The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Viii Part 59

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"You have arrived. Unfasten your cylinders and emerge."

They stepped out of the transporters and rubbed their eyes in astonishment. Two of the huge slugs had been amazing, but the effect of half a hundred grouped about them was more than the mind could, for a moment, grasp. They were in a huge room composed apparently of the same silvery material of which the transporters were made. It rose above them in a huge dome with no signs of windows or openings. It was lighted by a soft glow which seemed to emanate from the material of the dome itself, for it cast no shadows. On a raised platform before them rested one of the huge slugs, a broad band of silvery metal set with flas.h.i.+ng coruscating jewels clasped about its body. From the ornament and the exalted position, they judged that they were before the Grand Mognac of Mars. With a muttered word to Turgan to follow him, Damis advanced to the foot of the platform and bowed deeply.

"I thank you for that mark of respect, Nepthalim," came a thought wave from the Grand Mognac, "but such forms are obsolete on Mars. Here all living intelligences are equal. Only the accident of superior mental power is allowed to differentiate between us and this added power brings only added and more arduous duties. You came here to get weapons which will free you from the dominance of the Jovians who rule you, did you not?"

"We did, oh Grand Mognac," replied Damis.

"Your prayers shall be answered if you are found worthy. Relate to me now all that has pa.s.sed since the Jovians first landed on your planet. If you can form thoughts without speaking, you may save the effort of speech. The air has become so thin on Mars that sound will not carry over large portions of it. As a result, we have no organs of hearing, for they have been atrophied from ages of disuse. We use thought as our only means of communication."



Rapidly, Damis marshaled his thoughts in order. Slowly and carefully he pictured in his mind the landing of the Jovians as he had heard it described and then the event leading up to their trip. The Grand Mognac frequently interrupted him and caused him to amplify in detail some of the mental pictures and at times turned to Turgan and requested him to picture the same events. When Damis had finished the Grand Mognac was motionless for ten minutes.

"Pardon me for sealing my thoughts from you," he said at length, "but my consultation with my councillors was not a matter for those from another planet to know, no matter how friendly they may be. My council have agreed with me that your tale is a true one and has been fairly pictured. We have no interest in the fate of your planet except that we desire to help the form best adapted to bring about the day we all await with anxiety when all of the planets will be united in bonds of love and justice. We believe that the form which developed on the Earth is better adapted to this than the form which developed on Jupiter and we will give you weapons which will enable you to free yourselves and to protect your planet against future invasions. My scientists are now busy preparing for you weapons which we will deliver to your s.h.i.+p. Meanwhile, you are our honored guests. You will be interested in seeing life as it exists here and Attomanis, one of my council, will be your guide and will answer your questions."

The Grand Mognac dropped the upper portion of his body to the dais as a sign that the interview was ended. Damis and Turgan hurriedly tried to form appropriate expressions of grat.i.tude in their minds but a powerful thought wave took possession of their minds.

"Follow me," it said.

One of the caterpillars crawled forward and beckoned to them. With a backward glance at the Grand Mognac who seemed unaware of their existence, Damis and Turgan followed their guide. He led the way to a platform upon which he slowly crawled. In answer to a thought command, Turgan and Damis climbed upon it and in an instant they were skimming at high speed over the ground. The platform came to a stop near the outer edge of the huge dome. They followed their guide from the platform to a box-like contrivance built against the dome. It had lenses similar in appearance to the observers on the Jovian s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p but built on a larger scale. Attomanis removed the lenses from the instrument and subst.i.tuted two smaller pairs through which he motioned Turgan and Damis to look.

Before them lay a huge plain across which ran a belt of green foliage. The vegetation forms were like nothing the earth could show. There were no true leaves but huge pulpy branches ran up into the air a hundred feet and divided and subdivided until they became no larger around than hairs. At places on the plants were huge crimson, mauve and blue flowers, ten feet across. As they watched a monstrous form flitted into view. It was that of a b.u.t.terfly, but such a b.u.t.terfly as they had never imagined.

The spread of the huge wings was fully a hundred feet across and its swollen body was larger by far than the huge slug which stood beside them. The b.u.t.terfly waved its thirty-foot tentacles and approached one of the blue flowers. A long curled sucker, fifty feet in length, unrolled and was plunged down into the heart of the trumpet-shaped flower. Gradually the blue color faded to mauve and then to a brilliant crimson. The b.u.t.terfly abandoned it when the change of color was completed and flitted away to another of the blue blooms.

"What manner of thing is that?" demanded Damis.

"That was a member of the council," replied Attomanis. "She was chosen to be one of those to perpetuate our race. Evolution has gone further with us than on your planet but it will show you what in time you may expect.

"Life started with an amoeba on Mars as it did on Earth and the slow process of evolution followed similar lines. At one time forms like yours were the ruling and guiding intelligences of Mars. They were, however, a highly specialized form. As conditions changed, the form changed. The head and chest grew larger as the air grew thinner until the enfeebled trunk and limbs could no longer support their weight. Gradually the form died out and was replaced by others.

"The forms which you call insects on your Earth were more primitive and hardier forms and more readily adaptable. They increased in size and in intelligence until they were ready to supplant all other forms. The last vestiges of the bipeds were carefully nurtured and guarded by our forefathers until the vanis.h.i.+ng atmosphere made their survival impossible. The insect form became supreme.

"We multiplied with extreme rapidity and would have overcrowded the planet had we not learned several things. Our present form of life is immature in many ways. For example, we are totally unable to reproduce our kind. That is the function of the next phase. In this form, however, the intelligence reaches its maximum. As a result, all living creatures, except selected ones, have their growth arrested at the larval stage and pa.s.s their entire life in this form. Certain ones at long intervals of time as the population diminishes, are allowed to spin coc.o.o.ns and hatch out in the form you have witnessed. This form is almost brainless, the securing of nourishment from flowers and reproducing their kind being the limits of their intelligence. The eggs are maturing in the body of the one you saw. Soon she will lay many thousands of them and then, her life mission accomplished, she will die. We will gather these eggs and tend them until they hatch. All defective ones will be destroyed and the balance will be instructed until they are ready to take their place in the community and carry on the work of the planet."

"That is extremely interesting," exclaimed Damis. "Will our Earth in time support the same forms of life as does Mars now?"

"I can see no reason why evolution should follow a different path there than it has here," replied Attomanis, "but millions of years will pa.s.s before you lose your atmosphere to such an extent as we have. All of our water is gathered at the polar icecaps, from whence we lead it as it melts through underground pipes hundreds of miles to the spot where we desire vegetation to grow. There we deliver it directly to the roots of the plants so there is no waste. Great bands of cultivated areas crisscross the planet where the soil is of unusual fertility. A certain number of plants are allowed to flower and to bear fruit for the sustenance of the reproductive form of life and to replace themselves. The others we devour while they are young and tender."

"Do you always live in these sealed cities?"

"Always. There are hundreds of them scattered over the planet. As you have noticed, they are composed of damazonium, the same substance as is used in making the transporters. The whole city is but a large transporter. When we desire to feed, the city is disintegrated and materialized over a patch of vegetation which we eat. When the supply is for a time exhausted, the city is moved. This is one way in which we conserve the small supply of atmosphere which is left."

Attomanis suddenly paused and held up one hand for silence. In a moment the thought waves again beat in on the consciousness of Damis and Turgan.

"The weapons which were promised you are ready," he said. "We will return to the throne of the Grand Mognac and you will receive instructions in their use."

He again mounted the platform and Damis and Turgan took their places beside him. Rapidly they were borne over the ground until they came to a stop before the dais on which the Grand Mognac rested. Beside the four cylinders in which they and the Grand Mognac's messengers had traveled from the s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p to the city, another of huge proportions stood before the platform. Beside it were two instruments. From a ma.s.s of coils and tubes a long rod projected up. It was pivoted so that it could be directed toward any point. The rod on one of the instruments was blue while the other was a fiery scarlet.

"These are the weapons which will enable you to destroy your oppressors and prevent more from ever landing," said the Grand Mognac. "I must caution you, however, regarding their use. They generate a ray of almost infinite frequency, much higher than the disintegrating ray the Jovians use. Instead of resolving materials into light and energy, these devices will absolutely destroy the ether, that imponderable substance which permeates and fills all s.p.a.ce.

"Heat and light travel in waves through the ether. When it is destroyed, only blackness and entire absence of heat remain. Nothing can bear the cold of interstellar s.p.a.ce and yet it is warm compared to the absolute cold which the absence of ether produces. When you direct one of these rays toward a Jovian s.h.i.+p, the ether in the s.h.i.+p is destroyed. No insulation against the cold of s.p.a.ce will interfere for the ether penetrates and permeates all substance. The cold of absolute nothingness will destroy all life in the twinkling of an eye and the s.h.i.+p will be reduced to a puff of powder. At such a temperature, even stellanium has less strength than the most brittle substance.

"There are two of these devices, set to different powers. The one with the blue rod is for use against s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+ps either before or after they enter the atmosphere envelope. Beware of using it except when it points in a direction almost normal to the surface of your planet. These devices tap and use the enormous force of gravity itself and when they are locked to your planet, they are anch.o.r.ed to the center of gravity of the planet. Unless it were normal to the planet's surface, its reactive force is so great that it would disrupt the balance which holds the planet in place were the beam sent off on a tangential line.

"The other, whose projecting rod is painted red, can be used at any angle as its force is only a minute fraction of that of the other. It also must be locked to the center of gravity of the earth before it is used by means of the switch on the front. This instrument will give you power to annihilate your oppressors on earth, for while it has not the terrible force of the other, it will penetrate any protective screen which the science of Jupiter can erect. Use it only against the Jovians and when you have finished with it, destroy it that it may not fall into the hands of those who would misuse it. The other may be left intact to repel other Jovian attacks but I think you need fear none. Once they learn you have it, they will be content with their conquests of Venus and Mercury and give you a wide berth. The Jovians have had a taste of it already and they leave Mars alone. Each instrument is set in action by closing the switch on top, after closing the gravity anchor switch. To stop them, open the top switch."

Under the direction of the Grand Mognac, the Martians placed the terrible weapons in the transporter prepared for them. Turgan and Damis strove to thank the Grand Mognac for his gift but he interrupted them promptly.

"No thanks are due us," he said. "We have done that which we believe is the best for the orderly development of this galaxy of planets and there is no reason why we should be thanked. Now enter the transporters and you will be returned to your s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p. Destroy your oppressors and work for the day when Mars and Earth will march in peace toward the final goal of all life."

Accompanied by two Martian envoys, Damis and Turgan entered the cylinders and fastened them closely. They set their feet in place and grasped the handles before them. Again came the feeling of nausea and then a thought ordered them to emerge from the transporters. They emerged almost at the same instant. Before them lay the s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p with its airlock wide open. Not a living soul was in sight. Damis leaped toward the s.h.i.+p, but his foot struck an obstruction which sent him sprawling. He glanced down and a hoa.r.s.e cry of alarm broke from his lips. He had stumbled over the body of Kastner. The body had been horribly mutilated by some heavy instrument, one arm hanging to the torso by a mere shred of flesh. Scattered around on the ground lay other mutilated bodies.

With a shout of anguish, Turgan sped toward the open s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p. Damis, with a pale face, hastily examined the dead bodies. Eighteen of the Terrestrials lay stiff in death while the bodies of two huge Jovians in the uniform of Glavour's personal guard told the cause of their death. Damis struck by a sudden apprehension, ran from one body to the next, and in a little while he straightened up with a momentary breath of relief. Lura's body was not among them. He turned to the s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p in time to see Turgan appear in the door of the airlock, his face distorted by grief and his tall body swaying. Damis hurriedly ran to him.

"Is Lura--dead?"

He brought out the last word with an effort. Turgan's face worked for a moment before he could reply. Through the thin air of Mars came his choking voice.

"Worse," he muttered: "she is gone!"

CHAPTER IV.

Damis' Decision Damis stared at Turgan for a moment as though unable to comprehend the old man's words.

"Gone?" he repeated stupidly. "She has slain herself?"

"No," replied the Kildare, his face still working in grief; "she is gone from us. She has been captured by Glavour's minions."

"Her dagger--?" asked Damis hesitatingly.

"Is gone with her," replied Turgan.

The Nepthalim started toward the s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p but a thought wave from one of the Martian envoys stopped him in mid-stride.

"Wait, Man of Earth," came the message. "The heavens are eternally watched by our people and none can enter or leave the vicinity of Mars unknown to us. My comrade is now inquiring of each of the observers whence came the Jovians and where they have gone."

Turgan and Damis waited impatiently. Presently the second Martian sent a thought wave to their minds.

"The Jovian s.h.i.+p approached Mars using Phobus, one of our moons, as a screen to its movements. It was close to the planet before it was seen. When challenged, the s.h.i.+p sent a message saying that it was captained by Toness, an Akildare of Earth and an enemy of the Jovians. The Grand Mognac was engaged and the matter was referred to the Mozar of Chinamonot, the nearest city. Thinking they were your followers, he directed them to land here. The Grand Mognac is enraged beyond measure that, after so many ages of failure, the Jovians have made a successful raid on our planet. The Mozar will pay for his indiscretion with his life."

A groan burst from Turgan's lips. Damis stood for a moment stricken with grief, and then sprang in giant leaps toward the s.p.a.ce flyer.

"Come, Turgan!" he cried. "We may overtake them yet. At least we can avenge if we cannot save."

The Kildare followed him more slowly.

"Where, oh, Nepthalim," he asked, "will we find them in the trackless wastes of s.p.a.ce?"

Damis paused at the words.

"Why, between here and Earth," he replied. As he did so a thought crossed his mind which was revealed by the sudden expression of dismay which clouded his features. "Earth, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Jupiter--all are under the rule of the Sons of G.o.d," he cried.

"And to any of them, Glavour's s.h.i.+p may have fled," replied the Kildare. "Before we start in pursuit, it is best to find, if we can, in what direction the s.h.i.+p went."

Frantically, Damis strove to muster his thoughts and hurl a question at the two Martians who stood beside the transporter cylinders. Before the thought had been fully formed, an answer reached him.

"I have been inquiring, Nepthalim, why, when our observers saw that the s.h.i.+p contained Jovians, they were not destroyed. One of the observers who watched them tells me that their s.h.i.+p landed between your s.h.i.+p and the only instruments of destruction which could be brought to bear on them. The Jovians poured out and attacked your crew who were all out of the s.h.i.+p. They were so mingled that it would have been impossible to destroy them without encompa.s.sing the destruction of your men as well and we could not blast their s.h.i.+p into nothingness without also destroying yours. When they rose again they carried one of your crew a prisoner and so they were not blasted out of the heavens. They took a course which carried them behind Phobus where they were s.h.i.+elded. When next seen, they were headed away from your planet."

"If Glavour came to Mars, Lura is dead by now," said Turgan sorrowfully, tears coursing down his cheeks. "Glavour is not one to await the fulfillment of his desires and Lura had her dagger. Her soul is now with Him whom we are taught to glorify. His will be done!"

"If it be His will," replied Damis. "Don't give up, Turgan, we may save her yet." He turned to the Martians and formed a thought message in his mind.

"Has your science any way of telling us who was in command of the Jovian s.h.i.+p?" he asked.

"Were your men who lie dead familiar with the features of the Jovian Viceroy?"

"Yes, all of them."

"Then we will search the brains of the dead. The pictures that are in the living brain fade rapidly when death comes, but the last impression of these men was a powerful one of fighting and hatred and some traces may remain. I will search."

The huge slug crawled over the ground to the body of the nearest dead Terrestrial. In one of his many hands he carried a s.h.i.+ny metal tube from which crimson rays flickered and played over the head of the dead man. The skull disintegrated under the influence of the strange instrument until the brain lay naked and exposed to the fierce glare of the Martian sun. The Martian delicately connected two wires terminating in metal plates to the tissue of the brain and attached the other ends of the wires to a metal circlet which he clamped about his middle. For some moments he remained motionless and then crawled to the body of the second dead Earthman. One after another he examined each of the eighteen dead bodies. When he had completed he crawled over to Damis and Turgan.

"Put these bands about your brows," he commanded in thought language as he handed to each of them a metallic band similar to the one clasped about him. The two Earthmen quickly adjusted the bands. "Let your minds remain a blank and in them will be reproduced the impressions I have gathered from the brains of your dead followers."

Damis sprang suddenly upward and smote with all of his force at the air. Out of nothingness had materialized the form of a huge Jovian clad in the uniform of Glavour's guards. His blow went harmless through the thin air and the Jovian swung a ma.s.sive ax. Just before the blow landed the Jovian disappeared and a thought wave from the Martian impinged on Damis' brain.

"Spare your energies, Nepthalim," the message said. "What you saw was not a Jovian but was the last impression stored in the brain of the man who met his death under a blow of the ax which seemed to be striking at you. I am merely reproducing in you the emotions and experiences that man felt. Had I allowed the phantom blow to land, you would now be cold in death, so great was the strength of the impression. Now make your mind again a blank and I will reveal to you what was in the mind of another at the instant that his death came upon him."

Before the Nepthalim's startled gaze, another Jovian appeared.

"Havenner!" he cried as he recognized the princ.i.p.al officer of Glavour. The equerry came forward slowly, blood dripping from a wound in his leg. He swung his ax but it went wide of the mark. Again he struck, but two Terrestrials attacked him from the rear and he whirled. For a moment, Damis had a chance to watch the conflict which was raging about him. Nine of the huge Jovians were engaged in deadly combat with a dozen of the Terrestrials who still remained on their feet. In the door of the s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p stood Lura, watching the conflict with frightened eyes. One after another of the Earthmen were stricken down. Suddenly a Jovian rushed at Damis but the scene went blank before the raised ax could strike him down.

"Have you seen enough or shall I show you the scenes in the brains of the others?" asked the Martian.

"I have seen and recognized nine of the Jovians," replied Damis, "yet among them was not the one I feared. Let me see into the brains of the others that I may be sure that Glavour was not among them."

Another scene materialized before him. It was merely a variation of those he had already seen. In the brain of one of the Terrestrials he saw the landing of the Jovian s.h.i.+p and the sudden outrush of the Sons of G.o.d, armed only with the forty-pound axes they used at close quarters. In none of the scenes did he see the huge form of Glavour. He removed the band with a sigh of relief.

"I broke Glavour's arms a few days back," he said to Turgan, "and it is probable that that prevented him from following us, even if he felt that he could leave the Earth in the turmoil which Toness had undoubtedly raised. It means that Lura is safe for the present, for Havenner would not dare to do other than to bring her to the Viceroy. We must follow them and endeavor to rescue her. I will ask our friends if they can plot her course for us."

"I have inquired as to that," replied the Martian to Damis' unspoken question, "and find we cannot. Soon after the s.h.i.+p left the surface of Mars, our observers sighted a Jovian fleet of a hundred flyers in the asteroid belt between here and Jupiter. They are nearly through the belt now and are headed toward your planet. Their path will bring them within a few thousand miles of Mars and every instrument on the planet is trained on them. While the Grand Mognac believes that Earth is their destination, never before have the Jovians approached us in such force and it may be that Tubain will try to avenge his former defeats by an attack in force. We have no instruments to spare to keep track of a lone flyer unless it changes its course and approaches us. There is one more source of information. I will examine the brains of the dead Jovians. Perhaps they know their leader's plans."

From the first Jovian the Martian turned away with an expression of disappointment.

"There is nothing in his brain but a scene of the fight with your followers, yet it may cheer you to know that at the last he felt fear, the emotion the Jovians boast is foreign to them," said the Martian. "I will examine the other."

With his crimson ray he removed the covering from the brain of the second Jovian and connected his wires. For a few moments he was motionless and then he removed the wires and crawled rapidly toward Damis.

"Nepthalim, here is what you wish," came his thoughts, jumbled in a chaotic state of excitement. "This man had a wonderful brain and the impressions of the last month are clear and distinct. Attend carefully and leave your mind a blank."

On the Martian plain buildings suddenly materialized before the Nepthalim's gaze. With a cry of astonishment he saw himself facing Glavour in defiance. Lura, who had been crouching behind him, ran into one of the buildings. Act by act, Damis saw the fight between himself and the Jovian Viceroy repeated. The Viceroy, one arm dangling uselessly, was whisked away in his chariot. The scene faded and another took its place. The Viceregal palace was beleaguered by thousands and scores of thousands of shouting Terrestrials. The Jovians sought with rays and with atomic bombs to disperse them, but where a score were blasted into nothingness or torn into fragments, a hundred fresh men took their place. Suddenly the Jovian rays began to fail. The Earthmen had found the secret source of power which supplied the palace and had cut it.

Again the scene faded and he was on a s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p with Havenner talking to him. The words he could not hear for the Martian could not comprehend a record of a sound. The pictures conjured up by the words were easy of comprehension and in picture forms the Martian conveyed to him the sense of the conversation. Havenner was telling him of their destination. First came a scene which he recognized as a Martian landscape. The Jovians swarmed from their s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p and struck down the Earthmen without exertion. Three were made captives: himself, Turgan, and Lura. The Jovians reentered the s.h.i.+p and sped away into s.p.a.ce. Damis wondered what this last picture signified.

Another scene materialized and they were on another planet. It was not Mars and it was not Earth. For a moment he was puzzled. The sun, when it shone, was larger and fiercer than he had ever seen it, but it shone only for an instant. Blankets of cloud and fog hid it from view. Rain fell incessantly. Lush, rank vegetation covered the ground and rose in a tangle far overhead. The Jovians emerged from the s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p, the prisoners in their midst. A huge lizard, a hundred feet long, rushed at them but a flash of the disintegrating tubes dissolved it into dancing motes of light. The Jovians made their way through the steaming jungle until a huge city, roofed with a crystal dome which covered it and arched high into the air, appeared before them. Toward this city the Jovians marched.

"The crystal cities of Venus!" cried Turgan. Damis nodded in a.s.sent.

Again the scene changed and the Martian plain was before them. From the s.p.a.ce s.h.i.+p the Jovians emerged, but instead of the easy victory they had had in the earlier scene, they found the task a difficult one. From all sides the Terrestrials charged at them and Damis found himself fighting against his compatriots. A sword flashed before his eyes and the scene was gone.

"Have you learned that which you sought?" came a Martian thought inquiry.

Damis hastily formed his thoughts into an affirmative message of thanks and turned to Turgan.

"We know now where to go," he cried exultingly. "Lura is safe until they land on Venus and enter the crystal cities, for Havenner would not dare to do otherwise than carry out the orders of Glavour. The Martian weapons which we have will insure us an easy victory. Come, let us hasten."

A thought message from the Martians stopped him.

The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Viii Part 59

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The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Viii Part 59 summary

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