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

Authors: Edmond Hamilton

Tags: #Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Captain Future 12 - Planets in Peril (Fall 1942) (7 page)

BOOK: Captain Future 12 - Planets in Peril (Fall 1942)
7.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

"So far, you're carrying it off," said Gerdek under his breath, his breathing quick with tension. "But for the sake of the gods, don't make any slips! Vostol would seize on them at once."

Lights were shining along the halls, and Tarast guards with awed reverence in their eyes saluted Curt Newton as he passed. He emerged at the head of the excited party onto a terrace outside the Hall of Suns.

Night lay over Bebemos. Lights were gleaming all across the ancient capital. And through the dim curve of transparent roof high overhead came the lurid light of two dull-red moons that were climbing into the sky.

The great plaza in front of the mammoth building was packed with a surging throng of countless thousands. They swirled and eddied around the colossal statue and against the front of the building. The light falling upon them revealed a sea of white faces that were all turned as one toward Curt Newton as he appeared.

The clamor of that tremendous throng died to a dead, absolute silence at his appearance. For a long moment that hush was uncanny. In it, the vast throng stared up at the tall, red-haired figure in the terrace. And then —

"Kaffr!”

That thunderous shout hit Curt in the face like a stunning wave of sound. It had in it a mad rejoicing almost beyond expression.

It was the cry of a people who looked out of a deepening shadow of cosmic doom and saw a savior. It was the cry of men who saw their hero of ages of ancient tradition, face to face.

"Kaffr has returned!"

 

CURT NEWTON quailed inwardly under the impact of that tremendous greeting. It was not really for him, that frantic acclaim. It was for the hero of the dim past, the man whose statue loomed high in the dark.

But the agony of entreaty on the faces of Shiri and Gerdek steadied Curt. He raised his hand commandingly for silence.

"Yes, my people, Kaffr has awakened from long sleep to return to you in this hour of peril," rang his clear voice.

It almost seemed to Curt Newton, as he spoke, that the spirit of the real Kaffr was somehow whispering the words to him from the dead.

"I have returned to counsel you in this great crisis of our racial history," he went on. "And my first counsel is, not to despair or surrender to doom. The valor of our race won cosmic empires for us long ago, and it will save us now."

A flaming shout of utter faith and loyalty answered him. Again he raised his hand for quiet. But as the roar of the vast crowd ebbed, it was suddenly succeeded by a new and nerve-chilling sound.

A piercing, wailing note rose from somewhere atop the Hall of Suns, climbing in rapid crescendo to a screaming shriek that echoed across Bebemos like a chorus of demons. Within a moment, that eerie warning drowned out all other sounds.

"The raid warning!" cried old Igir, his face wild with alarm. "It means another attack by the Cold Ones!”

A Tarast officer came racing out of the building, saluting.

"A strong force of Cold One ships reported off Tarasia, heading toward Bebemos!" he reported to the old chairman.

Curt found Gerdek at his side in the wild confusion. The young Tarast was explaining feverishly.

"The Cold Ones have attacked Bebemos several times recently — they seek to shatter the roof that alone makes life possible here. They'll be on us in a few moments. It is up to you to lead the defense."

"But everything here is unfamiliar to me!” Captain Future exclaimed. "I don t know anything about your weapons or defenses —"

"It's a fight, and that's all we need to know!" cried Otho, his slant-green eyes glittering with sudden excitement.

"Just tell the people to take their defense posts — they all know what to do!" Gerdek whispered hastily to Curt.

Captain Future quickly followed the suggestion. His raised hand brought silence except for the continual eerie shriek of the warning.

"People of Bebemos, to your stations!" he shouted. "Let me see tonight whether you can fight as your ancestors fought ages ago!"

The irresolution and startled panic of the throng instantly evaporated and there crashed out a yell of confidence and courage.

"We obey, Kaffr! With you to lead us, we'll destroy them when they come!"

The scene became one of uproar and confusion as the crowd broke up, men running in every direction to their stations of defense. Flyers roared low across the roofs of the city, and the screaming signal of warning never abated for a moment.

Tarast soldiery, armed with the gunlike weapons, were racing toward the giant columns that supported the great dome. Curt found himself and the Futuremen led hastily along by Gerdek and Shiri toward one of those great pillars.

"My station is in Turret Fourteen, and you had best stay with me," Gerdek was saying as they ran. "Hurry!"

Curt Newton was more than a little bewildered by the rush of events in this totally unfamiliar place. He understood nothing of the plans of attack or defense utilized by the opposing forces.

But he realized the desperate urgency of the moment. Without asking for further explanations, he accompanied Gerdek and Shiri. They reached the big pillar that was their destination. It was hollow, and inside it was an atomic-powered elevator. They shot rapidly upward.

 

THE car stopped. They emerged from it into a big turret that jutted up like a large blister from the curve of the domed roof. There were other turrets here and there over the roof, and they had transparent walls like the dome itself. From each turret protruded long gun muzzles.

Tarast soldiers were already at their posts at the guns here in Turret Fourteen. They wore space-suits, and Gerdek hastily snatched other suits from a rack and handed them to Curt and the Futuremen.

"Suits on!” he warned. "If the Cold Ones shatter the walls of this turret, the bitter cold outside would paralyze you at once."

"I
don't need any suit," growled Grag, tossing aside the garment disdainfully. The Brain was watching with his usual imperturbability.

Curt and Otho followed the example of Gerdek and his sister in donning the suits and transparent helmets. Inside each helmet was an all-wave interphone to make conversation possible at short ranges.

"There they come!” yelled one of the Tarasts. He was pointing up toward the sky.

Captain Future looked up tensely through the turret's transparent wall. The scene was weird, with the two moons dripping bloody light upon the vast, curved dome of Bebemos.

Down through the lurid light, long, slim craft were swooping with unbelievable swiftness upon the city. Curt's heart hammered. The Cold Ones, the mysterious spawn of icy night who had overrun almost all this universe!

Guns of turrets all across the roof spat streams of small shells toward the diving ships. The shells, Curt realized at once, were atom-shells containing a charge of unstable matter that was released into a flare of atomic force wherever they struck.

The flares danced like lightning amid the diving attackers. Ships of the Cold Ones sagged and fell to crash on the roof. By the flares of their own destruction, Curt glimpsed their incredible nature.

"Good God, those spaceships are
open!"
he cried. "They're just fast space-sleds. How can their crews survive in airless space?"

"The Cold Ones do not need air to breathe," Gerdek said from the breech of the gun he was handling. "Ha — we got
that
one!"

But the diving attackers were loosing a hot fire of similar atom-shells as they swooped. They seemed to concentrate their fire on the gun turrets. The flares bit holes in the tough substance of the dome.

Captain Future glimpsed, through the battle's mad confusion, a half score of space-sleds that swooped headlong to a reckless landing on the roof near a neighboring turret. He saw a horde of white, weird-looking figures jump from the sleds to attack that turret.

"They're trying to take Turret Thirteen!" yelled Gerdek in alarm. "If they take it, they'll use its own guns on the dome."

He tore open a door in the wall of their own turret.

"We've got to stop that!" Gerdek exclaimed. "Come on!"

Captain Future needed no second invitation. He had been itching to get into this fight, and here was the chance.

With Grag and Otho and Gerdek, and half the Tarast soldiers in their crew, they pitched out of their stronghold and ran across the surface of the vast dome toward the fight around Turret Thirteen.

Curt's proton pistol spat thin, dazzling rays of destruction into the vague horde of white figures hammering at the threatened turret. Otho too was shooting as he ran, and Gerdek and his soldiers were using their weapons to loose little, flaring atom-shells.

The Cold Ones turned savagely to meet this new attack. In the mingled light of the two red moons and the battle's dancing flares, the appearance of the attackers became clear to Curt for the first time.

"They're devils!" screeched Otho in horrified amazement. "Look at them!"

The Cold Ones were indeed ghastly figures. Their bodies were of human size and shape but they were not of flesh. They were of
bone,
gleaming, hard white bodies with skull-like heads from which two uncanny eyes looked forth with fixed, unwinking glare. They looked, indeed, horribly like human men changed by some dreadful metamorphosis into ossified creatures.

 

 

Chapter 7: On a Dead World

 

GRAG was in the thick of the fight around Turret Thirteen before he realized the enemy's uncanny nature. The big robot had plunged into the melee with a will, disdaining the use of any weapons except his own mighty metal fists. Those fists smashed into the vague white figures of the Cold Ones with shattering effect.

Then, by the mingled light of the red moons and the exploding atom-shells, Grag saw his antagonists more clearly. At the same time came the amazed cries of Captain Future and Otho. The robot felt an equal astonishment.

"Jumping imps of Jupiter!" he exclaimed. "What
are
these things?"

The bodies of white bone, the skull-like, fleshless heads and faces, the glaring, unwinking eyes seemed born of a nightmare.

Captain Future's shout rallied Grag from his astonishment.

"Drive them away from the turret!" Curt was shouting.

The robot pitched into the fight. It had now become a swirling combat that seethed around the threatened Turret Thirteen. Cold Ones seeking to force their way into that turret had been taken by surprise by Gerdek's Tarasts and the Futuremen. The atom-guns of the defenders had already scythed down many of the weird, bony invaders.

The Cold Ones turned, using their own hand atom-guns. Deadly flares of force exploded all through the melee. Space-suited men and alien invaders slipped and staggered on the smooth roof. The raiders from the sky were still hotly attacking all over domed Bebemos.

Grag's metal fists smashed into skull-faces like pile-drivers. The robot felt bony heads split and shatter beneath his blows. Atom-shells whizzed past him. The scene was a chaos of nightmare combat under the bloodlike light of the two climbing moons.

The Cold Ones who had landed on the roof gave back before the fierce attack of Tarasts and Futuremen, Their attempt to rush Turret Thirteen having been broken, they hastily retreated now toward their parked space-sleds. The whole great raid on Bebemos seemed to be ebbing.

"Don't let 'em get away!” Captain Future was yelling.

Curt and Otho were wielding their proton pistols with deadly effect. Cold Ones were falling like ripe grain before the reaper.

Grag had plunged forward after the retreating enemy. He overtook a group of them who were hastily leaping into their parked space-sled — a long, open, flat-decked craft with low side walls.

Booming his battle-cry, Grag jumped into the low craft after the escaping Cold Ones. One of the creatures was already twisting controls of the machinery at the stem. The space-sled suddenly rushed up from the roof into the night, with tremendous acceleration.

Grag was flung from his feet by the sudden jerk, and hit the deck with an impact that momentarily stunned him. He woke to sudden realization that a heavy metal cable was being hastily wrapped around his body.

"What the devil!" he roared ragingly, trying to get up and resume the fight.

It was too late. During the moment he had been dazed, the Cold Ones on the space-sled had seized the opportunity to bind him.

Furiously, Grag sought to break his bonds. Even his gigantic strength could not accomplish it. The metal cable was thick and strong, evidently having been designed for towing the space-sled in emergencies.

"Captured!" thought Grag furiously. "Captured by a lot of living skeletons!"

The space-sled was climbing into the night sky at a terrific rate. Its motive power appeared to be an electromagnetic vibration drive produced by the machinery at the stern. Such a drive, Grag knew, could achieve speeds many times the velocity of light.

The
Comet
was equipped with the same means of propulsion.

 

ALL the other space-sleds of the Cold One raiders were rising through the night also. They had broken off the attack on Bebemos, apparently having failed in an effort to take the Tarasts by surprise. They shot in close formation out into open space, and started at high speed through the cluster of dead and dying suns.

BOOK: Captain Future 12 - Planets in Peril (Fall 1942)
7.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Star Group by Christopher Pike
The Vendetta Defense by Scottoline, Lisa
Four Degrees Celsius by Kerry Karram
13 Drops of Blood by Daley, James Roy
Silent Weapon by Debra Webb
The Jaguar by A.T. Grant
News Flash by Liz Botts
Mandibles by Jeff Strand
Fall of Venus by Daelynn Quinn