Read Captain Future 12 - Planets in Peril (Fall 1942) Online

Authors: Edmond Hamilton

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Captain Future 12 - Planets in Peril (Fall 1942) (10 page)

BOOK: Captain Future 12 - Planets in Peril (Fall 1942)
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They swung in a spiral around the icy ball of the third planet. The surface of the world was shrouded in perpetual darkness relieved only by thin rays of distant stars. It was Gerdek and Shiri, whose eyes were accustomed to the dimness of this universe, who first drew attention to a dead Tarast city down on the distant horizon.

"And I can glimpse ships parked in its central square!” Gerdek exclaimed. "It must be the Cold Ones' base!"

Captain Future could hardly see the city itself, but he had absolute faith in the keener vision of the two Tarasts.

"Drop down at once, Otho!" he ordered. "We'll have to land some distance from the place and approach it on foot."

The
Comet
hastily descended and landed in deep snow a few miles from the abandoned city. They had not been sighted it appeared.

Curt rapidly sketched his plan of action.

"Gerdek and I will reconnoiter the place, in our space-suits. We'll take Eek along. He ought to be able to lead us to Grag if they've still got him there. Otho, you stay here with Shiri in the
Comet
so you can get away if necessary."

 

CURT and Gerdek donned the space-suits, and then he picked up the frantically-excited Eek and strode out of the ship.

He and the Tarast found themselves floundering in deep snow that had lain upon this planet for centuries. It was frozen atmosphere as well as water, for this was now an airless world. The darkness was a little relieved by the white glitter of the deep snow.

They trudged forward in the direction of the distant city.

The snow was in many places over their heads, forcing the two space-suited men to dig their own tunnel through it. But they were not going fast enough for Eek, who squirmed frenziedly to escape Curt's grasp.

Curt's iron strength was feeling the strain, and Gerdek was staggering on his feet, when they finally reached the edge of the deserted city. With only their heads projecting from the snow, they peered across the place.

"This is the ancient Tarast city of Arara," came Gerdek's panting whisper. "I recognize it now — it's been abandoned for ages."

"It looks it, all right," muttered Curt.

 

 

Chapter 9: Discovery

 

UNUTTERABLY dead and solemn was the snow-wrapped city, brooding beneath the dark sky. It was like an epitome of the somber history of this universe, of death and cold and night engulfing everything in their conquering stride.

Yet there was life here, at this moment, Curt could discern dozens of dark space-sleds parked in the distant central square. And he could vaguely glimpse the uncanny white figures of Cold Ones moving there.

"Your comrade would probably be in one of those buildings, if the Cold Ones are actually holding him prisoner," murmured Gerdek. "But which building? We can't search them all without being discovered."

"That's where Eek comes in handy," replied Captain Future. "He can lead us right to the building Grag is in. We'll have a chance to get him away without being seen by those bony horrors."

Eek was indeed now quivering with excitement, and tugging toward the distant square. The moon-pup sensed the nearness of its master.

Curt and Gerdek went cautiously forward through the deep snow, making their way through the deserted streets and approaching the square from the north. Using little Eek as a living compass, they found themselves guided toward a big marble building on the north side.

The Cold Ones who were using this dead city as an advance base appeared to confine themselves to the square and the buildings which bordered it. Curt and the young Tarast were thus able to reach without detection the rear of the big building in which, they were now certain, Grag was imprisoned.

"Be ready for a fight," muttered Captain Future, drawing his proton pistol as he entered the rear door of the ancient structure.

He and Gerdek found themselves in a dark corridor. They could hear nothing, due to the absence of atmosphere. At any moment, they knew, they might step directly into a group of the uncanny Cold Ones.

Curt continued to use Eek as a living compass as they crept along dim passageways. He and Gerdek ducked back behind a turn of the corridor as they glimpsed lights and moving shapes up at the front.

Eek wriggled in an excess of crazy excitement, and squirmed out of Curt's grasp. The moon-pup scuttled into a nearby chamber.

Captain Future and the Tarast hastily followed. They entered a bare, dusky room in which Grag's mighty metal form lay bound by heavy chains. Eek was gamboling around his master in frenzied joy.

"Chief, am I glad to see you!” exclaimed Grag fervently, his electro-mechanical voice reaching their space-suit phones. "I didn't think there was any chance you'd be able to find me."

"You big bucket-head, you got yourself into this mess. I ought to have let you get out of it on your own," Curt growled. "I would have too, if we hadn't wanted to reconnoiter the Cold Ones at the same time."

He was working hastily at Grag's chains as he spoke, using little flashes of his proton pistol to slice through them. Gerdek was keeping a tense watch at the door to the corridor.

"Aw, I'd have been out of here long ago if I hadn't been double-crossed," Grag said defensively as he rose to his feet.

He told Curt briefly of Lacq, the young Tarast who had betrayed him to the Cold Ones.

"How was I to know he was working with those devils?"

Gerdek turned, his face incredulous inside his helmet.

"I can't believe that any Tarast would join the Cold Ones!" he exclaimed. "We've never had a traitor like that in all our history."

"Well, you have one now," declared Grag. "That fellow Lacq is hand in glove with the Cold Ones."

Captain Future's face lit to a sudden inspiration.

"Listen. Could we get hold of this man Lacq and get him out of here?"

"Yes, let's seize the traitor and take him back to Bebemos for judgment," Gerdek agreed passionately.

"I'm not thinking merely of punishing the man for his treachery," Curt said impatiently. "You know we came here with the idea of learning as much as possible about the Cold Ones, so that we could try to devise new methods of attack on them. Well, if this man Lacq has been allied with the Cold Ones, he must know a lot about them. We could get him to divulge that knowledge, I'm sure."

"I think Lacq is somewhere in this building yet," Grag said. "He's looked in here a couple of times."

"We'll try to find him," Captain Future decided. "It's a devilish risk, but it's worth it if we can get hold of that traitor and learn all he knows."

 

THEY nerved themselves for the risky attempt. Both Curt and Gerdek held their weapons in readiness for instant action. Grag picked up Eek with one hand and balled his other into a fist, as they started cautiously back out into the corridor.

Things suddenly happened with explosive swiftness. As they entered the dim corridor, they came almost face to face with three Cold Ones and a space-suited man coming along the passage.

"That's Lacq!" yelled Grag, plunging forward. "Take care of those devils and I'll get him!"

The bony Cold Ones drew their atom-shell guns with phenomenal speed. But they could not match the superhuman swiftness with which Captain Future shot.

Three bursts of blazing force streaked from his proton pistol faster than the eye could follow. The three unhuman creatures tumbled forward, their skull-like heads shattered before they could fire.

Grag had seized Lacq's throat and was squeezing grimly through the traitor's space-suit. The man went limp and unconscious.

"Don't kill him, you idiot!” Curt cried to the robot. "Out of here, quick!”

They ran down the corridor toward the rear of the building. But the fight had not gone unnoticed. Two Cold Ones appeared at the front end of the passage.

Captain Future turned and shot with the quickness of a wolf’s snap. He and Gerdek and Grag, the latter carrying the unconscious Lacq like a child, burst out of the building and started through the dead, snow-wrapped city in a run.

Curt glanced back. Space-sleds were rising into the dark sky above the square, like hornets suddenly aroused.

"Hurry!" he yelled. "The alarm's out and all the Cold Ones there will be out looking for us."

They had reached the edge of the city, were floundering out through the great drifts of snow in the direction of the
Comet.
Up across the stars of the brooding sky came the searching space-sleds.

Grag led the way, his mighty form crashing a path through the high snow despite the unconscious burden he carried. But they were less than a third of the way to the
Comet,
when one of the space-sleds furiously quartering across the heavens came diving toward them.

"They've spotted us! Duck into the snow before they blast us!" Captain Future cried.

"They're not going to blast anybody!" Grag exclaimed. "Look at
that!"

From ahead, a shining metal thunderbolt whizzed above them to attack the swooping space-sled. It was the
Comet,
and its heavy proton guns were belching deadly beams that smashed at the enemy craft.

The space-sled was ripped from stem to stern by those deadly rays. It fell, a whirling mass of wreckage and bony white bodies. Other enemy craft came rushing across the sky immediately. But the
Comet
was already swooping down toward the three fugitives in the snow.

"In with you!" Curt yelled as the open door of the hovering ship yawned beside them.

They tumbled into the air-lock and Future slammed shut the outer door.

"Okay, Otho!" he cried.

Whizz —
roar!
The
Comet
stood on its tail as Otho flung it out of the path of the onrushing space-sleds.

Captain Future and his two companions were flung against the wall as they scrambled with their senseless captive toward the control room.

"Take the guns, Chief!" Otho cried from the space-stick. "Simon's been using them, but he's a little slow for this party."

Otho's slant-green eyes were blazing with excitement as he flung the
Comet
all over the sky to outmaneuver the attacking space-sleds.

"Quit playing around and haul tail out of here before those devils gang up on us!” Curt ordered him. "There's too many —"

 

HE WAS interrupted by the raging swoop of two enemy craft, that came in from the quarter with their guns spitting atom-shells.

Otho avoided the shells by a twist of the space-stick, and Captain Future let go with two bursts of the port proton gun. The beams caught one space-sled squarely, grazed the other closely.

Then the
Comet
zoomed skyward before the Cold Ones could attack again. Otho corkscrewed the ship's flight until the space-sleds seeking to pursue were thrown off by the ship's superior speed. By that time, they were far out in space from the frozen world.

"We've left them for good," Curt said, panting. He removed his helmet and mopped his brow. "Lay your course back to Tarasia, full speed."

Otho was looking around at Grag.

"I see you hauled that big cast-iron idiot out of his jam, Chief," he commented sourly.

"No thanks to you, you misbegotten son of a test-tube," retorted Grag. "It was Eek who led the Chief right to me. Yes, sir! Eek's brilliant intelligence located me, just as he found the Chief for us that time on the comet-world. What would we do without him?"

"Oh, devils of space, now he's going to start bragging about that miserable moon-pup again!” exclaimed Otho in exasperation.

"What did Oog ever do to brag about?" demanded Grag. "That thick-headed little pet of yours can't do anything except sleep and eat."

Captain Future ignored the argument as he stared keenly back into space. They had definitely shaken off the pursuit of the Cold Ones. The space-sleds could not match the
Comet's
high-speed drive.

As the ship continued to throb faster than light through the great cluster of dead and dying suns, on its return trip to Tarasia, Curt went back into the cabin with the Brain. Back there, Gerdek had stripped off Lacq's space-suit. The young traitor was regaining consciousness.

"What happened?" gasped Lacq, his pale young face dazed as he looked bewilderedly around.

"You've been captured and you're being taken back to Bebemos to meet the fate you deserve, traitor!" Gerdek burst out. "The Council of Suns will sentence you to the Unbodied indefinitely for your treachery."

"You mean that this man was working with the Cold Ones?" Shiri said incredulously. "Oh, no, that's impossible."

Lacq seemed crushed by despair.

"You've ruined everything by taking me prisoner!" he cried. "You've wrecked all my plans."

"We've ruined your plans to help the Cold Ones," spat Gerdek. "Even being condemned to the Unbodied is too good a fate for
you!"

"What is all this about the Unbodied?" the Brain asked puzzledly.

Before Gerdek could answer, Curt Newton intervened. His eyes and voice were hard as he spoke to the abashed young prisoner.

BOOK: Captain Future 12 - Planets in Peril (Fall 1942)
6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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