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´╗┐Title: Zurk
Author: Lewis, Robert O.
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 "Zurk" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                                 ZURK

                          By Richard O. Lewis

              Gentle Marene was next when the black space
              cruiser called for its youth-levy. If only
              Zurk would spark to life--Zurk, this huge,
                part-human war-machine of tubular steel
                  muscles and blank, mechanical mind.

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                      Planet Stories Winter 1941.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


There was both agony and defeat etched deeply into Guyard's lean face
as he stood there in the center of the hidden, attic laboratory. His
fists were clinched tightly at his sides and his hollow eyes were
staring tensely and with supplication at the steel monstrosity before
him.

"Zurk, you must save her!" he pleaded. "You must save Marene!"

Zurk, the man of steel, made no move. He sat there expressionless, his
electric-cell eyes staring out through the small window at the far end
of the laboratory.

Year after year, the steel giant had sat there staring through that
window, staring out into dim, perpetual daylight that always enveloped
that half of the moon which kept its face constantly toward Jupiter.

Week after week and month after month, Guyard had stood before the
giant, had stood there hurling thought-waves into the brain, but to no
avail. Something was wrong somewhere within the intricate mechanism,
some trouble he could not locate.

Nervous and shaken, he stood there glaring into the expressionless
eyes. There were but a scant two weeks left. Then the evil creatures
from the Land of Darkness on the other side of the moon would come to
claim Marene.

Desperation gave power to Guyard's tired brain. "_Zurk!_" His eyes
blazed into the giant's with a final effort. "_Move your head!_"

For a brief instant, Guyard was certain that a feeble thought-wave had
tried to penetrate his own brain; he thought he caught a faint glow in
the eyes.

Then he wheeled quickly at the sound of a step upon the ladder up to
the trap-door in the floor. His hand flashed to the gun at his belt,
and he waited tensely.

His hand relaxed as the door swung slowly upwards and he saw dark
curls and a smiling face. Marene. Marene, his daughter.

He went quickly to her, helped her up into the room and stood for a
moment with his arms about her shoulders, holding her to him.

A crazy panorama of thoughts went through his head. He remembered the
day of her birth aboard that ill-fated spaceship that had set out to
colonize Mars. That was the same day the commander of the ship had
reported engine trouble.

He remembered the first four years of her life aboard that helpless
ship, the ship that had finally landed the thousand weary colonists on
this moon of Jupiter's.

And then had come the creatures from the Land of Darkness to claim
youth as a tribute from the helpless Earthians. Once every four years,
they came to claim young men and women for some hideous experiment of
theirs on the other side of the moon.

And now Marene was just sixteen, and the creatures would be coming
again in their black spaceship within two weeks! Guyard was thankful
that death had spared Marene's mother from this greater horror.

He held the girl tightly to him.

She drew away finally and smiled up at him with the bravery of youth.
"Father," she said, "whatever happens, I'm not afraid." Her voice was
like calm music to his troubled brain. "Anyway, I have news for you!"

"News?"

"Yes. Captain Simms is going to try, maybe trying right this instant to
get a radio message through to the Earth!"

"Impossible!" Guyard shook his head quickly. "Zuldi and his guards keep
the city under constant surveillance! Captain Simms should know better,
than to try! Zuldi and his devils will detect the vibration instantly!"

"But Captain Simms is trying a different type of sender," Marene
explained. "He hopes that Zuldi's detectors will not...."

She broke off suddenly.

Guyard, too, heard the tumult somewhere out in the street, and the
sound of croaking shouts. He hurried to the window and looked out.

       *       *       *       *       *

There in the street almost below him stood Zuldi and six other of the
hated creatures, their scaly, bloated bodies smeared with a green
substance as protection against the rigors of light. Thick-lensed
glasses shaded their eyes.

Zuldi, croaking loudly to attract attention, was waving his arms and
pointing downward at the broken body of Captain Simms that lay at his
feet. Beside the dead man lay the tangled mass of what might once have
been a radio, a radio that would never send its message to distant
Earth.

Zuldi stopped his shouting, and spat upon the man in the dust and sent
a heavily-clawed foot raking over the already lacerated chest. He was
using Captain Simms as an example to all other Earthians in the city.

Guyard felt a hot bitterness rising uncontrollably within him. He flung
the window open, jerked the gun from his belt and centered the sights
upon the center of Zuldi's bone-crested forehead.

"Damn him!" he breathed. "I'll...."

It was Marene who knocked the gun down before he had a chance to
fire. A great fear was in her eyes as she wrested the weapon from his
fingers. "You can't do it, Father! You can't do it!" She thrust the gun
into a pocket beneath her short coat.

"Putting Zuldi out of the way would not help us," she reminded him.
"The other Earthians had guns. They would discover that you had a gun
and guess that others would only kill you. They would end our chances
to fight the black ship when it comes."

A semblance of reason came back to Guyard. For the past two years, he
had, when not training Zurk's mind, been turning out gun after gun in
his small, electric furnace. Those guns had been secretly distributed
to the men of the city to use when the right moment came. And now he
had come very nearly to ruining those chances.

He began speaking, as if thinking aloud. "They have dismantled our
spaceship, broken our radios and killed every man who has tried to get
a message through to Earth. They have taken our youth, searched out our
secret laboratories and killed our scientists."

His eyes were blazing. "But this time we are going to fight!"

Guyard knew that a fight with the powerful creatures from the Land of
Darkness would mean annihilation for the Earthians. But there was no
other apparent way.

He turned again to the steel giant, his eyes misty. "Had Zurk not
failed us," he said, "I should have built a hundred more like him.
Insulated against the shock of the voltage guns, a hundred men of
steel could have marched into the Land of Darkness and crushed our
captors--wiped them out!"

Marene, too, had turned to look at the giant. She went forward now,
raised one of the huge hands and let it fall with a metallic, squeaking
"z-zzurk." Long ago, as a small child, she had done that same thing,
and because of the sound had named the giant "Zurk."

She stood looking up into the expressionless eyes. When she spoke, her
voice was like that of a small girl talking to a disobedient doll. "You
must not fail us now, Zurk. We need you. You must help us!"

Guyard went to her and put an arm about her shoulders. "It's no use,"
he said. "I've tried day after day. He makes no move."

"But I'm certain he understands you," insisted the girl. "Sometimes I
am certain I have caught a glow in his eyes. A glow of understanding."

"He _does_ understand me!" Guyard was staring into the eyes again,
tense with emotion. "His brain is a part of my very own! I have
nurtured that brain with my own thoughts. I have trained it."

Then he shook his head slowly. "But it's no use. It is too late. One of
him would not be enough. There is no time to build more."

Guyard was so busy with his own thoughts that he did not hear the scaly
sound of feet upon the ladder leading up into the laboratory. He did
not see the bone-crested head that came slowly up above the level of
the floor behind him.

His first indication of danger was a green-smeared arm that whipped
about Marene and jerked her roughly away from him.

Guyard's hand raked at his belt as he wheeled about. But the gun was
not in his belt. Marene had taken it from him, had placed it beneath
her own short coat. He was unarmed.

Four of the creatures were already in the room, Zuldi among them. More
were coming up through the trap door.

Guyard knew that he was facing death, a hideous death. Zuldi and his
monsters would gleefully claw him to pieces, throw him into the street.

One of the creatures charged him suddenly with huge arms and clawed
hands outstretched.

       *       *       *       *       *

Desperation and a sense of his own helplessness surged through Guyard.
It gave him a mad strength beyond all reason. His balled fist lashed
out with all the fury that twelve horrible years of hatred could give
it. The flesh and bone of the beast's face fairly exploded into gory
pulp as the blow landed.

At almost the same instant, another clawed hand grasped Guyard by the
shoulder and sent him spinning backward to land with a crash against
the table at the far side of the room. It was Zuldi.

Guyard stood leaning against the table, dazed and shaken.

He heard Marene's scream and saw the two creatures forcing her down
through the trap door. They would not harm her. They would let her live
for a worse fate. The black ship would be coming in less than two weeks.

"We saw you open the window a while ago. That's what brought us up."
Zuldi was standing before him, his huge, round mouth with its yellow
teeth hanging open in pleasure. "I'm so glad we came. Two examples in
the same morning is more than I had hoped for."

Guyard's hand closed over a heavy wrench upon the table behind him. He
had no hope of winning through; his only desire was to take Zuldi with
him in death.

One of the guards saw the act, shouted a warning and hastily drew his
voltage gun.

With a mad cry upon his lips, Guyard sprang forward with wrench
swinging. Zuldi's evil face was before him. Guyard wanted to smash it,
obliterate it.

But the wrench never reached its mark. A crackling flame filled the
room. Guyard was spun half way around as the full charge of the
voltage gun caught him high in the right side of his chest and filled
his whole body with a burning agony.

The wrench dropped to the floor. His arms became leaden things that
hung heavily at his sides. He stood there gasping for air. Completely
burned out inside, he had but a few seconds left. Only his brain seemed
to be alive.

Zuldi was before him, his hideous face black with anger beneath its
smeared green. "So!" he hissed. "You would dare to strike!" His clawed
hand flashed out to rake down the face and chest of the helpless man.

Guyard felt no pain. His whole body was numb, dying. He stood there
while Zuldi tore at him, stood there staring straight into the eyes of
the great steel giant.

"Zurk!" The thought-wave went out with all the power of his brain.
"_Zurk! You've ... you've got to save ... Marene!_"

For some reason, he felt closer to that steel-cased brain than he had
ever felt before. He saw the light in the giant's eyes change almost
imperceptibly. And he felt thought-waves hammering at his own brain.
Zurk, even at the last moment, was trying to tell him something. But
the message was garbled, incoherent.

Then his tortured lungs could breathe no longer. His legs crumpled
painlessly beneath him and he went sprawling forward to come to rest
with one arm flung out across a steel foot.

The next instant was a frightful one. It was filled with agony,
bewilderment and awful blackness. It seemed to Guyard that something
was reaching out for him, something that was struggling to wrest him
away from the void of nothingness.

Then there was a sudden peace--and silence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dim walls of the laboratory slowly took form. They seemed to
grow out of nothingness. Gradually they began to take on a definite
shape and brightness. Other objects in the room became clear-cut and
distinct. And sound vibrations floated in.

Guyard was puzzled. He thought he must be awakening from some
nightmare. Perhaps, after all, Zuldi and his men had been but a bad
dream.

No! There was blood upon the floor of the laboratory! The electric
furnace that had once been upon the table was gone, had been torn away!
The wrench still lay where it had fallen from his nerveless fingers!

He was dead! His body had been thrown into the street! And yet....

Guyard was more bewildered than ever. His body was dead! And yet he
could see! His consciousness was still alive!

For a long moment, he wondered. Then the realization of what had
happened came to him with a startling clearness. During his last moment
of life, he had been sending a message to Zurk's brain, had been in
the closest harmony with it. And during that last moment, his own
consciousness, released by the death of his body, had leaped the gap
between those two closely related brains!

_He was now occupying Zurk's brain! He was now Zurk!_

The thought of it thrilled him. He saw his barrel-like chest of steel,
his huge arms, his extended, powerful legs.

He would kill Zuldi now!

But first he would go to Marene. He would tell her that he was still
alive. He would explain to her the transformation that had taken place.

He would go ... now....

His thoughts broke off suddenly. Something was wrong. He had willed to
rise. But his great body had not responded.

Half frightened, he tried again with all the force of his new-found
brain.

A tiny vibration at the back of his neck became increasingly painful.
The vibration grew quickly in intensity until it became a searing flame
of agony, a searing flame that robbed him of his strength and sent the
walls of the laboratory floating away into darkness.

It seemed to Zurk--or Guyard--that it was hours before the energy
rebuilt itself within the steel frame.

He knew now where the trouble was. One of the hundred tiny wires at the
back of his neck was loose; it was shorting his energy through the huge
body.

That was the message Zurk had been trying to get through to him even
at the last moment! That was what had kept the man of steel immobile
through the years!

One tiny, thread-like wire had cheated a thousand Earthians from their
freedom! And there was nothing to be done!

The trap door opened slowly some time later, and Marene came up into
the room. Her eyes were hollow and sad, but she seemed even more
beautiful.

Zurk could not feel the hot tears that coursed down over the steel hand
that Marene was holding against her soft cheek; but he could hear the
sweet vibrations of her voice.

"Zurk. Oh, Zurk!" She was sobbing quietly against the hand she held.
"You're ... you're the only one I have left now."

She raised her head and choked back the tears. "Forgive me, Zurk," she
pleaded, "and please understand...."

The transformed Zurk would have given anything to let her know that he
understood. As it was, he struggled with all his might to give her some
sign of understanding, struggled until the small flame at the back of
his neck grew white hot and sent him reeling into an oblivion filled
with blackness.

When light rays and sound vibrations again began streaming into his
consciousness, Marene had gone.

He didn't know how much time had elapsed since Zuldi's visit. Maybe a
day. Maybe a week. Soon the black ship would be coming....

The thought of that black ship and what it meant sent Zurk into another
frantic struggle against the thing at the back of his neck. Time and
time again he struggled until blackness overcame him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once, when consciousness returned to him, he became aware of two people
standing before him looking up at him.

One was Marene. The other was a slim youth a year or two older than she.

"Too bad he doesn't work," the young man was saying. "He would be such
a help in the fight that is soon to come."

"Yes," said Marene. Her voice was hopeful. "Perhaps you could find out
what is wrong with him."

A ray of hope flashed through Zurk. If the young man could find the
loose wire at the back of his neck....

But the young man was shaking his head. "There is not time enough
for that," he said. "It would take weeks to go over that intricate
mechanism. As it is, I have only time enough to get the gun assembled
and placed."

Zurk watched Marene lead the young man to the table at the end of the
room near the window. She pressed a button, and a small door slid open
in the floor beneath the table to expose two neatly coiled electrodes.

The young man's face lighted. "Just the thing," he said. "With that
electrical power, my gun is bound to be a success!"

"But it's dangerous," warned Marene. "Zuldi knows of this laboratory."

"I doubt if he'll come back. He'll probably believe that no one would
dare to use this laboratory again." A shadow of doubt came across the
young man's face. "But I can't understand how it happened that Zuldi
tore out the electric furnace in which your father built the guns but
failed to molest Zurk."

Zurk could have told him. The answer was somewhere back in his
sub-conscious mind. Zuldi had considered the metal giant as being
but some Earthian god, a powerless entity. He had spat upon the god
contemptuously and had left it standing.

Marene's hand was upon the young man's arm and she was looking up into
his eyes. "Bob," she said earnestly, "your gun _must_ be a success!
It is not just for our own sakes; there are a thousand other lives
depending upon it."

Bob put his hand over hers. "It _will_ be a success!" he promised.
Then, "But we've got to hurry. If they come a day earlier.... If they
should happen to come tomorrow...."

He left the sentence unfinished, gave Marene's hand a reassuring
squeeze and hurried to the trap door that led down from the attic
laboratory.

Guyard was shocked to find that the two weeks was nearly up, was
surprised to learn that his struggles against the thing at the back
of his neck had sent him into such long periods of blackness. But the
passing of time made one thing clear to him: it explained why he now
constantly thought of himself not as Guyard, the man, but as Zurk, the
giant of steel!

The bustle of work in the laboratory made Zurk almost forget his
helplessness. Time and time again, the young man hurried into the room
to take molded pieces of steel from beneath his coat and to pile them
upon the table before Marene.

"Now!" he said finally. "Now if we can get them assembled in time!"

He took off his coat and set to work with the hopeful energy of youth.

"It's one of the blast rockets from the spaceship that brought us
here," he explained. "The rockets get their power by disintegrating the
atoms of fuel within their chambers. If we can change the procedure a
bit, if we can get the disintegrating principle to work at long range
instead of being confined merely to the fuel chamber."

Zurk got the idea instantly. A disintegrator! The youth was
constructing a long-range disintegrator with which to blow the black
ship out of the sky! The thrill of it coursed through his brain. The
Earthians were going to fight! They were going to make a last stand
against the Creatures of Darkness.

But he, Zurk, would be powerless to help.

       *       *       *       *       *

Through the long hours of the day and night, Zurk sat there watching
the two youngsters at their toil. They were working against time now,
struggling for the right of freedom and happiness.

But Zuldi might come. He might come before the gun was finished. Or he
might come before the arrival of the black ship.

Hours later, Bob made the final adjustments on the machine and stepped
back to look at it. His face was pale and his hands trembled slightly
with excitement.

"Now to test it!" he told Marene. "And ... and I hope it works!"

He turned the long snout of the gun toward the open window, connected
the electrodes and made final adjustments.

"Wait!" Marene placed a hand upon his arm. A sudden fear had come into
her sparkling eyes. "If the gun makes a flash or a vibration of any
kind, Zuldi will be sure to know. He will come here immediately!"

Bob paused. "That's right," he said finally. Then, "But we've _got_ to
test it! We can't wait until the black ship comes! We've got to be
_sure_!"

They stood there for a moment gazing into each other's eyes. Then Bob
put his arm about her and drew her to him. "It doesn't matter so much
about us," he told her. "We are doomed anyway. It's your father and my
father and all the others in the city that we must think about! It is
they...."

He broke off short, his lips tight and his eyes blazing out of the
window toward the far-away, dark horizon from whence the black ship
would come. Several giant birds were soaring lazily through the pale
sky.

The young man seemed much older as he stood there. Zurk saw the lines
of care in the cleanly cut face. And, at last, he recognized the youth.
Bob Simms. The son of Captain Simms whose dead body had been dragged
through the dusty streets by Zuldi and his men.

"We've got to test it!" the young man said again.

Zurk saw him put his shoulder determinedly against the piece and wheel
the snout of it toward one of the soaring birds just outside the window.

Zurk's photo-electric eyes saw the vibration of the charge slit through
the pale sky scant inches from the bird as the youth pressed the
release.

But Bob had not seen that tell-tale vibration. He had seen only that
the bird before him remained unharmed. The bitterness of defeat showed
in his face.

"Try again," urged Marene.

Once again, the youth aimed the gun and pressed the release with
trembling fingers.

And once again Zurk's eyes saw the vibration miss its mark by inches.
But he saw something else. He saw something no human eyes could see.
Miles away on the far horizon, he saw another giant bird caught
squarely by the charge. The bird disolved instantly into a smoky haze
as every atom within it suddenly lost its valence.

Zurk could have cried out with satisfaction had it not been for the
tiny wire that shorted itself with white heat at the back of his neck.

It made him realize once more his complete helplessness.

Marene and the young man were standing there looking dejectedly at the
gun. "It won't work," Bob groaned. "I've got to take it apart. I've got
to try again."

Zurk tried with all his might to tell the young man that the gun was a
success. He tried until blackness sought to engulf him.

Then his delicate ears picked up a sound vibration that sent a chill
through his brain. He could hear the hurried scrape of many clawed feet
in the street below.

Zuldi and his men! They had detected the vibration of the gun! They
were hurrying to investigate!

And there was something else. Far above the distant horizon was a black
speck that grew suddenly larger as it leaped forward through the pale
sky.

The black ship! It was coming a day ahead of schedule!

       *       *       *       *       *

Zurk struggled desperately to warn the two who stood there in the attic
laboratory. He tried to warn them of the black ship and of Zuldi and
his guards who were even now within the house.

But his struggles were in vain. The hot pain stabbed deep into the back
of his neck, robbing him of his strength. The walls of the room reeled
and faded before his waning eyes.

He knew that further struggle was useless. It would only send him
plunging deeper into that awful blackness. Anyway, he seemed not to
have the strength to struggle more.

He sat there motionless and terror stricken while the scene unfolded
before his eyes.

Bob and Marene had caught sight of the ship. It had come to a hovering
stop just outside the window, its black hull seeming to fill the whole
sky. A long ladder had been let down from one of its open ports and
Creatures of Darkness were filing down into the city.

Soon those evil monsters would be ferreting out the healthy youth of
the city.

Zurk, powerless to stop them or to shout a warning, watched Zuldi and
his men come quickly up into the laboratory through the trap door.

Neither Bob nor Marene saw their danger. Marene was staring fearfully
out at the black ship and Bob was working frantically with the gun.

"If we can blast the ship out of the sky," Bob was saying. "If we can
kill the creatures already in the city, get their voltage guns...."

Bob never finished his hopes. A giant, clawed hand clutched him by the
shoulder at that moment and spun him back and away from the gun, spun
him back and away until he nearly collided with Zurk's steel frame.

Zurk felt the strain and horror of it all driving him deeper into
blackness.

Zuldi's hideous face was twisted into an anticipatory smirk. He took a
slow, deliberate step closer to the young man.

"You Earthians will never learn," he hissed. His clawed fingers were
writhing nervously. "But one more example will not hurt. You know the
penalty."

Bob's jaws were clamped tightly. His whole body was trembling with pent
rage and hate. He stood there looking steadily into the beast's eyes,
waiting.

"One less youth in the shipment to the other side will make little
difference," Zuldi smirked. "The blood we have taken in the past is
nearly enough for our needs. The transfusions have rendered my people
almost immune from the ravages of heat and light rays."

His red eyes were glowing behind their protective glasses. His heavy
lips were twisting gloatingly. "Soon we shall be able to leave the Land
of Darkness. Soon we shall conquer new lands."

His eyes narrowed and he took a sudden step forward, clawed hands
extended. "And we shall have no further use for Earthians!"

"Damn you!" Bob's set face was livid with emotion. "Damn you!" he
shouted again. "You'll never live to kill another Earthian!"

His hand swept into the open front of his shirt and came out again with
one of the hand guns Zurk--or Guyard--had made in the secret furnace.
In one swift motion, he leveled the gun at Zuldi's huge chest and
squeezed the trigger.

The crash of the explosion jarred against Zurk's ears with a shattering
force that drove some of the blackness from his brain. He saw
immediately that the charge had not reached its intended mark.

One of the other creatures, at sight of the gun, had leaped suddenly
forward--to receive the heavy slug in his own chest.

The bullet did not stop him. His momentum carried his dead body forward
to crash into Bob, to knock the gun from his hand and to send him
spinning and stumbling backward.

Zuldi laughed, and drew his voltage gun.

During that split second, a thousand other vibrations smashed into
Zurk's hot brain. He heard bedlam break loose in the streets below. The
Earthians were fighting!

Mingled with the crash of the hand guns and the slithering vibrations
of the voltage weapons were cries, groans, shouts and curses. And over
it all came the sudden, high-pitched whine of the black ship's radio, a
whine to the far side of the moon for help.

Soon there would be other black ships.

Marene was standing there looking at him, her eyes staring into his
own, pleading with him! Then she turned and made a dash for the
long-snouted gun upon the table, only to be dragged away from it by two
of the monsters.

Zurk knew that the last, insane episode had come. This was to be the
last of the Earthians! And if he were ever going to come to their aid,
he must do it now.

       *       *       *       *       *

He threw all the power of his giant frame into the will to stand, into
the will to rise up and to slay these evil creatures about him.

He tried to ignore the stabbing pain at his back, tried to believe it
did not exist. He hurled forth his energy in wave after wave until the
flame became a consuming thing that ate deep within him and filled his
brain with the shadows of dark despair.

Through that creeping blackness, he saw Bob Simms frantically try to
evade the sweep of Zuldi's weapon. He felt the young man stumble over
one of his helpless, steel feet, felt him stagger against his metal
knee and fall.

And at almost the same instant the blast from Zuldi's voltage gun went
crashing through the room.

Zurk saw the streak of the charge as it passed just above the fallen
youth and felt the full, deadly shock of it strike squarely into his
own huge chest of steel with a force that quaked the whole of his giant
frame.

Then came deep silence. It seemed that all time had suddenly stopped.

Zuldi and the other creatures were standing there staring at him, their
bulging eyes terror-stricken.

The vibration of Marene's sudden cry swept against his ears. "_Zurk!
You are free!_"

He realized then what had happened. His steel frame had taken the full
stock of Zuldi's voltage gun. And that shock had burned off the wire
that had been shorting his energy at the back of his neck!

He was standing there on his own two feet! He was moving his head! He
was free!

Withering blasts from a half dozen voltage guns tore suddenly into his
steel body, rocking him on his feet. But he didn't care. He was free!

A savage cry came from his steel throat as he brushed aside the
creatures and their guns. He went directly to the opening in the floor,
put his heavy foot against the trap door and kicked it shut with a
splintering crash that wedged it tightly home.

Then he turned slowly about to face Zuldi and the creatures. There was
no escape for them now!

From outside, came the sound of successive, powerful blasts. The black
ship was bringing its heavy guns into action, was bombarding the city.

Zurk caught two of the creatures as a great cat would catch mice. Their
gibbering death-cries filled his ears with pleasure as he smashed their
heads together and flung their lifeless bodies against the wall.

"The disintegrator!" he shouted to Bob. "Knock that ship out of the
sky! This will be a fight they will remember!"

His steel fist crashed into the evil brain of another.

Then came a roaring bolt of destruction more powerful than all the
others. It struck the corner of the attic, quaked the building to its
foundations and sent one wall of the laboratory swirling away in a
burst of flying debris.

Two of the trapped creatures sprang out of the opening, screaming.
Zuldi would have followed had not Zurk clutched him up in his huge
hands. Slowly, the man of steel twisted the evil creature's head about
in a complete circle. Then he raised the lifeless body high into the
air and cast it down into the dust of the street below.

[Illustration: _His great steel hand shot out and seized Zuldi's scaly
neck._]

He turned to find Marene and Bob standing beside the gun. Marene was
sobbing quietly. Bob was staring bewilderedly at the dangling end of
one of the electrodes he held in his hands.

"The blast from the ship!" he cried. "The blast from the ship carried
away one of the electrodes! We are without power for the disintegrator!"

Zurk took the severed cable into his own hands. He saw immediately
that repairs were out of the question. A long section had been blasted
away between the floor and the gun. And the disintegrator was useless
without power!

Another blast from the black ship shuddered the laboratory and brought
answering sparks from Zurk's steel shell.

Then he knew! The solution came startlingly clear to his brain. He
would make the connection with his own metal body!

       *       *       *       *       *

Grasping the cable tighter in his hand, he set his foot down heavily
upon the other end that lay upon the floor.

His eyes glowed as he wheeled the snout of the gun about with his
free hand, wheeled it directly toward the heart of the black ship and
pressed the release with his thumb.

The burning wave of hot power that surged through him nearly blinded
him. But he saw the great ship shudder as the disintegrating force
smashed into it, saw it lose form in a shapeless cloud of nothingness
as its neutralized atoms went spinning away.

A great cry of triumph rang out from the fighting men of the city. The
hand guns redoubled their fury.

"They've got the creatures on the run!" It was Marene. She was looking
down into the street from the broken wall of the laboratory.

But there were more ships coming. Zurk saw the tiny black specks that
had leaped above the far horizon.

He stopped two of them while they were still but specks, saw a third
wheel back toward the dark side, its radio whining. The others came
hurtling on.

Methodically, one by one, he began blasting them from the sky. The hot
charges of power that coursed through his body bleared his eyes and
jarred his senses.

Only two of the ships remained. He sent one of them into oblivion;
missed the other. Twice more, the ravishing shudders of power racked
his body before the black ship and its evil crew vanished into
nothingness before his burning eyes.

But there was no time for rest. Other black ships were coming.

Zurk, now a glowing, burning thing, felt himself moving the gun slowly
from one to another of the ships.

Zurk was surprised to find so few ships left. He must have gotten more
of them than he had thought. If he had been able to hang on a moment or
two longer....

A wave of blackness began to spread over him.

The great surges of energy pounding devastatingly through his
heat-ridden body jarred him back again into consciousness. Through a
black and red mist, he saw the youth bending over the gun. The young
man's eyes were afire with the light of battle and his face was grim as
he worked the weapon deliberately and methodically.

Zurk felt an overwhelming desire for peace creep over him. He knew what
that meant.

But he didn't care. His steel body was solidly fused to the ends of the
cable. Even in death, his body would continue to hold the connection
while Bob Simms rid the city of the demons for all time. Never again
would the black ships dare to attack. And the Earthians could rebuild
their own spaceship.

His heavy head slumped slowly forward to rest upon his hot arm. The
wild, triumphant shouts of the people in the street came but dimly to
his ears as he felt himself swimming away into a warm, red mist.

Then came the last vibration of all. It was an infinitely sweet
vibration that caressed his tired brain and gave to him the peace he
needed.

He knew it was Marene--_his Marene_--who had set that vibration into
motion with her lips as close to his ear as she dared.

"Thank you, Zurk," came that last vibration. "Thank you, _Father_!"





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