wand malen projektor
book three triplanetarychapter 18 the specimens escape knowing well that conversation with itsfellows is one of the greatest needs of any intelligent being, the nevians hadpermitted the terrestrial specimens to retain possession of their ultra-beamcommunicators. thus it was that costigan had been able tokeep in touch with his sweetheart and with bradley. he learned that each had been placed uponexhibition in a different nevian city; that the three had been separated in response toan insistent popular demand for such a distribution of the peculiar, but highly
interesting creatures from a distant solarsystem. they had not been harmed. in fact, each was visited daily by aspecialist, who made sure that his charge was being kept in the pink of condition.as soon as he became aware of this condition of things costigan became morose. he sat still, drooped, and pined awayvisibly. he refused to eat, and of the worriedspecialist he demanded liberty. then, failing in that as he knew he wouldfail, he demanded something to do. they pointed out to him, reasonably enough,that in such a civilization as theirs there
was nothing he could do. they assured him that they would doanything they could to alleviate his mental suffering, but that since he was a museumpiece he must see, himself, that he must be kept on display for a short time. wouldn't he please behave himself and eat,as a reasoning being should? costigan sulked a little longer, thenwavered. finally he agreed to compromise. he would eat and exercise if they would fitup a laboratory in his apartment, so that he could continue the studies he had begunupon his own native planet.
to this they agreed, and thus it came aboutthat one day the following conversation was held:"clio? bradley? i've got something to tell you this time.haven't said anything before, for fear things might not work out, but they did.i went on a hunger strike and made them give me a complete laboratory. as a chemist i'm a damn good electrician;but luckily, with the sea-water they've got here, it's a very simple thing to make....""hold on!" snapped bradley. "somebody may be listening in on us!"
"they aren't.they can't, without my knowing it, and i'll cut off the second anybody tries tosynchronize with my beam. to resume--making vee-two is a very simpleprocess, and i've got everything around here that's hollow clear full of it....""how come they let you?" asked clio. "oh, they don't know what i'm doing. they watched me for a few days, and all idid was make up and bottle the weirdest messes imaginable. then i finally managed to separate oxygenand nitrogen, after trying hard all of one day; and when they saw that i didn't knowanything about either one of them or what
to do with them after i had them, they gave me up in disgust as a plain dumb ape andhaven't paid any attention to me since. so i've got me plenty of kilograms ofliquid vee-two, all ready to touch off. i'm getting out of here in about threeminutes and a half, and i'm coming over after you folks, in a new, iron-poweredspace-speedster that they don't know i know anything about. they've just given it its final tests, andit's the slickest thing you ever saw." "but conway, dearest, you can't possiblyrescue me," clio's voice broke. "why, there are thousands of them, allaround here.
if you can get away, go, dear, butdon't...." "i said i was coming after you, and if iget away i'll be there. a good whiff of this stuff will lay out athousand of them just as easily as it will one. here's the idea.i've made a gas mask for myself, since i'll be in it where it's thick, but you twowon't need any. it's soluble enough in water so that threeor four thicknesses of wet cloth over your noses will be enough.i'll tell you when to wet down. we're going to break away or go out trying--there aren't enough amphibians between
here and andromeda to keep us humans coopedup like menagerie animals forever! but here comes my specialist with the keysto the city; time for the overture to start.see you later!" the nevian physician directed his key tubeupon the transparent wall of the chamber and an opening appeared, an opening whichvanished as soon as he had stepped through it; costigan kicked a valve open; and from various innocent tubes there belched forthinto the water of the central lagoon and into the air over it a flood of deadlyvapor. as the nevian turned toward the prisonerthere was an almost inaudible hiss and a
tiny jet of the frightful, outlawed stuffstruck his open gills, just below his huge, conical head. he tensed momentarily, twitchedconvulsively just once, and fell motionless to the floor. and outside, the streams of avidly solubleliquefied gas rushed out into air and into water. it spread, dissolved, and diffused with theextreme mobility which is one of its characteristics; and as it diffused and wasborne outward the nevians in their massed hundreds died.
died not knowing what killed them, notknowing even that they died. costigan, bitterly resentful of the inhumantreatment accorded the three and fiercely anxious for the success of his plan ofescape, held his breath and, grimly alert, watched the amphibians die. when he could see no more motion anywherehe donned his gas-mask, strapped upon his back a large canister of the poison--hiscapacious pockets were already full of smaller containers--and two savagelyexultant sentences escaped him. "i am a poor, ignorant specimen of ape thatcan be let play with apparatus, am i?" he rasped, as he picked up the key tube of thespecialist and opened the door of his
prison. "they'll learn now that it ain't safe tojudge by the looks of a flea how far he can jump!" he stepped out through the opening into thewater, and, burdened as he was, made shift to swim to the nearest ramp.up it he ran, toward a main corridor. but ahead of him there was wafted a breathof dread vee-two, and where that breath went, went also unconsciousness--anunconsciousness which would deepen gradually into permanent oblivion save for the prompt intervention of one whopossessed, not only the necessary antidote,
but the equally important knowledge ofexactly how to use it. upon the floor of that corridor were strewnnevians, who had dropped in their tracks. past or over their bodies costigan strode,pausing only to direct a jet of lethal vapor into whatever branching corridor oropen door caught his eye. he was going to the intake of the city'sventilation plant, and no unmasked creature dependent for life upon oxygen could barhis path. he reached the intake, tore the canisterfrom his back, and released its full, vast volume of horrid contents into the primaryair stream of the entire city. and all throughout that doomed city neviansdropped; quietly and without a struggle,
unknowing. busy executives dropped upon theircushioned, flat-topped desks; hurrying travelers and messengers dropped upon thefloors of the corridors or relaxed in the noxious waters of the ways; lookouts and observers dropped before their flashingscreens; central operators of communications dropped under the winkinglights of their panels. observers and centrals in the outlyingsections of the city wondered briefly at the unwonted universal motionlessness andstagnation; then the racing taint in water and in air reached them, too, and theyceased wondering--forever.
then through those quiet halls costiganstalked to a certain storage room, where with all due precaution he donned his ownsuit of triplanetary armor. making an ungainly bundle of the othersolarian equipment stored there, he dragged it along behind him as he clanked backtoward his prison, until he neared the dock at which was moored the nevian space-speedster which he was determined to take. here, he knew, was the first of manycritical points. the crew of the vessel was aboard, and,with its independent air-supply, unharmed. they had weapons, were undoubtedly alarmed,and were very probably highly suspicious. they, too, had ultra-beams and might seehim, but his very closeness to them would
tend to protect him from ultra-beamobservation. therefore he crouched tensely behind abuttress, staring through his spy-ray goggles, waiting for a moment when none ofthe nevians would be near the entrance, but grimly resolved to act instantly should hefeel any touch of a spying ultra-beam. "here's where the pinch comes," he growledto himself. "i know the combinations, but if they'resuspicious enough and act quick enough they can seal that door on me before i can getit open, and then rub me out like a blot; but ... ah!" the moment had arrived, before the touch ofany revealing ray.
he trained the key-tube, the entranceopened, and through that opening in the instant of its appearance there shot abrittle bulb of glass, whose breaking meant death. it crashed into fragments against ametallic wall and costigan, entering the vessel, consigned its erstwhile crew one byone to the already crowded waters of the lagoon. he then leaped to the controls and drovethe captured speedster through the air, to plunge it down upon the surface of thelagoon beside the door of the isolated structure which had for so long been hisprison.
carefully he transferred to the vessel themotley assortment of containers of vee-two, and after a quick check-up to make surethat he had overlooked nothing, he shot his craft straight up into the air. then only did he close his ultra-wavecircuits and speak. "clio, bradley--i got away clean, without abit of trouble. now i'm coming after you, clio." "oh, it's wonderful that you got away,conway!" the girl exclaimed. "but hadn't you better get captain bradleyfirst? then, if anything should happen, he wouldbe of some use, while i...."
"i'll knock him into an outside loop if hedoes!" the captain snorted, and costigan went on: "you won't need to.you come first, clio, of course. but you're too far away for me to see youwith my spy, and i don't want to use the high-powered beam of this boat for fear ofdetection; so you'd better keep on talking, so that i can trace you." "that's one thing i am good at!"clio laughed in sheer relief. "if talking were music, i'd be a full brassband!" and she kept up a flow of inconsequential chatter until costigan toldher that it was no longer necessary; that
he had established the line. "any excitement around there yet?" he askedher then. "nothing unusual that i can see," shereplied. "why? should there be some?" "i hope not, but when i made my getaway icouldn't kill them all, of course, and i thought maybe they might connect things upwith my jail-break and tell the other cities to take steps about you two. but i guess they're pretty welldisorganized back there yet, since they can't know who hit them, or what with, orwhy.
i must have got about everybody that wasn'tsealed up somewhere, and it doesn't stand to reason that those who are left can checkup very closely for a while yet. but they're nobody's fools--they'llcertainly get conscious when i snatch you, maybe before ... there, i see your city, ithink." "what are you going to do?" "same as i did back there, if i can.poison their primary air and all the water i can reach....""oh, conway!" her voice rose to a scream. "they must know--they're all getting out ofthe water and are rushing inside the
buildings as fast as they possibly can!""i see they are," grimly. "i'm right over you now, 'way up. been locating their primary intake.they've got a dozen ships around it, and have guards posted all along the corridorsleading to it; and those guards are wearing masks! they're clever birds, all right, thoseamphibians--they know what they got back there and how they got it.that changes things, girl! if we use gas here we won't stand a chancein the world of getting old bradley. stand by to jump when i open that door!""hurry, dear!
they are coming out here after me!" "sure they are."costigan had already seen the two nevians swimming out toward clio's cage, and hadhurled his vessel downward in a screaming power dive. "you're too valuable a specimen for them tolet you be gassed, but if they can get there before i do they're traveling fools!" he miscalculated slightly, so that insteadof coming to a halt at the surface of the liquid medium the speedster struck with acrash that hurled solid masses of water for hundreds of yards.
but no ordinary crash could harm thatvessel's structure, her gravity controls were not overloaded, and she shot back tothe surface; gallant ship and reckless pilot alike unharmed. costigan trained his key-tube upon thedoorway of clio's cell, then tossed it aside."different combination over here!" he barked. "got to cut you out--lie down in that farcorner!" his hands flashed over the panel, and asclio fell prone without hesitation or question a heavy beam literally blastedaway a large portion of the roof of the
structure. the speedster shot into the air and droppeddown until she rested upon the tops of opposite walls; walls still glowing, semi-molten. the girl piled a stool upon the table andstood upon it, reached upward and seized the mailed hands extended downward towardher. costigan heaved her up into the vessel witha powerful jerk, slammed the door shut, leaped to the controls, and the speedsterdarted away. "your armor's in that bundle there. better put it on, and check your lewistonsand pistols--no telling what kind of jams
we'll get into," he snapped, withoutturning. "bradley, start talking ... all right, i'vegot your line. better get your wet rags ready and getorganized generally--every second will count by the time we get there. we're coming so fast that our outerplating's white hot, but it may not be fast enough, at that.""it isn't fast enough, quite," bradley announced, calmly. "they're coming out after me now.""don't fight them and probably they won't paralyze you.keep on talking, so that i can find out
where they take you." "no good, costigan."the voice of the old spacehound did not reveal a sign of emotion as he made hisdread announcement. "they have it all figured out. they're not taking any chances at all--they're going to paral...." his voice broke off in the middle of theword. with a bitter imprecation costigan flashedon the powerful ultra-beam projector of the speedster and focused the plate uponbradley's prison; careless now of detection, since the nevians were alreadywarned.
upon that plate he watched the nevianscarry the helpless body of the captain into a small boat, and continued to watch asthey bore it into one of the largest buildings of the city. up a series of ramps they took the stillform, placing it finally upon a soft couch in an enormous and heavily guarded centralhall. costigan turned to his companion, and eventhrough the helmets she could see plainly the white agony of his expression. he moistened his lips and tried twice tospeak--tried and failed; but he made no move either to cut off their power or tochange their direction.
"of course," she approved steadily. "we are going through.i know that you want to run with me, but if you actually did it i would never want tosee you or hear of you again, and you would hate me forever." "hardly that."the anguish did not leave his eyes and his voice was hoarse and strained, but hishands did not vary the course of the speedster by so much as a hair's breadth. "you're the finest little fellow that everwaved a plume, and i would love you no matter what happened.
i'd trade my immortal soul to the devil ifit would get you out of this mess, but we're both in it up to our necks and wecan't back out now. if they kill him we beat it--he and i bothknew that it was on the chance of that happening that i took you first--but aslong as all three of us are alive it's all three or none." "of course," she said again, as steadily,thrilled this time to the depths of her being by the sheer manhood of him who hadthus simply voiced his code; a man of such fiber that neither love of life nor his infinitely greater love for her could makehim lower its high standard.
"we are going through.forget that i am a woman. we are three human beings, fighting a worldfull of monsters. i am simply one of us three.i will steer your ship, fire your projectors, or throw your bombs. what can i do best?""throw bombs," he directed, briefly. he knew what must be done were they to haveeven the slightest chance of winning clear. "i'm going to blast a hole down into thatauditorium, and when i do you stand by that port and start dropping bottles of perfume. throw a couple of big ones right down theshaft i make, and the rest of them most
anywhere, after i cut the wall open.they'll do good wherever they hit, land or water." "but captain bradley--he'll be gassed,too." her fine eyes were troubled."can't be helped. i've got the antidote, and it'll work anytime under an hour. that'll be lots of time--if we aren't gonein less than ten minutes we'll be staying here. they're bringing in platoons of militia infull armor, and if we don't beat those boys to it we're in for plenty of grief.all right--start throwing!"
the speedster had come to a halt directlyover the imposing edifice within which bradley was incarcerated, and a mighty beamhad flared downward, digging a fiery well through floor after floor of stubbornmetal. the ceiling of the amphitheater waspierced. the beam expired. down into that assembly hall there droppedtwo canisters of vee-two, to crash and to fill its atmosphere with imperceptibledeath. then the beam flashed on again, this timeat maximum power, and with it costigan burned away half of the entire building.
burned it away until room above room gapedopen, shelf-like, to outer atmosphere; the great hall now resembling an over-sizepigeon-hole surrounded by smaller ones. into that largest pigeon-hole the speedsterdarted, and cushioned desks and benches crashed down; crushed flat under itsenormous weight as it came to rest upon the floor. every available guard had been thrown intothat room, regardless of customary occupation or of equipment. most of them had been ordinary watchmen,not even wearing masks, and all such were already down.many, however, were masked, and a few were
dressed in full armor. but no portable armor could mount defensesof sufficient power to withstand the awful force of the speedster's weapons, and oneflashing swing of a projector swept the hall almost clear of life. "can't shoot very close to bradley withthis big beam, but i'll mop up on the rest of them by hand.stay here and cover me, clio!" costigan ordered, and went to open theport. "i can't--i won't!"clio replied instantly. "i don't know the controls well enough.
i'd kill you or captain bradley, sure; buti can shoot, and i'm going to!" and she leaped out, close upon his heels. thus, flaming lewiston in one hand andbarking automatic in the other, the two mailed figures advanced toward bradley, nowdoubly helpless; paralyzed by his enemies and gassed by his friends. for a time the nevians melted away beforethem, but as they approached more nearly the couch upon which the captain was theyencountered six figures encased in armor fully as capable as their own. the beams of the lewistons rebounded fromthat armor in futile pyrotechnics, the
bullets of the automatics spattered andexploded impotently against it. and behind that single line of armoredguards were massed perhaps twenty unarmored, but masked, soldiers; andscuttling up the ramps leading into the hall were coming the platoons of heavily armored figures which costigan hadpreviously seen. decision instantly made, costigan ran backtoward the speedster, but he was not deserting his companions. "keep the good work up!" he instructed thegirl as he ran. "i'll pick those jaspers off with a penciland then stand off the bunch that's coming
while you rub out the rest of that crewthere and drag bradley back here." back at the control panel, he trained anarrow, but intensely dense beam--quasi- solid lightning--and one by one the sixarmored figures fell. then, knowing that clio could handle theremaining opposition, he devoted his attention to the reenforcements so rapidlyapproaching from the sides. again and again the heavy beam lashed out,now upon this side, now upon that, and in its flaming path nevians disappeared. and not only nevians--in the incredibleenergy of that beam's blast floor, walls, ramps, and every material thing vanished inclouds of thick and brilliant vapor.
the room temporarily clear of foes, hesprang again to clio's assistance, but her task was nearly done. she had "rubbed out" all opposition and,tugging lustily at bradley's feet, had already dragged him almost to the side ofthe speedster. "at-a-girl, clio!" cheered costigan, as hepicked up the burly captain and tossed him through the doorway."highly useful, girl of my dreams, as well as ornamental. in with you, and we'll go places!" but getting the speedster out of the nowcompletely ruined hall proved to be much
more of a task than driving it in had been,for scarcely had costigan closed his locks than a section of the building collapsedbehind them, cutting off their retreat. nevian submarines and airships werebeginning to arrive upon the scene, and were beaming the building viciously in anattempt to entrap or to crush the foreigners in its ruins costigan managed finally to blast his way out, but thenevians had had time to assemble in force and he was met by a concentrated storm ofbeams and of metal from every inimical weapon within range. but not for nothing had conway costiganselected for his dash for liberty the craft
which, save only for the two immenseinterstellar cruisers, was the most powerful vessel ever built upon red nevia. and not for nothing had he studied minutelyand to the last, least detail every item of its controls and of its armament duringwearily long days and nights of solitary imprisonment. he had studied it under test, in action,and at rest; studied it until he knew thoroughly its every possibility--and whata ship it was! the atomic-powered generators of hisshielding screens handled with ease the terrific load of the nevians' assault, hispolycyclic screens were proof against any
material projectile, and the machines supplying his offensive weapons with powerwere more than equal to their tasks. driven now at full rating those frightfulbeams lashed out against the nevians blocking the way, and under their impactsher screens flared brilliantly through the spectrum and went down. and in the instant of their failure theenemy vessel was literally blown into nothingness--no unprotected metal, howeverresistant, could exist for a moment in the pathway of those iron-driven tornadoes ofpure energy. ship after ship of the nevians plungedtoward the speedster in desperately
suicidal attempts to ram her down, but eachmet the same flaming fate before it could reach its target. then from the grouped submarines far belowthere reached up red rods of force, which seized the space-ship and beganrelentlessly to draw her down. "what are they doing that for, conway? they can't fight us!""they don't want to fight us. they want to hold us, but i know what to doabout that, too," and the powerful tractor rods snapped as a plane of pure forceknifed through them. upward now at the highest permissiblevelocity the speedster leaped, and past the
few ships remaining above her she dodged;nothing now between her and the freedom of boundless space. "you did it, conway; you did it!"clio exulted. "oh, conway, you're just simply wonderful!""i haven't done it yet," costigan cautioned her. "the worst is yet to come.nerado. he's why they wanted to hold us back, andwhy i was in such a hurry to get away. that boat of his is bad medicine, girl, andwe want to put plenty of kilometers behind us before he gets started.""but do you think he will chase us?"
"think so? i know so! the mere facts that we are rare specimensand that he told us that we were going to stay there all the rest of our lives wouldmake him chase us clear to lundmark's nebula. besides that, we stepped on their toespretty heavily before we left. we know altogether too much now to be letget back to tellus; and finally, they'd all die of acute enlargement of the spleen ifwe get away with this prize ship of theirs. i hope to tell you they'll chase us!"
he fell silent, devoting his wholeattention to his piloting, driving his craft onward at such velocity that itsouter plating held steadily at the highest point of temperature compatible withsafety. soon they were out in open space, hurtlingtoward the sun under the drive of every possible watt of power, and costigan tookoff his armor and turned toward the helpless body of the captain. "he looks so ... so ... so dead, conway!are you really sure that you can bring him to?""absolutely. lots of time yet.
just three simple squirts in the rightplaces will do the trick." he took from a locked compartment of hisarmor a small steel box, which housed a surgeon's hypodermic and three vials. one, two, three, he injected small, butprecisely measured amounts of the fluids into the three vital localities, thenplaced the inert form upon a deeply cushioned couch. "there!that'll take care of the gas in five or six hours. the paralysis will wear off long beforethat, so he'll be all right when he wakes
up; and we're going away from here witheverything we can put out. i've done everything i know how to do, forthe present." then only did costigan turn and look down,directly into clio's eyes. wide, eloquent blue eyes that gazed back upinto his, tender and unafraid; eyes freighted with the oldest message of womanto chosen man. his hard young face softened wonderfully ashe stared at her; there were two quick steps and they were in each other's arms. lips upon eager lips, blue eyes to gray,motionless they stood clasped in ecstasy; thinking nothing of the dreadful past,nothing of the fearful future, conscious
only of the glorious, wonderful present. "clio mine ... darling ... girl, girl, howi love you!" costigan's deep voice was husky withemotion. "i haven't kissed you for seven thousandyears! i don't rate you, by a million steps; butif i can just get you out of this mess, i swear by all the gods of interplanetaryspace...." "you needn't, lover. rate me?good heavens, conway! it's just the other way....""stop it!" he commanded in her ear.
"i'm still dizzy at the idea of your lovingme at all, to say nothing of loving me this way!but you do, and that's all i ask, here or hereafter." "love you?love you!" their mutual embrace tightened and her lowvoice thrilled brokenly as she went on: "conway dearest ... i can't say a thing, but you know....oh, conway!" after a time clio drew a long andtremulous, but supremely happy breath as the realities of their predicament oncemore obtruded themselves upon her
consciousness. she released herself gently from costigan'sarms. "do you really think that there is a chanceof us getting back to the earth, so that we can be together ... always?" "a chance, yes.a probability, no," he replied, unequivocally."it depends upon two things. first, how much of a start we got onnerado. his ship is the biggest and fastest thing iever saw, and if he strips her down and drives her--which he will--he'll catch uslong before we can make tellus.
on the other hand, i gave rodebush a lot ofdata, and if he and lyman cleveland can add it to their own stuff and get that super-ship of ours rebuilt in time, they'll be out here on the prowl; and they'll have what it takes to give even nerado plenty ofargument. no use worrying about it, anyway. we won't know anything until we can detectone or the other of them, and then will be the time to do something about it.""if nerado catches us, will you...." she paused. "rub you out?i will not.
even if he does catch us, and takes us backto nevia, i won't. there's lots more time coming onto theclock. nerado won't hurt either of us badly enoughto leave scars, either physical, mental, or moral. i'd kill you in a second if it were roger;he's dirty. he's mean--he's thoroughly bad.but nerado's a good enough old scout, in his way. he's big and he's clean.you know, i could really like that fish if i could meet him on terms of equalitysometime?"
"i couldn't!" she declared vigorously. "he's crawly and scaly and snaky; and hesmells so ... so...." "so rank and fishy?"costigan laughed deeply. "details, girl; mere details. i've seen people who looked like money inthe bank and who smelled like a bouquet of violets that you couldn't trust half thelength of nerado's neck." "but look what he did to us!" sheprotested. "and they weren't trying to recapture usback there; they were trying to kill us." "that was perfectly all right, what he didand what they did--what else could they
have done?" he wanted to know."and while you're looking, look at what we did to them--plenty, i'd say. but we all had it to do, and neither sidewill blame the other for doing it. he's a square shooter, i tell you.""well, maybe, but i don't like him a bit, and let's not talk about him any more. let's talk about us.remember what you said once, when you advised me to 'let you lay,' or whatever itwas?" woman-like, she wished to dip again lightlyinto the waters of pure emotion, even though she had such a short time before ledthe man out of their profoundest depths.
but costigan, into whose hard life love ofwoman had never before entered, had not yet recovered sufficiently from his soul-shaking plunge to follow her lead. inarticulate, distrusting his newly foundsupreme happiness, he must needs stay out of those enchanted waters or plunge again. and he was afraid to plunge--diffident,still deeming himself unworthy of the miracle of this wonder-girl's love--eventhough every fiber of his being shrieked its demand to feel again that slender bodyin his arms. he did not consciously think thosethoughts. he acted them without thinking; they wereprime basics in that which made conway
costigan what he was. "i do remember, and i still think it's asound idea, even though i am too far gone now to let you put it into effect," heassured her, half seriously. he kissed her, tenderly and reverently,then studied her carefully. "but you look as though you'd been on amartian picnic. when did you eat last?" "i don't remember, exactly.this morning, i think." "or maybe last night, or yesterday morning?i thought so! bradley and i can eat anything that'schewable, and drink anything that will
pour, but you can't.i'll scout around and see if i can't fix up something that you'll be able to eat." he rummaged through the store-rooms,emerging with sundry viands from which he prepared a highly satisfactory meal."think you can sleep now, sweetheart?" after supper, once more within the circleof costigan's arms, clio nodded her head against his shoulder."of course i can, dear. now that you are with me, out here alone,i'm not a bit afraid any more. you will get us back to earth some way,sometime; i just know that you will. good-night, conway."
"good-night, clio ... little sweetheart,"he whispered, and went back to bradley's side.in due time the captain recovered consciousness, and slept. then for days the speedster flashed ontoward our distant solar system; days during which her wide-flung detectorscreens remained cold. "i don't know whether i'm afraid they'llhit something or afraid that they won't," costigan remarked more than once, butfinally those tenuous sentinels did in fact encounter an interfering vibration. along the detector line a visibeam sped,and costigan's face hardened as he saw the
unmistakable outline of nerado'sinterstellar cruiser, far behind them. "well, a stern chase always was a longone," costigan said finally. "he can't catch us for plenty of days yet... now what?" for the alarms of the detectors had broken out anew. there was still another point ofinterference to be investigated. costigan traced it, and there, almost deadahead of them, between them and their sun, nearing them at the incomprehensible rateof the sum of the two vessels' velocities, came another cruiser of the nevians! "must be the sister-ship, coming back fromour system with a load of iron," costigan
deduced. "heavily loaded as she is, we may be ableto dodge her; and she's coming so fast that if we can stay out of her range we'll beall right--he won't be able to stop for probably three or four days. but if our super-ship is anywhere in theseparts, now's the time for her to rally 'round!" he gave the speedster all the side-thrustshe would take; then, putting every available communicator tube behind a tightbeam, he aimed it at sol and began sending out a long-continued call to his fellows ofthe triplanetary service.
nearer and nearer the nevian flashed,trying with all her power to intercept the speedster; and it soon became evident that,heavily laden though she was, she could make enough sideway to bring her withinrange at the time of meeting. "of course, they've got partialneutralization of inertia, the same as we have," costigan cogitated, "and by the wayhe's coming i'd say that he had orders to blow us out of the ether--he knows as well as we do that he can't capture us alive atanything like the relative velocities we've got now. i can't give her any more side thrustwithout overloading the gravity controls,
so overloaded they've got to be.strap down, you two, because they may go out entirely!" "do you think that you can pull away fromthem, conway?" clio was staring in horrified fascinationinto the plate, watching the pictured vessel increase in size, moment by moment. "i don't know whether i can or not, but i'mgoing to try. just in case we don't, though, i'm going tokeep on yelling for help. in solid? all right, boat, do your stuff!"
> book three triplanetarychapter 19 giants meet "check your blast, fred, i think that ihear something trying to come through!" cleveland called out, sharply. for days the boise had torn through theillimitable reaches of empty space, and now the long vigil of the keen-eared listenerswas to be ended. rodebush cut off his power, and through thecrackling roar of tube noise an almost inaudible voice made itself heard."... all the help you can give us. samms--cleveland--rodebush--anybody oftriplanetary who can hear me, listen!
this is costigan, with miss marsden andcaptain bradley, heading for where we think the sun is, from right ascension about sixhours, declination about plus fourteen degrees. distance unknown, but probably a good manylight-years. trace my call.one nevian ship is overhauling us slowly, another is coming toward us from the sun. we may or may not be able to dodge it, butwe need all the help you can give us. samms--rodebush--cleveland--anybody oftriplanetary...." endlessly the faint, faint voice went on,but rodebush and cleveland were no longer
listening. sensitive ultra-loops had been swung, andalong the indicated line shot triplanetary's super-ship at a velocitywhich she had never before even approached; the utterly incomprehensible, almost incalculable velocity attained byinertialess matter driven through an almost perfect vacuum by the boise's maximumprojector blasts--a blast which would lift her stupendous normal tonnage against agravity five times that of earth. at the full frightful measure of thatvelocity the super-ship literally annihilated distance, while ahead of herthe furiously driven spy-ray beam fanned
out in quest of the three triplanetarianswho were calling for help. "got any idea how fast we're going?"rodebush demanded, glancing up for an instant from the observation plate. "we should be able to see him, since wecould hear him, and our range is certainly as great as anything he can have." "no. can't figure velocity without anyreliable data on how many atoms of matter exist per cubic meter out here."cleveland was staring at the calculator. "it's constant, of course, at the value atwhich the friction of the medium is equal to our thrust.incidentally, we can't hold it too long.
we're running a temperature, which showsthat we're stepping along faster than anybody ever computed before. also, it points out the necessity forsomething that none of us ever anticipated needing in an open-space drive--refrigerators or radiating wall-shields or repellers or something of the sort. but to get back to our velocity--takingthrockmorton's estimates it figures somewhere near the order of magnitude often to the twenty-seventh. fast enough, anyway, so that you'd betterbend an eye on that plate. even after you see them you won't knowwhere they really are, because we don't
know any of the velocities involved--ourown, theirs, or that of the beam--and we may be right on top of them." "or, if we happen to be outrunning thebeam, we won't see them at all. that makes it nice piloting.""how are you going to handle things when we get there?" "lock to them and take them aboard, ifwe're in time. if not, if they are fighting already--therethey are!" the picture of the speedster's control roomflashed upon the speaker. "hi, fritz!hi, cleve!
welcome to our city! where are you?""we don't know," cleveland snapped back, "and we don't know where you are, either.can't figure anything without data. i see you're still breathing air. where are the nevians?how much time have we got yet?" "not enough, i'm afraid. by the looks of things they will be withinrange of us in a couple of hours, and you haven't even touched our detector screenyet." "a couple of hours!"
in his relief cleveland shouted the words."that's time to burn--we can be just about out of the galaxy in that...."he broke off at a yell from rodebush. "broadcast, spud, broadcast!" the physicisthad cried, as costigan's image had disappeared utterly from his plate. he cut off the boise's power, stopping herinstantaneously in mid-space, but the connection had been broken. costigan could not possibly have heard theorders to change his beam signal to a broadcast, so that they could pick it up;nor would it have done any good if he had heard and had obeyed.
so immeasurably great had been theirvelocity that they had flashed past the speedster and were now unknown thousands--or millions--of miles beyond the fugitives they had come so far to help; far beyondthe range of any possible broadcast. but cleveland understood instantly what hadhappened. he now had a little data upon which towork, and his hands flew over the keys of the calculator."back blast, at maximum, seventeen seconds!" he directed crisply. "not exact, of course, but that will put usclose enough so that we can find 'em with our detectors."
for the calculated seventeen seconds thesuper-ship retraced her path, at the same awful speed with which she had come so far. the blast expired and there, plainly limnedupon the observation plates, was the nevian speedster."as a computer, you're good, cleve," rodebush applauded. "so close that we can't use theneutralizers to catch him. if we use one dyne of drive we'll overshoota million kilometers before i could snap the switch." "and yet he's so far away and going so fastthat if we keep our inertia on it'll take
all day at full blast to overtake--no, waita minute--we could never catch him." cleveland was puzzled. "what to do?shunt in a potentiometer?" "no, we don't need it."rodebush turned to the transmitter. "costigan! we are going to take hold of you with avery light tractor--a tracer, really--and whatever you do, don't cut it, or we can'treach you in time. it may look like a collision, but it won'tbe--we'll just touch you, without even a jar.""a tractor--inertialess?"
cleveland wondered. "sure.why not?" rodebush set up the beam at its absoluteminimum of power and threw in the switch. while hundreds of thousands of milesseparated the two vessels and the attractor was exerting the least effort of which itwas capable, yet the super-ship leaped toward the smaller craft at a pace which covered the intervening distance in almostno time at all. so rapidly were the objectives enlargingupon the plates that the automatic focusing devices could scarcely function rapidlyenough to keep them in place.
cleveland flinched involuntarily and seizedhis arm-rests in a spasmodic clutch as he watched this, the first inertialess space-approach; and even rodebush, who knew better than anyone else what to expect, held his breath and swallowed hard at theunbelievable rate at which the two vessels were rushing together. and if these two, who had rebuilt thesuper-ship, could hardly control themselves, what of the three in thespeedster, who knew nothing whatever of the wonder-craft's potentialities? clio, staring into the plate with costigan,uttered one piercing shriek as she sank her
fingers into his shoulders. bradley swore a mighty deep-space oath andbraced himself against certain annihilation. costigan stared for an instant, unable tobelieve his eyes; then, in spite of the warning, his hand darted toward the studswhich would cut the beam. too late. before his flying fingers could reach thebuttons the boise was upon them; had struck the speedster in direct central impact. moving at the full measure of herunthinkable velocity though the super-ship
was in the instant of impact, yet the mostdelicate recording instruments of the speedster could not detect the slightest shock as the enormous globe struck thecomparatively tiny torpedo and clung to it; accommodating instantaneously andeffortlessly her own terrific pace to that of the smaller and infinitely slower craft. clio sobbed in relief and costigan, one armaround her, sighed hugely. "hey, you spacelugs!" he cried. "glad to see you, and all that, but youmight as well kill a man outright as scare him to death!so that's the super-ship, huh?
some ship!" "hi-ya, murf!hi, spud!" came from the speaker. "murf?spud? how come?" clio, practically recovered now, glancedupward questioningly. it was plain that she did not quite knowwhether or not to like the nicknames which the rescuers were calling her conway. "my middle name is murphy, so they'vecalled me things like that ever since i was so high."costigan indicated a length of
approximately twelve inches. "and now you'll probably live long enough--i hope--to hear me called a lot worse stuff than that.""don't talk that way--we're safe now, con ... spud?it's nice that they like you so much--but they would, of course."she snuggled even closer, and both listened to what rodebush was saying. "... realize myself that it would look sobad; it scared me as much as it did anybody.yes, this is it.
she really works--thanks more than somewhatto conway costigan, by the way. but you had better transfer.if you'll get your things...." "'things' is good!" costigan laughed, and clio giggled sunnily."we've made so many transfers already that what you see is all we've got," bradleyexplained. "we'll bring ourselves, and we'll hurry. that nevian is coming up fast.""is there anything on this ship you fellows want?"costigan asked. "there may be, but we haven't any locks bigenough to let her inside and we haven't
time to study her now. you might leave her controls in neutral, sothat we can calculate her position if we should want her later on.""all right." the three armor-clad figures stepped intothe boise's open lock, the tractor beam was cut off, and the speedster flashed awayfrom the now stationary super-ship. "better let formalities go for a while,"captain bradley interrupted the general introductions taking place. "i was scared out of nine years' growthwhen i saw you coming at us, and maybe i've still got the humps; but that nevian iscoming up fast, and if you don't already
know it i can tell you that she's no lightcruiser." "that's so, too," costigan agreed."have you fellows got enough stuff so that you think you can take him? you've got the legs on him, anyway--you cancertainly run if you want to!" "run?"cleveland laughed. "we have a bone of our own to pick withthat ship. we licked her to a standstill once, untilwe burned out a set of generators, and since we got them fixed we've been chasingher all over space. we were chasing her when we picked up yourcall.
see there?she's doing the running." the nevian was running, in truth. her commander had seen and had recognizedthe great vessel which had flashed out of nowhere to the rescue of the threefugitives from nevia; and, having once been at grips with that vengeful super- dreadnaught, he had little stomach foranother encounter. therefore his side-thrust was now beingexerted in the opposite direction; he was frankly trying to put as much distance aspossible between himself and triplanetary's formidable warship.
in vain. a light tractor was clamped on and theboise flashed up to close range before rodebush restored her inertia and clevelandbrought the two vessels relatively to rest by increasing gradually his tractor's pull. and this time the nevian could not cut thetractor. again that shearing plane of force bit intoit and tore at it, but it neither yielded nor broke. the rebuilt generators of number four weredesigned to carry the load, and they carried it.and again triplanetary's every mighty
weapon was brought into play. the "cans" were thrown, ultra-and infra-beams were driven, the furious macro-beam gnawed hungrily at the nevian's defenses;and one by one those defenses went down. in desperation the enemy commander threwhis every generator behind a polycyclic screen; only to see cleveland's even morepowerful drill bore relentlessly through it. after that puncturing, the end came soon.a secondary sx7 beam was now in place on mighty ten's inner rings, and one fierceblast blew a hole completely through the nevian cruiser.
into that hole entered adlington's terrificbombs and their gruesome fellows, and where they entered, life departed. all defenses vanished, and under the blastsof the boise's batteries, now unopposed, the metal of the nevian vessel explodedinto a widely spreading cloud of vapor. sparkling vapor, with perhaps here andthere a droplet or two of material which had been only liquefied. so passed the sister-ship, and rodebushturned his plates upon the vessel of nerado.but that highly intelligent amphibian had seen all that had occurred.
he had long since given over the pursuit ofthe speedster, and he did not rush in to do hopeless battle beside his fellow neviansagainst the tellurians. his analytical detectors had written downeach detail of every weapon and of every screen employed; and even while prodigiousstreamers of force were raving out from his vessel, braking her terrific progress and swinging her around in an immense circleback toward far nevia, his scientists and mechanics were doubling and redoubling thepower of his already titanic installations, to match and if possible to overmatch thoseof triplanetary's super-dreadnaught. "do we kill him now or do we let him suffera while longer?"
costigan demanded. "i don't think so, yet," rodebush replied."would you, cleve?" "not yet," said cleveland, grimly, readingthe other's thought and agreeing with it. "let him pilot us to nevia; we might not beable to find it without a guide. while we're at it we want to so pulverizethat crowd that if they never come near the solarian system again they'll think it'stwenty minutes too soon." thus it was that the boise, increasing herfew dynes of driving force at a rate just sufficient to match her quarry'sacceleration, pursued the nevian ship. apparently exerting every effort, she nevercame quite within range of the fleeing
raider; yet never was she so far behindthat the nevian space-ship was not in clear register upon her observation plates. nor was nerado alone in strengthening hisvessel. costigan knew well and respected highly thenevian scientist-captain, and at his suggestion much time was spent inreenforcing the super-ship's armament to the iron-driven limit of theoretical andmechanical possibility. in mid-space, however, the nevian sloweddown. "what gives?" rodebush demanded of the group at large."not turn-over time already, is it?"
"no."cleveland shook his head. "not for at least a day yet." "cooking up something on nevia, is myguess," costigan put in. "if i know that lizard at all, he wiredahead--specifications for the welcoming committee. we're getting there too fast, so he'sstalling. check?""check." rodebush agreed. "but there's no use of us waiting, ifyou're sure you know which one of those
stars up ahead is nevia.do you, cleve?" "definitely." "the only other thing is, then, shall weblow them out of the ether first?" "you might try," costigan remarked."that is, if you're damned sure that you can run if you have to." "huh?run?" demanded rodebush. "just that.it's spelled r-u-n, run. i know those freaks better than you do. believe me, fritz, they've got what ittakes."
"could be, at that," rodebush admitted."we'll play it safe." the boise leaped upon the nevian, everyweapon aflame. but, as costigan had expected, nerado'svessel was completely ready for any emergency. and, unlike her sister-ship, she was mannedby scientists well versed in the fundamental theory of the weapons withwhich they fought. beams, rods, and lances of energy flamedand flared; planes and pencils cut, slashed, and stabbed; defensive screensglowed redly or flashed suddenly into intensely brilliant, coruscatingincandescence.
crimson opacity struggled sullenly againstviolet curtain of annihilation. material projectiles and torpedoes werelaunched under full beam control; only to be exploded harmlessly in mid-space, to beblasted into nothingness, or to disappear innocuously against impenetrable polycyclicscreens. even cleveland's drill was ineffective. both vessels were equipped completely withiron-driven mechanisms; both were manned by scientists capable of wringing the highestpossible measure of power from their installations. neither could harm the other.the boise flashed away; reached nevia in
minutes. down into the crimson atmosphere shedropped, down toward the city which costigan knew was nerado's home port."hold up a bit!" costigan cautioned, sharply. "there's something down there that i don'tlike!" as he spoke there shot upward from the citya multitude of flashing balls. the nevians had mastered the secret of theexplosive of the fishes of the greater deeps, and were launching it in a veritablestorm against the tellurian visitor. "those?" asked rodebush, calmly.
the detonating balls of destruction wereliterally annihilating even the atmosphere beyond the polycyclic screen, but thatbarrier was scarcely affected. "no. that." costigan pointed out a hemispherical domewhich, redly translucent, surrounded a group of buildings towering high abovetheir neighbors. "neither those high towers nor thosescreens were there the last time i was in this town. nerado was stalling for time, and that'swhat they're doing down there--that's all those fire-balls are for.good sign, too--they aren't ready for us
yet. we'd better take 'em while the taking'sgood. if they were ready for us, our play wouldbe to get out of here while we're all in one piece." nerado had been in touch with thescientists of his city; he had been instructing them in the construction ofconverters and generators of such weight and power that they could crush even thedefenses of the super-ship. the mechanisms were not, however, ready;the entirely unsuspected possibilities of speed inherent in absolute inertialessnesshad not entered into nerado's calculations.
"better drop a few cans down onto thatdome, fellows," rodebush suggested to his gunners."we can't," came adlington's instant reply. "no use trying it--that's a polycyclicscreen. can you drill it? if you can, i've got a real bomb here--thatspecial we built--that will do the trick if you can protect it from them until it getsdown into the water." "i'll try it," cleveland answered, at a nodfrom the physicist. "i couldn't drill nerado's polycyclics, buti couldn't use any momentum on him. couldn't ram him--he fell back with mythrust.
but that screen down there can't back awayfrom us, so maybe i can work on it. get your special ready. hang on, everybody!" the boise looped upward, and from analtitude of miles dove straight down through a storm of force-balls, beams, andshells; a dive checked abruptly as the hollow tube of energy which was cleveland's drill snarled savagely down ahead of herand struck the shielding hemisphere with a grinding, lightning-spitting shock. as it struck, backed by all the enormousmomentum of the plunging space-ship and
driven by the full power of her prodigiousgenerators it bored in, clawing and gouging viciously through the tissues of that rigidand unyielding barrier of pure energy. then, mighty drill and plunging massagainst iron-driven wall, eye-tearing and furiously spectacular warfare was waged. well it was for triplanetary that day thatits super-ship carried ample supplies of allotropic iron; well it was that heroriginally gargantuan converters and generators had been doubled and quadrupledin power on the long nevian way! for that ocean-girdled fortress was poweredto withstand any conceivable assault--but the boise's power and momentum were nowinconceivable; and every watt and every
dyne was solidly behind that hellishly flaming, that voraciously tearing, thatirresistibly ravening cylinder of energy incredible! through the nevian shield that cylindergnawed its frightful way, and down its protecting length there drove adlington's"special" bomb. "special" it was indeed; so great of girththat it could barely pass through the central orifice of ten's mighty projector,so heavily charged with sensitized atomic iron that its detonation upon any planet would not have been considered for aninstant if that planet's integrity meant
anything to its attackers. down the shielding pipe of force the"special" screamed under full propulsion, and beneath the surface of nevia's ocean itplunged. "cut!" yelled adlington, and as thescintillating drill expired the bomber pressed his detonating switch.for moments the effect of the explosion seemed unimportant. a dull, low rumble was all that was to beheard of a concussion that jarred red nevia to her very center; and all that could beseen was a slow heaving of the water. but that heaving did not cease.
slowly, so slowly it seemed to theobservers now high in the heavens, the waters rose up and parted; revealing a vastchasm blown deep into the ocean's rocky bed. higher and higher the lazy mountains ofwater reared; effortlessly to pick up, to smash, to grind into fragments, and finallyto toss aside every building, every structure, every scrap of material substance pertaining to the whole neviancity. flattened out, driven backward for miles,the buffeted waters were pressed, leaving exposed bare ground and broken rock whereonce had been the ocean's busy floor.
tremendous blasts of incandescent gas ravedupward, jarring even the enormous mass of the super-ship poised so high above thesite of the explosion. then the displaced millions of tons ofwater rushed to make even more complete the already total destruction of the city. the raging torrents poured into thatyawning cavern, filled it, and piled mountainously above it; receding and pilingup, again and again; causing tidal waves which swept a full half of nevia's mighty,watery globe. that city was silenced--forever."my...god!" cleveland was the first to break the awed,the stunned, silence.
he licked his lips. "but we had it to do ... and at that, it'snot as bad as what they did to pittsburgh-- they would have evacuated all exceptmilitary personnel." "of course ... what next?" asked rodebush. "look around, i suppose, to see if theyhave any more...." "oh, no, conway--no!don't let them!" clio was sobbing openly. "i'm going to my room and crawl under thebed--i'll see that sight all the rest of my life!""steady, clio."
costigan's arm tightened around her. "we'll have to look, but we won't find anymore. one--if they could have finished it--wouldhave been enough." again and again the boise circled theworld. no more super-powered installations werebeing built. and, surprisingly enough, the nevians madeno demonstration of hostility. "i wonder why?"rodebush mused. "of course, we aren't attacking them,either, but you'd think ... do you suppose that they are waiting for nerado?""probably."
costigan paused in thought. "we'd better wait for him, too.we can't leave things this way." "but if we can't force engagement ... astalemate...." cleveland's voice was troubled. "we'll do something!"costigan declared. "this thing has got to be settled, some wayor other, before we leave here. first, try talking. i've got an idea that ... anyway, it can'tdo any harm, and i know that he can hear and understand you."nerado arrived.
instead of attacking, his ship hung quietlypoised, a mile or two away from the equally undemonstrative boise.rodebush directed a beam. "captain nerado, i am rodebush oftriplanetary. what do you wish to do about thissituation?" "i wish to talk to you." the nevian's voice came clearly from thespeaker. "you are, i now perceive, a much higherform of life than any of us had thought possible; a form perhaps as high inevolution as our own. it is a pity that we did not take the timefor a full meeting of minds when we first
neared your planet, so that much life, bothtellurian and nevian, might have been spared. but what is past cannot be recalled.as reasoning beings, however, you will see the futility of continuing a combat inwhich neither is capable of winning victory over the other. you may, of course, destroy more of ournevian cities, in which case i should be compelled to go and destroy similarly uponyour earth; but, to reasoning minds, such a course would be sheerest stupidity." rodebush cut the communicator beam."does he mean it?" he demanded of costigan.
"it sounds perfectly reasonable, but....""but fishy!" cleveland broke in. "altogether too reasonable to be true!""he means it. he means every word of it," costiganassured his fellows. "i had an idea that he would take it thatway. that's the way they are.reasonable; passionless. funny--they lack a lot of things that wehave; but they've got stuff that i wish more of us tellurians had, too.give me the plate--i'll talk for triplanetary," and the beam was restored.
"captain nerado," he greeted the neviancommander. "having been with you and among yourpeople, i know that you mean what you say and that you speak for your race. similarly, i believe that i can speak forthe triplanetary council--the governing body of three of the planets of our solarsystem--in saying that there is no need for any more conflict between our peoples. i also was compelled by circumstances to docertain things which i now wish could be undone; but as you have said, the past ispast. our two races have much to gain from eachother by friendly exchanges of materials
and of ideas, while we can expect nothingexcept mutual extermination if we elect to continue this warfare. i offer you the friendship of triplanetary.will you release your screens and come aboard to sign a treaty?""my screens are down. i will come." rodebush likewise cut off his power,although somewhat apprehensively, and a nevian lifeboat entered the main airlock ofthe boise. then, at a table in the control room oftriplanetary's first super-ship, there was written the first inter-systemic treaty.
upon one side were the three nevians;amphibious, cone-headed, loop-necked, scaly, four-legged things to usmonstrosities: upon the other were human beings; air-breathing, round-headed, short- necked, smooth-bodied, two-legged creaturesequally monstrous to the fastidious nevians. yet each of these representatives of tworaces so different felt respect for the other race increase within him minute byminute as the conversation went on. the nevians had destroyed pittsburgh, butadlington's bomb had blown an important nevian city completely out of existence.
one nevian vessel had wiped out atriplanetarian fleet; but costigan had depopulated one nevian city, had seriouslydamaged another, and had beamed down many nevian ships. therefore loss of life and material damagecould be balanced off. the solarian system was rich in iron, towhich the nevians were welcome; red nevia possessed abundant stores of substanceswhich upon earth were either rare or of vital importance, or both. therefore commerce was to be encouraged.the nevians had knowledges and skills unknown to earthly science, but wereentirely ignorant of many things
commonplace to us. therefore interchange of students and ofbooks was highly desirable. and so on.thus was signed the triplanetario-nevian treaty of eternal peace. nerado and his two companions were escortedceremoniously to their vessel, and the boise took off inertialess for earth,bearing the good news that the nevian menace was no more. clio, now a hardened spacehound, immuneeven to the horrible nausea of inertialessness, wriggled lithely in thecurve of costigan's arm and laughed up at
him. "you can talk all you want to, conwaymurphy spud costigan, but i don't like them the least little bit.they give me goose-bumps all over. i suppose that they are really estimablefolks; talented, cultured, and everything; but just the same i'll bet that it will bea long, long time before anybody on earth will really, truly like them!"