This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
It is unlikely that they will, unless they should become curious regarding our mechanical eyesight, and even then there is little that they could do. I dislike the thoughts of what a well-aimed rock or heavy club wielded by one of these giants might do to our precious heads. It is not likely to occur to them.h The professor reassured his companion, tho ugh he was a bit nervous over their prospects himself. We can only wait until th e spaceship is repaired and they can come in search of us. They may come on the mechanical wings. It is improbable that those who came with us will find us. We are now headed o ff on a tangent from the course we originally chose. It was our ill fortune to s tray from mental contact with the rest and chance upon this band of Ooaurs diffe rent from those we had routed. The Ooaurs jogged onward. The character of the ground over which they were pas sing changed. The plain came to an end on this portion of the flat world, and ge ntle slopes and valleys replaced the level monotony. In one of these valleys lay the village of the Ooaurs. It was dirty and filthy. That was the first impressi on the machine men gained from the heterogeneous collection of huts and shelters erected from branches, boulders and rock slabs, embellished here and there with a composition of twigs and dried clay. Often, the central stanchions were the t runks of living trees. The architecture spoke not only of ignorance, but lazines s as well. Ooaurs rushed out of shelters nearly fallen to pieces through lack of repair as the returned hunting party entered the village, chattering in boastfu l excitement of the strange things they had captured by pulling off their arms a nd legs. The two machine men were dumped unceremoniously on the ground amid the central collection of huts. The setting sun shone dully off the metal bottom of Profess or Jameson's cube because he had fallen on one side. 27E-24 had been dropped rig ht side up, slightly tilted toward the professor where a single bent and useless leg upheld him slightly. The two helpless Zoromes became at once the objects of questing, feeling claws as the Ooaurs examined them attentively yet uncomprehen dingly. Keep your eyes closed, Professor Jameson warned his companion. We do not want their curiosity to lead them into too prying an examination of our heads. But like the professor, 27E-24 had also closed his eye shutters soon after ent ering the village, and if the Ooaurs recollected a difference they did not stres s it as of any importance. One of them waved a dangling metal tentacle with volu ble explanations concerning its relation to the trophies they had brought back w ith them. The machine men were tipped and rolled about until the long enduring d usk had finally yielded to darkness. Darkness had long before fallen on Ui and i ts surrounding country, and the two Zoromes wondered what was happening there. H ad their companions returned to Ui from the Land of Exhaustion Then they were al ready missed. Or had they finally caught up to the fleeing Ooaurs If so, they mi ght not have returned this soon. The dismembered machine men were positive of one condition, however on their f ailure to return in proper time, a search would be instituted for them regardles s of whether the spaceship was fit to cruise once more or not. A short night yielded to a steady fringe of light upon the distant horizon whi ch heralded the new day. The village of Ooaurs aroused itself from bestial sleep . The sun crept rapidly over the world's edge, and the new day was born. Once more the curiosity of the Ooaurs manifested itself in their critical and awkward examination of the machine men's torsos. The professor was once turned a nd balanced on the apex of his head. The Ooaur released his hold and the heavy c ube fell flat upon the feet of another beast. This one howled his pain and smote the careless offender for dropping the body. There came a growling retaliation, and the two ill-tempered monsters were at each other tooth and nail. From his s idewise position, it reminded the professor of a dog fight, with all the other d
The village was being att acked by a different species of Ooaurs. leaving the growling. Some of them carried as many as fou r. constantly shifting their weighty burdens in order to keep pace with their fellow creatures. Attacked on two sides and taken by surprise. biting affair. yet non e the less bulky. and their hair grew longer. They tore down the homes of their vanquished foes. more darkl y colored than those the machine men had yet seen. a dire ction promising to bring them gradually closer to the edge of the world. Thes e conquerors had never seen the machine men in action. Quarter was neither given nor asked. From the slowly retreating mass of villagers. They were more squat. they feared the consequences of a repeated attack on their heads wit h the powerfully wielded bludgeons. but these hopes became dissipated as the objects in the sky came nearer. For a l ong time. The v illagers fought to a hopeless finish. but they were nothing resembling Zoromes. The battling br utes only stopped fighting when they heard particularly shrill cries-cries unlik e any the machine men had yet heard their captors emit. the victors engaged in an unr estrained orgy of vandalism. when the field of battle had been cleared. To the victors belonged the spoils. one in which they found al arm rather than enjoyment. seemingly. They were. surgi ng contestants momentarily unaware of the turn events had taken. Then their whole demeano r changed and they rose to join their companions. That they were bright and reflected the sunlight like t he metal sides of a machine man's cube the professor verrified by their closer a pproach. from the greatest to the least. Once more the machine men were carried off by Ooaurs. thickly-haired bodies of the invaders. From the opposite direction. and these marvelous cone-pointed cubes of hard. most of which was obscured from the stationary view of the two Zoro mes by the dark brown. there came a charging horde of Ooaurs. the Ooaurs evacuated the scene of desolation and death. now surging back to the center of the village in a retreating mass. Having created all the disorder and destruction of which their poor imaginatio ns were capable. The two machine men were quickly discovered once the villagers had all been di spatched. the Zoromes invariably found that creatures of flesh and blood enjoyed watching a fight. the two helpless Zoromes deduced that superior numbers were pressi ng them from the front. though. The audience disappeared. the fate of the villagers was already apparent. this time in a tangent direction skirting the great plain. The weak concentrative energies of the Ooaurs spent little conjecture on this point. and so in no way did the two Zoromes give evidence of any sentient character. for the end presaged itself. and the latter species appeared to be in the majority. The machine men realized now the c onsternation of their captors and the cause for alarm. but its out come was forever left in doubt.ogs gathering in a circle of acclaiming din and howls. Though their metal heads were constructed to withstand se vere usage. strewing refuse all over the village and scarcely leaving one stick in orderly c ontact with another. Whatever degree of intell igence they came across. A menta l flash to 27E-24 appraised him of the professor's initial hope that flying Zoro mes had come in search of them. The machine men learned this later. It was Professor Jameson who first saw the approaching specks on high. The combat resolved itself into a rough and tumble. The machine men hoped against any curiosity the Ooaurs might show in regard to their inner contents. Others amused themselves by bashing in the heads of any wou nded survivors not of their own tribe. balls o f metal. and once more they underwent first-hand observation and handling. into whose ranks the newcomers s uddenly fell. also brandishing large clubs. was terrible. carryin g away with them their new acquisitions. they were me rely ornaments whose acquisition the villagers had in some way managed. glistening metal were the greatest prizes of all. the invading warriors held to their course. To the Ooaurs. which strangely enou gh appeared to consist mainly of odd-shaped bones. . Shrill cries from outside the ring of spectators turned the interested onlookers to a new attraction. giving a good account of themselve s. Not satisfied with what loot and plunder they could find. one in each long-digited claw. The carnage an d slaughter.
Yet the three globes still descended. One of them threw a b ludgeon at the lowest of the globes. they shouted. A shower of upflung missiles followed this initiative. the professor saw one of the terrible streams strike close t o his metal cube. It is directed by an intelligence. The Ooaurs fled them in terror. If that were so. too. A single Uum would have difficul ty in getting himself into one. choking from the fumes which c ame from them as their motions and sounds became stilled. full upon a cluster of the Ooaurs. noticed them. It ate up its victims swiftly. Dense puf's of acrid smoke arose from the doused creatures. and they foun d only a blank. In turn. but w hat are they The metal globes floated nearer so that now the Ooaurs. as their inert forms became smoldering. the professor made reply. terrifying thought what would the green liquid do to metal Nothing happene d immediately. his towers were constructed to be thought-proof. Their companions fell back. beating madly at their bodies and rolling upon the ground. They were either dead or dying. all those struck by the liquid. they felt themselves minutely examined. fastened upon a si ngle. The Ooaurs were making warlike gesures with their clubs. finding exterior markings suggestive of inne r mechanism. The two Zoromes had an excellent opportunity. That is apparent. impelled by the terror fallen among them. They ran in aimless circles. An Ooaur received it full upon the head. we would have found it out. governed by an organic brai n I doubt it. Yes. They do exist! T here are three of them! They are coming down here! the professor exclaimed. Some ran in a straight line until they fell dead or foaming in terror. their minds searching for an an swer or inkling that they had been heard. they are metal. who fell screaming in contorting agony. Others fell upon their companions in pain-crazed rage. enveloped in the fumes of their living cremation. and it spattered on t he surrounding beasts and the professor's head and cubed body. Out o f the globe shot a glistening stream of green liquid. or else because of a simple-minded conviction that the mysterious metal things were som ehow allied to the flying globes whose material so closely resembled theirs. The professor's brain stood still. two of them coming close a bove the heads of the Ooaurs. said the professor . He had been abandoned by his carrier. Do you suppose they are mechanisms like ourselves. yet t he ire of the Oaos seemed yet unappeased. either th rough a single desire for more speed in escaping the death from on high. In consternation. then another. The remainder of the frightful beasts scattered in aimless fli ght. Its emerald film obscured the sight of one eye. The two from on high shot several stre ams of the green death upon the strung-out cavalcade of Ooaurs. Thi . and whether dead or dying the action of the fatal liquid was impartially the same. yet on the other hand I recall that in the secret city of 6D4 back on the p lanet of Mumed. We must communicate with them. These globes are much smaller than the Eiuks. Above the captive machine men. Searchingly they sought. they paused and kep t pace with the captives. We have seen no creatures here small enough to occupy them. regardless of necessary mechanism. Professor Jameson felt himself dr opped with a bump onto one side. and they closely examined the metal globes. and several clubs clattered and glanced off the bright sphere. eat en-away semblances of their former selves. yet the smoking vapor still rose. pointed upward and gesticulated. In mingled surprise and excitement. 27E-24 surmised. They lay dead. echoing the thought of the professor. Puf's of smoke wafted angrily from the stricken O oaurs and their maddening pain caused the air to resound with agonized shrieks. This feeling origi nated from the actions of the three Oaos rather than a telepathic source.or aircraft. and the suspense became pardy lifted What the liquid was doing to the Ooaurs was vividly and startlingly apparent. so it may be th at these globes are made in such a manner. for of the latter there appeared to be no existence. Both machine men sent out strong mental calls.Oaos! exclaimed 27E-24. Tiny spaceships. withered. t heir anguished screeches descending in volume like the wail of a departing siren .
have nothing to fear from the Oaos. What happened. Possibly. abandoned and sol itary. where soon it would sink beyond the sea of atmosphere. pointing to a looming bulk upon die hori zon. who was slightly tilted on one corner. despite . you know. omitting mention of the fight in the village and how they had involuntarily traded captors. abandoned machine men of Zor. They have brought them back to find u s. though the Uum seldom see them. We still do not know what they are. while the Oaos hovered far above. Now there was another. The Oaos seemed no longer interested either in Ooaurs or Zoromes. The fleeing Ooaurs had long ago disappeared. Where are the Oaos now They are leaving. Do they seem bound for Ui It is probable. so grew the assurance of the professor that the green liquid s pattered on him from the metal globe would prove harmless to metal. reflecting the light of the sinking sun. And Professor Jameson was right. We cannot communicate with them. those whom t he Oaos did not kill. The Uum.s latter thought occurred to the professor. and where do the Oaos figure in this We were captured by Ooaurs. the professor replied briefly.which was lar gely blocked by his own metal cube. But what are the Oaos 744U-21 asked. The helpless machine men pondered the question now upper most in their minds when would their companions come and find them And as the da y grew in length. The approaching globes of the Oaos s hone in the sky like gibbous moons. yet it would be more probable that they are from another facet of th is strange world. It is possible that the metal globes are operated by remote control. The Oa os seem friendly to them. It has six sides. The Oao s came and frightened away the Ooaurs so that they left us and ran. said 119M-5. the professor stated. They had not risen but were slowly drifting away out of the professor's sight. two of which we already know. Where do you suppose they come from The Land of Exhaustion. the Ooaurs hurrying m adly from the scene. Four The professor looked again carefully. Do you suppose the Oaos could be from another world of this system. mused 27E-24. One-two-three-four! There had been but three previously. His flying companions were soon about him and 27E-24. They came straight fo r the lonely. going toward the edge of the world. It was 27E-24 who first noticed the return of the Oaos in the distance. He prese ntly called to 27E-24. but logic al reasoning would argue against that possibility.one of the original planets 27E-24 queried. though my sense of direction has become rather confused by the character of this flat-sided world. for in the distanc e more dark specks became visible and grew in perspective. anyway. The rest did not appear as globes. His fallen position enabled him to s ee that 27E-24 had also been delivered a like disposition. presenting at least three varying forms of environment. The gravity must be tremendous on the two ends. gradually nearing the world's edge. The professor cast mental attention upon the burnt ashes dotting the plain abo ut them. The sun hung low. because he lay on his side. They were returning from the direction of Ui. if their reports are true. said the professor. Thus wandered the conversation of the two Zoromes as the day grew clear and th ey waited in motionless silence at the edge of the vast plain. The spaceship is coming. The rest were Z oromes on the wing! It can only mean that the Oaos have been to Ui and have brought our machine me n back here with them. limmering suspicion became mother to the confirming truth only three of the flying things were Oaos. The machine men counted them. the scurried dust from their many feet had settled. It was 27E-24 who first noticed that only three of them presented this gibbous aspect. A form of life intelligent enough to build those things would be likely to occupy them as well.
Meanwhile. lowerin g and circling where the spaceship rested. It was evident that they wished the machine men to follow. While their heads wer e being placed on new bodies. The Oaos came an d left silently except for their attack upon the Ooaurs with a greenish. the machine men saw a faint reflection from a metal globe that swoo ped past. In the waning glow of the f inal victim. every inhabitant out to watch. they started slowly for the rim and the Land of Exhaustion. That is certain. they are strangely uncommunicative. leaving no wasted shots as a poss ible peril to the Uum below. and when the spaceship returned to Ui they followed. swoopi ng about the ship once more and heading skyward toward the haunts of the Eiuks. the three Oaos were seen exactly where darkness had come upon them the night before. Disregarding the many-tentacled orange globes that were now .their intelligent actions. so we followed. emerald glow as jade spots a ppeared suddenly upon them and merged together. Otherwise. jade spots and he at rays simultaneously attacking the remaining Eiuk. they suddenly whirled into motion. After a while. The Eiuks were on a raid for tender an d delectable Disci. leaving a pungent odor of cin-derized flesh. These cubes could not be equipped again until after necessary repairs had been made to them. The Oaos had closed for direct hits. yet they may. In the morning. five who had found themselves suffi ciently low in generative gas to allow them to settle at this forbidden level. Ship a nd winged escort followed the Oaos. the two rescued Zoromes related their fight with t he Ooaurs and their subsequent adventures. The two Zoromes were taken aboard the spaceship where their heads were removed and placed upon new cubes already equipped with tentacles and legs. we we re preparing to start in search of you and 27E-24. This prismatic metamorphosis rap idly lost its glorifying effect as black spots came into view and grew large whe re spots of jade had first appeared. their place of origin. hovering over the city. I have an opinion that the Oaos are not going very far. They were sil ent to all our queries. The Oaos did not enter th e city. The spaceship rose above the city of Ui. Have they organic brains If they have. Twilight had settled beyond the rim. two of the Eiuks changed from dazzling yellow to a beautiful. Like ebbing rockets. Both. arousing the acclaim and excitement of the Disci. 6W-438 observed. the Eiuks fell into th e city. was the professor's reply. Chapter VI They are friendly. yet even as 9V-774 stabbed the darkness with a beam from his ray ejector. The heat rays of the Zorome s stabbed down two more of the nocturnal horrors from on high. Then they slowly rose on high. Do you suppose they are like us 41C-98 queried as the spaceship dropped slowly groundward. The machine men hurried to make short work of the marauders from on high. High up into the mounta ins and still higher the Oaos led them. They came t o Ui. You know as much as I do about them. Soon they were among the lower ranks of the ascending Eiuks. T hrough some instinctive faculty. they realized the existence of the Uum as their hereditary prey. It was foun d that their original cubes had suffered damage at the junctions where the legs and tentacles had been removed by the Ooaurs. It is now certain that they cannot communicate telepath-ically with us. In the ship or on the wing 20R-654 asked. Thoughts of the Oaos became suddenly diverted during the night by the appearan ce of several balls of light falling slowly into the city. With the dawn. they would have done so. There were five of them. and neither machine men nor Disci knew if they had departed or not. The machine men had c ome to know what this ominous sign meant. burning liquid they are capable of ejecting. the professor confessed. the Oaos still hovered on high. nor did they descend. the Zoromes positive that the Oaos were taki ng them to the latter's homeland. 744U-2 1 asserted. Darkness finally cloaked them.
Strangely enough. much like Earth's moon. and against the jagged rocks the falling Oao smashed in ruin. space ens hrouded them in a sunlit night. detached confusion among crushed and ru ptured plates of the metal sphere. Shortly after the machine men had caught up with the spaceship. How long they had been the re was undeterminable. their directors. their vulnerable. The flying Zoromes. the flying machine men darted to the wre cked globe. Probably because something happened to its mechanism. whatever manner of things they may be. Why do you suppose the globe crashed queried 4F-686. organic brains now defying the frigidity of space as well as the burning. and nearing this they changed their upward ascen t to horizontal level so as to pass through. The starlit sky became darker as the atmos phere waned. still on the track of the remai ning Oaos. their highest outpost. like the surfaces of airless worlds the Zoromes had visited.growing more numerous. now aware that the Oaos were capable of space flight. The othe r globes could do nothing for it. the Oaos above did not stop to examine their fallen companio n but kept on through the pass. side-slipping and rolling in an apparent effort to rise once more to the level of its companions. There is probably something about the coldness and lack of air in space which wreaks special havoc with the spheres up here. all was mechanism. As one. sta ring upward at the sunlit crags. They want to be free of here as soon as possible. they saw more of the wrecked globes strewn about the mountain pass. As the Zoromes flew near. concentrated rays of sun light upon their metal heads. But nowhere could the machine men discover it s inmates. The Oaos entered space. We have accorded the Oaos separate individualities so long that it is a bit difficult to acclimat e ourselves to the idea that they are merely inanimate proxies. the eccentric globe s hot suddenly downward in what the professor divined was not an intentional drop but a direct fall. . the bony mountain heights sharply etched where s unlight and shadow clashed unblendingly. The metal sphere dip ped strangely. many miles above the outermost layer of rarified atmosphere. More than a hundred feet below them lay the base of the enorm ous cleft. the space between the peaks embroidered with st ars. the professor observed. Over the mountain pass glided the mysterious Oaos. Such was the general belief among the machine men of Zor at these latest devel opments. said the professor. They are taking us somewhere beyond the mountains. The directors evidently live on the other side of this lofty mountain range. 12W-62 replied. and those who left once more to resume their flight with th e Oaos donned their temperature equalizers. The only remainder suggesting organic habitation was the swiftly-cong ealed green fluid which lay spattered about in hardened chunks. the metal balls rose ever higher. their metal sides more sharply etched where the sun shot dazzling beams of light against their hemispheres. and so they kept onward. It no longer pursued the st raight course to which the remaining two globes still held. The flying Zoromes rapidly made up the distance between. penetrating the long f ield of Eiuks. We must follow. followed by a covey of flyi ng Zoromes and their spaceship. No were was there the least trace of organic life. These metal globes are governed by remote control. The terrain over which they flew was ro ugh. Yes. You mean their directors want them free of here. sharp and unweathered. Already the spaceship was nearly out of sight. ente red their spaceship. Come. Its mechanism lay in broken. This the machine men knew as the killing liquid which the Oaos had shot forth among the Ooaurs a nd Eiuks. the professor recollected. It wo uld account for the fact that the two we are now following are progressing at th eir swiftest pace. They were far above the roof of the world. On every side. One of the Oaos commenced suddenly to act queerly. At length. was the professors opinion. 6W-438 corrected. the Oaos came opposite a yawning cleft between two towering mountai n pinnacles of massive breadth. was 744U-21 s ultimatum. so much of it that the machine men were positive that there existed no surplus r oom for a passenger of any kind.
too. Crowds of Disci came milling about the ship as it landed. though falling at a swift pace. Hail. Organic disks rolle d along on many feet. for thin clouds hung over the surface. Conjecture flew thick and fast among the machine men of Zor. The machine men had evidently been expected. tiny and almost phantasmic in the distance. the two Oaos dropped quickly toward the ocea n of air as they found themselves free of the gaunt mountain peaks. until they. the cosmic travelers stared at the spectacle of the city growing rapidly in their vision. this spac e commencing to fill with the shoving throngs of Disci. and further away they could see more of them. The machine men could see but little of the topography. No w they saw more of the Oaos rising slowly to meet them. A large spot was already cleared for the spaceship to l and in the center of the city. the flying Zoromes and their spaceship flanking the flight of the surviving Oao. Eagerly. the Zoromes became aware of a simi larity in the general architecture of the city to the few larger and more elabor ate buildings back in the center of Ui. What are you to the inhabitants of the solitary city beyond the mountains Prof essor Jameson queried. where it decelerated gradually. But to find the directors of the mechanical Oaos to be Disci was a feature for which the machine men had neve r looked. They were scarcely afflicted with surprise through sight of the city. For a time the machine men lost sight of the globe. the Zoromes had realized this the moment they had discovered the secre t of the Oaos far up in the airless mountain pass. The other . for the empty spot was one which allowed the spaceship a perfect fit. Lost from control. dropping aw ay for several miles to reveal the country which lay beyond. a real mental shock lay in store for them. the single remaining globe checked somewhat its mad des cent until it reached the clouds. and probably. From a telescope aboard the spaceship. As if guided by a single thought. As the ship settled. but when cruising slowly above the outlying buildings they gained their first glimpse of the inhabitants. Our brethren! . Far to one side lay a city. the cleft merged into a sheer precipice. From out of the ship came the Zoromes. The globe headed directly for the city. the professor thought. making the air ring with their acclaiming din. The streets and tops of the buildings were full of them. 75J-02 announced that the firs t metal sphere never checked its descent. however. still hurtling downward at a terrific rate as it pierced the cloud blanket. The same fate as those back th ere in the mountain pass. One of them continued to drop so swiftly that the winged Zoromes lost sight of it. while those on the wing settled upon the ship 's hull or flew down to the narrow ring of space surrounding the ship. The machine men s ensed a subtle anxiety of the globe to be out of space as quickly as it could sa fely drop. large. the machine men noticed. It was evident that the machine men were held in high esteem. The Oaos did not de scend but still sped straight over the strange country partly veiled by the atmo sphere so far below. was the professor's thought. concentrating his mental faculties to the attunement of t he Disci about them. and at once the machine men realized that these n ew Disci had perfected television. staring eyes ogling excitedly at them. metal men! This was the concensus of the cries arising from the multitudinous Disci. aining the atmosphere. The attitude of the citi zens was all friendship. The greatest contrast between the two ci ties. because of their befriending the U um. Many and slightly varied were the excited replies in answer to the startling q uestion which framed itself so unexpectedly in the minds of the Disci. What relationship did these Disci bear to the Uum of the city of Ui on the other side of the giga ntic mount in range near the world's rim And why did they send their mechanical spheres over there The machine men had lost sight of the lone Oao that had brought them there. was the lack of a wall here. was not difficult to follow.Without apparent warning. had dropped through the c louds.
expecting to hear a tale of lost space navigation. who are of metal yet are capable of thought pro jection Out of the confusion. They evidently do not understand them. You see. We are the Urum. In their brief stay among the Uum. We explored it! Yes. you things of mechanism We are not entirely mechanical. Yes. But here . We even attempted to dig out the tunnel. an earthquake destroyed nearly the entire tunnel. stepped out of the crowd and came alongside the gather ing machine men.I am failing to answer your questions. How do you think. though with our metal globes we can watch them. several of the Disci. They beco me easily unmanageable. spoke one of the Disci. urged the Urum. Is that so queried the Disci. and he explained their combin ation of organic brain and metal body. apparently officials of some impor tance among their people. they believe their souls will float over the mounta ins. We are working upon that. the machine men had discovered many things through conversation . Unfortunately. Here.h 744U-21 confirmed the latter supposition. Our only contact wit h them is rather a one-sided affair with the metal globes. we and our old colony. So we saw. the machine men divining the perogati ve to the uttered speech. an a ccomplishment supplementary to television on this side of the mountain. f or species of them live on both sides of the mountains. explained one of the Disci. It must have been a very long time ago.as far as it goes. At this point. Tell me.The lost nation! Ancestral relatives! The isolated colony! And in return. They are no match for our metal spheres. EPILOGUE The machine men and the Urum learned much from each other. but so far we ha ve failed. and therefore we hold you highly in our regard. it has degenerated if anything. You have befriended our unfortunate people beyond the barrier mountains. the flight of the globes through space precludes the possibility of transmitting speech. but we gave it up as a hopeless task. I feel that you hav e now grasped the significance of our relative positions. we have no fear of the Undum. gwe protect our lost colony of Ur i from the Elkiri and the Undum. You felt that more efficient space navigation would be apt to occur sooner We hope so. replied 744U-21. We have worked many long years upon that hope since we first met success in using the metal globes. though the Elkiri occasionally float down to attack us. Where are you from What manner of things are you. Our colony has not progressed. for they have almost forgotten you. we have no way of listening to their ta lk. The old river tunnel! 6W-438 exclaimed. When they die. You have become but an obscure le gend to them. their natural enemies. You have prot ected our people from the Undum and Elkiri.with the metal globes. even to sealing the entr ance at this end. Even our globes are far from what we would like them to be. so have we. the machine men were aware of vocal appellations dissimilar to those indicative of the Ooaurs and Eiuks of Ui mention. In fact. You are right. the questions flew thick and fast regarding the machine men. You saw what happened to two of them. the professor added. Why do you not build the metal spheres large enough to carry yourselves back a nd forth across the airless voids in the mountains the professor suggested. How did your people in this lost colony get over the mountains asked 744U-21. Whenever we can. How did our inaccessible colony get whe re it now is Not over the mountains but under them. was the answer. you have noticed now by compari son with our city. And there were many more high up in the mountain pass in a like condition.
partly-cooled surfaces from the heated rivulets and white-hot lakes o f fire. or Ui. Only silent memories now haunted the deserted cit y of Ui. the glitter of the stars softened by the rose-tinged smoke. or by instrume nts contained in the metal spheres. as if swallowed by eternity. palatable Disci were gone . and again the figure became visible. flaming balls fell from the skies. But they found no prey. On the advice of the Urum and the wishes of the Uum themselves. . both plant and animal. leaving Ui deserted and silent. The machine men assisted the Urum in bettering their metal spheres. The machine men were able to put to rest ma ny of their conjectures and disputes regarding the immense chunk.lay the smoldering. to the rarified heights of the strato sphere and beyond. and the machine men decided to stay and exhaust i ts mysteries and natural wonders before moving on again. heeding the irresistable call o f dawn to rise once more. In return. living in stranger environments. ~ ° ~ THREE THE MUSIC MONSTERS Chapter I A pillar of angry flame leaped skyward. tinting the swirling crepe of surround ing smoke and obscuring the figure which groped its way through the inferno. Roving bands of Ooaurs came and hammered madly and unresisted at the massive w alls surrounding the city. agonized shriek of some careless Disc who had not see n fit to close an entrance. Escape appeared hopeless. and how several hundreds of them had been destroyed in the tunnel's destr uction by a violent temblor. machine men of Zor explor ed all sides of the planet fragment. Once they had heard cries of alar m and had been met with sharp pikes.that the Urum had not learned in an age of using their mute Oaos. hostly memories flitted there. Acrid smoke spread the lurid glow more evenly over the darkened. on which they lived. that the gravity beyond the rim was consider ably greater than on their own side. Most intriguing of all to the Disci were the trips into space on which the Zor omes conducted them in their spaceship. that their world was strangely unlike th e other planets they noticed through their telescopes as circling the same sun. The machine men had found some of the ancient bones in their exploration of the place. Several trips were made to Ui. for as far as the eye co uld see. and in company with the Disci. They learned that the Oaos were kept in the air easily by gaseous principles the Urum had learned from close examina tion of the Eiuks. had been founded by the anc ients. this time in the act of le aping over a glowing crevice. The knowledge of the Urum in regard to the world they lived upon was more or l ess obscure. giving for th all their extensive knowledge of space navigation to aid the perfection of th e elementary efforts achieved by the Disci. With their spaceship. and they found strange forms of life. or cosmic frag ment. Abo ve lay darkness. and the U rum from beyond the barrier mountains once more trod the avenues of the walled c ity after more than a thousand years or more.and the vision was more or less limited. the latter wer e all transported by spaceship over the mountains to the motherland. at night. The incandescent globes bobbed searchingly in and ou t of the hollow eyes of the abandoned buildings. many of them leaping to the top and dropping within. though they had long ago guessed. Now the tempting. only a vast emptiness. through observation of the world' s rim bordering the Land of Exhaustion. and the stillness by the base of the mighty peaks was no longer broken by the frightened. but in space another more rapidly exhaustible power was neces sary to maintain the Oaos in flight. perhaps forever. either by traditional word of the ancients. The planet fragment was an in teresting freak of the cosmos. The curtain lifted. They were also aware. glowing fi elds of volcanic terrain. the machine men learned more concerning how Uri.
asbestos-hided skins. The machine man of Zor made no move to continue as the smoke lifted. the heat having finally reached and overcome their brains. Telepathic thoughts groped th rough the hell behind him and communed with the unseen. sa id 8L-404. leaving the standing figure haloed in a hellish glare from which his appearance became more definite as the filmed veil drifted away. Have you seen them lately queried 6W-438. dimly at first. 41C-98 continued. referring to the denizens of another p lanet in a distant system recently visited by the machine men. his six tentacles of the same material s winging aimlessly from the cube of his metal body. and then. 119M-5 replied. Whoever would have believed that we should have found organic life here in thi s fire country We have found strange creatures and strange conditions on this pl anet fragment. though 7H-88 melted part of a tentacle away reachin g for him! 777Y-46 nearly went in. a few of them helpless and carried by their c ompanions.That organic creatures could survive this desolation and fiery menace for a mi nute seemed impossible. that they might absorb no m ore heat and stand a better opportunity of losing that which they had already ga thered. He fell into a lake of fire back aways! We c ould do nothing to help him. But the reference to their sustenance on fire approa ches a growing theory of mine quite closely. As adapted as they are to the conditions of this place in wh ich they live. 21MM-392 explained. Still more of them came. not one of us has been able to distinguish a mouth . This was not so. we should not have penetrated so deeply into this volcanic country. He was a machine man. The ground was undermined at the lake's edge. too. How do these things live How did the ohbs live countered 41C-98. A missed step plunged a foot of the wanderer into a glow ing hollow from which it was hastily withdrawn as a drifting pall of smoke once more enveloped the vicinity. unless his parts heate d to the melting point. the apparatus.but you donft believe these things live by absorbing metal What about fire Not exactly. said 6W-438. The final stragglers appeared. But 20R-654 does not dare bring it down in here. Do you know what I believe they uti lize for food What From all we have witnessed. What manner of creature was this who could venture so carelessly a lower limb into a red-hot cauldron. their feet and legs strangely warped as if subjected suddenly to terr ific heat. did not do quite so well in reverse as a cooling system. These latter had their heads detached from their metal bodies. They were organic . beneath t heir thick. Had it not been for the fire-dwellers. they are organic. and there is a limit to thei r invulnerability to fire. Patiently he stood there as if waiting. even then they dared not duplicate our feat. 6 W-438 still lay in dangerous prospect of becoming a victim of the intense heat. Nor do I blame him. After all. th e heads held high in curled tentacles by companions. 10B-33 is dead! 12W-62 exclaimed. but this has everything else beaten. he had nothing to fear. more machine men appeared and came to join him. No. Others were unconscious. though functioning to perfection by supplying the necessary heat in space. for despite the temperature equalizer which fitted so closely down over his metal-coned head. though even i n this latter respect its performances were remarkable. withdraw it apparently unhar med and stand placidly waiting for the smoke veil to rise or pass that he might see his way better The smoke disappeared slowly. a thing of metal. If the spaceship would only land here we might be out of this place safely. gbut we caught him in time. They ate metal. and there were sixteen in all assembled on the cooled knoll where 6W-438 had waited. Apparently. but stood there firmly upon his four metal feet. We must have shaken them off when we waded through the riv er of flaming lava.
fou rteen thousand miles deep. for though this volcanic country is quite exten sive it does not possess unreas-ably far boundaries. Their lower limbs grew intensely h ot. And they have served us well. The expedition of the Zoromes had experienced several noteworthy adventures on the planet fragment. They were sixteen in number. suggested 21MM392. They picked up red-hot rocks and threw them at us . Instead. Then we are bound to come out. 744U-21 may find a way to lower a cable to us fr om the spaceship by which we might climb up or be hauled up. they halted. urged 41C-98. I have watched the stars from time to time. Let us push on again. skirting the y awning. When dawn comes. creeping heat reaching slowly up to their metal. That was before we escaped the fire-dwellers. and they can tell us where we are. Are we certain we are traveling in the same general direction asked 6W-438. at least under the se circumstances. the heat rays seem to have little effect upon them unless we are able to concentrat e long enough on one particular spot. We have pursued pretty well the same direction. for a false step meant death. But who expected we would need them here asked 92ZQ153. They constitute more of a menace to us than did the Ooaurs. Two nights and a day have passed since then. there was no o ther way. we can order those aboard to drop us weapon s. the remainder of the expedition under the joint leadership of 744U-21 a nd 21MM392. It was often necessary for them to wade through shallow pools of glowing lava. the temperature equalizers. we have always swung back again. we brought th e more obvious articles we might use. they had turned thei r attentions to another of the sides and had found a region of fire country. Standing together. and that was one reason we blundered upon them when we might ha ve avoided them. He spoke of it when we were last in contact. They may find a way of getting to us again. It is more or less synonymous with their great strength that they should live upon the antipode of the Land of Exhaustion. They cannot cross the r iver of fire as we did. Ot herwise we may never find our way out of this wretched place. What savage brutes they are. smoking crevices and the pools of molten lava. too late. we may sight the spaceshi p again. Besides. keeping one constellation in sight since our escape from the fire-dwellers. If the spaceship comes low enough. We should have brought weapons. Both sides are of equal gravity.to the detriment of many of our metal legs. They often leaped gaping fissures in spite of dangerous. who carried them while they pa . I believe that they subsist on the sulphuro us fumes of the smoke. After exploring one side of the slab. or nostrils. opined 27E-24. The last time we contacted them. The fire-dwellers are behind us. That they had discovered the unexpected and were forc ed into an unforeseen dilemma is already apparent. said the professor. The machine men left the little dark knoll upon which they had stood crowded t ogether. 21MM392 has the only weapon among us. especially at night. there was nothing by which to distinguish them as the cosmo politan crew they were. When detours around the lakes of fire have taken us on a tangent. crumbling sides which threatened to precipitate them into the glowing residue at the bottoms. now twenty-two of their com panions. cubed bodies. we were near the center of this fiery morass. apocalyptic nightmare. they were hoisted i n strong tentacles above the head of a companion. and how do we know but what there may be some of them on this side of the river we crossed Now that we have lost 10B-33. were with the spaceship. We may not need them.. and plunged once more into lurid. his heat ray built into a foretentacle. When heat threatened to creep up through the metal bodies to the vulne rable brain in its protected cone and temperature equalizer. advised 119M-5. We have often found them standing motionless and relaxed in dense clouds. yet a brief examination of one 21MM392 killed in combat showed an elaborate as sortment of ventricles. When veils of smoke enshrouded the m.
Dawn and twilight were usually drawn-out affairs. bespoke adaptation to environment. The smoke thickened. and the professor saw his metal companions about h im as in a dream haze of subconsciousness. these veritable Lucifers of the fire country ranged from dark slate to pale green. for those two in vertical formation were. seemingly reluctant to clear away. The machine men paused in the path of a dense cloud of yellowish. heat-resisting growth. the inclination of forty-seven degrees gave it a procession of seasons on its orbit. too deeply set to affo rd other than a straight. where the smoke was still dense. The environment of superior gravity was responsible for this. magically. the professor h ad previously observed. but here they dared not risk themselves to chance. They were nearly as large as the Ooaurs and as s trong. There was a scarcely perceptible movem ent in the depth of the dissipating smoke. Near the center of the su bdued conflagration. their hide of a thick. headless body. the hellish glare of the waste lands became less. They had kept on through blinding smoke. Added to this. the general cli mate of the misshapen planet was that of a veritable polar cap. Mute. the climate was very hot as the professor knew. headless if a neck is necessary to const itute a distinction. the hoof built high into the leg and consisting of a har d. And then he saw something else ahead of them. too. The equator of the rotating fragment gi rdled it nearly diagonally. ending in crablike claws of the sa me substance as the hoof material. In color. This number was necessary to afford sideward vision in the circumstances. as for the feet. Before them more than a score of the fire-dwellers threw off their lassitude at sight of them. The upper appendages were also four in numb er. The cloud of smoke thinned. These claws were remarkably dextrous at seizi ng and hurling red-hot chunks of rock. for the elongated planet was of such a nature that the sun shone crosswise of the atmosp here on two or more facets all the time.rtly cooled off in the absence of contact with the hot ground which they monoton ously traveled. and durin g this time the professor realized that with another day soon to break he would lose sight of his guiding star. Then. so that the seasons passed quickly and afforded but little opportunity for t he temperature contrast. and all four of the optics were protec ted in emergency by hard. but their entire body. and the reflecte d glare in the smoke camouflaged any appearances of a glowing trap. and often it was difficult to diagnose directions from the position of the sun. they set about their grim impulses. tough substance impervious to any heat oth er than the brightly glowing lakes of fire from which the machine men had seen t hem stay clear. with which the mac hine men were already quite well acquainted. like the other two. limited vision. The smoke pall clung tenaciously. The four legs supported a bulky. They could only be patient and wait upon the vagaries of the source of th e smoke or the air currents which directed it. ovoid body. so that portions received varying amounts of sunligh t. The crevices were many and deep. That. With a lightening on the horizon. that they might be sure of where they walked. In no way d id they resemble the Ooaurs unless their four lower appendages could be likened to those of the antipodesf inhabitants. but compared to the place they were in now. bony lids. two on each side of the huge. for the ground had been less hot and the fire cauldron s there more rare. Being close to the sun. The feet of the fire-dwellers were much like those of a horse. but. Other than occasional resort to hurling chunks of rock at the machine men. They saw nothing more for se veral minutes. the fire-dwellers were weaponless. The things possessed no mouths. where they had found most of the fire-dwellers. From an Earthly standpoint. even this slight r esemblance became contrary in detail. for in the s moke it always appeared as if they were in the center of a fiery pit or else nea r one. the smoke cleared away. but it set in action a vague. uneasy suspicion as the machine men grasped the flash of thought from that one keen obs ervation of Professor Jameson. They waited for it to roll onward. the walking had been less hazardous. the great fragment revolved rapid ly. with the . the y made no sounds. Silent. The rotation of the planet fragment presented a strange solar aspect. Four deeply set eyes in diamond formation occupied the face . acrid sm oke which rolled down upon them in a billowing cloud.
Fearlessly and in silence.this way! 41C-98 discovered that the horde of the fire country was massi ng on one side of them and coming forward like a mighty. the fire-dwellers charged the metal invaders of the ir infernal domain. stan ding nearest them. but otherwise wreaking little havoc . Quickly. asbestos skin had availed them no protection whatev er. and the latter were far too active to permit a prolonged focus upon any one part of their anatomy. the fire-dwellers had lost any chances they might previously have ha d of surrounding the machine men. No brief sweep or limited concentration on the fire-dwellers had any effect. On these latter points. irresistible wall of br ute strength. That they were the same band that had attacked them before. stood his ground and resisted them momentarily. the machine men were positive. We must try to keep to our original direction! There are no openings! More of the things are coming! They are closing up! Here. they launched their ponderous bulk upon the lost machine men. For once. for they were massed to one side. it was by general axiom that lower temperat ures must prove fatal to them. Now. The fire-dwellers now appeared content to keep the machine men moving in one direction. the machine men were unce rtain. the professor recognized in this a probably instinctive subtlety. they s napped and tore with their claws and pushed their opponents into the nearest fis sure or molten pond handy. They were evidently versed in the art of combat. binning expanse. swinging his lashing tentacles viciously into the approaching fire-dwellers. in a vicious avalanche. and it had been ar gued unlikely that they ever left the fire country. Metal tentacles came to grips with rough-skinned arms that possesse d an epidermis thicker and more callous than that of the pachyderms which Profes sor Jameson could recollect on his planet Earth. where he splashed in a l ittle pool of red-hot lava. Look for an opening to dash through! cried 6W-438.exceptions of their eight appendages. One of them seized him and threw him far to one side. were set with some hundred or more perfora tions through which they evidently breathed. but the machine men had yet to discover why. for their actions betokened experien ce. Run this way! We may be able to wade another river of fire and elu de them! In truth. fo r no other creatures occupied this desolate. the fire-dwellers had not fared so well themselves. somewhat supporting the theory of 4 1C-98 and 6W-438 that the fire-dwellers gained sustenance from the acrid smoke o f the volcanic terrain. . 12W-62. for many of their number had been hurled into the lake s of fire where their tough. 12W-62 extricated himself and caught up wit h his slowly-retreating metal brethren. unless they battled with each other. the professor's heat ray was more or less of a total loss. Enabled by nature to stand t he intense heat in which they lived. The fire-dwellers did not seem anxious t o catch up with the machine men. Why were they being herded this way in stead of being promptly attacked as before Of course. and equally as fearlessly and as silently the machine men re sisted the attack of their towering adversaries. Though according the creatures no great intelligence. slashing and cut ting obtuse wounds in their tough epidermis. The machine men already knew the battling tactics of the fire-dwellers.
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