Death Dives Deep can be found in




ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



Death Dives Deep

A Complete Novelette of Weird Thrills

By Paul Ernst
Author of "Devil at the Wheel," "Blood of Witches," etc.


CHAPTER I
The Metal Cylinder

THE dome building, like an overgrown igloo, secretively placed here in the mountains and woods, could scarcely be seen against the black sky. Professor Ogden had hidden it well. But if it looked bleak and forbidding from the outside, it did not from within.

Inside, a great arc light shed white beams over scientific paraphernalia, machine shop equipment—and the thing these elaborate devices had produced. That was a great metal cylinder, perhaps ten feet through and, twenty-five long, set up on end in the center of the dome building.

"It looks like a great big tin can, sitting upright," Ria Marquis laughed.

She and John Street stood in the doorway of the dome building looking at the cylinder. "So this is the reason I haven't seen you all these weeks," she added.

"This is the reason," Street said.

He stared at the cylinder with dreams in his grey eyes, and with a certain tensity cording the muscles of his big body.

"That thing has to be guarded day and night. And I've been elected to do the guarding, since I was the only one Professor Ogden allowed to help him build it."

"But what is it?" asked Ria, wrinkling her small straight nose in bewilderment.

Street gazed at her piquant face under its coppery hair, at her deep blue eyes, at her red lips.

"Well?" 'she smiled.

"Oh, pardon me! I was thinking of something more important than inventions: What is this thing?

Well, it's an atom compacter. In plainer language, it digs holes."

"Digs holes," echoed Ria disappointingly. "That doesn't sound so mysterious. If that's all it does, why should the professor hide it out here in the wilderness and watch it day and night as though it were made of gold?"

Aren Rawl, a dark, tall young man who had been lounging wordlessly beside them, listening to the roar of the waterfall nearby, spoke up.

"It's more precious than gold, Miss Marquis. With it, if you liked, you could find many times its weight in gold. For with it you could sink shafts in a few hours to the deepest of metal deposits. Or you could build commercial tunnels at a rate of many miles a day. Or it could be used as a war instrument: You could sink in it behind your own lines, burrow forward through solid earth till you were under the enemy capital, and there lay mines to be exploded when you were far on your way home again."

"It sounds to me as though you had invented a kind of metal earthworm," sniffed Ria. "And I still can't see why it should be kept such a secret from the world."

"You were the first person besides Aren and Ogden and myself who has ever been in this building," Street said soberly. "You see—Gregor Cunao is after it."

"Gregor Cunao?" Ria exclaimed.

"Yes. The utilities magnate himself," Street said bitterly. "He has millions already, but with this the could possess billions! So he wants it."

"But the patents—"

"Darling, you don't pattern a thing like this. It is too revolutionary. And it couldn't be protected from the looting foreign nations."

FAR below them on the mountain leading to the dome building, an automobile's headlight shot into sight.

"The professor," Aren said. And, an instant later: "He's certainly coming fast, John. Look!"

The car was coming fast! At a rate in excess of a hundred miles an hour it bored up the steep lane, though fifty should have been the limit there and even that would have been impossible without pneumatic springs Ogden had invented two- years before, in 1947.

"Something's wrong," Street said quickly. "He'd never drive like that if—"

Behind the first set of headlights, two more pairs abruptly showed. At an equal speed, the two bored through the darkness after the first. Then a far-off, tiny red streak could be seen, and another, and a third. Then three reports sounded in the ears of the two men and the girl.

"They're shooting at him! My God, something has gone wrong!" Aren gasped.

The two men looked at each other, white-lipped.

"Cunao," Street said at last. "He has trailed Ogden here. It's to be a showdown fight!"

He grasped Ria's arm and rushed her inside the doorway of the dome building.

"I'll get this door ready to bar as soon as Ogden comes," he said tensely. "Aren——get to the power house. See that the camouflage there is all right—and stay in there! Don't come out for anything."

"Right," Aren clipped.

He started on a dogtrot through the woods, his path leading toward the roar of the waterfall.

"He'll—he'll be all right?" Ria faltered.

"I hope so," Street said somberly. "The power house is underground. Earth and shrubs conceal its door."

Many more shots burst out from the two cars speeding after the one in which Street guessed Ogden to be. The first car went even fasten. They could hear the scream of its motor, see the wabbling of its lights over the uneven road.

"John! What will you—we—do?" begged the girl, blue eyes wide.

Street shrugged. "Bar the doors. Try to defend ourselves from Cunao and his hired killers the best we can."

The speeding car in the lead skidded around the last long turn. It began to brake three hundred yards from the dome building, and slid with a scream of tires almost all that distance in the gravel before stopping. From, it leaped a tall, spare figure who darted to the doorway without bothering to tum the motor off or set the brakes. The car rolled slowly, unheeded, into a tree.

The two cars behind, both capable of holding ten people, swept toward the last turn.

"Professor!" cried Street, holding the door open. "Here!"

The tall, spare figure ran into the building. Professor Ogden, coal black eyes blazing, lean, powerful face working, helped Street slide home the bolts. The last one shot into place just as the crackle of machine-gun fire burst forth and the steel door leaped and clanged as though a devil's sledgehammer played taps there.

"Cunao?" asked Street, tight-lipped.

Ogden, the world's best-known inventor, nodded his iron grey head.

"In person. With fifteen men. We're trapped, John—Miss Marquis!"

Ria put her hand on his arm.

"I—shouldn't be here, should I, Professor?"

OGDEN sighed. "From the point of view of our secrecy, of course you should be here. You're to marry John. You're one of us. But from the point of view of danger—" He bit his lip.

Suddenly the big steel door buckled and clanged.

"They've got a battering ram!" exclaimed Street. He looked at Ogden in dismay.

The professor nodded, face grim and bleak.

"We're caught, john. There's no way out. The very fact that we hid our laboratory so far from other people militates against us. No one lives near enough to hear the shooting and comes to help us."

"Then what—"

Ogden cleared his throat. His voice was a little husky as he spoke.

"I thought pretty fast while Cunao and his men trailed me," he said. "The only answer I could see was to escape in the atom compacter, immediately."

"But," gasped Street, "we've never tested it! We don't know how it will work."

"No, we have never tested it." A second clang of the door punctuated his words. "I thought we'd test it now—with our lives forfeit if our work has been unsound. But I don't know what to do about Miss Marquis."

Ria looked from the young man to the elderly one.

"How could you escape from this windowless stone building, with only one door and that one being attacked by fifteen men?"

Street nodded to the giant cylinder, set on end in the center of the building.

"I told you that bored holes? Well, Professor Ogden's idea was that we get in it, bore down through the floor of the laboratory and unde...

This is only a preview of this story. The site administrator is evaluating methods to bring it to you.