more of them there were.

       *       *       *       *       *

He looked around in the darkness, straining his eyes in vain to pierce
its thick veil. There was a glimmer of light over there, through a
window. The laboratory! The light flickered a second and vanished. A
cold fear gripped him and he stumbled through the grounds blindly,
finally colliding painfully with the brick wall. He felt his way
toward the door, or where he thought it should be.

He dared not call out for fear the others would hear. Where was that
damned door? He rested again and listened. Not a sound was to be
heard from within or without. He clawed his way frantically along the
unsympathetic wall. It was a mile wide, that laboratory of Shelton's.
Ah--at last! Weakly, he staggered within.

"Lina!" he whispered, "Lina! Shelton!"

There was no reply. He fumbled for a match. Funny how slowly his mind
worked ... thoughts coming jerkily like a sound film running at quarter
speed ... fingers shaking so he could scarcely strike a light. The flare
showed the laboratory empty of human beings ... Lina gone ... that crazy
robot ... quiet now, and visible ... but grinning at him ... then
darkness....

       *       *       *       *       *

What a headache! Eddie rolled over and groaned. Astounded by the
hardness of his bed and the stiffness of his joints, he roused to
instant wakefulness; sat up and stared. Where the devil was he? The
laboratory--Shelton's--Lina. He jumped to his feet. Dawn was breaking
and its first faint radiance lighted the robot with eery shifting
colors. He berated himself: he'd passed out.

He dashed through the door and made a wild circuit of the grounds.
Empty! No--there was his automatic, where it had fallen. Blood stains
on the grass showed where the encounter had taken place last night.
Must have smashed the Dutchman's nose. But he was gone. Everybody was
gone. He rushed into the house and from room to room, upstairs and
down. The place was deserted.

This was something to think about. Not an automobile around, no
neighbors, not even a telephone. When Shelton went into seclusion, he
did it thoroughly. Eddie returned to the laboratory and hunched
himself in the scientist's chair. Maybe he could think better here.

They had Shelton and his daughter, all right. Kidnapped them. There
was probably some detail of his discovery they couldn't dope out, and
had decided to force him into telling them. The devils would use
Lina's safety as a threat to force him into anything. Horrible, that
thought. And Carlos already had made advances to her.

Startled by a sharp click, he turned around. The robot was whirring
into life. Fast workers, whoever Shelton's enemies were, and up early!
He found the pinch bar with which he had wrecked the television
apparatus and, with a few mighty blows, destroyed the antenna and
headpiece of the mechanical man. They'd not pull off any devilment
with this one, anyway.

A wave meter on one of the benches attracted his attention and he
twirled its knob. It gave strong indication at one and a half meters.
The wave length of their control transmitter! If only he could
find--but there it was: a direction finder. Hastily, he lighted its
tubes and tuned to the frequency shown by the meter. He rotated the
loop over the compass dial and carefully noted maximum and minimum
signals. He had a line on the transmitter! And it must be close by,
for the intensity of the carrier wave was tremendous.

       *       *       *       *       *

Slipping the automatic into his pocket, he left the laboratory and
struck out through the underbrush in the direction Carlos had taken
the day before. Fighting his way through the tangled shrubbery, he
kept his eyes constantly on the needle of the magnetic compass he had
wrenched from the direction finder. It was tough going through the
thicket, and just as bad across a swampy clearing where he was mired
to the knees before he got across. Up the hill and into the woods he
forged, keeping doggedly to the direction he had determined. This was
rough country, less than a hundred miles from New York but
uncultivated and unsettled excepting for the few summer places along
the shore. He'd heard that these backwoods were infested with
rum-runners and hijackers, a cutthroat gang.

There was a cabin off there through the trees, almost on the line he
was following. Must be what he was looking for. He advanced
cautiously, creeping stealthily from tree to tree.

Voices came to his ears, and the throb of a motor-generator. It was
the place, all right. He crept closer, and, circling the house, saw
that an almost impassable road led to it from the rear. A heavy
limousine was parked there in the trees, and another car, a yellow
roadster--his own. A feeling of grim satisfaction was quickly
dispelled by the sound of a familiar humming. Within a foot of his
ear, it seemed to be, and instinctively he ducked.

Click! A powerful clamp had fastened itself to his wrist. One of
Shelton's invisible robots! He struck blindly at the unseen monster
and was rewarded by a shooting pain up his wrist as one of his
knuckles was driven backward by the impact with the hard metal. Bands
of writhing metal encompassed his body, pinning his arms to his side
and lifting him bodily from the ground. There he hung, kicking and
struggling in mid-air, supported by nothing he could see. He closed
his eyes and felt of the thing that held him. Cold, hard metal it
was--implacable and unyielding.

Clank, clank. The monster was walking with long, jerky strides. The
pressure against his ribs brought a gasp of agony from his lips. Each
jarring step was an individual and excruciating torture. His breath
was cut off by the relentless constriction of one of the tentacles
which now encircled his neck. It wouldn't be long now.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, when everything had turned black and he had given up hope, he
was dumped unceremoniously on the hard floor of the cabin. A harsh
laugh greeted him as he struggled weakly to his knees.

"Thought you could put one over on Al Cadorna, did you?" a voice
rasped.

The room spun round as he tried to regain his feet. A mist swam
before his eyes. Al Cadorna! The most picturesque figure in gangland.
Credited with a dozen killings and with ill-gotten wealth untold, this
leader of the underworld openly boasted that the police had never
gotten anything on him. And they hadn't. So it was a criminal who had
laid hands on Shelton's robots, not a foreign spy. Worse and worse. He
thought of what they might be able to do with these invisible
mechanical things: make gunmen out of them; safe blowers; house
breakers. Why, society would be at their mercy; banks defenceless; the
mints, even--

"Stand up on your pins, you worm! Let's have a look at you!" The
muzzle of an automatic was thrust in his abdomen, prodding
insistently. Things stabilized in the room and he looked up into the
cruelest face he had ever seen, and recognizable from the many
pictures which had appeared in the yellow press.

Eddie took in the surroundings at a glance. He was in a low-ceilinged
room that was almost unfurnished. In one corner there was a replica of
Shelton's robot control, teleview disc and all. Carlos had just pulled
the switch and the robot was taking visible form. The man who prodded
him with the automatic was Cadorna, no doubt of that. His evil leer
and yellow eyes marked him at once. The other occupant of the room was
a big square-built man with a patch over one eye and strips of
adhesive tape across his nose--his antagonist of the night before.
Must have sneaked off after he came to; it was safer to send one of
the robots after the _verdammt Amerikaner_. Eddie restrained a chuckle
at the thought.

"Nothing to laugh at, kid!" Cadorna snarled. "You're goin' for a nice
long ride pretty quick. Know that?"

Eddie's head was clearing rapidly, but he pretended to sway on his
feet. Lina and her father were not in sight. If only he could spar for
a little time.

"What's the idea?" he asked. "Haven't you guys got enough?"

"That's our business. We know what we're doin', and when you butted in
you just signed your own papers. Dead men don't talk, you know, kid!"

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a door at the other side of the room. If only he could see
whether Lina was in there; whether she was alive.

"Tie him up, Gus!" Cadorna kept the pistol pressed into the pit of
Eddie's stomach as he gave the order. "Hands and feet--and make it a
good job, you wiener."

Eddie shouted then. "Lina!" Resistance was useless, but it would give
him some satisfaction to know she still lived even though Cadorna
pulled that trigger in the next instant. No reply came from beyond
that door.

"So!" Cadorna grinned maliciously. "Another victim! Carlos first, then
you, and now--Al Cadorna. If you're worrying about her, kid, you
needn't. She'll be perfectly safe with me."

Eddie's roar of rage shook the rafters. Heedless of consequences, he
brought his knee up suddenly and violently. Cadorna sank to the floor
with a groan, his pistol clattering harmlessly on the rough planks. In
a flash Eddie retrieved it, dropping behind the prostrate form of the
stricken gangster. Gus had fired and missed. Now he dared not shoot
for fear of hitting his chief. Eddie's gun spat fire and the big
German clapped his hands over his heart, his good eye widening in
surprise. Then he reeled and pitched forward on his face. A feminine
cry sounded from the adjoining room and Eddie's heart skipped a beat
when he heard it.

Carlos was padding across the floor, trying to get into a position
where he could fire without endangering Cadorna. Eddie swung his
pistol around and pulled the trigger. A miss! He fired again, but too
late. Fingers of steel had gripped his wrist and the king of gangland
rolled over on him, twisting the gun from his hand. Clubbed now, the
pistol was raised high over that distorted, malicious face. Eddie
tried to twist away from under the blow as it started its downward
swing, then a thousand steam hammers hit him all at once and ...
blackness....

       *       *       *       *       *

Something was pounding insistently at the doors of his consciousness.
He must pull himself together! They'd left him for dead and he
was--almost. But voices as loud and raucous as those would waken the
dead. He groaned with pain when he attempted to move his head.

"That for you, you rat." It was Cadorna's voice. "Try to take my
woman, will you?"

The pounding resolved itself into the angry barking of an automatic.
Someone squealed with mortal agony. Eddie opened his eyes cautiously
and saw that the room was full of people. The pungent odor of burned
powder assailed his nostrils. There was Cadorna and Carlos, David
Shelton and Lina. An undersized, dapper youth stood over the body of
the big German, his hands outstretched before his horror-stricken
face. A moment he stood thus, like a statue. Then his knees gave way
beneath him and he crumpled into a grotesque heap beside the man who
had been called Gus. Such was the manner of Cadorna's dealing with
those who displeased him.

The door to the adjoining room was open. Lina and her father had been
kept in there, with the little thug as their guard. Evidently Cadorna
had caught him trying to force his attentions on the girl. Good thing
he'd killed him.

Lina was sobbing and the sound brought increased agony to the helpless
Eddie. He lay still where they had placed him, beside the table which
supported the robot control apparatus. His cheek was against the floor
and he saw that a little pool of blood was forming there, blood drawn
by the butt of Cadorna's pistol when it contacted with his skull. He
was bound hand and foot. They hadn't thought him dead, after all.
Keeping him for that ride and a watery grave. Couldn't afford to leave
his body around where it might be found.

"What are you going to do with us?" Shelton was asking, his voice
bravely defiant. Game old sport at that, he was.

"Don't fret over your daughter. Al Cadorna's her protector now, and
she'll be taken care of better'n she's ever been. But you--that's
somethin' else again. First off, you're goin' to give Carlos the dope
on these trick metals in your machines. He couldn't analyze 'em, or
whatever you call it. Then you're goin' to have a nice long ride with
your friend over there."

"You'll go to the chair for this, Cadorna. And I'll never tell you the
secret of the alloys."

"Tell him, Dad," Lina was crying. "He'll let us go if you do."

"The hell I will, girlie. What I said, goes. We'll make him talk
first, too," Cadorna snarled.

"Never!" Shelton shouted.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lina had seen Eddie and, with a little cry, she bounded across the
room. Carlos was after her like a panther.

"Hands off that dame!" Cadorna yelled. "Let her cry over the boy
friend if she wants to. Won't do her any good. You get busy and set
one of the tin soldiers goin'. Make the old buzzard talk."

Carlos muttered sullenly as he started the motor-generator. Give him a
chance and he'd knife Cadorna in the back--for Lina.

The girl was kneeling at Eddie's side now, examining his bleeding
scalp. He opened one eye and gazed at her solemnly, pursing his lips
in a warning to silence. She caught her breath and nodded in
understanding.

Cadorna was shouting like a madman. "Keep the damn thing so I can see
it, you spig! They make me bug-house when you blink 'em off. Besides,
I don't trust you."

The bold Cadorna was afraid of something he couldn't see! An idea
flashed across Eddie's quickening mind. But he was helpless--bound so
tightly that the cords cut his wrists.

One of the robots was clanking across the room. Lina looked up in
momentary terror and Eddie saw her eyes stray over the table top where
Carlos was working.

"Want to grab the old one?" the Chilean called.

"Yes. Pick him up and squeeze him till his ribs crack. He'll talk."

Lina let a little moan escape her lips. Eddie was watching as the iron
monster approached the scientist and flung its tentacles around his
madly struggling form. Lina was fussing with him, trying to turn him
over. Cadorna's back was to them, his face thrust into that of
Shelton, who was fighting desperately to avoid the crushing grip of
the robot.

"Give him a squeeze, Carlos."

       *       *       *       *       *

Shelton's yell brought another low moan from the girl's set lips. She
was working furiously at Eddie's bonds. Lord, she had a knife! Good
girl! Must have found it on the table. His hands were free and he
wriggled his fingers to bring them to life. Then his feet. He was able
to move. Lina whispered in his ear.

"All right?" she asked anxiously.

"Yes," he whispered. Somehow their lips touched and Eddie felt his
heart pound at his temples. New life came to him with a rush of
exaltation.

Shelton was crying out in pain and Lina sprang to her feet. "You
beast!" she shouted at Cadorna. "Let him go."

Then she was across the room, tearing at the unyielding metal bands
that pinioned her father and slowly crushed him. Cadorna laughed
mirthlessly.

"Tell him to give me the dope," he retorted. "Then I'll let him
go--for a while."

Shelton's head hung on his chest, rolling weakly from side to side.
Eddie doubted whether he could speak if he wished to. The Chilean was
working at the controls, increasing the tension of those terrible
tentacles. Eddie raised himself to his knees, watching Cadorna
narrowly. He fingered the knife Lina had used in freeing him. No, he
couldn't use that. The Chilean would cry out and queer everything. He
laid it on the floor, within easy reach.

Cadorna was cursing now, first Shelton and then the girl. His rage was
maniacal. "Another notch!" he bellowed.

Eddie rose silently and clamped his fingers on the Chilean's windpipe.
Lina's eyes widened as she saw. She did everything in her power to
keep Cadorna's attention occupied as Eddie sunk those fingers into
Carlos' throat. The Chilean's eyes popped from his head as he
struggled furiously to tear away the steel-sinewed hand that had
stopped off his breath. Death was staring him in the face, and he
could not cry out. His strength left suddenly as the fingers dug in
deeper, and Eddie shook him as he would a rat. In a surprisingly short
time he had slumped to the floor, and not until his squirmings ceased
did Eddie loose that awful grip.

"Another notch, you spiggoty!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Eddie bent over the controls. Lina's pleadings mingled with the curses
of Cadorna. She was cajoling now--telling the brute she'd go with him
gladly if only he'd free her father; promising anything, everything,
in the desperate attempt to keep him from discovering that his last
henchman was out of the picture. But her words served only to spur
Eddie to swifter action. He twirled the knobs of the dual control. The
second robot was fading from view. He'd give Cadorna a dose of the
thing he really feared. He eased off a little on the other control,
releasing the pressure on poor Shelton's ribs as much as he dared.

The position indicator of the second robot moved slightly as Eddie
started the invisible monster toward the yelling gangster. He watched
the screen closely. It was quite a trick, at that, controlling these
things you couldn't see. All you had to go by were these sketchy
representations in the teleview; tiny flecks of light that outlined
the various movable members of the robot.

"Eddie!" Lina screamed suddenly. "Look out!"

But he had seen Cadorna wheel around as he watched his image on the
screen. At that moment a tentacle was writhing its way around his
thick neck. A bullet whistled past Eddie's ear and buried itself
harmlessly in the wall.

Then from the blasphemous mouth of the king of gangland there came a
shriek of awful fear. The tightening tentacle shut it off in a choking
gurgle. Cadorna was captured at last--by a monster he could not see, a
monster that struck terror to his craven soul.

It was the work of but a moment to free David Shelton from the grip of
the other robot. The tortured man tottered into Lina's arms for
support.

Eddie played with Cadorna now, releasing the grip from his throat and
pinioning his arms instead. With rapid fingers he manipulated the
controls until the screaming gangster was raised high in the air by
the unseen arms of the robot.

"Another notch, Al," he chortled.

Cadorna yelled anew as the clamps tightened, "For God's sake, kid,
quit it! Let me down. I'll do anything you say."

"Yeah?" Eddie moved one of the rheostat knobs a trifle.

The prince of racketeers was whimpering now, like a baby. The sharp
snap of a rib punctured his outcries.

"Another notch," said Eddie grimly.

But the king of the underworld had fainted.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later Eddie Vail surveyed the scene complacently. Lina had
washed the blood from his head and face and bandaged his wound.
Luckily, Cardorna's blow had been a glancing one. The girl was fussing
over her father, now, and the scientist was on the point of resenting
her attentions; swore he could take care of himself; he wasn't a baby.
Carlos and his chief were trussed up like mummies, and had been
snarling at each other ever since the Chilean recovered his senses,
each blaming the other for their predicament. The robots stood
motionless by the wall.

This would be a big haul for the police. Plenty of evidence to send
Cadorna to the chair now. The murder of Butch Collins, the undersized
thug, had been witnessed by three of them. No, four: Carlos would
squeal. He was that kind. There would be rejoicing in the underworld
too, for Cadorna had many enemies. They'd be killing each other off in
droves though, for the leaders of rival gangs would be battling for
his place.

"Guess we'll have to dump them in the limousine," he remarked to
Shelton. "Drive them to the nearest town and turn them over to the
authorities."

"Yes. Then they can come back for the bodies of the other two."
Shelton grimaced as he contemplated the sprawled figures.

"What about your robots?" Eddie asked.

"Why, I'll go ahead with my original plans, of course." The scientist
looked surprised.

"Dad!" Lina turned beseeching eyes on Eddie and his heart performed
amazingly as he looked into their depths.

"And why not?" asked her father dolefully. "They'll insure the peace
of the world. They'll--"

"Listen, Mr. Shelton," Eddie interrupted. "If you'll think a little
you'll realize that they'll do no such thing. Has any new and terrible
engine of destruction ever accomplished that result? No--the enemy
always finds a way of combating the new weapon and of devising another
still more terrible. You've discovered a marvelous thing, but its
value is quite problematical."

"How can they ever combat a thing they cannot see?"

"Easily. Why, I could devise a teleview attachment in two days that
would make them visible. Photo-electric cells are capable of detecting
ultra-violet light as you well know. Radium glows under its rays. Why
not coat a teleview screen with some radio-active material?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Shelton frowned thoughtfully. "You're right. Vail," he said, after a
moment of silence; "absolutely right. It was only a dream."

With dragging feet he walked to the transmitter, his expression grim
in the realization of failure. He started the motor-generator with a
gesture of finality.

"What are you going to do?" Eddie asked fearfully.

"Watch me! At least I can demonstrate another phase of the basic
principle I have discovered."

The motors of both robots whirred.

"Don't!" Cadorna wailed. "For God's sake, don't blink 'em out!"

Carlos cursed his chief for a coward.

Shelton was talking rapidly as he manipulated the controls. Instead of
building up the wave motion to the frequency of invisible light he was
reducing it. Past the other end of the spectrum and into the
infra-red. The heat ray! Both monsters were changing color as he
marched them through the door and into the open. But now they glowed
with a visible red that rapidly intensified to the dazzling whiteness
of intense heat. Cadorna babbled in superstitious terror. Then, in an
instant, both mechanisms were reduced to shapeless blobs of molten
metal. Lina clapped her hands gleefully.

Shelton looked up with enthusiasm once more shining in his face.
"Vail, my boy," he said, "we can find some use for that in industry.
Let the next war take care of itself."

"You bet!" Eddie was lost in contemplation of the girl--the flush of
pleasure that came at her father's words; the shining eyes.

"Then you'll leave the old place down here?" she asked eagerly.

"Yes, as soon as we get rid of these crooks and the other robot. Vail
is to spend the rest of his vacation with us, too--if he will."

Would he? Eddie gazed at the girl in rapt admiration and with an
inward thrill over his astounding good fortune. Her eyes dropped
before the intensity in his and her flush heightened.

David Shelton was wiping his glasses and peering at them with an
understanding smile. Good sport, Shelton--and in some ways as wise as
they made them. Eddie waited breathlessly for the girl to speak.

"Oh, that's wonderful, Dad," she approved; "and I'm sure that Mr. Vail
will agree."

She turned those glorious eyes on Eddie once more and her inquiring
smile spoke volumes. He opened his mouth to accept the invitation but
the words would not come. He could only nod his head vigorously like
an abashed schoolboy.

Some vacation!

[Illustration: Advertisement.]



Phalanxes of Atlans

_By F. V. W. Mason_

CONCLUSION

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE

[Illustration: _Yes, there came a strange, but welcome sight._]

[Sidenote: Never did an aviator ride a more amazing sky-steed than
Alden on his desperate dash to the great Jarmuthian Ziggurat.]


Victor Nelson and Richard Alden are forced down on a flight over an
unexplored Arctic region. Returning from a hunt for food, Nelson finds
his companion gone; but many footprints and blood splashes establish a
clear trail to a tunnel, passing beneath a range of very high
mountains on the edge of the unexplored area. In following the trail,
Nelson encounters and slays an allosaurus, a terrible, carnivorous
species of dinosaur surviving from the Cretaceous era.

Then he presses on to presently emerge in an almost tropical valley
and encounter a remnant of the long lost Atlantean race, who are ruled
by a dynasty of English-speaking kings--descendants of Sir Henry
Hudson, who had wandered into Atlans after being abandoned by his men.

This valley in the Arctic owes its existence to the thinness of the
earth's crust, which permits the interior heat to warm the surface.

The Atlanteans are on the verge of war with another race, the
Jarmuthians, descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel, when Nelson is
transported to Heliopolis, the Atlantean Capital, for trial. All
strangers must prove their value to the State or be condemned to feed
the war monsters.

Nelson soon discovers that Alden had been captured from the Atlanteans
by the Jarmuthians. He strikes a bargain with Altorius, Emperor of
Atlans. He will undertake to fight any six of the enemy on condition
he and Alden will be released if successful.

Altorius agrees to Nelson's suggestion and makes a proposal to the
Jarmuthians. Heretofore he had been paying them an annual tribute of
six maidens, as price for the safety of Altara, Sacred Virgin of
Atlans, whom Jarmuth had captured in a previous war. With Nelson's
bargain in mind he offers an increase of six maidens to the annual
tribute, if the American fails to defeat six Jarmuthian champions. On
the other hand, if Nelson wins, all tribute will cease, Altara will
not be sacrificed, and Alden is to be returned unharmed.

On a dueling ground between the rival armies Nelson, armed with his
Winchester rifle, sallies out to battle with the enemy, who, on their
side, are armed with retortii--curious weapons hurling live
steam--fungus bombs, swords and lances.

The tricky Jarmuthians, however, mount their men on a diplodocus, a
huge dinosaur some eighty-seven feet in length. All seems lost; but by
blinding the colossal creature, Nelson destroys its usefulness, and
one by one kills the six Jarmuthians.

Stung with rage, the enemy disregard the terms of the contest and
attack with their whole army. They are, however, defeated, and the
conquered Jarmuthians sullenly turn over Alden and the captive
maidens; though Altara still remains in their possession.

After making much of the Americans, Altorius reluctantly allows his
preservers to depart for their plane--unconscious that the priestly
party is planning rebellion against his authority because he did not
insist on Altara's return.


CHAPTER VII

"That's one of the fixed retortiis I was speaking about," remarked
Victor Nelson as he paused to point out a tapering brass tube which
was mounted on a platform above the long staircase up which he and
Alden were toiling. "It's a big brute: see how small the gunners look
beside it? These steam guns are wonderful things."

The younger aviator sighed. "I've had enough of miracles," he said
wiping his flushed features and hitching a small pack higher on his
leather-clad shoulders. "All I want to do is to lay my weary eyes on
the plane again. What with these ghastly allosauri, diplodocuses and
other monsters, I'm damn well fed up with this place."

Nelson settled his Winchester rifle more comfortably into the hollow
of his arm. "Correct. So am I. But we can't say Altorius didn't do
right by our Nell. Good Lord, what a triumph he gave us!" The dark
pilot's smile flashed from beneath his neat, close-clipped black
mustache. "Wait till Cartier gets a peep at those diamonds he gave
us."

Panting, the two halted by mutual consent. "Ever see so many stairs?"
grunted Nelson. "Three more flights and we'll be into the tunnel; ah,
there's the opening. I only hope these blighters haven't hurt the
plane."

Before resuming the climb Nelson shifted his rifle, idly regarding the
armored gunners just above; then suddenly he stiffened his wiry body
with a sharp cry. "Look out, Dick! What the devil? Those damn fools
ahead are swinging the retortii across our--"

       *       *       *       *       *

The dark haired aviator's words were drowned out in a deafening,
hissing roar that burst from the great retortii's throat, and his
heart gave a great convulsive leap at the sight. Was this an
accident--or treachery? An accident of course. Somehow he could not
bring himself to think that Altorius would break his pledged word.
Projected in a shimmering white arm the scalding death vapor shot
across the staircase, its hot breath licking the faces of the startled
and angry Americans, and quickly forcing them to turn and run
downwards to avoid being scalded.

"What the devil are these idiots trying to do?" gasped Nelson,
anxiously eyeing the red-crested warriors who, peering down through
the blue lenses of their helmets, watched the khaki-clad aviators but
made no effort to realign their retortii. "Hero Giles'll skin those
fools alive if he hears of this. Guess we'd better wait a minute:
they'll soon shut off the steam."

Shielding his face from the steam clouds that obliterated all view of
the staircase above, Alden stood watching the billowing steam clouds
in silent awe.

"Terrible, aren't they, Vic?" he remarked. "I've never seen those big
fellows in action. They make the portable variety look like water
pistols."

       *       *       *       *       *

As the steam barrier showed no signs of abating, an uneasy gleam crept
into Nelson's dark eye, and with jaw grimly set, he cocked the
Winchester and turned with the intention of lodging a complaint at the
next station below; but, to his utter dismay, he beheld bronze armored
figures on the next platform now training their long-muzzled steam gun
across the stair. Even as he sprang back, the deadly white vapor
hissed forth from the second retortii, completely barring further
retreat down the stair. Like an icy flood the chill of impending doom
invaded Nelson's soul. This was no accidental discharge, for with the
slightest change of direction in the deflection of either retortii,
death would descend upon him and his companion.

Swiftly speech became impossible, as the roar of the huge retortii was
deafening; the two were lost in the heart of an opaque cloud which
completely blotted out the copper-hued Atlantean sky. Hot blood surged
into Nelson's head while he became aware of ghostly and stealthy
figures advancing through the shimmering billows of vapor. Up, up,
they came, like dream men, their eyes weird and unreal. Cursing the
treachery of their late host, Nelson and Alden watched dozens upon
dozens of hoplites come swarming up the stairs in solid,
dully-gleaming ranks. Apparently intent to take them prisoners, the
foremost Atlanteans made a rush, giving the American time to fire just
twice.

Unable to retreat, the helpless aviators stood to meet the engulfing
wave of hoplites. Nelson struck out as hard as he could at those
yelling, red-bearded faces, though he knew the effort was hopeless. He
was dimly conscious that Alden, not far away, also fought with the
vigor of despair.

With a sense of savage satisfaction, the dark haired aviator felt his
fist impact solidly into a yelling, sweating face; then something
struck his head and, amid a miniature sunburst, his senseless form
sank limply on the damp stones of the great staircase.

       *       *       *       *       *

After an interval, the length of which he did not know, Victor Nelson
opened his eyes slowly, for his head throbbed like a savage's war
drum. Uttering a stifled groan he shut the lids to still an
overpowering sense of nausea which gripped him, but a moment later he
made another attempt to discover in what sort of place he found
himself. Gradually, his eyes became accustomed to a curious orange-red
glare beyond a series of bars. Bars? The idea fixed itself in his
benumbed brain; bars meant prison! Yes, those grim blank walls bore
out the assumption. He lay on the damp stone floor of what must be a
fairly spacious cell. Beneath his leather aviator's jacket he
shuddered. "Jail, eh? What a nice place to wake up in!"

A groan from behind him prompted Nelson to painfully raise his head
and look about. He blinked dazedly, meanwhile trying to focus his
eyes, then he heaved a faint sigh of relief as his gaze encountered
the muscular, well-proportioned figure of Richard Alden, who half sat,
half reclined, against one of the grey stone walls, burying a ghastly
pale face between trembling hands.

"You hurt?" To speak, Nelson drew a slightly deeper breath and at once
became conscious of a horrible, throat-wrenching stench. Dimly, he
recalled having once before encountered such an odor; when was it? Oh,
yes; during the Great War when he'd stumbled into a dugout tenanted by
long unburied corpses. A cold finger stabbed at his brain. Corpses.

"Are you hurt, Dick?" he repeated hoarsely.

       *       *       *       *       *

The lax figure stirred and Alden's blonde head was raised slowly. "I
don't know." His voice came very thickly. "I--I'm still dizzy. What's
happened?"

"Damned if I know; but those bright boys have evidently heaved us into
a calaboose of some kind!"

Nelson, on peering about, had discovered that one end of the cell was
closed only by a series of massive bronze bars; the two other walls
were solid masonry; while the fourth was also solid but fitted with a
small oval door of bronze.

"Calaboose? The hell you say!" Alden coughed feebly. "My God, but that
steam was terrible stuff. I nearly smothered before I got knocked
out."

Slowly, the younger aviator looked about, and suddenly his eyes
widened in an expression of indescribable horror.

"Look!" Alden's voice had died to a shaken whisper. "My God, Nelson,
we're finished! Look at that allosaurus!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Following the line indicated by the pilot's shaking forefinger, Nelson
peered out through the series of great bars while a shudder shook his
aching body. Though he had seen these fearful monsters on many
occasions, yet it was never from such a position as that in which he
now found himself. To his ears came a sibilant hissing like that of a
thousand serpents; and, quivering in every nerve, he forced his eyes
open once again, to discover that the cell which he and his companion
occupied was but one of a series of cells surrounding a huge square in
which were imprisoned perhaps twenty or thirty of those horrible,
gargoylesque creatures which were the Atlantean dogs of war. Some
thirty-four feet in length, the enormous, slate-grey monsters hopped
leisurely about, their warty hides and huge luminous eyes betraying
their reptilian origin. In shape the allosauri resembled loathsome and
titanic kangaroos as they lumbered awkwardly to and fro, picking
viciously at what appeared to be fragments of human flesh and bones.

While the two prisoners crouched paralyzed with horror, one of the
nightmarish creatures came hopping over and, pressing a head as big as
a steam scoop against the bars, stared in with huge, pale green eyes.
A long minute the ghastly creature remained looking in, clearly
outlined by the orange glow from outside.

       *       *       *       *       *

The doomed aviators found something fearfully fascinating about those
narrow vertical irises set in pupils the size of dinner plates.
Uttering a deep growl, the allosaurus shuffled nearer, and impatiently
rubbed its huge, bullet head against the bars; then gripped the
ponderous bronze bars with its ridiculously small front legs to shake
the whole grille-work with a savagery that dislocated bits of plaster
and made the metal reverberate. While Nelson and Alden shrank flat
against the far wall, a scarlet tongue at least four feet long
flicked the air but a few feet from their bloodless, sweating visages.
Becoming irritated at the sturdiness of the barrier, the mountainous
reptile tugged harder and hissed, filling the cell with a foul
exhalation that stank like the reeks of smoldering rags.

Nelson's wavering consciousness reeled, and a mad, dreadful fear, like
that a dreamer suffers in the grip of nightmare, invaded his being. He
felt the hairs rising on the nape of his neck.

But, with a squall of rage, the monster abandoned its futile efforts
and leaped away. Feigning indifference, the allosaurus picked up a
half-gnawed skull with its tiny forelegs; and, while the prisoners
watched, it stuffed the head into a maw twice the size of an
elephant's and crunched the gruesome tidbit as easily as a boy would a
walnut. Presently it shuffled off to rejoin the hideous herd in the
center of the court.

"Nice kind of a jail we've been thrown into. Wish I could understand
what's happened." Alden buried his face in his hands. "It kind of
looks as though Altorius had a change of heart."

       *       *       *       *       *

Nelson replied nothing, but sat staring fixedly out into the horrible
court.

"Somehow, I don't think Altorius would do such a thing," he said at
last. "Let's think back and see if we can't piece this treachery
together."

"Wish I had your faith in the Emperor--but I haven't." Alden's
handsome face twisted itself into a wry smile.

"Let's see, now," persisted Nelson, fingering a square jaw upon which
sprouted a thick growth of reddish bristles. "There was a deputation
of priests to see Altorius yesterday. They were clamoring for the
return of Altara--the Sacred Virgin--and looked pretty mad when he put
them off."

"Maybe this is the private doing of the priests," admitted Alden.
"Anyway, we're in one devil of a fix. There's certainly no way out of
this calaboose--and those damned brutes out there look hungry."

Nelson frowned, deep in thought. "Wish I could find a reasonable
explanation. I really don't think it's Altorius; still, that's what
you get for mixing in on the politics of these forgotten kingdoms."

"But," reminded the other, "you had no choice, old lad. Remember, you
mixed in to save me."

From across the courtyard rang a loud, penetrating shriek of fear that
made the two aviators spring to their feet and rush to the bars.
Peering across the court, they discovered three naked men shrieking
and clinging frantically to the bars of an exactly similar cell.

"What's wrong with them?" demanded Alden as the agonized screams rang
louder still.

"I don't know," was Alden's breathless reply. "But what's that noise?"

A curious metallic clanking sound filled the poisoned air, and for a
moment Nelson remained utterly puzzled. Then, as the noise grew
louder, the allosauri commenced to betray a strange restlessness. They
ceased basking and feeding, and their hideous heads commenced to dart
quickly this way and that.

       *       *       *       *       *

While the terrific shrieks of the wretches across the court rang to
the copper-hued sky, the two Americans remained in doubt; then all at
once the chill of death gripped their hearts, as they saw the bars of
that cell directly opposite slowly but surely rising! Uttering
heart-rending cries, the doomed prisoners clung frantically to stay
the vanishing barrier separating them from those appalling man-eaters.
But, disdainful of their pitiful efforts, the bronze bars rose
relentlessly with metallic rattlings and janglings from some unseen
mechanism.

Rooted to the floor, both Americans watched the distant grille vanish
into the upper stone-work and heard the ghastly hissing as the
allosauri herd commenced to move forward. Sick and shaken, Nelson
beheld one of the doomed men cling in desperation to the bars; he was
lifted clear of the floor and borne towards the ceiling, meanwhile
venting his terror with such screams as could otherwise have risen
only from an inquisitor's torture chamber.

The tragedy was swiftly completed. Half a dozen of the nearest
allosauri, taller than any giraffes, suddenly sprang forward, their
long, naked tails rising as their gait increased. Snarling horribly,
the vast slate-colored beasts plunged into the cell, terminating
shrieks of mortal terror. Backs broader than bus tops squirmed and
tugged, then one of the loathsome monsters reappeared carrying in its
dripping jaws a mangled, yet struggling victim much as a cat carries a
mouse. In a trice the other allosauri came rushing eagerly up, seeking
to snatch the prey from the first monster.

Nelson stiffened. "Great God! And that's what'll happen to us!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Weakened by his head wound, and blind with nausea, he stumbled to the
rear of the cell to collapse upon a pile of foul straw, littered with
equipment which the superstitious captors must have condemned together
with the owners.

Nelson sank upon them, then stiffened, for his outflung hand had
encountered a hard, familiar outline. It was a .45 automatic pistol.

A moment's furious search revealed that the captors had missed or not
understood the use of the weapon in Alden's leather flying coat.

"God, but we're lucky," Nelson panted. "The Atlanteans never saw this
pistol of yours. They're only used to my rifle."

Hope lit Alden's features, then faded. "But what good is a .45
against brutes like those? Might at well have a pop gun!"

"Still we're lucky," grunted Nelson, delighted to find the magazine
yet filled. "Can't tell what's ahead. Yes, we're the luckiest--"

He broke off in quick alarm. From overhead had come a premonitory
clang! Somewhere a tackle whined and, with a sense of suffocation,
both men realised that now the bars of _their_ prison were beginning
to creep up into a long slit in the stone ceiling!

Cold fingers of fear clutched Nelson's heart as the terrible
allosauri, their jaws yet dripping redly, wheeled about at the
familiar sound--to stand listening. Up and up crept the ponderous
grille, while the allosauri commenced to shuffle forward, fixing on
their next victims enormous, unblinking green eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

While the whole loathsome cell spun about, Victor Nelson forced stiff
fingers to throw off the safety catch as the nearest allosaurus opened
its cavernous mouth in anticipation, displaying an array of curved
teeth, as long and sharp as bayonets. Standing some fifteen feet high
at the shoulder the horrible creature's body was; it all but blotted
out the light. The bars rose inexorably. Now they were waist high....
Now above Nelson's head.... In a moment would come the rush.

Richard Alden stood up straight and squared his shoulders. "Good-by,
Vic," he said, in clear, unafraid tones. "I don't imagine that .45
will even tickle those ghastly brutes."

Nelson nodded. "All over but the cheering," he replied with that
strange, macabre humor which often comes to solace men about to die.

"See you in church." There was an equally gallant lightness to Alden's
reply.

The dark haired pilot, with a curious, detached sense of unreality,
stepped into the middle of the room, the automatic in his hand seeming
no more potent than a water pistol, for a ponderous, lambent eyed
monster was now hopping forward. While minute particles of dust and
dirt rained down from the disappearing barrier, the foremost
allosaurus opened its enormous jaws, uttered an eery scream and
charged straight at the unbarred cell.

Drawing a deep breath, Nelson raised the .45, sighted, and,
remembering his former experience, fired at the enormous right eye. As
in a dream, he felt the recoil. The monster neither slowed nor swerved
in the least, though its great, saucer-like eye disintegrated
horribly. Immediately Nelson swiftly sighted at the other eye and
fired, just as the allosaurus' shadow filled the threshold.

_Crack!_ A swirl of bitter smoke stung the aviator's staring eyes.
He'd hit; he knew it!

       *       *       *       *       *

Cyclopean moments followed as the blinded monster dashed forward,
missed the circular door, and, butting his head against the stone wall
to the left, fell completely stunned, effectively blocking the doorway
with its huge body. One enormous hind leg, fully ten feet long, and
equipped with three razor-like claws, projected into the cell and
lashed aimlessly back and forth, forcing the two prisoners to dodge
wildly.

There ensued that indescribable kind of a moment when men go mad.
Outside the cell the ravenous herd pounced upon their fallen mate and
with hideous grunts and snarls promptly commenced to tear it apart.
The shaken prisoners realized that the rending jaws would before long
undoubtedly remove the temporary obstacle; but meanwhile the hideous
hissing and the fetid stench of the allosauri breath made the cell a
mad-house.

Gradually, the gigantic carcass at the door commenced to quiver and
roll violently under the ferocious tugs of the eager feasters. A gap
of light appeared over the huge haunches, and, all at once, another
of those terrible heads slipped over the carcass and into the cell.

Again the .45 thundered, lighting the darkened cell with a brief
orange flame. A noise like the furious trumpeting of a dozen elephants
nearly blew Nelson flat as the wounded monster drew back its head, but
the respite promised to be short, for the other reptiles only
re-doubled their horrid, cannibalistic rending of the carcass. When
the barrier was removed there would be a general rush which the shaken
aviators could not hope to stay.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly, Alden uttered a low shout and pointed to the small, oval
door which had, up to this point, remained securely bolted and shut.
It was swinging gradually open, rimmed with a strong reddish light.

Wide-eyed, and with black hair streaming lank over his forehead,
Nelson, in the act of reloading, swung about to meet this new menace.
Hell! What point was there in prolonging the pitiful struggle? What
was happening?

Slowly, the door swung back, and a rosy glow lit the opening, a glow
that became as strong as the gleam of a spotlight. Then, slowly, a
glittering, green-crested helmet of highly polished bronze appeared,
and, under it, Hero Giles' familiar features, now distorted by a
terrible fear. The blue eyes seemed enormous. "Quickly!" he called.
"Quick or ye are lost!"

Unbelieving of the reprieve, both the aviators stared an instant at
that martial figure clad in brazen armor liberally studded with
enormous diamonds and emeralds, then leaped forward with the speed of
desperation, for from behind came a fierce squalling from the
allosauri. As he darted towards the door Nelson had a glimpse of the
carcass blocking the door commencing to slip sidewise.

Alden was already out and Nelson sped through the door barely in time
to escape the razor-sharp talons of the foremost allosaurus as it
scrambled into the deserted cell with a resounding bellow of
disappointed fury.


CHAPTER VIII

As the door clanged shut, drowning out the allosauri's furious
screams, both aviators, shaken to the depths of their beings, could do
nothing but stare about them in surprise. Completely surrounding and
protecting the exit stood a double rank of hoplites in bronze armor.
Like unreal automata, they remained utterly motionless, fixed in the
various postures of an ancient Macedonian phalanx, their broad backs
gleaming dully in the light of the neon flares. As in a dream, Nelson
recognized on top of each spearsman's casque the graceful Atlantean
military crest--a metal dolphin from the back of which sprouted a
series of bright blue feathers, arranged like a dorsal fin.

"Thank Poseidon, ye still live!" cried Hero Giles, gripping their
hands eagerly. "I had fear for ye, oh my friends."

Nelson grinned. "You cut the rescue act pretty fine, but of course
we're damned grateful. And now,"--eagerly seizing the Hero's
splendidly muscled arm--"in God's name tell us what's happened. Why we
were arrested and--nearly made into allosaurus fodder?"

Hero Giles turned from snapping an order to a subaltern who was
peering down a great, shadowy hallway with a distinctly uneasy manner.

"Much," he said. "Scarcely had ye two departed from Heliopolis than
the priests, mad with rage over Altara's continued captivity, dared to
seize the person of His Splendor and proclaim a regency. Herakles, the
arch-priest is--"

       *       *       *       *       *

From far down the gloomy, vaulted corridor came a faint sound, rather
like the distant cheering of a crowd. The hoplites, standing about,
turned their helmeted heads and stared uneasily, their brazen armor
glowing dully with each movement.

"I'll tell ye more later, but now--"--Hero Giles' voice took on a
ringing quality like the clash of steel--"there is work to be done. To
rescue ye, oh Hero Nelson, I slew the guards at the lower gate, for
this prison lies in the hands of a caitiff rogue, Hero Edmund, one who
clings to the priestly party. We had best be off lest we be trapped
and slaughtered like rats in a pit."

Very distinctly to the ears of the aviator now came the dull clash of
equipment and the tread of feet.

"Forward! We must hasten to reach the podokos waiting below," cried
Hero Giles, settling his ponderous helmet more squarely on his leonine
head.

At once the escort of fifteen-odd hoplites commenced to move down the
corridor to the left, their hands tightly gripping the butts of their
retortii pistols. At their head ran Hero Giles, and by his side Alden
and Victor Nelson, who gripped his .45 vowing never again to return to
that ghastly cell.

A long ringing cry from the rear brought home the dread realization
that the enemy had appeared. Looking back, Nelson could see the far
end of the great corridor filled with menacing figures. Then his heart
leaped like a deer in a thicket, for _from ahead_ sounded the clash of
weapons! The rescue party's retreat was cut off!

       *       *       *       *       *

Hero Giles acted with the speed of a veteran accustomed to
emergencies. "Forward!" he roared, making the bare walls reverberate
and rumble with his voice. "_Halor vàn! Ula Storr!_"[1]

[Footnote 1: Make ready for your retortii.]

As by magic, there appeared before the retreating force a double rank
of blue-crested hoplites who debouched from a side passage into the
hall and clawed desperately for fungus bombs and retortii. Evidently
they had not expected to come upon the invaders so abruptly.

"_Storr!_" Like a brazen trumpet's call, the voice of Hero Giles rang
out the order to fire--which was instantly drowned out in the furious
hissing of the retortii of his followers.

Ever watchful, Nelson fired at a gigantic officer who, avoiding the
first steam jets, flung back his arms to hurl one of the deadly fungus
bombs among the rescuers. Shattering the bronze helmet, the American's
bullet struck the Atlantean squarely between the eyes, but
nevertheless the stricken officer's grenade rolled forward and burst
among the hindermost of Hero Giles' followers. Instantly, the deadly
green mold flung itself upon the nearest hoplites and in a moment they
crashed to the smooth granite floor, the yellowish growths already
sprouting from nose, mouth and ears.

In the corridor reigned chaos, for Hero Giles' followers were now
turning the full fury of their retortii upon the rank of men barring
further flight. With dreadful ease, the scalding steam struck dead the
opposing warriors, stripping the flesh from their bones as easily as a
boy peels a banana.

Amid the swirling white clouds, Nelson had ghastly visions of yellow
skulls, of steaming accoutrement, of limp heaps of disintegrating
bodies; then silence fell, and, before he quite realized it, he,
together with Alden and three hoplites who had survived the disastrous
fungus grenade, were bounding along after Hero Giles' glittering
figure as he led the way down one passage after another.

       *       *       *       *       *

Louder than ever rang the fierce cry from the rear. Behind him Nelson
could see dozens upon dozens of yelling pursuers, and knew that if he
were to live he must run as never before.

Into a succession of spacious rooms dashed the fugitives; on through
deserted armories where hundreds of bronze helmets dangled in orderly
rows; and across silent barrack halls.

Closer and closer sounded the pursuing feet, spurring the runners to
an even more headlong gait.

All at once a door loomed to the right; into this darted Hero Giles
and after him pounded the two Americans and three hoplites. In an
instant the six men set their shoulder to the ponderous bronze door
and swung it to, just as the hiss of a retortii on the other side rose
above the mad, blood-hungry clamor of the momentarily baffled rebels.
Gasping and sweat-bathed, the fugitives paused only an instant.

"We've gained a short passage," gasped the Atlantean wrenching off his
helmet and breast plate. The veins stood out in great blue cords on
his forehead, for the weight of the armor could not have been
inconsiderable. "Below wait our podokos."

Nelson stripped off his leather coat, following the example of the
hoplites, who swiftly divested themselves of such cumbersome equipment
as could readily be removed. Then, while the shouts of the thwarted
pursuers swelled like a demonic chorus, and while feathers of steam
crept under the great door, Hero Giles spun about and, with his short
yellow hair gleaming bright, led on down another series of passages.

       *       *       *       *       *

All at once the fugitives, now reduced by exhaustion to five, found
themselves on a balcony overlooking the great valley of Atlans. Before
them opened an enormous staircase and down this they dashed at top
speed, infinitely relieved to be once more in the open air.

Running like hunted stags, the fugitives had descended but a third of
the great staircase, when, from behind, came a sudden, menacing cry
that warned Nelson that the pursuers had, after going a longer way
around, come once more in sight.

"Ah! Poseidon blast the traitorous Edmund and his varlets! See?"
panted Hero Giles pointing to a huge arch from beneath which was
issuing a glittering column of shouting, swift running warriors at
whose head dashed a splendidly-proportioned figure that must be Hero
Edmund.

With the speed of the hunted, Hero Giles bounded forward, taking three
and four steps at a stride, his jade green cloak snapping out behind.
Down, ever downwards over the endless flight of stairs the aviators
followed him until, spent and panting, the hard pressed five plunged
down a final circular staircase and so gained a courtyard where waited
a detachment of armored lancers whose yellow plumes and pennons shone
bright in the glare of the flame suns. Staring anxiously upwards, the
troopers nevertheless stood to attention in an orderly rank beside
those curious Atlantean mounts called podokos.

During all his sojourn in Atlans, Nelson had never become used to the
hideous and awe-inspiring podokos which closely resembled the
allosauri but were only eighteen feet long. Like the other monsters,
they had tremendously developed hind legs which promised the speed now
so vital for escape and safety. Ready in the tooth-studded jaws of
each podoko was fitted a bronze bit together with a bridle and reins;
and cinched up on each creature's back was one of those curious
Atlantean saddles, which was built up at the cantle to overcome the
downward slope of the podokos' spines.

Need for vital haste was but too obvious and, as he drew near, Hero
Giles gasped the command to be off.

"Quick," he shouted, his scarred visage flushed and sweat-bathed.
"Saddles! Speed! Speed! Cling fast as your beasts arise!"

       *       *       *       *       *

All five literally hurled themselves into gorgeously caparisoned
saddles. Instantly, the urging squatting podokos leaped to their feet.

It was the work of a moment for Nelson to wrench his reptile around,
for already Alden and the Atlantean cavalrymen were speeding across
the wide paved court, their lance pennons fluttering bravely in the
orange-hued glare.

At top speed the rescuers dashed for a great, oval gateway while the
podokos increased their gait; like aero-planes gathering speed, the
faster the weird creatures traveled, the higher arose their tails.

Then, following the frightened, backward glances of the hard-riding,
red-haired lancers, Nelson suddenly discovered a new and terrible
cause for this headlong flight, for, issuing from an unbarred gateway,
came perhaps a dozen of _the terrible and enormous allosauri_, which,
spying the fleeing cavalry, instantly gave chase.

With a sense of despair, the aviators heard the ferocious bellows
booming from behind and watched the appallingly swift progress of
those uncouth monsters as, leaping high into the air, the allosauri
covered between fifty and sixty feet at a single bound.

"They'll get you," cried an inner voice in Nelson's being. "They'll
catch you sure." But the small and lithe podokos, sensing death
leaping up from the rear, stretched out their slender, snake-like
heads, stood on tiptoe, and, pressing their small forelegs tight
against their chests, commenced to run far faster than any horse could
gallop. Nevertheless, the allosauri came bounding up like colossal
kangaroos, uttering weird, screaming roars that brought a chill of
imminent death to the fugitives.

Casting a quick glance over his shoulder, Nelson's blood froze to find
an allosaurus not more than seventy yards behind, and making terrible
exertions to close that slender gap! Nearer and nearer coursed the
incredible monster, body rocking in its terrific stride, dreadful jaws
wide apart--jaws that could, without an effort, cut a horse in half.

       *       *       *       *       *

A fear such as he had never known racked Nelson's consciousness as he
found he was hindermost of the cavalcade, which was strung out like a
field of racers. The other riders crouched low in their saddles like
jockeys, lances held straight out before them, and furiously goaded
their strange mounts with curious hooks. Nelson was vastly relieved to
get a glimpse of Alden far in the lead, almost beside the Atlantean
Prince. His podoko was evidently better than the average.

Faster and faster pursuers and pursued raced across level meadows,
over straight, white roads and rolling grain fields. Wind whistled
madly in Nelson's ears, filled his eyes with tears, and made his
short, dark hair snap, but two huge allosauri were now not twenty
yards behind and _gaining with appalling speed!_

On the verge of madness, Nelson hammered his heels into the podoko's
scaly side and wished he dared let go the saddle horn to draw his
pistol, but to loose his grip was to risk falling off.

Closer and closer! Two enormous nightmarish heads were actually
snapping at the fleeing podoko's tail. Then fear must have inspired
the reptile Nelson bestrode, for it put on a sudden desperate burst of
speed which carried it past the next two lancers. In passing he
glimpsed the doomed wretches, pale-faced and horrified, as they
frantically goaded their failing podokos.

A moment later, piercing screams from just behind assailed Nelson's
ears, but when he looked to the rear once more it was to find that a
wide gap had opened between him and the great monsters behind.
Evidently, the heavy-built allosauri were unable to long maintain the
terrific pace set by the smaller and more agile podokos whose maximum
speed Nelson judged to be well over sixty miles an hour.

       *       *       *       *       *

The pilot's eyes narrowed on beholding, in clear relief and not far
away, the majestic, whitish outline of mighty Heliopolis, whose lofty
towers, graceful domes and frowning citadels shone pink under the
leaping, blinding glare on Mount Pelion.

"We certainly picked a nice time to drop in on this God-forsaken
country," grunted Alden as the walls of Heliopolis loomed near. "We
seem to have crashed into the busiest days they've had in centuries.
How many shots you got?"

Nelson, swaying to the steady trot of his podoko, hesitated.

"Only five. Damned if I know what's going to happen next. I suppose it
all depends on Hero Giles. Looks as though the nobles were bent on
restoring Altorius--if he's not dead by now."

Alden tugged powerfully at the strange bridle which controlled his
beast. "The priests wouldn't dare kill him, but it surely looks like
their rebellion has gained a lot of headway."

A moment Alden's clear, blue eyes swept the towering battlements,
gorgeously-sculptured temples and curious stepped pyramids, which now
loomed near at hand and cast their rugged outlines sharp against the
copper-colored heavens.

"Maybe there's some way we can work this revolution trouble to help
us," suggested Nelson, without enthusiasm. "If we could play off one
crowd against the other--"

His remarks were cut short as the foremost lancers slowed before an
enormous bronze gate looming ahead. On the vast main panel was a
beautifully-wrought dolphin curling about a trident--symbol of the
imperial power now so sorely tried. Beyond that gate, breathlessly
mused Nelson, lay Heliopolis and an unknown fate.


CHAPTER IX

It would have taken no trained eye to observe that something very
unusual had happened in Atlans. Some of Heliopolis' many wide streets
were quite deserted save for several small, bright-red cat-like
reptiles that the Atlanteans sheltered as pets, but in other
thoroughfares large throngs of people milled uneasily about, while
listening to the impassioned harangue of black-robed priests.
Everywhere business was at a standstill, shops were closed and markets
tenantless.

Riding at an easy hopping gallop, the aviators urged their green,
scaly mounts to the side of Hero Giles, for here and there some
wandering citizens, spying the Americans, would yell shrill curses and
shake their fists. Reining in, Nelson demanded to know the reason for
this unaccountable hostility.

"'Tis the work of our gentle and holy priests," explained Hero Giles
with a hard laugh. "They have told the populace ye are magicians
seeking to set other gods above Poseidon."

"Nonsense," rapped the American, looking about uneasily. "We've never
given two thin damns about anything except getting back to our plane."

"So I know," was the Atlantean's preoccupied reply; "but this spawn of
Herakles' temples speak loud, and the loutish populace hearkens to
their lies!"

"But what the devil is all this revolt about?" broke in Alden. "Why
were we arrested? You started to tell us at the prison."

       *       *       *       *       *

Hero Giles frowned as he pulled his podoko into a gracefully carved
gateway of green marble. "There's but little to add, for 'tis all very
simple. The priests have laid impious hands on His Splendor, Altorius,
and imprisoned him in the great temple of Poseidon. We nobles have
defied the arch-priest, for the dog-conceived Jereboam already
marshals his forces for a fresh attack, knowing that Atlans is sore
beset by internal strife. Have patience for now we go to the council
chamber, where ye shall hear everything."

To say that the newcomers found the council of nobles in a furore
would be to put it mildly. Their angry voices carried far down the
beautifully ornamented corridors of the Imperial Palace, which was
used as headquarters.

"Sounds like a dog-fight going on in there," muttered Alden anxiously.
"Don't like the sound of it a bit. I hope they feel kindly towards
us."

Nelson, swinging along with his ragged shirt fluttering like a
scarecrow's, nodded. "Yes, so do I. But I guess they need our help or
Hero Giles wouldn't have risked his life to save us."

Conscious of the value of appearances, the dark-haired aviator
unconsciously straightened his frayed black tie, buttoned the sleeves
of his khaki flannel shirt and otherwise made pathetic attempts at
improving his appearance as the clamor of wrangling voices grew loud
down the corridor.

His wide shoulders swinging to his stride, Hero Giles flung open a
door, beautifully wrought with leaping podokos, and halted on the
threshold.

"Death!" rumbled a voice from inside. "I say death to the Wanderers!
Let us make our peace with the priests, lest they slay His Splendor
forthwith."

"And that's what I call a nice friendly greeting," was Alden's
murmured comment. "Better get your gat handy, Vic. I'll bet they've
got a reception committee of retortii men behind the door."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no time for Nelson to reply because now the threshold was at
hand. Inside, seated at a table, he had an impression of perhaps ten
or fifteen scarred and angry-looking veteran nobles whose green cloaks
and bejeweled armor revealed their high rank.

In mid-dispute they halted, eyeing the three figures in the doorway
with curiously conflicting expressions. Some smiled a relieved
welcome, some stared in surprise, but not a few greeted the Americans
with lowering brows and angry, threatening eyes.

"Harken," Hero Giles greeted them. "By Poseidon's grace the Wanderers
were saved from a vile death. Rise Heroes, and bid them welcome!"

"Ah, the Wanderers!" In an instant Hero John was wringing Nelson's
hand. "Oh blessed hour! I had feared for ye both. Welcome, Hero
Alden!"

A faint flush crept over the young man's wan and trouble-lined face.
"'Tis well ye've come," he whispered. "The council was prepared to
change their intent towards ye."

A grizzled, one-eyed prince arose, and leveling an accusing forefinger
at Nelson shouted, "'Tis he hath caused the rebellion. Slay him!"

"Nay!" thundered the Hero Giles, "and forget not, Hero Paul--_I_ am
senior Prince of Atlans!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In the great white marble council chamber silence fell, while from
wonderfully carved ivory and gold chairs the harassed, yellow-bearded
princes regarded the two uneasy Americans.

"Hearken, Hero Giles!" rasped another dark-browed officer in a plain,
much-dented red breast plate. "I side with Paul. Away with them, I
say! Time is too precious. Do not the dark hordes of Jereboam beat
back our frontiers?"

Hero Giles glowered and sat bolt upright in his chair--a strange
disordered figure among his gorgeously robed and armored peers. "Thou
wert ever a hothead! I prithee pause a moment! Remember how the
dark-haired Wanderer once aided our imprisoned Emperor, whom Poseidon
protect! Perchance, Hero Nelson and his friend once more can aid us in
this, our hour of need."

A chorus of variously opined voices broke out, while Nelson with an
eye to possible violence stood ready.

"Silence! Sirrah!" The fierce old veteran banged a powerful fist on a
golden dolphin head forming his chair arm. "This idle wrangling
accomplishes naught, and a thousand weighty matters await our
attention. Is it true the phalanxes at Tricca have risen for the
priests?"

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: _Map of Jarmuth and Atlans_]

Before Hero Giles could reply, a stalwart guard at the door flung it
open to admit a dust and sweat-bathed courier who, darting forward,
flung himself at Hero Giles' no less dusty feet. While the
yellow-haired Prince started back muttering in amazement, the runner
raised a shaking hand.

"Woe, woe to Atlans!" he panted. "Jarmuthian retortii men have crossed
the boiling river. Cierum is fallen! Its garrison is drenched in
clouds of fungus gas. But a handful escaped!"

"Speak on: is that all?" A terribly intent expression crept over the
aquiline faces around the council table.

"Nay, spare thy servant!" begged the green kilted courier, raising
sweaty, imploring hands. "I--I dare not--"

"Speak!" snarled Hero Giles, his blue eyes terribly lit. "Speak!--else
thy carcass shall be flung to the pteranodons."

Wild-eyed, the fellow blinked fearfully about. The grim-lipped nobles
edged closer. Nelson, realizing all that lay at stake, watched
intently, conscious that Alden was now by his side.

"I--I, Her Sacred Holiness, Altara--." The messenger's red face
twitched and he choked as in terror.

"Altara!" The name reechoed weirdly from a dozen dry throats, and
Nelson saw the skin suddenly pale and tighten over Hero John's face.

"What of the divine Altara, fool?" he thundered in a dreadful, shaken
monotone. "Have those foul swine of Jarmuth dared--?"

"Forgive, oh Hero!" cried the groveling courier, his long red hair
sweeping the marble floor. "The dog-sired Jereboam hath made
proclamation in Jezreel that the Sacred Virgin is doomed to perish on
the altar of Beelzebub, their demon god, in two days' time!"

"What?" The great marble-walled chamber was shaken by an unearthly
outcry as horror and rage struggled for mastery in the circle of tense
faces surrounding the momentarily forgotten aviators.

Bedlam broke loose, while Hero Giles sat as though stunned, staring on
the shivering runner at his feet.

Nelson, very much on the alert, could see that the announcement of
Altara's impending death had produced nothing short of a cataclysm in
the plans of the council.

       *       *       *       *       *

Like men paralyzed by electric shocks, the yellow bearded veterans and
nobles sat stupefied, frozen in their last gesture. Then, in the midst
of their silent despair, came the sound of a curious, high-pitched
horn that had in its note something of the eery wail of a fire siren.
The effect was magical, for the nobles sprang up, hands on sword hilts
and eyes searching the corridor.

"The priests!" gasped a short, broad-shouldered noble at Altorius'
left. "By Poseidon! 'Tis the fanfare of the Herakles himself."

Then indeed did the council glower, for, as Nelson soon learned,
Herakles was the moving spirit and evil genius of that priestly party
which had dared to imprison the Emperor.

Again the horn wailed its warning of the arch-priest's approach,
whereat a stalwart hoplite in green painted armor clanked in, saluted
stiffly and waited for Hero Giles' instructions.

"Bid the old man enter," directed the Prince at last. "Tell the
graybeard he has naught to fear if he comes alone. Otherwise, bid him
return to his kennel in the temples."

A moment after the hoplite had vanished, there appeared in the doorway
a tall, emaciated old man on whose silvery head was set a curious
golden mitre ending in the shape of a wondrously bejewelled trident.
The curious Americans noted that the arch-priest's robes were as black
as his evilly glittering eyes, and were embroidered with curious
cabalistic symbols done in silver thread. In his withered hand
Herakles carried a ceremonial trident--the mark of the Head Priest of
Poseidon.

As though wary of advancing, the arch priest paused in the doorway,
not three feet from where Nelson stood poised for action.

       *       *       *       *       *

All at once the gaunt figure in black raised thin hands to the dome
far overhead and cried in high-pitched prophetic tones:

"Woe to Atlans! When perishes Altara, virgin of Poseidon the God-head,
then shall a darkness fall on Atlans! Her cities shall be cast down,
there will be a weeping and wailing in the land, for Beelzebub and his
followers shall prevail! Woe to Atlans and woe to ye all, blasphemous
nobles!"

Gripped by a superstitious awe, the generals and nobles fell into an
uneasy silence, fearfully lowering their eyes and then glancing
askance at the plain khaki clad figures standing alert in their
corner.

Nelson, defiantly meeting their eyes, beheld Hero Giles staring
fixedly before him, his powerful shoulders bowed as though bearing an
overwhelming burden.

Deeper grew the silence of disaster while the American furiously
searched his mind for some means of thwarting the death in store for
him and his companion. By chance, a word of Hero Giles recurred, the
"pteranodons." What in the devil was a pteranodon? He turned sidewise
to Alden who stood, hands in the pocket of his leather jacket, also
thinking deeply.

"Dick," he whispered. "You studied paleontology at college. Do you
remember what a pteranodon was?"

"A what?" The younger aviator seemed to make a definite effort to
return to the present. "A pteranodon? I'm not sure, Vic, but I think
it was a kind of flying reptile related to the pterodactyl group."

       *       *       *       *       *

He could go on no further, for Herakles, the arch-priest, raised his
snowy head suddenly, his eyes blazing. "To save Atlans in her hour of
trial, we demand that ye deliver to us the Wanderers. They shall die
as an offering to Ares, God of War. Perchance he will preserve us."
The arch-priest's deep-set and glittering eyes swept with venomous
hatred the two calm-featured aviators, who looked very plain and
unromantic in their flying jackets and khaki serge. "We, familiars of
the Gods, herewith demand that the blasphemers perish on the War God's
altar! Else shall ye all die unbeloved of the Gods!"

"And we do your bidding, will ye give us back His Splendor?" demanded
Hero Giles.

"Nay--we priests do not bargain like hucksters."

Risking all, Nelson muttered a swift aside to Alden. "How big were
those pteranodons?"

"Some species had a wing spread of twenty-five feet."

The muscular pilot's mouth closed into a firm, colorless line as he
nodded and glanced at the vindictive old man who was by now white with
fury.

Up sprang a good three-quarters of the nobles present and turned on
the grim figure at the head of the board.

"Surrender the Wanderers!" they shouted. "We demand it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In another instant the death sentence would have been forced on Hero
Giles, but Victor Nelson leaped forward, pistol menacing the raging
gray-bearded priest.

"Listen, all of you!" he shouted in deep tones that were strangely
authoritative. "Beware, foolish Princes, how you threaten us. Great is
our knowledge and power: you've seen that already. Even now, the other
Wanderer and I can save or ruin Atlans, as we wish! Have ye forgotten
the battle by Lake Copias?"

The Princes, furious at the American's defiance, half rose, hand on
sword hilt, but sank back at a swift, menacing gesture from Nelson's
pistol.

"What sayest thou, mad fellow?" screeched the arch-priest, his black
eyes bright as knife points. "Save Atlans--?" Fierce questioning was
in his sombre, sunken eyes.

"I said," repeated Nelson, "that, if we choose, we can yet save your
Altara and the Emperor from death."

"Impossible! He is mad!" shouted Paul, the one-eyed Hero. "Not the
Gods themselves could rescue Altara from the claws of the demon
Beelzebub!" The nearest nobles flung themselves back in their chairs
and snarled threats of all kinds as they gripped their sword hilts.

Sensing an inescapable climax, the khaki-clad American raised his
pistol, covering Hero Paul, the speaker. "Silence!" he rasped.
"You're a thick-headed idiot not to see the truth. Can this priest
save Altara? No! You know damned well he can't! And yet you'd have us
killed."

"Now, Herakles," he swung on the priest, "about this Altara matter--if
you'll restore Altorius unharmed, guarantee our safety, and punish
those liars who condemned us to death, the other Wanderer and I will
undertake to not only prevent the sacrifice of Altara, but to bring
the Princess back as well!"

       *       *       *       *       *

To all this Alden listened with increasing and indescribable dismay,
his blue eyes round as marbles. "My God!" he whispered in an
undertone. "What in the devil is Vic doing? _Undertake_ is _right_,
the crazy fool!"

"How will ye accomplish this mad boast?" demanded the arch-priest in
deep suspicion. "Know ye that the Sacred Virgin lies captive in the
dungeons of the great temple of Beelzebub? Know ye that this temple is
in the center of Jezreel, capitol of Jarmuth?"

"I had some idea that was the case."

"Know ye," continued, the graybeard priest, "that Altara is ever
guarded by two thousand picked priests and warriors? Know ye,
moreover, that this vile sacrifice will be made but two days hence?"

The aviator's lean, dark head inclined with a serenity he far from
felt.

At this point the scarred veteran officer who had spoken before broke
in, his face menacing. "Believe not this liar, oh Hero Giles! He
speaks with a tongue made bold by fear. He promises that which he
cannot accomplish!"

Had Victor Nelson had time to reflect upon the weirdness of the plan
he had evolved, he would probably have silently admitted that his
grizzled accuser was more than a little justified, but as it was he
smiled serenely.

From all sides rose a threatening shout. "Let the blasphemers be
sacrificed. Ares will protect us!"

       *       *       *       *       *

His yellow brows knit, Hero Giles wavered, but as he hesitated there
ran through a great circular window a distant yet menacing shout.
"Down with Altorius, the Unlucky! Down with the sons of Hudson! Give
back to the ancient Gods their Sacred Virgin. Hail to Ares! Death to
the Wanderers! Death! Death!"

Drowning out these ominous cries there came from below the window the
brazen clang of trumpets and the clank of many armored men hurrying
forward. Presently the mob's outcry grew fainter, but still the cries
of "Death" could be heard.

It was a tense moment. Would Hero Giles remain friendly? With poignant
anxiety, Nelson watched that dishevelled martial head sink forward in
perplexity.

"Hero Giles," he warned, in a low voice. "You'd better trust us.
You're risking nothing."

Slowly, the fierce blue eyes of the veteran rose, and, meeting the
level gray ones of the aviator, lingered there as though asking a
question. Suddenly reaching a determination, he rose to his feet and
addressed the triumphantly grinning arch-priest, who tightly clutched
his trident wand with thin, blue-veined fingers.

"Hearken, black crow of a priest, who has dared lay foul hands on His
Splendor, the Emperor. This is my reply: show me how ye will rescue
Altara; otherwise begone! My hand itches for the sword."

       *       *       *       *       *

A deep silence fell while Herakles glowered helplessly, then shrewdly
avoided the trap. "This is blasphemy!" he croaked and raised a
quivering forefinger in solemn warning. "Woe to thee, Hero Giles. Woe
to the people! Fear the wrath of the Gods!

"Jeer not, ye nobles!" Herakles stormed on. "Be not deceived by lies!
I bid thee deliver these magicians to Ares, God of War!"

A nasty moment; Nelson's heart drummed as he gazed down at the row of
uneasy, war-like faces, but Hero Giles proved the strength of his
heritage. Back went his patrician head; he drew himself up to full
height and stared coldly upon the black robed priest, who, nothing
daunted, gave back look for look.

"Nay! We keep them: they will bear out their promise. I give ye good
day, oh Holiness!"

Quivering with rage Herakles raised his withered hand in anathema.
"Then perish, blind spawn of Hudson! Verily shall ye all die under the
torture. Woe! Woe! Woe!"

Then, amid a strained silence, pregnant of distrust and disaster, the
old man wheeled and stalked out.

As he watched the departure, color drained from the Atlantean prince's
haggard features. "Ah," he observed bitterly, "ever have these black
crows feasted on our land, and ever as birds of ill omen." He turned
and, with a weary sigh, surveyed the group of loyal, but anxious
souls. "I thank ye. Will ye still do my bidding and help to save our
sovereign lord?"

Out flashed the swords of a dozen-odd nobles as they raised the
hoarse, ringing cry of "Altorius! Altorius! Supreme!"

       *       *       *       *       *

A little later Nelson, before a very mistrustful gathering composed of
Hero Giles, Hero John and two or three other veterans, traced the
barest outline of his plan.

"You understand? I'm to be taken to the border as a prisoner; then, in
plain sight of the enemy lines, the guards must maltreat me and turn
me loose."

The aviator searched one after another of the brutal, war-like faces,
while Hero Giles translated for the benefit of two Atlantean generals
who did not speak the royal language.

"Are you positive," Alden demanded of Hero John, "that this revolution
in Atlans will die out if Altara is returned?"

"Yes! A thousand times yes!" The prince's fine eyes gleamed with
savage enthusiasm. "With the Sacred Virgin restored to Atlans, new
courage will come into the phalanxes! The priests will cease their
outcries against them. Then, with the help of the blue maxima vapor,
we will rend the dog-begotten followers of Jereboam limb from limb!"

"All right." Nelson's wiry khaki-clad body bent far over the table.
"Remember, Hero Giles, that part of the fighting's up to you. When I'm
gone, you'll do exactly what Alden tells you. Now, one thing more:
what part of the border is still unquestionably loyal?"

Hero Giles frowned and shrugged his armor-clad shoulders a little
helplessly beneath the splendid cloak of imperial green. "The gods
alone know; but at the third division of this morning, Mayda and
Thebes still vowed their loyalty. 'Tis there are quartered the
phalanxes of the Imperial guards. They alone can I trust to the
death."

"All right." Bending over a huge parchment map of the valley, Nelson
nodded, and his keen black eyes became very serious. "I want you to
concentrate every man you can muster in each of those cities.
Meanwhile tell the populace,"--he drew a deep breath--"that Altara
will certainly be returned to them."

"Art thou sure?" broke in the scarred veteran in the dented breast
plate; then, his brow dark with doubt, he engaged Hero Giles and the
rest in a heated, low-voiced colloquy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alden stepped near, an anxious frown on his unshaven features. "Think
this idea of yours is sure-fire?"

"No," Nelson's lean head shook. "I'm far from sure. It's a wild gamble
at best, but we can't be any worse off than we are now. If the priests
win out, we're sunk and no mistake about it; but there's a fighting
chance my idea could be brought off."

"Now look here," objected the younger pilot tensely. "What's this rot
about your going into Jarmuth alone? How d'you know they won't skin
you alive once you're over the border?"

"I don't," admitted his friend, shrugging slightly. "But I don't see
there's anything but to take the risk. If I don't go over there, sure
as shooting we're going to feed some damn unpleasant kind of beast
here in Atlans.

"Another thing," Nelson said, turning to the Hero who, surrounded by
the others, was bent in deep consultation over a map. "How am I to
know Altara if I see her? Is there a statue, a painting or
something--?"

The Hero's aquiline features lit in a slow smile. "Nay, we have better
than that. Come, thou shalt see the Sacred Virgin as she now is."

The members of the conference followed Hero Giles down a short
corridor, through a couple of doors and into a chamber where a huge
disc of crystal stood on edge fixed upon an axis above a bewildering
array of wires, pipes and gauges.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hero John, who seemed familiar with the mechanism, turned a lever,
whereupon the disc commenced to spin like a pie plate on a dance
floor. Faster and faster it spun, silently gathering speed each second
while a low humming sound filled the chamber. Gradually the outline of
the whirling disk commenced to brighten, tinting the scar-seamed,
craggy features of the Atlantean generals and picking glorious,
glowing lights from the jewels on Hero Giles' wonderfully engraved
breastplate.

"Ah." Hero John turned a small dial. "The crystal warms. Look, oh
Wanderers!"

Nelson rubbed his eyes incredulously, for in the heart of the
shimmering circle had materialized the outline of a room with walls of
yellow marble.

"Well, I'm damned!" gasped Alden. "See how it flickers!"

As the revolving disc of crystal gained top speed, the flickering
subsided and a picture, clearer than most photographs, could be seen
in the center. A wondrously slender, yellow-haired young girl clad in
Grecian robes of pale blue sat in deep despond upon a plain wooden
couch, with a black haired servant kneeling before her, apparently
lacing sandals on her tiny, pink-hued feet.

"Bring closer the face," snapped Hero Giles gruffly.

Gradually the focus changed, like the close-up of a movie camera,
until in the center of the madly whirling disc could be seen in minute
detail and living color the face of an indescribably lovely girl.

"Whew," muttered Nelson, staring in silent amazement. "No wonder they
want her back! She makes Ziegfeld's little girls look like Armenian
refugees." He cast a sidewise glance, but Alden had apparently not
heard him; the younger American stood gazing with rapturous joy at the
girl.

"Aye! Aye!" The two veteran generals uttered stifled groans and one of
them drew a hand across his eyes. "Poseidon save her! Aye! Preserve
the fair Altara."

"Wouldst thou not doubly save her, now?" demanded Hero John in a low
voice that bespoke his anguish. He seemed suddenly older than the
grim, helmeted veterans to either side.

"You bet! I guess a man sees a face like that only once is a lifetime.
And now," Nelson continued with an effort to return to the practical,
"there's no time to be lost--so I'd just like to take a look at those
pteranodons of yours."

       *       *       *       *       *

A few minutes later, the two aviators found themselves nearing a lofty
structure which adjoined the imperial palace. It was constructed along
the lines of an immense aviary. Between beautiful, glistening Ionic
columns of white marble, gleamed bronze bars, set at regular intervals
to prevent the escape of the most appalling creatures which could ever
have skimmed the air.

"What in the devil is your idea?" demanded Alden, taken aback. "God,
look at the loathsome brutes!"

Some of these huge, flying reptiles were hopping awkwardly over the
ground picking at bones and refuse littering the floor with long
pelican-like bills, which were, however, very much thicker than those
of pelicans, and set with sharp teeth at least six inches long.

"Not very pretty are they? Kind of look like huge bats," commented
Nelson thoughtfully. "Wonder if they could be handled?"

"Yes, their wings are leathery. Look at 'em up yonder." Alden pointed
to the roof of that immense aviary where, hanging head downwards like
gigantic bats, must have been hundreds upon hundreds of the
pteranodons. One of them, whistling oddly, fluttered up to the bars,
affording the Wanderers an excellent view of a loathsome head, the
back of which ended in a curious sort of horn, that, projecting
backwards, jutted far above its rear. Fierce, vermillion eyes with
green irises glared at the Americans through the bars, and great wings
of greasy-looking leather fanned a disgusting stench from the interior
of the aviary.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Sweet little things," was Alden's comment. "God! Imagine having one
of those great things swooping down on you. Hey, Alden, look at that
big devil over there! He must have a wing spread of thirty feet. Big
as a Moth plane, isn't he?"

For answer the pteranodon clattered its vast beak savagely. One of the
generals stooped and, catching up a huge slab of meat from a basket
nearby, hurled it through the bars into the gaping jaws.

"What would ye with these creature?" demanded Hero Giles with
undisguised curiosity.

"You'd be surprised." Nelson was not deliberately rude, but his mind
was wrapped up in the daring project he had evolved. "I want a couple
of the biggest of these caught and set aside in a courtyard where
there will be no one looking on. If your people can train and handle
podokos and allosauri--I guess a couple of Yanks ought to be able to
manage these flying nightmares. So don't you worry about us."

Hero Giles uttered grim, significant laugh. "Thou hadst best manage
them. I note yonder pteranodon is in need of nourishment."


CHAPTER X

With sharp anxiety, Victor Nelson kept watching the towers of Jezreel
rise ever clearer above the great, warm plain of Jarmuth, but, for all
that, he noted how distinctly Jezreel differed from Heliopolis. The
Jarmuthian capital was predominantly amber-yellow instead of white in
color; its towers were flat-topped, angular, hideous structures that
compared not at all favorably with the graceful Grecian architecture
of Atlantean public buildings.

The populace, he decided, as he strode along in the midst of half a
dozen silent guards, were as harsh and graceless as their
architecture. Whereas the Atlanteans had been white skinned and
uniformly red haired--save for those of Hudsonian blood--the
inhabitants of Jarmuth almost without exception were black haired and
had dark, olive-hued skins.

"They're the lost tribes of Israel, all right," Nelson decided after a
brief sojourn in that savage land lying beyond Apidanus--the great
boiling river, whose bubbling and scalding currents had for centuries
served as a natural boundary between the two realms. But now the
Jarmuthian armies had crossed it and were steadily pushing back the
demoralized and despairing Atlanteans with savage energy that heaped
the dead in hillocks.

"Their armor," mused the ragged, barefoot prisoner, studying his
silent guards, "looks a lot like a Roman legionnaire's, but that six
pointed star on their helmets is pure Semitic. Yes, this sure is an
Asiatic outfit."

His eyes wandered from one fierce, big-nosed infantryman to another
and noted the splendid physical structure of the majority. Evidently
hardier, much less refined and luxury-loving than the Atlanteans,
these swart warriors disdained robes and other garments. Save for
helmet, armor and brief black kilts, they were quite naked. Like the
Atlantean hoplites the infantrymen carried spears, steam retortii and
quantities of grenades.

The country side through which the prisoner passed had a holiday air,
for garlands of flowers hung in every doorway, and naked, pot-bellied
children squatted by the roadside, industriously weaving crowns and
streamers of gay blossoms.

"Look, Atlantean dog!" commanded the black-bearded leader of the
escort. "Let thine infidel eyes gaze upon the mightiest city of the
world. Seest thou yonder Ziggurat which o'er towers all others?"

Nelson raised eyes red-rimmed from sleeplessness and deep anxiety--for
the crafty Jarmuthians had proved unexpectedly unwilling to credit him
as the Atlantean outcast and would-be renegade he had pretended to be.

"Yes," he said in reply to the English-speaking
_jehar's_--captain's--question. "What's it for?"

"'Tis the temple of the almighty Beelzebub, Steam God of Jarmuth.
Without his hot breath no wheel would turn, our armies would be
powerless and this land would perish under the ice of the outer
world." The dark eyed officer's eye fell speculatively upon his bound
and dust-covered prisoner. "Perchance, dog of a spy, thou wilt die
during to-day's fourth division[2] together with Altara, pale daughter
of the feeble, false god Poseidon."

[Footnote 2: The Atlantean day was divided into six divisions of four
hours each; due to the flame suns there was no sunrise or sunset.]

       *       *       *       *       *

This afternoon?

Nelson could not realize that the time had flown so quickly. Four
short hours separated him from the crisis of his life. A thousand
doubts assailed him. What if Alden or Hero Giles failed in their share
of the great scheme for rescue? Narrowly, the aviator's eye searched
the great, rich plain, then swept the amber-hued sky where, far above
the plain, Jilboa, the nearest flame sun, beat off the Arctic chill
and darkness.

The great, black-bearded jehar eased the straps from which was
suspended the brass coil of his retortii. "Aye," he chuckled, his
thick lips parted in a crafty smile. "Ere long will the fair flesh of
Altara grace the ceremonial board of His Exaltation, the King, and his
priests and princes."

Nelson gasped in horror. The divinely beautiful Altara--butchered for
meat like a calf? Grotesque! Ghastly! "What! You eat your prisoners?"
He felt sick, nauseated.

For answer, the swart Jarmuthian raised an enormous hand and dealt the
captive American a stinging cuff which made his teeth rattle.

"Peace!" he snarled. "Else I slit thy spying throat ere we pass yonder
walls."

Fingering a short blue-black beard that was frizzed into tight curls
in the Assyrian manner, the jehar lengthened his stride as the little
detachment clanked into the shadow of a great wall surrounding
Jezreel, and through a huge gate guarded by two hideous, jackal-headed
effigies.

Hurrying into the city were throngs of eager men, women and children,
interspersed with muscular, black bearded soldiers who cast
threatening, baleful eyes on the pale-skinned prisoner.

       *       *       *       *       *

At first the great metropolis of Jezreel seemed boundless, for
everywhere arose tall, massive monuments of yellow marble whose
facades were engraved with Sanskrit characters, thus bearing out
Nelson's surmise that this was indeed a race of Semitic origin.

Here and there hurried grey-bearded, vulture-eyed priests oddly garbed
in corrupt Occhive and Tyrian regalia. Nelson found it odd to see the
Tablet of the Laws, which Jarmuth so openly ignored, swaying on their
yellow robed breasts; and none cried out more menacingly nor more
loudly against the limping, wan-faced captive, than these same
ecclesiastics, who must have long since forgotten all worship of
Jehovah in the foul service of a bestial golden effigy.

A stone sailed through the air, narrowly missing the American; then
another, which struck his shoulder.

"God, what a rough looking crowd," thought Nelson, as the guards,
cursing, held back the screaming mob. "At this rate I won't live to
even reach the temple!"

Every second his life stood in great danger. Unkempt, sloe-eyed women
hurled themselves, shrieking with fury, against the armored chests of
the guards, who were hard pressed to beat them off with their spear
hafts.

Nelson's one small ray of comfort in this evil hour was the fact that
his .45 pistol remained untouched in a food wallet. At the border the
jehar had cast one contemptuous glance at the weapon, but, no doubt
deeming it some strange culinary tool, he had made no effort to remove
it.

It was a continual struggle for the guards to win their way up a long
flight of stairs, for ever the great stream of humanity grew denser
and more menacing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nelson felt a violent sense of revolt grip his being. "I must win
free," he thought. "If I fail, Alden dies, and--and--" For the first
time he realised how much he wanted to actually see Altara. Like a
clear cameo, an image of her had remained fresh in his memory. Except
for her Grecian garments she might have been a lovely, carefree
English or American girl.

"And these decadent swine would sacrifice her!" The thought was
sickening. Yet how could he prevent the pitiful tragedy?

Fortunately, a detachment of troops--tall, sinewy fellows with conical
helmets, crested with six-pointed stars--reenforced the guards just as
clawing hands began to snatch and tug at the prisoner's ragged
Atlantean chiton of blue cotton.

Almost before he realized it, Nelson was dragged inside a great gloomy
building and into a circular chamber where four eagle-featured elders
sat in council beneath the six-pointed star of Sem. On approaching,
the jehar in command sank on one knee and in humble salute raised both
hands to the tribunal.

"A tough looking desk sergeant they've got," muttered the prisoner to
himself as his eye met the chilling regard of a lean, yellow-faced
priest. "Wonder what I'm booked for?" Idiotically, he recalled being
summoned before a traffic court, years back. "Guess I don't get off
with vagrancy; it'll probably be everything from speeding to mayhem,
with maybe arson and well-poisoning thrown in."

The deliberations of this ominous court proved to be appallingly
short. The dour-faced elders merely put their heads together, muttered
a few sentences, then straightened up almost immediately. The chief
priest--he with the yellow face--thrust out his fist and made the
immemorial signal of death by jerking his thumb at the black marble
floor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before the outraged and astounded aviator could utter a word of
protest, powerful guards seized and hauled him off down a dark, narrow
passageway in which the fetid prison smell was very strong. Too wise
to struggle against overwhelming odds, yet appalled at the thought of
his impending doom, Nelson was dragged into a room where four or five
furtive, enslaved Atlanteans, made dumb by the removal of their
tongues, were engaged in a curious occupation.

On a bare stone bench, five other Atlantean captives were sitting in
miserable silence. They made a grotesque array, for their heads were
crowned with gay yellow and blue flowers, and the upper half of their
perfectly formed bodies gleamed with an application of a
sweet-smelling oil. About their wrists and waists were twined fragrant
garlands of yellow roses which hid the leather straps confining their
hands.

Struggling, Nelson was forced on to the bench, whereupon slaves,
skipping to avoid the lash of a scarred, olive-hued slave driver,
hurried to wash the newly arrived prisoner's limbs, face and hands. A
weary-looking old slave with sunken, rheumy eyes listlessly pulled the
blue chiton from Nelson's broad shoulders, and would have removed the
food pouch had not the prisoner winked vigorously. The ministering
slave glanced swiftly sidewise and, discovering the slave driver's
attention directed to another corner, pulled the upper folds of the
chiton over the food pouch and its precious contents, then set a crown
of yellow roses more or less askew on the American's head. For all the
peril of the situation Nelson could not suppress a fleeting smile as
the phrase, "For I'm to be Queen of the May, Mother," leaped
nonsensically into his brain.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Yes, I guess they are getting us all dolled up for a sacrifice of
some kind." Nelson's heart began to pound at the thought. Then he
fought for self control. It must be a hideously realistic nightmare!
He, Victor Nelson, American citizen, a quiet birdman, member of the
Caterpillar Club and ex-flight commander of the A. E. F. was about to
be offered as a sacrifice to some hideous, pagan god? Nonsense! He'd
wake up in a minute and hear the drone of a ship on the line.

He blinked, staring fixedly at a single ray of light that came
streaming in through a small, barred window, then glanced sidewise at
his fellow victims, who with Spartan indifference sat waiting for the
end of all things. It was no dream!

From the tiny window came the shrill discordant braying of many
trumpets, and a roar like that of a football crowd arose surprisingly
near. In response, the slave driver lashed the gaudily bedecked
sacrificial victims to their feet with vicious cuts of his pliant
whip, and herded them like a drove of calves down a very long passage,
lit at intervals by those strange column lamps of incandescent gas. In
their red glare the doomed six seemed as though already bathed in
blood.

"Must be some crowd of people outside," muttered Nelson as a great
gale of sound deafened him. Yonder the amber glare of the flame suns
glimmered, and now it was his turn to step into the open!

       *       *       *       *       *

On a sort of spiral roadway he paused, breathless, awed, bewildered,
for there, eddying restlessly about the bases of towers and other huge
structures, was a great sea of up-turned faces. To his surprise he
found the passage he had followed opened perhaps halfway up what must
be the great Ziggurat of Beelzebub. He judged the tower's height must
be immense, for already the crowd was a good hundred feet below.

"_Zarotoa! Zarotoa! ù Wlanka!_"[3]

Nelson shivered. How terrible was the wild, bloodthirsty clamor of
that vast throng, when they beheld the six flower-decked prisoners
appear upon the circular winding road which led to the lofty and
wind-swept summit of the great conical pyramid of the people of
Jezreel.

[Footnote 3: Death to the victims!]

Behind the victims marched perhaps eighteen or twenty spearmen
gorgeously uniformed in yellow and black painted armor. Their
retortii were plated with gold, and in the center of a star forming
the crest of each helmet was set a diamond large as a hickory nut.

Preceding the despairing prisoners marched a squad of tall,
clean-shaven priests with great gold hoops in their ears. They blew
mightily upon long, curved horns, and were followed by perhaps a dozen
lithe, posturing girls, half clothed in diaphanous yellow robes. These
priestesses swung golden censers which flung bluish clouds of aromatic
smoke high into the humid air above.

       *       *       *       *       *

Up and up, around and around the great tower temple, Nelson was
dragged, while the vast city of Jezreel, palaces, towers, courts,
dwellings and all, lay like a great panorama below. Up and up, and the
wind grew stronger while Nelson marvelled at the great height of the
structure he was mounting. Immediately in front of him swayed the
naked shoulders of the three captive Atlanteans; he could see rose
petals from their crowns fluttering in the strong warm breeze sweeping
that man-made pinnacle for the worship of a heathen god.

Despairingly, the American's eyes searched the horizon, to discover
nothing but a few great birds wheeling lazily in the bronze-hued sky.
Very clearly he could discern three of the flame suns, casting flame
high from their peaks.

"Alden!" he groaned. "Oh God, Alden, don't fail me!"

Chilled by the fate in store, he scanned the dark and hostile faces
below, but found no friendly visage.

Up and up. The procession was now nearing the summit.

There were hosts of poignant problems before him, each vital if Altara
and the Empire of Atlans were to be saved; but one primary question
immediately confronted him. How could he get his hands free? He
ventured a few words in English to the stolid Atlantean at his side,
whereat the fellow only stared dully and shook his red, flower-crowned
head.

He next tried to cautiously work loose his hands, but to no avail. The
rope of plaited skin binding his aching wrists together was tough as
any rawhide. Cursing, he abandoned the effort, and, as his eyes once
more swept the great bloodthirsty throng below, he felt himself doomed
indeed.


CHAPTER XI

Standing at last on the summit of the great Ziggurat, Nelson found
himself staring up at the fearsome golden image of the dread demon
Beelzebub. The god stood some twelve feet in height and had a hideous
human face, but, in place of hair and beard, countless golden tubes
writhed in all directions. From the end of one, the puzzled prisoner
beheld several tiny feathers of steam creeping forth, indicating that
these hairs were a species of steam vent.

When, with the other captives, he was made to halt near its base, he
further discovered that the idol sat upon a throne of yellow marble,
the sides of which were carved with Sanskrit characters, necessarily
quite meaningless to the doomed aviator.

In a grim and silent rank before Beelzebub's feet, stood some six or
eight priest-executioners bending their black-robed bodies against the
strong wind which swept that ghastly pinnacle.

Just below the base of the image, Nelson noted several great, copper
coils, no doubt conducting steam from the interior of the Ziggurat.
Between the knees of Beelzebub rested a huge, shallow bowl, the use of
which puzzled the American not a little, for he saw that the base of
this ornate receptacle was also wrapped with a number of steam coils.
Two great hands, ending in cruel-looking claws, were stretched
horizontally above the demon's knees, seeming to plead for victims.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly a deep toned brazen gong sounded somewhere below; the
trumpeters blew an ear-piercing note; and, at a gesture from the high
priest, four of the brawny executioner-priests leaped forward, seized
one of the Atlantean victims, hurled him to the stone platform and, in
an unbelievably short interval, strapped the shrieking wretch by
wrists, elbows, knees and ankles to a long, brass rod. Slung like a
dead deer from a rail, they lifted the helpless Atlantean, and, while
five hundred thousand voices roared in acclaim the priests fitted the
pole ends into notches above the hands of the idol with the effect
that the idol actually seemed to be clutching its victim.

Then, from all the pipes composing the hair and beard of Beelzebub,
sprang forth hissing spouts of snowy steam which, whipped by the
rising wind, went whirling madly down the lee of the Ziggurat. At the
same time, from the half open mouth of the demon issued a fearful,
screaming howl, a thousand times louder than the whistle of a speeding
locomotive. Deafening and barbaric, it was reechoed from a hundred
towers and battlements.

A dreadful, exultant well burst from the multitude below as the
red-robed priest drew from beneath his garments a sickle-shaped knife
that glittered evilly in the light of the flaming suns. Still
chanting, he stooped and quickly made a deep incision over the heart
of the victim. While a piercing, agonized shriek burst from the ashen
lips of the doomed Atlantean, his bright life-blood began to splash
into the golden bowl below where, due to the presence of the steam
coils, it swiftly commenced to hiss and bubble. Very quickly the last
scarlet drops had fallen.

Then while Nelson, sick and horrified, stood watching, the dead body
on its pole was taken down, unstrapped, and hurled, limp and
red-spattered, to the next lower platform where other priests waited
to dismember it for the ceremonial cannibalism soon to follow.

       *       *       *       *       *

In rapid succession two more victims were slaughtered amid the
blood-hungry cheers of the Jarmuthian populace. Now the great bowl
hissed and bubbled with a generous supply of the dark red fluid, from
which rose clouds of evil-smelling steam that fanned the hideous
features above.

From below suddenly arose an excited shout far mightier than any which
had preceded it, when the executioners, sweating from their exertions,
now turned and, spying Nelson, hurried forward. Coincidently, the
American's bound hands disappeared beneath the chiton. Squaring his
shoulders, he gripped the pistol, prepared to make a good end.

"They'll get me, but before I die I'll send at least two or three of
these devils to hell," he thought. "Come on--"

But, for an inexplicable reason, the arch-priest beckoned back his
satellites, while roar upon roar of terrific excitement swelled from
the swarming mob below, and a shout which at last became
distinguishable bid fair to split the heavens. "Altara! Altara!
Altara!"

Slowly, the temporarily reprieved victim's muscles stiffened. He
understood. The next victim was to be the fair Altara, sister of
Altorius and Sacred Virgin of Atlans.

"Altara! Altara!" A rising hurricane of impassioned human voices
thundered the name.

Suddenly, the desire to live burned doubly strong in the American's
breast. He must somehow prevent this inhuman catastrophe. But how?
How?

Stealing a quick glance over his shoulder, Nelson stifled a groan. The
southern horizon remained clear, and put an end to hope. No help! He
must fight it out to the end alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

A rank of exultant, black-bearded priests now appeared at the head of
the stairway, then a quartet of olive skinned, semi-naked priestesses
joyfully clashing brass cymbals.

There came an interval--and Nelson's heart stood still as there
appeared the lovely head and shoulders of her whom he had first seen
in the heart of the revolving crystal. Even more fiercely, mad revolt
at fate gripped him.

Through hot, strained eyes the American saw that the stately Altara
was beautiful beyond all possible comparison, and that she seemed
utterly unafraid in the hour of her dreadful death. The Atlantean
maiden's large, clear blue eyes were fixed with calm resignation on
the distant flame sun of Jilboa. On her curling golden hair had been
set a circlet of ceremonial yellow roses, while her white, slender
body was thinly covered with a scanty robe of yellow silk.

Slowly, and moving her small bare feet in a regal stride, Altara
climbed the last few steps and stood straight and unafraid before the
hideous demon god of Jarmuth.

Thousands of frantic inner voices assailed the aviator's
consciousness. "Save her! You must save her! She's too young, too
beautiful to die!"

Like a vast maelstrom of sound, so swelled the lustful cry of the dark
multitude at the base of the Ziggurat, while the arch-priest chanted
his litany in a sort of triumphant exultation. Then, all at once, one
of the executioners roughly tripped the golden haired girl, sprawling
her helpless on the bloody stones; and, before Nelson could quite
realize it, the slender, silver hued form lay limp and helpless
between Beelzebub's bloody claws.

       *       *       *       *       *

Like a dynamo furiously gathering speed, so buzzed Nelson's brain. He
was going to save her--if only for a brief interval! One man against a
nation. Through a raging mist of fury he saw the red-robed priest
raise his lean arms; then the American's bound hands darted beneath
the blue chiton to reappear immediately. No one saw the pistol, for
every eye was rivetted upon the gleaming, sickle-knife of the red
priest. Like a voice from hell, that eery scream burst again from
Beelzebub's throat as his priest stepped near, the knife raised.

Amid a deafening roar the sickle-knife flashed higher; but it never
fell, for the red priest suddenly reeled, clutched his chest and,
staring wildly, staggered sidewise, while the assembled priests stared
thunderstruck. The deafening roar of Beelzebub, the clamor of horns
and cymbals had drowned out the report. In superstitious awe the
Jarmuthians leaped back, panic-stricken, from the convulsively
writhing body of the red priest, which rolled crazily down the steps
before the idol; but a high shout of terror rang out as he toppled off
the summit and, like a discarded puppet, plunged down the precipitous
side of the cone-like tower.

Again Nelson's pistol spat, and two of the executioners collapsed in
kicking agony. Like an avenging fury, the American raged about the
summit, the pistol in his bound bands dealing death right and left
until panic seized the remaining priests, who, with one accord,
abandoned their weapons to rush headlong down the dizzy, winding
roadway. In a trice, none but Altara, Nelson, the two Atlanteans and
the fallen priests remained on the summit.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the work of a moment for the Atlanteans to cast loose Nelson's
bound wrists, and he theirs; time was precious, for, from below, a
furious cohort of spearmen were charging up the stairs, their dark
features terrible in their wrath.

"Only four more shots!" The sickening realization dashed into Nelson's
brain. "That'll never stop them." Then in the midst of his despair he
saw an answer. Stepping back he fired twice full into the great steam
coil circling the base of the idol.

_Spang! Spang!_ His bullets smacked through the copper coil to
puncture neat, round holes. As he fervently hoped, jets of live steam
rushed through these vents with terrible force and bathed the head of
the stairs with a scalding, blinding vapor. Howling like mad beasts,
the agonized Jarmuthian hoplites fell back, while overhead Beelzebub
bellowed incessantly, shaking the sky with his hideous voice.

"That's better." But Nelson knew his triumph to be brief. "_Where in
hell is Alden?_" he raged as with shaking hands be released the
bewildered girl from the death bar after the two Atlanteans had lifted
it and its fair burden from the claws of Beelzebub.

Picking up the swords and other weapons of the fallen priests the two
Atlanteans uttered their deep-toned war cry of _Halor vàn!_ and
joyously prepared to die fighting, as furious roar on roar of wrath
arose from the populace, infuriated at being cheated of their prey.
But the black-armored temple guards dared not charge those twin steam
jets barring their approach. Accordingly they tried other means.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nelson's heart stopped as a small, dark object sailed up from below
and clattered on the platform. It was a grenade. With the speed of
thought, the American kicked it to the landing below, where it
exploded, annihilating a detachment of Jarmuthians by drenching them
with the terrible fungus gas. Heart bounding with savage joy, Nelson
watched the deadly green fog leap from the broken grenade and of its
own accord settle on the nearest soldiers. With the usual astonishing
speed there formed on the stricken soldiery that poisonous yellow
mould, whose fungus-like shoots sprouted through nostrils and mouths.
On the dense crowd below the bomb's effect was appalling, and no more
grenades were hurled....

During the respite Nelson's anguished eyes once more swept the skies.
He started. Was it true or was it a mirage? Far to the southward a
small, black speck materialized in the orange-hued heavens. Good old
Alden! Hope wavered in the American's breast. Could he and his two
fellows beat off the infuriated Jarmuthians long enough? He doubted
it.

A shower of spears sailed up, but because of the angle, their
trajectory was too great, and like rays of death the lances flashed
harmlessly overhead to plunge over the summit and wreak death among
those on the other side.

Nearer and nearer came the black speck while from the populace a low
shout of amazement arose. Coincidently Nelson's heart stopped; aghast,
he saw that the steam was no longer hissing from the holes at the
idol's feet! Evidently, the steam current had been shut off from below
to allow the raging priests to lead their followers in a desperate
charge up the stairs.

Marshalling an Atlantean to either side, Nelson sprang to the head of
the stair and fired full in the face of gorgeously robed priests who
staggered back screaming. But the others wavered only an instant.

"_Halor vàn!_" Both Atlanteans hurled spears retrieved from the
abandoned weapons--and each struck down his man.

       *       *       *       *       *

The American's eye flickered up. Yes, there came a strange, but
welcome sight: a great creature with enormous, leathery pinions was
circling down towards the tower top! A clashing of weapons brought
Nelson's eyes earthwards. He joined in a furious melée at the stair
top, like the Atlanteans, using a captured bronze sword. There came a
deep groan as the right-hand Atlantean collapsed with a bloodied
bronze spear point standing far out from between his naked shoulder
blades.

A swooping shadow fell across the slowly advancing attackers.
Beholding that awesome creature the Jarmuthians cowered, hesitated;
then in headlong panic they darted below, uttering howls of fear and
pursued by the surviving Atlantean, who, gone berserk, must have
shortly paid for his folly.

The pteranodon was now quite recognizable, and seated on a double
saddle was Alden, skillfully guiding the ungainly monster by means of
a curious bridle, by shifting his weight and by pressing certain nerve
centers between the great reptile's leathery shoulders.

Down, down circled Alden until the great wings skimmed just above
Beelzebub's ugly golden head.

Her courage strained beyond endurance, Altara screamed shrilly in fear
as Alden guided the huge reptile to the summit and forced it to light.

"Quick!" shouted Alden. "They're coming back up!"

"All right!" Catching up the fainting girl, Nelson hurdled two or
three fallen bodies, and, while Alden showered fungus bombs upon the
returning Jarmuthians, he laid his precious burden across the saddle
and secured her with straps specially designed for the purpose.

"All right, Dick," he snapped. "Get going!"

"But you?" Alden's brown face was terribly intent.

"I'm not going! This creature could never carry the three of us. It
can't, I tell you! Hurry, those devils are coming!"

Alden folded his arms. "If you don't go, I don't."

"All right then," snarled Nelson, vaulting into the saddle after
casting loose the inert, yellow-robed girl. "Be a damned fool! We'll
all die now."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a near thing, for the pteranodon, scenting the fresh blood, was
very loath to obey its master, and scuffed awkwardly around the tower
top two or three times, while Nelson, clutching Altara to him,
expended his last shot in driving back the enemy.

At last, the pteranodon spread its huge brown pinions and took off.
Then Nelson gasped in alarm, for, unaccustomed to the heavy weight it
now bore, the pteranodon scaled earthwards with the speed of a meteor,
wildly flapping its bat-like-wings. Down! Down! Nelson had an
impression of people scattering like frightened ants.

Alden cursed, tugged furiously on the bridle, and set his weight back
in the saddle, but to no avail. Down! Ever down! The pteranodon now
struggled among the tall buildings.

A sickening sense of defeat gripped Nelson as a long jet of steam shot
out from a huge brass retortii mounted on the roof of an arsenal. The
scalding fingers of steam just missed its target, but fortunately
served to sting the descending pteranodon. With a convulsive shudder
and a whistling scream, the hideous reptile commenced to flap its
gigantic wings faster, and, slowly but surely, began to rise over the
yellow temples and towers of the barbarous city of Jezreel.

       *       *       *       *       *

What followed is now a matter of Atlantean history. On its pages is
set forth in full detail how the giant pteranodon barely crossed the
boiling river to sink exhausted in the outskirts of Tricca.

There, also, is described the series of tremendous battles in which
the Atlanteans, led by Altorius and inspired by the return of their
Sacred Virgin, employed the terrible fungus gas to overwhelm the
Jarmuthian invaders, driving them back with great slaughter to the
steaming plains of their own land.

At even greater length is described the great triumph Altorius
accorded the victorious aviators on the occasion of Victor Nelson's
marriage to Altara.

"Doth it not seem strange," she whispered as they stood looking out
over the great, sleeping city of Heliopolis, "that thou of the New
World and I of the Lost World, should stand man and wife?"

The American's tanned face softened. "My darling," he whispered,
"there are lots of strange things in the new Atlantis--but this isn't
one of them."

_(The End.)_



The Meteor Girl

_By Jack Williamson_

[Illustration: _She seemed to scream, though we could hear nothing._]

[Sidenote: Through the complicated space-time of the fourth dimension
goes Charlie King in an attempt to rescue the Meteor Girl.]


"What's the good in Einstein, anyhow?"

I shot the question at lean young Charlie King. In a moment he looked
up at me; I thought there was pain in the back of his clear brown
eyes. Lips closed in a thin white line across his wind-tanned face;
nervously he tapped his pipe on the metal cowling of the _Golden
Gull's_ cockpit.

"I know that space is curved, that there is really no space or time,
but only space-time, that electricity and gravitation and magnetism
are all the same. But how is that going to pay my grocery bill--or
yours?"

"That's what Virginia wants to know."

"Virginia Randall!" I was astonished. "Why, I thought--"

"I know. We've been engaged a year. But she's called it off."

Charlie looked into my eyes for a long minute, his lips still
compressed. We were leaning on the freshly painted, streamline
fuselage of the _Golden Gull_, as neat a little amphibian monoplane as
ever made three hundred miles an hour. She stood on the glistening
white sand of our private landing field on the eastern Florida coast.
Below us the green Atlantic was running in white foam on the rocks.

In the year that Charlie King and I had been out of the Institute of
Technology, we had built the nucleus of a commercial airplane
business. We had designed and built here in our own shops several very
successful seaplanes and amphibians. Charlie's brilliant mathematical
mind was of the greatest aid, except when he was too far lost in his
abstruse speculations to descend to things commercial. Mathematics is
painful enough to me when it is used in calculating the camber of an
airplane wing. And pure mathematics, such as the theories of
relativity and equivalence, I simply abhor.

I was amazed. Virginia Randall was a girl trim and beautiful as our
shining _Golden Gull_. I had thought them devotedly in love, and had
been looking forward to the wedding.

"But it isn't two weeks, since Virginia was out here! You took her up
in our _Western Gull IV_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Nervously Charlie lit his pipe, drew quickly on it. His face, lean and
drawn beneath the flying goggles pushed up on his forehead, sought
mine anxiously.

"I know. I drove her back to the station. That was when--when we
quarreled."

"But why? About Einstein? That's silly."

"She wanted me to give it up here, and go in with her father in his
Wall Street brokerage business. The old gent is willing to take me,
and make a business man of me."

"Why, I couldn't run the business without you, Charlie!"

"We talked about that, Hammond. I don't really do much of the work.
Just play around with the mathematics, and leave the models and
blueprints to you."

"Oh, Charlie, that's not quite--"

"It's the truth, right enough," he said, bitterly. "You design
aircraft, and I play with Einstein. And as you say, a fellow can't eat
equations."

"I'd hate to see you go."

"And I'd hate to give up you, and our business, and the math. Really
no need of it. My tastes are simple enough. And old 'Iron-clad'
Randall has made all one family needs. Virginia's not exactly a
pauper, herself. Two or three millions, I think."

"And where did Virginia go?"

"She took the _Valhalla_ yesterday at San Francisco. Going to join her
father at Panama. He cruises about the world in his steam yacht, you
know, and runs Wall Street by radio. I was to telegraph her if I'd
changed my mind. I decided to stick to you, Hammond. I telegraphed a
corsage of orchids, and sent her the message, 'Einstein forever!'"

"If I know Virginia, those were not very politic words."

"Well, a man--"

       *       *       *       *       *

His words were cut short by a very unusual incident.

A thin, high scream came suddenly from above our neat stuccoed hangars
at the edge of the white field. I looked up quickly, to catch a
glimpse of a bright object hurtling through the air above our heads.
The bellowing scream ended abruptly in a thunderous crash. I felt a
tremor of the ground underfoot.

"What--" I ejaculated.

"Look!" cried Charlie.

He pointed. I looked over the gleaming metal wing of the _Golden
Gull_, to see a huge cloud of white sand rising like a fountain at the
farther side of the level field. Deliberately the column of debris
rose, spread, rained down, leaving a gaping crater in the earth.

"Something fell?"

"It sounded like a shell from a big gun, except that it didn't
explode. Let's get over and see!"

We ran to where the thing had struck, three hundred yards across the
field. We found a great funnel-shaped pit torn in the naked earth. It
was a dozen yards across, fifteen feet deep, and surrounded with a
powdery ring of white sand and pulverized rock.

"Something like a shell-hole," I observed.

"I've got it!" Charlie cried. "It was a meteor!"

"A meteor? So big?"

"Yes. Lucky for us it was no bigger. If it had been like the one that
fell in Siberia a few years ago, or the one that made the Winslow
crater in Arizona--we wouldn't have been talking about it. Probably we
have a chunk of nickel-iron alloy here."

"I'll get some of the men out here with digging tools, and we'll see
what we can find."

Our mechanics were already hurrying across the field. I shouted at
them to bring picks and shovels. In a few minutes five of us were at
work throwing sand and shattered rock out of the pit.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly I noticed a curious thing. A pale bluish mist hung in the
bottom of the pit. It was easily transparent, no denser than tobacco
smoke. Passing my spade through it did not seem to disturb it in the
least.

I rubbed my eyes doubtfully, said to Charlie, "Do you see a sort of
blue haze in the pit?"

He peered. "No. No.... Yes. Yes, I do! Funny thing. Kind of a blue
fog. And the tools cut right through it without moving it! Queer! Must
have something to do with the meteor!" He was very excited.

We dug more eagerly. An hour later we had opened the hole to a depth
of twenty feet. Our shovels were clanging on the gray iron of the rock
from space. The mist had grown thicker as the excavation deepened; we
looked at the stone through a screen of motionless blue fog.

We had found the meteor. There were several queer things about it. The
first man who touched it--a big Swede mechanic named Olson--was
knocked cold as if by a nasty jolt of electricity. It took half an
hour to bring him to consciousness.

As fast as the rugged iron side of the meteorite was uncovered, a
white crust of frost formed over it.

"It was as cold as outer space, nearly at the absolute zero," Charlie
explained. "And it was heated only superficially during its quick
passage through the air. But how it comes to be charged with
electricity--I can't say."

He hurried up to his laboratory behind the hangars, where he had
equipment ranging from an astronomical telescope to a delicate
seismograph. He brought back as much electrical equipment as he could
carry. He had me touch an insulated wire to the frost-covered stone
from space, while he put the other end to one post of a galvanometer.

I think he got a current that wrecked the instrument. At any rate, he
grew very much excited.

"Something queer about that stone!" he cried. "This is the chance of a
lifetime! I don't know that a meteor has ever been scientifically
examined so soon after falling."

       *       *       *       *       *

He hurried us all across to the laboratory. We came back with a truck
load of coils and tubes and batteries and potentiometers and other
assorted equipment. He had men with heavy robber gloves lift the
frost-covered stone to a packing box on a bench. The thing was
irregular in shape, about a foot long; it must have weighed two
hundred pounds. He sent a man racing on a motorcycle to the drug store
to get dry ice (solidified carbon dioxide) to keep the iron stone at
its low temperature.

In a few hours he had a complete laboratory set up around the
meteorite. He worked feverishly in the hot sunshine, reading the
various instruments he had set up, and arranging more. He contrived to
keep the stone cold by packing it in a box of dry ice.

The mechanics stopped for dinner, and I tried to get him to take time
to eat.

"No, Hammond," he said. "This is something big! We were talking about
Einstein. This rock seems energized with a new kind of force: all
meteors are probably the same way, when they first plunge out of
space. I think this will be to relativity what the falling apple is to
gravity. This is a big thing."

He looked up at me, brown eyes flashing.

"This is my chance to make a name, Hammond. If I do something big
enough--Virginia might reconsider her opinion."

Charlie worked steadily through the long hot afternoon. I spent most
of the time helping him, or gazing in fascination at the curious haze
of luminous blue mist that clung like a sphere of azure fog about the
meteoric stone. I did not completely understand what he did; the
reader who wants the details may consult the monograph he is preparing
for the scientific press.

He had the men string up a line from our direct current generator in
the shops, to supply power for his electrical instruments. He mounted
a powerful electromagnet just below the meteorite, and set up an X-ray
tube to bombard it with rays.

       *       *       *       *       *

Night came, and the fire of the white sun faded from the sky. In the
darkness, the curious haze about the stone became luminescent,
distinct, a dim, motionless sphere of blue light. I fancied that I saw
grotesque shapes flashing through it. A ball of blue fire, shimmering
and ghost-like, shrouded the instruments.

Charlie's induction coil buzzed wickedly, with purple fire playing
about the terminals. The X-ray tube flickered with a greenish glow. He
manipulated the rheostat that controlled the current through the
electromagnet, and continued to read his instruments.

"Look at that!" he cried.

The bluish haze about the stone grew brighter; it became a ball of
sapphire flame, five feet thick, bright and motionless. A great sphere
of shimmering azure fire! Wisps of pale, sparkling bluish mist ringed
it. The stone in its box, the X-ray bulb and other apparatus were
hidden. The end of the table stuck oddly from the ball of light.

I heard Charlie move a switch. The hum of the coils changed a note.

The ball of blue fire vanished abruptly. It became a hole, a window in
space!

Through it, we saw another world!

The darkness of the night hung about us. Where the ball had been was a
circle of misty blue flame, five feet across. Through that circle I
could see a vast expanse of blue ocean, running in high, white-capped
rollers, beneath a sky overcast with low gray clouds.

It was no flat picture like a movie screen. The scene had vast depth;
I knew that we were really looking over an infinite expanse of stormy
ocean. It was all perfectly clear, distinct, real!

       *       *       *       *       *

Astounded, I turned to find Charlie standing back and looking into the
ring of blue fire, with a curious mixture of surprise and delighted
satisfaction.

"What--what--" I gasped.

"It's amazing! Wonderful! More than I had dared hope for! The
complete vindication of my theory! If Virginia cares for scientific
reputation--"

"But what is it?"

"It's hard to explain without mathematical language. You might say
that we are looking through a hole in space. The new force in the
meteorite, amplified by the X-rays and the magnetic field, is causing
a distortion of space-time coordinates. You know that a gravitational
field bends light; the light of a star is deflected in passing the
sun. The field of this meteorite bends light through space-time,
through the four-dimensional continuum. That scrap of ocean we can see
may be on the other side of the earth."

I walked around the circle of luminous smoke with the marvelous
picture in the center. It seemed that the window swung with me. I
surveyed the whole angry surface of that slate-gray, storm-beaten sea,
to the misty horizon. Nowhere was it broken by land or ship.

Charlie fell to adjusting his rheostat and switches.

It seemed that the gray ocean moved swiftly beyond the window. Vast
stretches of it raced below our eyes. Faint black stains of steamer
smoke appeared against the blue-gray horizon and swept past. Then land
appeared--a long, green-gray line. We had a flash of a long coast that
unreeled in endless panorama before us. It was such a view as one
might get from a swift airplane--a plane flying thousands of miles per
hour.

The Golden Gate flashed before us, with the familiar skyline of San
Francisco rising on the hills behind it.

"San Francisco!" Charlie cried. "This is the Pacific we've been
seeing. Let's find the _Valhalla_. We might be able to see Virginia!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The coast-line vanished as he manipulated his instruments. Staring
into the circle of shining blue mist, I saw the endless ocean racing
below us again. We picked up a pleasure yacht, running under bare
poles.

"I didn't know there was such a storm on," Charlie murmured.

Other vessels swam past below us, laboring against heavy seas.

Then we looked upon an ocean whipped into mighty white-crowned waves.
Rain beat down in sheets from low dense clouds; vivid violet
lightnings flashed before us. It seemed very strange to see such
lightning and hear not the faintest whisper of thunder--but no sound
came from anything we saw through the blue-rimmed window in space.

"I hope the _Valhalla_ isn't in weather like this!" cried Charlie.

In a few minutes a dark form loomed through the wind-riven mist.
Swiftly it swam nearer; became a black ship.

"Only a tramp," Charlie said, breathing a sigh of relief.

It was a dingy tramp steamer, her superstructure wrecked. Her fires
seemed dead. She lay across the wind, rolling sluggishly, threatening
to sink with every monstrous wave. We saw no living person aboard her;
she seemed a sinking derelict. We made out the name _Roma_ on her
side.

Charlie moved his dials again.

In a few minutes the slender prow of another great steamer came
through the sheets of rain. It was evidently a passenger vessel. She
seemed limping along, half wrecked, with mighty waves breaking over
her rail.

Charlie grew white with alarm. "The _Valhalla_!" he gasped. "And she's
headed straight for that wreck!"

In a moment, as he brought the liner closer below our blue-rimmed
window, I, too, made out the name. The wet, glistening decks were
almost deserted. Here and there a man struggled futilely against the
force of the storm.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a few minutes the drifting wreck of the _Roma_ came into our view,
dead ahead of the limping liner. Through the mist and falling rain,
the derelict could not have been in sight of the lookout of the
passenger vessel until she was almost upon it.

We saw the white burst of steam as the siren was blown. We watched the
desperate effort of the liner to check her way, to come about. But it
was too much for the already crippled ship. Charlie cried out as a
mighty wave drove the _Valhalla_ down upon the sluggishly drifting
wreck.

All the mad scene that ensued was strangely silent. We heard no crash
when the collision occurred; heard no screams or shouts while the mob
of desperate, white-faced passengers were fighting their way to the
deck. The vain struggle to launch the boats was like a silent movie.

One boat was splintered while being lowered. Another, already filled
with passengers, was lifted by a great ware and crushed against the
side of the ship. Only shivered wood and red foam were left. The ship
listed so rapidly that the boats on the lee side were useless. It was
impossible to launch the others in that terrible, lashing sea.

"Virginia can swim." Charlie said hopefully. "You know she tried the
Channel last year, and nearly made it, too."

He stopped to watch that terrible scene in white-faced, anxious
silence.

The tramp went down before the steamer, drawing fragments of wrecked
boats after it. The liner was evidently sinking rapidly. We saw dozens
of hopeless, panic-stricken passengers diving off the lee side, trying
to swim off far enough to avoid the tremendous suction.

Then, with a curious deliberation, the bow of the _Valhalla_ dipped
under green water; her stern rose in the air until the ship stood
almost perpendicular. She slipped quickly down, out of sight.

Only a few swimming humans, and the wrecks of a few boats, were left
on the rough gray sea. Charlie fumbled nervously with his dials,
trying to get the scene near enough so that we could see the identity
of the struggling swimmers.

       *       *       *       *       *

A long boat, which must have been swept below by the suction of the
ship, came plunging above the surface, upside down. It drifted swiftly
among the swimmers, who struggled to reach it. I saw one person,
evidently a girl, grasp it and drag herself upon it. It swept on past
the few others still struggling.

The wrecked boat with the girl upon it seemed coming swiftly toward
our blue-rimmed window. In a few minutes I saw something familiar
about her.

"It's Virginia!" Charlie cried. "God! We've got to save her, somehow!"

The long rollers drove the over-turned boat swiftly along. Virginia
Randall clung desperately to it, deluged in foam, whipped with flying
spray, the wild wind tearing at her.

About us, the clear still night was deepening. The air was warm and
still; the hot stars shone steadily. Quiet lighted houses were in
sight above the beach. It was very strange to look through the
fire-rimmed circle, to see a girl struggling for life, clinging to a
wrecked boat in a stormy sea.

Charlie watched in an apathy of grief and horror, trembling and
speechless doing nothing except move the controls to keep the floating
girl in our sight.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hours went by as we watched. Then Charlie cried out in sudden hope.
"There's a chance! I might do it! I might be able to save her!"

"Might do what?"

"We are able to see what we do because the field of the meteor bends
light through the four-dimensional continuum. The world line of a ray
of light is a geodesic in the continuum. The field I have built
distorts the continuum, so we see rays that originated at a distant
point. Is that clear?"

"Clear as mud!"

"Well, anyhow, if the field were strong enough, we could bring
physical objects through space-time, instead of mere visual images. We
could pick Virginia up and bring her right here to the crater! I'm
sure of it!"

"You mean you could move a girl through some four or five thousand
miles of space!"

"You don't understand. She wouldn't come through space at all, but
through space-time, through the continuum, which is a very different
thing. She is four thousand miles away in our three-dimensional space,
but in space-time, as you see, she is only a few yards away. She is
only a few yards from us in the fourth dimension. If I can increase
the field a little, she will be drawn right through!"

"You're a wizard if you can do it!"

"I've got to do it! She's a fine swimmer--that's the only reason she's
still alive--but she'll never live to reach the shore. Not in a sea
like that!"

Charlie fell to work at once, mounting another electromagnet beside
the one he had set up, and rigging up two more X-ray bulbs beside the
packing box which held the meteor. The motion of the boat in the
fire-rimmed window kept drawing it swiftly away from us, and Charlie
showed me how to move the dial of his rheostat to keep the girl in
view.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before he had completed his arrangements, a patch of white foam came
into view just ahead of the drifting boat. In a moment I made out a
cruel black rock, with the angry sea breaking into fleecy spray upon
it. The boat was almost upon it, driving straight for it. Charlie saw
it, and cried out in horror.

The long black hull of the splintered boat, floating keel upward, was
only a few yards away. A great white-capped breaker lifted it and
hurled it forward, with the girl clinging to it. She drew herself up
and stared in terror at the black rock, while another long surging
roller picked up the boat and swept it forward again.

I stood, paralyzed in horror, while the shattered boat was driven full
upon the great rock. I could imagine the crash of it, but it was all
as still as a silent picture. The boat, riding high on a crest of
white foam, smashed against the rock and was shivered to splinters.
Virginia was hurled forward against the slick wet stone. Desperately
she scrambled to reach the top of the boulder. Her hands slipped on
the polished rock; the wild sea dragged at her. At last she got out of
reach of the angry gray water, though spume still deluged her.

I breathed a sigh of relief, though her position was still far from
enviable.

"Virginia! Virginia! Why did I let you go?" Charlie cried.

Desperately he fell to work again, mounting the magnet and tubes.
Another hour went by, while I watched the shivering girl on the rock.
Bobbed hair, wet and glistening, was plastered close against her head,
and her clothing was torn half off. She looked utterly exhausted; it
seemed to take all her ebbing energy to cling to the rock against the
force of the wind and the waves that dashed against her. She looked
cold, blue and trembling.

The water stood higher.

"The tide is rising!" Charlie exclaimed. "It will cover the rock
pretty soon. If I don't get her off in time--she's lost!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He finished twisting his wires together.

"I've got it all ready," he said. "Now, I've got to find out exactly
where she is, to know how to set it. Even then it's fearfully
uncertain. I hate to try it, but it's the only chance.

"You can find out?"

"Yes. From the spectral shift and other factors. I'll have to get some
other apparatus." He ran up to the laboratory, across the level field
that lay black beneath the stars. He came back, panting, with
spectrometer, terrestrial globe, and other articles.

"The tide is higher!" he cried as he looked through the blue-rimmed
circle at the girl on the rock. "She'll be swept off before long!"

He mounted the spectrometer and fell to work with a will, taking
observations through the telescope, adjusting prisms and diffraction
gratings, reading electrometers and other apparatus, and stopping to
make intricate calculations.

I helped him when I could, or stared through the ring of shining blue
mist, where I could see the waves breaking higher about the exhausted
girl who clung to the rock. Clouds of wind-whipped spray often hid her
from sight. I knew that she would not have the strength to hold on
much longer against the force of the rising sea.

Although driven almost to distraction by the horror of her
predicament, he worked with a cool, swift efficiency. Only the pale,
anxiety-drawn expression on his face showed how great was the strain.
He finished the last spectrometer observation, snatched out a pad and
fell to figuring furiously.

"Something queer here," he said presently, frowning. "A shift of the
spectrum that I can't explain by distortion through three-dimensional
space alone. I don't understand it."

We stared at the chilled and trembling girl on the rock.

"I'm almost afraid to try it. What if something went wrong?"

He turned to the terrestrial globe he had brought down and traced a
line over it. He made a quick calculation on his pad, then made a fine
dot on the globe with the pencil point.

"Here she is. On a rock some miles off Point Eugenia, on the coast of
the Mexican State of Lower California. Most lonely spot in the world.
No chance for a rescue. We must--

"My god!" he screamed in sudden horror. "Look!"

       *       *       *       *       *

I looked through the blue-ringed window and saw the girl. Green water
was surging about her waist. It seemed that each wave almost tore her
off. Then I saw that she was struggling with something. A great
coiling tentacle, black and leathery and glistening, was thrust up
out of the green water. It wavered deliberately through the air and
grasped at the girl. She seemed to scream, though we could hear
nothing. She beat at the monster, weakly, vainly.

"She's gone!" cried Charlie.

"An octopus!" I said. "A giant cuttlefish!"

Virginia made a sudden fierce effort. With a strength that I had not
thought her chilled limbs possessed, she tore away from the dreadful
creature and clambered higher on the rock. But still a hideous black
tentacle clung about her ankle, tugging at her, drawing her back
despite her desperate struggle to break free.

"I've got to try it!" Charlie said, determination flashing in his
eyes. "It's a chance!"

He closed a switch. His new coils sung out above the old one. X-ray
tubes flickered beside the blue fire that ringed the window. He
adjusted his rheostats and closed the circuit through the new magnet.

A curtain of blue flame was drawn quickly between us and the round,
fire-rimmed window. A huge ball of blue fire hung, about the meteorite
and the instruments. For minutes it hung there, while Charlie,
perspiring, worked desperately with the apparatus. Then it expanded;
became huge. It exploded noiselessly, in a great flash of sapphire
flame, then vanished completely.

Meteor, bench, and apparatus were gone!

In the light of the stars we could make out the huge crater the
meteorite had torn, with a few odds and ends of equipment scattered
about it. But all the apparatus Charlie had set up, connected with the
meteoric stone, had disappeared.

He was dumbfounded, staggered with disappointment.

"Virginia! Virginia!" he called out, in a hopeless tone. "No, she
isn't here. It didn't draw her through. I've failed. And we can't even
see her any more!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Desperately I searched for consolation for him.

"Maybe the octopus won't hurt her," I offered. "They say that most of
the stories of their ferocity are somewhat exaggerated."

"If the monster doesn't get her, the tide will!" he said bitterly. "I
made a miserable failure of it! And I don't know why! I can't
understand it!"

Apathetically, he picked up his pad and held it in the light of his
electric lantern.

"Something funny about this equation. The shift of the spectrum lines
can't be accounted for by distortion through space alone."

With wrinkled brow, he stared for many minutes at the bit of paper he
held in the white circle of light. Suddenly he seized a pencil and
figured rapidly.

"I have it! The light was bent through time! I should have recognized
these space-time coordinates."

He calculated again.

"Yes. The scene we saw in that circle of light was distant from us not
only in space but in time. The _Valhalla_ probably hasn't sunk yet at
all. We were looking into the future!"

"But how can that be? Seeing things before they happen!"

I have the profoundest respect for Charlie King's mathematical genius.
But when he said that I was frankly incredulous.

"Space and time are only relative terms. Our material universe is
merely the intersection of tangled world lines of geodesics in a
four-dimensional continuum. Space and time have no meaning
independently of each other. Jeans says. 'A terrestrial astronomer may
reckon that the outburst on Nova Persei occurred a century before the
great fire of London, but an astronomer on the Nova may reckon with
equal accuracy that the great fire occurred a century before the
outburst on the Nova.' The field of this meteorite deflected light
waves so that we saw them earlier, according to our conventional
ideas of time, than they originated. We saw several hours into the
future.

"And the amplified field of the magnet, though strong enough to move
Virginia through space, was not sufficiently powerful to draw her back
to us across time. Yet she must have felt the pull. Some dreadful
thing may have happened. The problem is rather complicated."

       *       *       *       *       *

He lifted his pencil again. In the glow of the little electric lantern
I saw his lean young face tense with the fierce effort of his thought.
His pencil raced across the little pad, setting down symbols that I
could make nothing of.

My own thoughts were racing. Seeing into the future was a rather
revolutionary idea to me. My mind is conservative; I have always been
sceptical of the more fantastic ideas suggested by science. But
Charlie seemed to know what he was talking about. In view of the
marvelous things he had done that night, it seemed hardly fair to
doubt him now. I decided to accept his astounding statement at face
value and to follow the adventure through.

He lifted his pencil and consulted the luminous dial of his wrist
watch.

"We saw that last scene some twelve hours and forty minutes before it
happened--to put it in conventional language. The distortion of the
time coordinates amounted to that."

In the light of dawn--for we had been all night at the meteor pit, and
silver was coming in the east--he looked at me with fierce resolve in
his eyes.

"Hammond, that gives us over twelve hours to get to Virginia!"

"You mean to go? But just twelve hours! That's better than the
transcontinental record--to say nothing of the time it would take to
find a little rock in the Pacific!"

"We have the _Golden Gull_! She's as fast as any ship we've ever
flown."

"But we can't take the _Gull_! Those alterations haven't been made.
And that new engine! A bear-cat for power, but it may go dead any
second. The _Gull_ can fly, but she isn't safe!"

"Safety be damned! I've got to get to Virginia, and get there in the
next twelve hours!"

"The _Gull_ will fly, but--"

"All right. Please help me get off!"

"Help you off? It's a fool thing to do! But if you go, I do!"

"Thanks, Hammond. Awfully!" He gripped my hand. "We've got to make
it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

With a last glance into the gaping pit from which we had dug the
marvelous stone, we turned and ran across to the hangars. As we ran
the sun came above the sea in the east: its first rays struck us like
a fiery lance. The mechanics had not yet appeared. Charlie pushed the
doors back, and we ran out the trim little _Golden Gull_, beautiful
with her slender wing and her graceful, tapering lines.

I seized the starting crank and Charlie sprang into the cockpit. I
cranked until the mechanism was droning dismally, and pulled the lever
that engaged it with the engine. I had been in too much haste to get
up the proper speed, and the powerful new engine failed to fire.
Charlie almost cried with vexation while I was cranking again.

This time the motor coughed and fell into a steady, vibrant roar. With
the wind from the propeller screaming about me, I disengaged the crank
and stood waiting while the motor warmed. Charlie gave it scant time
to do so before he motioned me to kick out the blocks. I tumbled into
the enclosed cockpit beside him, he gave the ship the gun, and we
roared across the field.

In five minutes we were flying west, at a speed just under three
hundred miles per hour. Charlie was crouched over the stick, scanning
the instrument board, and flying the _Gull_ almost at her top speed.
Again and again his eyes went to the little clock on the panel.

"Twelve hours and forty minutes," he said. "And an hour gone already!
We're got to be there by five minutes after six."

We were flying over Louisiana when the oil line clogged. The engine
heated dangerously. Reluctantly, Charlie cut off the ignition, and
fell in a swift spiral to an open field.

"We're got to fix it!" he said. "Another hour gone! And we needed
every minute!"

"This new engine! It's powerful enough, but we should have had time to
overhaul it, and make those changes."

       *       *       *       *       *

Charlie landed with his usual skill, and we fell to work in desperate
haste. A grizzled farmer, a wad of tobacco in his cheek and three
ragged urchins at his heels, stopped to watch us. He had just been to
his mailbox, and had a morning paper in his hand. Charlie questioned
him about the storm.

"Storm-center nears the American coast," he read in a nasal drawl.
"Greatest storm of year drives shipping upon west coast. Six vessels
reported lost. _S. S. Valhalla_, disabled, sends S. O. S.

"A thousand lives are the estimated toll to-night of the most terrific
storm of the year, which is sweeping toward the Pacific coast, driving
all shipping before it. Radiograms from the _Valhalla_ at 5 P. M.
report that she is disabled and in danger. It is doubtful that rescue
vessels can reach her through the storm."

We got the engine repaired, took off again. Charlie looked at the
little clock.

"Five minutes to ten. Eight hours and ten minutes left, and we've got
a darn long ways to go."

We had to stop at San Antonio, Texas, to replenish gasoline and oil.

"Ten minutes lost!" Charlie complained as we took off. "And that
monster--waiting in the future to drag Virginia to a hideous death!"

Two hours later the plane developed trouble in the ignition system.
The motor was new, with several radical changes that we had introduced
to increase power and lessen weight. As I had objected to Charlie, we
had not done enough experimental work on it to perfect it.

       *       *       *       *       *

We limped into the field at El Paso and spent another priceless
half-hour at work. I got some sandwiches at a luncheon counter beside
the field, and listened a moment to a radio loudspeaker there.

"Many thousands are dead," came the crisp, metallic voice of the
announcer, "as a result of the storm now raging on the Pacific coast,
the worst in several years. The storm-center is spending its force on
the coastal regions to-day. Millions of dollars in damage are reported
in cities from San Francisco to Manzanillo, Mexico.

"The greatest disaster of the storm is the loss of the passenger liner
_Valhalla_, of the Red Star Line. It is believed to have collided with
the abandoned hulk of an Italian-owned tramp freighter, the _Roma_,
which was left by its crew yesterday in a sinking condition.
Radiograms from the liner ceased three hours ago, when she was said to
be sinking. The officers doubted that her boats could be launched in
such a sea--"

I waited to hear no more. Charlie checked our route while we were
stopped. And we took off; we crossed the Rio Grande and flew across
the rocky, brush-scattered hills of Mexico, in a direct line for the
rock in the sea.

"If anything happens so we have to land again--well, it's just too
bad," Charlie said grimly. "But we've got to go this way. It's
something over six hundred miles in a straight line. Fifteen minutes
to four, now. We have to average nearly three hundred miles an hour to
get there."

He was silent and intent over his maps and instruments as we flew on
over the lofty Sierra Madre Range, and over a long slope down to the
Gulf of California. Head-winds beset us as we were over the stretch
of blue water, and we flew on into a storm.

"We had hardly time to make it, without the wind against us," Charlie
said. "If it holds us back many miles--well, it just mustn't!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Purple lightning flickered ominously in the mass of blue storm-clouds
that hung above the mountainous peninsula of Lower California. I had a
qualm about flying into it in our untested machine. But Charlie leaned
tensely forward and sent the _Golden Gull_ on at the limit of her
speed. Gray vapor swirled about us, rent with livid streaks of
lightning. Thunder crashed and rumbled above the roar of our racing
engine. Wild winds screeched in the struts; rain and hail beat against
us. The plane rose and fell; she was swirled about like a falling
leaf. The stick struggled in Charlie's hands like a living thing. With
lips tightened to a thin line, he fought silently, fiercely,
desperately.

Suddenly we were sucked down until I had an uneasy feeling at the pit
of my stomach. I saw the grim outline of a bare mountain peak
dangerously close below us, shrouded in wind-whipped mist.

In sudden alarm I shouted, "We'd better get out of this, Charlie! We
can't live in it long!"

In the roar of the storm he did not hear me, and I shouted again.

He turned to face me, after a glance at the clock. "We've less than an
hour, Hammond. We've got to go on!"

I sank back in my seat. The plane rolled and tossed until I thanked my
lucky stars for the safety strap. In nervous anxiety I watched Charlie
bring the ship up again, and fight his way on through the storm. For
an eternity, it seemed, we battled through a chaos of wind-driven
mist, bright with purple lightning and shaken with crashing thunder.

Charlie struggled with the controls until he was dripping with
perspiration. He must have been utterly worn out, after thirty-six
hours of exhausting effort. A dozen times I despaired of life. The
compass had gone to spinning crazily; we dived through the rain until
we could pick up landmarks below. Three times a great bare peak loomed
suddenly up ahead of us, and Charlie averted collision only by zooming
suddenly upward.

Then slate-gray water was beneath us, running in white-crested
mountains. I knew that we were at last out over the Pacific.

"We've passed Point Eugenia," Charlie said. "It can't be far, now. But
we have only fifteen minutes left. Fifteen minutes to get to
her--before the attraction of the meteor jerks her away, perhaps to a
horrible fate."

       *       *       *       *       *

We flew low and fast over the racing waves. Charlie looked over his
charts and made a swift calculation. He changed our course a bit and
we flew on at top speed. We scanned the vast, mad expanse of sea below
the blue-gray clouds. Here and there were lines of white breakers, but
nowhere did we see a rock with a girl upon it. Presently the green
outline of an island appeared out of the wild water on our right.

"That's Del Tiburon," Charlie said. "We missed the rock."

He swung the plane about and we flew south over the hastening waves. I
looked at the little clock. It showed two minutes to six. I turned to
Charlie.

"Seven minutes!" he whispered grimly.

On and on we flew, in a wide circle. The motor roared loud. An endless
expanse of racing waves unreeled below us. The little hand crawled
around the dial. One minute past six. Only four minutes to go.

We saw a speck of white foam on the mad gray water. It was miles away,
almost on the horizon. We plunged toward it, motor bellowing loud.
Five miles a minute we flew. The white fleck became a black rock
smothered in snowy foam. On we swept, and over the rock, with
bullet-like speed.

As we plunged by, I saw Virginia's slender form, tattered,
brine-soaked, straggling in the hideous tentacles of the monster
octopus. It was the same terrible scene that we had viewed, through
the amazing phenomenon of distortion of light through space-time, four
thousand miles away and twelve hours before.

In a few minutes the time would come when Charlie had ended our view
of the scene by his attempt to draw the girl through the fourth
dimension to our apparatus in Florida. What terrible thing might
happen then?

Charlie brought the ship about so quickly that we were flung against
the sides. Down we came toward the mad waves in a swift glide. In
sudden apprehension, I dropped my hand on his shoulder.

"Man, you can't land in a sea like that! It's suicide!"

Without a word, he shook off my hand and continued our steep glide
toward the rock. I drew my breath in apprehension of a crash.

       *       *       *       *       *

I do not blame Charlie for what happened. He is as skilful a pilot as
I know. It was a mad freak of the sea that did the thing.

The gray waste of mountainous, white-crested waves rose swiftly up to
meet us, with the rock with the girl clinging to it just to our right.
The _Golden Gull_ struck the crest of a wave, buried herself in the
foam, and plunged down the long slope to the trough. We rose safely to
the crest of the oncoming roller, and I saw the black outline of the
rock not a dozen yards away.

Charlie had landed with all his skill. It was not his fault that the
blustering wind caught the ship as she reached the crest of the wave
and flung her sidewise toward the rock. It is no fault of his that the
white-capped mountain of racing green water completed what the wind
had begun and hurled the frail plane crashing on the rock.

I have a confused memory of the wild plunge at the mercy of the wave,
of my despair as I realized that we were being wrecked. I must have
been knocked unconscious when we struck. The next I remember I was
opening my eyes to find myself on the rock, Charlie's strong arm on my
shoulder. I was soaked with icy brine and my head was aching from a
heavy blow.

Virginia, shivering and blue, was perched beside us. I could see no
sign of the plane: the mighty sea had swept away what was left of it.
Clinging to the lee side of the rock I saw the black tentacles of the
giant octopus--waiting for a wave to dash us to its mercy.

"All right, Hammond?" Charlie inquired anxiously. "I'm afraid you got
a pretty nasty bump on the head. About all I could do to fish you out
before the _Gull_ was swept away."

       *       *       *       *       *

He helped me to a better position to withstand the force of the great
roller that came plunging down upon us like a moving mountain.
Virginia was in his arms, too exhausted to do more than cling to him.

"What can we do?" I sputtered, shaking water from my head.

"Not a thing! We're in a pretty bad fix, I imagine. In a few seconds
we will feel the attraction of the meteor's field--the force with
which I tried to draw Virginia to the crater through the fourth
dimension. I don't know what will happen; we may be jerked out of
space altogether. And if that doesn't get us, the tide and the octopus
will!"

His voice was drowned in the roar of the coming wave. A mountain of
water deluged us. Half drowned, I clung to the rock against the mad
water.

Then blinding blue light flashed about me. A sharp crash rang in my
ears, like splintering glass. I reeled, and felt myself falling
headlong.

       *       *       *       *       *

I brought up on soft sand.

I sat up, dumbfounded, and opened my eyes. I was sitting on the steep
sandy tide of a conical pit. Charlie and Virginia were sprawled beside
me, looking as astonished as I felt. Charlie got to his knees and
lifted the limp form of the girl in his arms.

Something snapped in my brain. The sand-walled pit was suddenly
familiar. I got to my feet and clambered out of it. I saw that we were
on our own landing field.

Astonishingly, we were back in the meteor crater. Charlie's vanished
apparatus was scattered about us. I saw the gray side of the rough
iron meteorite itself, half-buried in the sand at the bottom of the
pit.

"What--what happened?" I demanded of Charlie.

"Don't you see? Simple enough. I should have thought of it before. The
field of the meteorite brought Virginia--and us--through to this point
in space. But it could not bring us back through time; instead, the
apparatus itself was jerked forward through time. That is why it
vanished. We got here just twelve hours and forty minutes after I
closed the switch, since we had been looking that far into the future.
The mathematical explanation--"

"That's enough for me!" I said hastily. "We better see about a warm,
dry bed for Virginia, and some hot soup or something."

       *       *       *       *       *

Now the rough gray meteorite, in a neat glass case, rests above the
mantel in the library of a beautiful home where I am a frequent guest.
I was there one evening, a few days ago, when Charlie King fell silent
in one of his fits of mathematical speculation.

"Einstein again?" I chaffingly inquired.

He raised his brown eyes and looked at me. "Hammond, since relativity
enabled us to find the Meteor Girl, you ought to be convinced!"

Virginia--whom her husband calls the Meteor Girl--came laughingly to
the rescue.

"Yes, Mr. Hammond, what do you think of Einstein now?"



The Reader's Corner

[Illustration: The Reader's Corner]


_Now--Internationale Scientific Society_

     Dear Editor:

     The genial editor of this "Astounding" publication has
     granted me a few words directed to all readers who may be
     interested.

     The Science Correspondence Club, with the inception of the
     new year, will operate under an entirely new policy, most
     important of which is the change of name to Internationale
     Scientific Society. The archaic and tedious correspondence
     will be a minor consideration in the new policy. Our
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     to latest rocket interplanetary developments. Constant
     improvements on our monthly journal are always sought for.
     Contributors of well-known reputation are: Willy Ley, Earl
     D. Streeter, R. P. Starzl, Robt. A. Wait, Dr. Wm. Tyler
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     of Drake University, Iowa.

     This society is endeavoring to bring the scientific news and
     personal contact to all scientifically inclined laymen of
     the world. Many prominent men in science and Science Fiction
     are honorary members, as is Mr. Bates, Editor of Astounding
     Stories. All information may be obtained from the business
     office at 8834 Michigan Ave., Chicago, Illinois. Thank
     you--Walter L. Dennis, Treas.


_Advice to Advertise_

     Dear Editor:

     Astounding Stories makes me tickle the typewriter keys to
     tell you what I think about your magazine. Is it absolutely
     without a doubt the best magazine on the market, and that
     means something. I have only been acquainted with Astounding
     Stories since May--since then I have had greater pleasure in
     reading them than anything else. To my sad disappointment I
     missed the first four issues, but I've read every story
     since.

     The first story I read was "The Atom Smasher," and I
     considered this very good. The majority of your stories are
     very good. Occasionally a poor one will mix in, but I know
     we all regard this as only a slight error.

     I suggest that it would be to your advantage to advertise
     Astounding Stories more than you do because it was by mere
     accident that I came in contact with it, and it has happened
     to others the same way. You would see the increased number
     of copies sold if you make special advertising a part of
     your business. The reason I suggest this is because I know
     what your future readers are missing if they don't read
     Astounding Stories.

     Here's wishing you success in continuing to publish the best
     stories.--Walter Oathout, 91 College Ave., Troy, New York.


"_Cut That Romantic Stuff_"

     Dear Editor:

     I am accepting your offer to come over to "The Readers'
     Corner," and am coming over in two ways, as you will see by
     my address.

     First of all, I must say that I raise my hat to you and your
     coworkers for having brought out another Science Fiction
     magazine--a real benefaction to readers like myself who
     thrive, as it were, on such stories. I can tell you my eyes
     grew big with delight when I saw the first number--to me--of
     Astounding Stories. Mille mercis. Why don't you try
     publishing a thick Quarterly?

     My favorite authors are A. Hyatt Verrill, J. W. Campbell,
     Jr., Miles J. Breuer, M. D., Captain S. P. Meek, Ray
     Cummings, Arthur J. Berks and Edmond Hamilton. If you get
     stories by these for your magazine it will continue to
     prosper, as they are excellent writers, and the first four
     have fine science in their tales. I have had only three
     copies of Astounding Stories, and the tales I like best are:
     "Vandals of the Stars," the serial "Brigands of the Moon,"
     "Monsters of Moyen"--this was most interesting--"The Ray of
     Madness," "The Soul Snatcher," and "The Jovian Jest." This
     last, though short, I thought to be very good, and it gave
     one furiously to think, too. While I like all kinds of
     Science Fiction, I have a special preference for
     interplanetary and fourth dimension stories.

     Now having handed out one or two bouquets, I am going to
     sling some brickbats. Doggone it, but why don't you cut out
     some of that romantic stuff in your stories? Goodness knows,
     but one has enough of love and the ubiquitous heroine in
     other tales without this sentimentality entering into
     Science Fiction. Indeed, that is the biggest criticism I
     have of Astounding Stories, and I do honestly wish that if
     you have absolutely got to give the stuff you would confine
     it to half the stories. Half and half--that's fair, isn't
     it?

     If you will publish this letter, which I should like you to
     do, it would draw to the notice of the other readers that I
     am always very pleased to correspond with any of them on
     science and science stories.

     Now I'll dry up, wishing you the very best of sincere wishes
     for the continued success of your--or rather "our"--little
     treasure, Astounding Stories.--Glyn Owens, 20, Rugby Rd.,
     Newport, Man., Canada.


_Nossir--No "Half Pints"_

     Dear Editor:

     I have been reading Astounding Stories for some time,
     although this is the first time I have written, and I want
     to say it is one swell mag. I like all of its stories,
     though I like the ones of adventure on other planets and in
     strange lands best. But listen, I don't want any by a few
     half pint authors I know of that write for a few other
     quarter pint magazines. Let's have some more by such as
     Victor Rousseau, Capt. S. P. Meek, Arthur J. Burks, Murry
     Leinster and R. P. Starzl. Also Ray Cummings. Here's to them
     and to the best mag on the market. Remember, no half
     pints.--Boyd Goodman, 2801 Laclede St., Dallas, Texas.


"_Out of Curiosity_"

     Dear Editor:

     Seeing your magazine on the newsstands the other day, I
     purchased it out of curiosity to see whether it was just
     another magazine or something out of the ordinary. Being a
     reader of other Science Fiction magazines, I was surprised
     to see how much better Astounding Stories turned out to be
     than the rest. Ever since that first issue I have been a
     steady reader of "our" magazine.

     I think that one of the best improvements that could be made
     is to cut all the pages even. Wesso sure is a dandy artist.
     Try not to lose him. I, for one, am very much in favor of
     reprints. I think they would very much increase our circle
     of readers.

     Some of your best authors are: S. P. Meek, V. Rousseau, Ray
     Cummings and S. P. Wright. Let's have some more novels by
     those authors, please.--E. F. Hittleman, 3400 Wayne Ave.,
     Bronx, N. Y.


"_Or What Have You?_"

     Dear Editor:

     I've just finished reading the October issue of Astounding
     Stories and am convinced that the magazine is getting better
     and better.

     I'd like to take back what I said in my first letter about
     interplanetary stories being ruled out, because I notice
     they are improving. They seem more realistic and true.

     I like "Jetta of the Lowlands." Something different, don't
     you think? Seems strange to imagine what the ocean bottoms
     might be like.

     And how can "Stolen Brains" help but be good when Captain
     Meek brings his Philo Vance to the rescue--that intelligent
     Dr. Bird. (This may sound like sarcasm, but it's meant to be
     praise.) I always read Dr. Bird first of all.

     "Prisoners on the Electron" is just what I like. Somewhere I
     read a story similar to it--that of life on an electron. I
     don't doubt one bit that there can be life on such minute
     surfaces, which also gives me an idea that the earth may be
     an electron to some gigantic planet which is so large that
     we cannot comprehend its size. Couldn't that be possible?

     I still find that among the contributors there is only one
     girl besides myself. Letters sent to me from readers are all
     from men or boys. Am I so different from other girls? Or
     what have you?--Gertrude Hemken, 5730 So. Ashland Ave.,
     Chicago, Illinois.


_Only Fiction_

     Dear Editor:

     I am writing a second letter criticizing some of the later
     stories you published. I think Astounding Stories is
     steadily improving. In the June issue, "The Moon Master"
     takes first place. Other first place stories are: "The
     Forgotten Planet," (July); "The Second Satellite," (August);
     "Marooned Under the Sea," (Sept); "The Invisible Empire,"
     (Oct).

     I agree with Mr. W. Gelman. You ought to have coupons to
     fill out on reprints and see whether or not the majority
     vote for reprints. I saw a mistake in "Prisoners on the
     Electron." The author states that four months of time passed
     on the electron during fifteen seconds Earth time. That is
     wrong, because electrons revolve several thousand times per
     second around their nucleus or sun, so by the time Karl
     Danzig fished out Aaron and Nanette they would be as old as
     the hills. I would like to know if the story, "Marooned
     Under the Sea," was found near New Zealand or is it just
     fiction? Another thing I want to say is that you have too
     many serials.--Geo. Brandes, 141 South Church St.,
     Schenectady, New York.


_This Is Treason!_

     Dear Editor:

     This is the first time I have written to the "Corner," but I
     wished to call your attention to a story I have just
     finished reading in another magazine--"Skylark Three," by
     Edward E. Smith. I think it is by far better than anything I
     have read in your magazine. I thought you might be able to
     get something on this line.

     Of course, some of the theories are rather far fetched. I
     think this is the best story I have read for years, and hope
     that if Smith writes any more, I will be able to read
     them.--D. R. Guthrie, P. O. Box 23, Copeland, Idaho.


_Announcement_

     Dear Editor:

     Several months ago an announcement was made in this magazine
     concerning The Scienceers, an organization of
     scientifically-minded young men, with headquarters in New
     York City.

     We wish to thank you for publishing this notice, which
     resulted in the acquisition of several new members. We are
     all readers of Astounding Stories, and consider it the
     premier magazine in the Science Fiction field.

     The purpose of our organization, as taken from the
     constitution, is as follows: To promote informal fellowship
     among persons interested in science, and to foster
     discussion and debate on modern discoveries, theories, and
     projects in the realm of science.

     The only requirements for membership in The Scienceers are
     that applicants must be over sixteen years of age, and must
     show a hearty willingness to cooperate with the other
     members in discussing theories, etc., in science.

     The member of the club has the companionship and friendship
     of other persons interested in the same activities. He will
     find a congenial atmosphere upon his arrival and will have a
     wonderful time in helping the club to be bigger and better.
     He will be as well informed on the latest events in science
     as though he were taking a course in it, which in reality he
     will be doing. He will have access to the club's library,
     consisting of several hundred books and magazines on science
     and Science Fiction. In our library are the latest Science
     Fiction books published, such as "Red Snow," by F. W.
     Moxley, "The Monster Men," by E. R. Burroughs and "The World
     Below," by S. Fowler Wright. In our collection we have
     reprints that we feel sure many of our present Science
     Fiction fans have not read. We have a great many scientific
     books and magazines. The club buys regularly Popular
     Science, Popular Mechanics, Science and Invention, and
     others.

     Those who would like to visit the clubroom will be gladly
     received. The clubroom is at 266 E. Van Cortland Ave. Get
     off at Mosholu Parkway station on the Jerome Avenue line.
     Our secretary, Allen Glasser, of 1610 University Ave., New
     York City, will receive all inquiries for information.

     The Scienceers have a branch in Clearwater, Florida, and
     another in Temple, Texas. The former may be reached by
     writing to Mr. Guy Cole, Secretary, Clearwater, Florida, and
     the latter by writing to Mr. Gabriel Kirschner, Box 301,
     Temple, Texas.--Nathan Greenfeld, Librarian, The Scienceers,
     873 Whitlock Ave, New York, N. Y.


"_Abominable," "Rotten," etc._

     Dear Editor:

     I aim for this letter to represent the hardest and reddest
     brickbats imaginably possible, excepting perhaps the first
     paragraph, not counting this prelude (warping).

     I have classified the stories of all issues out so far, and
     the results show that Victor Rousseau, Ray Cummings, Murray
     Leinster, Capt. Meek, Charles W. Diffin, Arthur J. Burks,
     Harl Vincent, S. P. Wright, R. P. Starzl, Edmond Hamilton,
     Miles J. Breuer, M. D., James P. Olsen, Tom Curry, S. W.
     Ellis and Jackson Gee are your most outstanding authors. The
     first seven stand head and shoulders above the other
     authors, though.

     Now for the brickbats. No kiddin'--where is your Editor's
     pride? We want a magazine to be proud of, don't we? Its
     binding is abominable. The edges are terrible: it takes ten
     minutes to find a certain page. The paper itself is
     absolutely rotten. What about the poor readers who want to
     have a Science Fiction library? He wants a magazine that can
     be bound and will look half good. Please put better grade
     paper in your magazine. And for goodness sake, answer in the
     department all questions and inquiries from the readers. Why
     not have a vote on this? I guarantee you that over 90% of
     the votes will want your answers to their personal
     questions. Please answer my request in "The Readers'
     Corner."--Ward Elmore, 3022 Avenue K, Fort Madison, Iowa.


"_Pictures of the Readers_"

     Dear Editor:

     The November Astounding Stories is up to the high standard
     set by previous issues. For first place I nominate "The
     Pirate Planet," which promises to be as good as "Earth, the
     Marauder." The last part of "Jetta of the Lowlands" was a
     fitting conclusion to a great story. "Vagabonds of Space,"
     "The Wall of Death," and "The Gray Plague" are all worthy of
     being ranked with your best stories.

     The cover illustration is one of Wesso's best, if not the
     best. It is a marked improvement over the October one.
     There's also a great improvement in the illustrations inside
     the book, since all except one were drawn by Wesso.

     I heartily approve of the suggestion of Jack Darrow, who
     proposes that you devote a page to your authors. Your
     writers are the outstanding Science Fiction authors of the
     day, and we should like to know something about them. If you
     happen to run out of new authors, you could run the Eves and
     pictures of some of the readers (Mr. Darrow, Mr. Kirschner,
     Mr. Wentzler, etc.), who contribute almost as much material
     as some of your authors. To be serious, though, the above
     make many valuable suggestions, especially Mr. Darrow, with
     whom I agree on almost every point.

     Those persons who said that the small size of Astounding
     Stories was insult to Science Fiction can't complain now.
     After October the majority of the monthly Science Fiction
     magazines will have the small size.

     The controversy over the reprint question seems to be
     getting warm. There are a good many letters on the subject
     in this issue both pro and con. In fact, there were more
     "con" letters in this issue than all the previous issues
     combined. However, the "pros" are more than holding their
     own, and I believe that if a vote was held they would be in
     the majority.--Michael Fogaris, 157 Fourth St., Passaic, N.
     J.


_Prefers More Science_

     Dear Editor:

     The size of Astounding Stories now is O. K. Only it would be
     better if it was thicker than it is, even if you have to
     raise the price five cents. I like the Edgar Rice Burroughs
     stories and wish you would have them in your magazine.

     In the November issue, "The Wall of Death" wasn't any good;
     "The Pirate Planet" was good: "The Destroyer" was fair; "The
     Gray Plague" was very good; "Vagabonds of Space" was
     excellent, but I didn't like the ending. "Jetta of the
     Lowlands" was fair. I don't like the stories by Victor
     Rousseau very much.

     I don't want any reprints and I think you should cut the
     pages even. I wish you would have some true Science Fiction
     stories with more science in them.--Alvin Wasserman, 339 N.
     6th St., Allentown, Pa.


"_Fits Book Case_"

     Dear Editor:

     I have read every issue of Astounding Stories yet produced.
     Keep the magazine the same size, as it conveniently fits in
     a book rack or book case. I like stories on chemistry and
     physics, also stories narrating the exploits of Dr. Bird. I
     think your November issue is the best one yet. My favorite
     story so far is "The Gray Plague." I did not like "Beyond
     the Heaviside Layer." The illustrations are fine. Well, I
     guess it's about time for me to sign off.--Henry Seitz, 1732
     Summerfield St., Brooklyn, N. Y.


_Suggestions from Australia_

     Dear Editor:

     I have accepted your invitation to join "The Readers'
     Corner" and give criticism on your magazine. I will
     criticize the recent stories first, and divide them into
     three classes: good, medium and bad.

     August: "The Lord of Space," "The Second Satellite," "Silver
     Dome," "The Flying City," good. "The Planet of Dread,"
     medium.

     September: "Marooned under the Sea," "The Terrible Tentacles
     of L-472," good. "Problem in Communication," medium. "Murder
     Machine," bad.

     Serials: "Brigands of the Moon," good. "Murder Madness,"
     good, but I don't consider it a suitable story for this type
     of magazine. "Earth, the Marauder," good, but the end was
     too hurried. I wonder why the gnomes of Luar were brought
     into the story; I don't see that they serve any useful
     purpose there.

     There seems to be a hand-rail around the submarines on the
     cover of the April number. If this is so, it is out of
     proportion. And don't you think that such monsters as those
     in "The Moon Master" would need more to eat than just the
     few herbivorous animals that could exist on the fungus
     vegetation?

     I think that your magazine would be much better if printed
     on smoother paper and cut evenly. I am sure that no one
     would mind the extra cost of the book. And why not call "The
     Readers' Corner" something more appropriate, such as the
     "Observatory," or the "Microscope," or something, anyway,
     that deals with science?--P. Leadbeater, Drysdale, Victoria,
     Australia.


_Thanks Very Much_

     Dear Editor:

     I would like to shake hands with Mr. P. Schuyler Miller. He
     has given us such conclusive and unopposable proof for
     reprints in his letter printed in the November issue, that
     there is hardly anything more to be said. All we ask (by
     "we," I mean those thousands of Readers who are eagerly
     waiting for a story of which they have heard so much) is one
     good reprint. That is, one a year. During the year 1930,
     Astounding Stories has published five novels. Can you not
     publish four new novels and one reprint in 1931? It amounts
     to much the same thing.

     Also, there are other magazines which publish Science
     Fiction and these would see to it that the good authors did
     not starve. The bad ones, however, deserve to. Especially
     when some poor misguided Editor accepts their stuff. No, Mr.
     Bates, I am not placing you in that category. The stories
     you publish certainly show that you are not misguided. Quite
     the opposite. At a vote taken among the members of the
     Scienceers last week, the results showed that reprints were
     unanimously wanted. In my opinion, Astounding Stories is
     best fitted for the publishing of reprints because of the
     high standard it has preserved throughout the year of its
     existence.

     I have been directed, Mr. Bates, because of the great work
     you have accomplished in popularizing science through
     Science Fiction, and because of the keen enjoyment you have
     given the Scienceers during 1930, to inform you that you
     have been elected an honorary member of the Scienceers.

     The Scienceers is now taking a vote among all its members to
     find out their favorite stories of 1930. That is, in Science
     Fiction. We want to find the five best serials, and the ten
     best short stories of the year. First returns indicate that
     Astounding Stories captured most of the honors. "Murder
     Madness," "Brigands of the Moon" and "Earth, the Marauder"
     having places among the serials. About six of the ten short
     stories were also published in Astounding Stories.

     I close with best wishes from all Scienceers for a bigger
     and better year for Astounding Stories. Happy
     birthday!--Nathan Greenfeld, President, Scienceers, 873
     Whitlock Avenue, New York, New York.


_Words Are Weak_

     Dear Editor:

     It was a terrible storm!

     The thunder roared; the lightning flashed; the wind howled;
     the tempest beat through the night, bearing on its fleet
     winds of darkness a torrent of driving, splattering rain.
     Splintering darts of lightning crackled through the raging
     storm, their crystalline reflection caught in the driving
     sheets of watery spray; their swift illumination lighting
     but dimly a rocky shore beaten and tossed by black lashing
     waves of the angry ocean. And, upon that ragged,
     element-swept shore, cowered the Searcher.

     He crouched there in the darkness, his muffled figure
     swaying to the fierce tug of the wind and the impact of the
     driving rain. Water ran in streams from his drenched
     clothing. The icy breath of the wind pierced through to his
     soul like so many needles of death. Placing a gaunt, weary
     hand above his brow he strained his vision to pierce out
     into the darkness.

     And suddenly the storm ceased. The rain disappeared with a
     last futile spray, and the dark clouds overhead parted
     sullenly to reveal a cold frozen moon of silver. The
     thousands of tiny aberrations in the tossing wavelets on
     the ocean's bottom sent steely reflection of the moon's
     luminescence in sparkling sheens to the Searcher's eyes. For
     long he hung there motionless, a gaunt shadow peering into
     the distant darkness of the horizon. But abruptly--

     He started. He has sighted an object floating inward upon
     the tide. Running swiftly along the shore, he seized it
     eagerly as it fell to the shore at his feet. With a wild cry
     of exuberant delight he threw himself down upon the sands to
     scan its pages. It was a copy of Astounding Stories! Yes!

     Out of the great ocean of magazine fiction it had come to
     the Searcher's eyes, the magazine supreme--Astounding
     Stories! A magazine which was new, a magazine which
     expressed something new in an entirely different way! A
     thing super-ordinary, it was--a boon to the tired fiction
     reader.

     Yessirree! Something new and in a different way! You bet
     that's what I like, and that's why I halted, hearkened, and
     hastened to the newsstands to buy that new magazine,
     Astounding Stories. New authors!--a breath of delicious
     novelty!--the magazine of to-morrow's romance and the
     super-science thereof! Why, it's almost too good to be true,
     and here am I, ready to take that new mag to hand and make
     it our own.

     Yes, I think we can call it "our" own, for with the
     installation of Astounding Stories comes the new epic of the
     magazine, a magazine which is made by the reader. Sure
     nuff--our wants and whims rule the magazine; so it's surely
     "ours," and I mean possessively!

     So, Readers all, I'm going to take my part of the magazine
     this day and operate on it, no matter what Mr. Bates thinks
     or cares about it. Yes, sir.

     First, I'm creating a new department of a page which prints
     the picture of the most popular author (as voted for by the
     reader) and which gives a brief synopsis of his life. Once
     his picture has been printed, that's enough. Next time a new
     author.

     And then I'm filling that magazine with new "different"
     stories, daring in aspect beyond ordinary Science Fiction,
     more glorious by far than any predecessors.

     And now, the rest of you Readers, what are you going to do
     with your share? As I have said, I am going to do what I
     want with my part even if we have to split up the magazine
     and pass a page all around. There's just a lot of you
     Readers who look at a magazine, and, because it isn't your
     ideal, pass it up and go down the line passing up all the
     magazines. Take it from me, you'll never find your ideal.

     Savvy? The only way to get that ideal is to step in and take
     a hand. Make your ideal! A magazine must be fashioned to the
     reader's wants! The fact is our weapon, and believe me I'm
     beaning Mr. Bates a smacking good one with it. As I said,
     the magazine is ours, and my part in it surely is going to
     be more daring in tone, thought and structure than any
     paltry nowaday Science Fiction! Reach out into the
     imagination, stretch your faintest and most super-ordinary
     scientific hypothesis to its vaguest straining point, and
     produce--

     A real, honest-to-goodness, glorious he-man action magazine
     of Science Fiction!

     I mean it! And that's how my page is gonna be, and I'll bet
     that I have made my page of that future idealistic magazine,
     merely by writing this letter! How about it, Mr. Bates?

     Aren't we all signed up as associate editors for the future
     "ideal magazine?"--Tom Olog, 940--5th St., San Bernardino,
     Calif.


_Right! One on Us_

     Dear Editor:

     I have been following with great interest Ray Cummings'
     latest piece, "Jetta of the Lowlands," which is rather
     unique in its ideas. In a recent issue Mr. Cummings
     explained to his readers that the flyer was made invisible
     by bending the light rays around it. This in itself is quite
     plausible, but when he tells us he could see the land below
     them, and the other flyer, we have to draw a line. It is
     quite plain that if the light is bent away from the hull of
     the flyer that no light will come to the eyes within, and
     that the invisibility will be more of a hindrance than an
     advantage. However, it was a good story and we know that
     authors cannot be perfect any more than ordinary humans can.

     I am wishing you the best of luck for your second year,
     which you will soon enter!--W. Johnston, New York City.


_A Riddle_

     Dear Editor:

     I have only read two issues of Astounding Stories. These two
     have determined me to continue reading A. S. until I grow
     broke or give up my ghost.

     The only brickbats that you are going to get are: Use a
     better grade of paper and bind the magazines more securely.
     Your stories are O. K. In fact there is only one story in
     the two issues (October and November), that I did not give a
     darn about, and that was "The Extra Man," by Jackson Gee.

     As I have been a reader of Science Fiction for the past four
     years I think that I know a little about a good story when I
     read one.

     And last but not least, I have a riddle to ask you.

     Question: What is the difference between an egg and a copy
     of Astounding Stories?

     Answer: When an egg falls it busts. But when a copy of
     Astounding Stories falls only the cover comes off.

     A steady reader from now on.--Edward Anderson, 929 S.
     Westlake Ave., Los Angeles, Calif.


"_High Literary Quality_"

     Dear Editor:

     Just a few words to express my appreciation of the
     consistently high standard of stories which have so far
     appeared in Astounding Stories. I was mainly inspired to
     write to you by those two fine stories, "Brigands of the
     Moon," by Ray Cummings and "Murder Madness," by Murray
     Leinster. The former was one of the year's best
     interplanetary stories, and the latter a very fine adventure
     yarn. As well as being of scientific interest, these stories
     held my interest to the end by reason of their high literary
     quality and the fact that they did not lack excitement. I am
     afraid that these two qualities are lacking in a large
     number of Science Fiction stories. I would suggest that you
     accept these stories as a standard for the magazine.--A. M.
     D. Pender, 201, Red Lion Road, Tolworth, Surbiton, Surrey,
     England.


_Expert Testimony_

     Dear Editor:

     We had quite a little discussion at a recent meeting of The
     Scienceers as to why all of us consider Astounding Stories
     the best Science Fiction magazine printed to-day. One reason
     to which all of us agreed was your endless variety of good
     continued stories. They always have a new twist about them.
     I read a number of Science Fiction magazines each month.
     None of them comes anywhere near Astounding Stories as to
     the quality of the stories printed. On both long and short
     stories they rank way below the Astounding standard.

     Your best writer is Ray Cummings, with Harl Vincent and R.
     F. Starzl close behind. I consider "Vagabonds of space," by
     Harl Vincent, as the best story I have read so far. Ask Mr.
     Vincent to give us a sequel.--Herbert Smith, Sec.,
     Scienceers, 2791 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York City.


"_Heads My List_"

     Dear Editor:

     I'm accepting your kind invitation to come over to "The
     Readers' Corner" and express my opinion of your magazine.

     I like it immensely. I read all the Science Fiction I can,
     and your magazine heads my list. I think the serial "The
     Pirate Planet," is as interesting a story as any I've read.
     Astounding Stories improves with every issue.--Dorothea
     Cutler, P.O. Box 122, Mesa, Arizona.


_Two Problems_

     Dear Editor:

     My last letter was entirely commendatory, but this time I am
     losing the full force of my critical powers (?) on the story
     "Marooned Under the Sea," by Paul Ernst. In this story the
     characters descend to the depths of the ocean by means of a
     large glass sphere. Mr. Ernst mentions the terrific strain
     on the supporting cable caused by the weight of the sphere.
     He quite overlooks the fact that it would float. As a matter
     of fact the sphere, not counting its contents, weighs about
     3,511,520 lbs.--less than an equal amount of water. Hard to
     believe, but true, as the figures show. The formula for the
     volume of a sphere is V equals pi 1/2 diameter cubed. It is
     a pretty little problem. Also, there was no need to break
     the helmets of the Quabos, since the hoses could be cut with
     an ax. However, it was a fine story. Let's have more like
     it.

     Here is another problem. X equals wonderful. Y equals
     superb. Z equals marvelous. XYZ equals Astounding Stories.
     Yes? No?

     You are getting many requests to change your size. Don't do
     it. As it is now, it is just the size to carry conveniently,
     or put in your pocket. It is easier to read, too. Don't
     change your grade of paper, either. Glazed paper is hard on
     the eyes. I join my fervent prayers to those who wish the
     edges cut smooth, however. It is hard to turn to the page
     you want, with the deckle edge you now have.

     "Earth, the Marauder" was wonderful. Too bad it wasn't
     longer. "The Pirate Planet" is fine. Dr. Bird is keeping up
     the good work. Some of his stories are a bit far-fetched,
     but that is no drawback.

     I notice that some authors repeat themselves. I read
     "Brigands of the Moon," by Cummings, and also his story,
     "Tarrano the Conqueror." The weapons used in both stories
     are identical--Hugh M. Gilmore, 11307 N. Orange Drive,
     Hollywood, California.


_Concerning "Indisputable Data"_

     Dear Editor:

     From the time Astounding Stories first made its debut, I
     have been a rabid and enthusiastic reader of your excellent
     publication. As yet, I have never missed an issue, and only
     a physical incapability could compel me to. The unlimited
     amount of pleasure derived from your magazine is beyond
     compensation. Your selections are varied, interesting and
     based on cold, scientific logic, barring minor
     discrepancies. My whole-hearted approval, commendation and
     good wishes go to you for your remarkably fine work.
     Continue along the lines you are now pursuing, and I feel
     assured your magazine will outrival all others in
     circulation, as it already does in literature.

     Perhaps I have been a trifle flowery, but I also have a
     criticism to make. Why do these skeptical and scientifically
     disposed critics continue to waste your valuable time
     picking scientific flaws in various stories? Some of the
     amateur experts' opinions really serve as a comic sequel
     after a night of interesting reading. If they would only
     stop to realize that some of their most indisputable data is
     merely hypothesis, the criticisms might be more lenient.

     I am certainly enjoying "The Pirate Planet," by Charles W.
     Diffin, in the current issue. It is exceptionally
     well-written, and I am looking forward to more work by his
     pen. Other stories of merit are "Gray Denim," by Harl
     Vincent and "Slaves of the Dust," by S. W. Ellis.

     Well, I guess I've unburdened myself enough for one evening.
     I give you many thanks for hours of enjoyable recreation,
     and wish everlasting success to your illustrious magazine
     and the personnel that makes it possible.--Mortimer
     Weisinger, 266 Van Cortland Ave., Bronx, N. Y.


_A Letter from England_

     Dear Editor:

     You will no doubt be surprised at receiving a letter of
     appreciation of your really stunning magazine from England.
     And here let me say as an aside, that I think Americans are
     very fortunate in having publishing concerns who are not
     afraid of publishing a modern book like Astounding Stories.
     In England I am considered abnormal minded because of my
     fondness for Science Fiction. We have nothing like it in our
     bookshops, where the stereotyped thriller and prosaic life
     and adventure novels are popular to the majority of English
     Readers.

     Unfortunately, my file is incomplete by the June, July,
     August and September issues. My only kick is that "Brigands
     of the Moon" remains unfinished for me; and "Murder Madness"
     whetted my palate for more. Still I am happy to be now in
     regular contact with the mag and hope for more stories like
     the above. Now for my only brickbat. Of all the stories I
     have read, "The Wall of Death" is the only one I dislike;
     and the worst of it is that it was written by Victor
     Rousseau, who is one of my favorite authors. The story is
     horribly reminiscent of the old Greek myth of the Minotaur,
     which it resembles in many phases. Still, this is an
     exception that proves Victor Rousseau's stories to be of
     high average value. And I shall expect to see more of him.

     As regards bouquets, I can only say that each succeeding
     magazine is more astounding, more wonderful and of better
     value than the last. Of your authors I class as favorites S.
     P. Meek, C. W. Diffin, Murray Leinster, Harl Vincent, Ray
     Cummings and S. P. Wright among others, not forgetting
     Victor Rousseau. In the current edition I think "The Pirate
     Planet" is going strong; and "Gray Denim" is a peach of a
     story, as is also "The Ape-Men of Xloti." I like
     extra-dimensional stories of which I see you have one in
     your next issue, so roll on, January! I should like to see
     Astounding Stories printed more often, or else have a
     brother mag. The mag itself stands pat as it is, and more
     power to your authors' elbows! You will please excuse my bad
     penmanship, but since the war, in which I served throughout,
     I cannot altogether control the nerves of my right hand when
     writing.

     I wish you a prosperous future with Astounding Stories!--Leo
     Greenhill, 5 Market Terrace, St. Leonards on Sea, Sussex,
     England.


"_At Last It's Come_"

     Dear Editor:

     I have read all the issues of your magazine from the July
     issue to the December, and it sure fills a long felt need in
     Science Fiction. Ever since I knew what an atom was I've
     been longing for just such a mag, and at last it's come. You
     sure deserve credit, and lots of it. You were better at the
     very start than your competitors ever will be, and that's
     saying a lot, as they're pretty good. By the way, you may
     have noticed that one of them has come down to your size and
     price since your mag came out. That's proof against big
     mags. They're awful. However, I would not mind an Astounding
     Stories quarterly, and I'd gladly pay fifty cents for one.
     As to reprints, I'm in favor of them. I think a story by
     Edgar Rice Burroughs running in your mag each month would
     make it just about perfect.

     As to your authors and stories, they're good as a general
     rule; however, you've made some pretty bad slips at times,
     such as "The Invisible Death," by Victor Rousseau, "The Wall
     of Death," by the same man, "Slaves of the Dust," "Gray
     Denim" and "The Ape-Men of Xloti." In fact, the December
     issue was pretty poor for you. I hope you make up for it
     next month.

     When it comes to artists I think that Wesso takes the cake,
     especially in drawing machinery, etc. However, Gould is good
     on people and inanimate things, and I don't think you should
     drop him as many seem to wish. I like Wesso's covers very
     much, and I don't think they are too gaudy for a magazine
     like yours.

     I like nearly all Science Fiction stories if they are
     written well, but especially I lean toward interplanetary,
     atomic adventure and prehistoric stories. I do not care so
     much for murders, wars, mind control, etc. I notice that you
     have never printed a story of prehistoric conditions
     existing at present on some part of the earth or universe,
     and I would like to see one of this type. I like serials
     only if they do not get boresome; and a lot of them do. That
     is the trouble. I think that the love interest in your
     stories is a good point, and should be encouraged in your
     authors. And I also think there should be more
     interplanetary friendship than hatred, and that the heroes
     should fight beasts rather than men, as a rule, in your
     stories.

     Just one more thing before I close. I think that Astounding
     Stories should have more than one department. I would like
     to see a list of scientific terms defined each month; a
     department for answering scientific questions; and some kind
     of fraternity of Science Fiction Readers with membership
     cards, some kind of emblems, and possibly an entrance test
     of some kind. Seriously, now, why not consider this and take
     up a vote among your Readers to see what they think? You
     could cut down on "The Readers' Corner" for them without
     using much more space, or you could enlarge the mag a
     little. What say?

     Well, I'm about out of Z-ray so I guess I'll come back to
     earth and refuel with the January issue, which will be out
     soon. So long and good luck.--Frank Missman, Jr., V. E. R.
     (Very Enthusiastic Reader), 739 N. Alexandria, Los Angeles,
     Calif.


_Gr-r-r--She's Mad!_

     Dear Editor:

     Gr-r-r, now I am mad! I do wish that people who want a
     regular instruction book of a magazine would kindly refrain
     from spending their valuable pennies on ours.

     And if Mr. Johnston of Newark believes us who like A. S. to
     be morons, why let's be morons! for when ignorance is bliss,
     'tis folly to be wise. I'd like to inform this highly
     intelligent person that our mag is dealing with pure Science
     Fiction, and why should any author go into detail describing
     how cities are made to float and why invisible cloaks are
     invisible? Why, if every paragraph were broken off to let us
     know how this or that is possible, I'm sure we'd all be
     yawning and nodding over the magazine, and finally discard
     it entirely in search of something more to our liking!

     Why waste your time, Mr. Johnston, telling us you don't like
     A. S.? Just don't purchase it, if it isn't to your liking.
     We're satisfied with what we have.

     What if the stories are like fairy tales? Isn't all fiction
     more or less of a fairy tale? I want Mr. Johnston to get
     this point: what we want is fiction, pure Science Fiction
     and not instructions. We read A. S. as a pleasure. We do not
     have to be scientists just because we are interested in
     science!

     "The Wall of Death" was grand. It's somewhat terrorizing and
     gruesome, but I get a big "kick" out of such horrors.
     However, I hope nothing like that would ever happen, 'cause
     I'm 18 years old, and I'd be among the first ones to be
     chosen for those mad half-human jelly-fishes, without a
     doubt.

     I shudder to think that meteors could be hurled from one
     planet to another and then have some kind of machine, with
     people in it, on the inside of the meteor. But the hero of
     "The Gray Plague" surely proved himself a hero, in spite of
     his handicap. I relish the idea of that Venusian instrument,
     by which one can learn all from another within a few
     minutes. Something for our students who cannot seem to learn
     anything.

     Here's one point that I don't like: Why are all those
     invaders from other planets hostile? Why can't they go on an
     exploring expedition to our Earth? C'm'on, you Authors--get
     busy!

     "The Pirate Planet" has me all hot and bothered, and my
     brain in a muddle how any craft of such dimension can move
     through space with such speed. As the story has just
     started, I can't say much about it, but here's hoping the
     captured hero conquers the hostile invaders and comes home
     with bells on and colors flying, as all good stories should
     end.

     That Sargasso Sea, in "Vagabonds of Space," reminds me of a
     Halloween ghost. And it was just as bad as a ghost, too.
     After having been scattered once, it just coolly collects
     itself into twice its size. Br-r-r--that gives me the
     chills. Howsoever, nevertheless, be that as it may, I will
     say that I liked it so much that I'm asking for more like
     it.

     Another word to ye Authors: Please do not always have the
     girls in your stories such sweet little bundles of humanity.
     Aren't there any tall girls in your imaginations? Please
     give us tall girls a break once in a while. It makes me feel
     better. Thanks.--Gertrude Hemken, 5730 So. Oshland Ave.,
     Chicago, Ill.


"_Also Amazed ... But--_"

     Dear Editor:

     Since my good friend, Forrest Ackerman has undertaken to
     suggest an author whose works would be enjoyed by your
     readers, I will add two more to your "should have" list.
     They are Francis Flagg, an author who is freely engraved in
     the minds of all Science Fiction lovers as a genius at
     writing time-traveling and dimensional stories, and Jack
     Williamson, a shark for new plots and inventions and one who
     knows how to put romance into a story.

     Although I doubt whether the Editor himself can secure
     stories from these two famed authors, (Wrong! At this time
     we have two or three stories by Jack Williamson waiting
     their turn to be published!--Ed.) I hope they may see our
     wants and favor us with a tale in the near future.

     I agree with George E. Addison in that Miles J. Bruer is a
     "wow" in other magazines, but I emphatically disagree in
     that he does not belong in Astounding Stories. Maybe "A
     Problem in Communication" wasn't as good as some others he
     has written, but do you think he will honor us with a real
     good story if he, himself, gets such a welcome as Mr.
     Addison gave him? If you have faith in "the good old Doc," I
     am sure he will feel encouraged and consequently be spurred
     to greater heights.

     As for Mr. C. E. Bush: I am also amazed by some of the
     letters in "The Readers' Corner," but not from those who
     take their literature too seriously. Rather, from those who
     write letters such as his. If he doesn't care whether a
     story is scientifically possible or not, why, then, doesn't
     he read Anderson's Fairy Tales or some of the Oz books?--Jim
     H. Nicolson, 40 Lunado Way, San Francisco, Calif.


"_Shrewd," Yet Somehow Obtuse!_

     Dear Editor:

     I like your magazine. By this, I do not mean that it is the
     best Science Fiction periodical, for it assuredly is not;
     but it is the most reliable. I am sure when I pick up your
     magazine that I shall find therein consistently interesting
     stories. I have yet to find a story that failed to hold my
     attention; on the other hand, I have yet to find a
     masterpiece. Of all the Editors, you have shown yourself the
     shrewdest judge of public taste, but also the least
     interested in the advancement of Science Fiction.

     Your authors are among the leading lights in Science
     Fiction; yet, strangely, the days when they submit their
     offerings to Astounding Stories seem to be "off days." Not
     one of them has given us a story to equal his best for the
     other magazines. For instance, Ray Cummings has yet to write
     a story for you as entertaining as "The Girl in the Golden
     Atom" or his others. Speaking of Cummings, I wish he would
     take a course in grammar. His grammatical atrocities--such
     as sentences without predicates--are eye-wracking.

     The main purpose of this letter, however, is to offer a
     fervent plea for reprints. I am unalterably opposed to your
     short-sighted policy in regard to the reprinting of old
     Science Fiction tales long out of print. You made an utterly
     asinine statement when you declared that 99 per cent of your
     readers have already read these classics. [We did not say
     that. We said: "Would it be fair to 99 per cent of our
     Readers to force on them reprint novels they have already
     read, or had a chance to read?"--Ed.] I am willing to wager
     that the percentage is nearer 10 per cent. For instance, can
     a baby read magazines? You seem to grant them this strange
     ability.

     Most of the stories that should be reprinted were published
     from eight to fifteen years ago, in one other magazine. That
     automatically excludes all those who have not been constant
     Readers of that one magazine. In the second place, the
     average Reader of your magazine is under twenty-one (I am
     eighteen myself). When the science classics were published,
     we were anywhere from four to ten years of age. In the third
     place, relatively few of these stories were published in
     book form, and these few have for years been out of print.
     Try to buy "The Moon Pool," the greatest Science Fiction
     story ever written, in book form. In the fourth place, even
     those who were old enough to understand them did not become
     interested in Science Fiction until several years ago. In
     the fifth place, the few who have read them--and they are
     very few--would welcome the chance to re-read them. In the
     sixth place, and this is the most important reason of all,
     not one of the stories you have published is worth
     re-reading, or is even a sixteenth as good as some of the
     old stories.

     Take a sporting offer. If you don't, I won't think much of
     you. Publish just one of the Science Fiction classics,
     preferably A. Merritt's "Through the Dragon Class," which so
     many of your Readers have clamored for and see how
     gratifying is its reception. If it does receive their
     acclaim, you could reprint one story in each issue.--J.
     Vernon Shea, Jr., 1140 N. Negley Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa.


"_Right Formula_"

     Dear Editor:

     I have been a satisfied and silent reader of your magazine,
     and while I'm still satisfied, I wish to break my silence.

     A letter by C.E. Bush, of Decatur, Ark., in the January
     issue has caught my attention. Miss Bush apparently does not
     care whether the stories contain science or not. I believe
     she wants the author to leave out the scientific
     explanations of the various machines and forces used in the
     story. To me, an "improbable" story is much more interesting
     if the author succeeds in making it seem perfectly
     plausible. The author needs to give technical explanations
     now and then to do this; and a good author can weave these
     facts into the fiction in such a manner that they are not
     dry.

     For some reason, the letter by M. Clifford Johnston, of
     Newark, N. J., antagonizes me. I am willing to admit that
     there are--or were--one or two stories that showed a
     definite lack of scientific explanation in certain parts,
     yet I do not believe that all the issues can be condemned
     because of these few stories. Mr. Johnston is apparently the
     opposite of Miss Bush. He, from the "sound" of his letter,
     revels in scientific explanations. On the whole I've enjoyed
     practically every story, and am thankful to you for your
     magazine. I believe that most of the authors have found the
     right formula for mixing their explanations with the story
     so that such technical discussions are complete without
     being dry.

     I enjoy the novelettes more than either the short stories or
     the serials. The serials are all right, but a month is too
     long to let the hero or heroine suffer. Imagine how WE
     suffer, too, from the suspense!

     If either Miss Bush or Mr. Johnston feel that they have been
     misunderstood and wronged in any way I shall be glad to
     either apologize or vindicate myself in a personal letter to
     them.

     May Astounding Stories continue to improve!--Ben Smith, Box
     1542, Butte, Montana.


_Fiction's the Thing!_

     Dear Editor:

     Hurrah for Mr. Lorenzo's letter in January's "The Readers'
     Corner"! For a half year already, all other Science Fiction
     magazines have had to struggle along without my patronage,
     also. For the same reason as Mr. Lorenzo gives, I want to
     heartily congratulate you, Mr. Editor, on your magazine.

     I have read Science Fiction stories since the first magazine
     of its kind ever appeared in print. They started out good,
     but in the last few years have utterly degenerated into a
     collection of dry, drawn-out lectures.

     Also, C. E. Bush's letter should be rated as 100 per cent
     correct. We want FICTION mixed with some science, and above
     all a good plot and lots of action; and if your authors feel
     so inclined, let them weave a romance into the stories, too.
     "We read stories to be amused, not for technical
     information." I am a radio operator, but I wouldn't think of
     reading a story for information on the latest transmitter
     design.

     Mr. Editor, your choice of authors is par excellence. I
     can't too highly emphasize this, because we don't want the
     authors who write for other Science Fiction magazines. Why?
     Because they can't even write a story that has a semblance
     of coherence or plot to it, and never any action. If you
     should ever use any of these writers, I shall give up
     Science Fiction altogether. Please, Mr. Editor, continue to
     run Astounding Stories yourself, and don't heed the request
     of a minority who want dead authors to write dead stories in
     our magazine.

     "The Pirate Planet" is the fastest moving, best written
     interplanetary story I have ever read, and I've read scores.
     C. W. Diffin surpasses himself. "Vagabonds of Space" was
     great. Isn't a sequel possible?

     I have your January issue before me, and although I haven't
     read it yet, I'm delighted to see Murray Leinster with us
     again. He's excellent. I can't figure out how you can afford
     so many top-notch authors in each issue, but keep it up,
     because it's the life of your magazine. As Mr. Addison says
     in his letter, "Why ruin a truly great magazine by catering
     to a misguided minority?" and printing flops by cheap
     writers, who are ruining other Science Fiction magazines?

     Forgive me for so much repetition, Mr. Editor; run your
     magazine "as is" and I'll continue to be an interested
     reader.--P.C. Favre, 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y.


_For Blushers_

     Dear Editor:

     I noticed in a letter in the December number of Astounding
     Stories that one of your Readers thinks your covers too
     gaudy. In fact, he blushes when he buys it. If he feels that
     way about it, why doesn't he subscribe to it and take the
     cover off when he reads it? I believe that the majority of
     your Readers like your covers and illustrations, and are not
     afraid to let people see them reading Astounding Stories.

     I wish that you could have a long novelette like "The
     Ape-Men of Xloti" in every issue of "our" magazine. The
     longer stories are most always the more interesting. That is
     one of the reasons why I like book-length serials.

     Why should Five-Novels Monthly get all the breaks? I am sure
     that you as the Editor of "our" magazine think Astounding
     Stories the best magazine published by Mr. Clayton. I should
     think that you would like to see it published in as good an
     edition as F. N. M. I am pretty sure that the majority of
     your Readers would not mind paying five cents more for many
     more pages of fiction, smooth-cut edges, and a better grade
     of paper.--Jack Darrow, 4225 N. Spaulding Avenue, Chicago,
     Illinois.


"_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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