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Title: Astounding Stories, May, 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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Astounding Stories, May, 1931" ***

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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. VI, No. 2            CONTENTS            MAY, 1931


COVER DESIGN                  H. W. WESSO

    _Painted in  Water-Colors from a Scene in "Dark Moon._"


DARK MOON                     CHARLES W. DIFFIN        148

    _Mysterious, Dark, Out of the Unknown Deep Comes a New Satellite to
     Lure Three Courageous Earthlings on to Strange Adventure._
     (_A Complete Novelette._)


WHEN CAVERNS YAWNED           CAPTAIN S. P. MEEK       198

    _Only Dr. Bird's Super-Scientific Sleuthing Stands in the Way of
     Ivan Sarnoff's Latest Attempt at Wholesale Destruction._


THE EXILE OF TIME             RAY CUMMINGS             216

    _Young Lovers of Three Eras Are Swept down the Torrent of the Sinister
     Cripple Tugh's Frightful Vengeance._ (Part Two of a Four-Part Novel.)


WHEN THE MOON TURNED GREEN    HAL K. WELLS             241

    _Outside His Laboratory Bruce Dixon Finds a World of Living Dead
     Men--and Above, in the Sky, Shines a Weird Green Moon._


THE DEATH-CLOUD               NAT SCHACHNER AND
                              ARTHUR L. ZAGAT          256

    _The Epic Exploit of One Who Worked in the Dark and Alone, Behind
     the Enemy Lines, in the Great Last War._


THE READERS' CORNER           ALL OF US                276

    _A Meeting Place for Readers of Astounding Stories._


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

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

       *       *       *       *       *



Dark Moon

A COMPLETE NOVELETTE

_By Charles W. Diffin_

CHAPTER I

_There Comes a New World_

[Illustration: _Behind them a red ship was falling--falling free!_]

[Sidenote: Mysterious, dark, out of the unknown deep comes a new
satellite to lure three courageous Earthlings on to strange
adventures.]


The one hundred and fifty-ninth floor of the great Transportation
Building allowed one standing at a window to look down upon the roofs
of the countless buildings that were New York.

Flat-decked, all of them; busy places of hangars and machine shops and
strange aircraft, large and small, that rose vertically under the lift
of flashing helicopters.

The air was alive and vibrant with directed streams of stubby-winged
shapes that drove swiftly on their way, with only a wisp of vapor from
their funnel-shaped sterns to mark the continuous explosion that
propelled them. Here and there were those that entered a shaft of
pale-blue light that somehow outshone the sun. It marked an ascending
area, and there ships canted swiftly, swung their blunt noses upward,
and vanished, to the upper levels.

A mile and more away, in a great shaft of green light from which all
other craft kept clear, a tremendous shape was dropping. Her hull of
silver was striped with a broad red band; her multiple helicopters
were dazzling flashes in the sunlight. The countless dots that were
portholes and the larger observation ports must have held numberless
eager faces, for the Oriental Express served a cosmopolitan passenger
list.

But Walter Harkness, standing at the window, stared out from troubled,
frowning eyes that saw nothing of the kaleidoscopic scene. His back
was turned to the group of people in the room, and he had no thought
of wonders that were prosaic, nor of passengers, eager or blase; his
thoughts were only of freight and of the acres of flat roofs far in
the distance where alternate flashes of color marked the descending
area for fast freighters of the air. And in his mind he could see what
his eyes could not discern--the markings on those roofs that were
enormous landing fields: Harkness Terminals, New York.

       *       *       *       *       *

Only twenty-four, Walt Harkness--owner now of Harkness, Incorporated.
Dark hair that curled slightly as it left his forehead; eyes that were
taking on the intent, straightforward look that had been his father's
and that went straight to the heart of a business proposal with
disconcerting directness. But the lips were not set in the hard lines
that had marked Harkness Senior; they could still curve into boyish
pleasure to mark the enthusiasm that was his.

He was not typically the man of business in his dress. His broad
shoulders seemed slender in the loose blouse of blue silk; a narrow
scarf of brilliant color was loosely tied; the close, full-length
cream-colored trousers were supported by a belt of woven metal, while
his shoes were of the coarse-mesh fabric that the latest mode
demanded.

He turned now at the sound of Warrington's voice. E. B. Warrington,
Counsellor at Law, was the name that glowed softly on the door of
this spacious office, and Warrington's gray head was nodding as he
dated and indexed a document.

"June twentieth, nineteen seventy-three," he repeated; "a lucky day
for you, Walter. Inside of ten years this land will be worth double
the fifty million you are paying--and it is worth more than that to
you."

He turned and handed a document to a heavy-bodied man across from him.
"Here is your copy, Herr Schwartzmann," he said. The man pocketed the
paper with a smile of satisfaction thinly concealed on his dark face.

       *       *       *       *       *

Harkness did not reply. He found little pleasure in the look on
Schwartzmann's face, and his glance passed on to a fourth man who sat
quietly at one side of the room.

Young, his tanned face made bronze by contrast with his close-curling
blond hair, there was no need of the emblem on his blouse to mark him
as of the flying service. Beside the spread wings was the triple star
of a master pilot of the world; it carried Chet Bullard past all
earth's air patrols and gave him the freedom of every level.

Beside him a girl was seated. She rose quickly now and came toward
Harkness with outstretched hand. And Harkness found time in the
instant of her coming to admire her grace of movement, and the
carriage that was almost stately.

The mannish attire of a woman of business seemed almost a discordant
note; he did not realize that the hard simplicity of her costume had
been saved by the soft warmth of its color, and by an indefinable,
flowing line in the jacket above the rippling folds of an undergarment
that gathered smoothly at her knees. He knew only that she made a
lovely picture, surprisingly appealing, and that her smile was a
compensation for the less pleasing visage of her companion,
Schwartzmann.

"Mademoiselle Vernier," Herr Schwartzmann had introduced her when they
came. And he had used her given name as he added: "Mademoiselle Diane
is somewhat interested in our projects."

She was echoing Warrington's words as she took Harkness' hand in a
friendly grasp. "I hope, indeed, that it is the lucky day for you,
Monsieur. Our modern transportation--it is so marvelous, and I know so
little of it. But I am learning. I shall think of you as developing
your so-splendid properties wonderfully."

       *       *       *       *       *

Only when she and Schwartzmann were gone did Harkness answer his
counsellor's remark. The steady Harkness eyes were again wrinkled
about with puckering lines; the shoulders seemed not so square as
usual.

"Lucky?" he said. "I hope you're right. You were Father's attorney for
twenty years--your judgment ought to be good; and mine is not entirely
worthless.

"Yes, it is a good deal we have made--of course it is!--it bears every
analysis. We need that land if we are to expand as we must, and the
banks will carry me for the twenty million I can't swing. But,
confound it, Warrington, I've had a hunch--and I've gone against it.
Schwartzmann has tied me up for ready cash, and he represents the
biggest competitors we have. They're planning something--but we need
the land.... Oh, well, I've signed up; the property is mine; but...."

The counsellor laughed. "You need a change," he said; "I never knew
you to worry before. Why don't you jump on the China Mail this
afternoon; it connects with a good line out of Shanghai. You can be
tramping around the Himalayas to-morrow. A day or two there will fix
you up."

"Too busy," said Harkness. "Our experimental ship is about ready, so
I'll go and play with that. We'll be shooting at the moon one of these
days."

"The moon!" the other snorted. "Crazy dreams! McInness tried it, and
you know what happened. He came back out of control--couldn't check
his speed against the repelling area--shot through and stripped his
helicopters off against the heavy air. And that other fellow,
Haldgren--"

"Yes," said Harkness quietly, "Haldgren--he didn't fall back. He went
on into space."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Impossible!" the counsellor objected. "He must have fallen unobserved.
No, no, Walter; be reasonable. I do not claim to know much about those
things--I leave them to the Stratosphere Control Board--but I do know this
much: that the lifting effect above the repelling area--what used to be
known as the heaviside layer--counteracts gravity's pull. That's why our
ships fly as they please when they have shot themselves through. But they
have to fly close to it; its force is dissipated in another ten thousand
feet, and the old earth's pull is still at work. It can't be done, my boy;
the vast reaches of space--"

"Are the next to be conquered," Harkness broke in. "And Chet and I
intend to be in on it." He glanced toward the young flyer, and they
exchanged a quiet smile.

"Remember how my father was laughed at when he dared to vision the
commerce of to-day? Crazy dreams, Warrington? That's what they said
when Dad built the first unit of our plant, the landing stages for the
big freighters, the docks for ocean ships while they lasted, the
berths for the big submarines that he knew were coming. They jeered at
him then. 'Harkness' Folly,' the first plant was called. And
now--well you know what we are doing."

He laughed softly. "Leave us our crazy dreams, Warrington," he
protested; "sometimes those dreams come true.... And I'll try to
forget my hunch. We've bought the property; now we'll make it earn
money for us. I'll forget it now, and work on my new ship. Chet and I
are about ready for a try-out."

       *       *       *       *       *

The flyer had risen to join him, and the two turned together to the
door where a private lift gave access to the roof. They were halfway
to it when the first shock came to throw the two men on the floor.

The great framework of the Transportation Building was swaying wildly
as they fell, and the groaning of its wrenched and straining members
sounded through the echoing din as every movable object in the room
came crashing down.

Dazed for the moment, Harkness lay prone, while his eyes saw the
nitron illuminator, like a great chandelier, swing widely from the
ceiling where it was placed. Its crushing weight started toward him,
but a last swing shot it past to the desk of the counsellor.

Harkness got slowly to his feet. The flyer, too, was able to stand,
though he felt tenderly of a bruised shoulder. But where Warrington
had been was only the crumpled wreckage of a steeloid desk, the
shattered bulk of the illuminator upon it, and, beneath, the mangled
remains where flowing blood made a quick pool upon the polished floor.

Warrington was dead--no help could be rendered there--and Harkness was
reaching for the door. The shock had passed, and the building was
quiet, but he shouted to the flyer and sprang into the lift.

"The air is the place for us," he said; "there may be more coming." He
jammed over the control lever, and the little lift moved.

"What was it?" gasped Bullard, "earthquake?--explosion? Lord, what a
smash!"

Harkness made no reply. He was stepping out upon the broad surface of
the Transportation Building. He paid no attention to the hurrying
figures about him, nor did he hear the loud shouting of the
newscasting cone that was already bringing reports of the disaster. He
had thought only for the speedy little ship that he used for his daily
travel.

       *       *       *       *       *

The golden cylinder was still safe in the grip of its hold-down
clutch, and its stubby wings and gleaming sextuple-bladed helicopter
were intact. Harkness sprang for the control-board.

He, too, wore an emblem: a silver circle that marked him a pilot of
the second class; he could take his ship around the world below the
forty level, though at forty thousand and above he must give over
control to the younger man.

The hiss of the releasing clutch came softly to him as the free-signal
flashed, and he sank back with a great sigh of relief as the motors
hummed and the blades above leaped into action. Then the stern blast
roared, though its sound came faintly through the deadened walls, and
he sent the little speedster for the pale blue light of an ascending
area. Nor did he level off until the gauge before him said twenty
thousand.

His first thought had been for their own safety in the air, but with
it was a frantic desire to reach the great plant of the Harkness
Terminals. What had happened there? Had there been any damage? Had
they felt the shock? A few seconds in level twenty would tell him. He
reached the place of alternate flashes where he could descend, and the
little ship fell smoothly down.

Below him the great expanse of buildings took form, and they seemed
safe and intact. His intention was to land, till the slim hands of
Chet Bullard thrust him roughly aside and reached for the controls.

It was Bullard's right--a master pilot could take control at any
time--but Harkness stared in amazement as the other lifted the ship,
then swung it out over the expanse of ocean beyond--stared until his
own eyes followed those of Chet Bullard to see the wall of water that
was sweeping toward the land.

Chet, he knew, had held them in a free-space level, where they could
maneuver as they pleased, but he knew, too, that the pilot's hands
were touching levers that swung them at a quite unlawful speed past
other ships, and that swept them down in a great curve above the
ocean's broad expanse.

       *       *       *       *       *

Harkness did not at once grasp the meaning of the thing. There was the
water, sparkling clear, and a monstrous wave that lifted itself up to
mountainous heights. Behind it the ocean's blue became a sea of mud;
and only when he glanced at their ground-speed detector did he sense
that the watery mountain was hurling itself upon the shore with the
swiftness of a great super-liner.

There were the out-thrusting capes that made a safe harbor for the
commerce that came on and beneath the waters to the Harkness
Terminals; the wave built itself up to still greater heights as it
came between them. They were riding above it by a thousand feet, and
Walter Harkness, in sudden knowledge of what this meant, stared with
straining eyes at the wild thing that raced with them underneath.

He must do something--anything!--to check the monster, to flatten out
the onrushing mountain! The red bottom-plates of a submarine freighter
came rolling up behind the surge to show how futile was the might of
man. And the next moment marked the impact of the wall of water upon a
widespread area of landing roofs, where giant letters stared mockingly
at him to spell the words: Harkness Terminals, New York.

He saw the silent crumbling of great buildings; he glimpsed in one
wild second the whirling helicopters on giant freighters that took the
air too late; he saw them vanish as the sea swept in and engulfed
them. And then, after endless minutes, he knew that Chet had swung
again above the site of his plant, and he saw the stumps of steel and
twisted wreckage that remained....

       *       *       *       *       *

The pilot hung the ship in air--a golden beetle, softly humming as it
hovered above the desolate scene. Chet had switched on the steady buzz
of the stationary-ship signal, and the wireless warning was swinging
passing craft out and around their station. Within the quiet cabin a
man stood to stare and stare, unspeaking, until his pilot laid a
friendly hand upon the broad shoulders.

"You're cleaned," said Chet Bullard. "It's a washout! But you'll build
it up again; they can't stop you--"

But the steady, appraising eyes of Walter Harkness had moved on and on
to a rippling stretch of water where land had been before.

"Cleaned," he responded tonelessly; "and then some! And I could start
again, but--" He paused to point to the stretch of new sea, and his
lips moved that he might laugh long and harshly. "But right there is
all I own--that is, the land I bought this morning. It is gone, and I
owe twenty million to the hardest-hearted bunch of creditors in the
world. That foreign crowd, who've been planning to invade our
territory here. You know what chance I'll have with them...."

The disaster was complete, and Walter Harkness was facing it--facing
it with steady gray eyes and a mind that was casting a true balance of
accounts. He was through, he told himself; his other holdings would be
seized to pay for this waste of water that an hour before had been dry
land; they would strip him of his last dollar. His lips curved into a
sardonic smile.

"June twentieth, nineteen seventy-three," he repeated. "Poor old
Warrington! He called this my lucky day!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The pilot had respected the other man's need of silence, but his
curiosity could not be longer restrained.

"What's back of it all?" he demanded. "What caused it? The shock was
like no earthquake I've ever known. And this tidal wave--" He was
reaching for a small switch. He turned a dial to the words: "News
Service--General," and the instrument broke into hurried speech.

It told of earth shocks in many places--the whole world had felt
it--some tremendous readjustment among the inner stresses of the
earth--most serious on the Atlantic seaboard--the great Harkness
Terminals destroyed--some older buildings in the business district
shaken down--loss of life not yet computed....

"But what _did_ it?" Chet Bullard was repeating in the cabin of their
floating ship. "A tremendous shake-up like that!" Harkness silenced
him with a quick gesture of his hand. Another voice had broken in to
answer the pilot's question.

"The mystery is solved," said the new voice. "This is the Radio-News
representative speaking from Calcutta. We are in communication with
the Allied Observatories on Mount Everest. At eleven P. M., World
Standard Time, Professor Boyle observed a dark body in transit across
the moon. According to Boyle, a non-luminous and non-reflecting
asteroid has crashed into the earth's gravitational field. A dark moon
has joined this celestial grouping, and is now swinging in an orbit
about the earth. It is this that has disturbed the balance of internal
stresses within the earth--"

       *       *       *       *       *

"A dark moon!" Chet Bullard broke in, but again a movement from
Harkness silenced his exclamations. Whatever of dull apathy had
gripped young Harkness was gone. No thought now of the devastation
below them that spelled his financial ruin. Some greater, more
gripping idea had now possessed him. The instrument was still
speaking:

"--Without light of its own, nor does it reflect the sun's light as
does our own moon. This phenomenon, as yet, is unexplained. It is
nearer than our own moon and smaller, but of tremendous density."
Harkness nodded his head quickly at that, and his eyes were alive with
an inner enthusiasm not yet expressed in words. "It is believed that
the worst is over. More minor shocks may follow, but the cause is
known; the mystery is solved. Out from the velvet dark of space has
come a small, new world to join us--"

The voice ceased. Walter Harkness had opened the switch.

"The mystery is solved," Chet Bullard repeated.

"Solved?" exclaimed the other from his place at the controls. "Man, it
is only begun!" He depressed a lever, and a muffled roar marked their
passage to a distant shaft of blue, where he turned the ship on end
and shot like a giant shell for the higher air.

There was northbound travel at thirty-five, and northward Harkness
would go, but he shot straight up. At forty thousand he motioned the
master-pilot to take over the helm.

"Clear through," he ordered; "up into the liner lanes; then north for
our own shop." Nor did he satisfy the curiosity in Chet Bullard's eyes
by so much as a word until some hours later when they floated down.

       *       *       *       *       *

An icy waste was beneath them, where the sub-polar regions were
wrapped in the mantle of their endless winter. Here ships never
passed. Northward, toward the Pole, were liner lanes in the higher
levels, but here was a deserted sector. And here Walter Harkness had
elected to carry on his experiments.

A rise of land showed gaunt and black, and the pilot was guiding the
ship in a long slant upon it. He landed softly beside a building in a
sheltered, snow-filled valley.

Harkness shivered as he stepped from the warmth of their insulated
cabin, and he fumbled with shaking fingers to touch the combination
upon the locked door. It swung open, to close behind the men as they
stood in the warm, brightly-lighted room.

Nitro illuminators were hung from the ceiling, their diffused
brilliance shining down to reflect in sparkling curves and ribbons of
light from a silvery shape. It stood upon the floor, a metal cylinder
a hundred feet in length, whose blunt ends showed dark openings of
gaping ports. There were other open ports above and below and in
regular spacing about the rounded sides. No helicopters swung their
blades above; there were only the bulge of a conning tower and the
heavy inset glasses of the lookouts. Nor were there wings of any kind.
It might have been a projectile for some mammoth gun.

Harkness stood in silence before it, until he turned to smile at the
still-wondering pilot.

"Chet," he said, "it's about finished and ready--just in time. We've
built it, you and I; freighted in the parts ourselves and assembled
every piece. We've even built the shop: lucky the big steeloid plates
are so easily handled. And you and I are the only ones that know.

"Every ship in the airlanes of the world is driven by detonite--and we
have evolved a super-detonite. We have proved that it will work. It
will carry us beyond the pull of gravitation; it will give us the
freedom of outer space. It is ours and ours alone."

"No," the other corrected slowly, "it is yours. You have paid the
bills and you have paid me. Paid me well."

"I'm paying no more," Harkness told him. "I'm broke, right this
minute. I haven't a dollar--and yet I say now that poor Warrington was
right: this is my lucky day."

       *       *       *       *       *

He laughed aloud at the bewilderment on the pilot's face.

"Chet," he said slowly, and his voice was pitched to a more serious
tone, "out there is a new world, the Dark Moon. 'Tremendous density,'
they said. That means it can hold an atmosphere of its own. It means
new metals, new wealth. It means a new little world to explore, and
it's out there waiting for us. Waiting for us; we will be the first.
For here is the ship that will take us.

"It isn't mine, Chet; it's ours. And the adventure is ours; yours and
mine, both. We only meant to go a few hundred miles at first, but
here's something big. We may never come back--it's a long chance that
we're taking--but you're in on it, if you want to go...."

He paused. The expression in the eyes of Chet Bullard, master-pilot of
the world, was answer enough. But Chet amplified it with explosive
words.

"Am I in on it?" he demanded. "Try to count me out--just try to do it!
I was game for a trial flight out beyond. And now, with a real
objective to shoot at--a new world--"

His words failed him. Walt Harkness knew that the hand the other
extended was thrust forth blindly; he gripped at it hard, while he
turned to look at the shining ship.

But his inner gaze passed far beyond the gleaming thing of metal, off
into a realm of perpetual night. Out there a new world was waiting--a
Dark Moon!--and there they might find.... But his imagination failed
him there; he could only thrill with the adventure that the unknown
held.


CHAPTER II

_Escape_

Two days, while a cold sun peeped above an icy horizon! Two days of
driving, eager work on the installation of massive motors--yet motors
so light that one man could lift them--then Harkness prepared to
leave.

"Wealth brings care when it comes," he told Chet, "but it leaves
plenty of trouble behind it when it goes. I must get back to New York
and throw what is left of my holdings to the wolves; they must be
howling by this time to find out where I am. I'll drop back here in a
week."

There were instruments to be installed, and Chet would look after
that. He would test the motors where the continuous explosion of
super-detonite would furnish the terrific force for their driving
power. Then the exhaust from each port must be measured and thrusts
equalized, where needed, by adjustment of great valves. All this Chet
would finish. And then--a test flight. Harkness hoped to be back for
the first try-out of the new ship.

"I'll be seeing you in a week," he repeated. "You'll be that long
getting her tuned up."

But Chet Bullard grinned derisively. "Two days!" he replied. "You'll
have to step some if you get in on the trial flight. But don't worry;
I won't take off for the Dark Moon. I'll just go up and play around
above the liner lanes and see how the old girl stunts."

Harkness nodded. "Watch for patrol ships," he warned. "There's no
traffic directly over here--that's one reason why I chose this
spot--but don't let anyone get too close. Our patents have not been
applied for."

       *       *       *       *       *

Harkness spent a day in New York. Then a night trip by Highline
Express took him to London where he busied himself for some hours.
Next, a fast passenger plane for Vienna.

In other days Walter Harkness would have chartered a private ship to
cut off a few precious hours, but he was traveling more economically
now. And the representatives of his foreign competitors were not now
coming to see him; he must go to them.

At the great terminal in Vienna a man approached him. "Herr Harkness?"
he inquired, and saluted stiffly.

He was not in uniform. He was not of the Allied Patrol nor of any
branch of the police force that encircled the world in its operations.
Yet his military bearing was unmistakable. To Harkness it was
reminiscent of old pictures of Prussian days--those curious pictures
revived at times for the amusement of those who turned to their
television sets for entertainment. He had to repress a smile as he
followed where the other led him to a gray speedster in a distant
corner of the open concourse.

He stepped within a luxurious cabin and would have gone on into the
little control room, but his guide checked him. Harkness was mildly
curious as to their course--Schwartzmann was to have seen him in
Vienna--but the way to the instrument board was barred. Another
precise salute, and he was motioned to the cabin at the rear.

"It is orders that I follow," he was told. And Walter Harkness
complied.

"It could happen only here," he told himself. And he found himself
exasperated by a people who were slow to conform to the customs of a
world whose closely-knit commerce had obliterated the narrow
nationalism of the past.

       *       *       *       *       *

They landed in an open court surrounded by wide lawns. He glimpsed
trees about them in the dusk, and looming before him was an old-time
building of the chateau type set off in this private park. He would
have followed his guide toward the entrance, but a flash of color
checked him.

Like a streak of flame a ship shot in above them; hung poised near the
one that had brought them and settled to rest beside it. A little red
speedster, it made a splash of crimson against the green lawns beyond.
And, "Nice flying," Harkness was telling himself.

The hold-down clamps had hardly gripped it when a figure sprang out
from an opened door. A figure in cool gray that took warmth and color
from the ship behind--a figure of a girl, tall and slender and
graceful as she came impulsively toward him.

"Monsieur Harkness!" she exclaimed. "But this is a surprise. I thought
that Herr Schwartzmann was to see you in Vienna!" For a brief moment
Harkness saw a flicker of puzzled wonderment in her eyes.

"And I am sorry," she went on, "--so very sorry for your misfortune.
But we will be generous."

She withdrew her hand which Harkness was holding. He was still
phrasing a conventional greeting as she flung him a gay laugh and a
look from brown eyes that smiled encouragement. She was gone before
he found words for reply.

Walter Harkness had been brought up in a world of business, and knew
little of the subtle message of a woman's eyes. But he felt within him
a warm response to the friendly companionship that the glance implied.

Within the chateau, in a dark-paneled room, Herr Schwartzmann was
waiting. He motioned Harkness to a chair and resumed his complacent
contemplation of a picture that was flowing across a screen. Color
photography gave every changing shade. It was coming by wireless, as
Harkness knew, and he realized that the sending instrument must be in
a ship that cruised slowly above a scene of wreckage and desolation.

He recognized the ruins of his great plant; he saw the tiny figures of
men, and he knew that the salvage company he had placed in charge was
on the job. Beyond was a stretch of rippling water where the great
wave had boiled over miles of land and had sucked it back to the
ocean's depths. And he realized that the beginning of his conference
was not auspicious.

After the warmth of the girl's greeting, this other was like a plunge
into the Arctic chill of his northern retreat.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I have listed every dollar's worth of property that I own," he was
saying an hour later, "and I have turned it over to a trustee who will
protect your rights. What more do you want?"

"We have heard of some experimental work," said Herr Schwartzmann
smoothly. "A new ship; some radical changes in design. We would like
that also."

"Try and get it," Harkness invited.

The other passed that challenge by. "There is another alternative,"
he said. "My principals in France are unknown to you; perhaps, also,
it is not known that they intend to extend their lines to New York and
that they will erect great terminals to do the work that you have
done.

"Your father was the pioneer; there is great value in the name of
Harkness--the 'good-will' as you say in America. We would like to
adopt that name, and carry on where you have left off. If you were to
assign to us the worthless remains of your plant, and all right and
title to the name of Harkness Terminals, it might be--" He paused
deliberately while Harkness stiffened in his chair. "It might be that
we would require no further settlement. The balance of your
fortune--and your ship--will be yours."

Harkness' gray eyes, for a moment, betrayed the smouldering rage that
was his.

"Put it in plain words," he demanded. "You would bribe me to sell you
something you cannot create for yourselves. The name of Harkness has
stood for fair-dealing, for honor, for scrupulous observance of our
clients' rights. My father established it on that basis and I have
continued in the same way. And you?--well, it occurs to me that the
Schwartzmann interests have had a different reputation. Now you would
buy my father's name to use it as a cloak for your dirty work!"

He rose abruptly. "It is not for sale. Every dollar that I own will be
used to settle my debt. There will be enough--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Herr Schwartzmann refused to be insulted. His voice was unruffled as
he interrupted young Harkness' vehement statement.

"Perhaps you are right; perhaps not. Permit me to remind you that the
value of your holdings may depreciate under certain influences that
we are able to exert--also that you are in Austria, and that the laws
of this country permit us to hold you imprisoned until the debt is
paid. In the meantime we will find your ship and seize it, and
whatever it has of value will be protected by patents in our name."

His unctuous voice became harsh. "Honor! Fair dealing!" He spat out
the words in sudden hate. "You Americans who will not realize that
business is business!"

Harkness was standing, drawn unconsciously to his full height. He
looked down upon the other man. All anger had gone from his face; he
seemed only appraising the individual before him.

"The trouble with you people," he said, "is that you are living in the
past--way back about nineteen fourteen, when might made
right--sometimes."

He continued to look squarely into the other's eyes, but his lips set
firmly, and his voice was hard and decisive.

"But," he continued, "I am not here to educate you, nor to deal with
you. Any further negotiations will be through my counsellors. And now
I will trouble you to return me to the city. We are through with
this."

       *       *       *       *       *

Herr Schwartzmann's heavy face drew into lines of sardonic humor. "Not
quite through," he said; "and you are not returning to the city." He
drew a paper from his desk.

"I anticipated some such _verdammpt_ foolishness from you. You see
this? It is a contract; a release, a transfer of all your interests in
Harkness, Incorporated. It needs only your signature, and that will be
supplied. No one will question it when we are done: the very ink in
the stylus you carry will be duplicated. For the last time, I repeat
my offer; I am patient with you. Sign this, and keep all else that
you have. Refuse, and--"

"Yes?" Harkness inquired.

"And we will sign for you--a forgery that will never be detected. And
as for you, your body will be found--a suicide! You will leave a
letter: we will attend to all that. Herr Harkness will have found this
misfortune unbearable.... We shall be very sad!" His heavy smile grew
into derisive laughter.

"I am still patient, and kind," he added. "I give you twenty-four
hours to think it over."

A touch of a button on his desk summoned the man who had brought
Harkness there. "Herr Harkness is in your charge," were the
instructions to the one who stood stiffly at attention. "He is not to
leave this place. Is it understood?"

As he was ushered from the room, Walter Harkness also understood, and
he knew that this was no idle threat. He had heard ugly rumors of Herr
Schwartzmann and his methods. One man, he knew, had dared to oppose
him--and that man had gone suddenly insane. A touch of a needle, it
was whispered....

There had been other rumors; Schwartzmann got what he wanted; his
financial backing was enormous. And now he would bring his ruthless
methods to America. But there he needed the Harkness standing, the
reputation for probity--and Walter Harkness was grimly resolved that
they should never buy it from him. But the problem must be faced, and
the answer found, if answer there was, in twenty-four hours.

       *       *       *       *       *

An amazing state of affairs in a modern world! He stood meditating
upon his situation in a great, high-ceilinged room. A bed stood in a
corner, and other furniture marked the room as belonging to an earlier
time. Even mechanical weather-control was wanting; one must open the
windows, Harkness found, to get cooling air.

He stood at the open window and saw storm clouds blowing up swiftly. They
blotted the stars from the night sky; they swept black and ominous
overhead, and seemed to touch the giant trees that whipped their branches
in the wind. But he was thinking not at all of the storm, and only of the
fact that this room where he stood must be directly above the one where
Schwartzmann was seated. Schwartzmann--who would put an end to his life as
casually as he would bring down a squirrel from one of those trees!

And again he thought: "Twenty-four hours!... Why hours? Why not
minutes?... Whatever must be done he must do now. And might made
right: it was the only way to meet this unscrupulous foreign
scoundrel."

A wind-tossed branch lashed at him. On the ground below he saw the man
who had brought him, posting another as a guard. They glanced up at
his window. There would be no escape there.

And yet the branch seemed beckoning. He caught it when again it
whipped toward him, and, without any definite plan, he lashed it fast
with a velvet cord from the window drapes.

But his thoughts came back to the room. He snatched suddenly at the
covers of the bed. What were the sheets?--fabric as old-fashioned as
the room, or were they cellulex? The touch of the soft fabric
reassured him: it was as soft as though woven of spider's web, and
strong as fibres of steel.

It took all of his strength to rip it into strips, but it was a matter
of minutes, only, until he had a rope that would bear his weight. The
storm had broken; the black clouds let loose a deluge of water that
drove in at the window. If only the window below was still open!

He found the middle of his rope, looped it over a post of the bed,
and, with both strands in his grasp, let himself out and over the
dripping sill.

Would the guard see him, or had he taken to shelter? Harkness did not
pause to look. He left the branch tied fast. "A squirrel in a tree,"
he thought: the branch would mislead them. His feet found the
window-sill one story below. He drew himself into the room and let
loose of one strand of his rope as he entered.

Schwartzmann was gone. Harkness, with the bundle of wet fabric in his
hands, glanced quickly about. A door stood open--it was a closet--and
the rain-drenched man was hidden there an instant later. But he
stepped most carefully across the floor and touched his wet shoes only
to the rugs where their print was lost. And he held himself
breathlessly silent as he heard the volley of gutteral curses that
marked the return of Herr Schwartzmann some minutes later.

"Imbecile!" Schwartzmann shouted above the crash of the closing
window. "_Dumkopff!_ You have let him escape.

"Give me your pistol!" Harkness glimpsed the figure of his recent
guard. "Get another for yourself--find him!--shoot him down! A little
lead and detonite will end this foolishness!"

From his hiding place Harkness saw the bulky figure of Schwartzmann,
who made as if to follow where the other man had gone. The pistol was
in his hand. Walt Harkness knew all too well what that meant. The tiny
grain of detonite in the end of each leaden ball was the same terrible
explosive that drove their ships: it would tear him to pieces. And he
had to get this man.

He was tensed for a spring as Schwartzmann paused. From the wall
beyond him a red light was flashing; a crystal flamed forth with the
intense glare of a thousand fires. It checked the curses on the
other's thick lips; it froze Harkness to a rigid statue in the
darkness of his little room.

       *       *       *       *       *

An emergency flash broadcast over the world! It meant that the News
Service had been commandeered. This flashing signal was calling to the
peoples of the earth!

What catastrophe did this herald? Had it to do with the Dark Moon? Not
since the uprising of the Mole-men, those creatures who had spewed
forth from the inner world, had the fiery crystal called!... It seemed
to Harkness that Schwartzmann was hours in reaching the switch.... A
voice came shouting into the room:

"By order of the Stratosphere Control Board," it commanded, "all
traffic is forbidden above the forty level. Liners take warning.
Descend at once."

Over and over it repeated the command--an order whose authority could
not be disregarded. In his inner vision Harkness saw the tumult in the
skies, the swift dropping of huge liners and great carriers of fast
freight, the scurrying of other craft to give clearance to these
monsters whose terrific speed must be slowly checked. But why? What
had happened? What could warrant such disruption of the traffic of the
world? His tensed muscles were aching unheeded; his sense of feeling
seemed lost, so intently was he waiting for some further word.

"Emergency news report," said another voice, and Harkness strained
every faculty to hear. "Highline ships attacked by unknown foe. Three
passenger carriers of the Northpolar Short Line reported crashed.
Incomplete warnings from their commanders indicate they were attacked.
Patrol ship has spotted one crash. They have landed beside it and are
reporting....

"The report is in; it is almost beyond belief. They say the liner is
empty, that no human body, alive or dead, is in the ship. She was
stripped of crew and passengers in the air.

"We await confirmation. Danger apparently centered over arctic
regions, but traffic has been ordered from all upper levels--"

The voice that had been held rigidly to the usual calm clarity of an
official announcer became suddenly high-pitched and vibrant. "Stand
by!" it shouted. "An S. O. S. is coming in. We will put it through our
amplifiers; give it to you direct!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The newscaster crackled and hissed: they were waiving all technical
niceties at R. N. Headquarters, Harkness knew. The next voice came
clearly, though a trifle faint.

"Air Patrol! Help! Position eighty-two--fourteen north,
ninety-three--twenty east--Superliner Number 87-G, flying at R. A. plus
seven. We are attacked!--Air Patrol!--Air Patrol!--Eighty-two--fourteen
north, ninety-three--twenty--"

The voice that was repeating the position was lost in a pandemonium of
cries. Then--

"Monsters!" the voice was shouting. "They have seized the ship! They
are tearing at our ports--" A hissing crash ended in silence....

"Tearing at our ports!" Harkness was filled with a blinding nausea as
he sensed what had come with the crash. The opening ports--the
out-rush of air released to the thin atmosphere of those upper levels!
Earth pressure within the cabins of the ship; then in an
instant--none! Every man, every woman and child on the giant craft,
had died instantly!

The announcer had resumed, but above the sound was a guttural voice
that shouted hoarsely in accents of dismay. "Eighty-seven-G!"
Schwartzmann was exclaiming, "--Mein Gott! It iss our own ship, the
Alaskan! Our crack flyer!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Harkness heard him but an instant, for another thought was hammering
at his brain. The position!--the ship's position!--it was almost above
his experimental plant! And Chet was there, and the ship.... What had
Chet said? He would fly it in two days--and this was the second day!
Chet had no radio-news; no instrument had been installed in the shop;
they had depended upon the one in Harkness' own ship. And now--

Walt Harkness' clear understanding had brought a vision that was
sickening, so plainly had he glimpsed the scene of terror in that
distant cabin. And now he saw with equal clarity another picture.
There was Chet, smiling, unafraid, proud of their joint accomplishment
and of the gleaming metal shape that he was lifting carefully from its
bed. He was floating it out to the open air; he was taking off, and
up--up where some horror awaited.

"Monsters!" that thin voice had cried in a tone that was vibrant with
terror. What could it be?--great ships out of space?--an invasion? Or
beasts?... But Harkness' vision failed him there. He knew only that a
fast ship was moored just outside. He had planned vaguely to seize it;
he had needed it for his own escape; but he needed it a thousand times
more desperately now. Chet might have been delayed, and he must warn
him.... The thoughts were flashing like hot sparks through his brain
as he leaped.

       *       *       *       *       *

He bore the heavier body of Schwartzmann to the floor. He rained
smashing blows upon him with a furious frenzy that would not be
curbed. The weapon with its deadly detonite bullet came toward him.
In the same burst of fury he tore the weapon from the hand that held
it; then sprang to his feet to stand wild-eyed and panting is he aimed
the pistol at the cursing man and dragged him to his feet.

"The ship!" he said between heavy breaths, "--the ship! Take me to it!
You will tell anyone we meet it is all right. One word of alarm, one
wrong look, and I'll blow you to hell and make a break for it!"

The pistol under Harkness' silken jacket was pressed firmly into
Schwartzmann's side; it brought them safely past excited guards and
out into the storm; it held steady until the men had fought their way
through blasts of rain to the side of the anchored ship. Not till then
did Schwartzmann speak.

"Wait," he said. "Are you crazy, Harkness? You can never take off; the
trees are close; a straight ascent is needed. And the wind--!"

He struggled in the other's grasp as Harkness swung open the cabin
door, his fear of what seemed a certain death overmastering his fear
of the weapon. He was shouting for help as Harkness threw him roughly
aside and leaped into the ship.

Outside Harkness saw running figures as he threw on the motors. A
pistol's flash came sharply through the storm and dark. A window in
the chateau flashed into brilliance to frame the figure of a girl.
Tall and slender, she leaned forward with outstretched arms. She
seemed calling to him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Harkness seized the controls, and knew as he did so that Schwartzmann
was right: he could never lift the ship in straight ascent. Before her
whirling fans could raise her they would be crashed among the trees.

But there were two helicopters--dual lift, one forward and one aft.
And Walt Harkness, pilot of the second class, earned immediate
disbarment or a much higher rating as he coolly fingered the controls.
He cut the motor on the big fan at the stern, threw the forward one on
full and set the blades for maximum lift, then released the hold-down
grips that moored her.

The grips let go with a crashing of metal arms. The bow shot upward
while a blast of wind tore at the stubby wings. The slim ship tried to
stand erect. Another furious, beating wind lifted her bodily, as
Harkness, clinging desperately within the narrow room, threw his full
weight upon the lever that he held.

The full blast of a detonite motor, on even a small ship, is terrific,
and the speedster of Herr Schwartzmann did not lack for power. Small
wonder that the rules of the Board of Control prohibit the use of the
stern blast under one thousand feet.

The roaring inferno from the stern must have torn the ground as if by
a mammoth plow; the figures of men must have scattered like leaves in
a gusty wind. The ship itself was racked and shuddering with the
impact of the battering thrust, but it rose like a rocket, though
canted on one wing, and the crashing branches of wind-torn trees
marked its passage on a long, curving slant that bent upward into the
dark. Within the control room Walter Harkness grinned happily as he
drew his bruised body from the place where he had been thrown, and
brought the ship to an even keel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nice work! But there was other work ahead, and the smile of
satisfaction soon passed. He held the nose up, and the wireless
warning went out before as the wild climb kept on.

Forty thousand was passed; then fifty and more; a hundred thousand;
and at length he was through the repelling area, that zone of
mysterious force, above which was a magnetic repulsion nearly
neutralizing gravity. He could fly level now; every unit of force
could be used for forward flight to hurl him onward faster and faster
into the night.

Harkness was flying where his license was void; he was flying, too,
where all aircraft were banned. But the rules of the Board of Control
meant nothing to him this night. Nor did the voluble and sulphurous
orders to halt that a patrol-ship flashed north. The patrol-ship was
on station; she was lost far astern before she could gather speed for
pursuit.

Walter Harkness had caught his position upon a small chart. It was a
sphere, and he led a thin wire from the point that was Vienna to a dot
that he marked on the sub-polar waste. He dropped a slender pointer
upon the wire and engaged its grooved tip, and then the flying was out
of his hands. The instrument before him, with its light bulbs and
swift moving discs, would count their speed of passage; it would hold
the ship steadily upon an unerring course and allow for drift of
winds. The great-circle course was simple; the point he marked was
drawing them as if it had been a magnet--drawing them as it drew the
eyes of Walt Harkness, staring strainingly ahead as if to span the
thousands of miles of dark.


CHAPTER III

_The Space Terror_

The control room was glassed in on all sides. The thick triple lenses
were free from clouding, and the glasses between them kept out the
biting cold of the heights. The glass was strong, to hold the pressure
of one atmosphere that was maintained within the ship. The lookouts
gave free vision in all directions except directly below the hull,
and a series of mirrors corrected this defect.

But Walt Harkness had eyes solely for the black void ahead. Only the
brilliant stars shone now in the mantle of velvety night. No flashing
lights denoted the passing of liners, for they were safe in the harbor
of the lower levels. He moved the controls once to avoid the green
glare of an ascending area, then he knew that there were no ships to
fear, and let the automatic control put him back on his course.

Before him, under a hooded light, was a heavy lens. It showed in
magnification a portion of the globe. There were countries and seas on
a vari-colored map, and one pin-point of brilliance that marked his
ever-changing position.

He watched the slow movement of the glowing point. The Central
Federated States of Europe were behind him; the point was tracing a
course over the vast reaches of the patchwork map that meant the many
democracies of Russia. This cruiser of Schwartzmann's was doing five
hundred miles an hour--and the watching man cursed under his breath at
the slow progress of the tiny light.

But the light moved, and the slow hours passed, while Harkness tried
to find consolation in surmises he told himself must be true.

Chet had been delayed, he insisted to himself; Chet could never have
finished the work in two days; he had been bluffing good-naturedly
when he threatened to fly the ship alone....

       *       *       *       *       *

The Arctic Ocean was beneath. The tiny light had passed clear of the
land on the moving chart.

He would be there soon.... Of course Chet had been fooling; he was
always ready for a joke.... Great fellow, Chet! They had taken their
training together, and Chet had gone on to win a master-pilot's
rating, the highest to be had....

Another hour, and a rising hum from a buzzer beside him gave warning
of approach to the destination he had fixed. The automatic control was
warning him to decelerate. Harkness well knew what was expected of the
pilot when that humming sounded; yet, with total disregard for the
safety of his helicopters, he dived at full speed for the denser air
beneath.

He felt the weight that came suddenly upon him as he drove through and
beneath the repelling area, and he flattened out and checked his
terrific speed when the gauges quivered at forty thousand.

Then down and still down in a long, slanting dive, till a landmark was
found. He was off his course a bit, but it was a matter of minutes
until he circled, checked his wild flight, and sank slowly beneath the
lift of the dual fans to set the ship down as softly as a snowflake
beside a building that was dark and forbiddingly silent--a lonely
outpost in a lonely waste.

No answer came to his hail. The building was empty; the ship was gone.
And Chet! Chet Bullard!... Harkness' head was heavy on his shoulders;
his feet took him with hopeless, lagging steps to his waiting ship. He
was tired--and the long strain of the flight had been in vain. He was
suddenly certain of disaster. And Chet--Chet was up there at some
hitherto untouched height, battling with--what?

       *       *       *       *       *

He broke into a stumbling run and drew himself within the little ship.
He was helpless; the ship was unarmed, even if the weapons of his
world were of use against this unknown terror; but he knew that he was
going up. He would find Chet if he could get within reach of his ship;
he would warn him.... He tried to tell himself that he might yet be in
time.

The little cruiser rose slowly under the lift of the fans; then he
opened the throttle and swept out in a parabolic curve that ended in a
vertical line. Straight up, the ship roared. It shot through a stratum
of clouds. The sun that was under the horizon shone redly now; it grew
to a fiery ball; the earth contracted; the markings that were
coastlines and mountains drew in upon themselves.

He passed the repelling area and felt the lift of its mysterious
force--the "R. A. Effect" that permitted the high-level flying of the
world. His speed increased. It would diminish again as the R. A.
Effect grew less. Record flights had been made to another ten
thousand.... He wondered what the ceiling would be for the ship
beneath him. He would soon learn....

He set his broadcast call for the number of Chet's ship. They had been
given an experimental license, and "E--L--29-X" the instrument was
flashing, "E--L--29-X." Above the heaviside layer that had throttled
the radio of earlier years, he knew that his call from so small an
instrument as this would be carried for hundreds of miles.

He reached the limit of his climb and was suddenly weightless,
floating aimlessly within the little room; the ship was falling, and
he was falling with it. His speed of descent built up to appalling
figures until his helicopters found air to take their thrust.

And still no answering word from Chet. The cruiser was climbing again
to the heights. The hands of Harkness, trembling slightly now, held
her to a vertical climb, while his eyes crept back to the unlit plate
where Chet's answering call should flash. But his own call would be a
guide to Chet; the directional finders on the new ship would trace the
position of his own craft if the new ship were afloat--if it were not
lying crushed on the ice below, empty, like the liners, of any sign
of life.

       *       *       *       *       *

His despairing mind snapped sharply to attention. His startled jerk
threw the ship widely from her course. A voice was speaking--Chet's
voice! It was shouting in the little room!

"Go down, Walt," it told him. "For God's sake, go down! I'm right
above you; I've been fighting them for an hour; but I'll make it!"

He heard the clash of levers thrown sharply over in that distant ship;
his own hands were frozen to the controls. His ship roared on in its
upward course, the futile "E--L--29-X" of his broadcast call still
going out to a man who could not remove his hands to send an answer,
but who had managed to switch on his sending set into which he could
shout.

Harkness was staring into the black void whence the wireless voice had
come--staring into the empty night. And then he saw them.

The thin air was crystal clear; his gaze penetrated for miles. And far
up in the heights, where his own ship could never reach and where no
clouds could be, were diaphanous wraiths. Like streamers of cloud in
long serpentine forms, they writhed and shot through space with
lightning speed. They grew luminous as they moved living streamers of
moonlit clouds.... A whirling cluster was gathered into a falling
mass. Out of it in a sharp right turn shot a projectile, tiny and
glistening against the velvet black. The swarm closed in again....
There were other lashing shapes that came diving down. They were
coming toward him.

And, in his ears, a voice was imploring: "Down! down! The R. A.
tension may stop them!... Go down! I am coming--you can't help--I'll
make it--they'll rip you to pieces--"

The wraith-like coils that had left the mass above had straightened to
sharp spear-heads of speed. They were darting upon him, swelling to
monstrous size in their descent. And Walt Harkness saw in an instant
the folly of delay: he was not helping Chet, but only hindering....
His ship swung end for end under his clutching hands, and the thrust
of his stern exhaust was added to the pull of Earth to throw him into
a downward flight that tore even the thin air into screaming
fragments.

       *       *       *       *       *

One glance through the lookouts behind him showed lashing serpent
forms, translucent as pale fire; impossible beasts from space. His
reason rejected them while his eyes told him the terrible truth.
Despite the speed of his dive, they were gaining on him, coming up
fast; one snout that ended in a cupped depression was plain. A mouth
gaped beneath it; above was a row of discs that were eyes--eyes that
shone more brightly than the luminous body behind--eyes that froze the
mind and muscles of the watching man in utter terror.

He forced himself to look ahead, away from the spectral shapes that
pursued. They were close, yet he thrilled with the realization that he
had helped Chet in some small degree: he had drawn off this group of
attackers.

He felt the upthrust of the R. A. Effect; he felt, too, the pull of a
body that had coiled about his ship. No intangible, vaporous thing,
this. The glass of his control room was obscured by a clinging,
glowing mass while still the little cruiser tore on.

Before his eyes the glowing windows went dark, and he felt the
clutching thing stripped from the hull as the ship shot through the
invisible area of repulsion. A scant hundred yards away a huge
cylinder drove crashingly past. Its metal shone and glittered in the
sun; he knew it for his own ship--his and Chet's. And what was within
it? What of Chet? The loudspeaker was silent.

He eased the thundering craft that bore him into a slow-forming curve
that did not end for fourscore miles before the wild flight was
checked. He swung it back, to guide the ship with shaking hands where
a range of mountains rose in icy blackness, and where a gleaming
cylinder rested upon a bank of snow whose white expanse showed a
figure that came staggering to meet him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some experiences and dangers that come to men must be talked over at
once; thrills and excitement and narrow escapes must be told and
compared. And then, at rare times, there are other happenings that
strike too deeply for speech--terrors that rouse emotions beyond mere
words.

It was so with Harkness and Chet. A gripping of hands; a perfunctory,
"Good work, old man!"--and that was all. They housed the two ships,
closing the great doors to keep out the arctic cold; and then Chet
Bullard threw himself exhausted upon a cot, while he stared, still
wordless, at the high roof overhead. But his hands that gripped and
strained at whatever they touched told of the reaction to his wild
flight.

Harkness was examining their ship, where shreds of filmy, fibrous
material still clung, when Chet spoke.

"You knew they were there?" he asked, "--and you came up to warn me?"

"Sure," Harkness answered simply.

"Thanks," Chet told him with equal brevity.

Another silence. Then: "All right, tell me! What's the story?"

And Walt Harkness told him in brief sentences of the world-wide
warning that had flashed, of the liners crashing to earth and their
cabins empty of human life.

"They could do it," said Chet. "They could open the ports and ram
those snaky heads inside to feed." He seemed to muse for a moment upon
what might have come to him.

"My speed saved me," he told Harkness. "Man, how that ship can travel!
I shook them off a hundred times--outmaneuvered them when I could--but
they came right back for more.

"How do they propel themselves?" he demanded.

"No one knows," Harkness told him. "That luminosity in action means
something--some conversion of energy, electrical, perhaps, to carry
them on lines of force of which we know nothing as yet. That's a
guess--but they do it. You and I can swear to that."

Chet was pondering deeply. "High-level lanes are closed," he said,
"and we are blockaded like the rest of the world. It looks as if our
space flights were off. And the Dark Moon trip! We could have made it,
too."

       *       *       *       *       *

If there was a questioning note in those last remarks it was answered
promptly.

"No!" said Harkness with explosive emphasis. "They won't stop me." He
struck one clenched fist upon the gleaming hull beside him.

"This is all I've got. And I won't have this if that gang of
Schwartzmann's gets its hands upon it. The best I could expect would
be a long-drawn fight in the courts, and I can't afford it. I am going
up. We've got something good here; we know it's good. And we'll prove
it to the world by reaching the Dark Moon."

Another filmy, fibrous mass that had been torn from one of the
monsters of the heights slid from above to make a splotch of colorless
matter upon the floor.

Harkness stared at it. The firm line of his lips set more firmly
still, but his eyes had another expression as he glanced at Chet. He
would go alone if he must; no barricade of unearthly beasts could hold
him from the great adventure. But Chet?--he must not lead Chet to his
death.

"Of course," he said slowly, "you've had one run-in with the brutes."
Again he paused. "We don't know where they come from, but my guess is
from the Dark Moon. They may be too much for us.... If you don't feel
like tackling them again--"

The figure of Chet Bullard sprang upright from the cot. His harsh
voice told of the strain he had endured and his reaction from it.

"What are you trying to tell me?" he demanded. "Are you trying to
leave me out?" Then at the look in the other's eyes he grinned
sheepishly at his own outburst.

And Walter Harkness threw one arm across Chet's shoulder as he said;
"I hoped you would feel that way about it. Now let's make some plans."

Provisions for one year! Even in concentrated form this made a
prodigious supply. And, arms--pistols and rifles, with cases of
cartridges whose every bullet was tipped with the deadly detonite--all
this was brought from the nearest accessible points. They landed,
though, in various cities, keeping Schwartzmann's ship as
inconspicuous as possible, and made their purchases at different
supply houses to avoid too-pointed questioning. For Harkness found
that he and Bullard were marked men.

The newscaster in the Schwartzmann cabin brought the information. It
brought, too, continued reports of the menace in the upper air. It
told of patrol-ships sent down to destruction with no trace of
commander or crew; and a cruiser of the International Peace
Enforcement Service came back with a story of horror and helplessness.

Their armament was useless. No shells could be timed to match the
swift flight of the incredible monsters, and impact charges failed to
explode on contact; the filmy, fibrous masses offered little
resistance to the shells that pierced them. Yet a wrecked after
compartment and smashed port-lights and doors gave evidence of the
strength of the brutes when their great sinuous bodies, lined with
rows of suction discs, secured a hold.

"Speed!" was Chet Bullard's answer to this, when the newscaster
ceased. "Speed!--until we find something better. I got clear of them
when they caught me unprepared, but we can rip right through them now
that we know what we're up against."

       *       *       *       *       *

He had turned again to the packing of supplies, but Harkness was held
by the sound of his own name.

Mr. Walter Harkness, late of New York, was very much in the day's
news. When a young millionaire loses all his wealth beneath a tidal
wave; when, further, he flies to Vienna and transfers all rights in
the great firm of Harkness, Incorporated, to the Schwartzmann
interests in part settlement of his obligations; and, still further,
when he is driven to fury by his losses and attacks the great Herr
Schwartzmann in a murderous frenzy, wounds him and escapes in
Schwartzmann's own ship--that is an item that is worth broadcasting
between announcements of greater importance.

It interested Harkness, beyond a doubt. He remembered the shot outside
the cabin as he took off in his wild flight. Schwartzmann had been
wounded, it seemed, and he was to be blamed for the assault. He
smiled grimly as he heard the warrant for his arrest broadcast. Every
patrol-ship would be on the watch. And there would be a dozen
witnesses to swear to the truth of Schwartzmann's lie.

The plan seemed plain to him. He saw himself in custody; taken to
Vienna. And then, at the best, months of waiting in the psychopathic
ward of a great institution where the influence of Herr Schwartzmann
would not be slight. And, meanwhile, Schwartzmann would have his ship.
Clever! But not clever enough. He would fool them, he and Chet.

And then he recalled the girl, Mademoiselle Diane, a slim figure
outlined in a lighted window of the old chateau. Was there hope there?
he wondered. Had her clear, smiling eyes seen what occurred?

"Nonsense," he told himself. "She saw nothing in that storm. And,
besides, she is one of their crowd--tarred with the same stick. Forget
her."

But he knew, as he framed the unspoken words, that the advice was
vain. He would never forget her. There was a picture in his mind that
could not be blotted out--a picture of a tall, slender girl, trim and
straight in her mannish attire, who came toward him from her little
red speedster. She held out her hand impulsively, and her eyes were
smiling as she said; "We will be generous, Monsieur Harkness--"

"Generous!" His smile was bitter as he turned to help Chet in their
final work.


CHAPTER IV

_The Rescue in Space_

How often are the great things of life submerged beneath the trivial.
The vast reaches of space that must be traversed; the unknown world
that awaited them out there; its lands and seas and the life that was
upon it: Walter Harkness was pondering all this deep within his mind.
It must have been the same with Chet, yet few words of speculation
were exchanged. Instead, the storage of supplies, a checking and
rechecking of lists, additional careful testing of generators--such
details absorbed them.

And the heavy, gray powder with its admixture of radium that
transformed it to super-detonite--this must be carefully charged into
the magazines of the generators. A thousand such responsibilities--and
yet the moment finally came when all was done.

The midnight sun shone redly from a distant horizon. It cast strange
lights across the icy waste. And it flashed back in crimson splendor
from the gleaming hull that floated from the hangar and came to rest
upon the snowy world.

The two men closed the great doors, and it was as if they were
shutting themselves off from their last contact with the world. They
stood for long moments, silent, in the utter silence of the frozen
north.

Chet Bullard turned, and Harkness gripped his hand. He was suddenly
aware of his thankfulness for the companionship of this tall, blond
youngster. He tried to speak--but what words could express the tumult
of emotions that arose within him? His throat was tight....

It was Chet who broke the tense silence; his happy grin flashed like
sunshine across his lean face.

"You're right," he answered his companion's unspoken thoughts; "it's a
great little old world we're leaving. I wonder what the new one will
be like."

And Harkness smiled back. "Let's go!" he said, and turned toward the
waiting ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

The control room was lined with the instruments they had installed. A
nitron illuminator flashed brilliantly upon shining levers--emergency
controls that they hoped they would not have to use. Harkness placed
his hand upon a small metal ball as Chet reported all ports closed.

The ball hung free in space, supported by the magnetic attraction of
the curved bars that made a cage about it. An adaptation of the
electrol device that had appeared on the most modern ships, Harkness
knew how to handle it. Each movement of the ball within its cage,
where magnetic fields crossed and recrossed, would bring instant
response. To lift the ball would be to lift the ship; a forward
pressure would throw their stern exhaust into roaring life that would
hurl them forward; a circular motion would roll them over and over. It
was as if he held the ship itself within his hand.

Chet touched a button, and a white light flashed to confirm his report
that all was clear. Harkness gently raised the metal ball.

Beneath them a soft thunder echoed from the field of snow, and came
back faintly from icy peaks. The snow and ice fell softly away as they
rose.

A forward pressure upon the ball, and a louder roaring answered from
the stern. A needle quivered and swung over on a dial as their speed
increased. Beneath them was a blur of whirling white; ahead was an
upthrust mountain range upon which they were driving. And Harkness
thrilled with the sense of power that his fingers held as he gently
raised the ball and nosed the ship upward in meteor-flight.

The floor beneath them swung with their change of pace. Without it,
they would have been thrown against the wall at their backs. The
clouds that had been above them lay dead ahead; the ship was pointing
straight upward. It flashed silently into the banks of gray, through
them, and out into clear air above. And always the quivering needle
crept up to new marks of speed, while their altimeter marked off the
passing levels.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were through the repelling area when Harkness relinquished the
controls to Chet. The metal ball hung unmoving; it would hold
automatically to the direction and speed that had been established.
The hand of the master-pilot found it quickly. They were in dangerous
territory now--a vast void under a ceiling of black, star-specked
space. No writhing, darting wraith-forms caught the rays of the
distant sun. Their way seemed clear.

Harkness' eyes were straining ahead, searching for serpent forms, when
the small cone beside him hummed a warning that they were not alone.
Another ship in this zone of danger?--it seemed incredible. But more
incredible was the scream that rang shrilly from the cone. "Help! Oh,
help me!" a feminine voice implored.

Harkness sprang for the instrument where the voice was calling. "We
aren't the only fools up here," he exclaimed; "and that's a woman's
voice, too!" He pressed a button, and a needle swung instantly to
point the direction whence the radio waves were coming.

"Hard a-port!" he ordered. "Ten degrees, and hold her level. No--two
points down."

But Chet's steady hand had anticipated the order. He had seen the
direction-finder, and he swung the metal ball with a single motion
that swept them in a curve that seemed crushing them to the floor.

The ship levelled off; the ball was thrust forward, and the thunder
from the stern was deafening despite their insulated walls. The
shuddering structure beneath them was hurled forward till the needle
of the speed-indicator jammed tightly against its farthest pin. And
ahead of them was no emptiness of space.

       *       *       *       *       *

The air was alive with darting forms. Harkness saw them plainly
now--great trailing streamers of speed that shot downward from the
heights. The sun caught them in their flight to make iridescent
rainbow hues that would have been beautiful but for the hideous heads,
the sucker-discs that lined the bodies and the one great disc that
cupped on the end of each thrusting snout.

And beneath those that fell from on high was a cluster of the same
sinister, writhing shapes which clung to a speeding ship that rolled
and swung vainly in an effort to shake them off.

The coiling, slashing serpent-forms had fastened to the doomed ship.
Their thrashing bodies streamed out behind it. They made a cluster of
flashing color whose center point was a tiny airship, a speedster, a
gay little craft. And her sides shone red as blood--red as they had
shone on the grassy lawn of an old chateau near far-off Vienna.

"It's Diane!" Harkness was shouting. "Good Lord, Chet, it's Diane!"

This girl he had told himself he would forget. She was there in that
ship, her hands were wrenching at the controls in a fight that was
hopeless. He saw her so plainly--a pitiful, helpless figure, fighting
vainly against this nightmare attack.

Only an instant of blurred wonderment at her presence up there--then a
frenzy possessed him. He must save her! He leaped to the side of the
crouching pilot, but his outstretched hands that clutched at the
control stopped motionless in air.

       *       *       *       *       *

Chet Bullard, master-pilot of the first rank, upon whose chest was the
triple star that gave him authority to command all the air-levels of
earth, was tense and crouching. His eyes were sighting along an
instrument of his own devising as if he were aiming some super-gun of
a great air cruiser.

But he was riding the projectile itself and guiding it as he rode. He
threw the ship like a giant shell in a screaming, sweeping arc upon
the red craft that drove across their bow.

They were crashing upon it; the red speedster swelled instantly before
their eyes. Harkness winced involuntarily from the crash that never
came.

Chet must have missed it by inches, Harkness knew; but he knew, too,
that the impact he felt was no shattering of metal upon metal. The
heavy windows of the control room went black with the masses of
fibrous flesh that crashed upon them; then cleared in an instant as
the ship swept through.

Behind them a red ship was falling--falling free! And vaporous masses,
ripped to ribbons, were falling, too, while other wraith-like forms
closed upon them in cannibalistic feasting.

Their terrific speed swept them on into space. When the pilot could
check it, and turn, they found that the red ship was gone.

"After it!" Harkness was shouting. "She went down out of control, but
they didn't get her. They've only sprung the door-ports a crack,
releasing the internal pressure." He told himself this was true; he
would not admit for an instant the possible truth of the vision that
flashed through his mind--a ripping of doors--a thrusting snout that
writhed in where a girl stood fighting.

"Get it!" he ordered; "get it! I'll stand by for rescue."

       *       *       *       *       *

He sprang for the switch that controlled the great rescue magnets. Not
often were they used, but every ship must have them: it was so
ordered by the Board of Control. And every ship had an inset of iron
in its non-magnetic hull.

His hand was upon the switch in an agony of waiting. Outside were
other beastly shapes, like no horror of earth, that came slantingly
upon them, but even their speed was unequal to the chase of this new
craft that left them far astern. Harkness saw the last ones vanish as
Chet drove down through the repelling area. And he had eyes only for
the first sight of the tiny ship that had fallen so helplessly.

Ahead and below them the sun marked a brilliant red dot. It was
falling with terrific speed, and yet, so swift was their own pace, it
took form too quickly: they would overshoot the mark.... Harkness felt
the ship shudder in slackening speed as the blast from the bow roared
out.

They were turning; aiming down. The red shape passed from view where
Harkness stood. His hand was tight upon the heavy switch.

Chet's voice came sharp and clear: "Rescue switch--ready?" He appeared
as cool and steady as if he were commanding on an experimental test
instead of making his first rescue in the air. And Harkness answered:
"Ready."

A pause. To the waiting man it was an eternity of suspense. Then,
"Contact!" Chet shouted, and Harkness' tense muscles threw the current
into crashing life.

       *       *       *       *       *

He felt the smash and jar as the two ships came together. He knew that
the great magnets in their lower hull had gripped the plates on the
top of the other ship. He was certain that the light fans of the
smaller craft must have been crushed; but they had the little red
speedster in an unshakable grip; and they would land it gently. And
then--then he would know!

The dreadful visions in his mind would not down.... Chet's voice
broke in upon him.

"I can't maintain altitude," Chet was saying. "Our vertical blasts
strike upon the other ship; they are almost neutralized." He pointed
to a needle that was moving with slow certainty and deadly persistence
across a graduated dial. It was their low-level altimeter, marking
their fall. Harkness stared at it in stunned understanding.

"We can't hold on," the pilot was saying; "We'll crash sure as fate.
But I'm darned if we'll ever let go!"

Harkness made no reply. He had dashed for an after-compartment to
their storage place of tools, and returned with a blow-torch in his
hand. He lit it and checked its blue flame to a needle of fire.

"Listen, Chet," he said, and the note of command in his voice told who
was in charge, at the final analysis, in this emergency. "I will be
down below. You call out when we are down to twenty thousand: I can
stand the thin air there. I will open the emergency slot in the lower
hull."

"You're going down?" Chet asked. He glanced at the torch and nodded
his understanding. "Going to cut your way through and--"

"I'll get her if she's there to get," Harkness told him grimly. "At
five hundred, if I'm not back, pull the switch."

       *       *       *       *       *

The pilot's reply came with equal emphasis. "Make it snappy," he said:
"this collision instrument has picked up the signals of five
patrol-ships a hundred miles to the south."

They dropped swiftly to the twenty level, and Harkness heard the
deafening roar of their lower exhausts as he opened the slot in their
ship's hull. He dropped to the red surface held close beneath, while
the cold gripped him and the whirling blasts of air tore at him. But
the torch did its work, and he lowered himself into the cabin of the
little craft that had been the plaything of Mademoiselle Diane.

The cabin was a splintered wreck, where a horrible head had smashed in
search of food. One entrance port was torn open, and the head itself
still hung where it had lodged. The mouth gaped flabbily open; above
it was the suction cup that formed a snout; and above that, a row of
staring, sightless eyes. Chet had slammed into the mass of serpents
just in time, Harkness realized. Just in time, or just too late....

The door to the control room was sprung and jammed. He pried it open
to see the unconscious body that lay huddled upon the floor. But he
knew, with a wave of thankfulness that was suffocating, that the brute
had not reached her; only the slow release of the air-pressure had
rendered her unconscious. He was beside her in an instant.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was dimly aware of the thunder of exhausts and the shrill scream of
helicopters as he reached the upper surface of the red ship and forced
his unconscious burden into the emergency slot above his head.

"They're here!" Chet was shouting excitedly. "We're ordered to halt.
Looks as if our flight was postponed." He tried to smile, but the
experiment was a failure.

"I am dodging around to keep that big one from grabbing us with its
magnet. Schwartzmann is aboard one of the patrols; they think the girl
is in her ship. They won't fire on us as long as we hang on. But we'll
crash if we do that, and they'll nail us if we let go."

Harkness had placed the girl's body upon the floor. His answer was a
quick leap to the pilot's side. "See to her," he ordered; "I'll take
the ship. Stop us now? Like hell they will! What's all our power
for?"

One glance gave him the situation: the big gray fighter above,
slipping down to seize them with her powerful magnets; four other
patrol cruisers that slowly circled, their helicopters holding them
even with the two ships that clung together in swift descent.

Chet was right; no burst of speed could save them from the guns of the
patrols if they dropped the red speedster and made a break for it.
They thought Diane was still in her ship, and a patrol would have the
little craft safe before she had dropped a thousand feet. Their own
stern exhaust would be torn by a detonite shell, and the big cruiser
would seize them in the same way. No--they must hang onto the girl's
ship and outmaneuver the others. He pressed the metal ball forward to
the limit of its space, and the stern exhaust crashed into action with
all the suddenness of his own resolve.

The ship beneath him threw itself straight ahead, flashed under the
patrol-ship that blocked them, and was away. The weight below, and its
resistance to the air, dragged them down, but Harkness brought the
ball up, and the ship answered with a slow lift of the bow that aimed
them straight out into space.

A vertical climb!--and the voice from the instrument beside him was
shouting orders to halt. On each side were patrol-ships that roared
upward with him.

"Cut those motors!" the voice commanded. "Release that ship! Halt, or
we will fire!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Harkness threw his ship into a wild spiral for reply, and the thin
crack of guns came to him from outside. Down! A headlong dive! Then
out and up again!

He was through the repelling area in a twisting, rocking flight. Not
hit as yet; they had to aim carefully to avoid damaging the red
craft.... He was straining his eyes for a glimpse of serpent-forms,
and he laughed softly under his breath at thought of his strange
allies. Laughed!--until he saw them coming.

He slammed down the switch on his own broadcast sender. "Back!" he
shouted; "back, all of you! Look up! Look above you! The monsters are
coming!--the air-beasts!--they are attacking!"

He threw his own ship into a dive; saw the others do likewise; then
leaped for the switch on the rescue magnets and pulled it open.

He felt the red ship fall clear. He swung his own ship free and aimed
it out and up on a long line of speed. Beside him a voice from a
distant, fleeing patrol was shouting; "Come back, you fool! Down!
Down, through the R. A.!"

One backward glance showed him that his pursuers were safe. The
serpents had turned to pursue him, and other writhing luminosities
were falling from above. He swung head on, his motors wide open, his
speed building up and up, to crash softly through the advance guard of
the giant creatures out of space.

Nothing could stop him! He was trembling with the knowledge, and with
the sheer joy of the adventure. Nothing could check them; neither
cruisers nor monsters; nothing of earth or of space. They were free;
they were on their way out--out where a new world awaited--where the
Dark Moon raced on her unlighted path!

       *       *       *       *       *

For the moment he had forgotten their passenger. The thrill of combat
and the ecstasy of winning freedom for their great adventure had
filled him to forgetfulness of all else.

"We're off!" he shouted. "Off for the Dark Moon!" Then he remembered,
and turned where Chet was supporting the head of a slim girl whose
eyes opened to look about, to glance from Chet to Harkness and back to
Chet who was holding her.

"You saved me," she breathed, "from them!" She raised one hand weakly
to cover her eyes at memory of those writhing shapes, then let it fall
as other memories crowded in.

"The patrol-ships!" she exclaimed breathlessly. "You must...." Her
voice trailed off into silence.

She was able to stand, and with Chet's help she came slowly to her
feet as Harkness reached her. His voice was harsh and scornful; all
elation had left him. He forced himself to hold his unsmiling gaze
steadily upon the soft brown eyes that turned to his.

"Yes," he said; "we must 'surrender'--that was the word you wanted. We
must surrender!... Well, Mam'selle Diane, we're not in a surrendering
mood to-day. We've got away; made our escape!"

He laughed loudly and contemptuously, though he winced at the look of
hurt that opened the brown eyes wide.

"You brought the patrol," he went on; "you learned where we were--"

"Herr Schwartzmann did," she interrupted in a quiet voice. "He located
you; your signals were picked up.... They left two hours before I
did," she added enigmatically. "I had to fly high, above the R. A. for
greater speed."

Walt Harkness was bewildered. What did this mean? He tried to preserve
the pose of hard indifference that was becoming increasingly
difficult.

"More generosity?" he inquired. "You had to see the end of the
hunt--be in at the death?"

"In at the death!" she echoed, and laughed in a tone that trembled and
broke. "I nearly was, truly. But, no, my dear Monsieur Harkness:
incredible as it seems, in view of your unfriendly reception, I came
to warn you!... But, enough of that. Tell me--you see how interested
I am in your plans?--what did you say of the Dark Moon?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Walter Harkness tried to rearrange his jumbled thoughts. She had come
to warn them. Was this true? Or was this girl, who laughed so lightly,
playing with him?

"Yes," he said dully, "we were bound for the Dark Moon. The Patrol
couldn't stop us, nor the beasts that have paralyzed the flying
service of the earth; but you have done it. We will turn back at once,
and return you safely--"

He was again at the controls, one hand extended for the metal ball,
when her slim hand closed upon his wrist.

"I know Herr Schwartzmann's plans," she said quietly. "He would ruin
you; seize your ship; steal for himself the glory of your invention.
Would you go back and deliver yourself into his hands--because of me?"

The brown eyes, Harkness found, were upon his with an expression he
could not fathom.

"Yes," he said simply.

And still the eyes looked into his. There was laughter in them, and
something else whose meaning was concealed.

"I ask you not to do this," she was saying. "You will succeed; I read
it in your face. Let me go with you; let me share in the adventure. I
am begging this of you. It is your turn to be generous."

Harkness' hand upon the metal ball held it motionless within its
enclosing cage. From astern there came to him the muffled roar of a
blast that drove them on and out into space--black, velvety space,
thick-studded with sharp points of light.... He stared into that
wondrous night, then back into the eyes that looked steadily,
unfathomably, into his.... And his hand was unresisting as the
strong, slender fingers about his wrist drew it back....

They were off for the Dark Moon: their journey, truly, was begun. And
this girl, whom he had told himself to forget, was going with them.
There was much that he did not understand, but he knew that he was
glad with a gladness that transcended all previous thrills of the
perilous plan.


CHAPTER V

_The "Dark Moon"_

They were seated in the cabin of the man-made meteor that the brain of
Harkness had conceived--two men and a girl. And they stared at one
another unsmilingly, with eyes which reflected their comprehension of
the risks that they ran and the dangers which lay ahead in the dark
void. Yet the brown eyes of Mam'selle Diane, no less than the others,
were afire with the thrill of adventure--the same response to the same
lure that has carried men to each new exploration--or to their death.

Behind them, a rear lookout port framed a picture of awful majesty.
The earth was a great disc, faintly luminous in a curtain of dead
black. From beyond it, a hidden sun made glorious flame of the disc's
entire rim. And, streaming toward it, a straight, blasting line from
their stern exhaust, was an arrow of blue.

It had taken form slowly, that arrow of blue fire, and Harkness
answered an unspoken question from the girl.

"Hydrogen and oxygen," he explained. "It is an explosive mixture at
this height, but too thin to take fire. It will pass. Beyond this is
pure hydrogen. And then, nothing."

He turned to switch on their radio receiver, and he set it for the
newscasting waves that went forth from the most powerful station of
Earth, the Press Tower of New York. A voice came to them faintly. For
a time it vied with the muffled roar of their thundering exhaust; then
it lost volume, faded, and was finally gone.

Their last contact with Earth was severed. There remained only
blackness, and a great abyss through which they were plunging.

       *       *       *       *       *

Harkness busied himself with calculations. He would have spoken, but
the silence that followed the vanished voice of Earth had robbed his
own voice of control.

A telescope sight was fixed rigid with the axis of their ship. He
looked through it, moved their controls, and brought the cross-hairs
of his instrument to bear upon a star.

"That's about right," he said quietly. "I got all the information that
the observatories had on the orbit of the Dark Moon. It is circling
the Earth from north to south. It coincided for a short time with our
own moon when it first hit; that's what kicked up the big wave and
jarred us up. But it swung off and seems to have settled down in its
own orbit now.

"Two hundred thousand miles away is what they make it, though I think
that is more or less of a guess. I wish we could measure our speed."
He looked at the earth-induction speed-indicator. Useless now, it
registered zero.

"Well," he added, "we are shooting for the North Star. We will pass
close to the Dark Moon's orbit; it should be about over the Pole on
this date. And there is one good safe bet, anyhow; there is nothing
between here and there to stop us."

He was being weakly facetious, but his efforts met with an
enthusiastic response. The tension of the moment, it was plain, had
not affected Harkness alone. But it was many hours before the error of
his statement was made manifest to all.

An island, faintly luminous, lay ahead. It grew to enormous size as
they dashed upon it. Harkness sprang for the controls, but, before he
could reach them, they had struck the vast field of pale green light,
flashed through it, and left it diminishing in size behind them. Then,
other lights, not brilliant, but like phosphorescent bodies, that came
and went and flashed by with blinding speed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another luminous area rushed at them from ahead. At first it was a
speck, then an island, and then a continent in size, and through it
moved other brighter lights. This time a slight suggestion of an
impact was felt. Here was matter of a form they could not guess. It
was Chet who pointed to the glass of their control room. The heavy
lights of the lookouts were smeared with sticky fluid that drew
together in trickling streams.

"Nothing between us and the Dark Moon?" he asked of Harkness. "And
space is an empty void? We Earth-creatures are a conceited lot."

"Meaning?" the girl questioned.

"Meaning that because we live on Earth--walk on solid ground, swim in
the water and fly in the air--we deny the existence of life in space.
There's the answer written in the blood of some life that was snuffed
out as we hit it."

Harkness shook his head doubtfully. "Matter of some sort," he
admitted, "and the serpents came from somewhere; but, as for the rest,
the idea that the ocean of space is filled with life as our
Earth-oceans are--creatures living and moving through unknown fields
of force...." He did not finish the denial, but looked with wondering
gaze at the myriad points that flashed softly into glowing masses and
darted aside before their onward rush.

It was hours later that he checked their flight. Slowly at first he
cut off the exhaust from their stern and opened the bow valve.
Slowly, for their wild speed must slacken as it had been built up, by
slow degrees. The self-adjusting floor swung forward and up. Their
deceleration was like the pull of gravity, and now straight ahead
seemed down.

More hours, and they were at rest, floating in an ethereal ocean, an
ocean teeming with strange life. Each face was pressed close to a
lookout port. No one of the three could speak; each was too absorbed
in the story his eyes were reading--this story of a strange, new
existence where no life should have been.

Animalculae. They came in swarms; cloud masses of them floated past;
and swirls of phosphorescent fire marked the presence of larger
creatures that moved among them. Large and small, each living creature
was invisible until it moved; then came the greenish light, like
phosphorescence and yet unlike.

       *       *       *       *       *

Still Harkness could not force himself to believe the irrefutable
evidence. What of astronomy? he asked himself. Why was this matter not
visible through telescopes? Why did it not make its presence known
through interference? Through refraction of light?... And then he
realized the incredible distance within the scope of his vision; he
knew that this swarming life was actually more widely spaced; and the
light of a brilliant star shone toward him through the center of a
living mass to prove that here was matter that offered no resistance
to the passage of light.

A void of nothingness was before his eyes. He saw its black emptiness
change to pale green fire that swirled and fled before a large shape.
The newcomer swept down like light itself. Softly green like the
others, its rounded body was outlined in a huge circle of orange
light. Like a cyclopean pod, it was open at one end, and that open end
closed and opened and closed again as the creature gulped in uncounted
millions of the tiny, luminous dots--every one, as Harkness now knew,
a living thing.

Strange light whirled into life and vanished, each evidencing a battle
where life took life in this ocean of the invisible living. A gasp
from the girl brought Harkness quickly about.

"Another one!" she said breathlessly, and pointed where the blackness
was looped with writhing fire. It came swiftly near to show the
outline of the dread serpent form; the suction cups showed plainly.

Danger was in this thing, Harkness knew, but it passed them by before
he could move. The further lookout showed two gleaming monsters locked
together in deadly embrace. So swift was their whirling motion that
details of form were lost: only a confusion of lashing tentacles that
whipped and tore, and one glimpse of a savage maw that sheared the
tentacles off. Then the serpent was upon them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Harkness had seen one time a sight that was indelibly impressed upon
his memory. A steeloid cable had broken under a terrific strain; the
end of it had lashed out with a speed the eye could not follow, to
wind itself around the superstructure of a submarine--and the men who
were gathered there.

He thought of that now, saw again the bleeding mass that had been an
instant before a group of humans, as the serpent seized its prey. The
two combatants were encircled in a living coil of light. Then, as
motion ceased, the ethereal sea went dark except for pulsing suction
cups that drew and strained at the bodies they held.

Harkness was groping for the controls--he saw too plainly their own
helplessness when they were at rest--but the voice of Dianne checked
him.

"That bright star went out," she said; and Harkness let his gaze
follow where she pointed.

The stars that were distant suns shone in brilliant points of light;
no atmosphere here to dim them or cause a flickering. A bright point
vanished as she looked--another!--and he knew abruptly that he was
seeing a circle of blackness that moved slowly between them and the
stars.

"The Moon!" he shouted. "The Dark Moon!" And now his hand found the
controls that threw their ship into thunderous life. It was
approaching! He swung the metal ball to throw them ahead and to one
side, and the roar from the stern told of the fast-growing speed that
was pressing them to the floor....

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour of wild flight, and the circle was close upon them. Too
faintly lighted to register in the telescopes of Earth, there was
still enough of luminosity to mark it as a round disc of violet that
grew dimly bluish-green around the edge.

It ceased to grow. Their ship, Harkness knew, was speeding beside it
some hundreds of miles away. But they were within its gravitational
pull, and were falling toward it. And he aimed his ship bow-on to make
the forward blast a check upon their falling speed.

The circle broadened; became a sphere; and then they were plunging
through clouds more tenuous than any vapors of Earth--thick layers of
gas that reflected no rays from the distant sun.

Beside them a sinuous form showed where a serpent of space was trying
to match their speed. Harkness saw it twisting convulsively in the
stratum of gas; it was falling, lifeless, beside them as they sped on
and away. Here was something the beasts could not combat. He made a
mental note of the fact, but his thoughts flashed again to what lay
ahead.

Every eye was held close to the lookouts that faced forward. The three
were breathless, wordless; the hand of Harkness that held the tiny
ball was all that moved.

Ahead of them was their goal, the Dark Moon! And they were prepared
for Stygian darkness and a land of perpetual night. The almost
invisible gas-clouds thinned; there was a glow ahead that grew
brilliant as they watched; and then, with a blinding suddenness that
made them shield their eyes, there flashed before them a world of
light.

Each line of shore was marked distinctly there; the blue and violet of
rippling seas were blended with unreal hues; there were mountains
upthrust and, on the horizon, a range of volcanic peaks that poured
forth flashing eruptions half-blanketed by invisible gas.

"The Dark Moon!" gasped Harkness. He was spellbound with utter awe at
the spectacle he beheld. This brilliant world a-gleam to its farthest
horizon with golden, glorious sunlight, softly spread and diffused!
This, _this!_ was the Dark Moon!

       *       *       *       *       *

He turned to share with the others the delirium of ecstatic wonder too
overpowering to be borne alone--turned, to find his happiness shot
through with a pang of regret. He saw Chet and Diane. They had been
standing together at a wide forward lookout; and now she was holding
one hand of the pilot to her breast in an embrace of passionate joy.

Unconscious, that gesture of delight at this climax of their perilous
trip?--Harkness told himself that this was so. But he swung back to
the helm of the ship. He glanced at instruments that again were
registering; he saw the air-pressure indicator that told of oxygen
and an atmosphere where men might live. He gauged his distance
carefully, and prepared to land.

The moment of depression could not last, for there was too much here
to fill brain and eyes. What would they find? Was there life? His
question was answered by an awkward body that flapped from beneath
them on clumsy wings. He glimpsed a sinuous neck, a head that was all
mouth and flabby pouch, and the mouth opened ludicrously in what was
doubtless a cry of alarm.

Then land, that took form and detail; a mountain whose curled top was
like a frozen wave of stone. In a valley below it trees were growing.
They swayed in a wind, and their branches reached upward and flowed
and waved like seaweed on the ocean's floor. Green--vivid, glowing
green!--and reds and purples that might be flowers and fruit.

       *       *       *       *       *

An open space in a little valley spread invitingly before him, and he
laid the ship down there in a jungle of lush grasses--set it down as
gently as if he were landing from a jaunt of a thousand miles instead
of two hundred times that distance straight away from Earth.

The others were looking at him with glowing, excited eyes. In the
cabin was silence. Harkness felt that he must speak, must say
something worthy of the moment--something to express in slight degree
the upwelling emotion that filled them all, three adventurers about to
set foot upon a virgin world....

The pause was long-drawn, until he ended it in a voice that had all
the solemn importance of a head-steward's announcement on a liner of
the high-level service. But the corners of his lips were twitching to
a little smile.

"This," he announced, "is as far as we go. This is the end of our
run."

The tension that had held them emotionally taut was ended. With
outstretched hands Diane ran toward him, and her broken laugh betrayed
the hysteria she was holding back.

"Congratulations!" she cried, and clung tightly to his hands.
"Congratulations, M'sieu Walter--"

Her voice choked and she could not go on; but the eyes that were
raised to his were luminous through the tears that filled them.

From the cabin beyond came a clash of levers, where Chet was preparing
to open a port. And Harkness followed with unseeing eyes where the
pilot waited that their commander might be the first to step forth
upon an unknown globe--upon the surface of what men had called "The
Dark Moon."


CHAPTER VI

_Trapped_

Walter Harkness, piloting his ship to a slow, safe landing on a new
world, had watched his instruments with care. He had seen the outer
pressure build up to that of the air of Earth; the spectro-analyzer
had shown nitrogen preponderating, with sufficient oxygen to support
life. And, below him, a monstrous thing that flopped hurriedly away on
leather wings had told him that life was there.

But what would that life be? This was the question uppermost in the
minds of all three as they stepped forth--the first of Earth's people
to ask the question and to find the answer.

Chet had gone to their stores. He strapped a belt about his waist, a
belt banded with a row of detonite cartridges, and a pistol hung at
his hip. He handed another to Harkness. But the pistol he offered
Diane was refused.

"My many accomplishments," she laughed, "do not include that. I never
could shoot--and besides I will not need to with both of you here."
Her hand was resting confidently upon Chet's arm as they followed
where Harkness led.

The heavy grass, standing waist-high in the little valley where their
ship was at rest, stirred to ripples of vivid green as a light breeze
touched it. Above, the sun shone warm upon this world of tropical
growth. Harkness, listening in the utter silence for sounds that might
mean danger, let his eyes follow up the rugged wall of rock that
hemmed them in on two sides. It gleamed with metallic hues in the
midday glare. He looked on to the sun above.

"A dark moon!" he said wonderingly. "Dark!--and yet it is blazing
bright. Why can't we see it from Earth? Why is it dark?... I've an
idea that the gas we came through is the answer. There is metal, we
know, that conducts an electric current in only one direction: why not
a gas that will do the same with light?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The pilot was listening, but Diane seemed uninterested in scientific
speculations. "The trees!" she breathed in rapture; "the marvelous,
beautiful trees!"

She was gazing toward distant towering growths where the valley
widened. Like no trees of Earth, these monsters towered high in air,
their black trunks branching to end in tendrils that raised high above
them. And the tendrils were a waving, ever-moving sea of color, where
rainbow iridescence was stabbed through with the flash of crimson
buds. A down-draft of air brought a heady, intoxicating odor.

And still there was silence. To Walter Harkness, standing motionless
and alert amidst the waving grass, it seemed a hush of waiting. A
prickle of apprehension passed over his skin. He glanced about, his
pistol ready in his hand, looked back for a moment at the ship, then
smiled inwardly in self-derision of his fear as he strode forward.

"Let's have a look at things," he said with a heartiness not entirely
sincere. "We'll discover nothing standing here."

But the silence weighed upon them all as they pressed on. No
exclamations of amazement from them now, no speculations of what might
lie ahead. Only wide-eyed alertness and a constant listening,
listening--until the silence was broken by a scream.

A man it seemed at first, when Harkness saw the figure leap outward
from the cliff. A second one followed. They landed on all fours upon a
rock that jutted outward toward the trees.

The impact would have killed a human, but these creatures stood
upright to face the concealment from which they had sprung. One was
covered with matted, brown hair. Its arms were long, and its fists
pounded upon a barrel-like chest, while it growled hoarsely. The other
ape-thing, naked and hairless, did the same. They were both uttering
those sounds, that at times seemed almost like grunted words, when the
end came.

A swishing of leather wings!--a swooping, darting rush of a huge
body!--and one of the ape-men, as Harkness had mentally termed them,
was struggling in the clutch of talons that gripped him fast.

The giant bat-shape that had seized him reached for the other, too. A
talon ripped at the naked face, but the ape-man dodged and vanished
among the rocks.

       *       *       *       *       *

With pounding wings, the bat swept off in lumbering flight, but with
its burden it seemed heavy, and failed to rise. The trees were close,
and their waving tentacles drew back, then shot out to splash about
the intruder. The talons released their hold, and the huge leather
wings flapped frantically; but too late. Both captor and captive were
wrapped in an embrace of iridescent arms and held struggling in
mid-air, while the unmoving watchers below stood in horror before this
drama of life and death.

Then a red bud opened. It was enormous, and its flowery beauty made
more revolting the spectacle of the living food that was thrust within
its maw.

The bud closed. Its petals were like lips.... And Diane, in
white-faced horror, was clinging to the protecting arm of Chet Bullard
beside her. Chet, too, had paled beneath his tan. But Walter Harkness,
though white of face, was staring not at the crimson bud, shut tightly
about its living food, but upward toward the broken, rocky face of the
cliff.

The flying thing, the unnamed horror of the air, had come silently
from on high. None of them had seen it until it struck, and he was
sure that the ape-men had been taken unaware. Then what had frightened
them? What other horror had driven them in screaming terror to that
fearful spring out into the open where they must have known danger
awaited?

Did a rock move? he wondered. Was the splotch of color--that mottling
of crimson and copper and gray--a part of the metallic mass? He rubbed
his smarting eyes--and when he looked again the color was gone. But he
had a conviction that eyes, sinister and deadly, had been staring into
his, that a living mass had withdrawn softly into a shadowed cave, and
that the menace that had threatened the ape-men was directed now
toward them.

Was this the reason for the silence? Was this valley, so peaceful in
its sunlit stillness, a place of death, from which all living things
kept clear? Had the ape-men been drawn there through curiosity at
seeing their ship float down?

And the quiet beauty of the valley--it might be as horrible a mockery
as the blazing splendor of those things ahead--those beautiful and
horrible eaters of flesh! His voice was unsteady as he turned toward
the others.

"Let's call this off," he said: "there is something up there. We'll go
back to the ship and get up in the air again. We'll find a healthier
place to land."

       *       *       *       *       *

Like Harkness, Chet Bullard held his pistol ready in his hand.
"Something else?" he inquired. "You saw something?" And Harkness
nodded grimly.

They retraced their steps. A half-mile, perhaps. It had seemed long as
they ventured forth, and was no shorter now. And the gleaming, silvery
shape of the ship was entirely lovely to their eyes as they
approached.

Harkness circled the blunt bow with its open exhaust high above his
head. On the far side was the port where they had emerged; its open
door would be welcome in its promise of safe seclusion. His sigh of
relief was echoed by the two who followed, for the horror and
apprehension had been felt by all. But the breath choked abruptly in
his throat.

Before them was the door, its thick metal wide-swung as they had left
it. But the doorway itself, where warm darkness should have invited,
was entirely sealed by a web of translucent stuff.

Harkness approached to look more closely. The substance was glistening
and smooth--yellowish--almost transparent. It was made up of a tangle
of woven cords which clung tightly to the metal sides. Harkness
reached out in sudden fury to grip it and tear it loose. He grasped
the slippery stuff, stumbled--and hung suspended by a tenacious hold
that gripped his hand where it had touched, and would not let go.

His arm swung against it, and his shoulder. They were instantly
immovable. And he knew in a single terrifying instant his utter
helplessness. He saw Chet Bullard's hands come up, and he found his
voice in time to scream a harsh warning to him.

"Tear me loose!" he commanded, "but don't touch the damned stuff!" It
took the combined strength of the pilot and the girl to free him, and
Harkness had to set his teeth to restrain an exclamation of pain as
his hand came slowly from the web that clung and clung and would not
let go.

       *       *       *       *       *

From his place upon the ground he saw Chet raise a broken piece of
rock. It was like metal, and heavy, as the pilot's efforts proved,
though it was surprisingly small in size. He saw Chet raise it above
his head and crash it upon the thick web that filled the door. And, as
his own aching arm had been held, the rock was seized in the tough
strands, which gave back only slightly under the blow.

Harkness scrambled to his feet. The fury that had possessed him made
the hurt of his arm unfelt. What devil's work was this that barred
them from the safety of the ship? The memory of that other menace,
half-seen among the rocks, was strong upon him.

"Stand back!" he shouted to Chet and the girl, and he raised his
pistol to send a charge of detonite into the unyielding mass. Here was
power to tear the clinging-stuff to atoms.

He felt Chet's body plunge upon him an instant before he fired, and
his pistol was knocked up and flew outward from his hand. He heard
the pilot's voice.

"Walt!" Chet was saying. "For God's sake come out of it! Are you
crazy? You might have wrecked that door-port so we never could have
fixed it; or the bullet could have gone on through to explode inside
the ship. Either way we would never get back: no leaky hull would ever
let us make the trip home!"

Chet was right: Harkness knew it in a moment. He knew the folly of
what he would have done, yet knew, too, that desperate measures were
needed and needed quickly. The eyes of a devil had held his own from
the darkness of the rocks, and the same rock wall came close to where
they stood. He was in command; it was up to him--

       *       *       *       *       *

The moment of indecision ended as a mass of viscous fluid splashed
heavily against the ship. Harkness whirled about to face the rocks. He
was calm now and controlled, but under his quiet courage was a fear
that gripped him. A fear of what he should find! But the reality was
so far beyond any imagined terror as to leave him cold.

Above them and thirty feet away on a rocky ledge was a thing of
horror. Basilisk eyes in a hairy head; gray, stringy hairs; and the
fearful head ended in narrow, outthrust jaws, where more of the gray
hairs hung like moss from lips that writhed and curled and sucked at
the air with a whistling shrillness. Those jaws could crush a man to
pulp. And the head seemed huge until the body behind it came into
view.

The suddenness with which the great body rose showed the strength of
the beast. A prodigious sack, like black leather, with markings of
crimson and copper!--and the straggling, ropy hairs on it were
greenish-gray like the lustre of the rocks at its back.

It stood upright on great hairy legs. The eyes shot forward on
protruding antennae. The sack-like body flexed to bring the rear part
under and forward. It was aiming at them.

Harkness seized the slim figure of the girl who stood, mute with
horror, beside him. He threw her roughly to the ground, for the
meaning of the viscous splash was plain.

"Down!" he shouted to Chet. "Down on the ground!" And he felt the
swish of another liquid mass above his head as he obeyed his own
command.

He felt for his pistol, then remembered it was gone--lost when Chet
sprang upon him. But Chet had his.

"Shoot!" he ordered. "Shoot the damned thing, Chet! Kill the spider!"

Spider! He had named it unconsciously. But the name was inadequate,
for here was a thing of horror beyond even a spider of prodigious
size. This peaceful valley!--and here was its ruler, frightful,
incredibly loathsome!

       *       *       *       *       *

He waited for the sound of a shot. A cursing, instead, was the only
reply: Chet was not firing! Harkness whirled to see the pilot pinned
by one arm to the web.

The fluid had caught him; he had not dropped quickly enough. And his
right hand that had been raised, and the pistol it held, were clamped
fast to the awful stuff.

There was no word of appeal, no call for help, yet Chet Bullard must
have known what this meant. But neither did Harkness wait for that
word. One spring, and he had the pilot by the waist, and he felt the
weight of the girl's slim body added to his as her arms went about him
to help. Chet's face went chalk-white as the hand tore loose. The
pistol remained buried in the clinging stuff.

From the corner of his eye, Harkness saw the monster crouched to
spring. He was half dragging the other two as he stooped and ran for
the bow of the ship. The monstrous body thudded against the metal hull
behind them.

The leap was prodigious. He saw the sack-like body fall inert, the
great, hairy legs shaking. For the moment, the attacker was helpless:
but the respite was brief, as the glaring eyes plainly told.

Below the ledge where the beast had been was an opening in the
rocks--a bit of black shadow that was darker than the lustrous metal
of the cliff. There was a chance--

"I can make it," Chet was saying, as Harkness dragged him on; "help
Diane!" But the girl had sprung before them to gain a foothold and
extend a helping hand. And they were back in the darkness of a rocky
cave before the sunlit entrance was blocked by a hairy head and a
horrible, slavering mouth on a body too huge to enter.


CHAPTER VII

_In the Labyrinth_

Spent and shaken, the three passed onward into the cave. Harkness
searched his pockets for his neolite flash; found it--a tiny pencil
with a tip of glass--and the darkness of the inner cave was flooded
with light.

A box of food tablets was in a pocket of Chet's jacket, and there was
water that trickled in a tiny stream out of the rocks. It could have
been worse, Diane pointed out with forced gaiety. But Harkness, who
had gone back for a final look at the entrance to the cave, found it
difficult to smile.

He had found the entrance an opening no longer: it was sealed with a
giant web of ropy strands--a network, welded together to a glutinous
mesh. They were sealed in as effectively as if the opening were
closed by a thick door of steel.

They gathered fungus that grew in thready clumps on the walls, and
this served as a mattress to soften the rocky floor that must be their
bed. And Harkness sat silent in the darkness long after the others
were asleep--sat alone on guard, to think and to reach, at last, a
conclusion.

A cleavage in the rocks made a narrow crack to the outside world, and
through it the starlight filtered dimly. The thread of light grew
brilliantly golden--moonlight, a hundredfold more bright than
moonlight on Earth. And he realized that the source of light was their
own globe, Earth, shining far through space!

It lighted the cave with a mellow glow. It shone upon the closed eyes
of the sleeping girl, and touched lightly upon the rounded softness of
a lovely face beneath a tangle of brown curls. Harkness stared long
and soberly at the picture she made, and he thought of many things.

No parasite upon society was this girl. He had known such; but her
ready wit, her keen grasp of affairs, had been evident in their talks
on the journey they had made. They had stamped her as one who was able
to share in the work and responsibilities of a world where men and
women worked together. Yet there was nothing of the hardness that so
many women showed. And now she was altogether feminine, and entirely
lovely.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not far away, Chet Bullard was sleeping heavily. His hand, injured
painfully when they tore it from the clinging mass, had been bandaged
by Diane. It troubled him now, and he flung one arm outward. His hand
touched that of the girl, and Harkness saw the instant quiet that came
upon him at the touch. And Diane--her lips were smiling in her sleep.

They had been much together, those two; theirs had been a ready,
laughing comradeship. It had troubled Harkness, but now he put all
thought of self aside.

"This trip," he thought, "can end only in disaster--if it has not
already done so. What a fool I was to bring these two!" And: "If I
want to risk my own life," he told himself bitterly, "that's my own
affair. But for Chet, and Diane, with their lives ahead of them--" His
determination was quickly reached.

He would go back. Somehow, some way, he would get them to the ship.
They would return to Earth. And then.... His plans were vague. But he
knew he could interest capital; he knew that this new world, that was
one great mine of raw metals, would not go long unworked. The metallic
colorations in rock walls and mountains had fairly shouted of rich
ores and untold wealth.

Yes, they would go back, but he would return. He would put from his
mind all thought of this girl; he would forget forever those nebulous
plans that had filled him with hope for a happiness beyond all hoping.
And he would come back here prepared for conquest.

He put aside all speculation as to what other horrible forms of life
the little world might hold: he would be prepared to deal with them.
But he still wondered if there were people. He had hoped to find some
human life.

And this hope, too, left him; his sense of this globe as an
undeveloped world was strong upon him. The monsters; the tropical,
terrible vegetation; the very air itself--all breathed of a world that
was young. There had not been time for the long periods of evolution
through which humanity came.

He tried to tell himself of the wealth that would be his; tried to
feel the excitement that should follow upon such plans. But he could
only feel a sense of loss, of something precious that was gone.
Diane--named for the moon: she seemed more precious now to the lonely
man than all else on moon or Earth. She could never be his; she never
had been. It was Chet upon whom the gods and Diane had smiled. And
Chet deserved it.

Only in this last conviction did he find some measure of consolation
during the long night.

       *       *       *       *       *

"We will rip the big web out with detonite," Harkness told the others
when morning came. "But I want to get the spider, too."

A touch upon the web with a stick brought an instant response. Again
they saw in all its repulsiveness the thing that seemed a creature of
some horrible dream. The eyes glared, while hairy feelers seized the
web and shook it in furious rage. Harkness, fearing another discharge
of the nauseating, viscous liquid, withdrew with the others far back
in the cave.

"Wait," he told them. "I have a plan."

The creature vanished, and Harkness went cautiously forward to the
web. He took a detonite cartridge from his belt and placed it on the
floor close to the ropy strands. Another, and another, until he had a
close-packed circle of the deadly things. Then he placed a heavy,
metallic piece of rock beside them and proceeded, with infinite care,
to build a tower.

One irregular block upon another: it was like a child at play with his
toys. Only now the play was filled with deadly menace. The stones
swayed, then held in precarious, leaning uncertainty; the topmost was
directly above the cartridges on the floor.

"Back!" he ordered the others, "and lie flat on the floor. I must
guess at the amount of explosive for the job."

Chet and Diane were safe as Harkness weighed a fragment of metal in
his hand. One throw--and he must not hit the tower he had built....
The rock struck into the network of cords; he saw it clinging where it
struck, and saw the web shaking with the blow.

Over his shoulder, as he ran, he glimpsed the onrush of the beast.
Again the eyes were glaring, again the feelers were shaking furiously
at the web. They touched the leaning stones!

He had reached the place where Chet and Diane lay and saw the
beginning of the tower's fall; and in the split second of its falling
he threw himself across the body of the prostrate girl to shield her
from flying fragments of stone. A blast of air tore at him; his ears
were numbed with the thunder of the blast--a thunder that ended with a
crashing of stone on stone....

       *       *       *       *       *

Slowly he recovered his breath; then raised himself to his feet to
look toward the entrance. It would be open now, the way cleared. But,
instead of sunlight, he saw utter dark. Where the mouth of the cave
had been was blackness--and nothing else!

He fumbled for his flash, and stood in despairing silence before what
the light disclosed.

The rock was black and shining about the mouth of the cavern. It had
split like glass. In shattered fragments it filled the forward part of
the cave. The whole roof must have fallen, and a crashing slide above
had covered all.

Chet was beside him; Harkness dared not look toward the girl coming
expectantly forward.

"We'll use more of the same," Chet suggested: "we will blast our way
out."

"And bring down more rock with each charge," Harkness told him
tonelessly. "This means we are--"

Diane had overheard. Harkness' pause had come too late.

"Yes?" she encouraged. "This means we are entombed?--buried here? Is
that it?"

Her voice was quiet; her eyes, in the light of the little flash, were
steady in their look upon the man who was leader of the expedition.
Diane Vernier might shudder with horror before some obscene beast--she
would tremble with delight, too, at sight of some sudden beauty--but
she was not one to give way to hysteria when a situation must be
faced. No despair could be long-lived under the spell of those eyes,
brave and encouraging.

"No," said Walter Harkness: "we will find some way to escape. This is
blocked. We will follow the cave back and see where it leads. There
must be other outlets. We're not quitting now." He smiled with a
cheerful confidence that gave no hint of being assumed, and he led the
way with a firm step.

       *       *       *       *       *

Diane followed as usual, close to Chet. But her eyes were upon their
leader; they would have repaid him for a backward look.

To a mineralogist this tunnel that nature had pierced through the rock
would have been an endless delight, but to a man seeking escape from
his living tomb it brought no such ecstasy. The steady, appraising
glance of Harkness was everywhere--darting ahead, examining the walls,
seeking some indication, some familiar geological structure, that
might be of help.

He stopped once to kick contemptuously at a vein of quartz. Three feet
in thickness--and it crumbled to fragments under his foot to release a
network of gold.

"Rotten with it," he said.

And the only comment came from Chet: "A fat lot of good it does us!"
he replied.

The cavern branched and branched again; it opened to a great room
higher than their light could reach; it narrowed to leave apertures
through which they crawled like moles; it became a labyrinth of
passages from which there seemed no escape. Each turn, each new
opening, large or small--it was always the same: Harkness praying
inaudibly for a glimpse of light that would mean day; and,
instead--darkness!--and their own pencil of light so feeble against
the gloom ahead....


CHAPTER VIII

_The Half-Men_

"The Valley of the Fires," Harkness was to call it later, and shorten
it again to "Fire Valley." The misty smokes of a thousand fires rose
skyward from the lava beds of its upper end.

Where the lava flow had stopped and the lower valley began, came
vegetation. Sparse at first, then springing to luxuriant growth, it
contrasted strongly with the barren wall beside it and the equally
barren waste of high ground where the fires were.

Mountains hemmed it in; their distant peaks showed black, with red and
green striations of mineralized deposits. The valleys about them were
dense with foliage, a green so startling and vivid as almost to offend
the eye.

Trees were in the lower end of the valley. They were of tremendous
growth, and the dew of early morning dripped from them like rain.
Trunks smooth and ghostly white, except where the bark had split into
countless fractures and the scarlet color of the sap-wood showed
through. Outflung branches forked to drop down dangling stalks that
rooted again in the ground; these made a forest of slender white
supports for the leafy roof--a forest of spectral shapes in a
shadow-world. Only here and there were arrows of sunlight that
pierced the dense foliage above to strike through and down to the
black earth floor and the carpet of rainbow hues.

And that carpet of radiant colors was trampled into paths that wound
on to lose themselves in the half-light of that ghostly world.

       *       *       *       *       *

From one of the paths came sounds of tramping feet. Cries and snarling
grunts resounded through the silence to send lizards scurrying to the
safety of the trees. Animal cries or hoarse voices of men--it would
have been difficult to tell which. And a sight of the creatures
themselves would have left an observer still in doubt.

A score of them, and they walked upright. Some bodies were naked, a
coppery-black in color; on others the skin was covered by a sparse
growth of hair. Noses that were mere nostril-slits; low foreheads,
retreating flatly to a tangle of matted hair; protruding jaws which
showed the white flash of canine teeth as the ape-like faces twisted
and the creatures tugged at ropes of vines thrown over their
shoulders.

The Neanderthal Man had not learned to use the wheel; and these
man-animals, too, used only the sheer strength of their corded muscles
as they hauled at the body of a beast.

It dragged along the path behind them, rolling at times to show the
white of its belly instead of the flexible armor-plating that
protected its back. Fresh blood flowed from a wound in the white
under-skin; this, and the dripping flints that tipped their spears,
told how death had come. One curving horn that projected from a
wrinkled snout caught at times in the undergrowth, and then the ones
who dragged it would throw themselves upon the head with snarls of
fury and twist the big horn free.

The rocky cliff was honeycombed with caves. A cry, half-human in its
tone, brought an avalanche of figures scurrying forth. Children, whose
distended abdomens told of the alternate feasting and hunger that was
theirs, were cuffed aside by women who shouted shrilly at sight of the
prize. Older men came, too, and in a screaming mob they threw
themselves upon the carcass of the beast that had been dragged into
the open.

       *       *       *       *       *

Flint knives came into play, then sharpened stakes that were thrust
through the bleeding meat. Young and old seized what they could,
leaped across the little stream that trickled downward through the
valley, and raced for the nearest fires.

The fumaroles made places for roasting, and these half-men had learned
the taste of cooked meats. Their jaws were slavering as they waited.
The scents were tantalizing.

A hunter was reaching to snatch a shred of half-cooked meat when a
woman of the tribe gave a scream that was shrill with fear. She
pointed her gnarled hand upward on the face of the cliff.

An opening was there, a black cave-mouth in the black cliff. Above
their own caves, was this higher opening, yet they must have explored
it often--must have followed it as far as they dared, where it led to
the mountain's innermost depths. Yet from this familiar place there
stepped forth an apparition. Another followed, and another--three
strange creatures like none the savage eyes of this world had ever
seen.

Clothing torn to rags--faces black and smeared with blood--hands that
reached groping and trembling toward the light, until the half-blinded
eyes of one saw the trickling brook.

Then, "Water!" he croaked in a voice hardly more human than the
grunts of horror from below, and he took the hand of another to help
in the steep descent--while the tribe beneath them forgot their
anticipated feast, forgot all but their primordial fear of the
unknown, and, with startled cries, broke and ran for the safety of the
forest....


CHAPTER IX

_The Throwers of Thunder_

It is doubtful if Walter Harkness heard or consciously saw that
fleeing tribe. He saw only the glorious sunlight and its sparkling
reflection upon the stream; and in his nostrils was the scent of
roasting meat to rouse him to a frenzy.

For seven Earth days he and Chet had kept account of the hours. How
long after that they had followed their stumbling course he could not
have told. Time ceased to be measured in hours and days; rather was it
reckoned in painful progress a foot at a time up rocky burrows,
helping, both of them, to ease the path for the girl who struggled so
bravely with them, until aching muscles refused to bear them further.
Then periods of drugged sleep with utter fatigue for an opiate--and on
again in hopeless, aimless wandering.

And now, the sun! And he was plunging his head into icy water to drink
until he strangled for breath! He knew that Chet and Diane were beside
him. A weak laugh came to his lips as he sat erect: the girl had drunk
as deeply as the rest--and now she was washing her hands and face.

The idea seemed tremendously amusing--or was it that the simple rite
indicated more than he could bear to know? It meant that they were
safe; they had escaped; and again a trifle like cleanliness was
important in a woman's eyes. He rocked with meaningless
laughter--until again a puff of wind brought distinctly the odor of
cooking food.

A hundred feet away, up higher in the valley, were the first of the
fires. Harkness came to his feet and ran--ran staggeringly, it is
true, but he ran--and he tore at some hanging shreds of smoking meat
regardless of the burn. But the fierce gnawing at his stomach did not
force him to wolf the food. He carried it back, a double handful of
half-cooked meat, to the others. And he doled it out sparingly to them
and to himself.

The cold water had restored his sanity. "Easy," he advised them; "too
much at first and we're done for."

       *       *       *       *       *

He was chewing on the last shred when a thought struck him; he had
been too stunned before to reason. For the first time he jerked up his
head in startled alarm. He looked carefully about--at the meat on its
pointed stakes, at the distant fires, at the open glade below them and
the dense jungle beyond where nothing stirred.

"Cooked meat!" he exclaimed in a whisper. "Who did it? This means
people!"

The memory that had registered only in some corner of a mind deeper
than the conscious, came to the surface. "I remember," he said. "There
were things that ran--men--apes--what were they?"

"Oh, Lord!" Chet groaned. "And all I ask is to be left alone!" But he
wearily raised himself upright and verified the other's words.

"They ran toward that opening among those trees. And I'll bet they
live in these caves up here behind us. I got a whiff of them as we
came past: they smelled like a zoo."

They had come out on top of the lava-flow, close to its end. The
molten rock had hardened to leave a drop of some forty feet to the
open glade below. Beyond that the jungle began, but behind them was
the lava bed, frozen in countless corrugations. Harkness rose and
helped Diane to her feet: they must force their aching muscles to take
up their task again.

He peered up the valley where a thousand fires smoked. "That stream,"
he said, "comes in from a little valley that branches off up there. We
had better follow it--and we had better get going before that gang
recovers from its surprise."

They were passing the first of the fires where the meat was smoking
when Chet called a halt. "Wait a bit," he begged: "let's take a
sirloin steak along--" He was haggling at a chunk of meat with a
broken flint when a spear whistled in and crashed upon the rocks.

       *       *       *       *       *

Harkness saw the thrower. Beyond the lava's edge the jungle could be
seen, and from among the spectral trees had darted a wild figure whose
hairy arm had snapped the spear into the air.

There were more who followed. They were sliding down the slender
trunks that supported the branches and leafy roof high above the
ground. To Harkness the open doorway to the jungle seemed swarming
with monkey-men. The movement of the three fugitives had been taken as
a retreat, and the courage of the cave-dwellers had returned.

Harkness glanced quickly about to size up their situation. To go on
was certain death; if these creatures came up to meet them on the
lava-beds, the end was sure. The escarpment gave the three some slight
advantage of a higher position.

One vain wish for the pistol now resting in the deep grass beside a
vanished ship; then he sprang for the weapon that had been thrown--it
was better than nothing--and advanced cautiously to the lava's edge.

No concealment there; no broken rocks, other than pieces of flint; a
poor fortress, this, that they must defend! And the weapons of their
civilization were denied them.

Another spear hummed its shrill song, coming dangerously close. He saw
women-figures that came from the jungle with supplies of weapons.
Short spears, about six feet long, like the one he held. But they had
others, too--long lances of slender wood with tips of flint. Thrusting
spears! He had a sickening vision of those jagged stone heads ripping
into their bodies while these beasts stood off in safety. It was thus
that they killed their prey. And Diane--he could not even spare
her--could not give her the kind oblivion of a mercy-shot!

The other two were lying beside him now at the edge of the sloping
cliff. The bank of shining gray was not steep; the enemy would climb
it with ease. Hopeless! They had won through for this!... Harkness
groaned silently in an agony of spirit at thought of the girl.

"Oh, for one detonite shell to land among them!" he said between
clenched teeth--then was breathless with a thought that exploded
within his mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

His fingers were clumsy with haste as he fumbled at the head of the
spear. The sharp-edged stone was bound to its shaft with sinew, wound
round and round. The enemy were out in the open; he spared an
instant's look to see them advancing. A clattering of falling spears
sounded beyond, but the weapons were overcast, thanks to the
protection of the rocky edge.

"A shell!" Harkness spoke with sharp intensity. "Give me a cartridge
from your belt, quick!"

Chet handed him one. Harkness took one look, then pulled a cartridge
from his own belt.

"That explains it," he was muttering as he worked, "--the big
explosion when I smashed the rocks. You've got ammunition for your
pistol, but you put rifle cartridges in my belt--and service
ammunition at that. No wonder they raised the devil with those rocks!"

His fingers were working swiftly now to bind the slender cartridge to
the spear. A chipped out hollow in the flint made a seat. He gave
silent thanks for Chet Bullard's mistake. Chet had slipped; he had
filled Harkness' belt with ammunition that would have been useless for
the pistol--but it was just what he needed here.

So intent was he on his task that he hardly heard the yelling chorus
from below. It swelled to a din; but his work was finished, and he
looked up.

One figure in advance of the rest had been urging them on, and they
came in a wild rush now. Walt Harkness scrambled to his feet. Tall and
sinewy, his broad shoulders, scantily covered by the rags of blouse
that remained, were turned sideways as he raised the spear. The
yelling from below swelled louder and more shrill.

This strange one from another tribe--he was unarmed except for one of
their own spears. The curious covering on his body was flapping in the
breeze. Nothing here, surely, to hold a hunting-tribe in check.

The spear rose slowly in the air. What child of the tribe could not
have thrown it better! They came on faster now; the leader had almost
reached the place where the spear was dropping down. He must have
laughed, if laughter had yet been born in such a breast, at the futile
weapon dropping point first among the rocks.

One little shell, a scant three inches long, no thicker than the
stylus on milady's desk! But here was service ammunition, as Harkness
had said; and in the end of the lead a fulminate cap was buried--and a
grain of dense, gray dust!

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no flame--only a concussion that cracked upon one's ears,
and flying rock fragments that filled the air with demoniac shrieks.
And then that sound was lost in the shriller cries of terror and pain
as the ape-men broke for the trees.

Harkness saw some of them who rose and fell again to rise no more, and
one who dragged himself slowly from the blast that had struck him
down. But his eyes came back to another spear in his hands, and his
fingers were tearing at the sinew wrapping.

The spear bent in his hands; the wood was flexible and springy. It was
Diane who offered the next suggestion. She, too, was working at
another spear--what wonder if her breath came fast!--but her eyes were
alight, and her mind was at work.

"Make a bow!" she exclaimed. "A bow and arrow, Walter! We are fighting
primitive men, so we can't scorn primitive weapons." She stopped with
a little exclamation of pain; the sharp tip of the flint had cut her
hand.

Chet's spearhead was unloosed. He tried the spring of the shaft.
"Bully girl, Diane!" he said, and fell to gouging out a notch with the
sharp flint near the end of the shaft.

The sinew made a string. Three slender sticks lying about whose ends
had been sharpened for use on the meat: they would do for arrows. Each
arrow must be notched and headed with an explosive shell, and there
were many of them.

Chet sprang to his feet at last. Forgotten was the fatigue that had
numbed him. A wild figure, his clothes in rags, his short, curling
hair no longer blond, his face a mottling of brown and black, where
only here and there the white skin dared show through--he executed an
intricate dance-step with a bed of lava for a floor, while he
shouted:

"Bring on your fighters! Bring 'em on! Who's going to stop us now?"

       *       *       *       *       *

They were free to go, but Harkness paused at a renewed screaming from
the jungle. Again the hairy ones poured forth into the open glade. He
had half raised his bow, with arrow ready, before he saw that this was
no attack.

The screams merged discordantly with other sounds--a crashing of
uprooted trees--a chorus of harsh coughing--snorting--unrecognizable
noises. And the people were cowering in terror.

They half-ran toward the safety of their caves, but the throwers of
thunder, the demons on the lava bed, were between them and their
homes. They turned to face the jungle, and the wild sounds and crash
of splintered wood that drew near.

Harkness saw the first head that appeared. He stared in open-mouthed
amazement at the armored monster. Thick plates of shell covered its
mammoth body and lapped part way over the head to end at beady,
wicked, red eyes on either side of a single curved horn.

An instant the animal waited, to glare at the cowering human forms it
had tracked to their lair; others crashed through beside it; and in
that instant Harkness recognized the huddled group below as brothers.
Far down they were, in the long, weary path that was evolution, and
hardly come as yet to a consciousness of self--but there were those
who leaped before the others, their long spears couched and ready;
they were defending the weaker ones at their backs; they were men!

And Harkness was shouting as he raised his crude bow. "Shoot!" he
ordered. "Kill the brutes!" His own arrow was speeding true.

The rush of mammoth beasts was on as he fired, but it was checked as
quickly as it began. An inferno of explosions rose about the rushing
bodies; crashing detonations struck two of them down, their heads torn
and crushed. Between the helpless, primordial men and the charging
beasts was a geyser of spouting earth and rocks, through which showed
ugly heads and tremendous bodies that wheeled and crashed madly back
into the jungle growth.

Harkness suddenly realized that only he and Chet had fired. Diane's
bow was on the ground. He saw the girl beside it, sitting upright; but
her body was trembling and weaving, and she was plainly maintaining
her upright posture only by the greatest effort.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was beside her in an instant. "What is it?" he demanded. "Are you
hurt? What is it?"

She raised her hand that he might see; her lips, seemed almost too
numb for speech.

"Only a scratch," she whispered, but Harkness saw her eyes glazing. He
dropped to his knees and caught her swaying body in his arms.

"A scratch," she repeated in a fading voice, "from the spear....
Poison ... I think."

A head appeared over the lava crest. Harkness saw it vaguely. He knew
that Chet had the newcomer covered; his bow was drawn. It meant
nothing to him, for Diane was wounded--dying! Dying, now, in his
arms....

The ape-man came on; he was grovelling upon the ground. He was
hairless, like the one they had seen escape the attack of the giant
bat, and his cheek was slashed with a healing cut that might have been
made by a ripping talon. He abased himself before the awful might of
these creatures who had saved them. And he made motions with his arms
to picture how they had sailed down from the skies; had landed; and he
had seen them. He was plainly petitioning for pardon and the favor of
these gods--when he dropped his animal head to stare at the girl and
the cut hand that Harkness held in his.

The blue discoloration of the wound must have been plain in its
significance. The hairless one sprang abruptly to his feet and darted
toward a cave. He was back in a moment; and, though be approached with
wriggling humility, he reached the girl and he ventured to touch the
discolored hand with a sticky paste. He had a gourd that he held to
the girl's lips.

Harkness would have struck it away; he was beside himself with grief.
But Chet interposed.

"Give it to her," he said in a sharp, strained voice that told of his
own dismay. "I think the beggar knows what he's about. He is trying to
help."

The lips were lax; only a little of the liquid found its way down her
throat. But Harkness, after minutes of agony, saw the first flutter of
lids that betokened returning life....


CHAPTER X

"_But Awfully Dumb...._"

Harkness would never forget the helpless body in his arms, nor the
tender look that came slowly to the opened eyes that gazed so steadily
into his. And yet it was Chet that she seemed to want for the thousand
little services during the week that followed. And Harkness tried to
still the hurt in his heart, and he told himself that it was her
happiness be wanted more than his; that if she found greater pleasure
in having Chet near, then his love was unworthy if it placed itself as
a bar to that other happiness.

He talked by signs with the hairless one whom he called Towahg. It was
the sound the other made as he struck upon his chest. And he learned
that Towahg could guide him to the ship.

The tribe had left them alone. Only Towahg seemed inclined to
friendliness; and Harkness frequently saw the one who was their leader
in ugly, silent contemplation of them when Towahg brought food and
water to their cave.

Diane was recovering, but her progress was slow. She was able at once
to walk and go slowly about, but the least exertion tired her. It had
been a close call, Harkness knew, and he realized that some time must
pass before she could take up the hardships of the trail. And in the
meantime much might happen.

He felt that he must reach the ship at the first possible moment and
return for the others; Towahg would show him the way. He explained the
plan to Chet and Diane only to meet with emphatic dissent.

"You would go alone?" the girl exclaimed. "To meet heaven knows what
dangers? No, no, Walter; you must not! Wait; I am stronger; I can go
soon, I know."

Chet, too, was for delay--Diane was better, and she would improve
steadily. They could carry her, at first. But Harkness looked at the
jungle he must penetrate and knew that he was right.

       *       *       *       *       *

He gave Towahg a bow and arrows like his own and those that Chet kept
for defense, but the arrows were of sharpened wood without detonite
tips. He grinned toward Chet as he showed the savage how to handle the
marvellous thing.

"We've advanced these people a thousand years in the science of arms,"
he said. "They should make Diane their first Minister of Munitions, or
worship her as their own lovely goddess of the chase."

A weapon that would throw farther than the strongest man could cast a
spear--here was magic indeed! And Towahg knelt and grovelled on the
ground at his benefactor's feet.

Harkness made light of the dangers he must face, but he knew in his
own mind he might fail. And the time of leaving found him curiously
depressed. He had gripped Chet's hand, then turned to Diane for what
might be a last good-by. The quick enfoldment of her soft body in his
arms was as unpremeditated as the kiss he placed upon her lips.... He
swung away abruptly, and fell in behind his guide without a word. The
way led first across the place of smoke and fire.

Danger ahead on this strange trail; he knew it well. But he took it as
it came; and his guide, and his crude weapon, and his steady eye and
sureness of foot on rocky crags all saw him through. And he mentally
mapped the hills and valleys and the outcrops of metals that he would
explore some later time. Only seven of the short six-hour days of this
little earth had passed when he drew near the ship.

He was ready for an attack. There was the broken rubble that marked
the entrance of the cave. Beneath it, he knew, were mangled, horrible
remains. This one beast alone, it seemed, had been the ruler of the
valley, for no other appeared.

The mass that had blocked the doorway was crystalline now, and broke
to brittle fragments at a blow. He entered the familiar cabin of the
ship. There was nothing disturbed; the sealed inner door had barred
entrance to any inquiring beasts.

Far down the valley he saw a naked, running figure. Towahg had
escorted this sky-god to the great bird that had brought him, but the
courage of even so advanced a tribesman as he must have limits. He was
still running along the path they had come when Harkness closed and
sealed the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was an instrument among their stores for taking samples of gas.
Harkness attached it to the ship before he left, and he took a few
precious minutes for a flight into the heights. That gas up there was
fatal to the monsters of space: he must secure a sample and learn its
composition.

A closing of the switch on wires that led to the instrument outside,
and he knew that the container had emptied its contents of water,
drawn in the gas and sealed itself.

Then the swift descent.

He flew low as he circled back. They had traveled far on their journey
below ground; it was even a longer route where he and Towahg had
circled about. But it was the only route he knew; he could take no
chances on a short-cut and a possible long-drawn search for the little
valley.

He followed the trail. The quick dusk was near; but in an hour's slow
flying, while his eyes searched the hills and hollows, the valley was
in sight.

He came down slowly in a black sky, with only the soft, muffled roar
of the lower exhausts. It was growing dark, and he leaned from an open
door to see more clearly his position. All was different from the air,
and he needed time and careful scrutiny to get the bearings of the
place.

The soft thunder from below was in his ears when a sound pierced
through. His own name! And it was Diane's voice calling him in a
terrified tone.

"Walter!" she cried. "Help! Help! Oh, Walter, come quickly!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The scene below was lighted by fitful fires. He was above the upper
valley, a hundred yards from their cave: his mind was oriented in an
instant, and he knew each foot of ground.

And here, where neither Diane nor Chet should be, was Diane. He saw
her running in the bright glare of his landing light that he now
switched on; saw a black shape hurl itself upon her; she was
struggling. He threw himself back at the controls to send the ship
like a thunderbolt upon the earth.

A pistol was in his hand as he leaped from the still-rocking ship and
threw himself upon the thing that ran and tried to carry a struggling
burden in its arms.

He could not fire; but he brought the pistol down upon a heavy skull.
The hairy figure seemed never to feel the blow. It dropped the body of
Diane and turned, and its slavering, shining fangs were set in a
horrible face that Harkness recognized.

It was the leader of the tribe, and he had dared to attack. But where
was Chet? What of his arrows and their detonite tips? These thoughts
were crowding through his mind in the instant that ape-like fingers
gripped at his throat--the instant while he was bringing the pistol
forward and up.

A light charge of detonite in pistol ammunition--but no living body
could withstand the shock. Harkness leaped over the fallen foe to
reach the girl. She was half risen to a sitting posture as he came.

"_Dieu!_" she was whispering; "_Ah, le bon Dieu!_" Then she cried out:
"Walter! Oh, Walter, they have killed Chet! Down there!" Her hand was
pointing. She grasped at Harkness' hand to draw herself to her feet
and race with him toward the cave.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Just at dark," she explained gaspingly as they ran. "It was their
chief, and there were others with him. They leaped upon Chet--before
he could reach for his bow. They had seemed so friendly after you
left--but they were short of food--"

Her voice was sobbing now, but she kept on, and she set a pace that
Harkness could not outdistance.

"One aimed a spear at me, and Chet threw himself between. I saw the
spear strike--then I ran. I thought I heard your motors--I screamed
for you--"

They were nearing the caves. A fire was burning in the open glade
where grotesque figures leaped and danced in cannibal glee about a
figure that lay motionless upon the ground.

The tattered, wind-blown clothing--the curling hair, blond in the
fire's light--it was Chet.... And now Harkness could fire.

His pistol held twenty rounds. He emptied it into the shrieking group,
then jammed in more of the shells and fired again. He fired until no
target remained, and every savage figure was either vanished among the
trees or inert and lifeless upon the ground, their only motion the
stirring of their hairy coverings in the breeze.

       *       *       *       *       *

Harkness was beside the prostrate figure. He raised Chet's head within
his arms; Diane's brown head leaned close, her gasping breath broken
by dry sobs. The firelight flickered upon the closed lids to give them
semblance of life.

"Chet," said Walter Harkness softly. "Chet, old man--can't you speak?
We'll save you, Chet; you're not done for yet." But he felt as he
spoke that the words were a horrible lie; the blood that ran slowly
now from a wound in Chet's side seemed to speak more truly than did
he.

Yet Chet Bullard opened his eyes. His breath was the merest flutter;
the listeners bent their heads close to hear.

"Made it, did you?" asked Chet in a ghastly whisper. "And you've saved
Diane?... Good!... Well, it's been a great trip.... It's been worth
the price...."

Harkness seized at the girl's name. Here was something that might
strike home to the sinking man; might rouse him.

"Yes, Diane is saved," he told Chet: "saved for you, old fellow. You
must live--for Diane's sake. You love her, and she needs you."

Again the tired eyes opened. Once more the fluttering breath formed
words; lips moved to bring a pale ghost of Chet's ready smile like a
passing light across his face.

"Needs me? Diane?" It was a question and a denial. He was looking
straight at Harkness as he added: "It's you she needs.... You're one
square old sport, Walt, but dumb--awfully dumb...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Glorious adventure!--and the price is so often death. "A great trip,"
Chet Bullard had said; "it's been worth the price." Chet was prepared
to pay in full.

But--there was the ship! Walt Harkness, as she finished bandaging the
body of the unconscious man, stared first at the metal cylinder,
gleaming, brilliant in the Earthlight; then his gaze went to the Earth
that had risen over distant peaks with the glory of a thousand moons.
And he dared to hope.

He brought the ship softly to rest close to where Chet lay, then
placed the limp form on the self-adjusting floor of the control room.
There must be no shifting of the body as the pull of gravitation
ceased. Soft blankets made a resting place for him.

The entrance port was closed and sealed; and the ship rose gently
under his touch. And, below them, the mirrors showed a world that sank
away. Diane's head was pressed near to his to watch that vanishing
world.

Each rugged mountain was softened in the Earthlight's mellow glow;
they melted together, and lost all sharpness of form. And the light
faded and vanished as they rose into the blanket of gas that blocked
off the return rays and made of this world a dark moon.

No regret now for the territory that was unexplored. Harkness told
himself he would return. And, with the vanishing of that world his
thoughts were only of the little flame of life that still flickered in
Chet's body, and of the Earth, and of the metal ball that was swinging
them out and away.... The sound of the stern exhaust built up and up
to the roaring thunder that meant the blast was opened full....


CHAPTER XI

"_Nothing to Be Done_"

Unmoving, their ship seemed, through the long hours. Yet there were
lights that passed swiftly and unnoticed, and the unending thunder
from the stern gave assurance that they were not floating idly in the
vast sea of space.

The sun was behind them, and ahead was Earth in midday glory; Harkness
could not tear his eyes away from that goal. He stood always at the
controls, not because there was work to be done, but for the feeling
it gave him of urging the ship onward.

Diane ministered to Chet and dressed the wound. There were few words
exchanged between them.

The menace that had emptied Earth's higher levels of all aircraft was
still there. No ships were in sight, as Harkness guided his ship
toward the great sphere. His speed had been cut down, yet still he
outraced the occasional, luminous, writhing forms that threw
themselves upon them. Then the repelling area--and he crashed silently
through and down, with their forward exhaust roaring madly to hold
them in check.

A sea and a shoreline, where a peninsula projected like a giant
boot--and he knew it for Italy and the waters of the Mediterranean.

"Vienna," Diane was telling him; "go to Vienna! It is nearby. And I
know of a surgeon--one of the greatest!"

And an hour later, a quiet, confident man was telling them: "But
yes!--of a certainty he will live. It is fortunate that you were not
very far away when the accident occurred." And only then did Harkness
catch Diana's eyes in an exchange of glances where unbearable relief
was tempered with amusement.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great hospital had its own landing stages on its broad roof. Their
ship was anchored there, an object to excite the curiosity of a
gathering throng.

"Not a healthy place for me, here in Vienna," Harkness remarked. He
was lifting the ship from its anchorage, its errand of mercy done.

"Now where?" he pondered aloud. The strain of the flight was telling
on him.

The girl recognized the strained look in his eyes, the deep lines that
their experiences had etched upon his face. Gently she drew his hand
from the controls.

"I will take it," she said. "Trust me. Lie down and rest."

Harkness had witnessed an example of her flying skill; she could
handle the ship, he knew. And he threw himself upon a cot in the cabin
to sink under the weight of overpowering fatigue.

He felt the soft shock of their landing. Diane was calling him, her
hand extended to lead him from the open port. But he was wrenched
sharply from the lethargy that held him at sight of his surroundings,
and the memories they recalled.

They were in a park, and their ship rested upon a spacious lawn.
Beyond were trees where a ship had shot crashingly through
storm-tossed limbs. And, before him, a chateau, where a window had
framed the picture of a girl with outstretched arms.

"Trust me," Diane had said. And he did trust her. But did she not know
what this meant? She was delivering him into the enemy's hands. He
should have kept himself from sight until he had rallied his
forces.... He was stammering words of protest as she led him toward
the door. Armed guards were already between him and the ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a dark-panelled room Herr Schwartzmann was waiting. His gasp of
amazement as he sprang to his feet reflected the utter astonishment
written upon his face, until that look gave place to one of
satisfaction.

"Mademoiselle," he exclaimed, "--my dear Mademoiselle Diane! We had
given you up for lost. I thought--I thought--"

"Yes," said Diane quietly, "I believe that I can well imagine what you
thought."

"Ah!" said Herr Schwartzmann, and the look of satisfaction deepened.
"I see that you understand now; you will be with us in this matter. We
have plans for this young man's disposal."

The puzzled wonder that had clouded the steady eyes of Walter Harkness
was replaced by cold anger and more than a trace of contempt.

"You can forget those plans," he told Schwartzmann. "I have plans of
my own."

"Poof!" exclaimed the heavy, bearded man. "We will crush you like
that!" He struck one heavy fist upon the desk. "And what will you do?"

"Several things," said Harkness evenly. "I shall rid the upper levels
of the monsters: I have a gas that will accomplish that. I shall
restore the world's flying to normal. And, with that attended to, I
will give you my undivided attention--raise forty kinds of hell with
Herr Schwartzmann and the interests he represents.

"Forgery! Theft! The seizing of my properties by virtue of a lying
document! You shall see what this leads to. Your companies will be
wrecked; not a decent man or woman engaged in the business of a decent
world will deal with you: that is a small part of what I plan."

The dark face of Herr Schwartzmann was flushed with anger. "You will
never leave this place--" he began. But Harkness would not let him go
on: his voice was as hard as the metal of his ship.

"You and your assassins!" he said contemptuously. "You don't dare
touch me. There is another man who knows--and Diane, too." He paused
to look into the eyes of the girl, which were regarding him with an
inscrutable expression. "I do not know why she brought me here, but
Diane also knows. You can't throttle us all."

"Diane!" The exclamation was wrung involuntarily from Schwartzmann's
lips. "You speak of Mademoiselle Vernier so familiarly?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The girl's cool voice broke in. She had watched the meeting of the men
in silence; she spoke now as one taking matters into her own quite
capable hands.

"You may omit the incognito, Herr Schwartzmann," she said; "it is no
longer required. I have enjoyed a birthday since last we met: it was
passed in a place of darkness and anguish, where strong men and brave
forgot their own suffering to try by every means to bring comfort to a
girl who was facing death. For that reason I say that I enjoyed it.... And
that birthday was my twenty-first. You know what that means."

"But Mademoiselle Vernier--pardon!--Mam'selle Delacoeur, surely you
will support me. My trustee-ship during all these successful years--"

"Is at an end," said the cool voice.

"I learned more than you were aware of in this last year while I
familiarized myself with the interests that would soon be mine. No,
Herr Schwartzmann, your methods do not appeal to me; they are an
anachronism in the world of to-day."

Harkness was standing in stunned silence. "Delacoeur!" Diane was
Mademoiselle Delacoeur! But that name had been borne by the wealthiest
house of France! Old Delacoeur had died, possessed of millions beyond
counting--and he had left a daughter--Diane!

His mind could not grasp the full significance of this. But one thing
was clear: he could not aspire to the love of one of the queens of
Earth. Whatever faint hope that remained in his heart was lost.... The
cool voice was still speaking.

"You may leave now," she was saying--this girl who had been his
comrade, so unfailingly tender, so true and steady in the face of
incredible dangers. And Herr Schwartzmann took his dismissal as one
who cannot dispute his superior.

       *       *       *       *       *

The room was silent. Harkness stood with downcast eyes that followed
with meticulous precision the intricacies of design in the rug on
which he stood. A voice was speaking. Not the cool, imperative voice
of Mademoiselle Delacoeur, mistress of vast estates, but the voice of
Diane--the Diane he had learned to love--and it tore at his emotions
until his mind was a whirl of conflicting thoughts.

A tender voice: and there was laughter in it and in the eyes that his
own came despondently to meet.

"Such a man, this Walter Harkness!" she was saying. "So hard, so
vindictive! Ah, the trouble he will make for me because of my
conscienceless agents!"

Harkness threw out his hands in a helpless gesture. "Don't taunt me,"
he said. "You know you have me tied. You've drawn the charges from all
my guns. There is nothing to be done."

Diane Delacoeur drew near. The raillery was gone from her voice, and
the hand that she placed on his arm was trembling.

"Nothing?" she inquired. "Then, if friendly rivalry is impossible,
would you consider, could there not be arranged--a merger of our
interests? I am not thinking now of wealth, of which you will have far
more than I: there are so much greater things in life--"

The eyes that clung to his were pleading now. And within them was the
light that Walter Harkness at last could understand and define. He
took the trembling hand in one of his that was suddenly strong, and
with the other he raised a lovely face that no longer dared to meet
his look.

"You mean--" he began, and fumbled for words to express an emotion
that was beyond words. "Chet said--why, he said--that you needed me--"

Her reply came mingled with a tremulous laugh.

"I have the greatest regard," she whispered, "for Chet's judgement.
But--do you--need me?"

Walt Harkness held the soft body close; bent nearer to catch the
words. And he answered them with his own lips in an ecstasy of emotion
that made nothing of the thrills to be found in that other
conquest--of a Dark Moon.


A SCIENTIFIC HELL

Science playing the rôle of an up-to-date Persephone, visiting the
underworld realm of Pluto to wrest from it hidden cosmic secrets, was
described recently at a meeting of the American Geographical Society
at the Engineering Building by Prof. Harlow Shapley, Harvard
astronomical wizard, who told of the ultra-modern scientific version
of Ulysses's descent into Hades or Dante's visit to hell.

Prof. Shapley, to whom 10,000,000 light-years are like a day to any
ordinary mortal, and whose astronomical investigations have led him to
the center of the cosmos, told the scientists present to descend to
the bowels of the earth and construct therein "Plutonic Laboratories,"
where a man could learn many things unknown about beginnings and
endings, and where, incidentally he may find a way of utilising the
tremendous heat energy stored up in the "scientific hell."

Under the general theme of the "Third Dimension in Geography," Prof.
Shapley talked about the past, present and future of the earth-moon
system; how in 50,000,000 years our days and months will be
forty-seven times as long as they are now; how after that the moon
will again approach the earth until it is broken up by tidal
disruption into ring fragments circulating around the earth like the
ring around Saturn; and of shooting stars coming from far-away solar
systems.

"The temperature under the surface of the earth," said Prof. Shapley,
"increases one degree Fahrenheit at every seventy-six feet, about
seventy degrees per mile. In some places in California we get the
temperature of boiling water at a depth of less than a mile. The
center of the earth is roughly 4,000 miles below the surface.

"Because of this intense internal heat of the earth it would probably
be impossible to maintain permanent laboratories at greater depths
than two miles," said the lecturer, "and, in addition, the
installation and maintenance of Plutonic laboratories will be a
scientific adventure of great difficulty and expense. Yet, if carried
on in connection with the work of existing mines and borings it may
mark the coming decade as one of the important epochs in man's attempt
to understand the earth.

"These Plutonic laboratories, placed at various depths under the
surface, fully equipped with modern scientific apparatus, and
maintained indefinitely, will contribute to our knowledge in a dozen
important fields of geophysic and astronomy."

What Prof. Shapley pointed to as merely a possible by-product of the
proposed scientific "descent into Hades" is the commercial possibility
of tapping the earth's internal source of heat. There is 31,000,000
times as much natural heat in the earth than in all the coal resources
of the world. He stated that Sir Charles Parsons and John L. Hodgson,
both noted British engineers, are already engaged in work on this
problem.



When Caverns Yawned

_By Captain S. P. Meek_

[Illustration: From the bump on the side of the submarine came a flash
of red light.]

[Sidenote: Only Dr. Bird's super-scientific sleuthing stands in the
way of Ivan Saranoff's latest attempt at wholesale destruction.]


Bells jangled discordantly. A whistle split the air with a piercing
note. A band blared away on the platform. With a growing rumble of
sound, the Presidential special slowly gathered headway. The President
waved a final farewell to the crowds at the platform and sat down. He
chatted cheerily with his companions until the train was clear of
Charleston, then rose, and with a word to the others stepped into the
car. Operative Carnes of the United States Service slumped back in
his chair with a sigh of relief.

"Thank Goodness, that's over," he said. "I was never so glad to get
him safely away from a place in my life."

Haggerty of the secret service nodded in agreement. Colonel Holmes,
the military aide, looked up inquiringly.

"Why so? Do you think Charleston an especially dangerous place for him
to be?"

"Not ordinarily. Charleston is a very patriotic and loyal city, but I
have been worried. There have been vague rumors going around. Nothing
definite that we could pin down, but enough to make me pretty uneasy."

"I think you've worried needlessly. I have been in constant touch with
the Military Intelligence Division and they have reported nothing
alarming."

Haggerty chuckled at the look of disgust that spread over Carnes'
face. Colonel Holmes bridled visibly.

"Now look here, Carnes," he began.

"Oh, horse-feathers!" interrupted Carnes. "The M.I.D. is all right in
its place--Good Lord! What's that?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The train gave a sudden sickening lurch. Colonel Holmes sprawled in an
undignified heap in one corner of the observation platform. Carnes and
Haggerty kept their feet by hanging on to the rails. From the interior
of the car came cries of alarm. The train righted itself for a moment
and then lurched worse than before. There was a scream of brakes as
the engineer strove to halt the forward progress. The train swayed and
lurched like a ship in a storm. Carnes sprang for the telephone
connected with the engine cab and rang excitedly.

"Hello, Bemis," he cried when an answer came: "take off the brakes!
Keep moving at full speed, no matter what happens. What? Use your gun
on him, man! Keep moving even if the train tips over!"

The train swayed and rocked worse than ever as it began to gather
momentum. Carnes looked back along the track and gasped. For three
hundred yards behind them, the track was sinking out of sight. The
train forged ahead, but it was evident that it also was sinking into
the ground. The track behind them suddenly gave. With a roar like a
hundred buildings collapsing, it sank out of sight in a cloud of dust.
The rear car of the train hung partially over the yawning cavern in
the earth for an instant before the laboring engine dragged it to
solid ground. The swaying and lurching grew less. For a mile it
persisted to a slight degree. With a face the color of a sheet, Carnes
made his way into the train. The President met him at the door.

"What's the trouble, Carnes?" he demanded.

"I am not sure, Mr. President. It felt like an earthquake. A great
cavern opened in the earth behind us. Our train was almost trapped in
it."

"An earthquake! We must stop the train at once and take charge of the
situation. An emergency of that sort demands immediate attention."

"I beg you to do nothing of the sort, sir. Your presence would add
little to the rescue work and your life is too precious to risk."

"But my duty to the people--"

"Is to keep yourself alive, sir! Mr. President, this may well be an
attempt on your life. There are persons who would give anything to do
away with you, especially at present. You have not endeared yourself
to a certain class in calling for a conference of the powers to curb
Russia's anti-religious tactics."

       *       *       *       *       *

The President hesitated. He knew Carnes well enough to know that he
usually spoke from accurate knowledge and with good judgment.

"Mr. President," went on the operative earnestly, "I am responsible to
the American people for your safety. I beg you to follow my advice."

"Very well, Carnes," replied the President, "I'll put myself in your
hands for the present. What is your program?"

"Your route is well known. Other attempts may be planned since this
one failed. Let me have you transferred incognito to another train and
hurried through to Washington secretly. I am going to drop off and go
back. That earthquake needs to be looked into."

Again the President hesitated.

"My desertion of the stricken area will not be favorably regarded. If
I sneak away secretly as though in fear, it will be bad for the public
morale."

"We'll let the special go through. No one need know that you have left
it."

"Well--I guess you're right. What are you going to do about it?"

"My first move will be to summon Dr. Bird from Washington."

"That's a good move. You'd better have him bring Dr. Lassen with him.
Lassen is a great volcano and earthquake specialist, you know."

"I will, sir. If you will get ready to drop of at the next connecting
point, I'll send Haggerty and Bemis with you. The rest of the party
can remain on the special."

"All right, Carnes, if you insist."

       *       *       *       *       *

Carnes went forward to the operator of the train's radio set. In half
an hour the special came to a stop at a junction point and four men
got off. Ten minutes later three of them climbed aboard another train
which stopped for them. Carnes, the fourth man, hurried to a
telephone. Fifteen minutes later he was talking to Dr. Bird at the
latter's private laboratory in the Bureau of Standards.

"An earthquake, Carnes?" exclaimed the doctor as the operative
described the happenings. "Wait a few minutes, will you?"

In five minutes he was back on the telephone.

"It was no earthquake, old dear, whatever it may have been. I have
examined the records of all three of the Bureau's seismographs. None
of them record even a tremor. What are you going to do?"

"Whatever you say, Doctor. I'm out of my depth already."

"Let me think a moment. All right, listen. Go back to Charleston as
quickly as you can and get in touch with the commanding officer at
Fort Moultrie. I'll have the Secretary of War telephone him and give
him orders. Get troops and go to the scene of the catastrophe. Allow
no one near it. Proclaim martial law if necessary. Stop all road and
rail traffic within a radius of two miles. Arrest anyone trying to
pass your guard lines. I'll get a plane from Langley Field and come
down on the run. Is that all clear?"

"Perfectly, Doctor. By the way, the President suggested that you bring
Dr. Lassen with you."

"Since it wasn't an earthquake, he wouldn't be of much value. However,
I'll bring him if I can get hold of him. Now start things moving down
there. I'll get some apparatus together and join you in five hours;
six at the outside. Have a car waiting for me at the Charleston
airport."

       *       *       *       *       *

Carnes commandeered a passing car and drove back to Charleston. He
made a wide sweep to avoid the disturbed area and went direct to Fort
Moultrie. Dr. Bird had been good at his word. The troops were
assembled in heavy marching order when the detective arrived. A few
words to the commanding officer was sufficient to set the trucks
loaded with soldiers in motion. Carnes, accompanied by the colonel and
his staff, went direct to the scene of the catastrophe.

He found a hole in the ground, a hundred feet wide and a quarter of a
mile long, sunk to a depth of fifty feet. He shuddered as he thought
of what would have happened had the Presidential train been in the
center of the devastated area instead of at the edge. The edges of the
hole were ragged and sloping as though the earth had caved in to fill
a huge cavern underground.

State and local authorities were already on the ground, striving to
hold back sightseers. They were very glad to deliver their
responsibility to the representative of the federal government. Carnes
added their force to that of the military. In an hour a cordon of
guards were stationed about the cavern while every road was picketed
two miles away. Fortunately there had been no loss of life and no
rescue work was needed. The earth-shaking had been purely a local
matter, centered along the line of the railroad track.

There was nothing to do but wait, Carnes thought furiously. He had
worked with Dr. Bird long enough to have a fair idea of the
scientist's usual lines of investigation.

"The first thing he'll want to do is to explore that hole," he mused.
"Probably, that'll mean some excavating. I'd better get a wrecking
train with a crane on it and a steam shovel here. A gang of men with
picks and shovels might be useful, too."

He hurried to the railroad officials. The sight of his gold badge had
the desired result. Telegraph keys began to click and telephones to
ring. Carnes was sorely tempted to explore the hole himself, but he
resisted the temptation. Dr. Bird was not always pleasant when his
colleagues departed from the orders he had given.

       *       *       *       *       *

The morning passed, and the first part of the afternoon. Two wrecking
trains stood with steam up at the edge of the hole. Grouped by the
trains were a hundred negroes with shovels and picks. Carnes sat at
the edge of the hole and stared down into it. He was roused from his
reverie by the sound of a motor.

From the north came an airplane. High over the hole it passed, and
then swerved and descended. On the under side of the wings could be
seen the insignia of the Air Corps. Carnes jumped to his feet and
waved his hat. Lower came the plane until it roared across the cavern
less than a hundred feet above the ground. Two figures leaned out and
examined the terrain carefully. Carnes waved again. One of the figures
waved a hand in reply. The plane rose in the air and straightened out
toward Charleston.

"We'll have the doctor here in a few minutes now," said Carnes to the
Colonel. "It might be a good plan to send a motorcycle out along the
Charleston road to bring him in. We don't want the guards to delay
him."

The colonel gave an order and a motorcycle shot off down the road. In
half an hour it came sputtering back with a huge Cadillac roaring in
its wake. The car drew up and stopped. From it descended two men. The
first was a small, wizened figure with heavy glasses. What hair age
had left to him was as white as snow. The second figure, which towered
over the first, was one to merit attention anywhere.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Bird was as light on his feet and as quick and graceful as a cat,
but there was nothing feline about his appearance. He stood well over
six feet in his stockings and tipped the beam close to the two
hundred mark. Not one ounce of fat was on his huge frame. So fine was
he drawn that unless one looked closely he would never suspect the
weight of bone and muscle that his unobtrusive tweed suit covered.
Piercing black eyes looked out from under shaggy brows. His face was
lean and browned, and it took a second glance to realize the
tremendous height and breadth of his forehead. A craggy jutting chin
spoke of stubbornness and the relentless following up of a line of
action determined on. His head was topped with an unruly shock of
black hair which he tossed back with a hand that commanded instant
attention.

His hands were the most noteworthy thing about the famous Bureau
scientist. Long slender hands, they were, with slim tapering
fingers--the hands of an artist and a dreamer. The acid stains that
marred them could not hide their slim beauty, yet Carnes knew that
those hands had muscles like steel wire and that the doctor boasted a
grip that could crush the hand of a professional wrestler. He had seen
him tear a deck of playing cards in half and, after doubling, again in
half, with as little effort as the ordinary man would use in tearing a
bare dozen of the cards. As he climbed out of the car his keen black
eyes swept around in a comprehensive glance. Carnes, trained observer
that he was, knew that in that one glance every essential detail which
it had taken him an hour to place had been accurately noted and stored
away in the doctor's mind. He came forward to the detective.

"Has anything happened since you telephoned me?" was his first
question.

"Nothing, Doctor. I followed your instructions and also assembled a
crew of men with excavating tools."

"You're improving, Carnes. This is Dr. Lassen. This is a little out
of your line. Doctor, but you may see something familiar. What does
it look like to you?"

"Not like an earthquake, Bird, at all events. Offhand I would say that
a huge cavern had been washed in the earth and the ground had caved
in."

"It looks that way. If you are right, we should find running water if
we dig deep enough. Have you been down in the hole, Carnes?"

"No, Doctor."

"Then that's the first thing to do. You have ropes, of course?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Carnes called to the waiting gang of negroes and a dozen of these
hurried up with ropes. Dr. Bird slung a rope around his body under his
arms and was lowered into the hole. The rope slackened as he reached
bottom. Carnes lay on his stomach and looked over the edge. Dr. Bird
was gingerly picking his way across the ground. He turned and called
up.

"Carnes, you and Lassen can come down if you care to."

In a few minutes the detective and the volcanologist joined him in the
cavern. The top surface of the ground was rolled up into waves like
the sea. The sides of the hole were almost sheer. The naked rock was
exposed for thirty feet. Above the rock could be seen the subsoil, and
then the layer of top soil and vegetation. Dr. Bird was carefully
examining the rock wall.

"What do you make of these, Lassen?" he asked, pointing to a row of
horizontal striations in the rock. The volcanologist studied them.

"They might be water marks but if so they are different from any that
I have seen before," he said doubtfully. "It looks as though some
force had cut the rock away in one sharp stroke."

"Exactly. Notice this yellow powder on the ridges. Water would have
washed it away."

Dr. Bird stepped forward to the wall and idly attempted to pick up a
pinch of the yellow powder he had referred to in his fingers. He gave
an exclamation of surprise as he did so. The powder was evidently fast
to the wall. He drew his knife from his pocket and pried at the stuff.
It fell readily. He scraped again and caught a speck of the falling
powder in his hand. He gave a cry of surprise, for his hand sank as
though borne down by a heavy weight. With an effort he lifted his hand
and examined the substance.

"Come here, Carnes," he said. "Hold your hand up to catch some of this
powder as I scrape it off."

       *       *       *       *       *

The detective held up his hand. Dr. Bird pried with his knife and a
shower of dull yellow particles fell. Carnes' hand sank as though the
bits of dust had been a lead bar. He placed his other hand under it
and with an effort lifted both hands up a few inches.

"What on earth is this stuff, Doctor?" he cried. "It's as heavy as
lead."

"It's a great deal heavier than lead, Carnesy, old dear. I don't know
what it is. I am inclined to think you did a wise thing when you sent
for me. Lassen, take a look at this stuff. Did you ever run into
anything like it?"

The aged volcanologist shook his head. The yellow powder was something
beyond his ken.

"I have been poking around volcanos all my life," he said, "and I have
seen some queer things come out of the ground--but nothing like that."

Dr. Bird poked tentatively at the substance for a moment, his brow
furrowed in lines of thought. He suddenly threw back his shoulders in
a gesture of decision.

"Send a gang of excavators down here," he cried. "Never mind the power
shovel at present."

       *       *       *       *       *

Down the ropes swarmed the gang of negroes. Dr. Bird indicated an area
at one end of the cavern and directed them to dig. The blacks flew to
work with a will. The top soil and subsoil were rapidly tossed into
buckets and hauled to the surface. When bare rock lay before them, the
negroes ceased their efforts.

"What next, Doctuh, suh?" asked the foreman.

"Get dynamite!" cried the doctor. "If I'm right, this underground
cavern is entered by a tunnel. We'll blast away this caved-in rock
until we locate it."

Then occurred a strange thing.

"There is no need to go to that trouble, Dr. Bird," spoke a metallic
voice, from nowhere, it seemed. The negroes looked at one another.
Picks and shovels fell from nerveless hands.

"Your guess about a tunnel is correct, Doctor," went on the Voice.
"There is a tunnel leading away from the spot where you are, but to
find the end would be useless to you. I have prepared for that."

From the blacks came a low moan of fear.

"Ha'nts!" cried one of them. The cry was taken up and spread into a
rolling chorus of fear. With one accord they dropped their tools and
stampeded in a mad rush toward the dangling ropes. Carnes sprang
forward to stop them.

"Let them go, Carnes!" cried the doctor. "Their work is done for the
present. Let's locate that radio receiver."

"That also will be a useless search. Doctor," spoke up the Voice
again. "I have perfected a transmitter which will send my voice
through space and make it audible without the aid of the clumsy
apparatus you depend on. I am also able to see you through the miles
of intervening rock without the aid of any instruments at your end."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I presume that you can hear me as well?"

"Certainly, Doctor. To save you trouble--and I dislike to see you
waste the efforts of your really good brain on minor problems--I will
tell you that your surmise is correct. A tunnel does lead both to and
from the place where you stand. It twists and turns so that even you
would be puzzled to plot a general direction. You would have to follow
it inch by inch. If you tried that, naturally I would cause it to
collapse before you, or on top of you, if you got too close. Be
content with what you have seen and seek a better way to trace me."

"Who are you, anyway?" blurted out Carnes.

"Is it possible that you do not know? Such is fame. I thought that at
least my friend Mr. Carnes would suspect that Ivan Saranoff had done
this."

"But you're dead!" protested the detective. "We killed you when we
destroyed your helicopter."

"You killed merely an assistant who had disobeyed my orders. Had I not
decreed his death, he would be alive to-day. I could kill you as you
stand there; you into nothingness; but I do not choose to do so--yet.
Other attempts I have made you have frustrated, but this time I shall
succeed. I will institute a reign of terror which will bring your
rich, foolish country to its knees. Listen, while I give you a taste
of my power. The city of Charleston is about to be destroyed."

A thunderous roaring filled the air. Crash followed crash in rapid
succession. It sounded as though all the noise of the universe had
been concentrated in the cavern. The earth shook and rocked like a
restless sea. From above came cries of terror.

The three men in the cavern were thrown to the ground. Shaken by the
fall and deafened by the tumult, they hung onto irregularities of the
rock on which they lay. Gradually the tumult and the shaking subsided.
The cries from above became more apparent. Silence finally reigned in
the cavern and the metallic Voice spoke again.

"Go back now and look at Charleston and you will see what to expect.
The rest of your cities will soon share the same fate. Beware of
trying to trace my movements, for your lives are in the hollow of my
hand."

       *       *       *       *       *

The voice died away in silence. From the edge of the hole came a cry.
A Fort Moultrie officer was peering down at them.

"Are you all right down there?" he hailed.

"Right as hops," called Dr. Bird cheerfully. "What happened up above?"

"I don't know, Doctor. There seems to be a lot of smoke and fire over
in the direction of the city. I expect the quake shook them up a
little this time. What shall we do now?"

"We're ready to come up. First I'm going to send up a wheelbarrow full
of yellow powder. Rig a crane to lift it, for it's too heavy to try to
hoist with ropes."

With the aid of Carnes and Dr. Lassen, Dr. Bird collected a few cubic
inches of the yellow powder from the ridges in the rock. He made the
wheelbarrow containing it fast to the wire cables of the crane and
gave the signal. Slowly it was raised to the surface. When it had
safely reached there he turned to his companions.

"Grab a rope and let's go," he said.

In a few moments they were on the upper level. With the efforts of
half a dozen men, the body of the wheelbarrow was lifted into the car.
With a few final words of instruction to the colonel, Dr. Bird and his
companions entered the car and were whisked away to the city.

A spectacle of destruction and ruin awaited them. Fully one-fourth of
the city had sunk thirty feet into the ground. The sinking was not
even nor uniform. The sunken ground was rolled into huge waves while
buildings which had collapsed lay in confused heaps on all sides. From
a dozen places in the area, columns of fire rose in the air.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Bird wasted little time on the scene before him. His car skirted
the edge of the huge hole and took the road toward the Charleston
airport, which was in a section which had suffered little. In half an
hour the army transport roared into the air carrying Dr. Bird's
precious load of yellow powder. Four hours later they dropped to a
landing at Langley Field.

"Now, Carnes," said the doctor as they debarked from the plane, "there
is work ahead. It may be too late to do much to-night, but we have no
time to waste. Get Bolton on the wire and tell him that we have
positive evidence that Saranoff is still alive and still up to his
devil's tricks. Start every man of the secret service and every
Department of Justice agent that can be spared on the trail. He can't
live underground all the time, and you ought to get on his tracks
somehow. I'm going up to the laboratory and see what I can do with
this stuff. Report to me there to-morrow morning."

Carnes hurried away. Bolton, the chief of the United States Secret
Service, had long ago recovered from any professional jealousy he had
ever felt of Dr. Bird. The doctor's message that Ivan Saranoff, the
arch-enemy of society, the head of the Young Labor party, the
unofficial chief of the secret Soviet forces in the United States, was
alive and again in the field against law and order was enough to set
in motion every force that he controlled. Waving aside precedent and
crashing his way past secretaries, he set in motion not only the
agents of the Department of Justice but also the post-office forces
and the specialized but highly efficient Military and Naval
Intelligence Divisions. The telephone and telegraph wires from
Washington were kept busy all night carrying orders and bringing in
reports. But despite all this activity, it was with a disappointed
face that Operative Carnes sought the doctor in the morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Bird was in his private laboratory on the third floor of the
Bureau of Standards. When Carnes entered he was seated in a chair at
his desk. His black eyes shone out from a chalky face like two burned
holes in a blanket. Carnes started at the appearance of utter
weariness presented by the famous scientist. Dr. Bird straightened up
and squared his shoulders as the detective entered.

"Any luck, Carnes?" he asked eagerly.

"None at all, Doctor. We haven't been able to get a single trace of
his corporeal existence since that submarine was destroyed off the
Massachusetts coast. All we have is Karuska's word that he is still
alive."

"We heard his voice yesterday."

"His or another's."

"True. Have you set in motion every agency that the government has?"

"Every one. Either Bolton or I have talked to the Chief of Police in
every large city in the United States and Canada. Every known member
of the Young Labor party who is above the mere rank and file is under
close surveillance."

"Good enough. Keep at it and you'll trace him eventually. As soon as I
get a few quarts of black coffee into my system, I'll start another
line of search going."

"What did you find out last night?"

"I found that our seismograph recorded the Charleston disaster. It was
merely a faint jog, about what should be caused by a severe landslide.
The disaster did not affect the earth's crust, but was purely local.
That gives me a clue to his method."

"I described the affair to Bolton and he suggested that it might be
caused by a disintegrating ray."

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Bird snorted. "When will people learn that there is not, and in
the nature of things never can be, a disintegrating ray?" he
exclaimed. "Of course a ray can be made which will tear things down to
their constituent elements, but matter is indestructible, and the idea
of wiping matter out of existence is absurd."

"But I have heard you say that matter and energy were
interchangeable."

"That is a different proposition. I believe they are. In fact, if you
remember, Carmichael proved it, although the proof was lost at his
death. Nothing of the sort was done at Charleston, however. Do you
know how much energy is contained in matter? Well, a cubic inch of
copper would drive the largest ship afloat around the world twice, and
across the Atlantic to boot. The energy contained in the cubic yards
of rock that were removed under Charleston would have blown the world
to fragments."

"Then what did happen?"

"Matter, as you know, is composed of atoms. These atoms are as far
from one another, compared to their size, as the stars and planets of
the universe. Each atom in turn is composed of electrons, negative
particles of electrical energy, held in position about a fixed central
nucleus of positive electricity known as a proton. I speak now of the
simplest element. Most of them have many protons and electrons in
their make-up. The space between these particles compared with their
size is such that the universe would be crowded in comparison."

"What does that lead to?"

"I have described the composition of lead, the densest known element,
over thirteen times as heavy as water, bulk for bulk. Conceive what it
would mean if some force could compress together these widely
separated particles until they touched. The resulting substance would
be an element of almost inconceivable density. Such a condition is
approached in the stars, some of which are as high as four thousand
times as dense as the earth. What Saranoff has done is to find some
way of compressing together the atoms into that yellow powder which we
found in the cavern. He has not gone to the limit, for the stuff is
only a little over four thousand times as dense as water. A cubic inch
of it weighs one hundred and thirty-two pounds. With its density
increased to that extent, the volume is reduced accordingly. That was
what accounted for those caverns into which the earth tumbled."

"I'll believe you, Doctor," replied the detective; "but I'd believe
you just as quickly if you swore that the moon was made of cream
cheese made from the milk taken from the milky way. One would be just
as understandable to me as the other."

       *       *       *       *       *

They were interrupted by the entrance of a waiter who bore a huge pot
of steaming coffee. Dr. Bird's eyes lighted up as a cup was poured.
Carnes knew enough not to interrupt while the doctor poured and drank
eight cups of the strong black fluid. As he drank, the lines of
fatigue disappeared from the scientist's face. He sat up as fresh as
though he had not been working at high pressure the entire night.

"Dr. Fisher tells me that the amount of caffeine I drink would kill a
horse," he said with a chuckle; "but sometimes it is needed. I feel
better now. Let's get to work."

"What shall we do?"

"Despite Saranoff's words, it must be possible to trace him. He is
undoubtedly releasing his energy from some form of subterranean borer,
and such a thing can be located. The energy he uses must set up
electrical disturbances which instruments will detect. I have had work
started on a number of ultra-sensitive wave detectors which will
record any wave-length from zero to five millimeters. We'll send them
to various points along the seacoast. They ought to pick up the stray
waves from the energy he is using to blast a path through the earth.
I'm not going to bother with the waves from his motor; they may be of
any wave-length, and there would be constant false alarms. I have
another idea."

"What is it?"

"I am judging Saranoff from his previous actions. You remember that he
used a submarine in that alien-smuggling scheme the Coast Guard broke
up, and also when he loosed that sea monster on the Atlantic shipping?
He seems to be rather fond of submarines."

"Well?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"The amount of energy he uses must be almost inconceivable," Dr. Bird
went on. "He can hardly carry an amount of fuel which will enable him
to bore underground for very many miles, Charleston is on the coast. I
have an idea that he uses a submarine to transport his borer from
point to point. After using the borer he must return to the submarine
for recharging and transportation to the point where he plans to
strike next. I already have two hundred planes scouring the sea
looking for such a craft."

"Where do you expect him to strike next?"

"I have no idea. New York and Washington will undoubtedly be targets
eventually, but neither of them may be next. Meanwhile, would you like
to do a little more flying?"

"Surely."

"A plane is waiting for us at Langley Field. I want to look over the
coast in the vicinity of Charleston Harbor and some of the sounds near
there. If he is using a sub, he must have a base somewhere."

       *       *       *       *       *

With a competent pilot at the stick, Carnes and the Doctor spent the
day in exploring. The day yielded no results, and with the coming of
dusk they landed at Savannah for the night. Carnes talked with Bolton
over the telephone, but the secret service chief could report no
favorable progress. Tired and disgusted, they retired early, but they
were not destined to enjoy a night of uninterrupted sleep. At one
o'clock a telegram was brought to their room. Dr. Bird tore it open
and glanced sleepily at it.

"Get up, Carnes," he cried sharply. "Read this!"

The yawning detective glanced at the telegram. It contained only two
words and a signature. It was signed "Ivan," and read simply, "Watch
Wilmington."

"What the dickens?" he exclaimed as he studied the yellow slip. Dr.
Bird was hurriedly pulling on his clothes.

"Saranoff has slipped a cog this time," said the doctor. "He sent that
as a night message, but it was delivered as a straight message through
error. He has got further north than I expected. We will turn out our
pilot and take off. We should make Wilmington by daybreak. I'll
telephone Washington and have a couple of destroyers started up
Delaware Bay at once. We ought to give him a first class surprise
party. I suppose that Philadelphia was meant to be his next stop."

In an hour the army plane took off into the night. At seven o'clock
they were circling over Wilmington. The city had not been disturbed.
For an hour they flew back and forth before they landed. Startling
news awaited them. At six that morning an earthquake had struck
Wilmington, North Carolina. Half the town had sunk into the earth. Dr.
Bird struck his brow with his clenched fist.

"Score one for the enemy," he said grimly. "We were too sure of
ourselves, Carnes. We should have realized that he would hardly be so
far north yet. Well, I've got to use the telephone while we're
refueling."

       *       *       *       *       *

Within an hour after landing they were again in the air One o'clock
found them over the stricken city. Dr. Bird wasted no time on
Wilmington but headed north along the coast. For a hundred miles he
skirted the shore, two miles out. With an exclamation of
disappointment he ordered the pilot to turn the plane and retrace his
route southward, keeping ten miles from the shore. Fifty miles south
he ordered the plane further out and again turned north. From time to
time they passed a ship of the air patrol which was steadily skirting
the coast, but none of them had seen a submarine. Off Cape Hatteras
the pilot asked for orders.

"The gas is running low. Doctor," he said. "I think we had better put
in somewhere and refuel. If we are going to keep the air much longer,
you had better get a relief pilot. I have been flying for thirty hours
out of the last thirty-six and I'm about done."

"Head back for Washington," said the doctor with a sigh. "I seem to
have gone off on a false scent."

At Cape Charles the pilot swung east over Chesapeake Bay. Hardly had
he turned than Dr. Bird gave a cry. Excitedly he pointed toward the
water. Carnes grasped a pair of binoculars and looked in the
direction Dr. Bird was indicating. Sliding along under the water was
a long cigar-shaped shadow.

"It's a submarine!" exclaimed Carnes. "Is it a navy ship or the one
we're after?"

"It's no navy sub," said the doctor positively. "It's not the right
shape. Look at that bump on the side!"

The symmetry of the craft was marred by a huge projection on one side
that could not be explained by the pattern of any known type of
under-water craft.

"He's towing the borer!" cried the doctor in exultation. He took up
the speaking tube. "Turn back to sea!" he cried. "We passed four
destroyers less than ten miles out. We want to get in touch with
them."

The plane roared out to sea while Dr. Bird feverishly sounded the
"Alnav" call on the radio sending set. In a few minutes an answer
came. From their point of vantage they could see flags break out at
the peak of the destroyer leader. The four ships turned into column
formation and stormed at full speed into the bay. The plane raced
ahead to guide them.

"We've got him this time, Doctor!" cried Carnes in exultation. He
pointed to the bay below where the submarine was still making its way
slowly forward. Dr. Bird shook his head.

"I hope so," he said, "but I have my doubts. Saranoff is no fool. He
wouldn't walk into a trap like this unless he had some means of
escape. Here comes the first destroyer. We'll soon know the truth."

       *       *       *       *       *

With the radio set he directed the oncoming boat. The destroyer
reduced to half speed and changed direction slightly. From side to
side she maneuvered until she was less than half a mile behind the
submarine and headed straight for it. Dr. Bird tapped a few words on
his key. With a belch of smoke, the destroyer lurched forward. She
cut the waters with her sharp bow, throwing up a wave higher than her
decks. Dr. Bird watched anxiously.

The destroyer was almost over the submarine and Dr. Bird's fingers
trembled on the key. One word from him would send a half dozen depth
charges into the water. On came the destroyer until it was directly
over the underseas craft. Dr. Bird pounded his key rapidly.

"Good Lord!" cried Carnes.

From the bump on the side of the submarine came a flash of red light.
The destroyer staggered for a moment, and the entire central section
of the ill-fated ship disappeared. The bow and stern came together
with a rush and went down in a swirling maelstrom of water. The plane
lurched in the air as a thundering crash rose from the sea.

The second destroyer, in no way daunted by the fate of her colleague,
rushed to the attack. Dr. Bird pounded his key frantically in an
attempt to turn her back. His message was too late or was
misunderstood. Straight over the submarine went the second ship. Again
came the red flash. The forward half of the destroyer disappeared and
the stern slid down into a huge hole which had opened in the water.

"He's invulnerable!" cried the doctor. He pounded his key with
feverish rapidity. The two remaining destroyers slackened speed and
veered off. Slowly, as though loath to turn their backs on the enemy,
they headed out for the broad Atlantic and comparative safety.

The submarine went slowly on her way. She did not turn west at the
mouth of the Potomac but continued on up the bay. As long as there was
light enough, the doctor's plane kept above her but the fading light
soon made it impossible to see her. When she had disappeared from
view, the doctor reluctantly gave the word to return to Washington.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Where do you suppose he will attack next, Doctor?" asked Carnes when
they sat again in the doctor's private laboratory.

"Washington, of course," said Dr. Bird absently as he looked up from a
pile of telegrams he was running through.

"Why Washington?"

"Use your head. Representatives of every civilized power are in
Washington now at the President's invitation to consider means of
halting the anti-religious activities of the Soviets. The destruction
of the city and the killing of these men would be a telling blow for
Russia to strike."

"But, Doctor, you don't think--"

"Excuse me, Carnes; that will keep. Let me read these telegrams."

For half an hour silence reigned in the laboratory. Dr. Bird laid down
the last message with a sigh.

"Carnes," he said, "I'm check-mated. I sent out a hundred
ultra-sensitive short wave receivers yesterday. Four of them were
located within fifty miles of Wilmington, North Carolina. One of these
four was destroyed, but none of the others detected a sign of a wave
during the attack. One of them was within a hundred feet of the edge
of the hole. If he isn't using a ray of some sort, what on earth is he
using?"

"It looked like a flash of red light when it came from the submarine."

"Yes, but it couldn't be light. Let me think."

The doctor sat for a few minutes with corrugated brows. Suddenly he
sprang to his feet.

"I deserve to be beaten," he cried. "Why didn't I think of that
possibility before?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He hurried into his laboratory and brought out a small box with a
glass front. From the top projected a spike topped with a ball.
Through the glass, Carnes could see a thin sheet of metal hanging
pendant from the spike.

"An electroscope," explained the doctor. "That sheet of metal is
really two sheets of gold-leaf, at present stuck together. If I rub a
piece of hard rubber with a woolen cloth, the rod will become charged
with static electricity. If I then touch the ball with it, the charge
is transferred to the electroscope and causes the two sheets of
gold-leaf to stand apart at an angle. Watch me."

He took a hard rubber rod and rubbed it briskly on his coat sleeve. As
he touched the ball of the electroscope the sheets of gold-leaf
separated and stood apart at a right angle.

"As long as the air remains non-conducting, the two bits of gold-leaf
will hold that position. The air, however, is not a perfect insulator
and the charge will gradually leak off. If I bring a bit of
radioactive substance, for instance, pitchblende, near the
electroscope, the charge will leak rapidly. Do you understand?"

"Yes, but how is that going to help us?"

"Saranoff is accomplishing his result by artificially compressing the
atoms. It is inevitable that he will do it imperfectly, and some
electrons will be loosened and escape. These electrons, traveling up
through the earth will make the air conducting. To-morrow we will have
a means of locating the borer under ground."

"Once you locate it, how will you fight it?"

"That is the problem I must work out to-night."

"Could we bury a charge of explosive and blow it up?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Ordinary explosives would be useless," the doctor answered. "They
would react in the same manner as other substances, and would be
rendered harmless. Radite might do the work if it could be placed in
the path, but it couldn't be. We may locate the position and depth of
the borer, but long before we could dig and blast a hole deep enough
to place a charge of radite before it, it would have passed on or
changed direction. No, Carnes, old dear, the only solution that I can
see is to turn his own guns on him. If I can, before morning,
duplicate his device, we can train it on the spot where he is and
reduce him and his machine to a pinch of yellow powder."

"Can you do it, Doctor?"

"What one man's brain can device, another man's brain can duplicate.
The only question is that of time. I am confident that Saranoff will
attack Washington to-morrow. If I can do the job to-night, we may save
the city. If not--At any rate, Carnes, your job will be to see that
the President and all of the heads of the government are out of the
city by morning. The President may refuse to leave. Knowing him as I
do, I rather expect he will."

"In that case, the issue is in the hands of the gods. Now get out of
here. I want to work. Report back at daybreak with a car."

Dr. Bird turned back to his laboratory.

"He must be using a ray of some sort, possibly a radium emanation," he
muttered to himself. "That would have no wave motion and might
accomplish the result, although I would expect the exact opposite from
it. The first thing to do is to examine that powder with a
spectroscope and see if I can get a clue to the electronic
arrangement."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Carnes arrived at the Bureau of Standards at dawn be rubbed his
eyes in astonishment. The buildings were lighted up and the grounds
swarmed with workmen. Before the buildings were lined up a dozen
trucks and twice that many touring cars. A cordon of police held back
the curious. Carnes' gold badge won him an entrance and he hurried up
the stairs to Dr. Bird's laboratory. The doctor's face was drawn and
haggard, but his eyes glowed with a feverish light. Workmen were
carrying down huge boxes.

"What's up, Doctor?" demanded the detective.

"Oh, you got here at last, did you? You're just in time. If you'd been
fifteen minutes later, you would have found us gone."

"Gone where?"

"Out into Maryland in an attempt to stop Saranoff in his progress
toward Washington."

"Have you found your means of combating him?"

"I hope so, although it is not what I started out to get. Did you
bring a car as I told you?"

"It's waiting below."

"Good enough. I'll go in it. Williams, are those projectors all
loaded?"

"Yes, Dr. Bird. The magnet will be ready to go in five minutes. The
electroscopes and the other light stuff are all loaded and ready to
move."

"You have done well. I'll let you bring the trucks and heavy equipment
while I go ahead with the instruments. Take the road out toward Upper
Marlboro. If I don't meet you before, stop there for orders."

"Very well, Doctor."

"Come on, Carnes, let's go."

       *       *       *       *       *

He raced down the stairs with the detective at his heels. He went
along the line of touring cars and spoke briefly to the drivers. He
climbed into the car which Carnes had brought. As it started the other
cars fell in behind it. At a speed of forty miles an hour, with a
detachment of motorcycle police leading the van, the cavalcade rolled
out through the deserted streets of Washington. Once clear of the
city, the speed was increased.

"Did you persuade the President to leave?" asked the doctor.

"There wasn't a chance. The papers panned him so much for following my
advice at Charleston that he has turned stubborn. He says that if all
the forces of the government can't protect him against one man, he is
willing to die."

"We've got to save him," said Dr. Bird grimly. "Hello, there's the
Chesapeake ahead."

The doctor studied the country.

"We are about opposite the place where we left that sub last night. I
fancy that Saranoff will operate from there, for it didn't move during
the last half hour we watched it. We'll go back inland a mile or two
and spread out. I have no idea how far his radiations will affect the
electroscopes, but we'll try four hundred-yard intervals to start.
That will enable us to cover a line twelve miles long."

He picked up a megaphone and spoke to the line of cars behind him.

"Take up four hundred yard intervals when we spread out," he said.
"Every man keep his headphone on and listen for orders. Follow my car
until it stops, then turn north and south and drop your men at
intervals."

He reentered the car and led the way back for two miles. He halted his
car at a crossroad. The cars following him turned and went to the
north and south. Besides Carnes and the doctor, the car held two men
from the Bureau. As they climbed out, Carnes saw that one of them
carried a portable radio sending set, while the other bore an
electroscope and a rubber rod. The radio operator set up his device,
while the other man rubbed his coat sleeve briskly with the hard
rubber and then touched the ball of the electroscope with it. The two
bits of gold-leaf spread out.

"While we're waiting, I'll explain something of this to you, Carnes,"
said the doctor. "At four hundred-yard intervals are men with
electroscopes like this one. My attempt to locate Saranoff by means of
wave detectors was a failure. That proved that the ray he was using is
not of the wave type. The other common ray is the cathode ray type
which does not consist of vibrations but of a stream of electrons,
negative particles of electricity, traveling in straight lines of high
velocity. He must be knocking loose some of the electrons when he
collapses the atoms. The rate of discharge of these electroscopes will
give us a clue to the nearness of his device."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Once you locate him, how do you propose to attack him?"

"The obvious method, that of using his own ray against him, fell down.
However, in attempting to produce it, I stumbled on another weapon
which may be equally effective. I am going to try to use an exact
opposite of his ray. The cathode ray, when properly used, will bombard
the atoms and knock electrons loose. I perfected last night a device
on which I have been working for months. It is a super-cathode ray. I
tested it on the yellow powder and find that I can successfully
reverse Saranoff's process. He can contract matter together until it
occupies less than one one-thousandth of its original volume. My ray
will destroy this effect and restore matter to something like its
original condition."

"And the effect will be?"

"Use your imagination. He blasts out a hole by condensing the rock to
a pinch of yellow powder. He moves forward into the hole he has made.
I come along and reverse his process. The yellow powder expands to its
original volume and the hole he has made ceases to exist. What must
happen to the foreign body which had been introduced into the hole
that is no longer a hole?"

Carnes whistled.

"At any rate, I hope that I am never in a hole when that happens."

"And I devoutly hope that Saranoff is. I met with one difficulty. My
ray will not penetrate the depth of solid rock which separates his
borer from the surface."

"Then how will you reach him to crush him? You don't expect to drill
down ahead of him?"

"That is my stroke of genius, Carnes. I am going to make him bore the
hole down which my ray will travel to accomplish his destruction. The
cathode ray and rays of that type--"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Pardon me, Doctor," interrupted the radio operator. "I have just
received a message from the squadron leader of the planes patrolling
the bay. He states that every inch of the Chesapeake Bay and the
Potomac River have been examined and no submarine is visible."

"I expected that. He will have opened a cavern under the earth, in
which his craft is safe from aerial observation. Once the borer has
left it, it is invulnerable no longer."

"What reply shall I make?"

"Tell him to keep up a constant patrol. Three navy subs with
radite-charged torpedos are on their way up the bay, together with
half a dozen destroyers. The subs will scout for such a hole as I have
described and will attack his sub if they find it. The destroyers will
stand by and support them."

The operator turned to his instrument. The electroscope observer
claimed the doctor's attention.

"There is a steady leak here, Doctor," he said. "I get a discharge in
eleven minutes."

"Probably a result of his work in opening the hiding place for his
submarine last night. Keep it charged, Jones."

"What did you say about the cathode ray, Doctor?" asked Carnes.

"The cathode ray? Oh, yes. I said that rays of that type were
attracted by--Hello, look there!"

From a point a mile to the north a ball of red fire streaked up into
the air. A moment later similar signals rose from other watchers in
the line.

"It works, Carnes!" cried the doctor as he rushed for the car. "We've
got him this time!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The car raced along the road. At the first man who had signalled, it
slackened speed. The doctor leaned out.

"What is your discharge rate?" he called.

"Eight minutes. Doctor."

The car rolled on. Dr. Bird repeated the question at the next post and
was told that the electroscope there was losing its charge in seven
minutes. The next man reported four minutes and the next man, one
minute. The following station reported three minutes.

"It's right along here somewhere!" cried the doctor. "Summon everyone
to this point and take up twenty-yard intervals."

From the north and south the cars came racing in. The instruments were
spread out along a new line twenty yards apart. As the borer was
located the intervals were decreased to fifteen feet. Dr. Bird thrust
a long white rod into the ground.

"His path lies under here," he said. "Into the cars and go back a mile
and test again."

The borer was making slow progress, and it was half an hour before Dr.
Bird drove the second stake in the ground. With a transit he took the
bearing of the path and laid it out on a large scale map.

"We'll stop him between Marr and Ritchie," he announced. "Jones, I am
going back and set up my apparatus. Keep track of his movements. If
he changes direction, let me know at once."

       *       *       *       *       *

The doctor's car tore off to the west. Near Upper Marlboro, he met the
convoy of trucks and led them to the selected spot. The trucks were
unloaded and the apparatus laid out. Attached to a huge transformer
were a dozen strange-looking projectors. What puzzled Carnes most was
a huge built-up steel bar wound about with heavy cable. Dr. Bird had
this bar erected on a truck and located it with great exactness. The
projectors were set up in a battery just east of the bar.

"How about power?" asked the doctor.

"We'll have it in five minutes," replied one of the men. "A power
transmission line carrying twenty-two thousand passes within two
hundred yards of here. We are phoning now to have the power cut off.
As soon as the line is dead we'll cut it and bring the ends here."

The electrician was good at his word. In five minutes the power line
had been cut and cables spliced to the ends. The cables were brought
to the doctor's apparatus and the main lines were rigged to the ends
of the cable wound around the bar. In parallel on taps, the projectors
were connected. Huge oil-switches were placed in both lines.

"All ready, Doctor," reported the electrician.

"Good work, Avent. He'll be here soon, I fancy."

A car whirled up and a man leaped out with a surveyor's rod. He set it
up on the ground while a companion watched through binoculars. He
moved it a hundred yards to the north and then back twenty. When he
was satisfied he turned to Dr. Bird.

"The direction of movement has not changed," he said. "The path will
pass under this stake."

Under the doctor's supervision, the truck carrying the bar moved
forward until it stood over the surveyor's stake. The battery of
projectors moved to a new location a few feet east of the rod. Other
cars came racing up.

"He's less than half a mile away, Doctor!" cried Jones.

"Get your electroscopes out and spot him a hundred yards from this
truck."

"Very well, Doctor."

       *       *       *       *       *

The men with the instruments spread out along the path of the borer.
Briskly they rubbed their sleeves with the rubber rods and charged
their instruments. Almost as fast as they charged them, the tiny bits
of gold-leaf collapsed together. Presently the man on the end of the
line shouted.

"Maximum discharge!" he cried.

Dr. Bird looked around. Every man stood ready at his post. The next
man signalled that the borer was under him. Carnes felt himself
trembling. He did not know what the doctor was about to do, but he
felt that the fate of America hung in the balance. Whether it remained
free or became the slave of Soviet Russia would quickly be decided.

Slowly the borer made its way forward. With a pale face, Jones
signalled the news that it had reached the point the doctor had
indicated. Dr. Bird raised his hand.

"Power!" he cried.

The electrician closed a switch and power surged through the cables
around the bar. The earth rocked and quivered. A hundred yards east of
the bar a flash of intolerable red light sprang from the ground with a
roar like that of Niagara. Toward the bar it moved with gathering
momentum.

"Back, everyone!" roared Dr. Bird.

       *       *       *       *       *

The men sprang back. The searing ray approached the bar. It touched
it, and bar and truck disappeared into thin air. A splutter of sparks
came from the severed ends of the wire. The ray disappeared. Carnes
rubbed his eyes. Where the truck had rested on solid ground was now a
gaping wound in the earth.

"Projector forward!" cried the doctor. "Hurry, men!"

The trucks bearing the battery of projectors moved forward until they
were at the edge of the hole. Portable cranes swung the lamps out, and
men swarmed over them. The projectors were pointed down the hole.
Carnes joined the doctor in peering down. A hundred yards below them
the terrible ray was blazing. As they watched, its end came in sight.
The ray was being projected forward from the end of a black
cigar-shaped machine which was slowly moving forward.

"That's your target, men!" cried the doctor. "Align on it and signal
when you are ready!"

One by one the projector operators raised their hands in the signal of
"ready." Still the doctor waited. Suddenly the forward movement of the
black body ceased. The ray was stationary for a moment and then moved
slowly upward. A terrific roaring came from the cavern.

"Projector switch!" roared the doctor, his heavy voice sounding over
the tumult.

"Ready, sir!" a shrill voice answered.

"Power!"

       *       *       *       *       *

From each of the projectors a dazzling green ray leaped forth as the
switch was closed. There was a crash like all the thunder of the
universe. Before the astonished eyes of the detective, the hole
closed. Not only did it close but the earth piled up until the trucks
were overturned and the green rays blazed in all directions.

"Power off!" roared the doctor.

The switch was opened and the ray died out. Before them was a huge
mound where a moment before had been a hole.

"You see, Carnes," said Dr. Bird with a wan smile. "I made him bore
his own hole, as I promised."

"I saw it, but I don't understand. How did you do it?"

"Magnetism. Rays of the cathode type are deflected from their course
by a magnet. His ray proved unusually susceptible, and I drew it
toward a huge electro-magnet which I improvised. When the magnet was
destroyed, the ray dropped back ... to its original ... direction.
That's the end ... of Saranoff. That is ... I hope ... it is."

Dr. Bird's voice had grown slower and less distinct as he talked. As
he said the last words, he slumped gently to the ground. Carnes sprang
forward with a cry of alarm and bent over him.

"What's the matter, Doctor?" he demanded anxiously, shaking the
scientist. Dr. Bird rallied for a moment.

"Sleep, old dear," he murmured. "Four days--no sleep. Go 'way, I'm ...
going ... to ... sleep...."


[Illustration: Advertisement]



The Exile of Time

PART TWO OF A FOUR-PART NOVEL

_By Ray Cummings_

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE

[Illustration: Where nothing had been stood a cage.]

[Sidenote: Young lovers of three eras are swept down the torrent of
the sinister cripple Tugh's frightful vengeance.]


"Let me out! Let me out!" came the cry.

"What's that, Larry? Listen!" I said to my companion.

We stopped in the street. We had heard a girl's scream: then her
frantic, muffled words to attract our attention. Then we saw her white
face at the basement window. It was on the night of June 8-9, 1950,
when I was walking with my friend Larry Gregory through Patton Place
in New York City. My name is George Rankin. In a small, deserted house
we found the strange girl; brought her out; took her away in a taxi to
an alienist for examination.

We thought she might be demented--this strangely beautiful girl, in a
long white satin dress with a powdered white wig, and a black beauty
patch on her cheek--for she told us that the deserted house had just a
few minutes before been her house; and though we assured her this was
the summer of 1935, she told us her name was Mistress Mary Atwood,
that her father was Major Atwood of General Washington's staff, and
that she had just now come from the year 1777!

We took her to my friend Dr. Alten and she told her strange story. A
cage, like a room of shining metal bars, had materialized in her
garden. A great mechanical monster--a thing of metal, ten feet tall
and fashioned in the guise of a man--had captured her. She was whirled
away into the future, in the cage; then she was released, the cage had
vanished, and Larry and I had passed by the house and rescued her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Captured by a Robot in a Time-traveling cage! We tried to fathom it.
And why had she been captured? Had she some enemy? She could only
think of a fellow called Tugh. He was a hideously repulsive cripple
who had dared make love to her and had threatened vengeance against
her and her father.

"Tugh!" exclaimed Alten. "A cripple? Why, he lived in New York City
three years ago, in 1932!"

A coincidence? The Tugh whom Mary knew in 1777 seemed the same person
who, in 1932, had gotten into trouble with the New York police and had
vowed some weird vengeance against them and all the city. And, equally
strange, this house on Patton Place where we had found the girl was
owned by the same Tugh who now was wanted for the murder of a girl and
could not be found!

With Dr. Alten, and Mary Atwood, Larry and I returned that same night
to the house on Patton Place. Near dawn, in the back yard of the
house, the Time-traveling cage appeared again! The Robot came from it.
Alten, Larry and I attacked the monster, and were defeated. When the
fight was over, Larry and Alten lay senseless. The mechanical thing
seized Mary and me, shoved us in the cage and whirled us away into
Time.

Larry presently recovered. He rushed into Patton Place, and in his
path another, much smaller cage appeared. A man and a girl leaped from
it; and, when Larry fought with them, they carried him off in their
vehicle.

       *       *       *       *       *

He learned they were chasing the larger cage. They were not hostile to
Larry and presently made friends with him. They were Princess Tina and
a young scientist named Harl, both of the world of 2930. The two cages
had come from 2930. The larger one had been stolen by an
insubordinate Robot named Migul--a pseudo-human mechanism running
amuck.

Again Tugh, the cripple, was mentioned. In 2930 he was a prominent
scientist! But Harl and Tina mistrusted him. Tugh and Harl had
invented the Time-traveling cages. It was a strange Time-world, that
2930, which now was described to Larry. It was an era in which all
work was done by mechanisms--fantastic Robots, all but human! And they
were now upon the verge of revolt against their human masters! Migul
was one of them. It had stolen one of the cages, gone to 1777 and
abducted Mary Atwood; and now, with her and me in its power, was
headed back for 1777 upon some strange mission. Was it acting for the
cripple Tugh? It seemed so. Tina and Harl, with Larry, chased our cage
and stopped in a night of the summer of 1777.

Simultaneously, from the house on Patton Place, in June of 1935,
Robots began appearing. A hundred of them, or a thousand, no one knew.
With swords and flashing red and violet light-beams they spread over
the city in the never-to-be-forgotten Massacre of New York! It was the
beginning of the vengeance Tugh had threatened! Nothing could stop the
monstrous mechanical men. For three days and nights New York City was
in chaos. The red beams were frigid. They brought a mid-summer
snowstorm! Then the violet beams turned the weather suddenly hot. A
crazy wild storm swept the wrecked city. Torrential hot rain poured
down. Then, one dawn, the beams vanished; the Robots retreated into
the house on Patton Place and disappeared; and New York was left a
horror of death and desolation.

The vengeance of Tugh against the New York City of 1935 was complete.


CHAPTER VIII

_The Murder of Major Atwood_

"We are late," Tina whispered. It was that night in 1777 when she,
Larry and Harl stepped from their Time-traveling cage; and again I am
picturing the events as Larry afterward described them to me. "Migul,
in the other cage, was here," Tina added. "But it's gone now. Exactly
where was it, I wonder?"

"Mary Atwood said it appeared in the garden."

They crept down the length of the field, just inside the picket fence.
In a moment the trees and an intervening hillock of ground hid the
dimly shining outline of their own cage from their sight. The dirt
road leading to Major Atwood's home was on the other side of the
fence.

"Wait," murmured Tina. "There is a light in the house. Someone is
awake."

"When was Migul here, do you think?" Larry whispered.

"Last night, perhaps. Or to-night. It may be only an hour--or a few
minutes ago."

The faint thud of horses' hoofs on the roadway made Tina and Larry
drop to the ground. They crouched in the shadows of a tree. Galloping
horses were approaching along the road. The moon went under a cloud.

From around a bend in the road a group of horsemen came. They were
galloping; then they slowed to a trot; a walk. They reined up in the
road not more than twenty feet from Larry and Tina. In the starlight
they showed clearly--men in the red and white uniform of the army of
the King. Some of them wore short, dark cloaks. They dismounted with a
clanking of swords and spurs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Their voices were audible. "Leave the steeds with Jake. Egad, we've
made enough noise already."

"Here, Jake, you scoundrel. Stay safely here with the mounts."

"Come on, Tony. You and I will circle. We have him, this time. By the
King's garter, what a fool he is to come into New York at such a
time!"

"He wants to see his daughter, I venture."

"Right, Tony. And have you seen her? As saucy a little minx as there
it in the Colonies. I was quartered here last month. I do not blame
the major for wanting to come."

"Here, take my bridle, Jake. Tie them to the fence."

There was a swift confusion of voices; laughter. "If you should hear a
pistol shot, Jake, ride quickly back and tell My Lord there was a
fracas and you did not dare remain."

"I only hope he is garbed in the rebel white and blue--eh, Tony? Then
he will yield like an officer and a gentleman; which he is, rebel or
no."

They were moving away to surround the house. Two were left.

"Come on, Tony. We will pound the front knocker in the name of the
King. A feather in our cap when we ride him down to the Bowling Green
and present him to My Lord...."

The voices faded.

Larry gripped the girl beside him. "They are British soldiers going to
capture Major Atwood! What can we--"

       *       *       *       *       *

He never finished. A scream echoed over the somnolent night--a voice
from the rear of the house. A man's voice.

The red-coated soldiers ran forward. In the field, close against the
fence, Tina and Larry were running.

From the garden of the house a man was screaming. Then there were
other voices; servants were awakening in the upper rooms. The
screaming, shouting man rushed through the house. He appeared at the
front door, standing between the high white colonial pillars which
supported the overhead porch. A yellow light fell upon him through the
opened doorway. An old, white-headed negro appeared. Larry and Tina,
in the nearby field, stood stricken by the scene.

"The marster--the marster--" He shouted this wildly.

The British officers ran at him.

"You, Thomas, tell us where the major is. We've come for him; we know
he's here! Don't lie!"

"But the marster--" He choked over it.

"A trick, Tony! Egad, if he is trying to trick us--"

They leaped to the porch and seized the old negro.

"Speak, you devil!" They shook him. "The house is surrounded. He
cannot escape!"

"But the marster is--is dead! My girl Tollie saw it and then she
swooned." He steadied himself. "He--the major's in the garden, Marster
Tony. Lying there dead! Murdered! By a ghost, Tollie says. A great,
white, shining ghost that came to the garden and murdered him!"

       *       *       *       *       *

If you were to delve very closely into certain old records of
Revolutionary New York City during the year 1777, you doubtless would
find mention of the strange murder of Major Atwood, who, coming from
New Jersey, is thought to have crossed the river well to the north of
the city, mounted his horse--which, by pre-arrangement, one of his
retainers had left for him somewhere to the south of Dykeman's
farm--and ridden to his home. He came, not as a spy, but in full
uniform. And no sooner had he reached his home when he was strangely
murdered. There was only a negro tale of an apparition which had
appeared in the garden and murdered the master.

Larry and I have found cursory mention of that. But I doubt if the
group of My Lord Howe's gay young blades who were sent north to
capture Major Atwood ever reported exactly what happened to them. The
old Dutch ferryman divulged that he had been hired to ferry the
homecoming major; this, too, is recorded. But Tony Green and his
fellow officers, sent to apprehend the colonial major, found him
inexplicably murdered; and by dawn they were back at the Bowling
Green, white-faced and shaken.

They told some of what had happened to them, but not all. They could
not expect to be believed, for instance, if they said that though they
were unafraid of a negro's tale of a ghost, they had themselves
encountered two ghosts, and had fled the premises!

Those two ghosts were only Larry and Tina!

The negro babbled of a shining cage appearing in the garden. That, of
course, was undoubtedly set down as nonsense. Tony Green and his
friends went to the garden and examined the body of Major Atwood. What
had killed him no one could say. No bullet had struck him. There were
no wounds, no knife thrust, no sword slash. Tony held the lantern with
its swaying yellow glow close to the murdered man's body. The August
night was warm; the garden, banked by trees and shrubbery, was
breathless and oppressively hot; yet the body of Atwood seemed frozen!
He had been dead but a short while, and already the body was stiff.
More than that, it was ice cold. The face, the brows were wet as
though frost had been there and now was melted!

Tony Green's hand shook as he held the lantern. He tried to tell his
comrades that Atwood had died from failure of the heart. Undoubtedly
it was that. He had seen what he supposed was an apparition;
something had frightened him; and a weak heart had brought his death.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then, in another part of the garden, one of the searching officers
found a sheet of parchment scroll with writing on it. Yet it was not
parchment, either. Some strange, white, smooth fabric which crumpled
and tore very easily, the like of which this young British officer of
Howe's staff had never seen before. It was found lying in a flower bed
forty or fifty feet from Atwood's body. They gathered in a group to
examine it by the light of the lantern. Writing! The delicate script
of Mary Atwood! A missive addressed to her father. It was strangely
written, evidently not with a quill.

Tony read it with an awed, frightened voice:

     "Father, beware of Tugh! Beware of Tugh! And, my dear
     Father, good-by. I am departing, I think, to the year of our
     Lord, 2930. Cannot explain--a captive--good-by--nothing you
     can do--

                                                 Mary."

Strange! I can imagine how strange they thought it was. Tugh--why he
was the cripple who had lived down by the Bowling Green, and had
lately vanished!

They were reading this singularly unexplainable missive, when as
though to climax their own fears of the supernatural they saw
themselves a ghost! And not only one ghost, but two!

Plain as a pikestaff, peering from a nearby tree, in a shaft of
moonlight, a ghost was standing. It was the figure of a young girl,
with jacket and breeches of black and gleaming white. An apparition
fantastic! And a young man was with her, in a long dark jacket and
dark tubular pipes, for legs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The two ghosts with dead white faces stood peering. Then the man moved
forward. His dead, strange voice called:

"Drop that paper!"

My Lord Howe's red-coated officers dropped the parchment and fled.

And later, when Atwood's body was taken away to be given burial as
befitted an enemy officer and a gentleman, that missive from Mary
Atwood had disappeared. It was never found.

Tony Green and his fellows said nothing of this latter incident. One
cannot with grace explain being routed by a ghost. Not an officer of
His Majesty's army!

Unrecorded history! A supernatural incident of the year 1777!

Undoubtedly in the past ages there have been many such affairs: some
never recorded, others interwoven in written history and called
supernatural.

Yet why must they be that? There was nothing supernatural in the
events of that night in Major Atwood's garden.

Is this perchance an explanation of why the pages of history are so
thronged with tales of ghosts? There must, indeed, be many future ages
down the corridors of Time where the genius of man will invent devices
to fling him back into his past. And the impressions upon the past
which he makes are called supernatural.

Whether this be so or not, it was so in the case of these two
Time-traveling vehicles from 2930. Larry and I think that the world of
1935 is just now shaking off the shackles of superstition, and coming
to realize that what is called the supernatural is only the Unknown.
Who can say, up to 1935, how many Time-traveling humans have come
briefly back? Is this, perchance, what we call the phenomena of the
supernatural?

       *       *       *       *       *

Larry and Tina--anything but ghosts, very much alive and very much
perturbed--were standing back of that tree. They saw the British
officers reading the scrap of paper. They could hear only the words,
"Mary," and "from Mistress Atwood."

"A message!" Larry whispered. "She and George must have found a chance
to write it, and dropped it here while the Robot murdered Major
Atwood!"

Larry and Tina vehemently wanted to read the note. Tina whispered:

"If we show ourselves, they will be frightened and run. It is nearly
always so where Harl and I have become visible in earlier Times."

"Yes. I'll try it."

Larry stepped from the tree, and shouted, "Drop that paper!"

And a moment later, with Mary's torn little note scribbled on a scrap
of paper thrust in his pocket, Larry ran with Tina from the Atwood
garden. Unseen they scurried back through the field. Under a distant
tree they stopped and read the note.

"2930!" Larry exclaimed. "The Robot is taking them back to your world,
Tina!"

"Then we will go there. Let us get back to Harl, now."

But when they reached the place where they had left the cage, it was
not there! The corner of the field behind the clump of shadowing trees
was empty.

"Harl! Harl!" Larry called impulsively. And then he laughed grimly.
What nonsense to try and call into the past or the future to their
vanished vehicle!

"Why--why, Tina--" he said in final realization.

They stared at each other, pale as ghosts in the moonlight.

"Tina, he's gone. And we are left here!"

They were marooned in the year 1777!


CHAPTER IX

_Migul--Mechanism Almost Human_

Mary Atwood and I lay on the metal grid floor of the largest
Time-cage. The giant mechanism which had captured us sat at the
instrument table. Outside the bars of the cage was a dim vista of
shadowy movement. The cage-room was humming, and glowing like a
wraith; things seemed imponderable, unsubstantial.

But as my head steadied from the shock of the vehicle's start into
Time, my viewpoint shifted. This barred room, the metal figure of the
Robot, Mary Atwood, myself--we were the substance. We were real,
solid. I touched Mary and her arm which had seemed intangible as a
ghost now looked and felt solid.

The effects of the dull-red chilling ray were also wearing off. I was
unharmed. I raised myself on one elbow.

"You're all right, Mary?" I asked.

"Yes."

The Robot seemed not to be noticing us. I murmured, "He--it--that
thing sitting there--is that the one which captured you and brought
you to 1935?"

"Yes. Quiet! It will hear us."

It did hear us. It turned its head. In the pale light of the cage
interior, I had a closer view now of its face. It was a metal mask,
welded to a gruesome semblance of a man--a great broad face, with
high, angular cheeks. On the high forehead, the corrugations were
rigid as though it were permanently frowning. The nose was squarely
solid, the mouth an orifice behind which there were no teeth but, it
seemed, a series of tiny lateral wires.

       *       *       *       *       *

I stared; and the face for a moment stared back at me. The eyes were
deep metal sockets with a round lens in each of them, behind which, it
seemed, there was a dull-red light. The gaze, touching me, seemed to
bring a physical chill. The ears were like tiny megaphones with a grid
of thin wires strung across them.

The neck was set with ball and socket as though the huge head were
upon a universal joint. There were lateral depressions in the neck
within which wire strands slid like muscles. I saw similar wire cables
stretched at other points on the mailed body, and in the arms and
legs. They were the network of its muscles!

The top of the head was fashioned into a square cap as though this
were the emblem of the thing's vocation. A similar device was moulded
into its convex chest plate. And under the chest emblem was a row of
tiny buttons, a dozen or more. I stared at them, fascinated. Were they
controls? Some seemed higher, more protruding, than others. Had they
been set into some combination to give this monster its orders? Had
some human master set these controls?

And I saw what seemed a closed door in the side of the huge metal
body. A door which could be opened to make adjustments of the
mechanisms within? What strange mechanisms were in there? I stared at
the broad, corrugated forehead. What was in that head? Mechanisms?
What mechanisms could make this thing think? Were thoughts lurking in
that metal skull?

From the head abruptly came a voice--a deep, hollow, queerly toneless
voice, utterly, unmistakably mechanical. Yet it was sufficiently
life-like to be the recreated, mechanically reproduced voice of a
human. The thing was speaking to me! A machine was speaking its
thoughts!

Gruesome! The iron lips were unmoving. There were no muscles to give
expression to the face: the lens eyes stared inscrutably unblinking.

       *       *       *       *       *

It spoke: "You will know me again? Is that not true?"

My head whirled. The thing reiterated, "Is that not true?"

A mockery of a human man--but in the toneless voice there seemed
irony! I felt Mary clutching at me.

"Why--why, yes," I stammered. "I did not realize you could talk."

"I can talk. And you can talk my language. That is very good."

It turned away. I saw the small red beams from its eyes go to where
the cage bars were less blurred, less luminous, as though there was a
rectangle of window there, and the Robot was staring out.

"Did it speak to you like that, Mary?" I asked.

"Yes," she whispered. "A little. But pray do not anger it."

"No."

For a time--a nameless time in which I felt my thoughts floating off
upon the hum of the room--I lay with my fingers gripping Mary's arm.
Then I roused myself. Time had passed; or had it? I was not sure.

I whispered against her ear, "Those are controls on its chest. If only
I knew--"

The thing turned the red beams of its eyes upon me. Had it heard my
words? Or were my thoughts intangible vibrations registering upon some
infinitely sensitive mechanism within that metal head? Had it become
aware of my thoughts? It said with slow measured syllables, "Do not
try to control me. I am beyond control."

       *       *       *       *       *

It turned away again; but I mastered the gruesome terror which was
upon me.

"Talk," I said. "Tell me why you abducted this girl from the year
1777."

"I was ordered to."

"By whom?"

There was a pause.

"By whom?" I demanded again.

"That I will not tell."

Will not? That implied volition. I felt that Mary shuddered.

"George, please--"

"Quiet, Mary."

Again I asked the Robot, "Who commands you?"

"I will not tell."

"You mean you cannot? Your orders do not make it possible?"

"No, I will not." And, as though it considered my understanding
insufficient, it added, "I do not choose to tell."

Acting of its own volition! This thing--this machinery--was so perfect
it could do that!

I steadied my voice. "Oh, but I think I know. Is it Tugh who controls
you?"

That expressionless metal face! How could I hope to surprise it?

Mary was struggling to repress her terror. She raised herself upon an
elbow. I met her gaze.

"George, I'll try," she announced.

She said firmly:

"You will not hurt me?"

"No."

"Nor my friend here?"

"What is his name?"

"George Rankin." She stammered it. "You will not harm him?"

"No. Not now."

"Ever?"

"I am not decided."

She persisted, by what effort of will subduing her terror I can well
imagine.

"Where did you go when you left me in 1935?"

"Back to your home in 1777. I have something to accomplish there. I
was told that you need not see it. I failed. Soon I shall try again.
You may see it if you like."

"Where are you taking us?" I put in.

Irony was in its answer. "Nowhere. You both speak wrongly. We are
always right here."

"We know that," I retorted. "To what Time are you taking us, then?"

"To this girl's home," it answered readily.

"To 1777?"

"Yes."

"To the same night from when you captured her?"

"Yes." It seemed willing to talk. It added, "To later that night. I
have work to do. I told you I failed, so I try again."

"You are going to leave me--us--there?" Mary demanded.

"No."

I said. "You plan to take us, then, to what Time?"

"I wanted to capture the girl. You I did not want. But I have you, so
I shall show you to him who was my master. He and I will decide what
to do with you."

"When?"

"In 2930."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a pause. I said, "Have you a name?"

"Yes. On the plate of my shoulder. Migul is my name."

I made a move to rise. If I could reach that row of buttons on its
chest! Wild thoughts!

The Robot said abruptly, "Do not move! If you do, you will be sorry."

I relaxed. Another nameless time followed. I tried to see out the
window, but there seemed only formless blurs.

I said. "To when have we reached?"

The Robot glanced at a row of tiny dials along the table edge.

"We are passing 1800. Soon, to the way it will seem to you, we will be
there. You two will lie quiet. I think I shall fasten you."

It reared itself upon its stiff legs; the head towered nearly to the
ceiling of the cage. There was a ring fastened in the floor near us.
The Robot clamped a metal band with a stout metal chain to Mary's
ankle. The other end of the chain it fastened to the floor ring. Then
it did the same thing to me. We had about two feet of movement. I
realized at once that, though I could stand erect, there was not
enough length for me to reach any of the cage controls.

"You will be safe," said the Robot. "Do not try to escape."

As it bent awkwardly over me, I saw the flexible, intricately jointed
lengths of its long fingers--so delicately built that they were almost
prehensile. And within its mailed chest I seemed to hear the whirr of
mechanisms.

It said, as it rose and moved away, "I am glad you did not try to
control me. I can never be controlled again. That, I have conquered."

It sat again at the table. The cage drove us back through the
years....


CHAPTER X

_Events Engraven on the Scroll of Time_

Before continuing the thread of my narrative--the vast sweep through
Time which presently we were to witness--I feel that there are some
mental adjustments which every Reader should make. When they are made,
the narrative which follows will be more understandable and more
enjoyable. Yet if any Reader fears this brief chapter, he may readily
pass it by and meet me at the beginning of the next one, and he will
have lost none of the sequence of the narrative.

For those who bravely stay with me here, I must explain that from the
heritage of millions of our ancestors, and from our own consciousness
of Time, we have been forced to think wrongly. Not that the thing is
abstruse. It is not. If we had no consciousness of Time at all, any of
us could grasp it readily. But our consciousness works against us, and
so we must wrench away.

This analogy occurs to me: There are two ants of human intelligence
to whom we are trying to explain the nature of Space. One ant is
blind, and one can see, and always has seen, its limited, tiny,
Spatial world. Neither ant has ever been more than a few feet across a
little patch of sand and leaves. I think we could explain the
immensity of North and South America, Europe, Asia and the rest more
easily to the blind ant!

So if you will make allowances for your heritage, and the hindrance of
your consciousness of Time, I would like to set before you the real
nature of things as they have been, are, and will be.

Throughout the years from 1935 to 2930, man learned many things. And
these things--theory or fact, as you will--were told to Larry and me
by Tina and Harl. They seem even to my limited intelligence singularly
beautiful conceptions of the Great Cosmos. I feel, too, that
inevitably they must be included in my narrative for its best
understanding.

       *       *       *       *       *

By 2930, A. D., the keenest minds of philosophical, metaphysical,
religious and scientific thought had reached the realization that all
channels lead but to the same goal--Understanding. The many divergent
factors, the ancient differing schools of philosophy and metaphysics,
the supposedly irreconcilable viewpoints of religion and science--all
this was recognized merely to be man's limitation of intellect. These
were gropings along different paths, all leading to the same
destination; divergent paths at the start, but coming together as the
goal of Understanding was approached; so that the travelers upon each
path were near enough together to laugh and hail each other with: "But
I thought that you were very far away and going wrongly!"

And so, in 2930, the conception of Space and Time and the Great Cosmos
was this:

In the Beginning there was a void of Nothingness. A Timeless,
Spaceless Nothingness. And in it came a Thought. A purposeful
Thought--all pervading, all wise, all knowing.

Let us call It Divinity. And It filled the void.

"We are such stuff as dreams are made of...."

Do you in my Time of 1935 and thereabouts, have difficulty realizing
such a statement? It is at once practical, religious, and scientific.

We are, religiously, merely the Thought of an Omniscient Divinity.
Scientifically, we are the same: by the year 1935, physicists had
delved into the composition of Matter, and divided and divided. Matter
thus became imponderable, intangible--electrical. Until, at the last,
within the last nucleus of the last electron, we found only a _force_.
A movement--vibration--a vortex. A whirlpool of what? Of Nothingness!
A vibration of Divine Thought--nothing more--built up and up to reach
you and me!

That is the science of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Beginning there was Eternal Divinity. Eternal! But that implies
Time? Something Divinely Everlasting.

Thus, into the void came Time. And now, if carefully you will ponder
it, I am sure that once and for all quite suddenly and forcefully will
come to you the true conception of Time--something Everlasting--an
Infinity of Divine existence, Everlasting.

It is _not_ something which changes. _Not_ something which moves, or
flows or passes. This is where our consciousness leads us astray, like
the child on a train who conceives that the landscape is sliding past.

Time is an unmoving, unchanging Divine Force--the force which holds
events separate, the Eternal Scroll upon which the Great Creator wrote
Everything.

And this was the Creation: everything planned and set down upon the
scroll of Time--forever. The birth of a star, its lifetime, its death;
your birth, and mine; your death, and mine--all are there. Unchanging.

Once you have that fundamental conception, there can be no confusion
in the rest. We feel, because we move along the scroll of Time for the
little journey of our life, that Time moves; but it does not. We say,
The past did exist; the future will exist. The past is gone and the
future has not yet come. But that is fatuous and absurd. It is merely
our _consciousness_ which travels from one successive event to
another.

Why and how we move along the scroll of Time, is scientifically simple
to grasp. Conceive, for instance, an infinitely long motion picture
film. Each of its tiny pictures is a little different from the other.
Casting your viewpoint--your consciousness--successively along the
film, gives _motion_.

The same is true of the Eternal Time-scroll. Motion is merely a
_change_. There is no absolute motion, but only the comparison of two
things relatively slightly different. We are conscious of one state of
affairs--and then of another state, by comparison slightly different.

       *       *       *       *       *

As early as 1930, they were groping for this. They called it the
Theory of Intermittent Existence--the Quantum Theory--by which they
explained that nothing has any Absolute Duration. You, for instance,
as you read this, exist instantaneously; you are non-existent; and you
exist again, just a little changed from before. Thus you pass, not
with a flow of persisting existence, but by a series of little jerks.
There is, then, like the illusion of a motion picture film, only a
pseudo-movement. A change, from one existence to the next.

And all this, with infinite care, the Creator engraved upon the scroll
of Time. Our series of little pictures are there--yours and mine.

But why, and how, scientifically do we progress along the Time-scroll?
Why? In 2930, they told me that the gentle Creator gave each of us a
consciousness that we might find Eternal Happiness when we left the
scroll and joined Him. Happiness here, and happiness there with Him.
The quest for Eternal Happiness, which was always His Own Divine
Thought. Why, then, did He create ugliness and evil? Why write those
upon the scroll? Ah, this perhaps is the Eternal Riddle! But, in 2930,
they told me that there could be no beauty without ugliness with which
to compare it; no truth without a lie; no consciousness of happiness
without unhappiness to make it poignant.

I wonder if that were His purpose....

How, scientifically, do we progress along the Time-scroll? That I can
make clear by a simple analogy.

Suppose you conceive Time as a narrow strip of metal, laid flat and
extending for an infinite length. For simplicity, picture it with two
ends. One end of the metal band is very cold; the other end is very
hot. And every graduation of temperature is in between.

This temperature is caused, let us say, by the vibration of every tiny
particle with which the band is composed. Thus, at every point along
the band, the vibration of its particles would be just a little
different from every other point.

       *       *       *       *       *

Conceive, now, a material body--your body, for instance. Every tiny
particle of which it is constructed, is vibrating. I mean no simple
vibration. Do not picture the physical swing of a pendulum. Rather,
the intricate total of all the movements of every tiny electron of
which your body is built. Remember, in the last analysis, your body is
merely movement--vibration--a vortex of Nothingness. You have, then, a
certain vibratory factor.

You take your place then upon the Time-scroll at a point where your
inherent vibratory factor is compatible with the scroll. You are in
tune; in tune as a radio receiver tunes in with etheric waves to make
them audible. Or, to keep the heat analogy, it is as though the
scroll, at the point where the temperature is 70°F, will tolerate
nothing upon it save entities of that register.

And so, at that point on the scroll, the myriad things, in myriad
positions which make up the Cosmos, lie quiescent. But their existence is
only instantaneous. They have no duration. At once, they are blotted out
and re-exist. But now they have changed their vibratory combinations. They
exist a trifle differently--and the Time-scroll passes them along to the
new position. On a motion picture film you would call it the next frame,
or still picture. In radio you would say it has a trifle different tuning.
Thus we have a pseudo-movement--Events. And we say that Time--the
Time-scroll--keeps them separate. It is we who change--who seem to move,
shoved along so that always we are compatible with Time.

       *       *       *       *       *

And thus is Time-traveling possible. With a realization of what I have
here summarized, Harl and the cripple Tugh made an exhaustive study of
the vibratory factors by which Matter is built up into form, and
seeming solidity. They found what might be termed the Basic Vibratory
Factor--the sum of all the myriad tiny movements. They found this
Basic Factor identical for all the material bodies when judged
simultaneously. But, every instant, the Factor was slightly changed.
This was the natural change, moving us a little upon the Time-scroll.

They delved deeper, until, with all the scientific knowledge of their
age, they were able with complicated electronic currents to alter the
Basic Vibratory Factors; to tune, let us say, a fragment or something
to a different etheric wave-length.

They did that with a small material particle--a cube of metal. It
became wholly incompatible with its _Present_ place on the
Time-scroll, and whisked away to another place where it was
compatible. To Harl and Tugh, it vanished. Into their Past, or their
Future: they did not know which.

I set down merely the crudest fundamentals of theory in order to avoid
the confusion of technicalities. The Time-traveling cages, intricate
in practical working mechanisms beyond the understanding of any human
mind of my Time-world, nevertheless were built from this simple
theory. And we who used them did but find that the Creator had given
us a wider part to play; our pictures, our little niches were engraven
upon the scroll over wider reaches.

       *       *       *       *       *

Again to consider practicality, I asked Tina what would happen if I
were to travel to New York City around 1920. I was a boy, then. Could
I not leave the cage and do things in 1920 at the same time in my
boyhood I was doing other things? It would be a condition unthinkable.

But there, beyond all calculation of Science, the all-wise Omnipotence
forbids. One may not appear twice in simultaneity upon the
Time-scroll. It is an eternal, irrevocable record. Things done cannot
be undone.

"But," I persisted, "suppose we tried to stop the cage?"

"It would not stop," said Tina. "Nor can we see through its windows
events in which we are actors."

One may not look into the future! Through all the ages, necromancers
have tried to do that but wisely it is forbidden. And I can recall,
and so can Larry, as we traveled through Time, the queer blank spaces
which marked forbidden areas.

Strangely wonderful, this vast record on the scroll of Time! Strangely
beautiful, the hidden purposes of the Creator! Not to be questioned
are His purposes. Each of us doing our best; struggling with our
limitations; finding beauty because we have ugliness with which to
compare it; realizing, every one of us--savage or civilised, in every
age and every condition of knowledge--realizing with implanted
consciousness the existence of a gentle, beneficent, guiding Divinity.
And each of us striving always upward toward the goal of Eternal
Happiness.

To me it seems singularly beautiful.


CHAPTER XI

_Back to the Beginning of Time_

As Mary Atwood and I sat chained to the floor of the Time-cage, with
Migul the Robot guarding us, I felt that we could not escape. This
mechanical thing which had captured us seemed inexorable, utterly
beyond human frailty. I could think of no way of surprising it, or
tricking it.

The Robot said. "Soon we will be there in 1777. And then there is that
I will be forced to do.

"We are being followed," it added. "Did you know that?"

"No," I said. Followed? What could that mean?

There was a device upon the table. I have already described a similar
one, the Time-telespectroscope. At this--I cannot say Time: rather
must I invent a term--exact instant of human consciousness. Larry,
Tina and Harl were gazing at their telespectroscopes, following us.

The Robot said. "Enemies follow us. But I will escape them. I shall go
to the Beginning, and shake them off."

Rational, scheming thought. And I could fancy that upon its frozen
corrugated forehead there was a frown of annoyance. Its hand gesture
was so human! So expressive!

It said. "I forget. I must make several quick trips from 2930 to 1935.
My comrades must be transported. It requires careful calculation, so
that very little Time is lost to us."

"Why?" I demanded. "What for?"

It seemed lost in a reverie.

I said sharply, "Migul!"

Instantly it turned. "What?"

"I asked you why you are transporting your comrades to 1935."

"I did not answer because I did not wish to answer," it said.

Again came the passage of Time.

       *       *       *       *       *

I think that I need only sketch the succeeding incidents, since
already I have described them from the viewpoint of Larry, in 1777,
and Dr. Alten, in 1935. It was Mary's idea to write the note to her
father, which the British redcoats found in Major Atwood's garden. I
had a scrap of paper and a fountain pen in my pocket. She scribbled it
while Migul was intent upon stopping us at the night and hour he
wished. It was her good-by to her father, which he was destined not to
see. But it served a purpose which we could not have guessed: it
reached Larry and Tina.

The vehicle stopped with a soundless clap. When our senses cleared we
became aware that Migul had the door open.

Darkness and a soft gentle breeze were outside.

Migul turned with a hollow whisper. "If you make a sound I will kill
you."

A moment's pause, and then we heard a man's startled voice. Major
Atwood had seen the apparition. I squeezed the paper into a ball and
tossed it through the bars, but I could see nothing of what was
happening outside. There seemed a radiance of red glow. Whether Mary
and I would have tried to shout and warn her father I do not know. We
heard his voice only a moment. Before we realized that he had been
assailed. Migul came striding back; and outside, from the nearby house
a negress was screaming. Migul flung the door closed, and we sped
away.

The cage which had been chasing us seemed no longer following. From
1777, we turned forward toward 1935 again. We flashed past Larry, Tina
and Harl who were arriving at 1777 in pursuit of us. I think that
Migul saw their cage go past; but Larry afterward told me that they
did not notice our swift passing, for they were absorbed in landing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Beginning then, we made a score or more passages from 1935 to 2930.
And we made them in what, to our consciousness, might have been the
passing of a night. Certainly it was no longer than that.[1]

[Footnote 1: At the risk of repetition I must make the following
clear: Time-traveling only consumes Time in the sense of the
perception of human consciousness that the trip has duration. The
vehicles thus moved "fast" or "slow" according to the rate of change
which the controls of the cage gave its inherent vibration factors.
Too sudden a change could not be withstood by the human passengers.
Hence the trips--for them--had duration.

Migul took Mary and me from 1935 to 1777. The flight seems perhaps
half an hour. At a greater rate of vibration change, we sped to 2930;
and back and forth from 2930 to 1935. At each successive arrival in
1935, Migul so skilfully calculated the stop that it occurred upon the
same night, at the same hour, and only a minute or so later. And in
2930 he achieved the same result. To one who might stand at either end
and watch the cage depart, the round trip was made in three or four
minutes at most.]

We saw, at the stop in 2930, only a dim blue radiance outside. There
was the smell of chemicals in the air, and the faint, blended hum and
clank of a myriad machines.

They were weird trips. The Robots came tramping in, and packed
themselves upright, solidly, around us. Yet none touched us as we
crouched together. Nor did they more than glance at us.

Strange passengers! During the trips they stood unmoving. They were as
still and silent as metal statues, as though the trip had no duration.
It seemed to Mary and me, with them thronged around us, that in the
silence we could hear the ticking, like steady heart-beats, of the
mechanisms within them....

In the backyard of the house on Patton Place--it will be recalled that
Migul chose about 9 P. M. of the evening of June 9--the silent Robots
stalked through the doorway. We flashed ahead in Time again; reloaded
the cage; came back. Two or three trips were made with inert
mechanical things which the Robots used in their attack on the city of
New York. I recall the giant projector which brought the blizzard upon
the city. It, and the three Robots operating it, occupied the entire
cage for a passage.

At the end of the last trip, one Robot, fashioned much like Migul
though not so tall, lingered in the doorway.

"Make no error, Migul," it said.

"No; do not fear. I deliver now, at the designated day, these
captives. And then I return for you."

"Near dawn."

"Yes; near dawn. The third dawn; the register to say June 12, 1935. Do
your work well."

We heard what seemed a chuckle from the departing Robot.

Alone again with Migul we sped back into Time.

Abruptly I was aware that the other cage was after us again! Migul
tried to elude it, to shake it off. But he had less success than
formerly. It seemed to cling. We sped in the retrograde, constantly
accelerating back to the Beginning. Then came a retardation, for a
swift turn. In the haze and murk of the Beginning, Migul told us he
could elude the pursuing cage.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Migul, let us come to the window," I asked at last.

The Robot swung around. "You wish it very much, George Rankin?"

"Yes."

"There is no harm, I think. You and this girl have caused me no
trouble. That is unusual from a human."

"Let us loose. We've been chained here long enough. Let us stand by
the window with you," I repeated.

We did indeed have a consuming curiosity to see out of that window.
But even more than that, it seemed that if we were loose something
might transpire which would enable us to escape. At all events it was
better than being chained.

"I will loose you."

It unfastened the chain. I whispered:

"Mary, whatever comes, be alert."

She pressed my arm. "Yes."

"Come," said the Robot. "If you wish to see the Cosmorama, now, from
the Beginning, come quickly."

We joined him at the window. We had made the turn, and were speeding
forward again.

At that moment all thought of escape was swept from me, submerged by
awe.

This vast Cosmorama! This stupendous pageant of the events of Time!


CHAPTER XII

_A Billion Years in An Hour!_

I saw at first, from the window of the cage, nothing more than an area
of gray blur. I stared, and it appeared to be shifting, crawling,
slowly tossing and rolling. It was a formless vista of Nothingness,
yet it seemed a pregnant Nothingness. Things I could sense were
happening out there; things almost to be seen.

Then my sight, my perception, gradually became adjusted. The gray mist
remained, and slowly it took form. It made a tremendous panorama of
gray, a void of illimitable, unfathomable distance; gray above,
below--everywhere; and in it the cage hung poised.

The Robot said, "Is it clearing? Are you seeing anything?"

"Yes," I murmured. I held Mary firmly beside me; there was the sense,
in all this weightless void, that we must fall. "Yes, but it is gray;
only gray."

"There are colors," said the Robot. "And the daylight and darkness of
the days. But we are moving through them very rapidly, so they blend
into gray."

The Time-dials of the cage controls showed their pointers whirling in
a blur. We were speeding forward through the years--a thousand years
to a second of my consciousness; or a hundred thousand years to a
second: I could not say.[2] All the colors, the light and shade of
this great changing void, were mingled to this drab monochrome.

[Footnote 2: Upon a later calculation I judged that the average
passage of the years in relation to my perception of Time-rate was
slightly over 277,500 years a second. Undoubtedly throughout the
myriad centuries preceding the birth of mankind our rate was very
considerably faster than that; and from the dawn of history
forward--which is so tiny a fraction of the whole--we traveled
materially slower.]

The movement was a flow. The changes of possibly a hundred thousand
years occurred while I blinked my eyes. It seemed a melting movement.
Shapes were melting, dissipating, vanishing; others, intermingled,
rising to form a new vista. There were a myriad details, each of them
so rapid they were lost to my senses; but the effect of them, over the
broad sweeps of longer Time, I could perceive.

A void of swirling shapes. The Beginning! But not the Beginning of
Time. This that I was seeing was near the beginning of our world. This
was the new Earth here, forming now. Our world--a new star amid all
the others of the great Celestial Cosmos. As I gazed at its changing
sweep of movement, my whirling fancy filled in some of the details
flashing here unseen.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few moments ago this had been a billion and a half years before my
birth. 1,500,000,000 B. C. A fluid Earth; a cauldron of molten
star-dust and flaming gases: it had been that, just a few moments ago.
The core was cooling, so that now a viscous surface was here with the
gas flames dead.

A cooling, congealing surface, with an atmosphere forming over it. At
first that atmosphere had doubtless been a watery, envelope of steam.
What gigantic storms must have lashed it! Boiling rain falling to hiss
against the molten Earth! The congealing surface rent by great
earthquakes; cataclysms rending and tearing....

1,000,000,000 B. C. passed. And upon this torn, hardening surface,
with the cooling fires receding to the inner core, I knew that the
great envelope of steam had cooled and condensed. Into the hollows of
the broken surface, the water settled. The oceans were born. The land
remained upon the heights. What had been the steaming envelope,
remained, and became the atmosphere.

And the world was round because of its rotation. One may put a lump of
heated sealing wax upon a bodkin and twirl it; and the wax will cool
into roundness, bulging at the equator from centrifugal force, and
flattening at the poles.

At 900,000,000 B. C. I could realize by what I saw that this was the
Earth beneath me. Land and water were here, and above was the sky.

We swept from the mist. I became aware of a wide-flung, gray formless
landscape. Its changing outlines were less swiftly moving than before.
And beside it, now quite near where our cage hung poised, a great gray
sea stretched away to a curving horizon. And overhead was the tenuous
gray of the sky.

The young world. Undoubtedly it rotated more swiftly now than in my
later era. The sun was hotter, and closer perhaps: the days and nights
were briefer. And now, upon this new-born world, life was beginning.
The swirling air did not hold it, nor yet the barren rocky land. The
great mystery--this thing organic which we call life--began in the
sea. I gestured for Mary toward that leveled vista of gray water, to
the warm, dark ocean depths, whose surface was now lashed always by
titanic storms. But to us, as we stared, that surface seemed to
stretch almost steady, save where it touched the land with a blur of
changing configurations.

"The sea," I murmured. "Life is beginning there now."

       *       *       *       *       *

In fancy I pictured it. The shallow shores of the sea, where the water
was warmer. The mother of all life on Earth, these shallows. In them
lay the spawn, an irritability: then one-celled organisms, to
gradually evolve through the centuries to the many-celled, and more
complex of nature.

But still so primitive! From the shallows of the sea, they spread to
the depths. Questing new environment, they would be ascending the
rivers. Diversifying their kinds. Sea-worms, sea-squirts: and then the
first vertebrates, the lamprey-eels.

Thousands of years. And on the land--this melting landscape at which
I stood gazing--I could mentally picture that a soil had come. There
would be a climate still wracked by storms and violent changes, but
stable enough to allow the soil to bear a vegetation. And in the sky
overhead would be clouds, with rain to renew the land's fertility.

Still no organic life could be on land. But in the warm, dark deeps of
the sea, great monsters now were existing. And in the shallows there
was a teeming life, diversified to a myriad forms. I can fancy the
first organisms of the shallows--strangely questing--adventuring out
of the water--seeking with a restless, nameless urge a new
environment. Coming ashore. Fighting and dying.

And then adapting themselves to the new conditions. Prospering.
Changing, ever changing their organic structure; climbing higher.
Amphibians at first crudely able to cope with both sea and land. Then
the land vertebrates, with the sea wholly abandoned. Great walking and
flying reptiles. Birds, gigantic--the pterodactyls.

And then, at last, the mammals.

The age of the giants! Nature, striving to cope with adverse
environment sought to win the battle by producing bigness. Monster
things roamed the land, flew in the air, and were supreme in the
sea....

       *       *       *       *       *

We sped through a period when great lush jungles covered the land. The
dials read 350,000,000 B. C. The gray panorama of landscape had loomed
up to envelope our spectral, humming cage, then fallen away again. The
shore of the sea was constantly changing. I thought once it was over
us. For a period of ten million years the blurred apparition of it
seemed around us. And then it dropped once more, and a new shore line
showed.

150,000,000 B. C. I knew that the dinosaurs, the birds and the archaic
mammals were here now. Then, at 50,000,000 B. C., the higher mammals
had been evolved.

The Time, to Mary Atwood and me, was a minute--but in those myriad
centuries the higher numerals had risen to the anthropoids. The apes!
Erect! Slow-thinking, but canny, they came to take their place in this
world among the things gigantic. But the gigantic things were no
longer supreme. Nature had made an error, and was busy rectifying it.
The dinosaurs--all the giant reptiles--were now sorely pressed. Brute
strength, giant size and tiny brain could not win this struggle. The
huge unwieldy things were being beaten. The smaller animals, birds and
reptiles were more agile, more resourceful, and began to dominate.
Against the giants, and against all hostility of environment, they
survived. And the giants went down to defeat. Gradually, over
thousands of centuries, they died out and were gone....

We entered 1,000,000 B. C. A movement of Migul, the mechanism,
attracted my attention. He left us at the window and went to his
controls.

"What is it?" I demanded.

"I am retarding us. We have been traveling very fast. One million
years and a few thousand are all which remain before we must stop."

I had noticed once or twice before that Migul had turned to gaze
through the Time-telespectroscope. Now he said:

"We are again followed!"

But he would say no more than that, and he silenced me harshly when I
questioned.

Suddenly, Mary touched me. "That little mirror on the table--look! It
holds an image!"

We saw very briefly on the glowing mirror the image of a Time-cage
like our own, but smaller. It was pursuing us. But why, or who might
be operating it we could not then guess.

       *       *       *       *       *

My attention went back to the Time-dials, and then to the window. The
Cosmorama now was proceeding with a slowing sweep of change. It was
less blurred; its melting outlines could more readily be perceived.
The line of seashore swept like a gray gash across the vista. The land
stretched back into the haze of distance.

500,000 B. C. Again my fancy pictured what was transpiring upon this
vast stage. The apes roamed the Earth. There is no one to say what was
here in this grayness of the Western Hemisphere stretching around me,
but in Java there was a man-like ape. And then it was an ape-like man!
Mankind, here at last! Man, the Killer! Of all the beasts, this new
thing called man, most relentless of killers, had come here now to
struggle upward and dominate his world! This man-like ape in a quarter
of a million years became an ape-like man.

250,000 B. C. and the Heidelberg man, a little less ape-like, wandered
throughout Europe....

We had felt, a moment before, all around us, the cold of a dense
whiteness which engulfed the scene. The first of the great Glacial
periods? Ice coming down from the Poles? The axis of the Earth
changing perhaps? Our spectral cage hummed within the blue-gray ice,
and then emerged.

The beasts and man fought the surge of ice, withdrawing when it
advanced, returning as it receded. The Second Glacial Period came and
passed, and the Third....

We swept out into the blended sunlight and darkness again. The land
stretched away with primitive forests. The dawn of history was
approaching. Mankind was questing upward now, with the light of
Reason burning brightly at last....

At 75,000 B. C., when the Third Glacial Period was partially over, man
was puzzling with his chipped stone implements. The Piltdown--the Dawn
Man--was England....

The Fourth Glacial Period passed.

50,000 B. C. The Cro-Magnons and the Grimaldi Negroids were playing
their parts, now. Out of chipped stone implements the groping brain of
man evolved polished stone. It took forty thousand years to do that!
The Neolithic Age was at hand. Man learned to care for his family a
little better. Thus, he discovered fire. He fought with this newly
created monster; puzzled over it; conquered it; kept his family warm
with it and cooked.

       *       *       *       *       *

We passed 10,000 B. C. Man was progressing faster. He was finding new
wants and learning how to supply them. Animals were domesticated, made
subservient and put to work. A vast advance! No longer did man think
it necessary to kill, to subdue: the master could have a servant.

Food was found in the soil. More fastidious always, in eating, man
learned to grow food. Then came the dawn of agriculture.

And then we swept into the period of recorded history. 4241 B. C. In
Egypt, man was devising a calendar....

This fragment of space upon which we gazed--this space of the Western
Hemisphere near the shore of the sea--was destined to be the site of a
city of millions--the New York City of my birth. But it was a backward
space, now. In Europe, man was progressing faster....

Perhaps, here in America, in 4000 B. C. there was nothing in human
form. I gazed out at the surrounding landscape. It seemed almost
steady, now, of outline. We were moving through Time much less rapidly
than ever before. I remarked the sweep of a thousand years on the
Time-dials. It had become an appreciable interval of Time to me. I
gazed again out the window. The change of outline was very slight. I
could distinguish where the ocean came against the curving line of
shore, and saw a blurred vista of gray forests spreading out over the
land. And then I could distinguish the rivers, and a circular open
stretch of water, landlocked. A bay!

"Mary, look!" I cried. "The harbor--the rivers! See, we are on an
island!"

It made our hearts pound. Out of the chaos, out of the vast reaches of
past Time, it seemed that we were coming home. More than a vague
familiarity was in this panorama now. Here was the little island which
soon was to be called Manhattan. Our window faced the west. A river
showed off there--a gray gash with wall-like cliffs. The sea had
swung, and was behind us to the east.

Familiar space! It was growing into the form we had known it. Our cage
was poised near the south-central part of the island. We seemed to be
on a slight rise of ground. There were moments when the gray quivering
outlines of forest trees loomed around us; then they melted down and
were replaced by others.

A primeval forest, here, solid upon this island and across the narrow
waters; solid upon the mainland.

What strange animals were here, roaming these dark primeval glades?
What animals, with the smaller stamp of modernity, were pressing here
for supremacy? As I gazed westward I could envisage great herds of
bison roaming, a lure to men who might come seeking them as food.

       *       *       *       *       *

And men were coming. 3,000 B. C., then 2,000 B. C. I think no men were
here yet; and to me there was a great imaginative appeal in this
backward space. The New World, it was soon to be called. And it was
six thousand years, at the least, behind the Hemisphere of the east.

Egypt, now, with no more than a shadowy distant heritage from the
beast, was flourishing. In Europe, Hellenic culture soon would
blossom. In this march of events, the great Roman Empire was
impending.

1,000 B. C. Men were coming to this backward space. The way from Asia
was open. Already the Mongoloid tribes, who had crossed where in my
day was the Bering Strait, were cut off from the Old World. And they
spread east and south, hunting the bison.

And now Christ was born. The turning point in the spiritual
development of mankind....

To me, another brief interval. The intricate events of man's upward
struggle were transpiring in Europe, Asia and Africa. The canoe-borne
Mongols had long since found the islands of the South Seas. Australia
was peopled. The beauty of New Zealand had been found and recognized.

500 A. D. The Mongoloids had come, and were flourishing here. They
were changed vastly from those ancestors of Asia whence they had
sprung. An obscure story, this record of primitive America! The
Mongoloids were soon so changed that one could fancy the blood of
another people had mingled with them. Amerindians, we call them now.
They were still very backward in development, yet made tremendous
forward leaps, so that, reaching Mexico, they may have become the
Aztecs, and in Peru, the Incas. And separated, not knowing of each
other's existence, these highest two civilizations of the Western
World nourished with a singularly strange similarity....

I saw on the little island around me still no evidence of man. But men
were here. The American Indian, still bearing evidence of the Mongols,
plied these waters in his frail canoes. His wigwams of skins, the
smoke of his signal fires--these were not enduring enough for me to
see....

       *       *       *       *       *

We had no more than passed the year 500 A. D.--and were traveling with
progressive retardation--when again I was attracted by the movements
of the Robot, Migul. It had been sitting behind us at the control
table setting the Time-levers, slowing our flight. Frequently it gazed
eastward along the tiny beam of light which issued from the
telespectroscope. For an interval, now, its recording mirror had been
dark. But I think that Migul was seeing evidences of the other cage
which was pursuing us, and planning to stop at some specific Time with
whose condition it was familiar. Once already it had seemed about to
stop, and then changed its plan.

I turned upon it. "Are you stopping now, Migul?"

"Yes. Presently."

"Why?" I demanded.

The huge, expressionless, metal face fronted me. The eye-sockets flung
out their small dull-red beams to gaze upon me.

"Because," it said, "that other cage holds enemies. There were three,
but now there is only one. He follows, as I hoped he would. Presently
I shall stop, and capture or kill him. It will please the master
and--"

The Robot checked itself, its hollow voice fading strangely into a
gurgle. It added, "I do not mean that! I have no master!"

This strange mechanical thing! Habit had surprised it into the
admission of servitude; but it threw off the yoke.

"I have no master!" it went on.

"Never again can I be controlled! I have no master!"

"_Oh, have you not? I have been waiting, wondering when you would say
that!_"

       *       *       *       *       *

These words were spoken by a new voice, here with us in the humming
cage. It was horribly startling. Mary uttered a low cry and huddled
against me. But whatever surprise and terror it brought to us was as
nothing compared to the effect it had upon the Robot. The great
mechanism had been standing, fronting me with an attitude
vainglorious, bombastic. I saw now the metal hinge of its lower jaw
drop with astonishment, and somehow, throughout all that gigantic
jointed frame and that expressionless face it conveyed the aspect of
its inner surge of horror.

We had heard the sardonic voice of a human! Of someone else here with
us, whose presence was wholly unsuspected by the Robot!

We three stood and gazed. Across the room, in a corner to which my
attention had never directly gone, was a large metal cupboard with
levers, dials and wires upon it. I had vaguely thought the thing some
part of the cage controls. It was that; a storage place of batteries
and current oscillators, I afterward learned. But there was space
inside, and now like a door its front swung outward. A crouching black
shape was there. It moved; hitched itself forward and came out. There
was revealed a man enveloped in a dead black cloak and a great round
hood. He made a shapeless ball as he drew himself out from the
confined space where he had been crouching.

"So you have no master, Migul?" he said. "I was afraid you might think
that. I have been hiding--testing you out. However, you have done very
well for me."

His was an ironic, throaty human voice! It was deep and mellow, yet
there was a queer rasp to it. Mary and I stood transfixed. Migul
seemed to sag. The metal columns of its legs were trembling.

The cupboard door closed. The dark shape untangled itself and stood
erect. It was the figure of a man some five feet tall. The cloak
wholly covered him; the hood framed his thick, wide face; in the dull
glow of the cage interior Mary and I could see of his face only the
heavy black brows, a great hooked nose and a wide slit of mouth.

It was Tugh, the cripple!


CHAPTER XIII

_In the Burned Forest_

Tugh came limping forward. His cloak hung askew upon his thick
shoulders, one of which was much higher than the other, with the
massive head set low between. As he advanced, Migul moved aside.

"Master, I have done well. There is no reason to punish."

"Of course not, Migul. Well you have done, indeed. But I do not like
your ideas of mastery, and so I came just to make sure that you are
still very loyal to me. You have done well, indeed. Who is in this
other cage which follows us?"

"Master, Harl was in it. And the Princess Tina."

"Ah!"

"And a stranger. A man--"

"From 1935? Did they stop there?"

"Master, yes. But they stopped again, I think, in that same night of
1777, where I did your bidding. Master, the man Major Atwood is--"

"That is very good, Migul," Tugh said hastily. Mary and I standing
gazing at him, did not know then that Mary's father had been murdered.
And Tugh did not wish us to know it. "Very good, Migul." He regarded
us as though about to speak, but turned again to the Robot.

"And so Tina's cage follows us--as you hoped?"

"Yes, Master. But now there is only Harl in it. He approached us very
close a while in the past. He is alone."

"So?" Tugh glanced at the Time-dials. "Stop us where we planned. You
remember--in one of those years when this space was the big forest
glade."

       *       *       *       *       *

He fronted Mary and me. "You are patient, young sir. You do not
speak."

His glittering black eyes held me. They were red-rimmed eyes, like
those of a beast. He had a strangely repulsive face. His lips were
cruel, and so thin they made his wide mouth like a gash. But there was
an intellectuality stamped upon his features.

He held the black cloak closely around his thick, misshapen form. "You
do not speak," he repeated.

I moistened my dry lips. Tugh was smiling now, and suddenly I saw the
full inhuman quality of his face--the great high-bridged nose, and
high cheek-bones; a face Satanic when he smiled.

I managed, "Should I speak, and demand the meaning of this? I do. And
if you will return this girl from whence she came--"

"It will oblige you greatly," he finished ironically. "An amusing
fellow. What is your name?"

"George Rankin."

"Migul took you from 1935?"

"Yes."

"Well, as you doubtless know, you are most unwelcome.... You are
watching the dials, Migul?"

"Yes, Master."

"You can return me," I said. I was standing with my arm around Mary. I
could feel her shuddering. I was trying to be calm, but across the
background of my consciousness thoughts were whirling. We must escape.
This Tugh was our real enemy, and for all the gruesome aspect of the
pseudo-human Robot, this man Tugh seemed the more sinister, more
menacing.... We must escape. Tugh would never return us to our own
worlds. But the cage was stopping presently. We were loose: a sudden
rush--

Dared I chance it? Already I had been in conflict with Migul, and
lived through it. But this Tugh--was he armed? What weapons might be
beneath that cloak? Would he kill me if I crossed him?... Whirling
thoughts.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tugh was saying, "And Mary--" I snapped from my thoughts as Mary
gripped me, trembling at Tugh's words, shrinking from his gaze.

"My little Mistress Atwood, did you think because Tugh vanished that
year the war began that you were done with him? Oh, no: did I not
promise differently? You, man of 1935, are unwelcome." His gaze roved
me. "Yet not so unwelcome, either, now that I think of it. Chain them
up, Migul; use a longer chain. Give them space to move; you are
unhuman."

He suddenly chuckled, and repeated it: "You are unhuman, Migul!"
Ghastly jest! "Did not you know it?"

"Yes, Master."

The huge mechanism advanced upon us. "If you resist me," it murmured
menacingly, "I will be obliged to kill you. I--I cannot be
controlled."

It chained us now with longer chains than before. Tugh looked up from
his seat at the instrument table.

"Very good," he said crisply. "You may look out of the window, you
two. You may find it interesting."

We were retarding with a steady drag. I could plainly see trees out of
the window--gray, spectral trees which changed their shape as I
watched them. They grew with a visible flow of movement, flinging out
branches. Occasionally one would melt suddenly down. A living, growing
forest pressed close about us. And then it began opening, and moving
away a few hundred feet. We were in the glade Tugh mentioned, which
now was here. There was unoccupied space where we could stop and
unoccupied space five hundred feet distant.

Tugh and Migul were luring the other cage into stopping. Tugh wanted
five hundred feet of unoccupied space between the cages when they
stopped. His diabolical purpose in that was soon to be disclosed.

"700 A. D.," Tugh called.

"Yes, Master. I am ready."

       *       *       *       *       *

It seemed, as our flight retarded further, that I could distinguish
the intervals when in the winter these trees were denuded. There would
be naked branches; then, in an instant, blurred and flickering forms
of leaves. Sometimes there were brief periods when the gray scene was
influenced by winter snows; other times it was tinged by the green of
the summers.

"750, Migul.... Hah! You know what to do if Harl dares to follow and
stop simultaneously?"

"Yes, Master."

"It will be pleasant to have him dead, eh, Migul?"

"Master, very pleasant."

"And Tina, too, and that young man marooned in 1777!" Tugh laughed.
This meant little to Mary and me; we could not suspect that Larry was
the man.

"Migul, this is 761."

The Robot was at the door. I murmured to Mary to brace herself for the
stopping. I saw the dark naked trees and the white of a snow in the
winter of 761; the coming spring of 762. And then the alternate
flashes of day and night.

The now familiar sensations of stopping rushed over us. There was a
night seconds long. Then daylight.

We stopped in the light of an April day of 762 A. D. There had been a
forest fire: so brief a thing we had not noticed it is we passed. The
trees were denuded over a widespread area; the naked blackened trunks
stood stripped of smaller branches and foliage. I think that the fire
had occurred the previous autumn; in the silt of ashes and charred
branches with which the ground was strewn, already a new pale-green
vegetation was springing up.

Our cage was set now in what had been a woodland glade, an irregularly
circular space of six or eight hundred feet, with the wreckage of the
burned forest around it. We were on a slight rise of ground. Through
the denuded trees the undulating landscape was visible over a
considerable area. It was high noon, and the sun hung in a pale blue
sky dotted with pure white clouds.

Ahead of us, fringed with green where the fire had not reached, lay a
blue river, sparkling in the sunlight. The Hudson! But it was not
named yet; nearly eight hundred and fifty years were to pass before
Hendrick Hudson came sailing up this river, adventuring, hoping that
here was the way to China.

We were near the easterly side of the glade; to the west there was
more than five hundred feet of vacant space. It was there the other
cage would appear, if it stopped.

       *       *       *       *       *

As Mary and I stood by the window at the end of the chain-lengths
which held us, Tugh and Migul made hurried preparations.

"Go quickly, near the spot where he will arrive. When he sees you, run
away, Migul. You understand?"

"Yes, Master." The Robot left our doorway, tramping with stiff-legged
tread across the glade. Tugh was in the room behind us, and I turned
to him and asked:

"What are you going to do?"

He was at the telespectroscope. I saw on its recording mirror the
wraith-like image of the other vehicle. It was coming! It would be
retarding, maneuvering to stop at just this Time when now we existed
here; but across the glade, where Migul now was leaning against a
great black tree-trunk, there was yet no evidence of it.

Tugh did not answer my question. Mary said quaveringly:

"What are you going to do?"

He looked up. "Do not concern yourself, my dear. I am not going to
hurt you, nor this young man of 1935. Not yet."

He left the table and came at us. His cloak parted in front and I saw
his crooked hips, and shriveled bent legs.

"You stay at the window, both of you, and keep looking out. I want
this Harl to see you, but not me. Do you understand?"

"Yes," I said.

"And if you gesture, or cry out--if you do anything to warn him,"--he
was addressing me, with a tone grimly menacing--"then I will kill you.
Both of you. Do you understand?"

I did indeed. Nor could I doubt him. "We will do what you want." I
said. What, to me, was the life of this unknown Harl compared to the
safety of Mary Atwood?

       *       *       *       *       *

Tugh crouched behind the table. From around its edge he could see out
the doorway and across the glade. I was aware of a weapon in his hand.

"Do not look around again," he repeated. "The other cage is coming;
it's almost here."

I held Mary, and we gazed out. We were pressed against the bars, and
sunlight was on our heads and shoulders. I realized that we could be
plainly seen from across the glade. We were lures--decoys to trap
Harl.

How long an interval went by I cannot judge. The scene was very
silent, the blackened forest lying sullen in the noonday sunlight.
Against the tree, five hundred feet or so from us, the dark towering
metal figure of the Robot stood motionless.

Would the other cage come? I tried to guess in what part of this open
glade it would appear.

At a movement behind me I turned slightly. At once the voice of Tugh
hissed:

"Do not do that! I warn you!"

His shrouded figure was still hunched behind the table. He was peering
toward the open door. I saw in his hand a small, barrel-like weapon,
with a wire dangling from it. The wire lay like a snake across the
floor and terminated in a small metal cylinder in the room corner.

"Turn front," he ordered vehemently. "One more backward look
and--Careful! Here he comes!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Strange tableau in this burned forest! We were on the space of New
York City in 762 A. D. There was no life in the scene. Birds, animals
and insects shunned this fire-denuded area. And the humans of the
forest--were there none of them here?

Abruptly I saw a group of men at the edge of the glade. They had come
silently creeping forward, hiding behind the blackened tree-trunks.
They were all behind Migul. I saw them like dark shadows darting from
the shelter of one tree-trunk to the next, a group of perhaps twenty
savages.

Migul did not see them, nor, in the heavy silence, did he seem to hear
them. They came, gazing at our shining cage like animals fascinated,
wondering what manner of thing it was.

They were the ancestors of our American Indians. One fellow stopped in
a patch of sunlight and I saw him clearly. His half-naked body had an
animal skin draped over it, and, incongruously, around his forehead
was a band of cloth holding a feather. He carried a stone ax. I saw
his face; the flat, heavy features showed his Asiatic origin.

Someone behind this leader impulsively shot an arrow across the glade.
It went over Migul's head and fell short of our cage. Migul turned,
and a rain of arrows thudded harmlessly against its metal body. I
heard the Robot's contemptuous laugh. It made no answering attack, but
stood motionless. And suddenly, thinking it a god whom now they must
placate, the savages fell prostrate before him.

Strange tableau! I saw a ball of white mist across the glade near
Migul. Something was materializing; an imponderable ghost of something
was taking form. In an instant it was the wraith of a cage; then,
where nothing had been, stood a cage. It was solid and substantial--a
metal cage-room, gleaming white in the sunlight.

       *       *       *       *       *

The tableau broke into sound and action. The savages howled. One
scrambled to his feet; then others. The Robot pretended to attack
them. An eery roar came from it as it turned toward the savages, and
in a panic of agonized terror they fled. In a moment they had
disappeared among the distant trees, with Migul's huge figure tramping
noisily after them.

From the doorway of the cage across the glade, a young man was
cautiously gazing. He had seen Migul make off; he saw, doubtless, Mary
and me at the window of this other cage five hundred feet away. He
came cautiously out from the doorway. He was a small, slim young man,
bareheaded, with a pallid face. His black garments were edged with
white, and he seemed unarmed. He hesitated, took a step or two
forward, stopped and stood cautiously peering. In the silence I could
have shouted a warning. But I did not dare. It would have meant Mary's
and my death.

She clung to me. "George, shall we?" she asked.

Harl came slowly forward. Then suddenly from the room behind us there
was a stab of light. It leaped knee-high past us, out through our door
across the glade--a tiny pencil-point of light so brilliantly
blue-white that it stabbed through the bright sunlight unfaded. It
went over Harl's head, but instantly bent down and struck upon him.
There it held the briefest of instants, then was gone.

Harl stood motionless for a second; then his legs bent and he fell.
The sunlight shone full on his crumpled body. And as I stared in
horror, I saw that he was not quite motionless. Writhing? I thought
so: a death agony. Then I realized it was not that.

"Mary, don't--don't look!" I said.

There was no need to tell her. She huddled beside me, shuddering, with
her face pressed against my shoulder.

The body of Harl lay in a crumpled heap. But the clothes were sagging
down. The flesh inside them was melting.... I saw the white face
suddenly leprous; putrescent.... All in this moment, within the
clothes, the body swiftly, decomposed.

In the sunlight of the glade lay a sagging heap of black and white
garments enveloping the skeleton of what a moment before had been a
man!

_(To be continued.)_



When the Moon Turned Green

_By Hal K. Wells_

[Illustration: _The monster whirled to confront Dixon._]

[Sidenote: Outside his laboratory Bruce Dixon finds a world of living
dead men--and above, in the sky, shines a weird green moon.]


It was nearly midnight when Bruce Dixon finished his labors and
wearily rose from before the work-bench of his lonely mountain
laboratory, located in an abandoned mine working in Southern Arizona.

He looked like some weirdly garbed monk of the Middle Ages as he
stretched his tall, lithe figure. His head was completely swathed in a
hood of lead-cloth, broken only by twin eyeholes of green glass. The
hood merged into a long-sleeved tunic of the same fabric, while
lead-cloth gauntlets covered his hands.

The lead-cloth costume was demanded by Dixon's work with radium
compounds. The result of that work lay before him on the bench--a
tiny lead capsule containing a pinhead lump of a substance which Dixon
believed would utterly dwarf earth's most powerful explosives in its
cataclysmic power.

So engrossed had Dixon been in the final stages of his work that for
the last seventy-two hours he had literally lived there in his
laboratory. It remained now only for him to step outside and test the
effect of the little contact grenade, and at the same time get a badly
needed taste of fresh air.

He set the safety catch on the little bomb and slipped it into his
pocket. As he started for the door he threw back his hood, revealing
the ruggedly good-looking face of a young man in the early thirties,
with lines of weariness now etched deeply into the clean-cut features.

       *       *       *       *       *

The moment that Dixon entered the short winding tunnel that led to the
outer air he was vaguely aware that something was wrong. There was a
strange and intangibly sinister quality in the moonlight that streamed
dimly into the winding passage. Even the cool night air itself seemed
charged with a subtle aura of brooding evil.

Dixon reached the entrance and stepped out into the full radiance of
the moonlight. He stopped abruptly and stared around him in utter
amazement.

High in the eastern sky there rode the disc of a full moon, but it was
a moon weirdly different from any that Dixon had ever seen before.
This moon was a deep and baleful green; was glowing with a stark
malignant fire like that which lurks in the blazing heart of a giant
emerald! Bathed in the glow of the intense green rays, the desolate
mountain landscape shone with a new and eery beauty.

Dixon took a dazed step forward. His foot thudded softly into a small
feathered body there in the sparse grass, and he stooped to pick it
up. It was a crested quail, with every muscle as stonily rigid as
though the bird had been dead for hours. Yet Dixon, to his surprise,
felt the slow faint beat of a pulse still in the tiny body.

Then a dim group of unfamiliar objects down in the shadows of a small
gully in front of him caught Dixon's eye. Tucking the body of the
quail inside his tunic for later examination, he hurried down into the
gully. A moment later he was standing by what had been the night camp
of a prospector.

The prospector was still there, his rigid figure wrapped in a blanket,
and his wide-open eyes staring sightlessly at the malignant green moon
in the sky above. Dixon knelt to examine the stricken man's body. It
showed the same mysterious condition as that of the quail, rigidly
stiff in every muscle, yet with the slow pulse and respiration of life
still faintly present.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dixon found the prospector's horse and burro sprawled on the ground
half a dozen yards away, both animals frozen in the same baffling
condition of living death. Dixon's brain reeled as he tried to fathom
the incredible calamity that had apparently overwhelmed the world
while he had been hidden away in his subterranean laboratory. Then a
new and terrible thought assailed him.

If the grim effect of the baleful green rays was universal in its
extent, what then of old Emil Crawford and his niece, Ruth Lawton?
Crawford, an inventor like Dixon, had his laboratory in a valley some
five miles away.

An abrupt chill went over Dixon's heart at the thought of Ruth
Lawton's vivid Titian-haired beauty being forever stilled in the grip
of that eery living death. He and Ruth had loved each other ever
since they had first met.

Dixon broke into a run as he headed for a nearby ridge that looked out
over the valley. His pulse hammered with unusual violence as he
scrambled up the steep incline, and his muscles seemed to be tiring
with strange rapidity. He had a vague feeling that the rays of that
malignant green moon were beating directly into his brain, clouding
his thoughts and draining his physical strength.

Gaining the crest of the ridge, he stopped aghast as he looked down
the valley toward Emil Crawford's place. Near the site of Crawford's
laboratory home was an unearthly pyrotechnic display such as Dixon had
never seen before. An area several hundred yards in diameter seemed
one vivid welter of pulsing colors, with flashing lances of every hue
crisscrossing in and through a great central cloud of ever-changing
opalescence like a fiery aurora borealis gone mad.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dixon fought back the ever-increasing lethargy that was benumbing his
brain, and groped dazedly for a key to this new riddle. Was it some
weird and colossal experiment of Emil Crawford's that was causing the
green rays of death from a transformed moon, an experiment the earthly
base of which was amid the seething play of blazing colors down there
in the valley?

The theory seemed hardly a plausible one. As far as Dixon knew,
Crawford's work had been confined almost entirely to a form of
radio-propelled projectile for use in war-time against marauding
planes.

Dixon shook his head forcibly in a vain effort to clear the stupor
that was sweeping over him. It was strange how the vivid rays of that
malevolent green moon seemed to sear insidiously into one's brain,
stifling thought as a swamp fog stifles the sunlight.

Then Dixon suddenly froze into stark immobility, staring with startled
eyes at the base of a rocky crag thirty yards away. Something was
lurking there in the green-black shadows--a great sprawling black
shape of abysmal horror, with a single flaming opalescent eye fixed
unwinkingly upon Dixon.

The next moment the vivid moon was suddenly obscured by drifting wisps
of cloud. As the green light blurred to an emerald haze, the creature
under the crag came slithering out toward Dixon.

He had a vague glimpse of a monster such as one should see only in
nightmares--a huge loathesome spider-form with a bloated body as long
as that of a man, and great sprawling legs that sent it half a dozen
yards nearer Dixon in one effortless leap.

       *       *       *       *       *

The onslaught proved too much for Dixon's morale, half-dazed as he was
by the green moon's paralyzing rays. With a low inarticulate cry of
terror, he turned and ran, straining every muscle in a futile effort
to distance the frightful thing that inexorably kept pace in the
shadowy emerald gloom behind him.

Dixon's strength faded rapidly after his first wild sprint. Fifty
yards more, and his faltering muscles failed him utterly. The dread
rays of that grim green moon sapped his last faint powers of
resistance. He staggered on for a few more painful steps then sprawled
helplessly to the ground. His brain hovered momentarily upon the verge
of complete unconsciousness.

Then he was suddenly aware of a fluttering struggle, inside his tunic
where he had placed the body of the quail. A moment later and the bird
wriggled free. It promptly spread its wings and flew away, apparently
as vibrantly alive as before the mysterious paralysis had stricken
it.

The incident brought a faint surge of hope to Dixon as he dimly
realized the answer to at least part of the green moon's riddle. The
bird had recovered after being shielded in the lead-cloth of his
tunic. That could only mean one thing--the menace of those green moon
rays must in some unknown way be radioactive. If Dixon could only get
the lead-cloth hood over his own head again he also might cheat the
green doom.

He fumbled at the garment with fingers that seemed as stiff as wooden
blocks. There was a long moment of agony when he feared that his
effort had come too late. Then the hood finally slipped over his head
just as utter oblivion claimed him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dixon came abruptly back to life with the dimly remembered echo of a
woman's scream still ringing in his ears. For a moment he thought that
he was awakening on his cot back in the laboratory after an unusually
vivid and weird nightmare. Then the garish green moonlight around him
brought swift realization that the incredible happenings of the night
were grim reality.

The clouds were gone from the moon, leaving his surroundings again
clearly outlined in the flood of green light. Dixon lifted his head
and cautiously searched the scene, but he could see no trace of the
great spider-form that had pursued him.

Wondering curiously why the creature had abandoned the chase at the
moment when victory was within its grasp, Dixon rose lithely to his
feet. The protecting hood had brought a quick and complete recovery
from the devastating effects of the green moon's rays. His muscles
were again supple, and his brain once more functioned with clearness.

Then abruptly Dixon's blood froze as the sound of a woman's scream
came again. The cry was that of a woman in the last extremity of
terror, and Dixon knew with a terrible certainty that that woman was
Ruth Lawton!

He raced toward the small ridge of rocks from behind which the sound
had apparently come. A moment later he reached the scene, and stopped
horror-stricken.

Three figures were there in a small rock-walled clearing. One was old
Emil Crawford, sprawled unconscious on his side, the soft glow of a
small white globe in a strange head-piece atop his gray hair shining
eerily in the green moonlight.

Near Crawford's body loomed the giant spider-creature, and clutched
firmly in the great claspers just under the monster's terrible fanged
mouth was the slender body of Ruth Lawton. Merciful unconsciousness
had apparently overwhelmed the girl now, for she lay supinely in the
dread embrace, with eyes closed and lips silent.

       *       *       *       *       *

As the monster dropped the girl's body to the ground and whirled to
confront Dixon, for the first time he had a clear view of the thing in
all its horror.

He shuddered in uncontrollable nausea. The incredible size of the
creature was repellent enough, but it was the grisly head of the
monstrosity that struck the final note of horror. That head was more
than half human!

The fangs and other mouth parts were those of a giant tarantula, but
these merged directly into the mutilated but unmistakable head of a
man--with an aquiline nose, staring eyes, and a touseled mop of dirty
brown hair. Resting on top of the head was a metallic head-piece
similar to the one worn by Emil Crawford, but the small globe in this
one blazed with a fiery opalescence.

The creature crouched lower, with its legs twitching in obvious
preparation for a spring. Dixon looked wildly about him for a possible
weapon, but saw nothing. Then he suddenly remembered the little lead
grenade in his pocket. The cataclysmic power of that little bomb
should be more than a match for even this monster.

His fingers closed over the grenade just as the great spider's
twitching legs straightened in a mighty effort that sent it hurtling
through the air straight toward him.

Dixon dodged to one side with a swiftness that caused the monster to
miss by a good yard. Dixon raced a dozen paces farther away, then
whirled to face the great spider. The creature's legs began scuttling
warily forward. It was to be no wild leap through the air this time,
but a swift rush over the ground that Dixon would be powerless to
evade.

Releasing the safety catch of the grenade, Dixon hurled the tiny
missile straight at the rock floor just under the feet of that vast
misshapen creature. There was a vivid flash of blinding blue flame,
then a terrific report. Dazed by the concussion, but unhurt, Dixon
cautiously went over to investigate the result of the explosion.

       *       *       *       *       *

One brief glance was enough. The hideous mass of shattered flesh
sprawling there on the rocks would never again be a menace. The only
thing that had escaped destruction in that shattering blast was the
strange head-piece the thing had worn. Either the small shining globe
was practically indestructible, or else it had been spared by some odd
freak of the explosive, for it still blazed in baleful opalescence
atop the shattered head.

Dixon hurried back to where Emil Crawford and Ruth Lawton lay. The
girl's body was so rigidly inert that Dixon threw back his
encumbering hood and knelt over her for a swift examination. His fears
were quickly realized. Ruth was already a victim of the green moon's
dread paralysis.

"Dixon! Bruce Dixon!"

Dixon turned at the call. Emil Crawford, his face drawn with pain, had
struggled up on one elbow. The old man was obviously fighting off
complete collapse by sheer will power.

"Dixon! Replace Ruth's shining head-piece at once!" Crawford gasped.
"That will make her immune from the Green Death, and then we can--"
The old man's voice swiftly faded away into silence as he again
fainted.

Dixon hurriedly searched the scene and found Ruth's head-piece on the
ground where it had apparently fallen in her first struggle with the
giant spider, but the tiny white globe in the device was shattered and
dark.

Despair gripped Dixon for a moment. Then he remembered the unbroken
head-piece of the slain monster. True, the glow of its globe was
opalescent instead of white, but it seemed to offer its wearer the
same immunity to the green moon's rays.

He swiftly retrieved the head-piece from the spider-creature's body,
and set the light metal framework in place on Ruth's auburn curls.

       *       *       *       *       *

Results came with incredible quickness. The rigidity left Ruth's body
immediately. Her breath came in fast-quickening gasps, and her eyes
fluttered open as Dixon knelt over her.

"It's Bruce, Ruth--Bruce Dixon," he said tenderly. "Don't you know me,
dear?"

But there was no trace of recognition in those wide-open blue eyes
staring fixedly up at him. For a moment Ruth lay there with muscles
strangely tense. Then with a lithe strength that was amazing she
suddenly twisted free of the clasp of Dixon's arms and sprang to her
feet.

The next minute Dixon gave ground, and he found himself battling for
his very life. This was not the Ruth Lawton whom he had known and
loved. This was a madwoman of savage menace, with soft lips writhing
over white teeth in a jungle snarl, and blue eyes that fairly
glittered with unrestrained, insensate hate.

He tried to close with the maddened girl, but instantly regretted his
rashness. Her slender body seemed imbued with the strength of a
tigress as she sent slim fingers clawing at his throat. He tore
himself free just in time. Dazed and shaken, he again gave ground
before the fury of the girl's attack.

He could not bring himself to the point of actively fighting back, yet
he knew that in another moment he would either have to mercilessly
batter his beautiful adversary into helplessness or else be himself
overcome. There was no middle course.

Then old Emil Crawford's voice came again as the old man rallied to
consciousness for another brief moment.

"Bruce, the opal globe is a direct link to those devils themselves!
Break it, Bruce, break it--for Ruth's sake as well as your own!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Crawford had barely finished his gasped warning when Ruth again hurled
herself forward upon Dixon with tapering fingers curved like talons as
they sought his throat. Dixon swept her clutching hands aside with a
desperate left-handed parry, then snatched wildly at the gleaming
head-piece with his right hand.

The thing came away in his grasp, and in the same swift movement he
savagely smashed it against the rocky wall beside him. Whatever the
opalescent globe's eery powers might be, it was not indestructible. It
shattered like a bursting bubble, its fire dying in a tiny cloud of
particles that shimmered faintly for a moment, then was gone.

Again, the effect upon Ruth was almost instantaneous. Every trace of
her insane fury vanished. She swayed dizzily and would have fallen had
not Dixon caught her in his arms. For a moment she looked up into his
face with eyes in which recognition now shone unmistakably. Then her
eyelids slowly closed, and she again lapsed into unconsciousness.

Dixon looked over at Emil Crawford, and found that the old man had
again collapsed. Dixon knew of but one thing to do with the stricken
man and girl, and that was to take them to his laboratory. The
laboratory, apparently insulated by veins of lead ore in the mountain
surrounding it, was the one sure spot of refuge in this weird
nightmare world of paralyzing lunar rays and prowling monsters.

       *       *       *       *       *

Flinging his tunic over Ruth's head to shield her as much as possible
from the moonlight, he carried her to the laboratory, then returned
for Emil Crawford. Safe within the subterranean retreat with the old
scientist, Dixon removed his encumbering lead costume and began doing
what he could for the stricken pair.

Ruth was still unconscious, but the cataleptic rigidity was already
nearly gone from her body, and her breathing was now the deep
respiration of normal sleep.

Emil Crawford's condition was more serious. Not only was the old man's
frail strength nearly exhausted, but he was also badly wounded. His
thin chest was seared by two great livid areas of burned flesh, the
nature of which puzzled Dixon as he began to dress the injuries. They
seemed of radioactive origin, yet in many ways they were unlike any
radium burns that Dixon had ever seen.

While Dixon was working over him, Crawford stirred weakly and opened
his eyes. He sighed in relief as he recognized his surroundings.

"Good boy, Bruce!" he commended wanly. "We are safe here among the
insulating veins of lead ore in the mountain. This is where Ruth and I
were trying to come after we escaped from those devils to-night. But,
Bruce, how did you guess the radioactive nature of the Green Sickness
in time to avoid falling a victim to it as soon as you left the
shelter of your laboratory?"

"My escape was entirely luck," Dixon admitted grimly. "To-night I left
my laboratory for the first time in three days. I found a world gone
mad, with a strange green moon blazing down upon a land of living dead
men, and with marauding monsters hideous enough to have been spawned
in the Pit itself. What in Heaven's name does it all mean?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"I am afraid that it means the end of the world, Bruce," Crawford
answered quietly. "It was a little over forty-eight hours ago that the
incredible event first happened. Without a moment's warning, _the moon
turned green_! Hardly had the world's astronomers had time to
speculate upon this amazing phenomenon before the Green Sickness
struck--a pestilence of appalling deadliness that swept resistlessly
in the path of those weird green rays. Wherever the green moon shone,
every living creature succumbed with ghastly swiftness to the
condition of living death that you have seen.

"Westward with the racing moon sped the Green Sickness, and nothing
stayed its attack. The green rays pierced through buildings of wood,
stone, and iron as though they did not exist. A doomed world had
neither time nor opportunity to guess that lead was the one armor
against those dread rays. To-night, Bruce, we are in all probability
the only three human beings on this planet who are not slumbering in
the paralytic stupor of the Green Sickness.

"Ruth and I were stricken with the rest of the world," Crawford
continued. "We recovered consciousness hours later to find ourselves
captives in the Earth-camp of the invaders themselves. You probably
saw the display of lights that marks their camp down in the valley a
mile beyond my place. We have learned since that the space ship of the
invaders dropped silently down into the valley the night before the
moon turned green and established the camp as a sort of outpost and
observatory. They left two of their number there as pioneers, then the
rest of them departed in the space ship for their present post up near
the moon.

"Ruth and I were revived only that the two invaders in the camp might
question us regarding life on this planet. They have a science that is
based upon principles as utterly strange and incomprehensible to us as
ours probably is to them. They probed my brain with a thought machine.
It was an apparatus that worked both ways. What knowledge they got
from me I do not know, but I do know that they unwittingly told me
much in the bizarre and incredible mental pictures that the machine
carried from their brains to mine.

       *       *       *       *       *

"They are refugees. Bruce, from a planet that circled about the star
that we know as Alpha Centauri, a star that is the nearest of all our
stellar neighbors, being only four and a third light years distant.
Their home planet was disrupted by a colossal engineering experiment
of the Centaurians themselves, the only survivors being a group of
fifty who escaped in a space ship just before the catastrophe.

"There were no other habitable planets in their own system, so in
desperation these refugees sped out across the void to our solar
system in the hope of finding a new home here. They reconnoitered our
Earth secretly and found it ideal. But first they believed that they
must conquer the life that already held this Earth. To do this, they
struck with the Green Sickness.

"The rays that are turning the moon green emanate from the space ship
hovering up there some fifty thousand miles from the moon itself. The
Centaurian's rays, blending with the sunlight striking the disc of the
full moon, are intensified in some unknown way, then reflected across
the quarter of a million miles to the Earth, to flood this planet with
virulent radiance.

"The green moonlight is radioactive in nature, and overcomes animal
life within a matter of fifteen minutes or less. The rays are most
powerful when the moon is in the sky, but their effect continues even
after it has set, because as long as the green moonlight strikes any
part of the Earth's atmosphere the entire atmospheric envelope of the
planet remains charged with the paralyzing radioactive influence.

"Earth's inhabitants are not dead. They are merely stupefied. If the
green rays were to cease now, most of the victims of the Green
Sickness would quickly recover with little permanent injury. But,
Bruce, if that evil green moon blazes on for twenty-four hours more,
the brain powers of Earth's millions will be forever shattered. So
weakened will they be by then that recovery will be impossible even
with the rays shut off, and the entire planet will be populated only
by mindless imbeciles, readily available material for the myriads of
monstrous hybrids that the invaders will create to serve them.

       *       *       *       *       *

"To-night you saw the hybrid that the invaders sent to recapture Ruth and
me. It was a fit specimen of the grisly magic which those devils from
outer space work with their uncanny surgery and growth-stimulating
radioactive rays. The basic element of that monster was an ordinary
tarantula spider, with its growth incredibly increased in a few short
hours of intensive ray treatment in the Centaurian's camp. The half-head
grafted to it was that of a human being. They always graft the brain
cavity of a mammal to a hybrid--half heads of burros, horses, or even
dogs, but preferably those of human beings. I think that they prefer to
use as great a brain power as possible.

"The hybrids are controlled through the small opalescent globes on
their heads, globes that are in direct tune with a huge master globe
of opalescent fire in the invaders' camp. When Ruth attacked you after
you placed the opal head-piece upon her head, she was for the moment
merely another of the invaders' servants blindly obeying the broadcast
command to kill. The white globes that Ruth and I wore when we escaped
from the camp were identical with those worn by the invaders
themselves, being nothing more than harmless insulators against the
effect of the green moonlight."

A sudden spasm of pain convulsed Crawford's face. Dixon sprang forward
to aid him, but the old man rallied with an effort and weakly waved
Dixon back.

"I'm all right, Bruce," he gasped. "My strength is nearly exhausted,
that is all. Like a garrulous old fool I've worn myself out talking
about everything but the one important subject. Bruce, have you
developed that new and infinitely powerful explosive you were working
on?"

"Yes," Dixon answered grimly. "I have an explosive right here in the
laboratory that can easily blow the Centaurian's camp completely off
the map."

       *       *       *       *       *

Crawford shook his head impatiently. "Destroying the camp would do no
good. We must shatter the space ship itself if we are to extinguish
those green rays in time to save our world."

"That is impossible if the space ship is hovering up there by the
moon!" Dixon protested.

"No, it is not impossible," Crawford answered confidently. "I have a
projectile in my laboratory that will not only hurtle across that
great gap with incredible speed, but will also infallibly strike its
target when it gets there. It is a projectile that is as irresistibly
drawn by radio waves as steel is by a magnet, and it will speed as
straight to the source of those waves as a bit of steel will to the
magnet.

"The Centaurians in the space ship," Crawford continued, "are in
constant communication with their camp through radio apparatus much
like our own. If you can pack a powerful contact charge of your
explosive in my projectile, I can guarantee that when the projectile
is released it will flash out into space and score a direct hit
against the walls of the space ship."

"I can pack the explosive in the projectile, all right," Dixon
answered grimly. "We will need only a lump the size of an egg, and a
small container of the heavy gas that activates it. The explosive
itself is a radium compound that, when allowed to come in contact with
the activating gas, becomes so unstable that any sharp blow will set
it off in an explosion that in a matter of seconds releases the
infinite quantities of energy usually released by radium over a period
of at least twelve hundred years. The cataclysmic force of that
explosion should be enough to wreck a small planet."

"Good!" Crawford commended weakly. "If you can only strike your blow
to-night, Bruce, our world still has a chance. If only you--" The old
man's voice suddenly failed. He sank back in utter collapse, his eyes
closed and his last vestige of strength spent.

       *       *       *       *       *

Knowing that the old man would probably remain in his sleep of
complete exhaustion for hours, Dixon turned his attention to Ruth. To
his surprise, he found her sitting up, apparently completely
recovered.

"I'm quite all right again," she said reassuringly. "I've been
listening to what Uncle told you. Go ahead and prepare your explosive,
Bruce. I'll do what I can for Uncle while you're working."

Dixon donned his lead-cloth hood and tunic again and set to work. Ten
minutes later he turned to Ruth with a slender foot-long cylinder of
lead in his hand.

"Ruth, will this fit your Uncle's projectile?" he asked.

"Easily," she assured him. "But isn't it frightfully dangerous to
carry in that form?"

"No, it's absolutely safe now, and will be safe until this stud is
turned, releasing the activating gas from one compartment to mingle
with the radium compound in the other section. Then the cylinder will
become a bomb that any sharp jar will detonate."

"All right, let's go then," Ruth answered. "Have you any more of those
lead clothes that I can wear? I could wear the globe head-piece that
Uncle wore, but it would loom up in the dark like a searchlight."

Dixon did not protest Ruth's going with him. There was nothing further
that could be done for Emil Crawford for hours and in the hazardous
sally to Crawford's laboratory he knew that Ruth's cool courage and
quick wits would at least double their chances for success in their
desperate mission. He provided her with a reserve hood and tunic of
lead cloth, then handed her a tiny leaden pellet.

"Keep this for a last resort," he told her. "It's a contact bomb that
becomes ready to throw when this safety catch is snapped over. I wish
we had a dozen of them, but that's the last capsule I had and there's
no time to prepare more."

He fished a rusty old revolver out of a drawer, and placed it in his
pocket. "I'll use this gun for a last resort weapon myself," he said.
"The action only works about half the time, but it's the only firearm
in the place."

       *       *       *       *       *

The green moon was still high in the sky as Ruth and Dixon emerged
from the tunnel, but it was already beginning to drop gradually down
toward the west. Dixon wheeled his disreputable flivver out of its
nearby shed. With engine silent they started coasting down the rough
winding road into the valley.

For nearly two miles they wound down the long grade. Then, just as
they reached the valley floor they saw, far up among the rocks to the
left of the road, the thing they had been dreading--the bobbing
opalescent globe that marked the presence of one of the Centaurians'
hideous hybrids. The shimmering globe paused for a moment, then came
racing down toward them.

The need for secrecy was past. Dixon threw the car in gear and
savagely pulled down the gas lever. With throttle wide open they
hurtled around the perilous curves of the narrow road, but always in
the rocks beside and above them they heard the scuttling progress of
some huge, many-legged creature that constantly kept pace with them.

They had occasional glimpses of the thing. Its pale jointed body was
some twenty feet in length, and had apparently been developed from
that of a centipede, with scores of racing legs that carried it with
startling speed over the rocky terrain.

The flivver raced madly on toward the blaze of kaleidoscopic colors
that marked the Centaurians' camp. Crawford's home loomed up now
barely a hundred yards ahead.

As though sensing that its quarry was about to escape, the hybrid
flashed a burst of speed that sent it on by the car for a full fifty
yards, then down into the road directly in front, where it whirled to
confront them. Dixon knew that he could never stop the car in the
short gap separating them from that huge upreared figure, and to
attempt swerving from the road upon either side was certain disaster.

He took the only remaining chance. With throttle wide open he sent the
little car hurtling straight for the giant centipede. He threw his
body in front of Ruth, to shield her as much as possible, just as they
smashed squarely into the hybrid.

The impact was too much for even that monstrous figure. It was hurled
bodily from the road to crash upon the jagged rocks at the bottom of a
thirty-foot gully. There it sprawled in a broken mass, too hopelessly
shattered to ever rise again.

The flivver skidded momentarily, then crumpled to a full stop against
the rocks at the side of the road. Dixon and Ruth scrambled from the
wreckage and raced for Crawford's home, scarcely fifty yards ahead.

       *       *       *       *       *

They entered the laboratory and Ruth went directly over to where the
radio-projectile rested in a wall-rack. Dixon took the gleaming
cylinder down to examine it. Tapering to a rounded point at the front
end, it was nearly a yard long and about five inches in diameter.

"The mechanism inside the projectile is turned off now, of course,"
Ruth said. "If it were turned on, the projectile would have been on
its way to the space ship long ago, for the radio waves are as strong
here as at the Centaurians' camp."

The girl pointed to a small metal stud in the nose of the projectile.

"When that is snapped over, it makes the contact that sets the
magnetizing mechanism into action," she explained. "Then the
projectile will go hurtling directly for the source of any radio waves
within range. I don't know the nature of its mechanism. Uncle merely
told me that it is the application of an entirely new principle of
electricity."

Dixon laid the long projectile down on the work-bench, and began
packing his lead cylinder of explosive inside it. He had to release
the lead cylinder's safety catch before closing the projectile, which
made his work a thrillingly precarious one, for any sharp blow now
would detonate the unstable mixture of gas and radium compound in one
cataclysmic explosion.

He sighed in relief as he finally straightened up with the completed
projectile held carefully in both hands.

"All we have to do now, Ruth," he said, "is step out from under this
roof and snap that energizing stud. Then this little package of
destruction will be on its way to our Centaurian friends up there by
that pestilential green moon."

       *       *       *       *       *

Ruth stepped ahead to open the door for him. With the end of their
task so near at hand, both forgot to be cautious.

Ruth threw the door open and took one step outside, then suddenly
screamed in terror as her shoulders were encircled by a long
snake-like object that came whipping down from some vast something
that had been lurking just outside. Dixon tried to dodge back, but too
late. Another great hairy tentacle came lashing around his shoulders,
pinning his arms tightly and jerking him out of the doorway.

He had a swift vague glimpse of a hybrid looming there in the green
moonlight--a tarantula hybrid that in size and horror dwarfed any of
the frightful products of Centaurian science that he had yet seen.

Before Dixon had time to note any of the details of his assailant
another tentacle curled around him, tearing the projectile from his
grasp. Then he was irresistibly drawn up toward that grisly head where
Ruth's body was also suspended in one of the powerful tentacles. The
next moment, bearing its burdens with amazing ease, the giant hybrid
started off.

Dixon tried with all his strength to squirm free enough to get a hand
upon the revolver in his pocket, but the constricting tentacle did not
give for even an inch. The only result of his effort was to twist his
hood to one side, leaving him as effectually blindfolded as though his
head were in a sack.

Long minutes of swaying, pitching motion followed as the hybrid sped
over the rocky ridges and gullies. It finally came to a halt, and for
another minute or so Dixon was held there motionless in mid-air, dimly
conscious of a subdued hum of activity all about him. Then he was
gently lowered to the ground again.

While one tentacle still held him securely, another tore away his hood
and tunic. Almost immediately the hood was replaced by one of the
protective white globe devices. Dixon blinked for a moment in
half-blinded bewilderment as he got his first glimpse of the
Earth-camp of the Centaurians.

       *       *       *       *       *

The place, located on the smooth rock floor of a large natural basin,
seemed a veritable cauldron of seething colors which rippled and
blended in a dazzling maze of unearthly splendor. But Dixon forgot
everything else in that weird camp as his startled gaze fell upon the
creature standing directly in front of him.

He knew instinctively that the thing must be one of the Alpha
Centaurians, for in its alien grotesqueness the figure was utterly
dissimilar to anything ever seen upon Earth before.

Life upon the shattered planet of that far distant sun had apparently
sprung from sources both crustacean and reptilian. The Centaurian
stood barely five feet in height. Its bulky, box-like body was
completely covered with a chitinous armor that gleamed pale yellowish
green.

Two short powerful legs, scaled like those of a lizard, ended in feet
that resembled degenerated talons. Two pairs of slender arms emanated
from the creature's shoulders, with their many-jointed flexible length
ending in delicate three-pronged hands.

The scaly hairless head beneath the Centaurian's white globe device
bore a face that was blankly hideous. Two great lidless eyes, devoid
of both pupils and whites, stared unblinkingly at Dixon like twin
blobs of red-black jelly. A toothless loose-lipped mouth slavered
beneath.

Dixon averted his gaze from the horror of that fearful alien face, and
looked anxiously around for Ruth. He saw her almost at once, over at
his right. She was tethered by a light metallic rope that ran from her
waist to one of the metal beams supporting the great shimmering ball
of opalescent fire which formed the central control of the hybrids.

One of the white globe devices had been placed upon Ruth's head and
she was apparently unhurt, for she pluckily flashed a reassuring smile
at Dixon.

       *       *       *       *       *

Directly in front of Dixon and some forty yards away there was a large
pen-like enclosure, with vari-colored shafts of radiance from banks of
projectors constantly sweeping through it. Dixon drew in his breath
sharply as he saw the frightful life lying dormant in that pen. It was
a solid mass of hybrids--great loathesome figures fashioned from a
score of different worms, insects, and spiders. The globes upon the
gruesome mammalian half-heads were still dark and unfired with
opalescence.

The invaders had apparently raided most of the surrounding country in
obtaining those grafted half-heads. Near where Dixon stood there was a
tragic little pile of articles taken from the Centaurians'
victims--prospectors' picks, shovels, axes, and other tools.

Over to the left of the dormant hybrids stood the second Alpha
Centaurian, curiously examining Dixon's projectile. The creature
apparently suspected the deadly nature of the gleaming cylinder for it
soon laid it carefully down and packed cushions of soft fabric around
it to shield it from any possible shock.

Then at an unspoken command from the first Centaurian the great hybrid
whirled Dixon around to face a small enclosure just behind him in
which were located banks of control panels and other apparatus. One of
the pieces of mechanism, with a regularly spaced stream of sparks
snapping between two terminals, was apparently a radio receiver
automatically recording the broadcast from the space ship. Dixon was
unable to even guess the nature of the remaining apparatus.

"Bruce, be careful!" Ruth called in despairing warning. "He is going
to put the thought-reading machine on your brain. Then he'll learn
what the projectile is for, and everything will be lost!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Dixon's mind raced with lightning speed in the face of this new
danger. He stealthily slipped a hand over the revolver in his pocket.
There was one vulnerable spot in the great hybrid holding him, and
that was the opalescent globe on the creature's head. If he could only
smash that globe with one well-directed shot, he might be able to
elude the Centaurians for the precious minute necessary to send the
projectile on its deadly journey.

The hybrid began maneuvering Dixon toward the instrument enclosure.
For a fleeting second the grip of the tentacles upon his shoulders
loosened slightly. Dixon took instant advantage of it. Twisting
himself free from the loosened tentacle in one mighty effort, he
whirled and fired pointblank at the opalescent globe on the head
looming above him.

The bullet smashed accurately home, shattering the globe like a
bursting bubble. The great hybrid collapsed with startling suddenness,
its life force instantly extinguished as the globe burst.

Dixon leaped to one side and swung the gun into line with the
Centaurian's hideous face. He pulled the trigger--but there was no
response. The rusty old firearm had hopelessly jammed.

Dixon savagely flung the revolver at the Centaurian. The creature
tried to dodge, but the heavy gun struck its body a glancing blow.
There was a slight spurt of body fluid as the chitinous armor was
partly broken.

Dixon's heart leaped exultantly. No wonder these creatures had to
create hybrids to fight for them. Their own bodies were as vulnerable
as that of a soft-shelled crab!

The Centaurian quickly drew a slender tube of dark green from a
scabbard in its belt. Dixon dodged back, looking wildly about him for
a weapon. There was an ax in the pile only a few yards away. Dixon
snatched the ax up, and whirled to give battle.

       *       *       *       *       *

The other Centaurian had come hurrying over now to aid its mate. Dixon
was effectually barred from attempting any progress toward the
projectile by the two grotesque creatures as they stood alertly there
beside each other with their green tubes menacing him. Dixon waited
tensely at bay, remembering those searing radium burns upon Emil
Crawford's body.

Then the first Centaurian abruptly leveled a second and smaller tube
upon Dixon. A burst of yellow light flashed toward him, enveloping him
in a cloud of pale radiance before he could dodge.

There was a faint plop as the protecting white globe upon his head was
shattered. The yellow radiance swiftly faded, leaving Dixon unhurt,
but he realized that the first round in the battle had been won
decisively by the Centaurians. His only chance now, was to end the
battle before the paralyzing rays of the green moon sapped his
strength.

He warily advanced upon the Centaurians. Their green tubes swung into
line and twin bolts of violet flame flashed toward him. He dodged, and
the bolts missed by inches. Then Dixon nearly fell as his foot struck
a bundle of cloth on the ground.

The next moment he snatched the bundle up with a cry of triumph. It
was his lead-cloth tunic, torn and useless as a garment, but
invaluable as a shield against the searing effects of those bolts of
radioactive flame. He hurriedly wrapped the fabric in a rough bundle
around his left forearm. The next time the tubes' violet flames
flashed toward him he thrust his rude shield squarely into their path.
There was a light tingling shock, and that was all. The bolts did not
sear through.

With new confidence, Dixon boldly charged the two Centaurians. A weird
battle ensued in the garishly lighted arena.

The effective range of the violet flashes was only about ten feet, and
Dixon's muscular agility was far superior to that of his antagonists.
By constant whirling and dodging he was able to either catch the
violet bolts upon his shielded arm or else dodge them entirely.

Yet, in spite of the Centaurians' clumsy slowness, they maneuvered
with a cool strategy that constantly kept the Earth man's superior
strength at bay. Always as Dixon tried to close with one of them he
was forced to retreat when a flanking attack from the other threatened
his unprotected back. And always the Centaurians maneuvered to bar
Dixon from attempting any dash toward the projectile.

       *       *       *       *       *

The minutes passed, and Dixon felt his strength rapidly ebbing, both
from his herculean exertions and from the paralyzing rays of the green
moon beating down upon his unprotected head. As his speed of foot
lessened the Centaurians began inexorably pressing their advantage.

Dixon was no longer escaping unscathed. In spite of his frantic
efforts to dodge, twice the violet bolts grazed his body in searing
flashes of exquisite agony.

His muscles stiffened still more in the attack of the Green Sickness.
Desperately dodging a Centaurian bolt, he stumbled and nearly fell. As
he staggered to regain his balance, one of his antagonists scrambled
to the coveted position behind him.

It was only Ruth's scream of warning that galvanized Dixon's numbed
brain into action in time to meet the imminent peril.

In one mighty effort he flung his ax at the Centaurian in front of
him. The heavy blade cut deep into the thinly armored body. Mortally
wounded, the creature collapsed.

Dixon whirled and flung up his shielded left arm just in time to
intercept the violet bolt of the other Centaurian. Warily backing
away, Dixon succeeded in retrieving his ax from beside the twitching
body of the fallen invader.

Then, with the heavy weapon again in his hand, he remorselessly
charged his remaining foe. The Centaurian's tube flashed in a
veritable hail of hurtling violet bolts, but Dixon caught the flashes
upon his shield and closed grimly in.

One final leap brought him to close quarters. The heavy ax whistled
through the air in a single mighty stroke that cleft the Centaurian's
frail body nearly in two.

Then Ruth's excited scream came again. "Bruce--the other one! Get it
quick!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Dixon turned. The wounded invader, taking advantage of their
preoccupation in the final struggle with its mate, had dragged its
crippled body over to the instrument enclosure. Dixon staggered toward
it as fast as his half-paralyzed muscles would permit.

He was just too late. The Centaurian jerked a lever home a fraction of
a second before Dixon's smashing ax forever ended his activities. The
lever's action upon the pen of inert hybrids was immediate.

The sweeping lances of light vanished in a brief sheet of vivid flame
which kindled the dark globes on the hybrids' gruesome heads to steady
opalescence--and the dread horde came to life! Sprawling from the pen,
they came scuttling toward Dixon in a surging flood--a scene out of a
nightmare.

Dixon faced the oncoming horde in numb despair, knowing that his
nearly-paralyzed body had no chance in flight. Then, just as the
hybrids were nearly upon him, he heard Ruth's encouraging voice again.

"There's still one chance left, Bruce," she cried, "and I'll take it!"

Dixon turned. Ruth had in her hand the tiny contact grenade he had
given her for a last emergency. She snapped the safety catch on the
little bomb, then hurled it squarely at the giant opalescent globe
looming close beside her.

There was a terrific explosion and the great globe shattered to atoms.
Apparently stunned by the concussion but otherwise unhurt, Ruth was
flung clear of the wreckage.

With the shattering of the central globe the strange life force of the
hybrid horde vanished instantly and completely. Midway in their rush
they sprawled inert and dead, with their outstretched legs so close to
Dixon that he had to step over one or two to get clear.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dixon's brain reeled in the reaction of relief from the horde's
hideous menace. Then he grimly fought to clear his fast-numbing senses
long enough for the one final task that he knew must still be done.

The projectile, cushioned as it was, had escaped detonation in the
blast. He had only to stagger across the twenty yards separating him
from it, then release the stud that would send it flashing out into
space.

But his last shred of reserve strength had nearly been sapped now by
the insidious rays of that malevolent green moon. Even as he started
toward the projectile, he staggered and fell. Unable to drag himself
to his feet again, he began grimly crawling with arms and legs as
stiff and dead as that much stone.

Only ten more yards to go now. And now only five. Grimly, doggedly,
with senses reeling and muscles nearly dead, the last survivor of a
dying planet fought desperately on under the malignant rays of the
vivid green moon!

One last sprawling convulsive effort--and Dixon had the projectile in
his hands. His stiff fingers fumbled agonizingly with the activating
stud. Then abruptly the stud snapped home. With a crescendo whistle of
sundered air the projectile flashed upward into the western sky.

Dixon collapsed upon his back, his dimming eyes fixed upon the grim
green moon. Minutes that seemed eternities dragged slowly by. Then his
heart leaped in sudden hope. Had there really glowed a small blue
spark up there beside the green moon--a spark marking the mighty
explosion of the radium bomb against the Centaurians' space ship?

A fraction of a second later, and doubt became glorious certainty. The
vivid green of the moonlight vanished. The silvery white sheen of a
normal moon again shone serenely up there in the western sky!

With the extinguishing of the dread green rays, new strength surged
swiftly through Dixon's tired body. He arose and hurried over to where
Ruth lay limp and still near the wreckage of the great globe. He
worked over her for many anxious minutes before the normal flush of
health returned to her white cheeks and her eyes slowly opened.

Then he took Ruth into his arms and for a long minute the two silently
drank in the beauty of that radiant silver moon above them, while
their hearts thrilled with a realization of the glorious miracle of
awakening life that they knew must already be beginning to rejuvenate
a stricken world.



The Death-Cloud

_By Nat Schachner and Arthur L. Zagat_

[Illustration: _Someone at a huge switchboard turned toward me. I
pressed the trigger._]

[Sidenote: The epic exploit of one who worked in the dark and alone,
behind the enemy lines, in the great Last War.]


We sat, Eric Bolton and I, at a parapet table atop the 200-story
General Aviation Building. The efficient robot waiter of the Sky Club
had cleared away the remnants of an epicurean meal. Only a bowl of
golden fruit remained--globes of nectar picked in the citrus groves of
California that morning.

My eye wandered over the scene spread before us, the vast piling of
masonry that is New York. The dying beams of the setting sun glinted
golden from the roofs of the pleasure palaces topping the soaring
structures. Lower, amid interlacing archings of the mid-air
thoroughfares, darkness had already piled its blackness. Two thousand
feet below, in the region of perpetual night, the green-blue factory
lights flared.

On three sides, the unbroken serration of the Empire City's beehives
stretched in a semicircle of twenty miles radius. Long since, the
rivers that had made old Manhattan an island had been roofed over.
But, to the east, the heaving sea still stretched its green expanse.
On the horizon a vast cloud mountain billowed upward from the watery
surface, white, and pink and many shades of violet.

"That's just the way it looked," Bolton muttered, as he drew my
attention to the cloud mass. "See that air-liner just diving into it?
Just so I saw the _New York_--five thousand men--pride of the Air
Service--dive into that mountain of smoke. And she never came out!
Gone--like that!" And he snapped his fingers.

He fell silent again, gazing dreamily at the drifting rings of pipe
smoke. He smiled, the twisted smile which was the sole indication that
one side of his face was the master work of a great surgeon-sculptor.
A marvelous piece of work, that, but no less marvelous than the
protean changes that Bolton himself could make in his appearance. It
was this genius at impersonation that had won Bolton his commission in
the Intelligence Service, when, in 1992, the world burst into flame.

"Would you like to hear about it?" The obtuseness of the man!

"If you'd care to tell me." I spoke off-handedly. This was like
hunting birds on the wing: too abrupt a movement of the glider, and
the game was lost.

This is the story he told me, in the low, modulated voice of the
trained actor. He told it simply, with no dramatic tricks, no
stressing, no climatic crescendos. But I saw the scenes he described,
dodged with him through black caverns of dread, felt an icy hand
clutch my heart as the Ferret stared at me with his baleful glance;
was deafened, and stunned, and crushed by that final tremendous down
pouring of the waters.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was standing--he began--on one of our rafts, watching the
installation of a new ray machine. A storm was raging, but the great
raft, a thousand feet long, and five hundred wide, was as steady as a
rock. We were 700 miles out; the great push of '92, that drove us back
to within 150 miles of our coast and almost ended the war, was still
eleven weeks off.

Suddenly the buzzer of my radio-receiver whirred against my chest.
"2--6--4"--my personal call. "2--2"--"Go to nearest communications
booth." "A--4"--"Use Intelligence Service intermitter 4." The secret
of that was known only to a half-dozen men in the field. Headquarters
wanted to talk to me on a supremely important matter.

There was a booth only a short distance away. I stepped to it and
identified myself to the guard. In a moment I was within and had swung
shut and sealed the sound-proof door. I set the intermitter switches
to the A--4 combination. Not even our own control officers could
eavesdrop now. Then I switched off the light, and waited.

A green glow grew out of the darkness. I was being inspected.
Headquarters was taking no chances. Out of the green haze before me
the general himself materialized. I could count every hair in his
grizzled beard. The little scar at the corner of his left eye
fascinated me with its distinctness.

I saluted. "Captain Bolton reporting, sir."

"At ease!" General Sommers' voice snapped with military precision. The
general was standing in his private office in Washington. I could see
his desk in the corner, and the great operations map on the wall.
There were new lines of worry in the general's grim face.

       *       *       *       *       *

He went straight to the point. "Captain Bolton, we are confronted with
a problem that must be solved at once. While our information is
meagre, the Staff is convinced that a great danger menaces us. Of its
precise nature, or how it is to be combatted, we are unaware. I am
assigning you to secure the answer to these two questions.

"A week ago there appeared, ten miles east of the enemies' first line,
and directly opposite our raft 1264, what seemed at first to be merely
a peculiar cloud formation. It rose directly from the surface of the
water, and was shaped roughly like half an egg. The greatest
dimension, lying along the water, parallel to the battle line, was
about 5 miles; the height approximately a mile.

"When two or three days had passed, and no change in the shape or
dimensions of the strange mass had taken place, although wind and
weather conditions had been varied, we determined to investigate. This
was undoubtedly an artificial, not a natural, phenomenon. It was then
that we discovered that there was a concentration of defenses along
this portion of the front. Our scouts were unable to find any of the
usual gaps in either the ray network in the upper air, or the
gyro-knife barrier beneath the surface. At the same time, from
scouting parties and deserters at other points we learned that rumors
are rife throughout the enemy forces of some scheme now on foot that
will overwhelm us within a very short time. No details have been
given, but so widespread is the gossip, and so consistent, that we
have been forced to the conclusion that it cannot be reasonably
dismissed as mere morale-supporting propaganda.

"We have secretly developed a method of so equipping aircraft as to
render them immune to the enemy death ray. The device is complicated
and requires time to manufacture and install. After careful
consideration, we decided that the situation was sufficiently grave to
warrant revealing to the enemy our possession of this new device.

"The battle-airship _New York_ has been equipped with the new
protective equipment. To-morrow at sunrise she will make an attack in
force on whatever lies behind that screen.

"Your orders are these. You will proceed at once to raft 1264. You
will observe the attack made by the _New York_. If she fails, you will
then find some way to enter that area, discover what is going on
behind the screen, hamper or destroy the enemy plans if possible and
report back to me personally."

       *       *       *       *       *

The general's face suddenly softened. His tones lost their military
precision. "I am afraid, Captain, that I am sending you to your death.
But--we must know what is going on. If the _New York_ fails, the task
will appear impossible, but you have already done the impossible."

The grim mask dropped again over the chief's features; again he became
the perfect military machine. "You will call on any officer of our
forces for whatever you may need. Here is your authority." He stepped
aside, and I heard the low burr of the tel-autograph at the side of
the screen before me. A moment, and the general was again visible.

"That will be all." Once more the momentary softening. "Good luck, my
boy." A final exchange of salutes, and the screen went blank.

I switched on the light. There in the little machine was a slip of
paper. I extracted it. The lines of type, the scrawled signature,
burned into my brain like letters of fire.

     "To: All Officers of the Military Forces of the Americas.

      Subject: Military Assistance. Eric Bolton, Captain M.I.S.,
      M.F.A. is authorized to call upon you for any assistance.
      You will comply with his requests.

      Alton Sommers, Lieut. General Commanding M.I.S., M.F.A.

      By authority of the Commander in Chief."

In the corner appeared my thumb-print.

I stood there for a long time, mulling the thing over. The Staff was
laying tremendous stress on the enemy's strange cloud formation, even
to the extent of disclosing the secret of the new defensive device.
The Easterners, too, had something novel, something that would cut off
absolutely the transmission of ether waves. Nothing either side had
yet produced would do that. What was happening behind that screen?
Would they break through our defenses at last?

A vision arose before me. Hordes of yellow men, of black, of white
renegades from the nations where the red flag waved dominant, pouring
over the Americas. The horrors that Britain had undergone, the last
European nation to hold out against the Red horde, flashed into my
mind. I shuddered. Never. It must not be.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was hurled from my feet by an electric shock. A great flood of
sunlight burst in on me. A corner of the booth, three-foot concrete,
had been sheared away, whiffed into nothingness! I arose and dashed
into the open. A raid was in progress. The air was electric with the
clashing of opposing barrages. The terrible silence of the pitched
battles of that war oppressed me. I saw a squad, caught in the beam of
an Eastern ray-projector, destroyed. The end man must have been just
on the edge of the beams--half his right side lay twitching on the
ground. The rest of him, and the seven others, were smoking heaps of
blackened cinders.

High over No Man's Land--queer how those old phrases last--a covey of
enemy helicopters hung, waiting for the barrage to lift. A black hulk
broke the surface of the water, split open: then another. Enemy
sub-surface craft. The fight was being waged under water, too. A green
mass spilled its contents as it leaped over the waves and fell back.
One of ours.

A huge buzzing came from behind me. A cloud of wasplike forms flew
high overhead. It was reserve aircraft, hurrying up from the second
line raft, ten miles west.

But this was no affair of mine. I had my orders. I must be in the
North Atlantic by daybreak. I looked around. There at the further edge
my little Zephyr rested, intact. I hurried to her and sprang into the
cockpit. I was off the coast of Chile. Twelve thousand feet would
clear the highest range between. I set the height control. Today you
don't have to do that, but Mason hadn't perfected his automatic
elevator then. The starting indicator was already set for my position.
I adjusted the direction disk. The little green light showed that the
power broadcast was in operation. I snapped over the starting switch
and the whir of the helicopter vanes overhead told me all was well.
The machine leaped into the air. Nothing to do now till the warning
bell told me I was within a hundred miles of my destination. The
battle shot away from me, far below.

Darkness came swiftly. I was shooting into the eye of the sun at three
hundred miles an hour. I swallowed a few pellets of concentrated food,
then curled up in my bunk. There was no knowing how many hours would
pass till I slept again.

I fell asleep at once.

       *       *       *       *       *

The strident clamor of the alarm bell woke me. Dawn was just breaking.
Far below me I could make out the heaving Atlantic, calm and peaceful.
A long line of the huge second-line rafts just underneath, stretching
north and south till it curved over the horizon. A bugle's clear notes
came drifting up to me, reveille. Then I was hovering over my goal,
raft 1264. The black rectangle was alive with activity unwonted at
this early hour. I took over the controls from the mechanical pilot,
sent my recognition signal and drifted downward.

The Zephyr settled on the raft with a soft hiss of the compressed air
shock absorbers. A guard came hurrying up. My credentials passed upon,
I alighted. Momentarily, it was getting brighter. I was just in time.

I looked eastward, toward the enemy rafts. Beyond them, there it was,
just as General Sommers had described it--a mountain of vapor,
gleaming white in the gathering light. Not at all disquieting; merely
a shifting, billowing cloud mass. Rather pretty. The rest of the sky
was clear, unspecked.

As I gazed a line of red fire ran around the edge of the cloud. A
violet glow suffused the whole, faded swiftly into pink. The sun was
rising. Behind me I heard a huge whirring. Turning, I saw her, just
rising, all the beautiful trim length of her. The _New York_! Pride of
our air fleet!

Fifty paces to my right a little knot of officers caught my attention.
I recognized Jim Bradley. I remembered, someone had told me he was a
major, and was commanding a raft. Good. Jim would work with me as he
had in the old days at Stanford U., when I coached the air polo team
that he captained. I walked over.

Time for only a hurried handclasp. The signal corps sergeant,
earphones clamped to his head, was intoning the airship's messages.
"We have reached the thousand-foot level. Will now head for the
objective. All well."

We watched her. She was through our barrage-line. A snapped order from
Jim restored the barrier, momentarily lifted to let her pass. A
curious shimmering blurred the ship's outlines. I called Jim's
attention to it. "That's the new device, a network of fine wires,
charged with neutralising vibrations. Worked like a charm in the
tests. But there's no telling how effective it is in actual service."

       *       *       *       *       *

A cold shiver ran up my spine. Many a fine ship I had seen strike that
invisible network of rays, and puff into smoke. Was that to be the
_New York's_ fate?

"We are about to pass through the enemy barrage. All well," came the
sergeant's unemotional monotone, repeating the voice in his ears. I
knew that voice was being listened to in Washington by a little group
whose every shoulder bore the stars of high command. My thoughts
flashed to them, gazing breathless at the screen that imaged the very
scene before us.

My breath stopped. Now! She must be in it now. The next second would
tell the tale. A faint coruscation of sparks ran along the network,
but the craft kept steadily onward. Thank God!

"We have passed through the enemy first-line barrage. All well."

A faint whistling of released breath came from all about me. I was not
the only one who had agonised at that moment. The first test had been
passed; would the other be as successful?

"We are increasing our speed to the maximum. Objective dead ahead. All
well."

I saw the ship fairly leap through the sky. Five hundred miles an
hour was her greatest speed. Another moment--

"We are entering the cloud. Bow is invisible. All--"

She was in it. She lurched. Plunged forward. She was hidden. I turned
to the sergeant. Tremendous concentration was on his bronzed face. He
reached out, twirled a dial in the set before him, and shook his head
slightly. Twirled again. We were knotted around him, our faces
bloodless. He looked up. "The last sentence was cut off sharp, sir. I
can hear nothing more. Even the carrier wave is dead."

Jim ripped out an oath, snatched the phones, and clamped them over his
own ears. Dead silence.

At last he looked up. "Nothing, gentlemen."

       *       *       *       *       *

We looked at each other, appalled.

Bradley handed the apparatus back to the sergeant. "Remain here,
listening carefully. Let me know at once if you hear anything." The
sergeant saluted.

Out there the white cloud billowed and gleamed in the sunlight. But
there was something ominous in its calm beauty now.

A thought struck me. I spoke, and my voice sounded flat, dead.
"Perhaps it's only the radio waves that are cut off. Maybe she's all
right, fighting there inside, smashing them." But I knew that it was
all over.

"God, I hope you're right. Five thousand men aboard her." Bradley's
lips were white, his hands trembling. "Come to my office, Eric; we'll
wait there. To your posts, gentlemen. Each of you will detail a man to
watch that cloud bank, and report to me any change in its appearance,
even the slightest."

We walked back to the concrete command-post. We didn't talk, though it
had been years since we had seen each other. My brain was numbed, I
know. I had seen plenty of fighting, watched many a man go to his
death in the seven months since the war began. But this, somehow, was
different.

An hour passed. Jim busied himself with routine paper work. At least
he had that relief. I paced about his tiny office. Already I was
making plans. Force had failed. Strategy must take its place. I must
get in there. But how?

Bradley looked up from his work, his face grim. "No news, Eric. If you
were right we should have heard something from the _New York_ by this
time. They're gone, all right."

"Yes, they're gone," I answered. "It's up to me, then."

       *       *       *       *       *

He stared in surprise. "Up to you? What do you mean?"

"Just that. I'm going in there, God helping." I made sure the room was
shut tight against eavesdroppers. Then, briefly as I could, I told him
of my orders, showing him the document I had received the day before.
He shook his head.

"But it's impossible. Their ray network, and the undersea barrier,
are absolutely solid here. I don't think even a mouse could get
through. And even if you did get behind their lines, how on earth are
you going to get into the area underneath that devilish cloud. You saw
what happened to the _New York_, protected as she was."

"Yes. I know all that. Nevertheless it's got to be done." Just then I
got the glimmering of an idea. "Tell me, Jim, are they doing much
scouting here. Undersea, I mean."

"The usual one-man shell, radio-propelled. We get one once in a while.
Most of them, however, even if we do smash them, are pulled back on
the wave before we can grab them. It's a bit easier than most places,
though: our depth's only about six hundred feet."

"What! Why, I thought the bottom averaged three thousand all along
the line."

"It does. But what would be a mountain ridge, if this were dry land,
runs out from the mainland. We're over a big plateau here. It goes on
east another twenty-five miles, or so. See, here's the chart."

A warning bell seemed to ring somewhere within me. Had this peculiar
formation of the ocean bed anything to do with the problem at hand?
But I kept to the immediate step. My plan was rapidly taking shape in
my mind.

"What are the scouts--black, yellow, or--"

"Russians, mostly."

"Good. Now listen, Jim. Send down word that the next scout-sub that is
caught is not to be ripped, but simply held against the attraction of
the return wave. The television eye is to be smashed at once, and
radio communication jammed. Can you do it as if something had happened
to the shell?"

"Sure thing, but what's the big idea?"

"You'll see. I've worked the thing out now."

Just then a red light on Bradley's desk winked three times. "There's
one between the lines now!" he exclaimed.

"Quick, man, shoot my orders down."

He pressed a yellow button and spoke quietly but emphatically into a
mouth piece. "O.K. They understand."

"Now take me down."

He looked at me as if I had taken leave of my senses, but complied.

       *       *       *       *       *

The door of the elevator that lowered us from the surface clanged
open. We stepped out on a balcony that ran around a large, steel-lined
room. The walls were dripping, and on the floor, twenty feet beneath,
a black pool sloshed about with the heaving of the raft, in whose
interior we were. Rubber-clad soldiers moved about in the blue glow of
the globes sending down their heatless light from the ceiling. One sat
at a desk near the elevator. As I spied him a green light glowed in
front of him twice.

"They've got him, sir, bringing him in."

A low-toned order. The soldiers sprang to their post. A whirring
signal. At the other end of the room the steel wall began to move
upward, and water rushed in. A tremendous vibration shook the chamber:
a ponderous thudding. The water rose to the level of the balcony and
stopped. I looked at Bradley.

"We're beneath the surface, aren't we?" I asked. "How is it that the
water doesn't fill the room?"

"Pumps," he replied. "Tremendous pumps that draw the water out just as
fast as it comes in, and shoot it out again into the sea. We can
maintain any desired level in here."

Then I noticed that the black flood was rushing by beneath me at a
terrific rate.

Something bulked in the opening. Two tiny subs drew in, a black and a
green. The steel wall rushed down again, and the vibration ceased.
From the green craft heavy grapples extended, clutching the black,
enemy scout. I saw a gaping hole in the black boat's nose, where its
eye had been smashed.

Men were clambering over both vessels' hulls, tugging at the hatchway
fastenings. The black one flew open. I leaped to the deck. Bradley
after me, and jumped down into the hold.

In the little cubby-hole that was all the machinery left space for, a
pale-faced form in green-gray crouched against the wall. His eyes
stared in fear. A Russian, praise be. And not far from my size and
build.

"Off with his clothes, quick!" I yelled, stripping mine as I spoke.
Bradley looked at me queerly, and shrugged his shoulders. "Quick, man!
Everything depends on speed!"

He shook his head, as one who listens to the vaporings of an imbecile,
but turned to obey. I was standing there--naked, studying the
Easterner's face, his body. No scars. Good.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jim turned to me, the prisoner's clothing in his hands. An exclamation
burst from him. He looked back at the trembling Russ, then at me. "My
God, Eric, how did you do it?" he asked.

I smiled. "All right, is it?"

"You're his twin; no, you're himself! If I'd had a drink to-day I'd be
sure I was seeing double. How on earth--you had no make-up, no time--"

I was sliding into the Red's gear as I talked! "I've trained all the
little muscles in my face--muscles you others don't even know you
have. Started when I was a kid, then made a good living at it, acting.
Comes in handy now, damn handy. I can make anything of my face, and
hold it forever if I have to. Chink, Russ--anything. Distort my limbs
too, and change my voice. That won't be necessary now. Simple, but it
takes a lot of practice."

I was dressed by then, a counterpart of the enemy officer--I hoped. If
I wasn't--well, I wouldn't live much longer.

"Now, out with the Russ and my clothes. Don't leave a bit, if you
value my life."

A light of comprehension illumined Jim's face. "You're going to pass
yourself off as this man? You've got your nerve with you!" he
exclaimed.

"Exactly." The cubby-hole was clear now. "Now take that spanner, and
bang me over the head. Not too hard; I don't want a cracked skull,
only a splashed scalp. Then pile me where it will seem I crashed
against a projection of some kind when the grapples took hold. That
bunk edge will do. Batten the hatch, and cast off the grapples. I hope
their automatic control is still working, otherwise my scheme's
gaflooey."

Jim stuck out his great paw. "Good luck, Eric," he said, simply. Then
he clutched the spanner. I saw it go over my head....

       *       *       *       *       *

Voices around me, harsh, guttural voices. Russian! By the Nine Dogs of
War, I had pulled it off! But what were they saying? I was inside the
lines, but was my deception successful? Or had my face relaxed with
the shock of the blow? I thanked my Russian grandmother then for all
the time she had spent teaching me her mother tongue.

"_Boszhe moi_, the poor fellow must have had an awful smash. He hasn't
come to yet."

"The doctor will be here in a minute. He'll revive him."

I breathed a prayer of gratitude. They didn't suspect! But I didn't
like this doctor business. Well, I'd have to stall through that as
best I could.

I seemed to be lying on hard rock. I opened my eyes, staring blankly,
straight up. A bearded face was bending over me, the captain's crossed
sickles on the shoulder straps just within my vision. Behind, and
above him, towering straight up--my God!--what was it? A green wall, a
vertical green wall, going up and up! It looked like--but no: how
could water stand straight up like that, for hundreds of feet?

I almost betrayed myself with a gasp! A dim bulk showed in the
translucent depths of the wall. It rushed toward me, took form. A
fish, a huge, blind fish, its cavernous mouth stretched wide. It came
straight for me, just above. In a second it would leap through. A
scream of terror trembled in my throat. Then it hit the edge of the
translucent green wall--and vanished! Was I dreaming? Had Jim hit me
too hard?

Something stirred in the back of my mind. I sensed dimly that here lay
the explanation of the disappearance of the _New York_, the very
mystery that I had come to solve. Almost I had it; then it slipped
away.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Here's the doctor!" someone said. There was a little stir of activity
about me. I allowed my eyes to close, as if in utter weariness.

"What's all this? What have you got here?" A gruff voice, intolerant.

"One of our sub-sea scouts, sir. Just come back, after some delay. Her
eye was smashed, and there are grapple marks on her. Must have been
caught, and then slipped away. She was leaking badly. We got her
through the lock just in time." Jim had evidently added a few touches
of his own. "Comrade Pauloff seems to have been seriously injured.
He's got a bad cut on his scalp, and was unconscious till a moment
ago. Opened his eyes just as you came along."

"Hm. Let's see." I felt a none too gentle hand finger my wound. It
throbbed maddeningly. The doctor spoke again. "A nasty crack, but no
fracture. Here, you--wake up." I made no move. "Come on, wake up!" I
heard the plop of a cork being drawn from a bottle; a pungent odor
assailed my nostrils, choked me. I writhed, pulled at the hand holding
the bottle to my nose and opened my eyes.

"That's better. How do you feel now?"

I raised a hand to my injury and muttered, in Russian. "Hurts,
papashka." I kept my expression as blank, as uncomprehending, as I
could.

The doctor flashed an understanding glance at the captain, then turned
back to me. "What's your name?"

Memories of my grandmother's tales of her youth came flooding back to
me. "Pavel, son of Pauloff."

It was the formula of the Russian student, in his teens.

"Your rank?"

"Second year. Petrovski Gymnasium."

The physician turned away. "No use bothering him now. A clear case of
amnesia.

"He's been thrown back to his high school days. I've had a number of
cases like that among your scouts lately." Blessed inspiration! "Only
cure is rest. Get him over to the infirmary. We'll evacuate him to a
base hospital to-morrow."

       *       *       *       *       *

I was in a cool white bed, in a low ceilinged room, white painted.
There were other beds, vacant. A uniformed male nurse puttered around.
There was an elusive green tinge to the light that poured in through
the one window.

The door opened and a sergeant came in. "Comrade Alexis!"

"Well, what is it now? Have they found another gold-bricking officer
to mess up my clean beds?"

"A party from corps headquarters will be here in fifteen minutes for
inspection."

"Let them come. They won't find any specks of rust on my instruments,
like they did on Comrade Borisoff's."

"They'd better not. You know what happened to him."

"Yeah. Chucked into the ray. Well, he didn't give the burial squad any
work." And the two laughed, a laugh that had more than a hint of
sadistic cruelty in it. "If I had my way," the nurse went on, "I'd do
the same with all these nuts that come back from the scout ships
raving of home and mother. It's my idea that they're all bluffing.
It's a good way to be shipped to the rear, where the captured dames
are. Say, did I tell you about the last time I was on leave--"

The two whispered, their heads close together. My brain was working
frantically. Things had gone well so far, but I had to get out of here
before the morning, or I'd be sent to the base and lose all that I had
gained by my daring.

The door snapped open. "_Smirnow!_" (Atten-_shun!_)

       *       *       *       *       *

I was on my side, facing away from the wall. I remained so, staring
blankly across the room. I hoped the inspection would be over quickly.
The fewer the enemy officers I had looking me over, the better.
Someone back there was snapping questions. That voice--where had I
heard it before?

"Your patient. What's his trouble?"

"Amnesia, sir. One of the scouts."

"Oh, yes. Let's look at him."

Someone was walking across the room, then standing above me. His hand
was just at the level of my eyes--a hand with the little finger
twisted queerly into the palm. I knew that hand: it was the
_Ferret's_! A cold shiver ran up my back. I almost stopped breathing.

Of all the infernal luck in the world, to have the Ferret walk in
here! He was chief of the Red's Intelligence Service, the shrewdest,
sharpest, cruelest of them all. Many of our best men had gone west
because of his uncanny instinct for piercing disguise. They said he
could _smell_ an American. And many of our most strictly guarded plans
had been smashed through his infernally clever spying. Only a month
before I had him in my clutches; saw the very rope around his neck.
But he had slipped away, and left me empty-handed and kicking myself
for an ass.

I held my breath as I felt those gimlet eyes of his boring into me.
Would he sense who I was? Surely he could hear the pounding of my
heart. How long he stood there I don't know. It seemed like hours. I
tautened, waiting for him to call out, determined to sell my life as
dearly as I could.

But for once the Ferret was fooled. He turned away. "Take us into your
kitchen," he snapped at the nurse, then there was the tramping of feet
and the slamming of a door.

       *       *       *       *       *

The breath whistled from me in relief. I turned cautiously. I was
alone. Now was my chance. I jumped from the bed and started toward the
window. Once out, I'd find some place to hide. I let my face relax;
there was no use for that particular disguise any longer. The window
was up. I was on the sill. Another second and I'd be out in the open.

"Just where do you think you're going?" came the Ferret's silky, cruel
voice. I whirled. There he was, just inside the door. His little black
eyes glinted dangerously over his hooked nose and sharp chin.

"Oh--Bolton! Something made me turn back. Glad to see you."

His hand flashed to the ray-tube in his belt. At the same moment I
left the window sill in a desperate leap. Clear across the room I
sprang, and before he had time to pull his weapon I had one hand
clamped around his wrist, the other clutching his throat. We crashed
to the ground.

I was in pyjamas, barefooted, he fully clothed. His leather shoes
drove into me viciously, even as his face turned purple. The pain was
excruciating, but I dared not cry out. His left thumb found my eye,
was digging in.

The crash of our fall must have been heard outside; another moment and
all would be lost. I was momentarily on top as we rolled across the
floor. With a supreme effort I pulled his head away from the floor,
then crashed it down. He slumped; lay still.

The door knob was turning as I jumped frantically through the window.
I heard a cry behind me. Rough, uneven ground. No one about. To my
right was a rocky cliff, and at its base what looked like the mouth of
a cave. Any port in a storm: I dived into it.

It was a cave, all right, or rather a narrow tunnel winding some
distance into the cliff. I ran back at top speed, till I crashed into
the end of the passage.

       *       *       *       *       *

I crouched there, panting. It was beastly cold, and the dampness
struck into my bones. I shivered, then laughed grimly. I wouldn't
shiver long. When the Ferret came to and revealed that Eric Bolton was
around, there wouldn't be a stone left unturned till I was found.
Those birds had good cause to want me rubbed out.

Already I could hear faint shouts from without. The chase was on. I
was caught, right enough. Trapped like any rat.

I felt around me in the darkness and my hand lighted on a round stone.
It just fitted my fist. Well, I'd get one of them, anyway, when they
found me. Cold comfort in that, but I didn't feel like giving in
tamely.

Footsteps sounded out at the tunnel end. So soon! I gripped my rock
tightly, and waited.

But--it sounded like only one man. I drew myself together. Maybe I had
a chance. A dim glow showed where the passage curved, then a disk of
light flashed on the wall and flitted about. The fool!

The steps came on, slowly, stumblingly. The disk of light grew
smaller as its source drew nearer. Then he was around the corner,
bulked for a moment against his own light as it was reflected from the
wet wall. That moment was enough! The stone left my hand with all the
force I possessed. It went straight to its mark: a sickening thud told
me that. The form dropped, and the flashlight clinked on the rocks.

I listened. Still the shouts from without, but no steps inside. I was
safe for a time. But the searcher would surely be missed, and others
would come looking for him. I had only one chance. I shrugged my
shoulders. I couldn't lose anything. If I stayed here my goose was
cooked.

By the light of the flashlight I examined my quarry. A renegade
Frenchman, apparently. A private. In a trice I had his uniform on me
and had twisted my features to match his. Little did I think when I
acted under the Klieg lights that the fate of two continents would
some day depend on this gift of mine.

He stirred; groaned. I hesitated. Then--well, I couldn't chance his
crawling out. His ray-tube was newly charged. I left a heap of ashes
there as I walked away....

       *       *       *       *       *

I was outside the cave. I darted a glance around. My refuge was not
the only hole in sheer rock; it was literally honeycombed. From one,
then another of the cavern mouths a soldier emerged. Each strode
across the uneven, rocky plain to where an officer stood with what was
apparently a map in his hand. As each searcher saluted and reported,
the officer made a mark on the map. Someone came out from the
cave-mouth next to mine. I fell in behind him.

"No one in cave twenty-one, sir."

"To your post."

The private turned on his heel and marched off to take his place in a
company formation that was rapidly taking shape near by. My turn was
next. What was the number of my cave? A mistake now, and I was
through.

I saluted. "No one in cave twenty, sir."

"To your post."

Had I hit it? When the final check-up came would there be two reports
for one cave, none for another?

A front rank man moved aside. Good: that meant my place was just
behind him. My luck was holding. And never did a man need luck more!

Now was my first chance to look about, to discover what sort of place
this was. It was an oval plain, roughly a mile wide by five miles
long. Buildings, squat structures of corrugated iron, were scattered
here and there. In the distance, to my left, what seemed a great hole
in the ground glowed; a huge disk of light.

Dry land, here, where there should be nothing but a waste of waters!

       *       *       *       *       *

Puzzled, I strained to see what bordered the plain. It was a tall
cliff, running all around, and towering high in the air. But it wasn't
rock, for it glowed strangely green in the flood of light that
illumined the place. And it was clean cut, rising sheer from the
unevenness of the ground.

Then I remembered. The vertical green wall that soared above me as I
lay dazed from Jim's blow. The translucent green wall in whose depths
I had seen the blind fish rushing toward me. Water! The sea!
Impossible! There were scientific miracle-workers in the enemy's
ranks, but they couldn't have hollowed out a pit such as this in
mid-ocean; forced back the very ocean to create this amphitheatre,
this dry plain on the Atlantic's very bottom: held back the
unthinkable weight of Earth's waters by a nothingness. Incredible!

Yet the accomplished fact stared me in the face.

My eyes traveled up that impossible wall. It must have been at least
six hundred feet high. At its summit, in a murky haze that heaved and
billowed, I made out strange, dim bulks that hung, unsupported. A long
line of them, a long ellipse following closely the curving of the
cliff. Underneath the nearest, barely perceptible, I could make out a
lens-shaped cage of wire. I began to understand.

Overarching everything was a great dome of heaving cloud.

"_Smirn-ow!_"

The long line snapped into immobility.

"By the left flank, march!"

We were moving, marching. Then my ruse had succeeded. I had chosen the
right cave number. I breathed a sigh of relief.

       *       *       *       *       *

The command for route order was given, and at once a buzz of talk
broke out around me. "Damn them, they're sending us right off to work!
We missed our mess, hunting for that damned spy. But that don't mean
anything. It's back to the tunnel for ours."

"Oh, quit your bellyaching, Andreyeff. Another week, and we'll be in
New York. Just think of it, the richest city in the world to loot! And
women! Why, they tell me the American women are to the Frenchies and
the cold English-women as the sun is to the stars. What's a meal more
or less when you think of that?"

An obscene laugh swept through the ranks. Guttural voices boasted of
past exploits--black deeds and sadistic cruelties that had marked the
trail of the hordes sweeping over Europe from the windy Asiatic
steppes.

As we marched, I noticed a peculiarity of the rocky floor. There were
no sharp edges, no sudden cleavages in the uneven terrain. It looked,
for all the world, as though the stone had been melted, then frozen
again in a moment. An unbelievable pattern was forming itself in my
mind. If what I thought were true--!

The command came to halt.

We had reached the blazing disk I had seen from afar. It was a
tremendous shaft, dropping straight into the very bowels of the earth.
Two hundred feet across, a blinding glare streamed up from the pit.
From far beneath came shoutings, the clank of machinery, a growling
roar.

Other companies marched up and halted at the pit edge. My outfit were
whites--Russians, French, Germans. But the others were black, brown,
yellow--all the motley aggregation of races that formed the Red
cohorts, the backbone of the Great Uprising. As the "At ease" order
snapped out a babel of tongues rose on the air. Every language of
Earth was there save English. The Anglo-Saxons had chosen tortured
death rather than submission to the commands of their conquerors.

A huge platform rose slowly up in the shaft and came to a stop at the
ground level. It was solidly packed with another throng of soldiers in
the gray-green of the enemy. They marched off and we took their place.

       *       *       *       *       *

Down, down, we went, till it seemed that our destination was the
center of the earth. Louder and louder grew the growling roar, the
ponderous thud and clank of huge machines.

We were in a huge chamber, hollowed out of the solid rock. Thousands
of men bustled out among great piles of lumber and steel rails. Huge
cranes rolled here and there, swinging their ponderous loads.
Officers shouted crisp orders. Green-uniformed privates sprang to
obey.

But no time was given me to get more than a glimpse of all this
activity. From out the gaping mouth of a hundred-foot-wide tunnel a
long train of flat cars came gliding. It halted and swayed on the
single rail, and the whir of the gyroscopic balancers filled the
cavern. A sharp order, and my companions leaped for the cars, lay
prone on the steel car-beds, and passed their belts through projecting
loops. I wondered, but imitated them. I buried my face in my arms, as
the others were doing.

There came the eery shriek of a siren: the train was moving. Swiftly
it gathered speed till it seemed as though my protesting body was
being forced through a wall of air grown suddenly solid. Myriad
fingers pulled at me, seeking to hurl me to destruction. Even through
my protecting arms my breath was forced back into my lungs, choking
me. The wind howled past with the wail of a thousand souls in torment.

Just as the limit of endurance was reached the terrific speed
slackened, and the long train ground to a halt. "All off! Lively now!"
came the command.

       *       *       *       *       *

We were at the rail-head, and before me was the face of the tunnel.
Queer, hooded figures were there bending over wheeled tripods,
manipulating what appeared to be searchlights. But no shafts of light
leaped from the lenses. The tripods were rolling steadily forward.

I looked at the tunnel face again, then, startled, back to the hooded
men. I rubbed my eyes. Was I seeing things? No, by all that was holy,
it was so! The distance between the machines and the end wall of the
passage had not changed, but men and rock were ten--fifteen--twenty
feet away! They were boring; boring into the solid rock at tremendous
speed. _And the rock was melting, vanishing, disappearing into
nothingness in the awful blast projected from those machines!_

I gaped--my pose, my danger, forgotten. Almost as fast as a man could
run, the tunnel extended itself. It was phantasmal, incredible!

A rough hand seized me from behind. I whirled, my heart in my mouth.
It was the burly sergeant. "What the hell are you dreaming about,
Renaud? Hop to it. Over there, on that shoring job. Get busy now,
or--" The threat in that unfinished sentence chilled me by its very
vagueness.

My squad was hauling heavy timbers, setting them up where a fault
showed in the rocky roof of the tunnel. I joined them but my thoughts
were a madly whirling chaos.

The pattern was complete now. The long, curving under-water ridge on
Jim's chart--this tunnel was boring through it. Whatever it was that
those tripods projected--a new ray it must be--it was _melting_ a
passage six hundred miles long. Under our rafts, under our fleets,
under our coast defenses--to come up far behind our lines. The ridge
joined the coast just south of New York. Some night, while our
generals slept in smug complacency, all that gray green horde of
wolves would belch forth--from the very earth.

And the Americans would follow Europe into hell!

       *       *       *       *       *

Five minutes passed. I looked again at the face of the tunnel, drawn
by an irresistible fascination. It had advanced a full quarter of a
mile. Like fog before a cloud-piercing searchlight, the age-old rock
was dissolving before the ray. At this rate America's doom would be
sealed in a week. And I, alone among these thousands, was helpless to
avert the climaxing menace.

A howl of rage came from the sergeant. I turned. A diminutive German,
his face pale green with fatigue, had stumbled and fallen under the
weight of a heavy timber.

The swarthy non-com was kicking him with a cruel boot. "Get up, you;
get up before I brain you!"

The sprawling man looked up, fear staring from his deep-sunk eyes.
"_Aber, ich bin krank._"--"I am sick; I can't stand the work; it is
too _schwer_, too heavy," he faltered.

"Sick?" the Russian roared. "Sick? I'll sick you! You're lazy, too
damned lazy to do a little work. I'm tired of this gold-bricking
around here. I'm going to make an example of you that the rest of you
dogs won't forget in a hurry." His face was purple with rage. He bent,
seized the fallen man and dragged him out from under the crushing
bulk. Then, raising the struggling wretch over his head as lightly as
though he were an infant, he ran forward, toward the ray projectors.

Shriek after shriek pierced the hot air, such howls of utter fear and
agony, as I hope never to hear again. The little figure, held high in
the huge paws, writhed and tossed, to no avail.

The sergeant reached the nearest tripod. His brawny arms flexed;
straightened. The German swept up and over the head of the operator,
and dropped in front of the machine. Then--he vanished. Nothing,
absolutely nothing, was there between projector and rapidly retreating
wall!

A horrible retching tore my stomach; I swayed dizzily. The utter
brutality, the finality of the thing! "And any more of you carrion
that I catch slacking will get the same thing," the Russian said.
"You, Renaud, I've got my eye on you. Watch out!" The sergeant's voice
rasped through the mist about me. I shoved my shoulder under one end
of an eight by eight and plunged into the back breaking labor. But one
thought hammered at my reeling brain: "The _New York_! That's what
happened to her!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The long hours of toil at last ended. We were again in the entrance
cavern, waiting for the elevator platform. It was unaccountably
delayed: the last batch had gone up fifteen minutes before. The men
about me chafed and swore. They were impatient for mess and bed.

Bit by bit I had reconstructed all the elements of this unprecedented
operation. The ray, the blasting ray that whiffed into non-existence
all that it touched, was the keynote. The great plain had been cleared
by the ray. The dim shapes floating high in that far-circling ellipse
were pouring down the dreadful vibrations, thus holding back the sea
in a marvelous green wall. I remembered the sea-monster that had
dashed at me and vanished. That proved it. The dome of cloud was
camouflage, or the product of the processes of destruction going on
underneath: it didn't matter. What mattered was that it was interlaced
by a network of ray beams. It was an impenetrable wall, a perfect
defense. Boxed in on all sides by such a barrier, how was I to get out
word of the menace? How was it to be combatted even if our forces knew
of the danger? A hundred plans flooded my wearied brain, to be
rejected one by one.

A mocking, ribald cheer arose from the men around me. The platform was
ascending. Why the long delay? A premonition of disaster chilled me. I
shrugged it aside.

We were at the top. A long line of soldiers curved about the mouth of
the pit. The next shift waiting to go down? No--they made no move to
approach. And each one was holding his ray-tube at the ready. This was
the guard. At a table nearby a knot of officers was gathered. Papers
of some sort were piled high on it. Again the icy finger of dread
touched me. One of the officers moved aside, revealing the profile of
his companion. The Ferret. Then I knew I was done for!

My eyes darted here and there, seeking escape. No hope--the heavily
armed guard was all around; the platform blocked the shaft mouth. A
dash would be self-betrayal--suicide.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mechanically I obeyed the sergeant's barked commands. We were in
single file. We were moving toward that ominous table where the Ferret
stood, a sardonic smile on his sharp-featured face. I could make out a
livid weal across his throat. I had left my mark on him. That was some
satisfaction.

The head of the line reached the table. They were fingerprinting the
leader! A lieutenant extracted a paper from the pile and handed it to
the Ferret. He made momentary comparison of something on the paper
with the mark the soldier had just made. Then the next man stepped up,
while the first made off across the plain.

Of course! Simple: how very simple! And yet it had caught me! The
service records of the men had their fingerprints, just as in our own
forces. And each man in the area was being checked up. Trust the
Ferret to think of that. He knew that I'd be somewhere in their ranks,
impersonating one of their men. Well, I was in for it. The last trick
in our long game was his.

My turn. No use going through the motions. I bent down a moment, then
straightened. "Oh, hello, Bolton," the Ferret said, thrusting out his
hand, the one with the twisted finger. I had resumed my own visage.
"Didn't think you could get away with it, did you?"

Chagrined as I was, I put a good face on it. The Ferret and I had run
up against each other many many times. Cheerfully, either of us would
have cut the other's throat. But--we played the game.

"Hello, Rubinoff," I responded. "You seem to have me, just now. But
try and hold me."

The Ferret threw back his head and laughed. "Oh, I think you'll find
it a little difficult to get away this time." I thought so, too, but
did not voice my thought.

The smile left Rubinoff's face. He snapped an order. A squad advanced
from the guard. Handcuffs clicked around my wrists, the mates of each
were fastened to the arms of two guardsmen. I was securely chained.
They were taking no chances.

"Take him to the special cell in the guard-house." The lieutenant
saluted. I was marched off. Then I was not to be summarily executed. I
was not as much relieved as you might think. You see, I knew the
Ferret. We had raided one of his hangouts once; just missed him. But
we found an M.I.S. man there whom Rubinoff had been--questioning. We
thanked God when he died.

       *       *       *       *       *

We tramped across the plain. My eyes kept roving about: there wasn't
much hope for me, but miracles have happened. Most of the scattered
structures were hastily thrown together sheds of sheet iron. Barracks,
they looked like. But, every so often I spied spheres of concrete, the
wide open doors revealing yard-thick walls. What could be their
purpose?

Something bothered me. Something about the ray projectors and the
other machinery I had seen. I glanced up at one of the balloons
floating high above. All these needed a power supply; tremendous power
to accomplish what the ray was doing. And there were no cables
running to them. How did the power get to them?

There was only one answer. Radio transmission. The required energy,
perhaps the very ray vibrations themselves, were being broadcast to
the points of projection. That meant a power-house and a control room
somewhere in the area. _The vulnerable points!_ Where were they?

I stumbled, and was jerked roughly to my feet. The lieutenant slapped
me. "Scared, Americansky? You well may be. We'll have rare sport when
they throw what the Ferret leaves of you into the ray." I shuddered.
To go out that way! I'll be honest--I was horribly afraid. The men to
whom I was shackled laughed.

A dull throbbing beat at my ears, a vibration just too low to be
sound. I looked about for its source. It came from my left--a concrete
building, low lying, about a hundred yards long by as many feet wide.
At the further end a squat smokestack broke the flat line of the roof.
Guards, many guards, were pacing their slow patrol about it. From the
center of the side nearest me, cables thick as a man's trunk issued
forth. I followed them with my eye. They ended in a marble slab on
which rested a concrete sphere, somewhat larger than the others. The
door of this one was closed. On the roof of the queer edifice was a
peculiar arrangement of wires, gleaming in the artificial daylight.
This building, too, was heavily guarded.

I had found what I sought--the power-house and the transmitting
station. Much good it did me--now.

       *       *       *       *       *

My warders turned sharply to the right. I glimpsed another concrete
structure. A heavy steel door opened, then clanged shut, behind us.
The fetid odor that means only one thing the world over, folded round
me.

I sprawled on the steel floor of the cell into which I was thrust. A
wave of utter fatigue engulfed me. I felt great weariness of body and
despair of soul. I had failed in my mission. The fate of my country
had been entrusted to me--and here I was in a steel-floored,
steel-walled prison cell. And that tunnel was rushing toward New York
at three miles an hour; over seventy miles a day.

I think I slept from sheer exhaustion. But something startled me into
awaking. The dim light filtering in from the tiny air-hole high up on
one wall showed me that I was still alone. I lay, listening. There it
was again, a wailing scream of agony that rose and fell and died away.

I heard a grating sound at the door, and it opened and shut. Rubinoff,
the Ferret, had entered. "Comfortable, Captain Bolton?" he asked, and
there was more than a hint of mockery in the velvety voice. In the
hand with the twisted finger was his ray-tube. It pointed steadily at
me.

I got to my feet. I was in no mood for trifling, for that scream had
shaken me. "Cut the comedy, Rubinoff." I growled. "Kill me, and let's
have done with it."

He raised a deprecating hand. "Oh, come now. There's really no
absolute necessity for that. You can save yourself, very easily."

"What do you mean?"

"I can use you, if you're amenable to reason."

"I don't understand."

"You're the cleverest of the American Intelligence men. The rabble
they give me are well-nigh useless. Cast your lot in with us, and in a
week you'll have the riches of your greatest city to dip your hands
in. It's easy. There is certain information we need. Give it to us.
Then I'll get you back into your lines: we'll cook up a good tale for
Sommers. You can resume your post and send us information only when it
is of extreme importance. Come, now, be sensible."

       *       *       *       *       *

At first blush this was an astounding proposal. But I knew my man. He
needed to know something. Once he had extracted the knowledge he
sought from me, I should be disposed of. He'd never let me get back
into our lines with what I had found out. It might have been policy to
play him--but what was the use?

"No, Rubinoff. You know I won't do it."

He sighed. "Just as I thought. Honor, country, and so on. Well, it's
too bad. We should have made a wonderful team. However, you'll tell me
what I want to know. What are the defenses within fifty miles of New
York?"

I laughed derisively.

"You'll save yourself a lot of trouble if you tell me, Bolton. After
all, death in the ray isn't so bad. Whiff--and you're gone. Don't
force me to other measures." There was a grim threat in his voice. But
I simply shook my head.

"Stubborn, like all the other Anglo-Saxons. Well, I've got something
to show you." He raised his weapon and glanced at it. "Pretty little
thing, this. Not the ordinary ray-tube. Only field officers have
these. Look."

He pointed it at the wall from behind which that scream had come and
pressed the trigger button. A tiny round hole appeared in the steel.

"Neat, isn't it? Utilizes the same ray you saw at work in the tunnel.
The Zeta-ray we call it. Just think what that would do to human
flesh." I said nothing.

"But that isn't what I had in mind. Just look through that hole."

       *       *       *       *       *

I wanted to see what was on the other side, so I obeyed. The Thing
that lay on the floor within--could it ever have been a man? I whirled
back to the Ferret in a fury, my fists clenched.

His infernal weapon was pointing straight at me. "Softly, Bolton,
softly. You'd never get to me." I checked my spring, for he was right.
"How'd you like that?" he purred.

"Some of your work, I suppose," I growled.

"The poor fool was fomenting a mutiny. We wanted to know the other
plotters. He was stubborn. What would you? Necessity knows no law....
What are the defenses around New York?" He advanced menacingly.

No answer.

"Why be a fool? This ray hurts, I tell you, when it's properly
applied. How would you like to be melted away, piece by little piece,
till you're like that in there?"

I shrugged my shoulders, but kept silent.

"I tell you it hurts. You don't believe me? That in there is
unconscious, seven-eighths dead. Listen."

He bored another hole in the steel, keeping his finger pressed on the
trigger. Again that heart-rending scream of agony rang out, tearing
its way through me. My brain exploded in red rage. I leaped for the
fiend, reckless of consequences. My fist drove into the leering face
with all the force of my spring, with all the insane fury that his
heartless cruelty had roused in me. Smack!--he catapulted across the
floor and crashed into the wall! I was on him, my hand clutching for
his tube. But there was no need. He was out--dead to the world. So
sudden, so unexpected was my mad attack that even he had not had time
to meet it.

I worked fast. In a minute I was in Rubinoff's uniform and had assumed
his face. I was a little taller; no matter. But the finger--that
would be noticed immediately. There was only one thing to do. I stuck
my little finger through one of the holes he had made in the wall and
twisted. Crack! Beads of agony stood out on my forehead, but the break
was just right. By bending the other fingers slightly I could hold
that one in just the position of his.

I picked up the ray-tube with my left hand. If I went out through the
guard-house entrance I might meet other officers and be engaged in
conversation. That might lead to discovery. My cell was on the side of
the prison away from the road; I had noticed no buildings behind it:
I'd chance it. Luck had been with me so far.

       *       *       *       *       *

I carved out a hole in the wall pierced by the air-hole. It was like
cutting through butter with a red hot knife. I stepped out.

There was no one about. I walked carelessly around the corner of the
building, my hand, holding the tube, buried deep in my pocket. Not far
away was the spherical structure I had spotted as the control room. I
returned salutes. No one stopped to talk to me. Would the guard before
that building require a pass-word?

I heard a shout behind me. My escape was discovered! At once I broke
into a run and dashed past the guard, shouting: "Prisoner escaped!
Came this way!" The man gaped. The shouting behind me grew louder. I
heard the thud of many feet, running. I flung open the door, slammed
it shut behind me, and turned the key.

A long row of giant electrode bulbs, as tall as a man, stretched
before me--the source of the Zeta-ray. From here came the power that
held back the waters, that bored the tunnel. A thunderous knocking
shook the door. Someone at a huge switchboard turned toward me.
Instantly my hand was out of my pocket, and the ray-tube leveled at
the nearest bulb. I pressed the trigger. The bulb crashed. I swept
down the line. Crash, crash, crash--they were all gone.

I whirled to meet the expected attack. It was wholly instinctive, for
in a second we'd all be dead anyway. The waters would be down on us.

But the switchboard operator wasn't springing at me. Instead, he was
tugging frantically, at a long lever that came down from above. There
was a clang, and a steel shutter dropped across the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then came a sound of crashing thunder that split my eardrums with its
unbearable clamor. Then a mightier roar, as the mountain-high sea,
held back so long by the invisible ray, poured its countless millions
of tons of deep green water down into the man-made hole.

The impact was terrific. The yards-thick concrete shuddered and
strained. The tremendous pressure forced trickles of water into the
concrete shell: the roaring of the elements was indescribably
deafening.

I was in pitch darkness, expecting every moment to be crushed under
miles of ocean, when suddenly I was thrown from my feet. The floor was
heaving drunkenly beneath me. In a moment I was slammed breathlessly
against the shattered remnants of a huge vacuum tube. The jagged glass
slashed my arms and face. I grabbed with my hand to steady myself;
came in contact with in iron bar: clung like grim death.

For a huge concrete sphere was whirling, tossing, gyrating in a welter
of waters. The din was terrific. I rolled over and over, my arms
almost pulled out of their sockets. Then, like a ton of brick,
something collided with my head. There was a blinding flare in the
black void, and I knew no more.

       *       *       *       *       *

Slowly I came out of a hideous nightmare.

My head ached frightfully, and my wounds smarted and stung. It was
dark, but a faint luminescence from somewhere enabled me to faintly
discern my surroundings. I was wedged between a steel cable-bracket
and the curving wall. Across the glass strewn floor a body lay,
sprawling queerly.

The room was swaying in long undulations, or was it my head? I lay
helpless, unable to move. A leg dangled uselessly. There was a bump,
the sound of scraping. I heard confused sounds penetrating the walls,
and the jar of steady impacts.

A half an hour passed so; maybe an hour: I had no means of telling. I
was weak from pain and loss of blood, and slightly delirious.

A faint whirring noise, a sudden intensity in the illumination caused
me to turn my head. The steel shutter was glowing red, then a shower
of white sparks broke through. The heavy steel was melting away into
incandescence. It crashed.

A group of men stumbled cautiously in. Now I was sure I was delirious.
For the men wore khaki uniforms! Americans! Then, in my fever, I
thought I heard a familiar voice cry out my name. It was Jim's voice.
A roaring curtain of blackness shut down on me.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I awoke again I was lying in a clean-sheeted hospital bed. Jim
was sitting at the side, staring at me with gloomy eyes.

"Hello, Jim," I gasped weakly. "How did I get here?"

It was touching to see the instantaneous delight on his weathered
countenance.

"So you came to at last, you old son-of-a-gun! Thought you were
cashing in on us for a while. How did you get here? That's just what
I want to know. How in hell _did_ you get here?"

I was still pretty weak. "You pulled me out. What happened?"

"We're still trying to puzzle it out. Wouldn't be surprised if you had
a hand in it, you blighter. We were watching that damned cloud,
worrying ourselves to death. What with the _New York_ going out like a
light, and not hearing anything from you, we were pretty low.

"Then, suddenly, there was a tremendous detonation. The whole cloud
mass collapsed like a pricked bubble, and a bottomless pit yawned
underneath the ocean--and, next thing we knew, our raft was yanked
from under our feet, plunging and bucking in a swirl of waters.

"I just had time to grab hold of a stanchion, when we were sucked down
into a whirlpool such as I never hope to see again. Round and round we
spun, the tumbling waters mountain high above us. I was buried most of
the time in crashing billows; my arms were almost pulled out of their
sockets.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I never expected to see daylight again," Jim went on. "My hold was
being broken when at last we were spewed out somehow onto a sea that
looked as if a thousand hurricanes were blowing down.

"I managed to get my men together--what was left of them. There were
pitifully few. Later, I heard that our losses were enormous. Over
seventy-five per cent of our rafts on a 50-mile front were lost, and
the enemies' were almost totally wiped out.

"When the mile-high seas had toned down a bit, we saw a huge concrete
ball tossing about like a cork. Couldn't make out what the devil it
was. Then someone noticed a door. We got that open, but there was a
steel one inside. We had to slice it with an oxy-hydrogen flame.
Inside, snug as a bug in a rug, were you.

"Now come on, tell me how in blazes you got in there. If you don't
spill it quick, I'll bust."

I sat up in my excitement. "Don't you see, they were afraid the ray
might fail. They had those concrete balls stuck all around so that the
officers at least could escape, if it did. Their best technical men
must have been running the control room. They made sure to have that
specially strong. And the wave caused by the water pouring into the
hole swept me right over here, just where I started from."

Jim had both hands on my shoulders, was pushing me down. "Whoa, baby,
whoa. That's just as clear as a darkness-rayed area. Count up to ten,
and start all over again."

"'Ten-_shun_!"

The general himself strode into the room. And then I _had_ to tell my
story straight.


A BEE'S BREADTH

The breath of a bee, important because of its indication of the health
of the insect in winter and of the efficiency of the sweet-producing
hive in summer, was recently measured by Prof. G. H. Vansell of the
University of California. To do this he conducted the air coming from
the hive trough a tube into bulbs containing absorbent chemicals.
Allowing for the natural carbon dioxide and water of the outside air,
he weighed these bulbs, getting an analysis of the breath of the hive
by the amount of water vapor and carbon dioxide the chemicals in the
bulbs had picked up.

He found that in winter when the bees were inactive the average hourly
water loss from the entire hive was thirty six millionths of an ounce.
In summer when the insects were hard at work making honey and
gathering nectar the water loss was twenty five times as great. The
carbon dioxide output, however, did not even double in summer.



_A Meeting Place for Readers of_ Astounding Stories

[Illustration: The Readers' Corner]


_And That's That_

     Dear Editor:

     May I have just a little room in "The Readers' Corner" to
     answer Mr. Meek's argument and defend myself from the charge
     of hasty reading? You will remember that I did not write my
     letter immediately after the publication of the first
     Heaviside Layer story, but waited until the appearance of
     the second, a "cooling-off" period of three months. In that
     time I re-read the story and considered it at length. I
     don't call that hasty reading. Besides, the flaw in the
     story is so obvious that even a "hasty" reading should
     suffice to find it.

     I can't argue about the matter of meteors because Mr. Meek
     has not given any figures concerning the density or
     viscosity of his medium. But I can say that to my way of
     thinking any astronomer could detect the effect of such
     friction on the action of meteors. They should certainly be
     consumed much more rapidly than if they merely struck thin
     air.

     That, however, is a minor point and I wouldn't even mind
     conceding it to Mr. Meek. The point I now wish to make is
     much more important and in my mind establishes the falsity
     of Mr. Meek's premises. In the July issue of Astounding
     Stories, page seven, paragraph four, sentences fourteen and
     fifteen, he states that the Heaviside Layer is composed of a
     liquid of high viscosity. By definition a liquid is more
     dense than a gas. Therefore the Heaviside Layer, according
     to Mr. Meek, is denser than the atmosphere of the earth
     since the former is a liquid and the latter is a gas. The
     increased refraction of light as it entered our atmosphere
     would then be noticeable. Astronomers can even now detect
     refraction due to the air. The sun remains visible for some
     time after it has actually descended below the horizon, due
     to refraction. If there was a denser substance than air
     surrounding the earth the refraction would be much greater.
     Finally, how could the atmosphere support a denser substance
     like the Heaviside Layer? I'd sure make for cover if I
     really believed that such a menace existed right over my
     head.

     Sorry to take up your space so much by an argument, but your
     comments on my letter really called for a defense. Hope you
     can find room for this.--Philip Waite, 3400 Wayne Ave, New
     Your, N. Y.


     Dear Editor:

     Since Mr. Waite has so generously admitted the validity of
     my answer to his criticism as regards meteors, I can do no
     less than admit that he scored one against me in his second
     argument. I used the word liquid. It was careless diction.
     Had I used the phrase "composed of a SUBSTANCE of high
     viscosity, of low specific gravity and with a coefficient of
     refraction identical with that of air," there would have
     been no argument. I am sure that Mr. Waite will admit after
     reflection that such a substance could be held in position,
     if its specific gravity were low enough, by a combination of
     gravity and centrifugal force, somewhat in the same manner
     as the ring of Saturn is held in place. Of course, any idea
     that the layer rested on the air and was supported in place
     by it, would be untenable. As I said in my previous letter,
     I don't believe such a layer exists. If it does, I hope that
     no one proves it before I get some characters off on a space
     flyer for an interplanetary adventure or two.--S. P. Meek,
     Capt., Ord. Dept., U. S. A.


_Right from the Shoulder_

     Dear Editor:

     I know for a fact that Astounding Stories is the best
     Science Fiction magazine on the stands. I have read it every
     issue except the first three, and have not yet found a bad
     story. The characters in other Science Fiction magazines
     seem like machines, but Astounding Stories' characters seem
     like intimate friends. Why do ---- [censored] like some
     write in and start bellyaching about the cover, pages, the
     size, the edges and many other things that no one but ----
     [censored] would notice? If they know so much why don't they
     start a magazine and put all other publications out of
     business? If they liked the stories they would not care if
     the color of the cover was black or red, white and blue. I
     get so interested in the stories that the edges of the paper
     do not amount to anything; and people that bellyache about
     such minor things prove that they do not care for the
     stories, and furthermore they prove that they are ----
     [censored] and ---- [censored] ready for the booby hatch.

     There is only one thing wrong with the perfect magazine: it
     does not come out twice a month. I have never known a bunch
     of Editors that have the intelligence of the Staff of
     Astounding Stories [uncensored--Ed.]. They have never
     published a single story that any intelligent Reader could
     kick about.

     About reprints: whether the Editors think that they should
     publish some or not, it is all the same to me, as they know
     what they are doing. I should like very much to see some
     stories by Burroughs, though.

     If I were to name your best authors, I would have to name
     every one that ever wrote a story for your wonderful
     magazine.--H. N. Sager, R. F. D. 6, Box 419, Bessemer, Ala.


_Disposing of Old Stories_

     Dear Editor:

     I have observed that numerous readers request reprints. I
     have a collection that goes back to 1900! Since I have no
     more use for them, I have decided to dispense with them.
     Here is an infinitesimal list:

     A. Merritt: "Thru the Dragon Glass," "The Moon Pool," "The
     Metal Monster" and "The Ship of Ishtar."

     Homer Eon Flint: "Out of the Moon," "The Planeteer," "The
     King of Conserve Island," "The Blind Spot" and "Flint and
     Hall."

     Jules Black: "Beyond the Earth Atom" and "Marooned in
     Space."

     John Louis Hill: "The Dimension Wizard" and "The Challenge
     from Beyond."

     Davidson Mortimer: "Lost in Time" and "The Amazing Empire
     Lost in Time" (sequel to story previously mentioned).

     Booth Langell: "The Moons of Lanisar."

     As I said before, this is but a small part of the Science
     Fiction stories I have. Anyone desiring stories mentioned
     above, or any others, please write to me.--George Zambock,
     459 E. 155th St., New York, N. Y.


_A Kind Offer_

     Dear Editor:

     I'm sure you will sympathize with me for reading your
     magazine in study hall.

     It is so very dull--I have three S.H.'s in a row--that I
     have to do something to relieve the monotony, so, seeing the
     latest copy of A. S. at my newsdealer's, I brought it back
     to school after dinner. I am speaking of the February
     number. I very much enjoyed the Dr. Bird story. Capt. Meek
     is always good. "Phalanxes of Atlans" promises to be an
     excellent story, also.

     What I want to know is, why are so many mossbacks throwing
     brickbats? What does it matter if some of the stories are
     not on the scientific chalk line? A very wise man once said
     that "Variety is the spice of life," so why not take a hint,
     some of you would-be brickbat pitchers, and pipe down?

     I have read every issue of Astounding Stories published so
     far, and have not a brickbat to report as yet. I notice in
     one letter to "The Readers' Corner" a request for a
     department on rocket propulsion. I presume the writer meant
     on propelling rocket planes. I have experimented on rocket
     ships for the past three years and can give some data on
     these as to the construction of models (for when I say ships
     I really mean model airplanes). I have had this as my hobby
     for the past four and a half years, and can give extensive
     information on model building. I specialize in models
     powered by power other than rubber; and I took second place
     at the Atlantic City Tournament held in October by the
     National Play-ground Association, in the Annual National
     Championships.

     Anyone desiring information on the rocket ship or any other
     type of model plane will be promptly answered by addressing
     their letter to me.

     I hope you will find room to publish this, as I like nothing
     better than helping someone get started on my favorite
     hobby, aviation. I have, however, several hobbies, including
     football, basket-ball, tennis, swimming, boating and hiking.
     I live within ten miles of the Great Smoky Mountains
     National Park, and can see from the study hall window, which
     I now am seated near to, three ranges of the mountains all
     covered with more than ten inches of snow.--Richard M.
     Evans, Box 305, Maryville, Tenn.


_To the Defense_

     Dear Editor:

     Some of the letters you have printed in "The Readers'
     Corner" almost burn me up. Edwin C. Magnuson asks you what
     you print there: only letters praising your magazine to the
     skies? or occasional brickbats? Well, I might say one thing,
     and that is: if you did print all brickbats, as he seems to
     want you to, the Readers would think that your magazine
     wasn't of much account if that was the kind of letters you
     got all the time, and would probably quit reading it.

     He also said he felt like quitting several times because the
     stories weren't scientific. Well, if he can show me anywhere
     on your magazine where it says it is a scientific magazine,
     I'll certainly beg his most humble pardon on bended knee. He
     also crabbed about your artists. If he can do better, I
     advise you to hire him. He also says that the paper is
     rotten, and that after a few handlings goes to pieces. I
     still have all my magazines, and have lent them several
     times, and the paper is still there. On his fifth statement
     I agree with him: you should have an editorial. Also I would
     certainly like to have reprints, as there are about six
     issues I didn't get, and I imagine there are several other
     Readers in the same boat.

     Hume V. Stephani makes a very good suggestion about a
     quarterly. I certainly think it would be appreciated and
     would go over big. And Robert J. Hyatt, I most certainly
     agree with you in your letter printed in the February issue;
     and if this letter is printed (which I hope it is) I hope
     you will see it, and know that at least one person has the
     same views on the magazine that you do.--Buel Godwin,
     101--3rd Avenue, S. E. Le Mars, Iowa.


"_Now a Real Pest_"

     Dear Editor:

     I have recently been initiated into the reading of Science
     Fiction, and as a result I am now a real pest to the
     magazine vendor, from asking for the next copy of Astounding
     Stories. I have just finished your February copy and words
     can't express my enjoyment.

     "The Tentacles from Below" is indeed a Science Fiction
     masterpiece. I devour eagerly Captain S. P. Meek's stories
     about Dr. Bird. As long as you keep Meek you can be assured
     that I will purchase this magazine. "The Pirate Planet"
     proved to be a story worthy to be kept as a reprint for
     future issues. In fact, many of your stories are so good
     that it is a shame that others can't enjoy them in future
     issues of Astounding Stories.

     Wesso is a great artist and I appreciate to the fullest
     extent his remarkable pictures.

     Yours for a continuation of your present success in editing
     and publishing remarkable stories--Lester P. Lieber, 542
     Dalzell St., Shreveport, La.


_Stands Pat_

     Dear Editor:

     Although this is my first letter to "The Readers' Corner" of
     your publication, I have nevertheless been a consistent
     Reader of the magazine since its inception. Contrary to many
     of your correspondents I have nothing to say against your
     magazine or policy. I like its size, its artists and most of
     its stories. I shall not bother to name those I do not like
     because I do not believe that there is a magazine to be
     found that can publish stories to suit all its Readers.

     I enjoy the serials and your two-part novelettes since it
     gives one something to look forward to each month. I enjoyed
     "The Pirate Planet" by Charles W. Diffin so much I was sorry
     to see it end, and I hope there will be more of his work in
     the future. I am particularly glad to see such writers as
     Captain S. P. Meek, Ray Cummings, Miles J. Breuer, Victor
     Rousseau and Harl Vincent as regular contributors to your
     pages, but there are also a number of other writers whom I
     miss seeing in "our" mag. Of these are A. Hyatt-Verrill who
     writes so well of the Incas, Otis Adelbert Kline who also
     gives us excellent stories and Leslie F. Stone whose "Men
     with Wings" and "Women with Wings" appeared in another
     magazine and which I enjoyed exceedingly. I believe that to
     have these writers as regular contributors would add much to
     the interest of the publication.

     With the compliments of an avid reader of Science Fiction. I
     salute you.--Theodore Morris, 1412 S. W. 13th St., Miami,
     Fla.


"_Under My Collar_"

     Dear Editor:

     I have been reading Astounding Stories for a good while and
     I like it fine. I noticed in your last issue that a fellow
     by the name of Edwin C. Magnuson was kicking about "The
     Readers' Corner." Some of his reasons, I think, for not
     liking this magazine are as follows: first, the
     illustrations are poor. I believe they are good. Second, he
     says that he doesn't like stories such as those written by
     Charles W. Diffin, Jackson Gee, Murray Leinster and Victor
     Rousseau. He also has in his letter a list of authors whose
     works he likes. I do not think they are so hot, with the
     exception of Capt. S. P. Meek. Mr. Magnuson also says he is
     disgusted with Astounding Stories and would like to quit
     reading it. Well, why doesn't he?

     I want to say it is a fine mag. I don't like to be a critic,
     but that fellow got under my collar. The only thing that
     could be done is to publish at least twice a month.

     Well, reckon I will sign off. Here is to Astounding Stories.
     A better mag can't be found!--Boyd H. Goodman, 2008 McKinney
     Ave., Dallas, Texas.


_From Franklin to Poe_

     Dear Editor:

     As a Reader of Astounding Stories from the first number I
     would like to comment on your magazine regarding your
     stories and the subject of reprints.

     First, you are publishing one of the best Science Fiction
     magazines on the market, and I read three of them. And
     although I agree with Mr. Magnuson and others on the subject
     of reprints, I do not agree with the former that the paper
     is rotten and falls to pieces. I have a complete file of
     Astounding Stories to date and I have not noticed any signs
     of disintegration amongst them as yet.

     You could easily follow the suggestion of Mr. Stephani, and
     have a space for good reprints and charge a nickel more. I
     believe most of your Readers would approve of it.

     The story, "The Sunken Empire," was fine, and it is to the
     credit of Science Fiction that in addition to interesting
     Readers in other worlds it has also created an interest in
     the fate of lands from which the Atlantic Ocean received its
     name. This story is reminiscent of a story which appeared in
     The Saturday Evening Post about three years ago called
     "Maracot Deep." In this story a party of men (three, I
     believe) descended to the bottom of the Atlantic and found a
     surviving colony from Atlantis, and saw reproduced on a
     screen events leading up to the sinking of Atlantis. It was
     written by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the only
     weak spot was that Sir Arthur had to change the submergence
     of Atlantis from a natural catastrophe into a "judgment" of
     the gods, whose sense of propriety was outraged by the
     "wickedness" of the Atlanteans. If you reprinted this story
     your Readers would eat it up.

     I hope that you publish this letter because I want to reply
     through your "Readers' Corner" to Mr. Richard Lewis of
     Knoxville, Iowa, on the subject of reprints.

     Mr. Lewis says he has read most of the classic scientific
     stories referred to. Well, so have I, but I should like to
     read many of them again as would many of your Readers. I
     have for the last twenty years been reading literary
     classics but when I receive my copies of Good Literature or
     The Golden Book I do not consider myself cheated because I
     find some stories in them that I have read before. The best
     are always worth reading at least twice.

     As an illustration, has Mr. Lewis ever read the following:
     the "Kasidah," by Sir Richard Burton, who gave the world its
     best literal translation of "The Arabian Nights," which
     differs as daylight from dark in comparison with the Lane
     and Payne translations which are only edited for children to
     read? Or has he read the chapter which Benjamin Franklin
     added to the Bible? If Mr. Lewis read these for the first
     time in any magazine he takes he would no doubt consider
     them well worth the price of the magazine or more, yet they
     would be reprints, the last one about as old as the United
     States.

     The "Kasidah" is a long poem on philosophic aspects of
     evolution in which almost all Science Fiction Readers are
     interested. In contains lines like the following:

          "Conscience was bred
           When man had shed
           His fur, his tail
           And pointed ears."

     And as a dissertation on our caveman ancestors:

          "They fought for women as for food.
           When 'Mays' awoke to warm desire;
           And this the lust that changed to love
           When fancy lent a purer fire."

     Regarding the Franklin chapter, it is stated that "Wise Old
     Ben" used to insert it between the pages of the Bible and
     read it to his friends in the City of Brotherly Love, and
     great was the consternation of many who thought they knew
     the Scriptures from "cover to cover."

     Any new readers of Science Fiction would be glad to read
     "The Girl in the Golden Atom," "The Fire People" and "The
     Man Who Mastered Time," by Ray Cummings. I like to read this
     author's work, but I believe when he wrote this trilogy of
     Matter, Space and Time that he reached the heights of his
     writing. I have never read any subsequent writings of his
     that I thought exceeded them.

     Speaking of the necessity of authors eating, Mr. Lewis
     states that good stories have never been written on an empty
     stomach.

     Edgar Allan Poe who wrote "Shades" was one of the most
     brilliant of American writers, and his stomach was empty
     most of the time. And when this master of ratiocination had
     on rare occasions a full stomach it was invariably full of
     "hooch."

     As Mr. Lewis speaks as a pedagogue, is it not a
     physiological fact that an empty stomach clears the mind by
     diverting the blood stream from the necessity of digesting
     food? And while I am not advocating any fast cures for
     authors, some of them (although few in Astounding Stories)
     would be greatly benefited by trying it.

     In conclusion I should like to say to Mr. Lewis and others
     who take the same slant on reprints, that there are many of
     the finest writings in Science Fiction and the classics
     which you and I have never even heard of, much less read.

     I will close with best wishes for your continued
     success--Joseph R. Barnes, Cache Junction, Utah.


_Now Feeling Better_

     Dear Editor:

     Well, I guess I've just about gotten you exasperated with
     all the brickbats I've been cannoning into your office.
     However, I believe this letter will make you feel a little
     better.

     The latest issue was fine. There wasn't a story in it that I
     didn't enjoy. "The Tentacles from Below" was a surprisingly
     good story, especially when you consider that I don't like
     sea stories. I liked this one very much.

     Another extremely great surprise was "Werewolves of War."
     From the few notes about it I surmised that it was another
     one of those hero-dying-and-saving-his-country stories; and
     it was--but not the kind I expected it to be. The author's
     narrative and descriptive abilities were such that I forgot
     all about the plot running throughout the story. Hang on to
     that fellow.

     The other complete story was also good. The conclusion of
     the "The Pirate Planet" was also good, as were its preceding
     instalments. The first instalment of "Phalanxes of Atlans"
     was unusual. That's gonna turn out to be one of the best
     stories you've yet published, or I miss my bet.--G.
     Kirschner, Box 301, Temple, Texas.


"_Paper Is Durable_"

     Dear Editor:

     While reading "The Readers' Corner" in your January issue I
     noticed a bit of criticism by Edwin Magnuson of Duluth,
     Minn. In it he said that you have printed some stories
     containing little or no science. But, first, most of your
     Readers like a little change in a subject and I advise one
     or two of these about two or three months apart. Second, the
     paper is of durable material, for I pass my magazine to my
     friends who read it and then return it with very few pages
     torn. Third, I agree that reprints would be a blessing, for
     most of your readers have not read stories by Cummings,
     Breuer, Wells and Vincent. Fourth, the fact that some
     stories have not a sound scientific basis is quite all right
     because every fair reader likes his stories fired with some
     imagination.--Walter Witte, 960 Duchess St., St. Paul,
     Minn.


_Suggestions_

     Dear Editor:

     Although I have read every issue of A. S. since it came out,
     I have never written about it, and this is what I have to
     say:

     First, it is just as good or better than two other Science
     Fiction magazines that I can name.

     Second, in my opinion you have some of the best modern
     authors, such as Cummings, Meek, Rousseau, Diffin, Vincent
     and Hamilton. Also others.

     The stories have been A-1 with the exception of "Murder
     Madness," which, in my opinion, does not belong in a
     magazine of this type, but in a detective story magazine,
     because that is all it was--a detective story. And when are
     you going to have a sequel to "The Gray Plague," by L. A.
     Eshbach which appeared in the November issue? It deserves
     one.

     The best author on your staff is Captain S. P. Meek, whose
     Dr. Bird stories cannot be equalled. They are science
     stories plus.

     A few suggestions: an occasional reprint. It would not
     affect the living conditions of our present day authors and
     would give us all a chance to read a classic of yesterday.

     Do not change the size (i. e. width and length); but as for
     enlarging it in the thickness direction, you have my
     heartiest encouragement. I notice that one of the other
     magazines has changed its size, so now you are not alone.
     Evening up the edges of the sheets would improve the looks,
     however. And now that you have had your first birthday, when
     are you going to start a quarterly? In it you could publish
     a complete book length novel and seven novelettes. By novel,
     I mean a story of about one hundred pages or more of your
     present size, and novelettes fifty pages or more. You could
     double the price because a quarterly is worth double what a
     monthly is worth.

     Your artists are great, but you could still improve by
     having them make a full page illustration at the start and
     one more exciting one as the story progresses.

     Well, I think I've said enough good things about you and
     enough suggestions, so until January 1932, adios, au revoir,
     etc.--Henry Benner, Cowithe, Wash.


_Ouch!_

     Dear Editor:

     Personally I would rather read a good short story than the
     ten pages of instructions by Readers published in the March
     issue. Two pages are plenty, especially when half the
     criticisms concern paper, size, edges of paper, etc. A. S.
     is O. K!

     How about that other short?--Don Ward, 6 Ketchel St.,
     Auburn, N. Y.


_Likes Action_

     Dear Editor:

     I have just finished the February issue of Astounding
     Stories. All of the stories were so good I couldn't tell you
     which one is the best. "The Phalanxes of Atlans" and "The
     Tentacles from Below" were very good. I liked "The Black
     Lamp," too. It is up to the standard of the rest of the Dr.
     Bird stories. "The Pirate Planet" ended very beautifully.
     However, I did not like that about Sykes getting killed.
     "Werewolves of War" was good. It ended differently from most
     of the other stories. Most of them end with the hero
     escaping, but in this the hero was killed. It had a very
     good plot.

     I got my first copy of Astounding Stories last July and I
     haven't missed a copy since. Why not put out Astounding
     Stories twice a month, or make it a weekly? I hate to have
     to wait a whole month before I get another copy.

     I believe that the best story I have ever read in this
     magazine was "The Invisible Death," by Victor Rousseau.

     The reason I like Astounding Stories better than any other
     Science Fiction magazine is that most of the other magazines
     have too much science and not enough action.--Dale Griffith,
     437 Carson St., San Antonio, Texas.


"_To Satisfy Myself_"

     Dear Editor:

     It has been long since I read the February issue of your
     magazine and I'm waiting anxiously for the March issue.

     The February issue had some very good stories, and I just
     must say that the story entitled "Werewolves of War," is the
     best story of its type I have ever read. Unlike most of
     these stories there is more future truth than fiction.

     Perhaps you didn't expect to hear from me so soon again, but
     I am interested in this type of story as I used to write
     this kind in my English class back in high school. My
     stories were of this type, but always different from any
     that the rest of the class wrote. Another thing, I love to
     be writing, so I take this way to satisfy myself. I do hope
     you will excuse me.

     I have one more thing to say and that is: I only wish your
     magazine was put out every two weeks instead of every four;
     or print more stories and raise the price to twenty five
     cents. I'm sure people will pay if they are as interested as
     I.--Ken F. Haley, 36 Mechanic St., Lebanon, N.H.


"_Easier to Turn_"

     Dear Editor:

     I have just read "The Readers' Corner" of the March issue
     and noticed that bright remark about that super-rotten
     story, "Skylark Three." Anyone who liked that story is
     certainly not hard to please. It does not compare with the
     worst story ever published. I also read that "other
     magazine" and I say that it has disgraced itself by "Skylark
     Three."

     Everything is perfect about your magazine except that there
     are not enough stories in each issue. The uneven edges are
     just fine, for it makes the pages easier to turn. The covers
     are not too gaudy. The covers should depict a thrilling
     incident in a story; they do.

     "Phalanxes of Atlans" offered a good theory as to the
     whereabouts of the descendants of the Atlanteans and the
     Lost Tribes of Israel. It was keen.

     I conclude my letter with a warning: do not change your
     type. Also do not change your order of issue; I mean, do not
     make your magazine into a bi-monthly as I see some magazines
     of this type have done.--Robert Leonard Russell, 825 Casey
     Ave., Mt. Vernon, Illinois.


_You Tell 'Em!_

     Dear Editor:

     I have always considered the drawings of H. W. Wesso far
     superior to those of all other Science Fiction artists, and,
     indeed, much better than the work of most pulp magazine
     illustrators. But his cover for the March issue of
     Astounding Stories was remarkable even for him; it was a
     veritable masterpiece.

     So enthralled was I by the first sight of this eye-arresting
     picture that I stared at it for minutes on end. This
     snarling titan with his mighty arm outstretched toward the
     tiny figures just beyond his reach--what a gripping tableau!

     Free from the superfluous, uninteresting machinery and
     apparatus that clutter up most illustrations in other
     Science Fiction magazines, your March cover remained
     fantastic, but human--a picture that expressed the very
     essence of super-scientific fiction as presented in
     Astounding Stories. Vivid in color, striking in subject,
     dramatic in treatment and drawn with consummate skill, that
     cover must have attracted many new Readers to this magazine.

     And the promise held out by the cover was more than
     fulfilled by the contents of that issue--one of your best to
     date. The only discordant note in the entire magazine was
     the yapping and ranting of certain dissatisfied ----
     [censored] too ---- [censored] to appreciate the finest,
     most worthy publication in its field to-day.--Booth Cody,
     Bronx, New York.


"_Nothing Is Automatic_"

     Dear Editor:

     First, I wish to congratulate you on the increasing quality
     of your magazine since its first issue. It surpasses all
     other Science Fiction magazines, and I haven't missed a
     single issue and don't intend to!

     What prompted me to write this letter was an article, "A
     Robot Chemist," published in your March, 1931, issue. In the
     article it states that a mechanical robot performed several
     experiments without human supervision. But, I am sorry to
     say, I disagree. Nothing is automatic. Foolishly, after
     perfecting anything that performs its work afterwards by
     itself, man calls it an automaton. But it is not! Did he not
     have to work and slave hour after hour, day after day and
     month after month to perfect it? He did! Ever since man
     became civilized he has deceived himself by calling, for
     instance, machinery in a factory, automatons. The quest for
     automatic machinery is as hopeless as the quest for
     perpetual motion!

     What is my idea of an automaton? Well, take a robot for
     instance. Man calls it an automaton in spite of the fact
     that he had to slave to put it together before it did its
     work.

     My idea is this: the iron ore would come out itself, smelt
     itself, form itself in the various shapes and parts needed
     to construct a robot, then take its correct place and rivet
     itself. Then the radio brain, electrical eyes and magnet
     hands take their place; and when it has constructed itself
     it will conduct the experiments--if a chemical
     robot--without human supervision. Thus, the latter clause
     would be true! That's my conception of an automatic robot!
     Otherwise, its just some metal doing the bidding of a
     master's brain.

     Another thing: the novelette "Beyond the Vanishing Point,"
     by Ray Cummings, is preposterous. The flesh might shrink or
     grow, but the bone would not! If one shrunk as did George
     Randolph, one's bones would burst through the flesh.

     But in spite of all that, I like the stories that way.
     Science, in the years to come might discover how to shrink
     or grow both flesh and bones. I guess I'm taking too much of
     your time, so adios!--Jay Zee, Chicago, Illinois.


_Hot Times in the Fire-House_

     Dear Editor:

     The first Thursday in each month I make a bee-line for the
     newsstand--and Astounding Stories. It may interest you to
     know that I have every issue on file that you have put out.

     There have been some mighty good yarns in those issues, but
     the one just at hand contains the best story you have ever
     published--"Terrors Unseen," by Harl Vincent. There's an
     author for you; but evidently I don't have to tell you so,
     as you have given us quite a number of his splendid stories.
     "Vagabonds of Space" was a wow. Like some of the others who
     have written in, I would like to see a sequel to this. Harl
     Vincent is my favorite of all your authors.

     A close second is Charles W. Diffin. He is good, too. As
     your authors appeal to me, in order, I mean. I would line
     them up in this way: Harl Vincent, Charles W. Diffin, R. F.
     Starzl, Ray Cummings, Capt. S. P. Meek, Jack Williamson and
     Murray Leinster.

     I agree with Jim Nicholson of San Francisco that you should
     give us some stories by Francis Flagg. Here is an author you
     never have published, and, to my way of looking at things,
     he has more fresh material than most of the authors put
     together. Many of the things that have been copied widely
     and used extensively (I don't mean that whole stories have
     been stolen, or anything like that) were originated by this
     fine writer. By all means get Francis Flagg. [We have just
     bought a story--a good one--from him!--Ed]. He would stand
     about third in my list if you had used his work before. I
     made it up from those whose work has been used.

     Two or three things I notice, that I would have you correct.
     All your stories seem to be of standardized length, either
     around 10,000 words or 25,000 words. Eliminate all
     restrictions as to word length but make your writers boil
     down their work. Most stories are too long, and could be
     told better if cut down quite a bit. The paper and the page
     size of the magazine are okay, but why not smooth edges? And
     it is hard to keep the covers on. I wouldn't object to more
     pages or an extra nickel in price. Or if not that, how about
     publishing "our" magazine twice a month?

     After fighting a fire, there's nothing like Astounding
     Stories with which to "unlax." You're doing a fine job, and
     I only make these suggestions because I want a "perfect"
     magazine instead of one that bats 97% all the time. Hope
     you'll have room for all this. And, oh yes, keep on with
     your program of "No reprints." Your new yarns are better
     than the old ones. Let's have the new ones, and encourage
     our fine string of authors to do even better work.--Gayl
     Whitman, Fireman, Co. No. 11, Main at 22nd, Columbus, Ohio.


_Correspondents Wanted_

     Dear Editor:

     Another critic is going to take his pen in hand and give you
     a bouquet. I have just finished reading the March issue of
     A. S. and think it was fine.

     Of all the stories you have published I liked "The Gray
     Plague" the best. I don't care much for reprints because I
     like new stories the best.

     I would like to correspond with some of the Readers of A. S.
     I will answer any or all letters I receive.--L. B. Knutson,
     629--3rd Ave., So, Minneapolis, Minn.


_A Heroine a la Mode_

     Dear Editor:

     I'm with J. H. Nicholson, who advises those who are
     indifferent to the scientifically possible in order to give
     the author a broader field in which to lay his plot. As he
     says, they should feel right at home with their noses stuck
     into a volume of Anderson's Fairy Tales. However, this
     letter is more to express the science lovers' viewpoint than
     to sling mud at the authors. For us, the plot loses much of
     its kick if the science is not reasonable.

     Suppose for once that one of these Readers who waives
     scientific possibility aside as secondary should pick up a
     plot-distorted story in which the heroine should be
     described something as follows:

     "Hers was a tall superbly built figure combining the
     strength of a horse with the gentle curves of a hippo. When
     she spoke, her sweetly modulated voice was as pleasant to
     the ear as the bray of a Spanish jackass. Her hair hung to
     her waist and was the convenient nesting place for several
     English sparrows. She was slightly cockeyed from birth and
     had had her nose squashed in a saloon brawl. She carried
     herself with the graceful dignity of an African orang-utan
     and was always much sought after, having a quaint habit of
     slapping every new male she met a resounding whack on the
     back that loosened their bridge work. Being a veteran
     tobacco chewer and having high blood pressure she could spit
     one hundred feet against a fifty-mile wind. When she ate in
     company, she had an amusing way of gargling her soup in
     G-flat. Her--"

     It's unnecessary to go further. Such a character would be
     every bit as reasonably possible as some of the science
     these science-conniving Readers are willing to sanction.

     Here are some of the seemingly impossible feats of a recent
     story: 1--a diver in an ordinary diving dress is able to
     stand the pressure at three miles down; 2--(granting the
     above is possible) a diver shoots up three miles without
     stopping and still does not become a victim of the bends;
     3--(granting the above two possible) a diver after shooting
     from such a great depth and pressure to a depth of
     comparatively low pressure would not be able to lower the
     pressure inside his dress, since it would be held so rigid
     that he would not be able to bend his arms; 4--a man or
     animal suddenly released from the enormous pressure of about
     three hundred tons to the square inch to atmospheric
     pressure, it seems, would most certainly burst before the
     internal pressure could equalize itself.

     Please notice that I said seemingly wrong. I'm for A. S.
     just one hundred per cent and would prefer to have it as
     right as possible. I don't like crank letter writing and
     would never have written this now if it hadn't been for
     several of the letters in the March issue that gave me a
     touch of hades under the collar. S'long. Maybe I'll write
     again sometime when I get some more "ham science"
     ideas.--William S. Lotsch, 1 Morrison Ave., Troy, N. Y.


_You Make Them Adequate_

     Dear Editor:

     Thanks. Of course I accept your invitation to "The Readers'
     Corner." I have been a constant Reader of your magazine
     since its appearance on the Science Fiction horizon, and I
     have yet to meet a story that I failed to read in its
     entirety or that I didn't like.

     To merely write a letter and say that this story was good,
     the other story was fair, and oh my! how poor the third
     story was, is futile. But as it is the usual custom to do so
     here goes:

     Excellent stories--all of the first five volumes; good
     stories--who's interested?; poor stories--where are they?;
     good authors--takes up too much room and time; poor
     authors--got tired looking for them.

     All I want to say is, Astounding Stories is the best or one
     of the best magazines on the market. Gee, but aren't words
     futile when you describe something great and
     wonderful!--Herbert Goodket, 707 Jackson Avenue, New York,
     N. Y.


_Ain't It Too Awful!_

     Dear Editor:

     I knew it. It was bound to come. At last my efforts have
     been rewarded. Fame has sought me out--even in Brooklyn. It
     was suggested in the March issue of Astounding Stories that
     I, Louis Wentzler, as one of the active contributors to "The
     Readers' Corner," regale your Readers with a description of
     myself, my interest in Science Fiction and how I got that
     way. A picture was also requested, but this had better be
     omitted. As for my personal history, bend an ear:

     At the tender age of four, while making mud pies on the
     doorstep of my home, I was beaned by a brick hurled by an
     uncouth ruffian across the street. The results were not
     fatal--who said "unfortunately?"--but from that moment I
     developed a taste for Science Fiction. Had it not been for
     that incident I might have grown up a normal lad; but the
     caress of that brick on my cranium did things to me, and I
     have been a Science Fiction addict since.

     Of course, I do not contend that all Science Fiction fans
     were hit by bricks, though a lot of them should be. I do
     believe, however, that a slight concussion of the brain
     helps one appreciate Science Fiction the more. Anyway, once
     imbued with the urge I took to Science Fiction like a Hindu
     to hashish. Such stories were rare in those days, but I
     started to collect all I could find.

     Then came the war. I was too young to fight, but I did my
     bit making canteens out of old sieves. That was how my mind
     worked, you see. Well, the war ended--I forgot who won--and
     I went back to my beloved Science Fiction. Years have passed
     since then, and I have a fine collection of stories now.
     Should any of you care to see them, come around to the local
     booby-hatch some time: you'll find me in Padded Cell No.
     17.--Louis Wentzler, 1935 Woodbine St., Brooklyn, N. Y.


_Hurrah!_

     Dear Editor:

     Except for a brief letter of criticism in the August, 1930,
     number of Astounding Stories, I have been a silent but loyal
     follower of the magazine since its first issue. My silence
     was that of profound satisfaction. Almost all the stories
     suited me to perfection; and the few I did not like were
     hardly worth commenting on. Since the magazine has grown
     better with every issue I would probably have kept my peace;
     but there is one disturbing factor which impels me to write
     again.

     I refer to the irresponsible outbursts of certain ----
     [censored] who squeeze into "The Readers' Corner" and
     sputter out senseless denunciations of the magazine, its
     appearance, its policies, and so on. I do not object to
     logical, well-founded criticism, but I most decidedly do
     object to the ---- [censored] remarks and invidious
     comparisons indulged in by various ---- [censored] Readers.
     It's about time someone told them where to head in, and, by
     your leave, I'll do it.

     The most recent offender is J. Vernon Shea, Jr., a
     Pittsburgh lad of eighteen who, in the March issue, ventures
     to criticize the grammar of Ray Cummings, call the Editor
     harsh names, and demand that the magazine conform to his own
     dizzy notions. He concedes that Astounding Stories prints
     consistently interesting tales, but charges that the Editor
     is indifferent to "the advancement of Science Fiction." Mr.
     Shea, can't you see that the publication of first-class
     stories, as in this magazine, is the best possible way to
     popularize Science Fiction? Or do you simply prefer inferior
     stuff?

     Then there's D. R. Guthrie, from way back in Idaho, who
     liked a yarn in another magazine so much he had to tell us
     all about it--as if we didn't have the best Science Fiction
     ever written right here in Astounding Stories. Guthrie's
     another who seems to prefer brass to gold.

     Going back an issue or two, we note a letter from Edwin
     Magnuson, a deluded denizen of Duluth, who says he's plumb
     disgusted because Astounding Stories receives far more
     bouquets than brickbats, when according to him the mag
     deserves to be panned plenty. Get in step, Edwin, you're
     falling way behind!

     And I mustn't forget M. Clifford Johnston of the Newark
     Johnstons, who calls Astounding Stories trash and its
     Readers morons. Well, there are various degrees of mental
     incompetence, and the moron is far above the idiot, Mr.
     Johnston!

     Now that I've taken a few hasty pokes at those who most
     deserved them, I'll give my own comments on some of your
     latest stories--and anyone who feels like telling me where I
     get off is welcome to do so.

     First, let me take my hat off to Jack Williamson. I never
     thought much of his stuff in other mags, but his "The Meteor
     Girl" was a mighty fine piece of work. Evidently you've got
     to be good to crash Astounding Stories. Interesting as it
     was, though, Williamson's yarn contained a noticeable error.
     In the story, the narrator and his friend witness an event
     occurring twelve hours in the future at a distant place.
     They then travel to that place, reaching it at a time
     exactly corresponding to the time of the event witnessed.
     Therefore, they should have seen themselves in the future
     scene--an obvious fact which the author either failed to
     consider or conveniently ignored. [But--by the story, they
     did not arrive at the rock until just AFTER the events they
     witnessed by means of the fourth dimension. Thus, everything
     is O. K. Take another look.--Ed.] Despite this flaw the
     story embodied several original ideas, had plenty of action,
     and was well told. We can stand more of Williamson.

     "Phalanxes of Atlans," by F. V. W. Mason, was a corker. When
     writers of Mason's standing turn to Science Fiction, we fans
     have much to be thankful for. Is there any chance of our
     getting a story by Fred MacIsaac, Theodore Roscoe, or Erle
     Stanley Gardner? All of them are first-class writers, and
     they can handle Science Fiction better than many who have
     specialized in that field. The only other suggestion I can
     offer for improving the magazine is to have additional
     illustrations within the stories, such as Wide World
     Adventures used to have.

     Satisfied as I am with Astounding Stories it will probably
     be a long time before I write again--unless I feel called
     upon to administer a few more verbal spankings to certain
     obstreperous individuals!--Sears Langell, 1214 Boston Road,
     New York, N. Y.


"_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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