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   Chapter 2 No.2

Planet of Dread By Murray Leinster Characters: 31568

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


They went back to the Nadine for weapons more adequate for encountering the local fauna when it was over. Blast-rifles were not effective against such creatures as these. Torches were contact weapons but they killed. Blast-rifles did not. And Harper needed to pull himself together again, too. Also, neither Moran nor any of the others wanted to go back to the still un-entered wreck while the skinny, somehow disgusting legs of the thing still kicked spasmodically-quite separate-on the whitish ground-stuff. Moran had disliked such creatures in miniature form on other worlds. Enlarged like this.

It seemed insane that such creatures, even in miniature, should painstakingly be brought across light-years of space to the new worlds men settled on. But it had been found to be necessary. The ecological system in which human beings belonged had turned out to be infinitely complicated. It had turned out, in fact, to be the ecological system of Earth, and unless all parts of the complex were present, the total was subtly or glaringly wrong. So mankind distastefully ferried pests as well as useful creatures to its new worlds as they were made ready for settlement. Mosquitos throve on the inhabited globes of the Rim Stars. Roaches twitched nervous antennae on the settled planets of the Coal-sack. Dogs on Antares had fleas, and scratched their bites, and humanity spread through the galaxy with an attendant train of insects and annoyances. If they left their pests behind, the total system of checks and balances which make life practical would get lopsided. It would not maintain itself. The vagaries that could result were admirably illustrated in and on the landscape outside the Nadine. Something had been left out of the seeding of this planet. The element-which might be a bacterium or a virus or almost anything at all-the element that kept creatures at the size called "normal" was either missing or inoperable here. The results were not desirable.

* * *

Harper drank thirstily. Carol had watched from the control-room. She was still pale. She looked strangely at Moran.

"You're sure it didn't get through your suit?" Burleigh asked insistently of Harper.

Moran said sourly;

"The creatures have changed size. There's no proof they've changed anything else. Beetles live in tunnels they make in fungus growths. The beetles and the tunnels are larger, but that's all. Inchworms travel as they always did. They move yards instead of inches, but that's all. Centipedes-"

"It was-" said Carol unsteadily. "It was thirty feet long!"

"Centipedes," repeated Moran, "catch prey with their legs. They always did. Some of them trail poison from their feet. We can play a blowtorch over Harper's suit and any poison will be burned away. You can't burn a space-suit!"

"We certainly can't leave Moran here!" said Burleigh uneasily.

"He kept Harper from being killed!" said Carol. "Your blast-rifles weren't any good. The-creatures are hard to kill."

"Very hard to kill," agreed Moran. "But I'm not supposed to kill them. I'm supposed to live with them! I wonder how we can make them understand they're not supposed to kill me either?"

"I'll admit," said Burleigh, "that if you'd let Harper get killed, we'd have been forced to let you take his identity and not be marooned, to avoid questions at the space-port on Loris. Not many men would have done what you did."

"Oh, I'm a hero," said Moran. "Noble Moran, that's me! What the hell would you want me to do? I didn't think! I won't do it again. I promise!"

The last statement was almost true. Moran felt a squeamish horror at the memory of what he'd been through over by the wrecked ship. He'd come running out of the excavation he'd made. He had for weapon a four-foot blue-white flame, and there was a monstrous creature running directly toward him, with Harper lifted off the ground and clutched in two gigantic, spidery legs. It was no less than thirty feet long, but it was a centipede. It travelled swiftly on grisly, skinny, pipe-thin legs. It loomed over Moran as he reached the surface and he automatically thrust the flame at it. The result was shocking. But the nervous systems of insects are primitive. It is questionable that they feel pain. It is certain that separated parts of them act as if they had independent life. Legs-horrible things-sheared off in the flame of the torch, but the grisly furry thing rushed on until Moran slashed across its body with the blue-white fire. Then it collapsed. But Harper was still held firmly and half the monster struggled mindlessly to run on while another part was dead. Moran fought it almost hysterically, slicing off legs and wanting to be sick when their stumps continued to move as if purposefully, and the legs themselves kicked and writhed rhythmically. But he bored in and cut at the body and ultimately dragged Harper clear.

Afterward, sickened, he completed cutting it to bits with the torch. But each part continued nauseatingly to move. He went back with the others to the Nadine. The blast-rifles had been almost completely without effect upon the creature because of its insensitive nervous system.

* * *

"I think," said Burleigh, "that it is only fair for us to lift from here and find a better part of this world to land Moran in."

"Why not another planet?" asked Carol.

"It could take weeks," said Burleigh harassedly. "We left Coryus three days ago. We ought to land on Loris before too long. There'd be questions asked if we turned up weeks late! We can't afford that! The space-port police would suspect us of all sorts of things. They might decide to check back on us where we came from. We can't take the time to hunt another planet!"

"Then your best bet," said Moran caustically, "is to find out where we are. You may be so far from Loris that you can't make port without raising questions anyhow. But you might be almost on course. I don't know! But let's see if that wreck can tell us. I'll go by myself if you like."

He went into the airlock, where his suit and the others had been sprayed with a corrosive solution while the outside air was pumped out and new air from inside the yacht admitted. He got into the suit. Harper joined him.

"I'm going with you," he said shortly. "Two will be safer than one,-both with torches."

"Too, too true!" said Moran sardonically.

He bundled the other suits out of the airlock and into the ship. He checked his torch. He closed the inner lock door and started the pump. Harper said;

"I'm not going to try to thank you-."

"Because," Moran snapped, "you wouldn't have been on this planet to be in danger if I hadn't tried to capture the yacht. I know it!"

"That wasn't what I meant to say!" protested Harper.

Moran snarled at him. The lock-pump stopped and the ready-for exit light glowed. They pushed open the outer door and emerged. Again there was the discordant, almost intolerable din. It made no sense. The cries and calls and stridulations they now knew to be those of insects had no significance. The unseen huge creatures made them without purpose. Insects do not challenge each other like birds or make mating-calls like animals. They make noises because it is their nature. The noises have no meaning. The two men started toward the wreck to which Moran had partly burned a passageway. There were clickings from underfoot all around them. Moran said abruptly;

"Those clicks come from the beetles in their tunnels underfoot. They're practically a foot long. How big do you suppose bugs grow here,-and why?"

* * *

Harper did not answer. He carried a flame-torch like the one Moran had used before. They went unsteadily over the elastic, yielding stuff underfoot. Harper halted, to look behind. Carol's voice came in the helmet-phones.

"We're watching out for you. We'll try to warn you if-anything shows up."

"Better watch me!" snapped Moran. "If I should kill Harper after all, you might have to pass me for him presently!"

He heard a small, inarticulate sound, as if Carol protested. Then he heard an angry shrill whine. He'd turned aside from the direct line to the wreck. Something black, the size of a fair-sized dog, faced him belligerently. Multiple lensed eyes, five inches across, seemed to regard him in a peculiarly daunting fashion. The creature had a narrow, unearthly, triangular face, with mandibles that worked from side to side instead of up and down like an animal's jaws. The head was utterly unlike any animal such as breed and raise their young and will fight for them. There was a small thorax, from which six spiny, glistening legs sprang. There was a bulbous abdomen.

"This," said Moran coldly, "is an ant. I've stepped on them for no reason, and killed them. I've probably killed many times as many without knowing it. But this could kill me."

The almost yard-long enormity standing two and a half feet high, was in the act of carrying away a section of one of the legs of the giant centipede Moran had killed earlier. It still moved. The leg was many times the size of the ant. Moran moved toward it. It made a louder buzzing sound, threatening him.

Moran cut it apart with a slashing sweep of the flame that a finger-touch sent leaping from his torch. The thing presumably died, but it continued to writhe senselessly.

"I killed this one," said Moran savagely, "because I remembered something from my childhood. When one ant finds something to eat and can't carry it all away, it brings back its friends to get the rest. The big thing I killed would be such an item. How'd you like to have a horde of these things about us? Come on!"

Through his helmet-phone he heard Harper breathing harshly. He led the way once more toward the wreck.

* * *

Black beetles swarmed about when he entered the cut in the mould-yeast soil. They popped out of tunnels as if in astonishment that what had been subterranean passages suddenly opened to the air. Harper stepped on one, and it did not crush. It struggled frantically and he almost fell. He gasped. Two of the creatures crawled swiftly up the legs of Moran's suit, and he knocked them savagely away. He found himself grinding his teeth in invincible revulsion.

They reached the end of the cut he'd made in the fungus-stuff. Metal showed past burned-away soil. Moran growled;

"You keep watch. I'll finish the cut."

The flame leaped out. Dense clouds of smoke and steam poured out and up. With the intolerably bright light of the torch overwhelming the perpetual grayness under the clouds and playing upon curling vapors, the two space-suited men looked like figures in some sort of inferno.

Carol's voice came anxiously into Moran's helmet-phone;

"Are you all right?"

"So far, both of us," said Moran sourly. "I've just uncovered the crack of an airlock door."

He swept the flame around again. A mass of undercut fungus toppled toward him. He burned it and went on. He swept the flame more widely. There was carbonized matter from the previously burned stuff on the metal, but he cleared all the metal. Carol's voice again;

"There's something flying.... It's huge! It's a wasp! It's-monstrous!"

Moran growled;

"Harper, we're in a sort of trench. If it hovers, you'll burn it as it comes down. Cut through its waist. It won't crawl toward us along the trench. It'd have to back toward us to use its sting."

He burned and burned, white light glaring upon a mass of steam and smoke which curled upward and looked as if lightning-flashes played within it.

Carol's voice;

"It-went on past.... It was as big as a cow!"

* * *

Moran wrenched at the port-door. It partly revolved. He pulled. It fell outward. The wreck was not standing upright on its fins. It lay on its side. The lock inside the toppled-out port was choked with a horrible mass of thread-like fungi. Moran swept the flame in. The fungus shriveled and was not. He opened the inner lock-door. There was pure blackness within. He held the torch for light.

For an instant everything was confusion, because the wreck was lying on its side instead of standing in a normal position. Then he saw a sheet of metal, propped up to be seen instantly by anyone entering the wrecked space-vessel.

Letters burned into the metal gave a date a century and a half old. Straggly torch-writing said baldly;

"This ship the Malabar crashed here on Tethys II a week ago. We cannot repair. We are going on to Candida III in the boats. We are carrying what bessendium we can with us. We resign salvage rights in this ship to its finders, but we have more bessendium with us. We will give that to our rescuers.

"Jos. White, Captain."

Moran made a peculiar, sardonic sound like a bark.

"Calling the Nadine!" he said in mirthless amusement. "This planet is Tethys Two. Do you read me? Tethys II! Look it up!"

A pause. Then Carol's voice, relieved;

"Tethys is in the Directory! That's good!" There was the sound of murmurings in the control-room behind her. "Yes!... Oh,-wonderful! It's not far off the course we should have followed! We won't be suspiciously late at Loris! Wonderful!"

"I share your joy," said Moran sarcastically. "More information! The ship's name was the Malabar. She carried bessendium among her cargo. Her crew went on to Candida III a hundred and fifty years ago, leaving a promise to pay in more bessendium whoever should rescue them. More bessendium! Which suggests that some bessendium was left behind."

Silence. The bald memorandum left behind the vanished crew was, of course, pure tragedy. A ship's lifeboat could travel four light-years, or possibly even six. But there were limits. A castaway crew had left this world on a desperate journey to another in the hope that life there would be tolerable. If they arrived, they waited for some other ship to cross the illimitable emptiness and discover either the beacon here or one they'd set up on the other world. The likelihood was small, at best. It had worked out zero. If the lifeboats made Candida III, their crews stayed there because they could go no farther. They'd died there, because if they'd been found this ship would have been visited and its cargo salvaged.

* * *

Moran went inside. He climbed through the compartments of the toppled craft, using his torch for light. He found where the cargo-hold had been opened from the living part of the ship. He saw the cargo. There were small, obviously heavy boxes in one part of the hold. Some had been broken open. He found scraps of purple bessendium ore dropped while being carried to the lifeboats. A century and a half ago it had not seemed worth while to pick them up, though bessendium was the most precious material in the galaxy. It couldn't be synthesized. It had to be made by some natural process not yet understood, but involving long-continued pressures of megatons to the square inch with temperatures in the millions of degrees. It was purple. It was crystalline. Fractions of it in blocks of other metals made the fuel-blocks that carried liners winging through the void. But here were pounds of it dropped carelessly....

Moran gathered a double handful. He slipped it in a pocket of his space-suit. He went clambering back to the lock.

He heard the roaring of a flame-torch. He found Harper playing it squeamishly on the wriggling fragments of another yard-long ant. It had explored the trench burned out of the fungus soil and down to the rock. Harper'd killed it as it neared him.

"That's three of them I've killed," said Harper in a dogged voice. "There seem to be more."

"Did you hear my news?" asked Moran sardonically.

"Yes," said Harper. "How'll we get back to the Nadine?"

"Oh, we'll fight our way through," said Moran, as sar

donically as before. "We'll practice splendid heroism, giving battle to ants who think we're other ants trying to rob them of some fragments of an over-sized dead centipede. A splendid cause to fight for, Harper!"

He felt an almost overpowering sense of irony. The quantity of bessendium he'd seen was riches incalculable. The mere pocketfull of crystals in his pocket would make any man wealthy if he could get to a settled planet and sell them. And there was much, much more back in the cargo-hold of the wreck. He'd seen it.

But his own situation was unchanged. Bessendium could be hidden somehow,-perhaps between the inner and outer hulls of the Nadine. But it was not possible to land the Nadine at any space-port with an extra man aboard her. In a sense, Moran might be one of the richest men in the galaxy in his salvagers' right to the treasure in the wrecked Malabar's hold. But he could not use that treasure to buy his way to a landing on a colonized world.

Carol's voice; she was frightened.

"Something's coming! It's-terribly big! It's coming out of the mist!"

* * *

Moran pushed past Harper in the trench that ended at the wreck's lock-door. He moved on until he could see over the edge of that trench as it shallowed. Now there were not less than forty of the giant ants about the remnants of the monstrous centipede Moran had killed. They moved about in great agitation. There was squabbling. Angry, whining stridulations filled the air beneath the louder and more gruesome sounds from fartheraway places. It appeared that scouts and foragers from two different ant-cities had come upon the treasure of dead-if twitching-meat of Moran's providing. They differed about where the noisesome booty should be taken. Some ants pulled angrily against each other, whining shrilly. He saw individual ants running frantically away in two different directions. They would be couriers, carrying news of what amounted to a frontier incident in the city-state civilization of the ants.

Then Moran saw the giant thing of which Carol spoke. It was truly huge, and it had a gross, rounded body, and a ridiculously small thorax, and its head was tiny and utterly mild in expression. It walked with an enormous, dainty deliberation, placing small spiked feet at the end of fifteen-foot legs very delicately in place as it moved. Its eyes were multiple and huge, and its forelegs though used so deftly for walking had a horrifying set of murderous, needle-sharp saw-teeth along their edges.

It looked at the squabbling ants with its gigantic eyes that somehow appeared like dark glasses worn by a monstrosity. It moved primly, precisely toward them. Two small black creatures tugged at a hairy section of a giant centipede's leg. The great pale-green creature-a mantis; a praying mantis twenty feet tall in its giraffe-like walking position-the great creature loomed over them, looking down as through sunglasses. A foreleg moved like lightning. An ant weighing nearly as much as a man stridulated shrilly, terribly, as it was borne aloft. The mantis closed its arm-like forelegs upon it, holding it as if piously and benignly contemplating it. Then it ate it, very much as a man might eat an apple, without regard to the convulsive writhings of its victim.

* * *

It moved on toward the denser fracas among the ants. Suddenly it raised its ghastly saw-toothed forelegs in an extraordinary gesture. It was the mantis's spectral attitude, which seemed a pose of holding out its arms in benediction. But its eyes remained blind-seeming and enigmatic,-again like dark glasses.

Then it struck. Daintily, it dined upon an ant. Upon another. Upon another and another and another.

From one direction parties of agitated and hurrying black objects appeared at the edge of the mist. They were ants of a special caste,-warrior-ants with huge mandibles designed for fighting in defense of their city and its social system and its claim to fragments of dead centipedes. From another direction other parties of no less truculent warriors moved with the swiftness and celerity of a striking task-force. All the air was filled with the deep-bass notes of something huge, booming beyond visibility, and the noises as of sticks trailed against picket fences, and hootings which were produced by the rubbing of serrated leg-joints against chitinous diaphragms. But now a new tumult arose.

From forty disputatious formicidae, whining angrily at each other over the stinking remains of the monster Moran had killed, the number of ants involved in the quarrel became hundreds. But more and more arrived. The special caste of warriors bred for warfare was not numerous enough to take care of the provocative behavior of foreign foragers. There was a general mobilization in both unseen ant-city states. They became nations in arms. Their populations rushed to the scene of conflict. The burrows and dormitories and eating-chambers of the underground nations were swept clean of occupants. Only the nurseries retained a skeleton staff of nurses-the nurseries and the excavated palace occupied by the ant-queen and her staff of servants and administrators. All the resources of two populous ant-nations were flung into the fray.

* * *

From a space of a hundred yards or less, containing mere dozens of belligerent squabblers, the dirty-white ground of the fungus-plain became occupied by hundreds of snapping, biting combatants. They covered-they fought over-the half of an acre. There were contending battalions fighting as masses in the center, while wings of fighting creatures to right and left were less solidly arranged. But reinforcements poured out of the mist from two directions, and momently the situation changed. Presently the battle covered an acre. Groups of fresh fighters arriving from the city to the right uttered shrill stridulations and charged upon the flank of their enemies. Simultaneously, reinforcements from the city to the left flung themselves into the fighting-line near the center.

Formations broke up. The battle disintegrated into an indefinite number of lesser combats; troops or regiments fighting together often moved ahead with an appearance of invincibility, but suddenly they broke and broke again until there was only a complete confusion of unorganized single combats in which the fighters rolled over and over, struggling ferociously with mandible and claw to destroy each other. Presently the battle raged over five acres. Ten. Thousands upon thousands of black, glistening, stinking creatures tore at each other in murderous ferocity. Whining, squealing battle-cries arose and almost drowned out the deeper notes of larger but invisible creatures off in the mist.

Moran and Harper got back to the Nadine by a wide detour past warriors preoccupied with each other just before the battle reached its most savage stage. In that stage, the space-yacht was included in the battleground. Fights went on about its landing-fins. Horrifying duels could be followed by scrapings and bumpings against its hull. From the yacht's ports the fighting ants looked like infuriated machines, engaged in each other's destruction. One might see a warrior of unidentified allegiance with its own abdomen ripped open, furiously rending an enemy without regard to its own mortal wound. There were those who had literally been torn in half, so that only head and thorax remained, but they fought on no less valiantly than the rest.

* * *

At the edges of the fighting such cripples were more numerous. Ants with antenna shorn off or broken, with legs missing, utterly doomed,-they sometimes wandered forlornly beyond the fighting, the battle seemingly forgotten. But even such dazed and incapacitated casualties came upon each other. If they smelled alike, they ignored each other. Every ant-city has its particular smell which its inhabitants share. Possession of the national odor is at once a certificate of citizenship in peacetime and a uniform in war. When such victims of the battle came upon enemy walking wounded, they fought.

And the giant praying mantis remained placidly and invulnerably still. It plucked single fighters from the battle and dined upon them while they struggled, and plucked other fighters, and consumed them. It ignored the battle and the high purpose and self-sacrificing patriotism of the ants. Immune to them and disregarded by them, it fed on them while the battle raged.

Presently the gray light overhead turned faintly pink, and became a deeper tint and then crimson. In time there was darkness. The noise of battle ended. The sounds of the day diminished and ceased, and other monstrous outcries took their place.

There were bellowings in the blackness without the Nadine. There were chirpings become baritone, and senseless uproars which might be unbelievable modifications of once-shrill and once-tranquil night-sounds of other worlds. And there came a peculiar, steady, unrhythmic pattering sound. It seemed like something falling upon the blanket-like upper surface of the soil.

Moran opened the airlock door and thrust out a torch to see. Its intolerably bright glare showed the battlefield abandoned. Most of the dead and wounded had been carried away. Which, of course, was not solicitude for the wounded or reverence for the dead heroes. Dead ants, like dead centipedes, were booty of the only kind the creatures of this world could know. The dead were meat. The wounded were dead before they were carried away.

Moran peered out, with Carol looking affrightedly over his shoulder. The air seemed to shine slightly in the glare of the torch. The pattering sound was abruptly explained. Large, slow, widely-separated raindrops fell heavily and steadily from the cloud-banks overhead. Moran could see them strike. Each spot of wetness glistened briefly. Then the rain-drop was absorbed by the ground.

But there were other noises than the ceaseless tumult on the ground. There were sounds in the air; the beating of enormous wings. Moran looked up, squinting against the light. There were things moving about the black sky. Gigantic things.

Something moved, too, across the diminishingly lighted surface about the yacht. There were glitterings. Shining armor. Multi-faceted eyes. A gigantic, horny, spiked object crawled toward the torch-glare, fascinated by it. Something else dived insanely. It splashed upon the flexible white surface twenty yards away, and struggled upward and took crazily off again. It careened blindly.

* * *

It hit the yacht, a quarter-ton of night-flying beetle. The air seemed filled with flying things. There were moths with twenty-foot wings and eyes which glowed like rubies in the torch's light. There were beetles of all sizes from tiny six-inch things to monsters in whom Moran did not believe even when he saw them. All were drawn by the light which should not exist under the cloud-bank. They droned and fluttered and performed lunatic evolutions, coming always closer to the flame.

Moran cut off the torch and closed the lock-door from the inside.

"We don't load bessendium tonight," he said with some grimness. "To have no light, with what crawls about in the darkness, would be suicide. But to use lights would be worse. If you people are going to salvage the stuff in that wreck, you'll have to wait for daylight. At least then you can see what's coming after you."

They went into the yacht proper. There was no longer any question about the planet's air. If insects which were descendents of terrestrial forms could breathe it, so could men. When the first insect-eggs were brought here, the air had to be fit for them if they were to survive. It would not have changed.

Burleigh sat in the control-room with a double handful of purple crystals before him.

"This," he said when Moran and Carol re?ntered, "this is bessendium past question. I've been thinking what it means."

"Money," said Moran drily. "You'll all be rich. You'll probably retire from politics."

"That wasn't exactly what I had in mind," said Burleigh distastefully. "You've gotten us into the devil of a mess, Moran!"

"For which," said Moran with ironic politeness, "there is a perfect solution. You kill me, either directly or by leaving me marooned here."

Burleigh scowled.

"We have to land at space-ports for supplies. We can't hope to hide you, it's required that landed ships be sterilized against infections from off-planet. We can't pass you as a normal passenger. You're not on the ship's papers and they're alteration-proof. Nobody's ever been able to change a ship's papers and not be caught! We could land and tell the truth, that you hijacked the ship and we finally overpowered you. But there are reasons against that."

"Naturally!" agreed Moran. "I'd be killed anyhow and you'd be subject to intensive investigation. And you're fugitives as much as I am."

"Just so," admitted Burleigh.

Moran shrugged.

"Which leaves just one answer. You maroon me and go on your way."

* * *

Burleigh said painfully;

"There's this bessendium. If there's more-especially if there's more-we can leave you here with part of it. When we get far enough away, we charter a ship to come and get you. It'll be arranged. Somebody will be listed as of that ship's company, but he'll slip away from the space-port and not be on board at all. Then you're picked up and landed using his name."

"If," said Moran ironically, "I am alive when the ship gets here. If I'm not, the crew of the chartered ship will be in trouble, short one man on return to port. You'll have trouble getting anybody to run that risk!"

"We're trying to work out a way to save you!" insisted Burleigh angrily. "Harper would have been killed but for you. And-this bessendium will finance the underground work that will presently make a success of our revolution. We're grateful! We're trying to help you!"

"So you maroon me," said Moran. Then he said; "But you've skipped the real problem! If anything goes wrong, Carol's in it! There's no way to do anything without risk for her! That's the problem! I could kill all you characters, land somewhere on a colonized planet exactly as you landed here, and be gone from the yacht on foot before anybody could find me! But I have a slight aversion to getting a girl killed or killing her just for my own convenience. It's settled. I stay here. You can try to arrange the other business if you like. But it's a bad gamble."

Carol was very pale. Burleigh stood up.

"You said that, I didn't. But I don't think we should leave you here. Up near the ice-cap should be infinitely better for you. We'll load the rest of the bessendium tomorrow, find you a place, leave you a beacon, and go."

He went out. Carol turned a white face to Moran.

"Is that-is that the real trouble? Do you really-"

Moran looked at her stonily.

"I like to make heroic gestures," he told her. "Actually, Burleigh's a very noble sort of character himself. He proposes to leave me with treasure that he could take. Even more remarkably, he proposes to divide up what you take, instead of applying it all to further his political ideals. Most men like him would take it all for the revolution!"

"But-but-."

Carol's expression was pure misery. Moran walked deliberately across the control-room. He glanced out of a port. A face looked in. It filled the transparent opening. It was unthinkable. It was furry. There were glistening chitinous areas. There was a proboscis like an elephant's trunk, curled horribly. The eyes were multiple and mad.

It looked in, drawn and hypnotized by the light shining out on this nightmare world from the control-room ports.

Moran touched the button that closed the shutters.

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