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ISFDB.org Magazine Entry



HADES was hot. Philip Thorpe looked hopelessly at the figure by his side, clad as he was in a bulky, heat-resistant suit of Insulite. He swore softly, under his breath, looked out over vast wastes of white-hot, barren nothingness to the blazing sun that hung on the horizon. He wondered as he had wondered ever since they had come to Hades why he had ever brought her into this mess. Virginia was his wife; she stood bravely at his side, her slight form looking bulky and shapeless under the triple- thick insulation.

There Was a Rare Black Treasure on the Planet, But It Was Buried in Inferno!

Phil Thorpe glanced nervously around him at the peak-caped moutains that rose at the edge of the perpetually heated sunward side of the planet. There was no telling when one of the volcanic peaks would erupt, and eject terrible, pressures of fluid rock from below the molten world. Thorpe shuddered; it wouldn't do much good to look. If one ever erupted nearby—well, it would just be too bad.

Through the tiny pinhole goggles he looked at Virginia. He felt sorry for her. Hades was hell. But she had pleaded, insisted, that he take her with him, and here they were. Here they had been for over a month, searching fruitlessly every day. There were no days on Hades really; one side was always night, bitter cold, the other was always day, unendurably hot.

It was Tyler who had first given them the idea. Tyler who had returned from Hades with one of the rare Black Gems, a very dense, slightly radioactive jewel which was formed under the conditions of extreme heat and pressure of Hades' sunward surface. Tyler had made a moderate fortune from the sale of the mysterious black egg.

Everyone remembers the revolution of the planetary colonies and the great economic depression that followed—the collapse that shattered Earth and her colonies. Tyler's story had presented a ray of hope, a long chance to the financially embarrassed Thorpes. It was better than going to the Satellite mines, anyway. No man ever survived those grim radioactive pits that pocked the cold moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

The Thorpes had spent their last money for equipment and for their passage on the Explorer. It was a lucky thing that Professor Brighton and his research ship were leaving for Hades—over twenty light-years away from Earth—twenty light years in six months by transdimensional drive.

For a month they had searched the molten rim of the sunward side of the dense little planet, as near to the location where Tyler had found the first Gem as possible. Every day—although there were no days on Hades—they had plodded across the night side from their little hemisphere of metal, from black night and bitter cold, into glaring heat and the light of a white dwarf sun half a million miles away.

Due to the elliptic shape of the planet's orbit, there were times when the rim was in night, and while it was it cooled; then slowly it same back under the burning rays of the sun—and melted.

That continual melting and cooling, and the effect of heat and pressure forcing molten minerals toward the night side to meet super-cooled layers and cause surface eruptions, made a chaotic mass of giant red and white-hot hills of the rim. Hills that occasionally belched forth flame and liquid fire in a belt that would have been a twilight belt had there been any atmosphere more than a high-grade vacuum. And from its peaks and through its valleys ran rivers—terrible rivers of fire.

THORPE and his young wife walked slowly down the hill on which they had been standing, down to a river of flaming, molten minerals. It was in one of these that Tyler had found the Gem. There were more, Tyler had said. But Tyler had been half-crazed, almost dead from the heat. Phil looked at the white-hot stuff that slowly flowed by. Somewhere there were more Gems, he hoped desperately. There had to be. Tyler had said the river flowed from near the heart of the sunward side.

The Gems, small, dense eggs, formed there in a planetary laboratory of white-hot incandescence, where no one could hope to penetrate, and then were carried by sluggish currents of molten metal to the comparative coolness of the rim.

The thermometer on Thorpe's wrist registered 2,500° Centigrade. But much of Hades was tungsten, whose melting point is close to 3,400°. Phil's eyes watched the river of white flame wearily as again and again he dropped the specimen bucket on its thin, strong cable of Insulite i...

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