the city at world's end by edmond hamilton chapter i -- cataclysm kenniston realized afterward that it was likedeath. you knew you were going to die someday, but you didn't believe it. he had known thatthere was danger of the long-dreaded atomic war beginning with a sneak punch, but he hadn'treally believed it. not until that june morning when the missilecame down on middletown. and then there was no time for realization. you don't hear orsee a thing that comes faster than sound. one moment, he was striding down mill streettoward the plant, getting ready to speak to
the policeman coming toward him. the nextmoment, the sky split open. it split wide open, and above the whole townthere was a burn and blaze of light so swift, so violent, that it seemed the air itselfhad burst into instantaneous flame. in that fraction of a second, as the sky flared andthe ground heaved wildly under his feet, kenniston knew that the surprise attack had come, andthat the first of the long-feared super-atomic bombs had exploded overhead.... shock, thought kenniston, as his mouth crushedagainst the grimy sidewalk. the shock that keeps a dying man from feeling pain. he laythere, waiting for the ultimate destruction, and the first eye-blinding flare across theheavens faded and the shuddering world grew
still. it was over, as quickly as that. he ought to be dead. he thought it very probablethat he was dying right now, which would explain the fading light and the ominous quiet. butin spite of that he raised his head, and then scrambled shakily to his feet, gasping overhis own wild heartbeats, fighting an animal urge to run for the mere sake of running.he looked down mill street. he expected to see pulverized buildings, smoking craters,fire and steam and devastation. but what he saw was more stunning than that, and in astrange way, more awful. he saw middletown lying unchanged and peacefulin the sunlight. the policeman he had been going to speak towas still there ahead of him. he was getting
up slowly from his hands and knees, wherethe quake had thrown him. his mouth hung open and his cap had fallen off. his eyes werevery wide and dazed and frightened. beyond him was an old woman with a shawl over herhead. she, too, had been there before. she was clinging now to a wall, the sack of groceriesshe had carried split open around her feet, spilling onions and cans of soup across thewalk. cars and street-cars were still moving along the street in the distance, beginningerratically to jerk to a halt. apart from these small things, nothing was different,nothing at all. the policeman came up to kenniston. he lookedlike a young, efficient officer. or he would have, if his face had not gone so slack andhis eyes so stunned. he asked hoarsely:
"what happened?" kenniston answered, and the words soundedqueer and improbable as he said them. "we've been hit by a bomb-- a super-atomic." the policeman stared at him. "are you crazy?" "yes," said kenniston, "i think maybe i am.i think that's the only explanation." his brain had begun to pound. the air feltsuddenly cold and strange. the sunshine was duskier and redder and did not warm him now.the woman in the shawl was crying. presently, still weeping, she got painfully down uponher thick old knees and kenniston thought she was going to pray, but instead she beganto gather up her onions, fumbling with them
as a child does, trying to fit them into thebroken paper bag. "look," said the policeman, "i've read stuffabout those super-atomic bombs, in the papers. it said they were thousands of times morepowerful than the atom-bombs they used to have. if one of them hit any place there wouldn'tbe anything left of it." his voice was getting stronger. he was convincing himself. "so nosuper-atomic bomb could have hit us. it couldn't have been that." "you saw that terrific flash in the sky, didn'tyou?" said kenniston. "sure i did, but--" and then the policeman'sface cleared. "say, it was a fizzle. that's what it was. this super-atomic bomb they'vebeen scaring the world with-- it turned out
to be just a fizzle." he laughed noisily,in vast relief. "isn't that rich? they tell for years what terrible things it's goingto do, and then it just makes a big fizz and flash like a bad fourth of july firecracker!" it could be true, kenniston thought with awild surge of hope. it could be true. and then he looked up and saw the sun. "it was maybe a bluff, all the time," thepoliceman's voice rattled on. "they maybe didn't really have any super-atomic bomb atall." kenniston, without lowering his gaze, spokein a dry whisper. "they had them, all right. and they used one on us. and i think we'redead and don't know it yet we don't know yet
that we're only ghosts and not living on earthany more." "not on earth?" said the policeman angrily."now, listen--" and then his voice trailed away to silenceas he followed kenniston's staring gaze and looked up at the sun. it wasn't the sun. not the sun they and allthe generations of men had known as a golden, dazzling orb. they could look right at thissun, without blinking. they could stare at it steadily, for it was no more than a verybig, dull-glowing red ball with tiny flames writhing around its edges. it was higher inthe sky now than it had been before. and the air was cold. "it's in the wrong place," saidthe policeman. "and it looks different." he
groped in half-forgotten high-school sciencefor an explanation. "refraction. dust that that fizzle-bomb stirred up--"kenniston didn'ttell him. what was the use? what was the good of telling him what he, as a scientist, knew--that no conceivable refraction could make the sun look like that. but he said, "maybeyou're right." "sure i'm right," said the policeman, loudly.he didn't look up at the sky and sun, any more. he seemed to avoid looking at them. kenniston started on down mill street. hehad been on his way to the lab, when this happened. he kept on going now. he wantedto hear what hubble and the others would say about this.
he laughed a little. "i am a ghost, goingto talk with other ghosts about our sudden deaths." then he told himself fiercely, "stopthat! you're a scientist. what good is your science if it cracks up in the face of anunexplained phenomenon?" that, certainly, was an understatement. asuper-atomic bomb went off over a quiet little midwestern town of fifty thousand people,and it didn't change a thing except to put a new sun into the sky. and you called thatan unexplained phenomenon. kenniston walked on down the street. he walkedfast, for the air was unseasonably cold. he didn't stop to talk to the bewildered-lookingpeople he met. they were mostly men who had been on their way to work in middletown'smills when it had happened. they stood now,
discussing the sudden flash and shock. theword kenniston heard most often was "earthquake." they didn't look too upset, these men. theylooked excited and a little bit glad that something had happened to interrupt theirdrab daily routine. some of them were staring up at that strange, dull-red sun, but theyseemed more perplexed than disturbed. the air was cold and musty. and the red, duskysunlight was queer. but that hadn't disturbed these men too much. it was, after all, notmuch stranger than the chill and the lurid light that often foreshadow a midwestern thunderstorm. kenniston turned in at the gate of the smoke-grimedbrick structure that bore the sign, "industrial research laboratories." the watchman at thegate nodded to him unperturbedly as he let
him through. neither the watchman nor any of middletown'sfifty thousand people, except a few city officials, knew that this supposed industrial laboratoryactually housed one of the key nerve centers of america's atomic defense setup. clever, thought kenniston. it had been cleverof those in charge of dispersal to tuck this key atomic laboratory into a prosaic littlemidwestern mill town. "but not clever enough," he thought. no, not quite clever enough. the unknown enemyhad learned the secret, and had struck the first stunning blow of his surprise attackat the hidden nerve center of middletown.
a super-atomic, to smash that nerve centerbefore war even started. only, the super-atomic had fizzled. or had it? the sun was a differentsun. and the air was strange and cold. crisci met kenniston by the entrance of thebig brick building. crisci was the youngest of the staff, a tall, black-haired youngster--and because he was the youngest, he tried hard not to show emotion now. "it looks like it's beginning," said crisci,trying to smile. "atomic armageddon-- the final fireworks." then he quit trying to smile."why didn't it wipe us out, kenniston? why didn't it?" kenniston asked him, "don't the geigers showanything?"
"nothing. not a thing." that, kenniston thought numbly, fitted thecrazy improbability of it all. he asked, "where's hubble?" crisci gestured vaguely. "over there. he'shad us trying to call washington, but the wires are all dead and even the radio hasn'tbeen able to get through yet." kenniston walked across the cluttered plantyard. hubble, his chief, stood looking up at the dusky sky and at the red dull sun youcould stare at without blinking. he was only fifty but he looked older at the moment, hisgraying hair disordered and his thin face tightly drawn.
"there isn't any way yet to figure out wherethat missile came from," kenniston said. then he realized that hubble's thoughts weren'ton that, for the other only nodded abstractedly. "look at those stars, kenniston." "stars? stars, in the daytime--?" and then, looking up, kenniston realized thatyou could see the stars now. you could see them as faint, glimmering points all acrossthe strangely dusky sky, even near the dull sun. "they're wrong," said hubble. "they're verywrong." kenniston asked, "what happened? did theirsuper-atomic really fizzle?"
hubble lowered his gaze and blinked at him."no," he said softly. "it didn't fizzle. it went off." "but hubble, if that super-atomic went off,why--" hubble ignored the question. he went on intohis own office in the lab, and began to pull down reference volumes. to kenniston's surprise,he opened them to pages of astronomical diagrams. then hubble took a pencil and began to scrawlquick calculations on a pad. kenniston grabbed him by the shoulder. "forchrist's sake, hubble, this is no time for scientific theorizing! the town hasn't beenhit, but something big has happened, and--" "get the hell away from me," said hubble,without turning.
the sheer shock of hearing hubble swear silencedkenniston. hubble went on with his figures, referring often to the books. the office wasas silent as though nothing had happened at all. finally, hubble turned. his hand shooka little as he pointed to the figures on the pad. "see those, ken? they're proof-- proof ofsomething that cannot be. what does a scientist do when he faces that kind of a situation?" he could see the sick shock and fear in hubble'sgray face, and it fed his own fear. but before he could speak, crisci came in. he said, "we haven't been able to contactwashington yet. and we can't understand--
our calls go completely unanswered, and notone station outside middletown seems to be broadcasting." hubble stared at his pad. "it all fits in.yes, it all fits in." "what do you make of it, doctor?" asked criscianxiously. "that bomb went off over middletown, even though it didn't hurt us. yet it's asthough all the world outside middletown has been silenced!" kenniston, cold from what he had seen in hubble'sface, waited for the senior scientist to tell them what he knew or thought. but the phonerang suddenly with strident loudness. it was the intercom from the watchman at thegate. hubble picked it up. after a minute
he said, "yes, let him come in." he hung up."it's johnson. you know, the electrician who did some installations for us. he lives outon the edge of town. he told the watchman that was why he had to see me-- because helives on the edge of town." johnson, when he came, was a man in the gripof a fear greater than kenniston had even begun to imagine, and he was almost beyondtalking. "i thought you might know," he said to hubble. "it seems like somebody's got totell me what's happened, or i'll lose my mind. i've got a cornfield, mr. hubble. it's a longfield, and then there's a fence row, and my neighbor's barn beyond it." he began to tremble, and hubble said, "whatabout your cornfield?"
"part of it's gone," said johnson, "and thefence row, and the barn... mr. hubble, they're all gone, everything..." "blast effect," said hubble gently. "a bombhit here a little while ago, you see." "no," said johnson. "i was in london lastwar, i know what blast can do. this isn't destruction. it's..." he sought for a word,and could not find it. "i thought you might know what it is." kenniston's chill premonition, the shapelessgrowing terror in him, became too evil to be borne. he said, "i'm going out and takea look." hubble glanced at him and then nodded, androse to his feet, slowly, as though he did
not want to go but was forcing himself. hesaid, "we can see everything from the water tower, i think-- that's the highest pointin town. you keep trying to get through, crisci." kenniston walked with him out of the lab grounds,and across mill street and the cluttered railroad tracks to the huge, stilt-legged water towerof middletown. the air had grown colder. the red sunshine had no warmth in it, and whenkenniston took hold of the iron rungs of the ladder to begin the climb, they were likebars of ice. he followed hubble upward, keeping his eyes fixed on the retreating soles ofhubble's shoes. it was a long climb. they had to stop to rest once. the wind blew harderthe higher they got, and it had a dry musty taint in it that made kenniston think of theair that blows from deep rock tombs with dust
of ages in them. they came out at last on the railed platformaround the big, high tank. kenniston looked down on the town. he saw knots of people gatheredon the corners, and the tops of cars, a few of them moving slowly but most of them stoppedand jamming the streets. there was a curious sort of silence. hubble did not bother to look at the town,except for a first brief glance that took it all in, the circumference of middletownwith all its buildings standing just as they always had, with the iron civil war soldierstill stiffly mounting guard on the square, and the smoke still rising steadily from thestacks of the mills. then he looked outward.
he did not speak, and presently kenniston'seyes were drawn also to look beyond the town. he looked for a long time before it beganto penetrate. his retinas relayed the image again and again, but the brain recoiled fromits task of making sense out of that image, that unbelievable, impossible... no. it mustbe dust, or refraction, or an illusion created by the dusky red sunlight, anything but truth.there could not, by any laws known to creation, be a truth like this one! the whole countryside around middletown wasgone. the fields, the green, flat fields of the middle west, and the river, and the streams,and the old scattered farms-- they were all gone, and it was a completely different andutterly alien landscape that now stretched
outside the town. rolling, ocher-yellow plains, sad and empty,lifted toward a ridge of broken hills that had never been there before. the wind blewover that barren, lifeless world, stirring the ocher weeds, lifting heavy little cloudsof dust and dropping them back again to earth. the sun peered down like a great dull eyewith lashes of writhing fire, and the glimmering stars swung solemn in the sky, and all ofthem, the earth, the stars, the sun, had a look of death about them, a stillness anda waiting, a remoteness that had nothing to do with men or with anything that lived. kenniston gripped the rail tightly, feelingall reality crumbling away beneath him, searching
frantically for an explanation, for any rationalexplanation, of that impossible scene. "the bomb-- did it somehow blast the countrysideout there, instead of middletown?" "would it take away a river, and bring insteadthose hills and that yellow scrub?" said hubble. "would any bomb-blast do that?" "but for god's sake, then what--" "it hit us, kenniston. it went off right overmiddletown, and it did something..." he faltered, and then said, "nobody really knew what asuper-atomic bomb would do. there were logical theories and assumptions about it, but nobodyreally knew anything except that the most violent concentrated force in history wouldbe suddenly released. well, it was released,
over middletown. and it was violent. so violentthat..." he stopped, again, as though he could notquite muster up the courage to voice the certainty that was in him. he gestured at the duskysky. "that's our sun, our own sun-- but it's oldnow, very old. and that earth we see out there is old too, barren and eroded and dying. andthe stars.... you looked at the stars, ken, but you didn't see them. they're different,the constellations distorted by the motions of the stars, as only millions of years coulddistort them." kenniston whispered, "millions of years? thenyou think that the bomb..." he stopped, and he knew now how hubble had felt. how did yousay a thing that had never been said before?
"yes, the bomb," said hubble. "a force, aviolence, greater than any ever known before, too great to be confined by the ordinary boundariesof matter, too great to waste its strength on petty physical destruction. instead ofshattering buildings, it shattered space and time." kenniston's denial was a hoarse cry. "hubble,no! that's madness! time is absolute--" hubble said, "you know it isn't. you knowfrom einstein's work that there's no such thing as time by itself, that instead thereis a space-time continuum. and that continuum is curved, and a great enough force couldhurl matter from one part of the curve to another."
he raised a shaking hand toward the deathly,alien landscape outside the town. "and the released force of the first super-atomicbomb did it. it blew this town into another part of the space-time curve, into anotherage millions of years in the future, into this dying, future earth!" chapter 2 -- the incredible the rest of the staff was waiting for themwhen they came back into the lab grounds. a dozen men, ranging in age from crisci toold beitz, standing shivering in the chill red sunlight in front of the building. johnsonwas with them, waiting for his answer. hubble
looked at him, and at the others. he said,"i think we'd better go inside." they did not ask the questions that were clamoringinside them. silently, with the jerky awkward movements of men strung so taut that theirreflex centers no longer function smoothly, they followed hubble through the doorway.kenniston went with them, but not all the way. he turned aside, toward his own office,and said, "i've got to find out if carol is all right." hubble said sharply. "don't tell her, ken.not yet." "no," said kenniston. "no, i won't." he went into the small room and closed thedoor. the telephone was on his desk, and he
reached for it, and then he drew his handaway. the fear had altered now into a kind of numbness, as though it were too large tobe contained within a human body and had ebbed away, carrying with it all the substancesof strength and will as water carries sand. he looked at the black, familiar instrumentand thought how improbable it was that there should still be telephones, and fat booksbeside them with quantities of names and numbers belonging to people who had lived once invillages and nearby towns, but who were not there any more, not since-- how long? an houror so, if you figured it one way. if you figured it another... he sat down in the chair behind the desk.he had done a lot of hard work sitting in
that chair, and now all that work had ceasedto matter. quite a lot of things had ceased to matter. plans, and ideas, and where youwere going to go on your honeymoon, and exactly where you wanted to live, and in what kindof a house. florida and california and new york were words as meaningless as "yesterday"and "tomorrow." they were gone, the times and the places, and there wasn't anythingleft out of them but carol herself, and maybe even carol wasn't left, maybe she'd been outwith her aunt for a little drive in the country, and if she wasn't in middletown when it happenedshe's gone, gone, gone... he took the phone in both hands and said anumber over and over into it. the operator was quite patient with him. everybody in middletownseemed to be calling someone else, and over
the roar and click of the exchange and theghostly confusion of voices he heard the pounding of his own blood in his ears and he thoughtthat he did not have any right to want carol to be there, and he ought to be praying thatshe had gone somewhere, because why would he want anybody he loved to have to face whatwas ahead of them. and what was ahead of them? how could you guess which one, out of allthe shadowy formless horrors that might be... "ken?" said a voice in his ear. "ken, is thatyou? hello!" "carol," he said. the room turned misty aroundhim and there was nothing anywhere but that voice on the line. "i've been trying and trying to get you, ken!what on earth happened? the whole town is
excited-- i saw a terrible flash of lightning,but there wasn't any storm, and then that quake... are you all right?" "sure, i'm fine..." she wasn't really frightenedyet. anxious, upset, but not frightened. a flash of lightning, and a quake. alarmingyes, but not terrifying, not the end of the world... he caught himself up, hard. he said,"i don't know yet what it was." "can you find out? somebody must know." shedid not guess, of course, that kenniston was an atomic physicist. he had not been allowedto tell that to anyone, not even his fiancå½e. to her, he was merely a research technicianin an industrial laboratory, vaguely involved with test tubes and things. she had neverquestioned him very closely about his work,
apparently content to leave all that up tohim, and he had been grateful because it had spared him the necessity of lying to her.now he was even more grateful, because she would not dream that he might have specialinformation. that way, he could spare her a little longer, get himself in hand beforehe told her. "i'll do my best," he told her. "but until we're sure, i wish you and youraunt would stay in the house, off the street. no, i don't think your bridge-luncheon willcome off anyway. and you can't tell what people will do when they're frightened. promise?yes-- yes, i'll be over as soon as i can." he hung up, and as soon as that contact withcarol was broken, reality slipped away from him again. he looked around the office, andit became suddenly rather horrible, because
it had no longer any meaning. he had an urgentwish to get out of it, yet when he rose he stood for some while with his hands on theedge of the desk, going over hubble's words in his mind, remembering how the sun had looked,and the stars, and the sad, alien earth, knowing that it was all impossible but unable to denyit. the long hall of time, and a shattering force... he wanted desperately to run away,but there was no place to run to. presently he went down the corridor to hubble's office. they were all there, the twelve men of thestaff, and johnson. johnson had gone by himself into a corner. he had seen what lay out therebeyond the town, and the others had not. he was trying to understand it, to understandthe fact and the explanation of it he had
just heard. it was not a pleasant thing, towatch him try. kenniston glanced at the others. he had worked closely with these men. he hadthought he knew them all so well, having seen them under stress, in the moments when theirwork succeeded and the others when it did not. now he realized that they were all strangers,to him and to each other, alone and wary with their personal fears. old beitz was saying, almost truculently,"even if it were true, you can't say exactly how long a time has passed. not just fromthe stars." hubble said, "i'm not an astronomer, but anyonecan figure it from the tables of known star-motions, and the change in the constellations. notexactly, no. but as close as will ever matter."
"but if the continuum were actually shattered,if this town has actually jumped millions of years..." beitz' voice trailed off. hismouth began to twitch and he seemed suddenly bewildered by what he was saying, and he,and all of them, stood looking at hubble in a haunted silence. hubble shook his head. "you won't really believe,until you see for yourselves. i don't blame you. but in the meantime, you'll have to acceptmy statement as a working hypothesis." morrow cleared his throat and asked, "whatabout the people out there-- the town? are you going to tell them?" "they'll have to know at least part of it,"hubble said. "it'll get colder, very much
colder, by night, and they'll have to be preparedfor it. but there must not be any panic. the mayor and the chief of police are on theirway here now, and we'll work it out with them." "do they know yet, themselves?" asked kenniston,and hubble said, "no." johnson moved abruptly. he came up to hubbleand said, "i don't get all this scientific talk about space and time. what i want toknow is-- is my boy safe?" hubble stared at him. "your boy?" "he went out to martinsen's farm early, toborrow a cultivator. it's two miles out the north road. what about him, mr. hubble-- ishe safe?" that was the secret agony that had been ridinghim, the one he had not voiced. hubble said
gently. "i would say that you don't have toworry about him at all, johnson." johnson nodded, but still looked worried.he said, "thanks, mr. hubble. i'd better go back now. i left my wife in hysterics." a minute or two after he left, kenniston hearda siren scream outside. it swung into the lab yard and stopped. "that," said hubble,"would be the mayor." a small and infirm reed to lean upon, thoughtkenniston, at a time like this. there was nothing particularly wrong about mayor garris.he was no more bumbling, inefficient, or venal than the average mayor of any average smallcity. he liked banquets and oratory, he worried about the right necktie, and he was said tobe a good husband and father. but kenniston
could not, somehow, picture bertram garrisshepherding his people safely across the end of the world. he thought so even less whengarris came in, his bones well padded with the plump pink flesh of good living, his facethe perfect pattern of the successful little man who is pleased with the world and hisplace in it. just now he was considerably puzzled and upset, but also rather elatedat the prospect of something important going on. kimer, the chief of police, was anothermatter. he was a large angular man with a face that had seen many grimy things and hadlearned from them a hard kind of wisdom. not a brilliant man, kenniston thought, but onewho could get things done. and he was worried, far more worried than the mayor. garris turnedimmediately to hubble. it was obvious that
he had a great respect for him and was proudto be on an equal footing with such an important person as one of the nation's top atomic scientists."is there any news yet, doctor hubble? we haven't been able to get a word from outside,and the wildest rumors are going around. i was afraid at first that you might have hadan explosion here in the laboratory, but..." kimer interrupted him. "talk is going aroundthat an atomic bomb hit here, doctor hubble. some of the people are getting scared. ifenough of them get to believe it, we'll have a panic on our hands. i've got our officerson the streets soothing 'em down, but i'd like to have a straight story they'll believe." "atomic bomb!" said mayor garris. "preposterous.we're all alive, and there's been no damage.
doctor hubble will tell you that atomic bombs..." for the second time he was cut short. hubblebroke in sharply. "we're not dealing with an ordinary bomb. and the rumors are true,as far as they go." he paused, and went on more slowly, making every word distinct, "asuper-atomic was exploded an hour ago, for the first time in history, right here." he let that sink in. it was a lingering andpainful process, and while it was going on kenniston looked away, up through the windowat the dusky sky and the sullen red sun, and felt the knot in his stomach tighten. we werewarned, he thought. we were all warned for years that we were playing with forces toobig for us.
"it didn't destroy us," hubble was saying."we're lucky that way. but it did have certain-- effects." "i don't understand," said the mayor piteously."i simply don't-- certain effects? what?" hubble told him, with quiet bluntness. the mayor and the chief of police of middletown,normal men of a normal city, adjusted to life in a normal world, listening to the incredible.listening, trying to comprehend-- trying, and failing, and rejecting it utterly. "that's insane," said garris angrily. "middletownthrown into the future? why, the very sound of it... what are you trying to do, doctorhubble?"
he said a great deal more than that. so didkimer. but hubble wore them down. quietly, implacably, he pointed to the alien landscapearound the town, the deepening cold, the red, aged sun, the ceasing of all wire and radiocommunication from outside. he explained, sketchily, the nature of time and space, andhow they might be shattered. his scientific points they could not understand. but thosethey took on faith, the faith which the people of the twentieth century had come to havein the interpreters of the complex sciences they themselves were unable to comprehend.the physical facts they understood well enough. too well, once they were forced to it. it got home at last. mayor garris sank downinto a chair, and his face was no longer pink,
and the flesh sagged on it. his voice wasno more than a whimper when finally he asked, "what are we going to do?" hubble had an answer ready, to a part of thatquestion, at least. "we can't afford a panic. the people of middletown will have to learnthe truth slowly. that means that none of them must go outside the town yet-- or they'dlearn at once. i'd suggest you announce the area outside town is possibly radioactivecontaminated, and forbid anyone to leave." police chief kimer grasped with pathetic eagernessat the necessity of coping with a problem he could comprehend. "i can put men and barricadesat all the street-ends, to see to that." "and our local national guard company is assemblingnow at the armory," put in mayor garris. his
voice was shaky, his eyes still stunned. hubble asked, "what about the city's utilities?" "everything seems to be working-- power, gasand water," the mayor answered. they would, kenniston thought. middletown'scoal-steam electric generation plant, and its big watertower, and its artificial gasplant, had all come through time with them. "they, and all food and fuel, must be rationed,"hubble was saying. "proclaim it as an emergency measure." mayor garris seemed to feel a little betterat being told what to do. "yes. we'll do that at once." then he asked, timidly, "isn't thereany way of getting in touch with the rest
of the country?" "the rest of the country," hubble remindedhim, "is some millions of years in the dead past. you'll have to keep remembering that." "yes-- of course. i keep forgetting," saidthe mayor. he shivered, and then took refuge in the task set him. "we'll get busy at once." when the car had borne the two away, hubblelooked haggardly at his silent colleagues. "they'll talk, of course. but if the newsspreads slowly, it won't be so bad. it'll give us a chance to find out a few thingsfirst." crisci began to laugh, a little shrilly. "ifit's true, this is a side-splitting joke!
this whole town flung into the end of theworld and not even knowing it yet! all these fifty thousand people, not guessing yet thattheir cousin agnes in indianapolis has been dead and dust for millions of years!" "and they mustn't guess," hubble said. "notyet. not until we know what we face in this future earth." he went on, thinking aloud. "we need to seewhat's out there, outside the town, before we can plan anything. kenniston, will youget a jeep and bring it back here? bring spare gasoline, and some warm clothing, too. we'llneed it out there. and ken-- bring two guns." chapter 3
-- dying planet kenniston walked back down mill street, towardthe garage where he had left his car a billion years ago when such things were still important.he knew they kept a jeep there for road service, and he knew also that they would not haveany need for it now because there were no longer any roads. he wished he had a topcoat.at the rate the air was chilling off it would be below zero by nightfall. quite literally, he began to feel as thoughhe were walking in a nightmare. above him was an alien sky, and the red light of itlay strangely on the familiar walls of brick. but the walls themselves were not altered.that, he decided, was the really shocking
thing-- the drab everyday appearance of thetown. when time and space gape open for the first time in history, and you go throughinto the end of the world, you expect everything to be different. middletown did not look different,except for that eerie light. there were a lot of people on mill street,but then, there always were a good many. it was the street of dingy factories and smallplants that connected middletown with the shabby south side, and there were always buses,cars, pedestrians on it perhaps the bumbling traffic was a bit more disorganized than usual,and the groups of pedestrians tended to clot together and chatter more excitedly, but thatwas all. kenniston knew a number of these people, bynow, but he did not stop to talk to them.
he was somehow unwilling to meet their eyes.he felt guilty, to know the truth where they did not. what if he should tell them, whatwould they do? it was a terrible temptation, to rid himself of his secret. his tongue achedto cry it out. there were people like old mike witter, thefat red-faced watchman who sat all day in his little shack at the railroad crossing,with his small rat-terrier curled up by his feet. the terrier was crouching now, shivering,her eyes bright and moist with fear, as though she guessed what the humans did not, but oldmike was as placid as ever. "cold, for june!" he hailed kenniston. "coldesti ever saw. i'm going to build a fire. never saw such a freak storm!"
there was the knot of tube-mill workers atthe next corner, in front of joe's lunch. they were arguing, and two or three of themthat kenniston knew turned toward him. "hey, there's mr. kenniston, one of the guysat the industrial lab. maybe he'd know!" their puzzled faces, as they asked, "has a war started?have you guys heard anything?" before he could answer, one asserted loudly,"sure it's a war. didn't someone say an atomic bomb went off overhead and missed fire? didn'tyou see the flash?" "hell, that was only a big lightning flash." "are you nuts? it nearly blinded me." kenniston evaded them. "sorry, boys-- i don'tknow much more than you. there'll be some
announcement soon." as he went on, a bewildered voice enquired,"but if a war's started, who's the enemy?" the enemy, kenniston thought bitterly, isa country that perished and was dust-- how many millions of years ago? there were loafers on the mill street bridge,staring down at the muddy bed of the river and trying to explain the sudden vanishingof its water. in the beer-parlors that cheered the grimy street, there were more men thanwas normal for this hour. kenniston could hear them as he passed, their voices high,excited, a little quarrelsome, but with no edge of terror.
a woman called across the street from an upstairsflat window, to the other housewife who was sweeping the opposite front porch. "i'm missingevery one of my radio stories! the radio won't get anything but the middletown station today!" kenniston was glad when he got to bud's garage.bud martin, a tall thin young man with a smudge of grease on his lip, was reassembling a carburetorwith energetic efficiency and criticizing his harried young helper at the same time. "haven't got to your car yet, mr. kenniston,"he protested. "i said around five, remember?" kenniston shook his head and told martin whathe wanted. martin shrugged. "sure, you can hire the jeep. i'm too busy to answer roadcalls today, anyway." he did not seem particularly
interested in what kenniston intended to dowith the jeep. the carburetor resisted and he swore at it. a man in a floury baker's apron stuck hishead into the garage. "hey, bud, hear the news? the mills just shut down-- all of them." "ah, nuts," said martin. "i been hearing newsall morning. guys running in and out with the damnedest stories. i'm too busy to listento 'em." kenniston thought that probably that was theanswer to the relative calm in middletown. the men, particularly, had been too busy.the strong habit patterns of work, a job at hand to be done, had held them steady so far.
he sighed. "bud," he said, "i'm afraid thisstory is true." martin looked at him sharply and then groaned."oh, lord, another recession! this'll ruin business-- and me with the garage only halfpaid for!" what was the use of telling him, kennistonthought, that the mills had been hastily shut down to conserve precious fuel, and that theywould never open again. he filled spare gasoline cans, stacked themin the back of the jeep, and drove northward. topcoats were appearing on main street now.there were knots of people on street corners, and people waiting for buses were lookingup curiously at the red sun and dusky sky. but the stores were open, housewives carriedbulging shopping-bags, kids went by on bicycles.
it wasn't too changed, yet. not yet. nor was quiet walters avenue, where he hadhis rooms, though the rows of maples were an odd color in the reddish light. kennistonwas glad his landlady was out, for he didn't think he could face many more puzzled questionsright now. he loaded his hunting kit-- a .30-30 rifleand a 16-gauge repeating shotgun with boxes of shells-- into the jeep. he put on a mackinaw,brought a leather coat for hubble, and remembered gloves. then, before re-entering the jeep,he ran down the street half a block to carol lane's house. her aunt met him at the door. mrs. adams wasstout, pink and worried.
"john, i'm so glad you came! maybe you cantell me what to do. should i cover my flowers?" she babbled on anxiously. "it seems so silly,on a june day. but it's so much colder. and the petunias and bleeding-heart are so easilyfrost-bitten. and the roses--" "i'd cover them, mrs. adams," he told her."the prediction is that it will be even colder." she threw up her hands. "the weather, thesedays! it never used to be like this." and she hurried away to secure covering for theflowers, the flowers that had but hours to live. it hit kenniston with another of thosesickening little shocks of realization. no more roses on earth, after today. no moreroses, ever again. "ken-- did you find out what happened?" itwas carol's voice behind him, and he knew,
even before he turned to face her, that hecould not evade with her as he had with the others. she didn't know about science, andsuch things as time warps and shattered continuums had never entered her head. but she knew him,and she gave him no chance to temporize. "are they true, the stories about an atombomb going off over middletown?" she had had time, since he called her, tobecome really alarmed. she had dark hair and dark eyes. she was slim in a sturdy fashion,and her ankles were nice, and her mouth was firm and sweet. she liked tennyson and childrenand small dogs, and her ways were the ways of pleasant houses and fragrant kitchens,of quiet talk and laughter. it seemed a dreadful thing to kenniston that she should be standingin a dying garden asking questions about atomic
bombs. "yes," he said. "they're true." he watchedthe color drain out of her face, and he went on hastily, "nobody was killed. there areno radiation effects in the city, nothing at all to be afraid of." "there is something. i can see it in yourface." "well, there are things we're not sure ofyet. hubble and i are going to investigate them now." he caught her hands. "i haven'ttime to talk, but..." "ken," she said. "why you? what would youknow about such terrible things?" he saw it coming, now, the necessity he hadalways a little dreaded and had hoped might
be forever postponed, the time when carolhad to learn about his work. with what eyes would she look on him when she knew? he wasnot sure, not sure at all. he was glad he could evade a little longer. he smiled. "i'll tell you all about it wheni get back. stay in the house, carol, promise me. then i won't worry." "all right," she said slowly. and then, sharply,"ken..." "what?" "nothing. be careful." he kissed her, and ran back toward the jeep.thank god she wasn't the hysterical type.
that would have been the last straw, rightnow. he climbed in and drove to the lab, wonderingall the way what this was going to do to carol and himself, whether they would both be alivetomorrow or the next day, and if so, what kind of a life it would be. grim, cold thoughts,and bitter with regret. he had had it all so nicely planned, before this nightmare happened.the loneliness would all be over, and the rootless drifting from place to place. hewould have a home again, which he had not had since his parents died, and as much peaceas a man was allowed in the modern world. he would have the normal things a man neededto keep him steady and give meaning to his years. and now...
hubble was waiting for him outside the lab,holding a geiger counter and a clutter of other instruments. he placed them carefullyin the jeep, then put on the leather coat and climbed into the seat beside kenniston. "all right, ken-- let's go out the south endof town. from the hills we glimpsed that way, we can see more of the lay of the land." they found a barricade, and police on guard,at the southern edge of town. there they were delayed until the mayor phoned through a hastyauthorization for hubble and kenniston to go out "for inspection of the contaminatedregion." the jeep rolled down a concrete road betweengreen little suburban farms, for less than
a mile. then the road and the green farmlandsuddenly ended. from this sharp demarcation, rolling ocherplains ran away endlessly to east and west. not a tree, not a speck of green broke themonotony. only the ocher-yellow scrub, and the dust, and the wind. hubble, studying his instruments, said, "nothing.not a thing. keep going." ahead of them the low hills rose, gaunt andnaked, and above was the vast bowl of the sky, a cold darkness clamped down upon thehorizons. dim sun, dim stars, and under them no sound but the cheerless whimper of thewind. its motor rattling and roaring, its body lurchingover the unevenness of the ocher plain, the
jeep bore them out into the silence of thedead earth. chapter 4 -- dead city kenniston concentrated on the wheel, grippingit until his hands ached. he stared fixedly at the ground ahead, noting every rock, guidingthe jeep carefully across shallow gullies, driving as though there were nothing in theuniverse but the mechanical act. he envied the jeep its ability to chug unemotionallyover the end of the world. it struck him as so amusing that he laughed a little. hubble's fingers clamped his shoulder, hardenough to hurt even through the heavy coat.
"don't, ken." kenniston turned his head. he saw that hubble'sface was drawn and gray, and that his eyes were almost pleading. "i'm sorry," he said. hubble nodded. "i know. i'm having a hardenough time hanging on myself." they went on across the empty plain, towardthe low skeletal hills that were like bony knees thrust up from the ocher dust. soonthe jeep was climbing an easy slope, its motor clattering and roaring. somehow, the familiarmotor sound only served to emphasize the fact that around them lay the silence and red duskof world's end. kenniston wished that hubble
would say something, anything. but the olderman did not, and kenniston's own tongue was frozen. he was lost in a nightmare, and therewas nothing to do but drive. a sudden whistling scream came piping downthe slope at them. both men started violently. with hands slippery with cold sweat, kennistonswung the jeep a little and saw a brown, furry shape about the size of a small horse boltingover the ridge, going with long, awkward bounds. kenniston slowed down until he had stoppedshaking. hubble said in a low whisper, "then there is still animal life on earth-- of asort. and look there--" he pointed to a deep little pit in the dusty ground with a ridgeof freshly dark new soil around it. "the thing was digging there. probably for water. thesurface is arid, so it must dig to drink."
they stopped the jeep, and examined the pitand the scrub around it. there were marks of teeth on the bark of the low shrubs. "rodential teeth," said hubble. "enormouslylarger than anything like them occurring in our time, but still recognizable." they lookedat each other, standing in the chill red light. then hubble turned back to the jeep. "we'llgo on." they went on, up the ridge. they saw two moreof the pits made by the diggers, but these were old and crumbling. the blind red eyeof the sun watched them coldly. kenniston thought of a frightened, furry thing lopingon and on over the ocher desolation that once long ago had been the home of men.
they came up onto the low ridge, and he stoppedthe jeep so they could look out across the red-lit plain beyond. hubble stared southwest, and then his handsbegan to tremble a little. "'ken, do you see it?" kenniston looked thatway, and saw. the stunning shock of relief and joy! thewild gladness at finding that you and your people are not alone on a lifeless earth! out there on the barren plain stood a city.a city of white buildings, completely enclosed and roofed and bounded by the great shimmeringbubble of a transparent dome. they looked and looked, savoring the exquisitedelight of relief. they could see no movement
in that domed city at this distance, but justto see it was enough. then, slowly, hubble said, "there are no roads.no roads across the plain." "perhaps they don't need roads. perhaps theyfly." instinctively both men craned their necks to examine the bleak heavens, but therewas nothing there but the wind and the stars and the dim sun with its medusa crown of flames. "there aren't any lights, either," said hubble. "it's daytime," said kenniston. "they wouldn'tneed lights. they'd be used to this dusk. they've had it a long time." a sudden nervousness possessed him. he couldbarely perform the accustomed motions of starting
the jeep again, grating the gears horribly,letting in the clutch with a lurching jerk. "take it easy," said hubble. "if they're there,there's no hurry. if they're not..." his voice was not quite steady. after a moment he finished,"there's no hurry then, either." words. nothing but words. it seemed to kennistonthat he could not bear the waiting. the plain stretched endlessly before him. the jeep seemedto crawl. rocks and pits and gullies moved themselves maliciously into its path. thecity mocked, and came no nearer. then, all at once, the domed city was fullbefore them. it loomed in the sky like a glassy mountain out of fairy tale, for from thisangle its curved surface reflected the sunlight. here, at last, they struck a smooth, broadroad. it went straight toward a high, arched
portal in the glassy wall of the city. theportal was open. "if they domed this city to keep it warm,why should the door be open?" hubble said. kenniston had no answer for that. no answer,except the one that his mind refused to accept. they drove through the portal, were beneaththe city dome. and after the emptiness of the plain, the weight of this city and itsmighty shield was a crushing thing. and it was warmer here beneath the dome. notreally warm, but the air here lacked the freezing chill of the outside. they went down a broad avenue, going slowlynow, timidly, shaken by the beating of their own hearts. and the noise of the motor wasvery loud in the stillness, echoed and re-echoed
from many facets of stone-- blasphemouslyloud, against the silence. dust blew heavily along the pavement, hung dun-colored veilsacross the open places where boulevards met. it lay in ruffled drifts in the shelteredspots, in doorways and arches and the corners of window ledges. the buildings were tall and massive, infinitelymore beautiful and simple in line than anything kenniston had ever imagined. a city of graceand symmetry and dignity, made lovely with the soft tints and textures of plastics, theclean strength of metal and stone. a million windows looked down upon the jeepand the two men from another time. a million eyes dimmed with cataracts of dust, empty,blind. some were open, some shut, but none
saw. the chill wind from the portal whispered inand out of sagging doorways, prowling up and down the streets, wandering restlessly acrossthe wide parks that were no longer green and bright with flowers, but only wastes of scruband drifting dust. nowhere was there anything but the little wind that stirred. yet kennistondrove on. it seemed too terrible a thing to accept, that this great domed city was onlya shell, an abandoned corpse, and that middletown was alone on the face of the dying earth. he drove on shouting, crying out, soundingthe horn in a sort of frenzy, both of them straining their eyes into the shadowy streets.surely, somewhere in this place that men had
built, there must be a human face, a humanvoice! surely, in all these countless empty rooms and halls, there was space enough forlife! but there was no life. kenniston drove more and more slowly. he ceasedto sound the horn and call out. presently he ceased even to look. he allowed the jeepto roll to a halt in a great central plaza. he cut the motor, and the silence descendedupon him and hubble like an avalanche. he bowed his head in his hands and sat thatway for a long time. he heard hubble's voice saying, "they're all dead and gone." kenniston raised his head. "yes. dead andgone, all of them, long ago." he looked around the beautiful buildings. "you know what thatmeans, hubble. it means that earth won't support
human life any more. for even in this domedcity they couldn't live." "but why couldn't they?" hubble said. he pointedto a wide space of low, flat, open tanks that covered acres of the city nearby. "those werehydroponic tanks, i think. they could raise food in them." "if they had water. perhaps that's what ranout on them." hubble shook his head. "those ratlike digging animals we saw could findwater. men could find it, too. i'm going to see." he got out of the jeep and walked towardthe dusty tanks nearby. kenniston dully watched him. but presently he too climbed out, and beganlooking into the buildings around the plaza.
he could see little but lofty, shadowy roomsilluminated only by the sad light that filtered through dusty windows. in some of the roomswas heavy furniture of metal, massive yet graceful. in others, nothing but the quietdust. a great sadness and futility came upon kennistonas he went slowly around the silent streets. what did it matter, after all, that a townlost out of its time was facing death? here a race had died, and the face of the earthwas barren wilderness. kenniston was roused from his numbness by hubble's voice. "there'sstill water there, ken-- big reservoirs of it under those tanks. so that isn't what endedthem. it was something else." "what difference does it make now what itwas?" kenniston said heavily.
"it makes a difference," hubble said. "i'vebeen thinking-- but there isn't time to talk now. the night and cold are coming." with a start, kenniston realized that thesun was sinking in the west, and that the shadow of the mighty buildings lay black uponthe streets of the city. he shivered a little, and led the way back to the jeep. again, itsclattering roar profaned the deathly silence as they drove back to and through the portal. "we have to get back," hubble was saying."they don't know yet in middletown what they're facing." "if we tell them of this place," kennistonsaid, "if they learn that there are no more
people, that they're maybe all alone on earth,they'll go mad with panic." the sun was very low, a splotch of crimsonthat bulked huge in the western sky as the jeep whined and lurched toward the ridge.the stars were brighter, the unfamiliar stars that had done with man. the cold became morepiercing by the minute, as the dusk deepened. a horror of the dying planet's gathering nightgripped both men. they uttered exclamations of shaken relief when the jeep finally toppedthe ridge. for there ahead, incongruous on this nightedelder earth, gleamed the familiar street lights of middletown. the bright axes of main streetand mill street, the fainter gridiron of the residential sections, the red neon beer signsof south street-- all shining out on the icy
night of a dead world. "i forgot about anti-freeze in the jeep'sradiator," kenniston said, inconsequentially. it was that cold, now. the wind had the edgeof a razor of ice, and even in their heavy coats they couldn't stop shivering. hubble nodded. "people have to be warned aboutthings like that. they don't know yet how cold it will be tonight." kenniston said hopelessly, "but after tonight--when the fuel and food are gone, what then? is there any use struggling?" "why, no, if you look at it that way, there'sno use," hubble said. "stop the jeep, and
we'll lie down beside it and freeze to deathquickly and comfortably." kenniston drove in silence for a moment. thenhe said, "you're right." "it isn't completely hopeless," hubble said."there may be other domed cities on earth that aren't dead. people, help, companionship.but we have to hang on, until we find them. that's what i've been thinking about-- howto hang on." he added, as they neared the town, "drive to city hall first." the barricade at the end of jefferson streethad a leaping bonfire beside it now. the police guards, and a little knot of uniformed nationalguardsmen, had been staring out into the gathering darkness. they greeted the jeep excitedly,asking eager questions, their breath steaming
on the frosty air. hubble steadily refusedanswers. there would be announcements soon. but the terrier-like little police captainwho cleared the way through the group for them had his own questions before they lefthim. "they're talking stuff around city hall about the whole earth being dead. what's thereto this story about falling through time?" hubble evaded. "we're not sure of anythingyet. it'll take time to find out." the police captain asked shrewdly, "what didyou find out there? any sign of life?" "why, yes, there's life out there," hubblesaid. "we didn't meet any people yet, but there's life." furred and furtive life timidly searchingfor its scant food, kenniston thought. the
last life, the poor last creatures who werethe inheritors of earth. swept by an icy wind, south street was asempty-looking as on a february night. but the red beer signs beckoned clamorously, andthe bars seemed crowded. bundled-up children were hanging about thepond in mill street park. kenniston realized the reason for their whooping excitement whenhe saw the thin ice that already sheeted the pond. the cold was already driving the crowdoff main street. yet puzzled-looking people still clotted at corners, gesturing, arguing. hubble said suddenly, "they have to be told,ken. now. unless they know the truth, we'll never get them to do the things that mustbe done."
"they won't believe," kenniston said. "orif they do, it'll likely start a panic." "perhaps. we'll have to risk that. i'll getthe mayor to make the announcement over the radio station." when kenniston started to follow hubble outof the jeep at city hall, the other stopped "i won't need you right now, ken. and i knowyou're worried about carol. go on and see she's all right." kenniston drove north through streets alreadyalmost deserted. the cold was deepening, and the green leaves of trees and shrubs hungstrangely limp and lifeless. he stopped at his lodgings. his landlady's torrent of questionshe answered with a reference to a forthcoming
announcement that sent her hurrying to herradio. he went up to his rooms and dug out a bottle of scotch and drank off half a tumblerstraight. then he went to carol's house. from its chimney, as from all the chimneysalong the street, smoke was curling up. he found carol and her aunt beside a fireplaceblaze. "it won't be enough," kenniston told them."we'll need the furnace going. and the storm windows up." "in june?" wailed mrs. adams, shocked againby the crazy vagaries of weather. carol came and stood before him. "you knowa lot you're not telling us, ken. maybe you think you're being kind, to spare us, but--i want to know."
"as soon as i get the house fixed up," saidkenniston heavily, "i'll tell you what i can. turn the radio on, mrs. adams, and keep itgoing." it seemed strange to him that the end of theworld meant fussing with furnace-shakers and ashes in a cold basement, hauling out stormwindows and swearing at catches that wouldn't catch. he worked outside in almost total darkness,his hands stiff with the frigid chill. as though she could no longer endure the waiting,carol came out as kenniston finished with the windows. he heard her low, startled cryand turned, alert for any danger. but she was standing still, looking at the easternsky. an enormous dull-copper shield was rising there. the moon-- but a moon many times magnified,swollen to monstrous size, its glaring craters
and plains and mountain chains frighteninglyclear to the unaided eye. kenniston had a moment of vertigo, a feeling that that unnaturalbulk was about to topple forward and crush them, and then carol had him by the arms insuch a painful grip that he forgot about the moon. "what is it, what's happening?" she cried,and for the first time her voice had a shrill edge of hysteria. mrs. adams called from the doorway to comequickly. "it's the mayor. he's going to make an important announcement." kenniston followed them inside. yes, an importantannouncement, he thought. the most important
ever. world's end should be announced by a voiceof thunder speaking from the sky. by the trumpets of the archangels. not by the scared, hesitatingvoice of mayor bertram garris. even now, politician-like, mayor garris triedto shift responsibility a little. he told what he had to tell, but he prefixed it by,"doctor hubble and his associates are of the opinion that--" and, "it would appear fromscientific evidence that--" but he told it. and the silence that followed in the livingroom of mrs. adams' comfortable house was, kenniston knew, only a part of the stunnedsilence that whelmed all middletown. later, he knew, would come the outburst. butnow they could not speak, they could only
look at him with terrified faces pleadingfor a reassurance that he could not give. chapter 5 -- in the red dawn kenniston was aroused next morning by thesharp summons of the telephone. he awoke with chill, stiff limbs on the sofa where he haddozed fitfully during the night. he had fired the coal furnace half a dozen times, but thehouse was cold and white frost was thick on the storm windows. he stood up, heavy withsleep, oppressed with a sense of evil things but still mercifully vague, and stumbled mechanicallytoward the phone. it was not until he heard hubble's voice on the wire that his mind clearedand he remembered yesterday.
hubble's message was brief. "will you getover here, ken? the keystone coal yard. i'm afraid there's going to be trouble." kennistonsaid, "right away." he hung up and stood where he was for a moment, painfully adjusting himselfto the realization of how different today was from all the other days of his life. hishands and feet were numb, and his breath steamed faintly in the room. presently he stirredhimself, going hastily to the cellar, where he dug into the dwindling dregs of last winter'scoal. carol was there when he went back up. shewore her fur coat over her night things, and her eyes were heavy and shadowed, as thoughshe had not slept much. "the phone woke me," she said. "is it...?"
she did not finish. it was ridiculous to inquirewhether the call had brought bad news. they were all existing in a horror dream in whicheverything was bad. he only told her that hubble wanted him fora while. then, a little hesitantly, he put his arms around her. "you're all right now?"he asked. "yes. ken. i'm all right." but her voice wasremote and tired, and had no life in it. kenniston did not refer to the night before,to the time after the mayor's apocalpytic announcement. of all the bad moments he hadhad that day, that one had been the worst. mrs. adams did the expected things, whichhe could cope with by means of brandy and ammonia capsules, but carol did not. she satquite still, looking at him in a way that
he had never seen before. the mayor had toldthe full truth about the industrial research laboratory. it had been necessary, to explainwhy hubbies' statements were authoritative. kenniston wished that he had told carol aboutit himself. it seemed an unimportant thing in the face of the world's end, and yet hefelt that to her it was not unimportant at all. he could not talk it out with her then,with mrs. adams' hysterics dominating everything, and she had not come out to him later, andnow, facing her again this morning, kenniston felt unsure of himself and of her for thefirst time since he had met her. "stay inside and keep the furnace going,"he said. "i'll be back as soon as i can." he kissed her, and she stood there in thecircle of his arms, neither yielding nor resisting.
he said, almost desperately, "don't give up,carol. we'll find an answer to it all, somehow." she nodded and said, "yes. be careful," andturned away. kenniston went out alone, into the bitter morning. it was still half dark, for the sullen sunhad not quite risen, sprawling in the east like some bloated monster heavy with blood.he refilled the jeep's radiator, which he had drained the night before. it was verystill, he noticed. the mill whistles, the delivery trucks, the peremptory voices oflocomotives quarrelling at the junction-- all were gone. even the children were silentnow, afraid of the red, cold dawn. the roses all were dead, and the frost had blackenedthe summer shrubs and trees. the streets seemed
empty as kenniston drove the jeep down mainstreet. middletown had taken on, overnight, the aspect of a tomb. smoke arose from everychimney, in the houses where the people crouched indoors, peering sometimes with pale facesframed in frost-rimed glass as the jeep went clattering by in the silence. from every churchhe passed came sounds of hymns and praying. the bars, too, were noisy, having apparentlydefied law to remain open all night. kenniston realized that this town was dyingas it stood. fuel would run out fast, and without it life could not survive these bitternights. a feeling of utter hopelessness swept over him. it seemed ironic that middletownshould have come safely through the most staggering cataclysm in history, only to perish miserablyof cold.
dimly, in the back of his mind, a thoughtbegan to form. it tempered his hopelessness a little, but before he could get it clear,he had made the turn into vine street, and the keystone coal yard lay before him. andat that place in this still and deathly city, there was life and noise enough. policemen and national guardsmen formed acordon around the yard and its great black heaps of coal. they faced a crowd-- an uglycrowd, still only muttering, but bound for trouble. kenniston saw people he knew in thatcrowd, people who sat on their front porches in the warm summer nights and talked withneighbors and laughed. mill hands, merchants, housewives-- solid, decent folk, but turnedwolfish now with the cold and the fear of
dying. hubble met him inside the yard. a worriedpolice sergeant was with him, and borchard, who owned the yard. "they were starting to loot the coal piles,"hubble said. "poor devils, it was summer and they didn't have much fuel. some of them burnedtheir furniture last night to keep alive." borchard said anxiously, "we don't want tohave to kill anyone. and right now, they'll believe you scientists before anyone else." hubble nodded. "you talk to them, ken. you'vegotten to know them better than i have, and they'll trust you more."
kenniston said, "the hell they will. and anyway,what'll i say to them? 'go home and freeze to death quietly, like gentlefolk, and let'snot have any nasty scenes.' they'll love that." "maybe they don't have to freeze," said hubble."maybe there's an answer to that." the half-formed thought in the back of kenniston'smind leaped forward. he looked at hubble, and he knew that the older man had had thatsame thought, but sooner and clearer. a small flicker of hope began to stir again in kenniston. "the domed city," he said. hubble nodded. "yes. it retains heat to aconsiderable degree, at night. we saw that. that's why the dome was built-- how long ago?no matter. it's our only half-warm refuge.
we have to go there, ken, all of us. and soon!we can't go through many more nights here!" "but will they go? and if they do, what'llhappen when they see that city and realize earth is a dead world?" hubble made an impatient gesture. "we'll haveto take care of that when it comes. the thing now is to give these people some hope. tellthem to wait in their homes, that soon they'll be safe. tell them anything you like, butmake them go!" kenniston scrambled up a black ridge of coal,to stand above the crowd. from outside the cordon they snarled at him when he began.but he shouted them down, calling out the names of the ones he knew, ordering them tolisten-- being masterful, while his heart
pounded with the same dread that drove themen and women in the street. "don't talk to us about law when it's theend of the world!" yelled a hard-faced woman. "it's the end of nothing unless you lose yourheads," kenniston hammered. "the mayor is arranging now to give you what you want--an answer to how you're going to live and be safe. your lives and the lives of yourfamilies depend on how you cooperate. go home to your radios and wait for the orders." "will they give us coal?" shouted a burlymill-hand. "coal, food, everything you need. nobody'sgoing to cheat anyone. we're all in the same boat. we'll stay in, or get out, together.now go home and keep your families together
and wait." he called suddenly to the men on guard, "you,too! get out of here and report back to your headquarters! the orders coming up are moreimportant than this coal!" he climbed back down from the black heap,wondering whether his feeble attempt at psychology would work. borchard started angry remonstranceabout dismissal of the guards, but hubble shut him up. "it worked," he said. "look, they're going."as the crowd dispersed, chief of police kimer arrived. his unshaven face was gray from lackof sleep, his eyes red-rimmed. he did not seem to be much excited by the trouble atthe coal yard.
"we've had a lot more than this on our hands,during the night," he said. kenniston learned then what had gone on inmiddletown since the mayor had finished speaking-- the deaths from shock, the scattering of suicides,the outbreaks of looting in the downtown streets, quickly checked. a dozen people, mostly drunks,had died of cold. "but the barricades at the edge of town werethe worst," kimer said tiredly. "you know, a good number of people from outside middletownwere trapped here by this thing. they, and some of our own people gone panicky, triedto stampede out of town." he added, as he turned back to his car, "they tell me morethan two thousand people were baptized last night."
"we'll go with you to city hall," hubble toldhim. "yes, you too, ken. i'll need your help with the mayor." it seemed impossible that the pudgy littlemayor could be a problem. he had been so docile, so pathetically eager to take advice and followorders. but when, in city hall, hubble confronted him with the plan to evacuate middletown,mayor garris' face took on a mulish look. "it's crazy," he said. "take up a whole cityof fifty thousand people and transport them to another place we don't know anything about?it's insane!" "there are enough cars, buses and trucks totransport the population and supplies. there's enough gasoline to run them."
"but this other city-- what do we know aboutit? nothing. there might be any kind of danger there. no. i was born in middletown. i'velived here all my life. i've worked hard to get where i am. i just spent five thousanddollars to redecorate my house, and i'm not going to leave it." he glared at them, and his plump body trembled.hubble said gently, "we're all afraid, mr. garris. it's a hard thing to do. people havetheir roots, and they can't break them easily all at once. but we must go. we must seekshelter, or die." the mayor shook his head. "my wife and daughter--they've been hysterical all night, pleading with me to do something, to make things goas they always have. this has been an awful
shock to them. i don't think they could standany more." "slap their faces, mr. garris," hubble saidbrutally. "this has been a shock to all of us. now what are you going to do? will youcall in the city council or won't you?" "i can't, not on that proposal." garris' facecrinkled like that of a child about to cry. "honestly, gentlemen, i can't." kenniston thought of carol shivering in herfur coat, struggling with the last shovels of coal, and the thought made him grasp garrissavagely by the shirtfront. "all right, don't," he snapped. "the peopleare waiting for an announcement from you, but i'll make one myself. i'll tell them thatthere's a way to save them, but that mayor
garris won't hear of it. i'll tell them theymust die of cold because their mayor won't give up his big fine house with its cellarfulof coal. would you like me to tell them that, mr. garris?" kenniston thought he had never seen a manturn so white. "they'd tear me to pieces," whispered garris. "no. no, don't." he lookedpiteously from one to the other, and then he said, "i'll call in the council." the men of the council reacted, at first,very much as the mayor had done. kenniston did not entirely blame them. the difficultiesof uprooting a population of fifty thousand and moving it bodily in a short space of timeto a place it had never seen nor heard of
were enough to daunt anybody. but hubble'sarguments were unanswerable. it was move or die, and they knew it, and in the end thedecision was made. a crushed, frightened little man, mayor garris went to make his announcement. on the way to the broadcasting station, kennistonlooked at middletown. the big houses, standing lordly on the north side. the little houses,in close-set rows, with their tiny gardens. it was going to be hard, very hard. the peoplewho lived in those houses would not want to leave them. in a low, tired voice, bereft now of pomposityand guile, the mayor spoke to the people of middletown.
"so we must leave middletown, temporarily,"he concluded. and he repeated the word. "temporarily. the domed city out there will be a littlecold too, but not so cold as unprotected middletown. we can live there, until-- until things clearup. stay by your radios. you will be given instructions. please cooperate, to save allour lives. please--" chapter 6 -- caravan into tomorrow kenniston lost track of his own emotions veryquickly in the rush of urgent tasks. city hall became the nerve center of the evacuation.the police and national guard officers were already there, and other men were called in--the wholesale grocers, the warehouse men,
the heads of trucking and bus and van lines.mclain, the big rawboned manager of the largest trucking company, proved a tower of strength.he had been a transport officer in the last war, and knew something about moving men andsupplies. "you'll have a traffic madhouse, and won'tget these people out for weeks," he said crisply. "it's got to be organized by wards. therehave to be quarters in your domed city assigned for each ward, so they can go into their ownstreets when they get there." hubble nodded. "i can get a crew of twentymen ready to handle that." "good. i figure the move will take three days.a third of the population is about all we can handle safely at one time. civilian populationsare the devil and all! now, there'll have
to be a squad assigned to distribute fuelto the ones who have to wait here in middletown, and to quarter them so as to conserve thatfuel. also..." hubble sighed. "you take a big load off mymind, mclain. will you organize the march? kenniston can lead the first contingent, whenyou're ready." mclain nodded brusquely, sat down at someoneelse's desk, and began to fire orders. hubble departed with his twenty picked men, wellarmed, to set up a base in the domed city. the radio chattered incessantly now, urging,soothing, cajoling, issuing instructions. police and guardsmen were dispatched to eachward, with a responsible man heading each squad. they were ordered to take the streetshouse by house, to assure complete evacuation,
and also to ascertain how many private carscould be counted on for transportation. the city buses could carry only a fraction ofthe evacuees. mclain was the one who thought of the patientsin the middletown hospitals, and set men to collecting ambulances, hearses, whatever wouldcarry the sick comfortably. the police patrol wagons and a few big army trucks from thearmory he assigned to move the prisoners in the jail who could not safely be released.both they and the sick would be left until the last day, to ensure proper quarters fortheir reception. fleets of trucks were started to the warehouses,with hasty lists of the food and other emergency supplies that must go with them. "we can runa truck line back to middletown for more supplies
later," mclain told kenniston. "but this stuffwe'll need right away." the first and second wards were to go first,and that meant that carol and her aunt would be in the first day's evacuation. kennistonmanaged to get away long enough to see them. he was sorry he went. mrs. adams sat weepingin the living room, and carol struggled alone with blankets and mattresses and suitcases,in a bitter, stonyfaced mood that kenniston could not quite understand. he stayed longerthan he should have done to help them pack, trying earnestly to penetrate carol's tight-lippedsilence. "i know it's hard to leave your home," hesaid, "but it's hard for everybody. and after all, we'll have shelter and warmth, and canstay alive."
"shelter and warmth?" said carol. she lookedaround at the starched white curtains, the polished furniture, the pictures on the wallsand the bits of fine china that were so lovingly placed, and she said bitterly, "we had those.we had them for generations, until we had to have scientific progress too." "i'll admit you have a point there," saidkenniston heavily, "but it's too late to argue now." "yes," she said. "too late." suddenly shebegan to cry, in a slow, painful way that was not in the least like mrs. adams' whimpering."oh, ken, my house and all the things i loved..." he had wit enough to know that it was notfor glass and china that she wept, but for
a way of life that was gone and could neverpossibly return. he felt a terrible pity for her, which almost smothered his irritationat the inability of the female mind to grapple with the essentials of a situation. "it won't be so bad," he said reassuringly."and i'll be leading tomorrow's first evacuation, and won't be far from you at any time." it was before nine o'clock the next morningwhen kenniston left city hall with mclain, to check the progress of preparations. underthe cold red eye of the sun, middletown seethed with an excited activity that centered inthe first and second wards. cars were being hastily loaded, piled highon roofs and fenders. children were being
called together, barking dogs being caughtand leashed, families gathering in excited haste. roar of motors filled the wintry air.motors of great trucks rumbling to and from the warehouse, motors of police cars dashingwith sirens screaming, sputtering motors of old cars being agonizedly coaxed to life. the people on the streets, the people hurryingwith bundles and children and dogs, looked more dazed than frightened. some of them werelaughing, a false merriment edged with excitement. only a few women were sobbing. mclain and kenniston rode down in the jeepto the center of town, the square. this was the down town first ward of middletown.
"the first and second ward will move out inthat order," mclain told kenniston. "you take charge of the first, since you're to leadthe way." police and national guardsmen were alreadyforming up cars on south jefferson street. cadillacs, buicks, fords, ancient hupmobiles.city and school buses were crowded with those who had no cars, and piled high with theirbelongings. policemen on motorcycles roared past. mclain boomed rapid orders. "get sidecarson those motorcycles-- they won't make it without them, over rough ground. "divide up the garage tow-trucks as they comein-- divide them evenly between the wards,
so they can haul any car that conks out!" and, to a worried national guard officer,"no! what the devil use would we have for your fieldguns? leave 'em in the armory andbring cots, blankets, camp equipment, instead!" then mclain commandeered a car, jumped in,and shouted back to kenniston, "have 'em ready to move out by noon! i'll have the tube millwhistle sounded, for a starting signal!" and he was gone, racing off to the other wardgathering point. kenniston found himself faced by police, guardsmen, deputies, officials,all clamoring for orders. "what are we going to do with these cars?half of them are so overloaded they'll never get anywhere!"
kenniston saw that. the arriving cars werepiled not only with bedding and other essentials, but with radios, musical instruments, bigframed family portraits, hobby-horses, every sort of possession. "go along and tear some of that junk off,"he ordered. "form up all the way down south jefferson-- but only two abreast, for someof those south side streets are narrow." as he sweated to marshal the gathering cars,he watched for carol's blue coupe. when she came, driving with pale self-possession whileher aunt looked scaredly at the jam, he got her as near the front of the form-up as hecould, and then raced back to the square. the squad leaders rapidly reported in on theirassigned streets. "everybody's out of adams
street! everybody's out of perry street! lincolnavenue--" but-- "we haven't got 'em all out of northstreet, mr. kenniston! some of those old people just won't go!" kenniston swore, and then jumped back intothe jeep and drove around to north street. it was the street of shabby ancient brickhouses only two blocks off main street. and the first person he saw there was a grim-looking,shawled old woman standing with folded arms on her front porch. "i'm not leaving my home," she snapped tokenniston before he could speak. "i've lived in this house all my life, and my mother beforeme. i'll not leave it now." she sniffed scornfully.
"the idea of the whole town taking up andrunning away just because it's got a little cold!" kenniston, baffled, saw a little girl of sixpeering at him from inside the window of the house. "that your granddaughter?" he asked. "listen.she'll be dead in a few days. stone, frozen dead. unless you bring her and your warm clothesand blankets along now." the shawled old woman stared at him. then,her voice suddenly dull, she asked, "where do i go?" he hastened on along the street. a pepperyold man was being carried out in a wheelchair
by two squad men, and was viciously strikingat them with his cane. "god-damned foolishness!" he was swearing.they got them into the waiting buses, and hastily loaded on their belongings. then kennistonraced back to the square. his watch said eleven-ten, and he knew how far they were from ready. on the square, under the big sycamore tree,a gaunt, tall man with burning eyes was brandishing a bible and shouting, to no one, "end of theworld-- punishment for sin--" lauber, the truck dispatcher whom mclain hadleft in charge of the first ward caravan under kenniston, came running up to him when hereached south jefferson. "these people are crazy!" he panted. "theones already here want to start right now--
and they don't even know the way!" kenniston saw that the police had drawn abarricade of big trucks across the street some blocks southward. cars were surging againstit, motors roaring, drivers shouting, horns sounding in a deafening chorus. panic! he knew it was in the air. he, allof them, had known there was danger of it when the mayor had made his broadcast. theyhad had to risk it, for only real fear could make people leave their lifelong homes. butif it got out of hand-- he rode along the line, shouting, "form up!form in line! if you jam the street, you'll be left behind!"
he couldn't even be heard. limousines, trucks,jalopies-- they crowded each other, banged fenders, bumped and recoiled and pressed forwardagain. and the horns never stopped their shrieking cacophony. kenniston, sweating now despite the frozenchill of the air, prayed that the gathering panic would not burst into violence. at thefront of the surging, roaring mass, he found mayor garris. and the mayor's pallid faceshowed that panic had infected him too. "shouldn't we go?" he shouted to kennistonover the uproar of horns and motors. "everyone seems ready here!" "mclain's running the traffic movement, andwe've got to stick to his orders!" he shouted
back. "but if these people break loose--" the mayorbegan. he stopped. over the shrieking horns and thundering motors, a new sound was rising.a distant, banshee wail, a faraway scream that swelled into a hoarse, giant howl. theauto horns, the shouting voices from the cars, fell silent. only the sound of motors wasbackground to that unending scream that wailed across middletown like a requiem. "that's the tube mill whistle!" cried lauber."that's the signal!" kenniston sent the jeep jumping ahead. "okay,let those trucks roll! but keep people in line, back of them! no stampeding!"
the big diesels that barricaded the way beganto snort and rumble, and then started to move out, as ponderously as elephants. kenniston'sjeep swung in front. but almost at once, cars behind pressed to get around them. "run the trucks three abreast, in front!"he shouted to lauber. "it'll keep them from getting around!" down jefferson street, down over the muddybed of the vanished river, past the old houses with their doors carefully shut and locked,past the playground that looked as forlorn as though it knew the children were going,never to return. past home street, past the silent mills, pastthe beer signs of south street, where from
an upstairs window a drunken man shouted andwaved a bottle at them. past the last rows of drab frame houses, the last brave littleyards whose flowers were blackened now by frost. kenniston saw ahead of them the line of demarcation,the boundary between the past and what was now earth. they reached it, passed it-- and then the rolling, ocher-yellow plainswere all about them, barren and drab beneath the great, firelashed red eye of the sun.the cold wind whooped around them, as they started to climb the easy slope toward theridge. behind his jeep, diesels, jalopies, buses, shiny station wagons rolled with roaring,sputtering, purring motors.
kenniston looked back down the slope at them.already the other ward was moving out, and he rode at the head of a huge caravan of vehiclescrawling endlessly out of middletown-- a caravan out of the earth that was gone forever, intothis unguessable tomorrow. chapter 7 -- under the dome when they came up over the ridge, and forthe first time had view of the distant domed city that shimmered in the wan light far outon the desolate plain, kenniston could sense the shock of doubt and fear that ran throughall of this host who were seeing it for the first time. he could see it in all their peeringfaces, pale and strained in the red light
of the dying sun. even he, seeing it for only the second time,felt an inner recoiling. with his mind still filled with every sight and sound and smellof the old town they had left, the alien, solemn, deathly city of the dome seemed tohim impossible as a refuge. he choked down that feeling, he had to choke it down; itwas go on or die. "keep moving!" he shouted, sounding the jeep'shorn to command attention, gesturing authoritatively forward. "keep going!" he conquered that brief pause of recoil, gotthem moving over the ridge, skidding and sliding down the other slope, in clouds of heavy dust.
he glimpsed mayor garris staring ahead, hisplump face shocked and pallid. he wondered what carol was thinking, as she looked outat the lonely shining bubble in the sad wastes. the endless caravan, shrouded in dust, washalfway down the long slope when kenniston heard a raging of horns and looked back. anold sedan had stopped squarely in the middle of the narrow track the trucks had beatendown across a shallow gully. cars were pulling out around it, wallowing in soft earth, jammingtheir low-hung frames against the banks, getting inextricably tangled. behind them, the linewas damming up. kenniston yelled to lauber to keep the headof the caravan moving on toward the distant dome, and then sent his jeep snorting backalong the line. a knot of people had collected
now around the offending sedan. kennistonhastily shouldered his way through them. "what the hell's going on here?" he demanded."whose car is this?" a weatherbeaten, middle-aged man turned tohim, half-scared, half-apologetic. "mine-- my car. i'm john borzak." he gestured to theback seat of the old sedan. "my wife, she's having a baby in there." he added, as an afterthought,"my fifth." "oh, christ, that's all we needed!" kennistoncried. borzak looked instantly guilty. he looked so sad that kenniston began to laugh.suddenly all of them were laughing, in sheer relief from nervous tension. he set men scurrying to get a doctor and ambulanceout of the procession, and meanwhile willing
hands carefully rolled the old sedan a littleaside. the dammed-up lines of cars began to rollagain. but the pause, the waiting, the minutes spent in staring at the drear landscape, hadbeen too much for some of those in line. kenniston saw cars, only a few of them as yet, curvingout of line and scrambling on the slope to swing back toward middletown. he'd feared that, above all things. people--people of a 20th century middlewestern town-- could take only so much of the unknown. buthe had to stop them, or panic would spread like fire that nobody could stop. he bucketedthe jeep after them, got ahead of them by the advantage of his four-wheel drive, andthen blocked their way back and stood up in
the jeep and shouted at them and pointed ahead. a man who looked like an aging carpenter,with a knobby face sheet-pale now, cursed kenniston out of the depths of his fear. "we're not going out to die in this damneddesert! we're going back home!" "you'll never even get near it!" kennistonwarned. "there are special guards who won't let anyone back into middletown! get it intoyour heads that the place is a death trap, will you!" "oh, hugh, maybe we'd better go on!" whimperedthe shapeless woman beside the man. "like hell we will! i'm a free american andthis isn't any dictatorship!"
kenniston found the only argument that couldsway these people who were recoiling from the deathliness of the desert. "if you go back, if you do get into middletownand stay there, you'll soon be all alone there! you and the few like you-- all alone, hereat the end of the world, with the night and the cold!" that got to them, replacing their fear witha greater dread, the dread of aloneness in this lonely world. the knobby-faced man lookedsick and trapped, but he finally turned his car around, and the other cars followed himback into line. kenniston's squad cars had come up but theyweren't needed. he told them, "watch the line
close! don't let one start to turn again--not one." he fought the jeep back up along the line,choking on dust and exhaust fumes, hanging precariously to the wheel, deafened by thecontinuous roar of motors. at the head of the caravan he was at leastout of the dust, and could look ahead at the distant city. it was still only a shimmering,tiny bubble on the horizon, only a glittering point lost and drowned in the vast indifferenceof the ocher-colored wastes that stretched-- how far? clear around the world, over thebeds of dried-up oceans and the sites of vanished cities? was the bottom of the atlantic likethis, was new york, was paris, were the poles? he had to forget that and keep his mind onthe city ahead, on the job of getting these
thousands of people to it, for if he didn'tthe weight of the whole dying world would come down upon him like an avalanche and hewould cease to struggle. the world couldn't all be like this, there must be green valleysand people somewhere yet. but there wasn't time to think of it now, they had hit theroad that led to the portal and the dome of man's last refuge was towering, colossal,in front of them. he saw that hubble's men had closed the portal.that would be the first step, of course, to conserve what warmth there was and keep outthe frigid wind. it opened now to receive them, and an armed man waved and smiled, andthen clung on to the side of the jeep. "straight up this boulevard, and then turn.i'll show you. yeah, we got the section ready.
no, no sign of anything. i don't think evena mouse lives here anymore." a pause. "i'm sure glad you people have got here. this placeis so damned quiet it would scare you." the tall, white silent towers watched them,the long, long line of dusty cars and trucks and buses that crept along the empty boulevards.the noise of motors greatly magnified echoed and rebounded from the walls and was repeatedfaintly from the dome, and the very shocking loudness of the sound made kenniston shiver. apart from that mechanical racket, a curioushush had come over the middletowners. all down the lines heads were thrust forth outof car windows, looking, peering, savoring the height of buildings whose tops they couldnot see, staring at the lines and colors that
were alien to all they knew, listening tothe emptiness. kenniston knew how they felt. it was too big, and too strange. even a nativenew yorker would have found awe among these mighty towers, and to the folk of middletown,used to the little slate-roofed houses and the squat buildings of dingy brick, they wereoverpowering, crushing, with something in them of dread because they were all deserted. the head of the caravan reached a sectionthat was barred off with ropes. the ropes were laid aside, and the cars went in. hubble's advance squad was ready. withoutthem the assignment of nearly seventeen thousand people to improvised quarters would have beenimpossible. with them, it was a scrambling
chaos, carried out strangely without muchnoise. men and women moved with a sort of stunned docility, glancing sidelong into thedust and the shadows, peering at the blank windows and the tall strange rooms, afraidto raise their voices. gradually the sound of motors died, and the streets were ghastlyin their silence, and it was a silence so great that the scuffling of many feet andthe murmur of many voices and the labor of unpacking trucks and cars did not disturbit, but were merely lost. even the dogs were cowed. kenniston made his report to hubble and thenwent in search of carol. here and there people still sat in their cars, refusing to movefrom their one last familiar reality, and
he passed a woman who crouched in the dustof the street and wept, with her arms full of blankets. something of the same feelingof despair infected kenniston. it was not going to work, it was not going to work atall, and he dreaded to talk to carol. but he plodded on until he found her. there was a great vaulted room on the streetlevel, smelling dismally of the dust and desertion of ages. very tall windows let in what lightthey could, but still it was dusky. there were twenty women in the room, of all sortsand ages, milling about with suitcases and loads of bedding, uttering vague wails andwords of complaint, struggling with rolled-up-mattresses. carol and her aunt were two of the twenty.
characteristically, they had managed to getoff in a corner as much by themselves as possible. mrs. adams had collapsed onto her improvisedbed, and carol was making what order she could of their scanty belongings. "are you all right?" he asked her anxiously,and she nodded. from the nested blankets on the floor mrs. adams whimpered, "why did theybring us here, to this dreadful place? why couldn't they have let us stay at home?" carolhushed her as she would a fretful child. two sniffling, mouse-faced girls had creptup to ask kenniston questions. behind them a short, thick, middle-aged woman was stampingup and down along the walls, banging open the doors that pierced them. "where's thebathrooms?" she was demanding belligerently.
kenniston took carol to the doorway and alittle beyond it, where if there was no more privacy they were at least not beseiged. hesaid, "i know it's rough as hell now, but it's only for a little while-- this bunkingtogether, i mean. there's room enough for everybody here, and you can pick out a placeyou like, all to yourselves. i can fetch anything you want from your house, your books and things,even furniture..." she cut him short. "no! i don't want anythingtouched there. i want to know it's all just as i left it, so i can at least think aboutit, and maybe..." she shook her head, and then went on, "ken, old mr. peters from ourstreet had another stroke when we got here. they took him away on a stretcher. he wasdying, and i saw his face. he was looking
up at these awful buildings, so puzzled andafraid. he was trying to understand, and he couldn't." she shivered. "dying isn't good anywhere you do it," hesaid. "but we're young and strong and we aren't going to die." he added, before he left her,"there was a baby born on the march. think of the baby, carol, instead of the old man." he went away, depressed and worried. carolseemed different, and he didn't think it was just her tiredness. perhaps she had rootstoo deep, not just in middletown but in the pattern, the state of mind. well, the patternwas smashed forever now, and she, and all of them, had to adjust.
kenniston had gone two of the long squares,sunk in his disturbed thoughts, before he realized that a change had come into the streets.he tried to think what it was. people were more in the buildings now, and less in thecars, but that was not all of it. there was something... the streets had suddenly come alive. the children had done it. overawed at firstby the strangeness and the silence and the behavior of their elders, it had slowly dawnedupon them that here was a whole great city lying ready to their hands-- fabulous emptybuildings full of mysteries and treasures, new streets, new narrow ways behind them,all virgin territory to be explored. by twos
and threes the venturesome spirits had startedout and taken others with them. and now the lofty hallways rang with shouts and runningfeet, small figures scudded to and fro across the pavement, the shadows teemed with motion,with screams and squeals and the voices of parental anger. one bull-lunged urchin haddiscovered that he could make echoes. another, intoxicated by blank expanses of white, unsulliedwall, stood with a stub of pencil in his hand writing in ever-enlarging letters. kennistonthought, the irreverent little bastards! but his step quickened, and quite suddenly, hefelt that it was going to work out after all. the human race was tough. he had further evidence of that in the nexttwo days. the great waves of the migration
poured down across the dusty ridge and inthrough the portal, the clamorous thousands of wheels and motors, the countless facesand peering eyes. and for those who came on the second day and on the third, it was notso bad as it had been for those who came first. the seventeen thousand pioneers had liftedthe curse of the empty stillness. community kitchens, working on oil and gasoline ranges,filled the air with the homely, cheering smell of coffee. there was hot food, and the excitementof searching out friends and comparing notes. indefatigable housewives busied themselveswith brooms and drove their husbands to cleaning windows and whacked their unruly children.and the cars piled up in lines along the streets and boulevards, the plymouths and nashes andchevrolets and fords, incongruous in this
dreamlike city of an elder earth. on the third day they brought the sick andput them in the hospital. they brought the prisoners from the jail and locked them awayin another building. a great structure on the central plaza became the city hall. andby that third night, not a soul was left in middletown. all were here under the greatdome of the alien city. "we'll call this place new middletown," mayorgarris had proclaimed. "makes it seem more like home." kenniston walked with carol that night downone of the dark main avenues of the domed city. there was candlelight and lamplightfrom doorways and tall windows. a baby wailed
from inside a dark doorway and was hastilysoothed. dogs barked defiance to alien ghosts. a tinny phonograph sang somewhere: "i can't give you anything but love, baby!" kenniston thought that the streets of tallwhite buildings looked down with their windows as with eyes-- amazed, bewildered. this citybeneath the shimmering starlit dome had had silence for a long, long time. silence, andthe slow swing of the cold red sun and the farther stars. could a city remember, kenniston wondered?did this one remember the old days of its builders, the lovers who had walked its waysand the children who had known its nooks and
corners? was it glad that men had come again,or did it regret the agelong silence and peace? carol shivered a little and buttoned her topcoat."it's getting colder." kenniston nodded. "but not bitterly so-- onlylike an october night, back in our own time. we can stand that." she looked up at him, her eyes dark in thewhite blur of her face. "but how will we live here, ken? i mean, when the food from middletown'swarehouses runs out?" he and hubble had known the question wouldcome up, and had the answer for it. not a perfect answer, but the only one. "there are big hydroponic tanks farther overin the city, carol. the people here raised
their food in them. we can do the same. thereare plenty of seeds in middletown." "but water?" "lots of it," he answered promptly. "big undergroundreservoirs, that must tap deep water-bearing strata. hubble had it tested, and it's perfectlysafe." they walked on to the edge of the plaza. nowthe moon was rising, that copper-colored, unreally big moon that was so much nearerearth than in the old times. its coppery light poured through the dome upon the city. thewhite towers dreamed. the chill deepened. the whole mighty past of dead earth seemedto crush down upon kenniston. millions of years, trillions of lives full of pain andhope and struggle, and all for what? for this?
carol felt it too, for she pressed closerto him. "are they all dead, ken? all the human race, but ourselves?" he and hubble had the answer for that, too,the answer they would have to give to everyone. "there's no reason to assume that. there maybe other cities that are still inhabited. if so, we'll soon contact them." she shook her head. "words, ken. you don'teven believe them yourself." she drew away from him. "we're alone," she said. "everythingwe had is gone, our world, our whole life, and we're quite alone." he put his arms around her. he would havesaid something to comfort her, but she stood
stiff and quivering, and suddenly she said, "ken, there are times when i can't help hatingyou." utterly shocked, and too bewildered to beangry yet, he let her go. he said, "carol, you're wrought up-- hysterical--" her voice was low and harsh, the words camefast as though they could no longer be held back. "am i? maybe. but i can't help rememberingthat if you and men like you hadn't come to middletown with that secret laboratory, fiftythousand people wouldn't have had to suffer for it. you brought this on us..." he began to understand now all that had beenbehind carol's taut manner and unfriendly
silences, all the blind resentment that hadfocused upon himself. he was for the moment furiously indignant,the more so because what she had said stung him on a sensitive nerve. he stood, almostglaring at her, and then his anger washed away, and he took her by the shoulders andsaid, "carol, you're not making sense, and you knowit! you're bitter because you've lost your home, your way of life, your world, and you'remaking me a scapegoat for that. you can't! we need each other more than ever, and we'renot going to lose each other." she stared at him rigidly, then started tosob, and clung to him crying. "oh, ken, don't let me be a fool! i'm so mixedup, i don't know my own mind any more."
"all of us feel like that," he said. "butit'll all come right. forget about it, carol." but as he held her and soothed her and lookedup past her at the alien towers and the face of the alien moon, he knew that she couldnot completely forget, that that deep resentment would not die easily, and that he would haveto fight it. and it would be hard to fight, for there had been the sting of truth in herwords, only a partial truth but one he had not wanted ever to face. chapter 8 -- middletown calling! when kenniston awoke, he lay for some timein his blankets looking around the great room,
with the same feeling of unreality that hefelt now each morning. it was quite a large room, with graceful curvingwalls and ceiling of soft-textured, ivory plastic. but it was not as large as it looked,for the builders of the city had known how to use daringly jutting mezzanines to givetwo floor levels the spaciousness and loftiness of one. he looked up at the tall, dusty windows, andwondered what this room had once been. it was part of a big structure on the plaza,for mayor garris had insisted that the whole lab staff be quartered near city hall. ithad obviously been a public building, but except for a few massive tables it had beenquite empty, and there was no clue to its
function. he looked around at the others on the rowof mattresses. hubble was still sleeping calmly. so was beitz, with the slight, groaning stirringsof slumbering age. but crisci lay wide awake and unmoving, looking up at the ceiling. kenniston remembered something, with a suddenpang, something that he had completely forgotten in the rush of events. he went over to crisci,and whispered, "i'm sorry, louis. i never thought until now about your girl." "why would you think about that?" crisci'slow voice was toneless. "why would you, when all this has happened?" he went on, as tonelessly,"besides, it was all over a long time ago.
for millions of years now, she's been dead." kenniston lingered a moment, seeking somethingto say, remembering now crisci's eager talk of the girl he was soon to marry-- the girlwho lived fifty miles away from middletown. he could find nothing to say. crisci's tragedyhad been repeated many times among these people-- the mother whose son had gone to california,the wife whose husband had been upstate on a business trip, the lovers, the families,the friends, divided forever by the great gulf of time. he felt again a great thankfulnessthat carol had come through with him, and a renewed determination to hold her againstanything. kenniston was lighting his morning cigarette,when the others rose. he paused suddenly,
and said, "i just thought--" hubble grinned at him. "yes, i know. you justthought about tobacco. you, and a lot of people, will soon have to do without." as they went out to get their breakfast atthe nearest community kitchen, hubble told him what was going forward. "mclain's going back to middletown to bringgasoline engines and pumps. we have to get water flowing in the city's system at once,and it may be a long time before we can figure out its pumping power. they seem to be atomicengines of some sort, but i'm not sure." "what about food rationing?"
"food and medicine will all go into guardedwarerooms. ration tickets will be printed at once. use of cars is forbidden, of course.everybody is restricted to their own ward district temporarily, to prevent accidentsin exploration. we've already organized crews to explore the city." kenniston nodded. he drew the last drags ofa cigarette suddenly precious, before he spoke. "that's all good. but the main problem willbe morale, hubble." he thought of carol, as he added, "i don't believe these people cantake it, if they find out they're the last humans left." hubble looked worried. "i know.but there must be people left somewhere. this city wasn't abandoned because of sudden disaster.they may just have gone to other, better cities."
"there wasn't a whisper on the radio fromoutside middletown," kenniston reminded. "no. but i believe they used something differentfrom our radio system. that's what i want you for this morning, ken. beitz last nightfound a communication system in a building near here. it has big apparatus that he thinkswas for televisor communication. that's more in your field than ours." kenniston felt a sharp interest, the interestof the technician that not even world's end could completely kill. "i'd like to see that." as they walked through the cold red morning,kenniston was surprised by the unexpectedly everyday appearance of this alien city beneaththe dome.
families were trooping toward the communitykitchens, with the air of going on picnic. a little band of children whooped down thenearest street, a small, woolly dog racing beside them with frantic barking. a bald,red-faced man in undershirt and trousers smoked his pipe and looked down the mighty streetwith mild curiosity. two plump women, one of whom was buttoning a reluctant small boyinto his jacket, called to each other from neighboring doorways. "-- and they say that mrs. biler's feelingbetter now, but her husband's still poorly--" "human beings," said hubble, "are adaptable.thank god for that." "but if they're the last? they won't be ableto adapt to that."
hubble shook his head. "no. i'm afraid not." after breakfast, beitz led them to a big squarebuilding two blocks off the plaza. inside was a large, shadowy hall, in which bulkeda row of tall, square blocks of apparatus. they were, obviously, televisor instruments.each had a square screen, a microphone grating, and beneath that a panel of control switches,pointer dials, and other less identifiable instruments. kenniston found and opened a service panelin the back of one. brief examination of the tangled apparatus inside discouraged him badly. "they were televisor communication instruments,yes. but the principles on which they worked
are baffling. they didn't even use vacuumtubes-- they'd apparently got beyond the vacuum tube." "could you start one of them transmittingagain?" kenniston shook his head. "the video systemis absolutely beyond me. no resemblance at all to our primitive television apparatus." hubble asked, "would it be possible then touse just the audio system-- use one of them as a straight sound-radio transmitter?" kenniston hesitated. "that might be done.it'd be mostly groping in the dark. but there are some familiar bits of design--" he pondered,then said, "the power leads come from outside.
see anything around here that looks like apower station?" old beitz nodded. "only a block away. big,shielded atomic turbines of some kind, coupled to generators." "we might spend years trying to learn howto operate their atomic machinery," kenniston said. "we could couple gasoline engines to thosegenerators," hubble suggested. "it'd furnish power enough to try one of these transmitters." kenniston looked at him. "to call to the otherpeople still left on earth?" "yes. if there are any of them, they'd nothear our kind of radio calls. but this is
their own communication setup. they'd hearit." kenniston said finally, "all right give mepower, and i'll try." in the next few days, kenniston was so immersedin the overmastering fascination of the technical problem set him, that he saw little of howmiddletown's people were adapting to new middletown. he could hear the trucks rumbling constantlyunder the dome, as mclain indefatigably pushed the work of bringing supplies from the desertedtown beyond the ridge. they brought the gasoline engines needed,not only to pump water from the great reservoirs but also to turn one of the generators inthe power station. once he had power, kenniston began to experiment. realizing the futilityof trying to fathom the principles of the
strange super-radio transmitters, he triedmerely to deduce the ordinary method of operating them. the trucks brought other things-- more food,clothing, furniture, hospital equipment, books. mclain began to talk of organizing a motorexpedition to explore the surrounding country. and meanwhile, the crews already organizedto explore new middletown itself were searching every block and building. already, they hadmade two surprising discoveries. hubble took kenniston away from his work tosee one of these. he led down through a chain of corridors and catacombs underneath thecity. "you know that it's a few degrees warmer herein new middletown than the sun's retained
heat can account for," hubble said. "we foundbig conduits that seem to bring that slightly wanner air up into the city, so i had themen trace the conduits down to their source." kenniston felt sudden excitement. "the source?a big artificial heating plant?" "no, not that," hubble said. "but here weare now. have a look for yourself." they had suddenly emerged onto a railed galleryin a vast underground chamber. the narrow gallery was the brink of an abysmal pit--a great, circular shaft that dropped into unplumbed blackness. kenniston stared puzzledly.he saw that big conduits led upward out of the pit, and then diverged in all directions."the slightly warmer air comes up from this shaft," hubble said, nodding toward the pit.he added, "i know it sounds impossible, to
our engineering experience. but i believethis shaft goes downward many, many miles. i believe it goes down into earth's core." "but earth's core is incredibly hot!" kennistonobjected. "it was hot, millions of years ago," hubble corrected. "and as it grew cooler,as the surface grew cold, they built this domed city and maybe others like it-- andsank a great shaft downward to bring up heat from the core. but earth's core is even coolernow, almost cold. and now there is only a trifle of heat from it to warm the city alittle." "so that's why they couldn't live here anymore-- it was the earth heat they depended on, and that ran out," said kenniston, a littlehopelessly.
the second discovery was made by jennings,a young auto salesman who headed one of the exploration crews. he brought news of it tothe scientists, and kenniston went with beitz and crisci to see it. it was simply a big, semicircular meetinghall in one of the larger buildings, with tiers of several hundred seats. "a council room, or lecture hall, maybe,"said beitz. "but what's unusual about it?" "look at those seats in the second tier,"said jennings. they saw then what he meant. the seats in that tier were not ordinary metalchairs like the others. they were different-- different from the chairs, and different fromeach other. some of them hardly looked like
seats at all. one row of them were very wideand flat and low, with broad backs that flared in a little inward. another row were verynarrow seats, that had no backs at all. still others looked a little like curved loungingchairs, but the curve was an impossibly deep one. "if they're seats," said jennings, "they weren'tintended for ordinary human people to sit in." kenniston and the others looked at each other,startled. he had a sudden grotesque vision of this hall crowded with an audience, anaudience partly human, and partly-- what? had humanity, in the last ages, shared theearth with other races that were not human?
"we are all jumping to conclusions." beitz'voice broke the spell. "they may not be seats at all." but he added to jennings as theyleft, "better not tell the people about this. it might upset them." what the other exploration crews had foundwas summarized in a short speech by hubble at the big town meeting of middletown's peopleheld in the plaza on sunday afternoon. there had been church services that morning--services without bells or organs or stained glass, but held in lofty, shadowy rooms ofcathedral solemnity. the first town meeting of new middletown followed. loudspeakers hadbeen set up so that all in the big plaza might hear, and mayor garris, an older-looking,humbled mayor garris, spoke to them. he was
stumblingly encouraging. the ration system was working well, he toldthem. there was no danger of starvation, for hydroponic farming would soon be started.they could live in new middletown indefinitely, if necessary. "doctor hubble," he added, "will tell youof what has been found in new middletown by the exploring crews." hubble was concise. he emphasized first thatthe original inhabitants of new middletown had apparently left it deliberately. "they took their personal belongings, theirbooks, their clothing, their smaller apparatus,
instruments, and furnishings. what they leftwere things too massive for easy transportation. that includes certain machinery which we thinkwas atomically powered, but which must be studied with great care before attempts atoperation can be made. we feel sure that in time, study will make it possible to use allsuch equipment." mayor garris rose to add eagerly, "and atleast one piece of equipment is now ready to use! mr. kenniston has got one of the radiotransmitters here going, and will now start calling to contact the other people of theearth." a great cheering rose instantly from the gatheredmiddletowners. kenniston, after the gathering broke up, found himself besieged by excitedquestioners. yes, they would start calling,
right away. he was worried when he got a moment alonewith hubble. "garris shouldn't have announced that! these people are dead sure now thatwe'll soon be talking to other, peopled cities!" hubble looked worried too. "they're so surethere are other people-- that it's only a matter of contacting them." kenniston looked at him. "do you believe thereare any others? i'm beginning to doubt it, hubble. if they couldn't live in this city,they couldn't anywhere." "perhaps," hubble admitted uneasily. "butwe can't be sure of anything. we have to try, and keep trying."
kenniston started the transmitter that night,using it for only ten minutes each hour, to conserve gasoline as much as possible. "middletowncalling!" he spoke into the microphone, "middletown calling!" no use of adding more-- they could not yetoperate a receiver to hear an answer. they could only call to make known their presence,and wait and hope that any others left on dying earth would hear and come. crowds watched from outside the door, as hecalled. they were there through the night, when beitz took over, and there again thenext day, and the next. they were quite silent, but the hope in their faces made kennistonsick. he felt, as another day and another
passed, the mockery of the words he kept repeating. "middletown calling!" calling to what? to an earth dying, devoidof human life, to a cold and arid sphere that had done with humanity long ago? yet he hadto keep sending it out, the cry of man lost in the ages and seeking his kind, the crythat he felt there were no ears on earth to hear. "middletown calling-- calling--" chapter 9 -- out of the silence
no answer. weeks had gone by, while kennistonand beitz called and called, and out of the silence of the dying earth had come no reply.every hour they had spoken the words that had become meaningless. and between calls,they had fumbled with the strange receivers that they did not know how to tune. and nothingat all had happened. kenniston came to dread the times when hemust leave the building and walk through the little crowd of hopeful middletowners whowere always gathered outside. "no, not yet," he had to say, always tryingto look confident. "but maybe soon--" "and maybe never," carol said to him hopelessly,when they were alone. "if anybody had heard, they could have got here from any part ofearth, in these weeks you've been calling."
"perhaps they don't have airplanes," he remindedher. "if they had complicated radio receivers tohear our call, they'd have planes too, wouldn't they?" her logic was unanswerable. for a moment kennistonwas silent. then, "please don't say that to anyone else, carol. all these people-- it'swhat keeps them going, i think, their hope of finding other people. they wouldn't feelso lost, then." he sighed. "we'll keep calling. it's all we can do. and maybe mclain and crisciwill find someone out there. they should be back soon." mclain had succeeded in organizing his motorexpedition to explore the surrounding country.
it had taken weeks of preparation, of marshallingtank-trucks from middletown to use as gasoline caches at carefully selected points, of layingout tentative routes to follow. two weeks before, the little caravan of jeeps and half-tracshad started out, and its return was due. and as it searched the dusty wastes out there,as kenniston and beitz again and again voiced the unanswered call, work and life and deathhad marched forward in new middletown. hubble had helped lay out the schedule ofnecessary work. the hydroponic tanks had to be got ready. the whole city had to be cleanedof drifted dust. the supplies brought from old middletown had to be inventoried. a board of elected officials had assignedmen to their work. every man had his job,
his schedule of hours, his pay in ration tickets.the schools had been set up again. courts and law functioned once more, thought allexcept serious offenders were liberated on probation. babies were born in new middletown each day.and the death toll was heavy at first, most of its victims among the old who could notstand the shock of uprooting. a space of land outside the dome had been carefully fencedin as a cemetery. but underneath all the bustle of new activities,it was a waiting city. a city, waiting with terrible eagerness for an answer to that callthat went hourly out into the silence. kenniston felt his helplessness. he couldnot even understand completely the transmitters
he used. he had, in these weeks, completelydisassembled one of them without being able to puzzle out its circuits. he was sure thatit employed radio frequencies far outside the electro-magnetic spectrum of twentieth-centuryscience. but parts of the design were baffling. the words stamped on the apparatus meant nothing--they were in the same completely unknown language as all the city's inscriptions. he could onlykeep sending out the same questioning, hopeful message into the unknown. "middletown calling!" finally, mclain's exploring expedition returned.carol came running to kenniston with the news. he went with her to the portal, where thousandsof middletowners were already anxiously gathering. "they've had a hard time," said kenniston,as the jeeps and half-tracs rolled through
the portal and came to a halt. mclain, crisciand the others were unshaven, dust-smeared, exhausted-looking. some of them sagged intheir seats. mclain's voice boomed to the eager questioners."tell you all about it later! right now, we're pretty beat up." crisci's tired voice cut in. "why not tellthem now? they'll have to know." he faced the wondering crowd and said, "we found something,yes. we found a city, two hundred miles west of here. a domed city, just like new middletown." bertram garris asked the question that wasin everyone's mind. "well? were there people in that other city?"
crisci answered softly, "no. there was nobodythere. not a soul. it was dead, and it had been dead a long time." mclain added, "it's true. we saw no sign oflife anywhere, except a few little animals on the plains." carol turned a pale face toward kenniston."then there's no one else? then we are the last?" a sick silence had fallen on the crowd. theylooked at each other numbly. and then bertram garris displayed unsuspected capacities ofleadership. he got up on one of the half-tracs and spoke cheerfully.
"now, folks, no use to let this news get youdown! mclain's party only covered a few hundred miles, and earth is a mighty big place. rememberthat mr. kenniston's radio calls are going out, every hour." he rattled on with loudheartiness. "we've all been working hard, and we need some recreation. so tonight we'regoing to have a big get-together in the plaza-- a town party. tell everybody to come!" the crowd of middletowners brightened a little.but as they went away, kenniston saw that most of them still looked back soberly. hetold garris, "that was a good idea, to take their minds off things." the mayor looked pleased. "sure. they're justtoo impatient. they don't realize it may take
the other people a good while to answer thosecalls of yours." kenniston realized that garris' confidencehad not been assumed. despite the shattering new revelation, the mayor still had faiththat there were other people. but hubble was somber when he heard the news."another dead city? then there's no further doubt in my mind. earth must be lifeless." "shall i keep sending out the radio call?"hubble hesitated. "yes, ken-- for a while. we don't want to spoil their party tonight." the town party in the plaza that night hadthe unusual luxury of electric lights, powered by a portable generator. there was a swingband on a platform, and a big space had been
roped off for dancing. kenniston threadedthrough the crowd with carol, for beitz had offered to stand his trick. everyone knewhim now and greeted him, but he noticed a significant difference in the greetings. theydid not ask him now whether his calls had had an answer. "they're giving up hope," he said to carol."they're afraid there are no other people, and they don't want to think about it." yet the party went well, until mayor garrisblundered. he had been cheerily backslapping his way through the crowd all evening, admiringbabies, exchanging familiar greetings, obviously enjoying this relapse into the arts of politicianship.flushed and happy, he got up on the band platform
and called through the loudspeaker to thecrowd. "come on, folks, how about a little communitysinging? i'll lead you with my famous tenor. how about 'let me call you sweetheart'?" they laughed, and sang, as the band struckup the tune and the pudgy mayor cheerfully waved his hand like a conductor. the old songsnot heard on earth for millions of years echoed off the tall white buildings and the greatshimmering dome overhead. but as they sang, as they sang "banks of thewabash" and "old kentucky home," voices and faces lost their brightness. kenniston sawthe haunting yearning that came into the gathered thousands of faces, and the mistiness in carol'seyes.
the swell of voices dropped a little. thesingers seemed to hesitate. and then with an hysterical cry, a woman in the crowd sanksobbing to the ground. the singing and the music stopped, and therewas nothing but the racking sobs of the woman, whom a man vainly tried to comfort. kennistonheard her crying out, "it's all gone forever-- our whole world and all its people! there'sonly us, alone on a dead world!" "let's not get downhearted, folks!" pleadedthe mayor, but it was too late for that. the spell was broken. the people of middletownwere at last confronted with their awful aloneness. the party was over. the crowd silently dispersed,not speaking to each other, each man going back to his own home, his own thoughts. kennistontried to find words of comfort for carol when
he left her, but he could not. there was nocomfort for anyone, not now. they all had to face it, the certainty that they were thelast on earth. he walked slowly back through the silent,empty streets, to relieve beitz. the moon had risen now, and through the great domeit poured coppery light upon the deserted plaza. then, suddenly, he stopped and turnedas he heard a voice and running feet pursuing "hey! hey, mr. kenniston!" he recognized bud martin, who had owned thegarage in old middletown. bud's lean young face was excited, and the words came tumblingout of him so fast as to be almost incoherent. "mr. kenniston, i thought i just saw a planegoing over the dome, high up! only it looked
more like a big submarine than a plane. buti saw it, i know i did!" kenniston thought that he might have expectedthis. in their reaction of bitter disappointment, many of the middletowners might be expectednow to "see" the other people they so longed to see. he said, "i didn't hear anything, bud." "neither did i. it went quiet and fast, highup there. i got just a glimpse of it." kenniston looked up with him. they staredfor moments, but the moonlit sky was cold and empty. he lowered his gaze. "it must havebeen a cloud shadow, bud. there's nothing there."
bud martin swore, and then said earnestly,"listen, mr. kenniston, i'm not an hysterical woman. i saw something." it gave kenniston pause. for a moment, hisheart quickened. was it possible..? he stared again, for long minutes. the sky remainedempty, and yet his throb of excitement persisted. he said abruptly, "we'll get hubble. but don'tsay anything to anyone else. stirring up false hopes now would be disastrous." hubble was with mclain and crisci in a candlelitroom, listening to their account of that other dead city they had found. he heard bud martin'seager tale, and then looked at kenniston. "i saw nothing," kenniston admitted. "butthrough the dome, anything would be hard to
see except when it was dead overhead." hubble rose. "perhaps we'd better have a lookfrom outside. get your coats on." heavily wrapped, the five of them went alongthe silent streets to the portal, and through it into the outer night. they walked a hundredyards out from the portal, along the sand-drifted highway, and then stopped and scanned thesky. the cold was intense. the big moon shone with a hard, coppery brilliance that washedthe looming dome of new middletown with light. kenniston's gaze swept the blazing chainsof stars. the old groups were much changed by the ages but a few he could still vaguelyrecognize-- the time-distorted great bear warding the north, the warped and alteredstar-pattern of the lyre. and individual stars
still burned in unmistakable splendor-- theblue-white, flaring beacon of vega, the somber, smoky red magnificence of antares, the throbbinggold of altair. "people are going to be seeing plenty of things,"said mclain skeptically. "we might as well..." "listen!" said hubble sharply, holding uphis hand. kenniston heard only the whisper of the bitter wind. then, faintly, he caughta thrumming sound that rose and fell and rose again. "it's from the north," crisci said suddenly."and it's coming back around toward us." all five of them were suddenly rigid, heldin the grip of an emotion too big for utterance, as they peered at the starry sky. the thrummingdeepened.
"that's no plane motor!" mclain exclaimed. it wasn't, kenniston knew. it was neitherthe staccato roar of combustion engines nor the scream of jets, but a deep bass hummingthat seemed to fill the sky. he was aware that his heart was pounding. crisci shouted and flung up his hand. theysaw it almost at once, an elongated black mass cutting rapidly down across the stars. bud martin yelled. "it's coming right downon us!" the thing, in a heartbeat, had become an enormousdark bulk rushing down upon them, looming like a thundercloud. they ran back towardthe portal, their feet slipping on the loose
sand. "look!" cried crisci. "look at it!" they turned, there at the portal. and kennistonsaw now that the downward rush of the black visitant upon them had been only an illusionborn of its bigness. for the thing, whatever it was, humming like a million tops, was settlingupon the plain a half-mile from new middletown. sand spumed up wildly to veil the giant bulk,then fell away and disclosed it resting on the plain. it was, kenniston saw instantly, a ship. budmartin's description had been accurate. the thing looked for all the world like a giganticsubmarine without a conning tower, that had
come down out of the sky to land upon theplain. the deep bass thrumming had stopped. the thinglay there in the moonlight, big, dark, silent. they stared rigidly. "a ship from another world?" kenniston whispered."a spaceship?" "it must be. but there were no rocketjets.it uses some other kind of power." "why don't they come out of it, now they'velanded?" "what did they come here for? who are they?" the bulky enigma out there brooded, silent,unchanged. then kenniston heard a calling of voices, a rising uproar in the city behindhim. others had seen, and called the news.
the uproar of voices and running feet increased.all the thousands in new middletown were beginning to stream in wild excitement toward the portal. mayor garris' pudgy figure ran toward them."have they really come? have the other people come?" hubble's voice crackled. "keep the peopleback! they mustn't go outside yet. something has come, we don't know what. until we doknow, we've got to be careful." into kenniston's mind suddenly flashed theremembrance of that big meeting hall that jennings had found, with its special sectionof queer seats that no ordinary human man or woman could have used. he felt a chillalong his nerves. what manner of beings were
in the looming, monstrous mass out there? garris sounded a little scared. "why-- why,i never thought that if people came, they might be enemies." he started to shout to the police and nationalguardsmen already on hand. "get those people back! and get your guns!" presently the crowd had been forced back intothe adjacent streets. and a score of armed police and guardsmen waited with hubble andkenniston and the others, just inside the portal. the mayor, his teeth chattering inthe cold, said, "shall we go out to them?" hubble shook his head. "no, we're not sureof anything. we'll wait."
they waited, shivering in the cold wind, andas they waited, kenniston's mind rioted with speculation. this great vessel from outerspace-- whence had it come to dying earth? from the farther stars? why had it come? andwhat was going on inside it now? what eyes were watching them? they waited. all new middletown waited, andwatched, as the moon swung lordly across the zenith and the stars shifted and the colddeepened. and nothing happened. the monster metal bulk out there lay lightless and withoutsound. the stars dimmed. bleak gray light crept upthe eastern sky. to kenniston, chafing half-frozen hands, the mighty vessel out on the plainseemed unreal and dreamlike.
mclain swore. "if they're not coming to seeus, we might as well go out to see them." "wait," said hubble. "but we've waited for hours, and--" "wait," said hubble again. "they're comingnow." kenniston saw. a dark opening had appeared,low in the side of the distant, looming hull. figures that were vaguely unreal in the dawnlight were emerging from that opening, and moving slowly toward new middletown. chapter 10 -- from the stars
kenniston watched them come, the four vaguefigures walking slowly through the dawn, toward new middletown. his heart pounded and hismouth was dry, and he was strangely afraid. perhaps it was the manner of their comingthat made him so-- the brooding, enigmatic bulk of that unknown ship, that long and cautioussilence. it came to him that they, too, were doubtful. the three leading figures resolved themselvesgradually into men, clad in slacks and jackets against the biting cold. the fourth memberof the party trudged along some distance behind them, a stocky form veiled in the blowingdust. mayor garris said, wonderingly, "they lookjust like us. i guess people haven't changed
much after all, in a billion years." kenniston nodded. for some reason, the coldknot in the pit of his stomach would not relax. there was something overpowering in this incrediblemeeting of two epochs. he glanced at the others. their faces werewhite and tense. there was a fooling of excitement verging almost on hysteria. the strangers were close enough now to distinguishfeatures. the stocky laggard remained indistinct, but of the three who came before, kennistonsaw now that only two were men. the third was a blue-eyed woman, tall and lithe, withhair the color of pale gold smooth-coiled about her head. kenniston was struck by her.he had seen more beautiful women, but he had
seldom seen one who carried herself with suchgrace and authority, and who looked at the world with such a direct, intelligent gaze.almost instantly he resented her, for no more reason than that she made him instantly consciousof vast horizons of knowledge and experience which were far beyond his present ken. andyet her mouth was friendly, quite a strong mouth, but ready to smile. the younger of the two men was broad and hardand healthy, with sorrel hair and one of those frank, jovial faces that is built over flint.like the woman's, his attitude was of alert, half-cautious reserve. the other man was thin and untidy and veryhuman. he had none of the cool reserve of
his companions. he was excited, and showedit, blinking eagerly at the middletowners. kenniston warmed to him at once. there was a strange silence, and the womanand two men stopped. they looked at the middletowners, and the middletowners stared at them. thenthe woman said something to her companions in a rapid, unfamiliar tongue. the youngerman nodded silently, and the thin eager man poured out a tumbling flood of words. mayor garris stepped forward hesitantly, aparadox of pompous humility. "i..." he said, and stopped. the small wordvanished away on the wind, and he could seem to find nothing to replace it. the blond womanregarded him with her bright gaze, intent
and faintly amused. the thin man stepped forward toward them.forming the words very carefully, he said, "middletown calling." and again, "middletown--calling!" kenniston was shaken by a great amazement.relief and understanding made him almost giddy for the moment, and he heard again his owntired voice speaking those two hopeless, pleading words into a silence that neither heard noranswered. but it had heard. it had answered, from somewhere. from where? another world,another star? not from anywhere on earth, surely. that great ship had never stoopedto make such a paltry journey. he heard mayor garris utter a squeaking, strangledcry. a wave of shock, audible in the indrawn
breath of every man there, swept the tight-packedgroup. kenniston's wandering thoughts came back with a start. the fourth member of the party had come upand joined the other three. and kenniston himself was appalled at what he saw. the fourth of the newcomers was not human.man-like, yes-- but not a man. he was tall, his body enormously strong andmassive, his thick arms ending in hands like heavy paws. he was clothed in his own shaggyfur, supplemented by a harness-like garment. his head was flattened, its muzzle protrudingin the fashion of a beast, his round and tufted ears alert. and his eyes... it was the eyesthat were most shocking. they met kenniston's,
large, and dark and full of a quick, penetratingintelligence. good-natured eyes, curious, smiling... the mayor had backed away. his face was quitewhite. he cried out shrilly, "why, it isn't human!" the furry one looked puzzled by this outburst.he glanced at the woman and the two men, and they all looked at garris, frowning, as thoughat a loss to understand his fright. the creature moved toward garris a step ortwo, his pawlike hands outstretched. he spoke in a slow, rumbling voice and smiled, showinga row of great teeth that glistened sharp as sabres in the light.
garris shrieked. and kenniston saw panic onthe faces of the other men, and saw the guns come up. "wait!" he yelled, and darted forward, thrustingthe mayor aside. "for god's sake, wait, you fools!" he faced them, standing so that hisbody shielded the alien one. he had, himself, a revulsion from that creature that was bothbeastlike and manlike. but the furry one had looked at him, and had smiled... "don't shoot!" he cried. "it's intelligent,it's one of them!" "stand aside, kenniston," shouted the mayor,his voice high with panic. "the brute looks dangerous!"
the guns he faced swung sharply away fromkenniston. he turned and saw that the four newcomers had suddenly stepped a little toone side. and abruptly, the scene ended. the woman raised her hand in a swift gesture.from the ship out on the plain came a flash of white light. it struck like a snake, atall the crowd of middletowners in the portal. it struck, and was gone in an instant. kenniston had been in its path, too. he felta stunning shock in every nerve of his body. there was only a split second of pain, andthen a numbed paralysis as from an electric shock. he saw garris and hubble and the othersstagger, their faces white and shaken. the guns dropped from nerveless hands.
then the furry one trudged toward kenniston.again, his dark eyes smiled. he made reassuring rumbling sounds, and his big pawlike handskneaded into kenniston's neck with expert deftness. the paralysis of kenniston's nervesbegan to fade. the sorrel-haired younger man had steppedforward and picked up one of the fallen guns. incredulity came into his eyes as he examinedit. he said something in a sharp voice to the others. they looked the gun over and over.then, puzzled and startled, they stared at kenniston and at the other middletowners whonow seemed returning to normal. "they've got a death ray or something!" chokedbertram garris. "they can kill us!" hubble said savagely, "shut up. you're makingan ass of yourself. that weapon was only a
nonlethal means of defense that you forcedthem to use." the woman called excitedly to the furry one."gorr holl!" it was, obviously, his name. and gorr holl rejoined the other three. hetoo uttered sounds of bewilderment as he looked at the gun. kenniston spoke to hubble, ignoring garrisand the dazed police. "i think they've just begun to suspect where we came from." the excitement of the four newcomers was obvious.it was the woman, kenniston noticed, who first recovered from that bewilderment. she spokequickly to the thin, blinking man, the one who had so happily repeated, "middletown calling!"from her repeated use of the name, kenniston
guessed the man was called piers eglin. andpiers eglin looked the most staggered of all the four-- and the most joyful. he came back to kenniston. he almost devouredhim with those blinking eyes. "middletown," he said. and then, after a moment, "friends." kenniston seized on that. "friends? then youspeak english?" the word "english" set piers eglin off into a new paroxysm of excitement.he began to babble to the others, but the woman cut him short. he swung back to kenniston."english-- language," he almost panted. "you-- speak-- english-- language." kenniston simplynodded. a look of awe crept into piers eglin's blinkingeyes as he asked, "who-- no!" he began again.
"where-- do you-- come from?" "from the past," kenniston answered, and feltthe full unreality of it as he said it. "from far in the past." "how far?" kenniston realized that twentieth-centurydates would mean little, after all these epochs. he thought a moment. then he said, "very farin the past. in our lifetime, atomic power was first released." "so far?" whispered piers eglin numbly. "buthow? how?" kenniston shrugged helplessly. "there was an atomic explosion over our city.we found our whole city in this age. that's
all." the thin man feverishly translated for theothers. the woman showed deep interest. but it was gorr holl, the furry one, who madethe longest comment in his rumbling voice. piers eglin swung back to kenniston, but kennistonstemmed the other's eager questions by a question of his own. "where do you come from?" the thin one pointed up at the dawnlit sky."from--" he seemed trying to remember the ancient name. then, "-- from vega." it was kenniston's turn to be staggered. "butyou're earth-men!" he pointed to gorr holl's furry figure. "and what about him?"
again, piers eglin seemed to search his memoryfor a name. then he said it. "capella. gorr holl is from capella." there was a silence, in which the four lookedat the men of middletown. kenniston's mind was a chaotic whirl, out of which one thingstood clear. the televisor-radio of this domed city had indeed been far outside his comprehension.that radio had been designed for interstellar distances. that was where the call had gone,and whence it had been answered-- from vega, from capella, from the stars! "but you speak our old language!" he criedincredulously. piers eglin stumblingly explained. "i am an--historian, specializing in the pre-atomic
earth civilization. i learned its languagefrom the old records. that is why i asked leave to accompany this party to earth." the woman interrupted. she was shivering alittle, and she spoke now in a low, rapid voice. piers eglin told them, "she is varnallan, the administrator of this-- this sector. here--" nodding to the sorrel-haired youngerman-- "is norden lund, the sub-administrator." the words were hard for him to remember, harderstill to shape. he added, "varn allan asks that we-- we talk inside the city, where itis not so cold." kenniston had guessed that the woman heldauthority in the group. he was not surprised. her vibrant forcefulness was striking.
mayor garris, who was half frozen himself,was only too happy to accede to that request. he turned toward the portal, behind whichall the thousands of new middletown were being held with difficulty. their massed faces showedas a pale blur through the glass of the dome. "make way, there!" garris ordered, in hismost important tone. he gestured at the sweating guardsmen and police who held the line. "cleara way there, now, we're coming in." he raised his voice, speaking to the people beyond."stand back, will you? everything's fine, the other people have come at last, and theywant to see our city. so let them through, let them through!" the crowd, with painful reluctance, made anarrow lane through itself, which was widened
by the efforts of the guardsmen. leading theway for the star-folk, the mayor's dignity was somewhat injured by the uneasiness thatcaused him to skip hastily ahead with nervous backward glances at gorr holl's towering figure.but he kept up his jovial front as leader of his people, shouting to them that all waswell, that there was nothing to fear, and begging them to keep back and refrain frompushing. varn allan was the first one to follow garristhrough the portal. she hesitated, just an instant, as she and the jostling eager crowdcaught sight of one another, and the crowd sent up a wild-throated roar of cheering thatshook the dome. behind her, norden lund grinned and shook his head, as a man might at thebad manners of children. then varn allan smiled
at the people and went on, and the edges ofthe crowd swayed and buckled inward and the guardsmen swore, and some irreverent soulwhistled appreciatively at the tall, lithe woman with the golden hair. they shouted questionsat her, a thousand all at once, and the half-hysterical greetings of people who have waited so longthat they have lost hope and then find it suddenly fulfilled, and kenniston hoped thatthey would not do anything violent, like carrying her and norden lund on their shoulders. he went in right beside gorr holl. the peoplehad not seen him yet, except as a vague, dark figure beyond the wall of curving glass. whenthey did, their voice dropped dead still for a moment and then took up again on a risingnote of incredulity and alarm. women who had
shoved and clawed to get in the first rownow tried to scramble back out of harm's way, and the edges of the crowd drew sharply apart.kenniston walked close to the big furry capellan, his hand resting on one mighty shoulder, toshow the crowd that they had nothing to fear. and the people stared and stared. "what the devil is it? a pet?" "look, it's got clothes on! don't tell meit's one of them!" "keep it away from me! it's showing its teeth..."kenniston shouted explanations, and under his palm the dark thick fur was hot and alien,and he was almost as much afraid of gorr holl as they were. and then, from out of the crowd,a tiny girl came toddling directly into their
path. her eyes shining with childish glee,she ran toward gorr holl's mighty, furry form. "teddy-bear!" she shrieked joyfully. "teddy-bear!"and she flung her arms around his leg. gorr holl uttered a rumbling laugh. he reacheddown his great paw to pat her head, and other children came running, breaking away fromfearful mothers, clustering eagerly around the big capellan as he trudged along. thelittle girl he hoisted to his shoulder and she rode there clinging to his ears, and afterthat it was impossible for anyone to fear him. the tension of the crowd relaxed andthey grinned at each other and laughed. "sure, it's a pet! hey, how do you like that?walking on his hind legs, just like a man! smart, ain't he? why, you'd almost think hewas trying to talk!"
piers eglin, who must have caught at leasta part of this, peered sidelong at gorr holl, but he did not offer to translate. the crowd became a fluid mass flowing alongthe boulevards, following the strangers. help and hope and companionship had come at lastto new middletown, and the relief and joy in the faces of the people were wonderfulto see. but kenniston watched the faces of the blue-eyed woman and the man norden lund,seeing their expressions change from incredulity to a startled acceptance. pier eglin was beside himself. a woman's furcoat entranced him-- quite ordinary cheap fur, but from a species of animal that kennistonrealized must have been extinct for millions
of years. cloth and leather became treasuresunimaginable in his eyes. he talked incessantly, feverishly, pointing out this wonder and thatto his companions, lapsing occasionally into his painful english to ask kenniston somequestion. and when he saw an automobile he became perfectly hysterical with excitement. the automobile was of interest to them all.varn allan and norden lund stopped to examine it, and gorr holl, gently disengaging himselffrom his burden of children, joined them, the furry one's quick eye apparently divinedwhere the motive power was hidden away, and he made signs to kenniston that he wantedto see inside. kenniston lifted the hood. immediately all four bent over to inspectthe motor, and the crowd of middletowners
laughed to see the big tame pet animal imitatingits masters. the star-folk talked, in their swift unfamiliar tongue, and norden lund pointedto the engine assembly with the same half mocking wonder that a man of kenniston's daymight have felt toward an oxcart. gorr holl spoke to piers eglin, and the little man turnedto kenniston. "so beautiful, so primitive," he whispered,and clasped his hands. "they ask you make it-- make it...." he was stumped for a word,but kenniston got his meaning. the keys were in the lock. he started the motor. gorr hollwas fascinated. there was a good bit of talking and then the last cupful of gas in the tankran out, and the motor died. the star-folk looked at each other, and nodded, and wenton.
mayor garris was now in his finest form. hehad lost his terror of gorr holl in his pride and his excitement. he showed the strangersfrom the stars the means by which new middletown had been made livable, he babbled about itgovernment, its schools and courts, the distribution of food. how much of it the strangers gotthrough pier eglin's stumbling translations, kenniston could not know. but an unreasoningresentment was growing in him. for he and all the folk of middletown sharedgarris' pride. they had had a hard time, but they had taken this alien city and with theirown hands and ingenuity they had made a functioning decent habitation out of it, and they wereproud of that. and all the while they were being proud, the strangers peered at the gasolinepumps and the improvised water system and
the precious electric lights that had costsuch labor, and were appalled at the crudity and ignorance of these things. they did notneed to say so. it was plain in their faces. presently they stopped and conferred at somelength among themselves. evidently they reached a decision, for piers eglin turned and spoke. "we have seen enough for this time," he said."later--" and here he trembled with eagerness and his eyes shone moistly, like a hound's--"later we will wish to see the old city, which you say still stands. but now varn allan sayswe will return to the ship, to report what we have found to government center." "listen!" said kenniston urgently. "we needhelp. we need power, and our fuel is running
low." hubble, who had been nearby through all thevisit of the strangers, nodded and said, "if you could start up some of the atomic generatorshere..." piers eglin turned at once to consult varnallan, who glanced at kenniston and hubble and nodded. piers eglin said, "of course.she says you should be made as comfortable as possible while you are still here. thecrew of the thanis will help. they will work under gorr holl, who is our chief atomic technician." the mayor gasped. "that furry brute a technician?" piers eglin cleared his throat. "there willbe-- others, among the crew. they will be
strange to you. but they are also friends.you had better assure your people." garris gulped, and said, "i'll attend to it." "i will act as-- yes, interpreter. and nowthere is much to be done. i will return shortly, with the crew and the necessary-- uh-- objects." the star-folk left then, going back as theyhad come, though the portal and out across the dusty plain. and as they went mayor garrisgave the news to the crowd-- power, more water, more lights, perhaps even heat. the wild,jubilant cheering startled the still heights of the towers and the dome rang with it andunderneath that cry of joy, hubble said to kenniston, "what did he mean-- while we arestill here?" kenniston shook his head. a cold
doubt was in him, almost a foreboding, andit was based on nothing that had been said or done, but simply on the realization ofthe abyss that separated the civilization of old middletown from civilization that hadgone out among the stars so far and so long ago that earth was almost forgotten. he wondered how well those two incrediblydisparate cultures were going to understand each other. he stood for a long while, wondering,watching the crowd disperse, and even the thought that soon the big generators wouldbe humming again could not dispel his worry. chapter 11 -- revelation
the crew of the thanis came into new middletownthat afternoon, and kenniston and carol, and all the rest of the city's thousands, watchedthem come. there were two score of them-- a hard-handed,alert, capable breed no different from all the sailors kenniston had ever seen, thoughtheir seas were the incalculable deeps of outer space and their faces were darkenedby the rays of alien suns. across the blowing dust of this world that had bred and lostthem they came, and with them were the others piers eglin had spoken of-- the strange childrenof other stars. kenniston had explained about these aliensto carol, who had seen no more than the tips of gorr holl's furry ears and had supposed,like the others, that he was only a peculiar
kind of pet. he didn't think that she hadreally understood him, any more than the people of new middletown had really understood themayor's similar explanation. "from vega," carol had said, and shivered,looking toward the dim sky where the stars showed even in daylight. "they can't be likeus, ken. no human being could ever go out there, and still be like us." kenniston was startled to hear his own thoughtsrepeated in her voice, but he said reassuringly. "they can't have changed too much. and theothers, the humanoids-- they may look queer, but they're our friends." it was what mayor garris had told his people."whatever these newcomers are like, they've
got to be treated right, and there's a jailcell waiting for anyone who makes trouble with them. do you all get that? no matterwhat they look like, act as though they're people!" hearing is one thing, seeing another. andnow carol's fingers closed tight on kenniston's hand and her body shrank against his, andthe crowd who had gathered to watch this second entrance of the incredible into their midst,stared and whispered and moved uneasily. one of these aliens was big and bulky, walkingstodgily on massive legs. his wrinkled gray skin hung in heavy folds. his face was broadand flat and featureless, with little, wise old eyes that glanced with shrewd understandingat the staring, silent crowd.
two were lean and dark, moving like conspiratorswrapped in black cloaks. their narrow heads were hairless, and their glance was brightand full of madcap humor. kenniston realized with a shock that the cloaks they wore werewings, folded close around their bodies. there was another, who had peculiar glidinggrace that hinted of unguessed strength and speed, and whose bearing was very cool andproud. he was handsome, with a mane of snow-white fur sweeping back from his brow, and therewas only a faint touch of cruelty in his broad cheekbones and straight, smiling mouth. these four, and gorr holl were manlike butnot men, children of far worlds walking with easy confidence on old earth.
"they're horrible," whispered carol, drawingaway. "unholy! how can you stand to be near them?" kenniston was fighting down much the samereaction. the middletowners gaped and muttered and drew back, partly from a creeping fearof the unnatural, partly from sheer racial resentment. it was hard enough to accept thefact that such non-human people existed at all. it was harder still to accept them asequals. beast was beast and man was man, and there was no middle ground... but not to middletown's children. they ignoredthe bronzed spacemen and clustered in droves around the humanoids. they had none of theirelders' preconceptions. these were creatures
out of fairy tales come alive, and the childrenloved them. piers eglin came up to kenniston. kennistonsaid. "hubble has the main generator rooms opened up. he's waiting for us there. i'lltake you." eglin sighed. "thank you," he said. he seemeddesperately unhappy. kenniston said a hasty goodbye to carol, and fell in beside the littlehistorian. "what's wrong?" he said. "my orders," said piers eglin. "i am to interpret,and to teach some of you our language." he shook his head dismally. "it will take days,and that old city of yours-- i should be in it every moment."
kenniston smiled. "i'll try to learn fast,"he said. he led the way to where hubble was waitingby the generators, and behind him he heard the eerie footfalls of the creatures who werenot human, and it was incredible to him that he was going to have to work beside theseweird beings who gave him a cold shiver every time he came near them. surely they couldnot behave like men! they went into the building, into an enormousroom filled with the towering, dusty shapes of armored mechanisms that he and hubble hadnot been able to make head nor tail of. the senior scientist joined them, looking askanceat the humanoids. kenniston said, "we supposed that these werethe main generators." he spoke to pier eglin,
since eglin must do the translating, but hewas facing gorr holl and the four others who stood beside him. "if they can really repairand start them, we..." his voice trailed off. the five pairs of alieneyes regarded him, the five alien bodies breathed and stirred, and the crest of white fur onthe proud one's skull lifted in a way so beastlike that it was impossible for kenniston to pretendany longer to accept them as human. doubt, distrust, and just a hint of fear crept intohis face. piers eglin frowned a little, and started to speak. with the suddenness of a bat darting out inthe evening, one of the lean dark brothers whipped wide his wings and made a little springat kenniston, uttering a cry that sounded
very much like "boo!" kenniston leaped backward, startled almostout of his skin. and the lean one promptly doubled up with laughter, which was echoedby the others. even the large grey creature smiled. they all looked at kenniston and laughed,and presently hubble got it and began to laugh too, and after that there was nothing forkenniston to do but join in. the joke was on him, at that. they had known perfectlywell how he felt about them, and the lean one had paid him back in his own coin, butwith humor and not malice. and somehow, after they had laughed together,the tension was gone. laughter is a human sort of thing. kenniston mumbled something,and gorr holl slapped his shoulder, nearly
putting him on his face. but when he approached the dusty generators,gorr holl changed abruptly from a shambling, good-natured creature into a highly efficienttechnician. he operated hidden catches, and had a shield panel off one of the big mechanismsbefore kenniston saw how he did it. he drew a flat pocket flash from a pouch on his harness,and used it for light as he poked his hairy bullet-shaped head inside the machine. hislow, rumbling comments came out of the bowels of the generator. finally gorr holl withdrewhis head from the machine, and spoke disgustedly. eglin translated, "he says this old installationis badly designed and in poor condition. he says he would like to get his hands on thetechnician who would do a job like this."
kenniston laughed again. the big, furry capellansounded like a blood brother to every repair technician on old earth. while gorr holl examinedthe other generators, piers eglin fastened onto hubble and kenniston, deluging them withquestions about their own remote time. they managed at last to ask a question of theirown, one that was big in their minds but that they'd had no chance to ask before. "why is earth lifeless now? what happenedto all its people?" piers eglin said, "long ago, earth's peoplewent out to other worlds. not so much to the other planets of this system-- the outer oneswere cold, and watery venus had too small a land surface-- but to the worlds of otherstars, across the galaxy."
"but surely some of them would have stayedon earth?" said kenniston. eglin shrugged. "they did, until it grew socold that even in these domed cities life was difficult. then the last of them went,to the worlds of warmer suns." kenniston said, "in our day, we hadn't evenreached the moon." he felt a little dazed by it all. "...to the worlds of other stars,across the galaxy..." gorr holl finally came back to them and rumbledlengthily. eglin translated, "he thinks they can get the generators going. but it'll taketime, and he'll need materials-- copper, magnesium, some platinum--" they listened carefully, and hubble noddedand said, "we can get all those for you in
old middletown." "the old city?" cried piers eglin eagerly."i will go with you! let us start at once!" the little historian was afire for a lookat the old town. he fidgeted until he and hubble and kenniston, in a jeep; were drivingacross the cold ocher wasteland. "i shall see, with my own eyes, a town ofthe pre-atomic age!" he exulted. it was strange to come upon old middletown,standing so silent in the midst of desolation. the houses were as he had last seen them,the doors locked, the empty porch swings rocking in the cold wind. the streets were driftedthick with dust. the trees were bare, and the last small blade of grass had died.
kenniston saw that hubble's eyes were misted,and his own heart contracted with a terrible pang of longing. he wished that he had notcome. back in that other city, absorbed in the effort to survive, one could almost forgetthat there had been a life before. he drove the jeep through those deathly streets,and memory spoke to him strongly of lost summers-- girls in bright frocks, catalpa trees heavywith blossom, the quarreling of wrens, and the lights and sounds of human voices in thedrowsy evening. piers eglin was speechless with joy, lost in a historian's dream as hewalked the streets and looked into shops and houses. "it must be preserved," eglin whispered. "itis too precious. i will have them build a
dome and seal it all-- the signs, the artifacts,the beautiful scraps of paper!" hubble said abruptly, "there's someone hereahead of us." kenniston saw the small bullet-shaped car that stood outside the old lab. out ofthe building came norden lund and varn allan. she spoke to eglin, and he translated, "theyhave been gathering data for her report to government center." kenniston saw the distaste in the woman'sclear-cut face as her blue eyes rested on the panorama of grimy mills, the toweringstacks black with forgotten smokes, the rustling rails of the sidings, the drab little houseshuddled along the narrow streets. he resented it, and said defiantly. "ask her what shethinks of our little city?"
eglin did, and varn allan answered incisively.the little historian looked uneasy when kenniston asked him to interpret. "varn allan says that it is unbelievable peoplecould live in a place so pitiful and sordid." lund laughed. kenniston flushed hot, and fora moment he detested this woman for her cool, imperious superiority. she looked at old middletownas one might look at an unclean apes' den. hubble saw his face, and laid a hand on hisarm. "come on, ken. we have work to do." he followed the older man into the lab, pierseglin trailing along. he said, "why the hell would they put a haughty blonde in authority?" hubble said, "presumably because she is competentto fill the job. don't tell me old-fashioned
masculine vanity is bothering you?" piers eglin had understood what they weresaying, for he chuckled. "that's not such an old-fashioned feeling. norden lund doesn'tmuch like being sub for a girl." when they came out of the building with thematerials gorr holl had requested, varn allan and lund were gone. they found, upon their return to new middletown,that gorr holl and his crew were already at work disassembling the generators. bellowingorders, thundering deep-chested capellan profanity, attacking each generator as though it werea personal enemy, gorr holl drove his hard-handed spacemen into performing miracles of effort.
kenniston, in the days that followed, forgotall sense of strangeness in the intense technical interest of the work. laboring as he could,eating and sleeping with these star-worlders though the long days and nights, he beganto pick up the language with amazing speed. piers eglin was eager to help him, and afterkenniston discovered that the basic structure of the tongue was that of his own english,things went more easily. he discovered one day that he was workingbeside the humanoids as naturally as though he had always done it. it no longer seemedstrange that magro, the handsome white-furred spican, was an electronics expert whose easyunerring work left kenniston staring. the brothers, ban and bal, were masters atrefitting. kenniston envied their deftness
with outworn parts, the swift ease with whichtheir wiry bodies flitted batlike among the upper levels of the towering machines, whereit was hard for men to go. and lal'lor, the old grey stodgy one of themassive body, who spoke little but saw much from wise little eyes, had an amazing mathematicalgenius. kenniston discovered it when lal'lor went with him and hubble and piers eglin tolook at the big heat shaft that seemed to go down to the bowels of earth. the historian nodded comprehendingly as helooked at the great shaft and its conduits. it descended, he said, to earth's inmost core. "it was a great work. it and others like it,in these domed cities, kept earth habitable
ages longer than would otherwise have beenthe case. but there is no more heat in earth's core to tap, now." he sighed. "the doom ofall planets, sooner or later. even after their sun has waned they can live while their interiorheat keeps them warm. but when that interior planetary heat dies the planet must be abandoned." lal'lor spoke in his throaty, husky voice."but jon arnol, as you know, claims that a dead, cold planet can be revived. and hisequations seem unassailable." and the bulk gray miran-- for that star hadbred him, kenniston had learned-- repeated a staggering series of equations that kennistoncould not even begin to follow. piers eglin, for some reason, looked oddlyuncomfortable. he seemed to avoid lal'lor's
gaze as he said hastily, "jon arnol is anenthusiast, a fanatic theorist. you know what happened when he tried a test." as soon as kenniston could make himself understoodin the new tongue, piers eglin considered that his duty was done and he departed forold middletown, to shiver and freeze and root joyfully among the archaic treasures thatabounded in every block. left alone with the star-worlders, kenniston found himself moreand more forgetting differences of time and culture and race as he worked with them toforce life back into the veins of the city. they had new middletown's water system infull operation again, and the luxury of opening one of the curious taps and seeing water gushforth in endless quantities was a wonderful
thing. many of the great atomic generatorswere functioning now, including a tremendous auxiliary heating system which made the airinside the dome several degrees warmer. and gorr holl and margo had been working hardon the last miracle of all. there came a night when the big capellan calledkenniston into one of the main generator rooms. magro and a number of the crewmen were there,smeared with dust and grease but grinning the happy grins of men who have just seenthe last of a hard job. gorr holl pointed to a window. "stand over there," he said to kenniston,"and watch." kenniston looked out, over the dark city. there was no moon, and the towerswere cloaked in shadow, the black canyons
of the streets below them pricked here andthere with the feeble glints of candles and the few electric bulbs that shone around thecity hall. gorr holl strode across the room behind him, to a huge control panel half theheight of the wall. he grunted. there was a click and a snap as the master switch wenthome, and suddenly, over that nighted city under the dome, there burst a brilliant floodof light. the shadowy towers lit to a soaring glow.the streets became rivers of white radiance, soft and clear, and above it all there wasan new night sky-- the wondrous luminescence of the dome, like a vast bowl fashioned outof moonbeams and many-colored clouds, crowning the gleaming towers with a glory of its own.it was so strange and beautiful, after the
long darkness and the shadows, that kennistonstood without moving, looking at the miracle of light, and was aware only later that therewere tears in his eyes. the sleeping city woke. the people pouredout into the shining streets, and the sound of their voices rose and became one long shoutof joy. kenniston turned to gorr holl and magro and the others. he wanted to say something,but he could not find any words. finally he laughed, and they laughed with him, and theywent out together into the streets. mayor garris met them almost at once, havingrun all the way from city hall. hubble was with him, and most of the men from the oldlab, and a crowd of middletowners. there was no making any sense out of anything that wassaid, but the people hoisted gorr holl and
magro and the crewmen to their shoulders androde them in a triumphal procession around the plaza, and the shouts and cheers weredeafening. more than water, more than heat, the people treasured this gift of light. andon that night they accepted the humanoids as brothers. a little later, a breathless and jubilantgroup gathered in city hall-- gorr holl and magro, kenniston, hubble, and the mayor. bertramgarris wrung the big capellan's mighty paw and beamed at magro, trying to express histhanks for all that they and the others had done, and gorr holl listened, grinning. "what's he saying?" he asked kenniston, whonow occupied the position of interpreter.
kenniston laughed. "he wants to know whathe can do to show his appreciation-- like giving you the city or his daughter in marriage,or a few pints of his blood. seriously, gorr, we are all mighty grateful. you people havemade the city live again, and-- well, is there anything we can do to show you we mean it?" gorr holl considered. he looked at magro,and magro nodded solemnly. gorr holl said, "well, being primitives-- we could use a drink!" hubble, who had picked up a smattering ofthe language, began to laugh. kenniston translated for the mayor, who immediately proclaimeda medical emergency and hastened to produce bottles from the hoard. it was a cheerfulcelebration, and kenniston found himself actively
missing bal and ban and the grey lal'lor,who had returned to the ship with part of the crew a day or so before. an unhappy thought occurred to him, and hesaid, "i suppose you people will be going away pretty soon, now that the work's done." margo shrugged his supple shoulders. "thatwill depend on a number of things." he glanced lazily at gorr holl. gorr holl was a little drunk by now-- notmuch, but loud and cheerful. the mayor was feeling good too, and was affectionately pattingthe capellan's great furry shoulder. "i want you to understand," garris was sayingearnestly, "that i'm sorry about that stupid
bull of mine when i first saw you. we're allsorry, seeing how much you've done for us." "listen, we haven't done much," said gorrholl, when kenniston had translated. "but the lights and all will make you more comfortablehere, while you're waiting." kenniston stared at him. "what do you mean--while we're waiting?" "why, while you're waiting to be evacuated,of course," said gorr. there was a little silence. kenniston felta queer tension seize him, and he knew suddenly that this was something he'd been unconsciouslyexpecting, something that he'd felt wasn't quite right, all along. he said carefully, "gorr, we don't understandthis. what is this talk of evacuation?"
the big capellan stared at him, with surprisein his large dark eyes and bearlike face. but, of a sudden, kenniston felt that thatsurprise was completely assumed, that in this offhand, casual way gorr holl was springingsomething on them and watching for their reaction. "didn't piers tell you?" said gorr holl. "no,i suppose he'd have instructions not to. they'd figure you people were emotional primitiveslike magro and me, and that the less time you have to think about it, the better." kenniston said tightly again, "what do youmean by evacuation?" the capellan looked at him levelly now. "isimply mean that, by order of the governors, all you people are to be evacuated from earthto some other star-world."
chapter 12 -- crisis three men of earth stared at the big capellan,and for a long, long moment no one spoke. gorr holl became absorbed in the glass heheld between his hands. magro watched them with his bright cat eyes. the beautiful streaminglight poured over them, and the men were like three images of stone. bertram garris found his tongue at last. butit was only to repeat gorr holl's words, as kenniston had translated them. "evacuation?" he said. and again,"evacuation?"
"to the world of another star," said kennistonslowly. his mouth twitched, and he leaned close to gorr holl, and cried, "what do youthink we're made of?" gorr holl looked around their faces, and thensaid ruefully, "i guess i've talked too much." his ruefulness was no more convincing thanhis earlier surprise. mayor garris had begun to tremble. a furywas building up in him, a genuine fury that had nothing to do with display. he glaredat magro and at gorr holl. "they knew this all along, that woman andthe others," he said. "they came in here, pretending to be our friends, and all thetime behind our backs..." he stopped. his wrath and fear were all but choking him, comingso swiftly after joy. his voice went up and
octave. "you tell them, kenniston, tell themfrom me-- if they think we're going to move clear off the earth to some-- some--" he stammeredover the sheer impossibility of what he was saying, "-- some damn fool place out in thesky-- well, they're crazy!" hubble said to kenniston, "ask him if thisis a thing they do, these governors? i mean, this moving of whole populations from oneworld to another?" gorr holl nodded to that. "oh, yes. wheneverlife on some planet becomes economically unsound, or the margin of survival is too small, thegovernors evacuate the people to a better world. there are lots of them, good warm fertileplanets that are uninhabited or nearly so. they did it to some of my own people, movedthem from capella five to aldebaran."
kenniston cried out of his anger, "and peoplelet that be done to them? they didn't even resist it?" gorr holl said, "people-- human people, imean-- have got millions of years of civilization behind them. they're used to peaceful government,used to obedience, and they've been moving from world to world ever since they left earthages ago, so that one planet doesn't mean much more than another to them. but the primitivehumanoid folk, lately civilized, like my own and magro's, aren't so reasonable. there'sbeen a good bit of resentment among them about this evacuation business. in fact, they hateit-- just as much as you do." "here!" said hubble sharply. "where are yougoing?" he was talking to the mayor, who was
striding suddenly toward the door. he caughtgarris by the coat and pulled him back. the mayor struggled sullenly to free himself. "i'm going to tell them," he said, jerkinghis head toward the sounds of revelry that came from the crowd of middletowners in theplaza. "move off the earth? they'll have something to say about that!" "what do you want to do?" snapped hubble."start a riot? don't be a fool, that's no way to handle this. no, it's that ice-waterblonde we've got to talk to, and that fellow lund." he shook garris. "stop it, i say! goingoff half-cocked will only make it harder for everyone."
garris stopped struggling. he looked fromhubble to kenniston and back again. "all right," he said, "we'll talk to them. but they'd betterget it through their heads that they're not dealing with any flock of tame sheep." hestamped back into the room. "ordering us off our own world..! get those two freaks outof here, kenniston. i was right the first time. they're not to be trusted, they're..." "oh, shut up," said kenniston impatiently."gorr and margo don't make the laws. they're simply being decent enough to give us fairwarning of something we wouldn't have known about until it was too late." he knew therewas more in it than that, but he was too hurried and upset to search for deeper motives now.he turned to gorr and the spican.
"listen," he said. "you've seen how the mayorreacted. well, i can assure you that all our people will react just that way, only moreso. tell that to varn allan, and tell her that she'd better come here and talk aboutthis evacuation before she gets in too deep. tell her we don't like having things donebehind our backs. tell her--" he caught himself, surprised by his own fury. "no, i guess youcouldn't tell her that," he said, and gorr holl grinned. "as one primitive to another, i get your meaning." "well, all right. and gorr-- you and magroand the others better stay out of the city. when this thing breaks, i wouldn't guaranteeanybody's safety."
"oh," said gorr holl, and grinned very widelyso that even his grinders glistened, "we'll be quite safe, confined to quarters in theship. we, or rather i, have done an evil thing. we have spoken out of turn, and upset thepolicy." the three of them, humanoids and human, lookedat each other, and there was understanding between them. kenniston put his hand on gorrholl's furry shoulder, and gripped the iron muscles of it, and magro said, "one more thing,kenniston. if there's trouble-- and i seem to smell trouble very strongly in the air--watch out for lund. varn allan may be much too sure of herself, but she's honest. lund--well, he wants varn's job, and he will cheerfully cut anyone's throat to get it."
"that is so," said gorr holl. "remember, kenniston." "i'll remember. and-- thanks." they went away, to take the message of defianceto the ship. kenniston watched them go, and the mayor watched them, and they listenedto the cheering that followed them all the way to the portal. "i'm sorry i called them freaks," the mayorsaid suddenly. "by god, they're more like us than the people in that ship!" hubble nodded. "their culture level is closerto ours. they haven't lost their old aboriginal roots. our own people have gone too far beyondus. the whole pattern of their thinking is
different. we-- well, we're strangers now,to our own kind." to kenniston, the cheering and the happinessof the middletowners out there was an ironically bitter thing, now. if they knew what was beingplanned for them... he said to hubble, nodding his head towardthe mayor, "will you stick with him and keep him from telling everyone? he'll listen toyou more than to anyone." hubble said, "i will. you get some sleep,ken. you've been working a tough grind-- and the allan woman and lund won't likely comebefore morning." and kenniston slept, but neither much norwell. in spite of his exhaustion, gorr holl's words rang like passing bells in his mindall the rest of that night-- evacuate, evacuate--
to the world of another star. and he thoughtof all the people of middletown who happily believed their troubles were over, and ofcarol-- particularly of carol-- and most of all he thought of varn allan, whom he hadbegun to hate. and he was afraid. it did not take much imagination to divinewhat the mayor's narrowness had missed-- a vast and powerful machinery of governmentdirecting this future universe, a machinery of which the big starship and its occupantswere but a symbol. it did not seem likely that a handful of people on a dying planetcould successfully defy that government for very long. hubble woke him at last out of an uneasy slumber,to tell him that varn allan and lund had come,
and that the mayor had called the city council. "we need you to interpret, ken," he said."you speak the language better than any of us, and this is too important to take anychances of misunderstanding." neither of them talked much on the way tothe soaring tower that was now city hall. and kenniston could see that hubble was asworried and oppressed as he. a crowd had gathered in the plaza, a happycrowd, come to cheer their good friends who had helped them so much. inside city hall,the council of middletown sat around a massive metal table. the mayor, borchard the coaldealer, moretti the wholesale produce merchant, half a dozen more, facing at one end of thetable the woman and the man who came from
vega and who were administrators over a vastsector of space with all its worlds and peoples. mayor garris fastened on kenniston the momenthe came in. he looked as though he had slept even less than kenniston, and his mood hadnot changed since the night before. "you ask her, kenniston," he said. "you askher if this evacuation story is true." he asked her. varn allan nodded. "quite true. i'm sorrythat gorr holl spoke so prematurely-- is seems to have upset your people." she glanced atthe ominous faces of the city council and the tense countenance of the mayor. it struckkenniston that she had been all through this situation before with other populations, andwas attacking the problem with a kind of weary
patience. "i am sure," she said, "that when they understand,they will realize that we are only serving their best interests." "best interests?" cried garris, when he hadheard that. "then why didn't you tell us at first? why plan this behind our backs?" norden lund, a smug look on his face, saidto the woman, "i told you it would have been better--" "we'll discuss that later," she flashed. kennistoncould see the effort she made to keep her imperious temper in check as she went on,speaking directly to him, "we wanted to wait
until we could present a complete plan ofevacuation, so as not to upset your people too much." "in other words," said kenniston angrily,"you were dealing with a bunch of primitive aborigines who had to be coaxed along?" "aren't you acting in just such fashion?"varn allan demanded. again, she visibly got a grip on her irritation. she said, carefullyas though explaining to a child, "a shipful of evacuation experts is on its way here,should arrive soon. they can assess the needs of your people, and find a world that willfit their physical and psychological needs. we will see that it is a world as much likeyour past earth as possible."
"that," said kenniston ironically, "is verydecent of you." the woman's blue eyes flashed open hostility at him. he turned away fromher, for garris was demanding a translation. he gave it, and in his own resentment he didnot soften it. garris forgot oratory, in his indignation.he sputtered, "if they think we are going to move away from earth to some crazy worldout in the sky, they're badly mistaken! you make that clear to them!" varn allan looked honestly bewildered, whenkenniston did. "but surely you people don't want to stay in the cold and hardship of thisdying world?" kenniston, watching the anger and the instinctive,basic fear grow still stronger in the mayor's
white face, could understand his feelings.his own reaction was the same. "not want to stay here?" said garris, forcingwords out painfully from a throat constricted with emotion. "not want to? listen, you people!we have left our own time. we have had to leave our own city, our homes. that's enough.it's all we can stand in one lifetime. leave earth, leave our own world? no!" there wasno oratory about him now, at all. he was like a man who has been asked to die. kenniston spoke to varn allan. his own voicewas not quite steady. "try to understand. we are earth-born. our whole life, all thegenerations before us, since the beginning..." he could not put it into words, this suddenpassionate oneness with earth.
the earth hath he given to the children ofmen... the earth, the soil, the winds and the rains, the growth and the dying over theages, beast and tree and man. you could not forget that. you could not let drop the heritageof a world as though it had never been. the sorrel-haired norden lund was speakingto varn allan, looking contemptuously at the middletowners as he spoke. "i warned you,varn, that these primitives are too emotional for ordinary methods." the woman, her blue eyes troubled, ignoredlund and addressed kenniston. "you must make them recognize the facts. life here is impossible,and therefore they must go." "let her tell that to the people," said themayor, in an oddly tight voice. "no. i'll
tell them myself." he rose and left the council room. there wasa curious dignity about his plump figure now. borchard and moretti and the others followed.they, too, showed a shrinking, instinctive dread of the thing that had been proposed.they went out on the steps, and kenniston and hubble and the two from the stars wentwith them. outside in the plaza were still gathered thousandsof the middletowners, millhand, housewife, banker and bookkeeper, the old men and thelittle children. they were still happy, and they cheered, sending up a great joyous shoutto echo from the towers. mayor garris took the microphone of the loudspeakersystem.
"folks, listen carefully! these new peopleare telling us now that we ought to leave earth. they say they'll give us a better world,somewhere out there among the stars. what about it? do you want to go-- away from earth?" there was a long moment of utter silence,in which kenniston saw the middletowners' faces grow bewildered, incredulous. he lookedat van allan's clearcut face and saw that the shadow of weariness on it was deeper.he realized again that two epochs, two utterly different ways of life were looking at eachother here, and finding it difficult to understand each other. when, finally, the crowd of middletownershad grasped the suggestion, their answer came
as a rising chorus of exclamations. "go off and live someplace in the sky? arethese people nuts?" "it was bad enough to leave middletown forthis place! but to leave earth?" a large-handed, stocky man whom kennistonrecognized as lauber, mclain's truckdriver, came to the steps and spoke up to the mayor. "what's all this about, anyway? we're gettingalong here all right now. why would we want to go off to the moon or somewhere?" the mayor turned to the two star-folk. "yousee? my people wouldn't listen to an idea like that for a minute!"
kenniston told the woman, "the people completelyreject the whole proposal." varn allan stared at him, in honest surprise."but it is not a 'proposal'-- it is a formal order of the board of governors! i recommendedthis evacuation, and they have approved it." kenniston said dryly, "unfortunately, ourpeople don't recoganize any authority but their own government, so the order means nothingto them." the woman looked appalled. "but nobody defiesthe governors! they are the executive body of the whole federation of stars." the federation of stars? it had a sound ofdistant thunder in it, and again kenniston realized the incomprehensible, staggeringvastness of the civilization out there which
this woman and this man represented. he said, exasperated, "can't you understandthat to these people the stars are just points of light in the sky? that your suns and worldsand governors mean nothing to them?" norden lund chose that moment to intervene.he said smoothly to varn allan, "perhaps, in an impasse of this nature, we should consultgovernment center?" she gave him a hot look. "you would like meto admit my incapacity by doing that. no. i'll carry this matter through, and when it'sdone i'll have words to say to gorr holl for precipitating things prematurely." she turned to kenniston, and said, "your peoplemust comprehend that this is not a cruel thing
we're doing. explain to them what life wouldbe like on this dead planet-- isolated, precarious, increasingly difficult, with nothing to lookforward to but an ultimate dying out of attrition and sheer hopelessness. perhaps they'll realizethen that what they're asking me to do is to abandon them to a very ugly fate." "perhaps," said kenniston, "but i wouldn'tcount on it. you don't know us yet. as a people, we're neither soft nor easily frightened." he spoke with hostility, because of the truththat he had recognized in varn allan's words, and did not want to recognize. she gave him a level glance, as though shewere taking his measure and through him the
measure of all middletown. then she said quietly,"bear in mind that a formal decree passed by the board of governors is a law which mustbe respected and complied with. the evacuation has been ordered, and will be carried out." she nodded to lund, who shrugged and fellin beside her. they went down the steps and across the plaza, and the muttering crowd,alarmed and confused but not yet hostile, moved apart to let them through. kenniston turned to hubble. "what are we goingto do?" he said, and the older man shook his head. "i don't know. but i know one thing we mustnot do, and that is to let any violence occur.
that would be fatal. we've got to calm peopledown before that evacuation staff arrives and brings things to a head." kenniston did his best, during the rest ofthat day. he repeated varn allan's plea for understanding, but it fell on unreceptiveears. the city was functioning, they had light and water, they were not alone in the universe,and life today seemed pretty good. with the irrepressible optimism of the human race,they were convinced that they could make tomorrow even better. and they were not going to leaveearth. that was like asking them to leave their bodies. the shock of losing their own time and thepattern of life that went with it had been
terrible enough. it might have overwhelmedthem completely, kenniston knew, except that in a measure the shock had been softened.for a while they had kept their own old city, and it was still there beyond the ridge, ananchor in their memories. to a certain extent, they had brought their own time with them,for life in the alien city had been adapted as much as possible to the pattern of lifein old middletown. they had oriented themselves again, they had built a facsimile of theirfamiliar existence. it had been hard, but they had done it. they could not now, quitesuddenly, throw it all away and start again on something utterly divorced from everythingthey had ever known. kenniston realized perfectly that it was notonly an atavistic clinging to the earth that
had bred them which made them reject the ideaof leaving it so fiercely. it was the physical and immediate horror of entering a perfectlyunknown kind of ship and plunging in it out beyond the sky, into-- into what? night andnothingness and sickening abysses that ran on for ever, with only the cold stars forbeacons and the earth, the solid, understandable, protecting earth lost forever! his own mindrecoiled from the very imagining. why couldn't the woman understand? why couldn't she realizethat a people to whom the automobile was still quite recent were not psychologically capableof rushing into space! the great ship brooded on the plain, and allthat afternoon and evening the people drifted restlessly toward the wall of the dome tolook at it, and stand in little groups talking
angrily, and move away again. the streetsseethed with a half-heard murmur of voices and movement. crowds gathered in the plaza,and a detachment of national guardsmen in full kit went marching down to mount guardat the portal. dejected, oppressed, and more than a little sick with worry, kenniston facedthe unavoidable and went to carol. she knew, of course. everybody in new middletownknew. she met him with the drawn, half-bitter look that had come more and more often onher face since the june day their world had ended, and she said, "they can't do it, canthey? they can't make us go?" "they think they're doing the right thing,"he said. "it's a question of making them understand they're wrong."
she began to laugh, quite softly-- laughterwith no mirth in it. "there isn't any end to it," she said. "first we had to leave middletown.now we have to leave earth, why didn't we stay in our homes and die there, if we hadto, like decent human beings? it's all been madness ever since-- this city, and now..."she stopped laughing. she looked at him and said calmly, "i won't go, ken." "you're not the only one that feels that way,"kenniston told her. "we've got to convince them of that." restlessness rode him, andhe got up and said, "let's take a walk. we'd both feel better." she went out with him into the dusk. the lightswere on, the lovely radiance that they had
greeted with such joy. they walked, sayingvery little, burdened with their own thoughts, and kenniston was conscious again of the barrierthat seemed always between them now, even when they agreed. their silence was not thesilence of understanding, but the silence which is between two minds that can communicateonly with words. they drifted toward the section of the domethrough which the distant starship was visible. the unease in the city had grown, until theair quivered with it. there was a mob around the portal. they did not go close to it. throughthe curved, transparent wall the lighted bulk of the thanis was no more than a distortedgleaming. carol shivered and turned away. "i don't want to look at it," she said. "let'sgo back."
"wait," said kenniston. "there's hubble." the older man caught sight of him and swore."i've been hunting the hell and gone over town for you," he said. "ken, that bloodyfool garris has blown his top completely, and is getting the people all stirred up tofight. you've got to come with me and help soothe him down!" kenniston said bitterly, "no wonder varn allanthinks we're a bunch of primitives! oh, all right, i'll come. we'll walk you back homeon the way, carol." they started back through the streets, whosetowers now shone timelessly beautiful in the calm white radiance. but the people in thosestreets, the little tense, talking groups,
the worried faces and questions, the angryexpletives, jarred against that supernal calm. the pulse of unease in the city seemed toquicken. a low cry ran along the streets. people were calling something, a shout wasrunning along the ways, hands pointed upward, white faces turned and looked at the shimmerof the great dome above. "what--" hubble began impatiently, but kennistonsilenced him. "listen!" they listened. above the swell of distantvoices, growing louder every moment, they heard a sound that they had heard only oncebefore. a vibration, more than a sound, a deep, bass humming from the sky, too deepto be smothered even by the dome.
it came downward, and it was louder, and louder,and then quite suddenly it stopped. people were running now toward the portal and thewords they shouted came drifting confusedly "another starship," said kenniston. "anotherstarship has come." hubble's face was gray and haggard. "the evacuationstaff. she said they'd arrive soon. and the whole town ready to blow off-- ken, this isit!" chapter 13 -- embattled city with a sinking heart, kenniston stared athubble and listened to the sharpening voice of the city. carol spoke, and the words reachedhim from a long way off.
"never mind me, ken. i'll get home all right." "yes," he said. "i'm afraid we've got to gethold of the mayor right away...stay in off the streets, carol." he kissed her swiftly on the cheek, and sheturned away, walking fast. kenniston hesitated, feeling that he ought to go with her, buthubble had already started on and there was no time for punctilio. after all, there wasno danger-- not yet. he caught up with hubble. people streamedpast them, going the other way, toward the portal. frightened, belligerent people, theireyes a little too bright, their voices too loud. kenniston and hubble were almost running,but even so, it took them some minutes to
reach the plaza in front of city hall. asthey crossed it, jeeps loaded with national guardsmen pulled away from the governmentbuilding and went tearing off down the boulevard. the men were wrapped to the eyes in heavyclothing, and hubble groaned. "they're going outside. now what the devilhas that idiot done?" they raced up the steps and into the building.in the council chamber they found the mayor with borchard and moretti and most of thecouncilmen. garris strode up and down, his face mottled, his eyes glittering with thecourage born of fear. he turned to kenniston and hubble as they came in, and there wasa curious blankness in his look, an absence of reason that made kenniston lose what littlehope he had.
"so they're going to try to rush us away fromearth," said garris. "well, we'll see! we'll see how far they're going to get with that!"his voice shook, his pudgy hands were clenched. "i've called up all units of the nationalguard, and did you see those jeeps? they're on their way to old middletown, to bring thefield guns from the armory. guns, hubble, guns! that's the only way to show 'em theycan't order us around!" "you fool," said hubble. "oh, you fool." it was too late in the day to call the mayora fool, and hubble found it out. borchard snarled at him, "he's acting with our completeapproval. listen, mr. hubble, you stick to your science and we'll handle the government."
"that's right," said moretti. he said it twoor three times, and the remaining council members backed him up. hubble faced them. "listen to me!" he said."you're all scared so blind you can't see what's in front of you. guns! all the gunswe've got won't make a pop like a toy pistol compared to what they can bring against usif they want to. these people have conquered the stars, can't you understand that? theycan conquer us with no more than that ray they've got on the ship, and violence willonly anger them into doing it!" garris thrust his face close to hubble's."you're afraid of them," he said. "well we're not. we'll fight!" the council cheered.
"all right," said hubble, "go ahead. there'sno use arguing with idiots. the only chance we had of beating this thing was to behavelike civilized men. they might have listened to us, then, and respected our feelings. butnow..." he made a gesture of negation, and the mayor snorted. "talk! a lot of good your talking did. no,sir! we'll handle this our way, and you can be thankful that your mayor and council haven'tforgotten how to defend the rights of the his voice rose almost to a shout to carrythe last words to hubble, who had walked out with kenniston close on his heels. outside in the plaza, kenniston said abruptly,"there's only one thing to do-- talk to varn
allan. if she'd agree to call off her dogsfor a while, things might simmer down." he shook his head, making a wry face. "i hateto admit to that blonde bureaucrat that we're governed by a bunch of half-witted children,but..." "you can't really blame them," said hubble."we are like children, faced with the unknown, and since we can't run and hide we have tofight. it's just that they're taking the wrong way." he sighed. "you go out to the ship,ken. do what you can. i'm going back in and struggle with his honor. if i'm patient enough--oh, well, good luck." he went back inside, and kenniston retracedhis weary steps toward the portal. the crowd had doubled since he had last seenit. it pushed and swirled around the portal,
spreading out on both sides along the wallof the dome. out on the plain the lights of two ships gleamed, and the people watchedthem, a low murmur running through them like the first mutter of wind before a storm. thecompany of guardsmen in full kit had taken up their station in the portal, a barrierof olive-drab picked out with the dull gleam of gunbarrels. kenniston went up to them. he nodded to someof the men he knew and said, "i'm going out to the ships-- important conference," andstarted through the line. and they stopped him, "mayor's orders," the lieutenant said. "nobodygoes outside. yeah, i know who you are, mr.
kenniston! but i have my orders. nobody goesoutside." "listen," said kenniston desperately, manufacturinga lie. "the mayor sent me, i'm on his business." "bring me a written order," said the lieutenant,"and we'll talk about it some more." the line of guns and stolid men remained unmoved.kenniston considered trying to crash it, and gave that up at once. the lieutenant was watchinghim suspiciously, so suspiciously that an uncomfortable thought occurred to kenniston.he spoke the language and he had worked closely with the star-folk, and the good people ofmiddletown might just possibly take him for a traitor or a spy... "if the mayor sent you," the lieutenant said,"he'll give you an order."
kenniston went away, back to the city hall.and he spent the rest of the night cooling his heels with hubble, outside the guardeddoor behind which the mayor, the council and the ranking officers of the national guardwere drawing up a plan of campaign. shortly after daybreak an orderly came inhastily, and was admitted to the guarded room. immediately the mayor, the council, and theofficers came out. garris, haggard, heavy-eyed, but triumphant, caught sight of kennistonand said, "come along. we'll need you to interpret." feeling old and hopeless, kenniston rose andjoined the little procession. falling in beside him, hubble leaned over and murmured, "talkfast, ken. your knowledge of the language is our one last ace in the hole."
they reached the portal at almost the sametime as the party from the starships. varn allan and lund were the only ones in the groupthat kenniston recognized. of the others, one was a woman of mature years, and the remainderwere men of varying ages. they stared, more in wonder than in apprehension, at the lineof soldiers, varn allan frowned. the mayor marched up to her, as the line reformedto let him and his party through. a soiled, haggard little man, devoutly convinced ofhis own wisdom and secure in the knowledge that his people were with him, his couragescrewed up to the last trembling notch, he faced the strangers from the stars and saidto kenniston, "tell them this is our world, and we give the orders here. tell them toget into their ships and go. inform them that
this is an ultimatum which we are preparedto enforce." the crowd behind him roared approval. a faint uneasiness had appeared in the facesof the star-folk. that mob yell, the armed soldiers, and the attitude of the mayor musthave roused a doubt in them. and yet varn allan spoke quite calmly to kenniston, hardlywaiting for the mayor to finish. "will you please have way made for us?" sheindicated the newcomers who were with her. "these officials head a large staff of expertson mass migration. they will begin preliminary planning of the evacuation, and it is importantthat you cooperate..." kenniston interrupted her. "listen," he said,"you take your officials and get back to your
ships." the crowd was beginning to move forwarda little, pressing up against the line of soldiers. individual shouts came out of it,ugly, threatening counterpoint to the growling undertone. the mayor shifted nervously fromone foot to the other, "did you tell her?" he demanded. "what's she saying? did you tellher?" kenniston cried out, "go back to your ships,and quickly! can't you see that mob's about to break loose?" but still varn allan did not seem to understand."there's no room for further argument," she said, as though her patience was at an end."we are here on direct orders from the board of governors, and i must ask you to..."
speaking very distinctly, kenniston said,"i am trying to prevent violence. go back to your ships now, and i'll come out and talkto you later." she stared at him in utter astonishment. "violence?"she said. and again, "violence? against officials of the federation?" it crossed his mind that that was somethingshe had never seen nor heard of. in the momentary silence between them, the surge and rumbleof the crowd grew louder, and abruptly, norden lund laughed. "i told you that you were taking the wrongway to deal with savages," he said. "we'd better go."
"no!" secure in her pride, in the authorityvested in her by the federation of stars, in her proven ability as an administrator,varn allan was not going to run before the shouts of a mob. she turned on kenniston,her voice perfectly steady and sharp as a steel knife. "i don't think you understand," she said."when an order is issued in the name of the board of governors, that order is obeyed.you will so inform your mayor, and require him to disperse his people-- and at once!" kenniston, clenched his fists and groaned."for christ's sake..." he began, and then the mayor, the overanxious, bellicose, andfrightened mayor, set the spark to the ready
tinder. "you tell 'em they'd better get out in a hurry!"he cried, loud enough to be heard clearly by the front ranks of the crowd. "tell 'emto get out, or we'll run 'em out!" run 'em out!" yelled a man, and another, anda hundred others. "run 'em out!" the crowd roar rose to a howl. the press of men andwomen surged forward through the portal, and even if they had wanted to the soldiers couldnot have held them back. kenniston caught a kaleidoscopic glimpse offaces-- the middle-aged woman official with her mouth open in a scream, the incredulouseyes of the men that did not credit what they saw, varn allan's cheeks flaming a suddenangry red, lund already backing away, a study
in mingled fear and triumph. varn allan said, "if you dare to touch federationofficials--" "get back to your ships!" yelled kenniston."get back!" the first wave of the mob was upon them, all shouts and fists and tramplingfeet. they were howling for varn allan because she was the leader. kenniston saw the danger.he grabbed her wrist and began to run toward the thanis, hauling her along. the other officials,including lund, had taken to their heels. it was amazing how they could run. he dragged varn allan along, and for someseconds she did not resist. he realized later that it must have been the first physicalviolence she had ever encountered, and that
she was too astonished by it to think of resistingat first. then, all at once, she cried out passionately, "let me go!" and set her heelshard into the dust. the crowd was boiling after them, and it wasno time for niceties. kenniston gave her wrist a jerk that snatched her off balance and beganto run again, yanking her bodily along. and then, as the thanis loomed fairly close ahead,he missed his footing in the loose sand and stumbled, and she wrenched herself free fromhim. during the moment that he floundered in thetreacherous sand, kenniston saw the first pallid beam flick out from the ship. it swungin a wide arc, bringing a sudden uproar from the crowd. and then it hit him, and this timethe shock was strong. he dropped forward into
the sand and lay there like a dead man, utterlystill and knowing nothing. he came back to consciousness, lying flaton his face in a bunk with gorr holl's powerful fingers kneading the nerve centers along hisspine. he groaned, and the capellan exclaimed in relief. "thank the gods you've come round! i've beenworking on you the last couple of hours!" kenniston sat up painfully. he saw in a smallwindowless cabin, furnished with a desk and a chair designed to accommodate gorr holl'shuge proportions, and it dawned on him that he must be inside the thanis. "how did i gethere?" he asked. it was difficult to speak. his tongue, like the rest of him, was numband leaden.
"varn allan had you brought in. she realizedafterward that you were trying to haul her out of trouble, and knocking you out was amistake. she wanted you fixed up as quickly as possible." kenniston was too groggy to be sarcastic.he groaned again, and mumbled, "what's happened, gorr?" "plenty-- and all of it bad. look here." hetouched a stud, and a square section of the metal wall became perfectly transparent, awindow. kenniston struggled to his feet and lookedout through it, at the distant, gleaming dome of new middletown. and he saw the men of middletownlaboring in the ocher dust before the portal,
digging trenches, filling sandbags, drawingup the lines of war. gorr holl pointed out across the dreary wastetoward the far-off ridges. kenniston looked, and saw the brave small cavalcade that toileddown from them, out of the old town. he saw the shrouded field guns, the whole mobileforce of the middletown battery of the national guard-- the little guns that came to barkdefiance to the federation of stars. gorr holl said, "they gave us three hoursto pack up our traps and go-- long enough to get their battery in position. after that,they'll start shooting." "the fools," kenniston whispered. "the poorbloody fools!" he could have wept with pride, in spite of his full realization of the extentof that folly.
the time was almost up. those hurrying limberswould reach the portal and swing around, and soon then the men of middletown would castthe die of their own destruction. "i've got to stop this, gorr," he said. "somehow,i've got to stop it!" gorr holl studied him with a curiously intent,measuring look. he said, "how much are you willing to risk on a try? no, wait beforeyou answer. it won't be easy. especially for you, with your background, it won't be easy." "get to the point," said kenniston. he graspedalmost fiercely at the hint of hope. "come on! what is it?" gorr holl said, "there are other dying planetsbeside your earth. and as i told you, we primitives
cling to the worlds of our birth just as yourpeople do. there has been a-- well, call it a conspiracy, between the primitive racesto stop mass migration, and our whole plans center on the process lal'lor told you about,jon arnol's process of reviving dead worlds, which has been forbidden by the federation.kenniston, we could make earth a test case!" "in other words," said kenniston slowly, "youwant to involve me and my people in a movement to help your peoples buck the federation law?" "quite frankly, yes. but it's to your benefit,too. if you win, you'll have earth and we'll have our own worlds, to stay on. if you losewell, you'll be no worse off than you are now." he put his great paw on kenniston'sshoulder. "listen to me. varn allan is on
the televisor now, getting authorization fromvega center to use force in carrying out her orders. think fast, kenniston!" kenniston thought. it was like moving blindfoldthrough an unfamiliar maze, but he could sense some of the outlines, the undercurrents ofdisaffection that flowed between the stars. he had no right to involve himself and middletownin a struggle that he knew almost nothing about...but there beyond the window were thetrenches filled with angry men, and the dusty limbers wheeling down, and how could theybe worse off than they were now? if there was even an outside chance... "what do i have to do?" he asked.
gorr holl grinned. "good," he said. "and remember,you'll have allies in this thing! now come on with me, and i'll tell you on the way." chapter 14 -- last appeal the big cappellan led him out then swiftlythrough a maze of narrow passageways that ran through the bowels of the thanis. theymet no one, and kenniston guessed that gorr holl was avoiding the main corridors. he hardly looked at what he could see of theship as he passed through it. he didn't care now. all he could think of was the terribleneed for haste, the need to avert the disaster
that was coming. his ears, his nerves cringed,waiting for the first shell to burst against the thanis. he knew it was too soon, but theminutes were passing fast. gorr holl did some rapid explaining as theywent. "the evacuation order came from the board of governors by an executive committee.according to federation law, you can make an appeal from that order to the board ofgovernors in full session. now, remember, kenniston, no one can deny you the right ofappeal, so don't let them bull you out of it." they came out on a shadowy catwalk. gorr hollstopped and pointed to a corridor some nine feet below. at its end was a closed door.
"that's the visor room. varn allan is in contactwith the committee now. go in and make your appeal. and remember, lund is in there too." he melted back into the shadows. kennistonwent down a companionway to the corridor and along it to the door at the end. he triedit and it swung open under his hand, and he went through into a high and narrow room,where varn and norden lund turned to face him, startled and surprised by his suddenentrance. he hardly saw them. something else caughthis gaze and held him transfixed, frozen with a kind of awe. two walls of the room were occupied by complicatedand unfamiliar mechanisms, all apparently
automatic. facing him was the third wall--a giant-sized screen, reproducing so clear a picture that it was weirdly like a window. a window into another world... at a black plastic table sat four figures.three of these were men in ordinary jackets and slacks-- one of them quite old, anotherelderly, the third dark, brusque-looking, not far into middle age. the fourth at thetable was not a man. he was a spican like magro, white-furred and oddly catlike withhis narrow mane and handsome, faintly cruel face. but he was older and graver than magro. the four of them were like a quartet of businessmen,rudely interrupted in the midst of an earnest
conference. they stared out of the screenat kenniston, and the youngest man demanded of varn allan, "who is this person?" kenniston still stood motionless, lookingbeyond them now. he saw that the room behind them was like the one in which he stood butmuch larger, a communications room massive with control banks and screens. through the window of that room billions ofmiles across space, kenniston could see the looming wall of a titanic building. and aboveit blazed the fiery limb of a diamond sun, supernal, magnificent, shedding a blue-whiteblaze across the heavens. again the sharp voice from across the galaxy,flashing through the parsecs far faster than
light by the magic of latter-day science. "varn allan! who is this man?" "he's one of the earth primitives, sir," sheanswered angrily, and turned again to kenniston. "you have no right here! leave at once." "no," said kenniston. "not until i've hadmy say." "lund," said varn allan, "will you pleasecall orderlies and have him removed?" kenniston moved a little. "i wouldn't," hesaid. lund considered. his eyes moved from kenniston'sknotted fist to varn allan's angry face, and there was a smile in them.
"after all," he said, "i suppose this manis a citizen of the federation now. can we deny him his right of speech?" varn allan's blue eyes flashed hotly at him.then she spoke to the images in the screen. "i'm sorry, gentlemen. but perhaps this willdemonstrate the situation here more clearly. i have had no cooperation from the primitives,and my own subordinate is apparently trying to undermine my authority." the dark younger man of the four said impatiently,"this is not the occasion to hear complaints of administrative wrangling!" kenniston was glaring upward at the quarteton vega's faraway world who seemed to hold
the fate of middletown in their hands. hedemanded, "are you the executive committee responsible for the evacuation order?" the oldest man said to him quietly, "thereis no need for truculence. yes, we are that committee." he glanced at varn allan. "i think,allan, that since the interruption has been made, we may as well clear this thing up now." varn allan shrugged, and lund's smile broadeneda little. kenniston said, "i'm sorry, but there isn'ttime for politeness. in a few minutes my people are going to fire on your ships. i don't wantthat to happen. i don't want my people killed, nor yours."
the old man answered, "there will be no killing.the paralysis ray, used at full potency, can immobilize your whole population without harm." kenniston shook his head. "that's only a postponement.when they come to again they will fight. that is what i must make you understand. as longas my people live they will fight to stay on earth!" the ring of utter truth in his passionatecry seemed to disturb them deeply. and the white-furred spican said slowly, "it may beso. some of my own people still have such an illogical attachment to one planet." lund spoke up, his tone smooth and deferential."that is the point of basic psychology which
i have been trying to make with administratorallan." varn allan said icily, "if you have a suggestionto make, i shall be glad to hear it." "of course," said lund, "it's quite impossibleto allow these people to remain on earth. to do so would establish a fatal precedentfor other waning planets whose populations must be transferred. but my idea--" whatever lund had been going to say was lost,for kenniston drowned him out. "the hell with your ideas!" he moved closer to the screen."i ask you to revoke the order for evacuation." the old man spread his hands in a weary gestureof negation. "that is out of the question." "then," said kenniston harshly, "i appealyour decision to the board of governors in
full session!" that startled them all. they stared at him,and lund said, "so the savage has learned a little law!" then he laughed. "but of course--gorr holl and his friends have been coaching him." varn allan came up to kenniston, "this isa waste of time," she said. "the board of governors will issue the same ruling." "quite so," said the dark brusque man in thescreen. "it's merely a stratagem to gain time," "nevertheless," said the spican, regardingkenniston with faint amusement in his slit-pupiled eyes, "his demand is perfectly legal."
the old man sighed. "yes." he looked at kenniston."i am forced by federation law to grant your right of appeal. but i warn you that administratorallan is right. the board will ratify our decision." "until they do," kenniston pressed, "i demandthat you withdraw from earth the ships that have created this critical situation." the old man nodded reluctantly. "that toois a legitimate demand. the ships will be recalled temporarily to vega. and you willcome with them, since all appeals to the board of governors must be made in person." in person? the significance of the two casualwords hit kenniston staggeringly, replacing
his dawning hope with a breathless and morepersonal emotion. those two words meant-- they meant leavingearth, he, john kenniston, going out into the dark abyss, out across half the starryuniverse on a forlorn hope. out to an incredibly distant and alien world, to plead the causeof middletown to alien ears, with all the odds against him! he knew now what gorr hollhad meant, "--with your background, it won't be easy" varn allan's crisp voice was challenging him."do you agree to go? say quickly-- there's little time left to notify your people beforethey attack." mention of that imminent attack that meantirrevocable disaster to his people, steadied
kenniston. he had to avert that, at any costor risk. he drew a long breath. "yes," he said. "yes.i'll go." "in that case, administrator allan," saidthe old man, "you will take your ships off in not more than two hours." he rose, signingthat the interview was closed. "i shall notify the board of governors." the screen went blank. varn allan looked atkenniston and said, "you had better go and tell your people, at once." he knew, as he went out, that she was veryangry. but lund seemed strangely pleased. with what speed he could muster, kennistonwent back across the desert toward the portal,
and with every step he took the incrediblereality of his commitment beat into his mind. "you're going away from earth. you're goingto get into a ship, that ship, and step clear off the earth, out to the stars--" just the realization of it gave him a feelingof vertigo, a shuddering recoil, and he knew that he had to keep his mind away from whatit would be like in that ship, in space-- he had to avoid anticipation or the impactof it would be too much for him. soldiers met him well outside the portal,raising their rifles but lowering them again when they recognized him. beyond them, thered dust was flying from laboring shovels and the gun limbers were being wrestled intoplace.
"what's going on out there?" cried a sergeant."are those ships going to attack? are--" "where's the mayor?" kenniston interrupted."back inside the portal. they're all there, waiting." kenniston pushed past them, betweenthe half-dug trenches, and saw hubble and most of the council grouped around mayor garrisjust inside the dome. most of middletown's people seemed crowdedin the background, held back by rope barriers. they weren't shouting now, their faces lookedanxious, and he knew that that demonstration of the paralysis ray's power had cooled downtheir rage and given them something to worry about. garris' plump face was haggard with straintoo, and he greeted kenniston with a suspicious
scowl. "what brought you back? i thought you'dstay out there with your friends." kenniston's temper, tightened by the weightof the thing he was going to do, let go. "for christ's sake," he snarled, "i've been fightingto save your necks. i've even agreed to go out to vega to do it, and this is the kindof reception i get!" then he was ashamed of his outburst, and got a grip on his nerves."listen to me. those ships are leaving. they're leaving inside of two hours, and i'm goingwith them. i'm appealing this whole evacuation question to their board of governors." a wondering silence fell upon them all. theystared at him, all their faces except hubble's uncomprehending.
hubble exclaimed, "good god, ken-- you, tovega? but will it do any good?" "i'm hoping so," kenniston said. he ignoredthe others, speaking to hubble as he rapidly explained. "so there's a chance that i canmake them understand our case, and let us alone." mayor garris had only now begun to understand,apparently. his face had changed-- there was an eager hopefulness in it now, a hopefulnessdawning also on the faces of borchard and moretti and the others. kenniston realized then just how hopelessthey had all been before his coming. they, and the soldiers, and the people of middletown,were still ready to fight evacuation, but
the futility of such a fight had been madeclear to them by the power of the ray, they had known they must fight a battle foredoomedto failure, and now he had brought them a hope at least of another way out. "well, now," said garris, a little unsteadily,"that's the way i've wanted it all along. due course of law, peaceful debate... it wasjust that i couldn't let them force our people..." he broke off, seizing kenniston's hand. "you'lldo your best for us out there, kenniston, i know that! they can't all be as stubbornas that blasted woman!" and, almost unmanned by his relief, garristurned and cried out to the anxious crowd, "it's all right, folks, there's not goingto be any fighting right now. mr. kenniston's
going to go clear out to where those peoplecome from and put this thing to their government! he's going to ask a square deal for us!" there was cheering, during which the mayor'shigh color began to fade back to its original pallor as a new thought struck him. he said to kenniston, "but if anyone's goingout there to represent us, maybe as mayor--" kenniston really admired him as he struggledto get out those last awful words-- "as mayor, i ought to go?" kenniston shook his head. "you're needed righthere, mr. garris. and besides, you don't speak the language, so there wouldn't be any usein your going."
"that's so," said the mayor, beginning tobreathe again. "of course, that's so. yes, indeed. now, kenniston, what can we do tohelp you? anything--" "no, there's nothing," said kenniston. "ihaven't much time. i only need to get a few things, and to say goodbye to someone. hubble,will you come with me?" hubble came. and behind them, as they hurriedback into town, they heard the mayor shouting, and heard the rising voice of relief and jubilationfrom the people. they had seen themselves about to be beatenin a hopeless fight against weapons they couldn't combat, those people. and now, suddenly, therewasn't going to be any fight, the ships were going away, one of their own was going outand convince the star-folk that they couldn't
shove earth people around, everything wasgoing to be all right! kenniston groaned. "i wish they weren't sogod-damned sure! this is only a reprieve." "what are our chances, ken?" hubble askedhim. "between us." "honest to god, hubble, i don't know! i'vegot us into a big undercover struggle that i don't half understand yet." he told hubblewhat gorr holl had said, and added, "gorr and the humanoids are on our side, but maybethey're only using me as a catspaw. anyway, i'll do my best." "i know you will," said hubble. "i wish iwere going with you-- but i'm too old, and i'm needed here." he added, "i'll get carolwhile you pack."
the nightmare unreality of it hit kennistonagain as he hastily got his few necessaries together. it was just like packing for anovernight run to pittsburgh or chicago, instead of for a trip across the galaxy. it couldn'tbe really going to happen... carol's face, when she came, didn't help him. there wasno color in it at all, and when he took her in his arms and tried to explain, she onlywhispered, "no, ken-- no! you can't go! you're not like them-- you'll die out there!" "i won't die, and i can maybe help us all,"he told her. "carol, listen-- if i can do this, if i can find a way out for us, it'llmake up a little for our work that brought this whole thing on middletown, won't it?won't it?"
she wasn't even listening to him. she wassearching his face, her hands clinging to him painfully, and she said suddenly, "youwant to go." "want to?" said kenniston. "i'm scared stiff!my skin is crawling right now! but i've got to." "you want to go," she said again, and lookedat him, he thought, as though she finally saw clearly a barrier between them. "that'sthe difference between us, it's always been the difference. i only want the old things,the old, loved ways. you want the new." time was running out, and a sort of despairwas in him, and it made him grasp her with a rough male masterfulness, and hold her fiercelyagainst the intangible tide that was sweeping
them apart. "i'm going, to do what i can for us all, andi'm coming back the same, and you're going to be waiting for me, carol! you hear?" he kissed her, and she returned his kiss witha curious tenderness as if she were never going to see him again and was rememberingall the good days that they had had together. and when he let her go, her eyes were brightwith tears. he went with hubble toward the portal, andnow the whole city was vibrant with a new hopefulness and excitement, that centeredupon himself. but he was quaking with the realization of what he was going toward, hehardly saw the crowded faces that watched
him with a mixture of anxious hope and ofawe, he hardly heard the voices that shouted, "good luck, mr. kenniston!" and "you tell'em out there, mr. kenniston! you tell 'em!" kenniston went on, out of the domed city andacross the plain, and the black, strange belly of the thanis took him in. chapter 15 -- mission for earth he would not show fear. they expected himto do so, they were watching him with sidelong glances of interest and amused expectation.but kenniston clenched his fists inside his jacket pockets, and resolved fiercely to disappointthem.
he was afraid, yes. it was one thing to readand talk and speculate on flying space. it was another and much more frightening thingto do it, to step off the solid earth, to rush and plunge and fall through the worldlessemptiness. he stood there with gorr holl and piers eglinin the bridge of the thanis, looking ahead through the curving view windows, and a coldsickness clutched at his vitals. "it isn't the way i expected it to be," hesaid unsteadily. "only those stars ahead--" he fought against the impulse to clutch forsupport. he wouldn't do that, while the bronzed star-men behind him were curiously watchinghim. the deep humming and slight quivering of thegreat fabric around him were the only evidence
that the thanis was moving. directly ahead, kenniston looked at a depthlessblack in which fierce stars flared like lamps. the blue-hot beacon of vega centered thatvista, and up from it blazed the stars of the time-distorted lyre and aquila, crossedon the upper left by the glittering sun-drift of the milky way. only that section of sky ahead was clear.the rest of the firmament, extending back from it, was an increasingly blurred vistaof warped starlight whose rays seemed to twitch, jerk and dance. gorr holl nodded toward the bank of controlsbehind which four men sat. "you know the principle
of propulsion? reaction rays many times fasterthan light, pushing back against the cosmic dust of space." kenniston sighed. "i feel ignorant as a child.the possibility of such rays was wholly unsuspected, in my day. and einstein's equations provedthat if matter moved faster than light, it would expand indefinitely." gorr holl uttered a rumbling chuckle. "youreinstein was a great scientist, but we've opened up new fields of knowledge since then.the mass control that prevents that expansion, and other things." kenniston was only half listening. he waslooking at the blue-white eye of vega, glaring
arrogantly at him from the great drift ofspangled stars. and looking at it somehow made him sense their awful speed, their nightmarefall through the infinite. it was worse than the takeoff, and he hadnot thought that anything could be worse than that. if he lived forever, he would neverforget those last still minutes, strapped into a recoil chair, trying to relax and notsucceeding, listening to ringing alarm bells, watching the blinking of lights, feeling thedeep quivering of the ship as it gathered itself for the outward leap, his heartbeatschoking him and the icy sweat running, trying to tell himself that it was no different fromtaking off in a plane... and then the lift, the pressure, the instinctive gasp for breath,the terrible claustrophobia of being shut
into a moving thing over which he had no control. he could not know yet by what mastery of sciencethe occupants of the ship were shielded from the enormous pressures of that acceleration.yet shielded they were, for the pressure was not so much worse than that in a fast ascendingelevator. it was the knowledge that earth was falling irretrievably away that made thelift horrible. he could hear the whisper and the hiss and then the scream of air againstthe cleaving hull, and then almost at once it was gone. he was in space. and he was sickwith the age-old fear of abysses and of falling. he thought of the emptiness that lay beneathhis feet, beyond that thin floor of metal, and he shut his teeth hard on his tongue tokeep from screaming.
"don't think about it," gorr holl had said."and remember, there's a first time for all of us! i thought i wouldn't live through myown first takeoff." he had helped kenniston get to his feet. "let's go up on the bridge.you might as well get it all over with at once." and so they had come to the bridge, and kennistonhad looked into outer space where the great suns burned unveiled and there was neitherair nor cloud to hide them. and he had got hold of himself, because he was too proudto do what he wanted to do, which was to get down on his belly and whimper like a dog. he tried now to visualize the ordeal thatawaited him there at vega where he must plead
the cause of little middletown to the governorsof the stars. how could he make people who traveled casually in ships like this one,understand the passionate devotion of his own people to their little, ancient planet? yet if he failed to do so, he would fail thepeople of middletown, who had such hope in his mission. that was what he had to thinkabout-- not space, nor his sensations about it, but the task he had ahead of him. he glanced at gorr holl and said, "i've seenenough. let's go." they left piers eglin there and went belowagain, and when they were in the main corridor, alone, kenniston said, "all right, gorr. iwant to know what i've got myself in on."
the big capellan nodded. "let's join magroand lal'lor. they're waiting for us." he led kenniston along companionways and narrowcorridors, to a cabin only two doors from his own. and it was a relief for kennistonto be in a closed place without windows, so that he need not look at the staggering, crushingemptiness of space, where only the proud suns had any right to be. there was a wild thrillto it, underneath the fear-- but a twentieth century man couldn't take much of it at first. lal'lor's massive gray form was bent overa table littered with sheets of complicated symbols. margo, who was sprawled in the bunk,explained to kenniston, "he works theorems for amusement. he even claims he knows whatall those figures mean."
lal'lor's small eyes twinkled in his flat,featureless face. he thrust the sheets aside and said, "sit down, kenniston. so we areto be allies now, as well as friends." "i wish," said kenniston, "that someone wouldtell me just what this alliance means. remember, i'm gambling the fate of my people on faith,without knowing a damned thing." "there's nothing sinister about it," saidgorr holl. he eased his furry bulk onto the corner of lal'lor's table, which was quitestrong enough to hold him. "as i told you, we all have the same problem, and the solutionto that problem revolves around a man and a process." he paused. "by a peculiar freak, kenniston,you have been thrown with us rather than with
your own kind. the human races spread outfrom earth so long ago, and have continued to move and spread, constantly expanding,that they have lost all sense of identification with their old birthworld, or any other. theuniverse is their home, not a planet." kenniston was beginning to understand thatbetter with every passing minute. the impersonal magnitudes of space, many times recrossed,would tend to sever a man from the old narrow ways of thought. carol had been right aboutthat. gorr holl went on. "but we of the humanoidraces don't have that background. when the humans came to our worlds, we were nearlyall barbarians, and quite happy in our barbarism. well, they civilized us, and now we are acceptedas equals. but we're still more primitive
in thought than they, we still cling to ournative worlds, and whenever it becomes necessary to move us, we balk-- just as your peopleare balking now, though we have learned to be less violent. in the end, of course, we'vealways given in. but in the last few years we've hung on more desperately because we'vehad something to hope for-- this process of jon arnol's." "hold on," said kenniston. "all i know ofjon arnol is his name. what exactly is this process? you said it was a process for therejuvenation of cold and dying planets?" lal'lor answered that. "arnol's plan is this--to start a cycle of matter-energy transformation similar to the hydrogen-helium transformationwhich gives a sun its energy-- to start such
a nuclear cycle operating deep inside a coldplanet." kenniston stared at him, completely stunned."but," he said at last, "that would be equivalent to creating a giant solar furnace deep insidea planet!" "yes. a bold, brilliant idea. it would solvethe problem of the many cold and dying worlds within the federation-- since, as you know,a planet may live on its interior heat long after the parent sun's heat has decreased." he paused. "unfortunately, when arnol testedhis process on a small asteroid, the results were disastrous." "disastrous?"
"quite disastrous. arnold's energy bomb, designedto start the cycle inside that asteroid, went wrong and caused terrible quakes. in fact,the asteroid was wrecked. arnol claims that it was because he was not allowed a largeenough planet for his test. his equations bear him out." kenniston said, "why didn't he make anothertest on a bigger planet, then?" "the governors would not allow it," said lal'lor,"they said it was too dangerous." "but couldn't he have tested it on an uninhabitedplanet without danger?" lal'lor sighed. "you don't understand, kenniston.the governors don't want arnol's process to succeed. they don't want to make it possiblefor primitive peoples to cling to their native
worlds. that's the kind of provincial patriotismthey oppose, in their efforts to establish a truly cosmopolitan star-community." kenniston thought about that. it fitted whathe had seen and heard of this vast federation of stars. and yet... he said, slowly, "it comes down to the factthat you want to use my world, our earth, to test a scheme which your governors, whatevertheir motives, have already ruled as dangerous." lal'lor nodded calmly. "yes. it comes downto that. but whether the test is made first on earth or some abandoned planet is besidethe point. the point is to force the board of governors to allow another test."
gorr holl exclaimed, "don't you see how itlinks up? alone, your plea to remain on earth will be turned down because you can't presentany alternative to evacuation. but by advancing jon arnol's planet-reviving process as analternative, you might be able to help both earth and us!" kenniston struggled to comprehend the galacticcomplexity of the problem. "in other words, if we could persuade the governors to givearnol another chance, they would delay the evacuation of earth?" "they would," said lal'lor. "and if arnolsucceeded, earth and our similar worlds throughout the federation could be made warm and livableagain. is it not worth trying for?"
"when you put it like that," said kenniston,"yes. yes, it is." he was beginning to be hopeful again. "and you think this-- thissolar-furnace thing might succeed? safely, i mean?" "according to all mathematical evidence, yes."still kenniston hesitated, and gorr holl said, "the decision would be up to your people,kenniston, and not you-- whether they'd take the risk, i mean. and remember, it's a smallpopulation and could be taken off quite easily until any danger was over." that was true. he need not be afraid of committinghis people too deeply, because he had not the power to do that. and it might be a way.
"is it agreed, then?" asked lal'lor. "arnolhas been my friend for many years, and i can message ahead to him to be there when we land.he can help you prepare your plea." kenniston looked at them, the three familiar,unhuman faces. he had to trust them, to take what they said on trust. suddenly, he knewhe did trust them. "all right," said kenniston. "i guess anyhope is better than none." "then we are agreed," said lal'lor quietly. kenniston felt a little breathless, as thoughhe had taken an irrevocable plunge into deeps far beyond his own fathoming. gorr holl shota keen glance at him, and said, "you need something. and i think i know what it is."
he went out, and returned in a moment witha large flat flask of gray metal. he showed his great teeth in that frightening grin."fortunately, not being ship's personnel, we of the technical staff are not forbiddenstimulants. get some cups, magro." the white-furred spican brought only threeof the plastic cups. "our wise lal'lor prefers to stimulate himself with equations," he explained,and the grey one nodded. gorr holl carefully poured a clear liquidfrom the flask. "try this, kenniston." the liquid had a musty, mushroomy taste. thenit seemed to explode inside kenniston, sending waves of heat to his fingertips. when he couldbreathe again, he gasped, "what is the stuff?" gorr holl said, "it's distilled from fungusgrowths found on the worlds of capella. smooth,
eh?" kenniston, as he drank again, felt his worriesrecede a little. he sat relaxed and listening as these children of alien worlds talked.he knew they were talking now just to let down his tension. "first voyages can be tough." magro was saying.he was curled up on the bunk like a sleepy cat, with a distant, lazy gleam in his eyes."i remember my own. we shot the pleiades with half our power burned out, and the littleworlds swarming around us like angry bees." gorr holl nodded. "do you remember that wreckin the algol star-drift? i lost good friends then. a cold grave, those empty deeps."
kenniston listened as they talked on, of oldvoyages beyond the federation's starry frontiers, of dangers from nebula and comet and cosmiccloud, of shipwreck on wild worlds. he quoted slowly,"then shall we list to noshallow gossip of magellans and drakes. then shall we give ear to voyagers who have circumnavigatedthe ecliptic; who have rounded the polar star as cape horn" lal'lor asked interestedly, "who wrote that?some man of your own time who foresaw space travel?" "no," said kenniston. "a man of a centurybefore even my time. his name was melville, and he was a sailor too, but on earth's seas."
gorr holl shook his head. "queer days theymust have been, with only the water oceans of one little planet to venture on." "yet there was adventure enough in that,"kenniston said. "the atlantic in a fall storm, the gulf on a moonlight night..." an achingnostalgia took him again, that haunting homesickness for an earth lost forever, for the smell ofleaves burning on crisp fall nights, for a clover field under the summer sun, for theblue skies and green hills, the snowy mountains and the sleepy villages and the old citiesand the roads that went between them, for all that was gone and could never be again.it made him long even for the earth that still was, the tired, dying old planet that at leastheld memory of the world he had known, the
people there who had known that world too.carol was right, the old ways and the old things were best! what was he doing out herein these alien immensities? then he saw that the others were looking athim with a queerly sympathetic understanding in their faces, those strange and yet familiarand friendly humanoid faces. "give me another drink," he said. it did not help any. it only seemed to heightenhis futile yearning. presently kenniston left them, and went to his own cabin. he switched off the cabin lights and pressedthe stud that made a window of the solid hull. the black, star-shot gulf opened to infinitybeyond. he sat on the edge of the bunk and
stared, hating that uncaring, unhuman vastness,brooding upon his desperate mission. presently he realized that someone was knockingat his door. he rose and opened it, and the light in the corridor showed him that it wasvarn allan. chapter 16 -- at vega she glanced quickly from his face to the darkenedroom, and then back at him, with a look of understanding. she asked, "may i come in?" he stepped aside, reaching for the switch,and she said, "no, don't. i like to look out, too."
she took the chair by the window and sat fora few moments in silence, looking out, the dim starglow touching her face. kenniston, his immediate feeling of hostilitytempered a little by puzzlement, waited for her to speak. she sat almost stiffly, a queerlyprim little figure in the drab jacket and slacks, but he thought that there were linesof tiredness and strain in her clear face now. she turned and looked at him with thoughtfulblue eyes, and it came to him that varn allan felt ill at ease with him, that she wantedto say something that she did not quite know how to say. so she, too, was worried aboutthis business at vega? he thought savagely
that that was fine, that it cut her down froma high-and-mighty official of the great federation into an anxious woman, almost a girl. she said, "i came to tell you-- owing to thepressing nature of this case, the board of governors has granted us two hours on theday after we arrive at vega four." "two hours!" exclaimed kenniston. it did notseem much time in which to decide the fate of a world. "the governors have the problems of half agalaxy to decide. they cannot give more time than that to anyone. so perpare your casecarefully. there is never a second hearing." he thought that she had not come only to saythat, and he waited, forcing her to speak.
he realized now that her tension and wearinessequaled his own. finally, reluctantly, varn allan said, "assub-administrator of the sector, norden lund will have the right to speak on this problemto the governors." kenniston hadn't known that, but it made nodifference to him and he said so. "it may make a very great difference indeedto you and your people," she warned him. "in what way?" she told him, "lund is ambitious. he wantsto be an administrator, and later, a governor-- perhaps even chairman. his aspirations areunbounded." now, kenniston began to understand a little."in other words, as gorr holl said, lund is
after your job." "yes. it would be a step up for him. and tomake that step, he would quite cheerfully commit an injustice. of that i am sure." varnallan leaned forward. "he sees in the problem of earth an unparalleled opportunity to advancehimself. your unheard-of irruption into this time from the past has created tremendousinterest in you. and many worlds will be watching this coming hearing." in her earnestness, she had risen and wasstanding in front of him, speaking carefully, choosing her words to make him understand. "if lund can dominate this hearing, if hecan offer some sensational proof that i have
blundered in handling the earth problem andthat he has been right, he will have distinguished himself before the eyes of everyone." kenniston was sure now that he completelyunderstood, but he did not let his feelings show in his face or voice as he asked, "thenyou're afraid that lund is going to spring some surprise at this hearing?" varn allan nodded earnestly. "yes-- i knowthat he has something in mind. he has been smugly triumphant with me, ever since we tookoff. but what it is, i do not know." she looked at kenniston worriedly, and asked, "do youknow? is there something about your people, about this earth problem, that lund coulduse at the hearing?"
kenniston got to his feet. he looked downinto her face, and then he began to laugh. softly, at first, and then more loudly-- abitter, angry laughter that vented all the resentment he had felt from the first. shelooked up at him, startled and uncomprehending. "this," he said, "is very rich indeed. thisis really comic. you come to earth as the law of the federation, as miss high-and-mighty,and look at us as though we were a bunch of sheep, and order us this and order us that,and can hardly bear even to talk to the poor fuzzy-witted primitives. and then, all ofa sudden, when your own precious job is in danger, you come running to me to help yousave it!" varn allan's face was white and incredulous,her blue eyes starting to flare, her whole
slim figure rigid. kenniston told her savagely, "you know what?i don't give a damn who's administrator, you or lund! you're neither of you my kind. ifhe can take your job, more power to him-- it'll make no difference to me or mine!" he knew by the white wrath in her face thathe had thrust beneath that serious, composed exterior at last, that the competent, brilliantofficial had emotions like any other woman and that he had got to them. "so you think that," varn allan breathed."so you think that i would plead for your help, to save my position?"
her voice rose then, driven by an anger thatseemed almost more than her small figure could contain. it was as though he had touched aspring that released a hot, long-pent passion. "my position-- my official rank! do you thinki am like lund, that the power to give orders is pleasure to me? what would you, a primitive,know of a tradition of service to the federation? do you suppose i wanted to follow that familytradition, that i enjoyed the years of study when other girls were dancing, that my ideaof a happy life is to spend it in starship cabins and on unfriendly worlds? do you thinkall that is so dear to me that i would worry and plot and come pleading to a primitive,to keep it?" she choked on her own indignation, and turnedtoward the door. kenniston, startled by that
violent outburst, obeyed a sudden impulseand caught her arm. "wait! don't go. i--" she looked up at him with blazing eyes andsaid, "let me go or i'll call an orderly." kenniston did not release her. he said awkwardly,"no, wait. i was out of line. i'm sorry--" he was. he was ashamed of himself, and hedid not know exactly why he should be, but something in her passion had made him so.he hated unfairness, and he felt that he had been unfair. he said so, and varn allan looked up at himwith eyes that were still angry, but after a moment she turned away from the door.
"let us forget it," she said stiffly. "i wasat fault, for talking emotionally like--""like a primitive," kenniston finished for her,and she set her small jaw and said, "exactly. like a primitive." kenniston laughed. his hostility to her andher kind might remain, but he had lost that resentful consciousness of inferiority thathad nagged him since he met her. he had lost it, when the cool, competent federation officialhad revealed herself as a worried and lonely girl. "no, no, i wasn't laughing at you," he saidhastily. "now tell me, why did you feel it necessary to bring up this lund business withme?"
"it was to save my rank and position," shesaid bitterly. "it was because i was afraid of losing them, of--" "oh, all right, i've apologized for that,"he said impatiently. "christ, but you people are touchy!" for a moment varn allan was silent. then shesaid, "you think it will make no difference to you whether lund or i speak at the hearing,that we're both against your people. you are wrong, kenniston." "you and he are both for evacuating us offearth," he reminded her, "so what difference is there?"
"there's a very great difference," she saidearnestly. "i may have made mistakes in dealing with your people, but my desire has been toaccomplish a smooth, peaceful evacuation. lund would like to deal with this earth problemdramatically-- that is to say, forcefully." "forcefully?" kenniston stiffened. "i toldyou both what it would mean if you tried force!" "i know, and i believe you enough to wantto solve this evacuation problem peacefully, even though it should involve delay. thatis my idea of an administrator's duty. but lund knows that due to your strange background,and due to the fact that this earth case focuses the whole long controversy about world evacuation,all eyes will be on this hearing, and he would use it to advance himself, no matter whatdisastrous events he might unchain on earth."
her logic was clear enough, and it squaredwith kenniston's estimate of lund. he felt a suddenly deepened worry. "but what could lund bring up about the earthproblem that would be a surprise?" he wanted to know. varn allan shook her head. "i don't know.i thought maybe you might know. he has something, i'm sure." kenniston said thoughtfully, "i don't. butmaybe gorr and the others might have some idea. i'll try to find out." he looked at her, and whatever his feelingsabout her might be he had to admit that he
was convinced of her sincere attachment toher duty, and that though her ideas of justice might not jibe with his, she would not bedeliberately unjust. he said, "thanks for telling me this. andagain-- i'm sorry i shot off." she said soberly, "i know you're under strain,from this voyage and from anxiety. but-- don't let gorr and the rest encourage you to hopefor too much. the evacuation itself cannot be avoided; it is the way in which it is tobe done that worries me." and she added with sudden weariness, "i wish i were a girl ofyour middletown, who had never left her world and to whom the stars were just lights inthe sky." he shook his head. "you'd still have yourworries, believe me. hurled out of your own
life into this one-- carol, right now, ismore upset than you'll ever be." "carol? that would be the girl i saw withyou?" he nodded. "yes. my girl. she was raised inthat old town of ours, school and picnics and parties and what hat to wear, and thensuddenly-- bang! she's here in this crazy future, and may not even be allowed to stayon earth!" varn allan said, musingly, "how strange itmust be, to have grown up on one little, little planet, to have lived that tiny, circumscribedroutine. in a way, i envy her. and i'm sorry for her." she turned to go, and kenniston held out hishand. "no hard feelings, then?"
she was for a moment completely puzzled byhis gesture, then understood and smiled and laid her hand awkwardly in his. but she tookit away hastily and went out. kenniston stared after her. "well, i'll bedamned if she isn't afraid of men!" his resentful hostility to her was gone, andwhile he knew she would be in there pitching against him on this evacuation that she thoughtso necessary, it did not worry him like the matter of norden lund. the more he thought about lund, the more heworried. finally, he went to gorr holl's cabin and told the big capellan. gorr holl instantly looked upset. "that'sbad. lund could make nasty trouble, if he's
got hold of something. but what could it be?" "i thought maybe you'd know." "not a thing," the capellan denied. "waita minute-- piers eglin has been a little thick with lund lately. maybe he'd know." kenniston got up. "piers always wants to talkto me about the old town. if he knows anything, maybe he'll spill it." but it was not until the next day-- the strangedawnless artifical day of starship routine-- that he got a chance to talk to the littlehistorian. he asked eglin bluntly, "do you know whatlund's got up his sleeve for this hearing?"
the question fluttered piers eglin badly.he fidgeted, and looked away with a hunted expression, and mumbled, "why do you ask me?what could i know?" kenniston stared at him. "you're a prettypoor liar, piers. what do you know?" eglin began to babble almost incoherently."kenniston, listen-- you mustn't draw me into your troubles! i like you, i wish i couldhelp you-- but i'm a historian, it's my life, that old town of yours on earth is like adream come true to me, and to save it, i would do anything. anything!" "what the devil are you talking about?" kennistondemanded. "what does middletown have to do with it?"
the little historian said feverishly, "youdon't understand its importance. you people from the past will die away, but that cityfrom the far past can be preserved forever, the greatest of historical treasures. i canpreserve it, keep it for future study, if i have official backing--" a light dawned on kenniston. "and norden lundis going to give you that backing? in exchange for what? what have you done to help him?" eglin shook his head wretchedly. "i can'tsay anything. honestly, i can't." he was nearly in tears, as he went away. kennistonlooked after him, mystified and deeply troubled. he told gorr holl and the others. magro lookedbaffled. "but what could piers do to help
lund? i don't get it at all." "maybe he overheard some of our people makingthreats and wild talk, and reported it?" kenniston gorr holl shook his head. "just hearsay wouldn'tbe worth much. and anyway, piers wasn't around your people much after the first-- he spentall his time in the old town." lal'lor said slowly, "i do not like it. tryto find out what it is that piers has done, kenniston." kenniston, thought, found in the following"days" that piers eglin very definitely was avoiding him. he did not even see the littlehistorian again until they made their landing on vega four.
he had sat for hours that day in the bridgeroom of the thanis, looking with unbelieving wonderment at the alien solar system shapingitself out of the void, the spinning planets sweeping in majestic curves through the brilliantcircle of vega's light. the ship was sweeping in toward the fourthplanet. kenniston saw the cloudy globe leap up to meet them, and again he felt the magicallytempered pressure. as they hummed downward, he was stricken with a vertiginous fear thatthey were going to crash. he glimpsed a vast landscape whose dominantcolors were quite unearthly. cruel, lofty mountains of purple-black rock rose grandlybeyond broad blue plains. then the rushing ship swept over a great expanse of vivid yellow--a golden ocean that flashed back vega's brilliance
blindingly. and then a city. a white, toweringcontinent of a city that, even viewed from the stratosphere, was enough to take kenniston'sbreath away. there was a huge starship port near it, and the thanis was dropping smoothlythrough tangled shipping traffic toward it, making worldfall in its waiting dock withthe softest of jars. vega four. he was here. and he could not believeit, not even now. gorr holl unfastened his straps. the capellanwas almost as tense as kenniston himself. "jon arnol should be here waiting for us,"he said rapidly. "his workshop is on the other side of this planet. gome along, kenniston!" jon arnol? kenniston had almost forgottenabout him, in the grip of this strange arrival.
in the shivering fascination of being here,he found it hard to keep his mind on why he was here. he went down with gorr holl to the big vestibuleinside the entrance port. the lock was open, and strange blue sunlight struck the metalfloor, strange air, laden with faintly alien scents, drifted to his nostrils. lund and varn allan were there, and the womansaid to him, "your quarters will be in government center. i can take you there." gorr holl, looking out at a dark, lean manwho was hurrying across the concrete apron toward the thanis, said hastily, "no, youneedn't bother. we'll take kenniston along
to his quarters." the lean, dark man was coming up the stairsto the lock. he was perhaps ten years older than kenniston, with a worn face and the eyesof a dreamer, and the unsteady hands of a man who is laboring under great excitement. varn allan's eyes rested on him, and she said,"i see. jon arnol. i thought that's what you had in mind. but it won't succeed, gorr." "maybe it will, this time," rumbled the capellan. norden lund, looking at arnol as he entered,laughed, and then without saying anything went out. varn allan looked as though shewere going to speak to kenniston, but didn't.
she said, "then you are responsible for hisappearance tomorrow, gorr," and she left. kenniston, looking after her, wished she hadnot spoken. and he wished that lund had not laughed quite so smugly. he was worried enoughas it was. arnol had reached them, was greeting lal'loras an old friend, smiling at magro and gorr holl. his smile, his movements, were quickand sharp and only half finished, as though the tense nerves of the body were acting independentlyof the brain. "i think we've got a chance this time, lal'lor!"he said eagerly. "by god, i think we do! this earth business may be just what we've waitedfor, the chance to ram the arnol process down their throats whether they like it or not!it's a lucky break!" gorr holl told him, "this
is kenniston, of earth." jon arnol lookeda little ashamed as he turned to kenniston. "i'm sorry if i sounded selfish. i know you'vegot your own terrible problem. but if you knew how long i've sweated and waited andhoped! i'm a scientist, nothing else is important to me, and i've seen my whole life's workand achievement held back by politics--" gorr holl interrupted. "now listen, this isno place to talk! let's get on to government center. we can talk in kenniston's quarters,and we've got plenty of planning to do before tomorrow!" kenniston went down the steps with them, ontothe concrete apron, and for a moment the whole problem of earth seemed impossibly far away.
he stood on an alien world, under an aliensun, and all around him was the rush and clangor of the starport, where the great ships cameand went across the galaxy. somehow here, more than in space, he caught the realityof that incredible commerce that plied between the farthest suns, that knew the shining trailsamong the nebulae and the deadly currents of the stardrifts, and the infinite numbersof ports on infinite nameless worlds. something in him rose up in mingled awe and pride, rememberingthat men of earth had first voyaged across the unknown seas to these star-fringed shoresof the universe. the deep bass thrumming of the great shipsshook the ground beneath him and the atomic forges beat, hammering the plates for bowand keel, and the black hulls lifted majestically
against the sky, scarred and pitted with thedusts and atmospheres of a galaxy, and kenniston would have stood forever watching if gorrholl had not led him away with them. jon arnol had a car waiting, a car that boresmall relation to the ones that kenniston had known except that it went along the ground.it was sleek and low, and he knew that it must be very swift, but speed seemed to becontrolled along the incredible network of ramps and roads and flying bridges that spannedthe city. they went fast, but not so fast that he could not see. he looked at this city, splendid in the lightof setting vega, and he felt like an ignorant barbarian come down from the hills to babylon.it was more a nation than a city, too huge
and awesome to comprehend. already the duskwas gathering in its deep ways, soft lights were glowing forth and the traffic and thecrowd flowed there in murmuring rivers. and along such a river sped their car, the othersso little impressed that they were talking eagerly still of the morrow, of the hearing,of the great chance. kenniston looked at the thronged and glowingstreets, the strange thousands who went its ways, and it was borne in upon him with crushingimpact that this was the center of the galaxy, the capital of a thousand thousand worlds.man and woman and humanoid, silken clothing and furry hides and backs humped with wings,voices human and nonhuman, alien music that jarred his nerves, throb of hidden machines,and over all the deep humming from the sky
that told of more and more starships droppingdown through the deepening dusk. as though from a remote distance he heardgorr holl speaking to him, pointing ahead toward a range of titan buildings that roselike white cordilleras, their tops raking the sky. it came to his numbed mind presentlythat that was government center, the place to which they were bound, the place wherehe must presently stand up alone and speak for faraway earth to these strangers of thestars. chapter 17 -- judgment of the stars kenniston clenched his hands under the tableof gleaming plastic and clung hard to his
sanity. this is true, he told himself fiercely. itis happening, and i am not mad. i am john kenniston. only a few weeks ago i was in middletown.now i am in a place called vega center. i am still john kenniston. only the world haschanged. but he knew that it was not so. he knew thatvega center and the marble amphitheatre in which he sat were only shadows in a shiftingnightmare from which he could not wake. unsteadily he looked upward. they sat silently,row upon row of them, tier upon tier, full circle around the vast echoing space, reachingup into the shadowy vault, watching him with the crushing thousands of their eyes, humanand unhuman, curious, intent.
the hosts of the federation of stars. theboard of governors, in full session. these countless hundreds who came from thefar-flung worlds of a galaxy-- to them, he must seem equally unreal. it would seem impossibleto them that they looked down upon a man of the forgotten past. varn allan's quiet, earnest voice broke inupon his reeling thoughts. she was finishing her report on middletown. "this is a complex situation. in finding asolution for it, i would ask you to remember that these people are a special case, forwhich there is no precedent. in my belief, they are entitled to special consideration.
"therefore, my recommendation is as follows:that the proposed evacuation be delayed until these people can be psychologically conditionedto the idea of world-change. such conditioning, in my belief, would enable this evacuationto be carried out without difficulty." she glanced at norden lund, who sat next herat the table. "perhaps sub-administrator lund has something to add to that report." lund smiled. "no. i will reserve my rightto speak until later." his eyes held a gleam of anticipation. there was a moment of silence. and kennistoncould hear the soft gigantic rustling, the breathing and small stirring of the rankedthousands of the governors.
the spokesman, a small alert man who was thevoice of the board, the questioner, and who sat with them at the table, said, "the boardof governors recognizes kenniston, of sol three." the rulers of the galaxy were waiting forhim to speak. others were waiting, too. they were waitingin the dusk and cold of sol three, the little world whose ancient name of earth had beenall but forgotten in these halls of government. the millhands, the housewives, the rich menand the poor, the folk of middletown. varn allan looked at him and smiled. he took a deep breath. he forced himself tospeak. he forced the words to come out of
the tight dark corridors of fear. "we did not ask to come into your time. havingcome, we are under federation law, and we do not defy your authority as such. we donot wish to make trouble. our problem is a psychological one..." he tried to explain to these men of the federationsomething of what life had been like before that fateful morning in june. he tried tomake them understand how his people were bound to their world and why they must cling toit so desperately. "i understand the technological problems ofsupporting life on a world such as ours. but we have known privation and suffering before.we are not afraid of them. and we believe
that, given time, we can solve those problems. "we don't even ask you for help, though wewould be grateful if you cared to give it. all we ask of you is to be let alone, to workout our own salvation!" he stopped. the silence, the thousands ofwatching eyes, bore down upon him with a crushing weight. kenniston struggled for a final word. therewas so much he had not said-- so much that could never be put into words. how do you phrase the history of the raceof men, the pride and sorrow of their beginning? he said, "earth is the mother that bore you.you should not let her die!"
it was done. for good or ill, it was doneand over. jon arnol leaned from where he sat besidehim at the table. "magnificent," he whispered. and again, "magnificent!" the spokesman asked, "is it through the applicationof jon arnol's theories that you hope to bring back life to sol three?" before kenniston could answer, arnol himselfcried out, "on that point, i ask leave to speak!" the spokesman nodded. arnol rose. the fierce energy that drove himcould not be contained for long in any chair.
he seemed to face the entire board of governorsat once, turning his dark, challenging gaze upon them. "you have denied me another chance to testmy process-- in spite of the fact that no reputable scientist can challenge my equations.you have denied me that chance, because of political considerations which are known toeveryone here. the same considerations which deliberately made my first test fail, by choosingfor it a world too small for the energy-blast released in its core! "but earth is not such a world. the experimentwill succeed, there. i demand that you let it be done! remember, this process will solvenot only the immediate problem before you
but also the whole future problem of dyingworlds. you think that evacuation, transfer of populations, is a better solution. butyou can't go on moving populations forever!" he paused. then his voice rang out sternly."neither can you, for a preconceived political philosophy, forever hold back scientific progress.i say that you have no right to deny to the peoples of the federation the incalculablegood that this process can do them. and therefore, i ask permission to prove my process, usingthe planet sol three as the subject!" he sat down. there was much whispering inthe ranks of the governors, a nodding together of heads. kenniston stared hungrily at theirfaces. impossible to tell... "i think," jon arnol whispered, "we may havedone it!" the spokesman lifted his gavel,
about to signal the beginning of the vote.norden lund said, "i now claim my right to speak." it was granted. and kenniston felthis heart stop beating. lund's voice rang through the amphitheatre. "there is one factconcerning these so-called middletowners that has not been mentioned-- one that my superiordid not even discover! a fact which was learned from records in their own old town, decipheredby the linguistic and historical expert of our party." kenniston grew tense. so it was coming now,whatever it was that lund had found out through piers eglin. "you have been told that these middletownersare a kindly, harmless folk. you are asked
to be sorry for them, to give them specialindulgences, to overlook their little violences. and why? because they are pathetic creatures,innocent victims of a freak of chance that threw them forward along their world-line." lund's face hardened. his voice thunderedwrathfully. "it was no freak of chance that brought theminto our time. it was an act of war!" he paused, to let them understand that. kennistonsaw varn allan's face. she was looking at lund in amazement. lund went on. "let kenniston deny this ifhe can! it was the explosion of a hostile atomic bomb that ruptured the continuum andhurled his city through. these people are
the children of war, born and bred in an ageof wars. "consider the mob violence, the threats madeagainst federation officials, the refusal to accept peaceful authority! consider thatat this moment those kindly folk of middletown are prepared for war, their trenches dug,their guns in place, ready to fire on the first federation ship that lands!" lund's voice dropped to a lower, tenser pitch. "i warn you that these people are rotten withthe plague of war. for centuries, we of the federation struggled to find release fromwar, and we found it. the galaxy has been clean of that hideous disease. now it hasappeared again among us.
"and we-- the upholders of federation law--are wavering before a show of force!" kenniston was on his feet. jon arnol clung to him, holdinghim back. varn allan leaned over the table, telling him in a desperate undertone, "don'tkenniston! keep your temper!" the spokesman asked of lund, "what is yourrecommendation to the board of governors?" lund cried, "show these people that they cannotflout peaceful authority with a threat of war! remove them, as quickly as possible,to some isolated world on the frontiers of the galaxy-- a world so remote that they cannotinfect the main thought currents of the federation with their brute psychology!" kenniston broke away from arnol's grasp. hestrode up to lund and took him by the front
of his jacket and bent over him a face sowhite with anger that lund quailed before it. "who are you," snarled kenniston, "to sitin judgment upon us?" the words choked in his throat. he thrustlund from him, flung him away so that he went sprawling to his knees, and turned to facethe governors. "yes, we fought our wars! we fought becausewe had to, so that thought and progress and freedom could live in our world. you owe usfor that! you owe us for the men that died so that there could one day be a federationof stars. you owe us for atomic power, too. we may have misused it-- but it's the forcethat built your civilization, and we gave
it to you! "think of those things, you men of the future!from earth you came, and your whole civilization is rooted in our blood. you live in peace,because we died in war. remember that, when you sit in judgment upon the past!" he stood silent then, trembling, and varnallan came to bring him back to his chair. lund had got to his feet. he said, "i willlet kenniston's own actions stand as my final argument." he sat down. the spokesman broughthis gavel down. kenniston was hardly aware of the taking of the vote. he wrestled witha dark turmoil of doubt and anger and fear, dreading to hear the words of judgment thathe knew were coming. "it is the final decision
of the board of governors that the populationof sol three shall be evacuated in accordance with the official order already outstanding. "no experiments with the arnol process ona planetary scale can be considered safe at this time. "it is the wish of the governors that thepeople of sol three be peaceably assimilated into the federation. it is hoped that theirattitude in the future will be such as to make this possible. if it is not, then theymust be shown the futility of armed resistance. "the hearing is concluded." kenniston realized that arnol was tellinghim to get up. he rose and went out of the
amphitheatre with the others. he heard varnallan's voice speaking in bitter anger to norden lund. nothing was very clear to him after that untilhe was back in his own quarters and gorr holl was putting a glass in his hand. magro andlal'lor had waited there for the verdict. varn allan was still with him, and arnol. "i'm sorry, kenniston," said varn, and heknew she meant it. he shook his head. "it was my fault. if i hadn't lost my temper..." "don't blame yourself, kenniston. forgiveme, but lund had just enough truth on his side to carry the day. why didn't you or yourpeople tell us that you had been engaged in
war, back in your own time?" he shook his head. "because we weren't inany war. don't you see, the bomb that hurled us out of our own time came in peacetime!whatever followed we never knew about, because we weren't there!" she paced the room, frowning, and then said,"i'm going to try to get this evacuation order lengthened out as long as possible. it maysoften the blow a little for your people. i used to have some influence with the coordinators--now i don't know. lund has undermined me pretty badly." it dawned on kenniston then that this dayhad been a defeat for her, too, and an unjust
one. he had been too wrapped up in his owndespair to think about it. it was his turn to say, "i'm sorry." she smiled a little and turned to go, pausingto lay her hand briefly on kenniston's shoulder. "don't take this too hard," she said. "nobodycould have done a better job than you did." she went out. they looked at each other withfaces sick, angry, sullen-- the two men and the three humanoids. "well," said gorr holl, "it was a damned goodtry. i vote we have a drink." magro said, "it'll be bitter news for ourpeople, gorr. they were beginning to hope." the capellan rumbled, "i know that. shut up."
he took a glass to jon arnol, who was sittingstaring at the wall. "cheer up," he said. "your process is bound to win out some day." arnol said, "maybe. but that's not doing yourpeople any good-- all the humanoid peoples who backed and financed my work and put theirhopes in it. i've let you down." "the hell you have," said gorr. kenniston was thinking sickly of the peopleback there on earth, waiting anxiously for his return. he was thinking of carol, andhe said slowly, "i can't go back. i can't face them, and tell them i've failed." "they'll get over it," said gorr holl, ina heavy attempt to be reassuring. "after all,
going to a strange world isn't half as muchof a shock as being hurled forward in time. they stood that." "it happened before they knew it," said kenniston,"that makes a difference. and they were still in a place they knew. no. they won't get usedto it. they'll fight it to the bitter end." he spread his hands in a gesture of futileanger. "that's what i can't make anybody, even you, understand! they belong on earth.it's like an extension of themselves. they will risk any danger, dare and threat, tohold onto it!" his gaze fell then on jon arnol's bitter face,abstracted and brooding on his own disappointment. kenniston's pulse gave a sudden leap.
he said softly, "any danger, any threat...yes. by heaven!" he was suddenly shaken by a terrible, desperate hope. he got up andwent across the room to jon arnol. "you said that you had a small star-cruiserand technical crew of your own?" kenniston arnol nodded. "yes. over at my workshop inthe mountains." he added bitterly, "i sent them word last night to get the cruiser readyto go to earth. i was so sure that our chance had come." kenniston asked him softly, "tell me, arnol.do you really believe in your own process?" arnol got to his feet. his eyes were suddenlyhot, and he looked as if he would hit the earthman.
kenniston demanded, "do you believe in itenough, to defy an order of the board?" arnol stiffened. after a moment he said, "explainthat, kenniston." kenniston explained. fairly shaking with theintensity of his idea, he talked. and gradually arnol's eyes took on a febrile glitter. he muttered. "it could be done quickly, thereon earth. the ancient heat shafts would eliminate the necessity of deep boring--" but then he shook his head, in a kind of dread,"no! it would mean dismissal from the college of scientists, exile for the rest of my life.i can't do it, kenniston." "you've worked and hoped for many years,"kenniston reminded him cruelly. "some day
you'll give up hoping, and your process willbe forgotten and lost." he stood back. "i won't say any more-- exceptthat here is your chance, if you wish to take it. your chance to try your planet rejuvenationprocess, on earth!" he waited, then, silent. gorr holl and theothers watched. the capellan's eyes were very bright. arnol put his head in his hands and groaned."i can't, i can't! and yet-- they'll never grant permission, that i know. a whole life'swork wasted..." kenniston watched him suffer, caught betweendesire and fear. and at last arnol struggled to a decision. he said, hesitantly, "we wouldhave to leave it to your people to decide,
kenniston. they must agree to accept the risk." "i know them, and i know they'll agree!" kennistonexclaimed. "and if they do?" beads of sweat stood on arnol's forehead."if they're willing, i'll do it," he said huskily. a great excitement coursed through kenniston.one chance-- one last chance, after all! he looked at gorr holl and magro and lal'lor.he asked, "are you with us in this?" gorr holl uttered a great, booming laugh."are we with you?" he strode to kenniston, and he said, "we humanoids have been fightingthis battle for a long time. do you think we'd drop out now?"
magro's cat eyes were glittering, but he merelynodded agreement jon arnol said excitedly, "my flier is dockedat south port, near here. it won't take long to get to my mountain workshop." lal'lor began, "i, too--" gorr holl told him, "you, grey one, shallstay here and cover for us. tell anyone who asks that we have all gone out to show kennistonthe sights." the miran sighed. "all right, gorr. but--try to be careful. all of you." they left the apartment half an hour later,their flier was splitting the night on the way to the other side of vega four.
chapter 18 -- fateful return another night had come. under the brilliant,unfamiliar stars, black mountain peaks looked broodingly at the scene of feverish activityon the little plateau. lights flared there, illumining the littlegroup of long, low buildings, the supply yard with its crane, and the dim metal mass ofa small star-cruiser battered and tarnished by long use. a wide hatch gaped in the side of the ship'shull. and toward it kenniston and his three companions were carefully rolling a massive,black ovoid thing that rested in a wheeled
cradle. "you needn't worry-- there's no danger ofdetonating it, when it isn't even electrofused," jon arnol was saying reassuringly. "listen, if this energy bomb is able to changea whole plant, i'm treating it with respect!" rumbled gorr holl. kenniston felt the unreality of it. the wholescheme now seemed to him mad, harebrained. this big black mass his hand touched-- howcould it change the future of a world? he tried to fight down these doubts. the scientistsof this latter-day universe, masters of a knowledge far beyond his own, had affirmedthe soundness of arnold theory. that was what
had nerved him to start this project, andhe must cling to it. it was too late now for questions. he was tired, dead tired. they had workedwithout respite all through the day, he and gorr holl and magro, helping arnol and histechnical crew to load the masses of supplies and incomprehensible equipment necessary forthe experiment. the little starcruiser was arnol's workship.it had carried him on many research trips throughout the galaxy. and the eager youngmen of the crew who had worked and dreamed beside arnol for so long had asked no questions.whether or not they guessed what their mission was to be, kenniston had no way of knowing.
the chief pilot came up to arnol as the fourof them reached the hatchway with their cryptic burden. "she's all checked and ready for takeoff,whenever you are." arnol nodded. the technical men were takingover the task of loading the energy bomb and making it fast in its shockproof well. "as soon as they're through," said arnol.he glanced at kenniston and the others, with a weary, triumphant smile. "in about twentyminutes, we'll be on our way." it was then that kenniston saw the jet streamsof a flier drawing a distant curve of flame across the sky, coming toward the plateau.
the others saw it, too. they waited, whilethe technical crew labored swiftly on, and kenniston said, "it must be lal'lor, witha message!" "yes," said arnol. "no one else could knowwe were here." yet their uneasiness grew as they watchedthe flier sweep in to a landing. kenniston thought desperately, "no one else could know!we wouldn't have been followed!" he found himself running with the others acrossthe flat surface of the landing field. he saw the figure that stepped out of theflier. it was not lal'lor. it was a man he had never seen-- a stocky man with clippediron-grey hair and a look of authority on his square face.
behind this stranger came varn allan, andwith her, his face alight with triumph, was kenniston stopped, his heart sinking in colddespair. the stocky newcomer stood, surveying with startled, unbelieving eyes, the bustleof activity around the cruiser. "i wouldn't have thought it possible!" hegasped. "lund, you were right. they were going to do it without permission." lund said happily, "yes, sir. i suspectedit that's why i had them watched. you can see for yourself." and to kenniston and arnoland the others he said, "let me introduce you. this is coordinator mathis." varn allan was still standing and lookingat them, her face shocked and incredulous
in the white glare of the worklights. shelooked as though she could not credit what she saw. "i didn't believe it," she said, speakingto kenniston slowly. "when the coordinator informed me of what lund had told him, whatyou were doing, i refused to believe it i came with him, to prove that he was wrong." she paused, her blue eyes growing hot, fixedon kenniston. "but i was wrong. you are a complete barbarian, with no respect for law.i'm beginning to think your people should be quarantined!" mathis, the coordinator, was looking grimlyat jon arnol. "you've gone too far this time,
arnol. you know the penalty for breaking federationlaw, even if this kenniston hasn't learned it yet." "arrest," said lund softly. "arrest and exilefor all of them. i hope, sir, you will remember that it was i who exposed this criminal plotafter my superior had shown open sympathy for the criminals." "i will remember it," mathis said crisply."now advise vega center of this situation at once." lund turned to go back to the flier. its radio-televisor,kenniston knew, would put him into instant contact with the government center.
he sprang forward in running strides. he caughtup to lund, and with one hand on the man's shoulder he spun him around. with the other,he smashed a driving blow at lund's jaw. mathis recoiled, horrified by the violence.varn allan ran toward kenniston, as lund struggled to get up. "get back, kenniston!" she ordered him. "you'renot on your barbaric world now. you can't..." she had no chance to finish. lund came upfast, drawing a small glass weapon from his pocket. he had foreseen kenniston's reactionssufficiently to come armed. gorr holl's great furry shape loomed up behindthe sub-administrator. one huge paw caught the hand with the weapon, the other arm wentaround lund's body and lifted him in the air
like a child. his powerful fingers tightened.lund dropped the glass weapon. "let me go!" he gasped. "i order you..." "you might have killed someone," gorr hollrumbled, and shook lund until his teeth rattled. "you have no orders for me, little man!" he looked around, still holding lund. "whatnow?" mathis said, a little shakily, "i demand in the name of the federation--" nobody paidany attention to his demand, and he stopped. arnol had come up. there was an iron set tohis jaw now. "we are already liable to penalties for what we have done. arrest and exile. theycan't do much more to us if we go through with it. are you still game?"
"yes!" kenniston looked at varn allan andmathis. he said regretfully, "i'm sorry you two came. you'll have to go with us now--you and lund. we can't leave you behind to spread an alarm." her eyes met his coldly and steadily. "itwill do you no good. our disappearance, and yours, will be noticed very soon." she said nothing more. she glanced once atthe flier, and then at the men around her, and at the fleet magro. she did not try toescape. arnol had turned to face his men. he told them, "you are not responsible formy plans, and you are not yet under any penalty. therefore you are free to decide now whetheror not you will go with me."
the chief pilot stepped forward. he was atall young man with a reckless grin and eyes that were not given to showing fear. "i've sweated this tub across the galaxy toomany times to quit now," he said. "i don't know about the other boys, but i'm going." the others, technicians and crewmen alike,shouted assent. "we've worked too long and too hard to throwthis chance away! we're with you, arnol!" arnol's dark eyes suffused with a mist thatwas very like the tears of gratitude. but his voice rang out like a bugle, crying, "thenprepare for takeoff! the government ships will be after us as soon as the coordinatorand varn allan and lund are missed and traced!"
men began to run toward the starcruiser. kennistonwent with them, holding tight to varn allan, with gorr holl coming after with the squirming,protesting lund clutched in his great arms. magro brought the pale-faced mathis, who neitherspoke nor resisted. the hatches were shut. the airlock valvesclanged into place. as he followed arnol along a narrow passageway, kenniston was aware ofthe swift, ordered confusion that seethed throughout the ship. warning lights flashedon the bulkheads. bells rang. somewhere, deep in the bowels of the cruiser, machinery jarredinto life, settling to a steady humming. arnol thrust open two doors that faced eachother across the passage. indicating one, he said, "i think this is the most comfortable,administrator allan. you'll understand if
we keep the door locked." she went inside without a word. lund and mathiswere thrust into the opposite cabin, the former still snarling threats. arnol glanced at thewarning lights. "all set," he said. "come on." in the cruiser, kenniston sat dazedly throughthe last taut seconds of preparations, feeling all his weariness collapsing upon him. thena bell rang, and the little ship went smoothly skyward. there was little sensation of thetremendous acceleration, any more than in the thanis. he had learned by now of the elasticforce-stasis that gripped everything in a starship to temper acceleration pressure.
as in a dream, kenniston listened to the bansheescream of atmosphere past the outer hull. then through the port he saw the great cloudybulk of vega four falling away with slow majesty. and then the sky was gone, replaced by thedepthless black vault of space that was hung thick with loops and chains and pendants ofblazing suns. he became aware later of gorr holl's big pawsshaking him gently. "gome on, kenniston. you're nearly out. time to sleep." the big capellan bore him away bodily to acabin, and rolled him into a bunk. he woke hours later, feeling rusty and stilltired from the strain of the past days. he looked out. the cruiser was in deep spacenow, droning steadily across the mighty gulf
that separated it from earth. kenniston feltan involuntary thrill. this voyaging in the great interstellar deeps was getting intohis blood. he stuck his head in the bridge and foundmagro there with the chief pilot. "i've been listening with the visor operator,"said the spican. "there's been no alarm yet, back there." "but there will be, when they find all ofus gone." "yes. and control ships will be after us likehounds. we're not going to have much time, on earth." kenniston was silent. then he asked, "where'sarnol?"
"you'll find him down in the bomb compartment." as kenniston groped his way down a seriesof ladders, into the compartment where the great bomb brooded in its well, that troublingdoubt rose again within him. until now, the swiftness of events had crowdedit down. but now it seemed suddenly fantastic that he should pin the hopes of earth's lastpeople to this black thing. it had only been tested once, and that test had ended disastrously... but jon arnol sat there in the dim light andsmiled, a happy, peaceful smile. "i have been admiring my child, kenniston.that seems silly, doesn't it? but i've put most of my life into that thing. i've waited--how long i've waited! and now, in a little
while..." his gaze dwelt fondly again upon the blackmetallic ovoid in its cradled pit. "it is a dream, and it is half a lifetimeof toil, and it is a power that will revive a world." kenniston cried, out of his haunting doubt,"can this bomb really rekindle earth's interior heat? how?" arnol said, a little helplessly, "i know theuncertainty that must oppress you. i'd like to explain my equations. but how can i, withoutfirst teaching you all that the ages have brought in new science?"
he went on, "but even though a primitive scientist,you are a scientist. i will try to make you understand the principle, at least. you knowthat most suns derive their energy from a nuclear reaction that changes four hydrogenatoms into one helium atom, by a series of shifting transmutations involving carbon andnitrogen?" kenniston nodded quickly. "yes, that carbon-nitrogencycle was discovered in my time. scientists called it the solar phoenix. the tiny fractionof atomic weight left over, after the cycle, was the source of solar radiation." "exactly," said arnol. "what you wouldn'tknow is that scientists in the ages since then have succeeded in triggering similarcyclical reactions in other, heavier elements.
that is the key to my process. "most planets, like your earth, have a centralcore of iron and nickel. now, a transformation of iron to nickel in cyclic reaction had beenachieved in the laboratory, liberating the energy. i asked myself-- instead of in a laboratory,why not start that reaction inside a planet?" "then it would reproduce the basic solar reactioninside such a planet?" kenniston said incredulously. "not really, for the iron-nickel cycle doesnot yield such terrific radiation as your solar phoenix," arnol corrected. "it would,however, create a giant solar furnace inside a planet, and raise the surface temperatureof that world by many degrees." kenniston voiced his worry. "there wouldn'tbe danger of the nuclear reaction bursting
through to the surface?" "it can't burst through," arnol declared."the cycle can only feed on nickel and iron, and the massive outer sphere of silicon andaluminum around the core would contain the reaction forever." he added, "that is why the energy-bomb thattriggers the reaction must be detonated in the core. and that is why we can quickly startthe process on your earth-- because the ancient heat shafts there provide access to the deepcore without elaborate preliminary boring." kenniston nodded. the theory seemed soundenough. and yet-- he said slowly, "but when you tested it before,the planet was nearly destroyed by quakes
that the convulsion in the core started." "planetoid" said arnol wearily. "not planet.haven't i explained that enough times? the mass was insufficient to sustain the blast."he was suddenly angry. "why was i ever fool enough to accept that impossible test? buti repeat, kenniston, i know what i am doing. the entire college of science has not beenable to find flaws in my equations. you'll have to be content with that." "yes," said kenniston. "yes, i'll have tobe." but as he left arnol, he could not entirely crush his apprehension. this man-made creationof a solar furnace in the heart of a planet was as monstrous to his mind as the makingof fire must have been to the first man. what
if, by his faith in jon arnol, he had doomedearth instead of helping it? one decision came clear in his mind. if therewas a possibility that earth's surface might be ravaged by destructive quakes, no one shouldremain for the detonation of the bomb who did not do so of his own free will. with a queer pang of guilt, he thought ofvarn allan. she and lund and mathis, prisoners against their will, would have to be let gobefore the great risk was taken. he would give her that reassurance, at least. the door of her cabin had a simple combinationlock, and the dial numbers had been given to all hands in case of necessity. kennistonopened it, and went in.
she was sitting rather as he had sat thattime aboard the thanis, her shoulders bent, her gaze brooding on the immensity of spacebeyond the port. he thought she had not slept, from the lines of strain and weariness inher face. she straightened up at once, and turned towardhim defiantly. "have you come to your senses and abandoned this criminal project?" shedemanded. the hard anger in her clear eyes awakenedanswering anger in kenniston. "we have not," he said. "i came only to tellyou that you and lund and mathis will be allowed to leave earth before the thing is done." "do you think i'm worried about my own safety?"cried varn allan. "it's the thousands of your
people whom you're endangering by this maddefiance of federation law." "to the devil with federation law," he saidroughly. her eyes flashed hotly. "you'll learn its power. control ships will speed to earthbefore you can even do this thing." exasperated beyond measure, he grabbed hershoulders with a brutal impulse to shake her. then the totally unexpected happened. varnallan began to cry. kenniston's anger melted into distress. shehad always seemed so cool and self-contained that it was upsetting to see her in tears. after a moment, he clumsily patted her shoulder."i'm sorry, varn. i know you were trying to help me there at vega center. and it mustseem to you that i'm ungrateful. but i'm not!
it's just that i have to try this thing, orsee middletown's people break their hearts trying to fight your federation." she looked a him, wet-eyed, and murmured,"i'm behaving like an emotional fool." he looked down at her, his hands still onher shoulders. she pushed him back. she seemed to avoid his eyes as she said, "i know you're sincere, kenniston. but i knowtoo that this thing is wrong, that you can't successfully defy the power of all the stars." he was strangely depressed when he left her.he tried not to think about it-- tried not to remember the touch of her, tried not torecognize the choking emotion that had leaped
in him for a moment. "that's just insane," he muttered to himself."and there's carol--" he would not go to her again, in all the hoursand days that the little starcruiser swept full speed across the galactic void. he was,somehow, afraid to see her once more. a tension grew in kenniston as the dim redspark of sol largened to a sullen sphere. as the cruiser swept in at decelerating speedpast the lifeless outer planets, he looked ahead. "we must work fast, once we're there," jonarnol was saying tautly. he, too, was showing the strain. "already federation ships mustbe on their way here to stop us."
kenniston made no answer. that cold, hauntingdoubt was a deeper shadow on him as he watched the gray blob of old earth grow big ahead. his people were there, waiting. what was hebringing to them and their dying planet? new life, or final, ultimate death? chapter 19 -- middletown decides with tightening nerves, kenniston walked acrossthe dust and desolation of the plain toward the bright dome of new middletown. arnol waswith him, and big gorr holl. the cold wind was as he remembered it, and the red, loweringsun with its crown of fire.
"perfect!" whispered arnol. "perfect! sucha world as i have dreamed of for a test!" "here they come," said gorr holl, and pointedto the portal. the armed lookouts had recognized kennistonand the big capellan. word had gone around, and the folk of middletown were pouring outthrough the portal to meet them. within seconds the crowd was around them,shouting, all but trampling them in its excitement. he recognized well-known faces-- bud martin,john borzak, lauber-- mclain's towering figure shouldered towardhim. "what happened out there, kenniston?" "yeah, what's the verdict?" came a cry frombeside him. "are they going to let us be?" he raised his voice to shout back to the wildlyexcited crowd. "everybody-- go to the plaza!
pass the word around. i'll tell you all aboutit, there." "the plaza! the plaza!" some of them began to run back toward thecity, to cry the news through the streets. others swarmed around gorr holl, glad to seehim back. they stared curiously at jon arnol, demanding to know who he was, but kennistonshook his head. the story would be hard enough to tell once. he was not going to do it twice. he searched for carol's face in the crowd.he yearned to see her-- and yet deep in his mind somewhere there was a strange reluctanceto see her, to face her, and he did not know why this should be so. but she was not there,he should have known she would not have ventured
into this excited crowd. mayor garris bustled up to him at the portal,preceding hubble and a few of the city council. "did you fix things, kenniston?" he cried."did you make them understand out there?" kenniston said, "i'd like to make my reportin the plaza, where everyone can hear." the mayor gave him a worried, half-frightenedlook, and fell back. kenniston reached out to take hubble's hand. "i've got to talk to you, hubble," he said."i've done something, and i don't know..." he talked in a rapid undertone to the olderscientist as they made their way through the streets.
hubble's reaction was the same as kenniston'shad been when the thing had been first broached to him. he recoiled from it. "good god, ken! it's mad-- dangerous..." but as he heard more, his alarm changed tograve attention, and then keenest interest. "yet it does sound logical, by every principleof our own physical science." he looked at jon arnol. "if i could only talk clearly tohim!" "it wouldn't do any good," said kennistongrimly. "that's the awful part of it. his science is a million years beyond us." hubble turned to gorr holl. he had workedbeside the big furry capellan. he knew and
trusted his ability as an atomic technician.haltingly, he asked, "will arnol's process work?" gorr holl answered simply, "i believe in itenough to risk my life helping to try it." kenniston translated that. and hubble seemedreassured. "it still seems a great gamble, ken. but-- i think it's worth it." soon kenniston had mounted the steps of thebuilding that was city hall, and stood by the microphone. before him were the gatheredthousands of middletowners-- a kaleidoscope of eager faces, excited, waiting. this was the moment he had dreaded-- the momenthe had thought he could not endure. and it
was harder even than he had dreamed, to saythe words he must say. there was no use being gentle about it. hetold them almost brutally, "the decision is against us. they say we have to go." he listenedto the roar that broke out then, the angry cry of a people driven beyond their patience. mayor garris voiced the passionate reactionof all middletown. "we won't leave earth! and if they want topush it to a fight, they can!" kenniston raised his hands, begging for quiet. "wait!" he shouted into the microphone. "listen!you may not have to go, and you may not have to fight. there's one chance..."
he told them, as simply and carefully as hecould, of jon arnol's great proposed experiment. "earth would be warm again-- perhaps not quiteas warm as before, but warm enough so that you could live here comfortably for all timeto come." there was a long silence. he knew that theconcept was too enormous for them to grasp at once. but they were trying to grasp it,trying to equate it with some familiar thing. the planetary scale of it, their minds couldnot hold onto. they struggled for a personal significance they could understand. finally john borzak stepped forward, a rawboned,grizzled man who had spent a lifetime in the mills.
"does it mean, mr. kenniston, that we couldgo back then to middletown?" he answered, "yes." a cheer went up that shook the very wallsof the buildings. "back to middletown! did you hear that? we could go back to middletown!" kenniston was touched beyond measure. to them,the shocking of a planet back to life meant primarily one thing-- the ability to returnto the drab little city beyond the hills, the city that was still home. he motioned to them again for silence. "i have to warn you. this experiment has neverbeen tried on a world like earth. it's possible
that it may fail. if it does, the surfaceof the earth may be wrecked by quakes." that gave them pause. kenniston saw the shadowof fear cross their faces, saw how they turned to one another and talked, and shook theirheads, and looked anxiously back and forth. finally a voice cried, "what do you and doctorhubble think? you're scientists. what's your advice?" kenniston hesitated. then he said slowly,"if i were alone on earth, i would try it. but i cannot advise you. you must make yourown decision." hubble said into the microphone, "we can'tadvise you, because we don't know ourselves. we are dealing here with the science of thisfuture age, which is far beyond us. we can
only take what their scientists tell us onfaith. "they say that the theory is entirely workable.we have warned you of the possibility of failure. it's up to you to decide how great the riskis, and how much you are willing to gamble." kenniston turned and spoke to mayor garris."tell them to think it over carefully. then call for a vote-- those in favor of tryingit to go to one side of the plaza, those against it to the other." aside, to hubble, he said,"they should have months to decide a thing like this, instead of minutes!" hubble said, "it may be just as well. theywon't torture themselves with too much waiting and thinking."
mayor garris talked to the crowd. there wasa deepening, seething turmoil in the plaza then as people tried to reach others, to gatheropinions from each other on what they ought to do. scraps of heated conversations reachedkenniston's ears: "these guys from outside have done prettywell so far, getting this city going again. they know what they're doing!" "i don't know. suppose it does bring on terriblequakes?" "listen, these people know their stuff! they'dhave to, to live out there in the stars the way they do!" "yeah. and i'd rather sit through an earthquakethan go kiting off to the milky way!"
at last mayor garris asked, "are you readyfor the vote?" they were, as ready as they would ever be. kenniston watched, his heart pounding. andbeside him, jon arnol watched also. kenniston had explained the procedure to him. he knewwhat arnol must be going through as he waited while his life's work was weighed in the balance. for a time, the motion of the crowd was onlya chaotic churning. then, gradually, the separating motion came clear. those for the experiment, to the right sideof the plaza... those against it, to the left...
the channel between the two factions widened.and kenniston saw that on the left were a scant two hundred people. the vote was carried. the experiment was approved. kenniston's knees felt weak. he saw arnol'sface, moved almost to tears with relief and joy. he himself was conscious of a wild excitement--and yet, even now, he could not stifle all his fear. they were committed, now, he andarnol and the rest. for life or death, they were committed. he spoke again into the microphone. "we mustdo this thing as soon as we can. we have very little time before ships of the federationwill arrive to stop us.
"you will please, all of you prepare to leavethe city at a moment's notice. as a precaution, no one is to remain under the dome when theenergy bomb is detonated. "those of you who voted against the experimentwill be given a chance to leave earth before it takes place. the starcruiser can take onlypart of you, so it is suggested that you draw lots for space aboard her." he swung aroundto the mayor. "will you take over now? start the work of organizing the departure-- we'llneed every minute we've got!" hubble said, "i think we'd better let jonarnol see the shaft." arnol's technical crew came in from the ship. they studied the greatheat shaft, with gorr holl and magro and arnol himself, while kenniston and hubble stoodby and watched.
arnol finally said, "it'll do. it goes rightdown to the core. but the similar shafts in the other domed cities here-- they'll haveto be exploded and sealed, first." kenniston was startled. he hadn't though ofthat "but that'll take time--" "no, not so long. a few of my men can whiparound to them in the cruiser and do it quickly. of course i brought earth maps-- and thereare only half a dozen of the domed cities." kenniston asked him. "how long will it taketo get things ready here?" arnol said, "if we perform a miracle, we canbe ready by noon tomorrow." kenniston nodded. "i'll do my damnedest tohelp you, and so will everybody here. just let me have ten minutes, first."
ten minutes wasn't much. not much, for a manwho has just been halfway across a universe to spend with his girl. but time was whatthey didn't have, an inexorable limit was closing down on them every second, and eventhis little time he took to go to carol was time cheated and stolen from the common need. yet in the face of this terrible decisionthat had been taken, this thing that they were going to do to earth, he had to see her,to quiet her fears and reassure her as best he could. he thought she would want to takefrightened refuge on the cruiser, when the moment came, and he could only hope that hecould get her on it. carol was waiting, as though she had knownhe would come. and to kenniston's amazement,
there was no fear in her face-- it was brightwith eagerness and hope, her eyes lighted in a way he had not seen since the old time. "ken, can it really be done?" she cried. "willit really work, make earth warmer?" "we're so sure that we're gambling everythingit will," he said. "of course, there's always a chance of failure--" she didn't even listen to that. her handsclutched his arms, her face had a breathless excitement, as she explained, "but that doesn'tmatter! it's worth running any chance, if it succeeds! if it lets us go back to middletown--" he saw the mist in her eyes, the hunger, theyearning, as she whispered, "just to think
of it-- of going back to our own town, ourown homes, our own people--" kenniston understood, now. deep indeed washer homesickness for the old town, for the old way of life. so deep, that it had completelyconquered the fear she might otherwise have felt he took her in his arms and kissed her, andtouched her hair, and he was thinking, she does love me-- but only as part of a lifethat's gone, not me alone, not just john kenniston by himself, but the kenniston of middletown.and she'll be happy with me again, if we can change our life back a little to what it was. why did that thought bring no joy? why musthe think of varn allan, tired and lonely,
and yet courageously facing the wide universe,carrying a burden of duty too heavy for her? carol was asking him, "what was it like, ken?out there?" he shook his head. "strange-- and hostile--and beautiful, in a terrible way." she said, "i think it changed you, a little.i think it would change anybody." and she shivered a little, as though evenin the touch of him now was a freezing breath of alien deeps, a taint of unearthly worlds. "no, carol," he said. "i'm not changed! buti can't stay now. i have to get back-- every minute is precious--" as he hurried back to the others, kennistonsaw that new middletown had become a rushing,
surging swirl of excitement. voices calledto him, hands grabbed to delay him, men and women tried to reach him with questions. hewas glad to rejoin the others around the lip of the great heat shaft. gorr holl grinned his frightening grin athim. "now, get ready to work!" for what seemed an eternity, kenniston worked.machinists and sheet metal workers of middletown were called in, every available man and pieceof equipment. great loads were brought in from the ship. hammers rang with a deafeningclamor, shaping metal on improvised forges. riveting machines gave out their staccatothunder. and gradually, painfully, shaped out of thesweat and effort of their bodies, a scaffolding
of steel girders rose above the mouth of thegreat shaft magro labored with the technicians over thecomplicated and delicate electrofuses, and the timing devices, and the radio controlthat from a distance would drop and detonate the charge. kenniston had little time to think of anythingbut the work. yet his mind reverted strangely often to varn allan, locked in her cabin aboardthe cruiser, and he wondered what her thoughts were. morning came. the city was to be cleared bynoon, and the men and women of middletown were gathering their children in readiness.they would not take much out of the city with
them. they would not need much, either way. the cryptic black ovoid was wheeled into positionby the shaft. and with it were brought four small round objects of a different look. "capper bombs, that we made in the ship'slaboratory on the way here," explained arnol. "they will drop an instant after the energybomb and will explode in the shaft just before it detonates below, sealing the shaft to preventbacklash." kenniston watched while the technicians setthe capper bombs in their racks, one above the other, inside the frame of girders. theracks would be tripped by electronic relay, from the remote control box.
kenniston felt an increasing dread, as thefateful moment loomed close. his dread was for the trusting thousands of middletown,who accepted the powers of scientists with the same unquestioning faith with which menhad once accepted the powers of wizards. he hoped that, if the experiment were a disastrousfailure, he would not survive to know it. a crane had been rigged to handle the energybomb. the electronics crew were working desperately to finish the intricate wiring of the rackmechanisms, the split second timing of the relays. one of the cantilever support girdershad flawed, and steel workers were sweating away to replace it. a few more hours now, and the thing wouldbe done. by noon, or a little after, they
would know whether earth was to live or die. then one of arnol's men came running. he hadrun all the way from the starcruiser. he was breathless, and his eyes were wild. he cried out to arnol, "a message on the televisorfrom a control squadron! they say they are approaching earth, and order us to cease operationsat once!" chapter 20 -- appointment with destiny kenniston felt the impact of the news as acatastrophe crushing all their desperate hopes. he stood sagging, looking at the technicianswho stared frozenly back.
like an ominous echo, varn allan's warningcame back into his mind. "you cannot fight federation law!" but jon arnol, raging at seeing the dreamof a lifetime threatened at this last moment, rushed forward to the messenger. he grabbed the man's collar. "did you thinkto use a distance gauge on the message from those ships?" the man nodded hastily. "yes. the readingswere--" "the devil with readings! how far from earthare those ships?" "i'd estimate that they're three or four hoursaway, if they come at full speed."
"they'll come at full speed, don't worry,"said arnol grimly. his face was a sweating mask, the bones of it standing out gauntly,as he turned to the others. "can we be ready in time?" "the rack-trip controls are in," answereda technician. "it'll take an hour or more to prepare the timers." kenniston had regained a little hope, whenhe heard of the time limit they faced. "surely we can be ready in time, arnol! i'llstart them moving out the people, at once!" mayor bertram garris was not far to seek.round-eyed and pale with worry, the pudgy mayor had been watching their work aroundthe great shaft.
kenniston ran up to him. "get the people startedout at once, to the ridge of the hills. only the sick and old to go in cars-- the restmust walk. we can't risk a traffic tangle now!" "yes," gasped the mayor. "yes, right away."he caught kenniston's arm, looking past him at the black ovoid bulk of the bomb. as thoughashamed to show the terror he felt, garris stammered, "how much danger is there, kenniston?" kenniston gave him a reassuring shake. "don'tworry. go along and get those people out of the city!" he wished he could find reassurancehimself. the next hours were nightmarish. working underpressure, grudging every second, it seemed
that everything conspired against them. themetal, the mechanisms, the very tools seemed determined to betray them. and yet, at last, the dark shape of the energybomb swung it its rack over the mouth of the shaft. the last of the timers was set, andit was done. "get your equipment ready," kenniston toldthem tautly. "let's go. there's still a lot to be done." he went out with hubble and arnol and therest. the city was as he had first seen it-- empty, still, lifeless. the people had gone.as he passed out the portal he could see the dark, trailing mass of them already far acrossthe plain, the thousands streaming slowly
up the slope of the distant ridge. anxiously he scanned the sky. there was nosign yet of the control squadron. arnold sent his technical crew ahead to theridge, with the remote control mechanisms and recording instruments. gorr holl and margoand hubble went with them. then kenniston and arnol ran toward the starcruiser. there was a little knot of people standingbeside it in the dust and cold-- the middletowners who were leaving earth. kenniston stared at them in amazement. outof the two hundred, only a score had actually come to the cruiser.
arnol told them curtly, "you can come aboardnow." a few of them picked up their bundles andstood irresolutely glancing from their companions to kenniston and back, wanting to speak. thenthey turned and went aboard. kenniston counted. two men, three women, anda child. "well," he snapped at those who were left,"what are you waiting for? get aboard!" "i guess," said one man, and then stoppedto clear his throat. "i guess i'd rather stay with all the rest." he grabbed his bundle and started away, hurryingafter the distant crowd. another and another followed him until allwere gone, a small hastening group in the
immense desolation of the plain. arnol smiled. "among your people, kenniston,even the cowards are brave. it must be even harder, in some ways, for those who have decidedto go." they entered the cruiser, and released mathisand norden lund and varn allan from their locked cabins. varn allan did not speak, butthe coordinator said icily, "so you are really going to do it?" "we are," said arnol. "my chief pilot is aboutto take this ship off. you'll be safe." norden lund said bitterly, "i hope it blowsyou all to fragments! but even if it doesn't, even if it succeeds, you won't win. you'llstill have federation law to face. we'll see
to that!" "i don't doubt it. and now we must go." he turned, but kenniston paused, still lookingat varn allan. her face was a little pale but in it was no such anger as lund's. shewas looking at him with a searching, level gaze. he wanted to speak to her, he wanted to voicesomething that was in him, but he could find no words. he could only say, finally, "i'msorry things had to be this way, varn. goodbye--" "wait, kenniston." he stopped, and she came up to him, pale andcalm, her blue eyes very steady on his face.
she said, "i'm staying here, while you dothis thing." he stared at her, dumb with astonishment.and he heard mathis exclaim, "are you mad? what are you thinking of?" she told mathis slowly, "i am administratorof this world's sector. if my mistakes have caused this crisis, i will not evade its consequences.i will stay." lund cried to mathis, "she's not thinkingof her responsibility! she's thinking of this primitive, this kenniston!" she turned, as though to make furious reply.but she did not speak. she looked instead at kenniston, her face white and strained.
mathis was saying to her coldly, "i will notorder you to come with us. but be sure that your conduct will be remembered when yourfitness for office is re-examined." she bowed silently to that, and turned andwent out of the ship. and kenniston, following her, felt a wondering, incredulous emotionthat he dared not let himself recognize. they stepped out into the red sunlight, andwith a soft humming the starcruiser mounted into the sky and was lost to view. the last, dark, trailing mass of people wasdisappearing over the ridge, as kenniston and varn allan and arnol started that way. "hurry!" urged arnol. "even yet, we mightbe too late--"
when they reached the ridge, gorr holl andmargo and hubble were waiting there with the young technicians and their apparatus. andgorr holl uttered a rumbling exclamation when he saw them. "i thought you'd stay, varn!" her head went up and she said half angrily,"but why should you--" she stopped abruptly, and was silent a moment, then asked, "howsoon?" "we're all set now," the big capellan answered.kenniston saw that the radio control box and the panels of strange instruments were ready.he glanced at arnol. the scientist's face was filmed with sweat.all the color had gone from it, and his hands
shook. in this moment, he was facing the climaxof his whole life, all the years and the pain and the effort he said in a strangely toneless voice, "you'dbetter warn them, kenniston. now." below them, on the far slope of the ridge,waited the thousands of middletown's people. kenniston went down toward them. he criedout to them, and his voice carried thin and unreal on the chill wind, across the deadrocks and the dust. "keep down behind the ridge! pass the wordto keep down! we're going to blow it!" they looked toward him, all the massed whitefaces pale in the dim light of the sun-- the dying sun that watched them with its red uncaringeye.
a great silence fell upon them. by ones andtwos, and then by hundreds, they knelt to pray. and others, by the hundreds, stood unspeaking,looking solemnly upward to the crest of the ridge. here and there, a child began to cry. slowly, gripped as in a strange and fatefuldream, kenniston mounted again to where arnol and the others stood. far beyond them he sawthe dome of the city, still glowing with light as they had left it, lonely in the vast barrennessof the plain. he thought of the black thing waiting alonein the city to make its nightmare plunge, and a deep tremor shook him. he reached outand took varn allan's hand. in that last minute before arnol's fingerspressed the final pattern on the control board,
varn allan looked past kenniston, down atthe silent, waiting thousands who were the last of all the races of old earth. "i see now," she whispered, "that in spiteof all we have gained since your day, we have lost something, too. a courage, a blind, bravesomething-- i'm glad i stayed!" arnol drew a sharp and painful breath. "it is done,"he said. for a long, eternal moment, the dead earthlay unstirring. then kenniston felt the ridge leap under his feet-- once, twice, four times.the sharp grinding shocks of the capper bombs, sealing the great shaft. arnol watched the quivering needles of thedials. he had ceased his trembling now. it
was too late for anything, even emotion. deep, deep within the buried core of the eartha trembling was born, a dilating shudder that came slowly upward to the barren rocks andtouched them and was gone. it was as though a dead heart had suddenlystarted to beat again. to beat strongly, exultantly, a planet reborn... the pointers on the panel of dials had gonequite mad. gradually they quivered back to normal. all but one row of them, at whicharnol and his crew stared with intensity. kenniston could bear the terrible silenceno longer. "has it..." his voice trailed away into hoarseness.
arnol turned very slowly toward him. he said,as though it was difficult for him to speak. "yes. the reaction is begun. there is a greatflame of warmth and life inside earth now. it will take weeks for that warmth and lifeto creep up to the surface, but it will come." he turned his back then, on kenniston, onall of them. what he had to say was for the tired, waiting young men who had labored withhim so long. he said to them, "here on this little earth,long ago, one of our savage ancestors kindled a world. and there are all the others, allthe cold, dying worlds out there..." kenniston heard no more. a babel had brokenloose. varn allan was clinging to him, and gorr holl was shouting deaf-eningly, and heheard the stammering questions of mayor garris
and hubble's shaking voice. over all came the surge of thousands of feetthe thousands of middletown were coming up the slope, scrambling, running, a life-or-deathquestion on their white faces. "tell them, ken," said hubble, his voice thick. kenniston stood upon the ridge, and the crowdbelow froze tensely silent as he shouted down to them. "it has succeeded! all danger isover, and in weeks the heat of the core will begin to reach the surface..." he stopped. these were not the words thatcould reach their hearts. then he found those words, and called them to the thousands.
"it has been chill winter on earth, for amillion years. but now, soon, spring is coming back to earth. spring!" they could understand that. they began tolaugh, and to weep, and then to shout and shout. they were still shouting when the great controlcruisers came humming swiftly down from the sky. chapter 21 -- waking world slowly, slowly, during all these weeks, thespring had come. it was not the spring of
old earth, but every day the wind blew a littlemore softly and now at last the first blades of grass were pushing upward, touching theocher plains with green. but only by hearsay did kenniston know ofthat. confined with the others in a building of new middletown, it had seemed to him thatthe time would never end. the weeks of waiting for the special committee of governors tocome from vega, the weeks of the hearing itself, the slow gathering of testimony and carefulsifting of motives. and now, the days they had waited for the final verdict. arnol was not worried. he was a happy man.he said very little, but he had had a triumph in his eyes all through the hearing. his lifeworkwas justified, and he was content.
nor were gorr holl and magro worried. thebig capellan, even now when they awaited the decision, was still jubilant. "hell, what can they do?" he said to kenniston,for the twentieth time. "the thing's done. the arnol process is proved practicable, andby now the whole galaxy knows of it. they can't refuse now to let the humanoids' dyingworlds make use of it. they wouldn't dare!" magro added, "nor can they force your peopleto evacuate earth now that it is getting warmer. it wouldn't make sense." kenniston said, "they can keep us locked upfor the rest of our lives, and i wouldn't enjoy that."
gorr holl grinned widely at him. "remember,man, we're only emotional primitives, and they'll have to make allowances for that." when they were led back into the big roomfor the verdict, kenniston's eyes swung, not to the group of three men and a humanoid thatsat behind the table, but to varn allan. he knew that her own career was at stake in thishearing. she did not look upset, and she met his gaze with a grave little smile. lund, beside her, looked alert and faintlyworried now. he shot a hard glance at kenniston, but kenniston had to turn his gaze as thereading of the verdict began. the aging man who read it, the oldest of thefour governors, had no friendliness in his
face. he spoke as one who reluctantly performsan unpleasant duty. "you, the ringleaders in this thing, haverendered yourselves liable to the extremest penalties of federation law by your directdefiance of the governors," he said. "it would be quite in order to direct a sentence oflife imprisonment" he looked down at them coldly. gorr holl whispered,"just trying to scare us--" but he did not sound very confident now. the old governor continued. "but in this caseit is quite impossible to reach a verdict on purely legalistic grounds. we must admitthat your fait accompli has created a new situation. the board of governors has nowgiven approval to the use of the arnol process
on certain other planets--" kenniston found it hard, hard, to realizethat a long, great battle for the survival of worlds was ending in these phrases. "-- on certain other planets, and that presentsus with a legal impasse. to punish you now for your use of it here would be, morallyif not legally, punishing you for infraction of a no-longer-existing law." gorr holl uttered such a long and noisy exhalationof relief that he was promptly glared into silence. "we are unable, therefore, to do other thandismiss you with the official reprimand of
the board of governors for your behavior." now that the moment had come, now that itwas over, kenniston found that he felt very little emotion, after all. the issues hadbeen so vast that they had dwarfed his personal fate. he knew that that feeling would pass,that later he would be glad and thankful, but now-- the governor, though, had not finished. hewas speaking directly now to varn allan. "over and above the main issue, there remainsthe conduct of the responsible officials in dealing with it we are forced to express officialcensure of what appears to be inexcusable bungling of a psychological problem by theadministrator in charge, and--" here he looked
toward norden lund-- "and on the part of thesub-administrator, obvious attempts to hamper his superior for selfish reasons." the cold voice ended with the brief, hardphrases, "we recommend, for administrator allan: demotionone grade. for sub-administrator lund: demotion one grade. this hearing is concluded." kenniston looked across the big room at varnallan. her face had not changed, and silently she turned to go. gorr holl was slapping him mightily on theback, magro was saying something excitedly, but he wrenched away from them and went afterher. she saw him coming, and waited. but norden
lund was between them. lund's face was white with controlled rage,and his voice was thick as he told kenniston, "so you primitives have ruined my career?" varn allan cut in contemptuously. "you ruinedit yourself, norden, with your ambitious plotting." he turned and strode away from them. varnallan, looking after him, sighed and said, "you have made a deadly enemy." he was not thinking of that. he waited untilshe turned back toward him, and he asked, "are you my enemy too, for what i've doneto you?" she shook her head gravely. "no. that wasnot your doing. in a new and confused situation,
i failed. that is all." "the hell it is!" he burst out. "they wereunfair to you! you did your best, and--" "and it wasn't quite good enough," she finished.and then she smiled a little at him. "it's not a tragedy. an administrator's burden isnot easy. i shall not be entirely sorry." he had never admired her courage so much asnow. he wanted to say so, he wanted so say many things, but she turned away from hima little, and said, "this is a great day for you, kenniston. for this is the day when theyare allowing those of your people who wish to, to return to your old town." "yes, i heard that it was today."
"and you will be going back there, with yourcarol. she will be very happy." he said, "varn--" but she would not face him. she said, "thisis not goodbye. you'll come back before we leave earth." he stood, oppressed by emotions he could notdefine, and finally he said, "yes. yes, i'll come back before then." she left, and he looked after her until shewas gone. then, slowly, he went back through the big, empty hall and out through the buildinginto the street. a tremendous, brassy clamor and uproar hithim in the face. the plaza was crowded, but
a wide lane was open through the crowd tothe boulevard that led to the portal. and the middletown high school band, brave forthe occasion in its retrieved scarlet uniforms, with its drum majorettes prancing and hornsblatting, and cymbals banging and big drums booming, was marching through the lane towardthe portal. behind it came a glistening, open green convertible,with mayor garris standing up on the back seat, hatless, his plump face beaming sunlike,waving his hat joyfully to the cheering throngs. and behind his car rolled a long line of othercars-- the ancient jalopies, the shining station wagons, the family sedans, crowded with excitedmen and sobbing women, the first of the long caravan forming up to go back to old middletown.
kenniston saw the cheering people who surroundedjon arnol, and hubble, and gorr holl and magro, nearby. he knew that he would be drawn intothat group, and he went back and circled around the plaza, going by temporarily abandonedstreets to the quarters of carol and her aunt. carol leaped up with a glad cry when he entered."oh, ken, then you're free! they said it would be today, and i was waiting and hoping--" "yes, it's all done with," he said. he stood,not knowing quite what to say to her, until mrs. adams came up. "then we can leave here now, like the others?"mrs. adams said anxiously. "we can go back to middletown now?"
"just as soon as you can pack up and i canget the jeep," he said. "i've been packed for days," she told him."i wouldn't stay in this unearthly place for one minute longer than i have to! just imagine,they tell me a lot of the young people are going to stay here from choice! they say theylike it better than middletown, now!" kenniston felt a curious sense of unrealityas he got the jeep, and packed their things into it, and then joined the slow, bottleneckedtraffic that was now steadily rolling out of the domed city. could it all be ending like this? could itbe true that he was going back to the old town, the old life, after all that he haddone and seen?
down the wide boulevard, between the loftywhite towers, through the portal, out from underneath the dome-- the red sun still shonedully, but a softer wind than earth had felt for a million years was blowing across theplain, stirring the timid little shoots of new grass, bringing a breath of warm new life. cars ahead of them and cars behind them, rollingtoward the ridge, eager for sight of the old city. and now they were passing jon arnol'ssmall cruiser, and then the titan black bulks of the great starships, brooding upon theplain, wrapped in the majesty of giants who knew the secrets of infinity. he looked backat the great ships, and he thought of the vast, star-shot spaces whither they wouldgo, and then he looked on ahead.
and at last the eager cars topped the ridgeand went hurrying joyously down into old middletown. all along the familiar streets, houses werealready beginning to come to life. shutters flung open, storm windows raised, doors standingwide to the soft wind, women busy with brooms on dust-drifted porches. the shrill voicesof children and barking of dogs mingled with the noisy impatience of the auto horns. down mill street to main street, and on. andfinally, the old grey house, just as they had left it. kenniston stopped the jeep at the curb. mrs.adams got out. she went slowly up the steps and unlocked the door. she stood for a moment,looking in.
"nothing is changed," she whispered. but allthis dust. i'll have to clean--" suddenly she sat down in her chair by thewindow and began to cry. carol did not go in at once. feeling an oddsense of strain, kenniston asked, "are you happy too, carol?" she nodded, half smiling, looking out alongthe awakening street. "yes, ken." he said, "well-- i want to return to new middletownto see gorr and the others before they leave. but i'll be back soon." she looked at him now, and she said, "no,ken. don't come back to me." he stared at her, astonished. "carol, whatdo you mean?"
her soft face was quite steady. "i mean thatyou don't altogether belong here now, ken. you changed when you went out there. you'llchange more in the days ahead-- will turn more and more toward the strange new life."she added, "and i can't change. not like that. you'd be miserable with me, clinging to theold things." he knew she spoke truth, and yet he must protest."but the plans we made together, carol--" she shook her head. "i made those plans withanother man, a man who isn't quite here any more, and won't ever be here again." she reached up and kissed him, and then shewent inside and closed the door. kenniston stood a moment, hesitating. then,slowly, he climbed back into the jeep and
drove out of middletown. from the ridge he could see again the starshipsthat rested on the plain by the domed city. and the city itself still lived. it was theyounger folk of middletown who had chosen to stay in it-- the young in mind who couldstill look forward to the new. the starships would continue to come, nowthe earth was habitable again. the people of far stars would mingle with the peopleof middletown, and the young men here would go out to other suns, and gradually the wholestrange story of middletown would be absorbed into the stream of history. kenniston sent the jeep speeding toward thedomed city. he felt now a sense of new freedom,
and a deep gratitude toward carol, who hadnot tried to hold him back. but he felt, too, an uncertainty, a shrinking. vast new horizonsstretched before him now, the boundless horizons of space, the endless avenues of new thought.he was still a child of older earth, and it would be strange and lonely. he found the others still in the plaza, talkingtogether-- gorr holl and magro and arnol. and with them, varn allan. they saw him, gorrwaved and bawled to him. as he drove toward them, he saw varn allan's eager eyes awaitinghim, and he knew suddenly that he was wrong and that in all the strangeness of the yearsto come, he would not be alone.Coloring Virgin Hair With Dark And Lovely