BY RAY CUMMINGS
COPYRIGHT, 1930, BY A. C. McCLURG & CO. CHICAGO
IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, THE BRITISH EMPIRE AND THE PAN AMERICAN UNION.
Printed in the United States of America
To Hugo Gernsback, scientist, author and publisher, whose constant efforts in behalf of scientific fiction have contributed so largely to its present popularity, this tale is gratefully dedicated.
_In "Tarrano the Conqueror" is presented a tale of the year 2430 A.D.—a time somewhat farther beyond our present-day era than we are beyond Columbus' discovery of America. My desire has been to create for you the impression that you have suddenly been plunged forward into that time—to give you the feeling Columbus might have had could he have read a novel of our present-day life.
To this end I have conceived myself a writer of that future time, addressing his contemporary public. You are to imagine yourself reading a present day translation of my original text—a translation so free that a thousand little colloquialisms will have crept into it that could not possibly have their counterparts in the year 2430.
Apart from the text, you will occasionally find brief explanatory footnotes. Conceive them as having been put there by the translator.
If you find parts of this tale unusual or bizarre, please remember that we are living now in a comparatively ignorant day. The tale is not intended to be fantastic or full of new and strange ideas. I have used nothing but those developments of our present-day civilization to which we are all looking forward as logical probabilities—woven them into a picture of what life in America very probably will be five hundred years from now. To that extent, the tale itself is intended to be only a love story of adventure and romance—written, not for you, but for that future audience._
I. The New Murders
III. Spy in the House
IV. To the North Pole
V. Outlawed Flight
VI. Man of Destiny
VIII. Unknown Friend
X. Georg Escapes
XIII. Love—and Hate
XIV. Defying Worlds
XVI. Playground of Venus
XVII. Violet Beam of Death
XVIII. Passing of a Friend
XIX. Waters of Eternal Peace
XX. Unseen Menace
XXI. Love, Music—and a Warning
XXIII. First Retreat
XXIV. Attack on the Palace
XXV. Immortal Terror
XXVI. Black Cloud of Death
XXVII. Tarrano The Man
XXVIII. Thing in the Forest
XXIX. A Woman's Scream
XXX. The Monster
XXXIII. First Assault
XXXIV. Invisible Assailants
XXXV. Attack on the Power House
XXXVI. City of Ice Besieged
TARRANO THE CONQUEROR
The New Murders
I was standing fairly close to the President of the Anglo-Saxon Republic when the first of the new murders was committed. The President fell almost at my feet. I was quite certain then that the Venus man at my elbow was the murderer. I don't know why, call it intuition if you will. The Venus man did not make a move; he merely stood beside me in the press of the throng, seemingly as absorbed as all of us in what the President was saying.
It was late afternoon. The sun was setting behind the cliffs across the river. There were perhaps a hundred and fifty thousand people within sight of the President, listening raptly to his words. It was at Park Sixty, and I was standing on the Tenth Level. The crowd packed all twelve of the levels; the park was black with people. The President stood on a balcony of the park tower. He was no more than a few hundred feet above me, well within direct earshot. Around him on all sides were the electric megaphones which carried his voice to all parts of the audience. Behind me, a thousand feet overhead, the main aerials were scattering it throughout the city, I suppose five million people were listening to the voice of the President at that moment. He had just said that we must remain friendly with Venus; that in our enlightened age controversies were inevitable, but that they should be settled with sober thought—around the council table. This talk of war was ridiculous. He was denouncing the public news-broadcasters; moulders of public opinion, who every day—every hour—must offer a new sensation to their millions of subscribers.
[Footnote 1: New York City, about where Yonkers now stands.]
He had reached this point when without warning his body pitched forward. The balcony rail caught it; and it hung there inert. The slanting rays of the sun fell full upon the ruffled white shirt; white, but turning pink, then red, with the crimson stain welling out from beneath.
For an instant the crowd was stunned into silence. Then a murmur arose, and swelled into shouts of horror. A surge of people swept me forward. I could not see clearly what was happening on the balcony. The form of the murdered President was hanging there against the rail; a score of government officials were rushing toward it; but the body, toppling over the low support, came hurtling downward into the crowd, quite near me; but I could not reach it—the throng was too dense.
The shouts everywhere were deafening. I was shoved along the Tenth Level by the press of people coming up the stairway. Shouts, excited questions; the wail of children almost trampled under foot; the screams of women. And over it all, the electrically magnified voice of the traffic director-general in the peak of the main tower roaring his orders to the crowd.
It was a panic until the traffic-directors descended upon us. We were pushed up on the moving sidewalks. North or south, whichever direction came handiest, we were herded upon the sidewalks and whirled away. With a hundred other spectators near me I was shoved to a sidewalk moving south along the Tenth Level. It was going some four miles an hour. But they would not let me stay there. From behind, the crowd was shoving; and from one parallel strip of moving pavement to the other I was pushed along—until at last I reached the seats of the forty mile an hour inside section.
The scene at Park Sixty was far out of direct sight and hearing. The park there had already been cleared of spectators, I knew; and they were doubtless bearing the President's body away.
"Murdered!" said a man beside me. "Murdered! Look there!"
We were across the river, into Manhattan. The Tenth Level here runs about four hundred feet above the ground-street of the city. The man beside me was pointing to a steel tower we were passing. It was several hundreds yards away; on its side abreast of us was a forty-foot square news-mirror, brightly illumined. On all the stairways and balconies here a local crowd had gathered, watching the mirror. It was reporting the present scene at Park Sixty. As we sped past the tower I could see in the silver surface of the mirror the image of the now empty park from which we had been so summarily ejected. They were carrying off the President's body; a little group of officials bearing it away; red, broken, gruesome, with the dying rays of the sun still upon it. Carrying it slowly along to where an aero-car was waiting on the side landing stage.
We were past the mirror in a moment.
"Murdered," the man next to me repeated. "The President murdered."
He seemed stunned, as indeed everyone was. Then he eyed me—my cap, which had on it the insignia of my calling.
"You are one of them," he said bitterly. "The last word he said—the lurid news-gatherers."
But I shook my head. "We are necessary. It was unfortunate that he should have said that."
I had no opportunity to talk further. The man moved away toward the foot of a landing stage near us. A south-bound flyer had overtaken us and was landing. I boarded it also, and ten minutes later was in my office in South-Manhattan.
I was at this time employed by one of the most enterprising news-organizations in Greater New York. There was pandemonium in there that evening. My supper came up in the pneumatic tube from the public cookery nearby, but I had hardly time to taste it.
This, the evening of May 12, 2430, was for me—and for all the Earth—the most stirring evening of history. Events of inter-planetary importance tumbled over each other as they came to us through the air from the Official Information Stations. And we—myself and a thousand like me in our office—retold them for our twenty million subscribers throughout the Anglo-Saxon Nation.
The President of the Anglo-Saxon Republic was murdered at 5:10. It was the first of the new murders. I say new murders, for not in two hundred years had the life of so high an official been wilfully taken. But it was only the first. At 6:15 word came from Tokyohama, that the ruler of Allied Mongolia was dead—murdered under similar circumstances. And ten minutes later from Mombozo, Africa, the blacks reported their leader killed while asleep in his official residence.
[Footnote 2: Tokyo-Yokohama, Japan.]
The Earth momentarily was without leadership!
I was struggling to get accounts of these successive disasters out over our audiophones. Above my desk, in a duplicating mirror from Headquarters, I could see that at the palace of Mombozo a throng of terrified blacks were gathered. It was night there—a blurred scene of flashing lights and frightened, milling people.
Greys—next to me—had a mirror tuned to Tokyohama. The sun there was shining upon almost a similar scene of panic. Black and yellow men—on opposite sides of the Earth. And between them our white races in turmoil. Outside my own window I could hear the shouts of the crowd that jammed the Twentieth Level.
Greys leaned toward me. "Seven o'clock, Jac. You've got the arrival of the Venus mail. Don't overlook it ... By the code, man, your hands are shaking! You're white as a ghost!"
The Venus mail; I had forgotten it completely.
"Greys, I wonder if it'll get in."
He stared at me strangely. "You're thinking that, too. I told the British National Announcer it was a Venus plot. He laughed at me. Those Great Londoners can't see their fingers before them. He said, 'That's your lurid sense of newscasting.'"
Venus plot! I remembered my impressions of the Venus man who was beside me when our President fell.
Greys was back at his work. I swept the south shore of Eastern Island with my finder, and picked up the image of the inter-planetary landing stage, at which the Venus mail was due to arrive. I could see the blaze of lights plainly; and with another, closer focus I caught the huge landing platform itself. It was empty.
[Footnote 3: Now Long Island.]
The station-master there answered my call. He had no word of the mail.
"Try the lookout at Table Mountain," he advised me. "They may be coming down that way.... Sure I'll let you know.... What a night! They say that in Mediterrania—"
But I cut off; it was no time to chat with him. Table Mountain, Capetown, had no word of the mail. Then I caught the Yukon Station. The mail flyer had come down on the North Polar side—was already crossing Hudson Bay.
At 8:26 it landed on Eastern Island. A deluge of Venus despatches overwhelmed me. But the mail news, before I could even begin to handle my section of it, was far overshadowed. Venus, now at 8:44 was calling us by helio. The message came in the inter-planetary code, was decoded at National Headquarters, and from there flashed to us.
The ruler of the Venus Central State was murdered! An almost incoherent message. The murder of the ruler, at a time co-incident with 6:30 in Greater New York. Then the words:
"City being attacked ... Tarrano, beware Tarrano ... You are in danger of ..."
In danger of what? The message broke off. The observers, behind their huge telescopes at the Potomac Headquarters, saw the helio-lights of the Venus Central State go dark suddenly. Our own station flashed its call, but there was no answer. Venus—evening star on that date—was sinking to the horizon. But our Observatory in Texas could see the planet clearly; and gave the same report.
Communication was broken. The authorities of the Venus Central State—friendly to us in spite of the recent immigration controversy—had tried to warn us.
It must have been nearly nine o'clock when a personal message came for me. Not through the ordinary open airways, but in the National Length, and coded. It came to my desk by official messenger, decoded, printed and sealed.
Jac Hallen, Inter-Allied News. Come to me, North-east Island at once, if they can spare you. Important. Answer.
Our Division Manager scanned the message curiously and told me I could go. I got off my answer. I did not dare call Dr. Brende openly, since he had used the code, but sent it the same way. I would be up at once.
With a word of good-bye to Greys, I shoved aside my work, caught up a heavy jacket and cap and left the office. The levels outside our building were still jammed with an excited throng. I pushed my way through it, up to the entrance to the Staten Bridge. The waters of the harbor beneath me had a broad band of moonlight upon them, dim in the glare of the city lights. I glanced upward with satisfaction. A good night for air-traveling.
My small personal air-car was on the stage near the bridge entrance. The attendant was there, staring at me as I dashed up in such haste. He handed me my key from the rack.
"Going far, Jac? What a night! They'll be ordering them off if many more go up.... Going north?"
"No," I said shortly.
I was away, rising with my helicopters until the city was a yellow haze beneath me. I was going north—to Dr. Brende's little private island off the coast of Maine. The lower lanes were pretty well crowded. I tried one of the north-bound at 8,000 feet; but the going was awkward. Then I went to 16,000.
But Grille, the attendant back at the bridge, evidently had his finder on me, out of plain curiosity. He called me.
"They'll chase you out of there," came his voice. "Nothing doing up there tonight. That's reserved. Didn't you know it?"
I grinned at him. In the glow of my pitlight I hoped he could see my face and the grin.
"They'll never catch me," I said. "I'm traveling fast tonight."
"Chase you out," he persisted. "The patrol's keeping them low. General Orders, an hour ago. Didn't you know it?"
"Well, you ought to. You ought to know everything in your business. Besides, the lights are up."
They were indeed; I could see them in all the towers underneath me. I was flying north-east; and at the moment, with a following wind, I was doing something over three-fifty.
"But they'll shut off your power," Grille warned. "You'll come down soon enough then."
Which was also true enough. The evening local-express for Boston and beyond was overhauling me. And when the green beam of a traffic tower came up and picked me out, I decided I had better obey. Dutifully I descended until the beam, satisfied, swung away from me.
At 8,000 feet, I went on. There was too much traffic for decent speed and the directors in every pilot bag and tower I passed seemed watching me closely. At the latitude of Boston, I swung out to sea, off the main arteries of travel. The early night mail for Eurasia, with Great London its first stop, went by me far overhead. I could make out its green and purple lights, and the spreading silver beam that preceded it.
[Footnote 4: Now Europe and Asia.]
Alone in my pit, with the dull whir of my propellers alone breaking the silence of the night, I pondered the startling events of the past few hours. Above me the stars and planets gleamed in the deep purple of an almost cloudless sky. Venus had long since dropped below the horizon. But Mars was up there—approaching the zenith. I wondered what the Martian helio might be saying. I could have asked Greys back at the office. But Greys, I knew, would be too busy to bother with me.
What could Dr. Brende want of me? I was glad he had sent for me—there was nowhere I would rather have gone this particular evening. And it would give me a chance to see Elza again.
I could tell by the light-numerals below, that I was now over Maine. I did not need to consult my charts; I had been up this way many times, for, the Brendes—the doctor, his daughter Elza, and her twin brother Georg—I counted my best friends.
I was over the sea, with the coast of Maine to my left. The traffic, since I left the line of Boston, had been far less. The patrols flashed by me at intervals, but they did not molest me.
I descended presently, and located the small two-mile island which Dr. Brende owned and upon which he lived.
It was 10:20 when I came down to find them waiting for me on the runway.
The doctor held out both his hands. "Good enough, Jac. I got your code—we've been waiting for you."
"It's crowded," I said. "Heavy up to Boston. And they wouldn't let me go high."
He nodded. And then Elza put her cool little hand in mine.
"We're glad to see you, Jac. Very glad."
They took me to the house. Dr. Brende was a small, dark man of sixty-odd, smooth-shaven, a thin face, with a mop of iron-grey hair above it, and keen dark eyes beneath bushy white brows. He was usually kindly and gentle of manner—at times a little abstracted; at other times he could be more forceful and direct than anyone with whom I had ever had contact.
At the house we were joined by the doctor's son, Georg. My best friend, I should say; certainly, for my part, I treasured his friendship very highly. He and Elza were twins—twenty-three years old at this time. I am two years older; and I had been a room-mate with Georg at the Common University of the Potomac.
Our friendship had, if anything, grown closer since my promotion into the business world. Yet we were as unlike as two individuals could possibly be. I am dark-haired, slim, and of comparatively slight muscular strength. Restless—full of nervous energy—and, they tell me, somewhat short of temper. Georg was a blond, powerful young giant. A head taller than I—blue-eyed, from his mother, now dead—square-jawed, and a complexion pink and white. He was slow to anger. He seldom spoke impulsively; and usually with a slow, quiet drawl. Always he seemed looking at life and people with a half-humorous smile—looking at the human pageant with its foibles, follies and frailties—tolerantly. Yet there was nothing conceited about him. Quite the reverse. He was generally wholly deprecating in manner, as though he himself were of least importance. Until aroused. In our days of learning, I saw Georg once—just once—thoroughly angered.
"... Came up promptly, didn't you?" Georg was saying. He was leading me to the house doorway, but I stopped him.
"Let's go to the grove," I suggested. We turned down from the small viaduct, passed the house, and went into the heavy grove of trees nearby.
"He's hungry," Elza declared. "Jac, did you eat at the office tonight?"
"Yes," I said.
"Did you really?"
"Some," I admitted. In truth the run up here had brought me a thoroughly hearty appetite, which I just realized.
"I was pretty busy, you know," I added. "Such a night—but don't you bother."
But she had already scurried away toward the house. Dear little Elza! I wished then, for the hundredth time, that I was a man of wealth—or at least, not as poor as a tower timekeeper. True, I made fair money—but the urge to spend it recklessly dominated me. I decided in that moment, to reform for good; and lay by enough to justify asking a woman to be my wife.
We reclined on a mossy bank in the grove of trees, so thick a grove that it hid the house from our sight.
The doctor extinguished the glowing lights with which the tree-branches were dotted. We were in the semi-darkness of a beautiful, moonlit night.
"Don't go to sleep, Jac!"
I became aware that Georg and his father were smiling at me.
I sat up, snapping my wits into alertness. "No. Of course not. I guess I'm tired. You've no idea what the office was like tonight. Roaring."
"I can imagine," Georg said. "You were at Park Sixty when the President fell, weren't you?"
"Yes. But I wasn't supposed to be. I wasn't assigned to that. How did you guess?"
"Elza saw you. She had our finder on you—I couldn't push her away from it." His slow smile was quizzical.
"On me? In all that crowd. She must have searched about very carefully to——"
I stopped; I could feel my cheeks burning, and was glad of the dimness there under the trees.
"She did," said Georg.
"I sent for you, Jac," Dr. Brende interjected abstractedly, "because——"
But Georg checked him. "Not now, father. Someone—anyone—might pick you up. Your words—or read your lips—there's light enough here to register on a finder."
The doctor nodded. "He's afraid—you see, Jac, it's these Venus——"
"Father—please. It's a long chance—but why take any? We can insulate in the house."
The chance that someone who shouldn't be, was tuned to us as we sat there in that lonely grove! With the doctor's widespread reputation—his more than national prominence—it did not seem to me to be such a long chance either, on this, of all nights.
"As you say, no use in putting private things into the public air," I remarked; and I felt then as though a thousand hostile eyes and ears were watching and listening. "We can talk of what everybody knows," Georg commented. "The Martian Ruler of the Little People was assassinated an hour ago. You heard that coming up?"
"No," I said; but I had imagined as much. "Did they say—"
"They said nothing," Dr. Brende put in. "The flash of a dozen helioed words—no more."
"It went dark, like Venus?"
"No. Just discontinued. I judge they're excited up there—the Bureau disorganized perhaps—I don't know. That was the last we got at the house, just before you came down. There may be something in there now—you Inter-Allied people are pretty reliable."
The ruler of the Venus Central State, the leading monarch of Mars, and our three chief executives of Earth—murdered almost simultaneously! It was incredible—any one of the murders would have been incredible—yet it was true.
There had been times—in the Inter-Allied Office, particularly—when I had been insulated from aerial eavesdropping. But never had I felt the need of it more than now. A constraint fell over me; I seemed afraid to say anything. I think we all three felt very much like that; and it was a relief when Elza arrived with my dainty little meal.
"Any word from Mars, Elza?" her father asked.
She sat down beside me, helping me to the food.
"I did not look," she answered.
She did not look, because she was busy preparing my meal! Dear little Elza! And because of my accursed extravagance—my poverty—no word of love had ever passed between us!
I thought I had never seen Elza so beautiful as this moment. A slim little thing, perfectly formed and matured, and inches shorter than I. Thick brown hair braided, and hanging below her waist. A face—pretty as her mother's must have been—yet intellectual as her father's.
I had taken Elza to the great music festivals of the city, and counted her the best dressed girl in all the vast throng. Tonight she was dressed simply. A grey-blue, tubular sort of skirt, clinging close to the lines of her figure and split at the side for walking; a tight-fitting bodice, light in color (a man knows little of the technicalities of such things); throat bare, with a flaring rolled collar behind—a throat like a rose-petal with the moonlight on it; arms bare, save for the upper, triangular sleeves.
It must suffice; I can only say she was adorable. Almost in silence I ate my meal, with her beside me.
Georg went into the house once, to consult the news-tape. It was crowded with Earth events—excitement, confusion everywhere—inconsequential reports, they seemed, by comparison with what had gone before. But of helios from Mars, or Venus, there were none reported. Of Venus, the tape said nothing save that each of our westward stations was vainly calling in turn, as the planet dropped toward its horizon.
I finished my meal—too leisurely for Georg and the doctor; and then we all went into the house, to the insulated room where at last we could talk openly.
As we entered the main corridor, we heard the low voice of the Inter-Allied news-announcer, coming from the disc in a room nearby.
The words caught our attention. We hurried in, and stood by the Inter-Allied equipment. Georg picked up the pile of tape whereon the announcer's words were being printed. He ran back over it.
"Another helio from Venus!" he exclaimed. "Ten minutes ago."
And then I saw his lips go tight together. He made no move to hide the tape from Elza, but she was beside him and already reading it. Her fingers switched off the announcer's droning voice.
"Pacific Coastal Station," Elza read. In the sudden silence of the room her voice was low, clear, and steady, though her hands were trembling. "P.C.S. 10.42 Venus helio. 'Defeat! Beware Tarrano! Notify your Dr. Brende in Eurasia, danger.'"
We men stared at each other. But Elza went on reading.
"P.C.S. 10.44 Venus helio. 'Lost! No more! Smashing apparatus!' The Venus sending station went dark at 10.44.30. Hawaiian station will call later, but have little hope of re-establishing connection. Tokyohama 10.46 Official, via Potomac National Headquarters. Excitement here continues. Levels crowded——"
Elza dropped the tape. "That's all of importance. Venus Central Station warning you, father."
A buzz across the room called the doctor to his personal receiver. It was a message in code from Potomac National Headquarters. We watched the queer-looking characters printing on the tape. Very softly, in a voice hardly above a whisper, Georg decoded it.
"Dr. Brende, see P.C.S. 10.42, warning you, probably of Venus immigrants now here. Do you need guard? Or will you come to Washington at once for personal safety?"
"Father!" cried Elza.
Georg burst out. "Enough of this. We cannot—dare not talk in here. Father, come——"
We went out into the corridor again, across which was the small room insulated from all aerial vibrations. In the corridor a figure was standing—the one other member of the Brende household—the maid-servant, a girl about Elza's age. I knew her well, of course, but this evening I had forgotten her existence. She was standing in the corridor. Did I imagine it, or had she been gazing up at the mechanism ten feet above the floor—the mechanism controlling the insulated room?
"You wish me, Miss Elza? I thought I heard you call."
"No, Ahla, not 'til later."
With a gesture of respect, the girl withdrew, passing from our sight down the incline which led to the lower part of the house.
It was a very small incident, but in view of what was transpiring, it gave me a shock nevertheless.
For Elza's maid was a Venus girl!
Spy in the House
The insulated room was small, with a dome-shaped ceiling, no windows, and but one small, heavy door through which we entered, closing it carefully behind us.
"At last," Dr. Brende exclaimed. "Now we can talk freely."
But I was not satisfied. "That girl, Ahla—can you trust her?"
They all looked at me in surprise. When one is close to danger, sometimes one recognizes it least; with Ahla in this household for over a year now, they could not imagine her an enemy.
"I saw her looking up at the insulator," I added swiftly. "Out there in the corridor. Am I talking wild? Perhaps I am. But she seemed startled; and she was standing just under the insulator, wasn't she?"
"But—" began Elza.
"Wait," I exclaimed. "When I first saw the President fall, at Park Sixty, I felt that a Venus man had done it. These other murders—they're all the same. Done by Venus men of the Cold Country."
"Ahla's country," Elza murmured.
"Yes. Exactly. And the Venus Central State has been attacked and has fallen. An assassination on Mars, and three here on Earth—all simultaneously. It's one gigantic plot, I tell you—and the Cold Country of Venus is at the bottom of it."
Georg jumped to his feet. "I'll see if the room has been tampered with."
He was back presently. "The insulator is intact. I set the alarm bell. If she touches it—"
"Where is she?"
"In the cookery, where she should be. I told her we would eat in an hour. That ought to keep her busy."
Dr. Brende made an attempt at a smile. "I think we are all a little overwrought—though with reason, no doubt. Sit down, Jac. Elza, come here by me. Don't look so solemn, child."
He drew Elza to him, with his arm about her. I would have spoken, but his gesture checked me. "I have much to say, Jac. I think I understand these events, perhaps better than any of you. Let me go back two years—when I was in the Venus Central State."
I nodded my remembrance; and he went on:
"At that time the authorities there were greatly perturbed. They were menaced by rebellion in the Cold Country. They would not let the Cold Country people into the Central State, for it is already overcrowded. You did not know that, did you?"
"You mean the threatened rebellion?" I asked. "They were trying to keep it secret, but we heard rumors."
"Just so. And Jac, I will tell you why they kept it secret. The Central State was encouraging emigration to the Earth. The Venus Cold Country is a poor place to live in—and on a whole its inhabitants are miserable people. Villainous, too, I should say. The Central State did not want them within its borders; and so it kept secret its troubles with them—and encouraged emigration to the Earth.
"We—as you know—make no distinction between Venus people. We are friendly with the Central State, and the Cold Country is governed by it—or was until tonight. Thus, you see, we have been in the position of having to receive these renegade immigrants. Shut out from all the good land and decent climate of Venus, they began coming here.
"But we did not want them, and of late we have been holding them off, cutting the quota allowed very materially. Last week, as you also know, in Triple Conference, our three races decided to allow at each Inferior Conjunction of the Earth and Venus, so small a quota that the Central State protested vigorously.
"The controversy has been hot; but the Central State—trying to foist off its undesirables on us—knows it is in the wrong. And fundamentally, it is friendly to us—I think it has proven that in the last two hours."
Again I would have spoken, but he went on at once.
"I know you're familiar with most of this, Jac. But you news-gatherers sometimes reason in too lurid a fashion. Let me go on. Mars was drawn into the affair. To extricate ourselves, we offered to admit—under temporary guard—all Venus immigrants who would pass on at once—at the first astronomical opportunity—to Mars. This would have been very nice for us—but not for Mars."
"They are hot-headed, in Mars," Georg commented.
"Quite so," said the doctor. "But very direct and forceful, nevertheless. They met our suggestion with a law excluding Venus immigrants entirely. It was this, I think, that precipitated tonight's events—though of course they must have been brewing for a long time."
"This Tarrano—" I began.
"I heard of him when I was in Venus," said Dr. Brende. "He was at that time a lower official in the Cold Country. Evidently he has risen in his world.
"I come now to conjecture—but I think it must be fairly close to truth. Tarrano, leading the Cold Country, has risen to open rebellion. His attack upon the Central State must have come suddenly—"
"You mean, just this evening?" Elza asked.
"No, of course not. But hoping to quell the rebellion, the Central State has suppressed news of it. At such a time—with this controversy going on—such reports would only injure the Central State's inter-planetary position. That's obvious, isn't it? Then tonight, when things were desperate, the Central State gave out its call. Tarrano has conquered Venus, I'm sure. And at the last, before destroying its helio, the Central State tried to warn us."
"Of what?" I demanded. "And what about these murders?"
"Done by emissaries of Tarrano, no doubt. For revenge, because of the Martian and Earth legislation—or for—"
"I think we should not speculate too much," said Georg. "At least, not on that line. They warned you personally, father. We were so careful to keep everything secret—"
Dr. Brende mopped his forehead. He was trying to appear calm—I knew he did not want unduly to alarm Elza; but I could see that he was laboring under great emotion nevertheless.
"Things get out, Georg," he said. "We have been careful—yes. But two years ago, when I visited the Central State, I told them there what I hoped to accomplish. There were no grave inter-planetary problems then—I thought I had no need of great secrecy. And since then, though, we have been very careful—"
Careful! With a Venus girl from the Cold Country living in their household! Truly, humans are a strange mixture of sagacity and folly!
"The Central State has heard something concerning you," Georg said. "That could easily happen—prisoners captured from Tarrano's forces, for instance. With dispatches—or perhaps some intercepted aerial message."
What was this secret they were discussing? I was the only one in the room who did not know it. And why had Dr. Brende sent for me tonight?
I asked him both questions. His face went even more solemn than it had been before.
"I sent for you, Jac, because in a measure I anticipated what has now befallen. Danger specifically to us Brendes, I mean. We count you as our friend—"
How it warmed my heart to hear him say that; and to see the glance that Elza cast me!
"—Our friend. I am an old man—you are young. Yet you are wise, too. We need you tonight."
He raised his hand when I would have told him how glad I was to be with them.
"You know something of my work," he said, as a statement, rather than a question. "I should say, mine and Georg's and Elza's, for they have both helped me materially."
I knew that Dr. Brende had for years been one of the Earth's most eminent research physicians. It was he who discovered the light vibrations which had banished forever the dread germs of several of the major diseases. He did not practice; his work was research only.
He went on: "Jac, I have found what for years I have been striving to find—a vibration of light, though it is invisible—which so far as I can determine, kills every bacillus harmful to man. There is nothing new in the idea—I have been working at it all my life. Sunlight! Altered and modified in several particulars, yet sunlight nevertheless. How strange that for countless centuries, man never realized the blessed boon of sunlight—the greatest enemy of all disease!
"Each year, as you know, I have conquered some of what we call the major diseases. A few of them—cancer, for instance—persisted in eluding me. Its bacilli—you can easily recognize the tiny purplish, horned rods which cause what we popularly call cancer—just would not die. No form of light or other vibration I could devise, seemed to hurt them—unless I used a vibration harmful, even fatal, to the blood-contents itself: I killed the cancer—in the words of you news-gatherers—but I also killed the patient."
[Footnote 5: A medical word, translated here as cancer, though possibly not that.]
His eyes smiled at the jest, but his face remained intensely serious.
"Then, Jac, I solved that problem—just a few months ago. And upon the heels of it I solved another, of infinitely more importance." He paused slightly. "I have learned how to kill, or at least arrest, the bacillus of old age. It is a bacillus, you know. We grow old because every day we live beyond the age of thirty—the bacillus of old age is attacking us. I call them the Brende-bacilli—these tiny, frayed discs that make us grow old. I have seen them—and killed them!"
It dawned on me slowly, the import of what he was saying.
"He means," said Georg, "that at present we cannot only banish disease—all disease—but we can keep your body from aging. Not permanently, doubtless—but with the span of life lengthened threefold at least. Only by violence now need you die prematurely."
This then was the secret the existence of which Tarrano had learned. He had....
But Dr. Brende was quietly voicing my thoughts.
"It seems obvious, Jac, that this Tarrano at least suspects that I have made some such discovery as this. That he would withhold it from mankind, for the benefit of his own race, seems also obvious. That he is about to make an attempt to get it from me, I am convinced."
I remembered the wording of the message of warning from the Central State. "Your Dr. Brende, in Eurasia." I mentioned it.
"Our main laboratory is there," Georg said. "In Northern Siberia—isolated from people so far as possible, and in a climate advantageous for the work."
Elza spoke for the first time in many minutes.
"We have guards there, Jac—eight of our assistants.... Father, I called Robins a while ago. He said everything was all right. But don't you think we should call him again?"
The doctor had drifted into deep thought. "What? Oh, yes, Elza. I was thinking we should go there. My notes—descriptions of how to build a larger apparatus—larger than the small model I have installed there—my notes are all there, and I want them. And I don't think, at such a time, I should trust Robins to bring them."
"What shall I send to Headquarters?" Georg asked. "They wanted an answer, you remember."
"I'm going there to the Potomac—tell them that. Tell them we will come there for safety. But first I must get my notes, and the model."
As Georg went to the door, something in his attitude made us all start to our feet and follow him. No alarm from the insulator had come, yet for myself I had not forgotten that Venus girl outside.
Georg was at the door, tense as though to spring forward as soon as he opened it. I was close behind him.
"Wait, Jac! Quiet! I just want to see—in case she is doing something."
He jerked open the door suddenly and bounded through, with me after him.
The corridor was empty. But there was a whirring coming from the instrument room.
We leaped across the padded corridor. In the instrument room, Ahla the maid sat at the table with a head-piece clasped to her ears. She was talking softly but swiftly into the transmitter. In the mirror beside her I caught a glimpse of the place to which she was talking. A sort of cave—flickering lights—a crowd of dark figures of Venus men, seemingly armed.
She must have heard us coming. A sweep of her white arm dashed the mirror to the floor, smashing it. Then she cast off the head-piece, and leaping to her feet, faced us, blazing and defiant.
To the North Pole
"You stand back! You do not touch me!"
The Venus girl fairly hissed the words. Her eyes were dilated; her white hair hung in a tumbling, wavy mass over her shoulders. She stood tense—a frail, girlish figure in a short, grey-cloth mantle, with long grey stockings beneath.
We were startled. Georg stopped momentarily; then he jumped at her. It was a false move, for before we could reach her, with a piercing cry, she was tearing at the instruments on the table; her fingers, with burns unheeded, ripping the delicate wires, smashing the small mirrors, flinging everything to the floor.
A few seconds only, but it was enough. She was panting when Georg caught her by the wrists, and we others gathered around them.
"Ahla!" Elza cried in horror.
I can appreciate the shock to Elza, who had trusted, even loved this girl.
Dr. Brende stood in confused astonishment, staring at the wreck of the instrument table. From a naked wire a little black coil of smoke was coming up. I fumbled about and switched the current out of everything.
We were cut off from all communication with the world. It gave me a queer feeling—made the small island we were on seem so remote.
Georg was shaking the girl, demanding with whom she had been talking and why. But she fell into sullen silence, and nothing we could do would make her break it. It infuriated me, that stubbornness; it was all I could do to keep from harming her in my efforts to make her talk.
Georg, at last, pulled me away; he led the girl to a couch and sternly bade her sit there without moving. She seemed willing enough to do that; she still had not spoken, but her eyes were watching us closely.
Dr. Brende was examining the smashed instruments. "Ruined. We cannot use them. Those messages—we must send them. I must talk to Robins——"
We went into the corridor, out of earshot of the girl, but where we could watch her. That we were in immediate danger was obvious, and we all realized it. Ahla had told some of her people that we were here on the island; doubtless was planning to have them come here at once and seize us.
How far away from us were they? I had seen in the mirror the interior of a cave-like room. Where was it? Might it not be near at hand—over on the mainland? Might not these enemies arrive on the island at any moment?
Georg suggested that we send our messages from the aeros. We had my own car—and a larger car of the Brendes. More than ever now, Dr. Brende was worried over the safety of his Siberian laboratory; but from the aero we could talk to Robins.
We went to the landing stage. I wanted to tie up Ahla, but as Georg said, she could do nothing now that the instrument room was out of commission. We admonished her sternly to stay where she was, and left the house.
On the open landing stage my small aero was lying where I had left it; but a moment's glance showed us it was wrecked—its instruments and its driving mechanism demolished!
There was no doubt about it now; Ahla had planned to keep us on the island while her people came and seized us. Fortunately the Brende car was well housed and barred. We saw that the gates had been tampered with, but with the limited time Ahla had to work in, she had been unable to force them. We swung them wide, and to our infinite relief found the car unharmed.
At once Dr. Brende called Robins. But the laboratory did not answer!
"It may be your sending apparatus," I suggested. "Send your message down to Headquarters—with their high power they'll get Robins quickly enough."
He tried that—sending also his answer to the previous coded message Headquarters had sent him. It was now 11:45. We waited some eight minutes, during which time I rushed back to the house. Ahla was sitting obediently where I had left her.
"You stay there," I told her. "If you move, I'll break every bone in your rotten little body."
Back at the landing stage I found Dr. Brende in despair. Headquarters could not raise Robins. They had relayed the message to Wrangel and Spitzbergen Islands—but the stations there reported similarly. Dr. Brende's laboratory did not answer its call.
This decided us. We had no wish to remain where we were. The Brende car, far larger than the small one of mine, was fully equipped and provisioned. We rolled it out, and in a moment were flying in the air.
Dr. Brende's car was large, commodious, and smooth-riding. A pleasure to fly in such a car! Georg was at the controls. I sat close beside Elza in the semi-darkness, gazing down through the pit-rail window to where the island was dropping away beneath us. It was a perfect night; the moon had set; the stars and planets gleamed in an almost cloudless sky. Red Mars, I saw, very nearly over our heads.
It was now midnight, and for the moment we chanced to have the air to ourselves. We rose to the 10,000-foot level, then headed directly North. It carried us inland; soon the sea was out of sight behind. Lights dotted the landscape—a town or city here and there, and occasionally a tower.
Dr. Brende was poring over charts, illumined by a dim glow-light beside him. "Can we get power all the way, Georg?... Elza child, hadn't you better lie down? A long trip—you'll be tired out."
"Call Royal Mountain," Georg suggested. "Ask them about serving us power; I'll stay 10,000 or below. Under one thousand, when we get further north. Ask them if they can guarantee us power all the way."
[Footnote 6: Now Montreal.]
The station at Royal Mountain would guarantee us nothing on this night; they advised us to keep low. Their own power-sending station was working as usual. But this night—who could tell what General Orders might come? Everyone's nerves were frayed; this Director demanded gruffly to know who we were.
"Tell him none of his business," I put in. My own nerves were frayed, too.
"Quiet!" warned Georg. "He'll hear you—and it is his business if he wants to make it so. Tell him we are the Inter-Allied News, father. That is true enough, and no use putting into the air that Dr. Brende is flying north."
Royal Mountain let us through. We passed well to the east of it about 12:45—too far away to sight its lights. The cross-traffic was somewhat heavier here. Beneath it, at 5,000 and 6,000 feet, a steady stream of cars was passing east and west.
We were riding easily—little wind, almost none—and were doing 390 miles an hour. You cannot bank or turn very well at such a speed; it is injurious to the human body. But our course was straight north. Dr. Brende showed it to me on his chart—north, following the 70th West Meridian. Compass corrections as we got further north—and astronomical readings, these would take us direct to the Pole. I could never fathom this air navigation; I flew by tower lights, and landmarks—but to Dr. Brende and Georg, the mathematics of it were simple.
At two o'clock we had crossed the route of the Chicago-Great London Mail flyer. But we did not see the vessel. The temperature was growing steadily colder. The pit was inclosed, and I switched on the heaters. Elza had fallen asleep on the side couch, with my promise to awaken her at the first sign of dawn.
At two-thirty, the Greater New York-East Indian Express overhauled us and passed overhead. It was flying almost north, bound for Bombay and Ceylon via Novaya Zemlya. It was in the 18,000-foot lane. The air up there was clear, but beneath us a fog obscured the land.
At intervals all this time Dr. Brende had been trying to raise Robins—but there was still no answer. We did not discuss what might be the trouble. Of what use could such talk be?
But it perturbed us, for imagination can picture almost anything. Georg even felt the strain of it, for he said almost gruffly:
"Stop it, father. I don't think you should call attention to us so much. Get the meteorological reports from the Pole—we need them. If they tell us this weather will hold at 10,000 and below, we'll make good time."
Soon after three o'clock we swept over Hudson Strait into Baffinland. We were down to 4,000 feet, but the fog still lay under us like a blanket. It clung low; we were well above it, in a cloudless night, with no wind save the rush of our forward flight.
Then came the pink flush of dawn. True to my promise I awakened Elza. But there was nothing for her to see; the stars growing pale, pink spreading into orange, and then the sun. But the fog under us still lay thick.
We were holding our speed very nearly at 380 an hour. By daylight—about five o'clock, after a light meal—we were over Baffin Bay. I had relieved Georg at the controls. The headlands of North Greenland lay before us. Then the fog lifted a little, broke away in places. The water became visible—drift and slush-ice of the Spring, with lines of open water here and there.
And then the fog closed down again, lifting momentarily at six o'clock when we passed over the north-western tip of Greenland. The tower there gave us its routine signal, which we answered in kind. There was little traffic along here; a few local cars in the lowest lanes.
Shortly after six, when we were above Grantland, another of the great trans-Arctic passenger liners went over us. The San Francisco Night line, for Mid-Eurasia and points South. It was crossing Greenland, from San Francisco, Vancouver, Edmonton, to the North Cape, the Russias, and African points south of Suez.
At seven o'clock, with the sun circling the lower sky, the fog under us suddenly dissipated completely. We were over the Polar ocean. Masses of drift ice and slush, but for the most part surprisingly clear. At eight o'clock, flying low—no more than a thousand feet—we sighted the steel tower with foundations sunk into the ocean's depths which marks the top of our little Earth.
We flashed by the tower in a moment, answering the director's signal perfunctorily. Southward now, on the 110th East Meridian, without deviating from the straight course we had held.
It was truly a beautiful sight, this Polar ocean. Masses of ice, glittering in the morning sunlight. A fog-bank to the left; but everywhere else patches of green water and floes that gleamed like millions of precious stones as they flung back the light to us. Or again, a mass of low, solid ice, flushed pink in the morning light. And behind us, just above the horizon, a segment of purple sky where a storm was gathering—a deep purple which was mirrored in the placid patches of open water, and darkened the ice-floes to a solemn, sombre hue.
Elza was entranced, though she had made many trans-Polar trips. But Georg, now again at the controls, kept his eyes on the instruments; and the doctor, trying vainly once more to talk with his laboratory, now so close ahead of us, sat in moody silence.
It was 9:38 when we sighted, well off to the right, the rocky headland of Cape Chelusin—the most northerly point of Eurasia. A long, low cliff of grey rock, ridged white with snow in its clefts. We swung toward it, at greatly decreased speed, and at an altitude of only a few hundred feet.
[Footnote 7: Now Cape Chelyuskin, Laimur Peninsula, Siberia.]
This was all a bleak, desolate region—curiously so—and I think, one of the very few so desolate on Earth. As we advanced, the Siberian coast spread out before us. Mountains behind, and a strip of rocky lowland along the sea. There were patches of snow—the mountains were white with it; but on the lowlands, for the most part the Spring sun had already melted it. The Spring was well advanced; there were many open channels in the water over which we were skimming—drift-ice, and slush-ice which soon would be gone.
Cape Chelusin! It was here that Dr. Brende had placed his Arctic laboratory—as far from the haunts of man as he could find—a hundred miles from the nearest person, so he told me. And as I gazed about me I realized how isolated we were. Not a car in the whole circular panorama of sky; no sign of vessel on the water; no towns on the land.
It was just after ten in the morning when we dropped silently to the small landing stage a hundred yards or so from the shore. We disembarked in the sunlight of what would have been a pleasant December morning in Greater New York; and I gazed about me curiously. A level lowland of crags with the white of snow in their hollows; a collection of broad, low buildings nearby, with a narrow steel viaduct running down to them from the landing stage. And behind everything, the frowning headland of the Cape.
The buildings stood silent, without sign of life. There was no one in sight anywhere. No one out to greet us; I thought it a little strange but I said nothing.
We started down the viaduct. Under us, in patches of soil, I could see the vivid colors of the little Arctic flowers already rearing their heads to the Spring sunlight. I called Elza's attention to them. A vague apprehension was within me; my heart was pounding unreasonably. But this was Dr. Brende's affair, not mine; and I wanted to hide my perturbation from Elza.
The viaduct reached the ground; a path led on to the houses.
Suddenly Dr. Brende called out:
"Robins! Robins! Grantley! Where are you!"
The words seemed to echo back faintly to us; but the buildings remained silent.
"You'd better wait here with Elza," Georg said.
"I'll go on—see what——"
He checked his words, and started forward. But Dr. Brende was with him, and in doubt what to do I followed with Elza.
We entered the nearest building, into a low, dim room, with doors on the sides. In the silence I seemed to hear my heart pounding my ribs. Elza's face was pale and perturbed, but she smiled very courageously at me.
"Wait!" said Georg. "You wait here."
He turned into a side door leading to another room, and in an instant was back with a face from which the color had departed.
"They're not in there," he said unsteadily. "Elza—you go outside with father.... They must be around somewhere, Jac. Come, look."
There was a rustle behind us. Arms came around me, pinning me. I heard Elza scream, saw Georg fighting two dark forms which had leaped upon him.
I was flung to the ground, but I fought—three men, it seemed to be, who were upon me. Then Georg's voice:
"Jac! Stop—they'll kill you."
I yielded suddenly, and my assailants jerked me to my feet. A group of Venus men were surrounding us. Georg, his jacket torn to ribbons, was backed up against the wall with three or four Venus men holding him.
And on the floor nearby Dr. Brende lay prone, with a crimson stain spreading on his white ruffled shirt, and Elza sobbing over him.
Dr. Brende was dead. We knew it in the moment that followed our sudden assault and capture. Elza knelt there sobbing. Then she stood up, her tears checked; and on her face a look of pathetic determination to repress her grief. Now that we had yielded, the Venus men, searching us for our weapons, cast us loose. We bent over Dr. Brende, Georg and I. Dead. No power in this universe could bring him back to us.
Georg pressed his lips tightly together. His face, red from the exertion of his fight, went pale. But he showed no other emotion. And, as he leaned toward me, he whispered:
"Got us, Jac! Say nothing. Don't put up any show of fight."
Elza now was standing against the wall, a hand before her eyes. I went to her.
Her hand pressed mine.
Our captors stood curiously watching us. There seemed to be at least ten of them—men as tall as myself, though not so tall as Georg. Swarthy, gray-skinned fellows—one or two of them squat, ape-like with their heavy shoulders and dangling arms. Men of the Venus Cold Country. They were talking together in their queer, soft language. One of them I took to be the leader. Argo was his name, I afterward learned. He was somewhat taller than the rest, and slim. A man perhaps thirty. Paler of skin than most of his companions—gray skin with a bronze cast. Dressed like the others in fur. But his heavy jacket was open, disclosing a ruffled white shirt, with a low black stock about his throat.
A shifty-eyed fellow, this Argo. Smooth-shaven, with a mouth slack-lipped, and small black eyes. But his features were finely chiseled; and with that bronze cast to his skin, I guessed that he was from the Venus Central State. He seemed much perturbed that Dr. Brende was dead. Occasionally he burst into English as he rebuked one of the others for the killing.
No more than a moment had passed. Georg joined Elza and me. We stood waiting. Georg whispered: "They killed Robins and his helpers. In there——" He gestured. "I saw them lying in there. If only I had—"
Argo was standing before us. "This is a very pleasant surprise—" He spoke the careful English of the educated foreigner. His tone was ironical. "Very pleasant—"
Abruptly he turned away again. But in that instant, his eyes had roved Elza in a way that turned me cold.
They led us away, down a padded hallway into the instrument room. It was in full operation; our Inter-Allied news-tape was clicking; the low voice of the announcer droned through the silence. I started toward the tape, but Argo waved me away. He had volunteered us nothing, and again Georg advised silence.
Argo had given his orders. Through a window I saw men carrying apparatus from the house. A small metal frame of sun-mirrors, prisms and vacuum tubes. Georg whispered: "Father's model."
The man with it passed beyond my sight. Others came along, carrying the cylinders of books—Dr. Brende's notes—and a variety of other paraphernalia. Carrying it back from the shore toward the headlands of the Cape, where I realized now they had an aero secreted.
Argo was at a mirror; he had a head-piece on; he was talking into a disc—talking in a private code. I could see the surface of the small mirror. A room, with windows. Through one of the windows, by daylight, palms and huge banana leaves were visible. A room seemingly in the tropics of our own hemisphere.
Argo was triumphant—explaining, doubtless, that he had captured us. Mingled with his voice, the Inter-Allied announcer was saying:
"Greater-New York 10.32 Martian Helio, via Tokyohama: Little People Proclamation——"
A man standing near the tape switched off the droning voice. At the receiving table, every few seconds came the buzz of the laboratory's call. Wrangel Island again calling Robins; but no one paid any heed. Argo finished at the mirror. He glanced over the tape, smiling sardonically. Then, methodically, deliberately, he swept the instruments to the floor, jerked out the connections, turned out the current—wrecked it all with a few strokes. A moment later we were taken away.
Outside, from back by the low reaches of the Cape, we saw an aero rising. They had loaded it with Dr. Brende's effects, and in it half of the men were departing. It rose vertically until we could see it only as a speck in the blue of the morning sky—a speck vanishing to the north over the Pole.
With four or five of the men—all those remaining—Argo took us three to the Brende car. We did not pass Dr. Brende's body, lying there in the outer room. Elza and Georg gazed that way involuntarily; but they said nothing. The greatest grief is that which is hidden, and never once afterward did either of them show it by more than an affectionate word for that father whom they had loved so dearly.
Soon we were back in the Brende car in which we had landed no more than an hour before. It was a standard Byctin model—evidently Argo and his men knew how to operate it perfectly. We were herded into the pit, and in a moment more were in the air.
Argo seemed now rather anxious to make friends with us. He was in a high good humor. His eyes flashed at me sharply when I questioned him once or twice; but he offered us no indignities. To Elza he spoke commandingly, but with that deference to which every woman of birth and breeding is entitled from a man.
We rose straight up and, at 18,000 feet, headed northward by a point or two west. We would pass the Pole on our right—too far to sight it with the naked eye, I realized; but I knew, too, that the Director there would see the distant image of us on his finder, even though we refused connection should he call us. And we had no right to be up here in the 18,000-foot lane. They'd order us down—shut off our power, if necessary.
We could not escape observation on this daylight flight. Heading this way, it would take us past the Pole and on southward, down the Western Hemisphere over the Americas. We could not refuse connection for long. We would be challenged, then brought down. Or, if Argo answered a call, some Director would examine our pit with his finder—would see Elza, Georg and me as prisoners. We could gesture surreptitiously to him....
My thoughts ran on. Argo's soft, ironic voice brought me out of them.
"We will answer the first call that comes," he said smilingly. "You understand? We are the Inter-Allied News on Official Dispatch." He was addressing me, his glance going to the insignia on my cap. "You are of the Inter-Allied?"
"Yes," I said.
"What's your name?"
I did not like his tone. "None of your—"
"Quiet, Jac," Georg warned.
"Jac Hallen," I amended.
"Yes. Division 8, Manhattan," he read from my cap. "Well, when the first Director calls—from the Pole perhaps—you will tell him we are Inter-Allied Officials. He will see us here—I do not believe, the way we are sitting, that he will think anything is wrong. He will see us of Venus. There are Venus men employed by the Inter-Allied. Is it not so?"
I had to admit that it was. He nodded. "You will fool the Directors, Jac Hallen. You understand? You will get the reports on weather today down the 67th Meridian West. And ask if we can have power to the Equator and below." His eyes flashed. "And if you attempt any trickery—you will die. You understand?"
I did, indeed. And I knew that his plans were well laid—that I would be helpless to give us over without paying for it with my life—with the lives of Elza and Georg as well.
From up here in the 18th lane, the Polar ocean lay a glittering white and purple expanse beneath us. Then, again, a fog rolled out down there like a blanket. We passed the Pole, a hundred miles or more to one side, and headed Southward. No challenge. Under us, occasional local cars swept by; but up here we were clear of traffic.
Elza prepared our lunch, in the little electric galley forward of the observation pit. The Great London-East Indies Mail Flyer crossed us, coming along this same level. It was headed toward the Pole from the British Isles. Its pilot challenged us before it had come up over the horizon. A crusty fellow. His face in the mirror glared at me as I accepted connection. He ordered me down, Inter-Allied or no.
Argo was at my elbow. His pencil-ray dug into my ribs. Had I made a false move it would have drilled me clean with its tiny burning light. I told the pilot we would descend. It placated him; but he saw Argo's face, mumbled something about damned foreigners—general orders probably coming tomorrow to clean out Venia—damned well rid of the traitors. Then he disconnected. Venia, Georg and I were sure, was where Argo was now taking us. But the rest of his comments I did not clearly understand until later.
We descended, and the flyer came up over the horizon and passed us overhead. We were pointing southward now, had picked up the 67th West Meridian and were following it down. The Hays station challenged us; but they were satisfied with my explanation. Argo had us up in speed around four hundred miles per hour. We went down Davis Strait, over Newfoundland, avoiding the congested cross-traffic of mid-afternoon in the lowest lanes, and out over the main Atlantic. Night closed down upon us. It was safer for Argo now. We flew without lights. Outlawed. Had they caught us at it, we would have been brought down, captured by the patrol and imprisoned. Yet Argo doubtless considered the chance of that less dangerous than a reliance upon my ability to trick the succeeding directors.
[Footnote 8: Hayes Peninsula, Northwest Greenland, near the present site of Etah.]
With darkness we ascended again to the upper mail lanes. Over the main Eastern Atlantic now, and out here this night, there was little local traffic. The mail and passenger liners went by at intervals—the spreading beams of their lurid headlights giving us warning enough so that we could dive down and avoid being caught in their light. I prayed that one of their lights might pick us up, but none did.
North of Bermuda, a division of the North Atlantic patrol circled over us. The ocean was calm. Argo dropped us to the surface. We floated there like a derelict—dark, silent, save for the lapping of the water against our aluminite pontoons. The patrol's searching beams swept within a hundred feet of us—missed us by a miracle. And as the patrol passed on, we rose again to our course.
Argo gave us one of the small cabins to ourselves that night. He was still deferential to Elza, but in his manner and in the glitter of those little black eyes, there was irony, and an open, though unexpressed, admiration for her beauty.
We slept little. Georg and I—one or the other of us—was awake all night. We talked occasionally—not much, for speculation was of no avail. We wondered what could be transpiring abroad through all these hours. Hours of unprecedented turmoil on Earth, and on our neighboring worlds. We wondered how the Central State of Venus might be faring with the revolution. Would they ask aid of the Earth? This Tarrano—merely a name to us as yet, but a name already full of dread. Where was he? Had he been responsible for all this? Dr. Brende's secret was in his hands now, we were sure. What would he do next?
About three o'clock in the morning—a fair, calm night—our power died abruptly. We were in the Caribbean Sea not far above the Northern coast of South America, at 15 deg. North latitude, 67 deg. West longitude. Our power died. Elza was fast asleep, but the sudden quiet brought Georg and me to alertness. We joined Argo in the pit. He was perturbed, and cursing. We dropped, gliding down, for there was no need of picking a landing with the emergency heliocopter batteries—glided down to the calm surface. For a moment we lay there, rocking—a dark blob on the water. I heard a sudden sharp swish. An under-surface freight vessel, plowing from Venezuelan ports to the West Indian Islands, came suddenly to the surface. Its headlight flashed on, but missed us. It sped past. I could see the sleek black outline of its wet back, and the lines of foam as it sheered the water. We lay rocking in its wake as it disappeared northward.
Then, without warning, our power came on again. An inadvertent break perhaps; or maybe some local or general orders. We did not know. Argo was picking from the air occasional news, but he said nothing of it to us; and he was sending out nothing, of course.
Dawn found us over the mountains. The Director at Caracas challenged us. Argo kept me by his side constantly now. Dutifully we answered every call. The local morning traffic was beginning to pick up; but we mingled with it, at 8,000 feet and more, to clear the mountains comfortably.
Elza again cooked and, with Argo joining us, we had breakfast. Argo's good nature continued, as we successfully approached the end of our flight. But still he volunteered nothing to us. We asked him no questions. Elza was grave-faced, solemn. But she did not bother Georg and me with woman's fears. Bravely she kept her own counsel, anxious only to be of help to us.
We passed over the Venezuelan Province, over the mountains and into Amazonia, headwaters of the great river—still on the 67th Meridian West. The jungles here were sparsely settled; there were, I knew, no more than a dozen standard cities of a million population, or over, in the whole region of Western Brazilana. As we advanced, I noticed an unusual number of the armed government flyers above us. Many were hovering, almost motionless, as though waiting for orders. But none of them molested us.
Near the 10th parallel South latitude, we passed under a fleet of the white official vessels, with a division of the Brazilana patrol joined with them. A hundred vessels hovering up there in an east and west line—a line a hundred miles long it must have been.
Hovering there, for what? We did not know; but Argo, leering up at them insolently, may have guessed. They challenged us, but let us through.
"You are the last one in," this sub-director of the patrol told us. I could see him in our mirror as his gaze examined our pit—a dapper, jaunty fellow with the up-tilted mustache affected in Latina. "Last one in—you Inter-Allied are a nuisance."
He was more particular than those directors we had passed before. My badge and my verbal explanation were not enough. He made me show him the Inter-Allied seal which I always carried, and I gave him the pass-code of the current week.
"Last one in," he reiterated. "And you wouldn't get in now without those refugees with you. Venia's closed after noon of today. Didn't you know it?"
"No," I said.
"Well, it is. They shut off the power early this morning for all low vibrations—yours and under. Brought 'em all down for a general traffic inspection. Then changed their minds and threw it on again. But if you're coming out north again, you've got to get out by noon. And you go in at your own peril."
He assumed that Argo and his men were Venus refugees going with me into Venia! I only vaguely understood what might be afoot, but I did not dare question him. Argo's side glance at me was menacing. I agreed with this director obediently and broke connection.
We seemed now to have passed within the patrol line. There were no more official vessels to be seen. We clung low, and at 12 deg. South, 60 deg. 2O' West, at 10:16 that morning we descended in Venia, capital of the Central Latina Province, largest immigrant colony of the Western Hemisphere.
[Footnote 9: Now Matto Grosso State, Brazil.]
We landed on a stage of one of the upper crescent terraces. A crowd of Venus people surrounded us. Even in the turmoil of our debarkation, I wondered where the official landing director might be. None of the governing officials were in sight. The place was in confusion. Crowds were on the spider bridges; the terraces and the sloping steps were jammed. Milling, excited people. The foreign police, pompous Venus men in gaudy uniforms, were herding the people about.
But none of our Earth officials! Where were they, who should have been in charge of all this confusion?
My heart sank. Something drastic, sinister, had occurred. We had no time to guess what it might be. Argo drove us forward, with scant courtesy now, down in a vertical car, through a tunnel on foot to what they called here in Venia the Lower Plaza. We crossed it, and entered one of their queerly flat buildings at the ground level; entered through an archway, passed through several rooms and came at last into a room whirring with instruments.
Argo said triumphantly, yet humbly: "Tarrano, Master—we are here."
A man at a table of helio-sending instruments turned and faced us. We were in the presence of the dread Tarrano!
Man of Destiny
Tarrano! He rose slowly to his feet, his gaze on us for an instant, then turning to Argo.
"So! You took them? Well done, Argo!"
His gesture dismissed his subordinate; Argo backed from the room. From a disc, an announcer was detailing dispatches. Tarrano frowned slightly. He advanced to us as we three stood together. I had heard Elza give a low, surprised cry as we entered. She stood with a hand upon my arm. I could feel her trembling, but her face now was impassive.
Georg whispered to me: "This Tarrano——"
But our captor's voice checked him. "Come this way, please." He signalled, and three men came forward. To them he issued short commands; they took their places at the instrument tables. Then he led us from the room through an arch, over a small trestle, into a tiny inner courtyard. A tropical garden, surrounded by blank circular walls of the building. A patch of blue sky showed above it. A garden secluded from prying eyes, with only a single spider bridge crossing overhead. Vivid flowers and foliage made it a bower. Brown bark paths laced it; a tiny fountain splashed in the center.
Tarrano sat on the rim of the fountain; he gestured to a white stone bench where we three sat in a row, Elza between us. It made me feel like a child.
"Your father is dead." He was addressing Elza; and then Georg. "That is unfortunate. He was a good man. I'm sorry."
His voice was soft and musical. He sat there on the fountain rim, an elbow on his crossed knees, chin resting in his hand, his eyes studying us. A small, slight figure of a man, no more than thirty-five. Simply dressed; white trousers of the tropics, with a strip of narrow black down the leg-fronts; a girdle of gold; ruffled white shirt, with sleeves that flared a trifle, and a neck-piece of black. From his belt dangled a few instruments and several personal weapons—beautifully wrought, small—almost miniatures—yet deadly-looking for all that.
He was bareheaded; black hair closely clipped. A face smooth-shaven. Thin, with a nose hawk-like, and black eyes and heavy brows. His mouth was thin-lipped, though smiling now, disclosing even, white teeth. Yet a cruel mouth, with the firm jaw of determination and power under it. The familiar gray Venus skin, but with that bronze cast of the people of the Central State.
At first glance, not an unusual or particularly commanding figure. Yet the man's power of personality, the sheer dominant force of him, radiated like a tower code-beam. No one could be in his presence an instant without feeling it. A power that enwrapped you; made you feel like a child. Helpless. Anxious to placate a possible wrath that would be devastating; anxious—absurdly—for a smile. It was a radiation of genius, humbling every mediocre mortal it touched.
I felt it—felt all this from the moment I came into his presence. Felt like a child, sitting there on that bench. Vaguely frightened; sullen, with childish resentment at my superior. And over it all, my man's mentality made me angry at myself for such emotions; angry at the consciousness of my own inferiority, forced upon me now more strongly than ever anything or any one had made me feel it before.
Tarrano was smiling gently. "... killed your father. I would not have had it so. Yet—perhaps it was necessary. The Lady Elza——"
I could feel Elza trembling again. Georg burst out: "What do you want of us? Who are you?"
Tarrano's slim gray-brown hand came up.
"The Lady Elza remembers me——" He seemed waiting with his gentle smile for her to speak.
"They called you Taro then," she said. Her voice was the small, scared, diffident voice of a child.
"Yes. Taro. A mere sub-officer of the Central State. But destined for bigger things than that, as you see. They did not like what they called my ambitious ways—and so they sent me to the Cold Country. That was soon after I had met you and your father, Lady Elza. You hardly remarked me then—I was so insignificant a personage. But you—I remembered you——"
Still there was in his voice and on his face nothing but kindness and a queer whimsical look of reminiscence. He broke off at the buzz of a disc that hung from his belt by a golden chain. He jerked it loose from its snap, and to his ear clasped a small receiver. Like a mask his gentleness dropped from him. His voice rasped:
"Yes?..." The receiver murmured into his ear. He said: "Connect him—I'll listen to what he has to say."
A moment; then on the tiny mirror fastened to his wrist with a strap, I saw a face appear—a face known throughout our Earth—the face of the War-Director of Great London. Tarrano listened impassively. When the voice ceased, he said without an instant's hesitation: "No!"
A decision irrevocable; the power almost of a deity seemed behind its finality. "No! I—will—not—do—it!" Careful, slow enunciation as though to make sure an inferior mentality could not mistake his words. And with a click, Tarrano broke connection. The mirror went dark; he hung his little disc and ear-piece back on his belt. Again he was smiling at us gently, the incident forgotten already—dismissed from his mind until the need to consider it should again arise.
"I remember you, Lady Elza, very well." A vague wistfulness came into his voice. "I wish to speak with you alone—now—for a moment." He touched two of the metal buttons of his shirt-front together. A man appeared in the narrow tunnel-entrance to the garden. A small man, no more than four and a half feet tall; a trim, but powerfully made little figure, in the black and white linen uniform worn also by Tarrano. Yet more pretentiously dressed than his superior. A broad belt of dangling weapons; under it, a sash of red, encircling his waist and flowing down one side. Over his white ruffled shirt, a short sleeveless vest of black silk. A circular hat, with a vivid plume. A smooth-shaven face; black hair long to the base of the neck; a deep, red-brown complexion. A native of the Little People of Mars, here in the service of Tarrano. He stood stiff and respectful in the tunnel entrance.
Tarrano said crisply: "Wolfgar, take these two men to the fourth tower. Make them comfortable."
I met Georg's eyes. Leave Elza here alone with this man? Georg burst out: "My sister goes with me!"
"So?" Tarrano's heavy brows went up inquiringly. A quizzical smile plucked at his lips. "You need have no fear. The Lady Elza——" He swung to her. "Not—afraid, are you?"
"I—no," she stammered.
"She'll come with us," I declared; but the stoutness of my words could not hide my fear. Tarrano was still smiling; but as I took a protecting step toward Elza, his smile died.
"You—will go—with Wolfgar—both of you." That same slow finality. His face was impassive; but under his frowning bushy brows, his eyes transfixed me. It was as though with his paralyzing ray he had rooted me to the spot. And Georg beside me. Yet he had not moved from his careless attitude of ease on the fountain-rim; the little conical golden weapon dangled untouched at his belt.
Elza was frightened. "Jac! You must do what he says. I'm—not afraid."
Again Tarrano was smiling. "No—of course not." His gaze went to Georg. "You are her brother—your fear is very natural. So I give you my word—the honorable word of Tarrano—that she shall come to no harm."
Elza murmured: "Go, Georg." Afraid for us, and doubtless she had good reason to be. It struck me then as queer that Tarrano should waste these words with us; but I realized, as did Elza and Georg, that we were treading very dangerous ground. Georg said, with a sudden dignity at which I marveled:
"Your word is quite enough." He gestured to me. With a last glance at Elza, standing there frightened, but for our sakes striving not to show it, we let this Wolfgar lead us away.
Elza later told us what occurred. With her father, she had been twice to the Venus Central State—the visit of two years ago Dr. Brende had mentioned to me, and a former one. It was upon this first trip Elza had met Tarrano. He was an under-officer then, in the Army of the Central State—his name then was Taro. She—herself no more than a slip of a girl at that time—remembered him as a queerly silent young man—insignificant in physique and manner. He had escorted her once to a Venus festival; in a strange, brooding, humble, yet dignified fashion, he had spoken of love. She had laughed, and soon forgot the incident. But Tarrano had not forgotten. The daughter of the great Dr. Brende had fired his youthful imagination. Who knows what dreams even then—born of the genius as yet merely latent—were within him? He had never crossed Elza's mind from that time, until today she saw and recognized him.
When they were alone, still without moving from his seat, he signed her to come to him, to sit on the carpet of grass at his feet. She was frightened, but she would not show it. He made no move to touch her; he gazed down to meet her upturned, fascinated stare, still with his gentle, whimsical smile.
"Queer that I should meet you again, Lady Elza. Yet, I must admit, it comes not by chance, for I contrived it. My prisoner! Dr. Brende's daughter, held captive by little Taro!"
It seemed to amuse him, this whimsical reminiscence of those days when he was struggling unknown. "I want to confess something to you, Lady Elza. You were so far above me then—daughter of the famous Dr. Brende. Yet, as you remember, I aspired to you. And now—I have not changed. I never change. I still—aspire to you."
He said it very softly, slowly. She flushed; but for that moment fear of him dropped from her.
"Oh," she said. "I—I thank you for such a compliment——"
"A compliment? Yes, I suppose it is that now. You wondered, didn't you, why I was so lenient with your brother and that Jac Hallen when they would have refused me obedience? That is not my way—to be lenient." He said it with a sudden snap of crispness, but his eyes were twinkling. "It was because of you, Lady Elza."
"Me?" she murmured.
"You—of course. Because I—want you to like me." His fingers involuntarily touched a stray lock of her hair as she sat there at his feet, but when she moved her head away he withdrew his hand. His slow voice went on:
"Back in those other days, Lady Elza, the little Taro had strange dreams. A power within him—he could feel it—here——" His gaze was far away; his fist struck his breast. "He could feel it—the urge to fulfill his destiny—feel it within him, and no one else knew it was there.
"Then—you came. A shy, rather pretty little girl, he realizes now, is all you were. But then—you seemed a goddess. A new dream arose—a dream of you ... I frighten you, child?" His tone was contrite. "I do not mean to do that. I am too hasty. Queer, isn't it, that I can make men, nations, worlds, obey me—but I have to bide my time with a fragile little woman?"
His mood changed; he stirred. "I could bend you to my will—break you—like that!" His lean fingers snapped. Then his hand dropped, and again he relaxed. "But of what use?... Your respect? I have it now. Respect and fear come to me from everyone. It is something more than that I want from you."
She would have spoken, but his gesture stopped her. "Queer that I should want it? Yes, I think perhaps it is. The little Taro was very queer, perhaps very impressionable. He knew he had nations and worlds to conquer—a destiny to fulfill. Not alone because of you, little Elza. I would not make you think that. But for you to share. The great Tarrano, master of the universe, and his Lady Elza! Worlds for you to toy with, like gems on a thread adorning your white throat——"
He must have swayed her, the sheer power of him. Impulsively she touched his knee. "I am not worth——"
His face clouded with a frown. "I would not try to buy your love——"
"Oh," she said. "No, I did not mean——"
"I would not try to buy you. I want to share with you—these worlds—as your due. To make myself master of everything, so that you will look to me and say, 'He is the greatest of all men—I love him'.... Soon I will be the greatest of all men throughout the ages. And very gentle always, with you, Lady Elza——"
A buzz came from the disc at his belt. He answered the call—listened to a voice.
"So? Bring him here." He disconnected. "...very gentle with you, my Elza——"
His voice drifted away. He seemed waiting; and Elza, her head whirling with the confusion of it all, sat silent. A moment; then Argo appeared, driving a half-nude man before him. A native official of Venia, stripped of his uniform. Argo flung him down in the garden path, where he cowered, his face ashen, his eyes wild, lips mumbling with terror.
Tarrano barely moved. "So? You tell me he was asleep at the mirrors, Argo?"
"Master, I could not help it! Since first you made your move in Greater New York at Park Sixty, I have sat there. Two nights and a day——"
"And you fell asleep without asking for a relief?"
"Yes. I did not realize I was sleeping——"
A gesture to Argo, and the man was flung closer to Tarrano's feet. Elza shrank away.
"Left a mirror unattended. So?... The wire, Argo." He took the length of wire, gleaming white-hot, as the leering, gloating Argo turned the current into it—Tarrano took it, lashed it upon the poor wretch's naked back and legs. Welts arose, and the stench of burning flesh. A measured score of the passionless strokes made him writhe and scream in agony.
It turned Elza sick and faint. Shuddering, she crouched there, hiding her face until the punishment was over and the half-unconscious culprit was carried away.
"Very gentle with you, my Elza...."
She looked up to find Tarrano smiling at her; looked up and stared, and wondered what might be her fate with such a man as this.
From the garden where Tarrano was talking with Elza, the Mars man Wolfgar led us to the tower in which we were to be imprisoned. Quite evidently it had been placed in readiness for us. A tower of several rooms, comfortably equipped. As we crossed the lower bridge and reached the main doorway, Wolfgar unsealed a black fuse-box which stood there, and pulled the relief-switch. The current, barring passage through every door and window of the tower, was thrown off. We entered. My mind was alert. This man of the Little People could not again turn on that current without going outside. Once it was on, like an invisible wall it would prevent our escape. But now—could not Georg and I with our superior strength overpower this smaller man?
I caught Georg's glance as our captor led us into the lower room—an apartment cut into the half-segment of a circle. Georg, at my elbow, whispered: "No use! Where could we go? Could not get out of the city——"
The hearing of the Little People is sharp. Wolfgar turned his head and smiled. "You will be quite secure here—do not think of escape." His bronzed fingers toyed with a cone at his belt. "Do not think of it."
Soon he left us, with the parting words: "You may use the upper circle of balcony. The current rises only from its rail." He smiled and left us. A pleasant smile; I felt myself liking this jailer of ours.
We took a turn of the tower. There were three bedrooms; a cookery, with food and equipment wherein evidently it was intended that Elza could prepare our meals; and two bath-apartments, one of them fairly luxurious, with a pool almost large enough for a little swimming; tubes of scent for the water and the usual temperature rods.
"Well," I remarked. "Obviously we are to be comfortable." I was trying to be cheerful, but my heart was heavy with foreboding nevertheless. "How long do you suppose they'll keep us here, Georg? And what——"
His impatient gesture stopped me. His mind was on Elza—alone down there in the garden with Tarrano—as was mine, though I had not wanted to speak of her.
There was an instrument room, up the circular incline in the peak of the tower! We heard the hum of it; and when we went up there, the first thing we saw was a mirror tuned in readiness for us to view the garden we had just left. This strange Tarrano, giving Georg the visible proof that he would keep his word and not harm Elza. We could see in this mirror the image of the scene down there—Elza and Tarrano talking. But could not hear the words—those were denied us. We saw the culprit brought in; the punishment with the white-hot wire-lash, and a few moments later Elza was with us.
During the hours which followed, we made no attempt to escape. Such an effort would have been absurd. The current controls were outside, beyond our reach. Visibly, we were free, with open, unbarred arches and casements. But to pass through one of them, the barring current struck you like a wall, with darting sparks when it was touched. As Wolfgar had said, we had access to the upper balcony; the waist-high rail there, with its needle-points of electrodes, sent up a visible stream of the Nth Electrons—a dull glow by daylight; at night a riot of colors and snapping sparks.
Through this barrage an inner vista of the city was visible; towers, arcades, landing-stages and spider bridges a hundred feet or so above us; the lower levels beneath, and through a canyon of walls we could just make out a corner of the ground-plaza, with its trees and beds of flowers.
A queerly flat little city—tropical with banana trees and vivid foliage in every corner plot of the viaducts. At night it was beautiful with its romantic spreading lights of soft rose and violet tubes, and there was a fair patch of open sky above us—a deep purple at night, star-strewn.
Under other circumstances our imprisonment would not have been irksome. But these hours, most critical of any in the history of the nations of Earth, Venus and Mars, unfolded their momentous events while we were forced there to helpless idleness. All sending apparatus of our instrument room was permanently disconnected. But the news came in to us from a hundred sources—rolled out for us in the announcer's droning words; printed for permanent record upon the tapes and visible images of it all constantly were flashing upon the mirrors.
We spent hours in that instrument room—one or the other of us was almost always there. Save that we were ourselves isolated from communication, we were in touch with everything. A whim of this Tarrano; perhaps a strain of vanity that Elza should see and hear of these events.
So much had occurred already during those hours of our trip over the Polar ocean and back that we scarce could fathom it. But gradually we pieced it together. Underlying it all, Tarrano's dream of universal conquest was plain. In the Venus Cold Country he had started his wide-flung plans. Years of planning, with plans maturing slowly, secretly, and bursting now like a spreading ray-bomb upon the three worlds at once.
In Venus, the Cold Country had conquered its governing Central State. Tarrano's army there was in full control. The helio station in the Great City was now reinstated. The Tarrano officials had already set up their new government. With notification to the Earth and Mars that they demanded recognition, they were sending the usual routine helio dispatches and reports, quite as though nothing had occurred. The mails would proceed as before, they announced; the one due to leave this afternoon for the Earth was off on time.
It was all very clever propaganda for our Earth public consumption. Tarrano—who was visiting our Earth at present, they said—had been chosen Master of Venus. His government desired Earth's official recognition, and asked for our proclamation of friendliness in answer to their own. The present Ambassadors of the Venus Central State to the Earth—there were three of them, one each in Great London, Tokyohama and Mombozo—this new government requested that we send them back to the Great City as prisoners of the Tarrano forces. Other Ambassadors, representing the new government, would be sent to the Earth.
All this occurred during the first few hours of our imprisonment in the tower. And during the day previous, at 7 P.M. this night—70 deg. West Meridian Time—the governments of our Earth met in Triple Conference in Great London. Three rulers pro tem—White, Yellow and Black—to replace the three who had been assassinated. The responsibility for the assassinations was placed by the Council upon Tarrano. But this—from his headquarters here in Venia—he blandly refused to accept, denying all knowledge of the murders. Venia was the principal Venus immigrant colony of Earth's Western Hemisphere. It had already been closed by our Earth Council; its inhabitants interned as possible alien enemies, pending diplomatic developments. This was the meaning of that line of official vessels lying there to the north on guard. No one could leave Venia, and for a day Venus refugees had been ordered into it from everywhere.
At 8:40 this evening came from Great London our ultimatum to Tarrano. A duplicate of it went to the Great City of Venus via the Hawaiian Station. The Earth would not recognize the Tarrano government of Venus. We would hold to our treaty of friendship with the Central State. We would remain neutral for a time. But Tarrano himself we declared an outlaw. His presence was required in Washington to stand trial for the assassinations, and the delivery in Washington of Dr. Brende's notes and model was demanded.