Vagabonds of Space by Harl Vincent
A COMPLETE NOVELETTE
athered around a long table in a luxuriously furnished director's
room, a group of men listened in astonishment to the rapid and
forceful speech of one of their number.
From the depths of the Sargasso Sea of Space came the
thought-warning, "Turn back!" But Carr and his Martian friend found it
was too late!
"I tell you I'm through, gentlemen," averred the speaker. "I'm fed up
with the job, that's all. Since 2317 you've had me sitting at the helm
of International Airways and I've worked my fool head off for you.
Now—get someone else!"
"Made plenty of money yourself, didn't you, Carr?" asked one of the
directors, a corpulent man with a self-satisfied countenance.
"Sure I did. That's not the point. I've done all the work. There's not
another executive in the outfit whose job is more than a title, and
you know it. I want a change and a rest. Going to take it, too. So, go
ahead with your election of officers and leave me out."
"Your stock?" Courtney Davis, chairman of the board, sensed that Carr
Parker meant what he said.
"I'll hold it. The rest of you can vote it as you choose: divide the
proxies pro rata, based on your individual holdings. But I reserve the
right to dump it all on the market at the first sign of shady
dealings. That suit you?"
The recalcitrant young President of International Airways had risen
from the table. The chairman attempted to restrain him.
"Come on now, Carr, let's reason this out. Perhaps if you just took a
leave of absence—"
"Call it anything you want. I'm done right now."
Carr Parker stalked from the room, leaving eleven perspiring
capitalists to argue over his action.
e rushed to the corridor and nervously pressed the call button of the
elevators. A minute later he emerged upon the roof of the Airways
building, one of the tallest of New York's mid-town sky-scrapers. The
air here, fifteen hundred feet above the hot street, was cool and
fresh. He walked across the great flat surface of the landing stage to
inspect a tiny helicopter which had just settled to a landing. Angered
as he was, he still could not resist the attraction these trim little
craft had always held for him. The feeling was in his blood.
His interest, however, was short lived and he strolled to the
observation aisle along the edge of the landing stage. He stared
moodily into the heavens where thousands of aircraft of all
descriptions sped hither and yon. A huge liner of the Martian route
was dropping from the skies and drifting toward her cradle on Long
Island. He looked out over the city to the north: fifty miles of it he
knew stretched along the east shore of the Hudson. Greatest of the
cities of the world, it housed a fifth of the population of the United
States of North America; a third of the wealth.
Cities! The entire world lived in them! Civilization was too highly
developed nowadays. Adventure was a thing of the past. Of course there
were the other planets, Mars and Venus, but they were as bad. At least
he had found them so on his every business trip. He wished he had
lived a couple of centuries ago, when the first space-ships ventured
forth from the earth. Those were days of excitement and daring
enterprise. Then a man could find ways of getting away from
things—next to nature—out into the forests; hunting; fishing. But
the forests were gone, the streams enslaved by the power monopolies.
There were only the cities—and barren plains. Everything in life was
made by man, artificial.
omething drew his eyes upward and he spotted an unusual object in the
heavens, a mere speck as yet but drawing swiftly in from the upper air
lanes. But this ship, small though it appeared, stood out from amongst
its fellows for some reason. Carr rubbed his eyes to clear his vision.
Was it? Yes—it was—surrounded by a luminous haze. Notwithstanding
the brilliance of the afternoon sun, this haze was clearly visible. A
silver shimmering that was not like anything he had seen on Earth. The
ship swung in toward the city and was losing altitude rapidly. Its
silvery aura deserted it and the vessel was revealed as a sleek,
tapered cylinder with no wings, rudders or helicopter screws. Like the
giant liners of the Interplanetary Service it displayed no visible
means of support or propulsion. This was no ordinary vessel.
Carr watched in extreme interest as it circled the city in a huge
spiral, settling lower at each turn. It seemed that the pilot was
searching for a definite landing stage. Then suddenly it swooped with
a rush. Straight for the stage of the Airways building! The strange
aura reappeared and the little vessel halted in mid-air, poised a
moment, then dropped gracefully and lightly as a feather to the level
surface not a hundred feet from where he stood. He hurried to the spot
to examine the strange craft.
"Mado!" he exclaimed in surprise as a husky, bronzed Martian squeezed
through the quickly opened manhole and clambered heavily to the
platform. Mado of Canax—an old friend!
"Devils of Terra!" gasped the Martian, his knees giving way, "—your
murderous gravity! Here, help me. I've forgotten the energizing
arr laughed as he fumbled with a mechanism that was strapped to the
Martian's back. Mado, who tipped the scales at over two hundred pounds
on his own planet, weighed nearly six hundred here. His legs simply
couldn't carry the load!
"There you are, old man." Parker had located the switch and a musical
purr came from the black box between the Martian's broad shoulders.
"Now stand up and tell me what you're doing here. And what's the idea
of the private ship? Come all the way from home in it?"
His friend struggled to his feet with an effort, for the field
emanating from the black box required a few seconds to reach the
intensity necessary to counteract two-thirds of the earth's gravity.
"Thanks Carr," he grinned. "Yes, I came all the way in that bus.
Alone, too—and she's mine! What do you think of her?"
"A peach, from what I can see. But how come? Not using a private
space-flier on your business trips, are you?"
"Not on your life! I've retired. Going to play around for a few years.
That's why I bought the Nomad."
"Retired! Why Mado, I just did the same thing."
"Great stuff! They've worked you to death. What are you figuring on
doing with yourself?"
Carr shrugged his shoulders resignedly. "Usual thing, I suppose.
Travel aimlessly, and bore myself into old age. Nothing else to do. No
kick out of life these days at all, Mado, even in chasing around from
planet to planet. They're all the same."
he Martian looked keenly at his friend. "Oh, is that so?" he said.
"No kick, eh? Well, let me tell you, Carr Parker, you come with me and
we'll find something you'll get a kick out of. Ever seen the Sargasso
Sea of the solar system? Ever been on one of the asteroids? Ever seen
the other side of the Moon—Uranus—Neptune—Planet 9, the farthest
out from the sun?"
"No-o." Carr's eyes brightened somewhat.
"Then you haven't seen anything or been anywhere. Trouble with you is
you've been in the rut too long. Thinking there's nothing left in the
universe but the commonplace. Right, too, if you stick to the regular
routes of travel. But the Nomad's different. I'm just a rover when
I'm at her controls, a vagabond in space—free as the ether that
surrounds her air-tight hull. And, take it from me, there's something
to see and do out there in space. Off the usual lanes, perhaps, but
"You've been out—how long?" Carr hesitated.
"Eighty Martian days. Seen plenty too." He waved his arm in a gesture
that seemed to take in the entire universe.
"Why come here, with so much to be seen out there?"
"Came to visit you, old stick-in-the-mud," grinned Mado, "and to try
and persuade you to join me. I find you footloose already. You're
itching for adventure; excitement. Will you come?"
Carr listened spellbound. "Right now?" he asked.
"This very minute. Come on."
"My bag," objected Carr, "it must be packed. I'll need funds too."
"Bag! What for? Plenty of duds on the Nomad—for any old climate.
And money—don't make me laugh! Vagabonds need money?" He backed
toward the open manhole of the Nomad, still grinning.
Carr hesitated, resisting the impulse to take Mado at his word. He
looked around. The landing stage had been deserted, but people now
were approaching. People not to be tolerated at the moment. He saw
Courtney Davis, grim and determined. There'd be more arguments,
useless but aggravating. Well, why not go? He'd decided to break away.
What better chance? Suddenly he dived for the manhole of Mado's
vessel; wriggled his way to the padded interior of the air-lock. He
heard the clang of the circular cover. Mado was clamping it to its
"Let's go!" he shouted.
Into the Heavens
he directors of International Airways stared foolishly when they saw
Carr Parker and the giant Martian enter the mysterious ship which was
a trespasser on their landing stage. They gazed incredulously as the
gleaming torpedo-shaped vessel arose majestically from its position.
There was no evidence of motive power other than a sudden radiation
from its hull plates of faintly crackling streamers of silvery light.
They fell back in alarm as it pointed its nose skyward and accelerated
with incredible rapidity, the silver energy bathing them in its
blinding luminescence. They burst forth in excited recrimination when
it vanished into the blue. Courtney Davis shook his fist after the
departing vessel and swore mightily.
Carr Parker forgot them entirely when he clambered into the bucket
seat beside Mado, who sat at the Nomad's controls. He was free at
last: free to probe the mysteries of outer space, to roam the skies
with this Martian he had admired since boyhood.
"Glad you came?" Mado asked his Terrestrial friend.
"You bet. But tell me about yourself. How you've been and how come
you've rebelled, too? I haven't seen you for a long time, you know.
Why, it's been years!"
"Oh, I'm all right. Guess I got fed up with things about the same way
you did. Knew last time I saw you that you were feeling as I did.
That's why I came after you."
"But this vessel, the Nomad. I didn't know such a thing was in
existence. How does it operate? It seems quite different from the
t's a mystery ship. Invented and built by Thrygis, a discredited
scientist of my country. Spent a fortune on it and then went broke and
killed himself. I bought it from the executors for a song. They
thought it was a pile of junk. But the plans and notes of the inventor
were there and I studied 'em well. The ship is a marvel, Carr.
Utilizes gravitational attraction and reversal as a propelling force
and can go like the Old Boy himself. I've hit two thousand miles a
second with her."
"A second! Why, that's ten times as fast as the regular liners! Must
use a whale of a lot of fuel. And where do you keep it? The fuel, I
"Make it right on board. I'm telling you Carr, the Nomad has no
equal. She's a corker."
"I'll say she is. But what do you mean—make the fuel?"
"Cosmic rays. Everywhere in space you know. Seems they are the result
of violent concentrations of energy that cause the birth of atoms.
Thrygis doped out a collector of these rays that takes 'em from their
paths and concentrates 'em in a retort where there's a spongy metal
catalyst that never deteriorates. Here there is a reaction to the
original action out in space and new atoms are born, simple ones of
hydrogen. But what could be sweeter for use in one of our regular
atomic motors? The energy of disintegration is used to drive the
generators of the artificial gravity field, and there you are. Sounds
complicated, but really isn't. And nothing to get out of whack
eats the rocket motors and bulky fuel of the regular liners a mile,
doesn't it? But since when are you a navigator, Mado?"
"Don't need to be a navigator with the Nomad. She's automatic, once
the controls are set. Say we wish to visit Venus. The telescope is
sighted on that body and the gravity forces adjusted so we'll be
attracted in that direction and repelled in the opposite direction.
Then we can go to bed and forget it. The movement of the body in its
orbit makes no difference because the force follows wherever it goes.
See? The speed increases until the opposing forces are equal, when
deceleration commences and we gradually slow down until within ten
thousand miles of the body, when the Nomad automatically stops.
Doesn't move either, until we awaken to take the controls. How's that
"Good enough. But suppose a wandering meteor or a tiny asteroid gets
in the way? At our speed it wouldn't have to be as big as your fist to
go through us like a shot."
"All taken care of, my dear Carr. I told you Thrygis was a wiz. Such a
happenstance would disturb the delicate balance of the energy
compensators and the course of the Nomad would instantly alter to
dodge the foreign object. Once passed by, the course would again be
"Some ship, the Nomad!" Carr was delighted with the explanations.
"I'm sold on her and on the trip. Where are we now and where bound?"
ado glanced at the instrument board. "Nearly a million miles out and
headed for that Sargasso Sea I told you about," he said. "It isn't
visible in the telescope, but I've got it marked by the stars. Out
between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, a quarter of a billion miles
away. But we'll average better than a thousand miles a second. Be
there in three days of your time."
"How can there be a sea out there in space?"
"Oh, that's just my name for it. Most peculiar thing, though. There's
a vast, billowy sort of a cloud. Twists and weaves around as if alive.
Looks like seaweed or something; and Carr, I swear there are things
floating around in it. Wrecks. Something damn peculiar, anyway. I vow
I saw a signal. People marooned there or something. Sorta scared me
and I didn't stay around for long as there was an awful pull from the
mass. Had to use full reversal of the gravity force to get away."
"Now why didn't you tell me that before? That's something to think
about. Like the ancient days of ocean-going ships on Earth."
"Tell you? How could I tell you? You've been questioning me ever since
I first saw you and I've been busy every minute answering you."
Carr laughed and slid from his seat to the floor. He felt curiously
light and loose-jointed. A single step carried him to one of the
stanchions of the control cabin and he clung to it for a moment to
regain his equilibrium.
"What's wrong?" he demanded. "No internal gravity mechanism on the
"Sure is. But it's adjusted for Martian gravity. You'll get along, but
it wouldn't be so easy for me with Earth gravity. I'd have to wear the
portable G-ray all the time, and that's not so comfortable. All right
"Oh, certainly. I didn't understand."
arr saw that his friend had unstrapped the black box from his
shoulders. He didn't blame him. Glad he wasn't a Martian. It was
mighty inconvenient for them on Venus or Terra. Their bodies, large
and of double the specific gravity, were not easily handled where
gravity was nearly three times their own. The Venusians and
Terrestrials were more fortunate when on Mars, for they could become
accustomed to the altered conditions. Only had to be careful they
didn't overdo. He remembered vividly a quick move he had made on his
first visit to Mars. Carried him twenty feet to slam against a granite
pedestal. Bad cut that gave him, and the exertion in the rarefied
atmosphere had him gasping painfully.
He walked to one of the ports and peered through its thick window.
Mado was fussing with the controls. The velvety blackness of the
heavens; the myriad diamond points of clear brilliance. Cold, too, it
looked out there, and awesomely vast. The sun and Earth had been left
behind and could not be seen. But Carr didn't care. The heavens were
marvelous when viewed without the obstruction of an atmosphere. But
he'd seen them often enough on his many business trips to Mars and
"Ready for bed?" Mado startled him with a tap on the shoulder.
"Why—if you say so. But you haven't shown me through the Nomad
"All the time in the universe for that. Man, don't you realize you're
free? Come, let's grab some sleep. Need it out here. The ship'll be
here when we wake up. She's flying herself right now. Fast, too."
Carr looked at the velocity indicator. Seven hundred miles a second
and still accelerating! He felt suddenly tired and when Mado opened
the door of a sleeping cabin its spotless bunk looked very inviting.
He turned in without protest.
he days passed quickly, whether measured by the Martian chronometer
aboard the Nomad or by Carr's watch, which he was regulating to
match the slightly longer day of the red planet. He was becoming
proficient in the operation of all mechanisms of the ship and had
developed a fondness for its every appointment.
Behind them the sun was losing much of its blinding magnificence as it
receded into the ebon background of the firmament. The Earth was but
one of the countless worlds visible through the stern ports,
distinguishable by its slightly greenish tinge. They had reached the
vicinity of the phenomenon of space Mado had previously discovered.
Carr found himself seething with excitement as the Nomad was brought
to a drifting speed.
Mado, who had disclaimed all knowledge of navigation, was busy in the
turret with a sextant. He made rapid calculations based on its
indications and hurried to the controls.
"Find it?" Carr asked.
"Yep. Be there in a half hour."
The nose of the vessel swung around and Mado adjusted the gravity
energy carefully. Carr glued his eye to the telescope.
"See anything?" inquired Mado.
"About a million stars, that's all."
"Funny. Should be close by."
Then: "Yes! Yes! I see it!" Carr exulted. "A milky cloud. Transparent
almost. To the right a little more!"
The mysterious cloud rushed to meet them and soon was visible to the
naked eye through the forward port. Their speed increased alarmingly
and Mado cut off the energy.
"What's that?" Mado stared white-faced at his friend.
"A voice! You hear it too?"
Amazed, they gazed at each other. It was a voice; yet not a sound came
to their ears. The voice was in their own consciousness. A mental
message! Yet each heard and understood. There were no words, but clear
"Beware!" it seemed to warn. "Come not closer, travelers from afar.
There is danger in the milky fleece before you!"
ado pulled frantically at the energy reverse control. The force was
now fully repelling. Still the billowing whiteness drew nearer. It
boiled and bubbled with the ferocity of one of the hot lava cauldrons
of Mercury. Changing shape rapidly, it threw out long streamers that
writhed and twisted like the arms of an octopus. Reaching. Searching
"God!" whispered Carr. "What is it?"
"Take warning," continued the voice that was not a voice. "A great
ship, a royal ship from a world unknown to you, now is caught in the
grip of this mighty monster. We can not escape, and death draws
quickly near. But we can warn others and ask that our fate be reported
to our home body."
A sudden upheaval of the monstrous mass spewed forth an object that
bounced a moment on the rippling surface and then was lost to view. A
sphere, glinting golden against the white of its awful captor.
"The space-ship!" gasped Mado. "It's vanished again!"
They hurtled madly in the direction of this monster of the heavens,
their reverse energy useless.
"We're lost, Mado." Carr was calm now. This was excitement with a
vengeance. He'd wished for it and here it was. But he'd much rather
have a chance to fight for his life. Fine ending to his dreams!
"Imps of the canals! The thing's alive!" Mado hurled himself at the
controls as a huge blob of the horrible whiteness broke loose from the
main body and wobbled uncertainly toward them. A long feeler reached
forth and grasped the errant portion, returning it with a vicious
"Turn back! Turn back!" came the eery warning from the golden sphere.
"All is over for us. Our hull is crushed. The air is pouring from our
last compartment. Already we find breathing difficult. Turn back! The
third satellite of the fifth planet is our home. Visit it, we beseech
you, and report the manner of our going. This vile creature of space
has power to draw you to its breast, to crush you as we are crushed."
he Nomad lurched and shuddered, drawn ever closer to the horrid
mass of the thing. A gigantic jellyfish, that's what it was, a hundred
miles across! Carr shivered in disgust as it throbbed anew, sending
out those grasping streamers of its mysterious material. As the
Nomad plunged to its doom with increasing speed, Mado tried to
locate some spot in the universe where an extreme effect could be
obtained from the full force of the attracting or repulsive energies.
They darted this way and that but always found themselves closer to
the milky billows that now were pulsating in seeming eagerness to
engulf the new victim.
Once more came the telepathic warning, "Delay no longer. It is high
time you turned back. You must escape to warn our people and yours.
Even now the awful creature has us in its vitals, its tentacles
reaching through our shattered walls, creeping and twining through the
passages of our vessel. Crushing floors and walls, its demoniac
energies heating our compartment beyond belief. We can hold out no
longer. Go! Go quickly. Remember—the third satellite of the fifth
planet—to the city of golden domes. Tell of our fate. Our people will
The voice was stilled. Mado groaned as if in pain and Carr saw in that
instant that each knob and lever on the control panel glowed with an
unearthly brush discharge. Not violet as of high frequency
electricity, but red. Cherry red as of heated metal. The emanations of
the cosmic monster were at work on the Nomad. A glance through the
forward port showed they had but a few miles to go. They'd be in the
clutches of the horror in minutes, seconds, at the rate they were
traveling. Mado slumped in his seat, his proud head rolling
grotesquely on his breast. He slid to the floor, helpless.
arr went mad with fury. It couldn't be! This thing of doom was a
creature of his imagination! But no—there it was, looming close in
his vision. By God, he'd leave the mark of the Nomad on the vicious
thing! He remembered the ray with which the vessel was armed. He was
in the pilot's seat, fingering controls that blistered his hands and
cramped his arms with an unnameable force. He'd fight the brute! Full
energy—head on—that was the way to meet it. Why bother with the
reversal? It was no use.
A blood-red veil obscured his vision. He felt for the release of the
ray; pulled the gravity energy control to full power forward. In a
daze, groping blindly for support, he waited for the shock of impact.
The mass of that monstrosity must be terrific, else why had it such a
power of attraction for other bodies? Or was it that the thing
radiated energies unknown to science? Whatever it was, the thing would
know the sting of the Nomad's ray. Whatever its nature, animate or
inanimate, it was matter. The ray destroyed matter. Obliterated it
utterly. Tore the atoms asunder, whirling their electrons from their
orbits with terrific velocity. There'd be some effect, that was
certain! No great use perhaps. But a crater would mark the last
resting place of the Nomad; a huge crater. Perhaps the misty
whiteness would close in over them later. But there'd be less of the
creature's bulk to menace other travelers in space.
His head ached miserably; his body was shot through and through with
cramping agonies. The very blood in his veins was liquid fire, searing
his veins and arteries with pulsing awfulness. He staggered from the
control cabin; threw himself on his bunk. The covers were electrified
and clung to him like tissue to rubbed amber. The wall of the sleeping
cabin vibrated with a screeching note. The floors trembled. Madness!
That's all it was! He'd awaken in a moment. Find himself in his own
bed at home. He'd dreamed of adventures before now. But never of such
as this! It just couldn't happen! A nightmare—fantasy of an
over-tired brain—it was.
There came a violent wrench that must have torn the hull plates from
their bracings. The ship seemed to close in on him and crush him. A
terrific concussion flattened him to the bunk. Then all was still.
Carr Parker's thoughts broke short abruptly. He had slipped into
hen Carr opened his eyes it was to the normal lighting of his own
sleeping cabin. The Nomad was intact, though an odor of scorched
varnish permeated the air. They were unharmed—as yet. He turned on
his side and saw that Mado was moving about at the side of his couch.
Good old Mado! With a basin of water in his hand and a cloth. He'd
been bathing his face. Brought him to. He sat up just as Mado turned
to apply the cloth anew.
"Good boy, Carr! All right?" smiled the Martian.
"Little dizzy. But I'm okay." Carr sprang to his feet where he wabbled
uncertainly for a moment. "But the Nomad?" he asked. "Is she—are we
"Never safer. What in the name of Saturn did you do?"
Carr passed his hand across his eyes, trying to remember. "The D-ray,"
he said. "I turned it on and dived into the thing with full
attraction. Then—I forget. Where is it—the thing, I mean?"
"Look!" Mado drew him to the stern compartment.
Far behind them there shone a misty wreath, a ring of drifting matter
that writhed and twisted as if in mortal agony.
"Is that it?"
"What's left of it. You shot your way through it; through and out of
its influence. D-ray must have devitalized the thing as it bored
through. Killed its energies—for the time, at least."
Already, the thing was closing in. Soon there would be a solid mass as
before. But the Nomad was saved.
"How about yourself?" asked Carr anxiously. "Last time I saw you you
were flat on the floor."
"Nothing wrong with me now. A bit stiff and sore, that's all. When I
came to I put all the controls in neutral and came looking for you. I
was scared, but the thing's all over now, so let's go."
"Don't you remember? The third satellite of the fifth planet. That's
Europa, third in distance from Jupiter, the fifth planet. It is about
the size of Terra's satellite—your Moon. We'll find the city of the
arr's eyes renewed their sparkle. "Right!" he exclaimed. "I forgot
the mental message. Poor devils! All over for them now. But we'll
carry their message. How far is it?"
"Don't know yet till I determine our position and the position of
Jupiter. But it's quite a way. Jupiter's 483 million miles from the
Sun, you know."
"We're more than half way, then."
"Not necessarily. Perhaps we're on the opposite side of the sun from
Jupiter's present position. Then we'd have a real trip."
"Let's figure it out." Carr was anxious to be off.
Luck was with them, as they found after some observations from the
turret. Jupiter lay off their original course by not more than fifteen
degrees. It was but four days' journey.
Again they were on their way and the two men, Martian and Terrestrial,
made good use of the time in renewing their old friendship and in the
study of astronomy as they had done during the first leg of their
journey. Though of widely differing build and nature, the two found a
close bond in their similar inclinations. The library of the Nomad was
an excellent one. Thrygis had seen to that, all of the voice-vision
reels being recorded in Cos, the interplanetary language, with its
standardized units of weight and measurement.
he supplies on board the Nomad were ample. Synthetic foods there
were for at least a hundred Martian days. The supply of oxygen and
water was inexhaustible, these essential items being produced in
automatic retorts where disassembled electrons from their cosmic-ray
hydrogen were reassembled in the proper structure to produce atoms of
any desired element. Their supply of synthetic food could be
replenished in like manner when necessity arose. Thrygis had forgotten
"How do you suppose we'll make ourselves understood to the people of
Europa?" asked Carr, when they had swung around the great orb of
Jupiter and were headed toward the satellite.
"Shouldn't have any trouble, Carr. Believe me, to a people who have
progressed to the point of sending mental messages over five hundred
miles of space, it'll be a cinch, understanding our simple mental
processes. Bet they'll read our every thought."
"That's right. But the language. Proper names and all that. Can't get
those over with thought waves."
"No, but I'll bet they'll have some way of solving that too. You wait
Carr lighted a cigar and inhaled deeply as he gazed from one of the
ports. He'd never felt better in his life. Always had liked Martian
tobacco, too. Wondered what they'd do when the supply ran out. One
thing they couldn't produce synthetically. The disc of the satellite
loomed near and it shone with a warmly inviting light. Almost red,
like the color of Mars, it was. Sort of golden, rather. Anyway, he
wondered what awaited them there. This was a great life, this roaming
in space, unhampered by laws or conventions. The Nomad was well
"Wonder what they'll think of our yarn," he said.
"And me. I wonder, too, what that ungodly thing was back there. The
thing that is now the grave of some of their people. And what the
golden sphere was doing so far from home. It's a mystery."
hey had gone over the same ground a hundred times and had not reached
a satisfactory conclusion. But perhaps they'd learn more in the city
of golden domes.
"Another thing," said Carr, "that's puzzled me. Why is it that Europa
has not been discovered before this; that it's inhabited, I mean?"
"Rocket ships couldn't carry enough fuel. Besides, our astronomers've
always told us that the outer planets were too cold; too far from the
"That is something to think about. Maybe we'll not be able to stand
the low temperature; thin atmosphere; low surface gravity."
"We've our insulated suits and the oxygen helmets for the first two
objections. The G-rays'll hold us down in any gravity. But we'll see
mighty soon. We're here."
They had entered the atmosphere as they talked and the Nomad was
approaching the surface in a long glide with repulsion full on. It was
daytime on the side they neared. Pale daylight, but revealing. The
great ball that was Jupiter hung low on the horizon, its misty outline
faintly visible against the deep green of the sky.
he surface over which they skimmed was patchworked with farm-lands
and crisscrossed by gleaming ribbons. Roadways! It was like the
voice-vision records of the ancient days on Mars and Terra before
their peoples had taken to the air. Here was a body where a person
could get out in the open; next to nature. They crossed a lake of calm
green water fringed by golden sands. At its far side a village spread
out beneath them and was gone; a village of broad pavements and
circular dwellings with flat rooms, each with its square of ground. A
golden, mountain range loomed in the background; vanished beneath
them. More fields and roads. Everywhere there were yellows and reds
and the silver sheen of the roads. No green save that of the darkening
sky and the waters of the streams and ponds. It was a most inviting
Occasionally they passed a vessel of the air—strange flapping-winged
craft that soared and darted like huge birds. Once one of them
approached so closely they could see its occupants, seemingly a people
similar to the Venusians, small of stature and slender.
"How in time are we to find this city of golden domes?" Carr
As if in answer to his question there came a startling command,
another of the mental messages.
"Halt!" it conveyed to their mind. "Continue not into our country
until we have communed with you."
Obediently Mado brought up the nose of the Nomad and slowed her down
to a gradual stop. They hovered at an altitude of about four thousand
feet, both straining their ears as if listening for actual speech.
"It is well," continued the message. "Your thoughts are good. You come
from afar seeking the city of golden domes. Proceed now and a fleet of
our vessels will meet you and guide you to our city."
"Now wouldn't that jar you?" whispered Carr. "Just try to get away
with anything on this world."
Mado laughed as he started the generators of the propelling energy.
"I'd hate to have a wife of Europa," he commented. "No
sitting-up-with-sick-friend story could get by with her!"
The City of Golden Domes
ith the Nomad cruising slowly over the surface of the peaceful
satellite, Mado sampled the atmosphere through a tube which was
provided for that purpose. The pressure was low, as they had expected;
about twenty inches of mercury in the altitude at which they drifted.
But the oxygen content was fairly high and the impurities negligible.
A strange element was somewhat in evidence, though Mado's analysis
showed this to be present in but minute quantity. They opened the
ports and drew their first breath of the atmosphere of Europa.
"Good air, Carr." Mado was sniffing at one of the ports. "A bit rare
for you, but I think you'll get along with it. Temperature of
forty-five degrees. That's not so bad. The strangest thing is the
gravity. This body isn't much more than two thousand miles in
diameter, yet its gravity is about the same as on Venus—seven eighths
of that of Terra. Must have a huge nickel-iron core."
"Yes. It'll be a cinch for me. But you, you big lummox—it's the G-ray
for you as long as we're here."
"Uh-huh. You get all the breaks, don't you?"
Carr laughed. He was becoming anxious to land. "What sort of a
reception do you suppose we'll get?" he said.
"Not bad, from the tone of that last message. And here they come,
Carr. Look—a dozen of them. A royal reception, so far."
Suddenly they were in the midst of a flock of great birds; birds that
flapped their golden wings to rise, then soared and circled like the
gulls of the terrestrial oceans. And these mechanical birds were fast.
Carr and Mado watched in fascination as they strung out in V formation
and led the way in the direction of the setting sun. Six, seven
hundred miles an hour the Nomad's indicator showed, as they swung in
behind these ships of Europa.
hey crossed a large body of water, a lake of fully five hundred miles
in width. More country then, hardly populated now and with but few of
the gleaming roadways. The sun had set, but there was scarcely any
diminution of the light for the great ball that was Jupiter reflected
a brilliance of far greater intensity than that of the full Moon on a
clear Terrestrial night. A marvelous sight the gigantic body
presented, with its alternate belts of gray-blue and red and dazzling
white. And it hung so low and huge in the heavens that it seemed one
had but to stretch forth a hand to touch its bright surface.
Another mountain range loomed close and was gone. On its far side
there stretched the desolate wastes of a desert, a barren plain that
extended in all directions to the horizon. Wind-swept, it was and
menacing beneath them. Europa was not all as they had first seen it.
A glimmer of brightness appeared at the horizon. The fleet was
reducing speed and soon they saw that their journey was nearly over.
At the far edge of the desert the bright spot resolved itself into the
outlines of a city, the city of golden domes. Cones they looked like,
rather, with rounded tops and fluted walls. The mental message had
conveyed the most fitting description possible without words or
The landing was over so quickly that they had but confused impressions
of their reception. A great square in the heart of the city, crowded
with people. Swooping maneuvers of hundreds of the bird-like ships. An
open space for their arrival. The platform where a committee awaited
them. The king, or at least he seemed to be king. The sea of upturned
faces, staring eyes.
ado fidgeted and opened his mouth to voice a protest but Carr nudged
him into silence. The king had risen from his seat in the circle on
the platform and was about to address them. There was no repetition of
the telepathic means of communication.
"Welcome, travelers from the inner planets," said the king. He spoke
Cos perfectly! "Cardos, emperor of the body you call Europa, salutes
you. Our scientists have recorded your thoughts with their psycho-ray
apparatus and have learned that you have a message for us, a message
we fear is not pleasant. Am I correct?"
Carr stared at the soft-voiced monarch of this remarkable land. It was
incredible that he spoke in the universal language of the inner
"Your Highness," he replied, "is correct. We have a message. But it
amazes us that you are familiar with our language."
"That we shall explain later. Meanwhile—the message!"
"The message," Carr said, "is not pleasant. A golden sphere out in
space. Helpless in the clutches of a nameless monster, a vast creature
of jellylike substance but possessed of enormous destructive energy. A
mental message to our vessel warning us away and bidding us to come
here; to tell you of their fate. We escaped and here we are."
The face of Cardos paled. He reached for an egg-shaped crystal that
reposed on the table; spoke rapidly into its shimmering depths. Hidden
amplifiers carried his voice throughout the square in booming tones.
It was a strange tongue he spoke, with many gutturals and sibilants. A
groan came up from the assembled multitude.
Cardos tossed the crystal to the table with a resigned gesture, then
tottered and swayed. Instant confusion reigned in the square and the
emperor was assisted from the platform by two of his retainers. They
never saw him again.
ne of the counsellors, a middle-aged man with graying russet hair and
large gray eyes set in a perfectly smooth countenance, stepped from
the platform and grasped the two adventurers as the confusion in the
square increased to an uproar.
"Come," he whispered, in excellent Cos; "I'll explain all to you in
the quiet of my own apartments. I am Detis, a scientist, and my home
is close by."
Gently he clung to them as the larger men forced their way between the
milling groups of excited Europans. No one gave them much attention.
All seemed to be overcome with grief. A terrible disaster, this loss
of the golden sphere must be!
They were out of the square and in one of the broad streets. The
fluted sides of the unpointed cones shone softly golden on all sides.
Alike in every respect were these dwellings of the people of Europa,
and strangely attractive in the light of the mother planet.
Not a word was spoken when they reached the abode of their guide. They
entered an elaborate hall and were whisked upward in an automatic
elevator. Detis ushered them into his apartment when they alighted. He
smiled gravely at their looks of wonder as they cast eyes on the maze
of apparatus before them. It was a laboratory rather than a living
room in which they stood.
Detis led them to an adjoining room where he bid them be seated. They
exchanged wondering glances as their host paced the floor vigorously
before speaking further.
"Friends," he finally blurted, "I hope you'll excuse my emotion but
the news you brought is a terrible blow to me as to all Europa. Carli,
our prince, beloved son of Cardos, was commander of the ship you
reported lost. We deeply mourn his loss."
arr and Mado waited in respectful silence while their host made
effort to control his feelings.
"Now," he said, after a moment, "I can talk. You have many questions
to ask, I know. So have I. But first I must tell you that Carli's was
an expedition to your own worlds. A grave danger hangs over them and
he was sent to warn them. He has been lost. Our only space-ship
capable of making the journey also is lost. Six Martian years were
required to build it, so I fear the warning will never reach your
people. Already the time draws near."
"A grave danger?" asked Mado. "What sort of a danger?"
"War! Utter destruction! Conquest by the most warlike and ambitious
people in the solar system."
"Not the people of Europa?" asked Carr.
"Indeed not. There is another inhabited satellite of Jupiter, next
farthest from the mother planet. Ganymede, you call it. It is from
there that these conquerors are to set forth."
"Many of them?" inquired Mado.
"Two million or so. They're prepared to send an army of more than a
tenth of that number on the first expedition."
"A mere handful!" Carr was contemptuous.
"True, but they are armed with the most terrible of weapons. Your
people are utterly unprepared and, unless warned, will be driven from
their cities and left in the deserts to perish of hunger and exposure.
This is a real danger."
"Something in it, Carr, if what he says is true. We've no arms nor
warriors. Haven't had for two centuries. You know it as well as I do."
"Bah! Overnight we could have a million armed and ready to fight them
etis raised his hand. "You offend me," he said gravely. "I have told
you this in good faith and you reward me with disbelief and boastful
talk. Your enemies are more powerful than you think, and your own
people utterly defenceless against them."
"I'm sorry," Carr apologized, "and I'll listen to all you have to say.
Surely your prince has not given his life in vain." He was ashamed
before this scientist of Europa.
A tinkling feminine voice from the next room called something in the
Detis raised his head proudly and his frown softened at the sound of
dainty footsteps. His voice was a caress as he replied.
A vision of feminine loveliness stood framed in the doorway and the
visitors rose hastily from their seats. Carr gazed into eyes of the
deepest blue he had ever seen. Small in stature though this girl of
Europa was—not more than five feet tall—she had the form of a
goddess and the face of an angel. He was flushing to the roots of his
hair. Could feel it spread. What an ass he was anyway! Anyone'd think
he'd never seen a woman in all his thirty-five years!
"My daughter, Ora, gentlemen," said Detis.
The girl's eyes had widened as she looked at the huge Martian with the
funny black box on his back. They dropped demurely when turned to
those of the handsome Terrestrial.
"Oh," she said, in Cos, "I didn't know you had callers."
he time passed quickly in Pala-dar, city of the golden domes. Detis
spent many hours in the laboratory with his two visitors and the fair
Ora was usually at his side. She was an efficient helper to her father
and a gracious hostess to the guests.
The amazement of the visitors grew apace as the wonders of Europan
science were revealed to them. They sat by the hour at the illuminated
screen of the rulden, that remarkable astronomical instrument which
brought the surfaces of distant celestial bodies within a few feet of
their eyes, and the sounds of the streets and the jungles to their
ears. It was no longer a mystery how the language of Cos had become so
familiar to these people.
They learned of the origin of the races that inhabited Europa and
Ganymede. Ages before, it was necessary for the peoples of the then
thickly populated Jupiter to cast about for new homes due to the
cooling of the surface of that planet. Life was becoming unbearable.
In those days there were two dominant races on the mother body, a
gentle and peaceful people of great scientific accomplishment and a
race of savage brutes who, while very clever with their hands, were of
lesser mental strength and of a quarrelsome and fighting disposition.
Toward the last the population of both main countries was reduced to
but a few survivors, and the intelligent race had discovered a means
of traversing space and was prepared to leave the planet for the more
livable satellite—Europa. Learning of these plans, the others made a
treaty of perpetual peace as a price for their passage to another
satellite—Ganymede. The migration began and the two satellites were
settled by the separate bands of pioneers and their new lives begun.
he perpetual treaty had not been broken since, but the energies of
the warlike descendants of those first settlers of Ganymede were
expended in casting about for new fields to conquer. Through the ages
they cast increasingly covetous eyes on those inner planets, Mars,
Terra and Venus. Not having the advantage of the Rulden, they knew of
these bodies only what could be seen through their own crude optical
instruments and what they had learned by word of mouth from certain
renegade Europans they were able to bribe.
While their neighbors of the smaller satellite were engaged in
peaceful pursuits, tilling the soil and making excellent homes for
themselves, the dwellers on Ganymede were fashioning instruments of
warfare and building a fleet of space-ships to carry them to their
intended victims. It was a religion with them; they could think of
nothing else. An unscrupulous scientist of Europa sold himself to them
several generations previously and it was this scientist who had made
the plans for their space-fliers and had contrived the deadly weapons
with which they were armed. He likewise taught them the language of
Cos and it now was spoken universally throughout Ganymede in
anticipation of the glorious days of conquest.
"You honestly believe them able to do this?" asked Carr, still
skeptical after two days of discussion.
"I know it as a certainty," Detis replied solemnly. "It is only during
the past generation we have learned of the completeness and awfulness
of their preparations. Your people can not combat their sound-ray.
With it they can remain outside the vision of those on the surface and
set the tall buildings of your cities in harmonic vibrations that will
bring them down in ruins about the ears of the populace."
here'll be nothing left for them to take if they destroy all our
cities: nowhere for them to live. I don't get it."
"Only a few will be destroyed completely, to terrify the rest of the
inhabitants of your worlds. Others will be depopulated by means of
vibrations that will kill off the citizens without harming the cities
themselves—vibrations which are capable of blanketing a large area
and raising the body temperature of all living things therein to a
point where death will ensue in a very few minutes. Other vibrations
will paralyze all electrical equipment on the planet and make it
impossible for your ships of the air to set out to give battle, even
were they properly armed."
"Looks bad, Carr," said Mado glumly.
"It does that. We've got to go back and carry the warning."
"I fear it is too late," said Detis. "Much time will be needed in
which to develop a defense and surely it can not be done within the
three isini before they set forth—about four of your days."
"They leave that soon?" Carr was taken aback.
"Yes, with their one hundred and twenty vessels; forty to each of your
three planets; seventeen hundred men to a vessel."
Carr jumped to his feet. "By the heat devils of Mercury!" he roared,
"well go to their lousy little satellite and find a way to prevent
ra gazed at his flushed face with unconcealed admiration.
"You're crazy!" exploded Mado. "What can we do with the Nomad?"
"Her D-ray can do plenty of damage."
"Yes, but they'd have us down before we could account for five of
their vessels. It's no use, I tell you."
But Carr was stubborn. "We'll pay them a call anyway. I'll bet we can
dope out some way of putting it over on them. Are you game?"
"Of course I'm game. I'll go anywhere you will. But it's a fool idea
just the same."
"Maybe so. Maybe not. Anyway—let's go."
"Just a moment, gentlemen," Detis interposed. "How about me?"
Carr stared at him and saw that his eyes shone with excitement. "Why,
I believe you'd like to go with us!" he exclaimed admiringly.
"I would, indeed."
"Come on then. We're off." He was impatient to be gone.
Detis busied himself with a small apparatus that folded into a compact
case, explaining that it was one that might prove useful. Ora left the
room but quickly returned. She too carried a small case, and she had
donned a snug fitting leather garment that covered her from neck to
"What's this?" demanded Carr. "Surely Miss Ora does not intend to come
"She never leaves my side," said Detis proudly.
"Nothing doing!" Carr stated emphatically. "There'll be plenty of
danger on this trip. Well have no woman along—least of all your
ado was leaving everything to his friend, but he grinned in
anticipation when he saw the look of anger on the girl's face.
She stamped her little foot and faced Carr valiantly. "See here, Mr.
Carr Parker!" she stormed. "I'm no weakling. I'm the daughter of my
father and where he goes I go. You'll take me or I'll never speak to
Carr flushed. He was accustomed to his own way in most things and
entirely unused to the ways of the gentler sex. He could have shaken
the little vixen! But now she was standing before him and there was
something in those great blue eyes besides anger; something that set
his heart pounding madly.
"All right!" he agreed desperately, "have your own way."
He turned on his heel and strode to the door. Giving in to this slip
of a girl! What a fool he was! But it would be great at that to have
her along in the Nomad.
They found the public square deserted, the gilded dwellings hung with
somber colors in mourning for Carli. Ora and Detis were very quiet and
preoccupied when they entered the Nomad. The five isini of
lamentation for the young prince had not yet passed.
The two Europans were delighted with the appointments and mechanisms
of the little vessel from Mars. They investigated every nook and
cranny of its interior during the journey and were voluble in their
praise of its inventor and builder. Neither had ever set foot in a
space-flier and each was seized with a longing to explore space with
these two strangers from the inner planets. They would make a couple
of good vagabonds along with Mado and himself, Carr thought as they
expressed their feelings. But there was more serious business at hand.
They were nearing Ganymede.
"Where'll we land, Detis?" Mado called from the control cabin.
"Vlor-urdin. That is their chief city. I'll guide you to the
hey took up their places at the ports and scanned the surface of the
satellite as Mado dropped the ship into its atmosphere. A far
different scene was presented than on Europa. The land was seamed and
scarred, the colors of the foliage somber. Grays and browns
predominated and the jungles seemed impenetrable. A river swung into
view and its waters were black as the deepest night, its flow
sluggish. A rank mist hung over the surface.
"The river of Charis!" exclaimed Detis. "Follow it, Mado. No, the
other direction. There! It leads directly to Vlor-urdin."
By good chance they had entered the atmosphere at a point not far from
their destination. In less than an hour by the Nomad's chronometer
the towers of Vlor-urdin were sighted.
It was a larger city than Pala-dar and of vastly different appearance.
A hollow square of squat buildings enclosed the vast workshops and
storage space of the fleet of war vessels. Their huge spherical bulks
rose from their cradles in tier after tier that stretched as far as
the eye could reach when the Nomad had dropped to a level but
slightly above the tips of the highest spires. The spires were
everywhere, decorative towers at the corners of the squat buildings.
Everything was black, the vessels of the fleet, the squat buildings
and the spires of Vlor-urdin. Death was in the air. Rank vapor drifted
in through the opened ports. There was silence in the city below them
and silence in the Nomad.
Ora shuddered and drew closer to him. Carr was aware of her nearness
and a lump rose in his throat. A horrible fear assailed him. Fear for
the safety of the dainty Europan at his side. He found her hand;
covered it protectingly with his own.
etis was setting up and adjusting the complicated mechanisms of his
little black case. A dozen vacuum tubes lighted, and a murmur of
throbbing energy came from a helix of shining metallic ribbon that
topped the whole. Flexible cables led to a cap-like contrivance which
Detis placed on his head. He frowned in concentration.
"The psycho-ray apparatus." Ora explained. "He's sending a message to
Evidently the influence of the ray was directive. They had no inkling
of the thoughts transmitted from the alert brain of the scientist but,
from the look of satisfaction on his face, they could see that he was
obtaining the desired contact.
"Rapaju," he exclaimed, switching off the power of his instrument,
"commander of the fleet of the Llotta. I have advised him of our
arrival. Told him that a Martian and a Terrestrial wish to treat with
him concerning the proposed invasion of their planets. His answering
thought first was of fiercest rage, then conciliatory in nature. He'll
receive you and listen to your arguments, though he promises nothing.
Is that satisfactory?"
"Yes." Carr and Mado were agreed. At least it would give them a chance
to look over the ground and to make plans, should any occur to them.
The Nomad circled over the heart of the city and soon Mado saw a
suitable landing space. They settled gracefully in an open area close
by the building indicated by Detis as that of the administration
officials of the city.
group of squat, sullen Llotta awaited them and, without speaking a
word either of hatred or welcome, led them into the forbidding
entrance of the building. Close-set, beady eyes; unbelievably flat
features of chalky whiteness; chunky bowed legs, bare and hairy; long
arms with huge dangling paws—these were the outstanding
characteristics of the Llotta. Mado stared straight before him,
refusing to display any great interest in the loathsome creatures, but
Carr was frankly curious and as frankly disapproving.
Rapaju leered maliciously when the four voyagers stood before him. He
looked the incarnation of all that was evil and vile, a monster among
monsters. Sensing him to be the more aggressive of the two visitors
from doomed planets, he addressed his remarks to Carr.
"You come to plead with Rapaju," he sneered, his Cos tinged with an
outlandish accent, "to beg for the worthless lives of your
compatriots; for the wealth of your cities?"
"We come to reason with you," replied Carr haughtily, "if you are
capable of reasoning. What is this incredible thing you are planning?"
Mado gasped at the effrontery of his friend. But Carr was oblivious of
the warning looks cast in his direction.
"Enough of that!" snapped Rapaju. "I'll do the talking—you the
reasoning. I've a proposition to make to you, and if you know what's
best, you'll agree. Otherwise you'll be first of the Terrestrials to
die. Is that clear?"
"Clear enough, all right," growled Carr. "What do you mean—a
"Ha! I thought you'd listen. My offer is the lives of you and your
companion in exchange for your assistance in guiding my fleet to the
capital cities of your countries. Not that our plans will be changed
if you refuse, but that much time will be saved in this manner and
quick victory made certain without undue sacrifice of valuable
"You—you—!" Carr stammered in anger. But there was no use in raising
a rumpus—now. They'd only kill him. Something might be accomplished
if he pretended to accede. "Go on with your story," he finished
"In addition to sparing your lives I'll place you both in high
position after we seize your respective planets. Make you chief
officers in the prison lands we intend to establish for your
countrymen. What do you say?"
"Will you give us time to talk it over and think about it?"
"Until the hour of departure, if you wish."
arr bowed, avoiding Mado's questioning eyes. He looked at Ora where
she stood at the side of Detis. She flashed him a guarded smile. He
knew that she understood.
Rapaju relaxed. He was confident he could bribe these puerile
foreigners to help him in the great venture. And sadly he needed such
help. The Llotta were not navigators. Their knowledge of the heavens
was sadly incomplete. They had no maps of the surfaces of the planets
to be visited. Their simultaneous blows would be far more effective
and the campaign much shorter if they could choose the most vital
centers for the initial attacks.
"Now," he said, "that we understand one another, let us talk further
of the plans. Then you will be able to consider carefully before
making your decision."
Rapaju could be diplomatic when he wished. Carr longed to sink his
fingers in the hairy throat. But he smiled hypocritically and found an
opportunity to wink meaningly at Mado. This was going to be good! And
who knew?—perhaps they might find some way to outwit these mad
savages. To think of them in control of the inner planets was
They retired to a small room with Rapaju and four of his lieutenants,
Detis and Ora accompanying them. Ora sat close to Carr at the circular
table in Rapaju's council. Carr thought grimly of the board meetings
in far away New York.
Rapaju talked. He told of the armament of his vessels, painting vivid
pictures of the destruction to be wrought in the cities of Terra, of
Mars and Venus. His great hairy paws clutched at imaginary riches when
he spoke glowingly of the plundering to follow. He spoke of the women
of the inner planets and Carr half rose from his seat when he observed
the lecherous glitter in his beady eyes. Ora! Great God, was she safe
here? He stole a glance at the girl and a recurrence of the awful fear
surged through him. In her leather garment, close fitting and severe,
she looked like a boy. Perhaps they would not know. Besides, there was
the perpetual treaty with Europa. It always had been observed, Detis
s Rapaju expanded upon the glories to come he told perforce of many
of the details of the plans. One thing stood out in Carr's mind: the
vessels of the Llotta were not equal to the Nomad in many respects.
They must carry their entire supply of fuel from the starting point
and this was calculated as but a small percentage in excess of that
required to carry them to their destinations. Their speed was not as
great as the Nomad's by at least a third. If the Nomad led the
fleet from Ganymede they might be able to get them off their course;
cause them to run out of fuel
out in the vacuum and absolute zero of space. He kicked Mado under the
table and arose to ask a few leading questions.
Ora was whispering to her father and he nodded his head as if in
complete agreement with what she was saying. These two were not
deceived by his apparent traitorous talk, but Mado was aghast. Carr
wondered if Rapaju believed him as did his friend.
"We'll do it, Rapaju," he stated finally. "In our ship, the Nomad,
we'll guide you across the trackless wastes of the heavens. We'll take
you to our capital cities; point out to you the richest of the
industrial centers. We have no love for our own worlds. Mado and I
deserted them for a life of vagabondage amongst the stars. We ask no
reward other than that we be permitted to leave once more on our
travels, to roam space as we choose."
Mado attempted to voice an objection but Carr's hand was heavy on his
shoulder. "Shut up, you fool!" he hissed in his ear. "Can't you trust
apaju's eyes seemed to draw closer together as he returned Carr's
unflinching stare. He walked around the table and stood at the side of
the tall Terrestrial. Suddenly he grasped Ora's jacket, tore it open
at the throat. He ran his hairy fingers over the bare shoulder of the
shrinking girl and gurgled his delight at the velvet smoothness of her
With a roar like a wild animal Carr was upon him, bearing him to the
floor. His fingers were in that hairy throat, where they had itched to
"Dirty, filthy beast!" he was snarling. "Lay your foul hands on Ora,
will you? Say your prayers, if you know any, you swine!"
Then his muscles went limp and he was jerked to his feet by a terrible
force, a force that sent him reeling and gasping against the wall. One
of Rapaju's lieutenants stood before him with a tiny weapon in his
hand, the weapon which had released the paralyzing gas he breathed. He
was choking; suffocating. A black mist rose before him. He felt his
knees give way. Dimly, as in a dream, he saw that Ora was in Detis'
arms. Rapaju was on his feet, fingering his neck and laughing
"The treaty, Rapaju!" Detis was shouting.
Ora was sobbing. Mado was in the hands of two of the vile Llotta,
struggling wildly to free himself. The Martian's eyes accused him. He
shut his own and groaned. Opened them again. But it was no use.
Everything in the room was whirling now, crazily. He fought to regain
his senses, crawled weakly toward the squat figure of Rapaju where it
swayed and twisted and spun around. Then all was darkness. The gas had
taken its toll.
arr awakened to a sense of wordless disgust. Fool that he was to
spill the beans as he had! All set to put one over on the leader of
the Llotta, then to come a cropper like this! He knew he had been
spared for a purpose. The gas was not intended to kill, only to render
him helpless for a time. He opened his eyes to the light of a familiar
room. He had awakened before in this bed. It was his own cabin on
board the Nomad. What had happened? Had he dreamed it all. Europa,
Ora, Rapaju—all of it? He sat up and felt of his aching head.
"Oh, are you awake?" a soft voice greeted him.
"Ora!" he exclaimed. It was indeed she, beautiful as ever.
"Sh-h," she warned, placing the tip of a finger to his lips. "They'll
"Who?" he whispered.
"Rapaju—his two guards. They're in the control cabin with father and
"What? They've taken the Nomad?"
"Yes. We're under way. They've forced Mado to guide them but do not
trust him. Rapaju spared you as he believes you more capable. He'll
hold you to your word."
"Lord! But what are you doing here?"
Ora dropped her eyes. "He—Rapaju—" she said, "inferred from your
action in assaulting him that you were very fond of me. He holds me as
a hostage for your good behavior. Father volunteered to come along. He
persuaded Rapaju to allow it. Swore allegiance to his cause. Of course
he wouldn't leave me."
arr gazed at her in admiration of her courage. She had been nursing
him, too! What a girl she was!
"Ora," he said huskily, "Rapaju was right. I am fond of you. More than
fond: I love you. I never knew I could feel this way."
"Oh Carr, you mustn't!" She drew back as he scrambled to his feet.
"They'll find us. We must not show that we care. Rapaju is a beast. He
wants me for himself and is delaying the time only until you have
brought the fleet safely to the inner planets and to their great
"The skunk! Wants you himself, does he? Why, why didn't I kill him?
But Ora, you said—you do care—"
"Ha! I thought so!" Rapaju stood in the doorway, grinning mockingly at
the pair. "The impetuous Terrestrial is up and about. Back at his old
"Please, please, for my sake, Carr!" Ora pressed him back as he
tensed his muscles for a spring.
"Sorry I was so slow," Carr grated, over her shoulder. "Another five
seconds, Rapaju, and I'd have had your windpipe out by the roots."
Rapaju scowled darkly and fingered his throat. "But, my dear Carr, you
were too slow," he said, "and I live—and shall live—while you shall
die. Meanwhile you'll carry out your agreement. Come, Ora."
The girl hesitated a moment, then with a pleading glance at Carr
stepped from the room.
"All right now, Parker," snapped Rapaju. "Into your clothes and into
the pilot's seat. You'll stay there, too, till the journey's over. Get
One of his guards had appeared in the doorway. Carr knew that
resistance was useless. Besides, seated at those controls, he might
think of something. Rapaju'd never get Ora if he could help it!
ado's shoulders drooped and his face was haggard and drawn, but he
summoned a smile when he saw Carr.
"Hello, Carr," he said. "You all right?"
"Sure. Rapaju says I've got to take the controls."
"Very well." Mado shrugged his broad shoulders and slipped from the
pilot's seat. Two ugly Llotta guards were watching, ray-pistols in
hand. "The chart is corrected, Carr, and—"
"Never mind the conversation!" Rapaju snarled. "There'll be no talk
between you at all. Beat it to your cabin, Mado."
The Martian glowered and made as if to retort hotly.
"But Rapaju," Detis interposed, speaking from his position at one of
the ports, "they'll have to consult regarding the course of the
vessel. Mado is more familiar than Carr with the navigation of space."
"Shut up!" roared Rapaju. "I know what I am doing. And, what's more,
you'll not converse with them, either! I'm running this expedition,
and I'm not taking any chances."
Detis subsided and followed Mado through the passage to the sleeping
he ensuing silence was ominous. Carr could feel the eyes of the
Llotta upon him as he examined the adjustments of the controls and
peeped through the telescope. A glance at the velocity indicator
showed him they were traveling at a rate of eight hundred miles a
second. He studied the chart and soon made out their position. Jupiter
was a hundred million miles behind them and they were heading almost
due sunward. The automatic control mechanism was not functioning.
Evidently Mado had kept this a secret—and for a purpose. He wished he
could talk with his friend. They'd plan something.
"Like your job?" Rapaju was gloating over this Terrestrial who had
dared to lay hands upon him.
"Yes, but not the company." Carr was disdainful.
"You'll like it less before I've finished with you. And get this
straight. You think we're dependent on you to guide us to the inner
planets, and that we'll not harm any of you until they are reached.
Don't fool yourself! I've watched Mado and I've spent much time in the
excellent library of the Nomad. I've learned plenty about the
navigation of space and can reach those planets as quickly and
directly as you. But it pleases me to see you work, so work you shall.
I'll check you carefully, and don't think you can deceive me. Don't
try to depart from the true course. The sun is my check as it is
yours, and I'll keep constant tab on our position. Get it?"
"A rather long speech, Rapaju." Carr grinned into the evil face of the
"Still defiant, eh? Suits me, Carr Parker. We'll have some nice talks
here, and then—when it pleases me—you'll suffer. You shall live to
see your home city crash in utter ruin; your people slain, starved,
beaten. And, above all, there's Ora—"
"Don't defile her name in your ugly mouth, you—!"
arr bit his tongue to keep back the torrent of invectives that sprang
to his lips. This would never do! He'd get himself bumped off before
they were well started. And while there was life there was hope. He'd
stick to his guns and think; think and plan. If only he could have a
few words with Mado. They must get out of this mess. There must be a
way! There must!
Rapaju was laughing in triumph. Thought he had cowed him, did he?
Boastful savage! If he could navigate the Nomad himself, why didn't
he? Liar! He and Mado were godsends to him, and he knew it! His speech
at the council table had been the real truth.
Foreign thoughts entered his mind. Detis, good old Detis, was using
his thought apparatus in his own cabin! He paid no attention to the
words of Rapaju when he left the control room. Detis was on the job!
Between them they'd outwit this devil of Ganymede.
"Keep your courage," came the message. "I've read the thoughts of Mado
and he bids you examine the chart carefully. He's made some notations
in the ancient language of Mars. The automatic control of the Nomad
can be used when necessary. He has not advised Rapaju of its
Carr was encouraged and he concentrated on a suitable reply. But,
though he did not consciously will it, his thoughts were of Ora.
Instantly there came the reassurance of her father. "Ora is not in
immediate danger. Rapaju is saving her for his revenge on you. And I'm
watching her constantly. A ray-pistol is concealed in my clothing, its
charge ready for the foul creature in case he should lay hands on her.
But you must plan an escape, and salvation for your worlds. Examine
the chart at once."
e looked from the corner of his eye and saw that one of the Llotta
guards was watching intently. He peered into the eye-piece of the
telescope; made an inconsequential change in one of the adjustments.
The guard stirred but did not arise. He looked at the chart with new
interest, scanned its markings carefully. What had Mado marked for his
attention? There were hundreds of notations, some in Cos and a few in
the ancient Martian, all in Mado's painstaking chirography.
Ah, there it was! A tiny spot almost on their course, with Mado's
minute notation. Sargasso Sea! What did it mean? Did Mado intend to
lead the fleet into the embrace of that dreadful monster they had so
fortunately escaped? An excellent idea to save the inner planets. But
suicide for them! He'd do it though, if it weren't for Ora. She was so
sweet and innocent. She must not die; must not suffer. Another way
must be found. He groaned aloud as he realized that her predicament
was the result of his own bullheadedness. If only he hadn't insisted
on the trip to Ganymede. But then there was the problem of preserving
the civilization of the inner planets. It had to be met.
There was a commotion behind him; a feminine shriek from the after
cabins; loud shoutings from the beast called Rapaju. Carr's heart
skipped a beat. He was paralyzed with fear. But only for an instant.
With a bellow of rage he whirled around and started for the door,
charging the two guards with head down and arms flailing.
he Llotta did not use their ray-pistols. They were too busy
attempting to elude the mad rushes of the powerful Terrestrial.
Besides, there were good reasons they should not kill him—yet. Carr
drove one of them halfway down the passageway with a well-planted
punch. The other was on his back, hairy legs twined around his waist,
an arm under his chin, drawing his head back with a steady and
terrible pressure. He whirled around, trying to shake off his beastly
But these powerful legs and arms held fast. He tore at the hairy
ankles where they crossed in the pit of his stomach; wrenched them
free. Still the creature clung to him, twisting his head until it
seemed his neck must break. He found a waving foot with his right
hand; wrenched it mightily. There was a sharp snap and the foot
dangled limp in his fingers. He had broken the ankle. With a howl of
pain his assailant let go and dropped to the floor to crawl away like
a whipped cur.
In a flash Carr saw that the brute was reaching for his ray-pistol
where it had dropped during the encounter. He kicked it from the reach
of that hairy paw and sprang after it. With one of those little
weapons in his hands the odds would change! His fingers closed on its
grip just as Ora rushed into the room, closely followed by Rapaju,
whose distorted features were terrible to behold. The cabin was full
of them now; the guard he had first knocked down; the lust-crazed
commander—the one with the broken ankle. All but Detis and Mado. Carr
faced them alone.
So close was Rapaju to the girl that he dared not use the pistol, and
now the uninjured guard was circling him, trying to get in a position
where he could use his ray-pistol without endangering his commander.
Carr fumbled for the release of the weapon he held in his hand; found
it. The guard threw himself to the floor when he saw it raised;
shouted a warning. But it was too late. The deadly ray had sped on its
mission of death; struck him full in the middle. The twisted body lay
still a moment and then collapsed like a punctured balloon, leaving
his scant clothing in a limp heap—empty. A worthy miniature of the
D-ray, this little weapon!
e turned to face Rapaju and saw that he was shielding himself with
Ora's body. She had fainted and now hung drooping in the arms of the
beast. Where was Mado? Detis? Good God—he'd killed them! Carr thought
of that little spot on the chart. Must be very close now. They'd pass
so near there'd be no escape. But he could not reach the controls
without taking his eyes from Rapaju. That would have to wait.
Rapaju was backing toward the door, still holding the limp figure of
the girl before him. The injured guard lay moaning on the floor.
"Drop her, you devil!" Carr shouted desperately as he saw that Rapaju
soon would reach the passageway.
Then suddenly he reached for the controls and pushed the energy lever
to full speed forward. He braced himself for the shock of acceleration
and saw Rapaju and Ora thrown backward into the passageway, the girl's
body cushioned by that of her captor as they were flung violently to
the floor. Madly he rushed to the narrow entrance and tore at the
hairy arms that encircled the slender waist of the girl. He jerked the
snarling commander of the Llotta expedition to his feet and slammed
him against the metal wall.
"Now, you damn pig," he grunted, "I'll finish the job. Dirty scum of a
He dragged his victim into the control cabin and threw him to the
floor. But Rapaju was like an eel. He wriggled from under him and
snatched from the heap of clothing the ray-pistol of the disintegrated
guard. With a yelp of triumph he rose to his knees and leveled the
A well placed kick sent it spinning and Carr was upon him. He snapped
back the head with a terrible punch; then lifted the dazed creature to
his feet and stepped back.
"Stand up and take it like a man!" he roared.
apaju shook his head to clear it and rushed in with a bellow of rage.
Just what Carr wanted! Starting almost from the floor, his right came
up to meet the vicious jaw with a crack that told of the terrific
power behind it. Lifted from his feet and hurled half way across the
room by the impact, Rapaju lay motionless where he fell.
Carr was at the telescope. Their speed was close to fifteen hundred
miles a second. The monstrous mass of Mado's Sargasso Sea loomed close
in his vision. Off their course by a hundred miles or more. They'd
miss it all right. He had the situation in hand now on board the
Nomad. But how about the fleet behind them? He thought fast and
furiously. Another two minutes and they'd pass the thing; the
inexplicable horror which had accounted for the golden sphere of the
Europans. Could he use it? Suppose the fleet of the enemy—
The idea was full of possibilities.
He rushed to the stern compartment, and scanned the heavens for the
massed body of spheres he knew would be the fleet of the Llotta. At
this speed they must have fallen far behind. Yes, there they were. Not
so far behind at that. The battle in the control room must have been a
shorter one than it had seemed. He returned quickly to the controls
and reversed the energy, to give the fleet a chance to catch up to
Closer came that mass of whitish jelly. And now it was much larger
than before. The terrible creature, for living matter it was, beyond
doubt, was growing with the rapidity of a rising flood. Great
tentacles of its horrid translucent substance reached in all
directions for possible victims. He sickened at the sight. But what a
fate for the fleet of the Llotta! If only he could maneuver them into
e changed his course slightly and headed directly for the monster,
again increasing speed. Perhaps—if he calculated the forces
correctly—he could dive through it again with the D-ray to clear a
path. But no. It was a miracle they had escaped before, and now the
vicious thing was more than double its previous size. Once more he
altered his course. He'd cross in front of the thing; skim it as close
as he dared and shoot from its influence on the far side. The greater
mass of the enemy vessels and their lack of a quick-acting repulsive
force would prove their undoing.
Full speed ahead. A rapid mental calculation—an educated guess,
rather—and he set the automatic control. Turning around to start for
the stern compartment, he saw that Ora had recovered from her swoon
and now stood swaying weakly in the passageway.
"Ora!" he exclaimed delightedly. He rushed to her side and supported
her in a tender embrace.
"Rapaju?" she questioned with horror in her eyes.
"Won't bother you for a while, dear. But your father—Mado?"
"He gassed them. They'll recover." The brave girl had regained her
"Good! But, come! Time's short." He half carried her to the rear,
berating himself the while for his inability to pay her closer
attention. With arms still around her he placed her at one of the
"What is it, Carr?" She sensed his excitement.
"The fleet—see! We'll destroy them."
The spherical vessels were close behind, huddled together in mass
formation and following the Nomad blindly.
"Lead them into it. Wait tall you see! There's a—"
he Nomad lurched, and changed direction. Cold fear clutched at his
throat. That devil of a guard! Why hadn't he killed him? He dashed
through the passage, Ora at his heels.
Sure enough, the crippled guard had dragged himself to the controls;
was manipulating the energy director as he had seen Mado do. They were
heading directly for the terrible monster of the heavens!
No need now to peer through the telescope. The thing was visible to
the naked eye. No power could save them! Carr hurled himself at the
guard and tore at the hairy paw which gripped the lever. The throbbing
of strange energies filled the air of the room, and Carr's brain
pulsed with the maddening rhythm. The red discharge appeared at the
projections of the control panels. He forgot the fleet of the Llotta,
forgot the menace to his own world. Only Ora mattered now, and he had
not the power to save her!
As in a daze he knew he was wrenching mightily at the body of the
powerful minion of Rapaju. His fingers encountered heated metal—one
of the ray-pistols. He felt the intense vibration of the weapon as its
charge was released. But he still lived. The beast who held it had
missed! Dimly he was conscious of the screams of Ora; of the yielding
of the creature who fought him. An animal cry registered on his
consciousness and he shook the suddenly limp Llotta from him. He knew
somehow that his last enemy was gone.
A quick glance showed him that Ora was still on her feet, braced
against the wall. The red veil was before his eyes. He grasped the
controls, and fought desperately to keep his strength and senses. A
streamer of horrid whiteness swung across his vision; slithered
clammily over the glass of one of the forward ports. They were into
the thing! It was the end! He groaned aloud as he fumbled with the
mechanisms and strove to formulate a plan of escape.
he fleet, he knew, was just behind. An enormous mass. The repulsive
energy astern would be terrific. He turned it full on. The whiteness
obscured his vision. Then it was gone once more. A single streamer
waved before him and encompassed them. The movement of these members
must be inconceivably rapid, else they'd be invisible at the speed the
Nomad was traveling. Full speed ahead. The repulsion full on in the
direction of the center of the mass as well as astern. The framework
of the Nomad creaked protestingly from the terrific forces that tore
at her vitals.
Then suddenly they were released. The Nomad was shooting off into
space. The resultant of those combined forces had done the trick. Only
the edge of that devil-fish of space, had they touched. Free—they
were free of the monster! The red veil lifted. He rushed to Ora's
side. She was kneeling at one of the floor ports, breathing heavily
Below them they saw the swiftly receding mass: the fleet of the Llotta
diving headlong, drawn inexorably into the rapacious embrace of the
vile creature of the heavens. An instant the awful whiteness of the
thing closed in greedily about the many spheres of the fleet;
swallowed them from sight and contorted madly and with seeming glee
over the triumph. Then, in a burst of blinding incandescence, it was
gone. The monster, the fleet—everything—blasted into nothingness.
The fuel storage compartments of the vessels of Ganymede had exploded!
The heavens were rid of the inexplicable growing menace; the inner
planets were saved from a terrible invasion. And the Nomad was safe.
Ora, Detis, Mado—all were safe!
At his side Ora was trembling. Gently he raised her to her feet, and
took her into his arms.
ogether they cared for Detis and Mado; made them comfortable in their
bunks until the time when the effects of the gas would wear off.
Lucky it was that Rapaju had used the gas pistol rather than the ray.
Perhaps it had been a mistake. Or perhaps he had needed the scientific
knowledge of Detis, the familiarity with the inner planets that was
Mado's. At any rate, they had no delusions regarding his designs on
Ora or his hatred of Carr. By his own passions had the commander of
the fleet been led to the error that cost him his life and made
possible the destruction of his fleet.
Carr was torn by conflicting emotions. The delectable little Europan
was most disturbing. He'd never had much use for the other sex—on
Earth. Too dominating, most of them. And always thrown at his head by
designing parents for his money. But Ora was different! Her very
nearness set his pulses racing. And he knew that she cared for him as
he did for her. Those moments in the control cabin after the
explosion! But something had come over him since he cut loose from the
old life. Wanderlust—that was it. He'd never go back. Neither would
he be content to settle down to a domestic life in Pala-dar. Wanted to
be up and going somewhere.
"Oh, Carr, Carr!" Ora's voice called to him. "Mado is awake. He wants
Good old Mado! Why couldn't they just continue on their way as they
had started out? Roaming the universe in search of other adventures!
But the silvery tinkle of Ora's laughter reached his ears. She was
irresistible! He forgot his doubts as he hurried to his friend's
ado was staring at the Europan maiden with a ludicrous expression of
astonishment—gawping, Carr called it. And Ora was laughing at him.
"Your friend," she gurgled, "doesn't believe he's alive, or that I am,
or you. Tell him we are."
Carr grinned. Mado did look funny at that. "Hello, old sock," he said,
"had a bad dream?"
"Did I? Oh boy!" Mado rocked to and fro, his head in his hands. Then
he displayed sudden intense interest. "Rapaju?" he asked. "His
guards—the fleet—what's happened?"
"Ah ha! Now you know you're alive!" Carr laughed. "But the others are
dead and gone. The fleet's gone to smash—and how!"
"But Carr. How did you do it? Tell me!"
Mado threw off his covers and clapped his friend on the back, a
resounding thump that brought a gasp from Ora.
"Your Sargasso Sea did it. And it's a thing of the past, too. Wait
till I tell you about it!"
ra tripped from the room as Carr sat on the edge of the bunk to spin
"But man alive!" Mado exclaimed when the story was finished. "Don't
you know you've done a miraculous thing? I'd never have had the nerve.
That damn creature out there had more than four times its former
attracting energy. That's what made it impossible for the fleet to get
away. And you—you lucky devil—you just doped it out right. The fleet
of the Llotta gave you a tremendous push from astern when you used the
repulsive energy. If they hadn't been there with their enormous mass
to react against we'd all have been mincemeat now along with the
Llotta. You Terrestrials sure can think fast! Me, now—Lord, if it had
been me, I'd have thought of it after my spirit had departed to its
reward—or punishment. Glory be! It's the greatest thing I ever heard
"Rats! You'd have done the same as I did. Probably would have missed
it a mile instead of nearly getting caught as I did. A good thing the
fleet's gone, though. Mars and Terra—Venus, too—they'll never know
how close it was for them. Wouldn't have sense enough to appreciate
"They would if they ever got a taste of what the Llotta planned. But
what's wrong with you Carr? You act sore. Want to go home?"
"Me? Don't be like that. No—I'd like to carry on as we planned.
There's Saturn, Uranus and Neptune yet; Planet 9; a flock of
satellites and asteroids. Oh, dammit!"
Mado looked his amazement. "Well, what's to prevent it?" he demanded.
"The Nomad's still here, and so are we. I'm just as anxious to keep
going as you are. Why not?"
But Carr did not reply. Why not, indeed? He strode from the cabin and
into the control room. The Nomad was drifting in space, subject only
to natural forces that swung it in a vast orbit around the sun. He
started the generators and drove the vessel from her temporary orbit
with rapid acceleration. Out—out into the jeweled blackness of the
heavens. There was Jupiter out there, a bright orb that came suddenly
very near when he centered it on the cross-hairs of the telescope.
The excited voices of Ora and Detis came to his ears. The booming
speech of Mado. Why couldn't he be sensible and companionable as they
were? But a perverse demon kept him at the controls. They'd think him
a grouch. Well, maybe he was! But the vastness of the universe
beckoned. New worlds to explore; mysteries to be solved; a life of
countless new experiences! Anyone'd think he was the owner of the
Nomad, the way he planned for the future.
hey were in the control cabin now—Mado and Detis and Ora. A moment
he hesitated, eyes glued to the telescope. Then, with a petulant
gesture, he reached for the automatic control; locked it. Shouldn't be
this way. They'd think him an awful cad. And they'd be right! He
whirled to face them.
Detis was smiling. Mado gazed owlishly solemn. Ora clung to the arm of
her father, and her long lashes hid the blue eyes that had played such
havoc with the emotions of the Terrestrial.
"Carr," said Detis, gently, "we must thank you. You saved our lives,
"Aw, forget it. Saved my own, too, didn't I? By a lucky break."
"It wasn't luck, Carr." Detis was gripping his hand now. "It was sheer
grit and brains. You had them both. If you hadn't used them we'd all
be corpses—or disintegrated—excepting Ora, perhaps. And you know the
fate that awaited her. Instead, we are alive and well. The fleet is
gone. Rapaju's body and that of his guard drift nameless in space
where you disposed of them through the air-lock of the Nomad. The
inner planets need fear no future invasion, for the resources of
Ganymede have been expended in the one huge enterprise that has
failed. All through your quick wit and bravery. No, it wasn't luck."
"Nonsense, Detis." Carr returned the pressure of the scientist's hand,
smiling sheepishly. He pushed him away after a moment. He didn't want
their gratitude or praise. Didn't know what he wanted. Ora still
avoided meeting his gaze. "Nonsense," he repeated. "And now, please
leave me. You, Detis. Mado, too. I'd like to be alone for a
while—with Ora. Mind?"
Mado's owlish look broadened to a knowing grin as he backed into the
passageway. Detis collided with the huge Martian in his eagerness to
be out of the room. They were alone and Carr was on his feet. Nothing
mattered now—excepting Ora. Suddenly she was in his arms, the
fragrance of her hair in his nostrils.
tar gazing, the two of them. It was ridiculous! But the wonders of
the universe held a new beauty now for Carr. The distant suns had
taken on added brilliance. Still they beckoned.
"Carr," the girl whispered, after a time, "where are we going?"
"To Europa. Your home."
"No." Carr was suddenly confident; determined. "We'll stop there to
break the news. Then we'll be wedded, you and I, according to the
custom of your people. Our honeymoon—years of it—will be spent in
the Nomad, roving the universe. Mado'll agree, I know. Wanderers of
the heavens we'll be, Ora. But we'll have each other; and when
we've—you've—had enough of it, I'll be ready to settle down.
Anywhere you say. Are you game?"
"Oh, Carr! How did you guess? It's just as we'd planned. Father and
Mado and I. Didn't think I'd go, did you, you stupid old dear?"
"Why—why Ora." Carr was stammering now. He'd thought he was being
masterful—making the plans himself. But she'd beat him to it, the
adorable little minx! "I was a bit afraid," he admitted; "and I still
can't believe that it's actually true. You're sure you want to?"
"Positive. Why Carr, I've always been a vagabond at heart. And now
that I've found you we'll just be vagabonds together. Father and Mado
will leave us very much to each other. Their scientific leanings, you
know. And—oh—it'll just be wonderful!"
"It's you that'll make it wonderful, sweetheart."
Carr drew her close. The stars shone still more brightly and beckoned
anew. Vagabonds, all of them! Like the gypsies of old, but with vastly
more territory to roam. The humdrum routine of his old life seemed
very far behind. He wondered what Courtney Davis would say if he could
see him now. Wordless happiness had come to him, and he let his
thoughts wander out into the limitless expanse of the heavens. Star
gazing still—just he and Ora.