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) (21 page)

BOOK: Captain Future 12 - Planets in Peril (Fall 1942)
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The space-sleds were veering, falling, tumbling away! The Cold Ones on them had died instantly when they entered the violet nimbus!

Curt Newton's lean face was hard and set as he guided his ship on downward, He deliberately sent it into the thick of the enemy armada.

All around the
Comet,
space-sleds fell and crashed as their crews perished from the withering clutch of a lethal radiation their bodies could not resist. It was as though the
Comet
was the center of a great, invisible sphere of death as it moved back and forth amid the swarming space-sleds.

It was not a battle — it was a grim execution. Half the Cold Ones were gone already. Three-quarters of them were gone before the survivors ceased their vain attempts to reach the
Comet,
and broke wildly for space.

"They are shattered," said Gerdek slowly and unbelievingly in the thick silence that followed. "The Cold Ones' power is smashed."

He repeated it as though he still could not believe his eyes.

"So softly, so swiftly — smashed forever!" Gerdek marveled. "We can drive them from every world they have conquered. We can insure the future of our race —"

Tears began to trickle down his cheeks. Shiri was sobbing with happiness in Lacq's arms. Vostol was staring with awe at Curt Newton's drawn, tired face.

"I know now that I was wrong, no matter what the evidence," Vostol choked. "You are Kaffr. Only he could have done this thing!"

When they landed outside Bebemos and entered the city, they found its people still dazed by the incredible miracle that had snatched them from the very shadow of doom. But a swelling roar mounted as Curt and his band went through the crazily rejoicing throngs.

"Kaffr!" echoed the mad cry, over and over.

Curt spoke troubledly to Gerdek.

"Can't I tell them the truth about my identity now?"

"No, do not tell them," begged Gerdek. "The tale of how Kaffr returned to champion his people will be an inspiration to my race for all time to come. Do not destroy that inspiration."

Even beyond the Solar System, Captain Future was now a legend.

 

ON THE terrace before the Hall of Suns, beneath the shadow of the gigantic statue of Kaffr, old Igir greeted Curt Newton hoarsely.

"Can you forgive us of the Council for doubting you, Kaffr? It was only we — the people did not doubt."

The people — tens of thousands of them gathered in front of the great building — were shouting their faith and pride at this great moment. They hushed as Curt Newton began to address them.

"Tarasts, you have now a weapon that will enable you to drive back the Cold Ones and reestablish your domain over this universe. But you must not think that your tribulations are over. Many generations must still pass before this universe will be reborn to new life and youth. You must struggle and toil and endure until that time arrives.

"But that golden era will come, finally. And when it does, the days of your former glory will return. Again the stars and worlds of an entire universe will be ruled from this Hall of Suns."

Captain Future paused, and then concluded simply.

"My comrades and I are leaving you. We are going back to the realms from whence we came. But you will not need us. You have men among you who can guide your future, and without whose help we could have done nothing. So this is — farewell."

There was a long, hushed pause of absolute silence, a stillness in which there seemed no slightest movement in the whole vast throng. Then up to Curt Newton crashed a rolling, deafening shout, a thundering tribute such as kings might have been proud to receive.

"Hail, Kaffr!"

Shaken by it, Curt looked up at the giant stone figure and face of the real Kaffr.

"I did the best I could, in your name," he whispered.

 

 

Chapter 20: Revelation

 

THE
Comet
lay inside the big ovoid chamber in Tarasia's matter-transmitter, ready to hurtle back across the dimensional abyss to its own universe. Outside, Curt Newton and the Futuremen made their farewells.

Shiri was crying. And Gerdek and Lacq seemed under the stress of equal emotion as they wrung Curt's hand. Otho looked uncomfortable.

"Let's get going," he said. "I never did like good-bys."

"That's because you don't have a sentimental nature like us humans," Grag remarked.

"Must
you go now?" Lacq was asking Curt earnestly.

"There's nothing more for us to do here," Captain Future answered. "And — we're homesick for our own universe."

Shin's violet eyes were understanding.

"The dark-haired girl back there — she will be waiting."

With a last wave, Curt followed the Futuremen into the ship. He paused as the Brain pointed to a new, square apparatus in the cabin.

"I've been fitting up this automatic recorder during the last few days," Simon Wright explained. "It will record certain data on the coordinates of our flight back across dimensions, even though we ourselves are too overcome to take notes."

Otho laughed.

"Stubborn old Simon!" he chuckled. "He's still trying to prove that the fourth dimension isn't spatial, even after we've flown across it."

"I still don't believe that all the principles of relativity in physics are wrong, if that's what you mean," Simon retorted sourly.

"You can pore over the theory of it after we get back," Captain Future told him impatiently. "It's time to start now."

They watched from the control-room window as Gerdek threw the switches of the great matter-transmitter.

Again, the Futuremen seemed to feel a stunning shock of unleashed energy that hurled them into a bottomless abyss. Again, there stretched around them that nightmare vista of unreal, super-geometrical space.

Sickness shook them all as the
Comet
seemed to hurtle amid foaming spherical universes in a complicated course. Once more their eyes were baffled by the impossible perspectives of alien dimensions around them.

Then a sharp shock of impact, a roaring in their ears. And they found the
Comet
inside the matter-receiver on the sunlit surface of Deimos.

"Curt!” The silvery cry was tremulous as Joan Randall came running with old Tiko Thrin across the garden toward them. "Oh Curt!"

He held her in his arms.

"Joan, we've been through a lot. But it's worth it all, just to come back to you."

Tiko Thrin was tugging at his arm. The old Martian scientist's withered face was eager with excitement.

"You found a way to help the people of that universe? Tell me all about it!"

"That'll take more than a minute," Curt answered. "Come on into the house. Coming, Simon?"

"No, lad. I want to study the data that was transcribed by my mechanical recorders during our return journey," the Brain replied.

It was late night, with the pink planet-glow of Mars shafting softly into the windows of Tiko Thrin's little house, before Captain Future finished the tale to which Tiko and Joan had listened breathlessly.

Not until then did the Brain join them. And there was something about the speed of his gliding entry and the sharpness of his rasping voice that betokened excitement. It startled them, for none of them had ever seen Simon Wright show excitement before.

"I've been studying the data in my recorder," said Simon, his lenslike eyes fixed queerly intent on Curt's face. "I've found out that the principles of relativity in physics are not wrong. The fourth dimension across which we flew is not a spatial dimension at all."

"But that's impossible!" Curt Newton protested. "We could
see
that we flew a tremendous distance through that dimensional abyss."

"That was merely illusion born of the ungeometrical perspectives of alien dimensions," the Brain contradicted. "The coordinates recorded in my apparatus show that we did not move even one mile in space!"

 

OTHO was incredulous.

"I don't get this," he said. "That other universe was supposed to be twenty billion light-years away from ours. We went to it and came back. Yet you say now we didn't move in space at all!”

"That other universe," Simon said trenchantly, "is not twenty billion light-years away. It is twenty billion
years
away. The fourth dimension is not a space dimension — it is, as relativity asserts, the dimension of
time"

"Good heavens!" Captain Future was shaken mentally as never before by the implication. "You mean that we were really hurled far forward across the time-dimension? That that other universe —"

"Yes!" exclaimed the Brain. "That other universe is our own universe, as it will be twenty billion years in the future! And those Tarasts are the descendants of our own human race. Language and names would change, in that time. 'Terrestrial' could easily become 'Tarast'."

A great awe held them all in silence as the astounding revelation of their epic adventure was brought home.

Then Captain Future spoke bewilderedly.

"But in that case, the Tarast legends of their remote past refer to our own present time. According to those legends, the great hero Kaffr who first led them in conquest of other worlds should be living right now. But there's no great hero of that name in this age of ours."

"You're wrong," replied the Brain. "There is such a great hero of space-conquest living right now, one whose fame will go down in future legend. His name, like other names, would be corrupted by the passing of ages. 'Captain Future' would be corrupted in time to 'Kaffr'."

Curt Newton jumped to his feet as though he had received a galvanic shock. His eyes were dilated by a wild surmise.

"You mean that I —"

"Yes,
you
are the real Kaffr of legend!" cried the Brain. "You went twenty billion years into the future of our universe in order to impersonate —
yourself!"

 

THE END

 

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