[Transcriber's Note: Illustration descriptions in (parentheses) are provided by the transcriber.]
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[Illustrated Cover with Text:]
The new TOM SWIFT Jr. Adventures
TOM SWIFT and The Visitor from Planet X
By VICTOR APPLETON II
Tom Swift and the Visitor from Planet X Victor Appleton II
The new TOM SWIFT Jr. Adventures 17
Grosset & Dunlap 9117
[Dust Jacket text:]
TOM SWIFT AND THE VISITOR FROM PLANET X
By VICTOR APPLETON II
Tom Swift Jr. and his associates at Swift Enterprises wait breathlessly for what may well be the most important scientific event in history—the arrival of the visitor from Planet X—a visitor in the form of energy. But there are factions at work determined to snatch the energy, which Tom has named Exman, from the young scientist-inventor's grasp. First, a series of unexplainable, devastating earthquakes threaten to destroy a good portion of the earth, and Tom suspects the Brungarian rebels who obviously would like to capture Exman and use the space visitor to further their own evil purposes.
With the security of Enterprises and Exman at stake, Tom creates two of his greatest inventions—a Quakelizor to counteract the simulated earth tremors, and a container or "body" to house the energy from outer space.
If the earthquakes cannot be stopped, the entire world will be threatened by destruction, and the Brungarian forces will conquer the earth. How Tom utilizes all his scientific knowledge to produce swift-action results and outwit the Brungarians makes one of the most exciting Tom Swift adventures to date.
GROSSET & DUNLAP Publishers New York 10, N.Y.
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TOM SWIFT AND THE
VISITOR FROM PLANET X
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THE NEW TOM SWIFT JR. ADVENTURES
BY VICTOR APPLETON II
TOM SWIFT AND HIS FLYING LAB TOM SWIFT AND HIS JETMARINE TOM SWIFT AND HIS ROCKET SHIP TOM SWIFT AND HIS GIANT ROBOT TOM SWIFT AND HIS ATOMIC EARTH BLASTER TOM SWIFT AND HIS OUTPOST IN SPACE TOM SWIFT AND HIS DIVING SEACOPTER TOM SWIFT IN THE CAVES OF NUCLEAR FIRE TOM SWIFT ON THE PHANTOM SATELLITE TOM SWIFT AND HIS ULTRASONIC CYCLOPLANE TOM SWIFT AND HIS DEEP-SEA HYDRODOME TOM SWIFT IN THE RACE TO THE MOON TOM SWIFT AND HIS SPACE SOLARTRON TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRONIC RETROSCOPE TOM SWIFT AND HIS SPECTROMARINE SELECTOR TOM SWIFT AND THE COSMIC ASTRONAUTS TOM SWIFT AND THE VISITOR FROM PLANET X
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[Frontispiece: The raiders transferred Exman to the enemy sub]
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The New Tom Swift Jr. Adventures
TOM SWIFT AND THE VISITOR FROM PLANET X
BY VICTOR APPLETON II ILLUSTRATED BY GRAHAM KAYE
Grosset & Dunlap New York Publishers
[c] by Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., 1961 All Rights Reserved Printed in the United States of America
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1 The Earthquake 1 2 The Mysterious Hitchhiker 11 3 Report from Interpol 18 4 Another Tremor! 30 5 Secret Cache 39 6 Brungarian Coup 46 7 Wall of Water! 55 8 A Suspect Talks 65 9 The Cave Monster 73 10 Energy from Planet X 83 11 An Electrical Christening 92 12 Exman Takes Orders 99 13 Disaster Strikes 106 14 Air-borne Hijackers 115 15 Kidnaped! 125 16 A Unique Experiment 137 17 An Urgent Warning 145 18 Earthquake Island 155 19 A Fiendish Machine 166 20 The Robot Spy's Story 177
"Tom, we're having a problem with the gyro-stabilizer," said Mark Faber, gray-haired president of the Faber Electronics Company. "Hope you can find out what's wrong."
The eighteen-year-old inventor accepted the challenge with a smile. "I'll be glad to try, sir," he replied.
Bud Barclay, a dark-haired young flier and Tom Swift Jr.'s closest friend, chuckled. "If anyone can get the bugs out of your new invention, genius boy here will do it!"
The two boys followed Mr. Faber and his engineers to a wooden building which was tightly guarded. Inside, a secret rocket-telemetering device was mounted on its test stand.
"As you know, Tom," Mr. Faber began, "the usual conditions of rocket flight will be—"
He broke off with a gasp of astonishment as the whole building suddenly began to shake.
"Good grief!" Bud exclaimed. "This isn't part of your testing routine, is it?"
His question was drowned out by cries of alarm and the sound of cracking glass. The walls and roof were shuddering and creaking, and the concrete floor was heaving under their feet.
"Look out! The test stand's breaking loose!" Tom warned.
Mr. Faber and two of his men tried frantically to brace the heavy test stand which held the telemetering device. Another engineer rushed toward the door to see what was happening outside. Before he reached it, another shock knocked all of them off their feet.
Electronic equipment cascaded from the wall shelves, and a heavy-duty chain hoist came loose from its overhead track, plunging to the floor with a terrifying crash.
"An earthquake!" Tom gasped.
Bud, meanwhile, clawed a handhold on a wire screen enclosing an air compressor and pulled himself to his feet. But the next moment a third, more violent tremor rocked the building, knocking him over. "The roof! It's caving in!" he heard someone scream.
As his eyes flashed upward in panic, Bud caught a brief glimpse of the ponderous test stand with the priceless telemeter tilting to one side. An instant later it crashed over, pinning Mark Faber beneath it!
Bud threw up his arms to protect himself, but too late! A falling beam caught him on the back of the head and the young flier blacked out.
For minutes, no one stirred among the wreckage. Then Tom, who had been stunned by some falling debris, raised himself to a sitting position.
"Good night!" Tom's eyes focused in horror on the wreckage enveloped by still-billowing dust.
The sky was visible through several gaping holes in the roof, which was sagging dangerously on its supporting trusses. Only two thirds of the walls were still standing.
Suddenly Tom stiffened in fear. "Bud!" The young inventor had just noticed his friend lying pinned beneath a heavy beam nearby. Was he still breathing?
Disregarding his own injuries, Tom hastily freed himself from the debris and groped his way to Bud's side. With a desperate heave, he shoved the beam away, then cradled Bud's head in his arm. His friend's eyelids flickered.
"Are you all right?" Tom asked fearfully.
The answer came in a groan. "O-oh!... Wow!... What hit me?"
"You got conked by a falling timber. Or grazed, at least," Tom added thankfully. "If that beam had landed square on your noggin, even a rock-head like you couldn't have survived!"
Bud managed to grin. "We grow 'em tough out in California where I come from!" he joked.
Somewhat shakily, Bud got to his feet with Tom's assistance. Both boys were heartsick as they surveyed the damaged laboratory, wondering where to begin rescue operations.
"It was a quake," Bud stated grimly. He had heard about the great San Francisco earthquake from his grandfather, and had no doubt about the nature of the tremors.
Just then Tom glimpsed a body protruding from under the wreckage of the telemetering device.
"Mr. Faber!" he gasped.
The two boys scrambled through the clutter of debris toward the spot where the test stand had been erected. Bud seized a slender, steel I beam and managed to pry up the wreckage while Tom carefully extricated Mr. Faber.
The scientist seemed to be badly injured. "We'd better not try to move him," Tom decided. "We'll get an ambulance."
Of the four other company engineers, two were now stirring and partly conscious. The boys found a first-aid cabinet and gave what help they could to them and the other two men. Then Tom taped a bandage on Bud's scalp wound.
"Let's see if we can find a telephone and call the local hospital," Tom said.
"Right!" Bud responded.
They picked their way through the wreckage and emerged on a scene of frightful destruction. The main plant building of Faber Electronics had been partially demolished by the quake. Power lines were down and an outlying storage shed was ablaze. Dazed and panic-stricken survivors were wandering around aimlessly or rushing about to assist the injured.
"Good thing the main shift of workers knocked off before this happened," Bud observed with a shudder. "There would've been a lot more casualties."
"Look!" Tom pointed to a huge crevasse. "Right where we landed our Whirling Duck!"
The boys exchanged rueful glances as they realized that the craft which had brought them to Faber Electronics—one of Tom's unique helijets—had been swallowed up in the gaping chasm.
"No use fussing about it now," Tom said. "Come on, Bud! Let's see about getting help for Mr. Faber!"
Despite the chaotic confusion, the boys managed to locate the plant superintendent—a harried, middle-aged man named Simkins—who was doing his best to restore order. Simkins, who had not been injured, informed them that electricians were rigging an emergency telephone line in order to get through to the nearby town of Harkness.
"Mr. Faber is badly injured," Tom said. "Why not send a car? It's only a few miles away, isn't it?"
"I'll send the plant nurse to him," Simkins said. "As for going to town, take a look at the parking lot." He pointed with a jerk of his thumb. The cars on the lot had been smashed into junk by bricks from a collapsing wall of one of the buildings. "And the only truck we had available was in that burning shed," the superintendent added bitterly.
"Tough break," Tom sympathized. "Anyhow, we want to help. Got a job for us?"
Simkins was only too glad to put Tom's quick mind and keen technical know-how to use. Within minutes, Tom was in charge of clearing away rubble and extricating anyone who might be trapped inside the buildings. Bud organized a fire-fighting crew to keep the blaze in the shed from spreading.
The telephone line was soon repaired and a steady stream of rescue vehicles began arriving from Harkness—fire trucks, three ambulances, and private cars driven by volunteers.
Two hours later there was nothing more Tom and Bud could do at the disaster scene and they hitched a ride into Harkness. The town had suffered some damage, though only slight compared to the destruction at the plant.
"The center of the quake was right under Faber Electronics," Tom remarked.
From a pay telephone, he called Swift Enterprises in Shopton. This was the experimental station where he and his father developed their many amazing inventions. Tom asked the operator to send a helicopter immediately to pick them up. He also called home and spoke to his sister, Sandra.
"What a relief!" Sandy gasped. "We heard a bulletin about the quake over the radio!"
"Don't worry, Sis. Tell Mother and Dad that we're okay," Tom said. "We'll be home in a jiffy—with big appetites!"
The helicopter arrived within twenty minutes at the place Tom had named. After landing at Enterprises, the boys drove to the pleasant, tree-shaded Swift home on the outskirts of town.
Mrs. Swift, a slender, petite woman, tried not to show concern when she saw the boys, bruised and disheveled. "I'm so thankful you're both safe!" she murmured.
Blond, blue-eyed Sandy, who was a year younger than Tom, had invited her friend Phyllis Newton to the house for dinner. Phyl, a pretty, dark-haired girl, was the daughter of Mr. Swift's long-time friend and business associate, "Uncle Ned" Newton. The two girls were as much upset as Tom's mother.
Tom laughed. "We're not stretcher cases," he said. "Why, one of the ambulance doctors checked us out."
Bud groaned. "Why did you have to go and spoil it?" he complained jokingly. "I was all set for Sandy's cool soothing touch on my fevered brow!"
Mr. Swift came into the living room just then and told Tom how worried Mrs. Swift and Sandy had been. "I tried to assure them that you and Bud can take care of yourselves in any crisis." He smiled guiltily as he added, "But I must admit I was more than a little concerned myself."
As Tom grinned, the resemblance between him and his father was very evident. Both had the same clean-cut features and deep-set blue eyes, although Tom Jr. was lankier and taller.
After the two boys had showered and changed their clothes, Mrs. Swift served them a delicious, hot meal. While they ate, Mr. Swift managed after some difficulty to get a call through to the Harkness Hospital. His face was grave as he hung up.
"Mark Faber is not expected to live," the elder inventor reported. "A pity. He's a great scientist."
Tom nodded unhappily. Sandy, to take her brother's mind off the disaster, said, "Dad, tell Tom and Bud about the visitor who's coming."
"A visitor?" Tom looked at his father.
"From another planet," Mr. Swift revealed.
Both boys were amazed and excited. "Wow!" Bud gasped. "Male or female? Human or animal?"
Mr. Swift's eyes twinkled. "None of those," he replied as the boys stared, mystified.
THE MYSTERIOUS HITCHHIKER
Tom and Bud were bursting with curiosity. Although the Swifts had been in radio contact with creatures from outer space for many months, this was the most exciting news yet!
On one occasion, the unknown beings had moved a small asteroid—the phantom satellite Nestria—into orbit about the earth. Later they had sent strange samples of the animal life of their planet, aboard orbiting missiles, to be studied by the Swifts. They had also helped Tom, Bud, and Mr. Swift a number of times when their lives were at stake while on daring voyages beyond the earth. What was their latest intention?
The telephone rang and Sandy went to answer it.
"For Pete's sake, Dad," Tom pleaded, "don't keep us in suspense! Who or what is this visitor?"
Mr. Swift smiled at the boys' baffled expressions. "The fact is that a message came through today that—"
He was interrupted by Sandy who had come to the door. "The phone call's for you, Dad. Long distance from Washington."
Bud groaned as Mr. Swift went off to take the call. "It's a conspiracy," Bud said. "Everyone's ganging up to keep us from finding out about that mysterious visitor!"
Tom grinned. "We lasted through an earthquake this afternoon, pal," he said consolingly. "I guess we can last through a phone call."
Inwardly Tom was as impatient as Bud about the exact nature of the message.
Several months ago, the space creatures had sent their first communication in the form of mathematical symbols carved on a black missile which had landed on the grounds of Swift Enterprises.
Tom and his father had decoded the symbols and beamed out a reply over a powerful radio transmitter. Later messages had been picked up by radio telescope and converted to appear as symbols on the oscilloscope screen.
"Sandy must know what it's all about," Bud broke in. "She's the one who first mentioned the visitor."
"Of course I know," Sandy said mysteriously. "So does Mother and so does Phyl. But don't think we're going to give it away!" she added teasingly.
Tom and Bud cajoled the two girls and Mrs. Swift for further information. But Sandy and Phyl only shook their heads, obviously enjoying the situation.
"At last we're getting back at them for the way they've neglected us!" Phyl said, her brown eyes sparkling with laughter.
"Come on, Mother!" Tom said. "Be a sport. You tell us!"
But Mrs. Swift too shook her head. "I'm sorry, Tom," she demurred gently, "but I think the girls are right. I'll say this much, though," she relented, "it will be the biggest challenge that Tom Swift Jr. and Sr. have ever faced!"
"Whew!" Bud remarked as the two boys glanced at each other. "That must mean it's plenty big news! It would have to be, skipper, to top all the other jobs you and your dad have taken on!"
Conquering outer space, probing the ocean's secrets, drilling to the earth's core—these were only a few of Tom Swift's many exciting exploits.
In his first adventure, Tom, in his Flying Lab, had gone to South America to fend off a gang of rebels seeking a valuable radioactive ore deposit. In his most recent challenge, Tom had defied the threats of Oriental killers determined to ferret out the secret of the Swifts' latest space research.
As the two boys silently recalled the exciting events of the past months, Mr. Swift returned to the living room.
Tom and Bud leaned forward in their chairs. "Well, boys," Mr. Swift said, "as I started to tell you, the space receiver picked up a message today from our unknown planetary friends. The message informed us that they are sending a visitor to earth—a visitor consisting of pure energy!"
"Energy?" Tom was startled. "I don't get it, Dad!"
"Frankly, I don't quite understand it myself," Tom Sr. confessed. "The message didn't explain how or in what form the energy would arrive. But, at any rate, they want us to construct some sort of container for it."
The elder scientist paused thoughtfully. "In my opinion, the energy which they speak of must be a sort of invisible brain. The symbols were rather difficult to decode, but apparently our job will be to construct a device through which the energy will be able to receive impressions of what life is like here on earth, and also to communicate its own responses to us."
Tom sat bolt upright. "Dad, this is terrific news!" he exclaimed. "If we're able to make this energy or 'brain' communicate, it may be able to tell us what the space people are like!"
Mr. Swift nodded, his own eyes blazing with as much excitement as Tom's were.
Bud, too, was deeply impressed but could not resist quipping, "What sort of body will you give it? How about a beautiful, superintelligent space girl for me to date?"
"Nothing doing!" Sandy retorted mischievously. "I insist on a handsome young man who'd have time to take two nice earth girls out on dates!"
"Ouch!" Bud pretended to wince. "I really left myself wide open for that one!"
Mrs. Swift put in, "Goodness, mightn't it get out of control and be rather overpowering? Suppose it went berserk!"
"Rather an unpleasant possibility," Mr. Swift agreed, smiling wryly. "But I trust our space friends wouldn't let that happen."
Both he and Tom became thoughtful as they discussed the problem.
"The energy will arrive in two weeks," Mr. Swift added. "Unfortunately that phone call was a request that I go to Washington on urgent government business. So you may have to take over and work out a solution on your own, Tom."
It was a sobering thought to the young inventor. "You were right, Mother. This is a terrific challenge."
Soon afterward, the little gathering broke up. Bud, who had left his own convertible at the Swifts' that morning, offered to drop Phyl at her home.
Tom awoke the next morning, refreshed by a good night's sleep. After a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, he drove off to Enterprises in his low-slung silver sports car.
"Think I'll listen to the news," Tom thought, and switched on his dashboard radio.
A moment later the announcer's voice came over the loud-speaker. "Casualties from yesterday's disastrous earthquake now total thirty-one injured," the announcer reported. "Most of these are employees of the Faber Electronics plant and four are in critical condition. There is one note of cheer, however. At last report, Mark Faber, the brilliant president of the company, is now expected to recover." Tom gave a thankful sigh of relief.
The announcer continued, "The nearby town of Harkness was only lightly damaged, but the plant itself was almost totally demolished. No estimate of the losses has been released, but will certainly run into millions of dollars, including some highly secret defense items which were being developed at the plant. Scientists are puzzled by the severity of the quake in what had been considered a 'dead' area."
For the first time Tom, too, was struck by this curious aspect of the disaster. So far as he knew, no serious tremors had ever before been reported within hundreds of miles of the region.
He was mulling over the matter as he drove along a lonely wooded area, not far from Lake Carlopa. Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted as a man stepped out from among the trees ahead and gestured with his thumb for a ride.
"Sorry, mister," Tom reflected, "but I've had trouble with hitchhikers before!" He shook his head to let the man know that he did not intend to stop.
To the young inventor's amazement, the pedestrian deliberately stepped onto the road—squarely in the path of Tom's oncoming car!
Tom jammed on the brakes, and the silver sports car screeched to a stop. Only a quick twist of the wheel had prevented an accident!
Somewhat angrily, Tom exclaimed, "What's the big idea, mister? Don't you realize you might have been—"
"Shut up!" the stranger snarled. In an instant the man had yanked open the door and climbed in beside Tom.
"Take me inside the grounds of Swift Enterprises," he commanded in a foreign accent. "And no tricks or you will regret it!"
REPORT FROM INTERPOL
Tom, astonished, stared at the stranger.
"Who are you?" the young inventor demanded.
"Never mind who I am. Just do as I say!"
By this time Tom had recovered from his surprise and coolly sized up his enemy. The man was about thirty years old, with close-cropped black hair. Steely eyes glinted in a lean, hard-jawed face.
Tom wondered, "Should I risk a fight? Or is he armed?"
As if in answer, the stranger growled, "I gave you an order, my friend. Don't press your luck! Get going!"
As he spoke, the man thrust one hand deep into his coat pocket, and Tom felt something hard poke against his ribs.
The young inventor drove on, but proceeded slowly. He wanted time to think. Presently Swift Enterprises, enclosed by a high wall, came into view.
Tom's brain was working fast. At last he decided on a ruse. He would head for the main gate, get out, and use his electronic key without waiting for the guard to admit him. At the same time, he would press a secret warning bell to alert the Swift security force.
But the stranger seemed to read his thoughts. As Tom started to turn off toward the main gate, his passenger snapped, "Go to the private gate which you and your father use!"
"And if I refuse?"
Again the hard object poked into his ribs. "You will be what you call in this country a dead duck!" the stranger warned. "I will then let myself in with your key!"
Tight-lipped, Tom drove on another half mile, then turned in at the private gate. The man got out with him as Tom walked up to the gate and beamed his electronic key at the hidden mechanism. Instantly the gate swung open, then closed again automatically after the car passed through.
Tom parked in his usual spot. The stranger kept his hand in his pocket, still covering Tom but glancing around cautiously. The sprawling experimental station was a vast four-mile-square area with a cluster of gleaming modern laboratory buildings and workshops. In the distance, a tall glassed-in control tower overlooked Enterprises' long runways for jet planes.
Suddenly the stranger stiffened. A paunchy, bowlegged figure, topped by a white Texas sombrero, was coming straight toward them.
Tom's heart gave a leap of hope. The man was Chow Winkler, formerly a chuck-wagon cook and now head chef for the Swifts' expeditions.
"Hi, boss!" Chow bellowed in his foghorn voice. As usual he was wearing a gaudy cowboy shirt. "Who's the new buckaroo?" the cook added, squinting at the stranger with open but friendly curiosity.
"Why—actually I don't know his name yet, but he's looking for a job," Tom replied. Turning to the stranger, he added, "What is your name, mister?"
The stranger glared from Tom to Chow, as if not certain what to answer.
Chow's eyes narrowed. He had detected something strange in the way Tom addressed the fellow as "mister," and had also noticed how the man kept one hand hidden in his pocket. Looking to Tom for a lead, Chow suddenly noticed the young inventor make a quick "thumbs down" gesture.
"My name is..." The man's voice fell to a mumble, obscuring the syllables. "Frankly I am not yet sure I desire a job here, but being an engineer, I thought perhaps—"
The man's gaze switched back to Tom, and in that instant Chow jumped the intruder. With surprising agility for his rotund bulk, the cook bore down on him and let fly a gnarled fist at the stranger's jaw. Tom followed up like lightning, grabbing the man's wrist and yanking his hand out of his pocket.
He was clutching a snub-nosed automatic. Tom twisted it from his grasp as the man landed, writhing on the hard ground. Chow quickly pinned his other arm and drove a knee into the man's solar plexus.
"Jest lie quiet now, you varmint, or you may git yourself roughed up a bit," Chow warned, then added, "Who is he, Tom?"
"Search me. He stopped my car on the road and forced me to drive him in through the private gate. Boy, was I ever glad to see you, old-timer!"
Tom emptied out the clip of shells. Then he searched the stranger while Chow continued holding him down. The man carried no wallet, papers, or other means of identification.
"Brand my tumbleweed salad," Chow grumbled, "he sure wasn't takin' no chances on people findin' out who he is! Which proves he's some sort o' crooked cowpoke! Honest ones ain't afeared o' showin' their own brand!"
The man muttered something angrily in a foreign tongue. Chow merely pressed down harder with his knee. "What'll we do with him, boss?"
"Let him up, Chow," Tom said. "Security should be here any second."
Even as he spoke, Tom glimpsed a jeep speeding toward them in the distance. The young inventor knew what had happened. Since the stranger did not have the special electronic wrist amulet worn by all Swift employees, his presence had automatically shown up on the master radarscope. A security squad was coming to investigate.
As Chow released the man, he got to his feet slowly. Then, without warning, he suddenly butted the cook square in the stomach. Chow was knocked sprawling!
Before Tom could counter the surprise attack, the man's fist cracked against his cheekbone. Tom, though stunned, lashed out. More punches flew back and forth. Tom landed a stinging blow to his opponent's midriff, then took a punishing one himself.
Suddenly Tom felt the stranger's hand clawing at his pocket for the key to the gate. With all his wiry strength, Tom locked his arms around the man and wrestled him to the ground.
The stranger fought like a tiger. But a second later a jeep screeched to a stop. Three security guards, led by stocky Phil Radnor, leaped out. Within moments they had the man subdued.
Tom quickly briefed the security men on what had happened.
"All right, mister, start talking!" snapped Radnor, head security police officer.
The man's only reply was a scowl of rage.
"Okay, take him away till he cools off," Tom ordered.
Disheveled and still panting, the man was bundled into the jeep and driven off to the security building.
Tom arrived there by motor scooter several minutes later. Harlan Ames, the slim, dark-haired security chief of Enterprises, had taken charge of the case, and the prisoner was now being fingerprinted and photographed.
"Any leads?" Tom inquired.
Ames shook his head. "He won't talk and we've nothing on him in our files. His clothes have no tags or laundry marks, but I'd say they're of foreign make."
Tom nodded. "He's definitely foreign. He spoke with an accent and he also muttered something at Chow—I didn't catch it, but it certainly wasn't in English."
Ames frowned. "I don't like the looks of this, skipper. He may be a spy."
"Have you notified the police?" Tom asked.
"Right. Also the FBI. They're on the way right now to pick him up. Maybe they'll be able to worm something out of him."
Tom spent the morning in routine work in the big double office which he shared with his father in Enterprises' main building. It was equipped with huge twin modern desks, deep-pile carpeting, and roomy leather chairs.
Each of the two inventors had his own drawing board, designed to swing out from the wall at the press of a button. Small scale models of some of their most famous inventions were also placed about the office, including a red-and-silver replica of Tom's first rocket ship, the Star Spear; a blue plastic model of the jetmarine in which he had fought a band of undersea pirates; and also a gleaming silvery model of Tom's latest, unique space craft, the Cosmic Sailer.
Because of his father's absence in Washington, the burden of administering the vast experimental station now fell on Tom's youthful shoulders. Telephone calls, letters, and other detailed work occupied him until noon.
Chow broke in, bringing a lunch tray with milk, a hot chicken sandwich, and a chocolate eclair. Tom ate hungrily.
"Kind o' peps up the ole supercharger, eh?" said Chow, lingering to chat.
"Sure does," Tom agreed.
"Wal, jest remember that, an' don't go missin' any meals—or sleep, either," Chow advised as he gathered up the tray. "A brainy young hombre like you needs plenty o' rest an' vitamins to keep from burnin' himself out."
"I'll remember." Tom grinned affectionately as the leathery-faced old Texan took his leave. The Swifts had first met Chow when they were on an atomic research expedition in the Southwest. Chow had become so attached to Tom that he had returned to Shopton with the Swifts as a permanent employee.
Soon after Chow left the office, the telephone rang. Tom took the call and had just finished talking with Harlan Ames when Bud came strolling in.
"Any more news on that nut who jumped you this morning?" the young flier asked. "Ames told me about it."
"Not yet, but there may be soon," Tom said. "Harlan just phoned and said he'd had a call from Washington, asking us to stand by the videophone at one-thirty sharp."
Ames arrived in person shortly before the scheduled time. Moments later, a red signal flashed on the control board of the Swifts' private TV network. Tom flicked on the videophone and two men appeared on the screen.
One was Blake, the Swifts' Washington, D.C., telecaster. He introduced the other man, a calm-faced, balding individual in a dark suit.
"This is John Thurston of the Central Intelligence Agency, Tom," Blake said. "He thought it might be better to discuss this with you face to face."
Tom, Bud, and Ames were also visible to the pair in Washington.
"Glad to know you, sir," Tom said, and introduced his companions.
"We've identified the man you captured this morning," Thurston began. "He's in the United States on a French passport under the name of Jacques Renard. But we've just learned from the International Police Organization that he's actually a Brungarian. His name is Samson Narko."
Tom and Ames exchanged startled glances. In the past, certain Brungarian factions had been responsible for some of the most fiendish plots ever perpetrated against the Swifts.
"Unfortunately, that's not all," Thurston went on. "Interpol believes that Narko is also a member of the same rebel outfit with whom you've had trouble before."
Tom was dismayed by the news. "I sure thought that group had been smashed!" he said. Soon after Tom had balked their attempts to seize the satellite Nestria, the rebel ringleaders had reportedly been arrested and tried for treason.
"It now appears," Thurston explained, "that only one segment was quelled. Other members of the antigovernment movement are active again and are said to be strongly organized."
The CIA man related even more sinister news. It was suspected that a larger nation—by aiding the rebels—was planning a coup to take over Brungaria. They had already subverted various government agencies and were sending their own professors to staff the Brungarian technical schools. It was all part of their insidious fifth-column pattern.
"Many top Brungarian officials have joined the plotters," Thurston added, "and it's now becoming very difficult for anyone to enter or leave the country."
Ames asked for information on any rebel sympathizers known to be in the United States. Thurston was able to tell him very little.
"We keep strict tabs, of course, on all Brungarians entering this country," Thurston explained. "But even though we screen them carefully, a rebel agent like Narko may slip in—usually on a stolen or faked passport."
When the telecast ended, Tom, Bud, and Ames discussed the news grimly.
"What if Narko has pals working with him?" Bud conjectured.
"If he does," Tom said, "they may try carrying through Narko's mission."
"I'll station extra guards around the outer wall on twenty-four-hour alert," Ames promised.
Tom approved this measure wholeheartedly, but the purpose of Narko's secret mission remained a mystery. Why had he tried to force his way into Enterprises? What was he after? There was little hope of resolving these questions, since United States Intelligence had learned of the rebel movement itself only within the past few days. Thurston had asked Tom and his companions to treat the information as confidential.
"I'd better get back to work," Tom decided after Bud and Ames had left his office. Tom sat down at his drawing board and began to sketch out some rough ideas for a vehicle to house the "brain energy" from space.
Tom wondered if the brain would be able to perform actions by itself, given the proper mechanical output devices. Or would he have to help it function via an electronic computer to digest incoming information or stimuli and then to respond through servo controls?
The problem was so baffling and complex that Tom became completely oblivious to the passage of time. He sketched out plan after plan, only to crumple and discard each one.
Suddenly a disturbing thought jarred the young inventor out of his concentration. Perhaps the Brungarian rebel scientists had now figured out how to decode the radio messages from the Swifts' space friends!
If so, when the brain energy was launched toward earth, they might try to divert it to their own receiving setup!
Tom was appalled at this new danger. Shoving his drawing board back into its wall slot, the young inventor hurried to his desk and made a number of telephone calls.
Within minutes, a group of five of his most trusted associates had assembled in Tom's office. First to arrive were Bud Barclay, Ames, and George Dilling, the Swifts' communications chief. They were joined moments later by Hank Sterling, the square-jawed chief engineer and trouble shooter of Enterprises, and Arvid Hanson.
Hanson, a hulking six-footer, made all the delicate scale models of Tom Jr.'s and Tom Sr.'s inventions. He was not only an expert craftsman, but, like all the Swifts' key men, a trained aircraft and space pilot as well.
"What's up, skipper?" Bud asked.
"I guess you might call this a council of war," Tom replied.
He divulged his fears that Brungarian scientists might hijack the brain energy to be sent from Planet X, home of the Swifts' unknown space friends.
"Bud, you recall Mother's remark last night about the danger that this energy may prove overwhelmingly powerful," Tom went on. "Well, just suppose that our Brungarian pals fit it out in robot form, then turn it loose against us or our friends in other countries."
Bud gave an awed whistle. "Boy, a thing like that might make even a powerful missile look like a toy!"
Even if the brain energy proved too small to be harnessed for destructive purposes, Tom went on, it might turn out to possess superintelligence. Gifted with all the scientific know-how of the space people, it might be made to reveal those secrets to the Brungarians.
"They might learn from it how to construct weapons or space craft powerful enough to conquer the free world!" Tom ended.
His listeners were grim-faced at the thought.
"I'd say that's a far worse danger than any chance of their coming up with a robot monster," Ames said.
"Ditto!" Hanson agreed.
"I think so too," Tom replied. "In any case, it's up to us to make sure the Brungarians don't switch that energy off course before it lands here."
"Think their scientists are capable of such a stunt?" George Dilling inquired.
Tom shrugged. "They're certainly far advanced in the fields of rocket guidance and telemetry. But actually we just don't know."
Hank Sterling glanced hopefully at the young inventor. "Got any ideas, skipper?" he asked.
Tom drummed a pencil on the table thoughtfully before replying. "Maybe our best bet is first to find out all we can about the lines of research on which they're concentrating. That might be the tip-off."
After a thorough discussion, it was decided that Ames and Dilling would fly to Washington at once and talk to the FBI and Central Intelligence. Their job would be to garner and piece together every scrap of information on Brungarian scientists' accomplishments.
"Let us know as soon as you get a general picture," Tom said.
Ames and Dilling promised to do so, and the meeting broke up.
Feeling somewhat reassured now that a definite plan of action had been decided upon, Tom resumed work on his sketches. Although both the problem and the solution were still hazy in his mind, a few ideas began to take shape.
A radio antenna would certainly be needed, to receive or transmit signals at a distance. And repelatron units would give the brain a way to exert force when it wanted to act. These were devices which Tom had invented to produce a repulsion-force ray. He had used the principle in both air and space flight.
A power plant might also be needed to generate additional energy in case the brain's own energy was very small. Lastly, there would have to be a control system for use either by the brain itself or by its human operators.
After an hour of work at top speed, Tom was rather pleased with one rough sketch. He was mulling over the idea when Chow Winkler and Bud Barclay wandered into the office. Both were impressed when Tom explained the sketch.
Chow stared at it, goggle-eyed at the thought of such a contraption "coming to life." "So that's the Ole Think Box, eh?" he muttered.
Tom laughed. "Good name, Chow!"
All three were startled as a voice suddenly broke in over the wall intercom. It was the operator on duty at the plant's communication center.
"Turn on your TV, skipper," the operator suggested. "We've just had a news bulletin that an earthquake tremor has been felt over in Medfield. There's a big plant there that makes rocket nose cones. A mobile TV crew's been rushed to the scene in a helicopter and they're trying to pick up the action with a television camera."
"Good night! Another quake?" Bud gasped.
Tom had already rushed to the videophone. Flicking it on, he switched to a commercial channel. Soon a picture appeared on the screen. It was a panoramic shot of a landscape, evidently viewed from a hovering aircraft, with a large industrial plant just below.
A TV commentator's voice was reporting developments. "Few visible signs of a tremor," he said. "As you can see, the rocket-plant personnel and the people of Medfield are making desperate attempts to evacuate. Fortunately, most of them have already left the immediate area."
A few cars and trucks could still be seen speeding along the ribbonlike roads within view of the hovering television camera.
"Oh—oh!" The commentator's voice broke in again. "Notice that tall stack just over the plant—see how it's starting to tremble!... It's beginning to crumble!... This must be it!"
Suddenly the whole scene seemed to explode. Plant buildings collapsed like toy houses built of cards, while at the same time huge rocks and trees were uprooted as a yawning crack opened in the ground below.
The three watchers in Tom's office stared in horrified dismay. But a moment later the picture on the TV screen became jerky and distorted, then faded out completely.
After a brief interval, a studio announcer came on. "The relay transmitter must have been knocked out by the quake. We return you now to our regularly scheduled program, but will keep you informed as bulletins come in."
"Great balls o' fire!" Chow gulped as Tom turned off the set. "I sure hope all o' those poor folks in cars got away safe!"
Tom rushed to a wall shelf and pulled out a book on geology. He leafed quickly to a section dealing with known earthquake faults and the distribution of quakes. When he looked up at the others, his face was grim.
"What's wrong, skipper?" Bud asked tensely.
"That quake," Tom replied, "wasn't in a patterned zone any more than the Faber one was!"
Chow's jaw dropped open in a comic look of dismay. "You mean this here ole earth we live on is gettin' all busted up an' twisted around inside?"
"I wish I knew, Chow!" Tom paced worriedly about the office. "It just seems queer to me that both of those quakes should have destroyed vital defense factories!"
On a sudden impulse, Tom snatched up the telephone. His two companions listened as he put through a call to the FBI in Washington. Within moments, a friend at the Bureau, Wes Norris, came on the line.
"Look, Wes," Tom said, "is there any chance this quake that just happened at Medfield and the earlier one at Faber Electronics might have been caused by underground H-bomb blasts?"
"As a matter of fact, we're checking on that very possibility," Norris replied. "In other words, sabotage. Things are pretty hot around here since that news on Medfield came in, so I can't talk much right now, Tom. But I can tell you this," Wes concluded, "we are investigating, and I do mean thoroughly!"
Bud and Chow were shocked when Tom reported his conversation with the FBI agent.
"Brand my rattlesnake stew!" Chow exploded. "Any ornery varmint that'd cause an earthquake ought to be strung up like a hoss thief!"
"I agree, Chow," Tom said. "But how do we find out for sure?"
After closing time at the plant, Bud drove home with Tom. Both Mrs. Swift and Sandy were upset as the boys discussed the situation.
"Tom, if this was deliberate," Mrs. Swift pointed out, "Enterprises may be next on the enemy's list!"
Tom did his best to allay his mother's fears, but inwardly he himself felt apprehensive. Any large-scale sabotage plot would be almost certain to include Swift Enterprises, America's most daring and advanced research center.
When his mother went upstairs to her room, Tom suggested to Bud that they drive to the nearby State Police post. Here he confided his fears to Captain Rock, an old friend of the Swifts.
"You have some request in mind?" Captain Rock inquired.
"How about making a search for any signs of suspicious digging or underground activity in the vicinity of Shopton?" Tom said. "There would have to be an excavation of some sort in order to set off an underground blast."
Captain Rock mulled over Tom's suggestion. "Sounds like a big job, but I'm afraid you're right, Tom. We can't risk a similar disaster here."
"We'd better move fast, too," Bud put in. "Those two quakes so far came only a day apart!"
Rock picked up the telephone and barked out orders. Within half an hour, several carloads of troopers were covering the outlying roads that converged on Shopton. Firemen and Chief Slater's town police force were also pressed into action. They would search every cellar in town for signs of recent digging.
Bud rode in one police car and Tom in another as a house-to-house search was conducted along the highway that ran past Enterprises.
At one weather-beaten house, where Bud stopped with a state trooper, an old man came to the door.
"What you fellers prowlin' around for?" he asked.
"Bomb emergency," the trooper said laconically. "We have orders to search every house cellar for underground openings."
Grumbling, the old man let them enter. He followed them down a rickety stairway. A moment later Bud stumbled and gave a yell. The trooper swung around just in time to see Bud drop from view!
As the trooper's flashlight stabbed through the cellar gloom at the spot where Bud had disappeared, there came a loud splash! The light showed a round hole in the floor, rimmed by a low circle of brickwork.
"What's that hole?" the trooper snapped at the owner.
"What does it look like?" the elderly man snapped back. "It's an old well."
"A well!" the trooper exclaimed as he rushed to the spot. "And not even covered? What're you trying to do—kill people?"
The old man sniffed. "Used to be covered, but the lid's gone. Didn't expect to have a bunch of nosy fellers pokin' around down here!"
The state trooper muttered angrily under his breath as he shone his flashlight into the well-shaft. Bud was splashing around below, soaked and chagrined by his accident.
"Give me a hand!" he called up.
The trooper reached down, but was barely able to touch Bud's finger tips. To make matters worse, the sides of the well were slippery with moss.
"Get a rope," the trooper ordered the old man.
"Ain't got one."
The policeman reddened and stood up to his full six-foot-two. "Look, mister—what's your name?"
The elderly man shrank back, as if suspecting that the trooper's patience might have been tried too far. "Ben Smith," he mumbled.
"Okay, Mr. Smith, you get a rope or something else to pull this boy out. And fast!"
Ben Smith gulped on his chewing tobacco and hurried off. A minute or so later he returned with a length of clothesline. The trooper lowered it into the well and Bud was soon climbing out, looking like a drenched rat.
"Sorry, son," Smith said apologetically. "Guess I should have warned ye."
Bud chuckled good-naturedly. "It's all right," he said. "It was my own fault for not watching where I was going. Besides, you can't blame an American for not liking the idea of having his home searched."
The old man chuckled too and flashed a wary eye at the trooper. "I'll go get ye a towel to dry off with," he told Bud.
Meanwhile, Tom was investigating a house down the road with another state trooper. The owner, a paunchy unshaven bachelor named Pete Latty, and his seventeen-year-old nephew accompanied them to the basement.
A naked light bulb, hanging from the ceiling, revealed an ancient furnace, and an accumulation of junk. Most of it was covered with dust, but Tom noticed a large packing crate that looked as if it had been freshly moved. He walked over and began to shove the heavy box aside.
"What're you doing?" Latty asked gruffly.
"I want to look underneath," Tom replied. A second later his eyes widened as he saw a trap door, evidently leading to a subcellar.
Tom beckoned his partner over and showed his discovery. "Where does this lead to?" the trooper asked, turning back to Latty.
"Just a little storage place," the owner replied with a shrug. "I didn't think it was worth mentioning. You'd better not go down there," he added hastily. "The steps ain't safe."
"Just the same, we'll take a look," the trooper said.
"Then do it at your own risk!" Latty snapped.
The officer pulled up the trap door and Tom shone a light down. The shallow dirt-walled room below was about six feet square. On the floor, at the foot of a short rickety ladder, lay a large bundle wrapped in a tarpaulin.
Tom descended the ladder cautiously and opened the tarpaulin to see what was inside. The contents made him gasp—a large, well-oiled collection of rifles and pistols!
Looking up, Tom saw both the state trooper and Latty peering down at him—the trooper openmouthed with surprise, Latty scowling nervously.
"Don't touch 'em!" Latty warned. "Some are loaded. I keep 'em hidden for safety, but sometimes my nephew Fred here and I have target practice."
Just then Tom's keen eyes spotted a slip of paper tucked among the guns. He pulled it out. His heart gave a leap of excitement as he saw two words written on the paper—Samson Narko!
Hiding his amazement, Tom read the name aloud and added casually, "What's this? The make of one of the guns?"
"Uh, yeah—that's right," the man replied.
Without comment, Tom climbed out of the subcellar. As he bent down to drop the trap door, Tom flashed the officer a signal. Instantly the trooper grabbed Latty.
"Hey! Why the rough stuff?" the prisoner exclaimed. Then, as he realized the officer was about to handcuff him, the man's face turned pasty white. He pulled free from the trooper's grasp and bolted toward the stairway. His nephew stood as if paralyzed at the sudden turn of events.
Latty's attempt at flight was hopeless. Tom quickly brought him down with a flying tackle.
Later, after Latty had been manacled, Tom helped him up. "In case you don't know it," the young inventory said coldly, "your friend Narko is in jail, so you may as well talk. What's the pitch?"
Latty was trembling and still pale. "I—I d-didn't know there'd be any trouble with the cops or I'd never have done it," he quavered. "Narko offered me some dough to hide the guns. I needed money, so I took him up. That's all there was to it."
"How long have you known this Narko?" Tom asked.
"I met him a few days ago in a restaurant. Believe me, I'd never laid eyes on him before. And I wish I never had!" Latty added bitterly.
The man's story had a ring of truth. "All right, Officer, let's take him in," Tom said. To the still-astounded Fred, he added, "We're sorry about this."
Two hours later Tom and Bud sat in Chief Slater's office at Shopton police headquarters. Captain Rock and the Shopton fire chief were also on hand.
"We've had troopers, detectives, and fire inspectors swarming all over Latty's place," Captain Rock reported. "They examined his house, the garage, two sheds out back, and every inch of the grounds. But there's no indication of any place where a bomb might have been planted to cause an underground explosion in Shopton."
The fire chief nodded confirmation. "So that clue peters out," he said.
With the waning of daylight, the other groups had finally abandoned their search of the Shopton area without turning up any information. "I'll notify the FBI immediately," Chief Slater said.
Nevertheless, he promised that his men would continue their efforts the next day.
"Even if we find nothing more, that arms cache was worth all the trouble," Slater added. "The country owes you a vote of thanks, Tom. A bunch of enemy agents could have hurt a lot of people with an arsenal like that!"
"That's for sure," Captain Rock agreed. "It was a good day's haul, Tom."
The two boys drove back to the Swift home and had a quick shower. Bud borrowed clean clothes from Tom. Then they sat down to enjoy a warmed-up but tasty supper, served by Sandy and Mrs. Swift.
As they ate, the boys listened to music on the radio, interspersed with eager questions from Sandy about the bomb search.
Suddenly the radio announcer broke in. "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an important news bulletin!"
Tom, Sandy, and Bud listened as the radio announcer continued:
"Reports just in say that Brungaria has been taken over by a rebel group. Military aid to support the rebel coup is pouring in from Maurevia, Brungaria's powerful province in the north. The Brungarian prime minister, his cabinet, and all loyal administrative personnel have fled or been arrested.
"Worried United States State Department officials admit that the surprise coup poses a new and dangerous threat to free-world security. Further news reports will be broadcast as soon as they reach this station," the announcer ended.
For a moment Tom and Bud were too stunned to speak. Sandy was wide-eyed with the realization that the news spelled trouble for Swift Enterprises and all America.
"Looks as though that CIA man who briefed us wasn't kidding, eh, skipper?" Bud muttered at last.
"It came sooner than he expected!" Tom said.
Jumping up from the table, Tom switched off the radio and hurried to the hall telephone. In a few moments he managed to get a long-distance call through to Wes Norris of the FBI.
"Is the news on this Brungarian coup as bad as it sounds, Wes?" Tom inquired.
"Worse! That rebel bunch really has it in for us, as you know, Tom," Norris replied. "They envy America and they'll move heaven and earth to steal our scientific secrets. This could touch off a whole epidemic of sabotage and other spy activity!"
Tom's jaw clenched grimly. He then asked the FBI man his opinion about the discovery of the secret arms cache in Pete Latty's basement.
Norris admitted he was puzzled. "It doesn't add up, Tom," the FBI agent said thoughtfully. "If our enemies were planning to destroy Shopton by a quake, why would anyone be needing a gun?"
"I can't figure it myself, Wes—unless they were planning to raid and loot Enterprises after the place was thrown into disorder," Tom deduced. "What about Narko himself? Has he talked yet?"
Norris replied that although he had not interviewed Narko himself, FBI agents who had grilled the spy had failed to elicit any information.
"Here's something else, though, which might interest you," Norris went on. "We now have reports that at the time of the Harkness and Medfield disasters, seismographs recorded simultaneous quakes off the coast of Alaska near the Aleutian chain. Tremors were also felt off the southwest coast of South America."
A new factor to consider! Tom frowned in puzzlement as he hung up the telephone after completing his talk with the FBI man.
After Tom had repeated the conversation to his companions, Bud said, "You mean the H-bomb idea goes out the window?"
Tom shrugged. "Wes says they've found no evidence to support the theory of man-produced underground blasts. It just doesn't jibe with those other remote tremors. They'd be too much of a coincidence, happening at the same time!"
"Then the quakes at Harkness and Medfield were real earthquakes!" Sandy put in.
"Looks that way," Tom admitted. "Those other tremors Wes mentioned follow a natural circum-Pacific belt which is well known to seismologists. I'm no expert, but perhaps they could have set off chain reactions below the earth's crust which triggered the two quakes in this part of the country."
In that case, the young inventor reflected, it was only a freak of nature that the Faber and nose-cone factories had been wrecked by the shock. But in spite of the seismographic clues, Tom was not entirely convinced. A nagging doubt still buzzed in the back of his mind.
The next morning Tom hurried off to his private glass-walled laboratory at Enterprises, eager to continue work on his container, or robot body, for the brain from space.
Tom frowned as he studied the rough sketch he had drawn in his office the afternoon before. "This setup's full of bugs!" he muttered.
Nevertheless, Tom decided, the basic idea was sound. Grabbing pencil and slide rule, he began to dash off page after page of diagrams and equations.
"Chow down!" boomed a foghorn voice. Chow Winkler, wearing a white chef's hat, wheeled a lunch cart into the lab.
"Oh... thanks." Tom scarcely looked up from his work as the cook set out an appetizing meal of Texas hash, milk, and deep-dish apple pie on the bench beside the young inventor's papers. Grumbling under his breath, Chow sauntered out.
Tom went on working intently between mouthfuls. In another hour he finished a set of pilot drawings. Then he called Hank Sterling and Arvid Hanson and asked them to come to the laboratory.
They listened with keen interest as Tom explained his latest creation.
"No telling if it will work when the energy arrives from space," Tom said, "but I think everything tracks okay. Hank, get these plans blueprinted and assign an electronics group to the project. You'd better handle the hardware yourself."
"Right." Hank rolled up the sketches.
"And, Arv," Tom went on, "I'd like a scale model made to guide them on assembly. How soon can you have it?"
Hanson promised the model for some time the next day, and the two men hurried off.
As usual, Arv proved slightly better than his word. The expert modelmaker was devoted to his craft and as apt to forget the clock as Tom himself, when absorbed in a new project. By working on in his shop long after closing hours, Hanson had a desk-size model of the space-brain robot ready for Tom's inspection when the young inventor arrived at the plant early the following morning.
"Wonderful, Arv!" Tom approved. "Every time I see one of your models of a new invention, I'm sure it'll work!" Hanson grinned, pleased at the compliment.
Tom hopped into a jeep and sped across the plant grounds to deliver the model to Hank Sterling and his project crew. Work was already well along on the electronic subassemblies and the strange-looking "body" was taking shape.
That afternoon Ames and Dilling returned from Washington. The report they gave to Tom bore out his hunch that the rebel Brungarian scientists might well be able to divert the space energy.
The next day was Friday. Tom was hoping, although none too optimistically, that the container might be completed before the week end. To his delight, an Enterprises pickup truck pulled up outside the laboratory later that afternoon and Hank rolled the queer-looking device inside.
"Hi, buster!" Tom greeted it. "Is this your daddy?"
Hank chuckled. "Don't look at me. It claims you're its daddy. But hanged if I can see much resemblance!"
"Think it'll live?"
"If not," Hank replied, only half jokingly, "the boys who worked on it will sure be disappointed. No kidding, skipper, that's quite a gadget you dreamed up!"
The device stood about shoulder-high, with a star-shaped head, one point of which could be opened. The head would contain the actual brain energy. Its upper body, cylindrical in shape and of gleaming chrome, housed the output units through which the brain would react, and also the controls. Antennas projecting out on either side gave the look of arms.
Its "waist" was girdled with a ring of repelatron radiators for exerting a repulsion force when it wanted to move, by repelling itself away from nearby objects.
Below the repelatrons was an hourglass-shaped power unit, housing a solar-charged battery.
The power unit, in turn, was mounted on a pancake-shaped transportation unit. This unit was equipped with both casters and a sort of caterpillar-crawler arrangement for the contrivance to get about over obstacles. Inside was a gyro-stabilizer to keep the whole device upright.
Tom felt a glow of pride—and eager impatience—as he inspected the device. If it worked as he hoped, this odd creature might one day provide earth scientists with a priceless store of information about intelligent life on Planet X!
Bud and Chow, entering the laboratory soon after Hank Sterling had left, found Tom still engrossed in his thoughts.
"Wow! Is this your spaceman?" Bud inquired.
Tom nodded, then grinned at his callers' gaping expressions. Each was trying to imagine how the "thing" would look in action.
"Sure is a queer-lookin' buckaroo!" Chow commented, when Tom finished explaining how it was supposed to work.
On a sudden impulse, the old cowpoke took off his ten-gallon hat and plumped it on the creature. Then he removed his polka-dotted red bandanna and knotted it like a neckerchief just below the star head.
Tom laughed heartily as Bud howled, "Ride 'em, spaceman!"
Tom was eager to notify his mysterious space friends that the container was now ready to receive the brain energy. Bud went with him by jeep to the space-communications laboratory. Chow, however, stayed behind and stared in fascination at the odd-looking robot creature.
The stout cook walked back and forth, eying the thing suspiciously from every angle. "Wonder what the critter eats?" he muttered.
Feeling in his shirt pocket, Chow brought out a wad of his favorite bubble gum. Should he or shouldn't he? "Shucks, won't hurt to try," the old Texan decided.
Chow unlocked the hinged point of the star head and popped the gum inside. He was somewhat disappointed when nothing happened. Feeling a trifle foolish, Chow finally removed his hat and bandanna from the creature and stumped off.
Meanwhile, in the space-communications laboratory, Tom was pounding out a message on the keyboard of the electronic brain. Tom had invented this device for automatically coding and decoding messages between the Swifts and their space friends. It was connected to a powerful transmitting-and-receiving apparatus, served by a huge radio-telescope antenna mounted atop the communications building.
Bud looked on as Tom signaled:
TOM SWIFT TO SPACE FRIENDS. CONTAINER FOR ENERGY IS NOW READY. SHOULD IT BE PLACED OUTDOORS?
Stirred by a worrisome afterthought, Tom added:
MESSAGES MAY BE INTERCEPTED BY ENEMY WHO WISHES TO STEAL ENERGY. SUGGEST YOU USE FLIGHT PATH TO LAND EXACTLY TWO MILES WEST OF FIRST CONTACT WITH US.
"By 'first contact,' you mean when that black missile landed at Enterprises?" Bud asked.
Tom nodded. At that time, he reminded Bud, the Brungarians and their conquerors had not yet learned of the Swifts' communication from another planet. Hence they would have no idea of the site referred to—which would hamper any plans to kidnap the brain energy.
"I get it," Bud said. "Smart idea, pal!"
Tensely the two boys waited for a reply from outer space.
WALL OF WATER!
Minutes went by before the signal bell rang on the electronic brain. Both Tom and Bud dashed over to the machine as it began to spell out the incoming message on tape:
ENERGY WILL COME TO THE SPOT YOU SUGGESTED. WE CAN CONTROL FLIGHT COURSE BUT WHILE THE ENERGY IS ON EARTH YOU WILL BE IN CHARGE. WE WILL HAVE NO CONTROL FOR TWENTY-ONE DAYS. THEN WE WILL RECALL ENERGY TO BRING US IMPRESSIONS AND DATA OF YOUR WORLD.
The two boys stared at each other excitedly as the transmission ended.
"Wow!" Bud murmured. "If Planet X is a peaceful place, Ole Think Box is sure in for a jolt here on earth!"
Tom grinned fleetingly at the reference to Chow's nickname for the robot creature. Then he became serious, knowing that Bud's words were all too true. The space visitor might also take back impressions of the suffering and warlike threats that some earth countries inflict on one another. Maybe one day, Tom reflected, it would be different.
In the meantime, the young inventor realized he had an awesome responsibility. He must not only make the best use of the brain energy during its stay on earth, but also keep it from falling into the hands of treacherous Brungarian plotters.
Tom's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of girls' voices. Sandy and Phyl were standing in the doorway of the space-communications laboratory.
"Talk about deep thinkers!" Sandy said teasingly.
"Goodness, we had no idea we'd be interrupting a session of the brain trust," Phyl added with a mischievous sparkle in her brown eyes. "Maybe we should go away again, Sandy!"
"Hey! Hold it, you two!" Bud exclaimed. "What do you think, Tom—are these the visitors we've been expecting from outer space?"
"Well! I like that!" Sandy pouted. "Do we look like a couple of little green people?"
Tom chuckled and seized the opportunity to do a little teasing of his own. "I think it's just your pointed heads that fooled us, Sis." Then, as the two girls broke down in laughter, he added, "Why the unexpected visit?"
Sandy and Phyl explained that they had come to invite the boys to a picnic cruise on Lake Carlopa the next day.
"And while we're here, since it's practically quitting time anyhow," Sandy went on, her blue eyes twinkling, "we might even let you drive us some place for dinner."
"Guess they've trapped us, Bud," Tom said with a grin. "Okay, it's a deal. But first we have something to show you." He took the girls to his laboratory to show them the robot creature.
"It's marvelous!" Sandy exclaimed, and Phyl agreed.
Early the next morning Bud called for Tom and Sandy in his tomato-red convertible. Then they stopped at the Newtons' house to pick up Phyl. Each girl had packed a picnic basket for the day's sail.
"Hmm. Looks as though we're going to be well fed," Bud commented jokingly. "What's on the menu, girls?"
"Chicken and ham sandwiches..." Sandy began.
"Pickles, olives, hard-boiled eggs, potato salad..." Phyl went on.
"Chocolate cake, milk..." Sandy took up the list.
"Stop! You have us hungry as bears already!" Tom warned.
"Right!" Bud agreed. "Come on! Let's get this cruise under way!"
The two couples drove to the Shopton Yacht Club dock on Lake Carlopa. There they boarded the Sunspot, a beautiful thirty-foot sailing ketch with auxiliary engine which Mr. Swift and Mr. Newton had purchased for a frequently promised but not yet realized joint family vacation.
The craft was equipped with twin gravitex stabilizers, mounted one on each side of the hull. These gave it amazing smoothness even when plowing through rough seas. They were adaptations of a device Tom had invented for his space kite and Cosmic Sailer.
"Oh, what a gorgeous day for a sail!" Phyl said, aglow with enthusiasm.
The sky was a cloudless blue. Under a hot summer sun, a brisk breeze was ruffling the lake into tiny whitecaps. The two couples cast off eagerly and were soon scudding out across the water under full sail.
Tom and Bud wore swimming trunks under their slacks. Unfortunately the girls had forgotten to bring their suits. When the Sunspot reached the center of the lake, the boys hove to, stripped down to their trunks, and dived overboard. Meanwhile, the girls sun-bathed on deck. Soon it was time for the picnic lunch, and all four ate with healthy young appetites.
"Jeepers!" Sandy whispered to Phyl with a giggle. "After a feast like this, we'll have to go on a diet!"
"Don't say it," Phyl warned, "or Tom and Bud will use that as an excuse for never taking us out ag—"
She broke off with a gasp.
"What's wrong?" Tom asked.
Breathless with fright, Phyl pointed off to starboard. The others paled. An enormous wave was sweeping across the lake, straight toward the ketch!
"Jumpin' jets!" Bud gulped. "It's like a tidal wave!"
The boat was already rocking under the swells that preceded the oncoming huge breaker.
"Quick!" Tom yelled. "Grab life jackets while I start the engine!"
The four leaped into action. Every instant the terrifying wave rushed closer! By now it was a twelve-foot wall of water!
Tom and the others had just put on the jackets and the engine had barely gunned into life when disaster struck. The mammoth wave swept up the Sunspot and heeled it far over into the trough like a toy bark. The next instant a cataract of water poured over the deck with stunning force!
"We're going under!" Phyl screamed.
All four were swept overboard in the maelstrom! Under the smashing impact of the water, the ketch's mainmast bent and groaned. A moment later came a crack like a gunshot. The mast broke off, hung teetering by shreds, then toppled into the water. As it fell, the mast struck Sandy a grazing blow on the head!
"Sandy!" Bud cried fearfully as he struggled in the swirling torrent.
Calling on every ounce of strength, he swam with powerful strokes toward the girl. Sandy was dazed and limp. Bud's husky arm circled her tightly. Then he began to fight his way toward shore. Tom and Phyl—each struggling in the turbulent water—could only breathe a prayer of thanks as they watched the rescue.
As the huge wave raced shoreward, the lake water gradually became calmer in its wake. Tom was able to assist Phyl, and Sandy by now had recovered her faculties.
The Sunspot had capsized but could still be seen afloat, some distance away. Rather than swim to it and cling to the hulk in the hope that a rescue boat would arrive, the four decided to continue on toward shore. They knew that the aftermath of the tidal wave would keep all shore facilities in an uproar for hours to come.
As they neared the beach, the young people could see other overturned craft and heads bobbing in the water. A few daring persons finally began putting out in motorboats and rowboats to pick up the survivors.
A hundred yards from shore, one of the boats took Tom's group aboard. Minutes later, they were scrambling out onto a dock.
"Are you all right, Sandy?" Bud asked, his arm still around her.
"I—I think so," she gasped weakly, "but I must have swallowed half the lake!"
"Take it easy, Sis!" Tom added, as Sandy swayed and shuddered from the shock of her recent ordeal.
Gently he made Sandy lie down and pillowed her head on a folded tarpaulin provided by the sympathetic boatman. Phyl, though wan and white-faced, was in somewhat better shape.
"Tom, we must get these girls home as soon as possible," Bud declared.
This, however, was not easily accomplished. The tidal wave had caused devastation along the entire shore front. Many docks had been wrecked, boats splintered like matchsticks, and buildings along the water smashed.
When Tom's group reached Bud's convertible, parked near the yacht club pier, they found the car completely waterlogged. Its electrical system gave not even a faint sputter or spark.
"Oh, fine!" Bud groaned. "The crowning touch!"
Eventually ambulances and private cars began to arrive to transport the injured. Tom, Bud, and the two girls were given a lift to the Swift home where Sandy and Phyl were immediately put to bed by a worried Mrs. Swift.
Downstairs, Tom switched on the TV set. A mobile camera crew from the local station was scanning the water front and interviewing witnesses of the disaster. To the two boys, the most interesting note came in a statement by the announcer that a very slight earth tremor had been felt in Shopton.
"But no damage occurred except along the water front," the announcer explained.
Tom gave a snort of anger, jumped up from his chair, and began pacing about the living room. "Bud, I feel sure that wall of water was caused by a minor earthquake!" the young inventor declared. "What's more, I'll bet it was man-made!"
Bud stared at his friend, appalled but feeling a hot surge of anger himself. "If you're right, pal, it's the most fiendish sabotage I've ever heard of! Think of all the lives that were endangered!"
Tom nodded grimly. "I am thinking!"
Both boys jerked around to look at the TV set again as a studio announcer's voice suddenly broke into the telecast:
"Flash! A severe quake has occurred at the headquarters of the American Archives Foundation, a hundred miles from Shopton. The Foundation's buildings, containing many priceless government and scientific documents, were badly damaged, and an underground microfilm vault was utterly destroyed. Apparently this quake was part of the tremor felt here at Shopton."
Within minutes the Swifts' home phone began jangling constantly. Some calls were from friends, others from strangers. Many of the calls were routed through from the Enterprises switchboard.
One was from Dan Perkins of the Shopton Bulletin. "What about it, Tom?" the editor demanded. "I guess you know by now the public's aroused and in a state of near panic over all these quakes. What they all want to know is this: are you, Tom Swift, going to find a way to stop all this destruction?"
Tom's jaw jutted out angrily. "Yes, I am!" he snapped. "And you can quote me on that!"
A SUSPECT TALKS
The next morning Tom was up at the crack of dawn, grimly determined to find an answer to the earthquake menace. He ate a hasty breakfast, then drove to his private laboratory at Enterprises. He instructed the switchboard operator to shut off all incoming calls, then plunged into a study of the mystifying problem.
Earthquake activity, Tom knew, tends to occur in circular patterns, like bands around the earth—for instance, the circum-Pacific belt, and another belt extending eastward from the Mediterranean through Asia and on into the East Indies. Often these quake lines are visible as breaks or ruptures along the ground surface, called fault traces. No doubt, Tom thought, there were many more uncharted ones.
Could an enemy scientist be making use of these earth faults to produce a man-made quake? Tom mulled over the disturbing idea.
"How would I tackle the job myself, if I had to undertake such a project for national defense?" the young inventor mused. He felt a growing sense of excitement as an idea began to take shape in his mind.
What about an artificial shock wave!
An hour later Bud Barclay walked into the laboratory and found Tom hunched over a jumbled pile of reference books on his workbench.
"What cooks, skipper?" Bud asked.
Tom looked up, his blue eyes blazing. "Bud, I think I may have the answer!"
Tom got up from his stool and paced about the laboratory. "Suppose the Brungarian rebel scientists have invented some sort of shock-wave producer—a device for sending vibrations through the earth's crust or the mantle underneath."
"Okay, suppose they have," Bud replied.
Tom snatched up a piece of chalk and made some quick diagrams on a blackboard. "Just this, pal. Let's say they set up two or three stations around the world for sending out such waves in a definite direction. Wherever the wave crosses an earth fault or another wave—boom! An earthquake!"
Bud stared. "No kidding, is that how those rats triggered off all these quakes?"
"It must be," Tom declared. "It's the only possible explanation."
"Good night!" Bud gasped weakly. "What a weapon! Just push a button every so often and you could blow up another country bit by bit—and no one could ever prove who was behind the attack!"
Tom nodded. "Enough to make every American shiver, if he only knew!"
"What can we do about it?" Bud asked.
Tom resumed his worried pacing. "I'll have to invent a shock-wave deflector, Bud. It must be done in a hurry, too. Our enemy may start to destroy American cities as well as vital defense plants!"
Immediately Tom put through an urgent call to an eminent scientist in Washington who was a member of the National Research Council. Quickly he outlined a plan.
"Tom, I'll talk to the president's special science adviser at once," the man promised. "I'll try to set up a meeting for ten o'clock tomorrow morning at Enterprises."
Feeling relieved, Tom left the plant with Bud. The two boys drove off to attend church with Mrs. Swift and Sandy. Then, after the Sunday midday meal, Tom returned to his laboratory to work on ideas for a shock-wave deflector.
Bud and Sandy, meanwhile, drove to the Shopton Yacht Club to inspect the damage to the Sunspot. Tom had arranged with a salvage crew to tow the disabled ketch back to its slip.
Monday morning, a sleek Air Force jet transport touched down at Swift Enterprises. Aboard were a select group of top government scientists. Tom and Bud greeted them as they disembarked on the runway, then drove them to a conference room in the Enterprises main building.
"I'd say your theory is right, Tom, about the quakes being produced by artificial shock waves," said Bernt Ahlgren, a tall, hawk-faced man with a shock of red hair. He was a member of the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency. "But how do we stop them?"
"I believe they can be damped out by opposing waves," Tom replied. "This is assuming that I can design the right sort of equipment to do the job—and also that we can set up a warning system to alert us of the enemy shock waves in time." The young inventor sketched out the sort of shock-wave deflector which he had in mind. The government experts were very much impressed. In the session that followed, the visiting scientists contributed many tips and suggestions. Tom noted them down gratefully.
After a thorough discussion, it was agreed that the Defense Department would set up detectors at fifty check points around the country. Tom would choose the exact spots. Detection data from the check points would be fed to an electronic computer. The computer would establish the pattern, if any, of incoming enemy shock waves.
Dr. Gregg Miles, a seismologist from the Bureau of Mines, agreed to take on the job of setting up the check points.
"Thanks for your prompt co-operation," Tom said, smiling gratefully as the meeting broke up.
"We should thank you, Tom, for coming up with a plan to cope with this fiendish threat," Ahlgren replied. The others heartily agreed.
Shortly after lunch, Tom was hard at work in his laboratory when the telephone rang. It was Chief Slater at Shopton police headquarters.
"You'd better get over here fast, Tom," Slater said. "Samson Narko is ready to talk!"
Tom needed no urging. "Right, Chief!"
As he drove into Shopton, Tom wondered what the Brungarian agent would reveal. Was it possible that he might tip off the whole secret behind the destructive man-made earthquakes?
Chief Slater was waiting in his office. "Narko showed signs of cracking this morning," Slater told Tom, "so I notified the Central Intelligence Agency. They're flying a man up here—in fact he should be here by now. Narko won't talk till he arrives."
"How come?" Tom asked.
"Narko wants a bargain," Slater explained. "If the government will promise to deport him at once without trial, he'll spill what he knows."
Tom whistled. "I sure wouldn't want to be in his shoes when he gets back to Brungaria! His bosses aren't stupid. They'll know he must have made a deal to get off scot free!"
Just then a taxi from the airport pulled up outside police headquarters, and the CIA official was ushered into Slater's office. He proved to be John Thurston.
"Narko's waiting in his cell," Slater said, after an exchange of handshakes. "Let's hope he hasn't changed his mind."
The Brungarian spy rose from his cot as the turnkey unlocked his cell door.
"You are from Washington, eh?" Narko said to Thurston. "Very well. I presume the police have told you my offer. Is it a bargain?"
Thurston was poker-faced. "You know the penalty for spying!" he snapped. "In your own country it would mean death. Why should we let you off?"
Narko's calmness evaporated. Beads of sweat burst out on his forehead.
"I have done no harm and I know little or nothing of my superiors' plans!" the spy said excitedly. "Why should I lie to you with my life at stake? After all, I am only an insignificant agent. But one important thing I do know—and this I will reveal if you promise to deport me at once!"
Thurston eyed him coldly. "Very well," the CIA man decided. "You have my word."
Narko sat down on his cot, breathing heavily. Then he looked up at the three Americans. "Your nation's capital, Washington, D.C., is going to be blown up!" the Brungarian asserted.
His words struck like a bombshell. Chief Slater and John Thurston stared at Narko in open-mouthed astonishment.
Then Slater scowled. "What a preposterous story! I suppose they're going to fly a plane over and drop an atom bomb—just like that!" He snapped his fingers.
Thurston was also inclined to doubt Narko's story. Any such bold move by the Brungarians, he declared, would amount to an act of war.
"It is the truth!" Narko shouted. "Do not forget—you have made a promise."
Tom Swift did not share Chief Slater's and Thurston's skepticism. Narko's words had chilled him with dismay. He called the other two aside and gave them a quick whispered briefing on the theory he had discussed with the government scientists, asking them to keep it confidential.
If the Brungarians indeed had a means of producing artificial shock waves, Tom pointed out, they could easily destroy Washington without the slightest risk to themselves.
Both Thurston and Chief Slater were alarmed. Turning back to Narko, they grilled him for clues. But it seemed obvious that the Brungarian was telling all he knew—or, at any rate, all he intended to reveal.
"We're wasting our time," Thurston said finally, with a look of disgust. "But I made a promise in the name of the United States government and the promise will be kept."
Turning to Chief Slater, the CIA man added, "Turn him over to the FBI and have them take him to New York. I'll arrange for a seat on the first plane for Brungaria."
Tom drove back thoughtfully to Enterprises. Bud was waiting in his laboratory with news.
"Your dad went from Washington to Fearing Island and has gone up to your space outpost," Bud reported. "He has to do some experiments for the government project he's working on."
The outpost was a space station which Tom Swift Jr. had built 22,300 miles above the earth. It was a production factory for his famous solar batteries, and also an immensely valuable setup for space research and exploration.
"Think I'll radio Dad and let him know what's going on," Tom decided. "He may have some good suggestions. He usually does!"
Tom warmed up his private transmitter-receiver and beamed out a code call through the automatic scrambler. Seconds later, the loud-speaker crackled in response.
But just as the outpost operator's voice came through, the radio set exploded in Tom's face!
THE CAVE MONSTER
"Skipper!" Bud cried anxiously as Tom staggered back, his hands to his face.
"I'm all right—no harm done," Tom assured his friend.
Both boys were a bit shaken by the accident, nevertheless. Chow came rushing in as Bud was brushing the fragments of debris from Tom's clothes and examining the young inventor's face.
"Brand my flyin' flapjacks, what happened?" Chow asked. The chef had been bringing a tray of fruit juice to the laboratory and had heard the explosion outside.
"The radio set just blew up in my face," Tom explained. "Fortunately, the equipment was transistorized mostly with printed circuits. Otherwise," he added, "I might have been badly cut by slivers of glass from the exploding vacuum tubes."
As it was, the young inventor had suffered only a few slight scratches and a bruise on the temple from a piece of the shattered housing. Bud swabbed Tom's injuries with antiseptic from the first-aid cabinet while Chow poured out glasses of grape juice.
"What caused it, Tom?" Bud asked as they paused to sip the fruit drink.
"Good question," Tom replied. "Frankly, I don't know." But he was wondering if the set might have been sabotaged.
Tom was still eager to get in touch with his father and telephoned the electronics department to bring another set to his laboratory. Chow left just as the new set arrived.
Tom hooked it up quickly, donned a set of goggles, and tuned to the space-station frequency. Then he picked up the microphone and stepped well back from the set, waving Bud out of range at the same time.
"Tom Swift calling Outpost!... Come in, please!"
A moment later came another explosion! The new set had also blown up!
"Good night!" Bud gasped in a stunned voice. "Don't tell me that's just a coincidence!"
Tom shrugged. "We can certainly rule out the possibility that anything was wrong with the radio itself. Every set is checked before it leaves the electronics department."
"So where does that leave us?" Bud persisted.
Tom shook his head worriedly as he took off the goggles. "Both times it seemed to happen just as the reply was coming through from the space station. There is no possibility that their signal was too strong—in other words, that the explosion was caused by overloading the receiving circuits."
"Are you implying that an enemy intercepted the message and sent some sort of ray that caused the set to explode?" Bud demanded.
Tom's face showed clearly that Bud had pinpointed the suspicion in the young inventor's mind. "Could be."
Bud was worried by this latest development. "Skipper, suppose I hop up to the space wheel and talk it over with your dad. He may be able to help us detect any enemy moves."
"Good idea, pal," Tom agreed. "The sooner the better, I'd say."
The boys exchanged a quick handshake and affectionate shoulder slaps. Then Bud hurried out to one of the Enterprises hangars to ready a helijet for the flight to Fearing Island. This was the Swifts' rocket base, just off the Atlantic coast. From there, Bud would board one of the regular cargo shuttle rockets operating between the space station and Fearing.
Tom, meanwhile, plunged back to work on his shock-wave deflector.
At ten the next morning he called in Hank Sterling and showed him a set of completed drawings.
"Hank, you did a fast job on the container for the brain," Tom began apologetically, "but you'll really have to burn out a bearing on this one!"
Hank grinned. "I'm geared to action. Say, what do we call it, anyhow?" he asked.
Tom grinned. "Chow told me last night this gadget looked like a fireplug under a rose trellis and I ought to call it Fireplug Rose! But I've given it a more dignified name—the Quakelizor, which stands for an underground quake wave deflector."
Briefly, Tom explained the various parts of his latest invention, which consisted of a hydrant-sized cylinder to be inserted into the ground, with magnetic coils near the top. A smaller hydraulic cylinder, mounted above this, was wired to a metal framework and radio transmitter.