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gaining strength.

* * * * *

Hale staggered back. "No! You don't mean it, do you?"

Unani Assu turned the rat over with a contemptuous toe. "Yes, I mean it.
Behold Aimu, the man who thought himself creator and destroyer - the man
who said that a human being was no higher than a rat! Perhaps he was
right, for see this thing that was once a man!"

Hale buried his face in his hands. "Kill it, Unani Assu! Kill it!"

Unani Assu's low laugh was metallic. "You kill it."

Hale uncovered his face. "Open the disintegrator." Gingerly he reached
for the rat's tail.

But his hand never touched the animal. The hairless face turned for a
second, and the little, beady eyes blinked up at Hale with an expression
that his fevered imagination thought almost human. Then, like a dark
shadow, the rat dashed away. Once around the room it scampered, hunting
for an exit. Hale started in pursuit. He was almost upon the animal
again, when, leaping up from his grasp, it landed on a low shelf where
chemicals were stored. Several bottles fell, filling the room with
fumes.

Another bottle fell, and, suddenly, amid a thunderous roar, the ceiling
and walls began falling. Some highly explosive chemical had been stored
in one of the bottles.

Hale was thrown violently against the couch. His hand touched Aña's
body. One last shred of consciousness enabled him to pick her up and
drag her out. In the open, he fell, aware, before blackness descended,
that flames leaped high over the laboratory building and that Unani Assu
lay dead within.

* * * * *

Hale and Aña, leaning over the deck-rail of a small steam launch, gazed
into the dark waters of the Amazon.

"We ought to reach Para by morning," said Hale, "and then, dearest,
we're off for New York!"

Aña, wearing one of the first civilized dresses she had ever donned, and
looking as smart as any débutante, slipped her little hand into her
husband's.

"Isn't it a shame, Hale," she moaned, "that the fire burned all the
animals and insects, the machinery, and even your notes?" Her beautiful
face saddened. "Just one or two specimens might have been proof enough
for your What-You-Call-It Club!"

"The Nescience Club, darling. No, I can't expect to win the Woolman
prize, but I've won a prize worth far more." He squeezed her little hand
and looked devotedly into her blue eyes. "And, Aña, I've reasoned out
something concerning mind-electrons which even Sir Basil overlooked."

"What is it, Hale?"

"He maintained that matter seeks always to enslave mind-electrons, but I
am convinced that mind-electrons seek to enslave matter. Understand?
It's creation, Aña! Had Sir Basil succeeded in broadcasting death
throughout the world, the freed mind-electrons, as in the beginning,
would have started again to vitalize inorganic atoms. And, in a few
million years, which is no time to the Mind, the world would be humming
with a new civilization. Large thought, eh, sweetheart?"




A SIGNAL TO THE MOON

The idea of a radio signal to the moon may sound fantastic, but is
easily within the range of possibility, says Dr. A. Hoyt Taylor, Chief
of the Radio Division of the United States Naval Research Laboratories
at Washington, who plans such an attempt in the near future.

"We have reason to expect a good chance of getting the signal back in a
time interval of slightly less than three seconds," said Dr. Taylor.

To be exact, a radio signal should be reflected back to earth in a time
interval of 2.8 seconds, this being the necessary elapsed time for it to
carry the 250,000 miles to the moon and return at its speed of 300,000
kilometers, or 186,000 miles per second.

The signal would be very weak, Dr. Taylor points out, but not impossible
of detection with the present refinement of receiving instruments,
provided no great absorption took place in interstellar space.

A high frequency wave will be used, as such a wave penetrates readily
the earth's atmosphere and probably goes far beyond. The frequency of
the wave will range between 20,000 and 30,000 kilocycles. Twenty
kilowats of power will be used, enough to furnish current for about
forty flatirons.

The value of a radio signal to the moon lies in the confirmation of
whether there is or not heavy absorption of waves in the upper levels of
our own atmosphere. If successful it would indicate a reasonably good
reflection coefficient at the surface of the moon - the power of the
moon's surface to act as a joint agent in the perfection of the signal.

The signal might have some bearing also on whether the moon has an
atmosphere - something pretty much settled already by astronomical
observation. It would also lead to the possibility of fairly accurate
determination of wave velocity in free space, all of interest to
science, either confirming existing theories or establishing new ones.




The Pirate Planet

PART TWO OF A FOUR-PART NOVEL

_By Charles W. Diffin_

It is war. Interplanetary war. And on far distant Venus two
fighting Earthlings stand up against a whole planet run amuck.


WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE

A flash of light on Venus! - and at Maricopa Flying Field Lieutenant
McGuire and Captain Blake laugh at its possible meaning until the
radio's weird call and the sight of a giant ship in the night sky prove
their wildest thoughts are facts. "Big as an ocean liner," it hangs in
midair, then turns and shoots upward at incredible speed until it
disappears entirely, in space!

McGuire goes to Mount Lawson observatory, and there he sees the flash on
Venus repeated. Professor Sykes, who had observed the first flash,
confirms it and sees still more. He sees the enveloping clouds of Venus
torn asunder, and beneath them an identifying mark, a continent shaped
like the letter "L."

And then the great ship comes again. It hovers above the observatory and
settles slowly down.

[Illustration: "Hold them off as long as you can!"]

Back at Maricopa Field, Captain Blake has tested a new plane for
altitude, and is now prepared to interview the stranger in the higher
levels. McGuire's frantic phone call sends him out into the night with
the 91st Squadron of planes in support. It is their last flight, for all
but Blake. The invader smothers them in a great sphere of gas, but
Blake, with his oxygen flasks, flies through to crash beside the
observatory. Only Blake survives to see the enemy land, while strange
man-shapes loot the buildings and carry off McGuire and Sykes.

A bombardment with giant shells dispels the last doubt of the earth
being under attack. The flashes from Venus at regular intervals spout
death and destruction upon the earth; a mammoth gun, sunk into the
planet itself, bears once upon the earth at every revolution, until the
changing position of the globes take the target out of range.

In less than a year and a half the planets must meet again. It is war to
the death; a united world against an enemy unknown - an enemy who has
conquered space. And there is less than a year and a half in which to
prepare!

Far out in the blackness of space McGuire and Sykes are captives in the
giant ship. Their stupor leaves them; they find themselves immersed in
clouds. The clouds part; their ship drops through; and below them is a
strange continent shaped like the letter "L." Captives of inhuman but
man-shaped things, they are landing upon a strange globe - upon the
planet Venus itself!


CHAPTER VIII

Miles underneath the great ship, from which Lieutenant McGuire and
Professor Sykes were now watching through a floor-window of thick glass,
was a glittering expanse of water - a great ocean. The flickering gold
expanse that reflected back the color of the sunlit clouds passed to one
side as the ship took its station above the island, a continent in size,
that had shown by its shape like a sharply formed "L" an identifying
mark to the astronomer.

They were high in the air; the thick clouds that surrounded this new
world were miles from its surface, and the things of the world that
awaited were tiny and blurred.

Airships passed and repassed far below. Large, some of them - as bulky
as the transport they were on; others were small flashing cylinders, but
all went swiftly on their way.

It must have come - some ethereal vibration to warn others from the
path - for layer after layer of craft were cleared for the descent. A
brilliant light flashed into view, a dazzling pin-point on the shore
below, and the great ship fell suddenly beneath them. Swiftly it dropped
down the pathway of light; on even keel it fell down and still down,
till McGuire, despite his experience in the air, was sick and giddy.

The light blinked out at their approach. It was some minutes before the
watching eyes recovered from the brilliance to see what mysteries might
await, and then the surface was close and the range of vision small.

A vast open space - a great court paved with blocks of black and white - a
landing field, perhaps, for about it in regular spacing other huge
cylinders were moored. Directly beneath in a clear space was a giant
cradle of curved arms; it was a mammoth structure, and the men knew at a
glance that this was the bed where their great ship would lie.

* * * * *

The smooth pavement seemed slowly rising to meet them as their ship
settled close. Now the cradle was below, its arms curved and waiting.
The ship entered their grasp, and the arms widened, then closed to draw
the monster to its rest. Their motion ceased. They were finally, beyond
the last faint doubt, at anchor on a distant world.

A shrill cackle of sound recalled them from the thrill of this
adventure, and the attenuated and lanky figure, with its ashen,
blotchy face that glared at them from the doorway, reminded them that
this excursion into space was none of their desire. They were
prisoners - captives from a foreign land.

A long hand moved its sinuous fingers to motion them to follow, and
McGuire regarded his companion with a hopeless look and a despondent
shrug of his shoulders.

"No use putting up a fight," he said; "I guess we'd better be good."

He followed where the figure was stepping through a doorway into a
corridor beyond. They moved, silent and depressed, along the dimly
lighted way; the touch of cold metal walls was as chilling to their
spirits as to their flesh.

But the mood could not last: the first ray of light from the outside
world sent shivers of anticipation along their spines. They were
landing, in very fact, upon a new world; their feet were to walk where
never man had stood; their eyes would see what mortal eyes had never
visioned.

Fears were forgotten, and the men clung to each other not for the human
touch but because of an ecstasy of intoxicating, soul-filling joy in the
sheer thrill of adventure.

They were gripping each other's hand, round-eyed as a couple of
children, as they stepped forward into the light.

* * * * *

Before them was a scene whose blazing beauty of color struck them to
frozen silence; their exclamations of wonder died unspoken on their
lips. They were in a city of the stars, and to their eyes it seemed as
if all the brilliance of the heavens had been gathered for its
building.

The spacious, open court itself stood high in the air among the masses
of masonry, and beyond were countless structures. Some towered skyward;
others were lower; and all were topped with bulbous towers and graceful
minarets that made a forest of gleaming opal light. Opalescence
everywhere! - it flashed in red and gold and delicate blues from every
wall and cornice and roof.

"Quartz?" marveled Sykes after one long drawn breath. "Quartz or
glass? - what are they made of? It is fairyland!"

A jewelled city! Garish, it might have been, and tawdry, in the full
light of the sun. But on these weirdly unreal structures the sun's rays
never shone; they were illumined only by the soft golden glow that
diffused across this world from the cloud masses far above.

McGuire looked up at that uniform, glowing, golden mass that paled
toward the horizon and faded to the gray of banked clouds. His eyes came
slowly back to the ramp that led downward to the checkered black and
white of the court. Beyond an open portion the pavement was solidly
massed with people.

"People! - we might as well call them that," McGuire had told Sykes;
"they are people of a sort, I suppose. We'll have to give them credit
for brains: they've beaten us a hundred years in their inventions."

He was trying to see everything, understand everything, at once. There
was not time to single out the new impressions that were crowding upon
him. The air - it was warm to the point of discomfort; it explained the
loose, light garments of the people; it came to the two men laden with
strange scents and stranger sounds.

McGuire's eyes held with hungry curiosity upon the dwellers in this
other world; he stared at the gaping throng from which came a bedlam of
shrill cries. Lean colorless hands gesticulated wildly and pointed with
long fingers at the two men.

* * * * *

The din ceased abruptly at a sharp, whistled order from their captor. He
stood aside with a guard that had followed from the ship, and he
motioned the two before him down the gangway. It was the same scarlet
one who had faced them before, the one whom McGuire had attacked in a
frenzy of furious fighting, only to go down to blackness and defeat
before the slim cylinder of steel and its hissing gas. And the slanting
eyes stared wickedly in cold triumph as he ordered them to go before
him in his march of victory.

McGuire passed down toward the masses of color that were the ones who
waited. There were many in the dull red of the ship's crew; others in
sky-blue, in gold and pink and combinations of brilliance that blended
their loose garments to kaleidoscopic hues. But the figures were similar
in one unvarying respect: they were repulsive and ghastly, and their
faces showed bright blotches of blood vessels and blue markings of veins
through their parchment-gray skins.

The crowd parted to a narrow, living lane, and lean fingers clutched
writhingly to touch them as they passed between the solid ranks.

McGuire had only a vague impression of a great building beyond, of lower
stories decorated in barbaric colors, of towers above in strange forms
of the crystal, colorful beauty they had seen. He walked toward it
unseeing; his thoughts were only of the creatures round about.

"What damned beasts!" he said. Then, like his companion, he set his
teeth to restrain all show of feeling as they made their way through the
lane of incredible living things.

* * * * *

They followed their captor through a doorway into an empty room - empty
save for one blue-clad individual who stood beside an instrument board
let into the wall. Beyond was a long wall, where circular openings
yawned huge and black.

The one at the instrument panel received a curt order: the weird voice
of the man in red repeated a word that stood out above his curious,
wordless tone. "Torg," he said, and again McGuire heard him repeat the
syllable.

The operator touched here and there among his instruments, and tiny
lights flashed; he threw a switch, and from one of the black openings
like a deep cave came a rushing roar of sound. It dropped to silence as
the end of a cylindrical car protruded into the room. A door in the
metal car opened, and their guard hustled them roughly inside. The one
in red followed while behind him the door clanged shut.

Inside the car was light, a diffused radiance from no apparent source,
the whole air was glowing about them. And beneath their feet the car
moved slowly but with a constant acceleration that built up to
tremendous speed. Then that slackened, and Sykes and McGuire clung to
each other for support while the car that had been shot like a
projectile came to rest.

"Whew!" breathed the lieutenant; "that was quick delivery." Sykes made
no reply, and McGuire, too, fell silent to study the tremendous room
into which they were led. Here, seemingly, was the stage for their next
experience.

A vast open hall with a floor of glass that was like obsidion, empty but
for carved benches about the walls; there was room here for a mighty
concourse of people. The walls, like those they had seen, were decorated
crudely in glaring colors, and embellished with grotesque designs that
proclaimed loudly the inexpert touch of the draughtsman. Yet, above
them, the ceiling sprang lightly into vaulted, sweeping curves.
McGuire's training had held little of architecture, yet even he felt the
beauty of line and airy gracefulness of treatment in the structure
itself.

* * * * *

The contrast between the flaunting colors and the finished artistry that
lay beneath must have struck a discordant note to the scientist. He
leaned closer to whisper.

"It is all wrong some way - the whole world! Beauty and refinement - then
crude vulgarity, as incongruous as the people themselves - they do not
belong here."

"Neither do we," was McGuire's reply; "it looks like a tough spot that
we're in."

He was watching toward a high, arched entrance across the room. A
platform before it was raised some six feet above the floor, and on
this were seats - ornate chairs, done in sweeping scrolls of scarlet and
gold. A massive seat in the center was like the fantastic throne of a
child's fairy tale. From the corridor beyond that entrance came a stir
and rustling that rivetted the man's attention.

A trumpet peal, vibrant and peculiar, blared forth from the ceiling
overhead, and the red figures of the guards stood at rigid attention
with lean arms held stiffly before them. The one in scarlet took the
same attitude, then dropped his hands to motion the two men to give the
same salute.

"You go to hell," said Lieutenant McGuire in his gentlest tones. And the
scarlet figure's thin lips were snarling as he turned to whip his arms
up to their position. The first of a procession of figures was entering
through the arch.

Sykes, the scientist, was paying little attention. "It isn't true," he
was muttering aloud; "it can't be true. Venus! Twenty-six million miles
at inferior conjunction!"

He seemed lost in silent communion with his own thoughts; then: "But
I said there was every probability of life; I pointed out the
similarities - "

"Hush!" warned McGuire. The eyes of the scarlet man were sending wicked
looks in their direction. Tall forms were advancing through the arch.
They, too, were robed in scarlet, and behind them others followed.

* * * * *

The trumpet peal from the dome above held now on a long-drawn, single
note, while the scarlet men strode in silence across the dais and parted
to form two lines. An inverted "V" that faced the entrance - they were an
assembly of rigid, blazing statues whose arms were extended like those
on the floor below.

The vibrant tone from on high changed to a crashing blare that shrieked
discordantly to send quivering protest through every nerve of the
waiting men. Those about them were shouting, and again the name of Torg
was heard, as, in the high arch, another character appeared to play his
part in a strange drama.

Thin like his companions, yet even taller than them, he wore the same
brilliant robes and, an additional mark of distinction, a head-dress of
polished gold. He acknowledged the salute with a quick raising of his
own arms, then came swiftly forward and took his place upon the massive
throne.

Not till he was seated did the others on the platform relax their rigid
pose and seat themselves in the semicircle of chairs. And not till then
did they so much as glance at the men waiting there before them - the two
Earth-men, standing in silent, impassive contemplation of the brilliant
scene and with their arms held quiet at their sides. Then every eye
turned full upon the captives, and if McGuire had seen deadly
malevolence in the face of their captor he found it a hundred-fold in
the inhuman faces that looked down upon them now.

The inquiring mind of Professor Sykes did not fail to note the
character of their reception. "But why," he asked in whispers of his
fellow-prisoner, " - why this open hatred of us? What possible animus
can they have against the earth or its people?"

The figure on the throne voiced a curt order; the one who had brought
them stepped forward. His voice was raised in the same discordant,
singing tone that leaped and wandered from note to note. It conveyed
ideas - that was apparent; it was a language that he spoke. And the
central figure above nodded a brief assent as he finished.

Their captor took an arm of each in his long fingers and pushed them
roughly forward to stand alone before the battery of hard eyes.

* * * * *

Now the crowned figure addressed them directly. His voice quavered
sharply in what seemed an interrogation. The men looked blankly at each
other.

Again the voice questioned them impatiently. Sykes and McGuire were
silent. Then the young flyer took an involuntary step forward and looked
squarely at the owner of the harsh voice.

"We don't know what you are saying," he began, "and I suppose that our
lingo makes no sense to you - " He paused in helpless wonderment as to
what he could say. Then -

"But what the devil is it all about?" he demanded explosively. "Why all
the dirty looks? You've got us here as prisoners - now what do you expect
us to do? Whatever it is, you'll have to quit singing it and talk
something we can understand."

He knew his words were useless, but this reception was getting on his
nerves - and his arm still tingled where the scarlet one had gripped
him.

It seemed, though, that his meaning was not entirely lost. His words
meant nothing to them, but his tone must have carried its own message.
There were sharp exclamations from the seated circle. The one who had
brought them sprang forward with outstretched, clutching hands; his face
was a blood-red blotch. McGuire was waiting in crouching tenseness that
made the red one pause.

"You touch me again," said the waiting man, "and I'll knock you into an
outside loop."

The attacker's indecision was ended by a loud order from above. McGuire
turned as if he had been spoken to by the leader on the throne. The thin
figure was leaning far forward; his eye were boring into those of the
lieutenant, and he held the motionless pose for many minutes. To the
angry man, staring back and upward, there came a peculiar optical
illusion.

The evil face was vanishing in a shifting cloud that dissolved and
reformed, as he watched, into pictures. He knew it was not there, the
thing he saw; he knew he was regarding something as intangible as
thought; but he got the significance of every detail.

He saw himself and Professor Sykes; they were being crushed like ants
beneath a tremendous heel; he knew that the foot that could grind out
their lives was that of the one on the throne.

* * * * *

The cloud-stuff melted to new forms that grew clearer to show him the
earth. A distorted Earth - and he knew the distortion came from the mind
of the being before him who had never seen the earth at first hand; yet
he knew it for his own world. It was turning in space; he saw oceans and
continents; and before his mental gaze he saw the land swarming with
these creatures of Venus. The one before him was in command; he was
seated on an enormous throne; there were Earth people like Sykes and
himself who crept humbly before him, while fleets of great Venusian
ships hovered overhead.

The message was plain - plain as if written in words of fire in the brain
of the man. McGuire knew that these creatures intended that the vision
should be true - they meant to conquer the earth. The slim, khaki-clad
figure of Lieutenant McGuire quivered with the strength of his refusal
to accept the truth of what he saw. He shook his head to clear it of
these thought wraiths.

"Not - in - a - million - years!" he said, and he put behind his words all
the mental force at his command. "Try that, old top, and they'll give
you the fight of your life - " He checked his words as he saw plainly
that the thin cruel face that stared and stared was getting nothing from
his reply.

"Now what do you think about that?" he demanded of Professor Sykes. "He
got an idea across to me - some form of telepathy. I saw his mind, or I
saw what he wanted me to see of it. It's taps, he says, for us, and then


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Online LibraryVariousAstounding Stories of Super-Science, December 1930 → online text (page 3 of 19)